Saturday, April 29, 2006

ATT - NSA Wiretap Lawsuit ... Shhhhh! It's A Secret.

Hiding behind the defense of last resort the NSA and the Bush White House are attempting to block a civil liberties suit by the Electronic Frontiers Foundation to uncover the illegally complicit actions in tapping the phones and internet communications of American's without any warrants. The are calling the matter "Top Secret" and trying to hush the entire episode up. The truth may be more disturbing than the NSA warrantless wiretaps that Bush ordered.

According to Mark Klein, a former technician for AT&T who says Internet data passing through a switching center in San Francisco is being diverted to a secret room. There, Mr. Klein says, "the security agency has installed powerful computers to eavesdrop without warrants on the digital data and forward the information to an undisclosed place."

Not surprising they want this hushed up. This is in clear violation of several laws and makes the current wiretap scandal pale in comparison. AT&T claims things should be secret too, they are claiming infringement on trade secrets to block the investigation.

So it seems that now whenever a whistleblower calls Bush or his cronies on an illegal scheme, it immediately becomes "Top Secret". Welcome to the new totalitarianism. "We decide what is good for you, you will not question us."

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Karl Rove In Hell


Karl Rove's lawyer said of his last (5th) appearance before the grand jury as "hell", according to RAW STORY. Rove met for three and a half hours and described the session as grueling. Apparently he is more worried than ever of being indicted.

Poor Karl, and the grand jury s scheduled to meet again tomorrow. Could Fitzmas be far away?

Meanwhile, Scooters attempt to have charges dropped in a last minute legal maneuver failed. Their argument that Fitzgerald didn't have the legal power to bring the indictments was rebutted by the federal judge.

Exxon Drowning In Profits

Exxon Mobil Corp. made an $8.4 billion profit in the first quarter. And even though that's a 7 percent increase over last year analysts were disappointed with the numbers. Net income only rose to $1.37 per share for the January-March period from $7.86 billion or $1.22 per share last year. Wall Street analysts were looking for 1.47 per share. Too bad for poor Exxon-Mobil.

If only they could figure a way to make more profit!

Well the Senate is interested in their profits, too. Seems the Senate Finance Committee is seeking the Income Tax records of the oil behemoth. Senator Grassley (R) of Iowa said, "I want to make sure the oil companies aren't taking a speed pass by the tax man."

My guess is that there will be the usual grandstanding and then the whole thing will again be swept under the table. The inner workings of the oil companies and their insane profits will continue to be opaque and we may never know the truth.

I found it interesting that last night on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart was interviewing a Wall Street Journal columnist (I cannot remember her name). He tried to get her to tell him how the oil companies could be making record profits without price gouging and she kept telling him he just didn't understand how business worked.

Bear with me for a moment. This is a very greatly simplified example but I suspect this is why Stewart and myself are so confused. Try this equation: X + Y = Z

X= price per barrel of oil
Y= cost of refining gasoline
Z= price at the pump

Now if oil prices go up, the cost of gas increases, however the cost to refine it doesn't change. So one would think that the profits of the gas companies would remain stable, since the amount of gas purchased doesn't change and they are passing the additional oil cost along the way. So why the record profits, even with increased costs?

Here's my suspicion, they use a mark-up formula that is based on a percentage of the cost of the oil + the refinery costs. Therefore, not only is the extra cost passed on, its marked up an additional percent, so the higher the oil prices, the more profit for the oil companies. For them it's a win/win situation and for us it’s another chance to be screwed by big business.

Simple isn't it? They pass on the cost and increased profits and we pay. Now why couldn't Jon Stewart understand that? What could be better? Well Bush has suspended the environmental restrictions for the refineries, so they can pollute the air even more, make gas a little cheaper and still keep those record profits rolling. What a country!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Conservatives Give Green Light To Terrorists At Ports

Rep. Ed Markley, (D-MA) proposed an amendment that would assure that all containers entering the US would be screened for radioactive material. Similar screening already takes place in Hong Kong and has been cost effective and successful. Conservatives, prodded by heavy industry lobbying killed the measure, leaving our ports exposed again. The industry coalition includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents outlets like Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot and Best Buy.

Committee chairman Peter King (R-NY) called the plan "not realistic".

So much for strong defense. Either there really is no terrorist threat, or the conservatives are working against the security of our nation for profit motives. It's time we called these guys what they are, liars and sellouts.

Senators Son Gets Reduced Sex Offense Deal

Parents of the children abused at a summer camp think the son of Sen. Ken Bennett (R) of Arizona got reduced charges because he was the son of a powerful politician. Ya think?

Clifton Bennet pleaded guilty to assaulting boys in their cabin by poking a broomstick, a flashlight and cane in their rears. Though they claimed no penetration occurred, the offense was categorized as aggravated assault and because they were held against their will it was also kidnapping. County Attorney Sheila Polk rejected demands from parents that she press sexual assault charges stating there was no sexual intent or penetration.

No sexual intent? Oh but of course people go around poking each other in the butt just for fun. Well in my community they do, but it is definitely done with sexual intent.

When I look at this case closer I have to agree with the judge. I think the assaults were the result of a hazing prank gone too far, however to say there was no sexual intent is erroneous.
Teenagers are always exploring outlets for their sexual urges. Whether they know it or not much of that exploration can take the form of same-sex behavior, and in a repressive society the urge for same-sex contact can become masked in aggression.

I think they deserve punishment, but more importantly they need counseling to find out where all that misplaced aggression came from. Otherwise, they will probably do it again, and maybe next time with disastrous results.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Western Shoshone Tribe Sues Halt Nuclear Style Test


"Divine Strake" is anything but divine to the Western Shoshone tribe. The tribe filed a federal lawsuit naming officials with the Defense Department, National Nuclear Security Administration and Defense Threat Reduction Agency as defendants. The proposed test is on traditional Western Shoshone land.

The tribe as well as many citizens of Nevada and other western states worry that the blast, over 700 tons of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, could kick up radioactive material left from numerous A-bomb tests on the same proving ground in the 50's and 60's. Utah Senator Orin Hatch is even concerned. "The more I look into this, the more upset I become," Hatch said.

The test is also in direct violation of a UN decision as part of the United Nations Committe to Eliminate Racial Discrimination.

Has Iraq War Has Played Into Bin Laden's Hands?

Author and Middle East Analyst Fawaz Gerges in his new book "The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global" says that the jihadi movement had nearly sputter in the late 1990's. The movement took their battle to what he calls the "near enemy" Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt but had almost played out when Al Qaeda decided to take its fight to the West, "the far enemy".

This caused rifts in the movement and could have broken the momentum, however the war in Iraq has reinvigorated not Al Qaeda, but the global juhadi movement. In an interview with Aljazeera, Geres says, "I think the American war in Iraq has played into the hands of al-Qaeda's trans-national ideology on global jihad. In many respects, Iraq is slowly and gradually replacing Afghanistan as a recruiting tool and ground for jihadi action. "

The interview on the Aljazeera website is though provoking and gives us a glimpse into the forces behind the jihadi movement. Gerges, holds the Christian Johnson Chair in International Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies at New York's Sarah Lawrence University. I strongly suggest reading his new book.

Bush Orders investigation Into Gas Price Manipulation - And Other Fairy Tales


"There's no magic wand to wave,'' Bush is quoted saying at a Republican fundraiser in Las Vegas. He also announced that the Justice Department will begin an investigation into possible price gouging and manipulation by the oil industry.

Meanwhile the Senate released a joint announcement that they intend to have hearings on the subject. The real question is, will they really have sworn testimony from oil company execs, or will this be another fake hearing like the last one where oil executives spun whimsical stories about capacity, reformulation and our old friend "supply and demand".

So while Bush looks for his magic wand and the Senate struggles whether to actually have oil execs sworn in for testimony, the consumer pays all time record prices for gas and the oil companies make record profits. Have a safe summer driving season as you vacation a couple of blocks away from home.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Bush Approval Rating Slips Again!


Now Dubbya is down to 32% approval rating according to a new CNN poll, the lowest ever for him.

The slide is dramatic, late in March a Pew Center poll had him at 35%, then a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll pegged his rating at 33% and now this. It's going to take more than a reshuffling of the deck chairs to keep this Titanic from sinking.

My hope is that Democrats and Republicans who can still use critical thinking will realize now is the time to start investigations into the President's pathological lies and deceit. I can understand not wanting to rock the boat of a popular president, but Bush is headed for ratings lower than Nixon soon, and the time is right to investigate and if necessary, take legal action.
Impeachment or censure should be the least of these options.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Former CIA Official Says Bush, Rice, Cheney Knew Iraq Had No WMD In 2002

Former top CIA official, Tyler Drumheller spoke to Ed Bradley on CBS New Show, 60 Minutes tonight and spilled the beans. He said in a report to Bush, Cheney and Rice in 2002 that a highly placed source, Naji Sabri, Saddam's foreign minister turned spy, reported that there were no active WMD programs in Iraq.

Drumheller also goes on to say that the Iraq war policy was already set, and the administration was only interested in information that supported it. The video is available on thinkprogress.org.

This story is the kind of stuff CBS News should have been doing all along, I applaud them for it, even though it's a few years too late.

Physicists Tell Bush "Nuclear Weapons Against Iran Gravely Irresponsible!”

In a story that went virtually uncovered by US press, thirteen of the nation's most prominent physicists wrote a letter to President Bush. In it they called U.S. plans to reportedly use nuclear weapons against Iran "gravely irresponsible" and warned that such action would have "disastrous consequences for the security of the United States and the world."

The letter which will be publiclycally in Lafayette Park across from the White House April 26 states,"There are no sharp lines between small "tactical" nuclear weapons and large ones, nor between nucweaponseapns targeting facilities and those targeting armies or cities." It goes on to warn that once nuclear weapons are used it will lessen the "taboo" against them and "there will be a greatly enhanced risk that regional conflicts could expand into global nuclear war."

I will be surprised if the White House listens to these scientists. Bush and his cronies seem to listen only to those voices that have been carefully screened to tell them what they want to hear. Scientists have had little sway with this White House, in fact it could be argued that Bush has done his best to squelch scientific advise of any kind, from news of global warming to this letter about nuclear war.

The petitioners include Nobel laureates, a National Medal of Science winner and three past presidents of the American Physical Society. With credentials like these I suspect the White House will take steps to avoid reading this one for sure.

Christian Online Sex Shop In Wales

You gotta love those Welsh, and the British in general. Where else would you find an online sex toy shop with the greeting, "Sex is a great gift from God..."?

The new enterprise is geared toward Christian couples who are looking to enhance their sex lives, and it features products that are affirming and non-harmful. The new service ICWALES.CO.UK first brought the shop to the worlds attention with their story about the proprietors and their enterprise. In my opinion, we need more people like owners Stella & Stan Hagarty. They were unhappy with the traditional sex shops and wanted something more accommodating to their beliefs.

Check it out. http://www.whollylove.co.uk