Monday, October 31, 2011

Beware The Bogey Man The Disingenuous and The Back Door

We witnessed it with the Patriot Act, although in the case of Bush, even that wasn't enough, Bushco and the American state going on to engage in all kinds of illegal domestic activities, from.... well you name it.

But what we did witness, was the wheeling out the terrorism bogey man and subsequently the enactment of the Patriot act, that did for privacy and civil rights in one fell swoop, what the Taliban did for cultural appreciation. Guardian, video below.

There is another bogey man I want to make mention of, and although not directly related to the main body of this post, it is important that I mention it for reasons manifold.

Voter disenfranchisement has been around in the US for long enough, but is seemingly ever on the increase in the red states of America. And shamelessly so I have to say; well it would be wouldn't it? Shame and Republican, being two words that don't belong in the same sentence.

I'm not going to explain the nuts and bolts of it all, but do Google it for yourselves. It's quite an eye-opener, even if you are somewhat au fait with the US voting system, even more so if you are not.

But it is under the guise of voter fraud, albeit so minuscule that it could, and should be ignored, nevertheless, this is the bogey man that Republican held states and districts offer, quite transparently and shamelessly, as the excuse to enact restrictions, usually in the form of voter ID, on that section of the public that would normally be associated with voting Democrat.

Update: The Guardian has a piece on this.

The Republican 'voter fraud' fraud

All over the US, GOP lawmakers have engineered schemes to make voting more difficult. Well, if you can't win elections fairly… Guardian

More recently and closer to home however, we have witnessed the use of, and not always for reasons noble, that most emotive of bogey men, the paedophile.

And what better example do we need of seeing the paedo bogey man being run out, and for sure without a noble reason in sight, than that of Jim Gamble, recently of the CEOP.

In chronological order I reference three previous posts, all featuring the use of emotive bogey man to further someone's agenda, an agenda I have to say, where the protection of children slips down the ladder of priorities. We only need to recall Jim Gambles attempts to whitewash the McCanns to have that observation confirmed.

The first up then: CEOP: More Toys Out Of The Pram Our bogey man, this time under the guise of cartoon porn, starts proper at the, A comment from the web mark. But please, don't miss out on the comments, they say as much, if not more than the article itself.

That's The Trouble With Hysteria follows next, and it is this post that is the meat and potatoes of it all. Referencing the toys out of the pram article at the outset, it delves a little deeper into the use of the bogey man as tool, but does moves on to cover one or two other points.

Now I know Why is pure Jim Gamble, well it is if you ignore, Ed Smart, Isabel Duarte and Keith Vaz that is. But for the main, it is Gamble, his methods and his empire building.

So to the article in question, two actually, there was something else that caught my eye on the same site.

Here again we see the same bogey man employed, he does get around doesn't he? But what this fellow is proposing, in the name of the bogey man of course, is nothing more than data gathering on a grand scale, and not least shall we say, a tad intrusive?

Details of all internet traffic should be logged, MEP says

A member of the European Parliament wants users' "traffic data", rather than the specific content of online communications, to be logged under expanded EU laws on data storage. This is according to a statement from the European People's Party (EPP) at the European Parliament.

Tiziano Motti, an Italian MEP, wants to extend the EU's Data Retention Directive "to content providers (social networks etc) in order to identify more easily those who commit crimes, including paedophilia through sexual harassment on the net," the EPP said.

"This is a request which does not refer specifically the online content, which falls under the Regulation of Wiretapping, but to the traffic data developed by the person uploading material of any kind on the net: comments, pictures, videos," it said.

The Data Retention Directive was established in 2006 to make it a requirement for telecoms companies to retain personal data for a period – determined by national governments – of between six months and two years. The Commission decided to regulate following terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005.

Under the Directive, telecoms firms are required to retain identifying details of phone calls and emails, such as the traffic and location, to help the police detect and investigate serious crimes. The details exclude the content of those communications.

Motti's proposals, developed with the help of Italian computer expert Fabio Ghioni (author of Hacker Republic), would involve the data being stored in an internet "black box" enabling the "truth of what happened on the web" to be recorded, according to an automated translation of a report on Ghioni's website (in Italian).

Ghioni's "Logbox" system would involve encrypting the traffic data and giving the "key" to access it to the user, an "authority" and a lawyer, according to an automated translation of a report (in Italian) by Italian Christian magazine, Famiglia Cristiana.

Ghioni said his "precise mechanism" would need the "collaboration" of operating system manufacturers such as Microsoft and Apple to log all activities on their systems, according to the automated translation of the report. That data would be "digitally signed in order to be traced to a specific computer and its user", allowing paedophiles to be identified "regardless of any trick [they may use] to anonymise any illegal activity", and would be inexpensive to operate, Ghioni said, according to the automated translation of the report.

Motti believes that establishing a system for storing "traffic data" would make it possible to enforce suggestions he previously made regarding data retention laws last year, according to the EPP.

In June 2010, the European Parliament backed proposals outlined in a "written declaration" by Motti and fellow MEP Anna Záborská to set up a system to act as an "early warning" system to identify paedophiles and other sex offenders. A written declaration has no legislative effect on its own, but is formally communicated by the Parliament to the European Commission in a bid to influence its policy if adopted.

The adopted declaration also called for the scope of the Directive to cover "data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks" and be extended "to search engines in order to tackle online child pornography and sex offending rapidly and effectively".

In April this year, the European Commission said it would update the Data Retention Directive after conceding that it does not always adequately protect privacy or personal data.

The Commission was responding to a critical report that it had commissioned to provide feedback on the impact the Directive was having on businesses and consumers, and how it was being implemented in EU countries.

At the time the Commission said that it would consider strengthening regulations of the storage, access to and use of retained data to improve the protection of personal data.

In May, UK Justice Secretary Ken Clarke said that the Commission's plans to revise the Directive should be viewed "with caution" after he listed examples of how stored communications data had been used to thwart terrorism and serious crime during a speech at the British Chamber of Commerce in Brussels.

This is the other article that caught my eye, but don't be mislead by the header, it goes deeper than that.

YouTube asked to remove 135 videos over 'national security issues', Google says

The UK Government asked Google to remove 135 YouTube videos for national security reasons in the first half of this year, the internet search giant has said.

In total UK content removal requests increased by 71% compared to the previous six-month period, Google said in its twice-yearly transparency report.

The Government raised no national security concerns between July and December 2010.

Google fully or partially complied with 82% of the Government's requests, the report said.

In total the UK Government requested the removal of 333 items including web search results, images and videos according to the figures.

It also asked for 61 videos to be removed for 'privacy and security' reasons, three for violence and one for hate speech. 20 videos were removed for 'other' reasons, according to the figures.

Google started publishing its Transparency Report last year. It outlines traffic patterns and disruptions to Google services, as well as providing details of content removal requests and requests for user data received from governments around the world.

Removal requests ask for the removal of content from Google search results or another one of the company's products, including YouTube, it said. Data requests ask for information about Google user accounts or products.

The company said it received 1,273 user data requests relating to 1,443 individual users. It fully or partially complied with 64% of those requests, it said.

A Home Office spokesperson told that where unlawful online content was hosted in the UK, the police have the power to seek its removal. Where the content is hosted overseas, the Government works with its international partners to have the content removed.

"The government takes the threat of online extremist or hate content very seriously," the spokesperson said.

National governments asked Google to remove content for many different reasons including defamation allegations and breaches of local laws prohibiting hate speech or pornography, it said.

Google said that it did not comply with government requests which were not specific enough for the company to know what should be removed, or allegations of defamation through informal letters from government agencies.

"We generally rely on courts to decide is a statement is defamatory according to local law," it said.

Brazil made the most content removal requests, the report said. China only made three removal requests, each covering a large amount of data. Google was unable to disclose the details of one of those requests as it "had reason to believe" the Chinese government had prohibited disclosure, it said.

The search engine received a request from police in the US to remove videos it was alleged depicted acts of police brutality, it revealed.

"We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos of police brutality, which we did not remove," it said.

"Separately, we received requests from a different local law enforcement agency for removal of videos allegedly defaming law enforcement officials. We did not comply with those requests, which we have categorised in this Report as defamation requests."

Content removal requests from authorities in the US increased by 70% compared to the previous six-month period, it said. In addition, the US authorities made more than 11,000 requests for user data - a higher figure than any other country, the report said.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

“We don’t need a warrant, we’re ICE”

ICE Agent During Search: "The Warrant is Coming Out of My Balls"
By Jorge Rivas
October 29, 2011

The ACLU of Tennessee filed a lawsuit this week in federal court on behalf of fifteen residents of an apartment complex in Nashville, TN who say they were targets of an unlawful immigration raid. The defendants allege that ICE agents and Metro Nashville police officers forced their way into their homes without warrants. When residents asked the officers to show a warrant, one agentreportedly said, “We don’t need a warrant, we’re ICE.” Then, gesturing to his genitals, the officer reportedly said “the warrant is coming out of my balls.”

The ACLU notes on its website that the Fourth Amendment strictly prohibits warrantless intrusions into private homes — and it applies to both citizens and non-citizens. “In the absence of a judicially authorized warrant, there must be voluntary and knowing consent; ICE officers forcing themselves into someone’s home does not constitute consent.”

“Looking Latino and speaking Spanish is not enough to justify probable cause for questioning and arresting a person” Lindsay Kee, from the ACLU of Tennessee writes in a blog post.

The ACLU’s “Blog of Rights” provides more details of the events:

On the night of October 20, 2010, Angel Escobar and Jorge Sarmiento were in bed in their small, two-bedroom apartment in the Clairmont complex in Nashville. The doors and windows were all shut and locked. Suddenly there was a loud banging at the door and voices shouting “Police!” and “Policia!” When no one answered, the agents tried to force the door open. Scared, Jesus hid in a closet. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents began hitting objects against the bedroom windows, trying to break in. Without a search warrant and without consent, the ICE agents eventually knocked in the front door and shattered a window, shouting racial slurs and storming into the bedrooms, holding guns to their heads. When asked if they had a warrant, one agent reportedly said, “We don’t need a warrant, we’re ICE,” and, gesturing to his genitals, “the warrant is coming out of my balls.”

The raids in Nashville aren’t isolated incidents. Similar claims have been filed in recent years following raids on immigrant homes in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Georgia and Northern California.

In 2008, a lawsuit brought by lawyers at the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall Law School in Newark found ICE agents systematically entered homes and made arrests without proper warrants during raids to round up “immigration fugitives” in New Jersey.

In both the Nashville and Newark cases, U.S. citizens were detained. In the Newark case, one plaintiff in the lawsuit, Maria Argueta — who’s been a legal immigrant since 2001 — was detained and held for 36 hours, according to the New York Times. ICE agents entered her home by telling her they were police officers searching for a “wanted criminal.” Alternet

Visa, MasterCard and PayPal: Hate Groups Good Wikileaks Bad

One more step down the road to totalitarianism. Wikileaks today, who's it going to be tomorrow? It could be you.

Update: ICH are currently alerting to a Naomi Wolf article that I featured back in 2007. Article at ICH with video, or direct link to the Guardian.

There is little worth linking to when I ran the article in 07, other than perhaps my one brief, now in retrospect, insightful comment. It just having to skip an election to come to fruition.

Visa, Mastercard, PayPal And Other Payment Companies Still Choking Off Funding to WikiLeaks, Threatening Whistleblower's Survival

Allowing corporations to arbitrarily bankrupt law-abiding people or organizations with whom they disagree, poses a significant threat to free speech.
By Rania Khalek
October 26, 2011

The whistleblower Web site WikiLeaks—whose publication of leaked classified documents has exposed the corruption of some of the world’s most powerful governments—is being muzzled by a handful of financial institutions, according to the organization's founder.

On Monday, Oct. 24, Julian Assange announced that WikiLeaks has been forced to suspend publication to focus its energy on urgently needed fundraising due to what he termed an “illegal blockade." He told reporters that WikiLeaks has relied on cash reserves to fund the past 11 months of operations due to the refusal of Bank of America, PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, and Western Union to process donations, starving the organization of 95 percent of its revenue stream. He added that WikiLeaks, with a staff of about 20 employees, needs $3.5 million to stay afloat through 2013.

The blockade was enacted last December, just days after WikiLeaks, in concert with the New York Times, the Guardian, Der Spiegel, and El Pais, published a small fraction of some 250,000 classified US state department cables. The news outlets that actually published the cables suffered no halts in payment.

This financial blockade, if left unchallenged, will likely affect more than just WikiLeaks. Trevor Timm, an activist and blogger for the Electronic Frontier Foundation recently explained to TechNewsWorld, "The financial blockade is a free speech issue,” adding, "WikiLeaks has not been convicted of -- or even officially accused of -- a crime by the United States. In fact, it's clear to most First Amendment experts that they've done nothing illegal."

In January, House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner demanding that WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange be added to the Treasury’s Specially Designated National and Blocked Persons list, a move that would have banned U.S. companies and individuals from doing business with the whistleblowing Web site. It's essentially an economic blacklist that blocks financial dealings with suspected terrorists and drug traffickers who make up the majority of the list.

At the time, Assange accused King of trying to enact an embargo "on the truth." Treasury ultimately refused to comply with King's demands and released the following statement: "We do not have evidence at this time as to Julian Assange or WikiLeaks meeting criteria under which [Treasury] may designate persons and place them on the [sanctions list]."

Flawed Reasoning

Timm went on to tell TechNewsDaily, "The most outrageous part about the financial blockade is the companies' supposed reasoning. Many of them have said that WikiLeaks violated their terms of use because they engaged in 'illegal' activity. This is just false."

When I contacted PayPal about the reason behind its refusal to process WikiLeaks donations, its media representative referred me to a December 2010 statement by PayPal general counsel John Muller, which reads: "Ultimately, our difficult decision was based on a belief that the WikiLeaks website was encouraging sources to release classified material, which is likely a violation of law by the source."

Investigative journalist James Ball points out the blatant contradiction of this rationale in the Guardian. He writes:

Visa, MasterCard and PayPal are none-too-choosy about who they provide payment services for. Want to use your credit card to donate to the Ku Klux Klan? Go right ahead. Prefer to support the English Defence League? PayPal will happily sort you out. Prefer to give cash to Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, who oppose the "radical homosexual agenda"? Feel free to use your Visa, Mastercard or Paypal.

Bank of America’s reason for cutting off WikiLeaks may have an element of retaliation. Last November, Bank of America’s stock plummeted 3 percent after WikiLeaks claimed to possess internal Bank of America documents. In August, former WikiLeaks co-spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who was fired from WikiLeaks last year and has since created the rival organization OpenLeaks, told Reuters that he destroyed those documents in August.

I contacted Bank of America, Mastercard and Western Union for comment, but did not hear back. Visa declined to comment.

Unforeseen Consequences

Whether you support or detest WikiLeaks is irrelevant. The fact remains that WikiLeaks, as Timm points out, has not been charged, prosecuted or convicted of any crime in any court in any part of the world, makes this financial blockade tantamount to an extrajudicial stifling of free speech.

Yet these payment companies continue to single out WikiLeaks. Vesting private corporations with the power to arbitrarily bankrupt law-abiding people or organizations with whom they disagree, is detrimental to free speech.

At Monday’s press conference, Assange told reporters, “If this financial attack stands unchallenged, a dangerous, oppressive and undemocratic precedent will have been set, the implications of which go far beyond WikiLeaks and its work. Any organization that falls foul of powerful finance companies or their political allies can expect similar extrajudicial action.” source with links

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fukushima Roundup From Fairewinds Associates

I have a been a little lax of late in keeping up with the goings on at Fukushima, so here are the updates for the last month from Fairewinds.

Oldest first, but before that, a couple of links on issues that I have railed against since day one. By no means am I being smug or saying 'I told you so' because the issues were there as plain as day, well they were to anyone other than the Japanese government, who seemed quite content to be led around the ring by TEPCO.

And something Arnie Guunderson raises in the first clip, the far too cosy relationship between operators and regulators.

In line with my pregnant schoolgirl analogy.

Fukushima released 30 times more radiation in ocean than government claims, says French government

And virtually every other previous post of mine has about kids in the affected area.

Unto the children: The nuke thing creeps on

Women stage sit-in protest against nuclear policy, meet with Nuclear Safety Commission
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Nuclear Oversight Lacking Worldwide (Jobs for the boys!)

Nuclear Oversight Lacking Worldwide from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

Fairewinds disagrees with a recent New York Times Opinion that claims that Fukushima was caused because Japanese regulators did not properly oversee Tokyo Electric. Fairewinds shows that in the United States, the same cozy relationship exists between the NRC and the nuclear industry. Proper regulation of nuclear power has been coopted worldwide by industry refusal to implement the cost to assure nuclear safety.

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Are Regulators And The Nuclear Industry Applying The Valuable Lessons Learned From Fukushima?

Are Regulators And The Nuclear Industry Applying The Valuable Lessons Learned From Fukushima? from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

Fairewinds Presentation to the San Clemente City Council

Fairewinds chief engineer Arnie Gundersen discusses three nuclear safety problems uncovered during the Fukushima accident that nuclear regulators and the nuclear industry wish they could ignore. Why isn't the industry designing nuclear plants to withstand the worst natural events? Why aren't nuclear regulators, governments, and citizens who live and work near a nuclear plant prepared for a nuclear accident? How much does the NRC value human life? Finally, Fairewinds' Gundersen concludes that the NRC is not implementing adequate safety changes because the NRC believes that a serious accident is impossible.

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New TEPCO Photographs Substantiate Significant Damage to Fukushima Unit 3

New TEPCO Photographs Substantiate Significant Damage to Fukushima Unit 3 from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

Analysis of new Fukushima 3 photographs released last week by TEPCO substantiate Fairewinds’ claim that explosion of Unit 3 began over the spent fuel pool. Fairewinds believes that significant damage has also occurred to the containment system of Fukushima Unit 3, and that the two events (fuel pool explosion and containment breach) did not occur simultaneously. Video also includes brief discussion of tent system being constructed over Fukushima Unit 1.

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Post Fukushima: All the King's Horses and All the King's Men...

Post Fukushima: All the King's Horses and All the King's Men... from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

Fairewinds' Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen testifies to the NRC Petition Review Board detailing why the 23 BWR Mark 1 nuclear power plants should be shut down following the accidents at Fukushima. True wisdom means knowing when to modify something and knowing when to stop. Sometimes, all the King’s horses and all the King’s men should not try to put Humpty Dumpty together again.

Occupy Wall Street: Charlie Rose - Amy Goodman - Chris Hedges Watch

A discussion about Occupy Wall Street with journalist Chris Hedges and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!

A great little half hour, and interesting stuff from both participants, not just me girlfriend.

Friday, October 28, 2011

I Know it Must Be Shite Because I read it Dacre's Daily Mail

Not to be confused with: It's Absolutely True Because I Read It In Paul Dacre's Daily Mail

When visiting my mother yesterday I had the unfortunate experience of glancing at this highly partisan article from Paul Dacre's shitty little rag, the Daily Mail. My initial reaction was one of, don't be reticent, tell people whose side your really on.

And it is no small article, there are reams of the stuff; what a pity it's all bullshit. But hey, what are truth and facts to the Mail, it's not as though it comes as a surprise when they make shit up. No of course it isn't, it is after all the Daily Mail.

These are the damning images that prove the anti-capitalist protest that has closed St Paul’s Cathedral is all but deserted at night.

Footage from a thermal imaging camera taken late at night reveals just a fraction of the makeshift camp was occupied.

An independent thermal imaging company, commissioned by the Daily Mail, captured these pictures after similar footage from a police helicopter found only one in ten tents were occupied after dark. A host more shite here.

Yes, all very well, but herein lies a problem, it's all bullshit.

Following all the media hype (Telegraph, The Times, Daily Mail, Daily Express) about 'empty tents' at OccupyLSX we decided to check out whether their thermal imaging evidence was true.

We got hold of *exactly* the same thermal imaging camera and showed that - surprise, surprise - you can't tell when people are in their tents.

So don't believe the lies - come down to OccupyLSX and join the vibrant community of people working for a better world.

Oh! I almost forgot.

Surrender of St Paul's: Protest rabble force the cathedral to close, a feat that Hitler could barely manage The Wail

Nice headline.

But I do wish I had a nickel for every time the media have wheeled Hitler out. When all else fails, bring on Adolf

Swedish Churches 'Obsolete' Blow 'Em Up Say Half of Country

Yanky free thinkers, eat your heart out.

Swedish churches open SPA salons and Chinese medicine centers
Anatoly Miranovsky

Sweden will get rid of its churches. There are not enough funds to maintain numerous church buildings as the country, according to opinion polls, has over 80 percent of the people who classified themselves as atheists. The methods for enticing people into churches would not be approved by the founders of the Protestant denominations. Places of worship now have SPA-salons and centers of Chinese medicine.

Professor of Ethics Swedish, pastor Hans Hammar Berryer, sent an open letter to the nation, in which he proposed to blow up churches or find a different application for them: turn them into cafes, pizzerias, houses, or industrial facilities.
In Sweden there are 3,384 church buildings. At best, five hundred of them are used for religious services once a month. Sweden is the least religious country in Europe.

The funding of confessions in many European countries is now obtained through the so-called church tax or its components. The payments are voluntary. This form of financing of religious infrastructure is used in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Iceland, Spain and Italy.

The tax is paid in favor of a religious community. Refusal to pay means leaving the church, which takes away from a former community member a place at a church cemetery and some other temple services. Incidentally, it is not always possible to get a church tax on hand in the form of money. In some places this part of income on tax payer's request can be redirected to other purposes - charity or scientific development.

After the separation of church from the state in 2000, the right not to pay the clerics was granted to the Swedish Lutherans. Apparently, expecting a mass fleeing of the nourished herds from their pastors, the Swedish government decided to allocate 50 million euros annually for the maintenance of temple buildings through the support of the objects of cultural and historical significance.

"I have studied statistics, and it terrified me," Hans Hammar Berryer was quoted by Novye Izvestia. "Since 2000, over half a million people fled from the church (the population of Sweden is 10 million).The situation is even worse with the younger generation. The Rite of Confirmation in the 1970s was held annually by 80,000 children. Today the number has decreased to 35 thousand. There are increasingly fewer parishioners, respectively, our revenues are falling. We just do not have enough to maintain 3,384 churches existing in the country. There are only three ways out: blow the churches up, fill them with people or turn them into pizzerias and production departments. "

The Bolshevik idea to blow up churches does not scare many Swedes. According to the online survey of the Swedish newspaper "Svenska Dagbladet", 46 percent of Swedes are in favor of the demolition of churches, 54 per cent are against it. Over 80 percent of Swedes consider themselves non-believers, that is, they are not paying to those carrying "the word of God."
Abandoned Protestant churches are being looted. Thieves do not only steal what is stored inside, but even take the copper from church roofs. This year 42 such instances have been recorded.

The liberal wing of the Lutheran Church parishioners is luring people with a complex of secular services. Now, the priests offer not taming, but rather gratification of the flesh. The churches offer massages, water treatment and purifying beverages.
Employees of the cult attract therapists and other specialists to their business projects. In particular, clients lying on a sofa under a warm blanket in modern Swedish Lutheran church can complain about their lives not only to the pastor but also a psychotherapist.
Another trend is Asian bodily practices and sale of proprietary Chinese qi energy by qualified instructors. More conservative parishes offer local developments in the form of various diets and exercise.

Thus, Protestantism that arose out of the Reformation of the Catholic Church is becoming the object of another Reformation. In 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 theses against the orders of the Catholic Church on a church door at Wittenberg which, according to official history, marked the beginning of the Reformation.

In 2007, a Protestant Congress was held in Wittenberg that declared the policy of modernization that has already passed the "point of no return." The representatives of Germany stated that the number of believers in the Protestant churches in 2030 could fall from the current 25.6 million to 17 million people. At the same time the annual income of the religious communities will be reduced from EUR 4 billion to 2 billion.

However, these numbers only take into account the income from church tax paid by parishioners. As for the total profits of the evangelical churches of Germany (unification EKD), it is approximately 10 billion euros per year.
It is worth noting that the desire to bring the church to "universal values" often has the opposite effect. Thus, recognition of "normality" of sodomy by the Anglican Church and the introduction of female bishops has led to a massive exodus of parishioners and priests who do not want to deal with those degraded. Earlier this year, members of 20 former Anglican parishes and three former Anglican bishops have left for the Catholic Church.
 Pravda Ru

Blacklist Bill Allows Feds to Remove Websites From Internet

Blacklist Bill allows Feds to remove websites from Internet
by Nancy Houser
Oct 27, 2011

The House version of the Internet Blacklist Bill was released October 26, 2011, with no effort to fix problems that existed in the Senate version. A violation of the First Amendment, it is contrary to official positions of internet freedom and censorship.

“Under the Internet Blacklist Bill -- S.968, formally called the PROTECT IP Act -- the Department of Justice would force search engines, browsers, and service providers to block users' access to websites that have been accused of copyright infringement -- without even giving them a day in court.” (Demand Progress)

The S.968 bill is considered dangerous and short-sighted due to its broad writing that covers a multitude of issues, bringing danger to not only Internet security but is considered a serious threat to free online speech and innovation. The Censorship-galore Department describes it as an attempt to build the Great Firewall of America,
requiring service providers to block access to certain websites.

This bill could shut down YouTube, Twitter and many other social websites that bring together the Occupy movements across the nation and world---any user-generated content site where the law can make the sites’ owners legally responsible for the posted content of its users.

Additionally, the bill could shut down music storage lockers and cloud-based products, while its broad-based terminology includes provisions that allow selected websites to be charged with felony charges for streaming unlicensed content---video game play-throughs, coverage of band performances and karaoke videos.

As reported to Tech Dirt the CCIA, CEA and NetCoalition prepared a joint letter to members of Congress who had originally sponsored the bill, saying that on behalf of the technology industry they had never been approached about the bill.

This is ironic, as Protect IP is basically driven by the demands of the entertainment industry. Yet the bill will dramatically reduce jobs, job growth and innovation in the country---something promised by the GOP when they were voted into office and something not yet seen.

The House had previously agreed to meet with organizations that represented the tech industry and who would be most affected by Protect IP. However, the House has chosen to rush the bill through this past Wednesday without listening to professional opinions or advice from the tech industry, individuals who feel strongly that the bill is “jobs-destroying,” “innovative-binding,” “and internet-breaking.”

Letter to the GOP House from CCIA, CEA and NetCoalition: more

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mississippi: Personhood Status For Fertilised Egg

Update: Rachel Madow conceived in rape tour.

These people are insane, and the article is a testimony to that insanity.

But the proposed Initiative 26 is much more than affording full legal rights to, and declaring 'personhood' status to a fertilised egg, it would effectively outlaw all other forms of contraception other than the purely barrier methods, condoms and diaphragms.

Mississippi has the highest infant mortality rate of any state in the nation. It also has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy nationwide

And in a country that is visibly coming apart at the seams, the priority in Mississippi are the rights of a fertilised egg. Mississippi did have another priority, but they have already addressed that issue, by imposing a state-wide ban on the sale of vibrators. You think I jest? clicky or: Violators will face up to a year in prison and a fine of less than $10,000. clicky

I don't have a 'stuff you couldn't make up' tag, perhaps I should initiate one. I do have a 'batshit crazy' tag, but that doesn't do justice to stuff like this; 'batshit dangerous' perhaps, might be nearer the mark.

Daily Kos has this: Occupy My Uterus. My Ass! Fertilized Eggs Are NOT People!

Legal Rights for Fertilized Eggs? How a Terrifying Law Could Lead to Jail-time for Miscarriages, Birth Control Bans, and the End of Legal Abortion

Mississippi could well be the first state to pass a "personhood law," once considered too extreme for mainstream anti-choicers.
By Irin Carmon
October 26, 2011

Dr. Freda Bush has a warm, motherly smile. In her office just outside Jackson, Miss., she smiles as she hands me a brochure that calls abortion the genocide of African-Americans, and again, sweetly, as she explains why an abortion ban should not include exceptions for rape or incest victims. The smile turns into a chuckle as she recounts what the daughter of one rape victim told her: “My momma says I’m a blessing. Now, she still don’t care for the guy who raped her! But she’s glad she let me live.”

Bush is smiling, too, in the video she made to support as restrictive an abortion ban as any state has voted on, Initiative 26, or the Personhood Amendment, which faces Mississippi voters on Nov. 8. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, black or white, or even if your father was a rapist!” she trills. But Initiative 26, which would change the definition of “person” in the Mississippi state Constitution to “include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof,” is more than just an absolute ban on abortion and a barely veiled shot at Roe v. Wade — although it is both. By its own logic, the initiative would almost certainly ban common forms of birth control like the IUD and the morning-after pill, call into question the legality of the common birth-control pill, and even open the door to investigating women who have suffered miscarriages.

Personhood amendments were once considered too radical for the mainstream pro-life movement, but in the most conservative state in the country, with an energized, church-mobilized grass roots, Mississippi could well be the first state to pass one. Initiative 26 even has the state’s top Democrats behind it.

And in Bush, it even has a respectable medical face. Last month, Bush led a press conference of fellow gynecologists to try to refute the “scare tactics” of the opposition, which includes even the solidly conservative Mississippi State Medical Association. (The group feared 26 would “place in jeopardy a physician who tries to save a woman’s life.”) In one of several “Yes on 26″ videos in which she stars, Bush says unequivocally, “Amendment 26 will not ban contraception.”

But when we spoke, Bush was far less sure. And if her smiling face carries the day, the debate over even basic access to birth control could be heading to similar votes in every state legislature, and extremists have their dream case to take to a Supreme Court where the Roe majority teeters precariously.

That’s partly because the Personhood movement hopes to do nothing less than reclassify everyday, routine birth control as abortion. The medical definition of pregnancy is when a fertilized egg successfully implants in the uterine wall. If this initiative passes, and fertilized eggs on their own have full legal rights, anything that could potentially block that implantation – something a woman’s body does naturally all the time – could be considered murder. Scientists say hormonal birth-control pills and the morning-after pill work primarily by preventing fertilization in the first place, but the outside possibility, never documented, that an egg could be fertilized anyway and blocked is enough for some pro-lifers.

Indeed, at least one pro-Personhood doctor in Mississippi, Beverly McMillan, refused to prescribe the pill before retiring last year, writing, “I painfully agree that birth control pills do in fact cause abortions.” Bush does prescribe the pill, but says, “There’s good science on both sides … I think there’s more science to support conception not occurring.” Given that the Personhood Amendment is so vague, I asked her, what would stop the alleged “good science” on one side from prevailing and banning even the pill?

Bush paused. “I could say that is not the intent,” she said. “I don’t have an answer for that particular [case], how it would be settled, but I do know this is simple.” Which part is simple? “The amendment is simple,” she said. “You can play the ‘what if’ game, but if you keep it simple, this is a person who deserves life.” What about the IUD, which she refuses to prescribe for moral reasons, and which McMillan told me the Personhood Amendment would ban? “I’m not the authority on what would and would not be banned.” No – Bush simply plays one on TV. And if her amendment passes, only condoms, diaphragms and natural family planning — the rhythm method – would be guaranteed in Mississippi.

Bush also says in the commercial that the amendment wouldn’t “criminalize mothers and investigate them when they have miscarriages.” And yet if the willful destruction of an embryo is a murder, then that makes a miscarried woman’s body a potential crime scene or child welfare investigation. What about women whose miscarriages were suspected to be deliberate or due to their own negligence? One Personhood opponent, Michele Johansen, told me she wondered whether she could have been investigated for miscarrying a wanted, five-week pregnancy, because she rode a roller coaster. (Her doctor ultimately told her they were unrelated.)

The boilerplate Personhood response, echoed by both McMillan and Bush, is that no woman was prosecuted for miscarriage before Roe v. Wade, so why start now? Of course, there was no Personhood amendment at the time, nor much knowledge of embryonic development. And in countries with absolute abortion bans, like El Salvador, women are regularly investigated and jailed when found to have induced miscarriages.

Pressed, Bush said, “Look at the numbers of women who were injuring themselves [pre-Roe] in an attempt to have an abortion. It was not 53 million,” the estimated number of abortions since Roe v. Wade.

“I don’t have all the answers,” she said, “but those questions that are there do not justify allowing nine out of 10 of the abortions that are being done that are not for the hard cases,” she said.

But a Colorado-based Personhood activist, Ed Hanks, is more than willing to publicly take things to their logical conclusion. He wrote on the Personhood Mississippi Facebook page that after abortion is banned, “the penalties have to be the same [for a women as well as doctors], as they would have to intentionally commit a known felony in order to kill their child. Society isn’t comfortable with this yet because abortion has been ‘normalized’ — as the Personhood message penetrates, then society will understand why women need to be punished just as surely as they understand why there can be no exceptions for rape/incest.”

Personhood represents an unapologetic and arguably more ideologically consistent form of the anti-choice movement. It aims squarely for Roe v. Wade by seizing on language from former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun – the author of the Roe decision — during the hearings that the case would “collapse” if “this suggestion of personhood is established … for the fetus.”

Similar ballot measures have failed twice in Colorado, where an evangelical pastor and a Catholic lawyer started the Personhood movement, but Mississippi is no Colorado. It’s the most conservative state in the nation. Planned Parenthood (which doesn’t even provide abortions in its one clinic here) and the ACLU are dirty words. Where there were once seven abortion clinics in the state, the one remaining flies in a doctor from out of state. As for supporting life, Mississippi’s infant mortality rate is the worst of any state in the nation. The number of babies who die as infants in Mississippi is double the number of abortions annually. It also has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy nationwide, alongside a child welfare system that remains dangerously broken.

Even so, if Initiative 26 passes, it would embolden similar efforts in Ohio, South Dakota, Florida and other states, currently trying to get a Personhood amendment on the ballot in 2012. And though there have been no reliable public polls, insiders on both sides believe it is headed for approval. “This thing will pass if people don’t understand what it really means,” says Oxford-based attorney and Initiative 26 opponent Forrest Jenkins. The Personhood movement “can either convince people that birth control is abortion or they can convince people that it’s not really true and we’re just being silly.” (Indeed, when I asked one college student who described himself as pro-life about the birth-control implications, he said, “I thought that was just gossip.”) Unfortunately for opponents, talking about sweeping and nuanced implications takes a lot more words than “stop killing babies.”

Mindful of anti-abortion sentiment in the state, even the local pro-choice opposition has taken to referring to all these implications – like banning birth-control pills — as “unintended consequences” of the initiative. But as my conversations in Mississippi with pro-Initiative 26 doctors made clear, for many Personhood supporters, these effects are anything but unintended. They’re part of the plan.

I had barely arrived in Mississippi when I was declared a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” by the grass-roots wing of the movement. Les Riley, the self-described “tractor salesman with 10 kids and no money” who got Personhood on the ballot, stopped responding to my messages, so I’d posted interview requests on the Personhood Mississippi Facebook page, disclosing that I was pro-choice but committed to giving them a fair hearing.

“This is just a reminder of some of the ‘Neutral and Fair’ mainstream media that are trying to lure us into debate, argument, and confrontation,” Wiley S. Pinkerton wrote on the same page, not long after. “They are coming to this site hoping to catch us without the full armor of God.”

Of course, even if I’d wanted to, the chances of catching any of them without “the armor of God” seemed remote. The Personhood movement in Mississippi is openly theocratic. Riley has written that “for years, the pro-life movement and the religious right has allowed the charge [of being “religiously motivated”] to make them run for cover. I think we should embrace it.” Riley, in fact, had already enthusiastically embraced Christian secessionist and neo-Confederate groups as part of his coalition. (Thenational media play his personal history received by the time of my visit this month might explain some of the hostility to the press.)

Last summer, a more mainstream face, Brad Prewitt – a lobbyist and former high-level staffer for U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran – took over the campaign at the request of the American Family Association, which, like Prewitt, is based in Tupelo. (Riley continues to actively campaign, though he isn’t listed on the official Yes on 26 site. Prewitt promised an interview several times, but never came through.) Prewitt, too, publicly described the conceptual origin of Personhood being “the Bible, Genesis,” and declared, “Mississippi is still a God-fearing

At several public forums organized by the secretary of state to discuss ballot initiatives, resident Scott Murray’s statement was typical: “I know there is an issue with pregnancies, unmarried pregnancies, but I tell you the greatest prevention is God, and we’ve got to return to God.” So was Stephen Hannabass’ assertion that “we’ve got to repent. We’ve got to come before God and beg for mercy for our state and for our country.” Continue into insanity.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Do So Enjoy a Good Rant: Daddy Drew on Oprah Winfrey

I don't know who Daddy Drew is, but I know he likes a god rant.

This Week In F—k You: Oprah
by Big Daddy Drew

We’re in the dreaded NFL offseason. There’s still no real football for months. You’re hurt. You’re angry. You’re hateful. We understand. At KSK, hating things is what we do best, which is why we have the recurring This Week In F–k You series, to soothe your white hot anger. This week: Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah Winfrey’s final show is today. I mentioned it here, but it’s worth repeating: Oprah has basically built a career out of tricking people into being inspired by Oprah talking about herself. I don’t know why people get suckered into her bullshit. I really don’t. This is a woman who brings on Suzanne Somers and Jenny McCarthy to give you fucking medical advice. This is a woman who embodies every horrible stereotype about rich liberals when she brags to Duke students about how awesome it is to travel via private jet. This is a woman who puts a photo of herself on EVERY issue of her magazine, every month. And I’m supposed to think the end of her pissant daytime show deserves some kind of honor? The woman’s been honoring herself every day for a fucking quarter century.

Oprah’s slogan is “Live your best life,” but what her slogan really means is “Live Oprah’s life.” Read the books SHE likes. Get advice from HER doctors. Hang out with HER friends. Buy the things SHE buys. She’s not so much a human being as she is a walking infomercial, covered in seal blubber and topped with a poofy wig. Even her most personal revelations are calculated for maximum brand impact. Oprah lost weight AND ONLY SHE KNOWS THE SECRET TO HOW IT’S DONE! Oprah has a long-lost half sister AND NOW ALL WILL BE REVEALED. There’s a reason every piece of shit reality star out there lists “being the next Oprah” as their next goal, because being the next Oprah means whoring yourself out to interplanetary levels and somehow ending up being lauded for it.

We all make fun of Donald Trump all the time because Trump is constantly congratulating himself for his successes, be they real or imaginary (usually the latter). And because Trump is a fuckhead. But Trump is really no different from Oprah. Both have made a career out of climbing on rooftops and declaring their success, suckering in people who aren’t successful and have duped themselves into believing that some famous idiot can guide them in the right direction. Hey, Oprah’s rich and happy! She must know how I can get rich and happy! MAYBE SHE’LL GIVE MY ASS A CAR!

The reality is that it’s a con. You’re gonna have to pay taxes on that piece of shit Pontiac Oprah gave you, and you’re never going to be as rich as her. That twiggy cunt Gwynnie Paltrow isn’t gonna come over to your house and make you an organic beefsteak tomato salad that’s every bit as satisfying as eating a two-pound ribeye. Those are all lies. And the beauty of those lies is that the longer you, Mrs. Housewife Viewer, go without being happy or successful, the more desperate you become to believe it all. Oprah has succeeded in getting millions of American women to live vicariously through her, to cheer on her successes because they’ve convinced themselves that they somehow have relevance to their lives. That’s the amazing thing. This woman’s a fucking billionaire with no kids who travels around in a private jet, and yet her audience still believes they have something in common with her. They have more in common with Lenny fucking Dykstra.

You have Oprah to blame for the Kardashian sisters, and virtually any other celebrity out there who spends more time promoting themselves than they do offering you something of actual value. At least I can jerk off to Kim. The end of Oprah’s show signifies nothing more than the end of hourly show dedicated to a smug, disingenuous person who loves to show off all her famous friends and her incredible lifestyle. She’s like Simmons without the “Karate Kid” references. One time I was stuck at the hospital while my wife was having our second kid and I had to sit there and listen to her trade compliments with Ashton Kutcher and human tit cyborg Demi Moore, and I wanted to suffocate my child with his crib mattress to keep him from living in a world where people actually listen to Oprah Winfrey. Every guy has had to sit through at least one episode of this woman’s show at the behest of a wife/girlfriend/mother, and every guy has the same reaction to it: “I can’t believe anyone buys this lady’s bullshit! What the fuck?”

She can eat shit and die, for all I care. Fuck you, Oprah. Unless you spend your last hour fessing up and playing Miss Fistblaster with Gayle King, the only thing startling about your exit is just how little it matters to anyone but yourself. FUCK OFF.

h/t Maren

Bill Maher on Things

Initially this was only going to be Bill Maher on Michael Jackson, but I thought I would pad it somewhat, pasting videos being about as creative as I feel today.

I could have almost written this Michael Jackson script myself.

I don't think Maher has quite grasped the concept of a coalition on this clip featuring the UK.

Bill Maher and David Icke, not all the batshit crazies are on the other side of the pond.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Clusterfuck Accomplished The Yanks Are Going Home

Next success story, Libya.

The Iraq war is finally over. And it marks a complete neocon defeat

Thanks to the toppling of Saddam Hussein, Iran's greatest enemy, Tehran's influence in Iraq is stronger than America's

The Iraq war is over. Buried by the news from Libya, Barack Obama announced late on Friday that all US troops will leave Iraq by 31 December.

The president put a brave face on it, claiming he was fulfilling an election promise to end the war, though he had actually been supporting the Pentagon's effort to make a deal with Iraq's prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to keep US bases and several thousand troops there indefinitely.

The talks broke down because Moqtada al-Sadr's members of parliament and other Iraqi nationalists insisted that US troops be subject to Iraqi law. In every country where they are based the US insists on legal immunity and refuses to let troops be tried by foreigners. In Iraq the issue is especially sensitive after numerous US murders of civilians and the Abu Ghraib scandal in which Iraqi prisoners were sexually humiliated. In almost every case where US courts tried US troops, soldiers were acquitted or received relatively brief prison sentences.

The final troop withdrawal marks a complete defeat for Bush's Iraq project. The neocons' grand plan to use the 2003 invasion to turn the country into a secure pro-western democracy and a garrison for US bases that could put pressure on Syria and Iran lies in tatters.

Their hopes of making Iraq a democratic model for the Middle East have been tipped on their head. The instability and bloodshed which the US unleashed in Iraq were the example that Arabs sought to avoid, not emulate. This year's autonomous surge for democracy in Egypt and Tunisia has done far more to galvanise the region and undermine its dictatorships than anything the US did in Iraq. And when the Arab spring dawned, the Iraqi government found itself on the defensive as demonstrators took to the streets of Baghdad and Basra to protest against Maliki's authoritarianism and his government's US-supported clampdown on trade union activity. Maliki hosted two Syrian government delegations this summer and has refused to criticise Bashar al-Assad's shooting of protesters.

But the neocons' biggest defeat is that, thanks to Bush's toppling of Saddam Hussein, Iran's greatest enemy, Tehran's influence in Iraq is much stronger today than is America's. Iran does not control Iraq but Tehran no longer has anything to fear from its western neighbour now that a Shia-dominated government sits in Baghdad, made up of parties whose leaders spent long years of exile in Iran under Saddam or, like Sadr, have lived there more recently.

The US Republicans are accusing Obama of giving in to Iran by pulling all US troops out. Their knee-jerk reaction is rich and only shows the bankruptcy of their slogans, since it was Bush who gave Tehran its strategic opening by invading Iraq, just as it was Bush in the dying weeks of his presidency who signed the agreement to withdraw all US troops by the end of 2011, which Obama was hoping to amend. But Senator John McCain was right when he said Obama's announcement would be viewed "as a strategic victory for our enemies in the Middle East, especially the Iranian regime, which has worked relentlessly to ensure a full withdrawal of US troops from Iraq". A pity that he did not pin the blame on Bush (and Tony Blair) who made it all possible.

The two former leaders' memoirs show they have learnt no lessons, even though their reputations in history will never be able to shake the disaster off.

Whether the lessons have been taken on board by the current US and British leaders is more important. Nato's relative success in the Libyan campaign is already being used to draw a veil over the past. Indeed, the fortuitous timing of Gaddafi's death has knocked the news of the US withdrawal from Iraq almost entirely off the media's agenda.

But the past is still with us. A key lesson from Iraq is that putting western boots on the ground in a foreign war, particularly in a Muslim country, is madness. That point seemed to have been learnt when US, British and French officials asked the UN security council in March to authorise its campaign in Libya. They promised there would be no ground troops or occupation.

This should also apply to Afghanistan where Obama claims to be fighting a war of necessity, unlike the war in Iraq which he calls one of choice. The distinction is false, and the question now is whether he will pull all US troops out by 2014.

On the pattern of the aborted deal with Iraq, his officials are trying to negotiate an arrangement with the Karzai government which will authorise the indefinite basing of thousands of US troops, to be described as trainers and advisers, after combat forces leave. This would continue the folly of fuelling the country's long-running civil war. Now that al-Qaida has been driven from Afghanistan, Washington should support negotiations for a government of national unity that includes the Taliban and ends the fighting among Afghans. Iraq is no haven of guaranteed stability but, without the presence of US combat troops for the last 15 months, it has achieved an uneasy peace. If talks in Afghanistan are seriously encouraged, it could go the same way once foreign troops at last withdraw. Guardian

The Ever Sinister Church of Scientology: South Park Edition

A sinister account indeed. These are some serious motherfuckers, little wonder Germany wants to outlaw them as a cult. And the Belgiques. And the Francos. Unlike America of course, where they enjoy tax free status as a bona fide religion. Only in Ameriki folks, only in Ameriki.

But I do have a second, not so sinister Scientology story below. More shall we say, a batshit crazy Scientology story. Now who could that possibly feature I wonder?

A couple of clips before we start? Yes why not?

Scientology Targeted South Park's Parker and Stone in Investigation
By Tony Ortega
Oct 23 2011

Yesterday, we reported that former Scientology executive Marty Rathbun had revealed at his blog that in 2006, Scientology's Office of Special Affairs -- the church's intelligence and covert operations wing -- was actively investigating South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone by looking for vulnerabilities among their close friends.

Today, we have more leaked OSA documents which give some idea of the extent of the spying operation on the South Park offices and the people who worked there.

They suggest that after traditional approaches with private investigators had stalled, OSA turned to film consultant Eric Sherman, a Scientologist, to help them find a young filmmaker who would make an effective mole at the South Park offices.

For decades, Scientology has earned a reputation for severe retaliation against perceived enemies and carrying on "noisy investigations" that involve private investigators and intimidation squads. We've been documenting many examples of that this year as Scientology goes through perhaps its most difficult period.

The defection of former high ranking officials Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder has been a nightmare for the church. As Scientology expends enormous resources to surveill and harass each of them, Rathbun continues to leak formerly secret OSA documents at his blog.

Not on his blog, however, is a document which he supplied to Marc Headley, a man we have written about frequently here at the Voice, and who was subject to his own retaliation and spying operations by the church. Rathbun gave Headley extensive OSA documents which showed how the church attempted to turn his Scientologist friends into spies.

These documents are in the forms of reports made by operatives to OSA executives. Rathbun and Rinder say these reports would also have been read by church leader David Miscavige who, they say, watches carefully over all of Scientology's covert operations.

For some reason, in a document about Headley's Internet activity, there's also a portion about South Park. The document is dated April 24, 2006: For more story with links, clicky.
- - -

This is just one of 'The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology' that can be found in the sidebar by following the link above.

Related clips below the article.

On August 5, we started a countdown that will give credit -- or blame -- to the people who have contributed most to the sad current state of Scientology. From its greatest expansion in the 1980s, the church is a shell of what it once was and is mired in countless controversies around the world. Some of that was self-inflicted, and some of it has come from outside. Join us now as we continue on our investigation of those people most responsible...

The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology
#4: Tom Cruise

In 2005, actor Tom Cruise fell in love. Like, hopelessly, famously, insanely in love. We know this because he expressed himself by jumping on furniture to show just how crazy in love he was with Katie Holmes.

You remember. It was an arresting moment. Why? Well, for a short time at least, this top-of-the-heap super-celebrity seemed to be coming apart at the seams.

He was jumping on Oprah's couch about Katie, but then, he was also getting into a strange debate about psych drugs with Matt Lauer, practically daring this country's mainstream media to debate him about his Scientology beliefs.

Even at the time, those of us in the Scientology watching community knew this was a huge moment.

For decades, celebrities like Cruise had made the mysterious church seem more intriguing, but it was something that the celebrities themselves seemed reluctant to discuss. Now, suddenly, Scientology was fair game.

If Tom's 2005 freakout opened a window onto Scientology, three years later, a 9-minute video of the actor really tore down the gates. The video had actually been made for a 2004 Scientology event in which Cruise was awarded the coveted International Association of Scientologists' Freedom Medal of Valor. If you've seen such events, you know that church leader David Miscavige likes to have video segments to show the audience. In this case, that took the form of a video interview with Tom which was clearly intended to pump up the audience with what a gung-ho, hardcore Scientologist he is.

But out of context, and shown to non-Scientologists, Tom's performance is simply bizarre.

Recently, for the first time, in this very countdown ex-Scientologist Patty Moher revealed that she was one of the people responsible for getting that video out to the world. Mark Bunker was another key part of that operation, as was Xenubarb. But after the video made it to YouTube, it was yanked down as Scientology tried to stuff a genie back in a bottle. Journalist Mark Ebner, however, delivered a copy of the video to Gawker's Nick Denton, and Denton would not back down to Scientology's threats as the video became a monster traffic success for the website.

But there's more to the reason Tom Cruise is on this list than his weird behavior on Oprah or the strange things he says on the IAS video.

As Amy Scobee explained recently to Mark Bunker for his upcoming documentary, Knowledge Report, that video had a very different effect on longtime, hardcore members of Scientology (which Scobee was at the time the video was first shown, in 2004).

Scobee described how hard it was to understand why Miscavige was treating Cruise, a pampered celebrity, like he was the ultimate, most loyal, and most effective example of a Scientologist. That felt like a slap in the face, she explained, to longtime executives who had not been pampered, who had endured years of meager pay, spartan conditions, and seemingly endless emergency orders. After all that hard work, it's a movie star who turns out to be the best example of a church member?

But Cruise seemed to relish that role. And that's what in part is so extremely strange about the man. There are other Scientologist celebrities who are gung-ho for the church, and who aren't afraid to speak out (a particularly humorless and unhinged actress comes to mind, but I'm not going to name her or she'll think she made the countdown). But Cruise is the only one who actually gives the appearance that, on some level at least, he's actually helping to run the everloving enterprise with his diminutive motorcycle buddy, Miscavige.

I think that sense has actually seeped into the larger culture, as well. If a certain Grease star, especially after the death of his son, seems more and more a pathetic victim, and if other celebrities, like an actress whose weight yo-yos, just seem clueless, Cruise actually has begun to scare people with how much he and Miscavige are joined at the hip.

I thought something Jane Lynch said the other night while she hosted the Emmy Awards was particularly telling:

"Katie Holmes is in the audience. I'd love to say something funny about her but I'm scared of her husband."

Was there even a single person watching who didn't get the implication of that joke? And that, to me, is about the best evidence you're going to get that Tom Cruise -- with his front-row cheering of David Miscavige, with his custom bike fashioned by penniless Sea Org members, and his willingness to, however briefly, become the aggressive, argumentative face for Scientology -- has badly damaged a brand that already had a creepy vibe.

But don't take it just from me. I asked Mark Bunker for his thoughts on the actor, and also Mark Ebner. First, some words from Wise Beard Man:

I like Tom Cruise. I'm a fan. I've been defending him far longer than I've been a critic of Scientology. He's a big, old fashioned movie star and I'm a big, old fashioned movie lover. I see no reason to stop liking the guy just because I don't like the organization he supports. So how do I feel about his career having been possibly harmed by the infamous Scientology tape which I had a hand in releasing to the net? Well, I'm OK with it. I'm not happy about it. I mean, I'm not a schmuck. But I take Cruise at his word that he loves Scientology. And I know Scientology loves Cruise. I think both parties should be proud of the tape and should want it to be seen. And now it is.

With Scientology crumbling, it is possible we actually may see Cruise leave Scientology someday. I think it would be good for him. He feels Scientology has helped his career but Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise because he's Tom Cruise. He has a charisma that comes through on film. He has star power. That's not something Scientology gave him. If they could do that, then everyone at the Celebrity Center would be a Tom Cruise megastar. Yes, even Frank Stallone. Tom Cruise doesn't need Scientology but Scientology desperately needs to hold on to Tom Cruise.

As I said, I also made the (journalistically questionable) decision to ask Mark Ebner to write up something on Cruise. Naturally, he sent over something very Ebneresque. You have been forewarned.

I've been making a cottage industry out of exposing Scientology since my Spy magazine story dropped in '96, and still, the number one question I get to this day is, "Is Tom Cruise Gay?" I really don't know, but his workout buddy (Scientology boss) David Miscavige tells me Tom's dick tastes like shit. I jest. Will Smith told me that. I kid. It was Travolta. Just joking. Ask his former wife Mimi Rogers, who, while discussing their split with Playboy in '93, said, ''Tom was seriously thinking of becoming a monk...he thought he had to be celibate to maintain the purity of his instrument.'' Her own instrument, she complained, ''needed tuning.''

I don't really care if Cruise gobbles knob. In fact, I championed his he-manlihood in Hollywood, Interrupted by referring to him as "the heterosexual Tom Cruise" no less than a dozen times. Still, if Cruise really did come out of the closet as urged in the Emmy-nominated "Trapped In The Closet" episode of South Park I consulted on, he'd really be my hero. Instead, I just think he's an asshole for constantly, shamelessly shilling for the criminal mind control cult of Scientology and their various front groups.

Marty Rathbun recently revealed that in 2003 the movie star plotted with former President Bill Clinton to lobby Tony Blair for tax breaks in the UK.

Not long after the 9-11 tragedy, Cruise landed like a vulture on Ground Zero to promote his New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project urging first responders to eschew traditional medicine in favor of his hero Hubbard's sham of a "purification" program.

The actor also tried to convert the cast and crew of War of The Worlds by bringing Scientology "ministers" onto the set, and as part of his "get 'em while they're young" campaign, convinced his pal Will Smith to open a Scientology-based elementary school in California.

So yeah, I think Cruise is a prick, but I still wouldn't fuck him with yours. Me? I may be glib, but as I write this I'm beginning to feel bad about the name-calling. I mean, it's kind of like picking on a retard, because Tom Cruise, as evidenced by the infamous Tom Cruise "crazy tape" that I delivered to a giddy Nick Denton of Gawker in January of '08, is, for all appearances, batshit insane. Cruise's maniacal giggling and gibberish-spewing on that tape transcends the kind of crazy evidenced by his couch-jumping episode on Oprah, and if I had a dollar for every hit (3 million and counting) Gawker got off the video I gave them for fun and for free, I'd be a wealthy man. Who's crazy now?

Thank you, Ebner. Thank you very much. I really can't think of anything to add after that onslaught, so I'll just finish with a plea directed to the Mission Impossible man himself.

Tom, you can leave. Just do it, pardner. Village Voice

The original few minutes of South Park - Cruise in the closet, is a very rare animal. I did find a source, so I grabbed it and uploaded it to Youtube, but they were having none of it due to copyright. So if you wish to watch the thing, it can be viewed here.

Tom Cruise; iconic batshit crazy in nine minutes, is first up. But if you only watch the one clip, make it the last one. Bill Maher has it in a nutshell. Well, in ninety seconds to be exact.

The Rolling Stone article referred to in the clip, and a decent read as well as I remember, can be found here.

Amy Goodman Democracy Now New York Times

I have the greatest respect and admiration for Amy Goodman, she is a rare bird indeed in America today. That sentiment reflected in this nice article from the New York Times.

I telephoned the Library yesterday as it happens, ordering three books.

Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary TimesAmy Goodman

The Gospel According to Jesus Christ José Saramago

Cain José Saramago

A more comprehensive review from the Guardian. Sounds like a fun book.

A few words to come on those no doubt.

A Grass-Roots Newscast Gives a Voice to Struggles
By Brian Stelter
October 23, 2011

Hours after Amy Goodman, the host of the grass-roots newscast “Democracy Now!,” was arrested in Minnesota in 2008 while trying to cover protesters at the Republican National Convention, she was sitting in a network news studio above the convention floor, when a producer said: “I don’t get it. Why wasn’t I arrested?”

Amy Goodman, right, interviewing Tawakkol Karman, left, a Nobel laureate, with an interpreter.

Ms. Goodman asked him, “Were you out on the streets?” No, he said, he had been in the studio the whole time. “I’m not being arrested here either,” she said she told him. “You’ve got to get out there.” (Clip here)

For Ms. Goodman, that exchange expresses both a shortcoming of the network newscasts that many Americans consume and a strength of “Democracy Now!,” the 15-year-old public radio and television program. The newscast distinguishes itself by documenting social movements, struggles for justice and the effects of American foreign policy, along with the rest of the day’s developments.

Operated as a nonprofit organization and distributed on a patchwork of stations, channels and Web sites, “Democracy Now!” is proudly independent, in that way appealing to hundreds of thousands of people who are skeptical of the news organizations that are owned by major media companies. The program “escapes the suffocating sameness that pervades broadcast news,” said John Knefel, a comedian and freelance writer who started listening about four years ago and now tries never to miss an episode.

Though it has long had a loyal audience, “Democracy Now!” has gained more attention recently for methodical coverage of two news events — the execution of the Georgia inmate Troy Davis and the occupation of Wall Street and other symbolic sites across the country. Ms. Goodman broadcast live from Georgia for six hours on Sept. 21, the evening of the execution, and “Democracy Now!” reporters were fanned out in Manhattan from the first day of the protests against corporate greed.

“At the time, we had no idea if the protest would even last the night, but we recognized it as potentially an important story,” said Mike Burke, a senior news producer for the program. He noted that “it took NPR more than a week to air its first story on the movement.”

Distribution for “Democracy Now!” — which is live each weekday at 8 a.m. Eastern — comes from public, community and college radio stations; public access television stations and some PBS affiliates; the noncommercial satellite networks Free Speech TV and Link TV; and from the program’s Web site,, which streams each hour long newscast in full.

The producers say the program is broadcast on more than 950 stations. But because the distribution is cobbled together and because the program has no commercials, no Nielsen ratings are available.

The media, Ms. Goodman said in an interview last week, can be “the greatest force for peace on earth” for “it is how we come to understand each other.” But she asserted that the views of a majority of Americans had been “silenced by the corporate media.”

“Which is why we have to take it back,” she said, echoing the sentiments of many of her fans.

Friends and former colleagues describe Ms. Goodman as ferocious and persistent, traits that have not changed since the program’s inception in 1996 on five Pacifica Radio stations.

“On the radio, she sounded at times like a giant, at others a giant slayer,” said Jeremy Scahill, now an investigative reporter for The Nation magazine, who practically begged Ms. Goodman to let him volunteer for the program in 1997. She agreed and initially paid him $40 a day from her own pocket. On Facebook he lists the program as his college education.

“What drove us was telling stories we felt were being ignored, misreported or underreported by corporate media outlets,” Mr. Scahill said.

The program slowly gained more stations and, amid a dispute with Pacifica, which was later resolved, it established itself as a nonprofit news organization in 2001. The week of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the program began to be simulcast on television. Since then, Ms. Goodman said, “the growth has just been phenomenal.”

While many media outlets were faulted for playing down antiwar protests after the attacks, “Democracy Now!” covered such events extensively.

Some fans as well as critics describe “Democracy Now!” as progressive, but Ms. Goodman rejects that label and prefers to call it a global newscast that has “people speaking for themselves.” She criticized networks in the United States that have brought on professional pundits, rather than actual protesters, to discuss the Occupy protests.

Last week, no United States television network covered the filing of a lawsuit in Canada by four men who said they had been tortured during the Bush administration and who are seeking Mr. Bush’s arrest and prosecution. But one of the men, Murat Kurnaz, a former prisoner at Guantánamo Bay, was interviewed at length by Ms. Goodman and her co-host, Juan Gonzalez.

The nonprofit nature of the program means that the producers “never have to worry about how an advertiser might feel,” avoiding potential self-censorship, Mr. Burke said. But it also sharply limits the size of the staff. The program relies on volunteers to transcribe segments and, occasionally, to translate foreign-language interviews.

Ms. Goodman regularly helps raise money for stations that broadcast the program. The Internet has given the program a global audience and the ability to reach that audience for more than an hour a day. On the evening of Sept. 21, the live stream about the execution of Mr. Davis was viewed more than 800,000 times.

The live stream attested to “the hunger for this kind of information,” Ms. Goodman said. “Yet there was no network that was there to cover this moment throughout the night.”

Except, in a sense, “Democracy Now!” was able to be that network, at least for a night. YTN