Category Archives: FISA/Wiretapping

Shining Shithole on the Hill

The good thing about being an INFJ is you see patterns in everything all the time but stay quiet and introverted enough that you pack down your suspicions labeled as paranoia. I don’t blog much lately because everything I’m feeling is so hopeless. I guess that is a bit extreme. Things locally are wonderful. Ron and I are great. My parents and sister and brother-in-law are all fine. But there’s a curdling unease.

Sometimes I can’t believe how fucking stupid Sarah Palin is. My next line should be, ‘I mean, really,’ but there isn’t any way to say more than that. She’s the worst example of the Ugly American. She an empty husk of consumerist hope wrapped in her own ignorance, proud of being uncurious and always at the ready to mumble ‘jingo all the way!’ She may have lipstick but she is no pit bull. She has the tenacity of a manatee and the intellect of tree stump. One blogger described her as a Pretty Hate Machine. Through the vice presidential debate, Ron and I sat there in a 90-minute cringe while a cowed Gwen Ifill rolled over and couldn’t muster the gumption for hard reporting like stalwart journalist Katie Couric.  She is an insult to smart women everywhere with her ‘I WEAR GLASSES TO SHOW I SMART’ styling and gosh-darn-gee-willickers cadence.

She is the conservative vision of women reduced to an icon: an obedient vagina with a gun.

It isn’t sexist to call a stupid women a fucking idiot.

I dreamt of Biden simply saying: ‘I’ll give my time for rebuttal to the governor so she can give you a direct answer.’ I dreamt that when McCain said he might not make that first debate that Obama would say ‘That’s okay. Nader and McKinney can come.’

I have been rather surprised at how poorly the GOP’s campaign has been executed. John McCain must really be out of his mind and not listening to his advisors. There’s no unity, no narrative, no metaphor aside from HE’S BROWN AND HE GON KILL YOU.

And McCain has turned himself into an embarrassment. His constant flogging of his own flogging has grown tired. I don’t disagree he sacrificed for his country but that doesn’t mean we owe him the White House. And for him to call Obama an elitist when he married into wealth with a blonde trophy wife while his first wife laid in the hospital disfigured. And the multiple houses. And the multiple cars. And the jet. But see, he means elitist as in That Colored Boy Think He Smarter Than You. And if there’s one thing Americans hate it is a nerd. Especially a nerd that isn’t white since he points out the possibility that if you work really hard and are smart you can succeed instead of falling into wealth by marrying it or betting your life in an economy reduced to porn, bullets and casinos.

Obama won’t change anything. He is a civil rights scholar and an expert on the Constitution but rolled over with FISA and telecom immunity. He hasn’t said dick about stopping our torture programs and other gross human rights violations. He will continue the imperial project that is driving the country into financial ruin. As more former prisoners come forward and detail the systematic abuse at the hands of Americans we learn how morally bankrupt we are, and now we’re learning how financially bankrupt we are as well. Yes I love Obama and Michelle as symbols but if there’s no there there than the symbol is just an empty totem. Maybe I should give Obama the benefit of the doubt. I dream on day one he’ll dissolve all those executive orders that set up the levers for a dictatorship and martial law – I think he could have run on a ‘restoration’ type message.

There’s no fucking money. Why won’t McCain or Obama say that? There is no money. We are beyond running on fumes. At least fumes can be inhaled for a high. We don’t even have wooden nickels dipped in shit. We don’t even have shit.

That 2 and a half page that McCain didn’t read had been cooked up months before by the White House. That congressional showdown was so suspicious to me. Any time they want to ram through legislation that fast I remember the Patriot Act and the Authorization for Use of Military Force. You can sense the hubris. They didn’t even bother making it a really long bill that nobody would read. It was just under three pages and enough of that language to include that no decisions could be undone or reconsidered. Why didn’t someone simply ask: What is the value of having no oversight?

Then came the second version of the bill that fellated any pissed off congresman with earmark/bribes so they’d say yes to anything. And then the $700 billion became $818. Like that is some sort of solution. ‘Oh it didn’t past the first time, we must need to add more bullshit to it.’ And they just came up with the number anyway. And then AIG’s big party.

Listening to a This American Life episode from NPR the question I’d kept asking myself was answered. They were talking about Credit Default Swaps – the blurry financial instrument that had undermined AIG and caused the collapse of the commercial paper market. I’d kept wondering about oversight and guessed that there was probably no regulation – and I was right. But worse than that, there was no disclosure. All the free market monkeys are always talking about how markets self-regulate if there is trust and public information (i.e. no insider info). Congress had a chance to say they wanted transparency but the greedy-grabbers decided they wanted to go without and so that is why I think there should have been a big ‘Um no, fuck YOU’ to those parties that engaged in risky business knowing full well all of the ramifications of their behavior and rewards and losses. We get to learn the lessons of the 1920s and 1930s all over again. Which means a world war should be coming any day now.

In the book American Theocracy, Kevin Phillips writes:

It’s finally happened: moving money around has surpassed making things as a share of the U.S. gross domestic product.

He then goes on to detail the decline of manufacturing and the rise of the finance, insurance and real estate industries. When I first read that I kinda shuddered. I may be a traditionalist but I don’t believe an entire country can survive on service jobs and ‘knowledge work’. We have to make something. Besides weapons. But that is what has happened. Has there ever been a case where globalization didn’t result in a race to the bottom? Phillips also details in the book the current crisis in national, global and household debt.

So the reason the car companies are failing isn’t because they make such shitty cars – they do – but that the cost of pensions is skyrocketing. I’m waiting for the generational war to begin between the boomers and everybody else.

Okay who ever has their goddamn Blackberry IM going off can please please please silence it.

I feel like I can’t find enough creative ways to say ‘we’re fucked.’

Here in Silicon Valley the VC firms are locking up and money is going to slow to a trickle. Hopefully my company is well capitalized and has reserves to weather the crazyness. I hear conflicting views on ad spending during recessions.

On the lighter side my time in the gym seems to be paying off. I’m not getting lean like I wanted to but Ron and I can barely fit side-by-side on the Muni. A co-worker noticed I’ve been getting broader. A stroll through the Castro Street Fair brought welcome glances at my chest or smiles. Ron always like this. He likes to know I’m coveted.

Okay the muffins are wearing off.

American Coup D’etat? Nope. But Erosion…?

Harper’s got together a quartet of military experts to examine the eternal question: Could it happen here?

UTTWAK: What about a situation in which the military was ordered to start a war that it did not believe could be won?…
BACEVICH: The military would leak it to the Washington Post, and the war would never happen.

BACEVICH: Here we don’t need to conjure up hypothetical scenarios of the president deploying troops, etc. We have a president who created a program that directs the National Security Agency, which is part of the military, to engage in domestic eavesdropping.

LUTTWAK: I don’t know if this would be called a coup.

KOHN: Because it’s so incremental?

LUTTWAK: It’s more like an erosion. The president is usurping additional powers. Although what’s interesting is that the president’s usurpation of this particular power was entirely unnecessary.

Nice articulation of various incidents in US History where the Executive, Congress and the military are at a crossroads.

Andrew Bacevich is the author of the stunning The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War is excellent and just came out in paperback. I’m reading it again. (Recommended to me by Republic of T)

Jack Cafferty on the NSA/FISA Ruling

Must watch: Jack Cafferty on The Situation Room (Quicktime video from Crooks and Liars)

Or at least must read:

Cafferty: You know Wolf, it seems like were having this discussion about this judge’s ruling sort of in the abstract, as if there’s no precedent for what the judge decided. The judge in effect upheld the ruling of the FISA court which says that ‘if you want to wiretap phones you need a warrant to do so’. The court was created by Congress in 1978 I think it was and the law of the land says, “Get a warrant”. The actions of the administration have ignored the law of the land in that regard. So it’s not a discussion in the abstract. It’s not hypothetical. There are laws on the books against what the administration is doing and it’s about time someone said it out loud.

This Federal district judge ruled today President Bush is breaking the law by spying on people, in this country, without a warrant. The judge said the President is violating the First Amendment to the Constitution. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act FISA, passed by Congress 1978, specifically to prevent this kind of abuse of power. It was being done before. That’s why the FISA court was created in the first place.

So what does this mean? It means President Bush violated his oath of office, among other things, when he swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States. It means he’s been lying to us about the program since it started, when tells us there’s nothing illegal about what he’s doing. A court has ruled it is illegal. And it means a 75 year old black female judge in Michigan has finally stepped in and done the job that Congress is supposed to do, namely oversight of the executive branch of government. But the gov…but the Congress is controlled by Republicans. They are controlled by the President, and they have done nothing in the way of oversight.

US District Judge: NSA Wiretapping Un-Constitutional and Must Cease Immediately

Okay – I’m supposed to be doing a mediafast. I KNOW. But this is huge huge huge:

A federal judge ruled Thursday that the government’s warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered an immediate halt to it. U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency’s program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy.

Pick up the phone right now and send money to the ACLU for their support in this case.

Congress Considering Adding MySpace to Data Retention Requiments

Again, What about the children! and The terrorists will win! are invoked:

In those meetings, Justice Department representatives went beyond the argument that data retention was necessary to protect children–and claimed it would aid in terrorism investigations as well. During Wednesday’s hearing, politicians also claimed that social-networking sites were not doing enough to verify that their users who claimed to be a certain age were telling the truth. (Recent news reports have said that sex predators are using MySpace and similar sites to meet up with teens.)

(via Slashdot)

HOWTO: Tell AT&T To Fuck Off

From Metafilter:

On the eve of its hearing on charges that it assisted in the government’s illegal spying on millions of Americans, AT&T, the largest phone company in the United States, has changed its privacy policy to clearly establish its ownership of its customers’ personal account information.

Because your records aren’t yours. They can do whatever they want with them. Including giving them to the NSA. Electronic Frontier Foundation is trying to keep the suit from being dismissed on the usual ‘well if we tell you how we spy on you then the terrorists have won’ line of crap.
No where did I put my tinfoil.

Listening vs Datamining

In all the hub-bub about the NSA, FBI and God knows who else spying on ordinary American citizens, peace groups and journalists, keep mindful of the use of ‘listening’ or ‘wiretapping’ – Bush says that the US is Not Listening in on Domestic Calls. The hair to split here is an active analyst listening to a call versus diverting the internet backbone or entire swaths of the telephone system directly into the NSA and then datamining it. One is done at the time of surveillance – the other is kept for later analysis.

NSA Expert: ‘Be Terrified”

Mmmm. Spread this on some toast:

We should be terrified that Congress has not been doing its job and because all of the checks and balances put in place to prevent this have been deliberately obviated. In order to get this done, the NSA and White House went around all of the checks and balances. I’m convinced that 20 years from now we, as historians, will be looking back at this as one of the darkest eras in American history. 

Democrats Mum on Feingold Censure

Russ Feingold’s censure of Bush for the FISA/wiretapping controversy is failing to find support among Feingold’s colleagues:

Appearing on Fox News, Feingold said: “I’m amazed at Democrats, cowering with this president’s numbers so low. The administration just has to raise the specter of the war and the Democrats run and hide. … Too many Democrats are going to do the same thing they did in 2000 and 2004.… [Democrats shouldn’t] cower to the argument, that whatever you do, if you question the administration, you’re helping the terrorists.”