Toyota

Since the Dilly, Dally, Delay & Stall Law Firms are adding their billable hours, the Toyota U.S.A. and Route 44 Toyota posts have been separated here:

Route 44 Toyota Sold Me A Lemon



Sunday, November 30, 2008

It All Sounds Familiar

It was one of those lazy New England afternoons after enjoying a weekend with friends and family, slightly slushy outside. Inspiring to do a few indoor projects that procrastinators, like myself haven't yet done, like cover the air conditioner for winter. Sometimes, you just can't take a chance on doing things too early!
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Not looking for anything in particular, the following find about Cortina Band of Wintun Indians was striking:
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This comment was like something familiar from the recent past --
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Bricklin also said opponents are branded racists by development supporters. “You get accused of being prejudiced against the tribes if you dare to challenge the project,” he said.

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From the history, it does seem the Tribe lacked the expertise to navigate the hazardous waste disposal issue itself and was exploited --

The trouble started in the late 1980s, when the band signed its first lease with a California trash company. That lease stalled when the company dumped 700,000 pounds of asbestos-contaminated waste on Cortina land before final permission was granted.

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Years later, Earthworks, a British Columbia venture capital company with no other business projects, negotiated a 25-year landfill lease with the band. The renewable lease will bring at least $15,000 a month to the tribe, up to a maximum of 3 to 5 percent of landfill revenues.
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In 2007, the band began leasing nearly 70 percent of its land to be used for a landfill by a joint project between a Canadian venture capital company and a California waste hauler. The company plans to truck in 1,500 tons of municipal waste a day and bury it deep in Cortina’s canyons.

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It would seem that the Tribe first got into bed with someone and accepted asbestos waste and now they're married to a partner with no clear expertise in the field.

The math seemed unconvincing, and although the details of the lease are not fully disclosed, here's my math --

1500 tons per day X 30 days = 45,000 TONS PER MONTH

$15,000 PER MONTH/45,000 TONS PER MONTH = .33 CENTS PER TON ???
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$15,000 PER MONTH/ 160 MEMBERS OF THE TRIBE = $93.75 PER MONTH EACH

Is that math correct?

It would seem that there are other foreign investors more than willing to take advantage of small tribes that either lack the ability to negotiate fair deals for themselves or have leaders willing to trade their heritage and their lands for future promises of riches, but $93.75 hardly seems like riches.

Wright said most members who live on the reservation don’t want the landfill, but the leadership and others who live outside the reservation see it as an opportunity to get paid.

“They see those Indians with a new car every year, and they want it, too”

I wonder how many cars they can buy for $93.75 PER MONTH?

The exemptions from environmental regulations and local statutes intended to protect resources, by land held in trust by the BIA are eerily familiar --

...California regulations, ... require at least five feet of separation between groundwater and waste.

Critics say the poverty of non-gaming tribes makes them vulnerable to environmentally hazardous projects.

“I think the Indians got sold a bill of goods,” she said. “You dangle money in front of people, and that carrot looks awfully good at the end of the string. And that string is a very short string.”

The article is worth reading in its entirety --
Outsiders Target Indian Land for Risky Business

Friday, November 28, 2008

Fellow blogger, Bellicose Bumpkin has done a lot of research and posted at length about the Community Preservation Act because it does seem to be an opportunity missed by Middleboro.
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Reviewing The Division of Local Services October/November issue of City and Town the following comment was striking --
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On October 15, 2008, 127 communities received a total of $54,614,430 in
Community Preservation Act (CPA) state matching funds. Since 2002, CPA
has served as a valuable tool for cities and towns in their efforts to protect
open space, preserve historic resources, provide affordable housing
and create recreational opportunities. Indicative of the program’s success is
that to date over $626.6 million has been raised in total state and local CPA
funds ....
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For a nominal annual contribution that is determined by voters, it does seem that the Town could have used the funding for its recent purchases instead of bonding.
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THE FOLLOWING CORRECTION WAS RECEIVED:
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The Division of Local Services has corrected and reposted the October/November issue of City and Town. We apologize for any confusion created by a publishing error that rearranged data for our cover feature on the Community Preservation Act.
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Click on or copy and paste the following link to your Internet browser:http://www.mass.gov/Ador/docs/dls/publ/ct/2008/oct_nov08.pdf

Spataro: One Trick Pony

Voters can always tell when Steven Spataro runs for re-election. Devoid of any ideas, he drags out the old Compression Solution, the tired old horse. Didn't his previous Compression Solution include combining the positions of COA Director with the Park Department and the Library? Didn't he want the Town Planner to act as Conservation Agent as well?
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Did Selectman Spataro ask any single candidate for the Fire Chief's position about a Public Safety official? Since the meeting wasn't videotaped by ComCast, you wouldn't know unless you were there (and few were), but he didn't. The candidates would have withdrawn their applications had he asked.
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And since the interviews weren't broadcast, you wouldn't know that one candidate actually applied for and obtained a GRANT ---- FREE MONEY -- to purchase a BRAND NEW LADDER TRUCK. That's the same truck that Middleboro approved for long-term bonding, but not a peep from Mr. Spataro.
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Has Selectman Spataro ever presented information about other municipalities having combined the positions into a Public Safety Officer? There might be areas where Middleboro should be a trendsetter, but it's doubtful this should be the issue.
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There are areas within the budget where dollars can be saved, but Mr. Spataro never sees those.
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Allow me to quickly list several that come to mind, but there are others:
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1. GRANTS
Other towns are applying for and receiving grants. One town that was previously commented on received a grant to install energy efficient pumps on their town's wells.
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3. Town Owned Vehicle Tracking
The discussion has arisen several times regarding the need for an audit and the need to charge Departments for the vehicles that are used by each department for several reasons. It eliminates the potential of vehicles remaining insured when the Town no longer owns them and it allows each department to address and reduce vehicle use costs. A key card system that tracks use could more appropriately address which departments might benefit from alternative fuel vehicles instead of the current method.
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Towns that are reducing their ENERGY COSTS have addressed the issue.
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4. Town Owned Vehicle Insurance
When a list of Town Owned Vehicles was produced, it indicated that a $500 deductible was included on most. Most frugal folks have increased their deductibles because the savings quickly satisfies the risk. The Waste Water Department's vehicle that was replaced at ATM, was how old and still had full coverage? Has anyone reviewed what it costs to carry complete coverage on some of these vehicles?
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5. Workers' Compensation
The Town Treasurer explained that at one point the Town self-insured for Workers' Compensation, but when it became less expensive to do so, the Town amended that option. Earlier this year, she indicated that the Town might save $100,000 to return to self-insurance. This is a decision of the BOS.
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6. ENERGY
The issue remains ignored by Mr. Spataro. Other Towns are leading the way and tackling the low hanging fruit and saving tax dollars. Not so Middleboro!
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EVERYBODY, it seems, is talking about ENERGY, except Middleboro BOS. Even the Middleboro School Department is reducing its ENERGY COSTS.
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12/02/2008 Hingham Wind Power Forum
Tuesday, December 2, 6:30 PM
Hingham Town Hall, Central Street , Hingham
More information, contact info@southshoredemocrats.org
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12/03/2008 Pembroke DTC Energy Forum
Wednesday, December 3, 7 - 9 PM
Pembroke Public Library, Center Street
All are cordially invited to attend an energy forum
sponsored by the Pembroke DTC to learn how to
save on entery costs and reduce one's carbon footprint.
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It would seem that Middleboro could do better than re-elect a candidate who promotes nonsensical ideas with little factual information, unless you want to look forward to another bizarre easel presentation.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

GOP Election Shenanigans #3

In 2006, Sarasota County’s election suffered 18,412 lost votes, votes that were apparently cast, but never recorded by voting machines.
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Florida Fair Elections is a grassroots group founded by Susan Pynchon. Susan and her colleagues investigated Sarasota’s lost votes, obtaining more than 10,000 election records. Neither she, nor the Government Accountability Office in Washington DC who also researched a report, found where the votes went.



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Lame Duck's Dirty Secrets

The Lame Duck's last gasp at deregulation was commented on in the WP:
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The new rules would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era and could be difficult for his successor to undo. Some would ease or lift constraints on private industry, including power plants, mines and farms.
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Those and other regulations would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.

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Once such rules take effect, they typically can be undone only through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis.

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EPA Libraries

The issues surrounding the closure of the EPA libraries were missed by most, and the information below was released amidst the Presidential Election by PEER. (PEER offers an email subscription.)
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LEARN MORE:
News - HomePress ClipsPEERmedia
For Immediate Release: September 29, 2008

SHUTTERED EPA LIBRARIES OPEN DOORS TOMORROW AFTER TWO YEARS — EPA Headquarters and Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City Regional Libraries Re-Open
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Washington, DC — Under orders from Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tomorrow will again provide access to library services in 15 states and its own headquarters to agency employees and the public. This ends a 30-month campaign by the Bush administration to restrict availability of technical materials within EPA but leaves in its wake scattered and incomplete collections under new political controls of library operations, says Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

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On September 30th, the last day of the federal fiscal year, EPA will re-open its regional libraries in Chicago (serving the Great Lakes region), Dallas (Mid-Southern region) and Kansas City (Mid-Western region) after more than two years. In addition, a long-shuttered library in EPA Headquarters will re-open and include a small portion of holdings from what had been a free-standing Chemical Library, for research on the properties and effects of new chemicals, as a “special Chemical Collection”.

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In its September 24, 2008 Federal Register notice, EPA promises that these re-opened facilities “will be staffed by a professional librarian to provide service to the public and EPA staff via phone, e-mail, or in person…for a minimum of 24 hours over four days per week on a walk-in basis or by appointment.”

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“While we are happy that EPA is re-opening its libraries, we are disturbed that the minds which plotted their closure remain in charge,” stated PEER Associate Director Carol Goldberg, whose organization first revealed EPA’s plans to shut libraries and maintained a drumbeat of disclosures until Congress finally intervened and directed the agency to reverse course in December 2007. “Tomorrow, EPA will still accord its own scientists and the public less access to information than it did back in 2005.”

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Most of the re-opened new libraries will be housed in less space and one, in Chicago (formerly the largest regional library), will re-open without “permanent furniture and shelving.” PEER notes that during the past two years, EPA further diminished its own informational infrastructure by –

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.Breaking up collections and disbursing them in a fashion that they may never be reassembled.

Most of the re-opened libraries will only provide “core” reference materials;
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.Banning any technical holdings (called “mini-libraries”) for scientists and specialists that are not subject to centralized control; and

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.Placing all library acquisition and management decisions under a political appointee.

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In response to stinging public and congressional criticism, EPA has undertaken an elaborate “National Dialogue on Access to Environmental Information” to develop a new Library Strategic Plan in December 2008, just before the Bush administration leaves office.

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“Given its record, the idea that the Bush administration is now sincerely interested in expanding access to environmental information is a bit hard to take,” Goldberg added. “If Congress had not intervened, all of EPA’s remaining libraries would now be on the chopping block.”

Lame Duck Economy

Watching an Incompetent Administration that created the current economic disaster continue to ignore it or at best, take misguided actions that fail at solution, Paul Krugman's comments are salient.
Yet economic policy, rather than responding to the threat, seems to have gone on vacation. In particular, panic has returned to the credit markets, yet no new rescue plan is in sight. On the contrary, Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, has announced that he won't even go back to Congress for the second half of the $700 billion already approved for financial bailouts. And financial aid for the beleaguered auto industry is being stalled by a political standoff.
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Now, maybe letting the auto companies die is the right decision, even though an auto industry collapse would be a huge blow to an already slumping economy. But it's a decision that should be taken carefully, with full consideration of the costs and benefits - not a decision taken by default, because of a political standoff between Democrats who want Paulson to use some of that $700 billion and a lame-duck administration that's trying to force Congress to divert funds from a fuel-efficiency program instead.

What We've Lost

Having watched the decline of the US media and reporting that has become propaganda, it's appreciated when the diagnosis and solutions are offered from a respected source.
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Looking back over the past three decades, the cost of the Left’s complacency on media – i.e. its failure to create a reliable way to get important facts to the public and to counter the Right’s propaganda machine – has been almost beyond calculation.
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America’s right-leaning media imbalance was a big reason why George W. Bush was able to misgovern the United States for eight years, leaving the nation in two bloody wars and wallowing in the worst financial crisis since World War II. Hundreds of thousands are dead and millions may soon be out of work
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...while the American Left has been largely absent from the national media landscape, wealthy right-wingers (from foundations like Olin and Scaife to media moguls like Sun Myung Moon and Rupert Murdoch) have poured tens of billions of dollars into media.
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Over those years, the Right built a towering – and vertically integrated – media structure reaching from newspapers, magazines and books to talk radio, cable TV and the Internet, an apparatus concentrated in the power centers of New York and Washington.

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The Right also invested money in attack groups to go after mainstream journalists who dared dig up information that put right-wing policies or politicians in a negative light. Offending journalists were accused of “liberal bias” and often found themselves hounded from the national press corps.

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Over time, this imbalance had a spillover effect. Many right-wing and neoconservative pundits landed prime spots on mainstream TV news shows and the Op-Ed pages of leading newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post.

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What Must Be Done Now!
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Having sacrificed our freedom of the press so willingly and without protest is a curious phenomenon. Maybe it's because the Right Wing Media constantly intones the 'liberal media bias' that too many accept.

GOP Election Shenanigans #2

The excerpts below were published on November 3 (click on the link to read the entire article), the day before the Presidential Election. The author has explained how voting and the ballots can be manipulated, but there was far more to the GOP attempts to deny the vote through intimidation, failing to provide adequate polling places, failing to provide adequate machines in polling places, moving polling places, misleading mailings and misinformation, and of course, Black Box Voting.
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That a Democrat prevailed against such overwhelming election tactics should not lull us into a false sense of security. Our flawed voting system needs to be corrected. And prosecution is a given.
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How McCain Could Win

It's November 5 and the nation is in shock. Media blame it on the "Bradley effect": Americans supposedly turned into Klansmen inside the voting booth, and Barack Obama turned up with 6 million votes less than calculated from the exit polls. Florida came in for McCain and so did Indiana. Colorado, despite the Democrats' Rocky Mountain high after the Denver convention, stayed surprisingly Red. New Mexico, a state where Anglos are a minority, went McCain by 300 votes, as did Virginia.
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That's the nightmare. Here's the cold reality.

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Swing state Colorado. Before this election, two Republican secretaries of state purged 19.4 percent of the entire voter roll. One in five voters. Pfft!

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Swing state New Mexico. One in nine voters in this year's Democratic caucus found their names missing from the state-provided voter registries. And not just any voters. County by county, the number of voters disappeared was in direct proportion to the nonwhite population. Gore won the state by 366 votes; Kerry lost it by only 5,900. Despite reassurances that all has been fixed for Tuesday, Democrats lost from the list in February told me they're still "disappeared" from the lists this week.

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Swing state Indiana. In this year's primary, ten nuns were turned away from the polls because of the state's new voter ID law. They had drivers' licenses, but being in their 80s and 90s, they'd let their licenses expire. Cute. But what isn't cute is this: 566,000 registered voters in that state don't have the ID required to vote. Most are racial minorities, the very elderly and first-time voters; that is, Obama voters. Twenty-three other states have new, vote-snatching ID requirements.

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Swing state Florida. Despite a lawsuit battle waged by the Brennan Center for Justice, the state's Republican apparatchiks are attempting to block the votes of 85,000 new registrants, forcing them to pass through a new "verification" process. Funny thing: verification applies only to those who signed up in voter drives (mostly black), but not to voters registering at motor vehicle offices (mostly white).

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And so on through swing states controlled by Republican secretaries of state.

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The Ugly Secret

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Here's an ugly little secret about American democracy: We don't count all the votes. In 2004, based on the data from the US Elections Assistance Commission, 3,006,080 votes were not counted: "spoiled," unreadable and blank ballots; "provisional" ballots rejected; mail-in ballots disqualified.

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This Tuesday, it will be worse. Much worse.

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That's what I found while traveling the nation over the last year for BBC Television and Rolling Stone Magazine, working with voting rights attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. This we guarantee: there will be far more votes disappeared by Tuesday night than the three million lost in 2004.

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A six-million vote swipe, quite likely, shifts 4 percent of the ballots, within the margin of error of the tightest polls.
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Begin with this harsh statistic: since the last election, more than ten million voters have been purged from the nation's vote registries. And that's just the start of the steal.

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If the noncount were random, it wouldn't matter. But it's not random. A US Civil Rights Commission analysis shows that the chance a black voter's ballot will "spoil" or be blank is 900 percent higher than a white voter's.

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Does that mean the election's stolen and you should forget voting and just go back to bed for four years? Hell, no. It means you vote and vote smart, learn how to pry their filthy little hands off your ballot (there's a link at the end).

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How to Steal an Election in Five Easy Steps

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Here's how they can pull off the steal. Take out your calculator and add it up.

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Step One: The "Dumpster" Vote - Purge Voters, Provisional Ballots

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Then there's New Mexico, with those one in nine Democrats missing. I spoke with San Miguel County elections supervisor, Democrat Pecos Paul Maez, who was none too happy that 20 percent of his voters, the majority poor and Hispanic, were not on the voter rolls, especially because he was one of the missing. He blamed the state for using a suspect contractor to tag names for the Big Purge, as required by the Help America Vote Act. The contractor that conducted the New Mexico purge, Electronic Systems and Software (ES&S), was founded by Republican Senator Chuck Hagel.
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Step Two: "Verification" (and Elimination) of New Voters
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In California, a Republican secretary of state rejected 42 percent of new registrations ....
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That's also what happened in Florida to the 85,000 new registrants.
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Step Three: New ID Laws
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New ID laws will add to the turn-aways, provisionals and rejecteds on Tuesday by at least two million - and that's way conservative, assuming the new laws in swing states are only one-fourth as restrictive as Indiana's.
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Step Four: Spoiling Ballots
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In the last election, 1,389,231 ballots were zeroed-out, "spoiled," because the machines lost them, couldn't read them, mangled them or simply didn't register them. But it's not random, not by a long shot. In New Mexico in 2004, I found that 89 percent of blank and spoiled ballots were cast in minority precincts - a sum of uncounted ballots way over the Republican "victory" margin in that state.
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In the primaries and in 2006, the "spoilage" and blank ("undervote") totals were horrific. There is every reason to believe the "spoilage" total will be as high as in the 2004 election. That is, no less than one million votes, overwhelmingly in minority districts, will just vanish. ("Spoilage" is not the same as vote tampering. There is the concern that "black-box" computers will switch your vote via an evil software hack job. That's another matter completely - and more votes lost if it happens, a sum I'm not including here.)
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Step Five: Rejecting Mail-In Ballots
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...the GOP has a new game for trashing your absentee vote. In states like Florida, some FTFs (First-Time Federal voters) will have to include a photocopy of their ID in with the absentee ballot. Bet you didn't know that. They're counting on you not knowing that. In Florida, for example, you have to place the ID photocopy outside the inner envelope, but inside the outer envelope - Got that? - or your vote is toast. I've spoken to one student voter, who lost his vote for failing to use the two envelopes - though he only received one.
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Greg Palast is the co-author of "Block the Vote," in this month's Rolling Stone Magazine, with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Palast and Kennedy are also co-authors of the investigative comic book, "Steal Back Your Vote." Palast, who reports on election fraud for BBC Television, is a Nation Institute/Puffin Foundation fellow for investigative reporting. Prior to his becoming a journalist, Palast was a forensic economist, fraud investigator and taught economics and statistics at Indiana University. palast@gregpalast.net

Friday, November 21, 2008

Energy Use Down

The WSJ reports Surprise Drop in Power Use Delivers Jolt to Utilities:

An unexpected drop in U.S. electricity consumption has utility companies worried that the trend isn't a byproduct of the economic downturn, and could reflect a permanent shift in consumption that will require sweeping change in their industry.
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...third-quarter electricity sales were down 5.9% in the Midwest from the year earlier, including a 9% drop among residential customers.
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...Among residential customers, the drop was 7.2%.
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...thinks the industry should to be wary about breaking ground on expensive new projects.
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Interesting commentary!

Lame Ducks Should Limp Away!

The Lame Duck has been cramming through new regulations and dismantling as much as possible prior to his successor taking office. (Some of which will be posted as time permits.)
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The following is over the top in the potential damage it could cause to women's health issues.
Planned Parenthood had this to say:

This new rule could allow almost 600,000 health care entities that receive federal funding to redefine abortion to include the most common forms of birth control — and then refuse to provide these basic services. For any health provider to intentionally withhold information about widely embraced treatment options from a patient — for any health condition — is absolutely unconscionable under any circumstances. It’s outrageous that President Bush is using his last days in office to implement a rule that would limit the rights of patients to receive complete and accurate reproductive health information.
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And NYT.

A Sight To Behold !

In case you missed cct --

Country Garden

Kudos to the business for their progressive thinking!

Republican Election Shenanigans #2

Obama '08 - Florida has documented personal experience traveling to Florida and canvassing neighborhoods for the 2008 election.
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The following is particularly bothersome and needs correction by the new Administration --
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In Pinellas, with a Republican Election Clerk, there were 3 early voting places with only one in the population center of St. Pete. In a neighboring country with a Democratic Election Clerk there were 11 early voting places. Nevertheless, the lines were 1-4 hours long throughout the State, and to Gov Crist’s credit he ordered early voting hours extended.
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As a nation, we need to ensure that voting is unimpeded by the political persuasion of election officials.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

No More Blank Checks


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The dinosaurs of the auto industry fought and delayed every single auto safety feature.
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The dinosaurs of the auto industry fought increased CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards.
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The dinosaurs of the auto industry invest heavily in attorneys to postpone and delay recalling vehicles for product defects by forcing Class Action Lawsuits and court delays.
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By the time a ruling is attained, the majority of the specific vehicle are off the road, frequently due to the defect addressed in the suit or some having killed vehicle occupants in accidents caused by the defect.
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Ford has been at the top of its class in continuing to produce defective engines, seat belts, airbags, police cruisers with explosive gas tanks and much else. And they continue doing so instead of correcting the known manufacturing defects.
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The US Auto Giants focused on the next quarter's profits to the exclusion of long term planning and the need for producing a safe, reliable, fuel efficient or alternative fuel vehicle. And in the Bush/Cheney Administration, they found friends who protected their poor business practices, shoddy products and defended their lobbying efforts. They thwarted efforts to produce more efficient vehicles and behaved like the bullies of the market they are and now want loans because of their own arrogance, incorrect market projections and mismanagement.
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Efforts to increase CAFE were met with not so veiled threats of contentious elections. in spite of widespread knowledge of Peak World Oil and Global Warming.
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The Auto Industry Giants could have chosen to lead the pack, but chose instead to fly their corporate jets, oblivious to the world and future market projections. The case might be made that money invested in lobbyists and attorneys might have funded the technology and engineering to innovate products for the post oil economy.
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The Center for Auto Safety offered (LINK). You can enter your vehicle and find out what complaints have been filed.
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WIRED offered this as an out of touch Administration that failed to address the appropriate issues -
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President Bush and the heads of GM, Ford, and Chrysler pushed ethanol and flex-fuel vehicles as the best way to cut U.S. fuel consumption in a meeting at the White House. Ignoring his own call for higher fuel-efficiency standards, Bush praised the automakers for ramping up production on flex-fuel cars and trucks:
"That's a major technological breakthrough for the country," Bush said. "If you want to reduce gasoline usage like I believe we need to do so for national security reasons as well as for environmental concerns, the consumer has got to be in a position to make a rational choice."
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MSNBC
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At one time, Chevy sold a 3 cylinder Geo Metro that got 60 MPG, but they stopped because they weren't making enough profit on the vehicle that sold for ~ $5,000. The industry marketed, promoted and solely made available gas guzzlers in the US market, even as they made more fuel efficient vehicles overseas.
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And now, in death throes, they need a bailout (in terms of loan guarantees) for their management failures.
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Here and Now offered a discussion - Auto Industry Bailout
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This week, Congress began hearings on the Bailout. Maybe we need to preserve the industry because of the number of jobs it provides in a withering economy, but can we at least attach enough conditions so it doesn't become like Paulson's Piggy Bank? Can we ensure that management needs to change to produce vehicles that make sense?
Chrysler leaders get millions Automaker defends payouts amid looming bailout talks
As Detroit's crumbling auto industry asks Congress for a bailout, Chrysler is in the awkward position of paying about $30 million in retention bonuses to keep top executives while the company cuts thousands of jobs.
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Chrysler owes the bonuses under its contracts with about 50 executives, based on a retention incentive plan crafted early last year by former German parent DaimlerChrysler, when it was preparing to sell the Chrysler unit. Nancy Rae, Chrysler executive vice president for human resources and communications, said the move made sense at the time to ensure potential buyers that key Chrysler executives would remain in place after a sale. She acknowledged that the bonuses could be seen as controversial now. "We all would be smarter if we knew what we know now back in February of '07," she said. "Probably a lot of different decisions would be made." Chief executives of Chrysler LLC, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. are expected to testify next week before a House committee on a proposal for $25 billion in low-cost government loans to help keep the companies afloat. Any aid is expected to come with limits on executive pay and bonuses. It is unclear whether those conditions would affect existing bonus plans -- Chrysler's was hatched around April 2007 -- or merely limit future bonuses and golden parachutes. Retention bonus plans are fairly common in volatile times and at troubled companies that are straining to attract and retain top talent. But they have been controversial in recent automotive industry bankruptcy cases involving suppliers Delphi Corp. of Troy and Toledo-based Dana Holding Corp. A 2005 change in U.S. bankruptcy laws forbade the payment of retention bonuses to executives just for staying at a company while it's in bankruptcy proceedings. Documents obtained by the Free Press show that at least six Chrysler executives are due to receive bonuses of more than $1 million apiece to stay through August 2009, the two-year anniversary mark of when private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management bought an 80.1% stake in Chrysler. Those promised the largest retention bonuses:
• Frank Ewasyshyn, executive vice president, manufacturing, $1.89 million.
• Frank Klegon, executive vice president, product development, $1.8 million.
• Rae, $1.66 million.
• Simon Boag, president, Mopar/global service and parts, $1.65 million.
• Steven Landry, executive vice president, North American sales, $1.63 million.
• Michael Manley, executive vice president, international sales, marketing and business development, $1.53 million.
The bonus sizes ranged from a high of Ewasyshyn's $1.89 million down to $200,000. The agreements provided for payments of 25% of the bonuses in February 2008 -- which were made on schedule -- and for the remaining 75% to be paid in August 2009. Promise of a smooth transition "Who are they going to work for?" he asked. "My feeling is they've run the companies into the ground."
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U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Congress will push next week to expand the nation's $700-billion bailout of the financial industry, called the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, to include automakers. The auto companies would face limits on executive pay and bans on so-called golden parachutes, which enrich departing executives, said Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich. "We're very much interested in making sure there is shared effort and shared sacrifice," Levin told the Free Press.
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Since February 2007, the automaker has announced the elimination of 34,000 jobs, including salaried, hourly and contract positions.
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GM Collapse at $200 Billion May Exceed Bailout Plan
(Bloomberg) -- General Motors Corp., seeking a federal bailout as its cash dwindles, would cost the government as much as $200 billion should the biggest U.S. automaker be forced to liquidate, a forecasting firm estimated. A GM collapse would mean ``more aid to specific states like Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana, and more money into unemployment and extended benefits,''
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Rep. Frank suggested the need for the Auto Giants to return with a PLAN that might include eliminating the Corporate Jets.
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Congress rushed to pass legislation entrusting Treasury Secretary Paulson to follow the direction of Congress in stopping home foreclosures and watched as Paulson followed his own misguided plan that solved nothing.
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One public speaker suggested that if the automakers filed for bankruptcy, the courts would ensure that NEW management was installed and eliminate the excessive bonuses and contract buyouts.

MassVote

MassVote circulated the information below (On the left side of their site is a map of Massachusetts votes. Note that Middleboro represents a 12% increase over the previous election.) -

In Minnesota, there is a raging recount in the race between incumbent Senator Norm Coleman (R) and challenger Al Franken (D). With 2.9 million ballots cast, only a couple hundred votes separate the two candidates.
Luckily, citizens in Minnesota vote on paper ballots, just like we do in Massachusetts. The recount happening today in Minnesota would be impossible in any of the states that use only direct electronic voting machines.
Yet recounts are never easy. How would you decide? Check out the great display of challenged ballots posted by Minnesota Public Radio and see how you would evaluate the votes.
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MassVote offers an email subscription and provides periodic updates regarding the election process and a wealth of information.

I.O.U.S.A. on Academy Award Short List

This was previously posted and many viewed it originally, but for those few who missed it, it's worth watching.
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I.O.U.S.A. Makes Academy Award Short List Follow the Debt on Twitter David Walker Roll Call Special The Government We Deserve
I.O.U.S.A. Makes Oscars Short ListFor Best Documentary Feature

We're proud to announce that our critically acclaimed film I.O.U.S.A. has just received another honor - and with it, the film is now a step closer to earning one of the highest awards a documentary can receive.

I.O.U.S.A. is officially on the short list for an Oscar nomination in the Best Documentary Feature category. The film, directed by Sundance veteran Patrick Creadon (Wordplay), is among the 15 documentary features that will now advance in the voting process designating the final five nominees for next year's Academy Awards.

An Academy Award nomination would be more than just an honor for I.O.U.S.A. With the audience that the broadcast attracts - more than 30 million for last year's ceremony alone - an Oscar nomination would be another chance to show the entire nation just how alarming our current economic situation really is.

So continue spreading the word about I.O.U.S.A., and then watch to see if the film earns a coveted position as one of the final five nominees.
The Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 22, 2009. The 81st Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2008 will be presented on Sunday, February 22, 2009.

National Debt Clock Ran Out of Digits Now Follow the National Debt on Twitter.
In October, the National Debt Clock in New York City ran out of digits because of the escalating fiscal burden on our government. The clock serves as a reminder to everyone who passes that the government owes more to the public (in the form of Treasury bills and savings bonds), and more to itself (in the form of money it borrows from one pot to spend on another) with each passing single day. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation has found a way for everyone to follow the debt using Twitter at
http://twitter.com/nationaldebt.

What is Twitter?
Twitter is one of the newest social networking services through which each user answers the question "What are you doing?" using 140 characters or less.

The answer to that question is known as a "tweet," and it's visible by those who "follow" you. By "following" others, you'll get their latest updates. It's free, easy to use, and by "following" the national debt on Twitter, you'll receive a daily "tweet" of the national debt as reported by the Treasury Department. Although this official number is the most commonly-cited national debt, it doesn't scratch the surface of the actual federal fiscal burden.
Click here to learn more.

Visit http://www.twitter.com/nationaldebt to start following the national debt today, and whether or not you're on Twitter please help spread the word!

Congress, New President Must
Put Our Fiscal House in Order

By David Walker, Special to Roll Call

Great challenges can bring great opportunities, and the current economic crisis is no different. As President-elect Barack Obama considers how best to turn the economy around, he needs to focus not only on today, but also on how to return the country to a more fiscally responsible and sustainable path over time.

Our nation's short-term budget deficits will unavoidably get worse before they get better, due in large part to the current recession, recent and future "bailout packages," and a likely dose of additional economic stimulus that hopefully will be targeted, temporary, and reasonably sized and structured.


As a result, Obama will need to juggle competing demands in a much tougher budget environment than he and his economic team anticipated during the campaign.

Read More...

David Walker is the President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, and served as the United States Comptroller General and head of the General Accountability Office (GAO) from 1998 to 2008. You can read David's bio here.

The Government We Deserve
By Gene Steuerle
At last the election is over. Yet there is no rest for the weary. Not two hours passed before President-elect Obama was being called upon to act. Many demand that he immediately propose reforms to their favorite programs, especially those he supported during the campaign. Yet the most dangerous thing he can do at this point is to jump into making individual, one-off policy decisions, especially before he's got a full budget picture of how everything adds together - not just for this year, but for the eight years he hopes to be President.
Read More...

Gene Steuerle writes The Government We Deserve column regularly, and serves as the Vice President of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. You can read Gene's bio
here.

Homeland Security Chief Named

Politico reports:

Arizonan will head Homeland Security
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) has been chosen to serve as secretary of the vast and troubled Department of Homeland Security for President-elect Obama, Democratic officials said. Napolitano is a border governor who will now be responsible for immigration policy and border security, which are part of Homeland Security’s myriad functions. Napolitano brings law-and-order experience from her stint as the Grand Canyon State’s first female attorney general. One of the nation’s most prominent female elected officials, she made frequent appearances on behalf of Barack Obama during the campaign. She was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2006.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Does anyone listen to Rush Limbaugh?

NPR aired an interview with Bill Ayers -- worth the listen.


President-elect Obama has yet to take office, but is being blamed for the worsening economic conditions? Shouldn't we blame the failed fiscal policies of this Administration that has occupied the White House for 8 years? Does anyone still listen to Rush Limbaugh?


Bill Ayers and the Demons to Come

Leave it to Rush Limbaugh. We have just elected as our president an African-American, who would not have been able to vote in large parts of our country less than 50 years ago, and we have proved to ourselves and to the world that we remain a land of enormous opportunity. Yet, the country's best-known radio talk-show host wasted no time using our airwaves to attack the president-elect for preaching "racism" and "socialism," and for creating our current economic collapse by scaring off potential investors who fear higher taxes. "The Obama recession is in full swing, ladies and gentlemen," Limbaugh proclaimed only two days after the election. "Stocks are dying, which is a precursor of things to come. This is an Obama recession. Might turn into a depression."


But, as Rush Limbaugh and the stone-throwing Sarah Palin remind us, we are a long way from putting such divisive nonsense behind us.

GOP Election Shenanigans

The integrity of our elections is the foundation of our democracy. That we continue to allow the process to be transparently undermined and distorted needs to be addressed through corrections to HAVA and prosecution by a non-partisan Justice Department. Doesn't our silence while minority voters are disenfranchised make each of us complicit in accepting Jim Crow?
FreePress offered the following --

Election protection in Ohio (and America) isn't over
by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
November 17, 2008

As the sun sets on Bush 2, it is clear that a very thin line of electoral protection preserved Barack Obama's victory in Ohio---and the nation.

And it's no accident the vote count battle for a Columbus-area Congressional seat still rages.

The GOP's 2008 electoral strategy again emphasized massive voter disenfranchisement and rigging the electronic vote count. The twin tactics very nearly gave Ohio to McCain/Palin, and threatened to set precedents capable of winning them the national election.

Prior to the 2004 vote, Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell stripped some 308,000 Ohio citizens from the registration rolls in heavily Democratic districts. This mass disenfranchisement alone may have accounted for the 118,000-plus official margin that gave George W. Bush a second term in the White House.

After the 2004 vote, Blackwell disenfranchised another 170,000 voters in heavily Democratic Franklin County (Columbus).

But in 2006, Democrat Jennifer Brunner was elected to replace Blackwell. Ironically, the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville federal civil rights lawsuit filed against Blackwell over 2004 election irregularities has carried over, making Brunner the defendant (we are plaintiff and defendant in that suit). As a result, negotiations between Brunner and election protection attorneys have been on-going since she took office.

In the lead-up to the 2008 elections, the GOP tried yet another massive voter purge. Through the "caging" technique of sending unsolicited "do not forward" junk mail, GOP operatives obtained by returned mail the names of some 600,000 registered Ohio voters. Some were serving in Iraq. Also, the GOP once again fought to purge voters for "inactivity" as they sought to eliminate voters who hadn't voted in four-years as opposed to eight, even if they voted in state and local ele[c]tions..

The GOP demanded the right to disenfranchise these voters. But Brunner directed that each was entitled to notice and an individual in-person hearing.

As Greg Palast and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., have reported, the GOP used similar caging throughout the US, aimed at millions of likely Democratic voters.

The GOP also went after 200,000 new Ohio voters whose registrations showed minor discrepancies. Included were variations in social security and drivers' license numbers, or changes in middle names, nicknames and addresses.

But Brunner fought to protect these names from GOP challenge, and was upheld by the US Supreme Court, who refused to hear the GOP case prior to the election.

Based on projected demographic and voter turnout statistics, the elimination of these four-fifths of a million voters (some 5.4 million votes were counted in Ohio 2008) could have shifted a 200,000-vote victory for Obama to a 40,000-vote triumph for McCain. This projection is based on a conservative estimate that 80% of these targeted voters vote Democratic and 50% would have turned out to vote.

Partly in response to pressure from election protection activists, Brunner also facilitated early and absentee voting. Polling stations opened by September 30 throughout the state. Despite GOP efforts, a full week was available to those who wished to register and vote at the same time. As least 25% of Ohio's voters cast their ballots prior to Election Day. By most accounts these votes went overwhelmingly for Obama. The Columbus Dispatch reported that Democrats outvoted Republicans 12-1 in early voting.

Brunner also tried to make paper ballots available to all voters who wanted them. Under often dubious financial arrangements with a direct conflict of interest as a stockholder, Blackwell installed Diebold electronic voting machines designed to account for as many as half Ohio's 2008 votes.

But the GOP-controlled legislature manipulated the finances behind the push for paper ballots. Ohio's 88 counties eventually provided enough of them for at least 25% of the voters. But so many voted early that reports now indicate there were ultimately enough paper ballots at the Election Day polling stations for nearly all who wanted them.

Other GOP attempts at disenfranchisement also fell flat. When the Republican sheriff of Greene County attempted to prosecute 304 students (many of them African-American) for "voter fraud" he ignited a massive public outcry. At issue was the common confusion over whether a student will vote at home or at college. Under widespread attack, the sheriff backed off. But students at public universities and liberal arts colleges throughout the rest of the state reported GOP harassment.

Despite widespread attempts to avoid them, there were 186,000 provisional ballots cast in Ohio 2008, some 40,000 more than the 141,000 cast in 2004 (16,000 of which have never been counted). Independent observers reported on-going confusion about the use of provisional ballots, largely attributed to poor pollworker training.

A federal database used to check driver's license information went down for nearly three hours on Election Day due to what the Ohio Department of Public Safety said was "a large fiber-optic cable being cut in Texas."

Despite an increase of 319,000 registered Ohio voters in 2008 over 2004, the official turnout was actually lower. Barack Obama received 22,000 fewer votes than John Kerry. John McCain got 317,000 fewer than Bush. Election protection experts attribute this to a selective GOP padding of the 2004 vote count, especially in three heavily Republican southwestern counties where irregularities and improbabilities abounded.

An observer in Miami County reported that a Republican election director illegally forced recently-moved citizens to vote provisionally. In Franklin County, pollbooks wrongly identified 35,000 voters as provisional. Four black voters in Fairfield County reported being purged despite stable long-term residencies. The Republican-connected company Triad, infamous for its secretive work on central tabulators in 2004, emerged in the majority of Ohio counties as the keeper of electronic pollbooks for the boards of elections.

While these and other irregularities bruised the election, there were far fewer than reported in 2004. The presence of hundreds of well-trained and equipped election protection volunteers throughout the state seem to have staved off any GOP attempt to repeat the massive disenfranchisement that gave the 2004 Ohio vote count to George W. Bush. Key Ohio polling stations were graced with independent election observers appointed by the Green Party. Independent video-the-vote teams, nonpartisan election observers, and Obama supporters were placed outside the polls documenting all that happened. With an apparently workable distribution of voting machines and sufficient paper ballots as a backup (along with a clear sunny day) the horrors of long lines in Ohio's 2004 election were avoided in 2008.

The Ohio vote count also seems to have been successfully protected. In Licking County, a voter reported that his paper ballot was put in a bag without an envelope. In Youngstown, Joyce Stewart reports being given a paper ballot that had no place to choose a president.

E-voting machines in three Columbus precincts double-counted votes. In heavily Democratic Lucas County, four out of eight e-voting machines in precinct 20, recorded no votes for president, while recording far higher vote counts for such minor offices as county coroner.

The poll judge in Columbus precinct 25G tried to have legitimate exit pollers arrested. In Trumbull County, Warner Lange observed that "all of the votes cast using a paper ballot between the hours of 6:30am and 8:15 am are invalid because none of the voters were asked, as required, to sign the pollbook."

In Hamilton and Franklin Counties (Cincinnati and Columbus) early and absentee ballots were not counted on Election Night, as originally planned. It took three hours after the polls closed for Union County election officials to get their ballots scanned. Terry Grimm reported that "everything was wrong" coming from the Summit County town of Barberton, causing a delayed tabulation.

Kevin Egler in Portage County reported that after 2800 votes were scanned on election night, a "corrupted card signal" came out, forcing election officials to start the vote count over.

Ultimately, despite Brunner's attempts to get rid of them, hundreds of thousands of votes were again cast and counted on electronic voting machines with no paper trail and no way to do a reliable recount.

But missing this time was an electronic theft apparatus under the control of Blackwell and Karl Rove.

On Election Night 2004, Blackwell e-mailed Ohio's electronic vote count to a basement in Chattanooga, Tennessee that also housed the servers for the Republican National Committee. The tally "miraculously" shifted from Kerry to Bush between 12:30 and 2 am, ultimately giving Bush a second term.

The data was handled under a state contract funneled by Blackwell to Michael Connell, a shadowy Bush family IT specialist who programmed the official Bush-Cheney website in 2000 and 2004.

On the day before the 2008 election, Connell was forced to testify under oath under cross-examination by King-Lincoln-Bronzeville attorneys Cliff Arnebeck and Bob Fitrakis. Among the questions at issue was whether Connell left any "Trojan Horse" programs in place in the Ohio electronic vote count structure through which he could have hacked the 2008 outcome.

There has yet to be a definitive answer to that question, or to what he actually may have done to the 2004 vote count. But, for what it's worth, Karl Rove did shift his predictions from a McCain victory to one for Obama shortly after the federal court agreed to force Connell to testify.

There may be much to celebrate in the apparent legitimacy of the Ohio 2008 vote count.

But half the state's ballots are still slated to be cast on electronic voting machines whose source codes remain under private lock and key. There is no guarantee Ohio voters will have universal access to paper ballots in future elections. In direct violation of federal law, no fewer than 56 of Ohio's 88 counties destroyed all or most of their federal election records after the 2004 election, making a definitive recount impossible. There have been no state or federal prosecutions.

The "minor" irregularities and attempted voter disenfranchisements observed in Ohio 2008 were repeated throughout the US, and could easily resurface in future elections if they are not again thoroughly observed.

And in Columbus, the Republicans are right now suing Brunner to throw out thousands of provisional ballots cast in a Congressional race still in hot dispute. Incredibly, the GOP is operating on inside information fed it by Franklin County assistant BOE director Matt Damshroder.

Damshroder accepted a $10,000 check in his BOE office from a Diebold representative. The check was made out to the Republican Party. Damshroder was given a one-month paid suspension for this in 2005. With Democratic assent, he remains a key player in the vote count that will determine whether heavily Democratic Franklin County could be stopped from sending its first Democrat to Congress since 1980.

Nationwide the GOP successfully disenfranchised millions of likely voters in Election 2008. Easily hacked, un-monitorable e-voting machines are still spread throughout the United States. The opportunities to steal future elections that are certain to be far tighter than 2008 remain readily available.

Much has been learned in the Bush era of the Unelected President. There is simply no doubt that the thousands of volunteers who worked tirelessly to protect the election of 2008 in Ohio and throughout the nation in fact prevented the GOP from stealing yet another one.

But unless this administration implements automatic voter registration, universal hand counted paper ballots, the total elimination of electronic voting machines, expanded windows for voting and a far more secure system of impartial citizen observation, the specter of still more stolen elections will haunt our democracy.

Indeed, we will still have to wonder if that's what we really have here.

--

Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman's four co-authored books on election protection include HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, and AS GOES OHIO, both available at www.freepress.org, where this article first appeared.
Their next and final book and movie on the topic are in the works. Their radio shows are broadcast at WVKO 1580AM, central Ohio's Air America affiliate.

Alaska Election Update

Reuters reported ---
Alaska's Stevens trails as Senate count nears end
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McClatchy is now reporting --
Begich, 3,700 votes ahead, headed to victory in Alaska
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AP reports --
Nov 18, 9:49 PM EST
Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens loses re-election bid




Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday, Dec 8 SUSTAINABLE ENERGY

This is passed along for those who might be interested ---
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Sustainable Energy Technology in Germany and the U.S.
Join us for this one-day symposium designed to provide a forum for

US and German companies, developers, architects, engineers and
designers to share expertise and discuss experiences with their
transatlantic counterparts.

Main topics:
Energy consumption and energy efficiency of buildings and city districts
Sustainable Cities in Europe & Sustainable Energy for Green Buildings in the U.S.
Presentation of Research projects & Case studies


Date:
Monday, December 8, 2008
Time:
9:30 AM - 5:30 PM
Location:
MIT Faculty Club
50 Memorial Drive, E52, 6 Floor,
Cambridge, MA

For more information, please review the full brochure [here].
Questions or to register, please visit
www.rplus-reg.com/bwi; or contact us at bwi@resource-plus.com or at 617-385-4254

Some Thoughts on the Election

I found the following comments filled with political insight not available elsewhere and thought them worthy of circulation, with the author's permission:
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Some Thoughts on the Election
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Here are some thoughts I've been having about the election and
what happens next. I know this is much too long. I'll be
honored if anyone reads it.
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1. Why did Obama win? Was the war an issue?
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There are lots of reasons why Obama won. As I've written before,
this was a Democratic year. The Bush administration was widely
seen to be a disaster, and I think any Democrat would have won.
But that doesn't stop the talking heads from coming up with all
sorts of "analyses". One that I've found particularly irritating
is the statement -- which I've seen in a number of places -- that
"it turns out that the economy, not the war, was the main issue."
.
There were a number of main issues. The economy was certainly
one. And it would have been one even without the financial
meltdown of the last few months.
.
But the war was another one. And it's easy to see this: McCain
tried to make an issue out of winning the war. It didn't work;
it was a complete flop. The fact is that the American people had
turned so massively against the war over the last few years that
it wasn't even worth speaking about all that much in this
campaign. But that doesn't meant that it wasn't a major factor
in how people looked at the Bush administration and the
Republican party and the Republican ticket.
.
And this in turn is due in significant part to the patient and
protracted work that so many of us around this country have been
doing for years now standing publicly in opposition to the war --
to the lies that were used to justify it, to the shameful acts of
torture and human degradation that were part of it, to the
shredding of the Constitution and civil liberties engaged in by
the administration, and to the destabilizing and
counterproductive effects of the war, which turned Iraq from a
brutal dictatorship into a vast breeding ground for terrorism.
.
2. The historical significance of the election.
It's big. It's very big. There are two things that strike me in
particular:
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a) As I see it, this is the first time that this country has come
to grips in a national and unequivocal way with the issue of
racism. Racism has been a blight on our country's history. The
unspeakable atrocity, cruelty and maliciousness of racism has
permeated our political process for centuries. And while there
was nothing magic about this election, and while racism is still
a potent force in many respects, we can now see that the forces
of decency and humanity in this country are more powerful than
many of us had thought. That over the last few generations a
real change has been taking place, even while many of us didn't
see it happening. And that the future is not compelled to repeat
the past.
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b) This election offered people a clear choice between the
politics of hope and the politics of fear. Fear has been pretty
successfully used by the Republicans in the past. But it didn't
work this time. And to me anyway, this feels like a tremendous
liberation.
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The Republican party, which has been running on wedge issues for
a long time now, has seen many of those issues become
progressively less effective. And right now, it has reduced the
Republicans to a party of racism and homophobia, both of which
are fading, and neither of which are really winning issues anymore.
We have a tremendous opportunity. Topics which could not be
discussed are now open for discussion -- I want to write more
about this in a future post. But we should not discount this in
the slightest. There come times in a nation's history when
people are hungry for serious political discussion. This is such
a time. The old fear-mongering has lost its edge. Now is our
time, and we should seize it.
.
I hope it won't sound too corny to mention that I wake up every
day now feeling a lot better about things than I have felt in
along, long time.
.
3. What can we expect from the Obama administration?
Obama is very intelligent, and has many good instincts. He
really does want to address in a substantive way the economic
hardship that so many people face. He really does want to end
the war. And he's also in many ways pretty conservative. We
have seen recently how he voted for things like retroactive
immunity for warrantless wiretapping and increasing the powers of
the administration to spy on its own citizens -- things that many
of us found abhorrent. Let me just say something here about his
economic advisers, who are not the kind of people I would entrust
our nation's economic policy to.
.
The person most often mentioned as the next Secretary of the
Treasury is Larry Summers. Recently a number of women's groups
have urged Obama not to appoint Summers to this position because
of his sexist remarks about how supposedly women were generally
incapable or unsuited for high achievement in science.
.
Those remarks were indeed outrageous, and coming as they did from
the then president of Harvard University, they were even more
outrageous. But in fact, they are only the tip of the iceberg.
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In 1991, Summers was the chief economist for the World Bank, and
signed his name to a memo that gave an economic argument to
justify the dumping of toxic wastes by developed countries on
underdeveloped countries. (The argument was the kind of thing
you might expect: since people in underdeveloped countries get
paid less, the cost of someone dying there is less than that
here, say, and so it makes economic sense to export our
pollution.) This memo was made public and caused, as you might
imagine, an uproar. Summers then said it had really been
intended as sarcasm. I've read it. It doesn't sound like a
piece of sarcasm to me. Maybe it was just clumsy. If so, it was
very clumsy indeed, and irresponsibly so.
.
Larry Summers and Robert Rubin are the most prominent of Obama's
current set of economic advisers, and they have played prominent
roles in Democratic economic policy for many years now.
.
They are both extremely quick and bright. They both share some
views that we would generally agree with -- for instance, they
will occasionally speak about the greatly increased income
inequality in this country as a bad thing. But their record has
not been good at all.
.
Robert Rubin started out as a lawyer. He was hired by Goldman
Sachs in 1966 and worked in their risk arbitrage division. He
was so skillful in this that he eventually became a partner in
the firm.
.
He left to work in the Clinton White House from 1993-1995. In
1995 he became the Treasury Secretary. Larry Summers was an
undersecretary of the Treasury at the same time. They worked
very closely together, along with Alan Greenspan, then chair of
the Federal Reserve.
.
Together, the three of them convinced Clinton to sign the repeal
of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 which had put into place many
regulations designed to prevent the kind of financial speculation
that had in part led to the Great Depression. (The act repealing
Glass-Steagall was the (Phil) Gramm-Leach- Bliley act.) They also
convinced Congress to permanently strip the Commodities Futures
Trading Commission of regulatory authority over derivatives. So
while we justifiably call Republicans -- McCain in particular --
to task for their role in destroying regulatory authority over
the financial system, Rubin and Summers also played key roles in
that process.
.
Shortly before the Gramm-Leach- Bliley bill was enacted, Rubin
resigned as Treasury Secretary and went to work for Citigroup,
which then used its new powers to create mortgage-backed
securities and other financial instruments that were a major
component of the current economic collapse.
.
Rubin was succeeded as Treasury Secretary by Summers.
.
After the Clinton administration, Summers became president of
Harvard in 2001. One of his first acts was to pick a fight with
Cornell West, a University Professor and a member of the
African-American studies department's "dream team", whose work
spanned several fields, and who had been hired away from
Princeton. Summers treated West in such an insulting manner that
the African-American studies department was in danger of complete
collapse. As it was, both West and Anthony Appiah (a professor
of philosophy and another member of the "dream team") both left
Harvard for arguably better positions at Princeton, where they
are today, and where West is now a University Professor. When
Summers resigned under pressure, there was a lot of speculation
that West might return, but he evidently decided not to.
.
These are the men giving Obama economic advice right now.
.
My point is not that Obama's economic policy will be terrible.
But on the other hand, I don't think we should be sitting back
passively waiting to see what happens. We have an obligation to
make our own views known, both to the president-elect and to the
nation at large.
.
This is not -- in spite of what some people posting on this list
may fear -- an antagonistic thing to do. Good political leaders
-- and I do think that Obama is a very good political leader --
like to know what people's real concerns are. I heard recently
about a meeting that some people had with Obama sometime in the
last year. He was being pressed on his position on marriage
equality. He said definitively that he could not support it.
Then he said, "But I hope you'll keep pressing me on it." That
to my mind is the mark of an honest and decent person and a
potentially great president.
.
Just one other example of what I see as a problematic position:
.
both in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National
Convention, and in his half-hour television message just before
the election, Obama said that he cared a lot about public
education, and wanted to improve it by "paying teachers more and
holding them accountable" . I don't know exactly what he means by
this. Maybe he doesn't either. But those words are generally
used as code words for a combination of merit pay and high-stakes
testing. They come from an outlook driven by ideology, not by
the day-in day-out experience of good teachers. I'm not saying
that Obama is a prisoner of that ideology. But I do think he
needs to hear some alternative points of view, and the sooner the
better.
.
FDR started out as a basically conservative politician who was
nevertheless willing to listen to people and felt an urgency to
solve the real problems that he saw. The New Deal was
influenced, and in large part made possible, not by top-down
policy-making but by an incredible ferment of political, social,
and labor organizing that made it both necessary and possible for
the government to act in a progressive manner.
.
We have an opportunity to engage in that kind of ferment now.
And we should do so.
.
--Carl Offner

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Here We Go Again!

Two days ago, I had a conversation with a young man who had grown up in Middleboro. The conversation was unrelated to gambling, but when he discovered that I lived in his home town, he raised the issue of the proposed mega casino and said he hoped that the casino never came. He told me that 5 of his classmates had committed suicide because of gambling addiction and debts. We spent some time discussing the issue at length, but the human cost of what casino facts has been saying developed faces and personal stories.

In a recent statewide referendum, Question 3 supporters voted to ban greyhound racing.

Since greyhound racing is slowly fading in popularity, the 'handle' is declining, the track's contribution to the its host community is dwindling, and employment is declining, rather than to allow it a graceful death, as voters intended, Rep. "Slots" Flynn continues to grab media attention promoting the leeches of the gambling world, slot machines.

It should not go unnoticed that House Speaker DiMasi's ethical conduct remained unchallenged until the House voted down casino gambling. Coincidence, ya think?

Commenting on handicapped access to the track, Carney, owner of the Raynham Dog Track said -
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The park has not received one complaint about handicap access, Carney said. “Most of our client base is elderly nowadays, so we have to be able to get them in there,” he said.

Raynham Dog Track Owner, George Carney, who now professes such great care and devotion to track employees, fired two female employees for refusing to work on Christmas Day --
.
The ACLU of Massachusetts (1996) filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts on behalf of two women who were fired for refusing, on religious grounds, to work at a racetrack on Christmas Day.

Now let's just pretend that there was a statewide vote on a business that voters found objectionable. Why should the state, in essence, subsidize that business?
.
And why should the state, that continues to display its inability to live within its means, endorse a revenue source that lures the gullible?
.
And why should the state endorse a currently illegal new source of revenue for dog tracks?
.
Why are the voters entitled to less respect for their vote than Mr. Carney, the owner of the Dog Track?
.
Is it strictly campaign contributions? I'd like to believe that Rep. "Slots" has simply misunderstood the disasterous consequences of legalized slots.

StopPredatoryGambling offered this --

The goal of slot technology is no secret: how to get people to play longer, faster and more intensively. Every feature of the machine- the mathematical structure, visual graphics, sound dynamics, seating and screen ergonomics- is geared, in the language of the predatory gambling trade, to get gamblers to
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"play to extinction"
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- which means until their money is gone.
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The proposed Middleboro Mega Casino would house 5,000 slot machines. Rep. Slots is proposing that each of the dog tracks would have 2,500 slot machines. That's half a mega casino in each location.
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And we already know it won't stop at simply two locations because they can't exclude the horse tracks and then there will be other locations as an excuse for revenue generation. Ahhhh....the addictive quality of gambling!!
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The issue has ALWAYS been about slot machines. Voters said NO.
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Please tell Rep. Slots.