It's getting worse

Man dies in scuffle with security guards
A Cleveland man died last Sunday after a scuffle with security guards at the Walmart Super Center located at 6626 FM1960 in Atascocita.


According to witnesses, Stacy Driver ran out of the store and was pursued by Walmart loss prevention employees. A short time later, Driver was dead, and the Walmart employees were trying to explain the last moments of his life to police.

Charles Portz said he was getting out of his car when he saw a heavy blonde haired man being chased by five people who appeared to be security or store employees. He said he saw them wrestling the man to the ground. “The blacktop was extremely hot,” said Portz “He had no shirt on and they wouldn’t let him up off the blacktop.” He said one of the men had Driver in a chokehold and had his knee in the back of his neck as the men tried to subdue him. “He kept trying to get up and they kept pushing him back down,” Portz said.

According to Portz, Driver began to plead with them men. “He’s begging, ‘Please call an ambulance, let me up, do something, I’m gonna die,” said Portz. He said the loss prevention employees called the police more than once, but another bystander called for an ambulance after realizing Driver was in trouble. Portz said he eventually began to plead with the Walmart employees. “I told them, this guy doesn’t look like he’s breathing,” Portz said, “They said, ‘He’s all right.” He says he continued to plead with the men, pointing out that the man’s fingernails were turning gray. “They said he’s just high on something,” adding, “They just kept him pinned down for twenty minutes or more until the ambulance came.” He said he believed Driver was dead when the ambulance left with him, but he was not certain.

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What's happening in New York State

From William Betz:

It seems that New York State is entitled to $191 million in HAVA funds to replace the voting machines. If there is no compliance, the State has to give the money back and, moreover, it has to refund money to the extent that compliance falls short. Carol Berman, former NYS election commissioner and former NYS senator, spoke at the meeting. She made it very clear that there had been no problems with the lever voting machines, and that the only costs involved with them involved routine maintenance and repair. Still it appears the State is in a mad rush to replace them for the sake of getting the federal money. What a joke. The choice New York faces is between optical scan machines (which leave a paper trail) and the paperless electronic machines that enable hackers and crooks to control elections. Either choice will entitle the State to the HAVA money, which appears to be the most important thing that ever came down the pike.

Let’s see who profits from this, in addition to the voting machine companies. (You don’t suppose Diebold, et al., are contributing to some republican campaign coffers for the sake of getting a contract, do you?)

Bill

Bad press hurting Diebold's sales

Press Contact: Ilene Proctor or Angus Hsu
Direct Line: (310) 271.5857
Cell: (310) 721.2336 OR Linda Schade 301-270-6150
E-mail: proctor@artnet.net

Diebold’s Election Division Jolted by Reliability and Security Concerns
Voting Unit Proves Drag on Earnings and Corporate Image

Washington, DC – Diebold’s Elections Division is in serious trouble. In this week’s delayed second quarter earnings report Diebold admits that negative perceptions of Diebold’s AccuVote TS and TSx voting systems have produced ‘lower revenue’ and lower ‘margin and earnings per share’. In its second quarter earnings report, Diebold had high hopes its Elections Division would prop up earnings in its troubled ATM division by 5% to 37%. These problems are likely to escalate as problems in the largest voting market in the United States, California, may cause Diebold to be excluded from that market.

After a dramatic 20% failure rate in a recent Alameda County demonstration, over 18,000 TSX voting machines sit idle in warehouses all over the California. Some governments have refused to pay for the units until the problems are fixed. Election officials in Alameda County are considering another supplier altogether. Diebold’s election problems come at a time when Diebold’s core business is suffering from price pressure and the overall down trend in ATM deliveries.

Elaine Ginnold, Alameda County’s acting registrar of voters, said problems reported in the recent tests have her seriously thinking about a switch of strategy in which the county would emphasize paper ballots using optical scanners rather than touch-screen devices.

Diebold provides election systems statewide in Georgia, and most of Maryland. These states use an older version of the AccuVote(R) touch screen the TS6, but critics say even those machines are flawed and prone to screen freezes and other Election Day
problems. Law suits alleging security and accuracy defects are pending in Maryland, and in Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney recently revealed an internal memo from Georgia Sectary of State Cathy Cox. Attached was a list of thirty problems with Diebold machines including lack of certification. Oddly Diebold is slated to deploy the troublesome and out of production TS6 in Baltimore City Maryland next month.

“The problems seen in California are consistent with problems with the Diebold election machines in other parts of the county. In Montgomery County, MD the IT report on Election Day 2004 found that up to 12 percent of machines failed totally or partially on Election Day. The same types of problems seen in the California tests — screen freezes, machine crashes, and error reports — occurred in Maryland on Election Day,” said Linda Scahde of TrueVoteMD.org.

Internally Diebold’s problems in California may trigger another management shake-up in the election division. Insiders say the recent departure of Gregory T. Geswein, senior vice president and chief financial officer was directly related to Diebold’s California problems. Second-quarter net income was $33.3 million, or 47 cents a share, down 24% from $43.6 million, or 60 cents a share in the year-ago period.

Hackett hits the bull's eye (literally)

Hackett calls Limbaugh “fatass drug addict”

Appearing on today’s edition of “The Ed Schultz Show,” Paul Hackett made several stand-out statements (mp3 file). My favorite came in reference to his being attacked by Rush Limbaugh:

That’s typical for that fatass drug addict to come up with something like that. There’s a guy … I didn’t hear this, but actually when I was on drill this weekend, I’ve got to tell you, he lost a lot of Republican supporters with his comments. Because they were coming up to me, telling me, “I can’t believe he said that! Besides that, he called you a soldier. He doesn’t know the difference between a soldier and a marine!”

So generally, the consensus is Rush doesn’t know squat about patriotism. He’s typical of the new Republican. He’s got a lot of lip and he doesn’t walk the walk. The fact of the matter is, I went to Iraq to serve my country. I left my nice house, my nice wife by my choice because I thought it was the right thing to do. And man, if I was good enough to be able to see into the future that Rob Portman was going to step down from Congress, I mean I should actually be running for something a lot more than Congress. I went to Iraq because I wanted to serve my country and be with my Marines.

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What's American for Euro-trash?

Memo Pad: Miller’s Crossing …
Mo’ Money? No Problem … Memoir Must Read …

MILLER’S CROSSING: Jason Epstein continues to find odd ways of showing support for his jailed spouse, Judith Miller. The esteemed book publisher is currently telling friends that his wife “is having the time of her life” in prison.

Really? The time of her life?

According to a Wednesday report on Salon.com, Miller, a reporter for The New York Times who has been behind bars for 54 days for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating the outing of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame, “is holding up well, but has had some stomach problems related to jail food, misses the Internet and outside contact, and has had to withstand a constant stream of hip-hop videos on the communal television sets.”

Times executive editor Bill Keller told The Los Angeles Times recently, “Sadly, Judy is not on a fellowship at some writers’ colony. She is in JAIL. She is sleeping on a foam mattress on the floor, and her communications are, shall we say, constrained.”

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Sudan's big oil problem, and ours

From Tom Engelhardt:

The pieces are all there. No one reading the business pages of the papers these last weeks could ignore oil prices that briefly surged to a once-inconceivable $67 dollars a barrel of crude before falling back; no one driving a car on any highway could possibly avoid pump prices that, for unleaded regular, are now hovering around $2.50 a gallon (making inflation jump and consumer confidence drop); those with sharp eyes might have noticed less than a week ago that Lee R. Raymond, the chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corporation for the last 12 years (whose total compensation for 2004 was a modest $38.1 million but could have been a billion dollars without his company taking much of a hit) is reportedly planning to step down soon. As the head of possibly the most successful and “efficient” corporation on the face of our planet, he primed the Exxon Mobil pump to the tune of $25.3 billion dollars in profits in 2004, and upped that in the first half of 2005 by socking in another $15 billion (give or take the odd million); oh yes, and does anybody not know that somewhere in a place called Darfur in Sudan a genocide is underway?
But the connections between surging oil price levels, pump prices, oil company mega-profits, and mass murder in distant Africa are something you’re far less likely to read about in your local paper; and yet, under the pressure of growing global energy demand and peak-oil fears, oil companies from many nations are now scouring the Earth, buying governments, tribal leaders, warlords, and anyone else who might lead them to any untapped new reserves of black gold. As the Washington Post said politely in its article on Raymond, Exxon Mobil “operates in more than 200 countries or territories — as diverse as Equatorial Guinea, Venezuela and the Russian Far East.” Diverse indeed. Sudan is “diverse” too and it has been swept up in the global oil sweepstakes with horrific consequences as journalist David Morse makes vividly clear below.

Tom

War of the Future
Oil Drives the Genocide in Darfur
By David Morse

A war of the future is being waged right now in the sprawling desert region of northeastern Africa known as Sudan. The weapons themselves are not futuristic. None of the ray-guns, force-fields, or robotic storm troopers that are the stuff of science fiction; nor, for that matter, the satellite-guided Predator drones or other high-tech weapon systems at the cutting edge of today’s arsenal.

No, this war is being fought with Kalashnikovs, clubs and knives. In the western region of Sudan known as Darfur, the preferred tactics are burning and pillaging, castration and rape — carried out by Arab militias riding on camels and horses. The most sophisticated technologies deployed are, on the one hand, the helicopters used by the Sudanese government to support the militias when they attack black African villages, and on the other hand, quite a different weapon: the seismographs used by foreign oil companies to map oil deposits hundreds of feet below the surface.

This is what makes it a war of the future: not the slick PowerPoint presentations you can imagine in boardrooms in Dallas and Beijing showing proven reserves in one color, estimated reserves in another, vast subterranean puddles that stretch west into Chad, and south to Nigeria and Uganda; not the technology; just the simple fact of the oil.

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President Bush Job Approval
Updated Daily by Noon Eastern

Wednesday August 17, 2005–President Bush’s Approval Rating has tumbled five points over the past week to the lowest level ever recorded by Rasmussen Reports.

Just 43% of American adults now approve of the way George W. Bush is performing his role as President. Fifty-five percent (55%) disapprove.

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Now, if NARAL headquarters blows up, somebody's gonna get suspicious!

Library Missing Roberts File
Papers Lost After Lawyers’ Review
By R. Jeffrey Smith and Jo Becker
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, August 17, 2005; A04

A file folder containing papers from Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.’s work on affirmative action more than 20 years ago disappeared from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library after its review by two lawyers from the White House and the Justice Department in July, according to officials at the library and the National Archives and Records Administration.

Archivists said the lawyers returned the file but it now cannot be located. No duplicates of the folder’s contents were made before the lawyers’ review. Although one of the lawyers has assisted in the Archives’ attempt to reconstruct its contents from other files, officials have no way of independently verifying their effort was successful.

It is rare for the Archives to lose documents in its care and the agency has requested an investigation by its inspector general, said Sharon Fawcett, the assistant archivist for presidential libraries.

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We're Number One! (God help us!)

We’re Number One: Under Bush, the U.S. Sets New Records
By Don Monkerud

Americans have always taken pride in breaking records – the longest bridge, the tallest building, a record harvest – and now we’re at it again as records fall at a feverish pace.

Take the trade deficits. Under Bush’s leadership, the U.S. sets record trade deficits almost quarterly and we’re on track to have another record-breaking year. The trade gap, which set a new quarterly record of $195 billion in June, is on pace to top $780 billion for the year. This is a sharp increase over last year’s
record $617 billion, which represented a 24 percent increase over the previous year.

This is only one of the many records to topple under Bush and, while the records aren’t all official – they aren’t tracked by Guinness World Records – many of them reveal the colossal effect Bush is having on the country.

Record trade deficits push the U.S. to borrow a record $2.1 billion each day to keep our economy afloat. After setting a record for the longest job slump since the depression in his first term, Bush is now presiding over a decline in labor participation, which fell to its lowest level since 1988. Over 500,000 people, 20 percent higher than a year ago, have simply given up looking for a job.

Since its founding, America produced a national debt of $5.7 trillion, but since Bush took office the debt is expected to almost double, to $10.8 trillion in 2010. The national debt, which used to be an issue for the GOP, is now 70 percent as large as the total U.S. economy.

Although it has recovered a bit, since the beginning of Bush’s second term the dollar slid to a record low when it fell 24 percent against the euro, 14 percent against the Japanese yen, and 21 percent against the Canadian dollar. After 9/11, Bush told Americans to go shopping, encouraging free spending and sending savings rates to a 35-year low.

Thanks to low interest rates under Bush, average American homeowners pulled out record amounts of cash from their homes and, in 2004, owed $766 billion in home equity loans – twice that of 1998. Consumer debt set a record of $2.1 trillion in 2004 and personal bankruptcies set an all-time record in 2003 – one out of every 73 households, despite record low interest rates – before Congress decided to make it more difficult for individuals to file for bankruptcy.

While not a record when adjusted for inflation, oil prices are setting new highs. In August, oil reached $66 a barrel, setting five consecutive records in one week, and some analysts claim it’s headed to “the $90 range.” That’s 50 percent higher than a year ago and almost triple what it was three years ago.

These high prices lead to record profits. Under Bush, the profits of oil conglomerates set a record $100 billion worldwide in 2004, and are expected to increase this year. Since he took office, oil profits increased 34 percent or $34 billion. Oil giants ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, and ConocoPhillips, major GOP contributors, broke not only their all-time records, but also set record profits for any U.S. industry.

Pharmaceutical conglomerates that are major contributors to the GOP also claimed higher profits. During the recession of 2002, the largest ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 reported combined profits of $35.9 billion-more than the profits of all of the other 490 businesses combined. In 2003, Bush signed a prescription drug
benefit for Medicare, which will give these major contributors to Bush’s election a record $139 billion in profits over eight years when it begins in 2006. In addition, a new tax break will allow American drug conglomerates to return foreign profits of $75 billion to the U.S. at a 5.25 percent tax rate, compared to the standard 35
percent rate. No wonder pharmaceuticals predict increased profits.

Banking conglomerates are also setting record profits under Bush. Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, the nation’s first-, second-, and fourth-largest banks produced record profits, while the third-largest, J. P. Morgan, bought Bank One for $58 billion and increased its income by 304 percent. Worldwide, the top 1000 banks
made profits of $417 billion in 2004, a 65 percent increase over the previous high set in 2000. Banks worldwide are having another record year in 2005, increasing profits and reaching what The Financial Times calls an “unthinkable” return of 19.86 percent, double the 1999 rate. In the latest quarter, profits for the top 49 U.S. banks rose 7 percent while the fourth-, fifth-, sixth- and seventh-largest raised
their profits an average of almost 18 percent.

Under Bush’s “business friendly” administration, U.S. corporate profits accounted for 11 percent of GNP in the first quarter of 2005, the highest in four decades. It’s surprising how American voters support an agenda to make conglomerates even wealthier while the incomes of average Americans stopped growing over the past four years and Congress continues to pass major tax-cutting bills every year. Tax cuts that are supposed to provide more jobs in fact benefit only the super rich.

Consider that the wealthiest 20 percent of households increased their share of income from 44 percent in 1973 to 50 percent in 2002 and that the wealthiest one-tenth of one percent now has the highest share of the nation’s income since the 1920s. They increased their share of income 27 percent since 1983, adjusted for inflation.

Meanwhile, the average wage of $525.84 a week is at the lowest level since October 2001 and housing prices are at their highest level in history – another Bush first.

The Bush Administration set many records for hiding government information from the public by pushing government secrecy to historic highs. Under Bush’s newly extended power to classify documents, some 125 government documents were classified secret every minute in 2002, setting a record of 15.6 million classified documents, double the number in 2001. In the past year, the number of secret documents increased 25 percent. Making documents available to the public slowed from 204 million pages in 1997 to 28 million pages in 2004, while the cost for such secrecy soared to a record $7.2 billion in 2004.

Bush also achieved new records in foreign relations as Europeans declare him the most despised U.S. president in history. After gaining the sympathy of the world after the attack of September 11, 2001, Bush’s invasion of Iraq turned world opinion against the U.S. One Islamic educator said, “It took Israel 55 years to create the
hatred and enmity with the Arab world. But it took Bush one year.” Now the public in formerly friendly countries such as Morocco and Jordan register confidence in the U.S. in single digits, while support in Saudi Arabia has fallen from 66 percent in 2000 to below 10 percent today.

In June, the French gave America the lowest rating in 17 years, with only 31 percent of the French having “sympathy” for Americans and only 39 percent seeing America and France as “partners,” down from 68 percent in September, 2002. Bush certainly isn’t enhancing the world’s opinion of America -in August, he bypassed the Senate to
install John Bolton as ambassador to the U.N. – the first such “backdoor” appointment since the U.N. was formed in 1945. Nor did Bush help relations with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in July, when his secretary of state refused to attend a summit meeting for the first time in 20 years.

In the war on drugs, Bush set several records. The U.S. occupation of Afghanistan has been a boon to drug dealers there who earned a record $2.2 billion in 2004, and are expected to set a new record profit of $7 billion in 2005. With the U.S. occupation, opium poppies are now grown in all 34 Afghan provinces, up from 18 in 1999. Under Bush, poppy cultivation increased from 150,000 acres in 2003 to a record
510,000 acres in 2004. These record drug

harvests will invariably find their way into the U.S. for consumption in communities here.

In the largest reorganization of the drug trade since the Columbian cartels were established in the 1980s, Mexico now dominates the $400 billion-a-year business. In June, the DEA found that 92 percent of the cocaine sold in the U.S. in 2004 came from Mexico, up from 77 percent in 2003 – a result of the U.S. military involvement in Columbia, which isn’t going well but is overlooked by the media.

Bush, alone, may not be responsible for record spending in the last election, the most expensive in history at $3.9 billion. But is he responsible for nearly half of all lawmakers who retire from the Senate and House – 52 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats – becoming lobbyists? Did the 1,300 registered lobbyists
who gave him more than $1.8 million over six years, the 52 lobbyists who raised more than $6 million for Bush’s reelection, or the 100 former lobbyists whom Bush appointed to regulate business set new records or are they merely a reflection of money playing a larger role in politics?

At the beginning of Bush’s second term, he spent a record setting $40 million on inaugural events, the bulk paid for by his largest campaign contributors. After criticizing Clinton for allowing contributors to spend the night in the Lincoln bedroom, Bush began charging couples $250,000 to lunch with the president. Isn’t this a record lunch tab?

Once upon a time, Americans took pride in breaking records, but are these the records we want to be breaking?

The End.