Monday, March 17, 2008

House: 1 step in the right direction

Let's hear it for the Democrats in the House of Reps! They took a stand against telecom immunity, rejecting the Senate bill including it and sending their own FISA bill back to that body. And then they went on their scheduled 2 week break! Well played, indeed. Even if the Senate Dems roll over yet again for Smirky--the Republicans are well past being a lost cause--nothing happens for 2 more weeks anyway.
The longer we keep this issue front and center, the more the general public will see that the Republican Party as a whole cares not one whit for their rights, but instead wants to insure that their corporate buddies/funders are kept well fed and quiet. This is all about making sure the telecoms are safe from prosecution, and therefore safe from being forced to turn state's evidence against this Administration's coercive and unconstitutional practices.
If you are in the habit of emailing or calling your Rep to berate them, please remember to email/call them to thank them as well when they do something responsible--I would bet those pleasant congratulatory messages go a lot further than the angry ones!

Labels: , , ,

Deja vu

Tell me if you've heard this one before:
Major financial institutions, encouraged by a lawless Administration's lax enforcement of gutted regulatory statutes, make horrible investments and other fiscally questionable practices common enough for insiders to reap windfall profits, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill when the whole industry crashes.
Right! The S & L scandal of the mid-1980s!
Oh, wait, did you think I was talking about the current hedge fund/mortgage lending crisis? Well, I might as well have, given the parallels, and even some of the players involved.
Wake up, people! This is not a case of incompetence; rich Republicans have been gaming the system at the middle and lower classes expense for decades now, and non-wealthy voters have been enabling them to do so by voting against their economic interests ever since St. Reagan conned them into thinking it was somebody else (remember the fictitious "welfare queens driving Cadillacs"?) stealing from them.
Deregulation and stripping the government of its enforcement powers has done nothing except enrich the wealthy and erode the economy as a whole, and the Republican Party stands for nothing less than a continuation, if not an acceleration, of these destructive policies. The resultant slaughter of middle class financial security and near elimination of the possibility of true upward mobility represents a war against the non-rich, and it has been going on since Jan. 20, 1981. You can tell, because when anyone awake attempts to correct the imbalances these policies have created, invariably the right wing accuses them of fomenting "class warfare". This is classic right wing Republican rhetoric--accuse your opponents of that which you are practicing in a neat verbal sleight-of-hand. And that has been working since 1994.
More and better Democrats. Now.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Not on Conyers' watch, apparently

Some good news, for a change: 19 members of the Judiciary Committee have rejected the absurd claims that telecom immunity is necessary, whether retroactive or not, thereby providing a blueprint for any further discussion of the issue in Congress. Yay! Even though this has no binding force, it is a nice poke in the eyes of those who want to help Smirky and the Gang shred the Constitution.
Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention: none of the statement's 19 signers were Republicans. Shocker!

Labels: , ,

Thursday, March 06, 2008

This is me holding my breath . . .

I may have spoken too soon. The House Dems may not be caving (yet) on the FISA bill. We'll see. I've had that football pulled out from under my foot once too many times for me to feel safe at this point . . .
On a more ironic front: Qwest, the one telecom that stood up to Smirky and the Gangs' perfidy, has been chosen as the official communications provider for the Republican National Convention. Of course, the two things may not be unrelated, given that the RNC already knows that Qwest won't be illegally recording their every move like all the other companies are doing to the rest of us . . .

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Constitution dies a little every day these days

For some heretofore unknown reason, Congressional Democrats seem determined to help the Republican Party destroy what's left of the Constitution. You may not have heard of the latest round of Amendment-shredding, mostly because our right wing press doesn't want you to know how severely the country is dying. Our Constitution has something called the 4th Amendment, which states, "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." This has been construed, quite reasonably, to cover not only physical "searches and seizures", but also more ethereal possessions such as emails, phone calls, and all other forms of electronic communication. In other words, nobody is supposed to be able to tap your phone, collect your emails, capture your texts, or read your computer's files without probable cause, to be determined by a judge who would then issue a warrant. Otherwise, the government would be able to break in to your house and take all your stuff (or record all of your phone calls and emails) for no reason except that someone wants to. Idiots say, "Hey, if you have nothing to hide, why would you need protection?" To which I say, "So, you're ok with having all of your hard earned possessions seized by the government or the police? What the hell's wrong with you?" The point of the 4th Amendment, other than the obvious restriction on the enactment of a police state by anyone in power, is to help protect people from the government's ability to overwhelm the resources of the individual to speak and write freely, even when in opposition to that government.
You see, 7 years ago--before 9/11/01, by the way--Smirky, Dick, and the boys began coercing the telecom industry into allowing the government spooks to tap (literally) into the phone lines of everybody in this country, in order to create a massive database of conversations. The why is completely irrelevant, but like any good legal drama, motive goes a long way to explaining how a crime is committed. The goal of those who fight to undermine the 4th Amendment is to eliminate political opposition by finding weaknesses and dirt. This should sound familiar to anyone who remembers a scandal from decades past--Watergate. It was Nixon's dream to have at his disposal the conversations taking place beyond his reach, and now his henchmen are finally succeeding in achieving that vision.
You see, the telecoms rolled over in this anti-Constitutional ploy--except for Qwest, who refused, and for its principled stand lost all its government contracts--and are now in the process of getting sued by some people who discovered that they were being spied upon. The costs of legal discovery, whereby all records of telecom illegalities would be exposed to the light of day, would be enormous given the sheer bulk of conversations recorded. Each instance of violation--every single phone call made by every American, in other words--would be liable for prosecution. Clearly, even if an award of damage of just $1 per call were levied, and probably even much less than that, the telecoms would be bankrupted instantly. Beyond that, though, the telecoms would also have to release records showing that the Bush Administration ordered this mass violation of our rights. Unless, of course, they could somehow be relieved of their legal responsibilities.
And that is where our supposedly Democratic Congress is playing its role. In a most sickeningly ironic twist, a bill for revising the anti-Watergate FISA regulation (which provides for the judicial "oversight" of attaining warrants for domestic tapping), which has already passed the Senate, is going to be on the House floor this week. This bill includes a provision granting retroactive amnesty for the telecoms that have been allowing the government to spy on us for over 7 years, and it is becoming quite clear that a majority of our politicians in Congress have no problem passing this abortion.
To sum up, Congress is going to enable the Executive Branch of the Federal government to spy on anyone/everyone it wants to without any safeguards or legal pretense, thereby gutting the 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Under most circumstances, we the people would have one last recourse--the Supreme Court, who has the responsibility of making sure Congress passes no law that is unconstitutional, just like this one. After 28 years of right wing packing, however, the Republican-dominated Court is highly unlikely to rule that way. 4 of the current Court members are already on record as supporting this kind of Executive Branch power. (Does the phrase "Unitary Executive" ring any bells out there? It should for anybody who was paying attention during the confirmation hearings of Roberts and Alito.) It only takes one more vote to complete this evisceration of a right that has stood for 232 years. And remember, 3 of the remaining 5 justices were appointed by Republican Presidents also.
So, you might want to get used to the idea that the government has the power to know everything you say and do, even/especially when you are at "home".

Labels: , , , ,