This Is A Must Watch Video

October 16, 2006

Some Perspective On Iraq

August 21, 2006

I normally do not post on the war in Iraq. Being a veteran, I have very complex thoughts on the ongoing conflict. However, let me say this… If President Bush has decided to stay the course, I strongly recommend that we fight to win, and not simply make our troops cannon fodder for the insurgency.

From The Nation:

The war in Iraq has lasted three days longer than US involvement in World War II.

Germany declared war on the US on December, 11, 1941, four days after Pearl Harbor. The US announced victory in Europe on May 8, 1945. That’s one thousand, two hundred and forty-four days.

We’ve been in Iraq one thousand, two hundred and forty-seven days—and still the Administration has no exit strategy, no plan for victory and no clue what it is doing. In case you’d forgotten, George W. Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” aboard an aircraft carrier over three years ago.

“In the battle of Iraq,” Bush said, “The United States and our allies have prevailed.”

Perhaps that pronouncement was a little premature. Twelve hundred and four days later, our troops are still paying the price.


All Great Truths Begin As Blasphemies

August 20, 2006

Steorn, an Irish technology development company, has today issued a challenge to the global scientific community to test Steorn’s free energy technology and publish the findings.Steorn’s technology is based on the interaction of magnetic fields and allows the production of clean, free and constant energy. The technology can be applied to virtually all devices requiring energy, from cellular phones to cars.


Judge Orders Halt to Warrantless Surveillance

August 18, 2006

From AOL News:

Noting “there are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution,” a federal judge ruled Thursday that President Bush had exceeded his authority when he allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without a warrant.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit said the surveillance by the NSA violates the rights to free speech and privacy, as well as the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.  

The Bush administration said the program is a vital tool in the fight against terrorism and said it would seek a reversal by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.  

White House press secretary Tony Snow said the Bush administration “couldn’t disagree more with this ruling.” He said the program carefully targets communications of suspected terrorists and “has helped stop terrorist attacks and saved American lives.”  

Taylor ordered an immediate halt to the program, but the government said it would ask for a stay of that order pending appeal. The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the suit, said it would oppose a stay but agreed to delay enforcement of the injunction until Taylor hears arguments Sept. 7.  

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in January on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who say the program has made it difficult for them to do their jobs. They believe many of their overseas contacts are likely targets of the program, which monitors phone calls and e-mails between people in the U.S. and people in other countries when a link to terrorism is suspected.  

The ACLU says the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which set up a secret court to grant warrants for such surveillance, gave the government enough tools to monitor suspected terrorists.  

The government argued that the program is well within the president’s authority but said proving that would require revealing state secrets.  

The ACLU said the state-secrets argument was irrelevant because the Bush administration already had publicly revealed enough information about the program for Taylor to rule.  

Taylor agreed, writing in her 43-page opinion that “Plaintiffs need no additional facts” to establish their claims.  

Taylor, a Carter appointee, said the government appeared to argue that the president has the “inherent power” to violate laws of Congress and the First and Fourth amendments to the Constitution.  

“We must first note that the Office of the Chief Executive has itself been created, with its powers, by the Constitution,” Taylor wrote. “There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all ‘inherent powers’ must derive from that Constitution.”  

The Justice Department said the program “is lawful and protects civil liberties.”  

ACLU executive director Anthony Romero called Taylor’s opinion “another nail in the coffin in the Bush administration’s legal strategy in the war on terror.”  

“At its core, today’s ruling addresses the abuse of presidential power and reaffirms the system of checks and balances that’s necessary to our democracy,” he told reporters.  

One of the plaintiffs in the case, Detroit immigration lawyer Noel Saleh, said the NSA program had made it difficult to represent his clients, some of whom the government accuses of terrorist connections.  

Many of those cases require him to speak to witnesses overseas. “There’s no way I or my clients would feel secure” about the privacy of those phone conversations, Saleh said.  

Saleh, a leader in Michigan’s large Arab-American community, said the program affected not only lawyers, scholars and journalists whose professional activities require them to communicate overseas, but anyone with relatives abroad.  

For example, Saleh said there were “constant phone calls between the United States and Lebanon” in recent weeks, as people here sought news of their families amid the violence in the Middle East. The NSA was likely listening in on many of those calls, he said.  

“People have the right to be concerned about their family, to check on the welfare of their family and not be spied on by the government,” he said.  

In Washington, Republicans expressed hope that the decision would be overturned, while many Democrats praised the ruling.  

“It is disappointing that a judge would take it upon herself to disarm America during a time of war,” Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.  

West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the decision shows the executive branch needs more external reviews.  

“The administration is wrongly convinced that it can run the country without Congress or oversight. This is their tragic failure, and the courts understand it,” Rockefeller said. “The nation’s security is serious business – and particularly during such a dangerous time – it requires constant oversight, input and understanding from the Congress, the courts, and the American people.”  

Both Hoekstra and Rockefeller have been briefed extensively on the program’s details.  

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, is championing a compromise that would allow Bush to submit the surveillance program to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a one-time test of its constitutionality. Civil liberties groups say such a review would be a sham.  

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the administration believes such legislation is not necessary to make the program legal but has committed to working with Specter on it. He said it may address some of the concerns raised in the judge’s ruling.  

But Taylor’s opinion was so sweeping that congressional approval of the program would not address her concerns, said Richard Pildes, a professor at New York University School of Law.  

“The debate about this program has overwhelmingly been about whether Congress has to authorize it for it to be constitutional. But beyond holding that Congress does have to do so, this judge has suggested it would violate the Constitution even if Congress authorized it,” Pildes said.  

“Until Congress actually addresses these questions, I would expect most appellate courts to be extremely reluctant to address many of the questions this judge was willing to weigh in on.”  

Taylor dismissed one claim in the ACLU’s lawsuit that dealt with data-mining of phone records. The lawsuit alleged that the NSA “uses artificial intelligence aids to search for keywords and analyze patterns in millions of communications at any given time.”  

Taylor said not enough had been publicly revealed about that program to support the claim and further litigation would jeopardize state secrets.  

Multiple lawsuits have been filed related to data-mining against phone companies, accusing them of improperly turning over records to the NSA.  


More On Ohio Voter Suppression

August 15, 2006

More information from Salon, on how Ken Blackwell continues to attempt to suppress voters most likely to vote against him in the upcoming elections…

The secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell, now the Republican candidate for governor, is using some new vote-suppressing tricks and, this time, he’s got a sweeping if confusing law, HB 3, to back him up. A coalition of voting-rights groups filed suit last month to overturn the law as unconstitutional.

Infamous for such schemes as initially demanding that all voter registration applications be submitted on 80 lb. stock paper, Blackwell also presided over what most investigators regard as the worst election meltdown of 2004. While the allegation that Blackwell helped “steal” the election from John Kerry is debatable, the view that he intentionally suppressed voting by Democratic-leaning groups is less controversial. That the Ohio election was a mess is almost universally acknowledged, although not by Blackwell’s office. His spokesman, James Lee, says, “The critics were wrong then, and they’re wrong now.”

This time around, the law that took effect in May allows the state to pursue felony prosecutions of workers for voter registration groups who turn in registration cards past a 10-day deadline. They face up to 12 months in prison and a $2,500 fine; late returns on less than 50 forms merit a misdemeanor prosecution. At first, Blackwell implied that the workers couldn’t even send in the forms by mail. Each registration worker also has to return the forms personally to the local elections board, which prevents voter registration groups from combining and checking large numbers of forms. “It’s made registration far more difficult,” says Teresa James, Project Vote’s election administration coordinator. In fact, Ohio ACORN, the Project Vote-allied group that focuses on low-income neighborhoods, suspended virtually all voter registration activities for two months. Now it’s gathering less than 20 percent of the 7,000 registration applicants it signed up monthly before the law was implemented.

Even if people do manage to register, most Ohio election boards don’t know that voters are entitled to vote using regular ballots even if their driver’s licenses list old addresses. It’s a confusion created by a series of misleading or opaque directives from Blackwell.

“I think we could very well have a meltdown in November because of these confusing election rules and poll workers not knowing what to do with the new electronic machines,” observes Peg Rosenfield, the Ohio League of Women Voters election specialist. That’s already been shown by the voting crack-up in Cuyahoga County, home of Cleveland, where the sudden switch to electronic machines in May led workers to lose 70 memory cards from touch-screen terminals and a six-day delay in counting 15,000 absentee ballots.

Key races: Democrats could take the governor’s mansion and unseat Sen. Mike DeWine and four House incumbents.


Terrorism Suspects Held In Ohio

August 10, 2006

From Yahoo! News

600 phones, $11,000 in cash, airplane passenger lists, and locations of Wal-Mart stores.

The phones provide a ready means of communication which, once discarded and replaced, are hard to trace. They also can provide ready cash — by being sold to drug dealers and others who also don’t want to be traced. Chips from inside the phones can also be taken out and used as bomb detonators. The airplane passenger lists are an ominous touch; Susan Vessels doesn’t have to say what they’re for — it’s obvious. Locations of Wal-Mart stores could involve planned attacks or simply an easy resource for finding those phones and other supplies. “2 held on terror charges in Ohio.”

MARIETTA, Ohio – Two men were charged Wednesday with money laundering in support of terrorism after authorities said they found airplane passenger lists and information on airport security checkpoints in their car.Deputies stopped Osama Sabhi Abulhassan, 20, and Ali Houssaiky, 20, both of Dearborn, Mich., on a traffic violation Tuesday. They found the flight documents along with $11,000 cash and 12 phones in the car, said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.

Prosecutor Susan Vessels declined to say how the phones, cash or flight information involved terrorism.

Abulhassan and Houssaiky admitted buying about 600 phones in recent months at stores in southeast Ohio, said sheriff’s Maj. John Winstanley. The men said they sold the phones to someone in Dearborn, a Detroit suburb.

Investigators going through the car after the pair were pulled over in Marietta, about 90 miles southeast of Columbus, also found a map that showed locations of Wal-Mart stores from Ohio through Kentucky, Tennessee and into North and South Carolina, Vessels said….

The charges allege the two laundered between $5,000 and $25,000, Vessels said. A conviction carries a maximum 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.


GOP Screws Poor Voters In Missouri

August 10, 2006

From The New York Times:

Missouri is the latest front in the Republican Party’s campaign to use photo ID requirements to suppress voting. The Republican legislators who pushed through Missouri’s ID law earlier this year said they wanted to deter fraud, but that claim falls apart on close inspection. Missouri’s new ID rules — and similar ones adopted last year in Indiana and Georgia — are intended to deter voting by blacks, poor people and other groups that are less likely to have driver’s licenses. Georgia’s law has been blocked by the courts, and the others should be too.

Even before Missouri passed its new law, it had tougher ID requirements than many states. Voters were required, with limited exceptions, to bring ID with them to the polls, but university ID cards, bank statements mailed to a voter’s address, and similar documents were acceptable. The new law requires a government-issued photo ID, which as many as 200,000 Missourians do not have.

Missourians who have driver’s licenses will have little trouble voting, but many who do not will have to go to considerable trouble to get special ID’s. The supporting documents needed to get these, like birth certificates, often have fees attached, so some Missourians will have to pay to keep voting. It is likely that many people will not jump all of the bureaucratic hurdles to get the special ID, and will become ineligible to vote.

Not coincidentally, groups that are more likely to vote against the Republicans who passed the ID law will be most disadvantaged. Advocates for blacks, the elderly and the disabled say that those groups are less likely than the average Missourian to have driver’s licenses, and most likely to lose their right to vote. In close elections, like the bitterly contested U.S. Senate race now under way in the state, this disenfranchisement could easily make the difference in who wins.

The new law’s supporters say its purpose is to deter fraud. But there is little evidence of “imposter voting,” the sort of fraud that ID laws are aimed at, in Missouri or anywhere else. Groups in Missouri that want to suppress voting have a long history of crying fraud, but investigations by the Justice Department and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, among others, have refuted such claims in the past. If the Legislature really wanted to deter fraud, it would have focused its efforts on absentee ballots, which are a notorious source of election fraud — and are not covered by Missouri’s new ID requirements.

Because of the important constitutional issues these laws raise, courts will have the final say. Federal and state judges have already blocked Georgia’s ID law from taking effect, and although Indiana’s law was upheld earlier this year, that ruling is on appeal. Missouri voting-rights advocates recently filed suit against their state’s law.

Unduly onerous voter ID laws violate equal protection, and when voters have to pay to get the ID’s, they are an illegal poll tax. They are also an insult to democracy, because their goal is to have elections in which eligible voters are turned away.


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