FBI Raids GOP Goose Stepper

ME F.B.I. agents on Tuesday raided and temporarily shut down the offices of a small federal watchdog agency that is charged with protecting the rights of government whistle-blowers but has been accused of retaliating against whistle-blowers in its own ranks.

The raid on the downtown Washington headquarters of the agency, the Office of Special Counsel, and another at the home of its director, Scott J. Bloch, followed accusations that Mr. Bloch had destroyed evidence on government computers that might demonstrate wrongdoing.

Mr. Bloch, who has held the post of special counsel since January 2004, has denied intentionally destroying evidence from his agency’s computers, though he has acknowledged paying $1,000 of public money to a technology company, Geeks on Call, to scrub his own government computer in 2006. He has said he was trying to rid the computer of software viruses, an assertion challenged by members of Congress and by lawyers representing current and former employees of the office… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

Bloch has a long history or religious right activism and abuse of office, especially against the GLBT community.  I’m just geeky enough myself to know that a standard deep format, a task that can be accomplished by anyone with rudimentary computer skills, will rid the computer of viruses and will cost no more than $100 – $150.  A $1,000 wipe overwrites existing data so many times that the original data can never be recovered.

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The Reich’s Reading Racket

2readingfirst1 President Bush’s $1 billion a year initiative to teach reading to low-income children has not helped improve their reading comprehension, according to a Department of Education report released on Thursday.

The program, known as Reading First, drew on some of Mr. Bush’s educational experiences as Texas governor, and at his insistence Congress included it in the federal No Child Left Behind legislation that passed by bipartisan majorities in 2001. It has been a subject of dispute almost ever since, however, with the Bush administration and some state officials characterizing the program as beneficial for young students, and Congressional Democrats and federal investigators criticizing conflict of interest among its top advisers.

Reading First did not improve students’ reading comprehension,” concluded the report, which was mandated by Congress and carried out by the Department of Education’s research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

One would think a program like this would be a great idea, until examining the reasons it failed:

2readingfirst2 The Bush Administration has been using the Reading First program to reward political cronies and ideological allies, ignoring a legal mandate to make funding decisions that reflect “scientifically based research,” according to federal investigators. These and other findings are detailed in a report by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Education, released on 22 September 2006.

As a result of favoritism and conflicts of interest, the IG found, states were pressured to approve materials from only a handful of preferred publishers. Virtually all others were excluded from participating in the Reading First program, which has provided $4.8 billion in grants to states and school districts since 2002.

The disclosures brought calls to hold Bush Administration appointees accountable for the alleged abuses. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif), the ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, charged that Reading First officials had “wasted taxpayer dollars on an inferior reading curriculum for kids that was developed by a company headed by a Bush friend and campaign contributor. Instead of putting children first, they chose to put their cronies first.” Miller asked the Justice Department to initiate a criminal investigation… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Institute for Language and Education Policy>

Bush, McConJob and the GOP love to strip worthwhile educational programs of their value to taxpayers in order to use the programs as fronts for No Millionaire Left Behind. Here’s an example of what I mean:

By Walter F. Roche, Jr.

LOS ANGELES TIMES

2readingfirst3 A company headed by President Bush’s brother and partly owned by his parents is benefiting from Republican connections and federal dollars targeted for economically disadvantaged students under the No Child Left Behind Act.

With investments from his parents, George H.W. and Barbara Bush, and other backers, Neil Bush’s company, Ignite! Learning, has placed its products in 40 U.S. school districts and now plans to market internationally.

At least 13 U.S. school districts have used federal funds available through the president’s signature education reform, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, to buy Ignite’s portable learning centers at $3,800 apiece.

The law provides federal funds to help school districts better serve disadvantaged students and improve their performance, especially in reading and math.
But Ignite does not offer reading instruction, and its math program will not be available until next year… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Institute for Language and Education Policy>

Is it any wonder that so many kids can’t get a decent education in this country. Bush and the GOP have done everything possible to dismantle education in the US while their feckless relatives and cronies reap the profits.

All articles cross-posted from Politics Plus

Do You Understand Net Neutrality?

5AllBits RECENTLY, the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust task force invited me to be the lead witness for its hearing on “net neutrality.” I’ve collaborated with the Future of Music Coalition, and my band, OK Go, has been among the first to find real success on the Internet — our songs and videos have been streamed and downloaded hundreds of millions of times (orders of magnitude above our CD sales) — so the committee thought I’d make a decent spokesman for up-and-coming musicians in this new era of digital pandemonium.

I’m flattered, of course, but it makes you wonder if Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner sit around arguing who was listening to Vampire Weekend first.

If you haven’t been following the debate on net neutrality, you’re not alone. The details of the issue can lead into realms where only tech geeks and policy wonks dare to tread, but at root there’s a pretty simple question: How much control should network operators be allowed to have over the information on their lines?

Most people assume that the Internet is a democratic free-for-all by nature — that it could be no other way. But the openness of the Internet as we know it is a byproduct of the fact that the network was started on phone lines. The phone system is subject to “common carriage” laws, which require phone companies to treat all calls and customers equally. They can’t offer tiered service in which higher-paying customers get their calls through faster or clearer, or calls originating on a competitor’s network are blocked or slowed.

These laws have been on the books for about as long as telephones have been ringing, and were meant to keep Bell from using its elephantine market share to squash everyone else. And because of common carriage, digital data running over the phone lines has essentially been off limits to the people who laid the lines. But in the last decade, the network providers have argued that since the Internet is no longer primarily run on phone lines, the laws of data equality no longer apply. They reason that they own the fiber optic and coaxial lines, so they should be able to do whatever they want with the information crossing them.

Under current law, they’re right. They can block certain files or Web sites for their subscribers, or slow or obstruct certain applications. And they do, albeit pretty rarely. Network providers have censored anti-Bush comments from an online Pearl Jam concert, refused to allow a text-messaging program from the pro-choice group Naral (saying it was “unsavory”), blocked access to the Internet phone service (and direct competitor) Vonage and selectively throttled online traffic that was using the BitTorrent protocol.

When the network operators pull these stunts, there is generally widespread outrage. But outright censorship and obstruction of access are only one part of the issue, and they represent the lesser threat, in the long run. What we should worry about more is not what’s kept from us today, but what will be built (or not built) in the years to come.

We hate when things are taken from us (so we rage at censorship), but we also love to get new things. And the providers are chomping at the bit to offer them to us: new high-bandwidth treats like superfast high-definition video and quick movie downloads. They can make it sound great: newer, bigger, faster, better! But the new fast lanes they propose will be theirs to control and exploit and sell access to, without the level playing field that common carriage built into today’s network.

They won’t be blocking anything per se — we’ll never know what we’re not getting — they’ll just be leapfrogging today’s technology with a new, higher-bandwidth network where they get to be the gatekeepers and toll collectors. The superlative new video on offer will be available from (surprise, surprise) them, or companies who’ve paid them for the privilege of access to their customers. If this model sounds familiar, that’s because it is. It’s how cable TV operates.

We can’t allow a system of gatekeepers to get built into the network. The Internet shouldn’t be harnessed for the profit of a few, rather than the good of the many; value should come from the quality of information, not the control of access to it.

For some parallel examples: there are only two guitar companies who make most of the guitars sold in America, but they don’t control what we play on those guitars. Whether we use a Mac or a PC doesn’t govern what we can make with our computers. The telephone company doesn’t get to decide what we discuss over our phone lines. It would be absurd to let the handful of companies who connect us to the Internet determine what we can do online. Congress needs to establish basic ground rules for an open Internet, just as common carriage laws did for the phone system… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

This is an aspect of net-neutrality I have never considered, but it is one we all need to understand and advocate.

Getting net-neutrality on the present system is important. Ten years ago there was virtually no broadband service at all, and what there was was very pricey. Looking ahead ten years, I cannot tell you what new technology will bring. I can only project with confidence that it will be at least as far ahead of today’s tech as today’s tech is ahead of dial-up. Whatever that technology is, the providers have the right to charge for access to it, assuming that there is sufficient competition among access providers, just like today. People pay more for cable than DSL and more for DSL than dial-up. That’s OK. The key here is that on that technology, whatever it is we need to extend net neutrality for content, so that the network providers do not control what content we get to access. That’s what they are attempting to do, and we must stop them.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

Ben Franklin’s Worst Nightmare

Our elections are plagued by vote suppression and fraud. Making sure we have a fair election in 2008 is even more important than who wins.

1StopElectionTheft The ground feels a little soft, but we’re going to stand it.

Premise one: Having a fair election — all votes counted, all who are eligible and want to vote allowed to vote — is far, far more important, even in 2008, than who wins.

Premise two: Fair elections are not a given. They never have been, but things are worse now than ever before because of a perfect storm, you might say, of factors that have converged in the new millennium: officialdom’s seduction by unsafe, high-tech voting systems; the seizure of power by a party of ruthless true believers who feel entitled to rule and will do anything to win; a polite, confused opposition party that won’t make a stink about raw injustice; and an arrogantly complacent media embedded in the political and economic status quo.

The result: Benjamin Franklin’s worst nightmare.

“Well, Doctor, what have we got — a Republic or a Monarchy?”

A Republic, if you can keep it.”

As Franklin, who uttered those words in answer to a citizen’s query as he left the final session of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, saw with clarity, we don’t have an easy form of government. Rather, it’s a complex, unstable yoking of disparate forces, many with a blind urge to dominate. Only by keeping them in relative check do we maintain our relative freedom and, most importantly, our right to participate in our macro-destiny: that is, to have a say in, to help determine, the country’s direction.

Without an intense degree of citizen involvement at the structural level — down there amid the gears and cogs of universal enfranchisement — our government will soon default to something far simpler: one that is of, by and for whoever seizes power.

I know, just thinking about this is terrifying. The stakes are too high. We have no context for contemplating the possibility that the United States is anything but “the world’s greatest democracy,” which surely explains why most of the media, including a phalanx of progressive publications that ought to be on hair-trigger alert about vote suppression and manipulation, have ignored or dismissed the glaring danger signals.

These signals include, among much else: obscenely long lines in many African-American and student precincts on Election Day 2004; bogus voter challenges and purges; vote-flipping (“I pressed Kerry and Bush lit up”), weird vote totals (more votes counted than cast, undervote totals that defy common sense) and an array of other “glitches” in precincts that use electronic voting machines; and huge discrepancies between exit poll results and vote totals that, in other parts of the world, would instantly cast doubt on the validity of the election.

It all comes down to the first few words of Dorothy Fadiman’s about-to-be-released documentary, “Stealing America: Vote by Vote,” spoken by investigative journalist Greg Palast: “The nasty little secret of American democracy is that not all the votes get counted.”

It has been my privilege to be part of two new documentaries — Fadiman’s, and David Earnhardt’s “Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections,” which is currently in theaters and available on DVD — that focus on the disquieting irregularities (see above) of the 2004 and subsequent elections.

Both movies, by presenting the issue in Americans’ medium of choice, and by creating a context for the possibility of election fraud that transcends Chicken Little and reminds viewers of our nation’s long history of citizen struggle and vigilance, raise the hope that today’s crisis will resonate with a large segment of the public and lead to widespread anger and awareness … and maybe something that doesn’t go away. A demand for paper ballots, perhaps. A citizens’ movement.

Inserted from <AlterNet>

While I agree in principle that a fair election is more important than who wins is, I also know that the only time someone comes out on top because of election theft, it’s a Republican. If you think that the GOP will not be hard art work, using every dirty criminal trick in the book to win this one, it’s time to wake up!

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

No Net Neutrality With McCain!

mccain_bush_hug

…People who work, advise or raise campaign money for Republican presidential candidate John McCain who have lobbied for telecommunications companies since 1999:

Name

Connection to McCain

Telecom industry ties

Rick Davis

Presidential campaign manager

As a lobbyist at his former firm, Davis Manafort, Davis represented BellSouth (2001-02), SBC Communications (2001-05) and Verizon Corporate Services (2001-05). Davis and other Davis Manafort employees and their spouses gave $36,150 to McCain’s campaigns in the past 10 years. BellSouth political action committees, employees and their spouses gave $78,050. SBC political action committees, employees and spouses gave $41,300. Verizon political action committees, employees and spouses gave $59,650

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Christian Ferry

Deputy campaign manager

Ferry partnered with Davis in representing SBC and Verizon from 2003 to 2005

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Charlie Black

Unpaid chief adviser

Black, chairman of lobbying firm BKSH && Associates, has represented AT&T for the past decade. Black and other BKSH employees gave $9,600 to McCain’s campaigns over the past decade. Employees, spouses and political action committees of AT&T and its subsidiaries and merger partners gave $251,850

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Mark Buse

Senate chief of staff

Buse became a lobbyist for ML Strategies in 2002 after working for McCain on the Senate Commerce Committee staff. Buse represented AT&T Wireless from 2002 to 2005. Buse and his co-workers at ML Strategies gave $3,750 to McCain during the past decade. Employees, spouses and political action committees of AT&T Wireless gave $24,500

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Former congressman Tom Loeffler of Texas

Campaign co-chairman

Loeffler, now a senior partner of the Loeffler Group, has represented AT&T since 2001 and Qualcomm since 1999. Loeffler, his co-workers and their spouses gave McCain’s campaigns $64,908 in the past decade. Qualcomm employees, spouses and political action committees gave $55,600

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Susan Nelson

Campaign finance director

Before joining the campaign last year, Nelson represented AT&T and Qualcomm for the Loeffler Group in 2006 and 2007. She also represented Verizon in 2004 while working at Ogilvy Government Relations

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Wayne Berman

Campaign national finance co-chairman

Berman, the managing director of Ogilvy Government Relations, has represented AT&T since last year, and Verizon and Verizon Wireless since 2004. Co-workers and their spouses at Ogilvy, formerly known as the Federalist Group, gave McCain’s campaigns $38,550 in the past decade

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John Green

Plans to take a leave of absence next month from his job at Ogilvy to work for campaign, coordinating efforts with Republicans in Congress

Green has represented AT&T since last year and Verizon since 2004 and represented the United States Telecom Association (1999-2002), the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (2001) and BellSouth (1999-2006)

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Tim McKone

Campaign fundraiser

McCone, a former lobbying partner with Davis, joined SBC Communications as a lobbyist in 1999 and became a vice president of AT&T after it merged with SBC in 2005. McCone was last listed as an AT&T lobbyist in 2006

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David Crane

Fundraiser and former aide to McCain at the Senate Commerce Committee

Crane’s clients at the Washington Group included BellSouth (2003-05). Crane left the Washington Group to form his own lobbying firm, Quadripoint Strategies, in 2007. Crane and his co-workers and their spouses at the Washington Group and Quadripoint gave McCain’s campaigns $9,350 in the past decade

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Carlos Bonilla

Campaign economic adviser

Bonilla is a lobbyist with the Washington Group, which represented BellSouth 2003-05. The Washington Group’s employees and their spouses gave $7,050 to McCain’s campaigns in the past decade

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John Timmons

Fundraiser for McCain and former aide in his Senate office

Timmons, a lobbyist at Cormac Group, represented AT&T (1999-2005) and Allegiance Telecom (2002-04). Cormac Group employees and their spouses have given $13,600 to McCain’s campaigns in the past decade

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Judy Black

Fundraiser

Black is a lobbyist at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, which has represented Global Crossing Ltd. since 2004 and represented AT&T from 2003 to 2005 and again in 2007. Employees and their spouses have given $17,950 to McCain’s campaigns in the past decade

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Bryan Cunningham

Fundraiser

Cunningham, a lobbyist at Barbour Griffith && Rogers, has represented AT&T since 2007, Qwest Communications since 2006 and Verizon since 2006. Barbour Griffith employees and their spouses gave $24,700 to McCain’s campaigns since 1998. Quest employees, spouses and political action committees gave $53,350

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Juleanna Glover Weiss

Fundraiser and former spokeswoman for Vice President Cheney

Glover Weiss is a lobbyist at the Ashcroft Group, where she registered to lobby for AT&T in 2006. Glover Weiss also represented AT&T from 2004 to 2005 while working at another lobbying firm, Clark && Weinstock. The Ashcroft Group’s employees and their spouses gave McCain’s 2008 campaign $4,600

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Peter Madigan

Fundraiser

Madigan, a lobbyist at Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland &Stewart, represented BellSouth (2003-06), SBC Communications (2003 and 2004), the United States Telecom Association (2001 and 2002) and Verizon (2001-06). Madigan Peck employees and their spouses gave McCain’s campaigns $43,200 in the past decade

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James Pitts

Fundraiser

Pitts, a lobbyist at DC Navigators, has represented Qualcomm since 2006 and AT&T since last year and represented BellSouth (2004-06). DC Navigators employees and their spouses gave McCain’s campaigns $12,100 in the past decade

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Kirk Blalock

Fundraiser

Blalock, a lobbyist at Fierce Isakowitz && Blalock, has represented Sprint Nextel since 2003 and represented the former MCI from 2002 to 2005. Fierce Isakowitz employees and their spouses have given $14,800 to McCain’s campaigns in the past decade. Sprint employees, spouses and political action committees gave $11,750

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Kirsten Chadwick

Fundraiser

Chadwick, a lobbyist at Fierce Isakowitz, represented MCI in 2004 and 2005 and has represented Sprint Nextel since 2004

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Aleix Jarvis

Fundraiser

Jarvis, a lobbyist at Fierce Isakowitz, represented MCI in 2005 and has represented Sprint Nextel since 2005

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Alison McSlarrow

Fundraiser

McSlarrow, who has her own lobbying firm, McSlarrow Consulting, represented Nextel Communications in 2003 and 2004 and Qwest in 1999 and 2000. McSlarrow and her husband gave $8,000 to McCain’s campaigns in the past decade

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Michael Meece of the Meece Group

Fundraiser

Meece has represented Qualcomm since 2006. Meece gave $2,300 to McCain’s 2008 campaign

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Eric Burgeson

Fundraiser

Now a lobbyist with Barbour Griffith, Burgeson registered to lobby for the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association in 2001 with Orion Strategies

Sources: U.S. Senate lobbying records, McCain campaign, Center for Responsive Politics, CQ MoneyLine…

Inserted from <USA Today>

McConJob loves to talk about how he is the champion of the people against special interests and how he has no use for lobbyists. Of course, this is just one more GOP lie. Look at all the lobbyists from just one industry, and that industry is critically important to us. Given the compromised state of the right-wing MSM, the Internet remains the one place where we can communicate on an equal footing. Giving the telecoms permission to restrict access would be catastrophic to the left. McConJob must not become President!

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

Breaking: House FISA Bill Passes!

bush-spy As I write this article, the House is voting on FISA. Throughout the morning Republicans have goose-stepped up to the podium and told lie after lie about the bill, which unlike most of them, I have read. They have said that the bill requires a court order b before any foreign-to-foreign wiretaps can be implemented. This is a lie. It requires a court order for Foreign-Domestic and Domestic-Wiretaps, but has a 30 day emergency provision. They have said that telecom immunity is needed or the telecoms will not cooperate. Under the law telecoms are required to cooperate with any legal request. They even repeated the lie that a troop was killed in May, because the Democrats failed to pass the bill Bush wanted, but I clearly documented HERE that Bush and the GOP intentionally sacrificed our service person to have an issue to get spy power.

The bill has passed the house!

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

Olbermann on Present and Wanna-be Fuhrers

As usual, Keith does a wonderful job taking apart the Reich. First he takes on the Machiavellian Moron over FISA and Fallon.

Next he examines the man McConJob calls his “spiritual guide”.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus