Tuesday, December 27, 2005
  Why Did Bush Wiretap Without Court Approval?
Because The Court Refused to Give Him Approval - So, being King, he did it any way.

"The constitution - don't talk to me about the constitution. It's just a f**king piece of paper."
-- George W. Bush

Here are the facts derived from a story printed by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. These people deserve an award. It may well be one of the last real free presses left in the US.

The 11-judge court that authorizes FISA wiretaps has approved at least 18,740 applications for electronic surveillance or physical searches from five presidential administrations since 1979.

The judges modified only two search warrant orders out of the 13,102 applications that were approved over the first 22 years of the court's operation. In 20 of the first 21 annual reports on the court's activities up to 1999, the Justice Department told Congress that "no orders were entered (by the FISA court) which modified or denied the requested authority" submitted by the government.

However, since 2001, the judges have modified 179 of the 5,645 requests for court-ordered surveillance by the Bush administration. A total of 173 of those court-ordered "substantive modifications" took place in 2003 and 2004 -- the most recent years for which public records are available.

The judges also rejected or deferred at least six requests for warrants during those two years -- the first outright rejections in the court's history.

For the full story, go here to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
  Professor Cheney to teach Economics 101
"Woe to you legislators of infamous laws . . . who refuse justice to the unfortunate, who cheat the poor among my people of their rights, who make widows their prey and rob the orphan."
-- Isaiah 10:1

Now, that the repuglicans have "saved" $40 billion this morning by slicing off more aide to foodstamp recipients, benefactors of student loans and Medicaid, they will have to do something to restore the delicate monetary balance. Since they have, in essense, taken $40 billion out of circulation they will be anticipating a small downward blip in earnings of their base - that is, the richest 1% of America. It was a close vote. So close, that VP Cheney was called in to exercise his constitutional duty to cast the deciding, tie-breaking vote. He voted to cut off the aide.

Since this money was taken from the poor who recklessly squandered it on healthcare, food and education at the bottom of the economic pile, it actually turned over in the economy several times before reaching the coffers of the elite. Each time it turned over, it generated taxes and created jobs which it will no longer do.

To make up for that, it is obvious that it is now necessary to give the richest 1% at least an $80 billion dollar tax break. This will stimulate the economy and create an untold number jobs and taxes as it trickles downward to the poor and downtrodden who will now be able to find a job for $5.15 an hour.

That is, it will trickle down if the rich spent it or invest it, but the rich have this nasty habit of just taking excess funds above a certain point and sticking it in the bank. Worse yet, they have been taking all their extra tax breaks and investing in foreign manufacturing plants which don't help the poor here in the US at all.

Surely, Mr. Cheney will explain it all to them. I know he understands how it all works and I just know he wouldn't deliberately cast the deciding vote to take the food out of children's mouths unless he had an alternate plan. I'll just bet he's setting up an Economics 101 class for the super-Rich right now.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
  Bush: His Talent is Raping and Pillaging
I keep reading on the net that "Bush is incompetent." "Bush is an idiot." Folks, never underestimate the duplicity of the enemy.

I have tried to make the point several times that Bush and company ARE NOT a bunch of incompetents. Over and over though, I find that most people in our Matrix prefer to take the blue pill, wake up the next morning and go on with their life as if nothing were happening.

Don't take anymore blue pills. Take the red pill instead. If you do, you will see that Bush and company are doing exactly what they set out to do. Their goal is to rape this country and to use the proceeds as a springboard to rule the world.

Most people can not come to grips with the reality of this situation. They just can not wrap their minds around the fact that a President of the United States does not hold the well-being of the nation and the people of the nation as his first loyalty. Other presidents have been crooked. Other presidents have been thieves, but I believe that even Nixon would have laid his life down for this country if it had come right down to it and in some kind of warped way, I believe that Nixon justified the means by convincing himself that the end would be a better and stronger USA.This is not true of Bush and company and this is what throws people for a loop.

The Bush group has no allegiance to country, people, nor (dare I say it) to God. Their allegiance is to money and power. If they have to kill a billion or so to get money and power, well, I'm sure they think the world is too crowded anyway.

Bush said it himself (slightly periphrased.) "Some people call them the elite. I call them my base." Now there in a nutshell is reality looking us in the face. This man is not stupid despite his former failures. This time, he has found something he can do well - raping and pillaging the United States.
Monday, December 19, 2005
  Nope - No Intelligence There.

December 14, 2005

TO: Sen. Dianne Feinstein
FROM: Alfred CummingSpecialist in Intelligence and National SecurityForeign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division

SUBJECT: Congress as a Consumer of Intelligence Information

This responds to your request for a discussion of Congress and its role as a consumer of national intelligence, and for a listing and a description of some of the U.S. Intelligence Community's principal intelligence products, including an identification of those which the executive branch routinely shares with Congress, and those which it does not.

Limitations on Congressional Access to Certain National Intelligence
By virtue of his constitutional role as commander-and-in-chief and head of the executive branch, the President has access to all national intelligence collected, analyzed and produced by the Intelligence Community. The President's position also affords him the authority - which, at certain times, has been aggressively asserted (1) - to restrict the flow of intelligence information to Congress and its two intelligence committees, which are charged with providing legislative oversight of the Intelligence Community. (2) As a result, the President, and a small number of presidentially-designated Cabinet-level officials, including the Vice President (3) - in contrast to Members of Congress (4) - have access to a far greater overall volume of intelligence and to more sensitive intelligence information, including information regarding intelligence sources and methods. They, unlike Members of Congress, also have the authority to more extensively task the Intelligence Community, and its extensive cadre of analysts, for follow-up information. As a result, the President and his most senior advisors arguably are better positioned to assess the quality of the Community's intelligence more accurately than is Congress. (5)

In addition to their greater access to intelligence, the President and his senior advisors also are better equipped than is Congress to assess intelligence information by virtue of the primacy of their roles in formulating U.S. foreign policy. Their foreign policy responsibilities often require active, sustained, and often personal interaction, with senior officials of many of the same countries targeted for intelligence collection by the Intelligence Community. Thus the President and his senior advisors are uniquely positioned to glean additional information and impressions - information that, like certain sensitive intelligence information, is generally unavailable to Congress - that can provide them with an important additional perspective with which to judge the quality of intelligence.

1. Reportedly "furious" about what he apparently believed to be unauthorized disclosures of classified information by Congress, President Bush on Oct. 5, 2001, ordered that the provision of classified information and sensitive law enforcement information be restricted to the Republican and Democratic leaders of both the Senate and House, and to the chairmen and ranking members of the two congressional intelligence committees. Until the President issued his order, and in keeping with prior practice, all Members of the intelligence committees had access to most such information. Bush agreed to rescind his order after several days, following a personal telephone conversation between the President and Sen. Bob Graham, then-chairman of the Senate's intelligence committee, and after negotiations between White House staff and Graham. See Bob Woodward, Bush at War, pp. 198-199. (Simon and Schuster).
2. The Senate established its intelligence oversight committee, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), in May 1976. The House of Representatives followed suit in July 1977, creating the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI).
3. Central Intelligence Agency website [].
4. To the extent that Members of Congress are entitled access to intelligence information, it is by virtue of their elected positions. Members are not subject to background checks, nor are they issued security clearances, as are congressional staff who are provided access to classified information.
5. This memorandum does not directly address the quality of Intelligence Community (IC) collection and analysis, but rather limits its focus to the degree of access to intelligence information enjoyed by federal government policymakers - including Members of Congress - and the degree to which that access enables them to assess its quality.
There exists extensive commentary which does address the quality of the Intelligence Community's collection and analytic capabilities, including more recently that contained in a report issued by the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission. See WMD Commission, Report to the President of the United States, March 31, 2005 [Hereafter, cited as the WMD Commission Report].

This is an excerpt from the complete memo. To see the complete memo go here:
Friday, December 16, 2005
  Fun With Numbers
Some poor misguided soul on Alternet made a statement a couple of days ago that "the lowest paid employee of Wal-Mart makes twice the federal minimum wage." That would be $10.30 an hour or $21,424 annually. I immediately contradicted his statement but then I began to wonder, what does Wal-Mart actually pay? I didn't really know. Maybe I owed the guy an apology - very doubtful but it never hurts to do a reality check so here are some numbers I got from They have well documented sources that I won't repeat here but feel free to check it out.

Now, here is where we start having fun. It is easy to see that the average Wal-Mart sales associate with two dependents qualifies for food stamps. (Let's leave the issue of public housing and public healthcare out of this for now.) In fact, on average, they are $5,589 below the cutoff point. These are hard working people with fulltime jobs. So, these people not only qualify for foodstamps, they have to have them to survive at all even though they are working fulltime.

OK, test time: Where do foodstamps come from? Yes! Taxes! We have our thinking caps on today boys and girls.

Second question: Where do taxes come from? Right again! Out of your paycheck and my paycheck - we're on a roll.

So, let's roughly recap the situation. There are 1.2 million people working for Wal-Mart. On the average, Wal-Mart is paying these people $5,589 less per year than what they actually need to barely scrap by at poverty level. We, the taxpayers of this country, are making up the difference. That comes to 1,200,000 employees X $5,589 = $6,706,800,000. That's 6.7 billion dollars. (I just love word problems - don't you.)

It makes one wonder if there isn't some alternative. Isn't it possible that this $6.7 billion could come from somewhere other than the public trough. We start looking around and what do we see? Why, up in Bentonville, Arkansas there are five people with a net worth of $77.9 billion.

(An aside: To even think of this makes me sick. Here is true obscenity and true evil. Five blotted blood-fattened vampires sitting in their lair sucking the life from 1.2 million people and the children of those 1.2 million. Are we batteries in a Matrix? Here have a blue pill. Go back to sleep.)

What is $6.7 billion to five people who have $77.9 billion? Its just a blip on a financial chart. $6.7 billion is just as meaningless as $77.9 billion. Its just as meaningless as $71.2 billion which is what they would have left if they were to do the right thing and pay those people enough to bring them up to poverty level. Somebody tell me please, what is it you can buy with $77.9 billion that you can't buy with $71.2 billion.
Monday, December 05, 2005
  Dear Politicians

I have been following your voting record and that of many others in government for a long time now. Most of the time, I am not happy with the votes nor with the Democratic stance – or non-stance – on the issues so I want to be sure that you, my representative, are clear on what is important to me:

These issues matter to me. From this day forward, I will not vote for, nor support any candidate or party who does not make public their support for these issues and their plan to accomplish these reforms. Party affiliation is of no concern – only issues and my grandchildren’s future.
Friday, December 02, 2005
  God is on Our Side
"My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. . . As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.... And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people."1

"If positive Christianity means love of one's neighbor, i.e. the tending of the sick, the clothing of the poor, the feeding of the hungry, the giving of drink to those who are thirsty, then it is we who are the more positive Christians."2

"We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out." 3

All of the above are quoted directly from Adolf Hitler.
1. Speech, Munich, April 12, 1922
2. Speech, Berlin Feb. 24, 1939
3. Speech, Berlin, Oct. 24, 1933
Thursday, December 01, 2005
  F**k the Apocalypse
By Lakshmi Chaudhry
Posted on November 28, 2005

My good friend Chris Scheer -- author of "Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us about Iraq" -- has something to say about the Chicken Littles of this world. Whether you agree with him or not, it asks us to think more seriously about the apocalyptic rhetoric that we sneer at when it comes from the Christian right, but eagerly embrace when touting our cause:

Fuck the Apocalypse. Seriously, it's bullshit. Fuck the one where God is coming to smite most of us, and fuck the one where the polar ice-caps melt and Nature is coming to smite most of us. It's all just morality-based negative wish-fulfillment.

If you want to say things are going to Hell in a hand-basket, fine. But it has always been thus. This is no school play, folks, it's a bunch of fragile survivors making life on a hot rock. Stop your grandiosity, stop believing you're at the absolute center of time and space. Believing the Apocalypse is upon us is just one gigantic ego trip.

In 10,000 years, whatever "intelligent" bunch of abstract thinkers still walks the planet will be mentioning the melting of the ice caps (which is real) with as much passion as my 6th graders recite the dates of the last Ice Age.

Rolling Stone, in an article subtly entitled "The End of the World, Part III," writes this month that:
The age of the International War on Terror seems to have turned itself into an unusually grim time in world history, an era of awesome and unforeseeable catastrophes, giant steps backward in the journey of civilization, ruinous and far-reaching political blunders and violently disillusioning confrontations with man's limitations. Even the most godless among us has to tremble before the biblical scale of the past twelve months' headlines: the tsunami that swallowed south Asia, the deadly lady named Katrina (also known as America Not Immune) and now this. We do not seem to be going forward very much, but every few months we lose, somewhere, a big piece of the world map, a mysterious and enervating process that is becoming like an ominously steady drip that can be heard all over the planet.

OK, first of all, south Asia was not "swallowed." It's outermost fringe was hit with a devastating wave. There are still a billion people living in India alone, and they would like you to know that not only were they not swallowed by a wave or a dragon or anything else, but they are still singing songs, making love and riding the bus to work today. And while it is surely awful that three million people are sleeping under tents after the earthquake in Pakistan, it is not the end of the world, in literal terms. After all, three million people is only five-ten-thousandths (.0005) of the Earth's population! A couple hundreds years ago, 3 million people would have been a lot. Now, as the Jewish kids say on TV say, not so much.

What is astonishing is not that the earth shakes and makes big waves and storms -- that's what it does, people -- but that 3 million people are managing to live at all in a barren land only the most highly adapted creatures would even attempt to make home, one famous for its horrific earthquakes, droughts and religious extremism. The whole story of human expansion is like an expedition to the South Pole: If one party gets wiped out along the way, another one is still going to try insanely the next season, as soon as we can trick some dogs into dragging us there.

Believe it: God is NOT coming and boy is he NOT pissed. Nature is NOT seeking revenge, and it is NOT broken. If the whole world turns into a giant, bubbling-hot ocean whirlpool, there will be bacteria that will be happily living off the thermal energy and waiting for the next wave of evolution. Nature will survive, even if we are not there to see it.

Things are the same as they ever were, and always changing. You say there was a tsunami that wiped out the flimsy villages of poor people and a hurricane that flooded an impoverished city people had been predicting would be flooded for 150 years. It turns out people are sometimes venal and lazy and that leads to tragedy, and not everybody acts well during a crisis, and being poor is hazardous to your health. You think?

No, but really, there's a grinding war whose point has been lost, and somebody cheated during an election, and people are starving somewhere, and the rich are getting richer and ... what year was this? Any fucking year whatsoever in the history of man. Oh, that's right.

Yes, things are faster now. Yes, we have become the ants on the globe's crust, multiplying to such effect that a billion of us could be vaporized by aliens tomorrow and the story would fade off the front pages after a few months. Yes, there are too damn many of us and we are too damn stupid to handle it. Yes, technological innovation has outstripped intellectual evolution with disastrous results. Yes, if you're not outraged you're not paying attention. Yes, yes, yes.

But it is PERSONAL Apocalypse that is real, not all this End Times, neat-bow-on-everything, Judgment Day, Doomsday crap everybody is selling. All my life in California I've been hearing about The Big One, and you know what? That earthquake is going to suck, hard. I could lose my life, loved ones -- even a child. But five years later, for society, it's just going to be an excuse for anniversary journalism. For me, I may never recover, but the earth will go on, unmoved, and humans, for better or worse, will continue to surge over the shifting sands.

Here's what is personally Apocalyptic: Watching your family die of starvation. Combing the wreckage of your life after the hurricane. Digging out the dead bodies of your neighbors after the earthquake. Tragedy is personal, or it inevitably becomes tainted with voyeurism.

Please don't misunderstand: Empathy, whether for those in our bed or those on the other side of the border, is perhaps the must wonderful mammalian skill there is, especially when teamed with helping actions. When we aid the Pakistanis and Louisianans and the Indonesians in their time of personal and communal crisis, we are all the richer for it. Seriously.

Just don't call it an Apocalypse. The world is not ending. To think so or say so or make jokes about it being so is simply to cop out on the fact that this is all really happening right now and we are not going to be rescued by God or nature or anybody else. Nobody is going to 'get theirs" and the mountain lions are not going to take back California to the swelling sounds of choral singing and the tipping point or the hundredth monkey is not going to turn us all into Buddhas full of empathy and grace. Nanotechnology is not going to rebuild the ozone layer, although your Prius might slow its dissolution. Steve Jobs is a huckster, not a Messiah, and Dick Cheney is an asshole, not a devil.

We either do the best we can, knowing that doing good is its own reward, or we fade into miserable fatalism. Suck it up.

Lakshmi Chaudhry is a senior editor at In These Times, and the former senior editor of AlterNet. You can write to her at
Samizdat: an underground system for the circulation of forbidden works of literature and political criticism in the Soviet era of Russia.

Location: Arkansas, United States

Angry, angry, angry ... but still, any day above ground is a good day.