Tuesday, May 16, 2006

This Week in Whistleblowing

Some time this week, I don't know when, a former NSA analyst will be testifying behind closed doors to the Senate Armed Services committee, in which he will lay bare what he knows about the NSA's illegal and unconstitutional activities that involve millions of Americans.

Russell Tice, whose resume lists him as a specialist in space operation systems and "all source collection analysis" testified several months ago before the House Government Reform Subcommittee about the retaliation he had suffered after trying to warn supervisors about suspected security breaches. He stated then that he had more information he wished to share, and offered to meet with them again in private session.

That meeting is taking place this week.

All we know so far is this: "Tice said his information is different from the Terrorist Surveillance Program that Bush acknowledged in December and from news accounts this week that the NSA has been secretly collecting phone call records of millions of Americans. "It's an angle that you haven't heard about yet," he said."

Hmm... a former space operations specialist and all source collection analyst says, "I think the people I talk to next week are going to be shocked when I tell them what I have to tell them. It's pretty hard to believe."

Hmm... you don't think we're being monitored by those handy, anti-theft OnStar systems, do you? You know, those devices in all Cadillacs and certain other GM vehicles that knows when your airbag has deployed and e-mails you when it needs oil... the same devices that can be used to monitor your current conversation and position on a map? Yes, those.

I don't know the more sinister aspects of this, but when you look at how the Republican party uses smear tactics and personal attacks to marginalize their opponents, and how they blame all their failures on the Democrats, it's not hard to imagine that every liberal politician, pundit, personality, organizer and activist is being monitored on a regular basis.

And all this because our President wants to track Americans who are "aginst" him. It's all taken personally and he can't resist the desire to strike back, to draw blood, to get the last word. Just like the vulnerable bully at school, nobody gets away with talkin' shit about him, and just like the war in Iraq, no sacrifice is too great to avenge his weak and failing reputation.

So keep your ears open. I've sent an e-mail to Keith Olberman, the only newsman I trust anymore, asking him to keep his ear to the ground. I have faith that if there is any inkling of information out of these private hearings, Keith will mention it on his show.

Update, thanks to Randi Rhodes: Mr. Tice will be testifying Wednesday the 17th. I will update this site if I hear anything.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Truthiness Hurts: Misery Accomplished

If you don't watch "The Colbert Report", then you probably didn't know that Stephen Colbert was the featured speaker at the White House Correspondents Dinner Saturday night in D.C.. And if you get all your news from the television, you would think that the impersonator portraying George Bush as a simple-minded dolt was the highlight of the evening. To some, perhaps...

But the truly startling, hold your breath, Oh My God performance of the night came from right-wing blow-hard Stephen Colbert, who said "If 68% of the people disapprove of what George Bush is doing, doesn't that also mean that 68% of the people approve of what he's not doing?? Think about it - I didn't."

While most comedians who are invited to perform at the dinner take stabs at the President, as well as both parties, and the press' more outrageous pursuits, Colbert focused his contempt directly at Democrats, and accused every press outfit present of destroying America. Except for FOX 'news'. He crowed about the President's resolve, about his decider skills, and blasted the press for reporting the depressing news.

But you know what the funniest part was? The Republicans didn't like it. FOX 'news' is saying that Colbert went over the line, that he wasn't funny, and that everyone present was quite uncomfortable. But what I don't understand is why Laura's act last year, in which she insinuated that Bush was a bad lover and an idiot, was funny and well received. Or why the impersonator this year, who mentioned Bush's 36% approval rating and insinuated that Bush was an idiot over and over again, put the audience at ease and tickled their funny bones.

Colbert did his best to make Bush sound like the greatest leader we've ever had, and touted the right-wing agenda as the most successful plan for peace the world has ever seen.... and for some reason.... the Republicans hated it. Hated it. Perhaps his disturbing portrayal of belief beyond all reason and denial beyond all evidence hit a little too close to home. Perhaps watching someone, who's obviously barking mad, espousing the same beliefs you hold dear is quite disconcerting. Perhaps those who worship false idols simply don't have a sense of humor.

At least not while the President is in the room. After he left, the cameras at C-SPAN continued to record for about 10 minutes, and once everyone began to break up and mingle, every single person in the room was either smiling or laughing, or whispering and giggling to one another.

I hear that certain right wing blogs are very pleased that the crowd failed to respond, but I tend to think that many in the crowd didn't want the President, who was not laughing, to see them laughing. The crowd I saw milling about 3 minutes later were quite happy and appeared to be ready to take the party outside.

If you'd like to see the entire roast, visit Thank You Stephen Colbert and click the links. You can also leave a thank you note, thanking Stephen for showing the President and the world what kind of monsters he's created.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Say Goodbye to the Internet You Know and Love

I've been waiting for this. When George Bush took office in 2001, he had no idea that the internets and webs would come to embody the true meaning of 'freedom of information'. When George Bush took office in 2001, he thought that all he had to contend with was CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and a few newspapers. He thought that as long as he a had the right people saying the right things, or rather saying little to nothing about the real issues, he could skate through his Presidency and World War III with no one knowing for sure what had happened, no one doubting the administration's integrity or honesty, and everyone believing that wise, experienced heads were running the show.

But thanks to the internets, and a few whistleblowers, we know that every move this administration has ever made has been to further the interests of corporate donors, revive the dormant war machine, and line the pockets of the well-connected; to the detriment of the poor, the middle class, and even those who think they're rich until their taxes come due, then find out that they need to be a LOT richer to catch a break from this government. Thanks to the internets we know that 2,280+ men and women have died in vain, 17,000+ are maimed for life because of revenge, and the Middle East hates us not for our freedoms, but for our policies and hypocrisy.

Thanks to the internets we know that the high and honorable office of President of the United States has been stained and disgraced on a global scale to the point where people who can think farther than their noses and care about a bright future seriously doubt that things will ever be the way they were (during Clinton) ever again.

But soon that's all going to change. Not the lying and looting and finger-pointing and war-mongering; no no - us finding out about it all on the internet is what's going to change. Congress is considering a bill that will allow AT&T and cable providers to "tier" their services, with fast lanes and slow lanes, depending on how much the website/small business/big business can afford. In other words, certain websites will open faster than others, based on how much money they've paid for the privilege. Other websites, that either don't have the money or simply don't believe in blackmail, will open slower (remember dial-up?) or mysteriously not at all.

Already there are reports of tampering:

AOL blocked e-mails from Moveon.org to it's subscribers that mentioned it's partnership with a coalition that opposes AOL's efforts to tax email.

Telus, a Canadian communications giant, was in a labor dispute with it's employees so it blocked access to a website operated by members of the Telecommunications Worker's Union, claiming privacy concerns and accusing them of organizing phone jamming at Telus. The local Civil Liberties Association, accessing the site from a different server, found no such evidence.

But what does this mean to you? Your internet choices are about to be seriously curtailed. Your favorite news site, your favorite blogs, your favorite on-line shopping site, your favorite gaming site, your favorite search engine, may not be able or willing to pay for a fast lane. Those sites will load and process information much slower than sites who have paid who-knows-how-much for good service.

This is just the first step toward censorship on the internet. How will anyone ever find out in the convoluted mess, if sites have been purposely tampered with or how much traffic a slow lane can handle before websites fail to load at all, how much bandwidth is appointed to the "free loaders" and if prices are fair across the board to all sites on a certain tier, and how much money moves under the table.... combine with a little data mining and you've got a delicious recipe for corruption. Republican Corruption Soup - a dirty, complicated recipe with a list of ingredients as long as your arm.

Please sign the petition to Congress supporting network neutrality and make it clear that you want fair and balanced access to any and every website.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire

One by one, day by day, voices of dissent are landing like bombshells. I was going to say where they were landing, but then my spider-sense warned me the those two phrases in the same sentence would be a very stupid move on my part, in this climate.

Six retired Generals have now stepped forward to make clear that the failures in this war, and they are many, rest largely on the shoulders of Donald Rumsfeld. They feel that he is responsible to such a degree that he should be ashamed of himself and resign. Notice that only retired Generals have the nerve to attach their names to their statements. These men are not stupid; they know what happens to whistleblowers, naysayers, buzz-killers.

West Point grads are also standing together on this issue of honor, decency and truth, saying this,

"When we West Point graduates took our commissioning oath of office one past June morning, we swore to protect our nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The deceitful connivances of the current administration have resulted in a war catastrophic to our nation's interests: politically, economically, militarily, and morally. We now stand to protect our nation from these deceivers. We will not serve their lies."

And now we have Seymour Hersch telling us that senior officers are threatening to resign if Bush doesn't take out the changes that have been made to the Defense Dept's "Nuclear Posture Review Report". This report, issued in January '02, describes under what circumstances nukes could be used to 'compliment other military capabilities'.

It was revised in September '05 to outline specifically that they could be used to strike nuclear facilities and WMD bunkers 'to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons'. It also includes a new strike plan called CONPLAN 8022 that allows for pre-emptive nuclear strikes against WMD facilities anywhere in the world. Daily Kos has the spine-chilling details.

This is getting bad. Actually it's already bad and it's getting worse. Bush's plan all along has been to invade the entire Middle East, just as every fundamentalist Muslim has predicted, and Iraq was only the first step. China, North Korea, Pakistan, France, and Russia ALL HAVE NUCLEAR WEAPONS RIGHT NOW. Iran does not and won't for many years.

But Iran has oil. And because of that simple fact, diplomacy will not be an option. And just like the Iraq war, good intel will be ignored (or destroyed), Donald Rumsfeld will tell us that they know where the weapons are - they're north, south, east and west of Tehran, and he'll explain to us once again,

"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."

I don't have any real fear that Bush is going to get away with this plan to stay in office indefinitely; too many people are prepared to fight him on it. My fear is that he will strike Iran anyway, knowing that the military doesn't support him, and deliver a mighty Fuck You! to us all, because I fear that he really is that stupid.

Just like Bush didn't let anyone stop him from invading Iraq, nothing will stop him from invading Iran. And then what happens? Will the only people left in the Pentagon with honor and guts resign like they threatened, weakening our entire military infrastructure? Or will they lead their troops to fight and die in another needless war, not for Bush, but for us - the innocents who voted for Kerry and the guilty alike?

Unfortunately, regretably, and to my great sorrow, Bush is the only one who can decide.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Getting Fingered

Anyone heard anything about Bush's new 2007 budget?? The one that cuts veterans benefits while increasing out-of-pocket expenses for active military personnel? The one that cuts education and Perkins grant funding so that 11,000 will lose aid while college tuition rises? The one that freezes child care subsidies for the 5th year in a row so that 400,000 fewer children will receive aid this year compared to last? The one that makes permanent the tax breaks for the very richest? It's a doozy.

The above chart is very simple to understand. For those who watch FOX "news", the bars between $290 at the bottom and $236 at the top represent the Clinton "entitlement" years.

In another sharp contrast, Bush is about to break the National Debt Clock. Do you realize how much 1 trillion dollars is? If you spent a million dollars a day for a million days, you would spend 1 trillion. That's $1,000,000,000,000. Thanks to congress, our debt ceiling is now around $9,000,000,000,000, and if it goes to $10,000,000,000,000, the clock will not be able to handle it. The clock's owners wonder if they can just do away with the dollar sign and use that spot, because no one ever anticipated that this country would ever let itself fall into such severe debt. While Clinton actually stopped it (only because it couldn't count backwards and subtract money), Bush is actually going to bust it.

And now we have testimony from Scooter Libby that confirms what all smart Democrats knew: Bush and Cheney told Libby to leak classified information to Bob Woodward for his book that would make the run up to war look as scary as possible, and to leak information to Miller and Cooper that would discredit Joe Wilson's whistleblower report. The President and Vice President actively smeared and placed in danger subordinates who tried to prevent this war, and I'm sure right-wing bloggers everywhere are trying to justify it.

Just as Tom Delay said on Hardball Tuesday night, "Democrats are all about spending, Republicans are about the law", it's alarming how easily they lie and mislead and conspire to deceive with Christian chins held high. Their God must be so totally tolerant and benevolent and like, you know, liberal.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Apples to Apples

In response to a previous post, where I listed the one word descriptions of George Bush from the latest Pew Research Survey, I was double-dared to post Bill Clinton's results from the same survey, in an effort to prove that Bill Clinton was thought less of/disliked/hated as much as George Bush. But what it does instead is remind us of the much higher measure of scrutiny and exploration Clinton's marital ethics received, compared to Bush's actions and the consequences that affect us all; and show us that a President's personal life is nothing compared to two failed wars, a corruption scandal, and trillions of dollars of debt.

July 1996: Out of 610 responses, 33 said Good, 20 Wishy-Washy, 18 Okay, 18 Dishonest, 17 Liar.
August 1998: Out of 503 responses, 42 Liar, 18 Dishonest, 13 Good, 12 Untrustworthy, 10 Good President.

However, to the question, "Do you approve or disapprove of Bill Clinton's handling of his job as President?", the responses were these:

July 1996: 54% job approval
August 1998: 62% job approval

In contrast, Bush's approval numbers taken during the aforementioned survey were:

February 2005: 50% job approval
July 2005: 44% job approval
March 2006: 33% job approval

So take from this what you will. It seems to me that while people didn't like Clinton personally, for committing adultery (as if men have always held other men responsible for their wedding vows), they basically believed that he was doing a good job of steering the ship, paying the bills, and building our economy.

People not only don't like Bush personally, for all the lies, arrogance and greed; they don't like him professionally either. He's wrecked the ship, he's not paying the bills, and he's destroying our economy. He has taken us into war twice, neither objective attained, thousands and thousands dead and maimed. Jobs are moving out of this country faster and faster and the future looks quite bleak after 5 years of Republican stewardship.

Just as Republicans lamented, after exposing Clinton's secrets to the whole world during the Lewinsky scandal, I can't help but wonder, "What will we tell the children" now?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Class Action Suit That Might Affect You

If you have been a subscriber to People magazine, Time, or Entertainment Weekly between 1998 and 2004. If you ever got screwed into renewing your subscription under false pretenses like I did. Time Warner has agreed to pay up 4.3 million dollars to magazine subscribers who were charged for renewals they did not order, or were tricked into renewing subscriptions they wanted to drop. 108,000 people could be affected. And I'm one of them.

I subscribed to Entertainment Weekly in 2002 by cashing in some air miles. A year later when my subscription ended, I began to get bills for my subscription. I thought, "Why am I just now receiving a bill? I never use the 'bill me later' option", not remembering my air mile transaction. My excuse is that I was working and going to school and moving at the time... and it had happened a year earlier... so I assumed it was a mistake that they would figure out on their own.

I received about 5 more menacing bills and threw them out without a second thought - what're they gonna do? Then I received a yellow envelope of great urgency which said that I was about to be turned over to a collection service... and I began to doubt myself. They were getting serious. I thought that maybe I had never paid them their $86 and maybe they had been billing me the entire year and I had just been throwing them out... and I wrote the check.

So guess what showed up in my mailbox 3 weeks later? An issue of Entertainment Weekly. Followed by another. And another. And it went on for a year, because I had renewed my subscription. Because I was threatened. Of course I had no proof of their threats, so I set my sites on the future, and waited for my subscription to run out. I thought to myself, "I'll write Eat Me or Fuck You on the bill and send it back!" Yeah! That'll show 'em.

This time around, instead of demanding payment, I received a more toned-down 'notice'. I got a 'REACTIVATION FORM' rimmed in yellow. The upper half asked me to 'indicate my re-order volume', but the lower half of solid yellow said SERVICE CONTRACT SUSPENSION between two black bars. It says that it is an URGENT NOTICE. My renewal instructions are 'past due' and my 'contract has been suspended'. I am instructed to 'detach the re-order form and return at once with my remittance'. At a glance, it looks like I owe them something. This isn't a friendly renewal reminder, this is an urgent looking 'notice' that seems to infer that something is 'wrong' with my 'account', hence the 'suspension'. So far it is the only one I have received.

But now I might actually get my $86 back and that is something to crow about. And I thought that there might be others out there, too embarrassed to tell anyone that they fell for such a bald-faced scam that only a bubblehead would go along with... I just wanted to tell you to keep your eyes open for an official looking letter from Time Warner. It might just be money.