Archive for October 19th, 2008
Will the GOP’s campaign to deter new voters and discard
Democratic ballots determine the next president? (extracts)
Robert F Kennedy, Greg Palast, Rolling Stone
These days, the old west rail hub of Las Vegas, New Mexico, is little more than a dusty economic dead zone amid a boneyard of bare mesas. In national elections, the town overwhelmingly votes Democratic: More than 80% of all residents are Hispanic, and one in four lives below the poverty line. On Super Tuesday, one in nine Democrats who tried to cast ballots in New Mexico found their names missing from the registration lists. The numbers were even higher in precincts like Las Vegas, where nearly 20% of the county’s voters were absent from the rolls. With their status in limbo, the voters were forced to cast “provisional” ballots, which can be reviewed and discarded by election officials without explanation. On Super Tuesday, more than half of all provisional ballots cast were thrown out statewide. This November, what happened in New Mexico will happen to hundreds of thousands of voters across the country. In state after state, Republican operatives — the party’s elite commandos of bare-knuckle politics — are wielding new federal legislation to systematically disenfranchise Democrats. If this year’s race is as close as the past two elections, the GOP’s nationwide campaign could be large enough to determine the presidency in November. “I don’t think the Democrats get it,” says John Boyd, a voting-rights attorney in Albuquerque who has taken on the Republican Party for impeding access to the ballot. “All these new rules and games are turning voting into an obstacle course that could flip the vote to the GOP in half a dozen states.”
Suppressing the vote has long been a cornerstone of the GOP’s electoral strategy. Shortly before the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, Paul Weyrich — a principal architect of today’s Republican Party — scolded evangelicals who believed in democracy. “Many of our Christians have what I call the ‘goo goo’ syndrome — good government,” said Weyrich, who co-founded Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell. “They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” Today, Weyrich’s vision has become a national reality. Since 2003, according to the US Election Assistance Commission, at least 2.7m new voters have had their applications to register rejected. In addition, at least 1.6m votes were never counted in the 2004 election — and the commission’s own data suggests that the real number could be twice as high. Allegations of voter fraud are only the latest rationale the GOP has used to disenfranchise voters — especially blacks, Hispanics and others who traditionally support Democrats. “The Republicans have a long history of erecting barriers to discourage Americans from voting,” says Donna Brazile, chair of the Voting Rights Institute for the Democratic National Committee. “Now they’re trying to spook Americans with the ghost of voter fraud. It’s very effective — but it’s ironic that the only way they maintain power is by using fear to deprive Americans of their constitutional right to vote.”
In the century following the Civil War, millions of black Americans in the Deep South lost their constitutional right to vote, thanks to literacy tests, poll taxes and other Jim Crow restrictions imposed by white officials. Add up all the modern-day barriers to voting erected since the 2004 election — the new registrations thrown out, the existing registrations scrubbed, the spoiled ballots, the provisional ballots that were never counted — and what you have is millions of voters, more than enough to swing the presidential election, quietly being detached from the electorate by subterfuge. “Jim Crow was laid to rest, but his cousins were not,” says Donna Brazile. “We got rid of poll taxes and literacy tests but now have a second generation of schemes to deny our citizens their franchise.” Come November, the most crucial demographic may prove to be Americans who have been denied the right to vote. If Democrats are to win the 2008 election, they must not simply beat John McCain at the polls — they must beat him by a margin that exceeds the level of GOP vote tampering.
Palast’s complete BBC Newsnight report is here in two parts, courtesy of his own website, http://www.gregpalast.com/ :
‘Ft. Dix Six’ informants in hot seat too
Josh Meyer, LA Times, Oct 19 2008
CHERRY HILL, N.J. — One is a bankrupt convicted felon who spewed venomous hatred about the US, hooked up an alleged terrorist cell with semiautomatic weapons and drove the surveillance car as they cased military bases. The other boasted of killing someone back home in Albania and vowed to kill others or blow himself up in a crowd of people now that he was in the US. But Mahmoud Omar and Besnik Bakalli aren’t members of the so-called “Ft. Dix Six,” five of whom go on trial Monday for allegedly conspiring to gun down military personnel at the sprawling South Jersey base in a jihad-inspired attack last year. They’re the FBI informants who are instrumental to the government’s case against the group. Information surfacing about the two men on the eve of one of the most high-profile US-based terrorism trials since Sep 11 all but guarantees that they will be put in the hot seat nearly as much as the defendants, along with their FBI handlers.
Omar, 39, is a fast-talking Egyptian who fixed and sold used cars out of his South Jersey apartment building parking lot. He was paid as much as $150k, and possibly more, by federal authorities for infiltrating a group of young, foreign-born Muslims in this prosperous Philadelphia suburb after authorities became suspicious of them in early 2006. For 16 months, Omar talked tough, boasting of his exploits as an Egyptian military officer, a drug dealer and a petty criminal who sneaked into the US through Mexico in the 1980s, according to wiretapped conversations as well as the brother of three of the defendants. That brother participated in some of the alleged activities in question but has been cleared of wrongdoing. Bakalli, who is about 35, talked even tougher than Omar, bragging constantly about how he was not afraid to die. Previously known only as “confidential witness 2,” Bakalli’s name surfaced for the first time last week in court papers. “Besnik was the only one talking about wanting to shoot people, to blow them up, and we kept saying, ‘Why would you want to do that? It’s forbidden in our religion,’ ” said Burim Duka, 17, an ethnic Albanian Muslim whose three brothers are among those on trial. “And he’d say, ‘What are you so scared of?’ ” Duka says the informants created the conspiracy out of nothing, fingering his brothers and two of his friends as participating in a terrorist plot when such a plot never existed. [...]
Obama Spaceships Will Appear On 10-31-08
PRWEB, Las Vegas, Oct 17 2008
According to Prophet Yahweh:
Some time before Nov 11 2008, more than likely before the presidential elections, and possibly on Oct 31 2008, at approximately 12 noon, spaceships will start appearing, on my summons and request, and hover over my school for all Las Vegans and media to see and film. My UFO Summoning School is located by one of Las Vegas’ housing projects in the middle of the ghetto. There I teach people the ancient art of summoning or calling down UFO’s and spaceships on command.
In anticipation of the spaceships’ descent, Prophet is planning to install live, Internet broadcast streaming capability at his school. He is doing this so people, worldwide, can see him call down the spaceships on Oct 31 2008, exactly at 12 noon, and the spaceships that appear for the entire time they sit up in the sky. Prophet says that he may be off a little with the dates and some details he gives, but let there be no doubt that something within the general overview of what he says is going to happen. He claims that these space beings are the Angels of YAHWEH, the Creator of all things. And, they are talking to him, on a daily basis, via a sophisticated form of telepathic, non-verbal, non-talk, brain-to-brain communication. Most of the time, when they contact him, he is asleep. At that time, he hears a voice speaking to him inside his head. He also says that:
Unless I am misinterpreting my visions, it’s very likely that YAHWEH’s angels are going to descend down from space, in one of their spaceships, on two different occasions, in a different, single ship, each time, and hover over my school in Las Vegas for three days so the media can film them.
When asked why the spaceships will appear, Prophet boldly says that:
One of the many reasons why they will do this is to show support for Presidential candidate Barack Obama. This will be done so people will know that Obama is the best choice to lead America through the troublesome times to come. YAHWEH wants people to know that if Barak Obama does not become President, America will quickly be led into a war with Russia, via Iran, that will result in a cut-off of oil from the Persian Gulf, a great depression, stock market crash, runaway inflation, devaluation of the dollar, food shortages, riots, famine, race wars, outbreaks of disease, etc. Barack Obama, as President, would do more than any other president to keep these terrible things from happening and hold back the tremendous suffering that would come upon the American people. YAHWEH, the Creator of all things, wants all Americans to vote for Obama, and put him in the office of the President of the United States, so he can immediately go to work against the terrible times to come.
Prophet Yahweh is quick to reveal that his ability to call down sightings is divine and that the Angels of YAHWEH taught him how to summon their UFO flying machines or their spaceships on his prayer signal. On May 25, 2005, KTNV ABC TV-13 in Las Vegas contacted Prophet Yahweh to put his summoning abilities to the test. At that time, he made broadcast history as the first person to call down real UFOs for mainstream television cameras to film. The news segment, and the UFOs that appeared, can be seen on the “UFO TV News” channel that’s broadcast via YouTube. Prophet Yahweh is available for radio and television interviews and summoning of UFO’s for the media to film. Also, he is willing to allow television stations, and other media, to set up their cameras on his UFO Summoning School’s grounds for perfect line-of-sight filming of the spaceships that will appear in the sky directly above it.
Bachmann Calls For McCarthyite Investigation
Into Anti-American Activities Of Liberals
Appearing on MSNBC’s Hardball Oct 17, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) attacked Obama’s patriotism, based on his alleged relationship to former Weather Underground member William Ayers and the values of Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. “I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views,” said Bachmann. “That’s what the American people are concerned about.” She then went further, suggesting that all liberal views — held by people such as Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, professors, and all Americans who identify themselves as “liberals” — are “anti-American.” When host Chris Matthews, stunned by her remarks, asked Bachmann how many people in Congress hold anti-American views, she responded, “You’ll have to ask them.” Bachmann called on the media to conduct investigations into the anti-American activities of members of Congress, similar to Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s discredited House Un-American Activities Committee hearings in the 1950s. “I think people would love to see an exposé like that,” she claimed. Watch it:
‘Real Virginia’ is only where McCain is winning
Faiz Shakir, Think Progress
On MSNBC Saturday morning, McCain adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer asserted that “real Virginia” does not include Northern Virginia: “I certainly agree that Northern Virginia has gone more Democratic. … But the rest of the state — real Virginia if you will — I think will be very responsive to Senator McCain’s message.” MSNBC host Kevin Corke gave Pfotenhauer a chance to revise her answer, telling her: “Nancy, I’m going to give you a chance to climb back off that ledge — Did you say ‘real Virginia’?” But Pfotenhauer didn’t budge, and instead dug a deeper hole: “Real Virginia, I take to be, this part of the state that’s more Southern in nature, if you will.” Thorpe ended the segment noting that Pfotenhauer was appearing via satellite from Northern Virginia. “Nancy Pfotenhauer, senior policy adviser for the McCain campaign, joining us from Arlington, not really Virginia.” Watch it:
Report: Bush offers swift Golan withdrawal
Roee Nahmias, YNet, Oct 17 2008
US President Bush suggested to Syrian President Assad that Israel would withdraw from the Golan Heights in exchange for a complete disbandment of the Syrian-Iranian alliance, Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida reported Friday. According to the report, the offer was made in a secret letter from Bush delivered to Assad by Palestinian President Abbas during his recent visit to Damascus. The letter included an American proposal to reach “a quick and satisfactory solution” to the Golan issue in return for defined moves and a declaration that the Syria would abandon its alliance with Iran once and for all. A Palestinian source close to Abbas told the paper:
The offer was included in a secret letter sent personally by President Bush. In the letter, Bush suggested finalizing the agreement within several weeks, before the US presidential elections, in order to push the Middle East peace process, an achievement the president will be able to proudly present before leaving the White House in January. The delegation accompanying Abbas on his visit to Syria was unaware of the letter or its details, and the US insisted that this be carried out secretly and far away from the official channels.
The newspaper went on to report that the American ambassador to Damascus was not informed either. The source claimed that the real objective of Abbas’ trip to Damascus was to deliver the letter to Assad. During his visit to the Syrian capital, the Palestinian president refrained from meeting with most of the leaders of the Palestinian organizations residing there. According to the report, he only held a few polite meetings with a number of senior members of the Palestinian groups.
Israeli scam exposed
Hanna Zohar, YNet, 10.18.08
(Hanna Zohar directs the Kav LaOved (Workers’ Hotline) non-profit organization)
300 Chinese workers in the Caribbean decided to break the law and take the Israeli representatives of a construction company hostage until they get their money back. These workers paid a total of $4.5m ($15k each) even before they started working — the money was divided among the various Chinese and Israeli intermediaries. We can assume that the construction company also got its share — as we know, there are no suckers around here. The right to work is a basic universal right. Therefore, international conventions and laws in most countries forbid employers from demanding fees from employees in exchange for giving them work. Yet when it comes to those 300 Chinese workers, as well as the millions of workers who travel from eastern countries to the West, the conventions and laws do not offer much help. It’s a fact. They pay thousands of dollars only because they hope for a high salary that will cover the debts they accumulated and enable them to save up some money and raise their standard of living upon their return to their homeland. A Chinese construction worker employed by Israeli construction companies pays more than $20k even before coming here.
Construction corporations are in fact manpower companies that got a license to bring laborers to Israel and arrange construction jobs for them. Before they were set up, in 2006, the workers paid sums ranging from $6k to $10k. By law, these corporations are not allowed to charge workers more than $1k for hiring them. The corporations pay the State tens of thousands of shekels for their license, and in addition are asked to provide significant financial guarantees in case the workers do not get paid. These high sums of money paid by the corporations have been passed on to the workers, which is why they need to pay much more today. No such corporation has been sued to this day for charging illegal sums from workers. Moreover, no corporation was asked to pay the guarantees for worker salaries, even though hundreds of workers have complained that they have not been paid. What we have here is not only a case of the government turning a blind eye — knowingly and deliberately in my view — to the charging of illegal funds, but also criminal cooperation with the corporations in avoiding to use the guarantees to pay workers.
In June 2007, a plan for bringing laborers from Thailand through a UN-affiliated group was supposed to get underway, with the purpose of preventing the high payments handed over by workers to intermediaries (Thai workers pay between $9k to $12k.) The government decision to launch the plan was taken after a petition to the High Court of Justice filed by Attorney Yuval Livnat from the Kav LaOved (Workers’ Hotline) organization. However, agricultural groups cried out, as many of them share in the illegal funds, and when the farmers’ lobby raises its voice, no convention or law can stand in its way. The government decision was frozen on the basis of various pretexts. Meanwhile, Israeli workers are also being charged for the right to work, despite the universal ban. This is done in a hidden and sophisticated manner, under the auspices and with the cooperation of the Israeli government. The 300 Chinese workers in the Caribbean exposed the ongoing scam of greedy companies and a corrupt government. Had it not been for the current financial crisis, the workers would reconcile themselves to the fees they have already paid and continue to work. In Chinese, crisis also means opportunity. Perhaps this is our opportunity to understand something and change it.
Head of Taser distributor in France arrested
Andrew Johnson, Arizona Republic, Oct 15 2008
French police arrested the head of a company that distributes stun guns in France for Scottsdale-based Taser International Inc. on Tuesday, according to foreign news reports. Authorities detained Antoine Di Zazzo and nine other people, including police officers and private detectives, on suspicion that they spied on Olivier Besancenot, a former presidential candidate in France who publicly questioned the safety of Taser’s devices, reports stated. Di Zazzo runs SMP Technologies, which has had an agreement with Taser since 2005 to exclusively distribute the company’s stun guns to law-enforcement agencies in France. Some news reports referred to Di Zazzo’s company as “Taser France.” But Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle said Di Zazzo is not a Taser employee, and Taser does not own or operate SMP. Tuttle said, “Antoine is purely a distributor in France. He is not an employee in any way, shape or form.”