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Civil Rights / Liberties
Department Of Justice Determines That ES&S Purchase Of Diebold Voting Machine Division Is Illegal Monopoly, Orders Divestiture
VelvetRevolution has been critical of the Department of Justice on many fronts. Yet now we can report a bit of good news for a change from DOJ. On Monday, the Antitrust Division announced a settlement of an antitrust action against ES&S for its purchase last year of Diebold/Premier Voting Systems.
Since that merger was announced, we have been actively opposing it as part of our Diebold Return our Money Campaign, with press releases, letters to DOJ and Congress, and collaboration with our election reform colleagues. Had the sale been allowed, ES&S would control more than 70% of the votes cast in the country, a virtual monopoly as we had argued and as the DOJ has now agreed.
“The acquisition had been opposed by election integrity organizations, Hart Intercivic (a much smaller Austin-based competitor), the New York Times' editorial board, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, and was being investigated by 14 different states along with the DOJ's antitrust division,” wrote VR co-founder Brad Friedman, who has been covering this story extensively at The BRAD BLOG.
However, we are concerned about how long it took for the DOJ to act because, over the past six months, ES&S has totally dismantled Diebold/Premier leaving all of Diebold's old customers in 22 states either without a vendor or forced to contract with ES&S in order to hold elections this year.
We will keep you posted about our efforts to ensure that the voters and the integrity of our elections do not suffer further from this corporate mess -- one of the dangers of relying on private companies to run public elections -- that we have been warning about for so long.
While this settlement is a good step toward reigning in unbridled corporate power and monopoly, it certainly does not put an end to the larger problem: the obscuring of democracy via secret software from We the People. The counting of our votes should be done in a transparent, verifiable and overseeable manner, not by computers that often fail, can be rigged and hacked, and do not produce verifiable, transparent election results.
When means, motive, and opportunity exist for election manipulation, it would be naive to presume it will not and has not occurred. Our own investigations, such as Rove Cybergate, make a strong case that intentional manipulation of recent U.S. elections has occurred and that voting machine companies have helped facilitate the undermining of transparent, accurate, verifiable democracy.
We at Velvet Revolution want to give a shout out to our election reform colleagues at Black Box Voting and Voter Action for their terrific work in helping to oppose the dangerous ES&S merger with Diebold/Premier.
We must continue the fight. We rely on you, our members, for support. As one of our fans on Facebook posted, "VR is one of the most effective advocacy groups dollar for dollar anywhere."
Please make a donation if you are able so the fight continues to ensure democracy can be restored to the United States of America.
AL Ex-Governor Don Siegelman: Obama's DOJ Argued Americans Don't Have Constitutional Right Not To Be Framed
The U.S Department of Justice announced last month a new program to help poor people accused of crimes obtain a lawyer. Great Idea! But what difference will that make as long as the DOJ approves of their prosecutors framing innocent people?
In January, lawyers for President Obama argued before the U.S.Supreme Court that we don't have a constitutional right not to be framed. Check it out: On January 5th, The LA Times reported in the case of Pottawattamie County v. McGhee and Harrington, "President Obama's lawyers asserted there is no constitutional 'right not to be framed.'" In this case two men spent more than 25 years in prison for a crime they didn't commit.
On my 62nd birthday, February 24th, 2008, while I was in federal prison in the swamps of Louisiana, for something that The New York Times and 91 former state Attorneys General say is not a crime, CBS' 60 Minutes did a 12 minute piece showing how prosecutors bargained with a "crook" to get him to write and rewrite his testimony until he got it the way the government wanted. Then government prosecutors (Karl Rove's best friend's wife who was and still is the U.S. Attorney in my case) presented false evidence to get a conviction."
Please watch this CBS 60 Minutes piece as a birthday present to me this year.
Jesse Ventura on CNN Larry King Live: Stop Voting for Democrats & Republicans, Hawaii Has State-Run Health Care - It Works!
I just read this in an article about Michael Connell's suspicious death:
"Ohio’s secretary of state in 2004 was a fiercely partisan Christian named Ken Blackwell. Blackwell had hired a company called GDC Limited to run the IT systems, which had subcontracted the job to Michael Connell’s company, GovTech. Connell had in turn sub-contracted SMARTech, an IT firm based in Chattanooga, to act, it was claimed, as a backup server.
“By looking at the URLs on the Web site, we discovered that there were three points on election night when SMARTech’s computers took over from the secretary of state,” says Arnebeck. “It is during that period that we believe votes were manipulated.”
In computer jargon it is known as a man-in-the-middle attack. Read more.
It can be argued that when Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol accused nine lawyers in Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department of being the "al-Qaida Seven," working in the "Department of Jihad," they were simply exercising their First Amendment right to say anything that would get them on a talk show.
This is, after all, America.
The right to cynically accuse someone of being a terrorist is protected under the Constitution.
Torture Suit Naming Rumsfeld Clears Hurdle | CBS News
Judge Allows Hearing for Lawsuit Accusing Former Defense Secretary of Responsibility in Alleged Torture of Americans in Iraq
While in custody, they were subjected to sleep deprivation, long hours of interrogation, blasting music, threats, hunger and a practice known as "walling" in which subjects are blindfolded and walked into walls, according to the suit.
The suit describes such practices as forms of torture and alleges Rumsfeld personally took part in determining such methods were acceptable for use by the military in Iraq.
A federal judge refused Friday to dismiss a civil lawsuit accusing former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of responsibility for the alleged torture by U.S. forces of two Americans who worked for an Iraqi contracting firm.
U.S. District Judge Wayne R. Andersen's ruling did not say the two contractors had proven any of their claims. But it did say they had alleged enough specific mistreatment to warrant hearing evidence of exactly what happened.
Andersen said his decision "represents a recognition that federal officials may not strip citizens of well settled constitutional protections against mistreatment simply because they are located in a tumultuous foreign setting."
Andersen did throw out two of the lawsuit's three counts but gave former contractors Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel the green light to go forward with a third count alleging they were unconstitutionally tortured under procedures personally approved by Rumsfeld. Read more.
By David Swanson
David Cole of Georgetown University and formerly of the Center for Constitutional Rights has been doing some good writing, not only on our failure to enforce laws against powerful people, but also on our out-of-control epidemic of incarceration which has struck those too unimportant to gain immunity.
Cole argues persuasively that we lock up a dramatically higher percentage of our people than any other nation because it is mostly poor African-American communities that get hit. He points out that when segregation was legal in the 1950s, African-Americans were 30 percent of the prison population, whereas now, with a monstrously increased prison population, African-Americans and Latinos make up 70 percent of it. Sixty percent of African-American high school dropouts have spent time behind bars.
“When it comes to civil and political liberties, the U.S. is a far less free place than it was, a generation ago.” Citizens acting under the slogan “Free Nelson Mandela” would have been prosecuted as criminals under the Patriot Act, as interpreted by both the Bush and Obama administrations....“In some ways, the post-9/11 political and legal climate is worse than in the bad old days of the McCarthy era.”
If the Patriot Act had been in effect when the Free South Africa Movement was in full swing in the 1980s, hundreds of thousands of Americans would have been liable for imprisonment on charges of rendering “assistance” to “terrorists.” When it comes to civil and political liberties, the U.S. is a far less free place than it was, a generation ago.
On February 23, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on the scope of the Patriot Act’s ban on rendering “support” to organizations designated as “terrorist” by the U.S. State Department. The Obama administration’s interpretation of the law, like it’s predecessors’, is so broad, it could put American citizens in prison for engaging in almost any contact with any person the government linked to a designated group. This includes organizations that have never attacked the United States, and have no direct grievance with United States.
It’s all in the language, the interpretation of the statute. Justice Department lawyers claim it is a violation of the Patriot Act even to file a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of an organization on the list. Read more.
Last week the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied an en banc rehearing of the case United States v. Lemus, which dealt with a warrantless police search of a suspect's home after he was arrested outside of it. As a result of the 9th Circuit's denial, the search will stand, which has left Chief Judge Alex Kozinski none too happy. In dissent, Kozinksi basically accused his colleagues of abandoning the Fourth Amendment:
This is an extraordinary case: Our court approves, without blinking, a police sweep of a person's home without a warrant, without probable cause, without reasonable suspicion and without exigency-in other words, with nothing at all to support the entry except the curiosity police always have about what they might find if they go rummaging around a suspect's home. Once inside, the police managed to turn up a gun "in plain view"-stuck between two cushions of the living room couch-and we reward them by upholding the search.
Did I mention that this was an entry into somebody's home, the place where the protections of the Fourth Amendment are supposedly at their zenith?...
The opinion misapplies Supreme Court precedent, conflicts with our own case law and is contrary to the great weight of authority in the other circuits. It is also the only case I know of, in any jurisdiction covered by the Fourth Amendment, where invasion of the home has been approved based on no showing whatsoever. Nada. Gar nichts. Rien du tout. Bupkes.
Whatever may have been left of the Fourth Amendment after [United States v. Black] is now gone.
The evisceration of this crucial constitutional protector of the sanctity and privacy of what Americans consider their castles is pretty much complete. Welcome to the fish bowl.
Read the whole thing here.
In our July 2006 issue, Shikha Dalmia interviewed Judge Kozinski about free speech, privacy, libertarianism, and more.
President Barack Obama has signed a one-year extension of several provisions in the nation's main counterterrorism law, the Patriot Act.
Provisions in the measure would have expired on Sunday without Obama's signature Saturday.
The act, which was adopted in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, expands the government's ability to monitor Americans in the name of national security.
Three sections of the Patriot Act that stay in force will: Read more.
ABC News Exclusive: Chicago Father Faces Jail for Bringing Daughter to Church
Feuding, Inter-Faith Parents Test Boundaries of Religion in Family Court
By Lauren Pearle, Felicia Patinkin, Teri Whitcraft and Sunny Antrim | ABC News
Three-year-old Ela Reyes is caught in the middle of her feuding parents' divorce battle -- a private child custody fight that has erupted in a public firestorm over religion and the boundaries of faith and the law.
Joseph Reyes faces jail time for taking daughter, Ela, to a Catholic church in defiance of a temporary court order forbidding him from exposing the child to any religion but Judaism.
His estranged wife, Rebecca Reyes spoke exclusively to ABC News' Chris Cuomo about why she asked for the order and the jail time, in a case that is making national headlines. Read more.
ScienceDaily (Feb. 26, 2010) — A new UN resolution has the potential to fight torture and cruelty, say experts on the British Medical Journal website.
The resolution, passed in March 2009, goes further than previous rulings, say the authors and spells out that "states must never request or require anyone, including medical or other health personnel, to commit any act of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
Lead author, Dr Peter Polatin from the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims in Denmark, says there is substantial evidence that health professionals have been involved in torture around the world, for example in Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq in the mid-1990s, in Israel and in Guantanamo Bay.
Washington D.C. (February 25, 2010) – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a vocal critic of the USA Patriot Act and advocate for civil rights, today made the following statement regarding the House vote to extend provisions of the USA Patriot Act:
“This legislation extends three problematic provisions of the PATRIOT Act and, at the same time, leaves some of the most egregious provisions in place, absent any meaningful reform and debate.
At 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, a 7,000-pound truck bomb, constructed of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and nitromethane racing fuel and packed into 13 plastic barrels, ripped through the heart of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The explosion wrecked much of downtown Oklahoma City and killed 168 people, including 19 children in a day-care center. Another 500 were injured. Although many Americans initially suspected an attack by Middle Eastern radicals, it quickly became clear that the mass murder had actually been carried out by domestic, right-wing terrorists.
The slaughter engineered by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, men steeped in the conspiracy theories and white-hot fury of the American radical right, marked the opening shot in a new kind of domestic political extremism — a revolutionary ideology whose practitioners do not hesitate to carry out attacks directed at entirely innocent victims, people selected essentially at random to make a political point. After Oklahoma, it was no longer sufficient for many American right-wing terrorists to strike at a target of political significance — instead, they reached for higher and higher body counts, reasoning that they had to eclipse McVeigh's attack to win attention.
What follows is a detailed listing of major terrorist plots and racist rampages that have emerged from the American radical right in the years since Oklahoma City. These have included plans to bomb government buildings, banks, refineries, utilities, clinics, synagogues, mosques, memorials and bridges; to assassinate police officers, judges, politicians, civil rights figures and others; to rob banks, armored cars and other criminals; and to amass illegal machine guns, missiles, explosives and biological and chemical weapons. Each of these plots aimed to make changes in America through the use of political violence. Most contemplated the deaths of large numbers of people — in one case, as many as 30,000, or 10 times the number murdered on Sept. 11, 2001.
Here are the stories of plots, conspiracies and racist rampages since 1995 — plots and violence waged against a democratic America. Read the rest.
The family of a suburban Chicago high school student is considering legal action against the school after their son was suspended for creating a Facebook page that criticized a teacher.
Justin Bird, 16, a sophomore at Oak Forest High School, used his Facebook page to criticize a teacher.
Oak Forest High School's superintendent says the Facebook posting disrupted the school day, and that's why the student was suspended.
Bird's suspension has raised questions about whether school officials overstepped their authority. Read more.
Call them what you will: bottom feeders, corporate con-men, flim-flam artists, peddlers of crisis, you name it.
You can't help but marvel how enterprising security firms have the uncanny ability to sniff-out new opportunities wherever they can find, or manufacture, them.
After all, nothing sells like fear and in "new normal" America fear is an industry with a limitless growth potential.
While Republicans and Democrats squabble over who's "tougher" when it comes to invading and pillaging other nations (in the interest of "spreading democracy" mind you), a planetary grift dubbed the "War on Terror," waiting in the wings are America's new snake-oil salesmen.
Welcome to Scannergate!
With airport security all the rage, companies that manufacture whole body imaging technologies and body-scanners stand to make a bundle as a result of last December's aborted attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253.
Like their kissin' cousins at the Pentagon, poised to bag a $708 billion dollar windfall in the 2011 budget, securocrats over at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stand to vacuum-up some $56.3 billion next year, a $6 billion increase.
According to the agency's February 1 budget announcement, funding requirements will prioritize "efforts to enhance security measures that protect against terrorism and other threats ... reflecting the Department's commitment to fiscal discipline and efficiency."
In keeping with America's unstoppable slide to the right, President Obama created a commission on Thursday by executive order promising to "fix" the yawning budget deficit by establishing--what else!--a "bipartisan fiscal commission."
A state appeals court has unanimously upheld a ruling against a local attorney who sued the town of Guilderland, saying he was wrongly kicked out of Crossgates Mall for wearing an anti-war shirt days before the Iraq War began in 2003.
Stephen Downs argued his freedom of speech was violated and that he was falsely arrested for trespassing inside the mall in 2003.
In a 5-0 ruling, the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court disagreed on both issues.
The appeals court noted that while the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, that is against government infringement.
"Restrictions regarding expression on private property, including malls," it stated, "do not typically implicate the constitutional right to free speech." Read more.
Philly Rampage Shows Social Media's Potential: Youthful Rage, Instead of Ineffectual, Could be Potent
By Dave Lindorff
City leaders and the downtown business community in Philadelphia are wringing their hands and calling for “tough action” against a horde of some 150 high school kids from eight of the city’s decrepit and failing high schools who rampaged late Tuesday afternoon through the Center City district’s shops, from the Gallery mall at 10th Street to Macy’s near City Hall, frightening tourists and suburban shoppers, and knocking over shopping displays.
By evening, police had reportedly locked up 15 kids who were charged with violent offenses, such as beating other kids or bystanders, or destroying property (Macy’s claimed damages to its flagship store totalling $700). Some of these kids were held overnight on lesser charges such as shoplifting or disturbing the peace.
I’m not going to diminish the seriousness of the incident. Nobody should be trashing stores or stealing things, and certainly nobody should be hurting other people.
The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Viterbo University (La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA) will be the sites for the 2010 Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies conference on Human Rights (October 7-9, 2010).
Conference themes of the Universal Declaration include:
- Torture. Life, liberty and security of persons, Slavery
- Equality under the law
- Arbitrary arrest, detention or Exile
- Right to freedom of movement and residence
- Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion
- Freedom of Opinion and Expression
- Peaceful assembly and association
- Right to participate in Government
- Economic, social and cultural rights
- Right to be treated with dignity
- Right to Education
- Right to Health and wellbeing
Visit the conference website for more details.
We are excited about the keynote speakers and in particular that this conference includes both an “academic” component for people to present scholarly papers on human rights issues as well as pedagogical sessions for people to either present or to get ideas about how to introduce human rights into the K-University curriculum. Please consider submitting a proposal (the deadline is coming up soon—April 1) and encourage your colleagues to submit proposals. In addition, please let K-12 teachers in your area know about this and encourage them to attend and/or submit proposals.
Broad Coalition Urges Senate To Defeat Legislation To Block Funding For Civilian Trials In 9/11 Cases
WASHINGTON – A broad coalition of human rights and civil liberties groups sent a letter to the Senate today urging defeat of a bill that would prohibit the use of Justice Department funds to prosecute the accused 9/11 plotters in federal court. The bill, introduced earlier this month by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), is aimed at forcing the Obama administration to use the unconstitutional and discredited military commissions to try these cases. Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) has introduced a similar companion bill in the House.
In its letter to the Senate, the coalition stated, “This legislation would needlessly tie the President’s hands in resolving the problem of Guantánamo and disposing of cases in ways that comport with human rights principles and the rule of law. The legislation would restrict the Obama administration’s ability to employ one of the most valuable counterterrorism tools available — criminal prosecutions in regular federal courts.”
ICE Uses Threats of Deportation to Produce Terrorism “Intel” and in a somewhat related abuse I keep hearing stories about student visas not being renewed unless the student enlists in the U.S. military -- Anybody got such a story with names and dates and sources?
By Dave Lindorff
The deliberate suicide crash bombing by a domestic terrorist pilot of a small plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas has exposed a grave failure of the Homeland Security Department to protect us Americans from the threat posed by the virtually unregulated use in this country of small aircraft.
Just about anyone can own and fly a small plane, and these, as we have now seen, are readily adaptable into kamikazi missiles capable of destroying large buildings.
MK-ULTRA: The CIA's Mind Control Program
By Stephen Lendman
Note: MK-ULTRA and Ruhullah's story will be featured on the Progressive Radio News Hour this Thursday, February 18 at 10AM US Central time on The Progressive Radio Network. Listen live or later through archives.
MK-ULTRA was the code name for a secret CIA mind control program, begun in 1953, under Director Allen Dulles. Its purpose was multifold, including to perfect a truth drug for interrogating suspected Soviet spies during the Cold War. It followed earlier WW II hypnosis, primitive drugs research, and the US Navy's Project Chatter, explained by its Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request as follows:
It began "in the fall of 1947 focusing on the identification and testing of drugs (LSD and others) in interrogations and the recruitment of agents. The research included laboratory experiments on both animal and human subjects. The program ended shortly after the Korean War in 1953."
It was run under the direction of Dr. Charles Savage of the Naval Medical Research Institute, Bethesda, MD from 1947 - 1953, after which CIA's Office of Scientific Intelligence continued it under the name Project Bluebird, its first mind control program to:
- learn how to condition subjects to withstand information from being extracted from them by known means;
- develop interrogation methods to exert control;
- develop memory enhancement techniques; and
- establish ways to prevent hostile control of Agency personnel.
VR Celebrates 5-Year Anniversary By Exposing Chamber of Commerce's Campaign for Corporate Takeover of America
VR’s Five Year Anniversary:Help Us Celebrate With Ads Exposing The Chamber Of Commerce’s Campaign For The Corporate Takeover Of America
Join Our Stop The Chamber Campaign
This week, thanks to all your participation, VR celebrates its five year anniversary of grassroots activism and government accountability. We look forward to the next five years with more campaigns and greater citizen involvement. Let’s start with a full page ad in Washington and Internet ads exposing the Chamber of Commerce for its billion dollar campaign to put elections in the hands of corporations rather than the American people.
Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money to manipulate elections. The driving force behind this decision was the Chamber of Commerce and its army of corporate bad guys. Since the decision, we have learned that the Chamber spent $144 million for lobbying in 2009 — more than either the Democrats or Republicans. The Chamber has announced plans to spend more than ever in 2010 to elect candidates that support polluters and robber barons.
Two weeks ago, Congress held hearings on ways to blunt the Chamber’s takeover of all branches of government. The Brennan Center testified about the Chamber’s shameful and illegal practice of laundering money for big corporations in order to avoid disclosure requirements, comparing it to people using Swiss bank accounts to avoid paying US taxes.
We want to expose the Chamber’s illegal, unethical and opaque practices with a full page print ad in Washington and ads across the Internet. Our last print ad drew lots of attention from the mainstream media, with Fox News and Rush Limbaugh calling us out for taking on big corporations, and their fans warning us to back off of the Chamber. We had to complain to the FBI to stop the threats.
Let’s let them know that we are not intimidated and we will continue to expose the Chamber’s corruption. Our ads will call on Congress and the Department of Justice to investigate the Chamber’s money laundering operation with full subpoena power, grand jury action and public hearings. We need your help.
Nearly a decade ago, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) stood alone as the Senate's constitutional conscience. Casting the only dissenting vote against passage of the PATRIOT Act in 2001, he was powerless to stop an opportunistic power grab by neo-conservatives who had long sought, well before the tragedy of 9-11, to expand our government's reach into the lives of law-abiding Americans.
Today, the draconian authorities foisted on an unsuspecting public by the PATRIOT Act once again place the Constitution in the cross-hairs of a complacent Congress, acquiescing to another administration whose political agenda lies at conspicuous odds with its leader's oath to defend the Constitution.
Afghanistan War Vet Faces Jail Time for Taking Daughter to Church in Violation of Court Order
Joseph Reyes Baptized Daughter Without Informing Estranged Wife
By Chris Cuomo, Lauren Pearle, Felicia Patinkin and Suzan Clarke | ABC News
A veteran of the war in Afghanistan could find out today if he'll get jail time for taking his daughter to church in defiance of a Chicago family court order obtained by his estranged wife.
The two are in a bitter divorce battle, and the question of what faith their child should be raised in is pushing the boundaries of child custody arrangements.
Reyes' decision to baptize his daughter without his wife's permission resulted in what some are calling an extraordinary court order: The Hon. Edward R. Jordan in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill., imposed a 30-day restraining order forbidding Joseph Reyes from, according to the document, "exposing his daughter to any other religion than the Jewish religion. …"
The couple married in 2004. Joseph Reyes was Catholic, but he converted to Judaism -- he said the decision wasn't "voluntary" -- to please his in-laws.
Despite his conversion, Reyes, 35, said he never stopped practicing Catholicism. Read more.
It's Official: 2009 Was Record Year For Lobbying, Despite Recession
By Arthur Delaney | Huffington Post
Every big sector spent more, first and foremost the pharmaceutical and health products industry, which spent $266.8 million -- "the greatest amount ever spent on lobbying efforts by a single industry for one year," according to CRP. Business associations spent $183 million, oil and gas interests spent $168.4 million and the insurance industry shelled out $164.2 million.
The final reports are in and we can now officially say that 2009 was the most profitable year ever for the lobbying industry.
The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics tallied lobbying income data from tens of thousands of disclosure filings, and the data show that special interests of all stripes spent $3.47 billion lobbying the federal government in 2009, up from $3.3 billion the previous year.
How did the influence industry manage such a banner year despite a battered economy? The simple answer is that the Obama administration's aggressive change agenda has prompted businesses to open their wallets to an unprecedented degree in the hope of preventing reform. Read more.