Monday, January 23, 2006

W. and Co. have launched another PR campaign to convince everybody that the NSA's domestic spying campaign is perfectly legal and only intended to protect America from another 9/11. They've got the NSA director and the Attorney General going out this week to grab the headlines and W. is speaking today in Kansas at the Alf Landon center. (I wonder what Alf Landon would say about his spying plan?) As usual, the media is framing the question of whether W. has the right to make up his own laws as a political question rather than a constitutional one. I've seen a lot of articles that say Americans "are divided" on whether its ok for the government to listen in on their phone conversations and read their e-mails, as if we decide which amendments of the Bill of Rights we tear up based on polls. Amazingly, an ABC poll found that 51 % of those questioned said "wiretapping of telephone calls and e-mails without court approval" was an acceptable tool for the federal government to use when investigating terrorism! So, if the president decides to designate an entire group of Americans, lets say Muslim-Americans, as threats to national security and 51% of those polled say that's ok, too, then, I guess, the media would have no problem with a robust concentration camp building project in the Arizona desert either.

The NYT says in an article today that the fact that Karl Rove's bellicose speech a few days ago got such large headlines, highlights the problem Democrats are having not having a "single Democrat that stands as the voice of the opposition." It could also be a sign that the media just ignores Democrats when they do speak out. Certainly, when Al Gore said W. had been "breaking the law repeatedly and insistently" and that "A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government." his speech is put back on page A-15 in a caption next to another much larger article. And, might I add that "liberal" David Broder mainly dismissed Gore's speech saying he was "hardly an objective observer, " implying that calling a spade a spade, as so many spineless Democrats are afraid to do, is just sour grapes from the 2000 election. [WaPo]

Al Gore points out that "The disrespect embodied in these apparent mass violations of the law is part of a larger pattern of seeming indifference to the Constitution that is truly troubling to American in both political parties," but while the mainstream punditocracy is quick to swallow W.'s characterization of the Abramoff scandal as "bi-partisan.," the real bi-partisan nature of the opposition to the NSA spying program in the Congress is downplayed. I haven't heard much discussion of Arlen Specter, in an apparent Freudian slip, saying that Bush could be impeached if he was found to have broken the law on ABC's "This Week" the Sunday before last. When Stephanopoulos asked him he was serious he backtracked, slightly, saying, "I'm not suggesting remotely there's any basis" for impeachment. "After impeachment, you could have a criminal prosecution, but the principal remedy, George, under our society is to pay a political price." Whatever that means.

The "I" word keeps coming up but you have to really look for it because you're not going to find it on the front page. A new Zogby poll finds a majority of Americans would support impeachment if W. broke the law, but in this case, I assume the American people are an uninformed rabble that can be ignored. I agree with Al Gore that Congress should "start acting like the coequal branch of government you're supposed to be." but I'm not holding my breath. If the recent revelations of massive eavesdropping on millions of American's phone conversations and emails wasn't enough to get a pulse in the somnambulant general public maybe the news that the government has been going through many more millions of people's search engine records on MSN, AOL and Yahoo will wake them up. [Don't worry though, former NSA director Gen. Michael V. Hayden says, "The intrusion into privacy is also limited: only international calls and only those we have a reasonable basis to believe involve Al Qaeda or one of its affiliates." Riiiight!]

After all, for all the talk about the president needing virtually unhindered power to do whatever the hell he feels like doing to protect the American people---while at the same time spying on them and locking them up without recourse to any legal protections---OBL is still out there---four years after 9/11---thumbing his nose at us. While the FBI is plowed under by an avalanche of phone numbers, phone calling records, emails and URL addresses from the NSA--that are, of course, all terrorist related---al-Qaeda is apparently up and running and functioning just fine, thank you very much. W. said OBL could run but he couldn't hide, but that's just what he's doing. The only ones who can run but can't hide, it seems, are the American people.

You want an abortion? The government needs your medical records. You want to look at porn? The government needs to know exactly what your into, to protect the children, naturally. Who are you calling and who are they calling and what are you saying? The government needs to know. But you can trust them, now that they're completely unchecked, they don't have to justify their snooping to any judge or Congressman, or anyone else for that matter. They're free to protect your freedom.

Not that we can't trust the Russians or anything but:

The Guardian reports: "Two simultaneous explosions at 3am yesterday cut through both tubes of a gas pipeline just on the Russian side of the border with Georgia. Another blast struck an important electricity pylon nearby nine hours later. The three blasts left Georgia with limited supplies of Russian gas for heating. It also meant Georgia could only supply about 40% of the electricity demanded by its 3 million inhabitants in temperatures of -5C (23F)."

Interstingly, Reuters reports: "The explosion came just after further talks between Georgian and Iranian officials about a possible gas pipeline to Armenia and on to Georgia. The United States is against the plan."

After what happened to Ukraine the timing of these bombings leads me to believe Vlad "the impaler" Putin is throwing his weight around because he thinks he's got W. under a barrel (An oil Barrel?) on the Iran issue; just like the Chinese have been getting a pass while they lock up dissidents because we need them to deal with North Korea.


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