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Surf-Worthy Sites:

Administration and Cost of Elections

Alaska Wilderness League

American Antitrust Institute

American Association of Retired Persons

American Federation of Government Employees

American Friends Service Committee

American Institute of Philanthropy

American Lands Alliance

American Library Asociation

American Peace

American Rivers

Americans for Computer Privacy

Americans for Democratic Action

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Amnesty International

Anthrax Vaccine Network

Arms Control Association

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

Atomic Veterans of America


Behind the Label

Black Box Voting

Bread for the World

Brennan Center for Justice


Business and Human Rights Resource Center

Campaign Against Arms Trade

Campaign Against Depleted Uranium

Campaign Finance Institute

Campaign for America's Future

Campaign for Safe and Affordable Drinking Water

Campaign for the Abolition of Sweatshops and Child Labor

Campaign to Ban Genetically Engineered Foods

Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods

CEE BankWatch Network

Center for Constitutional Rights

Center for Defense Information

Center for Democracy and Citizenship

Center for Digital Democracy

Center for Economic and Policy Research

Center for Food Safety

Center for International Policy

Center for Justice and Accountability

Center for National Security Studies

Center for Nonproliferation Studies

Center for Public Integrity

Center for Science in the Public Interest

Center for Voting and Democracy

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Chemical Industry Archives

Chernobyl Children's Project

Child Labor Coalition

Child Protective Services Watch

Children's Defense Fund

Chilling Effects Clearinghouse

Christian Aid

Chronic IllNet

Chronology of Incorporation and Monopoly

Citizen Action Project

Citizen Works

Citizens Against Government Waste

Citizens for Tax Justice

Citizens Network on Essential Services

Clary-Meuser Research Network

Clean Clothes Campaign

Coalition for a Competitive Pharmaceutical Market

Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers

Commercial Alert

Common Cause

Common Dreams

Commonweal Institute

Community Rights Council

Concord Coalition


Consumer Federation of America

Consumer Project on Technology

Consumer Research

Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering

Corporate Crime Reporter

Corporate Europe Observatory

Corporate Responsibility Coalition

Corporate Sunshine Working Group

Corporate Welfare Information Center

Corporate Welfare Shame Page


Corps of Engineers Watch

Council for a Livable World

Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Cronus Connection: Election Fraud and Voting Machines

Death Penalty Information Center

Defense and the National Interest

Democracy 21


Depleted Uranium Education Project

Depleted Uranium Watch

DES Action


Disabled American Veterans

Discernment Ministry International



Earth Institute


EarthRights International

Economic Policy Institute

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Electronic Privacy Information Center

Electronic Voting

Endgame Research

Energy Future Coalition

Environmental Investigation Agency

Environmental Working Group

Facts About Olestra

Fair Taxes for All

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting


Families of
September 11

Families USA: Voice for Health Care Consumers

Family Farm Alliance

Farm Credit Quagmire

FAS Project on Government Secrecy

FDA Review

Federation of American Scientists

Fellowship of Reconciliation

Fielding's DangerFinder

Fight Bad Faith Insurance Companies

Focus on the Corporation

Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights

Fourth Freedom Forum

Free Expression Policy Project

Friends of the Earth

Genocide Documentation Centre

Genocide in the 20th Century

Global Exchange


GRACE Factory Farm Project

Gulf War Veterans

Gush Shalom

Health Care Comparisons Worldwide

Health Privacy Project

Healthy Building Network

Heifer International

History House

Human Rights Watch

iAbolish: Anti-Slavery Web Portal


Independent Judiciary

Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton

Infact: Challenging Corporate Abuse

Initiative & Referendum Institute

Instant Runoff Voting

Institute for Energy and Environmental Research

Institute for Health Freedom

Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Institute for Policy Studies

Institute for Public Accuracy

Interfaith Alliance

Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

International ANSWER

International Atomic Energy Agency

International Campaign to Ban Landmines

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions

International Federation for Alternative Trade

International Fellowship of Reconciliation

International Institute for Environment and Development

International Labor Rights Fund

International POPs Elimination Network

Jewish Unity for a Just Peace

Keep Antibiotics Working

Landmine Survivors Network

League of Conservation Voters

League of Women Voters

Let's Invest in Families Today

Liberals Like Christ

Local Harvest

Los Alamos Study Group

Low Level Radiation Campaign

Maquila Solidarity Network

March for Justice


Measles Initiative

Mines Advisory Group


Mothers for Peace

Moving Ideas

National Center for Children in Poverty

National Coalition Against Censorship

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans

National Committee for an Effective Congress

National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare

National Farmers Union

National Freedom of Information Coalition

National Freedom Scorecard

National Gulf War Resource Center

National Institute on Money in State Politics

National Labor Committee for Worker and Human Rights

National Organization for Rare Disorders

National Parks Conservation Association

National Priorities Project

National Vaccine Information Center

National Voting Rights Institute

Native American Rights Fund


Natural Resources Defense Council

Neturei Karta

New Rules Project


No Free Lunch: Just Say No to Drug Reps

No Spray Coalition

Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development

Nuclear Control Institute

Nuclear Threat Initiative

Office of Management & Budget Watch Money in Politics

Open Society Institute

Organic Consumers Association

Our Stolen Future

Oxfam International

Participatory Democracy

Pax Christi International

People for the American Way

Pesticide Action Network North America

Physicians for Human Rights

Polaris Institute

Political Money Line

Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy

Project Against the Present Danger

Project on Government Oversight

Project Underground

Project Vote Smart

Protection Project


Public Citizen

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibity

Rainforest Action Network


Reaching Critical Will

Reclaim Democracy

Reclaim the Media


Resource Center of the Americas

Responsible Wealth

Rethinking Schools

Right-To-Know Network

Safe Tables Our Priority: Food Safety and Food-Borne Illness


Save the Children

Secretive World of Voting Machines

Send a Cow

September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

Shared Hope International

Small Business Survival Committee

Society for Animal Protective Legislation

Soft Money Laundromat

Sojourners: Christians for Justice and Peace

Soldiers for the Truth

Soy Online Service

Sprawl Busters


Stop Carnivore

Stop Disney Sweatshops

Stop Patient Abuse Now Coalition


Sweetwater Alliance

Swords to Plowshares

Talion: Voting Machines

Tax Foundation

Taxpayers for Common Sense

Ten Thousand Villages

Third World Traveler

Tort Reform Reader


Transparency International

Traprock Peace Center

Truth About Credit

20/20 Vision

UN Landmines Fact Sheet

UN Population Fund

Union of Concerned Scientists

United for a Fair Economy

United for Peace & Justice

Uranium Medical Research Centre

US Campaign to Ban Landmines

US Congregational Life Survey

US Public Interest Research Group

Veterans for Common Sense

Vital Voices Global Partnership

VoteWatch: Repository for Voter Complaints

Water Aid

Water Barons Government Accountability Project

Wilderness Society

WISE Uranium Project

Womens International League for Peace & Freedom

World Resources Institute

WorldWatch Institute

Worldwide Fund for Mothers Injured in Childbirth


Yucca Mountain Facts

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Saturday, June 07, 2003

Officers Accused of Posing as FBI

A teenager was grilled at school over an entry on her blog by local police officers posing as FBI agents, per the Chapel Hill News:

The two Chapel Hill police officers are under investigation for having allegedly misrepresented themselves as FBI agents and have been placed on administrative leave with pay pending further investigation...officers Bryan Walker and John Moore were called to Chapel Hill High on May 2 to look into an alleged hacking of the computer system. Carter said they represented themselves to her as FBI agents and members of the organization’s Cyber Crimes Task Force. A third officer, Steve Anson, has also been placed on leave...

The officers produced copies of Carter’s blog — an online diary that she used to record her thoughts and feelings — and asked if she recognized it...

Carter, who is familiar with the Patriot Act, then took some control over the interview, which lasted about 50 minutes, she said. She asked them if they had done a “sneak and peak” of her house, and they responded they were not allowed to say. She asked them the same question twice more and they finally responded “no.” She asked if they had a warrant to search her house and computer, and they again said “no.”

Here's the original article, which says it now appears there was no hacking done on the school computer in the first place--just an unexplained malfunction of some sort. It sounds like there's an even bigger malfunction within the Chapel Hill police department.

dystopia 3:36 PM - [Link]

Bishops Warn Catholics About Left Behind Books

I was horrified when my own mother tried to loan me these "wonderful" books she'd been reading. I'm glad I'm not the only one so offended by them. From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Catholicism teaches that the Rapture actually happens at Christ's Second Coming, and not seven years before, as LaHaye and Jenkins describe and many other Christians believe.

It's a subtle difference, but one hotly debated by Christians since the 1880s, when the idea of a pre-tribulation Rapture was popularized by theologians including evangelist Dwight L Moody, founder of Chicago's Moody Bible Institute.

"The bishops' main worry is, if they don't say anything, there could be Catholics of good will reading this stuff, and it sounds biblical and sounds like it's based on Scripture, and they may start believing it," Wichmann said.

LaHaye's making a mint by fictionalizing an already-controversial issue of faith that affects many Americans' lives to an enormous degree. It's his right, under the 1st Amendment, but it is comforting to remember that the final authority doesn't rest there. To me (full disclosure: Presbyterian), his books skate along the edge of blasphemy, if not right over it.

It's my 1st Amendment right to keep reminding people that LaHaye's stories have nothing to do with reality. Please read your Bible instead.

dystopia 2:36 PM - [Link]

Wal-Mart to Push for RFID Adoption

The bar code was one thing, but these little tags are something else entirely. From MSNBC:

Executives from Bentonville, Ark-based Wal-Mart are expected to aggressively push for the adoption of RFID technology during a presentation at an upcoming event for retailers, suppliers and distributors...RFID tags have the potential to streamline and improve inventory management by allowing manufacturers to more efficiently enter and track the flow of goods...

Or the people wearing the goods:

RFID Tags: Big Brother in Small Packages
Radio Tags To Track Goods & Shoppers
What Does Your Clothing Say About You?
What's Next: Clothes That Spy on You?

Somebody wants to get into your pants.

dystopia 1:58 PM - [Link]

Is Lying About Reason For War Impeachable?

There's smoke rolling off my computer screen--a blistering read by former Nixon counsel and Watergate figure John Dean, via FindLaw's Writ:

Presidential statements, particularly on matters of national security, are held to an expectation of the highest standard of truthfulness. A president cannot stretch, twist or distort facts and get away with it. President Lyndon Johnson's distortions of the truth about Vietnam forced him to stand down from reelection. President Richard Nixon's false statements about Watergate forced his resignation...

First...these statements had all been carefully considered and crafted. Presidential statements are the result of a process, not a moment's thought...statements with national security implications were the most carefully considered of all. The White House is aware that, in making these statements, the President is speaking not only to the nation, but also to the world...these statements are typically corrected rapidly if they are later found to be false. And in this case, far from backpedaling from the President's more extreme claims, Bush's press secretary, Ari Fleischer had actually, at times, been even more emphatic than the President had...

Finally...the political risk was so great was inconceivable that Bush would make these statements if he didn't have damn solid intelligence to back him up. Presidents do not stick their necks out only to have them chopped off by political opponents on an issue as important as this, and if there was any doubt, I suggested, Bush's political advisers would be telling him to hedge. Rather than stating a matter as fact, he would be say: "I have been advised," or "Our intelligence reports strongly suggest," or some such similar hedge. But Bush had not done so.

dystopia 1:17 PM - [Link]

On Washington Journal This Morning

A caller brought up the voting machine issue and the Rush Holt bill and, happily, the WJ host seemed very interested in talking about the subject. I knew exactly what the caller was talking about but, unfortunately, she was nervous and not as articulate as I would have liked, so someone new to this issue might not have understood enough to develop the proper sense of urgency.

Anyway, it was the first time I'd heard the subject of electronic voting machine integrity discussed on TV, so I jumped off the couch and did the Joy Dance.

dystopia 12:43 PM - [Link]

The Attack on the USS Liberty

On June 8, 1967, during the Six Day War between Israel and the Arab States, the American intelligence ship USS Liberty was attacked for 75 minutes in international waters by Israeli aircraft and motor torpedo boats; 34 of our men were killed and 172 were wounded. Congress has never investigated the attack to this day.

I never new anything about the Liberty attack until I saw a documentary about it on the History Channel last year. It shocked me into doing some research on my own to try to figure out who was telling the truth.

Tomorrow will be the 36th anniversary of the attack and, since I don't usually post on Sundays, I'm asking you today to go visit the USS Liberty website and study it thoroughly. There's a lot of information to absorb, so if you don't have time right now, please bookmark it for later. At the very least, go and look at the photo gallery. There's a rare article in the Washington Post if you want a quick summary of the particulars.

The USS Liberty is a very controversial issue; one of those "hot button" topics that gets tempers very heated, very quickly. Charges of anti-Semitism get thrown about.

The attack on the Liberty did happen--no one disputes that part. I'll leave you to make up your own mind about the rest of it.

dystopia 11:34 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: June 7

1610: The colonists abandoned Jamestown due to deteriorating conditions, but encountered supply ships at Mulberry Island and returned to the colony three days later.

1776: Richard Henry Lee put forward a resolution to the Continental Congress for a Declaration of Independence, saying, "These United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states."

1837: More than 700 Seminoles slipped away from the US Army and made their way to the Everglades as the program to transport Seminoles to Indian Territory began.

1862: Former gambler William Bruce Mumford, who tore down a flag flying over the US Mint, became the first US citizen hanged for treason.

1892: Homer Plessy was arrested when he refused to move from a seat reserved for whites on a train in New Orleans, leading to the Supreme Court's landmark Plessy v. Ferguson decision in 1896, which ruled that separate accommodations for blacks were not inherently unequal.

1904: The state militia was sent to Cripple Creek, CO, to suppress a strike by the Western Federation of Miners.

1960: A nuclear-armed BOMARC missile at McGuire AFB, NJ, was destroyed by explosion and fire after a high-pressure helium tank exploded, rupturing the missile's fuel tanks; the soil at the site still shows low-level radiation after over forty years.

1974: Former Attorney General Richard Kleindienst, who pled guilty to charges that he lied before the Senate Judiciary Committee, was called a man of "highest integrity" by Judge George L Hart, and was sentenced to a $100 fine and one month of unsupervised probation.

1977: Dade County, FL, repealed an anti-gay ordinance; singer Anita Bryant had been active in the campaign to oppose the repeal.

2002: Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton rejected the California governor's request that the state be able to buy back offshore drilling rights. Norton wrote in her response that, "[A] major difference between Florida and California is that Florida opposes coastal drilling and California does not."

dystopia 10:25 AM - [Link]

Friday, June 06, 2003

Zug the Prankster

My blog server's giving me fits today, so I went off to find something totally frivolous to do and wound up at Zug. I've read the Credit Card Prank and the All-Natural Prank so far, and I'm LMAO.

dystopia 5:11 PM - [Link]

Utility's Papers Outline Donations to GOP

Some revealing documents have been disclosed in a federal investigation into the conduct of several of Westar Energy's executives, per the Washington Post:

One executive of Westar Energy Inc told colleagues in an e-mail that "we have a plan for participation to get a seat at the table" of a House-Senate conference committee on the Bush administration's energy plan. The cost, he wrote, would be $56,500 to campaign committees, including some associated with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (TX), Rep Joe Barton (TX), Rep W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (LA) and Sen Richard C Shelby (AL).

The e-mail said Tauzin and Barton "made this request" for donations, and Shelby "made a substantial request" for another candidate. It not specify a direct request from DeLay...The exemption that Westar sought was inserted into the legislation by Barton, but it was later withdrawn after a grand jury began investigating the company for alleged wrongdoing, including securities fraud...

On May 20, 2002, Westar Vice President Douglas Lawrence sent an e-mail to Douglas T Lake, an executive vice president. It said in part: "We are working on getting our grandfather provision on PUHCA repeal into the Senate version of the energy bill. It requires working with the Conference committee...We have a plan for participation to get a seat at the table, which has been approved by David, the total of the package will be $31,500 in hard money (individual), and $25,000 in soft money (corporate)."

It's also being reported in the NY Times.

dystopia 4:02 PM - [Link]

EPA: Few Fined for Polluting Water

Yeah, this is what I was just talking about. We give and we give to Corporate America, and what do we get in return? Screwed. Via the Post:

About a quarter of the nation's largest industrial plants and water treatment facilities are in serious violation of pollution standards at any one time, yet only a fraction of them face formal enforcement actions, according to an Environmental Protection Agency internal study.

The study is the broadest effort to date to document the failure of the EPA and the states to fully enforce the Clean Water Act, enacted 30 years ago to clean up the nation's rivers and streams. The study, completed in February by the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance, found that half the serious offenders exceeded pollution limits for toxic substances by more than 100 percent.

When formal disciplinary actions were taken, fewer than half resulted in fines, which averaged about $6,000.

Do me a favor--open Customizable Mortality Maps in a new window so you can see it while while I talk to you about it.

When I hit the Submit button with just the default info already there--all cancers in all whites males between 1970-1994--I see that the eastern states are almost solidly pink and red while the western states indicate much lower cancer rates. Except for Nevada, which stands out like a red flag in a sea of blue. Nuclear testing? Nuclear waste? I think it's very telling that the bluest states are the least-industrialized ones.

Okay, now change the time period to 1950-1969 (if it timed out on you, just hit Reload). Look at how blue the southern states used to be. What happened to them? My guess would be increased industrialization, nuclear power and weapons plants, lack of environmental enforcement, that sort of thing.

Yikes! I just noticed something--the mortality rate key for 1970-94 shows the highest rate at 225.68 to 233.52 per 100,000 population ("adjusted," more of that damned "revising" they do), while the highest rate on the 1950-69 chart is only 205.51 to 218.84. Oh, dear. I hadn't noticed it before. I'll have to think about that.

Anyway, you get the idea. Try customizing your own maps, by type of cancer, by race, by sex, by county, by five-year segments of time, and see what the maps show. Cancer rates vary widely by more than just time and place; there are also striking differences by race and sex. Then, too, we're talking about cancer mortality, so access to quality health care would factor in as well. It's definitely a thought-provoking exercise.

dystopia 2:59 PM - [Link]

Unemployment Rate Highest in Nine Years

We give 'em tax breaks, corporate welfare, lax politician-payoff laws, spineless environmental and employee safety standards--damn near everything they ask for. So where the hell are all the jobs? From the Washington Post:

The nation's jobless rate rose to 6.1 percent last month, the highest level in nine years, but revised figures for payroll employment showed that job losses so far this year have not been as severe as was thought, the Labor Department reported today.

Nevertheless, the number of payroll jobs fell another 17,000 last month as the so-called jobless recovery from the 2001 recession continued. Since the slump began in March 2001, nearly 2.5 million jobs have disappeared, the vast majority of them at US factories. Last month another 53,000 factory jobs were lost but the effect was largely offset by scattered gains elsewhere.

I wish they'd quit all that "revising" they do. It seems like every time some really bad numbers come out, they "revise" something.

This is why I'm so resentful that my nation's economy is so irretrievably tied into the stock market racket. That's heresy to a supply-sider, I know, but I wish I'd never heard of the damned thing. Friggin' robber barons.

dystopia 2:17 PM - [Link]

Bloggers Report Alt News From G8

Making an end run around the mainstream media, the art of protesting goes high tech. From Wired News:

"Until now, the traditional media likes to retain only the rare outbursts of some isolated groups and not echo the debates and conferences which have nourished the everyday lives of the militants (protesters) for several days," Chambon wrote...Chambon offered updates as often as every half-hour on the activities of the protesters, including comments on the banners they held and the slogans on their T-shirts.

Chambon wrote at 2:30 pm on Sunday about a bridge standoff: "The police force charged and a young person fell from the bridge. He has two broken legs, but is not deceased..."

Howard Rheingold, author of
Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, said cell-phone use already has allowed protesters to better organize themselves. However, once next-generation 3G videophones become ubiquitous, protesters will be able to submit video instantly to blogs and provide an alternative viewpoint to challenge mainstream coverage.

"Then you no longer need to depend on what ABC News has to say about what's going on there," he said.

Cool. I went to the Project Hive website to see other protestors' reports, but I can't remember enough high-school French to read much of it. Here's a web translator if you want to try.

dystopia 1:16 PM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: June 6

1798: Congress passed a bill abolishing debtor's prisons.

1932: The first US federal tax on gasoline was passed; it was a penny per gallon.

1934: President Roosevelt signed the Securities Exchange Act establishing the SEC, designed to rein in the stock swapping shenanigans and duplicitous sales tactics that set off the Great Crash of 1929.

1964: Two US Navy jets flying low-altitude reconnaissance missions over Laos were shot down; news of the downing and subsequent retaliatory strikes by the US was made public, but the full extent of US involvement in Laos was not.

1968: Comedian Dick Gregory began a hunger strike in the Olympia, WA, jail after his arrest in support of Indian fishing rights.

1980: A 46-cent computer chip failed at the US Military Strategic Command, signaling a Soviet nuclear attack on the US for the second time in three days.

1988: A capsule containing radioactive cesium broke open at a food irradiation plant in Georgia. Ten workers were exposed and 70,000 medical supply containers and milk cartons were recalled.

1988: Media watchdog Donald Wildmon claimed he saw Mighty Mouse snorting cocaine on a Saturday morning cartoon. Animator Ralph Bakshi explained that the rodent was sniffing flowers, but the scene was cut from future broadcasts.

1989: Sacramento citizens voted to shut down the Rancho Seco nuclear plant; its operating license did not expire until 2008.

2002: Knight-Ridder reported that the NSA had intercepted telephone conversations between Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Mohammed Atta prior to 9/11, but did not share the information with any other agencies.

dystopia 11:05 AM - [Link]

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Scarborough Laughs About Dead Staffer

From BartCop Forum:

Conservative MSNBC news host Joe Scarborough was a guest on MSNBC's Imus show last Thursday, May 29.

In complementing Scarborough on his sense of humor, Imus said, "Don't be afraid to be funny, because you are funny. I asked you why you aren't in Congress. You said that you had sex with the intern and then you had to kill her." To which Scarborough laughed, "Yeah, ha, ha ha, well, what are you gonna do?"

To hear it, go here and click on May 29; it comes near the end of the tape at 15:45.

If you have no idea who Lori Klausutis was, go here.

dystopia 5:27 PM - [Link]

House Bill Threatens End of Head Start Programs

Discouraging bit of movement on the Head Start front, per Interest Alert:

The 72 local Head Start programs serving 38,000 at-risk children could be targeted for "liquidation" under a controversial bill introduced in the US House of initial group of at least eight states, including Ohio, could see their access to the 38-year-old Head Start program wiped out in favor of untested state-level programs with lower standards and fewer of the currently provided comprehensive Head Start services that at-risk children need in order to succeed in school.

Haxton, Heil and Harper noted that, while there are positive reforms outlined in Title I of the controversial House bill, any good that the provisions might do would be more than offset by the widely criticized Title II provisions permitting states to raid federal Head Start funds for their own programs.

Here's an article from last week on scare tactics used by the feds against Head Start employees over this issue.

Go to Save Head Start or the National Head Start Association for more info.

dystopia 4:53 PM - [Link]

House GOP Pull OT Pay Bill Off Schedule

It was a PR loser anyway, especially after the low-income tax cut fiasco. They're gonna keep trying, though, according to Yahoo! News:

House Republican leaders yanked an overtime pay bill from Thursday's schedule after failing to find enough votes for passage, a rare win for labor unions in a Congress controlled by the GOP...

Labor's success, however, could be short-lived. Republicans vowed to reschedule the vote after they "unravel the campaign of lies launched" by unions...

Organized labor has lost a lot of battles in the GOP-controlled Congress — especially the House, where leaders rule with an iron fist and defections are rare.

I didn't grow up in a union family so, early on, I had a hard time dredging up much sympathy for people who went on strike who already made astronomical (to me) wages. Especially during Reaganomics when I was a single mom working 60 hours a week for minimum wage and no benefits. And, of course, reports about union ties to organized crime didn't improve my opinion at all.

I feel more a lot more sympathetic to labor unions these days, and grateful, because now I can understand how and why we have the protections for American workers' rights and safety that are in place today, inadequate as they are, and I have a better idea of what it took to get them. These days, labor disputes aren't necessarily about workers getting more; they're usually fighting to hold on to what they've already got.

dystopia 4:20 PM - [Link]


Paraphrasing Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky: Never trust a government that doesn't trust its own people.

He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever. -- Chinese proverb

dystopia 3:47 PM - [Link]

Former Xerox Executives Fined $22 Million

This was one of the quieter corporate accounting scandals, for some reason. Per the Financial Times:

The Securities and Exchange Commission, the US's chief financial regulator, has been investigating Xerox for years. It has already settled with the company and filed a case against KPMG, which acted as Xerox's independent auditor.

Thursday's case was settled by the six former executives without them admitting or denying wrongdoing, as is usual in civil settlements. The fines and payments are large and reflect growing efforts by regulators to return more money to wronged investors following the wave of white-collar scandal and public outrage.

The SEC's case "alleges that the executives engaged in a fraudulent scheme that lasted from 1997 to 2000 that misled investors about Xerox's earnings." The SEC said the executives were trying "to polish [Xerox's] reputation on Wall Street and to boost the company's stock price."

dystopia 3:27 PM - [Link]

Music Battle over Patriotism, Free Speech

Gleaned an interesting bit of perspective from the Tennessean:

After a strong 2002, country-record sales have fallen to alarmingly low levels. For the week ending May 18, the top 75 new country albums sold a total of 390,000 units, which is fewer than the top two pop albums sold together.

Thanks to Cursor for pointing me to it.

dystopia 3:06 PM - [Link]

Guardian Retracts "Waldorf Transcripts"

Also from Cursor, further proof that you cannot depend on any news source to tell the truth all the time: A Berkeley Economist Against Empire reports that the Guardian has retracted its Waldorf transcripts story. The Guardian says they're taking Jack Straw's word for it that the meeting never happened, after previously standing behind the story.

The Economist further noted that MSNBC posted a new article mentioning the Guardian's claim of the alleged Waldorf meeting between Straw and Powell, without mentioning the Guardian's retraction posted ten hours earlier.

dystopia 2:50 PM - [Link]

The Informant

Cursor's just loaded with goodies today, as always: An Archer Daniels Midland VP cooperated with the FBI in recording secret video and audio tapes in a price-fixing investigation of ADM, at the same time he ran his own scam inside the company. The tapes were later described as "probably the most remarkable videotapes ever made of an American company in the middle of a criminal act."

There are some excerpts available of conversations between ADM executives revealing their attitudes toward the women who worked with them and about paying off politicians. The website for Eichenwald's book about the case is here.

ADM was eventually fined $100 million for price-fixing but, with friends in high places, well, you know how that story goes.

BTW, the Cato Institute calls ADM the "most prominent recipient of corporate welfare in recent US history."

dystopia 2:31 PM - [Link]

Filth and Vermin Reported, Ignored

A listeria outbreak last year killed eight people, caused three miscarriages and made at least 54 others sick, resulting in the third-largest meat recall in American history. School cafeterias had received 1.8 million pounds of the the recalled meat under the National School Lunch Program.

The listeria outbreak was traced to the Wampler meat factory in Montgomery County, PA, and a federal meat inspector talked about the disgusting conditions he found there, via the Charlotte Observer:

It was commonplace, Erthal said, to see flies and cockroaches in processing areas, dirty water dripping on exposed food, day-old meat particles in the grinding machines, and workers who picked up deli meats from the grimy floor before sending them on toward packaging.

And when Erthal tried several times to discipline the plant for such conditions, his USDA supervisors stifled his efforts and allowed the plant's conditions to persist, Erthal said.

"I couldn't believe what I was seeing," said Erthal, 40, of Bethlehem, Pa.. "I would constantly stress that someone was going to get sick, but all they wanted to do was protect the plant."

The situation doesn't seem to be all that unusual. The article goes on to say that Erthal is just one of many field inspectors across the country who have accused USDA managers of refusing to aggressively police plants with sanitary problems.

If your stomach can handle it, here's some more reading on listeria, drug-resistant salmonella, diseased animals, factory feedlots, and an infuriating judicial ruling. Frontline did a thorough program on Modern Meat, and the website of Safe Tables Our Priority has lots more info on foodborne illness.

And, if you're sure you want to know, the bottom of this page tells your state's average pus count in milk. It looks like only Florida and Arizona allow more pus than my state. Yummy.

If you ever want to lose some weight, try studying food safety issues. It'll put you right off your feed for a while.

dystopia 1:50 PM - [Link]

Oceans' Ecosystems Near Collapse

The Pew Oceans Commission released the results of an independent study yesterday, per the Charlotte Observer:

The oceans bordering the United States are overfished, polluted, infested with invasive species, dotted with "dead zones" and in a state of crisis, but they still can be saved, an independent commission reported Wednesday.

Bringing the oceans' ecosystems back from the edge of collapse - one recent study found that 90 percent of the world's big fish have disappeared - requires dramatic, controversial and expensive efforts to limit fishing, coastal development and runoff from cities and farms, according to the Pew Oceans Commission....

The Pew report is the latest in a series of reports warning of worsening problems in the world's oceans. A separate commission, appointed by President Bush, will make its own recommendations next fall, but it already has concluded that "there are substantial problems in the oceans..."

Depressing news. A related article in the Observer:

Overstressed Oceans a Worldwide Problem

dystopia 1:01 PM - [Link]

Big Sugar: Oust Judge in Glades Cleanup

The sugar industry has launched a legal attack against a district judge who can't seem to get with the program, per the Miami Herald:

In separate but similar motions filed in federal court in Miami and Atlanta, the state's biggest sugar companies asked that Hoeveler be removed from a landmark case that he has overseen for more than a decade -- the original lawsuit that forced the state's environmental regulators to stop allowing farm and urban runoff to taint the River of Grass...

The Miccosukee Tribe and environmental groups, which have praised Hoeveler for his pledge to stick to his tougher court-mandated plan, dismissed the motions as a ploy to steamroller the last and biggest hurdle to softening state pollution laws.

Dexter Lehtinen, an attorney for the tribe, said the industry was engaging in ''obstructionist tactics'' designed to deflect public scrutiny from its role in ''gutting the law.'' Sugar lobbyists helped write the original bill, and nearly 50 of them helped push it through the Legislature.

dystopia 12:40 PM - [Link]

Ashcroft Asks for Expanded Powers


Attorney General John Ashcroft asked Congress Thursday for expanded powers to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely before trials and to let him seek the death penalty or life imprisonment for any terrorist act.

Ashcroft told the House Judiciary Committee that the 2001 Patriot Act...should also be expanded to let prosecutors bring charges against anyone who supports or works with suspected terrorist groups as "material supporters."

Anyone? Any act? It sounds like he's trying to sneak in bits and pieces of Patriot Act II, the sinister sequel leaked a few months ago by a freaked-out DOJ staffer. AlterNet broke down the provisions of Patriot II, which included hair-raising stuff like this:

Americans could have their citizenship revoked, if found to have contributed "material support" to organizations deemed by the government, even retroactively, to be "terrorist"...'the intent to relinquish nationality need not be manifested in words, but can be inferred from conduct...'

The death penalty would be expanded to cover 15 new offenses.

Ashcroft also said the DOJ would investigate charges of abuse against the detainees, though 14 of 18 cases already referred have been cleared without any charges being filed. That's not terribly shocking--the idea of Ashcroft's DOJ admitting to any kind of wrongdoing under any circumstances doesn't seem very likely to me.

dystopia 11:35 AM - [Link]

Teen Wins Lying Contest, Plans to Be Politician

Sounds like he's got the right qualifications for the job.

dystopia 11:18 AM - [Link]

Happy Birthday, Bill Moyers

For he's a jolly good fellow.

dystopia 11:12 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: June 5

1637: Colonists massacred over 600 Pequot Indians at Mystic, CT.

1774: The Boston Committee of Correspondence drafted a non-importation agreement urging all colonists to boycott imported British goods.

1794: Congress passed the Neutrality Act, prohibiting Americans from enlisting in the service of a foreign power.

1917: American men began registering for the WWI draft.

1919: Following a bomb explosion marking the beginning of the Palmer raids, 67 anarchists were arrested and faced deportation.

1967: Muhammed Ali was sentenced to five years in prison for refusing the military draft during the Vietnam War.

1969: Inmate soldiers, most imprisoned for going AWOL and being held without trial, rioted at the military penal stockade at Fort Dix over tortures being inflicted on them.

1972: Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird said the increase in US military activity in Vietnam could add up to $5 billion to the 1973 fiscal budget, doubling the annual cost of the war.

1981: GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) was first mentioned publicly by the CDC. The disease later became known as AIDS.

1985: OMB director David Stockman said that if the SEC had jurisdiction over the way the executive and legislative branches of government handled the deficit, "many of us would be in jail."

1985: The Senate voted to ask President Reagan to stay within SALT II treaty limitations.

dystopia 10:41 AM - [Link]

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Dow Closes Above 9,000; First Time in 8 Months

Just saw this headline. Eight months, huh? A veritable eon. The Dow only hit 9,000 for the first time five years ago, and 3,000 for the first time just seven years before that.

Have you ever really taken a look at the historical Dow charts (scroll down, on the left)? If you lay them out side by side, looking at the numbers and not the proportionally-sized charts that fool the eye, it's really kind of shocking. Go look at how relatively tiny the drop was in 1929 that kicked off the Depression--you know, when the privileged few screwed things up for just about everyone in the country for well over a decade--and compare it with drops in the DJ over the past few years.

I think about how tenuous it all seems--how the the stock market could have jumped so high and so fast. How much of that was the tech boom and how much was due to other factors? And is it good for us? I know it's good for Corporate America, but that isn't quite the same thing.

I wonder how much of the nation's retirement funds got sucked into the damned thing during the 90s? And what all else? Mankind got along pretty all right for thousands of years without a stock market, you know, and I wonder if we wouldn't all be better off if we'd never had one. I guess that would depend on your definition of "better," huh?

dystopia 6:48 PM - [Link]

Ganja Guru Freed in California

Ed Rosenthal was released today after a federal judge sentenced him to just one day in prison for his controversial marijuana conviction, per Yahoo! News:

Rosenthal, 58, was found guilty in February of growing more than 100 plants in an Oakland warehouse and could have faced as much as 60 years behind bars...

The jury found Rosenthal guilty of marijuana cultivation, but several jurors later said they would have acquitted him if they had known he was growing the plants for patients in Oakland...

Angry jurors even held a press conference after the trial to complain about the information withheld from them, per AlterNet.

dystopia 4:55 PM - [Link]

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Later this summer. It'll be our first time since 9/11. Still not sure if I'll be able to get DH to set foot on a plane again. We'll see. He hated flying before, and he likes it even less now.

The good news: we finally get to go somewhere! Bad news: it's Vegas. Trade show. We're not into gambling or shopping or glitzy shows, so there's really nothing for us to do there when we're not working. Ironic that the place we go most often is the one we like the least. Plus other family members are going, and they always try to get us to hang out with them while they gamble. It's not that it's so offensive or anything; it's just boring.

DH and I have a big anniversary coming up this summer--six years married and ten years since our first date--so I hope this isn't the only time we get to get away this year. Boston was our last real vacation, and that was way back in the fall of 2000 while the Bush-Gore debates were happening. Seems like a million years ago, doesn't it?

dystopia 3:38 PM - [Link]

The Truth About Malpractice Caps

US Newswire reports on a Time cover story about malpractice caps:

According to Time ("A Chastened Insurer"), a study to be published this week by Weiss Ratings, an independent insurance-rating agency in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, found that between 1991 and 2002, states with caps on noneconomic damage awards saw median doctors malpractice insurance premiums rise 48 percent -- a greater increase than in states without caps. In states without caps, median premiums increased only 36 percent. Moreover, according to Weiss, "median 2002 premiums were about the same" whether or not a state capped damage awards.

Time reports, "Weiss found nine states with flat or declining premiums; two of them had caps, seven didn't. Weiss speculates that regulation of premium increases made the difference. In California, consumer groups argue that the state's tough oversight of the insurance industry, not its caps on damages, explains why rates have grown more slowly."

Moreover, said
Time, "caps on noneconomic damages may not hold down doctors' insurance costs, but they have boosted insurers' profits.... ' The caps are great for insurers,'" Weiss said.

Thanks to Atrios for the tip. Here's a report by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights:

How Insurance Reform Lowered Doctors' Medical Malpractice Rates in California, and How Malpractice Caps Failed (PDF file)

It turns out that forcing insurance companies to behave themselves lowered health care costs. Imagine that.

dystopia 1:51 PM - [Link]

Shifting Out of Park

Al Kamen's column in the Washington Post has some noteworthy items today. First, a report on the Interior Dept's skyrocketing travel expenses:

A General Accounting Office audit of Park Service travel found that overall costs went from $39 million in 1999 to about $50 million in 2002. Headquarters travel rose by 60 percent, from $5.6 million to more than $9 million...Overseas trips increased nearly one-third...the Park Service is sending 16 officials to the 5th World Park Congress in Durban, South Africa, in September, the lawmakers noted...

With "huge federal deficits" and the parks "being asked to absorb pay cost increases, increased anti-terrorism-related security costs" and other financial strains, Taylor and Dicks wrote, "we are amazed to learn about the large number of individuals who work for you that plan to take this trip to South Africa."

Also, a Department of Homeland Security official, Laura Callahan, reportedly received her doctorate from an alleged Wyoming diploma mill that charges $3,600 for folks in need of a Ph.D.

dystopia 1:07 PM - [Link]

GOP Governor Wants to Raise Alabama Taxes

Interesting battle brewing--a Reaganite governor risks his political future by calling for the biggest tax increase in Alabama history. From the NY Times:

What is more, this conservative Republican wants not merely to raise taxes but to redistribute money from the wealthy to Alabama's working poor...trying to overhaul what many here in Montgomery acknowledge is one of the nation's most dysfunctional state governments, and drag Alabama's finances, schools and prisons into the 21st century — if not, some might say, the 20th...

"If the New Testament teaches me anything, it teaches me not only to love thy neighbor but also to help those who are the least among us," Mr Riley said. "Having a regressive tax structure is one thing. But when it starts at $4,600 for a family of four, that's immoral..."

Mr Riley's most striking initiative, meanwhile, is a tax on intangible assets, otherwise known as a wealth tax, at a tenth of a percent of the value of stocks and bonds, up to a $5,000 annual cap.

Go, Riley! There were some parts of the plan I didn't like so much, but overall it sounds like a step in the right direction. The Times isn't very optimistic that Riley will get the tax increase, though.

As you might guess, the Dems are delighted and the Republicans are shittin' down one leg and kickin' it off with the other.

dystopia 12:34 PM - [Link]

Gulf War Vets' Kids Prone to Certain Defects

The DOD Naval Health Research Center and the CDC examined birth defect data and found that the children of Gulf War veterans were more likely to be born with three specific defects. From the Houston Chronicle:

Researchers found the infants born to male veterans of the 1991 war had higher rates of two types of heart valve defects, tricuspid valve insufficiency and aortic valve spinosis. They also found a higher rate of a genital urinary defect, hypospaedia, in boys conceived after the war to Gulf War veteran mothers.

In addition, Gulf War veterans' children born after the war had a certain kidney defect, renal aegenisis, that was not found in Gulf War veterans' children born before the war.

I wonder what the results of the study will mean for the families of these kids, beyond confirming what they probably already believed.

dystopia 11:34 AM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: June 4

1775: Colonists in Savannah, GA, spiked cannon assembled to celebrate the king's birthday.

1919: US marines invaded Costa Rica to protect US interests.

1919: The Senate passed the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. Already passed by the House, it went to the states for ratification and became law in 1920.

1939: During the Voyage of the Damned, the St Louis, carrying more than 900 Jewish refugees from Germany, was turned away from the Florida coast. The ship, also denied permission to dock in Cuba, returned to Europe; many of its passengers later died in Nazi concentration camps.

1947: The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the Taft-Hartley Act.

1972: Black activist Angela Davis was acquitted after a 13-week trial of murder, kidnapping, and criminal conspiracy in San Jose, CA.

1986: The Catawba tribe of South Carolina lost its Supreme Court case to reclaim aboriginal lands, due to expiration of the statute of limitations.

1997: In India, activists protested the US company Enron, which was building a power station in the South Maharashtra region; 39 protesters were arrested.

2002: The AP reported that Air Force Lt Col Steve Butler, who called President Bush a joke and accused him of allowing the 9/11 attacks to happen, was suspended from his post at the Defense Language School in Monterey, CA, threatened with court martial under Article 88.

dystopia 10:12 AM - [Link]

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Lunch in Cell Block C?

Burned out on news today, so I'm cruising other blogs for interesting bits. Found some!

The Daily Outrage:

The logic of the Akron school board, which has voted 5-2 to collect fingerprints this fall, is that thumb scans at the cafeteria cash register work better than PIN codes or cards, which can both be forgotten. Dissenting school board member Rebecca Heimbaugh expressed disbelief that children in Akron could have to be fingerprinted "to go through the lunch line or to buy a cookie or a carton of milk." The good news is that the $700,000 state-of-the-art system is being funded out of the budget for Child Nutrition Services. Sorry, my mistake, that's not the good news. The good news is that, according to the Beacon Journal, fingerprinting and thumb scans at lunch "will not be used -- at least initially -- in elementary schools."

dystopia 6:14 PM - [Link]

Blogospherics: Anger in the Blogosphere

A MacDiva analysis on using one's blog as a punching bag. One of the angry posters quoted by the Diva could have been talking about me:

This whiny, liberal, ignorant bitch thinks she is so right and is so sure of what she says that she doesn't allow comments on her blog. Thats sad. I take it that she is so ashamed, so pathetically unsure of what she's writing about and to keep herself believing that she actually has some intelligence, she won't allow anyone to disagree. It may hurt her feelings. What a weak woman. She gives the strong, independent, real women a bad name...She hides her sitemeter stats too. Now thats one paranoid bitch!

Heeheeheee...! The whole thing is a fun read. Thanks to Body and Soul for pointing me to it.

There is no sitemeter on this blog to hide. Some things I just don't want to know.

Don't have a comment feature, in case anyone wonders, because I've been burned that way before. My e-mail address is posted on this site, just as the one for the dissed blogger above is posted on hers, but maybe it's not so fun to freep if you can't do it publicly. I dunno.

My blog, my soapbox. Don't like what I post? Fine. Hit your back button and go on with yourself. If you just have to e-mail me about it, be civil--I'm pretty handy with the delete button.

Freedom of speech does entitle you to speak your own mind. It does not, however, entitle you to a response.

dystopia 3:19 PM - [Link]

Carlyle Buys Fiat Aerospace

Per Major Barbara (permalink bloggered), Carlyle went shopping again:

"Italian newspaper Finanza & Mercati reported Friday that Fiat has agreed to sell its aerospace unit to Finmeccanica Spa, Italy's biggest defense company, and Carlyle Group, Inc, a US buyout fund, for 1.55 billion euros. Fiat stock rose 5 percent to 6.94 euros Friday, and rose to 6.97 euros by 11:50 a.m. London time today..."

An April article in the Guardian gave details on the deal.

dystopia 2:51 PM - [Link]

Senate to Investigate WMD Intelligence

The Apostropher took a look at the makeup of the two Senate committees that will do the investigating, and came up with some interesting points:

The Democrats only need to stay united and peel off one Republican to prevail in these committees. In addition to McCain and Lott, each of Maine's "liberal" Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, sit on one of the committees. Senators from both parties on each committee have been critical of the post-war reconstruction effort and seem to be experiencing pangs of buyer's regret. Especially if the situation on the ground in Iraq continues to deteriorate, these investigations could surprise people and actually uncover some truth...

dystopia 2:38 PM - [Link]

DOD Launches Internet Voting for Overseas Americans

Oh, no. Oh, no no no. The Pentagon involved in computerized voting? From MSNBC:

The project — known as the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment, or SERVE — builds on a smaller-scale effort in the 2000 elections...While the program is being run by FVAP, a part of the Defense Department, overseas civilians as well as military personnel will be allowed to register beginning next year, assuming their state and county back home are taking part in the federal program...

Flood said he could not estimate how many voters might participate. He said “there is a potential for some 6 million voters” — but that figure takes in the entire overseas electorate, and only a fraction of the 6 million would satisfy the experiment’s eligibility requirements.

An online poll on the same page: "Would you trust your vote to the Internet?" With 8341 responses, 43% said yes. Made me want to scream and throw things.

dystopia 12:36 PM - [Link]

Get 'Em While They're Young

The Washington Post reports on how corporations profit from the public schools:

"That's where the kids are," said Tom Harris, vice president of sales and marketing for the National Theatre for Children, whose productions bring corporate-sponsored messages into elementary and middle schools. "It's a captive audience and in a world of where kids are torn between the Internet, IM [instant messaging], sports, TV and radio, school is the place where marketers can find them in an uncluttered environment."

The business goes far beyond schools sharing profits from vending machines or selling naming rights to a stadium or cafeteria. An industry of subcontractors, such as the Field Trip Factory of Chicago, which set up the Arnold school's trip, has been created to help corporate America get brand names and messages into the classroom...Kids' buying power is estimated by marketing experts to be at least $10 billion a year, not including their influence on family purchases...

With field trips and plays, book covers, art guides and nutrition workbooks, they are courting ever-younger consumers. And, Harris said, "it's exceptionally easy to get programs into schools. We have a 95 percent acceptance rate."

No kidding. More on marketing to kids:

Pizza Hut, Domino’s and the Public Schools
Teaching Kids to Consume

It isn't just advertising and junk food; classroom curriculum is infiltrated as well, to shape young minds to suit corporate/political goals:

Influencing Future Decision-Makers
Ecological Literacy Under Siege
Teaching Stocks for Fun and Propaganda

dystopia 12:11 PM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: June 3

1864: About 7,000 Union troops were killed within 30 minutes during the Battle of Cold Harbor, VA, during the Civil War.

1918: A federal child labor law, enacted two years earlier, was declared unconstitutional.

1943: Three days after a sailor was badly injured in a brawl with a group of Hispanics, a mob of 60 servicemen left the LA Naval Reserve Armory and began bludgeoning Hispanics, beginning a week of race riots.

1946: The Supreme Court ruled that black passengers could not be forced to sit at the back of interstate buses.

1970: President Nixon claimed the Allied drive into Cambodia was the "most successful operation of this long and difficult war," and that he was now able to resume the withdrawal of US troops from South Vietnam.

1974: Brown & Williamson Tobacco, seeking ways to cash in on the popularity of marijuana, developed a cigarette that mimicked the drug's smell.

1974: Charles Colson, an aide to President Nixon, pled guilty to obstruction of justice in the Watergate scandal.

1980: A 46-cent computer chip failed at the US Military Strategic Command, signaling a Soviet nuclear attack on the US. Our forces had to be called back.

1987: Rep Jack Brooks opined that Iran-Contra lackey Elliot Abrams took "more pride in not knowing anything than anybody I ever saw." Abrams replied, "I never said I had no idea about most of the things you said I said I had no idea about."

dystopia 11:06 AM - [Link]

Monday, June 02, 2003

Support Grows to Curb Interior Department

Members of the House and Senate are teaming up to ask Gale Norton some hard questions on recent controversial decisions made by her department. The Environment News Service has more:

"It's clear that these decisions are intended to limit congressional options and preclude action by future secretaries to protect some of our most magnificent public lands as wilderness or wilderness study areas," said Representative Maurice Hinchey, a New York Democrat who initiated the letter with Colorado Congressmen Mark Udall and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon...

"These actions represent a far-reaching change in federal land management, and a breathtaking step backwards from the path that began in 1964 when Congress established the wilderness system," said Blumenauer...

Five senators signed a letter asking the Interior Department to explain why it issued the disclaimer rule and provide information for the department's closed door negotiations with the state of Utah, and justify why the Bureau of Land Management would be the agency responsible for processing claims, even if the rights-of-way cross lands managed by other federal agencies.

Norton is one of my least-favorite people, so I'm very happy to hear it.

dystopia 4:35 PM - [Link]

Arizona May Ignore Next Orange Alert

Arizona officials are thinking about taking a pass the next time the national terror alert status is raised to orange, per Capital Hill Blue:

"It creates incredible problems: overtime, financial, functional," Frank Navarrete, the state's homeland security director, told the newspaper. "It is not quite to the point where it creates havoc, but it's quite disruptive."

Raising the orange alert routinely sends state and municipal governments into action -- deploying additional police and National Guard units to bridges, nuclear power plants, airports and other possible terrorist targets. Local authorities already operating under significant budget constraints pick up the tab for overtime and other expenses...

"We have to be mindful of the fact that if we continue to do this and nothing happens, that it loses impact with the citizenry," he said. "It becomes a 'here we go again' mentality."

The Christian Science Monitor seconds that notion, looking into costs and attitudes toward the alerts across the country.

dystopia 4:10 PM - [Link]

Transcripts Raise Alarm Across NATO

From the Guardian:

Transcripts of a private conversation between Jack Straw and Colin Powell expressing serious doubts about the reliability of intelligence on Iraq's banned weapons programme are being circulated in western government circles where there is a growing feeling that officials were deceived into supporting the Iraq war.

A document known as the "Waldorf transcripts" - after the New York hotel where the US secretary of state was staying before making a crucial speech to the UN security council earlier this year - is described by an official of one NATO country as "extremely useful..."

The "Waldorf transcripts" document being distributed among NATO capitals raises new questions about Mr Straw's denials. It is being circulated amid a flurry of leaks in Washington about Mr Powell's concerns about how intelligence was being used to try to persuade reluctant NATO allies - notably France and Germany - to sanction an attack on Iraq.

dystopia 3:46 PM - [Link]

Ireland Catches on to Voting Machines

Prominent Irish computer scientists have also sounded the alarm on the integrity of electronic voting machines, in the Irish Examiner:

“It is easy to conceive of a scenario where a hostile person or group has acquired a key and creates a diversion, so that they can gain access to the machine for five minutes,” the report reads.

One of the central concerns centres around the key for the voting system. The key is supposed to give polling staff access to sensitive features on the machine, but is easily copied, the researchers found.

The researchers also point out that any competent programmer can write a code which would display one vote on the screen, while recording and printing different outcomes. “Skilled programmers could insert changes which could affect the outcome of an election, while being very difficult to detect,” the report says.

Thanks, Phoebe, for the tip.

dystopia 2:55 PM - [Link]

Phoenix Partially Privatizes Water

This doesn't sound very promising. From the Arizona Republic:

The company getting ready to do business in Phoenix has some image problems. Earth Tech, based in Long Beach, CA, is a subsidiary of Tyco International, whose former top officials face charges of tax evasion, securities fraud and other financial improprieties...

Privatization is a dirty word to me, just like deregulation is. More info:

The Water Barons
Water Profiteers
Privatizing Water: A Glass Half Empty?
Piping Mad

dystopia 2:28 PM - [Link]

"Why Are People Dying?"

Families whose loved ones survived the war in Iraq safely are asking why so many of them are dying there now. The NY Times has some of their stories:

Even as Americans viewed the conflict with Iraq as mostly over and the nation's attention turned elsewhere, the Department of Defense reported the deaths of about 40 service members in the past six weeks...for families who had just begun to allow themselves to think their loved ones might be safe, the news was all the more jarring, the numbers impossible to consider.

"We won the war, so why are people dying?...I don't understand why this keeps happening. We have guys getting killed every day..."

More of the service members have died in accidents than in attacks...In late May, the Defense Department announced plans to cut in half the rate of "mishaps" over the next two years. The plan was prompted by an increase in accidents from 2001 to 2002, not by events in Iraq, according to a statement issued by the department in response to questions...

dystopia 1:45 PM - [Link]

Internet Battle Raises First Amendment Questions

Beauty v. the Beast: She promotes abstinence and sobriety on her website. He described her as promiscuous and not terribly sober on his. She complained, and a Florida judge promptly shut him down. The NY Times reports:

The order...has alarmed experts in First Amendment law, who say that such orders prohibiting future publication, prior restraints, are essentially unknown in American law. Moreover, they say, claims like Ms Johnson's, for invasion of privacy, have almost never been considered enough to justify prior restraints...

Judge Lewis ruled on May 6, before Mr Max was notified of the suit and without holding a hearing. She told Mr Max that he could not use "Katy" on his site. Nor could he use Ms Johnson's last name, full name or the words "Miss Vermont"...also prohibited Mr Max from "disclosing any stories, facts or information, notwithstanding its truth, about any intimate or sexual acts engaged in by" Ms Johnson. That prohibition is not limited to his Web site...

"Katy Johnson holds herself out publicly, for her own commercial gain, as a champion of abstinence and a woman of virtue...The public has a legitimate interest in knowing whether or not her own behavior is consistent with the virtuous image that she publicly seeks to promote..."

"If you're telling people they can't talk about something like're also telling them they can't talk about their own lives."

dystopia 1:27 PM - [Link]

Arrest Leaves Questions About DNA Samples

From the LA Times:

With a suspect under arrest in the Louisiana serial killer case, investigators are facing questions about what they are going to do with the DNA samples collected from more than 1,000 men as part of a huge genetic dragnet.

One man is suing to have his DNA removed from police files. Legal experts said the case could help determine where the line is drawn between the interests of a criminal investigation and personal privacy. Shannon Kohler's suit contends police lacked sufficient grounds to take his genetic information while looking for the man who killed five women in southern Louisiana.

I just posted something on this a week or two ago...ah, yes, here it is:

Supporters, Critics Debate DNA Database Expansion

Sorry my permalinks run so slow. If that one doesn't work for you, read these:

Supporters, Critics Debate DNA Database Expansion
State and Federal DNA Database Laws Examined

It appears there are no legal provisions to get yourself removed from the DNA database if you're cleared of any wrongdoing. There are also questions of privacy because of shared DNA among siblings.

dystopia 12:54 PM - [Link]

Gifts to Jeb, Chambliss Scrutinized

A search of federal and state financial reports turned up no record of the food and catering services contributed to Jeb Bush and Saxby Chambliss by a Georgia barbecue chain for 2002 campaign events, per the LA Times:

The donations are listed in an Oct 9 letter to Chambliss obtained by Associated Press. The author, Georgia Republican activist Briggs Goggans, writes that he and Williamson Bros. barbecue owners Larry and Danny Williamson spent about $8,000 in time, food and materials for a Chambliss event in August in Atlanta. He also details a similar event — costing about $10,000 — for Jeb Bush in September in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Because Chambliss was seeking a federal office, Federal Election Commission rules would apply. Bob Biersack of the FEC said an individual can volunteer up to $1,000 in food or service without the campaign having to disclose it.

Florida campaign finance law applies to Gov Bush's Sept 13-14 rally, which Bush did not attend. Under Florida law, an individual can donate up to $500 in services to a candidate. The campaign must disclose the donation.

I doubt if much will come of it, but wouldn't it be delicious to see these two swine go down in a bob-a-chew scandal?

dystopia 12:43 PM - [Link]

We're So FCCed

Can you say slam dunk? I'm praying for an injunction to keep the buying and selling on hold for a bit.

Keep pestering your elected reps for a review of the decision or even some overriding legislation. Maybe it's not too late to stop it. Maybe.

Don't really want to talk about it right now.

dystopia 12:07 PM - [Link]

Today in Dystopian History: June 2

1692: Bridget Bishop was the first to be pronounced guilty of witchcraft and condemned to death during the Salem witch trials.

1774: Parliament broadened the Quartering Act of 1765, demanding that the American colonists provide housing for British soldiers and their mounts.

1851: Maine became the first state to pass a law prohibiting alcohol.

1863: Col James Montgomery led 300 black Union troops on a raid along the Combahee River in South Carolina. Backed by three gunboats, the troops set fire to plantations and, with Harriet Tubman's help, freed 750 slaves.

1924: Congress granted US citizenship to all American Indians.

1924: A child labor ammendment to the Constitution was proposed; only 28 of the necessary 36 states ever ratified it.

1971: US Brigadier General John Donaldson was charged with murder and assault in connection with an incident involving eight South Vietnamese civilians.

1977: Native American activist Leonard Peltier was sentenced in Fargo, ND, to two consecutive life terms for the killing of two FBI agents in one of the most corrupt trials in recent US history.

1985: The RJ Reynolds Company proposed a major merger with Nabisco that would create a $4.9 billion conglomerate.

1995: A US Air Force F-16C was shot down by Bosnian Serbs while on a NATO air patrol in northern Bosnia; the pilot, Capt Scott O'Grady, was rescued six days later.

dystopia 10:03 AM - [Link]

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Books Worth Reading (linked to reviews):

The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood (1986)

How the Good Guys Finally Won: Notes from an Impeachment Summer, by Jimmy Breslin (1975)

Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco, by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar (1990)

Big Blues: The Unmaking of IBM, by Paul Carroll (1993)

Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson (1962)

The Road Ahead, by Bill Gates with Nathan Myhrvold and Peter Rinearson (1996)

Charismatic Chaos, by John F MacArthur, Jr (1992)

The American Way of Birth, by Jessica Mitford (1992)

Ethel: A Fictional Autobiography, by Tema Nason (1990)

Arrogant Capital: Washington, Wall Street, and the Frustration of American Politics, by Kevin Phillips (1994)

Flying High: The Story of Boeing and the Rise of the Jetliner Industry, by Eugene Rodgers (1996)

Clearing the Air, by Daniel Schorr (1977)

Trammell Crow, Master Builder: The Story of America's Largest Real Estate Empire, by Robert Sobel (1989)

The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed, by David Stockman (1986)

Oil Man: The Story of Frank Phillips and the Birth of Phillips Petroleum, by Michael Wallis (1995)

Marathon: The Pursuit of the Presidency 1972-1976, by Jules Witcover (1977)

Belly Up: The Collapse of the Penn Square Bank, by Philip L Zweig (1985)