30 May 2005

Just when you thought Arnold couldn't get any more shameless

Schwarzenegger's new commercial is filled with conspicuously placed products, products that just so happen to be sold by major contributors to his campaign.

Here's Arnold at a choreographed pothole filling.

And here's a site that's keeping watch on the Gropeinator

27 May 2005

It is the left that has lost the most with the accord

So writes Arizona Republic columnnist Rob Robb on the matter of the recent judges compromise and I would have to say that his assessment is on the mark.
Conservatives have denounced the accord's statement encouraging President Bush to consult with both Republicans and Democrats before making judicial nominations as some sort of untoward limitation on his authority. But if there are seven Democrats who have publicly announced their willingness to buck their leadership on such nominations, working with them is simply smart politics.

Conservatives would have preferred to lift the specter of the filibuster from judicial nominees entirely, but it's not clear that there were the votes in the Senate to do so.

That option, however, remains.

Republicans get a free pass for a number of judges right now AND they can always still pursue a "change of rules" to suit future nominees.

Personally, I don't have a sentiment one way or another on the filibuster rules — everybody wants to think of the noble Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith goes to Washington, but to my recollection, it's been used to thwart good as much as it has been deployed as a beacon for gathering consensus against dubious Senate acts. As troublesome as the character of some of Bush's nominees may be, as they say, to the victors go the spoils, and if Senate Republicans can flex enough legislative muscle, the prizes belong to them.

However, the notion advanced by Republicans that filibusters have never been used to block nominees to federal courts is just pure bull. Even Supreme Court nominees have been blocked by filibuster, despite attempts of Republican historical revisionism to greasepaint a different story. And even an obedient mainstream media has sung along with them, even attempting to erase the fact that it was Republican Trent Lott that coined the term "nuclear option".

In the current state of Congressional affairs, Democrats folded instead of calling the bluff of a Republican dominated Congress that continues to sink in approval, to the lowest point in a decade. And cowering to bullies isn't likely to earn them votes in the 2006 elections either.

24 May 2005

Bush's "war against terrorism" is no less orchestrated than Palpatine's war

Former Reagan staffer draws parallels between Bush and Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars Episode III.
The Sith, however, are everywhere. In our day, the Sith masquerade as neoconservatives. Neocons deal in absolutes. They believe the end justifies the means. As the Jedi master Obi-Wan tells Anakin, who is turning to the dark side and emerging as Darth Vader, "only a Sith lord deals in absolutes." Anakin to Obi-Wan: "If you're not with me, you're my enemy."

Palpatine is able to manipulate the Galactic Senate with the clever use of words that play upon emotions. People want to feel secure. They want their side to prevail and will do whatever it takes to win, including trading their Republic for an Empire. Palpatine prevails because people deceive themselves.

21 May 2005

Major political contributors and friends of Bush not only paid illegal kickbacks to Saddam Hussein but personally profited from sanctions-busting with Iraq

Galloway was correct in criticizing the Coleman committee for not concentrating on U.S. violations of Iraqi sanctions and pay-offs to Saddam in the Oil-for-Food program, which involved U.S. oil companies who have long-standing connections to the Bush family.
Minority report documents indicate that one of the largest recipients of Bayoil Iraqi oil shipments was Enron, the bankrupt company that served as a virtual slush fund for the political campaigns of George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Iraqi Oil-for-Food scandal also involves one of the Bush children—Dorothy "Doro" Bush Koch, sister of George W. Bush and married to Bobby Koch, reportedly a cousin in the oil industry Koch family, the owner of Koch Industries, which is also one of Bush's largest political donors. The minority committee report indicates that Koch Industries was also a major recipient of illegal Iraqi oil and a huge source of kickbacks to Saddam Hussein:

The total sum in kickbacks from George W. Bush's cousin-in-laws to Saddam's bank accounts: $1,294,620.

It's a smokescreen alright.

18 May 2005

The Mother of All Smokescreens

George Galloway delivers a riveting statement to U.S. Senators who have accused him of corruption.
Now, Senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life's blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq which killed one million Iraqis, most of them children, most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis with the misfortune to born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies.

I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.  

If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth.

Have a look at the real Oil-for-Food scandal. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch. Have a look at Haliburton and other American corporations that stole not only Iraq's money, but the money of the American taxpayer.

Have a look at the oil that you didn't even meter, that you were shipping out of the country and selling, the proceeds of which went who knows where? Have a look at the $800 million you gave to American military commanders to hand out around the country without even counting it or weighing it.

Have a look at the real scandal breaking in the newspapers today, revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee. That the biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians. The real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own Government."

Truly stunning, especially considering a recent report that U.S. oil purchases accounted for 52% of the kickbacks paid to the regime in return for sales of cheap oil - more than the rest of the world put together.

Galloway's testimony was blistering, and his shredding of the neocons is a speech for the ages.

17 May 2005

This plan will further depress salaries, and will increase poverty and unemployment among entry-level workers

David Decherd of Mesa writes to the Arizona Republic on why the recent McCain-Kennedy immigration proposal is a bad tonic for American workers.
The main problem I have with the McCain-Kennedy immigration proposal is found in Sen. John McCain's assertion that there are jobs that Americans will not do at any price.

This simply is not true. Americans will do any task, if the payoff is worth it.

McCain's proposal requires an employer to advertise an opening and, if no citizen takes the job, the employer can hire a migrant. There is no requirement to offer a market wage. An entry-level citizen worker might not want to pick lettuce for $6 an hour, but might consider it for $12. But the lettuce company need only offer the job at $6, and then bring in out-of-country labor when no citizen takes the job at that price.

Whenever you hear "jobs Americans will not do", the question is bogus, as they lump off the phrase "at any price".

15 May 2005

Trust a computer to be inaccurate

Why we need ensure accuracy and security with voting machines and how so far, the process is totally suspect.
Computer security experts are unanimous on what to do (some voting experts disagree, but it is the computer security experts who need to be listened to; the problems here are with the computer, not with the fact that the computer is being used in a voting application). They have two recommendations, echoed by Siva Vaidhyanathan:
  1. DRE machines must have a voter-verifiable paper audit trails (sometimes called a voter-verified paper ballot). This is a paper ballot printed out by the voting machine, which the voter is allowed to look at and verify. He doesn't take it home with him. Either he looks at it on the machine behind a glass screen, or he takes the paper and puts it into a ballot box. The point of this is twofold: it allows the voter to confirm that his vote was recorded in the manner he intended, and it provides the mechanism for a recount if there are problems with the machine.

  2. Software used on DRE machines must be open to public scrutiny. This also has two functions: it allows any interested party to examine the software and find bugs, which can then be corrected, a public analysis that improves security; and it increases public confidence in the voting process - if the software is public, no one can insinuate that the voting system has unfairness built into the code (companies that make these machines regularly argue that they need to keep their software secret for security reasons. Don't believe them. In this instance, secrecy has nothing to do with security).

Computerised systems with these characteristics won't be perfect -- no piece of software is -- but they'll be much better than what we have now. We need to treat voting software like we treat any other high-reliability system.

The auditing that is conducted on slot machine software in the US is significantly more meticulous than that applied to voting software. The development process for mission-critical airplane software makes voting software look like a slapdash affair. If we care about the integrity of our elections, this has to change.

5 May 2005

NSA intercepts for Bolton masked as 'training missions'

Another troublesome detail about Mr. John Bolton, who is the nominee for ambassador to the United Nations.
It was revealed by Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) during Bolton's Senate Foreign Relations Committee nomination hearing that Bolton requested transcripts of 10 NSA intercepts of conversations between named U.S. government officials and foreign persons. However, NSA insiders report that Hayden approved special intercept operations on behalf of Bolton and had them masked as "training missions" in order to get around internal NSA regulations that normally prohibit such eavesdropping on U.S. citizens.

In the case of Bolton and other Bush administration hardliners, the material in question was not deleted and was transmitted in raw intercept form to external agencies for clearly political purposes—a violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and USSID 18, which only allows such raw training mission intercepts to be transmitted when evidence of criminal activity is uncovered during the training mission.

And why is an abusive boss with "no diplomatic bone in his body" being considered for a important diplomatic post?

1 May 2005

Schwarzenegger actually has questionable history in terms of complying with America's immigration laws

The Hollywood celebrity California governor has been flexing some anti-immigrant muscles in stark contrast to his own history.
As the San Jose Mercury News reported on 9/21/03, immigration attorneys agreed that when Schwarzenegger first immigrated to the United States, he "most likely violated the terms of his work visa." In interviews over the years, Schwarzenegger has said he joined forces with an Italian bodybuilder to rebuild damaged homes after the deadly Sylmar earthquake jolted Southern California. But immigration attorneys across the country said Schwarzenegger would have been barred by visa restrictions from starting his own business. That revelation followed an earlier discovery that Schwarzenegger might have violated his visa in 1968 as well.

When asked about this hypocrisy, Schwarzenegger aides "declined to make the candidate available for an interview" and then refused to release Schwarzenegger's immigration records. Maybe he should take a cue from his campaign, start once again keeping his mouth shut, and stop trying to appeal to his radical right-wing base by attacking immigrants.