Wednesday, December 21, 2005

(12/21/2005 ) 4 GOP Senators Hold Firm Against Patriot Act Renewal

(12/21/2005 ) 4 GOP Senators Hold Firm Against Patriot Act Renewal

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN, could barely conceal his anger

Frist said, "The Patriot Act expires on December 31, but the terrorist threat does not."

4 of the 46 senators using the delaying tactic to thwart the USA Patriot Act renewal are members of Frist's party

The four Republican rebels -- Larry E. Craig (Idaho), Chuck Hagel (Neb.), John E. Sununu (N.H.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) -- have joined all but two Senate Democrats in arguing that more civil liberties safeguards need to be added to the proposed renewal of the Patriot Act

The four stand calmly at the center of a political storm that soon will determine whether the law, enacted soon after the 2001 terrorist attacks, is renewed in a modified form or allowed to expire in 11 days

Sen. Murkowski Comment
Sen. Murkowski said, "I think the responsible thing to do at this point is to move forward with a three-month extension" of the current law

Sen. Hagel Comment
Sen. Hagel said, "I took an oath of office to the Constitution, I didn't take an oath of office to my party or my president."

Sen. Sununu Statement
Sen. Sununu said, "How can the president justify vetoing the [temporary] extension?"

Sununu said, "That suggests that he thinks the country is better off without any Patriot Act provisions in place than with a three-month extension. And that makes no sense at all."

Sen. Craig Comments
Sen. Craig said, "The beauty of Westerners is that we have a healthy distrust of our government."

Craig said that gun owners are particularly leery of laws that give federal agents greater powers to secretly search offices and homes

Craig said, "Whether they are business records or they are gun dealers' records or whatever, they are records that can be gained under the law."

Read the Washington Post story

How They Spy in Great Britain and the US

Everyone is Lying (none / 0)

This is all PSYOPS information war to scare Americans.

The real story behind the UKUSA agreement and NSA domestic espionage from former Justice Department prosecutor John Loftus. No FISA court warrants required:

By the 1960's the "temporary" British personnel at Fort Meade had become a permanent fixture. The British enjoyed continued access to the greatest listening post in the world. The NSA is a giant vacuum cleaner. It sucks every form of electronic information, from telephone calls to telegrams, across the United States. The presence of British personnel is essential for the American wiretappers to claim plausible deniability.

Here is how the game is played. The British liaison officer at Fort Meade types the target list of "suspects" into the American computer. The NSA computer sorts through its wiretaps and gives the British officer the recording of any American citizen he wants. Since it is technically a British target of surveillance, no American search warrant is necessary. The British officer then simply hands the results over to his American liaison officer.

Of course, the Americans provide the same service to the British in return. All international and domestic telephone calls in Great Britain are run through the NSA's station in the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) at Menwith Hill, which allows the American liason officer to spy on any British citizen without a warrant. According to our sources, this duplicitous, reciprocal arrangement disguises the most massive and illegal, domestic espionage apparatus in the world. Not even the Soviets could touch the UK-US intercept technology.

Through this charade, the intelligence services of each country can claim that they are not targeting their own citizens. The targeting is done by an authorized foreign agent, the intelligence liaison resident in Britain or the United States. Thus, in 1977, during an investigation by the House Government Operations Committee, Admiral Inman could claim, with a straight face, that "there are no US citizens now targeted by the NSA in the United States or abroad, none." Since the targeting was done not by NSA but by employees of British GCHQ, he was telling the literal truth. Still, the congressional staff knew enough at the time to characterize Inman's statements in an unpublished report as "misleading."

John Loftus and Mark Aarons
The Secret War Against The Jews
New York, NY: St. Martin's Griffin,1994
Pgs 189-190

Loftus' source is The Puzzle Palace: Inside America's Most Secret Intelligence Organization by James Bamford. Pgs 129, 331-332,306. Of course, Bamford doesn't mention any of the above information when appearing on C-Span (12/20/05). The implication is Americans obviously don't know how to read or handle the truth about their government's perpetual lying machine.

Big Brother has been here for a very long time.

by Fraulein Anna on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 03:50:23 PM PDT

Revealed: US dirty tricks to win vote on Iraq war

Secret document details American plan to bug phones and emails of key Security Council members

Read the memo

Talk about it: dirty tricks?

Martin Bright, Ed Vulliamy in New York and Peter Beaumont
Sunday March 2, 2003
The Observer

The United States is conducting a secret 'dirty tricks' campaign against UN Security Council delegations in New York as part of its battle to win votes in favour of war against Iraq.

Details of the aggressive surveillance operation, which involves interception of the home and office telephones and the emails of UN delegates in New York, are revealed in a document leaked to The Observer.

The disclosures were made in a memorandum written by a top official at the National Security Agency - the US body which intercepts communications around the world - and circulated to both senior agents in his organisation and to a friendly foreign intelligence agency asking for its input.

The memo describes orders to staff at the agency, whose work is clouded in secrecy, to step up its surveillance operations 'particularly directed at... UN Security Council Members (minus US and GBR, of course)' to provide up-to-the-minute intelligence for Bush officials on the voting intentions of UN members regarding the issue of Iraq.

The leaked memorandum makes clear that the target of the heightened surveillance efforts are the delegations from Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Mexico, Guinea and Pakistan at the UN headquarters in New York - the so-called 'Middle Six' delegations whose votes are being fought over by the pro-war party, led by the US and Britain, and the party arguing for more time for UN inspections, led by France, China and Russia.

The memo is directed at senior NSA officials and advises them that the agency is 'mounting a surge' aimed at gleaning information not only on how delegations on the Security Council will vote on any second resolution on Iraq, but also 'policies', 'negotiating positions', 'alliances' and 'dependencies' - the 'whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favourable to US goals or to head off surprises'.

Dated 31 January 2003, the memo was circulated four days after the UN's chief weapons inspector Hans Blix produced his interim report on Iraqi compliance with UN resolution 1441.

It was sent by Frank Koza, chief of staff in the 'Regional Targets' section of the NSA, which spies on countries that are viewed as strategically important for United States interests.

Koza specifies that the information will be used for the US's 'QRC' - Quick Response Capability - 'against' the key delegations.

Suggesting the levels of surveillance of both the office and home phones of UN delegation members, Koza also asks regional managers to make sure that their staff also 'pay attention to existing non-UN Security Council Member UN-related and domestic comms [office and home telephones] for anything useful related to Security Council deliberations'.

Koza also addresses himself to the foreign agency, saying: 'We'd appreciate your support in getting the word to your analysts who might have similar more indirect access to valuable information from accesses in your product lines [ie, intelligence sources].' Koza makes clear it is an informal request at this juncture, but adds: 'I suspect that you'll be hearing more along these lines in formal channels.'

Disclosure of the US operation comes in the week that Blix will make what many expect to be his final report to the Security Council.

It also comes amid increasingly threatening noises from the US towards undecided countries on the Security Council who have been warned of the unpleasant economic consequences of standing up to the US.

Sources in Washington familiar with the operation said last week that there had been a division among Bush administration officials over whether to pursue such a high-intensity surveillance campaign with some warning of the serious consequences of discovery.

The existence of the surveillance operation, understood to have been requested by President Bush's National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, is deeply embarrassing to the Americans in the middle of their efforts to win over the undecided delegations.

The language and content of the memo were judged to be authentic by three former intelligence operatives shown it by The Observer. We were also able to establish that Frank Koza does work for the NSA and could confirm his senior post in the Regional Targets section of the organisation.

The NSA main switchboard put The Observer through to extension 6727 at the agency which was answered by an assistant, who confirmed it was Koza's office. However, when The Observer asked to talk to Koza about the surveillance of diplomatic missions at the United Nations, it was then told 'You have reached the wrong number'.

On protesting that the assistant had just said this was Koza's extension, the assistant repeated that it was an erroneous extension, and hung up.

While many diplomats at the UN assume they are being bugged, the memo reveals for the first time the scope and scale of US communications intercepts targeted against the New York-based missions.

The disclosure comes at a time when diplomats from the countries have been complaining about the outright 'hostility' of US tactics in recent days to persuade then to fall in line, including threats to economic and aid packages.

The operation appears to have been spotted by rival organisations in Europe. 'The Americans are being very purposeful about this,' said a source at a European intelligence agency when asked about the US surveillance efforts.

Talk Left on FBI Spywork...Nov 6, 2005

Sunday :: November 06, 2005
The FBI Is Spying on You and Me

The Washington Post reports that the FBI has been obtaining and reviewing records of ordinary Americans in the name of the war on terror through the use of national security letters that gag the recipients.

"The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters -- one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people -- are extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans. "

What's a national security letter?

Issued by FBI field supervisors, national security letters do not need the imprimatur of a prosecutor, grand jury or judge. They receive no review after the fact by the Justice Department or Congress. The executive branch maintains only statistics, which are incomplete and confined to classified reports. The Bush administration defeated legislation and a lawsuit to require a public accounting, and has offered no example in which the use of a national security letter helped disrupt a terrorist plot.

Keep reading the article. It gets scarier by the paragraph.

The records it gathers describe where a person makes and spends money, with whom he lives and lived before, how much he gambles, what he buys online, what he pawns and borrows, where he travels, how he invests, what he searches for and reads on the Web, and who telephones or e-mails him at home and at work.

There is no judicial oversight of national security letters. The Patriot Act lessened the standard the FBI is to use in issuing the letters.

Under the old legal test, the FBI had to have "specific and articulable" reasons to believe the records it gathered in secret belonged to a terrorist or a spy. Now the bureau needs only to certify that the records are "sought for" or "relevant to" an investigation "to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities." That standard enables investigators to look for conspirators by sifting the records of nearly anyone who crosses a suspect's path.

The Justice Department makes an unconvincing argument that national security letters are similar to grand jury subpoenas.

Grand juries tend to have a narrower focus because they investigate past conduct, not the speculative threat of unknown future attacks. Recipients of grand jury subpoenas are generally free to discuss the subpoenas publicly. And there are strict limits on sharing grand jury information with government agencies.

Who in the FBI can issue them? The better question might be, "Who can't?"

Since the Patriot Act, the FBI has dispersed the authority to sign national security letters to more than five dozen supervisors -- the special agents in charge of field offices, the deputies in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, and a few senior headquarters officials.

When can they be issued?

FBI rules established after the Patriot Act allow the letters to be issued long before a case is judged substantial enough for a "full field investigation." Agents commonly use the letters now in "preliminary investigations" and in the "threat assessments" that precede a decision whether to launch an investigation.

The FBI thinks its new power is just fine and dandy.

"Congress has given us this tool to obtain basic telephone data, basic banking data, basic credit reports," said Caproni, who is among the officials with signature authority. "The fact that a national security letter is a routine tool used, that doesn't bother me."

The Justice Department is happy with national security letters, too:

To Jeffrey Breinholt, deputy chief of the Justice Department's counterterrorism section, the civil liberties objections "are eccentric." Data collection on the innocent, he said, does no harm unless "someone [decides] to act on the information, put you on a no-fly list or something." Only a serious error, he said, could lead the government, based on nothing more than someone's bank or phone records, "to freeze your assets or go after you criminally and you suffer consequences that are irreparable." He added: "It's a pretty small chance."

What happens to your information after the investigation is over and establishes that you have done nothing wrong? Does the FBI destroy its data file on you? No. It used to, but former Attorney General John Ashcroft changed the rules.

Two years ago, Ashcroft rescinded a 1995 guideline directing that information obtained through a national security letter about a U.S. citizen or resident "shall be destroyed by the FBI and not further disseminated" if it proves "not relevant to the purposes for which it was collected." Ashcroft's new order was that "the FBI shall retain" all records it collects and "may disseminate" them freely among federal agencies.

National security letters aren't the only means the government is using to spy on ordinary Americans. Ratchet national security letters up a few notches and you get to data mining.

[Ascroft's new] order directed the FBI to develop "data mining" technology to probe for hidden links among the people in its growing cache of electronic files. According to an FBI status report, the bureau's office of intelligence] began operating in January 2004 a new Investigative Data Warehouse, based on the same Oracle technology used by the CIA. The CIA is generally forbidden to keep such files on Americans. Data mining intensifies the impact of national security letters, because anyone's personal files can be scrutinized again and again without a fresh need to establish relevance.

Here�s where ChoicePoint and other commercial data services join the picture:

Ashcroft's new guidelines allowed the FBI for the first time to add to government files consumer data from commercial providers such as LexisNexis and ChoicePoint Inc. Previous attorneys general had decided that such a move would violate the Privacy Act. In many field offices, agents said, they now have access to ChoicePoint in their squad rooms.

So when you get stopped for a traffic ticket and are told to wait in your car while the officer radios in your driver�s license information, what he gets back from headquarters likely will include everything from a credit report to lawsuits you've been involved in to information about the time your neighbor called the police to complain your dog was barking too loud. Unless, of course, his squad car is equipped with its own terminal, and then he can access this information directly on the highway.

Still, you say, this is just too remote for you to worry about because you don't even know anyone who knows anyone who knows a terrorist. Do you stay at hotels? Do you ever rent a car? Have you ever spent New Year's, for example, in Las Vegas? Read on.

On December 21, 2003 Homeland Security issued a terror alert due to information about a possible New Year�s terror attack in Las Vegas. The FBI's Proactive Data Exploitation Unit and its chief, Gurvais Grigg, were called upon to serve.

An average of about 300,000 tourists a day stayed an average of four days each, presenting Grigg's team with close to a million potential suspects in the ensuing two weeks....Government and private sector sources who followed the operation described epic efforts to vacuum up information.....
An interagency task force began pulling together the records of every hotel guest, everyone who rented a car or truck, every lease on a storage space, and every airplane passenger who landed in the city. Grigg's unit filtered that population for leads. Any link to the known terrorist universe -- a shared address or utility account, a check deposited, a telephone call -- could give investigators a start.

When cooperation began drying up for voluntary release of records, the FBI turned to national security letters and grand jury subpoenas.

Early in the operation, according to participants, the FBI gathered casino executives and asked for guest lists. The MGM Mirage company, followed by others, balked.

How did word get out?

The operation remained secret for about a week. Then casino sources told Rod Smith, gaming editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, that the FBI had served national security letters on them.

According to one account, the FBI had some pressure tactics up its sleeve.

Agents encouraged voluntary disclosures, he said, by raising the prospect that the FBI would use the letters to gather something more sensitive: the gambling profiles of casino guests.

So, does what happened in Vegas really stay in Vegas? Of course not.

What happened in Vegas stayed in federal data banks. Under Ashcroft's revised policy, none of the information has been purged. For every visitor, Breinholt said, "the record of the Las Vegas hotel room would still exist."

And what happened with the terror alert?

Grigg's operation found no suspect, and the orange alert ended on Jan. 10, 2004. "The whole thing washed out," one participant said.

If you are counting on the hotels, rental car agencies or internet companies to raise a challenge when served with national security letters for your information, you're likely to be out of luck.

Resistance to national security letters is rare. Most of them are served on large companies in highly regulated industries, with business interests that favor cooperation. The in-house lawyers who handle such cases, said Jim Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, "are often former prosecutors -- instinctively pro-government but also instinctively by-the-books." National security letters give them a shield against liability to their customers.

Nor, in my opinion, is the proposed Patriot Act expansion bill currently in conference between the House and Senate likely to help ordinary Americans:

The House and Senate bills renewing the Patriot Act do not tighten privacy protections, but they offer a concession to business interests. In both bills, a judge may modify a national security letter if it imposes an "unreasonable" or "oppressive" burden on the company that is asked for information.

But you won't be told the request is made, so you won't know to ask the company holding your data to challenge the letter. Except perhaps for Las Vegas casinos that want to maintain customer privacy, this mostly seems to be a cosmetic reform.

How many of the national security letters have yielded information helpful to a terrorist inquiry? No one knows because there is no such reporting requirement.

In the executive branch, no FBI or Justice Department official audits the use of national security letters to assess whether they are appropriately targeted, lawfully applied or contribute important facts to an investigation.

Here's another joke of a reporting requirement. Inspector General Glenn Fine files reports on abuses twice a year. He hasn't found any. Ask yourself, how can someone report an abuse if he is never notified of the search in the first instance? As Fine himself told Congress:

We do rely upon complaints coming in," Fine said in House testimony in May. He added: "To the extent that people do not know of anything happening to them, there is an issue about whether they can complain. So, I think that's a legitimate question."

The ACLU has been actively litigating the legality of the National Security Letters. Their latest press release is here.

Also, the ACLU is less critical than I am of activity taking place in Congress now where conferees of the Senate and House are working out a compromise version of Patriot Act extension legislation that will resolve differences in versions passed by each in the last Congress. The ACLU reports that the Senate version contains some modest improvements respecting your privacy rights while the House version contains further intrusions. There is still time to contact the conferees. The ACLU provides more information and a sample letter here.

History shows that once new power is granted to the government, it rarely gives it back. Even if you wouldn�t recognize a terrorist if he were standing in front of you, let alone consort with one, now is the time to raise your voice

Posted Sunday :: November 06, 2005| Civil Liberties
16 comments to "The FBI Is Spying on You and Me"

1. Posted by Michael Ditto
November 5, 2005 11:36 PM

They have this huge data mining capability, but after spending hundreds of millions of dollars they still haven't been able to computerize their case files and all their case management is still done on paper.

I guess that shows where the priorities are. They really have become the KGB. They're not about solving crimes anymore, but about spying on citizens.
2. Posted by allen
November 6, 2005 12:24 AM

KGB? A little hyperbole, maybe? Would MI-5 be a better comparison, perhaps?
3. Posted by scarshapedstar
November 6, 2005 01:56 AM

MI-5 implies a certain level of basic competence. These are just petty thugs with fiefdoms.

4. Posted by Lavocat
November 6, 2005 05:16 AM

For the record, if I EVER get one of these, I fully intend to publicize the fact and the letter itself so that other fellow Americans have some sort of idea of just what the hell we are all up against.

This is insanity: democracy dies under these conditions, if it's not dead already.

What next? Internal passports w/ computer chips to let Big Bro know where we all are at all times? Sure would help Big Bro when that bird flu hits, in restricting travel, wouldn't it?

Fight the power!
5. Posted by getthept
November 6, 2005 08:22 AM

Since I installed Sitemeter on my blog I have noticed government surfers. At least that is what I hope they are. I got linked to on a post I did about the AT&T merger and someone from the FCC spent 11 minutes and read my archive pages.

I'm not paranoid, I'm just a powerless American.
6. Posted by Michael Ditto
November 6, 2005 11:38 AM

Lavocat: We already have that in the form of cell phones.

Police located serial rapist Brent J. Brents in Colorado using the cell phone he had stolen from the woman he had nearly beaten to death. That's one example of how that kind of tracking could be a good thing, but as with all of these new investigative techniques, it has the serious potential of being abused.
7. Posted by edger
November 6, 2005 11:52 AM

TL: History shows that once new power is granted to the government, it rarely gives it back.

National security letters, increasing surveillance in the name of security, institutionalizing torture, the largest percentage of a national population in the world now in prison, the patriot act, the "war on terror"... all are aspects of the meme progagated in different ways and words the past few years, that can be summed up as "We must give up a little bit of freedom today, to ensure security in future."

Give up a little bit today, a bit more tomorrow, and tomorow, and tomorrow... it's obvious where that leads. The promised future security is an ever receding phantom.
8. Posted by Mighty_Mezz
November 6, 2005 05:07 PM

"No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine."
-- William Blum
9. Posted by edger
November 6, 2005 06:33 PM

what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine

That has been true throughout history. What has also been true throughout history is that power structures built on corruption, lies, and deceit are unsustainable. They last in some instances for a short time, in others, longer. In the end they always collapse, because their foundations are insupportable illusions with no substance or value to offer to those who are awake, who awaken others, one by one.


"If you don't trust the people,
you make them untrustworthy."
--Lao Tzu

"You can count the number of seeds in an apple, but you can�t count the number of apples in a seed. We are the seeds. Shit floats... Cream rises."
--Ken Kesey
10. Posted by Lavocat
November 6, 2005 06:48 PM

Michael Ditto: Except no one is forcing me to use a cell phone. That can't be said about leaving the country without a passport.

Once the tracking becomes MANDATORY, we are all very much in trouble.
11. Posted by john horse
November 7, 2005 04:59 AM

Great article TL. Raises plenty of concerns. One is the lack of oversight over those who are spying on us. They want the right to watch us but they dont want anyone watching them.
12. Posted by YugoAmaryl
November 7, 2005 05:23 AM

But always remember: it's for your own protection :-)
Since 9/11, Germany is experiencing similar cuts in privacy too. Since Nov.1st of 2005, new passports have an RFID-chip with biometric data. They say, it was because the USA wanted it, but I think, this is just a welcome excuse...
By the way, spying on Germans (or US Americans) will really help in preventing attacks by islam terrorists.
13. Posted by Sailor
November 7, 2005 07:45 AM

I think the 'no one is forcing you to have a cell phone' argument is specious. No one is forcing you to have a phone, or a computer, or a car, or electricity or a credit card or go to a public library, or to walk on city streets, yet unless you live in cave in tora bora all of those things can/are being tracked by the gov't and shared with all agencies and some private entities*.

No one is forcing you to leave the country either, but that doesn't mean these aren't all egregious inroads on our privacy.

Late last month, President Bush signed Executive Order 13388, expanding access to those files for �state, local and tribal� governments and for �appropriate private sector entities,� which are not defined.

14. Posted by seajane
November 7, 2005 10:12 AM

Don't forget that everytime you have ANY transaction with a financial institution OFAC and BSA/AML kick in and your name is compared to the terrorist list. Cash a check - name compared. Open a Christmas Club - name compared. Change your deposit pattern (like you sell a car and deposit the proceeds) the financial institution will submit a SAR (Suspicious Activity Report) to OFAC.

George Orwell is alive and well.
15. Posted by ShermBuck
November 7, 2005 10:51 AM

I've seen a couple of posts at ArsTechnica about the placement of RFID chips in American passports sometime in 2006. I can't find any corroborating articles elsewhere, but I haven't tried very hard.
16. Posted by kdog
November 7, 2005 02:02 PM

When you get your new and improved passport/tracking device...smash the chip with a hammer.

On Unions

The rhetoric is hot and heavy on the transit worker's strike in NYC. Most of us outside have not been affected, but we can still weigh in. The privilege of the strike should be the most useful tool in the hands of any union, public or private. The right to unionize, and the right to strike, should be written into the Constitution. It is the brave 30,000 who are showing us the way to end corporate rule, to return our country to its democratic roots, who need to be supported.

Without unions, the powers-that-be can decide who lives and who dies, who starves on minimum wage, who shuffles and jives for welfare payments, who struggles to get food stamps, who begs for student aid. With unions, the mass of people have something to celebrate, a solidarity that makes us a richer nation. Thank God for unions. Thank God for Toussaint. Let a million unions flower in his wake. Why we need moderates

The Moderates' Integrity Test
Gary Bass
November 16, 2005

Gary Bass is the founder and executive director of OMB Watch , a nonprofit research and advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., promoting government accountability and citizen participation in public policy decisions.

The upcoming vote in the House over "mandatory spending" cuts is being hailed as one of the most important votes this year—as it rightly should be. The vote will indicate as much about the direction our country is headed as it will about Congress' spending priorities. And the outcome is likely to be shaped by the courage and integrity of moderate Republicans.

Until recently, with the Bush administration commanding high public approval ratings, conservatives quietly complained as Congress accelerated spending for defense, homeland security, and new entitlements. Behind closed doors, however, they grew bitter that deep cuts to domestic spending had not been accomplished, despite Republican control of both chambers of Congress and the White House. At the same time, conservatives pursued reckless tax cuts, largely benefiting corporate elites and wealthy individuals. Their "have your cake and eat it too" fiscal policies have exacerbated a ballooning deficit and created an unsustainable long-term structural problem in the federal budget.

Now, with Bush's popularity tanking and the House leadership in disarray, conservatives have stood up and taken the gloves off. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, the House Republican Study Committee, a group of roughly 100 Republican conservatives, launched "Operation Offset"—a potpourri of proposals to de-fund the federal government by slashing budgets or completely removing programs.

This conservative assault came at a time when many believed Congress, faced with glaring domestic need, would suspend yet another set of new tax cuts, particularly those to the wealthy, in order to retain revenues and pay for Gulf Coast reconstruction. As public calls for an end to unrestrained tax and budget cuts increased, the moderate Republicans who hold real sway in Congress appeared poised to assert themselves.

These moderates certainly have public support. Various polls have repeatedly shown that the public believes hurricane recovery costs should be paid for by rolling back tax cuts for the wealthy. In one poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the Democracy Corps, 75 percent of respondents wanted planned tax cuts for those earning over $200,000 per year to be cancelled. The American people are clearly expressing their recognition of the current need for more government, not less.

It's not just polls where this message comes through loud and clear. In Colorado two weeks ago, the "starve the beast" coalition was soundly defeated by an alliance forged between a Republican governor and a Democratic House speaker. Fifty-three percent of Colorado voters supported Referendum C and agreed to give up $3.7 billion in automatic tax refunds over the next five years in order to ease strict limits on state spending on education, health care and transportation.

The voters in Colorado implicitly acknowledged the importance of government services and the need for an adequate revenue base to support these services. This notion of shared sacrifice, a long-standing American value, has been all but absent from this Congress and the current administration. This absence is particularly glaring when considering the realities of our “tax relief” policies: households earning more than $1 million will receive $103,000 in tax break windfalls this year, according to the Tax Policy Center; and, starting Jan. 1, they will get an extra $20,000 from two more tax breaks that benefit only the top 4 percent of wage-earners. Incredibly, the House and Senate are now debating an additional $70 billion tax cut that primarily benefits the wealthy, leaving many to wonder how Congress and the president can be so woefully out of touch with the desires of the American people.

Last Thursday, moderates in the House and Senate stepped up and exercised the power newly at their command. In the House, the vote on harsh spending cuts collapsed as the Republican leadership could not rally enough votes to pass the bill. This spending bill was one of two under the reconciliation process, making $35 billion in mandatory spending cuts, while the other cuts $70 billion in taxes. Despite purporting to be a deficit reduction tool, the reconciliation package will increase deficits by at least $35 billion.

It was assumed that, in light of Hurricane Katrina, Congress might choose to suspend these reconciliation bills. Yet when Majority Leader Tom DeLay was indicted and forced to give up his leadership post, the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) saw an opportunity and leaped.

Instead of canceling reconciliation, RSC members decided to up the ante, calling for a 58 percent increase in spending cuts. At first it appeared that their plan was to enact spending cuts across the board, including for defense and homeland security. But quickly the conservative agenda shifted even farther away from shared sacrifice: the cuts would target programs serving low- and moderate-income families, with about one-third of the spending cuts coming from poverty programs. The moderates were troubled by these cuts along with riders attached to the bill, including authorization of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)—and their lack of support threatened the bill.

These conflicting pressures began to squeeze the options available to the House leadership team, and the action last week revealed the ugly inner workings of the lengths a desperate leadership will go to ram through misguided, unpopular policies. The GOP was willing to give up ANWR drilling to win moderate votes, but conservatives threatened to vote against a bill without ANWR drilling. Then the Republican leadership agreed—with a wink and a nod to conservatives—that ANWR drilling would be removed for now, but reinserted later in conference. But the moderates continued to withhold their support for the bill because of the cuts to Medicaid, student loans, food stamps and other low-income supports. With members anxious to return home for Veteran's Day, the Republican leadership gave up and withdrew the bill. Voting on the bill has been rescheduled for this Thursday.

In the Senate, a similar principled stand by a moderate Republican derailed efforts to pass more tax cuts for the wealthy—but an equally sneaky bait-and-switch may be in the works here as well. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, rejected extending the tax cuts on capital gains and stock dividends at a time when Congress is already enacting spending cuts affecting poor Americans. Senate Finance Committee Chair Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, accommodated Snowe’s concerns in order to move the tax cut bill out of committee, but the other Republicans reportedly went "ballistic" over dropping capital gains and dividends cuts. After postponing the markup a few days, it appears Grassley has executed a similar “wink and nod” maneuver with conservatives on the Finance Committee. The tax cut bill was approved yesterday without the capital gains and dividend cuts—but not so subtle assurances were given that they would be reinserted at a later time.

Fierce negotiations are underway in the House right now and enormous pressure is being applied to the moderates to cave. According to columnist Robert Novak, conservatives are "outraged" by the "coddling" of the moderates. "[W]istful Republicans [are] longing for the strong arm of suspended majority leader Tom DeLay." Conservatives have already made implicit threats of holding a vote for new House leadership in January or supporting more conservative Republicans against these moderates in the 2006 elections if spending cuts are not enacted this year.

With conservative Republicans increasingly advancing policies outside the mainstream, moderate Republicans are left with the burden of tempering the direction of future policy. It is clear that some combination of tax and spending cuts will continue to be pushed this year. The hope among those observing from the middle is that the moderates will stick with common sense and the will of the public and reject the radical minority's push to institute an ideological agenda of shrinking government.

Moderate Republicans in the House obviously have the power now to make an important statement about the immediate needs and proper priorities of the country by defeating the budget reconciliation bill this week. It remains to be seen, however, if they will have the integrity or the courage to stand up to their far-right colleagues.


Dick Cheney's Priorities
Alexandra Walker
December 20, 2005

It's good news for the rest of the world, but not for Americans. Dick Cheney is cutting short an overseas diplomatic mission to cast the tie-breaking vote in a Republican spending cuts bill. As readers well know , this bill accomplishes "savings" for the government by slashing funds for programs serving low-income Americans.

Today, the spokesman for the Emergency Campaign for America's Priorities , one of the groups leading the fight for a moral budget, denounced Cheney's skewed priorities. Brad Woodhouse issued this statement:

It is an extraordinary testament to the skewed priorities of the Bush Administration and of the Republican leadership in Congress that the Vice President of the United States is breaking off a diplomatic mission abroad to be present to potentially break a tie vote on a bill that slashes health care for poor children and the elderly, that cuts child support enforcement and slashes student loans.

The bill faces a tight vote in the Senate in part because it contains more drastic cuts to Medicaid--which serves low-income and disabled Americans. Although the cuts to food stamps were dropped from the final version passed by the House over the weekend, it's still loaded with reductions to programs that are vital to the welfare of low-income families. This AP story offers a good overview of the problems with this bill:

Overall, the deficit reduction bill claimed savings of $39.7 billion over five years. That's just 2.5 percent of the $1.6 trillion in total red ink that congressional officials estimate will pile up during the same period. The slender results nonetheless pleased GOP conservatives.

The savings included $4.8 billion from Medicaid, the health care program for the poor. One provision would make it harder for beneficiaries to transfer assets to their children in order to qualify for government-paid nursing home care, which has raised the ire of the AARP, the powerful lobby for seniors.

Drug companies won a last-minute break against cuts to their Medicaid payments at the expense of beneficiaries, who face higher co-payments that advocates for the poor say will drive people out of the program. Regional health insurance companies, another powerful lobby, stopped a Senate bid to cut a subsidy fund designed to entice them into the Medicare market.

Moderate Republicans in the Senate also were angry over a last-minute deal to extend the 1996 welfare reform law. They complained it didn't provide enough child care help as more parents will have to meet work requirements to obtain benefits.

ECAP's Brad Woodhouse has taken to calling the Republicans pushing these cuts "Rolls Royce" Republicans. They support tax cuts that skew toward the wealthiest Americans while slashing funding for programs that help America's most vulnerable. This is a fight they cannot be allowed to win. Another group lobbying against this bill has issued a very specific action alert. The Coalition on Human Needs asks constituents of the following senators to call today:

While calls to all Senators are very important, it is urgently important that these Senators hear from their constituents: Chafee (RI), Coleman (MN), Collins (ME), DeWine (OH), Landrieu (LA), Nelson (NE), Smith (OR), Snowe (ME), Specter (PA)
Please use the toll-free number: 800-426-8073. Ask to be connected to your Senators, and tell them:

* Please vote NO on the budget reconciliation conference report (S. 1932). It hurts low-income children, families, the elderly and disabled. Do not allow these one-sided sacrifices to be inflicted on low-income Americans while Congress is preparing to give still more tax breaks to the rich.

(as a postscript..Chafee, Collins, DeWine, Landrieu, Jeffords, Snowe and Smith added their voices to Americans With Compassion.....Specter did not....And Dick Cheney was able to usurp power for the Executive Branch one more time. When will we wake up from this nightmare?)

While You Talk, We Listen.....Carefully.

December 21, 2005
Spying Program Snared U.S. Calls

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 - A surveillance program approved by President Bush to conduct eavesdropping without warrants has captured what are purely domestic communications in some cases, despite a requirement by the White House that one end of the intercepted conversations take place on foreign soil, officials say.

The officials say the National Security Agency's interception of a small number of communications between people within the United States was apparently accidental, and was caused by technical glitches at the National Security Agency in determining whether a communication was in fact "international."

Telecommunications experts say the issue points up troubling logistical questions about the program. At a time when communications networks are increasingly globalized, it is sometimes difficult even for the N.S.A. to determine whether someone is inside or outside the United States when making a cellphone call or sending an e-mail message. As a result, people that the security agency may think are outside the United States are actually on American soil.

Vice President Dick Cheney entered the debate over the legality of the program on Tuesday, casting the program as part of the administration's efforts to assert broader presidential powers.

Eavesdropping on communications between two people who are both inside the United States is prohibited under Mr. Bush's order allowing some domestic surveillance.

But in at least one instance, someone using an international cellphone was thought to be outside the United States when in fact both people in the conversation were in the country. Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the program remains classified, would not discuss the number of accidental intercepts, but the total is thought to represent a very small fraction of the total number of wiretaps that Mr. Bush has authorized without getting warrants. In all, officials say the program has been used to eavesdrop on as many as 500 people at any one time, with the total number of people reaching perhaps into the thousands in the last three years.

Mr. Bush and his senior aides have emphasized since the disclosure of the program's existence last week that the president's executive order applied only to cases where one party on a call or e-mail message was outside the United States.

Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the former N.S.A. director who is now the second-ranking intelligence official in the country, was asked at a White House briefing this week whether there had been any "purely domestic" intercepts under the program.

"The authorization given to N.S.A. by the president requires that one end of these communications has to be outside the United States," General Hayden answered. "I can assure you, by the physics of the intercept, by how we actually conduct our activities, that one end of these communications are always outside the United States."

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales also emphasized that the order only applied to international communications. "People are running around saying that the United States is somehow spying on American citizens calling their neighbors," he said. "Very, very important to understand that one party to the communication has to be outside the United States."

A spokeswoman for the office of national intelligence declined comment on whether the N.S.A. had intercepted any purely domestic communications. "We'll stand by what General Hayden said in his statement," said the spokeswoman, Judy Emmel.

The Bush administration has not released the guidelines that the N.S.A. uses in determining who is suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and may be a target under the program. General Hayden said the determination was made by operational people at the agency and "must be signed off by a shift supervisor," with the process closely scrutinized by officials at the agency, the Justice Department and elsewhere.

But questions about the legal and operational oversight of the program last year prompted the administration to suspend aspects of it temporarily and put in place tighter restrictions on the procedures used to focus on suspects, said people with knowledge of the program. The judge who oversees the secret court that authorizes intelligence warrants - and which has been largely bypassed by the program - also raised concerns about aspects of the program.

The concerns led to a secret audit, which did not reveal any abuses in focusing on suspects or instances in which purely domestic communications were monitored, said officials familiar with the classified findings.

General Hayden, at this week's briefing, would not discuss many technical aspects of the program and did not answer directly when asked whether the program was used to eavesdrop on people who should not have been. But he indicated that N.S.A. operational personnel sometimes decide to stop surveillance of a suspect when the eavesdropping has not produced relevant leads on terror cases.

"We can't waste resources on targets that simply don't provide valuable information, and when we decide that is the case," the decision on whether a target is "worthwhile" is usually made in days or weeks, he said.

National security and telecommunications experts said that even if the N.S.A. seeks to adhere closely to the rules that Mr. Bush has set, the logistics of the program may make it difficult to ensure that the rules are being followed.

With roaming cellphones, internationally routed e-mail, and voice-over Internet technology, "it's often tough to find out where a call started and ended," said Robert Morris, a former senior scientist at the N.S.A. who is retired. "The N.S.A. is good at it, but it's difficult even for them. Where a call actually came from is often a mystery."

* Copyright 2005The New York Times Company
* Home

Dr. Evil Breaks The Tie. Here We Go....

By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press Writer 35 minutes ago

The Republican-controlled Senate passed legislation to cut federal deficits by $39.7 billion on Wednesday by the narrowest of margins, 51-50, with Vice President Dick Cheney casting the deciding vote.

The measure, the product of a year's labors by the White House and the GOP in Congress, imposes the first restraints in nearly a decade in federal benefit programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and student loans.

"This is the one vote you'll have this year to reduce the rate of growth of the federal government," said Sen. Judd Gregg (news, bio, voting record), R-N.H., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, in a final plea for passage.

But Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada countered that the GOP was advancing "an ideologically driven, extreme, radical budget. It caters to lobbyists and an elite group of ultraconservative ideologues here in Washington, all at the expense of middle class Americans," he said.

The roll call delivered less than the final victory Republicans had hoped for.

In maneuvering in advance of the final vote, Democrats succeeded in forcing minor changes. That meant the House, which approved the measure on a party-line vote in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, will have to do so again before it can be sent to President Bush for his signature. Passage is all but certain, but the timing remains in question, since most House members have returned home for the holidays.

The vote came on the first of two major measures facing tests in the Senate during the day.

On the second, Republicans maneuvered to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Democrats opposed that measure with a filibuster, and Republicans scrambled for the 60 votes needed to prevail.

With senators of both parties eager to adjourn for the year, other major bills remained in limbo.

President Bush made a last-minute pitch to rescue the anti-terror Patriot Act from a Democratic-led filibuster. "This obstruction is inexcusable," he said at the White House. "The senators obstructing the Patriot Act need to understand that the expiration of this vital law will endanger America and will leave us in a weaker position in the fight against brutal killers."

Critics of the legislation say it could pass easily, if Republicans would agree to include more protection for the civil liberties of innocent Americans.

By themselves, the deficit cuts included in the five-year bill would amount to only 2.5 percent of projected shortfalls totaling $1.6 trillion over the same time frame. Republicans said the significance lies in more than mere numbers, adding that programs such as Medicare and Medicaid threaten to consume an unsustainable amount of federal revenue if their growth is not trimmed quickly.

Home health care payments under Medicare would be frozen at current levels for a year under the bill, Medicaid regulations would be changed to make it harder for the elderly to qualify for federal nursing home benefits by turning assets over to their children.

Lender subsidies are reduced as part of an attempt to squeeze $12.6 billion from student loan programs. Another provision raises $3.6 billion for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the federal agency that protects certain pension plans. The money would come from an increase in the premium employers pay for each covered worker or retiree, and from a fee on companies that end their pension plans.

Billions more would come from programs unrelated to benefit programs. The legislation assumes $10 billion in federal receipts from the sale of part of the analog spectrum, for example.

Republicans signaled earlier in the week they would need the vice president to be present for the final vote on deficit cuts, and he flew back early from an overseas diplomatic mission.

"The vice president votes in the affirmative," he said, speaking only a few words as dictated by Senate custom. He wasn't the only one who made an unexpected trip back to Washington. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., flew back on Tuesday night. He has been recuperating at home from knee replacement surgery, and he made his way into the Senate with the aid of a walker.

All 44 Democrats voted against the measure, as did Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont, an independent. Five of 55 Republicans crossed party lines to oppose the bill as well. They included Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, as well as Sens. Gordon Smith of Oregon, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. Of them, Chafee, DeWine and Snowe are seeking re-election next year.

It was the seventh time since Cheney became vice president that he used his powers to break a tie vote, according to records maintained by the Office of the Secretary of the Senate.

With lawmakers eager to adjourn for the holidays, the Senate moved almost immediately into a debate on the ANWR oil drilling provisions.

"We open up the small area of the coastal plain...for oil exploration and development," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (news, bio, voting record), R-Alaska. She called making the oil available a matter of national security.

"Destroying this wilderness will do very little to reduce energy costs, nor does it do very much for oil independence...and it would offer a number of false hopes," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif. She said a change in the mileage requirements for SUVs could produce the same level of savings in the drive to reduce dependence on foreign oil.

The fate of the ANWR legislation, like the deficit-cutting measure, seemed to hinge on the narrowest of margins. This time, Cheney was not a factor, though, since supporters of the bill needed 60 votes to overcome last-ditch Democratic opposition.

Maneuvering for maximum leverage, Republicans put the ANWR provision on legislation that provides $453 billion for the Pentagon, including $50 billion to pay for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The legislation also includes $29 billion in aid for victims of Katrina and the other hurricanes that lashed the United States earlier this year.

Democrats worked to sustain their filibuster, pointing out that the defense money could pass easily without the legislation to open the national wildlife refuge to oil exploration.

Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
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Slouching Toward Kristallnacht..It Can't Happen Here?

Slouching Toward Kristallnacht
by Maryscott OConnor
Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 10:08:19 AM PDT

crossposted from My Left Wing

A fascinating and terrifying excerpt of Milton Mayer's They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933 - 1945

Mayer, an American journalist of German/Jewish descent, says of his work:

"How could it -- the Holocaust -- have happened in a modern, industrialized, educated nation ? The genesis of my interest in the Third Reich lies in my search for an answer to that enigmatic question."

I know few people who haven't asked themselves the same thing. The first, most likely hypothesis is that most people didn't know what was happening to the Jews. I may be wrong, but I believe that's been shot down pretty decisively by now.

The following excerpt from Mayer's They Thought They Were Free... provides some pretty plausible clues (the emphases are mine)...

* Maryscott OConnor's diary :: ::

"What no one seemed to notice," said a colleague of mine, a philologist, "was the ever widening gap, after 1933,between the government and the people. Just think how very wide this gap was to begin with, here in Germany. And it became always wider. You know it doesn't make people close to their government to be told that this is a people's government, a true democracy, or to be enrolled in civilian defense, or even to vote. All this has little, really nothing to do with knowing one is governing.

What happened was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to be governed by surprise, to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believe that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security.

The crises and reforms (real reforms too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

To live in the process is absolutely not to notice it -- please try to believe me -- unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, 'regretted,' that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these "little measures" that no "patriotic German" could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.

"You will understand me when I say that my Middle High German was my life. It was all I cared about. I was a scholar, a specialist. Then, suddenly, I was plunged into all the new activity, as the universe was drawn into the new situation; meetings, conferences, interviews, ceremonies, and, above all, papers to be filled out, reports, bibliographies, lists, questionnaires. And on top of that were the demands in the community, the things in which one had to, was "expected to" participate that had not been there or had not been important before. It was all rigmarole, of course, but it consumed all one's energies, coming on top of the work one really wanted to do. You can see how easy it was, then, not to think about fundamental things. One had no time."

"Those," I said, "are the words of my friend the baker. "One had no time to think. There was so much going on.""

"Your friend the baker was right," said my colleague. "The dictatorship, and the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting. It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway. I do not speak of your "little men", your baker and so on; I speak of my colleagues and myself, learned men, mind you. Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about - we were decent people - and kept us so busy with continuous changes and "crises" and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the "national enemies", without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us. Unconsciously, I suppose, we were grateful. Who wants to think?"

"How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice - "Resist the beginnings" and "consider the end." But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings. One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men? Things might have changed here before they went as far as they did; they didn't, but they might have. And everyone counts on that might.

"Your "little men," your Nazi friends, were not against National Socialism in principle. Men like me, who were, are the greater offenders, not because we knew better (that would be too much to say) but because we sensed better. Pastor Niemoller spoke for the thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing: and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something - but then it was too late."

"Yes," I said.

"You see," my colleague went on, "one doesn't see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for the one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don't want to act, or even to talk, alone; you don't want to "go out of your way to make trouble." Why not? - Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

"Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, everyone is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there will be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, "It's not so bad" or "You're seeing things" or "You're an alarmist."

"And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can't prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don't know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have.

"But your friends are fewer now. Some have drifted off somewhere or submerged themselves in their work. You no longer see as many as you did at meetings or gatherings. Informal groups become smaller; attendance drops off in little organizations, and the organizations themselves wither. Now, in small gatherings of your oldest friends, you feel that you are talking to yourselves, that you are isolated from the reality of things. This weakens your confidence still further and serves as a further deterrent to what? It is clearer all the time that, if you are going to do anything, you must make an occasion to do it, and then you are obviously a troublemaker. So you wait, and you wait.

"But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That's the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and the smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in "43" had come immediately after the "German Firm" stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in "33". But of course this isn't the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.

"And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying "Jew swine," collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in, your nation, your people is not the world you were in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.

"You have gone almost all the way yourself. Life is a continuing process, a flow, not a succession of acts and events at all. It has flowed to a new level, carrying you with it, without any effort on your part. On this new level you live, you have been living more comfortably every day, with new morals, new principles. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things that your father, even in Germany, could not have imagined.

"Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven't done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university when, if one had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood. A small matter, a matter of hiring this man or that, and you hired this one rather than that. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.

"What then? You must then shoot yourself. A few did. Or "adjust" your principles. Many tried, and some, I suppose, succeeded; not I, however. Or learn to live the rest of your life with your shame. This last is the nearest there is, under the circumstances, to heroism: shame. Many Germans became this poor kind of hero, many more, I think, than the world knows or cares to know."

I said nothing. I thought of nothing to say.

"I can tell you," my colleague went on, "of a man in Leipzig, a judge. He was not a Nazi, except nominally, but he certainly wasn't an anti-Nazi. He was just a judge. In "42" or "43", early "43", I think it was, a Jew was tried before him in a case involving, but only incidentally, relations with an "Aryan" woman. This was "race injury", something the Party was especially anxious to punish. In the case a bar, however, the judge had the power to convict the man of a "nonracial" offense and send him to an ordinary prison for a very long term, thus saving him from Party "processing" which would have meant concentration camp or, more probably, deportation and death. But the man was innocent of the "nonracial" charge, in the judge's opinion, and so, as an honorable judge, he acquitted him. Of course, the Party seized the Jew as soon as he left the courtroom.


"And the judge?"

"Yes, the judge. He could not get the case off his conscience; a case, mind you, in which he had acquitted an innocent man. He thought that he should have convicted him and saved him from the Party, but how could he have convicted an innocent man? The thing preyed on him more and more, and he had to talk about it, first to his family, then to his friends, and then to acquaintances. (That's how I heard about it.) After the "44" Putsch they arrested him. After that, I don't know."

I said nothing.

"Once the war began," my colleague continued, "resistance, protest, criticism, complaint, all carried with them a multiplied likelihood of the greatest punishment. Mere lack of enthusiasm, or failure to show it in public, was "defeatism." You assumed that there were lists of those who would be "dealt with" later, after the victory. Goebbels was very clever here, too. He continually promised a "victory orgy" to "take care of" those who thought that their "treasonable attitude" had escaped notice. And he meant it; that was not just propaganda. And that was enough to put an end to all uncertainty.

"Once the war began, the government could do anything "necessary" to win it; so it was with the "final solution" of the Jewish problem, which the Nazis always talked about but never dared undertake, not even the Nazis, until war and its "necessities" gave them the knowledge that they could get away with it. The people abroad who thought that war against Hitler would help the Jews were wrong. And the people in Germany who, once the war had begun, still thought of complaining, protesting, resisting, were betting on Germany's losing the war. It was a long bet. Not many made it."

It won't come in the same form. It never does. But it's coming. The lure of fascism is too powerful for men like the ones currently pissing all over our Constitution.

Probably won't be the Jews. Maybe Arabs. Maybe gays. Maybe "libruls." Who the fuck knows? It almost certainly won't be recognisable to most people until it's far too late.

If we let it happen.

The People Who Cared Enough To Try To Avoid the WAR ON IRAQ

Voices From 2002: Senators Who Voted Against War
By Bob Geiger
Created 2005-11-17 13:30

On October 11, 2002, the United States Senate voted 77-23 in favor of Joint Resolution 114 – the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.

We are, of course, all too familiar with the consequences of that vote and the extent to which many Democrats such as John Kerry and John Edwards are only recently willing to admit to making such a terrible mistake. Others – certainly the vast majority of George W. Bush's henchmen on the Republican side of the aisle – will never come clean and take responsible for the mess they have allowed our president to make of the world. Indeed, as we have seen over the last couple of days, Bush and Cheney are even willing to use that vote as a weapon against those they duped three years ago.

Although we spend a lot of time talking about what – and who – got us into this quagmire, let's take a moment to look at the names and the words of the Senators who defied bullying by Team Bush and had the wisdom and courage to vote "nay" on October 11, 2002.

Here are the brave ones:

* Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
* Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
* Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
* Robert Byrd (D-WV)
* Lincoln Chafee (R-RI)
* Kent Conrad (D-ND)
* Jon Corzine (D-NJ)
* Mark Dayton (D-MN)
* Richard Durbin (D-IL)
* Russell Feingold (D-WI)
* Robert Graham (D-FL)
* Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
* James Jeffords (I-VT)
* Edward Kennedy (D-MA)
* Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
* Carl Levin (D-MI)
* Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
* Patty Murray (D-WA)
* Jack Reed (D-RI)
* Paul Sarbanes (D-MD)
* Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
* Paul Wellstone (D-MN)
* Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Now let's give credit where it is due and look back on what some of these Senators had to say on October 11, 2002 or in the days leading up to that vote.

Daniel Akaka (D-HI)

"Great uncertainty surrounds the President's post-war strategy. Remember the day the war ends, Iraq becomes our responsibility, our problem. The United States lacks strategic planning for a post-conflict situation. Retired General George Joulwan recently said that the U.S. needs 'to organize for the peace' and design now a strategy with 'clear goals, milestones, objectives.' Our objectives in Iraq have not yet been made clear: is it our goal to occupy Baghdad and if so, for how long? A rush to battle without a strategy to win the peace is folly.

"I support action by the United Nations in the form of a resolution calling for unconditional and unfettered inspections in Iraq. Only after we exhaust all of our alternative means should we engage in the use of force, and before then, the President must ensure we have a strategy and plans in place for winning the war and building the peace."

Kent Conrad (D-ND)

"Before we ask young men and women to put themselves in harm's way, I must be convinced that we have exhausted every other possibility, pursued every other avenue. For me, and I believe for the people I represent, war must be the last resort. Saddam has not directly threatened his neighbors since the Gulf War. And a recent threat assessment from the Central Intelligence Agency concludes that Iraq is not likely to initiate a chemical or biological attack on the United States.

"Yet the President is contemplating a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq with the goal of ousting Saddam Hussein and installing a new regime. Never before in the history of this nation has the Congress voted to authorize a preemptive attack on a country that has not first attacked us or our allies. In my judgment, an invasion of Iraq at this time would make the United States less secure rather than more secure. It would make a dangerous world even more dangerous."

Mark Dayton (D-MN)

"There appears to be no imminent threat to the United States from Iraq. If there were, the Bush Administration could not have decided last summer to delay this unveiling until September because, in the words of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Jr., 'from a marketing point of view, you don't bring out new products in August.'

"Because Iraq's threat is not immediate, and because U.N. diplomatic efforts are just under way, I believe it is unwise and unnecessary for Congress to vote now on a future use of military force. So why is Congress rushing to judgment at this time? It is for political advantage in the upcoming election, rather than diplomatic or military necessity."

Richard Durbin (D-IL)

"Historically, we have said it is not enough to say you have a weapon that can hurt us. Think of 50 years of cold war when the Soviet Union had weapons poised and pointed at us. It is not enough that you just have weapons. We will watch to see if you make any effort toward hurting anyone in the United States, any of our citizens or our territory.

"It was a bright-line difference in our foreign policy which we drew and an important difference in our foreign policy. It distinguished us from aggressor nations. It said that we are a defensive nation. We do not strike out at you simply because you have a weapon if you are not menacing or threatening to us. Has September 11, 2001, changed that so dramatically?"

Russell Feingold (D-WI)

"Both in terms of the justifications for an invasion and in terms of the mission and the plan for the invasion, Mr. President, the Administration's arguments just don't add up. They don't add up to a coherent basis for a new major war in the middle of our current challenging fight against the terrorism of al Qaeda and related organizations. Therefore, I cannot support the resolution for the use of force before us.

"I am increasingly troubled by the seemingly shifting justifications for an invasion at this time. My colleagues, I'm not suggesting there has to be only one justification for such a dramatic action. But when the Administration moves back and forth from one argument to another, I think it undercuts the credibility of the case and the belief in its urgency. I believe that this practice of shifting justifications has much to do with the troubling phenomenon of many Americans questioning the Administration's motives in insisting on action at this particular time."

James Jeffords (I-VT)

"I am very disturbed by President Bush's determination that the threat from Iraq is so severe and so immediate that we must rush to a military solution. I do not see it that way. I have been briefed several times by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, CIA Director Tenet and other top Administration officials. I have discussed this issue with the President. I have heard nothing that convinces me that an immediate preemptive military strike is necessary or that it would further our interests in the long term.

"We must ensure that any action we take against Iraq does not come at the expense of the health and strength of our nation, or the stability of the international order upon which our economic security depends. Just think of what progress we could make on non-proliferation if we were to put one fraction of the cost of a war against Saddam Hussein into efforts to prevent the emergence of the next nuclear, chemical or biological threat. Strong efforts at strengthening international non-proliferation regimes would truly enhance our nation's future security."

Edward Kennedy (D-MA)

"It is wrong for Congress to declare war against Iraq now before we have exhausted the alternatives. And it is wrong to divert our attention now from the greater and more immediate threat of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda terrorism. We cannot go it alone on Iraq and expect our allies to support us. We cannot go it alone and expect the world to stand with us in the urgent and ongoing war against terrorism and Al Qaeda."

Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

"This resolution, like others before it, does not declare anything. It tells the President: Why don't you decide; we are not going to. This resolution, when you get through the pages of whereas clauses, is nothing more than a blank check. The President can decide when to use military force, how to use it, and for how long. This Vermonter does not sign blank checks.

"We have heard a lot of bellicose rhetoric, but what are the facts? I am not asking for 100 percent proof, but the administration is asking Congress to make a decision to go to war based on conflicting statements, angry assertions, and assumption based on speculation. This is not the way a great nation goes to war."

"The key words in the resolution we are considering today are remarkably similar to the infamous [Gulf of Tonkin] resolution of 38 years ago which so many Senators and so many millions of Americans came to regret. Let us not make that mistake again. Let us not pass a Tonkin Gulf resolution. Let us not set the history of our great country this way. Let us not make the mistake we made once before."

Carl Levin (D-MI)

"The vote we take today may have significant consequences for our children and our grandchildren. I believe our security is enhanced when we seek to enhance the authority and credibility of the United Nations and when, if military force is required, it is done with support of the world community."

Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

"America cannot face this situation alone. The support and cooperation of allies would enable us to share the risks and costs. We need international legitimacy, international support, and international manpower. I also worry that unilateral action could undermine the war on terrorism. Some special forces have already been withdrawn in the efforts to hunt al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The focus of our top military and civilian leaders could shift away from Bin Laden and al Qaeda."

Jack Reed (D-RI)

"Acting alone will increase the risk to our forces and to our allies in the region. Acting alone will increase the burden that we must bear to restore stability in the region. Acting alone will invite the criticism and animosity of many throughout the world who will mistakenly dismiss our efforts as entirely self-serving. Acting alone could seriously undermine the structure of collective security that the United States has labored for decades to make effective. Acting alone today against the palpable evil of Saddam may set us on a course, charted by the newly announced doctrine of preemption, that will carry us beyond the limits of our power and our wisdom."

Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

"If we do this right, Mr. President, we will truly make the world safer for our families. If we choose the wrong approach, I am deeply concerned that we will start down a road that could ultimately create a more unstable and dangerous world for our children and our grandchildren. There is no doubt that we can defeat Saddam Hussein in battle. The test of our strength is not in our ability to marshal our military forces, but our willingness to adhere to that which has made us great.

"We are a strong and powerful nation, made that way by our willingness to go the extra mile in the name of liberty and peace. The time is now for us to work together in the name of the American people and get it right."

Ron Wyden (D-OR)

"I am not convinced that Saddam Hussein currently poses a clear and present threat to the domestic security of our nation. While my service on the Senate Intelligence Committee has left me convinced of Iraq's support of terrorism, suspicious of its ties to al Qaeda, I have seen no evidence, acts, or involvement in the planning or execution of the vicious attacks of 9/11."

Please take a moment to call or write these Senators and thank them for what they tried to do.
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