Saturday, May 13, 2006

Just a short note on the NSA phone database issue:

The timing of this latest news is kind of odd, isn't it? One might almost suspect that someone leaked this information in an effort to derail Michael Hayden's nomination to become CIA chief. Hayden, after all, is the guy who knows where all the bodies are buried in the NSA domestic spying program. The news that the agency he once ran has been keeping track of every American's phone calls might cause his nomination hearings to be slightly more interesting than I initially expected. Normally, this type of thing might be a disaster for anyone's chances of a nomination --- but then again we must remember that this is the Senate we're talking about here.

It's mostly made up of a bunch of spineless jelly fish who wouldn't dare to speak up or risk offending the president for fear of losing their perks and position. If W. used an executive order to appoint a horse to be a Senator, Trent Lott would run right out and buy a saltlick for his newest colleague. Sure, there'll probably be some tough questioning by the usual suspects like Leahy and Kennedy, but that will be all.

I hope someone asks Hayden about his views on the Fourth Amendment. An Inquirer reporter got him into a conversation about reasonable search and seizures and Hayden's knowledge of the law proved to be little shaky.

For instance, some might think that the Fourth Amendment says "no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause" as the only legal basis for a search, but Hayden likes the other part that says no "unreasonable" searches or seizures better. He just skips right past whole "warrant" part. According to him, the NSA domestic spying program is "reasonable" and therefore legal. "The constitutional standard is 'reasonable.' And we believe --- I am convinced that we are lawful because what we're doing is reasonable."

See, it's really as simple as that. Of course, this was before the whole keeping-track-of-every-phone-call-ever issue came up. The Fourth Amendment calls for every search to be based on probable cause "supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Sucking up every single phone call and putting them into a colossal data mining machine sort of sidesteps that pesky probable cause requirement.

Just because the government wants to do something doesn't make it legal. Just because a program is classified doesn't make it legal either, as some in Congress think.

Attention students at Gallaudet: Grow up!

Lately, protests by the deaf students at Gallaudet University in DC have been all over the news and I'm very puzzled by all this attention they're getting. There are other student protests going on around the country over much more important issues that have received scant news coverage in comparison. Students at the University of Miami have been staging a hunger strike and at the University of Virginia there have been student sit-ins: In both cases, in an effort to force their respective university administrations to provide higher wages for their low wage workers. It would seem to me that privileged kids fighting for economic justice for workers on the lowest rung of the income ladder is a much more compelling story than whether some spoiled brats at Gallaudet are angry over the appointment of a president they don't like.

The problems began when the University selected the former provost for academic affairs, Jane K. Fernades, to become the next president and her great crime seems to have been that she won't ban students speaking on campus. Apparently, some students who grew up using standard American Sign Language are threatened by other forms of communication for deaf people that they're not used to and find harder to learn and understand. Fernandes contends that Gallaudet must embrace "all kinds of deaf people" in order to survive and that the university should strive to be more inclusive of other deaf people who didn't grow up using sign language.

Obviously, that's just crazy talk: According to the NYT, the faculty has issued a vote of no confidence in Fernades, a board member has resigned citing "aggressive threats," this week the university had to close its front gate during graduation ceremonies because of a bomb threat and the campus lawn is littered with protesters tents. Many of the students up in arms about this appointment say that Fernandes is unqualified to lead a deaf university because she only learned to sign when she was 23.

Sounds like a reason to call in a bomb threat to me, right? Imagine if a student called in a bomb threat to demand higher wages for janitors at the UM! My God, Jeb Bush would be calling in the National Guard to restore order! But because we're talking about deaf kids ---not "class warfare" --- they get a pass.

Fernandes says that the real reason she's getting all this grief might be because as provost she had to make unpopular decisions like denying tenure to a faculty member and disciplining students for cheating and plagiarism (God forbid!). She claims that the faculty is exploiting the students to settle scores with her. That sounds like a more plausible reason for all this trouble than that she's not deaf enough to run a school for the deaf.

I must say that after having lived directly across the street from Gallaudet and dealing with these deaf kids at stores and at bars in the Capital Hill neighborhood for over a year, I don't really have a great deal of sympathy for their protest. If you had to put up with their loud booming music and firecrackers going off at all hours of the night and the stacks of beer bottles rolling around on your front lawn in the morning you'd understand. A lot of people might think deaf people would be quiet neighbors; I'm here to tell you they're anything but.

The students that lived in the house behind mine liked the vibrations of really loud music with a whole bunch of bass. The flashes from firecrackers exploding was something they just can't get enough, either. Although setting off firecrackers might not seem to be such a big deal, in that neighborhood in Northeast, it's sometimes difficult to tell where the fire works end and the gunfire begins. Many were the times when I hit the floor thinking someone was popping off a few rounds in my backyard.

And I don't know if anyone reading this has ever been to a bar where all the deaf kids hang out, but all I can tell you is if you see one headed towards you, you'd better get out of the way, because they'll just crash right into you and not even say 'excuse me.' My theory about this total lack of social skills and just plain rudeness is that, all their lives they've been coddled because they have a disability and the ones that get to go to Galludet in particular who are privileged feel they can get away with anything.

They're in their own little world; they get driven around DC in their own buses, they only go to places where people just like them hang out and they don't feel like they have to be polite in social situations that include the non-deaf. Maybe, if they opened up the university a little more to other deaf people who don't rely exclusively on one form of communication they might eventually find out that there's a whole other world out there that they're going to have to live in sooner or later.

So, all I want to the students at Galludet is: Grow up!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Don't get into a twit about the NSA spying thing.

When is enough finaly enough for Congress? It seems like every week there's another even more outrageous revelation about the illegal activities of this administration and Congress just shrugs its collective shulders and says, 'whaddya' gonna do about it?'

Yesterday USA Today reported that the NSA has been collecting billions of call logs of Americans since 2001.

USA Today:

"'It's the largest database ever assembled in the world,' said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is 'to create a database of every call ever made' within the nation's borders, this person added."

No worries there, I'm sure the intentions of ther government are honoable, no reason to ask them any hard questions about what they're actually doing with this information. Like Trent Lott says, "Do we want security... or do we want to get in a twit about our civil libertarian rights?"

Arlen Specter, the only Senator who actually doers anything apparently, says he's going to finally get around to calling the heads of AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth into answer questions about what the government has had them doing. It's long overdue. No point in calling Alberto "waterboard" Gonzales in, he'll just lie his ass off anyway.

God help us:

The WaPo reports that along with spending half a trillion dollars on the new defense bill Congress has struck another blow for religious freedom.

The "defense authorization bill...includes language intended to allow chaplains to pray in the name of Jesus at public military ceremonies, undercutting new Air Force and Navy guidelines on religion."

As we all know, Christianity is under attack from the liberal, homosexual agenda so Congress had to act to make sure our troops aren't infected. See, the rub for the protectors of Christianity is that new Navy and Air Force rules call for chaplains to use nonsectarian prayers at public ceremonies, especially those where attendance is mandatory. This sort of lilly-livered kowtowing to the homosexual agenda was too much for those in the Christain community --- under siege as they are.

The WaPo writes:

"Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition and other evangelical Christian groups have lobbied vigorously against the Air Force and Navy rules, urging President Bush to issue an executive order guaranteeing the right of chaplains to pray in the name of Jesus under any circumstances. Because the White House has not acted, sympathetic members of Congress stepped in."

The National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces, a private group that provides 70% of the chaplins to the military says though that this isn't such a hot idea. They feel chaplains should represent all the religious views of those they serve. Wrong! Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) offered an amendment that would have placed language into the law that said there should be, "sensitivity, respect and tolerance for all faiths," but it was defeated on a party-line vote in committee.

Tolerance for all faiths, what kind of bullcrap this that? Christianity is under attack, we can't afford to be tolerant. John McCain understands this, that's why he's done an about face on his rhetoric about not "pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance." Instead he's decided to embrace intolerance by going to see Jerry Falwell and giving the commencement speech at Liberty University.

Next up, a move to amend the consitution to ban gay marriage and the passing of the Religious Liberties Restoration Act which will prevent ther Federal Judiciary from ruling on any matter regarding religion. No more fights over creationsm or the 10 Commandments on public property. The states can work all that out for themselves.
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