The media propogandists for the war mongers in the US government are at it again: Faux News host Greg Gutfield has publically suggested that Iran, not al Qaeda or Iraq, was behind the September 11 attacks.

Well over six years after the attacks, many questions about the attacks remain unanswered. There is a vast amount of misinformation (mere errors) about the attacks, but I have no doubt that much of it is actually disinformation put out to discredit skeptics of the official government account. Knowing that we’re being lied to is easy… the hard part is telling which bits are lies, which bits are half-truths, which are mistakes and what is the truth.

Whatever happened that terrible day, it has served the Bush administration well. Not just them either: while the US economy is tanking, Exxon has reported a profit for 2007 of $40.6 billion, making nearly $1300 per second 24 hours a day, every day, for the entire year. That’s the highest reported profit of any commercial enterprise in history. And people wonder “cui bono?” about the Iraq war…

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And now it begins: the War On Teachers Who Might Make Education Enjoyable. Florida school teacher Jim Piculas has been fired by Rushe Middle School for performing “wizardry” after he showed students a 30 second magic trick where he made a toothpick disappear and then reappear.

That’s how it starts folks: first a bit of sleight-of-hand, and before you know it, the children are sacrificing babies to Beelzebub.

Junior President Bush, who a month ago said that he was kinda envious of the lucky-duck troops havin’ all sortsa fun and romantic adventures in Afghanistan, has now declared that he’s sharing the sacrifices of the troops in Iraq… by giving up golf.

For the first time, Bush revealed a personal way in which he has tried to acknowledge the sacrifice of soldiers and their families.

“I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf,” he said. “I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.”

Aren’t you glad to have such a man as President of the Free World?

Via Reddit.

According to Slashdot (and it’s on the Internet, so it must be true) Microsoft’s Messenger service has been blocking messages which include Youtube URLs. Some users suggested that the blocks might have had something to do with Microsoft’s new “Messenger TV” service, but others suggested that it was more likely a glitch in the anti-phishing scanner Microsoft uses to “protect” its users from phishing sites.

Whatever the real reason (my money is on incompetence rather than malice), Messenger now seems to be back to normal, with Youtube URLs no longer being blocked. For that matter, I’m not sure that any URLs are being blocked, phishing or not. In my tests using a couple of spare MSN accounts I happened to have lying around, I couldn’t get any URL blocked — including such verified fake banking sites as http://www.emtmalumni.org/greymatter/eppi/. If you’re looking for an open list of phishing sites to perform your own experiments, check out this database of user-submitted and verified phishing URLs: the Phishtank.

Personally, I have little time for such measures to “protect” people unless, at minimum, there is full disclosure of what is being blocked, and whenever feasible provision for people to opt-out. Otherwise, even when done with the best intentions, or with unintentially funny results, it is still censorship and unacceptable. Censorship doesn’t cease to be censorship merely because it is not done by a government.

    Here in the US, we are so schizoid and deeply opposed to government censorship that we insist on having unaccountable private parties to do it instead. — Bill Cole

At times Nature can be cruel, but there is a raw beauty in the struggle for survival. Consider the alligators, one of the oldest predator species. The alligator is an apex predator, but can still fall victim to team work. A dog pack’s tightly knit social structure and survival-of-the-pack mentality enables it to defeat even such a fearsome predator as the alligator, as seen in this graphic photo from Florida.

For the protection of the squeamish, after the cut.
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News from the world’s greatest surveillance state, the UK, a place where you can’t walk more than a few metres in most cities without being photographed by cameras run by the government and private corporations:

Photographers are being harrassed and intimidated by police and security guards, in defiance of the law, for innocently taking photos of public events.

Gosh, police and security guards over-stepping the bounds of what they are allowed to do? Whoever would have imagined that could happen?

The BBC reports:

Phil Smith thought ex-EastEnder Letitia Dean turning on the Christmas lights in Ipswich would make a good snap for his collection.

The 49-year-old started by firing off a few shots of the warm-up act on stage. But before the main attraction showed up, Mr Smith was challenged by a police officer who asked if he had a licence for the camera.

A licence for a camera? A licence for a camera? As in, this cop thinks that you need government permission to own a camera. And I bet that he thinks “they hate our freedoms”.

After explaining he didn’t need one, he was taken down a side-street for a formal “stop and search”, then asked to delete the photos and ordered not take any more. So he slunk home with his camera.

Smith said that he was singled out because he had an actual camera with a flash, and that there were people taking photos with mobile phones and pocket cameras. Presumably terrorists don’t know how to use camera phones. I want to know what sort of a training system British cops go through that leads them to simultaneously display heavy-handed authoritarianism and the sheer incompetence by ignoring or not noticing all the other photographers.

British MP and amateur photographer Austin Mitchell isn’t amused, and has tabled a motion in the House of Commons calling on the police to “educate officers about photographers’ rights”:

“There’s a general alarm about terrorism and about paedophiles, two heady cocktails, and police and PCSOs [police community support officers] and wardens and authorities generally seem to be worried about this.”

Another moral panic. Oh noes, he has a camera, he must be a terrorist, or a paedophile, or maybe a terrorist-paedophile!!!!! Panic!

Patrick from Making Light writes about a recent experience he had, and I’ve written about similar cases before.

There’s a deeper, more fundamental issue here. As Avram Grumer points out, the primary mission of authority is to preserve authority. In a story about abuse of power from Washington DC, he writes:

Even today, knowing that almost anyone could be holding a video camera and their actions could wind up on YouTube, cops will still bully and assault people for refusing to instantly defer to arbitrary authority. (That first video is a classic of the genre. The cop is a tubby man in a ridiculous uniform, riding around in a tiny vehicle that may as well be a clown car. His life as a cop isn’t turning out like it does in the movie and on TV, and he’s taking it out on anyone he can push around.)

Megan McArdle, another DC libertarian, picks up the story, and her comments section quickly fills with forelock-tuggers and knee-benders justifying the actions of the Park Police, even if they have to make up facts to do it. It’s practically a catalog of dishonest argumentation and propaganda. In fact, I think it’s useful to dissect the examples so that we can recognize them when we see similar arguments on the nation’s editorial pages.

I don’t believe that the constable who singled out Phil Smith and destroyed his property (his photos) was merely ignorant of the law. I don’t believe that he or her really, honestly, didn’t notice a crowd full of people taking photos on their cameras. I believe that (s)he knew exactly what he was doing: making himself feel big by singling out a single person and making their day miserable, just because he could.

When did I become the sort of person who regularly and consistently puts in 11+ hour work days without overtime? And look at the clock and say “Gosh, 8pm, I’m leaving work early tonight”.

Back to blogging Real Soon Now, I promise. Maybe even later tonight, depending what happens after I watch Batman Begins.