07 November, 2008

Statement of Beliefs

Letter sent to my Republican cousin:
I agree with two major points you make:

(1) The Republican Party, as we know it, is at a crossroads

(2) We need to get out of Iraq

I think the best way to have this discussion is to start with a statement of my values; on the surface, they may seem antithetical to a lot of things that you believe deeply. In reality, however, I think that there always exists common ground caused by our common human experience. So, with that, I hope not to offend.

I came to become an atheist early in life. I came to this conclusion, this momentous conclusion, as a reaction to discussing God with my grandmother, your grand-aunt, Mildred Neill.

I was unable to reconcile the assertation that God loves all children (but judges adults), and the contradiction that God could not accept or love bi-racial children.

I understand this is not a modern or mainstream interpretation of Christianity, but a product of my grandmother growing up in the Deep South during the 1920s or 1930s.

However, it piqued my curiosity about religion and it seeded doubt in me that I was never able to shake.

That said, I respect and admire the good that religious institutions are capable of, and I envy the comfort that faith gives a great many people.

I spent many an hour trying to convince my friends of faith that they were wrong, and as many hours listening to them trying to convince me that I was wrong. I learned that sometimes you just have to agree to disagree.

But, if anyone says I am immoral, I will take great offence. I believe in and try to practice honesty, charity, justice and fairness in my daily life. And I hope that if there were an afterlife, Grandma Neill would approve.

That said, that I don't believe in a life after this one makes my every decision and action all the more crucial. The stakes are for me higher, having only one shot to get it right.

Therefor, it is ironic that I place a high premium on adherence to what could be considered values that echo the Gospel of Matthew:

* each and everyone of us is lucky to be alive
* we owe a debt to one another
* every person has a responsibility to lift up their peers and neighbors
* peace is the highest goal humanity can aspire to
* forgiveness is a virtue
* humility is a virtue
* every day is a struggle against our worse nature

Religions, governments, societies, communities and families are all organizational units whose structure exists in order to keep our lesser, baser instincts in check. None are perfect organs for keeping perfect order, and from time to time the pendulum of greed and selfishness versus community and charity swings back and forth and dances around the center, but can never reach it.

Like you, I have an idealized version of what being a Democrat represents. I am often let down by the failings of the Democratic party.

Like you, my political identity is a result of lifelong indoctrination.

My father's mother, Mildred Neill, worked as a labor activist and married a strike-breaker. Her first husband gave his life to the Labor Movement; he was shot dead right in front of her.

My father's father, who I never did meet, was also a labor activist.

To me, the Labor Movement is every bit as important as the Civil Rights movements for African Americans, and Sufferage for women. And now, the rights of our homosexual citizens are as important to me.

I believe that all people should be protected by government and law, because that is the purpose of law and of government.

I believe that 9/11 was not an act of war but an act of hate, and a crime. I believe that each person accused in that crime deserves the same rights you or I enjoy in a court of law.

I believe that a government that keeps secrets from its citizens, that spies on its citizens and then arbitrarily removes the rights of its citizens is fatally flawed. I believe such a government is exactly the kind of government our founding father's faught and died against.

I believe that buying a Ford Explorer made in Mexico and placing a "I Support The Troops" magnet on it while sending money to Saudi Arabia at the gas pump is an act of treason. American's should have made that car, it should be a low or no-fossil fuel vehicle, and the best way to support the troops is to demand that they not be sent out on an illegal, pre-emptive war.

I also believe we should have mandatory service requirements for all Americans; maybe we won't be so eager to go to war when the children of privilege risk being drafted.

So, that's a start.

Look forward to hearing back from you!

05 November, 2008

It's over

But it's not over.

We need to all get together and push the progressive agenda.

The real work starts tomorrow.

03 November, 2008

2008 General Election Guide

President of the United States - BARACK H. OBAMA, DEMOCRAT
United States House of Representatives California Congressional District 8 - CINDY SHEEHAN
California Superior Court Seat 12 - Gerardo Sandoval
California State Senate District 3 - Mark Leno
California State Assembly District 13 - Tom Ammiano
San Francisco Board of Supervisors
  • District 1 - Eric Mar
  • District 3 - (1) David Chiu, (2) Denise McCarthy, (3) Tony Gantner
  • District 4 - Dave Ferguson
  • District 5 - Ross Mirkarimi
  • District 7 - Sean Erlsbernd
  • District 9 - David Campos (1), Eric Quezada (2), Mark Sanchez (3)
  • District 11 - Jahn Avalos (1), Randy Knox (2), Julio Ramos (3)
San Francisco Board of Education - Sandra Fewer, Norman Yee, Barbara Lopez, Kimberly Wicoff

San Francisco Community College Board - Milton Marks, Chris Jackson, Bruce Wolfe

Bay Area Rapid Transit Board of Directors
  • District 7 - Lynette Sweet
  • District 9 - Tom Radulovich
State of California Ballot Initiatives
  • Proposition 1A - YES
  • Proposition 2 - YES
  • Proposition 3 - NO
  • Proposition 4 - NO
  • Proposition 5 - YES
  • Proposition 6 - NO
  • Proposition 7 - NO
  • Proposition 9 - NO
  • Proposition 10 - NO
  • Proposition 11 - NO
  • Proposition 12 - YES
San Francisco Ballot Initiatives
  • Proposition A - YES
  • Proposition B - YES
  • Proposition C - NO
  • Proposition D - YES
  • Proposition E - NO
  • Proposition F - NO
  • Proposition G - YES
  • Proposition H - YES
  • Proposition I - NO
  • Proposition J - YES
  • Proposition K - YES
  • Proposition L - NO
  • Proposition M - YES
  • Proposition N - YES
  • Proposition O - YES
  • Proposition P - NO
  • Proposition Q - YES
  • Proposition R - NO
  • Proposition S - NO
  • Proposition T - YES
  • Proposition U - YES
  • Proposition V - NO
Geez, SF, we were about to run out of fucking letters.

02 November, 2008

Incredible Press Conference



"I have close family members and friends who are a member of the gay and lesbian community. Those folks include my daughter Lisa, as well as members of my personal staff.

"I want for them the same thing that we all want for our loved ones—for each of them to find a mate whom they love deeply and who loves them back; someone with whom they can grow old together and share life's experiences.

"And I want their relationships to be protected equally under the law. In the end, I couldn't look any of them in the face and tell them that their relationship—their very lives—were any less meaningful than the marriage I share with my wife Rana.

If the GOP hopes to survive into the future, they'll need more of this. That's certainly the case in California, but that will also be the case nationwide in the midterm. A party that has built its power by demonizing government should understand that advocating for government meddling in people's personal lives is a long-term political loser.

I have not been so touched by an admission of heartfelt, honest humanity from a party that has become known to be antithetical to my ideas of fairness and equality since family friend and stand-up guy Senator George Voinovich broke rank with his party to stand up against the nomination of John Bolton for United States Ambassador to the United Nations many years ago.

Recent history has vindicated Senator Voinovich, and Bolton's tenure was a disaster from the start to the finish.

The question of gay rights in this country is as important an issue as any other we can grapple with at this most important pivot point in American politics -- we can either damage our reputation forever more as being the world's moral leader (whether or not this was ever in fact true), or we can tick over the domino and create a wave of tolerance.

Dick Cheney was not brave enough to publicly defend his own daughter when his own party began to ramp up the most hateful rhetoric we've seen in American politics in decades; against gays, against civil rights, against the enduring concepts of the rights and privileges of citizenship and of merely being alive, against of the downtrodden, poor, ill, weakest and neediest of society.

To my own mind it is easy to forget the human face of my ideological opponents in the face of such craven politicians like Cheney.

But the courage and leadership Jerry Sander's showed today is truly something that gives me great comfort as we come to the end of a vicously fought election cycle.

And if he ever runs for Governor, I might yet vote for him.


31 October, 2008

I don't want to start any blashpemous rumours

I'm surprised no one has picked this up here, then again, the field is ripe with the fetid fruit sown of good ole fashioned American religious in(s)anity:


Columnist: If you vote for Obama, you're going to hell

Still can't choose between John McCain and Barack Obama? Well, good news -- WorldNetDaily's Janet Porter has just made your decision much easier. Porter's latest column warns that a vote for Obama is irreconcilable with the Christian faith, and that those who do choose to vote Democratic this year have a terrible punishment awaiting them.

"To all those who name the name of Christ who plan to willfully disobey Him by voting for Obama, take warning. Not only is our nation in grave danger, according to the Word of God, so are you," Porter wrote.

What kind of danger are so many of us in? The really bad kind:

Be forewarned: If you willfully disobey God on life and marriage because of race or false hope for the economy, you will usher in the kind of change that brought the Soviet Union to collapse.

As the saying goes, if you talk to God, you're religious. If he talks back, you're schizophrenic. This Porter person appears to just be a daft c*nt.

And one final thought: there is the famous story of a faithful man who finds himself stuck on his roof during a great flood. One boat comes along, and the boat offers to take him to safety. "No," says the man, "I have faith that the Lord will protect me." Another boat, and the same response, and another, and a helicopter.

Finally, the flood waters carry the man away to his death.

Upon entering the gates of Heaven, the man says to God, "O Lord, I feel blessed to be here. I have only one question, why did you not save me from the flood?"

God says, "save you? I sent three boats and a helicopter!"

If there was a God, clearly she's an Obama supporter.

24 October, 2008

Why Liberalism is still important

From AP:

Islamic clerics in Malaysia rule to ban tomboys
By JULIA ZAPPEI Associated Press Writer

Oct 23rd, 2008 | KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Malaysia's main body of Islamic clerics has issued an edict banning tomboys in the Muslim-majority country, ruling that girls who act like boys violate the tenets of Islam, an official said Friday.

The National Fatwa Council forbade the practice of girls behaving or dressing like boys during a meeting Thursday in northern Malaysia, said Harussani Idris Zakaria, the mufti of northern Perak state, who attended the gathering.

Harussani said an increasing number of Malaysian girls behave like tomboys, and that some of them engage in homosexuality. Homosexuality is not explicitly banned in Malaysia, but it is effectively illegal under a law that prohibits sex acts "against the order of nature."

Harussani said the council's ruling was not legally binding because it has not been passed into law, but that tomboys should be banned because their actions are immoral.

"It doesn't matter if it's a law or not. When it's wrong, it's wrong. It is a sin," Harussani told The Associated Press. "Tomboy (behavior) is forbidden in Islam."

Under the edict, girls are forbidden to sport short hair and dress, walk and act like boys, Harussani said. Boys should also not act like girls, he said.

"They must respect God. God created them as boys, they must behave like boys. God created them as girls, they must act like girls," he said.

Council chairman Abdul Shukor Husin said the ruling was prompted by recent cases of young women behaving like men and indulging in homosexuality, according to the national news agency Bernama. He did not elaborate.

Malaysian media have reported on recent incidents of school bullying among girls, which have been caught on film and circulated on the Internet. In one film, some girls are seen beating up another girl in a bathroom.

A well-known Malaysian Muslim actress caused an uproar last year when she shaved her head bald for a film. Harussani and other muftis urged Muslims not to watch the movie, arguing that the actress had violated Islam by making herself look like a man.

"Muallaf," or "the convert," is scheduled for release in Singapore next month, but no date has been set for its release in Malaysia.

Muslims make up some 60 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people, and are subject to Islamic laws and the council's edicts, even if the rulings have not been enshrined in national or Shariah law.

It was not immediately clear what kind of punishment awaited those who violate the tomboy edict, or "fatwa." Malays generally follow the council's "fatwas" out of deference, but violators rarely get into trouble unless the edict is incorporated into national or Shariah law.
There are two things that I feel it is important to point out here.

First of all, the conservative movement in America has been dead since (if not before) President Ronald Reagan's inauguration. Exactly when it died, and why, is up for debate.

By pointing this fact out I am making an honest and urgent plea to my friends who consider themselves conservatives to take an honest look at what passes for "the Right Wing" in America today, and to asses the true goals of the movement.

Second, rulings like this are the inevitable direction that an unchecked authoritarian/fascist form of government will take, regardless of the underlying pretense of ideology.

Again, if you take an honest and frankly non-partisan look at the direction American politics have taken ever since we realized the unfettered growth in power following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (itself a sad semi-colon in our ill-conceived transition from a social republic to an imperial actor), you can only conclude that (1) America, in spite of the wise advise of its founders, has undertaken a course of action in the last 120 years where it has become a de facto empire and (2) imperial policy has escalated to the point where unilateral intervention and Exceptionalism is considered mainstream.

All of these trends are an indicator of humanity's affinity toward order and conformity. Humans desire to shore up power and to self-identify as a member of a more powerful group. Most people will identify with being somewhere in the hump the the bell-curve of human society that values structure and order in their lives, work, government and society in general.

On the other hand our government in the US was designed specifically to throw up roadblocks in the way of those who would consolidate power against the best interests of the people in general, as had been the case in the Georgian period of British history.

That said, one has to wonder if it is any coincident that the most notorious empires were also the most oppressive at the height of their power: Victorian England, the Spanish Inquisition at the time of Isabella, Japan under Hirohito, Germany under Hitler and Rome, which would like the rest of this list eventually collapse and fail.

The freedoms we enjoy in modern democratic societies owes a great deal to a famous sexual deviant: Henry VIII.

Even after beheading one wife after the next, old Hank 8 could not have realized what he had started. Sure, everyone likes to cite Martin Luther the German founder of Protestantism for a variety of things: breaking from the Catholic hegemony, starting the Renaissance, starting the explosion of religious freedom that would ultimately draw a line to his namesake, Martin Luther King Jr.

Nonsense, I say.

It was the serial "monogamist" Henry VIII who truly set in motion the course of events that would culminate in "The Declaration of Independence." His defiance of the neo-Roman Empire, controlled by the theocracy of the Catholic church, shook European politics, trade and "group identity" to its core.

It is unlikely that without Henry's help the "Enlightenment" period would have happened a mere century later.

Without the Enlightenment fueled by French philosophers and revolutionaries America as we know her today simply would not exist.

Skipping forward 200 or so years we have a Republican party that proudly boasts that it "campaigns against the 1960s" and will for decades to come. But what the Republican party in it's current incarnation really campaigns against is Civil Rights, Labor Rights and "social democracy."

Conservatism has been long dead.

The sheer hypocrisy of a right-wing, so-called "conservative" movement who purports to value small and unobtrusive government while taking firm and obstructionist stances against the rights of women, gays and workers should be apparent to any critical thinker. The same right-wing that flies the false banner of "conservatism" does exactly the opposite of the definition of "conservative" in pursuing it's aggressive foreign policy aims.

Sadly the disease is not confined to the right-wing. America has, over time, quietly accepted it's extreme position in the world theater to the point where her next president, Senator Barack Obama, is often incorrectly labeled as a "liberal" or "socialist."

On the subjective scale of world politics Obama finds himself slightly right of center. Senator John McCain on the extreme authoritarian war mongering right of that scale and Governor Sarah Palin is off the charts -- inviting comparisons to authoritarians who were, as monstrous as they may have been, at least smarter than she.

If you are still with me I am sure you are wondering what a fatwah against being a "tom boy" has to do with either US, global politics or imperialism.

This decree is a power-grab -- one that has the effect of oppressing the free will of an individual. In California a serious effort is afoot to, in spite of judicial review of the state constitution, deny equal citizenship to homosexuals.

On a much larger and far more serious scale the United States has decided (or rather had, long ago) that it has the right to act unilaterally and aggressively; imposing it's will on others not because any sort of consensus was reached between the US and is allies, but because the US is peerless in it's military might: to wit, because we can.

We can deny gays the right to marry. We can invade Iraq. We should not be surprised when Iran (sanely) moves in a defensive manner. Regardless of the actual fact of whether or not they are pursuing a weapons program, the history between our two countries is such that it should be no surprise to anyone that Iran has a legitimate basis with which to fear and suspect the US -- yet ironically we are told in the US that we should fear Iran, and are told by our most vocal chest-thumping war cheerleaders how Iran is an enemy of freedom, a repressive regime and a terrorist threat.

In short-con games like three-card Monte this is called misdirection.

Second to Israel the citizens of Iran probably enjoy equal or better freedoms than Egyptians, and certainly more than Saudis. Yet all four have major flaws: Israel being a democracy only for her Jewish citizens, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and certainly Iran being theocratic states who oppress women (worthy of note: oppression of women is much more harsh in US ally Saudi Arabia).

Mind you, if Iraq or Saudi Arabian citizens were given true enfranchisement today, the results would likely be ugly. In contrast, Iranians enjoy a greater degree of democratic control of their government.

Imagine what could have been if we had not interfered in 1953 by installing the Shah against the will of the Iranian people and setting in motion a sequence of events what would eventually lead to the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

I want the US to be a beacon of freedom now like 17th and 18th Century France was, but I cannot in good faith say that we are that.

If we continue to choose to elect people like John McCain or Sarah Palin, we drift further away from the intention of the founders of this nation.

If we elect to ban one group of people the privilege of marriage, the civilized world will roundly mock us for being like the clerics of Malaysia who have banned "tom boys."

Liberalism is a rejection of these unneeded incursions on our personal freedoms and an endorsement of the potential of humanity to overcome it's baser Draconian instincts of endless conflict, control and order.

Oppressive societies may have produced Beethoven, Darwin, Sarte, Washington, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, Jr., Buddha, Jesus, Rosa Parks, Einstein and others, but to drift back towards authoritarianism or fascism disrespects their combined sacrifices.

Obama/Biden 2008

09 October, 2008

National Sociopath

I see no one (well, hardly anyone) in the Obama camp calling for anywhere near the sort of violence to be visited on Bush, Cheney or McCain and Palin.

There is a certain small minority calling for an organized campaign to place Karl Rove, John Yoo, David Addington, Roberto Gonzalez, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, and were they not under the protection of the Secret Service (SS anyone? no, too far?), Bush and Cheney under citizen's arrest for their war crimes.

I am among that minority.

..and if I were for the death penalty, which I certainly oppose, I would say that for some of them "hangin' is too good".

But I am a radical who believes in crazy things like if you are responsible for the unjust deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians you are a war criminal. That if you eavesdrop on millions of innocent people without a legal court order, you are a criminal. That if you peddle influence and deal in cronyism, you certainly have no place in a supposed democratic form of government but instead should oversee some banana republic.

At best, George W Bush is a two-bit, self-aggrandizing hack; a character much like Forest Whittaker's King Idi Amin, minus the actual fortitude to personally dispatch his enemies (Bush hides behind a military he himself "served" only by the loosest interpretation of the word). At worst, Bush has on his hands a body count that rivals the worst monsters of the 20th Century, all for the grave and criminal folly of his Daddy-complex driven campaign to leave his mark (stain) on history.

In that sense, Bush is more blood thirsty, more psychotic and more dangerous an animal than Amin was. As examples of human beings, I think both are fairly deplorable.

What I find alarming, getting back to McCain, is that we have (thankfully, according to www.fivethirtyeight.com, less than a 1 out of 10 chance) the ability within our sights to elect another maniac with a paternal inferiority complex whose campaign is, as Greenwald pointed out, increasingly characterized by inciting to riot as stump speech.

Does America have Daddy issues? Senator Obama's wasn't there for him, but it didn't turn him into a sociopath. Wherein lies the cause of this American National Sociopathy (forgive the pun, Godwin)? Because that is what American exceptionalism is in a nutshell: sociopathy on a national scale.

10 September, 2008

Barack Obama - Ready to Serve

Forwarding from Writers for Obama, memo by Wade Hudson:
[NOTE: After receiving lots of very positive feedback to my "One-pager?" post last night and some suggested changes, I've rewritten it a bit and reformatted it. If you want a one-page Word doc that you can print and distribute in your campaign work, email me and I will send it to you. Feel free to remove my name if you wish. Also, I've posted it on my blog at http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post/wadehudson/gG5LY7 if you want to comment there or refer people to that version.]

Barack Obama: Ready to Lead
by Wade Hudson wadehudson@progressiveresourcecatalog.org>

Given his temperament, track record, and life-long commitment to public service, the American people can trust that if elected President Barack Obama will run the Executive Office effectively, with the common good foremost in his mind. He will also use the “bully pulpit” of the Presidency to rally ordinary people to counter the power of the special interests and their lobbyists. He will continue to inspire us to care for each other and work together to improve ourselves and the larger community.

We know this because of how he has run his campaign.

  • This long, arduous effort has tested him severely and through it all, he has demonstrated that he can manage a large operation with great skill and grace.
  • He has responded to moments of pressure calmly and intelligently.
  • He brings people together and forges consensus.
  • He inspires and holds people accountable without being harsh.
  • He makes decisions thoughtfully, after taking time to listen to others and reflect on what they have to say.
  • His first decision after winning the nomination, selecting Joe Biden as his running mate, illustrates his judgment.
  • He knows how to lead, without being authoritarian.
  • He’s willing to compromise when it’s necessary to make progress, while consistently holding to his core principles.
  • He’s able to cooperate with others, including other countries, while maintaining an essential strength.
  • He recognizes the need to limit the arbitrary, top-down power of the President.
  • His campaign has been based on building the largest, grassroots organization in the history of U.S. elections, thereby empowering citizens.

John McCain, on the other hand, ran a chaotic campaign until he brought in a protégé of Karl Rove to tighten the ship.

  • Rove and his people know how to run nasty political campaigns, but as demonstrated by the George Bush Administration, they don’t know how to manage the federal government.
  • Moreover, McCain has shown that his explosive temper makes him ill suited to be President.
  • A fellow Republican, Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who has known him for more than three decades, said, “The thought of McCain being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.” (“GOP Senators Reassess Views About McCain: His Old Foes Still Wary Of His Pugnacious Style,” Paul Kane, Washington Post, February 4, 2008, A01.)
  • McCain has admitted that he often makes decisions rashly and suffers the consequences later.
  • His selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate, made in only a few days at most without proper investigation or public discussion beforehand, demonstrates his tendency to make decisions secretly and unilaterally.
  • His early cheerleading for the occupation of Iraq, even before President Bush had talked about it publicly, reveals an inclination to rely excessively on unilateral military action.
  • Once in office, McCain would surely continue the Bush pattern of centralizing more power in the hands of the President, inevitably leading to more abuse and the violation of fundamental liberties and human rights.
  • McCain’s campaign is resorting to the same old, divisive, slash-and-burn tactics that the Republicans have used for years.

The choice is clear.

24 August, 2008

Unsurpringly, McCain didn't do very well at Linux World 2008

I think the final tally was something like 5-to-1 Obama over McCain. Mind you, Linux World 2008 was in downtown San Francisco, which may be the "bluest" city in the world (eat your heart out, Eugene, Oregon!).

What is it? Open Voting Consortium has designed and created a secure, open sourced version of the electronic voting machine. These run Linux, but I do not see any reason why they couldn't also support Free or Net BSD, Open Solaris or some other platform (even MS Windows or OS X).

Instead of paying $4000 or more for a Diebold manufactured proprietary and closed-architecture voting machine, these machines run on commodity hardware with a price tag of roughly $400 or less.

And unlike their proprietary counterparts, the OVC machine provides a paper trail with a securely signed receipt.

More over, the ultimate value of this system is that peer review is possible for anyone who cares to download the code and read it themselves.

Unlike today, to borrow a phrase from a movie, where we have "TOO MANY SECRETS".

23 August, 2008

Liberal Media

Pass it on:


Fournier Is At It Again

By Steve Benen
(Political Animal) FOURNIER IS AT IT AGAIN.... The latest piece from Ron Fournier, the AP's Washington bureau chief and the man responsible for directing the wire service's coverage of the presidential campaign, on Joe Biden joining the Democratic ticket, is drawing a fair amount of attention this morning. More importantly, McCain campaign staffers are pushing it fairly aggressively to other reporters, in large part because it mirrors the Republican line with minimal variation.

Who is Ron Fournier?


Ron Fournier is the acting Washington bureau chief for Associated Press (AP).[1] He formerly served as the AP's chief political writer and subsequently as "online political editor".

In mid-2006, Fournier was a founding member and editor in chief of the online political and social networking community HOTSOUP.com.[2][3] Fournier returned to the AP in March 2007 "in the newly created role of Online Political Editor". In a memo announcing his return, AP executive editor Kathleen Carroll stated that "his primary responsibilities will be developing new approaches to political and election coverage online, working with AP's news, multimedia and revenue groups."[4]

Fournier is listed with the speakers agency, Leading Authorities, as costing $5,000 to $10,000 for east coast speaking engagements and double that for west coast engagements.[5]

Not bad, but Fournier has his eyes on a bigger prize:



Before Ron Fournier returned to The Associated Press in March 2007, the veteran political reporter had another professional suitor: John McCain’s presidential campaign.

In October 2006, the McCain team approached Fournier about joining the fledgling operation, according to a source with knowledge of the talks. In the months that followed, said a source, Fournier spoke about the job possibility with members of McCain’s inner circle, including political aides Mark Salter, John Weaver and Rick Davis.

Salter, who remains a top McCain adviser, said in an e-mail to Politico that Fournier was considered for “a senior advisory role” in communications.

Fournier turned the job down, and why wouldn't he if he can bill out at $10,000 an hour speaking in front of elite audiences on the East coast or $20,000 on the West, but with an Obama campaign that is showing signs of fatigue, Fournier may be back to considering taking a senior post in a McCain Administration. Which is why it comes as no surprise today that Fournier has penned this AP wire piece, now well above the fold on most online media (I saw it on Salon this morning):


Analysis: Obama's pick highlights his weaknesses

By RON FOURNIER Associated Press Writer

Aug 23rd, 2008 | DENVER -- The candidate of change went with the status quo.

In picking Sen. Joe Biden to be his running mate, Barack Obama sought to shore up his weakness — inexperience in office and on foreign policy — rather than underscore his strength as a new-generation candidate defying political conventions.

"I searched for a leader who is ready to step in and be president," said Obama, a transformational political figure who nonetheless faces criticism about whether he has enough experience to be president.

He picked a 35-year veteran of the Senate — the ultimate insider — rather than a candidate from outside Washington, such as Govs. Tim Kaine of Virginia or Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas; or from outside his party, such as Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska; or from outside the mostly white male club of vice presidential candidates. Hillary Rodham Clinton didn't even make his short list.

Fournier's objectivity is highly suspect, to put it very midly. He has access to the highest levels of policy makers in the Bush White House: none other than Karl Rove himself, to whom in an exchange over coverage of the war on terror and Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch Fournier said "Keep up the fight." Fournier certainly is very very chummy with Republican movers and shakers, so chummy he even brought Senator McCain doughnuts. How nice?

16 August, 2008

Politics and Religion Redux - Its going to be a long road to November

I am ambivalent about this commercial, but stripped of its religious underpinning, I agree with (and who wouldn't) the underlying argument.

In the 1990s, especially after the 1994 mid-terms and Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America", the hegemony of the right wing and the religious right became iron-firm (although it has its roots with Reagan, a draft-dodging Hollywood actor and sportscaster who beat last centuries most authentically religious president, Jimmy Carter, partially by appealing to "family values" conservatives).

The net effect of the past 31 years of religious rule in America has arguably been a disaster for many people. The effect of the cynicism of "new" Republican rule and their systematic and intentional bungling of services can been seen on a daily basis in San Francisco, a city that is understandably liberal. Reagan's dismantling of services for the poor, the addicted and the mentally ill has now become my problem, as a San Francisco resident and tax payer, and not society's at large. At the same time, instead of investing in harm reduction, his pill-addicted wife eschewed drugs with the catch-phrase "Just Say No" on national TV, a campaign roundly and rightly mocked by its intended target audience (again, me) in the 1980s. Many billions of dollars were spent ineffectively battling an un-winnable drug war as drug use, drug-related incarceration, crime and the AIDS epidemic skyrocketed.

The United States now imprisons a higher percentage of its population than any other industrialized nation, over 6 times as much as the European average. The complexion of inmates is overwhelmingly darker compared to the general population. These things are all related: incarceration, the AIDS crisis, the war on the poor, the war on drugs, the dismantling and privatization of government services. We the people are charged with the duty of due process, yet the job of handling our swelling prison population, rightly a function of government, is handed off to private corporate contractors. For profit.

Who started the political war of attrition between Republicans and Democrats in the 1990s is up for debate. There is no question that Bill Clinton, and the Democratic Leadership Council, practiced a form of hard-ball politics that was a formalized, methodical answer to Richard M. Nixon with his "enemies lists", win-at-all-costs tactics. Except the intervening years separating Watergate and 1992 were rife with lessons to be learned, the biggest: don't get caught.

Sexual dalliances have always been a part and parcel of politics, but it came to its apex, or nadir in recent decades, peaking with President Clinton's impeachment proceedings. Sex and betrayal resonates with every talking primate on this marble: every cheated-on wife, and every wandering eye possessing husband, wary of his wife's wrath. The same decade that brought us the literal dismemberment of Joey Buttafuoco, and the sex-rage killings of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman also brought us Monica Lewinsky and Ginnifer Flowers, and an alpha-male president whose predilections tended toward the sensual unlike the Current Occupant and his sociopath's glee for mass homicide and fascism.

In the name of Family Values, our just and righteous leaders like adulterer Newt Gingrich and homosexual Larry Craig, Bill Clinton must be made to answer for "hav[ing] sex with that woman."

Remember, these are the people so busy locking up blacks for smoking plants and plant derivatives White Society has told them they are not allowed to have that they have to sell off the burden of running prisons to private industry. Small-government, family values conservatism using your tax money to enrich for-profit enterprise whose job it is to incarcerate people suffering from a disease.

Returning to religion, the Gospel of Matthew is one of four canonical doctrines related to Jesus Christ in the Christian faith, and it is the one that most vociferously promotes the idea that followers in Christ have as their core and solemn duty in life to emulate Jesus in humility, charity, faith and good works. Matthew records Jesus' sermon on the mount, considered by most to be the core tenants of Christian faith just like Moses and the revelation of the Ten Commandments is central to Jewish dogma. In practice, however, the devil is in the details.

The religious right openly and loudly identifies themselves as Christian (with some strange bedfellows recently from the Zionist Jewish far-right), and largely Baptist. Fire and brimstone baptists. Shortly, "bible-thumpers." But all this self-identification with Christianity begins to unravel upon inspection. Instead of healing the sick and helping the poor, the Religious Right in America is more concerned with GGA - Guns, God and Ammo, and preventing reproductive rights or any advancement in rights for homosexuals (even though at least one of Jesus' disciples was himself gay, psst, it was Paul). Jail, not forgiveness for sinners, and bombs for the Commies and later the Terrorists. You could turn the other cheek, but only while reloading your assault weapon, while riding shotgun in a Hummer blasting through Falluja, spreading Motherfucking Freedumb Uhmerikan Style to the Hajis.

John Edwards cheated on his wife, who has cancer and probably not long to live. I do not know the details but assuming it was done in secret, without Elizabeth's knowledge or consent, that was a dastardly, selfish, cruel and, frankly, asshole thing to do. Perhaps it was John Edwards' way of moving on in the face of a terminally ill spouse, who knows. Rush Limbaugh blamed the victim, Elizabeth Edwards, by insinuating that she was a know it all ball buster, based on no evidence at all. Rush Limbaugh is the darling of the Religious Right. Knowing nothing at all about John and Elizabeth Edwards' private lives, he accused her of driving her husband away for the crime of being smarter than him.

As deplorable as it is, it bears repeating: Rush Limbaugh thinks it is the fault of Elizabeth Edwards for her husband's admitted infidelity.

Turn the other cheek. Charity. Faith. Uplift the poor and care for the sick.

It is remarkable that Rush Limbaugh is in possession of absolutely none of these qualities. He promotes family values and has himself been divorced multiple times over. He dares to uphold the sanctity of marriage and himself has broken the vow "till death do us part" multiple times, supposedly made in earnest and before an all seeing, all knowing and perfect God. The only sick that he seems to want to heal is his own dope-sickness by chasing the Oxycontin dragon.

John McCain's infidelity is a matter of public record and he, like Edwards, has admitted to it. Yet somehow when Democrats cheat on their spouses it is bigger news than when Republicans do, as if Democrats were some how more vulnerable to moral interpitude. But the party that values divorce court as much as it values homosexual trysts in public toilets, mass murder and the privatization of re-enslaving the Black poor in America as prisoners of a false and unending war on drugs has not a leg to stand on.

So, I call fair game. Let us all put are cards on the table, or, as someone famously said, lets let our chickens come back to roost. Is this a truly zero-sum game?

Well, I for one would prefer to be lead by someone who takes to heart the Gospel of Matthew, who loves the sinner and hates the sin. Maybe such a person will treat the ill instead of lock them up. Maybe such a person will sit at the table, across from our adversaries, to open up a dialog; thus to him offering the un-struck cheek.

Maybe America deserves a president who is not a murdering sociopath, or fully of envy, lust, greed, avarice. Nobody is perfect, certainly not Barack Obama, but I want to believe that he is not a criminal psychopath. I'm just afraid that America is incapable of electing someone who isn't.

14 August, 2008

The Obama Nation


As you know, Jerome R. Corsi of "Unfit to Serve: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" infamy has penned another precious tome to fuel the pulpy conflagration that is this election cycle, namely, "The Obama Nation". This screed is poised to overtake, if it has not already, the #1 slot in the New York Times Nonfiction Bestsellers list, which is ironic as by most reasonable accounts the book is a work of fiction.

Never mind that many book stores have received bulk orders of the book, some by the palette. Surely not all of the book's readership is also fictional. Yet, Corsi has enjoyed a plethora of media coverage, bolstered by the "fact" of his latest opus' "status" as a top selling book. If this offends your sense of fairness, Nation, you are not alone.

The Corsi commentator conundrum requires containment. But what can be done? As you know, I would never, never, never recommend that we, as Obama supporters, take the tack of hitting below the belt of Senator McCain, a multi-millionaire senior in favor of privatizing Social Security and an admitted adulterer whose foreign policy aims and dim view of Constitutional protections are in every way as bad or worse than the Current Occupant. If Obama represents a promise of a new kind of politics, then we as supporters must also rise up to this high standard and come up with a creative solution to the Corsi problem that builds up, but doesn't tear down.

Let's return to alarming popularity and visibility of Corsi and his new book; as I said, not everyone who bought it has bought it by the palette -- some readers genuinely agree with Corsi, or are at least vulnerable to his book's message. Who are these people, and why are they vulnerable?

You, like me, probably have a family member, a relative or a friend (or acquaintance) who is either pledged their intention of voting for Senator McCain or has not made up their mind. You, like me, are worried that Corsi's arguments may hold sway: Obama is this, that and the other thing. He can't be trusted. He's inexperienced. He's too liberal. He's not liberal enough. He's too black. He's not black enough. He's a recipient of affirmative action. He's an elitist.

I put my thinking cap on and I thought to myself, "golly, there have got to be a few people who have already contributed the maximum amount to the campaign.. even still, there are people who can afford $15, $30 or $60 for a flashy, one day event to do something positive to help out the Obama campaign even if they haven't maxed out.. and gee, self, there has got to be a way that regular people, not pundits or commentators or mainstream media infotainment talking heads can help someone who is not already an Obama supporter get to know our nominee a little better."

That's when the light bulb went on: bingo!

I have family all over this country. I have a lot of Red State Dyed in the Wool Republican cousins and aunts and uncles in Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio. I have friends in the reddest enclaves of Orange County. I personally own a copy of "Dreams From My Father", and so do most members of my immediate family. I could buy copies of that book and send it to three, five or ten Republican relatives or friends, but that wouldn't offset Corsi's book.

What if I got ten people to do the same thing? That's potentially 100 copies of "Dreams From My Father".

What about 100? 1000? What if the idea got out there, on the Internet, and it spread like a smile, or like sunshine at daybreak? A hundred thousand copies of the book? A million?

On August 28, 2008, Senator Barack Obama will accept the Democratic National Convention nomination for President of the United States.


I saw we use that day to introduce our candidate to those who are on the fence, who are unsure, or even who swear they never will vote for him -- especially to them! -- and undo some of the damage that Jerome R. Corsi has done exercising his right to freedom of expression, his right to his opinion, and show him the real power of The Obama Nation.

On August 28, 2008, give an undecided or McCain supporter relative or friend the gift of Senator Obama's book "Dreams From My Father."

Are you with me?


10 August, 2008

The Change You Deserve

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Of course, its not just Republicans. Harold Ford Jr, head of the Republicans in Democrats clothing "Democratic Leadership Council" famously said "the constitution doesn't poll well."

If that doesn't sum up the failure of the American body politic, and its constituency, surely the flat "Money Bomb" of the Accountability Now PAC is further evidence.

On the entire Internet, only 2300 people could be bothered to contribute money to be used to hold politicians feet to the fire for their failures on FISA, the Global War on Terror, torture and so on. On the anniversary of Richard M Nixon's resignation, and here, 34 years later, we collectively shrug.


Once again, and near Alexandria, our empire feeds it's coffers with foreign riches. Abroad, too many of us for too long have been tempted to shield ourselves under the banner SPQA - Senatus Populus Que Americanus.

21 July, 2008

Datacenter Confidential: Working in the Bigs

Part of being a good, career-minded systems administrator is knowing when to hold 'em, and knowing when to fold 'em. Knowing when to walk away, and knowing when to run.

I quit my last gig in March. Part of the calculus of leaving a job which pays 6 figures in the Bay Area is having another one lined up; quickly. With rent at $2100/month, money disappears very fast if you don't jump from one job to another, and without the safety net I once had in previous jobs, I needed to cover my bases.

My last day at the former job was on that Friday, and the next Monday I started at the new job.

Initially, when talks began with my soon-to-be new employer, I was jumping from a faltering start-up with budget and management problems to a well-funded, well established start-up on the cusp of a possibly very lucrative public offering. But, during the vetting process, an industry giant came along and gobbled up the company which was courting me -- temporarily making me weigh the implications: working for a large organization, pro- and con.

I started the new job mere weeks before the closing of the buyout deal. I stepped off the precipice. I was committed. Now, I was playing in the big league.

And here's what I'm building out, now:



(That's my man G in the foreground)..

And of course we want to avoid doing this:

(That's famous internets villain "invalid media" in the foreground. Ph34r.)

19 July, 2008

I told you so


Blanket criminal immunity will be granted before President Bush leaves office, not that it is needed because Democrats in Congress are too spineless to pursue investigations of lawbreakers in government and big business. Record numbers of Americans are imprisoned every day for non-violent offenses; but to enforce the laws of the land on government officials is politically verboten -- especially against the President; to paraphrase Richard M Nixon, "if the president does it, it's not illegal."

It may never be known why Senator Obama voted for the FISA bill forever closing the doors on any sort of accountability for lawbreaking by officials and business. My theory is that the DLC, party leadership and wheelers and dealers in the Democratic Party extorted the vote out of Obama by threatening less than enthusiastic support should their own duplicity come to light. Warrantless wiretapping, the fraudulent causus belli, and torture are all programs enabled and abetted by criminal complicity not only of Republicans but also Democrats, who have "controlled" Congress since 2006 (if by control you mean capitulate to every demand made by the White House).

While it is imperitive that Senator Obama be elected President over John McCain, truly a terrifying prospect, once in office it is our job as citizens to hold his feet to the fire and require a sea-change among the Democratic Party elites, and politics in general.

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction; to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community, and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans, digested by common councils and modified by mutual interests.

We have come a long way since those words, spoken by our first president, warned us of falling into the very trap we are mired in. Or, to quote DLC chairman Harold Ford, "the Constitution doesn't poll well." A politician who can make this claim and still expect to have a career indicates a system rotten from the inside out, putrid and useless. Yet, no political capital is expended making this shocking admission, instead, it is de rigeure in American politics.

http://www.accountabilitynowpac.com/ -- pledge a donation today.

16 July, 2008

DiFi - Liar

I know this is a little off topic, but I wanted to share the wisdom of our great Senator, Diane Feinstein, and my response.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Christopher
Date: Wed, Jul 16, 2008 at 12:09 PM
Subject: Re: U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein responding to your message
To: senator@feinstein.senate.gov, Senator Obama - Please Vote NO on Telecom Immunity - Get FISA Right <SenatorObama-PleaseVoteAgainstFISA@groups.barackobama.com>

Honorable Senator Diane Feinstein and staff,

I am not an idiot, and I know this is a false dichotomy and a lie:

If the Senate did not pass this bill, Congress would have been faced with two options:

oExtending the temporary surveillance bill passed last August; or

oPassing no legislation, meaning that surveillance on specific terrorist groups would expire and our Nation would be laid bare.

Please allow me to congratulate you on the dubious distinction of having earned yourself an uphill battle for re-election when your current term ends, Senator Feinstein.

With all due respect, and I sincerely mean this, Senator, you are a liar. All I ask is for a government who will not lie to me, especially about something as crucial as my security.

I do not appreciate being lied to.

I plan on spending as much time, money and energy as I can muster to ensure your defeat by a candidate of my choosing who will not make the same mistake.


San Francisco, California

On Wed, Jul 16, 2008 at 11:10 AM, <senator@feinstein.senate.gov> wrote:

Dear Mr. XXXX:

I very much appreciate your concerns on the recent legislation to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA). I would like to take this opportunity to explain to you my point of view. As you may know, the legislation passed the Senate on July 9, 2008 by a vote of 69 to 28 and was signed into law on July 10.

I have served on the Senate Intelligence Committee for seven and a half years and I take the responsibility extremely seriously. I believe the United States continues to face serious threats and there are many who seek to do harm to our country. The first responsibility I have is to prevent another catastrophic terrorist attack from happening. This requires getting ahead of the terrorists by identifying and preventing their attacks. We can only do this with good, actionable intelligence.

If the Senate did not pass this bill, Congress would have been faced with two options:

oExtending the temporary surveillance bill passed last August; or

oPassing no legislation, meaning that surveillance on specific terrorist groups would expire and our Nation would be laid bare.

Last year's stop-gap bill did not contain nearly the privacy protections that are in place in this FISA legislation. It was intended to be a temporary solution while Congress developed a more comprehensive approach to surveillance.

The communications industry has changed in the past thirty years since FISA was enacted in 1978. This has changed the way that communications are routed and how surveillance is conducted, and the original law technologically cannot function today. So, FISA needs to be modernized to fit the technological change from radio communications to wire and to provide additional privacy rights for U.S. persons.

I would like to take a moment to highlight five major improvements in this legislation, which I believe provide new privacy protections. This bill:

1.Includes provisions I authored that make clear that FISA is the exclusive authority for conducting surveillance inside the United States. This is crucial as it requires that all future Presidents must act strictly within the law. FISA will be the only legal authority for conducting surveillance on Americans for intelligence purposes, and only legislation that specifically provides wiretapping authority in the future would be an exception to FISA.

2.Requires the government to obtain a warrant before surveillance can begin. This applies to all U.S. persons - anywhere in the world. The Protect America Act allowed surveillance for up to six months before getting a warrant. This bill ends all warrantless surveillance directed at U.S. persons. In this sense it is precedent setting.

3.Bans reverse targeting, which was a concern under the Protect America Act. Reverse targeting would allow the government to collect the contents of telephone calls and e-mails of an American by conducting surveillance on the people with whom they communicate. This practice is prohibited in this bill.

4.Requires that the government implement procedures approved by the FISA Court for minimization. If an American's communication is incidentally caught up in electronic surveillance while the Government is targeting someone else, minimization protects that person's private information. This has been a hallmark of FISA for 30 years, but court approval of minimization procedures was not included in the Protect America Act. It is here.

5.Requires the Government to obtain a warrant to conduct surveillance on an American outside of the United States. This means that Americans' privacy rights are protected everywhere around the world. A court warrant has never before been required for surveillance outside the United States; this would be the strongest protection ever.

I understand your concern regarding Title II of this bill, which provides an immunity provision for telecommunications companies that are alleged to have provided assistance to the government. I agree that this is not the best approach to the current legal challenges facing these companies. In February, I offered an amendment that would have required court review of the legality of a company's actions. The court would have been required to find that the assistance was provided in good faith, and pursuant to an objectively reasonable belief that it was lawful, before immunity could be granted. Unfortunately, that amendment did not pass.

During consideration of this bill, I co-sponsored an amendment authored by Senator Bingaman (D-NM) that would halt any action on immunity until three months after Congress received a report from the relevant Inspectors General on the Administration's warrantless surveillance program. This amendment would have provided an independent review of the telecoms actions, and those of the Government, and would have provided Congress with additional information before immunity was granted. Unfortunately, the amendment failed on a vote of 42-56.

I have spent hours reviewing the telecom immunity issue and my conclusion is that the Government asked them to provide certain data in the wake of 9/11 and, at the highest levels, assured them that it was legal. In my view, if there is fault, it is the Government's and it is not immunized by this bill. They did not have to move outside the law but did. This program is now subject to FISA Court warrant.

In conclusion, this FISA legislation, while not perfect, brings intelligence activities back under U.S. law. It provides significant improvement in oversight and accountability of our intelligence collection programs while still empowering the intelligence community to keep our Nation safe. And, it provides the strongest privacy protections to U.S. persons in history. Additionally, the President - any President - cannot enact a program outside of this law in the future. While the immunity language was not what I would have preferred, I believe that passing a bill with the important improvements was a better choice than doing nothing or extending the Protect America Act.

I hope this helps you understand why I support this bill. Attached to this letter, you will find a copy of my statement on the Senate floor from July 9, 2008.

Statement of Senator Dianne Feinstein

FISA Amendments Act of 2008

June 25, 2008

Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

Mr. President, I begin my remarks by thanking the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Rockefeller, and the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Bond, the House Speaker, and the House leadership for their distinguished work on this piece of legislation. This has not been easy. It is certainly not without controversy. There are some major challenges to work through.

I want to begin by putting my remarks, at least, in context.

There is no more important requirement for national security than obtaining accurate, actionable intelligence. At the same time, there have to be strong safeguards in place to ensure that the Government does not infringe on Americans' constitutional rights.

Yet if Congress does not act and pass this bill, as it was passed overwhelmingly in the House, both of these goals, I believe, are in jeopardy. Here is why. If this bill does not pass, our Nation would likely be forced to either extend the Protect America Act or leave the Nation bare until a new bill can be written. Neither of these are good options.

As I will describe, the Protect America Act does not adequately protect Americans' constitutional rights. It was written to be a temporary measure for 6 months, and it expired on February 5.

What many people do not understand is that surveillance conducted under the Protect America Act will cease by the middle of August. It will be impossible to write a new bill, to get it past both Houses, to have it signed by the President in time to meet this deadline.

If that bill expires without this Congress passing new legislation, we will be unable to conduct electronic surveillance on a large number of foreign targets. In other words, our intelligence apparatus will be laid bare and the Nation will go into greater jeopardy. I truly believe that.

The FISA legislation of 1978 cannot accommodate this number of targets. It is simply inadequate for this new task due to changes in technology and the communications industry. That is precisely why FISA needs to be modernized.

So taking no action means we will be opening ourselves, in my view, to the possibility of major attack. This is unacceptable.

So as I see it, our choice is a clear one: We either pass this legislation or we extend the Protect America Act. For me, this legislation is much the better option.

This bill, in some respects, improves even on the base bill, the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It provides clear protections for U.S. persons both at home and abroad. It ensures that the Government cannot conduct electronic surveillance on an American anywhere in the world without a warrant. No legislation has done that up to this point.

I think the improvements in this bill over the Protect America Act and the 1978 legislation are important to understand, and I wish to list a few.

First, prior court review. This bill ensures that there will be no more warrantless surveillance. Now, why do I say this? Under the Protect America Act--which is expiring, but we are still collecting surveillance under it for now--the intelligence community was authorized to conduct electronic surveillance for a period of 4 months before submitting an application for a warrant to the FISA Court. Surveillance could actually proceed for 6 months before there was a warrant.

Under this bill, the Government must submit an application and receive a warrant from the FISA Court before surveillance begins. No more warrantless surveillance. This is, in fact, a major point.

In emergency cases, there can be a short period of collection--up to 7 days--as the application is prepared. There has been a provision for emergency cases under FISA for some 30 years now. So that is prior court review for a U.S. person anywhere in the world if content is collected.

Meaningful court review. This bill strengthens court review. Under the Protect America Act, the Government submitted to the FISA Court its determination that procedures were in place to ensure that only people outside the United States would be targeted. The court could only reject an application for a warrant if it found that determination to be ``clearly erroneous.'' This bill returns to the traditional FISA standard, empowering the court to decide whether the Government's determination is ``reasonable.'' This is a higher standard of review, so the court review under this bill is meaningful.

Next, minimization. These first two improvements ensure that the Government will only be targeting people outside the country. That is good, but it is not enough. There is always the possibility of someone outside the country talking to a U.S. person inside the country. The bill addresses this with a process known as minimization.

In 1978, Congress said that the Government could do surveillance on U.S. persons under a court warrant, but required the Government to minimize the amount of information on those Americans who get included in the intelligence reporting. In practice, this actually means that the National Security Agency only includes information about a U.S. person that is strictly necessary to convey the intelligence. Most of the time, the person's name is not included in the report. That is the minimization process.

If an American's communication is incidentally caught up in electronic surveillance while the Government is targeting someone else, minimization protects that person's private information.

Now, the Protect America Act did not provide for court review over this minimization process at all. But this bill requires the court in advance to approve the Government's minimization procedures prior to commencing with any minimization program. That is good. That is the third improvement.

Fourth, reverse targeting. There is an explicit ban on reverse targeting. Now, what is reverse targeting? That is the concern that the National Security Agency could get around the warrant requirement. If the NSA wanted to get my communications but did not want to go to the FISA Court, they might try to figure out who I am talking with and collect the content of their calls to get to me. This bill says you cannot do that. You cannot reverse target. It is prohibited. This was a concern with the Protect America Act, and it is fixed in this bill.

Those are four reasons--good reasons. Here is a fifth: U.S. person privacy outside the United States. This bill does more than Congress has ever done before to protect Americans' privacy regardless of where they are, anywhere in the world. Under this bill, the executive branch will be required to obtain a warrant any time it seeks to direct surveillance at a U.S. person anywhere in the world. So any U.S. person anywhere in the world is protected by the requirement that a warrant must be received from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before electronic surveillance can begin.

Previously, FISA only covered people inside the United States. The Protect America Act did the same thing.

Now, also under this bill, there will be reviews of surveillance authorities by the Director of National Intelligence, the Attorney General, the heads of all relevant agencies, and the inspectors general of all relevant agencies on a regular basis, and the FISA Court and the Congress will receive the results of those reviews.

So there will be regular reporting from the professionals in the arena on how this bill is being followed through on--how electronic surveillance is being carried out worldwide. The Intelligence and Judiciary Committees will receive those reports. That, too, is important.

Also, under this bill, there will be a retrospective review of the President's Terrorist Surveillance Program. That is the program that has stirred the furor. The bill requires an unclassified report on the facts of the program, including its limits, the legal justifications, and the role played by the FISA Court and any private actors involved. This will provide needed accountability.

In summary, all intelligence collection under the Terrorist Surveillance Program will be brought under court review and court orders.

Everything I have described brings this administration back under the law. There is no more Terrorist Surveillance Program. There is only court-approved, Congressionally reviewed collection.

But what is to keep this administration or any other administration from going around the law again? The answer is one word, and it is called exclusivity.

It means that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is the only, the exclusive, means for conducting electronic surveillance inside the United States for foreign intelligence purposes.

The exclusivity language in this bill is identical in substance to the amendment I offered in February, which received 57 votes in this Senate. It is section 102 of this bill.

This language reiterates what FISA said in 1978, and it goes further. Here is what this bill says:

Never again will a President be able to say that his authority--or her authority, one day, I hope--as Commander in Chief can be used to violate a law duly enacted by Congress.

Never again can an Executive say that a law passed to do one thing--such as use military force against our enemies--also overrides a ban on warrantless surveillance. The administration has said that the resolution to authorize the use of military force gave this President the right to go around FISA.

Never again can the Government go to private companies for their assistance in conducting surveillance that violates the law.

Now, this administration has a very broad view of Executive authority. Quite simply, it believes that when it comes to these matters, the President is above the law. I reject that notion in the strongest terms.

I think it is important to review the recent history with this administration to demonstrate why FISA exclusivity is so important.

At the very beginning of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, John Yoo, at the Office of Legal Counsel, wrote in a legal opinion that:

.... [u]nless Congress made a clear statement in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that it sought to restrict presidential authority to conduct warrantless searches in the national security area--which it has not--then the statute must be construed to avoid [such] a reading.

That was the argument. I believe it is wrong. Congress wrote FISA in 1978 precisely in the field of national security; there are other, separate laws that govern wiretapping in the criminal context. In fact, the Department of Justice has repudiated Yoo's notion.

But if the Department admitted that FISA did apply, it found another excuse not to take the Terrorist Surveillance Program to the FISA Court.

The Department of Justice developed a new, convoluted argument that Congress had authorized the President to go around FISA by passing the authorization to use military force against al-Qaida and the Taliban.

This is as flimsy as the last argument.

There is nothing in the AUMF that talks about electronic surveillance or FISA, and I know of not one Member who believed we were suspending FISA when we authorized the President to go to war.

But that is another argument we lay to rest with this bill. Here is how we do it. We say in the language in this bill that FISA is exclusive. Now, here is the major part: Only a specific statutory grant of authority in future legislation can provide authority to the Chief Executive to conduct surveillance without a FISA warrant.

So we go a step further in exclusivity. We cover what Yoo was trying to argue and what others might argue on behalf of a Chief Executive in the future, by closing the loophole and saying: You need specific statutory authority by the Congress of the United States to go outside the law and the Constitution.

The final argument the President has made is that even if FISA was intended to apply, and even if the AUMF didn't override FISA's procedures, he still had the authority as Commander in Chief to disregard the law.

Now, I have spoken on the floor before about how the President believes he is above the law and the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company v. Sawyer case. In that case, Justice Jackson described how the President's power is at the ``lowest ebb'' when he is acting in contravention to the will of the Congress.

This bill, again, makes it clear that the will of Congress is that there will be no electronic surveillance inside the United States without a warrant, and it makes clear that any electronic surveillance that is conducted outside of FISA or outside of another express statutory authorization for surveillance is a criminal act. It is criminalized. This is the strongest statement of exclusivity in history.

The reason I am describing all this is to build a case of legislative intent in case this is ever litigated, and I suspect it may well be.

So, finally, I wish to read into the Record the comments on exclusivity from a June 19, 2008, letter that Attorney General Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence McConnell wrote to the Congress. The letter recognizes that the exclusivity provision in this bill "goes beyond the exclusive means provision that was passed as part of FISA [in 1978]."

So they essentially admit we are taking exclusivity to a new high. Nevertheless, they acknowledge that the provision in this bill "would not restrict the authority of the government to conduct necessary surveillance for intelligence and law enforcement purposes in a way that would harm national security."

I said in February I could not support a bill without exclusivity. This is what keeps history from repeating itself and another President from going outside the law. I believe that with this language we will prevent it from ever happening again.

Now, a comment on title II of the bill, which is the telecom immunity section. This bill also creates a legal process that may--and, in fact, is likely to--result in immunity for telecommunications companies that are alleged to have provided assistance to the Government.

I have spent a great deal of time reviewing this matter. I have read the legal opinions written by the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice. I have read the written requests to telecommunications companies. I have spoken to officials inside and outside the Government, including several meetings with the companies alleged to have participated in the program.

The companies were told after 9/11 that their assistance was needed to protect against further terrorist acts. This actually happened within weeks of 9/11. I think we can all understand and remember what the situation was in the 3 weeks following 9/11.

The companies were told the surveillance program was authorized and that it was legal, and they were prevented from doing their due diligence in reviewing the Government's request. In fact, very few people in these companies--these big telecoms--are actually cleared to receive this information and discuss it. So that creates a very limited universe of people who can do their due diligence within the confines of a given telecommunications company.

For the record, let me also address what I have heard some of my colleagues say. At the beginning of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, only four Senators were briefed. The Intelligence Committee was not, other than the Chairman and Vice Chairman.

I am one who believes it is right for the public and the private sector to support the Government at a time of need. When it is a matter of national security, it is all the more important.

I think the lion's share of the fault rests with the administration, not with the companies.

It was the administration who refused to go to the FISA Court to seek warrants. They could have gone to the FISA Court to seek these warrants on a program basis, and they have done so subsequently.

It was the administration who withheld this surveillance program from the vast majority of Members of Congress, and it was the administration who developed the legal theories to explain why it could, in fact, go around the law.

So I am pleased this bill includes independent reviews of the administration's actions to be conducted by the inspectors general of the relevant departments.

All of that said, when the legislation was before the Senate in February, I stated my belief that immunity should only be provided if the defendant companies acted legally, or if they acted in good faith with a reasonable belief that their actions were legal. That is what the law calls for.

I moved an amendment to require the court to review the written requests to companies to see whether they met the terms of the law. That law requires that a specific person send a certification in writing to a telecommunications company. That certification is required to state that no court order is required for the surveillance, that all statutory requirements have been met, and that the assistance is required by the Government.

Unfortunately, my amendment was not adopted, but I continue to believe it is the appropriate standard.

Now, the pending legislation does not assess whether the request made by the Government was, in fact, legal, nor whether the companies had a good-faith and objective belief that the requests were legal. What this bill does provide is a limited measure of court review. It is not as robust as my amendment would have provided, but it does provide an opportunity for the plaintiffs to be heard in court, and it provides an opportunity for the court to review these request documents.

I believe the court should not grant immunity without looking into the legality of the companies' actions. So if there is an amendment that does support this, I would intend to vote for it.

But I believe the Record should be clear in noting that if this bill does become law, in my view, it does not mean the Congress has passed judgment on whether any companies' actions were or were not legal. Rather, it should be interpreted as Congress recognizing the circumstances under which the companies were acting and the reality that we desperately need the voluntary assistance of the private sector to keep the Nation secure in the future.

I believe this bill balances security and privacy without sacrificing either. It is certainly better than the Protect America Act in that regard, and makes improvements over the 1978 FISA law.

As I said, if a new bill is not in place by mid-August, the Nation will be laid bare and unable to collect intelligence.

This bill provides for meaningful and repeated court review of surveillance done for intelligence purposes. It ends, once and for all, the practice of warrantless surveillance, and it protects Americans' constitutional rights both at home and abroad. It provides the Government with the flexibility it needs under the law to protect our Nation. It makes it crystal clear that this is the law of the land and that this law must be obeyed.

I yield the floor.

Sincerely yours,
Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

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