Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2001
Friday, Dec. 14, 2001
Boy, take a few days off, and the whole world goes to hell...
The U.S. proxy forces have, for all intents and purposes, "conquered" Afghanistan, disregarding the wishes of the Bush administration for a more "measured" approach in favor of a rapid advance. The word "conquered" without the quotation marks would seem strange in this circumstance because the "victory" of the Northern Alliance was accomplished by a significant portion of the Taliban defecting to their side! It will be interesting to see how the Bush administration handles this development, as the very people they've described as "evildoers" who must be destroyed have now signed up on their side of the "conflict."
The Afghanistan campaign may be wrapping up, but the Bush adminstration's reign of terror over our civil liberties continues unabated. On Dec. 2, in a story virtually unreported in the corporate press, the administration's original draft of the "emergency" anti-terrorism package was published, revealing that the administration had originally planned to suggest a suspension of habeas corpus. The same day, Attorney General John Ashcroft appeared on ABC's This Week program and was asked if restrictions on federal surveillance of religious and political organizations were being eased:
"...for so-called terrorists to gather over themselves some robe of clericism ... and claim immunity from being observed, people who hijack a religion and make out of it an implement of war will not be free from our interest."
Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee four days later, Ashcroft flippantly dismissed whole portions of the American legal system:
"Are we supposed to read them [terror suspects] the Miranda rights, hire a flamboyant defense lawyer, bring them back to the United States to create a new cable network of Osama TV or what have you, provide a worldwide platform from which propaganda can be developed?"
The Attorney General's position on critics of the administration's sickening power-grab was unequivocal:
"...to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies, and pause to America’s friends. They encourage people of goodwill to remain silent in the face of evil."
With this black demagoguery backing up its obscene War On Terrorism program, the Bush administration is, itself, rapidly becoming an intolerable evil, and one can't help but wonder how long America will remain silent in the face of it.
As expected, a group of organizations filed a lawsuit on Nov. 28 to force the Bush administration to abide by the Presidential Records Act. The suit seeks to void the "President"'s executive order of Nov. 1, which gutted the act by allowing former or current presidents to veto release of public records to the public after the congressionally-ordered 12-year timespan. Organizations involved in the suit include Public Citizen, the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the National Security Archive, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2001
In a largely unreported story, Attorney General John Ashcroft, on October 12, issued a new policy with regard to Freedom of Information Act requests from the public. The Ashcroft policy encourages federal agencies to resist releasing information to the public whenever there is a "sound legal basis" for doing so, and states flatly that the Justice Department will back their decisions to withhold. This is a complete reversal of the Clinton administration policy in effect since 1993, which urged agencies to release information unless it was "reasonably foreseeable that disclosure would be harmful," and is only another in the growing list of measures by the Bush administration aimed at making government simultaneously more powerful while less accountable.
The Los Angeles Times revealed Sunday that, in addition to the the new FOIA policy, the Bush administration has undertaken a major program of removing already-available public information from public view:
"At least 15 federal agencies have yanked potentially sensitive information off the Internet, or removed Web sites altogether, for fear that terrorists could exploit the government data. The excised material ranges from information on chemical reactors and risk-management programs to airport data and mapping of oil pipelines."
Most horrific is the revelation that the administration has actually ordered public information to be destroyed, and is likely to continue doing so:
"The Government Printing Office has begun ordering about 1,300 libraries nationwide that serve as federal depositories to destroy government records that federal agencies say could be too sensitive for public consumption... While documents have been pulled before because they contained mistakes or were outdated, this was the first time in memory that documents were destroyed because of security concerns, said Francis Buckley, superintendent of documents for the printing office."
When some librarians requested that the information simply be pulled from shelves, the word from the administration was that this was insufficient; the information had to be completely destroyed. The Times described a Syracuse librarian, on the order of the administration, smashing a CD-ROM containing government information on dams and resevoirs, saving a single shard of the disk "to prove that the deed was done."
Today was more of the same. Arguing that "evil knows no holiday," the "President" announced that the traditional holiday tours of the White House are cancelled this year. The daily tours of the White House, which once drew thousands of people a day, were long ago suspended by this "President," and the administration has also just announced that the ceremony accompanying the lighting of the large Christmas tree outside the White House gates--traditionally open to the public--is to be a restricted ticket-only affair this year. Bush uses, as his justification for these decisions, the threat of terrorism, but, in reality, this is exactly how his administration has behaved since its own heavily-armed and restricted inauguration in January. Scott Lindlaw of the AP notes today, for example, that
"Bush also restricted public access to the White House before the attacks, when he limited invitations to the Fourth of July fireworks-watching party. In past years, 11,000 or more attended; Bush restricted attendees to groundskeepers, employees of the residence, political appointees and their families. Then, the administration cited fears of wear and tear on the White House grounds."
Friday, Nov. 16, 2001
Monday, Nov. 19, 2001
"It is hard to fathom why Attorney General John Ashcroft would think
his recent order authorizing the monitoring of conversations between detainees
and their lawyers would be acceptable in a society that values the rule
Nov. 12, 2001
"Foreign terrorists who commit war crimes against the United States,
in my judgment, are not entitled to and do not deserve the protections
of the American Constitution."
--Attorney General John Ashcroft
"We need an attorney general who will stand up to terrorists, but we
also need an attorney general who will stand up for the Constitution and
the Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, we have an attorney general whose record
increasingly makes clear that he is the most dangerous threat to civil
liberties in the federal government."
--Ralph Neas, President,
People for the American Way
Nov. 15, 2001
"Attorney General John Ashcroft's latest assaults on the Constitution
in the name of the war on terrorism underscore why he had such a rough
time winning Senate confirmation last winter."
--Columnist Jules Whitcover,
Nov. 16, 2001
The option to use a military tribunal [for terror suspects] in a time
of war makes a lot of sense. We're fighting a war against the most evil
kinds of people and I need to have that extraordinary option at my fingertips.
--George W. Bush, Jr.
If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just
so long as I'm the dictator.
--George W. Bush, Jr.
Americans awaken! Our precious liberties are being crushed beneath the boot of an unelected despot! In a grab at raw power unseen in more than a generation, the court-appointed "President," Bush the Junior, and his under-creature Ashcroft have been busily dismantling the freedom for which we have so dilligently strived these many years. Our own elected representatives have effectively abandoned us to these despots, either complacently acquiescing to their demands, or, more frequently, enthusiastically supporting their evil designs on our liberty.
It began in the wake of the butchery of September. The "President" exploited the occasion to demand a war to "destroy evil," a goal so vague as to be meaningless. To pursue it, he requested from congress an open-ended use-of-force authorization:
"...the president is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
Congress, to its eternal disgrace, passsed this loathsome and lawless measure with only one dissenting vote in either body (Rep. Barbara Lee of California).
Having obtained the status of a dictator in the matter of destroying evil abroad, Bush the Junior turned his sights to the domestic front, requesting a laundry list of "emergency anti-terrorist" measures, all of which were designed to make government more powerful, while less accountable. Wiretapping authority was expanded, search-and-seizure authority was extended, and it was actually written into our law that aliens--even legal aliens--can be arrested on the whim of the attorney general and held indefinitely. While of, at best, dubious value in fighting terrorism, the loss of our freedom these measures involved was clear and unambiguous. Congress, adding insult to injury, dubbed their final draft of this atrocity the "USA Patriot Act." The House of Representatives managed to scrounge together 79 real patriots to vote against the measure (vs. 337 for it), while the Senate could only muster one (Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin).
As October became November, the "President" seemed to feel he no longer needed congress to enact legislation. Using the despots favorite cry of "emergency," he sidestepped the traditional public comment period for new orders published in the federal register and created one which allows federal prosecutors to eavesdrop on conversations between any federal "detainee" and his lawyer--a gross violation of constitutional principles, which the "President's" rule allows to be initiated by unelected bureaucrats! Next, he unilaterally rescinded the 1978 Presidential Records Act, signing an executive order that gutted the law by allowing former and past presidents to withhold their administration's papers from public view, though these are public records! His latest outrage was the issuance of an order allowing terror suspects--that category to be defined by the "President"--to be tried by military tribunals, in secret, with secret evidence and, though the defendants can be facing the death penalty, verdicts will not have to be unanimous, and there will be no appeal allowed.
In the midst of this relentless assault on our precious liberty, our free press has just discovered--though it has tried not to inform us of the fact--that Bush the Junior now sits in the White House having lost the election last year! That's right, fellow patriots: Our form of government is presently being dismantled, brick-by-brick, at the whim of an unelected cretin!
Who knows where this will all end? Our nation hath endured many-a-storm, but it frequently emerges the weaker for it. A rank imbecile the likes of Hurricane Bush the Junior will not be the end of us, but that should stand as no reason for not making every effort to see that he is not the beginning of the end. A patriot of yesteryear once argued that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Make your voices heard, Americans, or you may lose them tomorrow.
--the Spirit of '76
Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way, has called for emergency congressional hearings into the administration's "relentless assault on civil liberties." PFAW has released an analysis of the situation focusing on Attorney General John Ashcroft's role, entitled "John Ashcroft's Relentless Assault on Civil Liberties."
Saturday, Nov. 10, 2001
Thursday, Nov. 15, 2001
Monday finally saw the release of the results of the big media consortium count of the disputed ballots in Florida from last year's hotly contested presidential race. The results themselves weren't surprising to those of us who had followed the story carefully. What was somewhat surprising is that those in the corporate press, yet again, went to great lengths to craft a way to present their conclusions about the results as the opposite of the results themselves. "Bush Won," and hundreds of variations on the theme have made up almost all of the coverage since Monday. The Los Angeles Times carried the story under the header "Bush Still Had Votes to Win in a Recount, Study Finds." The New York Times said "Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote." The Palm Beach Post: "Bush Won Recounts." The Washington Post: "Florida Recounts Would Have Favored Bush." The Associated Press ran a long story on the results by Robert Tanner and Sharon Crenson under the title "Review Finds Bush Won Florida." It's over 30 paragraphs into that story before you learn that "In the review of all the state's disputed ballots, Gore edged ahead under all six scenarios for counting all undervotes and overvotes statewide." That's right; by every standard for counting votes which the consortium employed, Gore won (with margins ranging from 42-171 votes).
So where did "Bush Won" come from? Those in the corporate press, as though of a single mind in the matter, decided to push the actual results into the background and create scenarios based upon the legal strategies pursued by Gore and Bush last year. What if Gore had gotten a successful recount in only the four counties he originally requested? What if there had been only a partial state recount? Under these scenarios, Bush wins, but only because a certain amount of votes are not counted. Since the sole purpose of conducting the count was to determine who really recieved the most votes, it's incredible that these phony partial-count scenarios--and not the results of the count itself--were made the basis of the headlines.
It's also indefensible. The matter of who recieved the most votes in the 2000 election is a question of historical significance, one of great importance to anyone with any concern for American democracy; that Bush may have won if they weren't counted has no value beyond that of transient political propoganda for Republicans (making Al Gore look foolish for pursuing a legal strategy that wouldn't have succeeded.). The latter, unfortunately, is what our "free press" has decided to give us.
The War On Terrorism marches on in Afghanistan. After largely sitting out the campaign against the Taliban, the Bush administration's "ally," the Northern Alliance, finally launched a series of ground offensives against Taliban-held territory over the weekend... only to be met with complaints from the administration, which didn't want this to occur until the details of a post-Taliban Afghani government could be worked out. In quick succession, the NA has siezed about 50% of the country. Reporting from inside Afghanistan, David Rohde, writing in the Guardian of London yesterday, says the NA "chose to celebrate [their victories] with executions," gunning down and beating to death surrendering and wounded Taliban troops, then looting the corpses. "The killings here," Rohde wrote, "suggested that alliance soldiers might prove difficult to control as their victories build."
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