Thursday, December 21, 2006

Is This How NOT To Prevent Global Heating?

As we roll into 2007 and Democrats have a place at the legislative table Action Point's job of getting that place at the table is done. Therefore, I have moved Action Point onto course for the New Year: fix the economy and tackle global heating, at a minimum. Yes, we will be discussing other topics...but many will be tangentially related to one of those two in some manner.

The economy we can discuss with some abstraction (like whether unfettered free markets are actually worthless as a factor in a civilized society--i.e.--social darwinism) but when it comes to global heating there is little room for philosophy. Like religion, you must accept and embrace that human activity has warmed and will continue to heat the planet and irreversibly create climate change--or not. In that, I am an evangelical environmentalist on a quest to save humanity. I say Believe or suffer the "Hell-fires" of planet Earth and I can tell you when (within a range of a decade or so) and maybe even where, those Hell-fires will be erupting.

Not accepting that human activity is heating the planet opens you to becoming bogged down in the wrong discussion (the discussion anti-heating factions from any industry fearing regulation or industry competition want you stuck in): does human activity affect the heating process? If you believe that question must be first unequivocally answered, you will remain uncommitted to creating change and instead committed to finding the answers, which of course are mostly going to be found in hind-sight. This is not unlike the tactic tobacco and chemistry industries use to keep regulators and lawsuits at bay: seeding doubt.

Using pop evangelical religion as a template, a next question I can ask is how does creating profit-motives "save" CO2 sinners from a fiery Earth? Isn't providing profit as a motivator ( instead of self-corporate sacrifice-- i.e. monetary profit) like telling sinners that priests can buy-off God for their sins? That was a scam in the 16th century and still is.

Those kinds of buy-out-of-Hell scams show us however, where the chinks in the system lie. How do we eliminate intentional avoidance--or redirect the intended motivating effort to solutions that reduce heating effects regardless of monetary profit or loss?
QUZHOU, China — Foreign businesses have embraced an obscure United Nations-backed program as a favored approach to limiting global warming. But the early efforts have revealed some hidden problems.

Emissions from a factory in Qu- zhou match those of a million cars.

Under the program, businesses in wealthier nations of Europe and in Japan help pay to reduce pollution in poorer ones as a way of staying within government limits for emitting climate-changing gases like carbon dioxide, as part of the Kyoto Protocol.

Among their targets is a large rusting chemical factory here in southeastern China. Its emissions of just one waste gas contribute as much to global warming each year as the emissions from a million American cars, each driven 12,000 miles.

Cleaning up this factory will require an incinerator that costs $5 million — far less than the cost of cleaning up so many cars, or other sources of pollution in Europe and Japan.

Yet the foreign companies will pay roughly $500 million for the incinerator — 100 times what it cost. The high price is set in a European-based market in carbon dioxide emissions. Because the waste gas has a far more powerful effect on global warming than carbon dioxide emissions, the foreign businesses must pay a premium far beyond the cost of the actual cleanup.

The huge profits from that will be divided by the chemical factory’s owners, a Chinese government energy fund, and the consultants and bankers who put together the deal from a mansion in the wealthy Mayfair district of London.

Arrangements like this still make sense to the foreign companies financing them because they are a lot less expensive, despite the large profit for others, than cleaning up their own operations.

Such efforts are being watched in the United States as an alternative more politically attractive than imposing taxes on fossil fuels like coal and oil that emit global-warming gases when burned.

But critics of the fast-growing program, through which European and Japanese companies are paying roughly $3 billion for credits this year, complain that it mostly enriches a few bankers, consultants and factory owners.

With so much money flowing to a few particularly lucrative cleanup deals, the danger is that they will distract attention from the broader effort to curb global warming gases, and that the lure of quick profit will encourage short-term fixes at the expense of fundamental, long-run solutions, including developing renewable energy sources like solar power.

As word of deals like this has spread, everyone involved in the nascent business is searching for other such potential jackpots in developing countries.

As for more modest deals, like small wind farms, “if you don’t have a humongous margin, it’s not worth it,” said Pedro Moura Costa, chief operating officer of EcoSecurities, an emissions-trading company in Oxford, England.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Contractors Lost in Pentagon Bureaucracy - Ya Think?

OH YEAH...oh, yeah...let's privatize the military. Let's send in the contractors. Let's turn war and its maintenance into a profit center. Norquist's dream of shrinking government to drown in a bathtub ensured it would be waste, not water, doing the drowning.
Contractors Lost in Pentagon Bureaucracy - "According to the report, some 60,000 contractors are supporting the Army in Southwest Asia, a region that includes Iraq. That figure is compared to the 9,200 contractors used to support the military in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

This unprecedented number of contractors on the battlefield means loss of visibility, GAO reports.

Commanders are often unsure how many contractors use their bases and require food, housing and protection, according to the report. One Army official said the service estimates losing about $43 million each year on free meals provided to contractors who also receive a food allowance."

Submission Accomplished: The Press, The Dems, and The "Surge"

Every now and then I come across a blogger who writes it exactly correct. Such is this one from "Night Light":
"Submission Accomplished: The Press, The Dems, and The "Surge"

This is one of those rare moments in history when the oligarchical consensus that rules the country is forced to reveal itself in all its nakedness. Just five weeks after an overwhelming majority voted for departure from Iraq, the big debate in the media is whether or not we should increase troop levels - at a time when the Army's going broke.

And yet, there's no public outcry about subverting the will of the American people. Congratulations, GOP: Submission accomplished.
HT - Huffington Post

Monday, December 18, 2006

A New Way Forward Must Include More Mental Territory

This past Sunday, my talk radio show Action Point's interview guest was Foreign Policy editor Moises Naim, author of Illicit, a fascinating book about global smuggling and it's mechanism, players and effects. It is the effects part that I found most fascinating; terrorism as we know it today could not exist without sophisticated international smuggling.

I brought on Moises, as I will others in coming months, to widen the discussion about terrorism. Currently still swirling around the Occupation of Iraq (notice how 9/11 is fading into the background?) I believe the discussion needs to include more than issues fueling partisan political positioning.

Using the seemingly polar nodes of fear and nationalism, linked to knee-jerk moralistic values, the United States corporate media (insistent to be on the commercial side of politics) and the Bush government (determined to do whatever it takes to undermine the Democratic party) abdicated their jobs as gatekeepers and defenders and blundered into the Middle East adding further fuel to unstable political conditions. Monetary connections to Saudi oil princes and Bush/Halliburton aside, the decision seemed then and now decidedly uninformed by global realities that citizens now must take into account as we--not the media and policy makers alone--attempt to find a New Way Forward.

Having said that, this NYT article is about an American whistleblower who reported apparent smuggling activities and then in a "mix-up" became a detainee for 97 days. Hopefully smuggling was the target of the raid, not grabbing people, but doesn't it make you nervous that the process of acquiring people to interrogate is wasting precious resources if it can't tell the good guys from the bad?
Detainee 200343 was among thousands of people who have been held and released by the American military in Iraq, and his account of his ordeal has provided one of the few detailed views of the Pentagon’s detention operations since the abuse scandals at Abu Ghraib. Yet in many respects his case is unusual.

The detainee was Donald Vance, a 29-year-old Navy veteran from Chicago who went to Iraq as a security contractor. He wound up as a whistle-blower, passing information to the F.B.I. about suspicious activities at the Iraqi security firm where he worked, including what he said was possible illegal weapons trading.

But when American soldiers raided the company at his urging, Mr. Vance and another American who worked there were detained as suspects by the military, which was unaware that Mr. Vance was an informer, according to officials and military documents.
Mr. Vance went to Iraq in 2004, first to work for a Washington-based company. He later joined a small Baghdad-based security company where, he said, “things started looking weird to me.” He said that the company, which was protecting American reconstruction organizations, had hired guards from a sheik in Basra and that many of them turned out to be members of militias whom the clients did not want around.

Mr. Vance said the company had a growing cache of weapons it was selling to suspicious customers, including a steady flow of officials from the Iraqi Interior Ministry. The ministry had ties to violent militias and death squads. He said he had also witnessed another employee giving American soldiers liquor in exchange for bullets and weapon repairs.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

STEALING THE VOTE IN NH--Find Out How Republicans Made it Happen!

For those convinced NH suffered from Democratic voter fraud (I just can't stop laughing at the idea), why not put your accusations to the test and attend a little soiree with those who are investing their lives in the topic here:
December 14th: Speakers panel, national experts on election integrity with Sec of State Bill Gardner

STEALING THE VOTE: NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED ELECTIONS EXPERTS NYU Professor and author MARK CRISPIN MILLER (The Bush Dyslexicon, and Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They'll Steal the Next One, Too), former director of UNH's Survey Center DAVID MOORE, and Washington State Attorney PAUL LEHTO DISCUSS WHAT HAPPENED IN 2004 AND WHAT DIDN'T HAPPEN IN 2006

Moore, Miller, and Lehto Join NH Secretary of State Bill Gardner for Discussion of Election Security

download flyer here

WHEN: Thursday, Dec. 14, 7pm

WHERE: University of New Hampshire, MUB Theater 1, Durham, NH

Democracy for NH- Fair Elections Committee, Women Making a Difference and UNH Dept. of Communication, UNH Dept. of Political Science, and UNH Race, Culture, Power minor host past UNH Professor of Political Science & author David Moore; NYU Communications and Culture Professor, author Mark Crispin Miller; and nationally recognized Election Law Attorney, Paul Lehto for a panel discussion to be held on the UNH campus
Like BBC journalist Greg Palast says: WIN, Don't WHINE!!

Friday, December 08, 2006

No Cases of Voter Fraud--EVER--So What Are Republicans Crying About?

If there are no cases of voter fraud (and there aren't) what the hell do we need voter ID laws for? Just asking...
The BRAD BLOG : Where's the Voter Fraud?: "Guest Blogged by Tova Andrea Wang, a Democracy Fellow at The Century Foundation.

ED NOTE: Ms. Wang was chosen by the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) to provide research and analysis for a report on 'voter fraud.' That report --- about which an early 'status report' version [PDF] leaked out after the EAC, apparently unhappy with the findings, failed to release it publicly --- showed little or no actual evidence of 'voter fraud' in America. The EAC finally released their 'final version' of the report [PDF] on December 7th, retitled with a freshly coined phrase: 'Election Crimes.'

Over the past month, the silence has been deafening.

For the past few years, many on the Right have been vociferously propagating the myth that voter fraud at the polling place is a rampant problem of crisis proportions. But we haven’t heard from them lately. In fact, as far as my research can discover (Nexis and Google news searches of multiple relevant terms), there has not been one confirmed report of any of these types of incidents in the 2006 election. Not one. Even the Republican National Committee’s vote fraud watch operation in their list of complaints from the 2006 election could not come up with one such case."
Oh wait, I know. Voter suppression. You think?!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Senate Approves Burr's Bioterrorism Bill

HA--Bioterrorism begins at home:
Winston-Salem Journal | Senate approves Burr's bioterrorism bill: "After almost two years of negotiations, the Senate passed a bill last night sponsored by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., that would create a new federal agency to combat bioterrorism.

The bill to establish the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority has been a priority of Burr's since his first day in the Senate. After the vote last night, Burr said he was 'excited' that the bill had finally passed."
Highlights of BARDA include the creation of a new position within the Department of Health and Human Services that would be solely responsible for the oversight of vaccine production and decide what medications would be distributed.

Barbara Loe Fisher, the president of the National Vaccine Information Center, has been an outspoken critic of the bill. She was unaware that the bill had been passed by the Senate last night but said she's worried about the effects "secret vaccine production" could have on the American public. "This is an extremely dangerous precedent that is being set," she said.
And when you get trapped as an unwilling "test" subject because so-called "Bird Flu" threatens your area, just think about this:

NVIC condemns the disgraceful behavior of those in the Senate who used under-handed tactics in late December to ram unjust liability protection for drug companies through Congress. Many NVIC supporters took positive action in December after NVIC issued a call to action to try to defeat the massive lobbying effort by drug companies and pro-forced vaccination lobbyists to remove access to the judicial system when federal health initiatives result in vaccine injuries and deaths. It is clear that the only way they could defeat us was to lie and deliberately corrupt the legislative process. To more fully understand why they did what they did, read the letter NVIC sent to Senate staffer, Robert Kadlec, M.D. protesting the liability shield legislation for Big Pharma which President Bush has signed into law.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Prof Dan Tokaji Drops Pro-DRE litigation as Moot, Calls VVPAT "Fool's Gold" says Congress should "Take a Breath" on Further Legislation

From attorney Paul Lehto:
Prof./Lawyer Dan Tokaji is lead counsel in the most potentially damaging elections case in America (Stewart v Blackwell,6th Cir.) and he is also arguably the chief legal conjurer for a world of DRE technology, having sued on behalf of the ACLU in this case to require DREs and have them held constitutional while having paper-based punchcards and central count optical scans held unconstitutional on account of their relative residual vote rates (defined as overvotes plus undervotes).

A normal 3 judge panel of the 6th Circuit had previously upheld DREs and struck down the paper based technologies that were otherwise grandfathered under HAVA for this general reason of "residual votes". I've written before that the residual vote test is tilted heavily to favor DREs, which don't allow overvotes (and so will typically win the residual vote test) but more importantly, as a different technology, DREs tend to express their problems in ways other than residual votes (though they can have occasionally high undervotes, as seen in Sarasota, Florida)

Tokaji and the ACLU decided to drop their case as moot last week, agreeing to Blackwell's long-standing earlier argument that the case was moot because all Ohio Jurisdictions had adopted "notice" voting technology, i.e. technology that pipes up and warns the voter if there's an overvote or an undervote. Various factors from the increasingly publicized undervote rates in Sarasota Florida to the recent NIST STS report probably factored into the last minute decision for Tokaji and the ACLU to agree with Blackwell that the case was moot, since Blackwell's position had been along these lines for some time now. Because the panel decision was vacated in order to gain en banc review, the moot status, if agreed to by the court, would keep the 6th Circuit opinion as vacated and dismiss the trial court action. The expected appeal to the US SUpreme Court on Bush v Gore grounds would be avoided, for now.

Tokaji also commented on the NIST STS report, and called VVPAT "fool's gold."

"The most important thing for Congress is to take a deep breath," says Dan Tokaji, an election-law expert at Ohio State University. He worries that momentum is building for something that could prove to be a mistake. "Passing paper trails at this stage, based on what we know right now is really fools gold. It may provide an initial sense of confidence. But that confidence won't be long-lasting unless we resolve some deeper issues."

I've emailed with Tokaji, and he is well aware of the legal challenges that can be brought, including but not limited to Bush v. Gore challenges (he's written a book chapter on such things) which he successfully brought in the 6th Circuit until the opinion was vacated pursuant to the normal procedures for en banc review. Brad Blog chimes in:

"Tokaji is absolutely correct. He just didn't go far enough and say that with no confidence in the paper trail there should also be no confidence in Direct Recording Electronic ( DRE) voting machines. They are both, together or singly, "fools gold"." (Bradblog)

As Tokaji notes at the end of his blog, "The doctrinal legacy of Bush v Gore remains up for grabs."

By no means does the "dicta" reference in Bush v. Gore to the general effect that it is a unique case mean that it does not provide rules of decision for future cases, as the panel in the 6th Circuit originally held. Already five major cases have been brought under Bush v. Gore and it is still up in the air, i.e. seeminly primed for further US SUpreme Court review of our elections systems.

UPDATE: 12-05-2006

To whom does this make sense?
A U.S. government board looking at ways to improve the security of electronic voting has rejected one proposal that would have required election officials to use paper-trail ballots or other audit technologies with the machines.

The Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), an advisory board to the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC), on Monday failed to pass a proposal to certify only those direct record electronic (DRE) machines that use independent audit technology. Before the 6-6 vote, TGDC members expressed concerns that a requirement would create a costly mandate to local governments.
The proposal, advanced by NIST staff and TGDC member Ronald Rivest, a computer science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, would have required "software independent" DREs with some kind of independent audit mechanism, such as the voter-verified paper trail printouts advocated by some e-voting critics.

One advocate of paper-trail audits for DRE said he was disappointed with the TGDC's vote. The recommendation was a "much-needed step toward making certain that voting systems are secure, useable, and reliable," said Eugene Spafford, chairman of the U.S. policy committee at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).
First, my life is less valuable than commerce--I am 'told' this when government (legislation) blocks citizens from suing manufacturers who sell products that kill or sicken them. Now my vote--my choice--for who will write that same legislation, is less valuable than the cost for collecting my vote?! I am outraged. Are you?

HT-Paul Lehto

Sunday, December 03, 2006

FBI Taps Cell Phone Mic as Eavesdropping Tool!!

FBI taps cell phone mic as eavesdropping tool | CNET "update The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely activating a mobile phone's microphone and using it to eavesdrop on nearby conversations.

The technique is called a 'roving bug,' and was approved by top U.S. Department of Justice officials for use against members of a New York organized crime family who were wary of conventional surveillance techniques such as tailing a suspect or wiretapping him."
I'm speechless!!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Oh Man, Couldn't Corrigan Have Saved This For 2008?!

The Seattle Times: Well-known GOP activist held in sex-predator sting: "Larry Corrigan, a well-known activist in local Republican politics as a backer of U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert and King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng, was arrested Wednesday in an Internet sting for allegedly trying to arrange sex with a 13-year-old girl.

Corrigan was the director of financial operations at the prosecutor's office for more than 25 years and was deputy treasurer in Reichert's 1997 and 2001 runs for King County sheriff. He was also a supporter without an official role in Reichert's congressional campaigns.

According to the Seattle Police Department, Corrigan, 54, of Seattle, was chatting online with an undercover police officer who was posing as a 13-year-old girl when he agreed to meet the minor at a Capitol Hill video store on Broadway for sex."

From a Blog Named "Left Wing=Hate" Comes a Little Link to the Prince of Peace?

I gotta tell ya, I've noticed that Republican sociopaths otherwise known as "Good Christians", "Good Americans" and "Patriots" have really got their panties bunched up since losing the House and Senate. Yea. Let me say that again. REPUBLICANS LOST THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Feels soooo good, doesn't it? The only place these folks are mainstream are in ever-tightening circles of jerks...

Anyway, just as a reminder to anyone thinking these folks aren't seriously misguided; how much Bud does it take for a 20-something kid to come up with the likes of this?
Left Wing=Hate: "The Young Conservatives of Texas - University of Texas Chapter announced today that they will be displaying an “ACLU Nativity Scene” on the West Mall of the University of Texas campus on Monday and Tuesday, December 4th and 5th. The group’s intent is to raise awareness on the extremity of the ACLU, and bring to light its secular-progressive efforts to remove Christmas from the public sphere. The display, the first of its kind in the nation, will feature characters that are quite a bit different than the standard cr�che.

“We’ve got Gary and Joseph instead of Mary and Joseph in order to symbolize ACLU support for homosexual marriage, and of course there isn’t a Jesus in the manger,” said Chairman Tony McDonald. “The three Wise Men are Lenin, Marx, and Stalin because the founders of the ACLU were strident supporters of Soviet style Communism. The whole scene is a tongue-in-cheek way of showing the many ways that the ACLU and the far left are out of touch with the values of mainstream America.”

The scene will also display a terrorist shepherd and an angel in the form of Nancy Pelosi.

“The ACLU and other left-wing extremist groups are working diligently to destroy American’s rights to the free expression of religion,” said Executive Director Joseph Wyly. “We’ve already seen in Chicago an attempt to censor the nativity by a city government this week. It’s just more evidence that there is a War on Christmas being waged by the far-left in this country.”

Young Conservatives of Texas, a non-partisan conservative youth organization, has been fighting for conservative values for more than a quarter century in the Lone Star State and publishes the most respected ratings of the Texas Legislature. YCT has chapters at universities across Texas including Texas A&M University, West Texas A&M University, Baylor University, University of Texas at Austin, Southern Methodist University, Midwestern University, Texas State University, University of Texas San Antonio, University of North Texas, Hardin-Simmons University, Texas Tech University, and Stephen F. Austin University. "
Oh, by the way. Happy Holidays.