Saturday, October 06, 2007

What do we do?

By Carol Gee

Exercise Vigilant Shield 2008 -- Fellow activist/blogger "betmo" sent me these links with which she hoped I would "do something good." They are to NorthComMil News (pdf) and Dissident News. And they are real "doozies"! The two together are enough to make knots in your stomach, similar to mine.

Preparing the U.S. for martial law -- The first describes "Exercise Vigilant Shield 2008" from the point of view of NORTHCOM, short for United States Northern Command. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will also be participating. The second describes the potential for good things and bad things happening to us as a result of this and subsequent government actions. I quote (note that this link went dead, removed by the authors) Dissident News:

Although the description of the exercise is disturbing, USNORTHCOM also announced that they are more prepared for a natural disaster and a terrorist attack after they used their response to Hurricane Katrina as a test laboratory. During Hurricane Katrina, authorities violated the constitutional rights of citizens by stealing people’s firearms and even relocating people against their will. These announcements are incredibly disturbing on a number of levels as the nature of Vigilant Shield 08 and the admission that Hurricane Katrina was used as a test laboratory shows that the government is actively preparing the military and government institutions for martial law.

USNORTHCOM’s primary exercise venues for VS-08 include locations in Oregon, Arizona and a cooperative venue with USPACOM in the Territory of Guam. NORAD’s aerospace detection and defense events will take place across all the exercise venues, to exercise the ability to mobilize resources for aerospace defense, aerospace control, maritime warning, and coordination of air operations in a disaster area.

This exercise is clearly a way to prepare government to respond to a national crisis with martial law. This announcement also follows a number of other news stories that indicate the government is becoming more actively prepared for the implementation of martial law.

The United States Government was established to serve and protects its people. But this story makes me feel just the opposite, angry and anxious. Let us take a look at our government via the Internet. -- the US government's official web portal -- displays the slogan "Government Made Easy." Ben's has a chart of government (pdf) -- all on one page, actually. That is a big accomplishment.

Defense Department -- One little box on that chart is the Department of Defense. The DoD lists 44 different web sites. I was drawn to one in particular, the DoD No FEAR Act, which has a list of 17 web sites. The explanation of the No FEAR Act states, "the responsibility to 'ensure fair, impartial, and timely investigation and resolution of complaints of discrimination in employment, including complaints of sexual harassment' by implementing the procedures outlined..." No luck there. I would have to go to work for the Department of Defense to take advantage of this benefit. I do not think they would want to hire a 70-year-old Democratic activist in rather poor health.

So what am I to do with any fears raised by "betmo's" thoughtful e-mail? My answer came in the morning newspaper. I will remember Shirley, one of my activist mentors, who died this weekend at the age of 83. I honor her for modeling what community activism at its best has always been - gathering people together to work to make things better for themselves, their families and their communities. Her vision of community, transmitted to me, came through membership in my county's League of Women Voters, 40 years before "9/11/01" happened.

Today my "community" has widened to include folks like "betmo"; she lives across the nation from me. Under other circumstances, years ago we would have met with a dozen other women every Wednesday at Shirley's house. We would have brought brown bag lunches and come away with renewed inspiration, ready for our next big and hard change-making efforts. October is going to be a very long month for activists.

What's in your sack? Does anyone want to trade a PB & J sandwich for tuna fish?

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Ron Paul's secret weapon

By Libby Spencer

Paul's impressive $5.1 million fundraising gain this quarter shows he's a contender. As I've been saying for months, the man is going to be a factor in this race. So what's the secret behind his appeal? While the limited government position is surely a draw, it's his anti-war stance that I think resonates among the non-Libertarians and most interesting is his support among the military.

Another Paul constituency, interestingly enough, comes from the military. A study by the Center for Responsive Politics found Paul received more campaign cash from members of the military than any other Republican presidential candidate.

The study of contributions of $200 and more during the first two quarters shows that Paul has raised three times as much from members of the military as what's been raised by GOP fundraising front-runner Romney, and four times what Giuliani garnered.

As the piece notes, the redmeat crowd that picks the candidate is pro-war, so his anti-war stance may well prevent him from receiving the GOP nod, but it leaves him positioned well for an independent run at the White House and the name recognition he's building through this current run will only help if he goes that route.

Meanwhile, Ron Paul supporters take note. The discussion on this point is at my Newshoggers post, but let me point out here that the subtitle on the ABC piece is: Young, Rabid Internet Supporters Boost Congressman's Fundraising. Like it or not, politics is all about superficial impressions these days. I'm no political genius but I think somehow the Ron Paul community has got to change that meme if you want the campaign to go mainstream.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Is Ciara Durkin the new Pat Tillman?

By Libby Spencer

Via Crooks and Liars, the latest in inexplicable deaths in Afghanistan. It becomes harder to write these off as more and more outspoken active duty dissenters seem to be dying of mysterious causes.

Ciara Durkin was home on leave last month and expressed a concern to her family in Quincy: If something happens to me in Afghanistan, don’t let it go without an investigation.

Durkin, 30, a specialist with a Massachusetts National Guard finance battalion, was found dead last week near a church at the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. She had been shot once in the head, the Army says.

Fiona Canavan, Durkin’s older sister, said today that when her sister was home three weeks ago, she told family members that she had come across some things that concerned her and had raised objections to others at the base.

‘‘She was in the finance unit and she said, ‘I discovered some things I don’t like and I made some enemies because of it.’ Then she said, in her light-hearted way, ‘If anything happens to me, you guys make sure it gets investigated,”’ Canavan said. ‘‘But at the time we thought it was said more as a joke.”[..]

Unfortunately it turned out to be heartbreakingly prescient. I hope the family pursues her last request and for once our all too complacent media gives it some much needed attention now, instead of waiting for years later to weigh in with single news cycle's worth of tut tuts.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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"The exploring eyes of predatory restroom stalkers"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Speaking of Larry Craig -- which I just did -- I've been meaning over the past couple of days to comment on the most recent developments of his ignominious fall.

As the Times put it: Craig "said Thursday that he would remain in the Senate through next year despite a court ruling against him in Minnesota, where he had sought to rescind his guilty plea stemming from an undercover sex sting." Which is to say, he's flip-flopped big-time on the whole resignation thing. He won't run for re-election, but he intends to stay in the Senate until his current term is up in January 2009.

Which is really bad news for Republicans, who correctly see Craig as a huge problem and who would prefer it if he left town, and got out of their hair, well in advance of next year's elections, but which is really good news for Democrats, who correctly see Craig as a huge problem for their opponents and who would prefer it if he stayed in town, remained in their hair, and continued to be a major embarrassment for them right through the elections, a huge reminder to voters of so much that is wrong with the Republican Party.

But let me quote in full a post by Eve Fairbanks at TNR's The Plank, which hits the main points:

Bad day for Larry Craig: His request to rescind his guilty plea in Stancegate was denied, in a withering decision that totally undermines Craig's claims that he made his guilty plea hastily. Craig spoke with the prosecuting attorney "many times" about his options and, with his plea, even included a handwritten note thanking the prosecutor for his "cooperation" (isn't that a creepy, condescending word?). But apparently Craig isn't resigning, despite this temporary setback. That noise you hear right now is the simultaneous screams of Mitch McConnell's entire leadership staff.

The funniest thing about the judge's decision, though, is the way it illuminates a point of confusion that emerged during the Craig affair: What law, exactly, governs toilet space? As it turns out, there's a bulk of precedent:

A person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public restroom stall. State v. Ulmer ... see also State v. Bryant ... The Ulmer court gave the following rationale: The design of the restroom here affords a user more than a modicum of privacy by virtue of the partitions that separate the urinals. When a person steps up to a urinal, the partitions and the user's body create a space in which the user would quite expect to be free from even incidental observation, let alone from the exploring eyes of predatory restroom stalkers. (my emphasis)

"Exploring eyes" is kind of poetic.

Indeed. Far more poetic than those Republicans screams.

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The Craig-Haggard Connection

By Michael J.W. Stickings

There may or may not be any truth to it, but Mike Jones, the male escort with whom fundamentalist hypocrite Ted Haggard had both sexual and drug-oriented relations, is alleging that senatorial hypocrite Larry Craig, he of the wide stance, came to see him. Literally: "[H]e came to see me," in Denver, said Jones, during an interview with a Palm Springs radio station.

Unsurprisingly, the response from Craig's office is one of denial: "Mike Jones' allegations are completely false."

To be fair, though, Jones didn't offer much in the way of detail, sordid or otherwise.

So what to make of the allegation?

Mike Rogers, the blogger who has done so much to expose right-wing hypocrisy, including Craig's, called in and challenged Jones on air to back up his allegation -- and then called him on it: "You didn't sleep with Larry Craig, and I think what you're doing is, you're trying to get some juice here, Mike, for the book... If you did, you would've put out the proof."

Personally, I tend to agree with Atrios and Shakes: "This just can't be true." It's "too good to be true". And Rogers is, likely, right.

But what do I know? It might be true -- but then again, as Bernard Woolley once put it, anything might be true.

And the problem here is not just that the allegation seems incredible -- however much one might wish it were true, yet more hypocrisy on the right -- but that the alleger himself seems to lack credibility. Unless Jones can provide hard evidence, so to speak, one is right, with Rogers, to doubt the veracity of his allegation.

No matter the target, such dubious allegations are indefensible -- not to mention counter-productive to the admirable effort to expose right-wing hypocrisy wherever it may exist.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Confronting Burma

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As many as 10,000 people "have been rounded up for interrogation in recent days," according to a BBC source in Burma:

Scores of Burmese have been arrested overnight, as the country's military continues its crackdown following last week's protests, witnesses say.

Security forces are said to be using recordings of the demonstrations to compile lists of activists for arrest.

Many of those rounded up, needless to say, are monks.


Briefing the U.N. Security Council on his four-day visit, U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari "voiced concern about arbitrary arrests and rights abuses" in Burma.

However, he said that he was "cautiously encouraged" by the news that "General Than Shwe, the head of the ruling junta, had agreed in principle to meet the detained pro-democracy leader," Aung San Suu Kyi.

"Burmese state TV broadcast an image of Ms Suu Kyi for the first time in years on Friday." This is indeed encouraging -- but there's a catch: "[Shwe] insisted that Ms Suu Kyi must give up her calls for international sanctions to be imposed against the regime, state media reported.

So he'll meet with her, but only if she backs down -- and only if the international community backs down. So much, according to the totalitarians, for the pro-democracy movement. They will crush it any way they can.


For more on Shwe and Suu Kyi, see here.


In response to Gambari's briefing, the U.S. (Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad) and the U.N. (Sec. Gen. Ban Ki-Moon) continued to offer strong words of condemnation for the actions of Burma's ruling military junta. Khalilzad said this: "We must all be prepared to consider measures such as arms embargoes." Yes, that would be a start, and perhaps a good one, but a more robust sanctions regime would be preferable.

The problem is that China and other regional states like Singapore oppose such sanctions, arguing that such a response could lead to "confrontation," or "the loss of dialogue". Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said this: "Sanctions against a regime that is ready to isolate itself are more likely to be counter-productive than effective." This may be true, to an extent, but a sanctions regime should not be pursued as an end in itself. Indeed, such pressure could be accompanied by a willingness to negotiate and the encouragement of dialogue and compromise. Ultimately, Burma must open up not just to the West but to the international community generally. But the totalitarians are going to need a push, and some threats, before they take that step. If military action to topple that brutal regime is not an option, then some other form of pressure must be applied. That pressure may be diplomatic, but diplomacy, in this case, requires teeth.

Besides, one wonders just how sincere China, Singapore, and others are in their claim that sanctions would be ineffectual and possibly counter-productive. It is China, after all, that has been one of the leading supporters of the totalitarians, propping up their regime and profiting off their tyranny. Why would they agree to an international sanctions regime? Given how much they object to international interference in their own country -- what with their own atrocious human rights abuses -- and given how much they profit off tyranny around the world, in Africa as well as in Asia, it is in their interest to object to such pressure here.

Meanwhile, however, the people of Burma are still suffering, thousands of them in prison camps, likely thousands dead. They need our help, and, with or without China, we must help them.


Portrait of Suu Kyi, above, by Sarah Webley, at the International Museum of Women.

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We're way more than even!

By Michael J.W. Stickings

We've been (gleefully) following the rise of the Canadian dollar in recent weeks, up and up and up, surpassing even many of our more optimistic expectations. First it reached partity with the U.S. dollar, then, at long last, it closed above parity for the first time in almost 31 years. I don't have much to add here by way of analysis (see my previous two posts, linked above) -- it still feels awfully good, but one continues to worry about the overall health of our export and tourism sectors -- but here's an update:

The Canadian dollar defied gravity Friday, rising above $1.02 (U.S.) at one point, as the high-flying currency got additional lift from a report showing Canada's unemployment rate fell last month to the lowest level in 33 years.

It was a day of astonishing news for the Canadian economy, which had been expected to start feeling the pain from the summer subprime mortgage crisis in the United States that many thought would send shock waves rippling into in this country.

Statistics Canada reported early Friday that the jobless rate had tumbled to 5.9 per cent in September and that the economy churned out an additional 51,100 new jobs during the month over August.

It was the first time the unemployment rate had been below six per cent since November 1974, when Pierre Trudeau was the prime minister, Canada had not yet repatriated the Constitution and disco music was just beginning to catch fire.

The loonie jumped to 101.4 at the opening of trading, up 1.14 cents from Thursday's close. And it kept rising, at one time lifting above 102.19 cents US, a level that hasn't been surpassed since November 1976.

The loonie closed the trading day in Toronto up 1.59 cents to 101.85 (U.S.).

I read somewhere today that some analysts are predicting our dollar could go as high as $1.10 U.S. Which would be, well, pretty amazing, given where it was just a few years ago. And with a strong economy, low jobless numbers, and high oil prices, we might just get there.

Which would be great for those of us who travel to the U.S. or otherwise buy U.S. goods but very bad for those of us who need a weaker dollar to remain competitive. A strong dollar, ironically, could end up bringing much of our economy back down from its current heights.

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Bush or Clinton dynasty a problem?

By Carol Gee

The words "Clinton dynasty" seem to be on the lips of many people these days. A search on those words at my Bloglines feed aggregator turned up 1740 posts on the subject. Not to mention a few from the "Matching News" list:

-- Liberals Slam Hillary Over Dodge Tactics from the Republican National Committee
-- The Clinton Coronation, by -- guess who? -- William Kristol
-- The Clintons and the Bushes, from Newsvine
-- Of presidents and dynasties from the L.A. Times

You know what? It will not be a problem for me. The opinions of the likes of Bill Kristol and the RNC will not swing any votes away from Hillary Clinton anyway. So they can just sputter as much as they like.

China also worries about America's trend towards dynastic rule. And that does bother me in one way. Because the Bush dynasty second incarnation has been devastating to the United States. The dynasty angle was not the problem; George W. Bush himself was the problem. The story comes from China Daily (9/29/07). It carries a great headline: "Bush, Clinton, Bush ... Clinton?" To quote:

Forty percent of Americans have never lived when there wasn't a Bush or a Clinton in the White House. Anyone got a problem with that?

The Clintons and Bushes, he [David Gergen] said, have built up strong "brand" recognition for their names -- just as the Kennedys did in an age of promise cut short by assassination -- making it harder for newcomers to compete.

But sometimes, people just want to try something new.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll taken over the summer found that fully one-quarter of all Americans said that the prospect of having at least 24 straight years of a President Clinton or Bush would be a consideration in their vote for president in 2008.

The dynasty question that must be settled by Democrats is whether to worry about the possibility that one-quarter of all Americans might not vote for another Clinton. What if she were to run as Hillary Rodham? How would that work?

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Top Ten Cloves: Reasons leading to Newt Gingrich deciding not to run for president

By J. Thomas Duffy

News Item: No Newt

10. There was a special, pre-nuptial clause in Gingrich's Contract for America that prevents him for running for President.

9. Told an aid, that with Hillary in the Senate, "You can bet-your-ass she'll try to impeach me".

8. Doesn't have any spiffy nicknames for himself, like
The Decider/Commander/Shakespeare Guy President Bush.

7. Claims he said only if the New York Mets made the playoffs would he run for President.

6. Doesn't feel like dealing with -- if she gets the Democratic Nomination --
Hillary Clinton and her laugh.

5. Doesn't want to chance having Ann Coulter call him a "Fag".

4. Tough campaigning, since he already adopted
his own policy of restricting Free Speech.

3. Deathly afraid Rush Limbaugh will start calling him a "Phony Politician".

2. His own group, American Solutions, issued a white paper indicating how bad a Gingrich presidency would be for the country.

1. Might have to go to dinner at Sylvia's Restaurant in Harlem with Al Sharpton and doesn't want to show-up Bill O'Reilly by not coming out with racist comments.

Bonus Newt Riffs

Michael Scherer - Newt: I'm shocked, shocked by Abramoff scandal! - From his lofty perch on the sidelines, the ethically challenged former speaker denounces corruption in politics.

David Sirota: Newt's New Con

Crooks and Liars: Newt Blames The Victims of Katrina

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Time for new Democratic leadership?

By Edward Copeland

Jack Murtha and two other House Democrats are taking some actions to try to stop Iraq war funding, embracing an idea similar to one I proposed a long time ago: Forcing a tax hike to pay for the war.

Unfortunately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to Murtha, took him to "the woodshed" for the proposal. Apparently, they are as gutless about the word "taxes" as they are about trying to stop the war despite overwhelming public support. There's a reason Democrats lose so many elections: They suck at strategy. When they do win, as in regaining control of Congress last year, it's usually in spite of themselves instead of any strong political moves.

With the media trying to perpetuate the idea that Hillary Nothing-But-Ambition Clinton is inevitable, what once seemed a lock for a Democratic win of the White House in 2008 seems more precarious with each passing day. John Edwards still is out there fighting, but his decision to accept public financing doesn't bode well for him if he gets the nomination. (He's committed to federal funding for the general now, something that the GOP certainly won't be since Clinton and Obama already tossed away that longtime tradition). Obama needs to step up and start fighting back, but he seems too concerned with keeping his above-the-fray image. As has been pointed out, the only major election he's won was against Alan Keyes. His experience problem isn't with his resume, it's with his lack of campaign fights.

Meanwhile, on the Senate side, Democratic leader Harry Reid and others embrace the distraction of the Rush Limbaugh "phony soldiers" controversy in attempt to get back at the GOP for the ad brouhaha. Unfortunately, Republicans are much better at that sort of nonsense than the Democrats and as much as I enjoy seeing Rush hammered (no pun intended), what's the point? The issue is the war. Period.

Stop with the distractions, grow some balls and fight. It's the only way you can win: You can't count on that happening by default. It's not too late: You've got a weakened president, an unpopular war and a presidential frontrunner in a field where most voters say their support is still soft and her negatives are still high. We cannot afford to lose 2008 for too many reasons to list, not least of which is the Supreme Court. John Paul Stevens may be vigorous, but he can't last forever, and who knows the truth about Ruth Bader Ginsburg's health? Democrats, wake up! If the party's leaders aren't going to do it, lower-ranking officeholders and those of us out in the trenches must start doing it ourselves.

The Democratic Party must be saved from itself.

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Smearing Britain

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This is what the Bush White House -- that is, what Bush himself -- does to friends who no longer do what it (he) wants. (Which says a lot about Bush's view of friendship.)

As Think Progress is reporting, "a senior White House foreign policy official" has informed Britain's Daily Telegraph that "[t]he White House no longer views Britain as its most loyal ally in Europe since Gordon Brown took office..." This official made two key points, one pertaining to the British prime minister, the other pertaining to Britain's military:

-- "There's concern about Brown. But this is compensated by the fact that Paris and Berlin are much less of a headache. The need to hinge everything on London as the guarantor of European security has gone."

-- "Operationally, British forces have performed poorly in Basra. Maybe it's best that they leave. Now we will have a clear field in southern Iraq."

In short: FUCK YOU!

Bush has found new and fast friends in conservatives Nicolas Sarkozy in France and Angela Merkel in Germany. He may not quite realize that they're not necessarily his sort of conservative, that they don't necessarily buy into his righteous, delusional visions, that they do not necessarily approve of American hegemony, that they do not necessarily want the U.S. to have "a clear field" anywhere, and especially in Iraq, but when your other (and former) friends are coming to their senses, maybe any new friend will do, anyone who kisses your ass and makes you feel so good about your pathetic self.

It may be that Bush has less in common with Gordon Brown than with Tony Blair and that, in principle, he objects to Brown's views on Iraq. But should that be enough to turn him against his most important ally, a historical partner, the one major power that has sided with him throughout the Iraq War and Occupation? Thanks for nothing, the message seems to be.

And more: Britain sent thousands of troops to Iraq. France and Germany didn't, and neither did other close friends like Canada. Britain participated in the invasion, the war, the occupation. Britain lost many of those troops on the battlefield -- fallen heroes, all because Bush wanted so badly to go to war with Iraq, all for Bush's misadventure in Mesopotamia, all for what turned out to be a horrible failure, a lost war. Thanks for less than nothing, the message seems to be, you weren't any good and it's good that you're leaving. For Bush, the warmonger who has never been to war, or anywhere near a war, this is simply appalling. With this new spin, he (and one presumes that the official was speaking in an official capacity, that is, for the president) has smeared not just an entire country, a friend, a loyal ally, but each and every British man and woman who put on that uniform and went off to fight in Basra, and elsewhere in Iraq, who fought Bush's disaster of a war.

As a British citizen myself, I'd like to respond: FUCK YOU, MR. BUSH.

And I'll leave it at that.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Burma: Act Now!

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A U.N. special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, has held talks with the totalitarian regime in Burma and has also met with Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel laureate and one of the leaders of the pro-democracy movement in that country:

[Gambari] had waited four days to see Gen Than Shwe before the chairman of Burma's State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) made himself available.

No details have emerged but Mr Gambari was intending to urge the general "to cease the repression of peaceful protest", release detainees and embrace democracy and human rights, a UN spokesman said before the talks.

The US called on the UN envoy to press upon the military the need for a "real and serious political dialogue with all relative parties".

The SPDC -- i.e., the totalitarian military junta -- has no interest in democracy and human rights. As I and many others have argued before, it will take tough international sanctions and above all the support of China and India, the two major powers propping up the SPDC, for any such pressure to work, that is, to bring about real change.


And what of the monks? They are being rounded up by the thousands -- those who haven't been murdered -- and "sent to prisons in the far north of the country". Some are trying to flee Rangoon, a city of fear and tension, but may not be getting very far.

Said one Rangoon resident to a BBC correspondent: "I really want change, but they have guns and we don't, so they'll always win."

Sad, but true. For now.


For an important report on the plight of Burmese nuns, many of whom also seem to have disappeared, see my fellow assistant editor and co-blogger Clarissa Pinkola Estés at The Moderate Voice.


See my recent posts on the situation in Burma here, here, here, and here.


Now -- right now -- is the time for all of us to raise our voices in support of Burma's pro-democracy movement. What can we do, those of us without access to the levers of power? We can keep writing and talking about Burma. And we can support those who are in a position to combine our voices and to send a message to Washington and elsewhere that action must be taken.

Bob Fertik and (and others: see Melissa McEwan, for example) are supporting the admirable effort of Amnesty International to send a petition to the White House asking President Bush "to urge the UN Security Council members, especially the Permanent members like China, to immediately deploy a UN Security Council mission to Myanmar (Burma). This mission should act to resolve the human rights crisis and avert the risk of further violence and bloodshed. The Council should also consider the possibility of imposing an arms embargo and to address the dire human rights situation in Myanmar."

Please click here and sign the petition. It may not seem like much, it may seem like a small and insignificant thing to do, but at least it's something.

Act now.

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By Capt. Fogg

If anyone entertained notions that the the constant exposure of Republican transgressions and failures would in any way weaken support for them or their champions or would generate contrition in their ranks, they've long since been converted to militant cynics or émigrés to some more rational realm. If anyone thought Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter could be embarrassed by their overt support for a criminal empire or being seen to attack fundamental American values and institutions or even American heroes, they should by now be treasuring their right to keep and bear arms and burying the valuables in the back yard.

Did you really think that billionaire balloon-butt blowhard, who avoided service because of an infected asshole would feel shame for insulting troops who through experiencing war know a bit more about it than he? Of course not, his response is to insult them further. Hell no, he isn't going to call that wounded soldier a phony to his face, he's going to sit on his pus-oozing ass and insult him again and the network that airs him will continue to support him and we will continue to pay to have his slime shipped overseas to our troops and we will pay to have our Congressional whores praise him for his patriotism.

Even Orwell with a toothache couldn't have invented such a scenario nor envisioned the hellacious harpy who hangs around Limbaugh like a bad smell. Who in all of history ever imagined that Ann Coulter could argue against allowing Women to vote? Sure, it's as hyperbolic as anything she writes or says to promote yet another one of her insanely fascist screeds, but her consistent insistence that she and her familiars are brilliant thinkers and the rest of the world from Einstein to Jesus Christ are a bunch of liberal weeny faggots, seems real enough to earn her a straight jacket if not an appointment to a high level security job in Burma.

Coulter, when she's not busily licking the puss off Limbaugh's anal sores, likes to compare Democrats and in fact anyone not promoting wars of aggression for the sake of war and aggression, to women -- or in her kinder moments to homosexuals. It's women looking for handouts, you see who elect Democrats says she:

"If we took away women's right to vote, we'd never have to worry about another Democrat [sic] president. It's kind of a pipe dream, it's a personal fantasy of mine, but I don't think it's going to happen. And it is a good way of making the point that women are voting so stupidly, at least single women."

Of course it wasn't women who elected two felons to office by a landslide in 1972, it was Republicans; Republicans who love war, profit from war, hate freedom and profit from suppressing it. Perhaps women are after all, a bit more opposed to syphoning off incomprehensibly huge sums to benefit companies like Blackwater and Halliburton with relationships to the administration so close it's almost sexual. Perhaps women are a bit more opposed to killing children by the tens and hundreds of thousands to promote a more friendly business atmosphere in some other country, but only a bit. The simpering sisters for safety and security did their part to put the shiftless shitweasel who used his father's presidency to sell worthless Enron stock, sell energy deals to the Taliban and get interest free loans and handouts for his failed businesses from the bin Laden family, into office.

Have no doubt, we don't have a say in what happens any more and by "we" I mean the private citizens. Smiling Christian-face fascists like Mark Mays, CEO of Clear Channel who broadcast Limbaugh over our airwaves through 1200 outlets is as supportive of Mr. Butt-boils as he can be because he supports the truth and it doesn't matter how many letters he gets from whomever sends them -- the gravy train will roll on. it's not our truth, not our country, not our radio spectrum, it's his. It's not our country. It belongs to clean cut Jesus jabberers like Erik Prince who has made billions from Iraq who thinks he's doing the Lord's work by soldiering for a fortune - our fortune, although if you ask him to tell us how much he's ripping us off for, he'll all but tell you to Fuck off because it's "private" which means that our money is his private property. The Lord works in mysterious ways, after all, and the Lord has granted Blackwater immunity from all law as effectively as ever the Devil did. So go ahead and get the FBI to investigate. They'll have Blackwater mercenaries standing guard for the Lord just in case the law or the secular government gets in the way. You can't trust the military or the cops any more - some of them are women and Democrats, I hear.

(Cross-posted at Human Voices.)

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ukraine: Return of the Orange?


The results of Sunday's parliamentary election in Ukraine are almost final. It looks like the two erstwhile Orange partners, President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine and the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko (BYuT), will have enough seats to reconstitute their coalition, should they be able to conclude an agreement on policy and office spoils.

As was the case in the previous elections of March, 2006, the winner of the plurality of the vote was the Party of Regions, led by Viktor Yanukovych, the man whom Yushchenko defeated in the 2004 "Orange Revolution" re-run of the presidential election that initially had Yanukovych declared, fraudulently, the winner.

However, that is all he has won -- the most votes and seats. The Ukrainian constitution gives no advantage in the government-formation process to the largest party (if it has less than 50% of the seats). It also gives no advantage in government-formation to the president. Rather, a majority coalition must be negotiated among parties in parliament summing to more than half the seats, which then presents its candidate for prime minister to the president (who must appoint that candidate).

After the 2006 elections, it was not possible for BYuT and Our Ukraine to form a majority without another party. It was initially expected that the two parties, plus the Socialists, would form a three-party majority coalition. However, the Socialists ultimately opted to form a government with Regions, thus making Yanukovych the prime minister. This government was unstable, racked with charges of corruption and vote-buying, and ultimately was dissolved, paving the way for these early elections.

The big winner is Tymoshenko, whose party gained a whopping eight and a half percentage points, compared with 2006. The Socialists appear to have fallen below the 3% threshold, barely.

Here are the votes percentages and some other facts about the result, with the 2007 number first and the 2006 number and change from 2006 in parentheses.

    Regions, 34.2 (32.1, +2,1)
    BYuT, 30.8 (22.3, +8.5)
    Our Ukr, 14.2 (14.0, +.2)
    Communist, 5.4 (3.7, +1.7)
    Bloc of Lytvyn, 4.0 (2.4, +1.6)
    Socialist, 2.9 (5.7, -2.8)

    Votes cast for parties below 3% threshold: 11.4 (22.3)
    Lists below the 3% threshold: 15 (40)
    Lists with more than 1%, but less than 3%: 2 (6)
I do not have a turnout figure, but we can surmise from Our Ukraine's raw votes and the fact that as a percentage of the total these did not change, that turnout was down only a little bit. (The Our Ukraine votes were just under 3.3 million in 2007 and just over 3.5 million in 2006.)

Seat estimates are not provided by the Election Commission yet, but the system is one of pure national proportional representation for all parties that cross the 3% threshold. As noted above, the percentage of votes cast on parties that failed to clear the threshold was about half in 2007 what it was in 2006, partly because so few small parties bothered to run this time.

Applying the percentages of each threshold-crossing party to the 88.6% of votes that were "effective" (i.e., not wasted on parties that missed the threshold), we get estimated seat totals as follows:

    Regions: 174
    BYuT: 157
    Our Ukr: 72
    Communist: 27
    Bloc of Lytvyn: 20
If those results hold, then the two Orange partners would have 229, or 50.9% of the 450 seats in parliament, three more than needed to constitute a majority. An election can hardly get closer than that! And if the Socialists yet manage to cross the threshold on a final count, BYuT and Our Ukraine would fall below 50%. It is worth noting that the Bloc of Lytvyn is led by the former parliamentary speaker, Volodymyr Lytvyn, who facilitated the negotiations in 2004 that led to the re-run of that year's presidential election. He would be a potential (though not necessarily reliable) alternative coalition partner should the Socialists' crossing of the threshold turn out to prevent BYuT and Our Ukraine from having a majority.

It is worth emphasizing again that the parliamentary result, whatever it turns out to be in the end, will not be decisive for government formation. Two (or possibly more) parties will have to negotiate to appoint a prime minister and cabinet. Of course, Tymoshenko will insist on not only the prime ministership but probably more than a two-thirds majority of the cabinet posts (her party's proportional contribution to the majority), whereas Yushchenko might try to keep the door open to renewing the coalition with Yanukovych (which would also be a majority), if for no other reason than to keep Tymoshenko from demanding more than he is willing to concede. The president's party may be small, at 14%, but the presidency remains a powerful institution and, more importantly, his party is in a pivotal position in parliament. The negotiations could go on for a while, but right now, things are looking Orange again in Ukraine.

(Cross-posted in the "Ukraine" block at Fruits & Votes.)

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Top Ten Cloves: Things overheard on first day of Supreme Court

News Item: US Supreme Court starts new term

By J. Thomas Duffy

10. We might have to do something this term... I think, while we were on vacation, the NSA was tapping my phone.

9. Hey, even if we don't have a case in front of us, can we rule against Hillary Clinton, and ban her from using that laugh?

8. Should we leave room on the calendar for Britney Spears?... I mean, if she comes in here not wearing any panties, she's got my vote.

7. Anybody check the news? The President didn't declare any of us dead, like he did with Mandela, did he?

6. Hey, let's fuck with the Congress this year... We don't reach any decisions... We just issue, non-binding "Senses of the Supreme Court."

5. If Roberts has another one of his siezures, and, God-forbid, anything happens, I got dibs on his office.

4. If we get the Isiah Thomas case, I think Clarence, and Ruth, should recuse themselves... Just to play it safe.

3. That was a nice touch by the Chief Justice... Giving us all Welcome Back gifts... Bongs in the shape of a gavel.

2. I just heard they're replacing our Secret Service details with Blackwater guys.

1. No Clarence, even with the
discount, I don't want to buy your book.

Bonus Nine-In-Black Riffs

White House Stresses Roberts' Wife "Not A CIA Agent"; No Knowledge of WMD's; No Plans To Send Husband To Niger

Congress Getting "Weary" Of Roberts' Visits; Senators Feeling Stalked; Roberts Relentlessly Using Meet-and-Greets To Boast Chances

Scalia: "No Pink Robes Needed Here"; Conservative Justice Reacts To Roberts Disclosure On Gay Rights Case; Justice Roberts Sunday In The Making

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Who are the Dems afraid of?

By Edward Copeland

I do believe you've laid a curse on North America
A curse that we now here rehearse in Philadelphia
A second flood, a simple famine
Plagues of locusts everywhere
Or a cataclysmic earthquake
I'd accept with some despair
But, no, you sent us Congress.
Good God, sir, was that fair?
You see, we piddle, twiddle, and resolve
Not one damn thing do we solve
Piddle, twiddle, and resolve
Nothing's ever solved in
Foul, fetid, fuming, foggy, filthy

I felt it was more than a little bit appropriate today to begin with some excerpts from the great Broadway musical 1776, specifically the exasperated John Adams dealing with an ineffectual Congress unwilling or unable to take steps toward declaring independence from England. The more things change...

Now today, as the House takes up legislation already approved by the Senate in an astounding 92-3 vote Monday to give Dubya billions more to sink into the Iraqi hole (which Dubya still plans to veto because they tacked on hate-crimes legislation), it's time again to call the Democrats to task. The Democratic leadership trot out their usual hue-and-cry of "next time" and "we don't have the votes to override his veto," etc. Democratic "why is he running again?" presidential candidate Mike Gravel made a valid point in the debate last week when he said Congress should just bring everything to a stop to force hands instead of quaking in their boots.

Joe Scarborough made another valid point on his MSNBC show this morning that when the Republicans took over Congress during the Clinton administration, they didn't have a clear enough Senate majority to override either, but they put pressure on Clinton until they got a lot of what they wanted.

Still, what makes all of this particularly mind-boggling is the poll in today's Washington Post that indicates that not only do an overwhelming majority of Americans want this Iraq madness to end, 3% support ending funding for the war, 23% back reducing the funding slightly and 43% want to sharply reduce the funding. That's a total of 69% who back funding cuts or elimination. A mere 27% want Congress to give Dubya everything he wants.

The poll also shows that Congress' approval has dipped further, though not as far as Dubya's, who has tied his all-time low in this poll with a 33% approval rating. It also indicates public support for the expansion of the children's health insurance bill that has been the victim of another veto threat.

Overall, 55 percent of Americans want congressional Democrats to do more to challenge the president's Iraq policies, while a third think the Democrats have gone too far. The level of agitation for more action in opposition to the war has not dissipated since August 2005, when Democrats were the minority party in Congress.
Lee Martin, an information technology consultant from Chicago, said that after last year's midterm elections, he and others anticipated a change in Iraq policy. "The reason Congress is down is they're [Democrats] in there and basically nothing is changing," he said.

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Scenes from the Saffron Revolution

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Our must-read of the day is from Der Spiegel: "Junta Takes Back Control in Burma."

There are no signs of protests in Yangon Monday as thousands of soldiers patrol the Burmese capital. Has the junta succeeded in quelling the Saffron Revolution?

"We will fight until we have achieved democracy," said representatives of the All Burma Monks Alliance, a leading force behind the protests.

It will be a long and bloody fight.

(Make sure to read the article in full. And see my recent posts on the situation in Burma here, here, and here.)

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Around the world: Russia and the Ukraine

By Michael J.W. Stickings

We've been doing a lot of international-news-oriented posts recently -- not because we're turning away from the U.S. -- we're still mostly U.S.-focused -- but because, well... because there's been lot going on around the world. The situation in Burma is the big story at the moment, and rightly so, and we've been covering it extensively, as we've been covering other top stories, often election-related, but here, in the latest entry of our Around the World series, are a couple more, both from the former Soviet Union:

1) Russia: It looks like Putin might be pulling a Chavez after all. He's not trying to change the rules to keep himself in power -- no, he hasn't gone that far, yet -- but he may not step aside, or out, when his presidential term is up.

President Vladimir Putin, in a surprise announcement, opened the door Monday to becoming Russia's prime minister and retaining power when his presidential term ends next year.

The popular Mr. Putin is barred from seeking a third consecutive term in the March presidential election, but has strongly indicated he would seek to keep a hand on Russia's reins after he steps down.

Mr. Putin's remarks Monday at a congress of the dominant, Kremlin-controlled United Russia party hint at a clear scenario in which he could remake himself as a powerful prime minister and eclipse a weakened president.

You know what they say about power, especially the absolute variety.

Putin may install a puppet as president -- say, current Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, a Putin loyalist whom Putin recently put in place -- and rule from parliament, the Duma.

Garry Kasparov, chess master and now the leader of the pro-democracy, anti-Putin forces in Russia is right: "In fact, Putin has done nothing more than decide to use United Russia [Putin's political party] as the main mechanism for retaining power." He is also right to attack "the anti-democratic and anti-constitutional nature of this whole electoral process".


2) Ukraine: Another close election, too close to call:

Leaders of the two main political parties in Ukraine both claimed victory on Monday in crucial parliamentary elections, but the vote appeared so tight that it could be many days before a new prime minister takes office.

Supporters of Yulia V. Tymoshenko, the former prime minister who was a stalwart of the Orange Revolution of 2004, insisted that the final tally would show that she was the victor. But her chief rival, Prime Minister Viktor F. Yanukovich, dismissed those statements as premature.


Officials said late Monday night that with 93 percent of the votes counted, Mr. Yanukovich’s party had 34 percent and Ms. Tymoshenko’s had 31 percent. But those numbers could fluctuate as polling places finish reporting.

Ms. Tymoshenko’s party said she would become prime minister again by reaching a deal with President Viktor A. Yushchenko’s party, which received 14 percent, rekindling an alliance that was triumphant in the Orange Revolution, but collapsed in acrimony later on.

Nothing is certain, however, and many votes remain to be counted. Yanukovich could still pull ahead.

But what the Ukraine needs is a Yushchenko-Tymoshenko alliance, that is, a continuation of the Orange Revolution that has brought genuine democracy and the prospect of a brighter future to a country still trying to emerge from the dark shadows of its former totalitarian masters.

More here.

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The lives of West German spies in the East

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Have you seen The Lives of Others? Arguably -- and I will make the argument -- the best film of 2006, it is a quiet, reflective masterpiece, a brilliantly humane, if harrowing, look at the ruthless Orwellianism of the former East Germany.

What is presented so intimately in that film is what has been known for so long, if not in such human terms, namely, that the East German Communist regime subjected its oppressed citizens to seemingly ubiquitous surveillance, that the country itself was a state of seemingly universal intelligence-gathering.

What is not known nearly as well is that many in the East were not spying for the East but for the West -- and a fascinating new study reveals the massive extent of that espionage:

It's a well-known fact that East Germany had agents crawling all over West Germany during the Cold War. Up to 6,000 of them, some in high places, were regularly passing information eastwards across the wall.

According to a new study published on Friday, though, when it came to recruiting spooks, the West Germans were even better. Fully 10,000 citizens of Germany's communist half were spying for Bonn. Not only that, but West Germany's intelligence agency the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) had a pretty good idea about the plans to build the Berlin Wall, but their bosses in Bonn simply didn't want to believe them.

German historians Armin Wagner and Matthias Uhl have pored over files released by Germany foreign intelligence agency (BND) covering the period between the formation of the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1949 and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In their book "BND Against the Soviet Army," they reveal that the agency managed to recruit thousands of people from all sections of East German society for military espionage.

Of course, the East was doing the same thing, with spies all over the West, and, indeed, "the [East's] spies were significantly more successful at the espionage game". One East German agent was even "a top aide to Chancellor Willy Brandt" -- a disturbing development that "led to Brandt's resignation" in 1974 (for more see here.)

Interesting stuff.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Bloodshed of Burma

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Via Brad Plumer: England's Daily Mail is reporting on the unofficial (if "official" is what the totalitarians are telling us) but likely accurate death toll in Burma, as well as on the nature of the brutality, the mass murder of the regime's opponents:

Thousands of protesters are dead and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle, a former intelligence officer for Burma's ruling junta has revealed.

The most senior official to defect so far, Hla Win, said: "Many more people have been killed in recent days than you've heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand."


Reports from exiles along the frontier confirmed that hundreds of monks had simply "disappeared" as 20,000 troops swarmed around Rangoon yesterday to prevent further demonstrations by religious groups and civilians.

Word reaching dissidents hiding out on the border suggested that as well as executions, some 2,000 monks are being held in the notorious Insein Prison or in university rooms which have been turned into cells.

There were reports that many were savagely beaten at a sports ground on the outskirts of Rangoon, where they were heard crying for help.

Read the full article for more, which includes photos.

The media will soon lose interest in this story, moving on to whatever is next, largely because the sensationalism will subside and their consumers will grow tired of more of the same -- and because Burma is effectively a "closed" society. Whatever the attention is continues to receive, however, we must not let this story disappear. If there is little else that we can do -- we who do not have the levers of government at our disposal, we who are not diplomats, we who cannot impose sanctions, that is, we bloggers, we in the alternative media -- we can continue to seek out reports, and to report on those reports, and to comment on those reports, coming out of Burma or about the situation in Burma generally, as well as to comment on what our governments are doing, or not doing.

That's the least we can do.


Elsewhere, The New Republic has an interesting article by Joshua Kurlantzick on "India's craven appeasement in Burma":

As protests spiral into chaos and bloodshed inside Burma, the country's giant neighbor China, looks on with concern, worrying about a total meltdown on their borders, which could spread instability across its frontiers. After saying nothing for weeks, its senior leadership calls on the Burmese junta to act wisely, yet does not condemn their brutal crackdown or support the Burmese pro-democracy movement.

But while the world has focused on how China abets the Burmese generals, in recent years the policies of India, the world's largest democracy, could be described in exactly the same way, and are just as craven. These days, senior Indian officials buy up Burma's resources, invite the junta leaders on state visits, and even sell the Burmese military arms. As Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee recently said, according to the BBC, "We have strategic and economic interests to protect in Burma. It is up to the Burmese people to struggle for democracy, it is their issue."

India was generally supportive of the pro-democracy protests of the late-'80s, but its interests seem to have shifted. It is now actively propping up, and profiting off, Burma's totalitarian regime -- that is, profiting off oppression and mass murder. China deserves much of the blame, too, but India is certainly one of the leading enablers of the very regime that has slaughtered so many thousands in response to peaceful pro-democracy protests.

The Burmese people are struggling for democracy, and dying for it. But how are they to succeed with regional powers like China and India working to keep them in chains?


Update: There's more on the India-Burma relationship at Der Spiegel: "The ongoing political crisis in Burma is putting India in a difficult position. Delhi wants to cozy up to the junta to counter China's influence in the country. But the world's biggest democracy cannot be seen to support a crackdown on pro-democracy activists."

Update 2: For more on the plight of the monks, see The Independent: "Monks vanish as Burmese troops step up presence."

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You can feel it on the air

By Capt. Fogg

The last day of Summer now seems to mark the beginning of the Crusade season, October is become a cruel month, breeding anger out of the dead truth, mixing memory with hate, stirring dull brains with new lies. In other words, It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

Of course there's no chill in the air where I live and the local merchants are hawking Halloween candy and plastic pumpkins made in China but Fox is gearing up it's war stories again. Captions like "War on Christians" and "Anti-Christian Crusade," are appearing on the official propaganda channel of the religious-military-industrial complex.

In case you forgot, them Liberals; those lefties are warring against Christians and against Christmas.

This is a small part of a big, huge attack by the left on Christianity, which has always disliked the concept of Christianity,

said Fox News blowhard Andrew Napolitano on Friday, of advertising for a San Francisco block party that used leather bar imagery to depict the Christian myth of the Last Supper.

Using their customary travesty of Socratic method, Fox News hosts tossed about every conceivable fallacy in the attempt to build a bigger straw man than last year, using popular Radio Brown-shirt "Mancow" to make the case that mythology and belief should be protected by law, particularly if it's Christian. Mancow, who was criticized for playing a song called "Burning Mosques" 6 years ago apparently feels that appearing on a Fox program gives him the authority to say "I don't make fun of Religion" and asks us what would happen if there were a parody of Gay people.

Well of course there are parodies of Gay people spewed like green vomit from pulpits and political platforms and in televangelistic tirades every Sunday and that's only a small part of the crap about heretics and Jews and infidels and sinners burned at metaphorical stakes. Those people don't need to have their opinions legally protected from humor, criticism, analysis, parody or the inquisitiveness of historians, but Christians do.

It's a godless group there, and they hate it,

says moronic Mancow, who apparently can't see the comedy in his assertions -- as if anything said that invokes the magic word Christ were protected to the detriment of the beliefs of all others. But in a sense Fox has a point. The left leaning people who founded our laws in the secular enlightenment of the time did not distrust religious institutions, religious writings, priests and nations under God and tried to created a nation free of their intrusion into government and into civil liberty. Their ideas have been steadily eroded and never so swiftly as today, with an uneducated and indoctrinated public and modern methods of mass mendacity.

(Cross-posted from
Human Voices.)

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fifty ways to understand the "Protect America Act"

By Carol Gee

There is a new law on the books that affects all U.S. citizens. It has the potentially comforting but ironic title, "The Protect America Act." The law (PAA, for short) is the latest amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. It was hurriedly passed by Congress in August, 2007.

The subject of the legislation - PAA - is very difficult to comprehend. As a matter of fact Congress did not really comprehend the amendment for which they were voting. Wisely, they made it temporary with a "Sunset" provision. It will have to be fixed by February of next year. And Congress needs our help to do this. But in order to weigh in to your elected officials on the law's problems, we must understand the complexities of the Act.

I have compiled a kind of 50-item glossary that might help "get through the weeds" of the PAA. My approach to this task has been to look through my own September blog posts (
on civil liberties and foreign intelligence gathering) for key items with terminology that might be confusing. Most are linked to the posts that have the original information. The glossary will give you my best understanding as a layman of what the terms really mean to us as citizens, but in simpler language. Please understand that these definitions are in my own words and editorial comments, unless cited, not the official ones.

I begin with this: OCP -- Our Current President (my own term), aka POTUS, the President of the United States. V-POTUS is aka the "Veep." Understand that the PAA was their deal. That is the first "given."

  1. ACLU -- American Civil Liberties Union: Those on the Right would call it a "special interest group." Civil libertarians call it our "special watchdog" having the willingness and capacity to sue the government on behalf of citizens' constitutional rights.
  2. AKA -- "also known as." This is included to illustrate that I know "spy talk."
  3. Analyst -- The professional arm of the Intelligence Community, they are trained and certified to analyze the information gathered for intelligence purposes electronically or by the spies.
  4. AUMF -- Authorization for the Use of Military Force: Congressional action giving the Commander in Chief particular permissions regarding the "use the force" of the military to protect the nation.The executive and legislative branches disagree on the meaning of what was authorized prior to the invasion of Iraq.
  5. Briefing -- in reference to the "(Intel) Community" sharing intelligence findings with its "customers."
  6. Checks and balances -- originated in the U.S. Constitution. The current challenges are to the Congress and the Courts to "check" the power of the Executive branch of government.
  7. Civil liberties -- enumerated in the Constitution's Bill of Rights. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable search or seizure (privacy protection of one's home and person).
  8. Community -- refers to the people who make up the "Intelligence Community," the FBI, the CIA, the DIA, the NSA, the NCTC, etc. They also consider themselves part of an international community of people in the "Intel" business.
  9. Customers -- The Community serves its clients, those who need to know the things that intelligence gathering produces. Examples include the POTUS, and the Vice-POTUS, members of Congressional Intel committees, and law enforcement people.
  10. Community of interest -- the network of people that a target of surveillance is in contact with. Used in the data mining business.
  11. Database -- Electronic information gathered for intelligence purposes is entered into a holding location in order to facilitate management of the raw data. This data consists of billions of bits of electronic data gathered through a variety of means, such as telecommunications records, e-mails, satellite info, bank records, etc.
  12. Data mining -- sophisticated methods of analyzing raw data for commercial or intelligence purposes.
  13. Domestic surveillance -- the spy business as it is practiced in the United States, as opposed to spying elsewhere.
  14. DNI -- Director of National Intelligence. This intelligence coordinating position was created when the government was reorganized after 9/11/01. The DNI or his designee gives the POTUS his daily briefings.
  15. Electronic Surveillance -- eavesdropping, listening to conversations, watching what people do, etc., in order to uncover threats to the national interest. The surveillance/spying is via electronic rather than person to person means.
  16. FBI -- Federal Bureau of Investigation: Since the governmental Intel reorganization, the FBI is generally supposed to be in charge of domestic intelligence -- that within the United States -- though there are many FBI agents stationed overseas.
  17. FISA -- Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act - 1978: legal framework governing foreign intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination. It has been amended many times by Congress.
  18. Foreign intelligence -- The Intel business as it is practiced outside the U.S. Constitutional protections are supposed to follow U.S. citizens when they are outside the U.S.
  19. Fourth Amendment -- "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." (source: Wikipedia)
  20. Incidental -- When someone is "targeted" for electronic surveillance only one end of the conversation can be targeted for listening. The authorities have no control over who the target calls, or who calls the target. All non-target overheard subjects are known as "incidentals," though they may become targets themselves.
  21. Inherent authority -- refers to the constitutional powers given to those who govern. "Unitary theory" of the presidency ascribes very broad inherent authority to OCP. Civil libertarians see this as the source of much mischief.
  22. Intelligence -- Information gathered and analyzed for the purpose of protecting the United States from threats to its national security.
  23. Justice Department/AG -- The Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer of the U.S., overseeing the Justice Department. Currently an Assistant Director for National Intelligence carries a portion of the legal portfolio for the nation's Intel business, under the Acting Attorney General. (source: Wikipedia)
  24. Minimization -- refers to the procedure under FISA whereby privacy protected incidental surveillance information (gathered without a warrant) is expunged ("innocent,") minimally revealed ("name protected,") or published ("of foreign intelligence significance,") depending on the judgment of the agents, analysts and supervisors.
  25. National security -- something that is supposed to keep the people of the U.S. safe and secure. It is often associated with secrecy, so as to protect the sources or methods of obtaining the information.
  26. National security letter -- An official letter from the FBI compelling the recipient to turn over information for national security purposes. Recently abused by the FBI, the letters were not legal substitute for a warrant issued by a court.
  27. NCTC -- National Counter Terrorism Center. The "action arm" of the Intel community that works to "counter" terrorist activity.
  28. NIE -- National Intelligence Estimate. An official document of the Intel community, it is designed to inform us about the most significant national security threats. (source: DNI - "NIE" 10 pg. pdf)
  29. Northern Command -- The military sector that includes the United States. Charged with military protection of "the homeland."
  30. Oversight -- Refers to watching what is done by another entity. The procedures and the work of the Intel community receive oversight from within the executive branch at 4 levels, as well as from Congressional Intel committees.
  31. PAA -- The Protect America Act of 2007. The law came as a result of very strong entreaties from the Executive branch, claiming that they were unable to protect the nation unless the FISA law was changed.
  32. Posse Comitatus -- An Act that substantially limits the powers of the Federal government to use the military for law enforcement.
  33. Probable cause -- A legal standard required to get a FISA surveillance warrant.
  34. Retroactive liability -- Protection against being sued for liability for things done in the past that may have been illegal. Still being sought for telecommunications companies who assisted the government with warrantless wiretaps.
  35. Reverse targeting -- A practice that is illegal under FISA law. Involves targeting an innocent party in order to get at the person at the other end of that conversation.
  36. Security clearance -- Official permission to know national security secrets. Members of the House and Senate are not required to get security clearances by reason of their oversight responsibilities as elected officials. Staffers are required to get clearances.
  37. Satellite -- A space satellite able to do high resolution visual surveillance.
  38. SigInt -- signals (electronic) intelligence, as opposed to "HumInt," (gathered by humans) intelligence.
  39. Sleeper cell -- Terminology used to refer to a group of alleged terrorists in the U.S. waiting to strike at the U.S.
  40. Sunset -- A provision in the law that requires that it be renewed.
  41. Surveillance -- secretly gathering information about the activities of a suspicious person or persons.
  42. Target -- The person or group under formal electronic surveillance. If foreign no warrant is required. If domestic a FISA warrant is required.
  43. Telecommunications infrastructure -- Companies that provide communications services. They must cooperate with the government before electronic surveillance can take place.
  44. TSC -- Terrorist Screening Center; it keeps the Watch List of suspected terrorists.
  45. Ubiquitous -- everywhere. All over everything.
  46. U.S. citizen -- has the civil liberties rights protections of the constitution.
  47. U.S. person -- a person in the U.S. who may or may not be here legally. A warrant is required to target electronic surveillance on a U.S. person.
  48. Warrant -- A court order allowing surveillance of the named subject(s).
  49. Watch list -- A list of suspected terrorists. Error rate a problem.
  50. Wiretap -- an electronic listening device or method for overhearing conversations.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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