Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Blackwell: Recount Is "A Parade on the March" but Where's the Media?

NEW YORK - We have been inviting Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell to appear on Countdown since we began to cover the voting irregularities story on November 8th.

It struck me as not quite coincidental that he finally joined us the same day the Ohio GOP issued what might be the first Republican recognition of any kind that there are questions about the vote - a news release with the gaudy headline “Democrats Struggle to Justify Unnecessary Recount / (Jesse) Jackson swoops in to fuel conspiracy theories even Kerry lawyers admit are baseless.”

While it was the Greens and Libertarians filing for the recount, the Republicans seemed to prefer silence. But after Jackson spoke in Columbus Sunday and Cincinnati Monday, suddenly Mr. Blackwell was available. “I think what happened,” he said, “is that Jesse Jackson ran around the block and tried to get out in front of a parade that was already on the march.”

That’s an odd phrase. Show of hands, please! Who out of the 20% who believe the election is illegitimate would have believed that a Republican state official would ever compare an Ohio recount to “a parade that was already on the march”? Sounds like a campaign phrase - for Democrats.

Suddenly the recount itself seems like an old pal to Ohio’s top election official. Last week, the incoming president of the association of county election officials mused out loud about a suit to stop the Glibs, so I asked Blackwell if he was saying that his office would take no step to try to prevent the recount. “Once they ask for a recount, we will provide them with a recount… we will regard this as yet another audit of the voting process.”

As to the audit of the perception of conflict of interest in Blackwell’s other role as Honorary Co-Chair of the Bush-Cheney Ohio Campaign, he seemed less definitive. “We have a bi-partisan system in Ohio where the Hamilton County Chairman of the board of elections, Tim Burke, is also the Democrat chairman of the Democrat party in that county.” I’ll pause the quote here to note that said party does business as the Democratic Party and the Republicans’ obsession with that little ‘ic’ has always seemed peevish to me, even when it’s coming out of John McCain’s mouth. Blackwell continued: “The same for Dayton. The Democrat Chairman is the Chairman of the Board of Elections in Montgomery County.”

This is interesting, and this is troubling (why should you be able to be both Chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party and Chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Elections?). But it also seemed to be self-evidently irrelevant - something akin to the political version of “They started it,” whether the ‘they’ are Republicans or Democrats.

The Democrats, of course, didn’t start the recount push in Ohio, the Glibs did, and the distinction seems vitally important to Blackwell. Messrs. Badnarik and Cobb “have a standing, not Jesse Jackson, and because Senator Kerry has conceded and has not asked for a recount he has no standing, and so I would anticipate that the Electoral College will be held on the 13th of December and 20 votes will go to the certified winner.”

We had already gone way past our scheduled length of the interview, and were throwing out other political stories, when I had to choose between two last questions to which I wanted Secretary Blackwell’s official answers. Judging by email response to the show, a lot of people would have asked the one I didn’t - about the still inexplicable “terrorist threat” lockdown of vote-counting in Warren County.

Not to get too Inside Baseball on you, but my thinking in the heat of the moment was that Mr. Blackwell would respond to questions about Warren County much in the way he veered off from my earlier question about what the Ohio GOP news release termed “a costly $1.5 million dollar recount…” He quickly agreed that the Recount Gap between actual costs and the $10 per precinct charge was the fault of nobody but Ohio’s legislature, which hasn’t updated the rate card since 1956. Then came what I expected we’d have heard again if I’d asked about Warren: “Ohio has a delicately balanced bi-partisan system that counts votes at the local level. I have nothing to do with counting the votes.”

For answers, we need the Warren County election authorities and - here’s a surprise - they haven’t commented since the FBI denied issuing them any kind of ‘terrorism warning.’

So, instead, I went for a straight yes-or-no on the latest ‘sources say’ story from the many and varied internets: did he, or did he not, meet with President Bush, in Ohio, on election day. “That’s just hogwash, absolutely zero, not true. And it’s the sort of mythology that grows out of, you know, a lot of people with a lot of time on their hands and the imaginations of Jonathan Swift.” While earning points for referencing the author of Gulliver’s Travels, Secretary Blackwell also threw a gauntlet down at the feet of the net’s Baker Streets Irregulars: there darn well better not be anybody willing to swear an oath they saw such a meeting take place.

--Keith Olbermann, MSNBC Nov 30

Monday, November 29, 2004

Was Orwell Right? Is War Now Peace?

With these slogans, George Orwell's NINETEEN EIGHTY FOUR burst upon the literary world as the definitive anti-utopian novel for the second half of the 20th Century.

Published in 1949, this darkly cautionary and prescient vision of the near future was a warning against the dangers of a totalitarian government fueled by high technology. Orwell envisions a world devastated by nuclear war and poverty, where the West has fallen under the spell of a totalitarian socialist dictator, Big Brother. A political demagogue and religious cult leader all rolled into one, Big Brother's power and mystery are so immense that one may wonder if he even exists at all.

Big Brother's Ingsoc Party (English Socialism) has perfected the uses of high technology to monitor the lives of its populace, and to insure unswerving loyalty through surveillance, propaganda and brainwashing. The government's most brilliant and most appalling project is the actual deconstruction of the English language into Newspeak, the language of the Party. Each successive edition of the Newspeak Dictionary has fewer words than its predecessor. By removing meaning and nuance from the vocabulary, the government hopes to eradicate seditious and anti-social thinking before it even has the chance to enter a person's mind. Without the vocabulary for revolution, there can be no revolution. For those who persist in thinking for themselves, so-called Thought Criminals, Ingsoc's stormtroopers, the Thought Police, are there to intervene, incarcerating the free-thinkers in the Ministry of Love, where they will be re-educated, or worse.

The most intrusive daily aspect of life in Oceania (as Orwell calls the European/American mega-State) are the omnipresent telescreens, two-way interactive televisions that cannot be turned off, and which give the government a faceless surveillance window into everyone's life. Who is on the other side of the telescreens? Are people watching? Is all the monitoring done by machine? All we learn is that members of the Inner Party, the elite, are allowed to turn off their telescreens, if only for a brief period.

Winston Smith, the protagonist of Orwell's novel, becomes a Thought Criminal. A minor bureaucrat (an "Outer Party" member) his job is to actually rewrite the archives of the London Times so that they are consistent with current Ingsoc policy. When Ingsoc changes its political alliance with another superpower and begins waging war on a former ally, Winston's job is to rewrite all the prior information to show that the old alliance never existed. So addled are the minds of the people he meets that they don't even realize that these changes have been made. A sad, lonely man, Winston is also smart enough to understand the insidious manipulation being perpetrated on the society.

And so he becomes a willing victim of the government's most ingenious ruse: Winston obtains a copy of a banned revolutionary tract by the famous enemy of the State, Goldstein. Galvanized and inspired by what he reads, he pursues an illicit love affair with a co-worker,Julia, and seems to find an ally in the person of Inner Party official O'Brien. Longing for an escape from this terrible world to a better life, he does not realize that everything has been a set-up. Kindly O'Brien is actually the head of the Thought Police, and it is he who has actually written Goldstein's book for the very purpose of luring potential revolutionaries out of the closet and into the dreaded Room 101 - a torture chamber where one's worst fears are made real. Totally broken, brainwashed and reprogrammed (so suggestible that he is even made to agree that 2+2=5), Winston is returned to society as another harmless devoté of Big Brother. In the chilling final pages of the book, Winston, tears of fear and joy streaming down his face, proclaims his love of Big Brother, all thoughts, hopes or dreams of escape and freedom permanently eradicated from his consciousness.

Reuters: Disasterous Effects of Climate Change Will Hit in 2050

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The weather predictions for Asia in 2050 read like a script from a doomsday movie.

Except many climatologists and green groups fear they will come true unless there is a concerted global effort to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

In the decades to come, Asia -- home to more than half the world's 6.3 billion people -- will lurch from one climate extreme to another, with impoverished farmers battling droughts, floods, disease, food shortages and rising sea levels.

"It's not a pretty picture," said Steve Sawyer, climate policy adviser with Greenpeace in Amsterdam. Global warming (news - web sites) and changes to weather patterns are already occurring and there is enough excess carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to drive climate change for decades to come.

Already, changes are being felt in Asia but worse is likely to come, Sawyer and top climate bodies say, and could lead to mass migration and widespread humanitarian crises.

According to predictions, glaciers will melt faster, some Pacific and Indian Ocean islands will have to evacuate or build sea defenses, storms will become more intense and insect and water-borne diseases will move into new areas as the world warms.

All this comes on top of rising populations and spiraling demand for food, water and other resources. Experts say environmental degradation such as deforestation and pollution will likely magnify the impacts of climate change.

In what could be a foretaste of the future, Japan was hit by a record 10 typhoons and tropical storms this year, while two-thirds of Bangladesh, parts of Nepal and large areas of northeastern India were flooded, affecting 50 million people, destroying livelihoods and making tens of thousands ill.

The year before, a winter cold snap and a summer heat wave killed more than 2,000 people in India.

Sawyer said India, with a population of just over 1 billion people, is one of the areas most threatened by climate change.

Rising sea levels will also bring misery to millions in Asia, he said, causing sea water to inundate fertile rice-growing areas and fresh-water aquifers, making some areas uninhabitable.
Sawyer said India and Bangladesh will have to draw up permanent relocation plans for millions of people. "I'm afraid that's almost inevitable."

By 2050, China will have built sea defenses along part of its low-lying, storm-prone southeastern coast, while the North of the country faced increasing desertification, he said.

According to the U.N.'s World Food Program, the Gobi Desert in China expanded by 20,230 square miles between 1994 and 1999, creeping closer to the capital Beijing.

Anwar Ali, a leading climatologist in Bangladesh, says about 15 percent of the country would be under water if sea levels rose by a yard in the next century.

Perhaps the biggest threat to Asia in the future will be the shortage of clean water. The WFP says Asia accounts for 60 percent of the world's population but has only 36 percent of the globe's fresh water.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), rapid melting of glaciers poses a major threat to the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and parts of China.
Seven major rivers, including the Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra and the Mekong, begin in the Himalayas and the glacial meltwater during summer months is crucial to the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people downstream.


But many of these glaciers are melting quickly and will be unable to act as reservoirs that moderate river flows. This means less water in the dry season and the chance for more extreme floods during the wet season.

Sawyer thinks rich countries, by far the biggest polluters, should look after the millions at risk from climate change or suffer the consequences that could include mass migration or trying to feed millions made homeless by droughts and floods in a world struggling to grow enough food.
Fears of mass migration have already prompted the Pentagon (news - web sites) and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, among others, to study the risk from climate-induced mass migration.

The Pentagon in its 2003 report looked at what might happen if the climate changed abruptly. The result was near anarchy.

"As global and local carrying capacities are reduced, tensions could mount around the world," it said. This could lead some wealthier nations becoming virtual fortresses to preserve their resources.

"Less fortunate nations, especially those with ancient enmities with their neighbors, may initiate struggles for access to food, clean water, or energy," the report said.

Few places are more exposed to climate change than the low-lying Maldives islands, to the west of Sri Lanka, where the highest natural point is under 8 feet.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Republicans Refuse to Pass New 9/11 Legislation

Hastert's position, which is drawing fire from Democrats and some outside groups, is the latest step in a decade-long process of limiting Democrats' influence and running the House virtually as a one-party institution. Republicans earlier barred House Democrats from helping to draft major bills such as the 2003 Medicare revision and this year's intelligence package. Hastert (R-Ill.) now says such bills will reach the House floor, after negotiations with the Senate, only if "the majority of the majority" supports them.

Senators from both parties, leaders of the Sept. 11 commission and others have sharply criticized the policy. The long-debated intelligence bill would now be law, they say, if Hastert and his lieutenants had been humble enough to let a high-profile measure pass with most votes coming from the minority party.

That is what Democrats did in 1993, when most House Democrats opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement. President Bill Clinton backed NAFTA, and leaders of the Democratic-controlled House allowed it to come to a vote. The trade pact passed because of heavy GOP support, with 102 Democrats voting for it and 156 voting against. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, the House GOP leader at the time, declared: "This is a vote for history, larger than politics . . . larger than personal ego."

Such bipartisan spirit in the Capitol now seems a faint echo. Citing the increased marginalization of Democrats as House bills are drafted and brought to the floor, Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.) said, "It's a set of rules and practices which the Republicans have taken to new extremes."

Price, a former Duke University political scientist and the author of "The Congressional Experience," acknowledged that past congressional leaders, including Democrats, had sometimes scuttled measures opposed by most of their party's colleagues. But he said the practice should not apply to far-reaching, high-stakes legislation such as NAFTA and the intelligence package, which were backed by the White House and most of Congress's 535 members.

Other House Democrats agree. Republicans "like to talk about bipartisanship," said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). "But when the opportunity came to pass a truly bipartisan bill -- one that would have passed both the House and Senate overwhelmingly and would have made the American people safer -- they failed to do it."

--washington post, Nov 28

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Media Barely Touching Voter Fraud Scandal

In South Florida, voters in Palm Beach, Broward and Dade Counties reported that they attempted to select John Kerry but George Bush appeared on the screen. CNN has reported that a dozen voters in six states reported similar problems. See "Touchscreen Voting Problems Reported," --Associated Press, November 5.

In Columbus, Ohio, an electronic voting system gave President Bush nearly 4,000 extra votes. ---"Machine Error Gives Bush Extra Ohio Votes," Associated Press, November 5.

In Youngstown, Ohio voters who attempted to cast a vote for John Kerry on electronic voting machines said they saw that their votes were instead recorded as votes for George W. Bush.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that officials in Warren County, Ohio, had “locked down” its administration building to prevent anybody from observing the vote count there. Warren County Commissioners confirmed that they were acting on the advice of their Emergency Services Director, Frank Young. Mr. Young said he had been advised by the federal government to implement the measures for Homeland Security. The State of Ohio has said that of all of its 88 Counties, Warren alone decided the Homeland Security measures were necessary. The FBI's official statement was that no such warning was given to Warren County officials.

--Cincinnati Enquirer,

League of Women Voters Requests RECOUNT

This is the recent statement from the League of Women Voters, a reputable mainstream group, demanding recounts for Ohio and Florida where documented irregularities meant more votes for George W. Bush EACH AND EVERY TIME they occurred.

Also, keep up with the ever growing election story with Keith O. here at MSNBC. He's the only major news media reporter that has given the story steady, objective coverage.

E-mail him to say you appreciate his efforts and demand that your rights as a voter are respected.


“The League of Women Voters is deeply concerned about voting irregularities in the 2004 election. The appropriate officials must fully investigate these concerns through open and public processes. Election officials should look into problems quickly and thoroughly and fix what proves to be wrong. Transparency and a willingness to look into potential problems will strengthen voter confidence and ultimately improve our electoral system.

“It is important to ensure that every properly cast ballot is counted and to make improvements for future elections. Attention must be given to inadequate polling place procedures, problematic voting machines, voter registration system failures, casting and counting of provisional ballots, and absentee voting issues.

“This was far from a perfect election. Although voter turnout reached record levels, the election system showed signs of stress and voters faced real problems. Two key areas deserve special inquiry. First, voter registration problems plague the system. These problems – from failures to fully process registration applications in time to bureaucratic requirements that blocked voter registration – must still be resolved by election officials. Second, the reasons for the very long lines that voters faced in too many states and localities must be thoroughly examined. Having to wait several hours to vote is an unacceptable barrier to citizen participation. What were the reasons? Were there not enough voting machines? Were these polling places poorly organized? Were long lines a greater problem in minority or student precincts than in rural or suburban precincts? Changes clearly need to be made in polling place operations to address these concerns.

“Finally, the League calls on every voter who cast a provisional ballot to find out whether their ballot was counted. The provisional ballot counting process is still ongoing and must be monitored. But every voter who cast a provisional ballot has the right, under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), to know whether it is counted, and, if it is not counted, why it is not counted. States are required to have a toll-free hotline or Internet system so voters can get this information about their ballot.

“The League’s nationwide network of state and local Leagues will continue to work closely with election officials to identify and correct all voting problems.”

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy

Bev Harris: Screen Shots of Network Show Hackers At Work in Voting Process

Bev Harris vents about Kerry's inept handling of fraud allegations.

"Completely irresponsible. A $52 million litigation war chest accumulated from citizen donations for that purpose.

If they [i.e., the Kerry campaign] were the slightest bit interested in either voting system integrity or actually winning, they would have litigated the BBV records requests to apply some real muscle into prompt disclosure of audit materials, at least in Ohio and Florida. Failure to comply with sunshine laws is against the law, yet a citizens group like Black Box Voting cannot claim legal urgency, forcing immediate compliance, in the same way that a campaign can. There is no question that if the campaign had enforced the sunshine laws, analyzing the audit data, two things would have happened: records would have been produced auditing would have been enabled, and we all know that would have produced hard evidence of irregularities.

The screen shots of the NETWORKED Volusia County GEMS server alone, along with the logs showing attempts to access it remotely, should have hit the national press. (I showed them to CNN cameramen yesterday, along with 59 orange-tagged poll tapes that were missing signatures, zero tapes, sometimes missing results altogether! No interest in getting a shot of that smoking gun at all.)

Oh yeah, and we intereviewed poll workers. On camera. Showed them the poll tapes we were given by Volusia County. To a person, they said, with great concern, "That is NOT what we submitted to the county." One remembered the results on his poll tape. What he remembered, before ever seeing the results tape or hearing what was on our copy, was not the same. His memory for a precinct with a tad over 400 voters had 60 more votes for Kerry. Of course, that's not legally binding, since he hadn't written it down.

You have to wonder. The purpose of our audits is to get some real answers, so we don't have to wonder any more. "

--Daily Kos, Nov 24

Intel Reform Bill Would Allow Snooping into Tax Returns

WASHINGTON Nov 21, 2004 — Unwilling to concede defeat, congressional leaders expressed hope Sunday that lawmakers could return next month to resolve a turf battle that has blocked passage of an overhaul of the nation's intelligence agencies. Much depends on whether President Bush is more active in bringing his own troops in line, they said.

"For us to do the bill in early December it will take significant involvement by the president and the vice president," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. "It will take real focus on their part."
During a chaotic Saturday that was intended as the final meeting of the 108th Congress, negotiators announced a compromise on the intelligence bill. Hours later, opposition from the Republican chairmen of two committees stymied the legislation, which would create a national intelligence director.

Reflecting Pentagon concerns about the legislation, California Rep. Duncan Hunter of the House Armed Services warned that the bill could interfere with the military chain of command and endanger troops in the field. Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner of the House Judiciary Committee demanded that the bill deal with illegal immigration.

Congress did manage to pass a 3,000-page, $388 billion spending bill that covers most nondefense and non-security programs for the budget year that began Oct. 1.

But there will be a delay in getting President Bush's signature. The hang-up is because of a single line in the bill that would have given two committee chairmen and their assistants access to people's income tax returns.
The Senate approved a resolution nullifying the idea; House leaders promised to pass it on Wednesday. Then, the spending bill will head to the White House.

"I have no earthly idea how it got in there," Frist said on "Fox News Sunday." "But, obviously, somebody is going to know, and accountability will be carried out."

Frist referred to the bill Saturday night as the "Istook amendment," and congressional aides said it was inserted at the request of Rep. Ernest Istook Jr., R-Okla.

Istook, chairman of the House Appropriations transportation subcommittee, said in a statement Sunday that the Internal Revenue Service drafted the language, which would not have allowed any inspections of tax returns. "Nobody's privacy was ever jeopardized," the statement said.


Monday, November 22, 2004

Berkeley Study Finds Proof of Fraud: MIT Study Confirms It!

Meantime, The Oakland Tribune not only devoted seventeen paragraphs Friday to the UC Berkeley study on the voting curiosities in Florida, but actually expended considerable energy towards what we used to call ‘advancing the story’: “The UC Berkeley report has not been peer reviewed, but a reputable MIT political scientist succeeded in replicating the analysis Thursday at the request of the Oakland Tribune and The Associated Press. He said an investigation is warranted.”

--MSNBC, Nov 22

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Congress to Buy Yacht for Bush, Even though US Is Trillions in Debt

This was awfully nice of them:

Republicans whisked a $388 billion spending bill through the House on Saturday, a mammoth measure that underscores the dominance of deficit politics by curbing dollars for everything from education to environmental cleanups.(...)

Also enacted during the postelection session was an $800 billion increase in the government's borrowing limit. The measure was yet another testament to record annual deficits, which reached $413 billion last year and are expected to climb indefinitely.(...)

[The bill included] a potential present for Bush himself, $2 million for the government to buy back the presidential yacht Sequoia. The boat was sold three decades ago.

Fiscal conservatism at its best.

--Daily Kos, Nov 20

Will Moderate Republicans Find the Nerve to Fight Back Against the Neo-Con Republicans?

Out-organized by neo-conservative groups like the Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council, and the Club for Growth, moderates are no longer viewed as respected members of a philosophically broad-based party. They have, instead, become targets for a group of cannibalistic vigilantes bent on establishing ideological purity.

Drunk with power from their recent electoral victory, these ideologues make no pretense about their intentions. Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth, says his organization's goal is to punish moderate Republicans and make them an endangered species. “The problem with the moderates in Congress is that they basically water down the Republican message and what you get is something that infuriates the Republican base,” Moore says.

“They will learn to conform to our agenda or they will be driven from our party,” he says simply. …

[There] must be a willingness on the part of Republican moderates to step forward on a regular basis and align themselves with Democrats on issues where they agree, such as: a responsible stewardship of the environment, protection of a woman’s right to choose, meaningful reform of the nation’s health care and educational systems, or federal support for critical stem cell research. This would send a powerful message to President Bush that he has drawn an ideological line they are unwilling to cross.
Such a demonstration will prove to millions of Americans that they are no longer moderates but are, instead, radical centrists capable of, and determined to, the retaking of political ground that is legitimately theirs.

Ironically, after the last election, this small group of Republican moderates may be all that stands between the country and the total domination of its political agenda by neo-conservatives like Moore — radicals who have spent a decade and a half planning for this moment of ascendancy in American political history.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Rage, rage against the lying of the Right

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the lying of the Right.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the lying of the Right.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the lying of the Right.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the lying of the Right.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

AP News: Afghanistan Producing More Opium Than Ever Before

Afghanistan's opium cultivation jumped 64 percent to a record 324,000 acres this year and drug exports now account for more than 60 percent of the economy, the United Nations (news - web sites) drugs office said Thursday.

"This year Afghanistan has established a double record -- the highest drug cultivation in the country's history, and the largest in the world," Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, told a news briefing.

Opium, the raw material for heroin, was grown in all Afghanistan's 32 provinces this year. Ten percent of the population, or 2.3 million people, helped farm it because grinding poverty made it more attractive than other crops.

"Cultivation has spread ... making narcotics the main engine of economic growth and the strongest bond among previously quarrelsome peoples," Costa said. "Valued at $2.8 billion, the opium economy is now equivalent to over 60 percent of Afghanistan's 2003 gross domestic product."

"The fear that Afghanistan might degenerate into a narco-state is slowly becoming a reality as corruption in the public sector, the die-hard ambition of local warlords, and the complicity of local investors are becoming a factor in Afghan life," he said.

While the area under cultivation soared, it was still less than three percent of the country's arable land, the U.N. said in a report posted on its Web Site,

But heroin production rose just 17 percent to 4,200 tons, below the 1999 record of 4,600 tons under the radical Islamic Taliban regime, due to bad weather and an insect infestation.

The massive 1999 crop and another large harvest in 2000 led to a stock-build which forced prices down, leading the Taliban to all but eliminate opium production in 2001.

Prices leapt from $28 per kilo at the farm gate in Afghanistan in 2000 to $301 a year later.

The U.N put the 2004 price in Afghanistan at $92 per kilo.


Three-quarters of production is exported as heroin, meaning Afghanistan must import some 10,000 tons of chemicals to refine the raw opium every year, underlining the scale of the corruption involved in the trade, Costa said.

He said Iranian intelligence had recently shown him pictures of a drug convoy of 62 vehicles with military protection.

"We can't hope that the Afghan police or army could possibly take on a convoy of 62 vehicles," he said.

As well as being a narco-economy, Afghanistan was largely a narco-society, he said, with so many people benefiting from the business: farmers pay a "tax" of around 10 percent of their earnings to local warlords; laboratories pay 12 to 15 percent; and export convoys pay 15 to 18 percent.

But he said the government of President Hamid Karzai's commitment to eradicate the business meant it was not yet possible to say Afghanistan was a narco-state.

The major export route is through Iran and Turkey, with a hub in Istanbul and another in the Albanian capital, Tirana, before the heroin reaches the Netherlands, Europe's main distribution center.

Other routes are through Pakistan; across the ex-Soviet central Asian state of Tajikistan then Kyrgyzstan and Russia to Europe; and through Turkmenistan.

Afghanistan now accounts for 87 percent of global heroin production, which has a worldwide market value of $30 billion.

Bye Bye Health Insurance, Not to Mention Social Security

The administration plans to push major amendments that would shield interest, dividends and capitals gains from taxation, expand tax breaks for business investment and take other steps intended to simplify the system and encourage economic growth, according to several people who are advising the White House or are familiar with the deliberations. The changes are meant to be revenue-neutral.

To pay for them, the administration is considering eliminating the deduction of state and local taxes on federal income tax returns and scrapping the business tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance, the advisers said. bye bye health insurance for a hell of a lot of people.

--Digby, Nov 18

Bill O'Reilly Is Simply a Liar

Bill O'Reilly should subject himself to the scrutiny he applies to others. He routinely disparages others in his heavy-handed attempts to lump all those who disagree with him and his near fascist leanings as dreaded "liberals." It is completely ludicrous that this group oftentimes includes career Republicans. Essentially, if you question a Bush policy you are the new target of O'Reilly's deceitful line of pseudo-logic.

This makes O'Reilly anti-American. Not only does he foment discord in a time of war which is downright dangerous, he laughs all the way to the bank. Capitalizing on the misfortunes of others, O'Reilly and company are mere parrots for the political beliefs of Rupert Murdoch, their puppetmaster.

It is pathetic that these folks at Fox News are cast as newspeople and reporters when they are in fact merely entertainers. The sad fact is that the American public are often left without access to the resources necessary to fact-check what these liars are really saying and therefore rely on their warped version of current events.

Most disturbing of all is the fact that new revelations have discovered that Fox News is using a mind programming technique called neurolinguistic programming in its broadcasts. This technique uses short repeated phrases and flashing and moving lights (studies have actually been conducted to determine that moving lights at a certain speed actually creates a hypnotic state and affects the cardiovascular system to condition a person more effectively). After a daily barrage of this, it's no wonder people who consistently watch Fox News have some trouble with the facts.

Big Media Wants This to Go Away: Election Was Rigged

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Election officials in one Ohio county found that about 2,600 ballots were double-counted, and two other counties have discovered possible cases of people voting twice in the presidential election.

--Fox News, Nov 18

Media Tries to Cast VoteScam 2004 as 'Conspiracy' Theory to Discredit Legitimacy

CARSON CITY, Nev. — A businessman has filed a challenge to the Nov. 2 election, saying thousands of Nevadans may have been denied the right to vote.

The challenge filed Tuesday in Washoe County District Court alleges there were "massive irregularities and malfunctions in the registration process."

--Fox News, Nov 18

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Criminal in the House: DeLay Mocks Republican Party

After hours of spirited debate, House Republicans passed a rule change yesterday that would allow Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) to retain his leadership post if he is indicted by a Texas grand jury.

The rule — introduced by Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Texas) but amended by other members — allows the Republican Conference to vote on the leadership status of anyone who faces a state or federal indictment, following a recommendation by the 30-member Republican Steering Committee.

According to the final rule, the Steering Committee must issue its recommendation within 30 legislative days, during which time the member in question must suspend his or her leadership duties.

The conference met for two and a half hours before passing a compromise measure by voice vote just after 1 p.m.

GOP leaders remained silent during the debate, which was carried out by rank-and-file members, and DeLay himself did not vote on the rule change; instead, he stood at the back of the room, counseling members who asked his advice.

“It was not leader-led, which is why it took two hours to do,” DeLay joked afterward.

House Republicans adopted the rule in 1993 in an effort to create a distinction between them and the House Democrats, whom they portrayed as corrupt.

After passage of the Bonilla rule, Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) was the most outspoken critic of the new measure. Shays told reporters immediately after the voice vote that he believed it violated the principles of 1994’s Contract with America.

“I have a tremendous concern that you are seeing the erosion of those laws,” Shays said. “Too many of our members are slipping into business as usual.”

Shays said there was a growing sense among Hill Republicans that if members do not “play ball,” they will not receive chairmanships or plum committee assignments.

Bonilla’s initial rule was immediately challenged by a number of amendments, the first coming from Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), and the caucus spent most of the morning debating the measure, before moving on to other business around 11:30 while a smaller group of members moved to a separate room to decide a compromise.

In that meeting, Bonilla and Brady met with Reps. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), John Carter (R-Texas) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) while the other members discussed other measures on the table.

After the vote, DeLay took the occasion to take a shot at Democrats in Washington and in Texas.

“The Democrats have decided they are going to use the politics of personal destruction to gain power,” DeLay told reporters at an impromptu press conference after the vote. Because of that, DeLay said, the Republican Conference would not “let Democrats or political hacks decide our leadership.”

DeLay also dismissed any notion that this vote signaled an ethical lapse for the Republican Party. In a indirect challenge to Shays, DeLay rhetorically asked any member who disagreed with the vote to “name one instance we have lowered standards.”

Austin’s district attorney, Ronnie Earle, has indicted two DeLay fundraisers for their role in the controversial redrawing of Texas’s congressional boundaries, and DeLay himself is considered a possible target for indictment. Republicans charge that the effort is politically motivated.

“The Republicans’ hypocrisy is staggering,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement yesterday. “To change their own rules to allow someone indicted for a felony to serve as a top Republican leader is completely unacceptable.”, Nov 17

Why the Big Media Hesitates to Touch VoterGate

The New York Times, Washington Post and other RWCM outlets are misleading when they assert that "the blogs" have been flaming "conspiracy theories" about possible fraud in this election. In fact, and with minor exception, the top left-leaning blogs have all but avoided this issue like the plague.

While open discussion forums such as the Daily Kos diaries and the Democratic Underground forums have pursued this story relentlessly, the actual bloggers such as Kos, Atrios, Josh Marshall and Calpundit to name a few, have put this topic in a lockdown that CNN would admire.
Diaries :: TocqueDeville's diary ::

Why? One can only speculate. Perhaps they don't want to be branded "conspiracy theorist". Or perhaps they want to just move on and focus on the next election. Or, and I find this implausible, they really don't think it's possible that a group of Republicans would actually try to steal an election, much less pull it off. But after the proven malfeasance in 2000 [see THE GREAT FLORIDA EX-CON GAME ] and the clear indications that dirty tricks were at play in the run-up to this election,  you would think that any abnormality or suspicious elements in this election would have drawn a spotlight from the "leaders" of our internet community.

So let me address the three possible motives aforementioned for this veritable blackout: cowardice, disbelief, and apathy. [Note: I am not presuming that our bloggers are cowards or apathetic, just that these are possible explanations and therefore should be addressed.]

First, fear of labeling is not a valid reason for ignoring this story, nor is it an acceptable one.  TV personality Keith Olberman has demonstrated clearly that one can cover this issue and bring to light credible concerns while happily leaving the tinfoil hat at home. There is a difference between running around claiming proof of fraud when you have none and recognizing and reporting credible claims of irregularities.

Second, if you find it hard to believe the possibility that this election may have been rigged, then you are sadly uninformed. I won't even bother to cite the plethora of research and testimony from computer security experts as to the susceptibility of our voting and vote-counting technology. I can't believe that you could have missed it. Nor can I believe that you could have blogged this administration for the last few years and doubt that they are above such malfeasance. This is why I find this excuse implausible.

And last but not least, apathy. I'm probably most sympathetic with this excuse because it is an emotional response to a hard reality: that we will probably never prove fraud even if it occurred and even if we do, it probably won't change the outcome of the election. I also understand how exhausting it is to stay immersed in this story day after day and only find bits and pieces of the puzzle. But this is an excuse that we can accept the least.

Recently my wife had her purse stolen. This event began a process of bureaucratic entanglement that lasted over a month. First the police, then credit card companies and the justice system. It was an exhausting nightmare. But we had to go through it. Money was involved.

What if it was your money?

So let me ask you this. What if I told you that these central tabulating computers, the ones that are so concerning because they are connected by modem to thousands of other computers and accessed by thousands of people --election officials, Diebold personel, poll volunteers--, also housed your checking account? And anyone with access could add and delete money from your balance with a few mouse clicks? How would you feel about that?

And what if your balance continued to be off by about 5% and coincidentally, it was always off by a lesser amount than the balance shown by your records? Never more.

What would you do?

And how would you feel if your bank told you could no longer get a receipt on your deposits and regardless of your records, you need to simply trust the bank?

And how would you feel if, upon finding discrepancies between their records and your own, you were told to move on and live for another payday?

Now, does anyone believe that their vote is any less valuable than ALL  the money in their checking account? This is how important the integrity of this election is. And moving on and planning for 2006 or 2008 is utterly futile if all our opponents have to do is rig some machines every two years.  


Currently, there is a front-page story on the Daily Kos showing Bush and some woman almost kissing on the lips. Now, I have zero problem with posting amusing things. In fact I find humor essential to my well being. But juxtaposed to the glaring absence of any mention of still outstanding anomalies and the historical aberration in the exit-poll/vote tabulation discrepancies,  this appears to reflect a degree of out-of-touch-ness that parallels the French nobility immediately prior to the revolution.

We cannot let this slide. If fraud occurred we have to do everything in our power to uncover it. Only the fate of democracy is at stake. And I'll repeat, if all they have to do is rig an election every two years, all the Goerge Lakoffs in the world won't help us.

We need leadership

Let me be clear about what I do not expect. I don't expect the blogs to post every single story  that  bubbles to the surface of the forums. Nor do I expect Kos to feed a frenzy of speculation and false hopes. But I do expect leadership on this issue. And I expect support for all the folks who are vigorously pursuing all leads.

I believe this leadership and support should come in the form of using the bully-pulpit of the blog format to openly acknowledge this issue is critically important, that there are real causes for concern, and that there should be a full investigation into the anomalies and so-called glitches that have surfaced. All of which should be framed in the context of an absolute truth: that no election that is conducted by private corporations using closed, proprietary source code and tabulated in secrecy can ever be truly valid.

Release the exit-poll data

There should also be a loud, unified demand for release of the final Edison/Mitofsky  exit-polling data in the raw form before it was corrupted by an infusion of the tabulation returns. Regardless of what you think about Dick Morris, he knows elections. And he was absolutely right that exit-polls are "almost never wrong." He was the first MSM figure I know of to use the term fraud. Of course he suspects that the exit-polls were rigged (someone send him a gift certificate for Tin Foil Hats Are Us).

With a sampling that exceeded 13,000 voters, the margin of error was less than 1%. What happened?

And of course leadership also includes the reigning in of unsubstantiated allegations and premature conclusions. Now, one could argue that the diary/forum crowd is doing a pretty good job of policing themselves. Generally, I would agree. And no one expects Kos et al to go through and debunk every frivolous assertion. But the diaries are like the wild west of blogworld and we desperately need a high-profile (read: not the kosopedia) repository of information that has been credibly vetted and/or debunked.

In sum, I implore the leaders of the blog community to rejoin the blog community in calling for a close examination of this election in an objective, responsible manner that serves not the false hopes of  disheartened Democrats, but the confidence in the most important process in American democracy: the self-governance of our people through an honest vote.

--TocqueDeVille, Daily Kos, Nov 17

Louisiana Drivers Now Have to Register for the Draft?

ALEXANDRIA (AP) - When Larry Chevalier took his son to get his first driver's license, he was floored to discover that to get it, the boy had to preregister for a nonexistent military draft.

''I just can't believe it,'' said Chevalier, whose 16-year-old son, Nathan, did fill out the form to register with the Selective Service so he could get his license.

''They wouldn't let him get it otherwise,'' Chevalier said Saturday.

Even a 15-year-old boy who wants a learner's permit in Louisiana must provide information to be forwarded, when he turns 18, to the Selective Service System, which would run a military draft if one is set up again.

The same goes for any 16- 17- or 18-year-old who wants his - the law applies only to males - first driver's license or state ID card.
''They can't even be a conscientious objector to signing up,'' said Chevalier, of Glenmora.

The state forwards the information to a federal center which holds it until the boy's 18th birthday, when he is old enough to enter military service. It is used to automatically register him with Selective Service.

Nobody much noticed the law when the Legislature passed it in 2003. What got people's attention that year was a law to suspend the licenses of some students expelled or suspended from high school.

Rudy Sanchez, general counsel for the federal Selective Service System, was also floored to learn that 15-year-olds were being asked to preregister. ''Louisiana shouldn't be registering 15-year-olds. We don't even register 16-year-olds,'' he said last week.

Federal law only provides for ''early submission'' of information by a young man who is at least 17 years and three months old, he noted. When he turns 18, it is forwarded to the proper database.

The law requires only that young men register within 30 days before or after their 18th birthdays.

Other states have passed laws requiring young men to register with Selective Service when they get a driver's license, but none requires it of 15-year-olds, he said.

Everett Bonner, state director of Selective Service, said information collected by the Office of Motor Vehicles is forwarded to a federal data management center in Chicago.

''They do accept it. I can promise you. They do not process it until the young man turns 18,'' he said.

He said registering young men when they get their drivers' licenses is a convenience and a way to help those who don't know they must register. Anyone failing to register is ''considered a felon without conviction,'' he said, and may lose opportunities and benefits. Chevalier questioned how the state can force a minor child to ''sign on the dotted line'' without his parents' consent.

Bonner said parents must sign for a minor to get a driver's license and that should suffice for draft registration as well.
''What I don't like is somebody having all this information about kids and somebody sitting up there in some private meeting discussing how many young people they have available for the draft in two years,'' Chevalier said.

There is no national military draft, and the major presidential candidates all said repeatedly that they don't plan to reinstate one.
Chevalier said he himself was ''too young for Vietnam and too old for anything afterward,'' but his family has a tradition of military service. ''Somebody in my family has served in every war since the Revolutionary War,'' he said.

It doesn't bother him that his son would have to sign up with Selective Service when he turns 18. ''But to be signing up kids at 15 and 16 years old, I do have a problem with that,'' he said.

''All this is to where the government can get a closer eye on the kids. I really believe it's going against their civil liberties.''
The bill's sponsor was Hunt Downer, an assistant adjutant general in the National Guard and former House speaker whom Gov. Kathleen Blanco appointed in August to head the new Department of Veterans Affairs.

Young men at a recent YMCA-sponsored driver's education course shrugged when they learned of the requirement.

''I don't care,'' said Mark Fontenot, a 16-year-old student at Apostolic Christian Academy.
Pineville High School student Josh Stokes, 15, said, ''I think it's good.'

Neither would elaborate.

''I think it's all right. I can't do anything about it anyway,'' said Stephen White, 16 and a student at Alexandria Senior High School.

Chevalier said he plans to do something, or at least try. He plans to submit a report to the American Civil Liberties Union, and is putting together information packets to send to all state legislators.

''They said it was to make it easier on an 18-year-old. How can they say it makes it easier on an 18-year-old when it's putting more pressure on a 15-year-old?'' he said.

--Beauregard Daily News, DeRidder, LA, Nov 17

Bush Whitehouse Now Purged of All Who Dare Question

I'm not referring to the latest attempt to reconquer Iraq, but rather the wholesale political revenge campaign being waged by the hard-liners in the Bush Administration against anybody and everybody inside the government who challenged the way the second Persian Gulf war in a decade was marketed and run. Out: Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose political epitaph should now read, "You break it, you own it" for his prescient but unwanted warning to the President on the danger of imperial overreach in Iraq. Out: Top CIA officials who dared challenge, behind the scenes, the White House's unprecedented exploitation of raw intelligence data in order to sell a war to a Congress and a public hungry for revenge after 9/11. Out: Veteran CIA counterterrorism expert and Osama bin Laden hunter Michael Scheuer, better known as the best-selling author "Anonymous," whose balanced and devastating critiques of the Iraq war, the CIA and the way President Bush is handling the war on terror have been a welcome counterpoint to the "it's true if we say it's true" idiocy of the White House PR machine.

Meanwhile, incompetence begat by ideological blindness has been rewarded. The neoconservatives who created the ongoing Iraq mess have more than survived the failure of their impossibly rosy scenarios for a peaceful and democratic Iraq under US rule. In fact, despite calls for their resignations -- from the former head of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. Anthony Zinni, among others -- the neocon gang is thriving. They have not been held responsible for the "sixteen words" about yellowcake, the rise and fall of Ahmad Chalabi, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the post-invasion looting of Iraq's munitions stores and the disastrous elimination of the Iraqi armed forces. As of today, the neocons on Zinni's list of losers -- Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz; the vice president's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby; National Security Council staffer Elliott Abrams; Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld -- are all still employed even as Bush's new director of central intelligence, Porter J. Goss, is eviscerating the CIA's leadership. This is the culmination of a three-year campaign by the President's men to scapegoat the CIA for the fact that 9/11 occurred on Bush's watch. So far, half a dozen of the nation's top spymasters have been forced out abruptly -- a strange way to handle things at a time when bin Laden and al Qaeda are still seeking to attack the United States. Ironically, this all comes as Goss is suppressing a lengthy study, prepared for Congress by the CIA's inspector general, that, according to an intelligence official who has read it, names individuals in the government responsible for failures that paved the way for the 9/11 attacks. Thus Bush, with Goss as his hatchet man, is having it both ways: He can be seen to be cleaning house at the CIA -- when he is simply punishing independent voices -- while denying Congress access to an independent audit of actual intelligence failures. We should remember that as flawed as its performance was under former Director George J. Tenet, the CIA at least sometimes tried to be a counterweight to the fraudulent claims of Rumsfeld's and Dick Cheney's neoconservative staffs. All of the nation's traditional intelligence centers were bypassed by a rogue operation based in Feith's Office of Special Plans.

Feith was given broad access to raw intelligence streams -- the better to cherry-pick factoids and fabrications that found their way into even the president's crucial prewar State of the Union address. Now, by successfully discarding those who won't buy into the Administration's ideological fantasies of remaking the world in our image, the neoconservatives have consolidated control of the United States' vast military power. With the ravaging of the CIA and the ousting of Powell -- instead of the more-deserving Rumsfeld -- the coup of the neoconservatives is complete. They have achieved a remarkable political victory by failing upward. Robert Scheer, a Nation contributing editor, is also a contributing editor and columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

--The Nation, Nov 17

Even More Fraud Evidence

WASHINGTON - As they ricochet around the country on the Internet, the details seem aligned to raise the eyebrows of suspicious Democrats. President Bush recorded 4,258 votes to Senator John F. Kerry's 260 in one suburb of Columbus, Ohio where only 638 ballots were cast. Across Ohio, some 76,000 punch-card ballots did not register votes for president, and officials have only begun to comb through 155,428 provisional ballots.In Holmes County, Florida, though nearly three-quarters of registered voters are Democrats, Bush wiped out Kerry, 6,410 to 1,810, in results that mirrored those in several other counties where optical-scan paper ballots were used. And in Florida's Broward County, after the first 32,000 absentee ballots were fed into the computer system, a software glitch caused additional ballots to be subtracted from vote totals, rather than added.

A week after Kerry conceded and Bush declared victory, those assertions and scores of others from New Mexico to North Carolina have kept alive speculation that Bush's victory either wasn't real or wasn't nearly as decisive as it seemed. With memories fresh from the 2000 irregularities, e-mails and Web postings accuse Republicans of stealing an election. Kerry campaign officials and a range of election-law specialists agree that while machines made errors and long lines in Democratic precincts kept many voters away, there's no realistic chance that Kerry actually beat Bush." No one would be more interested than me in finding out that we really won, but that ain't the case," said Jack Corrigan, a veteran Kerry adviser who led the Democrats' team of 3,600 attorneys who fanned out across the country on Election Day to address voting irregularities."I get why people are frustrated, but they did not steal this election," Corrigan said. Still, with reports swirling on the Internet, six Democratic members of Congress have asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate. Leading academics have joined the fray as well, saying that the integrity and future of the nation's voting system demand a vetting of all claims." The kind of thing that has to happen is a full-scale investigation," said Troy Duster, a New York University professor who is president of the American Sociological Association. "It sounds like a paranoid fantasy, but I think the data suggests that even if Bush won, he didn't win by the kind of margins that are out there. We have a crisis here of potential legitimacy with all the stuff going on on the Web, and the way to deal with this is to do the research." Most of the focus has been on results in Ohio and Florida, since if either of those states had gone for Kerry instead of Bush, the Massachusetts senator would be president-elect. Early exit polls in both states showed Kerry on track to win, and in each state voting and counting irregularities in numerous places have been reported."Fraud took place in the 2004 election," declares the team at, one popular Web site that is compiling reports of election problems.

--Rick Klein, Boston Globe, Nov 10

Got Voice? Now You Do!

Now there is now a centralized web page that lists reasons why the 2004 presidential election was rigged and fixed.

go to the site and call or e-mail major news media sources and demand that they
cover the story!

the future of America depends on the integrity of our voting process!

Walden O'Dell: Committed to Delivering Republican Victory, No Matter the Actual Results

Diebold, of North Canton, Ohio, said its optical scanners have proved reliable over years of use.
"I think they're rushing to judgment," spokesman David Bear said of the recount advocates.

Diebold has suffered a storm of criticism over its newer touch-screen voting machines, however.
Last week, it settled a lawsuit by California over problems with the electronic machines, and voting rights advocates have complained the touch-screen systems lack paper back-ups.

Walden O'Dell, Diebold's chairman and chief executive, also raised thousands of dollars for the Bush campaign, and said in a fund-raising letter for the Ohio Republican Party that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes" to Bush.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

If You're Being Indicted For Campaign Finance Irregularites That Led To More TX Republican Seats, Just Change The Rules --Seattle Post

WASHINGTON -- Supporters of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay proposed a Republican rules change Tuesday that would protect the Texan's leadership position if he were to be indicted by a Texas grand jury that already charged three of his associates.

House Republicans are likely to approve Wednesday the change in the rule that would force him to step aside if indicted. The show of support would be an endorsement of DeLay's position that the Travis County investigation is a partisan attack.

Currently, rules of the House Republican Conference, which comprises all House GOP members, requires leaders to step aside from the party post if they are indicted for a felony punishable by two or more years in jail. The proposed change would eliminate the step-aside requirement for nonfederal indictments.

The Texas grand jury is investigating alleged campaign finance irregularities in 2002 state legislative races. Republican victories in those contests enabled DeLay ultimately to win support for a congressional redistricting plan that resulted in the GOP's gain of five seats in this month's elections.

House Democrats have a step-aside provision that applies to chairmen or ranking members of committees who are charged with felonies. The language is silent on top party leaders, but Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California was nonetheless sharply critical of the proposal to protect DeLay.

"If they make this rules change, Republicans will confirm yet again that they simply do not care if their leaders are ethical. If Republicans believe that an indicted member should be allowed to hold a top leadership position in the House of Representatives, their arrogance is astonishing," Pelosi said.

The language was proposed by Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, who was helped by the redistricting. Bonilla was re-elected in 2002 with less than 52 percent of the vote. After the boundaries were changed, he won this month with 69 percent of the vote.

Jessica Boulanger, spokeswoman for third-ranking House Republican Roy Blunt of Missouri, confirmed the proposal and said Blunt supported it.

The majority whip "believes the allegations are baseless, and they were political in nature. So he supports the proposed rules change by congressman Bonilla."

Bonilla spokeswoman Taryn Fritz Walpole said the proposed change is intended to "prevent political manipulation of the legislative process" and reduce the possibility of "political exploitation and intimidation of House leadership and chairmanship positions."

The Texas investigation is led by a Democrat, retiring Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle.

In September, the grand jury indicted three political operatives associated with DeLay and eight companies, alleging campaign finance violations related to corporate money spent in the 2002 legislative races. The corporate donations were made to Texans for a Republican Majority, a political action committee created with help from DeLay.

DeLay said he was not questioned or subpoenaed as part of the investigation.

The majority leader said after the indictments, "This has been a dragged-out 500-day investigation, and you do the political math. This is no different than other kinds of partisan attacks that have been leveled against me that are dropped after elections."

In October, the House ethics committee rebuked DeLay for appearing to link political donations to a legislative favor and improperly persuading U.S. aviation authorities to intervene in the Texas redistricting dispute.

More War Profiteers --from SF Gate

President Bush was widely reported last week to be on the verge of nominating local boy Francis Harvey to serve as secretary of the Army.

Not only has Harvey never had a military career, but he is the former chief operating officer for a division of Westinghouse Electric, a leading defense contractor, and serves on the boards of two Carlyle-affiliated firms.

Carlyle is a high-power Washington investment firm that counts among its leaders and advisers former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, former Secretary of State James Baker and, until last year, former President George H.W. Bush, who happens to be the father of the current president.

Most prominently, Harvey is the vice chairman of Maryland's Duratek, which specializes in the handling and disposing of radioactive materials.

Duratek, which reported sales of $286 million last year, has contracts with both the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, which is itself one of the nation's top defense contractors.

Carlyle owns about 23 percent of the company and appointed Harvey to Duratek's board in 1998. He has been re-elected by shareholders every year since then.

Diane Brown, Duratek's vice president of investor relations, said about 3 percent of the company's revenue comes from the Army. About 10 percent is from the Department of Defense and 65 percent from the Energy Department. The rest comes from commercial contracts.

Harvey also sits on the board of Carlyle-owned Kuhlman Electric, a maker of transformers. It has no apparent defense contracts.

Chris Ullman, a spokesman for the Carlyle Group, said he's confident that Harvey, if appointed Army secretary, won't show any special favors to former business partners.

"There are government rules that dictate how people's official duties are allowed to interact with their former private-sector affiliations," he said. "There are mechanisms in place to assure that the public trust is ensured."

The secretary of the Army plays no role in combat operations. Rather, the Army secretary, who reports to the defense secretary, oversees most noncombat matters, such as recruiting and mobilizing troops, and manages a nearly $100 billion budget.

"He makes sure that soldiers have the proper training and equipment to perform their mission," said Lt. Col. Jeremy Martin, an Army spokesman.

He said that if soldiers in Iraq required more weapons, say, or new vehicles, the Army secretary would be responsible for passing the request to the office of the defense secretary.

President Bill Clinton's first appointee as Army secretary was Togo West Jr., who served previously as general counsel to the Navy and general counsel to the Department of Defense. Clinton's second appointee, succeeding West in 1998, was Louis Caldera, a former Army officer and California lawmaker.

The Bush administration's first pick for the job, in May 2001, was Thomas White, a former general who left the military in 1990 for a lucrative 11-year career with Enron.

Testifying in 2002 before a Senate committee investigating Enron's shady electricity deals, White said he had no idea that the company was manipulating power prices in California while he helped run an Enron subsidiary, Enron Energy Services.

"I am responsible for the portion of that company that I ran," he said. "The deals that we put together, within the accounting structure that was the standard in the industry, I stand behind."

It's since come to light that traders at Enron Energy Services participated in market-rigging schemes with nicknames like "Get Shorty" and "Fat Boy."

White was fired by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last year after sticking with the $11 billion Crusader artillery gun despite the Pentagon's decision to scrap the program. The Army has since been without a full-time secretary.

The primary contractor for the Crusader, by the way, was United Defense Industries, controlled during White's tenure by -- wait for it -- the Carlyle Group.

Carlyle sold its stake in the company in April, but United Defense is still chaired by Carlyle Managing Director William Conway. He's joined on the board by Carlyle's chairman emeritus, Carlucci, and another Carlyle managing director, Peter Clare.

Which brings us back to Harvey. Of all the people who could assume the long-vacant Army secretary post, it's striking (to say the least) that Bush is reportedly tapping someone with intimate ties to the defense industry.

If confirmed, Harvey would no doubt serve with distinction -- there's no reason to think otherwise. But he'll always have the cloud of his Carlyle connections hanging over his head.

A nation at war deserves better than that.

UnCounted Absentee Ballots "Discovered" in Florida

The unmarked brown box sat unnoticed in the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections office until Monday, two weeks after the election, when an employee cleaning a desk stumbled upon it.

Inside were 268 uncounted absentee ballots.

"I think this is a very serious situation," Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark said Monday, vowing to fire or discipline any employee found to be negligent.

"I assume all responsibility for everything that happened in that department, but I have to rely on other people," Clark said. "It's not a one-woman show."

The unmarked box wasn't the only problem.

Five days ago, Clark sent the state the county's final results for the Nov. 2 election. But her office had failed to perform a standard check to ensure that all ballots had been accounted for.

Clark assumed her staff had performed the check, but they had not.

Now she will ask the state for permission to change Pinellas' official results. The canvassing board will count the missing ballots Thursday.

Although it is numerically possible, officials say the missing ballots probably won't change any results. Only a few races were decided by less than 268 votes - including the presidential contest.

George W. Bush won the presidential race in Pinellas by just 226 votes. While Bush's margin in Pinellas could change, his statewide victory won't.

A city commission seat in South Pasadena and a referendum in Indian Rocks Beach were also decided by fewer than 268 votes.

"If you found a couple hundred thousand votes in Ohio, that might be exciting," said Paul Bedinghaus, chairman of the Pinellas Republican Party. "I expect that human error will continue to occur as long as human beings are involved."

This is the third time since Clark became election supervisor in 2000 that her office has had problems handling ballots.

In the presidential race in 2000, the office neglected to count 1,400 ballots - and counted more than 900 ballots twice. In 2001, her office misplaced six absentee ballots in a Tarpon Springs city election.

The uncounted absentee ballots this time came from the St. Petersburg election office.

Election workers there put absentee ballots in a box to be delivered to the election service center in Largo, where they would be counted on Election Day.

That afternoon, a staff courier delivered the box from St. Petersburg to Largo.

Clark said her office has a system to track the boxes, but she could not describe it in detail during a phone interview from her home Monday night.

The box arrived at the election office, where it sat in plain sight in the absentee ballot department for 14 days.

Office spokeswoman Lori Hudson said other boxes and papers were piled on top of the box. The ballot box was not marked in any unique way. Clark could not say Monday why the box was not specially marked.

Voters, accustomed to putting punch card ballots in locked metal boxes, had been uneasy when they saw election officials throw absentee ballots in a brown box in the St. Petersburg office, said Democratic lawyer Peter Wallace.

Even before Election Day, missing ballots had caused embarrassment for another election supervisor. Hillsborough Supervisor of Election Buddy Johnson had been criticized in October after his staff lost 245 ballots in the Aug. 31 primary.

Normally, Clark would have detected the missing ballots when her staff checked to ensure that every ballot was accounted for.

Usually, every ballot, whether filed absentee or at a polling place, is registered into a computer system. After the election, workers compare the number recorded in the computer to the number of ballots.

For some reason, the staff did not perform the procedure.

Clark learned about the missing ballots on Monday afternoon. Clark did not return to the office because she said she needed to be with her husband, who is having surgery.

Her staff, though, worked past 5 p.m. She promised a thorough investigation.

"If we determine that this is the result of negligence, then those responsible will be held accountable," Clark said. "I can assure you of that."

--St. Petersburg Times, Nov 16

US Now Owns Iraqi Seeds?

When the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) celebrates biodiversity on World Food Day on October 16, Iraqi farmers will be mourning its loss.

A new report [1] by GRAIN and Focus on the Global South has found that new legislation in Iraq has been carefully put in place by the US that prevents farmers from saving their seeds and effectively hands over the seed market to transnational corporations. This is a disastrous turn of events for Iraqi farmers, biodiversity and the country's food security. While political sovereignty remains an illusion, food sovereignty for the Iraqi people has been made near impossible by these new regulations.

"The US has been imposing patents on life around the world through trade deals. In this case, they invaded the country first, then imposed their patents. This is both immoral and unacceptable", said Shalini Bhutani, one of the report's authors.

The new law in question [2] heralds the entry into Iraqi law of patents on life forms - this first one affecting plants and seeds. This law fits in neatly into the US vision of Iraqi agriculture in the future - that of an industrial agricultural system dependent on large corporations providing inputs and seeds.

In 2002, FAO estimated that 97 percent of Iraqi farmers used saved seed from their own stocks from last year's harvest or purchased from local markets. When the new law - on plant variety protection (PVP) - is put into effect, seed saving will be illegal and the market will only offer proprietary "PVP-protected" planting material "invented" by transnational agribusiness corporations. The new law totally ignores all the contributions Iraqi farmers have made to development of important crops like wheat, barley, date and pulses. Its consequences are the loss of farmers' freedoms and a grave threat to food sovereignty in Iraq. In this way, the US has declared a new war against the Iraqi farmer.

"If the FAO is celebrating 'Biodiversity for Food Security' this year, it needs to demonstrate some real commitment", says Henk Hobbelink of GRAIN, pointing out that the FAO has recently been cosying up with industry and offering support for genetic engineering [3]. "Most importantly, the FAO must recognise that biodiversity-rich farming and industry-led agriculture are worlds apart, and that industrial agriculture is one of the leading causes of the catastrophic decline in agricultural biodiversity that we have witnessed in recent decades. The FAO cannot hope to embrace biodiversity while holding industry's hand", he added., Nov 16

Halliburton's Blood Money

If you pay any attention to the yammerings of right wingers, and lord knows it's increasingly difficult to avoid them these days, you've probably run across the reductionist caricature of the left/liberal who insistently screams "Halliburton" in lieu of an actual argument. It's a nifty way of avoiding the actual argument--pretend that there is no argument, that your opponent is just incomprehensibly fixated on a single word, not unlike a toddler learning to speak.

Well, anyone who's been paying attention--which is to say, anyone who actually reads newspapers--should know that there's a bit more to the story.

(Halliburton's) SEC filing Friday disclosed more trouble related to investigations by the SEC, Justice, a French magistrate and Nigerian officials into whether a consortium including Halliburton paid $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials involving a gas plant from 1995 to 2002. Cheney ran the company from 1995 to 2000, and Halliburton bought the unit involved in the consortium in 1998.

That followed by little more than a week the last bad news about Halliburton: that the FBI expanded a probe into charges of contract irregularities by Halliburton in Iraq and Kuwait. Lawyers for a Pentagon official said the FBI requested an interview with her over her complaints that the Army gave a Halliburton unit preferential treatment when granting it a $7 billion contract to restore Iraq's oil fields.

Halliburton also told shareholders that the Justice Department is examining whether operations in Iran by a subsidiary violated U.S. sanctions. The company received a grand jury subpoena in July and produced documents in September.

So among the spittle-flecked lefties muttering about Halliburton, we must include the FBI, the Justice Department, and the authors of Halliburton's own SEC filing.

The Pentagon official mentioned above is, I assume, Bunnantine H. Greenhouse, who is--in addition to being a spittle-flecked leftie, obviously--the Army Corps of Engineers' contracting director. There's a profile of her today in the Times:

Things reached a climax as the Corps was thrust into the center of the Iraq war effort, given the task of distributing billions of dollars in reconstruction money. For the urgent repair of Iraqi oil fields, the Corps turned - too readily and too generously, Ms. Greenhouse charged in bruising internal debates last year - to the Houston-based Halliburton Company with one of the biggest single contracts of the war.

Now the Army Corps of Engineers is trying to demote Ms. Greenhouse, 60, or push her into retirement. To the surprise of no one who knows her, she is unbowed, charging in a much publicized letter of Oct. 21 that the Corps has shown a pattern of favoritism toward Halliburton that imperils "the integrity of the federal contracting program."


Dictator of America

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

--George W. Bush, 12/8/00

Monday, November 15, 2004

Reporting from Falluja

A row of palm trees used to run along the street outside my house - now only the trunks are left.

The upper half of each tree has vanished, blown away by mortar fire.

From my window, I can also make out that the minarets of several mosques have been toppled.

There are more and more dead bodies on the streets and the stench is unbearable.

Smoke is everywhere.

A house some doors from mine was hit during the bombardment on Wednesday night. A 13-year-old boy was killed. His name was Ghazi.

I tried to flee the city last night but I could not get very far. It was too dangerous.

I am getting used to the bombardment. I have learnt to sleep through the noise - the smaller bombs no longer bother me.

US marines have been fighting Falluja rebels at close quarters.

Without water and electricity, we feel completely cut off from everyone else.

I only found out Yasser Arafat had died because the BBC rang me.

It is hard to know how much people outside Falluja are aware of what is going on here.

I want them to know about conditions inside this city -- there are dead women and children lying on the streets.

People are getting weaker from hunger. Many are dying from their injuries because there is no medical help left in the city whatsoever.

Some families have started burying their dead in their gardens.

There has been a lot of resistance in Jolan.

The Americans have taken over several high-rise buildings overlooking the district.

But the height has not helped them control the area because the streets of Jolan are very narrow and you cannot fire into them directly.

The US military moves along the main roads and avoids the side-streets. The soldiers do not leave their armoured vehicles and tanks.

If they get fired on, they fire back from their tanks or call in air-strikes.

I saw some Iraqi government soldiers on the ground earlier.

I don't know which part of the country these soldiers are from. They are definitely not from any of the western provinces such as al-Anbar.

I have heard people say they are from Kurdistan.

They are well co-ordinated. When the US forces pull back from an area, the Iraqi soldiers will take over there.

--Fadril Badrani, BBC News, Nov 15

Now Is No Time for Compromise

If anything this Sunday should send fear shooting through your bones, it is this revelation from Sen. Joe Lieberman, said on Fox News Sunday:

"I hope that in the second Bush term that President Bush will develop a kind of consultative relationship, certainly with Democratic leaders like Harry Reid.

And I think that will help avoid the kinds of filibusters that really a lot of us moderate Democrats — and we talked about this just last week when we had a phone conference — don't want to be involved in.

And we'd much prefer to give an up-or-down vote to a president's judicial nominations.

He earned that right when he got elected."

[emphasis added]

Yes that's right. The so-called moderates are already organizing and strategizing over how to avoid standing up to the GOP.

Their rallying cry? Filibusters. Eeewwww. Icky.

Making Lieberman's remarks more bizarre is that he preceded them with some understanding of what Dems are up against:

During the Clinton years, as far as I can tell, more than 60...judicial nominations were blocked not by a filibuster but because the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee never even gave those nominees a hearing.

But of course, he draws the exact wrong lesson from that:

The point of fact here is that both of these, the filibuster [by the Dems] and the blocking of even a hearing under President Clinton, are signs of a government here in Washington that has grown too partisan.

No, the point of fact is that the Right is on a ruthless mission to remake the judiciary and shred the civil rights protections that have been established over the last half-century.

And they are not interested in getting your permission for it.

Fortunately, over on ABC's This Week, Sen. Chuck Schumer showed more spunk:

"Some of nominees...the President put forward for the Court of Appeals said there should be no zoning laws [because] it's a taking of property, it's unconstitutional.

[And] THERE SHOULD BE NO LABOR LAWS-- employer wanted to have A CHILD work...80 hours a week, THAT WOULD BE OK.

If that's strict constructionism, then we don't want it...

....if the president nominates an extremist who wants to roll back the clock [to the] 1930s, 1890s, of course he'll be opposed.

If he nominates a mainstream judge, he won't.

That's the kind of thing all Dems should be doing now.

Laying down the substantive groundwork for future filibusters by detailing how right-wing judges will directly harm your life, your family, and your community.

Back to Lieberman.

Here's another revealing exchange, where Fox's Chris Wallace was discussing with Lieberman the hot water Sen. Alan Specter is in with the Religious Right.

WALLACE: Let's take a comparable situation.

Let's say the Democrats — and this would be a big leap at this point — take back control of the Senate.

LIEBERMAN: Yes, lovely thought.

WALLACE: And the person who is scheduled to be the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is a right-to-lifer.

You don't think liberal groups would be up in arms about that?

LIEBERMAN: They probably would.

Oh, would they?

Perhaps, Mr. Joementum, instead of taking another cheap shot at liberals, you might have noted that the incoming Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid, is pro-life.

And not only is the choice not provoking ideological civil war between liberals and moderates.

But Reid has a good working relationship with NARAL Pro-Choice America (he is pro-contraception and pro-stem cell research).

That's all for the good, if Reid is willing to aggressively filibuster right-wing judicial nominations.

His pro-life views can only help broaden the debate over judges and broaden public support for opposing Bush's picks.

Of course, we don't know that Reid will aggressively filibuster judicial nominations. (Yesterday's NY Times profile sends mixed signals on his overall approach.)

But if he is planning on it, he better get on these "Senate moderate" conference calls and bring the hammer down. Now.

--Liberal Oasis, Nov 15

Television Do the Thinking for Me

"We deal in illusions, man. None of it is true. But you people sit there day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds. We're all you know. You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here. You're beginning to think that the tube is reality and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you. You dress like the tube. You eat like the tube. You even think like the tube. In God's name, you people are the real thing, WE are the illusion."

--Howard Beale

Video Shows US Troops Shooting Unarmed Prisoner in the Head

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military has begun an investigation into possible war crimes after a television pool report by NBC showed a Marine shooting dead a wounded and unarmed Iraqi in a Falluja mosque, officials said on Monday.

The Iraqi was one of five wounded left in the mosque after Marines fought their way in on Friday and Saturday. The U.S. military has accused insurgents in Iraq of using mosques to launch attacks against American forces.

U.S. forces, along with Iraqi government troops, launched an offensive one week ago on Falluja, and have gained overall control of the formerly rebel-held city, although scattered resistance remains.

Maj. Douglas Powell, a Marine Corps spokesman at the Pentagon, said the investigation, being conducted by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, focused on "possible law of war violations" by U.S. Marines.

The pool report by NBC correspondent Kevin Sites said the mosque had been used by insurgents to attack U.S. forces, who stormed it and an adjacent building, killing 10 militants and wounding the five.

Sites said the wounded had been left in the mosque for others to pick up and move to the rear for treatment. No reason was given why that had not happened.

A second group of Marines entered the mosque on Saturday after reports it had been reoccupied. Footage from the embedded television crew showed the five still in the mosque, although several appeared to be already close to death, Sites said.

He said one Marine noticed one of the prisoners was still breathing.

A Marine can be heard saying on the pool footage provided to Reuters Television: "He's f***ing faking he's dead. He faking he's f***ing dead."

"The Marine then raises his rifle and fires into the man's head. The pictures are too graphic for us to broadcast," Sites said. No images of the shooting were shown in the footage provided to Reuters.

The report said the Marine had returned to duty after being shot in the face a day earlier.

Sites said the shot prisoner "did not appear to be armed or threatening in any way."

60% of Ohio 'Spoiled' Ballots Just So Happen to Come from Urban, Democratic Areas

Election boards all across Ohio have started counting "provisional ballots" in the presidential election. These are the ballots that were given to voters who believed they were registered but whose names didn't appear on the precinct list on election day. The verification process may take up to two weeks. In most states, approximately 85 percent of all provisional ballots are eventually verified and counted in the final vote tally. And the early reports out of Ohio suggest the "count" list in some counties will be as high as 90 percent.
As it stands, there are approximately 155,000 provisional ballots. So, one can expect at least 130,000 ballots to be verified and "added to the final count."

There is another number that will eventually come into play in the Buckeye state... and that's the number of "spoiled ballots." The Green/Libertarian coalition, through, has already raised enough money to pay for a statewide recount. And the group is now raising even more cash so they can hire recount monitors. A statewide recount will include a visual examination of all 93,000 "spoiled ballots" that indicated "no" vote for President. (The "no vote" is usually a machine-tabulation problem because of chads, hanging chads, and etc.) A brilliant e-mailer named Matthew Fox has analyzed which counties reported "spoiled ballots." And it does appear that approximately 60 pecent of all the spoiled ballots come from heavily Democratic urban areas.

--David Schuster, MSNBC, Nov 15

Let the Audit Begin in Ohio

Following many reports of error resulting in thousands of votes being cast in error for George W. Bush in the state of Ohio, a group led by Bev Harris of will be pursuing a public recount throughout certain counties within the state.

The new 527 group, Help America Recount, will be releasing further information at A recount within the state of Ohio is a public priority as the group believes that "accounting for provisional ballots has been murky, and anomalies have now surfaced in Cuyahoga County, Perry County, and Youngstown Ohio."

Bev Harris also recently expressed interest in using a state statute known as the Sunshine Law to pursue recounts within Florida.

With the exception of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, the mainstream media has failed to report the vote anomalies and errors that occurred on November 2nd. Talk radio and the individuals on the Internet have aggressively followed such stories and are demanding action.

As evidence of the growing interest developing on the Internet, in the week following the election, the number one phrase used by search engine users landing on the Washington Dispatch's website has been "vote fraud" while "ohio vote fraud" takes the number two slot. Additionally, the website popularity checker, Popdex, shows that the number two linked item on the web is the article by Thom Hartmann, Evidence Mounts That The Vote May Have Been Hacked.

Bev Harris and the new group, Help America Recount, are pursuing a growing movement that is calling for an investigation and audit of the results of the November 2nd election.

-Washington Dispatch, Nov 15

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Buried Beneath the Lies

What could be more important than our national security? Republicans are about to start their campaign to convince the American people that the Constitution should be amended to allow foreigners to hold the highest office in the land--president. Does it need to be restated why this is a bad idea? If anything, the world is more dangerous right now than it has ever been. Why are Republicans so eager to cast aside a law that ensures the safety of the American people? Money.

Soon it will become quite clear that Republicans are much more interested in money than the safety of the American people. The debt of the state of California is bigger than ever before. Schwarzenegger has done nothing to balance the budget of the state of California. This was merely a ploy to oust a Democrat from office and it worked wonderfully. Gov. Schwarzenegger's real plan is to take control of America.

These power-hungry politicians who are merely interested in making money have used the good will of the American people in the most cynical way. They've hijacked America. Try to discover the truth buried beneath the lies!


Californians will soon see advertisements urging them to help give Schwarzenegger and other foreign-born citizens the chance to run for president.

The cable television ads, set to being running Monday, are from a Silicon Valley-based group that wants to amend the U.S. Constitution, which limits the presidency to people born in the United States. Schwarzenegger was born in Austria but became a U.S. citizen in 1983.

"You cannot choose the land of your birth. You can choose the land you love," Lissa Morgenthaler-Jones says in the ads.

She is a San Francisco Bay area mutual fund manager and major Schwarzenegger campaign donor who is helping pay for the ads and created a companion Web site.

Schwarzenegger, 57, has said he would consider running for president if the Constitution allowed but has not pushed for a constitutional change.

The TV ads mark the first significant attempt to build public support for an amendment. While polls show Schwarzenegger remains popular with voters, the idea of a constitutional change is not.

Four proposed amendments are circulating in Congress, but none has advanced. Constitutional amendments require congressional approval and ratification by 38 states.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

FBI Wants to Write Own Warrants--Without Judges

Bush's re-election ensures that he and John Ashcroft's designated successor, Alberto Gonzales, will press Congress hard to retain the Patriot Act in its entirety, and enact a Patriot Act II that will further disable the Constitution.

There are two primary roadblocks to further assaults on our liberties. Despite continued Republican control of Congress, there is still a firm alliance there between civil-liberties Democrats and conservative Republican libertarians, especially in the Senate. That coalition will continue to oppose Bush's determination to fight the Patriot Act's "sunset clause," which permits reconsideration of parts of the act by December 2005.

During the presidential campaign, Bush repeatedly urged Congress to ignore the "sunset clause" and enshrine the Patriot Act permanently. The Bill of Rights Defense Committee resolutions in nearly 400 cities and towns, and four state legislatures, will keep the pressure on Congress to resist this expansion of executive powers.

Our second hope is the awakening lower federal courts, which are now challenging sections of the Patriot Act. But even if these judicial curbs on Bush and Ashcroft grow, any such victories can be overturned by the Supreme Court, to which Bush is going to make at least one appointment, and possibly more, by the end of his second term.

These are obviously perilous times for constitutional freedoms. But attention should be paid to the strongest blow yet against Bush and the Patriot Act—the September 28, 2004, decision by Federal District Judge Victor Marrero in New York in John Doe, American Civil Liberties Union v. John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Judge Marrero struck down as unconstitutional on Fourth and First Amendment grounds section 505 of the Patriot Act that had greatly increased the government's capacity to secretly get large amounts of personal information by sending out National Security Letters, which do not require a judge's approval.

During one of the presidential debates, Bush flatly told an untruth—as Ashcroft often has on this subject—when he said that any action taken under the Patriot Act requires a judicial order. No judge is involved in National Security Letters under the Patriot Act.

The ACLU, which brought this lawsuit, explains that before the Patriot Act, a 1986 law allowed the FBI to issue these National Security Letters "only where it had reason to believe that the subject of the letter was a foreign agent." Section 505 of the Patriot Act, however, removed the individualized suspicion requirement and authorizes the FBI to use National Security Letters to obtain information about groups or individuals not suspected of any wrongdoing.

"The FBI need only certify—without court review—that the records are 'relevant' to an intelligence or terrorism investigation."

Who decides what "relevant" means? The FBI, all by itself. That's why its headquarters are still named after J. Edgar Hoover. You can trust the FBI.

Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer for the ACLU involved in this case, told me both why the National Security Letters are so dangerous, and what the effect of Judge Marrero's ruling will be—if it is upheld by the appellate courts all the way up.

"The provision we challenged [that the judge struck down]," says Jaffer, "allows the FBI to issue NSLs against 'wire or electronic service communication providers.' Telephone companies and Internet service providers [are included.]" As Judge Marrero noted, the FBI could also use an NSL "to discern the identity of someone whose anonymous web log, or 'blog,' is critical of the Government."

Jaffer adds that by requiring information from telephone companies and Internet providers, "The FBI could . . . effectively obtain a political organization's membership list, like the NAACP or the ACLU, [and could] obtain the names of people with whom a journalist has communicated over the Internet."

Furthermore—dig this—every National Security Letter comes with a gag order. The recipients are forbidden to tell any other person that the FBI has demanded this information, and can't even tell their lawyers that the long hand of the government is scooping up their data.

As Judge Marrero said in his decision, this omnivorous invasion of privacy is so broad that it mandates this gag rule "in every case, to every person, in perpetuity, with no vehicle for the ban to ever be lifted from the recipient."

The scope of this court's setback to Big Brothers Bush, Mueller, and Ashcroft is underlined by Jaffer's point that if Judge Marrero's decision is upheld, it could "apply with equal force" to other dimensions of National Security Letters that allow the FBI to get personal information from financial institutions, including credit card companies and banks.

Furthermore, the much publicized and dreaded section 215 of the Patriot Act, which gives the FBI authority to search your personal data from your visits to libraries, bookstores, and other sources of information, could also be overturned.

In striking down the noxious National Security Letters section 505 of the Patriot Act, Marrero wrote: "Under the mantle of secrecy, the self-preservation that ordinarily impels our government to censorship and secrecy may potentially be turned on ourselves as a weapon of self-destruction . . . "

Marrero then emphasized a truth that ought to be kept in mind as George W. Bush, having won the popular vote, unlike in 2000, uses national security even more forcefully against the Constitution. Judge Marrero warns:

"Sometimes a right, once extinguished, may be gone for good."

But for now, as Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News Channel's resident—and admirable—constitutional analyst, says of the Marrero decision: "This stops the FBI from writing their own warrants."

--Village Voice, Nov 13