Thursday, 24 May 2007

Flickr Of The Day

Campioni d'Europa
Originally uploaded by Michael2973.
Milan Fans after their team's Champions League Final win over Liverpool. The first goal was a bit lucky but the second was beautifully created and taken.

Homer Simpson's Favourite?

Will He? Won't He?

Is Al Gore going to run for president? E.J. Dionne at the Washington Post isn't sure. But he is certainly letting rip at the current Executive with their "Assault on Reason"

He [Gore] ascribes the failure to have a full-throated debate on Iraq back in 2002 -- when he spoke out against the looming war, to much nasty jeering from the right -- to the administration's decision to politicize the issue before the midterm elections, but also to "meekness" and "timidity" in both "the legislative branch of government" and in "the press corps."

"A lot of people were afraid of being accused of being unpatriotic," he says. "One of the symptoms of this problem -- the diminishing role for reason, fact and logic -- is that what rushes in to fill the vacuum are extreme partisanship, ideology, fundamentalism and extreme nationalism."

It was certainly almost impossible to speak against the war in 2002, 2003 and later without being 'unpatriotic' and 'against the troops'. Facts were swept aside as they made their own reality. Now, with the majority seeing reason, they can see that the emperor has no clothes.

E.J. Dionne sums up his article with
Gore, to his credit, won't talk about Florida, but I will. Whatever flaws he has, Gore suffered through an extreme injustice with great dignity. His revenge is to have been right about a lot of things: right about the power of the Internet, right about global warming and right about Iraq.
What a tragedy that 2000 result was.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Why This Scandal Matters

The NYT in an editorial, explains why it is important to keep the pressure on the White House to sack Gonzales.

The Justice Department is no ordinary agency. Its 93 United States attorney offices, scattered across the country, prosecute federal crimes ranging from public corruption to terrorism. These prosecutors have enormous power: they can wiretap people’s homes, seize property and put people in jail for life. They can destroy businesses, and affect the outcomes of elections. It has always been understood that although they are appointed by a president, usually from his own party, once in office they must operate in a nonpartisan way, and be insulated from outside pressures.

It's no wonder that Karl Rove couldn't stop smiling before the last mid-term elections. He believed that despite the polls showing that the Democrats were well ahead, he had enough partisan US attorneys to suppress the minority vote, enough governors in place to make voting difficult or impossible in 'blue' districts and, who knows, enough electronic voting machines rigged to keep the Republicans in power. He underestimated the size of the swing to the Democratic Party this time and the plan will be even more of the same in 2008.

Hopefully, now this plan is out in the broad light of day, it will not succeed.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Flickr Of The Day

A very nice HDR shot

Classic Countdown

Countdown was a cult afternoon TV programme shown at 4.30pm on weekdays presented by the late Richard Whiteley.

Here is one of the most amazing maths question answers I've seen (the contestant is presented with six numbers and has to use some or all of them once only, to reach the answer, a randomly generated number). How you can work this out in 30 seconds is beyond me.

ps I always had a bit of a 'thing' for Carol Vorderman. Perhaps it was her skill with numbers.

Torture - Official Republican Policy?

With most of the Republican candidates enthusiastically endorsing torture, sorry - enhanced interrogation techniques, with the honourable exception of John McCain, It's worth reading this Op-Ed in the Washington Post in full.

These assertions that "torture works" may reassure a fearful public, but it is a false security. We don't know what's been gained through this fear-driven program. But we do know the consequences.

As has happened with every other nation that has tried to engage in a little bit of torture -- only for the toughest cases, only when nothing else works -- the abuse spread like wildfire, and every captured prisoner became the key to defusing a potential ticking time bomb. Our soldiers in Iraq confront real "ticking time bomb" situations every day, in the form of improvised explosive devices, and any degree of "flexibility" about torture at the top drops down the chain of command like a stone -- the rare exception fast becoming the rule.

The writers are an ex-Commandant of the Marines and an ex-CinC of Central Command so should be listened to.

The torture methods that Tenet defends have nurtured the recuperative power of the enemy. This war will be won or lost not on the battlefield but in the minds of potential supporters who have not yet thrown in their lot with the enemy. If we forfeit our values by signaling that they are negotiable in situations of grave or imminent danger, we drive those undecideds into the arms of the enemy. This way lies defeat, and we are well down the road to it.

This is not just a lesson for history. Right now, White House lawyers are working up new rules that will govern what CIA interrogators can do to prisoners in secret. Those rules will set the standard not only for the CIA but also for what kind of treatment captured American soldiers can expect from their captors, now and in future wars. Before the president once again approves a policy of official cruelty, he should reflect on that.

How can it be acceptable for a civilised nation to condone this sort of treatment?

100 Movies, 100 Quotes, 100-1 Countdown

Brilliant! (H/T Good Morning Silicon Vally Blog)

Monday, 14 May 2007

Saturday, 12 May 2007

"You have a Monica problem"

The reason you may not have got the promotion you deserved at the Department of Justice.

Flickr Of The Day

Griffith Park Fire
Originally uploaded by losermike.
A dramatic shot of the fire at Griffith Park in Los Angeles

The Neocon Reply

Richard Perle, of of the leading neocon agitators for the invasion of Iraq, responds to Tenet's allegations about the lack of debate in the White House prior to the invasion.

It's a fascinating exercise in carefully parsed statements and half-truths.

He [Tenet] continues to assert falsely that the president's decision to remove Hussein was encouraged by lies about Iraq's responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks.
Didn't every statement made made by the President, Vice-President and Defense Secretary between 9/11 and March 2003 link the 9/11 attack and Saddam Hussein?

Understandably anxious to counter the myth that we went into Iraq on the basis of his agency's faulty intelligence...
Does anyone believe that it was the CIA exclusively that got it wrong. From what I've read, there were all sorts of caveats on their intelligence. Not only that, most of the intelligence used as a basis for the need for invasion came out of the Office of Special Plans, created by Donald Rumsfeld and headed by Douglas Feith.

But the greatest intelligence failure of the past two decades was the CIA's failure to understand and sound an alarm at the rise of jihadist fundamentalism. It is Wahhabi extremism and the call to holy war against infidels that gave us the perpetrators of Sept. 11 and much of the terrorism that has followed. In his attempts to blame others for CIA shortcomings, Tenet cannot say, "I told the president that our Saudi allies were financing thousands of mosques and schools around the world where a hateful doctrine of holy war and violence was being inculcated in young potential terrorists." Fatefully, the CIA failed to make our leaders aware of the rise of Islamist extremism and the immense danger it posed to the United States.

Is Richard Perle seriously saying that the CIA didn't look closely enough at Saudi Arabia, the Neocons', and oil companies', biggest partner in the Middle East?

And the final paragraph tops it all.

George Tenet and, more important, our premier intelligence organization managed to find weapons of mass destruction that did not exist while failing to find links to terrorists that did -- all while missing completely the rise of Islamist fundamentalism. We have made only a down payment on the price of that failure.

What weapons of mass destruction did the CIA find? None, apart from a few chemical shells decades old and unusable. And they failed to find links to the terrorists because they didn't exist. Well, not in Iraq anyway.

Friday, 11 May 2007

An End to the Drought?

The National Climate Centre is predicting average or above average rainfall for South Eastern Australia over Autumn and Winter which, if it occurs, will break one of the worst droughts on record.

"We've seen the waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean cool off in the last few months, so we've gone from being significantly warmer than average to being near average and we think it's quite likely that they'll continue to cool below average levels over the coming months," he said.

"If that does happen, which would constitute a La Nina event, there would be quite a high chance of above normal rainfalls in the second half of the year."

The situation is serious, with reservoir levels at record lows, but it's not quite as serious as American radio host Art Bell was making out last weekend! It's worth listening to.

Night Out

Just been to the 'footy' at TelstraDome. It's a big thing in Melbourne which has 10 teams (if you include Geelong) out of the 16 in the AFL (Australian Football League). The Kangaroos beat Essendon tonight by 22 points.

Another Tom Toles Masterpiece

Habeus Corpus

Where is the rest of Congress?

Gitmo Deconstruction

Brilliant! I second Andrew Sullivan's second.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Youtube Original

One of the earliest 'stars' of Youtube was the young guitarist in his bedroom, face obscured by a baseball cap, playing an arrangement of Canon.

DoJ Troubles

The scandal at the Department of Justice keeps growing.

There is, to start, the very strong appearance that United States attorneys were fired because they were investigating powerful Republicans or refused to bring baseless charges against Democrats. There is reason to believe that Carol Lam of San Diego, who put Randy Cunningham, the former Republican congressman, in jail, and Paul Charlton of Arizona, who was investigating Representative Rick Renzi, among others, were fired simply for their nonpartisan pursuit of justice.The Justice Department opened an internal investigation last week into whether Monica Goodling, a former senior adviser to Mr. Gonzales, applied a political screen to applicants for assistant United States attorney positions. That kind of political test would violate department policy, and possibly the law.
How can the public have any confidence that the internal investigation will be thorough and non-political. Surely, it's a case of the fox guarding the hen-house.

It's an unfolding tragedy that the American people are being given a third-world justice system where political connections will take precedence over an even-handed application of the law.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Flickr Of The Day

Over the hills
Originally uploaded by Bob Duck.

Nobody Likes Us

... so we'll take our ball and go and play by ourselves.

The conservatives, in their own little world, didn't like the facts (liberal bias) on Wikipedia so they set up their own version. Now, they don't like it that no-one looks at their videos on Youtube, so they've started their own video site,

It looks very amusing on the surface, but it has a darker side. How are entrenched views ever going to be challenged if people withdraw into their own world and never hear or see anything that challenges their views. We've seen it for the last few years with Fox News and ideologues like Rush Limbaugh.

Will Bush's poll ratings ever drop below 28-30%? Are these the people that get all of their news from Fox? Do they still believe in the WMDs (or that they've been found)? Do they still believe in the Saddam-Al Qaeda link (as Dick Cheney stills insists was there)? Do they still believe that their government doesn't torture?

Hanging On

Jay Bookman at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution makes the point that George Bush is just trying to hang on to pass the problem of Iraq on to his successor.

Any claim that President Bush is committed to victory in Iraq is contradicted by the facts. He is instead committing us to slow defeat, a defeat timed to come after he leaves office, on another president's watch so another president takes blame.

And if the current president has to purchase another 20 months in Iraq with the lives and limbs of our soldiers, and with the continued degradation of a military that we may need again in the not-so-distant future — well, he is apparently willing to make that deal.

All the evidence supports this view as he goes on to explain.

If Bush had been truly committed to victory, he would have paid the price for it. Sometime in the past five years, he would have found the hundreds of thousands of additional troops our generals have said from the beginning that they needed to succeed.

Being truly committed to winning also would have meant not just sending our military off to war, which was easy. It would have meant sending this nation to war as well, which was hard and something the president has never dared ask of the American people. For most of us, this is a war in which other people fight and die, and that other people will pay for. Under the president's leadership, we have become the only generation in U.S. history so selfish that we gave ourselves major tax cuts while our kids were fighting and dying, and for that we ought to be ashamed.

Most of all, a commitment to winning would have required taking the war effort seriously. It was not. It was not seriously planned, it was not seriously considered, it has not been seriously fought. And as a result, we find ourselves in a terrible dilemma.

H/T to Dan Froomkin's excellent White House Watch.

Veto Threat

George W Bush has threatened to veto any bill which 'weakened' any federal abortion laws.

In a two-page letter sent to the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Mr. Bush said his veto threat would apply to any measures that “allow taxpayer dollars to be used for the destruction of human life.”
But, does he also mean that he will veto any money for Iraq too? Oh no, sorry, those human lives don't count, do they?

Friday, 4 May 2007

Flickr Of The Day

Lift for Bikes - I
Originally uploaded by PuffinArt.
What a great way to get up hills.

Follow this!

It's like the three card trick, and just as difficult to follow.

Another Scandal Brewing

Every day, it seems brings another story about the Department of Justice and dismissals of US Attorneys.

The NYT reports that Debra Wong of Los Angeles was forced out:

Ms. Yang was investigating Jerry Lewis, who was chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Ms. Lam and most of the other purged prosecutors were fired on Dec. 7. Ms. Yang, in a fortuitously timed exit, resigned in mid-October.

Ms. Yang says she left for personal reasons, but there is growing evidence that the White House was intent on removing her. Kyle Sampson, the Justice Department staff member in charge of the firings, told investigators last month in still-secret testimony that Harriet Miers, the White House counsel at the time, had asked him more than once about Ms. Yang. He testified, according to Congressional sources, that as late as mid-September, Ms. Miers wanted to know whether Ms. Yang could be made to resign. Mr. Sampson reportedly recalled that Ms. Miers was focused on just two United States attorneys: Ms. Yang and Bud Cummins, the Arkansas prosecutor who was later fired to make room for Tim Griffin, a Republican political operative and Karl Rove protégé.

No wonder Bush wants Alberto to stay. Senate hearings for a new AG would take the lid right off a huge can of worms.