Friday, June 30, 2006
Abuse of Power - Checks and Balances, and The SCOTUS
The Hamdan Case * Guantanamo
Maybe there is hope. That was my thought when The Supreme Court's 5:3 ruling on the Hamdan case sent shockwaves on June 29th. To say that it was a setback to President Bush's arrogant disregard of the Constitution and Geneva Convention would be an understatement. It brought him to a screeching halt. What a subservient Congress does to give him the authority he is now seeking remains to be seen. Peter Baker and Michel Abramowitz in the Post: "For five years, President Bush waged war as he saw fit. If intelligence officers needed to eavesdrop on overseas telephone calls without warrants, he authorized it. If the military wanted to hold terrorism suspects without trial, he let it."
- Now the Supreme Court has struck at the core of his presidency and dismissed the notion that the president alone can determine how to defend the country. In rejecting Bush's military tribunals for terrorism suspects, the high court ruled that even a wartime commander in chief must govern within constitutional confines significantly tighter than this president has believed appropriate.
- For many in Washington, the decision echoed not simply as a matter of law but as a rebuke of a governing philosophy of a leader who at repeated turns has operated on the principle that it is better to act than to ask permission. This ethos is why many supporters find Bush an inspiring leader, and why many critics in this country and abroad react so viscerally against him.
SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States)
The Guantanamo Prison is also a part of the story about abuses. The Road to Guantanamo, a film made by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross, depicts the experience of three British nationals who were held there. David Denby's review of the movie appeared in The New Yorker June 26th issue. Here is his concluding paragraph:
- "The movie is shot from the victims’ point of view, as a kind of absurdist, theatre-of-cruelty exercise set in the real world. But what do the Americans think they are doing? How do they justify themselves? The actors playing the guards and interrogators are nonentities with beefy faces; they are just as opaque as the men who have fallen into their hands. We seem to have entered a land in which intelligence of any kind has been extinguished. The Red Cross has reported that some of the prisoners at Guantánamo are falling into despair; three have committed suicide, and more than twenty have tried. “The Road to Guantánamo” will tell you why, but it won’t tell you much else. And the movie, harsh as it is, underplays the moral case against Guantánamo. The filmmakers implicitly condemn the practice of holding men without formally charging them, and without giving them access to counsel and family visits. But, in making a melodrama about three innocent men, they ignore the larger point—that all prisoners should be granted these basic rights. This exposé of American sadism is a shocker, but the movie doesn’t bring us any closer to understanding the abuse that is carried out in our names."
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Be Afraid - Vulnerability of Electronic Voting Machines
Remember 2004 * The Internet - Republicans Go After Consumers, Again
Election fraud by manipulation of Diebold voting machines in Ohio was reported after the 2004 presidential election. There was no conclusive evidence. Now, as the nation gears up for mid-term elections, to be followed by the race for 2008 presidential election, the Post reports" "A Single Person Could Swing An Election"To determine what it would take to hack a U.S. election, a team of cybersecurity experts turned to a fictional battleground state called Pennasota and a fictional gubernatorial race between Tom Jefferson and Johnny Adams. It's the year 2007, and the state uses electronic voting machines. Jefferson was forecast to win the race by about 80,000 votes, or 2.3 percent of the vote. Adams's conspirators thought, "How easily can we manipulate the election results?"
- The report concluded that the three major electronic voting systems in use have significant security and reliability vulnerabilities. But it added that most of these vulnerabilities can be overcome by auditing printed voting records to spot irregularities. And while 26 states require paper records of votes, fewer than half of those require regular audits.
- "With electronic voting systems, there are certain attacks that can reach enough voting machines . . . that you could affect the outcome of the statewide election," said Lawrence D. Norden, associate counsel of the Brennan Center.
This must be music to some ears and not all of them are hackers. Now, more than ever, there is need to be on guard against the nefarious fraudsters who will go to any length to attain power and retain it.
Following their usual practice the Republicans in Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee voted against consumers' interests. "A proposal to prevent Internet service providers from charging Web firms more for faster service to consumers failed yesterday to clear a Senate committee."
- The bill would make it easier for telephone companies to expand into the cable television franchise business, a move which lawmakers hope will result in more competition and lower prices for consumers.
".....more competition and lower prices". We have heard that song before. The large telecom companies are straining at the leash for an opportunity to assess charges on use of Internet.
- Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chairman of the committee, said he was not sure he had the 60 votes necessary to move the legislation forward. He said he would be open to negotiating with Democrats in September, when Congress comes back from its recess.
- The House passed its telecom bill earlier this month, and both versions include weaker net-neutrality language that would require the Federal Communications Commission to study and monitor the issue.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
The F Word Goes Mainstream
The Foreign Secretary who said "Fuck"
Today The Guardian, tomorrow The Times, The Washington Post ! Well, maybe not tomorrow but it is not too far off. It was amusing to read that Margaret Beckett, the new British Foreign Secretary exclaimed "fuck" when told by Prime Minister Blair that she was being promoted. "Ms Beckett was the secretary for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she was called in by the prime minister following the May 5 local elections. When told she would replace Jack Straw as the foreign secretary - one of the most senior ranking posts in government - Ms Beckett's response was "unprintable in your newspaper", she confided."A good, old Anglo-Saxon word. There is nothing wrong with its appearance in media. In fact, people use it all the time in conversation. Can "Cunt" be far behind ?
- "Fuck", she told Tony Blair at the time, who was nothing if not amused. "He told me he wanted me to go on working on climate change issues but to do it from the foreign office. I was stunned."
Have Viagra - Will Travel
Newsmaker, Not Newscaster
Yes, this is about Limbaugh, Rush Limbaugh. The rabble-rouser survived his brush with the law about his Oxy-contin addiction. Now he is in the news about possession of unprescribed (for him) Viagra. The latest incident might actually endear him to Dittoheads. One can imagine them leering. Old Rush flies to Dominican Republic in his own jet plane with a stash of Viagra! Wink wink, nod nod.
- Chicago Tribune:"FT. LAUDERDALE -- Police and prosecutors were investigating Tuesday whether Rush Limbaugh broke the law by obtaining Viagra in someone else's name, possibly violating a deal with prosecutors in his "doctor shopping" case.
- Limbaugh's attorney, Roy Black, has said the two doctors prescribed the Viagra for Limbaugh under their names to protect his privacy. An expert on medical practice said Florida requires the patient's name and address be on the label."
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Defeat of Flag Burning Amendment
They tried hard and they succeeded in getting support from 14 Democrats. Yet the proponents couldn't muster the two-thirds majority required for passage. Three Republicans---Senators Robert F. Bennett of Utah, Lincoln Chafee, R.I., and Mitch McConnell, Kentucky---voted against the amendment. They came close. The vote was 66 to 34---a narrow victory, but a victory nevertheless for the those who opposed the measure. It was a cynical move by the Republicans. They expect to make capital out of their loss as described by Charles Babington in the Post: "Behind the constitutional rhetoric were cold political considerations. Republicans are eager to energize conservative voters this fall, and the flag initiative -- even if doomed to fail -- is seen as a sure-fire way to inspire them, especially a week before Independence Day."We are going to hear a lot more along this line before...and after the mid-term elections. They will exploit it, squeeze the last drop out of it.
- Overturning a Texas law in 1989, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that burning an American flag in protest is a form of political speech protected under the First Amendment. Congress later passed a federal anti-flag-desecration law, and the high court invalidated it on the same grounds.
- Ever since, lawmakers have debated whether flag burning is an unsavory cost of political freedom or something more akin to intolerable hate speech or monument defacement.
- "Hours before the votes were taken, Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) thrust the issue into his reelection campaign. Noting that Democratic challenger James Webb had said he opposed the amendment, Allen's campaign issued a press release linking Webb to Sens. John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who voted against the amendment. The release said Webb is "totally beholden to the liberal Washington senators" who backed him in this month's primary.
But hypocrisy was not limited to Republicans. An alternative proposed by Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois and seconded by Senator Hillary Clinton was a transparent attempt to appease both sides. "The measure -- a proposed statute, rather than constitutional amendment -- was offered by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and was strongly endorsed by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), a possible presidential candidate who has sought a middle ground in the flag-burning debate."
- The proposal would have outlawed flag desecration if the perpetrators were also damaging federal property, trying to incite violence or trying to intimidate someone. Opponents called Durbin's measure a political fig leaf that the Supreme Court would rule unconstitutional.
It fooled no one.