Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The state investigation also did not convince Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that the bizarre results were accurate. She asked GAO, the Government Accountability Office, to conduct a "top down" investigation of those machines and others. She also wants printers that produce paper records to be tested. There have been reports of printer failures that have spoiled as much as 10% of paper records. (Cuyohoga County, Ohio). One reason DREs may be causing large undervotes is simply that the machines intimidate voters not comfortable with using computers. When New Mexico switched to paper ballots in the 2006 election undervotes in predominately Hispanic and Native precincts plummeted.
No where in the Constitution does it say you have to be rocket scientist in order to vote. These machines are turning out to be the 21st century's version of a literacy test. Its time we just stop this game of electronic hide and seek with our votes and return to well designed paper ballots until the electronic voting machine industry can conclusively prove that its machines operate transparently, accurately, and reliably at a 95% level of confidence. If they cannot meet that standard, they have no business selling the machines to under trained state and county election officials.
A few pages further on, the paper reports that the Iraqi Cabinet has approved an overdue oil revenue sharing bill that allows international investment in its oil industry. The United States considered the bill a critical development in transforming Iraq into a western style capitalist state. Previously, the oil sector was government owned. This development is certainly another bonanza for big oil which wants to redevelop the oil field infrastructure and lock in long term production sharing contracts with Iraq. Production sharing arrangements between a nation and a multinational were common in the 1960s before most Middle East oil sectors were nationalized in a wave of Arab nationalism. Such an agreement is a reversal of basic economic policy and in the eyes of critics the first step to total privatization. Some Iraqis see privatization of the oil industry as a major goal of the invasion. A quarter of Iraq's fields are undeveloped and the rest are under producing because of security problems. Iraq production volume fell by 8% in 2005. The deal must be approved by the Iraqi parliament which does not come back into session until March.
9/11 families? Sure, Senator Reid. I hear the Brooklyn Dodgers are for sale too.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Perhaps the fraudulent defeat of 2000 was enough to cure Al from his dependency on politics. He often introduced himself as a "recovering politician" before his stunning lecture on warming. We have plenty of politicians and entertainers, Al. What is in very short supply is statesmen. You won the peoples confidence before. Please rerun that film.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Weekend Update: I agree with the Govenator that we should be discussing the leadership qualities and the records of the various candidates. Let's hope the Republicans do the same. The force authorization vote encapsulates these subjects. Her vote on the issue was a matter of personal judgment and national policy. The policy of preemptive war is unprecedented and dangerously untenable. The judgment that Saddam posed an imminent threat was not well informed or wise. There was much information, some of it in the public record and unclassified, which contradicted the regime's sales pitch for war. For a Senator with a seat on the Senate Armed Services committee and it's Emerging Threats subcommittee to be taken in by the White House's false pretenses is hard to understand without thinking the Senator negligent or complicit. Her belief that the Executive should receive deference in matters of war is a concept of the Senate's constitutional role that has led to a dangerous imbalance of powers over the last 36 years. The trend of expanding executive power must be reversed by the Senate taking a much more active role in setting future foreign policy. That is the lesson of the Iraq debacle and one the Senator refuses to recognize. And if that isn't enough reason to oppose her candidacy, the Quinipac poll shows both Giuliani and McCain defeating the junior Senator from New York in the race for the White House.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Weekend Update: Could this be evidence of a quid pro quo between the influential Royals and Tony Blair's government? The day after he announced the beginning of British forces withdrawing from Iraq, the MOD announced that Prince Harry will serve in southern Iraq as an armored troop commander with his regiment, The Blues and Royals. The answer is: No. The withdrawal represents the recognition of two realities in the UK. The Labour Party is behind in the polls in front of an election primarily because of Blair's unpopular war policy. The much smaller British Army is straining to the point of dysfunction under the burden of fighting on two fronts, southern Iraq and Afghanistan. Basra, while calmer than Baghdad, is still the scene of daily fighting. Southern Iraq is listed by the Pentagon as one of two regions not ready to be turned over to Iraqi security forces. According to one Washington think tank, "the deep south is unstable, factionalized, lawless, ruled as a kleptocracy and subject to militia primacy." An American policy expert on Iraq characterized British trained Iraqi security forces as little more than extensions of Shia Islamist control of the region. Thus, the British withdrawal plan must be considered an adverse development in the American effort to pacify the country enough to allow it's exit.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Harper's Magazine published this reply to an FBI survey of bureau personnel who were asked if they observed "aggressive interrogation techniques" at Guantanamo Bay. The survey was released by the FBI in January in response to the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act suit:
On several occasions, Witness saw Detainees in interrogation rooms chained hand and foot in fetal position to the floor without food or water; most Detainees urinated or defecated on themselves and were left there eighteen, twenty-four hours or more. Once the air conditioning was so low that the barefoot Detainee was shaking with cold. Another time, it was off, so the unventilated room was over 100 degrees; Detainee was almost unconscious on the floor with a pile of hair next to him (he had apparently been pulling it out throughout the night)...Upon inquiry, Witness was told that interrogators, military contractors, ordered the treatment.
And this outrage is what passes for humor at Gitmo:
Subsequently someone laughingly told the Witness, "You have to see this," and took him to an interrogation room where the Witness saw a Detainee with a full beard whose head had been covered in duct tape.
On a fundamental level, Gitmo and Abu Ghraib happened because Americans were complacent and uninvolved in their democracy. A vacuum of power was created, and as history repeatedly teaches, the vacuum was filled by a faction with the conviction of a radical ideology. The election result of 2006 was a good beginning to taking our government back from the so-called experts, cynical professionals, plutocrats and religious zealots, but more needs to be done. Here is a place to start: http://www.democraticmajority.com/
Saturday, February 17, 2007
By the way, you are invited to visit my wigwam any time, Senator Obama. We shall smoke the peace pipe.
And you are correct, there are other worthy candidates running. The will have my support.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Interestingly a 1999 war game titled "Dessert Crossing", conducted under CENTCOM Commander General Anthony Zinni, warned that a post-Saddam Iraq could fracture along sectarian lines, and that establishing a truly democratic Iraqi government was not feasible. 400,000 American soldiers were envisioned as necessary for an Iraqi occupation. When he took over CENTCOM from Zinni, General Franks only revised the estimate downward to 385,000 in his initial operations plan. What his briefing demonstrates is the willingness of commanding generals, who achieve their positions through political favor, to please the current occupant of the White House regardless of the practical ramifications of their actions or even their private professional opinions.
Weekend Update: Amid emotionally charged rhetoric and sanctimonious cries of "support the troops" the US House of Representatives voted to steer a course toward reality in Iraq. Seventeen Republicans finally deserted the sinking ship of the regime's Iraq war. How any Congress member can possibly believe that 21,000 more soldiers will somehow pacify a region that our best military minds considered half a million adequate for the task is beyond most Americans. But then, they do not live and work in the hot house political arena that is the District of Bizarro. Representative John Murtha (D) , Chairman of the House Defense Appropriation Subcommittee may do more to protect the troops than any Republican still seeking an American victory in an Iraqi civil war by using the House's appropriating power to put limits on troop levels. House Democrats may have to do this indirectly to protect themselves from political attack but their intent is clear: end American involvement in a failed foreign intervention that has cost us dearly in lives, treasure and prestige. The Senate, supposedly the repository of foreign policy expertise, has been unable to bring a resolution against the escalation to the floor for a substantive vote. When the Republicans were in charge it was called using the "nuclear option" Now that they are in the minority, they have no qualms about using the filibuster to continue the Charlatan's policy of 'stay and die'. Notwithstanding an extraordinary session this weekend, the Senate will remain deadlocked until their hand is forced by the greater majority.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
In one such flight a Canadian citizen of Syrian nationality was abducted by US agents in the US while returning to Canada. He was flown to Syria where he was imprisoned and tortured for a year. After a two year investigation of his claims of innocence, the Canadian government concluded he was telling the truth. The Canadian government issued an official apology for its cooperation in the abduction and awarded him $10 million in compensation.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Hillary said in New Hampshire that we can not know if America is ready for a woman president until we elect her. I don't think America needs to know that right now, Senator. What it needs is a cohesive political faction that can govern effectively, fairly and coherently. You have the highest negatives of any major candidate, even among Democrats. What the party needs is a candidate that is palatable to those areas of the country in which it does not have a majority base anymore: the south, the intermountain west, and the plains. America needs a Congressional majority that can defeat a filibuster. In order to do that, Democrats need to build on their gains in 2006. Your candidacy does not fit the tall order, Senator.
Right now, Democrats in Congress must feel like an abused wife. You and other Democratic centrists took impeachment off the table in order to "go forward". Twice so far Republicans have rewarded your efforts at collaboration with slaps in the face. They filibustered the minimum wage bill, and they filibustered the effort to simply debate the the Iraq occupation. You will not even admit that voting for this foreign policy catastrophe was a mistake you made. You voted for an invasion on precious little evidence of a credible, imminent threat. I think if you are scratched deep enough Senator, a Democratic primary voter will find a hawk beneath your fine liberal plumage. Perhaps someone in the audience will be bold enough to ask if you support the radical neoconservative doctrine of preemptive war. Not even during the tense years of the Cold War did America adopt the doctrine of first strike. No wonder crafty President Putin can credibly claim an American policy of global hegemony now threatens world peace. Democratic voters have inquiring minds Senator, and they want to know what you really think about war and peace.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Commercial production of marijuana is an interstate business and should be regulated and taxed as such by federal authorities. The 1984 estimated crop value in Oregon was $600 million. That was exceeded only by California and Hawaii. Marijuana is the top cash crop in 12 states. Taxing marijuana production could be a significant source of federal revenue. Under the current regime, taxpayers are now spending more than $1 billion annually to imprison marijuana offenders and another $8 billion in prosecution costs. 1 in 8 drug prisoners are inside for marijuana. Marijuana arrests are up to the highest levels ever, but the level of use is unaffected. 94 million or 40% of Americans identify themselves as having used cannabis at some point. Cannabis use is up 63% among adults in their fifties. The reality of the law enforcement campaign against weed is that it has become a self-perpetuating culture war. Unlike alcohol, which has an almost iconic status in white America, marijuana never achieved the same acceptance in the dominant culture. Its use in this country originated among the Mexican trabajeros along the border. Its another war that cannot be won. So don't Bogart that joint, mi amigo.
Friday, February 09, 2007
Another piece of the collage was provided yesterday by the Pentagon Inspector General's office. It criticized the operations of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Douglas Feith. His group inappropriately "developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence estimates....that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community to senior decision makers." Senator Rockefeller IV says his Intelligence Committee will now investigate whether the Pentagon under Rumsfeld violated the 1947 Security Act by failing to inform Congress about Feith's intelligence activities that were conducted at the direction of then Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz.
Part of that "development" was no doubt the forged Niger yellowcake documents which allegedly showed Hussein seeking a source of enriched uranium ore in Africa for a reconstituted weapons program. (See my previous posts on the Italian Job). Senator Carl Levin, now chair of the Armed Services Committee, released a critical minority report in 2004 on the alleged Al Qaeda connection to Iraq and asked for an investigation of the Policy Counterterroism Evaluation Group and the Policy Support Group in 2005. His comment on the investigation results was that the regime got the kind of connections they wanted, "no matter how skimpy". That's right, Senator, and when they found no connections, they created them.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
The money story epitomizes the catastrophe wrought by the current US regime in the Middle East. Congressmen Henry Waxman's committee on Government Oversight started doing some belated overseeing and confirmed the reports of plastic wrapped cash floating around Iraq.
363 tons of money were shipped to Iraq with precious little accountability involved. Money was handed out from the back of pickups, stashed in bags in the basement, and $2 million contract payments made Mafia style by a duffel bag stuffed with wads of cash. The supposed auditor of for the Coalition Provisional Authority's giveaway was a contractor cryptically named North Star Consultants, Inc that operated out of a San Diego living room. Seems mind boggling to me and Representative Waxman. But outrage is worn out on Capitol Hill, and irony is dead as we have already established. What was important to the Admiral in charge is that it was not appropriated money--it was the Iraqi people's money being held for redevelopment. I wonder how many Iraqi civil servants that did not get paid because of the rampant plundering grabbed their Kalashnikov and started shooting at Americans? Yeah, Rummy, stuff happens in a democracy.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
The US spends large amounts of its defense dollars on expensive, high tech weapons systems that are not suited to fighting the kind of low intensity conflicts it gets involved in. How many terrorists toting IEDs can you kill with a new Navy destroyer costing $3 billion each? The Navy wants 12 of those, along with 30 new submarines each costing $2.6 billion each.
The Air Force is no slouch in the fight at the public trough with the most expensive weapon program in history, the Joint Strike Fighter. It will cost $276 billion for 2400 planes. Its new F-22 fleet of 179 planes cost more than $350 million each. The Pentagon said last year 36 of its weapons procurement programs were over budget. The GAO estimates that overruns on some of those programs exceeded $23 billion. Go figure.
Monday, February 05, 2007
Yes, we get it, Joe. The Republicans don't want Senator Warner's nonbinding resolution, they want Senator's Gregg's nonbinding resolution. They want it because it does not say Congress disagrees with the urge to surge. Both nonbinding resolutions say Congress should not cut funding for the war. Only in the District of Bizzaro can you be against a measure and still pay for it. Talk about intellectual dishonesty! Wake me up when the Senators begin voting on a binding resolution.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
The Charlatan has absolutely no motivation to do anything about ending the US military occupation before leaving office. His chance to leave a positive presidential "legacy" was gone with the wind of Katrina. His urge to surge is a token effort to control Baghdad at the cost of about $5 billion more according to the Pentagon. More US soldiers will certainly die in the futile effort. He is simply trying to kick the can of blame for his utter failure in Iraq down the road. If Congress is ever to regain some credibility, its moment is now. It must say "enough" and stop pouring money and lives into a lost cause. The American people know this, now its time for their representatives to admit it.
Friday, February 02, 2007
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Lord Levy (no pun intended), chief Labour Party fundraiser and envoy to the Middle East, was arrested last Friday for an alleged cover up by Downing Street of violating the 1925 Act of Parliament prohibiting the sale of honors. Blair's appointments aide, Ruth Turner, was arrested on January 19th. John McTernan, Blair's director of public relations, has been interviewed a second time after being advised of his rights. Last night during Question Time, Blair was taunted with the spectre of Watergate and asked to resign for the good of the nation by opposition MPs. The Labour backbench is reportedly in turmoil as it sees it electoral image crash in slow motion.