Obama, Telecom Impunity, and Critical Immunity

26 06 2008

From Glenn Greenwald at Salon:

It is absolutely false that the only unconstitutional and destructive provision of this “compromise” bill is the telecom amnesty part. It’s true that most people working to defeat the Cheney/Rockefeller bill viewed opposition to telecom amnesty as the most politically potent way to defeat the bill, but the bill’s expansion of warrantless eavesdropping powers vested in the President, and its evisceration of safeguards against abuses of those powers, is at least as long-lasting and destructive as the telecom amnesty provisions. The bill legalizes many of the warrantless eavesdropping activities George Bush secretly and illegally ordered in 2001. Those warrantless eavesdropping powers violate core Fourth Amendment protections. And Barack Obama now supports all of it, and will vote it into law. Those are just facts.

The ACLU specifically identifies the ways in which this bill destroys meaningful limits on the President’s power to spy on our international calls and emails. Sen. Russ Feingold condemned the bill on the ground that it “fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home” because “the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power.” Rep. Rush Holt — who was actually denied time to speak by bill-supporter Silvestre Reyes only to be given time by bill-opponent John Conyers — condemned the bill because it vests the power to decide who are the “bad guys” in the very people who do the spying.

Other than that being absolutely awful is it news?  Well, Obama voted for it.

Note that the very first line of Obama’s statement warns us that we face what he calls “grave threats,” and that therefore, we must accept that our Leader needs more unlimited power, and the best we can do is trust that he will use it for our Good.

 Making matters worse still, what Obama did yesterday is in clear tension with an emphatic promise that he made just months ago. As the extremely pro-Obama MoveOn.org notes today, Obama’s spokesman, Bill Burton, back in in September, vowedthat Obama would “support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.” MoveOn believes Obama should be held to his word and is thus conducting a campaign urging Obama to do what he promised— support a filibuster to stop the enactment of telecom amnesty. You can email Burton here to demand that Obama comply with his commitment not just to vote against, but to filibuster, telecom amnesty:


Incidentally, Chris Dodd made an identical promise when he was running for President, prompting the support of hundreds of thousands of new contributors, and he ought to be held to his promise as well.

Greenwald mentions that it is expected that we keep our mouths shut about this because we have to do everything we can to make sure Obama is elected in the fall.  He also points out that that is bull shit – and that what Obama did here is actually very scary. 

What scares me are the Obama supporters who are unwilling to critisize – who are unwilling to accept flaws in their candidate.  Those are the people responsible for both the Evil and the Lesser of the Evil.  Criticism, both from adversaries and from supporters, is a strong tool – both for the candidate and for the populace at large.

But does this critical analysis of politicians come to us through the main stream media?  Of course not.  Greenwald also points out herethat Keith Olbermann railed against amnesty for the telecoms one day and then praised Obama for voting for it the next day.

Obama is the lesser of the two evils.  But that should not make him immune from criticism when he engages in jack-assery. 

obama and bush









Here Obama is getting a little too chummy with the devil.


Respect Life? Respect Honesty

20 06 2008

I recently commented on an older posting regarding the confederate flag. This has made me think of another symbol that I have been frustrated by: the “Respect Life” license plate offered by the state of Colorado. This specialty plate was created after the Columbine incident, purportedly as a way of commemorating the event and raising funds for the survivors.

However this plate has clearly come to stand for something else entirely. Despite becoming one of the most popular specialty plates in the state, selling nearly 90,000 plates over the past 8 years and raising more than $2 million in state fees, the plates have resulted in less than $12,000 in contributions to the Columbine fund. Other specialty plates require the driver to make a donation to the benefiting charity, while the “Columbine” plate only suggests a donation.

I am just amazed at the fact that this plate was able to sneak in under the guise of standing for the Columbine tragedy while the design makes nearly no reference to the event itself. The design of the plate came from one of the parents of a student who was shot, and chose the phrase “Respect Life” as a summation of all that had gone wrong. They gave cryptic answers when asked about the plate’s relationship to the abortion debate: (emphasis added)

“Our nation has always had guns, our nation has always had children, our nation has always had adults,” began the statement. “I believe what our nation has not always had is parents murdering their children, and children murdering other children and their parents.

“An ingredient that has made America different in the past couple of generations is changes towards the understanding of what is right and wrong, what is good and evil,” continued the statement.

“I believe that they will not find the source of our nation’s character flaws in their children, only a reflection of themselves. As kids we hear what you say, but we see what you do. It is my hope that these Columbine Respect Life license plates will in some way help the adult society to find the true sources of this evil and to find solutions to the serious problems within America,” he concluded.

There is not a single person who could look at this plate and claim that it stood for anything other than a pro-life agenda. This phrase is also available on plates in Missouri, but there the donation goes to a pro-life organization.  Several other state have similar plates that use the phrase “Choose Life” instead.

It depresses but does not surprise me that we allowed this thinly-veiled propaganda into our state. It makes me even more sad to think that parents would exploit the violence against their children as an opportunity to push a separate political agenda. If you want a pro-life plate, at least be honest about what you are doing.

respect life

Darth Priest

20 06 2008

Read about it here.

Guantanamo Bay’s Dirty Little Secrets

18 06 2008

From McClatchy:

The U.S. military hid the locations of suspected terrorist detainees and concealed harsh treatment to avoid the scrutiny of the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to documents that a Senate committee released Tuesday.

“We may need to curb the harsher operations while ICRC is around. It is better not to expose them to any controversial techniques,” Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, a military lawyer who’s since retired, said during an October 2002 meeting at the Guantanamo Bay prison to discuss employing interrogation techniques that some have equated with torture. Her comments were recorded in minutes of the meeting that were made public Tuesday. At that same meeting, Beaver also appeared to confirm that U.S. officials at another detention facility — Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan — were using sleep deprivation to “break” detainees well before then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved that technique. “True, but officially it is not happening,” she is quoted as having said.

A third person at the meeting, Jonathan Fredman, the chief counsel for the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, disclosed that detainees were moved routinely to avoid the scrutiny of the ICRC, which keeps tabs on prisoners in conflicts around the world.

“In the past when the ICRC has made a big deal about certain detainees, the DOD (Defense Department) has ‘moved’ them away from the attention of the ICRC,” Fredman said, according to the minutes.

The document, along with two dozen others, shows that top administration officials pushed relentlessly for tougher interrogation methods in the belief that terrorism suspects were resisting interrogation.

It seems to me that if they really thought these interrogation methods were both legal and appropriate, that they wouldn’t need to hide it.  The watchdog agencies exist for a reason, and the prison should respect their mission, just as they respect the prison’s responsibilities.

“Oh fuck Hank, the Red Cross is coming over, wash the blood off the walls.  I’ll gag these guys and lock em in the closet.”

Great . . .  Aren’t you proud to be an American?


Bloating and Gay Marriage

11 06 2008

I saw this on the front page of the Huffington Post today, and found it amusing:

Unfortunatly it is two seperate articles – so if you wanted to know what gay marriage has to say about reducing bloating, you’ll have to look somewhere else.


Imagine No Religion

9 06 2008


This is a billboard that was just put up a few blocks from my house.  Unfortunately it will be taken down right before the DNC, as that time period is prohibitively expensive.

Here’s the article.

Violence in Art

5 06 2008

In honor of Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman who after the Columbine incident decided that violence exists and art exists but never the two shall meet; I give you Who Killed Bambi?which is a neat blog that explores violence in art (which is ultimately the only place violence belongs).


And definitely not to miss, this short claymation by Suzie Templeton called “Dog”: