Friday, September 22, 2006

POLITICS - GOP Scam, Excuse to Deny Voting

"Keep Away the Vote" Editorial, New York Times 9/21/2006

One of the cornerstones of the Republican Party’s strategy for winning elections these days is voter suppression, intentionally putting up barriers between eligible voters and the ballot box. The House of Representatives took a shameful step in this direction yesterday, voting largely along party lines for onerous new voter ID requirements. Laws of this kind are unconstitutional, as an array of courts have already held, and profoundly undemocratic. The Senate should not go along with this cynical, un-American electoral strategy.

The bill the House passed yesterday would require people to show photo ID to vote in 2008. Starting in 2010, that photo ID would have to be something like a passport, or an enhanced kind of driver’s license or non-driver’s identification, containing proof of citizenship. This is a level of identification that many Americans simply do not have.

The bill was sold as a means of deterring vote fraud, but that is a phony argument. There is no evidence that a significant number of people are showing up at the polls pretending to be other people, or that a significant number of noncitizens are voting.

The actual reason for this bill is the political calculus that certain kinds of people — the poor, minorities, disabled people and the elderly — are less likely to have valid ID. They are less likely to have cars, and therefore to have drivers’ licenses. There are ways for nondrivers to get special ID cards, but the bill’s supporters know that many people will not go to the effort if they don’t need them to drive.

Court after court has held that voter ID laws of this kind are unconstitutional. This week, yet another judge in Georgia struck down that state’s voter ID law.

Last week, a judge in Missouri held its voter ID law to be unconstitutional. Supporters of the House bill are no doubt hoping that they may get lucky, and that the current conservative Supreme Court might uphold their plan.

America has a proud tradition of opening up the franchise to new groups, notably women and blacks, who were once denied it. It is disgraceful that, for partisan political reasons, some people are trying to reverse the tide, and standing in the way of people who have every right to vote.

And this from the GOP, the upholders of morality and ethics, anything to win.

POLITICS - More Evidence of Who the Bush Whitehouse Really Serves

"Suits Say U.S. Impeded Audits for Oil Leases" by Edmund L. Andrews, New York Times

Four government auditors who monitor leases for oil and gas on federal property say the Interior Department suppressed their efforts to recover millions of dollars from companies they said were cheating the government.

The accusations, many of them in four lawsuits that were unsealed last week by federal judges in Oklahoma, represent a rare rebellion by government investigators against their own agency.

The auditors contend that they were blocked by their bosses from pursuing more than $30 million in fraudulent underpayments of royalties for oil produced in publicly owned waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The agency has lost its sense of mission, which is to protect American taxpayers,” said Bobby L. Maxwell, who was formerly in charge of Gulf of Mexico auditing. “These are assets that belong to the American public, and they are supposed to be used for things like education, public infrastructure and roadways.”

The lawsuits have surfaced as Democrats and Republicans alike are questioning the Bush administration’s willingness to challenge the oil and gas industry.

The new accusations surfaced just one week after the Interior Department’s inspector general, Earl E. Devaney, told a House subcommittee that “short of crime, anything goes” at the top levels of the Interior Department.

In two of the lawsuits, two senior auditors with the Minerals Management Service in Oklahoma City said they were ordered to drop their claim that Shell Oil had fraudulently shortchanged taxpayers out of $18 million.

A third auditor, also in Oklahoma City, charged that senior officials in Denver ordered him to drop his demand that two dozen companies pay $1 million in back interest.

And in a suit that was filed in 2004, Mr. Maxwell charged that senior officials in Washington ordered him not to press claims that the Kerr-McGee Corporation had cheated the government out of $12 million in royalties.

As to be expected, the "official" reply is denial, denial, and blame the whistle-blowers. We, the taxpayers, are suppose to trust an Administration whose heads are historically tied to Big Oil.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

POLITICS - The FED's Are Spying on YOU

"Inside the Feds' Secret Wiretapping Rooms" by Jeffrey Klein and Paolo Pontoniere, New America Media

Although it may appear as if Congress is about to put restraints on the Bush administration's wiretapping programs, the three "reform bills" now up for a vote all paint a deceptive picture of the massive domestic surveillance programs that the government has up and running. Because several ongoing invasion-of-privacy lawsuits could expose the extent of the illegal wiretapping, the administration is seeking via these bills to shunt the lawsuits into a secret court, where they will die.

Earlier this year Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) accused President Bush and the National Security Agency (NSA) of breaking the law by authorizing wiretaps without seeking a judicial warrant. Vice President Cheney quickly went to the Hill to work out a compromise with Sen. Specter. The so-called Specter-Cheney bill would give the president the option -- not the requirement -- to submit his electronic surveillance programs for review by the special secret court created by FISA, the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

A contrasting bill sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) affirms that FISA court approval for eavesdropping is the "exclusive" means for authorizing wiretaps in domestic terrorism and espionage cases. And a third proposal by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) requires only that the administration notify Congress when it conducts wiretaps without a warrant.

How many Americans' phone calls, faxes and e-mails are already being spied upon? Both political parties act as if the number is in the low thousands -- in other words, not us. But the truth is: not even the minority leader of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D- W.V.), has the slightest idea. "Even though Senator Rockefeller could be briefed on a classified basis," says Steven Aftergood, head of the Federation of American Scientists' Government Accountability Project, "he hasn't been given answers to the most basic questions. Senator Rockefeller doesn't know how many people have been subjected to electronic surveillance, he doesn't know what the results of any program have been, he doesn't know what errors have been committed."

A clue to the size of the government's ongoing surveillance programs can be gleaned from the lawsuits that the administration wants transferred to the secret FISA court. In May of 2006, acting on behalf of phone customers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class action against AT&T for colluding with the government by conducting systematic searches without any court order. The lawsuit is now awaiting a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling, expected in October. A lower court tossed out AT&T's and the government's requests for dismissal.

The lawsuit is based upon a sworn statement by Mark Klein, an AT&T technician for 22 years who oversaw AT&T's WorldNet Internet facilities in San Francisco. According to Klein, AT&T provided NSA agents access to all voice calls, while diverting all the data (e-mail, Web surfing, credit card transactions) crossing the Internet through data-mining equipment installed in a series of secret rooms in San Francisco San Diego, San Jose, Los Angeles, Seattle and other cities.

(bold emphasis above, mine)
There's more detail in the article.

The FED's are lying, they are Datamining, capturing everyone's communications (email, WEB, electronic transfers, digital voice) for "dangerous" key words and monitory transactions to suspect countries or bank accounts. We have become a Fascist country where your Constitutional Rights have been compromised in the name of "Security."

POLITICS - Iraq, A Difficult and Politically Sensitive Decision

"Pentagon weighs troop demands in Iraq" by ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer

The dimming outlook for significant U.S. troop cuts in Iraq means the Pentagon may soon face a difficult and politically sensitive decision: either make more frequent call-ups of some National Guard and Reserve troops or expand still further the size of the active-duty Army, defense officials say.

Army officials had hoped for some troop relief in Iraq in this election year, but the surge in sectarian violence, the persistence of the insurgency and the slow pace of political progress in Baghdad have snuffed out those hopes.

Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. forces throughout the Middle East, told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that the military will likely maintain — or possibly even increase — force levels of more than 140,000 troops in Iraq through next spring. The current total is 145,000, up about 20,000 since June.

In an Associated Press interview from Baghdad on Wednesday, Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said it is important to "get people's expectations calibrated" about what can be accomplished in the months ahead.


If it is decided to stick to the once-in-five-years formula for the Guard and Reserve, then it may be necessary to increase the size of the active-duty Army, the official said. The Army already is on a path to grow by 30,000 soldiers, to 512,000. It expects to end this fiscal year Sept. 30 at about 504,000 soldiers.

Michael O'Hanlon, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution who closely follows developments in Iraq, said Tuesday the Army should have put itself on a course to grow beyond the 512,000 mark at the outset of the war rather than wait until now. Many in Congress pushed for a bigger increase in the Army, but Rumsfeld argued against it, in part because of the enormous long-term costs.

"Stay the course" Bush says. More taxpayer money, more troops, more American deaths, and for what? No matter what Bush and his cohorts say, it is for Bush's ego. He wants that self-portrait of him; strong jawed, in uniform, with his hand tucked in his military jacket front, "Protector of America." And he doesn't care how many lives, or how much money, is spent on "his" war.

Friday, September 15, 2006

POLITICS - How Diebold Voting Machines Can Steal Your Vote

You really, really need to read and view the video in the below Princeton University WEB site on their test of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine.

"Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine" study by Ariel J. Feldman, J. Alex Halderman, and Edward W. Felten

Of course Diebold claims to have "fixed" such problems, but do you really want to trust your vote to a profit motivated company? Really?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

POLITICS - So, Bush Continues to Say "Stay the Course" in Iraq

"Situation Called Dire in West Iraq" by Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post Staff Writer

The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.

The officials described Col. Pete Devlin's classified assessment of the dire state of Anbar as the first time that a senior U.S. military officer has filed so negative a report from Iraq.

One Army officer summarized it as arguing that in Anbar province, "We haven't been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically -- and that's where wars are won and lost."

There's more of course, but do we need more to see the lie?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

POLITICS - Bush's Grubby Fingers

"Bush Turns to Fear-Mongering Creation of 'Islamic' Bogeyman" by Juan Cole, President of the Global Americana Institute

The Bush administration obviously wishes it were waging war on Nazi Germany. Even the old Soviet Union would be fine, these nostalgic Cold Warriors seem to think. Something big and menacing that would scare the blue-haired grannies in Peoria into voting Republican because, everyone knows, in addition to being good for business (except for that Depression unpleasantness), Republicans are mean s.o.b.'s and would as soon shoot a potential menace to the US as glare at him.

The Bush administration has the misfortune to have no powerful enemies it is brave enough actually to take on. China and Russia are not exactly enemies any more, and are the only potential state challengers to United States freedom of action as the sole superpower. And they don't go beyond potential. Too busy making money while Washington bleeds itself dry with military adventures. Waiting in the wings to pick up the pieces.

If you want to know what is really going on, it is a struggle for control of the Strategic Ellipse, which just happens demographically to be mostly Muslim. Bush has to demonize the Muslim world in order to justify his swooping down on the Strategic Ellipse. If demons occupy it, obviously they have to be cleared out in favor of Christian fundamentalists or at least Texas oilmen. And what is the Strategic Ellipse?

VoilĂ .

Bush is undermining our Republic, gutting our rights, spending us into penury, and smearing a great civilization, in order to get his grubby fingers on the Ellipse. You get to pay for it twice, once at the pump and once on your annual tax return.

And you can add killing American solders.

POLITICS - Protecting Big Contributors At the Cost of American Lives

"Army shuns system to combat RPGs" by Adam Ciralsky, Lisa Myers & the NBC News Investigative Unit

Experts agree it might help save lives, so why isn’t it in the field?

Rocket-propelled grenades, or RPGs, are a favorite weapon of insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are cheap, easy to use and deadly.

Sixteen months ago, commanders in Iraq began asking the Pentagon for a new system to counter RPGs and other anti-tank weapons.

Last year, a special Pentagon unit thought it found a solution in Israel — a high-tech system that shoots RPGs out of the sky. But in a five-month exclusive investigation, NBC News has learned from Pentagon sources that that help for U.S. troops is now in serious jeopardy.

The system is called “Trophy,” and it is designed to fit on top of tanks and other armored vehicles like the Stryker now in use in Iraq.

Trophy works by scanning all directions and automatically detecting when an RPG is launched. The system then fires an interceptor — traveling hundreds of miles a minute — that destroys the RPG safely away from the vehicle.

And officials with the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation (OFT) agree. Created in 2001 by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, OFT acts as an internal “think tank” for the Pentagon and is supposed to take a more entrepreneurial — and thereby less bureaucratic — approach to weapons procurement and other defense issues, and to get help to troops in the field more quickly. OFT officials subjected Trophy to 30 tests and found that it is “more than 98 percent” effective at killing RPGs.

As a result, OFT decided to buy several Trophies — which cost $300,000-$400,000 each — for battlefield trials on Strykers in Iraq next year.

That plan immediately ran into a roadblock: Strong opposition from the U.S. Army. Why? Pentagon sources tell NBC News that the Army brass considers the Israeli system a threat to an Army program to develop an RPG defense system from scratch.

The $70 million contract for that program had been awarded to an Army favorite, Raytheon. Raytheon’s contract constitutes a small but important part of the Army’s massive modernization program called the Future Combat System (FCS), which has been under fire in Congress on account of ballooning costs and what critics say are unorthodox procurement practices.

Col. Donald Kotchman, who heads the Army’s program to develop an RPG defense, acknowledges that Raytheon’s system won’t be ready for fielding until 2011 at the earliest.

Bold emphasis mine

Yap, so in the meantime our American solders will continue to die so Raytheon can milk their contract, when "Trophy is a system that is ready — today... "

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

POLITICS - GOP Pathology, Is There a Psychiatrist in the House

"On America Working, The war on workers" by David Sirota, San Francisco Chronicle, Monday, September 4, 2006

Bashing organized labor is a Republican pathology, to the point where unions are referenced with terms reserved for military targets. In his 1996 article, headlined "GOP Readies for War With Big Labor," conservative columnist Robert Novak cheered the creation of a "GOP committee task force on the labor movement" that would pursue a "major assault" on unions. As one Republican lawmaker told Novak, GOP leaders champion an "anti-union attitude that appeals to the mentality of hillbillies at revival meetings."

The hostility, while disgusting, is unsurprising. Unions wield power for workers, meaning they present an obstacle to Republican corporate donors, who want to put profit-making over other societal priorities.

Think the minimum wage just happened? Think employer-paid health care and pensions have been around for as long as they have by some force of magic? Think again -- unions used collective bargaining to preserve these benefits. As the saying goes, union members are the folks that brought you the weekend.

Big Business claims union membership has declined because workers do not want to join unions -- a claim debunked by public-opinion data. In 2002, Harvard University and University of Wisconsin researchers found at least 42 million workers want to be organized into a bargaining unit -- more than double the 16 million unionized workers in America. A 2005 nationwide survey by respected pollster Peter Hart found 53 percent of nonunion workers -- that's more than 50 million people -- want to join a union, if given the choice.

So when GOP lawmakers pledge their commitment to workers at Labor Day celebrations today, remember -- Republicans are waging a war on the very workers they purport to care about.

POLITICS, 9/11 - The Big Picture

"Author Dissects People, Politics Prior to 9/11 Attacks" News Hour, PBS

The above News Hour interview with an author has interesting points. It is worth reading. The following quotes are just highlights.

JEFFREY BROWN (News Hour): One way of looking at 9/11 is the big picture...clash of civilizations. You write about big shifts, but you have decided to focus and tell the story through individuals. Why?

LAWRENCE WRIGHT: But the second is that there were individual decisions that made al-Qaida. It wouldn't be what it is if it weren't for a few men, Ayman al-Zawahri and bin Laden being two of them. Al-Qaida, in its present form, is the creation of individuals. It's not just a historical phenomenon.

JEFFREY BROWN: The next character you mention, al-Zawahri, also was in the jails of Cairo...where you suggest one of the -- one of the major themes that comes out in the book, humiliation.

Torture leads to humiliation, leads to yet another theme, revenge.

LAWRENCE WRIGHT: And he was tortured, brutally tortured. A lot of human rights workers suggest -- and I agree -- that the brutality that characterizes the al-Qaida movement was born in those Egyptian prisons. And the point of torture is humiliation.

Bold emphases is mine

There is much more.

Friday, September 01, 2006

POLITICS - Pertinent Quote That Applies to America Today

......... after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

Hermann Goering, President of the Reichstag, Nazi Party, and Luftwaffe Commander in Chief