Stop FISA secret domestic spying bill HR 6304–call your senator now

Stop FISA. Call your senator now.

The senate switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. Ask for your senator by name and they will connect you.

Or you can look up your senator’s direct number |here|.

For up to the minute info on opposition to FISA, check Electronic Frontier Foundation. They were the first to publish the text of the secret FISA amendment compromise. Last week they had current info on every House member’s position on the bill. This week they will link you to your senator’s info as well as collecting information about what your senator’s office tells you when you do make that phone call.

Easter Sunrise Service Fashion Statement in Chicago’s Daley Plaza–Lime Green Jersey Barriers

The Easter 2008 sunrise service in Chicago’s Daley Plaza might have been drab except for the lime green plastic jersey barriers cleverly utilized as a wind break from the fierce Lake Michigan winds that rage down Washington Avenue in March.

easter2008.jpg

Posted in Curiosities, Homeland Security, Humor, Illinois, Terrorism. Comments Off on Easter Sunrise Service Fashion Statement in Chicago’s Daley Plaza–Lime Green Jersey Barriers

Senator Dodd says no to FISA Act shenanigans–take action now

Senator Chris Dodd has declared a “stop” on the latest Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) revision. The latest compromise worked out in a secret session of the intelligence committee would make warrantless wiretapping legal and retroactively make the telecommunications companies that participated in it immune from prosecution.

Dodd’s presidential campaign website says:

The Military Commissions Act. Warrantless wiretapping. Shredding of Habeas Corpus. Torture. Extraordinary Rendition. Secret Prisons.

No more.

You go, Senator.

If anyone still has doubts that the FISA act was enacted for reasons that had anything to do with national security, it was recently revealed that communications companies had been asked to turn over customer information to the government in February 2001, seven months before the 9/11 attacks.
Here’s what you can do right now:

1. Call the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at 202-224-3542 and tell him to support Chris Dodd’s hold — Reid’s wavering. Tell them you are against wiretapping without a warrant.  [Note: Senator Reid’s Washington office voice mail is full. If you can get through, try to talk to his staff (press1) , they may be keeping a tally. Now call his regional office in Carson City at 775-882-7343 instead. Fill that voice mail too, or tell his staff your concerns about wiretapping without a warrant.]

2. Call your own two Senators and tell them exactly the same thing.

3. Make a contribution to Senator Dodd’s campaign, so he can continue to speak out.

4. Write a message on your own blog. Ask people to take these 4 steps.

Posted in Government, Homeland Security. Comments Off on Senator Dodd says no to FISA Act shenanigans–take action now

Big bucks in Iraq for experienced border agents

The governors of Arizona and New Mexico are ticked off at the president.  Why?  According to a report in the Associated Press, Bush has asked international company Dyncorp to find 120 people with border enforcement experience to train Iraqi police how to secure their borders. Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (who is also running for president) wrote President Bush this week to say this would hamper security on the Mexican border.

And how does Dyncorp plan to recruit their trainers for the Iraqi border police?

DynCorp is offering recruits $134,100 for a one-year stay, plus a $25,000 signing bonus. The first $90,000 in income is tax free, and housing and food are free, company spokesman Gregory Lagana said.

Border Patrol agents with at least two years’ experience make roughly $55,000.

I wonder if Dyncorp would settle for ESL experience.

Posted in Homeland Security, Immigration, Iraq, Middle East. Comments Off on Big bucks in Iraq for experienced border agents

The Chicago Jersey Barrier goes Lime

Lime green Jersey barriers have arrived in the Chicago Loop.

If you haven’t noticed that the new “it” color is a bright shade of lime green, you have been living under a rock for the last couple years. Last weekend I was in the Loop and had to look twice. In a construction zone was a line of Jersey barriers, but they were plastic, not concrete. And the color was a bright green. Glancing up at a crew working next to Daley Plaza I could see their neon green vests exactly matched the Jersey barriers.

jersey-barier-orange.jpg

The new plastic barriers are meant to be filled with water. There is a hole at the top to fill and another hole at the bottom to drain. A circle on the end of one barrier fits a hole on the end of the next so they can fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.jersey-bariers-7colors.jpg

When I returned to Chicago after 9/11 , so many little things had changed. For instance the Sears Tower had acquired Jersey barriers all around the perimeter, but they were gray concrete barriers, and seemed somehow to fit with the dignified architecture of the city. These new barriers are definitely not unobtrusive.

Ahmadinejad Bedeviled by Security Council’s Ancestors from Hell

Do nations that espouse “godless communism” have ancesters from hell? Apparently so. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted in the Friday-Saturday edition of The Jordan Times :

“Today, the Iranian nation fully possesses the nuclear fuel cycle. If all of you gather and also invite your ancestors from hell, you will not be able to stop the Iranian nation,” he said.

The reference was to the five permanent member of the UN Security Council–the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France–plus Germany whose ambassadors reached an agreement to increase trade sanctions and add more individuals and organizations to the list freezing assets.   The text adds to the agreement reached by the Security Council in December and will be presented to the full 15-member Security Council for further discussion.

Iran must be terribly dull these days now that the Holocaust Denial Convention is no longer in town.

(The following is the complete text of the article–JT links are active for one week): UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Six world powers reached agreement Thursday on a package of new sanctions against Iran including an embargo on arms exports and financial restrictions on more individuals and companies associated with Tehran’s nuclear and missile programmes, many linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

Their draft resolution, obtained by the Associated Press, expresses concern at “the proliferation risks presented by the Iranian nuclear programme.” It reiterates the demand by the Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency that Tehran suspend uranium enrichment, which can be used to produce nuclear energy or nuclear weapons.

The governments of the five permanent Security Council nations — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — and Germany gave a green light Thursday morning to the draft resolution hammered out by their ambassadors.

“We have an agreement and I will introduce a text on behalf of the six,” Britain’s UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said after a meeting of ambassadors from the six countries. “It’s a text which is our suggestions. It’s not take it or leave it.” The full 15-member Security Council then met so the draft resolution could be presented to the 10 non-permanent council nations, who are elected for two-year terms and have been left out of negotiations.

They will need time to consider the text and the current council president, South Africa’s UN Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said Wednesday. “We anticipate that the voting would happen maybe well into next week.” But the agreement by the five veto-wielding permanent members will be a strong signal of the unity of the key nations on the UN’s most powerful body — and a sign that they want to send a united message to Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.

In December, the Security Council voted unanimously to impose limited sanctions against Iran for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment. It ordered all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programmes and to freeze assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programmes.

The council said it would consider further nonmilitary sanctions if Iran refused to suspend enrichment. Iran’s response was to accelerate its enrichment programme.

The modest package of new measures in the new draft would freeze the assets of 10 additional individuals and eight additional entities, according to a council diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the annex to the draft resolution with the names was not released.

Seven of the individuals are members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and three of the organisations are affiliated with the elite military corps, which oversees vital Iranian interests, including oil and natural gas installations and the nation’s missile arsenal, the diplomat said.

Acting US Ambassador Alejandro Wolff had called the issue of the Revolutionary Guards one of “the trickiest” in drafting the resolution.

Under the draft, Iran would be banned from supplying, selling or transferring “any arms or related material” and all countries would be prohibited from buying Iranian weapons.

The proposed resolution does not ban arms imports to Iran, but calls on all nations “to exercise vigilance and restraint” in supplying tanks, combat aircraft and other heavy weapons.

In the financial area, it calls on all governments and financial institutions not to make any new commitments “of grants, financial assistance, or concessional loans” to the Iranian government.

There is no travel ban, but all countries would be asked to exercise “vigilance and restraint” on the entry or transit through their territory of the individuals whose assets have been frozen. The draft would also require all countries to report the transit or entry of any of these people to the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Iran.

Iran insists its enrichment programme is peaceful and aimed solely at producing nuclear energy, but the US, European nations and the UN nuclear watchdog are concerned that Iran’s goal is to produce nuclear weapons.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday called the UN Security Council an “illegitimate” body and said that any new sanctions imposed on his country would only stimulate it to be self sufficient and further develop nuclear technology.

“Using the Security Council as an instrument, the enemies of Iran want to prevent the progress of the Iranian nation,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the state Islamic Republic News Agency. “But the Security Council today has no legitimacy among world nations. What are you seeking to prevent [Iran] from,” Ahmadinejad said at a rally in Ardakan, central Iran, speaking of the West.

“Today, the Iranian nation fully possesses the nuclear fuel cycle. If all of you gather and also invite your ancestors from hell, you will not be able to stop the Iranian nation,” he said.

“We have an agreement and I will introduce a text on behalf of the six,” Britain’s UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said after a meeting of ambassadors from the six countries on Thursday. The package will now be considered by the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council.

Ahmadinejad suggested at the rally Thursday that new sanctions would help enhance — not undermine — Iran’s development of nuclear technologies.

“Haven’t you imposed sanctions in the past 27 years? Which machinery or parts did you give us,” he said in reference to US sanctions against Iran and refusal by European countries to sell Iran technologies that could also have nuclear use in the past three decades.

Friday-Saturday, March 16-17, 2007

The Case for Torture (totally fictional of course): Vince Flynn’s bestseller “Memorial Day”

Mich Rapp is about as one-dimensional as a character can get. Oh sure, he has a wife, so when he returns to DC from Afghanistan where he has been busy killing suspected al-Qaeda sympathizers, the first thing he does is call her up, right? Nope. He goes to the Facility, a place “so secret, it didn’t even have a name,” where he can torture some more suspected al-Qaeda sympathizers.

So begins Vince Flynn’s 2004 bestseller Memorial Day. Throughout the book the twin themes of torture and secrecy are explored, however shallowly, and in this fictional scenario they are the only tools standing between America and its certain destruction by terrorists.

Rapp didn’t like torture, not only because of its effect on the person being brutalized, but for what it did to the person who sanctioned and carried it out. He had no desire to sink to those depths unless it was a last resort, but unfortunately they were quickly approaching that point. Lives were at stake. Two CIA operatives were already dead, thanks to the duplicitous scum in the other room, and many more lives were in the balance. Something was in the works, and if Rapp didn’t find out what it was hundreds, maybe thousands, of innocent people would die.

Sure enough, something is going on, at least in this fictional account, that justifies torturing this particular prisoner, who is, after all, “duplicitous scum”. It is nothing less than a plot to kill the president of the United States, along with several other heads of state who will be attending a Memorial Day ceremony, hence the novel’s title. The Terrorists have managed to assemble a bomb made from nuclear materials scavenged from a former Soviet nuclear test site in Kazakhstan. A twenty-kiloton bomb capable of destroying the capitol, killing a hundred thousand people in the initial burst and double that many in the following month from radiation has been smuggled into the country. The bomb is getting closer and closer to Washington.

But Rapp has enemies. Lawyers who want public trials instead of secret torture. Politicians trying to make a name for themselves. “Haters of America’s capitalistic muscle.” Fortunately for the plot line, Rapp is “neither delicate nor squeamish”.

In a private interview with the president of the United States, Rapp sums up his argument for his methods:

We pulled five prisoners out of that village in Pakistan, sir, and none of them were willing to talk. I lined them all up, and started with a man named Ali Saed al-Houri. I put a gun to his head, and when he refused to answer my questions I blew his brains out, Mr. President. I executed the bastard, and I didn’t feel an ounce of shame or guilt. I thought of the innocent men and women who were forced to jump out of the burning World Trade Center, and I pulled the trigger. I moved on to the next terrorist and blew his brains out too, and then the third guy in line started singing like a bird. That’s how we found out about the bomb, sir. That’s what it takes to win this war on terror.

Although the book was first published in 2004, Amazon still ranks this book #98,926 in sales, and is about to reissue the book. Several of Flynn’s other 8 terrorist thrillers are doing even better than this one. Amazon.com does not yet allow for reselling used copies of this title, but you can get one at ABEBooks.com. Would I recommend the book? No. The characters are too shallow; the political message depends too heavily on emotion generated from a purely fictional event. But a lot of people have been reading these books. Who knows how many of them are buying in to the implicit message.

Posted in Arabs, Homeland Security, Torture. Comments Off on The Case for Torture (totally fictional of course): Vince Flynn’s bestseller “Memorial Day”