Molt Be Blog

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Bush: 'No doubt' NSA surveillance is legal

CNN.com - Bush: 'No doubt' NSA surveillance is legal - Jan 26, 2006
Check out this quote:

Bush told a White House news conference that the domestic spying program 'is designed to protect civil liberties' and declared that 'it's necessary.'

War is peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. And we're only spying on you to protect your right to not be spied upon.

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the power of nicotine

I heard about this hostage situation on my 7AM npr news summary... good to see that it's been resolved:Last hostage in Exeter bank standoff freed, suspect in custody

A sheriff's SWAT team ended a 10 1/2-hour bank siege early Thursday by grabbing the final hostage when the gunman sent her to the front door to retrieve a pack of cigarettes, authorities said.

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Celtiberox

Celtiberox es Bueno

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sad Idiot

Bush started up the anti-anti-NSA wiretap spin machine in Kansas yesterday. I listened to the NPR 5 minute news podcast this morning on the way to work and giggled at this little gem that Bush said about Samuel Alito at some point during his Kansas appearance:
"[Samuel Alito] is a very, very smart and capable man. He is uh... He... I mean, when you talk to Sam Alito, you think, 'Smart. Judge.'"
How deeply profound, this guy. It could be a lot worse. Sam Alito could be a guy who lifts cans and has an IQ of 45. Then when you talked to Sam Alito, you would think, "dumb can lifter." If only the Senate didn't just have to vote him in, anyway. Why bother with wasting my tax dollars on a confirmation charade? Why not spend them on replacing the $12.7 million that was cut from the federal student loan program.
One last thing:
It's a sad day when a news headline reads, "Bush to Take Unscripted Audience Questions." Have we actually come to the point where this is something that is so out of the ordinary that it counts as news? Sad, sad, sad.
That's all I've got. I'm definitely getting into this whole podcast things. It almost makes me wish I had a longer commute.

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Closed-Door Deal Makes $22 Billion Difference

Closed-Door Deal Makes $22 Billion Difference

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Time Waster

I made it to 16.834 playing Escapa!

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Hrmm...

From what this Guardian article/USAid reports, it sounds like Iraq is turning into what Afghanistan used to be. Official US agency paints dire picture of 'out-of-control' Iraq

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Informative

NewsNow: Iraq

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Interesting

100 Oldest .COM domain names

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Fun

Mr. Picassohead

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Bin Laden: Attacks on U.S. Being Prepared

Bin Laden: Attacks on U.S. Being Prepared

The voice of Osama bin Laden was heard for the first time in more than a year Thursday, saying new attacks in the United States were being prepared but offering a "long-term" truce if U.S. forces withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan. The tape quieted speculation that his long silence meant he was dead.
Addressing the American public on an audiotape delivered to the al-Jazeera television network, the al Qaeda leader noted antiwar sentiment in the United States and said that a withdrawal would allow the opposing sides in the conflicts to "enjoy security and stability.
The Bush administration quickly rejected bin Laden's offer. 'We do not negotiate with terrorists. We put them out of business,' said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. Vice President Cheney told Fox News Channel: 'It sounds to me like it's some kind of ploy. This is not an organization that's ever going to sit down and sign a truce. I think you have to destroy them.'

Ugh. I can't say I don't agree with the Govt. on this one. You can't go killing 3,000 innocent people and expect a truce... Then again, we've killed at least 30,000 innocent Iraqis in Bush's little "war for reasons yet to be determined", so we should watch what we say in the area of not agreeing to truces. Remember: Iraq - NOT the war on terror. That's an important thing to note.
On the tape, bin Laden depicts inevitable U.S. defeat. 'Don't let your strength and modern arms fool you. They win a few battles but lose the war. Patience and steadfastness are much better. We were patient in fighting the Soviet Union with simple weapons for 10 years,' he said, referring to the 1980s war in Afghanistan, 'and we bled their economy and now they are nothing. In that there is a lesson for you.'

Should we point out that the US helped in this war against the Soviet Union with our "strength and modern arms"?
U.S. intelligence analysts have judged the tape to be authentic, an intelligence official said. Bin Laden speaks in a low voice; the sound quality is generally poor."

Someone should really just buy Osama better recording equipment. He needs a producer. Like Pharrell. Or that crazy haired "wall of sound" guy.

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Feds after Google data

Feds after Google data
Poor me. Always the last to find out. I can't stand when I first hear about a story on Fox News and it's summed up in the most trite and sappy manner.
I saw the story again in slashdot this morning.
Honestly, I don't really care if Google gives the government statistics on how many people are searching for porn everyday. Apparently, Yahoo and others have already complied

America Online, Microsoft and Yahoo said they had responded to the requests but stressed that they did not provide all the requested information.
"We complied on a limited basis and did not provide any personally identifiable information," Yahoo spokeswoman Mary M. Osako said. "In our opinion, this is not a privacy issue."

There are two things that I'd like to agree with the Post and others on:
(1) This does set a terrible precedent.
(2) Going after the content rather than the parents is a mistake. We're already up tight about sex as it is in this country. I'd suggest better education for children and parents on the subject of pornography.
The government argued that the Google data would, among other things, help it to understand what Web sites people can find using a search engine, to estimate how much "harmful-to-minors" content may be on those sites and to gauge the effectiveness of software in screening out such material.

Those quotes around "harmful-to-minors" are very appropriate. Go Washington Post.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Your Govt. Hard At Work

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES TRADE REPRESENTATIVE
Executive Office of the President
Washington, D.C.

USTR Press Releases are available on the USTR website at www.ustr.gov.

Embargoed until 5:15 PM:
January 17, 2006

Contact:
Christin Baker / Neena Moorjani

(202) 395-3230


United States and Mexico Reach Agreement on Tequila


WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman announced the
conclusion of an agreement with Mexico on tequila trade. Under the
agreement, exports from Mexico to the United States will continue without
interruption. Ambassador Portman and Mexican Secretary of Economy Sergio
GarcĂ­a de Alba signed the agreement in Washington, D.C.

"We have resolved this important trade challenge in a way that ensures U.S.
bottlers will have continued access to bulk tequila," said Ambassador
Portman. "I'm very pleased we were able to negotiate a resolution."

"Mexico's initial position, which would have required that all Mexican-made
tequila be bottled in Mexico, threatened the huge investments by U.S.
companies in building bottling plants and developing brands in the United
States. USTR's prompt action and the cooperation of Mexican officials
allowed tequila bottling in the United States to continue uninterrupted for
two years during the negotiations and guarantees that these operations will
continue," Portman added. "I also want to thank the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax
and Trade Bureau of the Department of the Treasury, as well as the
Departments of State and Commerce, for their invaluable assistance in these
negotiations."

Key elements of the agreement include:

· A prohibition on restrictions of bulk tequila exports to the
United States;

· A prohibition on Mexican regulation of tequila labeling or
marketing, as well as the labeling, formulation, and marketing of distilled
spirits specialty products, outside of Mexico;

· Creation of a "tequila bottlers registry" that identifies approved
bottlers of tequila;

· Continuation of current practice with respect to addressing
Mexican concerns regarding the manufacturing of tequila in the United
States; and

· Establishment of a working group to monitor the implementation of
the agreement.


Background:

The United States is Mexico's largest export market for tequila and accounts
for 50 percent of Mexican production. In 2004, the United States imported
over $400 million of Mexican tequila. Approximately 73 percent of the total
volume was tequila in bulk form. In 2003, Mexico considered amending the
Official Mexican Standard for Tequila to require that tequila be bottled in
Mexico. Such an amendment would have created a de facto ban on exports of
bulk tequila. The United States and Mexico entered into discussions with a
view to reaching a negotiated solution, resulting in today's agreement. On
January 6, 2006, Mexico published the new Official Mexican Standard for
Tequila, which contains prohibitive requirements related to the inspection
of bottling facilities, labeling of tequila and products containing tequila,
and formulation of products that contain tequila. As a result of today's
agreement, these provisions do not apply to the United States.


###

**PLEASE NOTE: The agreement has been attached in both English and Spanish.
These are the unsigned versions. The signed versions of the agreement will
be posted to the USTR website, www.ustr.gov.

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That was me!

This article: "Crusty Macaroni and Cheese" - What's wrong with the New York Times' weirdly popular recipe. By Sara Dickerman
Complains about the popularity and highly cheesy nature of a mac and cheese recipe that I'm pretty sure I emailed to R a few weeks ago. Fantastic.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Catalunya (where Barcelona is) Story Progression

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Freaking duh

Alito Likely To Become A Justice

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

yaledailynews.com - 'Syriana' highlights complexities of war

yaledailynews.com - 'Syriana' highlights complexities of war

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I never liked eating at my desk anyway

Yesterday's post had a barrage of articles on why eating at your desk is lame.
Desktop Dining: It's Unsanitary, Unhealthy, Unfriendly And We All Do It

Professionals who bill for their time have another reason to eat at their desks. Delia Jones and Jennifer Downey work at ICF, a downtown consulting firm. "In consulting, we bill in half-hour increments. You can't bill lunch, so you want to keep it short," Jones says.

The Yuck Factor
According to a widely cited study of 7,000 work sites by University of Arizona microbiologist Charles Gerba, offices are "the laptop of luxury [har-dee-har] for germs." A typical telephone, the study showed, had more than 25,000 germs per square inch. A typical desk had 10 million germs. Keyboard and computer mice are filthy too.

Make It, and Eat at Your Desk
If you must eat lunch at your desk, it need not be a rushed or boring affair. Think of it as an urban picnic, minus the blanket and the ants . . . with a little preparation, a creative meal of wraps, soup or salad can be put together with store-bought ingredients and homemade favorites.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Interesting tidbits

Guantanamo detainee boycotts trial

The MacWorld Expo yesterady revealed that Intel chips in Macs will make them 3 to 5 times faster and a new laptop, the MacBook Pro will be realeased. Unfortunately, my dreams of a Mac Mini media center failed to materialize. Thinksecret summarizes the MacWorld Expo predictions (all false) and surprises (everything) here.

The body armor debate heats up

The Senate Armed Services Committee summoned defense officials to a closed briefing to explain a Pentagon report disclosed last week that said more complete body armor could have prevented or limited about 80 percent of the fatal torso wounds suffered by Marines killed in Iraq.
Congressional Democrats have pounced on the report, which was compiled by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology at the request of the Marine Corps, as evidence of the Bush administration's flawed conduct of the Iraq war.
The report, which was not intended for public release, examined the cases of Marines fatally wounded from the start of the war in March 2003 through June 2005, and found weaknesses in the torso protective gear.

No body armor is perfect, so I'm not sure where I fall on the side of this one. I think it's a bit silly for the Dems to be yelling about this... While lack of good body armor might show mismanagement, it really doesn't seem like a slam dunk for them.
Then again, the Pentagon did a complete about-face sometime this evening and is now sending added armor to Iraq. So let's see, earlier in the day we had this: "U.S. troops in Iraq are using body armor that strikes a balance of protecting them while allowing movement to do their jobs and withstand hot temperatures, the Pentagon said on Wednesday." and now we have the Pentagon saying that they're going to send additional body armor. Fascinating.

And things that everone predicted for the Katrina aftermath (see rebuilding city using contractors and taking away the houses of poor people) appears to be coming to pass down in NOLA.
Angry homeowners screamed and city council members seethed Wednesday as this city's recovery commission recommended imposing a four-month building moratorium on most of New Orleans and creating a powerful new authority that could use eminent domain to seize homes in neighborhoods that will not be rebuilt.
ohn Beckham, a consultant who helped devise the plan, urged residents to "imagine the best city in the world."
Beckham -- who declined repeated requests Wednesday to identify the private foundation that hired him to draw up the plan for the commission -- told the audience that New Orleans could have "a park in every neighborhood," "a bustling downtown" and a city connected by bike paths and public transportation systems.
Beckham was introduced by the commission's urban planning chairman, Joseph C. Canizaro, a real estate developer and major fundraiser for Bush, who chuckled when he was booed by some in attendance. "This is just a beginning," Canizaro told the audience.
Mindful that Bush will have a tremendous influence on how much money finds it way to Louisiana, Beckham displayed some of the president's pledges on large screens. He reminded the crowd that Bush said Sept. 15 that "we will do what it takes" to rebuild New Orleans and of his promise in December to build levees that are better and stronger than ever before. Bush will make his first visit to the city in three months on Thursday.

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Holy Irony, Batman

Indian filmmaker takes city of New York to court

In the suit, Sharma said he was left feeling ashamed and humiliated when he was detained in May 2005 after police saw him use a hand-held video camera on a public street in midtown Manhattan.

Sharma was taping background footage for a documentary examining changes in the lives of ordinary people such as taxi drivers after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He was told he needed a permit to film on city streets and then was denied one without explanation at the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, the lawsuit said.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

iFeedPod

If you have an iPod a Mac and know what RSS is, this software is pretty sweet. I need to download it when I'm back home.
And if you've got an iPod, this article found through SlashDot lists 50 Fun Things to Do with Your iPod like using it as a mirror to take pictures of yourself.

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

The American Taliban

Stumbled upon this website today with a lot of disturbing quotes from a lot of disturbing people who seem to very preoccupied with hate" The American Taliban

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Hooray for Consumption


I bought one of these today. It's a video iPod. Look at it there. Sitting atop my mini. All expensive and wasteful. Who in their right mind spends $400 on a portable jukebox when there are people in Kashmir that are dying because they don't have a tent to sleep in for the winter after their house crumbled in an earthquake? Apparently I do and I don't feel any better about it just because I thought of others suffering as I hung my head and made my way to the mall. I don't think I looked up very much between entering and exiting the mall. I whispered quietly, "I'm interested in buying a 60GB video iPod." to an Apple store employee with "genius" written on his shirt and he directed me to the checkout counter where all of the little expensive things are kept.
Is it something in my Catholic upbringing that forces me to feel guilty for mild indulgences and then something in my American upbringing that gives into stupidity and allows me to just indulge myself anyway?
Speaking of stupid Americans, I was reading Harper's on the Metro back from my binge buying and ran across this gem:
lifted from Harper's without permission
The Package Tour
From The Journals: Volume 2, by John Fowles, published in England this month by Jonathan Cape and forthcoming from Alfred A. Knopf in fall 2006. Fowles, the author of The French Lieutenant's Woman, The Magus, and several other novels, died in November
18 January, [1966]
Getting drunk with Arnold Ehrlich in the evening. He is as good a New Yorker as Ned Bradford is a New Englander: salt and cynical, savage about America. I told him I wanted to write a book about America, and I needed a question that would also be a quest. He said: "Who wants to think? Why is this a country where practically no one ever wants to think? Where everyone wants just to live and have fun? Why is this the only country in the world where you can go on retaining your most stupid national characteristics? Is that freedom-to be so stupid?" It is a good question, and touches on what I feel more and more here: that the American way of life is a shorthand, a digest, a synopsis, a package tour . . . not the real thing. I mean a driving past certain gates and interstices that to the American seem perhaps unimportant, insignificant . . . but that lead to great fields, beautiful fertile landscapes of experience. Instant existing, like instant coffee. It's almost as good as real coffee and easier to use. but it presupposes that quality is far less important than consumption.

I'd expand on the presupposition of quality being less important than consumption and say that Fowles' journal entry hints that, at least here in America, thought is far less important than consumption.
Then again, this iPod is pretty sweet.
My first task was to figure out how the hell to get movies that weren't purchased from iTunes onto the thing. It's a bit of a hassle. In anticipation, I'd purchased the full version of QuickTime, which is a huge scam for a few reasons:
  • If they ever make a new version of QuickTime (they're on QuickTime 7 now), you have to buy the program all over again. You can't pay a little fee for an upgrade, oh no.
  • The program suffers like so many other Mac programs in that it doesn't offer enough advanced options for the nerdier people among us. If you want to Export to a different video format (ie one that will play on your new video iPod) and you're exporting from an avi file that you downloaded that is a Divx rip (have I lost you yet), it doesn't necessarily record the sound to the new video. Videos suck without sound. That's why there are so very few silent films these days. And even silent films had musical accompaniment.
  • No PLAYLISTS. God forbid you should want to watch three videos in a row without getting up to double-click.

Luckily, there's a great solution to all of this. It's called VLC Player and is available here for Mac, Windows and Linux based systems.
VideoLAN Client (VLC) is a media player for Unix, Windows, Mac OS X, BeOS, QNX, and PocketPC. It can play most audio and video codecs (MPEG 1/2/4, DivX, WMV, Vorbis, AC3, AAC, etc.), has support for VCD, SVCD, and DVD (with menus), and can read or dump streams from a network source (HTTP, UDP, DVB, MMS, etc.). It can also act as a server and send streams through the network, with optional support for audio and video transcoding.

I'd been using this nifty little devil for its playlist capabilities for a while, but it turns out it's also great for converting divx avi files to .mp4 files even more quickly that QuickTime 7, with sound and with more options.
The next step is figuring out a way to hook this into OS X automator to have it automatically convert all of the files in a given directory while I'm sleeping and then upload them to the iPod.
Tonight it's time to spend my gift card for Morton's Steakhouse by hitting the bar therein with R, KM and SV for a spell. I'll likely regale them with my tales of iPod buying and how horrible of a person I am for not sending tents to Pakistan.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Bush, congressmen to donate Abramoff contributions

Bush, congressmen to donate Abramoff contributions
I love this stuff. Such a charade. Imagine if all politicians donated any funds that came to them through fraudlent means. They'd be broke except for the donations from the little people... maybe then they'd take the little people into consideration more often.
Update
Here's the article in the Post

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DC Smoking Ban passes

Sounds like the smoking ban just passed as I was listening in at:
http://www.dccouncil.washington.dc.us/
Don't know if it's in the news yet.
Looks like it will take place on Jan 1, 2007. I missed whether or not Marion Barry's ammendment to allow Hukah bars, etc. passed or not.

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Copying some files

Copying some files here at work and have some time to blog it up a bit. or not... I just wasted all the time answering old emails that I'd flagged in gmail. Bless that little program.
The List on washingtonpost.com of what's in and out for 2006 is amusing.

This article on the West VA mining deaths is heart-wrenching.

Anger and grief replaced jubilation as the families of the trapped West Virginia miners learned today that initial reports of the men's survival were wrong and all but one had died.
The announcement, made at a Baptist church close to the mine in the town of Sago, came three hours after the West Virginia governor, Joe Manchin, said he had been told 12 of the 13 miners had survived after an explosion.

This discussion of the cult called scientology is interesting.
Reading, Pa.: Why is Scientology opposed to mainstream psychiatric treatment and associated drugs such as Paxil and Lexapro?
Richard Leiby: It's important to get this one out of the way first. Many people are coming to hear about Scientology only through Tom Cruise's recent, highly publicized condemnations of psychiatry and psychiatric medications. He is essentially following a script set in place by Hubbard many years ago --Hubbard openly declared war on the psychological and psychiatric profession in response to its doubts about the theories he put forth in his breakthrough 1950 book, "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health."
Many medical practicioners (including psychiatrists) considered Hubbard a dangerous quack. He, in turn, considered shrinks to be butchers, not healers. He incorporated his hatred for psychiatrists in his spiritual views, claiming that the "psychs" were part of an evil alien force that helped to enslave humanity millions of years ago.
Hubbard wrote in an internal policy bulletin in 1982: "The psychs have been on the [time] track a long time and are the sole cause of decline in this universe...They destroyed every great civilization to date and are hard at work on this one."

Bush catches a break and can say that the NSA went above his head in the Spying controversy, accorind to this article in the NYT.
Bush administration officials said on Tuesday that General Hayden, now the country's No. 2 intelligence official, had acted on the authority previously granted to the N.S.A., relying on an intelligence directive known as Executive Order 12333, issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. That order set guidelines for the collection of intelligence, including by the N.S.A.
"He had authority under E.O. 12333 that had been given to him, and he briefed Congress on what he did under those authorities," said Judith A. Emmel, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. "Beyond that, we can't get into details of what was done."

And Abramoff's future as a witness starts to scare crooks all over Washington (wait, that's everybody).
Abramoff was among the lobbyists most closely associated with the K Street Project, which was initiated by his friend Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), now the former House majority leader, once the GOP vaulted to power. It was an aggressive program designed to force corporations and trade associations to hire more GOP-connected lobbyists in what at times became an almost seamless relationship between Capitol Hill lawmakers and some firms that sought to influence them.

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Googlebombing 'failure'

Reading this article Official Google Blog: Googlebombing 'failure' currently. I promise a big update on New Year's etc and to try to write back to everyone that's written me over the last two weeks soon. I'm feeling old, tired and full of holiday food.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Abramoff Pleads Guilty to 3 Felony Charges

One down, thousands to go:
Abramoff Pleads Guilty to 3 Felony Charges

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