Friday, December 16, 2005

And The Good News...

CBS News | Senate Defeat For Patriot Act | December 16, 2005 16:48:59:
(CBS/AP) The Senate on Friday rejected attempts to reauthorize several provisions of the USA Patriot Act as infringing too much on Americans' privacy and liberty, dealing a huge defeat to the Bush administration and Republican leaders.

In a crucial vote Friday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., was not able to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a threatened filibuster by Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and their allies. The final vote was 52-47.
It's about time some people in Congress started voting their conscience!

1984 Redux

CBS News | Official: Bush OK'd Eavesdropping | December 16, 2005 20:45:19:
(CBS/AP) President Bush has personally authorized a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States more than three dozen times since October 2001, a senior intelligence official told The Associated Press Friday night.

The disclosure follows angry demands by lawmakers earlier in the day for a congressional inquiry into whether the monitoring by the highly secretive National Security Agency violated civil liberties.

"There is no doubt that this is inappropriate," declared Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He promised hearings early next year.


Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the group was shocked by the disclosure.

'We're finding out that the president has possibly authorized the breaking of the law so that our government can eavesdrop on American citizens?' Fredrickson told CBS Radio News. 'We're still trying to process it, but it's truly amazing.'

Earlier this week, the Pentagon said it was reviewing its use of a classified database of information about suspicious people and activity inside the United States after a report by NBC News said the database listed activities of anti-war groups that were not a security threat to Pentagon property or personnel.


The Times said it delayed publication of the report for a year because the White House said it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. The Times said it omitted information from the story that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists.
What more can I say? Of course, the Administration defends its position by invoking the War On Terror. It's just another example of killing the patient to stop the disease by destroying what we are supposed to be defending.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Political Wire: Official Says Voting Machines Can Be Hacked

Political Wire: Official Says Voting Machines Can Be Hacked:
'A political operative with hacking skills could alter the results of any election on Diebold-made voting machines -- and possibly other new voting systems in Florida' -- according to a Florida election supervisor, 'who said Diebold software has failed repeated tests,' the Miami Herald reports.

Said the official: ''That's kind of scary. If there's no paper trail, you have to rely solely on electronic results. And now we know that they can be manipulated under the right conditions, without a person even leaving a fingerprint,.'
Diebold, the ideal voting machine to have in the swing states, if you want to swing the election toward your candidates.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bob Novak Says President Knows Leak Source

My Way News:
WASHINGTON (AP) - Columnist Bob Novak, who first published the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame, says he is confident that President Bush knows who leaked Plame's name.

Novak said that 'I'd be amazed' if the president didn't know the source's identity and that the public should 'bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is.'

Novak's remarks, reported in the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer, came during a question and answer session Tuesday after a speech sponsored by the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer urged Bush to identify Novak's source or to say that he does not know who it is.
So, if this is true, does that mean the pResident is guilty of obstruction of justice? I'm not a big fan of either Novak or Schumer, but at least they are pushing the right buttons this time.

In The Ownership Society, There Are The Disowned

My Way News:
By a vote of 215-213, the House approved the legislation, which trims $1.4 billion from last year's spending for these social programs. The measure passed after House and Senate negotiators agreed to add back slightly more money sought by Republicans for rural health programs.

The House vote came amid partisan fighting over national spending priorities and after religious activists staged a Capitol Hill protest against spending cuts, which resulted in mass arrests.

Democrats opposed the health-care and education spending bill, noting it would cut $249 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, $780 million from President George W. Bush's 'No Child Left Behind' education program and would add no money to help low-income people pay winter heating bills despite skyrocketing fuel costs.

As a result, Senate Democrats, led by senators Tom Harkin of Iowa and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, said they would try to defeat this fiscal 2006 spending bill when it arrives on the Senate floor later this week.
And most of us are in the disowned group. It was support for education that led to two decades of prosperity in the U.S. Now, only the rich and privileged need apply. And cutting funds from the CDC while a pandemic looms is just unconscionable.

Iranian Leader Escalates Anti-Israeli Rhetoric - New York Times

Iranian Leader Escalates Anti-Israeli Rhetoric - New York Times:
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's hard-line president lashed out with a new outburst at Israel on Wednesday, calling the Nazi Holocaust a ''myth'' used as a pretext for carving out a Jewish state in the heart of the Muslim world.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments drew quick condemnations from Israel, the United States and Europe, which warned he is hurting Iran's position in talks aimed at resolving suspicions about his regime's nuclear program.

The White House said his remarks showed why Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. Germany, one of three European Union countries leading the nuclear talks, called his statements ''shocking and unacceptable.''
Does this guy know he's playing into the hands of the chicken hawks? Do the words "death wish" ring a bell?

CBS News | Gov't Loses Patriot Act Decision | September 9, 2005 23:00:03

CBS News | Gov't Loses Patriot Act Decision | September 9, 2005 23:00:03:
(AP) A federal judge lifted a gag order Friday that shielded the identity of librarians who received an FBI demand for records about library patrons under the Patriot Act.

U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued that the gag order prevented their client from participating in a debate over whether Congress should reauthorize the Patriot Act.

'It's fabulous,' said ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson. 'Clearly the judge recognized it was profoundly undemocratic to gag a librarian from participating in the Patriot Act debate.'

CBS News | House Votes To Renew Patriot Act | December 14, 2005 16:03:26

CBS News | House Votes To Renew Patriot Act | December 14, 2005 16:03:26:
The House voted 251-174 to approve a House-Senate compromise that would modify and make permanent most of the Patriot Act's 16 expiring provisions.

But despite intense lobbying from the Bush administration, the measure could be in trouble in the Senate, where a filibuster is threatened, supported by at least a few Republicans, who say the FBI's new post 9/11 powers need to be reined in.

CBS News | Bush's War On The Press | November 18, 2005 13:30:06

CBS News | Bush's War On The Press | November 18, 2005 13:30:06:
To be sure, every administration has tried to manipulate the nation's media system. Bill Clinton's wrongheaded support for the Telecommunications Act of 1996 cleared the way for George W. Bush's attempts to give media companies the power to create ever larger and more irresponsible monopolies. But with its unprecedented campaign to undermine and, where possible, eliminate independent journalism, the Bush Administration has demonstrated astonishing contempt for the Constitution and considerable fear of an informed public. Consider the bill of particulars:

Corrupting PBS
Tomlinson's tenure at the CPB, which annually distributes $400 million in federal funding to broadcast outlets, was characterized by an assault on the news operations of the Public Broadcasting Service in general, and Moyers in particular, for airing dissenting voices and preparing investigative reports on the Administration. His goal was clearly to fire a shot across the bow of all public stations so managers would shy away from the sort of investigative journalism that might expose Bush Administration malfeasance.

On November 15, on the heels of Tomlinson's resignation, the CPB's inspector general issued a sixty-seven-page report documenting Tomlinson's repeated violations of the Public Broadcasting Act, CPB rules and the CPB code of ethics with his political meddling, though it stopped short of calling for prosecution, or of examining the link between Tomlinson's actions and White House directives.

Faking TV News
Under Bush Administration directives, at least twenty federal agencies have produced and distributed scores, perhaps hundreds, of 'video news segments' out of a $254 million slush fund. These bogus and deceptive stories have been broadcast on TV stations nationwide without any acknowledgment that they were prepared by the government rather than local journalists. The segments — which trumpet Administration "successes," promote its controversial line on issues like Medicare reform and feature Americans "thanking" Bush — have been labeled "covert propaganda" by the Government Accountability Office.

Paying Off Pundits
The Administration has made under-the-table payments to at least three pundits to sing its praises, including Armstrong Williams, the conservative columnist who collected $240,000 from the Education Department and then cheered on the ill-conceived No Child Left Behind Act.

(The Nation) Turning Press Conferences Into Charades
Bush has all but avoided traditional press conferences, closing down a prime venue for holding the executive accountable. On those rare occasions when he deigned to meet reporters, presidential aides turned the press conferences into parodies by seating a friendly right-wing "journalist," former male escort Jeff Gannon, amid the reporters and then steering questions to him when tough issues arose. They have effectively silenced serious questioners, like veteran journalist Helen Thomas, by refusing to have the President or his aides call on reporters who challenge them. And they have established a hierarchy for journalists seeking interviews with Administration officials, which favors networks that give the White House favorable coverage — as the frequent appearances by Bush and Dick Cheney on Fox News programs will attest.

Gutting the Freedom of Information Act
As Eric Alterman detailed in a May 9 report in these pages, the Administration has scrapped enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act and has made it harder for reporters to do their jobs by refusing to cooperate with even the most basic requests for comment and data from government agencies. This is part of a broader clampdown on access to information that has made it virtually impossible for journalists to cover vast areas of government activity.

Obscuring the Iraq War
In addition to setting up a system for embedding reporters covering the war — which denied Americans a full picture of what was happening during the invasion — the Defense Department has denied access to basic information regarding the war, from accurate casualty counts to images of flag-draped coffins of U.S. dead to the Abu Ghraib torture photos.

Pushing Media Monopoly
The Administration continues to make common cause with the most powerful broadcast corporations in an effort to rewrite ownership laws in a manner that favors dramatic new conglomeratization and monopoly control of information. The Administration's desired rules changes would strike a mortal blow to local journalism, as media "company towns" would be the order of the day. This cozy relationship between media owners and the White House (remember Viacom chair Sumner Redstone's 2004 declaration that re-electing Bush would be "good for Viacom"?) puts additional pressure on journalists who know that when they displease the Administration they also displease their bosses.

In his famous opinion in the 1945 Associated Press v. U.S. case, Justice Hugo Black said that "the First Amendment rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society." In other words, a free press is the sine qua non of the entire American Constitution and republican experiment.
Yeah, well, not these Republicans. I don't usually quote this much of an article, but it was so refreshing to find real journalism displayed on a major media site that I just had to share it.

No Separation Of Mosque And State For Iraq

My Way News:
Al-Rubaei made his comments during the 'Opposite Direction' program shown Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon on Al-Jazeera.

'Clerics, especially those in the Shiite seminary, go to your mosques and don't work in politics. Keep politics for politicians and stop conspiring against the resistance,' he said.

Hours later, thousands of people chanted anti-Al-Jazeera slogans in the streets of the Baghdad neighborhoods of Sadr City and Karradah, and in the southern cities of Najaf and Karbala.

The demonstrations, which turned into political rallies, threatened to further polarize Thursday's parliamentary elections after angry Shiites in the southern city of Nasiriyah set fire to a building housing the offices of former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Allawi, a secular Shiite, has campaigned on a platform calling for national reconciliation.
Religious fundamentalism masquerading as democracy is what's in store for the Iraqis. Just look at how effective it's been in this country. Why shouldn't we export it to those we choose to occupy?

Canada PM Won't Kowtow To Washington

My Way News:
RICHMOND, British Columbia (Reuters) - Prime Minister Paul Martin escalated a war of words with the United States on Wednesday, telling Washington not to dictate to him what topics he can raise in the run-up to Canada's January 23 election.

U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins warned Martin and other Canadian politicians on Tuesday not to bash the United States as part of their campaigning.

But Martin -- who has regularly attacked the U.S. stance on a bilateral trade dispute over softwood lumber and also criticized Washington's approach to climate change -- said he was not paying attention.

'When it comes to defending Canadian values, when it comes to standing up for Canadian interests, I'm going to call it like I see it,' he told reporters in a lumber yard in Richmond, British Columbia.

'I am not going to be dictated to as to the subjects I should raise.'
Way to go, eh?! And what was the ambassador thinking when he tried to influence the debate in a foreign national election? How does that help our image or promote the ideals of democratic freedom? Putz!

Dupont Settles With EPA Over Teflon Chemical

My Way News:
The settlement involves EPA action taken against Dupont for allegedly withholding information about the potential health and environmental risks posed by perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, under provisions of both the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

The EPA alleged that DuPont withheld information for more than 20 years about the health effects of PFOA, also known as C-8, and about the pollution of water supplies near the company's Washington Works plant near Parkersburg, W.Va.

Among other things, the EPA said that DuPont withheld test results indicating that the chemical had been found in at least one pregnant worker from the Washington Works plant and had been passed on to her fetus.
What I want to know is, how did they manage to "withold" the information for 20 years?! Why weren't they subpoenaed? If they were, why did it take so long for action? And they are still under criminal investigation by federal law enforcement! What kind of slackers are running that? Could it be cronies?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Once Upon a Time...: Hate Sex, and Watch People Suffer and Die

Once Upon a Time...: Hate Sex, and Watch People Suffer and Die
"We have a bunch of ignorant, hate-filled Neanderthals running our government. Damned bastards."I couldn't agree more.

Sen. Dorgan Plays It Straight

ABC News: Sen. Dorgan Returns Tribes' Donations:
WASHINGTON Dec 13, 2005 — The top Democrat on the Senate committee investigating Jack Abramoff's Indian lobbying is returning $67,000 in donations in response to Associated Press reports that he collected tribal money around the time he took actions favorable to those Abramoff clients.

While Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., never met Abramoff and didn't take any actions at the lobbyist's behest, he nonetheless wants to return the money to avoid any appearances that tribal money was directed to him by the controversial lobbyist, his office said Tuesday.
Interestingly enough, the Republicans who accepted money and did take actions at the lobbyist's behest haven't made any moves to return the amounts received. Figures.

Ronnie Earle Connects The Dots

ABC News: Prosecutor Issues Subpoenas in DeLay Case:
WASHINGTON Dec 13, 2005 — A Texas prosecutor has issued subpoenas for bank records and other information of a defense contractor involved in the bribery case of a California congressman as part of the investigation of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

District Attorney Ronnie Earle issued subpoenas late Monday afternoon for California businessmen Brent Wilkes and Max Gelwix, records of Perfect Wave Technologies LLC, Wilkes Corp. and ADCS Inc. in connection with a contribution to a fundraising committee at the center of the investigation that led to DeLay's indictment on money laundering charges.
DeLay's attorney says he's not concerned about this. Is he on 'ludes or what?

Political Wire: Bush Approval Fades Again

Political Wire: Bush Approval Fades Again:
As soon as it seemed there is an upward trend in President Bush's approval rating -- see our earlier post -- the new Zogby poll finds it languishing under 40%, 'despite an upturn in the economy and a public relations onslaught defending the role of the U.S. military in rebuilding Iraq.'

'Just 38% of Americans said they approve of the job the President is doing, down from 41% in a national Zogby America survey conducted last month.'

'Bush is most popular in the western United States, where 46% approve of the job he is doing, and the South, where 44% approve. Just 28% in the East and 37% in the Midwest and Great Lakes states give him good marks.'
Can Americans be learning from experience? Are they paying attention to what's been happening here and abroad? Is hell really freezing over?

The Next Retirement Time Bomb - New York Times

The Next Retirement Time Bomb - New York Times:
ATTEMPTS to balance the competing interests of retirees, active workers and taxpayers are building tension. Ross Eisenbrey, a former Clinton administration official who is now at the Economic Policy Institute, said that 'when taxpayers wake up to these obligations, their first inclination is often to escape them or reduce them.'

The problem is that people have counted on those benefits, and many have accepted lower salaries in exchange for better retirement benefits, said Teresa Ghilarducci, an economics professor at the University of Notre Dame. If they are close to retirement, said William R. Pryor, a firefighters' union official who is an elected board member of the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association, it may well be too late for them to make up for the loss with their own savings.
As a boomer with hopes of retiring wihin the next ten years, this gives me heartburn. I'll have to see what New York State reports in '07. At least we have a fund set aside which has done very well over the past 20 years. Whether it can keep up with the demands is another story. I sure hope it does!

Let's Hope This Helps

Saudi Prince Gives Millions to Harvard and Georgetown - New York Times:
In making the two gifts, the prince focused on the importance of uniting disparate cultures.

Harvard's news release quoted him as saying that he hoped Harvard's Islamic studies program 'will enable generations of students and scholars to gain a thorough understanding of Islam and its role both in the past and in today's world.'

'Bridging the understanding between East and West is important for peace and tolerance,' he said.

The Georgetown release quoted him as saying, 'We are determined to build a bridge between Islam and Christianity for tolerance that transcends cultural and geographical boundaries.'
It's a bold move by someone who is "liberal by Saudi Arabian standards." I have no doubt that better understanding is required on the subject. Whether this method leads to that end is yet to be determined, but it probably couldn't hurt.

U.S. Envoy Says Detainee Abuse Was Worse Than Described - New York Times

U.S. Envoy Says Detainee Abuse Was Worse Than Described - New York Times:
"RAMADI, Iraq, Dec. 13 - The American ambassador in Iraq said today that more than 100 detainees had been abused in two Iraqi detention facilities, more than had been previously disclosed."It looks like the Shiites have learned all the wrong lessons from Sadam and the U.S. Will there ever be a real democracy in Iraq? Can real democracy take place where religion is allowed influence in affairs of state? I doubt it. And the lesson holds here in this country as well. The separation of church and state was imposed with good reason. We should all fear for our freedoms if it is allowed to disappear.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Iraq Learning The American Way

Iraq Prison Raid Finds a New Case of Mistreatment - New York Times:
The Interior Ministry is run by Bayan Jabr, a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a leading religious Shiite party that has an Iranian-trained armed wing called the Badr Organization. Many Iraqi officials have said the ministry has recruited heavily from Badr and other Shiite militias, and there is growing evidence that such forces are abducting, torturing and killing Sunni Arabs.


With just four days to go until the parliamentary elections, the Iraqi electoral commission said Sunday that it had found irregularities in voter registration in the volatile northern city of Kirkuk.

The discovery was the first election irregularity announced by the commission as the country prepares for the vote on Thursday.

The commission said experts conducting an audit of voter lists had found an unexpected surge in voter registration in the area. When the experts scrutinized the registration forms, the commission said in a written statement, they found that many had been filled out incorrectly. Some had missing signatures and others had more than one signature. In some cases, the same name appeared on several forms.
Hmmmm. Bigotry, hatred, fundamentalism, election gerrymandering...yep, looks like they're learning everything we can teach them.


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