‘The Torture Papers’ in The New Yorker

Yep, here’s Spence with another light read. “The Torture Papers” by Jane Mayer, the featured article in the latest issue of The New Yorker, traces the dismaying tale of (now-former) US Navy general counsel Alberto J. Mora and the circular-file fate of his damning 22-page secret memo, which dared to call out the Pentagon for formulating a systematic policy of torture.

The article makes quite it clear that (duh) Rumsfeld and the Cheney Cabal knew exactly what they were doing: implementing a policy of systematic torture. Mora it makes in quite clear that they are criminals in the eyes of duly-enacted and standing US law, their equally tortured “interpretations” of presidential power notwithstanding.

And how’s this for irony? Mora retired from the military in January, 2006. His job now? General counsel for Wal-Mart’s international operations. …Brain…Hurts…

Alfred McCoy on the Secret History of US Torture

Astute students of contemporary political history will recognize Alfred McCoy as the author of one of the most important works of the last 50 years, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, a book that for the first time (well, except for Allen Ginsberg’s work on the subject) laid bare in copious, empirical detail and beyond refute that the CIA has a long history of being in active cahoots with drug dealers. Ain’t read it? Shame on you. Required reading (preferrably the second edition), even if it is rather hefty.

McCoy’s latest book, just out and another must-read, is titled A Question of Torture (Henry Holt & Co., 2006), which I happen to have just started and, even this early on, very highly recommend. As we have come to expect of Prof. McCoy, it is scrupulously documented and deeply disturbing. Currently I’m only on chapter 2, but already I’m impressed with his conscision and perspicacity. He — quite rightly — begins with the CIA’s early mind control and interrogation experiments (BLUEBIRD, ARTICHOKE, MK-ULTRA, MK-DELTA, MK-NAOMI, and others) and works from there to trace the profoundly disturbing but vitally important suppressed history of our government’s decades-long dance with the Dark Side viz. torture.

Most importantly, per our current situation as citizens of an ostensible democratic republic, McCoy makes it crystal clear from the get-go (again with that assiduous documentation) that seemingly innoccuous Gitmo ploys like hooding “detainees” and such have their basis in what are actually truly horriffic psychological torture techniques with genesis in criminal programs like MK-ULTRA.

The point? Well, aside from “you mustrun out right now and get the damn book already”, you should also take the time to read this typically excellent interview with McCoy on Democracy Now!

Vice President for Life?

Hmmmm. Long-standing tradition holds that after a US president’s second term, the vice president runs for the nation’s highest office and tends to have a pretty good shot at winning (at least if you’re Republican — Dems, not so much).

Since 2000, Big Dick Cheney, our current VP, has made much noise about not running for president. This flies in the face of political orthodoxy. And given the GOP’s tenacious chomp on power these days, it doesn’t much make sense. Why would the Republican Party consciously abandon what, until now, has been obligatory: Vice President As Next Presidential Candidate?

And suddenly it occurred to me: there’s a 2-term limit on the presidency. But there’s no limit of any kind on how many terms a vice president might serve. Considering Big Dick has basically been the one running the show for the last 6 years…why would the GOP want to jettison the real power center in the White House? Well…turns out they may not have to.

Read it for yourself:

US Constitution, Amendment XXII

Enacted February 27, 1951

Section 1. No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.

Section 2. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states within seven years from the date of its submission to the states by the Congress.

Dig it: no mention of the vice president. I’m just sayin’…

Two-Headed Dogs. No, Seriously.

Courtesy of the WFMU Blog comes the jaw-droppingly disturbing and equally amazing post, “A Brief History of Disembodied Dog Heads”. Whatever you do, make sure to visit the video archive depicting 1954 experiments by Soviet scientist Vladimir Demikhov, particularly the clip M10_ 4_005.wmv.

Any fan of crappy ’50s and ’60s sci-fi flicks knows of rather odd proliferation of movies dealing with head transplants, two-headed men (e.g. The Manster), and heads somehow kept alive in lab trays. Well, turns out there were actual, real, serious scientists working on just such strangeness.

Well…throw some Roky Erickson on the turntable, sit back, and learn all about the secret history of, um, dog head transplants. And stuff. No really.

Seriously. Disturbing. And. Bizarre.

Variably-Sized Pop-Ups with No onclick

This is a variation on Jeremy Keith’s script in DOM Scripting (Friends of Ed / Apress, 2005), pp. 86-88. (The same chapter is available on the official book site.)

While Keith’s original was intended as an example of other concepts and not a be-all-end-all pop-up script, it has some noteworthy limitations.

  1. The dimensions of the pop-up are hard-set in the JavaScript, thus making all pop-ups the same size. Also, modifying the sizing requires delving into the script’s innards.
  2. You cannot concatenate CSS classes — you can only style based on the one class name (“popup” in the example) or globally for all A tags, thus limiting your ability to custom style any given link. Also, attempting to add additional class(es) breaks the pop-up functionality.
  3. The pop-up’s window name is also hard-set in the innards of the script — all secondary pop-ups can only target the original pop-up.

My variation addresses these limitations while retaining all of the original functionality and adding only 7 new lines of code, plus 4 global variables for easily setting key default values (class name to trigger on, width, height, and window name).

I also threw in a couple lines in the generic popper-upper script itself to center new pop-ups — a personal preference that can be removed or modified as is your want. (Fwiw, the same approach I use for applying custom sizing could also be applied for custom positioning.)

Caveat: At this writing, I’ve not just yet tested this in Safari or IE7 (or IE5/Win), but it’s working well in FF and IE6.

Update:  Yep, works in everything — even (gasp!) IE5/Mac.  Meanwhile, watch this space for an updated and more flexible version.

For full details and sample markup, visit the examples page. (Unfortunately TinyMCE — the otherwise excellent HTML editor used in WordPress — is either too stupid or too smart for its own good to allow me to post valid HTML samples here.)

Or — download script file with inline code notes, and/or download the optimized script file (with usage notes).

Nothin’ personal…

I used to offer links to the personal sites of a couple coworkers of mine. However, our employer’s new blogging policy prohibits us from even mentioning any other employee without express written permission from the HR department. This strikes me as a little excessive, perhaps, but there it is. So, since it’s potentially a firing offense, I’ve deleted those links.

So yeah, nothing personal, guys. Sorry.

Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Movie?

A shop reel has been completed for an anticipated feature-length stop motion film adaptation of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers’ epic tale, Grass Roots (issue 5 of the comic). As you can see, a domain is being squatted in the meantime.

Ain’t It Cool News has recently posted a short blurb about it, featuring a lovely large still, following up on an earlier one. Some further Googling led me, strangely enough to the Country Cowfreaks Head Shop node on the British eBay site (hey, don’t ask me) which appears to have the most complete info I’ve found so far.

The Bolex Brothers — the demented lads best known for the fantastic stop-mo flick, The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb (1993) — are producing it (or at least trying to raise the cash for it), with Tom Thumb director Dave Borthwick at the helm, Freak Brothers creator Gilbert Shelton himself serving as artistic director, and Aardman veteran David Alex Riddett heading up the crew. Meanwhile, the Net is rife with voice casting rumors that are (as usual) probably worth about as much as the electrons used to propagate them.

The shop reel was shown at the Brighton Comic Expo back in November, with Andy Leighton, Shelton, and others on the project in attendance.

Some further Googling revealed a Variety story from May, 2005 announcing a foreign distro deal with Celluloid Dreams, which has also handled internaitonal distro for the Wallace and Gromit films, The Triplets of Belleville, Kirikou and the Wild Beasts (new sequel to Kirikou and the Sorceress), and other fine animated films. That, combined with what Variety reported to be a preliminary budget of $22.5 million (!), indicates the Freak Brothers flick is being taken seriously enough as a project.

But don’t hold your breath just yet (although…that does tend to, uh, accentuate things). The Furry ones were first optioned for film by Universal Studios back in 1979. Apparently the election of Ronald Reagan as president killed everyone’s buzz (I know mine suffered, and I was only 14), and nothing came of it. In the 25 years since, various other film options and projects have lapsed, been rumored and vanished, or otherwise slipped away with the incense, including a relatively recent animated project by Film Roman.

(A nice lid to Mike for turning me on to the story, man. Far out.)

Shiteating Scum

Wow, there really are no depths the Bush Administration won’t stoop to.

Even while trying to shame anyone with any questions about the invasion of Iraq with the usual “support the troops” BS (hear ye: supporting troops does not ipso facto mean mindlessly supporting whatever policies put them into harm’s way), it turns out the Bush Administration — along with the neo-con bund over at the American Enterprise Institute — have been mounting an absolutely disgraceful campaign to cut benefits for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while simultaneously running a sophisticated propaganda campaign in an effort to discredit the diagnoses, the treatment, and even the notion of the disorder itself.

Supposedly, legions of malingering veterans of the Iraq conflict are using PTSD diagnoses as a sham so they can lay around collecting government money and drinking Big Gulps or something. Some even go so far as to claim that the notion of delayed-onset PTSD is somehow the “creation” of anti-war protesters, while others maintain that PTSD is caused by the therapists themselves simply because they (the therapists) believe warleads to PTSD and thus somehow brainwash soldiers into believing they have the supposedly illusory debilitating condition.
Unbelieveable. Expletives fail me.

Ain’t That a Pisser?

Twelve-year-old Florida seventh-grader Jasmine Roberts took the top prize at her school’s science fair for proving that fast food restaurant toilet water is less contaminated than their ice.

Ms. Roberts took samples from five (unnamed) fast food joints within a 10-mile radius of the University of South Florida. She gathered samples of their toilet water (flushing first and using sterile gloves and sterile beakers), and also obtained cups of ice from their drive-up windows. The samples were then tested at the Moffit Cancer Center, where she volunteers with a USF professor.

Ms. Roberts reported her tests showed that “70-percent of the time, the ice from the fast food restaurants contain more bacteria than the fast food restaurant’s toilet water.”

Neither she nor her honors science teacher were surprised.