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"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Benjamin Franklin



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"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)
34th President of the USA
a Republican, in a letter written to his brother on November 8, 1954

"...The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but the State alone...."

Benito Mussolini

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country... Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

Abraham Lincoln
November 12, 1864

"Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided man."

Martin Luther King Jr., 1963

"CORPORATION, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility."

Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

"The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries."

James Madison
(1751-1836)
4th President of the United States

"Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings."

Heinrich Heine
Almansor, 1823

"A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."

Sir Winston Churchill
(1874-1965)




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"Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don't want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

Hermann Goering, Nazi Reichsmarschall



"Authoritarian societies inevitably crumble because they silence the critics who could save them from errors of blind hubris. Dissent is not a luxury to be indulged in the best of times, but rather an obligation of free people, particularly when the very notion of dissent is unpopular."

Robert Scheer



"FASCISM: a system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership together with belligerent nationalism."

American Heritage Dictionary

Cowardice asks the question - is it safe?
Expediency asks the question - is it politic?
Vanity asks the question - is it popular?
But conscience asks the question - is it right?
And there comes a time when one must take a position that is
neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it
because it is right.

Dr. Martin Luther King


"My life is my message."

Gandhi

firePosted: 29 July 2006

This is a long article from Rolling Stone, but I urge everyone to read it. Here are brief excerpts:

IRAN: THE NEXT WAR
by James Bamford


But the Bush administration's hostility toward Iran is not simply an outgrowth of the current crisis. War with Iran has been in the works for the past five years, shaped in almost complete secrecy by a small group of senior Pentagon officials attached to the Office of Special Plans. The man who created the OSP was Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy. A former Middle East specialist on the National Security Council in the Reagan administration, Feith had long urged Israel to secure its borders in the Middle East by attacking Iraq and Iran. After Bush's election, Feith went to work to make that vision a reality, putting together a team of neoconservative hawks determined to drive the U.S. to attack Tehran. Before Bush had been in office a year, Feith's team had arranged a covert meeting in Rome with a group of Iranians to discuss their clandestine help.

The meeting was arranged by Michael Ledeen, a member of the cabal brought aboard by Feith because of his connections in Iran. Described by The Jerusalem Post as "Washington's neoconservative guru," Ledeen grew up in California during the 1940s. His father designed the air-conditioning system for Walt Disney Studios, and Ledeen spent much of his early life surrounded by a world of fantasy. "All through my childhood we were an adjunct of the Disney universe," he once recalled. "According to family legend, my mother was the model for Snow White, and we have a picture of her that does indeed look just like the movie character."

In 1977, after earning a Ph.D. in history and philosophy and teaching in Rome for two years, Ledeen became the first executive director of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, a pro-Israel pressure group that served as a flagship of the neoconservative movement. A few years later, after Reagan was elected, Ledeen had become prominent enough to earn a spot as a consultant to the National Security Council alongside Feith. There he played a central role in the worst scandal of Reagan's presidency: the covert deal to provide arms to Iran in exchange for American hostages being held in Lebanon. Ledeen served as the administration's intermediary with Israel in the illegal-arms deal. In 1985, he met with Manucher Ghorbanifar, a one-time Iranian carpet salesman who was widely believed to be an Israeli agent. The CIA considered Ghorbanifar a dangerous con man and had issued a "burn notice" recommending that no U.S. agency have any dealings with him. Unfazed, Ledeen called Ghorbanifar "one of the most honest, educated, honorable men I have ever known." The two men brokered the arms exchange—a transaction that would result in the indictment of fourteen senior officials in the Reagan administration.

"It was awful—you know, bad things happened," Ledeen says now. "When Iran-Contra was over, I said, 'Boy, I'm never going to touch Iran again.' "

But in 2001, soon after he arrived at the Pentagon, Ledeen once again met with Ghorbanifar. This time, instead of selling missiles to the Iranian regime, the two men were exploring how best to topple it.

......................

Ledeen and his Pentagon cabal were not the only American officials to whom Ghorbanifar tried to funnel false intelligence on Iran. Last year, Rep. Curt Weldon, a Republican from Pennsylvania, claimed he had intelligence—from an "impeccable clandestine source" he code-named "Ali"—that the Iranian government was plotting to launch attacks against the United States. But when the CIA investigated the allegations, it turned out that Ali was Fereidoun Mahdavi, an Iranian exile who was serving as a frontman for Ghorbanifar and trying to shake down the CIA for $150,000. "He is a fabricator," said Bill Murray, the former CIA station chief in Paris. Weldon was furious: The agency had dismissed Ali, he insisted, "because they want to avoid, at all costs, drawing the United States into a war with Iran."

......................

Such covert efforts by Feith's team in the Pentagon started to have the desired effect. In November 2003, Rumsfeld approved a plan known as CONPLAN 8022-02, which for the first time established a pre-emptive-strike capability against Iran. That was followed in 2004 by a top-secret "Interim Global Strike Alert Order" that put the military on a state of readiness to launch an airborne and missile attack against Iran, should Bush issue the command. "We're now at the point where we are essentially on alert," said Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, commander of the 8th Air Force. "We have the capacity to plan and execute global strikes in half a day or less."

In the end, the work of Franklin and the other members of Feith's secret office had the desired effect. Working behind the scenes, the members of the Office of Special Plans succeeded in setting the United States on the path to all-out war with Iran. Indeed, since Bush was re-elected to a second term, he has made no secret of his desire to see Tehran fall. In a victory speech of sorts on Inauguration Day in January 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney warned bluntly that Iran was "right at the top" of the administration's list of "trouble spots"—and that Israel "might well decide to act first" by attacking Iran. The Israelis, Cheney added in an obvious swipe at moderates in the State Department, would "let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterward."

Over the past six months, the administration has adopted almost all of the hard-line stance advocated by the war cabal in the Pentagon. In May, Bush's ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, appeared before AIPAC's annual conference and warned that Iran "must be made aware that if it continues down the path of international isolation, there will be tangible and painful consequences." To back up the tough talk, the State Department is spending $66 million to promote political change inside Iran—funding the same kind of dissident groups that helped drive the U.S. to war in Iraq. "We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared.

In addition, the State Department recently beefed up its Iran Desk from two people to ten, hired more Farsi speakers and set up eight intelligence units in foreign countries to focus on Iran. The administration's National Security Strategy—the official policy document that sets out U.S. strategic priorities—now calls Iran the "single country" that most threatens U.S. interests.

The shift in official policy has thrilled former members of the cabal. To them, the war in Lebanon represents the final step in their plan to turn Iran into the next Iraq.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE.

From Grist online.

Oil spill and power-plant fire wreak havoc in already-havoc-stricken Lebanon

Bombed by Israel two weeks ago, a storage fuel tank of a power plant in Beirut, Lebanon, is still burning, filling the air with dangerous fumes; another exploded, sending at least 10,000 tons of oil into the Mediterranean Sea. Particulate pollution could waft as far as Europe, and winds have pushed the oil spill dozens of miles up the coast, blackening beaches and threatening marine life like the endangered green turtle and the commercially important blue fin tuna. Lebanon lacks the resources to extinguish the oil fire; if the second tank collapses, up to 15,000 more tons of fuel could seep into the sea. Lebanon has begged assistance from Kuwait, but the spill will take months and tens of millions of dollars to clean up. "This is a catastrophe I wouldn't wish on any country in the world," said Lebanese Environment Minister Yacoub Sarraf. Meanwhile, Israeli-blocked ports are leaving Lebanon mere days from running out of fuel for power plants.


Coal-fired cooperative coughs up cash to climate crank

Say you don't like the results of climate science. What to do? Us, we suffer from night terrors. But the Colorado-based Intermountain Rural Electric Association -- a group heavily invested in coal-burning utilities -- is going with the fossil-fuel industry's favorite alternate strategy: buy more favorable science! They've donated $100,000 to notorious climate crank Pat Michaels, and are urging other industry types to come up with more. Michaels, a University of Virginia professor, fellow at the Cato Institute, and isolated scientific outlier, has long had a large megaphone, quoted endlessly by a mainstream media determined to "balance" the other 99 percent of scientists. But with other skeptical voices falling silent, perhaps from an overdue sense of shame, it's more important than ever that the remaining shills be well paid. Coal-fired utilities dread the thought of mandatory caps or taxes on carbon dioxide emissions, which would increase their operating costs and make renewable energy sources more financially attractive. Can't have that.

From The Center for American Progress.

MINIMUM WAGE -- HOUSE MAY ALLOW MINIMUM WAGE VOTE, POISON PILL ATTACHMENTS STILL A POSSIBILITY: The House "may allow a vote today on legislation to boost the minimum wage," which has been frozen at $5.15 per hour since 1997, and now has a purchasing power lower than at any point in 51 years. Though conservative House leaders "oppose an increase," they may still bring the issue to a vote. According to Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), "We're at the point where that vote is coming. I'm not sure that it's a 'must-pass,' but it will probably be a 'will-pass.'" According to a recent Pew poll, 83 percent of Americans in favor of a $2.00 per hour increase of the minimum wage. However, many House conservatives are still trying to block such a move by attaching "poison pills" to the legislation, including one that would enact President Bush's proposed "association health plans," which “allow selective groups of small businesses to be exempt from state regulation -- reducing their insurance premiums while raising them for those not in AHPs.” The result is more uninsured Americans and higher health costs. A study by Mercer Consulting found that "AHPs would increase the number of uninsured Americans by more than 1 million," and only about "one in five small employers would have lower premiums" under the plan, "while more than four out of five would actually see premiums go up."


firePosted: 27 July 2006

The Bush regime continues to break down the barriers between church and state. If you belong to a church, you should investigate whether or not they are participating in this program. If they are, raise hell.

Executive Order 13397 - Responsibilities of the Department of Homeland Security With Respect to Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
March 7th, 2006


By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to help the Federal Government coordinate a national effort to expand opportunities for faith-based and other community organizations and to strengthen their capacity to better meet America's social and community needs, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Establishment of a Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the Department of Homeland Security.

(a) The Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary) shall establish within the Department of Homeland Security (Department) a Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (Center).

(b) The Center shall be supervised by a Director appointed by Secretary. The Secretary shall consult with the Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (WHOFBCI Director) prior to making such appointment.

(c) The Department shall provide the Center with appropriate staff, administrative support, and other resources to meet its responsibilities under this order.

(d) The Center shall begin operations no later than 45 days from the date of this order.

Sec. 2. Purpose of Center. The purpose of the Center shall be to coordinate agency efforts to eliminate regulatory, contracting, and other programmatic obstacles to the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in the provision of social and community services.

READ THE REST.

ABA: Bush violating Constitution
Bar association president says signing statements erode democracy


Monday, July 24, 2006; Posted: 11:05 a.m. EDT (15:05 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush's penchant for writing exceptions to laws he has just signed violates the Constitution, an American Bar Association task force says in a report highly critical of the practice.

The ABA group, which includes a one-time FBI director and former federal appeals court judge, said the president has overstepped his authority in attaching challenges to hundreds of new laws.

The attachments, known as bill-signing statements, say Bush reserves a right to revise, interpret or disregard measures on national security and constitutional grounds.

"This report raises serious concerns crucial to the survival of our democracy," said the ABA's president, Michael Greco. "If left unchecked, the president's practice does grave harm to the separation of powers doctrine, and the system of checks and balances that have sustained our democracy for more than two centuries."

Some congressional leaders had questioned the practice. The task force's recommendations, being released Monday in Washington, will be presented to the 410,000-member group next month at its annual meeting in Hawaii.

ABA policymakers will decide whether to denounce the statements and encourage a legal fight over them.

The task force said the statements suggest the president will decline to enforce some laws. Bush has had more than 800 signing statement challenges, compared with about 600 signing statements combined for all other presidents, the group said.

READ THE REST.

From Grist online.

GM cotton doesn't cut pesticide use long term, new research indicates

Biotech giant Monsanto touts its genetically modified cotton seed -- spliced with the bollworm-killing Bt toxin -- as money- and earth-saving, because it lowers the need for pesticide use. Funny story about that: a new study found that cotton farmers using the seed soon fell back into heavier pesticide use. Researchers from Cornell University followed 481 cotton growers in China who had been using Monsanto's Bt seed, which is two to three times more expensive than conventional cotton seed. They found that for the first three years the farmers grew GM cotton, they used 70 percent less pesticides, thus earning 36 percent more income than non-GM growers. But then other bugs popped up that would normally have been killed by bollworm pesticides; after seven years, the GM-ers were using nearly as much pesticide as non-GMers, and had an income 8 percent lower. More than a third of the world's cotton is grown from Monsanto's Bt seeds, with over 105 million acres in the U.S. alone.

From The Center for American Progress.

CIVIL LIBERTIES -- SPECTER DEFENDS SHAM EAVESDROPPING 'COMPROMISE': Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) held hearings yesterday on his proposed legislation that would submit the President's warrantless wiretapping program to review by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. While the bill has been reported as a "breakthrough" and a "concession" from the White House, James Dempsey, a civil liberties advocate, yesterday criticized the deal, which, he said, "would turn the clock back to an era of unchecked presidential power, warrantless domestic surveillance and constitutional uncertainty." Specter reacted angrily to the attack, asking Dempsey if he had "ever gotten a concession from a president." Specter, however, did not really get a concession from the White House, either. His "compromise" is a sham because it makes optional what Bush is already required to do. According to his legislation, the President would not be required to submit the wiretapping program to the court; it would merely gives the President the option to do so. The White House also insisted that language be inserted into the bill that it shall not be construed to "limit the constitutional authority of the President" to collect foreign intelligence beyond the provisions of existing law. Shayana Kadidal, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, criticized the language, saying, "This is not a compromise. It is a sellout."


Think Fast

"It sucks. Honestly, it just feels like we're driving around waiting to get blown up. That's the most honest answer I could give you," said 28-year old Army Specialist Tim Ivey, about U.S. troop morale in Iraq.

60 percent: Number of Americans who believe President Bush is not respected by foreign leaders, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll.

"Following on the heels of daily papers in Augusta, Ga., and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a weekly in Greensboro, N.C., has decided to drop Ann Coulter's regular column." The paper explained reader feedback showed approval for "cutting her column at a ratio of two to one. And numbers don't lie (unless, some would say, they're being wielded by Ann Coulter)."

Exxon posted $10.36 billion in profits this quarter, the "second-largest quarterly profit ever recorded by a publicly traded U.S. company." Royal Dutch Shell pocketed $7.32 billion, a 40 percent rise from the same period last year.

In a half-hour speech to Congress yesterday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki "embraced the stance of President Bush in calling Iraq a key front in a wider battle against terrorism and in evoking the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001." Slate wonders whether the White House wrote the speech. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow acknowledged there had been "conversations" about the address within the administration.

A former Indian intelligence official said the U.S. nuclear deal with India "will allow India to produce 50 more nuclear warheads a year than it can now, by freeing up existing uranium reserves for military use." Meanwhile, the House overwhelmingly approved the deal and "rejected amendments that aimed to curb India's nuclear weapons program."

Since the Department of Homeland Security was formed in 2003, an "explosion of no-bid deals and a critical shortage of trained government contract managers have created a system prone to abuse," according to a bipartisan congressional report to be released today.


firePosted: 26 July 2006

Impeach the bastard. Where is the outrage?!

Dobbs: Why is the president ignoring our laws?
Bush, feds flout the Constitution by finding ways around laws

By Lou Dobbs


NEW YORK (CNN) -- With upraised right hand and left hand on the Bible, each of our presidents, from George Washington to George W. Bush, has solemnly sworn to "preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution of the United States.

The American Bar Association claims President Bush has violated that oath by issuing hundreds of "signing statements" to disregard selected provisions of the laws that Congress passed and he signed.

A bipartisan, 11-member panel of the ABA found that President Bush is not only disregarding laws but using such signing statements far more than any president in history. In fact, Bush has used signing statements to raise constitutional objections to more than 800 provisions in more than 100 laws. All of the presidents combined before 2001 had issued only 600.

The ABA asserts that signing statements cannot be a substitute for a presidential veto and that such an assertion of presidential power amounts to a line-item veto, which the Supreme Court already has ruled unconstitutional.

The matter will likely be resolved in court. But it stands as a metaphor for a 21st century America that is no longer secure in the claim to be a nation of laws.

READ THE REST.

This is appalling. I can't believe a repressive, woman-hating piece of garbage like this got through.

Breaking news! Last night, the Senate passed a very dangerous bill called the "Child Custody Protection Act." The message that comes with the Senate's action last night couldn't be clearer: we need more pro-choice senators! Please do two things today to help us achieve that goal: First, click here to donate to our electoral effort to put Congress back in pro-choice hands so we can defeat dangerous legislation that threatens women's privacy and health: https://secure.ga0.org/02/elections2006_piechart/nzdA4_y91J4a2?

Second, click here to see how your senators voted, so you can thank them for a pro-choice vote or share your disappointment that they didn't protect the rights of all women: http://prochoiceaction.org/ct/pdA4_y91fzDc/

The legislation makes it a criminal act for any person -- including a grandparent or clergy member -- to accompany a young women to an out-of-state doctor for abortion care if she lives in a state with a strict parental-involvement law. The punishment for violating this law is a year in prison. This punitive bill will do nothing to protect young women's safety or improve family communication - and it certainly won't prevent teen pregnancy in the first place, the responsible approach Congress should have taken.

*****************************************
NARAL Pro-Choice America
ELECTIONS 2006: PRO-CHOICE! ACT IT. VOTE IT.
Pro-choice voters can defeat radical right politicians this November. Victory in November starts with you. Click here:
https://secure.ga0.org/02/elections2006_piechart/nzdA4_y91J4a2?

From Grist online.

NASA deletes planet-protecting phrasing from mission statement

The phrase "to understand and protect our home planet" was quietly deleted from NASA's mission statement in February; the agency's mission now is "to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research." NASA's 19,000 employees were neither consulted nor informed ahead of time of the deletion. The planet-protection phrase had been added to the mission statement in 2002; scientists say it shaped research priorities, and the deletion will reduce incentive for research on phenomena like -- oh, to pick one at random -- climate change. Agency spokesflack David Steitz said the change reflected President Bush's goal of flying people to the moon and Mars. The deleted phrase was oft-repeated last winter by top NASA climate scientist James Hansen, whose advocacy on the issue of global warming has famously drawn censorious pressure from political appointees; Steitz said Hansen's use of the phrase and its subsequent disappearance from the mission statement was "pure coincidence."


Hurricane researchers unite in call to curb coastal development

The media has made much of the disagreement among hurricane researchers about the effects of global warming on storm strength. So much, in fact, that it's starting to annoy the hurricane researchers. Yesterday, 10 prominent experts in the field -- who have disagreed among themselves about the climate question -- released a statement saying that the media should pay more attention to the real problem, about which there is broad consensus: vulnerable coastal areas of the country are being overdeveloped. Death and financial ruin are sure to follow, they say, and the government should quit subsidizing the whole mess: "We call upon leaders of government and industry to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of building practices, and insurance, land-use, and disaster-relief policies that currently serve to promote an ever-increasing vulnerability to hurricanes." Word.


Drought could turn Amazon into desert, researchers warn

The Amazon rainforest -- soon to be called The Artist Formerly Known as the Amazon Rainforest, and then just some weird little symbol -- appears to be undergoing a second year of drought, and that has researchers seriously alarmed. Starting in 2002, scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center simulated drought on a small section of the Amazon and found that after two years, the trees began to die, fall, and release more than two-thirds of their lifetime storage of carbon dioxide. Widespread desertification of the rainforest would likely spread drought into the northern hemisphere; the Amazon contains 90 billion tons of CO2, enough to accelerate global warming by 50 percent, spinning it out of control and eventually making the world uninhabitable. Computer models predict that harm to 50 percent of the Amazon would represent a tipping point -- after that, the whole thing starts going down the tubes. Today, about 20 percent has been totally razed and 22 percent has been harmed by logging. Oy. It's only Tuesday and we're already doomed.

From The Center for American Progress.

MILITARY -- PENTAGON APPROVED $11 BILLION CONTRACT FOR USELESS WEAPONS SYSTEM: Following the advice of the taxpayer-funded Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), the Air Force recently approved an $11 billion contract for the controversial F-22 fighter jet, arguably the Pentagon’s most useless weapon system. One of the most expensive fighter programs ever undertaken, the F-22 has been plagued by cost overruns and technical difficulties, including a cockpit door that got stuck and defective landing gear that led to crashing a plane on its nose. More importantly, the jet is unnecessary, conceived in 1985 to fight a Soviet fighter jet that was never built. Ignoring bipartisan opposition and criticism from the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service, which both concluded that the plane was "unqualified" for an extended contract, the Pentagon based its support for the F-22 system on an endorsement from the "independent" IDA. But as the Washington Post reported yesterday, IDA President Dennis Blair is a "member of the board of a subcontractor for the F-22 Raptor fighter program, EDO Corp." Although Blair admits he was "at the top of the process" of drafting the report urging the Pentagon to approve the contract, he refused to recuse himself. Senate Armed Services Charmain John Warner (R-VA) called the news "extremely, extremely disturbing," and asked the Pentagon to "clean up" this "sad" situation.

ETHICS -- BOHENER RAISING MORE FROM LOBBYISTS AND CORPORATE PACS THAN DELAY: While running for House Majority Leader in the aftermath of the Jack Abramoff scandal, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) pledged to end the K Street Project for lobbyists and "lead the effort to bring about the kind of reforms the American people are expecting from Congress." Nearly six months later, not only are proposed ethics reforms "tied up" and "inadequate," but a review of financial holdings shows that Boehner has raised corporate and lobbyist contributions at a faster clip than even criminally-indicted former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX). Relying on his extensive network of "longstanding" relationships with lobbyists, which include those from "drug and cigarette makers, banks, health insurers, oil companies, and military contractors," Boehner has raised campaign contributions at a rate of $10,000 a day since February and has accepted 39 trips since 2000, compared to 18 for DeLay. Boehner has "portrayed his ties to Washington lobbyists as something to be proud of," and has refused to return donations he received from Abramoff's clients.


firePosted: 14 July 2006

From Grist online.

House bill would keep states from setting tough toxics rules

House Republicans are pushing legislation that would keep states from setting standards for pesticides and health-threatening industrial chemicals that are more stringent than federal regulations. If passed, the bill could nullify a California ban on brominated fire retardants, for example, and restrictions in San Francisco that limit certain chemicals in baby products. The bill would also require the U.S. EPA to use a cost-benefit standard when determining whether to ban certain toxics, and would impose no timetable for regulation, potentially delaying phaseouts of dangerous chemicals while the agency studies whether regulations are too hard on industry. The legislation was OK'd by one House committee this week, but would still need approval from another before moving to the House floor, and the Senate has yet to take it up at all. The bill is opposed by 12 state attorneys general, the American Nurses Association, and more than 60 environmental and public-health groups.


firePosted: 12 July 2006

The plot to defeat our liberty
By ROBYN E. BLUMNER, Times Perspective Columnist
Published July 9, 2006


For any form of tyranny to succeed, there have to be people who roll up their sleeves and get the job done. Repression doesn't just happen. It has to be organized, arranged, justified and marketed to a willing populace. In other words, it takes a team.

Most tyrannies aren't the epic variety involving a Stalin or a Hussein. They are more subtly subversive, sapping freedom from a fragile system that precariously depends on the integrity of those in charge. It doesn't take much more than a corrupt sheriff, a mayor who helps a developer grab private property with eminent domain or a president who claims that terror suspects have no rights to negate our foundation of liberty and fairness.

And aides to petty and great tyrants alike have a central role in this. Their job is to dispense with the rules that protect the vulnerable from the strong, and make the strong stronger.

In a nation of laws like the United States, it is the lawyers who are the most helpful in this regard, and the Bush administration has had two standouts: David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's current chief of staff, former counsel and longtime associate; and John Yoo, a law professor at UC Berkeley who worked in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, a small office that advises the executive branch on the constitutionality of policy.

These men successfully embroidered the legal justifications for a kinglike presidency that may disregard federal law, constitutional rights and the express terms of ratified treaties if the president believes it furthers national security.

Emanating from this one tyrannical idea has come an entire legal regime giving the president the power to approve torture, secret prisons, indefinite detention, kangaroo military commissions and warrantless domestic surveillance. These are all programs contrary to law and, not irrelevantly, our moral code.

New York Republican congressman Peter King has been throwing around the term "treason" against the New York Times for informing the American people about the Bush administration's surveillance of international financial transactions. But what the New York Times did in disclosing a follow-the-money program that the administration has been essentially crowing about for years is piffle compared to the acts of Yoo and Addington. These men, working at the behest of Bush and Cheney (okay, mostly Cheney), have conspired to undo our checks and balances by enabling the president to assert despotic powers. Theirs is sabotage from within.

In a thoroughgoing piece in the July 3 New Yorker, reporter Jane Mayer lifts the veil off the secretive Addington and describes a man obsessed with setting forth a "New Paradigm" in which the commander in chief may "disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries."

The plan predates 9/11, according to Bruce Fein, a Republican activist who worked in the Reagan Justice Department and has known Cheney and Addington for decades. "The idea of reducing Congress to a cipher was already in play," Fein told Mayer. "It was Cheney and Addington's political agenda."

READ THE REST.


firePosted: 11 July 2006

From Grist online.

Ethanol ain't all it's cracked up to be, new study says

A new study casts serious doubt on ethanol's status as a green wonder-fuel. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers lay out a series of grim findings about corn-based biofuel. Runoff from large-scale corn cultivation contaminates waterways with nitrogen, phosphorus, and pesticides. As a motor fuel, corn-based ethanol generates just 23 percent more energy than is required to make it. And finally, corny ethanol reduces greenhouse-gas emissions by a slim 12 percent over gasoline. The study found that soybean biodiesel outperforms the corny stuff, but that "neither can replace much petroleum without impacting food supplies." The best biofuel bet would be still-in-the-lab cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass or other woody plants, but most researchers agree that even widespread cellulosic ethanol production would have nowhere near the output to replace gasoline. Researchers also said that people are just going to have to get used to driving less, and quit bitching and moaning about it. No, wait, that was us.

From The Center for American Progress.

ENVIRONMENT -- SOMETHING STINKS AT THE EPA: America's farms produce an estimated 500 million tons of manure per year -- three times the amount of waste that humans in this country produce. These masses don't just stink, they are also "laden with harmful bacteria and chemicals" and pollute the nation's water and air. According to a 1998 report from the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), muck from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) "has fouled roughly 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and groundwater in 17 states. More recent data show that 29 states have reported water contamination from these feedlots." The EPA designed a new rule that purports to fix this problem, by revamping the federal permitting process required under the Clean Water Act. But in reality, the rule would "leave up to farmers to define what constitutes pollution," allowing them to determine whether they need to apply for a federal permit. "The loophole basically renders the Clean Water Act meaningless when it comes to regulating the fecal discharge from CAFOs," said Michele Merkel, a former staff attorney in the EPA's enforcement division. "It says to these massive facilities, 'Hey, figure out if you need a permit to pollute, and then come and get one.' It's appalling." Sens. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Larry Craig (R-ID) have now joined the EPA and are planning to introduce legislation stating that manure should not be classified as a hazardous substance. Much of the pressure on Congress to exempt manure has come from the Farmers for Clean Air and Water -- consisting of the American Farm Bureau, Tyson Foods and other livestock, poultry, and dairy companies -- which has hired the Livingston Group to lobby lawmakers.


Deficit's Good News Less Than Meets the Eye
Bush’s expected announcement today heralding the shrinking budget deficit is full of deception. “This will be the third year in a row that the administration put forth relatively gloomy deficit forecasts early on, only to announce months later that things had turned out better than expected.”


firePosted: 10 July 2006

Terrorists, Data Mining, and the Base Rate Fallacy by Bruce Schneier

I have already explained why NSA-style wholesale surveillance data-mining systems are useless for finding terrorists. Here's a more formal explanation:

Floyd Rudmin, a professor at a Norwegian university, applies the mathematics of conditional probability, known as Bayes' Theorem, to demonstrate that the NSA's surveillance cannot successfully detect terrorists unless both the percentage of terrorists in the population and the accuracy rate of their identification are far higher than they are. He correctly concludes that "NSA's surveillance system is useless for finding terrorists."

The surveillance is, however, useful for monitoring political opposition and stymieing the activities of those who do not believe the government's propaganda.

And here's the analysis:

What is the probability that people are terrorists given that NSA's mass surveillance identifies them as terrorists? If the probability is zero (p=0.00), then they certainly are not terrorists, and NSA was wasting resources and damaging the lives of innocent citizens. If the probability is one (p=1.00), then they definitely are terrorists, and NSA has saved the day. If the probability is fifty-fifty (p=0.50), that is the same as guessing the flip of a coin. The conditional probability that people are terrorists given that the NSA surveillance system says they are, that had better be very near to one (p=1.00) and very far from zero (p=0.00).

The mathematics of conditional probability were figured out by the Scottish logician Thomas Bayes. If you Google "Bayes' Theorem", you will get more than a million hits. Bayes' Theorem is taught in all elementary statistics classes. Everyone at NSA certainly knows Bayes' Theorem.

To know if mass surveillance will work, Bayes' theorem requires three estimations:

1. The base-rate for terrorists, i.e. what proportion of the population are terrorists;
2. The accuracy rate, i.e., the probability that real terrorists will be identified by NSA;
3. The misidentification rate, i.e., the probability that innocent citizens will be misidentified by NSA as terrorists.

No matter how sophisticated and super-duper are NSA's methods for identifying terrorists, no matter how big and fast are NSA's computers, NSA's accuracy rate will never be 100% and their misidentification rate will never be 0%. That fact, plus the extremely low base-rate for terrorists, means it is logically impossible for mass surveillance to be an effective way to find terrorists.

I will not put Bayes' computational formula here. It is available in all elementary statistics books and is on the web should any readers be interested. But I will compute some conditional probabilities that people are terrorists given that NSA's system of mass surveillance identifies them to be terrorists.

The US Census shows that there are about 300 million people living in the USA.

Suppose that there are 1,000 terrorists there as well, which is probably a high estimate. The base-rate would be 1 terrorist per 300,000 people. In percentages, that is .00033%, which is way less than 1%. Suppose that NSA surveillance has an accuracy rate of .40, which means that 40% of real terrorists in the USA will be identified by NSA's monitoring of everyone's email and phone calls. This is probably a high estimate, considering that terrorists are doing their best to avoid detection. There is no evidence thus far that NSA has been so successful at finding terrorists. And suppose NSA's misidentification rate is .0001, which means that .01% of innocent people will be misidentified as terrorists, at least until they are investigated, detained and interrogated. Note that .01% of the US population is 30,000 people. With these suppositions, then the probability that people are terrorists given that NSA's system of surveillance identifies them as terrorists is only p=0.0132, which is near zero, very far from one. Ergo, NSA's surveillance system is useless for finding terrorists.

Suppose that NSA's system is more accurate than .40, let's say, .70, which means that 70% of terrorists in the USA will be found by mass monitoring of phone calls and email messages. Then, by Bayes' Theorem, the probability that a person is a terrorist if targeted by NSA is still only p=0.0228, which is near zero, far from one, and useless.

Suppose that NSA's system is really, really, really good, really, really good, with an accuracy rate of .90, and a misidentification rate of .00001, which means that only 3,000 innocent people are misidentified as terrorists. With these suppositions, then the probability that people are terrorists given that NSA's system of surveillance identifies them as terrorists is only p=0.2308, which is far from one and well below flipping a coin. NSA's domestic monitoring of everyone's email and phone calls is useless for finding terrorists.

As an exercise to the reader, you can use the same analysis to show that data mining is an excellent tool for finding stolen credit cards, or stolen cell phones. Data mining is by no means useless; it's just useless for this particular application.

From Grist online.

Bush plans nuke deal with Russia; G8 to spread nuclear power worldwide

On the eve of next weekend's meeting of the G8 -- where developed nations will unveil an ironically named "global energy security" plan that would expand nuclear-power technology across the globe -- the U.S. will announce a deal with Russia that would allow broad cooperation between the two countries' civilian nuclear industries. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been pushing hard for nuclear power: Under the G8 plan, he hopes to use his country's nuclear expertise to mass-produce floating nuclear power plants on barges. Seriously. And under the deal with the U.S., Russia would be paid billions to store much of the world's nuclear waste -- especially comforting given the country's solid nuclear security record. The G8 plan would resurrect fast breeder reactors, which don't require as much uranium but produce highly fissile waste; thankfully, developing nations that receive the technology would have to promise not to use it for weaponry. Possibly even pinkie swear. We sure hope Iran and North Korea aren't reading the newspapers.


World's amphibians in big trouble, experts warn

The world's amphibians could go extinct. All of them. Soon. So warned 50 amphibian experts from around the globe in the journal Science on Friday. Along with the same-old, same-old threats of habitat destruction, pollution, pesticides, UV radiation, and invasive species, amphibians are being wiped out by a rapidly spreading fungal disease. Climate change has made frogs, toads, newts, salamanders, and other amphibians more susceptible to the disease. "For the first time in modern history, because of the way that humans are impacting our natural world, we're facing the extinction of an entire class of organisms," said Claude Gascon of Conservation International. The scientists announced an Amphibian Survival Alliance with a goal to fund a five-year, $400 million rescue mission. Up to 122 of the 5,743 known amphibian species have gone extinct since 1980, at least 427 are critically endangered, and almost a third are threatened.


Deal lets Navy make limited use of sonar in exercises off Hawaii

A temporary ban on Navy sonar use has been lifted, after the Navy agreed to take steps to protect whales in return for the dropping of a lawsuit by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The Navy is in the midst of the world's largest naval war exercise near Hawaii; for the remainder of the exercise, mid-frequency active sonar will be disallowed within 25 nautical miles of the brand spankin' new Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument. Also, some Navy sailors and pilots will be designated with the important if not glamorous job of, well, whale watching -- keeping eyes and ears out for whales in distress. "Military readiness does not require, and our laws do not allow, our natural resources to be sacrificed in the name of national defense," said Joel Reynolds of NRDC. He added that while enviros didn't get everything they wanted, they believed the settlement was the best they could do. Marine mammals have been harmed or killed in at least 11 naval exercises worldwide since 1998.


firePosted: 9 July 2006

This is the danger of allowing a free press to be co-opted.

“I Was a Mouthpiece for the American Military”
An embedded TV producer's frank assessment
Posted on Friday, July 7, 2006. By Ken Silverstein.


In an interesting interview published this week in Foreign Policy, Newsweek's Rod Nordland spoke about the difficulties of reporting from Iraq. He said that the Bush Administration has been largely successful in managing the news “to the extent that most Americans are not aware of just how dire it is and how little progress has been made” and revealed that some embedded reporters “have been blacklisted because the military wasn’t happy with [their] work.”

Many embedded reporters have managed to do fine work from Iraq, but there are significant obstacles for even the best and most determined journalists. I recently spoke with a former senior TV producer for Reuters who worked in Iraq between 2003 and 2004. The producer, who asked that she not be identified by name, arrived in Tikrit soon after the capture of Saddam Hussein on December 13, 2003, and was embedded with American troops for 45 days. She told me that, over the years, she has worked closely with the French army, NATO troops in the Balkans, and UN peacekeepers in covering war and conflict, but she said had never faced the sorts of restrictions imposed by the Pentagon on journalists in Iraq. “I was,” she said, “a mouthpiece for the American military.”

In Tikrit, she was based with U.S. troops at a military compound established at one of Saddam's former palaces, where she provided pool coverage for Reuters TV and AP TV (which was fed to other media outlets). When insurgents attacked civilians, she told me, the American military would rush her to the scene so she could record the carnage and get shots of grieving Iraqis.

When it came to other stories that were clearly sympathetic to the U.S. side, such as funerals for American soldiers killed in combat, the U.S. military was extremely helpful—indeed, encouraging. In such cases, she was granted full access and allowed to film speeches by officials honoring the dead, the posthumous awarding of medals, and other aspects of the ceremony.

But when this producer wanted to pursue a story that might have cast the war effort in an unfavorable light, the situation was entirely different. Every few days, she said, she would receive a call from the Reuters bureau in Baghdad and discover that reporters there had heard, via local news reports or from the bureau's network of Iraqi sources, about civilians being killed or injured by American troops. But when she asked to leave the compound to independently confirm such incidents, her requests were invariably turned down.

.......................

She and the other journalists stationed at the base in Tikrit grew cynical about their work and came to believe that they were being used. “Other reporters in Iraq,” she said, “especially local Iraqis [working for Western outlets], were able to get both sides of the story, but we were getting only one side.” During her 45 days in Tikrit, she told me, she didn't file a single story critical of the American project in Iraq. “There was no balance,” she said. “What we were doing wasn't real journalism.”

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE.


firePosted: 8 July 2006

A wise man speaks wise words.

We Need Fewer Secrets
By Jimmy Carter
The Washington Post
Monday 03 July 2006

The U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) turns 40 tomorrow, the day we celebrate our independence. But this anniversary will not be a day of celebration for the right to information in our country. Our government leaders have become increasingly obsessed with secrecy. Obstructionist policies and deficient practices have ensured that many important public documents and official actions remain hidden from our view.

The events in our nation today - war, civil rights violations, spiraling energy costs, campaign finance and lobbyist scandals - dictate the growing need and citizens' desire for access to public documents. A poll conducted last year found that 70 percent of Americans are either somewhat or very concerned about government secrecy. This is understandable when the U.S. government uses at least 50 designations to restrict unclassified information and created 81 percent more "secrets" in 2005 than in 2000, according to the watchdog coalition OpenTheGovernment.org.

Moreover, the response to FOIA requests often does not satisfy the transparency objectives or provisions of the law, which, for example, mandates an answer to information requests within 20 working days. According to the National Security Archives 2003 report, median response times may be as long as 905 working days at the Department of Agriculture and 1,113 working days at the Environmental Protection Agency. The only recourse for unsatisfied requesters is to appeal to the U.S. District Court, which is costly, timely and unavailable to most people. Policies that favor secrecy, implementation that does not satisfy the law, lack of a mandated oversight body and inaccessible enforcement mechanisms have put the United States behind much of the world in the right to information.

Increasingly, developed and developing nations are recognizing that a free flow of information is fundamental for democracy. Whether it's government or private companies that provide public services, access to their records increases accountability and allows citizens to participate more fully in public life. It is a critical tool in fighting corruption, and people can use it to improve their own lives in the areas of health care, education, housing and other public services. Perhaps most important, access to information advances citizens' trust in their government, allowing people to understand policy decisions and monitor their implementation.

Nearly 70 countries have passed legislation to ensure the right to request and receive public documents, the vast majority in the past decade and many in middle- and low-income nations. While the United States retreats, the international trend toward transparency grows, with laws often more comprehensive and effective than our own. Unlike FOIA, which covers only the executive branch, modern legislation includes all branches of power and some private companies. Moreover, new access laws establish ways to monitor implementation and enforce the right, holding agencies accountable for providing information quickly and fully.

What difference do these laws make?

In South Africa, a country emerging from authoritarian rule under the apartheid system, the act covering access to information gives individuals an opportunity to demand public documents and hold government accountable for its actions, an inconceivable notion just a decade ago. Requests have exposed inappropriate land-use practices, outdated HIV-AIDS policies and a scandalous billion-dollar arms deal. In the United Kingdom, the new law forced the government to reveal the factual basis for its decision to go to war in Iraq.

In Jamaica, one of the countries where the Carter Center has worked for the past four years to help establish an access-to-information regime, citizens have used their right to request documents concerning the protection of more than 2,500 children in public orphanages. Two years ago there were credible allegations of sexual and physical abuse. In the past year, a coalition of interested groups has made more than 40 information requests to determine whether new government recommendations were implemented to ensure the future safety and well-being of these vulnerable children.

Even in such unlikely places as Mali, India and Shanghai, efforts that allow access to information are ensuring greater transparency in decision making and a freer flow of information.

In the United States, we must seek amendments to FOIA to be more in line with emerging international standards, such as covering all branches of government; providing an oversight body to monitor compliance; including sanctions for failure to adhere to the law; and establishing an appeal mechanism that is easy to access, speedy and affordable. We cannot take freedom of information for granted. Our democracy depends on it.

What the HELL is the military thinking?

Hate Groups Are Infiltrating the Military, Group Asserts
By JOHN KIFNER
Published: July 7, 2006


A decade after the Pentagon declared a zero-tolerance policy for racist hate groups, recruiting shortfalls caused by the war in Iraq have allowed "large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists" to infiltrate the military, according to a watchdog organization.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist and right-wing militia groups, estimated that the numbers could run into the thousands, citing interviews with Defense Department investigators and reports and postings on racist Web sites and magazines.

"We've got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad," the group quoted a Defense Department investigator as saying in a report to be posted today on its Web site, www.splcenter.org. "That's a problem."

A Defense Department spokeswoman said officials there could not comment on the report because they had not yet seen it.

The center called on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to appoint a task force to study the problem, declare a new zero tolerance policy and strictly enforce it.

The report said that neo-Nazi groups like the National Alliance, whose founder, William Pierce, wrote "The Turner Diaries," the novel that was the inspiration and blueprint for Timothy J. McVeigh's bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, sought to enroll followers in the Army to get training for a race war.

The groups are being abetted, the report said, by pressure on recruiters, particularly for the Army, to meet quotas that are more difficult to reach because of the growing unpopularity of the war in Iraq.

READ THE REST.


firePosted: 7 July 2006

From People for the American Way. If you haven't done so yet, please sign the petition! And join PFAW while you're at it.

Last Monday, the Ohio Joint Committee for Agency Rule Review (JCARR) voted to uphold the restrictive and illegal voter registration rules enacted by Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. But People For the American Way Foundation is still in the fight!

Many of you signed PFAW Foundation’s Election Protection 365 petition denouncing the burdensome regulations and urging JCARR to do the right thing and reject right-wing voter suppression tactics in Ohio. By a party-line vote, your calls for justice were turned down.

Today, People For the American Way Foundation joins several other civic organizations in filing a lawsuit to overturn recent changes to Ohio election law – including Secretary of State Blackwell’s undemocratic rules. PFAW Foundation believes the changes in Ohio law violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, and protections contained in the first and fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

While PFAW Foundation is busy trying to protect the integrity of Ohio’s election system by fighting voter suppression tactics in court, People For the American Way is running full throttle in what has become a real battle to renew expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

Our emergency petition to save the VRA has reached 50,000 signatures, and to further ratchet up the pressure on Congress, PFAW will be holding public demonstrations, conducting meetings with House staff, keeping this issue in the media, and redoubling our efforts – with your help – to get as many new signatures on our petition as possible, so we can deliver more box-loads up to Capitol Hill when Congress gets back from break!

If you have not signed the petition, please do so now at www.SaveTheVotingRightsAct.org.

If you have signed, please forward this e-mail and tell your friends about www.SaveTheVotingRightsAct.org.

Both PFAW and PFAW Foundation are on the front lines to protect the voting rights that sit at the core of our democracy. Thank you for standing with us in this fight.

From Grist online.

Coral and other sea critters suffer as CO2 makes oceans more acidic

By the end of the century, oceans may no longer be livable habitat for coral, a coalition of U.S. scientists warned yesterday in a new report. The world's oceans absorb about a third of the atmosphere's carbon dioxide, which these days is a little more than they can handle: rising CO2 levels are making oceans more acidic, which weakens coral reefs and can dissolve the calcified exoskeletons of plankton and marine snails. "These organisms probably don't have the adaptive ability to respond to this new onslaught," says marine biologist Christopher Langdon. Plankton may not be the sexiest sea creatures around (hello, dolphins!), but as the base of the marine food chain, their fortunes reverberate outward. Ocean acidity is now higher than it has been in years, possibly millions of years. "It's the single most profound environmental change I've learned about in my entire career," says prominent biodiversity expert Thomas E. Lovejoy.

Just change your dang light bulbs already

If efficient, low-energy lighting were installed all around the world, global energy costs could be cut by nearly a tenth, says the International Energy Agency. The technology is widely available, would curb light pollution, and, according to a new IEA report, could keep up to 16 billion tons of carbon out of the atmosphere over the next quarter century. Today, artificial lighting accounts for nearly 20 percent of the world's electricity consumption, and "[w]ithout rapid action, the amount of energy used for lighting will be 80 percent higher in 2030," says IEA Executive Director Claude Mandil. We're sure you can guess who could make the biggest impact: The average American home uses 10 times the artificial light of the average Chinese home, and 30 times that of the average Indian home. The executive director of Greenpeace U.K. is urging governments to mandate efficient lighting in building codes. What a bright idea!

From The Center for American Progress. My guess is that it works far more in the Bush regime's favor to have Bin Laden alive and out there, than to actually bring him to justice. The Bushies want an endless, amorphic "war". The last thing they want is closure.

TERRORISM -- CIA'S BIN LADEN UNIT CLOSES ITS DOORS BEFORE 9/11 CHIEF IS BROUGHT TO JUSTICE: Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that the CIA decided to shut down a secret unit that had the mission of hunting down Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants. Shortly after 9/11, Bush pledged to bring bin Laden to justice "dead or alive." Nearly five years later, bin Laden "is apparently still alive and spreading his message." Michael Scheuer, a former senior C.I.A. official who was the first head of the unit, said the move reflected a mistaken view inside the agency that bin Laden is no longer the threat he once was. "This will clearly denigrate our operations against Al Qaeda," he said. CIA officials countered that the move "reflects a belief that the agency can better deal with high-level threats by focusing on regional trends rather than on specific organizations or individuals." Yesterday, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) sent a letter to National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, expressing his concern over the closure of the unit. "[D]isbanding the bin Laden unit sends the message to the terrorists that they can kill thousands of Americans without being held to account," he wrote. "Reconstituting the bin Laden unit now would make it clear that we will never rest until he has been brought to justice."

ADMINISTRATION -- BUSH EXPECTED TO PICK ANTI-REGULATION ZEALOT FOR PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICE: President Bush is expected to nominate Susan Dudley as the next head of an obscure but “super-powerful office that oversees many business regulations.” The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs holds sway over federal regulatory agencies like the EPA and helps set regulatory policy for a wide range of issues, from workplace safety to water quality. The most recent head, John Graham, “demonstrated consistent hostility to protections for public health, safety and the environment over his career.” And according to Frank O’Donnell of Clean Air Watch, Dudley “makes John Graham look like Ralph Nader.” As the director of regulatory studies at the industry-backed Mercatus Center she has worked to oppose vital public health regulation as a “hidden tax” that hinders profits. A few lowlights: Dudley opposed EPA plans to set tougher public health standards for smog; opposed lower-polluting cars and SUVs and the use of cleaner gasoline; opposed requiring air bags in cars, preferring to leave public safety decisions "to the market place"; and opposed stronger regulations for arsenic in drinking water, claming that there “is a wide range of uncertainty in the science surrounding the health effects of arsenic in U.S. drinking water supplies.”


firePosted: 3 July 2006

From the Organic Consumers Assoc..

BOYCOTT OF HORIZON DAIRY GENERATING NATIONAL PUBLICITY
The Organic Consumers Association's (OCA) call for a boycott of the nation's largest organic dairy brand, Horizon Organic has recently generated stories in the New York Times, USA Today, National Public Radio, and the Associated Press. The media coverage has highlighted the growing backlash by organic consumers against industrial scale dairy feedlots, who are misleadingly labeling their products as "USDA Organic," even though the animals on these factory farms have little or no access to pasture. In addition, most of the cows on these giant feedlots have been imported from conventional dairies, where they were weaned on blood, injected with hormones and antibiotics, and fed genetically engineered grains and slaughterhouse waste. While Horizon sources half of its milk from family farms where the lactating cows do have access to pasture, Aurora Organic, OCA's other major boycott target, gets all of its milk from intensive confinement feedlots. Aurora sells its "organic" milk to supermarket chains including Costco, Safeway, Giant, and Wild Oats, who bottle it under their own private labels. For more information, see the Safeguard Organic Standards section of the OCA website http://www.organicconsumers.org/sos.cfm as well as http://www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_923.cfm


EPA STAFF REVOLTS (4,536 OCA members have taken action on this issue so far): Nine thousand EPA scientists have submitted a strongly worded letter to the EPA's Administrator, Stephen Johnson, protesting that "industry pressure" is compromising the "integrity of the science upon which agency decisions are based." The scientists are calling for a ban on pesticides known to be highly toxic. Research indicates that several dozen widely sprayed organophosphate pesticides, similar in composition to bio-warfare nerve gases, pose serious health threats, especially to children. Learn more and Take Action: http://organicconsumers.org/epa7.htm

From gregpalast.com.

BUSH TEAM HELPS RULING PARTY “FLORIDIZE” MEXICAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
by Greg Palast


Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, “ARMED MADHOUSE: Who’s Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats Bush Sinks, the Scheme to Steal ‘08, No Child’s Behind Left and other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War.”

Friday, June 30 — GEORGE Bush’s operatives have plans to jigger with the upcoming elections. I’m not talking about the November ‘06 vote in the USA (though they have plans for that, too). I’m talking about the election this Sunday in Mexico for their Presidency.

It begins with an FBI document marked, “Counterterrorism” and “Foreign Intelligence Collection” and “Secret.” Date: “9/17/2001,” six days after the attack on the World Trade towers. It’s nice to know the feds got right on the ball, if a little late.

What does this have to do with jiggering Mexico’s election? Hold that thought.

Hunting for Terrorists in Latin AmericaThis document is what’s called a “guidance” memo for using a private contractor to provide databases on dangerous foreigners. Good idea. We know the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the Persian Gulf Emirates. So you’d think the “Intelligence Collection” would be aimed at getting info on the guys in the Gulf.

No so. When we received the document, we obtained as well its classified appendix. The target nations for “foreign counterterrorism investigation” were nowhere near the Persian Gulf. Every one was in Latin America — Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico and a handful of others.

READ THE REST.


DON'T KID YOURSELF By Greg Palast

Don’t kid yourselves. If you think Bush’s lower-than-my-laces ratings portend victory for Democrats, that’s what Rove wants you to think. Bush shoplifted Ohio (and New Mexico and Iowa and…) see, he doesn’t need your vote. And he doesn’t count your vote, either. The Rove-bots are preparing next year’s model (probably Good Doctor Frist) and will load the bad vibes on to the lame duck and the lame Dick. Frist will run on a platform of stopping homosexual flag-burnings by enforced readings of the Ten Commandments in courthouses.

What to do?

I wrote ARMED MADHOUSE for just such a contingency. We can’t do a damn thing to stop these dangerous inmates running this asylum unless we know HOW they’re doing it.

READ THE REST.

Democracy cannot survive without a free and unfettered press.

The enemy is not the press, Mr. President
By ANN McFEATTERS
Scripps Howard News Service
29-JUN-06


WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration's current battle in its war on the press has become a liberal-versus-conservative diatribe. What a shame.

President Bush recently condemned The New York Times in particular for writing, along with The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times, that the CIA and the Treasury Department had access to a major international financial database in their quest to find terrorists.

The fact that a newspaper disclosed it makes it harder to win this war on terror, the president said, angrily jabbing the air with his finger.

The uproar has been predictable. Conservatives have called for legal action against the New York paper and accused it of being treasonous. Liberals have said this is another indication that Bush's vendetta against the press is unreasonable and shows the administration's extensive efforts to extend presidential power beyond legal limits. There is no proof, they say, that the disclosure has hindered the administration's war on terror.

What the American people need to know is that as long ago as 2003, terrorists stopped using electronic footprints in their financial transactions and went underground. The CIA slowly realized that terrorists had changed tactics and had begun using couriers and other means to spread money for training, planning and other operations.

It's only the American people as a group who didn't know the significance about the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift), which, after all, has a Web site and represents 7,800 financial institutions in 200 countries. Terrorists, who tend to be smarter and more adaptable than we think, have known about Swift for years.

Once again we are debating something of little significance and ignoring major issues, such as how off track the war on terror has been pushed by an administration that does not trust its people to know the truth.

READ THE REST.


firePosted: 1 July 2006

Iraq war backfiring on US, experts warn
Bob Deans, Washington


THE United States is losing its fight against terrorism and the Iraq war is the main reason, more than 80 per cent of American terrorism and national security experts have said in a survey.

One expert, former CIA official Michael Scheuer, said the war in Iraq had provided global terrorist groups with a recruiting bonanza and a valuable training ground.

"The war in Iraq broke our back in the war on terror," said Mr Scheuer, author of Imperial Hubris, a book highly critical of the Bush Administration's anti-terrorism efforts. "It has made everything more difficult and the threat more existential."

READ THE REST.


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