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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Which is it, Mr. President?

Let's, for a moment, take President Bush at his word. Just for a moment... Stop fidgeting! Let's say that the NSA wasn't listening to our calls before, during or after the 9/11 terrorist attacks but was merely making sure that your grandmother wasn't calling Osama bin-Laden. Let's also assume that the number of records obtained by the Bushies was in the tens of millions.


I have a question:

Out of those tens of million phone records, do the cronies and disciples of "G"lobal "W"arming Bush really expect us to believe that not one inquiry from it was followed up? Do they expect us to take their word for it that no one's calls were listened to? They don't have that kind of trust any longer and he has a "deficit" in his "political capital" account.

But if you take this a step further and actually do believe them, then one of the two following statements that President Bush should make are true:
1- "We looked at these millions upon millions of phone records and found nothing at all. The warrantless wiretapping program, to date, has been a huge flop."
2- "We looked at these millions upon millions of phone records and found many unusual circumstances that prove the need for this program. However, since we have said that we haven't listened to any American citizen's phone call, in order for this program to have actually worked and 'saved American lives' we must be lying."

Now the hair splitting. The Bushies say that they never listened to the content of the calls. Since they never applied for any warrants from the FISA courts, then how do they explain the reasons for asking for the data in the first place? What sense would it make to ask for tens of millions of domestic calls, placed by US citizens, when you had no intention of following them up? The only explanation is that the Bushies, and the NSA, were planning to do more than just peek. And I believe that they already have.

But I think that there is even another objective to viewing the call patterns of us regular Americans, and this is to find out our habits. Maybe they'll be able to recognize trends in calls during different times of the year. Maybe they'll be able to detect the calling habits, and the purchasing habits of certain groups of Americans. Anyway you look at it, compiling a list of tens of millions of Americans. the world's greatest consumers, has to be good for bi, global business. And big, global business is the Bush "base" of "haves and have-mores".

Or maybe the objective was just to see how much crap they could get away with. The question all voters have to ask themselves is "How much is too much?"

-Noah Greenberg

An Illegal Wiretap Observation

Maybe it's because I read a small town newspaper that doesn't necessarily publish a lot of national news - but I do keep up with the news on the web - don't you find it strange that not a single member of Congress has yet been identified as having heard the briefings on the phone-scam? Not even a Republican has stood up and said, yes, the NSA briefed us, we listened and left. When we had the great controversy over the international wiretapping, several GOPers said exactly that - we knew, and we didn't do anything because it was acceptable to us. But no one, neither Democrat nor Republican, has said that they were there for a briefing. I don't know what to conclude other than that it is very odd.


Warm Bodies, Army Uniforms and Prozac

From AP:
The Hartford Courant, citing records obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act and more than 100 interviews of families and military personnel, reported numerous cases in which the military failed to follow its own regulations in screening, treating and evacuating mentally unfit troops from Iraq. In 1997, Congress ordered the military to assess the mental health of all deploying troops. The newspaper, citing Pentagon statistics, said fewer than 1 in 300 service members were referred to a mental health professional before shipping out for Iraq as of October 2005.

Twenty-two U.S. troops committed suicide in Iraq last year, accounting for nearly one in five of all non-combat deaths and the highest suicide rate since the war started, the newspaper said.

Some service members who committed suicide in 2004 and 2005 were kept on duty despite clear signs of mental distress, sometimes after being prescribed antidepressants with little or no mental health counseling or monitoring, the Courant reported. Those findings conflict with regulations adopted last year by the Army that caution against the use of antidepressants for 'extended deployments.'

"I can't imagine something more irresponsible than putting a soldier suffering from stress on (antidepressants), when you know these drugs can cause people to become suicidal and homicidal," said Vera Sharav, president of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, a New York-based advocacy group. "You're creating chemically activated time bombs."

-Forwarded by Robert Scardapane (and David W.)

This reminds me of the story I heard about a year ago. Last year, a woman received a phone call from an Army sergeant. The young man asked to speak to her husband. The woman couldn't understand what the young man was calling about and she told the young man that her husband wasn't at home. In fact, her husband had died ten years ago, but she felt that this information wasn't something that this man needed to know. The man called again and asked to speak to this woman's husband. Again the woman deflected the call.

The man called a few more times and the woman finally asked what the army wanted from her husband after all this time. The Army sergeant informed her that her husband was being called up to active duty. he was a member of the "ready reserves" and his country needed him to fight in the war in terror. The woman explained to the young man that her husband was out of the army for quite some time and that he was, in fact, a veteran of World War Two. the man, undeterred, informed the woman that he was still responsible to fill his armed services obligation, not realizing that her husband's service "over there" would have put him well above the age where he could fight.

Finally the woman had to inform the pleasant young man that her husband had died ten years earlier. With that, the young man speedily hung up the phone without an apology or a good-bye.

-Noah Greenberg

What's My Line?

"The United States is a nation of faith and we shouldn’t be embarrassed to say that. We are not, however, a nation of one faith.

"Our European forefathers came to this country largely to escape religious persecution. Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Utah were all founded with distinctly different religious emphasis. More importantly, you can be a person of faith and not be a Christian. Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists and many others all are represented in this country by people who have contributed to our strength and our growth. That is why the current tendency to cast so many political decisions as about Christianity is so disturbing and why the current focus of the Republican Party on fundamentalist Christians is making so many people uncomfortable.

"Leaving aside the very important separation of church and state embodied in the Constitution, casting those who oppose President Bush’s judicial nominees as anti-Christian is an argument that should be dead on arrival. That argument should be dismissed just as decisively as the current resolution in the Missouri House to make Christianity the state religion should be, yet 25 Republican members of that body have signed on as co-sponsors."
-(See Robert's comments for the author's identity)

Who is the author of this piece? Christine Whitman! I am not exactly a Whitman fan but isn't it interesting that Republicans realize that their party has been hijacked by religious extremists. I applaud Christy Whitman's efforts to moderate the Republican party. A moderated Republican party will help Democrats as well. There would be at least the possibility to find common ground. The terrifying shift toward fascism will stop.

-Robert Scardapane

What's My Line (Part II)

"It is scandalous the way our politicians have compromised the nation's fiscal health. And it is morally outrageous that President Bush has succeeded in making matters worse by getting congressional support for extending capital gains and the dividend tax cut. These primarily benefit the well-to-do---at a time when middle- and lower-income families face soaring costs of housing, medical care, and gas prices, not to mention jobs with no health coverage or even access to unemployment insurance. So, do our elected officials try to increase the minimum wage? No. Do they try to cut taxes for the poor or provide more medical care? No. What do they do?

"They give even more tax benefits to the wealthiest.

"It was one thing for President Bush to engage in aggressive tax-cutting in his first term, when the economy might have contracted severely in the wake of the dot-com bust and 9/11. Those cuts were defensible. But that emergency is long over. To have avoided a downturn with the idea of picking up the pieces later on works only if there is then some effort to pick up the pieces. Instead, what do we get? Permanent tax cuts.

"For Republicans to define themselves as fiscal conservatives after five years of profligacy is hypocrisy on stilts. No matter how cynical you are, it is difficult to keep up with such irresponsibility. Americans are not fools. Just look at the polls!"
-(See Robert's comments for the author's identity)

So, what progressive wrote this? Mort Zuckerman (US News and World Report; NY Daily News) ... oh man oh man.

Potentially, the Republicans are in big trouble. Now, will the Democrats wise up and get off of this awful immigration issue that isn't making anyone happy. Face it, the illegal immigrants won't be deported despite James SenseLessBrenner's rhetoric. So, if the border is made more secure that will be good enough. Let Bush flap in the wind on the guest worker program. Let's concentrate on issues that voting Americans really care about such as jobs and health care.

-Robert Scardapane

In response to, "GW wants to use the Guard as a political ploy to show that he can get tough on illegal immigrants. While he's doing that, he's going to allow these same illegal immigrants to come across the border, as long as they don't stay," Robert Scardapane writes:

I didn't watch Bubble Head's speech last night because his voice cuts through my body. I read excerpts of his speech and conclude:

1) This is a lame attempt to appease the populace. According to a recent Zogby poll, the only consensus on immigration is that the borders should be secured. Interestingly enough that was true amongst Democrats, republicans and Independents.

2) Bush will pull the guard as soon as he gets what he wants - namely, amnesty.

3) Bush flip-flopped big time from his 2004 position against amnesty. His speech amounted to a call for amnesty - there are some small penalties, baloney about paying back-taxes (hey, what gives with that - the open border types claim the illegal immigrants already pay taxes? You mean Bubble head is admitting they don't!).

This is a terrible issue for both parties. Amnesty of any sort is just not popular. Border enforcement is what the American populace of both parties desire. Bush is not at all serious about border enforcement.

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-Noah Greenberg