December 31, 2007

Finally Saw Grizzly Man

(here). Woke at 4 a.m.: people parts in bears; what a way to go. I wonder if Timmy had time to grow up during those last, agonizing seconds.

One of the joys and hazards of being human is that we can entertain our own dam' selves. We can have sex with ourselves; we can party by ourselves; we can project whole populations for ourselves to "interact" with; etc.

Leading Surveillance Societies

Bigger image and more info here.

Boone Needs to Meet . . .

You know, Boone.

(Thanks, Craig!)

December 30, 2007

True Love

This guy customized this AR-15 assault rifle for his wife.

(Thanks Ben, but you're shopping for me in the wrong places.)

December 29, 2007

UPDATE Re- Bringing the Internet to Heel

As my three readers know, I'm very concerned that, at least partly through the instigation of right-wing authoritarians but also partly through the more or less semi-witless facilitation by the rest of us, the internet is rapidly being transformed into a potential top-down surveillance and mind-control system easily manipulated by gummints and corps (for more details, see my previous posts on the subject, most recently here).

I never thought I'd see Microsoft as on my side, but in its current battles with Google, that's how it's shaping up. Google is actively promoting its "cloud" model of the internet, in which not only software but most of your data live on the 'net -- i.e., in hardware owned and controlled by others -- while Microsoft continues to favor a distributed model in which most of your software and data live in your PC.

Details at Google Watch and The New York Times, among other places.

Personally, I'm hanging on to my hardware and (better late than never) minimizing the personal info I put on the 'net.

(See my prior post for background.)

December 28, 2007

Headphones Art by André Avelãs

A one-night installation comprising 960 earbuds used as speakers plus another 40 buds used as microphones to fuel a feedback loop. "Another unpredicted but welcomed sound source was some white noise from a fucked-up amplification circuit I built," said Avelãs. More at Avelãs' Flickr gallery and his website, where a sound sample is to be posted soon. (Via Gizmodo.)

December 27, 2007

Sign Now in Support of Impeachment Hearings

Congressman Robert Wexler has called for impeachment hearings to investigate Dick Cheney. As his website puts it, "There is credible evidence that the Vice President abused the power of his office, and not only brought us into an unneccesary war but violated the civil liberties and privacy of American citizens. It is the constitutional duty of Congress to hold impeachment hearings."

You can't have a functioning democracy if apparent "high crimes" by some of the highest officers in the land aren't even investigated. You can't have "truth and reconciliation" without truth.

It's high time we knew as much about what our employees in the gummint are up to as they know about us.

In the first five days after Wexler's call for hearings, over 100,000 people signed his petition in support. Please add your signature here.

December 23, 2007

Big Brother Has Biometric Data on You (or Soon Will)

I'd prefer to focus my posts more on art and trash, but these days, that's not easy.

According to The Washington Post, the FBI, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are cooperating to create recognition equipment coupled with a vast database of biometrics that would enable them to capture or identify images of people's irises at distances of up to 15 feet and faces from as far away as 200 yards. The database will also retain fingerprints and palm patterns, scars, and perhaps characteristic ways of walking and talking.

The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks, "so the employers can be notified if employees 'have brushes with the law'" -- i.e., any contact with the law whatsoever, whether you’ve actually done anything wrong or not.

Director Lawrence A. Hornak of the West Virginia University Center for Identification Technology Research, which has been awarded a contract to further develop the system’s recognition capabilities, says, "The long-term goal" is "ubiquitous use" of biometrics. As WaPo put it, “[a] traveler may walk down an airport corridor and allow his face and iris images to be captured without ever stepping up to a kiosk and looking into a camera . . . .”

See also engadget and the U.S. Department of Justice, indicating that in 2006, the same or a similar system was projected to cost U.S. taxpayers $1 billion.

Another good reason to get yourself a gas mask, preferably with mirrored lenses -- and if you plan to protest, don't leave home without it.

(Thanks, Craig and Ben!)

December 22, 2007

Plan Now to Vote in the PRIMARIES

The perfidy of our current elected officials in Congress, both Republican and Democratic (see, e.g., Salon), has made only too plain the importance of participating in party primaries to try to ensure we’ll have the chance to vote for candidates who might actually prioritize the will and the Constitutional rights of the people over the interests of big business.

So please find out how to vote in the primary in your state and DO it.

In my own state, the primaries are scheduled for March 4, 2008, and if you’re registered to vote, you can vote in a primary merely by showing up at the appropriate polling place on the date of the primary, so long as you haven’t already voted in the primary for the other party (which would have been marked on your voter registration card). [UPDATE for Texas Dem voters HERE.] Primary dates and the requirements for voting in them vary from state to state, however. Primaries in some states take place as early as January 3, 2008; so check it out NOW.

You can find the date of your primaries at Wikipedia or The New York Times.

We vastly outnumber the bad guys; their power persists only through our inaction. At this point, I plan to vote for Edwards.

UPDATES Re- What Would the CIA Torture Tapes Have Revealed?

(Original post here.)

UPDATE Dec. 19, 2007: The New York Times reports that White House lawyers Alberto R. Gonzales, David S. Addington (now V.P. Cheney's chief of staff), John B. Bellinger III (until 2005, the senior lawyer at the National Security Council), and Harriet E. Miers (who succeeded Mr. Gonzales as White House counsel) all took part in discussions with the CIA about whether to destroy the tapes and that some officials contend there was “vigorous sentiment” at the White House to destroy the tapes, or at best that no White House lawyer advised against it.

UPDATE Dec. 22, 2007: According to The New York Times, both chairmen of the official U.S. 9/11 Commission, Lee H. Hamilton (D) and Thomas H. Kean (R), have stated that a memorandum based on a recent review of classified documents "had convinced them that the [CIA] had made a conscious decision to impede the Sept. 11 commission’s inquiry."

December 18, 2007

The Lovely Sayana

from the original Star Trek series, apparently adorned with batter-fried onion "blossoms."

See more of the galactic gals Kirk closely encountered here.

(Thanks, Ben!)

December 17, 2007

What Would the CIA Torture Tapes Have Revealed?

Many people accept the explanation that the tapes were destroyed because they show U.S. agents committing torture.

But, bad as that is, we already knew about it. Moreover, the Bush Administration survived the release of the Abu Ghraib photos at no greater cost than a few underlings’ careers and has managed to keep out of public view most of the other video known to be most damning (e.g., the video described by Pullitzer-winning Seymour Hersch as depicting U.S. soldiers sodomizing Iraqi boys).

As O. Ricardo Pimentel of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel put it in his Dec. 12, 2007 blog post, "[t]hey've got stuff in the intelligence world to read license plates from satellites, yet they can't fuzz up faces on video? The agency says it did nothing illegal and says waterboarding was approved at the highest levels. OK, so what was the point in destroying the videos? One word: obstruction." I'm not sure what Pimental thinks was being obstructed, but some people believe the tapes had to be destroyed because they would have revealed the Bush Administration’s hand in something worse than mere torture.

Gerald Posner at HuffPo thinks the Administration may have feared the revelation of facts relating to 9/11 that were disclosed by the men being tortured; see also Robert Baer's piece at Time Magazine.

Others speculate further that the tapes would have revealed that the torture was actually intended to induce brain damage or insanity in the victims, in order to destroy their ability to give credible evidence; see, e.g., leveymg's blog entries dated Dec. 10, 2007 and later at Daily Kos.

Both Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri are believed to have played instrumental roles in the 9/11 attacks (see the official U.S. 9-11 Commission Report and BBC News). Both men (among thousands of others) have been in actual or constructive U.S. custody since 2002 (Wikipedia here and here), i.e., ca. five years.

The FBI quickly extracted from Zubaydah -- without the use of waterboarding -- the names of four foreign leaders who knew about the 9/11 attacks before the event, all of them nationals of our supposed "allies," Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Within months, all four men named met sudden and untimely deaths (see Posner at HuffPo).

Waterboarding and other harsh methods were approved by the White House (ABC News and The Washington Post), although such methods are in violation of the Geneva Convention and probably U.S. law (see The Pittsburgh School of Law's Jurist and Wikipedia).

Waterboarding can reduce or cut off the supply of oxygen to the brain and result in permanent brain damage or death (Wikipedia). “[W]ithout adequate oxygen, . . . the cells of the brain can die within several minutes. This type of injury is often seen in near-drowning victims . . . . ” (Wikipedia). Both Zubaydah and al-Nashiri have been tortured by CIA agents using waterboarding as well as other methods.

"On September 15, 2004, Judge Hellerstein ordered the CIA and other government departments to ‘produce or identify’ all [records concerning the treatment of detainees apprehended after September 11, 2001 and held in U.S. custody abroad] by October 15, 2004. . . . a court order of this nature requires that the party preserve all information possessed that is responsive to the request", even if the party appeals the order (John W. Dean at FindLaw; see also the Associated Press). The CIA was also admonished by the 9-11 Committee and various advisors not to destroy the videotapes.

The CIA nonetheless destroyed the videotapes -- at the urging of someone "directly representing" President Bush (Newsweek).

Zubaydah is now said to be insane; sources are in dispute as to whether he was already insane when captured (see the June 23, 2006 post at Inside the Ring). Terror suspect Joseph Padilla is known to have been driven insane by torture (The Guardian).

The Cooperative Research History Commons is working on an excellent timeline here with much more detailed information on this subject.

December 15, 2007

Cody Smart's Hitchhike Across North America,

here; worth the download (even the "unabridged" version is not long).

December 11, 2007

December 1, 2007

"Kitty Wigs™ is a product of the feverish imagination of [my friend] Julie Jackson and her siamese partner in crime, Boone. Sometimes the pressure of Julie's day job [Subversive Crossstitch] combined with Boone's constant state of leisure results in loud music, wigs and dancing. This has brought such great stress relief . . . that we [Julie & Boone] decided to share our passion for wigs with the world. . . ."

"Each Kitty Wig™ comes in an attractive round metal wig case with our fresh new logo on it. Your wig will arrive on a wig form and covered in a hair net to help keep its shape and luster. . . ."

[Regarding the model at right,] "Pink is the color of fantasy. Our model, Chicken, looks like her mind is elsewhere when she wears this wig -- somewhere in a land of cotton candy and pinwheels . . . . Pink makes your kitty feel elegant, modern and quintessentially feline." [Text & pic from the Kitty Wigs site; some links supplied.]

If you have any creature in the house with a head bigger than a walnut (including boyfriends), you need a Kitty Wig™.

UPDATE: Kitty Wigs has been a smash success, inspiring both features by Anderson Cooper on CNN News and The Graham Norton Show (here and here -- both are funny) and hate mail (here, here, and here). Julie put my "walnuts" quip on her site and at one point, if you googled it, you got over 10,000 hits (so much for my more substantive accomplishments).

If you haven't gotten your Kitty Wig yet, better get your order in now for the next production run.