A Modest Proposal for the Holidays

Can we start a new Holiday? It’s nothing too extravagant, I assure you. I’d just like to officially recognize the days from December 26th through December 30th as “Pressure’s Off-mas.”

There won’t be a whole lot of pomp and ritual, really. Just a few things-

#1- Sometime between the 26th and the 28th, you must have the annual post-Christmas Rolling Over and Going Back to Sleep Because You Can Day.

#2- Pick any day during Pressure’s Off-mas, and designate it “Playing with the Dogs and Eating Leftovers, and NOT ONE GODDAMN THING MORE Day.”

#3- “I’m Not Going Near Any Place With a Cash Register Day.”

#4- Not Gonna Drive Day

Feel free to add your own in the comments.

It’s astonishing, really

There is an alarming clamor on the right to dispense with our Civil Liberties in favor of a police state run amok. It is apparently just fine with them to have the government peering into our windows and monitoring our email to protect us from those bad, bad A-rabs.

Reading the reaction to Richard Posner’s Op-ed in the WaPo today, I found a link to QT Monster’s Place, where she says

I agree with Rush. If I’m blown to bits by a terrorist bomb I can’t really worry about my precious civil liberties can I? Priorities Democrats, priorities.

Erm…. uh… Surely you pro-police state types are familiar with Patrick Henry’s quote “Give me liberty of give me death”? Or that ol’ Ben Franklin chestnut “Those who would sacrifice Liberty for Security deserve neither”?

I would say that your chances of being “blown to bits by a terrorist bomb” are slim to nil (although your chances have been somewhat increased by the current administration’s policies). Throwing away your fourth amendment protections to prevent said bits-blowing is roughly analogous to wearing a crash helmet whenever you’re out of bed, y’know, in case of falling safes or pianos. Aren’t these the same “conservatives” who argue endlessly against any sort of regulation of firearms possession? Let me make sure I understand you… you conservatarian types are willing to let the NSA snoop through your phone calls and your correspondence on the billion-to-one chance that Osama Bin Ladin is hiding under your neighbor’s bed, but god forbid someone suggest that maybe you don’t need an SKS with a 30 round clip. Where’s a calculated risk adjuster when you need one? Can someone tumble the numbers on “Chances of being shot” vs. “Chances of being blowed up by Osama”?

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for firearms ownership, despite what Rush might have told you ALL LIBERALS BELIEVE, but I am also for A SOCIETY FREE FROM UNWARRANTED SEARCH AND SEIZURE. Hello, Security Freaks? It’s the 4TH AMENDMENT CALLING!! Look, hire someone to tie you up and spank you or something. Don’t go fucking with what makes this country great.

From the Posner article mentioned above-

Innocent people, such as unwitting neighbors of terrorists, may, without knowing it, have valuable counterterrorist information. Collecting such information is of a piece with data-mining projects such as Able Danger…

The goal of national security intelligence is to prevent a terrorist attack, not just punish the attacker after it occurs, and the information that enables the detection of an impending attack may be scattered around the world in tiny bits. A much wider, finer-meshed net must be cast than when investigating a specific crime. Many of the relevant bits may be in the e-mails, phone conversations or banking records of U.S. citizens, some innocent, some not so innocent. The government is entitled to those data, but just for the limited purpose of protecting national security.

Y’know, buddy, if you’re that anxious to start an American Stasi, please fuck off.

I have some serious issues with the assertion that we must surrender our right to privacy to your terrorist witch hunts when I am also reading stories like this in the news:

Counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have conducted numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief, newly disclosed agency records show.

The potential for abuse is HUGE, clearly. Please, brownshirt security ninnies- move to one of those countries that bans chewing gum and stones unmarried pregnant women, and leave MY COUNTRY alone.

crossposted at shakespeare’s sister

Your worst paranoid nightmare confirmed

Well, mine, anyway.

I have been reading Josh Marshall’s ruminations about the implications of Rockefeller Memo, and it seems to present, in conjunction with the President’s weird gyrations and denials, fairly compelling evidence for the existence of Echelon. Pretty chilling stuff.

Over the last couple days I’ve heard informed speculation from several knowledgeable sources that what is likely really at issue here is the nature of the technology being deployed — both new technology and technology which in the nature of its method of collection turns upside down our normal ways of thinking about what constitutes a reasonable or permissible search.

I had thought that the reason that Snoopergate was such a shock to the White House and such a political liability was that the NSA was being used to spy on political dissidents. Today, in fresh light, it’s starting to look like the NSA was spying on EVERYBODY. Of course FISA warrants don’t cover that.

I would say that this is a clear violation of the 4th Amendment from top to bottom, if Echelon turns out to be something other than a fantasy.

Back in 2001, on a lark, I participated in something called “Jam Echelon Day,” which is where we all sent tons of emails containing as many of our theoretical “trigger words”- “al qaeda, semtex, jihad, Murrah building, protocols of the elders of zion, ZOG, Ruby Ridge, etc, etc.” We all, I think, had this ideal hope that we would see technicians popping out of closets and from under manhole covers, ripping their headphones off of their ears and screaming “AAAAAHHHHH!!! TOO MUCH!!!!” I mean, not really, but hacker types do funny stuff for funny reasons.

Agent Little Bird and I have been batting this around all morning, in a very black mood. Quoth he-
“I just hope whoever is monitoring my emails and such literally gets bored to death.”

yeah. Or tried for sedition and treason and thrown into the darkest prison we can find. Fat chance.

cross-posted at Shakespeare’s Sister

Indefensible

What’s Daniel Okrent’s defense of the NY Times for sitting on the Snoopergate story since before the election?

“You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” said Okrent, who often wrote critical reviews of the Times before leaving in May to write a book. “For the right, this information never should have come out. And for the left, it never could have come out early enough.”

Apparently, as Atrios puts it, “the decision to publish a story should be dependent, in part, on the volume of partisan criticism you expect to receive. I guess that’s how they approach the news now.”

I am really just tailgating Atrios on this. I have no idea what to add. Access journalism really is to blame here. Wolcott’s phrase “attack poodles” seems awfully apt in this case.

It really is indefensible.

Liberated from the phone

I managed to liberate some photos from my phone today. Not surprisingly, they’re mostly of my dogs.

Houston: (this is what I see when I wake up in the morning)

houston head.jpg

houstonwakeup.jpg

Addison and Houston:
addisonhouston.jpg

and my old, departed friend, Buddha:

buddha.jpg

So, um, y’know… heh

The Nominations for this year’s Koufax Awares are open.

And there’s a “Most Deserving of Wider Recognition” category, in which Shakespeare’s Sister has nominated me and some other fine bloggers.

If you wanted to head over there and mention me in the comments, I would be deeply in your debt. I don’t know if I will make the final cut, but as they say at the Oscars, “It’s an honor just to be nominated.”

Indeed.

National Law Journal: Fitz Attorney of the Year

How about that? The National Law Journal clearly has an Anti-Bush agenda, because the runner up was the Jag Lt. Cmdr. who challenged the Guantanamo Bay detentions as unconstitutional.

The National Law Journal(R) today announced the selection of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald as its 2005 “Lawyer of the Year,” for his direction of the ongoing investigation into leaks related to CIA agent Valerie Plame. The editors of the newspaper also named Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift as the runner-up in this year’s award program for his role in challenging the constitutionality of the Guantanamo Bay prisoner tribunals, from within the military.

One by one, it seems that even establishment types are figuring out that the man in the White House has a screw loose. Check out the description of the National Law Journal’s parent company:

ALM currently owns and publishes 39 national and regional magazines and newspapers, including The American Lawyer(R), Corporate Counsel(R), The National Law Journal and Real Estate Forum(R).

I am going to guess that Lilek’s dismissal of these guys as sandal-wearing long-hairs is going to fall a little flat. Can’t wait to hear what Gerhardt Westrick and Dr. Heinrich Albert have to say over at Powerline.

cross posted at Shakespeare’s Sister

William Arkin goes way out on a limb

Ezra Klein has William Arkin yapping in the WaPo:

The government is not just repeating the targeting of political opponents a la J. Edgar Hoover or Richard Nixon. It is not picking out a Seymour Hersh or a Cindy Sheehan to find their links to foreign influences nor seeking to ruin their lives by developing incriminating evidence on them.

Oh, really? Can you back that assertion up with any evidence? Because Ezra and I don’t have your faith in the President’s restraint. Not by a long shot.

If you want followers, lead

As a nation, we haven’t been setting the best example lately. Detentions, renditions, surveillance, harassment, invasions…

Anyone old enough to remember the Reagan era might recognize the banana republic leadership style we are currently experiencing here in the US as the “democracy” we exported to Latin America back the day.

It’s sure ringing a bell for Central Americans and South Americans, and US influence in the region is paying the price.

Bolivia’s Socialist presidential candidate, Evo Morales, who has promised to become Washington’s “nightmare,” said his victory was assured in Sunday’s elections after two independent exit polls showed him with an unexpectedly strong lead.

I find it very disheartening that the Anti-American ticket is surging in the polls in electoral races all over the world.

The elephant in the reading room

Josh Marshall is trying to get his head around the reason that the President and the NSA went around the FISA hearings to spy on Americans.

How can this be true?

If I’m understanding this correctly, this program allowed the president to conduct warrantless wiretaps in cases where he could have conducted the same wiretaps with warrants by seeking a warrant from the FISA Court. If the wiretaps were against the “international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations” then the FISA Court certainly would have issued the warrants.

and here:

From perusing a few headlines it seems the White House and some editors are taking to arguing that surveillance or domestic wiretapping is necessary for national security, that it saves lives.

Of course, it does. What a stupid thing to say, or for the White House, what a disingenuous thing to say.

Wiretaps are conducted around the country every day. The FISA Court alone approves something like a half a dozen a day in highly classified national security or espionage related cases.

Hm… why would the Bush administration want to go around the oversight hearings so that they could spy on people suspected of terrorism here in the US? Especially when it’s so easy to get a warrant?

Perhaps they’re not just spying on terrorism suspects. These NSA intercepts, I would wager, are of the communications of peace activists. I believe that they’ve been spying on Americans who were exercising their 1st Amendment Rights. I think that they believed that the FISA hearings might have rejected the President’s request to monitor the American Friends Service Committee and Pax Christi International, as well as people like Josh Marshall and Atrios.

I would suggest that if we’re going to keep asking why they did it, we need to state the most obvious theory and let them deny it (though I doubt they’ll be able to).

::UPDATE:: Ezra Klein and I agree on this one:

there are really only two logical answers. One is a desire for increased executive power and the other is that the FISA Courts wouldn’t have approved his targets. Neither is particularly comforting.

I said as much in an email to Josh Marshall earlier today:

If it’s so easy to get a warrant to spy on terrorism suspects, then why indeed would they feel a need to go around that process? Several possible explanations exist, not least of which is the expansion of executive power for expansion’s sake. (I wouldn’t put it past them.) I have my own suspicions, however, and I feel certain that it has occurred to you, as well: I suspect that these wiretaps and surveillances were conducted against domestic peace activists.