Sunday, February 25, 2007

What American MSM isn't reporting

How much air time or news space would it take to let us know seven foreign ministers in Islamic nations are meeting to seek diplomatic solutions to America's sabre-rattling with Iran?

The story is in al-Jazeera.

Maybe it wouldn't suit Dick Cheney's obsession with using "1984" newspeak to make Americans think anyone who doesn't want war is a terrorist al-Qaeda sympathizer.

Bushonomics 101

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Severe poverty grew 26% from 2000 to 2005.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sent me into diabetic coma ...

... but y'all might like this sweet Web site

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

It takes more than one squeeze

It looks like Gov. Corzine was successful squeezing civil service unions to help patch the state deficit. Actually, the concessions seem reasonable: raise minimum retirement age to 60 for new workers, start making state workers contribute to their health insurance and pay more toward their own pensions.

But at the same time as reading this news, I was reading statistics showing New Jersey is last in the nation -- 50th -- in the return on our federal tax investment. We pay $1.79 to the federal government for every $1 worth of services here. That means we subsidize services in states such as the Carolinas and Georgia, where New Jerseyans are moving in droves in disgust of New Jersey politicians. But, it's too easy just to blame the politicians and say "throw the bums out." It doesn't solve the federal tax disparity, and we're right back to another election and "throw the bums out."

One of Corzine's selling points during the campaign for governor was that as a then-U.S. senator he might be in a better position than the others in both primary fields to find ways to get more value from our federal taxes. It has been a year and I'm growing impatient.

One place might be trying to get more federal dollars for the Abbott school districts. The belts have busted for state and local taxpayers subsidizing these bottomless pits. Poverty anywhere is a national problem for everyone, because poverty breeds crime and hides "terrorists" of all colors, religions and nationalities.

So, I'd like to ask Corzine's administration -- especially now with Dem majorities in the House and ever-so-slightly in the Senate -- when can we expect some federal rescue here to keep our best and brightest from fleeing for greener pastures in the states our tax dollars are subsidizing?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Merck calling off the dogs

Bad press finally has gotten to Merck, the Whitehouse Station pharmacuetical company that has the patent on Gardasil, a vaccine it says prevents human papillomavirus, a cause of some cervical cancers. It's calling off its expensive campaign through Women in Government to "persuade" their fellow legislators to adopt state mandates that pre-teen girls be vaccinated.

I wouldn't have known New Jersey's Legislature had a pair of bills mandating vaccination if it weren't for Gwen Moran of Wall's column Tuesday in the Asbury Park Press. The search engine at the Legislature's Web site oddly doesn't churn up these bills using obvious keywords like Gardasil, papillomavirus, HVP or vaccination. Maybe I should have tried searching for "bills Merck paid us to keep off the radar."

If you read the bill you see our daughters would have to get this nascent vaccine or not attend public school. The only exceptions are if your doctor certifies her health can't take it or you can establish religious objection -- like, prove you're a Christian Scientist, I guess.

Men get and carry HPV, too. Isn't this bill just a wee bit discriminatory by gender? Our sons won't have to be certified as vaccinated to attend school. And what about the subtle judgment message it sends, considering HPV is sexually transmitted? Girls are inately Jezebels tempting your sons.

Our pediatrician is not recommending this vaccination yet. She won't make her patients guinea pigs. Women remember being lured like kids to lollipops into getting Pfizer's annual Depo-Provera shot for birth control; few women used that a second year.

The Senate bill is sponsored by our own Ellen Karcher, Loretta Weinberg, Barbara Buono and Joseph F. Vitale. The Assembly version is sponsored by Michael J. Panter, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Joan M. Voss, Joan M. Quigley and Joseph Vas.

And, you ask, just how persuasive is the supposedly objective Women in Government to these guys? Bristol-Myers Squibb's philanthropic division is a Women in Government "partner," while its business council includes GlaxoSmithKline, Digene, ExxonMobil,Verizon and Wellpoint. And look'ee there, Mabel; Merck, Pfizer and every other major pharmaceutical firm are on its list of "sponsors," along with other altruistic sorts of businesses like Wal-Mart. As Gomer Pyle used to say, "Surprise, surprise."

Update: Uh-oh. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and eight other lawmakers now have been caught with their hands on $5,000 cookies from the Merck cookie jar just before steamrolling this same bill through in Texas. Snap!

"It's over. You lost."

Riverbend, an American-educated Iraqi woman who has been blogging about daily life in Baghdad since 2003 at Baghdad Burning, posted this week about flipping past Oprah on her TV and seeing an al-Jazeera interview with a woman who was gang raped by Iraqi security officers.

(snip) "I know that looking at her, foreigners will never be able to relate. They’ll feel pity and maybe some anger, but she’s one of us. She’s not a girl in jeans and a t-shirt so there will only be a vague sort of sympathy. Poor third-world countries- that is what their womenfolk tolerate. Just know that we never had to tolerate this before. There was a time when Iraqis were safe in the streets. That time is long gone. We consoled ourselves after the war with the fact that we at least had a modicum of safety in our homes. Homes are sacred, aren’t they? That is gone too."

I wonder, if President Bush gets his wish to escalate troops -- and I guess he's doing it as we speak despite what the majority thinks -- will our troops protect Iraqi women? Is protecting the innocents in the mess he made there one of his goals? Bush never tells us his goals, does he? He told reporter Bob Woodward in 2002, "I'm the commander -- see, I don't need to explain -- I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."

Riverbend sums it up: "Let me clear it up for any moron with lingering doubts: It’s worse. It’s over. You lost. You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq’s first democratic government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the oil, at least, made it worthwhile."

It's hard for me to forget that human rights atrocities are no stranger to John Negroponte, who was in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 as head the U.S. embassy. He had a history during death squad days in Honduras in the 1980s. Then he came back to work here as national intelligence director, America's top spy, at what amounts to a Cabinet post. How odd is it Negroponte just last week moved back to foreign meddling when he was confirmed to the No. 2 post at the State Department?

Monday, February 19, 2007

2+2 not adding up in "new" JFK clip

This allegedly never-before-seen (why not?) film footage shot 90 seconds before JFK was assassinated Nov. 23, 1963, in Dallas isn't adding up for me. What do you readers think?

Look at the clear crowd scene just after the closeup of Jackie. There's a guy in the crowd looking up at what might be the Texas Depository. At least, with that clear footage of the front of the depository (strange, itself, so clear and so handily juxtaposed presumably at such a chaotic scene), it could give one the subliminal thought that he was looking at the depository, combined with that fella looking up and to his left when he should have been looking the other way at the president within stone's throw of him.

Why does MSNBC not answer the most obvious question we all must have: Why would the photographer not have made this film known to someone in all these years?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Today's funny

Just a week after Alaska Rep. Don Young used a fabricated President Lincoln quote during the Iraq escalation debate on the House floor, Cannonfire blog has found more newfound Lincoln quotes, (warning, a few are tasteless) including:

"They fired on Fort Sumter? Invade Canada!"
- Abraham Lincoln, 1861

"The Log Cabin Republicans give me a bad name."
-Abraham Lincoln

"The Confederates will greet us with magnolia blossoms and pralines."
-A. Lincoln

"Four score and...uh, er...........won't get fooled again."
-A. Lincoln, date uncertain

"The real reason I started the Civil War was that I had issues about my father."
- A. Lincoln

"Pull my finger."
- A. Lincoln, Second Inaugural

Meanwhile, David Swanson, co-founder of the coalition, reminds us what Lincoln really did say, and when, in a Truthout article.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

NJ blog roundup

The Opinion Mill on Friday took on the shock jocks at 101.5 -- and I think Opinion Mill won this round. This type of "gay Polack" stuff won't stop until the public reacts. "Potty Brains" is a must read.

A little headier but also in a Friday post, NJ Law Blog explained a ruling that gives condo owners' associations priority over towns on surplus from liens.

Over at Bayshore Journalista, on Thursday delightful writer Jackie Corley tackled the hot pay-to-play and election reform issues: "I'll be diving into the reports of Monmouth's ruling Republican Party and publishing what I find. Do contractors still contribute in spite of pay-to-play regulations? Are PACs and municipal organizations being used by the county GOP to navigate around pay-to-play regulations?" Good graphic linked there, too.

Da Truth Squad, a brand new Manalapan-based blogger focused on MonCo Republicans (some may know daTruth as a needling fixture in some forums), rants about the county Republican Politboro's new candidate "application." Chairman Adam Puharic's new candidate contract pretty much ensures the GOP primary will be a sham because no one can challenge his chosen proteges. How long can "Pu-Pu" hold on to this job with so much dissent, including from fellow Republican Freeholder Anna Little, a legal eagle who has pointed out this contract may be just a wee bit, um, unconstitutional?

Over at City Belt, Jon Shure had a guest column Tuesday suggesting we should "throw off 'home rule,' share resources, and govern smartly if we want a future."

Monmouth RastaMan reported Friday that Democratic insiders are predicting Amod Choudhary of Colts Neck, an engineer-turned-lawyer who serves on the school board, will challenge Republican Claire French for the county clerk seat she has held for many terms.

Also on the political front, Center of NJ Life Monday wrote a roundup of the "fighting 12th" (isn't that an understatement?) state legislative district from Oceanport to Hightstown for Blue Jersey blog.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Inhumanity of man, honor of woman

This interview with Susan McDougal, who went to federal prison -- housed on death row -- jail for civil contempt rather than lie about President Clinton, so breaks my heart that the America my ancestors settled and founded could revert to such barbaric lows ... I couldn't finish reading the transcript and didn't dare watch the video. Maybe y'all are tougher.

(snip) McDCOUGAL: I remember the night before I went to jail, I sat down with my seven brothers and sisters, my Mom and Dad; my Mom was Belgian and had been though the war and my Dad was a soldier, and I remember people were saying, “She knows something. She’s hiding something. She’s probably getting payoffs. There were all sorts of things being said in the media on both sides. And I remember my Mom said to me—this tiny little lady, only five-feet tall; I had been taller than her since I was in the fourth grade—she said, “Isn’t there anything you know about them that you could say that would be the truth? That you could trade? That would be truthful and you could live with?” And I looked at her and I said, “I don’t know a thing those people have ever done that was illegal, immoral, wrong.” And I remember, she stood up, and said, “It’s what Hitler did: He would turn people against other people and make them testify against them. And send them to concentration camps and threaten them if they didn’t.” And she said, “If we beat that guy, we can beat this guy.”

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Race for world cable news

France24 is up and running. Hit "play video" on the left.

This is a 24/7 online and satellite TV news channel the French government media consortium pumped to get it out quickly to compete with the recently launched al-Jazeera English and Russia Today news networks. Take that, Faux News and CNN.

I just watched a report about the United States' extraordinary renditions: kidnapping and holding people without habeas corpus to torture them (what we call hostage-taking when foreigners do that to one of us).

Say what you will about perspectives that may be less than objective, but the fact is that people around the world see us, our events and our international involvements in a much different light than the one our media shine for us.

Old-fashioned values, since 1305

N.J. Sen. Robert Menendez has seemed a tad bashful in Washington, so my family all smiled big when we heard on the radio tonight that he is co-sponsoring Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd's Restoring the Constitution Act that would correct that godawful Military Commissions Act.

The measure would restore habeas corpus, the right to challenge any detention in a court of law, which was part the magna carta of 1215, was first used in 1305 and was codified in the U.S. Constitution. Habeas corpus is just the cornerstone of due process of law.

Lots of folks' radars overlooked the little details in the Military Commissions Act, which soared through Congress last October in the last GOP-majority gasp. It gave our King George executive authority to detain anyone -- including Americans on U.S. soil -- forever or as long as his proxies wish, without telling anyone, without access ever to a judge or lawyer. True. Read it.

But then, it's not as if the "unitary executive" hadn't been taking that power illegally, anyway, in detaining Jose Padilla and countless other Americans and foreigners here and worldwide.

Before the Military Commissions vote, I called both our senators' offices and learned they probably had not read it. Yet they both, unfathomably, later that day voted YES on the Military Commissions Act. Anyone have a clue why? Will N.J. Sen. Frank Lautenberg join the Dodd/Menendez bill?

Oh, BTW, "minor" details: the Restoring the Constitution also would ban torture and uphold the Geneva Convention. I'll bet if you read international newspapers you'll find the world is watching this bill.

You as a citizen can co-sponsor it, here.

Menendez' statement today (blah, blah, blah): "Protecting the American people is our most sacred responsibility, therefore we must do all we can to destroy those who would try to destroy our way of life. In doing so, however, we must not compromise the values and virtues of our nation and Constitution. This act will give us the tools to defend America from her enemies, while never ceding our standing as a nation of freedom and justice."

Bravo, Senator, but didn't your yea vote on the Military Commissions bill in the first place work to "destroy our way of life"? Why didn't you read the damn thing and vote against it in October?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Can't have it both ways

Neighbors in Howell are unhappy that union electricians are picketing Americo Guglielmo, who operates his A.G. Electric business out of his home, in their neighborhood.

It raises some interesting questions.

Would Guglielmo pay his licensed electricians even his purported $35 an hour if it weren't for the impact the union has on the industry?

And just how much does he benefit on tax returns for use of a portion of his home exclusively as a business? A lot of people seem to take that little word "exclusively" more loosely than its dictionary definition -- and the IRS. Hmmm.

Cheney under oath?

Vice President Dead-Eye Dick Cheney is expected to be called to the stand this week by defense lawyers for his No. 1 aide/sacrificial lamb, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Some see a big deal about it being historic for a VP to testify, but oath smoath. He has been under oath from the day he took office, but it didn't stop him from lying when he said he knew Iraq had WMD and any number of other whale tales he's told, has it?

Law professor Peter Shane tells the Times that this week's trial could make "great theater." I'll watch it. I just won't necessarily believe whatever comes out of Cheney's lopsided mouth. I suspect Dead-Eye will answer every question with a nonanswer, probably using "national security secrets" as reason why he can't answer anything. Bets anyone?

UPDATE Feb. 13: Boo hoo. Libby's lawyers won't let Scooter on the stand and so won't call Cheney. Can you say "pardon deal made"? That was some subtle blackmail, wasn't it? There must have been something big to tell for Team Bush to hold out to the last minute.

UPDATE Feb. 15: Bush on his promise to purge his administration when he finds out who leaked classified CIA information, which we now know is Cheney and Bush, himself. "Not going to talk about it, Peter." "Think of another question and I'll recycle you, hee hee hee." His highness didn't "recycle" Peter (isn't recycle what we do with trash?) to allow him another question. Flashback 2003: "If there's a leak in my administration I want to know who it is. If someone committed a crime, he will be dealt with."

Go, Dixie Chicks!

Grammy winners for Best Song and Best Album. We're not ready to make nice, either.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

It's who counts the votes that matters

I don't know which is worse, that the Sequoia AVC vote machines Ocean County voters have been using for about 10 years have been able to show any "results" a programmer has wanted , or that we were hosed when we bought them them. Anyone can buy one for $86 and set up his or her own polling booth on election day!

Seriously, this news is big, and is just one piece in a puzzle that has become all too clear the past few years. Electronic voting is looking like one big scam to turn America into a monarchy, or at least an oligarchy. What happens when we run out of Bushes and Clintons? At least Chelsea Clinton is smart; heaven help us in the next lineage of Bushes.

All this electronic vote diddling isn't new, either. Lynn Landes, whose brother lives here at the Jersey Shore, has documented a history of voting machine companies that goes back to the 1980s.

Handy primer

Marcy Wheeler of The Next Hurrah blog has just published a book, "Anatomy of Deceit," that is said to make all clear what's what in the Treasongate case culminating now in VP Dick Cheney top aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's trial.

Libby's defense lawyers are claiming he's being made a scapegoat for Karl Rove, President Bush's aide. Cheney's September 2003 handwritten notes, produced in testimony Jan. 30, about who told whom to out Valerie Plame's undercover CIA identity said, "not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the guy this prez asked to stick his head in the meat grinder because of incompetence of others."

The publisher, Vaster Books, is a new company formed by DailyKos and Fire Dog Lake blogs. Fire Dog, along with Hurrah, have been leading the way in Treasongate coverage.

Poppy likes spanking

Could it be part of tonight's "Desperate Housewives" script, this spanking President George H.W. Bush gave Teri Hatcher after their lunch date last week?

Creepy. If it were anyone else, would he be charged with criminal sexual contact?

At 82, maybe Poppy is losing more of that piece of the brain that controls impulsive behavior. Amusing. But I'm told the elder Bush -- who is a former CIA chief and who FOIA releases in recent years show has consistently lied about where he was when JFK was assassinated Nov. 22, 1963 -- still has a hand in the black ops side at Langley.

If Hatcher's OK with being treated like a tart, fine, but Poppy isn't just your ordinary dirty old man.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Say it ain't so

Black Box Voting is not supporting Rep. Rush Holt's bill he has said will fix the major problems with electronic voting. BBV is a national nonpartisan electronic voting watchdog group that broke most of the major news of fraud, including the timelines and networks among vote machine ownership.

Here are BBV's reasons:

1. DECEPTIVE LANGUAGE. Calls a paper TRAIL a paper BALLOT.

2. BILLION DOLLAR UNFUNDED MANDATE: Requires text conversion technology in every polling place. At $7000 per machine for 185,000 polling places, you do the math. See this article for documentation on the billion-dollar boondoggle:

The bill is not talking about scanner wands, folks. Or if it is, they'd better specify that, and soon! Except that apparently, it's too late to make changes.

Note that only two vendors currently manufacture the needed technology, and one (Populex) has as head of its advisory board Frank Carlucci, the former chairman of the Carlyle Group, former CIA director, who was Donald Rumsfeld's roommate in college. Every polling place in America. Is this really what you want? Isn't it time to read the fine print on this?

3. MAKES THE SCANDAL RIDDEN EAC A PERMANENT FIXTURE AND INCREASES ITS POWER. Alan Dechert, from the Open Voting Consortium says it best: "Holt contemplates the invasion of these United States by the Federal government. If passed, it would BREAK the voting system in the states while establishing a dictatorship to handle things: the Election Assistance Commission ("EAC" or just "the Commission") with its four commissioners appointed by the president of the United States." Bradblog on latest EAC scandal:


5. NO RECOGNITION OF CITIZEN RIGHT TO OVERSIGHT. Audit provisions do not allow either citizens or candidates access to any records for meaningful audits.

6. CONFLICTING REQUIREMENTS -- ie, must have text converters by 2008 and must study how to best do the conversions by 2010.

7. LANGUAGE ON DISCLOSED SOURCE CODE CONTAINS AN ERROR in that it doesn't deal with COTS - meaning, any electronics component with a chip on it would be required to disclose source code. There are literally hundreds of commercial off the shelf components in the system -- printers, video drivers, motherboard components -- that contain firmware, and these are manufactured all over the world. The bill would require Hitachi, Seagate, Fuji, Western Digital to open up their code for their commercial products if used in voting machines. Effectively eliminates the use of electronics while at the same time mandating electronics.

8. MUSH LANGUAGE. (Example: "The manufacturer shall provide the appropriate election official with the information necessary for the official to provide the information...")

9. UNREADABLE: People complain about their legislators not reading the bills -- well the way this is written, it guarantees they won't read it. No Appendix, so sections of the bill require the reader to actually go find a different bill and look up sections in it in order to make sense of the current bill. (example: "Section 301(a)(1) of such Act (42 U.S.C. 15481(a)(1)) is amended (A) in subparagraph (A)(i), by striking "counted" and inserting "counted, in accordance with paragraphs (2) and (3)");

10. AUDIT PROTOCOLS NO ONE AGREES WITH, even fans of audit solutions

11. LOOPHOLE ALLOWING INTERNET CONNECTIONS for central tabulators and ballot definition software

12. LOOPHOLE ALLOWING MANUAL AUDITS TO BE BYPASSED states with computer-only recount protocols

13. LOOPHOLE ALLOWING MACHINE COUNT TO SUPERCEDE VOTER VERIFIED PAPER when fuzzily described circumstances arise. Los Angeles Registrar Conny McCormack already has tried to co-opt this (Feinstein senate hearing yesterday) into meaning when there is a printer jam damaging the paper, the machine count will trump.

14. SUPPORTS DREs (Touch-screens and other on-screen voting techniques that are NOT recommended by NIST)

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Peace on the march

Carol Gay, the Dem challenger to Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., in November's election, helped organized two busloads of people from Monmouth and Ocean counties to join hundreds of thousands of people at the Jan. 27 peace demonstration in Washington, D.C.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The day was gorgeous, she says, but the mission "was a serious one - to stop the funding for the occupation of Iraq. The mood of the crowd was high spirited, joyous and peaceful. Young and old, veterans protesters and first-timers, they all are committed to stopping George Bush's ill-fated actions in the Middle East."

Gay and some others followed up on Monday with a personal visit to every member of the NJ congressional delegation. She says they'll keep on demanding our federal government stop meddling in Iraq and start accounting for the waste, fraud and abuse of our tax dollars there. (Speaking of which, if you thought the missing $8.8 billion sent for Iraq reconstruction during Paul Bremer's watch was bad, get a load of the latest news that we sent another $4 billion to him to run the provisional authority in 363 tons of $100 bills and LOST THEM! That's like 16 tractor-trailers full, about $4 billion of our hard-earned tax dollars.)

NJ Labor Against the War and NJ Industrial Union Council sponsored the buses, Gay say.

Truthout has video of the march and Central New Jersey Coalition for Peace and Justice has pictures posted from the march.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Mad as hell and not taking it any more

Taking a break from Disney soundtracks, apparently, Randy Newman has penned the unorthodox, satirical and more than a tad pessimistic "A Word in Defense of Our Country" ... (snip) "The end of an empire is messy at best.”