Thursday, February 02, 2006

On the Dangers of an Unchecked Bully Boy

What begins as surveillance moves to wiretapping, then COINTELPRO tricks, and finally to murder -- a diagram of what happened to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and why the illegal NSA surveillance is so alarming.

The above is from Joan Mellen's "HOW THE FAILURE TO IDENTIFY, PROSECUTE AND CONVICT PRESIDENT KENNEDY’S ASSASSINS HAS LED TO TODAY’S CRISIS OF DEMOCRACY" and Eddie had asked that we note it when we do the entry on the Church Committee.

So what was the Chuch Committee? Background. Watergate. Nixon steps down to avoid being impeached. The Watergate break-in is only the tip of the icebergs. There were enemies list (the recently deceased Jack Anderson was one of the reporters who broke the story on the enemies list). Are we moving too fast?

Richard Nixon's administration went after Daniel Ellsberg who passed the Pentagon Papers onto the press (the papers revealed that there was no "win" in Vietnam and that the government, despite constant happy talk, had known that for many, many years). But you didn't have to be Ellsberg. You could be anyone opposed to the Nixon administration, speaking out against it. Ask Donald Sutherland, ask Jane Fonda, ask Jean Seberg. Oh, wait, we can't ask Seberg.

If you were a Quaker opposed to the illegal war in Vietnam, speaking out, that's all it took to be on the enemies' list. Once you made the list, the administration encouraged all government agencies to monitor you: customs (if you crossed the border), the IRS (with regards to your tax returns) and, of course, the FBI, the CIA and military intelligence (when it came to spying on you). Illegal wiretaps, surveillance, warrantless searches, intercepting your mail . . . Go down the list, there's very little that wasn't done. Including attempts to stop the peaceful Ring Around Congress (Jun 21, 1972). As information bubbled out during the Watergate hearings, outrage demanded action.

As Joan Mellen points out, it starts with shirking the law, it starts with thinking you are above it and that rules don't apply. Presumably, the committment to an earlier Bully Boy (Nixon) was more important than the rules of law (or the foundations of a democracy) and the people 'following orders' felt that their duty was to protect the president and not the Constitution or the country. We're back in those days now. We have been for sometime.

Diane Sawyer making an ass out of herself attempting to publicly shame the Dixie Chicks by repeating the nonsense of "the commander-in-chief" should have been a tip off. A journalist repeating a lie (over and over) should have warned us that democracy was once again in troubled waters. (Bully Boy is the commander-in-chief of the military and the military only. No president is commander-in-chief of the nation. We don't live under military rule.) There were other signals as well. There was Colin Powell, supposedly the one with "integrity" in the administration, and his constant talk of 'service' that just flew over the heads of the mainstream press. This wasn't service to the nation, this wasn't living up to the highest calling. He was speaking of putting his loyalities to Bully Boy ahead of everything else. That's not democracy.
The oath that is taken is to the Constitution, not to any president.

Presidents come and go. What the founders of the country were attempting to create was a democracy. The republic has had to adapt over the years because original notions of citizenship were very limited and because democracy is a living thing. Give a Bully Boy a "Pearl Harbor" like event and suddenly he can get away with anything. The recounts are buried, Dan Rather goes on the BBC and speaks of how you only report so much for fear of reprisals, idiots like Diane Sawyer jump on the flag waving bandwagon. The flag is a symbol. The Constitution is what we're supposed to live under. But Sawyers and her kind didn't wave the Constitution.

Quickly a chill sets upon the nation (as Tim Robbins rightly pointed out) and you've got the supposed free press rushing in to shame anyone who speaks out against the administration. Regardless of who occupies the oval office when that behavior surfaces, it should alarm everyone. But it was left to the alternative press to call this toady-ism out. It was left to brave voices (Sibel Edmunds, for example) to speak out with little support from the supposed free press.

Congress? They were scared of their own shadows with very few exceptions. (They're still scared.) "Strategy" (bad strategy as we saw in the 2002 election) trumped their oath of office.
The mainstream press likes to pin the blame for any issue they don't cover in recent times on the fact that the Democrats in office didn't challenge the official spin. Toady-ism saw the New York Times, NPR, many Democrats in office (as well as bean counters passing as journalists on CNN) and countless others smear Cynthia McKinney for something she never said. You saw people stand in line to savage Susan Sontag for asking that we not be foolish. It has been one witchunt after another. Some were done openly in public, some were a little more clever (such as the planting of false rumors in the foreign press that were then trumpeted by the Murdoch house organs -- the New York Post and Fox "News").

All of that should have been alarming as well as how quickly it took place as everyone rushed to prove their "patriotism" which they read as little-to-no serious crititicsm of the Bully Boy. As many have pointed out, "terrorism" is the new "communism" menace and those who can't be dubbed "terrorists" must be "terrorist supporters" is what passes for "logic."

We have seen massive roundups and deportations of people guilty only of being Muslim. Congress and the press can claim they went along just to give Bully Boy the benefit of the doubt but they were being cowardly and refusing to stand up for their country. Rounds ups? After the national shame of our interment of Japanese-Americans, suddenly roundups were back in style. Criminal defense attorney Lynne Stewart is tarred and feathered as a "terrorist" and your brave mainstream press either remains silent or goes along with that nonsense. Jose Padilla is locked away (still) year after year without ever having a day in court and your mainstream press won't speak out.

For all the talk of "national security," these and other actions aren't done in secret. But out of fear and lack of a spine, we look the other way and act like none of it is happening. We spy on the UN and what little coverage the spying gets in this country from the mainstream press (I'm not remembering anyone in Congress objecting -- but, if they had, it's unlikely the press would have covered it anyway). Abuses go unchecked and the Bully Boy grows more and more bold.

As Tim Robbins noted:

Any acquiescence or intimidation at this point will only lead to more intimidation. You have, whether you like it or not, an awesome responsibility and an awesome power: the fate of discourse, the health of this republic is in your hands, whether you write on the left or the right. This is your time, and the destiny you have chosen.

That was in 2003, you'd think we'd be further along now then we are but we aren't. The mainstream press, with few exceptions, doesn't cover the Downing Street Minutes, doesn't cover anything that points to the serious abuses of this administration.

Now comes the revelations that the Bully Boy's ordered warrentless spying on Americans, by the NSA, and we're still seeing spin promoted as "legal strategy." That's where we are today and we need to think about that before we look back.

Following Nixon's exit from the national stage in disgrace, and the revelations of his misdeeds, Congress began to look into the activities of our government. The Church Committee began its task in 1975 and was chaired by Frank Church, a Democratic senator from Idaho. From 1975 to 1976, the committee published reports, fourteen in all, but some of the committee's work is still classified to this day.

What did America learn from the Church Committee? At the time, a great deal, but surprisingly (or not), this episode of our history doesn't appear to have made it into our national curriculum. Most of the mainstream press, when noting the Church Committee (or the Pike Committee) due to the recent revelations of the Bully Boy's spying, toss it out as an aside, a shout out. A sentence or two passes for summarizing the work of the Church Committee.

What the Church Committee discovered went beyond spying but let's start with some of that. The FBI spied on Americans, targeted them. Spying on the Communist Party included spying on the National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee as well as on civil rights leaders. Footnote fourteen to the Church Committee's Book II: Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans reads:

For example, the entire Unitarian Society of Cleveland was targeted because the minister and some members circulated a petition calling for the aboliton of the HUAC, and because the Church gave office space to the "Citizens for Constitutional Rights". (Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Cleveland Field Office, 11/ 6/64.)

Spying on them, on the Black Nationalists (defined in the report as the Black Panthers, the SNCC, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference "and included every Black Student Union and many other black student groups"), the New Left and assorted other groups and organizations, was illegal. The report found that:

The acts taken interfered with the First Amendment rights of citizens. They were explicity intended to deter citizens from joining groups, "neutralize" those who were already members, and prevent or inhibit the expression of ideas.
In achieving its purported goals of protecting the national security and preventing violence, the Bureau attempted to deter membership in the target groups.

From Book II:

Instructions to "preclude" free speech were not limited to "black nationlists;" they occurred in every pgoram. In the New Left program, for instance, approximately thirty-nine percent of all actions attempted to keep targets from speaking, teaching, writing, or publishing.
The cases included attempts (sometimes successful) to prompt the firing of university and high school teachers; to prevent targets from speaking on campus; to stop chapters of target groups from being formed; to prevent the distribution of books, newpapers, or periodicals; to disrupt or cancel news conferences; to interfere with peaceful demonstrations, including the SCLC's Poor People's Campaign and Washington Spring Project and most of the large anti-war marches; and to deny fcilities for meetings or conferences.
As the above cases demonstrate, the FBI was not just "chilling" free speech, but squarely attacking it.
The tactics used against Americans often risked and sometimes caused serious emotional, economic, or physical damage. Actions were taken which were designed to break up marriages, terminate funding or employment, and encourage gang warfare between violent rival groups. Due process of law forbids the use of such covert tactics whether the victims are innocent, law-abiding citizens or members of groups suspected of involvement in violence.

The Church Committe found out a great deal more (probably a great deal more than we know, hence the continued classification of some details) but let's focus on the people.

In the hazy tributes over Mark Felt last summer (which we didn't engage in), reality often left the room. Mark Felt wasn't a "hero" or a "good guy." His being Deep Throat didn't change who he was. (And, as Daniel Schorr pointed out on NPR, it's very likely his motives for whistle blowing had to do with his being passed over for a promotion. I don't think you can examine the record of Felt and find any strong support for notions of democracy.)

But apparently are amenesia regarding recent history was great enough to allow some to hail Felt as a "hero." When you want reality, skip the mainstream press and head over to Democracy Now! Specifically, "EXCLUSIVE... Jennifer Dohrn: I Was The Target Of Illegal FBI Break-Ins Ordered by Mark Felt aka 'Deep Throat:'"

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about what happened to you. Where did you live?
JENNIFER DOHRN: I lived in New York primarily. I was based in New York. I was very, very active in the anti-war movement and in support of the Black Freedom Movement and the Puerto Rican liberation struggle, and I was followed night and day by the F.B.I. I had my apartments, several apartments, wiretapped. Apartments next to me were rented by F.B.I. agents who kept continuous 24-hour surveillance of every sound made in my apartment. I was followed up and down the streets. I would get a job, the F.B.I. would go in after me, and I would then be fired from the job. It was around-the-clock harassment.
AMY GOODMAN: Were you aware of it at the time?
JENNIFER DOHRN: I was aware of a lot of it. I was certainly aware of being followed a lot. I was -- assumed that perhaps my phones were tapped, and I had no idea of the level of extent under which I was being surveilled. I had no idea that break-ins were repeatedly happening into my apartments. I remember when I was pregnant with my first born feeling extremely vulnerable because I was being followed a great deal of the time, and then it was revealed when I received my Freedom of Information Act papers, over 200,000 documents, that there actually had been developed by Felt a plan to kidnap my son after I birthed in hopes of getting my sister to surrender.

When you are already breaking the laws, subverting the Constitution, kidnapping is just another step along the way. The rules of law matter but the Bully Boy has attempted one power grab after another. He wants to be unchecked by the two other branches. This isn't a new development. Just as the administration refused to release items on Dick Cheney's energy commission, they refuse to release the 'legal opinions' that okayed their NSA spying.

Instead of serious and hard questions, many in the mainstream press have returned to their apparently dreamed of careers as sports commentators -- which must be why reality leaves the reporting and instead the "success" or "failure" of the spin campaign (what Amy Goodman's dubbed "Why We Spy") is their focus. The press is failing at it's job (the mainstream press). The same press that bent over backwards to run to Vicky Toejam and others for the talking points on why no crime was committed by outing Valerie Plame, now bend over backward to avoid addressing the obvious (in reporting, the New York Times would point to their editorials, they can't point to their reporting).

The Church Committee not only discovered spying and efforts to disrupt movements (as well as destroy lives). From Book II of the Church Committee:

The Bureau also contacted employers and funding organizations in order to cause the firing of the targets or the termination of their support. For example, priests who allowed their churches to be used for the Black Panther breakfast programs were targeted, and anonymous letters were sent to their bishops, a television commentator who expressed admiration for a Black Nationalist leader and critized heavy defense spending was transferred after the Bureau contacted his employer, and an employee of the Urban League was fired after the FBI approached a "confidential source" in a foundation which funded the League.

When not doing that, like Gladys Kravitz on Bewitched, the intelligence community (including military intelligence) was fond of spreading rumors to spouses of infidelity -- the sort of actions that Americans would feel the KGB would do but never our own agencies were done and then some.

Coretta Scott King just passed and there's been reluctance on the part of the New York Times to note that on their editorial or op-ed pages. Possibly they don't want to delve too deeply into the Church Committee findings? The committee found gross violations of "the law and fundamental human decency" with regards to the FBI's actions against Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Strong language and the FBI more than earned it:

The Committee devoted substantial attention to the FBI's covert action campaign against Dr. Martin Luther King because it demonstrates just how far the Government could go in a secret war against one citizen. In focusing upon Dr. King, however, it should not be forgotten that the Bureau carried out disruptive activies against hundreds of lesser-known American citizens. It should also be borne in mind that postive action on the part of high Government officials outside the FBI might have prevented what occurred in this case.
[. . .]
The FBI's campaign against Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began in December 1963, four months after the famous civil rights March on Washington, when a nine-hour meeting was convened at FBI Headquarters to discuss various "avenues of approach aimed at neutralizing King as an effective Negro leader." Following the meeting, agents in the field were instructed to "continue to gather information concerning King's personal activites . . . in order that we may consider using this information at an opportune time in a counterintelligence move to discredit him."
About two weeks after that conference, FBI agents planted a microphone in Dr. King's bedroom at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. During the next two years, the FBI installed at least fourteen more "bugs" in Dr. King's hotel rooms across the country. Physical and photographic surveillances accompanied some of the microphone coverage.
The FBI also scrutinized Dr. King's tax-returns, monitored his financial affairs, and even tried to determine whether he had a secret foreign bank account.
In late 1964, a "sterilized" tape was prepared in a manner that would prevent attribution ot the FBI and was "anonymously" mailed to Dr. King just before he received the Nobel Peace Prize. Enclosed in the package with the tape was an unsigned letter which warned Dr. King, "your end is approaching . . . you are finished." The letter intimated that the tape might be publicly released, and closed with the following message:

King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in which to do (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason, it has definite practical significance). You are done. There is but one way out for you . . .

Dr. King's associates have said he interpreted the message as an effort to induce him to commit suicide.
At about the same time that it mailed the "santized" tape, the FBI was also apparently offering tapes and transcripts to newsmen. Later when civil rights leaders Roy Wilkins and James Farmer went to Washington to persuade Beureau officials to halt the FBI's discrediting efforts, they were told "if King want[s] war we [are] prepared to give it to him."
Shortly thereafter, Dr. King went to Europe to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The Bureau tried to undermine ambassadorial receptions in several of the countries he visited, and when he returned to the United States, took steps to diminish support for a banquet and a special "day" being planned in his honor.
The Bureau's actions against Dr. King included attempts to prevent him from meeting with world leaders, receiving honors or favorable publicity, and gaining financial support. When the Bureau learned of a possible meeting between Dr. King and the Pope in August 1964, the FBI asked Cardinal Spellman to try to arrange a cancellation of the audience. Discovering that two schools (Springfield College and Marquette University) were going to honor Dr. King with special degress in the spring of 1964, Bureau agents tried to convince officials at the scools to rescind their plans. And when the Bureau learned in October 1966 that the Ford Foundation might grants three million dollars to Dr. King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference, they asked a former FBI agent who was a high official at the Ford Motor Company to try to block the award.
A magazine was asked not to publish favorable articles about him. Religious leaders and institutions were contacted to undermine their support of him. Press conference questions were prepared and distributed to "friendly" journalists. And plans were even discussed for sabotaging his political campaign in the event he decided to run for national office.
[. . .]
The "neutralization" program continued until Dr. King's death. As late as March 1968, FBI agents were being instructed to neutralize Dr. King because he might become a "messiah" who could "unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement" if he were to "abandon his supposed 'obedience' to 'white liberal doctrines' 9non-violence) and embrace black nationalism. Steps were taken to subvert the Poor People's Campaign which Dr. King was planning to lead in the spring of 1968. Even after Dr. King's death, agents in the field were proposing methods for harrassing his widow, and Buereau officials were trying to prevent his birthday from becoming a national holiday.

As the committee noted, these activites happened to many less well known people as well. It was open season on anyone who thought free speech and democracy meant that you might actually be able to publicly criticize your government. And agencies had nothing better to do then plot against Americans and sneak around. Take Joan Baez's 1967 concert tour of England where the CIA . . . Wait, let's go the New York Times, February 21, 1967, via Baez's And A Voice to Sing With:

. . . Press reports allege that an American, indentifying himslef as Harold Cooper, a CIA man, had ordered the Japanese interpreter, Ichiro Takasaki to substitute an innocuous tranlation in Japanese for Miss Baez's remarks in English on Vietnam and Nagasaki's atom bomb survivors. Mr. Takasaki was cited as the source for these allegations . . . This morning, Asahi Shimbun, a leading Tokyo daily, printed a long account of the affair. The newspaper quoted Mr. Takasaki as saying, "It is a fact that pressure was applied on me by a man who said he was from the CIA." Mr. Takasaki's interpretation surprised bilingual Japanese listeners when the national Japanese television network carried a tape recorded replay of Miss Baez's concert on January 27th.
[. . .]
When Miss Baez had referred to Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Mr. Takasaki said simply that "the show would be televised." And when she said that she had refused to pay taxes because she did not want her money to be used to finance the Vietnam war, Mr. Takasaki gave this translation: "Taxes are high in the United States . . ." Mr. Takasaki explained that before the concerts began, a telephone call came to him on January 12th, apparently from the American Embassy. The caller said he was an interpreter for someone named Harold Cooper, of the American Embassy, and reportedly said, "You are free to act as master of ceremonies, but Mr. Cooper hopes that you will not make any political statements." . . . Next day, a man who called himself Harold Cooper, telphoned him directly . . . After saying that he was a United States intelligence agent, he asked that Mr. Takasaki change the meanings when Miss Baez made political statements . . . "If you don't cooperate, you will have trouble in your work in the future." Each year Mr. Takasaki works in the United States about two months . . .
Mr. Takasaki decided to cooperate, since he felt if he refused he might not be able to obtain visas for the United States in the future. Mr. Takasaki told the Asahi Shimbun that he had actually met Mr. Cooper four times, and that each time Mr. Cooper made strict demands concerning Miss Baez's concerts. He said that at one time Mr. Cooper said, "Japan is in the midst of general elections, so be especially careful about Miss Baez' statements. Since many of her fans have a right to vote, political statements made during concerts have a major influence. . ." On February 3rd, Mr. Cooper called Mr. Takasaki at his home and reportedly said, "Thank you for your cooperation. I am now leaving for Hawaii . . ."
"It was a most strange case," said Takasaki. "I knew that Miss Baez was a marked person who was opposed to the Vietnam War and who had been tacitly boycotted by the broadcasting companies in the United States. American friends also repeatedly advised me not to take on the job. But I took it on as a business proposition, since the Japanese fans were coming not to hear her political statements, but her music. I met Mr. Cooper once in the presence of a Japanese Times reporter, but even in that meeting he openly demanded that I mistranslate.

Joan Baez concerts as a threat to national security? Sounds like something only the Bully Boy could dream up but it happened. (Pages 144 - 145 of And A Voice to Sing With, by the way.)

As abuses abuses came to light via the Church Committee and other Congressional committees, the FISA court was created in 1978 to prevent abuses of the Constitutional rights of American citizens. When the New York Times first broke the story of Bully Boy and NSA spying on American citizens without warrants, the spin was that it had to be kept quiet. Part one of the Why We Spy spin was that to go to FISA might have alerted the "terrorists." That went over about as well as his attempts to fine tune the economy, which is why Bully Boy's latest Why We Spy spin is that he has the authority to order spying without a FISA warrant.

Does he have that right? No. From Democracy Now!'s "An Impeachable Offense? Bush Admits Authorizing NSA to Eavesdrop on Americans Without Court Approval:"

JAMES BAMFORD: Well, before I get into that, just one other comment on what we just have been talking about. When the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was created in 1978, one of the things that the Attorney General at the time, Griffin Bell, said -- he testified before the intelligence committee, and he said that the current bill recognizes no inherent power of the President to conduct electronic surveillance. He said, 'This bill specifically states that the procedures in the bill are the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance may be conducted.' In other words, what the President is saying is that he has these inherent powers to conduct electronic surveillance, but the whole reason for creating this act, according to the Attorney General at the time, was to prevent the President from using any inherent powers and to use exclusively this act.

Bully Boy is again trying to render the other two branches of the government useless. He's saying that he has the power as commander-in-chief. But he's not commander-in-chief of the country. (Someone grab Diane Sawyer, she just fainted.) He's commander-in-chief of the military. The Geena Davis show doesn't seem to grasp the difference either. The country doesn't have a commander-in-chief over it because we're not a military junta, we're a democracy (or we're supposed to be).

While this goes on, as Patricia J. Williamson notes in "Foggy Bottom" (February 6, 2005 issue of The Nation, not available to nonsubscribers of the magazine):

The debate is playing out in the media fuzzily, haltingly, perhaps because of the conflation of two questions. One is whether the executive can eavesdrop on citizens at all. It can. The other is whether exercise of that power rests entirely upon the say-so of the President or his agents. It does not. Yet breathless radio and TV debates pit those two issues against each other. "He has the power to protect us by listening in!" versus "He has no power to invade our privacy!" The issue is better stated by interconnecting the two premises: He has the power to listen in when he has gotten permission by presenting reasons to do so that are within a warrantable range of relevance to law-enforcement goals.
The law is hardly burdensome, as should be well understood by now. The President must go to a special court set up for the purpose of vetting the underlying reasons or suspicions necessitating such intrusion. That court is secret, in deference to matters of national security. If time is of the essence, a warrant may be obtained from the court after the fact. The President may also seek the approval or waiver of members of Congress. These requirements are simple but not at all equivocal: The President must get permission to wiretap, period. It is not a deep or mysterious point of law. If there is law, then this is it. If there is due process, then this is the procedure that is due.

Another talking point of Why We Spy is that a fully staffed Alberto Gonzales can't prepare the necessary paperwork for a FISA brief withinin three days after the fact. Apparently Gonzales and all those under him are on vacation? If it's worth spying on an American citizen, shouldn't the Justice Dept. be in the loop immediately? And shouldn't Gonzales and his staff be able to do the job that they are paid to do? It's more spin that gets passed off in the press as 'legal strategy' as though all of this has about as much impact on our nation and who we are and who we become as a tennis match does.

After Bully Boy blusters that he doesn't need to go to the FISA court, Gonzales comes along and says "It's too burdesome and I'm not able to do it in the time frame." And this is 'strategy' to be cheered on by a lazy press? As each talking point goes against the previous one, instead of being called on it, the press rushes to play it as though this is up in the air and just a jolly match to sit back and enjoy. This isn't up in the air.

And when one spin point doesn't work, they offer another and the press runs with it. Did anyone in the mainstream press, reporting on Gonzales' talking point, note that his explanation was contradictory to Bully Boy's claim that he didn't need permission? If they're going to argue that he doesn't need permission, what does it matter whether or not Gonzales can process the paperwork required for FISA?

It doesn't matter. But the press is to busy providing color commentary on "plays" to do the basic job of informing the public. Mia wanted Michael Ratner's "Tomorrow is Today: the Time for Resistance is Now" (CounterPunch) noted and this is probably the best place for it because it speaks to what is at stake:

In other words, the republic and democracy is over. In Germany what did they call that? They called that the fuhrer's law. Why? Because the fuhrer was the law. That's what George Bush is saying here. George Bush is the law.This assertion of power is so blatant so open, and so notorious, that it is finally shocking some people like former Vice President Gore to speak up. I'm sure many of you are familiar with what he said in his recent speech on Martin Luther King's birthday. "The President of the United State has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently." He was referring to the NSA spying scandal. And then he went on to say, "A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government." And then he said what that means to a Republic: "An executive who acts free of the will of Congress as this president says he can, or the check of the judiciary, as this president says he can, becomes the central threat that the founders sought to nullify in the Constitution." And then Gore quotes James Madison to the effect that what President Bush has done is the very definition of "tyranny." So there you have it. It's not just us, its not just progressives, but even someone like former Vice President Gore is saying this government is the very definition of tyranny.

Next week the Senate holds a hearing on the issue of NSA spying. It may be the only hearing we get. It may be a whitewash. It may not be. But regardless of what happens in the official chambers in DC, we need to be watchful and we need to be vocal. In a previous time, the citizens of this country were able to stand up to these sorts of abuses. Granted, we had something resembling a working press (in the mainstream) then. We have to call this abuse out and we have to do it loudly. There's too much at stake. The point in noting the recent past (always referred to as an aside when noted in the mainstream) is to point out that we've been down this road before. We stopped it before. We can stop it again. But that won't come by waiting for the New York Times to decide to actually report. It won't come from hoping our senators do their job. We need to be active and we need to be vocal.

This is our country, this is our democracy. In the 2000 recounts (that weren't a full recount), one of the talking points was that the military ballots had to be counted because they protect this country and preserve our liberties. No offense intended to the military, but our liberties at home have always been preserved and protected by the citizens. Whether it was MLK, Cesar Chavez, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the Congressional staffers working on the impeachment indictment of Nixon, movements that forced the nation to address an issue or face reality, the person who wouldn't shut up even though everyone told her/him too . . . We're the ones who can ensure that this country remains a democracy. We can also look the other way and allow it to slide into something that the framers warned us against. We have that power and it can't be taken away, not even by the New York Times or the Bully Boy. But it can be given away if we choose not to use it.

As Norman Solomon points out in War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death (page 236), "fear is not a viable long-term foundation for building democratic structures or finding alternatives to future wars." Fear and apathy, the national crisis -- though it can't push obesity off the cover of the news weeklies. It's time to understand that we've been through this before (and will probably go through it again). The only thing that stopped the abuse before was engaged and outraged citizens. That is the "special interest group" that's feared the most. Obviously, or the government wouldn't abuse the law so often to spy. We've stopped it before and we can do it again. Make yourself heard and follow the hearings next week.

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Note of thanks to everyone who provided input. That includes Mia and Eddie who noted quotes that they wanted include. It also includes five friends who read over what I thought was the completed/nearly completed draft of this and were honest enough to say, "It's too factual, too little passion." The result was a radical reworking of this entry that threw out pretty much everything (though not my typos, I'm sure). Thanks to multiple friends who phoned during the five hours that have been spent on this version of this entry -- thanks for listening and offering suggestions (including, "delete that whole section"). (Those include, but are not limited to, Cedric, Betty, Rebecca, Ava, Jess and Kat.) (Special thanks to ___.)