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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Naked in the Howling Wind

I'm going to go out on a limb and say the federal fix is in. All of us who are complaining about privacy rights are doing so while standing naked in a howling wind tunnel. It's gone, baby, gone. We are nude in the eyes of the bad guys. The phones are tapped; the internet is monitored; medical records are under surveillance; spy satelites can read the writing on your T-shirt and it has just come to fore that "thousands" of bank records were being secretly watched by the federal government.

It is a WHWLINE moment, people! (What Have We Learned, If Nothing Else?) What we've learned is that when this regime says there is nothing go on -- SOMETHING is going on. So, for them to admit to thousands of surveillances means there are millions of instances of the act. And, boy wasn't the Oliver Cromwell Bush PO'ed about being uncovered once again? To wit: "Bush today condemned as "disgraceful" the disclosure of the operation, which intended to help the government track overseas money movements of suspected terrorists. "For people to leak that program, and for a newspaper to publish it, does great harm to the United States of America,” Bush told reporters in Washington."

Strong words coming from the Head Leaker in Charge. But, then, Bush is great at saying one thing and doing another. A little known habit of his is to write presidential directives that allow him to circumvent or ignore any law Congress enacts. For example, he made a big fanfare about signing the anti-torture bill, but then wrote a directive that allows him to ignore it. Interesting times we live in.

By the way, KILL ANN COULTER! (fair is fair).

By Michael Isikoff
June 26, 2006 - Over the last four years, U.S. law enforcement agencies have gained access to over 28,000 financial records inside the United States under a little known provision of the USA Patriot Act that parallels the secret international bank data program disclosed by news organizations last week, Treasury Department records show.

The disclosure of the overseas program—under which Treasury Department officials have tapped into the records of a vast Belgian-based international financial database called Swift (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications)—has kicked up a storm of controversy. Some critics have decried the program as another example of the administration's invasion of privacy in the name of the war on terror. At the same time, President

But the international program is only one part of a much broader, if little publicized, Treasury Department effort to probe suspect financial records—including thousands of bank accounts, wire transfers and other transactions involving individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations inside the United States.

Under a section of the USA Patriot Act passed by Congress in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks, Treasury officials were given new powers to direct U.S. banks and other financial institutions to search their records for accounts or transactions involving any individuals or groups who come under scrutiny during investigations of terrorism and money laundering cases.

Although it has received little attention, the Patriot Act program has produced a wealth of previously unavailable financial data that has been shared with U.S. law enforcement agencies—without any notice to the account holders who are being investigated. Since the fall of 2002, when the program began, U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN)—an arm of the Treasury Department—has directed searches of 4,397 "subjects of interest" and received reports back on 28,463 accounts and financial transactions, according to recent Treasury records.

Once there is a positive "match" showing a suspect individual or company has conducted a financial transaction with a U.S. bank, FINCEN then notifies the law enforcement agencies, which can use the existence of a reported "match" as the basis for a grand jury or administrative subpoena. The Treasury records show that U.S. agencies have used the program to obtain 1,206 grand jury subpoenas and 328 administrative subpoenas. It has also led, according to the Treasury records, to 90 indictments, 79 arrests and 10 convictions.

link | posted by Jae at 8:12 AM | 3 comments

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Did you hear the one about the President who mocked the blind guy?

In the Rose Garden yesterday:

Bush (to reporter Peter Wellston of the LA Times): "Peter. You gonna ask that question with the shades on? I’m interested in the shade look. Seriously. Heh, heh, heh."

Wellston: "I’ll keep it then."

Bush: "For the viewers, there’s no sun."

Wellston: "Guess it depends on your perspective."

Bush: "Touche."

Turns out Wellston was wearing sunglasses becasue HE'S LEGALLY BLIND.

Wellston went on to ask a serious question about Karl Rove.

Posted by Kay

link | posted by Jae at 10:01 AM | 2 comments

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The parable of the bird, cat and cow

Not even CLOSE to an original writing of mine; but, what the hey! It's become a modern day parable:

A bird was flying south for the winter. As the weather grew colder, the bird found he couldn't fly any farther and landed in a field. He was cold, despondent and certain that he would die. A cow wandered by and, indifferent to the bird and his travails, shit on him. Though the bird at first felt foresaken by all of his bird gods, in the midst of his wailing and moaning he realized something. The steaming load of shit was keeping him warm! As the hours passed and he grew accustomed to the smell and foulness; his spirits rose. He would be able to survive the cold! So he started singing. Just then, a cat happened by who heard the bird's song. The cat scraped away the shit and ate the bird...

WHWLINE (What have we learned if nothing else?): Not everybody who shits on you is your enemy. Not everybody who gets you out of shit is your friend. And if you're happy is a pile of shit, keep your big mouth shut.

Posted by daiello at 07:24 AM | Comments (0)

link | posted by Jae at 9:04 AM | 2 comments

Friday, June 09, 2006

The border

My good friend CB, who is my political opposite -- call him Bizarro Jae - suggested a Poli-Mob of Americans going to Mexico and demonstrating against illegal immigration. I think CB thinks my knee-jerk reaction to illegal immigrants would be support. That's not entirely true. My KNEE JERK reaction is that they're here illegally and demonstrating for rights they don't legally have. My next reflexive reaction is that the government should be able to send them back, since after all, they are illegal.

But, good liberal that I am, things come to mind. If I went through life acting on my first impulse, I'd spend most of my time behind bars. I want to do a joke about that concept, Rush Limbaugh and where I think he should be spending his golden years, but...

First, the individual has rights that go beyond government; the right to a decent life is one of them. Like other human rights, it is inalienable. Borders are irrelevant. Who among the pragmatic, Mona Charen-worshipping conservative sect honestly believe a good man or woman is going to sit idly by and watch his or her family starve rather than cross an imaginary borderline? George W. Bush would raise his hands, but he has lying confused with breathing.

These are people who are coming here to work and work hard -- that should be taken into account, just as the failure of the Mexican government in regards to its citizens should be taken into account.

Mexican president Vicente Fox has quite a pair if he can go to his idol, Bush, with a straight face and say, 'Please don't send soliders to the border.' It's obvious he doesn't want any barriers in the Mexican exodus. In a nation of about 100 million people, conservative estimates are that 12 million Mexican people have left the country for the U.S. That's comparable to CALIFORNIA packing up and leaving the states. That outflux has an honest cause: Mexico has a history of corruption and tyranny towards its people. I feel for them, primarily because we are walking down that same path.

Certainly, the tyranny of GOP vote-squelching measures, unchecked surveillance and wrong-headed tax cuts are aesthetically on a higher tyrannical plane than the clear-cut, brutal tyranny of Mexico. But, the corruption looks pretty damn similar.

Secondly, I am concerned with ANY move this government makes since its inherent insincerity is creating a legacy of hateful, xenophobic people. I deal enough with my own prejudices; they are hard enough to overcome without a subverted government telling me who to hate and why. And, why do they want us to be hateful? Because hate is a manifestation of fear and fear is the easiest button in the world to push. We are scared of phantom terrorists, ghost bombs, rumored nukes and two guys getting married. Sure, I'll vote for the devil if it means I won't get bombed. I will be your bitch, Neo-Cons, just keep the world away.

What the fuck? What kind of fears are those? Whatever happened to death, growing old, lonlieness and whether or not our kids hate us? It's NOT the world or even an unusually sticky political situation that's the problem; it's our government that is making the issues of this era a big deal. Do you honestly believe WWI, WWII and Viet Nam were shits and giggles for the people of those times? They were hard times, times when the ever-present governmental tendency to close off borders and chain up civilians reared its ugly head and did bad things. But, common sense won out.

So, when it comes to the borders, let's talk among ourselves little more. I don't trust our government and I don't trust conservatives to tell me the truth. So, in the end, CB is right, I do support the rights of those immigrants -- their HUMAN rights. I guess I believe there's no such thing as an illegal person.

link | posted by Jae at 9:40 AM | 3 comments

Monday, June 05, 2006

It's petition-signing season!

Save the Internet: Click here

The internet has made participatory democracy possible for all... not just the few that can afford to buy into it. While politicians pander, posture and piss away opportunities for open, honest debate in order to win elections, we the people are actually crossing ideological as well as geographical boundaries to have real, meaningful conversations about... well, everything. The internet has come to embody choice. At any given moment, I can choose to rant, organize, look up or window shop just about anything I can think of. And my choices grow exponentially every day.

But, as you know, this administration is *uncomfortable* with the peasant population having too much choice. Take a look at this post from Daily Kos (June 5, 2006) and then visit this web-site: savetheinternet.com.

Net Neutrality Comes to Rules Committee
By Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.)

I know many of you have been following the issue of “net neutrality” very closely. The House of Representatives is scheduled this week to take up a bill (H.R. 5252) that would allow telephone companies like Verizon and AT&T to get national cable franchises. A huge point of disagreement in this bill has been the “net neutrality” issue—-whether Verizon, AT&T, and the other huge “telco” and cable companies should have the power to play favorites with the content that travels over their networks.

As the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee, I will keep an eye on all the action as this bill heads to the House floor for debate. The Rules Committee will meet on this bill this Wednesday at 3:30 pm EST...The Rules Committee is the place where the House Republican leadership (acting through Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier) decides how long the House will debate the bill and which amendments (if any) the House will be able to consider and vote on. History shows my colleagues on the other side do not have a great track record when it comes to allowing open and honest debate promoting deliberative democracy.

In other words, the fate of the net neutrality issue is in the hands of this small group of Republican leaders with the power to set the terms of House debate. It will be up to Speaker Hastert and Chairman Dreier to decide whether or not telcos can keep their hands of our internet.

Here’s a little background on this bill and the net neutrality issue.

Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton and Democratic Representative Bobby Rush of Illinois introduced a draft version of this bill in early April. This bill contained a section (section 201) with some net neutrality language, but it’s vague and wouldn’t give any of us a real enforceable right to go after a company that has decided to become our Internet baby sitter.

A Subcommittee and then the full Energy & Commerce Committee meeting “marked up” this bill later in April, which means the Committee read through the bill and Committee Members had the opportunity to amend the bill. During both of these markups, Rep. Ed Markey and other Democrats tried to get tougher, enforceable net neutrality standards added to the bill, but lost on both occasions (by a 8-23 vote in the Subcommittee and 22-34 vote in the full Committee).

In May, my distinguished colleague and fellow DailyKos blogger Democratic Ranking Member John Conyers and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner decided to get involved in the net neutrality issue by developing their own bill (H.R. 5417) to toughen the net neutrality rules. Their Committee does not have jurisdiction over federal communications laws, but it does have jurisdiction over federal antitrust laws. Their bill amends federal antitrust law to prohibit the big internet network providers from discriminating against Internet content traveling over their wires. The Conyers-Sensenbrenner bill passed the Judiciary committee by a vote of 20-13. It was a great victory for the net roots.

So now it’s up to the Republican leadership and Chairman Dreier of the Rules Committee to decide what to do with this issue.

The committee’s rule as determined by the Republicans who outnumber the Democrats 9-4, will determine whether we will be able to have a full debate and votes on the net neutrality issue, or whether Speaker Hastert, Chairman Dreier, and the rest of the Republican leadership decide to protect the big phone companies and nervous Republicans from a tough but important debate.

Stay tuned and we will find out whether Democracy once again gets bottled up in the Rules Committee when it comes to allowing a full debate on an issue that will impact all of us in the progressive net roots community.

Thanks so much again making feel welcome in this wonderful community.--Rep. Louise Slaughter

Posted by Olive/Kay

link | posted by Jae at 7:10 PM | 1 comments

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