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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Vet School Defends Dog Labs as Pickens gift Withdrawn

by Martha Rosenberg

You wouldn't think a veterinarian would have to say, "I love animals." After all, doctors don't say, "I love people." But in 200 email messages to the Daily O'Collegian, the Oklahoma State University (OSU) student newspaper, that's just what vets and vet students are saying to defend the vet school's live dog labs.

Seems Madeleine Pickens, wife of billionaire T. Boone Pickens, was about to gift the university's Center for Veterinary Health Sciences $5 million until she learned of the repeat and terminal surgeries performed on man's best friend in its labs and withdrew the largesse.

What she failed to understand, wrote irate vet students and faculty, was the only major organs removed in dog labs are reproductive ones!

The dogs--amassed by Class B dealers from pounds and surrendering owners--would be euthanized anyway!

Those "allowed to be recovered from anesthesia after organ removal" which is to say not killed are given pain meds!

Dogs not "allowed to be recovered from anesthesia after organ removal" don't need pain meds!

All Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee regulations are followed! (see: room temperature; cage size; drinking water available.)

And dogs are sometimes given treats before the Big Sleep!

Even the vet school dean, Michael Lorenz, weighed in with a statement that, "No more than two surgeries are performed on any dog,"--whew!--- and that, "Terminal dog surgeries are used at the majority of the United States veterinary colleges."

Gee, Mom. All the kids do it.

Of course veterinarians have always had to fight appearing like they love some animals more than others since so many of them eat the patients.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) supports the "use of animals in research, testing, and education," and takes no public stand against trophy, canned hunting and child hunting. And, before heading the AVMA, Ron DeHaven presided over the killing of 87,000 coyotes, 6,000 foxes, and 2,500 bobcats a year as USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) administrator.

But University of California researchers are also having image problems.

A cabal of animal researchers in Santa Cruz and Berkeley is asking for public sympathy and free law enforcement protection for their animal experiments while refusing to disclosure what exactly the experiments are, who they are and where they live.

The reason they want anonymity say researchers is the public can't adequately judge science. Experiments that may look gory and cruel like the UCLA researcher who makes a midline incision in a live vervet monkey's skull and drills 1.5mm-diameter holes into its head to give it "deep brain stimulation" could be taken the wrong way. Especially when the monkey becomes "acutely agitated," defecating and urinating during the experiment.

In fact the researchers have a lot in common with Wall Street Bankers who are also yelling Trust Me. Especially because legions live on our tax dollars through National Institutes of Health grants. They want the money but don't want to have to explain their work, or account for their spending or even show results--like the Northwestern researcher who has decorticated cats for 17 years. Hello?

No wonder researchers want animal advocates who demonstrate at their homes and reveal their identities silenced like the foursome the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested in February under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Kill the messenger!

To prove that it's no longer safe to do whatever you want to animals in the name of "science," researchers like to cite the case of Dario Ringach, an assistant professor of psychology and neurobiology at the University of California at Los Angeles who said he renounced animal research in 2006 because of protests.

"You win," wrote Ringach in a 2006 email announcing he would cease animal experiments including ones in which macaque monkeys are paralyzed, have coils glued to her eyes during a 120 hours procedure and subsequently killed says UCLA PrimateFreedom.

But Ringach's colleagues need to do better research.

In the January 12, 2009 Nature Neuroscience, Ringach reports an experiment in which he and three other authors record spikes and local field potentials "from multi-electrode arrays that were implanted in monkey and cat primary visual cortex."

It was a short renunciation.


The Era of Even Bigger Government

There is very little to be happy about in Obama's first budget

by Veronique de Rugy
February 27, 2009

So President Barack Obama wants to shrink the deficit by 2013, the end of his term. If he's serious, he will have to do better than what he has outlined in his fiscal year 2010 budget, titled A New Era of Responsibility: Renewing America’s Promise (note: all subsequent mentions of years indicate federal fiscal years, which annually run October 1 through September 30 of the following calendar year).

To cut the size of the federal government, one actually has to, you know, cut programs. While Obama's overall numbers do show a spending decrease between 2009 and 2010, he actually increases many categories of spending, which remains far above 2008 levels in any case. In fact, his “cuts” are basically the results of 2009 bailout payments not being extended into 2010.

Moreover, if the spending reductions planned for 2010 look at all promising, that's only because the increase between outlays in 2009 and 2008 was immense, rising by at least 32 percent.

Outlays in 2010 represent a whopping 19 percent increase over outlays in 2008. Additionally, although Obama has stressed "transparency" in his budgeting process, his spending and revenue plan relies on accounting tricks in key areas. All of this falls far short of the hope and change Obama promised to bring to the White House.

The just-released document is a summary version of the more detailed proposal that Obama will put out in April. In the 134-page summary, the president forecasts a budget deficit of $1.75 trillion in 2009. That represents 12.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), making it the highest deficit as a share of the economy since World War II (see chart).

In 2010, Obama envisions a reduction in the deficit to $1.17 trillion. He also assumes a 3.4 percent increase in GDP between 2009 and 2010, which would mean that the deficit as a share of GDP would decline to 8 percent. That's a very optimistic forecast that actually weakens the foundation of the budget document itself. Other projections for GDP growth in 2010 are much less bright. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects 1.5 percent growth in 2010 and the February Blue Chip Consensus figure is 2.1 percent.

Indeed, if the president is right about this relatively robust growth in 2010, how can he justify spending the bulk of his stimulus funds after the economy would have already recovered? After all, by his own count, 75 percent of stimulus funds won't be released until 2010. Maybe this sort of contradiction is to be expected from a man who signed the biggest spending bill in history one week and then organized a fiscal responsibility summit the next.

The Spending Side

In the federal budget, the two most basic categories of outlays are mandatory spending and discretionary spending, each of which makes up about half of total spending. Mandatory spending includes entitlement programs (such as Medicare) that are provided for by law rather than by new appropriations bills each year. Discretionary spending includes most defense and homeland security spending, farm subsidies, and other programs that are funded each year by congressional appropriations. Beginning in 1962, discretionary spending had itself been split into two large categories: defense and non-defense spending.

In 2009, total spending (mandatory plus discretionary) will reach $3.94 trillion. That’s a 32 percent increase over the 2008 level, one of the biggest year-to-year increases in the past 50 years. It represents 27.7 percent of GDP, a serious hike from the 21 percent level reached in 2008. Much of this increase is the product of the bailout signed by President Bush last fall. It is also the result of the federal takeover of Freddie and Fannie as well as the 2009 share of stimulus spending.

For 2010, the president requests $3.55 trillion in total spending. Based on the administration’s unrealistic assumption about growth, spending would fall to 24.1 percent of GDP.

The decrease in total spending comes from a $500 billion drop in mandatory spending. Where do the savings come from? Almost entirely from the fact that a one-time $247 billion blast of TARP funds and a $250 billion placeholder for potential additional financial stabilization were spent in 2009.

The Tax Side

Moving from outlays to revenue sources, Obama's budget proposes boosting tax collection from about 16.2 percent of the economy this year to 19 percent in 2013. He will do that by allowing some of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts enacted under Bush to expire on schedule. This affects people in households making more than $250,000 a year. Under the president's plan, the top two marginal tax rates will increase from 33 to 36 percent and from 35 to 39.6 percent, while both the capital-gains tax and dividend tax will rise from 15 to 20 percent.

In addition, he plans to pay for his new health care "reserve fund" mostly by a $318 billion tax hike over 10 years in the form of reduced deductions—such as the mortgage interest deduction—for the wealthiest Americans. These taxpayers would also see their capital gains tax rates go up.

Businesses would also see their tax burdens increase. Obama plans to raise $353 billion over 10 years through 13 different taxes (new or old). For instance, his budget reinstates superfund taxes, repeals manufacturing tax deductions for oil and natural gas companies, increases the geological and geophysical amortization period for independent producers to 7 years, and eliminates the advanced earned income tax credit.

He also proposes to create a new $112 billion tax over the next decade on the energy use and production of every American. This "cap and trade" program is designed to battle global warming by forcing companies to buy permits if they wish to emit heat-trapping pollutants. The permits will be auctioned to businesses beginning in 2012. The money raised will help pay for an extension of the Making Work Pay tax credit originally introduced in the stimulus bill.

However, the controversial nature of the proposal raises the question of whether these revenues will ever materialize.


For several weeks now the president has been emphasizing that he will "restore honesty and accountability" to the budget process. And his budget proposal for 2010 does indeed abandon some of the budget tricks of previous administrations.

For instance, Obama's first budget does not assume that the alternative minimum tax (AMT) will generate billions in revenue. The AMT is a parallel tax system enacted in 1969 to prevent a handful of wealthy individuals from using tax shelters to avoid paying any income tax. Today, this tax hits millions of households and penalizes families with children living in states with high income tax rates. Under Bush’s budgets, the president proposed a one-year patch of the AMT to neutralize its effects on taxpayers, yet he would assume the revenue for the following years in order to reduce the projected budget deficit.

Obama is also making good on his promise to stop relying exclusively on supplemental bills to fund predictable costs like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the cost of disaster responses.

This is a clear improvement over the previous administration.
The United States spent about $190 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008. Obama expects that the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will total just over $140 billion this year.

Half of that money has already been appropriated by Congress. Supposedly, the president will make one final “supplemental” budget request to Congress for an additional $75 billion to cover war costs for the rest of 2009.

The main assumption in the defense budget is that the cost of the wars will be $130 billion in 2010 and that it will drop sharply after that, to $50 billion annually beginning in 2011. Are these assumptions realistic? Maybe. If Obama does withdraw troops from Iraq over the next 18 months or so, we will see the cost of the war drop for sure. Yet he is ramping up the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan, which will cost money. The question is how much? And how long will it take him to shove the cost of the war (or other spending projects) back into supplemental spending bills, which typically get much less scrutiny from the public, the press, and Congress?

Despite some improvements from the Bush budgets, Obama’s plan is far from being free of tricks. First, while he told Congress on Tuesday that his budget team has "already identified $2 trillion in savings" over the next decade to help tame record budget deficits, one would be hard press to actually find any programs getting cut. In fact, it appears that about half of the "savings” come from his proposed tax increases. He plans on reducing the deficit by $639.7 billion over 10 years with only his income tax increase and a $311 billion reduction in the debt service.

More importantly, the budget “saves” hundreds of billions of dollars by not continuing to spend $170 billion a year in Iraq until 2019. Obama includes war spending in his baseline projections to be able to show a $1.49 billion savings over 10 years. Yet even under the previous administration we were supposed to be out of Iraq by 2012. It's highly dissembling to say we can get savings by cutting spending that isn't actually going to occur.

The bottom line is that there is very little to be happy about in Obama’s first budget. It simply expands the Bush policies of bigger government and increased centralization, which threatens to permanently transform America’s culture and economic outlook by making more and more Americans dependent on government.

Veronique de Rugy is a columnist at Reason magazine and an economist at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.


Monday, February 23, 2009

US Gun Law Update

by Alan Korwin,
Author Gun Laws of America
Jan. 5, 2008

Gun-ban list proposed.

Slipping below the radar (or under the short-term memory cap), the Democrats have already leaked a gun-ban list, even under the Bush administration when they knew full well it had no chance of passage (HR 1022, 110th Congress) It serves as a framework for the new list the Brady's plan to introduce shortly.

I have an outline of the Brady's current plans and targets of opportunity, It's horrific. They're going after the courts, regulatory agencies, firearms dealers and statutes in an all out effort to restrict we the people. They've made little mention of criminals.

Now more than ever, attention to the entire Bill of Rights is critical. Gun bans will impact our freedoms under search and seizure, due process, confiscated property, states' rights, free speech, right to assemble and more, in addition to the Second Amendment.

The Democrats current gun-ban-list proposal:

Rifles (or copies or duplicates):

M1 Carbine, Sturm Ruger Mini-14, AR-15, Bushmaster XM15, Armalite M15, AR-10, Thompson 1927, Thompson M1;

AK, AKM, AKS, AK-47, AK-74, ARM, MAK90, NHM 90, NHM 91, SA 85, SA 93, VEPR;

Olympic Arms PCR;

AR70, Calico Liberty, Dragunov SVD Sniper Rifle or Dragunov SVU, Fabrique National FN/FAL, FN/LAR,or FNC, Hi-Point20Carbine, HK-91, HK-93, HK-94, HK-PSG-1, Thompson 1927 Commando, Kel-Tec Sub Rifle;

Saiga, SAR-8, SAR-4800, SKS with detachable magazine, SLG 95, SLR 95 or 96, Steyr AU, Tavor, Uzi, Galil and Uzi Sporter, Galil Sporter, or Galil Sniper Rifle ( Galatz ).

Pistols (or copies or duplicates):

Calico M-110, MAC-10, MAC-11, or MPA3, Olympic Arms OA, TEC-9, TEC-DC9, TEC-22 Scorpion, or AB-10, Uzi.

Shotguns (or copies or duplicates):

Armscor 30 BG, SPAS 12 or LAW 12, Striker 12, Streetsweeper.
Catch-all category (for anything missed or new designs):

A semiautomatic rifle that accepts a detachable magazine and has:

(i) a folding or telescoping stock,
(ii) a threaded barrel,
(iii) a pistol grip (which includes ANYTHING that can serve as a grip, see below),
(iv) a forward grip; or a barrel shroud.

Any semiautomatic rifle with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds (except tubular magazine .22 rimfire rifles).

A semiautomatic pistol that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine, and has:

(i) a second pistol grip,
(ii) a threaded barrel,
(iii) a barrel shroud or
(iv) can accept a detachable magazine outside of the pistol grip, and
(v) a semiautomatic pistol with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds.

A semiautomatic shotgun with:

(i) a folding or telescoping stock,
(ii) a pistol grip (see definition below),
(iii) the ability to accept a detachable magazine or a fixed magazine capacity of more than 5 rounds, and
(iv) a shotgun with a revolving cylinder.

Frames or receivers for the above are included, along with conversion kits.

Attorney General gets carte blanche to ban guns at will:

Under the proposal, the U.S. Attorney General can add any "semiautomaticrifle or shotgun originally designed for military or law enforcement use, or a firearm based on the design of such a firearm, that is not particularly suitable for sporting purposes, as determined by the Attorney General."

Note that Obama's pick for this office (Eric Holder) wrote a brief in the Heller case supporting the position that you have no right to have a working firearm in your own home.

In making this determination, the bill says, "there shall be a rebuttable presumption that a firearm procured for use by the United States military or any federal law enforcement agency is not particularly suitable for sporting purposes, and a firearm shall not be determined to be particularly suitable for sporting purposes solely because the firearm is suitable for use in a sporting event."

In plain English this means that ANY firearm ever obtained by federal officers or the military is not suitable for the public.

The last part is particularly clever, stating that a firearm doesn't have a sporting purpose just because it can be used for sporting purpose -- is that devious or what?

And of course, "sporting purpose" is a rights infringement with no constitutional or historical support whatsoever, invented by domestic enemies of the right to keep and bear arms to further their cause of disarming the innocent.

Respectfully submitted,

Alan Korwin,

Author Gun Laws of America

Remember, The first step in establishing a dictatorship is to disarm the citizens.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Chicago Links Street Cameras to 911 Network

By Karen Ann Cullotta
New York Times
February 21, 2009

At first glance, Chicago’s latest crime-fighting strategy seems to be plucked from a Hollywood screenplay. Someone sees a thief dipping into a Salvation Army kettle in a crowd of shoppers on State Street and dials 911 from a cellphone. Within seconds, a video image of the caller’s location is beamed onto a dispatcher’s computer screen. An officer arrives and by police radio is directed to the suspect, whose description and precise location are conveyed by the dispatcher watching the video, leading to a quick arrest.

That chain of events actually happened in the Loop in December, said Ray Orozco, the executive director of the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

“We can now immediately take a look at the crime scene if the 911 caller is in a location within 150 feet of one of our surveillance cameras, even before the first responders arrive,” Mr. Orozco said.

The technology, a computer-aided dispatch system, was paid for with a $6 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security. It has been in use since a trial run in December. “One of the best tools any big city can have is visual indicators like cameras, which can help save lives,” Mr. Orozco said.

In addition to the city’s camera network, Mr. Orozco said, the new system can also connect to cameras at private sites like tourist attractions, office buildings and university campuses.

Twenty private companies have agreed to take part in the program, a spokeswoman for Mr. Orozco said, and 17 more are expected to be added soon. Citing security concerns, the city would not say how many cameras were in the system.

Mayor Richard M. Daley said this week that the integrated camera network would enhance regional security as well as fight street crime.

Still, opponents of Mr. Daley’s use of public surveillance cameras described the new system as a potential Big Brother intrusion on privacy rights.

“If a 911 caller reports that someone left a backpack on the sidewalk, will the camera image of someone who appears to be of Arab or South Asian descent make police decide that person is suspicious?” asked Ed Yohnka of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

There seems to be this incredibly voracious appetite on the part of the city to link up cameras to the 911 system,” Mr. Yohnka said.

But there are just no longitudinal statistics that prove that surveillance cameras reduce crime. They just displace crime.”

Some experts, including Albert Alschuler, a law professor at Northwestern University, say the surveillance cameras and updated 911 system do not violate privacy rights because the cameras are installed in public locations.

“In America, we protest the use of cameras for things like enforcing laws that reduce crime or traffic accidents, but we probably ought to do more,” Mr. Alschuler said.

He added: “My more serious concern would be if they start using new audio technologies, which can be calibrated to alert police to loud noises, like a scream or a car crash. What worries me is if police can use technology to listen to anyone who happens to be talking in a public location, which would raise serious privacy concerns.”


U.S. Bancorp CEO Davis rips TARP

Calls government's rescue plan well-intended but 'lousy'

By Nicole Garrison-Sprenger

There is no "A, R or P" in the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program, quipped U.S. Bancorp Chief Executive Richard Davis Tuesday morning in front of about 300 business people in Minneapolis.

"It's just troubled," the 50-year-old CEO said at the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans' Business Leaders Forum. The forum invites executives to discuss how business and their principles intersect.

In his hour-long speech, Davis spoke about the economic crisis and the banking industry's role in that crisis. But he kept the mood light, calling himself a "banker dude" and "Christian guy," and at one point revealed that back in high school, he had been fired from his first job, at Toys "R" Us.

Davis also said banking remains a critical part of society, despite its current troubles.

"Bankers are dream makers," he said. "We don't make anything. We don't build anything. We don't fix anything. We don't break anything. We get behind everyone who does."

But Davis was critical of the U.S. Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program introduced last fall, saying that while the program was well intended, it has turned out to be "lousy."

Created to encourage lending to small businesses and consumers, TARP started by shoveling tens of billions of dollars at the country's biggest banks but soon was expanded to include banks of all sizes. Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp got $6.6 billion.

"I will say this very bluntly: We were told to take it. Not asked, told. 'You will take it,' " Davis said. "It doesn't matter if you were there on the first night and you were told to sign on the dotted line before you walked out of the office, or whether in the days that followed, you were told to take it."

But by Tuesday afternoon, a U.S. Bancorp spokesman said Davis had misspoke, and meant that because the largest banks in the country took TARP money, U.S. Bancorp and others were forced to do so as well, for competitive reasons.

Davis went on to say in his talk that while government officials marketed the program as a way to entice banks to lend again, TARP actually was designed to give solid banks like U.S. Bancorp some extra cash to buy weaker banks in the system. U.S. Bancorp did just that late last year when it acquired the assets of two failed banks in California, Downey Savings and Loan and PFF Bank & Trust.

"We were told to take it so that we could help Darwin synthesize the weaker banks and acquire those and put them under different leadership," he said. "We are not even allowed to mention that. ... We were supposed to say the TARP money was used for lending."

But Davis is talking about it now, he says, because he and others oppose current and future strings attached to the program. Davis didn't detail those strings, but he said he and some peers intend to voice their opinions to Washington, D.C., soon.

"Now they're punishing you for having the capital," he said, adding that he refuses to stand by and let his company become "collateral damage" in an attempt to nationalize the banks.

Davis touted U.S. Bancorp as a strong player in a weak industry, but also gave props to local competitors Wells Fargo & Co., TCF Financial Corp. and Bremer Financial.

"That's why this city will continue to come through this difficult time better than almost any major city in America," said Davis, who came to Minnesota from California. "We didn't get into the stupid stuff two years ago that would have impaired us from doing the normal stuff today. So there."

Davis also disclosed that a number of other states and cities have been working hard to lure U.S. Bancorp away from the Twin Cities, but assured the crowd that so long as he remains in charge, the company will stay right where it is. The company employs more than 10,000 people in Minnesota.

Near the close of his speech, Davis suggested that what the panic-stricken world needs more than ever now is a little bit of courage and some faith that it will get through this dark period.

"Perhaps what we should do is check ourselves and say, 'OK, it is tough.' What can we — any two of us, any five of us, any 200 of us — do to improve the outcome of this difficult circumstance," Davis said. "And by the way, where's the faith? ... Where's the belief that something is going to turn here and we might actually have a chance?"

Davis offered up Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger as an example of that faith and courage.

Sullenberger is the US Airways pilot who last month crash-landed his damaged plane into the Hudson River in New York, saving all of the plane's passengers.

Sullenberger didn't know for sure he'd be able to make that landing, "but he believed," Davis said. "His faith helped him land that plane.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Use unauthorized system or we punish you on maintenance agreement"

Bev Harris
Black Box Voting

Wisconsin citizen John Washburn has obtained public records showing that Election Systems & Software, citing murky needs to alter hardware on all computerized voting systems (M100 scanners, AutoMARK, Unity servers, iVotronics), has failed to gain federal approval and therefore failed to gain state approval, so it is threatening its maintenance contracts with local election officials.

This is equivalent to your car dealer warning you that unless you let them make an adjustment to your car that makes it violate your state's emissions laws, they will punish you by charging you extra on a maintenance agreement you've already paid for, or refuse to service your car.

As Washburn correctly points out, it is difficult to imagine any part common to all these systems. We don't know what ES&S wants to change, but we do know that if election officials allow this, a private company will gain inside access to voting machines to add, delete, or switch something, without really telling us what they are doing.

Washburn obtained records from ES&S is for Wisconsin, but other records indicate that ES&S notices about this issue went out to at least nine states.

Here is a link where you can see photocopies of the documents and discuss this:

As another citizen, Mark E. Smith, commented: "Can you imagine a toaster repairman stating that he needs to access your toaster to replace something, but he can't tell you what?"

Washburn writes to election officials in his area:

"Details please. Which new parts? For which discontinued parts? From which new manufacturers? Because which manufactures discontinued the part? and for which ES&S equipment? Have you contacted the manufacturers to see if the parts are actually discontinued or just not available through ES&S (e.g. distributor contract expired)? The letter is a bit skimpy on those details. I cannot think of any parts common to so much of the ES&S product line (M100 precinct scanners, M650 Central count scanners, iVotronics touch screens, and AutoMark ballot markers)... I hope during your investigation into this matter you ask and press hard for details, specifics, names and addresses."

What to do: John Washburn is demonstrating an example of how democracy really works. He is an alert citizen who saw something amiss. He has notified election officials in Wisconsin about these concerns. As individual citizens, it is important for us all to ask questions and keep our eyes open -- for all kinds of things! Democracy is not a spectator sport. Stay informed (as you are doing by reading this); don't hesitate to ask questions of public officials, and blow the whistle when something wrong-headed is going on.

Depending on your location, you may soon see efforts to achieve "vendor independence" on voting machines, such as requiring public ownership and maintenance of voting systems (as Oklahoma does) or even better, requiring public-owned "open source" systems to be used.

Black Box Voting is not a lobbying group; we focus on consumer investigations and public education to help citizens, like you, understand the issues so you can make informed choices about public policy.

I will be speaking at the "Power Shift" conference this month, to help educate and motivate enthusiastic, organizing youth groups. This involves about 20,000 young adults and will take place in Washington DC, and I am very excited about this opportunity.

My message for all of us: We cannot have democratic elections when private companies run elections on secret software and information is hidden from the public. The core problem is Freedom of Information and -- once achieved in elections, the core solution must always involve individual citizen vigilance, just as the founders of this nation intended.

Please pass this e-mail along to others you think may be interested, and feel free to blog about it. Thanks for reading this to stay abreast of core issues and actions to protect voting rights.

Bev Harris
Black Box Voting

To support our work:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Obama's "War on Terror"

by Stephen Lendman
Op-Ed News
Feb. 11.2009

The language is softened and deceptive. The strategy and tactics are not. The "war on terror" continues. Promised change is talk, not policy. Just look at Obama's "war cabinet," discussed in an earlier article.

It assures:

- the "strongest military on the planet" by outspending all other countries combined;

- continued foreign wars;

- possible new ones in prospect; on February 7, vice-president Joe Biden outlined continuity of the Bush administration's policy toward Iran, including "preventive" wars under the National Security Strategy; demands also that Iran abandon its legal nuclear program meaning nothing going forward will change;

- permanent occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is planned;

- a reinvented "Cold War" with Russia; perhaps also with China; "draw a new 'iron curtain' formidable Eurasian powers" to prevent their alliance from challenging America, according to F. William Engdahl;

- an "absolute" commitment "to eliminating the threat of terrorism with the full force of our power;"

- inciting instability for imperial gain, especially in resource-rich parts of the world;
- militarizing America; keeping Bush administration police state laws in force; dealing with a deepening economic crisis by preparing for hard line crackdowns should popular unrest arise; and

- readying for another major false flag attack?

Three times in his final week in office, George Bush warned: "Our enemies are patient and determined to strike again. There's still an enemy out there that would like to inflict damage on America - Americans. And that'll be the major threat. The most important job (for) the next president protect the American people from another attack."

Late last year, similar talk came from figures like then Senator Joe Biden. In October, he told a Seattle audience that "We're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test" Obama's mettle. He called it a "guarantee (and a) promise" and assured "tough (and) unpopular" decisions would follow.

Others like Colin Powell, Madeline Albright, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Joe Lieberman gave similar warnings. The UK Defence Ministry said Britain is teeming with extremists who'll attempt another London "spectacular," perhaps at airports, Parliament, Whitehall or Buckingham palace. Press reports circulated with London's Al-Quds Al-Arabi suggesting a forthcoming attack that will "change the face of world politics and economics." The London Times said Obama got "ominous advice from leaders on both sides of the Atlantic to brace himself for an early assault from terrorists."

Other media reports and from officials believe a new attack will rally popular support behind the president, but Ron Paul warned earlier that America "is determined to have martial law (to get people) fearful enough that they will accept the man on the white horse." It's an old tactic as far back as Plato. Reflecting on terrorism, false flag or real, he said: "This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears (as) a protector."

James Madison believed "If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy," and according to Hitler: "Terrorism is the best political weapon for nothing drives people harder than a fear of sudden death." Stalin added: "The easiest way to gain control of a population is to carry out acts of terror. (People) will clamor for such laws if their personal security is threatened."

American history is replete with them:

- criminalizing dissent under the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts;

- suspending habeas and civil liberties during the Civil War;

- the Espionage (and) Sedition Acts during WW I;

- numerous Red scares, before and after WW I; and

- a history of repression against dissent, political opposition, subversion, people of color, the poor and disadvantaged, and anything called "un-American."

Pre-WW II repression was the most sustained legislative assault on civil liberties in the nation's history:

- the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act imprisoning anyone so-designated who was unregistered with the Secretary of State;

- enforcement of the 1917 Espionage Act;

- the 1934 - 1937 and 1938 House Un-American Activities Committees; the former against fascist subversion; the latter targeting suspected communists; then a standing or permanent committee from 1945 - 1975, again against communists;

- the 1939 Hatch Act excluding suspected communists from government jobs and restricting government employee freedoms;

- the 1940 Smith Act against suspected communists; prohibiting the advocacy of sedition; and requiring non-citizen adults to register with the government within four months or be prosecuted; and

- the 1940 Nationality Act that stripped naturalized immigrants of their citizenship for espousing "radical" views.

Post-Pearl Harbor, tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans (between 110,000 - 120,000) were interned plus smaller numbers of Germans and Italians suspected of having Axis sympathies. Conscientious objectors were also targeted and imprisoned. An Office of Censorship was established. Dissent was stifled. Sedition trials were held. So were others for spying, suspected treason, anyone accused of un-American sympathies, and many convictions, denaturalizations, and/or deportations resulted.

Post-WW II brought McCarthyism; civil liberties struggles; internal spying; COINTELPRO against the American Indian Movement, Black Panthers, and other targeted organizations. Then Ronald Reagan's war on international terrorism to George Bush's police state version - now continued under Barack Obama.

Also, "Remember the Maine," Pearl Harbor I, Gulf of Tonkin, Pearl Harbor II, and the wars in each case that followed.

Prospective Economic and Military Dangers

In his latest article, "The Looming Crisis at the Pentagon," Chalmers Johnson explains "How Taxpayers Finance Fantasy Wars." He cites daily headlines about US industries (like autos) losing out to emerging economies that have outpaced us "in innovative design, price, quality, service, and fuel economy, among other things."

Less known is a crisis within "the military-industrial complex (with) roots in (long-standing) corrupt and deceitful practices (within the Pentagon, defense establishment, and) Congressional opportunists and criminals" looking to cash in on business for their districts and further their own self-interest. No promised change is forthcoming. Obama assures business as usual, perhaps more so than ever.

He wants to "invest in a 21st century military," raise spending to higher levels, increase the army by 65,000 and marines by 27,000, double the US occupation force in Afghanistan, project greater naval strength, expand the offensive national missile defense by spending tens of billions more for it, maintain absolute supremacy in space, and militarize America for greater control at home.

"Given our economic crisis, the estimated trillion (or more) dollars we spend each year on the military and its weaponry is simply unsustainable....We face a double crisis at the Pentagon: we can no longer afford the pretense of being the Earth's sole superpower (nor) a system (being enriched) off inferior, poorly designed (and unneeded) weapons." Yet this "ludicrously wasteful spending....has gone on for decades....for fantasy wars that will only be fought in the battlescapes and war-gaming imaginations of Defense Department planners."

Given today's global economic crisis, this spending is vitally needed domestically, but don't expect reform from the Pentagon or its related interests. All actors in this game are part of a "criminal intent to turn on the spigot of taxpayer money (just like Wall Street, then) jam it so it cannot be turned off."

Johnson is blunt as he always is saying:

"Until we decide (or are forced) to dismantle our empire, sell off most of our (hundreds of) military bases (globally), and bring our military expenditures into line with those of the rest of the world, we are destined to go bankrupt in the name of national defense (if Wall Street doesn't do it sooner). As of this moment, we are well on our way," and no one in the Obama administration will to stop it.

Ending Torture As Official Administration Policy

Under George Bush, torture became policy through numerous "findings," Military and Executive Orders, memoranda, and memos like the infamous March 14, 2003 "Torture Memo," written by John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee and David Addington. It bypassed existing domestic and international laws to let interrogators use harsh measures amounting to torture. It said legal prohibitions don't apply when dealing with Al Queda because of presidential authorization during wartime. It "legalized" everything in the "war on terror" and sanctioned supreme presidential power.

John Yoo put it this way: Inflicting "intense pain or suffering" is permissible, short of what would cause "serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure, (loss of significant body functions), or permanent damage" may result. As we know, even those standards were violated, including use of psychological measures harsh enough to turn human beings into mush.

On January 22, Obama signed a series of Executive Orders (nominally) ordering Guantanamo's prison closed, ignoring all the others, reviewing military trials of terror suspects, and banning the use of torture. The same day, the Center for Constitutional Rights said the following:

"We welcome" this important decision. "President Obama (took a first) step in restoring the rule of law." Much more, however, must be done, and vague language must be clarified.

"The order to close Guantanamo....provides little detail. The government has to charge the rest of the detainees in federal criminal court (not military tribunals). There can be no third way, no new schemes."

Secret CIA black sites must be closed. If not, Obama's order "is more symbolic than a true reversal." Enforcing Army Field Manual No. 27-10's provisions is crucial. We "caution that (Obama's) order may leave an escape hatch if the CIA" intends to continue certain practices. Only domestic and international laws must apply.

"Today's orders are filled with promise" but follow-through accountability is crucial, and individual violators must be prosecuted as "the only way to deter future lawbreakers." Domestic and international laws unequivocally ban torture of all kinds, for any purpose, with no exceptions under any conditions. By that standard, Obama's EOs fall way short. As such, they're woefully inadequate and may be little more than lip service deception to hide business as usual plans going forward.

The language refers to...."individual(s) in the custody or under the effective control of an officer, employee, or other agent of the United States Government, or detained within a facility owned, operated or controlled by a department or agency of the United States, in an armed conflict...."

It suggests that torture is permissible in non-conflict areas and everywhere by US proxies under CIA, Pentagon, or other US supervision.

On February 1, the Los Angeles Times headlined: "Obama preserves renditions as counter-terrorism tool."

Whatever's planned, Obama's EOs still authorize the CIA "to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States." Even worse, "Current and former US intelligence officials said that the rendition program an expanded role" because it's "the main remaining mechanism....for taking suspected terrorists off the street....the Obama administration appears to have determined that the rendition program was one (tool) it could not afford to discard."

Another provision lets the CIA detain and interrogate suspects so long as they're not held long-term. But no definition of short or long-term is given, just the imprecise designation "transitory."

Human Rights Watch (HRW) carries water for America by failing in its mandate "to protect the human rights of people around the world (by) standing with victims and activists....upholding political freedom (and) bring(ing) offenders to justice." Its Washington advocacy director, Tom Malinowski, supports Obama by saying: "Under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place" for renditions even though activists globally denounce it and persons subjected to it are tortured.

CIA's Long History of Torture

For over half a century, the CIA conducted experiments on various types of torture, including very harsh mind control measures. In his book, "A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror," Alfred McCoy explained how techniques were developed, codified in manuals, used extensively in Southeast Asia, Central America, and now virtually anywhere, including in Iraq, Afghanistan and at secret US black sites globally.

McCoy refers to an offshore mini-gulag of information extraction in pursuit of the "war on terror." CIA and Pentagon sites exist globally with no oversight or legal compliance. Out of sight, they're a malignant cancer - on US bases, torture ships, and in prisons of torture-friendly allies. Nothing there is banned, including physical viciousness and psychologically crippling mind control methods that turn human beings into mush.

On February 5, The New York Times reported that head of CIA-designee Leon Panetta told a Senate confirmation hearing panel that in cases where interrogators can't extract vital information, he'd recommend methods excluded by the new rules. "If we had a ticking bomb situation (the old ploy that could apply to anyone for any reason), and obviously, whatever was being used I felt was not sufficient, I would not hesitate to go to the president....and request whatever additional authority I would need."

Panetta also told senators that CIA employees won't face prosecution and that he'll continue practicing rendition, but not to countries "that violate our human values" - more weasel words meaning nothing beyond rhetoric to affirm the same Bush administration practices going forward.

On January 11, ABC This Week's host George Stephanopolos asked Obama:

"Will you appoint a Special independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?"

Obama responded:

"....I don't believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backward." By that standard, no prosecutions will occur, and all lawless acts are permissible.

Obama added:

"....part of my job is to make sure that (at CIA), you've got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don't want them to suddenly feel like they've got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering up....when it comes to national security, we have to focus on getting things right in the future (not) looking at what we got wrong in the past."

In his 2006 book "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic," Chalmers Johnson called the CIA "The President's Private Army," much like Rome's praetorian guard. Its budget is black, its activities extrajudicial, and in all respects it's "the personal, secret, unaccountable army of the president" through which the most mischievous, illegal operations are conducted, including ousting democratically elected governments, assassinating foreign leaders, propping up friendly tyrants, and renditioning and torturing state enemies in global black sites. Its power is unchecked and a threat to the nation.

Yet, Obama wants it strengthened, not curbed, given the possibility of martial law in the event of a national emergency. As Peter Dale Scott explained in his January 8 Global article titled "Martial Law, the Financial Bailout, and War:"

"The US military has been training troops and police in 'civil disturbance planning' for the last three decades. The master plan, Department of Defense Civil Disturbance Plan 55-2, or 'Operation Garden Plot,' was developed in 1968
in response to the major protests and disturbances of the 1960s."

Much more now is in place under Army Regulation 500-3 and other hard line provisions to assure "the execution of mission-essential functions without unacceptable interruption during a national security or domestic emergency." The Pentagon, CIA, and other intelligence branches along with state and local authorities are networked to implement policies nationally.

Obama is doing more as well. His Justice Department is defending Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Ashcroft, John Yoo, and others in a case brought by torture victim Jose Padilla for his grievous treatment and violations of his constitutional rights. Defense attorney requests for dismissing all charges are clear evidence of where Obama stands on the law, his willingness to let Bush administration officials go unpunished, and likelihood he'll continue the same practices going forward.

More indications emerged as well. After Britain's High Court ruled that evidence of a UK resident's Guantanamo rendition and torture stay secret (because the Bush administration threatened to halt intelligence sharing), the Obama administration told the BBC:

"The United States thanks the UK government for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information and preserve the long-standing intelligence sharing relationship that enables both countries to protect their citizens."

In response, the ACLU's executive director, Anthony Romero, told the press:

"Hope is flickering. The Obama administration's position is not change. It is more of the same. This represents a complete turn-around and undermining of the restoration of the rule of law. The new administration shouldn't be complicit in hiding the abuses of its predecessors." The ACLU asked Hillary Clinton to "reject the Bush administration's policy of using false claims of national security to avoid judicial review of controversial programs" amounting to high crimes and misdemeanors.

On February 9, ABC News reported that "the Obama administration today announced that it would keep the same position as the Bush administration in the lawsuit Mohamed et al v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc." DOJ attorney Douglas Letter argued before the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals that charges should be dismissed because state secrets and national security are involved.

Five extraordinary rendition victims are involved - Binyam Mohamed, Abou Elkassim Britel, Ahmed Agiza, Bisher Al-Rawi, and Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah. They sued Boing's Jeppesen Dataplan subsidiary for flying them to offshore secret CIA black sites where they were tortured.

ACLU attorney Ben Wizner responded in shock and disappointment "that the (Obama) Justice Department (chose) to continue the Bush administration's practice of dodging judicial scrutiny of extraordinary rendition and torture." Instead of change, it intends "to stay the course. Now we must hope that the court will assert its independence by rejecting the government's false claims of state secrets and allowing the victims of torture and rendition their day in court. Our clients did not ask to be abducted, chained to the floor of planes, dressed in diapers and taken to a foreign country. If you affirm (the District Court's dismissal), plaintiffs will forever be" denied justice.

Witch-Hunt Prosecutions Continuing under Obama

On June 23, 2006 in Miami, Florida, the FBI arrested and charged seven men (called the Liberty City Seven for the impoverished Miami neighborhood where they lived) with four counts of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, Al Qaeda, in a plot to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower, Miami's FBI federal building, and possible other government sites in the city.

In US v. Batiste, et al, charges were made against:

-- Narseal Batiste, the claimed ringleader;
-- Patrick Abraham;


Monday, February 09, 2009

France’s baby boom secret weapon to save economy

By Paul Betts
February 9, 2009

President Nicolas Sarkozy unveiled his long-awaited rescue plan for the French motor industry. In exchange for some €6bn ($7.8bn) of loans, Peugeot-Citroen and Renault have promised not to cut jobs or shut down factories in France.

The Paris government is determined to keep industry alive in France – especially the car industry which is one of the country’s largest direct and indirect employers and one of its biggest exporters.

Yet the unspoken truth of the French economy is that it is in fact becoming increasingly service-led. And it is likely to become even more so as the French population continues to grow above the European average. There has been a mini baby boom under way for some time in France, and the economists of Société Générale believe that this could well be the country’s secret weapon to cope with the current crisis. While the rest of Europe worries about consumer spending, SocGen has found that families with children spent an average 35 per cent more last year than childless couples or single people.

Moreover, 69 per cent of families have two cars per household against just 35 per cent for the rest of the population on average. Families also spend 35-40 per cent more on leisure and 55 per cent more on transport. But perhaps the most important advantage is the fact that France has a significantly higher population of young people than old, offering some comfort as the post-war 65-year-old generation of former baby boomers move into retirement on state-funded pensions.
France has other buffers against the crisis – not least the fact that household debt remains low and household savings are still high. At the same time, the high number of public sector workers and the country’s social safety net is helping to cushion the impact of the global slowdown.

Cynically too, the country’s failure to create a strong export-led industry like Germany means that it will not feel as much of the pain as its big capital goods exporting neighbour on the other side of the Rhine.

The government is nonetheless worried, and measures such as Monday’s car package show the extent to which Paris feels the need to take vigorous short-term action. But the government should perhaps be thinking a little more long-term.

For if France now has a booming fertility rate – 834,000 babies were born last year – that is keeping the overall population stable while its European neighbours are all showing declines, it is precisely because previous governments set the framework in place to encourage women to have babies.

Highly attractive tax breaks for families with three children or more, together with readily accessible child care from the earliest age are largely behind the mini-baby boom. The policy in part was developed to defend and promulgate French language and culture against the creeping dominance of English.

But it was also designed to bolster the workforce by allowing mothers to continue working, making up for the post-war deficit of working males. It is quite understandable that President Sarkozy is concentrating on fighting the uncertainties caused by the crisis with short-term fixes.

Yet his real test will be to match his predecessors with long-term initiatives that will provide the work for all these baby boom babies when they come of age in a decade or more.

That implies, among other things, allowing car manufacturers and other industries to restructure and modernise to ensure that in the long-term they will be still around and flourishing to employ this new generation.

Life’s little luxuries

In these times of crisis and lower oil prices there are some things that wealthy sheikhs are not prepared to give up. Having already bought up most of the luxury hotels of Paris, a Saudi tycoon is now about to acquire perhaps the grandest of all – the historic Hotel Crillon overlooking the Place de la Concorde. The American owners of the hotel – Starwood Capital – had originally planned to make the Crillon one of the flagships of their extensive international hotel portfolio.

They bought the Crillon together with a group of other hotels as well as the Taittinger champagne house from the Taittinger family four years ago. They subsequently sold the champagne house back to some family members in partnership with the Crédit Agricole.

But clearly for the Americans, the Crillon had become a luxury they could no longer afford, especially with a Saudi investor breathing down their neck. Sheikh Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber already owns through his JJW Hotels and resorts group some 45 hotels around Europe. And while some might feel this might not be the best of moments to splash out on another five-star palatial hotel, clearly the Saudi investor believes that the taste for luxury will survive the crisis.

In the meantime, he and his associates are buying themselves a rather nice Parisian pad.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Twitter clickjacking Hack Released

February 3, 2006

A Web developer has released a proof-of-concept clickjacking attack targeting Twitter that demonstrates how an attacker could take over a member’s “update” function on the microblogging site.

Simply put, all it takes is for the victim to click on a seemingly innocent link on a Web page while logged into Twitter, and then his or her “What are you doing?” status is under the attacker’s control.

“It means anyone can update an individuals Twitter status without you knowing,” says the independent Web developer who wrote the PoC and published it on his Website.

Clickjacking is an attack where a bad guy slips a malicious link invisibly onto a Web page or under a commonly used button on a Web site.

When the user clicks on the link or rolls his mouse over the link, he becomes infected.

Microsoft has included a new clickjacking protection feature in Internet Explorer 8 that lets Websites safeguard their sites and visitors without browser add-ons.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Joe the Plumber Tax Liens For Tax Evasion

Joe the Plumber is really Samuel J. WurzelBacher of Toledo, Ohio and is a Tax Dodger.

News Recap
Politicol News
Nov 11, 2009

Joe the plumber can thank the Republicans for the mess on Wall Street which makes his borrowing money to buy a business even more difficult that it was last year. He can also thank the republicans especially John McCain, for reminding the State of Ohio that Joe has not paid income tax since last year.

Joe the Plumber has become an overnight star in the Presidential debate yesterday October 15th which was the final Presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain as his name was mentioned ad nauseam.

The “Joe the plumber” moniker has become national news sensation overnight, about a man who was at an Obama rally. Joe asked Obama whether his taxes would go up if he bought a business that made over $ 250,000.00 a year profit. Joe hails from Toledo Ohio and stated he was a plumber to Obama at a rally.

The real identity of this man is Samuel J. Wurzelbacher who actually owes the state of Ohio $1,200.00 in back taxes for his income. The records on file in the Lucas County court has a tax lien filed on January 26, 2007 and remains unpaid to this date.

Mr. Wurzelbacher (Joe the Plumber) asked Obama whether his taxes would go up if he bought a plumbing business, and if he were to earn more than $250,000 a year.

The truth is Mr. Wurzelbacher will not be buying any business because he just ruined his credit rating. By being in arrears for non payment of income taxes just makes you a high credit risk and since credit lending is now only for triple AAA people -Joe would not qualify for a loan.

Any real person who wants to buy a business now, would have an excellent credit score, and Joe is suspiciously delusional and critics say he was a plant by the Republican campaign to try and trip Obama up on taxing the rich.

Further it is the republican administration that allowed derivatives to be marketed on Wall Street by insurance companies in a swap deal that caused the downfall of the economy. Mr. Wurzelbacher or alias Joe the Plumber has been hurt by the Republicans because now Mr. Wurzelbacher in order to get a loan to buy a business is not credit worthy.

Joe will have to pay his income taxes first, and also his support payments to his own children as he is behind in those child support payments.

Then Joe will have to work hard to restore his credit rating in order to qualify for a quarter of a million dollar loan. It becomes a moot point with this revelation that Joe the plumber had no business asking Obama about a business -because he can't really buy one.

Joe the Plumber is also registered as a republican supporter on the Ohio voters list and that comes as no surprise. What is a surprise is that John McCain used Joe the plumber as an example to prove Obama will raise taxes and Joe's background is now coming to light.

McCain or his aides obviously did not check out the facts about Joe the plumber, before using him as an example. If you take it back further the republicans have used plants or paid persons to appear on their behalf, and Joe the plumber looks to be a plant by the GOP. All attempts for the media to talk to Joe the plumber have failed since his phone number is unlisted. Joe should know that if you want a successful business, you must have a listed phone number, and in fact you should be in the yellow pages.

Apparently Joe is not even a licensed plumber, and may be working under the table as a plumber. There were no other details from the McCain campaign as to whether plumbing was Joe’s main source of income, or whether it was a side line.

In any event, Joe is not qualified to buy a plumbing business because he is not licensed. The whole story is a non story used by John McCain who has vetted Joe the plumber as good as he did with Sarah Palin - not at all.


Monday, February 02, 2009

The Cost of War

Senator Barack Obama
Charleston, WV
March 20, 2008

Five years ago, the war in Iraq began. And on this fifth anniversary, we honor the brave men and women who are serving this nation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. We pay tribute to the sacrifices of their families back home. And a grateful nation mourns the loss of our fallen heroes.

I understand that the first serviceman killed in Iraq was a native West Virginian, Marine 1st Lieutenant Shane Childers, who died five years ago tomorrow. And so on this anniversary, my thoughts and prayers go out to Lieutenant Childers' family, and to all who've lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The costs of war are greatest for the troops and those who love them, but we know that war has other costs as well. Yesterday, I addressed some of these other costs in a speech on the strategic consequences of the Iraq war. I spoke about how this war has diverted us from fighting al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and from addressing the other challenges of the 21st Century: violent extremism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease.

And today, I want to talk about another cost of this war - the toll it has taken on our economy.

Because at a time when we're on the brink of recession - when neighborhoods have For Sale signs outside every home, and working families are struggling to keep up with rising costs - ordinary Americans are paying a price for this war.

When you're spending over $50 to fill up your car because the price of oil is four times what it was before Iraq, you're paying a price for this war.

When Iraq is costing each household about $100 a month, you're paying a price for this war.

When a National Guard unit is over in Iraq and can't help out during a hurricane in Louisiana or with floods here in West Virginia, our communities are paying a price for this war.

And the price our families and communities are paying reflects the price America is paying. The most conservative estimates say that Iraq has now cost more than half a trillion dollars, more than any other war in our history besides World War II. Some say the true cost is even higher and that by the time it's over, this could be a $3 trillion war.

But what no one disputes is that the cost of this war is far higher than what we were told it would be. We were told this war would cost $50 to $60 billion, and that reconstruction would pay for itself out of Iraqi oil profits. We were told higher estimates were nothing but "baloney." Like so much else about this war, we were not told the truth.

What no one disputes is that the costs of this war have been compounded by its careless and incompetent execution - from the billions that have vanished in Iraq to the billions more in no-bid contracts for reckless contractors like Halliburton.

What no one disputes is that five years into this war, soldiers up at Fort Drum are having to wait more than a month to get their first mental health screening - even though we know that incidences of PTSD skyrocket between the second, third, and fourth tours of duty. We have a sacred trust to our troops and our veterans, and we have to live up to it.

What no one disputes is that President Bush has done what no other President has ever done, and given tax cuts to the rich in a time of war. John McCain once opposed these tax cuts - he rightly called them unfair and fiscally irresponsible. But now he has done an about face and wants to make them permanent, just like he wants a permanent occupation in Iraq. No matter what the costs, no matter what the consequences, John McCain seems determined to carry out a third Bush-term.

That's an outcome America can't afford. Because of the Bush-McCain policies, our debt has ballooned. This is creating problems in our fragile economy. And that kind of debt also places an unfair burden on our children and grandchildren, who will have to repay it.

It also means we're having to pay for this war with loans from China. Having China as our banker isn't good for our economy, it isn't good for our global leadership, and it isn't good for our national security. History teaches us that for a nation to remain a preeminent military power, it must remain a preeminent economic power. That is why it is so important to manage the costs of war wisely.

This is a lesson that the first President Bush understood. The conduct of the Gulf War cost America less than $20 billion - what we pay in two months in Iraq today. That's because that war was prosecuted on solid grounds, and in a responsible way, and with the support of allies, who paid most of the costs. None of this has been the case in the way George W. Bush and John McCain have waged the current Iraq war.

Now, at that debate in Texas several weeks ago, Senator Clinton attacked John McCain for supporting the policies that have led to our enormous war costs. But her point would have been more compelling had she not joined Senator McCain in making the tragically ill-considered decision to vote for the Iraq war in the first place.

The truth is, this is all part of the reason I opposed this war from the start. It's why I said back in 2002 that it could lead to an occupation not just of undetermined length or undetermined consequences, but of undetermined costs. It's why I've said this war should have never been authorized and never been waged.

Now, let me be clear: when I am President, I will spare no expense to ensure that our troops have the equipment and support they need. There is no higher obligation for a Commander-in-Chief. But we also have to understand that the more than $10 billion we're spending each month in Iraq is money we could be investing here at home. Just think about what battles we could be fighting instead of fighting this misguided war.

Instead of fighting this war, we could be fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and who are plotting against us in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We could be securing our homeland and stopping the world's most dangerous weapons from falling into terrorist hands.

Instead of fighting this war, we could be fighting for the people of West Virginia. For what folks in this state have been spending on the Iraq war, we could be giving health care to nearly 450,000 of your neighbors, hiring nearly 30,000 new elementary school teachers, and making college more affordable for over 300,000 students.

We could be fighting to put the American dream within reach for every American - by giving tax breaks to working families, offering relief to struggling homeowners, reversing President Bush's cuts to the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and protecting Social Security today, tomorrow, and forever. That's what we could be doing instead of fighting this war.

Instead of fighting this war, we could be fighting to make universal health care a reality in this country. We could be fighting for the young woman who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can't afford medicine for a sister who's ill. For what we spend in several months in Iraq, we could be providing them with the quality, affordable health care that every American deserves.

Instead of fighting this war, we could be fighting to give every American a quality education. We could be fighting for the young men and women all across this country who dream big dreams but aren't getting the kind of education they need to reach for those dreams. For a fraction of what we're spending each year in Iraq, we could be giving our teachers more pay and more support, rebuilding our crumbling schools, and offering a tax credit to put a college degree within reach for anyone who wants one.

Instead of fighting this war, we could be fighting to rebuild our roads and bridges. I've proposed a fund that would do just that and generate nearly two million new jobs - many in the construction industry that's been hard hit by our housing crisis. And it would cost just six percent of what we spend each year in Iraq.

Instead of fighting this war, we could be freeing ourselves from the tyranny of oil, and saving this planet for our children. We could be investing in renewable sources of energy, and in clean coal technology, and creating up to 5 million new green jobs in the bargain, including new clean coal jobs. And we could be doing it all for the cost of less than a year and a half in Iraq.

These are the investments we could be making, all within the parameters of a more responsible and disciplined budget. This is the future we could be building. And that is why I will bring this war to an end when I'm President of the United States of America.

But we also know that even after this war comes to an end, the costs of this war will not. We'll have to keep our sacred trust with our veterans and fully fund the VA. We'll have to look after our wounded warriors - whether they're suffering from wounds seen or unseen. That must include the signature injuries of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - not just PTSD, but Traumatic Brain Injury.

We'll have to give veterans the health care and disability benefits they deserve, the support they need, and the respect they've earned. This is an obligation I have fought to uphold on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee by joining Jay Rockefeller to expand educational opportunities for our veterans. It's an obligation I will uphold as President, and it's an obligation that will endure long after this war is over.

And our obligation to rebuild our military will endure as well. This war has stretched our military to its limits, wearing down troops and equipment as a result of tour after tour after tour of duty.

The Army has said it will need $13 billion a year just to replace and repair all the equipment that's been broken or lost. So in the coming years we won't just have to restore our military to its peak level of readiness, and we won't just have to make sure our National Guard is back to being fully prepared to handle a domestic crisis, we'll also have to ensure that our soldiers are trained and equipped to confront the new threats of the 21 century and that our military can meet any challenge around the world. And that is a responsibility I intend to meet as Commander-in-Chief.

So we know what this war has cost us - in blood and in treasure. But in the words of Robert Kennedy, "past error is no excuse for its own perpetuation." And yet, John McCain refuses to learn from the failures of the Bush years. Instead of offering an exit strategy for Iraq, he's offering us a 100-year occupation. Instead of offering an economic plan that works for working Americans, he's supporting tax cuts for the wealthiest among us who don't need them and aren't asking for them. Senator McCain is embracing the failed policies of the past, but America is ready to embrace the future.

When I am your nominee, the American people will have a real choice in November - between change and more of the same, between giving the Bush policies another four years, or bringing them to an end. And that is the choice the American people deserve.

Somewhere in Baghdad today, a soldier is stepping into his Humvee and heading out on a patrol.

That soldier knows the cost of war.

He's been bearing it for five years. It's the cost of being kept awake at night by the whistle of falling mortars. It's the cost of a heart that aches for a loved one back home, and a family that's counting the days until the next R&R. It's the cost of losing a friend, who asked for nothing but to serve his country.

How much longer are we going to ask our troops to bear the cost of this war?

How much longer are we going to ask our families and our communities to bear the cost of this war?

When are we going to stop mortgaging our children's future for Washington's mistake?

This election is our chance to reclaim our future - to end the fight in Iraq and take up the fight for good jobs and universal health care. To end the fight in Iraq and take up the fight for a world-class education and retirement security. To end the fight in Iraq and take up the fight for opportunity, and equality, and prosperity here at home.

Those are the battles we need to fight. That is the leadership I want to offer. And that is the future we can build together when I'm President of the United States. Thank you.


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Firearms Laws don't work

The British called - They want their guns back!


"Amongst the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest."--- Mahatma Ghandi

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." --- U. S. Constitution

"Those who give up essential liberties for temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety."---Benjamin Franklin

"Owning a handgun doesn't make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician."---Col. Jeff Cooper

"Self-defense is Nature's eldest law."---John Dryden

"The one weapon every man, soldier, sailor, or airman should be able to use effectively is the rifle."---President Dwight D. Eisenhower

" Anyone who is not a liberal in his youth has no heart. Anyone who remains so as he matures has no brain!"---Sir Winston Churchill

Remember, the police are only effective "after the fact", they cannot protect you from crime, only you can protect yourself, your property, and your family. ---Ed.

Police Want Right to Jam Cell Phone Signals

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post
February 1, 2009

As President Obama's motorcade rolled down Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day, federal authorities deployed a closely held law enforcement tool: equipment that can jam cellphones and other wireless devices to foil remote-controlled bombs, sources said.

It is an increasingly common technology, with federal agencies expanding its use as state and local agencies are pushing for permission to do the same. Police and others say it could stop terrorists from coordinating during an attack, prevent suspects from erasing evidence on wireless devices, simplify arrests and keep inmates from using contraband phones.

But jamming remains strictly illegal for state and local agencies. Federal officials barely acknowledge that they use it inside the United States, and the few federal agencies that can jam signals usually must seek a legal waiver first.

The quest to expand the technology has invigorated a debate about how widely jamming should be allowed and whether its value as a common crime-fighting strategy outweighs its downsides, including restricting the constant access to the airwaves that Americans have come to expect.

"Jamming is a blunt instrument," said Joe Farren, vice president of government affairs for the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association.

He and others pointed out that when authorities disable wireless service, whether during a terrorist attack or inside a prison, that action can also stop the calls that could help in an emergency. During November's raids in Mumbai, for example, citizens relied on cellphones to direct police to the assailants.

Propelled by the military's experience with roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, jamming technology has evolved to counter bombs triggered by cellphones, garage openers, remote controls for toy cars or other devices that emit radio signals. Federal authorities rank improvised bombs, which are cheap and adaptable, as one of the greatest terrorist threats to the West.

On Inauguration Day, federal authorities were authorized to jam signals at some locations in downtown Washington, according to current and former federal officials. The Secret Service and other officials declined to provide specific details, some of which are classified.

Most of the nearly 2 million people attending the swearing-in and along the parade route would have been oblivious to any unusual disruption.

"Chances are, you wouldn't even notice it was there," said Howard Melamed, an executive with CellAntenna Corp., a small Coral Springs, Fla., company that produces jamming equipment. If someone in the crowd was on a call, they might have confused the jamming with a dropped signal. "Your phone may go off network," he said. In other cases, "it may never signal, if it's a quick interruption."

Industry officials said that radio-jammers work in several ways: They can send a barrage of energy that drowns out signals across multiple bands or produce a surge of energy on a particular frequency. In other instances, the devices detect and disrupt a suspicious signal, a technique known as "scan and jam."

Some private citizens, hoping to eliminate cellphone calls in restaurants, churches or theaters, have tapped into an underground market of jamming equipment that has trickled into the United States. But that, too, is illegal under the 70-year-old federal telecommunications act, which bans jamming commercial radio signals. The Federal Communications Commission has begun to crack down on private use, which is punishable by an $11,000 fine.

The U.S. military is capable of shutting down communications across a wide area and has done so overseas, including when it has conducted raids to capture suspects. To counter explosives, devices can be set to jam signals for a distance of 50 to 500 meters, for example, or enough to allow a car to pass out of the blast zone of a small bomb.

Some federal agencies, including the FBI and the Secret Service, have standing authority to use jamming equipment or can request waivers from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a Commerce Department agency, when there is an imminent threat, a federal official said.

Jamming has been approved in the past for major events, ranging from State of the Union addresses to visits by certain foreign dignitaries, according to a federal official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the subject.

After transit bombings in Europe, the Department of Homeland Security reached an agreement in 2006 under the National Communications System with cellphone companies to voluntarily shut down service under certain circumstances, which could disable signals for areas ranging from a tunnel to an entire metropolitan region, a DHS official said.

Much of the controversy has been fueled by the growing demands from state and local governments.

In the District, corrections officials won permission from the FCC for a brief test of jamming technology at the D.C. jail last month, after citing the "alarming rate" of contraband phones being seized at prisons around the country.

"Cell phones are used by inmates to engage in highly pernicious behavior such as the intimidation of witnesses, coordination of escapes, and the conducting of criminal enterprises," D.C. corrections chief Devon Brown wrote to the federal agency.

The test has been put on hold because of a legal challenge, but the city will keep seeking permission, said D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles.

Texas prison officials made a similar request last fall after a death row inmate placed an illicit call threatening a state legislator, and South Carolina corrections officials said their department staged a test without permission in November.

In a pilot project, the FBI deputized about 10 local bomb squads across the country in 2007 so they could use a small number of radio jammers similar to the military equipment used overseas.

The local pleas for expanded permission are beginning to get a friendly reception on Capitol Hill. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate homeland security committee, plans to introduce legislation that would give law enforcement agencies "the tools they need to selectively jam" communications in the event of a terrorist attack, a spokeswoman said.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Tex.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, has introduced a bill that would allow the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and governors to seek waivers from the FCC to jam calling at prisons.

"When lives are at stake, law enforcement needs to find ways to disrupt cellphones and other communications in a pinpointed way against terrorists who are using them," New York City Police Commissioner Raymond F. Kelly told a Senate panel Jan. 8. He also cited the Mumbai terrorist attacks, when hostage-takers used media spotters and satellite and mobile phones to help them outmaneuver police at hotels, train stations and other targets.

Backing up such requests are the commercial interests that could provide the jammers.

Melamed, with CellAntenna, has worked for several years to open what the company forecasts could be a $25 million line of domestic jamming business for itself, and the amount could be more for bigger players such as Tyco and Harris Corp. He said rules that prevent government agencies from blocking signals don't make sense.

"We're still trying to figure out how it's in the best interest of the public to prevent bomb squads from keeping bombs from blowing up and killing people," he said.

But the cellular industry trade group warns that letting the nation's 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies decide when and where to jam phone calls would create a messy patchwork of potential service disruptions.

Critics warn of another potential problem, "friendly fire," when one agency inadvertently jams another's access to the airwaves, posing a safety hazard in an emergency.

Farren said there are "smarter, better and safer alternatives," such as stopping inmates from getting smuggled cellphones in the first place or pinpointing signals from unauthorized callers.

Still, analysts said, events such as the Mumbai attacks may tip the debate in favor of law enforcement.

"Without something like Mumbai, the national security and public safety cases would not be as compelling," said James E. Katz, director of the Center for Mobile Communication Studies at Rutgers University. "Now, the burden of proof has been shifting to people who don't want these exceptions, rather than the people who do."


Any terrorist action can and will be used as justification to further limit or curtail citizen action and rights. Jamming cell phone signals would prevent legitimate emergency and citizen access to communication. Pay close attention to those who would advocate cutting off the arm to save the finger. The continual erosion of the US Constitution and citizens rights worldwide spans political parties and regimes. Editor