Friday, May 29, 2009

Terrorist Supervillains on the loose!


Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth (2008)

cover art
Director: Erik Nelson
Cast: Harlan Ellison, Robin Williams, Neil Gaiman, Peter David, Ronald D. Moore

Harlan Ellison makes me feel guilty for being a writer - or at the very least, for calling myself one. He's the true scribe, the real deal, the madman Muhammad Ali of letters. Whether it's sci-fi, or speculative fiction, or imaginative literature (his preference tends to change over time), Ellison is the standard bearer for the genre and the hateful curve breaker, the smartest kid in the class and the smart-assiest man on the planet. He has every right to be arrogant, pissy, and proud. He's won numerous awards, crafted classic pieces of prose and commentary, lived the life that dozens of lesser men would kill for, and still finds the time to complain almost constantly about the world around him - and with good reason. In a society slowly fading into a cloud of self-inflicted illiteracy, he's the last intellectually angry man. In essence, he's reason in a universe racked with conformity, insipidness, and ennui.

So why does he inspire such shame in yours truly? Certainly, it has little to do with his prodigious output or cantankerous cultural perspective. It has nothing to do with the tall tales and legends legitimized as part of his already amazing history. There is no connection to his recent lack of product, since it's crystal clear the man works when he wants and feels like it. In fact, there is nothing in the stunning, spellbinding documentary Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth, that fuels said feelings of inadequacy. No, it's like standing in the presence of the Pope and recognizing that you will never be as pious, or well-placed, as this idolized man of the cloth. And when you consider this raging Atheist's religion is words, the lack of faith is infinitely frustrating.

On screen, Ellison is a mesmerist. Director Erik Nelson, best known for his historical TV documentaries and producing Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man, does a very smart thing here. In true talking head style, he keeps the camera centered squarely on the author. Even better, in between the ample anecdotes, he has him read from his amazing works. Whether its real life reminiscences of his time spent as a child in Ohio, or allegorical brilliance ala "Repent Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman, UK author Neil Gaiman says it best when he calls everything Ellison does part of an elaborate "performance art" - with the creation known as 'Harlan Ellison' at the very center. There are times when you wonder whether one man can be this confrontational, this candid...this creative. And then there are moments when you wonder why other artists don't follow his lead.

Who Controls the Internet?

The United States, for now, and a good thing, too.

by Ariel Rabkin

In order to please our European allies and our Third World critics, the Obama administration may be tempted to surrender one particular manifestation of American "dominance": central management of key aspects of the Internet by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Other countries are pushing for more control. Early this year, British cabinet member Andy Burnham told the Daily Telegraph that he was "planning to negotiate with Barack Obama's incoming American administration to draw up new international rules for English language websites." It would be a mistake for the administration to go along. America's special role in managing the Internet is good for America and good for the world.

Internet domain names (such as are managed hierarchically. At the top of the hierarchy is an entity called IANA, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, operated on behalf of the Commerce Department. The U.S. government therefore has the ultimate authority to review or revoke any decision, or even to transfer control of IANA to a different operator.

Until now, the management of the Domain Name System has been largely apolitical, and most of the disputes that have arisen have been of interest only to insiders and the technology industry. IANA has concerned itself with fairly narrow questions like "Should we allow names ending in .info?" Commercial questions about ownership of names, like other property disputes, are settled in national courts. Political questions like "Who is the rightful government of Pakistan, and therefore the rightful owner of the .pk domain?" are settled by the U.S. Department of State.

There are persistent proposals to break the connection between IANA and the U.S. government. In these schemes, IANA would be directed by some international body, such as the United Nations or the International Telecommunication Union, which coordinates international phone networks. It is unclear what problem such proposals attempt to solve. There have been no serious complaints about American stewardship of the Internet, no actual abuses perpetrated by American overseers. But were we to abdicate this stewardship, a number of difficulties could arise.

Domain names sometimes present political questions. Which side in a civil war should control Pakistan's Internet domain? Should Israel's .il be suspended as punishment for its being an "Apartheid state"? What about Taiwan's .tw if China announces an attempt to "reabsorb its wayward province"?

Perhaps most serious, control of Internet names could become a lever to impose restrictions on Internet content.

Fake web traffic can hide secret chat

by Paul Marks

THE internet's underlying technology can be harnessed to let people exchange secret messages, perhaps allowing free speech an outlet in oppressive regimes.

So says a team of steganographers at the Institute of Telecommunications in Warsaw, Poland. Steganography is the art of hiding a message in an openly available medium. For example, you can subtly change the pixels in an image in a way that is undetectable to the eye but carries meaning to anyone who knows the pre-arranged coding scheme.

Wojciech Mazurczyk, along with Krzysztof Szczypiorski and Milosz Smolarczyk, have already worked out how to sneak messages into internet phone calls, and now the Warsaw team have turned their attention to the internet's transmission control protocol (TCP).

Web, file transfer, email and peer-to-peer networks all use TCP, which ensures that data packets are received securely by making the sender wait until the receiver returns a "got it" message. If no such acknowledgement arrives (on average 1 in 1000 packets gets lost or corrupted), the sender's computer sends the packet again. This scheme is known as TCP's retransmission mechanism - and it can be bent to the steganographer's whim, says Mazurczyk.

Their system, dubbed retransmission steganography (RSTEG), relies on sender and receiver using software that deliberately asks for retransmission even when email data packets are received successfully. "The receiver intentionally signals that a loss has occurred. The sender then retransmits the packet but with some secret data inserted in it," he says in a preliminary research paper ( So the message is hidden among the teeming network traffic.

Could a careful eavesdropper spot that RSTEG is being used because the first sent packet is different from the one containing the secret message? As long as the system is not over-used, apparently not, because if a packet is corrupted the original packet and the retransmitted one will differ from each other anyway, masking the use of RSTEG.

EFF chairman makes a Downfall remix

Hugh from the Electronic Frontier Foundation sez, "EFF Board Chair Brad Templeton has made a brilliant Downfall remix. The video is interesting not just for being funny, but also for the troubles Brad had creating it. In order to avoid any DMCA violations, he had to make it without circumventing encryption, which naturally led to multiple headaches. We have a short post on the EFF blog about what this says about the need for DMCA exemptions for remix artists"

Unfortunately for Brad, he found in making his parody that creating a fair use like this -- and doing so legally -- is not as easy as it ought to be. As a high profile advocate for digital rights, Brad naturally wants to avoid breaking any laws. And while fair use protects his parody from charges of copyright infringement, he wanted to ensure that he didn't accidentally violate other laws -- in particular the DMCA's prohibition on circumventing encryption.

This meant that Brad couldn't just rip a copy from the his own legally purchased DVD. Instead, just to be safe, he would have to make a copy of the film using the "analog hole," a form of copying that has been recognized by the courts as legally permissible.

When Fair Use Is Fairly Difficult

Hitler tries a DMCA takedown

Abu Ghraib abuse photos 'show rape'

Photographs of alleged prisoner abuse which Barack Obama is attempting to censor include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse, it has emerged.

Is God Dead? Or Has He Just Stopped Riding the Bus?

Members of Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign hold up one of their bus ads on a bus in Bloomington, Indiana.
Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign

Dangling from the sides of Chicago public buses in recent days: large signs bearing the slogan, "In the beginning, man created God."

Lo and behold, the atheist bus war that raged through London earlier this year has led to the opening of another front in America. The Chicago ads were purchased this month (for a total of $5,000) by the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign.

Despite Chicago's abundance of trains, the Indiana group preferred to buy ads to appear on the outside of buses. "That way, cars can see them. People on the sidewalks can see them, as the buses go zipping by," says Charlie Sitzes, 73, the group's spokesman. Apart from the predictable blogosphere chatter, Chicago has largely greeted the ads with a quick, curious look and then a shrug. While the media attention has drawn donations to the group from across the country, there are no plans to extend the ads' run beyond mid-June. "You don't have to shake the believer tree too hard to get a discussion going," Sitzes says, adding, "We've already won.",8599,1901301,00.html?xid=newsletter-daily

USA, Canada and the EU attempt to kill treaty to protect blind people's access to written material

Update: Victory! -- the treaty proposal survived this meeting and will be back on the agenda at the next one. We've got a couple months to lobby our governments and make sure that the next time they show up, they don't embarrass us by opposing this.

Right now, in Geneva, at the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization, history is being made. For the first time in WIPO history, the body that creates the world's copyright treaties is attempting to write a copyright treaty dedicated to protecting the interests of copyright users, not just copyright owners.

At issue is a treaty to protect the rights of blind people and people with other disabilities that affect reading (people with dyslexia, people who are paralyzed or lack arms or hands for turning pages), introduced by Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay. This should be a slam dunk: who wouldn't want a harmonized system of copyright exceptions that ensure that it's possible for disabled people to get access to the written word?

The USA, that's who. The Obama administration's negotiators have joined with a rogue's gallery of rich country trade representatives to oppose protection for blind people. Other nations and regions opposing the rights of blind people include Canada and the EU.

Update: Also opposing rights for disabled people: Australia, New Zealand, the Vatican and Norway.

Update 2: Countries that are on the right side of this include, "Latin American and Caribbean region including (Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Jamaica) as well as Asia and Africa."

Update 3: Canada is upset with me. That's fine, I'm upset with Canada.

Activists at WIPO are desperate to get the word out. They're tweeting madly from the negotiation (technically called the 18th session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights) publishing editorials on the Huffington Post, etc.

Here's where you come in: this has to get wide exposure, to get cast as broadly as possible, so that it will find its way into the ears of the obscure power-brokers who control national trade-negotiators.

I don't often ask readers to do things like this, but please, forward this post to people you know in the US, Canada and the EU, and ask them to reblog, tweet, and spread the word, especially to government officials and activists who work on disabled rights. We know that WIPO negotiations can be overwhelmed by citizen activists -- that's how we killed the Broadcast Treaty negotiation a few years back -- and with your help, we can make history, and create a world where copyright law protects the public interest.

I am attending a meeting in Geneva of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). This evening the United States government, in combination with other high income countries in "Group B" is seeking to block an agreement to discuss a treaty for persons who are blind or have other reading disabilities.

The proposal for a treaty is supported by a large number of civil society NGOs, the World Blind Union, the National Federation of the Blind in the US, the International DAISY Consortium, Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D), Bookshare.Org, and groups representing persons with reading disabilities all around the world.

The main aim of the treaty is to allow the cross-border import and export of digital copies of books and other copyrighted works in formats that are accessible to persons who are blind, visually impaired, dyslexic or have other reading disabilities, using special devices that present text as refreshable braille, computer generated text to speech, or large type. These works, which are expensive to make, are typically created under national exceptions to copyright law that are specifically written to benefit persons with disabilities...

The opposition from the United States and other high income countries is due to intense lobbying from a large group of publishers that oppose a "paradigm shift," where treaties would protect consumer interests, rather than expand rights for copyright owners.

The Obama Administration was lobbied heavily on this issue, including meetings with high level White House officials. Assurances coming into the negotiations this week that things were going in the right direction have turned out to be false, as the United States delegation has basically read from a script written by lobbyists for publishers, extolling the virtues of market based solutions, ignoring mountains of evidence of a "book famine" and the insane legal barriers to share works.

Obama Joins Group to Block Treaty for Blind and Other Reading Disabilities


Twitter feed for #sccr18


Pedro Paranaguá's notes in English and Brazilian Portuguese

The Patents of Steve Jobs

Ten unexpected inventions that add up to a portrait of Apple's CEO.

By Harry McCracken

Steve Jobs PatentsAmong the many uncanny parallels between Stephen Paul Jobs and Walter Elias Disney is this one: Very early on, both abandoned the work that in some respects might seem to define their careers. Walt Disney began as a cartoonist, but by the late 1920s he had nothing to do with the drawing of Disney cartoons and is said to have told folks that he couldn't have held down an animator's job in his own studio.  And Steve Jobs held technical positions at HP and Atari at the dawn of his time in Silicon Valley, but his contributions to Apple have never been those of an engineer.

And yet, as I browsed Apple patents in recent months for stories like this one, I wasn't surprised to discover that Jobs' name is among the inventors listed on dozens of Apple filings over the past thirty years (with a thirteen-year gap in the middle during his absence). It doesn't feel like glory-hogging, either: Anyone want to make the case that major Apple products would be pretty much the same if Jobs hadn't contributed ideas and refinements? And Jobs' name is typically one of several or many on a patent, usually along with that of Apple design honcho Jonathan Ive and other, lesser-known colleagues. (Most Jobs patents relate to industrial design; some are for software; none are for circuitry or other under-the-hood technologies.)

Rummaging through Google Patent Search's records of patents credited in part to Steve Jobs is an absorbing way to reflect on some of his accomplishments and failures–and maybe even to learn some new things about what makes the man tick.Yes, his name is on the patents for most of the iconic computers, MP3 players, and other gizmos sold by Apple from 1998 to the present. (I've written about some of them before.) But you know what? It's not the famous, obvious stuff that I find most interesting–it's the sidelights, loose ends, and mysteries. I'll look at ten of those in a moment.

First, let's get a bunch of icons out of the way with a group shot, shall we? Guys, c'mon in…

Apple Patents

Applause, applause; thank you, thank you.

Okay, let's move on. Here are ten other Steve Jobs patents to chew on–none of them landmarks, but all of them interesting:

1. A quiet blessing.

Apple Power Adapter PatentWhen I started doing stories comparing the cost of Windows PCs and Macs, I used to include Apple's power adapters–which are unusually compact and sport magnetic connectors, an optional extension cord, and little wings you can wrap the cable around–as a point in Macs' favor, until I got sick of Windows fans snickering. I shouldn't have caved. The fact that the CEO obsesses over even mundane necessities such as power bricks is one of the things that makes Apple Apple, and makes Macs worth more money than garden-variety Windows boxes. If you're not sure if you're a candidate to buy a Mac, here's a simple test: If the notion of a really well-designed AC adapter excites you, you'll probably be very happy with a Mac. And if it doesn't, you won't. The one shown here is from a 2001 patent filing that credits Jobs and eleven others.

2. A maniacal work of minimalism.

Apple Remote PatentI haven't been to every major Steve Jobs product unveiling, but I've been to more than my share–starting before there were such things as Macs–and I can't think of anything I saw Jobs reveal that seemed to tickle him more than the Apple Remote, which debuted at an October 12th, 2005 event and is shown here in a drawing from a patent filed five days earlier. He showed a slide contrasting the Remote's six options embedded in two unmarked controls against a Windows Media Center remote completely covered by fifteen zillion buttons, and just stood there and beamed. I think that the Apple Remote is merely very good–I prefer the Vudu box's thumbwheel driven model–but it's as striking an example of Jobsian restraint as you'll find. If most consumer-electronics companies set out to build the simplest remote ever, they'd still end up with three times the buttons, and half of them would have incomprehensible labels.

3. An apparent obsession.

Apple iMac PatentA surprising percentage of the Apple patents that carry Jobs' name involve one basic idea: desktop computers with the guts in one box, the display in another, and some form of articulated arm in between. Apple only made such a machine for about two and a half years–the iMac G4, produced between 2002 and 2004. Yet the U.S. Patent Office holds plenty of evidence that Jobs was smitten with the idea, including this patent for boxy a snake-arm iMac that was filed just weeks before Apple stopped shipping the more rounded G4. I'm not sure if Jobs has ever spoken publicly about the brief life of the "desklamp" Mac, but I'm betting that it was with at least some degree of regret that he retired it in favor of more conventional, less fanciful iMac designs. I'm also not sure if it means anything that some of these patents are among the few in which Jobs' name precedes that of any collaborator.


Fixing Hubble: No sweat; Watching a movie: No way

HOUSTON (AP) - Atlantis astronauts fixed the Hubble Space Telescope so it could beam cosmic pictures to Earth, but playing DVDs on their laptops is proving too difficult.

With an unwanted off day Friday because thunderstorms prevented their scheduled landing, the astronauts intended to pass the time by watching movies they brought on the mission. But when they tried to play them, they found out that their laptops didn't have the proper software.

Engineers on the ground tried to troubleshoot the problem - just as they did when a hand rail almost prevented spacewalkers from fixing one instrument in Hubble. After more than an hour with no solution, the astronauts gave up.

Astronaut John Grunsfeld radioed to Earth that they'd have to wait to watch something at a terrestrial movie theater.

Moron of the Week

Will the Antichrist be a homosexual?
By Ron Hamman

In answering this question, it is important to assert the question does not originate with me, lest someone out there think that I am bringing some new doctrine out to bolster the political climate. But as the study of Bible prophecy includes verbiage as to the behavior of the one called "that Wicked" by Paul in II Thessalonians, it is not only a legitimate question to ask, but also one to answer.

While the word "homosexual" is not in the Bible, the behavior of those who practice homosexuality, and God's estimation of them, very definitely is. When the word came into existence I cannot tell you, but what we can say for sure is that when Noah Webster published his first dictionary in 1828, it was not included. This means that homosexuality is a modern word invented to replace the word Noah Webster did include, sodomy, defined as a crime against nature. This is historical revisionism in action.

Sodomy is defined in scripture by two things, the first being that of where it began: Sodom. In Genesis 13:13 we have the first mention of the men of Sodom, pronouncing that they "were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly." Their saga is continued in chapters 18 and 19 with their sin being so great that not only does God say that it "is very grievous," but he himself comes down to destroy them with fire, the rubble of which still stands as a warning to us today.
While the Genesis account does not graphically describe their sin, leading some to deny it as being the same as homosexuality, their sin is obviously just that by how it is described: lying with mankind as with womankind. What other conclusion can be reached when they want to "know" the men who were in Lot's house, the same word the Bible uses in Genesis 4 in relation to the conception of Cain? And that Lot himself understood their intentions is clear; not only did he call such behavior wicked, but he also offered his virgin daughters as substitutes, which the men of Sodom refused.

And one more thing: Sodomy is the only sin for which God came down from heaven to destroy. Though God dealt with many other sins in various ways, there is no other for which he came down from heaven to verify and destroy. In the New Testament, sodomy is declared to be "against nature." And of the men, Paul in Romans 1 says they leave "the natural use of the woman...."  In effect, there is no greater sin against God than to reject how he made you, and no greater sin against women than to reject how God made them.

But will the Antichrist be a homosexual? Having seen what the Bible says of sodomy, we have no further to look than the book of Daniel, chapter 11 to find our answer. It says, "Neither shall he [Antichrist] regard... the desire of women...." As I said at the onset, I am not the first to draw attention to this, but the verbiage is clear.

California fires up laser fusion machine

Success at National Ignition Facility could pave the way for commercial laser fusion power stations and provide a solution to world energy crisis

by Ian Sample


National Ignition Facility

A tentative first step towards an era of clean, almost limitless energy will take place today with the opening of a giant facility designed to recreate the power of the stars in an oversized warehouse in California.

The $3.5bn National Ignition Facility (NIF) sits in a 10-storey building covering three football fields and will harness the power of lasers to turn tiny pellets of hydrogen into thermonuclear energy.

If the machine works as planned, it will become the first to generate more energy than it consumes, a feat that could pave the way for commercial laser fusion power stations and an end to the world's energy security problems.

The building, which has taken almost 15 years to build and commission, is due to be opened in a ceremony attended by the US energy secretary, Steven Chu, and the California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has said the facility could "revolutionise our energy future".

"If they're successful, it will be a very big deal. No one has achieved a net gain in energy before," said Derek Stork, assistant technical director at the UK United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA)'s centre for fusion research in Culham, Oxfordshire.

Inside the building, scientists will use the world's most powerful laser to create 192 separate beams of light that will be directed at a bead of frozen hydrogen in a violent burst lasting five billionths of a second. Each fuel pellet measures just two millimetres across but costs around $40,000, because they must be perfectly spherical to ensure they collapse properly when the laser light strikes.

The intense beams produce a powerful shockwave that crunches the fuel pellet at a million miles an hour, generating temperatures of around 100,000,000C. Under such extreme conditions, which are found only in the core of stars, the hydrogen atoms will fuse, producing helium and vast amounts of energy.

The facility will gradually work up to full power over the next 12 months or so, but experiments are scheduled to run until around 2040.


Political Animal

A whole lot of right-wing blogs are worked up today over a report about the political affiliations of Chrysler dealers who've been shut down.

Evidence appears to be mounting that the Obama administration has systematically targeted for closing Chrysler dealers who contributed to Repubicans [sic]. What started earlier this week as mainly a rumbling on the Right side of the Blogosphere has gathered some steam today with revelations that among the dealers being shut down are a GOP congressman and closing of competitors to a dealership chain partly owned by former Clinton White House chief of staff Mack McLarty.

The basic issue raised here is this: How do we account for the fact millions of dollars were contributed to GOP candidates by Chrysler who are being closed by the government, but only one has been found so far that is being closed that contributed to the Obama campaign in 2008?

Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), who has a dealership that will close, called this "an outrage." A variety of far-right bloggers chose more colorful language.

And what is the "evidence" of a partisan conspiracy that "appears to be mounting"? As you might have guessed, like most conservative theories, this one is extremely thin. The argument, in a nutshell, is that Chrysler dealers owned by a variety of Republican donors are being closed, the government is now involved with Chrysler's restructuring, so that points to "evidence" that the Obama administration is deliberately punishing GOP contributors.

Nate Silver, who has a nasty habit of using pesky things like facts to respond to silly arguments, explained, "There is just one problem with this theory. Nobody has bothered to look up data for the control group: the list of dealerships which aren't being closed. It turns out that all car dealers are, in fact, overwhelmingly more likely to donate to Republicans than to Democrats -- not just those who are having their doors closed."

There is no conspiracy. The Obama administration is not using Chrysler's bankruptcy to punish individual Republican contributors. Conservative blogs jumped on this before thinking it through.

Nothing to see here; move along.

Tomgram: William Astore, Educating Ourselves to Oblivion

by Tom Engelhardt

Can there be any doubt that education matters not just in how we view the world, but in what kind of world we create -- or simply accept? And can there be any doubt that, despite a massive educational infrastructure (admittedly now fraying badly), Americans remain remarkably poorly informed about the world? Last year, Rick Shenkman, the editor of the History News Network website, published a book (now out in paperback), Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter, excerpted at this site. Stupid enough (or ill-informed) was the answer.

Since Barack Obama's election, many readers wrote Shenkman asking him if he still believes that "the voters are uninformed. Didn't Obama's election mean they were pretty smart?" In a recent post, he answered regretfully in the negative and here's just a little of what he had to say:

"The highlights of the 2008 election included controversies over Obama's bowling score, his middle name Hussein, and Hillary's crying. These were not exactly issues of much weight at a time when the financial collapse of the country was happening before our eyes. And yet they drew extended media commentary… The media was to blame for the deplorable low quality of much of the campaign. But I am firmly convinced that you get the campaign you deserve…

"Take the question of Obama's religion. Millions of voters paid so little attention to the news that they were easily bamboozled into believing that Barack Hussein Obama was a Muslim. On the eve of the election, confusion reigned. Polls indicated that 7 percent of the voters in the key battleground states of Florida and Ohio and 23 percent in Texas believed that Obama was a Muslim. In addition, and worse, more than 40 percent in Florida and Ohio reported that they did not know what his religion was. The arithmetic is horrifying: 7 percent + 40 percent = a near majority guilty of gross ignorance.

"Americans did not come by their confusion by accident. A deliberate campaign was launched by Republicans to convince people that Obama's faith was in question. But what are we to make of voters who could be so easily bamboozled..."

It's sobering to consider just how many Americans can't sort out propaganda (or simply fiction) from fact in the media madness that passes for our "information age." It's no less sobering to consider a corollary possibility: that we get the society we deserve; that, in fact, our youth in college today are being prepared, as TomDispatch regular William Astore (who has taught at both the Air Force Academy and the Pennsylvania College of Technology) suggests, to enter a world in desperate shape, but not to challenge it. Tom

Selling Education, Manufacturing Technocrats, Torturing Souls

The Tyranny of Being Practical
By William Astore

Hardly a week goes by without dire headlines about the failure of the American education system. Our students don't perform well in math and science. The high-school dropout rate is too high. Minority students are falling behind. Teachers are depicted as either overpaid drones protected by tenure or underpaid saints at the mercy of deskbound administrators and pushy parents.

Unfortunately, all such headlines collectively fail to address a fundamental question: What is education for? At so many of today's so-called institutions of higher learning, students are offered a straightforward answer: For a better job, higher salary, more marketable skills, and more impressive credentials. All the more so in today's collapsing job market.

Based on a decidedly non-bohemian life -- 20 years' service in the military and 10 years teaching at the college level -- I'm convinced that American education, even in the worst of times, even recognizing the desperate need of most college students to land jobs, is far too utilitarian, vocational, and narrow. It's simply not enough to prepare students for a job: We need to prepare them for life, while challenging them to think beyond the confines of their often parochial and provincial upbringings. (As a child of the working class from a provincial background, I speak from experience.)

And here's one compelling lesson all of us, students and teachers alike, need to relearn constantly: If you view education in purely instrumental terms as a way to a higher-paying job -- if it's merely a mechanism for mass customization within a marketplace of ephemeral consumer goods -- you've effectively given a free pass to the prevailing machinery of power and those who run it.

Cheney - The dick who wouldn't leave


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Adventures into the Unknown!


Land of the Weak and the Wussy

There may have perhaps have been a time when America was a land of at least some brave people. although arguably a nation that celebrates as heroic a history that features lots of people with modern guns and cannons conquering and destroying another people who were living in the stone age and fighting back with bows and arrows, and that built its economy on the backs of men and women held in chains certainly has a tough case to make. What is clear though is that there is nothing brave about modern-day America.

Whatever we were, we have degenerated into a nation that finds glory in deploying the most advanced high-tech, high-explosive weaponry against some of the world's poorest people, that justifies killing women and children, even by the dozens, even if by doing so it manages to kill one alleged "enemy" fighter. A nation that exalts remote-controlled robot drone aircraft that can attack targets in order to avoid risking soldiers' lives, even though by doing so, it is predictable that many, many innocent people will be killed. A nation that is proud to have developed weapons of mass slaughter, from shells laden with phosphorus that burns to death, indiscriminately, those who are contacted by the splattered chemical to elaborately baroque anti-personnel fragmentation bombs that spread cute little colored objects designed to look like everything from toys to food packages, but which upon contact explode, releasing whirling metal or plastic fleschettes which shred human flesh on contact.

The Marines who battled their way up the hillsides of Iwo Jima, or the soldiers who struggled ashore under withering fire on the beaches of Normandy would be appalled at what passes for heroic behavior in today's American military. But that's not the worst of it.

The worst of it is back home in the USA, where millions of citizens who bitch about their taxes and who pay as little attention as possible to the fact that their nation is deeply mired in two wars, routinely refer to those who do their fighting for them as heroes, but then want nothing to do with the consequences of those wars (or for that matter the people who actually fight them).

One particularly telling consequence of those wars is that the US now has several hundred prisoners, mostly at the prison camp on the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, whom the American people don't want to have moved to their shores. And why won't we Americans accept the responsibility for incarcerating and trying these captives? Because we are so afraid that their comrades will strike back at us with acts of terrorism if we bring them here.

First of all, a moment of rational thought, please. Does anyone seriously think that the radical Islamic groups and independence fighters who are battling American forces in places like Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan are so symbolically obsessed that they would only attack places in America where their fellows are actually being held? Do people actually think that such people would not attack some place in the continental US right now if they could, in retaliation for people being held at the inaccessible base in Guantanamo?

Please. Let's get real.

Halliburton chief denies company still tied to KBR


Halliburton Co. CEO Dave Lesar today dismissed suggestions by a shareholder that the 2007 spinoff of its former subsidiary KBR was a ruse and that Halliburton's recent agreement to pay most of KBR's legal fines in a federal bribery case was an example of the companies' ongoing connection.

"First of all, let's be very clear, KBR and Halliburton are legally separated," Lesar said at Halliburton's annual shareholders meeting.

"But as a step in that separation of KBR from Halliburton, we agreed to indemnify KBR for any payments they had to make related to these matters to make sure they were put off on their own in a way that they could be viable and they could do well in the marketplace, which they have," he said.

The answer was in response to a question by longtime Halliburton critic and shareholder activist Pretap Chatterjee, who raised concerns about a February legal settlement in which Halliburton agreed to pay $382 million of the $402 million in criminal fines facing KBR faced in connection with bribery charges in Nigeria.

"I'm concerned that this suggests the two companies are not legally separate, but in fact the separation that occurred two years ago is legal fiction," Chaterjee said, during a question-and-answer portion of the shareholder meeting.

"Why are we paying the price of KBR's mistakes unless in fact the two companies are not divorced as we have been told?"

Teaching Copyright

There's a lot of misinformation out there about legal rights and responsibilities in the digital era.

This is especially disconcerting when it comes to information being shared with youth. Kids and teens are bombarded with messages from a myriad of sources that using new technology is high-risk behavior. Downloading music is compared to stealing a bicycle — even though many downloads are lawful. Making videos using short clips from other sources is treated as probably illegal — even though many such videos are also lawful.

This misinformation is harmful, because it discourages kids and teens from following their natural inclination to be innovative and inquisitive. The innovators, artists and voters of tomorrow need to know that copyright law restricts many activities but also permits many others. And they need to know the positive steps they can take to protect themselves in the digital sphere. In short, youth don't need more intimidation — what they need is solid, accurate information.

EFF's Teaching Copyright curriculum was created to help teachers present the laws surrounding digital rights in a balanced way.

Teaching Copyright provides lessons and ideas for opening your classroom up to discussion, letting your students express their ideas and concerns, and then guiding your students toward an understanding of the boundaries of copyright law.

In five distinct lessons, students are challenged to:

  • Reflect on what they already know about copyright law.
  • See the connection between the history of innovation and the history of copyright law.
  • Learn about fair use, free speech, and the public domain and how those concepts relate to using materials created by others.
  • Experience various stakeholders' interests and master the principles of fair use through a mock trial.

Teaching Copyright will require your students to think about their role in the online world and provide them with the legal framework they need to make informed choices about their online behavior.

Spending Under President George W. Bush

The numbers are in. With the release of the first estimate of the FY 2009 budget, we can now summarize and assess President Bush's fiscal legacy.1

Section 1. Overall Federal Numbers under President Bush

During his eight years in office, President Bush oversaw a large increase in government spending, as seen in Table 1:


In fact, as seen in Table 2, President Bush increased government spending more than any of the six presidents preceding him, including LBJ.


In his last term in office, President Bush increased discretionary outlays by an estimated 48.6 percent. The largest increase took place in his last year and included, among other things, the $700 billion financial industry bailout bill (TARP) and the federal takeover of Government-Sponsored Enterprises Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

Figure 1 illustrates that during his eight years in office, President Bush spent almost twice as much as his predecessor, President Clinton.

Adjusted for inflation, in eight years, President Clinton increased the federal budget by 11 percent. In eight years, President Bush increased it by a whopping 104 percent. 


Canada's healthcare saved her; Ours won't cover her

Maggie Yount in 2007
Maggie Yount, a Canadian citizen, got months of treatment and rehab in Canada after a drunk driver crashed into her car in 2007. The accident broke 13 of her bones, injured her brain and left her in a coma for four days.

by David Lazarus

San Marcos resident Maggie Yount wasn't surprised when the letter from insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross arrived the other day. Yet she couldn't help but be frustrated.

"Some medical conditions, either alone or in combination with the cost of medication, present uncertain medical underwriting risks," Anthem informed her. "In view of these risks, we find we are unable to offer you enrollment at this time."

In other words, no health coverage for you.

Yount, 24, finds herself in that cloudy area in which a "preexisting condition" makes her too great a risk in the eyes of money-minded insurance companies. And so she's being excluded from the system.

"It looks like I'll just have to be very, very careful about everything," Yount told me. "But what kind of way is that to live your life?"

If that were all there was to it, her story would still be worth telling as the Obama administration embarks on an ambitious effort to reform the woefully dysfunctional U.S. healthcare system.

But Yount's tale runs even deeper.

In November 2007, she was rushed to the emergency room after a drunk driver crashed into her car on a Nova Scotia highway.

Yount awoke from a coma four days later. She had suffered a brain injury in the head-on collision. Thirteen bones were broken, from her leg to her cheek. The other driver was killed.

Yount, a Canadian citizen, spent three months in a Halifax hospital, receiving treatment and rehab that must have cost a small fortune.

"I have no idea how much it cost," she said. "It's not something I've ever needed to know."

So who paid the bill?

"The government of Canada."

The United States is the only industrialized democracy that doesn't have a government-run insurance system. Under such systems, universal coverage is provided through tax revenue. There are no premiums, co-pays or deductibles.

It's not a perfect system -- people often end up waiting for nonessential treatment. But it won't leave you destitute if things go bad. Basically, you're covered. For everything.

In Yount's case, that ended when she moved to San Marcos in northern San Diego County a year ago to be with her fiance. They were married last July.

She then tried to obtain health coverage under the U.S. system. Her American husband works as a software engineer on a contract basis and doesn't have employer-provided coverage.

Before applying to Anthem, Yount applied for an individual policy offered by Aetna Inc. She received a letter a couple of months ago informing her that her application had been rejected.

The letter noted that Yount's medical record includes "a history of traumatic brain injury with multiple fractures treated with hospitalization." It concluded that "this condition exceeds the allowable limits provided by our underwriting guidelines."

Maggie Yount now,0,2252325.column?page=1

Guatemala: Conversation With @Jeanfer, Twitterer Facing Up to 10 Years In Prison for One Tweet.

posted by Xeni Jardin
(Version en Español aquí)

GUATEMALA CITY: Earlier this month, a Twitter user in Guatemala was arrested, jailed, and fined the equivalent of a year's salary for having posted a 96-character thought to Twitter. The tweet related to an ongoing political crisis in Guatemala sparked by allegations that president Álvaro Colom ordered the assassination of an attorney, and claims made by this attorney that government officials engaged in illegal, corrupt transactions through the country's largest bank.

Jean Ramses Anleu Fernandez, or @jeanfer as he's known on Twitter (at left), has since been released from jail. He is under house arrest while the Guatemalan government pursues charges against him. Jean is an unlikely public figure: a shy, soft-spoken I.T. guy who studies systems engineering and loves books. He has since become something of a popular hero online, and Twitter itself has become a force in the country's current upheaval.

Guatemala's Supervisor of Banks, Édgar Barquín, wants Jean to face charges of up to 10 years in jail for "inciting financial panic" through the tweet in question. Barquín this week also proposed new restrictions on internet use in Guatemala -- for instance, that people who use internet cafés be required to present national IDs ("cedulas") before logging on.

I interviewed @jeanfer this week, here in Guatemala. Among the details he shared: Guatemala's Ministry of Banks created a Twitter account to "follow" him, in the course of interrograting him at his home. And while he was in jail, he dreamed of Kafka, and wished he could turn himself into a cockroach, to escape. Jean's final words in the interview:

The point is that this case represents something we must not lose. Without freedom of opinions and speech, there is no democracy. I hope this case sets a precedent about freedom of thought.

I've left most of the interview intact, so it's long (+2000 words). Continued in entirety after the jump. Special thanks to @thevenemousone for assistance with translation.

@XENIJARDIN: How were you using Twitter, and who were you mostly communicating with on Twitter when all of this happened?

I used to chat among a circle of Guatemalan friends in a book club I belong to, and others from the same social group who were interested in the web, and information technology.

: Nearly all of your blog posts were about books, too. I remember thinking when i first saw your personal blog that you were clearly a person who loves reading books.

With all my heart. I have a beautiful little library in my home. In my house, my study, my bathroom, even in my phone -- every wall is covered in bookshelves. I read lots of different kinds -- but historic novels are my favorite. I read biographies, poetry, history, theology...

: You were one of many people in Guatemala who were talking about the political crisis on Twitter in that first week after the Rosenberg video was released.

Yes, one of many.

And you posted this one fleeting thought about the crisis, and the bank. 96 characters. What happened?

What happened was that these past days in Guatemala have been extremely turbulent. We have been trying to figure out what is going on, because we are worried about our country. I love Guatemala. So, we were exchanging the information we knew among our groups, with people we knew and were close to. We were all sharing fleeting thoughts as things were happening.

@JEANFER: That day in particular, May 12th, started with news of the MP (Public Ministry, government body charged with investigations) arriving at the bank (background here and here). My first tweet related to this matter is made at noon, after that happened. The only people following me were a small group of friends who understand that my tweet was not an incitation. I even used quotation marks, to specify that this was overheard dialogue.

If you notice, my tweet has three parts. "Primera acción real" (First real action) is the title I use to designate what is happening around the whole #escandalogt issue. This was the first real action that had taken place after Rosenberg's video surfaced. Second, "sacar el pisto de banrural" (withdraw the money from Banrural) - is the quotation of what someone else is saying. And lastly, what I thought that first action meant to do: "quebrar al banco de los corruptos" (bankrupt the bank of the corrupt). Notice that I didn't mean that the bank or their officials are or were corrupt, but that maybe other people were infiltrating within the bank... I don't know. This was the opinion of many people in Guatemala.

[The officials who arrested me] took this information and claimed firstly, that I've said it at a public hearing; secondly, that this information is at anyone's reach; and lastly, that it is meant to be an incitation.


The group blog of The American Prospect

On Hardball yesterday, Pat Buchanan argued that Sonia Sotomayor "says her sex -- her gender, excuse me -- and her ethnicity are going to influence her decision. She will decide differently from a white male." Likewise Stuart Taylor has asked "do we want a new justice who comes close to stereotyping white males as (on average) inferior beings? And who seems to speak with more passion about her ethnicity and gender than about the ideal of impartiality?"

I've already responded to some of Taylor's assertions, so I won't do that here. I merely want to point out this passage from Samuel Alito's confirmation, highlighted by Glenn Greenwald:

Because when a case comes before me involving, let's say, someone who is an immigrant -- and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases -- I can't help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn't that long ago when they were in that position.


When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.

This is Samuel Alito, arguing that his experience of being the son of Italian immigrants, his knowledge of discrimination, gives him empathy that offers insight into such cases. How is this qualitatively different from Sotomayor saying that her knowledge of such things might maker her a better judge? It isn't--in fact, Alito is arguing the same thing, that his life experience gives him insight into the way laws affect people in real life, the exact quality Obama said he was looking for in a nominee. Like Sotomayor, Alito was merely commenting on the way life experience shapes one's vision of the law.

The conservative freakout over Sotomayor's remarks, as opposed to the way Alito's were marketed as a selling point for him as a judge, makes a remarkably salient case for why we still need affirmative action.

Cut taxes

Landmark study: DRM truly does make pirates out of us all

A UK researcher has spent years interviewing people about whether DRM has affected their ability to use content in ways ordinarily protected by the law. Surprise! It has, even leading one sight-impaired woman to piracy.

Netherlands to close prisons for lack of criminals

By our news desk

The Dutch justice ministry has announced it will close eight prisons and cut 1,200 jobs in the prison system. A decline in crime has left many cells empty.

During the 1990s the Netherlands faced a shortage of prison cells, but a decline in crime has since led to overcapacity in the prison system. The country now has capacity for 14,000 prisoners but only 12,000 detainees.

Deputy justice minister Nebahat Albayrak announced on Tuesday that eight prisons will be closed, resulting in the loss of 1,200 jobs. Natural redundancy and other measures should prevent any forced lay-offs, the minister said.

The overcapacity is a result of the declining crime rate, which the ministry's research department expects to continue for some time.

The Power of Nightmares - Part I

Baby It's Cold Outside"

In the past our politicians offered us dreams of a better world. Now they promise to protect us from nightmares.

The most frightening of these is the threat of an international terror network. But just as the dreams were not true, neither are these nightmares.

Part I - Part II - Part III

US Army prepared to stay in Iraq for a decade

U.S soldier in central Baghdad, Iraq: US Army prepared to stay in Iraq for a decade

The Pentagon is prepared to remain in Iraq for as long as a decade despite an agreement between Washington and Baghdad that would bring all American troops home by 2012, according to the US army chief of staff.

Gen George Casey said the world remained "dangerous and unpredictable", and the Pentagon must plan for extended US combat and stability operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan that could deploy 50,000 US military personnel for a decade.

"Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction," Gen Casey said. "They fundamentally will change how the army works."

His planning envisioned combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade as part of a sustained American commitment to fighting extremism and terrorism in the Middle East.

Gen Casey's calculations about force levels are related to his attempt to ease the brutal deployment calendar that he said would "bring the Army to its knees". His goal was, he explained, to move rotations by 2011 to one year in the battlefield and two years out for regular army troops, and one year in the battlefield and three years out for reserves. He called the current one-year-in-one-year-out cycle "unsustainable".

Iraq redux? Obama seeks funds for Pakistan super-embassy

By Saeed Shah and Warren P. Strobel

ISLAMABAD — The U.S. is embarking on a $1 billion crash program to expand its diplomatic presence in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan, another sign that the Obama administration is making a costly, long-term commitment to war-torn South Asia, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

The White House has asked Congress for — and seems likely to receive — $736 million to build a new U.S. embassy in Islamabad, along with permanent housing for U.S. government civilians and new office space in the Pakistani capital.

The scale of the projects rivals the giant U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which was completed last year after construction delays at a cost of $740 million.

Senior State Department officials said the expanded diplomatic presence is needed to replace overcrowded, dilapidated and unsafe facilities and to support a "surge" of civilian officials into Afghanistan and Pakistan ordered by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Other major projects are planned for Kabul, Afghanistan; and for the Pakistani cities of Lahore and Peshawar. In Peshawar, the U.S. government is negotiating the purchase of a five-star hotel that would house a new U.S. consulate.

Funds for the projects are included in a 2009 supplemental spending bill that the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed in slightly different forms.

Fading fast...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Congress Monthly

The Day of the Dead

by Cindy Sheehan

photoDuring a Memorial Day event at Long Island National Cemetery, Cub Scout Kyle Maebert places American flags. (Photo: AP)

    I was on an airplane flying to Orange County from Sacramento to attend the al-Awda Conference, which is a Palestinian Right's Conference (al-Awda translates to "The Returning"), when the pilot's voice filled the cabin to make an announcement that I think went unnoticed by most of my fellow passengers, but I heard it.

    As the plane was on the approach to John Wayne airport, the Captain came on the intercom to remind us all to "remember our brave troops who have died for our freedom." Even in this post 9-11 paranoid paradigm, if I wasn't belted in for landing, I would have popped out of my seat at 13D and charged up to the cockpit to let the pilot know that my son was killed in Iraq and not one person anywhere in this world is one iota more free because he is dead.

    As a matter of fact, the people of Iraq, the foreign country thousands of miles away where my oldest child's brains, blood and life seeped into the soil, are not freer, unless one counts being liberated from life, liberty and property being free. If you consider torture and indefinite detention freedom, then the pilot may have been right, but then again, even if you do consider those crimes freedom, it does not make it so.

    Here in America we are definitely not freer because my son died, as a matter of fact, our nation can spy on us and our communications without a warrant or just cause, and we can't even bring a 3.6 ounce bottle of hand cream into an airport, or walk through a metal detector with our shoes on. Even if we do want to exercise our Bill of Rights, we are shoved into pre-designated "free speech" zones (NewSpeak for; STFU, unless you are well out of the way of what you want to protest and shoved into pens like cattle being led to slaughter), and oftentimes brutally treated if we decide we are entitled to "free speech" on every inch of American soil.

    If you watch any one of the cable news networks this weekend between doing holiday weekend things, you will be subjected to images of row upon row of white headstones of dead US military lined up in perfect formation in the afterlife as they were in life. Patriotic music will swell and we will be reminded in script font to "Remember our heroes," or some such BS as that.

    Before Casey was killed, a message like that would barely register in my consciousness as I rushed around preparing for Casey's birthday bar-be-que that became a family tradition since he was born on Memorial Day in 1979. If I had a vision of how Memorial Day and Casey's birthday would change for my family, I would have fled these violent shores to protect what was mine, not this murderous country's. Be my guest; look at those headstones with pride or indifference. I look at them now with horror, regret, pain and a longing for justice.

Bush's Shocking Biblical Prophecy Emerges: God Wants to "Erase" Mid-East Enemies "Before a New Age Begins"

Bush explained to French Pres. Chirac that the Biblical creatures Gog and Magog were at work in the Mid-East and must be defeated.

The revelation this month in GQ Magazine that Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary embellished top-secret wartime memos with quotations from the Bible prompts a question. Why did he believe he could influence President Bush by that means?

The answer may lie in an alarming story about George Bush's Christian millenarian beliefs that has yet to come to light.

In 2003 while lobbying leaders to put together the Coalition of the Willing, President Bush spoke to France's President Jacques Chirac. Bush wove a story about how the Biblical creatures Gog and Magog were at work in the Middle East and how they must be defeated.

In Genesis and Ezekiel Gog and Magog are forces of the Apocalypse who are prophesied to come out of the north and destroy Israel unless stopped. The Book of Revelation took up the Old Testament prophesy:

"And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them."

Bush believed the time had now come for that battle, telling Chirac:

"This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people's enemies before a New Age begins".

The story of the conversation emerged only because the Elyse Palace, baffled by Bush's words, sought advice from Thomas Romer, a professor of theology at the University of Lausanne. Four years later, Romer gave an account in the September 2007 issue of the university's review, Allez savoir. The article apparently went unnoticed, although it was referred to in a French newspaper.

The story has now been confirmed by Chirac himself in a new book, published in France in March, by journalist Jean Claude Maurice. Chirac is said to have been stupefied and disturbed by Bush's invocation of Biblical prophesy to justify the war in Iraq and "wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs".

In the same year he spoke to Chirac, Bush had reportedly said to the Palestinian foreign minister that he was on "a mission from God" in launching the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and was receiving commands from the Lord.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono Montreal bed-in for peace was 40 years ago

By Nelson Wyatt
MONTREAL - The hotel room where John Lennon and Yoko Ono created a watershed moment for the peace movement at the height of the Vietnam War is a little smaller now.

Part of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel suite, which has a gold plaque on the door noting its history, went to the installation of a panoramic elevator on the floor.

But that hasn't dimmed the aura of the place where the ex-Beatle and Ono staged their bed-in for peace between May 26 and June 2, 1969, and recorded the iconic antiwar anthem "Give Peace a Chance" the day before they left.

"The furniture has changed because of course it's 40 years ago and we do renovate every five to 10 years," hotel spokeswoman Joanne Papineau said as she gave a tour of room 1742 on Tuesday.

Pictures of Lennon and Ono during the bed-in dot the walls. Sunlight floods in from the large window in the sitting room where Lennon positioned the couple's mattress and held court with throngs of people in 1969.

Papineau leafs through a security log book from the visit, which notes the couple's room service orders - a mix of British and Japanese food - and a request for an extra large comb plus a cage for a white mouse.

"They were throwing (flower) petals into the air a few times a day so we had to keep vacuuming the floor," she said with a chuckle.

"There were 200 'fellow Beatles' who were running around in the lobby so you see it was a bit of a circus and guests were not always so happy."

The Queen E, as the landmark hotel is nicknamed, didn't boast about holding the event at the time.

"It created a lot of problems with guests," Papineau said. "They didn't talk about it for a while but guests wanted to see where it happened."

There was a spike in interest after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States when Lennon's message of peace was given increased resonance.

Now, many fans of Lennon and the Beatles want to book the room. Others reserve it for romantic getaways.

"Guests love it," Papineau said of the room. "A lot of them feel a presence. They say there's a special vibration."

Why having daughters makes fathers more likely to agree with Left-wing views

By Sophie Borland

When she needs a lift or money to buy clothes, a girl will turn the charm on her father.

But it seems that a daughter's influence on her dad goes far beyond the odd favour.

Research has found that the more girls a man has, the more likely he is to be Left-wing.

Daughters have such a profound effect on their fathers that they can switch their political viewpoint, a study suggests.

Brad Pitt with daughters
Daddies' girls: Brad Pitt with two of his three daughters, Zahara and Shiloh, is an example of how, perhaps, girls make their fathers more likely to be Left-wing

Compared to men, women are more likely to favour Labour or Liberal policies such as higher taxes to fund provisions like the NHS.

They also tend to earn less than men so won't be as hard-hit by higher taxation.

As a man fathers more daughters, he will gradually be won round by their more Left-wing viewpoints.

The study, carried out by Professor Andrew Oswald from Warwick University and Dr Nattavudh Powdthavee from York University, also found that a predominance of sons can make a mother more right-wing.

The researchers even suggested that well-known Left-wing politicians and personalities owed their beliefs to the high numbers of daughters in the family.