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Friday, July 30, 2004

USA Patriot Act -- Rich Kid's Christmas revisited 

Several months ago I wrote that the Patriot Act was for law enforcement what Christmas is for a rich kid: you get everything you want, but you already have so much it doesn't really matter.

I've recently linked up a new blog, "Crime & Federalism" (which I admittedly lifted from Public Defender Dude).  Anyway, C&F has a great post about USA Patriot that agrees with my assesment.  C&F writes:
"the Patriot Act was adopted on false pretenses. Namely, we were told that to fight terror, law enforcement needed the Patriot Act. If you don't believe me, then look to the law's official title: Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism."
This is of particular relevance now that the 9/11 Commission is out.  Remember, it proved that law enforcement HAD the tools it needed to stop 9/11 prior to USA Patriot. 

Thursday, July 29, 2004

John Edwards is a Shitty Speaker 

Public Opinion: "Boy that John Edwards sure is charismatic and charming, and what a great speaker!  We're sure to take some southern states with this guy on the ticket."

Reality: He's a shitty speaker.  I've watched about 15 of his speeches, and seen him in about 5 of the Democratic debates -- and he just doesn't live up to the hype.  I know this goes against his carefully crafted image, but I just don't get it. 

Here's a guy who had everything going for him coming into the primaries.  Most people, including myself, were expecting this guy to be the nominee (largely due to his billing as charismatic, southern, young etc.).  Even with that incredibly favorable image he couldn't even beat Kerry -- the King of all duds.  Then the Dems go and nominate him to "liven up" the ticket?  What the fack?

He showed his inability to connect with a crowd again last night.  His speech seemed incredibly contrived -- capped off by the all-too-long stage squatting with his oh so picturesque all-American family in tow.  It should've been Hillary.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Drudge is a right-wing hack AND a thief 

Tom Tomorrow explains how Drudge stole his photo and made a meek attempt to cover it up. 

This Modern World has some excellent convention coverage, as does Atrios (who has been unmasked by Talk Left as one "Duncan Black" and captured in this here photo).  Note also, that Tom Tomorrow's name is Dan Perkins.



Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Michael Moore vs. O'Reilly 

This Modern World's Tom Tomorrow is blogging the DNC this week.  He spent the day tagging along with Michael Moore and was fortunate enought to witness this little exchange:
We head back to the Fleet Center and as we are getting out of the Town Car, Bill O'Reilly is across the street getting out of his limo. "Hey Moore, when ya gonna come on my show?" he shouts. Michael responds, "When you see the rest of my movie." (O'Reilly walked out of the premiere halfway through.) He claims to have gone back and seen the whole thing, but when pressed for specifics, hems and haws. Nonetheless, Michael takes him at his word and they stand there out on the street negotiating the terms of the appearance as various Guardsmen and law enforcement types gawk and snap photos. They finally settle on a format: they will take turns asking each other questions. O'Reilly agrees not to edit the segment, and to explain in the intro that Michael has only been boycotting him because he walked out of the premiere. (It should air tonight. We'll see if he keeps the last part of that promise.) 
You heard it here -- tonight on O'Reilly it is.  (The rest here).


In local news.... 

Kop  and wife Michelle are taking the Florida Bar Exam today and tomorrow -- Good luck guys.  If any of you have any to spare, send 'em some positive energy.

Also, Bill Clinton's speech at the DNC last night fucking rocked.  God I miss him.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Your Tax Dollars At Work -- (for big Pharma) 

The Bush administration has prodded the Food and Drug Administration to radically shift course on the issue of products liability. 
The Bush administration has been going to court to block lawsuits by consumers who say they have been injured by prescription drugs and medical devices.  The administration contends that consumers cannot recover damages for such injuries if the products have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The Bush administration recently convinced a Pennsylvania appeals court to endorse this policy. 
In the Pennsylvania ruling, issued Tuesday, the appeals court threw out a lawsuit filed by Barbara E. Horn, who said her husband had died because of defects in the design and manufacture of his heart pump. The Bush administration argued that federal law barred such claims because the device had been produced according to federal specifications. In its briefs, the administration conceded that "the views stated here differ from the views that the government advanced in 1997," in the United States Supreme Court.

At that time, the government said that F.D.A. approval of a medical device set the minimum standard, and that states could provide "additional protection to consumers." Now the Bush administration argues that the agency's approval of a device "sets a ceiling as well as a floor."

The administration said its position, holding that individual consumers have no right to sue, actually benefited consumers. (via The New York Times)

Un-fucking-believable.  If the FDA says a product is okay to go to market and your son, daughter, mother or father is killed by that product you cannot sue the manufacturer -- and Bush & Co have the gaul to claim that it benefits you?

Grab your ankles Americans and get ready for your medicine - "It's Good For You -- now take it you mother....."



The 9/11 Report -- Debunking Public Opinions 

Today's New York Times claims that the 9/11 Report succeeds in carefully refuting false "common wisdom" about the attacks (the headline reads: "Correcting the Record on 9/11"). 

This "common wisdom" (aka Public Opinion) is, of course, largely the result of a carefully crafted Republican misinformation campaign -- dutifully obeyed and carried out by the sycophantic media. 

I predict that this report, despite being regarded as the definitive record of the 9/11 attacks, will do little or nothing to alter already solidified Public Opinion.  The Bush administration and the Republican party propaganda machine will, just as they have done innumerable times in the past, ignore it -- and the band will play on.   

The 9/11 Commission "corrects" the following Public Opinions:
 
The Hijackers
Public Opinion: "[A]ll of the hijackers had entered the country legally and done nothing to draw attention to themselves."  "Each of the hijackers, apparently purposely selected to avoid notice, came easily and lawfully from abroad," Louis J. Freeh, the former director of the F.B.I., testified to Congress in October 2002. "While here, the hijackers effectively operated without suspicion, triggering nothing that alerted law enforcement."
Reality: "13 of the hijackers had entered the United States with passports that had been fraudulently altered, using criminal methods previously associated with Al Qaeda...The names of at least three of the terrorists were found after Sept. 11 in the databases of American intelligence and counterterrorism agencies...One of the terrorist pilots, Ziad al-Jarrah, attended school in 2000 in violation of his immigration status, which should have been enough to block him from re-entering the United States; he left and re-entered the country at least six more times before Sept. 11."

Using Planes as Missiles
Public Opinion: "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center," Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, said in May 2002. As recently as this April, in testimony to the Sept. 11 commission, Mr. Freeh said that he "never was aware of a plan that contemplated commercial airliners being used as weapons."
Reality:"[I]n its investigation, the commission found that an attack described as unimaginable had in fact been imagined, repeatedly. The commission said that several threat reports circulated within the government in the late 1990's raised the explicit possibility of an attack using airliners as missiles."
 
Osama Bin Laden's Bankroll
Public Opinion: "Mr. bin Laden had a vast personal fortune that bankrolled Al Qaeda; news accounts described the bin Laden fortune as totaling as much as $300 million, with real estate holdings in London, Paris and the Côte d'Azur."
Reality: "[T]he commission reached a far different conclusion, finding that Mr. bin Laden was cut off from his family's wealth after the early 1990's and that he financed Al Qaeda's operations through a core group of wealthy Muslim donors, mainly in the Persian Gulf."
 
The Iraq/Al-Qaeda Connection
Public Opinion: "The Bush administration has long maintained that there was a close working relationship between Al Qaeda and Iraq. In October 2002, with the invasion of Iraq only months away, President Bush said in a speech in Cincinnati that ''high-level contacts" between Iraq and Al Qaeda "go back a decade," and that "we've learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases."  Indeed, just "last month, Vice President Dick Cheney said there was reason to believe a disputed Czech intelligence report that Mohamed Atta had met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in April 2001, suggesting a tie between Iraq and the Sept. 11 plot."
Reality:"the bipartisan commission's final report found no evidence of close collaboration between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda" and "no credible evidence to suggest that the Prague meeting took place and no evidence of any kind to show Iraqi involvement in attacks by Al Qaeda against the United States."
 
You: "Surely these Public Opinions were disseminated by mistake or miscalculation?"  Sorry, they were most certainly not spread by mistake.  They were placed into the public consciousness to advance agendas.  For example, without the Public Opinion that the hijackers came to the US legally and did nothing to draw attention to themselves the public and Congress would not have so blindly supported the grant of new tools to law enforcement (we wouldn't need more ability to snoop if we already had the information).  Also, without the Public Opinion that Iraq and Al Qaeda were "linked" Bush might not have so easily gotten his little war.  
 
"Well," you say, "it is of no matter now -- we'll simply go back and change the decisions we made based on ignorance."  Sorry, we never go back.  Move along, nothing to see here.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Public Opinions 

This clip pretty much sums up the reason for this blog's title.  "Conventional Wisdom" by Jon Stewart. 

Talking points -- "they're true, because they're settled upon."

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Sanctions won't work -- War Now!!!! 

Sounds familiar right?  Would you believe the Bush Administration is now trumpeting the tool of sanctions?  They're claiming that sanctions -- not war -- should be used in the Sudan. 
Secretary of State Colin Powell met U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the second time in three weeks to step up pressure on Sudan to end the 15-month conflict and escalating humanitarian crisis in the western Darfur region. The conflict in the vast region has killed up to 30,000 people, forced more than 1 million to flee their homes, and left 2.2 million in desperate need of food and medicine.  (via the AP).
Thirty thousand people dead.  30,000 people

This has been going on for over a year and you haven't heard the Bush Administration say anything about it (except perhaps a sentence or two of lip service).  The news media has also been relatively quiet (again proving themselves utterly useless and unable to report anything that isn't handed directly to them by the GOP.) 

I thought we were the "good guys" who went around "spreading democracy" and "freeing the ______ (insert target country's name) people." 

We won't we get involved here.  It seems clear that the reason, besides the obvious problem that we don't have any army to send, is that we realize this would be a mess militarily ("it's hard").  Rule 1 is that we don't attack anyone who can defend themselves.  Thus, Sudan is out.  Warring tribes and millitants -- scary. 

It isn't just that we just don't give a shit, or that they don't have any natural resources for us to exploit -- it's just that it would be too hard.  And so, to the 30,000 dead in Sudan, I say "I'm sorry" from the United States.  Remember next time to appear more vulnerable.


They're coming my friend 

When police officers run afoul of the law, they are often treated with kid-gloves by the criminal justice system (In many ways celebrities, sports stars, white collar criminals and police officers are treated similarly by law enforcement.  Example here.).  The preferable treatment usually starts with the first responding officers and continues up through the investigating officers and eventually the district attorneys office (and the judge).  Sometimes, the political pressure is too great for the DA's office to bear -- and in those cases (drawing a lot of media attention) -- they're coming after your ass my friend. 

Here's a perfect example.  An off-duty deputy sheriff gets into an accident, striking and killing a pedestrian, while driving home with a 0.09 blood alcohol level (not very high as most of you know -- or should know.  In fact, the difference of impairment between one beer and 0.15 is negligible, thus initial DUI laws set the limit at .20 or .25.  The limits started dropping due, almost solely, to the merciless lobbying of MADD.). 
On July 24, 1999, Johnson, the county's sheriff deputy, was driving home from a bar with his girlfriend at about 1 a.m. with a 0.09 alcohol level — 0.01 over the state's legal limit.

At about the same time, 24-year-old Timothy Taylor and his girlfriend, Catherine Bueno, were in a heated argument that began during a game of cards and had moved onto the lawn of her home. Both were intoxicated at the time.

Bueno initially told police that Taylor took off his shirt, socks, and threw down his wallet before making his way into the middle of County Road 490. She claimed her boyfriend then shouted statements such as, "You don't want me anymore," "I gave you everything," and "I have nothing to live for."

--snip--

Bueno told officials at the scene that her boyfriend committed suicide. She also told a nurse at the Seven Rivers Hospital that her boyfriend "jumped in front" of Johnson's truck.

Moreover, her mother's boyfriend, Simon Glenn, 23, called 911 and told the operator that Bueno was hysterically shouting that her boyfriend had just jumped in front of a moving vehicle.

--snip--

According to prosecutor Richard Buxman, the issue is not whether Taylor was suicidal.

"We have reason to believe Johnson had enough time to stop his car and avoid the victim, even if he was planning to commit suicide," Buxman said.
I'm all for treating everyone the same under the law, and there is an argument to be made that this IS the way everyone else is treated (DUI laws being what they are).  Maybe so.  If so, it is depressing to think that DUI laws allow for a 15 year prison sentence for hitting a drunken pedestrian who is trying to kill himself on your car.  


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Who do you believe? 

Heard about Jonathan Idema?  He's the guy in Afghanistan who was running around seizing Afghans and torturing them (not to mention "advising" our dilligent media -- whatever is left of it in Afghanistan)?  He claims he's working at the direction of Rumsfeld and the DOD.  Who do you believe?  Rumsfeld or this guy?  The smart money isn't on 'ole Rummy. 

5.6 Billion from you to Pfizer, with love! 

No, the headlines didn't say that -- but you gotta read between the lines.
President Bush signed legislation on Wednesday aimed at encouraging the development of drugs and vaccines to negate the impact of attacks using biological and chemical weapons...  The BioShield legislation will encourage more research and will also basically guarantee a market by buying and stockpiling the new drugs and vaccines to treat or protect people against such diseases as anthrax, smallpox or the plague, or against such toxins as ricin.   (Via the AP)
Even public opinion would acknowledge that US tax dollars have long been funnelled into already-wealthy industries (commonly known as "pork barrel" legislation).  What hasn't been well-documented (for obvious reasons) is the new method of subsidizing businesses: the war on terror.  Lining up for corporate welfare at the tax dollar distribution point near you are: Nuclear power plants, ports, and even the Pharmaceutical industry (literally the most profitable sector of business in the history of the world).  Beware government subsidies for the war on "terra".



Bush Foolery 

Bush promises safety in return for his re-election.
``The next four years will be peaceful years, prosperous years, and hopeful years for everybody fortunate to be a citizen of this great country,'' Bush said (via the AP).
Hmmmm... I'm reminded of an old saying: Fool me once...

 
Bush added in closing, as is his custom, "God Bless America, and no place else." 

Richard Jewel revisited 

You'd think they would've learned the first time
Police are investigating whether a backpack that exploded in a Times Square subway station was planted by the officer who reported it, high-ranking police sources said.
  via the AP.

For the "Criminal Juries Suck" file 

Yet another instance of a false confession from a criminal defendant.  If not for DNA evidence, this man would still be in prison serving his 75 year sentence. 

Sorry about those 11 years you spent in a cage -- during which your mother, father, sister and grandmother died.  You know, our bad.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Check -- Bobby Fischer Arrested 

Can anyone tell me what's up with this?  I've had a soft spot for this guy ever since I saw that chess movie with the little kids (sorry for the parse description).  I never heard any of this negative stuff -- nor did I know he was fugitive from "justice" for playing a chess match.  

Here's an in-depth and engrossing article from the Guardian UK on Fischer.  


UPDATE:
As expected, the Japanese plan to extradite Fischer to the US to stand trial.  Fischer's friends are appealing that ruling and attempting to find him asylum in another country.



Saturday, July 10, 2004

And After All.............................You're my Wonder Wall 

Virtually no coverage on US TV news of this decision -- Caught some on BBC last night though. (Via the NY Times)
The International Court of Justice ruled Friday that the major portion of the barrier Israel is building violated international law because it was rising on Palestinian land on the West Bank.

In a nonbinding decision, it called on Israeli officials to tear down the sections it ruled to be illegal and to compensate Palestinians whose land it cuts across or whose interests have otherwise been harmed.
--snip--
Israel, which has all along challenged the jurisdiction of the panel — the United Nations' top court — said Friday it would press ahead with the planned 437-mile stretch of electronic fences, watch posts and concrete walls, which it credits with helping to dramatically curb the number of suicide bombings in the country.

"I believe that after all the rancor dies, this resolution will find its place in the garbage can of history," said Raanan Gissin, senior adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The United States reiterated Friday its belief that the barrier's fate should be determined by diplomatic and political negotiations rather than court decisions.

"We do not believe that that's the appropriate forum to resolve what is a political issue," the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said aboard Air Force One as President Bush traveled to Pennsylvania.
Oh, I see. Building walls reminiscent of Iron Curtain, and in direct violation of international law = "Political Issue" (not to be trusted to the UN's highest court). Whereas, invading a sovereign nation under false pretenses and killing thousands of people = NOT a "Political Issue". Take a note people: Chocolate rations are up!

Israel claims they need the wall for "security" ("you're going to be the one that saves me...."), but here's Chomsky's take on Israel's security justification -- and why it's really not a "wonder wall".
If the goal were security, Israel would have built the fence a few km inside its borders. It could then be a mile high, patrolled on both sides by the IDF, mined with nuclear weapons, utterly impenetrable. Perfect security.

The problem would be that it would not take valuable Palestinian land and resources (including control of water), drive out the population, and lay the basis for still further expansion as Palestinians flee from the dungeons that are left, like the town of Qalqilya. So to interpret as a land grab seems appropriate.
Keep moving people. Nothing to see here. Keep moving.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Spain and the Right-Wing Lie 

I'm seriously pissed about this one -- so I'm in no mood for a debate. The Spanish elections were not altered or affected by the Madrid train bombing.

Many months ago, this blogsite and others, pointed out the fact that the Spanish people were overwhelmingly against the war in Iraq.

CNN polls reported that over 90% of the Spanish population was against the war in Iraq. The President of Spain, instead of following the will the of the people -- decided to take marching orders from Crawford, Texas (back then he provided help to Bush in order to "disarm" the dangerous Saddam. Now, of course, the "real" reason was to support "democracy". Ignore the will of your constituents = supporting democracy.)

The people of Spain chose not to re-elect this jackass. Polls immediately prior to the elections showed an incredibly tight race. The incumbent, who had ignored the overwhelming will of the people of Spain, lost. Then the right-wingers and Bushites started claiming that Al-Queda had purposefully and successfully "influenced the election." I thought this lie had been debunked to such an extent that it would be retired, but no, it continues.

Today, Ridge and the hysteria actuators issued another nebulous warning that Al-Queda was attempting to "disrupt our democratic process" as they did in Madrid.

Underlying implication: Al-Queda supports the Kerry/Edwards ticket -- They want Bush out because he's been so effective at fighting terrorism. Right.

Sidenote: See my "Holy Fucking Shit" post from a few months ago about the US citizen detained by the FBI as a material witness in the Madrid bombings.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

FINALLY -- an article that explains the Patriot Act 

This came from the Abilene Reporter -- it's by far the best explanation of the Patriot Act and how it altered (both slightly and significantly) how law enforcement spies on you.

Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968...allowed the government to spy on Americans only if agents suspected a person of engaging in any one of a plethora of serious crimes spelled out in the act.

Still, the Department of Justice had to seek a court order to secretly capture conversations through electronic surveillance, such as tapping telephone conversations or clandestinely filming a suspect's meetings.
--snip--
As far as the courts are concerned, law enforcement officials and intelligence agents work in different worlds. Criminal suspects have constitutional rights designed to keep agents from being overzealous in enforcing the law; foreigners plotting against the United States do not enjoy the same constitutional protections.

Congress tried to clarify the rules for government spying within the United States by passing FISA, the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.

FISA was intended to be a compromise that would give federal officials the tools for foreign intelligence gathering, while continuing to protect Americans against invasions of privacy.

FISA created a new and secret court in 1978 called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISC.

The FISC is a forum for federal agents to obtain permission to collect "foreign intelligence" without being bound by the strictures of Title III.
--snip--
Since 1978, federal agents who have wanted to spy on people for foreign intelligence purposes - as opposed to criminal enforcement - would only have to certify to the secret court that the primary purpose of the surveillance was to obtain foreign intelligence.
--snip--
The Patriot Act also amends the National Security Act of 1947 to redefine foreign intelligence to include, in its broadest meaning, any information that relates to the foreign affairs of the United States.

Now, as long as the attorney general's office "certifies" or swears that foreign intelligence is a primary part of an investigation, agents can apply to use warrantless electronic surveillance - even for a criminal investigation of Americans.
The whole article deserves a read...if you care.

UPDATE/Sidenote: Remember way back when Public Opinions reported that a FISA warrant (and Patriot's extensions) were likely used to bug Kofi Anan and Hans Blix.

Maybe it's just me but.... 

I wish Hillary was the VP.

When Drudge "scooped" that Hillary was the veep, I actually got a little excited about the Kerry campaign. Don't get me wrong, the most important thing is still that Bush goes -- I just wish the Democrats had nominated somebody worth voting for. Instead we get John Kerry (anyone asleep yet?) and the guy who couldn't quite beat John Kerry in the primaries.

Maybe that's why they chose Edwards, to remind us all the Kerry was actually selected over someone else.

I made a stink when Kerry beat Dean ("No John Kerry", 1/21/04), and I still feel the same way now. If only people voted for who THEY wanted, instead of the guy they think everyone else wants. I guess even fat housewives in Iowa want to be Karl Rove for a day.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Bush Ads 

Good God. You absolutely must go to georgewbush.com and take a look at the three tv ads they're currently running (Pessimism, Patiot Act and The New War). Say what you will about these assholes, but they sure know how to cater to morons. They boil the issue (theme) down to it's most simple element. They boil it down so far that it's almost a lie, but not quite. In fact, the issue is pared down so tightly that it takes much too long to refute or explain. THAT'S ADVERTISING!

Pessimism (my personal favorite) vampires on the recent death of Ronald Reagan. Reagan, as I'm sure you learned from the 6 days of media coverage, was special because he was such an "optimist"! Bush's tv ad, Pessimism, accuses John Kerry of being a pessimist. It's facking hilarious.

Patriot Act (especially invidious) claims that John Kerry now wants to repeal the Patriot Act (after being pressured by "fellow liberals") and thus, wants to eliminate "wire taps, subpoena powers and surveillance" to fight terrorism. This one is extremely misleading -- in fact -- it is nearly flat out false. The Patriot Act didn't bestow law enforcement with the right to conduct wire taps, use subpoenas or conduct surveillance. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) has long allowed for these tools. Patriot merely expanded the umbrella that FISA covers.

The New War -- this one came out just a few days ago. It is discussed in this AP article. It's also quite amusing.

Enjoy.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Saddam demands, "Quo Warranto"  

Here's an unpopular opinion for you. This trial is going to be a pig circus. Take a look at the charges (via Reuters):
Apart from the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the preliminary charges against Saddam referred to the suppression of Kurdish and Shi'ite revolts after the 1991 Gulf War, poison gas attacks and other massacres of Kurds, the killing of religious leaders in 1974 and the killing of political figures over three decades.
I wonder why the US didn't want to turn him over to an International tribunal to answer for these charges? Hmmmmmm....maybe something to do with some unfortunate defenses he might invoke (eg...the Americans told me it was okay to do that -- hell, they gave me the gas!).

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