Tuesday, June 27, 2006

GOP: Symbolism over Substance

The GOP in the Senate are once again demonstrating that they care more about symbols of rights than they do rights themselves. They have once again proposed a constitutional amendment to ban burning of the flag. This after a dramatic 33% rise in flag desecration incidents in the past year. In 2004 there were 3 incidents, but in 2005 that number sharply rose to 4! It is unclear if this figure includes any poor, who cannot afford heating oil, burning it for warmth this winter.

Ever astute, GOP Senator Arlen Specter opened the debate with these words; "I think of the flag as a symbol of what veterans fought for, what they sustained wounds for, what they sustained loss of limbs for and what they sustained loss of life for." Well, DUH! It is the symbol of our country, and they fought for our country, so that is pretty obvious.

This leaves us to ask, how many American veterans died for a symbol? How many laid down their life because they believed that a symbol was all important? I imagine they would be few. I think most who laid down their lives believe that they did it for freedom, not for a symbol of freedom.

It is disgraceful for the the GOP to dishonor the sacrifice these brave men and women have made. Now they are taking those freedoms that these soldiers died for, gutting them, and claiming that they are doing it in the name of patriotism. If the GOP has their way the only thing our brave soldiers will have died for is a piece of cloth. These men need to be removed from office before they turn the Constitution into just a piece of paper!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Relevant Privacy Case

The President's assertion that domestic spying is allowed under the constitution for "National Security" reasons should never even make it to the Supreme Court. Why? It has already been there, and he lost.

On Sept 30, 1968 a bomb went off outside of CIA headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Three leaders of the radical "White Panthers" organization were charged. During the trial, it came out that the government had been warrentlessly listening to conversations involving radical groups. This is very relevant today, as it deals with the 4th Amendment, national security, and domestic terrorism.

Here is what government archives have to say about the case:

On January 25, 1971, United States District
Court Judge Damon J. Keith issued an opinion in
what later became known as the "Keith Case."
The opinion rejected Attorney General John N.
Mitchell's assertion that the Executive Branch had
the inherent right to conduct warrantless electronic
surveillance on domestic groups that posed a
threat to national security. The decision achieved
landmark status when the United States Supreme
Court unanimously affirmed the decision on
June 19, 1972.


The Keith Case stands today, as it has for over
30 years, as a beacon to the judiciary to vigilantly
guard against attempts by the Executive Branch
to secure an "uninvited ear" to the private
conversations of citizens, especially when those
attempts are premised on an opaque assertion of
national security. The opinion honors the heritage
of the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Michigan and the independence of
the Federal Judiciary.

Needless to say, the Nixon administration appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court unanimously agreed to uphold the Keith ruling. It doesn't only address "probable cause" but also what is considered "reasonable". The case in question is 407 U.S. 297, and here are some excerpts from their opinions:

"History abundantly documents the tendency of Government - however benevolent and benign its motives - to view with suspicion those who most fervently dispute its policies. Fourth Amendment protections become the more necessary when the targets of official surveillance may be those suspected of unorthodoxy in their political beliefs. The danger to political dissent is acute where the Government attempts to act under so vague a concept as the power to protect "domestic security." Given the difficulty of defining the domestic security interest, the danger of abuse in acting to protect that interest becomes apparent. "

"It may well be that, in the instant case, the Government's surveillance of Plamondon's conversations was a reasonable one which readily would have gained prior judicial approval. But this Court "has never sustained a search upon the sole ground that officers reasonably expected to find evidence of a particular crime and voluntarily confined their activities to the least intrusive means consistent with that end." Katz, supra, at 356-357. The Fourth Amendment contemplates a prior judicial judgment, 18 not the risk that executive discretion may be reasonably exercised. This judicial role accords with our basic constitutional doctrine that individual freedoms will best be preserved through a separation of powers and division of functions among the different branches and levels of Government. "

"But those charged with this investigative and prosecutorial duty should not be the sole judges of when to utilize constitutionally sensitive means in pursuing their tasks. The historical judgment, which the Fourth Amendment accepts, is that unreviewed executive discretion may yield too readily to pressures to obtain incriminating evidence and overlook potential invasions of privacy and protected speech."

"In cases in which the Fourth Amendment requires that a warrant to search be obtained, `probable cause' is the standard by which a particular decision to search is tested against the constitutional mandate of reasonableness. . . . In determining whether a particular inspection is reasonable - and thus in determining whether there is probable cause to issue a warrant for that inspection - the need for the inspection must be weighed in terms of these reasonable goals of code enforcement."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Republicans Want To Lose?

As Bush is trying to set records for the lowest poll numbers, he has actually pushed things to the point that 1 in 3 Republicans want the GOP to lose control of Congress. Reported by conservative commentator Joe Scarboro, 45% of conservatives disaprove of Bush, 65% of conservatives disapprove of the GOP controlled congress, and yes, 1/3 want to lose congress.

Another Violation

The seperation of powers outlined in our constitution has been under attack by the Bush administration for years now. From them deciding to take it upon themselves to interpurt the laws (the role of the Judicial branch) to deciding what laws they will follow (the role of the Legislative branch). In fact, they only seem to be lacking in the area of EXECUTING THE LAW, which is the traditional role of the Executive branch.

This weekend, for the first time in our nations history, the FBI conducted a raid on the office of a sitting congressman. I might point out, a Democratic congressman. This is in response to alligations that Rep Jefferson (LA) accepted a bribe of $100,000 from a FBI informant. It is important to note that during the recent scandal of Rep Randy "Duke" Cunningham (CA), a Republican who recently pled guilty to taking millions of dollars in bribes in what has been called the biggest corruption scandle in our country's history, there was no need of such a violation.

In the past, when the Justice Department wanted documents from a congressman, they would subpena for them. It is not like we haven't been able to investigate corruption for the last 219 years because the DOJ's hands have been tied. They have successfully prosecuted members of congress on numerous occassions. In fact, in this particualr case, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) had called for an ethics comittee investigation of Jefferson. Yes, that is right! A Democrat called for an investigation of another Democrat. Lets just try to compare that to the way Republicans acted with corruption allegations against Delay.

Freedom of the Press is Dead

This weekend the Washington Post reported that journalists may be prosecuted for printing classified information. Now this isn't just the type of information you would think would be off limits: troop strengths, secret weapons, the names of CIA operatives. This is also things like revealing wrong doing by the Administration.

That's right! The NY Times journalists could be prosecuted for telling you that the NSA is listening to domestic calls without warrants! The problem comes from the idea the administration has that keeping Republicans in power is a matter of national security. We know that getting them out of power is really the matter of national security.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Administration Refuses to Cooperate in Investigation

The Justice Department has announced a frustrated end to the inquiry about the presidents domestic spying program. CNN has reported that the NSA simply refuses to give the investigators clearence for the requested information.

You Must Be Crazy If You Don't Like Bush!

Clevelad Independent Media has reported that Judge Timothy McGinty has sent an activest to a prison psych ward, stating that her opposition to Bush makes her "delusional". Read this article then call him ( 216-443-8758) and voice your opinion.

HUD Warns Dissenters

HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson has stated that you cannot expect a HUD contract if you don't support Bush. The Dallas Business Journal broke the story, an excerpt of which is reprinted here:

"He (a perspective advertising contrator) had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years," Jackson said of the prospective contractor. "He made a heck of a proposal and was on the (General Services Administration) list, so we selected him. He came to see me and thank me for selecting him. Then he said something ... he said, 'I have a problem with your president.'
"I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'I don't like President Bush.' I thought to myself, 'Brother, you have a disconnect -- the president is elected, I was selected. You wouldn't be getting the contract unless I was sitting here. If you have a problem with the president, don't tell the secretary.'
"He didn't get the contract," Jackson continued. "Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe."

Clearly Illegal Domestic Spying

USA Today reports that the NSA is gathering a database of ALL PHONE CALLS MADE WITHIN THE COUNTRY. Since shortly after 9/11 AT&T, Verizon and Bell South have been turning over records of TENS OF MILLIONS OF CUSTOMERS PHONE RECORDS. What has been revealed doesn't actually include listening to the calls, but it track who speaks to who, both business and private calls.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"The Salvador Option"

Is the US currently using death squads in Iraq? Known as the "Salvador Option" for the use of US backed death squads in El Salvador during the 80's, have we implemented this same tactic in Iraq? Considering that in a BBC interview the Interior Minister, Bayan Jabr, points to the Facilities Protection Service as being involved, it is hard to say "no" with any real conviction. The FPS was set up by the Coalition Provisional Authority shortly after the fall of Baghdad. It consists mainly of "private security contractors" (aka mercenaries) and operates outside of all laws (see Bush Video).

Related Links:



Monday, May 08, 2006

Nominated CIA Chief a RIOT!!!

Bush has nominated General Michael Hayden as the new CIA director. What do I know about him? Not much. I can tell you that the one thing I have seen him do made me laugh so hard I fell off my seat. He was holding a press conference defending the NSA Domestic Spying that was authorized by Bush. You'll have to scroll to the bottom to read the good bit. At the end of the interview this exchange occurred:

JONATHAN LANDAY: Jonathan Landay with Knight Ridder. I'd like to stay on the same issue. And that has to do with the standard by which you use to target your wiretaps. I'm no lawyer, but my understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American's right against unlawful searches and seizures.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Actually, the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure. That's what it says.

JONATHAN LANDAY: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

JONATHAN LANDAY: But does it not say probable --


JONATHAN LANDAY: The court standard, the legal standard --

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

JONATHAN LANDAY: The legal standard is probable cause, General. You used the terms just a few minutes ago, “We reasonably believe.” And a FISA court, my understanding is, would not give you a warrant if you went before them and say “We reasonably believe.” You have to go to the FISA court or the Attorney General has to go to the FISA court and say, “We have probable cause.” And so what many people believe, and I would like you to respond to this, is that what you have actually done is crafted a detour around the FISA court by creating a new standard of “reasonably believe” in place of “probable cause,” because the FISA court will not give you a warrant based on reasonable belief. You have to show a probable cause. Can you respond to that, please?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Sure. I didn't craft the authorization. I am responding to a lawful order, alright? The Attorney General has averred to the lawfulness of the order. Just to be very clear, okay -- and believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees at the National Security Agency is familiar with, it's the fourth, alright? And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment. So, what you've raised to me -- and I'm not a lawyer and don't want to become one -- but what you’ve raised to me is, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is reasonable. And we believe -- I am convinced that we're lawful because what it is we're doing is reasonable.

That's right! Either he doesn't consider having your phone conversations monitored in this country to be "unreasonable" or he hasn't read the constitution. Either way, he is unfit to be the head of the CIA. When specifically asked if the 4th Amendment said "probable cause" he cut the person off and said "No".

Here is what the 4th Amendment actually says:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. "

It is just another Republican who believes (and unfortunately rightfully so) that if you can get the media to report something, that makes it true. Their insistance that Iraq had WMD's is an example, as is their insistance that saddam and 9/11 were tied in the run up to the Iraq war, and then their denial that they ever said that after it was proven false. You can see it every day on Fox News. The whitehouse says something, and the reporters never verify anything. They just repeat it, like an echo. The truth doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is what you can get the public to believe.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Weakness of the Neo-cons

September 11, 2001 was a terrible day. The US was dealt it's most serious blow ever. It was more serious than Pearl Harbor, it was more serious than the Civil War, it was more serious than the great depression, the Cold War or any other hardship this nation has gone through. We were hit at the wrong time, when we had weakness in our government, and as such have lost our identity.

The FISA act was not written in more innocent times. In fact it is just the opposite. We didn't fear people flying a plane into a building, we feared nuclear missiles dropping from the sky. As bad as 9/11 was, facing another attack like that is nothing compared to full scale nuclear war. We were stronger as a people then. We were able to stand up and say "We are going to stick to our principles."

We once had a madman with an arsenal of WMD's to rival our own stand before the UN General Assembly and tell us "We will bury you." Yet we had a strength of character in the White House, and we stuck to our principles. Because of that persistence, we won the cold war.

Today we have the Patriot Act, illegal NSA wiretapping, the suspension of habeas corpus as well as a host of other civil liberties issues. We have a government that relies on "secret evidence", confessions taken under extreme duress and ghost detainees. Because we have abandoned our principles, we have already lost the War on Terror.