Tuesday, December 27, 2005


The Oakland Tribune wants your old copy of 1984.

Or, more specifically, they want to let Congress know that we're there already.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Total Information Awareness reborn

I was planning on writing about something else today, but I can't keep away from new developments in today's Times. As revealed this morning, the Bush Administration's illegal plan of spying on Americans is much larger than the White House has acknowledged. Specifically, the plan involved wholesale data mining of telecommunications traffic, including getting the cooperation of major telecom carriers to give the government access to their switches, huge computers that route voice and data signals through the system.

As the Times points out, this program recalls the idea, cooked up by Iran-Contra felon John Poindexter known as Total Information Awareness. The Times story says that Total Information Awareness was ultimately scrapped after public outcries over possible threats to privacy and civil liberties, but given these new revelations it's hard to feel that the American people are particularly secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Quill and Touissaint

I don't mean to express too strong a criticism of the Transport Workers Union in their decision to go back to work today. It seems pretty clear that they didn't have the support of the public, and that they were facing some pretty draconian penalties for staying on strike.

On the other hand, their casus belli was a strong one, and their president made a very strong point in adverting to the irony of billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg calling them greedy.

Still, it was good to see them take their stand, and to show that they know the lesson that
Mike Quill
knew: the workers have never gotten anything without a fight, and never will.

It's a lesson we should all remember. Everybody I know is pissed off at George Bush, and outraged at what he has done. Unfortunately, I don't know that many people who are doing anything about it.

Let's get to work.

Impeachment, anyone?

I suppose it's too much to claim that I started it, or even that one almost invisible blog and one story in a generally liberal publication constitute a groundswell, but according to this article in today's Salon.com there does seem to be a growing trend of politicians and legal scholars talking about impeachment for the most recent revelations of Bush's criminality. As John Dean, who knows something about impeachable offenses from the inside, points out in the article, Bush appears to be the first President to ever admit to committing impeachable offenses.

The story also points out that the legal question is just about irrelevant without the political will to carry it out, which makes me think that it is important to start talking it up to our elected representatives every chance we get.

Bush's impeachable offense

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Does the Congress dare act as though the law means what it says?

The White House, with the aid of its ever-compliant former lawyer, John Yoo, claims that the president has the inherent power to do anything it wants, with no other agency of government having any authority or power to stop it.

Perhaps they're overlooking the terms of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which specifically says:

50 U.S.C.A. § 1809

>>§ 1809. Criminal sanctions
(a) Prohibited activities

A person is guilty of an offense if he intentionally--

(1) engages in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute; or
(2) discloses or uses information obtained under color of law by electronic surveillance, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through electronic surveillance not authorized by statute.

You'll note that there is nothing in there that exempts the president.

Are they also overlooking this important principle of the U.S. Constitution:

U.S. Constitution
Article II, Section 4

The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

Does Congress remember that that provision is there?

And one more question: since Bush claims to have unlimited power, if he were impeached and convicted, would he leave office?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Has Democracy Outlived its Usefulness?

The Declaration of Independence is a document rarely referred to these days. We should all remember it for its central principle: governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. In its time this was a truly radical proposition: no divine right of kings, no legitimacy for inherited power, no legitimacy for any kind of monarchy, theocracy, strongman, despot, or dictatorship, even a dictatorship of the proletariat. At the time these words were written, there was no government on earth that could claim legitimacy under this standard, and even today, there are many which cannot.

We’ve been taught that things are different here, but one must wonder if it is true. Just in the last week we have had the following revelations:

The Bush Administration has been paying journalists in Iraq to publish newspaper stories favorable to U.S. policy.

The Defense Intelligence Agency was tracking the movements and activities of peaceful antiwar groups within the United States.

President Bush has for years authorized the National Security Agency to spy on Americans, secretly recording their telephone calls without warrant or other legal authorization.

The President and John McCain agree on new legislation that prohibits American forces from engaging in torture, but retaining a defense for obeying orders.

President Bush, and his former lawyer, John Yoo, have taken the position that there are essentially no limits on the power of the president, including his ability to order secret wiretaps and torture, regardless of what the law says.

So we now live in a country where the government feels free to lie to us, or to anyone else in the world; to spy on its own citizens; and to do whatever it wants, even if it violates the law.

If the government no longer must follow the law, is that democracy?

If the government may lie to the people about its goals, motives, and actions, is that democracy?

If the government can spy on its citizens who oppose it, is that democracy?

Which brings me to the question: has democracy outlived its usefulness?

And if not, what are we going to do about it?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Here's what we've been saying all along!

Did you read the Times today? If you've been following the war news you know that the government has finally admitted that much of the information they got to drag us into war was false, and that they knew it came from a source the Pentagon considered unreliable. So far no surprise, right?

Well guess what: it turns out that the reason our unreliable source, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi made up his stories about connections between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein was that he was in Egypt being tortured, and he told them what they wanted him to say to get them to stop.

This raises a couple of questions:

1. What does this do to the "ticking time bomb" scenario?

2. (This is the one that I've never understood.) How does this help the torturers? They will say that they are trying to get information, but they obviously don't care if they get true information. For instance, back when the English were torturing innocent Irishment to get them to confess to bombings they didn't do, by getting false confessions they got a conviction, but they didn't get the people who actually planted the bomb. Wouldn't you think they'd be interested in finding those people?

Thanks, we needed that.

Harold Pinter was just awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, which entitles him to give an address that will be picked up in major media outlets around the world. What he said in his address yesterday was something we especially need to hear here in the United States.

The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

Pinter makes clear that it's not just Bush. This has been going on for years, and Bush is absolutely the political and moral heir of Ronald Reagan, the so-called "Great Communicator". It is no coincidence that their second terms are marked by similar scandals: lies about foreign policy, violations of international law, and contempt for the democratic processes in this, the homeland of self-rule.

Read all of Pinter's speech here:
Art, truth and politics

I'm new around here

I don't know how many times a day I come across something in the news and my reaction is, "What were they thinking?" or "Shouldn't this have been obvious?" or, most frequently, "How could we really have three more years of this guy to deal with?"

The Republican regime repeatedly shows us not to underestimate the malice and mendacity of our fellow man. Every day, and I mean that almost literally, they show us that there is no end to the outrages, no lie so bizarre, no indecency to which they will not stoop. As they continue to demonstrate in their political appointments, their barrel has no bottom.

In this blog I intend to share with you some of my thoughts of what's going wrong, and hopefully some ideas on what to do about it. I'll even try to keep my eyes open for some things that are going right.

I hope you'll join me.