Saturday, December 24, 2005
"Time wants to show you another country. It's the one
that your life conceals, the one waiting outside
when curtains are drawn, the one Grandmother hinted at
in her crochet design, the one almost found
over at the edge of music, after the sermon.
It's the way life is, and you have it, a few years given.
You get killed now and then, violated
in various ways. (And sometimes it's turn about.)
You get tired of that. Long-suffering you wait
and pray, and maybe good things come---maybe
the hurt slackens and you hardly feel it anymore.
You have a breath without pain. It is called happiness.
It's a balance, the taking and passing along,
the composting of where you've been and how people
and weather treated you. It's a country where
you already are, bringing where you have been.
Time offers this gift in its millions of ways,
turning the world, moving the air, calling,
every morning, 'Here, take it, it's yours.'"
Friday, December 23, 2005
No satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps you marching and makes us more alive than the others."
Martha Graham, to Agnes DeMille
Outside, the moon was bright behind a scrim of luminous clouds in a cold and mostly clear sky. True, there wasn't snow -- not until a few faux flakes floated down on the Van Duzer stage -- but it was as close as Arcata comes to a fine winter night.
Inside, in the opening night crowd for this year's The Nutcracker, performed by North Coast Dance last Friday at HSU, there were a lot of children -- possibly more than were in the show. Children on both sides of the footlights are a major reason this is a popular community event during the winter holiday season across North America and around the world.
It's a good show for adults, too, even those who don't have a child in it. The NCD production has plenty of evocative sets, handsome costumes and magical lighting to entertain any eye. Artistic Director Danny Furlong fashioned a crisp first act, emphasizing the narrative, with lots of movement and comic asides, to set up the second act of mostly dancing, to the most familiar Tchaikovsky music.
But I kept thinking about a child's experience.
MORE FROM THE NORTH COAST JOURNAL
Last night we made a pilgrimage to a friend's new house in Georgetown, an elegant manse where I immediately regretted not wearing a blazer and perhaps a jaunty cap. We talked about gay cowboys and closeted movie stars and sex-change operations -- traditional Christmas topics, in other words -- and the conversation eventually turned to impeachment. It's true: People actually talk about impeachment, in the wilds of Inner Georgetown, not just in blogworld. I won't go into great detail about what was said, because it was highly speculative, and because I'm worried that my phone, email accounts and blog are tapped. These people don't mess around. They have secret prisons. They are constantly sending memos to one another with titles like, "The Positive Side of Torture."
Today's front-page Post story indicates that the basic strategy for the domestic spying program is to listen to a tremendous amount of conversations on the off chance that something might be suspicious:
"Sources knowledgeable about the program said there is no way to secure a FISA warrant when the goal is to listen in on a vast array of communications in the hopes of finding something that sounds suspicious....One government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the administration complained bitterly that the FISA process demanded too much: to name a target and give a reason to spy on it."
Yeah, that's due process totally out of control.
"Amid ruins, volunteers are emerging as heroes" is the headline of the story by Anne Rochell Konigsmark and Rick Hampson in USA TODAY. It begins:
In his 67 years, Howard Peterson had never seen a Mennonite. But 11 days before Christmas he stood in the ruins of his kitchen, watching a crew of them gut and clean his flood-ravaged house.
Peterson and his wife couldn't afford to pay a contractor several thousand dollars to gut the one-story house, which sat in water for weeks after Hurricane Katrina inundated the working-class Gentilly district. So Peterson, who looks too frail to do spring cleaning, began trying to clear out the house himself. Then the Mennonites came by and offered a hand.
"I can't thank them enough," he says. But he also wonders when the professionals - city, state and federal agencies - will do their part. "They should be trying to repair the city."
The story highlights a number of NGO's (non-governmental organizations, including those we know of as charities) that are doing vital work that the government is not. In one sense, it is a perfect holiday story, about the willingness to help and can-do spirit of the people, rather than the impersonal government.
The Gulf Coast in general and New Orleans in particular have at times felt abandoned by the American government. But they haven't been abandoned by Americans, who have volunteered by the thousands to clear out houses, collect trash, fight mold, cover roofs, feed the hungry, tend to the sick and help in any way they can.
Partly because politicians continue to dither, bicker and accuse, non-governmental organizations - "NGOs" ranging from large, non-profit agencies to church youth groups - are emerging as heroes of the recovery effort.
Habitat for Humanity, whose Operation Home Delivery has been building houses across the nation for shipment to the Gulf Coast, received an 85% "positive" rating for its post-hurricane work in a national Harris Poll released in November. FEMA, in contrast, got a 72% "negative" rating.
In New Orleans' devastated Lower 9th Ward, FEMA is so unpopular that its workers have been heckled and threatened. Some stopped wearing anything that identifies their agency.
Why are these organizations succeeding where government agencies are failing? The article says this:
Past crises generally have established the limits of non-government action; private charity proved insufficient to cope with the Great Depression, for example. This crisis seems to have a different lesson: Volunteers, outsiders and amateurs can help fill a void created by what Amy Liu, an urban policy expert at the Brookings Institution, calls "a lack of leadership across all levels of government."
"There's a general sense that the charitable sector has the touch needed, a better feel for the communities affected," says Paul Light, a New York University government analyst.
The article cites these reasons:
• Government lost the public's confidence after the hurricane and will have a hard time regaining it. "That leaves the non-profits," says Tiziana Dearing of Harvard's Hauser Center for Non-profit Organizations.
• The disaster's scope stretches even well-functioning government agencies, inviting involvement by NGOs that normally focus on the neediest victims - the poor and elderly.
• Lacking government's power, money and size, non-profits often are more sensitive to people's needs. "We listen before we do anything," King says.
• NGOs are relatively nimble - an important asset if, as seems likely, the Gulf Coast will recover a block or a neighborhood at a time. "It's easier for light-footed individuals to move things forward than a government bureaucracy," says Greta Gladney, a community activist whose home in the Lower 9th Ward has been rehabbed by ACORN volunteers.
All of this is probably true. But the article and its analysis leave out other important points. Government agencies like FEMA have been effective in the past. Why aren't they now? A great deal of responsibility for that must be borne by the Bush administration, and earlier Republican administrations, that bled dry the funding for public services conducted by or organized by government---by directly cutting budgets of federal agencies and programs, and by indirectly bleeding state and local governments.
Why did they do this? The "philosophy" as stated was that government is inefficient, but private enterprise has the incentive of efficiency to keep costs down and get the job done, because their profits depend on it.
Certainly the bled dry government agencies have largely failed, especially FEMA and the monstrous money-eating disaster called Homeland Security, where the corporate model meant "branding" the agency was more important than actually addressing its mission and tasks, as a Washington Post series is revealing.
But the real story here is the failure of private contractors in New Orleans to do anything but pig out on fat no-bid government contracts, leaving the real work to non-profits.
It's the same lesson as Iraq, where much of what the military used to do is being ineptly and expensively done by private contractors, who operate above the law (sound familiar?) and at least some of whom are stealing American taxpayers blind.
It isn't government that has failed New Orleans. It's the Bush government, and its policy of rewarding its corporate pals. It's privatization and the corporate model to do the public's business that has failed.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
A Holiday Happy Ending
It began in earnest several weeks ago, launched by politically and doctrinally extreme Christian fundamentalists, with their designated media loudmouth Bill O’Reilly providing the show-biz fulmination, basically to promote a book by John Gibson, a Fox News producer, called The War on Christmas.
Its other political and economic dimensions were expressed by Agape Press, with their slogan “Reliable News From a Christian Source,” and a logo above which modestly floats a halo.
What most people heard about it was the sudden anger over store clerks saying “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” But what it was supposed to be was far more audacious.
The Republican-led U.S. Congress was close to wrapping up its work for the year on Thursday in the wake of an unexpected string of Democratic successes on matters from energy to spending to security.
Senate Democrats thwarted a permanent renewal of the anti-terrorism USA Patriot Act, setting up instead a temporary six-month extension of expiring provisions so changes can be considered to better safeguard civil liberties. It was a defeat for President George W. Bush who had argued the law was mandatory for safeguarding U.S. citizens.
Senators also stripped from a $453 billion defense spending bill a provision that would have opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, another issue the administration had championed as necessary to ease U.S. dependency on foreign oil.
Bush, who has been battling sinking approval ratings, has seen his clout in Congress diminished by recent scandals affecting top Republicans, as well as the recent revelation that he secretly ordered domestic eavesdropping on U.S. citizens.
In fact, since 2002, authorized by a secret order from President Bush, the agency has intercepted the international phone calls and e-mail messages of hundreds, possibly thousands, of American citizens and others in the United States without obtaining court orders. The discrepancy between the public claims and the secret domestic eavesdropping disclosed last week have put the N.S.A., the nation's largest intelligence agency, and General Hayden, now principal deputy director of national intelligence, in an awkward position.
The episode could revive old fears that the secret agency is a sort of high-tech Big Brother. It was such fears - based on genuine abuses before the mid-1970's, hyperbolic press reports and movie myths - that General Hayden worked to counter as the agency's director from 1999 until last April. The New York Times.
The presiding judge of a secret court that oversees government surveillance in espionage and terrorism cases is arranging a classified briefing for her fellow judges to address their concerns about the legality of President Bush's domestic spying program, according to several intelligence and government sources. Washington Post.
The law does not authorize warrantless surveillance, under any circumstances, and the president"s assertion (in an apparent exercise of activism he would criticize if it were a judge doing it) that his authority to violate this law inheres in the Constitution, or in the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq has already been thoroughly and completely debunked by several legal experts, including prominent conservative (and Reagan Justice Department official), Bruce Fein, who has said: "President Bush presents a clear and present danger to the rule of law," and Jonathan Turley, a Georgetown law professor, who opined, on the December 19th edition of Fox News‛ "The O‛Reilly Factor," that "it is a crime to order surveillance or conduct surveillance unless you've gone to a judge. Federal crimes can rise to impeachable offenses."
The fact that this president chose to confront his critics by flaunting his disregard of the legal restrictions on his conduct will undoubtedly contribute to his downfall. It is almost inevitable, given the outcry from politicians, pundits, and legal scholars about this latest episode of presidential hubris, that impeachment is on the horizon. Indeed, several members of Congress have already floated the idea. Let's not forget, the illegal use of electronic surveillance was one of the charges leveled against Nixon in his articles of impeachment. And history, as we know, has a funny way of repeating itself. ----Booman Tribune.
Counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have conducted numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief, newly disclosed agency records show.
One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's "semi-communistic ideology." A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
---The New York Times
Rich Hersh confirmed and elaborated on the NBC Nightly News report (December 13) about secret data bases that the Pentagon is assembling on domestic individuals and groups whom the military designates as “threats,” simply because the common focus of concern among group members is a policy or program that in some way relates to the U.S. armed forces.
Truth Project participants do nothing in secret; they join together in fully transparent and public meetings to develop strategies that they believe will help educate public officials, parents, and teens so that those considering military service are fully informed before they decide.
When the Pentagon starts sending spies into Quaker meeting houses, we believe Congress should examine the motives of such a Pentagon surveillance program. I am sure you agree that those who make an informed choice to enter the military take on an honorable profession. The Founding Fathers regarded as equally honorable those who undertake the exercise of a citizen’s constitutional rights to disagree with and dissent from government policies. They knew that a government that spies on its citizens does so because it distrusts them. And such a government, unless citizens insist on the free exercise of their rights, will next trample on their unexercised rights.
For these reasons, we urge you to seek a congressional hearing on domestic spying by the Pentagon and the possible violation of unalienable rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights which may have occurred at Lake Worth, FL and other locations.
Sincerely,Joe Volk Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation
As President Bush and his aides scramble to explain new revelations regarding Bush's authorization of spying on the international telephone calls and emails of Americans, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, has begun a process that could lead to the censure, and perhaps the impeachment, of the president and vice president.
U.S. Representative John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who was a critical player in the Watergate and Iran-Contra investigations into presidential wrongdoing, has introduced a package of resolutions that would censure President Bush and Vice President Cheney and create a select committee to investigate the Administration's possible crimes and make recommendations regarding grounds for impeachment. ---The Nation.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
can give, you're an employee.
If you want the unseen world,
you're not living your truth.
Both wishes are foolish,
but you'll be forgiven for forgetting
that what you really want is
love's confusing joy."
Coleman Barks, tr.
From WIRED NEWS
Election officials spooked by tampering in a test last week of Diebold optical-scan voting machines should be equally wary of optical-scan equipment produced by other manufacturers, according to a computer scientist who conducted the test.
Election officials in Florida's Leon County, where the test occurred, promptly announced plans to drop Diebold machines in favor of optical-scan machines made by Election Systems & Software, or ES&S. But Hugh Thompson, an adjunct computer science professor at the Florida Institute of Technology who helped devise last week's test, believes other systems could also be vulnerable.
"Looking at these systems doesn't send off signals that ... if we just get rid of Diebold and go to another vendor we'll be safe," Thompson said. "We know the Diebold machines are vulnerable. As for ES&S, we don't know that they're bad but we don't know that they're (good) either."
Thompson and Harri Hursti, a Finnish computer scientist, were able to change votes on the Diebold machine without leaving a trace. Hursti conducted the same test for the California secretary of state's office Tuesday. The office did not return several calls for comment.
Information about the vulnerability comes as states face deadlines to qualify for federal funding to replace punch-card and lever machines with new touch-screen or optical-scan machines. In order to get funding, states must have new machines in place by their first federal election after Jan. 1, 2006.
Optical-scan machines have become the preferred choice of many election officials due to the controversy over touch-screen voting machines, many of which do not produce a paper trail. Optical-scan machines use a paper ballot on which voters mark selections with a pen before officials scan them into a machine. The paper serves as a backup if the machine fails or officials need to recount votes.
The hack Thompson and Hursti performed involves a memory card that's inserted in the Diebold machines to record votes as officials scan ballots. According to Thompson, data on the cards isn't encrypted or secured with passwords. Anyone with programming skills and access to the cards -- such as a county elections technical administrator, a savvy poll worker or a voting company employee -- can alter the data using a laptop and card reader.
To test the machines, Thompson and Hursti conducted a mock election on systems loaded with a rigged memory card. The election consisted of eight ballots asking voters to decide, yes or no, if the Diebold optical-scan machine could be hacked.
Six people voted "no" and two voted "yes." But after scanning the ballots, the total showed one "no" vote and seven "yes" votes. Diebold did not return several calls for comment.
Thompson said in a real race between candidates someone could pre-load 50 votes for Candidate A and minus 50 votes for Candidate B, for example. Candidate B would need to receive 100 votes before equaling Candidate A's level at the start of the race. The total number of votes on the machine would equal the number of voters, so election officials wouldn't become suspicious.
"It's self-destroying evidence," he said. "Once ... the machine gets past zero and starts counting forward for Candidate B, there's no record that at one point there were negative votes for Candidate B."
Thompson said a second vulnerability in the cards makes it easy to program the voting machine so that it thinks the card is blank at the start of the race. This is important because before voting begins on Election Day, poll workers print a report of vote totals from each machine to show voters that the machines contain no votes.
"The logic to print that zero report is contained on the memory card itself," Thompson said. "So all you do is alter that code ... to always print out a zero report (in the morning)."
David Jefferson, a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and chair of California's Voting Systems Technical Assessment and Advisory Board, said that programming software on a removable memory card raises grave concerns.
"The instant anyone with security sensibility hears this, red flags and clanging alarms happen," Jefferson said. "Because this software that is inserted from the memory module is not part of the code base that goes through the qualification process, so it's code that escapes federal scrutiny."
The vote manipulation could conceivably be caught in states where election laws require officials to conduct a 1 percent manual recount to compare digital votes against paper ballots. Parallel monitoring, in which officials pull out random machines for testing on Election Day, might also catch vote manipulation.
But Thompson says machines could be programmed to recognize when they're being tested so as not to change votes during that time. And a manual recount that only examines 1 percent of machines might not be broad enough.
"The question is, if you have altered a memory card in just one of the polling places or even just on one machine, what are the chances that the machine would fall under that 1 percent?" Thompson said. "That's kind of scary."
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
By Joe Keohane
PICTURE THIS: A folksy, self-consciously plainspoken Southern politician rises to power during a period of profound unrest in America. The nation is facing one of the half-dozen or so of its worst existential crises to date, and the people, once sunny, confident, and striving, are now scared, angry, and disillusioned.
This politician, a ''Professional Common Man,'' executes his rise by relentlessly attacking the liberal media, fancy-talking intellectuals, shiftless progressives, pinkos, promiscuity, and welfare hangers-on, all the while clamoring for a return to traditional values, to love of country, to the pie-scented days of old when things made sense and Americans were indisputably American. He speaks almost entirely in ''noble but slippery abstractions''-Liberty, Freedom, Equality-and people love him, even if they can't fully articulate why without resorting to abstractions themselves.
Through a combination of factors-his easy bearing chief among them (along with massive cash donations from Big Business; disorganization in the liberal opposition; a stuffy, aloof opponent; and support from religious fanatics who feel they've been unfairly marginalized)-he wins the presidential election.
Once in, he appoints his friends and political advisers to high-level positions, stocks the Supreme Court with ''surprisingly unknown lawyers who called [him] by his first name,'' declaws Congress, allows Big Business to dictate policy, consolidates the media, and fills newspapers with ''syndicated gossip from Hollywood.'' Carping newspapermen worry that America is moving backward to a time when anti-German politicians renamed sauerkraut ''Liberty Cabbage'' and ''hick legislators...set up shop as scientific experts and made the world laugh itself sick by forbidding the teaching of evolution,'' but newspaper readers, wary of excessive negativity, pay no mind.
Given the nature of ''powerful and secret enemies'' of America-who are ''planning their last charge'' to take away our freedom-an indefinite state of crisis is declared, and that freedom is stowed away for safekeeping. When the threat passes, we can have it back, but in the meantime, citizens are asked to ''bear with'' the president.
Sure, some say these methods are extreme, but the plain folks are tired of wishy-washy leaders, and feel the president's decisiveness is its own excuse. Besides, as one man says, a fascist dictatorship ''couldn't happen here in America...we're a country of freemen!''
While more paranoid readers might be tempted to draw parallels between this scenario and sundry predicaments we may or may not be in right now, the story line is actually that of Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel ''It Can't Happen Here,'' a hastily written cautionary note about America's potential descent into fascism, recently reissued by New American Library in a handsome trade edition with a blood-spattered cover design.
For the rest of this review, click here.
Sinclair Lewis was the co-author of a play based on this novel, which was produced by over 20 companies around America through the Federal Theatre Project in 1936. MGM announced it would make a film version, but political pressure killed the project. Possibly because of the productions of this play, political controversy also killed the Federal Theatre Project.
Sinclair Lewis himself played the lead character in several summer stock productions in the late 1930s. For more information on the play, click here.
After his so-called contrite address to the nation Sunday(in which he said he made mistakes but he's going to keep on making the same ones in Iraq), President Bush on Monday hawked his way through a press conference in which he not only didn't sound contrite about the secret spying program in the White House, he said he would continue doing it.
Today the blogosphere was full of speculations as to why this spying was going on in the first place. Several writers, including David Sirota, pointed out that Bush already has extraordinary powers under the The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Under that act, he can order wiretaps etc. to gather foreign intelligence, and within 72 hours of starting it, must go to a secret court (which apparently exists only to okay this spying) to get its approval. In a quarter century of this act, only four requests have been denied.
But the Bush National Security Agency spying doesn't even bother with these niceties. Sirota wonders why. He notes that the reason Bush gave Monday---speed is of the essence---doesn't do it:
...the law currently allows Bush to order surveillance as fast as he possibly can, and allows surveillance operations to take place immediately. The only thing that is required is a court-issued warrant that can be used retroactively within 72 hours of when the operation started.
There really is only one explanation that a sane, rational person could come up with: The surveillance operations Bush is ordering are so outrageous, so unrelated to the War on Terror and such an unconstitutional breach of authority that he knows that even a court that has rejected just 4 warrant requests in 25 years will reject what he's doing.
What could that be? Josh Marshall thinks it might be some kind of electronic survelliance or dating mining that doesn't allow for individual warrants. Ameriblog speculates it might be spying on reporters.
Bush says that these were only Americans making phone calls to people with known Al Qaeda ties. That probably knocks out members of Congress, but it very much sounds like US journalists. Who else, other than terror cells, would be talking on a regular basis with people who might have ties to terrorism? American journalists working on stories.It could even include US journalists talking to their bureaus abroad. Read again who Bush said the program is targeting (if you believe him): "intercept the international communications of people with known links to Al-Qaida and related terrorist organizations."
What's a "known link"? Does a journalist who has contacts inside Al Qaeda have a "known link" to Al Qaeda? Well sure he does, he absolutely has links/contacts with Al Qaeda.
But an operative caution here is "If you believe him." For what if this spying has nothing to do with intercepts of calls overseas, and represents spying on people within the U.S. for reasons unrelated to terrorism, except in the usual wide Republican definition, which could mean everything from threats against Republicans winning elections to how close people are coming to discovering vote fraud and manipulation, or corruption involving Republicans and the corporations that own them?
In a different context this might amount to fantasy and paranoia. But not with this administration. Not given what we already know. Not now.
By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press
Emissions of gases blamed for warming the atmosphere grew by 2 percent in the United States last year, the Energy Department reported Monday.
The so-called greenhouse gases, led by carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, rose to 7.12 million metric tons, up from 6.98 million metric tons in 2003, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said. That's 16 percent higher than in 1990, and an average annual increase of 1.1 percent.
About 80 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases last year was carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels — coal, petroleum and natural gas — for electricity, transportation, manufacturing and other industrial processes.
The U.N. conference's Kyoto Protocol, which took effect among developing countries last year despite President Bush's rejection of it in 2001, had called for nations to cut their 1990 levels of "greenhouse" gas emissions by 5 percent by 2012.
Instead, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 would be nearly 25 percent higher than they were in 1990 if they continue at the current pace of growth. The United States is responsible for a quarter of these heat-trapping gases globally.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
For his One Laptop Per Child nonprofit company, Nicholas Negroponte and his M.I.T. team designed a $100 computer to be given away to Third World children to use in schools and on their own, to connect to the world. It links directly to the Internet and can be powered by the hand crank that is part of its design.
Also part of its design, this notebook sized computer folds in half like a book, and thereby becomes a neat version of an electronic book.
Now this computer is about to enter the manufacturing stage. Last week, Negroponte announced that millions of these computers will be built by Quanta of Taiwan, which already makes most of the world's laptops(including many U.S. brands). It should be available to distribute by the end of 2006.
Already committed to distributing the first run of these computers for extensive trials are China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, Nigeria, and Thailand.
Negroponte was interviewed on Charlie Rose Friday, and was named ABC's Person of the Week. Visit the project's official site for more information.
It's a good thing that almost no one pays any attention to the Captain, because this log entry could get him in a world of trouble.
It is about Bushcorps grasping the reigns of dictatorship.
Let's review some of the events of this extraordinary week, in which serious threats to American democracy were revealed. They bear a striking resemblance to the growing evidence of the climate crisis. Both conclusions come from data accruing over time, suddenly exploding in terms of quantity and threat, so quickly that it is difficult keeping up with each revelation.
What's going on politically now can be summarized in this way: if this is not an ongoing campaign to establish a dictatorship, we are headed there anyway.
There were two sets of revelations. The first pertains to controlling dissent through intimidation, harrassment, disinformation and spying, though the major issue of civil liberties and the important issue of wasted resources applied to the wrong problem are also involved.
Mid-week it was revealed that the Pentagon has been spying on the activities of various antiwar groups, including Quakers, and designating their lawful and constitutionally protected activities---especially protests against deceptive military recruiting-- as terrorist threats.
Late in the week there were reports of repeated instances of spying on hundreds and probably thousands of individuals within the U.S. authorized by the White House---but not by any law. These revelations created a furor in Congress, and added to other civil liberties concerns, and concerns about government gone wild and going after the wrong targets while neglecting quite obviously necessary matters to protect the public (like ensuring that first responders can communicate), led to the U.S. Senate refusing to renew and extend the Patriot Act. The Act extends provisions that allow for unwarranted intrusions, and mask them in secrecy.
The political firestorm resulting from these revelations forced the White House to gamble on becoming highly aggressive. Yes, said the President in a radio address Saturday, I authorized the spying, to protect the American people, and if you are against it, or against the Patriot Act, then you are making it easy for terrorists to strike again.
It's a ploy that worked before. However, when put in context of related news this week and earlier, it may be the most important moment so far in Bushcorps attempt to overrride democracy and accelerate its own reign of terror against political dissent and opposition. If American public opinion doesn't continue to bang away at Bush's credibility, this will be a Republic we can't keep, after barely a wimper.
These were only the most publicized of such revelations. Proposals to reorganize Homeland Security to perform domestic spying and to use Transportation Department operatives to spy on Americans in the transit system were exposed by E Pluribus Media.
In addition to the abuses to peace groups revealed this week, there was the story of a college student who was visited by federal agents because he requested Mao's Little Red Book through an interlibrary loan system for a political science paper.
Such acts of government terrorism are familiar to anyone who was part of various movements in the 1960s---for peace, Civil Rights or Native American rights, for example--as well as to anyone familiar with the Red-Baiting 50s. Computers and the Internet add a new patina, as well as new ease for tracking and intrusion. Whether by evil intent or simply misguided priorities, once the bureaucracies involved get these marching orders, abuses are automatic and fully predictable. Spying is done, reports are generated because the more threats, the more funding, and the more power.
All of this, plus earlier proposals for giving the military more power domestically, is only possible if Americans are both cowardly and stupid enough to fall for the fear mongering again.
There is however a new and even more insidious element to this undermining of democracy, if not blatant attempt to establish a one-party dictatorship. This is the activity that could shake this nation to its foundations: the growing evidence that the sanctity of voting has been violated, that voting results have been falsified, and that the result has been the election of George Bush as president, in 2000 if not also in 2004. And the continuing operations and plans to make this secret theft of democracy permanent.
The GAO report last month was sobering---so sobering, that the mainstream media is in major denial. The collection of evidence of vote-tampering, etc. continues, last week centering on the issue of electronic voting machines, specifically those of Diebold.
After years of accusations, fragmentary and anecdotal evidence, including the views of insiders, a test was conducted last week in Florida which conclusively proved that a hacker could manipulate Diebold machines from a remote location to change the votes, and it would be undetected.
Not only the results of the test but its pattern convinced a Florida election official to conclude that votes in his county were changed in the 2000 election, enough to change the outcome in the state and then in the nation. Diebold protested the test itself, but not the facts of the test's outcome.
In 2004 Diebold's president guaranteed that Bush would win the election.
Last week it was widely publicized that Diebold is being sued by some of its own stockholders for withholding information from them, including the vulnerabilties of its voting machines. Not as widely reported, while Diebold was competing in several states to install their machines for future elections, their officials continued making contributions to Republican politicians, even after these contributions were supposedly halted.
That Republicans continue to plan staying in office by manipulating elections was made clear by the Bush nomination to the Federal Elections Commission of a man notorious for concocting and carrying out voter suppression schemes, including the haphazard listing of Florida felons in 2000 that robbed thousands of legitimate voters of their voting rights.
These machines are still scheduled to be used in the 2006 elections in a number of states, some of which succumbed to Diebold and Republican pressure last week to approve them. Except for Democrats on the Congressional Black Caucus, and Senator Kerry's quiet observation that he lost every single precinct in New Mexico that used touch-screen voting machines, regardless of whether it was a Republican or Democratic area, the political consequences of a loss of public confidence in the vote has perhaps made Democrats very hesitant to strongly raise this issue. They have reason to be afraid, for a crisis of confidence could be exploited by Bushcorps, to install the dictatorship it seems to be preparing on all fronts.
UPDATE: Sunday newspaper editorials across America expressed alarm at the revelations of White House domestic spying. Rather than the usual suspects, check out this editorial in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette for the flavor of what was said. The editorial is titled Big Brother Bush: the president takes a step towards a police state.