Thursday, September 22, 2011

Take My Rights, Please

The tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks has now come and gone. We’ve seen a lot of media focus on patriotic flag waving and memorials for the dead. That’s fine in itself, but something was missing. Something very serious was virtually ignored by the corporate media, that is, besides the Bush war of aggression based on falsehoods around al-Qaeda, Saddam and non-existent WMD’s.

We may survive that war, but it’s a real question whether the formerly free democratic republic of the United States of America will survive the anti-Constitutional over-reaction by politicians doing their best to look tough on terrorism. The Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, the Warner Defense Authorization Act, the FISA Amendment, and who knows how many executive orders have been implemented and locked into our government’s expanding abuses of power.

There was little media mention of an incident at Detroit's airport on this past September 11th.

Someone apparently got nervous on an inbound plane.

After the plane landed it was routed to a vacant area on the tarmac and greeted by heavily armed and armored officers with dogs.

An innocent woman and two men she didn’t know were shackled by machine gun carrying officers and shoved off the plane. They were taken by the SWAT team for interrogation. The rest of the passengers were also taken away by bus to be interviewed at police headquarters. Nothing was found and there were no charges against the three passengers.

Why? Who knows? No explanation was given. Some frightened passenger or crew member saw two Indian men and the woman sitting in the same row and panicked.

The woman’s name is Shoshana Hebshi, an American citizen with a Saudi father and a Jewish mother. You can read her account here.

Apparently, all it takes for fear to seize hold of a citizen in the land of the free and home of the brave is a brown passenger or two with accents on a plane.

Are we turning into a nation of cowardly sniveling snitches? Not entirely, but fear, combined with politicians’ utter disregard for the Bill of Rights is killing our country faster than al-Qaeda could have done with a thousand more attacks. If we lack the courage of our convictions and founding principles, our country we knew all our lives is doomed.

The corporate lock on our politicians is bad enough. If the voters wake up we can change that. But nothing will change for the better when we react at the highest and lowest levels out of simple fear. FDR’s words ring vividly true today, “All we have to fear is fear itself”.

And that fear is being reinforced by authorities and politicians. Mayor Bloomberg has advised New Yorkers, “When you see something, say something!"

“Like what?” asks Nat Hentoff in his piece at Just what is "suspicious activity"?

They won’t say.

Hentoff continues:

This call to report to police or the FBI suspicious behavior by anybody has led the American Civil Liberties Union to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit (, Aug. 25) "challenging the government's failure to release documents about the FBI's nationwide system of collecting and sharing (with other intelligence agencies) so-called 'Suspicious Activity Reports' from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies."

I make a point of following debates and releases among Republican 2012 presidential aspirants, and never once have I heard any concern about this omnivorous tracking of, as the Constitution begins, We The People. What does Gov. Rick Perry think of it? President Barack Obama, of course, thoroughly approves of this obliteration of our privacy to protect national security — without any of us being told we've been targeted.

This eGuardian program, begun in 2009, explains the ACLU, "allows the FBI to collect information about vague and expansively defined 'suspicious activity' from law enforcement and intelligence officials across the country, as well as from the public."

Yes, from the public. If one of us utterly detests a neighbor or someone where we work, why not report him or her to the authorities for "suspicious activity"?

There's never been a better time to support the ACLU, folks. Please consider it your patriotic duty. I do.

We have now entered the Orwellian nightmare of a nation of fearful snitches running to the Thought Police whenever they imagine someone to be “suspicious”.

This is our national tragedy unfolding before our very eyes. Neither Obama nor the Republicans are even mentioning what is happening to our civil liberties.

You know what? I think the Democrats and Republicans are both guilty of “suspicious activity” and should be taken away for interrogation. In order to be released they will need to recite for us the Bill of Rights and be reminded of their oath to defend them. And if they fail to do so, send them away for indefinite detention. They are not on our side.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fact Checking

Darn. I missed the big Republican debate. Mildly wondering what lies I may have missed, I checked the Washington Post Fact Checker.

I was not disappointed.

Here are the lies they debunked, along with a few parenthetical remarks from the fact checker:

“It is a monstrous lie. It is a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, you’re paying into a program that’s going to be there.”
— Gov. Perry

(Perhaps the governor does not know the dictionary definition of a Ponzi scheme.)

“Obamacare is killing jobs. We know that from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.”
— Rep. Michele Bachmann

(...the CBO did not say the health law was killing jobs.)

“We’ve had requests in for years at the Health and Human Services agencies to have that type of flexibility, where we could have menus, where we could have co-pays. And the federal government refuses to give us that flexibility.”
— Perry

(The George W. Bush administration rejected the application in 2008, saying it was incomplete and riddled with problems. As far as we can tell, the state has not resubmitted the waiver.)

“Obamacare took over one-sixth of the American economy… . If we fail to repeal Obamacare in 2012, it will be with us forever and it will be socialized medicine.”
— Bachmann

“In our state, our plan covered 8 percent of the people, the uninsured. His plan is taking over 100 percent of the people.”
— Romney

(It is simply not true, no matter how often candidates say that the Obama health care law represents socialized medicine or took over one-sixth of the economy. Socialized medicine is a single-payer system, in which the government pays the bills and controls costs, much like Medicare. Obama’s law was modeled closely on the law passed by Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts — an inconvenient fact that Romney tries hard to run away from. His comparison here is misleading, since both plans try to deal with the problem of the uninsured by requiring an individual mandate.)

“For the president of the United States to go to El Paso, Texas, and say that the border is safer than it’s ever been, either he has some of the poorest intel of a president in the history of this country, or he was an abject liar to the American people. It is not safe on that border.”
— Perry

(Obama did not put it quite as bluntly as Perry suggests, and calling the president an “abject liar” seems over the top for the politically tinged comments Obama actually made.)

“He only went along with the Libyan mission because the United Nations told him to.”
— Former Sen. Rick Santorum

(Actually, Santorum has it backwards. The United States requested the U.N. resolution to gain international backing for the NATO-led intervention in the Libyan uprising.)

“The idea that we would put Americans’ economy in jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet to me is just — is nonsense. I mean, it — I mean, and I told somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said, here is the fact — Galileo got outvoted for a spell.”
— Perry

(We will note he repeatedly did not answer the question at the debate about whether he could name a scientist he thought was credible on the issue.)

“As a matter of fact, what he’s done is, he’s said in fact to Israel that they need to shrink back to their indefensible 1967 borders.”
— Bachmann

(Obama never said this. The president in May did give a controversial speech, in which he said the de facto border of 1967 should be a starting point for negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, with agreed swaps of territory. A few days later, he further clarified his comments to make clear he was not saying the lines should be Israel’s border, to the point that he was thanked by the Israeli prime minister in a speech to Congress.)

Whew! That was an honest day’s work for Mr. Kessler.I guess that’s one job the Republicans can take credit for.

Now, before someone accuses me of working for the DNC, I will share a fact check on Obama.

“We said working folks deserved a break, so within one month of me taking office, we signed into law the biggest middle-class tax cut in history, putting more money into your pockets.” — President Obama, Sept. 5, 2011

(John F. Kennedy seems to win the prize for biggest tax cut, at least in the last half century. Obama’s claim of having passed the “biggest middle-class tax cut in history” is ridiculous. He might have been on more solid ground if he had claimed the “broadest” tax cut, but that doesn’t sound very historic.)

And in even more fairness to Republicans I’ll point out something Eric Cantor said that was actually respectable.

He noted Americans, "have lost a lot of confidence in Washington and while they are going through such tough times they're frankly sick of the rancor in this town."

And regarding moving forward on Obama’s jobs initiative to be presented this week, "We've got to focus on areas of commonality, try and transcend differences here. I think we need to build consensus and that's going to require us all not to impugn motives or to question patriotism."

How about that? Of course, these are mere words... from a politician.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Who's Fault?

There’s no doubt there’s a fiscal mess that is suffocating the process and functions of our federal government. There’s also no doubt the economy has taken a dive when it comes to jobs and our standard of living.

Unfortunately that may be the only point of agreement Americans can find. That may prove tragic, for one party absolutely refuses to compromise on finding solutions.

The debt has been politicized by the Right, allowing them to manufacture and define a “crisis” to implement their radical agenda. Remember when Cheney said, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter”? My, how things change when Republicans are out of the White House.

Now it’s all Obama’s fault, along with those liberals who’ve had so much unchecked power over Wall Street and multinational corporations. They’re the ones who did it. Just ask a Republican.

What happens when you ask a Democrat?

Asked by radio host Tom Joyner about the current state of the struggling economy, Obama replied: “George Bush left us a $1 trillion deficit, and so it’s a lot harder to climb out of this hole when we don’t have a lot of money in the federal coffers.”

That was understating the situation. Bush left us multiple catastrophes of war, recession, torture, and the destruction of our Bill of Rights with unchecked warrantless surveillance.

The Washington Post branch of corporate media said Obama was “playing the blame game”. Yes, That's what it is to them, a game. Nothing real, no substance here, as they get all excited about a dozen tea cult members carrying signs. Now THAT would be news.

What happens when you ask the American people about who’s to blame?

In a recent AP survey, 51 percent said that Bush deserved “almost all” or “a lot but not all” of the blame for the “country’s current economic problems”. Just 31 percent said the same of Obama.

The poll also shows:

Regardless of how you might vote, do you think President Barak Obama…

Deserves to be re-elected:
November 2010: 39%
August 2011: 47%

Deserves to be voted out of office:
November 2010: 54%
August 2011: 48%

This poll is yet another example reflecting why Republicans really dislike democracy. They want to blame Obama for the mess, and want him to fail in repairing the damage. They don’t want the people’s voices to be heard in government policy, especially when the majority wants the old tax rates restored on the rich. It conflicts with the demands of Big Money.

The Right’s campaign for the destruction of the US government as an entity of, by and for the people through “starving the beast” is proceeding as planned. Debt and deficit are the tools they deliberately use for this purpose. That’s why they always jack up the debt and then scream about it when they’re out of the White House. It’s an old pattern that cannot be denied, except, of course, by the fanatical Right.

The conflict is between Corporatist Republicanism and Democracy. Corporatist Republicanism has been gaining for over three decades and Corporatocracy has never been stronger.

Democracy is losing. People who need jobs are losing.

Obama will make a speech on jobs next week. Will it be more than just words? If he expects Republican cooperation in a jobs program it will not happen.

Because Democracy is losing, Obama may lose too, unless he can find the nerve to actually oppose Corporatist Republicanism. He still has the people behind him if he cares to lead.