Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Notes On 2008

What a long strange year it’s been!

Was it only a year ago the liberal New York Times hired Bill (the-always-wrong-Neocon) Kristol? They always did like doing their share of shilling for Bush/Cheney. Ask Judith Miller about WMD’s. Or ask them about how wonderful the Israeli government treats Palestinians, or about how evil Iran is. And while you're at it, ask why it took them a year to report Bush’s illegal NSA surveillance program.

Remember last January when the Mukasey Justice Department decided to investigate the destruction of the CIA’s interrogation tapes, otherwise known as the famous “torture tapes”? Americans can rest assured that the evidence of crimes was successfully swept away as if the torture never happened. And besides, it was so important to protect the identities of the interrogators. After all, they were “just following orders”; proving the Nuremburg defense is valid as long as it’s in the interests of the US government and the Bush Administration. Like their “investigation” into the legality of waterboarding, justice was successfully obstructed.

There was a little known victory for freedom early this year. Simple civil disobedience and merely reading the wrong words could have been labeled as radicalization and terrorism under Democratic Representative Jane Harmon’s Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.

Along with its failure to impeach Bush Administration criminals, the House of Representatives will never atone for this shame and dishonor to our Bill of Rights. The “Thought Police Bill” overwhelmingly passed through the House by a 404 to 6 vote, and was sent to the Senate. Thanks to a flood of complaints from everyone from the ACLU to the John Birch Society this fascist amendment to the Patriot Act was allowed to wither and die.

Then Big Brother comes up with these demonstrations of one step forward, two, or three, or more steps back: First of all, with the National Applications Office, Big Brother wants to watch us from the sky.

From The Raw Story:

DHS satellite spy program going forward despite objections

'Ridiculous' to think program doesn't violate Posse Comitatus, ACLU lobbyist tells Raw
The Department of Homeland Security has been given the money it needs to begin turning international spy satellites within the country's borders, despite lingering fears about the program's lack of focus and the potential for it to infringe upon Americans' civil liberties. After more than a year of delay, Congress quietly authorized DHS to begin sharing data gathered by military satellites with civilian and law enforcement agencies. A $634 billion spending bill signed into law earlier this week provides funds for DHS to establish the satellite surveillance program, known as the National Applications Office, without addressing the myriad concerns about NAO privacy and civil liberties protections that had been delaying its implementation.

And then there’s the unsettling issue of biometric surveillance.

CLARKSBURG, West Virginia (CNN) -- The FBI is gearing up to create a massive computer database of people's physical characteristics, all part of an effort the bureau says to better identify criminals and terrorists.

But it's an issue that raises major privacy concerns -- what one civil liberties expert says should concern all Americans.

The bureau is expected to announce in coming days the awarding of a $1 billion, 10-year contract to help create the database that will compile an array of biometric information -- from palm prints to eye scans.

Kimberly Del Greco, the FBI's Biometric Services section chief, said adding to the database is "important to protect the borders to keep the terrorists out, protect our citizens, our neighbors, our children so they can have good jobs, and have a safe country to live in."
But it's unnerving to privacy experts.

"It's the beginning of the surveillance society where you can be tracked anywhere, any time and all your movements, and eventually all your activities will be tracked and noted and correlated," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Technology and Liberty Project. ...

Remember what we learned from a patriotic retired technician at AT&T?

"Wiretap Whistle-Blower's Account

Former AT&T technician Mark Klein has come forward to support the EFF's lawsuit against AT&T for its alleged complicity in the NSA's electronic surveillance. Wired News publishes Klein's public statement.

Statement From Mark Klein

My background:

For 22 and 1/2 years I worked as an AT&T technician, first in New York and then in California.

What I observed first-hand:

In 2002, when I was working in an AT&T office in San Francisco, the site manager told me to expect a visit from a National Security Agency agent, who was to interview a management-level technician for a special job. The agent came, and by chance I met him and directed him to the appropriate people.

In January 2003, I, along with others, toured the AT&T central office on Folsom Street in San Francisco -- actually three floors of an SBC building. There I saw a new room being built adjacent to the 4ESS switch room where the public's phone calls are routed. I learned that the person whom the NSA interviewed for the secret job was the person working to install equipment in this room. The regular technician work force was not allowed in the room.

In October 2003, the company transferred me to the San Francisco building to oversee the Worldnet Internet room, which included large routers, racks of modems for customers' dial-in services, and other equipment. I was responsible for troubleshooting problems on the fiber optic circuits and installing new circuits.

While doing my job, I learned that fiber optic cables from the secret room were tapping into the Worldnet circuits by splitting off a portion of the light signal. I saw this in a design document available to me, entitled "Study Group 3, LGX/Splitter Wiring, San Francisco" dated Dec. 10, 2002. I also saw design documents dated Jan. 13, 2004 and Jan. 24, 2003, which instructed technicians on connecting some of the already in-service circuits to the "splitter" cabinet, which diverts some of the light signal to the secret room. The circuits listed were the Peering Links, which connect Worldnet with other networks and hence the whole country, as well as the rest of the world...

And not last and not the least, we have to thank Bush and his Democratic Party friends for the new FISA Amendment. In June Obama proved he could be a good corporate guy and allow retroactive immunity for the telecoms who helped the Bush Administration spy on us. Feingold and Dobbs wanted to filibuster the amendment, showing us how only a few of our politicians really care about our Bill of Rights.

And this is only a segment of the US Government’s war on civil liberties. We will stay tuned.

Then there are the other noble wars. In March the number of US troops killed in Iraq reached 4,000 with the deaths of four soldiers in southern Baghdad. That glorious surge was bloody, but we aren’t supposed to think about that part.

And our “victory” in Afghanistan got uglier as well. More soldiers were dying ,and even a greater number of civilians were being killed. I dread to think how Obama will step up this cataclysm.

We also saw further confirmation of the machinations of the Military/Industrial/Media Complex. In April the New York Times reported on the cozy relationship between the media and its military "analysts".

"To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.
The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air."

There's more proof that certain connected folks can gain huge profits from the "good wars" they get from their war mongering.

And remember in August how exciting it was when Johnny McBomb Bomb said we are "all Georgians"? That was before Americans learned that the war was started by his Georgian buddy, and foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann’s lobby business client, President Saakashvili. That would make Georgians all Americans, right?

And who can forget the lessons of September 2008? Americans finally see the rewards of the Republican dogma of deregulation. The economic story is only beginning to unfold. Next year will offer a better perspective on the fall of the Great House of Cards.

Yes, it’s been a fascinating year. What else happened?

Oh, yeah, there was an election.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Another Forward

Yes, it's time again for another feel-good/liberal-hating/right-wing forward. And you all know how much I love those little misguided, Fox addled, authoritarian brain farts.

Here's today's pea-brain patriot's piffle.

Subject: FW: A Marine!

A United States Marine was attending some college courses between assignments. He had completed missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the courses had a professor who was a vowed atheist and a member of the ACLU.

One day the professor shocked the class when he came in. He looked to the ceiling and flatly stated, "God, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform. I'll give you exactly 15 minutes." The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop. Ten minutes went by and the professor proclaimed, "Here I am God. I'm still waiting."

It got down to the last couple of minutes when the Marine got out of his chair, went up to the professor, and cold-cocked him; knocking him off the platform. The professor was out cold.

The Marine went back to his seat and sat there, silently. The other students were shocked and stunned and sat there looking on in silence. The professor eventually came to, noticeably shaken, looked at the Marine and asked, "What the hell is the matter with you? Why did you do that?"

The Marine calmly replied, "God was too busy today protecting America's soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid shit and act like an asshole. So, He sent me."




Then God told me to send this to the other fortunate recipients of the Marine story.

And in other news headlines:

Disturbed Veteran Assaults College Professor: Two More Victims Of Bush's War of Error

After his arrest, the Marine with undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder claimed he heard the voice of God telling him to attack the professor.

The Bush Administration is pressing the VA to reduce the number of PTSD cases by reclassifying the problem as "adjustment disorder", and thus providing the vets with less treatment and benefits.

After a forensic psychiatric examination, the ACLU offered to represent the Marine's case in court, free of charge.

The Marine later apologized to the understanding professor and said, "Thank God someone is there to protect the troops".

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Three Years Ago

"This shocking revelation ought to send a chill down the spine of every American." - Senator Russell Feingold, December 17, 2005

A little flashback to three years ago. "Only" three years ago, when there was still plenty of time for impeachment. (Thanks, Nancy, how can we ever repay you?)

The New York Times was letting it slip out. It turns out they were still in the Bush Administration's pocket. Yes, even then, three years after their sycophantic WMD propaganda scare, the ever so "liberal" New York Times was still suckling at the teat of the Beast by withholding the story for an entire year. How patriotic of our corporate Ministry of Truth.

This time it was about the Bush Cartel's secret warrantless spying on Americans.

We crazy lefties, and other Bill of Rights enthusiasts, were scorned and ridiculed for screaming about these crimes for years.

Remember this story? Outrages and lies highlighted.


Bush Secretly Lifted Some Limits on Spying in U.S. After 9/11, Officials Say


WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 ­- Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored 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 in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval represents a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

"This is really a sea change," said a former senior official who specializes in national security law. "It's almost a mainstay of this country that the N.S.A. only does foreign searches."

Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation's legality and oversight.

According to those officials and others, reservations about aspects of the program have also been expressed by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a judge presiding over a secret court that oversees intelligence matters. Some of the questions about the agency's new powers led the administration to temporarily suspend the operation last year and impose more restrictions, the officials said.

The Bush administration views the operation as necessary so that the agency can move quickly to monitor communications that may disclose threats to this country, the officials said. Defenders of the program say it has been a critical tool in helping disrupt terrorist plots and prevent attacks inside the United States.

Administration officials are confident that existing safeguards are sufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, the officials say. In some cases, they said, the Justice Department eventually seeks warrants if it wants to expand the eavesdropping to include communications confined within the United States. The officials said the administration had briefed Congressional leaders about the program and notified the judge in charge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret Washington court that deals with national security issues.

The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.

While many details about the program remain secret, officials familiar with it said the N.S.A. eavesdropped without warrants on up to 500 people in the United States at any given time. The list changes as some names are added and others dropped, so the number monitored in this country may have reached into the thousands over the past three years, several officials said. Overseas, about 5,000 to 7,000 people suspected of terrorist ties are monitored at one time, according to those officials.

Several officials said the eavesdropping program had helped uncover a plot by Iyman Faris, an Ohio trucker and naturalized citizen who pleaded guilty in 2003 to supporting Al Qaeda by planning to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches
. Continued...


And three years ago we were blessed with this beautiful voice of sanity. I really, really miss this woman.


They Wouldn't Lie to Us, Would They?
by Molly Ivins December 17, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas - As one on the liberal side of the chorus of moaners about the decline of civility in politics, I feel a certain responsibility when earnest, spaniel-eyed conservatives like David Brooks peer at us hopefully and say, "Well, yes, there was certainly a lot of misinformation about WMD before the war in Iraq, but ... you don't think they, he, actually lied do you?"

Draw I deep the breath of patience. I factor in the long and awful history of politics and truth, add the immutable nature of pols — fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly — and compare Tonkin Gulf, Watergate and Iran-Contra with the piddly Curveball and Niger uranium. I prepare to respond like a reasonable person — "Of course not actually lie, per se, in the strict sense" — and then I listen to another speech about Iraq by either the president or the vice president and find myself screaming, "Dammit, when will they quit lying?"

Civility is fine. On the other hand, sanity has its claims, as well.

I have been listening with great attention to the series of speeches President Bush has lately given on his newly revealed "Plan for Victory." Of course I was pleased to learn we have a plan for a victory, which consists, it turns out, of announcing: "We cannot and will not leave Iraq until victory is achieved. ... We will settle for nothing less than complete victory."

Unfortunately, the White House claims it produced this once supposedly secret plan in 2003, when it is actually a public-relations paper written less than six months ago, which is pretty much the way things go credibility-wise these days. It has long been clear that this administration thinks it can spin reality to a blue-bellied fare-thee-well, but isn't it a tad late for this?

Of course, it's an awkward time to be a doom-and-gloomer, too. Who wants to remind everyone this isn't working just when all those brave Iraqis just risked their lives to vote again?

Democracy is a grand thing. Unfortunately, a vote has never yet created an operative military brigade.

Bush claimed in his Naval Academy speech that 80 Iraqi army and police battalions are fighting alongside American units, while another 40 are taking the lead in fighting. But last summer, military leaders told Congress that three of the 115 Iraqi battalions are capable of fighting without U.S. help, and in October Gen. George Casey, the American commander in Iraq, lowered that to one.

Of course all Texans are raised on the "Never retreat, never surrender" model, but it does ring just a little hollow when the administration's own plans for a draw-down of troops are dominating the news.

So as not to completely abandon my colleagues still yearning for civility, I point out that Bush and even Cheney are making progress. For one thing, they now acknowledge reconstruction is not going entirely smoothly, a refreshing degree of candor.

Also, Bush now acknowledges we are fighting more than just terrorists. In fact, most of the people we're fighting are themselves Iraqis who don't like us being there. The fact that their government has asked us to leave is still politely passed over. This has already cost us $277 billion, with at least another $100 billion to come.

It does seem a little silly, though, to call for "complete victory" without acknowledging that the war itself is not going well. The number of attacks on American and Iraqi troops per day grows steadily worse. Rep. Jack Murtha, who is very close to the military, says insurgent incidents over the past year have increased from 150 per week to over 700 per week.

Bush's claims on reconstruction are likewise mind-boggling. It's not "fits and starts" — there are rampant overcharges, corruption, lack of oversight — it is a zoo. At least $8 billion the United States provided Iraq's Coalition Provisional Authority is unaccounted for, and Halliburton alone has already been accused of $1.4 billion in unreasonable and unsupported charges.

One night in mid-September, George W. stood in New Orleans' Jackson Square, with the floodlit facade of St. Louis Cathedral in the background. He promised help for housing, education and job training: "The work that has begun in the Gulf Coast region will be one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen. ... And tonight I also offer this pledge of the American people: Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives."
Hey, you know, another mission accomplished.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wars, Winners and Losers

Back in the 90’s a friend and I used to contemplate the War on Drugs. In order to keep our jobs, we would need to submit to random drug testing. We noted how the War on Drugs was always a good excuse by the right wingers to frighten the public into accepting new laws that were designed to undermine their privacy, civil liberties and Constitutional rights.

Any resistance by a liberal or moderate person to the new police state tactics was always met with the old “soft on crime” accusation. Anyone else see a familiar pattern here?

I would point out that the War on Drugs would be a dress rehearsal for the coming War on Terror. A lot of people listening to our conversations would quickly dismiss us as the paranoid lunatic fringe for thinking such foolishness.

This was not to be the last time that I really wished I was wrong.

As history teaches those of us who pay attention, we can see how both the War on Terror and the War on Drugs operate by similar methods with similar results.

Both are over-reaching militarized operations against problems best addressed by other strategies and tactics.

The War on Drugs is militarized law enforcement used as a tool to address what is best described a medical and public health issue. Drug users are generally non-violent citizens. The War on Drugs exacerbates the damage of drugs and destruction of life.

The War on Terror is an over militarized reaction to what can be best dealt with as a law enforcement problem. Terrorists are criminals. The War on Terror exacerbates the death and destruction from terrorists.

But, since we do not have publicly financed elections, Congress and the Executive Branch owe their souls to the big money boys of the corporate military/industrial complex. They wield the metaphorical hammer. And they see every problem as a nail to be fixed by their only tool.

The public’s perception of these problems is formed by the corporate media. The media love to sensationalize crime and terror. They also love their cozy access to political power and corporate advertisers. Truth and fairness always take a back seat to these interests.

This is why the War on Drugs and the War on Terror are, by nature, endless. So why do we fight endless wars we know we cannot win?

Because someone does win. And it’s not the public. We pour our tax dollars into the black holes of secret police and military budgets. And for all the financial cost and loss of civil liberties, we are promised safety and law and order that we will never see.

The winners in the War on Terror are the war profiteers like Halliburton, KBR, and Blackwater. Armament industries and weapon and ammo manufacturers are doing quite well. Other winners are the terrorists themselves. Bin Laden and al-Qaeda gained more recruits and funds after Bush’s invasions than they ever could have before.

The winners in the War on Drugs are the pharmaceutical, tobacco and liquor corporations. You know, the partnership for a drug-free America crowd. The drug testing, surveillance, and corporate prison industries are also quite happy profiting from the misery of others.

Billions of dollars of Drug War loot are being sucked up by corrupt cops and violent drug dealers. They love the War on Drugs.

The losers are the same in both wars. The taxpayers are duped by politicians and the corporate media. We are throwing more and more money at a problem that will never be fixed by the institutions that profit from the status quo.

And the real victims of the two wars are those innocents caught in the crossfire by the opposing sides. All the cruel and senseless bloodshed could be eliminated by ending the cruel and senseless policies.

The story is getting old, but hope is out there.

Americans are beginning to wake up to the Drug War con. So far, thirteen states have voted to allow medicinal marijuana use. This is good news. It shows that we the people still have some power over the political and corporate interests.

The established power brokers will always resist progress, so the people must always continue to press their struggle for justice and fairness.

American democracy depends on the activism and participation of the common folk of this country. This is why the Reich Wingers are always working to suppress the voters in any way they can.

They will probably renew their efforts more than ever because they are already at war with the Obama Administration. We can look forward to increased dirty tactics from the racists, war mongers, Bible thumpers, mercenaries, and corporatists from the far Right.

If the Clinton era was the breeding ground of the Fox/Limbaugh reactionary right wing media, we can expect a similar outpouring of artificially whipped up rage from the same actors to disrupt and derail any initiatives from Democrats.

We need to push for the enlightenment of the public by illuminating the realities of the failed right wing policies. Our counter-propaganda efforts need to be as unrelenting as their false propaganda has been through the years.

The renewed propaganda surge is already here. I once again received one of those conservative viral e-mails. I’ll show you the message and my response.


I HAVE TO PASS A URINE TEST FOR MY JOB... SO I AGREE 100%. Like a lot of folks in this state, I have a job. I work, they pay me. I pay my taxes and the government distributes my taxes as it sees fit. In order to get that paycheck, I am required to pass a random urine test with which I have no problem.

What I do have a problem with is the distribution of my taxes to people who don't have to pass a urine test. Shouldn't one have to pass a urine test to get a welfare check because I have to pass one to earn it for them? Understand, I have no problem with helping people get back on their feet. I do, on the other hand, have a problem with helping someone sitting on their BUTT, doing drugs, while I work. ... . Can you imagine how much money the state and country would save if people had to pass a urine test to get a public assistance check? Pass this along if you agree or simply delete if you don't. Hope you all will pass it along, though. ... Something has to change in this country -- and soon.


Urine tests are unjust because the war on drugs is a wrongheaded failure. It is stupid to impose hardship on anyone for victimless crimes. Rush Limbaugh and Cindy McCain didn’t have to lose their privileged positions and income for their drug addiction. Why should the poor and working class be held to harsher standards?

Too many good employees lose jobs, not because of impaired work performance, but because of politically incorrect recreation on the weekend. Punishment solves nothing. If there is a real problem, treatment is the cheaper, more humane solution. All those anti- tax fiscal conservatives should understand the drug war is a huge waste of our tax dollars compared to a sane policy of treatment and rehab.

Substance abuse will never be solved as a Big Government law enforcement problem. It is a health issue and needs to be addressed as such.

Americans are brainwashed to be eager to give up rights to their privacy. The idiots who say “tap my phone, I’ve done nothing wrong” have just given totalitarians the right to dictate everything else over their lame asses.

Who are more dangerous to human life; dry-drunk, lying war mongers, or peaceful hippies minding their own business?

Right Wing Authoritarian personalities will never understand. They are so much better than everyone else, you know. They love seeing brown folks and other “inferior” people suffer. The drug war is their perfect tool to impose their intolerance on others.

There are many sane reasons to de-criminalize cannabis, or other drugs for that matter. If cannabis was used for textile, fuel, medicinal, and other applications, it could be taxed and actually help our economy recover.But, corporate/police state interests are against it. It is the profiteering by narrow interests that keep it illegal. The same kind of narrow interests are tearing our economy apart. You'd think someone would learn. But since the US corporate government is NEVER wrong...


We Americans still have the choice. We can take a reality-based look at the issues of drug use and terrorism. We can respond with a reasoned approach, free of the influence of those who would profit from ill-considered policies. We can choose health, life, progress and a better economy.

Or we can give the bloody terrorists, murderous drug cartels, and the cold-blooded nexus of corporate government all the money and power they could ever desire. We can choose to continue down the paths into failure, bankruptcy and the certainty of more loss of life. All we need to do is keep waging our wars on drugs and terror, and stay the course.

Let’s hope the new administration takes a sane look at the policies that do not work and have never worked. Saving our economy and our Bill of Rights is the kind of change we can all believe in.