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This is What Democracy Looks Like
Friday-Sunday, October 27-29, 2006
A Bush Quote in the Lead
"It's my job to do my job. it's your job to do your business"
-President Bush, referring to himself and the American people
And, hopefully, in a little over a week, it will be harder to do your job, which includes ripping of the American people and keeping your "base" of "haves and have mores" from getting to become "the even mores".
A Media Madman Moment
Fox News Admits a Rooting Interest
"Are WE going to concede Rhode island, Montana, Rhode island and Tennessee?"
-Trace Gallagher, the host of Fox News' Studio 'B', referring to sup-for-grab senate seats in the above four states
"WE" in this case refers to Fox News AND the REPUBLICAN party, Gallagher is just showing what the rest of US already knew: That Fox News AND the GOP are synonymous.
Innocence and Anarchy in Iraq
"My brother, Nabil, witnesses another terrible murder, this time of a hairdresser. She was dragged out of her taxi by four gunmen, a sack was put on her head and then they opened fire. Her corpse was left on the street for over three hours because no one dared to go near it. The worst was when Iraqi troops arrived at night to pick up the corpse. They had to shoot it several times to ensure it wasn't booby-trapped with explosives, something that is becoming more and more common in our area of Baghdad."
-The "Healing Iraq blog" by Zeyad the Baghdad dentist
This is the usual occurrence in Baghdad.
"Why did they kill her???" No one knows."
These are the victims in Iraq. One wonders if the hairdresser gossiped too much or if the hairdresser gave somebody a bad haircut. What constitutes the "death sentence" as put forth by mob rule on the streets of Baghdad these days?
Imagine, if you will, that you're the husband or wife (for our purposes, we'll say you're the husband) of a hairdresser in your city or town, and someone pulled your wife out of their Honda Accord, put a bag over her head, and filled her body full of bullets. Now imagine that no one dared touch spouse's body to detect if there was, somehow, a breath of life left in her for three hours. Then, when the police finally arrived, they fired upon her body once again to make sure that there was no bomb attached to it.
"Bring Saddam back! It wasn't like this under his rule!"
-a woman just injured by a bomb, and being filmed for a documentary, as she is being brought into a hospital
How bad could it possibly be in Iraq if people in Baghdad are asking for Saddam Hussein's return? Maybe it's only the injured or relatives of the injured people, in which case it's probably ninety percent of that nation.
The film's narrator would say this in the film:
"It's never been so bad and it's getting worse every day,"
Because we aren't allowed to see the flag-draped coffins come back from Iraq, we feel a little dis-joined from the violence over there. Unlike the Vietnam war, we aren't getting the death count via our evening news every night at six o'clock. Sure, we can look at the list of the nearly three-thousand dead Americans on the Internet, or maybe volunteer at a VA hospital to help out the thousands more injured troops who came home without arms, legs or God only knows what else, but we don't.
And we certainly don't look to see how many Iraqi's were killed by how many other Iraqi's. We don't even have a handle on a real number.
Iraq has American troops killing insurgents, as it should be. But it also has Shi'ite death squads spraying machine guns on a caravan of Sunni pilgrims on their way to a mosque, as happened last night in Iraq; and it has a growing Sunni insurgency fueled by the mistakes of the Bush policy of "Stay the Course."
And those who can are leaving Iraq. Those are the people who actually need to be there to make sure Iraq will eventually recover. Zeyad the dentist writes from New York, probably because he can. Iraq will need its dentists an hairdressers and every other profession that will aid in its getting back on her feet. So, if they're not shot dead by death squads or killed in a market by a Sunni insurgent's bomb, they might be able to contribute. But not at this rate.
The United nations, who, of nothing else. are good at putting numbers together, estimate that over 1.5 million Iraqis have been displaced so far and that an additional 50,000 "get out of Dodge" every month. from a population percentage, that would be the equivalent of 18 million Americans having been displaced and and additional 600,000 more Americans being displaced each and every month. That's the equivalent of a Hurrican Katrina, plus some 100,000 more losing their homes, jobs and everything they own every single month!
Here are some conclusions from the Brookings Institute report by Ashraf al-Khalidi and Victor Tanner titled, "Sectarian Violence: Radical Groups Drive Internal Displacement in Iraq":
-The social and demographic makeup of many Iraqi cities is beginning to change, helping to fragment Iraq along religious and ethnic lines... Sunni Arabs have been fleeing to Sunni areas (the displaced group that has grown the most); Shias have been fleeing to Shia areas; Kurds have been fleeing to the Northern provinces and Christians to parts of Ninewah province. Formerly mixed towns have become Sunni or Shi’a.
-The displaced consider any chances of retuning home slim
-Voices of moderation, such as of the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, are waning. Intolerance and mistrust are spreading, especially among the youth. Street slang in cities is becoming increasingly violent, and tribal groups on both sides appear to be growing restless, which could add a more popular and rural dimension to the sectarian violence.
-There are different patterns of displacement. In addition to people fleeing to areas where they feel safer, others remain at home but sleep in different places at night (nighttime displacement), or don’t go to work or school (pre-displacement), or become displaced more than once (repeat displacement). There is also administrative displacement (deliberate transfers).
The report justifiably compares the violence to that of Yugoslavia, Rwanda and other recent areas of sectarian violence over the last decade and a half. What the report doesn't clearly state is that the big difference in the case of Iraq, the Bush administration's policies seem to be the facilitator.
And the brutality of Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence is astonishing.
"Our interviews brought stories of raped women, beheaded children and burned bodies. In Hilla, one man told of having lost 13 members of his family in Latifiya. In Basra, many of the bodies found bear signs of torture with electric drills and broken bottles. In east Baghdad, a man’s body was found beheaded, with a dog’s head sewn on it in its place. Many Iraqis feel a new level of ferociousness has been reached. Whether or not it is, again what is important is that "
-the Brookings Institute report
Somehow, stories like these don;t enter into the consciousness of the average American, in part, because the Bushies are hiding it from us. But even the new ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, understands the ramifications:
"Recent sectarian bloodshed in Iraq causes many to question whether the US and the Iraqis can succeed,"
This is in direct conflict with President Bush's newest and wrongest advisor, former national Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's advice that victory is the only answer.
"Victory in Iraq is the Only Exit Strategy,"
-Kissinger, still fighting the Vietnam war
In fact, it appears that many who were involved with a past American war are now re-fighting their respective wars in Iraq, but under a new, more influenced president. Most of them are re-fighting the first Iraq war fought under GW's father, President George H.W. Bush, or Bush (41).
"Iraq is a political-military problem, with the political component written in big block letters. It's not about us; it's about the Iraqis who have to work it out."
-General George Casey, the top US commander in Iraq
And yet, we can't even figure out which side we're on; we can't figure out who are the good guys or the bad guys; and, worst of all, we can't protect our own troops or the innocent people of Iraq who want to fix other Iraqi's teeth or cut their hair.
General Casey is right. We need to bring our troops home from Iraq because the Iraqi people will need to sort this out amongst themselves. Our troops have become nothing but a target and need not be put in the middle of a worsening situation. I believe that the longer we are there the less likely the Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence will stop.
Aren't there better things we can with $9 billion a month right here at home? How about health care for all and really financing a working and flexible No Child Left Behind bill?
Cheney and Waterboarding
"Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al-Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called waterboarding, which creates a sensation of drowning.
"Cheney indicated the Bush administration doesn't regard waterboarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. 'It's a no-brainer for me,' Cheney said."
-From "Cheney confirms waterboarding" by Jonathan S. Landay of the McClatchy Newspapers
Okay so in what sense is this not torture? The international community considers it to be torture. If it was done to a prisoner of war, it would be considered torture. So, why is that it can be used against so called "enemy combatants"?
I think the decision to allow such horrendous acts to be "legal" will haunt this nation for decades to come.
In an interview Tuesday with Scott Hennen, a conservative radio show host from Fargo, N.D., Cheney agreed with Hennen's assertion that "a dunk in water" may yield valuable intelligence from terrorism suspects. He also referred to information gleaned from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the captured architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but stopped short of explicitly saying what techniques were used.
"Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?" Hennen asked.
"Well, it's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said, "but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president for torture. We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in."
First off, I am sick and tired of people trivializing these methods. It's not a simple dunk in the water. This is actually simulating drowning. Here is a video of person who volunteered to demonstrate what waterboarding is all about:
It truly is gruesome!
Second off, how can Cheney say we don't torture when waterboarding is defined by the Geneva Conventions as torture.
The latest and greatest is that Cheney denies he meant waterboarding is okay with him. Yeah right! As if we are not suppose to believe our eyes and ears.
-Forwarded and commented by Robert Scardapane
Michael Schiavo and The Freedom to "Sit"
Michael Schiavo (MS): If it were fiction, you wouldn't believe it.
Sadly, what happened in Colorado on Tuesday is true and unbelievable.
At the conclusion of a three-day, three-state campaign trip to promote candidates who will bring needed new leadership to Washington, I flew to Ft. Collins, Colorado to attend the only "debate" between Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave and her courageous and forceful challenger Angie Paccione in the Colorado 4th district.
What happened there made the clearest case I could ever imagine for why change isn't just needed - it's required.
Robert J. Scardapane's commentary (RJS): Remember him? Michael Schiavo - the husband of Terry Schiavo. Check out what happened.
MS: Back to Tuesday in Colorado...a little background, first. Back in mid-July I travelled to Colorado and delivered a letter to Congresswoman Musgrave's office. asking her why she felt compelled to interfere in my family's personal affairs - questioning, in fact trying to refute the medical facts of my wife's case on the floor of Congress.
Not surprisingly, Marilyn Musgrave (REPUBLICAN-CO) never responded to my letter.
So on Tuesday I joined about 1,000 citizens and members of the local and regional media in the Windsor High School Auditorium to hear the debate and try to get an answer to my question from Congresswoman Musgrave.
About twenty minutes before the debate started and after speaking to several reporters about how Musgrave had voted to transform her values into our laws, I took a seat in the front row. As it turned out, I was seated next to the timekeeper who held up yellow and red cards to signal time to the candidates.
But just minutes after taking my seat, I noticed a flurry of activity around my seat including about four uniformed police officers who were - I would learn later - called in by Musgrave staffers and asked to remove me from the building.
RJS: Musgrave called the police just because Michael Schiavo was there? You got to be kidding me.
MS: At this point, I had made no speeches, I had no signs, had made no attempt to disrupt or cause any commotion. I only came into the auditorium, spoke to a dozen or so reporters and took a seat.
To their credit, the police refused the Musgrave campaign's appeal to have me removed.
RJS: I guess the police were not all that impressed either. But, there's more!
MS: There's more to come, but I still can't get over even that part. A sitting member of Congress asked the police to remove me - a taxpaying citizen - from a public debate. Obviously, I misunderstand the concept of a political debate. I thought a debate was a place to share ideas, answer questions, defend your record and tell citizens what you've done and what you will do. Marilyn Musgrave believes, I have to gather, that debates are places to have the police remove people who don't agree with you.
After the police talked with obviously irritated Musgrave staffers and the debate organizer, the Musgrave campaign complained that my seat, next to the timekeeper, was inappropriate because - get this - Marilyn Musgrave would have to look at me. In an effort to appease the Musgrave camp, the debate organizers moved the timekeeper to the other side of the stage - about 15 seats away.
If you need to re-read that again, it's okay. A member of Congress who took to the floor of our Congress to speak about my wife, my family and my values made the debate timekeeper move so she wouldn't have to look at me. Just amazing.
The "debate" went on for an hour and at two points the audience actually broke out into laughter at Musgrave. Once, in response to a question about health care when she said America had the best health care in the world and again when she said the 700 mile immigration fence Congress approved would stop immigrants and protect "our children from drug dealers."
RJS: Oh man, if this wasn't a sitting Congressional Rep I would be more amused. America has the best health care in the world? Wrong! The statistics just don't match the rhetoric. In fact, the World Health Organization rates the United States 37th in the world! I am sure that Rep. Musgrave gets the best health care but it's not the experience for the typical American citizen.
That sums up Musgrave in one word - lame! I hope that Angie Paccione can pull this one out.
-Forwarded and commented by Robert Scardapane from "My unreal night in Colorado" by Michael Schiavo (http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/10/26/23514/100)
Throw Hastert Out
Two former House committee investigators who were examining Capitol Hill security upgrades said a senior aide to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert hindered their efforts before they were abruptly ordered to stop their probe last year.
The former Appropriations Committee investigators said Ted Van Der Meid, Hastert’s chief counsel, resisted from the start the inquiry, which began with concerns about mismanagement of a secret security office and later probed allegations of bid-rigging and kickbacks from contractors to a Defense Department employee.
Ronald Garant and a second Appropriations Committee investigator who asked not to be identified said Van Der Meid engaged in “screaming matches” with investigators and told at least one aide not to talk to them. Van Der Meid also prohibited investigators from visiting certain sites to check up on the effectiveness of the work, the investigators said.
-Investigators Say Speaker’s Aide Hindered Inquiry of Hill Security Contracts, By Steven T. Dennis, CQ Staff (http://www.cq.com/public/20061027-spending.html)
Hastert is a thug. He covered up for Foley and has now been caught covering up other probes. Hastert should be voted out!
-forwarded and commented by Robert Scardapane
Sheep Wearing Wolves'' Clothing
The Big Buzz is on about the Democrats supposedly having a chance to retake Congress--or part of it anyway. The media is heating up about this and I must be getting tons of e-mails urging me to get out the vote and contribute to make it happen.
I have a problem with this and the problem is highlighted in this week's cover story in Newsweek about a candidate named Ford. He CALLS himself a Democrat but is against choice, against stem-cell research, and other signature Democratic positions. He voted for the Patriot Act. He is to the right of some Republicans! Why, then should I be thrilled at the prospect of a so-called Democratic Congress that would include the likes of Ford and another fellow named Casey?
And why, why, WHY is the FORMERLY Ultra-Liberal Charles E. Schumer, who once served so well and ably as a Representative touting the possible election of such "Democrats" as a potential victory for the party. Who hijacked Schumer's brains and his morals?
A wolf in sheep's clothing is still a wolf. Electing those people is not going to help bring the country back to its senses. We will just have more of the same--except that some of the Republicans will be called by another name. Crap by another name smells just as bad to me.
The whole mess of Repubocrats should be shown the door and people who are in a new, much more progressive party should be elected.
Will it happen? I doubt it.
-Billie M. Spaight
Great ad from the folks at One:
From the Newark Star-Ledger
(for those of you who donlt know, the Newark-Star-Ledger is the only New Jersey newspaper read throughout the state)
Robert Menendez for U.S. Senate
Sunday, October 29, 2006
If half-truths and smears were the criteria for picking a candidate in the New Jersey election for a seat in the U.S. Senate, campaign ads would suffice. We believe, however, the decision should be based on a candidate's positions on vital issues, his ability to articulate those positions, and his experience.
For those very reasons, The Star-Ledger endorses Robert Menendez.
For example, Menendez, who served in the House of Representatives for 13 years be fore he was appointed to the Senate earlier this year, has consistently opposed the war in Iraq.
He voted against authorizing the invasion in October 2002 when most -- including scores of Democrats -- bought into the White House argument that removing Saddam Hussein was crucial to the war on terror.
His opponent, state Sen. Tom Kean Jr., has adopted President Bush's position that establishing a timetable for pulling out of Iraq would devastate any hope of implanting democracy in that region. Kean, apparently sensing the mood of the public, does acknowledge that many mistakes have been made.
Menendez advocates a well- planned, gradual redeployment of troops. He correctly notes that America's continued presence in Iraq is making the situation worse, providing insurgents from all factions with a common enemy. And he grasps the war's cost -- in both lives lost and the domestic social programs being shortchanged because of the billions the Iraq war demands.
Bush's tax cuts provide another reason for electing Menendez. He opposes making them permanent; Kean embraces making them lasting.
We believe the nation simply can't afford to hand windfall tax breaks to the wealthy few while amassing a smothering debt for our children and grandchildren. And Menendez would wisely use a portion of the billions realized by eliminat ing those tax breaks to pay down debt and the balance to resuscitate programs choked by Bush's fiscal policies.
Kean backs the Bush tax cuts. He says they should be coupled with restraints on spending. That's unrealistic. The Republican-led Congress has shown it can't say no to more spending, and Kean isn't going to be the one to change that. So the deficit will continue to mount.
On immigration, Menendez accepts reality: 12 million illegal immigrants who make up a significant part of the nation's economy simply can't be rounded up and deported. Rather, he endorses the McCain-Kennedy legislation that would offer a route to citizenship for illegal immigrants, provided they undergo criminal background checks, pay back taxes and learn English.
Kean's immigration plan is fuzzy. He calls for tighter border security and tougher penalties on businesses that hire illegal immigrants. But he isn't clear about the 12 million already in this country illegally.
As for experience, Menen dez's tenure of nearly 14 years in Washington, where he compiled an impressive résumé, clearly overshadows Kean's five years in Trenton.
Although Menendez has served in the Senate for just the past 10 months, he spent 13 years in the House, deftly navigating the congressional system to become caucus chairman, the third-highest-ranking Democrat.
We endorse Menendez fully aware of the ethical questions that have plagued his candi dacy. The most serious is the U.S. attorney's probe into a rental deal he had with a Hud son County community organization that also received federal funds. Clearly, Menendez exhibited poor judgment in this case, but that's not reason enough to disqualify him.
We also question the quality of Kean's campaign. Most New Jerseyans hear the name "Kean" and think of the candi date's father, who is seen as a representative of integrity. The relentlessly ugly campaign waged by Kean Jr., however, doesn't reflect that reputation.
Moreover, Kean Jr. has spent little time in his political advertisements telling voters where he stands on the issues.
In addition to his positions on the issues and his experience, Menendez gets our support for another reason. New Jersey has emerged as a pivotal state in the struggle for control of the Senate. A Republican victory in New Jersey could tip the balance toward the GOP.
A continued Republican majority will result in two more years of a docile, incompetent Congress unwilling to challenge Bush's imperial presidency.
Democratic control of the Senate will send a signal that citizens want to reverse the destructive domestic policies of the past six years, to see the nation reclaim its position as a champion of democracy and to eliminate the "us-or-them" mentality that has led to continuous confrontations around the world.
Oh, so maybe THIS is why Karl Rove has that smile on his face....
Apparently the Department of Defense has set up a new voting process of American ex-pats overseas, and active military.
In this new procedure, folks will be voting by ordinary, unsecured email, and then private, GOP-hired contractors will recording the votes and faxing them back to home jurisdictions!
It's just mind-boggling. If the GOP can't hold onto the House with this kind of putrid excuse for a democratic process, I'll be shocked.
REPORT: DoD's New, Untested, Secretly Developed Overseas Military Voting Scheme for General Election 'Poses Significant Security Risks'
Computer Scientists Warn in New Report That U.S. Military and Overseas Ballots Now Vulnerable to Loss of Privacy, Identify Theft, Hackers, Tampering by Both American and Foreign Governments
System Never Publicly Tested or Used Even in a Primary Election to be Used for First Time in Nov. 7th Midterm Election
Last month we reported on the Defense Department's newly announced scheme to allow military and overseas ballots to be cast via the Internet. It was pointed out, among other concerns, that in many cases troops' and overseas citizens' votes would be subject to conversion from unsecured email voting into faxed documents by a private company who, in turn, would then forward the vote to the appropriate county jurisdiction.
The San Jose Mercury News quoted experts at the time who charged the system was "ripe for fraud" as military voters would apparently not be warned that their ballots might be seen by others and transferred into faxes, etc. by "a private contractor whose top executives have made political contributions to Republican Party organizations."
Underscoring those initial reports today, a group of independent computer scientists and E-Voting experts including David Jefferson of Livermore National Laboratories, Avi Rubin of Johns Hopkins, David Wagner of UC Berkeley and Barbara Simons, a former researcher for IBM, have released an alarming short paper warning of "significant risks" found in the newly announced plan from the DoD's "Federal Voting Assistance Program" (FVAP).
The group had been members of a scientific peer review panel for a previous DoD Military and Overseas Internet voting scheme in 2004. At the time, they found the plan featured "a large number of security risks and vulnerabilities, including denial of service attacks, insider attacks, viral attacks on voters' PCs." That experimental program was subsequently cancelled after the findings.
But now, in September of this year — just over one month ago — the DoD announced and implemented their new scheme for military and overseas citizen voting via the Internet, to be used this November 7th without any public testing or peer review whatsoever.
According to today's report, the new DoD voting scheme — known as the "Interim Voting Assistance System" (IVAS) — has been put in place without any "publicly available external security examination" and has "never been used in a public election before (not even in a primary)."
The scientists say that security concerns about the new, untested system include loss of privacy and identify theft for the military and overseas voters and, even more troubling, they found the system to be vulnerable to hackers and tampering by governments both foreign and domestic.
The six page report is now available here: http://servesecurityreport.org/ivas.pdf
From the report's troubling introduction:
None of these security concerns is original; all were raised in a DoD internal review, discussed below.
IVAS was announced to the public only last month (September), and has been designed and built only over the last several months, an extremely short time for a system of this complexity and importance. The current system has never been used in a public election before (not even in a primary), and has not been subject to any publicly available external security examination. The technical specifications have not been made publicly available.
In an email received by The BRAD BLOG this morning, Simons summarizes the report's three main findings, characterized as "serious concerns about the security issues posed by this new system."
Her succint, yet alarming, email is posted in full below….
My colleagues David Jefferson, Avi Rubin, David Wagner and I have just released a short paper about the government's IVAS system that involves absentee voting using email and fax and ballot distribution over the Internet. See http://servesecurityreport.org/ivas.pdf
We believe this system poses significant risks, as described in this excerpt from our article:
In summary, we see three main risks:
1. Tool One exposes soldiers to risks of identity theft. Sending personally identifiable information via unencrypted email is considered poor practice. No bank would ask their customers to send SSNs over unencrypted email, yet Tool One does exactly that. This problem is exacerbated by potential phishing attacks.
2. Returning voted ballots by email or fax creates an opportunity for hackers, foreign governments, or other parties to tamper with those ballots while they are in transit. FVAP's system does not include any meaningful protection against the risk of ballot modification.
3. Ballots returned by email or fax may be handled by the DoD in some cases. Those overseas voters using the system sign a waiver of their right to a secret ballot. However, it is one thing for a voter's ballot to be sent directly to their local election official; it is another for a soldier's ballot to be sent to and handled by the DoD -
who is, after all, the soldier's employer.
Please help us circulate the document.
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