Bush Wants New Citizens to Command English Language

And I'd love to see the president be able to speak English for a change, let alone have a command of it. The number of words he tortures is astronomically high. Moron.

Dubunking Erroneous Iran Errors

Juan Cole is on the case, debunking claims Iran makes people wear "religious" badges to identify their particular belief system.

In Case You Need More Than One Reason for the Iraq War...

Our president G. Dubya Feckless Bush has actually offered twenty-seven (27) - yes, really - different rationales for the Iraq war. Pick one, any one.

If it seems that there have been quite a few rationales for going to war in Iraq, that’s because there have been quite a few – 27, in fact, all floated between Sept. 12, 2001, and Oct. 11, 2002, according to a new study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

All but four of the rationales originated with the administration of President George W. Bush. The study also finds that the Bush administration switched its focus from Osama bin Laden to Saddam Hussein early on – only five months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

In addition to what it says about the shifting sands of rationales and the unsteady path to war in Iraq, what is remarkable about the 212-page study is that its author is a student. The study, “Uncovering the Rationales for the War on Iraq: The Words of the Bush Administration, Congress and the Media from September 12, 2001, to October 11, 2002,” is the senior honors thesis of Devon Largio. She and her professor, Scott Althaus, believe the study is the first of its kind.

For her analysis of all available public statements the Bush administration and selected members of Congress made pertaining to war with Iraq, Largio not only identified the rationales offered for going to war, but also established when they emerged and who promoted them. She also charted the appearance of critical keywords such as Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Iraq to trace the administration’s shift in interest from the al Qaeda leader to the Iraqi despot, and the news media’s response to that shift.

The New Ultra-Right Multiply Bush-Killed McCain Not a Big Hit in NY

They booed, hissed, and turned their back on Mr. I've-Decided-I-Love-Jerry-Falwell! And those were the Republicans (smirk smirk).

Just Gets Worse in Afghanistan

Despite the president ass-urances that everything is hunky-dory in his first "war place", the UK Independent reports that Afghanistan is seeing its worst fighting since 2001.


Dumb, Dumber, and Dumber Still

From the Times Argus:

GUILFORD — A Guilford woman is accused of giving her daughter cocaine last month, resulting in the 22-year-old woman having a seizure and being rushed to the hospital, according to court documents.

Kimberly M. Wrublevski, 49, pleaded innocent to a felony count of cocaine delivery and a misdemeanor count of cocaine possession in Brattleboro District Court on Tuesday. She faces up to four years in prison and $77,000 in fines if convicted.

Wrublevski is accused of giving her daughter, Amanda M. Wrublevski, and her daughter's boyfriend, Jesse R. McMahon, one gram of cocaine with which to experiment, according to court documents.

Amanda Wrublevski allegedly had a seizure, hit her head on a coffee table and stopped breathing after using cocaine April 19, court documents stated.The daughter was transported to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital by Rescue Inc. for treatment and was later released. Her mother attempted to perform CPR on her before the ambulance arrived, police said.

Wrublevski allegedly admitted to Vermont State Police Trooper Daniel Trudeau she had purchased the cocaine after her daughter and the boyfriend repeatedly "bugged" her to allow them to experiment with it.The seizure began after the daughter "snorted six to eight lines of cocaine," according to the police report.Allowing her daughter to try cocaine in a controlled environment is similar to allowing teenagers to try alcohol, Wrublevski allegedly told police.
Gee, there are so many levels of stupidity here it's hard to fathom.

Definitely the mother is a (bleep) for doing this. But can you imagine what a brain trust this Amanda had to be that she - at 22 - and her 24-year-old droolbrain boyfriend had to "bug Mommy" to buy them drugs to experiment with? And then Amanda the Anus does 6-8 lines? Amanda isn't a victim except of her own selfish stupidity. But any person who would give a loved one cocaine doesn't rank very high in my estimate either.

I hope Amanda and boyfriend not only do some jail time but they get their asses kicked and have to earn a living. This family is just crying out to star in a Jerry Springer episode.

The Buzz About USA Today's NSA Phone Database Story

Editor & Publisher takes a look at the questions swirling since USA Today broke the story a week ago. However, I still have not seen a strong denial of any part of the story. Even the companies - including Verizon and BellSouth - who came out saying they did not play ball waited a bit to do so and their means of stating such are rather questionable.

What say you?

The Pentagon's Treatment of Average American Citizens as The Enemy

Good op/ed in yesterday's LA Times:

TODAY, THE Senate Intelligence Committee will begin questioning Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, nominated to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency, about the National Security Agency's collection of U.S. citizens' telephone records.

The scrutiny of the NSA is deserved, but the Senate and the American public may be missing a broader and more disturbing development. For the first time since the Civil War, the United States has been designated a military theater of operations. The Department of Defense — which includes the NSA — is focusing its vast resources on the homeland. And it is taking an unprecedented role in domestic spying.

It may be legal. But it circumvents three decades of efforts by Congress to restrict government surveillance of Americans under the guise of national security. And it represents a profound shift in the role of the military operating inside the United States. What's at stake here is the erosion of the principle, embedded in the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, that the U.S. military not be used for domestic law enforcement.

When the administration declared the United States to be a theater of military operations in 2002, it created a U.S. Northern Command, which set up intelligence centers in Colorado and Texas to analyze the domestic threat. But these are not the military's only domestic intelligence efforts. According to the Congressional Research Service, the Pentagon controls "a substantial portion" of U.S. national intelligence assets, the traditional turf of the FBI and CIA.

In 2003, Congress created the job of undersecretary of Defense for intelligence to oversee the department's many intelligence bodies — including a new entity called Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA.CIFA was ordered to maintain a "domestic law-enforcement database" on "potential terrorist threats" to U.S. military installations, and it began collecting information on U.S. citizens.


But a 2004 survey by the General Accounting Office found 199 data-mining operations that collect information ranging from credit-card statements to medical records. The Defense Department had five programs on intelligence and counterterrorism.The Defense Intelligence Agency, created in 1961 to provide foreign military intelligence, now uses "Verity K2" software to scan U.S. intelligence files and the Internet "to identify foreign terrorists or Americans connected to foreign terrorism activity," and "Inxight Smart Discovery" software to help identify patterns in databases. CIFA has reportedly contracted with Computer Sciences Corp. to buy identity-masking software, which could allow it to create fake websites and monitor legitimate U.S. sites without leaving clues that it had been there.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is collecting data from 133 U.S. cities; intelligence sources told the Los Angeles Times that, when collection is completed, the agency would be able to identify occupants in each house, their nationality and even their political affiliation.In 2002, the Defense Department launched the granddaddy of all data-mining efforts, Total Information Awareness, to trawl through all government and commercial databases available worldwide. In 2003, concerned about privacy implications, Congress cut its funding. But many of the projects simply transferred to other Defense Department agencies.

Two of the most important, the Information Awareness Prototype System and Genoa II, moved to NSA headquarters.The Pentagon argues that its monitoring of U.S. citizens is legal. "Contrary to popular belief, there is no absolute ban on intelligence" agencies collecting information on Americans or disseminating it, says a memo by Robert Noonan, deputy chief of staff for intelligence. Military intelligence agents can receive any information "from anyone, any time," Noonan wrote.

Throughout U.S. history, we have struggled to balance security concerns with the protection of individual rights, and a thick body of law regulates domestic law enforcement agencies' behavior. Congress should think twice before it lets the behemoth Defense Department into domestic law enforcement.

Blackwater: Patriots or Just Money-Grubbing Whores?

Everything I hear about the "defense" people Blackwater is not good. Now comes this that indicates Blackwater - with its sweetheart government deals - may have billed nearly $1K per security guard per day in post-Katrina New Orleans.

The "Gitmo Suicide Ambush" Story

One of the worst things about the Bush Administration I find is that because almost everything they say is a lie or at least a grand distortion of truth, I can't believe a damned thing I hear at face value.

For example, I might believe more about this "noble" non-violent effort by Guatanamo Bay guards to try to stifle an uprising at Gitmo IF the Pentagon hadn't just the day before announced its HUGE Gitmo-based PR campaign aimed to discourage anyone from buying the UN's adviso to close the damned place.

CNN Poll: 26% They've Been Wiretapped

I wonder how many would answer in the affirmative if not on CNN, which seems notorious for not counting some opinions it doesn't like.

What is Missing From Howell Raines' Memoir

Greg Mitchell of Editor& Publisher talks about this.

Good Editorial Piece in USA Today: Down to the Fourth Estate

The Fourth Estate, as you may recall, is the press.

Here's a bit, but if you care about the freedom of the press as I do (which isn't the shame as the freedom to mouth off like a Bill O'Reilly who is not and has never been a real journalist), think about reading it all.

Here 'tis:

This month, Congress is faced with a most inconvenient crime. With the recent disclosure of a massive secret database program run by the National Security Agency involving tens of millions of innocent Americans, members are confronted with a second intelligence operation that not only lacks congressional authorization but also appears patently unlawful. In December, the public learned that the NSA was engaging in warrantless domestic surveillance of overseas communications — an operation many experts believe is a clear federal crime ordered by the president more than 30 times.

What is most striking about these programs is that they were revealed not by members of Congress but by members of the Fourth Estate: Journalists who confronted Congress with evidence of potentially illegal conduct by this president that was known to various congressional leaders.

In response, President Bush has demanded to know who will rid him of these meddlesome whistleblowers, and various devout members have rushed forth with cudgels and codes in hand.

Now, it appears Congress is finally acting — not to end alleged criminal acts by the administration, mind you, but to stop the public from learning about such alleged crimes in the future. Members are seeking to give the president the authority to continue to engage in warrantless domestic surveillance as they call for whistleblowers to be routed out. They also want new penalties to deter both reporters and their sources.

The debate has taken on a hopeful Zen-like quality for besieged politicians: If a crime occurs and no one is around to reveal it or to report it, does it really exist?

The plain fact is that neither party wants to acknowledge that the president might have ordered the commission of federal crimes in the name of national security. Thus, while there have been calls for another feeble hearing (possibly with telecom executives), Congress would prefer to investigate steroids in baseball and the selling of horses to France for gourmet dinners.

Congress has become a sad parody of itself. In his State of the Union address in January, Bush proudly said he had repeatedly ordered the domestic surveillance operation and would continue to do so. In perhaps the most bizarre moment in modern congressional history, members from both houses proceeded to give him a standing ovation — cheering their own institutional irrelevancy.

Willful blindness, however, will only go so far when newspapers continually put these acts on the front pages. In addition to new possible penalties for whistleblowers, members of Congress are blocking the enactment of a long-overdue federal shield law to protect journalists from having to disclose their sources to prosecutors — despite the fact that the majority of states have passed such laws as an essential component to good government.

In the meantime, the Bush administration has carried out a scorched-earth campaign against whistleblowers, including demanding that employees sign waivers of any confidentiality agreements with reporters and using polygraphs designed to uncover anyone speaking with the media. It has also sought to convince a federal court in Virginia to radically extend the reach of the 1917 Espionage Act to cover anyone who even hears classified information while researching or reporting on government policy.
Scorched earth policy toward whistleblowers, indeed. This has been the most aggressive attempt to silence people throughout this country and world I have ever seen or heard about.

What is the Truth About Rove, His Indictment or Lack Thereof and Truthout's Reporting

As I mentioned the other day, there has been much talk about whether TruthOut got it wrong about Karl Rove's indictment or rather whether something even more strange than usual is going on in Washington DC and what passes for an American judicial system.

Salon and Capitol Hill Blue both discuss the issue in some depth.

Same Sex Marriage Ban: The Senate Should Be Ashamed of Itself

So the Senate has agreed to a provision that will write discrimination and small-mindedness into the U.S. Constitution.

It should be at least as ashamed of itself as I am in it. I am a heterosexual but it does not matter your sexual orientation. To agree to anything that makes the Constitution a lesser document amounts to something fairly treasonous.

It is time to remove just about every - if not every last - elected official from his or her position in Washington, as well as those appointed by the so-called elected.

Washington and the federal government must be disbanded and then - through the American people rather than bureaucrats - rebuilt. Not just of two parties, since those two parties aren't worth the crayons used to draw their elephant and donkey likenesses.

Tony Snow

Dan Froomkin writes on the two - is it really just two? Or is in just a mask? - faces of "new" White House spokes weasel Tony "I'm a fox in the henhouse" Snow who decided to discuss "tar babies" during his first full press conference this week. Cough.

A Point of Clarification

I happened to notice yesterday that Cathy Resmer posting at 7D blogs noted my blog along others as taking as cement truth a claim that Karl Rove had been indicted. Uh... go back and look at my minimal posting at the time and I don't think that's what I posted. I said that's what TruthOut claimed. Nor did she note the followup I did on why some are questioned the TruthOut claim.

Unfortunately, Ms. Resmer has done these blog roundups before that seem either a bit sloppy or that she didn't quite bother to read what she's commenting upon, which has made me less interested in reading her actual "news" articles. Unlike Cathy, although I probably possess far more journalistic credentials than she does, I make it rather clear that I do not post here as a journalist but as a citizen.

Her roundups of what's being said in Vermont blogs tend to be only so useful; there really aren't so many blogs in the state that people so inclined cannot find out for themselves. When the depiction is inaccurate, it's even less useful. Another Vermont blogger - who has taken issue with some of Ms. Resmer's posts in the past - dropped me a note yesterday noting some rather uncharitable reasons for why he believes Ms. Resmer may do this sort of thing from time to time. But I'm willing to believe it's just a lack of care, which sounds a bit like she was implying I had committed in posting (simply) that someone else said Rove was indicted.

Glass houses and rocks are a real bitch. Cough. So, too, can unchecked egos of fish in small ponds.


"DaVinci Code"

I'm ridiculously amused at how the Catholic Church and Opus Dei is pissing all over itself about the book.

But I'm more amazed at how much attention "DaVinci Code" is getting. The book itself is pretty crappy. The characters are not riveting. The dialogue is a yawner. And putting Tom Hanks in as the "hero" is about as good a choice as when Tom Hanks won the role of "Sherman McCoy" in "Bonfire of the Vanities".

In fact, the only thing "DaVinci Code" has going for it is the underlying history and mythology and code.

If you're a D.C. fanatic, stop and think and you'll probably agree with me that the book itself is mediocre at best. It's what Brown does with the underlying material that is marvelous.

Oh, the Nastiness Congressional Reprehensibles Are Willing to Wage Against Immigrants

From the wires - do yourself a favor and read between the lines.

Bush's $2Billion Plus Border Security Plan: Funding is a "Mystery"

That's how the NY Daily News depicts funding for Bush's anti-immigration plan: a complete mystery.

You Lose Your Privacy While Senate Telecom Chair and Huge Whore Ted Stevens Gets BIG Cash Rewards

Ted Stevens would sell God for the right price:

Telecommunications, media and Internet conglomerates seeking regulatory relief from the Senate Commerce Committee are giving generously to the campaign coffers of panel Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.

The largesse is notable because Stevens, who is drafting the most comprehensive overhaul of telecom laws in a decade, is not up for re-election until 2008. “The election cycle never stops for an industry that cares about its business in Congress,” said Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.

Commerce spokesman Aaron Saunders said it is “ludicrous” to suggest that Stevens shapes policy based on contributions. “Frankly, it’s offensive,” he said.

Stevens received $130,750 from the industry during the period covering 2005 and the first third of 2006 — substantially more than he garnered from any other sector, according to the nonpartisan PoliticalMoneyLine. Top corporate benefactors included AT&T with $10,000 in donations, Time Warner with $8,000 and Sony Pictures with $8,000, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine.

CBS parent Viacom gave Stevens $6,500. The National Association of Broadcasters, ABC parent The Walt Disney Company, DirecTV, Fox parent News Corp., and the Recording Industry Association of America each donated $5,000. The contributions were made through political action committees that can give $5,000 per candidate for a primary and another $5,000 toward the general election.

Stevens is not the biggest money draw. Sen. George Allen, R-Va., up for re-election in 2006 and a potential presidential contender in 2008, attracted $237,032 in industry PAC donations, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, NAB, Siebel Systems and Verisign each gave Allen $10,000. PACs operated by Cisco Systems and Microsoft separately gave $9,000, followed by MCI with $8,000. MCI merged with Verizon Communications in January. News Corp. gave $8,000, AT&T gave $7,000, Verizon offered $6,000, and Yahoo donated $6,000.

Far Right Religious Nutjobs Now Want to Criminalize Unmarried Couples

These people make God cry with shame.

According to the Awful Senator Orrin Hatch, We Can't Give Up Enough for Mr. Bush

Story here on NSA surveillance and massive phone database. That Mr. Hatch is a whore of monumental proportions is not quite mentioned, but you should be able to figure it out for yourself.

Only Rice and the Bushies Would Do This: Trade Justice in Exchange for Oil

Written by Susan Cohen, the mother of one of the young adults killed on Pan Am flight 103 in the late 1980s, in a Yahoo piece copied from USA Today:

Sometimes, holding your nose just isn't enough. You have to do the whole "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" monkey routine. That's what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the rest of the Bush administration want us to do about their Libyan decision.

Rice would have us believe that Iran and North Korea will follow Libya's lead in giving up weapons of mass destruction. That's a bad joke because Iran and North Korea do have weapons of mass destruction or soon will have them. That's real power.

Libya had nothing except some stuff it purchased from Pakistan that might some day, somehow, have been used to make nuclear weapons. They traded nothing of value for full exoneration for blowing up Pan Am 103.

The secretary of State also says we will now be discussing human rights, freedom of speech and expression, and "political reform consistent with President Bush's freedom agenda" with Libya. This is even a worse joke. Anyone in Libya who criticizes or even questions the wisdom of Col. Moammar Gadhafi has the life expectancy of an ice cube in the desert.

No, our new embrace of the murderous and megalomaniacal Gadhafi is all about oil. He has it and we want it, and we will pay even more than $70 a barrel for it. We will pay with our own security and with our national dignity.

No one in the world will be fooled byRice's attempt to put a blanket of respectability over this deal. Gadhafi blew up an American plane, and my daughter was on it. He has never shown any remorse for this act of terrorism; indeed, he has never even admitted Libya was responsible. The Bush administration just pretends he did in order to get around that sticky little point.

Sure, Gadhafi paid the Pan Am family members lots of money - I guess that's known as blood money. I refused to take any of the money connected to the lifting of U.S. sanctions. You can just hold your nose so long, and you begin to choke.

Privatization of Internet Gains More Ground in the Senate

Story here; where you go to learn more and take action to try to maintain net neutraility is here.

Great Job in Afghanistan, Mr. Bush: More Than a Hundred Dead in Violence There

US News and World Report covers the 109 deaths lately just so far.

Pentagon Had Two Choices: Stop Pulling at the Shit at Gitmo/Guantanamo Bay OR Launch Massive Gitmo PR Campaign

As US News & World Report tells us, the Pentagon of course chose the PR campaign instead.

Did Judith Miller and The Times Have Info On 9/11 Attacks Beforehand Yet Elect Not to Publish It?

Quite a story here.


Bush is Doing WHAAAAATTTT?

Try this new criminy crud on for size from Think Progress:

Today, the Washington Post reported that the U.S. has been “secretly supporting secular warlords who have been waging fierce battles against Islamic groups for control of the capital, Mogadishu.”

The Bush administration is “backing the warlords as part of its global war against terrorism,” even though some of these warlords “reportedly fought against the United States in 1993 during street battles that culminated in an attack that downed two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters and left 18 Army Rangers dead.”

At today’s press briefing, Tony Snow all but confirmed the report:
    [Y]ou’ve got instability in Somalia right now, and there is concern about the presence of foreign terrorists, particularly Al Qaeda, within Somalia right now. In an environment of instability, as we’ve seen in the past, Al Qaeda may take root, and we want to make sure that Al Qaeda does not in fact establish a beachhead in Somalia. […] The United States - we will continue to work with regional and international partners wherever we can to crack down on terrorism and also to try to prevent its rising.
Somalia’s interim government has warned the U.S. that this policy is “shortsighted and dangerous,” and is causing more violence in an already anarchic country

A Vermont Welcome for Laura Bush

In response to First Lady Laura Bush's recent comments that she is sure people just love her husband and all his policies, media outlets in Vermont are encouraging people to come out to her arrival in Essex Junction later this week to give the lovely Laura - mother of Skank & Drank twins - a reality check.

I'm hoping the warm Vermont welcome includes warm maple syrup and endless biting black flies!

New Poll Shows Trust in GOP Eroding (Six Years Too Late)

Here, and it isn't pretty.

Does This Mean President Bush Will Send Attorney General Al Gonzalez Back?

Is our Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez here in the U.S. illegally? Hmmm.

From AmericaBlog:

He says "it's unclear" whether they came to the US legally or not. How is it unclear?

I mean, I know damn well how my grandparents came to the US - it's called a passport, and you read it and see if it did or didn't have a visa in it. We've got our grandparents' passports from Greece dating back to the early 1900s. Come on now.

His parents don't know how their parents came to the US? That's patently absurd. What, the Gonzales family never was curious to ask mom and dad about when and why and how they came to America? Give me a break, that's just a lie.We're sending US troops to the Mexican border to deal with these supposedly horrible people and our own Attorney General can't tell us if his own family is here legally? Are these people a threat to our jobs or not? But don't tell me you're hiring their family members for your cabinet at the same time you're bashing them and talking about kicking them out.
Where the frick is Lou Dobbs - great ratings grabber for his anti-brown people initiative - to escort the Gonzalez family home?

Are the Feds About to Eliminate "Freedom of the Press"?

Here's a very interesting "mistake", pointed out by Boing Boing:

Steve sez, "The Government Printing Office sells a set of flash cards that are designed to help soon-to-be citizens learn about our government. Question 80 asks, 'Name one right or freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.' The answer lists freedom of speech, religion, assembly and the right to petition the government — but omits freedom of the press." Link (Thanks, Steve!)

Update: XY sez,

In the Citizenship and Immigration Services' "Guide to Naturalization" (the official guide on becoming a citizen), the same omission is made in the sample civics questions (on page 64 in document):

80. Name one right or freedom guaranteed by the first amendment.
The rights of freedom:-
    Of speech,
    - Of religion,
    - Of assembly and,
    - To petition the Government
So either the flashcards come from the same source, or there's some kind of mini-conspiracy...

Why Did Bush Fire Almost 10,000 Border Patrol Agents in 2005?

Why? Well, I guess reservists are paid less but still... one would think that if the border needs such protection, the president wouldn't have canned so many border agents.

Israeli General Talks Out Against Current Actions Toward Palestinians

Read it!

Anyone who doubts the folly of current policy to the Palestinians – economic punishment, unilateralism, refusing to negotiate with President Abbas on political issues or dialogue with the Hamas Government on daily matters – should read this interview from Haaretz with just-retired Israeli Brigadier-General Ilan "Pitzi" Paz. Paz, the 28-year military veteran, past head of Israel's Administration in the territories, and Brigade Commander in Jenin and Ramallah pulls no punches in calling for peace negotiations now: "There is a Palestinian partner for an agreement that could be acceptable to a majority of the Israeli public… Eventually we will have to arrive at a solution, and it will be more or less identical to the Clinton outline and the Geneva Accords. The question is how much blood will be spilled until then." Read the article here, then channel the anger to calling for negotiations now.

Bush Needs a Civilian Review Board

Oh, I don't think it goes far enough, of course, and Bush would appoint his nieces and nephews to it, but I like this idea posted at TPM Cafe:

Trust in the Bush Administration has fallen to such a low point that in order to restore at least some of it, we need a national civilian review board. The board will be composed of eminent Americans, of both parties, similar if not the same people who served so well on the 9/11 Commission. The board, equipped with security clearance, will determine whether our intelligence services are being used in line with the Constitution and our international obligations. The board will issue a series of reports about the ways that the government is using the vast arsenal of special powers it amassed since 9/11 without disclosing details about sources and methods. The board thus will act much like local civilian review boards that have formed in some 60% of our nation’s largest cities where the public lost trust in police departments after widespread corruption and abuse was revealed.

Who's on First?

And what's the Congressional pecking order?

Stick a Fork in Bush....

Because the Bush is way past done (and damned close to irrelevant, my addition), according to the esteemed Dick Meyers of CBS News.

The Nation: FBI After More Journalists' Phone Calls

Read it and creep here.

Although I Was Not Always a Fan of Lowell Weicker's, We Agree Now

To wit, the former Connecticut governor and I both say: enough of this damned war and way MORE than enough of Joe Lieberman - hasta la vista to both.

Weicker, some may recall, was a big deal during Watergate, and was also famed for being a Republican before he was a Dem before he was an Independent (which sounds suspiciously like the five minutes I was blonde ONCE).

Boston Globe: Keep the Net Untrammeled

Yes, indeedy, I agree (for the most part) with this editorial.

Must Read Article in the American Conservative Magazine

Now, don't think I've slipped a nut. As I've mentioned, I think traditional - as opposed to the radical right who call themselves conservatives now - conservatives and progressives these days have a fair amount in common.

And American Conservative Magazine has become a regular read for me. Plus their current article, "The Weakness of Empire" should be required reading for every American resident.

Here's the tease from the article by Michael Vlahos:

History has not dealt kindly with imperial ambitions, and America, however benevolent her intent, cannot hope to be an exception.

More Problems in Electronic Voting Devices, Specifically (What a Surprise!) Diebold

From the May 16th edition of the Verified Voting newsletter:

Latest Security Vulnerability in Paperless Electronic Voting Underscores Urgent Need for Paper Trail; AuditingA critical security vulnerability has been brought to light in Diebold touch screen voting machines, just as several primaries are about to occur.

In a May 12th New York Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/12/us/12vote.html), Avi Rubin, a Professor at Johns Hopkins and Verified Voting advisory board member, said “I almost had a heart attack” when he understood the nature of the problem. Michael Shamos, a computer scientist and voting system examiner in Pennsylvania, was quoted in the same article, "It's the most severe security flaw ever discovered in a voting system." Indeed, several experts have urged that the technical details of the problem not be discussed because it is so easy to exploit. Such recommendations are extraordinary, coming from a community that values openness and transparency on computer security issues.

According to the report (available in redacted version at www.blackboxvoting.org) by computer expert Harri Hursti, the machines have insufficient protection to prevent malicious firmware from being installed. If bad firmware were installed, it would be difficult to detect, and it might be difficult to install new “clean” firmware.

A wide variety of poll workers, shippers, technicians and so on, have physical access to voting machines at various times; any of these people might be able to use that access to install bad firmware.Shockingly, news of the security flaw was topped off on Monday with news that both Diebold and the State of Maryland have been aware of the security vulnerability for at least two years.

Further adding to the scandal is the fact that the backdoor (or doors) were designed into the machines intentionally, against accepted design practice and, indeed, simple common sense, as Diebold spokesman David Bear admits in the same New York Times article. He goes on to say, “For there to be a problem here, you're basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software,” he said. “I don't believe these evil elections people exist.”Diebold's confidence in election officials is heartwarming.

But what really matters is the confidence of the voting public. What are these same election officials to do when disgruntled candidates question the results of their elections? They can’t point to federal and state safeguards, which completely overlooked this glaring problem. In most places using Diebold touch screen machines, there will be no voter-verified paper records to recount. In those jurisdictions in particular, Diebold has left election officials with no method to defend themselves or their elections when questions arise.

It is easy for people to learn the wrong lesson from this incident: that we need more stringent computer security. More stringent security is desirable (depending on how much it costs), but won’t solve the real problem.

The cause of the real problem is the use of paperless electronic voting, which is fatally flawed as a concept. Modern computer systems cannot be made sufficiently secure to handle all-electronic voting with secret ballots. Mistakes or tampering at any level, from the software to the circuits in the chips can change electronic votes, undetectably.This incident is just one of many, involving products from many different manufacturers. It won’t be the last. Indeed, such problems will never end as long as paperless electronic voting is in place.

Suppose we had the best possible practices, such as thorough background checks of the ownership, management, and employees of vendors, meticulous and intrusive reviews of the design and manufacture of the equipment by truly independent experts, and so on – the kinds of measures used for regulation of gambling equipment. Even these measures would not eliminate programming errors and security holes. Even in a best-case scenario, there will always be people who can “hack” the machines (including the programmers who write the code in the first place). Voters will never know whether their votes were recorded and counted accurately.

Given the current state of technology, elections cannot be trustworthy unless there are voter-verified paper records of the votes and a significant portion of those paper records are manually counted to check the machine counts. We can’t guarantee that machines will always function correctly, but each voter can make sure that his or her vote has been correctly recorded on paper (preferably by the voter’s own hand).

Fortunately, twenty-seven states with over fifty percent of the U.S. population require voter-verified paper records. Some counties in those states may use the Diebold touch screen machines with “paper trail” printers. If they must use the machines, we would urge them in the strongest terms to be especially diligent in protecting and auditing those paper records – including manually counting more than the minimum number required by law.

Every jurisdiction with voter-verified paper records (paper ballots or paper audit trail printouts verified by the voter) should publicly carry out a manual audit, after the initial vote count is reported, with random selection of the areas to be counted. Voters should encourage their election officials to carry out such an audit – regardless of whether it is required by law in their state – in order to check the voting system for accuracy.

Currently, more than twice as many jurisdictions offer voter-verified paper records than there are jurisdictions that require audits.Whatever you do, don’t let these problems discourage you from voting. If you don’t vote, you can be sure that your vote won’t count. Instead, contact your elected officials and the candidates and make sure they understand that paperless electronic voting must be replaced with systems that provide a voter-verified paper record that is manually audited – our democracy depends upon it.


$200 Billion Privacy Lawsuit on Phone Databases

And that's just to start. Story here from Reuters.

It Ain't Easy Blowing the Whistle on the NSA

As NSA whistleblower Russell Tice has come to learn.

Was Karl Rove Indicted or Not?

That seems to be up to question. TalkLeft tells us the details.

Which Americans Are on the Mysterious Trail of Osama Bin Laden?

Ghostbusters? Jimmy Hoffa? Elvis? Who?

Only in Bush's American: Women Forever Pregnant

Before you tell me how advanced and forward thinking this program is, let me tell you how this is actually another way of treating women as chattel and criminalizing any behavior by them which might "endanger" their ability to be human photocopy machines for the religious far right.

The fact that America has the WORST mortality rate for babies has less to do with the programs this happy horseshit program addresses and far MORE to do with the fact that this administration and the far right is far more interested in forcing women to carry pregnancies to term than it is in making certain those women and babies are healthy before, during, and after.

Malnutrition Striking Iraqi Children in Huge Numbers!

See? The children would have greeted us with flowers and candy IF ONLY Mr. Bush's Iraq occupation had only allowed them to eat.

America's Love Affair With Republican Leadership is Soooo Over

Not that I think the Dems are doing a bang-up job (well, bang-up perhaps in the sense of vehicular accidents, but I tell you, the parties in the traditional sense of the terms are hopeless partisanship.

From today's WaPo:

Public confidence in Republican governance has plunged to the lowest levels of the Bush presidency, with Americans saying they now trust Democrats by wide margins to deal with Iraq, gasoline prices, immigration and more, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll that underscores the fragility of the GOP's grip on power six months before the midterm elections.

Dissatisfaction with the administration's policies in Iraq has overwhelmed other issues as the source of President Bush's and the Republican's problems. The survey suggests that this increasingly pessimistic mood about the direction of the country -- 69 percent said the nation is now off track -- as well as the Republican Party and congressional incumbents have dramatically improved the chances of Democrats to register significant gains in November.

Democrats are now favored to handle all 10 issues measured in the Post-ABC News poll. The survey also shows a clear majority of the public (56 percent) saying they would prefer to see Democrats in control of Congress after the November elections. Only a third want the GOP to remain in the majority. Nearly three times as many Americans say they will use the elections to express opposition to the president (30 percent) than to show support for him (12 percent).

The Taliban Bush Boasts He Rid the World Of Resumes Public Executions

So says CBS News.

The Taliban Bush Boasts He Rid the World Of Resumes Public Executions

So says CBS News.

More of the Torture We Would Never Commit in Iraq Part II

Again from After Downing Street.

Iraq War Images Uncensored

Pictures available at After Downing Street brings us just a small taste of the brutality, the horror and the horrific nature of what we have done in Iraq. And, compared to what we could do in Iran with even a single nuclear strike, this seems like child's play.

It is child's play... but the children - Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rove and company - are twisted, evil, spoiled, and willing to destroy all toys and players so long as they sit home safe, rich, and well fed.

Often, the military refers to images such as these as "war trophy" shots. The term I use is far less glorious.

The Value of Life: American vs. Iraqi vs. African

Ever so much is made constantly of the 3,000 (actually, there were less) deaths on 9/11/01 in the attacks on the U.S.

However, just in Baghdad, just in the first few months of this year, and just from the sources from which numbers could be garnered, more than 5,000 Iraqi civilians have died from actions that grew from our invasion. In all, it's estimated that anywhere between 100,000 and more than 300,000 Iraqis have died to date. Some call this a ridiculously conservative estimate, too.

We are also fast approaching the time that just the number of American service personnel dead in Iraq - and we're not counting Afghanistan, of course - will exceed the 9/11 deaths.

And, as the right is fond of pronouncing that anything that saves even one fat American life is a good thing, bear in mind that it is now estimated that nearly 200 million - 2,000,000 human beings - will die in sub-Saharan Africa as the direct result of climate change by the end of THIS century. That's like two-thirds of the U.S. population.

But, of course, only precious white American lives matter. Don't they?

TPM Muckraker: Chertoff Then and Now

TPM Muckraker ably points out that despite President's Bush "bestest" plan to militarize the U.S.-Mexico border with underpaid, overworked, and thoroughly discouraged U.S. Army reservists, titular head of Department of Homeland (in)Security Chertoff said six months ago that putting the reservists to work on the border would be silly and oh, so very expensive.

Down Down Dowwwwwn: Bush Approval

Buzzflash reports that SurveyUSA says Bush is down to "barely positive" approval ratings in just three states (or four states too many).

On a Nebish-y Little Technical Point

If any of you have ever wondered how to create "favorite" icons for your blog or Web site - the customized little icons that appear in IE or other browsers rather than the standard symbol when opening or viewing a site (such as the strange looking little green mountain effect I have here or the "laptop" of sorts you see when visiting the as-yet-unfinished PCKate.com), I'd be happy to share the short details with you.

You can drop me a line or ask here in comments. I may put up a help article on it at PCKate.com as well if there's any interest. Only takes a few minutes to do.

GOP Doesn't Like Bush's Plan for Immigration Either

But, of course, in an entirely more hateful way than our dissatisfaction.

Video of 9/11 Pentagon Plane Released

I doubt this will stop the controversy or conspiracy rumors, but you can find the underlying "story" here.

Bush: Believe (This Lie) That We're Not Eavesdropping

From the AP:

WASHINGTON - President Bush insisted Tuesday that the United States does not listen in on domestic telephone conversations among ordinary Americans. But he declined to specifically discuss the government’s alleged compiling of phone records, or whether it would amount to an invasion of privacy.

“We do not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval,” Bush said in an East Room news conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

“What I’ve told the American people is we’ll protect them against an al-Qaida attack. And we’ll do that within the law,” Bush said.
May I point out that while he insists he's telling the truth now (ha!), Mr. Bush said the only checks being done when the original story broke were those to overseas locations.

The man does not know how to tell the truth. He's never even been in the same state with the truth.

Maureen Dowd: Six Degrees of CIA Bacon

Also brought to us by Rozius is Maureen Dowd's great May 13th column on the wiretaps, CIA, NSA, and other crap. Also a snip snip snippety snip:

I bet you're wondering how someone like Dusty Foggo, who had his C.I.A. badge deactivated yesterday because of his role in a scandal ripe with poker parties, Dominican cigars, prostitutes, Scotch, luxury suites, bribed congressmen, defense contracts and even a rumored Teutonic dominatrix, was ever chosen to run day-to-day C.I.A. operations at such a parlous moment in American history.

It's because of Bacon Guy.

That would be Michael Kostiw, a conservative darling who was Porter Goss's first choice to be the third-ranking official at the C.I.A. He was derailed in 2004 after fellow spooks leaked word to The Washington Post that Mr. Kostiw had left the agency under a hickory-smoked cloud two decades earlier, after being caught shoplifting a $2.13 package of bacon from a supermarket in Langley, Va., near C.I.A. headquarters.

Not the pork you usually associate with Washington.

Mr. Goss, W.'s absurd choice to lead our inept intelligence agency in the battle against Islamic terrorists, was so loony he wanted to put a man in charge of C.I.A. discipline who had to be disciplined for slipping chazerai into his pants, or wherever he put the package to bring home the bacon.

Mr. Goss's departure, after a season spent sulking about losing the president's ear to John Negroponte, has opened the window on a whole new level of incompetence, turf wars, corruption and wackiness. Now we see that the C.I.A. was mired not only in professional mistakes, but also in a complete lack of personal and personnel judgment. The more you know about the people Mr. Goss put in top positions, the scarier it gets.

When he was caught in 1981, Mr. Kostiw had been a C.I.A. case officer for a decade. But his answers on a C.I.A. polygraph test and psych exam about the purloined bacon were so sketchy that he was placed on administrative leave and forced to get counseling, Walter Pincus wrote in The Post. Mr. Kostiw wound up resigning.

Like Brownie, Bacon Guy found his comeback path greased by cronyism. He worked on Porter Goss's terrorism subcommittee when Mr. Goss led the House Intelligence Committee, after working as a lobbyist for ChevronTexaco. (All roads lead back to oil.) After Bacon Guy was forced to withdraw, Mr. Goss and his chief of staff, Patrick Murray, were not moved to look for a sterling choice for the No. 3 post. They were moved to go on a rampage to ferret out and get rid of the libs in the agency whom they suspected of leaking the news of Bacon Guy's carnivorous crime.

With a Nixonesque sense of paranoia and vendetta, the Bush dominatrixes never seem to worry about the nefarious activity itself — from shoplifting to gathering data on all Americans' phone records. They just resent it when the nefarious activity is revealed. When word got out that the government was snooping on domestic calls, the administration rushed into action, not to investigate the violation of the Constitution but to punish any government employees who might have leaked it to The Times.

Despite rumors and complaints about Dusty, Porter Goss once more went for a bad choice, installing Dusty in the inner circle of Gosslings, as the C.I.A. director's cronies were known. No doubt trying to save himself, Mr. Goss asked Dusty to step down once he became publicly ensnared in a bribery scandal that includes a wild cast of poker-playing characters, including Duke Cunningham and the retired C.I.A. official Brant Bassett, a k a "Nine Fingers." He's said to have a prosthetic 10th finger to hide his identity during cloak-and-dagger operations.

Paul Krugman: D is for Debacle

Rozius brings us Paul Krugman's Monday (May 15th) column on the Medicare Part D Debacle. Here's a big snip-snip-snip:

President Bush refuses to extend the sign-up period. "Deadlines," he said last week, "help people understand there's finality, and people need to get after it, you know?" His real objection to extending the deadline is probably that this would be an implicit admission that his administration botched the program's start-up. And Mr. Bush never, ever admits mistakes.

But Part D's bad start isn't just another illustration of the administration's trademark incompetence. It's also an object lesson in what happens when the government is run by people who aren't interested in the business of governing.

Before we get there, let's talk for a moment about the problems older Americans have encountered over the past few months.

Even Mr. Bush has acknowledged that signing up for the program is a confusing process. But, he says, "there is plenty of help for you." Yeah, right.

There's a number that people needing help with Part D can call. But when the program first went into effect, there were only 300 customer service representatives standing by. (Remember, there are 43 million Medicare recipients.)

There are now 7,500 representatives, making it easier to reach someone. But should you believe what you're told? Maybe not. A survey by the Government Accountability Office found that when Medicare recipients asked for help in determining which plan would cover their medications at the lowest cost, they were given the right answer only 41 percent of the time.

Clearly, nobody in the Bush administration took responsibility for making Part D's start-up work. But then you can say the same thing about the whole program.

After all, prescription drug coverage didn't have to be bafflingly complex. Drug coverage could simply have been added to traditional Medicare. If the government had done that, everyone currently covered by Medicare would automatically have been enrolled in the drug benefit.

Adding drug coverage as part of ordinary Medicare would also have saved a lot of money, both by eliminating the cost of employing private insurance companies as middlemen and by allowing the government to negotiate lower drug prices. This would have made it possible to offer a better benefit at much less cost to taxpayers.

But while a straightforward addition of drug coverage to Medicare would have been good policy, it would have been bad politics from the point of view of conservatives, who want to privatize traditional social insurance programs, not make them better.
What really pissed me off - besides huge issues like how Bush and the GOP gifted PhRMA with an agreement not to demand better pricing at a time when med prices are going up astronomically each month - was that Bush refused to allow any protection for confused seniors who didn't get in by Monday citing that seniors "had to learn that there are consequences for bad actions."

When the flying frick has Mr. Bush E-V-E-R paid a consequence for HIS bad actions? Name a single time.

Former Clinton Financial Honcho Robert Reich on Bush's Increasing Tax Cuts for Billionaires

Robert Reich calls the latest $70 billion round of tax cuts for the wealthiest obscene. I agree wholeheartedly.

If You Feel Inclined to Grant Me a Birthday Present Today

Consider writing a Congress critter, reading an article that expands your mind, saying NO to more government intrusion into your lives... because anything that makes your mind richer and your life better will make me very, very happy.

"Sacrifice Liberty for Security? Not Without a Fight!"

Three cheers to Jay Bookman writing in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Here's more than a snippet but (as always) I encourage you to read the rest:

This is supposed to be America, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

But I'm beginning to have my doubts, about the free part and the brave part, too.

This America, this increasingly strange America, is looking more and more like the land of the cowed and the home of the silent.

In this America, we have a military agency, the National Security Agency, secretly tracking and analyzing every phone call or e-mail that is sent or received by hundreds of millions of American citizens, with records of all of those calls retained forever.

And in this America, millions and millions of people profess to be quite comfortable living under a government that wants to know who every one of us is talking to, and has the technology to realize that ambition.

It will keep us safe, some Americans have responded. Only those with something to hide should be worried, others have said.

But then again, we all have something to hide, don't we? My something may be different than your something, but we all have something we would rather keep to ourselves — the things we read or watch, the things we do or think or buy, the people we talk with or the Web sites we visit. . . .

Admittedly, there is a reason for that willingness to let government vastly expand its oversight of our lives, and that reason is fear of terrorism.

But there is always a reason, isn't there? There is always some threat to security that is said to justify the surrender of liberty to government. In every nation that has ever lost freedom to government, there has always been a reason.

There was a reason that the soldiers of King George III burst into the homes of colonial Americans without warrants or reasonable cause. And back then, there were also those who saw nothing wrong with that practice, who believed that only those who had done something wrong had anything to fear.

Fortunately, our Founding Fathers thought otherwise, enshrining that belief in the Bill of Rights to guarantee that "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated."

In Stalin's Soviet Union, they had a reason for government monitoring — fear of capitalist imperialists. In today's China and North Korea, they have a reason as well. In George Orwell's "1984," the reason was the threat from Eastasia or Eurasia.

"There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment," Orwell wrote. "How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time."

But a strong people, a free people intent on remaining free, does not accept those reasons as sufficient. They are willing to accept the danger as the price of their liberty.

Karl Rove: People Just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE George Bush

Yeah, right, and I'm 5'8 and blonde.

Far Right Christians Cry They Haven't Ruled All of America Yet

You have to hand it to the far right Christian conservatives. For years, they have been handed carte blanche to control American policy and dialogue, and yet, all they do is bellyache that they do not get enough of what they want. These are the kind of people who must make God and Jesus physically sick at the sight and sound of them.

From The Times:

Some of President Bush's most influential conservative Christian allies are becoming openly critical of the White House and Republicans in Congress, warning that they will withhold their support in the midterm elections unless Congress does more to oppose same-sex marriage, obscenity and abortion.

James C. Dobson and many of his allies say they are deeply disappointed in President Bush and Congressional Republicans.

"There is a growing feeling among conservatives that the only way to cure the problem is for Republicans to lose the Congressional elections this fall," said Richard Viguerie, a conservative direct-mail pioneer.

Mr. Viguerie also cited dissatisfaction with government spending, the war in Iraq and the immigration-policy debate, which Mr. Bush is scheduled to address in a televised speech on Monday night.

"I can't tell you how much anger there is at the Republican leadership," Mr. Viguerie said. "I have never seen anything like it."
Well, I can't tell Mr. Viguerie (Piggery?) how much anger there is in the rest of America for these Pious-than-thou types who commit adultery and serial marriages, abuse all the things they want to be executable offenses for others, and then insist that it's their way or the highway.

Dobson is a monster. So is Falwell and others of their ilk.

Americans Worried About Future Anti-Privacy Disclosures

And well they should.

From USA Today:

WASHINGTON — A majority of Americans disapprove of a massive Pentagon database containing the records of billions of phone calls made by ordinary citizens, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. About two-thirds are concerned that the program may signal other, not-yet-disclosed efforts to gather information on the general public.
Meanwhile, Bell South is aggressively denying it "volunteered" phone company records. I really wish I believed them.



Aren't you pleased as punch that we're restoring diplomatic ties with Ka-daffy Duck in Libya?

This isn't quite the birthday present I wanted this year, but what the (bleep) can I expect with Bush in office?

If Negroponte Says

That all the spying going on right now isn't "domestic spying", what the fuck does he think it is?

More War on Drugs Insanity

Truth Dig talks turkey (dark, dark meat) on the War on Drugs.

The Dirt on Michael Hayden About to Be Blown Up?

From TPM Muckraker:

From ABC News:

    NSA whistleblower Russ Tice says he will tell Congress Wednesday of "probable unlawful and unconstitutional acts" involving the agency's former director, Gen. Michael Hayden, President Bush's nominee to run the CIA.

    Tice, a former technical intelligence specialist at NSA who first went public on ABC News, says he has been asked to testify Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

    In a letter to the committee, Tice says the alleged illegal acts involved "very highly sensitive intelligence programs and operations known as Special Access Programs (SAPs)."
Read the letter here.

Now The Bushies Spy on the PR/Transcriptionists... Err... Press Corps

From Josh Marshall at Talking Point Memo (and I'm so incensed about this I cannot yet talk, although I would suggest everyone keep an eye on Editor&Publisher on this topic):

Yep, they are scrutinizing journalists phone-records.

According to ABC's Brian Ross ...
    The FBI acknowledged late Monday that it is increasingly seeking reporters’ phone records in leak investigations.
    “It used to be very hard and complicated to do this, but it no longer is in the Bush administration,” said a senior federal official.

    The acknowledgement followed our blotter item that ABC News reporters had been warned by a federal source that the government knew who we were calling.
Ross's report is still awfully murky. But it suggests that the FBI is using new provisions of the Patriot Act which allows for the expanded use of so-called National Security Letters. As Ross explains, "the NSLs are a version of an administrative subpoena and are not signed by a judge. Under the law, a phone company receiving a NSL for phone records must provide them and may not divulge to the customer that the records have been given to the government."
The lies and spies never stop with the Bush crowd.

Belated Happy Mother's Day

I kept trying to post this yesterday, but Blogger and I were not getting along (I think it was Blogger's time of the month (cough))...

And to follow up this (belated) thought, I strongly encourage you to reach the General's posting of Julia Ward Howe's 1870 Proclamation for Mother's Day that started the holiday. It's beautiful, it's apt, and it tells you WHY Mother's Day exists (and not to sell syrupy cards and boxes of candy).

Bush's Plan Amounts to One Reservist Every 597 Yards Along One Border

According to Keith Olbermann tonight.

Gee. That will be terribly useful.

Time Magazine Asks the Question: Why Not Talk to Iran Before We Bomb Them?

But, of course, Mr. Bush wants to bomb.

Reserves "Nearly Broken" Even Before Bush Decides to Send Them to Border Babysit

That's the word from a military chief today.

Some of What You Should Know About a Real Journalist, Murray Waas

Perfect no, but sure a lot better than most of the stenographers and PR hacks working as "press corps" these days. US News and World Report profiles some of the journalist known as Murray Waas, in a piece called "A Muckraker's Day in the Sun".

Let Pious Pharmacists Become Data Entry Clerks or Waste Collectors

Bernadine Healy has an excellent piece on the subject of how and why pharmacists are being allowed to play God with your right to get your prescriptions without interference.


Plan B has also been a political lightning rod for antiabortion activists, even though the drug does not disrupt or harm a pregnancy. Rather, it prevents pregnancy with a high-dose jolt of birth control hormones. Thus it decreases the risk of abortion. In short, spurious concerns both about women's sexual behavior and about abortion fuel the seemingly endless tempest surrounding women's appropriate and lawful use of an emergency drug.

The ACOG campaign, called "Ask me," effectively creates an over-the-counter option that subverts the FDA ruling. Doctors will offer information on the drug and prescriptions to women who, well, just ask. Patients can either keep the paper as Rx-in-waiting or have the prescription filled and ready in their medicine cabinets--which allows them to use the pills at their own discretion. Helping to spread the word are "Ask me" buttons, national ads, and posters for doctors' offices reminding women that "accidents happen" and "morning afters can be tough."

But advance prescriptions may not be enough. Some pharmacies don't carry the drug because of moral or religious objections. Even the behemoth Wal-Mart with its national chain of pharmacies refused for the longest time. After being forced by Illinois to stock the drug, sued in Massachusetts for not providing it, and compelled by that state's pharmacy board to change its ways, the company caved. Two months ago, Wal-Mart announced that all its pharmacies would carry Plan B and restated its policy that individual pharmacists who objected to this, or who felt uncomfortable dispensing the drug, could refer the patient elsewhere. No word about the patient's comfort.

Conscientious objector. This points to another hurdle: Despite a doctor's orders, a pharmacist can decide not to dispense the contraceptive based on moral or religious beliefs. Fine. But there must be an alternative pharmacist or pharmacy to fill the order, or else the conscientious objectors are imposing their beliefs on a woman who then becomes powerless to exercise her own.

Imagine if a pharmacist could block the sale of condoms based on religious persuasion. It's not so far-fetched; the Vatican historically has banned condoms, even opposing their distribution in Africa to protect against HIV. And would there not be an uproar if a pharmacist's own sense of sin used a man's marital status to determine whether or not to fill his prescription for Viagra? The debate over Plan B smacks of a double standard. But worse, without knowing beforehand of the pharmacist's opposition to the drug, a woman requesting it is not only turned away but also humiliated as her privacy is breached and her personal life judged.

As Eugene Robinson Says So Correctly, "We're ALL Terrorist Suspects Now"

This is a must-read which originally appeared in the Washington Post:

At least now we know that the Bush administration’s name for spying on Americans without first seeking court approval — the “terrorist surveillance program’’ — isn’t an exercise in Orwellian doublespeak after all. It’s just a bald-faced lie.

Oh, and at least now the Senate will have a few questions to ask Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the man George W. Bush has named to head the CIA, at his confirmation hearings.

While Hayden was running the super-secret National Security Agency, according to a report Thursday in USA Today, the NSA began collecting comprehensive records of telephone calls made by “tens of millions of Americans.’’ If your service is provided by AT&T, Verizon or BellSouth, according to the newspaper, this means your phone calls — all the calls you’ve made since late 2001. Of the major phone companies, only Qwest reportedly declined to cooperate.

The allegation, which the president refused to confirm or deny, is not that the spooks are actually listening in as you call home to check on the kids or talk to the bank about refinancing your mortgage. Rather, the idea is to be able to look at a given phone number — yours, let’s say — and see all the other numbers that you called over a given period of time, or that called you.

No names are attached to the numbers. But a snoopy civilian with Internet access can match a name with a phone number, so imagine what the government can do.

You’ll recall that when it was revealed last year that the NSA was eavesdropping on phone calls and reading e-mails without first going to court for a warrant, the president said his “terrorist surveillance program’’ targeted international communications in which at least one party was overseas, and then only when at least one party was suspected of some terrorist involvement. Therefore, no one but terrorists had anything to worry about.

Not remotely true, it turns out, unless tens of millions of Americans are members of al-Qaida sleeper cells — evildoers who cleverly disguise their relentless plotting as sales calls, gossip sessions and votes for Elliott on “American Idol.’’ (One implication, by the way, is that the NSA is able to know who got voted off “Idol’’ before Ryan Seacrest does.)

In a Followup to Greg Palast's Piece, Here's One from the NY Daily News

Sound familiar AND scary? It should:

Fonegate part of fed spying

WASHINGTON - The federal government's massive grab of nearly all the nation's phone records was just a small part of a vast array of official "data mining" projects whose legality has come into question.

In two reports since 2004, the Government Accountability Office said 52 of the 128 government agencies surveyed had either carried out or planned such projects - resulting in 199 separate efforts to collect information.

Five of the agencies - including the FBI, State Department and Internal Revenue Service - failed to comply with federal privacy and communications safeguards in their efforts to track terrorists and catch criminals, the GAO said.

The failures "increased the risk that personal information could be improperly exposed or altered," the GAO reports said of the searches for patterns, trends and relationships in huge databases.

The survey by the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, did not include the National Security Agency's collection of hundreds of millions of phone records going back nearly five years.
In his weekly radio address yesterday, President Bush again defended the NSA project without confirming its existence.

"The privacy of all Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities," Bush said. "We are not trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans."

But a Newsweek poll released yesterday found 53% of Americans think the NSA's surveillance "goes too far in invading people's privacy," while 41% saw it as a necessary tool to combat terrorism. That contrasts sharply with an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted Thursday - the day the snooping news broke in USA Today - in which two-thirds of those polled said the actions were acceptable.

The Bigger Picture We're Missing in the NSA Story

Greg Palast (of the BBC among others), in a piece called "The Spies Who Shag Us", talks about what's being missed in the NSA phone database story broken last week by USA Today.

Here's a snippet (yes, I'm inferring you should go read) which includes those great friends of the Bushies - and intense enemies to the American people and democracy - a company called ChoicePoint:

Worried about Dick Cheney listening in Sunday on your call to Mom? That ain't nothing.

You should be more concerned that they are linking this info to your medical records, your bill purchases and your entire personal profile including, not incidentally, your voting registration.

Five years ago, I discovered that ChoicePoint had already gathered 16 billion data files on Americans -- and I know they've expanded their ops at an explosive rate. They are paid to keep an eye on you -- because the FBI can't.

For the government to collect this stuff is against the law unless you're suspected of a crime. (The law in question is the Constitution.) But ChoicePoint can collect it for "commercial" purchases -- and under the Bush Administration's suspect reading of the Patriot Act -- our domestic spying apparatchiks can then BUY the info from ChoicePoint.

Who ARE these guys selling George Bush a piece of you? ChoicePoint's board has more Republicans than a Palm Beach country club. It was funded, and its board stocked, by such Republican sugar daddies as billionaires Bernie Marcus and Ken Langone -- even after Langone was charged by the Securities Exchange Commission with abuse of inside information.

I first ran across these guys in 2000 in Florida when our Guardian/BBC team discovered the list of 94,000 "felons" that Katherine Harris had ordered removed from Florida's voter rolls before the election. Virtually every voter purged was innocent of any crime except, in most cases, Voting While Black.

Who came up with this electoral hit list that gave Bush the White House? ChoicePoint, Inc. And worse, they KNEW the racially-tainted list of felons was bogus. And when we caught them, they lied about it. While they've since apologized to the NAACP, ChoicePoint's ethnic cleansing of voter rolls has been amply rewarded by the man the company elected.

And now ChoicePoint and George Bush want your blood. Forget your phone bill. ChoicePoint, a sickened executive of the company told us in confidence, "hope[s] to build a database of DNA samples from every person in the United States ...linked to all the other information held by CP [ChoicePoint]" from medical to voting records.

To Catch a (Re)Play of Al Gore's Excellent Opener on SNL Saturday

Crooks and Liars - I love that site - has the video of Al Gore's most excellent opener on Saturday Night Live on May 13th which I thoroughly enjoyed.

When the Bushie Supreme Court Loves the Corporations vs. the Individuals

Brought to us by David Sirota, author of the just-out "Hostile Takeover":

In a unanimous decision today, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a lower court ruling that would have invalidated massive taxpayer giveaways to Corporate America.

The Supreme Court has long been the victim of a hostile takeover by Big Money interests. It is a court now headed by a corporate lawyer that has repeatedly gone out of its way to protect Corporate America's ability to bleed the middle class dry.

Today's ruling, though, is particularly egregious. Not only did the court strike down an important ruling, but it essentially emasculated taxpayers' ability to bring any such lawsuits against their own government in the future.The details are as shocking as they are disgusting.

As the Associated Press reports in the attached story, "Two years ago, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Ohio's tax credit on new equipment, saying the practice hinders interstate commerce because the incentives are available only to businesses that invest in Ohio." In other words, plaintiffs correctly noted the credits are creating a race to the bottom that violate interstate commerce laws by forcing states and cities to compete with each other to give away more and more taxpayer cash to Big Business.

In the Ohio case, the tax credit was used to give DaimlerChrysler roughly $300 million in taxpayer cash - cash that Toledo's county auditor says was siphoned away from local schools, forcing the city to close up to nine schools or fire 380 school workers.In striking down the lower court ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court not only ruled against Ohio taxpayers, but against all taxpayers. Chief Justice John Roberts, formerly a corporate lawyer, said in the official opinion that "State taxpayers have no standing ... to challenge state tax or spending decisions simply by virtue of their status as taxpayers." In other words, not only will the Ohio law remain, but state taxpayers throughout the country now have no legal right to challenge the decisions of their bought-and-paid-for elected officials who are selling off our government to the highest bidder.

To get a sense of just how far reaching an affront to taxpayers' rights this ruling is, consider that USA Today earlier reported that taxpayers in other states were moving forward with similar cases. As just one example, in North Carolina, taxpayers have challenged the state's $242 million giveaway to Dell Computer. Now, the Supreme Court has essentially said they aren't even allowed to bring such a case. Want to try to stop Wal-Mart from abusing interstate commerce laws by extorting a billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies? Forget even having your case heard in court - your Supreme Court says you have to simply sit back and accept higher taxes to fund this kind of largesse.

Passing it Along

I'm passing this along with a big however.

I think a settlement is the least of this we should worry about; privacy and dirty games are much bigger issues. Second, I doubt I'd spend any settlement on an American flag. Oh, not because I don't love the flag. I do. But I love what it once meant even more.

Too, a) most American flags are made in China (cough) and b) I think we have a lot of work to do to make what the flag represents worthy of the love and glory we pour into the symbol; a symbol without underlying meaning is rather empty. See my note on Iran earlier today if you need an example.

Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth, the telecom giants that were paid off by the National Security Agency to help it spy on Americans, face billions of dollars in damages from their customers now that the full extent of the program has been revealed.

A federal lawsuit filed in Manhattan against Verizon seeks $50 billion in civil damages on behalf of its customers, who happen to include Yours Truly, and more litigation is sure to come.

I already know what I'm going to buy when Verizon gets around to paying me and its other aggrieved customers: An American flag.How about you?Go to Kiko's House at http://kikoshouse.blogspot.com and let me know what you'll do with your dough.

A First

I just noticed this blog got its first ever visit from the Republic of Iran.

I hope it will not be the last, just as I hope that our leaders do NOT take us into war with a country - Iran - that none other than Teddy Roosevelt's grandson, Kermit, helped to overthrow its democratically elected leader in the 1950s (yes, Iran) which has been part of what has led to such widespread hatred between this country and the Middle East and Asia.

America - Corporately funded Washington - has a long, sad history of unseating democracies like the one in Iran in the 1950s. Until we recognize it as citizens and stop it as voters, we'll be watching thousands, even millions die.

Want to Pay More than a Third Less for your Oil and Gas?

Let me tell you a dirty little secret that the Bushies and Big Oil won't want the American media to tell you.

Venezuela is offering Americans oil at about a third off today's prices.

The Bushies and Big Oil will NOT allow it.

You should be asking why.

Do your research into Venezuela and Hugo Chavez. Then compare it against the Bushies and Big Oil and the TRILLION dollar profit big oil has amassed in America of late.

Then consider what you can do about it.

Are Chavez's inventions and hands completely clean? Not saying they are. But if you think Bush's and Big Oil's are, my friend, you are sadly, sadly mistaken.

Will We Sit Back and Watch More Elections Be Stolen?

Already, we're hearing reports of the gigantic Republican machine gearing up to disallow registered voters throughout the country to vote especially in 2008 but even as soon as the mid-term elections THIS November. As they've done very successfully in Florida, they'll use techniques like taking the names of anyone who even sounds like a felon or anyone else they can and purge them from voting rolls.

Don't think this can't happen in predominantly white areas either. For example, for some strange reason, I keep having to prove I'm a voter in my area of Vermont. Now, it just happens that I technically reside in one of the few Republican enclaves in Central Vermont. But I've questioned others, many of them Republicans, in the same town, and they haven't been asked to prove their voting status. So why me?

Lots of felons named Kate Chase in Vermont? Don't think so. Cause I'm black? I'm a tad pale for that classification.

Or is it because I'm something of an activist, someone who trends toward supporting progressive causes (which, btw, aren't all Democrat nor am I Democrat by party affiliation)?

Now, understand I think there's a serious distinction between the big Republican political machine of people like George Bush, Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, and Karl Rove compared to most Republicans. I can't imagine a single good Republican who would endorse a system to disavow voters of any stripe. Just as there is a HUGE difference between the elites of the Democratic Leadership Committee and most Dems.

Most voters would not condone ANY action that disavows the proper vote to be cast or counted exactly as cast. But I know one thing: unless every decent voter - and that includes lots of citizens who are currently not eligible to vote because "I don't think it counts" which also includes many Dems and GOPs and Independents and third party candidates - stands up now and gets involved in fair voting initiatives that take the emphasis off Republican (or Dem, except there aren't any of the majors owned by Dems) owned electronic voting equipment companies like Diebold who announce "they'll deliver the vote" for people like Bush, we're all screwed.

We can kiss democracy goodbye. In fact, I think it's fairly clear the Bushies already HAVE kissed it goodbye. They don't count us. They fake votes to get the results they want.

We must stop them.