Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Damn I Miss Frank

Germany, where Frank Zappa has a huge following, has named a street after him. It's a nasty little street in the former East Berlin, but at least it's an enclave of musicians. Though, to me, it just doesn't seem to be enough. I mean...why not a whole town? Doesn't Zappa deserve that? They could call it: Zappadorf!

And what would the caustic Mr. Z make of our current troubles? Well, I'd say that Frank has already rendered his opinion...on the 2004 Election, for example:

The last election just laid the foundation of the next 500 years of Dark Ages.
- Frank Zappa, 1981

Or perhaps he might give us his take on the job Congress is doing:

Bad facts make bad law, and people who write bad laws are in my opinion more dangerous than songwriters who celebrate sexuality.
- Frank Zappa, 1985

And I'm sure that Frank would have something to say to Alberto Gonzales:

Perhaps Mr. Attorney General you'd be able to do your job if you didn't have your head quite so far up your bosses ass.
- Kvatch (attempting to channel one of his favorite musicians)

We could really use a little Zappa right about now.

Zappa on Crossfire - 1986


Monday, July 30, 2007

Fredo Going Down

I'm breaking my rule about 'blink and a link' posts to announce that Congressional Democrats plan to introduce a resolution requiring the Judiciary Committee to begin an impeachment investigation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Crooks and Liars has the story.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Open Source Voting Machines

The results are in, and 3 of 4 electronic voting systems used in California failed to prove themselves 'hacker-proof' in tests conducted by the University of California. Machines from Diebold , Hart InterCivic, and Sequoia had both their software and hardware security systems penetrated or bypassed. Election results were changed and internal processes corrupted. In fact, the only company whose machines were not compromised by researchers, ES&S, got away because they failed to supply equipment by the deadline imposed by CA's Secretary of State. Though there is no reason to believe that ES&S' equipment would have faired any better.

Predictably, with hearings on the findings and potential decertification looming, manufacturers complain that the tests were biased. Counties with multi-million dollar investments worry that they'll be forced junk their expensive little bundles of potential election fraud. But in all cases, the proponents of electronic voting systems make an economic argument at the expensive of the democratic argument: "We should be allowed to do business in any way we see fit." "We shouldn't be forced to make our systems available for testing." "We shouldn't have to junk expensive systems that we've already purchased."

Even the federal government is getting involved, attempting to deal with the electorate's 'crisis of confidence' regarding the reliability of electronic voting systems. As evidence of deliberate vote manipulation in 2000 and 2004 mounts, many people have become convinced that their vote no longer counts. So...in steps Congress to put a band aid on the issue with a law mandating a 'verifiable paper trail'. But what our leader's conveniently ignore is that once an electronic tally has been compromised, the paper trail can easily be forged to reflect the doctored results. Unless the voters themselves are put in control election audits (way too unwieldy to manage), this bill is worthless.

The only solution to these problems is to restore the public's confidence in the systems themselves. This means mechanical systems with physical results that are hard to manipulate. Or...if we must have electronic voting machines, they must be open-source systems that have been subjected to the scrutiny of security researchers and submitted to rigorous validation processes. In fact, I would go so far as to say that we must mandate open-source for electronic voting machines because only open-source can provide the transparency necessary for something as important as elections. The Diebolds of the world can still make money building and deploying machines, but we should never again hear an argument that goes: "Our machines contain proprietary IP that is too important for us to expose." This is an invitation to wide spread election fraud.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Administration Needs to Tell Truth About Tillman

UPDATE: Keith Olbermann talks to Soltz about Tillman including an account of Tillman's chilling last words (Crooks and Liars).

Jon Soltz, Chair of Vote Vets.Org, caught my attention last week when he debated a pro-war vet on Hardball. Soltz performed extremely well in that debate.

Yesterday, Soltz wrote on Think Progress about the new evidence (three shots to Tillman's head from ten yards away) in the Pat Tillman case. Soltz urges the President to stop stonewalling:
It is inevitable, then, that unless the President comes clean, rumors about Tillman’s death will take hold. By stonewalling, there is no way to stop people from wondering, “Was the man the White House used to promote the war ordered to be killed because he was becoming increasingly critical of the war in Iraq?” It was well known that Tillman was critical of the decision to go to war, and had often read and quoted Noam Chomsky. I don’t personally believe such a conspiracy to be the case, but until the President comes clean, rumors like that will continue to grow. Every officer knows that if a soldier in their command is killed they must write the family and tell them the truth, for exactly that reason. Why can’t the man who sent Pat Tillman to war, and used his death for political gain, have the courage to tell a family what happened to their son?

Soltz's point about conspiracies permeates everything this administration does. If they're not conspiring, one is tempted to believe they must be conspiring to look like conspirators. It's a frustrating reality to live in for your average citizen, can you imagine how it is for the Tillmans?

VIDEO: Soltz on Hardball last week.

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Friday, July 27, 2007


..Or Constitutionally Protected Expression?

Here's a story from the Citizen-Times of Asheville, North Carolina.
A couple who said they were protesting the state of the country by flying the U.S. flag upside down with signs pinned to it found themselves in jail following a scuffle with a deputy Wednesday morning.

Mark and Deborah Kuhn were arrested on two counts of assault on a government employee, resisting arrest and a rarely used charge, desecrating an American flag, all misdemeanors. The Kuhns were released from custody Wednesday afternoon...

...State law prohibits anyone from knowingly mutilating, defiling, defacing or trampling the U.S. or North Carolina flags. Lt. Randy Sorrells of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office said the Kuhns desecrated the flag by pinning signs to it, not by flying it upside down.

An upside-down flag typically is flown as a distress signal. The Kuhns said they flew it this way not out of disrespect but to symbolize the state of the country.

The thing is, the flag desecration law is so little used that the Citizen-Times reports in a separate story, “we don’t even keep a statistic on it.
Charges against an Asheville couple mark the first use of a 90-year-old North Carolina law on desecration of the American flag since the Vietnam War era, a state court official said Thursday.

Even then, police used the law only two times. Back-to-back U.S. Supreme Court decisions since then make it unconstitutional, civil rights experts said.

Having been ruled unconstitutional twice, why are they still enforcing this law? I don't suppose it could have anything to do with the fact that the Kuhn's are using their first amendment right to free speech to express their disagreement with the regime of George W. Bush. There is a counterclaim here as well.
The Kuhns said they were assaulted by the deputy.

Deborah Kuhn told a 911 dispatcher that Scarborough “has broken into our home and is violating our rights.”

Good point, because to me it seems that the Kuhns have a better case against the Deputy (who is now facing an internal review over his part in this) than vice versa. One other thing, for future reference. I'm not an attorney or anything, but don't you think it would be a good idea if, when a law is found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, it should then be taken off the books altogether?

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A Trio of Internet Regulation Tidbits

Senators Call For Universal Filtering
They've danced around the issue. They've tried to couch it in language that privacy advocates would not find objectionable. But on Wednesday Senators Inouye (D-HI) and Stevens (R-AK) both called for universal Internet filtering and monitoring in their respective committees. And to ensure that they would not be challenged, civil liberties groups were not invited to testify.

Maybe These Guys Could Help...
ISPs and Telcos use 'packet inspection' technologies to help prevent against DoS (Denial of Service) attacks and to comply with government ordered wiretaps. That's nothing new, but a new class of technologies that employ 'deep packet inspection' will soon give the ISPs the ability to shape, delay, block, or record traffic based on content. Want Google to fork over a briefcase full of cash? Stop every email packet destined for Gmail. Decide Senator Inouye is right? Dig through every packet for porn and shunt the data to the Feds.

...And My Taxes To Pay For The Data
Having to get a Federal Court order when you want to examine a broad swath of Internet traffic is a pain for the FBI and a money sink for the ISPs who have to intercept and store the data. But a new program will at least deal with the latter problem by paying the the ISPs and Telcos to gather, store, and categorize all the traffic that law enforcement so desperately wants. Your tax dollars at work.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Ever Helpful Hatch

The American Fascist from Utah
Full disclosure: I've hated Sen. Orrin Hatch for decades, long before I had ever heard of George W. Bush. I first heard of the lizardlike Republican from Utah when watching the Iran/Contra hearings. Even then he had his techniques for obfuscation down pat. When Ollie North, John Poindexter, Robert Mcfarlane, Michael Ledeen or any of the other traitors were on the stand, he would throw marshmallows at them, praise them for their service to the country and try to make them look like patriots. "Tell me, Colonel North, how your noble and heroic efforts to supply the Contra freedom fighters with bullets, boots and beans helped their country while serving vital American interests at home," that kind of thing.

If you're not familiar with the details of the Iran/Contra affair, or even if you are, click on some of the links above. It's scary to think that Ollie North has a cushy job with FOX "news" as a commentator, despite multiple convictions. Or that John Poindexter "served a brief stint as the Director of the DARPA Information Awareness Office for the administration of George W. Bush" in spite of his multiple convictions stemming from the Iran/Contra affair. In private life Poindexter helped develop the technology used by the NSA to massively violate Americans' fourth amendment rights of privacy.

Check out Michael Ledeen and his self-avowed love of fascism. He's now "a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor to National Review." Spewing neocon/fascist propaganda into the American consciousness. While we're on the subject, it might be of interest to look up Dick Cheney's connection to Iran/Contra too. Verrrry interesting.
The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power." -- Henry A. Wallace, Vice President to FDR, 1944
The Danger of American Fascism
These are the type of people Orrin Hatch conspires with. Traitors, criminals, avowed fascists. Most of whom, by the way, never paid fully for their crimes because they were pardoned by George H. W. Bush.

Now watch Hatch in action yesterday 'questioning' (questionably) Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Video courtesy of TPM Muckraker, who along with FireDogLake's liveblogging has providing the best overall coverage of the hearings.
Hatch on Comey

You should now make note of another obfuscatory technique that Hatch uses here, which he also used to great advantage in the Iran/Contra hearings. Not only does he 'set up' the witness to disgorge his well-rehearsed talking points in the best possible light, Hatch also (and this is vitally important) testifies himself. The key to the success of this technique is that Hatch is not under oath. Quite an advantage, wouldn't you say?

Watching this exchange, it is hard not to believe that Hatch and Gonzales rehearsed this beforehand. Hatch's first objective is to bring up exactly the points that Gonzo relies on during the entirety of his testimony, trying to defuse the explosive story of Gonzo's visit to Ashcroft's ICU unit when he was WhiteHouse counsel. And most telling, Hatch elaborates on Gonzales' contrived excuse that this visit's origin was not in the White House, but in Congress ('the gang of eight'.)
Hatch (testifying, but not under oath): "That was the gang of eight you're saying.. ..The two leaders of the intelligence committee in the House, the two leaders in the Senate? Democrats and Republicans?"

Gonzales: "Democrats and Republicans."
As Henry Wallace said in 1944, "His method is to poison the channels of public information." And why was it so important that it be Hatch, and not Gonzales to introduce this gang of eight tidbit into the story? Because three of the eight have already come out saying that it's a lie.

-Read more on this story at Ice Station Tango. (with Keith Olbermann video)

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Missing For One Year

Gone Quiet - But Not Forgotten

It was one year ago today at 11:00 AM that blogger extraordinaire Sans Culotte made his last entry at Sans-Culotte.org. In a way he was the non-participant founder of this blog, which was originally created not so much as a tribute as a vigil, where his regular visitors could hang out awaiting his return. We have of course evolved into something else since, but that's how we started.

Passionate about progressive issues, the pantsless one distinguished himself by always providing something unique in his posts. Often that was accomplished by taking the road less travelled, and blogging about something everyone else was ignoring. His post The End of Dollar Hegemony is a perfect example. Other times he would take a front page issue and crack it open by looking at some aspect that others didn't see. Or he would provide research to something that was well beyond the call of duty, exemplified by his post about Robert Newman's 'History of Oil.' The remarkable collection of links backing up Newman's thesis really adds to the educational experience of watching this entertaining documentary. That's what I call value added blogging.

It might be said that Sans' best moments were not on his own blog but as a commenter elsewhere, no more significantly than at Americablog, his favorite online hangout. Here he showed an uncanny mercurial ability to blog on the fly, and whatever subject another commenter came up with he could and did respond to with a raft of significant related links, usually within minutes. I still haven't figured out how he did it. For this he earned my nomination for best commenter in the Koufax Awards when I became aware that there was such a category.

I can think of no better tribute you could pay to Sans than to visit his blog and read a few of the posts listed under 'most popular' in the sidebar. You'll be glad you did - they're all really good posts.

I never met him, and can't say that I knew him that well really. Still, I miss him.
I would like to add a couple of points to this shared sentiment...

As well as he did content, Sans also did the interpersonal. Routinely offering assistance to less experienced bloggers, he taught many, including myself, technical skills and also common "netiquette." He could be serious and also playful, and seemed to know when each was appropriate. He also knew how to disembowel a weak argument, not with strength of belief or shrillness of voice, but with logic and supported facts. In all of these ways, he was a model within the Liberal online community. Perhaps my favorite quality was his passion for engaging with the issues of our time, always more concerned with sharing information and resources than receiving credit or praise. It really wasn't about ego; it was about Democracy.

"Though Liberty stayed safely hid
Despite the countless pleadings bid
I felt Liberty's shadow nigh
And thus refused to say goodbye
When Liberty softly did."

I still refuse.

~Jump to the Left
NOTE: Image is from a painting of a French Revolutionary Sans-Culotte, not the dude we're talking about. But I guess you figured that out for yourself.


Friday, July 20, 2007

Absolute Immunity Dictator

"Bush's Magical Shield from Criminal Prosecution"

Glenn Greenwald came through today with one of his best posts ever. An experienced litigator who specialized in first amendment issues, Glenn's analyses on the Bush administration's warping of the law for their own ends are definitive.
The Bush administration decided to announce to Washington Post reporters Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein its view that it has the power to block the Justice Department, and its U.S. Attorneys, from criminally prosecuting Executive Branch employees who refuse to comply with Congressional subpoenas, notwithstanding a statute enacted by the American people through their Congress requiring such prosecution where Congress issues a contempt citation. We do not know who specifically in the administration announced this obviously radical position because the Post courteously granted them a shield of anonymity to hide behind..
..What is most significant is, as always, the underlying theory on which this claim is based. From the Post article:David B. Rifkin,... praised the position and said it is consistent with the idea of a "unitary executive." In practical terms, he said, "U.S. attorneys are emanations of a president's will."
Frickin' emanations! It has a weird, Darth Vaderish sound to it, or maybe I should say Lord Voldemort, what with the last Harry Potter novel being released tonight at midnight. Green sparks coming out of his evil bony Presidential fingers, evil poisonous clouds wafting their way down to the Federal Courts. US Attorneys as Death Eaters, casting the Dark Mark on everything they touch. Nightmarish!

In a chilling nod to George Orwell, "The administration's position is grounded in a 1984 Reagan administration memo (.pdf) written by then-OLC official Ted Olson which made the same claim." The claim was never adjudicated because it was withdrawn before it could be tested in court. Which is what usually happens to claims of executive privilege, going back at least as far as Nixon's invocations during the Watergate scandal. It's just a delaying tactic really. The words executive privilege* do not appear in the Constitution. Powers of oversight vested in the Congress, however do. The good news comes in the form of a Supreme Court decision, US vs.Nixon:
This presumptive privilege must be considered in light of our historic commitment to the rule of law. This is nowhere more profoundly manifest than in our view that "the twofold aim [of criminal justice] is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer."
Glenn goes on to discuss Bush's use of signing statements to allow him to unilaterally interpret Constitutional limits on the authority of the Judiciary. Funny how the Constitution never seems to limit the Executive in Bush's view. Even funnier how these plenary executive powers never apply when a Democrat is in office. It's like the Constitution was like an old 45 RPM record, with an A side for the Repukes and a B side for the Dems.

Some excerpts from the WaPo article that sparked Greenwald's post,
Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University who has written a book on executive-privilege issues, called the administration's stance "astonishing."

"That's a breathtakingly broad view of the president's role in this system of separation of powers," Rozell said. "What this statement is saying is the president's claim of executive privilege trumps all."..

..Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) called it "an outrageous abuse of executive privilege" and said: "The White House must stop stonewalling and start being accountable to Congress and the American people. No one, including the president, is above the law."
Randi Rhodes was discussing this very issue with John Dean as I blogged this. In an effort to emphasize that the situation is not yet hopeless, she just quoted Bill Clinton, "There is nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what is right with America."

I sure hope that he, and she, are right on that point. Otherwise, the two possible futures that Station Agent mentions in the post below could quickly devolve to a single, depressing outcome.
Update: Very closely tied to this story is this piece from TPMMuckraker,
Four Democratic senators wrote Alberto Gonzales today to inquire whether Stephen Bradbury, the apparent acting head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, was illegally carrying out his duties.

Bradbury was nominated for the top spot at OLC last year, but the Senate Judiciary Committee returned his nomination to the president, refusing to hear it until Bradbury's role in approving the National Security Agency's surveillance program became clear..since it's been more than 210 days since the Senate returned the nomination to the President, Bradbury should not be carrying out the duties for the spot under the Vacancies Act. But that certainly appears to be what is happening.
Here's the kicker: It was Bradbury who,
signed a letter last week that advised that "the President and his immediate advisers are absolutely immune from testimonial compulsion by a Congressional committee." Both the White House and Harriet Miers relied on that advice when she refused to appear before the House Judiciary Committee...Remember that the head of the OLC is a crucial position. Back in 2004, former head of OLC Jack Goldsmith advised that the Justice Department could not authorize the President's surveillance program -- a decision that nearly led to a mass resignation of senior Department officials when the President decided (however briefly) to ignore that determination.
Flippin heck! By investigating malfeasance that indicates the Judiciary has been blatantly hijacked, they only uncover even more blatant hijacking of the Judiciary. Muckraker's Paul Kiel remarks, "It's enough to make your head spin..." I would add, ...'like Linda Blair in The Exorcist.'

Also Read: Bush: "It's My Legal System" (at TPM Muckraker)

*privilege (Look up the etymology of that word, by the way - privy, meaning secret; legere, meaning law - a concept more fitting to a monarchy or dictatorship than a democracy.)

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bush's Secretive Executive Orders Fuel Suspicion

Columnist and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under President Reagan, Paul Craig Roberts sees two possible short term political futures.

In one future, the Republican Party is destroyed electorally due to their support of an extremely unpopular president.

This outcome is evident to any observer, Democrat or Republican.

In the other future, a terrorist attack followed by the activation of several executive orders (like this creepy son of a bee right here) making Bush the only political power in America, gets the Republicans off the hook by rendering democracy irrelevant or even dismantled.

I don't think the government was behind 9/11. I don't think the government will attack us or intentionally allow an attack before the 2008 election.

But of the ten white men running for the Republican nomination, nine of them all seem to know something. Of the 49 of them in the Senate only a few even give lipservice to ending the war even when they know it may cost them even their safest seats.

Then we have Rick Santorum's recent comments and Michael Chertoff's gut.

Roberts writes:
Think about it. If another 9/11-type "security failure" were not in the works, why would Homeland Security czar Chertoff go to the trouble of convincing the Chicago Tribune that Americans have become complacent about terrorist threats and that he has "a gut feeling" that America will soon be hit hard?

Why would Republican warmonger Rick Santorum say on the Hugh Hewitt radio show that "between now and November, a lot of things are going to happen, and I believe that by this time next year, the American public's (sic) going to have a very different view of this war."

Like every political cliffhanger, we won't know until we know. But if a dictatorship is only a couple of chess moves away, isn't the system badly in need of renewal?

UPDATE: Listen to Thom Hartmann interview Paul Craig Roberts.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fedware - The New Frontier In Malicious Software

Malware (malicious software) is scary enough. A rootkit can give an attacker unfettered access to your system and your most sensitive data. A keystroke logger can capture the passphrases that you use to encrypt files and volumes. These days, especially on Windows, you absolutely must have security software that continuously scans for the viruses and worms and install the malicious pieces of code. But what about when it's the federal government doing the attacking?

Recent high-profile prosecutions have revealed that, for example, the DEA employs keystroke loggers to give them access to the encrypted files of suspected manufacturers of illegal drugs, and if the DEA is doing it you can bet the farm that the FBI and Secret Service are as well. So here's the question: How do you protect yourself against over-zealous law enforcement agencies installing Fedware on your computers? And more importantly, will your security software manufacturer protect you or expose you?

Oh sure, if you're up to no good a rootkit is sort of like a wiretap, ordered by a court and used for evidence gathering. But we know that the Bush Administration, under the guise of fighting terror, has instructed the DoD and FBI to illegally monitor all sorts of groups--peaceniks and protesters--that aren't exactly out there cooking crystal-meth to feed to your kids. So what do you do to protect yourself.

Unfortunately, the answer may ultimately lie with the company whose security software you choose, and when a Federal order comes down many vendors, such as CheckPoint (ZoneAlarm) and McAfee (Norton), will quietly ignore Fedware and won't tell you about it. Hell CheckPoint goes so far as to 'whitelist' borderline software from vendors that request an exemption. But really...should you even trust what a vendor says about their policy on detecting Fedware? After all, they're in the business of selling you a security package, and if they reveal that they're...essentially...not secure, why would you stick with their product?

Ironically, the solution to this problem may lie with the open-source software community. A high-quality, thoroughly reviewed, well-understood, open-source security package may be your only defense against Fedware because, in the end, there would be nobody that could be ordered to intentionally sabotage the product.

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Spies R Us

...This Can't Be Good For America

There was a rather perplexing article in Sunday's Washington Post regarding outsourcing of the US government's intelligence industry.
In April, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell was poised to publicize a year-long examination of outsourcing by U.S. intelligence agencies. But the report was inexplicably delayed -- and suddenly classified a national secret. What McConnell doesn't want you to know is that the private spy industry has succeeded where no foreign government has: It has penetrated the CIA and is running the show.
..Private companies now perform key intelligence-agency functions, to the tune, I'm told, of more than $42 billion a year. Intelligence professionals tell me that more than 50 percent of the National Clandestine Service (NCS) -- the heart, brains and soul of the CIA -- has been outsourced to private firms such as Abraxas, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
Security services that were once government only are still managed at the highest levels by government employees (called blue badgers), but,
..more than half the workforce in two key CIA stations in the fight against terrorism -- Baghdad and Islamabad, Pakistan -- is made up of industrial contractors, or "green badgers," in CIA parlance.. ..beneath them, insiders say, is a supervisory structure that's controlled entirely by contractors; in some cases, green badgers are managing green badgers from other corporations.
Anybody else see a problem with that? The WaPo article seems pretty supportive of the practice, and at times the article reads like a brochure ("there's no question that the private sector delivers high-quality professional intelligence services. "), but even they admit to some caveats.

"These corporate-grown agents will be inculcated with corporate values and ethics, not those of public service."
- No kidding! In light of the 'cherry-picking' of intelligence that preceded the Iraq war could be multiplied by orders of magnitude just by the dictum of giving the customer what he or she wants. WaPo also points out that "Contracts come and go. So do workforces."
The people doing the sensitive, clandestine, classified work will from time to time lose their jobs when contracts run out, or their employers are outbid by competitors.. ..Any good counterintelligence officer knows what can happen next. Down-on-their-luck spies begin to do what spies do best: spy. Other companies offer them jobs in exchange for industry secrets. Foreign governments approach them. And some day, terrorists will clue in to this potential workforce.
As if things weren't bad enough already. We all know about the communications companies co-operating with the NSA in their illegal wiretapping program. We all know how hard it is to keep spyware off our personal computers, as corporations routinely do everything they can, legal and illegal to create a customer profile of everyone on the face of the earth. Then they sell the results of this datamining to other corporations. All we need is to have highly trained spooks out of a job with all the gear to set themselves up in the spy business, all paid for by you the taxpayer.

There has never been a more secretive administration than Bu$hCo™, characterized by Cheney's man-sized safe, millions of missing emails, a plethora of apparently amnesiac witnesses, bogus claims to executive privilege, and now Harriet Meirs outright criminal defiance of a Congressional subpoena. It is a black hole from which information cannot escape. Meanwhile your Fourth Amendment rights lie in tatters, heaped with the detritus of the rest of the constitution.

To paraphrase Jefferson, when the people know what the government is doing, there is freedom. When the government knows too much of what the people are doing, that is tyranny.

The neocon objective is supposedly to "shrink government to the size that it can be drowned in a bathtub." Who will fill the power vacuum if that happens, I ask? Obviously, the interlocking tentacles of Corporate 'Amerika' (MULTI-national in nature, with head offices in Bermuda, Dubai, or wherever gives them the best tax breaks. IOW - don't expect patriotism from these guys.) It seems to me like they have made every effort to set themselves up for that eventuality.
"While communism is the control of business by government, fascism is the control of government by business."
Are we there yet?

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Arrogance & Ego

Today, July 17th by 5:00 EST, Harriet Miers had to respond to the question of how she would comply with the subpoena issued by the House Judiciary Committee.

The response from her attorney, George Manning, is in full here.

There's a lot of legalese in the first part of that letter. Full of citations to lots of cases, which Manning claims aren't vaild references, because

"None of these cases involves an assertion of the Executive privileges and immunities at issue here."

Well of COURSE there is no case law one can cite about the current issue of Executive Privelege at issue here, because this is the first brazen attempt to do grab such an idea of Privelege! Not really the first grab at powers heretofore unimaginable by the Founders, but this one is a doozy. How's that for arrogance? I haven't even gotten to Ego.

Please open the link above, of the response by Mr. Manning and scroll to the very end. Look for the signature on Page 4.

Observe how it is signed "George T. Manning/NJF".

Let me tell you something about this. I certified as a paralegal in Arizona in 1996, and have used that certification in the Banking and Telco regulatory fields since that time. (I don't do that currently, but I often rely on that experience.)

What that /NJF is code for, is that Manning did not sign that letter. The preparing attorney or paralegal whose initials are NJF at the firm of Jones Day did. Who is NJF?

Understand the import of that. The attorney for the subject of a Congressional Subpoena, who is defying that order, responds to the chairman of the Judiciary Committee with a letter that he doesn't bother to sign personally! The utter Ego involved in these despicable, secretive players in the administration are beneath your contempt.

But not Congress'. Call and give your Congressperson "permission" today to go after the rat bastards, and make them obey the law, starting with former Candidate Justice of the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I Wanna Be a Cowgirl, Baby

My denom's general assembly is this week in Ft. Worth, Texas. The last major stop for the cattle drives on the legendary Chisholm Trail. Once known as "Hell's Half Acre," for an area of town filled with gambling parlors, saloons, and dance halls. Oh! My! But even though I plan to immerse myself in the local culture of Cowtown, you will not find my behind on the back of no mechanical bull!

I wanted to share with you some of the other resolutions we will be debating. I already wrote about a resolution regarding abortion here.

#0721 on the Elimination of Torture: Recognizing that all individuals are created in the image of God and are worthy of honor and respect; and that Jesus calls us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27); and that Jesus himself was a victim of torture, the general assembly shall declare that any and all use of torture is totally unacceptable - that it is contrary to the Word of God and in opposition to the foundational principles of a democratic society. Disciples are also asked to sign the statement by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture found here. Finally Disciples are challenged to join organizations and actively work for the elimination of torture.

#0724 on Children's Health Care: This resolution notes the dismal state of health insurance coverage for over nine million children living in the richest land on earth. It also notes that the President failed to take the necessary steps to provide better coverage for children in 2006 and certainly anticipates that our Great Leader has already vowed to veto the bipartisan legislation working its way through congress. The resolution asks that Disciples educate ourselves on this issue and become advocates for immediate action to ensure health and mental health care for every child in America in 2007 as a first step to adequate health care for all.

#0726 on Faith United Against Tobacco Use: The Youth Council has brought this resolution to the assembly. I only hope and pray that the good Disciples of the fine state of Kentucky will take it easy on these tenderfeet.

#0728 on the Church's Response to the War in Iraq: Finally we have a resolution demanding that the general assembly condemn the war in Iraq as contrary to the teachings and example of Jesus Christ and immoral and unjust by "Just War" standards. Brought to the floor by the Disciples Peace Fellowship, the resolution also affirms the statement of the World Council of Churches that "we lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched in deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights." I'm praying this will pass easily, but, unfortunately, I expect some spirited debate.

#0729 on Faith and Our New Neighbors: Calls for ongoing reflection and education on immigration issues, but not in isolation. It challenges Disciples to embrace and form relationships with immigrants. Get to know personally our new neighbors. AND THEN become advocates for humane and compassionate legislation. What a concept!

I'm sure Our Glorious Leader would rather we spent our time in Ft. Worth shopping.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Deliver Us From this Evil

[Update: The court okayed the out pay of $660 million from the LA diocese.]

So, the LA diocese is going to fork out $600 million for the victims of sexual abuse. I wonder if that includes the victims featured in a documentary I saw, 'Deliver Us From Evil.' If you watch the trailer, take note of the priest, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, at the end in all his obstructionist glory - bishop of the diocese of Los Angeles. Mahoney had the raw audacity to say this: "There really is no way to go back and give them that innocence that was taken from them. The one thing I wish I could give the victims ... I cannot," Mahony said. "Once again, I apologize to anyone who has been offended, who has been abused. It should not have happened and should not ever happen again." Mahoney has headed the LA diocese since 1985 so who else is responsible? It only happened because Mahoney was the one making it happen.

In 2000-2001, I was attending Ursuline College in Ohio, majoring in Religious Studies, close to graduating in fact. I was fairly active in our parish, St. Pius X in Bedford, as an Eucharistic minister and a member of the Social Justice committee. This was the setting I found myself when the pedophilia scandal broke wide in Boston. The manner in which Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston handled the crisis, and most certainly as Bishop Anthony Pilla of Cleveland handled what went on there - my involvement in our parish and in the church began to seriously wan. I was thoroughly sickened and disgusted by what went on. Even more sickened when one nun in particular defended the priests involved from the Cleveland diocese.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Can We Stay

Until We're Finished Robbing You?

The Iraqi prime minister finally came out and said it. We can go. They even backed away from that comment which means they really meant it. Iraqis want us to just go. Of course we're not going anywhere until our corporations achieve all of their benchmarks.

Here's a list.
Jack all of Iraq's oil.
It's only one benchmark really. Stubborn Iraqis just don't want to let multinational companies take their lifeblood.

While they're wrangling the corporations we handed out no-bid deals to are perfectly content to suck the American defense budget dry, but when the benchmark is met, they will walk as if all they were ever doing is serving our national defense needs.

Here's an example of the intermittent fleecing: Halliburton is building our massive Vatican-sized embassy in Iraq. Some observers of the war have claim the size and expense of the embassy is proof that the U.S. plans to maintain a presence in Iraq forever. I'm not so sure. The embassy may be huge and expensive, but it's also a poorly constructed piece of crap. If we walk we won't be walking away from anything but a bad investment. You'd think that was Halliburton's plan in the first place. All that matters to them is that it's expensive.

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Moyers Roundtable on Impeachment

Bill Moyers has of late served to remind America what real journalism looks like. In this latest effort from Bill Moyers Journal (Watch it on PBS) Bill sits down with The Nation's John Nichols and conservative constitutional attorney Bruce Fein from the American Freedom Agenda to discuss the crimes and abuse of power by George Bush and Dick Cheney and the need to impeach them both.

This is great stuff. Highlights of course include a comparison with Richard Nixon's abuses (Bush's are much worse) and an opinion that I have always held, that Nixon's impeachment and trial should have been continued to its conclusion despite his resignation. The tragic consequences of failing to do that were Iran/Contra and the crimes of the current regime. My favorite is this line, that echoes sentiments I have expressed myself,
"You are making a mistake that too many people make. You're seeing impeachment as a Constitutional crisis. Impeachment is the cure for a Constitutional crisis. Don't mistake the medicine with the disease"
-- John Nichols --
The way I put it, failure to impeach would indicate a crisis.
“When leaders are not held accountable for serious mistakes, they and their successors are more likely to repeat those mistakes.”
-- Al Gore in The Assault on Reason --
Moyers Roundtable on Impeachment

Take the PBS poll on Civil Liberties and National Security.

One final quote on the main theme of this post, the idea that the founders saw Impeachment as not just a remedy for governmental abuse, but an alternative to violent revolution.
"A Government that makes peaceful revolution impossible,
makes armed revolution inevitable."
-- John F. Kennedy --

Thanks to the people at Crooks and Liars for putting this video up on YouTube. When I saw them post it in WMP/Quicktime format, I was hoping to be able to post the video myself. H/T to Len Hart (The Existentialist Cowboy) for bringing it to my attention.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Saturday Silly Scenario

Mmmmmmmmm......NICE BUD !!
Here's a scenario for you. You and some friends are celebrating the fact that a Toronto judge just ruled Canada's marijuana laws unconstitutional by having a few bong hits for Jesus, a few more for Buddha, and a goodly few for Maha Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of good crops and prosperity, when you get the munchies.

So next thing you know you're out roaming the streets of Newmarket, Ontario, just north of Toronto, looking for a sidewalk vendor to take the edge off your munchies. After thinking about Lakshmi, you've got a hankering for some somosas and chutney. Maybe some dahl to go with. I love Indian food.

Then, lo and behold, you encounter one of two escaped elephants who are celebrating their own unexpected freedom from a circus that's passing through town.
What's up, bud? Got any peanuts?

This of course sparks a lively conversation about whether these are Indian elephants or African elephants, and if the former, is this just a coincidence or a case of Jungian synchronicity. After the issue is settled (in favor of synchronicity, due to Lakshmi's mythic association with elephants)...
Do you?
a) - freak the hell out and swear you will never, ever smoke the devil's weed again?

b) - go looking for a bag of peanuts, hoping you can barter it for your first ever elephant ride?
c) - offer the elephants a hit off your bong?

If you have alternative answers d), e) or f), I'd love to hear them. If you've got a Bic lighter, mine just ran out of butane.
BTW, this is Lakshmi, who handily has four arms, meaning she can pass the current fatty around while rolling up the next one. One of her hands is always dispensing gold coins, which can come in mighty handy when the rent comes due. She's usually depicted on a lotus flower (you know what that represents), and is often accompanied by four elephants, representing the four directions north, south east and west, often showering her with water. All in all, a good candidate girlfriend for someone like Smoke.

UPDATE: All kidding aside, legalization is good policy, really. The negative consequences of the war on drugs far exceed any side effects of the drugs themselves. Take this story from AlterNet for example.
When Connecticut's Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed legislation last month that would have allowed citizens with debilitating medical conditions to use medical cannabis under their doctor's supervision, she alleged that there was no proof of pot's therapeutic effectiveness and that legal alternatives are available by prescription. Now, a just-released clinical trial by researchers at Columbia University in New York is making the governor's statements ring hollow.
Just another case of the reight wingers pushing their agenda by substituting their own paranoic delusions for the scientifically verifiable facts. Alternet has a fair number of such stories, BTW, conveniently grouped under the heading DrugReporter.

Further Reading:
IST: The (Illegal) Drug News
Skip From El Paso's Pro-Weed Blog

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Friday, July 13, 2007

The Great Stone Wall

If George Bush's Stone Wall of Secrecy was an actual wall instead of just a metaphor it could, like the Great Wall of China, be viewed from space. Hell, probably from the moon, with the naked eye. Okay, Mr. Magoo could see this wall from Saturn, with his eyes closed.

A few events over the past few days have brought this guiding principal of the worst American administration in history into the light; the American people must, at all costs, be treated like mushrooms - ie. kept in the dark and fed loads of horseshit.

First on the agenda is Bush's directive to ex-White House Counsel Harriet Miers to defy a subpoena to testify before the House Judiciary Committee about what she might know regarding the firing of eight US Attorneys on Dec. 7, 2006. The reasons given by the administration have never held water. The alternative reasons obvious to everyone point to criminal acts, including obstruction of justice and violations of The Hatch Act of 1939. Said act prevents the administration from using governmental powers to further partisan objectives. Miers' no-show sparked a lively debate in the house over whether she should be found in contempt of the house. Some of the myths perpetrated by the Republican representatives, notably Chris Cannon (R - UT) amount to the same old line that the Democrats are just taking partisan politically-motivated shots at the administration because they can.

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D - CA) responded ably;
Rep. Sanchez presented a detailed legal argument in which she rejected the claims of executive privilege that Miers was relying on. She dismissed them as 'novel' legal reasoning that was not in keeping with long-standing precedent.

"Those claims are not legally valid, and Ms. Miers is required, pursuant to the subpoena, to be here now," "No one is here on behalf of the White House to assert that claim...a statement from the president is legally required in order for the claim to be legally valid."

She added that the Bush White House's went beyond that of President Richard Nixon, who eventually allowed his counsel John Dean to testify in the Watergate probe.

The parallel to the Meirs story is the testimony of Sara Taylor, erstwhile aide to chief Republican/neocon political strategist - hers in front of the SENATE Judiciary Committee. Her testimony is unremarkable other than demonstrating the epidemic of amnesia that has already characterized Department of Justice officials seems to have infected the White House as well. One other point of interest is in Taylor's inadvertent disclosure that she was torn between her desire to tell the truth to the committee and her oath 'to the President.*' This of course triggered quite a reaction from Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, who pointed out that her loyalty is supposed to be to the Constitution.
Taylor honored a subpoena (which was good), but honored Bush’s suspect claim to executive privilege (which was bad). She ended up repeatedly telling the senators that she couldn’t remember, couldn’t explain, or couldn’t talk about anything of interest. She invoked Fred Fielding’s name 24 times, and mentioned his letter about privilege 35 times.

But even more annoying, as Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick explained, was that Taylor was selective when it came to what was privileged information. In short, when she liked the question and wanted to answer it, Taylor testified. When she didn’t, she claimed she was forbidden from speaking.

The 'suspect claim to executive privilege' referred to 35 times by Taylor is contained in a letter from White House Counsel Fred Fielding (Miers' successor in the post.) You can read it in this article at Salon News. Calling it suspect is putting it mildly. It is an elaborate piece of legal fiction from salutation to signature. The title of Salon's article, Absolute Immunity? questions the claim Bush is making, which is far beyond even the failed claims of the Nixon administration. And I'm sure they deliberately chose the adjective absolute, which is most often applied to the noun dictator.

The first thing one should observe here is that the concept of Presidential Privilege is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution, but that Congressional authority (and responsibility) for oversight are. Then one should notice that the body of the letter relies specifically on an assertion of privilege made by the Nixon administration. This assertion was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court, compelling Nixon to hand over the infamous White House tapes. Shortly after that ruling was made, Nixon resigned.

The thing is, Bush's crimes are much, much more grievous than those of the Nixon administration - thus the need for a much, much higher wall of secrecy. The problem is that in Nixon's time freedom of the press had not yet been compromised at the corporate level. The question the media should be asking at every White House presser, but of course isn't, is this: "Mr. President, if you really have nothing to hide, why are you doing everything you can, including breaking several laws, to hide it?"

* - Here's the video of what is becoming known as Sara Taylor's 'Führer Oath' testimony. Note that even when her mistake is pointed out to her she still explains that she interprets her oath to the Constitution as meaning loyalty to the personal will of George W. Bush.
Oath to the President?
Update: The oath of office is defined by Article VI of the Constitution. The texts of the oath the President takes, and a somewhat different oath taken by the Vice President, Congressmen, Senators, and cabinet members can be found here.

The practice of taking oaths comes down to us from religious traditions. "Abraham had Eliezer take hold of his genitals, hence the derivation of the term "testimony" from "testicles". (Wikipedia, referring to Genesis, 24, 2) The ancient Essenes abhorred the very idea of taking oaths, and it is condemned in the Dead Sea Scrolls on the grounds that one should be honest and forthright without recourse to such artifice.

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Kvatch's Kocktail Hour - The Guantanamovement

The GOP has had a hard week. The DC Madam, executive privilege, Friday the 13th. And who would we want to see fall off the wagon more than the Decider in Chief?

But what to serve, what to serve? Something to tempt poor George. Oh...I know! How about:

The Guantanamovement:

- 4 parts Myers's Rum
- A squeeze of lime juice
- 2 Exlax

A drink for helping you get it all out of your system.

Additional drinks at Blognonymous and If I Ran The Zoo.


Farm Bill 2007 - Reality Check Part 3

(Read Part 1 yet?)
Public health organizations are asking some very good questions—do food and agricultural policies contribute to the proliferation of unhealthy foods in our stores and restaurants? And why are corn and soybeans, which provide a large percentage of U.S. sweeteners and oils, so much cheaper than healthier crops like fruits and vegetables? The answer is fairly simple—because food companies and the folks in Washington want it that way.

Every five years, Congress and the White House roll out a new Farm Bill amid grand rhetoric about uplifting "America's family farmers and ranchers." Meanwhile, the food industry consolidates, farm numbers drop as those remaining grow in size while rural economies wither. Cram the bill with enough disparate provisions, obfuscate corporate giveaways, and food-justice advocates and farmers alike are perplexed. That's a shame.

The Farm Bill's 10 titles exert a dramatic influence on the U.S. food system. Under Title I, the provision that is supposed to protect farmers from market swings, the federal government has been doling out an average of $11.3 billion annually propping up industrial agriculture between 1995 and 2004. More than 90 percent goes to producers of corn, cotton, wheat, rice, and soybeans, with just 10 percent of farms receiving 74 percent of these subsidies. These large-scale farms aren't producing food and fiber directly for U.S. consumers, but rather inputs in an industrialized global production chain. These five crops are dramatically overproduced and typically sell on global markets at below production cost, imposing hardships on farmers worldwide while enriching transnational food-industry giants. Fruit and vegetable growers-and the vast majority of small and mid-sized farms-get not a penny.

Government food pricing data clearly demonstrates the end result. Since 1985, the real price of fresh fruits and vegetables has increased nearly 40 percent, while the real price of sweets, fats and oils, and soft drinks has dropped. With these price signals, is it any wonder people are not eating enough produce and too many calorie-dense foods? We have made consuming junk food an economically smart choice, particularly for people with limited income.

Rural communities have been hit hard by U.S. agriculture policy, as we’ve steadily lost farmers and those who continue rely largely on off-farm income to keep farming. Our public health has suffered as well. The extensive use of cheap commodities in food products has resulted in added sugars and fats that fall into the very dietary categories linked to obesity. High fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated vegetable oils—products that did not even exist a few generations ago but now are hard to avoid—have proliferated thanks to artificially cheap corn and soybeans.

Fast food, an important lobby, has entered the fray. Yum! Brands, owner of KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Long John Silver's, is leading a coalition of fast-food companies including McDonald's and Wendy's lobbying to make the Farm Bill "WTO-compliant." Most likely either the 2002 Farm Bill will be temporarily extended, after which time subsidy payments will eventually be phased out, with no additional safety net for farmers, save perhaps subsidies for ethanol feedstock crops which benefit large producers such as Archer Daniels Midland.

Policy emanating from Washington for decades-both domestically and through global institutions including the IMF, the World Bank, and the UN-has pressured farmers to scale up to produce for a vast global agricultural commodity market. Multinational food-processing giants like Archer Daniels Midland have thrived, while farm incomes have stagnated or dropped, and public health has languished even in the global north. Meanwhile, local food production has withered with people relying on food of dubious qual-ity, grown and processed at great distances. The agendas put forward by Daryll Ray and American Farmland Trust, broadly represent ideas coming from other progressive farming groups, and deserve the active support of food-justice activists. They would likely boost U.S. farm incomes without harming farmers in the global south. But at this point, the real hope for revitalizing local food production networks lies in grassroots organizing. Farm Bill entitlements could raise family farm incomes, support small rural and urban businesses in the food systems, and create more jobs through the growing and sales of local fresh fruit and vegetables.

From the USDAs Farm Bill website: "The 2007 farm bill proposals spend approximately $10 billion less than the cost of the 2002 farm bill over the past five years (excluding ad-hoc disaster aid) and uphold the President's plan to eliminate the deficit in five years. (ahem, bullshit.) These proposals authorize approximately $5 billion more than the projected spending if the 2002 farm bill were extended. "
Bottom line, the domestic food scene is another Iraq, and it's happening right now.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Common Ground on Abortion?

Two years ago, Governor Rick Perry of Texas signed an abortion bill into law in the gymnasium of the Calvary Christian Academy. This past week, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt signed a bill into law that bars Planned Parenthood from teaching sex education in schools. And now NARAL has discovered that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had revised a government website, 4parents.gov, with biased and misleading ideological claims about abortion.

Next week thousands of Disciples of Christ will come to Ft. Worth, Texas, for our general assembly. One resolution we will be considering is entitled, "PROACTIVE PREVENTION: SEEKING COMMON GROUND ON THE ISSUE OF ABORTION." Now to be sure, we're only seeking common ground amongst ourselves. Being as we have no doctrine nor creeds, there's a lot of variety in what individual disciples believe. We don't even have to pay attention to resolutions - especially if we don't like 'em. So if we reach some consensus around this issue, it would be nothing short of a modern day miracle.

Aside from seeking common ground amongst ourselves, this resolution
Affirms the desire to reduce the number of abortions, while still affirming a woman's privilege to responsibly exercise her inherent freedom of conscience, through programs that provide better health care and community support for women during pregnancy.

Calls on churches to provide age appropriate health and sexuality education paired with Christian spirituality for adults and youth. They are recommending a curriculum written by the United Church of Christ. I've not seen it, but I'm confident that it is not subtitled "abstinence education."

Further, Disciples are to be advocates for pregnancy counseling and adequate healthcare for women and families, as well as advocating for and/or creating affordable daycare facilities in underserved neighborhoods, college campuses and other areas where children and families, have the greatest need.
Historically, Disciples have affirmed a woman's right to choose. In 1973 and 1975 we passed resolutions that,
Affirm the principle of individual liberty, freedom of individual conscience, and sacredness of life for all persons.

Respect differences in religious beliefs concerning abortion and oppose, in accord with the principle of religious liberty, any attempt to legislate a specific religious opinion or belief concerning abortion upon all Americans.
Ultimately, Disciples recognize that the women who must decide whether or not to undergo an abortion need to have the informed supportive resources of the Christian community to help them make responsible choices, and that congregations and individuals must give their continued full support to each person who must make such a decision, knowing that whether or not an abortion is decided the person will need the supportive assurance of God's grace and love.

I'll be voting "aye" on this one.

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Farm Bill 2007 - Reality Check part 2

(Read Part 1 yet?)
Take a look around your neighborhood.

If you live anywhere urban or rural, chances are you see some hungry people on a daily basis. You may not know it right then and there, but sometime during your week you will have run across someone who themselves or their family is participating in the Food Stamp program, or is receiving aid from a Food Bank participating agency.

In my videos, I am just showing the slow and invisible problem in the heartland, and that problem is fairly large in rural farm areas. Larger than you'd think. When a disatser strikes, like Hurricane Katrina, the poor suffer even more. America's Second Harvest is STILL providing aid in overdrive to the Gulf region. 65.2 Million Meals to date.

Remember, all of this relief is private; not government funded in the least. So why am I harping on it? The Farm Bill will dictate how the private efforts go. And it's heating up. Next week, it's back in the
House Committee on Agriculture. The Senate will talk about it too, and it's fortunate that Patrick Leahy (VT) is the chair on the sub committee for nutrition and food assistance.

Call and write these people. The food stamp program needs to be increased in eligibility requirements and overall spending, not decreased in any fashion.

Justice comes from the bottom, up.

Do you find it as odd as I do, that none of this is apparently newsworthy?

(On to Part 3)
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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

An Ode On The DC Madam

Vitter's discovered. Jim DeMint hints that there may be more to follow.

Time for an ode on the DC Madam:

The DC Madam's list is out
And those with power now will spout
Confessions honed to stem a rout
That might reduce their cherished clout.

But it's too late. We rush to view
The lurid details--when, and who
Frequented the Madam's crew
And paid her for a tawdry screw.

So let the plaintive whining start
By clueless louts who for their part
Should have been a bit more smart
And kept their hands off Madam's tarts.

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Moore Takes On Blitzer

"Why Don't You Tell the Truth to the American People?"

First I was going to blog about this, then I wasn't, because I saw Station Agent already had a piece up at his place, then I saw some points that other people had missed. You can watch the exchange between Michael Moore and Wolf Blitzer (on CNN's The Situation Room) at Ice Station Tango, but Alternet has a vid that includes the piece by Dr. Sanjay Gupta that led to Moore's ire, links to Moore's site where he defends SICKo against Gupta's attack, and follow up video with Moore and Gupta on Larry King. A fantastic job from Alternet, who had this to say,
He [Moore] has...been ahead of the curve on Walter Reed, the War in Iraq, gun violence, and a host of other issues and all these networks and talking heads can do is try to pick apart his work to "expose" how he's somehow "fudged the facts", always ignoring how incredibly right he has been and continues to be about our American condition. We all love to see Wolf Blitzer (who tirelessly defends CNN medical "expert" Sanjay Gupta) taken down a peg, but the video to your right is really about the whole mainstream media getting called out on their bullshit, which makes it so much more satisfying. Naturally smug bigots like Lou Dobbs act amused by what they consider Moore's "act".
So, if Alternet did such a fantastic job, what could yours truly possibly have to add? Just a couple points I'd like to highlight from the videos. First, from the 'reality check' of SICKo. Dr. Sanjay's voiceover says, "Moore presents a lot of facts throughout the movie. But do they all check out? Keeping them honest, we did some digging." I'd just like to restate MM's point again based on that quote. When, pray tell, has CNN or anyone else in the Corporate Owned Media (COM) ever done some digging to keep the Republican Administration honest? It seems that they have two sets of journalistic standards, one for the left and one for the right. Kind of a reflection of what the Bush 'Justice' system has become, with one standard for the administration and one for everyone else. It's about time that the media itself had someone keeping them honest on the airwaves. (They've always had it on the internet, at Media Matters.)

My second point is from the exchange between Moore and Blitzer, where MM finally gets the Wolf to admit out loud what CNN's standards have devolved to, "We have commercials, this is a business obviously." That's his best defense against Moore's criticism of CNN's coverage. He can't even claim that they are not biased, but offers this up as an explanation.For him to blatantly admit that the content of a news program is influenced by the will of the sponsors says a lot, none of it good.
Wolf Blitzer is nothing more than a spewing piehole, who says what ever he is paid to say, with less credibility than a sideshow barker at a cheap carnival inviting you into a tent to see a two-headed dog.*
My final point is that the Canadian health care system is a lot better than it is portrayed in the US, even by Moore. Wait times are high sometimes, but here is the critical difference. In Canada, the length of time you have to wait for a procedure is mainly based on how serious your condition is. If you need lifesaving surgery RIGHT NOW where I live, they will put you on a helicopter and fly you to Toronto if need be (about 100 miles) RIGHT NOW if the surgery can't be performed locally. And the government will pay for the whole thing, including the helicopter. If you've got a boil on your ass, the details of that story may change, it's true.

In the US, your wait time has little to do with the nature of your medical condition, and a lot to do with how much money you have, and how much you have invested in health insurance. If you are not covered, your wait time could be THE REST OF YOUR (short) LIFE. With over 45 million Americans having no insurance whatsoever, and over half of the rest being underinsured I would say that's a big difference. I told the tale of a Canadian friend of mine who had serious medical issues in A Personal Story back in January, and that was contrasted by this guest post from Kristen Hannum At Our Expense. Kristen's sad experience (her brother died, more from being uninsured than from his underlying condition, an inflamed appendix) led her to start Ave Cassandra, one of the best single-issue blogs there is. If you are interested in the issue of health care in America, bookmark that site.

* The real reason I had to put up this post. I came up with this great line, and I couldn't just use it in comments on another blog, now could I?

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