Friday, December 31, 2004

House Republicans considers weakening ethics rules

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican leaders are considering a change in House ethics rules that could make it harder to discipline lawmakers.

The proposal being circulated among House Republicans would end a general rule against any behavior that might bring "discredit" on the chamber, according to House Republican and Democratic leadership aides.

House members would be held to a narrower standard of behavior in keeping with the law, the House's rules and its ethics guidelines.

Other proposed changes to the ethics committee's rules being circulated in a "Dear Colleague" letter from House Rules Chairman David Dreier, R-California, would let House members respond to any admonishment before a letter goes out from the committee, and would end an investigation if there is a tie vote.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, plans to bring the proposal before a meeting of all House Republicans next week "and see what they think," said Hastert spokesman John Feehery.

The broader ethics rule in question was used this year to admonish Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, though the committee said he did not break House rules.

Democrats and government watchdog groups denounced the proposed change.

"It would lower the standard of official conduct, and if that's the case, it would be the first time that it has been done since 1968, and it would be done on a completely partisan basis," said Jennifer Crider, spokeswoman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, on Friday.

Pelosi, D-California, also plans to huddle with Democrats next week to discuss a strategy for defeating the proposal.

"Members of the House should be kept to the highest ethical standard, not the lowest," Crider said. "Now, the code is higher than the law. This would say you've only violated the code of ethics if you've violated the law."

The committee has a long history, dating to the first recorded disciplinary action in 1798, when a Vermont lawmaker spat on a Connecticut colleague during a vote. Despite an apology letter, the committee nearly expelled the Vermonter, but fell two votes shy.

In the DeLay case, the committee said he had created the appearance of linking political donations to a legislative favor and improperly gained intervention of the Federal Aviation Administration in a Texas political dispute. It also said DeLay had improperly offered support for the House candidacy of Michigan Republican Rep. Nick Smith's son in return for the lawmaker's vote for a Medicare prescription drug benefit. Smith voted against it.

After helping craft that admonishment, the committee's chairman, Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colorado, may be replaced with another chairman by Hastert. (House ethics panel chief could be replaced)

Feehery said that is being considered because Hastert believes rules limit Hefley's tenure on the commission, not because of his leadership on the DeLay case.

Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a watchdog group, said the House Republican leaders' proposal "would fundamentally undermine and damage the House ethics rules, and would constitute the biggest backtracking we have ever seen on ethics standards in the House."

"If House Republican leaders are allowed to prevail, they will have gutted the single most important ethics standard in the House and turned House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's multiple ethics transgressions into acceptable conduct for all House members," Wertheimer said.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Oh boy...

This week the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School presented its fourth annual Global Environment Citizen Award to Bill Moyers. In presenting the award, Meryl Streep, a member of the Center board, said, "Through resourceful, intrepid reportage and perceptive voices from the forward edge of the debate, Moyers has examined an environment under siege with the aim of engaging citizens." Here is the text of his response to Ms. Streep's presentation of the award.

On Receiving Harvard Med's Global Environment Citizen Award
By Bill Moyers
Wednesday 01 December 2004

I accept this award on behalf of all the people behind the camera whom you never see. And for all those scientists, advocates, activists, and just plain citizens whose stories we have covered in reporting on how environmental change affects our daily lives. We journalists are simply beachcombers on the shores of other people's knowledge, other people's experience, and other people's wisdom. We tell their stories.

The journalist who truly deserves this award is my friend, Bill McKibben. He enjoys the most conspicuous place in my own pantheon of journalistic heroes for his pioneer work in writing about the environment. His bestseller "The End of Nature" carried on where Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" left off.

Writing in Mother Jones recently, Bill described how the problems we journalists routinely cover - conventional, manageable programs like budget shortfalls and pollution - may be about to convert to chaotic, unpredictable, unmanageable situations. The most unmanageable of all, he writes, could be the accelerating deterioration of the environment, creating perils with huge momentum like the greenhouse effect that is causing the melt of the arctic to release so much freshwater into the North Atlantic that even the Pentagon is growing alarmed that a weakening gulf stream could yield abrupt and overwhelming changes, the kind of changes that could radically alter civilizations.

That's one challenge we journalists face - how to tell such a story without coming across as Cassandras, without turning off the people we most want to understand what's happening, who must act on what they read and hear.

As difficult as it is, however, for journalists to fashion a readable narrative for complex issues without depressing our readers and viewers, there is an even harder challenge - to pierce the ideology that governs official policy today. One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the oval office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a world view despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.
Remember James Watt, President Reagan's first Secretary of the Interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever engaging Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."

Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out across the country. They are the people who believe the Bible is literally true - one-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup poll is accurate. In this past election several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture index. That's right - the rapture index. Google it and you will find that the best-selling books in America today are the twelve volumes of the left-behind series written by the Christian fundamentalist and religious right warrior, Timothy LaHaye. These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of millions of Americans.

Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre (the British writer George Monbiot recently did a brilliant dissection of it and I am indebted to him for adding to my own understanding): once Israel has occupied the rest of its "biblical lands," legions of the anti-Christ will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts, and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.

I'm not making this up. Like Monbiot, I've read the literature. I've reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They are sincere, serious, and polite as they tell you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That's why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. It's why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelation where four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of man." A war with Islam in the Middle East is not something to be feared but welcomed - an essential conflagration on the road to redemption. The last time I Googled it, the rapture index stood at 144 - just one point below the critical threshold when the whole thing will blow, the son of God will return, the righteous will enter heaven, and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire.

So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? Go to Grist to read a remarkable work of reporting by the journalist, Glenn Scherer - "The Road to Environmental Apocalypse." Read it and you will see how millions of Christian fundamentalists may believe that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed - even hastened - as a sign of the coming apocalypse.

As Grist makes clear, we're not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half the U.S. Congress before the recent election - 231 legislators in total - more since the election - are backed by the religious right. Forty-five senators and 186 members of the 108th congress earned 80 to 100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian right advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Conference Chair Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Policy Chair Jon Kyl of Arizona, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and Majority Whip Roy Blunt. The only Democrat to score 100 percent with the Christian coalition was Senator Zell Miller of Georgia, who recently quoted from the biblical book of Amos on the senate floor: "the days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that i will send a famine in the land.' he seemed to be relishing the thought.

And why not? There's a constituency for it. A 2002 TIME/CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the Book of Revelation are going to come true. Nearly one-quarter think the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks. Drive across the country with your radio tuned to the more than 1,600 Christian radio stations or in the motel turn some of the 250 Christian TV stations and you can hear some of this end-time gospel. And you will come to understand why people under the spell of such potent prophecies cannot be expected, as Grist puts it, "to worry about the environment. Why care about the earth when the droughts, floods, famine and pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse foretold in the Bible? Why care about global climate change when you and yours will be rescued in the rapture? And why care about converting from oil to solar when the same God who performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes can whip up a few billion barrels of light crude with a word?"

Because these people believe that until Christ does return, the lord will provide. One of their texts is a high school history book, America's providential history. You'll find there these words: "the secular or socialist has a limited resource mentality and views the world as a pie…that needs to be cut up so everyone can get a piece." however, "[t]he Christian knows that the potential in God is unlimited and that there is no shortage of resources in God's earth...while many secularists view the world as overpopulated, Christians know that God has made the earth sufficiently large with plenty of resources to accommodate all of the people." No wonder Karl Rove goes around the White House whistling that militant hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers." He turned out millions of the foot soldiers on November 2, including many who have made the apocalypse a powerful driving force in modern American politics.

I can see in the look on your faces just how had it is for the journalist to report a story like this with any credibility. So let me put it on a personal level. I myself don't know how to be in this world without expecting a confident future and getting up every morning to do what I can to bring it about. So I have always been an optimist. Now, however, I think of my friend on Wall Street whom I once asked: "What do you think of the market?" "I'm optimistic," he answered. "Then why do you look so worried?" And he answered: "Because I am not sure my optimism is justified."

I'm not, either. Once upon a time I agreed with the Eric Chivian and the Center for Health and the Global Environment that people will protect the natural environment when they realize its importance to their health and to the health and lives of their children. Now I am not so sure. It's not that I don't want to believe that - it's just that I read the news and connect the dots:

I read that the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has declared the election a mandate for President Bush on the environment. This for an administration that wants to rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act protecting rare plant and animal species and their habitats, as well as the National Environmental Policy Act that requires the government to judge beforehand if actions might damage natural resources.

That wants to relax pollution limits for ozone; eliminate vehicle tailpipe inspections; and ease pollution standards for cars, sports utility vehicles and diesel-powered big trucks and heavy equipment.

That wants a new international audit law to allow corporations to keep certain information about environmental problems secret from the public.

That wants to drop all its new-source review suits against polluting coal-fired power plans and weaken consent decrees reached earlier with coal companies.

That wants to open the arctic wildlife refuge to drilling and increase drilling in Padre Island National Seashore, the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world and the last great coastal wild land in America.

I read the news just this week and learned how the Environmental Protection Agency had planned to spend nine million dollars - $2 million of it from the administration's friends at the American Chemistry Council - to pay poor families to continue to use pesticides in their homes. These pesticides have been linked to neurological damage in children, but instead of ordering an end to their use, the government and the industry were going to offer the families $970 each, as well as a camcorder and children's clothing, to serve as guinea pigs for the study.
I read all this in the news.

I read the news just last night and learned that the administration's friends at the international policy network, which is supported by ExxonMobil and others of like mind, have issued a new report that climate change is "a myth," sea levels are not rising, scientists who believe catastrophe is possible are "an embarrassment."

I not only read the news but the fine print of the recent appropriations bill passed by Congress, with the obscure (and obscene) riders attached to it: a clause removing all endangered species protections from pesticides; language prohibiting judicial review for a forest in Oregon; a waiver of environmental review for grazing permits on public lands; a rider pressed by developers to weaken protection for crucial habitats in California.

I read all this and look up at the pictures on my desk, next to the computer - pictures of my grandchildren: Henry, age 12; of Thomas, age 10; of Nancy, 7; Jassie, 3; Sara Jane, nine months. I see the future looking back at me from those photographs and I say, "Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do." And then I am stopped short by the thought: "That's not right. We do know what we are doing. We are stealing their future. Betraying their trust. Despoiling their world."

And I ask myself: Why? Is it because we don't care? Because we are greedy? Because we have lost our capacity for outrage, our ability to sustain indignation at injustice?
What has happened to out moral imagination?

On the heath Lear asks Gloucester: "How do you see the world?" And Gloucester, who is blind, answers: "I see it feelingly."

I see it feelingly.

The news is not good these days. I can tell you, though, that as a journalist, I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth that sets us free - not only to feel but to fight for the future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at me from those photographs on my desk. What we need to match the science of human health is what the ancient Israelites called 'hocma' - the science of the heart...the capacity to see...to feel...and then to act...as if the future depended on you.

Believe me, it does.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

I was reading something else about the legacy of the Clinton Administration earlier today and I remember thinking what a great president he was. But not only was he a great president I think he is a lot smarter than people give him credit for. He was really a political genius that learned from every mistake he ever made. I bet that right now he could run for president and win again. Anyway I was reading some stuff online and I came across this...

Bill Clinton fought back when he ran into a verbal mugging in Central Park.

The former President is said to have been strolling through the park with his Secret Service team recently when a man pushing a stroller taunted, "You were an embarrassment to the office of commander-in-chief."

Lakshmi Kumar, writing in Citizen Culture magazine, says she saw Clinton stop and deftly tell his heckler, "Oh, really? I think I did a helluva job.... I'll admit I misled people about my personal life. And I have even apologized for it, but I never misled the people about policy and I certainly never misled the people about going to war."

Clinton is said to have spent 45 minutes taking questions from a mostly adoring crowd, then told his detractor: "I hope your children turn out to be as perfect as you are, sir."

The group applauded and Bill walked to a nearby SUV, where, Kumar says, Sen. Hillary Clinton looked impatient.

Sorce: New York Daily News

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Power of Nightmares

Hyping Terror For Fun, Profit - And Power
by Thom Hartmann

What if there really was no need for much - or even most - of the Cold War? What if, in fact, the Cold War had been kept alive for two decades based on phony WMD threats?

What if, similarly, the War On Terror was largely a scam, and the administration was hyping it to seem larger-than-life? What if our "enemy" represented a real but relatively small threat posed by rogue and criminal groups well outside the mainstream of Islam? What if that hype was done largely to enhance the power, electability, and stature of George W. Bush and Tony Blair?

And what if the world was to discover the most shocking dimensions of these twin deceits - that the same men promulgated them in the 1970s and today?

It happened.

The myth-shattering event took place in England the first three weeks of October, when the BBC aired a three-hour documentary written and produced by Adam Curtis, titled "
The Power of Nightmares." If the emails and phone calls many of us in the US received from friends in the UK - and debate in the pages of publications like The Guardian are any indicator, this was a seismic event, one that may have even provoked a hasty meeting between Blair and Bush a few weeks later.

According to this carefully researched and well-vetted BBC documentary, Richard Nixon, following in the steps of his mentor and former boss Dwight D. Eisenhower, believed it was possible to end the Cold War and eliminate fear from the national psyche. The nation need no longer be afraid of communism or the Soviet Union. Nixon worked out a truce with the Soviets, meeting their demands for safety as well as the US needs for security, and then announced to Americans that they need no longer be afraid.

In 1972, President Richard Nixon returned from the Soviet Union with a treaty worked out by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the beginning of a process Kissinger called "détente." On June 1, 1972, Nixon gave a speech in which he said, "Last Friday, in Moscow, we witnessed the beginning of the end of that era which began in 1945. With this step, we have enhanced the security of both nations. We have begun to reduce the level of fear, by reducing the causes of fear—for our two peoples, and for all peoples in the world."

But Nixon left amid scandal and Ford came in, and Ford's Secretary of Defense (Donald Rumsfeld) and Chief of Staff (Dick Cheney) believed it was intolerable that Americans might no longer be bound by fear. Without fear, how could Americans be manipulated?

Rumsfeld and Cheney began a concerted effort - first secretly and then openly - to undermine Nixon's treaty for peace and to rebuild the state of fear and, thus, reinstate the Cold War.

And these two men - 1974 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Ford Chief of Staff Dick Cheney - did this by claiming that the Soviets had secret weapons of mass destruction that the president didn't know about, that the CIA didn't know about, that nobody but them knew about. And, they said, because of those weapons, the US must redirect billions of dollars away from domestic programs and instead give the money to defense contractors for whom these two men would one day work.

"The Soviet Union has been busy," Defense Secretary Rumsfeld explained to America in 1976. "They’ve been busy in terms of their level of effort; they’ve been busy in terms of the actual weapons they ’ve been producing; they’ve been busy in terms of expanding production rates; they’ve been busy in terms of expanding their institutional capability to produce additional weapons at additional rates; they’ve been busy in terms of expanding their capability to increasingly improve the sophistication of those weapons. Year after year after year, they’ve been demonstrating that they have steadiness of purpose. They’re purposeful about what they’re doing."

The CIA strongly disagreed, calling Rumsfeld's position a "complete fiction" and pointing out that the Soviet Union was disintegrating from within, could barely afford to feed their own people, and would collapse within a decade or two if simply left alone.

But Rumsfeld and Cheney wanted Americans to believe there was something nefarious going on, something we should be very afraid of. To this end, they convinced President Ford to appoint a commission including their old friend Paul Wolfowitz to prove that the Soviets were up to no good.

According to Curtis' BBC documentary, Wolfowitz's group, known as "Team B," came to the conclusion that the Soviets had developed several terrifying new weapons of mass destruction, featuring a nuclear-armed submarine fleet that used a sonar system that didn't depend on sound and was, thus, undetectable with our current technology.

The BBC's documentarians asked Dr. Anne Cahn of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency during that time, her thoughts on Rumsfeld's, Cheney's, and Wolfowitz's 1976 story of the secret Soviet WMDs. Here's a clip from a transcript of that BBC documentary:

" Dr ANNE CAHN, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, 1977-80: They couldn't say that the Soviets had acoustic means of picking up American submarines, because they couldn't find it. So they said, well maybe they have a non-acoustic means of making our submarine fleet vulnerable. But there was no evidence that they had a non-acoustic system. They’re saying, 'we can’t find evidence that they’re doing it the way that everyone thinks they’re doing it, so they must be doing it a different way. We don’t know what that different way is, but they must be doing it.'

"INTERVIEWER (off-camera): Even though there was no evidence.

"CAHN: Even though there was no evidence.

"INTERVIEWER: So they’re saying there, that the fact that the weapon doesn’t exist…

"CAHN: Doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. It just means that we haven’t found it."

The moderator of the BBC documentary then notes:

" What Team B accused the CIA of missing was a hidden and sinister reality in the Soviet Union. Not only were there many secret weapons the CIA hadn’t found, but they were wrong about many of those they could observe, such as the Soviet air defenses. The CIA were convinced that these were in a state of collapse, reflecting the growing economic chaos in the Soviet Union.

Team B said that this was actually a cunning deception by the Soviet régime. The air-defense system worked perfectly. But the only evidence they produced to prove this was the official Soviet training manual, which proudly asserted that their air-defense system was fully integrated and functioned flawlessly. The CIA accused Team B of moving into a fantasy world."

Nonetheless, as Melvin Goodman, head of the CIA's Office of Soviet Affairs, 1976-87, noted in the BBC documentary, "Rumsfeld won that very intense, intense political battle that was waged in Washington in 1975 and 1976. Now, as part of that battle, Rumsfeld and others, people such as Paul Wolfowitz, wanted to get into the CIA. And their mission was to create a much more severe view of the Soviet Union, Soviet intentions, Soviet views about fighting and winning a nuclear war."

Although Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld's assertions of powerful new Soviet WMDs were unproven - they said the lack of proof proved that undetectable weapons existed - they nonetheless used their charges to push for dramatic escalations in military spending to selected defense contractors, a process that continued through the Reagan administration.

But, trillions of dollars and years later, it was proven that they had been wrong all along, and the CIA had been right. Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Wolfowitz lied to America in the 1970s about Soviet WMDs.

Not only do we now know that the Soviets didn't have any new and impressive WMDs, but we also now know that they were, in fact, decaying from within, ripe for collapse any time, regardless of what the US did - just as the CIA (and anybody who visited Soviet states - as I had - during that time could easily predict). The Soviet economic and political system wasn't working, and their military was disintegrating.

As arms-control expert Cahn noted in the documentary of those 1970s claims by Wolfowitz, Cheney, and Rumsfeld:

"I would say that all of it was fantasy. I mean, they looked at radars out in Krasnoyarsk and said, 'This is a laser beam weapon,' when in fact it was nothing of the sort. ... And if you go through most of Team B’s specific allegations about weapons systems, and you just examine them one by one, they were all wrong."

"INTERVIEWER: All of them?

"CAHN: All of them.

"INTERVIEWER: Nothing true?

"CAHN: I don’t believe anything in [Wolfowitz's 1977] Team B was really true."

But the neocons said it was true, and organized a group -
The Committee on the Present Danger - to promote their worldview. The Committee produced documentaries, publications, and provided guests for national talk shows and news reports. They worked hard to whip up fear and encourage increases in defense spending, particularly for sophisticated weapons systems offered by the defense contractors for whom neocons would later become lobbyists.
And they succeeded in recreating an atmosphere of fear in the United States, and making themselves and their defense contractor friends richer than most of the kingdoms of the world.

The Cold War was good for business, and good for the political power of its advocates, from Rumsfeld to Reagan.

Similarly, according to this documentary, the War On Terror is the same sort of scam, run for many of the same reasons, by the same people. And by hyping it - and then invading Iraq - we may well be bringing into reality terrors and forces that previously existed only on the margins and with very little power to harm us.

Curtis' documentary suggests that the War On Terror is just as much a fiction as were the super-WMDs this same group of neocons said the Soviets had in the 70s. He suggests we've done more to create terror than to fight it. That the risk was really quite minimal (at least until we invaded Iraq), and the terrorists are - like most terrorist groups - simply people on the fringes, rather easily dispatched by their own people. He even points out that Al Qaeda itself was a brand we invented, later adopted by bin Laden because we'd put so many millions into creating worldwide name recognition for it.

Watching "The Terror of Nightmares" is like taking the Red Pill in the movie The Matrix.
It's the story of idealism gone wrong, of ideologies promoted in the US by Leo Strauss and his followers (principally Wolfowitz, Feith, and Pearle), and in the Muslim world by bin Laden's mentor, Ayman Zawahiri. Both sought to create a utopian world through world domination; both believe that the ends justify the means; both are convinced that "the people" must be frightened into embracing religion and nationalism for the greater good of morality and a stable state. Each needs the other in order to hold power.

Whatever your plans are for tonight or tomorrow, clip three hours out of them and take the Red Pill. Get a pair of headphones (the audio is faint), plug them into your computer, and visit an unofficial archive of the Curtis' BBC documentary at the Information Clearing House
website. (The third hour of the program, in a more viewable format, is also available here.)
For those who prefer to read things online, an unofficial but complete transcript is on this Belgian

But be forewarned: You'll never see political reality - and certainly never hear the words of the Bush or Blair administrations - the same again.

Thom Hartmann (thom at thomhartmann.com) is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show.
www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People: A Call To Take Back America," The Edison Gene, and "What Would Jefferson Do?: A Return To Democracy."

Thursday, December 09, 2004

I got audio from Clinton Curtis' interview on Air America's Unfiltered!!

If you don't know the story, Clinton Curtis a former computer programmer in Florida, has alleged that Tom Feeney, now a republican Florida Congressman asked Curtis to develop software to steal elections.

Interview part 1

Interview part 2

Still more breaking constantly -- Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

WHISTLEBLOWER AFFIDAVIT: Programmer Built Vote Rigging Prototype at Republican Congressman's Request!

This is from a site that is overwhelmed with traffic. The author got an affidavit from the engineer that wrote the software made to manipulate vote totals:

In stunning revelations set to rock the vote from Tallahassee to Capitol Hill -- and perhaps even a bit further up Pennsylvania Avenue -- a Florida computer programmer has now made remarkable claims in a detailed sworn affidavit, signed this morning and obtained exclusively by The BRAD BLOG!

The programmer claims that he designed and built a "vote rigging" software program at the behest of then Florida Congressman, now U.S. Congressman, Republican Tom Feeney of Florida's 24th Congressional District.

Clint Curtis, 46, claims that he built the software for Feeney in 2000 while working at a sofware design and engineering company in Oviedo, Florida (Feeney's home district).

Curtis, in his affidavit, says that as technical advisor and programmer at Yang Enterprises, Inc. (YEI) he was present at company meetings where Feeney was present "on at least a dozen occasions".

Feeney, who had run in 1994 as Jeb Bush's running-mate in his initial unsuccessful bid for Florida Governor, was serving as both corporate counsel and registered lobbyist for YEI during the period that Curtis worked at the company. Feeney was also concurrently serving as a Florida state congressman while performing those services for YEI. Feeney would eventually become Speaker of the Florida House before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002. He is now a member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

At an October 2000 meeting with Feeney, according to the affidavit and BRAD BLOG interviews with Curtis over the past three days, Feeney inquired whether the company could build a "vote fraud software prototype".

At least three YEI employees are said to have been present at that meeting; Curtis, company owner, Mrs. Li Woan Yang, and her executive secretary, Mike Cohen. Two other YEI employees may have come in and out at different points of the meeting according to Curtis.

Curtis says that Feeney "was very specific in the design and specifications required for this program."

"He detailed, in his own words, that; (a) the program needed to be touch-screen capable (b) the user should be able to trigger the program without any additional equipment (c) the programming to accomplish this needed to stay hidden even if the source code was inspected."

Though there was no problem with the first two requirements, Curtis explained to the Congressman that it would be "virtually impossible to hide such code written to change the voting results if anyone is able to review the uncompiled source code"

Nonetheless, he was asked at the meeting by Mrs. Yang to build the prototype anyway.

Curtis, "a life-long Republican" at the time, claims that it was his initial belief that Feeney's interest was in trying to stop Democrats from using "such a program to steal an election". Curtis had assumed that Feeney, "wanted to be able to detect and prevent that if it occurred."

Upon delivery of the software design and documentation on CD to Mrs. Yang, Curtis again explained to her that it would be impossible to hide routines created to manipulate the vote if anybody would be able to inspect the precompiled source code.

Mrs. Yang then told him, "You don’t understand, in order to get the contract we have to hide the manipulation in the source code. This program is needed to control the vote in South Florida." [emphasis in affidavit]
SOURCE: Click Here


I know there are some people who still think the torture of prisoners in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay amount to little more than fraternity hi-jinks or that, because they are "terrorists" they don't deserve much else, but one must consider the ramifications of these actions on American soldiers who are captured in this and future conflicts, not to mention feuling the flames of hatred towards the US in the Middle East and around the world. And the attempted cover-up by the military and the Defense Department reeks of injustice and hypocrisy.

It is good that this story has not gone away quietly, it needs to be addressed over and over and over until SOMEONE in the Bush administration SINCERELY acknowledges that this torture was sactioned by Rumsfeld and the Defense Department, and that IT IS WRONG.

Memo: Workers Threatened Over Prison Abuse
By PAISLEY DODDS, Associated Press Writer

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - U.S. special forces accused of abusing prisoners in Iraq threatened Defense Intelligence Agency personnel who saw the mistreatment, according to U.S. government memos released Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The special forces also monitored e-mails sent by defense personnel and ordered them "not to talk to anyone" in the United States about what they saw, said one memo written by the Defense Intelligence Agency chief, who complained to his Pentagon bosses about the harassment.

In addition, the special forces confiscated photos of a prisoner who had been punched in the face.
Prisoners arriving at a detention center in Baghdad had "burn marks on their backs" as well as bruises and some complained of kidney pain, according to the June 25, 2004 memo.
FBI agents also reported seeing detainees at Abu Ghraib subjected to sleep deprivation, humiliation and forced nudity between October and December 2003 — when the most serious abuses allegedly took place in a scandal that's remains under investigation.

The release of the ACLU documents comes a day after The Associated Press reported that a senior FBI official wrote a letter to the Army's top criminal investigator complaining about "highly aggressive" interrogation techniques at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay dating back to 2002 — more than a year before the scandal broke at the Iraqi prison.

The memos reveal behind-the-scenes tensions between the FBI and U.S. military and intelligence task forces running prisoner interrogations at Guantanamo and in Iraq as the Bush administration sought better intelligence to fight terrorists and the deadly Iraq insurgency.
"These documents tell a damning story of sanctioned government abuse — a story that the government has tried to hide and may well come back to haunt our own troops captured in Iraq," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the New York-based ACLU.

The documents were released only after a federal court ordered the Pentagon and other government agencies to comply with a year-old request filed under the Freedom of Information Act filed by the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace.

A spokesman for U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida, which directs special military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, declined to comment on specific allegations.
"We take all issues of detainee abuse very seriously and where there is the potential that these abuses could have taken place, we investigate them," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nick Balice.

Joe Navarro, a retired FBI agent who teaches interrogation techniques to the military and is familiar with interrogations at Guantanamo, said using threats during interrogations only stands to taint information gleaned from the sessions.

"The only thing that torture guarantees is pain," Navarro told AP Tuesday. "It never guarantees the truth."

Many memos refer to Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, whose mission as head of the Guantanamo prison from October 2002 was to improve the intelligence gleaned from terror suspects. In August 2003, Miller was sent to Iraq to make recommendations on interrogation techniques to get more information out of prisoners. He was posted to Abu Ghraib in March 2004.

One FBI e-mail released by the ACLU said Miller "continued to support interrogation strategies (the FBI) not only advised against, but questioned in terms of effectiveness."

Miller left Iraq on Tuesday for a new assignment in Washington, with responsibility for Army housing and other support operations, and could not be reached for comment.

According to the memo from the Defense Intelligence chief, Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, a special forces task force in Iraq threatened defense personnel who complained about abuses. Some had their car keys confiscated and were ordered not to leave the base "even to get a haircut."

Balice refused to describe the task force, which could include Army Rangers, Delta Force, Navy SEALs and other Special Forces' soldiers working with CIA operatives.

Another June 25 memo describes how a task force officer punched a prisoner in the face "to the point he needed medical attention," failed to record the medical treatment, and confiscated photos of the injuries. The date of the incident wasn't clear as the memo — like others released by the ACLU — have been heavily redacted to remove dates and names.

An e-mail to Thomas Harrington, an FBI counterterrorism expert who led a team of investigators to Guantanamo, records "somewhat heated" conversations in which Pentagon officials admitted that harsh interrogations did not yield any information not obtained by the FBI.

Another December 2003 e-mail notes the FBI's Military Liaison and Detainee Unit, which "had a longstanding and documented position against use of some of DoDs interrogation practices," requested certain information "be documented to protect the FBI."

In the July 14 letter obtained by the AP, Harrington suggested that the Pentagon didn't act on FBI complaints about four incidents at Guantanamo, including a female interrogator grabbing a detainee's genitals and bending back his thumbs, another where most of a prisoner's head was covered with duct tape and a third where a dog was used to intimidate a detainee who later was thrown into isolation and showed signs of "extreme psychological trauma."

The Harrington letter was addressed to Maj. Gen. Donald J. Ryder, the Army's chief law enforcement officer who's investigating abuses at U.S.-run prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and at Guantanamo. He said FBI officials complained about the pattern of abusive techniques to top Defense Department attorneys in January 2003, and it appeared that nothing was done.

The U.S. military says prisoners are treated according to the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit violence, torture and humiliating treatment. Still, at least 10 incidents of abuse have been substantiated at Guantanamo, all but one from 2003 or this year.

Many detainees at Guantanamo have been held without charge and without access to attorneys since the camp opened in January 2002. The United States has imprisoned some 550 men accused of links to Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime or al-Qaida; only four have been charged.

Whose party is it anyway?

Harry Reid may be the Democrats' new Senate leader, but this week, blue eyes are on Howard Dean.

By Tim Grieve

Dec. 7, 2004 | Harry Reid says Democrats have to "swallow their pride" and move toward the middle. Harry Reid says he admires Antonin Scalia's "brilliance" and could imagine voting to confirm him as chief justice of the United States. Harry Reid says he'd rather "dance" with George W. Bush than "fight" him.

Harry Reid says: "I'm the face of the Democratic Party today."

Harry Reid may be right. For a party that came within 119,000 Ohio votes of ousting a sitting president in a time of war, the Democrats are sounding awfully defeated these days. There's talk of making the most of long-term minority status, of compromising on judicial appointments and "moral issues" like the rights of gay couples and women -- Reid, the Democrats' new Senate leader, is anti-choice -- and of trying to figure out some way to outflank the Republicans from the red-state right.

And then there's Howard Dean.

The once-and-maybe-future presidential candidate has kept a relatively low profile since election night, but that's going to change Wednesday, when Dean delivers what his aides are calling a "major speech" in Washington. The subject: Dean's vision for the Democratic Party. The not-so-hidden subtext: his role in it.

On the night after John Kerry lost to George W. Bush, Dean told supporters on a Meetup conference call that the Democratic National Committee is "at a crossroads" and that DNC members "have questions to ask themselves." But now, as Dean prepares for his Bush II coming out and weighs a bid to replace Terry McAuliffe as the head of the DNC, it's the DNC members who have questions for Dean: Where does he want the party to go, and is he willing to put aside his own presidential aspirations to help take it there?

Dean will address the first of those questions Wednesday. He'll argue that the Democratic Party should be rebuilt from the grass roots up, that it should be driven by millions of Americans who make small contributions rather than by a handful of moneyed interests, and that the party should focus not just on presidential politics in swing states like Ohio and Florida but also on down-ballot races even in the reddest of states. On matters of substance, Dean may not resurrect his borrowed line about representing the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," but you can count on him to make it clear he isn't joining the "go along to get along" wing of the party, either.

"If you want to win, you have to fight, and you have to stand for something," Dean wrote in a Web column a few days after the election. While centrist Democrats like Reid were scrambling to find common ground with the president and the red state voters who elected him, Dean used his first sustained election postmortem to proclaim his disagreement with Bush "on almost every direction he takes us in."

Dean's unequivocal anti-Bushness is red meat for progressive Democrats hungry for something beyond the empty calories of "Fuck the South." The liberal blogosphere -- which played both father and son to Dean's presidential run -- has all but demanded that Dean be chosen to lead the Democratic Party when the DNC meets in February. In Oregon, the race for a spot in the state's DNC delegation turned into a blog battle over which candidate would offer the strongest support for Dean's as-yet-undeclared candidacy. In Washington, DNC member Donna Brazile said Monday that she has received so many e-mails from Dean supporters that her Blackberry has died from the abuse.

There's no question that Dean can inspire the Democratic base. And as a former governor -- albeit of a tiny state -- and a presidential candidate who helped revolutionize political campaigns, Dean has a track record that suggests he has the organizational skills necessary to make the Democratic Party work. But a good résumé and the impassioned pleas of a thousand dailykossacks does not a DNC majority make. Brazile -- who may or may not have been in the race but is out now -- says Dean has only "lukewarm" support from party insiders. If Dean decides to run, she says, "You'll see the same forces that tried to derail his campaign reconstitute themselves as an anti-Dean bandwagon."

In the primaries, the anti-Dean movement was aided and abetted -- if not led -- by friends of the Democratic Leadership Council, whose Al From and Bruce Reed dismissed Dean's supporters as "activist elites" and railed against the "misguided notion that the hopes and dreams of activists represent the heart and soul of the Democratic Party."

Will arguments such as these hold sway with Democrats after Kerry's loss? It's hard to know. For every Democrat who believes Kerry lost because he was seen as "too liberal" on gay marriage or taxes or God knows what else, there's another who believes he handed George Bush the presidency by refusing to hit him harder on Iraq. Kerry consistently criticized Bush's handling of the war. But in his own refusal to admit a mistake in voting to authorize the war, Kerry denied himself the unequivocal antiwar argument that Dean made forcefully in the Democratic primaries. Kerry's approach represented the sort of centrist pin-dancing the DLC may favor, but it doesn't speak to Democratic activists -- elite or otherwise -- who are looking for someone to guide them out of their post-election despair.

Of course, many of those activists have larger aspirations for Dean. They wanted him to be the Democrats' presidential nominee in 2004, and they like the idea of his making another run for the nomination in 2008. For Brazile and many other DNC members, that's a problem. The DNC chairmanship is a full-time job, they say, and it shouldn't be filled by the chosen one of any potential presidential candidate -- let alone by a potential candidate himself. Brazile expects to meet with Dean in Washington before he speaks Wednesday; if he won't commit to not running in 2008, she said, she won't be able to support him for the DNC chairmanship.

Laura Gross, a spokeswoman for Dean's Democracy for America, said Dean's presidential aspirations are just one factor that will go into his decision whether to run for the chairmanship. She said he hasn't decided whether he'll run in 2008 -- let alone whether the desire to make such a run is incompatible with the chairmanship.

If Dean runs for the DNC job -- and gets it -- he may ultimately be able to have it both ways. If the Democrats surge in the 2006 election cycle -- if history and Dean's leadership conspire to win governorships and significant numbers of seats in the House and Senate -- then the party may be so enthusiastic about Dean's skills that he'll win widespread support for a presidential run. But there are a lot of "ifs" built into that equation, and it's not a contingency Dean can embrace -- at least publicly -- if he hopes to win the support of a lot of DNC members wary of picking a chairman who uses the DNC as his own personal exploratory committee.

Few -- if any -- of the other candidates carry that particular baggage. Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack is a potential presidential candidate in 2008, but he has checked out of the DNC race. Other candidates in the race now are Harold Ickes, the former Clinton chief of staff; Ron Kirk and Wellington Webb, the former mayors of Dallas and Denver, respectively; Simon Rosenberg, the president of the New Democratic Network; businessman Leo Hindery Jr., and former Gore and Kerry advisor Donnie Fowler.

None of those candidates raise the same concerns Dean does, but none carry Dean's high public profile, either. That's a plus and a minus -- as even Dean's supporters acknowledge. Paul Maslin, who helped run Dean's primary campaign, is enthusiastic about his former boss's DNC candidacy. He's even comfortable with Dean's ability to avoid being caricatured as an out-of-touch Northeastern liberal.

"He ran for president because he wanted to do something about healthcare and the budget deficit, but then Iraq happened and he exploited an opening," Maslin said last week. "The party was being too meek and mild, and he said 'Hey, we've gotta fight.'" Maslin, who has talked with Dean about a DNC run, says the fight "still matters."

"I don't mean that we're going to be in pitched battle with George W. Bush over every single thing he does," Maslin said. "But there's a lot of things he does that still require Democrats to have a voice." As soon as he said it, though, Maslin acknowledged the problem of having that "voice" come out of Dean's mouth -- and it's one that a Harry Reid will never have. "That damned scream," Maslin said, and you could almost hear him shaking his head over the phone line. If the Democrats choose Dean to lead them, Maslin said, "We'll just have to accept the fact that Fox is going to show that clip for the next 1,046 days, or whatever it is. That's life."

Saturday, December 04, 2004

I get periodic updates on important issues from my senator and I thought I would share this one.

Dear Friend:

Last month, the Senate voted to raise the federal debt limit by $800 billion - on top of the $7.4 trillion we already owe. This increase constituted the third large increase in the federal borrowing limit since President Bush took office in 2001. With this new debt limit, the Administration will have added $2.1 trillion to the debt limit in less than 4 years.

What does this mean to the American people? Before the new increase in the debt limit, every man, woman and child in theUnited States had a share of almost $25,000 in national debt. With the new debt increase, that share increased by almost$2,700. More important, however, it means that the American people, in one way or another, must pay back this amount plus interest.

For the baby born today, our national debt is nothing less than a birth tax. “Welcome to the world, and here is your tax bill. You currently owe $25,000 plus interest, and we will be adding to the principal.” This is a sorry legacy for America’s children.

In the 2000 Presidential election, President Bush promisedvoters a fiscally responsible government. He claimed a soundprogram of tax cuts, tax incentives for businesses and individuals, job-creating investment incentives, and acomprehensive and effective approach to reduce unemployment. Instead, this Administration has delivered record red ink and a national debt that our children and grandchildren will struggle to pay off.

But, sadly, there is more. As Congress raised the federal debtlimit by $800 billion, budget experts projected that the new ceiling will most likely need to be raised again in about ayear forcing the federal government to continue borrowing against already strapped federal programs like Social Security.

The lack of fiscal responsibility that we see will be felt by all Americans. I voted against the new debt ceiling, believingthat we must begin to make hard choices once again. We made hard choices during the 1990s when, with hard work and abipartisan effort, we brought the federal budget into balanceand created surpluses.

But, sadly, there is even more. Congress will soon be asked to consider some $70 billion in supplemental appropriations formilitary operations in Iraq, with no way to pay those costs.

I will take a new oath of office in January and, when I do, you can be sure that I will be ready to represent the people ofCalifornia and work for them and for their future. You can besure that I will take that oath seriously.

Later this month, I will be sending you an announcement of a new online survey about priorities for the coming Congress. I will be looking to hear your answers to my survey on the priorities you hold high.

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

A view of the US from across the pond...and some interesting statistics.

Comment: Andrew Sullivan: Where the Bible bashers are sinful and the liberals pure

When America sat down last week for its annual rite of national Thanksgiving, some would argue that two different nations celebrated: upright, moral, traditional red America and the dissolute, liberal blue states clustered on the periphery of the heartland. The truth is much more complicated and interesting.

Take two iconic states: Texas and Massachusetts. In some ways they were the two states competing in the last election. One is the home of Harvard, gay marriage, high taxes and social permissiveness.

The other is Bush country, solidly Republican, traditional and gun-toting. Massachusetts voted for John Kerry over George W Bush 62% to 37%; Texas voted for Bush over Kerry 61% to 38%.
Ask yourself a simple question: which state has the highest divorce rate? Marriage was a key issue in the last election, with Massachusetts’ gay marriages becoming a symbol of alleged blue state decadence and moral decay. But in fact Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the country at 2.4 divorces per 1,000 inhabitants. Texas, which until recently made private gay sex a crime, has a divorce rate of 4.1.

A fluke? Not at all. The states with the highest divorce rates are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. The states with the lowest divorce rates are: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Every one of the high divorce rate states went for Bush. Every one of the low divorce rate states went for Kerry. The Bible Belt divorce rate is roughly 50% higher than the national average.
Some of this discrepancy can be accounted for by the fact that couples tend to marry younger in the Bible Belt and many do not have the maturity to know what they are getting into. There is some correlation, too, between rates of college education and stable marriages, with the Bible Belt lagging behind a highly educated state such as Massachusetts.

The irony still holds, however. Those parts of America that most fiercely uphold what they believe are traditional values are not those parts where traditional values are healthiest. Hypocrisy? Perhaps. A more insightful explanation is that socially troubled communities cling to absolutes in the abstract because they cannot live up to them in practice.

Doesn’t being born again help to bring down divorce rates? Jesus was clear about divorce, declaring it a sin unless adultery was involved. A recent study found no measurable difference in divorce rates between those who are “born again” and those who are not; 29% of Baptists have been divorced, compared with 21% of Catholics. Moreover, a staggering 23% of married born agains have been divorced twice or more.

Teenage births? Again, the contrast is striking. In a state such as Texas where the religious right is strong and the rhetoric against teenage sex is gale-force strong, teen births as a percentage of all births are 16.1%. In liberal, secular Massachusetts they are 7.4%, less than half.

Marriage itself is less popular in Texas than in Massachusetts. In Texas the proportion of people unmarried is 32.4%; in Massachusetts it is 26.8%. So even with a higher marriage rate, Massachusetts has a divorce rate almost half of its “conservative” rival.

Take abortion. America is one of the few western countries where the legality of abortion is still ferociously disputed. It is a country where the religious right is arguably the strongest single voting bloc and in which abortion is a constant feature of cultural politics.

Compare it with a country such as Holland, perhaps the epitome of social liberalism. Which country has the highest rate of abortion? It is not even close. America has a rate of 21 abortions per 1,000 women aged between 15 and 44. Holland has a rate of 6.8. Americans, in other words, have three times as many abortions as the Dutch. Remind me again: which country is the most socially conservative?

Even a cursory look at the leading members of the forces of social conservatism in America reveals the same pattern. Rush Limbaugh, the top conservative talk-radio host, has had three divorces and an addiction to painkillers. Bill O’Reilly, the most popular conservative television personality, just settled a sex harassment suit that indicated a highly active adulterous sex life. Bill Bennett, guru of the social right, was for many years a gambling addict. Bob Barr, the conservative Georgian congressman who wrote the Defense of Marriage Act, has had three wives. The states that register the highest ratings for Desperate Housewives, the hot new television show, are Bush states.

The complicated truth is that America is a divided and conflicted country. But it is a grotesque exaggeration to say that the split is geographical or correlated with Democrat and Republican states. Many of America’s biggest “sinners” are those most intent on upholding virtue. It may be partly because they know sin close up that they want to prevent its occurrence among others.

Some of those states that have the most liberal legal climate — the northeast and parts of the upper Midwest — are also in practice among the most socially conservative. To ascribe all this to “hypocrisy” seems to me too crude an explanation. America is simply a far more complicated and diverse place than crude red and blue divisions can explain.

The spasms of moralism that have punctuated American history from the Puritans all the way through prohibition and now the backlash against gay marriage are not a war of one part of the country against another. They are a war within the souls of all Americans.

Within many a red state voter there is a blue state lifestyle. And within many a blue state liberal there is a surprisingly resilient streak of moralism. It is this internal conflict that makes America such a vibrant and compelling place.

The conflict exists perhaps most powerfully within the Republican states themselves as they grapple with the “sin” of their own practices and the high standards of their own aspirations. It is worth remembering that Bill Clinton was a product of a Republican state and that for more than half his life Bush was a dissolute wastrel from a Democrat-state family.

These contradictions are not the exceptions. They are the American rule. If you love this tortured and fascinating country they are one more reason to be thankful that it still exists

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