There is no example Bush apologists can point to when the Supreme Court has ever upheld warrantless wiretapping within the United States. By law, the National Security Agency is prohibited from spying on American citizens, permanent residents and American corporations.
Since its creation by Congress in 1978, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court has rejected a grand total of five warrant requests. The FISA court is the equivalent of a rubber stamp for the executive branch. There are no legal or tactical imperatives whatsoever that would justify the Bush administration's voluminous violations of US law by illegally circumventing FISA.
George W. Bush claims he first authorized the NSA's clandestine domestic spying operation in the year 2002. This assertion by Bush is an outrageous lie, irrefutably contradicted not only by numerous whistleblowers inside the NSA, but by declassified materials obtained by Truthout.org that prove domestic spying was initiated by the NSA shortly after George W. Bush assumed the presidency in January of 2001 -- many months prior to 9/11.
US Air Force General Michael Hayden, who headed Bush's NSA until he became Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte's principal deputy in April of 2005, said the following on Jan. 22: "We're not violating the law ... Had this program been in effect prior to 9/11, it is my professional judgment that we would have detected some of the al Qaeda operatives in the United States."
And on Jan. 6, Vice President Dick Cheney said: "If we'd been able to do this before 9/11, we might have been able to pick up on two hijackers who subsequently flew a jet into the Pentagon."
Well, in fact, these liars were overseeing widespread illegal domestic spying well before 9/11! So, the question remains: What did they know, and when did they know it? And why did the Bush administration fail to take action to protect the American people?
Thanks for Robert Parry's fine article ["Bush's War with the Truth," 2/1/06 TPP] documenting the copious lies that George Bush has attempted to fob off since being installed by a corrupted Supreme Court. While no one article could possibly detail every fib the man has told, Bush's oft-repeated claim that America will oppose terrorism wherever it occurs deserves greater attention. For example, in a speech on 10/6/05, Bush boasted that "The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them, because they're equally as guilty of murder." The official White House transcript of this speech even tells us this remark was greeted with "applause," as indeed it should be, were it true. Unfortunately it's not.
To cite just one case, the Bush administration had decided only a few months earlier to deny a Venezuelan extradition request for Luis Posada Carriles, wanted in that country for masterminding the blowing up of a Cuban airliner in 1976, resulting in the death of 73 people, including many children. While awaiting trial in Venezuela Posada Carriles had escaped from prison and made his way to the Miami where he was allowed to live freely for several months and where he openly boasted about his terrorist activities on anti-Cuban news outlets. Since the US government continues to "harbor" this self-admitted terrorist, whom it has also long "supported" as a CIA asset, one can only agree with Bush that this government is "equally as guilty of murder." Nor can one argue with the speech's continuation: "Any government that chooses to be an ally of terror has also chosen to be an enemy of civilization. And the civilized world must hold such regimes to account."
Molly Ivins writes ("Bush Keeps Getting It Wrong," 2/1/06 TPP) that Bush says "if somebody from al Qaeda is calling you we like to know why." It may be a reasonable demand by Bush but there are two things wrong with this assertion. One, nobody from al Qaeda will call knowing fully well that America (NSA) has always had the capacity to tap into conversations from the Cold War days. Second, since al Qaeda is operating from more than 60 countries (CIA estimate) and each of the countries has its own language and multiple dialects it would be an almost impossible job to "monitor" such conversation. Since 9/11 we must have spent millions of tax dollars and all we have as proof that it is helping us fight terrorism is the "plot to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge, no doubt with a blow torch." No Sir, Mr. Bush, we are not buying it. The snooping operation is to focus on Americans who are anti-war and opposed to his policy -- BIG BROTHER IN ACTION!
When I was a grammar school student much of our geography book had maps colored red, indicating various lands ruled over by the British Empire. And the highlight of my childhood was a visit to the 1933 World's Fair. Outstanding, for me, were two exhibits of Great Britain's might: a mockup of a South African diamond mine and a huge table display of a flattened-out world map, largely colored in red, with hundreds of model British naval ships clustered in all the world's oceans. Clearly, a very graphic depiction of the truism "that the sun never set upon the British Empire." Who could have possibly have known that the British Empire was even then entering the twilight zone of its demise? That in 20 years, more or less, it would have been dismembered?
These thoughts were called to mind by stories recently appearing in the US press about the recent air strike on Pakistan. This strike and the reaction of one CNN news reporter showed just how much the hubris of Empire has infiltrated our press. This "reporter" asked an interviewee, "Does the United States have to ask Pakistan every time that they bomb targets in Pakistan?" Makes one wonder how much longer we have as Empire builders.
In a recent speech at the Wilson Center in Washington, President Bush said regarding the War in Iraq, "We cannot and will not leave Iraq until victory is achieved." Nonsense, Mr. President, it matters not one whit whether we "win" in Iraq or not. With or without victory, our Empire, like all empires before us, is doomed to failure in the long run, which is likely to be a much shorter run than that of the British Empire to boot.
Marjorie S. Newell
State College, Pa.
In "Music and Politics Intersect" [2/1/06 TPP], Rob Patterson tells us that Merle Haggard was always misunderstood on "Okie From Muskogee."
I have heard several other music journalists say this, and I have never understood what they were talking about. The song seems straightforward enough; it warns us not to question authority, not to disrespect college deans who approve napalm production, not to get out and protest war, not to wear unconventional clothing, and to revere the flag, because that's the only way to live right.
When the song came out I had just read The Grapes of Wrath, and I thought, "Why would an OKIE, of all people, suggest obeisance to "THE MAN?"
Please, Rob, explain to me what Merle was really saying.
Patterson replies: Well, Larry, the Hag was indeed saying just what he seems to be saying, but with his tongue perhaps a bit too perfectly set in his cheek. The genesis of "Okie" was as an in-joke for the boys in the band on the bus as they rolled through Oklahoma past a road sign for Muskogee. As the story goes, Haggard picked up his guitar and sang the first line -- "We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee" -- and it cracked everyone up (the Haggard legend suggests that they were likely passing around a joint as he sang it). So he followed the thread as a good writer should, and when the band dared him to sing it onstage for their amusement a few nights later, the crowd went wild.
"Okie" may be the quintessential double entendre in song. Because Haggard has always written with respect for the common man (i.e. true populism), the type of folks it describes heard it as a rallying cry. Those on the other side of the cultural divide at the time when it was written heard a picture perfect stereotype. Whatever way you hear it -- and ambiguity is often found in the best topical songwriting -- "Okie" certainly captured the zeitgeist of that era. In the very same breath, it's an affectionate nod and a gentle jab of jest to the ribs of those it describes and the attitudes they held. It's a character study and a damned good one to boot, as proven by the song's cultural impact. Listen to the song, and note that it doesn't tell us to do anything. It simply shows us a person and point of view that were indeed real.
Even a cursory look at Haggard's life and career suggests that he's never been one practice nor preach obeisance to "the man." Delve into his catalog and you'll find odes to the dispossessed that are as eloquent, resonant and heartfelt as Steinbeck's. A good place to start might be the songwriter's tribute album, Tulare Dust, on which admirers like Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakam, Dave Alvin, Tom Russell and others interpret some of his finest tales of real life struggle and strife on the cusp of the American dream. And then go further and delve into the music made by one of the greatest country music voices ever -- as a singer and a writer -- who also happens to be a genuine populist poet of the highest order. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you find.
When our children were young, we sometimes tried to keep them awake when traveling at night using a simple diversionary game, "Watch for the bunnies" ...
This is the same type of trick our Sen. Santorum would like to use on us.
"Look! the liberals are causing things to go badly in our war!"
However, we have spotted the game.
We're not supposed to notice the $400 billion debt our country faces this year. Or the $8 trillion, 175 billion, 95 million and how many thousands of outstanding national debt, with $2.28 billion added to the debt every day since Sept. 30.
President Bush came into the White House with surplus money in the budget.
What kind of game is this?
Who are these "journalists" trying to inform? Joe Conason does not like Howard Dean (too bad). Arianna is so bad she could not be heard in the California governor's race yet she constantly takes swipes at Hillary and if that were not bad enough Molly Ivins came out [in "Not. Backing. Hillary," 2/15/06 TPP] with an article so bad, I wanted to be ill. She calls Dems FOOLS and states that if people in Washington can't figure out who to elect for president "We will have to find someone who will." Since when do the people in Washington select candidates? I believe this is done by the people through primaries and caucuses. ... I want you to know that I am a 73-year-old widow and I have been a lifelong Democrat! And I will not read this crap any longer! Also thank God I am fortunate enough to be able to support the candidates I want and I do. ... Everytime I read this stuff I sit down and send Hillary & Howard Dean a contribution. I'm also old enough to remember Gene McCarthy, who was a wonderful man, too bad we don't have more people like him today. And Hillary didn't need to take a stand on the Terri Schiavo case. There were plenty of the GOP down here making an ass out of themselves along with Jesse Jackson! Why don't you stick to the Populist instead of giving the Right Wing idiots more fodder to criticize us? ... The press everywhere are so afraid of this bunch in the White House they wouldn't know the truth if it hit them in the ass! So if you think we are all "fools" out here you can go straight to Hell!
Palm Harbor, Fla.
The more hell you raise the better. And the Democratic Party "leadership" had better listen, before they once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
I don't know yet who I will support for president, but I know it won't be Hillary.
Molly said what needed to be said.
San Diego, Calif.
I agree wholeheartedly with Beverly Rice's comments on the Joe Conason article of 1/1/06 TPP ["Dems Need More Deans," 2/1/06 Letters]. Thanks to her for writing it and to you for printing it. Your 2/1/06 issue was marvelous.
As a Quaker, I suggest that we may call the spy agency crazy as a fox, dumb as a coyote. After all, where would you rather search for terrorists: the slums of Karachi, or Lake Worth, Fla.? And whom would you rather confront: a gray-haired pacifist, or a wild-eyed bomber?
Alison P. Martinez
Santa Fe, N.M.
(to the tune of "Home on the Range")
Home, home in Iraq
I'm stuck and I ain't coming back
'Cause they've got our oil
It's under their soil
So I'll die for your new Cadillac.
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
In a 2/1/06 TPP Dispatch, "Dangerous Mines No Accident," the figure for coal company donations to federal candidates should have been listed as $2.3 mln, with 90% going to Republicans. (That's actually what we wrote, but the wording was confusing.)