February 24, 2006

Big Oil fan after little man

Rep. Joe Barton, the powerful Texas Republican who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, launched a bizarre investigation last week into possible antitrust violations by a major oil company.

You will be surprised to learn that Barton, one of the top recipients in Congress of campaign donations from the energy industry, is not probing whether ExxonMobil or Chevron or any of the other oil giants engaged in price gouging when gasoline and heating oil costs skyrocketed the past few years.

No, the good congressman has set his sights on the only oil company that actually dared to lower its prices last year - at least for the poorest Americans. more...

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from Democracy Now:
Thursday, February 23rd, 2006
Legendary South African Journalist Allister Sparks on Wiretapping and Torture, Under Apartheid and Bush

We spend the hour with legendary South African editor and reporter Allister Sparks. Sparks gained fame as editor of South Africa's Rand Daily Mail in the late 1970s where he helped bring down a South African Prime Minister in a government propaganda scandal. He also helped expose the death of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko at the hands of South Africa's security forces. In 1995, South African president Nelson Mandela appointed Sparks to the Board of the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

Sparks discusses wiretapping and torture, under apartheid last century and under the Bush administration today. He also discusses indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and his ties to the apartheid regime.
Watch, listen, and/or read.

February 23, 2006

Democrats Push Bill That Would Bar Third Parties in Races for Congress
GREEN PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES

Panic and retaliation among progressive Democrats over Green challenges are behind HR 4694, say Greens, citing the bill's prohibitive petition requirements, ban on private contributions; Greens call the bill patently unconstitutional.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Green Party leaders called on Congress to reject a House bill that combines public funding of congressional campaigns with a scheme to ban third party and independents from such races.

HR 4694 ("Let the People Decide Clean Campaign Act") would grant full public funding to nominees of parties (i.e., Democrats and Republicans) that had averaged 25% of the vote for House races in a given district in the last two elections.

All others (i.e., third party and independent candidates) would be required to submit petitions signed by 10% of the last vote cast for partial funding, and 20% petitions for full funding.

Furthermore, candidates who don't qualify for funding would be barred from spending any privately raised money on their campaigns. more...

February 22, 2006

Declassification in Reverse  

Washington, D.C., February 21, 2006 - The CIA and other federal agencies have secretly reclassified over 55,000 pages of records taken from the open shelves at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), according to a report published today on the World Wide Web by the National Security Archive at George Washington University. Matthew Aid, author of the report and a visiting fellow at the Archive, discovered this secret program through his wide-ranging research in intelligence, military, and diplomatic records at NARA and found that the CIA and military agencies have reviewed millions of pages at an unknown cost to taxpayers in order to sequester documents from collections that had been open for years. more...

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Uncommon Police Work on the Ranch
If it had been any shooter but Dick Cheney, there might have been real investigating in Texas
by David Simon  

Good thing it was the vice president of the United States, and good thing it didn't happen in a city accustomed to its share of gunfire. Or some actual police work might have occurred.

Where I live, in Baltimore - one of the nation's most violent cities - we are admittedly unaccustomed to the occasional hunting accident. But stray rounds, accidental discharges and unintended woundings are fairly common.

And when they happen, invariably, a police investigator is called to the scene. And he begins to, well, investigate. Immediately. So that if Dick Cheney were, say, Jess Fowlkes of the 500 block of Whatcoat Street, his Saturday night would have gone a little something like this:

Detective No. 1: You Jess Fowlkes?

Fowlkes: Ummm ...

Detective No. 2: 'Cause your friend in the ER says you two were shooting semiautos at empty Clorox bottles an' you put a hot one in his shoulder.

Fowlkes: It was an accident.

Detective No. 1: Right. So he said.

Fowlkes: I feel bad, yo. Worst day of my life, in fact.

Detective No. 2: So you say. Where's the gun?

Fowlkes: Could we deal with this tomorrow? I'm upset.

Detective No. 1: Get the gun. Now. You're going downtown.

Fowlkes: Am I under arrest?

Detective No. 2: Do you wanna be?

Fowlkes: No.

Detective No. 1: Then give up the gun, show us where the shooting happened and get the #@*& in the #*&@#&*@ car.
more...

February 21, 2006

UAE Would Also Control Shipments of Military Equipment For The U.S. Army

There is bipartisan concern about the Bush administration‚s decision to outsource the operation of six of the nation‚s largest ports to a company controlled by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) because of that nation‚s troubling ties to international terrorism. The sale of P&O to Dubai World Ports would give the state-owned company control of „the ports of New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.š

A major part of the story, however, has been mostly overlooked. The company, Dubai Ports World, would also control the movement of military equipment on behalf of the U.S. Army through two other ports. more...

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 Pataki Joins Opposition to Takeover of Ports  
By David D. Kirkpatrick and Patrick McGeehan

    Washington - The Republican governors of New York and Maryland on Monday joined the growing chorus of criticism of an Arab company's takeover of operations at six major American ports. Both raised the threat of legal action to void contracts at ports in New York City and Baltimore. more...

February 20, 2006

It's un-American to give up liberties in hope of security
By LEONARD PITTS JR.

The enemies of freedom will be defeated. - President Bush, 2005
We have met the enemy and he is us. - Pogo, 1971


The following happened in the United States of America on Feb. 9 of this year.
The scene is the Little Falls branch of the Montgomery County Public Library in Bethesda. Business is going on as usual when two men in uniform stride into the main reading room and call for attention. Then they make an announcement: It is forbidden to use the library's computers to view Internet pornography.

As people are absorbing this, one of the men challenges a patron about a Web site he is visiting and asks the man to step outside. At this point, a librarian intervenes and calls the uniformed men aside. A police officer is summoned. The men leave. It turns out they are employees of the county's Department of Homeland Security and were operating way outside their authority. more...

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Just Your Average Week of the Bush Administration Betraying America
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS

Sometimes we do question whether the lunatics are running the asylum in America -- or we are the lunatics.

After all, we take a look back at a week like the past one (and a few days beyond) and we do start to doubt our sanity.

How can this travesty, betrayal, incompetence, lying and selling out of our national security continue without any major eruption of outrage and cries for impeachment and prosecution?

If what happened -- and this is just a few consecutive days of heinous misdeeds by the Busheviks -- can appear so routine and fail to stir any outcry for defending our Constitution and our personal safety, maybe we are the crazy ones.

We won't make this a detailed expose, but just print some of the major transgressions against America that come to mind:

-- The Bush Administration, which claims all its secretive powers in the names of national security, gives a contract to guard our ports to a Middle Eastern country with ties to Al Qaeda. more...

February 19, 2006

Invisible Men

The not-people we're not holding at Guantanamo Bay.
By Dahlia Lithwick

It's an immutable rule of journalism that when you unearth three instances of a phenomenon, you've got a story. So, you might think three major reports on Guantanamo Bay, all released within a span of two weeks, might constitute a big story. But somehow they do not.

Guantanamo Bay currently holds over 400 prisoners. The Bush administration has repeatedly described these men as "the worst of the worst." Ten have been formally charged with crimes and will someday face military tribunals. The rest wait to learn what they have done wrong. Two major studies conclude that most of them have done very little wrong. A third says they are being tortured while they wait.

No one disputes that the real criminals at Guantanamo should be brought to justice. But now we have proof that most of the prisoners are guilty only of bad luck and that we are casually destroying their lives. more...

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What Happened To My Country?
By Steve Osborn

I grew up an American, and proud of it. I was taught in school about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and Bill of Rights. My brother was a Merchant Marine Officer during the war and had three ships sunk beneath him. We beat the Nazis, the Fascists and the Japanese and made the world safe for democracy. After the war came Nuremberg and the assurance that things like the holocaust could never happen again. The Marshal Plan helped to rebuild the shattered portions of the world. America, Democracy, compassion and help. It was good to be an American. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were sad, but necessary to end the war and save lives, we were told.

We read George Orwell‚s 1984, which could happen in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, but we could never have thought police and endless war here in the United States. Then came the Cold War, McCarthy, Korea, and later on Vietnam. My service time crossed those wars, but I thanked my stars I didn‚t have to fight in them. I was at Bikini for the Hydrogen Bomb tests in 1956, which taught me the  the unthinkable horror of nuclear war.

Vietnam taught us the danger and folly of going to war on a false pretext. Tonkin Gulf was to be a lesson to us all, as was the intended impeachment of Nixon for violating the law and the Constitution. We wouldn‚t let that happen again; no president was ever going to spy on his own people again, or persecute people who didn‚t agree with him or his policies.

Yes, the United States was a nation of great wealth. A nation that took care to see to the freedom and well being of its citizens, and welcomed the downtrodden foreigner to the new land. It was a nation that pioneered the exploration of space and gloried in the advance of science. I was proud to be an American!

My God! What has happened to my nation? My nation that no longer pays more than lip service to its Constitution and Bill of Rights, which have been a beacon to the world for over two centuries. My nation that unilaterally discards treaties that were the hope of a world of peace, guided by law and diplomacy. My nation that will wage a war of aggression against a far off nation that was no threat to it, but that has lots of oil. My nation that gives all of its wealth to the rich and is satisfied to leave its citizens to starve, homeless, unemployed and sickly. more...

February 18, 2006

Climate Change: On the Edge
Greenland Ice Cap Breaking Up at Twice the Rate It Was Five Years Ago, Says Scientist Bush Tried to Gag
by Jim Hansen  

A satellite study of the Greenland ice cap shows that it is melting far faster than scientists had feared - twice as much ice is going into the sea as it was five years ago. The implications for rising sea levels - and climate change - could be dramatic.

Yet, a few weeks ago, when I - a NASA climate scientist - tried to talk to the media about these issues following a lecture I had given calling for prompt reductions in the emission of greenhouse gases, the NASA public affairs team - staffed by political appointees from the Bush administration - tried to stop me doing so. more...

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We Must Defend Our Nation's Principles
By Barbara Lee

    When I cast the lone vote against the September 14, 2001, Use of Force Resolution, I believed, as I do today, that Congress had no business authorizing an unspecified war against an unspecified enemy for an unspecified period of time, and I was worried that the over-broad authority of the resolution was vulnerable to abuse.

    Certainly few, if any, who supported the resolution could have believed that they were casting a vote for warrantless spying on Americans. As former Senator Tom Daschle has pointed out, Congress specifically rejected the administration's efforts to secure in the resolution free reign to conduct domestic spying. The administration therefore knew that the law prohibited them from conducting warrantless domestic spying on US citizens, and they sought to change the law and failed.

    Despite administration claims to the contrary, all the evidence suggests that the president willfully broke the law in authorizing warrantless surveillance of Americans after Congress refused to grant him that authority.

    What is most troubling about this is that it is not an isolated incident. We see the same pattern reflected in the president's decision, in the same stroke of the pen, as he signed Senator John McCain's amendment outlawing torture - to reserve the right to ignore Congress and authorize torture of people, if he sees fit. What is troubling is not merely the spying or the torture. Rather, by claiming to be above the law, President Bush is undermining the very thing that distinguishes us from our terrorist enemies. more...

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No War in Iraq march.

San Francisco, Ca., January 18, 2003
San Francisco, Ca., February 16, 2003

Klezmatics

Klezmatics concert photos. (These are uncorrected straight out out of the camera)

On April 3, 2005, Barbara and I went to see the Klezmatics, with guest Joshua Nelson, Jewish gospel singer. To quote the concert program, "Their soul-stirring Jewish roots music recreates klezmer in arrangements and compostions that combine Jewish identity and mysticism with a contemporary zeitgeist and a postmodern aesthetic. Since their founding in New York City's East Village in 1986, the Klezmatics have celebrated the ecstatic nature of Yiddish music with works by turn wild, spiritual, provocative, reflective and danceable." The concert was phenomenal.

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