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Losing the War for Civil Liberties
Posted Aug. 26, 2002 - Insight Magazine
By Kelly Patricia O'Meara

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), a libertarian who is one of only three Republican lawmakers to have voted against the USA PATRIOT Act, and an outspoken critic, tells Insight: "The so-called PATRIOT Act condones and institutionalizes everything and has really opened up a Pandora's box." He says, "I think there is a strong determination on the part of government to know everything about everybody, and fighting terrorism is the excuse, not the reason. All of these laws have been in the mill for years, and everything now is in place for what some people describe as a police state. I think we're on the verge of a very, very tough police state in this country � and it will only end when Americans are fed up. So far people are terrified to say anything. Hopefully, we'll wake up before it's too late."
. . . Read more!

posted by An Old Curmudgeon 11:19 AM

Report: Urban sprawl worsens drought
WASHINGTON, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Urban sprawl and the paving of American cities are reducing the amount of groundwater available to communities, according to a report released Wednesday by environmental groups. A study by American Rivers, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Smart Growth America said the impervious surfaces that characterize sprawl development -- roads, roofs, driveways and parking lots -- result in a substantial loss of water filtration to recharge groundwater aquifers. Betsy Otto, senior director of watershed programs for American Rivers and an author of the report, told a news conference "sprawl is not causing drought." She added, "Many communities are experiencing water shortages, and they are being made worse by the impacts of sprawl." The report looked at 18 major "sprawl centers" and found the potential amount of water lost to recharge was from 6.2 billion to 14.4 billion gallons in Dallas to between 56.9 billion and 132.8 billion gallons in Atlanta. "Atlanta's losses," the report said, "amounted to enough water to supply the average daily household needs of 1.5 million to 3.6 million people per year." Water is "lost" to communities, the report said, when it goes downstream as surface water rather than recharging groundwater aquifers. "Water that recharges underground aquifers is 'stored'" at least for some time," the report said, "and can be tapped by the community. It also contributes to a reliable base flow of clean water in local streams and rivers and is especially important during drier times of the year."
. . . Read more!

posted by West 6:35 PM

Cellblocks vs. Classrooms: A new study shows states have increased spending faster on prisons than education
WASHINGTON -- Percentage increases in spending for Texas prisons has far outstripped state spending hikes for higher education since the mid-1980s, according to a report released Wednesday. The study, by the Justice Policy Institute, a Washington advocacy group, also showed Texas now has more black men in state prisons than in state colleges and universities. Texas was not alone in seeing its spending on prisons rise along a steep curve in the past decade and a half, while money set aside for higher education rose much more slowly, according to the study. Since 1985, the increase in money spent on prisons nationwide topped $20 billion. That is almost twice the increase in dollars spent on colleges and universities, according to the report titled "Cellblocks or Classrooms." "This report underlines the sad reality that the nation's colleges and universities have lost budget battles to the growing prison system," said Vincent Schiraldi, president of JPI and a co-author of the study. That premise is starkly supported by figures the group gleaned from state budgetary reports for Texas. The study found that in 2000 there were about 66,300 African-American men in state prisons, and only 40,872 in state colleges. In the past 20 years, the rate of increase in the black male prison population as been four times higher than the increasein black male college students. In 1986, Texas spent about $3.1 billion from its general fund on state colleges and universities. That year, $590 million was spent on corrections, or less than one dollar for every five spent on higher education, the JPI study found. By 2000, spending on higher education grew to $4.5 billion. Meanwhile, the state's budget for prisons had risen to $2.7 billion. In that period, the amount spent on colleges and universities grew by 47 percent, compared with a 346 percent increase on corrections. "There is no doubt that criminal justice has been the fastest growing part of the state (Texas) budget, because of concerns about public safety," said state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, vice chairman of the criminal justice committee. He said Texas politicians know the issue of being tough on crime resonates with voters. "We have a shortage right now of 40,000 schoolteachers, and 2,500 prison guards, and more is said about filling the guard positions," he said. "Being safe is basic." Whitmire said he believed the Texas Legislature needed to evaluate the way it allocated dollars to criminal justice and education. "We have to fight the crime issue by being tough and smart. No one questions that we are being tough enough. We may be coming up short on how smart we have been," he said. A Justice Department study released Monday showed Texas had more adults in its jails and state corrections system than any other state -- 755,100. California was second with 704,900.
. . . Read more!

posted by West 6:29 PM

Towns are still dry, despite a little rain: "It seems like we've got an umbrella over us up here."
Charlotte.com -- Storms that flooded parts of eastern North Carolina on Monday brought little relief to Piedmont towns running out of drinking water because of drought. Officials in Shelby, Cleveland County, Bessemer City, Cherryville and Statesville said the spotty showers helped by providing a few days' water supply, but much more rain is needed over a longer period to make any real difference. Meanwhile, they have no plans to relax mandatory water restrictions. "It seems like we've got an umbrella over us up here," said Butch Smith, director of the Cleveland County Sanitary District, which has 50,000 customers in rural areas north of Shelby. "We've gotten a little rain, but all it's done is buy us time. The drought isn't over. September and October are our driest months." In Statesville, the 0.2-inch rainfall helped little because, while the city needs to cut consumption to 2 million gallons a day, average daily consumption remains at about 2.6 million. Meanwhile, the city temporarily cut off its water pumps from the South Yadkin River this week because heavy rains north of the city brought extremely muddy water into the system. Cutting off the pumps kept the muddy water out of the city's reservoir and treatment plant. Muddy water is harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat, city officials said.
. . . Read more!

posted by West 6:20 PM

Demands for Martha Stewart's testimony reveal double standard
Congress should require Dick Cheney, Terry McAuliffe, and other politicians to testify -- if they want to prove that calling Martha Stewart to testify about her financial activities isn't just a cheap publicity stunt. There seems to be a don't ask, don't tell policy about the politicians' own financial shenanigans. Why single out corporate crooks and leave the political crooks alone? Financial crimes are committed every day, so singling out Martha Stewart for a Congressional subpoena reeks of a publicity stunt.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A more troubling question: Why do powerful politicians seem to be immune from prosecution for their financial dealings? After all, many politicians have gotten rich doing the exact same things that Martha Stewart is accused of doing. For example:
* Vice President Dick Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton Co.
* Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the DNC and former chief fund-raiser for Bill Clinton
* President George W. Bush's stock scandal with Harken Energy
* Senator Jon Corzine, D-NJ - stock in the now-defunct Global Crossing
* Former President George Bush - Global Crossing stock
. . . Read more!

posted by Hal 5:56 PM

U.S. Federal government's bookkeeping needs fixing, too
startribune.com / WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Concealing debt and operating costs. Flouting court orders by shredding documents. Failing to properly track assets and liabilities. These misdeeds have blackened corporate America's eye and prompted criminal investigations and the wrath of Congress and President Bush. Yet these same accounting failures and sleights of hand have for years been common practice in the federal government, fiscal experts say. "There's been a lot of sanctimonious finger-waving in Congress at corporate CEOs and much of it is hypocritical," said Pete Sepp, a spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, which promotes lower federal taxes and spending. The financial statements of many federal agencies are in such dismal shape that the General Accounting Office (GAO) -- the investigative arm of Congress that audits federal accounts -- has been unable to provide an opinion on the government's finances for the past five years.
. . . Read more!

posted by West 11:15 AM

Camps for Citizens: Ashcroft's Hellish Vision

By JONATHAN TURLEY, Jonathan Turley is a professor of constitutional law at George Washington University.

Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's announced desire for camps for U.S. citizens he deems to be "enemy combatants" has moved him from merely being a political embarrassment to being a constitutional menace. Ashcroft's plan, disclosed last week but little publicized, would allow him to order the indefinite incarceration of U.S. citizens and summarily strip them of their constitutional rights and access to the courts by declaring them enemy combatants.

What scares me is that these types of NEWS items are not making it to mainstream media outlets where those that can't think for themselves can be exposed to the truths that are not being shared.
. . . Read more!

posted by An Old Curmudgeon 5:21 PM

NASA plans to read terrorist's minds at airports
The Washington Times -- Airport security screeners may soon try to read the minds of travelers to identify terrorists. Officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have told Northwest Airlines security specialists that the agency is developing brain-monitoring devices in cooperation with a commercial firm, which it did not identify. Space technology would be adapted to receive and analyze brain-wave and heartbeat patterns, then feed that data into computerized programs "to detect passengers who potentially might pose a threat," according to briefing documents obtained by The Washington Times. NASA wants to use "noninvasive neuro-electric sensors," imbedded in gates, to collect tiny electric signals that all brains and hearts transmit. Computers would apply statistical algorithms to correlate physiologic patterns with computerized data on travel routines, criminal background and credit information from "hundreds to thousands of data sources," NASA documents say. The notion has raised privacy concerns. Mihir Kshirsagar of the Electronic Privacy Information Center says such technology would only add to airport-security chaos. "A lot of people's fear of flying would send those meters off the chart. Are they going to pull all those people aside?"
. . . Read more!

posted by West 8:58 AM

FASCIST STATES OF AMERICA: Judge Issues Stay on Detainees' Names Case
washingtonpost.com -- A federal judge ruled Thursday that the Bush administration does not have to immediately reveal the names of those detained in the investigation of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler issued a stay of her earlier order to give government lawyers more time to appeal. Kessler said the stay will remain in effect until a federal appeals court has ruled in the matter. That could take months. On Aug. 2, Kessler gave the Justice Department 15 days to release the names, ruling that federal attorneys had not proven the need for a blanket policy of secrecy for more than 1,200 people picked up since the attacks. The government informed the court of its intention to appeal last week, arguing in documents that Kessler had missed the point about keeping the names secret. Kessler rejected the government's contention that the terrorist group al-Qaida would be tipped to how much progress investigators had made if the detainees' names were released. She said al-Qaida already would be aware its operatives in the United States were missing. In granting the stay Thursday, she offered no estimation of the government's chance of success in appealing her ruling.
. . . Read more!

posted by West 1:17 PM

The FCC and Digital TV
commentary by John deLaubenfels [Strike The Root - August 12, 2002]

As you've probably already seen, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has mandated that all television sets sold in the United States must contain digital tuners by the year 2007.

Hello??? Earth to government: What f***ing business is it of yours what kind of TV sets we buy?
. . . Read more!

posted by An Old Curmudgeon 4:11 AM

Dubya's photo-op with Miners
David Corn - The Nation

While Dubya proposes slashing the budget of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) by $7 million, he opines at an Administration photo-op that, "It was their determination to stick together and to comfort each other that really defines kind of a new spirit that's prevalent in our country, that when one of us suffer, all of us suffers." (Syntax in the original.) 12 days after 9/11, a mine explosion in Alabama drew little media attention. At that time, the mine owned by Walter Industries, had 31 outstanding violations that MSHA inspectors had not determined to have been corrected, and as of July 15th had not responded to these accusations.
. . . Read more!

posted by An Old Curmudgeon 5:35 AM

Agencies Ordered to Obey Alternative Vehicle Law
SAN FRANCISCO, California, August 8, 2002 (ENS) -- Almost every cabinet level agency in the federal government has violated the Energy Policy Act of 1992 by failing to buy or lease the legally required percentages of alternative fuel vehicles for their federal fleets, a judge ruled Wednesday. The ruling could force 15 federal agencies to step up purchases of vehicles powered by fuel cells, natural gas, biodiesel, and other alternative fuels.
. . . Read more!

posted by West 8:35 AM

Don't make any comments about a rifle being in your wallet.
Eighty-year-old Fred Hubbell, tired and cranky after facing a gantlet of searches at Bradley International Airport, made a sarcastic remark about a rifle that he quickly came to regret. Suddenly he found himself in handcuffs -- with a firsthand sense of what the Transportation Security Administration means by "zero tolerance."
Is this what it means to make air travel safer? To just act like bullies with the weight of the state behind them?
Near the end of the second full-scale pat-down, he saw the screener poking into his wallet. He said, "You better look at it real good; there may be a rifle in there." It was a new experience for the retired engineer and World War II veteran. He had a mug shot taken. He was fingerprinted. He spent about 20 minutes in a locked holding cell, as his worried wife waited outside.
. . . Read more!

posted by Hal 7:02 PM

In Surreal Development, Bush Administration Routes TIPS Calls to TV Show "America's Most Wanted"
Tuesday, August 6, 2002

WASHINGTON - In a development bordering on what the American Civil Liberties Union called "surreal," the on-line magazine Salon.com today revealed that the Department of Justice is forwarding incoming Operation TIPS calls to the Fox-owned "America's Most Wanted" television series.

"This is like retaining Arthur Andersen to do all of the SEC's accounting," said Rachel King, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. "It's a completely inappropriate and frightening intermingling of government power and the private sector. What's next - the government hires Candid Camera to do its video surveillance?"

"If it continues to cooperate with the government on Operation TIPS, America's Most Wanted should move networks and rename itself 'Big Brother,'" King said.

BD - This is a joke, right?
. . . Read more!

posted by An Old Curmudgeon 8:37 AM

Did California gun laws make kidnapping of teens more likely?
Now that two California teenagers are safe after the horrific "lovers' lane" kidnapping, here is the question that Americans should be asking: Could this crime have been prevented if the state allowed residents to carry concealed weapons? This incident illustrates how vulnerable all of us are to random, violent crime. According to studies by criminologists, concealed-carry handgun laws have reduced murder rates by about 8.5% and rape rates by about 5%. Had such right-to-carry laws been in effect all 50 states since 1992, there could well have been about 1,600 fewer murders 4,000 fewer rapes every year. Of course, passing a concealed-carry law won't stop every kidnapping, rape, or murder -- and may not even have stopped the tragedy in Lancaster, California. But a future Roy Ratliff will be far less likely to attack if he knows that sheriff's deputies aren't the only ones who can send him to his grave.
. . . Read more!

posted by Hal 6:19 PM

IT Pros May Face Background Checks
By DAN VERTON, JULY 29, 2002, Washington

The Bush administration plans to convene a panel of government and private-sector labor and legal experts to develop guidelines for subjecting tens of thousands of corporate IT and other employees to background investigations.

The panel, as described in the president's "National Strategy for Homeland Security" report, released July 16, would be convened jointly by the secretary of Homeland Security and the attorney general following the establishment of a cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security. It would examine whether current employer liability statutes and privacy concerns would hinder "necessary background checks for personnel with access to critical infrastructure facilities or systems."

This should be interesting since there are a very large number of H1Bs sitting in high places in corporate un-America.
. . . Read more!

posted by An Old Curmudgeon 3:31 AM

Did The Drug War Claim Another 3,056 Casualties On 9-11?
While Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida minions were diligently preparing for their murderous mission, the FBI was looking the other way with equal determination. More than twice as many FBI agents were assigned to fighting drugs (2,500) than fighting terrorism (1,151). And a far greater amount of the FBI's financial resources was dedicated to the war on drugs.
And it wasn't just the FBI. This Drug War Uber-Alles mindset infected the entire law enforcement community, starting at the top. "I want to escalate the war on drugs," said Attorney General John Ashcroft in his first interview after being nominated for the post. "I want to renew it. I want to refresh it." And he was true to his word. Witness the $43 million the Bush administration gave to the Taliban just four months before Sept. 11. Sure there was the small detail of harboring a guy named bin Laden, but the Taliban had agreed to ban the production of opium poppies. And so the drug war trumped the terror war once again.
. . . Read more!

posted by Hal 9:12 PM

Which is worse: WorldCom or Congress?
Bush said he was "deeply concerned" about accounting practices in corporate America and called "outrageous" the disclosure that WorldCom, which is $32 billion in debt, had hidden $3.8 billion in expenses. The president added, "We will fully investigate and hold people accountable for misleading not only shareholders but also employees." . . . WorldCom is being called the biggest case of crooked accounting in U.S. history, (hiding billion$ worth of expenses from investors). But is WorldCom really America's biggest case of accounting gimmickery and deception? I don't think so . . . How much debt does the federal government owe? It's not just $3.5 trillion. It's more like $6 trillion. Even that figure represents a level of creative accounting, deception, and lies that make the actions of Enron and WorldCom seem like child's play . . . The total federal debt burden is an unimaginable $35 trillion. That amounts to roughly $120,000 for every man, woman and child in America. It's impossible to pay that kind of debt . . . Washington will do what all governments do when it cannot make good on its debt: Congress will repudiate agreements with creditors by refusing to pay on agreed-upon terms or choose government's traditional method of repudiation -- inflating the currency . . . Enron and WorldCom engaged in fraud (and are in big trouble for it) . . . But, what happens when Congress cooks the books and deceives Americans into believing that government debt is $3.5 trillion or $6 trillion, when it's really $35 trillion? Absolutely nothing.
. . . Read more!

posted by Hal 8:23 AM

Bush's Shame

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka

Watching the pathetic, mealy-mouthed response of President Bush and his State Department to Egypt's decision to sentence the leading Egyptian democracy advocate to seven years in prison leaves one wondering whether the whole Bush foreign policy team isn't just a big bunch of phonies. Shame on all of them.

Seems this Administration will do anything to engage a War on Iraq.
. . . Read more!

posted by An Old Curmudgeon 5:26 AM

Foundations are in place for martial law in the US
By Ritt Goldstein
July 27 2002

Recent pronouncements from the Bush Administration and national security initiatives put in place in the Reagan era could see internment camps and martial law in the United States. When president Ronald Reagan was considering invading Nicaragua he issued a series of executive orders that provided the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with broad powers in the event of a "crisis" such as "violent and widespread internal dissent or national opposition against a US military invasion abroad". They were never used.

But with the looming possibility of a US invasion of Iraq, recent pronouncements by President George Bush's domestic security chief, Tom Ridge, and an official with the US Civil Rights Commission should fire concerns that these powers could be employed or a de facto drift into their deployment could occur.

. . . Read more!

posted by An Old Curmudgeon 8:29 AM

Should fat people be able to sue McDonald's for their heart attacks?
A lawsuit filed by an obese New Yorker against several popular fast-food chains should be immediately dismissed because individuals � and NO ONE ELSE � are responsible for what they eat....Caesar Barber, a 5-foot-10-inch, 272-pound maintenance worker, blames fast-food chains for his diabetes, high blood pressure, and series of heart attacks....This lawsuit isn�t just an attack on Burger King and McDonald�s; it�s an attack on the very notion of personal responsibility, without which a free society can�t function....Keep in mind that if businesses can be punished every time someone abuses their products, eventually they will go bankrupt, their employees will be jobless, and responsible consumers won�t have access to these products....The successful lawsuits against tobacco companies set the precedent that people were not responsible for their own unhealthy behavior....Politicians were only too happy to pile on by suing tobacco companies for billions of dollars and using the money to create new programs. It became inevitable that other industries, such as guns and even fast food, would be targeted as well....But instead of wondering which industries are going to be next, Americans should stand up for personal responsibility and demand an end to such ridiculous lawsuits.
. . . Read more!

posted by Hal 7:42 PM

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