Thursday, December 29, 2005

"We learned that one person can and does make a difference"

Tonight, I'm blogging. The group's over but I'll be grabbing an evening again starting next year, just FYI. So you have Mike and you have me discussing the same headlines from Democracy Now! so be sure to check out Mikey Likes It!.

NSA Website Capable of Tracking Web Activity of Visitors (Democracy Now!):
In other news, the Associated Press is reporting the National Security Agency has been using files that can track the web surfing activity of visitors to its website. The NSA says the tracking files -- known as "cookies" --- were a mistake and have been removed. Under federal law, government agencies are forbidden from using "cookie" files unless a senior official authorizes them and their use is disclosed in the agency's written privacy policy. The news comes as the Bush administration continues to defend its authoritization of an NSA program to eavesdrop on Americans and foreign nationals without court-approved warrants.

Mike's going to note Cookie Monster from Sesame Street, so be sure to read his comments. Me? I feel like C.I. made the points on this topic this morning:

So a person visits the NSA's site, maybe on purpose, maybe by accident, and upon visiting, a 'super cookie' (my term) hits your computer that is now tracking every site you go to for the next thirty years (hence my term). I am pretty sure we've never linked to the NSA. We have linked to the White House's official page and we have linked to the CIA's page -- for a speech by Poppy -- so it would be interesting to know if this "policy" was only implemented at the NSA or if it was a sort of "total awareness" going on at all government sites under the Bully Boy. The article states that the CIA did use them in 2002 until Daniel "Brandt called it to the agency's attention." Following cookies being placed upon anti-drug online ads (this would be in the Clinton years), "strict rules" were set in place in 2000 but as of 2001 at least 23 agencies were found by Congress to still be using them. A visit to the NSA website (prior to Tuesday) resulted in two cookies hitting your computer that did not expire until 2035.
Ari Schwartz is noted by many members as "embarrassing." (They must have missed his CNN chat if this is their first time noting Schwartz's weak defense.) Schwartz tells the AP that "Considering the surveillance power the N.S.A. has, cookies are not exactly a major concern. But it does show a general lack of understanding about privacy rules when they are not even following the government's very basic rules for Web privacy."
It's not a major concern to Schwartz. That shouldn't be surprising coming from Schwartz who most famously battled/petted the paper tiger when he "bravely" stuck his neck out to argue against the Patriot Act . . . without judicial oversight. (Link goes to a CNN transcript at CNN's web site.) While others fought the erosions of rights and liberties, Schwartz just wanted a little judicial oversight.
So, given that, it's not all that surprising that Schwartz, of the Center for Democracy and Technology, can see something illegal going on and deem it "not exactly a major concern."
If that's the best that Schwartz, speaking for the CDT, can do, perhaps the organization needs to get to work creating a commercial with the following tag line: "Where rights are to be given away, the Center for Democracy and Technology is there, helping to restrict your freedoms"?And if the Monkees' "Daydream Believer" weren't already in use (a product's song hawking a product, symmetry!), the CDT could use it for the theme of such a commercial.

Next item.

Pinochet Photographed For First Mug Shot (Democracy Now!):
And in Chile, after years of charges and investigations into human rights abuses under his rule, former dictator Augusto Pinochet has been fingerprinted and had his mug shot taken for the first time. Police are investigating his involvement in the deaths of hundreds of political opponents in the 1970s. Pinochet ruled the country until 1990 after seizing power in a US-backed coup in 1973. Over 3,000 people went missing and 28,000 were tortured under his regime. Pinochet, who is 90 years old, is currently living under house arrest over separate allegations of human rights abuses. His mug shot has not been released.

Pincochet is just one war criminal. There are many more. (Including war criminals in power today such as the Bully Boy.) But this is something. It's something for those who suffered under Pinochet and/or had family and friends who suffered under him. It's also something for the world because this sends a message that no one is above the law. I hope he's convicted. But he's been protected for so long (and by us from the beginning) that I think it's important to really note what's happened.

He thought he was above the law. He thought he could destroy in private and torture and kill and get away with it. For many years, it looked like he would. Then there was a panic when he was in England and it appeared he might be charged. He plays the "poor health card" and that's provided him with an out many times. That moment's also put a scare into at least one supporter, Henry Kissinger, who now has to worry about extradition and selects his travel destinations with care.

Pinochet socked away a lot of money and when that came out, he became less untouchable. Now he's had to pose for his mug shot. This is very important and should send fear running up the spine of the Bully Boy.

Among the people who inspired me this year (Joy asked in an e-mail) were Cindy Sheehan, John Conyers, Shirley Tubbs Jones, Maxine Waters, Barbara Boxer, Kim Gandy, Bright Eyes, Joan Baez, Howard Zinn, Medea Benjamin and everyone in The Common Ills community. I'll note an article by Howard Zinn and our peace quote tonight comes from Cindy Sheehan.

"After The War" (Howard Zinn, The Progressive):
The war in Iraq has revealed the hypocrisy of the “war on terrorism.” And the government of the United States, indeed governments everywhere, are becoming exposed as untrustworthy: that is, not to be entrusted with the safety of human beings, or the safety of the planet, or the guarding of its air, its water, its natural wealth, or the curing of poverty and disease, or coping with the alarming growth of natural disasters that plague so many of the six billion people on Earth.
I don’t believe that our government will be able to do once more what it did after Vietnam--prepare the population for still another plunge into violence and dishonor. It seems to me that when the war in Iraq ends, and the war syndrome heals, that there will be a great opportunity to make that healing permanent.
My hope is that the memory of death and disgrace will be so intense that the people of the United States will be able to listen to a message that the rest of the world, sobered by wars without end, can also understand: that war itself is the enemy of the human race.
Governments will resist this message. But their power is dependent on the obedience of the citizenry. When that is withdrawn, governments are helpless. We have seen this again and again in history.
The abolition of war has become not only desirable but absolutely necessary if the planet is to be saved. It is an idea whose time has come.

Now for the quote.

Peace Quote ("2006: The Year the Chickenhawks Will Go Home to Roost," Common Dreams):
We learned that one person can and does make a difference.
Cindy Sheehan

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

"The evils of government are directly proportional to the tolerance of the people"

Mike and I are, as on most evenings, discussing the same headlines from Democracy Now! so be sure to check out Mikey Likes It!; however, C.I. advised us of a DC Indymedia story and we'll both be noting a different section of that.

Lawyers For Terror Suspects Plan Legal Challenges Over Wiretaps (Democracy Now!):
The New York Times is reporting defense lawyers for several Muslim men detained for alleged ties to Al Qaeda plan to bring legal challenges to determine whether the government used illegal wiretaps against them. Two weeks ago, the Times revealed the Bush administration has authorized eavesdropping on Americans and foreign nationals within the United States without court orders.
The challenges would affect some of the biggest terrorism cases in the country. Several lawyers said they intend to press the government on whether prosecutors misled the courts about the origins of their investigations and whether the government may have withheld wiretaps that could prove their clients' innocence. Meanwhile, Justice Department prosecutors told the Times they were concerned the wiretaps could create problems for past and future terrorism cases. One prosecutor said: "If I'm a defense attorney, the first thing I'm going to say in court is, 'This was an illegal wiretap.' "

I have serious questions about the government's "convictions" (a portion of which were plea bargains, I'd be interested in knowing how many were) but I think it's fitting that in his over-reach (reaching past all laws including the Constitution), Bully Boy screws up his own Justice Department. Well, he's screwed the country for five years, why not the Justice Department.
Unlike J-Ass (who apparently had a problem with James Yoo), Alberto Gonzales (is he a "Junior"? There sure are a lot of them in the Bully Boy's world) had a hand in all of this as the White House attorney before becoming the Attorney General this year. So give him "credit" as well.

Enron Accountant To Testify Against Former Top Execs (Democracy Now!):
In other news, the former chief accountant for the scandal-plagued energy corporation Enron has reached a plea deal that will see him testify against two of the company’s top former executives. Richard Causey will appear in a Houston court today to plead guilty to at least one of the dozens of criminal charges against him. In return for leniency, Causey will testify against Enron founder Kenneth Lay and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling. Causey is the 16th former Enron executive to reach a plea bargain. He was expected to stand trial alongside Lay and Skilling next month. Enron's collapse in 2001 ended the jobs of more than 5,000 workers and decimated the retirement savings of millions of investors.

If, after four years, Kenneth Lay walks, that may be . . . I was going to say the worst thing of all but with this administation it would be par for the course. How do you select the worst thing about this adminstartion from such a huge list? Lying us into war? Spying on Americans illegally? Doing nothing to prevent 9-11 but willing to trot it out anytime they need to trick people? The war on reproductive freedom? The war on gays and lesbians? The way they've destroyed the economy and destroyed the lives of so many? Their push to destroy public schools? It's just one thing after another with this crowd. Lay shouldn't walk. Which, in a Bully Boy administration, means he probably will.

C.I. called Mike and I today and I was talking to Mike about it. If I wanted something highlighted and asked C.I., it would be highlighted. I know that. Same with Mike, same with anyone. But C.I. doesn't want to seem pushy or try to tell anyone what to do at their site. Which isn't how any of us would see it. So C.I. mentions that Bonnie found an item and was very worried that it wouldn't get the attention it deserved. So C.I. made it the only link, outside of the New York Times, in an entry this morning and, due to the topic, called Mike and I to see if we might be interested in it? We are interested in it.

C.I. highlighted the section on Katherine Jashinski this morning. Mike's grabbing another section and I'm going with another one. All the people noted are worth noting because they've taken brave stands.

Support GI Resister Katherine Jashinski Now!" (DC Indymedia):
Kevin Benderman:
"The only way to bring peace to the world is to let the people of the world decide for themselves what they want to spend their efforts on. I feel that in this day and age governments start wars, and not people, and since the governments want the wars then why don’t we let the government fight the war? All of the politicians that want to fight a war are free to trade places with me at any time. I will gladly go and learn war no more."
After serving in the military for eight years, including a tour of duty in Iraq, Kevin Benderman filed for conscientious objector status in December 2004. His application was quickly denied, and on the weekend of Jan. 7, 2005 Benderman refused to re-deploy to Iraq with his unit.

"As I went through the process which led to my decision to refuse deployment to Iraq for the second time, I was torn between thoughts of abandoning the soldiers that I serve with, or following my conscience, which tells me: war is the ultimate in destruction and waste of humanity." As stated in Benderman’s article, "A Matter of Conscience."
Sergeant Kevin Benderman was sentenced by U.S. court-martial on July 28th, 2005 to a 15 month sentence of imprisonment for failure to return for a second tour of duty with the US Army in Iraq. Kevin is a conscientious objector to war who has been callously imprisoned and refused his C.O. status by the U.S. Armed Services. Kevin's legal team continues appeals of the verdict.
Kevin Benderman has been declared a "Prisoner of Conscience" by Amnesty International, and has been widely supported by many who oppose the U.S. war in Iraq. Kevin and his wife, Monica are prolific speakers and writers who have waged a very personal and courageous campaign to bring the true horrors of war to light. Kevin remains imprisoned at Fort Lewis, Washington State.
For more information on Kevin Benderman and the history of his case

When I was substituting for Rebecca, I was completely lost. I thank everyone who helped me (C.I., Cedric, Dona, Mike, Ty, Jess, Jim, Ava, Betty and Kat) but I didn't feel like I did anything even "okay" until I found out about Kevin Benderman. His wife wanted to get the word out. I have no idea if any of my posts helped, but I know I tried to do my part.

If we all tried to do our part, we'd make such a difference in this world. Kevin Benderman tried to do his part and he made a difference. Monica Benderman made a difference as well. In fact it was the fact that she was fighting for him, and continues to do so, that made me take notice of their story. What will it take to make the mainstream media notice? More than is humanly possible appears to be the answer. So please think about signing up for the monthly e-mail alerts at Courage to Resist which will keep you informed about what's going on with people like Kevin Benderman who are saying no to Bully Boy's illegal war of choice. It's one way, a start, that you can do your part.

"Peace Quotes" (Peace Center):
The evils of government are directly proportional to the tolerance of the people.
Frank Kent

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

"The hottest fires in hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis"

Hopefully, everyone caught the news roundup that all of us working on posted at our sites
("Wally, Rebecca, Mike, Kat, Jim, Jess, Ty, Cedric, Elaine, Betty, and C.I").

I am equally hopeful that everyone had a good weekend. I did and want to again thank the McKinnons for their hospitality. Remember to check Mike's comments at Mikey Likes It! for the Democracy Now! headlines.

Student Admits to Book Watch List Hoax (Democracy Now!):
And in Massachusetts a college student has admitted he fabricated a story about being questioned by federal agents for seeking to borrow a book by written by Mao. The report first appeared in the Standard-Times in New Bedford Massachusetts and was picked up around the world. The student initially told his professors about the visit and claimed Mao's Little Red Book was on a watch list of books.

I don't know why the student lied. He may have needed an excuse for not finishing an assignment, he might have wanted some attention. But he lied and that's sad because a lot of people trusted him. It will be hard for the next person who truly is on a watch list because the student lied. It's sad and I feel sorry for the student but it's also rather sad for the next victim, a real victim.

Telcoms Reportedly Aided NSA in Domestic Surveillance (Democracy Now!):
Meanwhile new questions are being raised about the extent of the National Security Agency's surveillance program inside the United States. Both the New York Times and Boston Globe have run a series of articles suggesting the extent of unchecked domestic surveillance is far greater than previously reported. The White House has admitted the NSA has monitored the calls of individuals with suspected ties to Al Qaeda but the Globe is reporting that in fact the NSA has been using computers to monitor and datamine all international phone and Internet communications by Americans. The Times also revealed that the U.S. telecom companies agreed to give the NSA "backdoor access" to all of their networks.

How does that feel to know that your phone company may have sold you out? The people you pay a monthly fee to? It's disgusting and we need Congress to hold hearings and address this. It needs to be addressed in terms of the Bully Boy (who broke the law) but also in terms of the phone company which betrayed their customers.

Editors of Barrons Suggests Bush Committed Impeachable Offenses (Democracy Now!):
The latest call for the possible impeachment of President Bush is coming from an unexpected quarter - the prominent business publication Barrons. The editors of Barrons have criticized Bush for authorizing the National Security Agency to spy on Americans without court warrants. The editors wrote "Putting the president above the Congress is an invitation to tyranny. The president has no powers except those specified in the Constitution and those enacted by law. ... Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later."

I wish I could see some of that bravery in our big newspapers. As it is, it seems like they've already moved on to other stories. Maybe that's just due to the holiday break and everyone wanting time off?

Remember that this weekend, Kat did not one, not two, but three wonderful essays on music. Her topics were Carly Simon's No Secrets, James Blunt's Back to Bedlam and Bright Eyes' Motion Sickness. On the topic of Kat's wonderful taste and talent, those aware of the attacks will probably enjoy something. Here's a taste of it.

"All Puff No Politics (parody)" (The Third Estate Sunday Review):
We Finally Weigh in on the War (Our Official Statement)
A number of critics have expressed disappointment that we've had nothing to say about the war after all this time. I want to note first off that we couldn't provide you with the much needed coverage of Wentworth Miller and snaps for Veronica Mars if we took the time to weigh in on every issue some nut case has.
But as the chorus has grown louder, I felt that possibly, perhaps, maybe we needed to weigh in.
So a number of us sat down to come up with an official statement on the war.
We've been accused of ignoring the deaths and destruction. We've been accused of silence at a time when brave voices were needed.
Not true, say I! Nobody can question our bravery. Not all that long ago, I wrote a piece on pies and Thanksgiving. That wasn't easy for me. I prefer cakes to pies. I would have been happier writing about cakes. But pies matter to a lot of people. And pies were a big issue in circles around the water cooler. So I stepped up to the plate, I bit the bullet, and I found my voice.
You'd think I'd get a little credit for that. I don't know that a great number of other blogs addressed the very important issue of pies and Thanksgiving.
But I did. I did it here. So no one has a right to ever question my stance on the issues.
For those who have been critical, here is this site's official position on the war:
After much soul searching and consulting our leatherbound editions of The New Republic, we have concluded that the war was both necessary and needed. If Americans had not gotten into the war, what kind of world would we live in? Here at All Puff No Politics, we will stand up and state loudly and clearly that we support the actions taken in World War II.

It wasn't easy to come to that conclusion because we are majorly uninformed on most topics that aren't discussed at the A-list table in any high school cafeteria. But we did our work and we are proud to offer our statement on the war. Hopefully, that settles the issue.
-- Pristine

Again, members know what was done to Kat. I think they'll get a kick out of the parody above. This inability on the part of some to find their voice brings us to this evening's peace quote.

"Peace Quotes" (Peace Center):
The hottest fires in hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis.
Edmund Burke

News you might miss but shouldn't

"News roundup including did Bully Boy break the law?"
Did Bully Boy break the law by authorizing spying on American citizens and circumventing the FISA courts? If so, how many years can someone be sentenced to for that crime? We'll highlight a radio discussion on that issue, but first, news on Iraq, Morocco, Afghanistan, the Phillipines, Russia, Chile, Israel, activism and more.

As reported on The Daily Iraq Wire, December 25th wasn't a day of peace in Iraq. Two bombs went off in Iraq injuring seven Iraqis. In addition, a reported al Qaeda group in Iraq announced Sunday that they had kidnapped and killed four Arabs who had been "working with the US authorities and the Iraqi government in the fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad."
Monday violence and unrest continued. Deepa Babington, reporting for the Irish Examiner, notes that Baghdad saw five explosions today killing eight and wounding thirty-eight. Outside of Baghdad, there were attacks in Falluja where a suicide bomber killed himself and two police recruits. In Dhabab, five Iraqi soldiers were killed.

Reporting for IPS, Gareth Porter reports today a "looming confrontation" between Shi'ites in Iraq and the American officials who are urging the disbanding of Shi'ite paramilitary groups. American officials fear groups may have close ties to Iran. The "looming confrontation" emerged when American officials decided to make an issue of the "torture houses" run by Shi'ites. "Decided?" Major R. John Stukey and others first reported the existance of "torture houses" in June of 2005. From June to November, US officials remained silent.

As of Monday, US military fatalities in Iraq stand at 2169, official count with 56 of those fatalities for the month of December. Iraq Body Count, which gathers totals by following media reports, estimates that as few as 27,592 and as many as 31,115 Iraqis have died thus far since the invasion.

In other war news, Agence France-Presse reports the American military is claiming that "very soon" the number of troops serving in Iraq will drop from 19,000 to 2, 5000.

In activism news, NOW is calling for action on Samuel Alito, Jr.'s Supreme Court nomination:

There is work to be done, both in Washington, DC and throughout the country. As a part of Freedom Winter 2006, NOW and Feminist Majority Foundation are working together to bring grassroots activists to DC between January 3 and January 20. We're also encouraging activists to organize in their communities.

More information can be found online at NOW as well as online at the Feminist Majority Foundation. In related news, Ms. Magazine has compiled "the top ten news stories for women in 2005." Topping the list, Sandra Day O'Connor's announcement that she will step down from the Supreme Court bench. Planned Parenthood has also compiled a look back at the year 2005. Their look back begins with a listing of the five best and five worst places to get birth control prescriptions filled:

Brooks/Eckerd Corporation

Rite Aid

In international news, Al Jazeera reports that Augusto Pinochet will finally stand trial for the deaths and disappearances carried out under his dictator regime as the head of Chile. Chile's Supreme Court, in a three to two vote, ruled that Pinochet is fit to stand trial. The BBC reports that charges will be filed Tuesday against four US marines for rape. The four are currently at the US embassy in Manila and "it is unclear whether it will hand over the marines." Abdul Rahman Khuzairan reports, for Islam.Online. net, that on Sunday a sit in was staged in Casablanca by Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Forum "to protest the mass grave found recently with the remains of 82 people." Canada's Star Phoenix reports that Monday in St. Petersburg, shoppers in one store were exposed to a mysterious gas: "Boxes containing timers wired to glass vials were discovered at the scene of the attack and three other stores in the same chain in Russia's second-largest city." And in Tut-tut Tuttle news, the Finanical Times reports that car dealer and contributor of $70,000 worth of donations to the GOP in 2004, Robert Tuttle continues to stumble in his post as US ambassador to England. For the second time, Tuttle has been forced to issue a correction to the BBC following an interview. Embassy work, not as easy as moving cars off a lot.

"Have we made poverty history?" asks The Independent of London? The debt relief in 2008 will go not to Africa but to Iraq and Nigeria. In addition the United States is backing off from it's earlier committments. Also reporting for The Independent, Maxine Frith notes that charities and aid workers believe that Live 8, and those involved in the concerts, "hijacked" the effort and gave the world a false sense of resolution when the problems of world poverty contine. Meera Selva reports from Africa that the people supposed to benefit from the concerts in London's Hyde Park have seen little difference in their lives. One woman tells Selva, "We have problems in Africa, big problems. What can plastic bracelets and pop concerts do to solve them?"

Reuters reports Israeli helicopters firing three missiles into Gaza. This comes as Al Jazeera reports that the Israeli government has announced intentions to build an additional 200 homes on the West Bank. The BBC reports, in other news from the region, that Ariel Sharon has been urged to "curb his appetite" by doctors as he awaits sugery "to close a small hole which doctors found in his heart after he had a minor stroke."

For The KPFA Evening News Anthony Fest spoke Monday evening to Christopher Pyle, "a consultant to Congress in the drafting of the surveillance act, today he teaches political science at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusettes." (What follows is a rough transcript, use the link to listen to the archived broadcast.)

Pyle: The Church Committee was set up because during the Watergate era we had discovered extensive domestic surveillance operations by a number of agencies including the FBI, military intelligence, the CIA and, the largest intelligence agency of all, the National Security Agency. It does electronic intercepts worldwide. It has stations around the world. It picks up communications off of statellites. It picks them off of landlines and it searches them with a dictionary of watch words. And during the 1970s, we discovered that the National Security Agency had maintained files on about 75,000 Americans and they particularly targeted political activists like Dr. Martin Luther King, the folk singer Joan Baez, and the anti-war protestor Dr. Benjamin Spock. We sought to end that massive surveillance, which had no judicial authority what so ever, by passing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. That law said that if the government, when the government wanted to monitor electronic communications it had to go to a special court to gain a national security authorization, a speciall warrant. And for a number of years, it appears that the government did go to the special court and was able to conduct its monitoring with special warrants. But three years ago, the Bush administration decided that this was inconveinent for some reason that's not fully understood. And they just ignored the court and began collecting, uh, information rather broadly. The law itself says that it's the exclusive method by which monitoring may take place and that anybody who violates the law is guilty of a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Fast: So there's no leeway for interpretation here, it's uh, it's black and white that if you don't go through the FISA court, you are in violation of the law?
Pyle: Exactly. So what we have here is the rather extraordinary situation of a president who has admitted to committing a felony. Now he says that Congress excused him by passing the resolution against al Qaeda but that says nothing about electronic surveillance. And then he says that the Constitution excuses him because the Constitution places him above the law. There's actually a secret memo produced by the Justice Department to justify torture that says that a war time president can ignore the criminal law of the United States. There's no basis for this in law, there's no basis for this in the history of Constitutional law and Constitutional interpretation and that's of course why the memo was kept secret because if it had ever seen the light of day it would have been laughed out of court. Well now it's seen the light of day and assertions based on that theory have seen the light of day and we're not laughing because we realize the government is really out of control.
Fast: Doubtless the techonology of surveillance is incrompably more powerful today than it was in the 1960s. Is there any indication yet exactly how wide, how wide a net the NSA was casting or how many people had been surveilled?
Pyle: No. The initial reports by the New York Times were that up to 500 people at a time had been targeted but perhaps thousands had been intercepted. And if they were, let's say, monitoring all e-mails and searching all e-mails in the United States for certain code words or phrases then it would be probably hundreds of thousands or millions of people who would have been monitored, not simply 500 people targeted at any given time. But we really don't know. But what we know is that the judges on the FISA court are extremely upset. One of them has already resigned because of this. The others want to know particularly whether this warrant-less spying was being used to then produce probable cause for specific warranted spying. In other words, infecting the very process with illegaly obtained information.
Fast: Since the administration was apparently conducting surveillance that was more in the nature of data mining then watching individuals is there any legal grounds under which they could conduct that kind of operation?
Pyle: No, that is what was known in the common law as a general search. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution forbids general searches. The second clause of the Fourth Amendment says that the warrants must be obtained that specify the place to be searched and and the things to be seized. The FISA warrants specify the persons who are the targets of the intercepts. There has to be specifity. There can't be a great dragnet collecting everything and then sorting it by computer and putting everybody under suspicion.

Did Bully Boy break the law? Better question, after trotting out Vicky Toe-Jam in print and on
TV to put forward false claims about the Congessional act passed in the 80s to prevent the outing of CIA agents, why has the mainstream media been so reluctant to pursue people who helped with the drafting of the FISA act?

The above is news you may have missed and was compiled by Wally, Rebecca, Mike, Kat, Jim, Jess, Ty, Cedric, Elaine, Betty, and C.I.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Expectations (personal and professional)

Happy holidays. I hope you are enjoying the weekend whether it's a time for celebration or not. Gatherings this time of year can be filled with expectations and frustrations so if you're struggling or worried, do not feel that you are alone or that "It's just you." Rebecca wrote about this last night in her "christmas and no nerves of steel" post. If you think you can relate to that, please check it out. If you don't think it has anything to do with you, please consider reading it because it probably will reflect someone in any gathering. Expectations, both real and imagined, weigh heavy this time of year.

Also check out Mike's Mikey Likes It! because he's writing at the same time. We're in his room and he's on his computer and I'm on my laptop. Which is a good time to say thank you to the McKinnon family for inviting me to spend the holidays with them. (A thank you to Nina, Mike's girlfriend, as well.) I know I noted this at The Third Estate Sunday Review and, I believe, also at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude while I was filling in for Rebecca, but I'm not sure it's up here. So if anyone's wondering why I'm spending Christmas with the McKinnons or spent Thanksgiving with C.I., my parents died while I was a young teenager. My only surviving family is a very wonderful older brother who now lives in Europe. Originally, he would fly in for the holidays but, quite honestly, the two of us together at the holidays can sometimes be depressing. He now makes a point to avoid the holidays. I usually grab Thanksgiving with C.I. who is a friend of many years and I'm welcome (C.I. would say "more than welcome") to grab Christmas as well. However, the guest list at Christmas triples from the list for Thanksgiving and I'll usually either spend Christmas alone, with a date's family or with friends. This year I'm very fortunate to be spending it with friends and I thank the McKinnon's for their hospitality.

Now here are two items from Democracy Now! Friday that you're hopefully already aware of but are worth noting.

Federal Judge Calls Gitmo Detentions "Unlawful" (Democracy Now!)
This news on Guantanamo Bay: the Washington Post is reporting a federal judge has ruled the detention of two ethnic Uighurs at the U.S. prison is "unlawful", but says he does not have the authority to release them. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge James Robertson said the government has taken too long to release Abu Bakker Qassim and Adel Abdu Hakim -- who have been jailed for four years. The two have been cleared for release, but not returned to China where they would likely face torture or execution.. The two men are among nine detainees that remain at Guantanamo despite having been declared "no longer enemy combatants." In his ruling, Judge Robertson wrote: "The government's use of the Kafka-esque term 'no longer enemy combatants' deliberately begs the question of whether these petitioners ever were enemy combatants."

Justice Dept. Admits Spy Program Does Not Comply With FISA (Democracy Now!):
The disclosure comes as the Justice Department has admitted that the President's eavesdropping program does not comply with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Along with another wiretapping statute, FISA defines itself as: "the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance . . . may be conducted." The admission came in a letter to Congress Thursday.

Mike's providing commentary on those so be sure to check out his site; I'm just noting them because there's something else I want to focus on.

I'm utilizing two articles for this, an Associated Press article that ran in most papers (including the New York Times) and an article from The Nation. The link I provide to the AP article is care of the Mercury News which does not require registration to be read. With regards to The Nation, you need to be a subscriber to read the article online. I don't subscribe to The Nation. That's not a slap at that magazine. I subscribe to periodicals and journals for my profession. Otherwise, I utilize book stores. (Sadly, a very large chain.) I prefer to purchase magazines. I usually purchase every issue of The Nation (so subscribing would be cheaper) but I enjoy walking up to the sales counter with my purchases as well as having the ability not to purchase an issue of any magazine containing a story or stories that I have no interest in (or may have a strong objection to). One of the things my father was big on was taking us to the bookstore every Saturday. We'd be encouraged to pick out a book or magazine (toys weren't as prevalent at bookstores when I was a child and videos -- videotapes or DVD -- had yet to emerge). From there, we'd go to lunch at my father's favorite deli. (My mother, in case you're wondering, had Saturday afternoon's "off." This was something that began after I was born when my mother, rightly, gave an ultimatum that she couldn't work full time, be the primary person responsible for keeping the house clean and raise two children without any break. For the first seven years of my brother's life she had struggled to be everything to everyone. After I was born, she stayed home three weeks with me before returning to work and quickly realized that attempting to do everything would drive her crazy. Fortunately, my father was smart enough to grasp both that she was serious and that she did, indeed, deserve at least five hours to herself once a week.)

I thought I was just attempting to make sure that no Nation reader took it as an insult that I didn't subsribe (I do read the magazine regularly); however, probably due to the season, I obviously wanted to take a trip down memory lane. Thanks to everyone reading for their indulgence.

Thank you as well to C.I. because I didn't pack the issue, the December 26th issue devoted to exploring torture, and the article isn't available to nonsubscribers online. C.I. scanned the article and e-mailed it to me. The link I'll provide for the article does allow you to read the opening.

Starting Thursday, and continuing through today, various papers have run an obit on
Heinrich Gross who passed away December 15th at the age of 90. The name may not be familiar to you. "Heinrich Gross, accused of Nazi experiments" is the headline the AP article ran under in the San Jose Mercury News. In the New York Times, on Thursday, the article ran under the heading "Heinrich Gross, 90, Psychiatrist At Nazi Death Clinic in Austria."

"Heinrich Gross, accused of Nazi experiments: PROMINENT DOCTOR ESCAPED PROSECUTION" (William J. Cole, Associated Press):
Dr. Heinrich Gross, a psychiatrist who worked at a clinic where the Nazis killed and conducted cruel experiments on thousands of children, died Dec. 15, his family announced Thursday. He was 90.
Dr. Gross, who was implicated in nine deaths as part of a Nazi plot to eliminate ``worthless lives,'' had escaped trial in March after a court ruled he suffered from severe dementia. No cause of death was given in a brief statement issued by his family.
Dr. Gross was a leading doctor in Vienna's infamous Am Spiegelgrund clinic. Historians and survivors of the clinic had accused him of killing or taking part in the clinic's experiments on thousands of children deemed by the Nazis to be physically, mentally or otherwise unfit for Adolf Hitler's vision of a perfect world.

The article explains how three times, Gross (I'm refusing to call him "Doctor") was tried but escaped conviction. In the 50s, "the case was thrown out because of a legal technicality." In the eighties, a case was "dismissed because the 30-year statute of limitations on manslaughter had expired." When Gross stood trial in 2000, he escaped conviction because he was found "unfit for trial because of advanced dementia."

Gross is accused (in my opinion, for good reason) of perverting science and his oath to aid the Nazis in torture and killings. This is a perversion of his profession.

He misused science. (Gross maintained his innocence until the end, again, my opinion is he was guilty.) He forsook his oath, he betrayed the principle of first do no harm. He placed a government's interest over the interests of of providing care. He allowed politics to trump medicine.

We can look back in horror (and should) but despite all the "never again"s that greeted the revelations of the crimes committed under the Nazi regimes (torture, genocide, etc.), we shouldn't take comfort in the fact that we all learned something from it.

That's not the case. Were it the case, the revelations in Jane Mayer's "The Experiment" (The New Yorker) wouldn't have been so appalling. I've addressed this topic at The Third Estate Sunday Review and C.I.'s addressed it several times at The Common Ills.

"Jane Mayer's 'The Experiment' (The New Yorker)" (The Common Ills):
I'll try to summarize the article but that's not an easy task. Mayer's taken a trip to Guantanamo Bay. It was an orchestrated trip by the military. At one point, a prisoner starts speaking to her of how he's been treated and her military guide hustles her out of the area quickly and to the charges made by the prisoner offers a "joke" about how the prisoner can speak English pretty well.

Time and again, Mayer's told there's no problem, that it's isolated individuals when there are problems. But via other sources, she's able to make an argument that the incidents are not only not isolated, they're the result of research and planning.
SERE comes into the story. SERE is a military unit that pops up in the aftermath of WWII. It was supposed to gather information that would help American troops to withstand pressure (and torture) if they were captured. SERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. Originally created for the Air Force, post Vietnam, it grows to include the Navy and the Army.At Guantamano, there are "bisquits." Bisquits is "military jargon" for Behavioral Science Consultation Teams. These behavioral scientists appear to be utilizing techniques developed to help American troops resist during capture in an inverse manner -- using techniques to break the imprisoned at Guantamano down.
This raises ethical issues (which Mayer deals with, this is a summary of her article). Apparently prisoners medical files (containing information gathered by doctors) are raided to help with brainstorming ideas. Is someone afraid of the dark? Well, let's use that.
While the bisquists (Behavioral Science Consultation Teams) have apparent free access to medical files, that's not the case for everyone. Dr. John S. Edmondson ("a Navy captain who oversees the facility's medical command") claims that, "I believe we've complied with the requests [for medical records] that have reached me." Rob Kirsh ("who represents six Guantanamo detaineeds") has a paper trail that proves otherwise. Even with waivers from his clients, his requests for their medical records has been denied in multiple letters "from the Justice Department." Regarding this denial, Mayer quotes Arthur Caplan ("a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania") who notes, "Prisoners, even terrorists, have the right to their medical records, according to federal laws, common laws, the American Medical Association, and court trials."
With various documents and various sources (including a graduate of SERE who had posted at Juan Cole's Informed Comment) "The Experiment" gathers together the "isolated incidents" and demonstrates a pattern (in my reading of the article).
Techniques and actions used on American soldiers to keep them from "cracking" (my term, not Mayer's) are apparently now being used to "crack" (see previous parenthetical) prisoners.
The SERE program has always been shrouded in the secrecy of national security. Which is not unlike the attempts to find out what the Bully Boy did or did not authorize (or Donald Rumsfeld for that matter).

Would someone crack to stop a woman from being raped? Well, hey, let's try that. That appears to be the motivation and why one prisoner was told if he talked the (fake) rape would stop. There's also the case of a man and a woman having sex in a computer room next to an interrogation room with the door open.
How does that get approved? "Give it up for your country?" I'm not quite sure and I'm trying very hard not to interject my own thoughts here and provide a summary of the article so I'll move on.
There have been people pointing out that the actions were unethical or illegal or immoral (or two or all three). One person who speaks to Mayer, former FBI official who was at Guantanamo, states that he and other FBI agents did not want to participate in these actions:Some of these techniques, I don't want to see, or be part of. I took an oath to the Constitution to uphold the laws against enemies both inside the U.S. and out. The D.O.D. [Department of Defense] guy got really upset. He said he took the oath, too. I told him that we must have different interpretations.
Concerns are raised regarding "force drift." That's when "interrogators encountering resistance begin to lose the ability to restrain themselves." If you'll think of it in terms of parenting, you'll relate that to the "power struggle." There's also a "seductive" component of these techniques, as an attorney for several prisoners -- Marc Falkoff -- notes. Falkoff asserts that "a mass suicide attempt at Guantanamo, in August 2003, in which two dozens or so detainees tried to hang or strangle themselves, was provoked by Koran mistreatment . . ."
That's a SERE technique. Only on American soil, while "testing" American soldiers, they used a Bible. They might tear pages out of it or kick it around or some other method. But it was developed here with the Bible. (Again, I'm holding my tongue and just attempting to summarize.)
The question is posed (and I'd argue throughout the article) by at least one person in the article of what are we becoming? What does it say about us when we "do things that our enemies do, like using torture?"We'll close out this summary by noting that doctors have participated as "bisquits" (though not all "bisquits" are doctors -- some are p.h.d.s) with the comments of Jonathan Moreno (bioethicist):
Guantanamo is going to haunt us for a long time. The Hippocratic oath is the oldest ethical code we have. We might abandon our morality about other professions. But the medical profession is sort of the last gasp. If we give that up, we've given up our core values.

What does it say about us when we accept this behavior? A debate has raged in the medical professions largely behind closed doors. The Nation addresses this debate.

"The Silence of the Doctors" (Jonathan H. Marks, The Nation):
After 9/11 some American healthcare personnel were once again asked to step into the breach and help Army interrogators conduct aggressive interrogations. They have, among others, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller -- former camp commander at Guantanamo Bay -- to thank for this. Miller considered the participation of Behavioral Science Consultation Teams -- known colloquially as "Biscuits" -- to be an "essential" part of the interrogation process. Having introduced the first Biscuit to the Guantanamo facility in late 2002, Miller urged the deployment of a similar team at Abu Ghraib in late 2003. These Biscuits were staffed at various times by psychologists and/or psychiatrists.
[. . .]
One of the functions of Biscuit health professionals is to help interrogators tailor interrogation "stressors" to the personality of each detainee -- particularly "high-value detainees." In one example -- reported by Neil [A.] Lewis in the New York Times -- interrogators were told by a Biscuit that a detainee's medical files recorded his severe phobia of the dark, and the Biscuit suggested ways that fear could be manipulated to make the detainees cooperate.
[. . .]
According to a resolution of the General Assembly adopted without dissent in 1982, it is a "gross contravention of medical ethics" for health professionals to be complicit in torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. They are also required not to use their knowledge and skills to assist with an interrogation that may adversely affect a detainee's health and is not in accordance with international law. Medical personnel who helped design and monitor aggressive interrogations like those [. . .] have undoubtedly fallen afoul of this ethical mandate.

Marks notes that the American Psychiatric Association, Physicians for Human Rights, and Physicians for Social Responsibility have spoken out against medical professional participating in programs that aid torture; however, the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have struggled (to put it mildly) to find their voice. As C.I. noted (no link because I'm rushing to finish this) at some point, Marks does as well, the American Psychological Association included on its task force to explore this issue "psychologists who work or have worked for the military -- in some cases at SERE schools."

As I stated, I'm rushing. (I'm attending mass with the McKinnons shortly.) But to nutshell this, what is going on is unacceptable. The death of Heinrich Gross should be an occasion to review how a climate for perversion of medical ethics can take place and it should make us take a serious look at what road we're currently on when medical professionals are using their skills and knowledge to assist interrogators in devising 'pressure points' (my term) for interrogations. That is a perversion of the profession. If we allow this perversion to continue, we aid in the creation of a climate that allowed Gross and others actions to be seen as worthy to their own government, as useful, as helping.

We have duties and obligations. We take an oath. We betray that, our training and our very reason for existance when we put serving a governmental policy ahead of the aims of our profession.

In closing, I'll recommend that you check out "Kat's Korner: Breaking through the 'conventional truths' with No Secrets" and "Kat's Korner: Blunt's got the goods" which are two musical commentaries Kat has provided and a third one will go up Sunday at The Common Ills so look for that as well.

Happy Holidays and Peace on Earth.

Friday, December 23, 2005

"Peace is the favor you do that you're not required to"

I'm blogging. I'm at Mike's for the holiday weekend. Mike and Nina picked me up at the airport and quickly got me in a better mood. I've had bad flights but this one truly was a nightmare.
That was from the woman on my right who apparently used an entire bottle of perfume before getting on the flight to the man on my left who played the very old, very tired line of "Don't I know you?" and continued to strike out with a plethora of old lines throughout the flight.

There seemed to be some confusion over my repeated statement of "I'm not interested." Apparently that can also be read as, "I'm playing coy. Please continue to annoy me." It got so bad that the flight attendent took pity on me and moved me to another section. (For which I've already written a note of praise to the airline that I'll attempt to mail tomorrow. I would do that at any time but this is an especially hard time for flight attendents and for people in food service so if someone takes the time to go out of their way to assist you, please consider dropping a note of thanks so that they stand a chance of recognition for going above and beyond their job standards. Do it as soon as you can because, if you're like me, you may end up putting it off until "later" and then never getting around to it.)

The McKinnons have a very warm and welcoming home. Let me note again my thanks for their opening up their holiday to include me.

Report: NYPD Planted Undercover Agents At Protests, Rallies, Vigil (Democracy Now!):
The New York Times says it has obtained videotapes that show the New York Police Department conducting surveillance by planting undercover officers at anti-war protests, bike rallies, and even a street vigil for a dead cyclist. The officers held protest signs, held flowers with mourners, rode their bicycles and videotaped the people present.
In one case, the faked arrest of an undercover officer at a demonstration outside the Republican National Convention led to a serious confrontation between riot police and bystanders that led to the arrest of two people. The bystanders had shouted "Let him go!" The Times says the tapes show at least 10 undercover operatives taking part in seven public gatherings since the Republican Convention in August 2004.

I'm noting the above item and only one tonight due to the late hour.

How does that happen? The tone gets set from the top. The Bully Boy created an environment hostile to civil liberties. The public was the enemy. That didn't start with encouraging government agencies to treat information requests in a manner that wouldn't have flown in the Clinton years.

The news is not that shocking in light of the Bully Boy's own attacks on civil liberties and spying which may be the worst thing of all. We may be so used to the outrage that it is now the norm.
This is how torture and all of the other things Bully Boy's inflicted upon the nation in our names harms us as a people. It's obvious how it harms our image in the eyes of the world. It's obvious how it harms our own troops should they be captured in a future war. But what it does to the people in this country is lower all of our standards.

We build up a tolerance for the outrage and after awhile it may take something even more shocking to arouse our sensibilities and sense of outrage. If your next door neighbor moves in and blasts music around the clock so loud that the windows shake, you may be irritated and outraged. But if the music continues to blast at annoying level but not so loud that your windows shake, you may see it as an improvement. We do develop tolerances.

That's why it is very important to speak out when you can. If you don't speak out on this, you may stay silent on the next thing and the thing after. What's done in our name, is done in our name. Bully Boy doesn't represent the nation's feelings or attitudes by acting upon them; however, as a figure head, he can set the tone.

If torture and spying on Americans doesn't rouse you to find your voice, nothing may. The country stands for something and what it stands for today is so far from what we always hope our nation will represent.

Be sure to read C.I.'s "NYT: 'New York Police Covertly Join In at Protest Rallies' aka Jim Dwyer tries to cover what didn't interest the paper in real time" which puts into perspective both the New York Times' previous lack of interest and the fact that Democracy Now! actually covered the events that the Times is only now aware of.

Tonight/this morning's peace quote is mine. I am tired so the wording isn't all it should be. But I really did appreciate the flight attendent's help this evening.

"Peace Quote:"
Peace is the favor you do that you're not required to.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"Rise, hope of ages, arise like the sun!"

I've got a light
Though it refuses to burn
I've got a life
It ain't over
It ain't over
I've got a way
It's the only thing that's mine

Rebecca quoted the song above last night. It's from Eurythmics' Ultimate Collection and Kat recommended it to her. I got the CD today and I'm listening to it and another one. The song seemed to have something to say about what's going on right now. You've got so much going on regarding the spying. The Bully Boy's out of control and they offer spin one moment and the next reporters actually refute it. It's how the press is supposed to work. I think Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! are providing the best perspective, no surprise, but it's good to see the mainstream media actually pay a little bit of attention to a story that actually matters.

I mentioned that I'm listening to two CDs tonight. The other one? We all picked our favorite Christmas song at The Third Estate Sunday Review:

Mike: "Away In A Manger" by Joan Baez, off her Noel CD. My parents play that CD like crazy. They got it for Christmas two Christmas ago to replace their worn out vinyl version.
Cedric: Aaron Neville's "Bells Of St. Mary." I know it from the radio and have no idea what album it would be on.
Kat: I'll go with Joni Mitchell's "River" which isn't technically a Christmas song but it opens with, "It's coming on Christmas/ They're cutting down trees . . ." It originally appeared on Blue.
Elaine: Stevie Nicks' "Silent Night" off A Very Special Christmas. "Well it was a" and "You know it was a" and other vamps plus Stevie's voice make it my must hear every Christmas.
Rebecca: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" off Barbra Streisand's Christmas Album.
Ty: "Ava Maria" by Diana Ross on A Very Special Season. I love that whole album. The production is really light and there's no attempt to smother her voice. It's a really great CD and one that my family has listened to forever.
Dona: I'll go with a song from Noel as well and imagine that Ava will too. We've become big Joan Baez fans and in our joint CD collection this is the only Christmas album we have. I'll go with "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" because that's always a song I enjoyed singing at Christmas.
Jim: Don't know an album it's on but Marvin Gaye's "I Want To Come Home For Christmas." It's always been a favorite of mine.
Jess: "Happy X-Mas (War Is Over)" by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I've always loved the song. "So this is Christmas and what have you done . . ." I think it asks us to think beyond ourselves. And it's a song worth listening to.
Wally: My mom loves Carly Simon so I'll go with "Twelve Gates To The City" from Christmas Is Almost Here. It's got a really strong beat to it.
Ava: I think I'll go with Carly as well. We've got the soundtrack to This Is My Life and she has a song on that entitled "The Night Before Christmas." I'll also note that although Dona and I were building a joint collection that we intend to split up evenly when we graduate, it's to be split in half. Hint to Jim who's been eyeing some of the CDs.
C.I.: We're talking about what we listen to at Christmas time and, since it's already been noted before by Elaine, Christmas to me is always the Doors. For the last ten years, it would be The Best Of The Doors, double disc. Prior to that it was The Best Of The Doors single disc collection.
Betty: "Silver Bells" by the Supremes off their Merry Christmas CD.
And, yes, we asked our reader's sister for her pick as well.
Cathy: "Adeste fideles" by Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras primarily but any recording will do.

I was familiar with almost all the songs above. You can't decorate the Christmas tree with C.I., for instance, without having the Doors on the background. (That's not a joke. In e-mails and in person, people ask me if that's true? It is true.) All of the songs are good selections that I enjoy except for one that I didn't know. Ty's pick was one he felt really strong about and we were all saying, "You should have talked about that!" Because he mentions the song in the feature but after we were done with it and the editorial, Betty asked him about the song and Ty went into five minutes on it. He really loves that song.

Ty and I may be the ones who say the least in any discussion. We're fine with listening. But I really wish Ty had talked about why he enjoyed "Ava Marie" when we were noting our
reason(s) for the feature. He sold me on the song.

I've been attempting to find it all week. It's an import and not easy to locate (or wasn't for me).
So finally today, I was able to locate it and, since Rebecca had talked about Eurythmics the night before, I grabbed their CD too. I'll probably write about the Diana Ross CD next time. Not the way Kat would. It won't be a review. Kat's the musical genuis. But this really is a wonderful album.

Now let's focus on an important issue in the news. You know which one, the one Rebecca's covering, C.I. is covering, and of course, my blog twin continues to cover it so remember to check out Mike's site (Mikey Likes It!) for his commentary. Don't forget that Wally's covering it to. He was planning on taking a bit of a break this week but this issue is important to him and so he's been weighing in at The Daily Jot when he could have been relaxing and enjoying the holiday time with his family. Let's get to the issue.

Surveillance Court Judge Resigns in Protest of Bush Spy Program (Democracy Now!):
This news on the Bush administration's domestic espionage program: the Washington Post is reporting a judge has resigned from the country's top spy court in protest of the secret program in which the National Security Agency has eavesdropped on Americans without court-approved warrants. U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, submitted his resignation Monday. The court is regarded as the only authority to authorize wire-taps for domestic espionage.

Why would a judge resign a post? Because the judge is obviously dismayed to learn that FISA's been circumvented by the Bully Boy. Also because some of the warrents FISA did issue may have been issued after Bully Boy learned of things via illegal eavesdropping. For more on this,
see Carol D. Leonnig and Dafna Linzer 's Washington Post article entitled"Spy Court Judge Quits In ProtestJurist Concerned Bush Order Tainted Work of Secret Panel."

Bush in 2004: "Wiretap Requires A Court Order" (Democracy Now!):
President Bush has argued eavesdropping without court-approved warrants is legal under authority granted by Congress shortly after 9/11. But in April of last year President Bush told reporters wire-taps were only conducted with court approval.
President Bush, April 20, 2004: "Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."
The White House is now claiming Bush was referring only to actions taken under the Patriot Act.

In 2004, he publicly said it required a court order. Of course, while he was saying that, the NSA was already listening in without one. By the way, while we're noting the foolish (Bully Boy is criminally foolish), let's note Fact Check Org which is foolish and useless and could use some fact checking of it's own. Let's note their scolding of the ACLU in September 2004. Predominately the focus was the Patriot Act the ACLU ran. But note this howler of embarrassing proportions in light of the news:

The ad implies the government is "treating us all like suspects," but so far there's no evidence of that.

So quick to carry water for the Bully Boy, so quick to bend over and attack the ad that "They lied" -- uh, yes, Bully Boy said it, but he, uh, thought WMD were found in Iraq, yes, uh Condi did say of Saddam "We do know that he is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon" but that's not a lie and it's not a lie because we say so.

They are beyond useless. Kerry is wrong because he went by an Oct. 9th Washington Post article in a debate on the night of the 9th. The Washington Post retracted the story days later. So Kerry is wrong. But with Bully Boy they bent over backwards to avoid stating the obvious. Here's an obvious statement, Fact Check Org. needs a fact checker.

Fact Check Org's attitude seems to be "We say Condi didn't lie because (shaped) intelligence backed her up and we ignore that intelligence was shaped and the fact that in real time her comments were disputed." They can't synthesize information and while reports from the BBC or other mainstream foreign media outlets are ignored, they rush to cite The Washington Times as if that's a reputable paper. They bent over backwards in what appears to be an effort to demonstrate that they had no bias. They just look now like they had no brains.

They look foolish now but if they'd paid attention to reports at the time they wouldn't.

Now I'm going to note something Mike's mother had noted at The Common Ills.

"Bush Takes the Crown" (Matthew Rothschild, This Just In, The Progressive):
Add this to the long list of impeachable offenses that George W. Bush has committed, and put it at the top.
The President swears an oath of office that he will uphold the Constitution and faithfully execute the laws of the land.
The law against domestic spying without a warrant he has executed, all right. He shot it in the head.
When The New York Times revealed on December 16 (after sitting on the story for a year and omitting details at the request of Administration officials!) that Bush ordered the National Security Agency to monitor "the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years," I expected Bush to deny it or to say he was going to review the policy.
Instead, he is vehemently defending that policy, citing his authority under the Constitution as commander in chief and Congress's authorization to go after Al Qaeda. He did so in his radio address on Saturday and in his press conference on Monday.
But these were the very same rationales that the Bush Administration put forward last year at the Supreme Court in the case of Yaser Hamdi, one of the U.S. citizens Bush detained without charge or trial.
The Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, did not buy those arguments at all. "A state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the nation’s citizens," O'Connor wrote.

It's an article worth noting but I'm also noting it in reply to some questions in e-mails: will I be posting Thursday night? I intend to. I'll be staying with Mike's family for Christmas at the kind invitation of Mike's mother who asked me after Thanksgiving. I always have a standing offer with C.I. but I prefer to grab Thanksgiving because Christmas is more elaborate. You have more house guests and you've got even more cooking to do. (C.I. does that. You're lucky to be able to help peel potatoes. But I always feel guilty when I turn in for the night knowing that C.I.'s up the entire night making sure everything's perfect.) I met Mike's parents when we were all protesting in D.C. back in September. His mother had actually invited me to Thanksgiving then but, unless my brother's in the country, I usually grab that holiday with C.I. But it was a sincere invitation.

So I'll get there Thursday night and hopefully be able to put something up at some point Thursday night. Mike says we'll both post after each other but I would like to spend some time with Mike's mother who is very cool. So is his father but Mike's mother and I share an interest in the same books and we're looking forward to swapping out some of the ones we kept telling each other, "Well if you liked that, you have to read this book called . . ."

If I'm not able to post Thursday night, this was a pretty long entry for me.

Be sure to check out C.I.'s "Governmental spying/snooping" which talks about what's going on today and what went on under Richard Nixon.

"Peace Quotes" (Peace Center):
The dark night is over and dawn has begun. Rise, hope of the ages, arise like the sun! All speech, flow to music; all hearts, beat as one.
John Greenleaf Whittier

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"No one can be at peace unless he [or she] has his freedom"

Do you scream or dig in? That may be the question right now as the revelations about Bully Boy and his administration spying continue to pour out. I think we stand tall and hope you do as well.

I'm focusing on this issue because I think it's important. Rebecca's covering it and C.I. is as well. Of course, my blog twin continues to cover it so remember to check out Mike's site (Mikey Likes It!) for his commentary. Also, please make time for Wally's site, The Daily Jot. He has a nice roundup on the topic of spying on American citizens: "Electronic Peeping Tom Bully Boy."
That's what Bully Boy is, an electronic peeping tom.

FBI Spied on Greenpeace, PETA, Catholic Worker (Democracy Now!):
In Washington, newly released documents show counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been monitoring domestic activist groups including Greenpeace, Catholic Worker, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and PETA, the People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The documents indicate the F.B.I. monitored protests organized by the groups and used confidential informants inside the organizations to gain intelligence. In one case, government records show the FBI launched a terrorism investigation of PETA in Norfolk, Virginia.

As C.I. noted, building on The Third Estate Sunday Review's editorial, "We are all the outlaws in the eyes of the Bully Boy." Who's the "uniter"? Not the Bully Boy who feels you're with him or against him and, if you're against him, it's okay to spy on you.

I was unaware that the presidential election every four years came with a loyalty oath but apparently Bully Boy thinks it does. He's made it a point to govern only for those who voted for him while going out of his way to penalize those who opposed him. Sich the IRS on the NAACP? No problem for the Bully Boy. Eject people from gatherings based upon bumper stickers and t-shirts? No problem for the Bully Boy. The documentation that recently came out is something the ACLU has been seeking for some time. This is just the beginning.

Documents Show FBI Agents Tracked PETA For Years (Democracy Now!):
According to the Washington Post, the documents offer no proof of PETA's involvement in illegal activity. But more than 100 pages of heavily censored FBI files show the agency used secret informants and tracked the group's events for years. The FBI also monitored political activities on college campuses. One FBI file included a contact list for students and peace activists who attended a 2002 conference at Stanford University aimed at ending sanctions then in place in Iraq.

Well maybe that's why the FBI hasn't been able to find Osama bin Laden? They've been too busy trailing and spying on PETA? It's as though Bully Boy's accepted Pat Robertson and Billy Graham's son's "logic" re: 9/11. It's certainly not about terrorism, their actions, unless it's to demonstrate that a homegrown terrorist can occupy the White House for five years now.

Reports Expose Growing Domestic Surveillance (Democracy Now!):
This is the third major recent revelation about domestic spying. Last week NBC News revealed the Pentagon has been monitoring peaceful anti-war protesters and the New York Times exposed how President Bush ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without court-approved warrants. Ann Beeson, of the American Civil Liberties Union said "It's clear that this administration has engaged every possible agency, from the Pentagon to N.S.A. to the F.B.I., to engage in spying on Americans."

Again, this is just a small portion, the documents. There's much more to come.

For the ACLU files on some of the FBI spying click here.

Let's note the following for an important point made.

"NYT: 'F.B.I. Watched Activist Groups, New Files Show'" (The Common Ills):
Lichtblau's article:
F.B.I. officials said Monday that their investigators had no interest in monitoring political or social activities and that any investigations that touched on advocacy groups were driven by evidence of criminal or violent activity at public protests and in other settings.
"Driven by evidence of criminal or violent activity at public protests and in other settings"? Where are the charges for this evidence? Is the Justice Dept. suggesting that they have evidence and aren't prosecuting people?

Good point. Where are the charges, if they have evidence? Or maybe, as with Jose Padilla, they'd prefer to smear for now and admit they have nothing later?

C.I. mentioned an article to me on the phone today.

"Nothing New About NSA Spying on Americans" (Earl Ofari Hutchinson, CounterPunch):
The September 11 terror attacks, and the heat Bush administration took for its towering intelligence lapses, gave Bush the excuse to plunge even deeper into domestic spying. But Bush also recognized that if word got out about NSA domestic spying, it would ignite a firestorm of protest. Fortunately it did. Despite Bush's weak, and self-serving national security excuse that it thwarted potential terrorist attacks, none of which is verifiable, the Supreme Court, the NSA's own mandate, and past executive orders explicitly bar domestic spying without court authorization. The exception is if there is a grave and imminent terror threat. That's the shaky legal dodge that Bush used to justify domestic spying.
Bush, and his defenders, discount the monumental threat and damage that spying on Americans poses to civil liberties. But it can't and shouldn't be shrugged off. During the debate over the creation of a domestic spy agency in 2002, even proponents recognized the potential threat of such an agency to civil liberties. As a safeguard they recommended that the agency not have expanded wiretap and surveillance powers or law enforcement authority, and that the Senate and House intelligence committees have strict oversight over its activities.
These supposed fail-safe measures were hardly ironclad safeguards against abuses, but they understood that domestic spying is a civil liberties nightmare minefield that has blown up and wreaked havoc on American's lives in the past. The FBI is the prime example. During the 1950s and 1960s, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover kicked FBI domestic spying into high gear. FBI agents compiled secret dossiers, illegally wiretapped, used undercover plants, and agent provocateurs, sent poison pen letters, and staged black bag jobs against black activists and anti-war groups.
Bush's claim that domestic spying poses no risk to civil liberties is laughable. Congress should demand that Bush and the NSA come clean on domestic spying, and then promptly end it.

How's this playing out in your area? My hope would be that people are already talking about it but, if not, I hope you're bringing it up.

"Peace Quotes" (Peace Center):
You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.
Malcolm X