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They're Laughing at Us

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Do these disparate items in the news create at pattern?  All this below was reported Wednesday, February 8th, and there may be a pattern here.

Just Kidding, Folks!

Tom DeLay lost the House leadership. That happens when you're indicted for a crime, particularly a felony or two, particularly felonies concerning shady financial trickery. But those are the house rules. The Majority Leader must step down when that happens. Makes sense. DeLay had the rules committee change that rule last year, but there was such a stink they went back to the original rule. Oops.

Of course Tom DeLay is still a sitting congressman, as, after all, he's not been convicted of anything. He's up for reelection this November and thinks he'll win, in spite of polling that shows any hypothetical Democrat would trounce him. His ace-in-the-hole is that a hypothetical Democrat will not be running against him. The person, whoever it is, will be a specific Democrat, and thus can be demonized one way or another. Politics is specific, not hypothetical. You can't attack a theory, but you can destroy a real opponent.

But it is a worry, and the house Republicans are helping out. The news is here - the house Republicans leaders put DeLay on the Appropriations Subcommittee, as there was an open seat. This Appropriations Subcommittee are the folks who hand out the funding to keep the government running, and there was an open seat as one committee member is gone now. That would be San Diego congressman Duke Cunningham. You might have seen his tearful confession on television as he admitted that he did take well over two million in bribes to steer contracts to the folks paying him. He was sorry. He was sorry he said the charges were false and mean people were just picking on him. He asked for forgiveness. He resigned. He's gone.

Tom DeLay will take his seat on the subcommittee. The ace-in-the-hole here is this subcommittee is in charge of the NASA budget, and NASA's headquarters, the Johnson Space Center in Houston, is in his district. Very nice. But the subcommittee controls lots of budgets, including the Department of Justice, the folks investigating the Abramoff lobbying scandals. They could lose a whole lot of funding if "the hammer" does his notoriously convincing arm-twisting.

The Republicans are making a big noise touring how they will reform all the obvious corruption that's been uncovered in the last few months. But they're laughing at us.

Keeping Us Safe

A lot has been made of the story George C. Deutsch, the young lad who put the NASA climatologist, Hansen, in his place. No speaking engagements for Doctor Hansen if he's going to talk about global warming. Deutsch is twenty-four, and used to be an intern for the Bush-Cheney campaign. After the campaign they found him a slot as an information officer for NASA, not just riding herd on world famous climatologists, but also making sure the web designers were on track. The "big bang" entries all had to note this was only a theory, and God may have done something else to start the universe. Heck, the are four versions in Genesis, so one never knows. See "Dateline NASA" here for details of that tussle, and how Deutsch has to resign because he lies on his job application - he not only had no science training, which didn't seem to bother the administration, but he said he had a college degree and didn't, which did bother the administration. You can mislead everyone - from an excess of zeal or patriotism or your need for power - but you don't tell outright lies. Bad form.

Michael Crowley here tips off his readers to another odd appointment. One of his readers notes this press release from the White House the appointment of Nicole Nason to head the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Yes, fifty-thousand die annually in car and truck wrecks, and she will be the new "car-crash prevention czar." We're talking auto safety - structural requirements and features and all that.

Big deal? Crowley notes the official bio - liaison to congress for the Department of Transportation, and before that the same for Customs, but before that she was a press aide to Porter Goss, the congressman who now runs the CIA, and before that spokeswoman for the Republican effort to impeach Clinton. But the Washington Post adds more


Nason, as assistant secretary of transportation, acted primarily as a lobbyist for the Bush administration in opposing safety proposals that the agency now has the responsibility to enforce, said Joan Claybrook of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. Claybrook headed NHTSA during the Carter administration.


Who set energy policy? Who better than Cheney and the executives of the big oil companies? Who sets mine safety standards? Who better than executives from the coal industry appointed there? The EPA? Don't ask. Now this.

Yep, they're laughing at us. Drive safely.

Employment Opportunity

Tim Grieve here notes that the federal government just posted this opportunity


Assistant Civil Liberties Protection Officer: "The Civil Liberties Protection Officer assists the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) in ensuring that the protection of civil liberties and privacy is appropriately incorporated in the policies and procedures developed for and implemented by the ODNI and the elements of the intelligence community (IC) within the National Intelligence Program, and in performing other statutory and assigned duties."


They didn't have one? But they do care about civil liberties and privacy, don't they? The Attorney General said so when he explained wiretapping citizens without warrants to the senators.

Right - and some of what you'd have to do here –


Develop or recommend changes to policies and procedures to protect privacy and civil liberties ... oversee compliance by the ODNI with legal requirements relating to civil liberties and privacy ... ensure reporting and related requirements are met relating to civil liberties and privacy ... review and assess complaints of possible abuses of civil liberties and privacy in the administration of ODNI programs and operations, and as appropriate, investigate any such complaint or information ... ensure that the use of technologies sustain, and do not erode, privacy protections relating to the use, collection, and disclosure of personal information ... conduct communication and outreach initiatives on behalf of the ODNI on civil liberties and privacy issues ... [and] congressional relations and public affairs coordination with media outlets and civil liberties and privacy advocacy groups.


Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Somebody should do it.

Grieve fills in the history of all this - "The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 created the position of civil liberties protection officer within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Bush signed the act into law in December 2004, but he didn't name anyone to fill that post until December 2005."

Well, he did get around to it. The high-level position was filled some weeks ago, and now the assistant position is open for applicants. Apply by the 28th of course.

Yep, they're laughing at us.

It's Your Fault If You Took Us Seriously

As you recall, in the most recent State of the Union address, among other things, the president said we were "addicted to oil" and that had to end. Reduce the importation of oil from the Middle East by seventy percent in the coming decades! Switch to ethanol made from cellulose - from woodchips and magic switchgrass! Pull out all the stops! To the research labs!

The Saudis weren't happy and within twelve hours the Secretary of Energy was saying, well, the president was speaking metaphorically, and the switch away from oil was only offered as "an example" - as the president only meant to say reusable sources of energy were generally a pretty thing.

So how metaphorically was he speaking?

Everyone seems to be noting this - the National Renewable Energy Laboratory - the Department of Energy's "primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research" - is downsizing. Budget problems. They're laying off thirty-two people, eight of them research staff. The budget has been cut again.

He was speaking metaphorically.

And no one was supposed to notice this detail. But with hungry reporters and pesky bloggers on the net, things get noticed.


Terrorist Nuns from Florida!

Not really. Just this from a Tampa paper - the nuns at Holy Name Monastery had their bank account frozen. The bank was helping out by taking the Patriot Act seriously –


The sisters say the monastery's main bank account was frozen without explanation in November, creating financial headaches and making the Benedictine nuns hopping mad. They were told the Patriot Act was the cause.

"I think the Patriot Act is unwise, let's say, and that if it happened to us, it can happen to anybody," said Sister Jean Abbott, the monastery's business manager. "I think people need to know that nobody is safe from, in some cases, really ridiculous scrutiny."


Well, you can read all the details. There was a mix-up with a missing Social Security Number on one check, and the bank reported that to the feds, and the feds shut down the nuns. Bills didn't get paid as checks bounced. Incoming checks couldn't be deposited. The feds say it was the bank's decision. The bank says that was what the feds told them to do. The nuns are mad, but it's all straightened out now.

We are told the NSA wiretapping is very narrowly done, and no one need worry about their privacy because they know what they're doing. No warrants necessary, no laws from congress necessary. These guys are careful and professional. You can trust them.

Items like this don't help that argument.

But what if the nuns had been terrorists? Or, really, what if they and the bank cooked up this whole thing with the help of some nefarious Democrats to influence the vote on the extension of the Patriot Act!

No. This was a screw-up, and predictable. Something like this was bound to happen sooner or later.

There's a reason a major studio is about to release the remake of the "Pink Panther" movie in a few weeks - with Steve Martin playing the bumbling detective Peter Sellers used to do so well. Something is in the air. Perhaps the White House will pressure the studio to delay the release till the matter of the extension of provisions of the Patriot Act is resolved.

But we do get the bad guys...

Our friend, the high-powered Wall Street attorney, with that office high over lower Manhattan, studied constitutional law at Seton Hall under the late Peter Rodino, who chaired the committee that voted to impeach Richard Nixon. Seton Hall is a strange place of course. They still have interesting faculty, like the law professor Mark Denbeaux, who, with attorney Joshua Denbeaux, counsel to two of the detainees at our Cuban prison at Guantánamo Bay, produced a new report, heavy on statistics, reporting more than half of the 517 detainees are not accused of hostile acts - they're mainly unlucky. The Associated Press story is here, the report itself here (PDF format, from Seton Hall University), and the Department of Defense raw data is here. Yeah, they're not making this up –


1. Fifty-five percent (55%) of the detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies.

2. Only 8% of the detainees were characterized as al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining detainees, 40% have no definitive connection with al Qaeda at all and 18% are have no definitive affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban.

3. The Government has detained numerous persons based on mere affiliations with a large number of groups that in fact, are not on the Department of Homeland Security terrorist watchlist. Moreover, the nexus between such a detainee and such organizations varies considerably. Eight percent are detained because they are deemed "fighters for;" 30% considered "members of;" a large majority - 60% - are detained merely because they are "associated with" a group or groups the Government asserts are terrorist organizations. For 2% of the prisoners their nexus to any terrorist group is unidentified.

4. Only 5% of the detainees were captured by United States forces. 86% of the detainees were arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and turned over to United States custody. This 86% of the detainees captured by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance were handed over to the United States at a time in which the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected enemies.

5. Finally, the population of persons deemed not to be enemy combatants - mostly Uighers - are in fact accused of more serious allegations than a great many persons still deemed to be enemy combatants.


That summary is from defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt here and she has much more to say.

There's this question - "If 92% of the detainees were not fighters, and 55% committed no hostile act, why were they designated as enemy combatants in the first place? And why are they still being held?"

Yep, just what is an "enemy combatant?" And we captured only five percent of these guys - the rest we took on someone's word or paid a bounty hunter for the guys.


They are the worst of the worst? "We got the small fry. And we put them in a black hole."

Read Merritt for a tight summary of the details. This brings a whole new meaning to the words "close enough for government work."

Seton Hall no longer has Rodino around, but the young guys are onto something.

Our friend, the high-powered Wall Street attorney, with that office high over lower Manhattan, who studied constitutional law at Seton Hall under the late Peter Rodino, is also distantly related, on his mother's side of the family, to the late Rod Sterling, who created "The Twilight Zone."

Given that he might also want to read Jeralyn Merritt here - a discussion of why the McCain Amendment won't ban torture, but, in fact, may legitimize it. The amendment allows admission of evidence gained by torture into US courts, and the implications are curious. We'd be one of the few countries in the world to allow that.

Times change. We've changed.


How does all this tie together?

The day all these items appeared, Andrew Sullivan - traditional (but gay) conservative, not neoconservative - said this


I'm not a Democrat and don't think I ever could be, but here's what I'd say if I were in opposition right now. These guys are corrupt and incompetent. They have screwed up the Iraq war, turned FEMA into a joke and landed the next generation with a mountain of debt. We're for making the homeland safer, winning back our allies, and taking on the Iranian dictatorship. We're for energy independence, universal healthcare and balancing the budget again. Now, let Rove do his worst.

Hey, we need Democrats who relish the fight, not timid ones who cower at the prospect. Bring back the happy warriors. Please.


The day all these items appeared the New York Times ran this, a long item on how the Democrats just can't seem to gain any traction - they just can't seem to take advantage of all that's happening. They're all afraid to appear weak on national security. Rove has them boxed in. Criticize anything, suggest any improvement or better idea, and you're supporting the terrorists. And they buy it. Who knows why? They do.

Someone else will have to take up the slack. Thus this post and all the others like it on the web.


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
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