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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Thursday, May 11, 2006

On Your Dime

MAN ON PHONE: Hello. Hall of Phone records. How may I help you?
MAN ON PHONE: NSA? Oh yes sir, General Alexander... What would you like to know?
MAN ON PHONE: You say you want to know what the L. Johnson family of Youngstown, Ohio searched for on the Internet? Right away sir. And you want a list of phone calls made from the home of Mary Phillips of Carteret, New Jersey? You got it.

Welkome to Amerika. Leave your civil rights, your right to privacy and a shredded copy of the Constitution at the border. You won't be needing any of them.

The cat is finally out of the bag, officially speaking. We all know by now that the administration of George "Wiretap" Bush has been listening in on our phone calls and checking out our "browsing" habits on the Internet, all for our own good, of course.

"The ability to understand the secret communications of our foreign adversaries while protecting our own communications -- a capability in which the United States leads the world -- gives our nation a unique advantage."
-The National Security Agency (NSA) Mission Statement

Did you see it? It's right there in the NSA mission statement. Maybe it should be in CAPS, huh? "The ability to UNDERSTAND the SECRET COMMUNICATIONS of our FOREIGN ADVERSARIES while PROTECTING OUR OWN COMMUNICATIONS..."

Just what in the world do these guys actually think that means anyway? FOREIGN as in NOT AMERICAN and PROTECTING OUR OWN as in US CITIZENS. Hey buddy, I don't see a whole lot of protecting going on here.

Section 1.1 Goals
"The United States intelligence effort shall provide the President and the National Security Council with the necessary information on which to base decisions concerning the conduct and development of foreign, defense and economic policy, and the protection of United States national interests from foreign security threats. All departments and agencies shall cooperate fully to fulfill this goal."
-Executive Order 12333 - United States Intelligence Activities, December 4, 1981

Wow... did they screw this one up or what. No time in the generation (plus) since this Executive Order was written have a spirit and the letter of such a proclamation been broken more than today. It's treasonous and it starts at the top.

"The government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval. We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans."
-President Bush

In the immortal words of "Valerie (Carol Kane) to her husband Miracle Max (Billy Crystal) in "The Princess Bride", "LIAR! LIAR, LIAR LIAR!


We all know that this is a LIE. We all know that American phone companies have turned over whatever records the federal government has asked them to. We all know that every major Internet search engine, other than Google (my new home page), has helped the federal government "data mine" on their behalf. It's bad enough that they cow-tow to the Communist Chinese Government to deny the people of China the rights they would get here in the United States (at least for the time being), but aiding and abetting the US government in its quest to "spy" on American citizens is really too much.

"the NSA has been collecting data from AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth since the Sept. 11 attacks to search for patterns that might help identify terrorist networks. NSA collected records from landlines and cellphones at homes, businesses and government offices across the country, including calls by individuals not suspected of wrongdoing."
-The USA Today

The Bush government has only issued a sort-of denial.

"Al-Qaeda is our enemy, and we want to know their plans. We are not mining or trolling through the personal lives of innocent Americans."

How many Americans are possibly involved with al-Qaeda, Mr. President? One thousand? One Million? 300 million?

"Are you telling me tens of millions of Americans are involved with al-Qaeda?"
-Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

No wonder why Vice President Cheney told Senator Leahy to "Go <F---> Yourself".

The nominee to head the CIA, General Michael Hayden, believes that there is nothing wrong with the way the Bush administration has been "watching out for us". After all, he was the head of the NSA while all of this was going on, so he ought to know.

"The appropriate members of the Congress the House and Senate are briefed on all NSA activities."

Notice how the words "we followed the letter of the law" never spew forth from these liars mouths. I guess even they think that no one would believe them.


Why is congress, a "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party-led entity, asking all of these questions? Taking a few "friendly legislators" aside and giving them an "Oh, by the way," is not how our laws or separation of powers are supposed to work, General Hayden. There are proper channels and measures to go through before you infringe on our rights. There's the FISA courts and congressional committees and sub-committees which you could have gone to, in private, which would (possibly) have allowed you to do the work you say was "appropriate". It isn't and you're a liar.

"If all they're doing is have a computer program anonymously select people who are making phone calls to known terrorists or something like that, I don't see a problem. That's not comparable to going into our bedrooms or even listening to our conversations."
-Robert Turner, director of the University of Virginia's Center for National Security Law

"We're really flying blind on the subject and that's not a good way to approach the Fourth Amendment and the constitutional issues involving privacy,"
-Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee

This is George W. Bush's Amerika. Remove our civil rights; Take away our right to privacy; and tell us it's for our own good. Personally, I think the Bushies are just getting ready for life after the White House and this is their way of preparing the largest potential customer call list of all time.

-Noah Greenberg

High Crimes...

"By a vote of 111 to 42, the residents of Hanover, New Hampshire became the first people in the Live Free or Die State to approve a petition calling for the impeachment of President Bush and VP Cheney over the illegal and unconstitutional NSA spying program."

Well, it's a start.

Forwarded and commented by -Robert Scardapane

President Bush: Above the Law?

Just because Congress passes a bill, and President Bush then signs it into U.S. law, doesn't mean that Bush has to *obey* that law.

At least, that's what President Bush says.

Since taking office, Bush has quietly attached "signing statements" to more than 750 laws that have been passed by Congress and signed into law by him. These signing statements essentially say that if Bush believes the laws unjustly restrict his powers as president, he can simply and quietly ignore them.

Many of the affected bills are major, far-reaching legislation. According to the Boston Globe:

"Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, "whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research."

In recent months, Bush has declared he can ignore a federal law banning torture, as well as requirements that he inform Congress about how he is using the Patriot Act. He further claims he can ignore laws that Congress passed to provide Congressional oversight over his own actions.

"He agrees to a compromise with members of Congress, and all of them are there for a public bill-signing ceremony, but then he takes back those compromises -- and more often than not, without the Congress or the press or the public knowing what has happened," Christopher Kelley, a Miami University of Ohio political science professor, told the Boston Globe.

Many critics charge Bush's "signing statements" strategy is part of a deliberate plan to greatly expand the president's power beyond that of the legislative and judicial branches. In doing so Bush is tossing out the constitutional balance of powers, giving himself de facto lawmaking powers, and making himself the ultimate judge of whether or not a law is constitutional.

Some more examples, from the Boston Globe:
-Bush says that, because he is commander in chief, he can ignore any act of Congress that seeks to regulate the military.
-Bush signed several bills prohibiting U.S. troops from engaging in combat in Colombia, where military advisors are involved in misbegotten Drug War operations. But he later issued signing statements declaring he didn't have to obey them.
-He has argued he can ignore laws requiring him to report to Congress on efforts to fund secret military operations.
-He says he can ignore laws that prohibit the military from using intelligence that was illegally collected in violation of the Fourth Amendment -- even though such laws were passed in response to disclosures about Bush's warrantless domestic spying program.
-After the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, Bush signed a series of new regulations for military prisons and numerous related matters - then wrote a signing statement saying he could ignore them all.

Indeed, at this point no one even knows which laws Bush will obey and which ones he won't.

And then there is the further question of whether he feels obligated to obey laws passed *before* he became president.

As David Golove, a New York University law professor and expert in executive-power issues, told the Boston Globe: "Where you have a president who is willing to declare vast quantities of the legislation that is passed during his term unconstitutional, it implies that he also thinks a very significant amount of the other laws that were already on the books before he became president are also unconstitutional."

By such thinking, Golove said, Bush could, in essence, make the Constitution simply "disappear."

Conservative scholar Bruce Fein, a deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration, has emerged as one of the strongest critics of this practice.

"This is an attempt by the president to have the final word on his own constitutional powers, which eliminates the checks and balances that keep the country a democracy," Fein told the Globe. "There is no way for an independent judiciary to check his assertions of power, and Congress isn't doing it, either. So this is moving us toward an unlimited executive power."

(Source: "Bush Challenges Hundreds of Laws," by Charlie Savage, Boston Globe http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/04/30/bush_challenges_hundreds_of_laws/ )

-Sean (Mr. Blue-Sky)

The Right to Sue Versus The ABILITY to Sue

Regarding this business about lawsuits leveling off for malpractice. Well, that's highly explainable. Everybody is paying so much for healthcare that they cannot afford lawyers' fees anymore. You know they pass laws about everything a person can think of and tell us we have rights to this and that and the other thing. And, if our rights are trampled on we can sue...

That's a laugh. Most people do NOT sue because it just costs too much and takes too much time. I don't know who and what is clogging up the courts but, believe me, I tried to sue a company ONCE and the darned thing has not even reached probable cause yet. And this is going on some 15 years!

And even dealing with one's own lawyer can be stressful. In my own personal experience in dealing with lawyers in real estate and business as well as the suit I tried and knowing people married to them, I have found most of them to be very nasty people. They are prickly, argumentative, unreliable, sarcastic, insulting, and they write in terrible English. They think they are better than anyone else on the planet. There are two I met that I can say were not like that. So, I don't want to generalize--but my experience with the legal eagles has been mostly very, very negative.

(So, all you nice lawyers out there, no arguing--I'm not talking about you but about other lawyers.)

Mark Twain used to say something about killing all the lawyers and I always thought that was funny.

But, seriously, all generalizing and humor aside, there is something in what a lot of Republicans say about trial lawyers being predatory. Except that I wouldn't cap what the PLAINTIFF can get. I would cap the LAWYER'S fees---waaaaay, waaaaay down!!!! These people charge far too much--so much so that most middle-class working folk cannot AFFORD to get their rights!

And that is part of the whole capitalist mentality. Nothing has to do with morality or fairness or giving back to the community. It all has to do with greed and money. And it's disgusting.

-Billie M. Spaight

Debating Immigration

I appreciate the dialog with Robert Chapman on the difficult immigration issue. Mr. Chapman is a fine writer and has made several good points. I will respond to his questions and make some additional points:

1) Do borders prevent the flow of drugs? I would hope so! If there was no border enforcement practically anything could come into the country - drugs, weapons, a nuclear bomb, etc... It is a nation's responsibility to protect it's borders from a security standpoint. We should seek to do a better job in this area not throw up our hands.

2) Do borders control pollution? I would say no - a geographical border can't hold back carbons released in the air or poisons in the water. I am believer in trade agreements that have strong environmental protections. The World Trade Organization has failed utterly in this regard as has NAFTA.

3) Do borders prevent the spread of disease? In principle, immigrants should be checked for certain diseases. This is nothing new. Many immigrants spent months in Ellis Island because they were carriers of tuberculosis - a deadly disease in the early part of the 20th century.

4) There is an odd perspective about the work illegal immigrants do. The list of jobs that "Americans won't do" keeps expanding ... first it was agriculture, then it was landscaping, now it is construction. In short, our job market is overbooked. The end result is that wages diminish or are stagnant. Can that be blamed completely on illegal immigrants? Of course not! I am not one of those people who blame illegal immigrants for all of our woes. But, denying that it is a factor is not reality. Cheap labor is a factor in our economy. Some would argue it is a plus while others think it is a negative.

5) Of course, I am concerned about our cities but it's not the point. Mr. Chapman does admit that we can't have unlimited population growth. So, why deny that population growth is a factor in the condition of our cities and suburbs? The nation's water supply for instance is under tremendous pressure. It is simply unrealistic not to plan for population growth as best as you can. That is one reason for immigration laws in the first place.

6) I agree that enforcement of labor laws is extremely lax. In the case of the Bush administration it is essentially non-existent. Let's keep in mind that not only minimum wage laws are being broke but safety laws as well. In this regard, I agree with Mr. Chapman. We must do a better job protecting labor. But, is there political will do this? Ceratinly not with the GOP in power.

I remain unconvinced that open borders is a viable strategy. There are two main reasons for immigration laws - security and economics. All nations recognize the need to keep immigration under control. Why makes our nation be different? We do not have unlimited wealth nor can we afford to be lax on security.

-Robert Scardapane

In response to, "It's true that the AMT now hits individuals who make as little as $75,000 per year, but that's because the president hasn't raised it to keep up with either real wages or inflation," Robert Scardapane writes:

The AMT issue reminds me of the "death tax" - it's all hype! Sure, it is true that Americans who make as little as $75,000 are eligible for AMT. But that is only half the story. The unspoken half is that you must have substantial tax deductions before AMT is applicable. Yep, Bush pulled the wool over Americans eyes again. He made them afraid of the AMT boogey man; it's a problem that any good tax accountant can readily solve.

So, why did Bush do this? Easy - for his base, the have-mores, so they pay next to no taxes just like the corporations. Bush's tax policy coupled with the illegal immoral Iraq war have bankrupted this nation. Meanwhile, what do the Rethugs blame for the deficit? You got it kids - entitlement programs ... Also, the Rethugs utter dire warnings about those baby boomers who are such a threat to our nation's future. I think the theme for the GOP has become "kill all the baby boomers now". Maybe that's why the Rethugs are happy that less and less people have health care coverage.

In response to, "Is controlling by fear and intimidation, threats and bullying all that these charlatans like Robertson and Falwell can do? Is their influence going to be the one we allow to take over our United States? We really just can't let that happen," Robert Scardapane writes:

The religious right make the GOP unacceptable! I am hearing more and more from Republicans who are that their party was hijacked by these people. Well, when you eat with the devil, you sometimes get burned.

The religious righties are the reason why a moderate Republican can not run for President. There is no way that Rudy Giuliani will ever get the nomination in 2008 as long as the religious right controls the GOP. The GOP may be in a box - they need the religious righties as foot soldiers for campaigns but they alienate some GOP supporters. It remains to be seen if the GOP can hold the coalition of religious righties and corporatists together while drawing support from more typical blue/white collar workers.

I realize that Democrats have divisions as well. But, I think their divisions are a matter of emphasis on certain issues. The GOP is walking a tightrope and a fall is inevitable.

Today's Quote

"Liberals love to boast that they are not `religious,' which is what one would expect to hear from the state-sanctioned religion. Of course liberalism is a religion. It has its own cosmology, its own miracles, its own beliefs in the supernatural, its own churches, its own high priests, its own saints, its own total worldview, and its own explanation of the existence of the universe. In other words, liberalism contains all the attributes of what is generally known as `religion.' "
-Ann Coulter, from her latest book

Coulter is a psychopath. Note the double-speak about the merging of religion and government. The Republicans are the party trending toward a state-sanctioned religion. Democrats have respect for all religions; they want religion to remain separate from government.

-Robert Scardapane

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-Noah Greenberg