Monday, January 31, 2005

Big Brother is Peeping You

One of the scariest trends in America today is the vapid acceptance of whole-hearted chucking of civil rights. Remember civil rights? Civilian rights? Youse and mine rights? Get a load of these apples:

Recently, it was disclosed that the Department of Homeland Security had deployed an x-ray van, previously used in cargo searches at America's borders, in a test run – taking X-ray pictures of parked cars in Cape May, New Jersey. While, the DHS claimed all X-ray surveillance was conducted on empty cars with their owners' consent, one wonders how long this will last. After all, American Science & Engineering Inc, the manufacturer of the Z Backscatter Van (ZBV), notes that "it maintains the outward appearance of an ordinary van," so it can stand unnoticed and peep into cars as they drive past, or with its "unique ‘drive-by' capability [it] allows one or two operators to conduct X-ray imaging of suspect vehicles and objects while the ZBV drives past." Since we're all increasingly suspects (in our "suspect vehicles") in the Homeland Security State, it seems only a matter of time before at least some of us fall victim to a DHS X-ray drive-by.

But what happens after a DHS scan-van x-ray shows a dense white mass in your car (which could be any "organic material" from explosives or drugs to a puppy, a baby, or a head of lettuce)? Assuming that the DHS folks will be linked up with the Department of Transportation (DOT), soon they might be able to call on DOT's proposed Intelligent TransportationSystems' (ITS) Joint Program Office (JPO)'s "Vehicle-InfrastructureIntegration (VII)" system for help.

According to Bill Jones, the Technical Director of the ITS JPO, "The concept behind VII is that vehicle manufacturers will install a communications device on the vehicle starting at some future date, and equipment will be installed on the nation's transportation system to allow all vehicles to communicate with the infrastructure." In other words, the government and manufacturers will team up to track every new automobile (x-rayed or not) in America. "The whole idea," says Jones, "is that vehicles would transmit this data to the infrastructure. The infrastructure, in turn, would aggregate that data in some kind of a database."

Imagine it: The federal government tracking you in real time, while compiling a database with information on your speed, route, and destination; where you were when; how many times you went to a certain location; and just about anything else related to your travels in your own car. The DOT project, in
fact, sounds remarkably like a civilian update of the "Combat Zones That See" program developed by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Noah Shachtman, writing for the Village Voice, reported in 2003 that DARPA was in the process of instituting a project at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, whose aim was "to track 90 percent of all of cars within[a] target area for any given 30-minute period. The paths of 1 million vehicles [w]ould be stored and retrievable within three seconds." It gives a whole new meaning to "King of the Road." -- Tom Englehardt & Nick Turse, January 31, 2005

And that King of the Road, friends? Won't be you or me. I have to go on record that I like being obscure. I'm a law abiding, tax paying, honest person who likes her privacy. Part of the reason I live in a rural community is safety related, but I live outside the chaos of city life primarily because I like being alone. It's a good groove. The thought that the simple act of driving into Orlando to pick up a relative from the airport or to (yawn) take them to Disney would result in my privacy being not only violated, but saved for ongoing viewing bothers me.


Let's do the math. Precisely how many times would civil rights be violated to catch a terrorist suspect? Billions? Is that the best use of assets? Perhaps it is a wee bit darker than that. After all, one you have "permission" to gather that data, its very easy to say, "We have all this data just sitting around, we should be able to release it to other agencies for their use." Paint that bitch up as effective crime fighting, and watch the sheep populace head for the civil rights slaughter.

Concerned? Have another apple:

In the latter years of the Vietnam era, a series of exposures of official lies regarding the FBI's various COINTELPROs, a host of surveillance and dirty tricks programs aimed at American activists, and the analogous CIA program known as MHCHAOS; of domestic spying by military intelligence agents and of the Nixon administration's various Watergate surveillance and illegal break-in operations brought home to Americans at least some of the abuses committed by their military, intelligence, and security establishments. Congressional bodies like the Church Commission and the Senate Watergate Committee even helped to rein in some of the most egregious of these abuses and to reinforce the barriers between what the CIA and military could do overseas and what was permissible on the homefront.

In the 1980s and 1990s, however, oversight and constraints on illegal domestic activities by the military and intelligence community slowly began to drain away; and with the 9/11 attacks, of course, everything changed. Three years later, what was once done on the sly is increasingly public policy – and
done with pride – though much of it still flies under the mainstream media radar as the Bush administration transforms us into an unabashed Homeland Security State.

Today, freedom – to be spread abroad by force of arms – is increasingly a privilege that can be rescinded at home when anyone acts a little too free. Today, America is just another area of operations for the Pentagon; while those who say the wrong things; congregate in the wrong places; wear the wrong
t-shirts; display the wrong stickers; or just look the wrong way find themselves recast as "enemies" and put under the eye of, if not the care of, the state. -- Tom Englehardt & Nick Turse, January 31, 2005

Considering the way the Bush re-election campaign was run, with "invitation only" rallies and forcible removal of citizens of this country who attended and disagreed, I have no difficulty agreeing with this assessment.

To follow is what I consider to be a true terror list.

1) "The FBI obtained 257.5 million Passenger Name Records following 9/11, and that the Bureau has permanently incorporated the travel details of tens of millions of innocent people into its law enforcement databases."
2) Outgoing DHS chief, Tom Ridge recently called for U.S. passports to include fingerprints in the future.
3) In November 2004, California passed the "DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act" which "allows authorities to take DNA samples from anyone – adult or juvenile – convicted of a felony" and "in 2009… will expand to allow police to collect DNA samples from any suspect arrested for any felony… whether or not the person is charged or convicted.
4) The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced plans to "use the latest in database technologies" to store information on and count the homeless which, the Electronic Privacy Information Center notes, "lay[s] the groundwork for a national homeless tracking system, placing individuals at risk of government and other privacy invasions."
5) According to a recent report in ISR Journal, "the publication of record for the global network-centric warfare community," a "high-level advisory panel recently told U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld" that the Pentagon needs ultra-high-tech tracking tools that "can identify people by unique physical characteristics – fingerprint, voice, odor, gait or even pattern of iris" and that such a system "must be merged with new means of ‘tagging' so that U.S. forces can find enemies who escape into a crowd..." -- Tom Englehardt & Nick Turse, January 31, 2005

What would our nation be like if they decided to integrate number five with any of the others? This isn't Hollywood; these are real, ongoing, quality of life changes that would impact across generations. Want this world for yourself? How about for your children? Before our lives can be turned into some kind of traceable database of material, Homeland Security planners require a critical element. The assent and support of the American people. Once given, I suspect they hope we sort of forget about it while they do their thing.

Therein lies the holy grail. They can't simply take it, we have to give and allow it to happen. Don't like what you just read? Get loud. Talk about it, stir the pot. You may take a little heat, but most of the good things liberals have made happen throughout the history of our nation got pretty hot. If freedom was uncontested, no one would be fighting for it.

Jesus went to town on the moneychangers because what they were inflicting on the community hurt it. God didn't invest humans with free will so we would chose to do nothing, nor provide us our marvelous brains so we can let others think for us.

I believe I've had my fill of this particular apple.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Talk Dirty to Me

It's the ultimate, the word that transcends argument, the epitaph that settles the dust and defines the sides. Its use closes doors, alienates friends, cements stereotypes, creates mistrust, provides resentment a safe harbor, shifts focus, and blows smoke.

Language is powerful. Never believe otherwise.

Books, film, theatre, conversation, blogs, newspapers, magazines, comedy clubs, television, radio, and music tap that power. The tiny crunch of grit resounding through the cavernous library underscores it. We seek, need, crave the power of language in order to put a human fingerprint on the chaos of the universe.

What word could possibly wield that much power?



I felt that reaction from here. You know exactly what I mean. I have your attention, whether praise or rebuttal are in your future. The very volatility of the word is intoxicating. We are circling the fires, flames flickering on our faces, leaning in to see the battle with hearts tensed, jaws tight.

Yet, if I asked you to define the word liberal, I wonder what you would say?

I give you, circlers of fires, the definition of liberal:

adj 1: showing or characterized by broad-mindedness; "a broad political stance"; "generous and broad sympathies"; "a liberal newspaper"; "tolerant of his opponent's opinions" [syn: broad, large-minded, tolerant] 2: having political or social views favoring reform and progress 3: tolerant of change; not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition [ant: conservative] 4: given or giving freely; "was a big tipper"; "the bounteous goodness of God"; "bountiful compliments"; "a freehanded host"; "a handsome allowance"; "Saturday's child is loving and giving"; "a liberal backer of the arts"; "a munificent gift"; "her fond and openhanded grandfather" [syn: big, bighearted, bounteous, bountiful, freehanded, handsome, giving, openhanded] 5: not literal; "a loose interpretation of what she had been told"; "a free translation of the poem" [syn: free, loose] n 1: a person who favors a political philosophy of progress and reform and the protection of civil liberties [syn: progressive] [ant: conservative] 2: a person who favors an economic theory of laissez-faire and self-regulating markets. Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University

Several words stand out here: tolerance, reform, giving, and protection.

Tolerance implies acceptance, a lack of judgment on others who are different. This does not imply a lack of respect for the law. It does indicate a lessening of hierarchy, i.e. class, race, haves/have nots. It is the base of seeing human society growing in a constant rate of improvement due to the offering of more opportunity to more people. It does not subscribe to the theory that protecting ones personal wealth by creating barriers to others betters society.

Reform means rooting out barriers that impede opportunity so growth continues.

Giving means searching out need and supplying it for the good of the community.

Protection means caring for all within the community. We do this because we understand that we cannot grow and improve if we do not nurture.

Conservatives hate these ideals, which don't gel with their philosophy of protecting ones own class.

Conservatives identify with "the privileged", the strong, the "ins", the "haves". Conservative whites favor their own kind and try to keep racial minorities "in their place", and out of the jobs and neighborhoods that they would like to conserve for their own kind. Conservatives who have been in America a generation or two strive to keep (newer) "immigrants" out. Conservative males strive to keep women in their place. Conservative adults strive to keep a tight grip on their children (as well as everybody else's). Conservatives heterosexuals don't want homosexuals to gain any ground to catch up with them. Conservative Christians want their religion to be as close to the "official" religion of
America as they can get away with. Healthy Conservatives don't want "their taxes" spent to pay for the health care of the sick. Conservatives who are not oppressed by "officers of the law" could care less about the criminal behavior of police and prison guards against victims powerless to defend themselves, and already presumed the guilty party in any contest between
themselves and their guards. -- Liberals Like Christ

See what I mean about language and power? That's an astonishing bit of accusatory writing. So is this:

"The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful. For the vile person will speak villainy, and his heart will work iniquity, to practice hypocrisy, and to utter error against the LORD, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. The instruments also of the churl are evil: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right. But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand." Isaiah 32:5-8

"The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself. Proverbs 11:25


I believe we have it from a higher source than Rush Limbaugh that liberal is NOT a dirty word.

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I've survived another week of shepherding three young'uns through the tribulations of elementary school projects, quizzes and tests. I've saved my bosses the usual piles of money, for which I am grossly under-compensated, and my house is a mess. Friday will never be an ultimate post day; my hot damns and hallelujahs are all tapped out.

However, here are three little nuggets to mull over while I consult the restorative grape residing in my refrigerator.

The Good

You need to be reading Sister Joan. She's that good. Go on! I'll wait for you. Here's a snippet.

Try to look surprised.

The official word, according to the report of the Iraq Survey Group released last week, is that the search for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq is over. Why? Because, as most of the world knew at the outset of the debacle, Iraq didn't have any. So much for the satellite photo of one warehouse with a tractor trailer parked behind it on which we based our pathetic little case for so-called "pre-emptive" war -- and on international television, no less. Or, to put it another way, contrast this presentation of
materials to the photos taken from outer space during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

Forty years ago we could count every Russian missile in every
pile on Cuban soil. Now, on the brink of mass invasion of another country, there was nothing to count and nothing to see. (If you're inclined to be disappointed that, contrary to popular opinion, our photographic technology has not been getting better as time goes on, try to remember that in a case like this it can be very difficult to take pictures of what isn't there.)

See? I strive for her clarity and ability to cut the BS. Someday, perhaps.

The Bad

According to John W. Schoen, a senior producer at MSNBC, looking at the budget impact of Bush's first term is one way to determine how much new Treasury debt the government sold to make up for the deficits since he took office. In Jan. 2001, the total Treasury debt held by the public stood at $3.9 trillion. As of Wed. Jan. 19, the figure was $4,423,975,930,565.56 (or $4.4 trillion.) Whether you attribute this increase to tax cuts or war spending (or both), the U.S. government is $500 billion further in debt after Bush's first term.

The second term's outlook isn't much better. It depends on if tax cuts scheduled to expire at the end of the decade become permanent, and on when U.S. troops finally leave Iraq. Last June, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the final bill for the war could hit nearly $400 billion. The CBO figures the accumulated federal budget deficits will hit $2.3 trillion by the end of the decade. The White House's own estimates for the second term estimates the total Treasury debt held by the public will reach $5.5 trillion by 2008. (See Table 20, bottom of the page.) That would put the accumulated price tag for both terms at around $1.6 trillion, or a little over $200 billion a year. (That's not counting the White House plan to overhaul Social Security. Until the details of the proposal are formally unveiled, it's impossible to say what it will cost. But if some payroll taxes are diverted to individual accounts (the main idea behind the plan), Congress would have to kick in more money to pay for people who are already retired or expect to do so soon. That could easily add another $1 trillion or more to the Bush deficits.)

God Dem!

Start writing your representatives now, and make sure they understand that you do NOT support mucking about with Social Security. We are bankrupting our country just to please a few financial institutions who stand to profit through privitazation.

The Ugly

The VA is NOT authorized to recruit eligible veterans for the benefits they earned through service to our country.

A directive issued last year for the VA MidSouth Healthcare Network, which includes the Louisville hospital, said "facilities may not aggressively take steps to recruit new enrollees or new workload."

That directive followed a national VA memo issued in July 2002 that said recruiting veterans is "inappropriate" because of a tight budget and growing demand for services.

This means the service personnel out there with NO LEGS OR ARMS OR SHATTERED MINDS due to the horrific situation they volunteered to be put into in order to serve the country you and I live, drive, surf the net and eat at Olive Garden in cannot be searched out and told where and how to obtain their benefits.

That is unacceptable.

Words of encouragement come from Pope John Paul II, in his address Monday to an annual gathering of world diplomats:
"The arrogance of power must be countered with reason, force with dialogue, pointed weapons with outstretched hands, evil with good."

I've added a counter and a link to the sidebar called 10 x 10. This site pulls the 100 top words from the internet every hour and pairs them with the top 100 images. It sounds very cool, but as you drag your mouse over the images, the words are all sad.

It's hard, sometimes, to maintain perspective and humor in the face of misrepresentation and meanness. But we will, because we're Dems. And, because we are right.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Right Thing

The tough part about taking the higher road is that you really need to be following you gut and not just trying to get elected. We've all been there; political co-workers, unethical requests, or attraction to a friend's date are all slippery slopes. Choices made in these situations are pretty personal and frequently never go public. You know though, and if you're sleeping soundly, things are probably being managed well in your little section of the universe.

The implications of bearing a public moral mandate, as we've been told ad nauseam by the Republicans that they now wield, might weigh heavy in decision making. Ya think? Let's ask a Bush man, shall we?

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach weighed in on the subject of the excessive inaugural fete. To wit:

In general, there is a terrible disconnect between the 275 million American who go about their daily lives focused mostly on themselves, and the approximately 2 million Americans who are entrusted to guarantee our freedom and sacrifice their lives, if need be, to safeguard their freedoms. There is a desperate need in America to close that gap, both so that our soldiers never feel unappreciated and so that the American people never take the military's sacrifice for granted. President Bush can begin that process by making a courageous statement that now is not the time for large parties celebrating political triumphs, but rather
a time to focus on the plight of our troops and ensure their victory in Iraq.

Rabbi Boteach is a staunch Bush supporter, but there is a serious pile of complaint sandwiched into his article. Again with the good Rabbi:

... there should be humility in victory. President Bush's victory was won with morality-based voters who supported him because they trust his values. There is, therefore, a need to show that he does not gloat and embraces his victory with humility. Canceling the big inaugural celebrations sends the right messages to the American people that President Bush did not seek to whip the
Democrats or raise himself in victory, but rather to simply continue the course of spreading democracy and destroying tyranny around the globe.

I sincerely wish that that were true. Unfortunately, my middle name is Skeptic. Let's listen in a bit more:

And what about all the wealthy supporters who need to be rewarded for their support of the president with invitations to a big inaugural ball? First of all, they can all be invited to the inaugural itself, which should be a sufficient honor. But more importantly, political contributors must learn the lesson of supporting a candidate they believe in, even if it means receiving nothing in return.

Oh my, now THAT presents a bit of a snag. You see, all those horrible misleading political ads we suffered through were paid for by somebody. This swanky party is also being paid for by somebody (except for the part that they plan to stick it to the city of Washington D.C. with, but more on that later).

Let's leave Rabbi Boteach (see on the sidebar for his writings) and go visit a true non-partisan wonderland, the Center for Responsive Politics, to find the answer to the question we are all asking, "Who’s picking up the tab for the Bush bash?"

"There are a wide variety of companies that are giving; some people were former supporters,” said Larry Noble, executive director at the Center for Responsive Politics. “We’re seeing some Pioneers and Rangers -- the big fundraisers for Bush. Among the companies we are seeing are Texas companies and energy companies."

Direct corporate contributions to political campaigns are barred by law. Inaugural committee contributions, however, are one way companies can legally spend big bucks in order to make friends in high places happy.

How happy will W have to make the
oil folks in return? Based on the amount their contributions have ratcheted up in the last 10 years, I suspect hookers will need to be bought. Ones with preferential government contracts in their G-strings, probably.

How happy will W have to make the financial folks in return? Their contributions have gone from being distributed equally to both parties to a 50% increase to the Republicans in the last 10 years. I suspect nothing less than the handing over of the privitazation of social security will suffice.

How happy will W have to make the Ameriquest folks? These heavy hitters provide sub-prime mortgages in minority neighborhoods. What do they want? Just federal standards that would supersede tougher laws in several states. Man, what smells?

Here's a partial Naughty Company list for those interested:
Chevron Texaco
Exxon Mobil
Occidental Petroleum
Southern Company
Goldman Sachs
Bank of America
Ameriquest Capital

I promised, so here's the new word on the D.C. shaft over free security. According to Jim Rice, the FBI supervisory agent for Thursday’s inauguration,

“This is probably the heaviest security we have ever had in D.C. The president is going to get out and walk down the middle of the street, and we’re at war. Security is going to be airtight.”

Hey, if you're not paying for it, why not go whole hog?

Where is the commitment to the self-monikered moral mandate?

The higher road has potholes, apparently.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Happy Jet (during the Clinton years) Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Tres Hombres

I've got a few things burning my backside this week. Fortunately, since I'm a Dem, I understand the concept of sharing.

Numero Uno: There's a difference between being pious and being pompous, and Tom Delay really needs a refresher course. The sad part is that there is a politically active block of people out there who see nothing wrong with this. 150,000+ dead and Delay's response is an "I told you so?"

Jesus wept, indeed.

Numero Dos: Jeb Bush is an idiot. Just precisely how stupid do the Bush brothers think we are?

This is the part that slayed me:

"The fact that we take sexual harassment allegations very seriously here proves that the allegations of sexual harassment made against Lloyd have no merit," DiPietre said.


Jeb Bush explains he fired one guy for sexual harassment, hired another one accused of it, then his PR flunky said that the fact that they fired the first guy proves that the second guy (their new guy) must be innocent.

A sphincter says what?


Numero Tres: Breaking News: this Inaugural Farce is appalling. Let's just take a moment to total up the damages, shall we?

Inauguration officials said they plan to spend $40 million on the celebration. Over the course of four days there will be fireworks, the swearing-in, a parade and nine balls. Cinderella's step-sisters must be in a swoon over the news. The costs for these items, which do not include security and other public services, are being paid for by private donors.

The city of D.C., which has always been reimbursed for expenses resulting from the inaugural hoopla, estimate that the city's costs for the inauguration will total $17.3 million, primarily for security. City officials can use an unspent $5.4 million from an annual federal fund (one that reimburses the District for costs incurred because of its status as the capital). That leaves $11.9 million not covered. On the previous inauguration, the city's tab was 8 million (less than half of this one's cost), all of which was covered through a direct appropriation. Now the city is being told to pull it from their homeland security funding.

The city with the highest risk of attack must steal from itself to pay for a party?

Hang on, it gets better.

According to the Office of Personnel Management, federal employees who work in the District, Montgomery, Prince George's, Fairfax and Arlington counties, Alexandria and Falls Church are entitled to a holiday on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20. The cost of giving federal workers in the capital area a day off was about $66 million as of June 1st.

Additionally, as written in the Washington Post, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has asked OPM chief Kay Coles James to dismiss federal employees at noon or 1 p.m. Jan. 19 to avoid gridlock. Doing the math anyone? That's $99 million dollars in paid wages for no work. Who pays? Why yes, Sir, you in the back -- Taxpayers pay for it? Give that man a sucker!


That's a million for every Tsunami death.

Jesus isn't the only one weeping.

Demand deeds that suit the words. E-mail President Bush here.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Rolling of Sleeves

So many dead, so many missing; comprehension has left the building.

"I checked the population of towns near me," confessed one friend. "I needed to pin a size in my mind, get a fix of some sort, on the human magnitude."

The instinctual desire to help, our closet good Samaritan as it were, rises in us at times of such mental helplessness. Doing beats blathering, every time. The personal flinging of the wealth, abilities, skills and stuff of this nation has far outstripped the belated empathy and monetary pledges of our government. Donations placed through for the Red Cross are over 12 million. Personal donations to the Catholic Relief Services are expected to be in the 25 million range. Americans are giving, and my simple hope is that, to the world, the efforts of countless individual Americans remind the world that we are still good global citizens.

Remember folks, the initial 15 million our government pledged was less than it will cost us to host Bush's inauguration. Our second pledge of 35 million is less than we spend in 6 hours in Iraq.

We have a mandate from God to raise up the poor and helpless. Give what you can and write who you must. We won't get our country back on track without demanding deeds that suit the words.