Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I Can't Hear You!

One of the joys of being an American is the right to peacefully protest without undo governmental harassment. It's a good thing to have--the ability to let those in power know you're not happy with how they're handling their job.

Unless you're the president. An informative (and disturbing) article in the Washington Post reveals how far your government will go just so Mr. Bush doesn't have to see any dissenters while he's on the road.

"The 'Presidential Advance Manual,' dated October 2002 with the stamp "Sensitive -- Do Not Copy," was released under subpoena to the American Civil Liberties Union as part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of two people arrested for refusing to cover their anti-Bush T-shirts at a Fourth of July speech at the West Virginia State Capitol in 2004. The techniques described have become familiar over the 6 1/2 years of Bush's presidency, but the manual makes it clear how organized the anti-protest policy really is."

First you try to keep the protesters out and if that doesn't work. frisk 'em for inappropriate signage and then if they get noisy, drown then out. Or in the case of the two folks cited above, arrest them for their anti-Bush tee shirts.

A real president welcomes dissent, encourages debate. A real president LISTENS to the citizens of this nation. Sadly, we're cursed with someone who is about to invoke Vietnam as the reason we have to stay in Iraq because our withdrawal from that nation three decades ago is the reason we have terrorists attacking us today.

The man is freakin' clueless. All we can do is make sure the next Prez of these United States isn't the same.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Studying the Candidates (Part 1)

I've begun my assessment of the presidential candidates. I'm going to be reviewing their words and deeds, one by one. I admit that in the past, while I've voted, I've been pretty indifferent abut all this political stuff. Not anymore. Not with the changes undergoing our country and the consistent erosion of our personal freedoms.

And lest you're not familiar with my stance -- I'm an independent. I'll jump the fence and vote for whomever I think is the best candidate. So keep that in mind when I make my personal observations of the candidates, be they Republican or Democrat.

Some I know to be completely off my "possible" list, like Mr. Tancredo. He's the guy who suggested that we should bomb the Muslim holy sites "as a deterrent". Gee, I'm sure millions of moderate Muslims are going to let that one pass, Mr. T. It'd be the first step to global war. If someone bombed St. Peter's or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, would you be deterred? Nah. You'd be pissed. So will our Islamic neighbors. So Tancredo is easy to rule out as a complete nutter. There seems to be a fair number of them running for office this time.

I've been watching Giuliani and I've found the man to be an amazing piece of work (and not in the good sense). There's something mean spirited and evil about a guy who would announces to his wife he's getting a divorce at a press conference. This is a guy who loves to get even in very nasty ways.

But to put Giuliani and his "I'm the only guy who knows how to deal with terrorists" b.s. out of the way, read this article by Wayne Barrett co-author ( with Dan Collins) of Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11.

This isn't the first time I've read accounts of Giuliani's work as NY mayor and frankly, I'm not impressed. He isn't what I want in a president. Believe it or not, I believe he'd be as bad as Bush, or worse. That's saying something.

I'll be hacking through some of the others as time passes. You can bet those candidates who put abortion and gay issues at the top of their agenda aren't going to make the cut with me. We've got a lot more important things to worry about, including the 40 million people in this country without health insurance, our crumpling infrastructure and how we fix 8 years' worth of damage from an Imperial Presidency.

Hope you are doing the same sort of weighing. We need to look for a candidate who has the intelligence to know how to accept differing opinions, the wisdom to know when to jump into the fray and when to stay out, and who understands that We, The People are his or her boss.

All the rest is just b.s.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Just Trust Us

President Bush and his folks are pushing for a change in the wiretapping rules. Now mind you, these were the same rules the Prez ignored when the mood suited him (and until he was "outted" by the press). He wants to have authority for warrantless wiretapping to go through (wait for it) the most trusted and admired man in Washington -- Alberto Gonzales. Yeah, he's got my vote (NOT!)

There was a recent article in the Associated Press about a federal judge who used to head the FISA court and authorize wiretaps in terrorist and espionage cases. He is strongly critical of President Bush's decision to order warrantless surveillance after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Royce Lamberth, a district court judge in Washington, said Saturday it was proper for executive branch agencies to conduct such surveillance. 'But what we have found in the history of our country is that you can't trust the executive,' he said at the American Library Association's convention. "

And for the quote that tells it all:

"We have to understand you can fight the war (on terrorism) and lose everything if you have no civil liberties left when you get through fighting the war," said Lamberth, who was appointed by President Reagan.

By FISA rules, you do not have to have a warrant approved by the court before beginning your wiretapping. You are required to go back and get that warrant approved down the line. Some of the Powers That Be say that doing the paperwork after the fact slows down their agents when they should be out finding the bad guys.

So just how to you introduce any evidence obtained through that wiretap in a court of law unless it is backstopped by a proper warrant? You don't. You can't use it. At least not within the U.S. So that's why we have Guantanamo and the black ops site across the world. No need to require warrants or anything like that. You "disappear" these people and when you realize you've made a mistake, you drop them into any old nation that will accept them. Especially ones with a history of torture. The blood will be on their hands. Or, in the case of the Australian gent, you require them to sign an agreement that they will NOT sue the U.S. Government for any abuse that occured during their incarcertaion so they can be set free.

But hey, they're the bad guys, right?

The basic question is: How much do you trust your government to do the right thing and are you willing to put your liberty on the line when push comes to shove?

Let's hope Congress shows some balls and makes only the changes needed to the FISA rules that make sense to help us keep an eye on the crazies. Let's not give Mr. Bush and his cronies any more power. They've not shown the ability to handle it worth a damn.