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.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


The White House released a report Tuesday calling al Qaeda Qaida "the most serious and dangerous terrorist threat" facing the United States as a prelude to Congressional legislation to (again) revise the government's surveillance program:

It was released as congressional committees prepare to consider legislation this week to expand the government's domestic spying powers permanently and add new civil liberties safeguards.

President George W. Bush has staunchly defended his administration's counterterrorism programs, including CIA secret detentions of terrorism suspects and the domestic spying program, saying they are needed to prevent another attack on U.S. soil.

But critics question the legality of those programs, and say the Bush administration's focus on the Iraq war has taken resources away from hunting down al-Qaida leaders.

Noah Shachtman points out the White House is implicated in blowing the cover of one of its counterterrorism resources, SITE:

For years, the private terror-hunters at the SITE Institute have been infiltrating jihadist chat rooms, and spying on the extremists congregating online. Now, the group's digital cover has been blown—and Al-Qaeda online communications channels have gone dark—thanks to a ham-handed move by the Bush administration, it seems. "Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," SITE's Rita Katz told the Washington Post.

Very interesting article, as is this one by emptywheel, who thinks SITE's owner is complaining for no reason because the bin Laden video was available elsewhere.

It's beside the point. The Bush administration leaves bin Laden in the field, then translates and publishes his messages. That's prima facie evidence of giving aid and comfort to the enemy—and giving aid and comfort to the enemy is the definition of treason.

This whopper of a story slid right by our so-what media. It happened Tuesday. First thing Wednesday morning, in a perfect world, a military honor guard would escort the entire executive and legislative branches to the nearest jail cells.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Whip me, beat me. Slap my ass and call me Sally.

To change the subject from the war with Iran, we're being forced into the torture discussion once again—because it's a fight the Bush administration will win—AGAIN.

Let's review. Nine hundred thousand years ago when I was a kid, back in the 1950s, I was taught anyone engaging in slavery would face the full force of the law's vengeance. In those days, someone engaging in torture would have been tossed in a cage and the key thrown away. Tapping a phone was good for years in a federal penitentiary. If that sounds like a dream world, consider this. A man with a lower middle-class income could support himself, a wife and three kids, buy a house and a new car with cash every two or three years, get a vacation and go anywhere he and the family wanted because fuel was cheap, adjusted for inflation.

Fast forward to the George W. Bush twenty-first century. I was used as slave labor by a company that had done it to many thousands of people. State and federal law enforcement and tax authorities knew all about it, yet no one lifted a finger to stop it. Congress recently made the government's listening to every phone call and reading every keystroke and bit of data sent on the internet perfectly legal. Today, if you have a middle middle-class income, you can afford to buy a cheap, 20-year-old car and live in it, and that's all you can afford.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 made torture perfectly legal. The discussion of Bush's super-duper secret torture program is headed only one place, inevitable victory by the president, who's keeping you busy with this shiny object as he puts the finishing touches on preparations to kill many more millions of people. And, because republicans are so powerful and important, there is no evidence of this completely legal practice. My, my, how things have changed.

Congress wants to see the memo Alberto Gonzales approved after he became attorney general. They say they weren't briefed. Maybe they were and maybe they weren't. But face the facts. They were informed. Every member of Congress has known all along what was going on, and while more than willing to write the accommodating legislation, didn't because they knew Bush and Cheney aren't guys who ask permission. The executives wondered if they could be prosecuted, and instantly received the gift of the Military Commissions Act, granting everyone retroactive immunity. Congress passed the law. So, why the discussion? To take your attention away from the approaching horror of war, of course.

President Dickface, briefly excerpted:

"...the American people expect us to find out information—actionable intelligence so we can help protect them. That's our job."

Translation: Bush knows his sworn oath of office is to uphold the Constitution. He isn't sworn to protect anyone. When he says "ah gotta perteck them childurns," he's saying, "I'm still using the Constitution as toilet paper, and rigging the system to make it work this way in perpetuity."

But his comments only provoked another round of recriminations on Capitol Hill, as Democrats ratcheted up their demands to see the classified memorandums, first reported Thursday by The New York Times.

"The administration can't have it both ways," Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement after the president's remarks. "I'm tired of these games. They can't say that Congress has been fully briefed while refusing to turn over key documents used to justify the legality of the program."

Translation: we want to take your attention away from the Bush war-spending chasm-death march-black hole about to expand into Iran (which we applaud and will fund without argument) talking about things we all knew were happening, and approved so much we made it all legal and granted everyone retroactive immunity, closing the matter. We knew what was happening. We want it in writing on their letterhead. We won't get it, but if we did, the Military Commissions Act made it legal and protects everyone who participated. We can't win, but that isn't the point. It's a fake contest to shore up Bush's perceived power.

"I've had the awful responsibility to have to work with The New York Times and other news organizations on stories that involve the release of classified information," Mr. Fratto said. "And I could tell you that every time I've dealt with any of these stories, I have felt that we have chipped away at the safety and security of America with the publication of this kind of information."

Translation: "We pee in your faces," Tony Fratto said, "and we giggle like three-year-olds while we do it. You have no rights, and it's your own damn fault. If you don't stop asking questions, we will have you killed. Be afraid of our God-given, legendary power. It was inevitable. You cannot resist. We command and you obey. Bow in submission, and respect our authoriteye. Pigs."

Classic Dana Perino:

"This country does not torture," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters. "It is a policy of the United States that we do not torture, and we do not."

Translation: "I'm lying to you," Dana Perino said. "See my mouth move? That's how you can tell I'm lying. When my mouth moves, I'm telling lies. Well, that was the truth. No, really it was. I pee in your faces. Pigs."

"The program, which has taken account of changes in U.S. law and policy, has produced vital information that has helped our country disrupt terrorist plots and save innocent lives," [CIA spokesman George] Little said in a statement. "The agency has always sought a clear legal framework, conducting the program in strict accord with U.S. law, and protecting the officers who go face-to-face with ruthless terrorists."

Translation: "We do whatever we want to everyone," George laughed. "What laws? Gonzales and Yoo write these memos with no statutory or case authority at all, just their twisted logic, then we write legislation that covers our asses. Americans are pigs, foreigners are murder victims and public policy be damned. I'm in it for one guy and one guy only—ME."

That's why expanding war is so important. There are lots of Iranians in the United States, and it's only a matter of time before desperate people fight back, and the neocons tell us, "we told you so." Unless, of course, they don't flinch. Then, the house of cards falls apart.

The publicity this discussion gives torture nurtures creeping acceptance and normalcy, aiding its greater prevalence. At least, so they hope. Pay no attention to those thousands of years of experimenting with authoritarianism. Ignore the inescapable fact authoritarian regimes die hard.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Is that all ya got? Is that all we get? Is that all there is?

Last week Stormy and I opened a chat room. We named it "Stop The Iran War." We held court five days and nights, and didn't send links to people we know, preferring to see who would visit and what they would say. I learned a few things. Certainly, it was educational.

After reading this article in The New York Sun, stating its sources claimed the war with Iran would begin October 15, I was curious to know if people would offer comments about why they favored or opposed it. I wasn't disappointed, in spite of receiving only about a dozen visitors. While it's easier reading for you that I describe what happened, I kept thinking I should copy the entire scroll and excerpt it, as so many of the comments were striking.

We changed no one's mind, and everyone but three of our visitors favored the war. But, their arguments were strictly toothless, being drawn directly from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Freedom Watch and John Hagee. Their comments were redundant and offered the same recipe.

One visitor, whose nickname was written in Hebrew, entered and exited after making the statement Iran is no different than Hitler, having promised to destroy Israel. Other visitors compared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Hitler, the Hitler analogy being popular. After seeing that, I'll never compare anyone to Hitler again. I kept a mental note of how many people hated Muslims versus how many hated Jews, and although one side of the Muslims v. Jews equation pulled ahead day to day, in the end the haters were roughly even.

Another visitor claimed we are under attack from our old, unseen enemy, "Islamofascism," and we must win. I pointed out Islamofacism is a term invented by extremists to scare you, but I wasn't scared because there is no such thing. Like all the pro-war sycophants, the visitor became angry and started calling me names. Sometimes it was simply idiot, fool, jerk or buffoon. I haven't been called that in many years. But other visitors wrote the most vulgar obscenities, so we adopted the rule of using the kick option at that point.

That proved unpopular with the furious visitor, and one guy came back with a "script" or "bot" that defied the kick function. At first this behavior made Stormy nervous, but I pointed out these people weren't thinking for themselves, having delegated it to stupid pundits, so by the time we got this show of bad manners it was nothing short of hilarious.

It followed a formula: spout slick, convoluted logic about what a good idea bombing Iran is, and when challenged, call the challenger rude names and exit (or get kicked out). Courageous it wasn't. Is that all ya got?

Pro-war visitors had no response to my idea I wasn't willing to spend another trillion or two dollars to kill innocent people by the millions. I talked to a woman from Holland who was anti-war. We talked about many things, and she had the most excellent written expression. She was surprised to learn high ranking officers in our military were discouraging the Bush administration from starting a war with Iran and asked for links. I gave her four or five. She said there was nothing about it in the Dutch press, and that she would see that this changed.

There were two other interesting visitors. One was an Iranian man who had either moved to Canada or was on business there. He expressed regret over the growing war, and worried Iran's mullahs would provide needless provocation toward war, considering it a "gift from God." He said they would be owed much blame for Iran's response, which would take many forms: direct attacks on American planes and ships, attacks on American soldiers in Iraq and attacks around the world by people engaged in terrorism, especially in the United States. I found that thought provoking, and was glad to hear from someone from Iran.

Another man who lives in China spent much time visiting with us. He said he knows there are many good people in the United States, but that we are governed by evil men. He said he'd like to come to the U.S. because he wants to enjoy his life, but that our government wouldn't let him. He told us that his chief apprehension about a U.S. attack on Iran is that China would attack Taiwan. I was unaware of that plan, and he didn't explain it. Certainly a picture of a widely expanding, disastrous war emerges.

In the last couple weeks, the Bush administration has changed its story from wanting to destroy many nuclear development and military targets to fewer Revolutionary Guard targets, a quick "in and out," as an easier sell to Americans and the world. Could the real reason be that our targeting capability is compromised? Don't forget, this was the official story going into Iraq. We were to be finished in two or three months. Now, we're told we couldn't consider leaving before grinding up Iraq 10 years, and 50 is more like it. Don't be surprised if that is the same thing that happens if Iran is attacked. Or worse.

Meanwhile, almost all our presidential candidates insist they'll wage more and longer wars and refuse to address civil rights violations in Darfur, Myanmar or the United States. I suppose they've made their kickback arrangements. Is that all we get? Is that all there is?