Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Truth Embedded in the Lie

And no, I don't mean Bush comparing Iraq to Vietnam. I mean in "fiction":

Poet and short story writer Grace Paley, a literary eminence and old-fashioned rebel who described herself as a "combative pacifist," has died. She was 84. [ . . . ]

"None of it happened, and yet every word of it is true," she once said of her fiction. "It's truth embedded in the lie." [ . . . ]

Born Grace Goodside in New York in 1922, she was one of three children of Russian Jews. Her family spoke English, Russian and Yiddish, but politics proved the universal language. Her parents had opposed the czar in Russia and were supporters of the New Deal. The bitterest neighborhood feuds were not among drug dealers, but between Trotskyites and Stalinists.

"I thought being Jewish meant you were a Socialist," Paley said. "Everyone on my block was a Socialist or a Communist. ... People would have serious, insane arguments, and it was nice. It makes you think the rest of the world is pretty bland."

Some of us would say that the Bible contains a lot of truth embedded in the lie. None of it ever happened, but a lot of it is true in some important way, even if it's not every word, or if it's true in some way that we wish it weren't. Because there are other kinds of truth than "factual" or "historical" truth. The Bible isn't a newspaper or a science or history textbook. But it is about order and justice, and a lot of it ain't pretty, and is even downright morally contemptible. But there's terrifying truth in a lot of that, as well.

I want to say something about her thinking that being Jewish meant being a Socialist, because I think there's a certain plausibility in that. Not that there aren't millennarian or apocalyptic strains of both Judaism and Marxism (see "Christianity," for example), but in general, both tend to be about achieving real justice in this life rather than the next. And when MLK said he had seen the promised land, he didn't mean heaven.

RIP Grace Paley. I hope I'm learning the right things from you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Apotheosis of Spectator Politics

I've said for a long time that Americans were coming to treat politics just like major sports. Draft your Fantasy Congress team of legislators and play along! There is nothing that can't be commodified, even our legislative process! Shoot, it's not just commodified; it's getting to be commoditized.

Monday, August 20, 2007

"Arab-Israeli Tensions" Go Back to . . . Nebuchadnezzar?

At first this just seemed a funny, but stupid little mistake, but the more I thought about it, the more problematic it became. In the middle of an article about an interesting little find in Biblical archaeology—an actual dated receipt for a payment to the temple in Babylon—our author drops in a bizarre zinger, the sort of thing you would expect out of a high school or college term paper.

During the course of this struggle [between the Babylonians and the Egyptians], Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem. Zedekiah, a Babylonian-appointed king of Judah, later rebelled, which led to yet another Jerusalem siege [by the Babylonians] in 587-586 B.C., during which a large segment of the population was deported. Arab-Israeli tensions in the region have continued until the present day.
Wait a second . . . where are the Arabs in this story, again? Babylonians are not Arabs, and it's the Babylonians the Israelites (NB: not Israelis) are fighting. Not even the Egyptians are Arabs.

That's right: there are no Arabs in this story.

But maybe she meant Muslim-Israeli rather than Arab-Israeli? Well, sorry, but we're some 1200 years before Muhammad, so there were no Muslims, either.

No, what's happening is that our author anachronistically projects the very modern "Arab-Israeli conflict," which already problematically labels all Middle-Eastern Muslims "Arab," back onto the ancient world in order to establish a continuity that doesn't exist. Now, why would she do that? Two reasons, I think.

Here's one. The article continues:
In fact, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein made links between himself and King Nebuchadnezzar in speeches and by use of billboards that showed Hussein shaking hands with a drawing of the ancient king, according to Aaron Brody, assistant professor of Bible and archaeology at the Pacific School of Religion and director of the Badè Museum.

"Nebuchadnezzar vanquished surrounding nations, so Hussein wanted to draw parallels with his own reign and that of the former Mesopotamian leader," Brody told Discovery News.

So, much the same way many modern leaders attempt to establish continuities between themselves and some ancient culture, especially some ancient leader, Saddam was working to show how he's a modern Nebuchadnezzar, the great Babylonian (not Arab) king. And our author continues to help him—however, I'm going to guess, unwittingly—by throwing in the phrase "Arab-Israeli tensions" with reference to the Babylonian conquest of the Israelite kingdom.

But this leads to the second part of what's going on here. Hooking Saddam up with Nebuchadnezzar suits her purposes because it also hooks up the modern state of Israel with the ancient kingdom of Israel, and indeed appears to establish that the roots of the modern conflict go all the way back to ancient Israel, which was already, 2700 years ago, defending itself from hostile "Arab" neighbors wanting to "push her into the sea." It reinforces the modern understanding of Biblical mythology, that Israel was on the land in the beginning and so the establishment of the modern state of Israel is only re-establishing what was there a long time ago. At the same time, it conveniently ignores the Biblical story of the Hebrews conquering Canaan (=Palestine), so the Bible in fact never claims that the Israelites were always and originally living in the disputed territory. It claims, rather differently, that God gave it to his people, the Israelites, and helped them conquer it. So, in order to buy that, you have to believe that the Bible is, in fact, historically accurate, and, further, that its historical accuracy includes certain statements by a certain God, in whom you will also have to believe.

Now, at the end of the day, I'm guessing that the author of this article wasn't even really thinking about what she was saying in terms of the ways it reinforces all the wrong ideas about Arabs, Muslims, the state of Israel, and the (poorly-named) Arab-Israeli conflict. I'm guessing it was a ham-fisted transition to the story of Saddam trying to deploy ancient Babylonian history as part of his self-aggrandizement campaign. But it's damaging nonetheless. It's bad writing, but it's even worse politics, so why not work just a little bit harder and avoid both?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sketching an Anti-Economist

[via LBO-talk]

The question arose, what progressive or leftist alternatives are there to the Economist? Leaving aside the question whether one is either necessary or desirable (and these are debatable points, but I have a feeling the answer to both is, "yes"), what options might there be? Suggestions in response included the New Internationalist, the Guardian Weekly/Le Monde Diplomatique combo (which I personally favor), or even BusinessWeek (which has its own pretty serious drawbacks, perhaps most especially its US and economic focus, as opposed to the Economist, which is global in focus, both geographically and conceptually). But this all seemed to me to beg a more fundamental question (herewith the content of the list post):

What would an anti-Economist even look like?

Well, it would have to be the E but not, right? That is, it would have to be global in perspective, synthetic in its approach to news, rigorous in analysis, ruthless in application of principles, and critically reflective wrt those principles. As the organ of the anti-Empire, how can it gain wide readership? Does it need wide readership? Probably it does, first because that's part of the fight, and second, because it needs to make that much money in order to keep going.

I think the Economist is having success in the US in large part because it, well, does news. It's not a political magazine, not a "newsweekly" in the US mold of Time or Newsweek or any of now a half-dozen major newspaper weekly magazines, and doesn't succumb to the need to do stories about Britney Spears. Why does no one on this list argue that Time or Newsweek are good alternatives? Partly because they're crap, but I imagine it's also partly because the US newsweeklies do different things. There are no long or investigative pieces in the E. It's essentially a big newspaper published weekly. You can cruise the week's summaries and the TOC in the E every week and have a sense that you know basically wtf is going on around the world. Then you may not read cover to cover, but you can go read a succinct and generally pretty well written piece on page x. If the E were your only source, then this would be a problem, but it shouldn't be and I'm willing to guess it pretty much never is. The same would go, I would think, for the Anti-E.

So all of this makes me think our comparison with the Guardian Weekly and Le Monde Diplomatique makes pretty good sense, if we could just give them bigger budgets. The International Herald-Tribune is another model of newspaper collaboration going international, and it might be useful, here, except that we want a weekly. Maybe we could add the WSJ and, say, Mother Jones to the pool? With some material taken from the AFP wire? Throw in some independent journalists willing to pitch in for modest but reasonable fees (or even for free???), and you've got a pool of stories--if the relevant ownership is willing to share their material for the project--that an independent editorial board could draw on. Surely the best answer would be for such a publication to have its own staff of well-paid writers, but let's suppose for the moment that the scenario I'm working on is meaningfully more plausible than hiring a full staff for a progressive weekly to rival the Economist.

You would need money for space, a full-time editorial staff (maybe half a dozen people?) and a part-time editorial board (maybe a dozen to two dozen people who would have a genuinely meaningful role to play), money to pay reasonable rates to occasional freelance contributors (say 1-2/week?), and then money to cover printing and distribution costs. Am I forgetting anything? That's presuming that (a) publications like the ones noted above agree to pitch in not only with reprinted material but also (at least ideally) with a writer here and there for original material, (b) that the editorial board is able to spend significant time reviewing material for inclusion and occasionally writing original editorial or other pieces that add value to our weekly beyond reprinting material available elsewhere. And we should keep in mind that we want to break into the E's market, but we also want to grab markets not on the E's radar, so it ought to be cheap, or maybe there would be a program for distributing copies at low or no cost in certain areas or through certain channels.

If this is pie in the sky, which at best it probably is (at worst, it is precisely the opposite of what leftists and progressives ought to be worrying about, but that would be a very different post), then any dream of an anti-Economist is pie in the sky, too.

Anyone got the cash?

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Friday, August 17, 2007

I can't possibly be the only person who's had it with the "Coffee Exposed" sponsored Google link that keeps showing up in my Gmail "Web Clips" box. A snap to illustrate, or to jog your memory, depending:

Apparently, there's some "shocking secret" coffee companies don't want me to know, but is it SFW?

There's a not-so-secret I want the makers of to know: you don't entice me to read your exposé by forcing me to acknowledge in the very link I click that I am a "coffee fool" who's been conned by coffee companies. Thanks for trying to remove the scales from my eyes, but might I suggest a less condescending approach? You sound like all those self-appointed enlighteners of the masses who are more worried about what's allegedly wrong with Kansas than what's wrong with their own message or organizing.

And we all know that allegedly "shocking" secrets almost never deliver, anyway, so I'm doubly put off. And then there's the fact that I've ignored it a million times already, and resent having to ignore it again. But since, like good capitalists, you've purchased a sponsored link, you've taken that choice away from me.

Go the fuck away, already.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Suicide Bombs

More news to embolden our enemies: Army suicide rates have skyrocketed.

There were 99 Army suicides last year -- nearly half of them soldiers who hadn't reached their 25th birthdays, about a third of them serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. [ . . . ] 69 were committed by troops who were not deployed in either war, though there were no figures immediately available on whether they had previously deployed.
Most striking is the youth of the suicides. There's a theory about that.

Col. Elspeth Ritchie, psychiatry consultant to the Army surgeon general, told a Pentagon press conference that the primary reason for suicide is ''failed intimate relationships, failed marriages.''

She said that although the military is worried about the stress caused by repeat deployments and tours of duty that have been stretched to 15 months, it has not found a direct relationship between suicides and combat or deployments.

''However, we do know that frequent deployments put a real strain on relationships, especially on marriages. So we believe that part of the increase is related to the increased stress in relationships,'' she said.

''Very often a young soldier gets a 'Dear John' or 'Dear Jane' e-mail and then takes his weapon and shoots himself,'' she said.

Notes an army chaplain, ''You're away from home, you have to put your life on hold. I know soldiers whose marriages have broken up or who couldn't pay their bills.''

Sounds to me like those army wives hate america. If they were real patriots, they would support our troops by staying in marriages that are impossible, emotionally and financially. By divorcing their husbands, breaking up with their boyfriends, or even just being too emotionally or financially demanding, they embolden the terrorists.

Why do army wives hate freedom?

Legacy of Stupidity

From the Economist's review of Legacy of Ashes:

The 1947 act that set up the agency gave it two tasks: briefing the president with intelligence and conducting secret operations for him abroad. In Mr Weiner's view the CIA was lamentable at both—and most presidents must take a share of the blame.

The CIA failed to warn the White House of the first Soviet atom bomb (1949), the Chinese invasion of South Korea (1950), anti-Soviet risings in East Germany (1953) and Hungary (1956), the dispatch of Soviet missiles to Cuba (1962), the Arab-Israeli war of 1967 and Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It overplayed Soviet military capacities in the 1950s, then underplayed them before overplaying them again in the 1970s.

The record of covert action is little better. In Japan, France and Italy the CIA sought to protect democracy by buying elections. It sponsored coups in Guatemala, Iran, Syria and Iraq, where a Baath Party leader boasted in 1963, “We came to power on an American train.” When an invasion of Cuba masterminded by the agency failed, it plotted to kill Fidel Castro. In ascending order of bloodshed, it took a hand in military coups in South Vietnam, Chile and Indonesia.

One reckons many another tale of woe figures into Weiner's assessment, but this is a really nice synopsis of key debacles. We might throw the SOA in there for good measure.

Was such skulduggery worth it? Did the extra security for the United States outweigh the immediate human cost, the frequently perverse geopolitical consequences and the moral damage to American ideals? Doubters repeatedly warned presidents that on balance the CIA's foreign buccaneering did more harm than good. Mr Weiner has dug out devastating official assessments of covert operations from the 60 years he covers suggesting that many were not worth it. The sceptics were not peaceniks or bleeding hearts but hard-headed advisers at high levels of government.

We're not talking just operational ineptitude. We're talking about seriously stupid decision-making. Stupid and, in many cases, evil.

What we really need is a good intelligence organization. Why is that so hard?

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

License Plate of Fury

Speaking of special license plates, here's a good one from, of all places, Oklahoma.

Beause 9-11 is the Earth's Independence Day. Or something.

Is there a global war on poverty plate somewhere? Personally, I'd probably want a "global war on stupidity" plate.

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. . . But He Loves You

Much of George Carlin's monologue on religion is top-notch stuff. His dismantling of the logic of prayer, and of a god who is essentially a passive aggressive little dictator but is supposed to be understood as caring for you succeeds perfectly.

Other bits less so. Most interesting, perhaps, is that once he's so effectively made nonsense of the idea of a loving god who punishes us with lightning strikes and/or eternal damnation, his claim that there is no god ("Not one") is supposed to be demonstrated by asking god to strike him dead. We might reasonably take this as confirmation that the god he already made nonsense of doesn't exist, but that's only one of many possible conceptions of divinity, and while it may make the point about that One God (TM?), it doesn't go any further than that. In other words, he might be demonstrating that the One God who loves us in an omni-passive-aggressive way doesn't exist, but not that "not one" god exists. Depending, of course, on what the meaning of "exists" is.

All that said, the piece is not only funny, but a great example of humor/comedy as a powerful philosophical tool. This is the one thing the left in America seems to have gotten better than the right in America. Our answer to Bill O'Reilly is Jon Stewart. Our answer to Scarborough is Colbert. And our answer to Pat Robertson is George Carlin.

I wish I were that funny. But I'm not, so watch the 10-minute monologue.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Enter the License Plate

Some kind of strange plan in Hong Kong that I don't entirely understand has resulted in one "Mr. Wong" dropping about US$5,000 on a license plate reading "BRUCELEE." Now, I love Bruce Lee, but I really don't understand what's going on, here. It seems to be a government fundraiser using vanity tags.

The mysterious Mr. Wong sez he will consult with Linda before deciding what to actually do with the plate. Most outlets quote the following from tv footage:

"When I studied in England, foreigners would only know two Chinese people. One is Bruce Lee. The other is Chairman Mao (Zedong). You can imagine how great Bruce Lee is, how big of an impact he had on the Chinese, even until today," the buyer, identified only by his surname, Wong, said in footage aired on Hong Kong's Cable TV." He is irreplaceable," Wong said.
The International Herald Tribune (from the AP wire) notes in conclusion, "The action star was known for films in which he portrayed characters that defended the Chinese and the working class from oppressors." In this regard, see especially "Fist of Fury" and "Return of the Dragon."

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Update on Iran in Latin America

The Guardian enjoyed the same irony I did regarding the past "relationship" between the Sandinistas and the Islamic Republic, but they note that Iran really got involved in Latin America by way of Chavez.

Venezuela's radical left-wing president, Hugo Chávez, opened Latin America to Iran by signing multiple accords with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, including bilateral deals on oil, tractors and bicycles.

"The Chávez-Ahmadinejad relationship is what drives Iran's role in Latin America, which is fundamentally geopolitical rather than economic," said Michael Shifter, of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue thinktank.

Mr Chávez has billed the accords as an "axis of unity" against the US, which he terms the "empire", and has encouraged allies such as Mr Ortega to follow suit.

So, basically, all the America-haters are ganging up on America, despite their ideological differences. And so I go back to Zizek, from April 2003.

What I'm really afraid of is that when we left-wingers ask, "is America aware that in this way they are only creating new tensions?" they miss the point. What if the aim is to introduce instability to the entire region and then to brutally impose some kind of universalized emergency state or new order? But even if the U.S. is consciously counting on the global disorder, it will not be able to control it. My only hope is that American interventions will give rise to some kind of resistance. My big hope - as an atheist, praying night and day for it - is that the resistance in the Middle East will not be simply kidnapped by the so-called fundamentalists. That this resistance will have at least secular socialist wing. And I think there is a fair chance at it. Look at Iran. There is hope.

OK, so much for the hope for Iran. But he's only wrong about Iran because he's right about everything else. Unfortunately, the universalized emergency state starts at home . . .

Doublespeak in Action

I think George Orwell himself wrote Bush's encomium to the new law that lets the NSA eavesdrop, without obtaining a warrant, on any communication involving foreign nationals "reasonably believed to be outside the United States."

"When our intelligence professionals have the legal tools to gather information about the intentions of our enemies, America is safer," Bush said. "And when these same legal tools also protect the civil liberties of Americans, then we can have the confidence to know that we can preserve our freedoms while making America safer."
"Civil liberties" here apparently does not include the Fourth Amendment, or the First, as far as I can tell. But it gets better. Bush is threatening to further protect and extend our freedoms:
The new law updates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and it will expire in six months unless Congress renews it. Bush wants deeper, permanent changes. "We must remember that our work is not done," Bush prodded. "This bill is a temporary, narrowly focused statute to deal with the most immediate shortcomings in the law.
The "clash of civilizations" is turning into the squabble among totalitarian family members.

Fear is Freedom

So much to blog, so little time. An op-ed in today's NYT describes the growing structural, economic entrenchment of the War on Terror state of emergency.

Back [in the 1980s, on the Montana-Alberta border], if we had seen a man on horseback riding along the border, standing in his stirrups to look around, we would have assumed that he was a rancher looking for straying livestock. Today, we’d have to consider the possibility that he was an operative for Operation Noble Mustang, in which wild horses from Bureau of Land Management holdings in the West are trained by prison inmates for use by border patrolmen on the lookout for smugglers and terrorists trying to enter the United States from Canada. [ . . . ]

It’s a new, strange story. In a part of the country that was built on the most extravagant homesteaders’ and oil-drillers’ hopes for the future, economic health in this new century rides largely on the continued threat of threat itself.
And now the House has gone and legislated Bush's freedom to eavesdrop on any foreign communication routed through the US, no warrant required. You're welcome, Ameria: kiss your fucking Fourth Amendment goodbye. No need to thank us.

When people see the US as the biggest threat to democracy in the world, they can prove their case by pointing to the contracting rights of US citizens. We do the "terrorists'" work for them. Well done, George. Well done, Democrat representatives. Well done, modern-day yellow dog Dems, and nu skool "we hate big government jackboots" Republicans. Well done, Americans who are too busy being afraid of or hating al-Qa'ida to pay any attention to what their own government is doing to them.


Blowback Chronicles: The Tehran-Managua Axis

According to the model (Rome/Berlin/Tokyo), you need three members for a proper axis (aka, "axis of evil"), despite the fact that an axis typically is a single line between two points. Two members should be the primary partners, and at least one should be in East Asia. With Iraq now safely a Western-style democracy, Iran and North Korea have been interviewing potential new partners. It looks like Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, after considering such contenders as, well, most of the world, has finally settled on Daniel Ortega's Nicaragua.

The relationship between Iran and Nicaragua goes back to the 1980s, when Ortega was a former scrappy revolutionary fighting a US-backed right-wing counter-revolution, and Ahmadinejad was a soldier-engineer-student fighting a US-backed invasion by Iraq's then-dictator, Saddam ("The Hammer") Hussein. US President Ronald Reagan, famous for thinking out of the box before thinking out of the box was cool, funded the Nicaraguan counter-revolutionary freedom fighters known as the "Contras" by selling weapons to Iran (via Israel) for the war against Iraq that he was also supporting. A case study in success now referred to in NSA circles as the "Moebius Gambit," but more widely known as the "Iran-Contra Affair," Reagan's operation projected Oliver North and John Poindexter to fame and fortune, first in congressional hearings, and later on FoxNewsChannel, the History Channel, and in the US government's Total Information Awareness program.

Iran and Nicaragua have engaged in a barter trade deal, while Iran and North Korea support each other's nuclear ambitions. Adding Nicaragua to the partnership opens axis access to the volatile anti-US Latin American region, including particularly Venezuela's populist former-commando Hugo Chavez and Cuba's long-time post-revolutionary dictator, Fidel Castro.

Axis of Evil (NDAQ: EVIL) shares rose on the news.


Love Those Dems

While all the "progressive" bloggers yuk it up in Chicago, both Dem-controlled houses of Congress pass legislation eviscerating the Fourth Amendment.

Let's give W his props. In his second term and facing two opposition-controlled houses, Bush was supposed to be legislatively impotent this year. Instead, he's got the Dems doing his dirty work for him. It would be easy, and perhaps satisfying, to decry the Dems turning their back on the people who voted them into office, but it seems to me more accurate, if somewhat more depressing, to acknowledge the simple fact that Dem success over the last near-twenty years has primarily arisen out of the Clinton-patented strategy of out-GOPping the GOP.

Worse, this latest legislation is just another step down the road Clinton-Gore first trod of extending police power and contracting individual rights. I don't know why we expect anything different from Democrats, now. Clinton was ideologically bankrupt, but tactically brilliant. Today's Dems lack his tactical skill (never mind charisma, or, frankly, intelligence), and have perhaps less ideological integrity than Clinton.

So, if Clinton was in many respects a smarter, prettier Republican, what are we to say of the Dems now running Congress?


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Bottled Water and Car Escape Tools

Dave, who has no blog of his own (or I would link to it), and who probably hates me calling him Dave, notes the new top-sellers in the Automotive category at Amazon:

The LifeHammer item page tags the item as a "Hot Deal" at 4cents off (surely it is destined to be the Club of the 2000s), and exhorts us to hurry up and wait for our supplemental insurance policy:

Availability: In stock soon. Order now to get in line. First come, first served.

Hurry, order now and we'll ship this item when it becomes available. You can cancel your order at any time. Your credit card will not be charged until we have shipped your order. Ships from and sold by
So, in the absence of quality drinking water, we filter our water and drink it from innumerable plastic bottles (those of us who can afford it), and in the absence of safe bridges, we we will now install LifeHammers in our cars.

What's the answer for terrorists? Oh, right: trust your mechanic.

I can't wait to see if these things become the Club of the 2000s. At least people seem still concerned about keeping their cars clean.

Give Me Back My Star Chamber

Thank God for the new security bill passed by the Democrat-controlled Senate. This legislation, approved by a razor-thin margin of 60-28, "would expand the government's authority to intercept without a court order the phone calls and e-mails of people in the United States who are communicating with people overseas."

"Every day we don't have [this wiretap authority], we don't know what's going on outside the country," a senior White House official said.
Excuses, excuses.

I'm writing an article on the Yankees. Every day I don't get to read all the major papers for free, I don't know what's going on with the Yankees. Of course I should have the New York papers, but is it too much to ask that I pay to read a bunch of irrelevant material?

On the other hand, the attitude also resembles that of our lazy-ass airport security, which can't be bothered to identify suspicious travel patterns, and so just makes everyone's lives miserable in a shotgun approach to security: if you take away everyone's everything, you're bound to take away the right guy's everything, too. This exemplifies the precision approach to fighting terrorism adopted by the Bush Administration.

Our senior friend at the White House continues:
"All you need is one communication from, say, Pakistan to Afghanistan that's routed through Seattle that tells you 'I'm about to do a truck bomb in New York City' or 'about to do a truck bomb in Iraq,' and it's too late."
Ahhhh, we need warrantless wiretap authority for the war in Iraq. I didn't even think of that one! I was thinking we could probably bust all those Islamist phone phreakers on pr0n charges, cause if they're rerouting calls all over God's green earth, you know they're anonymizing they're pr0n downloads, too. And Islamofascists love the child pr0n.

Anyway, all I'm saying is, it's a really good thing the Scientologists got shut down. Otherwise, our lawyers would need warrantless wiretap authority so they could spend their precious time going after poor Julf.
Adding to the urgency for the administration is a secret ruling by a FISA judge earlier this year that declared surveillance of purely foreign communications that pass through a U.S. communications node illegal without a court-approved warrant -- a requirement that intelligence officials have described as unacceptably burdensome.
Right. So judges free of political pressure refuse to play along with Bush's bullshit "if you hate warrantless wiretapping, you hate America" approach to surveillance, so he gets into a political fight with Dems on the hill. This is a sick irony, that in the modern land of democratic freedoms it takes someone operating in secret to stand up for the Constitutional rights of Americans, rights the Declaration of Independence considers to be granted to us by our Creator (a creator Bush claims to believe in).

I don't believe in the creator, but I believe in the rights, and it runs right straight against my understanding of accountability that elected officials would be the ones to hand over those rights. It's the reverse of the Star Chamber. When the NSA comes to get me, I might actually request a secret trial.