Friday, September 30, 2011

Last Call

I've brought up the issues of voting on rights and the tyranny of the the majority before, but it's good to see people in the media bring it up and why it's ridiculous.  Rachel Maddow uses my home state of North Carolina to explain:

When rights are subject to vote, they are not rights, they are whims.

The War On Privacy - Sigh

A Justice Department document obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union shows that cellphone companies keep customers' information for several years, raising concerns about possible tracking, the National Journal reports.

Retention periods vary for subscriber data, towers used and text-message contents, but all major carriers keep tower information for as long as two years, the NJ writes. See its summaries of the Big 4 carriers.

The document release is part of a campaign to get local law enforcement agencies to reveal when, why and how they are using location data to track Americans. The ACLU says 35 affiliates have filed more than 380 requests in 32 states.

If they are going to snoop and record, that is detestable. If they are going to keep those records without our permission, it is disgusting. But they damn well owe us a straightforward understanding of what they are keeping, how long they are keeping it, and how they plan to use it.

If I broke into someone's house and took their personal data without permission I'd be in jail. How is it that an entire industry violates our rights and laugh in our face at our outrage? Where the hell is the FCC when we need them? You can't drop an F-bomb during prime time, but our information can be hoarded without explanation?

What a load.

Profiles In Courage: Pass The Damn Bill Edition

I have said this before and I'll say it again:  The problem with passing progressive legislation is Congress, not the White House.  Direct your energies there, please.  Sen. Dick Durbin:

Durbin added that the president’s bill would need bipartisan support because there are senators both on the left and the right opposed to aspects of it.

The oil-producing-state senators don’t like eliminating or reducing the subsidy for oil companies, Durbin said. There are some senators who are up for election who say I’m never gonna vote for a tax increase while I’m up for election, even on the wealthiest people. So, we’re not gonna have 100 percent of Democratic senators. That’s why it needs to be bipartisan and I hope we can find some Republicans who will join us to make it happen.

Durbin's giving you a free hint, folks.  Dem Senators up for re-election who aren't going to vote for the American Jobs Act because they're more worried about the rich than they are the middle class in their states.  Betting that list includes Ben Nelson, Joe Manchin, Joe F'ckin Lieberman and Bill Nelson at the minimum.

Time to contact your Senators, folks. United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.  Say hi.

The Maine Point About Voting

I will say this again:  if you recognize no other difference between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, you need to recognize that the Republicans want as few people to have the right to vote as possible, while the Democrats want as many people to have the right to vote as possible.  Case in point?  GOP voter intimidation in Maine of college students.

The latest voter suppression tactic employed by Republicans can be found in Maine, where last week the Secretary of State sent a threatening letter to hundreds of college students who were legally registered to vote in Maine, floating the possibility of election law violation and encouraging them to re-register elsewhere.

The letter explained that Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers was writing because he “was presented with a list of 206 University of Maine students with out-of-state home addresses and asked to investigate allegations of election law violations.” That list was provided to him not by an uninterested citizen, but rather the Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster, who has accused these students of voter fraud.

In his letter, Summers informed the recipient that “our research shows you have registered to vote as a resident of Maine,” before going on to strongly imply that the students did not meet the state definition for “residence of a person”. Summers went on to encourage the students to re-register in another state, telling them that if “you are no longer claiming to be a Maine resident, I ask that you complete the enclosed form to cancel your voter registration in Maine.” 

Only one problem: that's complete crap.  The Supreme Court clearly spelled out three decades ago that college students have the right to register to vote in the state they go to college in.  These students are within the law and are excited to vote in their first Presidential election.  But the Maine GOP doesn't want them to do so and wants to scare them into not voting.

ThinkProgress spoke with a few of the letter recipients. Casey O’Malley, a senior at University of Maine Farmington, said her family has been worried about potential legal consequences because of this letter. She hasn’t decided whether to cancel her registration or not, but her family has been “pretty insistent” that she do so in order to be on the safe side. Another recipient, who wished to remain anonymous, said that students she knew were “beyond scared and freaked out.” One was “so shaken up” because she was scared the letter meant she was going to get sued.

America, unfortunately, has a long history of this kind of behavior.  The right to vote is arguably the single most important right one has in our representative democracy.  One party continues to consistently work to get into power and then works to limit that right only to select few.  That alone should disturb everyone, no matter what your political views are.

Why should you vote?  Because Republicans don't think you'll miss it when your ability to do so is gone.

OnStar: Back On The Right Path

Bowing to public pressure, OnStar said Tuesday the Detroit navigation-and-emergency company would not monitor vehicles after customers cancel service.

The decision to change course comes a day after Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate. Schumer decried the surveillance as the most “brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory.” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) also said OnStar’s surveillance was a “privacy breach.”

To the outrage of subscribers, OnStar last week began e-mailing customers about an update to its privacy policy. Among other things, it said OnStar would turn off the two-way communication between a former customer and the service upon request — though OnStar would continue to track former customers who simply cancel their account.

Thank goodness for a quick reaction. So far the big battles have gone in our favor. I hate to be cynical, but I am frightened for the time the chips don't fall the right way. For now, we're safe thanks to a couple of fellows who reacted quickly to fix this.

The moment we lapse, rest assured our data will be harvested and sold at every opportunity.

Pre-Occupied With The Outcome

A lot of news being made in the last few days about Occupy Wall Street, the protests are in their second week and beginning to draw the backing of labor and union groups.

Labor unions and liberal activist groups plan to throw their weight behind the "Occupy Wall Street" protest in New York City that has now lasted 13 straight days, according to Crain's New York.

A diverse coalition of people have pledged to occupy Wall Street until something is done about corporate greed and the financial system's undemocratic influence on the U.S. government.

The protesters have been camped out in New York’s old Liberty Plaza, now called Zuccotti Park, since September 17.

Among unions, the United Federation of Teachers, 32BJ SEIU, 1199 SEIU, Workers United and Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 have said they will participate in the protest next Wednesday.

The Working Families Party,, Make the Road New York, the Coalition for the Homeless, the Alliance for Quality Education, Community Voices Heard, United New York and Strong Economy For All also plan to support the demonstration.

"It's a responsibility for the progressive organizations in town to show their support and connect Occupy Wall Street to some of the struggles that are real in the city today," Jon Kest, executive director of New York Communities for Change told Crain's New York. "They're speaking about issues we're trying to speak about."

I admit, I didn't have much hope for the movement in the first week, it seemed laughably disorganized.  But then the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times did the movement a huge favor by dismissing the protests with some sloppy "dirty effing hippies" journalism, and that got them noticed by the internet.  That, in turn, got them noticed by liberal activist groups and labor unions as the protests move into week number three.

Meanwhile, similar, smaller Occupy protests are showing up across the country, even here in Kentucky.

The situation started out ugly, but it's picking up momentum as well as supporters. Most of all, it's picking up organized supporters with intelligent demands and the ability to leverage the press.  We'll see how far this goes.

Playing A Game Of Chinese Checking

A lot of folks on Wall Street got burned by Chinese stock darling Sino-Forest Corporation's collapse and resignation of the the company's CEO amid allegations of securities fraud and commodity speculation: the Chinese timber company had managed to all but corner China's insatiable market for building materials...without actually having the hard numbers of hardwood.  Oops.  It was a nasty shell game, and the implosion last month was impressive.

Now the Department of Justice is looking into other Chinese companies on the NYSE and asking a lot of questions.

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating accounting irregularities at Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges, said an official with the Securities and Exchange Commission, suggesting criminal charges may be brought in addition to civil proceedings.

"There are parts of the Justice Department that are actively engaged in this area," Robert Khuzami, director of enforcement at the SEC, said in an interview on Tuesday.

He told Reuters that a number of federal prosecutors around the United States were taking part in the investigation, but he declined to name them.

Involvement of U.S. attorneys general in various locations adds investigative firepower to the SEC and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which are also probing the accounting methods of certain U.S.-listed Chinese companies.

"I think that you will see greater (Department of Justice) involvement as time goes on," Khuzami said when asked if criminal charges would be filed in the investigation.

A former federal prosecutor, he declined to elaborate on which Chinese companies or auditors were being scrutinized by the Justice Department.

The question?  How many more Sino-Forest landmines are hiding in the NYSE right now?  Could be nasty if this investigation steps on one.  Stay tuned, there's major implications this one, including the notion that China itself is engaging in commodity speculation in order to make money off of everyone else in the market.

Hey, it worked for Wall Street.

Shutdown Countdown: Here We Go Again, Part 6

Republicans are back to wanting to slash funding for Planned Parenthood, the Affordable Care Act, and heating assistance to the poor in the 2012 budget, and Democrats are responding with "no, you will not." Looks like the next shutdown fight is on over the first of the 2012 budget measures.

House Republicans are attaching controversial cuts and policy measures to legislation required to run the biggest domestic department in the federal government, and if they don't back off there will likely be, you guessed it, another government shutdown fight.

Already, Democrats in both chambers are saying a draft of the House's Labor/Health and Human Services appropriations bill is dead on arrival, because it contains deep cuts to heating assistance for the poor, requires the repeal of a major provision of the health care law that will help provide assistance for disabled people, halts implementation of the entire law until the Supreme Court determines the constitutionality of its individual insurance mandate, and slashes Planned Parenthood and public broadcasting. Just for starters.

Republicans have already reneged on the deal worked out during the debt ceiling battle, so nobody should be surprised by this stupidity. Republicans don't very concerned that the public will blame them for the multiple shutdown fights, either. All they have to do is drain the Democrats strength and keep them from being to accomplish anything in Congress and they win.  The next shutdown fight is now on, and it will be followed by a continuous number of them until the GOP is removed from a position of power.

Republicans are counting on Dems not to care in 2012.  So far the plan is working perfectly.  You have the power to make a difference.  Use it.

Unless you think permanent shutdown battles is any way to run a government.


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