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2008 Reasons to Elect a Progressive President
Vote Democrat 2008
- The progressive approach to defending freedom is the only approach that is both consistent and
coherent. Our right wing government tells us that we need to sacrifice freedom in order to defend freedom.
Progressives remember that the only way to defend freedom is to preserve it, even when we feel
- In January 2005, over 3,500 military veterans and members of military families signed
and submitted a letter to the United States government expressing grave concerns about the nomination of
Alberto Gonzales to become the next United States Attorney General. The letter calls attention to Mr.
Gonzales's history of encouraging the torture of prisoners and opposing adherence to the Geneva
Conventions by American soldiers.
What did the government do in response to this letter? They ignored
it. The White House kept pushing for Alberto Gonzales to be made the next Attorney General of the United
States, and the Republicans in the U.S. Senate, with the help of some of their Democratic colleagues, went
ahead and confirmed him anyway. (Source: Stars and Stripes, January 6, 2005)
- Progressives trust
freedom. Right wingers don't. When faced with a crisis, our right wing government regards freedom as an
impediment and a weakness. When progressives deal with challenges, we regard freedom as a
- In early 2005, just before the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of
the United States, it was well known that Alberto Gonzales crafted a memorandum for George W. Bush that
defends the use of torture by the American government and dismisses the Geneva Conventions "outdated"
and "quaint". What was less well known is that there were more memos written by Gonzales, encouraging the
Bush Administration to engage in the torture of its prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and
perhaps even in domestic prisons run by the Department of Homeland Security. If such memos were made
public, George W. Bush would be exposed as a criminal. After all, it is illegal for anyone in the government,
including the President of the United States, to engage in or order others to engage in acts of torture.
predictably, the Bush Administration stonewalled. Members of the United States Senate requested the
Gonzales torture memos, but George W. Bush refused to allow Senators to see them. Bush cited "longstanding
practice" as his excuse for keeping the memos secret from everybody outside the White House. Of course, this
excuse really only meant that Bush kept the memos secret because he has made it a longstanding practice to
keep secrets from the American people.
It is not only the right of members of the Senate to have
access to these documents, it is their responsibility to review them. The U.S. Senate is constitutionally bound
to review and approve the President's appointments. When the President refused to hand over the Gonzales
documents, the Senate became unable to perform its duty with responsibility, and was made into little more
than a rubber stamp for the President.
Of course, Republicans insisted that the secrecy was no big
deal. They asked us to trust that George W. Bush and Alberto Gonzales had nothing to hide. Years later now,
we all know that Alberto Gonzales and George W. Bush had plenty to hide. (Source: Associated Press, January 3, 2005)
- When the Libyan Ambassador to the United States was asked on a radio show how he could justify his nation's poor human rights record. He didn't answer the question. Instead, he simply replied, "Well, your nation has Guantanamo, so I don't know why you are even asking me that question." We'll hear that line over and over and over and over again, short-circuiting attempts at legitimate progress. (Source: The Connection, May 20, 2005)
- Those of us who are old enough to remember the Cold War with some clarity will recall that one of the
things we were all told was really terrible about living in the Soviet Union was that you couldn't go anywhere
without being watched. The Soviets had worked out a nasty system in which neighbors spied on neighbors,
and reported any suspicious behavior to the authorities in the Kremlin. It would be awful to live under the
prying eyes of such a government, we were told. We were lucky that no one would ever do such a thing in
America, the land of the free.
I learned that times have changed when I found out about an Air Force program that reminds me of the
old Soviet system of neighbors spying on neighbors. It's called the Eagle Eyes Program. Who's supposed to
have the eagle eyes? Surprise! It's you.
The Eagle Eyes program has set up local telephone numbers across America, so that Americans can inform
on their neighors' "suspicious activity" without even bothering to work up a long distance telephone charge.
The local reports are then funnelled automatically to the Kremlin, I mean Pentagon, where they are entered
into a gigantic database that the military keeps in a top secret room, in computers full of records of
the "suspicious" activities of American citizens.
The Eagle Eyes reporting system is operational 24 hours a day, so that people can peek through the hedges
and make reports on people in their communities even in the dead of night. That way, you never know when
someone might be watching you.
In this Air Force citizen informant system, you can never be sure who is watching you, either. The Eagle
Eyes system even solicits snooping by little children - encouraging entire American families to become
What kind of "suspicious activity" does the Eagle Eyes citizen spying program tell its participants to be on
the lookout for? Well, imminent terrorist attacks are, of course, on the watch list. There are other items in the
Eagle Eyes description of "suspicious activities that warrant reporting". Among these is the observation of
a "people who don't seem to belong" in a particular neighborhood.
When did it become the business of the government when American citizens visit neighborhoods where
they "don't seem to belong"? Are white suburbanites supposed to make government reports when black
people show up in their neighborhoods? What about when working class people show up in an upper middle
class shopping district? Is that a threat to the Homeland as well? How about an anti-war demonstration that
marches past the watchful gaze of an Eagle Eye recruit? Under the Eagle Eyes neighborhood espionage
program, the military is asking citizens to become government informants to report on these kinds of lawful,
peaceful activities. In this new system, stepping out of line and defying the expectations of the conservative
society makes one a terrorist suspect.
The Eagle Eyes program hasn't gotten very much attention. It was introduced last year just as the
Presidential election grabbed most people's attention, and it slipped into our daily lives without being widely
reported in the press.
The Bush Administration had tried to implement a similar program a couple of years before, known as
Operation TIPS, but public attention forced the Republicans in government to abandon that particular
neighborhood civilian spying program. Indeed, most of the elements of the Total Information Awareness
system are still in place today, but under a different name. The Bush Administration seems to have learned
that it can get away with spying on and keeping records about American citizens' lawful activities, so long as it
does so without letting the press get wind of the activities. When one domestic surveillance program is
exposed, it is officially dismantled while its operations are merely shifted over to another office, under
As it is, the John Kerry campaign didn't even try to talk about government programs to spy on American
citizens and collect information about them. It simply never was brought up as a campaign issue. So, the Bush
Administration was given a free pass to develop and implement its programs to watch what we do in our
The issues at stake could not be more vital. It isn't just a matter of privacy, or the integrity of the
constitutional protection from unreasonable search and seizure. The Eagle Eyes program unlawfully blends
the military intelligence activities of the Air Force with what ought to be domestic law enforcement. So, the
Air Force watches all of us as if we are all potential "enemy combatants" - a frightening thought given the
Bush Administration's willingness to take even American citizens into indefinite imprisonment without trial
or access to lawyers. It's plainly against the law for the military to take over domestic law enforcement duties,
but that's what's happening as part of a larger trend of increasing military power over civilian life.
Programs that encourage neighbors to spy on one another also degrade the trust that serves as the
foundation of healthy American neighborhoods. When the government recruits Americans to make reports on
the people in their communities, it breaks down the structures that make our society work. It makes people
afraid to say or do anything out of fear that what they say and what they do might go into some kind of
government file that is being kept on them. Freedom and democracy cannot survive long under such
That's what the KGB was counting on. The persistence of the Bush Administration in developing and
implementing programs of this sort make me worry that the people in the White House have something
similar in mind.
The motto of the Eagle Eyes program is "Watch. Report. Protect." The funny thing is, with my neighbors
watching me and informing on me to the government, I don't feel very well protected at all. (Source:
Working For Change, January 31, 2005)
- In May 2005, the Pentagon responded to allegations that it had flushed a prisoner's Koran down the toilet at Guantanamo as a part of an interrogation by saying that there was no evidence that any such thing had ever happened. Newsweek was accused of making the whole story up. Then, evidence came out that it was, in fact, the Pentagon that had made its story up. The Pentagon knew about the Koran-flushing incident all along, but allowed the American public to believe that nothing had ever happened, and it was the media that had the problem with truth. (Source: Newsweek, May 25, 2005)
- Progressives understand that basic rights like the freedom from self-incrimination and the right to a fair
and speedy trial are necessary because prosecutors and the politicians who back them often make grave
mistakes. For instance, back in 2004, after the bombing of trains in Madrid, the Justice Department took
Brandon Mayfield, a Muslim lawyer from Oregon, prisoner for two weeks. The Justice Department publicly
accused Mayfield of having left a fingerprint on a bag of detonators, even thought the Spanish police
informed the FBI that they had found a closer fingerprint match from an Algerian man suspected in the case.
The FBI admits that it willfully ignored that evidence because its investigators were convinced that
Brandon Mayfield was guilty. That admission only came, however, with extreme public pressure on the FBI.
These days, right wingers seem to believe that if someone is accused of connection to terrorism, the
investigators and prosecutors could not have made a mistake. Progressives know better, and that's one
important reason to elect a progressive President in 2008. (Source: Los Angeles Times, November 29, 2006)
- Progressives support freedom of religion for everyone, everywhere. Right wingers support the creation
of theocracies in foreign countries.
Consider what the right wingers worked to achieve for religion in
Iraq. Right wingers in the American government have hailed the new, post-invasion Iraqi constitution as a
great achievement, but Section A of Article 2 of that constitution reads: "No law can be passed that
contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam."
The Iraqi constitution sets the rules of Islam as a
source of law that is above all other law. That makes Iraq a theocracy. American right wingers think that's a
great idea. Progressives, on the other hand, think it is a tragedy for American soldiers to fight in order to
defend a government that does not allow for religious freedom. (Source: Inter Press Service, December 5,
- A group of former prisoners at the American military base at Guantanamo Bay has made a new series of
allegations of torture by agents of the American government there. The former prisoners, now in the UK,
confirm allegations made from other sources, such as prolonged severe beatings, freezings, lengthy exposure
to extreme heat, and being shackled to the floor for extended periods of time, sitting in their own wastes.
However, the group also gives descriptions of new kinds of torture, such as:
- anal rape and other sexual violations
- parades of naked prisoners, with prison
guards taking photographs
- showing videotapes of some prisoners forced to "sodomize" other prisoners,
along with threats to make the viewers perform the same acts
It has already been reported that
female American interogators at the prison at Guantanamo would remove their shirts, expose their breasts to
prisoners, and grope prisoners' genitals. This may sound like fun to an American man, but to a devout muslim
man, such treatment is a painful form of sexual humiliation.
These new allegations link the prison at
Guantanamo Bay to the sexual torture that has been shown in photographs and videotapes from the American-
run prison of Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Most tellingly, the Bush Administration directed the administrator of the
Guantanamo Bay prison to be sent to run the Abu Ghraib prison after FBI agents sent allegations of torture to
their superiors in the Bush Administration. (Source: Al
Bawaba, January 2, 2005)
- 19 year-old Steven Gerner was prevented from attending a taxpayer-funded "town hall" meeting with George W. Bush this week at the Tucson Convention Center, even though he had a legitimate ticket to the "town hall," was waiting in an orderly manner in line, and had no disruptive intentions.
Why's that? Well, you see, he was a "potential threat."
What made him a "potential threat?" He was wearing a t-shirt that said "Young Democrats" on it.
Apparently now considered threatening to Homeland Security just to be a Democrat. (Source: Tucson Citizen, May, 2005)
- In his public speeches, George W. Bush has assured us, again and again, that he will make sure that the
horrors of the American-run Abu Ghraib prison will not be repeated.
Yet, in Bush's less public actions, he
continues to push and push for more torture.
President Bush's clear preference for torture was made
plain in early 2005, as he made a personal intervention in Congress to persuade members of the Republican
congressional leadership to kill provisions of a new law that would have specifically outlawed CIA agents
from torturing prisoners. The law would also have required the CIA to make reports to Congress about the
methods of interrogation that the CIA is using against prisoners.
The obvious question is this: If
President Bush truly opposes the use of torture, why did he personally intervene to stop a new law that would
have outlawed torture?
The equally obvious follow-up question occurs to me: If President Bush truly
wants to stop all the 'bad apples" from using torture, why is he enabling torture by preventing Congress from
knowing more about the techniques currently used by CIA agents in American prisons?
are as painfully obvious as the questions. Bush knows that torture is going on, and his action to block the new
anti-torture law is a clear demonstration that he wants the torture to continue - out of the public eye.
Bush's action to protect the ability of the CIA to torture at the same time that a low-ranking Army
reservist was made the patsy ringleader of the Abu Ghraib torture caught in photographs. Repeated
testimony that intelligence officers ordered the torture have been ignored. No senior officers in the military
or intelligence agencies have been court martialed or subjected to civilian trial for their crimes. They have
been left to continue their dirty work, with new subordinates underneath them ready to take orders.
The signal sent by President Bush is clear: As far as Bush is concerned, torture is not a crime, but getting
caught taking photographs of the torture is.
Bush is wrong on both counts. In spite of Bush's move to
block new anti-torture legislation, the plain fact is that it is a crime against both international law and
American law for anyone working for the federal government, from the President all the way down to new
recruits in the military, to either conduct torture or order torture to take place. Taking photographs that
document illegal torture is not a crime. Taking those photographs is a brave act of service to the rule of law.
Let us hope that low-ranking whistleblowers continue to demonstrate the allegiance to the rule of law
that President Bush has so casually dismissed. (Source: International Herald Tribune, January 14, 2005)
The New York Times reported on January 14, 2007 that the United
States Military - which is supposed to be engaged in operations to defend the country from outside aggression
- is watching innocent American citizens' behavior, and keeping records.
That's right. The U.S.
Military is tracking American citizens, right now.
The CIA, assigned the task of surveillance of
foreign targets, is also tracking American citizens, right now.
No warrants are just involved, just
letters that the Military and CIA write themselves to give themselves the appearance of legitimate
The variety of information the NY Times found out about is financial - how much money
you have, and how you're spending it. What do the Military and CIA do when they collect this personal
information regarding citizens? Read the article for the full story; here's a telling excerpt:
Usually, the financial documents collected through the letters do not establish any links to
espionage or terrorism and have seldom led to criminal charges, military officials say. Instead, the letters
often help eliminate suspects.
"We may find out this person has unexplained wealth for
reasons that have nothing to do with being a spy, in which case we'e out of it," said Thomas A.
Gandy, a senior Army counterintelligence official.
But even when the initial suspicions are
unproven, the documents have intelligence value, military officials say. In the next year, they plan to
incorporate the records into a database at the Counterintelligence Field Activity office at the Pentagon to
track possible threats against the military, Pentagon officials said. Like others interviewed, they would speak
only on the condition of anonymity.
Read between the lines. No, no, in this case just re-
read the lines themselves:
1. The Military is looking into the personal records of people who become
suspects because they have money, not who become suspects because there is evidence of any link to
terrorism. Of course, this presupposes that the Military has financial records of Americans in general in the
first place to search through for such wealth. If you get money, you're a "suspect."
2. Even if you turn
out to have no connection to terrorism, the Military still keeps that information on your personal business,
and has no inclination to give it back, ever.
All this without so much as a warrant.
there's this little thing called the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which is the
supreme law of the land. It reads:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons,
houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants
shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place
to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Lately, the Constitution is being
treated as if it were an inconvenient set of suggestions. That's in the passive voice, but it isn't a passive
phenomenon. It's an activity carried out under the aegis of the Bush administration. A good progressive
president would never let this sort of activity go on without constitutional checks and balances.
(Source: New York Times, January 14, 2007)
- I woke up on the morning of May 23, 2005 to see a photograph of a Republican's protest sign in the newspaper. The sign read, "Newsweek deserves to be banned."
I never thought that I would live to see the day when a significant element of America's ruling party would be calling for the banning of publications that dare to question the actions of the government. Yet, that day has come. (Source: Washington Post, May 23, 2005)
- You have good reason to worry when it turns out
that the U.S. military is tracking collecting personal information on American citizens without a warrant, in
clear violation of the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution. It turns out that some people in
charge of the American military are showing a shocking ignorance of the American system of law and an
arrogance about the military's place in that system of law.
Exhibit A: Charles D. Stimson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of
Defense. Stimson publicly expressed his disapproval of the lawyers who represent the people in the extra-
legal Guantanamo Bay Detention center, held for years without charges being filed. Then he suggested that
major American corporations should cease to hire lawyers from legal firms whose partners represent
This man who holds a leadership role over the U.S. military is a lawyer himself, so if he
paid any attention in law school whatsoever he should know that it is lawyers' responsibility to represent
clients and ensure their fair treatment under the American legal system. The law, legal rights and legal
representation are for everybody under United States jurisdiction, not just the people Stimson likes. The 6th Amendment to the
Constitution says so.
Either Stimson hasn't read the Constitution- in which case he doesn't belong
in government - or he has read the Constitution and just doesn't care. Ignorance or arrogance? Whichever it
might be, it can't be good that this man is a leader with authority over the same military that spies upon
Stimson is a Republican Bush appointee. It's time to clean house, and the best way
to do that is to clean out the White House in 2008.
(Source: New York Times, January 13, 2007)
- The America Civil Liberties Union has discovered that the Pentagon
(not even counting the FBI, CIA, NSA, Homeland Security or other spy agencies) has records of spying on
peaceful, law-abiding American citizens 2,821 times over the last few years. The White Hosue has defended
the program, saying that it is necessary for the government to spy on American citizens in order to protect
American soldiers from terrorist attacks in United States.
How many terrorist attacks have there been in
the United States in the last five years? Zero.
That's an awfully big sacrifice of freedom without any
sign of serious need. The ratio of spying incidents to recent terrorist attacks is 2,821 to 0.
That kind of
record is worse than failure. It is blatant, needless abuse of power. Our next President should seek to protect
the freedom of ordinary citizens, not the powers of government operatives. (Sources: Washington Post,
January 17, 2007; ACLU report, January 17, 2007)
- Back in 2004, John Kerry explained his vision for running for President by saying, "I believe America's best days are ahead of us because I believe that the future belongs to freedom, not to fear." Progressives voted for that vision of freedom above fear. Right wingers, on the other hand, warned everyone to keep on paying attention to their fear, just in case there was someone out to get them.
- Under the right wing Bush Administration, it's likely that the FBI has been watching and collecting
information about your online activities, even if you're not suspected of any crime. According to a report
published in the increasingly consequential CNet news service,
The FBI appears to have adopted
an invasive Internet surveillance technique that collects far more data on innocent Americans than previously
has been disclosed.
Instead of recording only what a particular suspect is doing, agents conducting
investigations appear to be assembling the activities of thousands of Internet users at a time into massive
databases, according to current and former officials. That database can subsequently be queried for names, e-
mail addresses or keywords.
The report goes on to detail the manner in which the FBI is
collecting broad swaths of information on the online activities of innocent people, and then doing keyword
searches to find evidence of nefarious intent. Because warrants related to these database activities are issued
only for suspects, and not for the broader set of citizens involved, these end up being searches of innocent
citizens' "papers and effects" without a warrant.
What's the problem? The problem is that sort of
activity is in clear violation of the 4th amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
The right of
the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and
seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The FBI wants you to ignore this activity -- that's why they've changed the name of their
program from the scary sounding "Carnivore" to "DCS1000" to ... well, we don't even know what the
name of this latest program is.
Will you do what the FBI wants, and simply ignore this threat to your
In case you didn't know, the FBI is a subsidiary of the Bush administration, through the U.S.
Department of Justice. But the Democratic party, dominated by "practical" politicians and not by liberals and
progressives as FOX News would have you suppose, looks to do little or nothing about the Bush
administration's unconstitutional practice through the FBI. That's why it's less important to vote for a
Democratic presidential candidate in 2008 than it is to vote for a candidate that makes a specific
commitment to liberal and progressive values -- which include taking the Constitution more seriously than a
piece of useful toilet paper. (Source: CNET News, January 30, 2007)
- The abuses of the Department of Homeland Security and its affiliated programs of surveillance throughout the federal government have added new meaning to the declaration by Tennessee Williams that "Security is a kind of death."
- March 10, 2005, the Bush Administration announced that it is withdrawing the United States of America from the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. This protocol is an important international treaty that gives citizens from participating nations the right to meet with diplomatic representatives of their own governments whenever they are imprisoned in foreign countries.
The result that the Bush Administration wants the American public to focus on is this: Foreigners who are imprisoned while within the United States will no longer have the right to meet with diplomats from their home countries. Apparently, President Bush and his Republican supporters believe that this kind of move sends a get-tough message to all foreigners who might want to make trouble while in the United States.
It is particularly disturbing that this move comes just a week after it was revealed that the Bush Administration has rounded up hundreds of people in America, imprisoned them without charge, and sent them to third countries in order to be tortured. With the Bush Administration's new abandonment of the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, foreign governments will no have no legal ability to detect this kind of illegal torture and extradition by the United States government. Once a person is taken prisoner by the United States government, that person will to all practical effect become invisible to anyone but the American agents holding him or her prisoner. Such a lack of oversight seems designed to enable more torture to occur without any foreign interference.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that the majority of Americans really don't care whether their government tortures its prisoners. However, what the Bush Administration doesn't want Americans to think about is that the American withdrawal from the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations also makes American citizens themselves vulnerable to improper imprisonment, torture, and any other imaginable abuse by foreign governments.
You see, international treaties like the protocol that the Bush Administration renounced today work both ways. Not only did the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations protect foreigners travelling within the United States and Americans travelling within foreign countries.
So, because of the Bush Administration's action, if you are travelling abroad and are put in prison by the government of the nation you are visiting, you no longer have a right to meet with a diplomatic representative of the United States. That means that you can be imprisoned, tortured, sent through a kangaroo court, and even executed, and at no point along the way will you have the right to meet with an American diplomat to ask for help or even get a message back to your family. Just as foreigners within the United States have begun to mysteriously disappear, you too might disappear, and no one in the American government will be able to do anything about it.
This increased vulnerability of American travellers comes as a result of the Bush Administration's desire to continue holding prisoners outside of all legal bounds. Because President Bush is so eager to continue the torture of foreign prisoners, Americans have now become more vulnerable to torture themselves.
Bush's Homeland Security apparatus is increasingly making Americans less secure. Instead of protecting our freedom, the Homeland Security schemes of our Republican rulers are restricting what Americans are able to do. By undermining international law in his quest for power, President Bush makes all Americans easy prey for despots around the world. From today forward, any American citizen who wishes to travel beyond the borders of the United States will be putting their liberty, and their lives, at risk.
- What is Illegal for Americans in Cuba:
It is illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba without
the permission of the United States federal government. It is also illegal for Americans to engage in any kind
of commercial activity with Cuba. Even buying a Cuban cigar is strictly against the law.
Legal for Americans in Cuba:
Thanks to the Military Commissions Act, it is now legal for Americans working for their
government to kidnap people off the streets and fly them against their will to Cuba, where they can be
imprisoned and tortured for the rest of their life without any trial or right to file a writ of habeas corpus. It is
also legal for Americans in Cuba to put their prisoners on trial in a kangaroo court that violates the most basic
legal rights recognized by civilized nations.
Right wingers say that the legalization of private travel
of American citizens to Cuba is completely unacceptable. On the other hand, the same right wingers say that it
is perfectly acceptable to allow Americans to transport, imprison, and torture people in Cuba.
progressives recognize the insanity inherent to this double standard. Right wingers think it makes perfect
sense. Which philosophy would you rather see in action in the White House?
- Back in 2005, when challenged on the constitutionality of the USA Patriot Act, George W. Bush
retorted, "Stop throwing the Constitution in my face. It's just a goddamned piece of paper!" Without that
God-damned piece of paper, the presidency doesn't even exist. Our next president needs to remember that.
(Source: Capitol Hill Blue December 5, 2005)
- Through 2005, George W. Bush went travelling the country "asking advice" on Social Security - by speaking to halls packed with Republican supporters trucked in by local GOP organizations and asking pre-scripted questions to people up on stage with him who have been hand-picked to provide Bush with the exact talking points that he needs to make his standard sales pitch. Bush called these "town hall meetings" - a strange twist on the original idea that all citizens in a communty could come together to discuss important issues.
Well, at one of these Social Security public meetings, three non-Republicans decided to show up, just to hear what the President had to say. Unfortunately, they never had the chance to find out. They were forcibly thrown out of the meeting before it ever started, by Republican Party official.
Why? The three ejected citizens weren't causing any disruption. They were just sitting still in their seats, waiting like everyone else. In fact, the three were invited to attend by Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez. The reason they were thrown out is that they had been tracked down and observed to have driven to the meeting in a car with a bumper sticker, one of the ones that we sell at Irregular Times, reading "No More Blood for Oil".
Apparently, the local Republican Party had been tracking these people, watching them as they came to the meeting. The Republicans in the area hosting the event seem to have set up surveillance stations near the event to identify dissidents and prevent them from participating.
So, at Bush's Social Security meeting, everything went just as the Republicans had planned. President Bush heard plenty of advice - from a hall full of people who had been screened to ensure that they agreed with the opinions that the President had already formed.
You shouldn't have to be an opponent of George W. Bush to be concerned about these Republican Party tactics of censoring the opinions heard by the President of the United States. Anyone who is concerned about the health of the American nation ought to want America's leaders to hear a variety of good ideas, and promote an open public debate. When we have a President who proudly admits that he doesn't even read the morning newspaper, it is especially important that the full range of the American people have the ability to participate meaningly in public policy discussions organized by the White House.
Yet, Republicans seem to approve of their political party's efforts to prevent anyone but strict party loyalists from participating in these fraudulent "town meetings". The White House Press Secretary, Scott McClellan, has issued a statement in which he essentially argues that the incident was no big deal. "There is plenty of opportunity outside of the event to express their views," McClellan said.
The obvious problem is that people from the Bush White House do not solicit citizens' views outside of these fake town hall meetings. The President has constructed an airtight bubble of silence around him and his closest advisors. Over time, the lack of fresh air has resulted in an extreme atrophy of an ability to recognize significant dissent when it exists.
American progressives are faced with two choices. Either they can try to assimilate, and gain a voice in the public debate by hiding their opposition to Republican policies, or they can work outside the rigged system of Republican pre-scripted public meetings and speak independently, with their own true voices. The progressives who were pushed out the door by Bush's henchmen were trying to do both, but it's become quite clear that the Republicans have no intention of allowing anyone but their own followers to have a voice in government. Similar incidents of censorship and expulsion are reported at meetings wherever George W. Bush and top White House staff members go.
- If ever there were a person who was justified in the acceptance of security established by others through the sacrifice of freedom, it was Helen Keller. Yet, Keller was too independent, and too much of a lover of freedom, to accept such sacrifice. She advised others, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure." If Helen Keller could refuse the deal of surrendering freedom in return for the promise of security, so can we.
- "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." George W. Bush,
December 18, 2000
- The tongues wagged with the veneer of outrage: Ann Coulter called John Edwards a faggot! Who would
have thought we would have heard such a thing? It's just shocking, TV news anchors cried.
But no, it's not shocking, and that's the really sad part. Anybody who has grown up in a part of the country
dominated by Republicans knows that the word "faggot" is used early and often, and not in the hip, ironic, and
postmodern way you might hear the word said in Manhattan. Ann Coulter is using this word because she
depends on liberals to be shocked and upset by it, sure, but also because it sounds familiar, comfortable and
legitimate to a significant part of the country. News flash, people: Most Republicans Don't Like Gay People!
And I'm not just whistling Dixie here: I'm talking about what Republicans say themselves. Only 9%-12% of
Republicans say that gays should be able to marry and have the same consequent legal rights as straight
people. 58% of Republicans oppose any legal status whatsoever for same-sex couples. 65% of conservatives
say they view gay men unfavorably, and 63% report unfavorable opinions of lesbians. In the latest available
General Social Survey, 65.9% of Independents who said they were closer to Republicans than Democrats,
57.1% of those who said they were Republicans but not strongly, and 69.9% of strongly-identified Republicans
reported that "sexual relations between two adults of the same sex" was "always wrong."
The focus I
see lately on getting people to stop using words -- "faggot," "nigger," "dyke," "traitor," "wetback," "bitch" -- is
mystifying to me. Why should Ann Coulter apologize for using a derogatory word to express venom against
the sort of person she despises? It is, for once, honest on her part, just like it was honest of Michael Richards to
express his venom against black people with the use of the word "nigger." What exactly will get fixed if
everybody masks their venom with nicey-nicey words? The only thing that will be addressed is our awareness
of what people really think about others in this nation, and that awareness will counterproductively decline.
Rather than focusing on the words people use, let's put our focus on what people believe, how they behave
toward one another, and how those beliefs and behaviors affect the safety and liberty of others around
It boils down to this: the problem isn't that Ann Coulter said "faggot." The problem is that Ann
Coulter and a majority of Republicans are in favor of laws that restrict the safety and liberty of their fellow
Americans. The solution is to make sure that such Republicans are put out of power, so their inclination to act
out against gays, lesbians, and other groups they don't happen to like remains purely personal. And that,
finally, is yet another reason why we need to support progressives and vote them into office. (Sources:
Reuters, March 4, 2007; Pew Research Center for People and the Press, November 18, 2003; Poll by Princeton
Survey Research Associates International. Oct. 26-27, 2006; General Social Survey)
- Self-expression is at the heart of New York City's identity - or rather, it was, until Michael Bloomberg plopped his well-tailored little seat in the mayor's chair.
Over the last few years, Bloomberg has become infamous for refusing to grant permits to large and important demonstrations. He banned a huge anti-war protest before the invasion of Iraq. He banned another huge protest during the time of the Republican Presidential convention. Then Bloomberg has banned yet another large protest, an anti-war protest scheduled for May 1st, 2005. Along the way, many smaller protests have been forbidden as well.
Michael Bloomberg says that protests are disruptive, and so it's better for New York City if they just don't occur at all. Imagine for a second what the implications of this are for New York City's identity. In this great center of American art and literature, only non-disruptive ideas are to be given special free-speech permits, doled out by Michael Bloomberg. Writing a book? Better check with Bloomberg's office first. Only non-disruptive themes are allowed. Creating a painting or sculpture? Stick to the still life of a bowl of fruit and the war hero on a horse. No disruptive art will be given a permit.
It's shameful to see that New York City is led by such a wimp. Yes, Michael Bloomberg is a wimp, afraid of allowing anybody to present an opinion in a strong voice. Bloomberg's New York City is a New York City full of Anne Geddes posters and Care Bears and little unicorn figurines, where the essential mature adult activity of open debate is not permitted.
- Alexander Dunlop, a native New Yorker, left his home to go out and get sushi - and got arrested by NYC police protecting the Republican presidential convention from peaceful protesters. Why?
Well, the police said that Alexander Dunlop was being violent and resisting arrest. However, it turns out that videotape that the police themselves submitted as evidence was fraudulently edited before it reached the courthouse. A complete version of the videotape that was found later does not show Dunlop engaged in any protest, much less any illegal acts, and it shows that when the police came to grab Dunlop off the sidewalk, he cooperated fully and in a peaceful manner. In fact, the police officer who claims to have arrested Dunlop is shown to have not even been there.
Consider what had to be done by the New York City Police in order for their documented false testimony in the Dunlop case to have been given:
1. New York City police officers grabbed an innocent man just walking down the sidewalk in his own home town and arrested him
2. The police officers who arrested him, and the four or five other police officers on the scene, would have had to agree to submit a false arrest report declaring that another officer, not even present, made the arrest
3. Another police officer, not on the scene, would have had to cooperated with the police officers on the scene to create the fraudulent arrest report, to certify that he was there and that he saw Alexander Dunlop breaking the law and violently resisting arrest
4. New York City police officers would have had to tamper with evidence, cooperating with each other and bringing in the people in charge of collecting, organizing and storing evidence, in order to edit out the parts of the videotape that exonerated Alexander Dunlop
5. All those New York City police officers would have then had to meet, and agree on the false testimony that would be given in court
Now consider that the Alexander Dunlop case is not an isolated incident. 400 other people arrested during the Republican presidential convention have been exonerated by videotape showing that police reports of their arrests were not truthful. So, that 5-step conspiracy between New York City police officers, to make false arrests and convictions, has been documented to have occurred hundreds of separate times during the Republican presidential convention.
Think now about the number of additional arrests that must have occured without being videotaped.
How is it possible that such consistent, widespread false arrests, withholding of evidence, and blatant perjury took place outside the Republican presidential convention without the knowledge of people high up in the New York City Police Department? Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that he was personally involved in the preparations for the police to deal with anti-Republicans protesters. Are we supposed to believe that he was not involved in the purposeful effort to throw innocent people in jail?
I find it ironic that not long before these massive false arrests outside the Republican national convention, the Republicans were running television ads insulting non-Republicans as "sushi-eating liberals". After making those ads, the Republicans came to the hometown of many liberals, and arrested Alexander Dunlop for doing nothing but trying to walk down the sidewalk to get some sushi for dinner. That's a perfect representation of what's gone wrong with the Republicans' creation of the Homeland in what used to just be called the United States of America.(Source: New York Times, April, 12, 2005)
- Over the last few years, we've done our best to follow the flood of information about the Bush
Administration's programs to spy on the private activities of American citizens using data mining techniques.
From the transfer of Total
Information Awareness into the National Security Agency under codenames like topsail and
basketball, through warrantless wiretape, seizures of massive amounts of cell phone and email records,
and even the systematic entry of innocent Americans' DNA into gigantic government databases, we have seen a
dramatic effort by the government to watch over the most personal aspects of Americans' lives. Thanks to
these secretive government programs, Americans can no longer assume that their postal mail, email, phone
calls, commercial activity, and other kinds of personal activity are at all private.
Through it all, there has
been almost no congressional oversight. In 2007, however, a few senators finally asked for that to change.
Two bills were been introduced that would force the White House to cooperate with efforts by Congress to
gain oversight of the growing network of government databases used to spy on Americans. The bills, S. 236
and S. 495 (entitled the Federal Agency Data Mining Reporting Act of 2007 and the Personal Data Privacy and
Security Act of 2007, respectively), were co-sponsored by a small group of senators: Federal Agency
Data Mining Reporting Act
Authored by Senator Russ Feingold
Senator Ben Cardin
Senator Edward Kennedy
Senator Patrick Leahy
Personal Data Privacy and Security Act
Authored by Senator Patrick
Senator Sherrod Brown
Senator Russ Feingold
Senator Charles Schumer
Senator Arlen Specter
The more observant among you
will notice something about the list of co-sponsors for these bills: Both bills had the co-sponsorship of a
Republican senator - John Sununu in the case of S. 236 and Arlen Specter in the case of S. 495. S. 495 also had
the support of an independent senator, Bernard Sanders.
However, not a single one of the four
Democratic senators who are running for President of the United States in 2008 co-sponsored either of these
Hillary Clinton did not given
her support to these bills. Neither did Barack
Obama. Senators Joseph Biden and Christopher Dodd did not offered their support
The upshot is that, although these four senators are running around America trying to
persuade Democrats that they will undo the Bush Administration's right wing agenda, they failed to do so in
their current jobs in the United States Senate. Even worse, they were been outperformed in this regard by two
Republican senators. Senators Sununu and Specter are more progressive in their action on government
surveillance databases than Senators Biden, Clinton, Dodd, and Obama.
This failure serves as yet
another reminder that progressive voters in 2008 need to refine their focus away from just electing a
Democrat instead of a Republican. The Democratic Party needs to be reformed, so that Democratic politicians
stop moving toward the right and failing to act against abusive Republican policies. We need to be
conscientious in distinguishing Democrat politicians who act progressively from those who fail to do so, and
vote accordingly in 2008. (Source: The Library of Congress)
- One day, I would like to be able to bury the dark joke that DARPA
(Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency) -- the Defense Department
unit that under the Bush administration introduced the Total
Information Awareness project to gather your banking, travel, eating,
reading, scholastic and veterinary habits into a government database
to predict and contain the emergence of enemies of the state -- has
- Republican politicians are extremely eager to please the Religious Right's desire to redefine what it means to be a traditional American, trying to convince people that being a Christian is an inherent part of being an American. America's regressive fundamentalists are fond of falsifying American history, claiming that the United States of America is a Christian nation, although our Constitution and laws clearly demonstrate that the United States of America is a secular nation, established with the idea that religion should remain private.
In truth, the fundamentalists of the Republican Party are seeking to go much further back in history than the founding of the United States of America. They seek to take America back to the Dark Ages from which the earliest European Americans fled. They want to take us back to the days of the Salem Witch Trials. When else, but in the dark colonial days of America, was there theocratic oppression of citizens of the kind that the right wing religious fringe seeks to install now?
It is a well established historical fact that many of the most prominent of America's founding fathers were openly distrustful of religious claims of authority. I'll provide one example today - an example that is not nearly as well known as it ought to be. It's from Thomas Jefferson, who wrote: "Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear."
What would Jefferson say now, upon seeing the Republican Party's attempts to destroy the separation of Church and State, and replace it with government programs based on nothing but faith?
- What the Homeland Security authoritarians have managed to
accomplish during their period of control over government is
disheartening, but what they have attempted to accomplish is downright
astonishing. Back in 2002, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah tried to push
through a legislative amendment that would have permitted any
government agencies to gain access to a citizen's communications
without any need for the communications to be reasonably related to
any imminent or future danger of any kind. This is what the
authoritarians in charge want: total access to all details of your
life, without a warrant, without a reason, backed up by law. In order
for members of government to do that now, they have to break the law,
and there are signs they've done just that. Let's keep it illegal.
Let's stymie the probes of the Hatches of the world. Let's vote them
out of office and replace them with progressive politicians who
respect Americans' right to keep their own business. (Source: The Nation, October 30, 2002)
- In 2006, many Americans assumed that, if
enough Democrats were elected to establish majority control over both houses of Congress, they would act to
promote a progressive agenda to counter the radical right wing politics of George W. Bush and the Republican
Party. Yet, so far, the Democratic Congress has failed to promote a strong progressive alternative to the right
Oh, there are progressive Democratic members of Congress. However, the progressives are
being thwarted by a portion of the Democratic Party that prefers to avoid dealing with the issues that matter
to progressives. What matters to these Democrats is gaining power for the Democratic Party. So, if they
believe that going along with the right wing agenda on an issue is what it takes to acquire more power, that's
what they'll do.
Consider the efforts of Russ Feingold, the progressive Senator from Wisconsin. In January of 2007, Senator Feingold
introduced S.447, the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act to the floor of the Senate. The legislation would
abolish the death penalty - something that progressives generally agree would be a good thing.
inherent flaws of the death penalty have been firmly established. See the Death Penalty Information Center, Death Penalty Focus, and information from Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union if you're looking for details about the problems with the
While the death penalty punishes the guilty, it has also been imposed upon many
people who turned out not to be guilty of capital crimes at all. The death penalty is selected in a biased and
discriminatory manner motivated by political concerns. Furthermore, the death penalty is often administered
in ways that violate the guaranteed protection from the Bill of Rights against cruel and unusual punishment.
Although the case against the death penalty is clear and convincing, many leading Democratic
politicians refuse to do anything about the problem. They explain that they want to look tough on crime, and
don't seem to mind that looking tough requires being inhumane.
Of all the Democrats in the United
States Senate, not a single one has co-sponsored the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2007. This includes
the 2008 Democratic presidential candidates who are currently serving in the U.S. Senate.
Hillary Clinton does not support the Federal
Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2007. Barack
Obama does not support it. Christopher
Dodd does not support it. Joseph Biden
will not support it. These senators aren't opposing the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2007 in an active
sense, but they are allowing it to die of neglect.
The failure of almost all the Democrats in the Senate
to act on the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act is one more piece of proof that being a Democrat and being
progressive are not the same thing. In 2008, we need to focus on electing a progressive President. Electing any
old Democrat is not enough. (Source: The Library of Congress)
- The hype about Iraq: "People are
no longer disappearing into political prisons, torture chambers, and mass graves" - President George W.
The truth about Iraq: "Hundreds of Iraqis are being tortured to death or summarily executed
every month in Baghdad alone by death squads working from the Ministry of the Interior, the United
Nations' outgoing human rights chief in Iraq has revealed." - The Independent
Just over the
weekend, a new Iraqi government torture chamber was found in Basra. British soldiers entered the offices of
an Iraqi government intelligence agency and found 30 prisoners there, many of whom had been tortured.
George W. Bush says that his invasion and occupation of Iraq closed the torture chambers in Iraq. In fact,
the new Iraqi puppet government just set up new torture chambers.
In 2008, we need to elect a
progressive President, so that we can have a government devoted to stopping the torture once and for all.
(Sources: International Herald Tribune, March 5, 2007; Presidential Radio Address, May 1, 2004; The
Independent, February 26, 2006; Newsweek June 7, 2006)
- If you still need another reason to vote
progressive in 2008, consider what our current non-progressive administration is trying to do to the Supreme
Court. No, I'm not talking about the way George W. Bush has packed the court with authoritarians. I'm
talking about the arguments his people are making before the Supreme Court. The Bush administration has
directly told the Supreme Court that it doesn't believe citizens have standing to bring constitutional challenges
to it, not even regarding the most basic violations of the Bill of Rights. That's right: George W. Bush wants to
put a sign on the doors of the Supreme Court: No Citizens Allowed.
In March of 2007, the New
York Times reported on arguments made by Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, representing the Bush
Administration before the Supreme Court in the case of Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation Inc.:
First, Mr. Clement said, taxpayers should be limited to challenging Congressional statutes,
not executive branch programs like that in this suit. Second, the solicitor general argued, taxpayers should be
able to challenge only spending outside the government, not internal spending like that cited by the Freedom
From Religion Foundation.
Did that mean, Justice Antonin Scalia asked Mr. Clement, taxpayers
could challenge a statute that gave money to outside groups to build churches, but not one that directed the
government to build its own church?
It was a "horrible hypothetical," Mr. Clement replied, but
Justice Scalia had understood him correctly: taxpayers should not have standing to challenge °įan internal
Mr. Clement was unruffled as the justices tossed various hypothetical
questions his way. Could a taxpayer challenge a law that commemorated the Pilgrims "by building a
government church at Plymouth Rock where we will have the regular worship in the Puritan religion?" Justice
Stephen G. Breyer asked.
"I would say no," Mr. Clement said.
Justice Breyer persisted,
asking about a law requiring the government to build churches "all over America" dedicated to one particular
sect. "Nobody could challenge it?" he asked.
"There would not be taxpayer standing," Mr. Clement
The arguments made by Paul Clement on the behalf of the Bush White House
disregard the basic idea that the people of the United States should have the power to hold their government
accountable to the law. Without the ability of citizens to sue when their constitutional rights are violated, there
is no chance for a true government of the people. Option 1: Let's just all butt out and let the political
insiders do whatever they want to do.
Option 2: Let's elect a president who doesn't consider the
constitutional considerations of citizens to be an impairment.
(Source: New York Times, March 1,
- At this time, when so many Republicans are busy threatening attacks on the French, and executing attacks on the liberty guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, in the First Amendment to the Constitution, I think that it's appropriate to reflect back in history upon the words of the Marquis De Lafayette himself, and what he had to say about America and its liberty. The words of the Marquis: "If the liberties of the American people are ever destroyed, they will fall by the hands of the clergy."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice have urged President
George W. Bush to shut down the beyond-the-law prisons at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Attorney General
Alberto Gonzales, Vice President Dick Cheney and President Bush refused to allow the closure of the
Guantanamo prisons to take place.
The reason that the Guantanamo Bay prisons remain open? Bush,
Cheney and Gonzales are afraid that if the prisoners currently held at Guantanamo Bay were brought to
prisons in the United States, they would have to be prosecuted according to the standards of the American
In short, the President, Vice President and Attorney General of the United States are
opposed to American standards of liberty and justice. They regard American freedom as a burden. The last
thing we need is to elect another right wing President who has such a low opinion of the foundations of
American law. (Source: CBS News, March 23, 2007)
- When they were released after a few days in
captivity, 15 British soldiers contradicted the televised confessions they had made while in Iranian custody.
Angeles Times reports that the soldiers claim to have been forced to make false confessions by the
Iranians because they were "blindfolded and threatened" while held prisoner over a two-week period.
Keep in mind that the British prisoners are professional soldiers who are trained to be tough. If these
professionals were forced so easily to make false confessions just by being blindfolded and talked to roughly
in a brief period of imprisonment, how warped and twisted must the confessions be of prisoners who are
subjected to even harsher treatment, over years of imprisonment?
The experience of the 15 British
soldiers in Iran exposes the brutal folly of the American system of secret torture prisons at Guantanamo Bay
and around the world. These prisons, and the testimony coerced by torture that they produce, have been made
legal by the Military Commissions Act, which
strips away habeas corpus, the right to a fair and speedy trial, repeals enforcement of the Geneva
Conventions, and makes torture legal.
Because of the Military Commissions Act, we now are seeing
people put through show trials in kangaroo courts where the proceedings are secret and confessions forced
through torture are allowed as testimony. The sham trials allowed under the Military Commissions Act are
really no better than the Salem Witch Trials.
The twisting of 15 British soldiers under coercive
treatment much milder than the techniques used by the American government at places like Guantanamo Bay
and Abu Ghraib exposes the depravity of the military tribunals being conducted by the Bush Administration.
Progressive recognize the disturbing connection. Right wingers pretend that it doesn't exist and continue to
insist on one set of legal standards for the United States and its allies, and another legal standard for everyone
Please, contact your U.S. senators and your representative in the U.S. House. Urge them to co-
sponsor and vote for S. 576 and H.R. 1415, the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007, which repeals most of
the worst aspects of the Military Commissions Act. (Source: San Francisco Chronicle, April 7, 2007)
- On March 2, 2005, 220 members of the House of Representatives (96% of them Republicans) voted to approve H.R. 27, a bill that makes it legal for religiously proselytizing organizations to take taxpayer money to support proselytizing activities, and to use those taxpayer funds to engage in hiring discrimination. H.R. 27 makes it legal, for the first time in American history, for government-funded programs to refuse to hire anyone who refuses to join a list of approved religions.
If this legislation had been passed:
- the Catholic Church would have been able to take federal government money to create missionary programs, and then refuse to employ anyone who refuses to convert to Catholicism.
- a Southern Baptist church could have set up a government-funded program in a Muslim neighborhood, then refuse to hire local workers until they agree to be baptised and renounce Islam.
- Jerry Falwell's Liberty University would have been allowed to set up a "community service" industry, using taxpayers' money to hire only conservative Christians, refusing employment to Unitarians, liberal Catholics, or secular Americans for the sole reason that these otherwise qualified people would not pledge allegiance to the religious teachings of Jerry Falwell.
- a Mormon charity group could have used government funds to set up a soup-kitchen requiring you to read Mormon religious tracts to get government-funded food, and then refuse to hire people to dole out the government-funded food to the homeless unless those people join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints first.
- a religious cult could have used this legal provision to distribute government-funded benefits to citizens and require administrative personnel to join their cult in order to keep collecting their government-funded salary.
Not only does this bill violate the constitution provision against the government establishment of religion, it also violates constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law.
Have a religion the Bush administration favors? Congratulations! You get to establish jobs within your religious organization paid for in full by the U.S. Government! You also get to be sure that members of YOUR religion, and ONLY your religion, get government-paid jobs.
Have a religion that the Bush administration doesn't favor? You don't get the privilege of hiring religious insiders on the government dole.
Have no religion whatsoever? Sorry! You don't get to discriminate against religious people in hiring. That would be illegal and immoral. You see, it's only a good thing when religious zealots approved by the Bush administration try it.
- I've been reading
Gonzales v. Carhart, the 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court that renders some abortions illegal, even in
cases for which the abortion is necessary for the health of a pregnant woman. The finding of the court
majority in this particular regard is disturbing: that since there is no consensus between warring political
camps about whether abortions may be necessary to preserve the health of a woman, it will be assumed for
purposes of law that no such cases exist.
Women who wish to obtain these abortions for the sake of their
health will now have to go to court sue to prove that their health is threatened. The government has declared it
has the right to presume the health status of a woman, and women and their doctors are subject to those
presumptions unless they can prove otherwise. So much for the presumption that a woman and her doctor are
primarily responsible for determining when her health is threatened.
This movement toward
authoritarian Big Daddy Government is brought to you by the people who voted for George W. Bush in 2004.
In 2008, a corrective away from presumptions in favor of authority and toward presumptions in favor of
liberty and bodily autonomy is called for. That means it's time to vote progressive for President. (Source:
Supreme Court decision, Gonzales v. Carhart)
- In this morning's USA Today newspaper, reporter
Richard Willing describes how the Bush Administration has been hiring private companies to handle the work
traditionally done by government spies. The full extent of the infiltration of government spy networks by
private commercial organizations is unknown, and Bush Administration officials are refusing to allow the
American people to know the full extent of what's really going on.
Willing writes that Ron Sanders, the
human capital director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, "would not say how many
private intelligence workers are under contract to government agencies, saying that would compromise
security." Mr. Sanders has it backwards. It is the secrecy about corporate spy mercenaries for the US
government that threatens the security of the American people. (Source: USA Today, April 26, 2007)
- George W. Bush says that he needed to escalate the military occupation of Iraq with a "surge" of
American soldiers sent to the country in order to establish a free and secure Iraq. However, according to the
United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, the escalation has promoted neither freedom nor security. Instead,
the UN reports that the escalation has been founded upon methods that abuse the rights of Iraqis even as they
fail to stop the violence there.
The Iraqi government which is sponsored by and working in coordination
with the American military has instituted regulations that allow people to be put in prison without arrest
warrants, without trial, and without any limitation on the length of time such imprisonments can last. So, the
government that American soldiers are fighting and killing to defend has become one that grabs people off
the street and throws them into prison cells without any guarantees that they will be allowed any legal rights.
Even those prisoners who are given a trial are subjected to a system that the United Nations says
"consistently failed to meet minimum fair trial standards."
At the same time, the Iraqi
government is not even bothering to check that the people it takes prisoner are protected from torture and
other abuses. Iraqi police and soldiers who are suspected of torturing and abusing prisoners are not being
The UN report explains, "The continuing failure to take decisive action in this regard
can only serve to encourage a climate of impunity that prevails today, undermining the government s own
efforts to restore law and order and ensure respect for the rule of law." (Source: New York Times, April
- The consequences of the stacking of the Supreme Court of the United States with right wing
judges became apparent in the spring of 2007, when the court refused to consider the cases of prisoners of war
who are being put on trial in a frightening new system of kangaroo courts. These courts have a new kind of
trial, authorized by the Military Commissions
Act, that replaces ordinary standards of justice with the kind of absurd Orwellian tactics we would expect
from nations ruled by dictators.
Hearsay evidence and evidence obtained through torture are admissable.
Defendants do not have full legal representation. The representative that defendants do have are not allowed
to be present at the trial at all time, and neither is the defendant, who is not even allowed to examine, much
less refute, all the evidence against himself. This comes after the defendant has been imprisoned as a criminal,
but without habeas corpus rights, and so without adequate ability to gather relevant witnesses and other forms
of evidence for his defense. Defendants are now put through their trial with the presumption that they are
guilty, not with a presumption of innocence.
In short, the new system of trials allowed under the
Military Commissions Act rips the justice out of the American courtroom. These trials betray the Constitution,
and the liberty that is the core of our democracy. Worse than that, the Military Commissions Act that
establishes these outrageous trials undoes the system of common law that was established hundreds of years
before the United States, but was protected by the Ninth Amendment to the Constitution in the Bill of Rights,
which reads, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or
disparage others retained by the people."
If ever there was a law that needs to be reviewed by the
Supreme Court of the United States, it is the Military Commissions Act. The Military Commissions Act is
killing American freedom, and replacing the rule of law with lawless rule by the powerful.
the Supreme Court decided not to consider the law. The majority of justices on the court declared that they
just aren't interested in dealing with the most serious threats to the legal foundations of American liberty in
more than a generation. Not at this time. Maybe later. Someday. Perhaps.
Only three justices, Stephen
Breyer, David Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, voted in favor of considering the constitutionality of the
Military Commissions Act. If they had had two more votes, they would have been in the majority. Those two
votes would have been supplied if we had elected a progressive President in 2004.
For the sake of our
freedom, we must not repeat the mistake of 2004 in 2008. (Source: Christian Science Monitor, May 1, 2007)
- It's important for for our nation to embrace anti-authoritarian priorities, starting right up at the top of the chain of authority in the Oval Office. This is because a lot of people will follow the president's lead, and when the White House starts mouthing off about how people need to "watch what they say, watch what they do," others will follow the White House's lead.
Take, for instance, the following instance from the year 2003:
A lawyer was arrested late Monday and charged with trespassing at a public mall in the state of New York after refusing to take off a T-shirt advocating peace that he had just purchased at the mall.
According to the criminal complaint filed on Monday, Stephen Downs was wearing a T-shirt bearing the words "Give Peace A Chance" that he had just purchased from a vendor inside the Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, New York, near Albany.
"I was in the food court with my son when I was confronted by two security guards and ordered to either take off the T-shirt or leave the mall," said Downs.
When Downs refused the security officers' orders, police from the town of Guilderland were called and he was arrested and taken away in handcuffs, charged with trespassing “in that he knowingly enter(ed) or remain(ed) unlawfully upon premises," the complaint read.
This incident didn't happen in isolation. It happened as a reaction to the federal message that dissent was no longer considered appropriate. The incident in turn sparked others. Reacting to the arrest, Southpoint Mall in North Carolina reiterated its no-peace-messages-in-our-mall policy, only backing down when angered individuals gathered at the mall in large numbers to wear their shirts in a particularly assertive fashion. In North Carolina, it took a group to push back and reassert the right for people to wear shirts with dissenting messages in public places.
On a national scale, it would be great to have a broad social movement to reassert the centrality of dissent in our politics. But, barring that, we sure could use a presidential shepherd to set an example for various localities' more fascist breeds of sheep. I know that's contradictory in a way, but as we allow ourselves to be silently herded hither and thither by our national government, we sure could use a change in government to give us a nudge back toward free expression. (Source: Reuters, March 4, 2003)
- The Bush administration's drive for secrecy is so out of control that in 2003 a report on a meeting of microbiologists about the need for scientific openness was be classified as secret. Now openness is a
secret, too. (Source: Scientific American, August 2003)
- The American people got pretty upset about the Total Information Awareness project, and rightly so. They complained to their members of Congress, and pretty soon the project got shut down - or so everybody thought. With a few minor changes, Total Information Awareness was resurrected under a new name, and has been in development ever since.
In mid-2005, we learned that one component of the larger Total Information Awareness agenda has so grossly violated the privacy of American citizens that Government Accountability Office has sent special communications to the Transportation Security Administration within the Department of Homeland Security to deal with the issues.
What are these privacy violations? Well, I don't really know. That's because the Government Accountability Office refuses to tell anyone anything specific outside the Bush Administration about the violations. However, the violations apparently have something to do with the Department of Homeland Security going far beyond authorized parameters for searching through American citizens' airline flight records and private financial information. So, the Transportation Security Administration is charged with not disclosing its searches of private information, and the Government Accountability Office will not disclose what the Transportation Security Administration did not disclose. The irony smells like last week's goulash.
Essentially, it appears that the Department of Homeland Security took airline databases of information about where and when Americans have been travelling, and combined them with databases from banks, home mortgage providers, and credit card companies. The result was to create a single gigantic database that contained information about Americans' private movements and financial transactions, easily available within a few keystrokes to Homeland Security agents and politicians within the Republican government.
Hm. A gigantic government database containing information about Americans' private lives, including where they go and what they buy… that sounds an awful lot like Total Information Awareness. Now that I know that database exists, I want to know just what the Bush Administration has been doing with the information it contains. Who has access to the files created on American citizens' private lives? What are the plans for expanding the database?
The Bush Administration is refusing to provide answers to questions like these. They say the information is classified. The Bush Administration says that Total Information Awareness in its new and old incarnations is justified by the need for Homeland Security. The phrase "Homeland Security", of course, does not appear once in the United States Constitution.
What does the United States Constitution have to say about searches of private information? The fourth amendment to the United States Constitution, passed as part of the Bill of Rights, reads: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
It seems that the Bush Administration thinks that Total Information Awareness is more important than the Bill of Rights. The new incarnation of the Total Information Awareness database is not based on probable cause, and operates without search warrants. A point, and a click, and the personal activity of millions of Americans is now an open book to the information. I call that an unreasonable search.
- Consider these two statements by President George W. Bush, in light of recent news:
later, despite many challenges, life for the Iraqi people is a world away from the cruelty and corruption of
Saddam's regime. At the most basic level of justice, people are no longer disappearing into political prisons,
torture chambers, and mass graves -- because the former dictator is in prison, himself. And their daily life is
improving." - May 1, 2004
"Thanks to our military, the torture chambers are closed, and the
prison cells for children are empty." - November 24, 2003
Over three years have passed since
President Bush made these statements, and year after year, it has become more clear that these statements were
completely off the mark.
The Independent reports that as many as 60 prisoners at the American gulags built at
Guantanamo Bay were sent there by the USA as children as young as 14 years old. CNN reports that yet another torture
chamber was discovered in Iraq, run by Shiites. The Shiites are aligned with the American-installed Iraqi
When President Bush told us that torture chambers and prisons for children were being
closed, he wasn't being straight with us. While some torture chambers and prisons for children were closed,
new ones were opened up.
Osama Bin Laden can't be blamed for these new torture chambers and
child prisoners. Neither can Saddam Hussein, who was hung by a noose so hard that his head was nearly
ripped off. (Sources: The Independent, May 28, 2007; CNN, May 6, 2007)
- George W. Bush and his
right wing allies follow a faith-based politics here in the United States, using the power of government to
grant privileges to right wing religion in general, and Christianity in particular. Perhaps it should not be so
surprising, then, that the Bush Administration has used the military in order to create and defend a new Iraqi
government with the same theocratic values.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom,
an official body within the US federal government, has determined that the Iraqi government should be
placed on a list of governments that violate the religious freedom of their citizens. The widespread violent
persecution of people, based on their religious identity, by the government and militias that operate with
"government complicity", was cited by the commission. The only reason that the commission did not
recommend that Iraq be placed on a list of nations of particular concern is that Republican appointees
to the commission blocked the designation.
The promotion of this religiously-abusive Iraqi
government is the benefit that pro-war right wingers promise as a victory for the United
States. In 2008, we need to elect a President who understands that putting such a government in power is a
victory for no one but the power-hungry theocrats themselves. (Source: Washington Post, May 3, 2007)
- On the campaign trail earlier this year, Mitt Romney made the remark that "We need to have a person of
faith lead the country."
Article Six of the United States Constitution states that "no religious Test shall ever
be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
constitutionally-mandated oath of office requires that the president make the following pledge: "I do
solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will
to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
mainstream Republican politician makes a stand against the United States Constitution while running for the
job of defending the United States Constitution, it's time to wade out of the Republican mainstream and find
an alternative more respectful of our nation's founding compact. This is another reason to vote a progressive
president into office in 2008. (Source: The Sunday Times, May 13 2007)
- In the summer of 2005, New York City police went out onto the streets and began stopping law-abiding citizens to search their bags on the subway - even though there wass not any credible evidence of a terrorist threat or other criminal conspiracy against the New York City subway. During this massive, unprovoked search and seizure operation, five British tourists of South Asian descent were detained for by New York City policemen.
Why were these five tourists detained? Well, someone reported that they had knapsacks. Oh, and that they looked shifty. Oh, and that they had brown skin.
I will admit that it is true that these five tourists did have brown skin. I cannot confirm whether or not they looked shifty. However, I can say for certain that the five tourists did not have any knapsacks. None, not that it matters. What kind of country has America become that carrying a backpack is considered a crime?
Under George W. Bush, the American government has worked to whip citizens into an anti-terrorist panic. That's an effective means of preserving political power, but it has consequences. The consequences are paid by innocent people who get arrested for nothing more than being of the wrong ethnic background, or carrying a backpack. We ought to be ashamed that we have sunk so low - but our leaders insist on forging ahead with the same policies of panic that caused these travesties of justice.
- Vice President Dick Cheney has claimed that he has the unlimited power to punish people who disagree
with him and the political agenda of the Bush White House.
Justifying Dick Cheney's involvement in the
purposeful revelation of Valerie Plame's identity as an undercover agent of the Central Intelligence Agency,
Cheney and his lawyers are claiming that, because Cheney is Vice President, he cannot be stopped from doing
anything to punish someone for political dissent. They're arguing that Cheney even has the right to break the
law and endanger the lives of political dissidents.
In the courtroom in which Valerie Plame is filing
suit against Dick Cheney, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates asked Dick Cheney's lawyers the following
question about Cheney's direction to officials to reveal Valerie Plame's undercover identity to reporters, who
would in turn make that identity publicly known: "You're arguing there is nothing, absolutely nothing,
these officials could have said to reporters that would have been beyond the scope of their employment..."
A lawyer representing Dick Cheney responded, "That's true, Your Honor. Mr. Wilson was
criticizing government policy. These officials were responding to that criticism."
There you have
it: Dick Cheney believes that, as Vice President, he has the power to do anything in response someone who
criticizes him, even purposefully placing the critic's family members into lethally dangerous situations in
order to intimidate the critic into silence and deter further criticism. That's the crux of the legal defense Dick
Cheney and his lawyers have created for themselves.
That's not just a legally outrageous claim. It is a
betrayal of American democracy. Dick Cheney has declared that he has the power to break the law in order to
quash political dissent.
That is the power of a dictator, not a Vice President.
In 2008, we must
elect a new President who will choose as Vice President someone who values the Constitution, and does not
believe that he is a force above the law. (Source: Washington Post, May 18, 2007)
- The gulag at Guantanamo Bay has become so transparently outrageous that the only defense that the Bush
Administration has left for keeping its illegal Guantanamo Bay torture camps open is to get whiny.
Bellinger, a legal aide to the State Department, recently tried to defend keeping the secretive detention camps
at Guantanamo Bay open by whining that there are "no easy alternatives", and the Bush White House just can't
figure out how it could ever shut the system down. "I am sure that there are many things we would have done
differently in looking back, but people captured in Afghanistan would have to have been held somewhere," he
Here's an idea that has occurred to a lot of people, but never seems to have come into Mr.
Bellinger's mind: The United States could just follow the law.
If there is solid, legal evidence that the
prisoners committed crimes, then put them in prison in the United States and put them on trial. If some of the
prisoners were captured on the battlefield, put them in proper prisoner of war camps that meet the standards
of American and international law, including the Geneva Conventions. (Of course, prisoners in Guantanamo
Bay are not, as Bellinger suggests, just from Afghanistan. They've been captured in Iraq, and snatched from
many other places around the world as well.) If they are neither suspected of a crime, and were not captured
on a battlefield, then let them go.
John Bellinger whines again about this possibility. He says some of
the prisoners' home countries won't accept them back, or won't guarantee that the prisoners won't be abused in
violation of international law. So, Bellinger suggests, they need to be kept in abusive conditions that violate
international law in Guantanamo Bay. Once again, there's an easy solution. If there is no evidence that these
prisoners committed any crime, and they were not captured while fighting against the USA on a battlefield,
and they've been imprisoned and tortured by the United States for years, then they seem to have earned the
right to become American citizens. If no other country will accept them, the United States should.
Bush Administration should stop its whining about how hard it is to close the Guantanamo Bay prisons, and
just do it. In the space of a month, all the prisoners could be cleared from the place. But, the Bush
Administration won't do that, because they're hoping that another right wing President will be elected to
succeed George W. Bush. They're hoping that the next President will continue the outrages of Guantanamo
Bay. Let's elect a progressive instead, and deny them their wish. (Source: Earth Times, June 7, 2007)
- To consider the dangers that obsession with security from outsiders can lead to, remember Jean Charles de Menezes. Jean Charles de Menezes was a Brazilian who was shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder by an anti-terrorist squad in London. Was de Menezes a terrorist? No. He was just an ordinary guy on the street who had done nothing wrong. He was only running to catch a train, but that was enough for police to shoot him dead in his tracks.
Original police reports claimed that Jean Charles de Menezes was wearing a bulky heavy coat on a hot summer day, a coat that could have hidden a bomb. Actually, in spite of heated news reports, that day in London was not really hot. It was only 70 degrees out. But, this morning, we learn that Jean Charles de Menezes was not wearing a bulky coat when he was shot by police. He was wearing a relatively thin jeans jacket. His family has shown to police that Jean Charles de Menezes did not even own a bulky coat of the kind he was accused of wearing.
British police and the mainstream media reported as fact that Jean Charles de Menezes jumped a ticket turnstyle after being told to stop and stand still by police. Later, the world learned we learn that there actually never was any evidence that de Menezes did so. The police just said so - like they said he was connected to the earlier bombings in the Underground. There was no evidence of any crime by de Menezes, just a load of empty assertions the police used to cover their butts after pumping seven bullets into the brain of an innocent man. The only crime of Jean Charles de Menezes is that he had brown skin.
In a nation that allows itself to become consumed by fears that terrorists might attack, the nation attacks itself, and innocent people die.
- On the 21st of October, 1994 the United States of America officially ratified the United Nations
Convention Against Torture. The Congress passed legislation to ratify it, and the President of the United
States signed that ratification into law.
Article VI, section 2 of the Constitution of the United States of
America reads, "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance
thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the
supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution
or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding." That means that treaties ratified by the Congress and
signed by the President have the force of law within the United States. The Convention Against Torture is not
just international law. It is also United States law.
Article 2 of the United Nations Convention Against
Torture reads, "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal
political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture."
President George W. Bush has used a state of war and the threat of public emergency as a justification for
torture - and not just the idea of torture. Under the direction of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, prison
systems have been set up that include the torture of prisoners. Bush and Cheney justified the Military
Commissions Act, which authorized torture, by issuing a release stating, "Information we have learned from
the program has helped save lives at home and abroad." Later, George W. Bush said of the Military
Commissions Act, "Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes Al-Qaeda and its allies
would have succeeded in attacking the American Homeland again."
In taking this action, George W.
Bush and Dick Cheney have violated the law - and not just some petty misdemeanor. They have violated the
law of the land. They have committed a high crime, and they ought to be impeached for it.
Unfortunately, the Democrats in Congress don't have the backbone to play their constitutional role in
holding the President and Vice President accountable to the law. The Democrats are refusing to impeach
George W. Bush.
Nonetheless, the violation of the Convention Against Torture by Bush and Cheney,
and the disastrous consequences of that violation for the reputation of the United of America, provide us an
important lesson for the presidential election of 2008. This time around, we must be sure that we choose a
President who will follow the law, and uphold the Convention Against Torture. (Sources: Constitution of the
United States of America; Center for Victims of Torture; Office of the United Nations High Commissionser
for Human Rights; White House Press Release, September 28, 2006; White House Fact Sheet, October 17, 2006)
- Talk to anyone who has tried to get a passport recently, and you'll most likely get stories about prolonged
delays and broken promises. The Department of Homeland Security, worried that terrorists are going to come
and try to kill us all from Canada, are requiring that anyone travelling to the United States from Canada,
including American citizens, must have a passport.
So, legitimate travellers who want nothing more than
to go north of the border to visit Toronto, Quebec, Vancouver and the like are seeking passports in record
numbers. Wouldn't you know it, the geniuses of Homeland Security never anticipated that, and so passports
are taking months and months to process. People are having to cancel business trips and personal vacations
because of the paranoia of the Homleand Security regime.
With all this trouble, is it all doing any
good? Not really. The border with Canada is, in spite of the passport requirement, wide open in most places.
The border stretches, free and open, with roads going unrestricted between Canada and the USA, for hundreds
and hundreds of miles. A person can drive from one country to another no questions asked. If a person wanted
to evade possible passport check roadblocks, they could just walk through a few farmers' fields.
Peaceful citizens are being trapped at home by a Homeland Security bureacracy that doesn't work, in order
to enforce a plan that wouldn't keep terrorists from crossing the Canadian border with impunity anyway, if
there are any terrorists actually planning to do so.
Right wingers say that our survival depends upon
such outlandish, unnecessary, and unworkable schemes as the new passport requirement. Progressives
recognize this debacle as a case of an obsession with security that's gone far beyond reasonable reaction to any
real threat. When freedom of travel of restricted, it's a sign that other freedoms are in danger too. (Source:
USA Today, June 18, 2007)
- Ron Paul, as a libertarian, claims to value liberty and to be dedicated to the
protection of the liberties guaranteed in the Constitution. In truth, however, Congressman Paul has worked to
devalue the liberty guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights.
Paul has worked to hobble the freedom of religion, claiming that there should be no separation of Church and
State in American government. In a speech in 2002 explaining his introduction of legislation that would forbid
American federal district courts and federal claims courts from hearing cases in which citizens claim to have
had their religious freedom violated, Representative Paul complained,
"In case after
case, the Supreme Court has used the infamous 'Separation of Church and State' metaphor to uphold court
decisions that allow the federal government to intrude upon and deprive citizens of their religious liberty."
Ron Paul further complained in that speech that the government ought not to be blocked
from establishing official prayers in schools and at public events, and promoting the Old Testament as the
source of American law in courthouses through the exclusive display of the Ten Commandments. In doing so,
Ron Paul sided with radical right wing Christian zealots who seek theocracy, like Judge Roy Moore from
Ron Paul's legislation, if enacted, would have enabled a two-class system of rights in
America, with members of majority religious groups able to establish special rights to enforce their beliefs
through the power of government institutions, and others unable to protect their right to not participate in the
majority's religious rituals through the constitutionally-guaranteed access to the courts.
separation of Church and State is not, as Ron Paul claims, infamous. It is celebrated by those who truly cherish
liberty. The separation of Church and State has been invaluable in protecting the citizens of the United States
of America from the establishment of a tyrannical theocracy of the sort envisioned by many of Ron Paul's
Republican political allies. (Source: Congressional Record, June 13, 2002)
- One of the most dangerous aspects of right wing ideology is that it perceives freedom as a liability, a risky vulnerability that makes American citizens insecure. This idea was recently expressed by a member of the Homeland Analysis Group, a company that profits from the massive Homeland Security bureaucracy that has sprung up in recent years to take advantage of the irrational fear of terrorists. This person commented after one of our articles, "I think your brainpower could be put to even better use if you were helping us all figure out how to defeat the
Islamic Terrorists of the world, while realizing how and why they use our own liberties against us as they plot
to kill innocent people, day after day."
That comment is flattering, and yet, unnerving. It bothers me, this
claim that American liberty is a tool to be used by terrorists to kill innocent people.
The plain fact is
that no terrorist has ever killed anybody with liberty. They've used bombs to kill people. They've used guns.
They've even used airplanes. But liberty?
How do you kill someone with freedom of speech or
freedom of the press? How do you kill someone with separation of church and state or the right to a fair trial?
What is the exact method for killing an innocent person with protection against unreasonable search and
seizure and the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment?
It can't be done. Liberty doesn't
kill. Weapons kill.
Liberty is not a liability. Liberty is what protects us. As the bloody mess in Iraq
proves, even hundreds of thousands of soldiers marching through the streets and patrolling the air cannot
protect people from suicide bombers. True liberty can.
If you vote for a right wing politician who
views liberty as a vulnerability, then you will help make yourself vulnerable to unscrupulous politicians. If
you vote for a progressive who believes in strengthening the security that liberty provides, you will be less
vulnerable to unscrupulous politicians and terrorists alike.
Be free and secure. Vote to elect a
progressive President in 2008.
- Article VI, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution: "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
George W. Bush, June, 2005: "We need commonsense judges who understand that our rights were derived from God. Those are the kind of judges I intend to put on the bench."
I know which vision of freedom I prefer.
- One of the best reasons to choose a progressive candidate over a right
wing candidate for President is that right wingers have a profound misunderstanding of the Constitution of
the United States Constitution. It's the sworn duty of the President to uphold and defend the Constitution, so
the right wing's inability to understand the concepts of the Constitution makes their politicians profoundly
unsuited for the presidency.
Take Ron Paul as an example. Yes, Ron Paul. Take away Congressman Paul's
opposition to the Iraq War, and he's exposed as just another right wing kook.
Ron Paul plays fast and
loose with the facts when it comes to the Constitution. Consider the claims Paul makes in the following
passage from his web site, for example, as he seeks to justify his attempt to undo Americans' reproductive
"The right of an innocent, unborn child to life is at the heart of the American ideals of liberty.
My professional and legislative record demonstrates my strong commitment to this pro-life principle.
In 40 years of medical practice, I never once considered performing an abortion, nor did I ever find
abortion necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman.
In Congress, I have authored legislation that
seeks to define life as beginning at conception, HR 1094.
I am also the prime sponsor of HR 300,
which would negate the effect of Roe v Wade by removing the ability of federal courts to interfere with state
legislation to protect life. This is a practical, direct approach to ending federal court tyranny which threatens
our constitutional republic and has caused the deaths of 45 million of the unborn."
The right of an
innocent, unborn child to life is at the heart of the American ideals of liberty? Really? Actually, no, not
The heart of the American ideals of liberty is the Constitution of the United States of America.
Though some American legal rights, such as habeas corpus and the presumption of innocence, were
established in English common law before American Constitution was written, it's the Constitution that
defines what liberty in America is. Other documents, such as the Declaration of Independence or Thomas
Paine's Common Sense, are merely political speeches with no legal authority. The Articles of Confederation
were overruled. If you want to understand the American tradition of liberty, you look at the Constitution.
The concept of the right of an unborn child to life is found absolutely nowhere in the Constitution of the
United States of America.
Even if you search the Library of Congress Documents from the
Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789, for any reference to "child", all you'll
find is a reference to Francis Childs, a printer at the time. Search for the words "unborn", "birth", "mother"
or "family", and you'll come up with nothing at all. These words aren't in the Constitution either - not even in
any of the amendments.
When Ron Paul says that the right of a fetus, embryo, zygote, or even
fertilized egg cell to life is at the heart of American ideals of liberty, he's just plain wrong. The rights of the
unborn are not even on the periphery of the Constitution.
Neither is the idea of the "federal court
tyranny" at all relevant to the Constitution. When Ron Paul complains about "federal court tyranny" coming
from federal court judges overruling state laws, he is suggesting that the Constitution of the United States of
America is a source of tyranny. After all, Article III, section 2 of the Constitution states:
power shall extend to all cases in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States,
and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority; to all cases affecting Ambassadors, other
public Ministers, and Consuls; to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; to controversies to which
the United States shall be a party; to controversies between two or more States, between a State and citizen of
another State, between citizens of different States, between citizens of the same State claiming lands under
grants of different States, and between a State, or the citizens thereof, and foreign States, citizens or
The Constitution was written so that there would be a balance of power, not just within the
federal government, but between the federal government and state governments. Article III, section 2 of the
Constitution protects against tyranny on the part of state governments, ensuring that the courts have the
power to protect liberty throughout the entire nation. Ron Paul is seeking to take away that protection.
As Ron Paul's sloppy considerations of American liberty in his discussion of the supposed legal rights of
zygotes shows, he just doesn't understand the Constitution. Whether you believe that abortion is a good idea
or not, Ron Paul's ignorance of the foundation of American liberty ought to be cause for concern.
- The consequences of having a right wing President are felt dramatically in the courts, as became painfully clear in
June, 2007, when the right wing majority of the Supreme Court made a series of decisions that selectively
devalued the First Amendment. In two of those decisions, the right wing justices on the Supreme Court
decided that corporations have more of a right to free speech than high school students.
In one case, Morse
et al. v. Frederick, dealing with the free speech rights of American high school students, Chief Justice John
Roberts declared, "the constitutional rights of students in public school are not automatically coextensive with
the rights of adults in other settings."
However, when it came to the idea of the free speech of
corporations, Chief Justice Roberts had another standard, writing, "Where the First Amendment is implicated,
the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor."
Although he stated that the status of an American citizen as
a student in a high school deprives them of their constitutionally-guaranteed right to free speech, Justice
Roberts was unwilling to accept a similar restriction in the case of corporations. In his opinion on the second
case, Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Incorporated, Justice Roberts wrote, "the
corporate identity of a speaker does not strip corporations of all free speech rights."
worries little about the educational and civic impact of high schools that censor open speech on public issues.
However, he quavers at the prospect of any censorship of corporations, quoting the majority opinion in the
case Thornhill v. Alabama, "Freedom of discussion, if it would fulfill its historic function in this nation, must
embrace all issues about which information is needed or appropriate to enable the members of society to cope
with the exigencies of their period." Apparently, Justice Roberts believes that it is more important that
corporations be able to speak on "on all issues about which information is needed or appropriate" than it is for
students to do so.
The progressive minority on the Supreme Court sees things differently. The
progressive justices of the Supreme Court are concerned that a school environment in which students are not
free to fully discuss ideas will result in a stunted, restricted education. One of the Supreme Court progressives,
Justice Stevens, writes in his opinion on Morse et al. v. Frederick, "Even in high school, a rule that permits
only one point of view to be expressed is less likely to produce correct answers than the open discussion of
As we consider which candidate for President of the United States to support in
2008, we need to remember that the President has the power to appoint justices to the Supreme Court. Chief
Justice John Roberts was appointed by President George W. Bush. If we elect another right wing President, the
right wing hold on the Supreme Court will strengthen, and we will see even more extreme interpretations of
the Constitution, holding that yet more categories of American citizens have fewer rights than American
corporations. (Sources: Slip Opinion, Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Incorporated;
Slip Opinion, Morse et al. v. Frederick)
- Back in 2005, H.R. 952 was introduced to the floor of the House of Representatives. H.R. 952 was written simply and exactly to end the Bush administration's practice of "extraordinary rendition," in which people are sent abroad by the American government to be tortured by other governments. The bill never passed. Heck, it never even came to a full vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. Why? Members of Congress were thinking more about how to be "electable" than how to fulfill their oath of office, to uphold the Constitution. (Source: Library of Congress)
- Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul doesn't seem to
be able to speak about freedom without getting silly. The Ron Paul for President campaign is riddled with
half-baked claims about the supposed foundations of American liberty. Here's one example, from the section
on property rights on Ron Paul's campaign web site:
"Property rights are the foundation of all rights in
a free society. Without the right to own a printing press, for example, freedom of the press becomes
At a superficial glance, this seems like a profound observation about the nature of
freedom in American society. Once a person stops to think about what Ron Paul is really saying, however, it
starts to look more and more silly.
Is it true that without the right to own a printing press, freedom of
the press becomes meaningless? Of course not. It becomes more difficult, but not meaningless. First of all, a
printing press is only one way to release the news. Secondly, a person doesn't have to themselves own the
means of printing in order to publish.
I'm not arguing that people should not be allowed to own
printing presses, or other means of publication or broadcast, but Ron Paul's statement is a bit of an
exaggeration and a dramatic oversimplification. There's a lot more to freedom of the press than the right to
own a printing press, but Ron Paul doesn't seem to consider that.
What about other rights guaranteed
to Americans by the Constitution? Is property rights really the foundation of them all, as Ron Paul claims?
I have a difficult time seeing how property rights are the foundation of the right to peaceably
assemble, or petition the government. Freedom of speech is not dependent upon property rights either, as a
person is remains capable of speaking even if that person owns absolutely nothing. What about the right to
due process of law, or the right to a trial by jury? Those don't have anything to do with property rights.
The right to confront witnesses, or the right to have a speedy trial, or the right to vote at age 18, don't have
a clear foundation in property rights either.
Some constitutional rights, like the right of protection
from unreasonable search and seizure, are clearly connected to property rights. Many other constitutional
rights, however, have nothing at all to do with property rights.
When Ron Paul says that "Property
rights are the foundation of all rights in a free society", he's just plain wrong... unless Ron Paul doesn't think
that people ought to have legal rights unless they own property... or unless Ron Paul thinks that the United
States is not a free society.
Whichever the case, Ron Paul seems profoundly out of touch with the
constitutional foundations of liberty in the United States. Given that the President of the United States swears
an oath to uphold the Constitution, Ron Paul seems like a downright rotten choice to become President of the
United States in 2008. (Source: RonPaul2008.com)
- You know, Bill Clinton was hardly a die-hard progressive president, but at least he understood why progressives place an emphasis on the separation of the passage of laws in the congress, the enactment of laws by the executive, and the enforcement of laws by the judiciary. Three separate and equal branches each interact with the law in their own way to prevent the law from being manipulated for any one person's or institution's gain. One area of overlap between the branches exists in the Department of Justice, which sits in the executive branch yet handles prosecutions of federal crimes in the courts. To preserve the independence of criminal prosecutions and keep political considerations from steering the path to imprisonment, Bill Clinton restricted the discussion of federal cases between the White House and the Justice Department to 2 liaisons in Justice and 4 in the White House. This system worked so well that Clinton managed to get impeached thanks to the activities of an independent counsel working in his own Justice Department!
Under the Bush administration, however, the independence of the Justice Department's prosecutions from White House politics disappeared as links between the two proliferated. Within a year of Bush taking office, 417 White House staff members and 42 Justice Department employees were involved in discussions of federal prosecutions, ensuring that the hammer of federal justice would strike to the partisan rhythm of the Bush administration. (Source: Associated Press December 20, 2007)
- Ron Paul has a beautiful way of illustrating the
fundamental absurdity underneath libertarian political philosophy. He makes outlandish claims about the
foundations of American liberty. Those claims are easily exposed by just a quick look at the Constitution.
However, Ron Paul supporters don't seem to care about that. It seems that Ron Paul is counting on the support
of Americans who won't bother to read the Constitution, or to otherwise check the statements of political
I've already written about how Ron Paul plays loose with the facts when he claims that "Property
rights are the foundation of all rights in a free society" and that "The right of an innocent, unborn child to life
is at the heart of the American ideals of liberty." It's when these two claims are considered together that the
full scale of Ron Paul's absurdity becomes clear.
If, as Ron Paul claims, property rights are the
foundation of all rights in a free society, and if there is a right of zygotes, embryos and fetuses to live that is at
the heart of American liberty, how do these two ideas work together?
How is an embryo's right to life
based on property rights? Ron Paul said that all rights are based on property rights, after all, so there must be
Furthermore, Ron Paul has sponsored bill H.R. 1094, which defines the beginning of
life, and the right to life, as at the moment of conception. So, does the fertilized egg cell itself, under Ron
Paul's curious philosophy, have a legal right to live because of property rights?
What property rights
does the fertilized egg cell have that give it the legal right to be protected from the Morning After Pill, RU486,
or similar treatments?
The only argument that makes anything close to sense is the fertilized egg cell,
and the blastula after it, and the fetus that it develops into, owns the uterus of its mother.
Even if you
accept this bizarre idea, you start to get into trouble. If embryos own their mothers' bodies from the moment
of conception forward, then expectant mothers have the legal status of slaves. They become human beings
who do not own themselves, but are owned by other human beings.
This concept is blatantly
unconstitutional. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
states, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall
have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
Does Ron Paul want to repeal the Thirteenth Amendment, or make an exception to it so that "unborn
children" are made the owners of their mothers? (Source: RonPaul2008.com)
- Supporters of the Ron
Paul 2008 presidential campaign go to great effort to contort the meaning of liberty into just another property
right. They claim that, for example, the constitutional right of a defendant to confront prosecution witnesses is
somehow just an extension of property rights. To most people, that idea is obviously silly.
however, claim that such freedoms are really based upon the concept of self-ownership. You own yourself,
and the government doesn't, you see, and so that's why you get to confront the witnesses against you when
you're accused of a crime. As earnest as this effort at mental contortion is, it still doesn't make sense to me.
Whether or not the weird loops in libertarian logic make sense to me, an equally important question is
whether Ron Paul's supporters really believe in this idea that all people should have the liberty that comes
Thus, we come to babies.
Ron Paul seems to have a political obsession
with babies. I can understand that. Babies are wonderful things. Right now, I have a three month-old baby
living in my house. He's terrific. I love babies as much as the next guy, but Ron Paul takes it further. He
doesn't just love babies. He loves embryos. He loves fertilized eggs. He refers to one-cell fertilized human
eggs as "unborn children", has offered up legislation to define them legally as such, and declares, "The right of
an innocent, unborn child to life is at the heart of the American ideals of liberty."
supporters explain that this right to life of a fertilized egg comes from the idea that, from the moment of
conception, the itty bitty zygote owns itself. That zygote, Ron Paul's supporters believe, has all the rights of a
full human adult. If that zygote was conceived in the United States, they believe, the zygote is entitled to,
because of its self-ownership, all the liberty of an American citizen...
... unless its mother or father is
not an American citizen.
This is where the self-ownership argument in favor of Ron Paul's weird
ideas about the American foundation of liberty being in the right to life of a fertilized egg breaks down.
You see, even as Ron Paul argues that American liberty is founded in the rights of human life from the
moment of conception, he seeks to rip away the rights of many children who were conceived and born right
here in the United States of America. On his web site, Ron Paul says that if elected President, he would "End
birthright citizenship. As long as illegal immigrants know their children born here will be citizens, the
incentive to enter the U.S. illegally will remain strong."
In this act, Ron Paul is seeking to punish
children for the decisions of their parents. He regards these children not as important, liberty-entitled
individuals unto themselves. Rather, regards them merely as the assets of their parents, and as tools that can
be used to control their parents' behavior.
Where did the libertarian ideal of self-ownership go?
Apparently, Ron Paul believes that it can only be inherited from American citizens.
If Ron Paul truly
believed that all human beings have inherent liberty based upon their self-ownership from the moment of
conception, then he would have to conclude that all children born in the United States of America should be
considered as individuals, and not as the chattel of their parents. Yet, that is not the policy that Ron Paul
actually advocates. He advocates depriving these children, who have never lived anywhere else but in the
United States of America, of the liberties to which they are currently entitled as American citizens. Most
importantly, Ron Paul wants to take their liberty away because of who their parents are.
Ron Paul has
a double standard. The babies of American citizens own themselves. The babies of immigrants, on the other
hand, are the property of their parents.
This division is as illogical and unjust as the division in the
early history of the United States of people into the categories of free and slave. Ron Paul's policies, following
the logic of his own purported philosophy, categorize immigrants as less than human.
'There is, in
this unjust double standard, a moral test for Ron Paul's libertarian supporters. Will they be true to their
libertarian philosophy, and advocate for the equal inherent rights of all children, born of immigrants and
citizens alike, or will they continue to support Ron Paul because they find him personally compelling?
- When George W. Bush claimed that he was invading and occupying Iraq
in order to spread democracy around the world, it was a load of bull, and reasonable people around the world
could easily tell so. The invasion of Iraq by the United States has not spread democratic government as Bush
predicted it would.
Unfortunately, what the invasion and occupation of Iraq did achieve was to give the
cause of democracy a bad name. Bush used democracy as an excuse to wage an unprovoked and unnecessary
war, and in doing so, he made it easier for other national leaders to dismiss democracy as nothing but a con.
Among those world leaders that took the cue from Bush's phony democratic posturing was Russian
President Vladimir Putin, who declared after the occupation of Iraq had decayed into a chaotic mess, "We
certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq."
We need to
restore the good name of democracy, and in order to do that, America needs to elect a President in 2008 who
truly respects democratic values. (Source: USA Today, June 28, 2007)
- Senator Edward Kennedy skewered George W. Bush's rhetoric on surveillance without a warrant, corporations, and the value of human life in a speech to the Senate on December 17, 2007:
Think about what we've been hearing from the White House in this debate. The President has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA. But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retroactive immunity. No immunity, no new FISA bill. So if we take the President at his word, he is willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies.
People need not die if the FISA Amendments Act is not passed; all the Bush administration needs to do to wiretap anybody is to supply a court with a warrant — that is, to have a good reason. But the Bush administration wants to spy on Americans when it doesn't have a reason. And of course the Bush administration prioritizes corporate interests over human lives. After all, one corporation can do so much to prop up a Republican politician, but the contributions of one person are nearly insignificant.
If that chills you, it should chill you more that Americans returned George W. Bush to office long after it became clear he held such disregard for restraints on power and such disregard for the lives of everyday Americans. (Source: Speech of Senator Edward Kennedy to the United States Senate, December 17, 2007)
- Let's think about this in terms of patriotism. Freedom of information about government activities is nothing less than the freedom of the American people to participate in the democracy that was first promised to them 231 years ago.
Yet, a recent study of how the government complies with its legal obligations to inform the public of its activities finds widespread denial of service. It is not unusual for requests of public documents made according to the standards of the Freedom of Information Act to be fulfilled only ten years after they have been made. Some requests for information made two decades ago have yet to be answered.
The government calls these refusals to comply with the Freedom of Information act mere delays, but freedom of
information delayed is freedom of information denied. If our government has the power to wage wars
halfway around the world, then it has the power to answer citizen requests for information promptly, as the
This refusal of the government to respond to citizen requests for information is
downright unpatriotic. In a monarchy, the subjects of a king can expect not to know what their government is
doing. The Revolution of 1776 was supposed to end that sort of unaccountable rule. Yet, here we are almost
two and a half centuries later, still struggling to get our government to acknowledge our right to know what
our government is doing in our names.
The problem cannot be blamed solely on George W. Bush and
the Republicans. After all, Freedom of Information Act requests made ten years ago predate the Bush
Administration. The administration of Bill Clinton seems to have been as much to blame as the adminstration
of George W. Bush is now.
The issue of government refusals to respond to Freedom of Information
Act requests is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. It is an issue of the American people, and their
frustrated desire to keep their government accountable and truly democratic. It isn't enough just to get the
Republicans out of the White House. In 2008, we need to pick a true progressive for President, someone who
will open the files of the government again, for the people to see, as the law requires. (Source: Associated
Press, July 2, 2007)
- The problem of Freedom of Information Act requests that have never been
answered by the federal government is so serious that many federal agencies are not even able or willing to
accurately report how many requests they have failed to meet. These agencies include even the Office of
Information and Privacy within the Department of Justice, the entity within the federal government that is
supposed to guide other agencies in complying with the Freedom of Information Act.
We need a strong
progressive President dedicated to truly open government, so that the federal government will begin to fully
comply with the Freedom of Information Act. (Source: Associated Press, July 2, 2007)
- Unsure that there's any problem with torture by American interrogators? Consider the case of a prisoner named Dilawar, whose treatment by American interrogators was described by the New York Times as follows: "At the interrogator's behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling. 'Leave him up,' one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying. Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen... The tissue in the young man's legs 'had basically been pulpified... I've seen similar injuries in an individual run over by a bus,' the coroner, Lt. Col. Elizabeth Rouse, added... It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time." (Source: New York Times, May 20, 2005)
- A novelist could not have come up with a more twisted authoritarian justification for government power. Two Republican-appointed justices of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court threw out a lawsuit against George W. Bush's program of
wiretapping phone conversations without warrants (which the Constitution's 4th Amendment clearly
prohibits). On what basis was the lawsuit thrown out? The justices said the citizens who brought the lawsuit
couldn't demonstrate "standing;" in other words, the plaintiffs couldn't prove they'd been wiretapped without
a warrant. According to the justices, you have to be able to prove that you've been subject to warrantless
wiretapping in order to bring a case against the government for it. But the reason that these citizens couldn't
prove they were subject to warrantless wiretapping is that the list of those who've been targeted is classified
as a state secret. Because no citizen can show they've been wiretapped without a warrant, no citizen can
challenge the constitutionality of the Bush administration's actions.
This kind of circular authoritarianism
belongs in Soviet kangaroo courts and novels by George Orwell. It does not belong in the United States of
America. (Source: Associated Press, July 6 2007)
- The first line of the sixth Harry Potter book -
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - suggests that the book will take readers on a political path:
"It was nearing midnight and the Prime Minister was sitting alone in his office, reading a long memo that
was slipping through his brain without leaving the slightest trace of meaning behind."
Book 5 left us
with a student revolt against a new form of wizardly government that persecutes students in the name of
security. That government curtails students under the cover of protection from the evildoer Lord Voldemort,
but Harry Potter rejects the link and battles the government at the same time as he resists the growing
influence of Lord Voldemort.
Adults who watch the news will see a similarity between current events
in our muggle world and the struggle for freedom at Hogwarts. I don't know where J.K. Rowling intends to
take these themes, but here's the point, kids: Take out all the special effects, and Harry Potter is about the same
kind of human events that political stories tell us about.
Maybe there aren't any magic wands or
dragons involved, but non-magical politics contains the same kind of plot elements. Just considering how
eagerly the Republicans are encouraging the Azkaban-style interrogation tactics at Guantanamo Bay makes
me shivers. Oh, yes, kiddies, there are such things as dementors, and your parents' tax dollars are paying their
wages. (Source: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince)
- Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul
likes to portray himself as a consistent proponent of a libertarian philosophy. The truth is, though, that Ron
Paul is a sometime libertarian who picks and chooses the time to get ideological.
Take, for example, Ron
Paul's treatment of Rosa Parks. Ron Paul chose to get libertarian on Rosa Parks back in 1999 when he was the
only member of the House of Representatives to vote against awarding Rosa Parks the Congressional Gold
Why would Ron Paul vote against recognizing the work of Rosa Parks in bringing liberty to
huge numbers of Americans living under the injustice of racial segregation? Ron Paul claimed that it was
nothing personal against Rosa Parks, but in line with his libertarian principles, he just could not vote in favor
of Congress giving Rosa Parks a Congressional Gold Medal. You see, Ron Paul explained, there's nothing in
the Constitution that authorizes Congress to award anyone a medal.
It would be one thing if Ron
Paul's slight against Rosa Parks were taken as a part of a consistent defense of a super-literal reading of the
Constitution. However, the plain fact is that Ron Paul has supported congressional awards to other people,
even though he wouldn't do so for Rosa Parks. Why, just this year, Ron Paul congratulated 90 students from
his congressional district who were competing for the Congressional Art Competition Award.
the last time I read the Constitution, I didn't see anywhere at all where Congress is authorized to give awards
to high school students for making pretty pictures. Yet, Ron Paul didn't seem to think there was anything
wrong with that. Ron Paul decided that, when it came to pandering to the voters in his home district, there was
no need to get so literal in his reading of the Constitution.
That's Ron Paul's inconsistent
libertarianism for you: Rosa Parks can't get a congressional award, but high school students are welcome to
their own congressional awards. Pardon me for being so blunt, but those are some pretty stupid priorities Ron
Paul has got when it comes to when he gets snippy about congressional awards.
To be fair to Ron
Paul, he does have one other excuse for voting against a Congressional Gold Medal for Rosa Parks. Ron Paul
said it would cost too much. Ron Paul said that the expense of 30,000 dollars was just not worth it.
you know how the tax burden of 30,000 dollars divides up for each American citizen? One hundreth of one
penny per citizen. Apparently, Ron Paul didn't even think Rosa Parks was worth that much. (Sources:
Congressional Record: April 20, 1999; Ron Paul's congressional web site, April 17, 2007)
- George W.
Bush justifies his attacks on America's constitutionally-guaranteed liberties in the name of security. However,
President Bush has failed to follow the most basic procedures for ordinary security in the White House. A 2007
investigation of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform concluded that "security
officers described repeated instances in which security breaches were reported to the White House Security
Office by Secret Service or CIA agents, but were never investigated."
George W. Bush has not made
America more secure. Heck, he hasn't even made his own offices secure. For President Bush to ask Americans
to sacrifice their freedoms in the name of Homeland Security when he is himself unwilling to establish
effective security within White House offices is unjust and hypocritical. (Source: House Committee on
Oversight and Government Reform, June 26, 2007)
- "The First Amendment is often inconvenient. But that is besides the point. Inconvenience does not absolve the government of its obligation to tolerate speech." - Justice Anthony Kennedy
- The attitude of the Republicans in power since 2001 has been encapsulated perfectly by the remarks of Sara Taylor. Taylor, who held a position as White
House Political Director from 2005 to 2007, indicated in testimony before the Senate on July 11, 2007 that "I
took an oath to the President, and I take that oath very seriously." Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont caught
her remark and confronted her on it, as this transcript of testimony indicates:
Leahy: And then you said, "I took an oath to the President, and I take that oath very seriously." Did you mean,
perhaps, you took an oath to the Constitution?
White House Political Director Sara Taylor: I, uh, yes,
yeah, you're correct, I took an oath to the Constitution. Uh, but, what &
Senator Leahy: Did you take a
second oath to the President?
Political Director Taylor: I did not. What I should have &
Senator Leahy: So the answer was incorrect.
Political Director Taylor: The answer was incorrect.
What I should have said is that, I took an oath, I took that oath seriously. And I believe that taking that oath
means that I need to respect and do respect my service to the President.
Senator Leahy: No, the oath
says that you take an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States. That is your paramount
duty. I know that the President refers to the government being his government. It's not. It's the government of
the people of America. Your oath is not to uphold the President, nor is mine to uphold the Senate. My oath,
like your oath, is to uphold the Constitution.
Even in her revision, White House
Political Director Sara Taylor interprets her oath to uphold the Constitution as an oath to serve George W.
Bush. This attitude is not isolated to Taylor, but reflects a general tendency within the Bush White House to
undermine constitutional forms of government when constitutional requirements hinder the expression of
It is not a mistake that Senator Patrick Leahy was the individual who caught and
challenged the White House Political Director on this point. With a progressive action score of 79%, Senator
Leahy is tied with Senator Russell Feingold as of July 12 2007 as the member of the U.S. Senate with the most
progressive legislative record in the 110th Congress. As right-wing and so-called "moderate" politicians have
followed the Bush administration in sacrificing constitutional integrity at the altar of expediency, progressives
have remembered and defended the position of the Constitution as the supreme law of the land. If you want
constitutional government, voting Republican again (or voting for a member of the "whatever" Democratic
middle) is not the way to go. If you want constitutional government, vote for the people who have shown the
strongest commitment to the Constitution in their observable behavior. Vote progressive. (Source: Testimony
of Former White House Political Director Sara Taylor to the United States Senate, July 11 2007 via TPM
Muckraker July 11 2007)
- I was surprised at the forthright manner of a comment we received here at Irregular Times in the middle
of the summer this year. The comment was in response to an article describing a campaign commercial in
which Mitt Romney suggests that he would work as President of the United States to censor the content of
televison, movies and video games, in order to reduce the level of sex, violence, and even "indolence" in the
The commenter argued that complaints about censorship are less worthy of consideration than
the "chains" that tear families apart: "We need Romney and many others to stand up against those who drag
people down into pornography, violence, etc. Those who claim freedom of censorship do not see the Chains
of pornography, sexual freedom, and the selfishness they promote. There is no benefit to the family, in fact
many are torn apart from these evils every day."
I don't recognize the value of wrecking freedom of
speech and freedom of the press in order to enable the government to manage private family in the effort to
prevent divorce. How family members choose to relate to eachother, so long as their activities are within the
law, is their business. I don't agree when this supporter of Mitt Romney suggests that it's the government's
business to try to keep family members from behaving selfishly toward one another. Yes, selfishness is bad,
but then again, so is bad breath. Would Mitt Romney's supporters favor government action to mandate
brushing and flossing first thing in the morning?
What bothers me most about this comment, though,
is not it's silly suggestion that the government try to regulate selfishness out of family life. What concerns me
is the suggestion that sexual freedom is a kind of 'chain" that drags people down and ought to be controlled by
President Romney in order to hold weak families together.
First of all, I disagree with the idea that
sexual freedom is a danger to families. The families that are threatened by sexual freedom are those families
that are already in trouble for other reasons.
I've been married to my wife for almost seven years
now, and I can tell you that I'm not even close to feeling the infamous "itch" of sexual infidelity. That's not
because there are government regulations preventing me from looking at pornography, or controlling what
kind of sexual activity I can legally engage in. I don't refrain from having sex with women other than my wife
because there are laws against "adultery", but because I love my wife and am loyal to her.
If a wife is
sexually unfaithful to her husband, it isn't because she's seen pornography. It's because she doesn't love her
husband enough to control herself. The lack of love, not the sex, is the real problem with the marriage. There's
nothing that Mitt Romney's programs of media censorship can do to make wives and husbands love
My wife and I retain our sexual freedom. We could have sex with anyone else. We have
chosen only to have sex with eachother. That's a meaningful choice because it's a free choice. Sexual freedom
makes our monogamy more valuable. It doesn't drag us down and tear us apart.
regulation to diminish sexual freedom is rotten idea. Giving the Republican sex police the power to snoop
into our bedrooms wouldn't make American marriages any stronger. It would just put a lot of people in jail
for no other reason than the fact that their sexual habits are different from what people like Mitt Romney
think they ought to be.
Besides, if Mitt Romney's supporters want the government to move against
sexual freedom, what exactly would they replace it with? Sexual oppression? Sexual servitude?
Progressives recognize that the right wing's efforts to expand government regulation of sex is a terrible
idea. So, to make sure that your sex life remains your own, vote to elect a progressive President in 2008.
- Reading a speech by Republican presidential candidate before the Congress on the subject of the
separation of church and state, I have to ask in all sincerity whether Ron Paul simply pretending a doddering
fool, or is the real deal. Let's look at the meat of his speech:
"For fifty years, the personal
religious freedom of this nation's citizens has been infringed upon by courts that misread and distort the First
amendment. The framers of the Constitution never in their worst nightmares imagined that the
words, 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise
thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech &..' would be used to ban children from praying in school,
prohibit courthouses from displaying the Ten Commandments, or prevent citizens from praying before
football games. The original meaning of the First amendment was clear on these two points: The federal
government cannot enact laws establishing one religious denomination over another, and the federal
government cannot forbid mention of religion, including the Ten Commandments and references to
In case after case, the Supreme Court has used the infamous 'separation of church and state'
metaphor to uphold court decisions that allow the federal government to intrude upon and deprive citizens of
their religious liberty. This 'separation' doctrine is based upon a phrase taken out of context from a letter
written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists on January 1, 1802. In the letter, Jefferson simply
reassures the Baptists that the First amendment would preclude an intrusion by the federal government into
religious matters between denominations. It is ironic and sad that a letter defending the principle that the
federal government must stay out of religious affairs. should be used two hundred years later to justify the
Supreme Court telling a child that he cannot pray in school!
The Court completely disregards the
original meaning and intent of the First amendment. It has interpreted the establishment clause to preclude
prayer and other religious speech in a public place, thereby violating the free exercise clause of the very same
First amendment. Therefore, it is incumbent upon Congress to correct this error, and to perform its duty to
support and defend the Constitution. My legislation would restore First amendment protections of religion
and speech by removing all religious freedom-related cases from federal district court jurisdiction, as well as
from federal claims court jurisdiction. The federal government has no constitutional authority to reach its
hands in the religious affairs of its citizens or of the several states."
Ron Paul begins by
simply getting his facts wrong. There simply are no laws or court rulings in effect that "ban children from
praying in school, prohibit courthouses from displaying the Ten Commandments, or prevent citizens from
praying before football games." Children can pray in school. Courthouses can display the Ten
Commandments. Citizens can pray before football games. These actions are not only legal, but sanctioned by
the federal courts.
Children have the ability and the right to pray in school. The prohibition is not on
student prayer, but rather on school leaders, who are forbidden from sponsoring or endorsing such prayers,
since that would involve the use of government resources and power to prioritize one set of religious beliefs
over another. As the Supreme Court made clear in two cases dealing with courthouses in Kentucky and Texas,
courthouses can indeed display the Ten Commandments, so long as the purpose of such a display is not to
promote a set of religious beliefs such as the thoroughly Judeo-Christian religious beliefs of the Ten
Commandments. When, as in Texas, a courthouse display of the Ten Commandments is historical in nature
and is not designed to advocate for one religion, the Supreme Court ruled that there's no problem with such a
display remaining. And finally, as with school prayer, citizens of course can pray before football games. The
school just can't broadcast school-sanctioned prayers for a particular religion over its loudspeaker system,
shoving it down the ears of everybody else, as the Supreme Court clearly ruled in 2000, when Catholic and
Mormon students sought relief from having Protestant school-sanctioned prayers blasted in their ears. That's
using the government to promote a particular set of religious beliefs, and that's what it means to establish a
Nobody has stopped or is stopping kids from praying in school, or citizens from praying
before football games, or courthouses from displaying the Ten Commandments in a non-proselytizing
manner as long as there's no government body being used to promote religion, these are fine. Ron Paul is just
plain simply factually wrong on this issue. "Prayer and religious speech in a public area" are, similarly, just
fine, so long as you don't have a government body or government official doing it. Has Ron Paul visited any
public schools lately? Gideon's Bibles are handed out all the time by independent organizations. Students and
student-athletes pray before all sorts of events all the time. But it's their business, and that's the way it should
be according to the Constitution and the good sense of any civil libertarian who doesn't want government
shoving mandates down citizens' throats.
It's the last step in his speech that's a real kicker. To "solve"
the non-problem of kids being able to pray just fine in school, citizens being able to pray just fine before
football games, and non-proselytizing Ten Commandments being able to be displayed at courthouses, Ron
Paul proposed a bill, H.R. 4922, which would have emptied all cases pertaining to the first amendment
religious establishment clause from the court system and prohibited the federal courts from considering or
ruling on any more of them.
Ron Paul's bill, if passed, would have removed judicial review from all
laws having to do with the use of government resources to proselytize for particular religions. In order to
solve a series of fictions that do not correspond with observable fact, current law or Supreme Court rulings,
Ron Paul would have removed the only vehicle for religious minorities to check the power of the government
to shove the religious agenda of religious majorities down their throats.
And Ron Paul calls himself a
libertarian? Oh, I completely get that Ron Paul is an economic libertarian who doesn't think the government is
good for doing anything positive. But when it comes to using the resources of government to shove particular
religious agendas down the throats of our nation's kids, Paul seems to be completely at ease. Would he feel the
same if he were not, conveniently, a member of the American Protestant majority?
comfort with the use of government for majoritarian bullying is very disturbing to me, and it's not isolated to
this one instance: See here for his similar reflections in December of 2003, for another instance. Ron Paul's
statements indicate either an ignorance of the current state of American law, in which case Ron Paul is a
doddering fool who isn't fit for the presidency, or a willingness to misrepresent it in order to enable big
government proselytization, in which case Ron Paul is a dangerous demagogue. (Sources: Ron Paul, Speech
Before the House of Representatives, 2002; Christian Science Monitor June 28 2005; ACLU Briefing Paper #3
on Church and State; Supreme Court ruling on Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe; Ron Paul
VoteSmart Profile; Ron Paul, Christmas in Secular America, 2003)
- In his defense against charges that
he committed perjury while testifying before Congress, Alberto Gonzales brought out his spokesman to refer
to "intelligence activities that have not been publicly disclosed and that remain highly classified." According to
Gonzales' spokesman, there were intense political debates about whether these undisclosed additional
classified intelligence activities were legal.
Gonzales, contradicting not only the FBI Director's testimony
to Congress but the accounts of multiple other Bush administration officials, says there was no debate over the
legality of wiretapping without a warrant, although there clearly should have been, since the 4th Amendment
expressly prohibits warrantless searches. Yet Gonzales says there was some other, additional, highly classified
intelligence activity that made even the callous Bush administration break out into fervent debate over
legality. If this purported intelligence activity exists outside of Alberto Gonzales' fertile imagination, it is by
Gonzales' own characterization an activity that is less legal than wiretapping without a warrant, and that's
Alberto Gonzales may have been lying further to cover his ass or he may have been referring
to something that makes wiretapping without a warrant look like a Sunday school picnic. (Source: New York
Times, July 27, 2007)
- "It is inappropriate and unfair to ask people to testify in public settings about highly classified programs."
White House spokesman Tony Snow, July 2007, explaining why questioning Alberto Gonzales by the United
States Congress is bad form.
"The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as
the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further
atrocities against American civilians, and the need to try terrorists for war crimes such as wantonly killing
civilians. In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of
enemy prisoners &" Alberto Gonzales, January 25 2002, explaining why the indefinite detention and
interrogation of people in a cruel and unusual manner, in violation of the Geneva Conventions, is good
Torture political prisoners, but don't let Alberto Gonzales get a hangnail. What a conveniently
dainty disconnect for the Bush administration. (Sources: Associated Press July 27 2007; Memo by Alberto
Gonzales to George W. Bush, January 25, 2002)
- Progressives believe in freedom for all, not just for themselves. They agree with Senator Carl Shurz, who commented, "If you want to be free, there is but one way; it is to guarantee an equally full measure of liberty to all your neighbors. There is no other."
- The vote by the United States Senate to approve the new powers for President Bush to spy against us stank
like the corpse of an undercover agent left in the gutter of K Street in the August heat. 60 senators, including
many Democratic senators still afraid of George W. Bush voted in favor of the legislation, S. 1927, the Protect
America Act. Only 28 senators had the guts to vote against it.
S. 1927 was introduced and read for the first
time on August 1, 2007, and was passed by the Senate on August 3, 2007, in the midst of a flurry of activity in
which 17 major votes took place in just two days. Senators had not just S. 1927, but also many other pieces of
legislation, to consider during that time.
How many of the United States Senators who voted in favor
of S. 1927, expanding the powers of President George W. Bush to listen in on private telephone conversations,
even read the law before they approved it? How many members of the House of Representatives even gave
the actual legislation more than a glance?
At the 9:31 PM, the debate in the House of Representatives
was scheduled to end a one hour debate on S. 1927, the powers of the President dramatically expanded by a
Congress rushing to get away on vacation.
The American people deserved better from the Republican
President and the pushover Democrats in Congress than this caricature of a democratic process. Any member
of Congress who went along with this blind, needless rush to expand presidential powers has earned no
respect, and no support from constituents. (Sources: Washington Post, August 4, 2007; Library of Congress;
House of Representatives Floor Summary, 9:31 PM)
- There is a great deal for Democrats to be upset about when considering the approval of the Protect
America Act by Congress. After all, 41 House Democrats and 16 Senate Democrats voted for the thoroughly
rotten new law.
The Protect America Act responded to the criminal and cruel record of Attorney General
Alberto Gonzales by giving Gonzales expanded powers. The law gave Alberto Gonzales and John Michael
McConnell the power to supervise themselves, without any outside restraint, in spying against whomever
they determine it is legitimate for them to spy against, without anyone outside of their direct control finding
out about it. The Protect America Act in effect ends the enforcement of the Fourth Amendment to the
Constitution in the Bill of Rights, by removing the need to have a warrant to conduct a search or seizure,
eliminating the need to specify a specific target for government searches, and evading the requirement for an
oath or affirmation to support a government search. Put more briefly, the Protect America Act gave the
Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence the operational ability to snoop on anyone they
like. Without meaningful oversight for their spy operations, there will be no restraint upon their power.
It's rotten that so many Democrats in Congress voted for the new Republican attack against freedom. The
failure of those Democrats to live up their oaths of office should be held accountable by their constituents on
However, there is a bright lining to this dark cloud. Not one of the Democratic
presidential candidates voted in favor of the sinister Protect America Act.
Those who say that the
Democratic presidential candidates are indistinguishable from their Republican rivals ought to stop and
consider this important difference. Not every Democrat does the right thing. Many Democrats do the wrong
thing. However, these Democrats running for President in 2008, did the right thing. They stood by American
liberty. That ought to count for something.
- A common misconception about the Protect America Act is that American citizens are protected from its
abuses. However, if you think all this warrantless surveillance will only take place against foreigners, you
haven't looked at the law carefully.
The warrantless surveillance system implemented by the Protect
America Act of 2007 only requires the following:
(1) there are
reasonable procedures in place for determining that the acquisition of foreign intelligence information under
this section concerns persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States, and such procedures
will be subject to review of the Court pursuant to section 105C of this Act;
(2) the acquisition does
not constitute electronic surveillance;
(3) the acquisition involves obtaining the foreign intelligence
information from or with the assistance of a communications service provider, custodian, or other person
(including any officer, employee, agent, or other specified person of such service provider, custodian, or other
person) who has access to communications, either as they are transmitted or while they are stored, or
equipment that is being or may be used to transmit or store such communications;
(4) a significant
purpose of the acquisition is to obtain foreign intelligence information; and
(5) the minimization
procedures to be used with respect to such acquisition activity meet the definition of minimization procedures
under section 101(h).
So the program has to be trying to obtain "foreign intelligence
information," and as other parts of the act state, any program that is trying to do so automatically is defined as
not "constituting electronic surveillance." That's pretty broad activity, and that doesn't mean the surveillance
has to have ONLY that purpose. The Act only says that "A significant purpose of the acquisition is to obtain
foreign intelligence information." Not "The" purpose. "A" purpose of the acquisition. No, the surveillance
without a warrant can have other purposes too. What purposes? The Act doesn't say.
subsection (5) refers to existing "minimization procedures" in the FISA law. Those "minimization procedures"
must protect Americans from the deleterious effects of surveillance without a warrant, right?
Let's go read section 101(h) of the FISA law to see what those "minimization procedures" are:
(h) "Minimization procedures", with respect to electronic surveillance,
means (h)(1) means that if
information about Americans is collected in pursuit of the "need of the United States to obtain, produce, and
disseminate foreign intelligence information," then c'est la vie.
(1) specific procedures, which shall be adopted by the Attorney General, that are reasonably
designed in light of the purpose and technique of the particular surveillance, to minimize the acquisition and
retention, and prohibit the dissemination, of nonpublicly available information concerning unconsenting
United States persons consistent with the need of the United States to obtain, produce, and disseminate foreign
(2) procedures that require that nonpublicly available information, which
is not foreign intelligence information, as defined in subsection (e)(1) of this section, shall not be disseminated
in a manner that identifies any United States person, without such person's consent, unless such person's
identity is necessary to understand foreign intelligence information or assess its importance;
notwithstanding paragraphs (1) and (2), procedures that allow for the retention and dissemination of
information that is evidence of a crime which has been, is being, or is about to be committed and that is to be
retained or disseminated for law enforcement purposes; and
(4) notwithstanding paragraphs (1), (2),
and (3), with respect to any electronic surveillance approved pursuant to section 1802 (a) of this title,
procedures that require that no contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party shall
be disclosed, disseminated, or used for any purpose or retained for longer than 72 hours unless a court order
under section 1805 of this title is obtained or unless the Attorney General determines that the information
indicates a threat of death or serious bodily harm to any person.
(h)(3) means that information about
Americans can be collected, kept, and sent on to law enforcement if there's "evidence of a crime which has
been, is being, or is about to be committed."
(h)(4) means that if the U.S. Government is conducting
surveillance without a warrant, and comes across information that indicates there has been or will be a crime
in the U.S., then if the U.S. Government can obtain a court order after the fact, they can go ahead and use the
So what we've got here is a system of trolling for information across wide
databases including phone conversations but also including the internet, financial transactions and other
communications of information. If the system just happens to come across "evidence of a crime which has
been, is being, or is about to be committed," then the government can send it on to law enforcement for law
enforcement to do what law enforcement does.
The end result is a system of watching Americans and
non-Americans alike, without the warrant mandated by the U.S. Constitution. As long as the Government can
come up with a justification having to do with foreigners, they can use that surveillance to catch Americans
and arrest them.
Right now you may be saying to yourself, "Oh, come on now. This is the most
expansive interpretation of government power under the law. That's pushing credibility, isn't it?" Remember,
though, that this sort of expansive interpretation of its powers is exactly what the Bush administration has
been doing with every law that comes their way. And now Bush has a new law to play with and push the
This Protect America Act isn't just an act. It's the law of the land now. Big Brother is
watching. Watch out.
- As we at Irregular Times have followed the story of the step-by-step
elimination of liberty in America, I have stepped back every now and then and thought to myself that it all
seems too much to believe. Who would have believed, ten years ago, that the American people would go
along so readily as such fundamental rights as habeas corpus, fair and speedy trial, protection from cruel and
unusual punishment, and protection from unreasonable search and seizure were done away with, through
laws like the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, and the Protect America Act?
I see how so many
Americans continue so happily without these constitutional rights intact, and I wonder if maybe I've got it all
wrong, if somehow it's all in my imagination, and the condition of freedom in America is as healthy as it
always has been. How, after all, could so many Americans see their freedoms without standing up and
demanding that liberty be restored?
Then, someone comes along and reminds me how sadly easy it is
for most people to surrender their liberty. One of our readers, a person who calls himself Maximus, wrote the
following this morning, in response to an article that another one of our readers posted in our diary section,
about the Hepting vs. AT&T case heard in a US Circuit Court in San Francisco in the middle of August, 2007: "I
would prefer for everyone to listen to my calls or read my emails than to have another attack on America.
Where do your loyalties lie?"
As you begin to consider the 2008 election, it's essential to remember
that many Americans agree with this idea. They are glad to relinquish their freedoms in the hopes that they
will become a little bit more secure as a result.
Progressives have the opposite set of values.
Progressives believe that liberty is such a precious thing that it must not be surrendered. Progressives have the
courage to say that, no matter who threatens, Americans ought not to cast aside their freedom. Progressives
would prefer to be a little more vulnerable to terrorist attack than to suffer under the oppressive security of
We progressives agree with Benjamin Franklin's statement on the idea of the
proper relationship between liberty and security: "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a
little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
- John Michael McConnell - remember the
name. As Director of National Intelligence, John Michael McConnell fades into the background of public
perception. However, McConnell is at the center of an historical grab for power in the White House
happening this year that could have implications for the American way of life for generations.
It was all
so quiet, in the dog days of summer, with the beach and picnics and afternoon naps on everyone's mind. But,
while people were at the beach they might have been wise not to look up & after all, you don't want to let
McConnell know that you're aware you're being watched.
Up there, beyond the sky, are spy satellites
looking down, and they're doing a lot more than providing arial images for map makers. Just this summer,
John Michael McConnell admitted that he and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff have approved
a plan to use those spy satellites to allow domestic law enforcement officers to keep a watch on the United
It's not just the Attorney General over at the FBI who will be able to use spy satellites to track
Americans' movements. The plan is to expand that power to state and local law enforcement officials. Your
police chief is being given the power to use satellites to snoop on the activities of people in your
When I characterize this as a satellite spying program against the American people,
however, I'm really not being fair. It's really a satellite and airplane spy program. Yes, our own government is
flying the equivalent of U2 spy missions over the United States. The Washington Post describes "aircraft
sensors that can see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers."
about that - you'll not be free from the eye in the sky even when you're inside your home, or in that cramped
little cubicle at work.
The significance of this story goes far beyond just the use of satellites and
airplanes to keep an eye on the American people, however. It goes to the combination of this data with other
electronic information now being gathered by government spies. You see, Director of National Intelligence
John Michael McConnell is also at the heart of the dramatic new electronic spy powers granted in the Protect
America Act, and is mentioned prominently in the hearings for the class action lawsuit Hepting v. AT&T.
Hepting v. AT&T is based upon the allegation that AT&T is cooperating with the National Security Agency in
splitting Internet and telephone traffic going through communications hubs so that a copy that can be searched
is placed in NSA computers. Government lawyers openly state that such a program would be made legal by
the Protect America Act.
How do those relate to satellite and arial spy imagery to which McConnell
and Chertoff have ordered access for local, state and national law enforcement? Well, the images captured by
satellites are certainly in electronic form. After all, there isn't a long cord going from the Earth into outer
space, or a photo developing service in orbit. The pictures taken in spy airplanes over the United States are
most likely in digital format as well. These images captured by the government eye in the sky thus become a
part of the larger flow of data in the reborn Total Information Awareness program.
of John Michael McConnell's new programs makes it possible for Internet activity, telephone calls, and other
electronic communications to be matched with photographs taken from far up above. This information can be
entered into a database that can be quickly searched, so that, effectively, massive files showing private
information are compiled by location, by individual citizen, and by keyword.
Put together the pieces
to see the bigger picture. That's what the government seems to be doing. (Source: Washington Post, August 16,
- A United States citizen is picked up on American soil, thrown into a Navy brig, detained, placed
into solitary confinement for years and tortured all without charges. After they're done with him, the citizen
is sent to trial on an altogether different charge: guilt by association. The citizen, you see, consorted with
people who were terrorists. Never mind the First Amendment, which explicitly provides for freedom of
This is what actually happened to Jose Padilla. Teachers used to tell grade school children
about the Soviets and their kangaroo courts. What will they tell the kids now? Will they tell the kids about
Padilla? What will they say? (Sources: Baltimore Sun August 17, 2007)
- It used to be that probable
cause required for a search by government agents meant evidence linking someone to a crime or to a
conspiracy to commit a crime. Not any more. Now, in the era of Homeland Insecurity, the threshold of
probable cause has been lowered to the guess by a government agent that someone they see has an emotion
that they are trying to hide.
The Transportation Security Administration is hiring people to serve as what
it calls "Behavior Detection Officers". These officers wander around airports, and possibly other places as
well, just looking at people, or setting people up to be examined under false pretenses. If these Behavior
Detection Officers see someone showing a facial expression that they believe indicates the attempt to suppress
a demonstration of emotion, the observed person is then submitted to a new set of security measures that can
include being followed, interrogation, and personal search.
The Bill of Rights' protection against
unreasonable search and seizure used to mean something, but now, the government seems to interpret any
search that it wants to do as inherently reasonable.
In the American tradition of liberty, a troubled
facial expression was not regarded as a reasonable grounds for interrogation and search by government
agents. Now, under Homeland Insecurity, it's regarded as quite reasonable. In the Homeland States of
America, even sending out special government agents to search for people who look like they are feeling
emotionally vulnerable is categorized as a reasonable thing to do.
As a progressive, I'm still holding
on to that tradition of liberty in America, which holds that the Bill of Rights counts for something, and that it
is not the business of the government to send agents out to study my face for signs that I might be feeling
upset. (Source: McClatchy Newspapers, August 14, 2007)
- Oh, those Republicans. They'll sing songs about Gawd blessing America. They'll pass laws to make it illegal to desecrate the cloth of an American flag. But when it comes to real liberty, what are they up to?
They're gathering private information on your kids.
Under Bush Administration orders, the military is building gigantic files of private information about kids who aren't even old enough to buy cigarettes. Using little-known powers granted through the No Child Left Behind Act, Bush Administration officials in the Pentagon are sending out soldiers to high schools across the country in order to gather information like students' Social Security numbers, their email addresses, the classes they're taking, and even the extracurricular activities that they are involved in.
The Washington Post quotes the official description of the project as stating "The purpose of the system . . . is to provide a single central facility within the Department of Defense to compile, process and distribute files of individuals who meet age and minimum school requirements for military service." The parents of American high school students are right to worry that this looks like the preparation for a military draft.
One cruel irony: Republicans have been fighting to eliminate Social Security benefits, but they're eager to use high school students' Social Security numbers in order to spy on their personal activities.
Another cruel irony: The Pentagon has informed parents that they can opt out of the effort to collect private information about their kids — by providing the Pentagon with private information about their teenagers, to be kept in another file. I guess that's what the Republicans mean when they talk about family values.
This is what Republicans seem to think about liberty: It gets in the way of efforts to drag American high schoolers into the war in Iraq. Unfortunately for them, there's a little old thing called the Bill of Rights. One of the freedoms in the Bill of Rights is protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
Grabbing personal information to feed into gigantic national files on underage students - it's probable that Jefferson, Madison and Adams would have regarded such an act as unreasonable search and seizure. It's too bad that the Republicans in government have taken America far away from the traditions of liberty that these founding fathers worked so hard to establish.
- In response to public furor over the military database of American children, the Pentagon has vigorously denied that it is up to no good. Pentagon spokespeople have insisted to reporters that the database is only to establish records of the contact information of American kids, but have refused to explain why the military database includes information on things like childrens' ethnicity, the classes they have taken in school, driver's license records, and other highly personal information.
It has now been revealed that the Pentagon has been adding information on American children gathered through commercial databases of kids' activities. Parents: That means that every time you give a corporation any information on your kids, you may be also giving that information to the government. Thus, Total Information Awareness focuses its lens on our children's shopping habits.
The Pentagon has also been at a loss to explain why it is using BeNow to build the database. BeNow is a company that specializes in identifying targets for marketing campaigns. The very idea of American children being targeted by the US military goes way over the edge of reason. It's one thing for military recruiters to use their unscrupulous methods against young adults. It is quite another for the Pentagon to build up secret files containing information about kids personal activities in order to hound them more efficiently even while the kids are still living at home with mom and dad.
The excuses by the Pentagon don't add up, and when combined with new information about how the Bush Adminstration is gathering files on the private activities of American adults, should lead to a new level of investigation. We need to know just what information Bush's government is grabbing about American citizens' lives, and what it intends to do with that information. For a government that is notoriously secretive about its own activites, the Bush Administration has shown a frightening interest in peering into the private lives of the people it is sworn to serve.
- There were a great many important
questions that George Stephanopoulos chose not to ask on Sunday morning's presidential debate on ABC
television. There were no questions about global warming, or about the use military commissions. There was
no question about the new, and extremely controversial, Protect America Act, or the revelation that the
American government is now allowing federal, state and local law enforcement to use military spy satellites
and airplanes like the U2 to spy on American citizens. There was not one question at all about the dramatic
attack against Americans' constitutional rights.
Oh, but George Stephanopoulos found plenty of time to
slip the following question in there:
"My question is to understand each candidates' view of a
personal God. Do they believe that, through the power of prayer, disasters like Hurricane Katrina or the
Minnesota bridge collapse could have been prevented or lessened?"
I do not understand why George
Stephanopoulos asked this question. It's completely off-topic. It doesn't have anything at all to do with the job
of President of the United States. It's an invitation to engage in baseless theological speculation.
Stephanopoulos might as well have asked the Democratic presidential candidates how many angels they
believe could fit on the head of pin.
In 2008, we're electing a secular executive leader of the
government of the United States of America. We are not electing a Priest-In-Chief.
Sadly, this wasn't
just an isolated question. Over the last few presidential elections, there has been an escalating attempt by
religious groups to wield their power in the political sphere, and make presidential candidates subject to
religious tests of worthiness. That's an explicitly anticonstitutional approach. Article VI of the Constitution of
the United States of America states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office
or public trust under the United States."
George Stephanopoulos should have known better than to
subject the Democratic presidential candidates to religious test. In 2008, we need to elect a President who has
the wisdom to confront such blatant attempts to make the Presidency a theocratic position. (Source: ABC
News, August 19, 2007)
- Progressives defend wilderness not just for the sake of wilderness, and not just for the sake of the literal, environmental benefits of wilderness. Progressives understand that the health of wilderness is a mirror for the health of freedom in human society. A society that ravages wilderness also ravages the individual, regarding both as a commodity to be exploited without conscience.
There is a deeper meaning in the words of conservationist Aldo Leopold than a literal interpretation allows: "For unnumbered centuries of human history the wilderness has given way. The priority of industry has become dogma. Are we as yet sufficiently enlightened to realize that we must now challenge that dogma, or do without our wilderness? Do we realize that industry, which has been our good servant, might make a poor master?"
In a society with no unmastered land, there is also no unmastered citizen. (Source: Aldo Leopold, A Plea for Wilderness Hunting Grounds, 1925)
- "Pentagon ditches controversial security database," reads the headline of a Reuters article published August 21, 2007. The body of the article begins:
The Pentagon said
in August that it would close a controversial database tracking suspicious activity around U.S. military bases
which critics complained had been used to spy on peaceful antiwar activists.
Officials decided the
TALON program would end on September 17 not in response to public criticism but because the amount and
quality of information being gathered had declined, the Pentagon said.
"The analytical value of it
was pretty slim," said Army Col. Gary Keck, a Pentagon spokesman.
"The TALON database was a
perfectly legal system, nobody ever said it wasn't, but it just was not meeting our needs any more," he told
Many people who browse the news tend to just read the headlines or the first
paragraph of a story before moving on. Such people might be forgiven for thinking that the TALON program
would be "closed," "ditched," and "ended."
They can forgiven for believing that TALON is closed, but
they are nonetheless mistaken.
Under the TALON program, the U.S. military spies on peaceful and
legal civilian protests against Halliburton in public places on U.S. soil. Under the TALON program, the U.S.
military spies on peaceful and legal student protests on college campuses. Under the TALON program, the
U.S. military spies on legal and nonviolent meetings of peace activists in Quaker Meeting Houses. All this
information is incorporated into databases for military analysis and pre-emptive government action.
Despite the description of the TALON program as being "ditched," "closed" and "ended" in the initial
paragraphs of that Reuters article, the closing paragraphs tell a different story altogether. The observation of
American civilians will continue. The collection of data about them will continue. The warehousing of data
about them will continue. None of the old TALON information will be tossed out.
What's the change
that they call a "closing," a "ditching," an "end?" Well, they won't use the TALON name any more. Also, the
results of military spy operations on American will be taken in by the FBI and integrated into its own
databases, knocking down another brick in the wall separating the military from law enforcement.
I'm not stretching it. I'm working from the Department of Defense's own press brief:
DoD to Implement Interim Threat Reporting Procedures
Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) will close the TALON Reporting System effective Sept. 17, 2007,
and maintain a record copy of the collected data in accordance with intelligence oversight
To ensure there is a mechanism in place to document and assess potential threats to
DoD resources, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs will
propose a system to streamline such threat reporting and better meet the Defense department's
In the interim, until this new reporting program is adopted, DoD components will send
information concerning force protection threats to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Guardian reporting
"Interim, until this new reporting program is adopted." The DOD isn't shutting
down TALON; it's replacing it with something that will "better meet the Defense department's needs." And all
the current military spying data goes to the Guardian database at the FBI, the information in which is sent on
to field officers around the nation and to members of numerous Joint Terrorism Task Forces, which include
local law enforcement. Completing the circle, JTTF members have themselves been caught spying on
Americans engaged in peaceful, legal activist work. What will they do with this military information?
We've heard this "we shut it down" line before, when the government sent out press releases declaring that
it would end its data-mining program called Total Information Awareness. It did. Then it started up even
more expansive data-mining programs under different names, like "Operation Basketball" and "Topsail,"
quietly and without fanfare or media attention.
Well, don't let this one pass without a squawk. The
TALON program of military spying on Americans isn't being shut down. The program is not only continuing
but being integrated with other federal databases. Roll over, Orwell.
- It has been discovered that the Bush administration decided to call a person a "material witness" and stash them away in indefinite detention, without evidence, without charges, without being informed of the reason for their arrest, without required access to a lawyer, in solitary confinement, without a public or speedy trial, but yet under regular interrogation. And then they decided to keep this secret from the American public.
For month after month after month, the ACLU and HRW and even the United States Congress asked the Bush administration to provide complete information regarding its "material witness" detainees on American soil. The Bush administration refused to provide this information, often simply ignoring these official requests.
Finally, through repeated efforts, the ACLU and HRW were able to obtain information on some of these cases. Although it still is unclear to how many people this has happened, the two groups have been able to confirm 70 cases. There may be many more, but the Bush administration isn't talking. Although the Constitution applies to all people living in America, for those of you who believe this is important 17 of the 70 we now know about are American citizens. (Sources: American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, June 27, 2007)
- Although Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has sworn up and down that the government's Patriot Act power to snoop into your library records without your knowledge, your consent or even a judge's warrant has never been used, the American Library Association says otherwise.
In a survey of approximately 1,500 libraries, the ALA found 137 instances in which government agents formally requested access to library records. Those are just from the librarians who are willing to defy official government orders to remain silent about the requests. (Source: American Library Association, June 20, 2005)
- In a document revealed in a
lawsuit by the ACLU, the Bush administration outlines its strategy for organizing squads from "college/young
republican organizations, local athletic teams, and fraternities/sororities" to provide a supportive backdrop
and counter any protesters encountered where George W. Bush goes:
There are several ways the
advance person can prepare a site to minimize demonstrators. First, as always, work with the Secret Service
and have them ask the local police department to designate a protest area where demonstrators can be placed,
preferable not on view of the event site or motorcade route.
The formation of "rally squads" is a
common way to prepare for demonstrators by countering their message. This tactic involves utilizing small
groups of volunteers to spread favorable messages using large hand held signs, placards, or perhaps a long
sheet banner, and placing them in strategic areas around the site.
These squads should be instructed
always to look for demonstrators. The rally squad's task is to use their signs and banners as shields between
the demonstrators and the main press platform. If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and
lead supportive chants to drown out the protestors (USA!,USA!,USA!). As a last resort, security should remove
the demonstrators form the event site. The rally squads can include, but are not limited to, college/young
republican organizations, local athletic teams, and fraternities/sororities.
For larger rallies, the
squads should be broken up into groups of approximately 15-25 people. A squad should be placed
immediately in front of the stage, immediately in forgot of the main camera platform, close to the cut
platform, immediately behind the stage area (if people are being used as the backdrop), and at least one squad
should be 'roaming' throughout the perimeter of the event to look for potential problems.
This document shows the Republican plan to deal with protesters is to stick them in a corner, shout them
down, and if that's not enough, shove them out. The problem is that whenever we've got a grievance with the
government, the protesters who will be silenced will be us. (Source: American Civil Liberties Union)
- The place of dissent in American society is being dangerously eroded by right wing politicians who try to
gain power by hammering away at the legitimate place of political disagreement in a democratic society.
Take, as an example, Republican presidential candidate Duncan Hunter, who has lashed out against
Republican Senator John Warner.
Why would Duncan Hunter attack a fellow Republican as he is trying to
gain the Republican nomination for President in 2008? Last month, Senator Warner joined the majority of
Americans in concluding that the wisest course of action would be for the American military to begin to
withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible. Duncan Hunter believes that it is intolerable for a Republican to
question George W. Bush's insistence upon a lengthy military occupation of Iraq with no end in sight.
Criticizing John Warner's judgment is one thing, but Duncan Hunter went further than that. Hunter said
that Warner's dissent from the Republican Party orthodoxy "undermines" the efforts of American soldiers.
What Duncan Hunter seems incapable of understanding is that, in a democracy, if there is a good and
honest reason to continue a war, the critical comments of any legislator or citizen will not undermine the work
that soldiers do. Furthermore, if there is no good and honest reason to continue a war, the critical comments of
any legislator or citizen will not be what makes the work of soldiers difficult.
Duncan Hunter is not
actually defending soldiers. Instead, he is attempting to restrict the scope of political debate within the
Republican Party. He isn't concerned with what undermines American soldiers so much as he is concerned
with what undermines the Republican Party.
In 2008, we ought not elect another President who
confuses the good of one political party with the good of American soldiers. (Source: GoHunter08.com,
August 27, 2007)
- On September 5, 2007, Fred Thompson avoided a debate so he could talk, all by
himself, about diversity and unity in America. With soaring brass giving him a civil war era soundtrack, this is
what he said:
"We can't allow ourselves to become a weaker, less prosperous and more divided nation.
Today, as before, the fate of millions across the world depends on the unity and resolve of the American
Vote for Fred Thompson and what you'll get another authoritarian president who wants
the American people to shut up, stop dissenting, fall in line and do what he says. Is that what you want? Unity
above the freedom to disagree? Is that your idea of America?
- Republican politicians are busy these days attending gigantic religious rallies, stepping up to the podium, and shouting in loud voices that they are sick and tired of religion being kept out of its rightful place of government power. They say they want religious judges, religious presidents, and a religious Congress. After all, they say, they're just promoting religion, and who could disagree with that?
As always, when politicians speak, it's important to look at the fine print.
What these Republican politicians are promoting is not really religion as a category. They're advocating for political power to be given to certain religious groups, and not to others. In fact, the same people who are pushing to give their ability to institute religious law over all Americans are also campaigning to squash government access for the followers of religions that they do not like.
Pat Robertson, a former Republican presidential candidate and the founder of the Christian Coalition, for example, has announced that he supports the following possible Republican presidential candidates:
- Kansas Senator Sam Brownback
- Virginia Senator George Allen
- Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani
Robertson praised these candidates as being friendly to religion, and complained that religion is not given enough access to governmental power. Almost in the same breath, however, Robertson declared that he would forbid Muslims from federal judgeships and ban Muslims from seats in the Presidential Cabinet.
Robertson's demand to forbid Muslims from serving in top governmental positions was joined by Reverend Louis P. Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition, a religious right activist organization.
See, these Republican religious political groups talk a great deal about promoting religion, but when it comes down to it, they're really only talking about giving government power to their own religious groups. That means that they're not even willing to share power with liberal Christian groups.
When these Republican politicians have their way, America will become a theocracy - a nation in which governmental power is defined by religious power. As the comments of Pat Robertson and Louis Sheldon show, a theocracy is not just bad for secular Americans - it's bad for the vast majority of religious Americans as well. If the religious right has its way, religious Americans will have to ask: Is my religion on the approved list of sects to be given special government access? Is my religion on the list of groups that are forbidden to have access to government power?
Separation of Church and State is fundamental to liberty, because it prevents American ayatollahs like Pat Robertson and Louis Sheldon from using the powers of the courts, the Congress and the White House to punish people because they don't belong to the correct religion. First Amendment protections against government endorsement of religion help make religion as a general category more healthy, by refusing to allow the followers of one religion to use public resources to persecute the followers of another religion.
If you want to promote American religion, don't sit down politely in your pew when preachers like Pat Robertson and Louis Sheldon sermonize on the sacred right of their particular religious groups to lord it over everybody else.
- The Patriot Act, by requiring electronic
communication companies to turn over private information on customers without a warrant or other court
order, violates the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure. That's clear to
anyone who has read the Fourth Amendment and the Patriot Act.
Still, you don't have to take my word for
it. There is also the official legal opinion of U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero to consider. Judge Marrero
writes in a ruling issued on September 6, 2007 that the Patriot Act "offends the fundamental constitutional
principles of checks and balances and separation of powers" because government orders to search and seize
private information must be subject to judicial review.
That's what the Fourth Amendment states in
clear, easy to understand English. Still, if you have to have the word of someone in authority to confirm what
is plain for any literate American to see, now you have it. Thank you, Judge Marrero. (Source: Associated
Press, September 6, 2007)
- If Republican candidate Mike Huckabee is elected president, how will he
treat the citizens beneath him? Ask Huckabee himself, who revealed his proclivities in last night's Republican
"The reality is that we track packages from UPS and FedEx every time we order from
amazon.com, and yet we've got a government that says we don't know what to do and how to keep up with
people. If necessary, we ought to outsource this whole issue to FedEx and UPS. They seem to have a better way
of keeping up with packages than our government does with people."
Do you have your barcode yet?
- There's a notion I've encountered out there in the big wide world, a notion that the rise of our Big
Brother surveillance state is thanks to the personal evil of George W. Bush. Get rid of Bush, the story goes,
and you get rid of the assaults on our constitutional liberties, and you stop the erosion of our privacy, and
everybody can breathe a deep sigh of relief. Unfortunately, that notion is wrong. This year's GOP presidential
contenders (with the notable exception of Ron Paul) are scrambling over each other to describe ever-more
draconian measures they promise they'll institute in order to make sure no American gets a so much as a boo-
boo ever again.
Take, for instance, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback. In the Republican Party debate on
September 5, 2007, Senator Brownback described his vision for the scale of a U.S. surveillance program under
"We need this because we're not talking about just a needle in a haystack. We're
talking about a needle in a hayfield of millions of people that we have to, we need to, watch, and we need to
find with good intelligence who it is that seeks to do us harm."
Yes, Virginia. Senator Brownback
believes that the U.S. government has to, needs to watch millions of people in its surveillance program.
Nobody in the Republican field of candidates (again with the notable exception of Ron Paul) stepped out to
correct, chastize or in any way disagree with Senator Brownback's contention.
Are you comfortable
with that vision for America? Millions of people under surveillance? If the answer is no, then you have no
business voting Republican in 2008.
- Come presidential election season, many citizens get so attached
to one particular candidate or cause that they lose sight of the bigger picture. That's the case with someone
who calls himself "Joseph" but covers up his or her IP address so as to avoid being genuinely identified.
"Joseph" is a supporter of Unity08, a corporation that is seeking to use its lobbyist insider connections in
Washington D.C. to get someone elected President. Unity08 started out describing itself as a grassroots
organization, but the longer that it has been in operation, the more Unity08 has shut out real grassroots
political activists from having influence within its organization and political process.
"Joseph", as a
supporter and perhaps a staff member of, Unity08, does not take kindly to people criticizing Unity08's
political operations. "Joseph" writes to Irregular Times, complaining about an article asking criticizing the
dishonest PR tactics used by Unity08, "I do figure that in the end, attacking Unity08 will end up closing off
another avenue of democracy, so that in the next election millions of people will be frustrated with their
choices and simply not vote."
Think about the implications of this attempted defense of Unity08's
tactics. What kind of cockamamie concept of democracy does "Joseph" have that he thinks that democracy can
survive only if nobody ever criticizes anybody or anything?
Progressives have another, more
traditional, idea about what makes democracy work. Progressives believe that it's when citizens use their
freedom of speech to ask hard questions about people and organizations that seek political power that
Don't buy into the warped idea that challenging the politically powerful is a threat
to democracy. Ask tough questions. Speak up and point out the problems with the plans promoted by political
insiders. In 2008, use your freedom of speech, even to question the progressive presidential candidates. Those
candidates and causes that are worth supporting will survive the open examination, and be stronger for it.
- The New York Times publishes an article by Eric Lichtblau this morning which reveals the spread of
surveillance by the FBI along lines of association. If Person X was a designated target of surveillance, that
surveillance would spread to a new set of people who were in contact with Person X. Why? Not necessarily
because they had done anything suspicious, but just that they knew someone suspicious. Lichtblau refers to
this practice as part of "link analysis." Another name for it is "network analysis," and the technique involves
what's called "snowball sampling." Start with just a bit of snow, roll it, and you end up with an awfully hefty
big snowman-sized thing that can tear up the sod when you move it.
One problem with using snowball
sampling to expand surveillance is principled it offends the idea of freedom of association, turning the all-
seeing eye of Big Brother onto someone just because of who they know. Police and federal agents have always
been inclined to follow lines of association to some extent when pursuing an investigation, but until recently
they were constrained by the 4th Amendment need to show probable cause before invading their privacy. But
under the Bush administration, the 4th Amendment is being ignored, and there was no need for a warrant
under the FBI's practice. As Lichtblau notes, the FBI would simply deliver requests for the information to
telecommunications companies, and then receive it.
That's not constitutional.
Another problem, a
problem that especially bothers me, is one of scale. Each time the government expands surveillance according
to targets' associations, the size of the population under surveillance is multiplied. If the size of the initial
surveillance target population is 1,000 and the number of a typical person's contacts is 10, all of a sudden
you've got a surveillance population of 10,000 ish. Actually, that's not precisely true, because some of the
original 1,000 people's contacts overlap. Arnold and Olivia may both be in contact with Olysses, and you
wouldn't want to count Olysses twice since Olysses is just one person. To correct for this Bernard et al have
studied extant networks and from their experience recommend a division of that 10,000 by 1.6. But even with
this in mind you still move from 1,000 surveillance targets to 6,250 surveillance targets.
sound so bad, does it? Well, consider that the goal of this surveillance strategy is to identify new suspects.
Once those new suspects are found, the strategy indicates one would look at their contacts too. And indeed,
Lichtblau almost off-handedly indicates this is being done:
Officials at other American intelligence
agencies, like the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, have explored using link
analysis to trace patterns of communications sometimes two, three or four people removed from the original
targets, current and former intelligence officials said.
Yes, the NSA and CIA are doing it too. And at
four removes, you really get an idea of how many people can get caught up in the surveillance snowball.
Again, from an initial target population of 1,000: first remove: 1,000 * (10/1.6) = 6,250
6,250 * (10/1.6) = 39,062
third remove: 39,062 * (10/1.6) = 244,137
fourth remove: 244,137 * (10/1.6) =
Yeah, that's a lot of people. This is the kind of operation Kansas Senator Sam Brownback
was referring to when he said in a presidential debate last week that:
We need this because we're not
talking about just a needle in a haystack. We're talking about a needle in a hayfield of millions of people that
we have to, we need to, watch, and we need to find with good intelligence who it is that seeks to do us harm.
This is also why the Bush administration and the spooks under Bush's command don't want to have to
pay attention to the 4th Amendment to the Constitution any more. Not just because they don't have probable
cause for their invasive surveillance, but also because they want to put so many people under their Orwellian
eye. Writing out millions of warrants would lead to a lot of papercuts.
- Ron Paul's repeated dedication
to legislation that declares all fertilized eggs and developmental stages onward in the human life cycle to have
the full legal status of a human being, regardless of "defect or condition of dependency." There are
substantively bizarre practical consequences and absurdly draconian expansions of government power that are
consequent to the determination of such a legal status for fertilized eggs, blastocysts and the like, and I
covered a few of those in yesterday's post (one consequence that didn't occur to me until today is that the
removal of a molar pregnancy would become legally tantamount to homicide. How do you like them
But there's a procedural problem with Ron Paul's legislation, too. Section 3 of the bill reads:
SEC. 3. LIMITATION ON APPELLATE JURISDICTION.
General- Chapter 81 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new
'Sec. 1260. Appellate jurisdiction; limitation
'Notwithstanding the provisions of
sections 1253, 1254, and 1257, the Supreme Court shall not have jurisdiction to review, by appeal, writ of
certiorari, or otherwise, any case arising out of any statute, ordinance, rule, regulation, practice, or any part
thereof, or arising out of any act interpreting, applying, enforcing, or effecting any statute, ordinance, rule,
regulation, or practice, on the grounds that such statute, ordinance, rule, regulation, practice, act, or part
'(1) protects the rights of human persons between conception and birth; or
prohibits, limits, or regulates
'(A) the performance of abortions; or
'(B) the provision of
public expense of funds, facilities, personnel, or other assistance for the performance of abortions.'
Conforming Amendment- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 81 of title 28, United States Code,
is amended by adding at the end the following new item:
'1260. Appellate jurisdiction; limitation.'.
SEC. 4. LIMITATION ON DISTRICT COURT JURISDICTION.
(a) In General- Chapter 85 of
title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new section:
Limitation on jurisdiction
'Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the district courts shall not
have jurisdiction of any case or question which the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction to review under
section 1260 of this title.'.
(b) Conforming Amendment- The table of sections at the beginning of
chapter 85 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new item:
'1370. Limitation on jurisdiction.'.
In other words, the states can pass any law
restricting human liberties in the interest of preserving fertilized eggs, even if they're not viable, even if they
won't even implant in the uterine wall. This is a license for the legal enslavement of women to government
interests. And neither the Supreme Court nor the Federal District courts can challenge the legality of the bill.
Under Ron Paul's plan, Mississippi or South Dakota or Alabama or any other state can pass a law that initiates
any kind of regulation upon people, and so long as it claims as justification the protection of fertilized eggs,
there's nothing that a federal court can do to stop it. Even if it violates the 4th Amendment to the Constitution
by mandating the seizure and search of women every month before their menstrual cycle to scan and recover
fertilized eggs, or forcing women to take pregnancy tests. Even if it violates the 1st Amendment to the
Constitution by prohibiting doctors from mentioning the existence of certain medications that might reduce
the likelihood of a fertilized egg implanting in the uterus. Even if it violates the Equal Protection Clause of
the Constitution by mandating that high school girls not play contact sports for fear of causing miscarriages.
Even if it imposes the death penalty for abortions. Under Ron Paul's plan, neither the Supreme Court nor any
federal court would even have the right to review the constitutionality of these measures. The status of the
United States Constitution as the law of the land, with its vitally protections of civil liberty, would be
overturned by Ron Paul's legislative fiat.
There are those who say that because the words "judicial
review" are not in the U.S. Constitution, the federal judiciary has no right to review the constitutionality of
federal laws such as those being proposed by Ron Paul. These people are right that the words "judicial review"
are not present in Article III of the Constitution, the article which concerns the federal judiciary. Here is
Section 1. The judicial power of the United States, shall be
vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and
establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour,
and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during
their continuance in office.
Section 2. The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity,
arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under
their authority; to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls; to all cases of admiralty
and maritime jurisdiction; to controversies to which the United States shall be a party; to controversies
between two or more states; between a state and citizens of another state; between citizens of different states;
between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the
citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.
In all cases affecting ambassadors, other
public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original
jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both
as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.
trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the state
where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be
at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.
Section 3. Treason against the
United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid
and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same
overt act, or on confession in open court.
The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of
treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the
No, the words "judicial review" are not included in the Constitution. By
that standard, the Constitution never declares exactly what "judicial power" is. It could mean the power to
produce zippers. I mean, heck, the term isn't defined, right? And nowhere in the Constitution does it say that
the Congress or the Executive can't just overrule the decisions of the Supreme Court or any other federal
court. It doesn't say they can't!
This is the kind of pseudo inverted bizarro not-quite-literalism which
might lead a reader of the Bible to conclude that Jesus moved by jet propulsion, because the Bible doesn't say
he didn't! What the Constitution grants the Supreme Court and its subsidiary courts is "judicial power" the
power to judge, to interpret, to make rulings regarding "law and equity." The decision later on in Marbury v.
Madison by the Supreme Court explicitly recognized the power of judicial review not by inventing it out of
thin air, but by drawing it from the logic of the Constitution:
emphatically the duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to
particular cases must, of necessity, expound and interpret the rule. If two laws conflict with each other, the
Court must decide on the operation of each.
If courts are to regard the Constitution, and the
Constitution is superior to any ordinary act of the legislature, the Constitution, and not such ordinary act,
must govern the case to which they both apply.
The job of the judiciary review and
judgment is a necessary consequence of the "Supremacy Clause" of the Constitution, which declares in Article
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall
be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United
States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in
the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
stands above any law, whether it be a federal law (as would be the case if Ron Paul's bill passed) or state law
(as would be secondarily passed if Ron Paul's bill passed). But Ron Paul's proposed legislation would be
unreviewable for any questions regarding whether it violates the Constitution. Because there would be no
judicial review, Ron Paul's law would become the new untouchable law, the new Supreme Law of the Land, in
direct contradiction of the Constitution.
There's no reason why one would go stopping there. Why not
pass a bill through Congress that declares that all citizens shall be implanted with microchips in each buttock,
and to avoid the pesky question of whether it violates the Constitution, simply tack on Ron Paul's Section 3 to
the end so that no federal court will have jurisdiction to decide whether it's constitutional? Why not pass a bill
establishing a State Religion, and tack on Section 3 so that no federal court can overturn it? Why not pass a bill
abolishing private property, confiscating all weapons, and gutting free speech? Why not pass a bill doing
whatever a bare majority of the Congress decides it wants to do? All you have to do is tack on a statement at
the end saying that the federal courts can't rule on the matter, and the Government is off scot-free.
Yes, that's scary. That's why the efforts of legislators such as Ron Paul to establish provisions to escape
constitutionality are worthy of note, worthy of scorn, and worthy of opposition. It turns the U.S. Government
into an unrestrained beast that can do whatever a majority decides is OK at the time. The exercise of arbitrary,
unchecked power is the way for nations to descend into tyranny.
It's not just Ron Paul who is trying
to establish this extra-constitutional congressional power, you know. It's a systematic effort carried out by a
number of Republican Party politicians in Congress, matching George W. Bush's declarations that he can
ignore the Constitution (and the Congress, too) in his actions in the executive branch. Here are just a few
In the 109th Congress:
The Military Commissions Act includes provisions
that place decisions regarding the classification of individuals as enemy combatants above the review of the
federal judiciary. The bill passed and is in effect.
H.R. 1070, sponsored by Republican Robert
Aderholt of Alabama, declares:
'Sec. 1260. Matters not reviewable
Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the Supreme Court shall not have jurisdiction to
review, by appeal, writ of certiorari, or otherwise, any matter to the extent that relief is sought against an
entity of Federal, State, or local government, or against an officer or agent of Federal, State, or local
government (whether or not acting in official or personal capacity), concerning that entity's, officer's, or
agent's acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government...
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the district courts shall not have jurisdiction of a matter if
the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction to review that matter by reason of section 1260 of this title.
That's pretty darned similar to Ron Paul's text, right down to the Section 1260 business, isn't
it? Yes, the Republicans are working together on this idea. It's just that in the case of H.R. 1070, the subject
matter to be unreviewable was the action by government officials to establish a "God" as sovereign source of
authority in their state, locality, or in the entire nation (cue Amendment 1 to the Constitution).
102 of H.R. 418 (The REAL ID ACT), sponsored by Republican James Sensenbrenner, read as follows:
'(1) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the
Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to waive, and shall waive, all laws such Secretary, in
such Secretary's sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and
roads under this section.
'(2) NO JUDICIAL REVIEW- Notwithstanding any other provision of law
(statutory or nonstatutory), no court, administrative agency, or other entity shall have jurisdiction
'(A) to hear any cause or claim arising from any action undertaken, or any decision made, by the Secretary
of Homeland Security pursuant to paragraph (1); or
'(B) to order compensatory, declaratory,
injunctive, equitable, or any other relief for damage alleged to arise from any such action or decision.'.
Although it's difficult to believe, the Secretary of Homeland Security under this bill could
dissolve any law in border areas he saw fit to dissolve, and no court could review the constitutionality of that
decision. Oh, heck, why talk in the subjunctive? "Could," nothing. The bill PASSED and has been signed into
In the 110th Congress these bills are all over the place, too. Consider H.R. 2104, sponsored by
House Republican J. Gresham Barrett which pretty much explicitly decides to gut the separation of church and
'Sec. 1260. Matters not reviewable
other provision of this chapter, the Supreme Court shall not have jurisdiction to review, by appeal, writ of
certiorari, or otherwise, any matter that relates to the alleged establishment of religion involving an entity of
the Federal Government or a State or local government, or an officer or agent of the Federal Government or a
State or local government, acting in an official capacity, concerning the expression of public prayer by that
entity, officer, or agent.'.
(b) Table of Sections- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 81 of
title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
'1260. Matters not
SEC. 4. LIMITATION ON JURISDICTION OF DISTRICT COURTS.
Amendment to Title 28- Chapter 85 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end of the
'Sec. 1370. Limitation on jurisdiction
'Notwithstanding any other provision of law,
the district courts shall not have jurisdiction of any matter that relates to the alleged establishment of religion
involving an entity of the Federal Government or a State or local government, or an officer or agent of the
Federal Government or a State or local government, acting in an official capacity, concerning the expression
of public prayer by that entity, officer, or agent.'.
(b) Table of Sections- The table of sections at the
beginning of chapter 85 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
'1370. Limitation on jurisdiction .'.
Notice the same language as in Ron Paul's bill
again? Once you start looking for them, these bills are everywhere.
How are you protected from
Government-enabled tyranny by the provisions of the Constitution? And how eager are you for that
protection to disappear?
I understand that some readers won't trust any idea unless it's put forward by
an authority figure, and I'm not an authority figure on this subject. I'm not a Constitutional Law professor or
Dean of some Law School or any junk like that. I'm not even a lawyer; I'm just a citizen who reads. So for
those of you who need an authority to say it, let me refer you to the new UC-Irvine Dean of Law, the old
Duke University Professor of Law, Erwin Chemerinsky. Chemerinsky literally wrote the text on
Constitutional Law, too: Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies. He wrote the following in the The Daily
Journal of April 12, 2005:
Last month, Sen. Richard Shelby and Rep.
Robert Aderholt, both Republicans from Alabama, introduced a bill titled the Constitution Restoration Act.
The bill would preclude any federal court, including the Supreme Court, from hearing cases
involving "expressions of religious faith by elected or appointed officials," and it would make the exercise of
jurisdiction over such cases an impeachable offense.
Last year, two bills passed the House of
Representatives that would have stripped the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, of the authority to
hear constitutional challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act or to the words "under God" in the
Pledge of Allegiance. By this reasoning, Congress could adopt any unconstitutional law and simply immunize
it from judicial review by precluding federal court jurisdiction. The enforcement of the Constitution through
judicial review that has existed throughout American history would be gone.
The conservative attack
on the courts is truly frightening and should be denounced by elected officials and academics across the
political spectrum. Let there be no mistake: What these and other Republican leaders are objecting to is an
independent judiciary where courts do not follow the commands of Congress or the president. They are
seeking through intimidation, threats of impeachment and jurisdiction-stripping to keep the federal courts
from enforcing basic constitutional principles, such as a separation of church and state &.
Conservatives such as DeLay and Cornyn also have a longer-term political objective: with Republicans
controlling all three branches of government, they see an unprecedented opportunity to push their religious
agenda. They hope to pressure Republican-appointed judges to toe the party line. Through devices such as
jurisdiction-stripping, they want to make sure that Congress can adopt laws advancing religion without
having to worry about judicial review.
It is crucial that moderates and progressives in both parties
rally against this effort by conservative Republicans. Moderate Republicans in the Senate must join with
Democrats in rejecting the nuclear option and keeping the filibuster.
Constitutional scholars of every
political stripe must explain that it strikes at the very heart of our constitutional government for Congress to
enact laws and preclude judicial review of their constitutionality or for members of Congress to threaten
impeachment of judges for rulings they dislike. Political leaders across the ideological spectrum must
denounce the venomous attack on the federal judiciary that has occurred in the last few weeks.
Sometimes the first assignment in my constitutional class has been for students to read a copy of the
Stalin-era Soviet Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. My students are always surprised to see that the
Soviet Constitution has a far more elaborate statement of rights than the American Constitution. I also assign
a description of life in the Gulags. I ask how it can be that a country with such detailed statements of rights in
its constitution could have such horrible abuses.
The answer, of course, is that in the Soviet Union no
court had the power to strike down any government action. An independent judiciary is indispensable to
protecting our most precious freedoms. The DeLays and Cornyns who attack the federal courts forget that
tomorrow, they may be the ones who need the protection of independent federal judges.
This struggle is going on, right now, and chances are you won't be finding out about it in your newspaper.
Take a look through Congressional legislative databases to see what's going on. Search for "Supreme Court"
and "jurisdiction" and look at the very parochial, particular, religiously domineering policies that violate the
constitution but that nonetheless the Republican Party is seeking to protect. Is your member of Congress
supporting this anti-constitutional agenda, in violation of his or her very oath of office? If so, don't just sit
there steamed. Take two courses of action, right now:
1. Write a letter to the editor of your local
newspaper identifying the problem and asking why your member of Congress seeks to avoid
constitutionality in federal law.
2. Find out who's running against that schmuck in the next election,
and send that alternative a big, fat check with a letter attached explaining exactly what drove you to make that
donation. Then vote like your liberty depends on it & because it very well may.
- In justifying his
request to expand the unprecedented government spy powers given to the Attorney General and Director of
National Intelligence under the Protect America Act, President George W. Bush said in September that, while
the Protect America Act would be due to expire in 135 days, "The threat from al Qaeda is not going to expire in
What threat from al Qaeda?
It's the question that no one is asking, and that's the success
of right wing propaganda. Almost everyone in the United States assumes that there is a threat from al Qaeda,
without really knowing that it's the case at all.
In fact, people assert that there is a threat from al
Qaeda despite evidence to the contrary. The Department of Homeland Security, as much as it loves to whip up
the fears of American citizens, has stated many times this year that there is no sign of any specific, credible
threat of an attack by al Qaeda. Less than just two weeks ago, the Department of Homeland Security repeated
There are no specific, credible threats of an attack by al Qaeda.
Osama Bin Laden recently released a video in which he told Americans that we all ought to become Muslims.
Bid Laden said, "As soon as the warmongering owners of the major corporations realize that you have lost
confidence in your democratic system and have begun to look for an alternative, and this alternative is Islam,
they will run after you to please you and achieve what you want to steer you away from Islam." Yammer,
yammer, yammer. Osama Bin Laden lately sounds more like a weird hybrid of Michael Moore, Ron Paul and
Cat Stevens than he sounds like a terrorist. He's losing his edge.
Know what Osama Bin Laden did not
say during that video? He never said anything about attacking the United States.
There is no threat
from al Qaeda, at least not if you mean any threat to actually do anything to launch a terrorist attack in the
United States. If you mean, however, that there is the possibility that al Qaeda will launch such an attack, then
yes, there is a threat from al Qaeda. Then again, there is also the possibility that a giant asteroid will slam into
the Earth tomorrow, or that a gamma ray burst will blast the Earth, or that the sun will explode, or that an
unknown plague will kill billions of people by the end of the year.
Vague, looming threats of all
kinds exist, but rational people do not allow those threats to interfere with their plans to lead free and happy
lives. If you want to get nit picky, yes, there is a threat from al Qaeda, but it's a vague, theoretical threat.
There was a credible attack of a bomb attack in Brunswick, Maine this month, most likely
from a disgruntled high school student. Al Qaeda can't even muster that much.
Unfortunately, the lack
of any concrete threat from al Qaeda does not stop Americans from acting as if there is one. This month, for
example, the New York City Police Department made unannounced security checks at synagogues just in case
terrorists were lurking around, in spite of the fact that there was no credible, specific threat of an impending
terrorist attack against any of the synagogues.
And then there's the Protect America Act. In the middle
of the summer, citing the vague, theoretical threat from al Qaeda, Congress, including many Democrats, gave
the federal government the power to listen in on Americans' telephone calls, read their emails, and track their
activities online without any effective restraint. Now, George W. Bush, saying that "The threat from al Qaeda
is not going to expire in 135 days," is asking for that power to be extended and to be expanded.
thing is, that as George W. Bush defines "the threat from al Qaeda", as vague and theoretical as it is, the threat
will probably not expire for his entire lifetime, or yours. Bush's has given so much rewarding attention to the
al Qaeda criminal gang that there will probably by some group running around under the name al Qaeda,
making general claims that it's going to get the United States, one hundred years from now.
allow the federal government to listen to our phone calls, read our private mail, and keep records of what we
do online for the next hundred years? If we follow Bush's distorted line of reasoning, yes, we will.
Timid Americans will prefer to give up their freedoms, rather than feel exposed to even the idea of a
threat from al Qaeda. For the rest of us, it's time to stop cringing, and time to stop giving power to Osama Bin
Laden and his pipsqueak gang. It's time to take a rational look at the real threats to our way of life. By the
Department of Homeland Security's own assessment, there is no looming threat from al Qaeda.
threat from al Qaeda has already expired. The threat we must face now is from power-hungry opportunists in
our own government, who want to use laws like the Protect America Act to destroy the Bill of Rights.
(Sources: CTV, September 7, 2007; The Times-Record , September 17, 2007; New York Newsday, September 6,
2007; ABC News, September 19, 2007)
- In general, I'm not fond of the work of Republicans in
Congress. However, thanks are due to six Republican members of the United States Senate for one action they
took in September, 2007
Senators Chuck Hagel, John Sununu, Olympia Snowe, Richard Lugar, Gordon
Smith, and Arlen Specter voted with the Democrats in the Senate in favor of an amendment to the Defense
Appropriations Bill for 2008 (S.Amdt. 2022 to S.Amdt. 2011 to H.R. 1585) that would have brought back the
right of habeas corpus that was destroyed by the Military Commissions Act on 2007.
Sadly, the vote
was still four shy of the needed 60 votes to pass. Former Democrat Joseph Lieberman voted against restoring
habeas corpus. If he and three more Republicans had stood in favor of one of the most ancient legal rights
Americans once enjoyed, a good deal of the abuse wrought by the Military Commissions Act might have soon
ended. Still, the six Republicans who voted for liberty deserve to be recognized.
progressive defense of liberty is not the task of one political party. Even Republican politicians can join
progressive Americans in the effort to restore the tradition of liberty in the USA. (Source: Library of
- The little gadget Star Simpson wore was nothing more than a little board to hold an
electrical circuit in place, a handful of green lights, and a 9 volt battery to makes the lights blink. She wore it
on her shirt as a geeky decoration for MIT's Career Day, then went to an airport counter in Boston to ask
when her boyfriend's flight would be coming in. The airport counter person asked her what it was. Simpson
told her it was a piece of art. After Simpson stepped out to the curb, the airport counter person called in a team
of officers who surrounded Simpson with submachine guns.
"She was immediately told to stop, to raise
her hands and not to make any movement, so we could observe all her movements to see if she was trying to
trip any type of device," State Police Major Scott Pare said. "Had she not followed the protocol, we might have
used deadly force. She's lucky to be in a cell as opposed to the morgue."
All this for wearing a little
gadget that makes lights blink on your shirt.
What was Simpson's crime? The District Attorney in the
case describes the crime as, "a total disregard to understand the context of the situation she is in, which is an
airport of post-9/11"
That's a crime? That's what Star Simpson got thrown in jail and nearly
killed? Failing to follow the script of post-9-11 freakout America? The patriots of 1776 saw it differently. Their
motto was not "we have to balance freedom with security". Their motto was "live free or die".
far has the implementation of Big Brother government has gone? The Department of Homeland Security is
collecting information on the books carried by law-abiding citizens traveling abroad and putting it in you got
it a vast centralized database.
If this news had come out in 2000 or even in 2002, people would be
screaming mad. But this news came out in 2007 over a weekend, and it barely registered in the face of concern
over Britney Spears' possible mental instabilities. Our civil liberties won't be smashed with a bang. They're
being slowly extinguished with hardly a whimper. (Source: Washington Post, September 21, 2007)
- The presidential campaign of Republican John McCain has yet to acknowledge, much less explain, why he
voted in 2006 to take away the ancient legal right of habeas corpus as part of the Military Commissions Act.
Neither has the McCain 2008 presidential campaign given any explanation of McCain's vote in September,
2007 to kill an amendment that would have restored habeas corpus.
That silence from McCain on his
failure to support the foundation for liberty in the United States is turning former supporters away from him.
You don't have to take my word for that. Go ahead and search JohnMcCain.com for the phrase "habeas
corpus", and the only place you'll find it is in a comment written by a McCain supporter who has decided to
find a better presidential candidate because of McCain's troubling record in opposing habeas corpus. Here's
the comment, exactly as it was written:
A few years ago, i walked with
Granny D those last few miles to the Capital in support of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform
I was proud that John could work with a liberal Democrat and take the moral high ground.
Today the meat of that bill has been removed, by the very Justice's so strongly supported by John.
Today, John stands besides religous zealots that he once denounced.
Today, John waffles and fails
to live up to the great image he had just a few years back.
I cannot see any Republican Candidate that
I can support. I would dearly love to support John, but his support of this "war", his support of the Military
Commisions Act, his failure to speak out against the suspension of Habeas Corpus I no longer know the
I find that extremely Sad.
- If you
want to know the difference between a liberal and libertarian, consider the following: Today, the House of
Representatives passed H CON RES 200, a resolution of the sense of the House on events in Burma. The text
of the resolution, which you can read below, calls upon the military dictatorship that rules Burma to release
advocate for democracy and the rightful Prime Minister, Aung San Suu Kyi, immediately and without
condition from her captivity. The resolution also calls for an end to government violence against ethic
minorities and for a restoration of democracy in Burma.
Of the 432 members of the House of
Representatives eligible to vote on the resolution, 413 voted in favor of it. Only two Representatives voted
against it. One of those who voted against it was Ron Paul, libertarian and Republican candidate for President
That's libertarianism for you all over. Libertarians may talk big about defending freedom,
but their version of freedom is actually rather small, focusing on the freedom to control property, and not
extending any further than the borders of the USA.
Ron Paul essentially told Aung San Suu Kyi and
the suffering people of Burma that they can go to hell. Ron Paul won't go on the record even as a member of
Congress to oppose the brutal smashing of liberty by the cruel generals of Burma. What good will his
theoretical ramblings about libertarianism do? Why should a man so indifferent in the face of obvious
injustice be elected as President of the United States?
The following is the active text of the resolution.
These are the ideas that Ron Paul voted against today. Resolved by the House of Representatives (the
Senate concurring), That
(1) it is the sense of Congress that United States policy should continue to call
(A) the military regime in Burma
(i) to immediately and unconditionally release Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi and other detained political prisoners and prisoners of conscience;
(ii) to immediately cease
attacks against ethnic minority civilians; and
(iii) to immediately begin a meaningful process of tripartite
dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD, and Burma's ethnic nationalities; and
(B) the People's
Republic of China and other countries that provide political and economic support to Burma's military junta
to utilize their position and influence to
(i) urge Burma's military generals to immediately release Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners; and
(ii) end their attacks on ethnic minority civilians and
begin a meaningful process of genuine national reconciliation with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD, and
Burma's ethnic nationalities;
(2) Congress urges the United Nations Security Council to immediately
consider and take appropriate action to respond to the growing threat the SPDC poses in Burma;
Congress expresses support for the restoration of democracy in Burma; and
(4) Congress expresses the
need for freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press to be
guaranteed for all Burmese citizens. (Source: Library of Congress)
- John McCain was asked the
following question by BeliefNet recently: "A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the
U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?"
McCain answered, "I would
probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian
Number of times "Jesus," "Christ," "God," or "Christian" appear in the Constitution: 0
Number of times "religion" appears in the Constitution: 1
Number of times "Congress shall
make no law respecting an establishment of religion" appear in the Constitution: 1
McCain still hasn't read the Constitution after all these years in the U.S. Senate, or he's willing to misrepresent
the Constitution for political purposes. In neither case is he to be trusted. (Source: BeliefNet, October 2007)
- What does the law say about torture? U.S. Code (18 USC 2340-2340A) provides the legal definition of
torture in the United States of America:
1) "torture" means an act committed
by a person acting under color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or
suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody
or physical control;
(2) "severe mental pain or suffering" means the prolonged mental harm caused by
or resulting from
(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or
(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-
altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C) the threat of imminent death;
The intentional infliction of severe suffering, the
application of procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality, and the threat of
imminent death each qualify an interrogation technique as torture.
The New York Times, in
anonymous interviews with more than two dozen government officials, has revealed the existence of a Justice
Department document approving each of these:
When the Justice
Department publicly declared torture "abhorrent" in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush
administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order
But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales's arrival as attorney general in February
2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document,
according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever
used by the Central Intelligence Agency.
The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time
provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and
psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.
Under George W. Bush, the United States of America has become a torture nation. (Source: New York
Times October 4, 2007)
- Barack Obama responded quickly and firmly to October's confirmation that
agents of the Bush administration have been torturing the people it detained indefinitely without charges:
The secret authorization of brutal interrogations is an outrageous betrayal of our core values,
and a grave danger to our security. We must do whatever it takes to track down and capture or kill terrorists,
but torture is not a part of the answer - it is a fundamental part of the problem with this administration's
approach. Torture is how you create enemies, not how you defeat them. Torture is how you get bad
information, not good intelligence. Torture is how you set back America's standing in the world, not how you
strengthen it. It's time to tell the world that America rejects torture without exception or equivocation. It's
time to stop telling the American people one thing in public while doing something else in the shadows. No
more secret authorization of methods like simulated drowning. When I am president America will once again
be the country that stands up to these deplorable tactics. When I am president we won't work in secret to avoid
honoring our laws and Constitution, we will be straight with the American people and true to our values.
Damn straight! It's about time that we heard a straightforward, unequivocal rejection of
torture. And it's a damned shame we haven't heard it from the current occupant of the White House. (Source:
- When KCRG-TV watched Barack Obama giving a speech in Iowa City, the news
outlet didn't focus on his ideas about what's plaguing the country, or his policy prescriptions for the future.
No, KCRG-TV focused on the fact that he wasn't wearing a flag lapel pin. Given the chance to ask a
presidential candidate a question, the reporter for KCRG-TV didn't ask him to explain a flaw in some
proposal, or try to fill in a gap in current knowledge of Obama's positions. No, the reporter for KCRG-TV
asked him why he wasn't wearing a flag lapel pin. Barack Obama explained himself:
"The truth is that
right after 9-11 I had a pin. Shortly after 9-11, particularly because as we're talking about the Iraq war, that
became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our
national security. I decided I won't wear that pin on my chest. Instead, I'm going to try to tell the American
people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my
The cheap and easy thing to do is to follow the crowd and sport a flag pin, as if the
act somehow made one a patriot. Hillary Clinton went even further than that, and sponsored a bill to make
flag burning a crime. With that act, Hillary Clinton sacrificed freedom of speech to the altar of the religion of
the flag, prioritizing loyalty over the First Amendment to the Constitution that a president is sword to uphold
and protect. I fear for constitutional protections under a President Hillary Clinton because she places the flag
above American liberty in her priorities. I am glad that Barack Obama has avoided the easier jingoistic,
conformist pennant-waving version of politics and called us to instead discuss the actual issues at hand. That's
service to country, that's respect for the constitution, and that's patriotism. Keep it up, Senator Obama, and I
just might end up voting for you. (Source: KCRG, October 4, 2007)
- The former CEO of Qwest, a
telecommunications company, has revealed that the Bush White House started its program to spy on
Americans' phone records long before September 11, 2001.
On February 27, 2001, just weeks after George
W. Bush became President, the NSA demanded private records of Americans' telephone calls, without a search
What this demonstrates is that the Bush Administration's "warrantless wiretapping"
programs to spy on the private communications of Americans are not, and never were, about stopping
Why has the Bush White House been pushing for with the renewal of the Protect America
Act? They've been pushing for new legal measures that would prevent telecommunications companies from
telling courts of law, retroactively about illegal government surveillance.
George W. Bush knows that
he committed a crime, and he's trying to get Congress to pass laws that will prevent the truth from coming
out. We need a new President who will uncover the truth, and work to make sure that the misdeeds of the
Bush Administration are never repeated. (Source: Wired, October 15, 2007)
- On the morning of
October 18, 2007, USA Today ran a front page headline, that read: "Military mistakenly recruits gays".
The article beneath the headline referred to the revelation that the Army, Navy and Air Force advertised for
military recruits on the web site Glee.com, which the article refers to as "a web site for gays".
Glee.com isn't a web site for gays. It's a web site for, as the site's acronym name indicates is for Gays,
Lesbians, and Everyone Else. Everyone else includes heterosexuals. On the front page, the web site clearly
states, "Whether you're gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or everyone else, Glee.com is your place to meet
and connect with members of your community around the country."
Glee.com is a gay site only in the
sense that it includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people among the general group "everyone".
Sure, there are lots of homosexual members on the site, because Glee.com is a welcoming place for them. Still,
it isn't only for them. It isn't a gay web site. It's an everyone web site.
Still, the military has pulled all
of its advertising revenue away from the site. Major Michael Baptista, from the Army National Guard, made
the brutal declaration that Glee.com does not "meet the moral standards" required for military recruiting
advertisements. That's the first time I've ever heard anyone describe military recruitment advertisements as
Think about what Major Baptista's statement implies. It implies that just going to a web site
that welcomes gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered people is immoral. It implies that mere friendship,
mere association with non-heterosexuals, is immoral.
How absurd. How unconstitutional. The Bill of
Rights clearly protects freedom of association, stating that there shall be no law that interferes with "the right
of the people peaceably to assemble". Americans have the right to associate with non-heterosexuals if they
want to, at web sites like Glee.com or elsewhere, and it is an insult to American freedom for the American
military to say otherwise.
The problem isn't just that a huge branch of the federal government has
officially declared lawful and constitutionally protected assembly to be immoral. It's that the government is
firing people for exercising their right to free assembly. Steve Ralls of the Servicemembers Legal Defense
Networks explains that soldiers "have been drummed out of the armed forces simply for using sites like
When the military bans members of civilian web sites from associating with soldiers merely
because some people on the web site are not heterosexual, it has crossed a line from promotion of an unjust
military policy to restricting the constitutional rights of us all. (Source: USA Today, October 18, 2007)
- Maher Arar, a Canadian, was kidnapped by agents of the United States government five years ago. Arar
was illegally interrogated by those American agents, and then sent against his will to Syria, where he was
tortured for ten months.
Arar did nothing wrong. He was not, and is not, a terrorist. An investigation by
the Canadian government has completely cleared him of all accusations of wrongdoing. United States
Representative Jerrold Nadler, who has looked at the contents of the US government's secret dossier of
information about Maher Arar, concludes that Arar is innocent as well.
At a hearing on October 18 of
the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Nadler said to Arar, "There is nothing to justify the continuation of
this campaign of vilification against you or to deny you entry into this country." Of course, Arar was not there
to hear Nadler say so - not in person. Arar was forced to testify through a teleconferencing link, from
In spite of all the evidence that the United States government committed grave crimes
against Maher Arar, and all the evidence that Arar himself did nothing to deserve his kidnapping and torture,
President George W. Bush refuses to allow Maher Arar into the United States, as almost all Canadian citizens
are would be. Bush refuses to take Arar's name off a terrorist watch list.
When Bush knew that the
United States Congress had set a date for Maher Arar to testify on Capitol Hill, along with experts in law and
foreign affairs, he refused to allow Arar to enter the United States. George W. Bush tried to prevent Arar from
testifying before Congress.
I say that it's time for an extraordinary rendition of another kind, to bring
Maher Arar to Washington D.C., to the White House, to confront the man who ordered him sent to a foreign
torture prison.(Sources: NPR, October 19, 2007; The Toronto Star, October 19, 2007)
- The principle of
checks and balances serves the United States well, but it also applies to the world at large in a less formal
sense. When one nation violates human rights, engages in aggression, pursues nationalism, quashes dissent
and rejects openness, other nations can serve as a receptacle for freedom, peaceable living, diversity and
inquiry. When George W. Bush pushed for a war of choice using bogus evidence of weapons of mass
destruction, his nationalist appeal ended at the borders, and countries from all other continents rightly (and
nearly successfully) applied counterpressure against Bush's solitary crusade.
Now, Europe is threatened by
a wave of aggressive, xenophobic nationalism. In elections on October 21, 2007, the Swiss gave the largest
portion of their votes to the Schweizerische Volkspartei (SVP), the Swiss People's Party, which ran on a
platform of kicking out entire families of immigrants and improving the genetic stock of "Swiss Quality."
Here at home, Republican Tom Tancredo is running for President with a similar platform, "running for
president to win back our sovereignty, our identity, and our destiny & This is our culture; fight for it. This is
our flag; pick it up. This is our country; take it back." Fight for our culture? I don't know about Tancredo's
home of Littleton, Colorado, but that sure as a shingle isn't part of my culture. It's all a little bit too Germanic
for my taste, if you get my drift.
We can't control what the Swiss do in their democracy, but we
certainly can control what happens in ours. The election of hypernationalist government in Europe is a
problem. The election of hypernationalist governments in Europe and America could be a disaster. An open,
diplomatic, liberal-minded government in the United States isn't needed just for America's sake, but for the
world's sake. Europe has been minimizing America's capacity for damage for seven years now; it's time for us
to return the favor. (Source: Associated Press October 22, 2007; Tancredo08 for President literature)
you listened to what few news reports there are about the FISA Amendments Act of 2007, you might be
forgiven for thinking that the bill concerns electronic surveillance.
You'd be wrong. You need to read the
whole bill, but you especially need to read Section 107:
SEC. 107. AMENDMENTS FOR
PHYSICAL SEARCHES. (a) Applications. Section 303 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50
U.S.C. 1823) is amended
(2) by amending subsection (e) to read as follows:
(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, the Attorney General may authorize the emergency
employment of a physical search if the Attorney General "(A) determines that an emergency situation exists
with respect to the employment of a physical search to obtain foreign intelligence information before an
order authorizing such physical search can with due diligence be obtained;
"(B) determines that the
factual basis for issuance of an order under this title to approve such physical search exists;
informs, either personally or through a designee, a judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court at the
time of such authorization that the decision has been made to employ emergency physical search;
"(D) makes an application in accordance with this title to a judge of the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Court as soon as practicable, but not more than 168 hours after the Attorney General authorizes
such physical search.
"(2) If the Attorney General authorizes the emergency employment of a
physical search under paragraph (1), the Attorney General shall require that the minimization procedures
required by this title for the issuance of a judicial order be followed.
"(3) In the absence of a judicial
order approving such physical search, the physical search shall terminate when the information sought is
obtained, when the application for the order is denied, or after the expiration of 168 hours from the time of
authorization by the Attorney General, whichever is earliest.
"(4) A denial of the application made
under this subsection may be reviewed as provided in section 103.
"(5) (A) In the event that such
application for approval is denied, or in any other case where the physical search is terminated and no order is
issued approving the physical search, no information obtained or evidence derived from such physical search
shall be received in evidence or otherwise disclosed in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding in or before any
court, grand jury, department, office, agency, regulatory body, legislative committee, or other authority of the
United States, a State, or political subdivision thereof, and no information concerning any United States
person acquired from such physical search shall subsequently be used or disclosed in any other manner by
Federal officers or employees without the consent of such person, except with the approval of the Attorney
General if the information indicates a threat of death or serious bodily harm to any person.
Attorney General shall assess compliance with the requirements of subparagraph (A).".
you see it?
To start with, 50 U.S.C. 1823 is a section of the U.S. legal code under Subchapter II of
Chapter 36. Subchapter II regards Physical Searches. Go check. The very title of Subchapter II is "Physical
Searches." Then, of course, there's the title of Section 107, which reads, "Amendments for Physical Searches."
We're not just talking about wiretapping phones anymore. We're talking about the power of the U.S.
Government to engage in physical searches of your workplace, your home, your car, anything you own. The
definition of "physical search" in 50 U.S.C. Subchapter II is: "any physical intrusion within the United States
into premises or property (including examination of the interior of property by technical means) that is
intended to result in a seizure, reproduction, inspection, or alteration of information, material, or property,
under circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a warrant would be
required for law enforcement purposes &" And how are physical searches to be governed?
Attorney General can authorize a physical search if, in his or her determination, there's an emergency need for
a physical search.
2. The Attorney General needs to apply to a court after the fact for approval of that
3. If after-the-fact approval of that search is denied because the search was
inappropriate, any information obtained can't be used as evidence or otherwise disclosed, unless &
Unless the Attorney General decides that the information "indicates a threat of death or serious bodily
5. And the Attorney General is in charge of determining whether the law is being followed in
These are searches without warrants, checked later by a FISA court but in an effectively
non-binding manner. Even if you trust the FISA court, which is constituted of judges inclined to give
government the benefit of the doubt, it doesn't matter what the FISA court decides, because if the Attorney
General decides the information he gets pertains to a "threat," she or he can use it even if the FISA court says
the search to obtain it was inappropriate. And the Attorney General gets to decide whether the Attorney
General has been following the law. Gee, how do you think that's going to turn out?
To boil it down
to a one-sentence conclusion, Section 107 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2007 enables the Attorney General
to order physical searches of anyone's property or possessions without a warrant or accountability, at the
whim of the Attorney General. That's a frightening prospect.
The Fourth Amendment to the United
States Constitution reads: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon
probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the
persons or things to be seized."
Section 107 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2007 is unconstitutional.
It is a violation of individual liberty by brute-force government power. I used to have faith that such a clearly
unconstitutional law would be tossed out by the Supreme Court. But Bush has stacked the Supreme Court, and
the Democrats have let him do it. And now Democrats like Senator Jay Rockefeller and Majority Leader
Harry Reid are helping the Republicans pass this bill. There are still members of Congress with a conscience,
but they're a minority. The rest are bending with what they perceive to be the political wind. (Source: Library
- The FISA Amendments Act of 2007 legislation throws into stark relief the importance of
the nomination of Michael Mukasey to be the next Attorney General of the United States. Mukasey refuses to
characterize waterboarding as torture, even though as a simulated drowning technique waterboarding clearly
qualifies as torture under the law. Mukasey embraces the principle opposite from the separation of
powers: "It's been obvious from events of the last several years that everybody is better off the president is
better off, the Congress is better off, the country is better off when everybody's rolling in the same
direction." And Mukasey endorses the notion that if the President decides it's necessary for national security,
he can break the law with impunity. Do you trust such a man with the sole authority to decide whether a
warrantless search is appropriate, whether it is appropriate to use information obtained in that warrantless
search, and whether he himself has broken the law?
When the guarantees of civil liberty set out in the
Constitution are respected and when the powers set out in the Constitution are appropriately checked and
balanced, even a scoundrel cannot get away with much mischief. But when civil liberties are ignored and
power is concentrated, those with a hunger for power become more unaccountable and therefore more
dangerous. The more authoritarian our laws become, the less authoritarian our leaders must be, as the
remaining protection against tyranny is an individual leader's sense of self-restraint. An anti-authoritarian
president is needed to appoint an anti-authoritarian Attorney General, guide anti-authoritarian Justices to the
Supreme Court, and introduce legislation restoring balance to our democratic republic. (Sources: FISA
Amendments Act of 2007; New York Times October 20 2007; Los Angeles Times October 24 2007; Washington
Post October 19 2007)
- You know things are bad in your country when someone like the United
Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism assembles a report warning about your
government's abuse of human rights and assaults against liberty. We here in the United States are used to
hearing about such reports describing the despotic governments of other countries.
Now, Americans must
face a report of this nature about their own country. UN Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin has issued a
report decrying the role of the Military Commissions Act in allowing human rights abuses by the US
government, in defiance of some of the most ancient traditions in law.
"It is most regretful," Scheinn
writes, "that a number of important mechanisms for the protection of rights have been removed or obfuscated
under law and practice since the events of 11 September, including under the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, the
Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, and under Executive Orders and
Scheinn also points out that the American government is in violation of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which as a treaty ratified by Congress and signed by the
President has the force of law within the United States. The Military Commissions Act, he writes, "purports to
expressly deny the jurisdiction of ordinary courts to hear an application for habeas corpus. The Special
Rapporteur reminds that according to the Human Rights Committee, article 9(4) [of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] cannot be derogated from even during a state of emergency."
The USA should not have to be lectured about respect for human rights and the need to obey the law.
America should be leading the way on these issues, a positive example for other nations to follow. Instead,
our government is serving as an example of how to break the law and get away with it. (Source: Addendum to
the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental
freedoms while countering terrorism, October 25, 2007)
- Senator Arlen Specter has inadvertently
revealed that the use of torture is widespread within the federal government. Republicans have, in the past,
attempted to depict the torture of prisoners, as conducted at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and other, secret,
prisons as isolated and uncommon.
During a hearing about the confirmation of Michael Mukasey as
Attorney General of the United States, Senator Specter acknowledged the problem of Mukasey's refusal to
answer the question about whether waterboarding prisoners to force them to talk is a form of torture.
Nonetheless, Specter fretted that, if Mukasey answered the question, and admitted that waterboarding is
torture, he would place people in the government who have been torturing people with waterboarding
techniques at risk of criminal prosecution or lawsuits by those who had been tortured.
people in the government did Arlen Specter say would become criminally liable if Mukasey admitted that
waterboarding is torture? Not just a few bad apples. Not just an isolated rogue here and there. "A lot of
people" in the government would be placed at risk of prosecution as war criminals, Senator Specter said: "The
facts are that an expression of an opinion by Judge Mukasey prior to becoming attorney general would put a
lot of people at risk for what has happened."
Arlen Specter has been briefed by the White House on the
treatment of prisoners by the American government. So, when he says that "a lot of people" in the
government are using waterboarding to torture prisoners, the revelation may have been accidental, but it isn't
just a slip of the tongue.
Senator Specter's statement indicates that the use of torture is rampant
throughout the federal government, and that Republican leadership is aware of the problem, but is doing
nothing to stop it.
Why the inaction? The Republicans are more worried about protecting the
criminals who are doing the torture than they are concerned with upholding their oath to defend the
Constitution, including the guarantee against cruel and unusual punishments, from its domestic enemies.
(Source: International Herald Tribine, November 1, 2007)
- President James Madison once wrote
that, "popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a
farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps, both." His point was simple: A government that withholds information about
its activities is inherently undemocratic. A government that provides its citizens with better access to
information about government activities is more free.
It was with this relationship between liberty and
freedom of information in mind that the Better Government Association and the National Freedom of
Information Coalition set out to research the degree of freedom of information facilitated by the 50 American
state governments and to issue them report cards showing their performance.
The results of their
study show a political gap in operational support for freedom of information. On average, state governments
were found not to do so well responding to citizen freedom of information requests. The average state score
in the report card was just 47.56 out of 100. States that voted for John Kerry in the 2004 election, however,
performed much better, with an average score of 52.42. States that voted for George W. Bush in the 2004
election tended to do worse than the national average, with an average score of just 44.58.
of this survey show that voters who support more progressive political candidates on the national level also
tend to elect state governments that provide better freedom of information about government activities. As
James Madison reminds us, this difference shows that a progressive government is better able to protect its
citizens from the kind of tragedy and farce we have suffered from under George W. Bush. (Source: National
Freedom Of Information Coalition)
- The Bush administration has decided to let an organization
called World Vision continue to operate under a $1.5 million grant from the federal government, even though
World Vision is using that money to hire only workers who agree to the Catholic Apostles' Creed and the
organization's Statement of Faith: Statement of Faith
* We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the
only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
* We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three
persons: Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
* We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin
birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His
bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and
* We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful man, regeneration of the Holy Spirit is
* We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the
Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
* We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost;
they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
* We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in
Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. AMEN.
Tax funds are being used to promote
Catholic Christian religion and to particularly benefit those who affirm Catholic Christianity. That is in
violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and of Safe Streets Act, which when passed
by Congress specified that no groups hiring using federal funds under the Act could engage in religious hiring
discrimination. Breaking the law. Violating the Constitution. Promoting religion. These are unjust acts
that need to be rectified. But as long as George W. Bush or a Republican replacement control the White House,
that won't happen. (Sources: Americans United for the Separation of Church and State November 1 2007;
World Vision, November 4 2007)
- JAGs (Judge Advocate Generals) are not what you would call
liberals. They're lawyers who work for the military, and are as much dedicated to the military as they are to
the law. So, when JAGs speak in support of a liberal legal position, it's a sign that the position is an especially
That's precisely what has taken place in the political struggle over the form of torture known
as waterboarding, in which prisoners are brought to the brink of death by drowning during interrogation in
order to force the prisoners to say what their interrogators want them to say. Four retired JAGs have written a
letter to Senator Patrick Leahy, stating in clear language that there is no genuine legal controversy on the
matter: "Waterboarding is inhumane, it is torture, and it is illegal."
These JAGs directly confront the
misperception that there is any legal ambiguity over the status of waterboarding as torture: "This is a critically
important issue - but it is not, and never has been, a complex issue, and even to suggest otherwise does a
terrible disservice to this nation. All U.S. Government agencies and personnel, and not just America's military
forces, must abide by both the spirit and letter of the controlling provisions of international law. Cruelty and
torture - no less than wanton killing - is neither justified nor legal in any circumstance," they write. "In this
instance, the relevant rule - the law - as long been clear: Waterboarding detainees amounts to illegal torture in
all circumstances. To suggest otherwise - or even to give credence to such a suggestion - represents both an
affront to the law and to the core values of our nation."
It isn't just retired JAGs who are bringing this
expert legal opinion to the current political debate over the legal status of waterboarding. In their letter, the
retired JAGs remind us that current, active duty JAGs have agreed, in testimony provided to Congress, that
waterboarding is an illegal form of torture. These aren't just any military lawyers, either. The top JAGs in
each of the armed services, the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General, the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate
General, the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General, and Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the U.S.
Marine Corps all declared the strong legal opinion that waterboarding is illegal.
These military legal
experts, who are as familiar with the law as anybody, all agree that waterboarding is torture, and is against the
law, but the Michael Mukasey, the man nominated to be Attorney General of the United States, refuses to
commit to such a position. Mukasey has positioned himself to continue this illegal torture, and as head of the
FBI, to supervise its administration in some cases.
In pretending that waterboarding is not torture,
Mukasey stands against liberal lawyers, yes, but he also stands against the highest legal experts in the military,
both retired and active duty, that there are.
I count this strong solidarity among military legal experts
about waterboarding as a reason in itself to vote against any politician who supports the confirmation of
Michael Mukasey as Attorney General of the United States. (Source: Crooks and Liars, November 3, 2007)
- Mark Twain was well-intentioned, but wrong, when he wrote in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, "Men write many fine and plausible arguments in support of monarchy, but the fact remains that where every man in a state has a vote, brutal laws are impossible."
We have learned since Mark Twain's time that having a vote is not enough. People have to actually use their votes. What's more, people need to use their votes after educating themselves on the relevant issues.
Brutal laws like the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act and the Protect America Act are all too possible, when people cast aside their votes like used grocery bags.
- Right wing extremists who are determined to overturn American laws against torture have found
themselves a new talking point. They insist that, although the Constitution, federal law, and international
laws to which the United States is a signatory clearly state that the inhumane treatment of prisoners is
forbidden, the use of the form of torture known as waterboarding can continue because there is no case law
specifically establishing waterboarding as a form of illegal torture.
An editorial published in the
Washington Post, written by Evan Wallach, former military lawyer, judge on the U.S. Court of International
Trade, and professor of law at New York Law School and Brooklyn Law school, demolishes this assertion. In
the editorial, Judge Wallach cites the conviction in 1983 of a Texas sherrif and three deputy sheriffs who
forced confessions out of criminal suspects using waterboarding as a form of torture during interrogations.
Judge Wallach also cites a civil court case in which Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos was
successfully sued in an American District Court for torturing a prisoner using waterboarding techniques.
Furthermore, Judge Wallach points out that, after World War II, the United States successfully convicted
Japanese soldiers who used waterboarding torture as war criminals, through the International Military
Tribunal for the Far East. Additional American tribunals also successfully prosecuted Japanese soldiers for the
crime of waterboarding American prisoners.
Judge Wallach even goes back as far as the Spanish-
American War, when American soldiers were convicted in courts martial for torturing prisoners with
The case law establishing waterboarding as a form of illegal torture is strong in
international law, in American military law, in U.S. criminal law, and in U.S. civil law. For right wing activists
to argue that such case law does not exist is not merely absurd. It is morally depraved. (Source: Washington
Post, November 4, 2007)
- If you still need another reason to vote progressive in 2008, consider this:
The two oldest Supreme court justices, John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, are two of the four more
liberal Supreme Court justices. They're the most likely to die or be forced into retirement by their health in
the next four years. If another Republican is voted into office, the chances are pretty good that we'll end up
with a 7-2 majority of authoritarian conservatives on the Supreme Court. Imagine the damage to liberty that
they could do. Go ahead, shudder. Now sober up and make sure you're properly registered to vote.
- During the White House press briefing on November 5, 2008, a reporter asked spokesperson Dana
Perino, "Is it ever reasonable to restrict constitutional freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism?" Dana
Perino responded, "In our opinion, no."
You'll be forgiven if you thought that the reporter was asking
about the deterioration of liberty here in the United States of America, under the onslaught of the Bush
Administration's Homeland Security regime. After all, the Bush White House has been saying for years that
we need to give up some our constitutional freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism. It's George W. Bush
who has said that freedom needs to be "balanced" with security needs. It's the Bush Administration that has
declared a state of emergency, and restricted liberty guaranteed us in the Bill of Rights in the name of keeping
the Homeland terrorist free.
But no, Dana Perino was not announcing a change of policy for the Bush
White House when it comes to destroying American freedom. She was talking about Pakistan. Her message:
Even though we here in the United States have been giving up constitutional freedoms with the excuse of
fighting terrorists, the government of Pakistan should not do the same thing.
Given the inconsistency
of the message, it's not surprising that Pakistan doesn't seem to be paying attention to the advice of the Bush
White House. The plans of George W. Bush to continue sending military support to the government of
Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf probably add a wee bit to the confusion. (Source: ChrisDodd.com,
November 5, 2007)
- Do you want to be free or do you want to be secure? When it comes to torture, you
can forget that dilemma. Torture, it turns out, brings you neither freedom nor security.
That was the
testimony that a lawyer for the Marine Corps, Lieutenant Colonel V. Stuart Couch was prepared to give
before Congress. Then, just before he was to appear before the House Judiciary Committee, Lieutenant
Colonel Couch sent a message to the committee, explaining that he had been ordered by the Pentagon not to
testify. The Bush Administration ordered Couch to help them cover up the problems that American torture is
causing for the effort to fight terrorists.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi was accused of organizing a group
of terrorists that included one of the hijackers of September 11, 2001. However, the prosecution of Slahi had to
be abandoned because torture, including beatings and severe psychological manipulation to force Slahi to say
what interrogators wanted to hear, had severely damaged the investigation's credibility.
just one terrorist connected to the attacks of September 11, 2001 who was not brought to justice because of the
Bush White House's warped dedication to torture. That's the story that Lieutenant Colonel Couch told to the
Wall Street Journal, but the Pentagon refused to allow Couch to submit himself to questions from Congress
about the matter. Thus, the Pentagon deprived Congress of its constitutional right to oversee the activities of
the Executive Branch, including the military.
Torture is bad enough, but cover-ups of torture, and
their threat to American security, are even worse. In 2008, we need to elect a progressive President who will
help protect America from the dangerous gaps in security caused by torture. (Source: Associated Press,
November 8, 2007)
- "Those who would manipulate the press and public appear to be gaining
leverage over the journalists who cover them." - Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2004
- Bush's no-fly Terrorist Watch List, which bans people from boarding airplanes within the United States
and has included such people as Senator Edward Kennedy and Cat Stevens, was blasted in internal
government memos during the year 2004 as confused and inconsistent. One security official with the Bush
Administration described the list as "subjective", with "no hard and fast rules". A federal judge described then
Attorney General John Ashcroft's defense of the list as based on "frivolous" claims.
By the fall of 2007, the
Terrorist Watch List had grown to include 860,000 names, and in congressional testimony experts testified that
long-identified problems had not been fixed. Innocent people whose names resembled suspects were still
being kicked off flights, and actual suspected terrorists were still being let through. Even with years during
which the authoritarians in charge of Homeland Security swore they'd get their nosy behavior straightened
out, the whole watch list system is not only a big government intrusion, but a messy, slap-dash, inefficient
intrusion at that. (Sources: New York Times, October 9 2004; All Things Considered, November 8 2007)
- Never fear all the huge government programs to spy against you, the Office of the Director of National
Intelligence says. You can keep your privacy & just so long as you don't include the idea of privacy within
your definition of privacy.
Does that not quite make sense to you? Well, just catch the way that the
Associated Press describes the redefinition of privacy going on over in the Bush Administration:
"Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, a deputy director of national intelligence.
Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguards people's private communications
and financial information."
Let's try to understand what Donald Kerr is saying. He says that you don't
have the right to keep the government from knowing about your private activities (what you buy, who you
talk to, and what you say) any more. Rather, Kerr says that you should only have the right to be confident that,
after the government has spied on your private life and assembled whatever it finds out about your private
life into a giant database, they'll keep that information from then being stolen by someone else.
kind of like redefining robbery so that it's not a crime for people to steal your property, just so long as they
then keep it safe from being stolen by somebody else.
If we don't have the right to keep government
and big corporations anymore from spying on the details of our private lives any more, what kind of privacy
will Donald Kerr and his colleagues in the collection of spy agencies coordinated by the Office of the Director
of National Intelligence allow us to keep? (Source: Associated Press, November 11, 2007)
November 5, 2007, citizens gathered outside Senator Charles Schumer's office in New York City to talk to him
or his staff regarding Schumer's decision to let Michael Mukasey become Attorney General without indicating
whether waterboarding fit the legal definitions of torture and whether therefore those who conspired to use
waterboarding in the Bush administration (George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice and John Ashcroft) were guilty
of imprisonable crimes. If you think Michael Mukasey will answer that question now that he's in office,
you've got more faith in the Bush administration than I do. Charles Schumer let a moment of moral
accountability for the Bush administration slip through his fingers.
Of course, the members of Schumer's
office wouldn't speak to their constituents. They wouldn't let their constituents even enter Schumer's office to
speak to them. Shoved out of Schumer's place of power, these citizens asserted their rights of assembly and
free speech by protesting on the sidewalk outside.
Someone called the police. As video footage
documents, the police tried to tell these citizens that they did not have the right to speak freely and peaceably
assemble to protest Senator Charles Schumer's behavior. The police told them they'd have to leave.
Fortunately, these citizens had read the Constitution, and they told the police in no uncertain terms that
they had a right to be there, and that they would not leave. The police backed down and let the protest
There's a rot in our political culture with people in power asserting the right to behave as
they will without constraint of law but using the power of law enforcement to diminish the rights of citizens.
We need leadership in this country to reverse this trend, to reiterate and reinforce civil rights, and to return the
police to their position as defenders of the people, not enforcers for the prerogatives of the powerful.
- When the Republicans push for war, they also push to weaken American liberty. War, after all, is a state
that is inherently opposed to personal liberty. President James Madison knew that, and declared, "Of all
the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the
germ of every other." Madison warned that a nation at war would suffer from "inequality of fortunes,
and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals
engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." (Source:
Political Observations, 1795)
- "Nationalist" is a strong word, but radical political agendas require strong words to describe them. One of the more purely nationalist pieces of legislation to enter the U.S. Congress in recent times was House Resolution 10, which, if passed when introduced in 2005 would have amended the United States Constitution so that "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."
That's right - the right-wingers are brought back the old flag burning thing again. Now, I want you to stop and think for a moment, and consider something: When was the last time that someone at a protest actually burned an American flag in your congressional district? I can tell you for a fact that no one has burned a flag in protest where I love in a long, long time, if it ever has been done at all. In fact, I can't think of the last time that anyone, anywhere in the United States, burned the American flag in protest against the government.
The truth is that there is no crisis of flag desecration in America. But, gosh, if there isn't a problem, how come close to one hundred members of Congress teamed up to introduce an amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America to prohibit physical flag desecration?
The answer is as simple as it is frightening: Nationalism. Nationalism is the dark political ideology that powered the Nazi destruction of Europe. More recently, nationalism has powered genocides in places like Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Nationalism is very bad news.
Here in America, nationalism has burst through the shackles of democratic government in the form of the Homeland, the mysterious entity that has replaced the traditional notion of the United States of America with a new cult of blind obedience based upon the ability of the government to inspire fear. Everywhere that the Homeland intrudes, America's traditions of liberty have crumpled.
With the introduction of the flag amendment, we entered another phase in the nationalist agenda. The amendment would transform the American flag from a symbol of liberty into a nationalist idol to be worshipped in the cult of the Homeland. Just consider the language used in the amendment. The amendment proposed to prohibit the "physical desecration" of the American flag. To desecrate something means to demean its sacred status.
In traditional American democracy, the American flag is not sacred. There is no official cult of flag worship. Flag worshipping cults, like the Boy Scouts, have been private organizations. However, this amendment would elevate a physical object, the American flag, into a special religious realm of untouchability and spiritual transcendence. The amendment would insert the notion of sacred idols into the United States Constitution for the first time.
The worship of idols of national identity is a sure sign of raging nationalism. It is an indication that the liberty of the American nation is in danger.
Not too long ago, we would have said that a flag worship amendment could never pass through the United States Congress. We would have assumed that the Democrats in Congress could block any Republican effort to transform flagpoles into shrines. But now, a growing group of Democrats in Congress is defecting to the ideology of the Republican Party and have promised to vote for any Constitutional amendment to burn flags.
On an immediate, literal level, banning flag desecration would not have a strong impact on American dissidents. After all, attempts to harm the American flag in the name of protest are extremely rare, if they occur at all any more. However, the legal precedent set by a flag worship amendment would almost certainly destroy the principles of liberty that have always been the ideal foundation of the American nation. The amendment would cut out the heart of the first amendment to the Constitution, by making it legal for the government to forbid anti-government protests. The mission of the government would change from protection of dissent to the prevention of dissent. (Source: Library of Congress)
- Oh, for Pete's sake! Homeland Security agents kept a guy in jail for twelve hours for nothing more than carrying a rubber band ball. As we all know, rubber band balls can be used on board an aircraft to, um, um, well, um, bounce. And that's just what the terrorists would want! Curse them and
their unChristian elastic ways.
We found out about this tale after a reader sent in a quick note with a link.
We love getting tips like that, so if you know of something going on, let us know too. Send us an e-mail to
- In a USA Today editorial published in November, 2007, Republican
Congressman Trent Franks manages to warp the fabric of American freedom in two different ways in his
effort to justify torture.
First, he claims that "America's distinguishing hallmark, its bedrock foundation, is
that we hold to the self-evident truth that all men are created by God". Of course, that's not true. There have
been plenty of theocratic governments in history, and many autocratic governments that have used believe in
God as a tool of oppressive power. People came to America to be free of them, and when political
independence was achieved, the ban on governmental establishment of religion was established. Freedom
from belief in God is actually part of America's bedrock foundation.
Secondly, Franks tells the story
of prisoner who refused to talk to interrogators for months, but after just 90 seconds of waterboarding, agreed
to tell them anything they wanted to hear. Franks quotes accounts as saying, "he cracked real quick".
In spite of that, Franks asserts that he doesn't support torture, implying that it's possible to simultaneously
maintain waterboarding and a ban on torture just by saying that waterboarding isn't torture.
nonsense. To say that a procedure that creates so much agony that it can "crack" a prisoner in 90 seconds who
has been resisting interrogation techniques for months is not torture is to ignore the central meaning of
torture. Congressman Franks might just as easily claim that ripping out someone's toenails isn't torture,
because it doesn't threaten organ failure or death.
What's the connection between these two ideas, God
and torture? Franks suggests in his editorial that America can't possibly torture because of what he regards as
USA's "hallmark" of belief in God. He regards institutional government religion as a bulwark against any
erosion of liberty.
In doing so, he ignores a truth staring him right in the face: It hasn't worked for the
"merciless jihadist ideology" he says is the reason America must perform waterboarding torture on its
prisoners. Jihad is a religious term. The terrorism of Al Quaeda on September 11, 2001 was a faith-based
Islamic terrorists believe in God just as much as Trent Franks does. They want to establish
governments based on religion as much as Franks does. That religious belief does nothing to stop Al Quaeda
and its allies from performing their own acts of torture.
Religious fervor also didn't stop the Catholic
Church from performing massive amounts of torture during the Spanish Inquisition. In fact, the Spanish
Inquisition is where waterboarding torture was invented. The interrogators of the Spanish Inquisition
thought that waterboarding was a way of honoring God, just as Islamic terrorists do, just as Trent Franks
Americans should not allow their nation to travel the path of warped ideology into such
disreputable company. (Source: USA Today, November 13, 2007)
- Place this one in the category of Republican State Legislators Who Miss The Point: In Pennsylvania, Republican State Senator James Rhoades introduced a bill that would have made it mandatory for schoolchildren to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.
Let me go on the record as saying that some level of allegiance to one's country is a good thing. I also think that American students ought to be encouraged to appreciate how a democratic system of government benefits them.
That said, I have to ask what in the world makes Republican politicians like James Rhoades think that the best way to encourage a feeling of allegiance to the nation is to force children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance by rote, whether they want to or not? This method of promoting patriotism is about as likely to succeed as a father's attempt to earn the love of his children by forcing them to tell him they love him every morning before they can eat breakfast.
Allegiance, like love, cannot be forced. When allegiance is required, it becomes meaningless. Forcing children to say something over and over again is more likely to breed resentment than true allegiance.
Perhaps James Rhoades is one of those Republicans that doesn't like the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, but one would hope that he is aware that one of the primary reasons that American children are taught that the American government is worthy of allegiance is that the First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech. Forcing children to make political statements that they do not believe in will contradict every lesson they receive about the Bill of Rights.
The fact is that many children come from families that have a tradition of not saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Some come from deeply religious families who observe a sacred commandment not to utter oaths. Others come from families that have a serious commitment to the ideals of a secular society, and resent the relatively recent changes to the Pledge of Allegiance to add the words "under God" to the oath.
A particular galling part of the bill proposed Rhoades and other Republicans in the Pennsylvania State Senate is that in order for a child to opt out of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, the child would have to stand before his or her classmates every single morning, and tell them that he or she is refusing to go along with the group. Senator Rhoades must certainly be aware that such a task is socially impossible for most children. Such repeated public exposure to group ridicule looks like an intentional punishment for nonconformity.
The impact of the Pennsylvania Pledge Compulsion Bill would have been to promote the Republican Party's authoritarian agenda. The lesson that the forced pledge will teach is that, in America, people are not supposed to learn to think for themselves, and when people don't agree with the majority, they should keep their ideas to themselves, and do what they're told to do - or else.
- How can the Bush administration complain to Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf about Musharraf's decision to subject Pakistani civilians to the authority of military tribunals, when Bush himself tried to subject American civilians to the authority of military tribunals? Under Bush, America has lost its status as an exemplar of civil liberty. We desperately need that status back. (Sources: MSNBC April 28 2004; Daily Times of Pakistan November 12, 2007)
- There's a scandal brewing for the Hillary Clinton for President campaign, and it has to do with a lot of the
problems we've been having under George W. Bush. The issue is secrecy of government records. For Bush,
that problem has to do with a sitting presidency. For Hillary Clinton, the problem has to do with history.
Hillary Clinton says that she should be elected because of her experience, including her experience as the
wife of a two-term President. However, Senator Clinton and her husband aren't actually allowing the
American public to see what Hillary Clinton's experience actually consists of. They won't let the public see
most of the records kept about the Clinton presidency in the Clinton presidential library.
partisans will say that this scandal is just a Republican attempt to bash Hillary Clinton. Republicans certainly
are using the Clintons' secrecy as a point of criticism against Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, but the
issue is larger than that.
It is hypocritical for Hillary Clinton supporters to criticize George W. Bush's
secrecy, but then accept Hillary Clinton's own secretive habits. In the perspective of history, we will see that
it's the issue of government secrecy that matters most, not the political party that can use it at any given
All candidates ought to be open with the records of their government experience, to the
fullest extent possible. That's because government itself ought to be open to public scrutiny to the fullest
extent possible. We ought to be able to examine the records of the Clinton White House of the 1990s if Hillary
Clinton is going to run on the basis of her experience in that White House. If she isn't willing to share most of
the records in the Clinton presidential library, then she ought to stop claiming her experience there as an asset
to her campaign.
The same standard applies to the other presidential candidates too. We ought to be
able to examine the records of Congressman Ron Paul, former Governor Mitt Romney, and Senator John
McCain too, as well as the records of all the other candidates who have held public office. They ought to open
their files, and let us get a full view of their political characters, or they ought to clam up and stay at home.
(Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, October 13, 2007)
- Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf was infuriated
that the detainees who he had "disappeared" into an archipelago of secret prisons were freed by judges after
they invoked the right of habeas corpus, for petitioners to demand that the accused be brought to court and be
informed of the charges against them. After the invocation of habeas corpus, it became clear that there wasn't
sufficient evidence to detain the disappeared, and so they were let go. After Musharraf suspended the
Constitution last week, he made clear he'd institute a new system under which habeas corpus would not be
This is despicable conduct indeed. But how can the Bush administration complain about
Musharraf's decision to suspend the right of habeas corpus, when Bush himself has suspended that same right
for his own uncharged detainees? This is another way in which America under Bush has lost its status as an
exemplar of civil liberty. When we lost that status we lost the ability to lecture other nations about civil
society, human rights and despotism. (Sources: New York Times September 28 2006; Daily Times of Pakistan
November 11 2007)
- In November 2007, Americans learned about efforts by the FBI to find Iranian
terrorists by tracking patterns of food purchases in American grocery stores. For a while, the FBI dredged
through electronic data on Americans' grocery purchases in order to stop the terrorists before they struck
again, possibly near the pet food in Aisle 6.
What isn't the federal government watching these days?
(Source: Congressional Quarterly November 2, 2007)
- Without doing what is truly necessary to make
it legal, by amending Constitution to destroy the Bill of Rights, George W. Bush has sacrificed American
liberty for the sake of American security. Habeas corpus, protection from unreasonable search and seizure,
presumption of innocence, guarantees against cruel and unusual punishment, the right to a fair trial, and the
constitutional system of checks and balances have all been hobbled in the name of effectively protecting
Americans against terrorists.
In the America of Homeland Security, the old promises are broken, but there
is a single new promise: In return for losing the freedom that America once had, terrorists will be unable to
What's tragic is that Homeland Security isn't really able to deliver on the new promise. CBS
News has obtained a report from the Government Accountability Office revealing that GAO inspectors were
able to sneak the parts of an explosive device through airport security, and then reassemble them afterwards.
The parts cost just $150 per bomb.
The GAO inspectors attempted to get their explosive devices
through airport security in 19 airports, and succeeded in all 19. In one instance, a Homeland Security agent
confiscated a small bottle of shampoo, but allowed a liquid part of the GAO's bomb to pass through the
security checkpoint. Homeland Security has taken away our freedoms, but Homeland Security has not
made us safe. It's time for Homeland Security to end, and for a return to American freedom to begin.
Don't expect that to happen any time soon. We won't stand a chance of getting any of our freedom back
until we get a new President. In the meantime, the only reaction that we'll get to this story is that Homeland
Security agents at airports will slow things down for a few days, just to make a show that they're on the job
and being tough.
America doesn't need Homeland Security agents to be tough. We need our President
to start upholding the Constitution. (Source: CBS News, November 14, 2007)
- Just as they do every year, thousands of progressive activists gathered outside of Fort Benning, Georgia in
November 2007 to protest the instruction in torture techniques that is believed to be given there by the U.S.
military to soldiers and agents from foreign countries.
The presence of these activists in vigil, for many
long years, against torture is a sign of the resolve of progressives in defense of liberty not just here in the
United States, but for all people around the world. These protests may not have ended cooperation between
the U.S. government and the the governments of other nations in the use of torture, but they do demonstrate
the depth of progressive love for freedom.
Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich was
there. Not a single Republican presidential candidate was in attendance. Not Ron Paul, who says he values
liberty, but couldn't bother to attend the protests, because he had to prepare for a fundraiser in Las Vegas
instead. Not John McCain, who says that he's against torture, but supports George W. Bush's attempts to
legalize torture anyway.
The progressive activists outside of Fort Benning realize what phonies like
Ron Paul and John McCain can't seem to grasp: That the American freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution
are categorical. We won't keep our freedoms if we only support them when it's politically convenient to do so.
(Source: Reuters, November 18, 2007)
- After years of imprisonment, four men, Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga, Richard Belmar, and Moazzam
Begg, were finally released by the Bush Administration after years of imprisonment, torture, and other
punishments without ever being charged with a crime. They were extradited to the United Kingdom. There,
the British government held the four men and questioned the, then released them from its own custody. The
British government declared that there was no evidence that the men were of any criminal threat to anybody.
The United States Department of Defense, on the other hand, still insists that the four men it released still
pose a "significant threat". This continued insistence by the Bush Administration of the guilt of these four men
is truly bizarre, given the fact that the men were never charged with any crime, much less put on trial. If the
four prisoners were truly a "significant threat", then why on Earth didn't the United States keep them in
custody and put them on trial so that they could be legally imprisoned for a long period of time?
The likely answer is simple: The United States really has no evidence that the four men it released from
custody have committed any crime at all. After all, the Bush Administration's arrangement for trials allowed
for extremely loose standards of justice that favored easy prosecution through military tribunals many legal
experts have characterized as kangaroo courts. If there were any reasonable evidence against these four men,
the Bush Administration would have used it by now.
The sham of the Guantanamo imprisonment is clearly shown by what the Bush Administration has
attempted to claim as evidence against one of the four men: Moazzam Begg. During his time in American
custody, first at a prison in Bagram, Afghanistan and then at Guantanamo Bay, Mr. Begg was exposed to cruel
and inhuman conditions designed to erode his mental stamina to the point that he would no longer be able to
resist American interrogations. Indeed, it now appears that agents of the American government interrogated
Mr. Begg over 300 times. Mr. Begg could not have toilet paper, a toothbrush, a cup for drinking water, or even
basic medical attention, unless he was "cooperative" with interrogators. The definition of being cooperative at
Guantanamo Bay was, apparently, agreeing to do whatever his interrogators told him to do, including making
So, after hundreds of interrogation sessions over years of captivity and abuse, what kind of confession
was the American government able to wring out of Mr. Begg's tortured mind? The American interrogators got
Moazzam Begg to confess that he was indeed one of the men shown in a video attending a meeting with
Osama Bin Laden himself. That sounds pretty juicy, doesn't it? I mean, here was Mr. Begg, admitting to his
interrogators that he was right there, on videotape, meeting with Osama Bin Laden, planning terrorist attacks
against the United States. Pretty chilling stuff, huh?
Well, not really. It turns out that there is no possible way that Mr. Begg could have been one of the men on
that videotape, standing with Osama Bin Laden. You see, after the proud American interrogators shared their
supposed "evidence", wrung out of Mr. Begg through years of torture and manipulation, with British
intelligence agents, the British agents returned with evidence that proved without a doubt that Mr. Begg was
in Britain at the time that the video of Osama Bin Laden was made.
The confession of Mr. Begg was completely bogus, but it is no surprise that American interrogators were
able to get him to make it. After all, it has been documented that as part of the interrogations at Guantanamo
Bay, prisoners are told that they will not be allowed to eat until they tell interrogators what they want to hear.
Or, they're made to lie on the floor, chained so that they cannot move, defecating and urinating on themselves,
until they tell interrogators what they want to hear. Or they're beaten, or stripped naked, or left for long times
in solitary confinement, or groped by female guards, or waterboarded, or tortured in some other way. After
years of such treatment, a prisoner will say anything to get just a little relief. The prisoner might even believe
what they're told to say, whether it's true or not.
Research into interrogation methods has clearly shown that confessions obtained through the use of
torture, inhumane treatment, and long-term mental manipulation are worthless. That's why the most
respected experts in the military and intelligence agencies say that torture should never be used - it completely
ruins the ability of American agents to obtain credible information, and makes it impossible to prosecute even
the worst criminals.
On a happy note, Moazzam Begg has now seen one of his daughters for the first time. His wife, Sally, was
pregnant with their fourth child when American and Pakistani soldiers came in the middle of the night and
threw him in the trunk of a car without explanation.
Yes, Mr. Begg, who our government imprisoned and tortured for years without ever bringing a criminal
charge, has a wife named Sally.
It shouldn't matter, but for some Americans, foreign-sounding names make the prisoners we drag through
hell sound less than completely human. It's easy for us to tolerate the torture of a man named Moazzam Begg,
but it's much harder to make excuses for the illegal imprisonment of the husband of a woman named Sally.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if the American people could stretch their minds enough to consider that while
there's no evidence of any crime by a man named Moazzam, there is a huge load of evidence that a man
named George has committed serious crimes against international and domestic American law? (Source: The Guardian, January 27,
- Progressives respect the law. That's why we're so outraged at the behavior of the Bush White House.
Blatant disregard for the law disturbs us.
Our regard for the law, however, does not come from a love of authority. Rather, it comes from a regard
for the human beings it protects. For that reason, we are offended when the power of law enforcement is
Progressives watch carefully over law enforcement officials because of the authority they are given. We
remember incidents like the one that took place in Utah this autumn, when a policeman attacked a nonviolent driver with a taser at a routine traffic stop. The soul of the
law is the ability to check the power of authority, not the ability to wield power without restraint. (Source:
Wasatch Watcher, November 25, 2007)
- Why is it time for a progressive president? Most Americans hold the progressive position on the issue of
habeas corpus. 70% of Americans say they want the next American president dedicated to "restoring habeas
corpus rights for people held at Guantanamo." The Republicans haven't shown an interest in restoring habeas
corpus. Centrist Democrats haven't shown an interest in restoring habeas corpus. To restore habeas corpus, we
need a progressive in charge. (Source: ACLU Survey of Registered Voters, October 4, 2007)
- This reason to elect a progressive American President in 2008 has to do with an explosive scandal in
another country. So, why should we worry about it here? It's a scandal that, if replicated here in the United
States, could bring our economy to a halt.
In the United Kingdom, compact discs containing private financial information about half of the nation's
population have been lost. People entrusted the British government with this information, but then someone
in the government burned the information onto two compact discs, and then sent them in the mail.
The private financial information of half the British population was lost in the mail.
Here in the United States, our government is collecting unprecedented amounts of information about our
private activities, including financial information, records of our shopping habits, records of our telephone
calls and emails, our medical histories, books we borrow from the library, and on and on and on. The
government is integrating all that information into integrated databases that form virtual maps of our lives.
Could that information be put onto some compact discs, and then lost in the mail? Could it fall into the
If it could happen in the United Kingdom, it could happen here. (Source: The Guardian, November 21,
- There's a lot more at stake in the 2008 presidential election here in the United States than just the national
condition of the USA. People all over the rest of the world are becoming increasingly concerned that
America's declining respect for liberty is dragging the rest of the world down into a diminished state of
freedom as well.
In a British newspaper, for example, Linda Colley worries, "People in Britain are subject to some of the
most extensive official surveillance in the world. One excuse for this is the threat from terrorism. Would this
threat be as great without our participation in the Iraq war? And would Britain have participated in that war
had it not been so accustomed to following Washington's foreign-policy lead?"
The United States used to be an example of greater liberty for other nations to aspire to. Now, it is an
example of neglected freedom that provides other nations an excuse for the abandonment of democratic
institutions. Our own problems are spreading around the world. (Source: The Guardian, November 23, 2007)
- Why is it time for a progressive president? Most Americans hold the progressive position on closing the
extrajudicial detention center at Guantanamo Bay. 57% of Americans say they want the next American
president to "close the prison at Guantanamo and schedule trials in the U.S. courts for the terrorist suspects
currently held there," as the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires. On these issues, Americans are
more progressive than the Republican Party or corporate media would like to have you believe. Why not elect
a president who represents the mainstream of American progressive opinion? (Source: ACLU Survey of
Registered Voters, October 4, 2007)
- In February, 2005, Republicans in the Texas legislature considered passing a new law that would have allowed well-connected Republicans to break election laws and get away with it.
The bill, which was being pushed through by allies of Republican congressman Tom DeLay, would have granted the Texas Elections Commission the power to stop any prosecution of any politician accused of violating election laws. No appeals, no vote counts, no chance for justice - the power of the law would be overturned just like that.
Just who do you think has the power to appoint people to the Texas Elections Commission? That's right - it's the Texas Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the Texas House. All three of these positions are held by Republicans. So, guess who sits on the Texas Elections Commission? That's right - they're all Republicans, and every single one of them is on the record as supporting Tom DeLay's fight to prevent his prosecution for breaking election laws in 2002.
The immediate effect of the new Texas law would have been to let Tom DeLay off the hook, protecting him from paying the legal consequences for breaking election laws in his hungry climb to power. In a longer view, however, the impact of the law that DeLay's Republican allies proposed would be to end democracy in Texas.
Think about it: If every single member of the Texas Elections Commission is a loyal Republican, appointed and removed from the commission at the whim of the leadership of the Texas Republican Party, then the Texas Elections Commission effectively is nothing more than a branch of the Texas Republican Party. If the Texas Elections Commission is given the power to provide immunity from prosecution to anyone who breaks election laws, then Texas election laws will only apply to those candidates that the Texas Elections Commission, and the Texas Republican Party, do not approve of.
The ultimate effect of the bill that Texas Republicans proposed would be that election laws in Texas would only apply to non-Republicans. Republican candidates would be given free reign to engage in all kinds of illegal campaign practices in order to defeat their opponents. With the Republicans now in control of all branches of government in Texas, there would be no real opportunity for Democrats, or any other political party, to ever challenge the Republicans' grip on power. Texas would become a one-party state.
Some Republicans may argue that the Republican Texas Elections Commission would never really allow such a thing to occur, but really, that doesn't matter. The most important difference between a democracy and a totalitarian regime is that in a democracy, government is accountable to the people. In order for this to happen, the law cannot be enforced only when it pleases the whims of those in power. The law must apply to all people all of the time, regardless of political considerations.
- the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: "The right of the people to be secure in their
persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no
Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing
the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
In addition, Minnesota state law reads:
United States Customs and Border Protection, United States Citizenship and Immigration
Services officer. An officer in the United States Customs and Border Protection or the United States
Citizenship and Immigration Services may arrest a person without a warrant under the circumstances
specified in clauses (a) and (b):
(a) when the officer is on duty within the scope of assignment and one or more of the following situations
(1) the person commits an assault in the fifth degree, as defined in section 609.224, against the officer;
(2) the person commits an assault in the fifth degree, as defined in section 609.224, on any other person in the
presence of the officer, or commits any felony;
(3) the officer has reasonable cause to believe that a felony has been committed and reasonable cause to
believe that the person committed it; or
(4) the officer has received positive information by written, teletypic, telephonic, radio, or other authoritative
source that a peace officer holds a warrant for the person's arrest; or
(b) when the assistance of the officer has been requested by another Minnesota law enforcement
The U.S. Constitution and Minnesota state law are clear. Yet in the state of Minnesota in December 2006,
Customs officials broke into a Swift and Co. meatpacking plant and seized 400 workers there for 6-12 hours in
handcuffs, denying them access bathroom breaks, denying them access to lawyers. All were searched. None of
this was done with a warrant. American citizens were given this treatment, not just the illegal immigrants you
may consider to be somehow less worthy of humane and constitutional treatment.
This didn't just happen in Minnesota. It happened in Utah. It happened in Texas. It happened in Colorado.
It happened in Nebraska. 12,000 people were seized and searched without warrants. Only 10 percent of those
people corralled by the government outside constitutional bounds were charged with immigration violations.
1/2 of 1 percent were charged with identity theft. The rest were treated like this by their own government
agents with no warrant, with no finding of probable cause.
Is this the America you are guaranteed, constitutionally speaking? Is this the America you want, morally
speaking? If you say no, will you do something more than mumble that "no" to yourself in your transiently
comfortable and safe room? Will you take action to bring America back into alignment with the constitution
and your moral values? At the very least, will you vote for candidates who will stop this unAmerican conduct?
(Source: Workday Minnesota September 12 2007)
- Why is it time for a progressive president? Most Americans hold the progressive position on the 4th
Amendment to the Constitution, which requires the issuing of warrants based on probable cause before
Americans' private lives and persons are riffled through and their possessions and personal information is
seized. 58% of Americans say they want the next American president to "require the government to get a court
warrant to listen to the telephone calls of people in the U.S.". With our current spineless Congress, we'll need a
progressive president to return to what used to be a universally-agreed-upon standard. (Source: ACLU Survey
of Registered Voters, October 4, 2007)
- Tonight, CNN is participating in the transformation of the United States of America into a theocracy.
CNN chose the following question to the presidential candidates: Do you believe that every word of this
book [the Bible] is true?
What possible relevance does this test of religious belief have to the presidential election of 2008?
Oh, it does have relevance. It has relevance to the fact that right wing Christian organizations are
attempting to transform the public office of President of the United States into a religious position with
authority that is established by adherence to Christian theology, and not to the Constitution of the United
It's relevant in that the question is a manifestation of an attempt to impose religious authority over the
American federal government. As such, the question should never have been aired, and should not have been
given the power of a response.
However, not a single Republican presidential candidate refused to answer the question, or expressed any
concern about the question being asked. They all eagerly submitted themselves to the religious test for public
office, and in doing so, signaled their willingness to allow religious authority to subvert the Constitution and
the rule of law. (Source: CNN, November 28, 2007)
- Why is it time for a more progressive president? It s a simple matter of numbers; most Americans are
asking for one. 59% of Americans say they would like the next president to do more to protect civil liberties
while fighting terrorism. If most Americans are asking for a new president who is more serious about civil
liberties, why should we make do with candidates who would further erode them? (Source: ACLU Survey of
Registered Voters, October 4, 2007)
- All America found out very quickly about the disturbed man who held people hostage at a New
Hampshire office of the Hillary Clinton for President campaign and threatend to blow them all up with a
bomb. Homeland Security didn't know a damned thing about it, though.
In spite of having satellites spy on us from outer space...
In spite of listening to our telephone calls...
In spite of reading our emails and postal mails...
In spite of tracking the books we read...
In spite of having volunteer watch groups report "suspicious behavior" to the government...
In spite of using torture...
In spite of throwing people into prisons without habeas corpus, lawyers, or fair trials...
In spite of all the things that the Department of Homeland Security does in violation of our constitutional
rights, a man was able to walk into the office of a major presidential candidate with what appeared to be a
bomb. If a mentally unstable amateur could do it, anybody could do it, including a real terrorist, and
Homeland Security apparently couldn't do a damned thing about it.
If Homeland Security is taking away our constitutional rights in order to stop terrorist attacks, but is
powerless to stop terrorist attacks anyway, why don't we just take our constitutional rights back and shut
down the Department of Homeland Security? (Source: New York Daily News, December 2, 2007)
- Hello, "values voters." Are your moral values really so important to you? Here's a thirty-foot tall reason to stop voting Republican: the White House announced yesterday that it would veto a bill that specifically outlawed waterboarding, the use of simulated drowning as an interrogation technique. Republican Senator Christopher Bond declared his alliance with the White House in favor of torture, asserting that the outlawing of waterboarding would "kill an important tool in our efforts to fight terror." Bond left out the "with" between his last two words. (Source: Washington Post December 7 2007
- In the spring of 2005, the Republicans who control Texas hatched a scheme to give the President of the United States a new route through which to export prisoners overseas, beyond the reach of American justice. SB 1119, a bill proposed by Texas State Senator Craig Estes would provide the government the ability to send people arrested under American law across the border into Mexican prisons.
Of course, once those prisoners were in Mexican prisons, who within the United States would have the power to monitor their treatment? No one here in the United States, that's for sure.
The more you look at this bill, and the larger context of events in which it has been offered, the more it seems that SB 1119 is a recipe for prisoner abuse. Let me re-emphasize what I just said: It doesn't appear accidental at all. This bill seems like a recipe for prisoner abuse.
Just as the Bush Administration has been caught transfering prisoners, and the American opposition is calling upon the government to shut down this avenue for transporting prisoners to torture, the Republicans in Bush's home state came up with a new mechanism for making prisoners disappear from the view of the American justice system. Perhaps these two items are purposefully connected, and perhaps they are not. However, the overlap between them cannot be explained as mere coincidence.
At a minumum, these two simultaneous efforts by Republicans to subvert the Bill of Rights are indicative of a persistent agenda to erode liberty in America. At the worst, the two efforts represent a coordinated effort by Republican politicians to keep the Bush Administration's policy of torture in effect for as long as possible.
- Now we know why the Bush Administration can't prosecute accused terrorists in open, legal trials in the United States: It ordered the evidence against them to be destroyed. CIA Director Michael Hayden has admitted that the CIA videotaped its interrogations of terrorist suspects, but then destroyed the videotapes. Hayden's predecessor, Porter Goss, authorized the videotapes destroyed, the specific orders issued by the CIA's director of clandestine operations.
Why did the CIA order the videotapes destroyed? Michael Hayden says that it was to protect interrogators, but from what? From prosecution for illegal torture of prisoners. The videotapes showed the CIA's new "enhanced" interrogation methods - a euphemism for torture.
Those methods were specifically endorsed by President George W. Bush, so a video showing what those methods really amounted to could quite easily lead to the specific link of George W. Bush to illegal torture. The destruction of the videotapes was thus a protection against impeachment.
Besides that, destroying the torture videotapes really protects the terrorist suspects more than it supports their interrogators. After all, now that evidence in the cases of the terrorist suspects, Abu Zubaydah and Zacarias Moussaoui, is known to have been tampered with, the prosecution and conviction of those suspects itself become suspect.
Or, at least it would in a nation with an intact system of justice. Will Congress hold the CIA and the Bush White House accountable for this criminal destruction of evidence, or will Congress allow justice itself to rot? (Source: Seattle Times, December 7, 2007)
- In December 2007, Mitt Romney declared that "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom." It's a statement that implies the sort of rotten logic that would claim, "Criminal investigation requires torture just as torture requires criminal investigation."
The Constitution of the United States, both in its original body and in the very first line of its very first amendment, are designed to provide the people with a government that is free from the influence of religion. Our nation's founders knew very well the violent danger of allowing religious groups to control government.
Mitt Romney and his supporters now wish for us to ignore that danger, and to ignore the very recent history of the corruption, violence, bankruptcy, and breakdown of the law that we have suffered under a President who believes that his power comes from God, not from the Constitution.
It is absurd to state that "freedom requires religion". It is against the essential idea of freedom to require anything. Freedom might as well require forced labor if it requires religion.
Mitt Romney's interest in requiring religion even as he campaigns for the secular position of President of the United States is a warning that Romney has an extremely poor understanding of the nature of both freedom and the presidency. (Source: Boston Globe, December 8, 2007)
- The destruction of video tapes of torture in interrogation by the CIA, which the CIA and others government kept secret until the New York Times published the news, was an act that obstructed criminal investigations and countervened the specific requests of members of Congress and the 9-11 Commission for information. The revelation immediately brought questions to the door of the White House. Spokesperson Dana Perino insisted that President George W. Bush "had no recollection" of being informed about the tapes or their destruction. But it quickly came out that Bush's close aide and confidante, Harriet Miers, knew about the tapes well before their destruction and even communicated with the CIA regarding them.
Either George W. Bush is lying, or his close aide and confidante knew all about the torture tapes and handled communications with the CIA regarding them without ever speaking to the president about them. In the first case we have a president who is willing to lie to the American people about torture to protect himself. In the second case we have a president so incurious and uninvolved that, despite years of controversy regarding torture by the American government and despite having had Attorney Generals and White House Counsels who directly grappled with the issue by endorsing torture, he would never think to ask whether there was evidence of such torture. If he had ever asked that question, he would have known about the tapes, because Harriet Miers did. In this second case, we have a puppet president who doesn't ask questions, who doesn't know the important details of government, and whose staffers carry out information gathering and decision-making regarding issues of such central importance as American torture policy without bothering to so much as inform him.
I don't know which is true, but in either case we have a crippled government and a White House complicit in the obstruction of justice. Getting a new, engaged president in a White House with a staff that understands the problem of torture is a task we citizens can't complete soon enough. (Sources: Washington Post December 7, 2007; White House Press Briefing December 7, 2007)
- I was struck, reading the Inaugural Address of President John Adams, by the way that he decided to close his address with a prayer to God, that liberty may be preserved in the United States of America: "May that Being who is supreme over all, the Patron of Order, the Fountain of Justice, and the Protector in all ages of the world of virtuous liberty, continue His blessing upon this nation and its Government and give it all possible success and duration consistent with the ends of His providence."
When he was done talking, that John Adams and his Federalist supporters in Congress soon acted in direct contradiction to the inaugural prayer. Adams violated the Constitution by waging war against the French without a formal congressional declaration of war, and when the opposition protested, Federalists in Congress passed the Sedition Act, which made written dissent against President Adams a crime.
The historical lesson is clear: Prayers to God to preserve liberty have no power to withstand the acts of human beings to destroy liberty. It is easy for a politician to make glowing statements about the heavenly foundations of freedom, and then to attack the earthy laws upon which freedom is truly founded.
George W. Bush is as much of an example in this lesson as John Adams was. In the 2008 presidential election, American citizens must not be content with professions of love of liberty. We must look at what the candidates have actually done to defend liberty, or to support the vivisection of the Bill of Rights conducted by right wing politicians claiming to be motivated by the will of God. (Source: Inaugural Address, John Adams, March 4, 1797)
- Remember all that talk from the Bush White House about how torture of prisoners by American soldiers and government agents was just due to "a few bad apples"? Well, it turns out that those low-ranking bad apples were created by a purposeful policy of torture created by a few big bad apples in the White House.
Former CIA agent John Kiriakou, who was involved in the capturing and interrogation of prisoners by the American government, revealed on the morning of December 11, 2007 that the orders to torture came from the White House. "This isn't something done willy nilly. This isn't something where an agency officer just wakes up in the morning and decides he's going to carry out an enhanced technique on a prisoner," he said. "This was a policy made at the White House, with concurrence from the National Security Council and Justice Department." (Source: Associated Press, December 11, 2007)
- According to John Kiriakou, here is what happened when he and his colleagues subjected a prisoner to waterboarding torture:
"He described Abu Zubaida as ideologically zealous, defiant and uncooperative — until the day in mid-summer when his captors strapped him to a board, wrapped his nose and mouth in cellophane and forced water into his throat in a technique that simulates drowning.
The waterboarding lasted about 35 seconds before Abu Zubaida broke down, according to Kiriakou, who said he was given a detailed description of the incident by fellow team members. The next day, Abu Zubaida told his captors he would tell them whatever they wanted, Kiriakou said."
There you are. Now we all know exactly what the United States government under the Bush administration has done to its detainees.
This renders completely bogus George W. Bush's assertion that he can't talk about the issue, because for strategic reasons he doesn't want The Enemy to know about what the U.S. does to its detainees. The Enemy has of course known for years that the U.S. waterboards its detainees, and undoubtedly they've prepared for it, but now they know exactly in what that procedure consists.
This renders completely bogus Michael Mukasey's assertion that he can't talk about the issue of waterboarding because he doesn't know what it is, and doesn't know what form of it the U.S. government engaged in. Unless you've started an I-don't-read-the-newspapers policy to follow your new boss, now you know.
We now have a retired CIA officer telling the world the exact procedure of strapping a detainee to a board, covering his mouth and nose with cellophane and forcing water down his throat, for 35 seconds, until he broke. 18 U.S.C. 2340 describes torture as, among other things, an interrogation procedure that produces the perception of "imminent death." That's what the described procedure is designed to do. And that, in turn, means we have criminals in America government. There are those who carried out the act, yes. But there are also those who approved the act. These are also criminals, since the criminal code 18 USC 2340 holds conspiracy to commit torture as its own criminal offense, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. And then there is the crime of obstructing justice for the individuals who destroyed videotaped evidence of this torture after the September 11 Commission asked for it and members of Congress told them to keep it at the ready for review.
George W. Bush has been protecting criminals. It is now his George W. Bush's responsibility to stop stonewalling and share the information he has about the commission of the crime of torture, the commission of the crime of conspiracy to commit torture, and the commission of the crime of obstruction of justice.
Michael Mukasey is the Attorney General, sworn to uphold the rule of law. It is now his responsibility to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the crimes of torture, conspiracy to commit torture, and obstruction of justice.
The Congress can no longer pretend that crimes have not been committed. If George W. Bush will not carry through on his responsibilities, the House now has the responsibility to bring articles of impeachment to the floor. The Senate has the responsibility to follow through on them. And if members of the House and Senate will not carry out their responsibilities, it is time to cast out the lot and replace them with citizens who still believe in the rule of law. (Source: Washington Post December 11, 2007)
- Contrary to earlier claims by the Central Intelligence Agency that rogue CIA executive Jose Rodriguez ordered video tapes of water torture all by himself, without authorization of higher-ups or clearance from CIA lawyers, it has now been disclosed that lawyers at the CIA gave written approval for the destruction of the video tapes … in advance.
This obstruction of justice was not just a rogue operation. It was an obstruction carried out with the knowledge and blessing of the CIA's own bureaucracy. There's a moral rot in government today, and we need new governance to flush it out. (Sources: CBS News December 10 2007; New York Times December 11 2007)
- In the year 2002, Rudolph Giuliani and his Giuliani Partners consulting group were paid $30 million to promote the use of a corporate data-mining program by the government. This data-mining program, called the MATRIX, collected information about American citizens' personal habits, shopping, home records, relationships to other people, credit history and marriage records, dumped it all into a megacomputer, and used statistical analysis to predict who would commit a terrorist act for purposes of pre-emption. Total Information Awareness is another name for this kind of approach. Don't read the newspapers? Fine: you may have seen this kind of technology referred to movies in Minority Report … and The Matrix, after which this very useful program was named (as an acronym for Multistate Anti-TeRrorism Information eXchange).
Thanks to the connections Rudy Giuliani brought to the table, the corporation selling the MATRIX to the government got a seat with Homeland Security, which agreed to spend millions on the program and brought 13 states in to the program as participants. The government's moved on now to bigger and more extensive data-mining programs, but as we vote for a new president in 2008, how could you in good conscience vote for a candidate who let himself become a lobbyist for a tool that expanded the surveillance society over innocent Americans' heads? How could you vote for a candidate who sold himself to the MATRIX? (Sources: New York Times March 15 2004; Time Magazine December 13 2007)
- "Attacking someone's religion is really going too far." — Mitt Romney, responding to fellow Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's question, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"
"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom… Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone… It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They are wrong… Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests… no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people." — Mitt Romney, explaining why people who have a secular approach to religion are wrong, unfree, lesser and doomed to failure.
When Mitt Romney places a religious test on citizens, judging the secular to be unfit as Americans, he should not be surprised to find someone in turn trying to place a religious test upon him.
It's time to stop the nonsense and return to the constitutional standard under which tests of religiosity are altogether inappropriate. This is a task to which neither Mitt Romney nor Mike Huckabee is inclined. (Sources: Associated Press December 12 2007; Transcript of Mitt Romney's "Faith in America" speech of December 6 2007)
- Mitt Romney has responded with outrage at Mike Huckabee's questions about whether Mormonism makes sense. "I think attacking someone's religion is really going too far," says Romney.
At first glance, I would agree that there is no place in politics for attacking someone's religion. As I take a second glance at the issue, however, I am changing my mind.
First of all, as others have pointed out, Mitt Romney himself introduced the idea of religion into his political campaign. In doing so, he made his specific religious beliefs an issue of legitimate questions.
Even more importantly, Mitt Romney justifies specific political policies that he would impose on all Americans by saying that they're supported by his religious beliefs. Therefore, if we can't question Romney's religion, we can't really question his political policies. By not attacking the assumptions within Romney's religion, what Romney himself says is the source of his politics goes without examination.
It's as if Mitt Romney gets to put any issue that he doesn't want to talk about into a black box where it remains untouchable. Romney's position on reproductive freedom? It's religious, so we can't question it. Romney's position on same sex marriage? It's religious, so we can't question it.
What else won't we be able to criticize, with the idea that it's religious in foundation? Public funding of religious schools? Teaching Creationism in biology class? Wars against Islam?
If Mitt Romney doesn't want his religious beliefs to come under attack, then he shouldn't say that he's going to be a President with religious values.
To tell the truth, I don't much like Mitt Romney's religious values. What kind of religion allows Mitt Romney to accept the use of torture against prisoners? I respect his right to have those religious values, but I will not surrender to Mitt Romney the right to attack those values. After all, what he calls an "attack" is really not violent at all. It's merely criticism, or even just questioning.
When Mitt Romney says that we must not attack his religion, he's saying that we must not criticize his religious politics. A presidential candidate who believes that the foundation of his politics should be beyond criticism is a candidate who is unworthy of the office of the Presidency.
When it comes down to it, if Mitt Romney's religion cannot withstand a little criticism, then it isn't much of a religion. (Source: Associated Press, December 12, 2007)
- The poor leadership of the Republican federal government headed by George W. Bush was illustrated by the testimony of CIA Director Michael Hayden, given after the revelation that the CIA had intentionally destroyed videotapes that showed the torture of prisoners through waterboarding techniques inspired by the Spanish Inquisition.
When Michael Hayden was asked by the House Intelligence Committee what he knew about the videotapes and their destruction, Hayden replied, "Other people in the agency know about this far better than I."
Other people than the director of the CIA know about conspiracies by the agency to break the law by torturing and covering up the crime? How is such a thing possible? Is Hayden the Director of Central Intelligence or isn't he?
If Michael Hayden is, as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, having intelligence information kept from him by lower-ranking agents of the CIA, then he's profoundly incompetent.
If Michael Hayden did in fact know about the videotapes of torture by the CIA, and the destruction of those videotapes, then he lied to the House Intelligence Committee when he told them that he lacked that knowledge.
In either case, Michael Hayden is unfit to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, and should resign immediately. (Source: Associated Press, December 12, 2007)
- I was struck, reading the Inaugural Address of President John Adams, by the way that he decided to close his address with a prayer to God, that liberty may be preserved in the United States of America: "May that Being who is supreme over all, the Patron of Order, the Fountain of Justice, and the Protector in all ages of the world of virtuous liberty, continue His blessing upon this nation and its Government and give it all possible success and duration consistent with the ends of His providence."
The irony is that John Adams and his Federalist supporters in Congress soon acted in direct contradiction to the prayer. Adams violated the Constitution by waging war against the French without a formal congressional declaration of war, and when the opposition protested, Federalists in Congress passed the Sedition Act, which made written dissent against President Adams a crime.
The historical lesson is clear: Prayers to God to preserve liberty have no power to withstand the acts of human beings to destroy liberty. It is easy for a politician to make glowing statements about the heavenly foundations of freedom, and then to attack the earthy laws upon which freedom is truly founded.
George W. Bush is as much of an example in this lesson as John Adams was. In the 2008 presidential election, American citizens must not be content with professions of love of liberty. We must look at what the candidates have actually done to defend liberty, or to support the vivisection of the Bill of Rights conducted by right wing politicians claiming to be motivated by the will of God. (Source: Inaugural Address, John Adams, March 4, 1797)
- "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." Voltaire said it centuries ago, but it still holds true today. There's a group of authoritarians in our country who are doing everything they can to make you afraid of things that almost certainly will not harm you, like terrorist bombs. They trust that you won't put the numerator of 3,000 over the denominator of 300,000,000 and see that the attacks of September 11, 2001 only killed 0.001 percent, or one in every hundred thousand Americans. Even if you encounter that number, the authoritarians hope that you will disregard it in the face of the persistent and absurd claims that terrorists are everywhere, they are out to get you, and they will, unless... The word "unless" is always followed by something that you'd never agree to unless you first were tricked into believing the absurdity peddled by the authoritarians.
Here's an example: "1. Well, if there were a ticking atomic bomb, and someone in custody knew exactly where it was and how to stop it, and there were only two hours left to find it, you'd torture, wouldn't you? 2. So come on, let us torture people even when there's no ticking atomic bomb, and we don't have enough proof to convict the people we've detained in a court of law, much less proof that they know where the nonexistent atomic bomb is." The example is real, although of course point #2 is never expressed in those terms. It never has to be. As long as the authoritarians get you to freak out with step #1, they'll be able to wave their hands and get you to express implicit consent for them to carry out unstated atrocities. It's all very comfortingly indirect, isn't it? But for the targets of these atrocities, the experience is no less brutal.
Stop this process in yourself. Stop believing the absurdities of the authoritarians. Stop this process for our nation. Remove the authoritarians from power.
- In a December 7, 2007 speech on the Senate Floor, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse disclosed the content of previously classified opinions delivered by the Bush Administration's Office of Legal Counsel:
For years under the Bush Administration, the Office of Legal Counsel within the Department of Justice has issued highly classified secret legal opinions related to surveillance. This is an administration that hates answering to an American court, that wants to grade its own papers, and OLC is the inside place the administration goes to get legal support for its spying program.
As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I was given access to those opinions, and spent hours poring over them. Sitting in that secure room, as a lawyer, as a former U.S. Attorney, legal counsel to Rhode Island's Governor, and State Attorney General, I was increasingly dismayed and amazed as I read on.
To give you an example of what I read, I have gotten three legal propositions from these OLC opinions declassified. Here they are, as accurately as my note taking could reproduce them from the classified documents. Listen for yourself. I will read all three, and then discuss each one.
1. An executive order cannot limit a President. There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order. Rather than violate an executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it.
2. The President, exercising his constitutional authority under Article II, can determine whether an action is a lawful exercise of the President's authority under Article II.
3. The Department of Justice is bound by the President's legal determinations.
In a nutshell, these three Bush administration legal propositions boil down to this:
1. "I don't have to follow my own rules, and I don't have to tell you when I'm breaking them."
2. "I get to determine what my own powers are."
3. "The Department of Justice doesn't tell me what the law is, I tell the Department of Justice what the law is."
When the Congress of the United States is willing to roll over for an unprincipled President, this is where you end up. We should not even be having this discussion. But here we are. I implore my colleagues: reject these feverish legal theories. I understand political loyalty, trust me, I do. But let us also be loyal to this great institution we serve in the legislative branch of our government. Let us also be loyal to the Constitution we took an oath to defend, from enemies foreign and domestic. And let us be loyal to the American people who live each day under our Constitution's principles and protections.
Yes, we need more people like Sheldon Whitehouse in government. But more than that, we need to return to the kind of government that works no matter what particular people hold power. No person should be able to work outside the law, to determine the extent of his own powers, to determine for himself what the law enables him to do. That is what George W. Bush has done, and in order to do it he has demolished the carefully constructed system of checks on power in the U.S. government. We need to elect as our next president someone who will bring restraint back. (Source: Speech of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse on December 7, 2007)
- One of the great liberal traditions of civic life in the United States is that even when people disagree with the government, they are not punished for their disagreement, but remain welcome in a spirit of healthy, vigorous debate over public policy. Unfortunately, the Republican Party is not very fond of traditional liberal values such as open debate.
For example, when Alabama Congressman Jo Bonner attended a public meeting in Mobile, Alabama, he was outraged that many of the people who had come to meet him dared to criticize his decisions as a member of the House of Representatives. He snapped at them angrily, essentially telling them that if they didn't care to agree with the Republican Party Line, they should be prepared to leave the United States. "The great thing about this country is if you don't like it, you can leave," Bonner lectured the crowd.
This is the great thing about America? That I can leave it? Surely we can do better than that.
Republicans are finding it very easy these days to tell people with opinions that differ from the Republican agenda to go live in another country, but, true to form, they never follow through on the details. Unfortunately, the implications of their haughty lecturing are too immense to leave the particulars until later. After all, even counting the supposed defeat of 2004, something like 48 percent of Americans disagree with the Republican Party Line. That's about 140 million people. Where exactly do Republicans like Jo Bonner suggest that we all go - to a gigantic refugee camp on the shores of Antarctica?
In a truly free country, no single political ideology gets to dictate which people stay and which people go. In a free country, people get to keep their homes even if they don't like what the government is doing.
Apparently, Republicans like Jo Bonner don't really want America to be a free country anymore. Luckily, huge numbers of good Americans disagree with him - and we're planning on sticking around.
- When you buy a book, you may think that you have the right to keep that purchase to yourself, that if you want to tell someone about the book, you can, but if you want to keep your purchase of that book a private matter, you can do that too.
The Republicans occupying the White House don't think you have the right to keep your library to yourself. The Republican White House has asserted that it has the right to know what books you're reading, directing federal prosecutors to issue subpoenas to Amazon.com, demanding that it hand over its database of customers, showing which Americans are reading which books.
The Constitution guarantees the American people protection from unreasonable search and seizure. Right wingers don't think it's unreasonable for government agent to seize records of what Americans are reading. If you disagree with them, vote progressive in 2008. (Source: Associated Press, November 27, 2007)
- This news came to us from reporter James Gordon Meek, who works for the New York Daily News: George W. Bush is reading our mail, without a warrant:
President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans' mail without a judge's warrant, the Daily News has learned.
The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a "signing statement" that declared his right to open people's mail under emergency conditions.
That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed, say experts who have reviewed it….
Most of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act deals with mundane reform measures. But it also explicitly reinforced protections of first-class mail from searches without a court's approval.
You have to poke around for it (look for subsection 1010), but right in the middle of the text of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act is this text:
The Postal Service shall maintain one or more classes of mail for the transmission of letters sealed against inspection. The rate for each such class shall be uniform throughout the United States, its territories, and possessions. One such class shall provide for the most expeditious handling and transportation afforded mail matter by the Postal Service. No letter of such a class of domestic origin shall be opened except under authority of a search warrant authorized by law, or by an officer or employee of the Postal Service for the sole purpose of determining an address at which the letter can be delivered, or pursuant to the authorization of the addressee.
That language has been passed by both offices and it's been signed, making it the law of the land. But of course, there's always been the supreme law of the land, the United States Constitution. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
That's it. By specific, enacted law as well as by the Constitution, George W. Bush should not, can not, must not have your mail opened unless there is a warrant issued upon probable cause. And yet here is George W. Bush's signing statement:
The executive branch shall construe subsection 404(c) of title 39, as enacted by subsection 1010(e) of the Act, which provides for opening of an item of a class of mail otherwise sealed against inspection, in a manner consistent, to the maximum extent permissible, with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances, such as to protect human life and safety against hazardous materials…
George W. Bush might as well be saying, "I'll follow the law except when I think it's necessary to violate the law. To hell with the Constitution, and to hell with warrants."
There you have it. George W. Bush has issued a public declaration in which he openly declares his intent to violate the constitution and federal law. Do you want another President who will follow his example, and continue to use this new power? (Sources: New York Daily News, January, 2007; White House press release, December, 2006; Library of Congress)
- To those Americans who let their knees shake in fear every time they think of September 11, 2001, who agonize about whether terrorists might ever want to attack again, and tell us that we need to "balance" our freedom with a Homeland Security regime that shows no respect for the Constitution and the rule of law, and yet have the nerve to call themselves patriots, I issue the following reminder from Sam Adams, a real patriot: "If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animated contest of freedom - go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!"
- Two Bush Administration departments, Justice and the CIA, were involved with the destruction of videotapes of torture carried out by the CIA, with the input of White House lawyers, Justice Department lawyers and the former Attorney General himself.
Now those two departments — part of the executive branch — have informed courts and congressional committees that they should shut down their investigation of the conduct of the CIA and Justice department. Why? Because the CIA and Justice Department plan to investigate themselves, and investigations by these other bodies would interfere. "We cannot estimate how long this process will take or where it will lead, but pledge to advise you as soon as we conclude that our efforts are no longer at risk or that these requests can be fulfilled without jeopardizing our inquiry," write the CIA and Justice department. In other words, we'll be in touch, don't call us, we'll call you, in, oh, about a year or so, or whenever that inauguration thingy is.
In case you haven't noticed, the Bush administration has sparked a constitutional crisis. On the one hand is the Bush administration, which is asserting not only that wrongdoing agencies should investigate themselves, but that the other branches of government have no business investigating the actions of the executive branch. On the other hand is the Constitution itself, which sets up the other two branches of government in oversight of the executive branch. Which will prevail: checks and balances, or the unchecked exercise of power? I'm sad to say that under the Bush administration, the latter has held advantage. With every step toward unchecked power, we teeter further toward the edge of tyranny. Help push us back from the edge by electing a president with a greater respect for the Constitution and a greater willingness to be held constitutionally accountable. (Source: CNN December 15, 2007)
- The Bush administration has been frantically promoting immunity for telecommunications corporations from lawsuits brought by citizens who were illegally spied upon by the government with the telecoms' help.
Why? The Bush administration has been saying they don't want any lawsuits brought against telecommunications corporations because they don't want patriots who were helping the government fight terrorism be punished for their effort in the War on Terror, gosh darn it. That was always a line of bull: the real reason the Bush administration wants blanket immunity for telecommunications corporations is that if nobody can bring a lawsuit against the telecommunications corporations for helping the government spy on Americans without a warrant, then there's no way for a court case to be brought before the judicial branch that would result in spying without a warrant being declared unconstitutional, which it is (remember the 4th Amendment in the Bill of Rights?). If you gut the right to file a lawsuit, you block the federal courts from nullifying the law. Presto alakazam! The president can continue spying on the American people without a warrant in perpetuity!
Well, guess what. It turns out that even the Bush administration's own jingoistic war-on-terror justification for immunity is bogus. You see, not all of the spying on Americans without a warrant has been about terrorism.
Let me say that again. Your government has been spying on Americans without a warrant, sometimes for reasons having nothing to do with terrorism.
George W. Bush's National Security Agency (NSA) has been using telecommunications corporations to spy on Americans' phone calls without a warrant in order to catch drug smugglers. The New York Times explains,
"The NSA.'s reliance on telecommunications companies is broader and deeper than ever before, according to government and industry officials, yet that alliance is strained by legal worries and the fear of public exposure.
To detect narcotics trafficking, for example, the government has been collecting the phone records of thousands of Americans and others inside the United States who call people in Latin America, according to several government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the program remains classified. But in 2004, one major phone carrier balked at turning over its customers' records. Worried about possible privacy violations or public relations problems, company executives declined to help the operation, which has not been previously disclosed.
In a separate NSA project, executives at a Denver phone carrier, Qwest, refused in early 2001 to give the agency access to their most localized communications switches, which primarily carry domestic calls, according to people aware of the request, which has not been previously reported. They say the arrangement could have permitted neighborhood-by-neighborhood surveillance of phone traffic without a court order, which alarmed them."
Did you catch that "in early 2001" in the last paragraph? Yes, Virginia, wiretapping Americans without a warrant was going on before the attacks of September 11, 2001. This new program of government spying on American citizens is not actually new, and it predated the War on Terror. Now we know that the government is spying on Americans without a warrant simply in order to stop garden-variety crime in the War on Drugs, which like the War on Terror is not actually a war at all, but a euphemism designed to obfuscate the erosion of Americans' civil liberties.
Like the invasion of Iraq, this unconstitutional activity was planned by the Bush administration from the get-go. A network technician is prepared to testify in federal court that a comprehensive plan to spy against the private communications of American citizens not in any way connected to any terrorist scheme. The New York Times says that the technician will testify that he saw "decisive evidence that within two weeks of taking office, the Bush administration was planning a comprehensive effort of spying on Americans' phone usage."
But if this lawsuit is nullified by legislative action, that decisive evidence will never see the light of day. If this lawsuit and others like it are made impossible, then no court will ever be able to review the program or pass judgment on its constitutionality. If a bill prohibiting lawsuits is passed, then the United States government will be able to conduct whatever surveillance it wishes against American citizens without any recourse for citizens.
Do you trust your government to spy on you without a warrant? Do you trust your government to spy on you in a manner that courts cannot review? Do you trust unchecked power?
If your answer is "no", then you need to do something about it.
Tomorrow, you may no longer have the right. (Source: New York Times December 16, 2007)
- This morning, Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut rose to speak against the FISA Amendments Act of 2007. I won't lie to you and tell you that Dodd's clarion voice humbled his critics and filled the eyes of onlookers with tears of admiration. Senator Dodd's skill as an orator is acceptable but not tremendous. But Senator Dodd's words, even spoken haltingly, brought a lump to my throat. It has been a long time since a politician in Washington, DC spoke with such conviction about the importance of checks on power.
Senator Dodd's speech began:
I hope that my colleagues will join me in stopping this legislation.
Mr. President, why do I feel so strongly about this matter?
For the last six years, our largest telecommunications companies have been spying on their own American customers.
Secretly and without a warrant, they delivered to the federal government the private, domestic communications records of millions of Americans—records this administration has compiled into a database of enormous scale and scope.
That decision betrayed millions of customers' trust. It was unwarranted—literally.
But was it illegal?
That, Mr. President, I don't know. And if this bill passes in its current form, we will never know. The president's favored corporations will be immune.
Their arguments will never be heard in a court of law. The details of their actions will stay hidden. The truth behind this unprecedented domestic spying will never see light. And the book on our government's actions will be closed, and sealed, and locked, and handed over to the safe-keeping of those few whom George Bush trusts to keep a secret.
Senator Dodd challenges us to avoid a government based on faith in trustworthy individuals, and instead to maintain a government that will work regardless of the virtue of officeholders. I trust that the system of restrained power Dodd speaks of more than I trust any individual, and I respect Senator Dodd's commitment to rebuild that system of restrained power, which is why I believe that even though Christopher Dodd will never win a Toastmasters' trophy, he would be an excellent choice to be our next president. (Source: Speech of Chris Dodd on Morning of December 17 2007)
- As Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut rose the morning of December 17, 2007 to speak against the FISA Amendments Act of 2007, he brought up the shifting explanations for the Bush administration's program of spying on Americans without the warrant that the 4th Amendment to the Constitution so clearly requires:
The bill that the Majority Leaders will seek to make the pending business of the Senate later today—the FISA Amendments Act of 2007—has a long and twisted history behind it. Its origins lie in President Bush's years of warrantless spying on Americans.
That abuse of power was exposed by the press in late 2005. The New York Times revealed that under a presidential order signed in 2002, the NSA [National Security 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 fact, we later learned that the president's warrantless spying was authorized as early as 2001.
Disgraced former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, in a 2006 white paper, attempted to justify that spying; his argument rested on the specious claim that, in authorizing the president to go to war in Afghanistan, Congress had also somehow authorized him to listen in on phone calls in America.
But many of those who voted on the original authorization of force found this claim to new executive powers to be a laughable invention. Here's what former Majority Leader Tom Daschle wrote: 'As Senate majority leader…I helped negotiate that law with the White House counsel's office over two harried days. I can state categorically that the subject of warrantless wiretaps of American citizens never came up….I am also confident that the 98 senators who voted in favor of authorization of force against al Qaeda did not believe that they were also voting for warrantless domestic surveillance.'
Such claims to expanded executive power based on the authorization for military force have since been struck down by the courts.
In recent months, the administration has changed its argument, now grounding its warrantless surveillance power in the extremely nebulous 'authority of the president to defend the country' that they find in the Constitution.
Of course, that begs the question: Exactly what doesn't fit under 'defending the country'? If we take the president at his word, we would concede to him nearly unlimited power, as long as he finds a lawyer willing to stuff his actions into that boundless category.
(Source: Speech of Chris Dodd on Morning of December 17 2007)
- As Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut stood in the well of the Senate on the morning of December 17 2007, he spoke nominally about the FISA Amendments Act of 2007 and a provision within it for the immunity of telecommunications corporations from lawsuits. But more broadly he spoke about the role of trust in the dark, where the light of knowledge has been turned off:
Here we are, facing a final decision on whether the telecommunications companies will get off the hook for good. The president's allies are as intent as they ever were on making that happen. They want immunity back in this bill at all costs.
But what they're truly offering is secrecy in place of openness. Fiat in place of law.
And in place of the forthright argument and judicial deliberation that ought to be this country's pride, two simple words from our president's mouth: "Trust me."
I cannot speak for my colleagues, but I would never take that offer, not even in the best of times, not even from a perfect president. I would never take that offer because our Constitution tells us that the president's word is subject to the oversight of the Congress and the deliberation of the courts; and because I took an oath to defend the Constitution; and because I stand by my oath.
"Trust me." It is the offer to hide ourselves in the waiting arms of the rule of men. And in these threatened times, that offer has never seemed more seductive. The rule of law has rarely been so fragile.
"It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger…from abroad." James Madison, the father of our Constitution, made that prediction more than two centuries ago. With the passage of this bill, his words would be one step closer to coming true. So it has never been more essential that we lend our voices to the law, and speak on its behalf.
On its behalf, we say to President Bush that a nation of truly free men and women would never take "trust me" for an answer, not even from a perfect president—and certainly not from him.
In these times—under a president who seems every more day intent on acting as if he is the law, who grants himself the right to ignore legislation, who claims the power to spy without a warrant, to imprison without a hearing, to torture without a scruple—in these times, I would be a fool to take his offer.
But "trust me," says President Bush. He means it literally. When he first asked Congress to make the telecoms' actions legally disappear, Congress had a reasonable question for him: Can we at least know exactly what we'd be immunizing? Can you at least tell us what we'd be cleaning up?
And the president refused to answer. Only he, his close advisors, and a handful of telecom executives know all of the facts. Congress is only asked to give token oversight.
But if we are to do our Constitutionally-mandated job, we need more than token oversight; we need full hearings on the terrorist surveillance program before the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.
Without that, we remain in the dark—and in the dark we're expected to grant the president's wish, because he knows best.
Are you eager to hide in the waiting arms of a big daddy president who knows best and will take care of you, the citizen as child? Then the post-2001 system of rule in the United States suits you. But that is not what the Constitution, the compact made between a nation's citizens so long ago, expects of us. The Constitution expects of us that we will think and act as adults and shoulder the adult responsibility of open knowledge, free deliberation, and distributed decision-making. Sam Adams, a contemporary of James Madison, put it another way:
"If you love wealth more than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, depart from us in peace. We ask not your counsel nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains rest lightly upon you and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."
The coalition of Republicans and Democrats who maintain the post-2001 system of authoritarian rule prefer to think of the citizen as a child, or perhaps a dog. It may be that they wish to protect us. But is also undeniably true that it is easier to rule a lesser than it is to rule a peer. Watch out for those who would turn you from a peer into a lesser, or having already done that, keep you that way.
Listen to those who, like Christopher Dodd, remind you that you are not small, not a child, not the government's dog. (Source: Speech of Chris Dodd on Morning of December 17 2007)
- After Chris Dodd spoke at great length, spending the day on the floor of the Senate, filibustering, blocking the rot on freedom known as the FISA Amendments Act of 2007, Matt Browner-Hamlin, campaign blogger for Christopher Dodd, announced the following development: "Majority Leader Harry Reid has just pulled the FISA bill from consideration in this session. It will be brought up at some point next month."
Senator Christopher Dodd wouldn't give up on what so many called a lost cause. He held forth in the Senate repeatedly today, refusing to give his ground, identifying in public again and again numerous principled and practical problems with the FISA Amendments Act. By the end of the day, in the face of Senator Dodd's arguments, in the face of phone calls and faxes and e-mails flooding into the Senate from across the country, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had no choice but to follow the Chris Dodd's lead and withdraw the bill until next month.
Senator Chris Dodd demonstrated true leadership today, leading a coalition that put a halt to anti-constitutional nonsense. Senator Chris Dodd demonstrated true statesmanship, engaging his colleagues in conversation and using the stage of his position to bring to light a series of serious problems. Through the force of his will and the rectitude of his position, Senator Dodd carried the day. Isn't that what we want from our next president?
Meanwhile, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Joseph Biden spent the day they had promised to stand by Christopher Dodd and protect the filibuster instead giving speeches to crowds in Iowa on the subject of how wonderful they are. What a contrast.
A leader does not just say. A leader does. I've seen a leader in action today. Thank you, Christopher Dodd.
- From A Man for All Seasons:
William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, George W. Bush strutted like a cowboy. His administration told people they needed to "watch what they say, watch what they do." News outlets splashed flags across their screens and scolded those who questioned Bush's conduct or suggested he was fallible. Some Muslims were put into detention without trial. A handful of peaceful, law-abiding Muslims (and, bizarrely, a Sikh) were murdered by citizens on bizarrely irrational rampages. We went to war.
It is worth considering that things could have been much, much worse in the months after September 11, 2001. Although the occasional person was questioned by police for carrying the wrong sign, there were not large-scale arrests of people engaged in political demonstrations. Although some thousands of law-abiding alien residents were improperly detained and a handful of Americans were as well, those numbers did not reach into the tens of thousands or millions. The first amendment was not suspended. Americans did not live under curfew. Opposition political parties were not abolished. The Congress was not eliminated. The United States did not dissolve into a bloody a civil war.
Why didn't those things come to pass in September and October of 2001? I think it's because with all its faults, America had stood as a nation of laws, standards, procedures and officially codified rights. These stood in place to restrain the authoritarian impulses of powerful figures and angry mobs alike.
In the four years since then, however, Bush and the Republicans have been engaged in a steady, methodical process of cutting down our system of laws, standards, procedures and rights.
Habeus Corpus? Not if Bush decides without standards of evidence that you're an "enemy combatant." Snip, snip.
Freedom of Information Act? Hah. You're not going to get information without a big, long, court battle. Snip, snip.
Right of Assembly? Only kinda; does being herded a mile away from public spaces, in a fenced-in pen nobody visits, count as free assembly? Snip, snip.
Separation of Church and State? No, taxpayer dollars are now funding religious proselytization and supporting religious discrimination. Snip, snip.
Independence of News? You can't be sure what's independently produced, what's government-produced propaganda, and who are the press room plants. Snip, snip.
Equality under the Law? If you're worth making a political point, they'll pass a law that says the law applies differently to you. Just you. Snip, snip.
Freedom from dictatorship? The Congress has passed a law that allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to nullify any law she or he sees fit to, without any judicial review. Snip, snip.
With these and other activities, the Bush administration has been dismantling the system of restraints we've erected over two centuries to protect individuals and the idea of a free nation from our basest impulses.
If there were a terrorist attack today, what do you think would happen?
The Republicans talk about God plenty, but they destroy the laws that keep the Devil at bay.
- George W. Bush described his problem with freedom of the press quite well when he remarked, "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda." (Source: White House, May 24, 2005)
- Now we have found out that it wasn't just Harriet Myers, as top legal counsel to George W. Bush, who knew about the effort to destroy secret videotapes of torture by the CIA. Three other top White House lawyers knew about the torture tapes as well, and knew that the tapes were going to be destroyed. Yet, all four White House lawyers did nothing to stop the obstruction of justice, and some sources say that they actually encouraged it.
The four Bush White House lawyers identified as taking part in deliberations of whether to destroy the secret CIA videotapes of the torture of prisoners are:- Alberto Gonzales, top legal counsel to George W. Bush and then Attorney General of the United States
- Harriet Myers, top legal counsel to George W. Bush after Alberto Gonzales, and Bush nominee to the Supreme Court
- David S. Addington, top legal counsel to Dick Cheney, and now Cheney's Chief of Staff
- John B. Bellinger the Third, top legal counsel at the National Security Council while Condoleeza Rice led the NSC
These lawyers were directly serving President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Condoleeza Rice. It now stretches credulity to claim that Bush, Cheney and Rice knew nothing about the torture tapes. If the investigation into the creation and destruction of the videotapes of torture by the CIA is to be taken seriously, it now needs to include subpoenas for Bush, Cheney and Rice to testify on the matter themselves, under oath. (Source: New York Times, December 19, 2007)
- U.S. District Court Judge Henry Kennedy has ordered the Bush White House to send lawyers to his courtroom to answer charges that the Bush Administration knowingly destroyed criminal evidence in order to obstruct justice and cover up its own criminal abuse of defendants. The CIA admits that it destroyed videotapes of defendants being tortured by its agents, and we have now learned that the top lawyers in the White House, lawyers that conferred frequently with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleeza Rice, knew about the torture tapes, discussed the plans to destroy the evidence, and did nothing to stop the destruction.
Our President shouldn't have to be ordered by a judge to not destroy evidence of criminal activity, and shouldn't have to be ordered again to send his lawyers to court when he defies those orders. Unfortunately, we've got a President who is determined to diminish the power of every other branch of government but his own, seeking to make it impossible for anyone to control his activities.
In 2008, the American people must not elect another President who will continue this quest for unlimited power. (Source: CNN, December 18, 2007)
- A small item left relatively unnoticed in the kerfuffle regarding the FISA Amendments Act of 2007: Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts revealed in a speech on the Senate floor that by his analysis the act would have the effect of "allowing warrantless interception of purely domestic communications."
If it had not been for the heroic effort of Senator Christopher Dodd with the aid of Senator Russell Feingold, the bill would have passed, and we would have had a regime of warrantless wiretapping of domestic communications within the United States of America. That's why we need progressives in power: because they're the only ones who notice, care, and act to stop unconstitutional violations of Americans' civil rights. (Source: Speech of Senator Edward Kennedy before the United States Senate, December 17 2007)
- Last December, the Bush Administration's Department of Homeland Security started a secret program in which it gives out intelligence information to fire chiefs and emergency medical administrators, then enlists firefighters, fire inspectors and EMTs under their administration to make reports on the people they help and homes they enter. Under the program now in place, firefighters and EMTs are instructed to make reports for, among other things, people "expressing hate or discontent with the United States" and, ironically, "still and video cameras" and other "surveillance equipment."
"There are many things that firefighters do that other law enforcement or other agents aren't able to do," explains New York City Fire Chief Salvatore Cassano. Namely, says Larry Schultz, assistant chief of DC Fire and EMT services, "We can walk into your house. We don't need a search warrant." The Department of Homeland Security is using fire fighters, fire inspectors and EMTs to conduct Homeland Security surveillance without a warrant. Schultz further clarifies that this sort of thing would be very helpful if, for instance, the International Monetary Fund were having a meeting in Washington, DC and protesters were expected.
"It's the evolution of the fire service," says Bob Khan, fire chief in Phoenix, Arizona.
Firefighters, fire inspectors and emergency medical technicians are heroes who save lives every day. Through its programs, the Bush Administration is eroding these workers' status and ability to do their jobs. They are able to do their jobs because people trust them to come into their homes without a hidden agenda. Schoolchildren are taught at a young age to trust fire fighters and do as they say. It would be a tragedy for that bond of trust to be broken as firefighters, EMTs and other public safety workers become agents of the Homeland Security state. (Source: Associated Press November 23 2007)
- If you're a government agent, and you're afraid that the friends of the prisoners that you torture will come attack you and your family in revenge, then there's a simple way to prevent the problem: Don't torture the prisoners in the first place. Covering up torture isn't necessary if you don't torture in the first place.
- On December 20, 2007, the Central Intelligence Agency began to turn over documents related to the purposeful destruction of videotapes showing agents of the American government torturing prisoners. A congressional subpoena asks for all related materials, and that will presumably include the names of the CIA agents who were torturing the prisoners.
That's ironic, given that the pretext for destroying the videotapes in the first place was that the CIA didn't want the names of the torturers to be revealed - for the safety of the torturers. It's a great example of how a government obsessed with secrecy actually is less able to keep secrets than a truly democratic, open government. (Source: Associated Press, December 20, 2007)
- When the commission to investigate the attacks of September 11, 2001 was established, the idea was that it would be given the authority to get the information it needed in order to determine what really took place that day. Now, according to the two chairmen and the executive director of that commission, it appears that the Bush Administration purposefully obstructed the commission's investigation, by refusing to turn over materials specifically and repeatedly requested by the commission.
The materials were the now-infamous, unseen, torture tapes that the CIA admits that it destroyed. Knowledge of the destruction of those tapes has been traced all the way to the doors of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
The commission was given, by Congress, the legal power to subpoena information, and the CIA decision to withhold the torture tapes from the commission violated that subpoena power. I'm no lawyer, but it smells like obstruction of justice to me. (Source: Washington Post, December 23, 2007)
- In the late autumn of 2007, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California voted to advance the FISA Amendments Act of 2007, which would cement into place a system of spying on Americans without a warrant while prohibiting evaluation of that system of warrantless spying by the U.S. courts. After immediate passage of the Act was delayed, Senator Feinstein has now proposed what she calls a "compromise": any challenges to warrantless wiretapping would be heard by judges in the already existing FISA court. But FISA judges have been specially selected for their bias toward national security concerns and away from civil liberties concerns, stacking the deck. And the whole proceedings would be classified, so the American people would never know what sort of spying on them without warrants has been going on. The American people deserve to know what abuses of their liberty have been carried out. The process for determining the constitutionality of warrantless wiretapping needs to be transparent to be trusted, especially since trust has been broken already. And we need fair arbiters of this issue, not judges specially picked for their sympathy toward the authoritarian impulse.
In her proposal, Senator Dianne Feinstein shows a preference for the prerogatives of government authorities over the rights of American citizens. She may be a member of the Democratic Party, but she's no liberal. Let's avoid her example and follow the liberal path set out by the Constitution itself instead. (Source: San Francsico Chronicle, December 19 2007)
- Total Information Awareness just got a lot more total. The system for bringing electronic information together into one gigantic computer database that can be easily searched by government agents wanting to find out information about American citizens already compiles information on our purchases, our electronic communications activity, and even our reading preferences. Now the FBI is adding biometrics.
Biometrics are physical measurements of people's bodies that allow those people to be reliably identified as particular individuals. Fingerprints are biometrics, but so are things like patterns on the retinas of our eyes. Facial scans based on digital photography now can be used as biometrics too.
The FBI has already started collecting all the digital photographs it has, to be entered into a biometrics database that will be used in order to allow FBI agents to identify where American citizens go within the United States, and even in foreign countries. Under the information sharing provisions of the Patriot Act, the government will be able to combine that database with others in its possession, effectively making the biometrics database of American citizens a part of Total Information Awareness.
Guess again, if you think that you'll be safe from being tracked by the government if you've never been arrested and had your fingerprints taken. The FBI will also be taking biometric information that businesses gather from their employees, and adding that information to the database. When employees have to agree to a criminal background check in order to get a job, for instance, they'll give biometric information. The FBI will then keep that information…
…for its own purposes. (Source: Reuters, December 22, 2007)
- Back when spy satellites were put in orbit above the United States, Americans were told not to worry, that their surveillance capabilities would be unleashed against foreign targets and not against citizens of the United States. Now the Department of Homeland Security has revealed its intention to harness the spy satellites for use in domestic surveillance. The United States Congress has gone months without any updates or formal documentation on the program as Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff proceeds with plans for the Homeland satellite surveillance program.
Don't worry, says Chertoff in an interview, your government promises to follow the law. As the end of this Bush administration, at the end of a long line of revelations, do you really believe that? (Source: Wall Street Journal December 20, 2007)
- Any American who values religious freedom, whether they are Christian or not, ought to be deeply troubled by the plans recently revealed by Mike Huckabee to transform the White House into a center of religious preaching.
When asked if he would establish an official federal government Christian Heritage Week, or hang the Ten Commandments from the Bible in the White House Oval Office, as he did while while he was governor of Arkansas, Huckabee replied, "Don't know why I wouldn't."
Does Mike Huckabee really not know why the President of the United States should not use the power of the federal government to promote one religion over another? Does Mike Huckabee not know about the First Amendment to the Constitution? Does Mike Huckabee not know about the centuries of disaster that religious governments brought to European countries - centuries of disaster that the founders of the United States of America sought to escape?
Does Mike Huckabee not know, or does he just not care? (Source: MSNBC, December 21, 2007)
- When Republican Mike Huckabee told a gathering of reporters that he intends to hand the Christian Ten Commandments in the Oval Office of the White House if he gets elected President, he said he didn't see why there was such a big fuss about having the government promote them. He said, "The Ten Commandments form the basis of most of our laws and therefore, you know if you look through them does anybody find anything there that would be all that objectionable? I don't think most people would if they actually read them."
I have actually read the Ten Commandments that Christians like Mike Huckabee cherry pick out of the Bible, and I'll tell you exactly what I find offensive about them: They are against the freedoms of the Bill of Rights.
The first of the Ten Commandments that Mike Huckabee loves so much declares, in the name of the Christian God: "You shall have no other Gods before me." That's a declaration that no one will worship anyone other than the God of the Bible. It's absurd that Mike Huckabee believes that concept to be the basis of law in the USA. It isn't. To the contrary, the first sentence of the first amendment to the Constitution establishes the principle that no one will be forced to take part in any religious worship. The main body of the Constitution does the same, with its ban on any religious test for public office.
The second of the Ten Commandments declares, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me."
What's to like about that? Now Mike Huckabee wants to deny us our free speech rights? No thank you. I will draw whatever I draw, and if I want to make an idol and bow to it, that's my business, not the business of the government.
The third of the Christian Ten Commandments demands, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain," but God damn it, I will if I want to. I have freedom of speech, and freedom of religion, so I can take any deity's name in vain if I want to. Besides that, what kind of democracy would base its laws on the idea of meek submission to a lord? That's what the founders of the United States rebelled against. Apparently Mike Huckabee has never heard about what happened in 1776.
The fourth of the Ten Commandments issues the command, "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." Once again, this is in violation of Americans' freedom of religion. Mike Huckabee is wrong if he really thinks that no one would find it objectionable if he, as President of the United States, demanded that all Americans spend one day a week in religious worship.
Besides that, doesn't anyone else think it's objectionable to have the President of the United States claiming that the basis of the law in the United States is the voice of God? Such an attitude would make the President God's representative, not the representative of the people of the United States. For someone like Mike Huckabee, who believes that God is on his side, and believes that his personal values are also the values of God, that's a downright dangerous position for the people of the United States.
Has Mike Huckabee actually read the Ten Commandments? Has he read the Ten Amendments in the Bill of Rights? If he had read both, he would know that they are incompatible, if both given the force of law. It's the Ten Amendments, and the rest of the Constitution, not the Ten Commandments of Christianity, that are the basis of American law.
If Mike Huckabee is unwilling to respect that, his Oath of Office would be a lie, and he has no business serving as President of the United States. (Source: MSNBC, December 21, 2007)
- "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." — Thomas Jefferson wrote these words in Query XVII of his Notes on the State of Virginia. They describe a government in which the social compact is based around standards of behavior for its members, not a set of qualifying transcendental beliefs. Our religious affiliations and beliefs cannot be a reasonable standard for inclusion or exclusion, for governmental reward or governmental punishment. What matters is the manner in which we treat our fellow human beings. That's a progressive idea. If you think Jefferson was in the right, work this year to put people in government who will follow Jefferson's words in action.
- Intelligent, progressive non-religious people support the protection of religious groups from anti-religious government policies as much as they support their own protection from pro-religious government policies. Also, many religious folks understand this idea that we're all in it together, and that everybody's best interests will be served by keeping government out of matters of religion.
Then again, many Americans seem not to understand this simple concept. Among these Americans, regrettably, is Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who has used the power of her government position to refuse tax-exempt status to any religious group that doesn't fit her own church's ideas about what religion ought to be. Strayhorn is so extremist in her religious views that she has tried to deny tax exempt status to the Unitarian Church because, she claims, the Unitarians are not bossy enough about their political beliefs. Apparently, in Strayhorn's vision for Texas, unless your church is unmercifully preachy to everyone it comes across, it doesn't get the tax benefits of being a religious organization.
- Since George W. Bush has become President of the United States, America has suffered under an abuse of government secrecy. George W. Bush has engaged in a large number of questionable practices, but has refused to let the American public know about the details of those activities. Now, America is facing a Republican frontrunner for the Presidency who has shown the same inclinations toward questionable ethics combined with a refusal to let the public know what was really going on.
Mike Huckabee's tenure as Governor of Arkansas was marked with a lot of behind-the-scenes gifts and and transfers of money. To what extent was there a quid pro quo, an agreement to twist government for the convenience of those who gave gifts and money to Governor Huckabee?
We may never know. That's because Mike Huckabee destroyed a lot of the evidence of what happened behind the scenes in the Huckabee term as Governor. Just before Huckabee left the Governor's mansion, he arranged the destruction of the Arkansas government computers that he and his administration had used. Huckabee used money from the state emergency fund to have the hard drives from 90 computers crushed so that the information on them could never be retrieved.
What was Mike Huckabee trying to cover up? We will never know. We should never have had to ask the question. (Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 18, 2007)
- John Nichols, founder of Free Press, a national media reform network, got it right when he remarked, "The years of the Bush presidency will be remembered as a time when American media, for the most part, practiced stenography to power." (Source: The Nation, June 19, 2005)
- Listen to a voice from the inside that describes the moral
disintegration of the government under George W. Bush. Andrew
Williams explains why he felt compelled to resign from the Navy and
why the U.S. government has finally to his mind gone too far:
"It was with sadness that I signed my name this grey
morning to a letter resigning my commission in the U.S. Navy.
There was a time when I served with pride, knowing that by serving
with the finest men and women in the country, we were part of an
organization whose core values required us to "do the right thing,"
and that we were far different from the Soviet Union and its gulags,
the Vietcong with their torture camps and a society of surveillance
and informers like Nazi Germany.
We were part of the shining light on the hill who didn't do those
things. Sadly, no more.
The final straw for me was listening to General Hartmann, the
highest-ranking military lawyer in charge of the military commissions,
testify that he refused to say that waterboarding captured U.S.
soldiers by Iranian operatives would be torture.
His testimony had just sold all the soldiers and sailors at risk of
capture and subsequent torture down the river. Indeed, he would not
rule out waterboarding as torture when done by the United States and
indeed felt evidence obtained by such methods could be used in future
Thank you, General Hartmann, for finally admitting the United States
is now part of a long tradition of torturers going back to the
In the middle ages, the Inquisition called waterboarding "toca" and
used it with great success. In colonial times, it was used by the
Dutch East India Company during the Amboyna Massacre of 1623.
Waterboarding was used by the Nazi Gestapo and the feared Japanese
Kempeitai. In World War II, our grandfathers had the wisdom to convict
Japanese Officer Yukio Asano of waterboarding and other torture
practices in 1947, giving him 15 years hard labor.
Waterboarding was practiced by the Khmer Rouge at the infamous Tuol
Sleng prison. Most recently, the U.S. Army court martialed a soldier
for the practice in 1968 during the Vietnam conflict.
General Hartmann, following orders was not an excuse for anyone put on
trial in Nuremberg, and it will not be an excuse for you or your
Despite the CIA and the administration attempting to cover up the
practice by destroying interrogation tapes, in direct violation of a
court order, and congressional requests, the truth about torture,
illegal spying on Americans and secret renditions is coming
Peninsula Gateway, December 26, 2007)
- When Republican politicians tell us that we need strong leaders with absolute power for the sake of security, we ought to remember Aristotle, who advised, "The only stable state is the one in which all men are equal before the law."
- On New Year's Eve, the newspapers were full of articles telling us that 2007 was a record breaking year in terms of the theft of private information. The really sad thing is the newspapers didn't even count the millions of items of private information about American citizens stolen by the government itself through infiltration of peaceful activist organizations, eavesdropping on our telephone calls, reading of our emails and postal mail, and data mining of information gathered on us from commercial sources, regardless of privacy agreements.
It may be a record year for private identity thieves, but compared to the government, the hackers are small time. (Source: Associated Press, December 31, 2007)