Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Daddy, Why Do They Call the Governor, 'Dollar' Bill?

Possibly, Virginia, because he was a director of Peregrine Systems, Inc. for a time. I know its hard to keep track of all the corporate fraud cases in the last ten years. Peregrine Systems, a software company headquartered in San Diego, was a middling Enronesque implosion of this decade. Governor Bill Richardson joined its board of directors in 2001 at the invitation of Stephen Gardiner, CEO and brother in law of Richardson's wife. The firm was accused of overstating income on its financial reports by about $509 million and understating losses of $2.9 billion over a 33 month period that began in April 1999. Executives lied to investors and financial analysts to artificially inflate it's stock. The company imploded in 2002 after the scandal became public. Gardener pleaded guilty to securities fraud and conspiracy in March and was the ninth person to plea to criminal charges arising from the fraud. The scam cost investors $4 billion and put thousands out of work. Peregrine went into bankruptcy in 2003 and the reorganized company was bought by Hewlett Packard in 2005. Four officers who did not enter a plea agreement got a reprieve after their trial judge ruled a mistrial. The jurors in the case declared themselves deadlocked, but votes were in favor of acquittal. Gardiner was a lead prosecution witness against the former corporate officers who claimed they were deceived by senior executives. Prosecutors may seek a retrial in the case.
Richardson claimed during his gubernatorial campaign that as an "outside director" he knew nothing about the fraudulent activities of Gardiner. That alibi might fly in New Mexico but many Americans know that even directors who are not also corporate officers have a fiduciary responsibility to protect investors and the public from fraud. Richardson was paid $10,000 for his service from February 2001 until he resigned in June 2002. By then Peregrine was under investigation by the SEC. Trouble surfaced in April 2002 when the company switched accounting auditors, restated it's earnings, and began an internal investigation into it's accounting practices.

Despite the Governor's claim that he was not informed, records reviewed by a San Diego business reporter, Don Bauder, show that Richardson attended at least 15 board meetings where directors were informed of the company's mounting problems. Richardson attended the meeting of July 18, 2001 at which Gardiner discussed a questionable barter trade between Peregrine and Critical Path, a Bay Area software company headed by a friend of John Moore, chairman of the Peregrine board. Moore, a real estate mogul and Padres baseball owner, made $650 millions more bailing out of Peregrine stock while it was collapsing. Moore is also a heavy Richardson contributor. In another meeting attended by Richardson on October 15, 2001, Gardiner told the board that a financial report he had given to financial analysts eleven days earlier was already outdated and things were getting worse. In May the SEC began investigating. For his part in the affair, Richardson wrote a letter to the board in June 2002 saying there should be an investigation. He told New Mexico voters that he helped uncover the illegalities by voting to replace the company's auditors. But the new auditing company was only on the job for two months before it, too, was fired. Only then did the auditors reveal the fraud. Governor Richardson had a clear duty to the public to heed the numerous warning signals coming from management and report the problems to the SEC before the cat was out of the bag. He failed that obligation perhaps because his relationship with big political contributors were more important to him than protecting the investing public.

Monday, July 30, 2007

District of Bizarro XVI: Gonzo Sticks His Foot In

During his testimony before a hostile Senate Judiciary Committee, Alberto 'Gonzo' Gonzales blundered big time. He admitted the existence of other secret, domestic spying programs besides the controversial and warrantless wiretapping program previously revealed in public. When asked to explain why he visited the hospitalized Attorney General, he denied it was to seek approval from John Ashcroft for the wiretapping, but was "about other intelligence activities". The testimony contradicts that of another participant in the bedside meeting, Deputy AG Jim Comey, who testified he was disturbed by what he perceived as an attempt to take advantage of a "very sick man". 'Gonzo' also contradicted his own previous testimony when he said that Comey was referring to the same "highly classified program which the President [publicly] confirmed". You blew it, Mr. Attorney General. You either lied under oath or blew the cover of another, probably illegal, spying operation. No wonder Senator Leahy does not trust you. As a civil officer of the United States you can be impeached. I would be happy to add you to the list. Worst Administration, Ever.

Weekend Update FBI director Robert Mueller supplied more evidence of 'Gonzo's' perjury yesterday by confirming Deputy Attorney Genearal Comey's version of the arm twisting applied to Attorney General Ashcroft while hospitalized to approve the controversial NSA warrantless wiretapping. The Regime continued to defend the hapless Gonzales by saying "confusion is inevitable" when discussing secret intelligence operations. Yes, it is especially if the Attorney General is lying.

More: The flimsy distinctions being crafted by the right wing to ward off the accusations against Gonzales elevate nit picking to new heights of absurdity. The argument is that Gonzales is legalistically correct when he makes a distinction between "other intelligence matters" and the NSA warrantless wiretap program. Apparently the reference used by Gonzales was meant to refer to data mining by NSA prior to the presidential approval of the wiretap program in 2005. However, the entire domestic spying program by NSA goes back to 2001. Objections raised by Department of Justice officials about the legality of domestic spying in 2004 concerned that program which became the "terrorist surveillance program" approved by the President and confirmed in public. If the Solicitor General refuses senators' request to appoint a special prosecutor for Gonzales, he should be impeached. After all, the bar was set low by the Republicans themselves when they impeached Bill Clinton for lying under oath about doing "that woman" in the White House.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Le Shorter: Celestial Parrots

Disgruntled Customer: But it's a bloody dead Parrot!
Pet Store Clerk: No, it's not, its resting.

I apologize to readers for the Cyrillic navigation bar. Perhaps someone at Blogspot will see their way clear to changing it back to English. I am not, nor have I ever been a member of the Communist Parrot, er Party.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Wall Street Plot to Overthrow FDR

BBC's Radio 4 has an interesting audio program about the plotting by right wing business interests to overthrow FDR. The plot was largely ignored by establishment media of the time (there were articles in the Philadelphia Record, New York Post, and New York Times) . An official report by the precursor to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee stored in the bowels of the National Archives confirms that wealthy business and Wall Street interests were willing to finance a coup against the American federal government during the Great Depression. These interests were convinced that FDR's "New Deal" program represented a socialist threat to American private enterprise. A popular, decorated marine general was to lead a militia of 500,000 disgruntled WWI bonus veterans and fascist groups The goal of the coup was to force FDR to become a figurehead and hand over power to an "assistant president" or be killed (sounds like a job for Darth Cheney).

In 1934 a retired Marine major general,Smedley-Butler, informed the McCormack-Dickstein Committee that he had been approached by Gerald MacGuire, an heir to the Singer fortune and wealthy Wall Street bond salesman, to join the conspiracy. Rep. Dickstein called the planned coup "the most dangerous threat to American democracy" ever uncovered. Others, like New York Mayor LaGuardia, dismissed it as a "cocktail putsch". A front organization, the American Liberty League, had been formed by corporate leaders at Du Pont, General Foods, Colgate, Heinz, Bird's Eye, US Steel, and GM to finance the coup. The American Hamburg Steamship Line represented by Prescott Bush, the current President's grandfather, was also involved. The steamship company offered free passage to any journalist willing to write favorable stories about Hitler's Germany. Prescott Bush invested funds for Nazi industrialist Fritz Thyssen while an investment banker at Brown Brothers Harriman even after Pearl Harbor. The assets controlled by Bush were eventually seized by the government under the Trading With the Enemy Act. According to the BBC report, FDR struck a deal with top business leaders to excise their names from the Committee report in return for retracting their opposition to New Deal programs. Butler complained publicly that the names of high level plotters testified to in secret at the New York Bar's headquarters were never revealed to the public. The Committee was allowed to expire without any prosecutions being brought. Seems fascist sympathies run in the Bush genes.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Le Shorter: Oscar Cares

Thank you, Oscar.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Le Shorter: Follow the Money

Here are the numbers, Senator Gavel--
Hillary 1,000,000+
Obama 880,000
Edwards 315,000

Vox Versi

The President vows to veto health insurance coverage for millions of American school children while protecting the life of blastocysts.


Scrapping millions of dollars worth of F-14 war planes because our next adversary needs spares for the same planes the U.S. sold to the Shah when he ruled Iran.

District of Bizarro XV: Block that Bill

Republicans are radioactive by now, having used the "nuclear option", otherwise known as the filibuster 42 times. Of the six pieces of legislation passed by the Democratic House in their first 100 hours only one, a modest minimum wage increase, has been made law. Trent Lott and a "little group of willful men" must be as giddy as a Mississippi high school football team winning a championship. Senate Rule 22 seems to need some amending, for example requiring all filibusters to be actual ones, not just procedural. As the rule now stands, a Senator merely needs to indicate his objection to a piece of legislation. The Senate majority leader can require extended bebate, as Senator Reid did on the troop withdrawal amendment, but its not mandatory. When the Democrats wanted to filibuster the Charlatan's Supreme Court nominations, Republicans were quick to suggest amending Rule 22 to prohibit filibuster of judicial nominations. If a tiny minority regardless of party wants to block progress they should be willing to expend some energy to overcome majority rule. At the current rate of filibustering the Republican minority will have attempted to block 150 bills by the end of 110th Congress, nearly 3 times more than any Congress in the last 50 years.

Great Britian is Flooding

Catastrophic rainfall events, of the type predicted by scientists due to global warming is flooding the Midlands. Britain received a month's worth of rainfall in one day causing severe flooding in Yorkshire on 24 June, and now in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. The flooding is causing widespread property damage, power outages and evacuations. The flood magnitude exceeds the 1947 flood which was thought to be the worst in 200 years. British weather forecasters listed the type of weather events to be expected from global climate change ten years ago. High on the list was extreme rainfall. Canadian scientists have also studied the impact of atmospheric warming using 75 years of rainfall data on land, and found significant increases in amounts between 40 and 70 degrees north latitude. Their study will be published in Nature on Thursday. The 1947 event inundated 700,000 acres and caused an estimated 4 billion pounds of damage. Flooding was caused then by heavy snow melt from a particularly cold winter. During that winter, the island nation saw 40 consecutive days of snowfall. But this flood is a new phenomenon apparently caused by a shift in mid-latitude weather patterns due to the greenhouse effect according to weather experts.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Navy is Deaf

Because it refuses to listen to Americans it protects to stop killing whales and marine mammals with lethal blasts of sonar. It plans to deploy low frequency active sonar worldwide because it is paranoid about super quiet submarines sneaking up on the United States and blasting it to kingdom come. But Americans have more backbone than the Navy and do not want marine mammals assaulted with noise so loud that it can impact whales 300 miles away. Up till now the Navy was confined by a court order obtained by the National Resources Defense Council to testing in a remote area. The Navy wants to deploy the technology, and in a complete capitulation of its responsibilities to protect marine mammals, the National Marine Fisheries Service has permitted the deployment to go forward. There is only two days to submit official public comment against the Navy's myopic view of national security and protect intelligent, social mammals from needless pain and death. Please help by visiting the NRDC comment website and tell the Navy you feel secure enough to protect whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions from harm.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Vox Versi

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 14,000
Population of New Orleans: 220,000, or half what it was before Katrina

Le Shorter: Vox Versi

A steam pipe laid under the steets in 1924 explodes in New York injuring pedestrians and causing one fatality from a heart attack. Asbestos has been found in the dust released by the blast. Experts say the pipe is typical of aging urban infrastructure that needs replacement.
The Marine Corp is sending the V-22 Osprey into Iraq. Each complex, tilt rotor aircraft costs $22 million. It's development has been plagued by fatal crashes, cost overruns, and maintenance problems. Defense weapons testers say the aircraft is not suitable for low flying combat operations, and even Darth Cheney wanted to cancel the program when he was Secretary of Defense.

Le Shorter: Die More

Republican senators voted to continue the filibuster against removing American troops from the Iraq Civil War, 52-47. During the all night debate, the most cogent remarks were made in the early morning hours by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) who noted that one of the reasons for the inability of the Iraqi parliament to agree on an oil law was that the U.S. backed proposal gives the Iraq National Oil Company control of only 17 out 80 oil fields with the rest to be privatized. The neoconservative think tank, Heritage Foundation, calls the proposed law a "model" for the rest of OPEC. The reversal of nationalization is one reason why the U.S. gets so little support from regional governments for a diplomatic solution to the Iraq mess.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Le Shorter: Stand and Be Counted

Majority Leader Reid has finally, emphasis on finally, decided to make Republicans stand up to filibuster the Levin-Reed proposal to bring the majority of our troops out of Iraq by April 2008. Previously, the requirement of continuous debate was dispensed with and a Senator could stop a bill from being voted on its merits by merely filing an objection. Senators may get tired, but they also make a lot more than minimum wage. Will the delusional please stand up.

Rudia Undressed II: Fear & Loathing in New York

Professional political commentators say we are in the era of post-ideological politics. What they mean, I suppose, is that our political exchange no longer trades in ideas or programs but the personalities of politicians. The Clinton era is often cited as an example of the politics of personality. Clintonites referred to their incremental pragmatism as "the third way" or "triangulation". This resort to only incremental policies that can survive the harsh compromises required by America's political system is probably a result of the Clintons' early political experiences. They were given the impossible task of running liberal, anti-war George McGovern's Texas campaign. Certainly that doomed effort quickly disabused them of any naive, idealistic big ideas they may have harbored.

Rudy Giuliani, too learned a lesson of how to succeed in the political arena. He was a McGovern Democrat in 1972, but the lesson he learned from watching winners like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan was different. As Kevin Baker tells us in his essay in Harpers Magazine, Rudy Giuliani won the New York City mayoralty by using the politics of fear and loathing. In America today there is a lot of fear. The Bush regime uses it to subvert Congress, intimidate the people, and press forward its disruptive agenda of world hegemony. In 1993, Guiliani beat black incumbent David Dinkins with a brand that posited the city, then experiencing urban crisis in it's transition to a post-industrial economy, as "ungovernable". The not so silent subtext was that the crisis existed because city government was in the hands of an ethnic minority that was soft on crime and poverty. The facts, in the form of falling major crime statistics (during Dinkin's term murder was down 13.7%, robbery 14.6%, burglary 17.6%, auto theft 23.8%) were countered by a race baiting campaign that attacked Dinkins' very legitimacy as mayor and fed on white fear of minorities getting out of control. In the fall of 1992, Giuliani gave a speech that inflamed some 10,000 white police officers who had just finished a march on City Hall to protest Dinkins' proposal for civilian oversight of police misconduct complaints. Many officers in the mob used racial epithets and carried signs condemning Dinkins in racial terms, such as "Dump the Washroom Attendant". To counteract the positive steps taken by Dinkins to combat crime, such as approving a tax surcharge to put 6,000 more police on the streets, Giuliani resorted to coded attacks. His campaign slogan was "One Standard, One City" implying that black New Yorkers were getting by with something under a black mayor. He often stated he was not for "surrender of the streets" to criminals.

This pitch struck home with white liberal voters, who saw a threat to their quality of life in the legion of annoying "squeegee men" and scruffy drug addicts on the streets. What mattered in the campaign was that white New Yorkers felt less safe with a black mayor. In a country were the brand is more important than the reality, Giuliani's racist appeal worked. He significantly increased his 1989 margins of victory in 'red boroughs' and cut his losses in 'blue' Manhattan and Brooklyn by some 50,000 votes thereby turning a narrow defeat in 1989 into a narrow victory in 1993. He won again against a popular, Upper West Side liberal woman in 1997. According to Baker, Giuliani achieved almost nothing of real significance in his two terms. But that is to be expected in post-ideological politics. Giuliani is good at symbolic attacks. He screamed at critical reporters and ranted at ferret owners on his radio talk show. He boycotted a city museum that displayed a controversial image of the Madonna. There were a series of ugly, brutal incidents that occurred during his police campaign against street crime. In one a security guard, Patrick Dorismond, was fatally shot after he was approached at random by undercover cops who insisted he sell them crack cocaine. In defense of his cops, Giuliani illegally opened and leaked to the public the contents of Dorismond's sealed juvenile police file. He would say that his hard as nails persona comes with the territory. By the end of his mayoralty, many New Yorkers would say he is a bigoted bully.

It would be distasteful to allege that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were meat for Giuliani's grinder. But his considerable substantive policy errors in the wake of the attack are largely ignored. His decision to put the city's $61 million command center on top of 109,000 gallons of fuel oil at 7 World Trade Center certainly caused the building's collapse. When it was hit by flaming debris an unprotected 6,000 gallon fuel tank above the mezzanine "ignited like a fuse". His Republican convention speech in which the ungovernable city had morphed into an ungovernable world because of the moral laxity of Europe was well received. He was favorably compared to Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Giuliani still uses the "no surrender" theme in the new context of a future, inevitable in his estimation, terror attack on the U.S. To say Giuliani has a checkered personal background by the standards of the Christian right is understatement. But a third of GOP voters consider Iraq their top priority and 17% choose terror. Only 7% choose abortion and only 1% choose gay marriage according to Pew Research. If his opponent in the 2008 presidential election is Barak Obama, we could see Giuliani return to a tried and tested racial subtext in the campaign to win over frightened liberal and independent white voters. If he becomes President we could see the worst excesses of the Bush regime that stem from the President's own character flaws repeated--cronyism, arrogant and bullying methods coupled with a contempt for legal process, authoritarian intolerance of criticism, a penchant for secrecy and rhetoric over substance, and a reliance on fear as a means of governance. Personality in politics is always a two edged sword.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Le Shorter: "Leave Anytime You Want"

Nouri al-Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq, has basically told the U.S. thanks for nothing and don't let the door hit you in the hindquarters. With 70% of the Iraq population wanting the US out, there is absolutely no reason to remain there, no matter what delusional clap trap emanates from the Hillbillies Camp. If the Iraqis decide to settle their differences in the streets, its their real estate, and we wish each side the best of luck.

Watch this video and "feel good...hahahaaha"!

Weekend Update: Of course Maliki is going to say he was misquoted, what else can he say in view of the failure of his government? Note this: our troops are fighting their police in the streets. We gave them the opportunity to set course for a democracy by deposing a dictator, holding elections, and buying time for compromise with our blood. The ultimate success or failure of the Iraq nation is up to Iraqis.

Friday, July 13, 2007

District of Bizarro XIV: The Dow Jones Effect

As the Senate continues to vote for the deaths of more American soldiers in the meat grinder of Iraq, the Charlatan continues his mad, delusional propaganda campaign against the truth. He continues, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, to publicly conflate the Iraqi insurgency with the Al-Qaida terrorists responsible for the WTC and Pentagon suicide attacks. You may find admirable his surreal, or perhaps sociopathic ability, to stay the message in the face of mounting public discontent and congressional carping over his war. Nevertheless, one of the last silly justifications for invading Iraq hit the dust today. Government intelligence analysts conclude that the Al-Qaida organization has regained its operational strength in it's mountain redoubt along the border of Pakistan with Afghanistan. Instead of luring jihadists into destroying themselves by opposing our heavily equipped army in Iraq, the diversion of U.S. effort into regime change and nation building there has given the terror network a crucial breathing space so that it has "regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001". Thus, say the analysts, the network is "better positioned to strike the West". Despite or perhaps because of the Charlatan's stubborn refusal to end the failed occupation, and the Republican filibuster against withdrawal in the Senate, the New York stock exchange hit a new high on Thursday. Could it be that endless war whether sensible or not is good for big business? Ask a defense contractor.
Weekend Update: The Regime's claim that 8 of the 18 benchmarks have been met is misleading, labeled so by the National Security Network a advocacy group of 2,000 national security advisers and experts who reviewed the lack of progress by the Maliki government point by point. Only minimal progress has been made on any of the items, and on some, such as the all important oil revenue sharing law, no progress has been made.

The Only Good Wolf is a Dead One

Once again the Regime is demonstrating its total lack of concern for other species and healthy natural resource management. It is proposing to declare open season on the grey wolf in Wyoming and Idaho were the beautiful carnivore is making a recovery. The 103 Rule, as the proposal is referred to, would allow killing to begin as early as this October even before the wolf is removed from the Endangered Species list. Even though the wolf is repopulating the Yellowstone Basin and the Selway-Bitteroot region of central Idaho, it still only occupies 5% of its historic range. The public has until August 6th to tell government officials that it does not want another symbol of the wild West destroyed needlessly. Go to NRDC's website and register your official comments.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Le Shorter: RIP 'Mad' John McCain

Caught making an unethical campaign call from the Senate Cloak Room, Mad John McCain's "Straight Talk Express" is headed directly to the garage, not passing "Go", and not collecting any more burnable cash.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

On the Road to Extinction

The critically endangered western gray whale population has only 100 individuals left. They are slowly starving to death because Shell Oil's Sakhalin-2 project is driving them off their feeding grounds. Noise levels due to construction are at an unacceptable level. The company has been warned of the problem by behavior experts but the company will let the whale's survival interfere with its construction schedule. Sightings of thin or emaciated whales have occurred since construction began according to the World Wildlife Fund A WWF field group that observes the activity reported that the grey whales have apparently abandoned the Piltun spit since the arrival of a barge bearing the upper parts of the Piltun platform (photo) at the end of June. Vessels involved in the construction work may emit low frequency noise that interferes with the whales normal feeding activity. The company had promised ecologists that the noise would be abated prior to the whales arrival in mid June, but it failed to keep that promise. The Okhotsk-Korean population including pregnant mothers and calves only feed in a small area of Russia's Okhotsk Sea along the northeast coast of Sakhalin Island. In a company response to WWF, Sakhalin Energy Investment said that it was following the noise abatement criteria in its Marine Mammal Protection Plan and was "fully committed" to protecting the feeding area.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

No Sweat Activism
Go to MoveOn.org's website and watch the Democratic candidates respond to questions from activists in their virtual town hall on climate change. Be sure to view Al's brief introduction. He's got his bodhisattva on.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Le Shorter: Do the Math
1 in 8 Americans live in poverty. 47 million do not have have health care insurance. The nation is $8.8 trillion in debt. $12 billion a month is spent for the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. Zero is the number of progress benchmarks achieved by the Iraqi government.

Will Mitt Romney Become God?, Conclusion

Submitted for your consideration are these numbers: Nine signers of the Declaration of Independence were Masons including two of the most influential, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Ten signers of the Articles of Confederation were Masons. Four presidents of the Continental Congress were Masons Thirteen signers of the Constitution were Masons. Thirty three of Washington's generals were Masons including Marquis de Lafayette and 'Baron' Von Stuben. The secret society played a significant role in organizing and financing the Revolution in its early stages. Silversmith and rebel Paul Revere was a Mason. It is not known if his horse was also a Mason.

What is more significant that the disproportionate number of Masons involved in fomenting and prosecuting the American revolt is that it's leaders were men of the Enlightenment committed to the interrelated principles of religious freedom and separation of religion from the state. They wanted the young America to avoid the devastation Europe experienced during the wars of religion in the 16th and 17th centuries. Their forefathers had experienced religious oppression in England as members of dissenting Protestant denominations from the established church. They did not want their descendants subjected to the same treatment. Given the close connection between early Mormonism and Masonry, the fervent support for religious freedom, and the form of government that guaranteed it, continued undiminished in the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Senator and Saint Orrin Hatch was running for the Presidency in 1999. In November of that year he participated in a local radio talk show where he made this revealing statement while complaining about Democrats' "political correctness": "They tolerate everything that's bad, and they're intolerant of everything that's good. Religious freedom is going to go down the drain, too," Hatch said. "I've never seen it worse than this, where the Constitution literally is hanging by a thread." [emphasis mine] The radio interviewer, also a Mormon, recognized Hatch was using a phrase loaded with meaning for fellow Saints. When interviewed himself after the broadcast, he said "It just caught me by surprise. It was worded carefully, I'm not sure he saw himself as the one who would fulfill the prophecy, but I thought it walked a fine line. It's such a well-recognized phrase." The reference Hatch used was to a lesser known oral tradition of Joseph Smith known, inaccurately, as the "White Horse Prophesy". Although some church leaders have tried to debunk the tradition recent research has verified that the tradition is based on a discourse given by Smith. Many of Smith's utterances where transcribed by Mormon faithful. One of the Saints, Martha Jane Knowlton, was apparently an ear witness to comments by Smith shortly after he returned from Washington, DC to complain about the mistreatment of Mormons in Missouri without redress: "A few Item[s] from a discourse delivered by Joseph Smith July 19 - 1840....Even this Nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground and when the constitution is upon the brink of ruin this people will be the Staff up[on] which the Nation shall lean and they shall bear the constitution away from the very verge of destruction." Mormon critic Sandra Tanner demonstrates that this stream of thought has percolated through the minds of Mormon leaders for over a century indicating both it's durability as sound doctrine and the importance placed upon it by Church elders. This statement is by a Church elder in 1964: "Our government is an organization which was to, and since has, enacted, judged and enforced law through and by legislative, judicial and executive departments. It is encumbent on the American people to steadfastly maintain the historic balance of power by the three branches of government if our political system is to be preserved. If this is not done then the thread by which it has been predicted the Constitution will hang, will be clipped and our form of government will disappear." Joesph Smith declared himself to be an independent candidate for president in 1844. The historical record shows that the Mormon Church and at least some of it's political representatives believe that it will be a messianic Mormon Church that saves American democracy from its enemies, foreign or domestic.

Which brings me, at last, to Mitt Romney and his campaign for the most powerful political office on Earth. There is nothing new in a politician appealing to voters who share their religious beliefs. JFK did the same. So did the current incumbent. But the Mormon Church is a male dominated, corporate autocracy and Mitt Romney's connection to the Mormon hierarchy are top level and familial. His father George Romney was CEO of General Motors as well as Governor of Michigan. His cousin Marion Romney was a member of the First Presidency, a triumvirate of the most powerful members of the LDS. The Romneys are the Mormon version of the Kennedys. There are 66 million U.S. Catholics and only 5.7 million Mormons. But the cohesive Mormons make the Catholic Church look like school yard recess when it comes to political action. The significant church service and missonary obligations imposed on faithful Mormons make them good political workers and organizers. Ever since Jerry Falwell made religion a parameter of the American political calculus with the founding of Moral Majority in 1979, the LDS has wielded significant political power. Mormon political clout in western states like Idaho contributed to defeating the Equal Rights Amendment. By 1976 only four more state legislatures needed to approve the constitutional amendment for it to become law. The Idaho legislature had approved the bill by a two thirds majority. Then the First Presidency came out publicly against it. The measure was defeated by a popular referendum in a state with a large Mormon contingent. The Mormon's organizational ability to dominate state conferences despite small numerical representation also killed the bill in Montana and Washington. Romney wants to use this power in his campaign.

The Boston Globe reported in 2006 that Romney's campaign organization consulted with LDS leaders to plan a nationwide network of Saints to support his candidacy. Officially the church claims neutrality, but the LDS President and current prophet Gordon Hinckley was made aware of the plans and expressed no opposition. The plan was to use the church affliated BYU business school alumni groups as a grass roots politicial organization dubbed MVP (Mutual Values & Priorities). A former BYU president suggested that the BYU Management Society be enlisted to form an off the shelf support infrastructure. The Society has 40 chapters and about 5,500 members. As tax exempt organizations the church and the affiliated Marriott School of Business are prohibited from engaging in political organizing under federal tax law. Mormon officials called allegations of church involvement in Romney's campaign "nonsense" and the the meeting between church leaders and Josh Romney "a courtesy call". Romney's PAC is nevertheless reaching out to other prominent Mormons and church leaders for help to win the White House.

During the Cold War there was a brief case carried by a uniformed U.S. military officer that contained the launch codes for the obliterating U.S. nuclear arsenal. The officer accompanied the President everywhere and sat just beyond the door of the Oval Office ready to do his duty. The President literally had "the button" to hand. Whether the briefcase of Armageddon still exists in this post Cold War world, I do not know. Some other equally efficient means of military command and control may exist now. However, every thinking American should be asking themselves what are the contents of the personality upon which we would bestow the godlike power to destroy the world. If we are not discriminating in our evaluations, we might find ourselves in the situation of Equatorial Guinea. There, state radio announced that President Obiang is 'in permanent contact with the Almighty' and 'he can decide to kill without anyone calling him to account and without going to Hell.' Will Mitt Romney become God? My answer is, we cannot risk the fragile health of our democracy to find out.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

More Bad Apples
The same Marine unit implicated in the Haditha massacre, Kilo (K) Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment has more members under investigation by the Navy CIS (Criminal Investigative Service). Unit personnel allegedly murdered 5-10 disarmed captives held in an abandoned building during the siege of Fallujah in November, 2004. A former marine applying for a job with the Secret Service revealed the details during a polygraph examination. Apparently there is no corroborating evidence available making successful prosecution for the alleged war crimes difficult, if not impossible. Last year, the former Marine told a historian working on a book about the heavy fighting for the city of the incident. According to the journalist the marine told him that his fire team radioed headquarters for instructions about what to do with the captives. The cryptic reply was interpreted as an order to kill the prisoners.
LE SHORTER : Catcha Twenty-Tua
Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to ACLU et al: You cannot sue the government for illegal spying because you cannot prove you are being spied upon.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Defeating Democracy

In another blow against democracy in America, a Florida appeals court recently ruled for electronic voting machine supplier Election Systems & Software (ES&S) and denied access to the company's source code for its iVotronic DRE voting machine suspected of undercounting about 18,000 votes in Sarasota County, Florida. The court said it was protecting the corporation's "trade secrets" in contrast to protecting the people's right to free and fair elections. The Government Accountability Office is reviewing the disputed election result and is expected to issue a report in September. The House Committee on Administration has approved a bill requiring source code disclosure on a party line vote, but an amendment was accepted limiting public disclosure of source code to government officials, parties in election related litigation, or to a data processing expert engaged in a professional inquiry concerning the accuracy of the technology. A person requesting the code must also sign a non-disclosure agreement. The amendment does not increase election transparency, but makes it more difficult for interested citizens to obtain code for study and challenge its validity. Nevertheless, the bill is an improvement over the status quo since it also requires random recounts, a voter verified paper ballot is made the official record of their vote, and prohibits machines with wireless connections.Touch screen balloting was seen as the wave of the future before the problems of the 2006 elections. Now, they are seen as "buggy" and unsafe by the public with good reason. Even the Florida legislature has decided to scrap DREs in favor of optically scaned paper balloting.

A growing amount of documentary evidence indicates that touch screen voting machines are causing unusually high numbers of undercounts such as the one which occurred in Florida's 13 Congressional District. The State of New Mexico studied data from 2004 and 2006 elections and found a dramatic difference in undervotes in minority districts depending on whether paper ballots or DRE machines were used. An undervote is a ballot on which no vote was cast for a specific race. Usually, races for a major office or particularly close contests are studied. The undervote rate was higher by more than 0.5% in major contests which suggests, according to the study, no vote occurred because of error. When the state switched to paper ballots in the 2006 cycle, the undervote rate for Governor dropped dramatically. In Native American precincts it dropped 85% and in Hispanic precincts the rate fell 69%. In white districts the error rate remained essentially the same, 2.22 for machines versus 1.75 for paper

Maryland experienced a host of problems with Diebold machines during the primaries in 2006. In response the company claimed to "fix" the problems by attaching a mouse so that the "touch" screens no longer needed to be touched. The governor encouraged voters to avoid using the machines by voting on absentee paper ballots. Princeton computer scientists studied the vulnerabilities of Diebold's AccuVote-TS machines. The team demonstrated that rogue software on a removable memory card could steal votes and modify all records, audit logs and counters kept by the machine, making even careful forensic examination fruitless. The virus could be inserted in a matter of minutes by a person with access to the machine during the boot up process and even be passed on to other machines by unwitting technicians updating them. Their paper cites lack of inventory control and secure access to electronic tabulators as additional problems. They advocate parallel testing, system certification and paper trails as potential solutions.

In 2006 I saw the back of an ES&S tabulator unlocked and open during testing of the Multnomah County, Oregon optical scan system. My computer expert and I were able to walk up to the tabulator, completely open its unlocked door and look inside at the circuitry. We even had time to photograph the interior with her digital camera. As representatives of a party sponsored citizen's group, we asked officials for documentation showing that the ES&S system was certified and tested as accurate. They were unwilling or unable to provide the requested documentation and referred us to the Secretary of State's office. Subsequent requests for this material, if it actually existed, went unanswered despite public comments by the Secretary that Oregon elections must be open, fair and transparent to citizens. Our group did manage to convince local officials to run a partial, rudimentary audit that confirmed the machine results on election night.

Vote fraud is as old as the Republic, but the old methods of intimidation, purchase, multiple voting, 'ghost' voters and ballot stuffing pales in comparison to the level of fraud available to malefactors using sophisticated electronic soft and firm ware. The old fraud was retail, the new fraud is wholesale, and can alter nationwide results in real time as we experienced in 2000 and 2004. Sometimes the old ways of doing things are best.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Word is Gleichschaltung

The Bush Regime has had seven years to consolidate a conservative hold on the federal government. It has successfully changed the balance of the Supreme Court, instituted wholesale outsourcing of government functions to the private sector, politicized federal law enforcement agencies, resumed domestic spying on a massive scale, suppressed unions, and began an aggressive war abroad. Some commentators have called the Regime's neoconservatism, "proto-fascism" because of policy features in common with fascism, particularly in economics were the line between private and public sectors has been blurred. The Regime's attempt to abolish Social Security pension system and substitute a stock market scheme is a leading example. It's relentless agenda for consolidating control of national government in the Executive Branch is currently seen in the battle over the politically motivated firing of federal prosecutors previously considered independent of Executive control.

The Nazi's had a name for the consolidation of state power within their party: Gleischschaltung. This term is usually translated as "synchronization", a program created by Carl Schmitt in 1933-35 for consolidating Nazi control over the administration of justice. A central feature of this plan was the political subordination of prosecutors. Interestingly, it was also Schmitt who advocated using the legal concept of piracy as the means for treating state enemies as beyond the pale and cutting off their access to courts. Regime advisers have perhaps read Schmitt's "The Concept of Piracy"(1937) before building the Guantanamo gulag and denying detainees habeus corpus relief. A series of laws passed by the Nazis after Hitler became Chancellor successfully removed the separation of powers embodied in the Weimar constitution. Its understandable if you are suffering from deja vu. Go buy an iPhone(TM), you will feel better (at least for a few minutes).

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Le Shorter: Justice for All

Karla Faye Tucker: sentence executed

I. Lewis Libby: sentence commuted

Monday, July 02, 2007

Will Mitt Romney Become God?, Continued II

The mythical philosopher king and adept, Hermes Trismegistos, is called "thrice great Hermes" because he is said to have mastered the three great occult arts of alchemy, astrology and theurgy. The ancient sage is probably a conflation of the Egyptian god Thoth and the Greek god Hermes, both gods of knowledge and writing. An individual aspiring to such occult mastery would be encouraged to read extant texts on the subjects and come under the tutelage of an adept. Hermetic lore is clear that improper use of magic powers could be very dangerous for the beginner. Walt Disney's animation, The Sorcerer's Apprentice comes immediately to mind. Lance Owens in his honored article, Joseph Smith and Kabbalah: The Occult Connection identifies a contemporary of Smith that may have played such a role for the young "glass looker": Dr. Luman Walters. He was described as a physician and magician who was a known acquaintance of the Smith family prior to 1827. Brigham Young refers to him as person who traveled extensively in Europe to obtain profound knowledge. He was reputedly clairvoyant and interested in Mesmerism. Such a physician would undoubtedly have encountered the Kabbalah during his researches, perhaps through the influential alchemical and medical works of Paracelsus, who is also identified with Hermetic philosophy (Philosophia Occulta). Paracelsus warned treasure seekers to, "take unto yourselves the teachings of the cabala...the art of cabala is beholden to God, it is in alliance with Him, and it is founded on the words of Christ." Joseph Smith spent summers in eastern Pennsylvania where he engaged in folk magic practices and may have come into contact with German Pietists and Rosicrucians, perhaps even remnants of the Ephrata Commune. Kabbalah was considered a crucial component of magical arts by practitioners of the time and someone engaged in ceremonial magic and divination, as Smith was, would have been at least aware of it.

By 1841 historical evidence of Joseph Smith's contact with Kabbalah is more clear. Dr. Bennett the charlatan gynecologist, certainly made an impression on Smith and Nauvoo society. Equally impressive for Smith was the unlikely person of Alexander Neibaur, a Jew from the eastern borderlands of Prussia. Neibaur was highly educated, fluent in several languages including Hebrew, and read Latin and Greek. He trained as a dentist in Berlin University and moved to Preston, England where he met disciples of Smith. The proselytising Mormons converted him and he moved to Nauvoo in April, 1841 where he went to work for Smith and became a close friend. Where Neibaur learned Kabbalah is not exactly known, but his family maintained that as the oldest son he was to become a rabbi. If he went to rabbinical school before university, he would have come into contact with it there because the Kabbalah is the mystical tradition of Judaism which claimed to be the custodian of secret knowledge conveyed to Adam by God. He did possess a good library that included Kabbalistic books like the Zohar. Owens notes that in June, 1843 he published a two part article in the local journal in which he authoritatively discussed the Kabbalistic concept of the transmigration and rebirth of souls. He cited ten Kabbalistic authors or works in support. Most of these works were only available in Hebrew. Neibaur also trained Smith in Hebrew and German. And the most important work he would have exposed to Smith during the course of his training was the "great heart of the Kabbalah", the Zohar.

Given these underpinnings its not remarkable that Smith's most profound theosophic sermon given at the end of his life would be an exegesis on the first words of the Hebrew Bible, "Bereshith bara Elohim" (In the beginning...) in which he quotes almost word for word from the Zohar. He performs the same grammatical inversion of the phrase to support his thesis that there are a multiplicity of Gods. His 1844 sermon was presented to 10,000 Saints gathered in Nauvoo midst the controversy and upheaval of his recent revelations concerning Masonry and plural marriage. Smith went further and stated that God was once as man is now meaning that Adam was divine, a concept that is consistent with Kabbalistic doctrine and a concept that also resonates in Hermeticism. Adam Kadmon in Hebrew has the same numeric equivalent as Jehovah. Adam Kadmon = Jehovah(Yod he vav he) = 45. If 666 is the number of the beast, then 45 is the number of God. Kabbalah also thought of sanctified human intercourse as essentially theurgic. The Zohar says, "man in perfect holiness realizes the One...when man and woman are joined together sexually". This doctrine could be the inspiration for Smith's institution of spiritual marriage. Whatever the lineage, the goal of Smith's system of beliefs was the same as the Kabbalah's: to purify a soul and thereby reunite with the Divine. Concluding, I next discuss the relevance of this essentially Gnostic vision for politics in modern America.