Normally, I do something about the subject of the Academy Awards, especially since the nominations came out yesterday morning. However, we have this Movie Zone thing here, and that’s their purview. So let them handle that puppy, and let the people who bitched and moaned at me for not giving Marty Scorsese his props when I didn’t call him “the best director never to win an Oscar” a few years ago eat crow when he wins it for The Aviator. The guy does deserve it. He’s made DiCaprio look like an actual actor twice now, and the odds against that are the same as me voting Republican.
Saw the shrink yesterday. We’re going to tempt fate by bringing me up again on my mood stabilizer, the same medication that gave me the slow overdose that led to the panic attack two weeks ago. However, I’m going to go up slower and to less of an amount. Should get rid of the deep depressions that I’ve been having for no real reason. As if I need a reason other than living in Bumf*ck, Kansas and hating my job.
And a short recommendation: watch Battlestar Galactica. In someone’s infinite wisdom, Sky One in the UK has been broadcasting the shows four months ahead of the Sci-Lie Channel here in the US. The folks in Britain have just completed the first season, and someone was nice enough to contribute the episodes to everyone in the world via BitTorrent. Terrific show all around, thank you.
So let’s move on to the news, as Widro still ducks me for the Hot Seat…
THE PIMP SECTION
As I said, Widro‘s been ducking me for the Hot Seat for over a year now. He’s just afraid I’d get the geometry question.
Gloomchen loves Dream Theater and Phil Collins. Sorry, there’s nothing I can say about this one.
Stein has your weekend indy show update.
Hatton and his friends get loaded and watch Raw. Hey, at least I stick to pills.
McLoone doesn’t kiss my ass in his column, despite the proven benefits of doing so.
Uh, it’s Cialis that has the warning about erections lasting more than four hours, Goldberg. I’ve been studying up on that. After all, I’m not as young as I used to be.
Nguyen is all over the place this week. Just read him and try to parse it out.
THE ANTI-SPYWARE SECTION
Remember, this all started because the slugs at Enigma Software dared to advertise their piece of shit SpyHunter at 411 (one of the reasons why I decided to leave, honestly). So I’m responding every single column with proper anti-spyware information. And guess what? People are actually taking this to heart. They’re asking me for help if they’re infested, or they’re writing me telling me that their browsing experience is less annoying thanks to the stuff I’ve been putting up here three times a week for a few months now.
(And as I understand it, there are some unscrupulous browser toolbar people trying to advertise here at the Pulse. Well, don’t click on that ad, whatever you do. We’ll still get the money from the impressions, and your system will stay safe.)
Big, big Kudos to the guys at the Spyware Warrior Forum for pointing out to everyone the extent of criminal activity participated in by Enigma Software, makers of the bane of advertising on that site, SpyHunter. Slimeballs extraordinare, aren’t they? And in case you need more info about what flaming bags of shit they are, try here. Suzi’s Blog has a great list of other flaming bags of shit that promote anti-spyware programs that are spyware themselves. Consult it if you have questions.
(On a side note, those SpyHunter ads started over at Reality News Online, and BFM, a contributor there, spotted them. He told the webmaster, gave him those links that I cited above, the webmaster read them, the blood drained out of his face, and he contacted his ad provider. No more ads for Enigma products on RNO, thank you. So guess what? If you provide the info, there are sites who will listen.)
Here’s a list of the programs you really need to help you get rid of menaces, and, more importantly, prevent them from occurring in the first place:
SpywareBlaster. Will nuke thousands of different potentially malicious ActiveX controls, and now has the ability to prevent a number of non-ActiveX methods of installing spyware for people who use Mozilla/Firefox.
SpywareGuard. From Javacool, like SpywareBlaster. It’s a real-time scanner for spyware. A decent first line of defense.
IE-SpyAd. Throws numerous ad-related URLs into IE’s Restricted Zone, where they won’t display or affect your system. Bookmark this one, since it’s the only one that doesn’t have an in-program update.
A few people have recommended also installing the Sun Java Virtual Machine, since it’s Windows’ buggy, half-assed implementation of the JVM that allows a lot of spyware to install (less so within the past month and a half than before). I STRONGLY recommend that you visit here and update your version of Java.
Surprisingly, many people have asked me about the Microsoft Anti-Spyware Beta. I downloaded it and tried it, and it shockingly did a great job. Since it’s free, I’ll recommend it here.
So many people have asked about a free anti-virus program that I’m also going to recommend AVG. Totally free, and works really, really well, as well as commercial anti-virus programs. Frequent database updates, good heuristic detection, everything you want in an anti-virus package.
Another program that I’d like to add here is a little tough to work with for noobs if it goes buggy (you need to know a little something about your Networking settings in order to debug if something should go wrong). Protowall is a supplement to your firewall or NAT system. It hooks directly into XP’s networking system to block any and all traffic that comes from URLs on a list maintained by the program (all protocols, not just TCP/UDP). It’s mainly designed for anti-P2P purposes (which will appeal to a great many of my readers), but it contains lists to block spyware and ads. Its blocklist can easily be updated using its supplementary program, Blocklist Manager. I have Protowall running and a Blocklist Manager icon on my desktop, and I use Blocklist Manager to update the blocklist every couple of days. You will have problems getting to some sites unless you shut down Protowall temporarily, like ESPN or Sports Illustrated, but it does have a tray icon you can right-click and shut down in a few seconds. It’s the third layer of anti-ad material for me, with IE-SpyAd and AdSubtract running alongside it. Warning, though: it only works with XP. I’d recommend its predecessor, Peer Guardian, for other MS OSes, but it isn’t being developed anymore, and there were still bugs in it when development stopped. You can get Protowall and the Blocklist Manager (which will also work with Peer Guardian) at Bluetack’s site.
Of course, only download them from the links provided above. And only download those programs; don’t fall for the ads that are shown at various websites.
With AdAware and Spybot, check for updates using their internal update function at least once a week. Run them at least once a week or whenever you think you might have problems. Remember, the new version of Spybot has browser protection capabilities, so have that run at startup and leave it running. Check for updates to SpywareBlaster once a week. It only needs to be run once initially in order to establish protection. Then, after it downloads updates, just click on the line that says “Enable Protection For All Unprotected Items” and kill it. It doesn’t need to be active. For IE-SpyAd, bookmark the site and check for updates twice a week, since it has no kind of internal updater. Since all it does is add Registry entries, it doesn’t eat up anything. Run the Blocklist Manager every couple of days to make sure that you keep up on the latest banned URLs.
If you’re having trouble with spyware or a browser hijacker, or think that you do, head over to the SpywareInfo Forums, where the pros there can help you diagnose and get rid of stuff. I was promoted to Full Helper status there and ended up joining ASAP, the Alliance of Security Analysis Professionals. Look for their symbol.
The Ravin’ Cajun asks me to recommend a good client-side spam filter for MS mail programs running under Windows. Now, this is something I don’t have experience with because my ISPs have always had good spam filtering, plus, I use Thunderbird, which handles the remainder quite nicely, thank you. Some readers wrote in and recommended SpamBayes, which is totally free and supposedly works very well, so I’ll add it on to the anti-annoyance list that we’re building up here.
Now that 1.0 has been released, I feel good in recommending Firefox as an alternative to IE. Go grab a copy and see what you’re missing.
IT TOOK YOU THIS LONG TO FIGURE THIS OUT?
From the AP Wire:
One Senate Democrat called Condoleezza Rice a liar Tuesday and others said she was an apologist for Bush administration failures in Iraq, but she remained on track for confirmation as secretary of state.
Rice, who has been President George W. Bush’s national security adviser for four years, was one of the loudest voices urging war, Democrats said. She repeatedly deceived members of Congress and Americans at large about justifications for the war, said Senator Mark Dayton (D-Minn.).
“I don’t like impugning anyone’s integrity, but I really don’t like being lied to,” Dayton said. “Repeatedly, flagrantly, intentionally.”
Rice is expected to win confirmation Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) predicted that Rice would have “an overwhelming majority” of votes.
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) cautioned against “inflammatory rhetoric that is designed merely to create partisan advantage or to settle partisan scores.”
Rice would succeed Colin Powell, who often found himself on the outside looking in with Bush’s close circle of war and national security advisers.
By contrast, Rice is a trusted Bush loyalist. As a principal architect of the Iraq invasion and the administration’s war on terrorism, she shares blame for overstating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, Democrats said.
“My vote against this nominee is my statement that this administration’s lies must stop now,” Dayton said in opposing Rice’s nomination on the Senate floor.
Politicians rarely use the word “lie,” preferring some of the milder terms other Democrats used Tuesday.
“There was no reason to go to war in Iraq when we did, the way we did and for the false reasons we were given,” said Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).
Rice is not directly responsible for intelligence failures prior to the Iraq war that overestimated Saddam’s nuclear capability, said Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.). “But she is responsible for her own distortions and exaggerations of the intelligence which was provided to her,” Levin said.
“Dr. Rice is responsible for some of the most overblown rhetoric that the administration used to scare the American people,” Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) said.
The Senate set aside most of the day Tuesday to debate the Rice nomination after Democrats revolted against a plan to confirm Rice last week, on the same day that Bush took his oath for a second term.
“We should have been done last week,” Frist said. “I was disappointed that we are having to march through the debate today. But ultimately the vote will occur.”
Rice answered 199 questions during two days of hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, Lugar said. She answered almost as many in writing, a record nearly unmatched by other cabinet nominees through history, Lugar said.
Democrats on the committee and off it, however, said Rice dodged hard questions.
Democrats, in the minority in Congress, often resort to delaying what they cannot defeat.
Byrd, the longest-serving Democratic senator and a student of the constitution, insisted that his party is merely doing its duty.
“I am particularly dismayed by criticism I have read that Senate Democrats by insisting on having the opportunity to debate this nomination have somehow been engaged in nothing more substantial than petty politics or partisan delaying tactics,” Byrd said, his voice rising in anger.
And these were just the afternoon speeches. In the morning, Ted Kennedy went after Condi-baby with both barrels loaded:
“I intend to oppose Condoleezza Rice’s nomination. There is no doubt that Dr. Rice has impressive credentials, her life story is very moving, and she has extensive experience in foreign policy,” Kennedy said.
“Dr. Rice was a key member of the national security team that developed and justified the rationale for war, and it’s been a catastrophic failure, a continuing quagmire. In these circumstances, she should not be promoted to secretary of state.” (courtesy of CNN)
Okay, she’s going to win confirmation despite the fact that she’s a lying cunt who has to screw her panties on in the morning. We all k
now that. But I’ll lay you odds that the vote today is going to be party-line or close to it, no “overwhelming” about it, Senator Frist. Plus, buddy-boy, you pissed off Robert Byrd. This is the past master at knowing how to f*ck up debate and tie the Senate in loops so strong that Ah-nuld would have a hard time breaking them. The guy’s a master at deviousness and pork barrel. He’s the only politican from West Virginia that we Chicagoans have adopted as our own.
This whole confirmation hearing is the first example of the contentiousness that’s going to preoccupy both houses of Congress for the next two years, at minimum. And the two years after that, it’s going to get worse as various and sundry try to position themselves for the open slopfight of 2008. There is one thing I’m happy about, though: no one has claimed that this melee is either racist or sexist. The Demos are frying Rice on her record and, oh, the content of her character as someone famous might have put it, not on her gender or the color of her skin. Personally, I’m quite pleased about that and proud of the knee-jerkers for not descending to that level.
Maybe there is some sort of hope for us.
THE ULTIMATE OXYMORON COMES TO LIFE
Top members of the Senate Armed Services Committee met with the Pentagon’s intelligence chief Monday amid reports that the Defense Department has been running a beefed-up intelligence-gathering unit.
The meeting between Stephen Cambone, the Bush administration’s undersecretary of defense for intelligence, and Sens. John Warner and Carl Levin follows revelations that the Defense Intelligence Agency has run a previously unknown covert operations unit since 2002 with the authority to operate clandestinely anywhere in the world.
Warner, a Virginia Republican and the committee’s chairman, said in a statement issued after the meeting that he was convinced the unit’s operations were “vital to our national security interests” and had been coordinated “with the appropriate agencies of the federal government.”
Warner said he and Levin, the committee’s ranking Democrat, would give other members a briefing.
A senior defense official said Sunday the role of the unit — now known as the Strategic Support Branch, or SSB — is to “provide an intelligence capability for field operation units,” including the military’s secretive special operations forces, in support of anti-terrorism and counterterrorism missions.
The Washington Post reported on the unit Sunday. Members of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees said they had not been aware of the unit’s existence, and one Democrat on the Intelligence Committee called for hearings into the matter by that panel.
“According to the Washington Post, the Department of Defense is changing the guidelines with respect to oversight and notification of Congress by military intelligence. Is this true or false?” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said in a written statement.
A senior defense official told CNN the SSB reports to Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Its policies are set by Cambone, one of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s most senior aides, the official said.
The official said Congress was told about the formation of “this kind of activity,” but might have been told of the program several months ago when it had a different name.
The SSB sends Defense Intelligence Agency personnel into the field and recruits agents to provide intelligence.
Its role is to provide a human intelligence capability for units that in many cases will be composed of special forces also operating clandestinely in such countries as Iraq and Afghanistan, the official said.
While some of this type of work has been carried out by the DIA in the past, the official said the SSB is “more robust in terms of who it operates with and its level of activities.”
He said the SSB was formed in response to Rumsfeld’s ongoing concerns expressed at the highest levels of the department that the Pentagon did not have the capability to gather intelligence in the field on its own.
The unit was set up after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, “to have as much flexibility as possible,” he said.
When SSB teams are deployed in the field, as a practical matter, they report to the combatant commander, or the commander of the region — though the official could not say this happens all the time.
For example, in Iraq, the unit would be under the supervision of Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command.
The official acknowledged that some observers may view the SSB as an effort by Rumsfeld to expand Pentagon intelligence operations at the expense of the CIA, which customarily has conducted clandestine intelligence operations.
He said that although SSB operations do not require permission from the CIA, the military still coordinates with the CIA.
And, by the way, they can keep a secret, as Voice of America implies:
A newspaper’s disclosure that the Defense Department has set up a new clandestine spy unit came as a surprise to many in and out of the secret intelligence world. Such espionage has traditionally been the province of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Pentagon officials have hastened to play down any perception that the new spy unit, dubbed the Strategic Support Branch, was set up to bypass the CIA. The program was developed in cooperation with the CIA, they said, not in competition with it.
Nevertheless, say intelligence experts, its creation reflects a long-running atmosphere of distrust and rivalry between the upper ranks of the military and the inhabitants of the top floors at CIA headquarters.
Lee Strickland, who retired last year from the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service after 30 years with the agency, says the new unit is a clear reflection of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s frustration with the level and amount of intelligence coming from the CIA.
“So what you are seeing here a desire by the secretary for sort of immediate gratification,” he said. “And if he has his own intelligence agency, he is obviously going to get what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants it.”
JJ, do you know about these guys? Just wondering.
Ooooh, now this is a bureaucratic pissfight that I can get into. The spook world (especially the KGB) has long been an interest of mine, and according to some people, my employer for an undisclosed period. So Rummy was operating a spook service behind the back of the CIA. What a surprise. The Junta always operates in this fashion. As for the military coordinating with the CIA, my ass. Not while Rummy’s SecDef and Dubbaya doesn’t trust the CIA to do jack shit after September 11th. So you get the military running wild yet again.
This, of course, is a repeat. The military used to have units like SSB back in the good old days of Vietnam, where ten bucks, a case of Schlitz, and a hooker could buy you all the information you needed on VC troop movements…well, sometimes, anyway. You’d have better luck giving the ten bucks, the case of Schlitz, and the hooker to some firebase guys, because that might actually get them motivated. However, it was effective. All the CIA was doing was trying to get information out of KGB double agents, running Air America, and coordinating dope deals in Thailand. So maybe Rummy is having a flashback to his Nixon/Ford Administration times and is trying to resurrect the halcyon old days. Why not? We’re caught in another quagmire of an armed conflict where Congress and the American public were lied to in order to get involved.
Unfortunately, there were apparently no laws broken in establishing the SSB, so I can’t pull out the Ollie North comparisons about idiots in the White House running policy like they were playing with toy soldiers. No, the Junta leaves that to Dubbaya and Rummy, and the soldiers they play with aren’t toys. This whole Iraq election isn’t going to help matters either. Everyone knows that whatever government gets in there, it’ll have to be propped up by US force, what with daily bombings, assorted and sundry assassinations, and repeated kidnappings. And now Dickhead wants another 80 billion added to the budget so he can continue to play. Well, f*ck him.
Hey, maybe the SSB can get some dirt on him…
AND YET MORE MILITARY SPIN
Twenty-three prisoners at the Guantanamo detention camp staged a mass protest in 2003 in which some tried to strangle themselves, but the U.S. military said on Tuesday it did not publicize it at the time because it did not consider most of them genuine suicide attempts.
All but two were classified as “self-harm incidents” aimed at causing injury rather than death, said a spokesman for the military’s Southern Command, which oversees the controversial U.S. military prison in eastern Cuba.
The mass protest took place between Aug. 18 and 28, 2003, with 10 occurring on a single day, Aug. 22. SouthCom called it “a coordinated effort to disrupt camp operations.”
“Some of them did attempt to strangle themselves,” said a SouthCom spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Chris Loundermon.
Two of them were treated at the camp hospital for minor injuries, he said.
“They remained in the detention hospital for less than 48 hours for observation and subsequently were transferred to the behavioral health services unit,” Loundermon said.
Those two incidents were among the 34 suicide attempts by 21 prisoners the military has previously acknowledged have occurred at Guantanamo since the prison camp opened in January 2002. The rest were considered “self-harm attempts” rather than attempts to cause death, Loundermon said.
“A (press) release would not be made for every self-harm incident,” he said.
“Self-harm attempts”? BWAA-HAAA-HAAA-HAAA! Another brilliant military euphemism. Kinda like “friendly fire”.
Look, they were suicide attempts, okay? You want to know what’s going on at Gitmo? How about hearing from the four Brits who were imprisoned there and repatriated late last year? From the Guardian:
Even the FBI raised concerns about prisoner treatment at GuantÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¡namo, as has the Red Cross, which has access to the camps, giving credence to claims of torture. Moazzam Begg alleges he was beaten and threatened, and Mr Mubanga says that he was shackled, humiliated, and subjected to extremes of temperature. Both Mr Begg and Feroz Abbasi suffered 18 months of isolation, triggering a breakdown for Mr Abbasi, according to his US lawyer.
Treatment like that, especially if you’ve been in there for three years, would make you want to commit acts of “self-harm” to the point of harming yourself to death. And it isn’t just at Gitmo either. What about the other detention camps that are situated around the world, like the one on Diego Garcia that the US and British governments deny the existence of but the Washington Post* says exists? And, remember, our Attorney General-designate was the one who gave the green light to treatment of detainees in this way, saying they were supposedly not covered by the Geneva Convention.
Let’s hope that the guys who are committing these acts decide to do a little “self-harm” to themselves.
* – One caveat about the Washington Post: an editorial yesterday kisses the asses of Bill and Melinda Gates for their US$750M donation to help vaccination programs in poor countries. Melinda Gates sits on the Post board of directors. And maybe Bill should put his money where his heart is, and donate US$750M to clean up all the virus and spyware-ridden copies of Windows out there.
Well, since I’ve already done a little self-harm to myself in the form of the nightly medications, I’m going to have to knock off now. See you this weekend with the Smackdown Short Form and the Royal Rumble Round Table. Until then, let’s hope you’ve dug out.