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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Friday random ten

  1. I Mean You - Thelonious Monk
  2. Grapefruit Moon - Tom Waits
  3. Right or Wrong - Kelly Hogan
  4. It Always Rains On A Picnic - Modest Mouse
  5. She's Not - John Doe
  6. Hymn for the Exiled - Anaïs Mitchell
  7. Someday the Waves - Iron & Wine
  8. Search My Heart - Hot Tuna
  9. Chains - Carole King
  10. Please, Please, Please - Fiona Apple
  11. Bug - Kristin Hersh

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Buy a Banned Book (cheap)

Earlier today, The Punning Pundit created a linked list to help those who wanted to buy books on the American Library Association's list of the 100 most challenged books of the year. His suggested vendors were two of the largest on-line book retailers, while I tend to prefer to shop from independent booksellers. So I've decided to create a list of my own. Most of the books on it can be purchased for $1.00 (plus S&H):

  1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  8. Forever by Judy Blume
  9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
  17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  19. Sex by Madonna
  20. Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
  21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
  27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
  29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
  30. The Goats by Brock Cole
  31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
  32. Blubber by Judy Blume
  33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
  34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
  35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
  36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
  37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  40. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
  41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
  46. Deenie by Judy Blume
  47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
  49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
  50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
  51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
  54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
  55. Cujo by Stephen King
  56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
  58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  61. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
  62. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
  64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
  65. Fade by Robert Cormier
  66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
  67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
  69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  71. Native Son by Richard Wright
  72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
  73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
  74. Jack by A.M. Homes
  75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
  76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
  77. Carrie by Stephen King
  78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
  79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
  81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
  82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
  83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
  87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
  88. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
  89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
  90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
  91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
  93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
  94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
  95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
  97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
  98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
  100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Via Amanda at Pandagon

Monday, September 26, 2005

Monkey see...

Sorry about not posting recently.

I've been a funk for the last couple days and not one with a beat you can dance to. Well, I just bought the latest Terry Prachett, as well as the latest Neil Gaiman, and the fourth season of Gilmore Girls is released tomorrow on DVD and since I've been saving for the past month, I can actually afford it.

Anyway, for your reading pleasure, I present the first recent newspaper article about evolution that's actually pretty good.

decoding chimpanzees' DNA allowed scientists to do more than just refine their estimates of how similar humans and chimps are. It let them put the very theory of evolution to some tough new tests.

If Darwin was right, for example, then scientists should be able to perform a neat trick. Using a mathematical formula that emerges from evolutionary theory, they should be able to predict the number of harmful mutations in chimpanzee DNA by knowing the number of mutations in a different species' DNA and the two animals' population sizes.

"That's a very specific prediction," said Eric Lander, a geneticist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., and a leader in the chimp project.

Sure enough, when Lander and his colleagues tallied the harmful mutations in the chimp genome, the number fit perfectly into the range that evolutionary theory had predicted.

The article explains, in non-technical language, why evolution by natural selection is a scientific theory and why, by contrast, ID is not.

Asked to provide examples of non-obvious, testable predictions made by the theory of Intelligent Design, John West, an associate director of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based ID think tank, offered one: In 1998, he said, an ID theorist, reckoning that an intelligent designer would not fill animals' genomes with DNA that had no use, predicted that much of the "junk" DNA in animals' genomes -- long seen as the detritus of evolutionary processes -- will someday be found to have a function.

(In fact, some "junk" DNA has indeed been found to be functional in recent years, though more than 90 percent of human DNA still appears to be the flotsam of biological history.) In any case, West said, it is up to Darwinists to prove ID wrong.

"Chance and necessity don't seem to be good candidates for explaining the appearance of higher-order complexity, so the best explanation is an intelligent cause," West said. [emphasis added]

No, it is up to the people positing a scientific theory to provide evidence supporting it.

The article then goes into a basic overview of evolution.

Rather than just take the usual newspaper tactic of "he said, she said" pairing off one quote by a biologist with another quote by someone from the Discovery Institute, Weiss and Brown do a good job, given the length constraints of a newspaper article, explaining what evolutionary theory is.

On the geek scale*, I give this one a π.

(*The geek scale was originally created in the Annals of Improbable Research to grade cafeterias in various research institutions. It ranges from an i, good only in your imagination; to π, 'cause everyone knows pie is good.)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Trick-or-Treat


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I still haven't decided what I want to be this year. If I have to work, I'll probably just go with my understated devil horns, and if I don't I'm leaning towards dressing as the tooth fairy: faerie wings, a wifebeater, and a pair of pliers strung around my neck.

Anyone have any other ideas?

If I'm starting to think about Halloween, it must be close to October.

So long, been good to know ya

Lester Crawford, the FDA Commissioner who was appointed only two months ago and then proceeded to block over-the-counter sales of Plan B emergency contraception has resigned.

Crawford won a contentious confirmation battle in the Senate after Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt assured Senate Democrats the FDA would act on over-the-counter sales of the morning after pill Plan B by September 1.

But he came under fresh attack in late August when the FDA indefinitely postponed a ruling on whether Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc. could sell the Plan B contraceptive without a prescription. The agency's top women's health official resigned in protest.

The FDA also faced a string of drug safety controversies during Crawford's tenure. Some critics charged the agency with being too slow to react to signs of serious side effects from Merck & Co. Inc.'s recalled painkiller Vioxx and other medicines.

...

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, said Crawford's resignation was "a move toward reforming FDA."

"Lester Crawford's leadership at FDA since 2002 has been both tepid and passive. There were so many problems under his watch," Mikulski said.

Excuse me while I shake my groove thang.

Okay, I'm better now.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Mom and Uncle Harvey


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Mom was about three, Uncle Harvey was about five.

And you wanted to know what was wrong with Faith Based social services

Well, let's look here:

The Republican-led House approved a bill that lets churches and other faith-based preschool centers hire only people who share their religion, yet still receive federal tax dollars.

...

The Republican plan would, for example, let a Catholic church that provides Head Start services employ only Catholic child-care workers.

Democrats and Republicans offered different interpretations of whether the Constitution, federal law and court rulings protected - or prevented - federally aided centers from hiring based on religion.

"Congress should not be in the business of supporting state-sponsored discrimination," said Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla. Said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif.: "The (Republican) majority has decided to choose religious discrimination over what could have been a rare bipartisan agreement."

Since I'm not a Catholic, I understand why the Catholic Church would perfer not to hire someone of my religious persuasion - that's their prerogative. But why in the hell should I be paying for people to discriminate against me, and more importantly, why should my schools be discriminating against me in the first place?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Idiots

I was trying to access the Speaking of Faith website in order to remind myself about an interview that I heard this week and what do I discover? It's been hacked by idiots.

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  1. If you're going to hack a website, why would you hack one from Public Radio? Remember, it's jump the high-bar and limbo the low bar. You hear the phone ringing? It's 2600 calling to laugh at you.
  2. And remember, CSI may teach us that everyone leaves DNA, but only a fucking idiot posts their e-mail address on a site they've hacked.

Friday Random Ten

  1. Good Intentions - Lyle Lovett
  2. Moonshiner's Child - Miss Tammy Faye Starlite And The Angels Of Mercy
  3. Jewels - Lucas Michailidis
  4. It's No Use - Merle Saunders and Jerry Garcia
  5. Good Love (Shouldn't Feel So Bad) - Kris Kristofferson
  6. Whispering Pines - Kelly Hogan and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts
  7. The New Hula Blues - Taj Mahal
  8. Oh Sailor - Fiona Apple
  9. Watch Her Disappear - Tom Waits
  10. Mad Tom of Bedlam - Jolie Holland
  11. Dancing With Joey Ramone - Amy Rigby

Who the hell's Bianca?

This interesting little story comes via Salon's War Room's Tim Grieve:

At the beginning of a press briefing at the Pentagon today, George W. Bush took a few relatively tough questions about Hurricane Rita, the administration's failure to capture Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, what he's going to cut to pay for Hurricane Katrina and why it's taking so long to secure Iraq's border with Syria. Just as it seemed that the president needed the breather that a friendly, Jeff Gannon-style query might provide, Bush called for a question from someone named Bianca.

There was silence.

"Nobody named Bianca?" Bush asked. "Well, sorry Bianca's not here. I'll be glad to answer her question."

When another reporter -- someone who wasn't Bianca -- offered to ask a question in her stead, Bush said he was "just trying to spread the joy around of asking a question." A minute or two after that, a female reporter tried to put a question to the president.

"Are you Bianca?" Bush asked.

"No I'm not," she said, "Anita -- from Fox News."

"OK," Bush said. "I was looking for Bianca. I'm sorry."

So, is there actually a teeball reporter pretending to play in the majors whom Bush was told look for if he got into trouble (a la Jeff Gannon) or is it just that he's on the sauce again?

Well, Bianca and Anita do sound a bit alike and Anita is from the propoganda division of the the Republican party. So maybe Bush's handlers forgot to give him his mnemonic, "Mr. President, just sing to yourself, 'I needa/I really need Anita.'...No,sing it to yourself, Mr. President."

One nation, under Diebold (part III)

Update day, verse three.

I received a reply from Russ Madison on Monday to the e-mail that I sent him last Friday. Sorry it's taken me so long to post it, with the various car problems that I've been dealing with this week, it slipped my mind.

Mr. Smith:

Thank you again for your comments. As I mentioned in my last email to you, we take seriously the concerns of those who have reservations about our touch screen voting platform.

The alert you referenced stems from a Black Box Voting report on alleged security issues in Florida. The election supervisor in Leon County unfortunately allowed unauthorized Black Box Voting activists full and unrestricted access to his GEMS server, and provided his “secret” passwords. Unrestricted and uncontrolled access by the general public to any election management and tabulation system, including mechanical and paper-based systems, could result in a serious compromise of the accuracy and legitimacy of any real-world election, which is why all responsible election officials have clear security protocols for access to voting and tabulation equipment.

If you have read the report, you will note that it purports to have been able to alter the system in two ways. First, the activists claim to have been able to add additional votes to an individual candidate’s vote total. In truth, what was changed were figures in the data tables within the election software. They did not alter the votes on the memory card, nor the internal results of the archived files, which would be easily discernible upon a quick audit of the results.

The second claim made by the activists was the ability to alter an optical scan memory card. In truth, the only portion of the memory card which was accessed was the portion of the card which records written text that appears on the printed tapes. The actual votes could not be accessed nor altered. The activists would not have been able to load the memory card back into the GEMS server because the server will not recognize any memory card which has been changed once it has been downloaded for an election. Were someone able to access a server and change the text on the printed tapes, this security beach would be identified during Logic and Accuracy testing.

Georgia has an extensive testing regimen—beginning with national certification testing and continuing with state certification testing, acceptance testing of all system components, and Logic and Accuracy testing prior to each election. And contrary to what you stated, official election returns in Georgia never include results "uploaded to the central tabulator via modem." While unofficial results may be transmitted by modem, these reports are optional and are completely unofficial.

Basic information on electronic voting in Georgia can be found on our website [here]. Thank you.

Russ Madison, Jr.
State Elections Division
Suite 1104, West Tower
2 Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. S.E.
Atlanta, GA 30334-1505

You'll note that with the exception of my statement that the data for Fulton and DeKalb counties were uploaded remotely (my information was taken from the interview with the person who works at Diebold), he does not address any of the concerns that I listed.

Specificly,

  • He doesn't state that his office was ever aware of the US-CERT alert issued before last year's election. Yes, the basis for that alert was the research done by Black Box Voting. However, the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team considered the problem significant enough to send out the alert. I would've expect that alerts from the Department of Homeland Security wouldn't be dismissed so cavalierly.
  • He doesn't acknowledge that a Diebold insider has verified the vulnerablilites, and admitted that the company has both long known about the potential problem, and has taken no actions to correct it.
  • And he doesn't state that his office is either planning on taking any action either to correct the problem and/or to hold Diebold responsible.

It doesn't seem as though more letters with that office will be of any use. Maybe the way to go is to contact the AJC.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Librarians in gags

Welcome to follow-up day, take two.

Remember when I mentioned that U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall had overturned the USA PATRIOT Act gag rule which prevented librarians, bookseller, et al. from even saying that their records had been subject to a warrantless search?

Well, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York decided that librarians look better with a gag and stayed Judge Hall's ruling until they can hear the government's appeal. The Circuit Court has given both sides until October 10 to submit their briefs, though no date for oral arguments has been assigned.

A skirmish in the war on science

Last week, I wrote a post about two progressive groups attempting to use the Information Quality Act to convince the government to correct the lies told to kids in various Abstinence-Only Sex-Ed curricula.

During the introduction in that post, I mentioned that the IQA is usually used by "business groups to challenge information released by government agencies which might reflect badly on that business."

This week, I ran across a hideously perfect example of this (PDF version):

Two right-wing, industry-backed groups filed a data quality petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) challenging the agency's labeling of certain chemicals as "likely human carcinogens." Specifically, the Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) and the American Council on Health and Science (ACHS) want EPA to eliminate statements in its Guidelines for Carcinogen Risk Assessment that indicate that a substance may properly be labeled as "likely to be carcinogenic to humans" based solely or primarily on the results of animal studies.

These two groups are funded by various business groups and, as you might expect from, tend to give big sloppy kisses to the hands that feed them; to the extent that the WLF has claimed that the link between tobacco use and cancer is "junk science."

As they know perfectly well, the EPA is not going to engage in research intended to induce cancer in humans. The way research as to whether a given substance is a likely carcinogen has long been conducted is to subject various animals (rats notably, though not exclusively) to a variety of doses of the substances in question, and from the results of these animal experiments extrapolate whether, and if so at what level, it poses a risk to humans. The use of animal models to determine human risk is not perfect, but over half a century of these types of experiments have shown that they are quite accurate.

If there were some better method of determining human risk that these groups were promoting, it might be worth while to consider their argument. That, however, is not their goal. If they were to be successful in convincing the EPA that animal models are not useful in determining human risk, the the government would have no basis for claiming that any substance is potentially harmful. Mercury? It's our liquid metal friend. Dioxin? Let's go swimming in it.

Since this challenge does not actually assert that the data the EPA is using is inaccurate, we can hope that it will be consigned to the circular file fairly quickly. This challenge, however, is only one of many that the various government agencies are required by the IQA to duly consider and respond to, again and again, diverting the agencies' resources from actually doing their job to defending against these nuisance filings.

Which, of course, is the intent of the groups making these attacks.

Feminist Bloggers Say No to John Roberts

Copied in its entirety:

by Liza Sabater (of Culture Kitchen)

To members of the Judiciary Committee and the Senate:

We are a group of writers who are passionately committed to supporting women's basic freedom as citizens of the United States. We are appealing to you as free citizens dedicated to political growth, fairness and the spirit of Liberty guaranteed in the US Constitution.

We are not paid pundits or political operatives. We are concerned citizens who represent the diversity of the United States: women and men, straight and gay, single and married, religious and atheist, of different races, religions and ethnicities. Some of us are even parents even after having abortions. And we all blog because we have to.

We have taken to this citizen media to create communities of hope. In our blogs people rant and rave, discuss and debate to share the one thing we all agree about : The United States Constitution is about creating common ground among the many, not limiting freedom for the benefit of the few.

Yes, the battle for the Supreme Court is about the right to privacy.

Yes, the battle for the Supreme Court is about civil rights.

Yes, the battle for the Supreme Court is about state rights.

Yet what is at stake in the the reconfiguration of the Supreme Court, is the fundamental right to freedom for all peoples living under the Bill of Rights and unenumerated rights retained by the people. Roberts' has consistently opposed the interests of the people in his career. The decisions, dissents and legal documents that have been released for scrutiny point to the man's willingness to find ways to use technicalities to curtail freedom and not expand it. Although it would be easy to demonstrate this willingness through his involvement in cases dealing with reproductive rights, it is the following three cases that show a road map to what could happen to the US Constitution under a Chief Justice Roberts:

Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992)

Rancho Viejo, LLC v. Norton, 334 F.3d 1158 (D.C. Cir.2003), cert. denied, 124 S. Ct. 2061 (2004)

Hedgepeth v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 386 F.3d 1148 (D.C. Cir. 2004):

In defending a religious minority's demand to impose their religious customs on the majority (1), in attacking Congress' right to regulate commerce under national standards (2) and in stating that using the full extent of the law in cases involving minors is necessary to promote "parental awareness of commission delinquent actsÓ (3); John Roberts has advocated positions which

(1) are skewed to the ideology of religious extremists,

(2) balkanize the country into a loose mesh of little republics

(3) use a restrictive fundamentalist view to coerce a moral outcome through legal means

The extremist religious minority in this country have used the excuse of states' compelling interest in children's welfare as a reason to seek limits to the Constitution. Parenting rights are being used to impose unfettered limitations of reproductive rights on the state level. All across the country laws have been passed curtailing the movement of minors from one state to the other in search of abortions. Some states have even made it a capital offense punishable with the death penalty to aid a minor with no parental consent. This is appalling.

These laws have been passed as an affirmation of parents' right to choose in private what is best for their families. Some of us are mothers and fathers and we would most certainly want the government to uphold our rights to choose how to parent our children without intervention of the government. But laws protecting parenting rights should do no harm nor become precedents in the limiting of individual rights.

These laws impose a view of parenting that may actually be harmful to many underage women in need of an abortion. To restrict their individual rights and define them as extensions of their parents or guardians endangers not only endanger young women's lives but are an attack on the very idea of individual rights and personal freedom.

Judge Roberts' rulings can become a weapon for extremists who would impose their reproductive agendas against the will of their underage yet sexually mature daughters. It exposes young women in abusive or coercive situations to further abuse and physical danger.

We advocate Freedom.

The right to determine one's own sexual and reproductive behavior is a fundamental aspect of liberty. A woman's ability to control her reproductive options has a profound effect on her health and on every aspect of her life. It can affect her educational opportunities, her career and is the single most profound change that can occur in her life. Pregnancy is a life-altering and potentially life-threatening experience. Consider these statistics:

* The United States ranks below 20 other developed nations in the rate of maternal deaths.

* The maternal death rate has not gone down since 1982.

* The Rate of maternal deaths for black women has been three to four times that of white women since 1940.

* Complications of pregnancy include ectopic pregnancy, premature labor, hemorrhage, blood clots, high blood pressure, infection, stroke, amniotic fluid in the bloodstream, diabetes and heart disease. Poor women suffer disproportionately due to lack of prenatal care and inadequate health insurance.

* The number one cause of death in pregnant women in America is murder.

The choice to have a child must be made by an individual, without coercion from any external source or influence, if the individual is to be considered truly free. The current anti-choice movement has revealed itself repeatedly as uninterested in preventing unwanted pregnancies or reducing the number of abortions performed in this country. If this were truly their goal, they would be anxious to make "Plan B" contraceptives readily available. We know it is not an abortificant, and merely prevents pregnancy from taking place. If the goal was to protect young women's lives, they would encourage educating women about the use of condoms in preventing the spread of HIV and other venereal diseases, and the prevention of unwanted pregnancy.

Women are more likely than men to contract HIV through sexual encounters and about 42 per cent of all persons infected with HIV are women.

Cancer of the cervix, the most common form of cancer in developing countries, is often linked to the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus. There are already moves to block the availability of a vaccine being developed which could prevent this form of cancer.

To withhold this information to young women is to literally condemn some of them to death. Those who oppose women's reproductive autonomy oppose all of these things that could make having a child or even having sex a safer experience. It is clear that they are not interested in the healthy births of healthy children, but in controlling sexual behavior of women by codifying a particular, restrictive religious view in the laws of our country. It is not the place of government to legislate morality for its citizens. It is the place of government to insure the health and well-being of its people. It is clear that if women's reproductive freedom is restricted that women will die needlessly and many women and their children will suffer unnecessarily.

Opposing women's reproductive autonomy is to oppose the unalienable right to Liberty with which each individual is naturally endowed. Freedom to live as we choose, freedom to love whomever we love, freedom to pursue happiness in our own way, without coercion from our neighbors or the state. This is why we oppose John Roberts: We believe it is not the place of government to legislate morality for its citizens. We know that a woman who cannot control her own person is not free.

If Congress is to appoint conservative jurists, We The People demand they are mainstream conservatives that will uphold the Constitution as a common ground for all, not the playground of the few. It is the place of government to insure every single person in this country has an opportunity to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Moreover, as Congress comes together to consider the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court, it has to ask how two years on the bench can possibly make a person qualified to be the top jurist in the land. We are deeply disturbed that Judge Roberts attempted to conceal his membership in the Federalist Society, and his role in Bush V. Gore.

We have seen the tragic consequences of George W. Bush's patronage appointments in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. We must be more vigilant in vetting the qualifications, experience and abilities of the nominees put forth by the Bush administration.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court must be a seasoned judge with a record that can be openly and completely examined. The White House's refusal to release all documents pertaining to the nominee is further cause for extreme caution in this matter. Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. This choice will affect the lives of all Americans for decades to come. We must have transparency in the process, and it must be rigorous and thorough.

We oppose the nomination of John Roberts, and ask that our Congressional representatives stand firm in insisting that the people chosen to fill the two vacancies on the Supreme Court of the United States of America be people on whom we can rely to uphold the ideals that make us uniquely American --equal protection under the law, justice for all citizens in equal measure, equal opportunity, and true Liberty - the right to personal and individual autonomy.

Anything less cannot be allowed to exist if we are to call ourselves the descendants of Jefferson and Adams, or Washington and Franklin. Without a secular government and equal treatment for all, we cannot call ourselves Americans anymore.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Poetry meme

An LJ friend of mine has suggested that everyone post their favorite poem. Well, I think The Wasteland is a bit long for a blog post, so here are some others that I like:

After the Philharmonic

Two paths diverged in a well-known park,
One well-lit, the other -- dark.
And since I did not wish to die,
I took the one more traveled by.

--James Camp

Okay, that was short. Here's another one:

Shake and shake
The catsup bottle.
None will come,
And then a lot’ll.

--Richard Armour

This last one's for Amanda (Not that I'm saying this to her. I'm just sharing):

you fit into me

you fit into me
like a hook into an eye

a fish hook
an open eye

--Margaret Atwood

Happy, Talk Like A Pirate Day

Yes, once again it's Talk Like A Pirate Day.

And now for your visual edification, er...avast, me mateys, th' Pirate Keyboard:

And now, for our friends in New Orleans in the newly re-opened French Quarter, this is part of Bush Minor's speech from last week translated into Pirate Talk:
I know that when ye sit on th' steps o' a porch 'ere a homeport once stood, or sleep on a cot in a crowded shelter, 'tis hard t' imagine a bstarboard future. But that future will come. Th' streets o' Biloxi an' Gulfport will again be filled wi' lovely homes an' th' sound o' children playin'. Th' churches o' Alabama will be havin' the'r broken steeples mended an' the'r congregations whole. An' here in New Orlists, th' street cars will once again rumble down St. Charles, an' th' passionate soul o' a great city will return."

Of course, since Bush took the power with him when he left, I guess they're just screwed.

Via Feministe and Language Log.

Well, at least we know what his priorities are

From this week's Time:

Federal troops aren't the only ones looking for bodies on the Gulf Coast. On Sept. 9, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions called his old law professor Harold Apolinsky, co-author of Sessions' legislation repealing the federal estate tax, which was encountering sudden resistance on the Hill. Sessions had an idea to revitalize their cause, which he left on Apolinsky's voice mail: "[Arizona Sen.] Jon Kyl and I were talking about the estate tax. If we knew anybody that owned a business that lost life in the storm, that would be something we could push back with."

If legislative ambulance chasing looks like a desperate measure, for the backers of repealing the estate tax, these are desperate times. Just three weeks ago, their long-sought goal of repeal seemed within reach, but Katrina dashed their hopes when Republican leaders put off an expected vote. After hearing from Sessions, Apolinsky, an estate tax lawyer who says his firm includes three multi-billionaires among its clients, mobilized the American Family Business Institute, a Washington-based group devoted to estate tax repeal. They reached out to members along the Gulf Coast to hunt for the dead.

It's been hard. Only a tiny percentage of people are affected by the estate tax—in 2001 only 534 Alabamans were subject to it. And for Hill backers of repeal, that's only part of the problem. Last year, the tax brought in $24.8 billion to the federal government. With Katrina's cost soaring, estate tax opponents need to find a way to make up the potential lost income. For now, getting repeal back on the agenda may depend on Apolinsky and his team of estate-sniffing sleuths, who are searching Internet obituaries among other places. Has he found any victims of both the hurricane and the estate tax? "Not yet," Apolinsky says. "But I'm still looking."

Just when I thought people couldn't get any creepier.

A Power Pack movie?

They're making a freakin' Power Pack movie?

Isn't that one of the signs of the apocralypse?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

More Bull

Last weekend, I mentioned that Elizabeth Reyes, an attorney with the elections division of the Texas Secretary of State, was fired after she answered what she believed to be a hypothetical question about whether a person who claims a rental house he owns to be his homestead should be allowed to vote. She was unaware that the hypothetical question described the exact situation that Karl Rove asserts.

Well, a bit more of the timeline has been filled in, and - surprise, surprise - her firing occurred immediately after her boss received a call from the éminence grise himself.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove personally called the Texas secretary of state about a newspaper story quoting a staff lawyer about whether Mr. Rove was eligible to vote in the state.

The lawyer was subsequently fired.

Of course, Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams says Karl didn't ask for her dismissal. Why would he have to when Williams knows how to read his friend's signs.

"Karl's a friend of mine, so when he read something in the paper, he called," Mr. Williams said. "Naturally, he had a way to get hold of me, as we're friends. He wanted to know if that's where we stood on the issue, and that was that."

Via Talking Points Memo.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Camp Casey Memorial Stolen

Casey Sheehan's Boots Are Gone

By Deborah Mathews
Staff Writer

September 15, 2005 3:23 PM

CRAWFORD — The Camp Casey Memorial on Prairie Chapel Road was removed by thieves earlier today. Not a single item is left at the memorial site.

Crew members working for McLennan County said they witnessed items being removed by an unidentified individual and contacted their office to inform commissioners.

Upon arrival at Camp Casey, honor guard members who had been at the Crawford Peace House immediately called McLennan County Sheriff’s Deputy R. Polansky to report the theft.

Among the items stolen were numerous crosses, Casey Sheehan’s boots, tents, and other items.

Via Jill at Feministe

Science, schmience

Last Thursday, Terry Gross interviewed Chris Mooney, the author of The Republican War on Science. (As soon as I can find a discounted copy of the book, I'm going to read it. I promise.) The interview was interesting and worth a listen.

Well, because journalistic balance must be maintained, she followed Chris by interviewing Robert Walker, former advisor to the 2000 Bush campaign on Science and Technology:

Robert Walker, a retired congressman from Pennsylvania who served as chairman of the Science Committee, responds to allegations that the Bush administration has mishandled scientific issues. Walker now serves as chairman of Wexler & Walker, a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C.

I suppose it would have been too much to ask that the Bush campaign actually have a scientist advising it about science and technology. But I digress. Here is a transcript of the interview starting from about 4:50. (I transcribed this myself, editing out only the "Ums", "Uhs" and the like. If I made any errors, forgive me.)

Robert Walker: But scientists then have a burden of proof to assure that the peer review that is done of their science is in fact a peer review of science and not with a political bias to it. During the 1990s, much of the work that was done on global warming, for example, became highly suspect because it was being done in an atmosphere that anything that you had to say on the formulation of models for global warming was almost accepted out of hand by the government because the review panel did not represent a broad cross-section of the views on that issue. For example, there were a lot of scientists who spoke out on global warming during the 1990s who have no credentials as climatologists whatsoever. They were people, they were social scientists. There were a whole group of scientists who did not have background in the science to which they were speaking.

Terry Gross: Whether that is true - you know, if that is true they were social scientists who spoke out - there were also many climate scientists who spoke out, and those climate scientists seemed to pretty much be in agreement that global warming is a major issue and global warming is a result, at least in part, of human activity.

RW: The climatologists had not come to that conclusion, and if you look at the broad base of climatologists who have spoken out on the issue, they have been very circumspect about what they've said. They do believe that there is a warming trend, but most of them are unwilling at the present time to say that that trend is a result of some induced activity; that it may well be a part of larger trends, and that's one of the things that needs to be investigated. That's one of the things where the Bush administration has put a good deal of money is in trying to figure out just exactly what we're dealing with here. Are we dealing with multi-decadal trends that involve climate being climate, or are we in, do we have human related activity which is having a detrimental impact. And a large portion of the climatology community has not yet come to that conclusion.

TG: Do you think it's a large portion, or a minority?

RW: No, I think it's a large portion of climatologists who are not prepared to say that we have global warming and it absolutely is a result of human activity. You know, the Union of Concerned Scientists and some of the liberal ideology says that, but the climatologists are very, very reluctant to be put in that kind of a position.

Okay, so first he suggests that social scientists constitute a major block of climatologists' peer reviewers in the '90s. While I haven't been able to locate a reasonably comprehensive list of the editors of climatology related journals during that decade; the vast, vast majority of current editors of these periodicals are scientists specializing in climatology and related subjects (physicists specilizing in the physics of weather, atmospheric chemists, etc). I believe that my doubts as to the preponderance of social scientists on these panels in the previous decade is justified.

More importantly though, Walker asserts, "No, I think it's a large portion of climatologists who are not prepared to say that we have global warming and it absolutely is a result of human activity." Since he specificly uses the term "large portion" in preference to the offered term "minority", "large portion" must be interpreted to mean "half or greater."

So let's double check and see who disagrees with him:

Well the American Meterological Society does:
Because human activities are contributing to climate change, we have a collective responsibility to develop and undertake carefully considered response actions. The fundamental challenge is to understand and respond to the risk represented by climate change in the larger context of overall societal issues and environmental stresses.
The National Academy of Sciences, headed by Earth Systems Scientist, Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone, does:
Laboratory measurements of gases trapped in dated ice cores have shown that for hundreds of thousands of years, changes in temperature have closely tracked atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Burning fossil fuel for energy, industrial processes, and transportation releases carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now at its highest level in 400,000 years and continues to rise. Nearly all climate scientists today believe that much of Earth’s current warming has been caused by increases in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels.
And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does, as well:
There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities. Detection and attribution studies consistently find evidence for an anthropogenic signal in the climate record of the last 35 to 50 years. These studies include uncertainties in forcing due to anthropogenic sulfate aerosols and natural factors (volcanoes and solar irradiance), but do not account for the effects of other types of anthropogenic aerosols and land-use changes. The sulfate and natural forcings are negative over this period and cannot explain the warming; whereas most of these studies find that, over the last 50 years, the estimated rate and magnitude of warming due to increasing greenhouse gases alone are comparable with, or larger than, the observed warming. The best agreement between model simulations and observations over the last 140 years has been found when all the above anthropogenic and natural forcing factors are combined

The American Meterological Society is the primary association of American climatologists, the National Academy of Sciences is the premiere organization of American scientists, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the foremost group of climatologists internationally. All three of these groups agree that global warming is one of the major problems facing our planet and that human contributions to greenhouse gasses represent the primary cause of global warming in our time. To the best that I have been able to determine, all of these groups operate on democratic principles; i.e. in order for any of the organizations to put forth a specific position, the majority of its members must vote to support that position. Therefore, lacking any organized survey of climatologists, the only reasonable conclusion is that a "large portion" of climate scientists do not disagree with the assertion that "we have global warming and it absolutely is a result of human activity."

The rest of the Walker interview follows along the lines of the section that I've chosen to investigate. If you have the stomach, it's worth listening to, if only so you can get a basic understanding about what the other side believes vis a vis science. In particular, listen to him avoid the question about whether or not Intelligent Design is science and should be taught in our nation's science classes.

Friday, September 16, 2005

And don't let the door hit you on the way out

As you may remember, Susan Wood resigned as head of the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Women's Health two weeks ago because of the Bush Minor administration's continuing to ignore its scientific advisors, particularly with respect to Plan B emergency contraception being approved for over-the-counter sales.

Today, a new director of the Office of Women's Health was appointed Theresa A. Toigo. As of this moment, I don't have enough information to hold any sort of expectation about what kind of director she would be. There is however, at the top of the press release (dated Sept. 16, 2005) the following statement:

This is a revision of this statement posted earlier on September 16.

What was that mysterious statement posted earlier today? It's no longer available on the FDA website. Through the magic of google cache, however, we can learn that for possibly the shortest tenure of any head of a major department in government Dr. Norris Alderson, not only not a woman, but also a veterinarian, was appointed acting head of the Office of Women's Health. Perhaps Shrubbie's FDA bought a clue as to how this would look.

Via Tim Grieve

One nation, under Diebold (part II)

Well, I received a response from the Secretary of State's office. Of course it doesn't actually address my concerns, but it's a start:

Dear Mr. Smith:

Thank you for your recent email about our voting system. The equipment comprising Georgia's voting system has been used successfully in over 500 elections since its debut in 2002. Three separate independent studies by the University of Georgia have shown that Georgians have extremely high levels of confidence in the accuracy and security of our statewide voting system -- and those confidence levels are much higher than with our previous, antiquated mechanical and paper-based systems. Nevertheless, we take seriously the concerns of those who have reservations about our touch screen voting platform. Achieving an even broader level of public confidence in the elections process is an important goal that we continue to strive for. In addition to implementing the most intensive and robust voting security safeguards found anywhere in the nation, the leadership and staff of the State Elections Division has been aggressively researching and evaluating new voter verification technologies -- including paper receipt systems. Our staff has traveled to Nevada, Maryland and several other states to evaluate these technologies first-hand. Staff from the Kennesaw State University Center for Election Systems has also been involved in this evaluation work as well.

Many of these devices are prototypes, and have not yet been extensively tested in real-world election settings. Some have considerable potential, while others appear to have significant flaws. (It is important to note that the voting system we acquired in 2002 was not an experimental prototype nor would we have ever considered an unproven new technology -- it in fact had been used widely in jurisdictions across the country in numerous elections.) It's also worth noting that there are external audit and verification devices that use audio or video recording approaches instead of paper, and there is considerable debate in academic and industry circles as to which of these technologies would add the most security and value to the electronic voting process.

We believe strongly that federal standards are needed to clearly establish how a paper-based or other voter verification technology should operate and how that record should be stored. We also need to answer the question of what constitutes the official ballot, and how and under what circumstances this external record will be tallied in a recount. The director of Georgia's Elections Division is currently participating on a national panel to help move this process forward so that clear federal standards for new voter verification technologies can be created.

In our view, any new external verification device must not only enhance public confidence -- it must also not jeopardize the huge gains we have already achieved in voter accessibility and accuracy in Georgia. Data from academic researchers at the Cal Tech-MIT Voting Technology Project shows that, with the deployment of our statewide electronic voting platform, Georgia moved from second worst in the nation in voting error rates in 2000 to second best in that measurement in 2004. In fact, Georgia's gain in voting accuracy was the highest in the nation. We take great pride in that improvement and want to insure that it is preserved in future elections. We are also mindful of the need to retain the excellent accessibility features of our current platform that benefits the visually impaired, blind and disabled. Concerns, including some expressed by paper receipt advocates, have also been raised that some receipt systems can compromise the secrecy of the ballot by permitting arriving voters to view the printed choices made by the previous user of the voting terminal.

Before acquiring and deploying a paper receipt or other external verification device, we believe we must have a system that:

  1. Meets new federal standards -- which are currently under development;
  2. Meets all the requirements of federal certification, including extensive testing for functionality and reliability; and passes state certification tests conducted by the KSU Center for Election Systems;
  3. Does not negatively impact ballot accessibility for blind, visually impaired or disabled voters;
  4. Does not compromise the secrecy of the ballot;
  5. Maintains a high level of voting accuracy;
  6. Is user-friendly for voters and is easily deployed, monitored and maintained by county election personnel and poll workers; and
  7. Has been proven highly reliable in real-world elections.

Indeed, all but one of these are the same criteria we applied in our evaluation of candidates for the existing statewide platform when it was acquired in 2002. We believe that, once these reasonable criteria are met, and the state has funds available, an external voter verification system can be deployed as an enhancement to our already highly secure and accurate system.

Adding a paper receipt or other external verification device to our current platform seems, on its face, to be simple and easy. In fact, there are important questions to be answered, standards to be set and real-world experience needed with this emerging technology. There are promising developments occurring in voter verification technology and we are closely monitoring that progress. We are also anxious to see the completion of federal standards, which can set forth clear guideposts for how verification systems should operate effectively in an elections setting.

Finally, it is important to point out that legislation passed by the General Assembly this year makes a very significant change to our absentee voting process in Georgia. Under this provision of HB 244, any voter may now request a mailed paper absentee ballot for any reason. This change effectively creates a paper-based, vote by mail option available to every Georgia voter purely as a matter of choice and preference. For any voter who prefers not to use a touch screen terminal and would prefer, instead, to cast a paper ballot, this option is now available without limitation.

Thank you again for expressing your concerns and for your interest in the security of Georgia's voting system.

State Elections Division
www.sos.state.ga.us
www.georgiacounts.com

To which I responded:

Dear Mr. Madison,

Thank you for your form letter. While I do believe that maintaining a paper trail is one necessary part of having the verifiable system necessary for maintaining faith in our election system, my question did not refer to that issue at all.

My concerns are these:

  • When did your office become aware of the US-CERT alert issued in August, 2004 concerning the undocumented "backdoor" inserted into the GEMS voting tabulation system by Diebold programmers? (Note: the existence of this "backdoor" has been recently verified by a Diebold employee.)
  • Since becoming aware of the problem, what steps has your office taken to ensure that this problem has been corrected?
  • While this problem is inherent in all of Diebold's GEMS Central Tabulator, releases including, though possibly not limited to, 1.17.7 and 1.18 - whether the votes are loaded on-site or remotely - of particular concern are those electoral districts (such as Fulton and DeKalb counties) where the votes are uploaded to the central tabulator via modem. In these cases, a person with knowledge of the "backdoor" could change the vote counts without having to physically enter the electoral office. What actions has your office taken to warn all electoral divisions within Georgia of the problem and train them on the proper usage of this technology?
  • Since the management of Diebold has been aware of this problem for over a year and has yet to take any independent action, has this company been blacklisted from bidding on future contracts issued by the Secretary of State? And, if not, why not?

Thank you again,
Charles Smith

We'll see how he answers this time.

Section 8 v. Bushvilles

Last week Kevin Drum passed along a suggestion that the best way to help those who have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina is by an expansion of Section 8 vouchers by HUD.

[N]o new federal program is required to match families suddenly needing housing with an existing stock of vacant apartments. The United States government already operates a program that would enable low-income families to pay the rent for these units. The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program currently serves about two million families throughout the country. It enables participants to occupy privately owned units renting for up to, and somewhat above, the local median rent. Enormous numbers of vacant units could be occupied immediately by families with these housing vouchers.

Yesterday, The New Republic chimed in with their support for the idea.

According to the latest estimates, the government may need to provide homes for at least 200,000 households displaced by Katrina--an effort that would be unprecedented in scale but not in kind. Back in 1994, the Clinton administration faced a similar situation after the Northridge earthquake displaced more than 20,000 people in Southern California. It quickly dispatched Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Henry Cisneros to Los Angeles and produced a proposal to offer the newly homeless emergency vouchers, which they could apply toward apartment rents. The initiative was modeled on an existing program called Section 8, a bipartisan favorite that breaks up concentrations of poverty by providing vouchers and support services to help low-income families move into neighborhoods with better jobs and schools. Soon, vouchers were getting into the hands of displaced residents, who in turn began finding apartments. While the operation was hardly seamless, more than 10,000 people used the vouchers. Many later said they ended up better off than they had been before the earthquake. ("This is the biggest break I've had in a long time," one voucher recipient told the Los Angeles Times.)

While there has been support for this idea from people on both sides of the Washington divide - the Senate passed a proposal of this type earlier in the week - it doesn't appear that the House has any plans to take up the issue. In fact, the administration has instead ordered over 100,000 mobile homes, apparently planning to construct Bushvilles to quarter the displaced residents.

As we were all made exceedingly aware over the past few weeks, vast numbers of the people currently needing our help do not have cars. I, for one, have no confidence that these Bushvilles will be constructed with the consideration that many of the people living in them will need regular access to public transportation (which tends to be less than ideal in the Southeast to begin with). Among the many arguments why Section 8 vouchers are preferrable to concentrating these people in moble home parks (such as the usefulness of living in mixed income developments for helping impoverished people to climb higher in society), vouchers would allow people to decide for themselves how to handle their transportation situation. People without cars would tend to choose to live on a bus line, while those with reliable transportation might choose to live in other areas which they consider to be better suited to their needs.

Instead of trying to force a "one size fits all" solution to the problem these people are facing, wouldn't a solution that allows greater choices and supports the local entrepreneurs who developed and own rental housing be the better idea to work with?

But then of course,

while the pressing human crisis of Katrina (not to mention the political backlash at the bungled federal response) has forced the administration to spend lavishly on hurricane relief, it has instinctively looked away from government and toward private firms like the Shaw Group, which won a no-bid contract to construct mobile homes. (Shaw's lobbyist, in case you hadn't heard, is Joe Allbaugh, the former FEMA director and Bush campaign manager.)

Friday random ten

  1. Sunset Soon Forgotten - Iron & Wine
  2. Here I Am - Lyle Lovett
  3. Turn Away - Maria McKee
  4. December, 1999 - Jolie Holland
  5. Duncan & Brady - Peter Mulvey
  6. Looks Like I'm Up Shit Creek Again - Tom Waits
  7. bad tooth doctor - Leslie Helpert
  8. I'll Go To My Grave Loving You - Kelly Hogan
  9. Vaseline Machine Gun - Leo Kottke
  10. 1984 - Anaïs Mitchell
  11. Mama Don't - John Doe with Veronica Jane and Dave Alvin

One nation, under Diebold

From The Brad Blog (via The Raw Story):

In exclusive stunning admissions to The BRAD BLOG some 11 months after the 2004 Presidential Election, a "Diebold Insider" is now finally speaking out for the first time about the alarming security flaws within Diebold, Inc's electronic voting systems, software and machinery. The source is acknowledging that the company's "upper management" -- as well as "top government officials" -- were keenly aware of the "undocumented backdoor" in Diebold's main "GEM Central Tabulator" software well prior to the 2004 election. A branch of the Federal Government even posted a security warning on the Internet.

Pointing to a little-noticed "Cyber Security Alert" issued by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the source inside Diebold -- who "for the time being" is requesting anonymity due to a continuing sensitive relationship with the company -- is charging that Diebold's technicians, including at least one of its lead programmers, knew about the security flaw and that the company instructed them to keep quiet about it.

"A vulnerability exists due to an undocumented backdoor account, which could [allow] a local or remote authenticated malicious user [to] modify votes," states the US-CERT alert, issued in August, 2004.

"I was aware of the Diebold security flaw and had heard about the Homeland Security Cyber Alert Threat Assessment website, so I went there and 'bingo,' there it was in black and white," the source wrote. "It blew me away because it showed that DHS, headed by a Cabinet level George Bush loyalist, was very aware of the 'threat' of someone changing votes in the Diebold Central Tabulator. The question is, why wasn't something done about it before the election?"

The CEO of North Canton, Ohio-based Diebold, Inc., Walden O'Dell has been oft-quoted for his 2003 Republican fund-raiser promise to help "Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." O'Dell himself was a high-level contributor to the Bush/Cheney '04 campaign as well as many other Republican causes.

...

In trying to understand why the U.S. Homeland Security Department's Cyber Alert didn't force Diebold to make fixes, patches or corrections quickly available for their software prior to -- or even since -- the '04 election, DIEB-THROAT repeated over and over that Diebold was simply "not concerned about security".

"They don't have security solutions. They don't want them...They leave security policy issues up to the states. They've known about this for some time. They don't really care," the source said, comparing the security flaw to "leaving the front door at Fort Knox open." It's just "blatant sloppiness and they don't care."

The versions of the GEMS Central Tabulation software listed on the US-CERT site are 1.17.7 and 1.18 and DIEB-THROAT says the same versions of the same software are still in use by States around the country and haven't had any fixes or patches applied to correct the problem.

Obviously, this administration is not going to take this issue seriously. I'm hoping it's not too much to ask that my Democratic Secretary of State, Cathy Cox, might take an interest. But given how much she has invested in believing that the system is fool proof, I'm not holding my breath.

To give her a chance, I did write the following e-mail to her:

Dear Secretary Cox,

Previously, theories about potential problems with the Diebold's electronic voting machines have been announced by various computer scientists.

Now we learn from the US-CERT website that the reality of an undocumented backdoor was known to the government, and neither they nor Diebold itself took any action to correct this backdoor.

http://www.bradblog.com/archives/00001838.htm

What are you doing to ensure that the faith we need to have in Georgia's elections are justified?

Thank you,
Charles Smith

I'll let you know how she responds.

See also: Diebold

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Cute

Beauty Company eschews celebrity endorsements, dedicates first batch of Whistleblower to law enforcement icon.

Toronto, ON (PRWEB via PR Web Direct) September 13, 2005 -- Corner Office Beauty, North America's hottest new fragrance and body care line, today announced that its inaugural batch of Whistleblower lip balm has been dedicated to New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

"Eliot Spitzer's crusade against financial market fraud has inspired us in our own crusade against poor lip care," Corner Office Beauty President Suzie Dingwall Williams said. "With time, consumer education and lots of essential oils and antioxidants, we aim to reduce the overall rate for beauty crimes to the same low levels we now enjoy for white collar crime."

The first 10,000 sticks of Whistleblower will be labeled in a limited edition color that the company likes to call "Spitzer silver," Dingwall Williams said. "This seems particularly apt to us since, traditionally, a silver bullet was the only weapon that could kill a giant or a person leading a charmed life."

The launch of Whistleblower could not have come at a better time. "Financial market reforms of the last few years have resulted in an unprecedented boom in whistleblowing employees. While federal law protects them from retribution, it does nothing to guard against the drying effects that seasonal change brings, particularly now, as we enter the fourth quarter."

Suing for the truth

The little-known law, the Information Quality Act has until now primarily been used by business groups to challenge information released by government agencies which might reflect badly on that business. "For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Salt Institute filed a petition challenging the government's finding that reduced sodium consumption will result in lower blood pressure in all individuals."

Now however, two groups are utilizing the law to challenge the rampant inaccuracies that fill the nation's abstinence only sex-ed classes. From the AP:

Two organizations that promote sex education are taking an unorthodox approach in their fight against federal funding of abstinence-only education programs.

Relying on a little-used law that allows "affected persons" to seek the correction of information disseminated by federal agencies, the groups said Tuesday that the abstinence education programs contain erroneous and ineffective information. They asked the Health and Human Services Department to correct it.

The groups, Advocates for Youth and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States hold onto the hope that our schools' health classes could actually teach accurate information:

They called on the Administration for Children and Families to cease sponsorship of programs that fail to provide medically accurate information.

For example, dozens of grantees teach that condom use reduces the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS by 69 percent to 90 percent. The two groups say that such instruction greatly underestimates the effectiveness of condoms in preventing HIV/AIDS, and the numbers result from a study that the department itself described as having conclusions based on "serious error."

"Never in recent history has so much government money been put into so many programs with so little oversight and so little proven impact," Wagoner said.

Amy Sullivan wrote an excellent article last year in the Washington Monthly about the complete lack of oversight into the billions of dollars given to "faith-based groups" in this administration. While I'm not suggesting that all abstinence-only sex-ed curriclua are linked to faith-based organizations, it is just one more example of the fact that the ideological allies of the president are given carte blanche to lie, cheat and steal.

Finally, some of them are being called on it.

Update (20050922.2355): For an example of a business group using the IQA, look here.

Monday, September 12, 2005

A ding in the Patriot Act's armor

One of the lesser known provisions of the USA Patriot Act states that not only are records of libraries, bookstores, and the like subject to search by the FBI without a warrant by using a National Security Letter; but also that the librarians, booksellers, et al. are not allowed to say that they've recieved such a letter.

That provision was overturned last Friday by a US District Judge:

Prosecutors argued that the gag order blocked the release of the client’s identity, not the client’s ability to speak about the Patriot Act. They said revealing the client’s identity could tip off suspects and jeopardize a federal investigation into terrorism or spying.

Hall rejected the argument that the gag order didn’t silence the client.

“The government may intend the non-disclosure provision to serve some purpose other than the suppression of speech,” Hall wrote. “Nevertheless, it has the practical effect of silencing individuals with a constitutionally protected interest in speech and whose voices are particularly important in an ongoing national debate about the intrusion of governmental authority into individual lives.”

The ruling rejected the gag order in this case, but it did not strike down the provision of the law used by the FBI to demand the library records. A broader challenge to that provision is still pending before Hall.

...

Hall also expressed concerns about the act, writing: “The potential for abuse is written into the statute: the very people who might have information regarding investigative abuses and overreaching are preemptively prevented from sharing that information with the public and with the legislators who empower the executive branch with the tools used to investigate matters of national security.”

Judge Hall stayed her ruling until Sept. 20, and while this ruling doesn't affect the larger issue of the validity of warrentless searches of library records, she will be ruling on those later.

EPA Withholds Katrina Pollution Data

A press release from the Society of Environmental Journalists, reprinted in its entirety:

Katrina only latest example of feds withholding environmental data

JENKINTOWN, PA. - It's been more than a week since The Times-Picayune newspaper of New Orleans turned in desperation to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to answer a basic question: Where are dangerous chemicals leaking as a result of Hurricane Katrina?

The paper's lead hurricane reporter, Mark Schleifstein, had been asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that question for days - without an answer. So he filed a request under FOIA. Even though the federal statute provides for "expedited review" when a situation "could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety" of the public, he still has not received a response.

The request by Schleifstein, a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists' board of directors, was followed by similar queries from other reporters.

A study of SEJ members' experiences with FOIA released today suggests the journalists face a long, frustrating wait - and still may not get the information they're seeking.

Government compliance with FOIA appears to be deteriorating in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to the SEJ report being released today, "A Flawed Tool - Environmental Reporters' Experiences with the Freedom of Information Act."

Volunteers with SEJ's First Amendment Task Force interviewed 55 SEJ members, finding that excessive delays in releasing information are common - with some FOIA requests taking more than a year to fulfill.

Even when documents are turned over, agencies frequently black out huge amounts of information.

In a new twist, agencies have also started refusing in some cases to process a reporter's request until they ponder whether the journalist is entitled to a waiver of search fees - even though such waivers are mandated by the federal statute.

Perhaps even worse, agencies have started requiring journalists to use the cumbersome, time-consuming FOIA process to obtain information once freely disclosed.

Partially because of the problems highlighted, more than half the SEJ members interviewed said they don't use FOIA. The study team targeted investigative reporters in SEJ's ranks. Presumably, FOIA use is even less prevalent among SEJ members generally.

"This report clearly shows that Congress needs to take action to make sure agencies are complying with the Freedom of Information Act, and should set up a system to punish those that aren't," said SEJ President Perry Beeman, who covers environment for The Des Moines Register. "Freedom of information is a basic American right, one that cannot be watered down by the incompetence, arrogance or indifference of bureaucrats."

SEJ urges other journalism groups to undertake similar efforts to document problems with FOIA use.

SEJ members experiencing problems using FOIA should contact the First Amendment Task Force.

EPA officials held a press conference last week to address pollution in New Orleans floodwaters, and late in the week released some water-quality testing results. But they still have not fulfilled the reporters' FOIA request and answer that basic question: Where are dangerous chemicals leaking as a result of Hurricane Katrina?


SEJ is the world's oldest and largest organization of individual working journalists covering environmental affairs. Founded in 1990 and based in Jenkintown, Pa., its membership is composed of more than 1,450 journalists, educators and students dedicated to improving the quality, accuracy and visibility of environmental reporting.

The group's membership guidelines exclude any person paid to lobby or do public relations on any side of environmental issues.

SEJ's report is [here](note: PDF file). Links to the group's letter to EPA and an op-ed by Beeman are [here].

This administration has done more to increase government secrecy than any in recent memory and specificly has gone out of its way to hinder Freedom of Information Act requests. One could wish that in a situation such as this, where many people are being exposed to a toxic soup we could at least learn what the potential dangers are. One could wish...

Brownie falls on his sword

Just joking, he only resigned.

Can't blame a guy for dreaming.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Oh, say can you [what was that again?]

Now that the wingnuts have declared war on the image of the crescent, it has become necessary to remove all crescents everywhere lest we be accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemies of America. As such, I present to you:

THE [Newly Revised] BILL OF RIGHTS


Amendments 1-10 of the Onstitution

The Onventions of a number of the States having, at the time of adopting the Onstitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misonstrution or abuse of its powers, that further delaratory and restritive lauses should be added, and as extending the ground of publi onfidene in the Government will best insure the benefient ends of its institution;

Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of Ameria, in ongress assembled, two-thirds of both Houses onurring, that the following artiles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the onstitution of the United States; all or any of whih artiles, when ratified by three-fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the said onstitution, namely:

Amendment I

Ongress shall make no law respeting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exerise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speeh, or of the press; or the right of the people peaeably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievanes.

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being neessary to the seurity of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peae be quartered in any house, without the onsent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be presribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be seure in their persons, houses, papers, and effets, against unreasonable searhes and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable ause, supported by oath or affirmation, and partiularly desribing the plae to be searhed, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a apital, or otherwise infamous rime, unless on a presentment or inditment of a grand jury, exept in ases arising in the land or naval fores, or in the militia, when in atual servie in time of war or publi danger; nor shall any person be subjet for the same offense to be twie put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be ompelled in any riminal ase to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due proess of law; nor shall private property be taken for publi use, without just ompensation.

Amendment VI

In all riminal proseutions, the aused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and publi trial, by an impartial jury of the state and distrit wherein the rime shall have been ommitted, whih distrit shall have been previously asertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and ause of the ausation; to be onfronted with the witnesses against him; to have ompulsory proess for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistane of ounsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In suits at ommon law, where the value in ontroversy shall exeed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fat tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any ourt of the United States, than aording to the rules of the ommon law.

Amendment VIII

Exessive bail shall not be required, nor exessive fines imposed, nor ruel and unusual punishments inflited.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Onstitution, of ertain rights, shall not be onstrued to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the onstitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respetively, or to the people.