Thursday, May 11, 2006

It's Been Bad, Sure. It's Been a Rough 5 Years. Today, It Got A Little Worse

Jack Cafferty, CNN's resident curmudgeon, said today that Arlen Specter, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, "may be all that stands between us and full-blown dictatorship in this country." (You can watch the clip here.) Think about that for a second. We are at a point in this country's history where serious people are saying things like we're moving towards dictatorship. In this country.

I think Cafferty may be absolutely right. I know we're not there yet -- that would be an insult to all of the people who've had to endure under actual dictators, but it sure seems like we're heading in that direction, and at breakneck speed, too. (Wasn't W. talking yesterday about how great his fricking brother, Jeb, would be as a future President? What is this? A line of succession?) Cafferty's talking about, of course, the news that came out this morning that all of our friendly neighborhood telecommunications companies have been secretly giving the government access to our phone records since September 11th, 2001. By the tens of millions. Without our consent or knowledge. And to think, I used to like Verizon. (Quest, incidentally, was the only phone company to refuse the government's request). You can read the story, first reported by USAToday, here. And, as I heard on NPR's Marketplace this afternoon, the telecom companies were paid for the records, as if they were just another "commodity". Andrew Sullivan, one of the few reasonable conservative voices currently writing on-line, has a succinct rundown of Bush's pursuit of Kinghood. Polls have Bush's approval rating at 31%. My questions is who the hell are these 31%? Who's supporting this guy right now?

Bush made a statement this morning in an effort to allay fears of the Executive's growing power, and assured the American people that he's not "trolling through personal lives." That's Bush being cute by changing the subject. No, the NSA is not actually listening in on these millions of conversations, but they do now have access to when, where, and to whom a phone call is placed inside the United States -- this is domestic to domestic calling, too. So yes, Bush, you misleader you, the NSA is NOT currently trolling through John Q. Public's phone records to see if he's having an affair, or seeing prostitutes, or buying illicit drugs, but what if John Q. Public were to become John Q. Critic-of-the-Government? Like Martin Luther King, Jr. did? Or Daniel Ellsberg did? Do you think the NSA's going to be a good and upstanding secret agency when an over-zealous president, or an over-zealous Attorney General asks for information on a critic of the administration? Don't bet on it. They'll use whatever means they have at their disposal. I'm sure they've done it already. Many, many times.

Or what if by using phone records illegally procured by your government, the NSA discovers that a peaceful anti-war group has been, we'll say, a regular buyer of marijuana? Would they feel free to use that information to start an investigation? Would they make arrests? So yeah, now it's relegated to phone records, but what about when the time comes that the NSA feels it's job would be easier if it was allowed to capture and store the content of all phone calls made in the United States, not just the records? Does anyone really think this prospect is so far out of left field? Does anyone think that this President would actually say to the NSA if they came to him with this proposal, "You know boys, maybe this goes a little far. I mean, we have the Constitution to think about"? Of course not. I have no idea what this man's idealogy is, but I'm beginning to suspect he doesn't have one. If he ever did have a set of ideals he subscribed to, they've long since been set aside while his messianic vision of himself as Liberator of the Worlds' Peoples has really gone to work on his meager brain.

And this isn't just about Bush by any stretch. What about the next president to go into the White House? I fear that this administration's illegal encroachments are the new status quo. Honestly, who's going to go into the Oval Office next, Republican or Democrat, and say 'no thanks' to all the new toys Bush and his rubber-stamping Republican Congress gave the Executive? Right now, I'd say Gore is our best bet to clean house the way Carter did after Nixon given the speeches he's given on the subject of civil liberties, but even then I'm not so naive as to think Gore might not decide, once in office, that these new powers are something he'd like to keep, not legislate out of existence. This is a deadly serious debate we ought to be having right now about how far we're willing to let the government chisel away at our civil rights, but when we have reprehensible toadies like Senator Trent Lott saying in response to today's revelations, "What are people worried about? What is the problem? Are you doing something you're not supposed to?", or Bill Frist, current Majority Leader saying he "strongly agrees" with the President's decision to grab millions of Americans' phone records without court order, we are not going to have a serious and necessary debate about how far this Congress is willing to go to defend its Constitutional powers, or how averse the citizenry really is about encroaching fascism. Because right now our elected representatives are laying down.

So Specter called Attorney General Alberto Gonzales into a Senate hearing to ask him about the NSA illegal wiretapping program not long ago, but did not place him under oath. Turns out Gonzales may have taken advantage of Specter's inexplicable kindness by lying through his teeth to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Will Specter call Gonzales again, and if so, will he put him under oath this time? I doubt it. So yes, like Cafferty said, Arlen Specter may be the only thing standing between us and full-blown dictatorship, but judging from Specter's past performance (he did, after all, come up with the "Magic Bullet" theory for the Warren Commission), I'd say Specter represents, at best, a speedbump, when what we really need is a 20-foot high concrete barrier. A Democratic House in January '07 may be just the thing.


Speck said...

If Jeb Bush tries to run I really will deem everything one giant conspiracy. And if by some sick twist of corruption he should win...and he wouldn't. I would pack up and go to Canada.

PEter said...

crane are you really a democrat?

harwell said...

I don't know, I'm probably being naive but I pretty much assume that this administration and all those guys in Congress who support it all sincerely believe that doing things like wire-tapping and soliticting phone records will help us catch terrorists. And you know what this really proves then beyond a shadow of a doubt?


I bet Bin Laden is laughing his balls off at this. Do we really believe terrorists (the formibadle threats, not the wannabes) really just dial up a jihad using their home phone?? Don't these jerks watch movies? No bad guy uses their Verizon account! They go to a pay phone! Even I know that. The whole notion is absolutely absurd. To this day, I still think the smartest move the Bush administration has made was to lull the American public into forgetting about Bin Laden. This guy transcends politics; if there's one thing the nation can come together in support of, it's that we ALL want Bin Laden caught and held responsible.

But guess what? They don't have a clue where he's at. And instead of admitting that and facing a nation that SHOULD be pounding down the doors of the White House demanding that they do something to find this guy, they shifted the focus. Bin Laden's a late night joke now. Nobody seems to care.

How sad is that?

blankfist said...

This is probably the best post you've had in a long, long time, Crane. Good stuff. I happen to agree with you, nearly wholeheartedly (that’s my adverb-laden passive aggressive way of saying “I do, but I don’t”). I think you focus on Bush directly when your perspective of political blame should seep to your peripheral view, as well. A government when allowed access to power will use it with unabashed piety and without restraint. We must keep our government small and only as powerful as it reasonably needs to be in order to run a country. It should be the responsibility of the people. The people should, as Harwell said, be kicking in the doors to the Whitehouse. In my opinion, I think the people should be lighting gas pumps aflame now that it costs somewhere between 40 and 70 (sometimes more) dollars to fill up your tank. I could go off on the whole “freedom of movement” guaranteed to the people of this nation, but, in that case, I think I may be overlaboring the point.

As for the response given by Trent Lott, I’ve never understood why the answer to the question “why are you encroaching on my liberties?” seemed to always be “well, if you’re not doing anything wrong, then what do you have to hide?” To that, I’ve always wanted to (but never have) sneak into that person’s bathroom late at night and hide. Come morning, when they’re taking their morning pooh, I spring from hiding, point and laughing. When they threaten to call the police, I’d then retort with, “But, what do you have to hide, dear sir?” That would be great fun. Especially, if it was Lott’s old tale on the john. But, I digress.

I’ve been reading a book by this guy named Dan Bessie. It’s a story of his life in Hollywood, but it’s not a glitzy, star-studded read (although, it most certainly is a fascinating read) – in fact, Bessie’s father was part of the Hollywood Ten (member of ten investigated by the House Un-American Committee (HUAC) for anti-American communist ideas). He was locked away for Contempt of Congress in a Texas prison – his sentence lasted a year. Contempt of Congress? Hmmm. It makes me angry to an absolute degree to think people were imprisoned over ideas in this country – in America. To think how our leaders had failed us using fear as their means of controlling thought. They were no better than Hitler, in my eyes, and I’d wished McCarthy and the lot of the old Congress do-gooders would’ve suffered the same fate (by hanging). Although, I’d rather they’d suffer the same fate Zed and his gay Security Guard friend did at the hands of Marsellus Wallace’s “hard pipe hitting” you know whats. Yeah, I’m talking blow torches and pliers, my friends.

Anonymous said...

Bin Laden is dead! Or, he may NOT really be behind it - how do we know for sure? Are we shown the evidence of his tampering?

9/11 commission did not properly investigate the crime - that is right - crime , not provocation for war. The US government knew of these pending attacks and blew it off. Why?

Also, why was Mohammad Atta wired $100,000 by the Head of the Pakistani Intelligence before 9/11?

Why did Tower 7 go down 4-5 hours after the twin towers were decimated? There is no formal inquiry or answer to this. Merely that the siesmic shock brough it down (yeah right).

There are too many inconsistencies in the report - and enough to make conspiracy people go wild in the streets. Why? Is there a coverup?

Why is Bush and co using this an excuse to push through dictatorial powers? MAssive tax cuts, increased military spending and corporate cronysism, domestic repression.

Why? Because America is a shade away from being a fascist state - just a shade away. Actually, I think we are already there.

Crane - you've written nothing of Bush's nomination of Hayden as new CIA idiot. You know why Porter Goss was canned? BEcause he wouldn't purge the liberal democrats from the agency? Now, Bush places the creator of the domestic spying program in the the most powerful role in this country. Powerful because it is unaccountable - well - now it will be a black hole because is is falling under the Pentagon - there is 2 billion dollars of tax payers money that just dissapears yearly! 2 fucking billion!

Not to mention, Cheney issued a provocation recently against Russia and Putin - enough to speak of a new Cold War. Boy, I can hear the defense contractors humming all the way to the bank.

Seriously - I am already looking into becoming a Greek (EU citizen). Amerikkka is fucked.

I have no allegience to any country or any culture. I have no problem waving goodbye as our great experiment crashes and sinks like the Titanic.

I especially will not miss the lunatic Christian fascists. If it starts to get worse I'll consider staying and fighting - maybe if I didn't have a family it would be different- but in all likelihood - I hope to wait out the apocalypse on an island.

harwell said...

Crane, you should use your blog to start a grass roots movement. First we can get Trent Lott's address so Heath can watch him poop. After that we'll boycott gas ($2.99 in Cincy today) and make t-shirts with Bin Laden on them that say "Got Me?" in the Got Milk? font. Aside from Heath watching Trent Lott poop, I think the rest would be pretty successful. We can do it!

blankfist said...

Gas will probably be around 5 dollars a gal soon. The way it works is simple. Our gov't invades Iraq. Gas conglomerates decide it's reason enough to raise prices. Then, enter China's industrial age - another great reason for the gas monsters to raise prices claiming China as the fault for "supply and demand". Lastly, enter a new form of bait and switch where price per gal are raised in quick (and large) bursts causing great public concern, then shortly thereafter are lowered by a third or so easing the concern. Public begins to feel content - complacent. Steadily rising prices become an annoyance, but accepted.

Gas companies show largest profitability.

Peggy said...

Right now I say let the fuckers read and listen to our phone calls . . . all they are going to learn is how much this country hates their dumbasses!!

Bin Laden is somewhere playing Black on his XBOX on the hard level, laughing at the world.

harwell said...

"Bin Laden is somewhere playing Black on his XBOX on the hard level, laughing at the world."

So, that's yet another thing he has in common with Brian Crane.

Hmm...Quick question: has anyone ever seen Crane and Bin Laden in the same room together???

Brian O'Malley said...

I saw them together in a room. So? Why must you be hating against the gays?

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