Saturday, September 17, 2011

Note To NY Times: Don’t Do Us Any Favors

Wankery overload from The Old Gray Lady in the Troy Davis case (here)…
The list of people asking that the Georgia parole board offer clemency has grown from the predictable (Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Indigo Girls) to the surprising…
Oh yes, how dare those individuals actually stand up as voices of conscience for those who may be falsely accused and/or convicted. How “predictable”.

But wait, there’s more…
As executions becomes less common and sentences for executions decline — dropping to about 100 a year from three times that in the 1990s — the focus on execution as a means of punishment and a marker of the nation’s cultural and political divide becomes sharper, legal analysts said.

That divide results in a culture that in the same week can generate hundreds of thousands of letters of support for Troy Davis and, conversely, bring a cheering round of applause from the audience at a Republican presidential debate when Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was asked about the 234 executions in his state during his term of office.
I have a question – is this an editorial? Silly me, I thought this was supposed to be an actually news column.

I don’t know what the Troy Davis case says about “a culture” such as ours. And I see zero correlation between the Davis case – where witnesses claim that they were coerced to the point where six of nine of those who testified against Davis recanted, and the seventh contradicted that person’s own testimony…oh, and the eighth of the nine witnesses may, in fact, be the person who actually shot Officer Mark MacPhail – and that rabid horde the other night who craved more violence porn in the guise of a Republican presidential candidates debate.

And finally, I give you a comparison that, I suppose, was inevitable…
Mumia Abu-Jamal, the former journalist and Black Panther who was convicted of shooting a white Philadelphia police officer in 1981, rode the power of his own charisma. His case became so popular globally that a road in a Parisian suburb bears his name.
Outside of the fact that Davis is on death row also, his case has nothing in common with that of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Jamal was shot by Officer Daniel Faulkner, who somehow survived a gunshot to the back and wounded Jamal at the scene (Jamal subsequently fired four shots into Office Faulkner, including one between Faulkner’s eyes that entered his brain, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals). Philadelphia’s death row “cause célèbre” has had ample opportunity to prove his innocence and has been steadfastly unable to do so. As nearly as I’ve been able to determine, the “argument” from Jamal’s supporters is that the jury that convicted him was disproportionately composed of whites, which, to me, alters none of the facts upon which the verdict was rendered. Davis, on the other hand, is requesting a stay of his execution to prepare his own defense against a judgment based on evidence that has completely fallen apart (to say nothing of requesting a hearing concerning evidence that might actually set him free).

Your “liberal media” at work…

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Stuff

There are Democrats who I would do my best to support regardless of almost (but not quite) everything because they’ve earned my support all kinds of other ways in the past. I’m thinking about our PA-31 House Rep Steve Santarsiero and former U.S. House Rep Patrick Murphy here.

And then there are “Democrats” like “Sideshow Bob” Casey, as noted here. And these people positively make me want to gag (oh, and Tom Carper too of course)…

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…and I’m not sure why exactly, but I’ve had this tune on my mind all week, so here it is.

Time Grows Short For Troy Davis

As Think Progress tells us here, demonstrations have been taking place to call attention to Troy Davis, who faces execution next Wednesday; also, a letter has been sent to the Georgia parole board with the signatures of 51 members of the U.S. Congress, including Georgia representative John Lewis, urging a halt to the execution.

For the benefit of anyone who isn’t familiar with the Davis case, this tells us the following…
The case against Davis has unraveled, yet he still faces execution. The conviction rests primarily on nine key witnesses, but six have recanted and one contradicted her trial statement. The police recovered shell casings at the crime scene, which were naturally present given that there was a shooting. However, they never found a murder weapon or any other physical evidence linking the shell casings to Troy Davis.

Almost all of the witnesses were vulnerable for one reason or another. One witness was illiterate, others were minors that were questioned without their parents or supportive adults, some had criminal histories, and most were African American.

The murder of the white police officer enraged local law enforcement, and indeed it was a terrible crime. Officer Mark MacPhail was rushing to the aid of a homeless man who was beaten unconscious in a Burger King parking lot on the other side of a Greyhound bus station in a poor end of town. When he came running to the scene, he was shot, and he fell to the ground without even having drawn his weapon. He left behind a wife and two very small children. Outrage was appropriate in the wake of his death. However, reports about how the investigation was conducted call into question how fair and proper things went. Many speak to the intense pressure on the African American community to find the perpetrator. Most of the witnesses allege coercion by the police in obtaining statements.

Strangely, one of the two witnesses who did not recant his testimony has been implicated in at least nine affidavits and by a new eyewitness account as being the actual perpetrator. This very same man was the one who first reported to the police that Davis was the shooter. He was never treated as a suspect himself. He was not put in line-ups and he was present at the crime scene with other witnesses for a reenactment of the events.

Davis had a heck of a time trying to seek relief once his case moved from the trial level to the post-conviction habeas process. The Georgia Resource Center was hit with a two-thirds budget cut, which reduced the number of staff attorneys to two, representing about eighty prisoners. Triage was not even possible with the remaining resources. Yet this was the time for Davis to assemble evidence and an argument about his innocence claim.

Also, in the mid-1990s, the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), was passed on the heels of the Oklahoma City Bombing. It limited access by death row prisoners of the federal appeals process, placing time limits on introduction of new evidence for example. Davis’ case was negatively impacted along with others.

Troy Davis has been confronted with a system that would rather hold onto a decision a jury made twenty years ago than admit that some fundamentally wrong things have happened. It is a system bent on preserving itself more than on being absolutely sure that injustice and inaccuracy are filtered out.
On top of the letter from Congress (and the call to halt the execution from former FBI Director William Sessions, as noted here), an online petition has garnered 663,000 signatures calling for a new trial in the Davis case (here).

I realize that the High Court of Hangin’ Judge JR decided not to hear the appeal by Davis (Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito, and Kennedy too many times also, have plenty to other baggage to answer for also as far as I’m concerned), but I wondered about the man who originally prosecuted Davis and believes the conviction should still be upheld. And that would be Chatham County, GA District Attorney Spencer Lawton.

As noted here, a number of Lawton’s convictions have been overturned, including death penalty cases. And in this radio interview with host Dori Smith, Lawton doesn’t appear to know what the 8th Amendment is (he’s “got no idea” if it prevents the execution of the innocent…actually, it opposes “excessive bail” and “cruel and unusual punishment”), thinks the fact that a possible suspect appearing without counsel in a criminal case means that the lawyer thought he was innocent (actually, what it means is that the lawyer is incompetent), and he compares Amnesty International to a mob.

Please click here to lend your voice on behalf of Troy Davis. He’s not asking for freedom, he’s just asking to be allowed to live so he can be granted a new trial and try to prove his innocence. And he should have it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday Stuff

Looks like PA Guv Tom "Space Cadet" Corbett's scheme to turn our beloved commonwealth from blue to, at least, purple isn't faring so well - what a shame (here, and I think David Shuster meant "partisan" steamroller...though I wouldn't mind if Corbett's little game ended up sinking Mikey The Beloved, but I'm sure it would be a Pyrrhic victory at best)...

...and I thought this was a cool new little number, so here it is (kind of a "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" thing going on I guess).

Thursday Mashup (9/15/11)

  • (By the way, I really don’t have anything to say about last week’s Area Votes in Congress writeup, the first one since the wretched 112th returned to Washington, but here it is anyway.)

  • Next, this New York Times story tells about the deal in which Google purchased Motorola Mobility for its patent portfolio, with Google raising its offering from $30 to $40 per share of Motorola stock, increasing the deal by about $3 billion.

    And who was smack in the middle of the whole thing, driving up the price of the deal and thus lining his own pockets (all legal as near as we can tell)? Why, Frank Quattrone of Qatalyst Partners, that’s who.

    You remember our pal Frank, don’t you?

    As noted here, he was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney General’s office for obstruction of justice based on an Email he sent to colleagues telling them to “clean up files” concerning allegations that he gave some clients privileged access to technology shares in return for getting other business; it’s very likely that Quattrone essentially performed a “pump and dump” of some of his hot IPOs, this artificially inflating the tech “bubble,” and when it burst, many in the industry lost their jobs.

    Oh, and let’s dispense with this fiction that he “successfully fought off” those charges in 2006, shall we? Quattrone’s conviction was thrown out over instructions given to the jury, so he didn’t “fight off” anything.

    So sure, he’ll receive the adulation from the business press once more. Just remember that, the next time you hear of Google announcing layoffs because, for all their tech smarts, they were dumb enough to get fleeced by this guy and have to recover the cost somehow, you’ll know why.

  • Further, it seems that the House Repugs eternally in search of an Obama Administration “scandal,” are trying to hype the business of the failed Solyndra energy contract for all it’s worth (here, and a previous post is here, at the third bullet)…
    WASHINGTON D.C. (WKZO) -- Rep. Fred Upton is investigating a California Company called Solyndra that received a 535-million dollar loan guarantee in federal stimulus money to develop a unique kind of solar panel, and has now gone bankrupt.

    Conservative republicans say because the Kaiser Foundation had money invested in the firm, and because George Kaiser is a big fundraiser for Barack Obama, that is reason to investigate. Upton says it was the very first to get one of the loan guarantees.
    You want to hear about an honest-to-goodness contracting scandal involving an agency of the federal government, Repugs? Read this (from November 2007)…
    The New York Times reported this morning that the inspector general of the Department of Education will take a look at whether or not federal money was “inappropriately used” to buy educational products from Ignite Learning of Austin, TX, a company owned by one Neil Bush…

    Members of (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, D.C.) and other critics in Texas contend that school districts are buying Ignite’s signature product, the Curriculum on Wheels, because of political considerations. The product, they said, does not meet standards for financing under the No Child Left Behind Act, which allocates federal money to help students raise their achievement levels, particularly in elementary school reading.

    Ignite, founded by Neil Bush in 1999, includes as investors his parents, former President George H. W. Bush and his wife, Barbara. Company officials say that about 100 school districts use the Curriculum on Wheels, known as the Cow, which is a portable classroom with software to teach middle-school social studies, science and math. The units cost about $3,800 each and require about $1,000 a year in maintenance.

    The citizens’ group says it has documented only a small part of the federal money spent on Ignite products. Ignite has had strong support from districts in Texas, President Bush’s home state. This week, the Houston Independent School District is set to consider whether to authorize schools to spend an additional $300,000 from various financing sources on the Curriculum on Wheels.

    Jay Spuck, a former curriculum director for the district, has criticized spending on the Ignite product, saying: “It’s not helping kids at all. It’s not helping teachers. The only way Neil has gotten in is by his name.”
    I’ll “see” you Solyndra and “raise” you Neil Bush and his COWs, wingnuts.

  • Continuing, this tells us the following…
    The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently decided to cease its calls for the resignation of drug maker Forest Laboratories' chief executive, Howard Solomon.

    Understandably, American business leaders weren't keen on the Obama Administration telling them whom they could and couldn't hire.

    But the feds made sure to emphasize that they would continue investigating and penalizing purported healthcare fraudsters, including "individuals who directly committed fraud as well as executives who were in a position of responsibility at the time of the fraud."

    That's all well and good. But the scuffle between Forest Labs and HHS provides a preview of how the Obama Administration plans to deal with organizations that don't line up in support of its healthcare agenda -- namely, by punishing them. Last year, federal officials accused Forest Labs -- and a number of other drug companies -- of fraud against Medicare and Medicaid because of alleged misconduct in the marketing of their products to doctors. Instead of fighting the allegations, Forest opted to settle the case. The settlement saved the company from expensive litigation and unwanted media attention.
    Gee, that makes the whole matter sound almost benign, doesn’t it? “Alleged misconduct”…that’s all. But it’s really the fault of that Kenyan Socialist Muslim who’s never run a business and his pesky “big government regulations,” isn’t it?

    In response, I give you this…
    "It would be completely unwarranted to exclude a senior executive against whom there has never been any allegation of wrongdoing whatsoever," said board member William J. Candee III, in a Forest statement. "Mr. Solomon has always set a tone of the highest integrity from the top."

    Oh, really?

    The move to exclude Mr. Solomon apparently stems from Department of Justice accusations of fraud in 2009 related to Lexapro, an antidepressant. In a civil complaint, federal prosecutors alleged that Forest hid from parents and doctors the results of a study indicating that Lexapro might increase the risk of suicide in kids. Meanwhile, the complaint alleges, the company was promoting another clinical trial -- financed by Forest, naturally -- showing Lexapro's effectiveness.

    Prosecutors also charged the company with providing kickbacks to doctors in the form of sports tickets, expensive meals, and paid vacations.

    For this last allegation, we really don't need to rely on the good word of attorneys at DOJ. Take a gander yourself at Forest Lab's "Fiscal Year 2004 Marketing Plan" for Lexapro. As reported by The New York Times, 80 pages of this confidential document were made public by investigators working for Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA).

    Under "Marketing Tactics," the document said the company planned to create bylined "or ghostwritten" articles. "We will identify a Lexapro thoughtleader to place 2-3 bylined articles in trade journals, consumer publications and on the Internet."

    The estimated cost for the ghostwriting program was $100,000.

    Another sales tactic was funding continuing medical education (CME) courses, the classes doctors take to remain current about patient treatment. Believe it or not, doctors actually allow companies to pay for their education. And get this: some doctors believe that companies won't use this opportunity to influence prescribing. Makes you want to question your doctor's intellect, no?

    Forest's estimated CME budget to push Lexapro in 2004? $11.9 million.

    Maybe we should change the acronym's meaning to Corporate Marketing Education (CME)?

    Other marketing schemes included "lunch and learns" for $36 million. "Providing lunch for a physician creates an extended amount of selling time for representatives," the document said.

    I suspect Forest was not serving PB&J.
    And from here…
    These antidepressant drugs, which include Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac, have different side effects for the unborn child associated with them including the increase risk of premature birth, breathing problems, gastrointestinal side effects and motor problems. The exact degree of risk of Lexapro birth defects is currently unknown, however the risk of developing complications has been reported in babies following use of these medications. Women taking this drug during their pregnancy can expose their baby to the medication while in the womb leading to the development of a Lexapro birth defect.

    Lexapro And Pregnancy Birth Defects Include:

    • PPHN (persistent pulmonary hypertension)
    • Abdominal Birth Defects
    • Cranial Birth Defects
    • Heart Birth Defects
    Oh, and just to let you know, the author of the “Hill” piece, Peter J. Pitts, once said here that the February 2010 health care summit Obama had with congressional leaders (back when we still had actual adults running the House) "created no ‘aha’ moments or Daily Show-worthy gaffes, and was about as interesting to watch as Olympic curling."

    That's a questionable-at-best “diagnosis” from someone who purports to be a medical professional, I must say.

  • Finally, in case anyone out there had any doubt as to whether or not said bunch of miscreants under Boehner and Cantor had any intention of passing the American Jobs Act and thus helping to put people back to work, I give you this from Orange Man himself…
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top Republican in Congress on Thursday dismissed President Barack Obama's jobs-creation package as a "poor substitute" for policies that would boost the economy and ruled out tax increases as a way to close the country's budget gap.

    In a high-profile speech, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner called on a special congressional committee to consider tax reforms that would close loopholes but not raise rates as part of its bid to cut the deficit.
    So what does this bunch of fools and frauds offer in response? This (from here)…
    Leading House Republicans on Thursday will take up the contentious debate over the National Labor Relations Board’s efforts to block Boeing from operating a $750 million aircraft assembly line in South Carolina instead of Washington State.

    The Republican-controlled House is expected to approve an unusual bill that would bar the labor board from pursuing the board’s pending action against Boeing, which Republicans have been denouncing day after day.

    Republican leaders and business groups are vigorously backing the bill, saying it would safeguard the freedom of corporations to locate operations where they want.

    But many Democrats and labor unions have denounced the bill, asserting that it would badly weaken an independent federal agency and be an improper favor to Boeing, a prominent political contributor.

    The Republican bill, called “The Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act,” would prohibit the labor board from “ordering any employer to close, relocate or transfer employment under any circumstances.”
    This piece of crap was introduced by teabagger Tim Scott of South Carolina, whose state (as the story notes) stands to lose the Boeing jobs that were originally planned for a second facility to be built in Washington State, as noted here.

    In response, I give you the following from AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee here…
    “Instead of passing the President’s jobs plan and actually creating jobs, congressional Republicans are up to the same old politics and doing the bidding of Corporate CEOs,” stated AFSCME Pres. Gerald W. McEntee. “H.R. 2587 gives companies a get out jail free card and makes them less accountable for firing workers and shipping jobs overseas. At a time when our economy is stagnant, and millions of Americans are unemployed, we should encourage companies to hire workers, not debate legislation that will allow companies to ship jobs to other countries.”
    And as noted here, labor law experts say that if the allegations against Boeing are true, the NLRB has presented a "classic case" of labor law violations.

    So for now, it looks like plans for aircraft assembly in South Carolina are “grounded” at least for now, particularly since this joke of a bill will never be signed into law.

    What a shame I can’t say that "grounded" applies to this wretched U.S. House and its “leadership” also.

    Update 9/16/11: More here.
  • Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    Wednesday Stuff

    You'd have to be a stone cold moron to trust any stinking word that comes out of the mouths of most politicians generally, but certainly any Repug, and any one from that party running for president in particular, as Rachel Maddow explains (I noted this clip last night, for what it's worth)...

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    ...and this goes to those brave folks having to deal with the rather substantial infrastructure issue Rachel discussed with Congressman John Yarmuth.

    Bringing The Pain, Part 6

    (Part 1 including the setup is here, Part 2 is here, Part 3 is here, Part 4 is here, and Part 5 is here.)

    New York

    Start spreadin’ the news…the state’s unemployment rate was 8 percent (here), though the official rate in the city was 8.7 percent, as noted here (and this tells us of a Brooklyn schoolteacher who was left jobless despite a budget deal NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg reached with the City Council).

    July was kind of a “good news, bad news” month anyway, as it turns out. This tells us that The Empire State topped all the others when it came to jobless claims, though 14,000 private sector jobs were added, as noted here (and did you know that New York is the only state in which, under some circumstances, striking workers can receive unemployment, as noted here?).

    And this tells us that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (who, I must say, has turned out to be more impressive than I thought she would be) voted against the recent debt ceiling deal, but she explained her reasons pretty well, I thought.

    Hey, if she can make it there, she can make it anywhere…

    (OK, I’ll knock it off.)

    North Carolina

    Dem U.S. Senator Kay Hagan talked about the 10.1 percent (ouch) rate in her state here (and as noted here, it was driven by public-sector layoffs…this is a recording).

    So what does the “loyal opposition” offer in response? This tells us that Dem governor Bev Perdue was forced (that’s what I would call it anyway) to veto an unemployment extension for 37,000 jobless residents because the Party of Unreality added a bunch of funding cuts also to the legislation.

    Continuing, I give you this for the “What Country Am I Living In Again?” file; an unemployed man robbed a bank of $1 to get health care in prison since he would not have qualified any other way.

    And if the teabaggers thought this was a hoot, then I’m sure they found this man’s plight to be hilarious.

    North Dakota

    This tells us that the state’s unemployment rate is 3.8 percent, with Gallup saying the state has “the best job market in the country” (think oil and energy-related business primarily, but apparently a smattering of hi-tech also).

    Hey, things must be good if anything related to jobs doesn’t even rate a mention on the issues of (happily) departing Dem Senator Kent Conrad, as noted here (yes, I realize the seat could very well flip, but what’s the use of having someone with a “D” who doesn’t act like one?).

    Meanwhile, locked-out union workers can’t get unemployment insurance (nice – here), and the state’s newly-elected teabagger senator to replace Byron Dorgan, John Hoeven (who isn’t even good enough to shine Dorgan’s shoes) supports another crappy trade deal, after trade adjustment assistance expires first of course (here).

    Northern Marianas Islands

    Not much to say – this tells us about all you’d ever want to know about the Islands and American Samoa, and this tells you about exploitation of workers recruited from China and elsewhere who were told they were going to the U.S., but went here as “guest workers” instead (with a certain convicted former Repug House speaker and bug exterminator and his pal, a Mr. Abramoff, making sure that reform legislation was never introduced).


    When it comes to crappy Repug governors, Hosni Mubarak Walker is #1, with strong challenges from Lex Luthor Scott in Florida, Rick Snyder in Michigan, and Paul LePage in Maine (I guess you could also lump Governor Bully, Susana Martinez and our own Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett into the mix).

    But when it comes to true awfulness, John Kasich definitely deserves a dishonorable mention also.

    As noted here, both Kasich and “Goodhair” Perry of The Unreality Party denied a total of $731 million in unemployment funds for their states (and as noted here, under Kasich’s “jobs” budget, unemployment went up). And did I mention that Kasich allowed employment protections to expire for the state’s LGBT workforce (here)?

    Fortunately, Sen. Sherrod Brown helped to fight discrimination in unemployment here (and how could I take note of Ohio politicians on the issue of unemployment and not recall this golden oldie?).

    Update 9/22/11: Someone trying to do good on this (here) and someone telling workers that they're about to lose their rights (here)...

    Update 9/24/11: Oh, and by the way...

    Update 9/30/11: Surprised? You shouldn't be.


    The unemployment rate was 5.5 percent in July (here); part of me thinks that that’s better than this state deserves, but on the other hand, I don’t know of anyone besides Repugs who actually want to see people out of work, so I shouldn’t even suggest that.

    Meanwhile, from here…
    …Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley said the state will be ready to move on projects if it gets the $489 million for road and transit projects included in the (American Jobs Act from President Obama).
    (I should have a link to this site somewhere for jobs-related stuff and other matters, so I might as well put it here).

    In addition (and even though he’s a Repug), I think state rep David Dank deserves a lot of credit for this (i.e., forcing legislators and lobbyists to defend tax credits, telling us how many jobs they’ve created…would that that happened everywhere).

    Oh, and even though I linked to this above, I think it should be noted again that Sens. Coburn and Inhofe and Gov. Mary Fallin are too busy trying to score political points than to actually provide constituent service, as you might expect.

    Update 9/14/11: Coburn's idiocy is "as high as an elephant's eye" (here...what do 80,000 jobs matter when you can burnish your wingnut bona fides, right?).


    A 9.6 percent unemployment rate in August (here)? Yikes! A broader number of 19.6 percent covering the “under-and-unemployed” (here, fourth highest in the nation)? AAAGGHH!!!

    Well, at least Dem U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley obtained $1.3 bil for a wind farm, creating construction jobs (here), as well as obtaining funding for a geothermal plant and still more jobs (here). Also, Dem Guv John Kitzhaber claimed that 16,000 jobs have been added since January (here).

    Also, for the record, let it be known that Wyden and Merkley fought the efforts of Big Oil to get their ridiculous tax subsidies once more, as noted here, though the two were ultimately unsuccessful of course.

    (By the way, I hope what is becoming thoroughly obvious in these posts is that trying to turn around our economy has been and will continue to be a very long, hard slog. Between 2008 and 2010, the congressional Dems and President Obama were on their way to doing that. However, the mass stupidity of the electorate that returned the Repugs to power in the House – and threatens to do so in the remaining branches of government next year – has come at a very high price on the issue of jobs in particular, and that price will only grow steeper if these charlatans obtain still more power in 2012.)

    I’ll plan to pick this up next week.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Tuesday Stuff

    Rachel Maddow had a good feature tonight on "Republicanland" vs. "Normalville," I think, about how the we and wingnuts basically inhabit two separate universes; I'll try to get to that as soon as I can, but this is good too (more here)...

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    ...and as far as I'm concerned, if you're a blogger and you can't sing this song, maybe you've got a problem.

    Tuesday Mashup (9/13/11)

  • I still have some “9/11 Tenth Anniversary” stuff to get to; this actually is from a news story that appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times over the weekend…
    (The Patriot Act) did not — as many believe — give police the right to tap private citizens’ phones or monitor their Internet activity. Cops still need court orders to do that, and must convince a judge that there’s a serious crime occurring to get permission.

    The act did address the need for better technology to increase security.
    That description makes The Patriot Act sign almost benign (so I guess we’re supposed to be grateful that “cops still need court orders” to spy on us, when that shouldn’t even be in question).

    In response, this tells us the following…
    The Patriot Act increases the government's surveillance powers in four areas:

    1. Records searches. It expands the government's ability to look at records on an individual's activity being held by third parties. (Section 215)
    2. Secret searches. It expands the government's ability to search private property without notice to the owner. (Section 213)
    3. Intelligence searches. It expands a narrow exception to the Fourth Amendment that had been created for the collection of foreign intelligence information (Section 218).
    4. "Trap and trace" searches. It expands another Fourth Amendment exception for spying that collects "addressing" information about the origin and destination of communications, as opposed to the content (Section 214).
    • The government no longer has to show evidence that the subjects of search orders are an "agent of a foreign power," a requirement that previously protected Americans against abuse of this authority.
    • The FBI does not even have to show a reasonable suspicion that the records are related to criminal activity, much less the requirement for "probable cause" that is listed in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. All the government needs to do is make the broad assertion that the request is related to an ongoing terrorism or foreign intelligence investigation.
    • Judicial oversight of these new powers is essentially non-existent. The government must only certify to a judge - with no need for evidence or proof - that such a search meets the statute's broad criteria, and the judge does not even have the authority to reject the application.
    • Surveillance orders can be based in part on a person's First Amendment activities, such as the books they read, the Web sites they visit, or a letter to the editor they have written.
    • A person or organization forced to turn over records is prohibited from disclosing the search to anyone. As a result of this gag order, the subjects of surveillance never even find out that their personal records have been examined by the government. That undercuts an important check and balance on this power: the ability of individuals to challenge illegitimate searches.
    Providing the perspective of Doylestown Defense Attorney Charles Jonas in the story is fair. However, Jonas, as nearly as I can tell, is not a legal scholar. And I believe that point of view is sorely needed here.

    Besides, if the Patriot Act is supposed to be so bloody wonderful, why did even Mikey The Beloved vote against renewing it (here)?

  • From there, we quickly go downhill, to “Chuckles” Krauthammer (here – as far as I’m concerned, it’s practically an obscenity to mention 9/11 and Iraq, though he does here as you might expect)…
    Iraq, too, was decisive, though not in the way we intended. We no more chose it to be the central campaign in the crushing of al-Qaeda than Eisenhower chose the Battle of the Bulge as the locus for the final destruction of the German war machine.
    Odd that Krauthammer would mention The Battle of the Bulge, which represented a bit of an intelligence failure also given that the Allies knew of Germany’s deployments across Europe due to vital information from the French resistance, but did not believe the Ardennes (across Belgium and Luxembourg) to be anything but a “quiet sector,” as noted here. But I digress.

    More to the point, this tells us that Krauthammer claimed that the Iraq war would lead to a “spread of Democracy” across the Middle East in February 2002 (actually, it happened in spite of that). Also, Krauthammer called Iraq “a civil war we still can win” here.

    Sounds like somebody choose Iraq to be “a central campaign” all right (and the “in the crushing of al Qaeda” part is typically disingenuous fiction, as further explained here).

  • Continuing, I give you Chucky’s playmate Mikey Gerson (here)…
    America has stumbled into the age of shoddy. Our deficits mount, our politicians squabble, our credit is downgraded, our firms can’t compete, our workers lose hope, our military is about to be hollowed out by massive cuts.
    Uh, no – as noted here…
    One of the major headlines to emerge from President Obama's debt reduction plan is his proposed $40-billion-a-year cut to defense. For progressives in particular, this is one of the good initiatives in a mixed bag. But most of the Washington press corps has missed the underlying story: The administration's spending cuts would actually make defense an even larger part of the overall discretionary budget.

    According to the White House plan, which Obama unveiled on Wednesday, while defense would be cut by $400 billion over the next decade, non-defense discretionary spending would be cut by $770 billion. That means stuff like labor law enforcement, low-income energy assistance and food aid to the poor would be cut almost twice as much as the bloated defense budget.

    What's particularly galling about these numbers is that they're part of a budget in which defense already makes up 58 percent of discretionary spending. In other words, out of the $1.2 trillion of proposed cuts to the overall discretionary budget, nearly two-thirds will be imposed upon the non-defense priorities that comprise just 42 percent of the existing discretionary budget.

    That means despite all the headlines about proposed defense cuts, Obama is proposing to tilt the overall share of discretionary spending even further toward the Pentagon…
    Of course, Gerson will never point that out (and here is another example of his thoroughly disingenuous commentary on our current president).

  • Finally, what would a rundown on wankerific right-wing noise be without mentioning Kevin Ferris of The Philadelphia Inquirer (here, again, keeping with the “9/11 anniversary” theme)…
    Of the 2,819 people killed on Sept. 11, 343 were New York City paramedics and firefighters. Better communications might have made a difference, but perhaps not.
    In response (from here)...
    The federal 9-11 Commission included, as part of its public, final report, recommendations on communications systems used by police, fire, and emergency medical services (EMS) at the WTC incident[citation needed]. In the report and in appearances on television news programs, commissioners said the capabilities of communications systems lacked the ability to communicate across department lines. That is to say, police units could not communicate with fire units directly by radio. Ambulances could not talk with police units directly by radio. Commission member Lee Hamilton, in several television appearances related to a 2006 book on the topic of the WTC incident, reiterated this factually-correct view.
    And from here...
    The mayor had also done nothing to make the radios interoperable—which would have enabled the police and firefighters to communicate across departmental lines—despite having received a 1995 federal waiver granting the city the additional radio frequencies to make that possible. That meant the fire chiefs had no idea that police helicopters had anticipated the partial collapse of both towers long before they fell.

    It's not just the radios and the OEM: Giuliani never forced the police and fire departments to abide by clear command-and-control protocols that squarely put one service in charge of the other during specified emergencies. Though he collected $250 million in tax surcharges on phone use to improve the 911 system, he diverted this emergency funding for other uses, and the 911 dispatchers were an utter disaster that day, telling victims to stay where they were long after the fire chiefs had ordered an evacuation, which potentially sealed the fates of hundreds. And, despite the transparent lessons of 1993, Giuliani never established any protocols for rooftop or elevator rescues in high-rises, or even a strategy for bringing the impaired and injured out—all costly failings on 9/11.
    I suppose the real news here isn’t that Ferris proved to be wrong once again, showing a truly astonishing ignorance of the facts in this case. What I suppose is news is that he has now generated two of his little “opinion” columns (ostensibly to propagate right-wing talking points without accomplishing much of anything else) in successive weeks, as opposed to his usual once-a-month output. And that’s a “wheel” pain.

    (I’ve waited over six years to make that joke – I know I have to be careful with it, since it’s an antique.)
  • Sunday, September 11, 2011

    Sunday Stuff

    I would be remiss if I didn't include this before the calendar flips over in a few minutes...

    ...and I always thought this song worked on a few different levels, and it kind of works today too, at least I think so anyway.