From Pine View Farm

November, 2005 archive

Sony Claims To Discontinue Rootkit 2

According to the Register, Sony is stopping production of CDs infected with a rootkit:

Sony BMG has said it will suspend production of audio ‘CDs’ that use XCP, the rootkit-style DRM developed by British company First4Internet Ltd. However the music giant refused to apologize for the software, which exposes PCs to malware and which can disable the PC’s CD drive when users try to remove the software.

Sony also declined to follow EMI’s example in September and recall CDs already in the retail channels.

But given their demonstrated underhanded willingness to sabotage their customers’ computers, can they be believed?


Incarceration without Any Cause-r-ation 0

John Cusack quoting Winston Churchill:

“The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.”


The World According to Kansas 0

Courtesy Jesus’ General.

The World According to Kansas


A Sony of Your Owny 0

I wrote earlier about Sony’s rootkit.

It apparently has now fallen into the hands of malware authors:

Virus writers have begun taking advantage of Sony-BMG’s use of rootkit technology in DRM software bundled with its music CDs.

Sony-BMG’s rootkit DRM technology masks files whose filenames start with “$sys$”. A newly-discovered variant of of the Breplibot Trojan takes advantage of this to drop the file “$sys$drv.exe” in the Windows system directory.

Now you can have a Sony of your owny, even if you don’t want it.


Concentration Camps and an AOL Poll 0

Though it is aggressively unscientific, the little poll I saw here had interesting results:

Question 1:

Should the U.S. ban abusive treatment of terrorism suspects?
Yes 80%
No 20%

Question 2:

President Bush has said “we do not torture” terrorism suspects. Do you believe him?
No 88%
Yes 12%

Total Votes: 24,963

The question I have is, where have the 12% responding to question 2 been the last few weeks?

I have to remember to go back to it later.


Torture. Now Part of the American Tradition? 0

There is nothing new here. I had the thought, let’s just pull together a bunch of stories about the current Federal Administration and their belief that torture is somehow part of truth, justice, and the American Way.

Disgusting, isn’t it?

White House pressures Congress to reject torture amendment

Senate Supports Interrogation Limits

McCain fights exception to torture ban

Senate Defies Cheney, Passes Anti-Torture Measure

Vice President for Torture

McCain Vows to Add Detainee-Abuse Provision to All Senate Bills

Torture: The Scandal Among Scandals

Senate, Cheney divided over torture ban



White House Wants CIA Exempt from Torture Ban

US Senate Reaffirms Support for Amendment Banning Torture

U.S. policy: “Torture in our name?”

Cheney in the Bunker

John McCain v. Bush: Defying the president, the Senate condemns torturing anyone in American custody anywhere

Truth About Torture

Administration Wants CIA Exemption on Torture Bill

No torture, no exceptions

Negroponte won’t back Cheney on torture

Senator: Bush wrongheaded on torture ban

Cheney under siege


Fascinating 0

Today’s Los Angeles Times has a fascinating article on the last Shaker community. It’s well worth a read. Here’s a start:

NEW GLOUCESTER, Maine — For more than two centuries, the Shakers deftly balanced prayer with pragmatism. God would provide, they were certain. And what God overlooked, they took care of themselves.

Thus these pious men and women came to invent such practical devices as the spring-loaded clothespin, the flat-bottom broom and the circular saw. They patented a washing machine in 1858. Their multi-chambered oven from 1878 strongly resembles contemporary restaurant ovens.


The Shakers were never large in number. At the sect’s peak before the Civil War, 5,000 claimed membership in the monastic Protestant fellowship in which men and women live as brothers and sisters. The group, known formally as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, counsels self-reliance and mandates celibacy.

Today, four Shakers remain: two elderly women and two graying men. They are pondering the future not only of their faith but of their way of life.


Dover, Darwin, and Decision 0

A while ago I wrote about the Dover, Pa., school board’s religious crusade.

The citizens of the Dover School District have turned out the school board.

DOVER, Pa. – Voters in this rural school district yesterday ousted eight school board members who backed a controversial policy to introduce high school students to intelligent design, which critics say is a form of creationism.

Voters replaced the GOP incumbents with a Democratic slate that called for removing intelligent design from Dover’s science curriculum, returns from all six precincts showed.

It would appear that the citizens of Dover believe that public school teachers, as agents of the state, should be responsible for course work, not missionary work.

A little win in a little battle against the forces of ignorance.


The Forces of Ignorance March On 2

Oh my heavens.

TOPEKA, Nov. 8 — The Kansas Board of Education voted Tuesday that students will be expected to study doubts about modern Darwinian theory, a move that defied the nation’s scientific establishment even as it gave voice to religious conservatives and others who question the theory of evolution.

By a 6-4 vote that supporters cheered as a victory for free speech and opponents denounced as shabby politics and worse science, the board said high school students should be told that aspects of widely accepted evolutionary theory are “controversial.” Among other points, the standards allege a “lack of adequate natural explanations for the genetic code.”

In contrast,

The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect “total accuracy” from the Bible.

“We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in The Gift of Scripture.

The document is timely, coming as it does amid the rise of the religious Right, in particular in the US.

Some Christians want a literal interpretation of the story of creation, as told in Genesis, taught alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution in schools, believing “intelligent design” to be an equally plausible theory of how the world began.

But the first 11 chapters of Genesis, in which two different and at times conflicting stories of creation are told, are among those that this country’s Catholic bishops insist cannot be “historical”. At most, they say, they may contain “historical traces”

I wonder how the Board of Education of the State of Congress would react if someone wished to promulgate the creation story of Ancient Greece in the curriculum as a version of Intelligent Design. After all, it has not been conclusively disproven.

Personally, I believe the science curriculum of the State of Kansas should offer as an alternative the theory that it’s turtles all the way down. After all, no one has disproven that beyond all doubt.

Whatever one’s religious beliefs, or lack thereof, I would hope one would find the hypocrisy of the Board of Education of the State of Kansas in attempting to promulgate a particular religious view of a segment of a particular religion as science to be sick-making.


Nixonian Tactics 2

Several weeks ago, my friend Steve and I exchanged some emails about the Internal Revenue Service’s investigation of a church with a view to removing its tax exempt status; the leaders of the church in question had endorsed particular right-wing political candidates from the pulpit.

Now, Steve and I have not directly discussed political allegiances, but I suspect our votes would cancel each other out in many cases. But the idea of using the tax exempt status as a polical weapon made both of us queasy, because of the interpretation involved in determining what actually constituted prohibited speech.

Certainly there’s statements that would clearly constitute endorsement (“God says, ‘Vote for X’) and statements that would clearly not constitute endorsement (“Elections are good.”), but there’s a hell of a lot of gray in between those two extremes.

Here’s IRS Publication 557 on this topic. See pages 45-47.

Here’s a pamphlet defending the practice of investisgating tax exempt status for political speech(see pages 5 and 6 for the article).

Now the kind of thing Steve and I feared seems to be coming to pass, according to the L. A. Times:

The Internal Revenue Service has warned one of Southern California’s largest and most liberal churches that it is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status because of an antiwar sermon two days before the 2004 presidential election.

Rector J. Edwin Bacon of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena told many congregants during morning services Sunday that a guest sermon by the church’s former rector, the Rev. George F. Regas, on Oct. 31, 2004, had prompted a letter from the IRS.

In his sermon, Regas, who from the pulpit opposed both the Vietnam War and 1991’s Gulf War, imagined Jesus participating in a political debate with then-candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry. Regas said that “good people of profound faith” could vote for either man, and did not tell parishioners whom to support (emphasis added).

But he criticized the war in Iraq, saying that Jesus would have told Bush, “Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster.”

On June 9, the church received a letter from the IRS stating that “a reasonable belief exists that you may not be tax-exempt as a church … ” The federal tax code prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns and elections.

The letter went on to say that “our concerns are based on a Nov. 1, 2004, newspaper article in the Los Angeles Times and a sermon presented at the All Saints Church discussed in the article.”

Now, as Harry Shearer likes to point out, stories in the L. A. Times need to be carefully vetted.

I urge you to read the entire story to see how resoundingly the pastor’s action fall in the gray area I mentioned above.


The Return of COINTELPRO 0

One of the arguments made for the Patriot Act was that existing federal law made it too difficult for federal agencies to combine foreign and domestic intelligence to figure out the big picture.

The reason those laws were written was COINTELPRO, a domestic surveillance program by the FBI which turned into political surveillance of persons seen as disapproving of the Federal Administration, whoever it happened to be during the existence of COINTEPRO. The Church Report’s summary described it as follows:

COINTELPRO began in 1956, in part because of frustration with Supreme Court rulings limiting the Government’s power to proceed overtly against dissident groups; it ended in 1971 with the threat of public exposure. 1 In the intervening 15 years, the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence.

Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that. The unexpressed major premise of the programs was that a law enforcement agency has the duty to do whatever is necessary to combat perceived threats to the existing social and political order.

Well, it’s baaaacccckkkkkk:

The burgeoning use of national security letters coincides with an unannounced decision to deposit all the information they yield into government data banks — and to share those private records widely, in the federal government and beyond. In late 2003, the Bush administration reversed a long-standing policy requiring agents to destroy their files on innocent American citizens, companies and residents when investigations closed. Late last month, President Bush signed Executive Order 13388, expanding access to those files for “state, local and tribal” governments and for “appropriate private sector entities,” which are not defined.

National security letters offer a case study of the impact of the Patriot Act outside the spotlight of political debate. Drafted in haste after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the law’s 132 pages wrought scores of changes in the landscape of intelligence and law enforcement. Many received far more attention than the amendments to a seemingly pedestrian power to review “transactional records.” But few if any other provisions touch as many ordinary Americans without their knowledge.

Follow the link. Read the entire story. Then consider whether the Patriot Act in its current form might better be named the Patronizing Act.

And remember Lord Acton’s admonition.


In Other News, Brazil Is Drying Up 0

I mentioned somewhere earlier in these ramblings that, wherever I go, I get the local rag. The local rag where I am today had a very interesting story of weather and devastation. Not rapid devastation, as we saw in New Orleans and Florida, but slow devastation (warning: free registration required to read the entire article):

MANAQUIRI, Brazil – While hurricanes thousands of miles away battered the United States and the Caribbean with water and wind, the residents of this fishing town deep in the Amazon region watched the lake they depend on shrivel away.

Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians across seven states have been hit this year by the region’s worst drought in four decades – the result, meteorologists say, of warmer ocean water, which also is being blamed for one of the most violent hurricane seasons on record around the Gulf of Mexico.


The last time the Amazon felt such withering conditions was in 1963, meteorologists say. Less severe droughts have hit parts of the Amazon twice over the past decade during the annual dry season, which runs from July to September.

This year, some towns, such as Tabatinga near the Colombian and Peruvian borders, received a fifth of their normal rainfall. Water levels on the Amazon and other rivers have dropped as much as 33 feet.


Interesting Take on the Valerie Plame Case 0

Chris Satullo, in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, takes a realistic, and ironical, look at the insinuation that a trip to Niger was somehow a junket:

When White House leakers tried to discredit Joseph Wilson IV, their method was to insinuate that Wilson’s fact-finding trip to Niger in 2002 had been a junket wangled by his CIA-agent wife. In other words, rank nepotism.

Right. A junket to Niger. Niger?

Yes, sir. If you wanted to exploit your CIA badge to score a nice little perk for your hubby, where else would you send him but a sub-Saharan nation where 85 percent of the land mass is arid, where the annual per capita income is a whopping $230, and the locust swarms come repeatedly? Living large in West Africa, eh? Grounds for divorce is more like it.


. . . First, Wilson was a logical choice for the mission. He was a highly praised deputy chief of mission in Baghdad during the first Gulf War (when Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction) and a former ambassador in West Africa. He was not a sworn opponent of invasion at the time of his trip.

Second, all together now: a junket to Niger? The media may be dumb, but they know what a junket looks like. If they forget, all they have to do is follow Tom DeLay around.


Big Silver Bird 2

I frequently travel to Southern California on business, and usually end up on America West. They’ve generally done a good job for me since they emerged from bankruptcy–only one missed connection, and I can’t blame the airline for violent thunderstorms in Philadelphia.

If you don’t know, America West no longer offers complimentary food service on any of their flights. Instead, they offer food for sale. Usually, I come equipped with a bag of beef jerky and a couple of packs of cheese crackers, but my flight took off early today and I didn’t want crackers for breakfast, so when the crew came around offering their meals for sale, I got one: a hot ham, cheese, and egg sandwich.

The eggs were okay. The ham was actually pretty good. The cheese, well, I’m a sucker for cheese, real or artificial.

But, frankly, someone in their menu planning staff needs a reality check. The sandwich would have been good on rye, good on pumpernickel, good on wheat, okay on sponge bre–American white bread.

But on cinnamon-raison bread?

Aside from that, the flight worked. I lived in metal tubes for six and a half hours and survived, made my connections, and got to my destination on time. And my seat mates all weighed less than 300 pounds.


A Woman Who Plots Her Revenge 0

Courtesy of the Obscure Store and Reading Room:

The evening of May 7 Mr. Slaby took a nap at Ms. O’Toole’s home.

He woke “to a strong burning sensation” in his genital area and found red and blue nail polish poured in his hair, the suit says. Glue had been used on his private parts and an unflattering comment had been painted in nail polish on his back.

The suit says Ms. O’Toole took away the man’s keys and clothing and told him she’d planned the attack since their breakup months earlier.


Second Thoughts: Maybe It’s Not So Lame 0

Hmmmm. Maybe I was too quick to react in the previous post.

Maybe the current Federal Administration is laying the groundwork for the defense predicted by Alan Dershowitz:

So here’s my prediction about how the Scooter Libby case will go down. His two new lawyers (both of whom are tough, experienced and first rate) will demand every bit of classified information arguably relevant to his defense. The independent prosecutor will seek to turn the material over, because he knows that unless they are turned over, the judge may well dismiss the charges.

But the intelligence agencies will veto the independent prosecutor’s decision, claiming that disclosure of the requested classified material would endanger national security.

This would certainly be consistent with Rovian conduct: suddenly discovering ethical behavior when it becomes convenient.

Steven Kaus suspects that Patrick Fitzgerald may have anticipated such a tactic:

Alan Dershowitz has posted a defense plan for Scooter Libby that seems like such a winner that it is hard to believe that Fizgerald does not have some plan to counter it. Libby will insist that classified documents are needed for his defense, have the governmental entity refuse to provide them and then claim that the charges must be dismissed because he has been denied the right to present a defense.

After all, this is not Gitmo!


How Lame Can It Get? 0

According to a memo sent to aides yesterday, Bush expects all White House staff to adhere to the “spirit as well as the letter” of all ethics laws and rules. As a result, “the White House counsel’s office will conduct a series of presentations next week that will provide refresher lectures on general ethics rules, including the rules of governing the protection of classified information,” according to the memo, a copy of which was provided to The Washington Post by a senior White House aide.

I am a professional trainer. Consequently, I’m conversant both with the power and the limitations of training.

Training can only fix problems related to lack of skills and knowledge.

How likely is it that the persons attending these briefings don’t already know what is legal and ethical behavior?



The Values of the Current Federal Administration 0



Eugene Robinson on Concentration Camps 0

From today’s Washington Post:

As reporter Dana Priest revealed in The Post this week, the Bush administration has held dozens of al Qaeda prisoners in secret prisons, with no regard to due process. It was a “small circle of White House and Justice Department lawyers and officials” who approved this archipelago of “black-site” detention centers, The Post reported.

These CIA-run prisons have been operated in eight countries, The Post said — Afghanistan, Thailand, the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba and “several democracies in Eastern Europe.” Officials prevailed upon The Post not to disclose the names of the European countries, citing national security concerns. The real reason, no doubt, was that if citizens of those countries knew their governments were hosting secret American prisons, they would surely object.

This conduct, perpetrated by the current Federal Administration, dishonors the United States of America, its citizens, and those who have fought over the course of more than two centuries to create, protect, and preserve this nation.


Hmmmmm. Another Victim of Abramoff? 0

In today’s Washington Post:

Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in Washington investigating the lobbying activities of Jack Abramoff, it was announced on the floor of the House of Representatives today.

The subpoena, delivered to Ney in recent days, seeks records and testimony from Ney’s office. Subpoenas to Congress are publicly announced and then reported in the Congressional Record.


As chairman of the powerful House Administration Committee, Ney promised to add legislation to a bill before his committee to reopen a casino for a Texas Indian tribe that Abramoff represented. Two years earlier, Ney placed comments in the Congressional Record favorable to Abramoff’s 2000 purchase of the casino boat company, SunCruz Casinos.

To quote Deep Throat, “Follow the money.”