Archive for the ‘Security’ Category

The House That Wouldn’t Bend Over

Friday, March 14th, 2008

You Go Democrats! For the next two weeks at least, America’s telecom executives will be just as accountable to the law as the other 300 million of us. What a concept! Why should a few VIPs have a law that specifically prevents them from ever being sued? I don’t know anybody who has that kind of permanent protective cocoon wrapped around them. Do you? We’re a nation of laws; well, for two more weeks anyway.

It didn’t exactly take an act of blind courage for Congress to stand up to a cerebrally-challenged alcoholic president with single-digit approval ratings. But still, with all the bending and gyrating this Congress has been doing, it’s a huge relief that, for one fleeting moment, they actually stood up and said “No!”

Savor the moment. There’s no doubt, our petulant child king will be bringing this subject back for another vote, and another vote, again and again and again until he gets his way. You can’t say “No” to a scion of the Bush Crime Family. It’s just not done.

I forget where I read this, but somebody was making an excellent point: there’s something huge going on behind the scenes that’s making these Conservatards keep pushing and pushing and pushing and grandstanding and pleading and shouting for retroactive telecom immunity. Our bribery system doesn’t usually work like this. Generally, a congressperson gets a bribe from a certain industry, and he/she is instructed to vote accordingly. And that’s all.

Getting bribed isn’t supposed to require months and months of pleading and threatening and foaming at the mouth every time a TV camera appears. WTF is going on here? Probably a lot more than we’ll ever know.

This other story is sort of along those same lines — government secrecy, things we’re not supposed to know, etc. The Pentagon has completed a study which shows there was no connection whatsoever between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Uh, that was one of our main reasons for invading Iraq five years ago (along with those non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction). For a full year before the invasion we heard nothing but “Saddam al Qaeda Hussein bin Laden 9/11 Iraq Saddam bin Laden Iraq al Qaeda…”

And now that there’s a Pentagon report showing that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and the Reichstag Fire September 11th attacks, we the lowly peons — whose tax dollars paid for this invasion — are not entitled to know about it. The Pentagon has been instructed not to release this report, and the report is not available online.

Move along. Nothing to see here.

The Biggest Fascist Paramilitary You Never Heard Of

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Ever heard of Infragard? Well, I hadn’t, until I opened the March 2008 issue of The Progressive. We should have, though, should have heard a lot about it.

Infragard consists of 23,000 private industry officials, organized into 86 chapters overseen by the FBI, who act as intelligence sources for the Bureau and the Homeland Security Department, in exchange for getting “near-daily updates” on terrorist threats before the rest of us and, as The Progressive learned, sometimes before elected officials. According to its website, www.infragard.net, “350 of our nation’s Fortune 500 have a representative in Infragard,” and an Infragard executive reports that “Infragard members have contributed to about 100 FBI cases.”

Here’s what may be the best part: according to Matthew Rothschild, author of the Progressive article, “One executive, who showed me his Infragard card, told me they have permission to ‘shoot to kill’ in the event of martial law.”

The second-best part: because these people are in the private sector rather than government, the administration uses the trade secret exemption to bar the release of information about the Infragard program under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Now, there’s nothing wrong, and a lot that’s right, with either individual citizens or businesses giving information on crimes and terrorism to the police and other elements of the government. But that process should be transparent (allowing, of course, for anonymity for witness protection).

But this is different. With Infragard we have big corporations deputized as something like an old west posse, but those corporations have access to lots of information about the rest of us ordinary schmoes that is not supposed to be in the public domain. There’s a good chance that includes the people who hold our mortgage, car, and credit card loans if we have them, manage our health insurance, and sell us books, videos, plane tickets, recreational activities, and just about everything else.

And the sheriff has a recent history of going on illegal fishing expeditions through the private affairs of regular citizens not because they’re suspected of anything in particular, but just because you never know what us untrustworthy citizens might be up to – especially if we belong to groups that express disagreement with BushCo’s behavior, like the Quakers, or the ACLU, or a lot of the writers at this and other progressive blogs.

Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” That quote is usually attributed to Benito Mussolini; he never really said that, but it does seem to sum up the essence of fascism as practiced in a number of countries, and it seems to be a pretty close description of Infragard.

And don’t think we’ll automatically be able to breathe a big sigh of relief if a Democratic administration takes office 327 days from now – the executive branch, and its functionaries, seem to like to accrue power and hate to give it up, regardless of party. After all, they know that they can trust themselves to use it only for reasons that meet with their own approval. This administration has indeed been cruder and more aggressive about it than most, but both parties have overseen way too many witch hunts. It’s the corruption of power, not of any particular party or left-wing or right-wing orientation. In fact, Infragard was started under the Clinton administration, although it has expanded quite a bit under Bush.

So next time there’s a big terrorist attack in the U.S., or another major natural disaster like Katrina, don’t be too surprised if you see Wal-Mart and Bank of America managers, along with Blackwater’s boys, rolling down your street packing iron. After all, if that’s what it takes to keep Osama from taking away our civil liberties…

The Terrorists Have Won!

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

Those F&%^$#!%$# Democrats If they hate America so much, why don’t they just leave???

We had such a nice cozy arrangement between the federal government and the telecommunications industry. The telecom companies were enabling our intelligence agencies to spy on Americans — anybody, any time they felt like it. And in return, we promised the telecom companies they wouldn’t be sued over civil liberties or the Bill of Rights or whatever it is those whiny liberals are always wailing about.

And now, the House of Representatives has shown us — once again — whose side they’re on. They’ve allowed the Protect America Act to expire. The telecom companies are no longer immune from lawsuits triggered by their spying activities. And because of this, they might be less willing to help the government spy on American citizens.

The spoiled drug-addled fratboy President of the United States has been begging, pleading and stamping his foot, trying to get Congress to provide retroactive immunity for the telecom companies so they can’t get sued by every whiner that comes along. These Congressional Democrats had better hurry up and bend over for Dumbya — and you know they will; they always do — before the terrorists attack.

If the telecom industry doesn’t have retroactive immunity from lawsuits, what dire circumstances can we expect? Well, for openers:

This means Osama bin Laden and Hillary Clinton can talk on the phone with no fear whatsoever. There’ll be nothing to deter them. They can talk about their plan to bring America to her knees, and we won’t even know about it until it’s too late. That smoking gun will turn out to be a giant mushroom cloud!

Barack Obama is probably sending a triumphant e-mail right now to Vladimir Putin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (with a copy to Hugo Chavez). “Yes!!! It worked. Those stool pigeons in Congress fell for our propaganda, hook line and sinker. Now we can hatch our evil plans and get all of our codes and signals worked out. And then — BWAAAHAAHAAHAAHAA!!!!! Praise Allah!”

The World Has Changed Forever

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

On September 12, 2001, George Bush stood atop a pile of rubble in New York and announced the world had changed forever. For the most part, it’s changed in ways few foresaw and without many rational, presumptive changes ever quite taking root, but it has changed, just as he promised.

For most of us, the biggest change has been in how little Dear LeaderTM cares for the individual freedoms he swore to defend and protect. For others - most notably families that lost someone that day - the world changed in a more fundamental and visceral way. Now, these seemingly different types of loss have converged.

El Jefe and the congress are once again at loggerheads over FISA laws. Since Day 1, the flaccid republican and democratic congresses have repeatedly given in to the President’s whims and then some. Congress has proposed a measly 15 day delay in considering a FISA renewal, but the Defender of His FateTM has threatened a veto. And as usually happens when he doesn’t get his way, he launched another fear bomb to justify it, “Terrorists are planning new attacks on our country … that will make Sept. 11 pale by comparison.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The Prez Who Cried Wolf
This terrorist threat is identical to dozens of other admonitions. Under that blanket excuse, he’s rolled back just about every civil liberty we once enjoyed, while the final word has never been validated by the courts. He admits he’s spied on US citizens in an apparent contravention of the Constitution. However, instead of an apology he simply demands more power, like Congress giving telecom companies protection from prosecution if they broke the law (which they already have).

His justification?

“If these companies are subjected to lawsuits that could cost them billions of dollars, they won’t participate. They won’t help us. They won’t help protect America.

Loyalty, At a Price
In other words, we must pay multinational phone companies to retain their loyalty, rather than being the upstanding, selfless citizens we expect ourselves to be. That sounds a lot like buying off an Afghan warlord to be our BFF (and likely with similar results). It’s the type of behavior we’ve come to expect from the administration and is directly linked to the dubious premise that prisoners can be held without trial and without adequate legal representation. That’s hardly a fairness exemplar for “emerging democracies” like Iraq.

As some of the Guantanamo “disappeared” start preparing for trial, it’s obvious that “trials” in Bushspeak mean something very different than what most of us expect under the law. In Dubya’s steely legal mind, “trial” means take away anything good for the defendant and allow the prosecution to do anything they damn well please. This seems curious behavior for an administration that claims to have mountains of evidence condemning the detainees, yet can’t allow the defense to see any of it, even under strict secrecy provisions. It suggests the World’s Sole Remaining SuperpowerTM” might have some intelligence that doesn’t stand up in a legitimate court of law - which brings us to the families victimized by September 11.

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Bush tries to push through Justice Dept appointment..Senate says not so fast frat boy.

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

From AP via TruthOut:

A nine-second session gaveled in and out by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., prevented Bush from appointing as an assistant attorney general a nominee roundly rejected by majority Democrats. Without the pro forma session, the Senate would be technically adjourned, allowing the president to install officials without Senate confirmation.

The business of blocking Bush’s recess appointments was serious. It represents an institutional standoff between Congress and the president that could repeat itself during Congress’ vacations for the remainder of Bush’s presidency.

Way to go Webb! Warms the cockles of my little black heart don’t you know? The individual in question is Steven Bradbury, acting chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Counsel. Bush nominated Bradbury for the job and asked the Senate to remove the “acting” in his title. Seems Bradbury signed two secret memo’s in 2005 that allowed the CIA to use “harsh interrogation techniques” on those damn terrorists.

Another interesting part of this cat and mouse game is that a bill sent to a president automatically becomes law 10 days after he receives it, excluding Sundays of course, unless he vetoes it:

That could be the fate of two bills Congress passed last week. One growing out of the Virginia Tech massacre makes it harder for people with mental illness records to buy guns. The other makes it easier for journalists and others to obtain government documents through the Freedom of Information Act. The FOIA bill, for example, would become law on New Year’s Eve if not vetoed before then, according to Senate Judiciary Committee officials.

The gun bill is H.R. 2640. The Freedom of Information Act bill is S. 2488.

Father Knows Best

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

AT&T Wiretapping Your WorldFinally, a Democrat grew a pair. Instead of Harry Reid, the cajoneless wonder, Chris Dodd stepped up and threatened a filibuster over retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies spying on behalf of the government. The Knight of Shining Hair didn’t put the vote off forever, but he did delay action until after the first of the year, leaving enough time to win a few more rational senators over. But more importantly, he highlighted just how meek and timid the current crop of Reidsters really are. Harry doesn’t just look like the kid who got has ass kicked every day in gym glass, he put the “kick me” sign on himself and dared bully George to kick him. And as bullies are wont to do, George routinely kicks his empty crotch with relish at every opportunity.

Many will claim Chris’s backbone grew as he grasped at straws to keep his woe-begotten Presidential campaign going. My response is “big frickin’ deal”. The man took the right stand and it doesn’t matter to me if it was for all the wrong reasons or not. We are no longer standing on a slippery slope when it comes to eroding our once-sacrosanct civil liberties. We’re sliding hell-bent for leather down the world’s longest mud slide directly toward a brick wall a million times worse than anything America’s Evilest Home Videos has to offer. Someone has to put the brakes on, and strangely, mild-mannered Chris turned out to be the man.

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Death Penalty Put to Death in Jersey

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Calling hours are two to four PM and six to nine at the State Penitentiary on Saturday. Burial will be private at the Governors request. In lieu of flowers please send donations to the New Jersey Democrat Party.

Never having been a big fan of the death penalty I don’t think that I will attend the memorial service. In some respects it is a relief that New Jersey has abolished the death penalty. There are far to many chances that the wrong person can be put to death even with overwhelming evidence. One innocent prisoner executed is one to many. In the past I have had strong emotions regarding putting to death someone that has brutally harmed and killed a child, or killed anyone in a police uniform capacity. In hindsight I have seen that two wrongs will never make it right for the families left behind.

With the latest technology and DNA testing there have been far to many near misses when it comes to throwing the switch or injecting the lethal dose to end a convicted but innocent persons life. Over at MSNBC they have this to say about Jersey’s decision to end the death penalty…

N.J. Legislature votes to abolish death penalty
State is first to legislatively outlaw capital punishment
MSNBC News ServicesTRENTON, N.J. - New Jersey Thursday became the first U.S. state to legislatively abolish the death penalty since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.
Lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled state Assembly voted 44-36 in favor of a bill to scrap the death penalty and substitute it with life in prison without the possibility of parole for those found guilty of the most serious crimes.

The vote follows approval by the state Senate on Monday, leaving as the last step the signature of Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, an opponent of capital punishment.

Snip a Noose…

A special state commission found in January that the death penalty was a more expensive sentence than life in prison, hasn’t deterred murder and risks killing an innocent person.
“It’s time New Jersey got out of the execution business,” Democratic Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo said. “Capital punishment is costly, discriminatory, immoral and barbaric. We’re a better state than one that puts people to death.”

Among the death row inmates who would be spared is Jesse Timmendequas, a sex offender convicted of murdering 7-year-old Megan Kanka in 1994. That case sparked a Megan’s Law, which requires law enforcement agencies to notify the public about convicted sex offenders living in their communities. -MSNBC

If someone was found guilty with overwhelming evidence of harming one of my kids or God forbid killing one of them, I’m sure that my opinion as a father might be swayed momentarily as pro death penalty. For that matter I might even want to find my own vengeance and perform the task myself. In the long run I would prefer that the guilty serve hard time with a lifetime of thought on why they are serving that time. Always in the back of their mind why they are in prison. Not just sitting in some cell with cable television and a radio to be entertained with. That is no different than living in a hotel in a bad neighborhood. I’m sure the hotel room is cheaper by the day though.

Maybe the solution to the problem of crime in this nation is to stop building these glorified Club Med for gang members and start making crime a real punishable offense. Whatever happened to hard labor and taking ten ton boulders and making beach sand out of them? We don’t do that anymore because that is supposedly inhumane but isn’t that the reason why the prisoners are behind bars in the first place? What we need to do is stop baby sitting these animals of society that have been irrefutability convicted and make doing time for the crime a real sentence.

Might it be possible to build a national prison system where the scum of the earth that have killed children, police officers and IRS agents that cheated on their taxes serve time in a prison with the sole mission of breaking down the Rocky Mountains and moving the beach sand to the Grand Canyon as fill? How about instead of drilling for oil in Alaska we have them dig for oil and all the oil goes to the poor in America? Then again we run the risk of them tunneling to true freedom in China so that idea may not work out after all.

Until we as a society make the alternative of any crime committed against the innocent a real deterrent then gross negligent crime will continue. Till then we have the revolving door of the gang members equivalent of the Super 8. They get a roof over their head, clothing, three meals a day and all the free time in the world to plot out survival and retribution against the man.

Killing them is far to easy. Lethal injection is the most widely used option for the death sentence and falling asleep as if getting a tooth pulled and never waking up is just not punishment enough for my liking. Then again, the electric chair or the gas chamber is just brutality up there with the worse forms of torture. I’d prefer a life long sentence of hard realistic labor.

If I were a family member of someone murdered for any reason I simply would want to know that the guilty persons life is equal to the pain I would have in my heart for the rest of my life. The death penalty is a tough issue and both sides have legitimate logic behind the thought process. I’m erring on the side of caution when there is a remote possibility that the death of my innocent loved one is the result of proof proven false years down the road that put another innocent to death. I would not wish that on anyone’s conscience.

Papamoka

Originally posted at Papamoka Straight Talk…

Property Rights vs. Keeping Them Icky Brown People Out

Monday, December 10th, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance is that uneasy feeling you get when you have two deeply-held beliefs that conflict with each other.

Tens of millions of Americans will reflexively yell out “Property Rights!” whenever an endangered species needs to be protected or a business owner has to comply with safety regulations. And a lot of these same people also think illegal immigration is the root of all of America’s problems, and the government needs to do whatever it takes to keep THEM out. Mass searches and deportations, building a huge fence along the U.S.-Mexican border — whatever it takes to keep those slimy ethnic creatures out of our country — do it!

Here comes the cognitive dissonance. This could be a wedge that splits conservatives into two bitterly divided camps.

The Homeland Security Department wants to complete 370 miles of border fencing by the end of 2008. A lot of property owners in Texas and Arizona don’t want this fence running through their property. And Homeland Security is threatening to confiscate the property of any landowner who doesn’t cooperate.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said “vee can do ziss zee easy vay or zee hard vay The door is still open to talk, but it’s not open for endless talk.”

Juan Salinas, the county judge of Hidalgo County, Texas, said: “I tell you, on this one issue, the Farm Bureau, the United Farm Workers, Democrats and Republicans, white, black, brown, everybody is against the border fence. It just doesn’t make sense. We’ve been trying to talk to them about using other ways. It’s a disappointment that, again, the Department of Homeland Security is not listening to local taxpayers.”

Local people are opposed to the fence for cultural, economic and environmental reasons. The Rio Grande is the only source of fresh water for a lot of ranchers and this fence would cut off their access to it. And the local economies depend on cross-border traffic. It doesn’t just flow one way — many Americans do volunteer work south of the border and lots of extended families live on both sides of the border. Twenty years ago we were urging the Soviet Union to tear down the Berlin Wall; now we’re planning to build one.

OK, Righties — which is it? Which side are you on — the KGB Homeland Security Department, or the “property rights” and “local autonomy” that you’re always screaming about? Well???

Watch Out, You Might Be a Homegrown Terrorist!

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

With little to no publicity or debate, the House of Representatives passed a truly scary law on October 23 - H.R. 1955: Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, sponsored by Representative Jane Harman (D-CA).  Please excuse this if everyone else already knows about it, but I hadn’t heard of this until my wife Jan passed on some scary info she heard on the radio and I did some online research.  This Orwellian expansion of the Homeland Security Act passed on a vote of 404 to 6 – Dennis Kucinich voted against it, sustaining my faith in him, and Ron Paul abstained from voting.

Looking at the actual text of this act ( http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h110-1955 ), it sounds benign at first.  The first problem one notices is that it includes some very vague definitions that just beg for abuse based on goofy interpretations.  That may sound paranoid, but we are dealing with an administration and a Homeland Security department that decided a couple of years ago the Quaker congregation of Lake Worth, Florida, were dangerous subversives that need to be spied upon because they committed the dangerous and despicable act of exercising their Constitutional First Amendment rights by protesting military recruitment at high schools.  Yeah, you can just see a bunch of old Quaker ladies having a suicide vest sewing bee, right?

Specifically, this act says that “`homegrown terrorism’ means the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

It goes on to define “the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual’s political, religious, or social beliefs” as “ideologically based violence.”

Considering that we’ve already seen the precedent, as in the case of the Florida Quakers, of treating legal dissent as sedition, this looks like a setup to give the feds another way to crack down on any public opposition to whatever the smirking chimp and his shrinking cabal decide to do next (like starting a war with Iran, for instance).  This may also have what the legal types call a chilling effect on people who would otherwise engage in that kind of public opposition.

Where I live, we’ve already seen this kind of thing.  In March of 2003, Albuquerque had its own police riot in response to a peaceful protest march against the Iraq war.  Cops on foot and on horseback blocked the path of marchers and herded them on a route chosen by the police; when the march got back to its starting point near the University of New Mexico, the ACLU’s report found that “As the crowd returned to the original gathering spot and crossed University and Central, officers struck people with batons and used horses to force stragglers to move more quickly. As protestors crossed Harvard Avenue, police launched tear gas canisters into the crowd. The officers eventually maced protestors and shot them with beanbag and pepper rounds, dispersing the crowd. In one incident, a police officer fired 15 pepper-gun rounds at a protestor who lay in a submissive posture in the street. Other protestors reported being hit with tear gas canisters that were fired into the crowd. Several arrests were made.”

There have been enough similar incidents in other places – law enforcement treating people’s physical presence and participation in a protest as what the new law calls “ideologically based violence” – to make it very reasonable to be worried about this.  It’s for damned sure that the next time there was an antiwar protest, people were deciding whether to participate based partly on the risk of having Albuquerque’s finest beat the crap out of them.

Mike German, the ACLU’s policy counsel, called the bill “wrongheaded” – he finds it spooky because it focuses on ideology and not on criminal activity. It calls for heightened scrutiny – read domestic spying - on people who believe, or might come to believe, in a violent ideology.  The ACLU’s view is that the government should focus on people who actually commit crimes, rather than those who merely think about violent ideas, which is legal.  So how does the government decide who “believes, or might come to believe, in a violent ideology”?  Well, what are the best ways to find out who is likely to engage in opposition to whatever the government is doing?   Law enforcement agencies already tend to monitor protest activities and groups who engage in them, and groups (like us) who see patriotism as something other than blind loyalty to the administration in power and tend to say so loudly and repeatedly.  I’d be shocked if they weren’t also looking at lists of subscribers to The Nation, Mother Jones, and similar fora; and for that matter, there’s considerable similar sentiment voiced in a lot of places traditionally considered right wing, like the editorial and letters sections in gun magazines.  There, too, there’s been some lively debate about the current war, and a lot of suspicion about the government’s patterns of bulldozing people’s Constitutional rights.

The law goes on to state some “findings” – a couple of dangerous ones:

The promotion of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence (eek, Quakers with picket signs!) exists in the United States and poses a threat to homeland security.

The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.  Internet censorship a la China, anyone?

It does go on to state that “Any measure taken to prevent violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence and homegrown terrorism in the United States should not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents.”  Oops, sorry I said anything – we don’t really have a thing to worry about, because our government would never cheat or violate our rights.  It also says that no one should be targeted for scrutiny based on race, religion, and so on, but makes one of the qualifications for membership on the Commission it creates (see next paragraph) expertise on Islam and other world religions (none but Islam specifically identified, but you know those damn Quakers… gotta watch the Buddhists too.)

The law goes on to order the creation of the National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism, basically a combination of (1) a study group to figure out just what’s eating those darn domestic terrorists anyway and what we ought to do about it, and (2) a contracting office to funnel more money to private entities that the administration likes to have them carry out some of the Commission’s functions.  Chip Berlet is a senior policy analyst for Political Research Associates, an independent non-profit research organization that studies political violence, authoritarianism, and homegrown terrorism; he called this part “a slush fund for politically connected people inside the Beltway.”  I’d bet a nickel that Blackwater is getting ready to expand its repertoire of services the same way they did when the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq suddenly created a demand for mercenaries security contractors.  After all, they did jump all over New Orleans after Katrina and pulled down a ton of federal funds for that.

It goes on to order the permanent establishment of a “university-based Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States.”  This will be a think tank to use psychosocial research methods to figure out strategies to control domestic opposition and “contribute to the establishment of training, written materials, information, analytical assistance and professional resources to aid in combating violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism.”

Finally, the law orders the study of methods used in other countries to control “domestic terrorism” with the aim of recommending adoption of new tactics in the U.S.  Doesn’t that just give you a warm fuzzy feeling?

It really does seem that party affiliation is irrelevant, and despite the fact that the 2006 election put Democratic majorities into both chambers of the Congress with the clearest mandate seen in decades, a mandate to get this maniacal executive branch under control and restore the balance of power among the branches of government, the majority of those Democrats will give the Bushies whatever they demand.  It really does seem that both parties are in favor of more intrusive and controlling government.  Maybe the Dems are already thinking about how they can use the expanded power the Bushies have grabbed for the executive branch if the Democratic candidate wins the White House next year.

Speaking for myself, I believe the only appropriate response is to get louder and encourage people not to be intimidated.  The best way to keep our Constitutional rights strong is to exercise the hell out of them and get as many other people as we can to do the same.

Follow The Money: Yes To Tainted Toys; No To Cheaper Meds

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

Time has a way of exposing inconsistencies…and when it does, it often shines a bright light upon previously ignored or hidden hypocrisies. For me, Thursday’s Democratic debate helped crystallize my thoughts on one of those situations.

We’ve all heard plenty about the tainted toys being imported from China…toys which have been recalled due to lead content and other dangerous chemicals harmful to America’s children. As the candidates were debating the merits of our trade agreements, it occurred to me that the response of the Bush administration to the questionable imports warranted further analysis.

Following an exchange on the topic of our existing trade agreements and whether they provide the mechanisms necessary to monitor and penalize the improper acts (like the exportation of dangerous toys) of those nations and companies (often American owned) doing business in those countries, I took particular notice of Senator Biden’s comments.

After a number of the candidates expressed their criticism of the handling of the imported toys as well as NAFTA and CAFTA (the trade agreements typically associated with questionable trade issues), Biden offered the following with regard to the outrage at the lack of response to the toys in question:

From The New York Times:

SEN. BIDEN: Look, it’s not the agreement; it’s the man. Under the WTO, we can shut this down. What are they all talking about here? It’s about a president who won’t enforce the law. (Applause.) When they contaminated chicken, what happened? They cut off all chickens going in from Delaware — a $3 billion industry — into China. They cut it off. We have power under the — this agreement. I don’t know what anybody’s talking about here. Enforce the agreement.

MR. BLITZER: Thank you.

SEN. BIDEN: Shut it down. (Applause.)

As I listened, I recalled another situation which I think even better demonstrates the inconsistencies of the current administration with regard to trade and the safety and protection of the American public…one that exposes a level of hypocrisy that we shouldn’t accept from our government.

Following the passage of President Bush’s Medicare prescription drug benefit in 2003…and in response to the President’s insistence upon a provision to prevent Medicare from negotiating bulk discounts for drugs…there was a push in the Congress to allow the importation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada in order to assist those in need of less expensive drugs. As it was being discussed, the President threatened to veto legislation which would enable Americans to import prescription drugs from Canada. Back then, he stated he would do so because there would be no way for the FDA to insure the safety of the drugs which would be imported.

When the issue resurfaced earlier this year, the President once again promised to veto the proposed legislation; arguing that it would risk the importation of “unsafe, unapproved, and counterfeit drugs”.

In the absence of sufficient comparisons, one might be inclined to believe that the President’s persistent opposition to imported drugs signals his concern for the safety of the American public…and while I’m sure such concerns exist and may well be sincere…they may not be the primary motivation. I contend that the tepid response to the importation of dangerous toys from China provides an important comparison…one that is necessary to identify an inconsistency…and therefore serves to illuminate an obvious hypocrisy.

Here’s the thing. There are millions of elderly and poor Americans lacking sufficient insurance coverage and in need of affordable medications. The fact that our President refuses to allow these individuals to purchase drugs from Canada…drugs that Canadians apparently trust and drugs which no doubt keep Canadians well…speaks to one underlying motive. Isn’t is probable that the President’s opposition to the importation of Canadian medications is first and foremost about protecting the profits of large drug companies who charge Americans premium prices for their medications? Keep in mind this is the same President who also vetoed legislation to extend health care coverage to more of America’s poor children. As I look at these issues in conjunction with the measures to insure the safety of imported toys, I struggle to reconcile the contradictions.

One must question the lack of substantive action on the part of the Bush administration with regard to tainted toys from China…toys that are often manufactured in China by large corporations seeking cheap labor and higher profits. If we’re willing to make the argument that it is prudent to prevent ill Americans from obtaining Canadian medications that are arguably safe and beneficial, then why aren’t we also acting forcefully and preemptively to protect healthy American children and prevent them from obtaining unsafe toys manufactured in China?

I’ll answer my own question. We do so because the Bush administration places more weight upon cozying up to corporate interests and protecting their profits than he does upon looking out for the welfare of American citizens. Should the two concerns intersect, all the better; should they not, then we apparently turn a blind eye to danger.

Toss in the fact that we are constantly being bombarded by the Bush administration’s mantra that they’re fighting the war on terror in Iraq (at a cost of 10 billion per month) in order to protect Americans at home and the breadth and depth of this President’s efforts to distort and deceive suddenly becomes crystal clear. Protecting Americans ought to extend beyond the concerns for the coffers of corporate collaborators and the political aspirations of those who have found that fueling fear wins elections.

If this represents the manner in which the Bush administration intends to execute its responsibilities to protect us and keep us secure, I’m afraid I join many Americans in believing the outcome is woefully inadequate.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater


Fish.Travel