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Political Books






Religious Books -- Not Fundamentalist!

The Fundamentalist Xtians should not be allowed to hijack the language of Christianity. They are at least as much heretics to Christianity as the Arians and Gnostics of early Christian days.




Biblical inerrancy is not possible.


The books both above and below show the limitations of language and the impossibility of Biblical Inerrancy.

How can language be misused? Using General Semantics, this book was Written to explain Nazi propaganda and still used as a textbook


Books - Popular Math, Post Enlightenment & Science

This book explains why the above books on Christian Fundamentalism are politically important in America today.


Modern Society measures risk & predicts possible futures. The book below is a higly readable history of insurance, statistics and modern financial instruments.

Compare this to religion, in which it is presumed that the perfect society was known in the past and all that is necessary to do is to return to that perfect society.


Fascinating, highly readable and fun book on modern mathematics and its limitations. If you are interested in ideas, this is your book!

This is a collection of Hofstader's Scientific American articles. Again, a very fascinationg and highly readable book, requiring no mathematical background. (Buy it used - it is one of the books that will keep disappearing.)

Older, very fascinating book on mathematical ideas. Did you know there are three kinds of infinity?


Saturday, March 31, 2007
Why I consider Rove, Cheney, Novak and Libby to be traitors to America
I have spoken rather harshly of the people who gave Valerie Plame Wilson's name and CIA affiliation to members of the Press to be published. It really doesn't matter to me why they did it. Richard Armitage is only slightly less culpable, since he apparently convinced Patrick Fitzgerald that when he gave her name to Bob Novak that it was somehow an accident. I am on the fence whether it was actually accidental or if Fitzgerald simply decided he could not meet the elements of proof of the rather ovbviously inadequate law against spreading such classified information. When I say I have spoken harshaly of those people, rest assured. I have toned my real fealings towards them down markedly before putting those feelings into words.

I will also add that the fact that Karl Rove and Dick Cheney both still have security clearances is an utter disgrace to the entire Bush administration and to the frightened overage child who occupied the office of President. No greater display of Bush's utter incompetence for this job can be demonstrated.

That said, let me refer you to what Brent Budowsky Says about the Plame case:
The CIA leak case is not about Joe Wilson, or Valerie Plame, or whether one supports or opposes the Iraq war. The CIA leak case is about integrity and truth in intelligence, which is essential in defeating terrorism, in winning wars when we must fight them, and avoiding wars when we should not fight them. The CIA leak case is about honor and patriotism, about protecting those who serve bravely and covertly, just as we should stand completely behind men and women in uniform.

The CIA leak case is about the need for strong human intelligence, a need that is urgent and has been urgent for more than three decades.

The CIA leak case is about the obsession and ideology that disrespects facts, and disrespects truth, and declares Mafia-like vendettas against those who make good faith and professional efforts to ascertain them. The CIA leak case is about using partisan and political pressure to distort and pervert the search for truth, which is what good intelligence is all about, and the CIA leak case is about what goes wrong when these cardinal principles, time honored for every intelligence service on earth, are violated. [Snip]

It is immaterial whether the CIA Identities Act was technically violated. In my view it probably was; reasonable people can disagree; Patrick Fitzgerald said that lies threw sand in the gears of justice, so perhaps we will ultimately find out, perhaps not.

Understand the protestations of those who argue most aggresively for pardon, are those who argue most aggressively that the identity law was not broken, but support the pardon in large measure because they also fear the ultimate revelation of the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth.
[Editor - highlighting is mine.]
I respect Patrick Fitzgerald. Someone committed Treason - never forget that - publicizing the identity of a CIA officer is High Treason against the United States, even if done by a reporter or by accident or after someone else has already passed that information on to the reporters. If Patrick Fitzgerald says he could not successfully prosecute that Treason because "Scooter" Libby took it on himself to lie, perjure himself, and thereby Obstruct Justice (which the jury unanimously agree that he did) there is no basis for a Pardon.

Once Libby's appeals are completed and he is either clearly guilty or found that his guilt is not proven in court, he should be called back to the Grand Jury to testify again aboput who actually committed Treason. If he lies, perjures himself and again obstructs justice, that is a new crime for which he can again be tried. This is true even if he gets a Pardon for this original crime.

The incompetence, corruption, criminality and treason of this administration knows no bounds. Digging those things out and punishing the culprits decisively and exposing the extent of their failures and criminality is extremely important to the future of America. There should never be a statute of limitations for these Republicans.

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posted by Richard @ 7:51 PM   0 comments
Friday, March 30, 2007
Isnt' this illegal? DoJ under Bush used to "skew" elections
"Joseph D. Rich was chief of the voting section in the Justice Department's civil right division from 1999 to 2005." Yesterday the Los Angeles Times published an OpEd by him that described how the Department of Justice has been used for the last sick six years to skew elections in favor of Republicans. It ain't just the U.S. attorneys, Folks. Here is what Mr. Rich wrote:
Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.

It has notably shirked its legal responsibility to protect voting rights. From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities.

At least two of the recently fired U.S. attorneys, John McKay in Seattle and David C. Iglesias in New Mexico, were targeted largely because they refused to prosecute voting fraud cases that implicated Democrats or voters likely to vote for Democrats.
[Editor - underlining mine.]
Both of those U.S. attorneys have stated that they refused to prosecute those alleged voting fraud cases because there was no evidence to show that any voting fraud had occurred.

This means that if any U.S. attorney does bring a voting fraud case in the next two years, it should be viewed with an extremely jaundiced eye. So far the Bush administration has eliminated jury trials only for those they (arbitrarily) declare to be Enemy Combatants and hide away from the justice system, habeas corpus, and access to defense lawyers in Guantanamo. Now the Bush administration has brought the "Justice" Department to such a low reputation that a defense attorney needs only refer to that reputation and provide an otherwise sketchy defense to convince a jury to find defendants not guilty when accused of voter fraud.
In March 2006, Bradley Schlozman was appointed interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo. [Snip]

Schlozman ... was part of the team of political appointees that approved then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's plan to redraw congressional districts in Texas, which in 2004 increased the number of Republicans elected to the House. Similarly, Schlozman was acting assistant attorney general in charge of the division when the Justice Department OKd a Georgia law requiring voters to show photo IDs at the polls. These decisions went against the recommendations of career staff, who asserted that such rulings discriminated against minority voters. The warnings were prescient: Both proposals were struck down by federal courts.

Schlozman continued to influence elections as an interim U.S. attorney. Missouri had one of the closest Senate races in the country last November, and a week before the election, Schlozman brought four voter fraud indictments against members of an organization representing poor and minority people. This blatantly contradicted the department's long-standing policy to wait until after an election to bring such indictments because a federal criminal investigation might affect the outcome of the vote. The timing of the Missouri indictments could not have made the administration's aims more transparent. [Snip]

This administration is also politicizing the career staff of the Justice Department. Outright hostility to career employees who disagreed with the political appointees was evident early on. Seven career managers were removed in the civil rights division. I personally was ordered to change performance evaluations of several attorneys under my supervision. I was told to include critical comments about those whose recommendations ran counter to the political will of the administration and to improve evaluations of those who were politically favored. [Snip]

For decades prior to this administration, the Justice Department had successfully kept politics out of its law enforcement decisions. Hopefully, the spotlight on this misconduct will begin the process of restoring dignity and nonpartisanship to federal law enforcement. As the 2008 elections approach, it is critical to have a Justice Department that approaches its responsibility to all eligible voters without favor.
The difference between "Rule by Law" and "Rule of Law" is that in the "Rule by Law" those who administer the law are above the law themselves. They use it only to control those who oppose them. In "Rule of Law", everyone is subject to the law, including the law enforcers themselves.

"Rule by Law" is a major element of control in an authoritarian nation. Rule of Law is what protects us from this kind of authoritarianism. That's what this brouhaha about the U.S. attorney firings is really all about.

[h/t to Josh Marshall at TPM.]

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posted by Richard @ 2:40 PM   0 comments
Bushism is not conseratism. Greenwald explains
Glenn Greenwald yesterday reacts to a David Brooks (Subscriptin required) editorial repudiating the conservatism of Goldwater and Reagan.

Glenn answers some questions I have had about bush, Cheney and the NeoCons, but I am not yet sure I want to comment on this set of ideas. It is very interesting, however, and certainly suggests what American politics has become and where it is going.

I strongly suggest that you go read it.

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posted by Richard @ 10:53 AM   0 comments
Thursday, March 29, 2007
The Middle East is collapsing in front of Bush, Cheney and Rice.
Emptywheel at The Next Hurrah gets several reports and puts together the implications. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has clearly gotten disgusted with Bush and his administration, clearly demonstrating his pique by cancelling a dinner that was to be held at the White House in his honor in April. King Abdullah has also condemned the invasion of Iraq as illegitimate foreign occupation.

Not good when America's most important Arab ally in the Middle East turns his back on Bush. And there's more. So go read it.

The U.S. doesn't have any real future in the Middle East.

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posted by Richard @ 10:13 PM   0 comments
Poll: Public wants aggressive Dem investigation of Republican crimes, corruption
I hope the Comgressional Democrats read this set of polls. The public wants the criminal actions and corruption of the Bush administration investigated.

The story that investigating the Republicans will cause a blowback on the Democrats is frankly B*llsh*t. The real blowback will be on the Democrats if they don't thoroughly investigate the garbage the Republicans have been pulling for the last six years.

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posted by Richard @ 9:21 PM   0 comments
Digby lists the anti-democratic actions of Republicans
This is an excellent post by Digby. My favorite line in his post is
since I first started writing on-line, one of my recurring themes is that the modern Republican party has become fundamentally hostile to democracy.(And we already knew they were crooks.)
But his entire post makes it quite clear why he (and I) think this of the Republican Party.

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posted by Richard @ 6:22 PM   0 comments
McCain may be out of the Repub nomination race.
This is a story from The Hill and discussed by The Carpetbagger Report. The story in "The Hill" starts like this:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was close to leaving the Republican Party in 2001, weeks before then-Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.) famously announced his decision to become an Independent, according to former Democratic lawmakers who say they were involved in the discussions.

In interviews with The Hill this month, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) said there were nearly two months of talks with the maverick lawmaker following an approach by John Weaver, McCain’s chief political strategist.

Democrats had contacted Jeffords and then-Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) in the early months of 2001 about switching parties, but in McCain’s case, they said, it was McCain’s top strategist who came to them.
If the McCain campaign doesn't come up with a very highly credible and effective response to this story, the McCain campaign for the Republican nomination is toast.

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posted by Richard @ 4:02 PM   0 comments
Voter Fraud? The Republicans lie to suppress Democratic votes
Here is something the Washington Post got correct. (Obviously not written by Fred Hiatt.) It is an editorial published today. First, remember that the US attorney for Washington State, John McKay, was fired because he failed to bring indictments against Democrats for voter fraud in the extremely narrow (under 100 votes) win by the Democratic candidate for Governor.
Allegations of voter fraud -- someone sneaking into the polls to cast an illicit vote -- have been pushed in recent years by partisans seeking to justify proof-of-citizenship and other restrictive ID requirements as a condition of voting. Scare stories abound on the Internet and on editorial pages, and they quickly become accepted wisdom.

But the notion of widespread voter fraud, as these prosecutors found out, is itself a fraud. Firing a prosecutor for failing to find wide voter fraud is like firing a park ranger for failing to find Sasquatch. Where fraud exists, of course, it should be prosecuted and punished. (And politicians have been stuffing ballot boxes and buying votes since senators wore togas; Lyndon Johnson won a 1948 Senate race after his partisans famously "found" a box of votes well after the election.) Yet evidence of actual fraud by individual voters is painfully skimpy.

Before and after every close election, politicians and pundits proclaim: The dead are voting, foreigners are voting, people are voting twice. On closer examination, though, most such allegations don't pan out. Consider a list of supposedly dead voters in Upstate New York that was much touted last October. Where reporters looked into names on the list, it turned out that the voters were, to quote Monty Python, "not dead yet."

Or consider Washington state, where McKay closely watched the photo-finish gubernatorial election of 2004. A challenge to ostensibly noncitizen voters was lodged in April 2005 on the questionable basis of "foreign-sounding names." After an election there last year in which more than 2 million votes were cast, following much controversy, only one ballot ended up under suspicion for double-voting. That makes sense. A person casting two votes risks jail time and a fine for minimal gain. Proven voter fraud, statistically, happens about as often as death by lightning strike.

Yet the stories have taken on the character of urban myth. Alarmingly, the Supreme Court suggested in a ruling last year ( Purcell v. Gonzalez) that fear of fraud might in some circumstances justify laws that have the consequence of disenfranchising voters. But it's already happening -- those chasing imaginary fraud are actually taking preventive steps that would disenfranchise millions of real live Americans.
[Editor - Highlighting is mine.]
Remember, this is individual voter fraud being discussed in this editorial. The Republican allegations of individual voter fraud is primarily a set of allegations to be used to justify installing rules to require forms of identification not usually carried by many non-Republican voters. These rules are primarily intended to suppress the total vote by non-Republicans.

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posted by Richard @ 10:06 AM   2 comments
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
New three-column format in blogger. Here's how I did it.
As previous readers can see, I have revised the format of Politics Plus Stuff. I like the price of Blogger, and with the recent improvements it has become a lot more reliable. I haven't lost a posting since the new system was installed. [But I still copy every lengthy post to Word before trying to save it, just in case.]

Why change?

My big irritation with blogger was that the available templates were all two-column things, and they left a lot of real estate of the screen blank. With the larger monitors everyone gets today, that is a waste. Trying to put what I wanted into a two-column template was getting messy.

Find what you want.

So I was searching the net for a solution, and Voila! I found a blogger blog called Free Templates. Rummaging around this blog I found a template close to what I wanted, called Lonely. [Note the list of other templates on the right side. Check them out and see what you like.]

Test the template without damaging your current site.

I downloaded the "Lonely" template as a zip file, unzipped it, and set up another blogger blog just for testing this template. [I have over 1600 articles that I have posted on Politics Plus Stuff. There is NO WAY I am going to put a strange template on that original blog without be pretty sure it worked. I don't want to risk the loss of over two years of effort.]

Next I went to the Template tab of my new test site, and the first thing I did was copy all of that template over to a notepad file and saved that file. [Notepad uses .txt files with no extra formatting.]

The file label I used was "Backup original template from Testblog.txt" If something goes really bad and I can't fix it, I can simply erase my new template in the test blog and replace it with this backup. I also save working templates periodically with the new template after I have a few changes to it that I know work. [The Theory - When I am finished I will have a whole set of files that are "working templates," from oldest to latest. Each should be a working template that can be plugged in to replace a later one that isn't working. I only have to update the changes, not the entire thing. More frequent backups mean fewer changes to update when something goes wrong.]

After saving my backup, I then erased the entire template in the "Edit Template" box of my testblog and pasted in the new one I had just downloaded from Free Templates into the template space. The first thing to do is to save the template. [Using "Save Template Changes" at the bottom of the "Edit Template" box.] Of course, it didn't work.

The first problem

These templates from Free Templates are old Blogger templates, and I have converted to the new blogger. The first time I tried to save the new template I got the following error.
"Your template could not be parsed as it is not well-formed. Please make sure all XML elements are closed properly.
XML error message: The element type "head" must be terminated by the matching end-tag."
After extensively digging through the HTML of the new template, I decided the blogger parser was lying to me. The "head" WAS matched by a "/head". Something else was wrong. I still to this day do not know what it was.

As so often happens to me these days, the wisdom of my first Platoon Sergeant popped into my head. "When all else fails, Lieutenant, Read the Damned Instructions!" So I went back to the website I downloaded the template from, and lo and behold, there they were. Instructions:

How to use Classic Blogger Templates in New Blogger

  1. Login to New Blogger with your Google account.
  2. On your Dashboard choose blog you want to edit, Click on Layout, you’ll go direct to Template tab where blog you want to Edit.
  3. Choose the Template tab of your blog then click on Edit HTML.
  4. Next scroll down to the end of your page and choose Revert to Classic Template.
  5. Copy all the code of the template you wish and paste it into your blog.
  6. Click on SAVE TEMPLATE and you are done!.
There it is. Simple as 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6.

[You wanted the traditional 1 - 2 - 3?

You Luddite! Those were the primitive days. Take what you can get. There are always more steps in programming computers! That's because it is easier to find the "bug" in a set of many small steps than it is if the steps are each large ones. And "bugs" are always with us.]

Following the above instructions worked easily. But remember, [Warning.] you are still running an old blogger template, so some of the neat design features offered by the New Blogger are not available, and never will be. Of course, you don't need them. You can get your hands dirty (with electrons - no grease) and dig into your own template in the future.

Now you have a three-column blog up and running. Yippee! All that is needed now is to customize it to suit yourself. Oh, and then transfer the new template from testblog to the original blog. [Easy!]


Addendum #1 11:09 PM CDT.
OK. At this point I should have converted the testblog over to the New Blogger format. This is because if I do it later, I will lose all or most of the modifications I have made after this point.

Addendum #3 03/29/2007 at 1:15PM CDT.
Yuk. Forget going New Blogger if you want three columns. If you switch to New blogger you will be stuck with the very limited selection of templates that blogger itself presents. So I was right the first time.


Understand your template.

Once I got the downloaded template up and running on the test site, I went through it and determined what parts of the template controlled each column on the screen. Then I put comments into to code so that I could go back and find each separate segment. [Warning - comments placed in between items in a block of code will sometimes prevent that block from working properly. When you try something, it works, then you comment the code and it doesn't work, the comment may be the problem.]

Finding the parts of the code for each section of the screen is easy, but a little time-consuming. Just remember, the time spent documenting the template now will save a lot of time later on.

Go to the Template tab, then when it is opened go to Edit your Template. Click on the "Preview" button at the bottom of the Edit your Template box. Your blog will appear either as a new tab on your browser or as a new implementation of your browser. (Which one depends on the browser you use and how your browser is set.) Then close that new screen (Avoid clutter when you can) and you will go back to the previous screen where you were before the preview. This should be the Edit your Template box.

In the Template, scroll down past the "/style" and "/head" tags and look at the first "table" instruction. It will contain this:
"table width="100%" border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" "
What you are looking for is that ' border="0" ' instruction.

Change the "0" to "21" (or some other number significantly larger that zero), go to the bottom of the Edit your template box and click the "Preview" button. The template I use then shows a 21 pixel line around the entire blog. So that "table" instruction controls the total page.

Put a comment that tells you that the "Table" instruction containing the border = "21" describes the entire screen. Mine says:
Full Page
and is surrounded by the necessary comment tags so that the HTML parser will ignore it. Use any description you will be able to understand if you are looking at someone else's code, because that's what it is like when you come back to this six months later. [Warning! -- Check the screen again - using Preview - after adding the comment, as the comment itself can effect the action of the code. If it does, then move the comment to the end or beginning of the block of code. Make sure you make notes each time you change ANY code, so that it is easy to switch back to something that works when a change doesn't work right. I find my best notes are comments I make in the code where I will need it next time.]

Change the "21" in the border directive of the "table" instruction back to a "0", check this by going to "Preview" that the bottom of the box, and if it works, scroll down to the next "Table" instruction and do the same thing. Keep going until you have identified the code for the "Top block", "main column", both the "left and right sidebars" and the "footer" and have them labeled with comments so that you can find them again six months later. Each of those screen elements is controlled by a small block of code, so when you have a problem you have saved yourself a lot of time finding the code that needs to be worked on. Now you can move on to customizing your template.

Copy the links and such you want to keep from the existing blog to the test blog.

This is the first time you will be opening the main blog you want to transplant the new template to. [Warning - To avoid messing up the existing working template of that main blog, copy that template to another Notepad file. You will work copying links and code from the copy, not the real blog. Label the backup copy of the main blog original template clearly. Then, later, if the template transplant goes bad, you have not lost your only copy of the working template of your main blog.]

After copying the existing blog template to a .txt file, then decide which links and text will be migrated to the new format. Plan this and perhaps make a sketch of what the new three-column format will look like. [Just a suggestion. I didn't do that. It didn't seem complicated enough. But I have experience.]

Then copy the links from the saved txt file (Or even a copy of the saved template file if you are paranoid. This is not a problem as long as the titles of the backup files show source, date and time, and you have enough memory for a lot of files. But keep your backups organized so that you can find whatever the latest working copy is at any time.) of the old blog's template into the new template on the Testblog. Do it one block at a time, and after each transplant is completed, review the blog. If it looks right, Save the blog template and look at it again. Do this in small chunks so that if the template won't save or the look is wrong, there are only a few changes that need to be checked to find the problem. Keep going until the new template is the way you want it.

Finally, transfer the testblog template into the original blog.

Before attempting the final template transplant, again copy the template from the original blog to a txt file. You may have screwed the earlier copy up as you worked with it. It is easier to avoid such a problem than it is to have to fix it. Always go back to a working copy that has not been worked on if you can.

The new blogger has a button to save the template for you. But you are working with an Old Blogger template, so forget New Blogger. You are stuck with the older copy-and-paste to a Notepad .txt file because you are working in Old Blogger. This will not change. Sorry. This is the price of a three-column template, at least for now.

Now that you have the original blog template [that you know worked] saved, erase the template in the Edit your template box of the real blog you want to change, then copy the template from the testblog that you know worked into the Edit your template box of the original blog. Then do Preview to see what it looks like.

If it worked, then do a Save Template Changes and follow it with another Preview and you can see what the blog looks like. If you have made all your changes, you are finished with the big stuff.

If you use IE Explorer, you might want to try calling the blog up under FireFox, or vice versa, but both should work.

See? That wasn't hard, was it?

One last thing.

I didn't like the text colors the author chose. They looked nice, but I found them hard to read. It took me about two hours to find that if I went to the top [header] section and changed the "color: #A3BAAA;" in "a:link, a:active, a:visited" to "color: #999933;" (which is the sort of olive drab you will see that represents my links) [See Addendum 5, below.] and I changed the "color: #7B9685;" in "textarea, input, select, option, button" to "color: #000000;" (which is Black.) that represents all my text.

Addendum #5 03/29/2007 2:01PM CDT
I changed the "a:link, a:active, a:visited" to "color: #993300" which is brighter and easier to read.

Also, I had forgotten to mention that I went to the section in header titled "Body{... " and changed the "color: #666666;" there to "color: #000000;" [This allows text to become pure Black.] This format is in the CSS portion of the header, and controls the entire site if not changed locally.


Miscellaneous stuff

If you don't know about HTML color codes, here is what I got when I googled HTML colors. Check it out and look at the Hexadecimal codes together with the colors they produce. Each pair of Hex numbers determines Red, Green or Blue, with 00 being a complete absence of that color and FF being the strongest color. FF0000 is Red, 00FF00 is Green, and 000FF is Blue, with 000000 as Black and FFFFFF as White.

I think I have either explained how to avoid mistakes or demonstrated how to correct the ones I made doing this. If anyone can make a mistake that I didn't and that I didn't head off, please leave a comment. To sort of rephrase Don Rumsfeld, I know what I know, but I don't know what it is that I don't know. All I can write is what I know.

We learn from our errors, especially in computers and as teenagers. I'll be happy to learn what you know and be glad to learn from the errors that taught you. So please share.


Addendum #2 11:12 PM CDT
The other thing I forgot to do was reinstall my site meter. The easy way to do that would be to have switched to the New Blogger format back when I first got the new template working and before I had put all the links from the old format back in.

Addendum #4 03 29 2007 at 1:20PM CDT.
I went back and installed the site meter counter that I used previously in a new container at the bottom of the right-side column. That involved creating a new container by a copy-and-paste from the container that displays the "Powered by Blogger" and Template by "Free Templates," erasing those two items and replacing one by the code provided by site-meter.

In case you haven't guessed, I got the overall format and general look of the site pretty much the way I wanted it yesterday. Today I have been going back and getting the details to the site corrected. Then I am correcting or adding to my article here to explain what I have done. That explains the numerous "Addendums."

If I were writing a commercial program with instructions, the final step would be to consider everything above here as just notes, then go back and write a final draft of the documentation. I don't want to do that here, since I am providing this information to people who don't code HTML regularly. I want to demonstrate the process as well as provide instructions.

Needless to say, I hope someone finds this useful.

Oh, and if anyone finds a source of New Blogger three-column templates, please let me know.

[Note: March 30, 2007 9:30 AM - I have been smoothing the language of this article today. Individual changes are not indicated as no real substance has changed.]


[Addendum #6 April 05, 2007 6:58 CDT] Another thing with this three column template - I have lost the blogger navbar with its ability to do a google search of my blog or a full google search. I am still searching for a correction to this. Anyone who finds it, leave me a comment.


To get the Blogger NavBar back, or to add a Google Custom Search Engine, go to " New three-column format in blogger. Here's how I did it. Part II.".

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posted by Richard @ 2:43 PM   0 comments
Use of GSA official programs to promote Republican candidates
This is a violation of the Hatch Act. Rove's deputy, Scott Jennings, had a powerpoint briefing on government property and during the work day to get GSA employees to determine what projects and procurement opportunities could by used to promote Republican candidates for House and Senate while damaging Democratic candidates for those bodies. From TPM Muckraker we get this UTube of General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan as she testifies about the meeting which she both attended and ended with an exhortation to the participants to get out and determine what GSA could do to promote "Our" [that is, "Republican"] candidates.



Since this meeting was so clearly a violation of the Hatch Act, Lurita Doan has a good reason to be afraid of giving testimony under oath to the House. The Penalties for a violation of the Hatch act is
An employee who violates the Hatch Act shall be removed from their position, and funds appropriated for the position from which removed thereafter may not be used to pay the employee or individual. However, if the Merit Systems Protection Board finds by unanimous vote that the violation does not warrant removal, a penalty of not less than 30 days' suspension without pay shall be imposed by direction of the Board.
I would speculate that Ms Doan also is afraid of what will happen to her if she testifies honestly. Karl Rove is not known to be kind to those who oppose or cross him.

The Gavel has more videos of the hearings.

[h/t to TPM.]

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posted by Richard @ 2:11 PM   0 comments
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Why were the particular US attorneys fired? Ask Rove - under oath.
Here is an interesting analysis of the likely impact of putting new (and presumably more partisan) US attorneys into the districts that were targeted last December.

Short version -
6 of the attorneys come from states that are not completely red or blue. The other 2 are from the country’s largest state and a major source of campaign contributions California.
[Hugh gets credit for this, and more.]

This move was pure Rovian "manipulate the election system" tactics. Ignore what it does to the credibility of the Department of Justice or even more basically, to the "Rule of Law." This is just one more Rovian power grab action.

That's not to say it doesn't have other reasons also, but the manipulation of elections, especially the 2008 election, appears to be the primary reason.

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posted by Richard @ 1:19 PM   0 comments
Monday, March 26, 2007
How corrupt are the Washington media figures covering the ultra-corrupt Bushies?
This is from Glenn Greenwald.
Whatever one thinks of how convincing the available evidence is thus far, nobody who has an even basic understanding of how our government functions could dispute that the accusations in this scandal are extremely serious. Presumably, even those incapable of ingesting the danger of having U.S. attorneys fired due to their refusal to launch partisan-motivated prosecutions (or stifle prosecutions for partisan reasons) at least understand that it is highly disturbing and simply intolerable for the Attorney General of the U.S. -- the head of our Justice Department -- to lie repeatedly about what happened, including to Congress, and to have done so with the obvious assent and (at the very least) implicit cooperation of the White House. Even the most vapid media stars should be able to understand that.

And yet so many of them do not. They continue to defend the administration by insisting that even if the accusations are correct, there was no real wrongdoing here. Add Fred Hiatt to that list, as he defends the Bush administration's prosecutor firings in his Washington Post Editorial today by insisting that Gonzales appears "to have tried to cover up something that, as far as we yet know, didn't need covering. U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president . . . ."

Just as was true for their virtually unanimous insistence that there was no wrongdoing worth investigating in the Plame case -- including the serial lying and obstruction of justice from the Vice President's top aide, one of the most powerful people in the White House -- they also see nothing wrong whatsoever with serial lying and corruption by the Attorney General in this case.

Think about this: there are only two instances in the last six years where real investigations occurred in any of the Bush scandals -- this U.S. attorneys scandal (because Democrats now have subpoena power) and the Plame case (due to the fluke of two Republican DOJ officials with integrity, James Comey and Patrick Fitzgerald). And in both cases, it was revealed conclusively that top Bush officials -- at the highest levels of the government -- repeatedly and deliberately lied about what they did. Isn't that pattern obviously extremely disturbing? And imagine what would be revealed had there been real investigations -- journalistic or Congressional -- of all the other scandals that ended up dying an inconsequential death due to neglect and suppression.

Beltway media stars really aren't bothered by any of this in the slightest. It's how their world works. Initially, they even refused to talk about the story at all, insisting that there was nothing worth seeing here, and were all but forced into writing about it as a result of the tenacious coverage in the blogosphere, led by TPM's Josh Marshall. Their instinct is to lash out at anyone who suggests real wrongdoing on the part of the Republican political machinery that has ruled their town for so long.

They respect and admire the Republicans who wield power in Washington -- media elites particularly love Karl Rove (Mark Halperin to Hugh Hewitt: "we say in the book about Karl Rove, who I respect and enjoy…I enjoy his company . . . Maybe he did the things he’s accused of, but to have this guy’s image portrayed and defined by things that are accusations that are unproven, we say in the book is really outrageous"). They admire and love Rove because he is the embodiment of the political power which they worship -- and they are angered by the notion that these figures who rule their world, a world which lavishly rewards them, should be accused of real wrongdoing, let alone threatened with subpoenas and prosecution and imprisonment. Fun and playful political tussles are fine, but anything truly disruptive or threatening is despised by them and considered out of bounds.

These are not journalists who want to uncover government corruption or act in an adversarial capacity to check government power. Rather, these are members of the royal court who are grateful to the King and his minions for granting them their status. What they want more than anything is to protect and preserve the system that has so rewarded them -- with status and money and fame and access and comfort.
The problem the media figures see is not the corruption of the high government officials. It is the lack of sensitivity of the Democrats who actually want Rove to testify to congress about the corruption he is running.



Read the whole thing. Go! Read it!

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posted by Richard @ 5:02 PM   0 comments
Even the Republicans recognize it. Bush is not competent to run the government.
It's not that the government can't get anything done. It's that Bush, Cheney and Rove are so utterly incompetent that the government can't get anything done while they are in charge. That's not just my opinion. It is the opinion of arch-right-winger Robert "Prince of Darkness" Novak. Novak is speaking for the Republicans in Congress, too.

I am, as you probably know, no fan of Novakula. He provided aid and comfort to the enemies of America when he published the fact that Valerie Plame Wilson was an agent of the CIA. But his sources inside the top levels of the Republcan Party can't be matched. When he says that all the Republicans in Congress agree that the Bush administration is characterized by the "I" word, incompetence, you can take that to the bank.

From the Washington Post editorial by Novakula himself we get this statement:
The I-word (incompetence) is also used by Republicans in describing the Bush administration generally. Several of them I talked to cited a trifecta of incompetence: the Walter Reed hospital scandal, the FBI's misuse of the USA Patriot Act and the U.S. attorneys firing fiasco. "We always have claimed that we were the party of better management," one House leader told me. "How can we claim that anymore?"
America will take decades to dig out from under the debris resulting from the recent reign of "Prince George the Incompetent", who should have been a court jester but didn't even have the talent for that.

[h/t to Kevin Drum.]

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posted by Richard @ 1:09 PM   0 comments
Why did the Iraq occupation go so very bad?
First, the invasion of Iraq was itself a total mistake. It was a right-wing fantasy enacted by close-minded individuals who were proud of their party's ability to win an election and failed to apply any other skills.

That said, the actual military invasion of Iraq, planned and operated by our well-trained and well-equipped military was a case of applying a very large hammer to a relatively small nail. For the most part, the military aspects of the actual invasion worked rather well. But everything after the fall of the statue of Saddam in Baghdad has been a disaster. This is the famous "Phase IV." While there is little doubt now that this was the case, there is still the question of how it could possibly have gone SO VERY bad.

Now the Special Inspector General for Iraq has provided a report that answers these questions. By Dana Hedgpeth, Staff writer for the Washington Post:
The U.S. government was unprepared for the extensive nation-building required after it invaded Iraq, and at each juncture where it could have adjusted its efforts, it failed even to understand the problems it faced, according to the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

In a stinging, wide-ranging assessment of U.S. reconstruction efforts, Stuart W. Bowen Jr. said that in the days after the invasion, the Defense Department had no strategy for restoring either government institutions or infrastructure. And in the years since, other agencies joined the effort without an overall plan and without a structure in place to organize and execute a task of such magnitude.

Lines of authority remained unclear in the reconstruction effort. With a demand for speed and a shortage of government personnel, much of the oversight was turned over to the contractors doing the work. There was little coordination among the various agencies. The result was a series of missed opportunities to address the unraveling situation, Bowen said.

"Many layers of management . . . made it difficult to determine who had ultimate authority over money, people and projects," he said. [Snip]

For the first time, the report lays out a timeline documenting the paucity of planning from the beginning of the war in Iraq, noting what was needed when and describing how the scale of reconstruction grew once the United States was in Iraq. It details how Congress provided vast amounts of money with little idea of how it was being spent. The push to get things done quickly meant turning much of the reconstruction over to contractors with little oversight from the government, as security worsened. And the lack of coordination magnified every shortcoming. [Snip]

Bowen said changes like those that took place in Iraq are not "short-term affairs."

"They are complicated, with social, political and security dimensions, and if you can't think of all the pieces of them together, then you're not ever going to end up with a response that works," he said.
In other words, the White House and the civilians at the Pentagon, applying Republican free market theory, failed to recognize that there was a need for government to conduct nation-building. So they walked into Iraq without any plan for doing anything at all except securing the oil supplies and removing the "dead hand of government from the backs of the entrepreneurs in Iraq." The result of this was that the Americans who were supposedly running things at the CPA and then from the Embassy were winging it. Each individual was trying to make decisions on their own with no coordination of the overall operation.

They removed the government, dismantling it with debaathification and the disbanding of the military and police forces, while not having enough troops in country to replace those they were getting rid of. (Yay, Rumsfeld!) Jerry Bremer, Head of the CPA, knew what the political bosses in Washington said they wanted, and he thought that by disbanding the Iraqi government and military he was giving it to them. But the absence of an overall integrated plan made such decisions made "from the hip" very unreliable. Bremer clearly did not realize what the results of disbanding the Iraqi government would be.

Of course, the free market theory was correct. Remove the government and military, leave a vacuum, and the free market did take over. But not to create an economy and a peaceful society.

The Sunnis wanted their jobs running the country back, and to get those jobs back, they had to evict the occupying American armies. Fortunately for the Sunnis, those American armies were too small to provide stability in Iraq by themselves. Al Qaeda wanted to disrupt American operations, and the lack of political and social stability was exactly what they needed. Kurds wanted their effective Kurdistan to remain in place, but they had had a decade to establish effective government structures and build a defense around the Peshmerga (Kurdish militias.) The Shiites wanted to protect themselves from the Sunni oppressors, but were (and are) highly disorganized and have no tradition of running a government. The result was that, under the very noses of the Americans, the Sunni resistance developed, aided by al Qaeda-in-Iraq. The Sunni resistance attacked the Americans, and al Qaeda-in-Iraq attacked the Shiites to provoke a civil war. The fractured Shiites, having to learn to govern a nation which has always before been governed by military force had no room to make mistakes as they learned on the job. Of course they have made numerous mistakes, as would be expected.

By the end of the first year after the invasion, the insurgent groups had organized, trained and were becoming effective. Here is your free market at work. The needed institutions to kick the invading Americans out of Iraq were developed quite quickly.

The Americans, being led by a President who does not listen to underlings or outsiders and who makes a (political) fetish of non rational intuitive decisions which must never be changed, actively prevented American adaptation to the changing conditions in Iraq. The American Enterprise Institute approved members of the Kiddy Brigade who staffed the CPA were too inexperienced to be anything better than simply useless. The Sec. of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, was so busy trying to prove that the military could operate "lean and mean" that he, too, refused to listen to his subordinates and failed to adapt. Rumsfeld also made it crystal clear to the Generals under his command that their careers depended on carrying out orders, not questioning them. In this vein, a number of Generals were retired and replaced by compliant Generals like Richard Meirs who was appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The American institutions were made to be about as unadaptive to changing situations as possible, just as it was facing an enemy that was willing to try anything and to promote the survivors who were able to make something entrepreneurial work. The result was to create two competing institutions, the U.S. military which was too small to be effective and which was made as unresponsive to conditions on the ground as an institution filled with well-trained and well-motivated people can be, and the competing insurgents who became the lean, mean fighting machines that Don Rumsfeld wanted his military to be. Probably by the end of the first year and certainly by the end of the second after the invasion, the U.S. had lost all hope of bringing stability to Iraq. This was a total failure by America's political leaders, the Republican Party led by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the NeoCons.

In the meantime, the very fractured Shiite community tried to create an Iraqi government that was acceptable to the occupying Americans, while every local community set up its own militia to protect themselves and their families because the government and the Americans were not doing that very basic function of government. Peace could only come with an effective government that had a monopoly on the use of deadly force. In the absence of such a government, everyone had to join some local militia or become fodder for the insurgents and the militias.

The American civilian leaders in Iraq tried to solve the economic problems by throwing money at them. Money by the pallet-load of cash - the most stealable form of money they could get. This, of course, attracted every individual and company in the world with get-rich-quick schemes. Halliburton, Parsons, and Blackwater have all lined up at the money trough with shovels. But the economic problems cannot be solved until there is a government in place which, with its monopoly on deadly force, can enforce stability on Iraq. Since the various militias are sending their members to the Iraqi Army and Police to be trained and equipped before they go back to rejoin their militias, such stability is not to be expected in any near term.

So why did the Iraq occupation go so very bad? The short answer is George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld refused to plan, and the absence of an integrated plan for the occupation has unleashed a deadly anarchy.

So the next question is how will they be made accountable for their failures?

The answer to that question is yet to be written.

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posted by Richard @ 9:07 AM   0 comments
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Gonzales is doing exactly what Bush wants/expects - he's lying for Bush.
Once again, Josh Marshall clarifies what the repeated lies out of the Deparment of Justice proves without any doubt. Gonzales lied, when caught crafted a new lie to cover it, and was caugut again and lied again. so why does George W. Bush keep him on?

It's not friendship. It's the fact that Alberto is doing exactly what George w. Bush expected him to do and wants him to do. Bush's entire administration is a set of lie stacked on lie stacked on lie. That's who is holding the White House.

Bush.is.the.worst.President.ever.

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posted by Richard @ 11:00 PM   0 comments
Here's what the FBI told The House about the National Security Letters.
From Valerie E. Caproni General Counsel Federal Bureau of Investigation - Testimony to the House Judiciary Committee March 20, 2007:
Good morning Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Smith, and members of the Committee. It is my pleasure to appear before you today to discuss the recent report by Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) regarding the FBI’s use of national security letters (NSLs).

The OIG's report is a fair report that acknowledges the importance of NSLs to the ability of the FBI to conduct the national security investigations that are essential to keeping the country safe. Importantly, the OIG found no deliberate or intentional misuse of the national security letter authorities, Attorney General Guidelines or FBI policy. Nevertheless, the OIG review identified several areas of inadequate auditing and oversight of these vital investigative tools, as well as processes that were inappropriate.

Although not intentionally, we fell short in our obligations to report to Congress on the frequency with which we use this tool and in the internal controls we put into place to make sure that it was used only in accord with the letter of the law. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller concluded from the OIG's findings that we must redouble our efforts to ensure that there is no repetition of the mistakes of the past in the use of these authorities and I share his commitment.

I would also like to acknowledge the role of Congress and the effectiveness of congressional oversight in surfacing the deficiencies raised in this audit, which was called for in the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act.

The report made 10 recommendations in response to the findings, designed to provide both the necessary controls over the issuance of NSLs and the creation and maintenance of accurate records. The FBI fully supports each recommendation and concurs with the inspector general that, when implemented, these reforms will ensure full compliance with both the letter and the spirit of the authorities entrusted to the Bureau.

National Security Letters

National security letters generally permit us to obtain the same sort of documents from third-party businesses that prosecutors and agents obtain in criminal investigations with grand jury subpoenas. Unlike grand jury subpoenas, however, NSL authority comes through several distinct statutes and they have specific rules that accompany them.

NSLs have been instrumental in breaking up cells like the “Portland Seven,” the “Lackawanna Six,” and the “Northern Virginia Jihad.” Through the use of NSLs, the FBI has traced sources of terrorist funding, established telephone linkages that resulted in further investigation and arrests, and arrested suspicious associates with deadly weapons and explosives. NSLs allow the FBI to link terrorists together financially, and pinpoint cells and operatives by following the money.

The NSL authority used most frequently by the FBI is that provided by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Through an ECPA NSL, the FBI can obtain subscriber information for telephones and electronic communications and can obtain toll billing information and electronic communication transaction records.

Significantly, the FBI cannot obtain the content of communications through an ECPA NSL. Although the exact numbers of ECPA NSLs remains classified, it is the most common NSL authority used.

Pursuant to the Right to Financial Privacy Act (RFPA), the FBI also has the authority to issue NSLs for financial records from a financial institution. RFPA NSLs are used commonly in connection with investigations of potential terror financing.

Pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the FBI has the authority to issue three different, but related, types of NSLs to credit reporting agencies: an NSL pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 1681u(a) for the names of financial institutions with which the subject has or has had an account; an NSL pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 1681u(b) for consumer identifying information (name, address, former addresses, employment and former employment); an NSL pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 1681v for a full credit report. Of all the FBI's NSL authorities, only the last of the FCRA authorities is restricted to use only in international terrorism cases.

Finally, the FBI has the authority to issue NSLs pursuant to the National Security Act in the course of investigations of improper disclosure of classified information by government employees.

The first three types of NSLs (ECPA, RFPA, FCRA) must include a certification by an authorized FBI employee that the material is being sought for an authorized national security investigation. That certification is slightly different in the case of a FCRA NSL for a full credit report, where the certification required is that the information is relevant to an international terrorism investigation.

The authority to issue an NSL lies at a senior level within the FBI. An NSL can be issued only by an official who ranks not lower than Special Agent in Charge or deputy assistant director. All such officials are career government employees who are members of the Senior Executive Service.

Procedurally, an agent or analyst seeking an NSL must prepare a document (an electronic communication, or EC) in which the employee lays out the factual predicate for the request. The factual recitation must be sufficiently detailed so that the approving official can determine that the material sought is relevant to an investigation. Additionally, it needs to provide sufficient information concerning the underlying investigation so that reviewing officials can confirm that the investigation is adequately predicated and not based solely on the exercise of First Amendment rights. Finally, the EC includes a “lead” to the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) for purposes of congressional reporting.

OIG Report

As directed by Congress, we endeavored to declassify as much information as possible concerning our use of NSLs in order to allow the maximum amount of public awareness of the extent of our use of the NSL tool consistent with national security concerns. To that end, for the first time the public has a sense of the frequency with which the FBI makes requests for data with national security letters. In the period covered by the report, the number of NSL requests has ranged from approximately 40,000 to 60,000 per year and we have requested information on less than 20,000 persons per year.

For a variety of reasons that will be discussed below, those numbers are not exact. Nevertheless, they, for the first time, allow the public to get some sense of the order of magnitude of these requests; there are a substantial number of requests, but we are not collecting information on hundreds of thousands of Americans.

There are three findings by the OIG that are particularly disturbing, and it is those three findings that I wish to address this morning: 1) inaccurate reporting to Congress of various data points we are obligated to report relative to NSLs; 2) the use of so-called exigent letters that circumvented the procedures required by ECPA; and 3) known violations (both previously self-reported by FBI and not previously reported) of law and policy with regard to usage of NSLs.

Congressional Reporting

A finding of the report that particularly distresses me is the section that addresses the inaccuracies of the numbers we report to Congress. That responsibility lies with my division, and we did not do an acceptable job. The process for tabulating NSLs simply did not keep up with the volume. Although we came to that realization prior to the OIG report and are working on a technological solution, that realization came later than it should have.

At some point several years before my tenure at the FBI began, our process for tracking NSLs for congressional reporting purposes shifted from a totally manual process, where NSL data was written on index cards, to a standalone Access database. This database is referred to in the OIG report as the OGC database.

While the OGC database was a giant technological step forward from three-by-five index cards, it is not an acceptable system given the significant increase in use of NSLs since 9/11. First and foremost, the OGC database is not electronically connected to Automated Case Support system (ACS), from which we derive the data. Instead, there is a manual interface between ACS and the OGC database. An OGC employee is responsible for taking every NSL lead that is sent to OGC and manually entering the pertinent information into the OGC database. Nearly a dozen fields must be manually entered, including the file number of the case in which the NSL was issued (typically 15 digits and alphanumeric identifiers).

Approximately a year ago we recognized that our technology was inadequate and began developing an automated system to improve our ability to collect this data. The system, in addition to improving data collection, will automatically prevent many of the errors in NSLs that we will discuss today.

We are building an NSL system to function as a workflow tool that will automate much of the work that is associated with preparing NSLs and the associated paperwork. The NSL system is designed to require the user to enter certain data before the workflow can proceed and requires specific reviews and approvals before the request for the NSL can proceed. Through this process, the FBI can automatically ensure that certain legal and administrative requirements are met and that required reporting data is accurately collected.

For example, by requiring the user to identify the investigative file from which the NSL is to be issued, the system will be able to verify the status of that file to ensure that it is still open and current (e.g. request date is within six months of the opening or an extension has been filed for the investigation) and ensure that NSLs are not being requested out of control or administrative files.

The system will require the user to separately identify the target of the investigative file and the person whose records are being obtained through the requested NSL, if different. This will allow the FBI to accurately count the number of different persons about whom we gather data through NSLs. The system will also require that specific data elements be entered before the process can continue, such as requiring that the target's status as a United States person or non-United States person be entered. The system will not permit requests containing logically inconsistent answers to proceed.

The NSL system is being designed so that the FBI employee requesting an NSL will enter data only once. For example, an agent or analyst who wishes to get telephone toll billing records will only have to prompt the system that he is seeking an ECPA NSL for toll records and type the telephone number once. The system will then automatically populate the appropriate fields in the NSL and the authorizing EC. The system will then generate both the NSL and the authorizing EC for signature, thereby ensuring that the two documents match exactly and minimizing the opportunity for transcription errors that give rise to unauthorized collections that must be reported to the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB).

Agents and analysts will still be required to provide the narrative necessary to explain why the NSL is being sought, the factual basis for making a determination that the information is relevant to an appropriately predicated national security investigation, and the factual basis for a determination whether the NSL should include a non-disclosure provision. In addition, this system will have a comprehensive reporting capability.

We began working with developers on the NSL system in February 2006 and we are optimistic that we will be able to pilot it this summer and roll it out to all field offices by the end of the year. At that point, I will be confident the data we provide to Congress in future reports is as accurate as humanly possible.

In the meantime, we are taking several steps to correct the numbers we have previously reported.

First, we are making data corrections in our database. Through a computer program, we have identified all entries that must be erroneous because there is an apparent error in the entry (e.g., there are more NSLs reported than requests; the date shows a year that is impossible (203)). We are manually reviewing those entries and making corrections.

We have also started a random sampling of 10 percent of the total entries in the OGC database which contains approximately 64,000 entries. Those entries will be manually checked against ACS. We will determine whether there is a significant difference between the entries in our database and the actual information in ACS. To the extent there is a difference, that will be the factor that will be used to correct our prior reporting. While not yielding an exact count, we believe that to be a statistically appropriate way of correcting prior reporting. We have discussed this methodology with the OIG and will offer it the opportunity to review our work. We are striving to have corrected reports to Congress as soon as possible.

As with the other shortcomings identified by the OIG, there was no finding of an intent to deceive Congress concerning our use of NSLs. In fact, as noted, we identified deficiencies in our system for generating data prior to the initiation of the OIG's review and flagged the issue for Congress almost one year ago. While we do not know the extent of the inaccuracies in past reporting, we are confident that the numbers will not change by an order of magnitude.

Exigent Letters

The next significant finding of the OIG involved the use within one unit at Headquarters of so-called "exigent letters." These letters, which numbered in excess of 700, were provided to telephone companies with requests for toll billing information regarding telephone numbers. All of the letters stated that there were exigent circumstances. Many of the letters stated that federal grand jury subpoenas had been requested for the records even though in fact no such request for grand jury subpoenas had been made, while others promised future national security letters.

From an audit and internal control perspective, the FBI did not document the nature of the emergency circumstances that led it to ask for toll records in advance of proper legal process, did not keep copies of all of the exigent letters it provided to the telephone companies, and did not keep records showing that it had subsequently provided either the legal process promised or any other legal process. Further, based on interviews the OIG conducted, some employees indicated that there was not always any emergency relating to the documents that were sought.

OGC has been working with the affected unit to attempt to reconcile the documentation and to ensure that any telephone record we have in an FBI database was obtained because it was relevant to an authorized investigation and that appropriate legal process has now been provided. As of late last week, there were still a small handful of telephone numbers that had not been satisfactorily tied to an authorized investigation. If we are unable to determine the investigation to which those telephone numbers relate, they will be removed from our database and destroyed.

The OIG rightfully objected to the FBI obtaining telephone records by providing a telephone carrier with a letter that states that a federal grand jury subpoena had been requested when that was untrue. It is unclear at this point why that happened. The director has ordered a special inspection in order to better understand the full scope of internal control lapses.

We also concur with the OIG that it is inappropriate to obtain records on the basis of a purported emergency if, in fact, there is no emergency. We continue to believe, however, that providers had the right to rely on our representation that there was an emergency and that the “exigent letters”—had they been issued only when there was an exigent circumstance and had they correctly identified the legal process that would follow—would have been an appropriate tool to use.

In response to the obvious internal control lapses this situation highlights, changes have already been made to ensure that this situation does not recur. Any agent who needs to obtain ECPA-protected records on an emergency basis must now do so pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 2702. Section 2702(c)(4) permits a carrier to provide information regarding its customers to the government if the provider, in good faith, believes that an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury to any person requires disclosure without delay of information relating to the emergency.

A request for disclosure pursuant to that statute generally must be in writing and must clearly state that the disclosure without legal process is at the provider’s option. The letter request must also set out the basic facts of the emergency so that the provider can make some assessment whether it concurs that there is an emergency.

Intelligence Oversight Board Process

The OIG also examined misuse of NSLs that had been reported (and some that had not been reported) as part of the IOB process. As this committee knows, pursuant to Executive Order 12863, the president has an Intelligence Oversight Board that receives from the agencies in the intelligence community reports of intelligence activities that the agency believes may have been unlawful or contrary to executive order or presidential directive. This language is interpreted by the FBI and DOJ to mandate the reporting of any violation of a provision of the Attorney General's Guidelines for FBI National Security Investigations and Foreign Intelligence Collection if such provision is designed to ensure the protection of individual rights.

The FBI requires its employees to report any violations of law or policy about which they are aware. We encourage employees to err on the side of reporting so that we can be sure that all violations are appropriately reported. In terms of process, all potential violations (called PIOBs—or potential Intelligence Oversight Board violations) are reported to OGC.

Lawyers within OGC are responsible for “adjudicating” the violation—that is, determining whether the PIOB is an actual Intelligence Oversight Board violation. If it is, a report is made to the IOB, a copy is provided to DOJ and a copy is provided to the FBI's Inspection Division. If the violation involved intentional misconduct, the Inspection Division will determine whether the matter should be referred to the Office of Professional Responsibility for discipline.

The OIG found that from 2003 through 2005, the FBI had self-reported 26 potential violations involving NSL authorities. Of the 26, OGC adjudicated 19 to be violations and reported them. The OIG agreed with each of those determinations. Of the seven PIOBs that OGC determined were not violations, the OIG agreed with all but one. As to the one determination about which we disagreed, upon re-review, the FBI concurred with the OIG that it was a violation that should have been reported and it has since been reported to the IOB.

These 20 violations included: four third-party errors; three NSLs issued when the authority for the investigation had lapsed; obtaining ECPA-protected records three times without any legal process; and once obtaining a full credit report in a counterintelligence case.

The OIG also found, however, a number of PIOBs in the files it examined that had not been reported to OGC for adjudication. Although press accounts of the reports have implied that the OIG found massive abuses of the NSL authorities by the FBI, a careful read of the report reflects a different set of facts.

The OIG examined 293 NSLs—a reasonably small sample. The sample was a judgmental sample and the size was chosen because the audit was extremely labor intensive. We do not suggest that the sample was not a fair sample (although it was not random), but only that it is questionable from a statistical standpoint to attempt to extrapolate from a very small sample to an entire population.

Moreover, there was wide variation in the number of purported unreported violations from different field offices. The OIG found eight potential violations that were unreported in files in both the Philadelphia and Chicago field offices, but only two unreported potential violations from files in New York and four from San Francisco. We are doing additional follow-up work, but the wide variance between field offices may be a function of the very small sample, or it may indicate that the percentages of potential errors detected are not constant across all field offices.

Setting aside questions about whether the sample is representative, I urge you to look closely at the numbers before arriving at the conclusion that there is a systemic problem concerning the use of NSLs. Of the 293 NSLs the OIG examined, 22 (7 percent) were judged to have potential unreported IOB violations associated with them. Moreover, of that 7 percent, 10—or almost 50 percent—were third-party errors; that is, the NSL recipient provided the FBI information we did not seek. Only 12 of the NSLs examined—4 percent—had mistakes that the OIG rightfully attributes to the FBI.

Examining the 12 potential errors that were rightfully attributed to the FBI reveals a continuum of seriousness relative to the potential impact on individual rights. Four (or just over 1 percent of the sample) were serious violations.

Specifically, two of the violations involved obtaining full credit reports in counterintelligence investigations (which is not statutorily authorized), one involved issuing an NSL when authorization for the investigation to which it related had lapsed, and one involved issuing an NSL for information that was arguably content, and therefore not available pursuant to an NSL. (In the latter case, the ISP on which the NSL was served declined to produce the requested material so there was, in fact, no collection of information to which we were not entitled.)

The balance of the 12 potential violations identified by the OIG do not, in our view, rise to the same level of seriousness as those four. The remaining eight involve errors that are best characterized as arising from a lack of attention to detail, and did not result in the FBI seeking or obtaining any information to which it was not entitled. Those eight potential violations involved errors such as using the wrong certification language in an NSL (although the appropriate certification is not materially different) and having the NSL and the EC seeking the NSL not entirely consistent.

We do not excuse such lack of attention to detail, but we do not believe that such mistakes result in or cause a risk to civil liberties.

In short, approximately 1 percent of the NSLs examined by the OIG had significant errors that were attributable to FBI actions and that had not been, but should have been, reported as PIOBs.

While a 1 percent error rate is not huge, it is unacceptable, and we have taken steps to reduce that error rate.

First, we are very concerned that of all the PIOBs involving mistakes in NSLs attributable to the FBI (whether previously reported or not), three involved the same mistake: namely, issuing an NSL for a full credit report in a counterintelligence investigation. In order to ensure that this particular error is fully rectified, the FBI ordered all field offices to examine all counterintelligence files in which Fair Credit Report NSLs have been issued since January 1, 2002 in order to ascertain whether the file contains a full credit report. If it does, the credit report must be removed from the file, sequestered with the field office’s attorney, and a PIOB must be reported to OGC. The results from that search are due to Headquarters by April 16, 2007.

Several other steps we have taken will, we believe reduce the likelihood that the FBI will commit the other mistakes in the future.

First, as indicated previously, the FBI is developing an automated system to prepare NSLs and their authorizing ECs. That system will reduce to zero mistakes such as having the wrong certification language or inconsistency between the NSL and the EC. It will also ensure that the investigative file out of which the NSL is being issued is open. Finally, it will ensure that an NSL for a full credit report cannot be issued out of a counterintelligence file.

Other changes to FBI policy have been made that we believe will facilitate better handling of IOBs and also reduce errors that lead to IOBs. First, last fall we provided comprehensive advice to the field regarding its responsibility towards information obtained as a result of third-party errors. That guidance requires all such information to be sequestered and reported to OGC as a PIOB. If the “over collected” information is irrelevant to the investigation (e.g., the telephone company transposed a number and provided us records on the wrong telephone account), then it will be destroyed or returned. No such information should be entered into FBI databases. If the information is relevant to the investigation but simply not within the four corners of the NSL, then the information must be sequestered until a new NSL has been issued for the extra data. After the new NSL has been issued, the information can be entered into FBI databases.

Secondly, we have collected all the rules and policies on NSLs into one document which will be disseminated to the field. Those rules now mandate that, until the deployment of the automated NSL system, all NSLs and ECs be prepared from the exemplars that are provided on OGC’s website. That should eliminate many of the mistakes identified by the OIG.

All of these rules will, of course, only reduce or eliminate errors if they are followed. The OIG's report has highlighted for us that there must be some sort of auditing function—above and beyond the IOB process—to systematically ensure that these rules, as well as others that govern our activities in national security investigations, are followed. The FBI has historically been very good at establishing policy and setting rules, but we have not been as proactive as we should have been in establishing internal controls and auditing functions.

The full parameters of the compliance program have not been set, although these aspects have been: the Inspection Division with participation of DOJ’s National Security Division and Privacy and Civil Liberties Office is in the process of a special inspection of NSL usage in all 56 field offices and headquarters. That inspection should uncover any other significant problems with our use of this tool but should also tell us whether there are variances between offices in terms of the numbers and types of errors.

The results of the inspection will then inform the program that the attorney general announced of having teams of DOJ lawyers, FBI lawyers and the Inspection Division periodically audit field offices’ use of NSLs. That process will begin in April and should result in at least 15 offices being audited this year.

We are also considering other proactive compliance programs in order to develop a program that ensures, to the maximum extent possible, that the rules and policies designed to protect privacy and civil liberties are faithfully adhered to by all of our employees, that we promptly identify and correct any violations of law or policy, and that any information collected erroneously is removed from FBI databases and destroyed. In addition, a working group co-chaired by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CPCLO has been convened to examine how NSL-derived information is used and retained by the FBI. The FBI and DOJ’s National Security Division will have a representative on this working group. We welcome the Committee's input as we move forward on these initiatives.

The FBI is acutely aware that the only way that we can achieve our mission of keeping the country safe is if we are trusted by all segments of the American public. With events like the London terror attacks of two years ago and the Canadian plot to use fertilizer bombs to destroy buildings in Canada in 2006, we have all become worried about the risk of a catastrophic attack from home grown terrorists.

Our single best defense against such an attack is the eyes and ears of all Americans—but particularly of those segments of the population in which the risk of radicalization is at its highest. We need people in those communities to call us when they hear or see something that looks amiss. We know that we reduce the probability of that call immeasurably if we lose the confidence of those segments of the population.

That is one of the reasons that we are looking for ways to assure all Americans that we are respectful of individual rights, including privacy rights, and that we use the tools that have been provided to us consistent with the rules set out by Congress.

I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the Committee and look forward to answering your questions.

Thank you.

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posted by Richard @ 9:12 PM   0 comments
Press output from the Multi-National Force
These are links to the Multi-National Force website and the new MultiNational Force UTube channel. I present these because, as a retired Army Reserve Major, I am proud of most of my brothers-in-arms. (I assume that the incompetent LtC. Nick Basic is either dead or way too old to be back with the Army - for which modern soldiers should thank any diety they know of.) We (that is, the Army) have Press Officers in order to get our side of the news out.

I am not going to claim that the Army is always right, nor will I claim that what the Press Officers put out is independent journalism. This material is neither. But I am willing to look at al Jeezera and try to determine what is true and what is not. I do trust our military to at least have as much, perhaps more honesty than al Jeezera does.

That said, here is the website for the Multi-National Force.

Here is the Multi-National Force UTube channel. The UTube site has a list of limitations stating what they will not post:
What we will NOT post on this channel:
- Profanity
- Sexual content
- Overly graphic, disturbing or offensive material
- Footage that mocks Coalition Forces, Iraqi Security Forces or the citizens of Iraq.
They don't say that they won't post videos that show the Army, Marine Corps or Iraqi Army in a bad light, but that should be obvious from the source.

The result is that these videos should show the best of our soldiers and Iraqi soldiers as they operate in combat. I want to make sure that everyone knows that we have guys and girls this good.

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posted by Richard @ 6:22 PM   0 comments
With as many flaws in the Death Penalty system, it needs to be abolished.
Jeralyn Merritt has a good post summarizing many of the flaws in the system of the Death Penalty here in the U.S. The worst is that it gets guilt wrong too often, and second after that even for the guilty the likelihood of getting teh death penalty is a random-chance crap shoot.

I still want to know why Attorney General Ashcroft was in such a hurry to have Timothy McVeigh executed. We never got the full story behind McVeigh, but we know enough to be certain that American right-wing militas or paramilitaries had a lot to do with it, and there are indications that McVeigh may have had assistance from outside the U.S.

Combine that with the fact that Ashcroft was known to associate with non-reconstructed Southerners who desired a return to the Confederacy, and I suspect that there was a lot that the current administration did not want to come out about McVeigh.

The death penalty robbed us of the chance to learn who or what was behind McVeigh. It also gave McVeigh the status he wanted as a martyr.

In short - the death penalty is dangerous, short-sighted, randomly applied (and hence not a deterrant) and generally not something civilized people should practice.

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posted by Richard @ 5:14 PM   0 comments
Where did the Bushie US attorney firings go really wrong?
OK. If you haven't figured it out yet, I am a big picture and a process thinker. I like to see how things relate together before digging into the details, and when I dig into the details my first questions are always "How and why did it get this way?" Caused me some real problems studying accounting, let me tell you. Accounting teachers (and mathematics teachers) tend to teach the details first, and only after that link them to the big picture and the processes.

Yeah, Right. So what?

So here is an interesting process type discussion. What have the Bushies done with the US attorney firing scandal that closely resembles the process used by the Delta Zeta sorority when they kicked all the girls who were overweight, minority, or otherwise not considered attractive in stereotypical female terms? Eli at Firedoglake answers that question.

The two events have a very similar process, especially in how they treat those who are kicked out. The reactions of those who were kicked out are very similar, also, and highly predictable.

Looking at the decisions eliminate the unpresentable attorneys or girls and the process of insulting them on the way out, what did they expect those rejected individuals to do?

Go read Eli at Firedoglake.

Do you think the people doing the rejecting had a scintilla [*] of empathy for the rejectees?

Conservatives operate from fear, and do not normally have empathy for those who oppose them.


[*] First time I ever got to use that word. Interesting word, isn't it? It means a spark or a trace.

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posted by Richard @ 1:30 PM   0 comments
Is the US attorney scandal the one that ties all the others together and to the White House?
I suspect that the US attorney scandal represents a severe overstep by the White House, Karl Rove in particular, and may become similar to the Nixon "Saturday Night Massacre." Phoenix Woman over at Firedoglake proposes that it is the key link in a Grand Unified Scandal Theory.

Her idea is more fully developed (and already written) than mine is, so just go over there and see what you think. Oh, and remember what it was like to read and write stuff like this before hyperlinks? I sure do. God! I love hyperlinks!

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posted by Richard @ 1:09 PM   0 comments
Is there anyone In Washington D.C. who understands democracy?
Glenn Greenwald goes after Fred Hiatt, the fool (my term, not Glenn's) who is an Op-Ed columnist on the Washington Post editorial page. Then Glenn demonstrates why Fred should be considered a fool.

My question is how bad are the anti-democratic pro-elitist attitudes that drive the inside the beltway bunch? That is both in the media and in government.

Here is an example:
if Congress once listens to the opinions of actual citizens -- those filthy bloggers and their readers, or grass-roots groups like MoveOn -- that, for Hiatt, is when democracy is imperiled.
Go sit through the (short) advertisement for a day-pass at Salon and read Glenn. As you read it and as you read the editorials out of the NY Times and the Washingtom Post, ask yourself how they respond to the needs of the masses of Americans? How do they reflect Jacksonian (and modern) democracy?

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posted by Richard @ 9:22 AM   0 comments
Another Republican Lie
You know, someone should do a website or blog that did nothing except record the lies that come out of the Republican Party. I don't think I could, though. There are SO MANY!

Here is another at TPM Muckraker.

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posted by Richard @ 9:09 AM   0 comments
Interesting prediction by Atrios on MSM for 2008 election.
Atrios offers a really interesting prediction for how the MSM is going to act in the next 17 months:
It's obvious that Republicans in general and the presidential candidate especially will have to run against George Bush in '08 if they want to have any chance of actually winning control.

It's also obvious that fealty to dear leader is still an extraordinarily important thing to the 30 percenters.

It's also probable that our blessed media, who spent '00 demanding that Al Gore run away from Bill Clinton due to his hideous 65% approval ratings, will be unlikely to do that to the Republican candidate in '08.

Just thinking out loud here.
Ya Think?

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posted by Richard @ 8:45 AM   0 comments
Reid: Rove must testify under oath.
Sen. Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, speaking to Al Hunt at Bloomberg. expects that White House officials will testify as a result of a compromise. Some will be permitted to testify in private without sworn testimony, but NOT Karl Rove. Karl Rove must be under oath.
``Certainly, Karl Rove, with his resume, would have to be under oath,'' Reid, 67, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV's ``Political Capital with Al Hunt,'' scheduled to air this weekend. ``He simply in my opinion, and I think the majority of the American people, is not trustworthy.''[Snip]

Reid stressed that he thinks a compromise is possible, and that not all officials need to give sworn statements. ``Well, I think that there could be some testimony taken in private'' and ``would be recorded,'' Reid said. ``We could do that.'' [Snip]

Reid in the interview said he didn't know if the White House is engaged in obstructing justice, though he said the matter is emerging as one of the Bush administration's most troubling ``scandals.''

``This is a scandal and the American people are interested in the truth, and that's always a little hard to come by, especially when you have Karl Rove involved in the scenario,'' Reid said.

Reid has repeatedly questioned Rove's integrity because he was embroiled in the recent federal investigation of the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity. Former vice presidential aide I. Lewis Libby was convicted March 6 of lying to investigators in the only criminal case sparked by the leak, and Rove made five grand jury appearances in the case.
I like Sen. Reid. We get a lot of honesty from him, openly expressed to the public. The comparison between Reid and the Bush Administration and the Republican Senators and Representatives is a real breathe of fresh air.

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posted by Richard @ 7:57 AM   0 comments
Gonzales lied! He approved the US attorney firings
From Taegan Goddard's Political wire:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "approved plans to fire several U.S. attorneys in a November meeting, according to documents released Friday that contradict earlier claims that he was not closely involved in the dismissals," NBC News reports.
It looks to me like Gonzales holds his job about as strongly as Don Rumsfeld held his just before the November 2006 election. How long will Bush refuse to make a decision?

The longer Gonzales remains Attorney General, the worse the damage to the Republican Party going into the election of 2008. But of course, it also means he has longer to do damage to America. That makes his 'hanging in' a bitter-sweet business for the rest of us.

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posted by Richard @ 7:38 AM   0 comments
Carol Lam was not an innocent victim.
An anonymous diary at dKos gives a brief recent history of Ron Nehring, the head of the San Diego County Republican Party before he was recently appointed head of the California Republican Party. He got Carol Lam appointed as San Diego US attorney, then had her investigate the then-dominant Democratic Party county office-holders publicly while the Republicans used those indictments to replace the Democrats with Republicans. His appointment as head of the California Republican Party is an effort to drag the California Republican Party back to the right, after Schwartzenegger went off the reservation and moved to the middle.

Nehring has tight connections to Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform, and was close to both Jack Abramoff and now-convicted Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham. US attorney Carol Lam slow-walked the investigation into Cunningham, but he was so over-the-top in his corruption that she couldn't derail the investigation and conviction.

If I lived in San Diego I'd be writing a book about this. As it is, I can only get snippets like this diary (and Digby's discussion of it) as they reach the more national news.

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posted by Richard @ 6:56 AM   0 comments
How successful is the surge so far?
Digby provides an indicator sourced in Newsweek who got it from Azhar al-Samuraie, a member of the Iraqi national assembly's committee for displaced and migration, and a Sunni.

Who do you trust? The Army Generals assigned by Bush to succeed where every prrior Bush effort has failed, or a Sunni member of the Iraqi national assembly's committee for displaced and migration? Of course, if the General reports no news or bad news, he is headed for replacement and retirement.

Go read Digby.

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posted by Richard @ 6:33 AM   0 comments
Saturday, March 24, 2007
And just how bad is YOUR job?
This is one of those emails with some humor to it.


I LOVE MY JOB . . . . .

If you don't laugh out loud after you read this you are in a coma!

This is even funnier when you realize it's real! Next time you have a bad day at work think of this guy.

Rob is a commercial saturation diver for Global Divers in Louisiana. He performs underwater repairs on offshore drilling rigs. Below is an E-mail he sent to his sister. She then sent it to radio station 103.2 FM in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, who was sponsoring a worst job experience contest. Needless to say, she won.

Hi Sue,

Just another note from your bottom-dwelling brother.

Last week I had a bad day at the office. I know you've been feeling down lately at work, so I thought I would share my dilemma with you to make you realize it's not so bad after all.

Before I can tell you what happened to me, I first must bore you with a few technicalities of my job.

As you know, my office lies at the bottom of the sea. I wear a suit to the office. It's a wet suit. This time of year the water is quite cool. So what we do to keep warm is this: We have a diesel powered industrial water heater. This $20,000 piece of equipment sucks the water out of the sea. It heats it to a delightful temperature.

It then pumps it down to the diver through a garden hose, which is taped to the air hose. Now this sounds like a darn good plan, and I've used it several times with no complaints.

What I do, when I get to the bottom and start working, is take the hose and stuff it down the back of my wet suit. This floods my whole suit with warm water. It's like working in a Jacuzzi.

Everything was going well until all of a sudden, my butt started to itch. So, of course, I scratched it. This only made things worse. Within a few seconds my butt started to burn. I pulled the hose out from my back, but the damage was done. In agony I realized what had happened.

The hot water machine had sucked up a jellyfish and pumped it into my suit. Now, since I don't have any hair on my back, the jellyfish couldn't stick to it . However, the crack of my butt was not as fortunate.

When I scratched what I thought was an itch, I was actually grinding the jellyfish into the crack of my butt.

I informed the dive supervisor of my dilemma over the communicator. His instructions were unclear due to the fact that he, along with five other divers, were all laughing hysterically.

Needless to say I aborted the dive. I was instructed to make three agonizing in-water decompression stops totaling thirty-five minutes before I could reach the surface to begin my chamber dry decompression. When I arrived at the surface, I was wearing nothing but my brass helmet.

As I climbed out of the water, the medic, with tears of laughter running down his face, handed me a tube of cream and told me to rub it on my butt as soon as I got in the chamber.

The cream put the fire out, but I couldn't poop for two days because my butt was swollen shut.

So, next time you're having a bad day at work, think about how much worse it would be if you had a jellyfish shoved up your butt.

Now repeat to yourself, "I love my job, I love my job, I love my job."

Now whenever you have a bad day, ask yourself, is this a jellyfish bad day?

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posted by Richard @ 5:43 PM   0 comments
About Me
Name: Richard

The single most important essay that I have published here is Rule of Law vs. Arbitrary Command.

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