Thursday, June 29, 2006

Git Along Little Doggies~Gitmo

My, my, my--the hue & the cry!

The Bushcons are really outraged that the Supreme Court sent them back to the drawing board, & further challenged them to come up with something that doesn't violate the Geneva Conventions or the Military Code of Justice.

All day on TV, on every channel, some GOP talkin' head is talkin' about it.

I liked this tidbit from Tony Snow, reported by BBC:

"At the White House, spokesman Tony Snow underlined the administration's resistance to abandoning the special courts.

'Nobody gets a get out of jail free card'," he said.

Nobody, except, of course, Karl Rove.

Supreme Court Giveth; Supreme Court Taketh Away

Demon Princess avoids blogging about Supreme Court cases (especially ones produced by this Court, because every dissenter seems to have to write a separate dissenting opinion of interest largely to themselves), just as she avoids blogging about economics, but for different reasons--by way of explaining why it’s taken her so long to get around to it, besides having more fun things to do, y’understand.

Parsing & explaining legal issues brings back really unpleasant memories of law school & being forced to read mind-boggling amounts of dense, dry, ancient, convoluted & impossibly florid-prosed case law every night—well, at least for the 1st & most of the 2nd years. She used to joke she needed a jackhammer & a ballpeen hammer to crack & extract salient points from those dusty tomes.

And that is why, kids, law school costs so much to attend. You do all the work & your professors are paid to torment—not gently guide—you. If you want the latter, more humane method of learning the law, attend law school in Europe.

Advice about the torments & hazing rituals we that we in America call law school aside, I’ve come to terms with my aversion to Supreme Court cases (never let it be said that your Demon Princess is not a brave girl) long enough to share a quick ‘n dirty rundown, Demon Princess style, of the rash of Supreme Court cases that, if not exactly fun or funny, are interesting as well as relevant & lately in the news.

Supreme Court Sez: Charge & try them, you can’t keep them detained forever.

I have to admit that I was buoyed in this project by news this morning that the Supreme Court, with so many rabid right-wingers on it now, handed Bushco their asses on the subject of trials for detainees—yeah, you know it—all those wicked “enemy combatants” we were holding just because, so the Bushco propaganda goes, “They might commit crimes against us.” Lessee, we’ve had some of them derailed & tortured for what—4 years?—and we still don’t have the evidence we need to convict them of anything? Maybe because they haven’t done anything but look Middle Eastern? Oh, but one drove a car for bin Laden, he whose fate was at issue in the case.

I dare opine that Bush thought miltary tribunals (run by us & for us) would be more likely to return verdicts justifying the war on terror, but the Supremes, divided & fractured—as seems they will be ‘til the end of time—say by this decision that Bush has to go to Congress for authority before setting up a legal means to deal with detainees, because his current tribunals violate the Geneva Conventions & our own Military Code of Justice.

What will those crazy Supremes do next? Relax, Bushfans, Neocon Roberts had to recuse (English translation—excuse) himself because a conflict of interest was created by the fact that he previously sat on a lower court that considered the case, as was appropriate, though we note that Scalia has never, in the past, let fuddy-duddy rules about recusal stop him from treating us all to his contributions to posterity.

And Clarence Thomas vigorously dissented, reading his dissent aloud for the fortunate few in attendance:

“Thomas wrote that the majority opinion ‘flouts our well- established duty to respect the executive's judgment in matters of military operations and foreign affairs.’”

Oh yeah—whatever the Man says. Rah rah.

“The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that President George W. Bush lacks authority to try Guantanamo Bay inmates before military tribunals, a blow to the administration's anti-terrorism strategy that scales back presidential wartime powers.

“The justices, voting 5-3, said Congress hadn't expressly authorized the military commissions. The justices also said the structure and procedures of the tribunals violate both the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“The ruling is a major political and legal setback for Bush, scuttling plans to try three dozen Guantanamo inmates before tribunals. The ruling also boosts suits challenging the incarceration of hundreds of other detainees.

``In undertaking to try Hamdan and subject him to criminal punishment, the executive is bound to comply with the rule of law that prevails in this jurisdiction,'' Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the court.
* * *
“The ruling, a rebuke to the administration and its aggressive anti-terror policies, was written by Justice John Paul Stevens, who said the proposed trials were illegal under U.S. law and Geneva conventions.”

Supreme Court Sez: Texas Belongs to the Republicons Now

Texas goes to the GOP even if the redistricting was excessively partisan

Tom DeLay’s infamous jerrymandering stunt is legal—you know, the one where the Democrats twice left the state to thwart a quorum, & therefore a valid vote, on the issue. They ultimately had to return, & Tom’s jerrymandering plan increased the GOP seats in the Texas legislature from 17 to to 21.

Before we get too far into this, Demon Princess has to note, in good conscience, that electoral districting is a matter decided by state legislatures. So it’s the unusual case that will be heard by the Supreme Court-–one that involves alleged violations of federal law. Here, apparently, Democrats tried to argue a violation of the Equal Protection Act (fitting one person-one vote rubric under it), and the federal Voting Rights Act. They did succeed under the latter.

The recent decision says that there is nothing inherently wrong with states redistricting “on demand”—that is, whenever they so decide. Conventionally, redistricting takes place every ten years, as districting has to do how many people live in a given area of a given state & how to fairly divide them into districts.

There has been a lot of arguing over the years about the one-person one-vote system since it seems to promise an easy answer--in an ideal world, districts would be strictly by population numbers alone & without reference to party affiliations, race, or other factors. To me, that’s what one-person-one vote means. But apparently here, in the most eggregious, blatant case of jerrymandering recently, it doesn’t “rise,”as lawyers say, to the level of a federal offense. So, long story short, folks: look to your state legislatures to enact laws to that effect. And be mindful of the fact that wholesale population shifts from rural to urban have affected the redistricting mess problem greatly. It is an imperfect process, has always been an imperfect process, but please, this is ridiculous.

Upshot seems to be that courts once again prove that they can do little very constructive by inserting themselves into the mix where elections are concerned, & sometimes do more damage than good: remember Bush v. Gore?

Editor of New York Times Answers His Mail

Letter from the editor

On the "treason" issue, that is.

Some highlights (click on title bar to read it in its entirety):

"Some of the incoming mail quotes the angry words of conservative bloggers and TV or radio pundits who say that drawing attention to the government's anti-terror measures is unpatriotic and dangerous. (I could ask, if that's the case, why they are drawing so much attention to the story themselves by yelling about it on the airwaves and the Internet.) Some comes from readers who have considered the story in question and wonder whether publishing such material is wise. And some comes from readers who are grateful for the information and think it is valuable to have a public debate about the lengths to which our government has gone in combatting the threat of terror.

"It's an unusual and powerful thing, this freedom that our founders gave to the press. Who are the editors of The New York Times (or the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and other publications that also ran the banking story) to disregard the wishes of the President and his appointees? And yet the people who invented this country saw an aggressive, independent press as a protective measure against the abuse of power in a democracy, and an essential ingredient for self-government. They rejected the idea that it is wise, or patriotic, to always take the President at his word, or to surrender to the government important decisions about what to publish.
"The press and the government generally start out from opposite corners in such cases. The government would like us to publish only the official line, and some of our elected leaders tend to view anything else as harmful to the national interest. For example, some members of the Administration have argued over the past three years that when our reporters describe sectarian violence and insurgency in Iraq, we risk demoralizing the nation and giving comfort to the enemy. Editors start from the premise that citizens can be entrusted with unpleasant and complicated news, and that the more they know the better they will be able to make their views known to their elected officials. Our default position — our job — is to publish information if we are convinced it is fair and accurate, and our biggest failures have generally been when we failed to dig deep enough or to report fully enough. After The Times played down its advance knowledge of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President Kennedy reportedly said he wished we had published what we knew and perhaps prevented a fiasco. Some of the reporting in The Times and elsewhere prior to the war in Iraq was criticized for not being skeptical enough of the Administration's claims about the Iraqi threat. The question we start with as journalists is not 'why publish?' but 'why would we withhold information of significance?' We have sometimes done so, holding stories or editing out details that could serve those hostile to the U.S. But we need a compelling reason to do so.

"Forgive me, I know this is pretty elementary stuff — but it's the kind of elementary context that sometimes gets lost in the heat of strong disagreements."

Thanks for the reminder, Bill--a significant swath of the electorate seem to have forgotten their civics & history lessons.

He goes on to recap the fact that numerous spying programs have been put in place since 911 without public knowledge, and we citizens can't very well participate in a debate knowledgeably--nor can Congress, as our elected representatives, if those programs are so secret no one knows they exist. And that's a recipe for totalitarianism.

He also points out, too mildly, that it's not as if Bushco themselves didn't broadcast the bank-spying program themselves, long ago (!)--so what are they bitching about so loudly, if that's the case, Demon Princess wants to know?

What they're screaming their heads off about, good Americans, is not that the NYT printed something they already hadn't told the terrorists themselves, but the fact that the spying has been conducted without any sort of oversight at all. That's what they don't want you to know about. The reason they're shouting so loudly & belligerently is to convince you it's all for your own good.

Oh, that & the fact that there are elections coming up which may turn the tide against them, & they're counting on winning again based on the exaggerated threats posed by the War on Terror. Which may also have something to do with a report on the news last night that, although Sunni groups in significant numbers have told the U.S. they want us out of Iraq, the President says we won't withdraw.

After all--there might be more 20-year old degraded & ineffective "WMD's" out there in the desert sands that we haven't yet discovered, & some looney-toon equally ineffective "homegrown terrorists" that we have yet to prosecute for even thinking about it.

And the rest of you are thought criminals if you even dare entertain ideas that maybe overthrowing Saddam & those crazy religious-fanatic muslims out there in general, weren't really the reasons we invaded Iraq at all, & maybe we should stop sacrificing our American soldiers' lives to a stupid, unprovoked stunt of a war in a bid to dominate the Middle East.

I'm jist throwin' the idea out there...

Sunday, June 25, 2006

House Chairman of Homeland Security Threatens New York Times With Criminal Prosecution

In an all-out histrionic witch-hunting mode Demon Princess dares opine that we haven’t seen since the abysmal McCarthy years –briefly reprised by Nixon & his enemies’ lists--in today’s news we have threats of criminal prosecution of The New York Times for its "treasonous" behavior in daring to out the Bushco plot to advance one more step in to the Total Information Awareness society without anyone knowing about it.

Which hasn’t seemed to have any very great effect in bringing all those smirking, evil terrorists loose in the world to heel despite the fact that it been secretly in place since shortly after 911 (*thanks to Dusty for for making that very pointed salient point*)

Representative Peter King of New York, above—apparently not the least bit concerned that protection of his port & others country-wide have lost funding which would have made them safer—instead chooses to focus on the “enemies of the state” within, and who indeed isn’t nowadays. (Mostly Dems, of course, who, not being entirely convinced that the crisis we’re facing here is not exaggerated, if not engineered outright, are “soft on terror.”)

Distracting us all, once again, from the fact that there has always been a legal way to go about surveillance (Bushco just doesn’t want to use it because they’d rather promote the unitary executive theory which acknowledges no law), and two, that, as the New York Times itself has pointed out: the Treasury Department has "trumpeted ... that the U.S. makes every effort to track international financing of terror. "

The Wall Street Journal also carried the news: will that paper be prosecuted, too?

The noise being made has the added attractiveness of intimidating all other press organizations AND very loudly banging the drum of terror again, hoping for a second “greatest hits” reprise. We thinks we detect the Rove (Turdblossom) scent somewhere in the surrounding area.

“Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the paper acted responsibly, both in last week's report and in reporting last year about the wiretapping program.

‘"It's pretty clear to me that in this story and in the story last December that the New York Times did not act recklessly. They try to do whatever they can to take into account whatever security concerns the government has and they try to behave responsibly,’ Dalglish said. ‘I think in years to come that this is a story American citizens are going to be glad they had, however this plays out.’"

I have to draw everyone's attention to the fact that, in any event, Times reporters are not strangers to harrassment by state officials. Note the similarites: the prosecution for divulging "state secrets," a kangaroo trial where no one was allowed to testify (no witnesses), & something like "indefinite detention" for the reporter.

Note also that it just happened in China.

I've been tryin' to tell y'all that Bush is taking lessons. Gonzales has certainly been trying to put the tactics to use here at home, sometimes succeeding.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

And Now, From Michelle Malkin, Champion Bitch of Republicon Disingenuity:

A woman who, Demon Princess notes, purports to be a former member of the press corps. Poster child for false consciousness?

She has an incredible amount of these truly inane "posters" on her site, days after the New York Times had the balls to out yet another covert spying program. I know, it’s exhausting trying to keep track of them all. And we don’t yet know about all of them.

I’d like to add that, if she had any reporter balls herself, she’d realize that Bushco is all about exaggerating the threat posed by terrorists to lock us all down, & that there’s a legal way, has been a legal, very liberal *oops, dirty word* forgiving way to do that from the government’s point of view, for some time.

But still they ignore it. That’d acknowledge that they have to prove a connection to terrorism to avoid trampling the civil rights of the innocent. But since even people who dare speak out on every & any cause they champion--namely, keeping themselves in power, whatever it takes—we’re all suspect.

Tell me, Michelle, what’d you get for turning that ragged & tattered soul in? D'ya think it's as much as Coulter did?

Sure hope it proves to be worth it. I suspect not.

P.S. I doubt we'll need the Times to out undercover CIA agents. The Bushcons are doing a fine job of that all by themselves. Only one of them is out of commission as a result of it. Don't fret.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Kudos to the New York Times

Well, Demon Princess wasn't going to blog the rest of the week, having spent her wrath on the minimum wage hike that wasn't & related matters, but she's reconsidered. Inspired to keep on by the news early today that the New York Times has had the courage to keep on getting in the Bushco Administration's face by publishing information that Bushco doesn't want you to know.

Plus, these kinds of matters--the freedom of the press to provide information about the extent of the snooping & spying programs in place, & whether they're being administered in accord with Constitutional & other legal requirements--have been a favorite issue that she has no intention of failing to bring to your attention & hammer upon every single opportunity she gets.

For instance, to save her readers the effort of wading back through her blog, here's a reprise excerpted from a May 13th post about a poll showing that an overwhelming majority of Americans favored spying (discredited shortly thereafter):

"Demon Princess takes some comfort in the fact that responses to polls have a great deal to do with how the pollsters frame their questions. Maybe these were framed without pointing out that the point of the database was not necessarily tracking terrorists, but a revival of the really scary (long ago discredited & supposedly abandoned) "Total Information Awareness" program.

I quoted an "editorial in a Chicago paper whose conservative columnist reminds us what that was all about":
'At first blush this program carries troubling echoes of Total Information Awareness, a proposed Defense Department 'data-mining' expedition into a mass of personal information on individuals' driver's licenses, passports, credit card purchases, car rentals, medical prescriptions, banking transactions and
more. That was curbed by Congress after a public outcry. It seems the people who wanted to bring you TIA didn't get the message.'
"Or maybe they didn't ask, 'Doesn't it bug you even a bit that we've been told officially, over & over again, that the only Americans being monitored are those who have overseas connections (bad enough, in my opinion), and the only reason this new information has come out on such a scale is that a newspaper (USA Today) chose to dig deeper? Into those reports of suits brought by the ACLU & the Electronic Freedom Foundation which have apparently been flying under the general public's radar.

"Hell, people, the signs have been there all along--it's just taken several newspapers to connect the dots. The fact that the Bush Administration does all it can to quash our 'free press' when it is no longer behaving like a complacent lapdog seems also to be a bit of irrelevant info to most people. American public, pay attention, lest history prove you really were too distracted, docile or just plain stupid to govern yourselves & the great American experiment in democratic government collapses in the flames of self-absorption, narcissism & preoccupied consumerism. If George & Hayden have their way, we certainly won't be a 'free country' anymore."

(Ok, I was experiencing a moment of high dudgeon & extreme angst at the time, but still, it's true. Like my railing about that had any effect.)

I bring all it up again to remind us all that the "Total Information Awareness" program is not just a delusional paranoid liberal fantasy. And to point out, again, the role a free press has to play in fact that "sunshine is the best disinfectant" of a truly democratically-run nation.

What strikes me as interesting here in the more recent report is that, again, the program was instituted shortly after 911, and but we've known nothing about it, again, the Administration is patently scrambling to come up with a legal rationale that takes the debate outside established channels of pre-existing law (thanks, ‘Berto!) because, in Demon Princess’s opinion, they’re eager to avoid a confrontation & possible defeat on those legal fronts.

So, another excuse to keep us in the dark & unable to make informed comment. In the same position as Congress, in other words.

“WASHINGTON, June 22 — Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States, according to government and industry officials.

"The program is limited, government officials say, to tracing transactions of people suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda by reviewing records from the nerve center of the global banking industry, a Belgian cooperative that routes about $6 trillion daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions. The records mostly involve wire transfers and other methods of moving money overseas and into and out of the United States. Most routine financial transactions confined to this country are not in the database.

“Viewed by the Bush administration as a vital tool, the program has played a hidden role in domestic and foreign terrorism investigations since 2001 and helped in the capture of the most wanted Qaeda figure in Southeast Asia, the officials said.

“The program, run out of the Central Intelligence Agency and overseen by the Treasury Department, ‘has provided us with a unique and powerful window into the operations of terrorist networks and is, without doubt, a legal and proper use of our authorities,’ Stuart Levey, an under secretary at the Treasury Department, said in an interview on Thursday.

“The program is grounded in part on the president's emergency economic powers, Mr. Levey said, and multiple safeguards have been imposed to protect against any unwarranted searches of Americans' records…

"The program, however, is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans' financial records. Treasury officials did not seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas to examine specific transactions, instead relying on broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records from the cooperative, known as Swift.

"That access to large amounts of confidential data was highly unusual, several officials said, and stirred concerns inside the administration about legal and privacy issues."

Bushco lost no time appealing its highly invasive programs to the court of public opinion—only because, as the NYT article (title bar) points out, they’d been outed by the Times’ refusal to keep a lid on it, just as they'd refused to keep a lid on earlier stories about domestic surveillance. (The Administration is waging a blatant war on the NYT & all newspapers that would air its workings, by the way.)

According to an AP report that succeeded NYT news:

“A secret CIA-Treasury program to track financial records of millions of Americans is the latest installment in an expansion of executive authority in the name of fighting terrorism.

“The administration doesn't apologize for President Bush's aggressive take on presidential powers. Vice President Dick Cheney even boasts about it.

“Bush has made broad use of his powers, authorizing warrantless wiretaps, possibly collecting telephone records on millions of Americans, holding suspected terrorists overseas without legal protections and using up to 6,000 National Guard members to help patrol the border with Mexico.

“That's in addition to the vast anti-terrorism powers Congress granted him in the recently extended Patriot Act.

“Civil liberties activists, joined by congressional Democrats and some members of Bush's own party, suggest the president has pushed the envelope too far — usurping authority from Congress and abusing individual privacy rights in the process.

“So far, the administration has been unapologetic. ‘It's responsible government, it's effective government, it's government that works,’ outgoing Treasury Secretary John Snow asserted Friday at a news conference as he cknowledged, and defended, the far-reaching surveillance of banking transactions. He dismissed criticism that the program amounted to ‘data mining’ on thousands of Americans.

“Still, Bush's war on terrorism is an open-ended one. Constitutional scholars suggest there are limits. ‘"At some point, the Constitution can't bear the kind of continued strains that are being imposed by the demands of the fight on terrorism,’ said Harold J. Krent, dean and professor of law at Kent College of Law in Chicago. ‘What I am worried about is that there is a potential for amassing huge databases of individuals — linked by phone records, linked by financial records — that can be kept and used without any kind of real oversight. It's frightening,’ Krent said.

“Many in both parties point to Cheney as the engine behind Bush's power plays. At a Republican luncheon in Chicago on Friday, Cheney defended the financial-data tracking and earlier surveillance programs as ‘good, solid, sound programs’ and castigated the news media for disclosing them.

“When Cheney in the 1970s was chief of staff to then-President Ford, he saw presidential authority at a low point, eroded by the unpopular Vietnam War and the Watergate scandals. The balance of power was still tilted in favor of Congress when he and Bush took office in January 2001, Cheney contends. He and Bush thus believed it was important to ‘have the balance righted, if you will,’ Cheney told a National Press Club audience in Washington this week. ‘And I think we've done that successfully.’"

“One reason the administration is engaging in so much secret surveillance is that current technology makes it so easy, suggested Paul Light, a public policy professor at New York University. ‘It's almost a case where the technology is leading the policy. If you can do it, why not do it? Bush and his advisers just don't see privacy rights as a particularly balancing test in making the decision to go ahead with these techniques,’" Light said. http://,,-5907444,00.html

And now, since you've made it this far, pause to ponder the Big Brother's Pizza Delivery scenario, courtesy of the ACLU:

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Race To The Bottom: That Cost Of Living Thing & Collateral Matters

Ill: Wizard of Whimsy

Here goes, kids. Demon Princess has an extreme aversion to discussing economics, & not just because she has conservative accountants swinging off another vine of the family tree, but because she just doesn’t like it. But hey--that doesn't mean I can't comprehend it. I’ve had it. The really the shallow, stupid “debates” over the imaginary federal minimum wage hike on the news tonight have really pissed her off.

I mean, how stupid does a person have to pretend to be not to get it?

Under GOP top-down management—I advisedly said “management,” by the way, not “democratic government”—the continued sell-out of our collective well-being continues unabated. We exist only if there’s a perceived need for us, & even then, completely on their terms.

What the GOP stands for is nothing so much as “I got mine & I’m slamming the door in your face"—the rest of you can beg on the streets.

Talking points: Whoops, there goes the student loan program, there go any sort of safety nets for the poor (what was even left of them), but—wait, we do now have Medicare prescription drug coverage: prices of which have already increased though it was just instituted, thanks to the huge giveaway to Big Pharmco that prevents the program from using its formidable negotiating power to get lower prices--& still they raise them! What kind of unconscionable assholes really can't get enough, preying on peoples' misfortunes, & yes, gouging people on fixed incomes who need these drugs to survive:

And don't give us that "R&D" expenses are so high. Holes have been blown through that time & again. Maybe, when it comes to Big Pharma, what we need is tight regulation instead of letting it run amok, doing what free-market capitalism does best--raping those who need it most.

What a big fuckin’ disaster. And in the meantime (despite all the propaganda to the contrary) the American economy hasn’t improved by much. Maybe we need more tax cuts for the wealthy.

See here, Bushco: I grew up thinking that free choice, getting a good education & working hard work mattered for something, I’ve always paid my fair share. I know this will come as a shocking--indeed, unfathomable--mystery to you, but I also want to see other people have the chance to do well. Even worse, I also still believe in a government that marshalls its collective resources in order to provide a safety net for those who encounter difficulties along the way.

After all, we all age, grow ill & die. That’s a collective problem, something we’re all gonna have to face. None of us here is immortal. However, as with everything, it seems, since this administration took office, the goal seems to be to cement the GOP’s wealth & privilege with an endless-love sycophantic relationship between the only party in power & the greedy corporations that would capture it. Corporate welfare is the name of the game, & it’s apparently working well for companies that continue to consolidate their power.

Oh, please. I wouldn't dream of criticizing "no-bids" for friends Halliburton, Enron, Big Pharma..I know I'm missing someone...oh yes, Big Oil.

Who was it that said, “The measure of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable”? By that measure, folks, we’re going straight to hell—if we aren’t already there. Compassionate conservatism my ass.

What set me off on this evening's tirade is the continued, blatant, relentless, completely devoid of humanity or conscience public beating of the proverbial little guy--you know, the insignificant worms out there whose lives you know nothing about & don't want to know anything about.

It was the news tonight revealing that that there was never any serious question that the exceedingly stingy proposed minimum rate increase would never see the light of day, as, according to an AP report late tonight, the GOP had disingenuously “smothered” it. “House Republicans making it clear that they do not intend to allow a vote on the issue, fearing it may pass.”

Of course, Congresspersons, who have the luxury most of us don’t of voting their own wage hikes, have been very generous with themselves in same the just-under-a-decade period--they've increased their own pay by approximately $30,000 (per Ted Kennedy) in the same period. And that’s in addition to the most generous health insurance an such an august body can unilaterally vote to reward themselves, as well a luxe retirement plan—all side goodies that continue for their lifetimes, I’ve heard, & can’t be forfeited even if the Congressperson serves one term & is booted out in disgrace. Maybe it’s just me, but I find these things outrageous, considering the following tidbits, which I will be pleased to knit together for y’all so I’ll have some company in my outrage.

The GOP refuses to raise the federal minimum wage from the five measly bucks plus change it’s been for almost a decade, which works out to yearly figure below the poverty line. What kind of message does that send to the Walmarts of the world, whose employees in great numbers are forced to rely on Medicaid, if they can jump through the insane amount of hoops required to get it? Granted, states can & do legislate their own minimum wages, but only four have increases tied to the rate of inflation, and at the very least, the federal minimum wage represents a floor beneath which workers cannot fall.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, “Adjusted for rising living costs, those earning minimum wage make less per hour today than they have in the past 51 years. A glimpse at this low-wage workforce shows a broad blend of faces and backgrounds from teenage lifeguards to single moms, from immigrants to grandmothers, that, together, wage-hike proponents say, form an alliance of the chronically underpaid..

“But whether the fortunes of these 8 million Americans, earning less than $7.25 an hour, would rise or falter under the first government-ordered wage hike in 10 years is the broader debate spreading from restaurant kitchens on Capitol Hill to the grocery store aisles of Atlanta.

"’The typical minimum-wage worker is not a teenager earning side money,’ says Isaac Shapiro, an associate director at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning think tank in Washington. ‘Most minimum-wage workers, those most affected by the wage increase and those just above the minimum wage, their earnings can really be vital to their household economics.’"

“Big contributors to household income: Some 48 percent, or 3.5 million, are between 25 and 64 years old who, on average, contribute more than half of the income in their households, experts say. Raising the minimum wage is a $18.4 billion proposition that is supported by 83 percent of Americans, according to the Pew Center for the People and the Press.

"’This is an issue that has to do with the fact that economic growth is not being shared equitably among all Americans,’ says a spokesman for Rep. George Miller (D) of California, who had introduced a minimum-wage bill last year.”

Just how inequitable would that be?

According to a Reuters report today:

“Chief executive officers in the United States earned 262 times the pay of an average worker in 2005, the second-highest level in the 40 years for which there is data, a nonprofit think-tank said on Wednesday.

“In fact, a CEO earned more in one workday than an average worker earned in 52 weeks, said the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. The typical worker's compensation averaged just under $42,000 for the year, while the average CEO brought home almost $11 million, EPI said.” To see how your pay compares with your CEO's (if a publically traded company), click here:

Another apt French phrase besides l’etat, c’est moi, and complementary to our nouveau plantation society, comes to mind: “Let them eat cake.”

More interesting debate regarding the minimum wage is to be found here:

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Tank Debacle: Rummy Expresses Disbelief That Law Applies To Him

1914-18 Tank Corps Poster by Austin William Huta

In today's WaPo, (title bar) a year after it happened--takes that long for the government to get around to complying with federal Freedom of Information Act requests, although, Demon Princess confesses to being shocked that they even bother complying with them at all these days.

And Rummy apparently feels the same way about American law, any American law in general, even requests that he take an oath to testify truthfully, which he apparently disregarded anyway.

See here: "The topic was the largest defense procurement scandal in recent decades, and the two investigators for the Pentagon's inspector general in Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's office on April 1, 2005, asked the secretary to raise his hand and swear to tell the truth.

"Rumsfeld agreed but complained. 'I find it strange,' he said to the investigators, on the grounds that as a government official 'the laws apply to me' anyway." Oops.

Scoff-law arrogance, apparently, is highly contagious among the Republicons who adhere to the theory "l'etat, c'est moi," & don't even bother anymore to disguise it.

Ahem. Onto the meat of the story.

"It was a bumpy start to an odd interview, as Rumsfeld cited poor memory, loose office procedures, and a general distraction with 'the wars' in Iraq and Afghanistan to explain why he was unsure how his department came to nearly squander $30 billion leasing several hundred new tanker aircraft that its own experts had decided were not needed.

"Then-Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz, who resigned last year to take a job with a defense contractor, told senators at a June 2005 hearing that the transcript of Rumsfeld's interview was deleted from his 256-page report on the tanker lease scandal because Rumsfeld had not said anything relevant.

"But a copy of the transcript, obtained recently by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act after a year-long wait, says a lot about how little of Rumsfeld's attention has been focused on weapons-buying-- a function that consumes nearly a fifth of the $410 billion defense budget, exclusive of expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The issue is relevant because a series of reports, including others by the inspector general and by the Government Accountability Office, indicate that five years into the Bush administration, the department's system of buying new weapons is broken and dysfunctional."

I'll leave interested readers here to peruse the rest of the article for themselves, but not before I deliver a big shout-out to the WaPo for tenaciously hanging in there & refusing to be put off by the obstacles thrown in their path. We need an alert & informed media to cut through the bullshit, tell us what's really going on & keep on government ass.

Yes, the courage to be tenacious is a good thing.

Monday, June 19, 2006

News You Can Use If You Use The Net

If you use the internet, & Demon Princess safely presumes you do, since you're here reading this, the following news affects you. Way down at the bottom right-hand side of this blog is a little orange box ("Save the Internet") that you can use to register your opinion with Congress regarding the following matters.

CNet reported today that legislation that's going to be decided on Thursday doesn't quite tell service providers that they can't coerce consumers, businesses, bloggers & whoever into paying higher prices (that's on top of what you already pay for access in the first place) to get access to the content they want. They've only gone halfway.

"WASHINGTON--The latest Net neutrality provisions in a mammoth Senate communications bill stopped short of giving Internet companies and consumer advocacy groups all the assurances they've requested.

"Unveiled formally at a briefing here for reporters on Monday, new provisions in the latest draft of the sweeping Consumer's Choice and Broadband Deployment Act would allow the Federal Communications Commission to police subscribers' complaints of 'interference' in their Internet activities and to levy fines on violators.

"Specifically, the bill (click here for PDF) would require all Internet service providers to adhere to what the proposal calls an "Internet consumer bill of rights." The nine principles outlined under that heading include: allowing consumers to access and post any lawful content they please; to access and run any Web page, search engine or application that they choose (including voice and video programs); and to connect any legal devices they please to the network. Carve-outs would exist for network management purposes, such as parental control technologies and security software.

"All Internet service providers, if they're not already doing so, would also be obligated to offer broadband access on a standalone, or 'naked,' basis--without also requiring, for example, purchase of telephone or cable subscriptions.

"But critics say the latest draft, scheduled for an initial committee vote on Thursday afternoon, refrained from addressing a major complaint of advocates of network neutrality--that is, the idea that network operators should give equal treatment to all content that travels across their pipes.

"Under the new proposal, 'the Internet still ends up split into Lexus lanes and dirt roads, and an FCC rendered powerless to protect American consumers,' the It's Our Net Coalition, a group in favor of Net neutrality mandates, said in a statement Monday. Backed primarily by, eBay, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, the group includes other members such as the Christian Coalition, the Association of Research Libraries and the Consumer Federation of America.

"They'd rather see passage of a bill introduced by North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan, Maine Republican Olympia Snowe and seven other Democrats that would flatly prohibit network operators from making deals with content providers and charging premium prices for the privilege of speedier delivery or other special treatment--what they disparagingly call a 'two-tiered' Internet.

"Some form of that proposal will likely be offered as an amendment to the Senate bill at a committee vote scheduled for Thursday afternoon. But its prospects may not be good--a similar, Democratic-backed amendment was soundly defeated in the House, and Senate Republicans have indicated strong opposition to the idea.

"Network operators, for their part, have said repeatedly that they have no intention of blocking or degrading their subscribers' Internet activities and have deemed bills like the Snowe-Dorgan one a solution in search of a problem. Supported mostly by conservative groups, they have defended the business model decried by Net neutrality fans as a way to guarantee better quality of service for high-bandwidth applications and to offset what they describe as vast investments in new fiber.

"Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, had emphasized in earlier remarks that he didn't want to get involved in regulating the way that companies do business--a "battle of the titans," he called it. He said instead that he believed it was important to offer protections for consumers, and his bill is designed to reflect those views, committee aides said Monday.

"The new language followed ongoing negotiations between Stevens and Co-Chairman Daniel Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat. Inouye and other Democrats had criticized the original version of the sweeping broadband bill, which simply instructed the FCC to scrutinize the state of broadband competition and to report back to Congress on its findings, for not going far enough.

"The latest draft retains that provision in addition to the others. Inouye said in a statement Monday that he still wasn't satisfied with the latest draft's provisions, saying they 'utterly fail to protect consumers and preserve an open Internet.'

"The Senate's latest approach is similar to a version approved earlier this month in the House of Representatives' communications bill. Rather than legislating a detailed "consumer bill of rights," the House addresses the Net neutrality issue by giving the FCC the power to fine violators of its broadband access principles from last summer (click here for PDF). Neither bill would allow the FCC to create new rules--an idea that has also come under attack by Net neutrality fans.

"The Senate version isn't immune from new complications. The Senate Judiciary Committee recently indicated it might offer a new legislative proposal that would police violations of Net neutrality under antitrust law. A similar approach offered on the House side was approved initially by the House Judiciary Committee but has stalled since then, failing to gain acceptance of an amendment to the larger House communications bill."
Mark Stoller, on the My Direct Democracy website, posits this entirely plausible scenario if your providers have their way with this bill & provides a list of phone numbers whereby you can register your opinion on it before Thursday:

"Ok, it's March, 2008. You go to your computer and open your Verizon-supertier browser, and everything comes at you with blazing speed...Pretty cool.

"Then you remember your best friend set up a new blog about her band and asked you to check it out. It's kind of irritating, because she set it up on the slow tier... and type in the web address. It takes thirty seconds to load. Ugh.

"The site's fine, and there are some cute pictures of her band performing in a dive bar. You click on a song, and the browser begins loading the first minute of the song. After twenty seconds, you curse the fact that she didn't pay to be on Verizon's internet, and you close the browser.

"You're even thinking of canceling your slow-tier internet account, since shelling out the $45/month for that plus the $29/month for Verizon super-tier isn't worth it.
Welcome to a non-neutral internet.
"The net neutrality fight is coming to the Senate this week, with the Commerce Committee set to mark up the bill on Thursday. If you live in one of these states, call your Senator. We need strong net neutrality provisions in any telecom reform bill, and those that came out in the second draft over the weekend are not acceptable.

Chairman Ted Stevens (AK), (202) 224-3004
John McCain (AZ), (202) 224-2235
Conrad Burns (MT), Main: 202-224-2644
Trent Lott (MS), (202) 224-6253
Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), 202-224-5922
Gordon H. Smith (OR), 202.224.3753
John Ensign (NV), (202) 224-6244
George Allen (VA), (202) 224-4024
John E. Sununu (NH), (202) 224-2841
Jim DeMint (SC), 202-224-6121
David Vitter (LA),(202) 224-4623
Co-Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (HI), 202-224-3934
John D. Rockefeller (WV), (202) 224-6472
John F. Kerry (MA), (202) 224-2742
Barbara Boxer (CA), (202) 224-3553
Bill Nelson (FL), 202-224-5274
Maria Cantwell (WA), 202-224-3441
Frank R. Lautenberg (NJ), (202) 224-3224
E. Benjamin Nelson (NE), (202) 224-6551
Mark Pryor (AR), (202) 224-2353

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Demon Princess PNW News Productions Presents:

Our country’s first military objector to refuse to be deployed to Iraq is stationed in Washington state, & a Tacoma, Washington Methodist Church offers a safe haven for others. Other war resistors apply to Canada for asylum.

It’s looking more & more like Vietnam everyday.

Better late than never re bringing the news to your attention, Demon Princess says that one of our local papers, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported last week that we in the Pacific Northwest have been honored with the first Iraq war objector.

“Lost in the media frenzy over the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, First Lt. Ehren Watada, of Fort Lewis, opened another front in the conflict over President Bush's war of choice in Iraq. At a news conference in Tacoma a few hours before al-Zarqawi's death, Watada announced his refusal of orders to deploy to Iraq on grounds that the war is illegal as well as immoral.

"’An order to take part in an illegal war is illegal in itself,’ he said. ‘I felt it was my obligation as a leader to speak out against the willful misconduct at the highest level of the chain of command.’
“Watada is the first soldier to resist the war based on the Nuremburg Principles pioneered by U.S. prosecutors during Nazi war crimes trials after World War II and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (and the United States) in 1950.

“Those principles hold soldiers, as well as heads of state, liable for "crimes against peace" (planning, preparing, initiating or waging a war of aggression or conspiring to do so), war crimes (violating "the laws or customs" of war) and crimes against humanity. A key phrase reads: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relive him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

Hear that, George?

Watada, we note, is originally from Hawaii—a “local boy.” People there cheered him for his actions, too.

He faces a court-martial, up to two years in prison for missing movement by design, a dishonorable discharge, and other possible charges. And he has a fan club:

In other regional news, George himself was here in town to fund-raise for Dave Reichert, a freshman in Congress.

I didn’t see the news report about it, but I’m told by a reliable witness that George got rained on.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Who's Afraid Of Sesame Street?

Evil Sesame Street: Spoof News

Could it be...Dick Cheney?

GOP Campaign To Make Faux News #1

Gearing up for the contentious November campaigns ahead, the GOP has succeeded in expressing a clear desire to make the admittedly nebulous War on Terror eternal (the fear of terror has played so well so far with the American electorate, after all), but acknowledges that that’s not all they need to win it.

They also want to take us back to the days when they were fully in charge with respect to the media. The American media, bludgeoned into a complacency that didn’t bode well for the free flow of honest & accurate information so essential to Americans’ ability to fully participate in the democratic process in the first frightening years post 911, has shown signs of recovering its role as the “fourth estate,” viewing much of what the GOP says about anything these days with well-deserved skepticism.

‘Berto’s threats to shut down reporters who dare leak “classified information”--and it’s all classified now, even if the reporter is long dead (Jack Anderson) & if it was previously non-classified) aren't enough. (And have the grace to look away, good Americans, while we leak classified info to destroy our political critics. That’s irrelevant to the discussion.)

In the war on terror, everyone is suspect, after all, we need clear leadership to tell us what we think, & if you aren’t getting your news from Fox, you aren’t playing fair.

Seems to Demon Princess, anyway, that’s what’s up with the recent furor over Congress’s stealth attempts to eviscerate public broadcasting by seriously slashing its budget. (Of a piece with all their other efforts to put the big black jackboot on any organization that relies on federal funds to effect a mission, & which don’t).

This is not America’s government anymore—it’s NeoCon time, & if you’re not with them you’re against God, Mom, Apple Pie, the Flag,& all that fascinating infotainment about the Brangelina baby (poor tot). What else do you need to distract you?

I had to wonder why on earth it suddenly became a big issue (again), so with a little digging, I learned that NPR has recently been getting into stem-cell research, and hey, looka what has been recently addressed & is coming up in the near future on PBS’s Frontline. Extended, intelligent programs. Oh, that’s the problem!

Highly critical stuff about how Donald Rumsfeld has been conducting the war in Iraq:

And slated for broadcast on June 20th, a program about the Evil Demon Mastermind himself, Dick Cheney. Appropriately titled “The Dark Side.” Check for your local stations’ airing while you’re at it:

So, looking back at the Boston Globe article of June 8th, I just have to twitter a bit about the bald-faced lies & the lying liars who tell them; for instance, this:

“Still, Republicans say they remain adamant that public broadcasting cannot receive funding at the expense of healthcare and education programs. Republicans are looking for ways to save taxpayers' dollars, amid fiscal conservatives' concerns over the budget deficit.

’We've got to keep our priorities straight,’ said Representative Ralph Regula, an Ohio Republican who is chairman of the appropriations panel that approved the cut. ‘ You're going to choose between giving a little more money to handicapped children versus providing appropriations for public broadcasting.

“House Republicans yesterday revived their efforts to slash funding for public broadcasting, as a key committee approved a $115 million reduction in the budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that could force the elimination of some popular PBS and NPR programs.

“On a party-line vote, the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees health and education funding approved the cut to the budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which distributes money to the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio. It would reduce the corporation's budget by 23 percent next year, to $380 million, in a cut that Republicans said was necessary to rein in government spending.”

Oh, yes, we must think of the little handicapped chirren, even though they may be watching Sesame Street or Clifford the Big Red Dog on public television. We can’t afford it all, & the poor sweet handicapped tots will just have to sacrifice.
Speaking of the very pious (new-found) effort to rein in spending, I imagine it’s totally out of the question that the deficit created by the stupid stunt of a war in Iraq should go without some itty-bitty amount of funding, ditto for the NSA & the “total information awareness” we need to root out the dissenters.

After all, they’re counting on being able to bang those drums in order to scare America into voting for them again.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Roundup: Compassionate Conservatives Behaving Compassionately

Being Friday, about the time of the week Demon Princess reliably gets really tired of political blogging & railing against the machine, she's decided it's time for a new category for fun.

I'm calling it the GOP Jackass of the Week Awards.

Zombies who mindlessly feast on the flesh of the living is a good illustration for this category; besides the fact that Ann Coulter is aptly depicted here (in front of the car), as another liberal blogger has noted.

First up: Ann herself-- the soulless bitch who cynically goes off on those who have what she so seriously lacks. And that would be a soul, some (real) courage & a conscience. Ann apparently doesn't have the sense to refrain from biting the hand that feeds her, & all of her insane rightwing fruitcakes, or the decency to acknowledge the fact that 911 was the biggest boost to their political fortunes. So, a big Jackass Award to Ann for ridiculing the 911 widows as "The Witches of East Brunswick."

"I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much," Coulter writes in her book "Godless: The Church of Liberalism," published on Tuesday, referring to four women who headed a campaign that resulted in the creation of the September 11 Commission that investigated the hijacked plane attacks.

"Coulter wrote that the women were millionaires as a result of compensation settlements and were 'reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis.'

"She criticized them for making a campaign advertisement for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry in 2004, and added: 'By the way, how do we know their husbands weren't planning to divorce these harpies? Now that their shelf life is dwindling, they'd better hurry up and appear in Playboy.'

"Asked by Reuters why she made such personal comments, Coulter said by e-mail, 'I am tired of victims being used as billboards for untenable liberal political beliefs. A lot of Americans have been seething over the inanities of these professional victims for some time,' she added."

Second, Moron Cowboy himself, for his stupid frat-boy insensitivity in dissing a reporter publically for wearing what appeared to be sunglasses indoors. Turns out because of a macular degenerative disease. Oops. Although we note, George apparently had the wit to realize what a huge fuck-up it was later & apologized (*gasp*).

Only because it was public, mind you. Men like George do not apologize otherwise, I can assure you. Nothing like a truly unfeeling & insensitive man to dis someone & purposely make them feel "less" for medical conditions they can do nothing about. The height of Jackassia, in Demon Princess's estimation.

Hey, jackasses! Has it occurred to you the subjects of your taunts rather not have the problems that you get such a charge out of ridiculing them for? How shallow & stupid can you losers get?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

We Have A Winner!!

In the contest to give a personal face to the Global War on Terror, for the newly vacant post of Al-Queda Evil Demon Mastermind in Iraq, of course. And our reason d’etre for being there.

We appointed & hereby give you this guy. Just this guy. But it will take years to hunt him down & exterminate him. He's that evil.

Read all about him here:

Demon Princess apologizes to everyone out there if it seems she is trivializing the war effort, or the daily trials & tribulations of soldiers stationed there. She is most decidedly not doing that.

Rather, she’s holding up to ridicule the mindfucks & political machinations which have brought us, collectively, to this point. It’s been a massive overdose of propaganda built on very little, since the very beginning, & has served the GOP so well…that, guess what: in today’s news, Congress voted NOT to withdraw from Iraq by the end of the year, largely to drive a wedge of clear difference between those pesky Dems & themselves. Giving the GOP a grand & glorious reason to keep pounding those drums of fear & loathing in the Eternal War on Terror!

Hey, since they’re all about staging this show for us, Demon Princess thinks the least we can do is sit back & enjoy it! Get me a beer from the ‘fridge. I intend to enjoy the spectacle.

NSA Watch: America, Meet ARDA

Demon Princess can see that she’s going to have to make this topic one of her regular rants, since with just a few hours spent looking into it, she’s unearthed more information about the devious bastards’ nefarious plans. Seems there’s more in store up ahead, so hang on to your hats.

In this issue: hello kiddies! It’s not only your future employers who’ll be looking at your social networking activities & refusing to hire you because of that bizarre tattoo on your ass &/or confessions in your blogs of indiscretions you’d rather that your parents, spouses & employers not see.

Today it’s the Pentagon that has in mind gathering data (and dirt, we daresay) from social networking sites like MySpace & Friendster. Read all about it here, in New Scientist:

ARDA is a name we should all be getting to know:

“What is ARDA? It stands for Advanced Research Development Activity. According to a report entitled Data Mining and Homeland Security, published by the Congressional Research Service in January, ARDA's role is to spend NSA money on research that can ‘solve some of the most critical problems facing the US intelligence community’. Chief among ARDA's aims is to make sense of the massive amounts of data the NSA collects - some of its sources grow by around 4 million gigabytes a month.

Quoth the article: “New Scientist has discovered that Pentagon's National Security Agency, which specialises in eavesdropping and code-breaking, is funding research into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks. And it could harness advances in internet technology - specifically the forthcoming 'semantic web' championed by the web standards organisation W3C - to combine data from social networking websites with details such as banking, retail and property records, allowing the NSA to build extensive, all-embracing personal profiles of individuals.

“Americans are still reeling from last month's revelations that the NSA has been logging phone calls since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. The Congressional Research Service, which advises the US legislature, says phone companies that surrendered call records may have acted illegally.

Weirdly enough, the fact that our own Congressional Research service has advised obtaining the phone records may have been illegal hasn’t gotten much media coverage in the States.

“However, the White House insists that the terrorist threat makes existing wire-tapping legislation out of date and is urging Congress not to investigate the NSA's action.

“Meanwhile, the NSA is pursuing its plans to tap the web, since phone logs have limited scope. They can only be used to build a very basic picture of someone's contact network, a process sometimes called ‘connecting the dots’. Clusters of people in highly connected groups become apparent, as do people with few connections who appear to be the intermediaries between such groups. The idea is to see by how many links or ‘degrees’ separate people from, say, a member of a blacklisted organisation.

“By adding online social networking data to its phone analyses, the NSA could connect people at deeper levels, through shared activities, such as taking flying lessons. Typically, online social networking sites ask members to enter details of their immediate and extended circles of friends, whose blogs they might follow. People often list other facets of their personality including political, sexual, entertainment, media and sporting preferences too. Some go much further, and a few have lost their jobs by publicly describing drinking and drug-taking exploits. Young people have even been barred from the orthodox religious colleges that they are enrolled in for revealing online that they are gay.

“Other data the NSA could combine with social networking details includes information on purchases, where we go (available from cellphone records, which cite the base station a call came from) and what major financial transactions we make, such as buying a house.

“…Right now this is difficult to do because today's web is stuffed with data in incompatible formats. Enter the semantic web, which aims to iron out these incompatibilities over the next few years via a common data structure called the Resource Description Framework (RDF). W3C hopes that one day every website will use RDF to give each type of data a unique, predefined, unambiguous tag. ‘RDF turns the web into a kind of universal spreadsheet that is readable by computers as well as people,’ says David de Roure at the University of Southampton in the UK, who is an adviser to W3C. ‘It means that you will be able to ask a website questions you couldn't ask before, or perform calculations on the data it contains.’ In a health record, for instance, a heart attack will have the same semantic tag as its more technical description, a myocardial infarction. Previously, they would have looked like separate medical conditions. Each piece of numerical data, such as the rate of inflation or the number of people killed on the roads, will also get a tag.

“The advantages for scientists, for instance, could be huge: they will have unprecedented access to each other's experimental datasets and will be able to perform their own analyses on them. Searching for products such as holidays will become easier as price and availability dates will have smart tags, allowing powerful searches across hundreds of sites.

On the downside, this ease of use will also make prying into people's lives a breeze. No plan to mine social networks via the semantic web has been announced by the NSA, but its interest in the technology is evident in a funding footnote to a research paper delivered at the W3C's WWW2006 conference in Edinburgh, UK, in late May.

“That paper, entitled Semantic Analytics on Social Networks, by a research team led by Amit Sheth of the University of Georgia in Athens and Anupam Joshi of the University of Maryland in Baltimore reveals how data from online social networks and other databases can be combined to uncover facts about people. The footnote said the work was part-funded by an organisation called ARDA.

“The ever-growing online social networks are part of the flood of internet information that could be mined…The research ARDA funded was designed to see if the semantic web could be easily used to connect people…”

OK, OK, to add to that bit of news, try this on top of it: a column dated June 12 by an attorney who was formerly head of the Justice Department’s computer crime unit. He writes, in an article for Security Focus, that something’s barrelling down the road straight at us that we ain’t gonna like, under the guise of protecting children from online predators, combatting organized crime & oh, yes, terrorism. In it he protests Internet Service Providers being made to function as an agent of a bloated & paranoid Big Brother-style state.

“Because ISPs create records of virtually everything that virtually everyone does virtually, our privacy is generally protected by the fact that these records are frequently purged. After all, we are talking about terabytes of data that serves no real function for the ISP. The only reason the records were maintained was to make sure that the packets got to their intended destination. In the case of records of long distance calls made, the phone companies kept these records so they could charge you for the long distance calls. With flat-rate billing, there is no need for them to keep any record that you called Wisconsin.

What the FBI Director and Attorney General asked the ISPs to do was to retain - for a period of about two years - records of all Internet traffic. Indeed, they want to do this under the threat, express or implied, of legislation mandating such document retention. Now, the news reports were not clear about exactly what information the government wanted the ISPs to keep. Currently, with a few basic limitations, ISPs are not required to keep any records. If they want, they can delete all their records, including subscriber records.

Now whenever government seeks to increase the powers of law enforcement at the expense of freedom or civil liberties, it always hauls out the troika of organized crime, terrorism and the protection of children. After all, who is opposed to preventing terrorism? Who is in favor of organized crime? And who can be opposed to protecting kids, after all?

“The problem is that these powers are not limited to cases of organized crime, terrorism or child protection - nor could they be for IP retention. After all, an ISP would have no way of knowing if records were going to be relevant two years hence in some investigation, and therefore they would be required to keep everything. Nor has the government proposed legislation that would say that the retained records may only be accessed pursuant to a court order in cases of child exploitation or protection. No, once retained, the records are subject to criminal or civil subpoena, investigative demand, National Security Letter, grand jury subpoena, search warrant, administrative demand, or even a secret request from the government pursuant to the powers of the President as Commander in Chief in a time of war. And unprivileged records can be subpoenaed by private litigants as well.

“Sure, it would make investigations easier if all kinds of records were created and stored forever. What the Attorney General fails to understand is that ISPs already strike a balance in favor of protecting the privacy of their users. The IP records they create are created solely for the purpose of making sure the connection is made, and serve no real ISP function thereafter. Therefore they are destroyed.

“The government is seeking to fundamentally change that balance and to make ISPs agents of the state in creating and retaining records not for their own purposes, but for the government's. As CNET's Declan McCulloch pointed out, Congress is considering making the retention rules mandatory. This is bad policy.
“Law enforcement already has the power to demand, in individual investigations, that ISPs retain specific records for 90 days, in 18 USC 2703(f). This can be extended to up to six months. This should be long enough to get a subpoena for the required records. The government wants two years? Why not twenty? Why not forever? I'd better stop typing before I give someone some ideas.

“Look, if records exist, they will be subpoenaed, stolen, lost or hacked. We already have a pretty good balance of retaining records when we need them and getting rid of them when we don't. Let's not spoil a system that works unless we have clear evidence that it is failing.”

For more on the legislation:

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Big Brother In Court: One Size Fits All

Photo: Washington Post

In a totalitarian state arriving here in the near future, that is.

Yeah, you know it, you know it: Demon Princess is a dyed-in-the-wool thought criminal, endlessly raging against the Brave New World.

In today’s news, we finally get around to addressing a topic that really gets her fires stoked: challenges to the legality of President Bush’s warrantless spying. Two court cases are bubbling over on the topic, one brought by the ACLU & an affiliated group, and another brought by the Center for Consititutional Rights in New York state.

And at the same time, Congress is entertaining legislation to make the program legal, although there are already laws in place--very liberal ones from the government’s point of view, too---but Bushco hasn’t even bothered to observe them.

Arguments in the Detroit case were heard today, after the judge, a ballsy woman, refused to unilaterally shut down the case, as the government demanded, on the basis of the “state secrets” doctrine. In other words, the government tried keep her from looking into it at all, wanted her to go no further & take it for a fact on their mere say-so that state secrets would be involved.

“On May 31, Taylor rebuffed the government's contention that she had to consider the ‘state secrets’ issue before considering anything else. She said she would consider the ACLU's motion today, and scheduled a July 10 hearing on the government's motion.

“Justice Department lawyers filed a new motion June 2 asking the judge to clarify her order and to once again consider their arguments on standing and 'state secrets' before considering any other issue. Taylor is expected to respond at today's hearing.

“If the plaintiffs overcome the government's argument, it will be highly unusual. Justice Department attorneys almost always prevail when they invoke the ‘state secrets’ privilege, even when judges acknowledge a plaintiff raises serious issues.”

I’m tellin’ ya, there’s a slippery slope! Every time the most secretive administration in the country’s history—bar none, including Nixon’s--wants to hide something from the people who elected them, after all, they want us to take it on faith that there are “state secrets” involved. And look no further. It’s a fantasy that only Dick Cheney could have dreamed up.

When Big Brother tells us no legal suit will be tolerated because state secrets are involved—besides the fact that anything can be hidden behind that loose designation, & that's for as long as state actors don’t want you to know what they're doing--and moreover, we won’t even allow you to look & see whether there really are legitimate state secrets involved--does spying on & monitoring the communications of people may who just disagree with what they say is official state policy qualify?--well, good people of America, that’s a very dangerous recipe for a the imminence of a totalitarian state.

The case is going ahead, as the Los Angeles Times reports here:,1,4878727.story?coll=la-headlines-nation

The government made the same argument in the New York case, but the judge also didn’t buy it, as below.

The New York suit is brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has had some previous experience with these matters. They have previously brought illegal Presidential actions to heel with a suit that established the illegality of warrantless domestic surveillance by the Nixon Administration in a 1972 landmark Supreme Court case.

“On May 27, 2006 the Justice Department moved to preempt the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) challenge to warrantless domestic surveillance by invoking the ‘state secrets privilege,’ a rare doctrine established by the Supreme Court in 1953 to protect certain privileged government information. The Bush Administration is arguing that CCR’s case could reveal secrets regarding U.S. national security, and thus the presiding judge must dismiss it without reviewing the evidence.

"The Bush Administration is trying to crush a very strong case against domestic
spying without any evidence or argument. This is a mysterious and undemocratic request, since the administration says the reason the court is being asked to drop the case is a secret.

A spokeperson said, “I think it's a clear choice: can the President tell the courts which cases they can rule on?’

’If so, the courts will never be able to hold the President accountable for breaking the law. If the Executive Branch can secretly quash legal challenges to its conduct like this, then American democracy as we know it is in danger,’ said Shayana Kadidal, a CCR staff attorney on CCR v. Bush. Mr. Kadidal also rebutted the administration's claims about secret information at stake in the case: ‘Our filings demonstrate the spying program is illegal by citing public evidence, such as statements by President Bush and General Hayden, not secret government documents.’

“The government's filing came in response to CCR's motion for summary judgment, which was filed on March 9, 2006. Contending that the administration had already admitted enough incriminating facts to prove the NSA Program is illegal, CCR's motion requested an injunction to bar the government from continuing the spying program. It also pressed for disclosure of whether the government eavesdropped on confidential attorney client communications.

"’Instead of addressing the crime of spying on millions of Americans, the Bush Administration is trying to prevent judicial oversight of its illegal conduct. Spying on Americans without warrants is against the law and it violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution. The fact is that President Bush broke the law, defied Congress and now he is defying the courts by demanding this case be dropped in secret’ said CCR Legal Director Bill Goodman. ‘We will continue fighting to protect Americans' constitutional rights,’ he added.

“CCR is preparing a detailed reply to the government's invocation of state secrets privilege. The Center will emphasize that there are several other established methods to protect confidential information, such as closed court proceedings or filing briefs under seal.

The Bush Administration has invoked the state secrets privilege more than any other administration in history, including recent cases involving domestic spying, rendition, torture and government misconduct.”

And meanwhile, about the diastrous, spineless legislation on its way from Arlen Specter’s office: well, seems that efforts to exercise Congressional oversight have only ended up being a license to spy, thanks to other Republicans on the Committee involved, & Dick Cheney’s refusal to co-operate. Mind you, Congress can’t even get a straight answer about all the spying programs in place, & they think they can exercise oversight?

Both the Washington Post & the New York Times have pointed out what a disaster it is.
New York Times:


Cafferty video:

If all of this outrages you (and it should), take a tour around the ACLU page here, demand that the government not spy on you, & by the way, be sure to view the “pizza delivery” spot to see a plausible view of things to come if “total information awareness” advocates have their way.

Big Brother’s Pizza Delivery:

Monday, June 12, 2006

Has Karl Rove Been Indicted? We Interrupt This Broadcast to Share the Great Tidings of Joy

Yes, Karl Rove, while not exactly cleared of criminal wrongdoing in the vicious outing of Valerie Plame in fulfillment of a petty vendetta against her Bush-critic husband, has gotten a “get out of jail free” card & can go back to the business of being Bush’s brain & architect of the troubled GOP’s plans to get re-elected by hook or by crook in November. (A job he was apparently born to do.)

At least, Demon Princess thinks it’s safe to assume attorneys in such sensitive positions choose their words very carefully, and what stands out to me is that the Special Prosecutor’s office did not say Rove has been cleared , nor exonerated.

According to this Washington Post article, “Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald told Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, in a short letter delivered Monday afternoon that he ‘does not anticipate seeking charges’ against Rove in the case, Luskin said.”

That's a rather lukewarm statement from such a ballsy guy as Fitz. I have no doubt the wording of it was the subject of fierce negotiation. (*Sigh* maybe I'm just dreaming. I was so looking forward to Karl getting spanked.)

“Rove was told about 4 p.m. while aboard a Southwest Airlines flight en route to a campaign speech in New Hampshire, but he waited until early yesterday morning to publicly reveal the news.” But he hasn’t had much to say about it since--leading me to suspect that the matter remains a two-ton elephant in the room which everybody is studiously ignoring.

You’d think they’d be shouting his innocence, if it was clearly established, from the rooftops, wouldn’tcha?

The New York Times reports htttp://

that intense negotiations preceeded the blessed event, and not being privy to how things work in Special Prosecutor’s offices on highly sensitive matters such as this, I can’t tell you it’s irregular. But taking Fitz at his word, he seems not to have ruled it out entirely--the highly qualified statement says, to me, at least (a confessed non-Rove fan) rather implying "at this time, anyway" which may mean he's still weighing the evidence, or needs more-- and there’s still the weird matter of a sealed Grand Jury verdict as reported by Truth Out, yes, another indie news organization. (Demon Princess confesses to having gotten behind on her rants & was storing this report.) However, we’re apparently not going to know anything about the matter anytime soon, because the Grand Jury’s verdict was mysteriously sealed & has stayed that way.

So, we still do not know who has been involved & what further charges will be brought, if any. The report, by Jason Leopold:

Weird also, to me, is that Fitzgerald was apparently particularly suspicious of Rove’s initial denial of his interactions with a particular reporter, & the fact that Rove’s attorney jumped in to testify for Rove that the lawyer had had something to do with it is, well, weird. The propriety of all this is not entirely clear to me. But as I remember criminal procedure (very vaguely, admittedly), lawyers are not supposed to testify for their clients. Ah well.

Power has its privileges.

Resume the celebrations—America is in safe hands (that is, Rove’s & Cheney’s) again.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Suicide Watch

Image of Original Painting, "Rummy's Fiesta," Used With Artist Mark Bryan's Permission

The news from Gitmo, in case you missed it having too much fun in the past couple of days, is that 3 prisoners there have succeeded in killing themselves.

This report in the Christian Science Monitor highlights the fact that the military brass still hold the opinion that the inmates are only doing it to make the U.S. look bad, reminiscent of the outburst directed at the UN Committee's report on its investigation into US human rights abuses (see "Riot in Cell Block 4 blog entry of 5/20, below.)

"Navy Rear Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the Guantánamo detention camp, has told reporters that the suicides were a coordinated attempt to spark international outrage against the US.

"'They have no regard for human life. Neither ours nor their own,' he said. "I believe this was not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare against us.'

Have you lost your mind, man?

Thankfully, others whose views cannot help but be more sane & humane were included in the article, too.

"Others disagree.

"'I think it is people who have no hope, detained indefinitely, without rights,' says Harold Koh, an international law expert and dean of Yale Law School. 'We're really in the last days of a dying policy,' Mr. Koh says.'This is just another sad sign.'"

"Military officials say there have been 41 unsuccessful suicide attempts by 25 detainees since the detention camp opened in January 2002. On May 18, two detainees were discovered unconscious in their cells after attempting an overdose of an antianxiety medication, according to press reports. A third detainee also attempted an overdose.

"In addition, scores of detainees have undertaken hunger strikes, prompting military officials to force-feed them. Earlier this year, lawyers working with some of the detainees complained that medical personnel at the camp were inserting large tubes into the detainees' noses to facilitate forced feeding. The lawyers said the process was extraordinarily painful and was a form of mistreatment. They said the number of hunger strikers dropped off significantly following use of the tubes.

"Although Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once said the detention cells at Guantánamo were reserved only for the 'worst of the worst,' defense lawyers have shown that many of the detainees wound up at Guantánamo by mistake. In other cases, military officials have recharacterized detainees, saying they are no longer considered enemy combatants.

"President Bush has twice suggested his desire that Guantánamo be closed. On Friday, he said he hoped most of the detainees could be sent home. 'We're now in the process of working with countries to repatriate people, but there are some that - if put out on the streets - could create a grave harm to American citizens and other citizens of the world,' Bush told reporters.

"David Remes, a Washington lawyer who represents 17 Yemenis held at Guantánamo, says the Bush administration has painted itself into a corner.

"'The US would dearly like to repatriate most, if not all, of the prisoners, and it appears the difficulty is in negotiating the repatriation with the Saudi and Yemen governments' Mr. Remes says.

"Remes says President Bush's recent comments on Guantánamo suggest the administration is bracing for a defeat at the Supreme Court. The justices are expected to rule by the end of June whether the president acted within his power in designating military trials for 10 Guantánamo detainees.

"News of the suicides was greeted with skepticism in Saudi Arabia, with the Saudi Human Rights Group calling for an independent investigation into the deaths, according to an Associated Press report.

"'There are no independent monitors at the detention camp, so it is easy to pin the crime on the prisoners, given that it is possible that they were tortured," said Mufleh Al-Qahtani, deputy director of the group. "

You can see why he'd be skeptical, after recent events involving civilians across Iraq. If we have such low regard for the lives of civilians, why would anybody believe claims of suicide--especially since we won't let independent monitors in, & hide some prisoners when we very rarely do.