Friday, March 17, 2006

On this St. Patrick's Day, some thoughts on immigration

Saw this by Man Eegee (who's one of my new guest bloggers) on Irish immigrants:
Living in the Southwest, when the topic of immigration comes up, it usually rests in the context of the relationship between the U.S., Mexico and Latin America; but since today is St. Patrick's Day, lets shift the focus for a moment from brown to green, and honor the activism of some of the Irish immigrants who are using their cherished holiday to take a stand for human rights.
At St. Patrick's Day parades in San Francisco and Chicago last weekend, activists with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform wore white-and-green T-shirts saying "Legalize The Irish" and passed out fliers urging people to call their elected representatives in support of allowing undocumented workers to earn legal status as guest workers. Similar activism is expected at parades in other cities in coming days.

Adding heft to the immigrants' message, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who visited San Jose on Tuesday, plans to push President Bush for legal status for illegal Irish immigrants when he visits the White House on Friday, St. Patrick's Day.

[snip]

"They are in as dire straits as any other ethnic group," said Kennelly, who estimates there are 3,000 to 4,000 Irish illegal immigrants in San Francisco, most working in construction, in restaurants or as nannies and caretakers for the elderly. "They cannot get driver's licenses, it's harder to open bank accounts, they cannot travel home and return again. ... The relationship between Ireland and America is so long and fantastic, but it's in danger now."

San Francisco Chronicle
The makeup of undocumented immigrants is indeed a diverse one. At a time when America is going through one of its fits of xenophobia and is in the process of readying concentration camps to herd up undocumented immigrants (and God knows who else), it's necessary to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of all ethnic groups - we are all human beings; we all deserve dignity. Man Eegee ends with an Irish blessing that is quite apt:
We're on this Earth together,
And if we would be brothers,
Fight not just on your own behalf
But for the sake of others.
Peace.

Speaking of fiscal irresponsibility

Here's this from Bloomberg:

US military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan will average 44 percent more in the current fiscal year than in fiscal 2005, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said.

Spending will rise to $9.8 billion a month from the $6.8 billion a month the Pentagon said it spent last year, the research service said. The group's March 10 report cites "substantial" expenses to replace or repair damaged weapons, aircraft, vehicles, radios and spare parts.

It also figures in costs for health care, fuel, national intelligence and the training of Iraqi and Afghan security forces - "now a substantial expense," it said.

The research service said it considers "all war and occupation costs," while the Pentagon counts just the cost of personnel, maintenance and operations.

The House approved emergency funding that includes the military spending last night by a vote of 348-71. The measure authorizes $72 billion for war costs and almost $20 billion for hurricane relief. The Senate is expected to pass it next month.

Congress already has approved $50 billion in supplemental war funding for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, after spending $100 billion last year. To date, Congress has approved about $337 billion for the wars since Sept. 11, 2001.

2007 Funding

The administration has said it also will seek $50 billion in war funding for fiscal 2007 to serve as a bridge fund until needs are assessed. That will be on top of the $439.3 billion defense budget the president submitted.

The request the House approved last night includes $67.6 billion for war operations, much of it in costs for personnel and repair and replacement of equipment; about $4.9 billion to train and equip Afghan and Iraqi security forces; and about $2 billion for defenses against roadside bombs, which have been a leading cause of death for US servicemen in Iraq.

The article also mentions that the 2006 fiscal year budget deficit will be about $423 billion (setting a new record), up from 2005's $319 billion.

I've read somewhere that fiscal and moral bankruptcy tend to co-occur. A nation that spends countless billions on genocidal wars (which, based on Lemkin's original definition of genocide the war against the Iraqis definitely falls into that category), and whose people can find no moral outrage as its government engages in rampant cronyism, illegal spying on its own citizens, torture, and gross negligence with regard to the nation's infrastructure is arguably already morally bankrupt. If it weren't for the good graces of several creditor nations (such as China), this would be a fiscally bankrupt nation as well. Hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but that latter form of bankruptcy appears all but inevitable.

Quotable: Scientific American Edition

Poor countries with a tradition of protecting civil liberties are unlikely to spawn suicide terrorists. Evidently, the freedom to assemble and protest peacefully without interference from the government goes a long way to providing an alternative to terrorism." Let freedom ring.
Nerdified Link.

Props to Military Tracy.

Top 'o the morning to you, and Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Slainte!

Quotable: Marvin X

King: You've been called a radical activist. What would you tell a group of 20-year-old playwrights if they said they don't care about radicalism?

Marvin: I would say what Mao Zedong said: "Let a hundred schools of thought contend." I don't want anything to do with them. Go do your thing. I've got a mission to actually change something. Like Bush said, you with me or against me. Contrary to Bush, the main addiction in America is not oil, it's white supremacy. That's the addiction from which all other addictions spring. Deal with the problem of supremacy, and you'll solve the greed for oil, the murder for oil. That's what's radical to me. We need a thousand Frantz Fanons, and white people need to have a 12-step supremacy-recovery program. Go in, have a detox. Maybe it'll help you, and us.

King: Do you think hip-hop is to black culture now what jazz in the 60s was to the Black Arts Movement?

Marvin: No! Jazz in the 60s was aligned with the freedom struggle, the music of Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders. It was liberation music. Hip-hop don't have that, at least not on BET, MTV. That's because the ruling class don't want people awake. They want people asleep.
Nerdified Link. My emphasis added. If you go by the hip-hop found in the top-40, Marvin X is right on the money. There is, of course, a rather diverse and awake underground hip-hop culture if you're willing to look around. I'll recommend cats like Dead Prez, The Coup, Jurassic 5, and some real old school cats like the Last Poets, Gil-Scott Heron, and Gylan Kain at the drop of a hat. Those cats will wake you out of your slumber, guaranteed. So will the jazz of cats like Shepp and Sanders, or some of the more contemporary cats like William Parker, Matthew Shipp, Steve Reid, etc. And of course if you haven't been reading Frantz Fanon, I'd ask, what the f*ck you waiting for?

What's going on?

A walk around blogtopia and the internets:

Duke1676 has a must read post on the upcoming mandatory internment of undocumented immigrants. Among other things, HR 4437 would allow for indefinite detentions - wrong on so many levels. Yup...the US is about to get back into the concentration camp biz.

We're ending the week with GOP-controlled Congress raising the debt ceiling for the 4th time since the Bu$hCo regime began. So much for fiscal responsibility. Once upon a time I used to get odd looks from people when I'd mention that I was both an unabashed lefty and a deficit hawk. I don't get those any more.

The Bu$hCo regime is back to massive bombing raids on the civilians of Iraq. Maryscott O'Connor nails it by characterizing the Bu$hCo regime thusly:
These are not men of peace, these are not men of Christ or men of faith.

These are warmongers who use the words of faith to pacify the masses while they use bombs and money to secure for themselves more and more of the power they seek.

THESE ARE EVIL MEN AND EVIL DEEDS.

Amen to that!

While we're on the topic of wingnuttery, Booman found this rather cogent diary over at the Big Orange:

But there it is: a couple of weeks ago, Nancy Schaefer, a state senator from Georgia, said in a public forum that due to the 50 million abortions which have been performed in our country, we have a dearth of cheap labor, which leads, get this!, to illegal immigration.

Quite a twofer, insulting women who've had abortions (as people who would have given birth to less intelligent persons only capable of menial jobs), and degrading immigrants by accusing them of having few skills and low intelligence.

But wait, there's more! It gets worse. Much, much worse.

Apparently, women who control their fertility with chemical or barrier contraception are the root cause of the decline and fall of western civilization.

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., agrees with conservative columnist Mark Steyn in his proposition that the west is in danger of extinction because the Islamic population is growing at a more rapid rate than the western population.

In other words, we need to have more babies or the scary Islamists are going to take over the world on sheer numbers alone. Our Western values of freedom and capitalism will be supplanted by the radical rule of Muslim imams. And to stop that, we need to increase our population. No more abortion, of course, but also, no room for contraception.

That's right. Have the babies, ladies, regardless of whether you have the physical capacity, the financial wherewithal, or the emotional maturity and strength. Have the babies, or just don't have any sex at all.

Forced childbirth is what the wingnut anti-choicers are after. Forced childbirth, people! That MUST be the frame we use on this issue in the run-up to the elections.
I've been saying something along those lines for years: the right-wingnuts are really after forced childbirth - in particular to increase the supply of white and nominally Christian individuals for the purpose of providing the CEOs with cheap labor and the military with additional bullet stoppers.

Speaking of contraception, I just noticed that Americablog is soliciting a list of every idiotic thing George Bush has done in the past five years. The comments section is over the 1,000 mark...and the first comment is a classic, thinking not only back to the beginning of Bu$hCo's reign of error but to Junior Caligula's life: "being born." The preznit could easily be the poster child for birth control. Props to Man Eegee for catch.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Guest Bloggers: Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You!

Hi. Just a quick shout-out to let my readers know that I am going to be adding some guest bloggers here. Be on the lookout - as I will be introducing them shortly. Each of them is someone whose work I've had the privilege to read, and each is an individual whom I hold in very high regard. Since I'm going to be out of town periodically starting in April, I know that this blog will be in good hands in my absence!

Also three years ago on this date:


March 16, 2003 was the date of the largest coordinated worldwide vigil, as part of the global protests against Iraq war. That was a time when I still held out some faint hope that our prayers for peace would be answered. Three years later, we are near the potential beginning of another war targetting Iran.

Three years ago, today:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

An eyewitness account of what happened:
"[Between 13:00 and 13:30, activists] noticed that two Israeli Army bulldozers and one tank [had] entered onto Palestinian civilian property near the border and [were] demolishing farmland and other already damaged structures. The military machine was severely threatening near-by homes, so the 3 activists went up onto the roof of one home, and then called for others to come.

"[Between 13:30 and 14:00], I arrived, and one of the three activists in [sic] the house joined me on the ground ... [W]e began to disrupt the work of the bulldozers ... At this point, Rachel and the two other activists joined us ... Rachel and a British activist were wearing jackets that were fluorescent orange and had reflective stripping [sic] ... [Between 14:00 and 15:00], Rachel and two other activists began interfering with the other bulldozer, which was attempting to destroy grass and other plants on what used to be farmland. They stood and sat in its path, and though it would drive very close to them, and even move the earth on which they were sitting, it always stopped in time to avoid injuring them ... [Between 15:00 and 16:00], one bulldozer pushed Will, an American activist, up against a pile of barbed wire. Fortunately, the bulldozer stopped and withdrew just in time to avoid injuring him seriously, but we had to dig him out of the rubble, and unhook his clothing from the wire. The tank approached to see if he was ok. One soldier stuck his head out of the tank to see, and he looked quite shocked and dumbfounded, but said nothing ...

"[Between 16:45 and 17:00], [o]ne bulldozer, serial number 949623, began to work near the house of a physician who is a friend of ours ... Rachel sat down in the pathway of the bulldozer ... [It] continued driving forward headed straight for Rachel. When it got so close that it was moving the earth beneath her, she climbed onto the pile of rubble being pushed by the bulldozer. She got so high onto it that she was at eye-level with the cab of the bulldozer ... Despite this, he continued forward, which pulled her legs into the pile of rubble, and pulled her down out of view of the driver ... We ran towards him, and waved our arms and shouted, one activist with the megaphone. But [he] continued forward, until Rachel was underneath the central section of the bulldozer ... Despite the obviousness of her position, the bulldozer began to reverse, without lifting its blade, and drug [sic] the blade over her body again. He continued to reverse until he was on the boarder [sic] strip, about 100 meters away, and left her crushed body in the sand. Three activists ran to her and began administering first-responder medical treatment ... She said, "My back is broken!" but nothing else ..."

-- Joseph Smith, ISM activist
Learn more here. A reminder of just how dark the days were just as the war on the Iraqis was about to begin, and how dark they've been since. While right-wingers in the US and Israel would no doubt find her death to be a source for endless amusement, for those of us who still give a damn about human rights there was (and still is) a sense of mourning and anger.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lots of antiwar protesting coming up

Three years ago it was massive worldwide protests against the Iraq war. This year, with Iraq continuing to be the debacle we all expected, BU$hCo is laying the groundwork for war against Iran. A bunch of events are occurring this week and this weekend.

Worldwide demonstrations: Aalborg, Aarhus, Adana, Adelaide (20/3), Albuquerque, Alicante, Almería, Amsterdam, Ankara, Ann Arbor (19/3), Armidale, Asheville (19/3), Athens, Atlanta, Baghdad, Bangkok, Bangor, ME, Barcelona, Basra, Battle Creek (19/3), Bemidji, Berkley (20/3), Berlin, [2], Bilbao, Binghampton (19/3), Bloomfield, Boise (19/3), Bonn, Boston, Bremen, Brisbane, Bronx, NY, Brookline (17/3), Bruxelles (19/3), Budapest, Buffalo, Burlington, Calgary, Camden, ME(19/3), Caracas, Carbondale (19/3), Chattanooga, Chicago, Chico, Colorado Springs, Columbia (19/3), Columbus, Comox, Concord, Copenhagen, Córdoba, Cottage Grove (19/3), Covington, Dallas (19/3), Davenport, Denver (19/3), Detroit, Dublin, Duisburg, Duluth, East Setauket, Eau Claire, Edmonton, El Centro, Elmira (19/3), Evergreen, Fayetteville, Fort Collins, Frederick (15/3), Fresno, Gaborone (17/3), Gainesville (19/3), Galveston, Garden City, Genève, Gijón, Grand Forks, Grand Rapids, Göteborg, Hackettstown (19/3), Halifax, Hartford (19/3), Helsinki, Hibbing (19/3), Highland Park, Honolulu, Hawaii, Houston, Indianapolis, Irvine (19/3), Istanbul, Jaca (Huesca), Jakarta, Janesville, Johannesburg, Jönköping, Kalamazoo, Kansas City (19/3), Karachi, Kent, Ohio (19/3), Kuala Lumpur (19/3), Lake Helen (19/3), Lansing (19/3), Las Cruces, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Las Vegas, Lisboa, Little Rock, Ljubljana, London, Long Island, Los Angeles, [2] (20/3), Louisville, Madison, Madrid, [2] (19/3), Málaga (23/3), Malmö, Managua, [2], Manila, Marbella (21/3), Melbourne (17/3), Melbourne, Florida, Memphis, Mercury, Mexico City, Midland, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Missoula, Mobile, Mobile - New Orleans (14/3), Mocksville, Montreal, Morristown (19/3), Moss Point (14/3), Mountain View (19/3), Naples (19/3), New Bedford, New Haven, New London (21/3), New Paltz, New York City, [2] (20/3), Newton (19/3), Nicosia, Northville, [2], Ocean Springs (15/3), Odense, Oklahoma, Omdurman, Orange, Oslo, Ossining, Ottawa, [2], Oviedo (16/3), Palo Alto, Paris, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Prague, [2] (19/3), Quebec City, Redding, Reno, Reykjavik, Riverside (17/3), Rochester, Roma, Rotterdam, [2] (20/3), Roxbury, Saint Louis (19/3), Saint Paul, Salisbury, MD (19/3), Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, San Juan, San Sebastián-Donostia, Santa Barbara (16/3), Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Santa Fe, Santiago de Chile (17/3), São Paulo, Sarasota, Seattle, Seoul (19/3), Sevilla, South Portland (19/3), Southold (19/3), Springfield (20/3), Stevens Point, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Sydney, Tallahassee (19/3), Tarragona, Teaneck (15/3), Tijuana - San Francisco (12/3), Tokyo, Toronto, Trabzon, Trenton, Tucson, Tulsa, Turku, Uppsala, Valladolid, Vancouver, Victoria, Walnut Creek, Warsaw (19/3), Washington DC, Waynesville (16/3), Wellington, West Bend, Wien (Vienna), Wilmington, Windsor, Winnipeg, Wolfville, NS, Woodstown (17/3), Zaragoza. All demos on 18/3/2006 unless otherwise stated.
Nerdified Link

Also: The Campus Antiwar Network has their own event scheduled for this week.


Student week of action coordinated by the

Campus Antiwar Network
Students Say NO to War in Iraq!
College Not Combat, Troops Out Now!

NATIONAL WEEK OF CAMPUS ACTION
Week of March 13-17
www.campusantiwar.net
RecruitersOut@yahoo.com

On March 13-17*, students will hold events at high schools and colleges around the country demanding an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq and money for young people's education, not military recruitment. This week of action leads into the global days of protest on March 18-19, where students will join many others in marking the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and demanding to bring the troops home now!

(*Spring break alternative: Schools on spring break during March 13-17 will hold events the week of March 20)

Students Say NO to War in Iraq!

College Not Combat, Troops Out Now!
NATIONAL WEEK OF CAMPUS ACTION
Week of March 13-17

WHY YOUTH & STUDENTS NEED TO STAND UP:

The illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq has taken the lives of over 2,000 American soldiers and more than 100,000 Iraqis. It has destroyed the lives of countless more. This war affects young people everywhere, at home and abroad. Iraqis are faced with the brutality of occupation, under threat of bombs, guns, and torture. In the United States, we see our educational prospects diminished and recruitment to the military held up as our only viable future.

Now is the time for young people to stand up. And we are joined by a growing majority that sees the lies, the torture, the chemical weapons, and the corruption and arrogance of our politicians and says NO MORE.

There is a student movement bringing this message to campuses around the country: kicking military recruiters off of a dozen schools, defending free speech in the face of repressive administrators and government spying, bringing grassroots relief to New Orleans and the truth about the occupation to our schools. On the third anniversary of the war in March 2006, this movement's voice will be heard!

WHAT YOU CAN DO
Email RecruitersOut@yahoo.com to:


  • Endorse this day of action

  • If you're a student: let us know about an action being planned at your school, or ask us to put you in touch with other students near you

-If you don't have one, start an anti-war group at your school! We can give you materials and help from other students.
- If you're an activist off-campus: Help organize massive protests on March 18-19. We will put you in touch with the anti-war student groups nearest you to facilitate grassroots coordination.

COLLEGE NOT COMBAT! TROOPS OUT NOW!
Campus Antiwar Network
www.campusantiwar.net

Reported Actions:

Indiana University

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Time: 4:00 - 6:00 p.m.
Locations: Sample Gates, Kirkwood Ave., and Monroe Co. Courthouse,

Bloomington
Meet at Sample Gates (Indiana and Kirkwood Avenues) and join us for the Bloomington "End the War!" Action and March to the Monroe County Courthouse. Deb Mayer (former MCCSC teacher, terminated for speaking about Peace in the classroom) and others will speak before the Kirkwood Action.

More information can be found at http://www.BPAC.info

Rutgers University(New Brunswick)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Time 5:00-6:00 pm

Location: Brower Commons, College avenue, New Brunswick

Meet in the basement of Demarest Hall at 4:30 PM at the basement of Demarest Hall, and walk over to Brower at 5. There we will make everyone look dead and go over what's happening. Have to lie still on the pavement for 1 hour. You can lie anyway you want. If you want to lie face up,

i suggest bringing something like an old t-shirt to lay over your face. Wear a hat/hoddie to protect your head from the ground. Have fake blood on you, either on your face/head or cloths. It will be made of cornsyrup, water, and food dye. YOU WILL NOT be allowed to get up and leave during the protest. It ruins the effect. If necessary, you may readjust your position.

At 6:00 PM, you can get up and leave, but not before.

As always check the links to see what is going on in your area.

Text of Feingold's Censure Speech

Mr. President, when the President of the United States breaks the law, he must be held accountable. That is why today I am introducing a resolution to censure President George W. Bush.

The President authorized an illegal program to spy on American citizens on American soil, and then misled Congress and the public about the existence and legality of that program. It is up to this body to reaffirm the rule of law by condemning the President’s actions.

All of us in this body took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and bear true allegiance to the same. Fulfilling that oath requires us to speak clearly and forcefully when the President violates the law. This resolution allows us to send a clear message that the President’s conduct was wrong.

And we must do that. The President’s actions demand a formal judgment from Congress.

At moments in our history like this, we are reminded why the founders balanced the powers of the different branches of government so carefully in the Constitution. At the very heart of our system of government lies the recognition that some leaders will do wrong, and that others in the government will then bear the responsibility to do right.

This President has done wrong. This body can do right by condemning his conduct and showing the people of this nation that his actions will not be allowed to stand unchallenged.

To date, members of Congress have responded in very different ways to the President’s conduct. Some are responding by defending his conduct, ceding him the power he claims, and even seeking to grant him expanded statutory authorization powers to make his conduct legal. While we know he is breaking the law, we do not know the details of what the President has authorized or whether there is any need to change the law to allow it, yet some want to give him carte blanche to continue his illegal conduct. To approve the President’s actions now, without demanding a full inquiry into this program, a detailed explanation for why the President authorized it, and accountability for his illegal actions, would be irresponsible. It would be to abandon the duty of the legislative branch under our constitutional system of separation of powers while the President recklessly grabs for power and ignores the rule of law.

Others in Congress have taken important steps to check the President. Senator Specter has held hearings on the wiretapping program in the Judiciary Committee. He has even suggested that Congress may need to use the power of the purse in order to get some answers out of the Administration. And Senator Byrd has proposed that Congress establish an independent commission to investigate this program.

As we move forward, Congress will need to consider a range of possible actions, including investigations, independent commissions, legislation, or even impeachment. But, at a minimum, Congress should censure a president who has so plainly broken the law.

Our founders anticipated that these kinds of abuses would occur. Federalist Number 51 speaks of the Constitution’s system of checks and balances:

“It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

Mr. President, we are faced with an executive branch that places itself above the law. The founders understood that the branches must check each other to control abuses of government power. The president’s actions are such an abuse, Mr. President. His actions must be checked, and he should be censured.

This President exploited the climate of anxiety after September 11, 2001, both to push for overly intrusive powers in the Patriot Act, and to take us into a war in Iraq that has been a tragic diversion from the critical fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates. In both of those instances, however, Congress gave its approval to the President’s actions, however mistaken that approval may have been.

That was not the case with the authorized by the President shortly after September 11th. illegal domestic wiretapping programThe President violated the law, ignored the Constitution and the other two branches of government, and disregarded the rights and freedoms upon which our country was founded. No one questions whether the government should wiretap suspected terrorists. Of course we should, and we can under current law. If there were a demonstrated need to change that law, Congress could consider that step. But instead the President is refusing to follow that law while offering the flimsiest of arguments to justify his misconduct. He must be held accountable for his actions.

The facts are straightforward: Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as “FISA”, nearly 30 years ago to ensure that as we wiretap suspected terrorists and spies, we also protect innocent Americans from unjustified government intrusion. FISA makes it a crime to wiretap Americans on U.S. soil without the requisite warrants, and the President has ordered warrantless wiretaps of Americans on U.S. soil. The President has broken that law, and that alone is unacceptable. But the President did much more than that.

Not only did the President break the law, he also actively misled Congress and the American people about his actions, and then, when the program was made public, about the legality of the NSA program.

He has fundamentally violated the trust of the American people.

The President’s own words show just how seriously he has violated that trust.

We now know that the NSA wiretapping program began not long after September 11th. Before the existence of this program was revealed, the President went out of his way in several speeches to assure the public that the government was getting court orders to wiretap Americans in the United States – something that he now admits was not the case.

On April 20, 2004, for example, the President told an audience in Buffalo that: “Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires – a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way.”

In fact, a lot had changed, but the President wasn’t being upfront with the American people.

Just months later, on July 14, 2004, in my own state of Wisconsin, the President said that: “Any action that takes place by law enforcement requires a court order. In other words, the government can't move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order.”

Last summer, on June 9, 2005, the President spoke in Columbus, Ohio, and again insisted that his administration was abiding by the laws governing wiretaps. “Law enforcement officers need a federal judge's permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist's phone, a federal judge's permission to track his calls, or a federal judge's permission to search his property. Officers must meet strict standards to use any of these tools. And these standards are fully consistent with the Constitution of the U.S.”

In all of these cases, the President knew he wasn’t telling the complete story. But engaged in tough political battle during the presidential campaign, and later over Patriot Act reauthorization, he wanted to convince the public that a systems of checks and balances was in place to protect innocent people from government snooping. He knew when he gave those reassurances that he had authorized the NSA to bypass the very system of checks and balances that he was using as a shield against criticisms of the Patriot Act and his Administration’s performance.

This conduct is unacceptable. The President had a duty to play it straight with the American people. But for political purposes, he ignored that duty.

After a New York Times story exposed the NSA program in December of last year, the White House launched an intensive effort to mislead the American people yet again. No one would come to testify before Congress until February, but the President’s surrogates held press conferences and made speeches to try to convince the public that he had acted lawfully.

Most troubling of all, the President himself participated in this disinformation campaign. In the State of the Union address, he implied that the program was necessary because otherwise the government would be unable to wiretap terrorists at all. That is simply untrue. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. You don’t need a warrant to wiretap terrorists overseas – period. You do need a warrant to wiretap Americans on American soil and Congress passed FISA specifically to lay out the rules for these types of domestic wiretaps.

FISA created a secret court, made up of judges who develop national security expertise, to issue warrants for surveillance of suspected terrorists and spies. These are the judges from whom the Bush Administration has obtained thousands of warrants since 9/11. They are the judges who review applications for business records orders and wiretapping authority under the Patriot Act. The Administration has almost never had a warrant request rejected by those judges. It has used the FISA Court thousands of times, but at the same time it asserts that FISA is an “old law” or “out of date” in this age of terrorism and can’t be complied with. Clearly, the Administration can and does comply with it – except when it doesn’t. Then it just arbitrarily decides to go around these judges, and around the law.

The Administration has said that it ignored FISA because it takes too long to get a warrant under that law. But we know that in an emergency, where the Attorney General believes that surveillance must begin before a court order can be obtained, FISA permits the wiretap to be executed immediately as long as the government goes to the court within 72 hours. The Attorney General has complained that the emergency provision does not give him enough flexibility, he has complained that getting a FISA application together or getting the necessary approvals takes too long. But the problems he has cited are bureaucratic barriers that the executive branch put in place, and could remove if it wanted.

FISA also permits the Attorney General to authorize unlimited warrantless electronic surveillance in the United States during the 15 days following a declaration of war, to allow time to consider any amendments to FISA required by a wartime emergency. That is the time period that Congress specified. Yet the President thinks that he can do this indefinitely.

The President has argued that Congress gave him authority to wiretap Americans on U.S. soil without a warrant when it passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force after September 11, 2001. Mr. President, that is ridiculous. Members of Congress did not pass this resolution to give the President blanket authority to order warrantless wiretaps. We all know that. Anyone in this body who would tell you otherwise either wasn’t here at the time or isn’t telling the truth. We authorized the President to use military force in Afghanistan, a necessary and justified response to September 11. We did not authorize him to wiretap American citizens on American soil without going through the process that was set up nearly three decades ago precisely to facilitate the domestic surveillance of terrorists – with the approval of a judge. That is why both Republicans and Democrats have questioned this theory.

This particular claim is further undermined by congressional approval of the Patriot Act just a few weeks after we passed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. The Patriot Act made it easier for law enforcement to conduct surveillance on suspected terrorists and spies, while maintaining FISA’s baseline requirement of judicial approval for wiretaps of Americans in the U.S. It is ridiculous to think that Congress would have negotiated and enacted all the changes to FISA in the Patriot Act if it thought it had just authorized the President to ignore FISA in the AUMF.

In addition, in the intelligence authorization bill passed in December 2001, we extended the emergency authority in FISA, at the Administration’s request, from 24 to 72 hours. Why do that if the President has the power to ignore FISA? That makes no sense at all.

The President has also said that his inherent executive power gives him the power to approve this program. But here the President is acting in direct violation of a criminal statute. That means his power is, as Justice Jackson said in the steel seizure cases half a century ago, “at its lowest ebb.” A letter from a group of law professors and former executive branch officials points out that “every time the Supreme Court has confronted a statute limiting the Commander-in-Chief’s authority, it has upheld the statute.” The Senate reports issued when FISA was enacted confirm the understanding that FISA overrode any pre-existing inherent authority of the President. As the 1978 Senate Judiciary Committee report stated, FISA “recognizes no inherent power of the president in this area.” And “Congress has declared that this statute, not any claimed presidential power, controls.” Contrary to what the President told the country in the State of the Union, no court has ever approved warrantless surveillance in violation of FISA.

The President’s claims of inherent executive authority, and his assertions that the courts have approved this type of activity, are baseless.

But it is one thing to make a legal argument that has no real support in the law. It is much worse to do what the President has done, which is to make misleading statements about what prior Presidents have done and what courts have approved, to try to make the public believe his legal arguments are much stronger than they are.

For example, in the State of the Union, the President argued that federal courts have approved the use of presidential authority that he was invoking. I asked the Attorney General about this when he came before the Judiciary Committee, and he could point me to no court – not the Supreme Court or any other court – that has considered whether, after FISA was enacted, the President nonetheless had the authority to bypass it and authorize warrantless wiretaps. Not one court. The Administration’s effort to find support for what it has done in snippets of other court decisions would be laughable if this issue were not so serious.

In the same speech, the President referred to other Presidents in American history who cited executive authority to order warrantless surveillance. But of course, those past presidents – like Wilson and Roosevelt – were acting before the Supreme Court decided in 1967 that our communications are protected by the Fourth Amendment, and before Congress decided in 1978 that the executive branch could no longer unilaterally decide which Americans to wiretap. I asked the Attorney General about this issue when he testified before the Judiciary Committee. And neither he nor anyone in the Administration has been able to come up with a single prior example of wiretapping inside the United States since 1978 that was conducted outside FISA’s authorization.

So the President’s arguments in the State of the Union were baseless, and it is unacceptable that the President of the United States would so obviously mislead the Congress and American public.

The President also has argued that periodic internal executive branch review provides an adequate check on the program. He has even characterized this periodic review as a safeguard for civil liberties. But we don’t know what this check involves. And we do know that Congress explicitly rejected this idea of unilateral executive decision-making in this area when it passed FISA.

Finally, the President has tried to claim that informing a handful of congressional leaders, the so-called Gang of Eight, somehow excuses breaking the law. Of course, several of these members said they weren’t given the full story. And all of them were prohibited from discussing what they were told. So the fact that they were informed under these extraordinary circumstances does not constitute congressional oversight, and it most certainly does not constitute congressional approval of the program.

Indeed, it doesn’t even comply with the National Security Act, which requires the entire memberships of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee to be “fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States.” Nor does the latest agreement to allow a seven-member subcommittee to review the program comply with the law. Granting a minority of the committee access to information is inadequate and still does not comply with the law requiring that the full committee be kept fully informed.

In addition, we now know that some of the Gang of Eight expressed concern about the program. The Administration ignored their protests. One of the eight members of Congress who has been briefed about the program, Congresswoman Jane Harman, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, has said she sees no reason why the Administration cannot accomplish its goals within the law as currently written.

None of the President’s arguments explains or excuses his conduct, or the NSA’s domestic spying program. Not one. It is hard to believe that the President has the audacity to claim that they do.

And perhaps that is what is most troubling here, Mr. President. Even more troubling than the arguments the President has made is what he relies on to make them convincing – the credibility of the office of the President itself. He essentially argues that the American people should trust him simply because of the office he holds.

But Presidents don’t serve our country by just asking for trust, they must earn that trust, and they must tell the truth.

This President hides behind flawed legal arguments, and even behind the office he holds, but he cannot hide from what he has created: nothing short of a constitutional crisis. The President has violated the law, and Congress must respond. Congress must investigate and demand answers. Congress should also determine whether current law is inadequate and address that deficiency if it is demonstrated. But before doing so, Congress should ensure that there is accountability for authorizing illegal conduct.

A formal censure by Congress is an appropriate and responsible first step to assure the public that when the President thinks he can violate the law without consequences, Congress has the will to hold him accountable. If Congress does not reaffirm the rule of law, we will create another failure of leadership, and deal another blow to the public’s trust.

The President’s wrongdoing demands a response. And not just a response that prevents wrongdoing in the future, but a response that passes judgment on what has happened. We in the Congress bear the responsibility to check a President who has violated the law, who continues to violate the law, and who has not been held accountable for his actions.

Passing a resolution to censure the President is a way to hold this President accountable. A resolution of censure is a time-honored means for the Congress to express the most serious disapproval possible, short of impeachment, of the Executive’s conduct. It is different than passing a law to make clear that certain conduct is impermissible or to cut off funding for certain activities. Both of those alternatives are ways for Congress to affect future action. But when the President acts illegally, he should be formally rebuked. He should be censured.

The founders anticipated abuses of executive power by creating a balance of powers in the Constitution. Supporting and defending the Constitution, as we have taken an oath to do, require us to preserve that balance, and to have the will to act. We must meet a serious transgression by the President with a serious response. We must work, as the founders urged us in Federalist Number 51, to control the abuses of government.

The Constitution looks to the Congress to right the balance of power. The American people look to us to take action, to speak out, with one clear voice, against wrongdoing by the President of the United States. In our system of government, no one, not even the President, is above the law.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the resolution be printed in the Record following my remarks. I yield the floor.

Nerdified Link

I'd go a bit further and suggest serious talk about impeachment, but Feingold's proposal is a good step in the right direction. As usual, we can expect that Feingold is close to alone in standing up against the Bu$hCo regime - most of his colleagues in the Senate are essentially worthless as opposition goes.

History will remember the actions of Feingold, Conyers, and others in the Senate and House who've shown courage consistently over these last several dark years. History will be much less forgiving to Bu$hCo, its cronies, and its collaborators.

Technorati Tag: Russ Feingold

Monday, March 13, 2006

Historical revisionists of the world, unite! (Iraq War edition)

Bush believes that “it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how [the Iraq] war began.”5 Of course, it is the Bush administration that is trying to rewrite the history of how the war began. Responsible observers are now forced to revise Bush’s rewritten version so that it is closer to the facts. Four well-know examples should suffice to show that the Bush administration deceived the U.S. public, and that “Revisionists” are those who simply want to keep the record accurate for future historians of the Iraq War:

1. Bush (in a March 2003 speech on the eve of invasion): There is “no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”6

Revisionist correction: The International Atomic Energy (IAEA) Update for the Security Council Pursuant to Iraq Resolution 1441 stated that: “In the first eight weeks of the IAEA inspections, the IAEA has visited all sites identified by it or States as significant. No evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities at those locations has been detected.”7

In early March 2003, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, reported that “there was no evidence Iraq had a nuclear development program,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.8

In February 2001, Colin Powell acknowledged that Iraq “has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction.”9

Demonstrators and “revisionists” across the globe also challenged this now fully discredited claim. Recall that the administration’s own inspection team confirmed that Iraq did not possess WMD.

2. Bush (State of the Union 2003): “ Iraq recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”10

Revisionist correction: UN inspectors almost immediately disputed the allegation. One letter used to prove the purchase was signed by someone who last served in the Nigerian government in 1989.11 One would hope that the Bush administration was capable of detecting such obvious errors. Bush shifted blame to George Tenet, then head of the CIA, who allegedly allowed the statement to enter the State of the Union Address. However, according to the Wall Street Journal, the CIA sent a memo to Condoleezza Rice that “challenged the African uranium sale” before the speech. Rice accepted responsibility for the “error,” the article notes.12 Rice was not reprimanded; instead she was promoted to Secretary of State in 2005. Of course, Joseph Wilson also disputed the uranium claim and now Cheney’s Chief of Staff is under indictment surrounding the outing of Wilson’s wife who worked in the CIA.

3.Bush in October 2002: “I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force will not become necessary.”13

Revisionist correction: In July 2002, Sir Richard Dearlove, head of Britain’s M16, reported that, “Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.”14

4.Dick Cheney: Iraq constitutes “the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault for many years, but most especially on 9/11.”15

Revisionist Correction: Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, which even Bush and Rumsfeld admitted. Al Qaeda operatives in custody spoke of the conflict between Hussein and the organization.16

This last piece of propaganda is especially disconcerting. A Zogby Poll has found that 85% of U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq stated that the U.S. mission is “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks.” Cheney’s propaganda has infiltrated the minds of our long-suffering troops. Despite the administration’s attempts to mislead its own troops, they are not simply vassals of administration propaganda. The same Zogby Poll has found that 72% of U.S. troops in Iraq believe that the U.S. should withdraw from the country within a year. In fact, 29% of these soldiers felt that the U.S. should leave immediately, adopting a position once reserved for the so-called “radical left.”17 Are U.S. troops becoming “revisionists”?

The Iraqi people also feel that the U.S. forces should leave. A poll by the British Ministry of Defence revealed that 82% of Iraqis are “strongly opposed” to the U.S. led occupation and 45 % of Iraqis felt that the attacks on U.S./U.K troops were justified.18 In 2003, a Gallup Poll, once cited by the Bush administration to illustrate that Iraqis welcomed the U.S. forces, showed instead that 94% of Iraqis felt Baghdad was more dangerous since the U.S. “liberation.”19 Even if we allow for a wide margin of error, these polls reveal that U.S. soldiers and the Iraqi people oppose the occupation.

In the buildup to the Iraq War, most of the world’s citizens and governments disputed the administration’s WMD claims. Bush, a so-called champion of democracy, dismissed world opinion. It was the revisionists who said Iraq did not have the WMD in March 2003. Revisionists of the world unite and declare: I am a revisionist historian!


Nerdified Link

The Human Face of the Torture Victim

Remember that picture of the guy in Abu Ghraib standing hooded on a box with electical wires attached to him? That picture has turned out to be every bit as symbolic of the US war against the Iraqis as the picture of the girl with napalm burns running down the middle of a road in Vietnam was symbolic of a previous generation's genocidal war of choice. Today we have that man's story, and as you can see, the human face of the once hooded man:
Amman, Jordan - Almost two years later, Ali Shalal Qaissi's wounds are still raw.

There is the mangled hand, an old injury that became infected by the shackles chafing his skin. There is the slight limp, made worse by days tied in uncomfortable positions. And most of all, there are the nightmares of his nearly six-month ordeal at Abu Ghraib prison in 2003 and 2004.

Mr. Qaissi, 43, was prisoner 151716 of Cellblock 1A. The picture of him standing hooded atop a cardboard box, attached to electrical wires with his arms stretched wide in an eerily prophetic pose, became the indelible symbol of the torture at Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad.

[...]

"I never wanted to be famous, especially not in this way," he said, as he sat in a squalid office rented by his friends here in Amman. That said, he is now a prisoner advocate who clearly understands the power of the image: it appears on his business card.

[...]

But prison records from the Coalition Provisional Authority, which governed Iraq after the invasion, made available to reporters by Amnesty International, show that Mr. Qaissi was in American custody at the time. Beyond that, researchers with both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International say they have interviewed Mr. Qaissi and, along with lawyers suing military contractors in a class-action suit over the abuse, believe that he is the man in the photograph.

Under the government of Saddam Hussein, Mr. Qaissi was a mukhtar, in effect a neighborhood mayor, a role typically given to members of the ruling Baath Party and closely tied to its nebulous security services. After the fall of the government, he managed a parking lot belonging to a mosque in Baghdad.

He was arrested in October 2003, he said, because he loudly complained to the military, human rights organizations and the news media about soldiers' dumping garbage on a local soccer field. But some of his comments suggest that he is at least sympathetic toward insurgents who fight American soldiers.

"Resistance is an international right," he said.

Weeks after complaining about the garbage, he said, he was surrounded by Humvees, hooded, tied up and carted to a nearby base before being transferred to Abu Ghraib. Then the questioning began.

"They blamed me for attacking US forces," he said, "but I said I was handicapped; how could I fire a rifle?" he said, pointing to his hand. "Then he asked me, 'Where is Osama bin Laden?' And I answered, 'Afghanistan.' "

How did he know? "Because I heard it on TV," he replied.

He said it soon became evident that the goal was to coax him to divulge names of people who might be connected to attacks on American forces. His hand, then bandaged, was often the focus of threats and inducements, he said, with interrogators offering to fix it or to squash it at different times. After successive interrogations, he said he was finally given a firm warning: "If you don't speak, next time, we'll send you to a place where even dogs don't live."

Finally, he said, he was taken to a truck, placed face down, restrained and taken to a special section of the prison where he heard shouts and screams. He was forced to strip off all his clothes, then tied with his hands up high. A guard began writing on his chest and forehead, what someone later read to him as, "Colin Powell."

In all, there were about 100 cells in the cellblock, he said, with prisoners of all ages, from teenagers to old men. Interrogators were often dressed in civilian clothing, their identities strictly shielded.

The prisoners were sleep deprived, he said, and the punishments they faced ranged from bizarre to lewd: an elderly man was forced to wear a bra and pose; a youth was told to hit the other adults; and groups of men were organized in piles. There was the dreaded "music party," he said, in which prisoners were placed before loudspeakers. Mr. Qaissi also said he had been urinated on by a guard. Then there were the pictures.

"Every soldier seemed to have a camera," he said. "They used to bring us pictures and threaten to deliver them to our families"

Today, those photographs, turned into montages and slideshows on Mr. Qaissi's computer, are stark reminders of his experiences in the cellblock. As he scanned through the pictures, each one still instilling shock as it popped on the screen, he would occasionally stop, his voice breaking as he recounted the story behind each photograph.

In one, a young man shudders in fear as a dog menaces him.

"That's Talib," he said. "He was a young Yemeni, a student of the Beaux-Arts School in Baghdad, and was really shaken."

In another, Pfc. Lynndie R. England, who was convicted last September of conspiracy and maltreatment of Iraqi prisoners, poses in front of a line of naked men, a cigarette in her mouth. "That's Jalil, Khalil and Abu Khattab," he said. "They're all brothers, and they're from my neighborhood."

Then there is the picture of Mr. Qaissi himself, standing atop a cardboard box, taken 15 days into his detention. He said he had only recently been given a blanket after remaining naked for days, and had fashioned the blanket into a kind of poncho.

The guards took him to a heavy box filled with military meal packs, he said, and hooded him. He was told to stand atop the box as electric wires were attached to either hand. Then, he claims, they shocked him five times, enough for him to bite his tongue.

[...]

After almost six months in Abu Ghraib, Mr. Qaissi said, he was loaded onto a truck, this time without any shackles, but still hooded. As the truck sped out of the prison, another man removed the hood and announced that they had been freed.

With a thick shock of gray hair and melancholy eyes, Mr. Qaissi is today a self-styled activist for prisoners' rights in Iraq. Shortly after being released from Abu Ghraib in 2004, he started the Association of Victims of American Occupation Prisons with several other men immortalized in the Abu Ghraib pictures.

Financed partly by Arab nongovernmental organizations and private donations, the group's aim is to publicize the cases of prisoners still in custody, and to support prisoners and their families with donations of clothing and food.

Mr. Qaissi has traveled the Arab world with his computer slideshows and presentations, delivering a message that prisoner abuse by Americans and their Iraqi allies continues. He says that as the public face of his movement, he risks retribution from Shiite militias that have entered the Iraqi police forces and have been implicated in prisoner abuse. But that has not stopped him.

Last week, he said, he lectured at the American University in Beirut, on Monday he drove to Damascus to talk to students and officials, and in a few weeks he heads to Libya for more of the same.

New American Century? Thousand Year Reich? Same B.S., Different Century

Some words from Kurt Nimmo:
Karl Rove, the Donald Segretti understudy of dirty tricks and political sabotage, told the gathered at a Republican fundraiser at Bowling Green State University the administration will not pull American troops out of Iraq until victory is won, the Associated Press reports. It should be obvious the United States will never achieve “victory” in Iraq and the situation grows more dismal with each passing day, but the neocons and their operatives create their own reality and we are here to follow along. Rove is not simply preaching to the faithful in Ohio, and his avowal of “victory” in Iraq is basically a rhetorical device. Karl Rove is telling us what the neocons have in mind—a generational conflict, a Thirty Years’ War, perpetual war for perpetual death merchant profit. Bush’s neocons, followers of the fascist Strauss and Schmitt ideology, fully intend to not only reshape the Middle East, but American society as well.

In the perfect neocon world, the American people are completely militarized, indoctrinated, and have the “stomach” (as Robert Kagan deems it) to engage in endless, open-ended war against dehumanized others, a faceless horde of evil-doers. In order to get an idea of how this works, go out and rent Starship Troopers, a film that portrays a fascistic and militaristic future where society is obsessed with battling giant alien bugs. In the current context, Muslims are alien bugs. According to the neocon script, it is kill or be killed—or end up converted to an alien bug religion at the point of a sword or muzzle of a Kalashnikov.

[...]

In his book “Defying Hitler,” the German author Sebastian Haffner writes that the political situation in Germany in the 1930s was “deliberately arranged so that the individual had no room to maneuver,” one had to agree with Nazi propaganda and doctrine, remain silent (or face violence), or flee the country. In America, circa 2006, at best most Americans are sheepishly ambivalent or have, as Haffner wrote about Germany during the reign of the Nazis, “yielded and capitulated” to the dictates of the neocon Jacobins as they maneuver the nation toward a police state, a requisite domestic enforcement component of the forever war against stereotypical Muslim alien bugs.

In Ohio, Rove told us those who remain in the largely useless Democratic party and oppose the police state and its mechanisms will be exposed and roundly defeated in the coming mid-term elections. “Rove says a key issue in this year’s midterm elections will be campaigning against Democrats who voted against the Patriot Act,” reports the Associated Press. In essence, this will be an exercise in neocon propaganda, sending a strong message to the American people—resistance, the Borgs droned, is futile—because “elections” in America are nothing of the sort, especially in Ohio (no Republican has won the presidency without carrying the state, or stealing it by way of Diebold voting machine).


The Bu$hCo talking points: war, fear, terror. Despots are rarely popular, and Bu$hCo is - if nothing else - strikingly unpopular. But despots don't need public good will: just a good stiff dose of coercion, and as much control over the legal means of power and mass media as possible to rig the system and to drown out the dissidents.

The dirty little secret that these folks don't want you to know? Their power ultimately depends on your consent. While this pack of jackals is indeed vicious and increasingly feeling cornered, it's worth keeping in mind that they've used up their street cred - they're only legit if you agree to make them legit.

These are bleak times that we live in, but it's the realization that even the most vicious of predators has a weak spot that's exposed in plain daylight that keeps my hopes alive.

While Iraq Burns, Bu$hCo Sets the Stage for the Next Disaster

The violence continues in Iraq. That's hardly news these days. Most sane folks would have told you that invading Iraq would have tragic consequences for all involved. Those of us who were against that war back in 2002 and early 2003 when Bu$hCo was piling it on high and deep about the alleged "threat" posed by Baghdad have been largely vindicated (although that bit of cold comfort his highly unsatisfactory given the sheer scale of death and destruction that resulted).

Well, it's deja vu all over again, as the great Yogi Berra would say. This time the target is Iran, according to Monday's WaPo:
As the dispute over its nuclear program arrives at the U.N. Security Council today, Iran has vaulted to the front of the U.S. national security agenda amid Bush administration plans for a sustained campaign against the ayatollahs of Tehran.

President Bush and his team have been huddling in closed-door meetings on Iran, summoning scholars for advice, investing in opposition activities, creating an Iran office in Washington and opening listening posts abroad dedicated to the efforts against Tehran.

The internal administration debate that raged in the first term between those who advocated more engagement with Iran and those who preferred more confrontation appears in the second term to be largely settled in favor of the latter. Although administration officials do not use the term "regime change" in public, that in effect is the goal they outline as they aim to build resistance to the theocracy.

"We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Senate testimony last week. "We do not have a problem with the Iranian people. We want the Iranian people to be free. Our problem is with the Iranian regime."

In private meetings, Bush and his advisers have been more explicit. Members of the Hoover Institution's board of overseers who met with Bush, Vice President Cheney and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley two weeks ago emerged with the impression that the administration has shifted to a more robust policy aimed at the Iranian government.

"The message that we received is that they are in favor of separating the Iranian people from the regime," said Esmail Amid-Hozour, an Iranian American businessman who serves on the Hoover board.

"The upper hand is with those who are pushing regime change rather than those who are advocating more diplomacy," said Richard N. Haass, who as State Department policy planning director in Bush's first term was among those pushing for engagement.


By "regime change" Bu$hCo means screwing with the Iranian people once again (been there done that in the early 1950s when a CIA operation led to the installation of the Shah), and "freedom" means that Bu$hCo wishes to free Iran from the burden of controlling its natural resources, such as oil.

With what army will Bu$hCo carry out its plan this time? God knows. But I can tell you that by whatever means that "regime change" is pursued, the consequences will once again be tragic - with the tragedy magnified considerably this time around. Bet on it.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Quotable: Russ Feingold

"What I'm interested in is my colleagues acknowledging that we as a Congress have to stand up to a president who acts as if the Bill of Rights and the Constitution were repealed on September 11," he said. "We didn't enact martial law on September 11. We still have a constitutional form of government, and if the Congress of the United States does not stand up for that authority at this point, it will be an historic failure of our system of government."

Nerdified Link
That quote was part of appearance today on one of the Sunday morning talkshows, where he argued that Congress needs to censure Bush. Feingold is one of the few Democrats in either the Senate or the House who has consistently acted like an opposition party member. And while Frist whines about Feingold's remarks sending the "wrong message" to the world, I'd offer that Feingold is sending the right message: that there are still plenty of sane Americans who do not approve of what this government is doing.

Fooling the no-fly list:

Apparently it's not that hard to do:
As a frequent flyer, I hesitate to write this article, but as an auditor of security and information systems, it’s the right thing to do. If you’ve ever wondered whether airport security has improved since 9/11, let me set you straight: It has not. There is a gaping hole in airport security, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has done nothing despite being alerted to this vulnerability more than 11 months ago.

[...]

The fifth is to print your own boarding pass using your computer, and it’s amazingly simple to doctor the name, date, time, flight number and even the airline name and logo. The modification process is sometimes as simple as using an html editor or even Microsoft Word.

How can this be? Because, at most airports, TSA personnel do nothing more than visually review the boarding pass. It is not checked against airline records by scanning the barcode until boarding. Moreover, there are no standards for boarding passes—each airline has a different format. Can you actually get on an airplane using this approach? Probably not, but you can certainly make it past the security screening checkpoints.

[...]

If no luggage is checked, you can print a boarding pass, go to the airport and queue to begin the security screening process. There’s no need to talk with any airline staff at all. So when the airline screener inspects the document, he is simply comparing the boarding pass and your photo ID. As long as everything looks authentic, he will highlight or initial the boarding pass. A bonus of printing your own pass is that you avoid the airline printing the dreaded SSSS symbol on your pass, marking you for extra security screening.

Of course, the final question is, "Will a counterfeit boarding pass actually get past security?" The answer is: Yes. Printed, a modified boarding pass can pass security checkpoints easily. Security personnel look at the documents but have no system to check their veracity. The name on the pass can be matched to the government-issued photo ID. The date, time, airport from and perhaps gate can be evaluated. But the pass itself cannot be guaranteed to be authentic because the printing process is not controlled.

Print your own boarding pass can be combined with credit card fraud to subvert the "no-fly list". Senator Charles Schumer of New York laid out this scenario in a letter dated February 11, 2005, to TSA officials.

1. Joe Terrorist (whose name is on the no-fly list) buys a ticket online in the name of Joe Smith using a stolen credit card. Joe Smith is not listed on the terrorist watch list.

2. Joe Terrorist then prints his "Joe Smith" boarding pass at home, and then electronically alters it to create a second almost identical boarding pass under the name Joe Terrorist, his name.

3. Joe Terrorist then goes to the airport and goes through security with his real ID and the FAKE boarding pass. The name and face match his real driver’s license. The airport employee matches the name and face to the real ID.

4. The TSA guard at the magnetometer checks to make sure that the boarding pass looks legitimate as Joe Terrorist goes through. He or she does not scan it into the system, so there is still no hint that the name on the fake boarding pass is not the same as the name on the reservation.

5. Joe Terrorist then goes through the gate into his plane using the real Joe Smith boarding pass for the gate’s computer scanner. He is not asked for ID again to match the name on the scanner, so the fact that he does not have an ID with that name does not matter. (Since Joe Smith doesn’t actually exist it does not coincide with a name on the terrorist watch list) Joe Terrorist boards the plane, no questions asked.

So why has nothing been done to close this loophole? The root cause is probably harder to determine than the solution. It could be an aversion by both airlines and government to annoy travelers further with longer queues, especially since several airlines are experiencing financial difficulties. Perhaps neither the airlines nor the TSA want to make the hole more obvious (if that is possible) by acknowledging it.

Nerdified Link
I'm among those skeptics who's argued for a while that measures such as the "no-fly lists", the color-coded "terror alerts", and so on have precious little to do with actual security and more with creating a climate of fear in order to keep the "great unwashed masses" (which is how the ruling elites view the rest of us) in submissive. Americans have been increasingly willing to exchange their liberty for the promise of "security." Looks like old Ben Franklin was right: ya get neither.