It is said (or at least it should have been said) that the human brain is pretty much capable of coming up with anything. I mean we humans have invented the most amazing ways of torturing people and killing them off bit by bit.
Go into any supermarket and stroll down the soda pop aisle or cereal aisle and you can see that we can invent several dozen variations on a theme, making each appear fresh and new.
But I swear I cannot come up with a viable version of comedy that stresses conservative themes and is funny at the same time. It would be a bit like pushing matter and anti-matter too closely together. It just implodes.
What on earth is funny about all the things that the GOP is for? They are for cutting taxes for the rich. That’s gotten to the point that nowadays we are sending money to them since they “pay” taxes in the negative.
They are for trying to offset their growing state deficits by adding “luxury” taxes to food and other necessities, taxes that cruelly attach more to the poor than any other group.
They are for the life of the fetus, which is surely laudable if it were coexistent with care for pregnant mothers, babies, health care, and a host of services to support that fetus as it grows to old age. But they are not.
They are against government intervening in the lives of ordinary people unnecessarily. They call this regulation. But the forms they wish to dismiss are those that protect people from dirty water, dirty air, shoddy manufacturing practices, unfair labor practices that endanger and diminish people. They figure kids, rather than get a free lunch should sweep the school for their dinner.
But when it comes to regulating behavior, they can’t get enough of regulations. They want to and do, try to regulate every aspect of women’s bodies when it comes to reproduction and girls bodies too. They seek to regulate what women wear. They seek to protect the rights of others to treat fellow human beings badly based upon personal ideologies that they call a “religion.”
They seek to express American exceptionalism by meddling around the world, upping the ante everywhere, bloating defense budgets to accommodate their need to puff out their chests and “prove” America is better. At the same time, they protect themselves and their offspring from standing on any battlefield they create.
They seek to pretend that race and ethnicity no longer are of any concern in their America. They turn the page by flipping the equation such that anyone who brings up the issue is dubbed a “racist”. They employ a few dark faces, who for the price of personal fame, are willing to nod genteelly in agreement. They twist and cherrypick the words of great civil rights leaders and try to claim them as their own.
They live every day using every convenience devised by modern technology. They tweet and fly, pick up their fancy lattes, take their youth-enhancing shots at spas, drive computer directed cars, yet when it comes to any science that impinges on their gravy train of K Street lobbyists and the free-flowing money that is funneled their way, science becomes pure bunk.
They prefer stupid, cute-talking bobble heads to thoughtful men and women.
They prefer “common-sense” to education, except when they visit the doctor or the dentist or the accountant or the lawyer, or the airport pilot. Education is for elitists, who are people who want to be better than the average person, meaning they get embarrassed when they haven’t a damn clue what is being said.
They are all for individuality, and they mean that they will say that everyone is equal, and you can just do the best you can. If it don’t work out, why that poor house thing back in the twenties wasn’t so bad, and we got a lot of free road work done. See don’t you feel better knowing you are paying for your own gruel?
They want to, therefore, end social security, cuz individuals properly prepare for their own old age. John-Boy is remembered fondly and surely was going to care for his ma and pa. You don’t need medicare either since health care is no right but a privilege reserved for those who have managed to acquire sufficient funds to pay for it.
There is no need either for unemployment benefits because it’s your job to foresee that free markets might end your job. Worse, if you are so down and out as that, you probably are not of sufficient moral character to withstand the urge to just sit on your ass and suck off the rest of us anyway, and we can’t have that.
Food stamps? Hunger builds character. See the above regarding unemployment benefits regarding your unfitness for food.
Housing? Ditches are quite comfortable in summer I hear.
And let’s not forget the churches. Our fine Christian houses of worships are dedicated to helping the “truly” poor, whatever the hell that means. Not so much non-Christian houses of worship which are really just oxymorons, cuz that’s what my Jezus said, after all, somewhere; at least he implied it.
I mean two thousand years of working on that issue, is a good start!
Immigrants were us two hundred or so years ago, and that was fine. Everyone knows white trash from Europe beats red skins any day. And immigrants are really good at cleaning houses and mowing lawns and picking fruit. They don’t want hardly anything for the privilege. But too many? Oh now, that makes you an ALIEN and an ILLEGAL.
Those words are words of fear, because damn, I’m following all the good rules set up by my betters, and fuck, life is still not any better, so somebody is to blame, and my betters say it’s THEM.
So, we can hate us some Mexicans and, hell all of South America pretty much just cuz. But we will not hate the Cubans, at least the rich ones who escaped Fidel. They are not aliens or illegals, but good people who lost their wealthy land holdings and much to be commiserated with.
We can hate us some Arabs, as many as we want and wherever we want, because we just want their oil, them that got it at least. The rest? Who cares?
We can ignore all our history and all of the worlds for that matter just because it interferes with the narrative we have to tell ourselves today to get to sleep. I mean the past is the past, why dwell on uncomfortable things like slavery and partitioning and supporting dictators and crummy stuff like that. It just makes me feel bad, and, after all, we have to deal with TODAY right?
Let’s make history a quest to make our kids good Americans! And we know what will do that. Put God back in school! In fact, let’s turn over education our youth to private enterprise, cuz they will do the job better and cheaper! And they will never have an ulterior motive to teach our kids anything that was wrong, or quietly made themselves look like the best thing since sliced bread, will they?
Let’s continue to push for not letting those who think against us vote. Let’s continue to make judges do what we want them too.
Let’s put a gun in every graduate’s hand. And I ain’t talkin’ about graduating from college, or even high school. Grade school is old enough to understand proper gun usage. Carry it proudly son. It’s what the Founding Fathers wanted for sure.
This is what the Grand Overly Dead Party thinks. Now, if you can come up with how to make this funny, do tell. I can’t come up with anything. Not a damn thing. A wake? I can come up with that, but not comedy.
Cuz a girl’s gotta write since it’s my passion, and there is always the miniscule hope, (for we all know that it springs eternal) that some poor bastard out there who was “damn the President for dissin’ Christians” will awaken from the fog of dissonance and the clear bell of enlightenment will ring forth: “I was once stupid and now I am not.”
Such is at least my justification for this essay.
I just happened to be tuned in the other morning as the President gave the traditional speech at the National Prayer Meetin’ which is held annually in Washington where all the sinners come to pretend they are doin’ their very best to apply God’s law as they slip another check from Exxon-Mobile and JP Morgan, into their $3000 suits.
The President, as we all know, has pretty much given up on the idea that facts, and good logic will get him anywhere, and as of late has pursued a policy of “screw you, try to stop me” and a general “fuck you” to Congressional Republicans who are fresh off the latest round of “ain’t got no bootstraps with which to pay for healthcare? Well die, you dog, and make room for those who do.”
As every good American knows, there’s the guys in the black hats (bad) and the guys in the white hats (good) always near to the scene. America is built upon this scenario and we have all the cheesy old westerns to prove it. Let us introduce the latest and best entry into the black hats category. A group known as ISIS (not to be confused with an Egyptian god) or ISIL if you have a clue what Levant means.
ISIL is a slipshod group of thugs who claim a perverted understanding of Islam which they use to justify their attempts to take over the world. Since their threat is pretty much everywhere, that means just about everyone else gets to be the guys in the white hats, but Merika of course always has to lead, cuz we are the super, super white hats.
Anyway, if you hadn’t noticed, we have a fair share of Arab Muslims (and Arabs in general) who live in the US, and boy I sure wouldn’t want to be them, since Americans are flighty people who tend to assess blame against whole swaths of people since it’s just easier. We learned that from the movies too, where it’s often best to “shoot first and ask questions later.” Anyway, even the dumbest of President (that would be you Dubya) have realized that it’s really not a good idea to let the great stupid mobs of American whiteness carry on in this manner, and so they are always at pains of ‘splainin’ to the stupid white people that NOT ALL ARABS ARE MUSLIMS AND MORE IMPORTANT NOT ALL MUSLIMS ARE KILLERS. In fact the huge majority are not, but are just peace-loving, family-seeking individuals like you and me.
Now Dubya can say nice things about Arab Muslims, and even hold hands with them, and nobody thinks a thing bad about it. He can even share a short peck and not even be thought particularly gay. Just good old American manners.
And he can say all kinds of nice things about Muslims to remind dumb American white people that it’s never a good idea to paint a brush too broad.
“America treasures the relationship we have with our many Muslim friends, and we respect the vibrant faith of Islam which inspires countless individuals to lead lives of honesty, integrity, and morality. This year, may Eid also be a time in which we recognize the values of progress, pluralism, and acceptance that bind us together as a Nation and a global community. By working together to advance mutual understanding, we point the way to a brighter future for all.” Presidential Message Eid al-Fitr December 5, 2002
But when President Obama reminds us that there are bad people in all religions historically who have done really bad things
Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. . .So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith. In today’s world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try.
the hue and cry from the extreme right in this country rose like a phoenix, screaming that such utterly evil words had never been spoken in all of our democracy. Former Governor of Virginia, Jim Gillmore was “outraged” having never heard a more terrible thing from the lips of a President. Santorum and Limbaugh chimed in with their mortification of Christianity today being compared to the unspeakable ISIS killers. And on it went, the rallying cry being “this is not a moral equivalency!!”
And it was not suggested as such either, if you read the text.
It was meant to remind everyone that while the killings by ISIS are horrific, we as humans have been doing horrific things to each other since the inception of so-called civilization, and a good deal of it has been veiled in perverted religious beliefs. People find it most convenient to put on the mask of religion to disguise their blatant lust for power and to express their hatred and fear. It has always been so. ISIS is no different in that respect than all the others. It is no more heinous, no more bloody certainly, and no more representative of the faith it espouses than any of the others were.
A few examples should suffice.
African-Americans in this country were often burned at the stake during slavery and Jim Crow. If you don’t think it was done in the name of Christianity, then read the words of the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stevens:
[T]he first government ever instituted upon the principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society … With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. The architect, in the construction of buildings, lays the foundation with the proper material-the granite; then comes the brick or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it, and by experience we know that it is best, not only for the superior, but for the inferior race, that it should be so.
It is, indeed, in conformity with the ordinance of the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them. For His own purposes, He has made one race to differ from another, as He has made “one star to differ from another star in glory.” The great objects of humanity are best attained when there is conformity to His laws and decrees, in the formation of governments as well as in all things else. Our confederacy is founded upon principles in strict conformity with these laws.
The charred body of Jesse Washington pictured above was in 1905 in Waco. The deaths of countless other African-Americans during Jim Crow by lynching, by the KKK (which always has a “Christian” front), occured. George Wallace invoked the name of God dozens of times in his 1963 inaugural address where he also famously uttered the words, “Segregation now. . .segregation tomorrow. . .segregation forever.”
The extreme Right-Wingers will tell you that the Crusades were wars of defense. Yet the arguable owners of that land were Palestinians and Jews. Muslims lay claim based on Muhammad. Yet Christians have no real claim certainly any greater than Jews or Muslims. All claim the area as holy. Yet when the first Crusade ended, the city of Jerusalem was cleared of all non-Christians, and by cleared I mean murdered. Jews who barricaded themselves in their synagogues were burned to death and survivors sold into slavery. All told the Crusades occurred over about 200 years, ending in 1291 or so.
When Saladin recaptured Jerusalem, only then were Jews allowed to return and live in relative freedom. This was in 1187, nearly a hundred years later.
They claim that the Inquisition was “political” as if that means something.
In fact the Inquisition was instituted by Pope Innocent III and set up by Pope Gregory IX. Confessors to heresy were burned alive. In 1242 the Talmud was condemned and burnings of Jews began in France in 1288. The Inquisition was begun in Spain for fear of “secret Jews” and the Conversos (those that had converted at pain of death in the first place and were suspected of retaining their true Judaic beliefs). In Seville alone more than 700 Jews were burned to death. By the time it ended in 1808, nearly 32,000 died by fire.
And the Inquisition was not just in Spain and France. It spread to Portugal and then to New World colonies and throughout Asia as well.
We need not but mention the Troubles in Ireland in which religion was the division between sides. Or that of India/Pakistan again, where religion affiliation defined the sides.
It is not that religion perverts human souls, but that some small sick group humans use religion to perpetrate their own evils upon the world.
President Obama, in the hopes of tamping down the ugly nativism that is so beginning to plague this nation with its ugly hate, attempted to remind us that we all have blood upon our hands. ISIS is but the latest in a long line of evil people doing evil things in the name of their perverted version of God.
** Let me recommend Jeff Sharlet’s book The Family which documents the shady and weird folks behind the National Prayer Breakfast.
**Also a great read is Karen Armstrong’s Fields of Blood which argues that religion has played a lesser role in most violence historically, however much it may have been the cover story. I’ve not read this but I’ve read others of hers and she is a uniquely qualified religious scholar who is highly respected for her scholarship. She was once a nun herself.
This whole Charlie Hebdo thing is pretty deep if you stop to think about it. Of course most don’t treat it as such. It has become a knee-jerk reaction for most. Jon Stewart pointed this out when he suggested that some countries who have championed free speech and press, actually arrest plenty of speech in their own countries.
We are all in danger, it seems to me, of being hypocrites, myself included. I confess right now that I have participated in at least two attempts to squelch the free speech of others when it came vile bigoted hate speech against the President.
It’s not nearly as easy an idea as it might appear to be.
A friend of mine posted a link to statements made by the Pope. He suggested that free speech must be protected, but that, “You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.” Francis did not expound on what should be the consequences of such inappropriate speech, but he warned that the attacks in Paris can fairly be expected from such talk.
I tend to disagree with Francis here, at least insofar as he claims that the ends justify the means. If he suggests that we should ban hate speech vis-a-vis religion if it would engender violence, then this leaves us under the thumb of every radicalized person about any issue he or she defines as “religious”. Where would it stop?
I am aware that all speech is not protected. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said in Schenck v. United States, 249 US 47 (1919), you are not free to yell fire in a crowded theatre. Forever after we have lived with the standard of “clear and present danger” as the bellwether of when speech crosses a line to incite lawlessness.
To succumb to the threat of violence if you “say those things” invites the standard (a difficult one at best) to be flipped to be defined by the one threatening the violence. I have no doubt that the Pope spoke in the general, and as he put it in a friendly manner not meant to be a papal statement of substance.
Yet, of course, those inclined to think little and shallowly about the subject go off the deep end. In the wake of the Paris shootings, Oxford University Press, certainly one of the more respected publishing houses in the world, announced that it would no longer use the words pig, sausage, or pork-related products in its children’s literature. This as a means to not offend Jewish and Muslim readers.
They have been not only roundly ridiculed for such a decision, but criticized as well by the reputable press.
In the post I cited at the beginning, one read the expected Christian whine, “The only ones we have to be kind to are the militant, extremist muslims who might behead us. All the other religions are fair game.” Such rhetoric is of course, both nonsensical and off point.
In fact the world community has stood up very clearly and said, as offensive as Charlie Hebdo is to most people at one time or another, they have he right to say what they wish about Muslims or anybody else for that matter. In a country that is overwhelmingly Christian, (Pew estimates that 78.4% of all Americans define themselves as Christian) it is predictable that the religious right will complain that it is a victim of persecution!
This all suggests that at least some of the Je suis Charlie is nothing more than acclamation that the “right” religion is being attacked. Should Charlie Hebdo attack, (as they of course have done and no doubt will continue to do) Christianity, these self-defined freedom proclaimers will be calling for Charlie’s head.
Some things it seems to me need to be cleared up.
Speech is speech, and unless it reaches the “clear and present danger” standard, ought under no circumstances be prohibited. Westboro Baptist must be allowed to spew it’s hate, as well as the KKK and various right-wing evangelicals and their “burn the Quran”. Atheists who call believers names fall into the category as well.
Speaking against a religion is not persecution of that religion. Persecution involves state action to suppress a religion because of its existence. That does not mean that it is right or to be championed. It is to be marched against, spoken against, and shunned in the most clear way. But it must not be prevented.
When we speak of “not offending” another religion, we are again talking about state action. It is improper to set up creches in public places such as town property, because that is the government speaking then. It is quite proper for a private establishment decorate as it wishes. This is I think where people get most confused.
When a store decides to use the phrase “happy holidays” they are not persecuting Christians, they are choosing to respect all their patrons, Christians and others as well. Similarly if a store chooses to say Merry Christmas or Happy Kwanzaa that is their choice as well.
While I see Oxford Press’s point, I think they have stepped over the line. Some attempts at political correctness are simply absurd. Small children have no clue the point being made, and who are really addressed are parents, who are surely capable of explaining to their young if they think it necessary.
We simply begin down a dangerous path when we start deciding that certain types of speech are not allowed. In Germany for instance, I believe it is still a crime to speak out in denial of the Holocaust. While there might have once been reason to do such a thing in the raw years immediately after WWII, I’m not sure it is still valid. Many countries have liberal prohibitions of speech that attacks the state. These too are wrong, as most of us would agree.
We must never forget that at one time, the most innocuous of things today was then blasphemous. People were arrested for speaking about all sorts of things that threatened the state (religious or secular) either directly or indirectly. We have come a long way, in most of the civilized world. If we resort to making it illegal to speak our minds about anything beyond what threatens life itself, we run the risk of turning backward down a path that leads to dictatorship, repression, and tyranny.
Those on the Right, who so vociferously espouse “our freedoms” should be the first in line to defend speech. But of course, they have are not. But then, true patriots reside elsewhere on the spectrum, as we all suspect.
Given all the back-walking going on within the GOP ranks on this issue of Sgt. Bergdahl, it still remains stunning the degree to which folks like Fox Noise continue to look down their noses at the drooling sycophants that pass as the usual Fox viewer.
Case in point, is one Ollie North, criminal/traitor extraordinaire who was recently on Newsmax to give us the benefit of his wisdom on the negotiated release of Sgt. Bergdahl from the hands of the Taliban.
You remember Ollie. He participated along with candidate Ronald Reagan, in a secret deal with Iran (terrorists) to sell them missiles and then turn that money over to the Contras in Nicaragua (more terrorists). In return Iran was supposed to turn over hostages, but not until the election was over, so Carter couldn’t get the benefit of it. This was not only negotiating with terrorists, it was downright treason.
Yet, Fox figured Ollie was a good choice to weigh in on the matter of the Bergdahl release. I mean seriously!
From there we move to Johnny McCain who just cannot to this day live with the fact that he is not the President.
Back in February of this year, Johnny suggested that he could probably get behind a trade of Taliban Gitmo detainees in exchange for Sgt. Bergdahl, though he would “have to see the details”. This seems in line with the information that this negotiation has been in the works since 2011, and that the appropriate members of Congress were informed of both the negotiations, AND the subjects of any exchange.
John was enraged when this was pointed out to him. He sputtered, accused journalists of “lying” and then abruptly changed his tune, and suggested that it was a done deal, and we should move on. Then the next day, he was back on the bandwagon, screaming for “his head”.
Joined at the hip, Kelly Ayotte just on Memorial Day was calling on citizens to “remember Sgt. Bergdahl in their thoughts and prayers” and declaring that she was pushing the military to do everything possible to return him to his family. Of course now she’s singing a different tune.
Ayotte, is of course, no different from Lindsey Butchmeup Graham, who get their marching orders from Johnny, came to lately McCain, and both can be forgiven their turnabouts, since it’s all just too confusing to them in the first place. Lindsey of course is facing a primary next week, and so he’s desperately trying to remind everyone in his state that he has a mighty big job in just zipping up his trousers over that massive load of junk he’s carrying.
Their story is not singular as it were. A host of those who were congratulating America on having brought back a prisoner, quickly scrubbed their congratulations from their Twitter feeds when advised that the GOP was tacking once again. At least six Republicans have done so, advised by party leaders apparently that things “had changed”.
This all falls into place when one realizes that the rabble of the Tea People are making their anger heard throughout the faux news blogs that cater to the trailer brigade. Facebook pages, and the usual stories rebound around the likes of WorldNetDaily, Breitbart and Fox Noise, all attesting to the fact that Bergdahl was “probably a traitor”, “probably a deserter”, whose father “looks like a Muslim” and on and on. Impeachment echoes through the halls of crazy land.
None of this has anything to do with the decision of course, but in the usual fear of upsetting the grossly ignorant, GOP politicians run scared. The mill around the Capital, asking each other what to do, after all, elections are at stake, and NOTHING is as important.
The degree to which the GOP jumps when the fringe furrows it’s collective Neanderthal brow, is stunning. Just last week, the NRA after having declared that the crazies in Texas wandering around cheap food establishments with assault-type rifles and camouflage, should just go home, was met with an uproar from these thugs, and beat a hasty retreat, claiming “we made a terrible mistake”.
Such is the state of the GOP that they are drug around by the nose by a band of motley ill-educated morons who have basements full of canned goods, and lockers full of assault weapons, all ready for the coming revolution. However shaming this is to them personally doesn’t excuse the selling out of their soul in exchange for a greasy fingered vote.
The bottom line is quite simple. There are few facts that are known, other than the following.
- Prisoner exchanges have always been part of a President’s duties, going back to George Washington.
- Prisoner exchanges are done by most countries, including Israel with Palestine. In fact one of their more famous exchanges involved 1 Israel for over a THOUSAND Palestinians. Both sides call the other side terrorists.
- This negotiation has been going on since 2011. There seems to be evidence that some Congressional leaders of the appropriate committees were aware of the negotiations, and the general parameters of those discussions.
- Sgt. Bergdahl has been charged with no crime. And even if he were, that is no reason whatsoever by any military standard not to secure his release.
- The exchanged Gitmo detainees were Taliban, not Al Qaeda. There is a serious difference.
This smacks, as so much of GOP opposition usually ends up being, as nothing more than, whatever the Black guy does, we hate it. Note that as usual, the GOP prior to this event, demanded the release of Sgt. Bergdahl, but as usual offered NO concrete terms of how that should be done. (See Syria, and the Ukraine for similar demands without specifics). So they demand action, refuse to specify what that action should be, and then when ANY action is taken, it’s the wrong action, and still there is no statement of what right action would look like.
This is a pattern of opposition. This is not governance, it is pure mean-spirited obstinate opposition. It is in truth a pandering to the fringe crazies which now seem to run the GOP. These people are satisfied with nothing other than venomous denial to everything this President presents. Of course they have no alternatives. Do you expect to get alternatives from seven-year olds?
Perhaps someday, normal men and women will pick themselves up from the mud, wash themselves off, and decide to reclaim the GOP as a party worthy of listening to. Not today however, not today.
I’ve been transported once again in my sleep by aliens to a far, far distance universe. I wanna come home!
It all started innocently enough.
You know me, speak first, think later. It’s been a lifelong methodology for me. Being nimble of mind, I usually can wriggle myself into some sort of explanatory pose without looking the complete fool. (Some would say–my no-named detractors, all noted I might add for an inability to add 2 + 2 and get 4 regularly, where was I? Oh yes, my detractors might claim I’m a complete fool all the time, but of course they are wrong).
Yesterday, in view of the revelations of one Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian, I was pretty down on the President. I’m not, and never have been a Patriot Act fan, neither liking the term patriot, which seems always used by those who really aren’t, nor liking the flag-waving exceptionalism it tends to signify. Therefore hearing that the Obama Administration has continued a policy of sorting through my telephone calls gave me reason to lament his policy, all the while suggesting that the GOP in general would have a tough time railing against something they wrote (the Patriot Act) and passed on several times already under President Bushy. I also noted that of course faux news groups like Fox would forget all that history, and condemn their favorite whipping boy with nary a dropped beat.
So, then I actually learned what this is all about.
And I’m not nearly so upset as I was, since facts have a weird ability to actually turn wild speculative gut reactions into calm reasoned understanding of truth.
Okay, so let’s review. Under Bush, the government started this data mining process of collecting phone records. It began the process in around 2002, and without authorization from the FISA court which had been started in 1978. They were proceeding without court authority. This monitoring was done to foreign persons and American citizens.
Sometime around 2006, FISA was brought into the mix and the program continued to the present albeit with FISA oversight procedures in place. Congress regularly is called upon to renew the government’s ability to proceed, and so far it has. In fact Senator Diane Feinstein indicated that the issue of data mining of phone records has been debated by her committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, no fewer than twelve times. Ultra conservative Senator Lindsey Graham also suggested that he was not at all troubled by the “revelations” announced and that he found there was “nothing to worry about.” Ditto Republican Mike Rogers, chair of the House Intelligence Committee.
Of course, the fact that it started under Bush is not some imprimatur upon the practice to be sure. In fact it might be close to the opposite. But it behooves us to look at what the practice actually entails before we condemn it as government overreach, no matter how legal it may be–and no one suggests it was illegal.
What goes on here is called metadata mining.
Metadata, essentially, is data about data. Data mining programs use computer algorithms to search large collections of data for patterns.
Still sound like gobbledygook? It works something like this. Billions of phone calls are made daily. The numbers are gathered along with length of conversation. It’s essentially dumped into a data base. In other words, one computer downloads its billions of numbers into another computer. There it sits. When a terrorist suspect comes under scrutiny, his specific number is plugged into the database and “hits” are looked for. The computer has the ability (which no human could do) to see patterns in the calls this person X makes. For instance. X is in Istanbul. He is a “known” terrorist. He places a calls Yemen, Colorado, and Miami. The numbers in Yemen make calls to New Jersey and Miami and Charleston. The number from Colorado makes calls to New Jersey and Charleston. Charleston called Colorado. A pattern is established.
At this point, (with perhaps other surveillance information) as I understand it, the government goes to the FISA court and requests a warrant to subpoena the actual names of those persons in the pattern. And with further investigation it may lead to actually looking at the actual conversations or lead to wiretaps.
Similar things are done with the Internet, now a preferred means of communication between terrorist cells.
So nobody is reading your e-mails. Nobody is listening to your calls, or noting that you called Cousin Dotty last month. It’s just numbers and no human is even looking at the metadata at all, since it is meaningless anyway.
Geraldo Rivera suggests that this leak of the program, is directly related to the anger of the journalistic community at the subpoenaing journalist phone records in an attempt to uncover leaks by government employees. It’s a “in your face” sort of response.
The Rivera claims are in fact real. Terrorists do learn from our leaks and move to new ways of doing business. It is thought that it is this reason that caused the Obama Administration to move into the Internet data mining arena. At least Nicolle Wallace, former communication chief for Bush suggested this on Morning Joe this morning.
So, in all, I’m a lot less upset now than I was.
But of course I now find myself in a quandary. I recall that I was supportive of the leaking of the Pentagon Papers back in the Nixon years, and I have been similarly supportive of Bradley Manning and his leaking of information about the wars in the Middle East. But I find myself rather supportive of the government’s attempts to stop leaks from those who may in fact be more interested in harming a president than they are about the “immorality” of that which they leak about. (I’m of course reading that in).
So I am conflicted. I don’t think that the Pentagon papers situation or the Manning leaks compromised “security”, but rather reflected our government’s being deeply involved with corruption without those countries. Perhaps my memory is faulty. Here I see real attempts to undermine THIS government as a political ploy to gain advantage for a party or group within a party. Predictably Rand Paul is screeching that 1984 has arrived. Paul of course would be happiest without any government at all, and his squawking has to be held in that context. It should be noted that Paul introduced an amendment last year to ban this stuff when it was PASSED once again in December.
So are my positions irreconcilable or not?
Hopefully some of you can assist me, for a mind divided cannot stand. (Unless you’re a fundamentalist, and then all bets are off).
So help me out here guys.
For an excellent timetable of the Patriot Act/FISA/NSA database, see What you Should Know about the Government Massive Domestic Surveillance Program.
- Senator Franken Calls for FISA Court Opinions to be Made Public When Possible (politicususa.com)
- Patriot Act at the center of the storm (cnn.com)
- Intelligence chief blasts NSA document leaks (cnsnews.com)
- guardian tecnologia: Fisa chief judge defends integrity of court over Verizon records collection (guardian.co.uk)
- ‘Fox and Friends’ suddenly against wiretapping they supported under Bush (rawstory.com)
- What You Should Know About The Government’s Massive Domestic Surveillance Program (kstreet607.com)
In a valiant attempt to turn a mole hill into a mountain, Republican Tea Snorters are busy twisting and feigning shock and awe at the shameful and deliberate attempt by the Obama Administration to get “brave Americans” murdered by, well, you know, their true friends.
If one reads the headlines of the extreme-stream media, here is what you will find:
“Benghazi Witness: First Time in my Career that a Diplomat Has more balls than somebody in the Military.”
“Benghazi revelations today could obliterate Obama’s Credibility and Sink Hillary’s 2016 ambitions.”
“Issa seeks more whistle blowers after dramatic Benghazi hearing.”
“Two key witnesses refuse to testify at Benghazi hearing.”
“Benghazi Makes Watergate look like kindergarten: The End of Obama”
“Hillary perjured herself on Benghazi?”
“Benghazi Whistleblower: You Should have Seen what Clinton Tried to do to us that night.”
And on and on it goes.
Here’s what I think we know at this point.
- A YouTube video riled up Muslims around the world and demonstrations were being held in a variety of places, Egypt among them.
- A demonstration occurred at Benghazi, that was violent.
- Ambassador Stevens was fairly well known to favor less security rather than more in an attempt to be open to the residents of the country.
- Republicans had steadfastly refused State Department requests for more money to beef up security around the world.
- The Ambassador and three others were killed in the first attack.
- Air support could not have reached the outpost for hours, a minimum of 5-7 according to the military.
- There was no basis for suspecting a second attack.
- There were no deaths or serious injuries sustained in the second attack.
- A team of FOUR, a military security forces was located at Tripoli but they were concerned about security there, and even John Bolton admitted that they were unable to determine whether the four men should leave that facility for Benghazi when the deaths had already occurred and there was no reason to suspect a second attack.
- Senator Tom Corker from Tennessee, sat on the Senate hearings on Benghazi and said that he read all the material and thought he knew what happened and was satisfied.
- The President termed the attack a “terrorist attack” the day following the attack.
- That Susan Rice delivered the cautionary remarks that we were unsure what happened based on material supplied her by others in the State Department or other agencies.
- That Al Qaeda is not an organization so much as an idea, and many Islamic groups claim “affiliation” without benefit of any actual connection. To this day, we don’t know I don’t think who this group consisted of.
- There was no reason to believe that naming it other than a terrorist attack was some how beneficial to the White House in the midst of an election. Most presidents, following some catastrophe or other see their polling improve as people tend to “rally round” the Administration. If the President had war mongered the event, the GOP would have been arguing just the opposite–that he was making it much worse than it was in order to gain sympathy.
The bottom line to me here is simply. The Benghazi outpost was under-secured. Certainly the GOP bears SOME responsibility for that fact as do congressional Democrats who agreed that they didn’t need additional funds. There was apparently not good plans in place for an emergency like this. There should have been.
Beyond that, it was a sad tragedy. But let us remember. Americans are dying around the world every day. They are dying in service to the country, and as employees of corporations doing business in dangerous places. These four were doing their jobs. They perhaps did not receive the full support they should have, but such is life in dangerous occupations. I don’t mean to minimize it, but it should not be overstated either.
The GOP tried to make this into some scandal during the fall of 2012 to hurt the chances of the President to be re-elected, and enhance their candidates chances. That didn’t happen. Now they see polling that suggests that Hillary Clinton, if the nominee will beat any Republican so far put forth, easily and soundly.
Is it hard to see why this is happening now? Of course not. This is just an attempt to dirty up Clinton and force her to not run.
That’s my take on it.
And what is yours?
Republicans are united in their insanity that this will lead to impeachment.
- Republicans continue to press for answers on Benghazi (nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com)
- Yet Another Benghazi Nothingburger Today (motherjones.com)