Thursday, December 20, 2007

R.I.P. Perry Kucinich

Dennis Kucinich's brother Perry died yesterday, Dec. 19:

Perry Kucinich, brother of Democratic presidential hopeful Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, was found dead Wednesday morning at his eastside Cleveland home, officials said.

His body was discovered by another brother, Larry, in his apartment about 9 a.m., a spokesman for the Cuyahoga County Coroner told CNN.

Powell Caesar said the cause of the 51-year-old man's death won't be known until the results of the autopsy are returned. But, Caesar said, the body did not show injuries and there appeared to be no signs of foul play.

I wondered how Corporate News™ would cover this story today. They didn't. I'd hate to see them do anything to make people ask, "who's Dennis Kucinich?" I'll tell you who he is. He's the guy I'm voting for for president of the U.S. in the primary, after which I'm changing my party affiliation to independent; unless, of course, Dennis scores in the primary, which is doubtful, but in which case I'll remain a democrat and be glad I am.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Biting the kitten

This, like almost all issues in Washington, is getting plain silly:

The issue before the Senate is fairly simple. Last summer, President Bush asked Congress to close a gap in the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act created by advancements in technology. He waited until the eve of a recess, and then, as is his habit, falsely presented it as a matter of life and death. Having spooked Democrats on terrorism yet again, Mr. Bush larded the bill with dangerous expansions of his power to spy on Americans.

That law expires in February, which means Congress has to pass new legislation giving the intelligence agencies a little more leeway in the wireless Internet age. But once again, the White House, aided by some misguided Democrats, is trying to give the president powers he should not have: the ability to spy on Americans without a warrant and eviscerate the authority of the court that oversees electronic espionage. The bad bill Mr. Reid has now delayed would also give amnesty to telecommunications companies that—for five years—provided Americans’ private data to the government without a warrant.

The White House says it wants to protect patriotic executives. It really wants to make sure Americans never find out how much illegal spying their president ordered up after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

First of all, it is a well-known, often-reported fact the Bush administration pushed forward warrantless wiretapping almost immediately after taking office in 2001; yet, The New York Times continues to emphasize in all its accounts of this issue the White House took no action until after September 11, 2001, as if its intentions were honorable. This obvious, ingenuine LIE is disgusting to the point of nauseating. The sycophantic GOP apologists at The Times can annoint Bush and Cheney if they feel they must, but it fools no one. This is the sort of thing Nixon felt entitled to do, and is a major program of Cheney's Revenge Syndrome. Nixon's and Cheney's motives are identical: to know their political opponents' moves and to identify, locate and suppress critics. Lots of heart and soul in these guys, who couldn't have a law-abiding or patriotic notion if their lives depended on it. It wouldn't be yellow journalism for The Times to tell the truth about it, and it's outrageous that its editors still want everyone to know they still absolutely refuse.

Second, the progressive alternative press is hailing Sen. Reid's pulling this bill as a grand victory. To be sure, every day this legislation isn't enacted is a great day, but that the bill exists at all is an humiliating shame and sin. How should it be written? If I were the author, my bill would do away with FISA and put these matters back in the hands of public courts. There would be some language about tempered steel restraints for rotten, criminal politicians and crooked public utility employees and lengthy jail sentences without parole. That's a reality-based law, not the fantasy world, authoritarian law writing which makes the phony claim we're threatened by people driven insane paying homage to Allah when republican wiretapping has absolutely nothing to do with that, and never did.

Last week, Mr. Reid started pushing a bill by the Senate Intelligence Committee that gave Mr. Bush all of that—with a six-year expiration date to tie the hands of the next president. It wasn’t his only choice. He could have supported a bill by the Senate Judiciary Committee, similar to one passed by the House, with a two-year sunset, real judicial supervision, restraints on executive power and no amnesty. A few Democratic senators, including Pat Leahy, Russ Feingold and Christopher Dodd, opposed Mr. Reid, who tried to get around them by cutting deals with Republicans but failed.

If the authoritarian communists who call themselves republicans won't accept gigantic concessions like this, why give them anything? The point is to write good legislation, not keep moving the bar lower so as to avoid an unpleasant difference of opinion with some fanatic mental cases. Ordinarily, any group will get behind doing the right thing, but at some point you have to start doing the right thing. How are today's Congressional democrats going to look and feel if Mike Huckabee becomes the next president?

In January, the Senate will reconsider this issue in the midst of the primary season, with the February expiration date looming. Mr. Bush and his allies will issue dire warnings that intelligence agents won’t be able to listen to phone calls by Osama bin Laden. That was not true before, is not true now and won’t be true then.

The intelligence agencies can easily be given the flexibility they need without sacrificing the Constitution. If the law expires, fine. It won’t harm national security, and it will give Congress time to reflect. The Constitution has been battered enough by rushing through major bills like the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act.

The Times has learned to frame its reasoning well from the Bush-Cheney era. How unfortunate the two men's cowardice has so thoroughly rubbed off on the paper of record. I read a piece of rubbish like this and wonder why I keep doing it, letting The New York Times kick me around. With less time and effort they could say the bill should be thrown out. After all, the title of this editorial is "Bad Bill Now, Bad Bill Later." While they're at it, they could say the Patriot Act and Military Commissions Act of 2006 should be repealed en toto. But, seeing and telling the truth takes that half a teaspoon of courage Congressional democrats and The New York Times can't bring themselves to swallow.

Speaking of obstructionism:

WASHINGTON—The Republican Senate minority today filibustered an omnibus budget bill, setting a modern-day record for blocking the most legislation during a congressional session. A new report released today by the Campaign for America's Future details the 62 times conservatives have used the filibuster to block legislation (or force modification of bills) in the first session of the 110th Congress. In just the first year of this two-year Congress, their use of the filibuster in the Senate topped the previous record, reached during the entire 107th Congress. [...]

"In just one session, a minority in Congress has prevented a mind-blowing 62 pieces of legislation from going to the floor for an up or down vote," said Campaign for America's Future co-director Roger Hickey. "Our report shows how over and over again, the uncompromising minority has thwarted the will of majorities in Congress and of the American people, holding the Senate floor hostage to a radical right-wing agenda."

Sixty votes are needed to invoke cloture and end a filibuster. The 62nd cloture vote of the session is more than any single session of Congress since at least 1973, the earliest year cloture votes are available online from the Senate. Republicans are on pace to force 134 cloture votes to cut off a filibuster, according to the Campaign for America's Future analysis, more than double the historical average of the last 35 years.

Even pieces of legislation that have made it past the Senate filibuster blockade have been obstructed by President Bush. Last week the President vetoed for the second time a popular bill that would expand health coverage for 10 million American children. According to the Campaign for America's Future report, Bush has threatened to veto 84 bills and has vetoed six as of December 17. In contrast, during the period when the Republicans were in the congressional majority, Bush went the longest time without vetoing a bill since President Arthur Garfield.

Eric Lotke, Campaign for America's Future research director and lead author of the new report, calls the obstruction a "deliberate strategy." He observes that the congressional Republicans block legislation, then blame the Democrats for getting nothing done. "It's like mugging the postman and then complaining that the mail isn't delivered on time."

Of course, you don't get the facts laid out by mainstream media. After all this time, the only thing I can think is that corporate America thinks it will make more money under a communist government than a democracy. So, add to my list of legislative priorities, more funding for education, the prohibition of private funding for candidates and the repeal of political parties. Hey, I think we're on to something!

No surprises here: it turns out the White House knew about the torture videos as early as 2003 and strongly supported their destruction:

WASHINGTON — At least four top White House lawyers took part in discussions with the Central Intelligence Agency between 2003 and 2005 about whether to destroy videotapes showing the secret interrogations of two operatives from Al Qaeda, according to current and former administration and intelligence officials. [...]

Those who took part, the officials said, included Alberto R. Gonzales, who served as White House counsel until early 2005; David S. Addington, who was the counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and is now his chief of staff; John B. Bellinger III, who until January 2005 was the senior lawyer at the National Security Council; and Harriet E. Miers, who succeeded Mr. Gonzales as White House counsel.

It was previously reported that some administration officials had advised against destroying the tapes, but the emerging picture of White House involvement is more complex. In interviews, several administration and intelligence officials provided conflicting accounts as to whether anyone at the White House expressed support for the idea that the tapes should be destroyed.

One former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said there had been "vigorous sentiment" among some top White House officials to destroy the tapes. The former official did not specify which White House officials took this position, but he said that some believed in 2005 that any disclosure of the tapes could have been particularly damaging after revelations a year earlier of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

And so forth. The formula is always the same, destroy the evidence to stay out of prison, then have spokespeople present confusing, conflicting accounts or just say you don't remember. There's never anything to wonder about: everyone knew everything from the start, they're all complicit and can't be hanged soon or high enough.

Rep. Wexler's petition exceeds 100,000 signatures. While the petition of support to initiate impeachment proceedings against Dick Cheney has no legal force of its own, it is persuasive evidence majority leaders in Congress will be hard pressed to ignore. This time, talk about impeachment is serious. If you haven't signed on, please do.

• Blogger wasn't displaying the pictures in the nameplate properly for some reason. After multiple attempts to post/change the picture, I just took it out. Too bad, too—the picture of Bush biting a kitten says it all.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Building a better world by e-mail

While petitioning Washington to air grievances has been rather futile since Bushco's® overthrow of democracy and the constitution, I'm not willing to give up. Neither should you. I actually still write to these things and ignore how silly it makes me feel. Won't you take a few minutes and join in the fun?

Support Rep. Robert Wexler's new push to impeach Cheney by signing the petition. He needs 50,000 signatures. Huffington Post and Alternet have articles and video with more information.

Ask Sens. Clinton, Biden and Obama to support Chris Dodd's filibuster of FISA legislation which would grant telecom companies retroactive immunity for the warrantless wiretapping of every possible American.

Meanwhile, Luke is still hot on the trail of a proper forum for Sibel Edmonds, who's now saying she'll violate her gag orders if that venue presents itself. Man, she's a tough act to follow! You can e-mail some of these media outlets/personalities who've had an interest in the past and remind them they can have the big story of the last few decades: Keith Olbermann60 MinutesABC NewsMSNBC and NBC.

Update: Holy shit!

It's not being reported in the corporate media, which also refused to publish an opinion piece penned by six-term Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). But a whopping 50,000 people responded in just one day to Rep. Wexler's call for people to sign his on-line petition supporting an immediate start to hearings on Rep. Dennis Kucinich's Cheney Impeachment bill (H Res 799)

As of Sunday morning, 54,000 people had signed the petition at calling for action now. And names are being added at a rate of one every one or two seconds!

Wexler has said he wanted at least 50,000 signatures. But why stop there? If people get behind this, and if the impeachment movement spreads the word, he could easily get closer to 500,000 signatures over the next few days.

And if each of us were to send out a call to sign to ten of our friends, then we'd have half a million signatures, which would be hard for Conyers and the Democratic leadership, Speaker Nancy Pelosi included, to ignore.

That's what I call action. It's been hard to get more than a few thousand signatures for a petition calling for impeachment. It could be the intelligence community's repudiation of all those lies trying to sell us on the idea of destroying Iran with nuclear weapons was the final nail in the BushCheney coffin. Think how much things have changed in the past couple months!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The internet: no rule is the best rule

Of all the articles one could read about internet freedom, ZDNet News has this great one by Larry Downes:

Rep. Edward Markey is preparing to reintroduce legislation that would prohibit Internet access providers from offering priority service to content providers--known as the Net neutrality principle.

Similar legislation has failed in both the House and Senate in the past, but proponents of Net neutrality haven't given up.

If only they would.

The Internet has thrived in large part because it has managed to sidestep a barrage of efforts to regulate it, including laws to ban indecent material, levy sales tax on e-commerce, require Web sites to provide "zoning" tags, and to criminalize spam, file sharing, and spyware.

Some of these laws have been overturned by the courts; some died before being passed; and the rest--well, the rest are effectively ignored, thanks to the Internet's remarkable ability (so far) to treat regulation as a network failure and reroute around the problem.

Proponents of Net neutrality--some of whom have led the battles against other forms of network regulation--argue that this law is different. Mandating Net neutrality is simple, fair, and preserves the very features of the Internet that make it so valuable. Indeed, the Senate's version of Net neutrality legislation carries the lofty title of Internet Freedom Preservation Act.

Who could be against preserving freedom?

But the information superhighway to hell is surely paved with good intentions.

That's the lesson of America's first misadventure in enforcing "neutrality" on a key piece of national infrastructure: the railroads.

Nearly 100 years ago, shippers in cities between the Mississippi and the West Coast, which were largely served by only one road, found that they were being charged higher rates to subsidize competitive tariffs from cities east of the Mississippi, where shippers had several choices.

Like those calling today for Net neutrality, the Intermountain shippers demanded "reasonable and fair" rates of carriage. Congress agreed, but it left the definition and enforcement of these deceptively simple terms to the Interstate Commerce Commission.

So, what was "reasonable"?

The ICC struggled for decades to answer that single question, spending 20 years and hundreds of millions of dollars before giving up, unable to agree on how to value the railroad's assets in order to calculate a reasonable rate of return. With the industry consumed by this "simple" effort to make its operations "fair," other forms of transportation emerged and ultimately put the railroads out of their misery.

More recently, the Civil Aviation Board (CAB), which micromanaged U.S. commercial air travel until 1978, worked to ensure "fair" ticket prices for everyone but in practice created a mess of routes, subsidized carriers, and indecipherable rate structures. Since the CAB was dismantled, air travel has not only expanded but, thanks to market forces, is now also cheaper for consumers.

And what about the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the law passed in the wake of Enron, WorldCom, and other corporate scandals? SOX requires "transparency" in financial statements, a worthwhile goal, but one that, so far, has cost public companies that weren't committing fraud billions of dollars in compliance. No one seriously believes that money has helped investors make sense of a single balance sheet. [...]

"Net neutrality" only sounds obvious. Cable operators already discriminate between your Internet traffic and your TV traffic, in favor of the latter, because the programming needs priority to maintain its integrity. The Federal Communications Commission--left, like the ICC before it, to work out the details under all proposed Net neutrality legislation--would need to carve out an exception for that non-neutral behavior.

There will be many such exceptions, some based on network activities not yet invented. Indeed, in response to the remarkable range of unplanned uses to which the Internet has been put over the last 10 years, some of its original designers are working on technologies to optimize the Web's increasingly complex traffic patterns--efforts that would run afoul of Net neutrality proposals, perhaps unintentionally.

Worse still, imagine how complaints of non-neutral rates of carriage would be investigated. The FCC would have to monitor network traffic and seize and open the packets in question. So why do the same civil-liberties groups that recognize the value of keeping the government out of Internet content want to open a loophole large enough to drive several Mack trucks through?

Then, as now, there is an appropriate role for government. The development of the U.S. railroad system was greatly aided by initial investment in infrastructure, including basic research, land grants, rights-of-way, and efforts to help the industry agree on standards for track gauge (like the Internet, an open standard), operating techniques, and interline cooperation.

State and federal governments have performed similar positive services on behalf of the national communications infrastructure, and they continue to do so in the form of auctions, basic protocols, and "spectrum grants" for new communications services such as digital TV. (These days, state and federal dollars aren't being invested in communications infrastructure. Witness California's recent massive infrastructure bonds, which include transportation, education, and water, but not communications.) [...]

Let's preserve Internet freedom--freedom from regulation, that is.

ZDNet News is the definitive place to go to read about this issue, but be ready to find an overwhelming set of links, like the 8,195 you'll find by clicking the tag Internet—plus lots of really tasty downloads.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Take a chance: just say no.

It's been only 16 months, but it seems like a thousand years since my front page debut on WIIG4. I started with railing about the Bush administration's plans to use nuclear-equipped robust nuclear earth penetrators to attack Iran's underground weapons production facilities, with lurid descriptions of the adverse impact of such an attack to illustrate it's an idiotic idea.

Sixteen months is the same length of time since Fidel Castro has made a public appearance. The world was already sick and tired of being frightened by what the illegitimate, insane imbeciles holed up in the White House might do next. And, may I add, almost everyone on earth, including the most vehement war hawks, were fully aware Bush and Cheney had no genuine, real life reason to attack Iran, and didn't need an intelligence report to activate their bullshit detectors. We waited impatiently for the empirical data that would shoot it down, suspecting it to be in the NIE hidden under Deadeye's big ass.

Then Monday came:

While many Democrats said they remain cautious about the National Intelligence Estimate's (NIE) conclusion that Iran halted its nuclear weapons development program in 2003, several said that Congress should investigate the discrepancy between the Bush administration's recent doomsday rhetoric on Iran and the NIE's judgments. [...]

"There is absolutely no question that there should be oversight on this issue," said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) who for years has been trying to push legislation that would ensure congressional authorization for any military action with Iran.

President Bush's "credibility is absolutely zero," McDermott said in an interview. "We are dealing with a president who has no shame. Anyone who can turn down $10 million for children's [health insurance] is not going to be turned off by a report," he added.

He said that even though the report's conclusion is not a victory he wants, it shows that the Democrats "told the American people the truth."

Seymour Hersh tells CNN the White House has known for a year Iran halted its nuclear weapons program.

After claiming ignorance all day, the White House finally admitted Bush lied when he claimed Iranian nuclear attacks were about to start World War III and nuclear war, because he knew the contents of the NIE in August:

On Tuesday, Bush said “nobody ever told me” to back down from his hawkish rhetoric on Iran. No, maybe not. But Bush knew Iran “may have suspended” its nuclear weapons program and that the intelligence community was in the process of “changing its assessment.”

Now I see. None of this was Dickface's fault because someone told him to lie us into starting global nuclear obliteration. Learn to say no, Stupid, and say it often.

Do I need to go on with this discussion? I have at least a couple dozen hot links with interesting things to look at. This week I've read dozens and scores of stories about this—and you have to know I've been having one solid, deep, long gut-chuckle about it. Bush isn't exactly Kennedy And The Cuban Missile Crisis. Then, he goes on TV and tells us, "but they might restart their program any minute," like the NIE changes nothing. The animated Bushtoon™ in my head has been running full blast, with Saint King Monkeylips being hauled away in a straitjacket screaming, "their nostril hairs! They might be trimmed now, but THEY'LL GROW BACK! We have to launch our cruise missiles...!"

The very dubious claim is made that an NIE in 2005 suggested a weapons program was ongoing, but since this latest report is so different, it was time to make it public. Certain rightist blowholes insist it's a knife in the back for Bush from the CIA, that they're out to get him—begging the question, "so?" Is that a random guess or wishful thinking? Joseph Biden comments. "They were lying and knew it." Blah, blah, blah. Everyone else knew it, too.

Recall that those of us who (once again) got it right with Iran have been portrayed from the beginning to the present in the most negative terms, and rest assured there will be plenty more discussion of the topic which will not go well for America's screwball authoritarians, who are now clearly and unmistakenly revealed as liars, feebs and maniacal cuckoos.

Here lies the real problem: these people aren't smart, and they aren't sane, either. There is an astonishingly urgent need in the world to be able to HUMANELY identify and rehabilitate the mind which destroys and kills obsessively. That's currently a terrible problem in the American government's executive and legislative branches, not in the country at large—which brings us to another hot discussion in current events...

• HR 1955, aka S 1959, aka The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007—cool name, huh? I like the word "homegrown" thrown in. It makes me think The Nanny State® is going to pass out reefers to placate the masses.

I've read this loathsome bit of legislation which, thank heaven, isn't long, and you can read a fair dissection of it here, although I'm not sure how relevant the New World Order talk is. I kind of like this part, though:

This bill is completely insane. It literally allows the government to define any and all crimes including thought crime as violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism. Obviously, this legislation is unconstitutional on a number of levels and it is clear that all 404 representatives who voted in favor of this bill are traitors and should be removed from office immediately. The treason spans both political parties and it shows us all that there is no difference between them. The bill will go on to the Senate and will likely be passed and signed into the law by George W. Bush. Considering that draconian legislation like the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act have already been passed, there seems little question that this one will get passed as well. This is more proof that our country has been completely sold out by a group of traitors at all levels of government.

A scathing appraisal. I know there are more scholarly treatments, but I haven't gone looking for them because I want to give my own critique without the benefit of a more considered opinion. Many recent articles about this bill verge on yellow journalism, such as this one and this one. Sure, when the express language says it is for the stated purpose and for "other purposes" which are unstated, it could act as a first step toward making most anything a crime without naming the crime, and most anyone a criminal without entitling a person (as a rapist or burglar, for example).

We have become so velocitized by the currently fashionable, authoritarian executive and legislative branches which say one thing and mean, then do, another, that it's easy to think the real goal of legislation like this lies between the lines. Then we fail to read the words over and over and let their meaning sink in so as to understand at least what the express language is saying. I've done that and can tell you what it entails. This bill is not a statute aimed at prohibiting unwanted behavior. It creates a commission with a wild-eyed, haywire name which is essentially a blue-ribbon, fact-finding committee authorized to spend money like it's going out of style in pursuit of the age-old question of what motivates the suicide bomber and those of his ilk. Understanding this, the goal then would be to short-circuit this process and stop social, political and religious dissent which gets out of hand in the United States. That's the troublesome part.

The commission is required to meet, talk with experts and issue reports at six-month intervals, the final report being issued 18 months after the group first meets. Although the commission is required to hold public hearings, that is subject to executive review and the commission is encouraged to enlist employees, contractors and experts with active security clearances; so, it's possible that some, most or all of the commission's business could remain classified. That is troubling, too.

While appearing to be an important first step at labeling political dissent as homegrown terrorism, and dissenters as terrorists, what this bunch would end up deciding is anyone's guess, and limited only by the imagination. Under "Findings" you see the provocative statement, "The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens." Really? Then, is censorship the object? We don't know, and they aren't saying, and as always, what constitutes "terrorist-related propaganda" is a matter of opinion.

Last year when I said we have passed the time when revolution is needed, is that what this gang wants to stifle? We can't know, but probably it is. Heaven knows the crown tried to stifle the states' move to autonomy in the late eighteenth century. If someone says Bush and Cheney have earned a smart rap across the bridge of the nose, delivered by every citizen of this country with a baseball bat while they are tied to a tree, is that an unprotected expression? By the language of this legislation, it is protected. They want to detain people who are making tangible plans to do such things, or so they say: while there is a difference between a stated message to a specific individual and a threat of imminent violence, which is clear today, tomorrow that line can be blurred, and I suspect that is the commission's aim, and in blurring the line create new categories of crimes as a prelude to imprisonment.

But some things slip through the cracks. When the U.S. military in Iraq, under Gen. David Petraeus's command, misplaced 190,000 rifles and pistols and tens of thousands of other pieces, allowing them to fall into the hands of "bad actors" and costing a tidy sum, did Petraeus commit a possible offense under this act? No prosecutor in this country would consider it a close call, in spite of the fact it conforms in many ways with what the act states it wants to control. Besides, the GOP has a very long, rich heritage of arming both sides of a dispute to prolong hostilities and profiteering, suggesting it was no simple act, omission or negligence but that he was under direct orders to do it; of course, that's just my opinion, having become jaded and cynical after years of the Bush administration's oppressive despotism.

It galls me this bill was sponsored by a democrat, California's Rep. Jane Harmon. This is a perfect example of why I said the terms liberal and conservative are inapplicable. Party affiliation may be no indicator of an individual's temperament and predisposition; still, I don't expect an extremely authoritarian program to be launched by a member of the democratic party. It just shows you can't make that assumption, because here it is. It's clear Rep. Harmon stands behind her hard line to feed prisons with people doing who knows what, but certainly things that aren't criminal offenses now, from this letter to the ACLU she shares on her website:

November 28, 2007

Ms. Caroline Fredrickson
Director, Washington Legislative Office
American Civil Liberties Union
915 15th Street NW, 6th Floor
Washington, DC 20005

Dear Ms. Fredrickson:

I have read your letter of November 21, and find it confusing. At the same time you discuss the ACLU’s efforts to express concern about HR 1955, and attach suggested revisions (some of which we believe would improve the legislation) you also state that, even if your changes are accepted, it is unlikely the ACLU will support the bill because it focuses on speech and belief.

This makes me wonder why you took the time to suggest changes (which are in addition to changes you proposed and that were largely incorporated into HR 1955 in March) – and, frankly, whether anything I and Committee members have been saying for months is being heard. HR 1955 is not about interfering with speech or belief – the hearing record makes that abundantly clear. Radical speech, as I have said repeatedly, is protected under our Constitution.

I have always admired the ACLU’s efforts to protect free speech, even when that is unpopular – and my voting record over seven terms in Congress reflects how strongly I agree with you. But ideologically based violence is not a protected act – it is a crime. Our bill would establish a diverse, well-qualified, nonpartisan, short-term commission to make recommendations to Congress so it can better understand and hopefully take responsible steps to prevent ideologically based violence. This is not the “thought police” and surely it is not censorship. 404 members of the House agreed just weeks ago.

Because the House has passed HR 1955, the focus now shifts to the Senate. But regardless of which chamber is involved, it seems counterproductive to invest more time in further meetings or negotiations when you have announced your steadfast opposition in advance.

Are you in fact interested in working with us and the Senate on the bill?



The act and this letter demonstrate Jane's not much of a thinker or author, she just likes oppressive authoritarianism and is a risk-taker. I'd like to see the ACLU's letter and response to this! It must be a blistering assault, or Jane would share it, in that she went to the trouble to post her letter. Let's write our own letter to Jane. You can e-mail through her website here or contact her by mail, phone or fax by looking here; contact members of the senate democratic caucus here; contact the entire senate here:

The Honorable Rep. Jane Harmon
2400 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Jane,

The universally humiliating, withering criticism of HR 1955 proves people don't want to see new legislation aimed at creating draconian, authoritarian prohibitions of nonexistent crimes. If it was your intention, and that of an overwhelming House majority, to prevent terrorist acts which don't happen in the United States, it is an ingenuine intention which will only swell our prison population at a time when we need to be finding ways to decrease that population.

I don't live in California, but as a lifetime democrat I feel compelled to help you and your colleagues who have adopted the right's "tough on terrorism" framing which is nonsense when the United States doesn't even have a problem with terrorism; at least, it doesn't have a terrorism problem with the population at large. And, as a democrat, I feel the need to help you and Congress generally because it is clear you have absolutely no idea what you are doing, and have lost your grip on reality.

Jane, do you remember back in the 1960s when The Anarchist's Cookbook was published? It was highly criticized, and there was a lot of talk and alarm about how this "irresponsible" book would certainly create a nation of homemade bomb makers. But, 40 years later, you see that didn't happen. Why do you suppose that is? I'm no expert, but I can tell you that the reason people aren't blowing up police stations, churches, mosques and themselves in the United States is, despite what problems our country has, we remain a relatively free, open and prosperous society. That has a LOT more to do with preventing discontent than focusing on topics of dissent and people who whine and complain, stifling the sale of the possible tools of weapon-making and undermining the first amendment's guarantees of freedom of expression. Indeed, The Anarchist's Cookbook was never intended to be a homegrown terrorist's handbook of horror; it was intended to test the first amendment's guarantees. As a kid in public school, I understood that.

This year I have been required to show my drivers license, and my name put on an offender database, when I purchased Class III pharmaceuticals, pseudoephedrine, lighter fluid and rubbing alcohol, with the dubious, express purpose of subverting terrorism. I resent the assumption I am a criminal offender because I want to control my overactive sinuses, clean surfaces and fuel my lighter. I can purchase gallons of far more dangerous, terror-useful gasoline with no questions asked. I'm reminded that recent events force one to choose whether he will think and live as a free person, and be a bulwark against the kind of discontent which leads to acts of terrorism, or give in to fear and think and live as an authoritarian, giving rise to the kind of injustice and oppression which sow the seeds of that discontent. It is incumbent upon all of us to make the proper choice, and upon you and others in Congress as lawmakers in particular to understand a free and prosperous society, dedicated to justice and the rule of law, does everything needed to promote contentment and the public peace. Apparently, too many lawmakers in Washington and nationwide can't grasp this concept and want to go in the opposite direction, when thousands of years of human history prove again and again it is a grievous error. I am saddened and disheartened that this is the choice you so willingly make.

Things can go wrong in a hurry, Jane. Why would you want to subvert public discourse with novel, wild notions like "ideological radicalization" in an era when the whole world can be destroyed in a single day? Just for fun, let's consider a hypothetical example, since HR 1955 deals with suppositive flights of the imagination.

What if there were an election in which the country selected one candidate for president, but the Supreme Court threw a coup and installed the other candidate? I know that seems farfetched, but it could happen, even though that isn't how elections are supposed to work. And what if the adminstration were returned for a second term because of massive poll irregularities, and Congress refused to address the issue? It sounds fantastic, but we're just pretending. What if this rogue, unelected executive usurped Congress's authority to declare war and launched the first pre-emptive wars in the country's history based on selling lies to Americans, Congress and the world? Then, what it they wanted to launch a new war based on more lies and this time planned a nuclear attack which would kill millions of people in that country and millions more caught in the fallout field? And, Jane, what if Congress refused to intervene to stop it, and wouldn't consider impeaching these obviously lying, feeble-minded maniacs? I know it's an extreme departure from reality, and you probably think nothing like that could ever happen—but I assure you, it can happen, because there is no mechanism to screen out of public service the kind of feeble-minded, maniacal liars who might do it.

Wouldn't you say that is a far more serious and urgent matter than trying to stop suicide bombers who don't even exist? Wouldn't you do everything you could think to do so as not go down in history as a part of the Congress that sat back and did nothing to stop it? You'd think you would. You'd think anyone would, and that it would be self-evident. But this is not the choice you and your colleagues have made. You don't care about keeping America and the world safe and at peace, and I can see you no longer want your Washington career.

As a citizen, shouldn't I be able to say that I am opposed to the actions of that illegitimate regime? Shouldn't I be able to do whatever I can to stop what can only be described as a bunch of crazy people from blowing up the whole world? You'd think that I should. But HR 1955, now S 1959, wants me and everyone else to shut up, and say and do nothing.

How could you possibly be the author of that? How could anyone in Congress support it? I don't understand. And Jane, you have failed to provide a single argument which enlists my understanding, and I predict neither you nor anyone else ever will. I guess you'll be retiring from Congress after this term. I wish you good fortune in your future endeavors, and if you can't apply your thought process better than this surely you will need it.

To those in the Senate, if you pass this loathsome, oppressive act, make sure you take it in a different direction. There is indeed a need in the world to stop those who cause destruction, injury and death without conscience, whether or not they are in government. A good place to start would be the article by Gene Bylinsky, "New Clues To The Causes Of Violence," published in Fortune in 1973, which you can read at I had hoped this research would bear fruit, and that we wouldn't have war and more and more prisons by this time. If you can figure out a way to identify and cure those people who cannot control their violent urges which is humane and protects their civil liberties, you will have risen to this challenge and done something miraculous.

Your friend, «—U®Anu§—»

cc: Everyone in the U.S. Senate

If you decide to send such a letter, you may want to sign by acronym in order to avoid extraordinary rendition.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Good riddance, Tucker Carlson

Think Progress reports MSNBC may be considering canceling Tucker Carlson's show.

They suggest you write to MSNBC and tell them what you think about Tucker. And, they link to this website constructed by a couple of his supporters to rally the troops with statements like this:

This decision by MSNBC will silence a conservative voice, part of a move by MSNBC to swing left and become "FOX for the Liberals," dropping any pretense of objectivity or balance.

I could tell what this guy was going to be about the first time I saw him listed in the TV guide for his program on PBS. Since then, I've watched many hours of his dreary droning and read miles of transcript excerpts on blogs. He appeared in the name of "balance" after the Bush administration decided to cast out Bill Moyers for telling the truth and listing some of their infinite crimes. It just goes to show how easy it is to get plum media jobs when you're related to the right people.

His downfall just goes to show what I've been telling you: authoritarianism is not a majority position—never was, still isn't and never will be. America's founders came here to escape authoritarianism and put it to rest forever. In the 21st century, people who are still trying to beat life into the dead horse of authoritarianism demonstrate they know nothing of history, and altogether can't manage a collective IQ of 14, besides not understanding anything about the American creed. Giving these people and their authoritarian ranting a public forum in the name of "balance" assumes authoritarianism is a legitimate platform—which it is not. It's as unAmerican as it is unChristian and undemocratic. News stories and television programs devoted to authoritarianism are propaganda and only propaganda, and the political authoritarianism of the last 40 years is of a caliber that even its proponents cannot permanently abide. On top of all this, Tucker is awful, truly terrible, and anyone who hired him supposing he is intelligent and engaging has urgent reason to question his own judgment.

Tucker's vanishing audience and talk of dropping his program are proper examples of all of it. He and all the so-called "conservative" pundits aren't the result of a lack of vigilence in protecting democracy and our free society as much as they are the result of individuals who wrongly chose to embrace principles that were dead on arrival.

Monday, November 19, 2007

As good as on, the war with Iran

A contingent of top American military leaders oppose war with Iran. Last weekend the obsequious crew of The McLaughlin Report stated overwhelming opposition from all quarters insures this new war simply can't happen.

Ayatollah Emami-Kashani said in a sermon November 9 that nuclear weapons are forbidden by Islamic law, and that Iran doesn't want them. Rep. Neil Abercrombie has introduced a bill clarifying that the authorization to use military force does not allow Bush to attack Iran, and that he needs new Congressional approval. All this sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

Yes, it all sounds good, and it means exactly nothing. Saudi Social Affairs Minister Abdel Mohsen Hakas and Rihab Massoud, Prince Bandar ben Sultan's right hand, are resigned to the certainty of an American strike on Iran before Bush leaves office.

Freedom's Watch has been assembling focus groups this month to craft sales pitches, arguments, slogans or language designed to promote support for a war with Iran. This story also says the group expects to raise $200 million in funds for an advertising campaign by this time next year.

If it's legal for people to do this, is it legal for other people to use them for target practice?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

America has a pleasure problem.

There are those who may feel I've been a little too hard on the Bush and Cheney. But, I promise that any flaming fudge bags they may have received definitely did not come from me.

How can I say this? My commentary about the presidency of George W. Bush is mild compared to what awaits if Hillary Clinton is elected president. I was planning to change my party affiliation to independent after the primaries anyway, but I ramble...

Eric Blumrich says it better:

Let me make it clear: Anyone would make a better president than Bush. I'll even go so far as to say that (with the exception of Giuliani and Thompson) any of the republicans running for the highest office will make a better president than Bush. However- that's not really saying much, as a moldy cup of ramen noodles would make a better commander-in-chief than Bush has been.

Considering that the republican party is so much out of public favor that it is likely to show up on "The Surreal Life" as Bronson Pinchot's roomie, it's all but certain that the democrats will capture the white house. Further, with resignations and scandals heralding an all-out collapse of the republican congressional delegation, the democrats have a fair chance to gain a fillibuster-proof majority in both houses of congress.

The only thing that could stop this from happening, is if Hillary Clinton gets the democratic nomination.

Good old Eric—after all these years, we still have no points of disagreement.

It's a joke story. Right?

Barry Bonds was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice Thursday and could go to prison instead of the Hall of Fame for telling a federal grand jury he did not knowingly use performance-enhancing drugs.

It's not a joke story. In fact, to hear the TV network guys tell it Thursday and Friday, it's the biggest story of all time: a grown man playing a kid's game with a stunning record of hitting home runs is looking at up to 30 years in jail for lying under oath about taking steroids. Have we all just suffered profound brain death? Am I the only one who sees the infinite inanity of this incredible and absurd nonsense?

Has public discourse devolved to a point that it's a contest from one story to the next of how many invalid, inconsequential premises we can stack? This story doesn't belong in a court, and it doesn't belong as a matter of primary concern for Washington:

In Washington, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said: "The president is very disappointed to hear this. As this case is now in the criminal justice system, we will refrain from any further specific comments about it. But clearly this is a sad day for baseball."

The sad part is that there are people who are so unbelievably stupid that this is the most important business, the biggest issue, in their sad, little lives—and I'd cry my eyes out about it except that I'm laughing so hard when I think about how one would need a lifetime to nurture, cultivate and master the uneducated, dimwitted ignorance needed to think this is a matter requiring a second's thought or a single spoken word. Truly the drug war and antidrug message has been so oversold, it goes beyond extremism to life-and-death fanatacism.

How, then, should Bonds be penalized? If only we could torture him up to the point of death while subjecting him to hard manual labor and starvation, then nurse him back to health, while scourging him with a cat-o-nine tails, then execute him at day's end and resurrect him overnight to repeat the punishment and drive home the tragic horror of his sinful crime with each new day. But somehow, it's just not enough. Shouldn't anyone who can say the words "Bonds," "drug" or "steroid" be summarily executed by torture chamber? Well, why the fuck not...

...or perhaps we could nuke our own country over and over and over to purge the impurity from this virginal land, satiating the psychopathic authoritarians who so wholeheartedly believe this humliating and unnecessary episode has some point, and sets a worthy precedent. It makes me completely ashamed to be a member of the human race.

• THEN, I got THIS deplorable piece of shit in e-mail entitled "THE JOB - URINE TEST" with the comment someone made, "This makes so much sense!!!!"

(I sure would like to know who wrote this one! They deserve a HUGE pat on the back!)


Like a lot of folks in this state, I have a job. I work, they pay me. I pay my taxes and the government distributes my taxes as it sees fit. In order to get that paycheck, I am required to pass a random urine test with which I have no problem. What I do have a problem with is the distribution of my taxes to people who don't have to pass a urine test.

Shouldn't one have to pass a urine test to get a welfare check because I have to pass one to earn it for them? Please understand, I have no problem with helping people get back on their feet. I do, on the other hand, have a problem with helping someone sitting on their ASS, doing drugs, while I work. . . .

Can you imagine how much money the state would save if people had to pass a urine test to get a public assistance check? Pass this along if you agree or simply delete if you don't. Hope you all will pass it along, though... Something has to change in this country--and soon!

How authoritarian and servile. Is this supposed to be funny? No, the uneducated author is serious, and points out what is wrong with the drug war. By calling it a "war," the law embedded the idea that civil liberties can be thrown out of the window, that there would be shooting, and the related killing, even of innocent bystanders, was legitimate and part of the cost of fighting The Last Ultimate Evil.© What's wrong with this logic is the same thing that's wrong with our system of criminal justice. People on juries want to inflict injustice on others because they themselves have suffered injustice. Issues, facts and evidence just don't matter. A "crime" was committed. Someone was arrested. Whether or not the defendant was the perpetrator is irrelevant. The matter is disposed of, and the juror is exonerated of blame, if the maximum penalty is assessed. The juror never considers how he would feel if he were a falsley accused defendant. He doesn't consider that an innocent person suffers and a guilty person escapes judgment, nor care. And, whether or not the issue is a proper one for adjudication is certainly never a consideration.

All that matters is the opportunity to have the pleasure of arbitrarily hurting someone with the sanction of the law finally presented itself. Receiving pleasure from inflicting pain on another person is one of the hallmarks of psychopathy.

I have a confession. I've been trying to figure out a way to transition into this topic for almost three months, and this is a pretty good place for it. I read a great article about the mechanism of violence (in individuals) in the early 1970s. In late August, I went searching for it online, not expecting to find it. There is good news and bad news.

The good news is, unbelievably, I found the article: New Clues To The Causes of Violence by Gene Bylinsky, originally published in Fortune January, 1973. There was discussion in those days that if the medical community could understand people's tendency toward violence, perhaps it could be controlled, and crime and war would become things of the past.

The bad news is, I became so disillusioned and jaded reading it again after all these years, but especially by my search for it, I haven't had much urge to research and write since then. I made what, two posts here in the month of September? All this time I've thought about how silly it is to be blocked by such things, although the point is arguable. I felt sad and discouraged, because I was in my first year of college when it was published, and I believed that by this time we would learn how to stifle the impulse in some people to resort to violence, whether irrational, as part of the act of committing a crime (as in aggravated robbery) or as a means of settling a dispute (as in unnecesarily joining in or starting a war).

The article discusses different approaches to the study of the causes of violent behavior, like family history, behavioral, cultural and socioeconomic. Most of the article deals with the interesting idea violent behavior results from changes in brain enzymes and extraordinary architecture of certain brain structures. There is the implicit hint, then, that violence is the product of an internal mechanism some people can't control, a suggestion with which I agreed and still do, and that this mechanism could be brought under control—and that the world could suffer fewer violent crimes and maybe, eventually, no more war.

I felt discouraged by my search for this article because 34 years later, not only has the optimistic promise of less violence in the world not been realized, but when one goes looking for problem-solving information about violence, it is almost wholly absent. Instead, you find endless support groups and nonprofits begging for a handout. Even the groups' specialties give reason to be disheartened: help for victims of crime, families of murder victims, abused spouses, and even parents who have been abused by their children, if you can believe that, but nowhere did I find help for children who are abuse victims. There must be some. That is what I was looking for specifically, hoping it would provide some insight, and I couldn't find one. Similarly, I didn't go past my initial, cursory search for articles dealing with the subject of violence, its causes and treatment or even casual advice. Again, they must exist.

However, this was a hot topic 34 years ago. If the study had attracted the interest of enough of the right people, the most basic search criteria should have yielded more material than one could read in a lifetime. But, it just isn't there.

Understand how exciting this subject is:

Other novel approaches may emerge from studies that are under way. For example, development of a vastly improved brain-wave recording machine, now in progress at Tulane, would enable doctors to detect signals of trouble from deep in the brain without surgically implanting recording electrodes there. It may also become possible to treat damaged deep-nerve networks ultrasonically, thereby avoiding surgery.

It is clear that much more specific therapies than those in use today are needed for people who have brain damage. Vernon H. Mark and Frank R. Ervin observe in their recent book, Violence and the Brain: "Hoping to rehabilitate such a violent individual through psychotherapy or education, or to improve his character by sending him to jail or by giving him love and understanding–all these methods are irrelevant and will not work. It is the malfunction itself that must be dealt with, and only if this fact is recognized is there any chance of changing his behavior."

Remember, it's at this point in time the conservative agenda decreed punishment as the cure for all ailments, the drug war was born, domestic oil was declared depleted and that we would get it from OPEC, and we must move from a manufacturing to a service economy. Today, you see how all that hasn't worked out.

The time it takes to study this article is time well spent. Here is a sample:

Until a few years ago, scientists knew comparatively little about the intricate inner mechanisms of the brain that initiate and control violence. These mechanisms lie deep in an inaccessible area called the limbic system, wrapped around the brain stem, as shown in the drawing on page 136. In the limbic system, the hypothalamus stands out as the single most important control center. Regulating many of man's primitive drives, its networks of nerve cells, or neurons, direct not only aggressive and violent behavior but also the states of sleep and wakefulness, as well as sexual and feeding behavior. The front part of the hypothalamus contains networks of nerve cells that promote calmness and tranquillity. The back part regulates aggression and rage.

Nearby lies the almond-shaped amygdala, which restrains the impulses from the hypothalamus. Another close-by structure, the septum, seems to inhibit messages from both the hypothalamus and the amygdala. The cerebellum, the large structure at the back of the brain, filters sensory impulses. The hippocampus, a short-term memory bank in front of the cerebellum, is importantly involved in ways that brain researchers do not yet adequately understand.

All these structures are functionally as well as anatomically interrelated. Electrical signals, arising in response to sensory or internal cues (e.g., sight or thought), speed along nerve pathways to activate or block the function of other nerve cells. Chemicals such as noradrenaline and dopamine, which are normally present in the brain and are known as neurotransmitters, apparently ferry these electrical signals across the tiny gaps between nerve cells, called synapses, to such control centers as the hypothalamus. At the same time, the neurons are constantly bathed in waves of background electrical activity. In still unknown ways, this background "music" apparently conveys information, too. [...]

Fortunately for the advance of knowledge about human aggression, the limbic systems of animals have recently been found to bear an amazing functional resemblance to that of man. So laboratory experiments with animals (notably monkeys, cats, and mice) underpin the still limited investigations of aggression systems in the human brain.

Using fine electrodes inserted into animal brains, researchers have induced a fascinating range of aggressive behavior. Cats that normally do not attack rats, for instance, will stalk and kill a rat when stimulated in a certain area of the hypothalamus. On the other hand, a cat stimulated in anothei nearby region of the hypothalamus may ignore an available rat and attack the experimenter instead. Destruction of the nucleus of the amygdala will turn a friendly cat into a raging beast that claws and bites without provocation, because the signals from the hypothalamus are no longer dampened by the amygdala. [...]

Further evidence of the cerebellum's role in violence comes from the work of A. J. Berman, a neurosurgeon at Mount Sinai Medical School and the Jewish Hospital in Brooklyn. He has successfully modified autistic and aggressive behavior in isolation-reared monkeys by removing presumably abnormal sections of cerebellum that deal with the reception of sensory signals. In one experiment, Berman performed similar surgery on two monkeys called Ding and Dong, who had fought viciously and continuously. The operation turned Ding into a submissive animal, while Dong remained as aggressive as ever. Berman attributes the difference to the location of the surgery. Some tissue was removed from the midline section of Ding's cerebellum while the excision on Dong was microscopically closer to the side of that brain structure.

Berman suggests that his finding may one day be relevant to treating humans. "Walk into the back wards of any mental institution," he says, "and you'll find children whose behavior is identical with that of Harlow's monkeys."

All these and many other experiments have led a number of scientists to conclude that people who behave overaggressively may have an abnormality in the mechanism by which they perceive pleasure. In animals reared in isolation, as in pathologically violent people, the impulses resulting from the stimulation of movement and skin sensations may not be reaching their normal destinations in the brain. The feeling of pleasure may thus be experienced only partially or not at all.

This may explain, among other things, why both institutionalized children and monkeys brought up in isolation generally rock back and forth for hours on end and respond violently if touched. Adults with damaged pleasure systems similarly may be trying to derive pleasure from the rough physical contact involved in violent acts; they may, in effect, be seeking an additional stimulus. Researchers have also found that electrical stimulation of pleasure centers in the brain eliminates feelings of rage, because the brain seems to contain rival nerve systems that suppress opposing emotions chemically and electrically.

This theme of individuals with exceptional or damaged brains receiving pleasure from violence or inflicting pain on others, or in other ways people without brain damage or extraordinary brain architecture experience pleasure recurs in the many articles I've read. You may find some of the articles linked here of interest.

Most of them, however, simply describe aberrant behavior as a means of reaching a diagnosis. Think about the possibilities. If Bush and Cheney had electrodes implanted in their brains, when they start talking about starting a new war, we could just give them a little juice (zzzzzt!) and presto, no more war talk.

Bonds probably could have made it to the Baseball Hall of Fame without steroids, but he decided differently. Could he be an addictive personality? If so, the solution would be to derail the mechanism of that behavior. Much of the trouble he's in has happened because he wanted to hide prohibited or possibly illegal drug use. The assumption social condemnation and criminal indictment combined with long jail sentences are necessary things may be personally satisfying to people with abnormal brains who derive pleasure from others' suffering, but as a means of deterring the behavior in defendants or others they have proven through time to be not only totally ineffective, but very expensive to society.

Wouldn't something cheaper, faster and effective be better? Of course. But so long as the punishment remedy is so oversold as to be the only thing anyone can imagine, the cycle of crime and punishment remains unbroken—and we fight wars and build prisons forever, in spite of thousands of years of history showing wars and prisons don't do anything but cost lives and money.

When someone I know lands in jail or dies of substance misuse, I grieve over the tragedy of it, and the tragedy of so many people having so little or such poor education that we've known a long time how to change it, but lack the collective knowledge and will to do it. Because of this very thing, the United States will be over its head in debt for the rest of my life, and subject to economic collapse. Changing federal leaders won't help when the change is to just more of the same.

Update: I got a trackback on this item from this website, which didn't make much sense—but hey, I thought, "man, I have the next Nobel prize in literature in the bag." So, I went to the site and put a "thanks for the shout" message in their moderated comments. Then I found that the site was using some software called Blogdigger to find material. I guess this program also posts what it finds without operator intervention, because most of their articles have little or nothing to do with debt. That program must be a wonderful thing to see in action, despite the fact it doesn't work. Maybe it will pick this article up again, since I put in the link back to their site. So, the moderator must have seen my comment and realized the material wasn't appropriate, and he pulled the link and the trackback on this site. I wasn't aware such things happen! Oh well. Bylinksy's article has meant a great deal to me as time has gone by, Nobel notwithstanding.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Some of it's hot, some of it's not.

I told Rimone there have been some great news stories in the past few days.

As always, you have to look past Big Name News© because who cares who Pat Robertson or Sam Brownback endorse for president? I don't—except when Keith Olbermann comments:

Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition -- a man who blamed the 9/11 attacks on America and its tolerance of abortion -- apparently now places more trust in preventing future terrorist attacks in Rudolph Giuliani...than he does in the faith he has spent half a century selling as if it were toothpaste.

Some news is just not so hot. But other stories really excite me:

Jason Leopold spells out Cheney's plans to more easily license dozens of new nuclear plants with practically no public scrutiny. This one's a gigantic blockbuster.

Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson has this very hot story about the Bush administration's politicization of inspectors general. A sample:

No inspector general has been more criticized for his lack of independent oversight than Robert "Moose" Cobb, who served as associate White House counsel under Alberto Gonzales before being appointed inspector general of NASA in 2002. According to a report by the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency, an office run by fellow IGs to police the work of their peers, Cobb helped cover up the theft of nearly $2 billion in rocket-engine data from NASA's servers. The council also found that Cobb had tipped off Sean O'Keefe, the head of NASA, to impending FBI search warrants, and sought O'Keefe's input on how he should structure his "independent" audits.

Cobb wasn't nearly so considerate of those under him: According to the council, he berated subordinates as "knuckle-draggers" and "fucksticks," causing more than half of his staff to quit. As his own hand-picked assistant testified before Congress, "Mr. Cobb's arrogance, his abusive, bullying style, absence of managerial experience, limited understanding of investigative processes, egotism and misplaced sense of self-importance make it impossible for him to successfully manage and lead an organization."

Lots of thrills and chills in that one, and how I love it!

Tom Engelhardt deserves recognition as a great reporter who digs up incredible facts which reveal that no matter what Washington says about troop levels, they plan to keep a vast number of troops in the Middle East until the end of time—and expand our offshore torture prisons:

By the way, don't overlook Guantanamo itself. That crown jewel of our offshore prisons is now a hive of construction activity. Don't even worry about the $10-$12 million that's already being spent to create a semi-permanent "tent city" on an unused runway there in which the U.S. military plans to hold war-crimes trials for some of the prison's detainees; focus instead on the $16.5 million camp that's going to be built elsewhere on the base to house up to "10,000 Caribbean migrants" - just in case, assumedly, something happens in post-Castro Cuba. And that may only be a detention appetizer. The main course could be a $110 million-dollar contract to build a second "compound" that would hold 35,000 more of those "migrants."

Tom's article is a horrifying revelation about America's policy decisions to make war and create detainees long into the future, itemized as building opportunities for young contractors.

No wonder the dollar is collapsing. You can't funnel off trillions of dollars for all this useless, nonproductive junk and expect anything but catastrophe. But, that would be a subject for many libraries jam-packed with fat volumes.

Robert Scheer has one of the many great articles about trouble in Pakistan, proving Wrongway Dubya and Deadeye Cheney's collective penchant for running us down dead ends, at unbelievable expense. The Reagan-Bush White House did everything to make Pakistan's nuclear weapons program happen, and to spread that technology to other nations, some of which are the most hostile to the United States on earth.

One man tried to stop it:

All this could have been avoided, says Richard M. Barlow, the former CIA and Defense Department expert whose warnings on the acquiescence of Reagan and Bush administration officials in Pakistan's nuclear program were quashed by the Pentagon and avoided by Congress.

For his candor, and despite the backing of some top intelligence officials, Barlow was stripped of his Top Secret/Codeword clearances and hounded out of the Pentagon.

Now he lives in a motor home, divorced, broke and unemployed. He spends half the year in a campground in Montana, the other half in California, living off the quickly diminishing proceeds of the sale of his house.

"I have serious financial problems," Barlow, now 52, told me by phone last week. "I basically live like a vagrant."

The only possible conclusion is that the Bush family has conspired for decades to deliver nuclear weapons to our country's most hateful and radical enemies. They had a proper motive: they did it to get money. The "God told me to do it" line doesn't work anymore.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Torture? What's THAT?

I don't comment on everything in the news, and the only reason I comment on the confirmation of former federal judge Michael Mukasey as attorney general is that the conversation with the Judiciary Committee regarding whether or not waterboarding amounts to torture has gone much too far.

Sens. Schumer and Feinstein's vote assure his confirmation:

In announcing her support for Mukasey, Feinstein, D-Calif., said "first and foremost, Michael Mukasey is not Alberto Gonzales," referring to the former attorney general who resigned in September after months of questions about his honesty.

Really? How is he not the very same thing as Gonzales? Mukasey has stated he doesn't really know what waterboarding is, so he doesn't know if it's illegal. It's been done for many centuries. It's done one way only. International law prohibits it. Mukasey hasn't said he doesn't know that; yet, panelists laud his honesty:

Schumer's announcement followed a private meeting Friday with Mukasey to discuss waterboarding.

"I deeply oppose it," Schumer said of waterboarding. "Unfortunately, this nominee, indeed any proposed by President Bush, will not agree with this. I am, however, confident that this nominee would enforce a law that bans waterboarding."

Schumer, who was Mukasey's chief Democratic sponsor, said the retired judge told him that if Congress passes a law banning waterboarding "the president would have absolutely no legal authority to ignore such a law." Schumer said Mukasey said he would enforce any congressional ban the [sic] controversial interrogation method.

What kind of logic is this? Utterly ridiculous is what kind, and the discussion has slogged along for three weeks. Does Mukasey mean to suggest it's possible the Bush administration has invented some form of nontorturous waterboarding? No, he just wants to protect them from litigation:

Mukasey has called waterboarding personally "repugnant," and in a letter to senators this week said he did not know enough about how it has been used to define it as torture. He also said he thought it would be irresponsible to discuss it since doing so could make interrogators and other government officials vulnerable to lawsuits.

Incredible! Not only is the man a feeb, he's a lying feeb—and truly cut from the same cloth as Alberto Gonzales. Yes, it'd be a shame if someone filed a lawsuit, as if there is a judge in this country today who wouldn't throw the case out in response to the government's assertion of national security. I'm not aware of criminal statutes prohibiting forms of torture, but I know they're enumerated by international law under which our government is subject. Would any reasonable person have a problem identifying waterboarding as torture? NO!

Consider the analogy of interrogating people while stretching them on the rack. The rack works one way only: a person is immobilized on a plank, his arms tethered to a locking, ratcheted wench which, when taken to an extreme, can pull the arm joints out of the shoulder sockets. I'm fairly certain there isn't state or federal legislation prohibiting this technique; but, can a reasonable person say it isn't painful, cruel or unusual? A man in his sixties who has served as a federal judge who says he's never heard of such things is simply not telling the truth—and lying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee should bounce him out of contention.

Bush's arguments for Mukasey's confirmation are characteristically underwhelming:

On Thursday, Bush had warned that the Justice Department would go without a leader in a time of war if Democrats thwarted Mukasey.

Bush also said that if the Judiciary Committee were to block Mukasey because of his noncommittal stance on the legality of waterboarding, it would set a new standard for confirmation that could not be met by any responsible nominee for attorney general.

DoJ hasn't had a leader since Bush entered the White House, and his assertion there isn't a single member of the bar in the whole country who is familiar with torture, knows it's illegal and could manage DoJ is pure and utter nonsense. So Mukasey will be confirmed and waterboarding will continue. You can expect to learn later interrogators added racks and probably iron maidens as well. Mukasey won't know what those are, either, because he doesn't want anyone to get a summons. What sniveling cowardice.

How a war supporter thinks

We had our "Stop the Iran War" chat room open again this week. Stormy's husband is working in another state, and she went with him. She spent her days in a small travel trailer in an RV park, watching people come and go and feeling claustrophobic. So, she's wanted to have a chat room where we could have a conversation because it's easier than using an instant message client.

I picked the topic about the Iran war because I was interested in seeing how people would support their positions for or against, and also because while she had no particular opinion at first, her husband, who works in the oil industry, is behind Bush all the way, she told me.

After watching the vitriolic hate coming from the war promoters, she's been won by the anti-war movement.

I've thrown this one guy Carlo out of the chat room at least a couple dozen times because he and his friends do nothing but call us names. It's really quite revealing:

› Carlo_Chambers has joined the conversation.
Carlo_Chambers : hey idiot, I dare you to come to my room and prove you're not a fucking pussy who's afraid of debate
› Carlo_Chambers has left the conversation.
› Carlo_Chambers has joined the conversation.
Carlo_Chambers : come to my room & debate me you fucking pussy
› Carlo_Chambers has left the conversation.

According to this individual, who I know is an adult because he's online all day and night, if you don't believe Bush and Rush that islamofascism is real and are against attacking Iran, you're a pussy coward, faggot, traitor and a stupid idiot. This clarifies the mind of war supporters in all its detail.

To the pro-war crowd, the more people who die, the more it costs, the more countries we invade, the bigger the weapons we use, the better. Period. One hundred thousand dead Americans is only a third as good as 300,000. A trillion dollars spent is only a third as good as $3,000,000,000,000.00. Conventional bombs are only as fractionally good as their larger, nuclear counterparts. Invading two countries is only a third as good as invading six.

The death, the debt, the consequences and the operative issues don't matter one bit. The only thing that matters is escalation and the show of force. Anyone who disagrees with this elegant simplicity gets called a stream of vile names, hatefully. This is the mindset of the Bush administration, and this is what Congress has decided to fund, again and again and again. The government and the country can have no other business because all resources have to be diverted to funding the war, and placating the simplest people who ever lived.

In the back of my imagination, that place that never finds its way to spoken or written language, I suspected this was true. Running the chat room demonstrated it's completely true. It would be laughable if it weren't so sad and troubling. Carlo would be happy to die in a nuclear retaliation for our adventurism, so long as it meant escalation and more show of force, even though he hasn't thought it through. I'm sure a large number of people agree. However, they are no more than one-fourth or one-third of the population, a minority.

Majority leaders have expressed their intention to postpone Bush's war funding request until after the first of the year in part because he plans to use some of the funding to start a new war with Iran. Whether or not they will decide to hand him more money is anyone's guess. We have this time to attempt to talk them out of it, if for some reason they've finally decided to listen.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Liberals and conservatives are irrelevant

Here are three stories emerging within the last five days which do more than turn my stomach. They speak so clearly of what the Bush administration and republican party have come to represent, I've made a personal decision. I reject and abandon as irrelevant the descriptive terms, and people who think in and use these terms, "liberal" and "conservative," they being so long worn and badly twisted as to be broken, stretched beyond their legitimate meaning and rendered without meaning.
But never fear. It's still possible to divide people today into two broad political categories, for those who find this generalization helpful, and the descriptives I choose are "free person" and "authoritarian." I've known far too many people who held themselves out as politically liberal, but the minute they arrived on the job or at home, they magically transformed into a fire-breathing authoritarian. Likewise, there are people who are devoted to the political right whose hopes regarding public policy are decidedly humane and responsible. I don't think of either sort of person as liberal or conservative, but politically they could be called authoritarian or free person.
It goes without saying George Bush and Dick Cheney aren't "conservative" by any known definition of the word, but they certainly are "authoritarian," and to a breathtaking extreme. So proud to be Official Lockstep Jackboots©, their rampant stupidity would puzzle all the totalitarian murderers after which they oh-so-meticulously fashioned their dictatorship. Their actions demonstrate an incomprehensible internal policy: they hate everyone, and want their hate to produce real destruction and death. Their slash-and-burn picture of the world is concerned only with the actual slashing and burning, causing as much and many destructive acts as possible, and leaving behinid a swath of annihilation as long and wide as possible. Authoritarian, and certainly not conservative. Think I'm kidding? Check it out:
Bush wants "democracy" for Cuba and frames his noble vision as "unveiling new initiatives," a story released last Friday to escape debate:
Bush is scheduled to speak on Cuba policy at the State Department on Wednesday where he will announce "new initiatives to help the people of Cuba," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Friday. [...]
"The President intends to emphasize the importance of democracy for the Cuban people and the role the international community can play in Cuba's transition, by insisting on free speech, free assembly, free and competitive elections, and the release of all political prisoners," Fratto said.
The White House and State Department did not elaborate on the "new initiatives."
Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said, "The United States wants to be able to be in a position to assist the Cuban people as they move through that transition" from nearly a five-decade rule by Castro.
Sharks Bush and Cheney smell every drop of blood. I take this to mean here's another new war they plan to start, in that they're the only guys in history with the courage stupidity to attack yet another nonhostile, unarmed country. Oh, no you din't! I can't decide whether that idea is more chickenhawk, or chickenshit.
How much are your fourth amendment rights worth? According to AT&T and Verizon, exactly $42,850:
Mr. Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, emerged last week as the most important supporter of immunity in devising a compromise plan with Senate Republicans and the Bush administration. [...]
"Any suggestion that Senator Rockefeller would make policy decisions based on campaign contributions is patently false," Wendy Morigi, a spokeswoman for him, said. "He made his decision to support limited immunity based on the Intelligence Committee's careful review of the situation and our national security interests." [...]
Mr. Rockefeller received little in the way of contributions from AT&T or Verizon executives before this year, reporting $4,050 from 2002 through 2006. From last March to June, he collected a total of $42,850 from executives at the two companies. The increase was first reported by the online journal Wired, using data compiled by the Web site
Isn't that special? About 50 AT&T and Verizon executives and lawyers threw a fundraiser in hopes of keeping lawsuits from bankrupting their companies—not that they'd be out any money personally—but heck, the company might have a slow fiscal quarter or two. All it cost is $42,850—oh yeah, and your fourth amendment rights until the end of time.
Legal scholars say telcom immunity sets a bad precedent—and if telephone companies drowning in money would have hired better lawyers than the hacks working for the White House and NSA in the first place, they wouldn't have to say it:
When previous Republican administrations were accused of illegality in the FBI and CIA spying abuses of the 1970s or the Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s, Democrats in Congress launched investigations or pushed for legislative reforms.
But last week, faced with admissions by several telecommunication companies that they assisted the Bush administration in warrantless spying on Americans, leaders of the Senate intelligence committee took a much different tack -- proposing legislation that would grant those companies retroactive immunity from prosecution or lawsuits.
The proposal marks the second time in recent years that Congress has moved toward providing legal immunity for past actions that may have been illegal. The Military Commissions Act, passed by a GOP-led Congress in September 2006, provided retroactive immunity for CIA interrogators who could have been accused of war crimes for mistreating detainees.
Legal experts say the granting of such retroactive immunity by Congress is unusual, particularly in a case involving private companies. Congress on only a few occasions has given some forms of immunity to law enforcement officers, intelligence officials and others within the government, or to some of its contractors, experts said. In 2005, Congress also approved a law granting firearms manufacturers immunity from lawsuits by victims of gun violence. [...]
Jeffrey H. Smith, a CIA general counsel during the Clinton administration who now represents private companies in the national security area, said the risk of litigation poses an unfair threat to government officials or others who have good reason to believe they are acting legally. He noted that many intelligence officers now feel obliged to carry liability insurance.
"It seems to me that it's manifestly unfair for the officers that conducted that program and the telecoms to now face prosecution or civil liability for carrying out what was on its face a totally lawful request from the government," Smith said. "It's not the same as Abu Ghraib or a CIA officer who beats somebody during an interrogation."
But civil liberties groups and many academics argue that Congress is allowing the government to cover up possible wrongdoing and is inappropriately interfering in disputes that the courts should decide.
The American Civil Liberties Union has campaigned against the proposed Senate legislation, saying in a news release Friday that "the administration is trying to cover its tracks." [...]
Retired Rear Adm. John Hutson, dean and president of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H., said he is concerned about the precedent that a new immunity provision might set.
"The unfortunate reality is that once you've done it, once you immunize interrogators or phone companies, then it's easy to do it again in another context," Hutson said. "It seems to me that as a general rule, retroactive immunity is not a good thing.... It's essentially letting Congress handle something that should be handled by the judiciary."
No one living beyond the evolutionary scale of pond scums and sea sponges can possibly believe the Bush administration and telephone companies didn't know they were breaking the law. But, they just had to do it! Secret mischief is so delightfully irresistible—it's practically a public nuisance.
I can't find the story just now, but there was also the rationale offered that failure to grant the fone companies retroactive immunity might impair their willingness to participate in future surveillance! The mental midget who synapsed this banner headline can meet me outside for a lesson in manners. What we have are the interests of people in government who despise compliance with the law trying to stay out of prison, phone companies with unlicensed lawyers who help them break the law and don't give it a second thought until the world is pounding their doors down and worries by career spies whose job security means more to them than the Constitution. Their interests are juxtaposed to the right to privacy and security by the entire population of the United States—for which I care absolutely. For the others, let 'em rot, let 'em burn.
Don't count on the democrats in Congress to act as free persons. They're hinting they'll go authoritarian all the way. Jim Hightower says it like this: "...a Lowdowner sent an email to me saying he hopes Bush gets caught smoking pot, because then the Democrats will immediately legalize it..."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

One person can change the world

On October 6, I told you Stormy and I operated a chat room for five days and nights named "Stop The Iran War." I told you about a visitor who promised to take the discussion of how influential members of our military opposed attacking Iran to the Dutch press.
Yesterday, Spiegel Online published an interview with Gabriel Kolko, a prominent, Amsterdam-based historian citing the very information I provided that chat room visitor. I won't excerpt the article. He discussed the global economy, oil supply and balance of power, all of which we touched upon in the chat room conversation. I told her it was very important for a discussion to happen around the world because (1) people should know there are many in the United States who oppose the war and (2) it could stop this developing catastrophe, which has the potential of producing global economic collapse and a tactical nuclear exchange.
She didn't mention Mr. Kolko or identify herself, so I don't know that the interview and article are a result of our conversation. But, she told me that our talking was "no coincidence," and, after reading the article several times, I am certain the two events are directly related.
I'm sure the remarks in the article come as a big surprise to many people in Europe and everywhere else, and they portray America in a far more favorable light than Bush and Cheney wish. I told this girl the world should know that in my traveling some two million miles in this country, I'd run across enlightened individuals; although a small percentage, they are many in number. I said you can spot them a half block away, because there is light in their eyes.
Recently I've seen a great many people comment on news sites and blogs that they suffer from protest weariness—and some say their focus now is to move out of the United States. Certainly the oppressive despotism foisted on our fair country by a radical, conservative Supreme Court and executive branch comprised of back-alley charlatans who have not held their duty duly before them gives attentive, compassionate individuals cause to feel discouraged. But I'm telling you, don't give up. To the vigilant go the spoils. This blog gets practically no comments, and at a glance you'd think no one reads it. But, people do read it, and it helps provide push—some days a little, other days a lot.
I don't get an award, I don't get paid, I don't get recognition—and I don't want those things. I want real freedom, peace and prosperity. I'm an old man, and I know how it goes. I make very few predictions, in that it's risky business and I'm no soothsayer—but I'll make one now, one you'll see come true. The justice we've waited for and been so long denied grinds slowly yet surely, and is coming this way for the Bush administration. It's going to be sweet, sweet. Would you miss it, even for all the money in the world? I wouldn't.
I'll tell you something else that isn't a prediction, but a fact of history. One person can change the whole world. It's Admiral Fallon, Lt. Gen. Williams, Dana Priest. It's Glenn Greenwald, it's a girl in a chat room, it's you and it's me. Don't ever think that's not so! The New York Sun reported we would get news of a U.S. preemptive strike on Iran October 15. Instead, we got an international discussion of the folly of such a war and how responsible Americans oppose it. I think that's pretty damn good. One person can change the world. In fact, that's the only way it was ever changed.