Blogosphere kneedeep in Wikileaks

In the last few days Wikileaks has dominated the blogosphere. Even the XKCD comic has gotten into the act.

If you want to read something uplifting, go straight to Study Hacks, and read about how to use recent research into extrinsic motivation to help you do work that matches your deeply-held values and to make the Romantic Scholar lifestyle a reality.

Otherwise the rest of this is about Wikileaks.

I finally read the Wikipedia article about Wikileaks–interesting background reading, especially the part about it being started by Chinese dissidents who can face long jail terms or even death for writing about for instance Tiananmen Square.

Over and over, progressive bloggers are linking to Anglachel’s article, which points out the current round of selective leaks was done to a Democratic administration, and looks for Republicans hiding under the bed:

The fact that the cables are now in the open allows the Neocon noise machine to safely reference them to beat the drum for war with Iran, secure in the knowledge that contrary information of comparable validity cannot be provided because of diplomatic concerns. How can contrary information be leaked and to whom without it blowing up in the face of whomever tries to engineer that release? The release of the documents into the wild means there is a “source” for “Oh, look what we just now found!” kinds of revelations. The partial release on the wikileaks site itself always ensures that more can be found when there is a need for a strategic leak. The cables that identify security interests – which are of concern to more than the US – turn into fodder to gin up more domestic fear about terrorism, and to request more money for that purpose.

There is no down-side for the right with the release of these documents.

Iran, huh? Zogby also focuses in on Iran, and finds Israelis under the bed:

From the day the first batch of WikiLeaks appeared in the international press, the Israelis were crowing “this is good for us”. Seizing on documents demonstrating that some Arab leaders bear ill-will toward Iran, the Israeli spin machine went into action. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted that “Our region has been hostage to a narrative that is the result of 60 years of propaganda, which paints Israel as the greatest threat”, claiming that Iran had, in fact, eclipsed the Palestinian issue as the number one concern of the Arab World. Another prominent Israeli official gloated that “Iran was now ten times more important than Palestine” and that it was now time to shelve the “peace effort” and focus attention on Iran.

Liberals were not the only ones unhappy with Wikileaks. Merriam-Webster’s “Word Well Used” feature showcased the word “frisson”, used by conservative Theodore Dalrymple, writing about Wikileaks in the City Journal. Dalrymple’s concerns are more generic:

The actual effect of WikiLeaks is likely to be profound and precisely the opposite of what it supposedly sets out to achieve. Far from making for a more open world, it could make for a much more closed one. Secrecy, or rather the possibility of secrecy, is not the enemy but the precondition of frankness. WikiLeaks will sow distrust and fear, indeed paranoia; people will be increasingly unwilling to express themselves openly in case what they say is taken down by their interlocutor and used in evidence against them, not necessarily by the interlocutor himself. This could happen not in the official sphere alone, but also in the private sphere, which it works to destroy.

Not all conservatives have something abstract, obscure, and negative to say about Wikileaks. This circumlocutory video from The American Conservative is unambiguously positive about Wikileaks.

There is some general agreement that the one good thing to come out of Wikileaks was the leak of the Apache helicopter attack video. Glen Greenwald focuses on the inhumane prison conditions of the presumed leaker, Bradley Manning. While high profile Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, possibly the creepiest boss since Dov Charney, was released from jail after only a week, for the last 7 months Manning has remained locked away by himself 23 hours a day without recourse and  without so much as a trial:

Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has never been convicted of that crime, nor of any other crime. Despite that, he has been detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia for five months — and for two months before that in a military jail in Kuwait — under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture. …
From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day — for seven straight months and counting — he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he’s barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he’s being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs. Interviews with several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning’s detention, ultimately including a Quantico brig official (Lt. Brian Villiard) who confirmed much of what they conveyed, establishes that the accused leaker is subjected to detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries.

The last word about Wikileaks goes to myiq2xu, writing at the Confluence:

Ever seen a puppet show? While Punch and Judy might appear to be fighting and arguing with each other, if you peek behind the curtain you’ll see one puppeteer with a hand up each puppet’s ass.

I know a puppet show when I see one, and this whole Wikileaks affair is a big one with lots of puppets, bells and whistles. What I don’t know is the identity of the puppeteers and what their goals are.

Make no mistake, they DO have goals, even if it’s only to distract and entertain while pickpockets work the crowd.

So before you decide anything, take a peek behind the curtain.

Two news items

Glen Greenwald has been following the progress of an investigation into the origin of two bombs intercepted in England and Dubai–bombs that had been mailed to the U.S.  He castigates U.S. government sources for not being accurate enough in identifying the senders of the bombs. First, “officials said evidence was mounting that the top leadership of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, including the radical American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki”, a man who is on the list of people the government is trying to assassinate, then today it became “officials still have little hard evidence about who was involved”.  I appreciate Greenswald’s political stance–we need more like him, and yes it could be a case of, as the Red Queen would say, “sentence first, verdict later”.  Or the information could have come from intelligence that can’t be revealed–always convenient, that.

The rhetoric was ratcheted up a few notches when radical Iman Anjem Choudary stated on an interview program,

“When you send bombs over there, what do you expect them to send back to you? What did you expect to find in a package? You know, chocolates? Of course you’re going to find bombs. They’re going to give you a taste of your own medicine”.

But, um, weren’t we over there in the first place because we had bombs, not chocolates, arrive on our own shores? And because various Middle Eastern governments are either unable or unwilling to stop them?

Buried in the fine print is the information that the bombs were mailed to a synagogue in Chicago. Let me repeat that.

The bombs were mailed to a synagogue in Chicago.

Hey! That’s where I live!

I can’t believe this imam is getting a free pass on the idea that Jewish civilians in Chicago are somehow responsible for White House policy and it’s okay to send bombs to them in “retaliation”.  If Greenwald is going to talk about unchecked pronouncements, lack of evidence, and mindless subservience to a political line, he needs to add this Iman Anjem Choudary character to his list.

[This may also explain why a large plastic envelope I received from the Middle East a few weeks ago was very efficiently slashed open, then retaped with clear packing tape.]

[via the Confluence]


Since that was pretty depressing, and since today is election day, here is a more upbeat story.

Washington DC was testing a new voting system that would allow people to cast absentee ballots online, and invited the public to find any bugs in the program.  (Are you listening, Diebold?)  Within 36 hours the program had been hacked by University of Michigan students, who obtained passwords, changed votes, and programmed the system to play the Michigan fight song after each ballot was cast.  Here’s my favorite part:

And they changed all the votes to write-ins for famous robots and computers such as Johnny 5 (from the movie “Short Circuit”), HAL 9000 (from “2001: A Space Odyssey”), and Deep Thought (from “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”).

[via Organizations and Markets]

Posted in Government. Comments Off on Two news items

Politics is still local

If you think school finance meetings are boring, take a look at this one.  This is what democracy looks like.

First, everybody onto the bus.

bus-with-sign busses-waiting1

At the meeting, each school gets two minutes if they want to speak to the finance committee.  Seven or eight schools have already made their presentations. This school’s needs are explained by a Chicago alderman. At the end of the alderman’s presentation, everyone supporting the school is asked to stand and there is prolonged spontaneous cheering, probably not part of the original two-minute deal.

Then the state rep tries to speak, and is drowned out by boos.   Finally they let him speak, sort of, but he is again interrupted by the same group that booed him initially.  The woman standing up is yelling, “They didn’t tell us we had to bring our state representative.”

Their part in the meeting finished, everyone gets back on the bus, and the buses drive off into the sunset.

back-to-the-bus busses-leave

Of course this represents a lot more than just a finance meeting.  What is at stake is competition for scarce resources. The backdrop for the competition is the desertion of the city centers by the tax base in the 60’s followed by the deterioration of the infrastructure of the city and now the first-tier suburbs. Somewhere in the mix is racial and ethnic politics.  There is as yet no comfortable language for speaking about this publicly, although you might see something if you look hard enough in the endnotes of 300-page municipal reports. What does speak volumes is the possibility of not being re-elected; even school administrators are at risk if they do nothing.

Posted in Education, Government. Comments Off on Politics is still local

Presidential Oath of Office Tag Cloud is a website that will create tag cloud art from a group of words. Since today is inauguration day, the phrase that comes to mind immediately is the presidential oath of office. Here is the official oath from Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

presidential-oath-of-office-screen-cloud2And here it is in a tag cloud. The font is “Kenyan coffee”. The color combination is “blue meets orange”.

Here is a video of today’s  oath of office, administered to Barack Hussein Obama by Chief Justice John Roberts. Does anyone seem to be a bit nervous?  And isn’t it supposed to be “the office of President of the United States”?

Posted in Government. Comments Off on Presidential Oath of Office Tag Cloud

Anti-bailout demonstration in Indiana

As the stock market dropped 770-some points today, the blogosphere trembled with rhetoric. Citizens called their elected officials by the droves, and most expressed opposition to a bailout–at least 80% and maybe more, depending on who you ask.  In Indiana today I saw the following impromptu demonstration and stopped to see what was going on.

Protestors were holding up signs that said “No bailouts for banks”, “Constitution R.I.P.”, and “Capitalism Works”. Quite a few cars were honking as they passed by. I asked one of the demonstrators about how they came to be out there together. They first met at a political meetup for Ron Paul supporters. The crisis is real, they told me, but it’s not up to the government to rescue someone who makes a bad financial decision, especially if it’s a big company. People shouldn’t borrow money they can’t pay back, they said. People who got mortgages with balloon payments made a mistake. There should be consequences for bad decisions.

Also they said I should look up Davy Crockett and “not yours to give”. The “Davy Crockett” speech, which apparently he never gave, is basically a rehash of the Libertarian position that the government is not authorized by the Constitution to tax. Of course it’s not true.  The 16th amendment settled that one, if there ever was any doubt, and the Constitution also says the federal government can provide for the “general welfare”. So those highway appropriations will just keep on coming. And Libertarians don’t really mean all that stuff about taxes anyhow.  Libertarians like Ron Paul manage to inserted earmarks into bills they know are going to pass, even if they maintain political “purity” by later voting against those bills.

But taxation isn’t my biggest beef with the Libertarians.  It their dogma-based approach to government.  Libertarians start with a premise about how the world should be–and based on what?–then work backwards to how the government actions should be in accordance with the premise.  I’m a bit more pragmatic.  Instead of trying to decide who should be punished in this economic mess, and how many innocent people have to suffer in order to punish the ones who violated a certain political code that no one explained in advance, I prefer to look ahead to what results might be achieved and the steps to make those results happen.  As soon as I figure out what that is, be sure that I will post it right here first thing.

Is our food safe yet?

This is just WRONG.

First they thought it was the tomatoes.

Then after months and months of seeing letters about Salmonella in tomatoes posted in supermarkets and fast food chains, they decided it wasn’t the tomatoes after all.  But not before the tomato industry was destroyed for the season.  Now they say it was the jalapeno peppers.  Really?  No matter, I have both tomatoes and jalapenos in the garden.

It used to be that America had safe food and safe water.  That’s what made us different from other countries.  Anyone who has ever gotten a dose of Montezuma’s revenge while enjoying Mexico’s beaches, or a touch of fever after eating the wild boar in Kathmandu can appreciate America’s tradition of eating food without having to take antibiotics afterwards. But all that has changed now.

Where is the government that used to protect our food?

Oh, yeah, that’s right. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Secretary Mike Leavitt is busy these days trying to get contraception redefined as abortion.

Posted in Government, Health, Public Policy. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Is our food safe yet?

West Nile Virus speads under Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt

Last night my neighbor told me she was keeping the children inside because West Nile Virus had just been discovered in several of Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods, including this one.  Just a few streets over, they still didn’t have electric services restored after the heavy storms and rains that have swept through in the last few days.  And now, with more  standing water in the alleys and nearby nature preserves, we’re in for even more mosquitoes.  Sick, diseased mosquitoes.

Getting infected with West Nile isn’t like catching a cold either. Since the first two dead cows in 2001 confirmed that West Nile had entered the state, 94 people have died from the disease, just in Illinois.  While the epicenter of West Nile deaths has move westward form Illinois to Colorado to California, a hot spot remains in urban Chicago.

When I lived in Jordan back in 2000, there was an outbreak of West Nile virus in Israel just across the border, a 40-minute cab ride away.  I saw notices in the newspaper, films of mosquitoes on channel 2  (the only channel I could pull in), and after dusk chemical trucks spraying the streets on either side of Abdali bus station in central Amman.  Nobody died from West Nile in Jordan.

In the last 7 years, West Nile virus has entered this country and spread like wildfire, killing 94 people and preventing children from playing outdoors in the summer.  Where is our government?  In the past we have seen the federal government take the lead in controlling and even wiping out numerous diseases like influenza and polio.  It used to be that fearing mosquitoes was something that happened in third world malaria prone areas like Africa.  Where is the federal government now?  Oh, yeah, that’s right.  They’re busy trying to impose their religion on everybody else by trying to redefine contraceptives as abortion.

Posted in Government, Health, الأردن. Tags: , . Comments Off on West Nile Virus speads under Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt

ACLU blog on FISA: it’s not over

Glen Greenwald, writing in the ACLU blog today, says the Fat Lady has yet to sing in the matter of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

How many times does the fourth amendment come up in a generic cafeteria discussion of FISA?  Not at all.  Too esoteric.  It doesn’t pass the New York taxi driver test, in other words, you can’t explain it to a cab driver in a few sound bites.  Try it.  But retroactive telecom immunity definitely strikes a nerve.  You can talk about eavesdropping and companies that are breaking the law, and everybody gets upset about that one and puts in their two cents worth.  And it’s the retroactive immunity Greenwald discusses here. He finds retroactive immunity unconstitutional because

1)  Congress does not have jurisdiction to determine whether the telecom companies operated “in good faith” when they wiretapped without a warrant.  Only the courts can determine that.

2) The right to sue telecoms is property.  Taking away the right to sue deprives citizens of property without due process. The fifth amendment allows this only with just compensation.  An example of this is when Congress created the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund in lieu of being able to sue in court.

I have no doubt that eventually habeas corpus will mean something again in this country and that the Constitution will be honored again.  Hopefully in my lifetime.  We have been through the McCarthy era and the Civil War before that, and the pendulum always swings back after ten years or so.  But it doesn’t swing back until the security threat is over. In the meantime, people like Greenwald keep the torch from going out.

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Text of Hillary Clinton’s email petition against Bush attack on birth control

Text of Hillary Clinton’s email message about Health and Human Services rewriting regulations to undermine reproductive rights, including links to petition:

Sign the petition

Dear [Nijma],

Since 2001, I have served as the honorary chair of HillPAC, an organization dedicated to helping working families. It is our goal to fight for a better future for every child, and for every family. To keep fighting for those who get up every day, no matter what the odds, and never give in. For those who never back down, and those who always stand their ground. HillPAC works to elect Democratic candidates to office who share these same ideals and goals and I’m proud to serve as the honorary chair and I hope you will join me in this mission.

Right now, I’m working with HillPAC to lead the fight on one very important issue, and we need your help.

The Bush White House is working to rewrite the definition of abortion in federal regulations to include common forms of birth control. This would undermine women’s health and put family planning services in danger. Simply, it puts women at risk — it could even prevent victims of sexual assault from receiving emergency contraceptives.

I need your help to speak up for the health of millions of American women who are in danger, once again, from the latest assault from the Bush administration.

Will you join me in sending a strong message to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt to put women’s health ahead of right-wing ideology?

Click here to send a message to the Bush administration asking them to protect women’s health.

Imagine being told common forms of contraception like birth control pills could now fall under the definition of an abortion. This is another assault by the extreme right on the rights and health of women everywhere. They will do anything in their power to impose their beliefs — no matter what the risk to women.

We’ve worked hard to guarantee women have access to a full range of health and family planning services, and we can’t let the right wing undermine those efforts. This issue is far too important not to act, so I hope you’ll join HillPAC and me today in speaking out to protect women’s health.

Tell Bush’s HHS Secretary to protect women’s health!

Thank you for all your support. I’m so happy that we are still working together on vitally important issues like this one.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Posted in Gender, Government, Women. Tags: , , , . Comments Off on Text of Hillary Clinton’s email petition against Bush attack on birth control

What the latest FISA amendment would do

With the senate scheduled to consider the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 tomorrow, here is an overview of what the bill would do.

  • First of all, the bill is not a replacement for the FISA courts. The first part of the bill covers surveillance of those who are NOT U.S. Citizens, whether they are in the U.S. or abroad. American citizens, wherever they are, are not supposed to be targeted under the fist part of this law, but later parts cover targeting Americans abroad.
  • The bill contains a lot of weasel language about accidentally wiretapping U.S. citizens, with much use of words like “intentionally target” and “reasonably believe”.
  • The Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence have to submit a certification saying they did or will try to apply to the FISA court for approval for the surveillance within 7 days of the date of the certificate. They can move the date of the certificate around later, depending on when the surveillance begins. They are supposed to pay the telecoms for their services. They are supposed to make their requests to the telecoms in writing. They don’t have to say where the wiretapping will take place. They are supposed to keep a copy of the certification notice to the FISA court. The FISA court has 30 days to review the certification and determine whether it is proper and legal.
  • Telecoms cannot be sued in court for going along with this.
  • The government can require security measures from telecoms.
  • If a telecom does NOT want to go along with this, they will be in very deep doo doo and spend a lot of money on lawyers. The “electronic communication service provider”–the telecom asked to wiretap–can request of the FISA court not to do the wiretapping. The FISA court has to assign to petition to a judge within 24 hours–24 hours!–and review the petition within 5 days. If the judge finds the government request to be improper or illegal they can tell the telecom they don’t have to do it. Otherwise they can order the telecom to comply. They have to do this in writing. Then if the telecom still doesn’t want to carry out the wiretapping, they can be sued for contempt of court. If the telecom does not agree they can take it to the Supreme Court “under seal”, whatever that is, probably some sort of secrecy.
  • If the court does not agree with the government that a wiretap is proper, the government can either alter their surveillance to comply with the court, stop the surveillance, or appeal to the FISA court of review. The FISA review court has 60 days to make a decision; in the meantime the government can continue to wiretap. It is not clear what happens if the government “corrects the deficiency”–does the new government procedure then go back to FISA for another review and reset the 60-day clock?
  • Time limits for court decisions can be extended if it’s in the interest of security.
  • FISA will keep their proceedings secure.
  • Reauthorizations should be renewed at least 30 days before they expire. (current projects are said to be expiring in August– is this the rush to pass FISA amendments bill now?)
  • Every six months the Attorney General and Director of National Intelligence will submit a report to the FISA court and to congressional intelligence and judiciary committees. The report will consist of a review of how well they have managed not to wiretap Americans and how many citizens ( a U.S. citizen in this bill is referred to as “a United States-person identity”) have actually been wiretapped, also something called “minimization procedures”.

‘(e) Minimization Procedures-

    ‘(1) REQUIREMENT TO ADOPT- The Attorney General, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, shall adopt minimization procedures that meet the definition of minimization procedures under section 101(h) or 301(4), as appropriate, for acquisitions authorized under subsection (a).

    ‘(2) JUDICIAL REVIEW- The minimization procedures adopted in accordance with paragraph (1) shall be subject to judicial review pursuant to subsection (i).

Apparently is has something to do with how the “acquisitions” or recordings are handled. Wouldn’t it be really funny if this was just Newspeak for a zip file on a thumb drive?

  • The Inspectors General of the Justice Department, and any intelligence agencies authorized to conduct wiretapping, are authorized to review how many American citizens were actually wiretapped and also the mysterious “minimization procedures”. The review can be presented to the heads of the intelligence agencies, the head of the Justice department and congressional intelligence and justice oversight committees. The heads of the intelligence entities (aren’t they agencies anymore?) will write an annual review, which goes to the AG, FISA, the head of Justice, and the congressional justice and intelligence oversight committees.
  • But, wait a minute, this isn’t just about wiretapping. In section 703 c 4 we find out that an order approving “ACQUISITIONS INSIDE THE UNITED STATES TARGETING UNITED STATES PERSONS OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES” has to specify “the nature of the information sought to be acquired and the type of communications or activities to be subjected to acquisition”. What is an “activity” and how do you acquire it? The FISA court approval document also has to specify “a summary of the means by which the acquisition will be conducted and whether physical entry is required to effect the acquisition”. Physical entry? We’re not talking about planting bugs in telephones here, are we. And they have to specify the “means”? So this isn’t just about wiretapping. It could cover just about any object that could be searched for–emails, computers, papers, even what’s in someone’s medicine cabinet–and inside anything–homes, cars, offices.
  • Domestic spying (not just wiretapping it seems) approvals are good for 90 days and can have more 90 day extensions after a FISA judge reviews the circumstances of what has already been done.
  • Up until this point, this bill does not authorize targeting American citizens, but now Section 704 specifically details the requirements for spying on a U. S. citizen abroad. An American citizen can be spied on if there is a certification filed with FISA or the Attorney General authorizes the spying as an emergency. The identity of the American citizedn does not have to be known. The spying is supposed to stop if the person is known to enter the U.S., but can resume again after they leave. In this type of spying, the FISA judge who reviews the case may review how the information was used, but not how it was collected.
  • The Attorney General can authorize an emergency spying on an American abroad, but has to notify the FISA judge at that time, and file a certification within 7 days. The authorization is good until the certification is obtained or the desired information is obtained.
  • Information obtained without a certification cannot be used in court, or disclosed, unless there is a threat of harm to someone.
  • Civil lawsuits against telecoms are prohibited as long as they have a written authorization–and there is quite a lengthy description here of what documentation is okay to prove authorization–after 9/11 for the wiretap.


Comments and ruminations:

The bill starts out benign and slowly gets scary. After all, who would disagree with a wiretap targeting someone in another country who was not American, especially if they were planning another 9/11? Then we get to wiretapping non-citizens who are in the U.S.–still sort of a gray area, but not that objectionable. Do foreigners have rights? Well, we stuck a toe in the water and didn’t get frostbite, so maybe it’s a reasonable bill after all.

Then we read about all the reporting required everytime there is a wiretap. Reports in triplicate to Justice, FISA, and bipartisan intelligence committees in both houses of congress. Good idea, oversight, accountability. That’s what an Inspector General is for. Prevent waste, fraud, abuse. In some agencies they’re even independent of the agency’s director, which is handy if you want to scrutinize the agency and keep your job at the same time. The Republicans and Democrats will be tripping over each other to make sure it isn’t used as a political tool that can be used against them .

Much has been made of the Attorney General’s ability to make emergency declarations in order to spy without a certification, but it looks like the AG can only do that with Americans abroad and has to make a declaration to the FISA first and follow it up by applying for a certification.

The fourth amendment says no search and seizure without a warrant, but here warrants have been replaced by certifications. What ‘s the difference? Not having to specify the person searched for or the specific place to be searched. I suppose that’s necessary when dealing with the internet and all those anonymous hackers on steroids. It’s been mentioned elsewhere that warrants can be subpoenaed. Can certifications? But a certification has to be listed in all kinds of reports to the executive and legislative branches.

Information obtained by spying on Americans abroad before a certification is obtained cannot be used in court–this is nasty. The American Way is to sue. We don’t war on each other because it’s so much more fun to throw our lawyers at each other. The right of Americans to sue and be sued cannot be impinged upon. Also it would be really nice to try some terrorists and put them in jail instead of having all these foreign covert actions. It’s killing our reputation abroad. I bet if the world found out how much nasty fun lawyers can be, war would disappear forever. Plus if there was some legally admissible evidence, we could think about how to lock up some terrorists legally.

Who is restricted from bringing lawsuits? Not the telecoms. The telecoms can take the FISA appeal court ruling to the Supreme Court. Not the government. The government can take any objections of the telecoms to the Supreme Court. What about any citizens who get spied on? Looks like they might be able to sue the government but not the telecoms. If they find out.


More ruminations

In some ways this a very pragmatic bill, similar to legalizing prostitution or buying and selling pollution credits. Try this analogy. Little Gerogie has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar before dinner time and now has no appetite for the bill of rights. He doesn’t eat the cookies himself, he just gives them to his friends because he doesn’t have a clue what to do about 9/11 and he thinks if they have the cookies they will be distracted and will think he’ s doing something.

Mommy and Daddy are quite busy working double shifts to pay for everything. For instance they’re ten million short for the Denver convention, and they just don’t have the time and energy to do FISA, er cookies right. Besides, once Georgie is off to boarding school, he and his playmates won’t have the opportunity for cookies anymore. And the twins. Little Barack and Hillary both want to go to college, but they can only send one, so Mommy and Daddy are busy with that mess too. So instead of sending Georgie off to cookie boot camp, they want to stop little Georgie from putting his hand in the cookie jar in the first place until they can get him out of the house and have time to deal with it.

So here’s what they come up with. They exchange the cookies for muffins. Harder to get out of the jar without being noticed. Then they say it’s okay to eat as many muffins as possible before mealtime as long as you put a little check mark on the little chart next to the muffin jar. Of course you will have to explain later what you did with all those muffins and count them and so forth, but for now just take the muffins and let someone know you took them.

And if you’re out of the house and need a muffin really quick, here’s a dime for mad money, just have the attorney general call an emergency and you get more muffins as long as you keep putting a check in the box next to the jar.

Of course, now that it’s okay to eat before meals, we don’t want to know about all the friends you gave those cookies to before–I mean, that’s all legal now, so why get upset over something that was not okay before but is okay now.

Hope you don’t mind all the cholesterol–don’t get any arterial plaque or stroke out or anything, now, y’hear?