Thursday, June 29, 2006

Is the NSA spying on you?

How to: Determine if your Internet traffic is being spied upon by the NSA

Here's a way to determine if your web traffic is hopping across a network owned the world's largest telecommunications company, AT&T, and being dumped into an NSA database.

It is likely, however, that MOST Internet traffic does pass through Big Brother's gaze. However, so far the only company that is confirmed to have established at least a dozen spy offices is AT&T. If you run this simple command, you can determine if your data hopped across an AT&T network. If it did, there is a 100 percent chance that the content you requested via your web browser was recorded and placed into a government database.

If you are running a Windows machine, open the Command Prompt. (Start --> Programs --> Accessories --> Command Prompt)

Type in "tracert" (without "quotation marks"), press the space bar, and enter a website domain name. Any website will work. An example of your command line ...

C:\Documents and Settings\Computer User Name>tracert

Here is an example of the results ...

Click image for full view

What you are looking for is the line If it is above or below any non-AT&T server trace, you've just been CC'ed to the NSA.

You can run this test on any website.

With Big Brother stepping so hard on the Fourth Amendment as he is, you can never be too careful. So watch your e-Back, okay?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

"Loose lips" kill Americans, says GOP House Speaker

You'd better shut up, America. The GOP Congress has already warned you. This time they've got a "resolution" condeming the free press for reporting on items of public interest. So SHUT UP already! Loose Lips sink more than ships. Exercising your freedom of speech just might get you killed.

We all know that speaking about the evil our government does makes the troops cry. So just Shut Up, America. For your own good. Before Denny Hastert has to hit you again.
"Loose Lips" kill Americans, top Republican says
Wednesday, June 28
By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Declaring that "loose lips" kill Americans, a top congressional Republican leader said on Wednesday the House of Representatives would debate a resolution condemning the U.S. media for exposing details of secret intelligence programs.

The move heaps more criticism on The New York Times and other newspapers that reported last week on a secret program by the U.S. Treasury Department that monitors private bank records in an effort to track terrorist organizations.

"What we're talking about is people who are leaking classified information. It's not news. It's classified information our government is using to fight terrorists," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, of Illinois.

"Loose lips kill American people," he added.

The nonbinding resolution, released later in the day, said the House "expects the cooperation of all news media organizations in protecting the lives of Americans and the capability of the government to identify, disrupt and capture terrorists by not disclosing classified intelligence programs such as the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program."

A floor vote is scheduled for Thursday, said a spokesman for House Majority Leader John Boehner.

News reports of the bank-monitoring program and a separate surveillance effort that monitors phone traffic without a court warrant have drawn criticism from President George W. Bush and other Republicans who say coverage of the programs undermines their effectiveness.

A New York Times spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment. The paper's executive editor has said the extraordinary reach of the bank-monitoring program "is a matter of public interest."
Read more ...

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Serendipitous Sinclair Lewis

The Webster Retort
By Stephen Webster
Investigative Reporter
July 1, 2006

The Serendipitous Sinclair Lewis

Man it's getting hot - hot - hot
I said man it's getting hot - hot - hot
It's getting hotter
And hotter
Man it's getting hot - hot
It's getting hot around here

It's a meltdown
It's a meltdown

--AC/DC, Meltdown

As I write this, it is a relaxing 81 degrees. A partly-cloudy, early Summer morning, the office is cool and the skies are mostly blue. It is hard to believe that our globe is under dire threat due mostly to my own activities. This isn’t something that I have seen within my own lifetime, granted I am a mere 20-something. Nor is it something that even my father had seen or noticed; he once told me in my youth that Global Warming is not real, and that before I reach his age I would be worried about Global Cooling. And he wasn’t even a member of the College Republicans …

After seeing Al Gore’s rather terrifying film An Inconvenient Truth, I finally began doing some research of my own. Rather than swallow a politician’s Truth, which is often quite far removed from the every-day realities of MY world, I put my ear to the rail, and my eyes on the newswires. After all, Gore was one of the architects of the “pollution credits” scheme, which would have allowed the dirtiest of corporations to creating a “free market” for these credits. Any company that has the urge to purge just needs to pay out the almighty dollar and Volia! Sulfuric soil à la mode. So, Gore got a raised eyebrow from me. Certainly, I thought, he was laughing all the way to the bank on this one.

Global Warming is THIS hot!

Then, last week, I was convinced Global Warming is real by a small man in a wheel-chair with an eye for Chinese women.

"I like Chinese culture, Chinese food and above all Chinese women,” said famed American scientist Stephen Hawking to a group of students in Beijing. “They are beautiful." While I agree with this sentiment, it was his remarks on Global Warming that alarmed me. He claimed that Earth "might end up like Venus, at 250 degrees centigrade and raining sulfuric acid." Oh.

He went on to say that he wishes he could live out the next 100 years, just to see if humanity will survive. “It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species,” said Hawking. “Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of.”

Um. That’s not good. But, with so much controversy over the issue and all, I dug a bit further. While talking about this issue with a group of intellectual 20-somethings, a book called The Satanic Gasses, by Robert C. Balling, Jr. and Patrick J. Michaels, was recommended. A quick trip to Borders Books and I had the hard-back in hand. Two hours and three cups of coffee later, I arrived at some inconclusive conclusions.

Balling and Michaels say that to fight Global Warming, which they claim to be a hoax, would devastate America’s economy. To refocus efforts into developing alternative fuels that could replace gasoline and standard methods of electricity production would break us as a nation. I wasn’t so sure of this. Then the EPA released a report on June 22 that claimed the development of alternative, carbon-neutral fuels like biodiesel and ethanol would not drive up prices but lower them. The agency also claims the eco-friendly industries would create jobs and boost the economy.

Balling and Michaels also claim “there seems to have been no warming in recent decades either.” Try as I might to soak up this argument, I decided to place my faith in the National Academy of Sciences, which, on June 23, issued a report claiming that "recent warmth is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia.” They add that recent warming up-trends are due largely to human activity. But if there are no warming up-trends, as Satanic Gasses claims, no worries, right?

A few days after I had taken the book home, I discovered that Balling was paid by Exxon-Mobile in 2002 to pen a study entitled “The 2000 United States Historical Climate Network Update: What Changed?” He has also been the recipient of hundreds of thousands of dollars from oil and coal industries from Kuwait, the U.K. and Germany. So, I got my money back from Borders. Damn hucksters. Never mind the former Bush Administration official who censored NASA scientists about to go public with new concerns over Global Warming. Now he is a lobbyist for Exxon-Mobile.

Nobody knows for sure
Whatever happened to good time buddy
I don’t see hem round no more

The heat is on, everybody has gone underground
The heat is on, everybody hiding out just like Jesse James
My old home town
Lord, it don’t seem the same

--Allman Brothers Band, The Heat is On

Many climate scientists insist that the two land masses that weigh in the most on global climate and weather patterns are Greenland and Antarctica. The Greenland Ice Shelf is two miles thick, and so broad that it could cover the entirety of Mexico and have a Texas-sized serving of cold cubes on spare tap. Should the ice here disappear, claims Glaciologist Jay Zwally, worldwide sea level would rise by 21 feet, drastically alter ocean currents causing droughts and freezes in places unexpected, and fuel the ever-increasing strength of hurricanes and tornados.

On June 25, the L.A. Times reported the Greenland Ice Shelf is melting twice as fast as it was five years ago. Thinking this headline sounded a bit cryptic, I hunkered down for a long, complicated read. Turns out researchers have found the glacier ice to be a world climate records system of sorts. Here, they discovered particles of snow that fell over a quarter of a million years ago, perfectly preserved. They analyzed carbon samples by drilling deep within the ice, which lead them to conclude there have been 20 abrupt changes in global climate over the last 110,000 years. Temperature averages varied nearly 15 degrees in a single decade, at one point. Obviously, that could not have been due to human activity.

Then, in March of this year, Zwally and his team found that the ice sheet had actually grown very slightly between 1992 and 2002. But the good news did not last for long. By 2005, the scientists had documented losses of 52 cubic miles of ice per year. The amount of fresh water being dumped into the ocean had tripled since 1995. They found the average winter temperature in Greenland had risen 10 degrees since 1991, causing strange melting incidents as late in the year as December. Then the bottom fell out; almost literally.

Zwally’s team documented the shelf’s three largest glaciers’ speed of withdraw. According to their report, the Kangerlussaq and Jakobshavn Glaciers have doubled their pace since 2002. The Helheim Glacier pulls back half a football field every day. Twelve major glacial outlets drain the ice shelf of melted water that endangers the structure as a whole, in the same way rivers drain watersheds. If the glaciers continue to pull back this quickly, in a decade – two at most – the entire ice sheet will “suddenly collapse” into the ocean. Greenland will go back to being three large islands, and Waco, Texas will be beachfront property.

Surf's up in Crawford, dudes! Just ... give it a couple decades.

Anyone with a vivid imagination can close their eyes and see the devastation this would cause. But it would be difficult, even for the most ardent Rolland Emmerich disciple, to picture the full scope of the damage. It would be the greatest natural disaster humanity has ever seen. And for a 20-something like me, it means either dying in one such disaster, or potentially living in a domed city by the time I am 40. The thought is, shall we say, somewhat troubling. Sounds a lot like what Stephen Hawking said in Beijing.

My baby gimme high temperature
My baby gimme high temperature
97... 98 is just a... false alarm
My temperature 105 when I hold her... in my arms
103... 4 and 5... It get too hot to stay alive!

--Aerosmith, Temperature

On a personal level, I must come clean. I have no idea if this is real or not. I do not see it day to day. Sure, several of the top 10 “hottest years” on record have taken place within the last five, but what does this mean? Yes, the air quality in Dallas gets so bad on some days even I dare not venture out into the soup. And it is indeed true that America and her corporations are the top polluters in the world. But does this really affect world climate?

Weighed on my scales of logic, Stephen Hawking and the National Academy of Science are a ton and a half heavier than a “researcher” on Exxon-Mobile’s payroll. I believe it was Sinclair Lewis who wrote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon him not understanding.”

So, what can be done about this? It is actually pretty simple on a personal level. Until alternative, carbon-neutral fuels are available to a mass market, try to carpool to work. A good resource is Get your car tested for emissions and consider buying a catalytic muffler to help control your carbon output. Think about switching electric providers to a green alternative. In Texas, such a provider is available: Green Mountain Energy. It is the same price as TXU, and they operate on green energy credits from wind farms and hydroelectric plants. Buy some energy-saver light bulbs: not only will it put some extra dollars in your account come bill time, but they last over five years so you don’t have to buy new ones as frequently.

Also, keep your air-vent filters clean and changed, as your air conditioner has to work extra hard when there is a mass of dirt and grime blocking its passage. You’ll breathe a little better, too. Keep your thermostat at least four degrees higher in the summer and four degrees lower in the winter. Insulate your home and make sure your windows are calked. Plant a tree in your yard. Buy fresh food instead of frozen goods, and shop at your local farmer’s market instead of Wal-Mart. Try to use clotheslines instead of dryers. And unplug that power strip when you’re not using it.

These are very simple steps you can take as just one person to help reduce your impact on Global Warming. It is not too late to help turn the tide back to our favor, and it does not necessarily require the type of “political will” Mr. Al Gore calls for (though some would be helpful). All that is being asked of you is a slight pause for additional thought. This is not “environmental extremism,” it is simple logic that can help us all look forward to a more stable future. Change is within our grasp, and living in fear of the Great Greenland Shelf Collapse does not have to be our predetermined next decade. You can do it, and we can all help. It is easy.

Suppose Exxon-Mobile turns out to be a greater fountain of knowledge than Stephen Hawking and The National Academy of Science. Suppose everything I just wrote is pure crap and Global Warming really does not exist. It is a hoax designed to hurt America, and Whew! Good thing we didn’t fall for it. Even then, if we all expended just the slightest bit of effort, we wouldn’t have to worry about soupy air and “red ozone alerts” anymore. Our kids would be healthier and our allergies would not flare up so often. We would save on medical and electric bills, and every front yard would have some nice shade. Really, how is that so bad?

Stephen Webster is an Investigative Reporter with North-Texas weekly The News Connection, a Staff Writer with George W. Bush's hometown paper The Lone Star Iconoclast, a Contributing Writer to Peace Journalism Magazine and The Bleeding Quill, a former contributor to The Dallas Morning News' Science & Technology section and the former Editor-in-Chief of Binary Culture.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Portland Police Riot of 2002

Friday, June 23, 2006

Peace in Iraq? Yes, please.

This morning from The Times Online ...
Peace deal offers Iraq insurgents an amnesty
From Ned Parker in Baghdad and Tom Baldwin

THE Iraqi Government will announce a sweeping peace plan as early as Sunday in a last-ditch effort to end the Sunni insurgency that has taken the country to the brink of civil war.

The 28-point package for national reconciliation will offer Iraqi resistance groups inclusion in the political process and an amnesty for their prisoners if they renounce violence and lay down their arms, The Times can reveal.

The Government will promise a finite, UN-approved timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq; a halt to US operations against insurgent strongholds; an end to human rights violations, including those by coalition troops; and compensation for victims of attacks by terrorists or Iraqi and coalition forces.

It will pledge to take action against Shia militias and death squads. It will also offer to review the process of “de-Baathification” and financial compensation for the thousands of Sunnis who were purged from senior jobs in the Armed Forces and Civil Service after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Read More ...

Best. News. Since 2003. I hope it works. Bush promised to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq if asked by the new Iraqi Government. They've asked three times. This time ... well, here's hoping. But yesterday, in an interview with CNN, that Dick, VP Cheney, said the following ...
"If we were to do that, it would be devastating from the standpoint of the global war on terror," the Vice President added. "It would affect what happens in Afghanistan. It would make it difficult for us to persuade the Iranians to give up their aspirations for nuclear weapons. It would threaten the stability of regimes like Musharraf in Pakistan and the Saudis in Saudi Arabia. It is -- absolutely the worst possible thing we could do at this point would be to validate and encourage the terrorists by doing exactly what they want us to do, which is to leave."
The only difference is, he was talking about Democrats, claiming that American Liberals "validate" and "encourage" terrorism. F---ing Twit. One must then assume that Cheney considers the Iraqi Government to be a terrorist organization, because they want us to leave too. Hmm ...

From the Palast ...


Behind the “Delay” in Renewing Law is Scheme for Theft of ‘08
White Sheets Changed for Spreadsheets

by Greg Palast
For The Guardian
June 23, 2006

[New York] Don’t kid yourself. The Republican Party’s decision yesterday to “delay” the renewal of the Voting Rights Act has not a darn thing to do with objections of the Republican’s White Sheets Caucus.

Complaints by a couple of Good Ol' Boys to legislation has never stopped the GOP leadership from rolling over dissenters.

This is a strategic stall — meant to de-criminalize the Republican Party's new game of challenging voters of color by the hundreds of thousands.

In the 2004 Presidential race, the GOP ran a massive multi-state, multi-million-dollar operation to challenge the legitimacy of Black, Hispanic and Native-American voters. The methods used broke the law -- the Voting Rights Act. And while the Bush Administration's Civil Rights Division grinned and looked the other way, civil rights lawyers are circling, preparing to sue to stop the violations of the Act before the 2008 race.

Therefore, Republicans have promised to no longer break the law -- not by going legit … but by eliminating the law.

The Act was passed in 1965 after the Ku Klux Klan and other upright citizens found they could use procedural tricks -- "literacy tests," poll taxes and more -- to block citizens of color from casting ballots.

De-criminalizing the "caging" lists

Here's what happened in '04 -- and what's in store for '08.

In the 2004 election, over THREE MILLION voters were challenged at the polls. No one had seen anything like it since the era of Jim Crow and burning crosses. In 2004, voters were told their registrations had been purged or that their addresses were "suspect."

Denied the right to the regular voting booths, these challenged voters were given "provisional" ballots. Over a million of these provisional ballots (1,090,729 of them) were tossed in the electoral dumpster uncounted.

Funny thing about those ballots. About 88% were cast by minority voters.

This isn't a number dropped on me from a black helicopter. They come from the raw data of the US Election Assistance Commission in Washington, DC.

At the heart of the GOP's mass challenge of voters were what the party's top brass called, "caging lists" -- secret files of hundreds of thousands of voters, almost every one from a Black-majority voting precinct.

When our investigations team, working for BBC TV, got our hands on these confidential files in October 2004, the Republicans told us the voters listed were their potential "donors." Really? The sheets included pages of men from homeless shelters in Florida.

Donor lists, my ass. Every expert told us, these were "challenge lists," meant to stop these Black voters from casting ballots.

When these "caged" voters arrived at the polls in November 2004, they found their registrations missing, their right to vote blocked or their absentee ballots rejected because their addresses were supposedly "fraudulent."

Why didn't the GOP honchos 'fess up to challenging these allegedly illegal voters? Because targeting voters of color is AGAINST THE LAW. The law in question is the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Act says you can't go after groups of voters if you choose your targets based on race. Given that almost all the voters on the GOP hit list are Black, the illegal racial profiling is beyond even Karl Rove's ability to come up with an alibi.

The Republicans target Black folk not because they don't like the color of their skin. They don't like the color of their vote: Democrat. For that reason, the GOP included on its hit list Jewish retirement homes in Florida. Apparently, the GOP was also gunning for the Elderly of Zion.

These so-called "fraudulent" voters, in fact, were not fraudulent at all. Page after page, as we've previously reported, are Black soldiers sent overseas. The Bush campaign used their absence from their US homes to accuse them of voting from false addresses.

Now that the GOP has been caught breaking the Voting Rights law, they have found a way to keep using their expensively obtained "caging" lists: let the law expire next year. If the Voting Rights Act dies in 2007, the 2008 race will be open season on dark-skinned voters. Only the renewal of the Voting Rights Act can prevent the planned racial wrecking of democracy.

"Pre-clearance" and the Great Blackout of 2000

Before the 2000 presidential balloting, then Jeb Bush's Secretary of State purged thousands of Black citizens' registrations on the grounds that they were "felons" not entitled to vote. Our review of the files determined that the crimes of most on the list was nothing more than VWB -- Voting While Black.

That "felon scrub," as the state called it, had to be "pre-cleared" under the Voting Rights Act. That is, "scrubs" and other changes in procedures must first be approved by the US Justice Department.

The Florida felon scrub slipped through this "pre-clearance" provision because Katherine Harris' assistant assured the government the scrub was just a clerical matter. Civil rights lawyers are now on the alert for such mendacity.

The Burning Cross Caucus of the Republican Party is bitching that "pre-clearance" of voting changes applies only to Southern states. I have to agree that singling out the Old Confederacy is a bit unfair. But the solution is not to smother the Voting Rights law but to spread its safeguards to all fifty of these United States.

White Sheets to Spread Sheets

Republicans argue that the racial voting games and the threats of the white-hooded Klansmen that kept African-Americans from the ballot box before the 1965 passage of the Voting Rights Act no longer threaten Black voters.

That's true. When I look over the "caging lists" and the "scrub sheets," it's clear to me that the GOP has traded in white sheets for spreadsheets.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Meet Pierce Bush

This is all too funny. Peirce Bush, W's nephew and resident of Austin, got busted passing around "unusual" pictures via Click the picture below for the full story.

Alberto Gonzales: "I AM the law!"

From The Washington Post ...

"Of course not. I remind them: I AM the law!"

-- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, denying to our colleague Frank Ahrens that his two children ever download music illegally, after his address yesterday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on intellectual property theft.

The Featherweight Luchador

Nacho Libre review
By Stephen Webster
June 20, 2006

The Featherweight Luchador

Nacho Libre - Written by Mike White. Directed by Jared Hess. Starring Jack Black, Ana de la Reguera, Héctor Jiménez, Darius Rose, Moises Arias, Eduardo Gómez, and Carlos Maycotte. 100 minutes. Rated PG for mild violence and language.

In Mexico and parts of the American Southwest, there exists a flamboyant style of wrestling (as if wrestling weren’t flamboyant enough) called Lucha Libre. Those skilled enough to become professionals in Lucha Libre are known as Luchadors. They wear extravagant clothing and masks, entertaining audiences by pitching themselves through the air and attempting to pin their opponents. Yes, Lucha Libre is an interesting sport alright. But it is no more interesting than American wrestling. And I just so happen to hate American wrestling.

So it makes sense that Jack Black’s newest comedy, Nacho Libre, would fail to entertain. Oddly enough, I was looking forward to this flick because of my love quotient for Jack Black and his manic comic sensibilities. But I was let down.

Nacho has a predictable sort-of plot. It takes place in a region of Mexico where most people speak English. Everyone is poor, of course, and the Monastery where Brother Ignacio works, tending to a troop of young orphans, has fallen on hard times. One night he sees “The Luchador” walking through town, and desires respect and fame. In secret Brother Ignacio dons the mask of the character Nacho, making a fool of himself in the Lucha circuit, for a while, and eventually obtaining the ultimate victory and saving the orphanage.

One big problem with the film lies with Nacho’s love interest, Sister Encarnación (Ana de la Reguera). She is a far understated character, and could have been put to better use in the narrative by making her more assertive or flamboyant in one way or another. She looks kind of passive, and doesn’t act much like a Nun, a “love interest” or an authority figure, which she is to the children at the monastery. All three roles have been used for comedy to great effect in other films, but here dl la Reguera doesn’t quite hit par. Hard to say if it is the actor of the writer at fault there.

I was also disappointed in the small roll given to Nacho’s partner, Esquelto (Héctor Jiménez). His lines were half-baked and his interactions with Nacho could have been more dynamic. Some of the humor is very much left over from the director’s previous film, Napoleon Dynamite, which I did like. At least initially. Nacho’s humor is usually dry, free standing jokes that ramble on a bit longer than they should. (“I was wondering if you would like to join me in my quarters tonight … for some toast.”) Writer Mike White, also credited with School of Rock’s script, depends too much on Jack Black’s propensity for jumping around and acting goofy. That and the wrestling tip, of which there is too much; the bad, sometimes awful, choreography makes it that much more tedious.

To make matters a little worse, some people are asserting that this movie is blatantly racist. But since all comedy should be given a vast amount of leeway when dealing with such matters, I leave that to the viewer to decide. The filmmakers did hire an entire lineup of actors and actresses from the Mexican film and television industries, but even they failed to give it any semblance of grounding in reality. Once in earshot of Jack Black’s terrible Spanish accent, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Nacho Libre is good, only if you are a fan of the director’s last film, Napoleon Dynamite. Anyone else, even regular-ole’ Jack Black fans, will be disappointed. I’m sure Black will redeem himself on the July 28th launch of his next movie, Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny.

Two out of Five stars
** / *****

Regarding 'Net Neutrality ...

First thing's first ...

Congressman Michael C. Burgess voted against 'Net Neutrality, twice. This is a bipartisan issue that even the Christian Coalition is concerned about. His sheltered, money-insulated, political reality needs to be rocked by the vote for this one. He's sold us out in favor of the telecoms.

Despite this, Net Neutrality is not a lost battle.

Sen. Hutchison will be voting THIS WEEK on the Snowe-Dorgan Net Neutrality amendment to the larger Telecom Act (S. 2686). This needs to pass, or we'll lose Internet Freedom. AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are spending millions of dollars to drown out your voice. But if you call the Senator's office and tell them you're a supporter of hers but you'll switch parties if she votes against Net Neutrality, they will take note. They are keeping tally.

Call Sen. Hutchison THIS WEEK! Her number is (202) 224-5922.

Tell them she should support the bi-partisan Snowe-Dorgan Net Neutrality amendment, or you'll vote for her opponent. Be polite and forward. You'll get a very neutral response. But it DOES make a difference.

For more information about 'Net Neutrality, check out this article ...

Local exchanges with power

Some members of the FM Democrats recently had an interesting exchange with my Congressman, Michael C. Burgess, a Bushman through and through. One FM Dem, Joe Deaver, sent Burgess a letter about Iraq. Of course, he got a form response ... One that rings very familliar if you're a reader of The News Connection. (His form letter contains large portions of the "column" he wrote for the paper about the war -- a year ago. Only minor additions have been made, specifically about the recent killing of Al-Zaquari. Though Burgess fails to mention that 14 innocent people - five children - were also killed in the bombing.)

Well, the response made its way into the FM Dems email ring, which has been quite active and growing as of late. Jillian gives a nugget of truth which other writers beseeched me to post up. Tip 'o the Fedora to the hometeam.

Jillian writes ...
Wow, what an amazing piece of s**t that letter is. The Bush war created the terrorist problem in Iraq. I love this part:

The terrorists' vision of a future Iraq is chilling-it is a future where individual liberty is not cherished, the rights of women and minorities are routinely trampled, and power is in the hands of the few. The coalition and Iraqi people cannot afford to fail in our endeavor to have Iraq assume full control of its destiny as a democratic nation in the Middle East.

Here is my version:

The Bush administration's vision of a future America is chilling-it is a future where individual liberty is not cherished, the rights of women and minorities are routinely trampled, and power is in the hands of the few. The American people cannot afford to fail in our endeavor to have America assume full control of its destiny as a democratic nation in the Western Hemisphere.
There 'ya go. You're on the right track. Now talk about deficit spending and you've got the typically Republican crowd's attention. Liberal is the new Fiscal Conservative. But if you're a Bushman in Congress, (see: An Open Letter to Congressman Michael C. Burgess) up is down, peace is war and ignorance is strength.

Or did you miss the memo?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Winning the War on Various Uncomfortable Emotions

The Webster Retort
By Stephen Webster
Investigative Reporter
June 23, 2006

Winning the War on Various Uncomfortable Emotions

Did you know that Osama bin Laden said he attacked the United States to get our troops out of Saudi Arabia? Fortunately for him, after 9/11 his whole family was rushed out of the country on orders of the president, and then we withdrew from Saudi Arabia. It was just the start of a brilliantly-conceived, Machiavellian plot to destroy terror and a whole other array of inconvenient emotions. But terror specifically – you know, as a precursor to the War on Frowns.

Did you know that Osama bin Laden also said he wished to do great financial harm to the U.S.? Unfortunately for us, bin Laden successfully flicked this president’s hair trigger. Even though bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were enemies, and there were no safe-harbors for Al Qaeda in Iraq, we went to war there anyway. Because, you know, “This man tried to kill my father” - or - Even though Bush has now twice acknowledged there were no ties whatsoever between Saddam and 9/11, we have willingly fallen into the same tiger trap Osama used to lure the Soviet Union. Our Comrades wasted untold sums and thousands of lives in Afghanistan, back when bin Laden was on the CIA’s payroll. We should take some lessons from history.

Another of bin Laden’s goals was to change the way Americans live from day to day. Unfortunately, we’ve ceded to that demand as well; Bill of Rights, R.I.P. Since 9/11 our liberties have been pried away, one by one, all in the name of safety. Our rights to peaceable assembly, the keeping of well-regulated militias, our freedoms from unreasonable searches and seizures, or that pesky freedom guaranteeing a trial by jury … Like other historically infamous “Prelude to Empire” legislation, rounds One and Two of the USA Patriot Act canceled out part of the first amendment, part of the second, all of the fourth, part of the fifth, all of the sixth, all of the eighth and all of the tenth. That is a pretty big change for just six years.

So now, because of the Great bin Laden Boogyman our CEO has failed to find in the sandbox, we must be okay with people listening to our phone calls, reading our emails and rifling through our trash. We’re paying millions for “spy blimps” to float above our beautiful country, watching everything we do out doors, tracking our movements for whomever. We’ve passed National ID Card legislation, set to take effect in 2008. We will soon be carrying RFID tags in our pockets so they can track us at roadway intersections. Our own Department of “Defense” has a social network of every American, so they know how many degrees separate you and anyone else. Because of Osama Wolf, we must bend over and allow out laws to be circumvented, for a life Free of Terror.

So here we sit: our Fearless Leader has run us aground in Iraq and created a real-time training ground for bin Laden’s recruiters. He has given them a poster, a calling, and all the targets they could imagine. Their failure to anticipate the outcome of an invasion put our soldiers, the most magnificent fighting force in the world, in the middle of a civil war wearing targets on their backs. Best of all, their brilliant victory strategy is … Wait for it … Wait for it …

Stay the Course.

Might as well call it, “Dodge this bullet.” Or maybe just, “Duck!” The only way to win a Civil War is to pick a side. But do we really want to make such a decision? No, we do not.

Has it really come to this? Why fight an endless guerilla war against a shadow enemy, in the back alleys of Mousul and Tikrit and Baghdad, dodging bullets from all sides? Because of the WMD’s! Er, no. Because of Freedom! Because of Al Qaeda! Because we let them get away back in 2001, so we’ve got to find someone else to punish? We send our troops in without adequate equipment or rations, and bring them home to reduced medical benefits and, in many cases, abandon them to cope on their own with the serious, lingering costs of war. The administration’s solution to this mess? Rename the fighting. Welcome, my friends, to “The Long War,” a perfect compliment to the ever-encroaching police state of dystopia.

This hole we have fallen down is both the result of an utter failure of policy and the cunning of a foreign foe. Our soldiers fight and die so we can continue to be “free”, yes, but not in the sense that if we were to redeploy to the border areas of Iraq, America as we know it would come crumbling down. No, the violence there would decrease, international aid workers could move in and not fear death, and we could begin some real reconstruction. We could stop fighting fire with fire and begin the healing process. Iraqis would actually throw flowers in the streets. Greeted as Liberators, for real this time. Mission Accomplished Again, we could say. Second time’s the charm.

After all, Bush did promise that when the Iraqis ask for the U.S. to withdraw, we would. Well, they’ve asked three times, but no sign of us making good on our word. Peace is within our grasp. We can climb out of Osama’s Tiger Trap. We can wrench our country back from his cunning, restore our Bill of Rights, protect ourselves at home in accordance with the law, and WIN this war against a feeling. But to conquer a feeling, specifically terror, the heart and mind shall be our battleground. It is our enemy’s recruitment camp we must shut down. It is their cause we must remove. It is peace and prosperity we must bring. It is alliances we must make. It is our rights we must restore and our national defense we must ensure, should we seek a safer world.

That will never happen until the vision of Martin Luther King Jr., so well-known yet so often neglected, comes to be. “We all have to be concerned about terrorism,” he said with such great conviction. “[B]ut you will never end terrorism by terrorizing others.” No, terror will not be conquered. Neither will sadness or annoyance or malaise. But peace AND victory in Iraq are attainable. It is simply a matter of political will.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Beat the Press

Bill of Rights 2006

The erosion of our rights as Americans is ever growing, and we must be vigilant as to their protection. Yet since the election of George W. Bush, we have lost much of our Bill of Rights. For example ...

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security 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 peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Government orders "spy blimps"

This makes me shudder. From ...
The government has hired defense subcontractor Lockheed Martin to design and develop an enormous blimp that will be used to spy on Americans, according to the Athens News. Government agencies such as the NSA are anticipating that as early as 2009 the blimp will be operational and begin supporting new ways of monitoring everything that happens in the country.

A prototype of the blimp is already being developed at a cost of $40 million. The spy ship, called the High Altitude Airship, will be seventeen times larger than the Goodyear Blimp and hover 12 miles above the ground. Although it is very large it will be invisible to both the naked eye and ground radar because of its distance from the earth. Fuel economic and self sufficient, it will be powered by solar energy and will be able to fly for years at a time.

The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command has already conducted a study to determine some of the uses of the spy ship. It has the capability of monitoring an area 600 miles in diameter at a time with surveillance equipment, such as high-resolution cameras. The government has ordered 11 of them – enough to monitor every parcel of land in the U.S.

Super Mario steals the show

This is freaking awesome. But I'm a nerd, so I find this sort of thing highly amusing. Coolest video I've seen all week. But I don't watch much video, so take that for what it is worth ...

Letter to my Editor

Just got this email. Talk about a nice way to start the day. I'm always getting hate mail, so this is a refreshing change of pace. It was sent to my editor and CC'ed to me.
Mr. Weir,
I had all but given up on the area small town papers' Fox-like bent on siding with the Right, then along came Mr. Webster. How refreshing to see BOTH sides of issues expressed in the recent issue (example: 2 separate articles and 2 separate opinions on Al Gore's new movie, The Truth). And to see that a journalist in this hopelessly red state can publish a viewpoint counter to the Bush administration ("Shadows of My Lai," that points flaws in both the war on terror and the war in Iraq, and gives a positive shout out to one of the real heroes, Congressman John Murtha), without getting run out on a rail by those who've yet to take a razor blade to the Dub'ya 04 window decal (I call them the 29 Percenters). The last line of the article, "U.S. out of Iraq. NOW." is a sentiment that has rarely been expressed in local press without the stinging brand of the scarlett letter "U" for Unpatriotic.
Mr. Weir, I rarely agree with any of your opinions, comments or editorials. Yet, if you had anything to do with bringing Mr. Webster on board, kudos to you that you are secure enough in your stance to invite an occasional blistering from the other side. I've put off writing in praise of Mr. Webster for too long.
As for the News Connection overall, the last issue had no match locally. The other local papers are basically an excuse for a Real Estate section with the predictable hard-right slant in the editorial section. The Main News, Entertainment and Our Town sections far surpassed other area offerings.
I will continue to look forward to that clear plastic bag containing The News Connection. You made it fun to read the local rag again.
Mark Clark
Flower Mound, Texas
A tip 'o the Fedora to you, Mr. Clark.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Bush apologizes to blind man

Oops was so yesterday. Damage control is the new thing.

From CNN ...

Wallsten said Bush called his cell phone later in the day to apologize and tell him that he didn't know he had the disease.

Wallsten said he interrupted and told the president that no apology was necessary and that he didn't feel offended since he hadn't told anyone at the White House about his condition.

"He said, 'I needle you guys out of affection,' " Wallsten said. "I said, 'I understand that, but I don't want you to treat me any differently because of this.' "

Wallsten said the president said he would not treat him differently, so Wallsten encouraged him to "needle away."

"He said, 'I will. Next time I'll just use a different needle,' " Wallsten said.

Wallsten said he thought that was a pretty good line. And his only complaint is that the president didn't answer his question at the news conference.

Wallsten was shockingly nice. I don't care if he is the president. If I got a call from an apologetic Bush on my cell phone, I'd have said, "Please hold. I've got another call on the other line."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hook, Line and eSpeech

Presenting ... My first cover-story in one of Texas' most well-read, Progressive weeklies!

Click to read the story!
By Associate Editor Nathan Diebenow and Investigative Reporter Stephen Webster

Bush mocks blind man

Here is a brief conversation that took place today between George W. Bush and L.A. Times reporter Peter Wallsten at the White House ...

BUSH: Yeah, Peter. You're going to ask that question with those shades on?

WALLSTEN: I can take them off ...

BUSH: No, I'm interested in the shade look, seriously here.

WALLSTEN: All right. I'll keep it then.

BUSH: For the viewers, there's no sun. (Laughs)

WALLSTEN: I guess it depends on your perspective.

BUSH: (Laughs) Touche. (Laughs)

Unfortunately for Mr. Bush, reporter Peter Wallsten is blind.

Think Progress has the video. (Quicktime format)

Unspoken Injustice; Washington Post columnist breaks the silence

By Stephen Webster
Investigative Reporter
For the 6/16/06 edition of The News Connection

Part Four in a Series

Since The News Connection began its series of reports on the Denton County child safety advocacy group Building BLOCK, this community has shown a tremendous outpouring of care about this issue. Thankfully, such a sentiment is not unique to this small enclave of North Texas.

On June 11, longtime Washington Post Writers Group columnist Neal Peirce keyed an article titled “Violent Sex Crimes: Free the Children.” The subject of this article is none other than Christopher Largen, co-founder of Building BLOCK and a key interview subject in TNC’s series. Since Peirce is syndicated through The Post, dozens of national newspapers have played host to this outspoken advocate’s cause, and to great effect.


“Now a recovered and spirited man in his mid-30s,” wrote Peirce, “Largen is crusading for toughened police, prosecutor and judicial action to arrest, sentence and hold child molesters. And not for vengeance, but because ‘American children are being molested, raped, tortured, even murdered.’”

TNC contacted Peirce as soon as his contribution to Building BLOCK became public. Within mere hours he had responded, and thanked TNC for initiating media coverage of the group. “[This is] an amazing story,” he wrote. “[Of] how very widespread the phenomenon of sexual abuse is in the United States, how many haphazard police departments and prosecutors are in apprehending and holding dangerous offenders.” Included in TNC’s correspondence with Peirce were several emails he received in response to his column.

One respondent, identifying himself as a member of Bikers Against Child Abuse, wrote, “Despite what our name says, we are not big burly bikers out to stamp out child abusers – although at times we might like to. We are essentially a support group for victims of child abuse who need our support and sometimes defense against the perpetrators who would intimidate them and bully them into recanting or changing their stories. The ‘system’ as it is set up does nothing to help these victims, especially in the early stages when the perps are still innocent until proven guilty.” He goes on to plug the group’s website –

Another letter Peirce received expresses concern about predators in the home – not just the prowler next door. “[O]ne crucial factor you failed to mention is that many – perhaps more than half – of the children who are molested are victims of someone in their own family of a close friend. … I know at least three women who told me they were raped by their fathers when they were in their early teens. None ever pressed charges.”

This writer drew a response from Largen, the man at the epicenter of this sudden media spotlight. “This is a very good point,” he replied. “Out of my seven assailants, one was in my family, four were acquaintances of my family, and two were strangers. While it is true that stranger assaults are more likely to be of a fixated/predatorial nature (and more likely to result in a kidnapping and/or murder), family members and acquaintances of family members can also be fixated and predatory. For example, there have been men who have married women simply to gain access to their young children. Nauseating, but true.”

Largen’s solution: “We need to teach children to be their own first responders, which means they must be given access to information about their bodies and their rights. Contrast the proliferation of DARE programs, while our public school districts often lack an equivalent program to teach kids what sexual abuse is, how to reduce danger, and what to do if anyone hurts them. Children absolutely need to know that someone will be an advocate for them if they speak out. This concept is a bone of contention for some people, because they mistrust the idea of state officials teaching their children about sex. They want sex to be a private issue for the family, but the reality is, many parents aren’t arming their own kids with vital information. We also need better educated parents who know how to talk to their kids about sex, how to spot warning signs, and just as important, how to develop empathetic and open lines of communication with their children.”

“We argue over issues and vilify people in the press,” wrote another respondent. “What if we instead looked through the lens of development and started to access ethical, psychological, social and cognitive development? When our elected officials think the world is black and white, clearly they are cognitively underdeveloped. When they think it is all about them and power, we are often looking at power addicts. When they lie, cheat and steal, what sort of ethical development have they accomplished? And where are our discernment skills when we elect them? …I am committed to empowering children with the skills they need to look inside and protect, heal and develop themselves. It’s the Pogo thing – the enemy is us; our lack of development individually and collectively.”

From the deluge of responses Peirce received after picking up this chalice from Building BLOCK and TNC, he has drawn several conclusions. “[T]he American public wants (1) to see that this issue is addressed because of the immense lifelong peril to children, (2) recognition of how hard it is to prosecute many cases, and (3) both determined and fair prosecution of offenders.

We at The News Connection could not agree more, and offer our thanks to Neal Peirce of The Washington Post Writers Group for speaking out on this, a formerly Unspoken Injustice.

Iowa GOP Rep - Iraq safer than Washington D.C.

Meet Representative Steve King, an Iowa Republican whose feet no longer touch the ground.

Today, in Congress, Mr. King insisted that his wife would be safer in Iraq than she is in Washington D.C.
"27.51 Iraqis per 100,000 die a violent death on an annual basis. 27.51," he claimed. "Now what does that mean? To me, it really doesn’t mean a lot until I compare it to people that I know or have a feel for the rhythm of this place. Well I by now have a feel for the rhythm of this place called Washington, D.C., and my wife lives here with me, and I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, she’s at far greater risk being a civilian in Washington, D.C. than an average civilian in Iraq. 45 out of every 100,000 Washington, D.C. regular residents die a violent death on an annual basis."
Unfortunately, Mr. King is a liar and a fraud.

95 of every 100,000 Iraqis die by murder - be it related to the war or otherwise. King called this "violent death." The company that came up with this statistic, The Brookings Institution (found here), says that figure is "too low since many murder victims are never taken to the morgue, but buried quickly and privately and therefore never recorded in official tallies."

But if you believe Bush, only 30,000 Iraqis have died since the war started.

If you believe Rep. King, the whole of Iraq is safer than one small metropolitan city in America.

If you believe the truth, you know that over 300,000 have died in this war, and the next four generations of Iraqis will be born with mortifying birth defects due to Depleted Uranium munitions. And it will affect the children of DU-poisoned American soldiers as well.

Saddam Husane was a tyrant and a dictator. Under his rule, nearly 20,000 innocent people died every year, on his orders.

George W. Bush is our President. Since he took control of Iraq, an estimated 100,000 people have died every year, on his orders.

Now you be The Decider - which is worse?

And if Rep. King somehow thinks that his wife would be safer in Iraq than in Washington D.C., why hasn't he moved his whole family there?

Monday, June 12, 2006

I was Tom DeLay’s surreptitious suitor

The Webster Retort
By Stephen Webster
Investigative Reporter
June 16, 2006

I was Tom DeLay’s surreptitious suitor

I … have a confession to make. Everyone, please be calm.

I know this may be a lot to absorb in such a short amount of time but Yes, the Rumors Are True: I was Tom DeLay’s surreptitious suitor. You know, “Gentleman Friend”? Cavalier inamorato? Sumptuous steady, inamorata arm piece -- en privy, of course. I confess. I was Tom DeLay’s ever-faithful Ace in the … ah, you probably get my point. But that is only the beginning of my morose lament.

Those Godless Democrats! Filthy, immoral, activist judges! How could they steal him away from me?!? I have so many fond memories of our time together. Oh, those years now seem so far away. Back when Tommy and I would casually walk the beaches of Sai Pan, where he and Uncle Jackie had come to work on government things. There were so many native children there, and Tommy was so sweet to them. He would tell me, “I got these kids jobs they could have never had if I didn’t accept this money.” And he’d whisk me away in a flight of fancy, running through the sand, carried on the strong, capable backs of 12-year-olds.

I never paid much attention to his business, but I read some things in that horrible Liberal Press. Like Tommy always says, Don’t Believe Anything in The Liberal Press. They’re all liars. Every last one of them. Except Chris Matthews, who used to join us on golfing trysts to Scotland. Oh, I remember it all so clearly! There’s Grover, that scoundrel! (He could do the most amazing things with that cute little beard of his) And Scooter, and Dick! Those two are always getting into trouble. The kind of trouble that makes you want to say, “Oooh!” with a Wink.

I was enamored with this tower of a man. While he may be relatively short face to face, Tommy was like a 20-foot tall bronze statue to me. I looked up to him in everything I did. We’d spend long nights in straw huts, lounging in hammocks made of black, beautiful, silky-soft human hair. Bald native women would bring him drinks in cute little coconut cups while he sat and puffed on a Cuban cigar. Sometimes I would oil his soft, warm chest with smashed olives and tears collected from the local children. Oh how he loved those!

He would visit with local dignitaries and let me watch them and they … ah, worked out a “compromise” over their now-legal sex trades. But Tommy was always so understanding. He brought hope to all those poor prostitutes. And with a little bit of extra man-handling (tee-hee!), he even brought them the clients they needed! By working it out so American Corporations, God bless ‘em, could bank offshore and avoid paying taxes altogether, I was always seeing the joy in the eyes of those healthily-rounded CEOs, running off into the jungle with the natives. Little boys, especially. But Tommy was okay with it. After all, it was just another political victory for God’s Team! I hear he was recently elected as Chairman of the Texas branch. Good for him. But I wish I were there to have heard his acceptance speech. I was at home, far too broken up over Tommy to care what God had to say.

Ronnie Earl, that yellow-dog coward! He knows nothing of law! I don’t care of he’s prosecuted more Democrats than Republicans! He should know which side God is on! God is on the side that helps the needy people of wherever. Like those thankless Iraqis we keep helping. When was the last time Ronnie Early ever helped anyone, I ask you? The only person he’s helping is Howard Dean! Makes me wonder if there is anything more to them than meets the eye. I hear they both have a taste for sodium pentothal. Sinners.

I’ve made some new friends since Tommy told me I had to leave. Our split was a soul-wrenching heartbreak. I have not recovered yet, but he said it was for the best. I’m with the new speaker now, but Denny just doesn’t have the same passion. Sure, he runs with some of Tommy’s friends and business partners, and he even earned an honorary “Under Investigation” badge from the Department of Justice. But his heart lies with Karl, whose Roving Thunder will darken my horizon for years to come. I think Tommy is going on trial because he is kind and sweet and honest. The Democrats are trying to Destroy the American Dream!

From this day forward, I’ll hang Tommy’s police mug shot on the wall over my bed. He has such a wonderful smile. His courage and determination know no bounds. He fought the war against the Democrats and won the title he so deserved: The Hammer. And between you and I, that hammer was good for more than just three things. I just hope the bravery I had to muster in order to come forward and reveal the truth brings a smile to his face.

O! Where art thou, Tommy? I know you will meet another, there behind bars. I hear the stories, but I will not dwell on it! Tommy, I beg you; do not DeLay your return! This lonesome soul and the child sex slaves you so valiantly fought to keep legal … We desperately need you in this, our hour of loss. You might not be number one in Congress any more. But you are still number one in My Heart!

Stephen Webster is an Investigative Reporter with North-Texas weekly The News Connection, a Staff Writer with Peace Journalism Magazine and George W. Bush's hometown paper The Lone Star Iconoclast, a former contributor to The Dallas Morning News' Science & Technology section and the former Editor-in-Chief of Binary Culture. He is also eternally heart-broken.

DVD is dead; Long live DVD

Mushroom Kingdom
By Stephen Webster
Investigative Reporter
June 9, 2006

DVD is dead; Long live DVD

I know … I can’t be serious with that title, right? You have spent literally thousands of dollars building up your DVD collection over the past few years, and the consumer electronics industry has come, stalking you in the night, wielding an Intel-infused dagger to jab between your 8th and 9th vertebra. And that is true. Sort of.

Back in the days of VHS, there was a superior format. We called ‘em Beta MAX; a technology that went nowhere, and fast. Some poor fools bought them, only to discover that the entertainment industry merely stuck a toe in the pond of MAX, and decided it was a wee colder than they thought. The money-suck was tremendous. Consumers dropped like flies. Their waste was to the gain of VHS. And we all know how that turned out. You probably don’t even own a VHS player anymore. But I’ll wager five dollars and an eighth of Kentucky Bourbon you have some tapes sitting around somewhere. I know I do.

The Decider (no, not Chimpy in the White House) of that format war was the porn industry. Where the skin is in, the monies begin. Sorry, but Human Nature doesn’t change simply because you might not like it. And it may very well turn out that Human Nature will dictate the victor of this new format war between two very apt technologies: Blu-Ray and HD DVD.

Let’s skip the technical jargon. Blu-Ray holds more than five times the data of today’s DVDs. That means the video and sound quality for your movies will improve dramatically. HD DVD is the same; it holds slightly less data, but for the time being you will not notice the difference between the two new formats. Plus, HD DVD has a few advantages: the disks work in standard DVD players (but don’t offer full fidelity audio and video unless played with a native device), and the players cost roughly half of Blu-Ray’s announced debut price point.

But, this column is about video games. So let’s get to the point.

Since Blu-Ray is a Sony technology, they are going to try and force the format. Similar to the debut of DVD, several players had hit the market by the time the PlayStation 2 launched, but the disks did not replace VHS until the PS2 obtained significant market penetration. Since it acts as a DVD movie player, as well as delivering what was then cutting-edge gaming experiences via the format, DVD won out, and the two other major game consoles utilized the technology in some way. But unlike the PS2/DVD combo, when PS3 launches it is likely to be the first Blu-Ray device to reach the U.S. market.

Making matters more complicated, Microsoft is going a different route. HD DVD has serious support from a large number of movie studios, and players are already available. Most start at $499 and up, but used models can be found online under $350. There are several dozen films already on the format, and the Xbox 360 will soon have a detachable HD DVD drive. Though previous console add-ons of this type have typically split the game-makers’ market, it would be an admittedly cheap way to upgrade to a full High Definition movie experience.

So here we are yet again. Two electronics giants are squaring off against each other with opposing formats, each laying claim to certain advantages. Blu-Ray promises the most long-term advantage, given its capability to store much more data than HD DVD. On the other hand, HD DVD got out the door first, you can use it with the player you have today, and for now, flicks look just as good. Plus, the players are much more affordable than the $1,000+ Blu-Ray machines planned for 2006/2007. With PlayStation 3 scheduled to debut at $599 in the ‘states, it becomes difficult to pick between the two; both are so expensive, and nothing is certain. All in all, it appears as though the format owners are poised to wreck havoc on our wallets yet again. Great.

The only guidance pundits in the media (not unlike this one) have been able to offer is the selection of the porn industry. The skin is going Blu. That decided the VHS vs. Beta MAX war. Then again, history is not always a solid predictor of techno-power-struggles. If the Ray doesn’t pan out, count on a cross-platform strategy from the nude ones, at least for a little while. One format will eventually become dominant, but this grudge-match will be a long one.

If you own an HDTV and plan on upgrading media formats in the near future, count yourself rich. Buy them both so you can wallow around in your tub of cash while you watch The Terminator AND Unforgiven at the same time, on one screen divided into two video windows. And while you are at it, make sure to have a case of Crystal handy to extinguish that pile of burning Franklins you’re torching, just to suck on a Cuban. Rest assured, we all hate you.

For the common man, stick to the DVD. Your ray-tube television (no shame in the truth) will keep on plugging away. Skip this money-suck entirely if you just like watching movies. But if you get down on gaming, buy the Nintendo Wii. It has a cool controller, the right price ($249, out this November), and a library spanning 20+ years worth of classic Nintendo content. It plays DVDs. And yes, the next-gen games look just as sweet as anything Microsoft and Sony are shouting about.

So, the DVD might be dead. But I say, Long Live the DVD.

Stephen Webster is an Investigative Reporter with North-Texas weekly The News Connection, a Staff Writer with Peace Journalism Magazine and George W. Bush's hometown paper The Lone Star Iconoclast, a former contributor to The Dallas Morning News' Science & Technology section and the former Editor-in-Chief of Binary Culture.

Steve Young writes a chapter for Coulter

For the sequel to Ann Coulter's Godless (aptly termed by Greg Palast, Gutless), a special chapter penned by LA Times columnist Steve Young. If Ann Coulter can slander the 9/11 widows on television and in print, who not carry on that train of logic? It makes perfect sense to me.

An excerpt from The Huffington Post ...

Chapter 12 - Like We're Supposed To Care?

I have never seen children enjoying their incurable diseases so much.

It seems to be all the rage for witches of want with a so-called "terrible illness" to try and turn their maladies into some sort of whining, cause-celeb begathon for medicines and research to cure their condition or relieve their pain.

Okay, you have an irreversible disease. So did Al Capone. It doesn't make you some martyr.


A disease is medical condition. It deserves a medical professional's response. But these kids and parents cut commercials against second hand smoke or air pollution. It's bad enough that we have to hear Al Gore doing an Ed Begley in the Ciniplex and blather on about his sister's death. Do we also have to see sick children on the screen while I'm trying to eat?

What these kids and their parents are doing is ruining everything America stands for. You wonder why they aren't rolling their hospital beds up to Canada to wait in line with the rest of the draft-dodgers.

It makes me want to throw up even more than I want to already.

John Murtha should only be a terminally-ill child, then maybe we can get on with winning this war.

Chapter 13: Being A Good Christian.

The power of Christ compells you to ... Read The Rest.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

McBlogger and a talking asshole

I met the people behind McBlogger last night at the Texas Democratic Convention in Ft. Worth. It was fun. I bummed a cigarette off 'em, so I decided to check out their website. You should too.

Especially for this video ...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Rush-ing to the pharmacy

Rush Limbaugh ...

You'd think that such a man would have lost a great deal of support from his corporate media backers after that thing with the synthetic heroin. You know, Oxycontin? But no. He's still on the radio espousing lunacy. Much like Ann Coulter, who claims in her new book that the widows of those who died on 9/11 are "enjoying" the deaths of those they loved, Rush is now claiming that somehow Liberals and the "Drive-by media" are "gleefully" talking about the Haditha massacre in Iraq.

Just ... read this.
This Haditha story, this Haditha incident, whatever, this is it folks, this is the final big push on behalf of the Democratic Party, the American left, and the Drive-By Media to destroy our effort to win the war in Iraq. That’s what Haditha represents — and they are going about it gleefully. They are ecstatic about it… Folks, let me just put it in graphic terms. It is going to be a gang rape. There is going to be a gang rape by the Democratic Party, the American left and the Drive-By Media, to finally take us out in the war against Iraq. Make no bones about it.
You know, I would respond to that senseless allegation, but I have to go watch this ant hill out back ... These new drugs I'm on make me do the craziest things!

America: Freedom to Fascism

Click the link below to watch the trailer for this new movie.

America: Freedom to Fascism - the trailer

Freedom to Fascism - Official website

"FOUR STARS" (Highest Rating).

"The scariest goddamn film you'll see this year. It will leave you staggering out of the theatre, slack-jawed and trembling. Makes 'Fahrenheit 9/11' look like 'Bambi.' After watching this movie, your comfy, secure notions about America -- and about what it means to be an American -- will be forever shattered. Producer/director Aaron Russo and the folks at Cinema Libre Studio deserve to be heralded as heroes of a post-modern New American Revolution. This is shocking stuff. You'll be angry, you'll be disgusted, but you may actually break out in a cold sweat and feel a sickness deep in your gut; I would advise movie theatre managers to hand out vomit bags. You may end up needing one."

--- Todd David Schwartz, CBS

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ask a Ninja about 'Net Neutrality

The best way to end a day. Just ask a Ninja and let your cares float away!

Today's Ask a Ninja topic - 'Net Neutrality!

He's GOT to hire some backup singers.

From a friend on MySpace

This is a post that just came across your Muckraker's MySpace page. It contains a long excerpt from RFK's Rolling Stone article, as well as a video that I'd never seen. It stood my hair on end. Check it out, below ...

First we have computer programmer Clinton Curtis testifying that Congressman Tom Feeney hired him to prepare vote-rigging software. 12 Minutes. (Click here to download it.)
Also, there is the infamous statement by the owner of Diebold, as was reported by some as early as August 2003. Voting Machine Controversy

From the article:

COLUMBUS - The head of a company vying to sell voting machines in Ohio told Republicans in a recent fund-raising letter that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

The Aug. 14 letter from Walden O'Dell, chief executive of Diebold Inc. - who has become active in the re-election effort of President Bush - prompted Democrats this week to question the propriety of allowing O'Dell's company to calculate votes in the 2004 presidential election.

And now there is the brand new article in Rolling Stone written by Robert Kennedy, Jr. about the 2004 election. See ... Was the 2004 election stolen?

These images illustrate some of the discrepencies ...

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

In Ohio, the deciding state:
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Watch that video. Read the article. Then ask yourself: how many elections has George W. Bush won?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Link to "Deep Market", help offset carbon emissions

Not sure how this works, but I read it in Rolling Stone so ... okay.

Linking to a website called "Deep Market" (right here, yo) will somehow allow them to work with a group called Carbonfund. More links = more money = more carbon emissions being offset.

Not sure it makes sense. But if it helps ... I'll link to 'em all damn day!

Was the 2004 Presidential election stolen?

RFK thinks so ...

Texas GOP platform declares "Christian Nation"

From yesterday's Dallas Morning News ...

Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell offered a greeting to delegates to the Republican convention. "It's great to be back in the holy land," the Fort Worth native said to the cheers of the party faithful. For the 4,500 delegates at last week's biennial gathering, it was both an expression of conservative philosophy and religious faith, a melding of church and state.

At Saturday morning's prayer meeting, party leader Tina Benkiser assured them that God was watching over the two-day confab.

"He is the chairman of this party," she said against a backdrop of flags and a GOP seal with its red, white and blue logo.

The party platform, adopted Saturday, declares "America is a Christian nation" and affirms that "God is undeniable in our history and is vital to our freedom."

"We pledge to exert our influence toward a return to the original intent of the First Amendment and dispel the myth of the separation of church and state," it says.

More here.

Gore: US out of Iraq very soon

An excerpt from Al Gore's interview on ABC'S This Week with George Stephanopoulos ...

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: How about the broader issue? It's no secret you were against the war early and strongly. What would you do now? Right now?

MR. GORE: Well, I would pursue the twin objectives of trying to withdraw our forces as quickly as we possibly can, while at the same time minimizing the risk that will make the mess over there even worse and raise even higher the danger of civil war and/or anarchy.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: John Kerry says there should be a complete pull-out by the end of this year. Do you agree with that?

MR. GORE: Well, not necessarily. Maybe it could come sooner than that.

The Weird, Turned Pro.

Created by The Gonzo Muckraker
Based in Dallas, Texas
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