Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Is the Schiavo case propaganda?

What is propaganda? Systematic manipulation of public opinion.

I find it rather bizarre that an American group which is wholeheartedly embracing the invasion of another country. The killing of up to 100,000 people in that country travelling on the "support our troops(tm)" and "yellow ribbon(tm)" bandwagon; is targetted for a ride on the new "Terri Schiavo" bandwagon, in what pans out as an ethically challenging case.

The conservative Republican party has even taking a ride, in fact they seem to be the good ol' wagoneer. For some reason the fate of this woman has something to score political points on.

GOP memo says issue offers political rewards
By The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Republican leaders believe their attention to the Terri Schiavo issue could pay dividends with Christian conservatives whose support they covet in the 2006 midterm elections, according to a GOP memo intended to be seen only by senators.

The one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators by party leaders, called the debate over Schiavo legislation "a great political issue" that would appeal to the party's base, or core, supporters. The memo singled out Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who is up for re-election next year.

"This is an important moral issue, and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue," said the memo, reported by ABC News and later given to The Washington Post. "This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a co-sponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats."

However in the case of all good propaganda..... what is it's objective to make Joe sixpack think or more importantly NOT THINK about?

Perhaps it is diverting public opinion away from other issues that will affect all Americans.

What will Joe Six Pack think if his social security dollars are taken out of Government hands and into the private sector? Could be risky....

Or what about that war in Iraq which we still don't seem to have won? I think he's getting a bit suspicious about that one.....

Or what about the issue of video news releases? Not that exciting..... Joe won't mind....but some important issues there that the eggheaded intellectuals may get excited about.

Let's see....... What does Joe Sixpak think about bioethics? Nothing. Lets make him interested!!!

From sourcewatch we find the following:

The media frenzy over the Terri Schiavo case had the benefit for the Bush administration of swamping media coverage of Social Security privatization, video news releases and the Iraq war. A set of talking points circulated amongst Republicans urging Congress intervene in the issue stated "This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue" and that "this is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida - has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats."

Pre-made "talking points"? This is what the current powers that be want to take a stand on, to get another three or four year ride on the gravy train. Could it be they want you to be fighting about this political wedge rather than being open and frank about some potentially bigger and albeit more unpopular issues?

Now, the case has been going on for some time now; first usenet message that I can find is in 2000 where it was picked up from Florida's St. Petersberg Times.The BBC timeline shows that lawsuits to do with this case have been going on since 1993. So this is been going on for twelve years and now it's an issue? Give me a break. A google search for the term "terri shiavo" comes up with no less than about 3,600,00 results. It is garnering a lot of attention and a lot of opinion..... even here downunder.

How does this relate as a propaganda issue? Well we have two groups the "right to life(tm)" and the "right to die(tm)" camps plus some other "right to____" groups. Paul Linebarger sums up the process of setting two groups against each other and the forming of opinions via covert means in his book Psychological Warfare.

What a person thinks- his opinion is workable in relation to what he does. In practical life his opinion only takes effect only when it is part of the opinion of the group. Some groups are formed by the common opinion and have nothing else in common; at a spiritualist meeting you may see the banker sitting next to his own charwoman. Most groups are groups because they of the things which the people are (Descendents of Francis Bacon, the hard of hearing); or things they do (electrical workers, lawyers, farmers, stamp collectors), or things they have (factory owners, nothing but wages, apartment houses) in common. The community of something practical makes the the group have a community of opinion which arises from the problems they think they face with respect to their common interests. Such groups are not only opinion groups, they are interest groups. It is these groups that do things as groups. It is these groups that propaganda tries to stir up, move, set against each other, and use in any handy way. (Few individuals belong to one group at a time; the groups are almost illimitable in number.)

The propagandist should not get the idea that a group exists it is a potential source of weakness or cleavage. Workers are not always against employers, nor the aged against the young, nor women against men, nor shippers against the railwaymen.. In a well run society, groups have interest only for limited purposes. Railwaymen are not permanently hostile to truckers, shippers, fliers, canal operators. At the moment they may be the maddest of all at the insurance companies because of siome quarrel about insurance premiums and risks.

The poor propagandist tries to butt in on every fight, even when there is none. Often his propaganda is received they way an intervenor is received in most family quarrels, with the bland question, "What fight? We ain't mad." Sound propaganda picks up only those group issues which are acute enough to stand a little help from outside. If outside help would be the kiss-of-death to the group that is helped, then black propaganda [propaganda from an unknown source] instead of white [ propaganda from a known source] is indicated. In any case, sound operating intelligence is the first precondition to the attempted psychological manipulation of enemy groups."

You see, sometimes it is important to craft an opinion, either to divert or manipulate or cloud what is really on the radar. It sometimes even pays to increase interest and opinion in groups that previously one would never had the first thought about.

Social security recipients [most Americans] and taxpayers[Americans paying tax funding oil raids] are two rather large groups. If "they" divert attention away from these large groups opinions and into other groups opinions with the help of some rather large media groups (who coincedentally have a vested interest in their share prices manipulated by pension funds) perhaps "they" may be able to slip some legislation under the radar.

It might be better if "they" break these large taxpayer and SocSec groups opininions down a bit and have them form opinions about something that is politically sensational.... rather than the organised theft which will be less popular. Classic Machiavellian divide and conquer.

However all is not lost. On wikipedia we find.

According to an ABC News poll from March 21, 70 percent of Americans believe that Terri Schiavo's death should not be a federal matter, and are opposed to the legislation transferring the case to federal court. In the same poll, a 63 percent majority said that they support the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube. A 67 percent majority agreed with the statement that "elected officials trying to keep Schiavo alive are doing so more for political advantage than out of concern for her or for the principles involved."


A poll by CBS News showed that 82 percent of respondents believe the Congress and President should stay out of the matter, while 74 percent thought it was "all about politics". Only 13 percent think Congress acted out of concern for Terri Schiavo. Furthermore, Congressional approval ratings sank to 34 percent, the lowest number since 1997.
So maybe there's hope for us yet.

And for some guys who've taken a good look into what is this all really about? Check here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Indonesian Earthquake

Indonesian earthquake measuring 8.7 on the Reichter scale.

See that large red circle between Asia and Australia? That's the earthquake that occurred 11 hours ago. It's about the same size as the one in Aceh, Indonesia on December 26th.

Click the IRIS Seimic monitor on my links on the right for a better view.

People in Western Australia (way up north) were told to keep away from the beach.

These are indeed interesting times. The words "tsunami alert" and "terrorist alert" have become everyday vocabulary terms.
Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Latest Marvel in Engineering

CTRL ALT DEL Tool...... for those of you too lazy to use the "vulcan death grip". Posted by Hello

My Friend the Chocolate Cake

No it's not a state of mind, it's actually the name of an eclectic band from
Melbourne Australia. They include a violin, cello, some guitars and wind

Melbourne churns out these wonderful bohemian bands from time to time. The
Cat Empire, The Dirty Three and Hunter and Collectors being some others.

I picked up My Friend the Chocolate Cake's best of album "Parade"
a couple of weeks ago, by far their finest song is "A midlife's tale (Get it
back now)". It's a bittersweet, melancholic song about the loss sometimes
felt in middle life.

There's a live version ,here from ABC Canberra here in that blessed real
media format, I'd be able to play it if I wasn't so wary of that horribly
invasive RealMeadia player. The RM player seems to take over everything on
the computer, defaults all sorts of files and thus............remains not
downloaded and uninstalled.

A short Windows media sample here from Amazon.


Lovely song.

My Friend The Chocolate Cake -
A Midlife's Tale (Get It Back Now)
Tabbed by: Ashley Hall

G D Em C

My neighbour does some funny things
He's got three kids and he's got six drinks to go
Before he sleeps tonight
Singing liberation songs out on the front verandah

My neighbour falls asleep out there
He wakes up the next morning with the sun
And it reminds him that it's time
Well it's off to work we go
He's always one day starting way behind another

Get it back now x6

Dreaming is a casual thing you do if you believe
In just by chance one day the lovely things will come true.
But he's well past thinking that
It's now a day by day proposal
He's lost his magic, Christ he'd like to get it back now

Get it back now x6

Once upon a time there were so many plans
Holidays and blossoms and some fine romance
But it's all behind him now
There's no game plan to be followed
He's lost his magic, Christ he'd like to get it back now

Get it back now x12

Wedding in the Bush

Wedding in the Bush Posted by Hello

So yesterday my friend from work Gert finally tied the knot with the lovely Belinda.

It was an afternoon wedding in the area of Mulgoa in the Napean Valley. The wedding ceremony and reception were held in an old (by Australian standards) pioneer's house that had been converted to a wedding function centre. It was overlooking a stand of eucalypt trees and a few paddocks of horses. A kind of rural sort of setting.

Looming rain clouds held off, it did look like it was going to pour down for a while but the clouds decided to head north and rain on someone else's wedding.

Other friends from work who one is used to seeing in dirty, grease stained clothes turned up in suits and ties. Wiseacring included "Danny looks like he's going to court." etc. The neckties didn't last too long, once the ceremony was over, jackets came off, neckties were removed and sleeves rolled up. A discussion of neckties revealed that most of us wear them for funerals, weddings and one revealed he wore one to court(he's a hot rodder and gets in trouble from time to time).

The ladies looked resplendent in their finery, there were difficulties as high heels dug into the moist turf where the ceremony was held. There were a lot of people with digital cameras, doing the click and aim think from a distance whilst looking at the little LED screen at the back. It was quite funny to watch about ten people with their cameras all at once doing the digital camera gaze thing.

The bride and groom had a simple 15 minute ceremony. She looked lovely and he "scrubbed up well". Gert's kids from a pervious marriage acted as page-boy and flower girl.

The reception was good. A standard Aussie reception deal.... beer and wine was standard, spirits cost extra. The food was OK, usual pub fare. Speeches were short and the music was OK. Nutbush City Limits saw most of the guest getting up to do the Madison, I wonder if this will still be the case in another 30 years? I absconded from the dancing.

Most of my table was smokers, so we spent most of the time outside, as is convention now downunder. Here we mainly teased each other mercilessly, finding that small chink in the armour and "working on it". No one is exempt and the attention goes from one to another in no particular order. A good "master of wiseacring" as I put it, can deflect this, use self depreciation even further, change the subject, detect the changing of a subject or draw attention to someone else. A "bite" is always played upon and everyone seems to leave a bit more down to earth. The best laughter sometimes is at oneself and ones failings and foibles.

I had a great conversation with Gert's father who was a fitter at one of the large edible oil companies in Sydney. He was retrenched from there as part of a rationalization of the maintenance department. He received a 35 year golden handshake on the Friday and commenced work again on the Monday as a contractor on a marginally lower rate. The company in question which thought the maintenance department was an unecessary expense, soon found out that it was actually an essential asset after time. The factory ground to a halt.

As with most rationalizations, the skill and knowledge base is decimated. He was saying that in one week they had 36 maintenance personel drift in and out due to the casual nature of the job. Pay them peanuts and you get monkeys, well paid fitters tend to reflect the quality of their work. Add to this most of these casual fitters and electricians would be fixing things they had never seen before, a guy who had been ther 35 years would know exactly how to fix it, what spare parts and tools to bring etc.

I've seen this rationalist thinking in a variety of factories in Sydney. What is a short term gain ends up being a long term liability. This seems to be a regular occurence in the western world.

Off my soapbox and back to the wedding.......The whole deal was over by 7pm with the groom and bride going home to have a few more drinks. There was no immediate honeymoon, that'll happen next week when they go Tasmania.

In short it was a good day.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Jinky the Cat

Jinky the cat

Another cat owner who blogs.

The Engineer Defined

This one made the round of various ICI engineering depts when I was working there.

Very funny and written by an engineer methinks. And no I'm not an engineer but I know a lot of them!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Angry Sicilian

The Angry Sicilian

This guy left a message down below. I think I came across him via a link from here and then another link from there using the "other blogs of interest" columns and so on and so on. Via his The Angry Sicilian blog I came across the Chopsticks page. I think we've come full circle now.

It's a small Global Village

Monday morning visitor.

Here's a sulphur crested cockatoo which visited the balconey on Monday morning. They are about the size of a chicken and land with a *thump* when they hit the deck.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Wedding Car Polish

Here's the result of my friend and I's polish and wax job. Click the above photo to get a more detailed view. He will using it as his wedding car on Saturday. It took about three hours, a few beers and many cigarettes.

First black car I've done, you could have dived into the roof, it looked like liquid. Thoroughly enjoyable work.

I want your OIL

Sunday, March 20, 2005

- Chopsticks -

- This blog is STUNNING. Lots of clever, discrete, elegant stuff here-.

So how would Iraq be different if Kerry won?

Not much. This is from 1998 when Clinton was president.

* Senator John Kerry (D-MA): "I think there is a disconnect between the depth of the threat that Saddam Hussein presents to the world and what we are at the moment talking about doing. If indeed he is as significant a threat, as you heard him characterized by the president, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense -- can threaten London, threaten the peace of the Middle East, that he is really a war criminal who is already at war with the civilized world -- then we have to be prepared to go the full distance, which is to do everything possible to disrupt his regime and to encourage the forces of democracy."

Senator Kerry appearing on ABC February 22, 1998.

Noam Chomsky ... still furious at 76

ON my way to meet Noam Chomsky in Boston, I pick up a copy of The American Prospect, whose cover features snarling caricatures of US Vice-President Dick Cheney, and of Chomsky: the man dubbed by Bono “the Elvis of academia”. Cheney is presented as the proverbial bull in an international china shop, Chomsky is portrayed by this “magazine of liberal intelligence” as the epitome of high- minded dove-ish, misguided idealism. Chomsky, of course, is well used to such attacks. For every cloying article by a disciple, there is a rocket from the enemy camp revelling in his perceived failings and undermining his reputation, denigrating his scholarship as a linguist and joyfully repeating statements which, when taken out of context, seem tinged with fanaticism.

To his credit, Chomsky puts them all on his website, whether it’s The New Yorker describing him as “the devil’s accountant” and “one of the greatest minds of the 20th century”, or The Nation, which lampooned him as “a very familiar kind of academic hack” whose career has been “the product of a combination of self-promotion, abuse of detractors, and the fudging of his findings”. He stands accused of asserting that every US President since Franklin D Roosevelt should have been impeached as war criminals; of supporting the murderous Pol Pot regime in Cambodia; and of comparing Israel to the Third Reich.

Leaving behind red-brick Harvard, where the winter snow is at last beginning to melt, one enters a vast industrial estate. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Chomsky has been professor of modern languages and linguistics since 1976, is home to more than 10,000 students, each of whom pays around $50,000 a year for the privilege of studying at America’s self-styled “ideas factory”.

Chomsky, who at 76 is technically retired, inhabits a suite of offices overflowing with foreign translations of his books and dusty academic journals. A photograph of the British philosopher Bertrand Russell hangs above a door, as a picture of the Pope might decorate a priest’s study. The professor, his gatekeeper says, has gone for a walk, but he should return soon, if he can find his way back. Apparently, he is exploring a hitherto uncharted underground route on the campus.

I am shown into his office, which looks as if it has been burgled. Papers are piled high and strewn on every available surface. On a desk are photographs of his grandchildren. Chomsky, who has been married to the same woman for more than half a century, has three children, two daughters – one of whom works for Oxfam, the other is a teacher – and a son, who is a software engineer. When finally he does appear, I am informed that my allotted hour has shrunk magically to 45 minutes. Interviewers, it’s intimated, are lining up like planes on a runway waiting for take-off. “Don’t take it personally,” I’m told.

I remind Chomsky of his 1990 visit to Scotland, when he spoke on “self-determination and power” at the Pearce Institute in Govan, Glasgow. “You’ve got to remind me what this is about,” says Chomsky. This does not seem a promising start. I remind him that he is coming to Edinburgh to deliver a Gifford Lecture. “I know that,” he says, rather testily. “But who are you?”

Chomsky is quietly impatient, his voice subdued and crackly. He has retained his wavy hair, which flops over his ears, and he dresses like a style-unconscious academic – black trainers, white socks, denims, charity-shop jumper. To some interviewers he comes across as bitter and despairing but others, including me, find a seam of laconic humour beneath the serious, restrained manner. When he starts to talk he often forgets to stop and in the course of our foreshortened hour he proves as difficult to interrupt as the Queen’s Christmas message. Wind him up and away he goes.

But with Chomsky it’s hard to know where to begin. Having spent more than 50 years at the MIT, he is the author of dozens of books and countless articles. A decade ago, Nature mentioned him in the same breath as Darwin and Descartes. Among his modern peers are Einstein, Picasso and Freud. Apparently, only Shakespeare and the Bible have been cited in scholarly publications more often than Chomsky has been. His influence is equally formidable, including generations of media students and the likes of John Pilger, Harold Pinter, Naomi Klein and James Kelman.

“If Chomsky has a specialist subject,” wrote Kelman, “then some would argue it is not linguistics, nor the philosophy of language, rather it is US global policy, with particular reference to the dissemination of all related knowledge.”

Not all of Chomsky’s devotees would agree with Kelman. Some, such as author and columnist Paul Johnson, wish he’d stuck with linguistics and kept his nose out of politics. Through his study of language and, in particular, syntax, Chomsky is credited with transforming the way foreign languages are taught through his theory of a “universal grammar”, and of “revolutionising our view of the mind”. Several of his books, including Syntactic Structures and Theory Of Syntax, published in 1957 and 1965 respectively, are invariably referred to as essential documents, though they’re hardly accessible to the layman.

Meanwhile Manufacturing Consent, which he co-wrote with Edward Herman in 1988, is on every rookie journalist’s reading list. Chomsky is the sceptics’ sceptic, believing that the true nature of the US’s role in the world is distorted and hidden from the American people by the corporate-owned media elite and federal government representatives who protect business interests in order to get re-elected or keep their jobs in the administration. Though he reluctantly supported Democrat John Kerry’s failed pitch for the presidency last November, Chomsky is neither a Republican nor a Democrat. From his perspective, there’s not a lot to choose between them ; they’re both “business parties”.

We begin by talking about the piece in The American Prospect. “It’s the journal of what they modestly call ‘the decent left’,” he says, oozing contempt. “It’s kind of moderate social democrat and they see themselves as embattled. You know, caught between two powerful forces which are crushing them. One is Dick Cheney, representing the White House, the Pentagon, one of the most powerful forces in history, and the other one – an equal and opposite force – is me. Do you think any intellectual or academic in history has ever received such praise? I mean, it’s way beyond the Nobel Prize. I already got someone to put it on the website. It tells you something about their attitudes. They’re pathetic, frightened, cowardly little people.”

Interesting, I note, that though his face is on the magazine’s cover, his name is nowhere to be seen in the piece. “Oh, no, no, no,” Chomsky says, grinning at my naivety, “you can’t mention it. You can’t mention anything. You can’t read anything. All you can do is report gossip . So you heard some gossip saying that I was in favour of Pol Pot or I support Osama bin Laden. That I’m in favour of [Slobodan] Milosevic. And then you heard it at a dinner party so it must be true. My previous interviewer is doing a documentary mainly on Palestine. She just got a PhD at New York University. She was telling me that if she ever so much as mentioned my name her faculty members practically collapsed in terror. The idea that you could look at anything of mine was so frightening it couldn’t happen. Which is standard. You can’t think because that’s too dangerous. Or you can’t look at public opinion. You should see public opinion. It’s amazing.”

In what way? Just before last November’s presidential election, he says, two of America’s most prestigious public attitude monitoring institutions – the Program on International Policy Attitudes and the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations – published studies which showed that both political parties, the media and what he calls “the decent left” are far to the right of the American public on most major issues. “I’m right in the mainstream,” says Chomsky. “And, of course, it wasn’t reported.”

“ The major facts were just suppressed,” he says. “Actually, these two reports were reported in two local papers in the country and a couple of op eds. That’s it. In the entire country. The most important information possible right before an election.”

What the reports showed, he explains, was that the American public are strongly opposed to the use of force, except in terms of the UN charter, and in the face of imminent attack. “The public wants the UN, not the US, to take the lead in an international crisis,” says Chomsky. “That includes reconstruction, security and so on in Iraq. A majority of the public is actually in favour of giving up the veto at the UN so the US would go along with the majority. An overwhelming majority supports the Kyoto protocol. In fact, so enthusiastically that Bush voters assumed that he was in favour of it, because it was so obviously the right thing to do.

“The same huge majority is in favour of joining the International Criminal Court. A large majority of the population takes it to be a moral issue for the government to provide health care for everybody. It goes on and on like this. The public is far to the left of anything in the establishment.”

Come the elections, he says, the public suffered from mass delusion. They didn’t understand what the candidates stood for. What they were voting for was imagery. “Elections are run by the public relations industry; the same guys who sell toothpaste.” Issues don’t register on the radar. “You don’t talk about what the candidates stand for, what you have is John Kerry goose-hunting and riding his motorcycle and George Bush pretending to be a simple kind of guy, who chops wood and takes care of his cattle …”

And plays golf?

“No, no. You don’t push that too much, that’s elitist. He is supposed to be an ordinary guy. Take a look at him! His sleeves are rolled up; he’s just getting ready to go back to the ranch. You don’t present him as what he is: a spoiled frat boy from Yale who only got somewhere because of his parents.”

Chomsky, one suspects, could continue in this vein ad nauseam. Even now, at an age when most people would rather be in a gated Florida compound than constantly locking horns with the establishment, he persists in banging his head against closed doors. In the US, he is either a pariah or a prophet, “a kind of modern-day soothsayer”, according to his biographer Robert Barsky.

“Unlike many leftists of his generation,” says Barsky, “Chomsky never flirted with movements or organisations that were later revealed to be totalitarian, oppressive, exclusionary, anti-revolutionary, and elitist … He has very little to regret. His work, in fact, contains some of the most accurate analyses of this century.”

Nobody can deny Chomsky’s commitment to the cause of truth. His father was a renowned Hebrew scholar who emigrated from the Ukraine to the United States in 1913 to avoid being drafted into the army. His mother was also a Hebrew scholar and wrote children’s books. Chomsky was born in Philadelphia in 1928, and his precocity was nurtured at an experimental elementary school. By 10, he was reading the proofs of his father’s edition of a 13th-century Hebrew grammar, and writing about the rise of fascism in Spain for his school newspaper. As a teenager he would often take a train from Philadelphia to New York to visit his uncle, who had a newspaper stand and a changeable political viewpoint. “First he was a follower of Trotsky,” Chomsky says, “then he was an anti-Trotskyite. He also taught himself so much Freud he wound up as a lay psychoanalyst with a penthouse apartment.”

At the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Chomsky met his mentor, Zellig Harris, a politically active professor of linguistics. It was Harris who dissuaded him from abandoning his studies and going to Israel where the new state was in formation. In 1956, at an MIT symposium on information theory, Chomsky presented a paper which overturned conventional linguistic wisdom. “Other linguists had said language had all the formal precision of mathematics,” said George Miller, a psychologist who was in the audience, “but Chomsky was the first linguist to make good the claim.”

Throughout his life, Chomsky has maintained his twin interests in politics and linguistics but it is the former which has consumed his energies in recent years and given him such a public profile. When he speaks, he says, crowds turn up in their thousands. In Sweden, the venue changed from a small hall to a football stadium. He turns down many more requests than he accepts. Rarely does he agree to appear on American television, because – as I can testify – he will not compromise by talking in sound bites. Proper discourse requires time to allow arguments to develop.

“You can only be on television if you have concision,” he says. “That means you can say something between two commercials. That’s a terrific technique of propaganda. On the rare occasions when I’ m asked to be on television, I usually refuse for this reason. If you’re gonna be asked a question, say, about terrorism and you’re given three sentences between commercials, you’ve got two choices. You can repeat conventional ideology – you say, yeah, Iran supports terrorism. Or you can sound like you’re from Neptune. You can say, yeah, the US is one of the leading terrorist states. The people have a right to ask what you mean. And so if it was a sane news channel – al-Jazeera, say – you could talk about it and explain what you mean. You’re not allowed to do that in the United States.”

On occasion, one suspects, Chomsky doth protest too much. Like fellow American “dissidents”, such as Michael Moore and Gore Vidal, he may complain about the manipulative power of the media and government but he can hardly complain that he has been rendered voiceless. Indeed, these days the internet is a potent weapon in his armoury. He can’t be both the most cited living person and marginalised.

There is little doubt, however, that his relentless monitoring of the American media and his fundamental distrust of the denizens of Washington DC make him a formidable and eloquent adversary and, consequently, persona non grata in certain quarters. In general, he believes that the US should stay out of other countries’ affairs. Bush’s White House, he says, only believes in democracy when it serves American interests. The same guys who backed Saddam Hussein’s brutal suppression of the Shi’ites are the ones who ordered the invasion of Iraq.

He is in full flow, bashing Paul Wolfowitz, the architect of the war in Iraq and US nominee for the presidency of the World Bank, rubbishing Tony Blair – “I suppose Hitler believed what he was saying too” – and recalling how, in 1985, Ronald Reagan declared a national emergency because he thought Nicaragua was about to march into Texas, when his assistant pokes her head round his door and says my 45-minute hour is up. On the way out, Chomsky draws my attention to a ghoulish painting hidden behind a filing cabinet.

“It’s a terrific Rorschach test,” he says menacingly. “When I ask people from North America what it is, nobody knows. When I ask people from South America, everybody knows. If you ask people from Europe, maybe 10% know. What it is, is Archbishop Romero on the 25th anniversary of his assassination [in El Salvador], six Latin American intellectuals – Jesuits – who were also murdered, all by elite forces armed and trained by the United States who also killed another 70,000 people. Nobody knows a thing about it.

“Suppose it had been in Czechoslovakia. Suppose the Russians had murdered an archbishop and killed [Vaclav] Havel and half-a-dozen of his associates. Would we know about it? Yeah. We probably would have nuked them. But when we do it, it doesn’t exist. It reminds me of the world.”

Noam Chomsky will give the Gifford Lecture – Illegal but Legitimate: A Dubious Doctrine for the Times – at the McEwan Hall, Edinburgh, at 5.15pm on Tuesday

20 March 2005

Blue assed and red assed baboons

Commenting on the US elections on the Usenet Subgenius mailing list alt.slack

Every few years they make a red-assed baboon and a blue-assed baboon
fight, and the winner gets to be king. Some people think red-assed
baboons are angels and blue-assed baboons are devils, and some people
think just the opposite. But whichever one wins is still only a baboon,
which only knows one trick - stealing your wallet.

And you can quote me.


Nenslo is the satirist's satirist.

Template Change

I just had to change my template as it seems to be chopping off the sidebar and putting it down the bottom if one uses M$ IE6. Firefox seems to be ok. WEIRD! I'm able to edit posts from Firefox but not IE6...... yet another reason to use the Mozilla stuff :-)

I tried a variety of templates in "untampered" with mode and it seemed to do the sidebar chop in IE6 with the majority of them. This was the only one that seemed to work. I thought it was some of my hapless cut and pasting of links but it sems to be based from the original template.

Now I gotta figure out how to get my little infinity logo up in the header.

Waxing cars

I haven't written much in the past week. Mainly due to being pretty busy at work and secondly forgetting what to write. Sometimes I'm at work and I think, that would make a good observation to cast upon the internet, when I get home I can't remember what it was I was going to write.

Anyway the groom to be in my previous entry ended up with a cracked rib after his buck's day. This was unexpected as we were pretty well behaved by buck's night standards. As I said there was a lot of laughter and plenty of wiseacreing but nothing out of the ordinary in a rough and tumble sense. We were all home before 8pm and tidied up his back yard after the event (I think he found two botttle caps in the whole back yard) The groom can't even remember how he broke the rib, he thinks it may have been falling over in the bus as it braked around a corner.

Anyway I'm off to help him tomorrow shine his car up for the big day this Easter Saturday. One of life's pleasures for me and something I'm quite good at is car detailing. I'll be using the "perfect shine" method which is about a 4 or five hour process. It involves "layering" sealants and waxes on the car which gives it a really good "liquid" depth.

My interest in detailing goes back to my teens when my father had a large General Motors car with lots of bright shiny chrome and a really nice paint job, I used to enjoy cleaning it and waxing it for him. They bug never went away. I still get out from time to time and wax my own cars, the thing being is that because I do such a good job, I really don't have to do it that often. I was asked a couple of times after detailing my car if I had it resprayed!

Nevertheless I have a tub full of some of the best waxes, sealants and other finishes you can get. It's a sickness! Anyway theres a heap of us with this sickness at the website which consists of professional and enthusiast detailers. Debate is always ongoing comparing Meguairs, Zaino and some of the German brands (which I use) is best. I don't post there very often but pop in from time to time to get the latest.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Male rites of passage

Yesterday I attended a bucks day for a friend of mine who is getting married over Easter. It was a very funny, involved quite a bit of alcohol and the poor groom to be was seen at the later stages wearing a pink feather boa and some badly applied lipstick and mascara.Get a group of entirely males togther and the main sound seems to be laughter.

More later on being male and male rites of passage............

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Radiohead are Demi-Gods

Not much else I can add to that.

Flaky Feed Services Rant


Observations from a struggling new blogger.

As per recommendations from several websites, I've subscribed to a couple of feed services and have thus far found them extremely flaky and/or user unfriendly. The three being at this stage Feedster, Technorati and Feedburner.

Feedster is a nightmare in user friendliness and buggy code. Last time this blog was updated on Feedster was 1 month ago. And to remotely even find an article one has to type in the blog address which sort of defeats the whole purpose of having a feed. The user panel spits out null results and often results don't materialise at all. I've claimed my feed to get some sort of web presence, I go to the MyFeedster section where I can edit my feeds (This page is cool it's main body section is EXACTLY the same as the frame). I get the message

Whoops! First you need to visit the Claim Your Feed page.

Which I've already done. So being a coding dumbass I assume its MY fault, go to the "claim my feed" page again, cut and paste the feed address from my blog settings page, reclaim the feed, cut and paste the auto generated code from Feedster into the Godawful blogspot composer, republish the website again, go back to Feedster to press the FINAL "Claim my Feeds" button which should tie every thing up. My heart sings when I get the message.

Congratulations. Feedster now knows that you are the owner of your feed and you can begin to edit your claimed feed(s).

Clicking the edit your claimed feeds gives me.

Whoops! First you need to visit the Claim Your Feed page.
Back to square one again. I've done this 5 times now and given up on Feedster altogether. It is as Gudjieff says "le merde de le merde".

Technorati says it will send a snippet of code to my email once I claim my feed. I can then make my feed service more relevant. The email with the snippet has failed to turn up. Add to this my user password was denied this morning which had to be reset (to the exact same password!). An email sent to support-at-technoratidotcom has resulted in a robot reply with a reference number in the eighty thousand range. Yeah, like I'm going to hear from them!

Feedburner....... can't even log on to their main page. It was DOWN. ****Edit**** one of the guys from Feedburner has actually contacted me (very quickly) so I suppose the feeds there are working and he didn't get his feed from Feedster. This is how a GOOD FEED should work. A real person contacting in around 40 minutes (how COOL is that!!!!!) kudos to Dick Costolo and Feedburner crew. You've given me faith in what seemed the faceless web organizations.

I suppose you get what you pay for but this whole feed business reminds me of the web circa 1994.

Blogspot in dashboard mode seems to be in perpetual "waiting" time when clicking on links, depending on the link, position of the planet Mercury, the feng shui of my office and the state of karma between my computer and the server in the USA. Even saving draft copies can end up in a "Sorry but you lost all that" message. I've learnt to back up long pieces using cut and paste onto my clipboard.
Computer Haiku

A file that big?
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.

So far the best feed service is from Firefox where you can load a live bookmark to keep up with blogs of interest.

the wreckroom

the wreckroom

The first person who I don't know to leave a comment. Cool! Here's his work space.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Surveillance Camera Theatre

I found this delightful performance to a surveillance camera in Times Square New York.

It's from the Surveillance Camera Players

The master's new bed.

The Black cat's new bed seems to be on top of some leather boots! Looks uncomfortable but he seems happy.

On the Topic of cats. Did you know that Scientists don't know how cats purr? It's also undetermined whether cats purr only in the presence of humans. One of the rare instances in science where we know why but not how. Posted by Hello

What is wrong with this graph?

Look at the graph below.In statistics they'd call the top bar a "statistical aberation". I prefer to think it of a "statistical abhorroration".

$421 BILLION for defense projects in the USA. The remaining $400 billion goes on everything else. And think of this, dear,kind, old, benevolent Uncle Sam allocates the generous sum of $15,000 for civilians killed in friendly fire incidents.

There's going to be overlap into my frames and loss of detail because the top bar is so bloody BIG. For a better view go here

Nott and Gurdjieff meet Crowley

I was reading CS Nott's book "Teachings of Gurdjieff- A Pupil's Journal" and came across this interesting passage. It's a first hand eye witness event from Nott himself, who had met "The Great Beast" a few days before Crowley's meeting with Gurdjieff.

I've read about Crowley staying at the Prieure to combat drug addiction. As well as a "magical" showdown that never eventuated. It seems from Nott's recollection the rendevous is a tad milder...... with a cup of tea in the salon, nevertheless the white/black magician impression is commented upon.

"One day in Paris I met an acquaintance from New York who spoke about the possibilities of publishing modern literature. As I showed some interest, he offered to introduce me to a friend of his who was thinking of going into publishing, and we arranged to meet the following day at the Select in Montparnasse. His friend arrived;it was Aleister Crowley. Drinks were ordered, for which of course I paid, and we began to talk. Crowley had magnetism, and the kind of charm which many charlatans have; he also had a dead weight that was somewhat impressive. His attitude was fatherly and benign, and a few years earlier I might have fallen for it. Now I saw and sensed that I could have nothing to do with him. He talked in general terms about publishing, and then drifted into his black-magic jargon.

"To make a success of anything," he said, "including publishing, you must have a certain combination. Here you have a Master, here a Bear, there the Dragon- a triangle which will bring results..." and so on and so on. When he fell silent I said, "Yes, but one must have money. Am I right in supposing that you have the necessary capital?". "I?" he asked, "No not a franc." "Neither have I." I said.

Knowing that I was at the Prieure he asked me if I would get him an invitation there. But I did not wish to be responsible for introducing such a man. However, to my surprise, he appeared there a few days later and was given tea in the salon. The children were there, and he said to one of the boys something about his son who he was teaching to be a devil. Gurdjieff got up and spoke to the boy, who thereupon took no further notice of Crowley. There was some talk between Crowley and Gurdjieff, who kept a sharp watch on him all the time. I got the strong impression of two magicians, the white and the black- the one strong, powerful, full of light; the other also powerful but heavy, dull and ignorant. Though "black"" was too strong a word for Crowley; he never understood the meaning of real black magic, yet hundreds of people came under his "spell". He was clever. But as Gurdjieff says: "He is stupid who is clever."

Orage said about this:"Alas poor Crowley, I knew him well. We used to meet at the Society for Psychical Research when I was acting secretary. Once when we were talking he asked: "By the way, what number are you?" Not knowing in the least what he meant, I said on the spur of the moment, "Twelve". "Good God, are you really?" he replied, "I'm only seven". "

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Spam Header of the Day #2

******Refinance the Right Way- Christian Family loans***********

Crux Australis

A friend of mine in the northern hemisphere says she's never seen the Southern Cross. I was the same up until a couple of years ago, there were stars I had never seen in my life when I went to the north part of the planet..... I felt out of kilter and a little lost when I looked skyward. Down here, if the stars are out I can tell which direction I'm facing and where North East, West and South is.

So I'd say she'd think the same way if she came downunder for awhile, since she's pretty knowledgeable astronomically and astrologically!

Here's a linked photo,it was shining so brightly last night. The "fingernail moon" (as I used to call it when I was a kid) was glowing nearby.

Ready, FIRE, Aim

What happens if you go to the shops too fast in Iraq.

Another case in the news today of one of these "US checkpoints" in Iraq shooting first and asking questions later. Reporter Giuliana Sgrena was released by Iraqi kidnappers, then was shot upon her exit by the very same force that is supposedly spreading peace and democracy in Iraq.

Much like the example in mid-January where a young families parents were killed, there appears to be conflicting stories of what actually happened.

This is how the incident is being reported by the American ABC news

By 8:55 p.m., according to a statement from the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, "U.S. soldiers killed one civilian and wounded two others when their vehicle traveling at high speeds refused to stop at a check point."

Sgrena's boyfriend, Pier Scolari, said she told him that the car wasn't speeding. Sgrena subsequently told interviewers the car was traveling at "regular speed."

The U.S. military said the Americans used "hand and arm signals, flashing white lights, and firing warning shots" to try to get the car to stop. But in an interview with Italian La 7 TV, Sgrena said "there was no bright light, no signal, and at a certain point, from one side, a firestorm erupted."

When The Associated Press in Baghdad asked the U.S. military to see the vehicle on Saturday, the military said it didn't know where it was.

Unanswered questions:

How many people were wounded? The Americans said two civilians: Sgrena and an intelligence agent. Italian authorities said two agents were wounded besides Sgrena. Italian military officials declined to clear up the discrepancy and Berlusconi's office did not respond to a request for information.

Looking around for a an Iraqi Checkpoint photo. I came across this website. It describes what seems sensible way to set up a checkpoint if you are are an occupying army. There have been three instances that I can recall of a vehicle failing to slow down and the innocent occupants being killed. Bad press city.

What seems to happen is someone (US army cowboys) start firing at someone (Iraqi Mum and Dad in a Toyota Tarago), in a split second Dad has to decide to get away or stop. Some of these get reported if there are journalists around. But being a journalist is a risk in itself with about 70 killed by US forces so far.

The below seems to be a preventative way of doing this by creating a chicanes, speed humps etc . This one is a larger more permanent structure, however some of the key concepts could be utilised to prevent the onset of "friendly fire" and really esatblish an air of authority.

Hey...... and another positive, it adds to the the economy as more tax dollars go towards creating "Peace in Iraq".

Vehicle Checkpoints

1) Vehicle check points present many dangers and there is no foolproof method of eliminating all dangers. Here are some of the problems:

a) People driving straight through on purpose, perhaps using weapons, putting VCP staff, passing public as well as themselves in danger.

b) Suicide or other car bombers intending to stop with the same dangers.

c) Innocent persons accidentally driving through and being killed or injured by VCP obstacles and/or by VCP staff, with very bad effects for the victims, for the in Iraq and Worldwide publicity and for morale of VCP staff.

d) People of evil intent being able to see staff routines and the methods of checking, and discovering weaknesses, and thus reducing the value of the VCP.

e) Long hold ups, dismaying road users and causing bad publicity.

f) Difficulty prioritising vehicles to be searched.

g) Apart from the above, the difficulty of actually training the staff and doing the checking and running the VCP.

2) Defence-Structures Vehicle Check Points can offer some remedies to some of these problems. It should not surprise anyone that the end result is like a motorway fuel station, or an efficient cross border customs post.
The checkpoint must provide:

a) A labyrinth forcing at least 2 sharp changes of direction which have to be taken slowly.

b) The straight-on route has to be very clearly seen to be impassable, by day or night, with no by-pass.

c) The route through has to be divided into several lanes, as many as needed to keep the queues down.

d) Each bay needs an easy way of preventing vehicles from leaving; chain hedge hogs can help here. The exit must also have a gate covered by observation posts and the rapid reaction room.

e) Each bay should be separated by cover from view screens or blast walls, depending on the threat.

f) Each bay must be observed by a sangar which either covers the bay with armed equipment or at least appears to, as well as the 1 or 2 vehicle checkers per bay.

g) The VCP should provide secure and comfortable accommodation, rapid reaction guardroom, observation posts.

h) The normal security systems are needed, depending on the perceived threat, as well as grillage floors.

i) Steel road bumps discourage high speed.

j) An overall roof provides weather protection.

This is sooooooo sensible if you think that an occupying foreign army, has the right to stop, search and shoot ANYONE when they go down to shops to get some bread and milk. The point being there should be no bloody checkpoints in the first place.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Interrogation Techniques Approved at Guantanamo Bay

Below is a series of Interrogation Techniques approved fro use at Guantanamo Bay. Some of these are familiar from the movies. The "Mutt and Jeff" technique is the same as the "Good Cop/Bad Cop " routine.

A more detailed analysis of this can be found via Global Security online where the page is descibed as FM 34-52 Appendix H. The main FM (Field Manual) 34-52 is the US Army's Intelligence Interrogation field manual dated 1987.

They sound humane and reasonable when written as below. However read my post Fear up Interrogation 101 for a rather chilling example.

The below is from USA Today

U.S. interrogation techniques

In late 2002 and early 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved specific interrogation techniques for extracting information from Taliban and al-Qaeda detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Bush administration made the previously classified lists public Tuesday. The final April 2003 list of 24 techniques approved by Rumsfeld, plus three he rejected out of hand and seven that were initially approved but apparently later rejected:

Approved techniques

"Direct": Asking straightforward questions.

"Incentive/removal of incentive": Providing a reward or removing a privilege, beyond those that are required by the Geneva Conventions.

"Emotional love": Playing on the love a detainee has for an individual or a group.

"Emotional hate": Playing on the hatred a detainee has for an individual or a group.

"Fear up harsh": Significantly increasing the fear level in a detainee. (This is generally interpreted as yelling or throwing things but not touching the detainee.)

"Fear up mild": Moderately increasing the fear level in a detainee.

"Reduced fear": Reducing the fear level in a detainee.

"Pride and ego up": Boosting the ego of a detainee.

"Pride and ego down": Attacking and insulting the ego of a detainee, not beyond the limits that would apply to a prisoner of war. (Guidance notes that while the Geneva Conventions prohibit threatening or insulting subjects who refuse to answer, the detainees are not formally considered prisoners of war. Guidance says "consideration should be given" to the views of "other nations" that POWs should be afforded such protections.)

"Futility": Invoking the feeling of futility in a detainee.

"We know all": Convincing a detainee that the interrogator already knows the answer to the question he is asking.

"Establish your identity": Convincing a detainee that the interrogator has mistaken him for someone else.

"Repetition approach": Continuously repeating the same question to a detainee within interrogation periods of normal duration.

"File and dossier": Convincing a detainee that the interrogator has a damning and inaccurate file that must be fixed.

"Mutt and Jeff": Pairing a friendly interrogator with a harsh one.

"Rapid fire": Questioning in rapid succession without allowing detainee to answer.

"Silence": Staring at a detainee to encourage discomfort.

"Change of scenery up": Removing a detainee from the standard interrogation setting — generally to a more pleasant location, but not to a worse one.

"Change of scenery down": Moving a detainee from the standard interrogation setting to one less comfortable, but not one that would constitute a substantial change in environmental quality.

"Dietary manipulation": Changing the diet of a detainee, but with no intended deprivation of food or water and without an adverse cultural or medical effect. Example: substituting MREs (U.S. military "meals ready to eat") for hot rations.

"Environmental manipulation": Altering the environment to create moderate discomfort, such as by adjusting the temperature or introducing an unpleasant smell. Conditions would not be such that they would injure a detainee, and the detainee would be accompanied by an interrogator at all times. (Guidance cautions that some nations view this as "inhumane" and says that "consideration of these views should be given before application of this technique.")

"Sleep adjustment": Adjusting the sleeping times of a detainee, such as by reversing sleep cycles from night to day. Guidance notes that "this technique is not sleep deprivation."

"False flag": Convincing detainees that individuals from a country other than the United States are interrogating them. (Some other countries condone torture.)

"Isolation": Isolating a detainee from other detainees while still complying with the basic standards of treatment. (A lengthy guidance notes that this technique requires detailed instructions and guidelines, has not generally been used for more than 30 days, and requires approval for extensions of the length of the isolation.)

Techniques approved in December 2002 but apparently dropped in April 2003:

• Forced shaving of the beard or the head.

• Hooding during transport and interrogation.

• Interrogations for up to 20 hours.

• Use of mild, non-injurious contact.

• Stress positions, such as standing, for a maximum of four hours.

• Removing a detainee's clothing.

• Use of dogs to frighten a detainee.

Techniques proposed by Guantanamo interrogators but rejected by Rumsfeld in December 2002:

• The use of scenarios designed to convince a detainee that death or severely painful consequences are imminent for him or his family.

• Exposure to cold weather or cold water, with appropriate medical monitoring.

• Use of a wet towel and dripping water to induce the misperception of suffocation.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

"Fear Up" Interrogation Technique 101

I was doing research on Interrogation techniques and came across this message on another blog.

Couple of things I find absolutely abhorrent with this. The writer rejects humiliation as used in Abu Ghraib not on ethical grounds but efficiency grounds. And he regards the following technique as AMUSING. Wonder if he tells his kids about it, probably.... with some pride.

"Years ago, when I was being trained in interrogation techniques, I remember the "Mutt and Jeff", the "Fear Up", the "Fear Down", the "We Know All", and the "We Know Nothing", but I don't recall ever being told about a "Humiliation Up" technique. Prisoners don't "break" when they're humiliated, they just fold up and get even more silent. Shame has a silencing effect on people, and silence isn't golden during interrogation, obviously.

One thing which is legal and works, though, and is somewhat amusing, is, you have several prisoners in a room, bound hand and foot, and gagged but not blindfolded. You keep an extra gag in your sleeve and create a veiled partition where you can see the shadow/silhouette of people on the other side, but not the detail.

You take one random prisoner into the veiled area making sure the others see this. In the veiled area, you make it look like you're removing the prisoner's gag, pulling the extra one out of your sleeve. You aim a pistol parallel to a line of fire toward their head but such that it will miss the head when fired, demand that they talk, and when they don't (because obviously they can't), fire. When you do, push that prisoner to the ground, tripping him, making it look like he fell from being shot in the head.

Because he's gagged and bound, any struggling or what-not will appear to be the writhing of a dead man from a head shot. Quickly drag the first prisoner away, and bring the second one into the veiled area, being sure to pick out the one prisoner who looks the MOST frightened by the bluff-shot event. (A check of urine stains often helps in this selection.) You then repeat the pantomime process, but instead of pretending you really do remove his gag. He might or might not talk--if he does, you leverage the information as quickly as possible to get more information in further interrogations, passing what you learn up to analysts as quickly as possible.

If he doesn't talk, you say "this time you will be spared but you will be asked this question later, and next time you might or might not be spared." Go on down the line of prisoners, tending to bluff with the ones that look tougher, and "spare" the ones that look weaker or more scared. That would be an example of the "Fear Up" approach; not 100% textbook, but a field expedient application of what's textbook. Some troops used to call it the "haunted house" technique. Clever illusions used to produce fear.

The Fletcher Memorial Home for Incurables

 Posted by Hello

The Fletcher Memorial Home

by Roger Waters?

Take all your overgrown infants away somewhere
And build them a home, a little place of their own.
The Fletcher Memorial
Home for Incurable Tyrants and Kings.

And they can appear to themselves every day
On closed circuit T.V.
To make sure they're still real.
It's the only connection they feel.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, Reagan and Haig,
Mr. Begin and friend, Mrs. Thatcher, and Paisly,
"Hello Maggie!"
Mr. Brezhnev and party.
"Who's the bald chap?"
The ghost of McCarthy,
The memories of Nixon.
And now, adding color, a group of anonymous latin-
American Meat packing glitterati.

Did they expect us to treat them with any respect?
They can polish their medals and sharpen their
Smiles, and amuse themselves playing games for awhile.
Boom boom, bang bang, lie down you're dead.

Safe in the permanent gaze of a cold glass eye
With their favorite toys
They'll be good girls and boys
In the Fletcher Memorial Home for colonial
Wasters of life and limb.

Is everyone in?
Are you having a nice time?
Now the final solution can be applied