Tech

TOPOL: The Russian Bear's coolest missiles

ArmsControlWonk is one of those blogs with the right attitude. And Topol Wonkporn is just the right word for this.

Russian Strategic Forces blog has been all over extensively covering Topols going around.

Digg.com story suppression mechanisms: How to censor 9/11 stories in "meritocratic" public voting system

 Images March2007 010307Censored

Cheesy graphic from PrisonPlanet: Media Blacklists BBC Fiasco; Google, Digg Censor 9/11 Truth: News 24 'timestamp' video disappears from Google Video, despite the fact it's under 30 seconds in length and clearly constitutes fair use, Digg lets small minority of morons decide its content

As we monitor emerging spinstorms, the ones pressured by an obvious mesh of power silencing them on the Internet merely serves to spark further interest...

Digg has changed the vibe of daily news on the Internets, but it's a bit flawed: a narrow gang of guys can "bury" stories that have already been voted up. Some guy managed to hack the system and found this feed of "buried" stories that has since been hidden, on the Digg Exposed page. I looked at some links. It is full of entries like:

bilski buried US Government has funded Al-Qaeda for months (Inaccurate)

and this was a reference to a AFP newswire story that summarized Sy Hersh's article as "New US covert operations helping Sunni Muslim radicals". It was not inaccurate. Also this "Industrial hemp bill introduced to Congress" story was accurate as posted on Digg, though flagged the opposite.

There were a lot of 'more conspiratorial' stories that got knocked off using the superpower bury function, even though their sources and summaries were valid.

Here's a story about how it works from InformationLiberation.com about what a programmer found:

Notice how there are tons of obvious shills burying our recent explosive WTC 7 articles as well as many other articles of extreme significance. It's shocking to read the list and see how much significant, documented, and extremely popular content is being buried for obvious ideological reasons. This is completely undemocratic abuse of the Digg system and is proof positive the Bury feature is being abused to suppress content by vindictive Anti-Diggers.

From Pronet Advertising:

We've heard about a purported 'Bury Brigade' on Digg time and again, with sketchy pieces of evidence here and there but no concrete proof. Until now.

...

While that system is supposed to be used to remove superfluous or irrelevant content from Digg, the mechanism is often abused to remove useful and insightful content by malicious users for self-serving and vindictive reasons. My observations are based on data collected by David using a mechanism that he tried to explain to me via email. You can get this data by using the Digg Spy JSON Array:

...

You can see which user did the burying, on what story, and on what basis. By looking at just some of the data, you can get quite conclusive hard evidence that not only does the bury brigade exist, but it is hard at work burying any content that doesn't suit its ideology.

Digg's Bury feature is supposed to be used to bury "stories with bad links, off-topic content, or duplicate entries" in order to remove "spam out of the system." Unfortunately, as many have experienced, the Bury feature is frequently used to suppress content based off ideology. Please encourage Digg to either fix it (perhaps make it similar to Reddit's down voting) or remove it all together. Email Digg here and request they please fix the Bury feature.

There are also some analyses like this from Pronet.

As a bit of an experiment, I found the Digg entry for Chris Ketcham's recent Counterpunch article about Israeli involvement in shadowing the 9/11 hijackers. If anything is going to be shut down, it's stories like this. Ketcham's report got yanked from The Nation and Salon.com last year, then finally landed at CounterPunch, as the editors explain.

I made a comment to the Digg item, which promptly got hidden after -2 votes. Despite 56 diggs I'm fairly sure that this story has been firmly buried. I always find it interesting when adequately sourced stories bite the big one...

OS X 10.5 around the corner; Photoshop CS3 beta success promises major Mac Pro sales this year, say analysts

 Technologies Photoshopcs3 Images Photoshopcs3 557X120Good news for Mac fans - Adobe is finally almost done with the Photoshop CS3 package, which will finally run natively (universal binary) on Intel Macs. However, even G5 users have been impressed with speed gains for CS3.

Piper Jaffray analysts think that next year will be a hot one for Intel-based Mac Pro sales, as creative companies and others who depend on Adobe software have put off buying new Intel Macs until Adobe gets rid of the CS2 version, which runs in emulation at about 1/2 the proper speed on Intel macs.

For those of you that are not insane nerds, I'll explain briefly what all this means. Well basically a couple years ago, Apple switched from IBM/Motorola chips called the PowerPC series, to Intel chips, as the central processing unit (CPU) of the Macintosh product line. They did this because Motorola had perpetual problems keeping up with demand, as well as not being able to boost the speed of Macs very well at all. Motorola is better suited to just make cell phone CPUs, not redesigning to boost heavy speed all the time.

Intel is a lot better at this, and they make powerful mobile-sized CPUs as well, which opened possibilities for Apple in designing a stripped-down version of the OS X operating system that could run, say, an iPhone. However, the iPhone will not have an Intel chip.

Anyhow, finally a lot of consultancies and larger businesses will be ready to drop big money for a batch of new Mac Pros and laptops, once everyone can do their Adobe work on Intel properly. Surprisingly, in the public beta testing phase of CS3's development, there were no negative comments and something above

AppleInsider reported all good news from the Wall Street Watchers:

Experts at the financial research firm PiperJaffray said on Wednesday that a wave of positive feedback on the Photoshop CS3 beta is a harbinger of much stronger Mac sales waiting in the wings.

As part of two separate research notes for investors, PiperJaffray's Gene Munster and Michael Olson noted that testers of the new photo editor were overwhelmingly in favor of the changes made since the CS2 edition and that the software was likely to have a "measurable positive impact" on Apple's pro computer sales. If released during the expected mid-spring window, they say the suite could boost Apple's total marketshare as much a full percentage point in combination with other factors.



This is due in no small part to Apple's dependence on creative pros, the analysts said. They claimed in the notes that roughly 15 percent of all Mac owners use at least one Adobe program as the backbone of their careers. Munster and Olson also pointed to an almost deafening level of requests for an Intel-native update to the Creative Suite as the primary reason so many Mac users were keeping their wallets closed.



"My company was ready to get 2 new Mac Pros," wrote one user quoted by the research firm. "But I recommended against [them] until CS3 is out. We can't run at half (quarter?) speed for months until they get their act together."



Thankfully for both Adobe and Apple, feedback on the Photoshop CS3 beta released last month was uniformly positive, according to PiperJaffray's data. An astounding 88 percent of respondents said they were pleased at some level with the overall quality of the beta, with 71 percent of the entire group saying it was "very satisfied." Surprisingly, not a single negative comment was received in the feedback.



Most of the testers studied by the financial group praised the sheer speed of the Photoshop build, even on PowerPC Macs that many thought would gain little from the transition to a Universal Binary. They also saw Adobe's new features, such as Smart Filters and automatic layer alignment, as genuinely useful.



To Munster and Olson, the early software seeds may bear real fruit for pro Mac sales when mixed with the rest of the CS3 release, which will be the first to see Fireworks and other ex-Macromedia applications interface directly with Adobe's software.



"Our belief is that the true value in CS3 is the collaborative workflow between the Adobe and Macromedia products," they said. "The real user excitement will not be apparent until Adobe releases the integrated suite."

besides that, OS X 10.5 is also on its way down the pike. Babygotmac, A site that was hosting sweet screenshots of the new softs got hit with a DMCA notice from Apple and so they tossed in some old joke shots from the Next OS that eventually became OS X.

Gizmodo has a bunch of shots that they got from babygotmac, and we'll take our chances to put one up. It is nothing too insane, but:

 Assets Resources 2007 01 Leopardleakscreen

 Assets Images Gallery 4 2007 01 Thumb140X140 368264955 1B5C5D7C15 O

And evidently the Terminal icon will look like the Matrix.

We'll let this one up for now and see if they notice.

w0w NAFTA tollway corporate mesh thing alarms alarmists. Weird. Amero VS dollar??

Alright I got a new project going on but I got to get rid of all these links. We got some shady stuff from around the Internet. As always take it with your grains of salt.

Probably most likely I am going to go on a bit of a break from writing here on the site. I have not gotten any headway with getting Powweb to fix the database servers, so it isn't even that fun to mess around with the site with such problems...

First some paranoia bits: the 9/11 video from the Doubletree Hotel near the Pentagon was released and it doesn't show any plane, just an explosion at the edge of the frame. It could fit with 'the missile theory' but also, well, a real plane wouldn't likely show up there anyway. I've decided not to care... Go to 911blogger.com, there are plenty of other 9/11 stories all the time.

There is 'economic paranoia' going on right now, and there are some good reasons for it. There are some spooky scenarios about a global corporate NAFTA superhighway takeover type thing. I take it all with a grain of salt, but major sectors in Texas are already complete. In principle, transportation infrastructure is good, but if it is just controlled by some corporate monstrosity instead of a public American entity, that would be bad.

Basically they would build a big mesh of tollways combined with power, pipelines and railroads, all probably owned by some foreign bank conglomerate. Also, Mexican trucks would get Customs checks in Omaha or Kansas City after coming up through Texas. Sounds weird to me. Currently the Texas section, called the Trans-Texas Corridor.

American Free Press has learned that a group of foreign companies, which currently lease a toll road in Indiana and are looking at buying up other highways across the country, has its eyes on the Trans-Texas Corridor, or TTC. The TTC is a planned toll road system through the Lone Star State that will largely be used for trucking foreign merchandise into the United States on the wings of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

It will be a major leg of the so-called “NAFTA Superhighway,” and, according to watchdog groups, it will lead to more cheap goods flooding the country and will be devastating to the U.S.-based trucking industry.

In the April 17, 2006 edition, AFP reported that ITR Concessions LLC, a partnership of Cintra of Spain and the McQuarie Bank of Australia, spent $3.85 billion to lease the Indiana Toll Road from the state for 75 years.

Now that same coalition is branching out into Texas. On Nov. 21, the Internet version of The Lone Star Iconoclast, a Crawford, Tex.-based publication, reported that Todd Spencer, the executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, or OOIDA, “is asking truckers to bypass the Indiana Toll Road that has been leased to the Spanish consortium, Cintra, the same outfit that Gov. [Rick] Perry and TXDOT (The Texas Department of Transportation) contracted with to operate the hated Trans Texas Corridor.”

According to Spencer, McQuarie will also be involved in the TTC. Steve Bonney, a Lafayette, Ind., farmer who helped fight this arrangement in Indiana courts, revealed then that some of that money would be used to extend Interstate 69 from Indianapolis to the Kentucky border. From there I-69 would proceed into south Texas by the Mexican border, eventually becoming yet another conduit in the vast network of “NAFTA tollways” being envisioned. Interstate 69 ends to the north in Port Huron, Mich., at the Canadian border.

Weird enough. And then.... cancelling the US dollar. London stock trader urges move to 'amero': Says many unaware of plan to replace dollar with N. American currency (Nov 28 - the rightwing WorldNetDaily)

In an interview with CNBC, a vice president for a prominent London investment firm yesterday urged a move away from the dollar to the "amero," a coming North American currency, he said, that "will have a big impact on everybody's life, in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico."

Steve Previs, a vice president at Jefferies International Ltd., explained the Amero "is the proposed new currency for the North American Community which is being developed right now between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico."

The aim, he said, according to a transcript provided by CNBC to WND, is to make a "borderless community, much like the European Union, with the U.S. dollar, the Canadian dollar and the Mexican peso being replaced by the amero."

Previs told the television audience many Canadians are "upset" about the amero. Most Americans outside of Texas largely are unaware of the amero or the plans to integrate North America, Previs observed, claiming many are just "putting their head in the sand" over the plans.

With a lot of weird indicators going up in the economy, a hard recession, sudden drops or even the boogeyman Total economic collapse might be around the corner. All right, that's a little silly, but you know someone will still say "Dollar Fall Is Catalyst For Predatory Global Government".

 Images October2006 301006StiglitzInterestingly, this whole thing is tied to former World Bank VP and Nobel winner Joseph Stiglitz, who said that there will be a global crash within 24 months, unless things are managed very differently. In a weird interview with Alex Jones show, he said essentially "Former World Bank Chief Economist Predicts Global Crash: Nobel Prize winner Stiglitz highlights agenda of predatory globalism now arriving in America under auspices of NAFTA Superhighway, North American Union":

[in other countries] "They sold the roads to the private enterprise and the hope was that they would be more efficient but of course what happens is that they didn't maintain the roads, they couldn't generate enough revenue and they eventually had to default and give the roads back to the government."

Stiglitz agreed that the process of hijacking and looting key infrastructure on the part of the IMF and World Bank, as an offshoot of predatory globalization, had now moved from the third world to Europe, the United States and Canada.

These sentiments are especially disturbing when we consider the current fast-moving quasi-secret agenda to sell-off major American highways to foreign corporations who plan to turn them into toll roads for tracking and taxation purposes - collectively known as the NAFTA Superhighway. The program forms the framework for the advancement of the North American Union - a collective governmental, border and trading bloc that President Bush has signed the U.S. over to under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of March 2005.

As we previously reported, US citizens will be forced to adopt a de-facto national identification card and have their freedom of mobility defined by behavioral fealty to the government under proposals set to derive from NAFTA superhighway toll road systems and the implementation of the American Union.

......Speaking about the agenda of the World Bank since the installation of Paul Wolfowitz, Stiglitz highlighted the shift which began back in August 2001 whereby the Bush administration moved to block transparency of secret bank accounts, which in part facilitated the 9/11 terror attacks.

"Unfortunately in this current administration, the defense industries and the energy industries have really been running the show and it has been disastrous," said Stiglitz.

Discussing the warning signs of plummeting real estate prices in the U.S., Stiglitz stated that a global economic depression could only be avoided if a correction was made but at the moment all the indicators are that the situation is not being well managed.

"If it's well managed it will only be a slow-down, if it's not well-managed it could be a recession," said Stiglitz.

Asked if the debt bubble was being well-managed Stiglitz plainly responded in the negative.

"It's gonna be difficult....this has been perhaps the worst six years of mismanagement of the macro economy....I think we can avoid an implosion if we manage this carefully but it's going to be very risky," said Stiglitz, agreeing that if the same course continued to be followed a global depression would occur within 12-24 months.

Alright cool. Keep an eye on that one...

How to scrape an entire website onto your hard drive

I got a new hard drive recently and decided to dump in some of those shady websites I know and love, for the purposes of building a sort of database that can be indexed and infer connections.

The easiest way to scrape a website is the command wget in the Terminal:

wget -m --tries=5 "http://www.debka.com"

which will scan through DEBKA's site and drop all the files into your current directory, inside another directory named www.debka.com. wget digs out the links to every page and file, and based on all the links it sees, it will clone all the files it can find.

The Tries=5 ensures it won't get stuck on some jammed file. The -m signifies mirroring the site. wget is also helpful for getting files from places that download badly, using

wget -c http://www.whatever.com/fatfile.zip

wget can also spoof what browser it reports itself as to the server. just use

wget --user-agent="Mozilla 4.0" -m http://whatever.com

when you need to pretend to be another kind of browser, because some of them try to block wget.

DEBKAfile is a site run by crusty Israeli intelligence officers and their scheming friends. There are lots of stories about various figures in the mideast world. I certainly wouldn't believe everything on a site like that, but certainly it is useful to know what crusty Israeli intel types want to publicize about Mugniyeh and the other kingpins they like to prattle on about.

If you are interested in an organization or individual that might get discredited or scandalized, the information published on the site might be short-lived, so it is good to get dumps or scrapes of sites before they get scrubbed by Public Relations flacks. Like how all congressment deleted their pictures with Mark Foley.

So I am going to yank down some choice bits of the internet and see if the data-mining software I've got spits out anything interesting. Solid. It's all public stuff, though, just snooping through like any other search engine. I'm just cloning some sites to make my own little haystack and see if there are any needles.

The power of the netroots

Check out this article about how the Internet has radically changed politics. This article does a good job diffusing the typical bullshit thrown around about the role of these "netroots".

Bloggers and Parties: Can the netroots reshape American democracy? By Henry Farrell

.....The netroots are becoming a power in the Democratic Party, but they aren’t under the control of any one person or clique. And while many netroots bloggers describe themselves as progressive, they are generally not leftists in the conventional sense. Certainly they aren’t committed to any program of fundamental political and economic reform. As Benjamin Wallace-Wells and Bill McKibben have both documented, the netroots aren’t complaining that the Democratic Party isn’t radical enough; they’re complaining that it’s losing elections. Netroots bloggers don’t share a common ideology. If they are united by anything, it is their harsh criticism of the Republican Party, their shared anger at the Democratic Party’s failures, and their rough analysis of how it could do better.

Although the netroots don’t necessarily subscribe to left-wing views, they do have the potential to reshape the terrain of American democracy. For the last 20 years, intellectuals have been bemoaning the American public’s lack of engagement with political life. They have advocated different forms of direct engagement and public deliberation as means to revitalize democracy.

Netroots bloggers and blog readers don’t look much like the idealized citizens that some democratic theorists have been hoping for. They’re unruly; while they certainly engage in vigorous argument, it bears little resemblance to disinterested Habermasian debate, in which the only operative force is the force of the better argument. They are attentive to power as well as reason, and their response to perceived enemies, Republican or Democratic, is far from genteel—someone pilloried by a prominent netroots blog can expect to get hundreds of vitriolic e-mails or comments from the blog’s readers. David Brooks’s complaints likely stem from his own experience being called out by left-wing bloggers and the vituperative messages that have filled his in-box as a result. There are real problems of groupthink among netroots blogs (as there are among blogs more generally, and indeed among opinion journalists, political reporters, political scientists, and virtually every well-connected social group).

But if there is a fault it lies less with the bloggers than with our notions of what a politically engaged public will look like in real life. Theorists of the public sphere who hark back to the idealized coffeehouses of the Enlightenment tend to forget or pass over the spleen, vulgarity, and vigor of 18th-century political debate. Political engagement goes hand in hand with viewpoints that are strongly held and trenchantly expressed.

The current back-and-forth over the netroots obscures what they actually mean for the Democratic Party and for American politics more generally. If they are not simply a philosophy seminar, they are also not simply an interest group or a social movement in the usual senses of those terms. Their goals have more to do with electoral strategies than substantive issues. Nor are they a traditional form of mass populism—as currently constituted, they are a not especially representative minority of the American public (there is an over-representation of white, well-educated, middle-class men, as there is among political bloggers more generally).

What they are is an example of how the Internet can foster new ways of conducting argument and building social cooperation among diverse groups and individuals. In other words, they are the harbinger of structural changes in the relationship between technology and politics. Contrary to the predictions of social scientists like Robert Putnam, the Internet is making people more likely to be politically and socially engaged, not less. As Yochai Benkler has argued, information technology has made it radically easier and cheaper to engage in certain kinds of cooperation.

This has important implications for political parties in general and for the Democratic Party in particular. In the past, much of the political agenda has been set by elites—senior party officials, elected representatives, and a congeries of policy wonks and public intellectuals stationed in think tanks, universities, issue groups, and political journals. While activists have played an important role in politics, especially in the Republican Party, they have usually taken their cues from well-connected leaders such as Grover Norquist and (before recent scandals) Ralph Reed. This is changing. Elites are losing some of their agenda-setting power as a much wider set of actors begins to influence the terms of public argument. A sea change is taking place in American politics. Debates that used to be the preserve of a small, self-perpetuating group of pundits, pollsters, and policymakers are now being opened up to a much wider group.

The netroots are also important in their own right, even if their role in winning or losing elections is sometimes exaggerated. The availability of Internet-based communications and community-building technologies has allowed people from quite different ideological backgrounds to come together, to identify points of common interest, and to build a community of action.

Or else you could just say "Teh Sweet." Anyway...

Their experiences have deepened the netroots’ conviction that there’s something rotten in the Democratic Party. Quasi-corrupt relationships hamper the ability of Democrats to win elections; candidates for office are expected to hire certain well-connected consultants if they want to receive party funding. Party leaders try to eke out narrow wins, focusing their attention only on the most competitive races instead of campaigning aggressively across the country. Elected officials prefer stroking the egos of major donors to grass-roots organizing. Senators mug to pundits’ and newspaper editors’ penchant for bipartisanship by denouncing fellow Democrats as extremists, giving cover to Republicans, and dragging the political center ever further toward the right. These problems cripple the party’s ability to compete successfully, guaranteeing continued Republican hegemony. In response, netroots bloggers want to reform the party’s organizational structures and punish elected officials who weaken the party in pursuit of their personal agendas. They pushed Howard Dean’s candidacy as chairman of the Democratic National Committee in order to change the party’s electoral priorities. The netroots are now encouraging activists to get involved in the party at the local and state level and take it over, just as Goldwaterite conservatives took over the Republican Party a generation ago.

NICE.

Election aftermath: Faux Centrism, Robocalls, shady Sarasota voting machines, Minnesota Muslims, Zoroastrians and other angles

First of all: Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes was the Dude, hands down. We are poorer without his clever style and incisive work. Thanks for all the stories, Ed.

Senate Democrats Decide on Party Leaders November 14, 2006, Filed at 1:21 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Democrats picked two women for senior posts Tuesday and appointed former U.S. Capitol police chief Terrance Gainer as sergeant at arms. Their choice as majority leader, Sen. Harry Reid, said a top priority is getting a new secretary of defense confirmed.

.....The Capitol, meanwhile, buzzed with the energy of House members-to-be and senators-in-waiting attending freshman orientation.

More than 50 incoming House freshmen spent the day in meetings focused not on big legislative items or the Iraq war but rather on office logistics and ethics -- a key issue after a season of scandal that had, at least in part, led to the election of the new members.

In the Senate, a 10-person freshman class of eight Democrats, one Republican and Democratic-leaning independent Bernard Sanders of Vermont also began orientation.

Democratic Sen.-elect Jon Tester of Montana looked a little overwhelmed on his first day.

''It hasn't soaked in yet,'' he said. ''Maybe it will never soak in.''

The Capitol police weren't quite ready for Tester, a farmer with a throwback flat top haircut and fingers missing on his left hand from an old accident with a meat grinder. They asked him to empty his pockets for inspection.

''Just like at the airport, you put it all through?'' Tester asked.

The officer nodded, then recognized the newcomer and waved him through.

The Talking Head Brigades are totally convinced that a giant swath of newly elected Democrats are "social conservatives", despite the relative lack of evidence. Virginia's Senator-elect Jim Webb is the best example of someone who must be socially conservative, since he was Navy Secretary. They haven't really talked about how concerned Webb is with "economic justice," a phrase that just doesn't really appear in the DLC Centrist handbook.

More realistically, the fresh Democrats are decidedly skeptical of 'free trade' that has crushed manufacturing in places like Ohio – this was a major theme of Ohio Senator-elect Sherrod Brown's campaign platform. We are seeing plenty of evidence that the media is totally convinced this election marks some kind of concrete Centrist Block that now dominates America. Aside from Joe Lieberman's implied threat to bolt the Dems and give the Senate to Republicans, this labeling doesn't wash with the kinds of folks now going to DC.

Maybe gun control. Which was a ridiculous issue to dwell on at this late date, but now basically that's the symbolic marker signifying Senator-elect Jon Tester of Montana as a 'social conservative.' I would say it's more to do with the fact that there are about seven times as many guns as people in Montana.

(A small reflection on the history between Webb and this Gates cat coming into Defense. Will there be 'real' confirmation hearings for SecDef or just softballs?)

The perfect example of this new media narrative of 2006 == Super Centrism is the cover of TIME magazine this week, compared with the November 1994 cover when Newt Gingrich and the gang stomped in (more on the contrast). "Why the center is the new place to be" says good old weathervane Joe Klein, who never met a waffle he didn't like. Oddly, Klein did not exactly stick to this:

Yes, many of the winners tended to be moderates, but that's because this was an election, especially on the House side, waged in moderate districts. In some cases, realism meant supporting the more liberal candidate. In Ohio, Reid and Schumer made a stark decision to force the attractive if inexperienced Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett out of the race and to support Congressman Sherrod Brown, a feisty paleoliberal whose vehement protectionism matched well with Ohio's economic despearation...The common denominator wasn't liberalism or moderation but the ability to win.

OK, fair enough. Would have been nice if the magazine cover reflected that. But I lack the patience to read the whole article. Although I did shake Klein's hand in Iowa once. There was also a story about Keith Ellison in TIME, and refers to Trocadero's as "trendy." Kind of funny to hear TIME describing the Warehouse district at all, but sort of exciting.

The victory party for Minnesota's first African-American congressman, Keith Ellison, took place at a trendy nightclub in Minneapolis's downtown warehouse district. Down the block from a glitzy sex shop, Trocaderos is the kind of place where both gays and straights look to get picked up, either at the bar or on the dance floor. But on this occasion, the floor was packed with enthusiastic supporters of Ellison, who also happens to be the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress.

Not the kind of place where any self-respecting Muslim would normally be found. But on this occasion, drably dressed, bearded Muslim men rubbed shoulders with stylish women in revealing outfits, the latter drinking plenty of alcohol. Meanwhile, Muslim women wearing long, shapeless dresses and head-scarves stood around in small groups. I spoke with an elderly, bespectacled imam from Somalia who wore a large woolen shawl over his shoulders and a colorful, pointed cap, embroidered with ancient-looking but unfamiliar shapes and symbols. His limited knowledge of English did not prevent him from repeating the words "peace, peace, peace" over and over again to me.

The reason for this curious gathering is not hard to figure out. Muslim Americans in Minnesota and throughout the nation have been forging a coalition with liberals on issues like those articulated by Congressman-elect Ellison — universal health insurance, tougher environmental regulation, opposition to the Patriot Act and an immediate end to the war in Iraq.

......And now, Muslims from places like Pakistan or Egypt, who might in the past have avoided politics, see the need for allies and guides through the unfamiliar American political landscape. No wonder the Rev. Jesse Jackson and other nationally prominent blacks journeyed to Minnesota to campaign with Keith Ellison.

Still, immigrant Muslims remain devout social conservatives. And in Minneapolis in the days leading up to the celebration Tuesday night, one could hear many of them trying to reconcile their support for Ellison and other liberals on Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor ticket with their unrelenting opposition to abortion and especially homosexuality. It is clearly not easy for them to do so, but as one Muslim American leader born in Afghanistan put it, "the majority of Muslims weigh the alternatives" — and vote against President Bush and the Republicans.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether this coalition will last. But if their anger at the Bush Administration and its policies is any guide, then Muslim Americans — immigrant and African American alike — will not soon break with their new-found liberal allies. In the meantime, many non-Muslim Americans will be troubled by these developments and find in them further evidence of the widespread sentiment that Muslim Americans are not being straight with their fellow citizens, that they are hypocrites. Perhaps they are. But then non-Muslims ought to recognize that "hypocrisy" of the sort on view in Minneapolis last week is akin to the tolerance on which our pluralistic society depends. In fact, just such behavior demonstrates that Muslims are beginning to learn what we all must do to get along in America.

For that matter, we in Minnesota ought to explain to the rest of the world, especially the Middle East, that Ellison was elected from a district with the help and support of the large and established Jewish community in St. Louis Park. I suspect that Conventional Wisdom between Morocco and Qatar would be shocked to learn that those West Metro Jewish folks would select a Muslim to represent them in DC. It makes me proud to be an American.

Sibel Edmonds: Going to happen or not? I am wondering about whether such Deep Politics as the true nature of the Sibel Edmonds scandal will be exposed next year. We had almost forgotten that in October 2002, Sibel Edmonds was featured with Ed Bradley on 60 Minutes, and you can get the video clips in 4 parts: 1 2 3 4. The story mostly focuses on the incompetence of the guys in the FBI translation unit, rather than all the Turkish espionage stuff. But still interesting. Keep an eye on the Sibel Edmonds blogspot site by Lukery in case something happens. We are still going to put a special page together on the case, but not right now..... Basically I am hoping that some Congressperson with security clearance reads Sibel's secret (buried) testimony to the 9/11 Commission into the Congressional record.

Shady voting machines in Sarasota, Florida steal a Congressional race?? In the Florida congressional district formerly held by the 2000 Debacle High Witch Katherine Harris, there were serious errors with electronic voting machines. I am jacking this post from TPMmuckraker cause it's got the goods.

Update: In FL-13, Court Battle Begins As Counting Continues By Paul Kiel - November 14, 2006, 12:56 PM

Lawyers for Democratic House candidate Christine Jennings threw down the gauntlet yesterday, asking a state court to secure electronic voting machines and data used in the election.

The move would preserve the equipment in Florida's Sarasota County for scrutiny by Jennings' legal team. A hearing on the suit is scheduled for this afternoon.

It's just the first step of what is likely to be a litigious aftermath to a close and ugly election (thanks in part to the NRCC's rampant robo calling in the district). The state began a recount and audit of the election yesterday. Once the audit and second recount is completed and the results certified on November 20th, the Jennings campaign has ten days to contest the results of the election if they still show Jennings down. Before the recounting began, she was down 386 votes.

The fight will center around the district's Sarasota County, where the electronic machines did not register a vote in the Congressional race for 18,000 voters (13%) -- what's called an "undervote." That's compared to only 2.53% of voters who did not vote in the race via absentee ballots.

A study by the local paper, The Herald Tribune, found that one in three of Sarasota election officials "had general complaints from voters about having trouble getting votes to record" on the electronic machines for the Congressional race. Since 53% of voters in Sarasota County picked Jennings over the Republican Vern Buchanan, those missed votes would likely have put Jennings in front.

Kendall Coffey, a lawyer for the Jennings campaign, told me yesterday that any court challenge of the results is likely to focus on problems with the electronic machines. He said that the campaign has a wealth of "compelling testimony" from "sources that you simply can't discredit" who had trouble registering a vote for Jennings in the county. That challenge would likely come later in the month, if the recount still shows Jennings down and the state's audit does not turn up any problems. So stay tuned.

13,000 viruses on one Windows PC: A guy uncovers a giant nest of viruses. Nasty.

The Misc file: The end of education arbitrage - IE the link between property values and education funding is cracking. An ugly prospect to behold, especially from here in Minnesota where schools are not as much of a disaster as other states.

Kelley's Iran adventure: The proprietor of one of my favorite sites Agonist.org went to Iran over the election and had an interesting time. He blogged it on the San Antonio paper's site. The one about Zoroastrians was pretty cool:

Two primary impulses drove me towards Yazd. First, I wanted to see the architecture of this old Silk Road city, to walk in Marco Polo's footsteps and see what he saw. My second goal was to see, interact and talk with the last large community of Zoroastrians in Iran (and the world). The major Ateshkah (Fire Temple) of Yazd lies in the Southeast part of town. Here, surrounded by a low-rise brick wall, gardens and reflecting pool (which I was sadly unable to get a good photo from) burns a flame, which the High Priest of the Temple told us, "has been burning for one thousand four hundred years."

"First," he said, his 84-year old voice trembling, "this fire came from the fire temple at Naqsh-i-Rustam where our great Iranian kings are laid to rest."

"Then," he continued, "to Yazd province it went to Agadeh. After that it went to Ardekan and finally found its way here," he told us.

The High Priest, pointing at the furuhad (the winged symbol of Zoroaster, which some say was the first depiction of an angel) atop the building, recited the three main tenets of the Zoroastrian faith. "Each row of feathers has a meaning in our faith, equaling the three central ideas of Zoroastrianism: The first row implores us to think well. The second instructs us to act well. The third and final row compels us to talk well, never to lie. To lie, or to go against any of this commands, is to give in to evil, or Ahriman."

"What," I wondered, "was Iran like 1,500 years ago? Before the Arabs arrived? When fire temples were the center of worship and activity in every city?

"Were the high priests," I thought to myself, as the flames flickered wildly behind the thick observation glass, "as rigid in their interpretation of Zoroastrianism as they are today of Islam?"

The late history of the Sassanians points towards a high priesthood with a firm, if brittle, grip on Mediaval Persian society. It was the era of Magians supremacy, and their faith was rigid. They persecuted Christians and other sects, even the Jews, but they saved their most heated attacks for the Manicheans. Kartir, the high priest to the Sassanian king even found a place on a relief next to his king, at Naqsh-i-Rashjab, about two kilometers from Naqsh-i-Rustam.

I thought about the past and couldn't help but to wonder if there is a tenuous connection between Iran's extremist past and its extremist present? One would think it were possible. But today the Zoroastrians are not only tolerated, but celebrated to a great degree for they are Iran's original "People of the Book.'

Later that afternoon father and I went to see a "Tower a Silence.' The tower lies on top of a small barren hill on the south side of town. It's like a bug round brick well, with a diameter of approximately 50 meters. The high priests would take the body of the deceased up to the tower and lay it out for the vultures to pick clean. The Zoroastrians believe that burying the body is to pollute the earth and cremation is strictly forbidden, as the body will pollute the sacred fire. It is said that if the vultures pick the left side of the face off first the deceased goes immediately to heaven. If it is the right the deceased spends a hundred years in purgatory.

Well there you go. Zoroastrianism is pretty much a sweet and mystic Old Time religion. Anyhow...

Homeless Philadelphia guys tricked into deceiving Maryland black folks about Republican Steele: In a disgusting episode, campaign workers for some shadowy Republican-linked organization provided flyers that claimed two top Republican candidates were actually Democrats, as seen here and here. A homeless guy is furious he was paid to lie to people, and didn't even get back home to Philly to vote in time.

All hail Rahm Emanuel: Still a divisive figure, Rep. Emanuel, the leader of the DCCC, selected some Dems over others in primary races, and now has been credited as the guy that won everything. This is an exaggeration. Emanuel has been criticized for not supporting Clint Curtis, the programmer who was allegedly hired by Congressman Tom Feeney to reprogram voting machines. Curtis ran for Congress in order to raise awareness of this, but he did not get a red cent from the DCCC. Likewise, abandoned a 9/11 Truth candidate whose name I can't remember. Emanuel delivered the goods, but he also set restrictions on the ideological parameters of Democratic campaigns, although in important aspects he broadened the limits beyond idiot DLC-consultant style "centrism". This bears further examination.

Judith Miller against Blogger first amendment freedom: From the mouth of the woman who brought Iraqi Aluminum Tube fantasies into the NY Times via Chalabi's henchmen, bloggers just report rumors way too much:

"I'm worried about bloggers," she said. "(A post) starts as a rumor and within 24 hours it's repeated as fact."

While she advocates a federal shield law to protect mainstream journalists from divulging their sources, she doesn't favor extending that to bloggers who don't follow the standards and ethnics [I assume this should be ethics] of the journalism industry.

Still, she wouldn't restrict a blogger's right to publish online. She said some bloggers have been invaluable in uncovering government flaws.

"I'm glad to welcome them as long as they agree to the standards," she said.

Heinous. (via Atrios). Cram your standards in an aluminum tube and smoke it with your "defector" friends.

That's all for this post. Another coming down the pike in a little bit.

Half a terabyte, Western Digital Serial ATA hard drive is CRAP and some political machinations

Hope everyone is doing all right in the warm haze of a post-election superfly megaspectacular Democracy Victory that Solves Everything. I have had a pretty odd week but yesterday all the angles started to really converge for me. As I explained before, I am not focusing a lot on writing on this site until my job situation is stabilized and some way to pay December's rent comes together.

So I spent quite a few days, including a good chunk of the weekend, trying to get a new Western Digital Serial-ATA hard drive in the G5 up and humming, after having transferred much of my stuff to an ATA drive I borrowed from someone. As I was copying files, the computer would totally lock up with "IOATA Controller device blocking the bus" errors, about every 10 GB or so. I thought it was the ATA drive, but it turned out to be the 400 GB Serial ATA drive that I bought from Microcenter in St. Louis Park. So yesterday I went to return the drive, and the guy explained it was probably a bad motor that made the drive get lost and bomb out.

I explained my travails to the guy in the hard drive section and he said that a 500 GB Maxtor SATA drive priced at $279.99 was actually only $180, a mere $10 more than the bum 400 GB drive. So I swooped on that and got another 100,000,000,000 bytes for $10. Not bad! Although I crashed the G5 about 15 times trying to move stuff around using the bum drive, the new one is working OK so far and has a peak transfer rate of 3GB/second. w0w!

So besides all that, yesterday I modified a web services contract from the Internet and got it signed with a small business owner out in St. Louis Park, so it was a sweet two-fer to the West metro. Basically I am doing a photography website over the next couple weeks, and also fixing another website for a woman who is a chef/food writer. With a bit of luck this will allow me to cover December's rent.

Also after a week of phone messages I finally got ahold of my illustrious Republican boss at Politics in Minnesota and she confirmed a meeting next week to plan the next edition of the Directory, which I will be working on pretty soon, but I don't know when that starts.

She informed me that a ruling from the state political Ethics Board permits state employees of the DFL-controlled Legislature entities to simultaneously work at PIM. So there may be an angle for me to get a job at the Capitol as well via some guys I know in the bureaucracy.

So then we have a pretty good status worked out at the moment:

G5:
Two internal hard drives - 234 GB + 480 GB = Teh Solid! Also added 1 GB of RAM = 2560 MB total!

Job1: Web design @ Zen Communications = Two jobs

Job2: Something ill-defined @ Politics in Minnesota = interview Minnesota state legislators in a few weeks

Apartment: Heat is covered by the rent

Prospects: More web design work & DFL staff @ the Capitol

Total: Not bad!

So the next couple weeks will tell the tale. If I can avoid doing office work in a cube (except a Capitol cube) it would be pretty sweet. There are a ton of small businesses that need web design work, but the difficult trick is finding those businesses and earning trust. The trust seems to come from referrals among friends and business acquaintances, and other angles like computer repair, tech classes and generally finding buzz. This seems to be the magic skeleton key to a 'consultant business layer' around the Twin Cities, which is better than most metro areas for this kind of stuff.

I got a lot of pictures on election night and I am going to post some of them when I have a little more time. Some pretty good stuff.

Goals, resources & tactics in a "New Middle East": it's still about WATER and OIL, folks

Iraqi intuition: As Joe Biden and Chris Matthews talked about on Hardball the other night, apparently President Bush did not expect Iraqi Shiites to support Hezbollah. This is the shrewd leadership of the War on Terror, folks. Sy Hersh was talking about how Cheney's office spoofed the intelligence on Lebanon and Israel. Again, the rosy shock-and-awe type scenarios failed tactically and stategically, as they always do. Strategic bombing never really works.

Del.icio.us is Del Pimpin

I had a power failure and lost some goodies. Not a colossal disaster, but lame! I used to have a backup power supply but the damn battery gave out. Anyhow, I discovered that there are some plugins that let Firefox remember what tabs you have open if it crashes or there's a power failure. There are lots of awesome Firefox plugins and extensions, and Tab Mix Plus is among the best. It will save the browser windows and tabs you have open if Firefox or the computer suddenly konks out!

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