Just Above Sunset
Volume 5, Number 10
March 11, 2007

Paying Attention

Paying Attention - Short Term, Long Term

 The world as seen from Just Above Sunset -

"Notes on how things seem from out here in Hollywood..."

"They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday's just the same…" Aaron Thibeaux "T-Bone" Walker has it right.

Tuesday, September 26, was a big news day, the kind of day that buries stories like this -

    The Bush administration has blocked release of a report that suggests global warming is contributing to the frequency and strength of hurricanes, the journal Nature reported Tuesday.

    The possibility that warming conditions may cause storms to become stronger has generated debate among climate and weather experts, particularly in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

    In the new case, Nature said weather experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - part of the Commerce Department - in February set up a seven-member panel to prepare a consensus report on the views of agency scientists about global warming and hurricanes.

    According to Nature, a draft of the statement said that warming may be having an effect.

    In May, when the report was expected to be released, panel chair Ants Leetmaa received an e-mail from a Commerce official saying the report needed to be made less technical and was not to be released, Nature reported.

What you don't know won't hurt you? Our government likes to keep us in the dark. It keeps us from being too uppity.

And the same day there was this, a press release and video of senate floor speech delivered Monday, September 25, by Senator James Inhofe, the chairman of Senate Environment And Public Works Committee - a challenge to the press to tell the truth about global warming, that it's a complete hoax and Al Gore is both a fool and a loser, and a lair.

So is, then, British scientist James Lovelock with his warning that catastrophic global climate change is both imminent and unstoppable with this -

    Within the next decade or two, Lovelock forecasts, Gaia will hike her thermostat by at least 10 degrees. Earth, he predicts, will be hotter than at any time since the Eocene Age 55 million years ago, when crocodiles swam in the Arctic Ocean.

    "There's no realization of how quickly and irreversibly the planet is changing," Lovelock says. "Maybe 200 million people will migrate close to the Arctic and survive this. Even if we took extraordinary steps, it would take the world 1,000 years to recover."

That's cheery, and Bill Montgomery comments here -

    It would be easy to view this as just another kooky end-of-the-world theory, if it weren't for the history of some of Lovelock's other kooky theories - like the time in the late '70s when he hypothesized that chlorofluorocarbons wafted high into the stratosphere would eat great big holes in the ozone layer, exposing first the polar regions and then the rest of the earth's surface to increasingly harmful ultraviolet radiation. What a nut.

    As far as I can tell, Lovelock's latest crackpot (or should I say "crockpot"?) idea is still the minority opinion among climatologists, most of whom seem to believe we have perhaps 70-100 years before the seriously disastrous greenhouse effects kick in --although Jim Hansen, the NASA scientist, has suggested that unless major cuts in Co2 emissions are made within the next decade, the process will become every bit as irreversible as Lovelock claims it already is.

    But the evidence that the human species is in a whole heap of trouble keeps piling up, like the research work in Amazonia (referenced in the Lovelock article) that suggests the world's largest rain forest is extremely sensitive to drought, and that many of its tree species probably can't survive more than three years of it. (Most of eastern Amazonia is currently in the second year of the worst drought on record.) If trees start to die en masse, the ground will be exposed to direct sunlight, which will dry out the soil, which will cause the understory to die, which will, within a very short period of time, create either an African-style savanna or a moon-like desert, depending on the amount of aluminum silicate in the soil.

    If Amazonia dies, the enormous carbon reserves currently trapped in its biomass will be released - adding, perhaps, to the enormous quantities of methane being untrapped in the arctic as the permafrost melts and vast, prehistoric peat bogs start to decay at an accelerated rate.

    This, in turn, could accelerate the melting of the north polar ice cap, allowing darker water and rock to absorb more of the sunlight that snow and ice reflect back into space, warming the permafrost even more, releasing more methane, heating the earth even more, causing cause more tropical rain forests to dry up and/or burn, releasing more Co2.

    We're talking, in other words, about a cascade effect, in which various natural processes all feed into each other in a series of massive positive feedback loops, quickly driving the global mean temperature higher - much more quickly and far higher than most existing ecosystems can tolerate or adapt to.

    Voila! A couple of decades of that and we'll have the biggest mass extinction in the history of the planet. Human, meet Mastodon. Mastodon, Human. Charmed, I'm sure.

    … Actually, if Lovelock's "Gaia Hypothesis" is correct, and the planet really does act like one big self-regulating organism, then what's coming won't be the end of life on earth, but rather the fever that kills the germs (think of the human race as a particularly nasty yeast infection) and restores the patient to her former health.

    I hope Mother Earth will forgive me if I don't send her a get-well-soon card.

Ah, but that's all so long term. No one thinks like that. This year's hurricane season has been benign so far and next year's won't be here until, well, next year. In the meanwhile there are bills to be paid and things to do - and housing prices have fallen for the first time in a decade and a whole lot of homeowners may lose everything and the economy crash, and although the cost of healthcare is starting to drop it's still increasing at twice the rate of inflation, the number of uninsured is edging upward toward fifty million, and the elderly who signed up for the federal prescription drug plan - Medicare Plan B - are now hitting the "doughnut hole" (see this - "The coverage gap was one of the most contentious elements of the 2003 legislation that created the new benefit. It ends federal payments for a person's drug purchases once an annual spending limit is reached, resuming them only after the beneficiary has spent thousands of dollars out of pocket."). And America's "big three" automakers are tanking - cutting folks loose and closing plants, and the GM brass are in Paris talking with Renault-Nissan about an alliance to save their butts. There's a lot to worry about, and it's pretty immediate.

And there are the wars we've gotten ourselves into. The first, Afghanistan, seemed reasonable to most people - remove the government the sponsored the bad guys, and go get the head bad guy, Osama bin Laden. The second, Iraq, was a bit questionable to some. The idea that Iraq was somehow involved in the attacks of 11 September 2001 was floated, along with the "immediate threat" thing - the WMD and nukes and all. There's no need to rehearse how the whole world said maybe we should look into all that before doing anything rash, and we petty much said, no, we're really sacred and must do something immediately. All that looks like a scam now. Of course it does. But we wanted to change things in the Middle East, and the scam worked.

But all that has turned to dust - much of Afghanistan is has reverted to the Taliban and only the record poppy crop is keeping the country afloat (they are now producing one third more heroin than world demand) and the nominal government controls Kabul and little else. Iraq is in what seem to be a vicious religious-political civil war, we're at our highest troop levels ever, another Stryker brigade (4,000 strong) has been told their tour has been extended and they're not coming home, the Iraqi troops we've trained appear to be useless, and the nominal government there controls their offices in the Baghdad Green Zone and little else, when they're not visiting Iran next door and making nice. After three and a half years we're trying to keep the folks there from killing each other, and not take sides, while propping up a feckless Shi'a government friendly with the nation we consider our most serious enemy at the moment. Other than that, thing are going fine.

So global warming wasn't on people's minds. The immediate news story, Tuesday, September 26, was the assessment of it all, the April National Intelligence Estimate that no one was supposed to see, like the global warming paper.

As discussed in far too much detail elsewhere, the conclusions of that were leaked to the New York Times and Washington Post - all sixteen of our intelligence agencies concluded the two wars, and Iraq one in particular, were actually making things far worse and all of us less safe. Of course that directly contradicted the rationale for the wars in the first place - we had to fight to make us safe. The administration said this National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) didn't really say that, exactly. That was met with skepticism, and calls for the administration to release the damn thing and prove it.

The big story the day was that the administration did just that. That may have been a mistake.

The workmanlike Associated Press account is here, and it is a good enough summary -

    The war in Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for Islamic extremists, breeding deep resentment of the US that probably will get worse before it gets better, federal intelligence analysts conclude in a report at odds with President Bush's portrayal of a world growing safer.

    In the bleak report, declassified and released Tuesday on Bush's orders, the nation's most veteran analysts conclude that despite serious damage to the leadership of al-Qaeda, the threat from Islamic extremists has spread both in numbers and in geographic reach.

    Bush and his top advisers have said the formerly classified assessment of global terrorism supported their arguments that the world is safer because of the war. But more than three pages of stark judgments warning about the spread of terrorism contrasted with the administration's glass-half-full declarations.

    "If this trend continues, threats to US interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide," the document says. "The confluence of shared purpose and dispersed actors will make it harder to find and undermine jihadist groups."

Yeah, well, the whole thing can be found here in PDF format, except it's not the whole thing, just the "key judgments."

They are bad enough -

    We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.

    • The Iraq conflict has become the "cause celebre" for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.
    • ... Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement:....(2) the Iraq "jihad;"....

    Al-Qa'ida, now merged with Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's network, is exploiting the situation in Iraq to attract new recruits and donors and to maintain its leadership role.

    ... We judge that most jihadist groups - both well-known and newly formed -will use improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks focused primarily on soft targets to implement their asymmetric warfare strategy, and that they will attempt to conduct sustained terrorist attacks in urban environments. Fighters with experience in Iraq are a potential source of leadership for jihadists pursuing these tactics.

Fine, but as Kevin Drum points out -

    In one sense, this answers the questions about what exactly the intelligence community meant by its assertion that the war was "fueling terrorism." However, because only the NIE's key judgments were declassified, these are still nothing but assertions. Without seeing the context, analysis, and dissenting opinions that shaped them, there's nothing to assess. You either accept the intelligence community's expertise or you don't.

That's not helpful, but it is sensible.

But the almost all the assessments in the thing were bad news. The positive notes were in "conditional terms" - they depended on everything going just right. More responsive political systems in Muslim nations could erode support for jihadist extremists. You never know. It could happen.

The AP notes that at the news conference about all this the president said critics who believe the Iraq war has worsened terrorism were really naive and badly mistaken - al Qaeda and all the other groups that have found inspiration to attack for more than a decade were always there and always would be there - "My judgment is, if we weren't in Iraq, they'd find some other excuse, because they have ambitions."

Yes, they do. But we screwed up, as in these conclusions -

  • The increased role of Iraqis in managing the operations of al-Qaida in Iraq might lead the terror group's veteran foreign fighters to refocus their efforts outside that country.
  • While Iran and Syria are the most active state sponsors of terror, many other countries will be unable to prevent their resources from being exploited by terrorists.
  • The underlying factors that are fueling the spread of the extremist Muslim movement outweigh its vulnerabilities. These factors are entrenched grievances and a slow pace of reform in home countries, rising anti-US sentiment and the Iraq war.
  • Groups "of all stripes" will increasingly use the Internet to communicate, train, recruit and obtain support.

This is supposed to show the report isn't that very dismal? Huh?

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, in town for talks, told CNN that in his new book he says that he had opposed the invasion of Iraq because he was thinking that it would only encourage extremists and leave the world less safe, and when asked if that were really true said this - "I stand by it, absolutely; it has made the world a more dangerous place."

That's our ally. Geez.

Of course what's buried here is this -

    The report notes that "victory" in Iraq would be a blow to the jihadists, and that failure (especially if it led to the establishment of an al-Qaeda sanctuary or if veteran foreign jihadists dispersed out of Iraq to engage in terrorism in other parts of the world) would also be very bad. Thus, the report highlights the essential dilemma Iraq poses for the war on terror: staying fuels the al-Qaeda-inspired movement, creating a net increase in the terrorist threat; while leaving Iraq in chaos would also worsen the threat. The Democrats tend to focus on the first part of the dilemma; the administration focuses on the second part. They are both right (and wrong) - and the debate would be greatly served by focusing on the dilemma itself.

Of course it would, but just what is the third alternative?

Suggestions are welcome.

But wait! There's more!

Out here in Hollywood, the Just Above Sunset staff car, the Mini Cooper S, has a great stereo system. It's a very powerful Harman-Kardon thing, great for blasting French techno-thump on long drives down the coast. And the congresswoman from the South Bay out here is Jane Harman. Same family. Some of us call her the "cool sounds" woman.

And there's this -

    There's a second damning Iraq report floating around the intelligence community.

    At least, that's according to Rep. Jane Harman (CA), the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee. At an event this morning, Harman disclosed the existence of a classified intelligence community report that gives a grim assessment of the situation in Iraq, and called for it to be shared with the American public - before the November elections.

    The report has not been shared with Congress, although sources say a draft version may have circulated earlier this summer. It is a separate report from the one revealed by major news outlets Sunday, which is said to conclude that the war in Iraq has made the US less secure from terrorist threats.

    "This morning at the National Press Club, Jane Harman did say that there is an [National Intelligence Estimate] on Iraq," her spokesman, Ari Goldberg, confirmed. Golberg said he had not read the report, but believes it may be grim. Sources at the event say the document is not officially an NIE, although it was prepared by the National Intelligence Council, an community-wide intelligence body whose primary function is to prepare NIEs.

    Dr. Lawrence Korb, a former senior Defense Department official now with the liberal-progressive Center for American Progress, hasn't seen the report but has discussed it with those who have. "It's a very bleak picture of what's going on in Iraq," he said.

So she wants the White House to "share" the classified version of the report with Congress, and release a declassified version of the thing to the public, before to the November elections.

It seems Democratic sources in congress have confirmed they've been talking about this thing for some time - they've been concerned the release was being "intentionally slowed" by the administration. In late July they had formally requested that the intelligence community write a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq - there hadn't been one in over two years. Now they'll take the draft, if that's all there is after more than two years.

This raises the immediate question - do people really have the right to know what's actually going on, so they can make an informed decision about who to vote for? In Connecticut do you vote for "stay the course - everything is fine" Joe Lieberman, or for "let's rethink this" Ned Lamont? It's that sort of thing. But maybe we shouldn't know.

It was a big news day, with immediate questions, unless you're Britney Spears - "Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens."

It seem that John McCain has turned into Britney Spears, which is the other long term story of the day, not getting much play, given the dust-up on the now declassified report on the war.

This has to do with what the Washington Post reported here - the administration spent the weekend working out further details of the torture and detention powers granted them in the McCain-Warner-Graham "compromise" on what was allowed and who decides.

Glenn Greenwald explains here (with links in the original to the news items and documents) -

    Bilal Hussein is an Associated Press photographer and Iraqi citizen who has been imprisoned by the US military in Iraq for more than five months, with no charges of any kind. Prior to that, he was repeatedly accused by right-wing blogs of being in cahoots with Iraqi insurgents based on the content of his photojournalism -- accusations often based on allegations that proved to be completely fabricated and fictitious. The US military now claims that Hussein has been lending "support" to the Iraqi insurgents, whereas Hussein maintains that his only association with them is to report on their activities as a journalist. But Hussein has no ability to contest the accusations against him or prove his innocence because the military is simply detaining him indefinitely and refusing even to charge him.

    Under the military commission legislation blessed by our Guardians of Liberty in the Senate - such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham - the US military could move Hussein to Guantánamo tomorrow and keep him there for the rest of his life, and he would have absolutely no recourse of any kind. It does not need to bring him before a military commission (the military only has to do that if it wants to execute someone) and as long as it doesn't, he is blocked from seeking an order from a US federal court to release him on the ground that he is completely innocent. As part of his permanent imprisonment, the military could even subject him to torture and he would have no legal recourse whatsoever to contest his detention or his treatment. As Johns Hopkins professor Hilary Bok points out, even the use of the most extreme torture techniques that are criminalized will be immune from any real challenge, since only the government (rather than detainees) will be able to enforce such prohibitions.

    Put another way, this bill would give the Bush administration the power to imprison people for their entire lives, literally, without so much as charging them with any wrongdoing or giving them any forum in which to contest the accusations against them. It thus vests in the administration the singularly most tyrannical power that exists - namely, the power unilaterally to decree someone guilty of a crime and to condemn the accused to eternal imprisonment without having even to charge him with a crime, let alone defend the validity of those accusations. Just to look at one ramification, does one even need to debate whether this newly vested power of indefinite imprisonment would affect the willingness of foreign journalists to report on the activities of the Bush administration? Do Americans really want our government to have this power?

    The changes that the administration reportedly secured over the weekend for this "compromise" legislation make an already dangerous bill much worse. Specifically, the changes expand the definition of who can be declared an "enemy combatant" (and therefore permanently detained and tortured) from someone who has "engaged in hostilities against the United States" (meaning actually participated in war on a battlefield) to someone who has merely "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States."

    Expanding the definition in that way would authorize, as Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies points out, the administration's "seizure and indefinite detention of people far from the battlefield." The administration would be able to abduct anyone, anywhere in the world, whom George W. Bush secretly decrees has "supported" hostilities against the United States. And then they could imprison any such persons at Guantánamo - even torture them - forever, without ever having to prove anything to any tribunal or commission. (The Post story also asserts that the newly worded legislation "does not rule out the possibility of designating a US citizen as an unlawful combatant," although the Supreme Court ruled [in the 2004 case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld] that there are constitutional limits on the government's ability to detain US citizens without due process.)

    The tyrannical nature of these powers is not merely theoretical. The Bush administration has already imprisoned two American citizens - Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi - and held them in solitary confinement in a military prison while claiming the power to do so indefinitely and without ever having to bring charges. And now, it is about to obtain (with the acquiescence, if not outright support, of Senate Democrats) the express statutory power to detain people permanently (while subjecting them, for good measure, to torture) without providing any venue to contest the validity of their detention. And as Democrats sit meekly by, the detention authority the administration is about to obtain continues - literally each day - to expand, and now includes some of the most dangerous and unchecked powers a government can have.

Greenwald is no Britney Spears. But then, all this is rather long-term and abstract, not immediate. The power unilaterally to decree someone guilty of a crime and to condemn the accused to eternal imprisonment without having even to charge him with a crime, let alone defend the validity of those accusations, is rather abstract. No one can imagine it ever happening to them. And if it happens to someone else, maybe they deserve it. You never know. Why not give the president such powers? We all have other things to think about.

Well, one Democrat spoke out - Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont with this -

    Today we are belatedly addressing the single most consequential provision of this much-discussed bill, a provision that can be found buried on page 81 of the proposed bill. This provision would perpetuate the indefinite detention of hundreds of individuals against whom the government has brought no charges and presented no evidence, without any recourse to justice whatsoever. That is un-American, and it is contrary to American interests.

    Going forward, the bill departs even more radically from our most fundamental values. It would permit the president to detain indefinitely - even for life - any alien, whether in the United States or abroad, whether a foreign resident or a lawful permanent resident, without any meaningful opportunity for the alien to challenge his detention. The administration would not even need to assert, much less prove, that the alien was an enemy combatant; it would suffice that the alien was "awaiting [a] determination" on that issue. In other words, the bill would tell the millions of legal immigrants living in America, participating in American families, working for American businesses, and paying American taxes, that our government may at any minute pick them up and detain them indefinitely without charge, and without any access to the courts or even to military tribunals, unless and until the government determines that they are not enemy combatants.

Well that is what it says, but as you recall, when Vice President told a senator, on the floor of the senate, to "go fuck himself," the words were directed at Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

See also Michael Ratner, the human-rights lawyer and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, here -

    Now, within the next few days, it is conceivable that Congress will abolish the writ of habeas corpus for any non-citizen who is detained outside the country. Stripping away the political nitpicking, linguistic compromises, calculated deal-making and cynical maneuvering of last week's "compromise" in Congress, two questions remain at the center of legislation about the rights of prisoners in Guantánamo.

    The first, about torture and the Geneva Conventions, is straightforward: Are we human beings?

    The second, about habeas corpus, is, do we believe in the rule of law?

    I've spent my life defending victims of torture, and I firmly believe that to be human means recognizing that torture, whether committed by Nazis, Stalinists, Islamic fundamentalists or Americans, is never justified. Inexcusably, the compromise forged by the Bush administration and Republican senators now blurs the line on Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture" and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment." It's morally corrupt to attempt to parse exactly what kinds of cruelty, which degree of mutilation, and what depth of degradation are okay: This cannot be an area where "compromise" is acceptable.

    But it's also crucial to understand that this legislation places our very belief in the rule of law at risk. The contempt for the law shown by recent developments disturbs me enormously, and shows how far our national values have been hijacked by the extreme right and its partisan agenda.

The rest explains his work, but you get the idea.

See also Rogue State: Lawbreaker and Torturer - That's America, Loud and Proud, which isn't nearly as inflammatory as its title. It's just legal analysis. It's a bit depressing.

Here's a mixed reaction -

    I'm trying to look on the bright side. The bill allows this president to continue torturing detainees (and possibly innocent ones). But it doesn't actually authorize the torture methods. And it doesn't formally breach Geneva. So "the program" continues in the shadows of Bush's shadow government. The truly disturbing part is that the only criterion for detaining anyone without charges - citizen or non-citizen, at home or anywhere in the world - is the president's discretion. If Rumsfeld decides you're an enemy combatant, you can be whisked away into a black hole, tortured, or have to prove your innocence in a military commission while he insists on your guilt. The "battlefield" is everywhere; and the war is endless. This is not, to put it mildly, what the founding fathers had in mind. It is one of the darkest hours for Western liberty in a very long time. And most conservatives are cheering. Watching habeas corpus go down the plughole is not something I ever thought I would have to contemplate. Well done, Osama. You won this one big time.

But it's still so abstract - something that happens to others.

And the conservatives and Christian evangelicals are all for this, which prompted this letter to Andrew Sullivan at his Time Magazine site -

    As a Presbyterian pastor, I continue to be stunned by the unthinking support of many evangelicals for a policy that permits torture. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when the so-called "Traditional Values Coalition" decided that torture was among the traditional values that they feel compelled to support.

    When Jesus was put on trial and handed over to Pontius Pilate, he rejected violence and said, "My kingdom is not of this world." He was then tortured and brutally murdered (three hours in a "stress position" on the cross, as one of your readers aptly noted). "Caesar", of course, went on to torture and brutally murder innocent Christians who were "threats to the state." Now, 2,000 years later, in their worldly lust for power, Christians are hopping into bed with Caesar and signing off on anything Caesar wants, especially if Caesar takes care of the Christian "base".

    In my Presbyterian tradition, we are called to stand outside the halls of power and speak truth to those in power, no matter what party is in control. We are not called to become that power ourselves; Jesus' kingdom is not of this world; his values are not Caesar's values.

    Last year on Good Friday, my church had our traditional worship service at which we read the story of Jesus' torture and execution. To make the story more than just a past event, we read three contemporary accounts of innocent individuals who had been tortured. If we were going to shed tears for our innocent Lord Jesus, we also needed to shed tears for other innocent victims of torture. One story we read was about Christians in China - "threats to the state" - including a mother who was brutally interrogated while hearing the cries of her son being tortured in the next room. Interestingly enough, the Christian Right would join me in expressing outrage against innocent Christians.

    Another story was of a man who described these conditions:

      "I saw a cell almost the size of a grave. 3 feet wide, 6 feet deep, and 7 feet high. The cell had no light in it; it only had two thin mattresses (two thin blankets) on the ground ... I was kept in that dark and filthy cell for about 10 months. The worst beating happened on the third day ... they were asking the same set of questions and they would beat me 3-4 times. They would sometimes take me to another room where I could hear other people being tortured ... at the end of the day I could not take the pain anymore and I falsely confessed of having been to Afghanistan."

    We read that story last Good Friday. The man's name? Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, who was arrested at JFK airport in New York. He was then deported by the American government via Jordan to Syria, where he was detained in the cell described above. Just last week Arar and his claims of innocence were completely vindicated by the Canadian government. The Traditional Values Coalition would probably respond: an unfortunate mistake, but torture is still a necessary policy.

    And What Would Jesus Do?

    Jesus wept.

Does this man hate America and also misunderstand the Gospel? Maybe so. Presbyterians are wimps.

Sullivan himself here -

    Whatever else this is, it is not a constitutional democracy. It is a thinly-veiled military dictatorship, subject to only one control: the will of the Great Decider. And the war that justifies this astonishing attack on American liberty is permanent, without end. And check the vagueness of the language: "purposefully supported" hostilities. Could that mean mere expression of support for terror? Remember that many completely innocent people have already been incarcerated for years without trial or any chance for a fair hearing on the basis of false rumors or smears or even bounty hunters. Or could it be construed, in the rhetoric of Hannity and O'Reilly, as merely criticizing the Great Decider and thereby being on the side of the terrorists?

    All I know is that al Qaeda is winning battles every week now. And they are winning them because their aim of gutting Western liberty is shared by the president of the United States. The fact that we are finding this latest, chilling stuff out now - while this horrifying bill is being rushed into law to help rescue some midterms - is beyond belief. It must be stopped, filibustered, prevented. And anyone who cares about basic constitutional freedom - conservatives above all - should be in the forefront of stopping it.

That's very shrill, and Senate Majority Leader Frist has moved to vote to Friday - just before everyone goes home for a month to campaign for reelection. Conservatives above all, indeed.

It will pass. It's just too abstract to worry about. Politics is the immediate. The Spears girl caught the zeitgeist just right.

There's just been too much news.


Item posted October 1, 2006

[Paying Attention]

Last updated Saturday, March 10, 2007, 10:30 pm Pacific Time

All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 - Alan M. Pavlik