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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Monday, May 22, 2006

David's Magic Prayer

Bu$h is my emperor, I shall not want.
He layeth me down in fields of greenbacks,
he leadeth me besides mercury and arsenic filled waters;
he restoreth corporate welfare and tax cuts for the wealthy,
he leadeth me in paths of self-righteousness, greed, and intolerance of others
Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evildoers (all non-republicans), for he is with me;
thy Rove and thy Rice protect me.

Bu$h preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies (all non-republicans),
he anointest my head with Iraqi oil and American blood;
my Humvee’s gas tank runneth over.
Surely wealth and piety shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the white house of Bu$h forever.

-David W.

Another "Magic" Bush-Word

"Our progress is incremental. Freedom is moving, but it's in incremental steps and the enemy's progress is almost instant on their TV screens."
-President Bush, regarding the "incremental progress" (reduced? slow? non-existent?) being made in Iraq

Everyone... Look at your watches... Check your calendars... It's time for the administration of "G"lobal "W"arming Bush to blame the media yet again. The president, not one to admit a mistake or take responsibility for anything, has now taken credit for "incremental" improvements made in Iraq. Of course, at the same time, he is blaming the media for showing pictures of "enemy progress". President Bush thinks that ignoring the truth is somehow in our national interest.

"Incremental" is the word of the day for the Bush administration. Boy, do I ever wish that I was part of one of those "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party focus groups led by Karl "The Traitor" Rove. I bet I could make them think that the word "doody" should be used as a buzz-word, if I were given the chance.

I can hear Tony Snow now: "And today's progress in Iraq was better than 'doody,'"

But we all know that it isn't.

"Our nation's been through three difficult years in Iraq. And the way forward will bring more days of challenge and loss. The progress we've made has been hard fought and it's been incremental. There have been setbacks and missteps like Abu Ghraib. They were felt immediately and have been difficult to overcome."

Were there mistakes made, Mr. President? By whom? Since no one in the Bush administration ever takes responsibility for any of their actions, then who made the mistakes? Being a member of the Bush administration is a lot like being in love... You never have to say you're sorry.

Let's remember that it is the policies and "interpretations" of and by the Bush administration that have led to the "missteps and mishaps" at Abu Ghraib. With programs like the "Rendition" program, where we actually outsource torture, is it any question as to why we are at the bottom of the UN list of the worst violators of human rights?

The United Nations Committee against Torture said that the US is in violation of the Geneva Conventoin as well as other abuses, such as "that the U.S. close Guantanamo Bay, register detainees captured in the fight against terrorism, and end its practice of reliance on 'diplomatic assurances' – unmonitored and unenforced promises from a government – to transfer individuals to countries with known records of torture."
-Human Rights Watch (www.hrw.org)

"The Committee against Torture repudiated every argument made by the Bush administration to justify its controversial detention and interrogation policies. Washington should seize this opportunity to end these illegal practices and regain the moral high ground in its fight against terrorism."
-Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch

Every time that Bush opens his mouth to utter the word "Iraq", he is either touting a new regime that will allow the Iraqi people to turn the corner, or he is pointing out yet another "turning point" for the Iraqi people. No wonder why we're all so dizzy.

"The world saw the beginning of something new — constitutional democracy at the heart of the Middle East. This is a free government under a democratic constitution and its formation marks a victory for the cause of freedom in the Middle East."

And yet, those who Dick "Go <F---> Yourself" Cheney told us would be "greeting us with flowers" are still murdering the Children of America and, even more amazingly, each other.

These guys (and gals) just keep on looking for the magic word that will convince Americans that the war they had paid for; the occupation they are still paying for; and the regime change that their children's children will still be paying for, is all worth it. It wasn't; it isn't; and it will never be.

There is no magic word or phrase which will bring back the lives of America's Lost Children. If "Freedom" and "Liberty" didn't work, what chance does "Incremental" stand?

Maybe the Bushies should try "Abracadabra".

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2006 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

Big Brother is watching you. And listening to you. And reading over your shoulder as you email.

The National Security Agency, NSA, is responsible for the centralized coordination, direction, and performance of highly specialized technical functions in support of U.S. government activities to acquire intelligence information. The NSA is a spy agency. It was revealed last week that the NSA has, for the past five and a half years, been tracking the phone calls of millions of Americans. Spying on millions of Americans. Listening–illegally–to the phone calls of millions of Americans. Amassing the largest database of phone calls–billions–in the history of the communications industry.

All in violation of the right to privacy covered by the Constitution.

The rationale for this massive assault on American civil liberties is the catch-all excuse given for every constitutional infringement made by the Bush Administration: the war on terror.

So now when you call Aunt Millie in Cleveland and she calls Cousin Ernie in Canada and he calls his daughter Sarah who's studying abroad, the NSA is listening because, well, you, Aunt Millie, Cousin Ernie and Sarah making phone calls to each other might constitute a terrorist cell, not a family. Nevermind that you were calling Millie to tell her that your daughter just had a baby and she called Ernie to tell him and he called Sarah because she and your daughter were best friends all through childhood. Since Sarah is studying archeology in Egypt, she's probably got links to Al Qeada.

Ludicrous as that scenario might sound, that is exactly how the NSA is operating, putting your privacy and mine on the line.

In George Orwell's classic novel *1984,* Big Brother was a fictional totalitarian entity and governmental "thought police" tracked the citizenry's every move. Many called Orwell's novel paranoid, but right now, as you read this, the very real government of the U.S. is doing exactly what Orwell's fictional Big Brother did.

Spying on us. Constantly.

The last time America had so much covert surveillance of her citizenry by the government, the man orchestrating it was King George III, because the colonists were trying to wrest their freedom from the oppression of the English monarchy.

During that struggle, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Patrick Henry, uttered his immortal words "Give me liberty or give me death!"

That was 230 years ago. Now we've got a new George in charge and it seems like no one outside of that predictable guardian of the Constitution, the ACLU, is yelling "Give me civil liberties or give me death!"

Where are the protests? Where is the fear of creeping totalitarianism?

The answer to almost any question posed to our government these days seems to be "terrorism." Since 9/11 we have, bit by bit, been giving up the basic tenets of our Constitution for the possibility of safety from terrorism.

Yet terrorism comes in many forms, including totalitarianism, as Orwell pointed out so succinctly in *1984.* And right now American democracy has taken a decidedly totalitarian turn as the NSA's thought police eavesdrop on phone calls from this coast to the other and all points in between.

On May 11th President Bush said, "Our intelligence activities strictly target Al Qaeda and their known affiliates. Al Qaeda is our enemy, and we want to know their plans."

Al Qeada, not Americans. Are there really billions of phone calls to Al Qeada being made across the nation?

The very same day Bush made his statement, *USA Today,* the nation's most widely published newspaper, reported "The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth....The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans--most of whom aren't suspected of any crime."

Not suspected of any crime, but when the nation's biggest spy agency is doing surveillance, arrests and prosecutions are sure to follow.

I have a friend in France. She is Iranian. She is also an anti-war activist. She travels a lot because her husband's job demands it and many of those travels include the Middle East. Are our communications being monitored by the NSA? Am I suspect because of my friendship with her? Is she suspect because she's Iranian?

In the years that I have been covering the war on Iraq as a journalist, I have developed many friendships like the one with the woman in France. I have made calls to places that might seem suspect to the NSA. But as a journalist, my phone calls and sources are supposed to be protected by the First Amendment.

Not any more.

David Carlson, president of the Society of Professional Journalists thinks reporters and columnists like myself may be caught in the NSA web and his fears have been confirmed. On May 18th ABC News revealed that lead terrorism reporter Brian Ross was being tracked by the NSA because of stories he was investigating, like the rendition of suspected terrorists to locations in Eastern Europe for torture. Also being targeted: The New York Times and Washington Post.

A few months ago there was an election in Uzbekistan. The election was supposed to be democratic, but the incumbent president disbanded the newspapers during the campaign, effectively silencing his opponent. Then he arrested those supporters who demonstrated against the disbanding of the newspapers. He was, of course, re-elected.

The first casualty of civil liberties is always the press. Thus if reporters are being spied on by the government, how can the press report accurately what the government is doing?

They can't. And if we don't have a press free from surveillance and spying, then we don't have anyone to inform us of what is really going on inside our government.

Two major players in the Bush Administration knew about the NSA spying and never revealed the information: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Gen. Michael Hayden, the proposed new head of the CIA.

Hayden actually ran the data collection. But Gonzales testified under oath before Congress back in April that there was no NSA surveillance.

He lied to the House Judiciary Committee.

In his testimony Gonzales was asked by Rep. Gerald Nadler "Can you assure us that there is no warrantless surveillance of calls between two Americans within the United States?" Gonzales tried to avoid the question. "That is not what the President has authorized."

But when Nadler asks, "Can you assure us that it's not being done?," Gonzales responds, "As I indicated in response to an earlier question, no technology is perfect.We do have minimization procedures in place."

Nadler goes on "But you're not doing that deliberately?" And Gonzales lies outright to the Committee: "That is correct."

The rule in the Bush Administration has always been lie forcefully and people will believe you. Except in the case of the NSA spying, too many actual facts are in evidence.

For example, in his radio address on May 13th the President stated, "The intelligence activities I have authorized are lawful and have been briefed to appropriate members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat."

But the next day, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Arlen Specter (R-PA) disagreed. Specter insisted that the President and his team "still haven't complied to inform the full intelligence committees as required by law. There really has to be in our system of law and government, checks and balance, separation of powers, congressional oversight," Specter insisted. Apparently one of the people Specter expected answers from was Gonzales.

The silence from Americans over the NSA scandal–and subversions of the Constitution, even in so-called wartime do indeed constitute a scandal–is actually not surprising. For the same period of time billions (that's the number reported on May 19th by USA Today) of phone calls were tapped by the NSA, Americans have been shrugging their collective shoulders about the damage such surveillance and concomitant lack of government oversight can do to a democracy.

We are all used to being videotaped everywhere we go–the ATM, the convenience store, the supermarket. We barely notice the cameras which only register when the evening news shows us a criminal caught by one of them.

But catching criminals with videotape surveillance is far different from having the government rooting through our emails and listening to our phone conversations without our knowledge. We all expect those anti-crime devices in shops and banks. And most of us, if the May 16th primary ballot question in Philadelphia was any indication, approve of that kind of surveillance because the protective nature is obvious. Unless you are committing a crime in public, the videotape at the 7-11 really can't hurt you.

But the random, non-specific and blanket surveillance by the government hurts all of us, by its very existence.

Unfortunately, we have as citizens come to both expect and conflate all surveillance, whether it is justified or not.

In Philadelphia the ballot question regarding video surveillance was uniformly trounced by liberals and embraced by everyone else; three of four voters voted for the surveillance.

Does that mean three of every four Philadelphians approves the NSA surveillance?

Perhaps, but these surveillances are not the same.

First of all, the videotaping in public and high crime areas was put to the citizenry as a ballot question. Do you want this, if we promise to regard your civil liberties when we do it? That is how the question was phrased. Up-front and specific.

After much deliberation, I voted for the surveillance, a choice I made based on three events: the shooting last year of a Pennsylvania Hospital nurse, the shooting last month of Officer Gary Skerski and the rape of a 13 year old in the main subway concourse on Mother's Day night.

The killer of the nurse was caught by video surveillance cameras near the hospital. That killer was found to have killed three other people and severely wounded a fourth. A paranoid schizophrenic with guns and no medication caught by a videotape.

It was the videotape of Skerski's killer that led his own mother to turn him in. And the lack of working video cameras in the City Hall subway concourse means the rapist of that girl will never be found.
In addition, videotape would also reduce the number of false identifications by eyewitnesses who are notoriously inaccurate. The camera takes a picture that the human eye cannot.

Thus specific and controlled surveillance is a viable tool to combat crime. Random, uncontrolled and unmonitored surveillance of billions of phone calls and emails, tapping into the nation's three largest phone companies, lying under oath to Congress–these tools do nothing but subvert the constitutional protections of Americans' right to privacy.

There are other ways to surveil. On May 19th the Baltimore Sun reported that "the NSA developed a pilot program in the late 1990s that would have enabled it to gather and analyze massive amounts of communications data without running afoul of privacy laws. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, it shelved the project--not because it failed to work--but because of bureaucratic infighting and a sudden White House expansion of the agency's surveillance powers, according to several intelligence officials."

According to the newspaper, the shelved program used more sophisticated methods of sorting through massive phone and email data to identify suspect communications; identified U.S. phone numbers and other communications data and encrypted them to ensure caller privacy; employed an automated auditing system to monitor how analysts handled the information, in order to prevent misuse and improve efficiency; and analyzed the data to identify relationships between callers and chronicle their contacts. Only when evidence of a potential threat had been developed would analysts be able to request decryption of the records.

In short, there was a way devised to spy on those who might harm our national security without destroying the civil liberties of the very people the government is pledged to protect.

The Bush Administration has gotten away with literal murder for six years. Now they are slowly dismantling our democracy with nary a whimper from the citizenry.

The NSA scandal demands our attention and we cannot allow one of its arbiters, Hayden, to be given even more power to spy on Americans as head of the CIA.

Outrage is demanded over these secrets and lies. Outcry is needed to stop the approval of Hayden to the CIA post. There are two more years left in this Administration and if we don't protest loud and long, by the time George Bush leaves office our government will look more like a dictatorship than a democracy.

A Letter to David Broder (The Washington Post)

Hi, David,

You want to solve the problems of saving Social Security, getting this country out of debt, and instituting real tax reform? Here's a simple idea for you with the collection mechanism already in place.

Create a tax reform program that will phase out and supplant the income tax as the Federal Government's sole source of income. Check out the Automated Payment Transaction Tax plan proposed by University Wisconsin economics professor emeritus Edgar L. Feige. (See APTTax.com)

Impose a .25% tax on all financial transaction, starting with Stock Market trades where the SEC has a very efficient collection mechanism already in place, and extend it to all financial transactions, whether sales of goods and services, bond sales, futures, international money speculation, casino and internet gambling transactions, money laundering transfers, OTC transactions -- you name it. Any time money changes hands, the government takes a tiny nip, and like tiny drops of rain the flood of money will turn into a huge river sufficient to meet all our needs.

Apply the moneys so collected, first to repaying the money Congress looted from the Social Security Fun, then next to retiring the National Debt, which itself will free up revenues for more salutary purposes.

This tax will reach huge sectors of our economy that at present are virtually tax free, out of sight, and uncontrollable. It will make our economy totally transparent, and relieve our duly elected representatives from the tyranny of big money. Then the only problem will be controlling Congressional imprudence.

Tax the flow of money. Stop taxing people and corporations. Then the basic laws of the market will work as they are supposed to work, and free enterprise will have real meaning.

Join the Howard Beale Memorial Society (http://www.networkcentralca.net/)

Get Mad! Fight Back! Get Even! We're mad as hell and we're not going to take this any more!

-Lew Warden

Unsettled and Unsettling

In a television interview, Bush chuckled as he dismissed his low approval ratings, claiming that they simply reflect an American populace "unsettled" by the ongoing war in Iraq. When the interviewer suggested that disapproval actually means, well, disapproval, the president replied, "That's unsettled."

Unsettled? Yes Dumbya, the American are unsettled by your administration and the cadre of GOP Kleptocrats in Congress.

-Robert Scardapane

In response to "I am truly sick of Arlen Specter. Awhile back, I read a Kos diary where the author described a political tactic called 'Specterism' - where a politician makes lots of noise on an issue and at a convenient moment backs off from their position. How many times have we seen Specter do that?" Eddie Konczal writes:

And don't forget... Specter also gave us the single-bullet theory. I've been down on him ever since I learned that.

In response to "Nukes should be wiped out completely from our system," Rhian writes:

-And, since oceans are rising, desalinization plants should be built on every coast and water pumped from there to everywhere.
-And since carbon dioxide levels are rising exponentially, cold fusion and zero point of vacuum systems should be funded, not nuclear power plants.

We are smart enough to do it.
We can do it.

The few (oil companies) are keeping the many in a dirty, dirty place. Not so eventually, this will kill the many as well as the few.

In response to, "I don't believe for an instant that Bush is serious about securing our open borders," Rhian writes:

Border Control doesn't either.

In response to Robert Scardapane's "A Speaker (Hastert) Gooper Quote", Victoria Brownworth writes:

Robert inadvertently left out one other salient fact: that Hastert is dead wrong: There isn't a "no tax" bracket in the U.S. IRS lexicon. This "you don't pay any taxes" nonsense is just that. Doesn't Hastert remember two years ago when an impeachment effort was waged against the REPUBLICAN Governor of Alabama because he dared to say that it was unChristian to be mandating that the poor pay taxes?

Every American has a tax bracket--just ask your teenager doing a minimum wage job for the summer. Taxes are taken out. Which is why there is a big difference between minimum wage and a living wage. If a couple who made $40,000 a year didn't have to pay any taxes, they might actually be able to manage. But since they will only see a little over half that amount, well--you do the math, Mr. Hastert. Or have Mr. Snow do it for you.

Today's Quote

"Nixon, who saw himself as a wartime president, believed his national security plans and policies - whatever he determined they would be -- should be unfettered. He wanted to end the war honorably - without appeasing the communists.

"When dissent - in the form of leaks and public protests - threatened Nixon's policies, he wiretapped newsmen who reported leaked stories, as well as those among his White House staff whom he suspected of leaking. He also made it as difficult as possible for demonstrators to protest the war, particularly in Washington DC, and approved of arresting countless thousands of them when they did so; he wanted demonstrators quelled with tear gas, billy-clubs and even bullets if necessary (which resulted in the killings of students at Kent State).

"Nixon also prosecuted Dan Ellsberg - whom he viewed much as he had communists of an earlier time -- when Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers. And, of course, Nixon approved (after the fact) the break-in into Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office, seeking information to discredit him.

"These were the hallmarks of Nixon's effort to prevent dissent against his policies.

Rather than quiet dissent, however, Nixon's tactics exacerbated it.

"The reactions of his Administration only elevated the prominence of the debate about his policies. One can see the same dynamic occurring now - as the Bush Administration faces ever-sharper criticism, and Bush's approval ratings dip ever-lower."

-John Dean

-Forwarded by Robert Scardapane

Send your comments to: NationalView@aol.com or comments@nationalview.org

-Noah Greenberg