Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Soft Spot

Not too long ago, you may recall, I was on a cruise in the Mediterranean. One of our stops was in Egypt, and we spent the night in Cairo (the ship docked in Alexandria). We had a wonderful tour guide, a young woman named Rasha, seen above. Despite never having left Egypt, her English was impeccable. It was hard to believe she had never been in an English-speaking country. From my own experience, I know there were significant gaps between what I was taught in school in language classes and the language spoken when I traveled to those countries. She was delighted to tell us how different things are for women there now than they used to be, even her mother worked (and was getting ready to retire), which was a point of pride.

She explained to us the different ways in which women dress in Egypt. How Rasha dresses is typical for women where she lives, though women in the south often wear black (HOT), and while I cannot recall the name now, their clothing is similar to burkas, though their faces aren't covered. But, that style isn't unique to the south. We saw many women in Cairo dressed like that.

Rasha took us to some amazing places, including the national museum, which houses an unbelievable collection of antiquities - one could easily spend an entire month in there, though we had but a few hours. We did get to see ALL of King Tut's burial chamber, though, so that was pretty cool. And Rasha, a thoroughly knowledgeable guide, took us to the Great Pyramids (as well as other places). And it was in National Museum that we saw women dressed in full burkas - it was startling, to tell you the truth. Wow.

And so it was, that when I saw the following video, I wanted to share it with you since I developed a soft spot for Rasha, and her country. Secretary Clinton is hosting a group of young people from Egypt. Their goal is to improve the lives of people in their country, including the area of human rights:

What an amazing trip this must be for these young people, many of whom have never left Egypt, either. And how fortunate that they get to spend some of that time with this remarkable woman, the one capable of listening to a multi-part question, and answering it in full (without notes or a teleprompter). How wonderful that she is the one with whom they get to meet as they work on the issue of human rights, an issue near and dear to Secretary Clinton's heart. What a great start they are getting, and no doubt, it will help them when they return to their country to work to implement those changes (and hopefully, this will extend to the treatment of animals in Egypt - that's a story for another day). How fortunate are we to have a Secretary of State who is so gracious, generous of time, spirit, and knowledge. One can only imagine what she would do as president ...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Thank Heavens There's ONE Grown-up In The Room...

That's what the Germans seem to think of Secretary Clinton, anyway. It seems they are asking her to help deal with the GM mess as it relates to them, according to this article (H/T to Ani for alerting me to this). Why, you might ask? Because it affects them, too, in a big way. You know, global economy and all.

Basically, the Germans wanted an adult in the room as opposed to the adolescent they got:
Hillary Clinton has intervened in talks over the future of Opel and Vauxhall at the request of German ministers as the American Government unveiled plans to sink more taxpayers’ funds into the European carmakers’ US parent, General Motors (GM).

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German Finance Minister, spoke by telephone today with Mrs Clinton to seek "support in the search for a solution," his spokesman said. Mrs Clinton pledged to intervene to demand "the greatest possible American support" from Timothy Geithner, the Treasury Secretary, the spokesman added.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the Economics Minister, also denounced the US Treasury for dispatching a junior official who had to consult Washington through a video link at regular intervals during the night.

Mr Guttenberg said the talks had been "absurd in parts" and demanded "more seriousness and a greater willingness to compromise on the part of the US."

It is also hoped that developments today in the US could pave the way for smoother negotiations with the two preferred bidders - Fiat, the Italian car group, and Magna, the Canadian components maker.

Nothing like insulting one of our big allies and business partners by sending some flunky to do a woman's job. Ahem.

As for the rest of the article, some of this may have changed - who knows? I guess it depends on whatever mood Obama is in today and just how much control he is handing over to the union that bought him, but here it is:
GM's biggest bondholders have agreed to a new offer to wipe out the automaker's debt, raising hopes that the carmaker will make a quick exit from the now inevitable move into bankruptcy.

Bondholders that own about 20 per cent of GM's $27.2 billion of unsecured debt agreed to wipe out the borrowings in return for a 10 per cent stake in the company and warrants to buy a further 15 per cent of the equity in the new business.

They had previously rejected an offer of a flat 10 per cent because the United Auto Workers (UAW) union had been promised more equity - 17.5 per cent - for a smaller $20 billion debt.

The remainder of GM's debt investors, which include individuals and pension funds, have until Saturday afternoon to agree to the new offer.

If they do not support the offer, forcing GM into a contentious bankruptcy, the Government has warned that bondholders will be all but wiped out.

In exchange for the improved payout, creditors must agree not to oppose a move to sell GM’s profitable assets to a new company funded by the Government in a fast-track bankruptcy process.

Just a teensy weensy little reminder - when they talk about wiping out GM's debt, that's all the money WE paid to bail them out because they were "to big to fail." So, all those BILLIONS of dollars of OUR money that Obama was handing out like candy to them? Poof - GONE!!!!

And then, add to that, the government going into the automobile business - as if it knows ANYTHING about it:
GM's filing also revealed that the Government's stake in the restructured company would be 72.5 per cent, much larger than the 50 per cent it was expected to be handed in return for forgiving some of the bailout cash it has provided the company.

The bigger stake is likely to increase the cost of GM's bankruptcy to taxpayers, which is estimated to reach as high as $50 billion.

Overnight negotiations over the future of the US carmaker’s European operation broke down when GM sought more funding for Opel despite Germany’s pledge to provide billions of euros in state guarantees as well as a €1.5 billion bridging loan.

Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary today reiterated the British government’s support for Vauxhall but said it was too early to comment on what funding the UK may provide since talks over Opel needed to be resolved first.

He also said that unlike Opel, Vauxhall was not in desperate need of funding.

Lord Mandelson has extracted promises from both Fiat and Opel over the future of Vauxhall and British jobs.

Although the Business Secretary has conceded that GM Europe suffers from excess costs and is selling vehicles into a depressed market, he has made clear that the amount of money that Britain will commit will depend on the level of job guarantees in the medium term and the long term.

“Each of the bids envisages government support, but we are some way off from a discussion about government's role in any commercial outcome to these discussions,” he said.

The assurances represent a significant victory for Lord Mandelson, who has been desperate to make sure that the German Government does not give in to election-year pressure with a pledge to protect domestic jobs at the expense of those in the UK. Berlin’s view is crucial because it is being asked to stump up billions of euros in loan guarantees as part of any deal.

Magna calculates job losses of 9,000 across Europe – 2,500 of them in Germany. However, before a Chancellery meeting last night, Magna hinted that it could shift the production of the Opel Astra from Antwerp, Belgium, to Bochum, Germany. Under that scenario, job losses in Germany would total only 300.

Fiat has promised to cut fewer than 10,000 jobs in GM Europe. That could entail closing an engine factory in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Unions fear that overlapping of Fiat’s products with those of Opel and Vauxhall will mean that redundancies could be much higher than promised.

Whew. This is really a pickle, isn't it? We have taken over, no - check that - OBAMA and the UAW have taken over a private business in this country, about which Obama, anyway, knows NOTHING. He is not a businessman, you know. The UAW is certainly a business - some might say a racket - which has ensured ITS pensions at the expense of ours. How is it that some Americans deserve to have one and others don't?

That's just one of those pesky little questions I am certain Obama would label as "Un-American," just like he did the secured creditors to GM - you know, the Teachers Retirement Fund and State Police of Indiana, for example:

Maybe Obama should follow Germany's example, and ask Secretary Clinton to figure this out for everyone - GM, the taxpayers, the UAW, everyone. Heck, she could probably design a more aerodynamic, fuel efficient vehicle, change the oil in everyone's car, AND not rip off the taxpayers for billions of dollars all at the same time! Oh c'mon, you know she could!! In any event, it is sure worth a try.
I mean, really, if it is good enough for Germany to have her step in, it is surely good enough for us! No doubt she would do far better at this than Obama and the UAW are doing now. I say, bring her on!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

What? An ACORN Spokeman LIED??? And Justice Not Served...

Hell to the yes, he did. You want to guess about what he lied? The Census and ACORN workers, that is. Oh yeah - our fears come true:

Remember those Black Panthers who were arrested in Philly for voter intimidation? Well, guess who's got a friend in the White House? That would be the three men charged - amazingly, the charges have been DROPPED by the Justice Department! Oh, you know I'm not making this up:
Charges brought against three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense under the Bush administration have been dropped by the Obama Justice Department, FOX News has learned.

The charges stemmed from an incident at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day 2008 when three members of the party were accused of trying to threaten voters and block poll and campaign workers by the threat of force -- one even brandishing what prosecutors call a deadly weapon.

The three black panthers, Minister King Samir Shabazz, Malik Zulu Shabazz and Jerry Jackson were charged in a civil complaint in the final days of the Bush administration with violating the voter rights act by using coercion, threats and intimidation. Shabazz allegedly held a nightstick or baton that prosecutors said he pointed at people and menacingly tapped it. Prosecutors also say he "supports racially motivated violence against non-blacks and Jews."

The Obama administration won the case last month, but moved to dismiss the charges on May 15.

Click here to see FOX News video from the scene on election day

Click to watch the incident on YouTube.

The complaint says the men hurled racial slurs at both blacks and whites.

A poll watcher who provided an affidavit to prosecutors in the case noted that Bartle Bull, who worked as a civil rights lawyer in the south in the 1960's and is a former campaign manager for Robert Kennedy, said it was the most blatant form of voter intimidation he had ever seen. (Emphasis mine.)

In his affidavit, obtained by FOX News, Bull wrote "I watched the two uniformed men confront voters and attempt to intimidate voters. They were positioned in a location that forced every voter to pass in close proximity to them. The weapon was openly displayed and brandished in plain sight of voters."

He also said they tried to "interfere with the work of other poll observers ... whom the uniformed men apparently believed did not share their preferences politically," noting that one of the panthers turned toward the white poll observers and said "you are about to be ruled by the black man, cracker."

A spokesman for the Department of Justice told FOX News, "The Justice Department was successful in obtaining an injunction that prohibits the defendant who brandished a weapon outside a Philadelphia polling place from doing so again. Claims were dismissed against the other defendants based on a careful assessment of the facts and the law. The department is committed to the vigorous prosecution of those who intimidate, threaten or coerce anyone exercising his or her sacred right to vote."

Golly, I am just SO surprised, aren't you? I just never expected that Obama's Justice Department would let these three men who were engaging in extreme voter intimidation off!! Ahem. Who am I kidding? Of course I did. I'm just surprised it didn't happen sooner...

One last note - as a follow-up to all of the GM news, including the closing of plants about which I just wrote, I recommend this post by Uppity Woman, "Congratulations, Comrades and Comradesses! You Are Proud Owners Of Government Motors"! That pretty much says it all! What's next? California?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Payback's a Bitch

The other day, a friend asked me if it was really so bad for the government to run a corporation, and added that they do some of that over in Britain. My answer was, "Yes, yes it is." For a whole host of reasons of which I can think (and feel free to add your own), but ONE on which I want to focus now.

And that is this: Political payback. That's right, targeting all those people through the takeover of the corporation, and screwing them to the wall. In this case, the title says it all: Furor Grows Over Partisan Car Dealer Closings. From the get-go, this doesn't sound good. Here's what's happening:
Evidence appears to be mounting that the Obama administration has systematically targeted for closing Chrysler dealers who contributed to Repubicans. What started earlier this week as mainly a rumbling on the Right side of the Blogosphere has gathered some steam today with revelations that among the dealers being shut down are a GOP congressman and closing of competitors to a dealership chain partly owned by former Clinton White House chief of staff Mack McLarty.

The basic issue raised here is this: How do we account for the fact millions of dollars were contributed to GOP candidates by Chrysler who are being closed by the government, but only one has been found so far that is being closed that contributed to the Obama campaign in 2008?

Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan learned from a House colleague that his Venice, Florida, dealership is on the hit list. Buchanan also has a Nissan franchise paired with the Chrysler facility in Venice.

"It's an outrage. It's not about me. I'm going to be fine," said Buchanan, the dealership's majority owner. "You're talking over 100,000 jobs. We're supposed to be in the business of creating jobs, not killing jobs," Buchanan told News 10, a local Florida television station.

Buchanan, who succeeded former Rep. Katharine Harris in 2006, reportedly learned of his dealership's termination from Rep.Candace Miller, R-MI. Buchanan owns a total of 23 dealerships in Florida and North Carolina.

Well, gee - what could POSSIBLY be wrong about government taking over corporations? So much for that bi-partisanship of which Obama spoke. Uh huh. Oh, but wait - it gets better:
Also fueling the controversy is the fact the RLJ-McCarty-Landers chain of Arkansas and Missouri dealerships aren't being closed, but many of their local competitors are being eliminated. Go here for a detailed look at this situation. McClarty is the former Clinton senior aide. The "J" is Robert Johnson, founder of the Black Entertainment Television, a heavy Democratic contributor.

A lawyer representing a group of Chrysler dealers who are on the hit list deposed senior Chrysler executives and later told Reuters that he believes the closings have been forced on the company by the White House.

"It became clear to us that Chrysler does not see the wisdom of terminating 25 percent of its dealers. It really wasn't Chrysler's decision. They are under enormous pressure from the President's automotive task force," said attorney Leonard Bellavia.'s Josh Painter has a useful roundup of what has been found so far by a growing number of bloggers digging into what could be a very big story indeed. Also, see my column on this issue and how it fits into the larger context dubbed by the Examiner's Michael Barone as "gangster government."

As part of Chrysler's bankruptcy agreement with the White House, the company plans to close roughly a quarter of its 3,200 dealerships. Lists of the dealerships being cut and those retaining their Chrysler franchises can be found here in pdf format. Many dealers contend the criteria being used to determine which dealerships survive is not clear and that many of those that are being closed in fact are profitable businesses, despite the current recession.

Mark Tapscott, author of the above article, does have an update available at the link above, but basically stands by his point here.

Tapscott's point is a mighty frightening one. Remember when we thought BUSH was the most vindictive president we had ever seen? Obama is making him look like freakin' Mother Theresa by comparison. THIS is exactly the problem with the White House taking over private companies, with OUR money, I might add. That mean-spirited, childish, churlish, arrogant vindictiveness toward anyone who didn't support HIM. This isn't a president, this is a dictator.

And THAT is un-Constitutional. Just add it to the list...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Proposition 8 Upheld

By now, you may have heard that the CA Supreme Court voted 6 -1 to uphold Proposition 8, which bans same sex marriage. The caveat is that those who got married under the law are still legally married. You can click HERE to read more about it. Below is a video of a number of reactions to the CA Supreme Court decision:

Wow. So Ellen and Portia are still A-okay, it seems, along with 18,000 other people. So what about the rest of the people in California?

This is disconcerting, to be sure, though not unexpected, I have to say. I wish it was different, but it isn't.

What I do find incredibly curious is that NO ONE talks about Amendment 2 in Florida, which is equally as bad, if not worse. Why is that? It passed during the 2008 election, too, yet it is completely ignored. This was the concern in FL (and note the state that also has a ban mentioned in the following):
But opponents say the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment isn't a gay issue, but rather a measure that could negatively affect many heterosexual couples as well.

They point to particular wording in the amendment that they say could lead to unmarried couples -- gay and straight -- losing hospital visitation rights, the ability to make emergency medical decisions, and domestic partner health benefits provided by employers.

The proof, they say, is what has happened in other states where similar amendments have passed.

Since Michigan voters approved a ''marriage protection'' amendment in 2004, the state Supreme Court has struck down domestic partner benefits, including health insurance and pensions. A battle is also under way in Kentucky to eliminate domestic partner benefits for employees of state universities because of similar legislation.

''This amendment says that because marriage is between a man and a woman, nothing else counts,'' said Derek Newton, campaign manager for Florida Red & Blue, the bipartisan organization running the SayNo2 campaign to defeat the amendment. ``It could take away existing rights and benefits of Floridians.''

Wow - Michigan, too. And Virgina. South Carolina. A total of forty-one (41) states have defined marriage between a man and a woman.

I know we are supposed to be all excited that a whopping FIVE states consider LGBT people to be equal, but it seems with every step forward, there's at least one step back. I guess all we can do is keep fighting for equal rights for all people. One day at a time, I reckon...

Monday, May 25, 2009

In Recognition Of All Those Who Have Served

Thank you for your service to this country. And to those who paid the ultimate price, our gratitude is too great to put into words.

For all those who have served and are serving, this is for you:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Prolonged Detention"????

At my most recent post about Secretary Clinton providing full benefits to the GLBT Diplomat Corp, faithful No Quarter reader, Mountaires, had a comment which included the following video from the Rachel Maddow Show. As you know, and as I have mentioned a number of times, Rachel Maddow, and her network, MSNBC, were very blatantly, and obviously, in the tank for Obama (there are too many examples to go into right now - do a search here, or No Quarter, or - you will get hits, I promise). That should convey to you just how incredibly serious what she says is - she is a HUGE Obama supporter (or was - who knows now). And what Obama wants to do next should scare the bejesus out of everyone in this country. It is his further dismantling of our Constitution, and our democracy. And what it is staggers the mind:

I have no words for this. Oh, wait - yes I do. For Obama to give this speech in which he is taking away rights GUARANTEED by the Constitution of the United States (right to a speedy trial, to not be held without charges) is criminal.

I was wrong, though. Obama is not another Bush, he is WORSE than Bush. I didn't think that was possible, but there it is, from his very own lips - he is actively working to take away our rights. This is shocking beyond belief. I can't wait to hear how the Obama minions will defend THIS.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Out Of Order

Hey, Friends -

Due to a family medical emergency, I will be away from the blog for a few days. If I get a chance to come and update, I certainly will. Suffice it to say, my mother is not doing well. All good thoughts, positive energy, and prayers, are welcome.

Thanks, everyone.

I hope you and yours are well and safe.

Blessings -

Friday, May 22, 2009

Amazingly, There Is Even More on ACORN

Just when you think there cannot possibly be more hidden agendas with ACORN and the people who are affiliated with it, something else turns up. I stumbled onto this video while looking for something else entirely: I don't usually watch Glenn Beck, but the title sure grabbed my attention:

Holy moley. Teresa Heinz Kerry is a BIG contributor of a foundation whose director secretly paid off the funds embezzled by one of ACORN's founders?? Hmmmm. I have to say, I think Glenn is right - they have some 'splaining to do.

But did you notice what other organization was listed beside that one office building of ACORN's? That's right - the SEIU, the very union that just held CA hostage with the help of their puppet, Obama. Yes, they were the ones who went complaining to Obama that The Governator was going to trim back some of their wages in an effort to keep CA from going belly-up. In return, Obama threated the Governator with cutting off any more Federal funds to CA if he continued to mess with Obama's posse. Oh, the plot just continues to thicken, doesn't it?

For an excellent recap of just how closely Obama is linked with ACORN, I recommend this article by SusanUnPC at No Quarter, "A Damning Expose of Obama, ACORN, and the New York Times."

But don't forget Barney Frank. No doubt, the reason the intrepid reporter was trying to get Frank to comment on investigating ACORN was Frank's attempts to funnel BILLIONS - that's not a typo - BILLIONS of your tax-paying dollars to ACORN. Uh, yeah.

In the words of Sir Walter Scott, "Oh, what a twisted web we weave when first we practice to deceive..." And there is sure a lot of deception going on when it comes to Obama, ACORN, SEIU, Frank, and the list goes on...Some change, huh?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

There's Obama And His Promises; On The Other Hand, There's Hillary Clinton...

Who is a woman of her word. I know, that is a bit unusual in the political realm, at least given the example set by the president whom she serves (eeww, yuck, still have a hard time saying that). My good friend, Ani, at No Quarter tipped me off to this story. The magazine that broke this story is "On Top Magazine" (don't ask me - I've never heard of it before), so don't beat yourself up if you haven't seen this. Maybe if you are a regular subscriber to USA Today, or travel a lot, you might have seen this article. I tell you what, though, a lot of the news sources reporting this are not in this country. Gee, I wonder why?

Maybe it is because we have been having people like Lt. Dan Choi speaking out, asking President Obama not to fire him under the policy, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" recently. Likewise for Lt. Col.Victor Ferenbach, and Major Witt, all calling for a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, so these highly trained, highly decorated people can continue the work they do best on our behalf (I have written about these folks just recently, and SusanUnPC posted an incredible video of Lt. Col. Fehrenbach. They want to continue to serve their country even though their country is treating them like second class citizens.

Except in the State Department. Yes, that Hillary Clinton has made a move that should warm the hearts of everyone who cares about equality and social justice. Check out this article, Gay US Diplomats To Get Equal Benefits:
SECRETARY of State Hillary Clinton has promised to provide equal benefits to partners of homosexual US diplomats stationed overseas, a congressman said.

Howard Berman, head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had sought to require the State Department to offer benefits such as medical care, transport between postings and security training to partners regardless of sexual orientation.

Mr Berman, in a hearing on funding for the Foreign Service, said he would drop his legislative bid as "it is my expectation, based on very recent conversations, that the Secretary of State will move forward with implementing all of the benefits provided in that provision in the very near future".

The congressman invited to the hearing Michael Guest, the former US ambassador to Romania who in 2007 left the Foreign Service, citing unfair treatment of his partner.

"For 26 years he served our country with distinction and was sadly forced to leave the Foreign Service when he could no longer accept the second-class status accorded his lifetime partner,'' said Mr Berman, a Democrat from California.

"But I am heartened that soon no more of our best and brightest will be forced to choose between family and country,'' he said.

The ranking Republican member on the committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, has supported the effort.

Ms Ros-Lehtinen signed a letter to Mrs Clinton sent in February by Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin who is openly lesbian, warning the State Department risked losing qualified diplomats unless it provided equality to gay partners.

But another Republican lawmaker criticized a separate part of the bill aimed at promoting gay rights.

The funding bill calls on US diplomats to encourage other countries to revise laws that restrict consensual homosexual relations or limit the freedoms of gay people and groups.

Wow. That is HUGE. Really huge. And that pretty much says it all about the difference between Clinton, and Obama. One walks the walk, and one talks and talks.

You may recall that she said on the Ellen Degeneres Show that if elected president (and she would have been had she not been thrown overboard by the DNC), she would grant federal benefits to GLBT people. Here's the video, just in case you want a refresher (and want to see Hillary again - don't you miss her? I do...):

As a bonus, watch the second part - Secretary Clinton is hilarious!

Since Hillary wasn't able to provide rights for all LGBT US citizens, she is doing it for the ones she can in the Diplomatic Corp. Good on her, and good for them. It is a start. And a glimpse of what we all could have had...


I am waiting on a follow-up video to the issue i raised yesterday regarding Obama, the UAW, and GM. In the meantime, there is this short news article that just came out, "UAW, General Motors Reach Deal On Concessions," but it is short on details, I'm afraid.

I'll be back later with more (I hope).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

LIVE CHAT for More "Hacking Democracy" In FIFTEEN MINUTES!

Tonight we conclude our three-part series discussing the HBO documentary, "Hacking Democracy," and the issue of electronic voting machines in this country. Please come join us at 9:00 PM TONIGHT for more stimulating conversation on this very important issue.

Obama, GM, And The UAW

I saw the following video this morning, and could scarcely believe my eyes:

Someone PLEASE tell me how, in just FOUR SHORT MONTHS, Obama has managed to take over the banks, kick out the CEO of a private company, hand over a private company, financed with OUR money, to a union? Oh, and let's not forget his handing over CA to another union, SEIU? How?? How has this happened???

Oh, wait - and how about those of us who pay back our credit card bills regularly now being saddled with having to support the losers who act in bad faith? Why do we have to constantly bail out, and ENABLE, those people who go over their means, be it credit cards or mortgages or car loans? And the Senate can stop acting like they give a crap about this issue - Obama VOTED to enable the credit card companies while a senator, along with many other Democrats. So just stop the charade - and stop laying the burden of irresponsible behavior on those of us who have good credit, or else WE might not have that any longer, either.

If you have not already read it, I recommend to you the following post by my good friend, SusanUnPC, "A Personal Note Only For Those Who Voted For Obama." And I would add, not only "ditto," but in the most pastoral way possible to those who did vote for Obama, you can just bite me for what you have unleashed on this country. If only there was a way to make only those people support the UAW/GM, pay the ne'er-do-wells' credit card bills, etc.

Hmm - that's a thought - let's figure out how to do just that - let them pay for Obama's taking over private companies, banks, and kowtowing to the unions (again - I am not anti-union in general, just when they try to take over states or private companies). A pipe dream, I know, but for this moment, it helps to keep my head from exploding...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Passing The Buck...

Once again, Obama has found a way to NOT let the buck stop with him - he is proving to be quite adept at finding a way to not take a stand on stands he has previously taken. I know - it makes my head hurt, too, but that's the reality of it. The title of this article really says it all: Obama Avoids Test on Gays in Military. Uh, yeah. You may recall that I wrote just recently about the Army Arabic linguist, Lt. Dan Choi, and his plea to Obama to not fire him from the Army ("Freedom's Just Another Word...").

Well, get this:
The Obama administration has decided to accept an appeals-court ruling that could undermine the military's ban on service members found to be gay.

A federal appeals court in San Francisco last year ruled that the government must justify the expulsion of a decorated officer solely because she is a lesbian. The court rejected government arguments that the law banning gays in the military should have a blanket application, and that officials shouldn't be required to argue the merits in her individual case.

The administration let pass a May 3 deadline to appeal to the Supreme Court. That means the case will be returned to the district court, and administration officials said they will continue to defend the law there.

The move comes as President Barack Obama attempts a balancing act on gay rights. He was elected with strong support from the gay community and promised action on a number of issues. But mindful of the complex politics, the White House has moved slowly.

Um, no - a glacier moves slowly. Obama hasn't moved at all:
The "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which dates back to the Clinton administration, is a case in point. As one of his first acts as president in 1993, Bill Clinton attempted to end the military's ban on service by homosexuals. An uproar ensued, and eventually Mr. Clinton signed legislation allowing gays to serve as long as they weren't open about their sexual preference.

As a candidate, Mr. Obama said he would seek to repeal the ban on gays in the military. But since he has taken office, administration officials have been less clear about the matter and its timing.

Last week, the White House was pressed to explain whether the administration would intervene to protect Lt. Dan Choi, a West Point graduate and Arabic speaker in the Army National Guard. He announced he was gay as part of a plan to challenge the law. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the president believes the issue should be dealt with through legislation.

And yes - DADT is a law, and must move through proper channels, but given how Obama has used his Democratic majority to shove exceedingly flawed economic plans down our throats, why has he not used it to push for quality for those willing to serve our country? I'm just asking...As I have mentioned (a thousand times), there are plenty of nations who have GLBT personnel serving openly in the military with NO problems. It is far more of a problem for people to have to hide who they truly are day in and day out - THAT affects morale in a big way.

As for Maj. Witt:
In the appeals court case last year, the Bush administration argued that Air Force Maj. Margaret Witt, who was discharged after authorities discovered she had a relationship with a woman, had no grounds to challenge her expulsion in light of congressional findings that gays and lesbians in uniform "create an unacceptable risk" to military morale and "unit cohesion."

But the court ordered the government to show why military discipline would be imperiled by the specific presence of Maj. Witt.

President Obama faced an early March deadline to file an appeal to the Supreme Court. Obama aides twice filed requests asking for a one-month extension, which the court granted. The administration let the most recent deadline pass without seeking another extension.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said the government would defend the law at the trial over Maj. Witt's dismissal. The decision not to appeal to the Supreme Court "is a procedural decision made because the case is still working its way through the regular judicial process," she said.

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said the president remains committed to repealing the law "in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security" but added: "Until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system."

And just what the sam hill is THAT supposed to mean? "In a sensible way"??? Please. What a crock of hooey, and I'm not the only one who thinks so:
Some advocates for gay rights say they are becoming frustrated with what they see as mixed messages on the law on gays in the military. "This is a positive step but it's in the middle of a slew of negative steps so we're not really sure what's going on," said John Aravosis, an advocate who blogs on the issue.

Mr. Aravosis said he is concerned that the White House Web site section on civil rights was recently edited and some of Mr. Obama's promises to the gay and lesbian community were no longer listed, including his promise to repeal the don't ask, don't tell policy. After complaints, a reference to the military policy was restored.

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said that the changes were made to "reflect the president's broad agenda," but that his commitment to gay and lesbian issues has not changed. "Any suggestions to the contrary are false," he said.

Oh, well, okay then - NOT. What kind of crap is THAT??? Unfortunately, there are some who buy it, the same people who refuse to be anything but "disappointed" when Obama completely backtracks on promises made ("Well, sure, I'm disappointed he voted for FISA," or "to extend Faith-based Initiatives," or "military tribunals," or...). Oh, wait - like these people:
Other gay-rights advocates are more patient. "We are convinced that the administration is committed to overturning this policy and has plans in place to accomplish this goal and it will be accomplished in due time," said David Smith of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group.

Other priority issues for gay advocates loom as well. Mr. Obama will soon nominate a new Supreme Court justice, who will likely be forced to answer questions by the Senate about his or her view of various gay-rights issues that may arise -- particularly the constitutionality of bans on gay marriage, which has advanced in many states in recent months. The administration also must decide whether to allow gay and lesbian partners of workers at the federal court to qualify for health-care benefits.

And that is why I am no longer a member of the Human Rights Commission. That, and their throwing their support behind him rather than Clinton, whom they have honored for her work. Yeah. Whatever. Why look at past performance or anything?

As to their "hope," oh, yes - I am oh-so-sure that Obama has high on his priority list for the new Supreme Court justice to give a big whup about same-sex marriage. HAHAHAHAHHAHAHA. Spare me.

In case you are wondering about Major Witt:
Maj. Witt joined the Air Force in 1987 and received multiple commendations and decorations for her service. She "was made an Air Force 'poster child' in 1993," the opinion from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said, and the service used her photo in recruitment materials for more than a decade.

Maj. Witt also had a relationship with another woman from July 1997 through August 2003, the opinion said. The partner was not a military employee and the couple's home was in Spokane, Wash., 250 miles from the base where she was stationed.

According to the lawsuit, Maj. Witt did not tell anyone in the military that she was homosexual. In July 2004, however, the Air Force began investigating her for homosexuality and five months later began proceedings to discharge her. The action left her less than a year short of the 20-year service requirement to obtain a full Air Force pension.

The Ninth Circuit had rejected similar suits in the 1990s. In 2003, however, the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws, ruling that the Constitution gives homosexuals "the full right to engage in their conduct without the intervention of the government."

Citing that case, the Ninth Circuit held that the government would have to do more than show that the don't ask, don't tell policy furthered an important interest. Rather, at trial it must show how expelling Maj. Witt "significantly furthers the governments' interest and whether less intrusive means would" have worked just as well.

"Only then can DADT be measured against the appropriate constitutional standard," Judge Ronald Gould wrote for the court.

The ruling suggested the judges were skeptical that Maj. Witt, a nurse, posed a threat to military discipline. (Write to Jess Bravin at and Laura Meckler at

Oh, thank HEAVENS they got rid of someone like that - whew - I feel so much safer, don't you? Blech. Sigh.

Well, all things considered, I guess I should be thankful I don't live in Russia:

Russian Gays Risk Eurovision Confrontation

Russian gay rights activists announced plans today to hold a parade hours before this month's finals of the Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow, potentially setting the stage for a confrontation with city authorities and extremists.

Moscow's government has prohibited gay rights marches in the past and Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has drawn international criticism by describing homosexuality as "satanic." (Emphasis mine)

Holy smokes - "satanic"?? Wow, I wonder when Mayor Luzhkov is going to find his way out of the Middle Ages and into the Twenty-first century? Not that everything is all hunky dory for us in the Good Ol' U.S. of A., but golly gee - haven't heard the "homosexuality = Satan" argument in a while...

And considering the size of Pride Parades in the States in major cities, this is telling:
Russian gay rights movement leader Nikolai Alexeyev said he hoped 500 people would join a parade passing through central Moscow.

He said he asked city authorities Tuesday for permission to hold the parade — dubbed Slavic Pride — but added that 100 activists would risk prosecution and march even if it was refused.

City Hall has rejected repeated requests by public organizations to draw attention to gay rights with parades over the past four years, Alexeyev said.

I admit, this surprised me a lot:
Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, but opposition to gay rights remains widespread.

Apparently, some people didn't get the memo:
In 2006, gay activists trying to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier just outside the Kremlin wall were arrested by riot police and harangued by religious and ultranationalist group members.

Last year, at least one gay rights activist was assaulted during a small protest in Moscow while uniformed police officers stood by and watched.

Dang. Well, that ain't right. Ahem. I know - mistress of understatement here...

Here's the thing:
Police expect up to 5,000 visitors to travel to Moscow for the Eurovision competition, which culminates on May 16. Russia won the right to host Eurovision after winning last year's competition.

Activists say the event is an opportunity to highlight what they describe as official discrimination against sexual minorities.

"On the day of Eurovision, we want this issue to clearly raised at the international level," Alexeyev said.

Moscow City Hall spokesman Leonid Krutakov was unable to confirm that march organizers had submitted a request, but said the decision on the parade would be taken by Luzhkov.

They won the right to have this competition, a pretty big deal, and well, this may come as a shock to some folks out there, but there are actually some GLBT folks who may just be involved in this competition. I don't reckon they'll cotton to being called "satanic" because of it, either. Just a thought. But it could just be me...

Really, all this is to say, yes, we have made some strides in this country. Heck, we can even get legally married in 10% of the states (no Federal benefits, mind you, but hey - whaddya want, equality or something??). But we have a long way to go here yet, that's for sure. And so do some of our brothers and sisters in Europe...

Final Live Chat On "Hacking Democracy"

Join us on Weds., May 20th, at 9:00 PM for the last chat in our three part series discussing "Hacking Democracy," electronic voting machines, and paper ballots.

Again, please take time to view the following video of Richard Hayes Phillips' speech in Seattle in September, 2008, as he enumerates many irregularities he discovered in Ohio in the 2004 election:

We will once again be joined by Kathleen Wynne of Hand Count Our Paper Ballots Now , and we may have a surprise guest expert on the issue of electronic voting machines as well.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Further Look Into Voting Machines

This Weds., May 20th, at 9:00 pm, we are going to continue our Live Chat conversation on the problems with electronic voting machines, and problems with voting in general, in this country. Kathleen Wynne, of Hand Count Paper Ballots Now mentioned a colleague of hers recently, Richard Hayes Phillips, author of Witness To A Crime: A Citizen's Audit Of An American Election (also available at His findings are astonishing, and by that, I mean, FRIGHTENING.

Below is a video of a speech Mr. Phillips gave in Seattle in September, 2008. It is long, I grant you, which is why I am putting it up today so you can take the time to watch it when you have time. That being said, his talk is so compelling, the time flies by. The information it contains is shocking. What we have heard about what happened in Ohio in 2004 is but a drop in the bucket compared to Mr. Phillips' findings. Oh, and I should add, he is being humble when he says he is simply a musician and hiker (he helps to make trails). He has four degrees, and was a university professor.

Now I understand that, at least in India, the voting by electronic machines has not been as flawed as it has been, according to fellow NQ writer, pm317. But there seems to be some differences there insofar as their machines are made in keeping with government regulations. Since Diebold (now ES&S) and other companies claim their software is proprietary and NO ONE can know what's in there, I think there is a difference from the get-go between the two countries. Moreover, according to the post:
Diebold system works on Microsoft software, it has no seals on locks and panels to detect a tempering. It has a keyboard interface (!!!) and the server was tested to have “Blaster” virus. One report on Wired says a lady stumbled upon some files from Diebold, and found that the votes were stored in MS Access files. It also has a PCMCIA SanDisk card for local storage. A touchscreen GUI and a network connection to send the results to a server after encrypting it with DES.

The Indian EVM is just plain circuit, with some assembly code. A few LEDs, and two Seven Segment LED displays. One EVM can list 16 candidates, but up to 4 EVMs can be Linked to accommodate 64 candidates. (In a country of a billion people its possible to have 64 candidates for one single constituency.)

That's a big difference in terms of security. It's an interesting read, and adds to this conversation.

At this point, though, it seems that our elections as they stand are fatally flawed, especially as you listen to Mr. Phillips' experiences. What do you think? Come to our Live Chat at 9:00pm on Weds., May 20th to discuss this critical issue.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

She Runs Like A Girl

Rachel Alexandra, that is. Here is her performance in the Kentucky Oaks this year (the big filly race the day before the Derby):

The jockey, Calvin Borel, never had to do a thing - she just ran, but never into her top gear. Even still, she won by twenty lengths. Her breeder and co-owner at the time of the Kentucky Oaks, when asked if he had considered running her in the Derby said:
"No sir, the Triple Crown races are to showcase the future stallions of our industry and fillies should run with fillies and stallions with stallions."

Ah, yes - sexism is most definitely alive and well in the sport of horse-racing. No doubt about that.

Well, on Saturday, at Pimlico, in the running of the Preakness, Rachel Alexandra ran with the boys. There was a lot of debate about her doing so, and a couple of the owners, including one of Mind That Bird's, wanted her excluded on a technicality, even considering running another one of his horses to keep her out.

But another owner, a woman, Marylou Whitney, stepped in to clear the way (basically, she said she would pull her horse to let Rachel Alexandra take his place). She was allowed to run, and run she did. For the first time since 1924, a filly won the Preakness, the first horse EVER to win from the 13th position, and only the 11th filly ever to win a Triple Crown event. Oh, her jockey, Calvin Borel, chose HER over riding the Kentucky Derby winner, Mind That Bird, again, even though Borel was the one who guided him to that win. Why? As he sad after winning the Oaks:
"She's probably the greatest horse I've ever been on in my life. There are other things down the road for her and she'll prove it, I promise it. This filly she breaks out of the gate and she's like 'Bring it on, let's go!'"

The Kentucky Oaks was Borel's 900th win - I think he knows a thing or two about horses. And was he ever right. He called it, too, before the race - he said she would do this. Here she is proving him right:

After the race, which she won by a length, her jockey said she did not like the track surface, and was having problems with it. But she STILL won. That pretty much says it all.

Well, actually, maybe this does: Simply The Best (Tina Turner's original video of the song. Click it and see how appropriate this really is! Sorry the embed has been disabled.)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Freedom, Prisons, and Human Rights

I seem to be on a roll with the Prison and Freedom thing, so I will just continue. Roxanna Saberi is not the only political prisoner currently, by far. And thank heavens she has since been released. One has been imprisoned for years now, the Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for years, and has just had additional (trumped up) charges filed against her. It is she about whom Secretary Clinton speaks in the beginning of this video:

Some prisons are buildings, like the one in which Aung San Suu Kyi resides. Others are emotional, psychological, and most definitely physical, as described by Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's issues, Melanie Verveer, in this testimony before the US Senate:

Hundreds of THOUSANDS of women raped as a war technique. Yes, a human rights issue to be sure. Frankly, that is a massive understatement.

One of the consequences Ambassador Verveer mentioned was the spread of HIV/AIDS as a result of rape. No doubt, this must be stopped, and it begs the question, how is it still going on? But even in this country, something that has received little press, is the following article on women in the US and HIV/AIDS:

President's Budget Flat Funds Services for Women & Families

Women living with HIV throughout the U.S. were disappointed at some details of the President's FY 2010 budget, released late last week. The overall budget calls for a modest increase in funding to fight the growing domestic HIV epidemic, but flat-funds the Ryan White Part D program, the only federal funding stream designated to serve women, children and families living with HIV. The HIV epidemic among women has worsened over the past two and a half decades, with the Centers for Disease control estimating over 300,000 women to be living with HIV in the United States.

"We commend the Admininstration's focus on HIV prevention based on sound science -- but given recent information by the Kaiser Family Foundation that general public awareness of HIV has decreased over the last few years, underinvestment in HIV programs is impractical and sends a dangerous signal to the public," commented Naina Khanna, Coordinator of the U.S. Positive Women's Network, a national membership body of women living with HIV. "And even in these hard economic times, only 5% of Americans believe the U.S. is spending too much on domestic HIV/AIDS. There is broad public support for preventing new infections and keeping people in care."

Ryan White Part D provides funding for services designated to women, children and families affected by HIV/AIDS. Data consistently shows that women are less likely than men to stay in care once diagnosed. Approximately 76% of women living with HIV have at least one child under 18 in their homes, and services for women must reflect that reality in order to keep women in consistent care, say advocates.

"Without the services provided by Part D funding, I don't know if I would have been able to overcome the depression, loneliness, fear and stigma of my HIV diagnosis," says Linda Scruggs, an HIV-positive woman living outside the District of Columbia, where one in ten African American women are estimated to be living with HIV. Loren Jones, a Ryan White Part D services recipient and co-chair of the Community Input Task Force in Oakland, CA adds: "These are the only services entirely dedicated to HIV-positive women and men with dependent children. It is a major part of our attempt to provide services including whole family emotional support, legal assistance, and education to those members of the community that are not often highlighted as being impacted by HIV disease."

Organizations receiving Part D funding have been funded at the same level for the past five years, though the number of women they are serving has continued to grow. Women's organizations are fearful of the repercussions this cut will have on services to women. "Level funding is essentially a cut in funding - and is just another sign that women's needs are not being taken seriously," says Maura Riordan, Executive Director of Women Organized to Respond to Life-threatening Disease (WORLD) in Oakland, CA.

Liz Brosnan, Executive Director of Christie's Place in San Diego adds: "I am shocked to see that the vast majority of the Ryan White program is slated for increases, while Part D, serving women and children, will not receive any additional funding -- though the need to serve women continues to grow exponentially. These are successful programs that provide clinical and support services for women and youth. We should fund what's working."

The Positive Women's Network calls on members of Congress to increase FY 2010 appropriations for Part D of the Ryan White program. "We will be in Washington, DC next week to discuss this with our legislators," says Pat Kelly, an HIV-positive woman from Orangeburg, South Carolina. Statistics show the epidemic is over 50 percent female in some counties in the Deep South. "We urge HIV-positive women, families and those who work with them to join us in demanding funding levels that correspond to the needs of the epidemic."

The U.S. Positive Women’s Network is a project of WORLD (Women Organized to Respond to Life-threatening Disease) in Oakland, CA. We are a national membership body of women living with HIV and allies. For more information and to join please visit:

Again, the "disappointment" in President Obama, that is, the disappointment in grasping the reality that there is a growing disparity between what he says and what he does. I want to believe Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Verveer. I want to believe that this Administration is really committed to women here and abroad, but when funds are kept level (essentially cut given a growing number of patients and related costs) to women in the US living with HIV/AIDS, I am having a hard time doing so. I don't doubt Secretary Clinton in her desire or Ambassador Verveer in hers, just in Obama's commitment to women in general. His treatment of women thus far has done nothing to convince me he gives a damn, quite the contrary.

And how long do women in this country, and around the world, have to wait for justice, for human rights, just BASIC rights? Secretary Clinton gave an impassioned, brilliant speech years ago, equating Women's Rights to Human Rights. Yet hundreds of thousands of women have been raped in Congo, millions around the world. When, WHEN, will it end?

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Freedom's Just Another Word..."

One wants it for himself and scores of others*:

And one, thankfully, recently received it:

Thank heavens Roxanna Saberi is freed - she never should have been imprisoned in the first place.

And neither should Lt. Choi, and other GLBT soldiers, be imprisoned by a law based on discrimination, forcing a prison of secrecy and lies.

* The following is an Open letter Lt. Choi wrote to Obama and members of Congress:

By Lt. Daniel Choi
Special to CNN

Open Letter to President Obama and Every Member of Congress:

I have learned many lessons in the ten years since I first raised my right hand at the United States Military Academy at West Point and committed to fighting for my country. The lessons of courage, integrity, honesty and selfless service are some of the most important.

At West Point, I recited the Cadet Prayer every Sunday. It taught us to “choose the harder right over the easier wrong” and to “never be content with a half truth when the whole can be won.” The Cadet Honor Code demanded truthfulness and honesty. It imposed a zero-tolerance policy against deception, or hiding behind comfort.

Following the Honor Code never bowed to comfortable timing or popularity. Honor and integrity are 24-hour values. That is why I refuse to lie about my identity.

I have personally served for a decade under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: an immoral law and policy that forces American soldiers to deceive and lie about their sexual orientation. Worse, it forces others to tolerate deception and lying. These values are completely opposed to anything I learned at West Point. Deception and lies poison a unit and cripple a fighting force.

As an infantry officer, an Iraq combat veteran and a West Point graduate with a degree in Arabic, I refuse to lie to my commanders. I refuse to lie to my peers. I refuse to lie to my subordinates. I demand honesty and courage from my soldiers. They should demand the same from me.

I am committed to applying the leadership lessons I learned at West Point. With 60 other LGBT West Point graduates, I helped form our organization, Knights Out, to fight for the repeal of this discriminatory law and educate cadets and soldiers after the repeal occurs. When I receive emails from deployed soldiers and veterans who feel isolated, alone, and even suicidal because the torment of rejection and discrimination, I remember my leadership training: soldiers cannot feel alone, especially in combat. Leaders must reach out. They can never diminish the fighting spirit of a soldier by tolerating discrimination and isolation. Leaders respect the honor of service. Respecting each soldier’s service is my personal promise.

The Department of the Army sent a letter discharging me on April 23rd. I will not lie to you; the letter is a slap in the face. It is a slap in the face to me. It is a slap in the face to my soldiers, peers and leaders who have demonstrated that an infantry unit can be professional enough to accept diversity, to accept capable leaders, to accept skilled soldiers.

My subordinates know I’m gay. They don’t care. They are professional.

Further, they are respectable infantrymen who work as a team. Many told me that they respect me even more because I trusted them enough to let them know the truth. Trust is the foundation of unit cohesion.

After I publicly announced that I am gay, I reported for training and led rifle marksmanship. I ordered hundreds of soldiers to fire live rounds and qualify on their weapons. I qualified on my own weapon. I showered after training and slept in an open bay with 40 other infantrymen. I cannot understand the claim that I “negatively affected good order and discipline in the New York Army National Guard.” I refuse to accept this statement as true.

As an infantry officer, I am not accustomed to begging. But I beg you today: Do not fire me. Do not fire me because my soldiers are more than a unit or a fighting force – we are a family and we support each other. We should not learn that honesty and courage leads to punishment and insult. Their professionalism should not be rewarded with losing their leader. I understand if you must fire me, but please do not discredit and insult my soldiers for their professionalism.

When I was commissioned I was told that I serve at the pleasure of the President. I hope I have not displeased anyone by my honesty. I love my job. I want to deploy and continue to serve with the unit I respect and admire. I want to continue to serve our country because of everything it stands for.

Please do not wait to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Please do not fire me.

Very Respectfully,

Daniel W. Choi
New York Army National Guard

Or any other military personnel who stand up to this immoral law. Now is the time.

Lt. Choi has been assisted by the ServiceMembers Legal Defense Network (, an outstanding organization.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Speaking of Voting - Shocking Study From The US Senate

I saw the following story Wednesday morning on the news, and was pretty surprised by it: One-Fourth of Overseas Votes Go Uncounted, Study Finds. Some of you may recall that John McCain asked for an extension to count votes in VA for absentee ballots requested by military personnel that were delayed in being set out. That was back in November.

Well, a new study has just come out from the US Senate, and you are not going to believe this. This is certainly timely given our conversations regarding our votes being counted, continuing tonight at 9:00pm (EST). Get this:
One out of every four ballots requested by military personnel and other Americans living overseas for the 2008 election may have gone uncounted, according to findings being released at a Senate hearing Wednesday.

Sen. Charles Schumer, chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, said the study, while providing only a snapshot of voting patterns, "is enough to show that the balloting process for service members is clearly in need of an overhaul."

Uh, ya THINK, Chuck?? No freakin' kidding! These people put their lives on the line, and then one of their most basic right as Americans, the right to have vote and have it counted is treated so cavalierly? Yeah, I think that warrants an "overhaul." SO astute.

There's more:
The committee, working with the Congressional Research Service, surveyed election offices in seven states with high numbers of military personnel: California, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and West Virginia.

It said that of 441,000 absentee ballots requested by eligible voters living abroad — mainly active-duty and reserve troops — (emphasis mine)more than 98,000 were "lost" ballots that were mailed out but never received by election officials. Taking into account 13,500 ballots that were rejected for such reasons as a missing signature or failure to notarize, one-quarter of those requesting a ballot were disenfranchised.

The study found that an additional 11,000 ballots were returned as undeliverable.

Holy smokes. Twenty-five percent of the votes cast were not counted. I'm still trying to get my head around that, especially in light of the clear intention TO vote as expressed here:
Schumer's office said that because a person living abroad must request the absentee ballot and show a clear intention to vote, voter negligence is not thought to be a major factor.

Rather, the New York Democrat said in a statement, there is a chronic problem of military voters being sent a ballot without sufficient time to complete it and send it back. He cited estimates that a ballot can take up to 13 days to reach an overseas voter.

Among the states surveyed, California had 30,000 "lost" votes out of 103,000 ballots mailed out. An additional 3,000 ballots were returned as undeliverable and 4,000 were rejected.

And that is exactly the issue McCain was trying to address in VA, where it was CLEAR that the fault lay with those responsible for mailing out the ballots. They failed to do so in a timely manner, especially considering the length of time it takes for the ballots to be received overseas.

So, what is the plan to correct this unacceptable situation? Well, this:
The hearing was to take up possible problems in the Federal Voting Assistance Program, a Pentagon program that handles the election process for military personnel and other overseas voters.

Oh, whew. I feel better now. That should take care of it, right? Ahem.

This just boggles my mind. Come to think of it, this isn't just unacceptable, it is a breach of trust with those who are serving in our military abroad. They should be able to know that if they ask for an absentee ballot, they will receive it in a timely fashion. And, they should be able to know that their vote cast is a vote counted. We all should be able to trust that. Clearly, not only can those serving and living abroad not be able to trust in that, even when they do all that is required of them to cast that vote, but we cannot either. Not now, not with electronic voting machines, and not with rampant voter fraud. Something has to change, and it has to change now. At the very, very least, we all, every American, should be able to know with CERTAINTY that the vote we cast is counted, first of all, but counted correctly, second of all. And those who put their lives on the line for us deserve that at the very least.

Twenty five percent. 25%. One-fourth, 1/4th, of the votes not counted. Simply unacceptable.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"Hacking Democracy" Part 2, Upcoming Live Chat, And A Disclaimer

Tonight at 9:00 pm (EST) we will continue our discussion of the HBO documentary, "Hacking Democracy." Once again, we will be joined by the founder of Hand Count Paper Ballots Now , Kathleen Wynne, and her colleague, Vickie Karp (biographies below). To join us, you can click the link below at the appropriate time, or sign up for an email reminder:

Link Removed for Easy Loading.

KATHLEEN WYNNE - Former Associate Director of non-profit elections watchdog organization, Black Box, when the organization was founded in 2004. Founded website She has testified at numerous public hearings and has provided evidence to members of the U.S. Congress, the EAC, and other public bodies. Appeared on Lou Dobbs, Fox & Friends and on various radio shows throughout the country. Her videotaped evidence was used as the best evidence in the trial of two election officials in Ohio, who were convicted of felony charges during the 2004 Presidential Recount. Appeared with Bev Harris in Hacking Democracy. She is one of the experts who wrote chapter in the book, HACKED! High Tech Election Theft in America.

VICKIE KARP - PR Director,; National Chair - Coalition for Visible; served as a Board Member and as President of the Board for the non-profit elections watchdog organization, Black Box; co-edited with Abbe Waldman DeLozier the book, HACKED! High Tech Election Theft in America; co-hosted the weekly radio show VoteRescue Radio with Karen Renick on We The People Radio Network Radio in Austin, Texas; has appeared on MSNBC and Austin TV news channels and various radio shows throughout the country.

Now for the disclaimer part. The recent two-part series on Bev Harris and Black Box Voting was to serve as a historical and foundational context on the issue of electronic voting machines as explored in the HBO documentary, "Hacking Democracy." As is the case with most organizations and the people who represent them, there are some who disagree with where Bev Harris wants to go, and with some of her methods (as I understand it). That is for each person to decide on their own, in my opinion. And, there is disagreement within the various organizations devoted to the issue of how our votes should be counted to ensure the validity and sanctity of those votes. Those are just the kinds of issues we want to discuss during our Live Chat.

Following our last Live Chat on May 20th, Kathleen Wynne will provide a wrap up of the issue from the perspective of her organization, Hand Count Paper Ballots Now. Please watch this space for that informative post and ways in which we can take back the power of the vote.

We had a very lively discussion last week, and I expect more of the same this week, too. Please come join us!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"Black Box Voting," Part 2

This is Part 2 of the article "Black Box Backlash," the conclusion of Part 1 on Bev Harris, Black Box Voting, and the issue of leaving our democracy to electronic voting machines. This will be the topic of our Live Chat on Weds., May 13th, at 9:00 PM.

Back to the article:
COMPUTER SCIENTISTS were already hotly debating the issue. Stanford University's David Dill became interested in computer voting when the state of Georgia had technical problems with its new voting machines in 2002. When Dill discovered his own county, Santa Clara in California, was about to start using electronic voting machines without paper output, he swung into action. Dill started an online petition calling for a paper trail that attracted some of the nation's premier computer scientists. He put up a Web site that eventually became and began speaking out about the issue around the country.

Harris' instincts about posting the source code proved to be dead-on. Four computer scientists from Maryland's prestigious Johns Hopkins University examined the code and released a scathing review of it. "Our analysis shows that this voting system is far below even the most minimal security standards applicable in other contexts," their report stated.

While the Hopkins review did not cause political pandemonium, it did validate Harris' gut feelings about electronic voting—our votes were not secure because the software recording them was vulnerable to hacking. The report also attracted major media attention across the country.

Diebold spokesperson David Bear says, "Electronic voting is safe, secure, and accurate." Bear says the code that Harris found on the Internet was partial and outdated. In addition, Bear points out, the software is not used in a vacuum. Election officials use a variety of checks and balances with any system that they employ to ensure its security.

After the Hopkins report, the state of Maryland had a couple of consultants review the touch-screen machines and the way they will be deployed in elections. The consultants made some recommendations to increase security, but Maryland is proceeding with the elections using the Diebold equipment.

Far be it from me to not believe a Diebold spokesperson, but, I don't believe him. His contention that the machines are safe and secure flies in the face of a number of reports, including being able to access them with a mini-bar key! So, yeah, I'm not buying what he was selling. Makes me wonder why Maryland did, all evidence to the contrary. But, I'm not the only one who is just a tad suspicious:

Harris, however, was not done with Diebold. Last Sept. 5, someone leaked 15,000 internal Diebold memos to Harris. She says she published 24 of them on her own PR Web site and was promptly hit with a cease-and-desist letter from Diebold. Soon, all 15,000 of the memos were circulating on the Internet. Independent media sites around the world and students at more than 30 universities posted them. Diebold tried to stop the postings by claiming copyright on the memos and found itself entangled in a free-speech battle. Eventually, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, posted them on his congressional Web site. Diebold recognized that Kucinich held a trump card and withdrew its objections to the postings.

Sadly, the memos themselves have not been the subject of any thorough analysis. They are mostly e-mails from Diebold employees and are full of phrases that sound bad but are hard to understand without technical expertise and context.

Diebold's Bear says, "Those were internal discussions between individuals, not the sentiments of the company."

HARRIS THINKS the memos contain important revelations. Perhaps the most important, she argues, is that there is widespread use of uncertified software for voting machines of all kinds. Whether we vote on the new touch-screen system or the optical-scan paper ballots in use in King County and elsewhere, computer software counts our ballots. Harris believes a strict certification process where federal and state officials carefully test the election software is central to voting security. Without proper certification, she worries that improper code that would allow for the manipulation of election results might be introduced into the system.

By last Nov. 21, Kevin Shelley, California's secretary of state, had heard enough. He issued an order that all touch- screen voting machines include "an accessible voter verified paper audit trail." (Washington's Reed and Nevada's secretary of state, Dean Heller, came out in favor of audit trails in December.) The next month, Shelley commissioned an audit into whether uncertified Diebold software was being used in California's elections. Of the 17 California counties that used Diebold election machines in the last election, Shelley's auditors found, none was using software that had been properly certified by the state. Diebold insists that the changes made to the software are cosmetic. Shelley says the company might lose the right to sell its touch-screen machines in California.

All in all, 2003 was quite a year for Bev Harris. But she insists she is just getting started.

Bear in mind, this was 6 years ago. So much information came to light, yet, Diebold was still selling machines across the country. Harris wasn't done yet:

In 2004, Harris and her allies have been working on four new fronts: lobbying, public speaking, litigation, and seeking public office.

At the start of this year's Washington Legislature, there were two bills about issues related to electronic voting. Harris and her ally, Linda Franz, another voting activist, introduced one with the help of legislators in both the House and the Senate. It died a relatively quick death, however.

The other bill, introduced by Secretary of State Reed, represented a big change in his position. Up until December, Reed and his office had strongly resisted any effort to require touch-screen voting machines to have a voter-verified audit trail. Reed says that as he toured the state talking with ordinary voters, he realized there was a lot of anxiety about the new electronic voting. He has seen this phenomenon before, he says, when other new voting technology—like the optical scan paper ballot—was introduced. "It was one thing to hear from a few people on the Internet," he says, "but we found ordinary citizens didn't trust these machines."

Harris and her allies, however, are furious opponents of Reed's bill. They say it leaves the door open for insecure Internet voting, takes too long to require a paper trail with touch-screen voting machines, and has an insufficient audit requirement and a host of other ills. "You have a secretary of state that crafts legislation that sounds good but doesn't deliver," says Franz.

REED IS RELUCTANT to engage in a debate with Harris and her allies. He says he hasn't seen their bill and downplays the differences between himself and them. He offers only the mildest criticism and says on the whole their activism has been helpful. He does object to the way they have verbally roughed up elections officials like Snohomish County Auditor Bob Terwilliger. "Bob has been on radio shows with Bev Harris. I fortunately haven't had that experience," he says, laughing.

As of Tuesday, March 9, the fate of Reed's legislation was still up in the air.

Wow - this guy can be Secretary of State, but he's afraid to take on this grandmother? Talk about your lack of intestinal fortitude...I know, I know, that seems to go hand-in-hand with being a politician, but still - c'mon already! Not only that, but saying one thing one day, and another the next seems to be a chronic disease for too many politicians:
Longtime voting-rights activist Janet Anderson questions the wisdom of head-on, fierce opposition to Reed and his bill by Harris and her allies. "The secretary of state changed his position 180 degrees. Instead of being supportive, they are making it clear they don't trust him."

In fact, Harris' right-hand man is running against Reed. Andy Stephenson met Harris through Democratic Underground, a left-wing Web site (, and they immediately became close cohorts. Stephenson, 42, looks like a shorter, stockier version of talk-show host Conan O'Brien, and until recently he owned the Subway shop on 15th Avenue on Seattle's Capitol Hill. As a former telephone salesperson, he has skills that Harris lacks: He's great on the phone or talking one-on-one with people.

Stephenson is running a fiery campaign against Reed. "The secretary of state is accountable to no one," he charges. His campaign for elected office suffers from a flaw common among impassioned rookies, however: He believes his issue will be enough against seasoned politicians like Reed and Democratic Party favorite state Rep. Laura Ruderman, D-Kirkland, who have name identification with voters and will raise much more money and receive much more institutional support than Stephenson will.

HARRIS HASN'T endorsed Stephenson because she doesn't endorse candidates. But it's clear Harris likes him and his tactics, which include filing a lawsuit against Reed for allowing the use of uncertified software in King County. The secretary of state's office denies the charge. Meanwhile, Harris is a plaintiff in a California lawsuit that seeks to end use of Diebold equipment in that state. She and Stephenson promise more lawsuits in other states, including Washington.

The partisan, rancorous nature of Stephenson's campaign concerns veteran activist Anderson. "I don't like it when people start speaking in partisan terms, because we all want honest, safe, secure elections. To turn it into partisan name-calling turns off half the people."

At a recent forum, Stephenson, who is charming tête-à-tête, looked extremely uncomfortable while making an awkward stump speech. As if to emphasize the protest nature of his candidacy, he endorsed dark-horse presidential candidate Kucinich.

Well, we know that outcome - Reed is still Secretary of State in California.

Back to Bev Harris:

Harris, on the other hand, is a marvelous speaker. As a PR professional, she knows how to present her material in a personable, funny way. She hopes to use public speaking tours as another weapon in her arsenal and took her act on the road to California this month.

The tone of Harris' rhetoric disturbs Anderson. "Bev Harris is a little more conspiracy-oriented than I tend to be. I don't believe this is a huge Republican plot to steal elections," she says. "Maybe the whole matter would have been taken more seriously earlier had not the highly partisan charges been made so shrilly."

That kind of criticism angers Harris. But there's no doubt some of her claims have lacked substantiation. Near the end of Black Box Voting, she writes: "There are some who are using election-manipulation techniques to transfer a block of power to their friends. This is a business plan, a form of organized crime. . . . " Yet Harris rejects any claim she is a conspiracy theorist. "I understand the needs of the press in terms of documentation and not overstating your case," she says, and she has worked to scale back the hype in her writing.

Yet at a recent forum at the University of Washington, the more outrageous Harris' rhetoric got, the more the audience loved it. One key to Harris' success has been her in-your-face style. That characteristic, which brought early success, might not resonate with everyone. She isn't confident of victory in any case. "Actually, it is going to be a long shot that we will win this battle on voting machines," Harris says. "We have proven our case, but they are still just barreling ahead." (

Just because someone may be a conspiracy theorist doesn't mean they are WRONG. There has been AMPLE evidence to support Harris' contentions about Diebold (and other) electronic voting machines, including by our CIA, for pete's sake! I mean, really - what's the point of having highly trained professionals give us their opinion if we are simply going to ignore what they have to say? THAT makes no sense, in my opinion. What Ms. Harris has been saying for years now, does. Especially since she has been backed up by a number of universities and specialists in this area.

The question is: why are we still using these machines?

Please join us for our second Live Chat and viewing of Parts 4 - 6 of the HBO documentary, "Hacking Democracy" Weds. night, May 13, at 9:00pm (EST) to discuss this, and other questions.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Roxanna Saberi, the Iranian/American journalist imprisoned in Iran, has been freed! Here is a LINK about her sentence being reduced. Just wanted to bring the good news!

"Black Box Voting" Review Part 1

As we prepare for our second week of viewing "Hacking Democracy" and Live Chat, based on the work of Black Box Voting, it seems like a natural time to give more background on this organization, its founder, Bev Harris, and the issues of electronic voting machines. SusanUnPC was kind enough to provide me with the article, Black Box Backlash, which explores how this organization came to be, who Bev Harris is, and what she has faced. Her former colleague, Kathleen Wynne, was instrumental in bringing this information to our attention, thus leading to the Live Chats on this critical issue - the sanctity of our votes, Part 1 (I am breaking the article down into two different parts, so one today, and one tomorrow).

And now, meet Bev Harris:
America's leading critic of electronic voting lives on a cul-de-sac in the blue-collar suburb of Renton. Bev Harris drives a gray Dodge Caravan with a bumper sticker that says, "Keep honking, I'm reloading." Last year, several things broke in her home— the furnace, a sink, and a toilet—and she didn't have the money to get them fixed right away. In fact, the sink and toilet are still broken.

At 52, Harris worries about being overweight, and she can't find a hairdresser she's happy with. In recent years she's made her living as a literary publicist, hawking such books as Odyssey of the Soul by Hugh Harmon and Pamela Chilton, which is about channeling spirits, and Two Codes for Murder, a true-crime story by Dorothea Fuller Smith. A year and half ago, she admits, "I thought voting was boring."

Clearly, Harris' feelings about voting have changed a lot in the past 18 months. Voting has become Harris' passion and vocation. Voting issues consume her life, even pushing her to work around the clock at times.

Since September 2002, Harris has battled a U.S. senator, large corporations, and election officials across the country in her effort to ensure our votes are counted fairly and accurately. At first, she focused on the problems with computer voting. Since then, the name of her Web site ( and her book devoted to the subject—Black Box Voting—have become shorthand for concerns about computers and elections. Moreover, her astounding discoveries on the subject have resulted in damning research by distinguished computer-science professors and numerous articles in major newspapers across the country. Secretaries of state, including Republican Sam Reed of Washington and Democrat Kevin Shelley of California, have responded by proposing key changes in how we will cast our ballots in the future.

HARRIS HAS BECOME a media darling. A major profile is due in Vanity Fair, and her cell phone rings constantly with requests for interviews and documentation, from TV stations and newspapers around the country. Democratic presidential candidates John Edwards, Howard Dean, and Dennis Kucinich all mentioned concerns about electronic voting during this year's campaign. Former first lady and current U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., are sponsoring national legislation responding to the issues raised by Harris and her allies.

Now she has broadened her critique of election security to include subjects like voting over the Internet and the integrity of the software that counts paper ballots across the nation, including those in King County. More importantly, she wants to focus on solutions to the problems she has uncovered. To do that, she and her allies are taking what has largely been an online movement and bringing it into the real world. They are doing speaking tours, lobbying for legis- lative changes, and even running for office. Will they be as successful in the meat world as they have been on the Internet? Or will they be like presidential candidate Howard Dean—an online tiger and an analog kitten?

Harris' online success has brought increased scrutiny. Many elections professionals, private and public, believe her alarm over voting security is unfounded. Even some of her allies find her rhetoric hard to take. Harris is unapologetic. She offers a typically unvarnished opinion on elections officials' understanding of security: "I've never seen such a clueless bunch of people." She feels the mainstream media have begun to back her up. "I've been called every kind of nutcase there is, and now I've been in The New York Times three times," she says.

And I wonder just how much investigation the critics put into her claims regarding these voting machines? As Kathleen Wynne is always quick to remind me, it is in the best interests of a number of corporations, and politicians, for things to stay as they are, a point that cannot be overstated enough, in my opinion.

Back to the article now:

After the election meltdown of 2000, when an incredibly close race for president shined a very bright light on the shortcomings of the American electoral system, Congress took action. It passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, telling states to phase out the infamous punch-card ballots, with their pregnant, hanging, and dimpled chads. HAVA also required a touch-screen voting machine for every polling place, mainly so blind voters could cast their ballots unassisted. As an incentive, Congress included billions in funding for conversion of local electoral systems. Faced with the need to upgrade technology and some federal largesse, some states, like Maryland, and some counties, like Snohomish here in Washington, decided to convert completely to touch-screen polling places. As a result, more than 20 percent of American voters will use touch-screen machines in this year's presidential election, according to Election Data Services, a D.C. consultancy.

Voting on a touch screen is like using a bank's automatic teller machine. There is one vital difference, however: The voting machine does not give you a paper receipt. The absence of a paper trail has alarmed a variety of people, including some of the nation's most renowned computer scientists. Their bottom line? These machines could be hacked. The solution? An auditable, voter-verified paper trail.


For Harris, this all started with a search of the Internet during her lunch hour. She was cruising, a left-wing Web site, when she noticed an article by Lynn Landes. Since she was still sore about the Florida machinations of the 2000 presidential race, the article's scathing critique of computer voting piqued Harris' interest.

She decided to do some research. She learned that Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., had an ownership share in Election Systems & Software (ES&S), whose Web site brags that its equipment counted 56 percent of the nation's votes in each of the past four presidential elections. Moreover, ES&S voting machines count all the votes in Hagel's home state of Nebraska, except in those counties that tally ballots by hand. While there is nothing illegal about the senator's stake in the company, it didn't seem right to Harris. When she posted the information about the situation on her Web site, she promptly received a cease-and-desist order from ES&S lawyers. She e-mailed the cease-and-desist order to 3,000 of her media contacts. Then she thought she'd better tell her husband, Sonny Dudley, who is African American. She says he framed the issue in terms of civil rights. "'My people died for the right to vote,' he boomed. 'I will vote for who I want and no one's gonna stop me,'" she recalls in her book.

This was a shocking revelation when I first heard of it several years ago. How it was Senator Hagel maintained his ties to this company while being a US Senator, especially one who ran for re-election in an area using the very machines his company owned, seemed like just a bit of a conflict of interest. Naturally, his office didn't see it that way:
The issue doesn't seem so dramatic to LouAnn Linehan, Sen. Hagel's chief of staff. She says Hagel has never tried to hide his ties to ES&S and that Harris' claims about the senator run from "inaccurate" to "outrageous." Says ES&S spokesperson Megan McCormick: "Misinformation and inaccuracies were posted on Bev Harris' Web site. Because of the extent of the misinformation, ES&S expressed through an outside attorney its concern and requested correction."

While untangling the specifics of this debate would take an entire article, there's no doubt that jousting with ES&S and Hagel got Harris hooked on the topic. Although she couldn't interest mainstream publishers in the subject, David Allen, a former systems engineer turned comic-book publisher, became intrigued with her research. Soon, Harris had a contract with Allen's Plan Nine Publishing for the company's first non-comic book.

Publisher Allen's technical expertise proved to be vitally important. He urged Harris to get a copy of a technical manual for an electronic voting machine. Harris started surfing the Web. On Jan. 23, 2003, she hit the mother lode. On an unprotected Web site, she found 40,000 files of Diebold Election Systems' source code—the guts of software to run touch-screen voting machines. At first, Harris wasn't sure what all the weird files were, so she called Allen and directed him to the site. What are we looking at? she asked. "Incredible stupidity," he replied.

And how. It is remarkable what people "accidentally" end up posting on the internet, but this was a DOOZY:

Diebold is an Ohio-based company with more than $2 billion in annual revenue that was founded in 1859 and makes ATMs and security systems, among other things. In 2002, Diebold got into the election business when it bought Global Election Systems. Diebold is a relatively small player in the industry, with only 33,000 of its voting stations in use across the country, but it is coming on strong. In 2002, Diebold landed a $54 million contract from Georgia that included 19,000 new voting machines. The following year, Maryland signed a $55.6 million contract for 11,000 new machines.

Diebold, ES&S, and Sequoia are the big three companies making electronic voting machines. All of them refuse to let outside observers examine their software, citing proprietary and security concerns.

Harris' discovery represented the first opportunity for the wider world to glimpse the internal workings of the machines that are playing a key role in our democracy. After a little soul searching, Harris downloaded the Diebold software files. It took 44 hours, and they filled seven CDs. By July 2003, after months of informal review and discussion among her friends and allies, Harris decided to allow Scoop, an "unfiltered" news Web site in New Zealand (, to make the files available to anyone who wanted them. It wasn't a decision she made lightly. "I knew I had something that could provoke a constitutional crisis," she says. She hoped that some computer science professors would take an interest.

This pretty much covers what we saw last week in the first three parts of the documentary, "Hacking Democracy." If you wish to catch up, you can go to THIS LINK to watch the first three parts (Part 2 and 2 will automatically come up at YouTube).

The importance of this topic cannot be overemphasized. We have all been impacted by the "issues" these electronic voting machines have raised, and the questionable tallies they have produced. It is to that, and other related issues, we will direct our attention Wednesday, May 13th, at 9:00pm (EST).