May 252009
 

I continue to be baffled by the arguments in favor of torture, and the justifications that are made for America’s use of torture. Darth Cheney claims that it “kept us safe” by providing actionable intelligence allowing the U.S. to subvert terrorists plots. We know this to be untrue…in some cases, it had just the opposite effect.

Newt Gingrich is claiming it was all OK because Nancy Pelosi was briefed on it. Well, there is no provision in the Constitution that says a law can be circumvented by briefing someone in Congress.

The subversion of the Constitution and the rule of law should be troubling to every American, but I think I am most disturbed by our behavior from my moral and Christian perspective.

When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaida terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry…. These are evil people. And we’re not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek. –Former Vice President Dick Cheney, February 4, 2009

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. –Jesus, Luke 6:27-31.

These two opposing statements by former Vice-President Dick Cheney and Jesus Christ bring into sharp focus the contradictions of being a country that simultaneously lays claim to Judeo Christian values while going to any lengths to protect and preserve the American empire – including torture. What does the practice of torture by our government say about those of us who are American Christians?

The great biblical evangelists Paul and Steven were tortured, but continued to profess what they believe. They never used violence or coercion to spread the faith; rather people came to Jesus in part because of the non-violent Christian witness of the early members.

And lest we forget, it was Jesus who was himself tortured and killed. Early Christians espoused love in the face of hate, generosity in the face of theft, blessings for curses, and turning the cheek in the face of violence. They did this not out of weakness, but out of strength.

George Bush and other professing Christians succumbed to the temptation of perceived expediency to employ torture in order to try to create the non-existent link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Dick Cheney says “these are evil people” as a way to justify torture. But Christians have dealt with evil people before and Jesus taught us explicitly that evil is never overcome by evil; it is over come by Good. Plus, Jesus’ words in Luke 6 – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – have a chilling resonance when it comes to torture.

Torture PhotoA recent Pew Center survey indicates that the more a person attends church, the more supportive they tend to be of torture as practiced by the U.S. Government.1 This raises a very serious crisis of faith within my soul, and it makes me fear for the very soul of my country. I fear what is to become of us and our Republic.

Over two years ago I spent time begging the Methodist Episcopacy to condemn American torture. Only five Bishops cared enough to call on Bush to halt the practice of torture.2345 The more one attends church, the greater should be the outrage when one reads comments like Cheney’s. Loyalty to a political cause should not triumph belief in human rights.

Sadly the new century seems to have changed our belief that we should be that “shining city on a hill” Regean talked about. We now consider the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions to be quaint and outdated. Defending the abuses by party leaders like Bush, Cheney and their henchmen have become more important that defending the basic human rights we claim to live by. And the media’s lack of calling people out for their hypocrisy has made the situation even worse. Continue reading »


  1. Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, April 29, 2009: More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. 

  2. John Masters, “Resolutions By The United Methodist Council of Bishops,” Deep Something, May 13, 2005 

  3. John Masters, “Another Letter to the U.M. Bishops on Torture,” Deep Something, June 13, 2005 

  4. John Masters, “Here I Go Again,” Deep Something, June 16, 2005 

  5. John Masters, “Once Again A Call to Methodist Bishops to Denounce Torture,” Deep Something, Sept. 28, 2005. 

Sep 012008
 

Leading up to the Rethuglican National Convention in St. Paul, the federal government is leading local law enforcement in a disturbing number of high profile raids on homes and protesters. Most disturbing is the show of force involved in these raids, and the lack of evidence of any intent to commit any violence (other than protesting the state the Rethuglican have put the country in). Of course, trying to squelch these protests would be a violation of the Constitution. China has no Constitutional Protections, yet all the main stream media here in the U.S. was hand wringing over China’s efforts to quell protests during the Olympics…yet nary a peep from them about what’s going on in St. Paul.

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent article about all this on salon.com. Sadly, he makes the very valid point that we are basically getting what we deserve here, and that the great tradition on which this country was founded seems lost on us today. Notes Greenwald:

So here we have a massive assault led by Federal Government law enforcement agencies on left-wing dissidents and protesters who have committed no acts of violence or illegality whatsoever, preceded by months-long espionage efforts to track what they do. And as extraordinary as that conduct is, more extraordinary is the fact that they have received virtually no attention from the national media and little outcry from anyone. And it’s not difficult to see why. As the recent “overhaul” of the 30-year-old FISA law illustrated — preceded by the endless expansion of surveillance state powers, justified first by the War on Drugs and then the War on Terror — we’ve essentially decided that we want our Government to spy on us without limits. There is literally no police power that the state can exercise that will cause much protest from the political and media class and, therefore, from the citizenry.

Beyond that, there is a widespread sense that the targets of these raids deserve what they get, even if nothing they’ve done is remotely illegal. We love to proclaim how much we cherish our “freedoms” in the abstract, but we despise those who actually exercise them. The Constitution, right in the very First Amendment, protects free speech and free assembly precisely because those liberties are central to a healthy republic — but we’ve decided that anyone who would actually express truly dissident views or do anything other than sit meekly and quietly in their homes are dirty trouble-makers up to no good, and it’s therefore probably for the best if our Government keeps them in check, spies on them, even gets a little rough with them.

Greenwald links to a number of articles, many with videos, of these displays of force. If you care about America, I suggest you read the article, and contact your Congressional representatives and demand better. If you live in Ramsey County, MN, demand the removal from office of Judge Joanne M. Smith, if, as It appears from the video below, that she may be the person signing at least some of the illegal search warrants. This is what disturbs me the most…that the FBI is able to get these search warrants. Judges are supposed to hold a high standard, but look to be falling right in line, and not  requiring any real probable cause.

 

So, they can hold these people for 36 hours…starting after today’s holiday, and then manage to keep a little longer as they are processed for release, and by then the Rethuglican Convention is over. Then, the local prosecutors will drop all the charges, maybe issue some mild apology about inconveniencing people, and then say they’ll investigate what happened, and that will be the last you hear of it. The Administration knows this is how it will work, and are using the process to prevent protest.

YouTube Preview Image
Aug 202008
 

Most likely it will come as no surprise that the Bush Administration’s Justice Department continues it’s assault on freedom and the Constitution. According to a report in the Washington Post, the Justice Department is about to issue guidelines for starting FBI investigations that a number of U.S. Senators believe could lead to innocent Americans being spied upon by government agents or informants, “all without any basis for suspicion.”

These are rules that apparently require no Congressional approval, but are Attorney General Guidelines implemented to safeguard Americans in the wake of abuses by the FBI in the 1960s. Leave it to the Cheney Administration to figure out a way to turn that on it’s head and use it against us.

While Senators Dick Durbin, Russ Feingold, Edward M. Kennedy and Sheldon Whitehouse have joined Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, also a Democrat, and the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter in asking for a delay and period of public comment before issuing the guidelines. I’m sure AG Mukasey is quaking in his boots given the Congress’ lack of enthusiasm for protecting the Constitution and fulfilling their oversight responsibilities.

According to the Post report, following their briefings, the four Democrats said the guidelines would:

  • Let the FBI use “a variety of intrusive investigative techniques” with no evidence of possible wrongdoing. The techniques could include: long-term FBI surveillance, interviewing neighbors and workmates, recruiting informants and searching commercial databases for information on people, “all without any basis for suspicion.” “We are particularly concerned that the draft guidelines might permit an innocent American to be subjected to such intrusive surveillance based in part on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or on protected First Amendment activities,” the senators wrote.
  • Allow the government to collect foreign intelligence information inside the United States without current legal protections for U.S. citizens or legal residents. The senators noted that the broad term “foreign intelligence” would cover any information relating to the activities of a foreign government, organization or person.
  • Allow the information gathered to be broadly shared among government agencies. “We have serious questions about the scope of information sharing as it relates to U.S. persons who are under no suspicion of wrongdoing,” the senators wrote.

We can only pray that the Congressional Health Insurance covers spinal transplants, so these people can each get them one. Talk about a toothless tiger.

Mar 142008
 

The AP reports that an audit by the inspector general last year found the FBI demanded personal records without official authorization or otherwise collected more data than allowed in dozens of cases between 2003 and 2005. Additionally, last year’s audit found that the FBI had underreported to Congress how many national security letters were requested by more than 4,600.

Testifying at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Mueller raised the issue of the FBI’s controversial use of so-called national security letters in reference to an upcoming report on the topic by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

But not to worry, FBI Director Robert Mueller assures us that, “We are committed to ensuring that we not only get this right, but maintain the vital trust of the American people.” Nothing to see here folks…move along.

Mar 112008
 

Good grief, could any more be made of this? New York Governor Elliot Spitzer had apparently been paying for a little something on the side, so now the Republicans demand that he resign. Senator David Vitter (R. Louisiana) was implicated in a prostitution case, but never resigned…why the double standard?

Spitzer is like Bill Clinton. He is a very smart guy who has done a lot of good. This makes lots of bad people really mad at you (read Republicans). He revealed schemes that were costing ordinary people to pay more for their insurance. He slapped down people who were a half-step from blatant self-dealing. He exposed such stuff as bid rigging. Got of Dick and George’s friends into some serious trouble.

Then he goes and does a really really dumb thing. Also like Clinton, he obviously couldn’t control some stupid urges for just a few years. It was a dumb thing to do, and it’s idiotic to be in such a highly visible public office, and think you can get away with it. It’s also wrong. He’s a married man with a family, and his family will deal with him appropriately.

However, let’s look at this situation. First, how did this all get started. The story is that a bank sent a suspicious activity report to the IRS, so federal agents started investigating. Duhh. Spitzer is a wealthy man. I’m guessing he moves around large sums fairly regularly. That’s what rich people do. So now we have our FBI taking resources from that all consuming, all import war on terror protecting the homeland bullshit to investigate a high class hooker operation. I love how my tax dollars get spent.

So then what happens. Spitzer calls an “escort service” in Washington to arrange for an “escort.” OK, as noted above, it is the wrong thing to do…no question, but now we have the Republicans and the media coming out with talking points and headlines about Spitzer being “involved in a prostitution ring.” Listen to me…the guy hired a hooker. Saying he’s involved in a prostitution ring is like me saying I’m involved in the fast food franchise business just because I ate at McDonald’s one day last week. Get a grip people.

In an MSNBC report, you have law enforcement officials disclosing the gory details to make it look as bad as possible, but then demand anonymity because of “the sensitivity of the case.” Give me a break. If the case is so sensitive, what difference does it make if they disclose this information officially or anonymously? I’m sure it has nothing to do with Spitzer taking down a few of Dick Cheney’s Wall Street buddies.

And here’s a word to you Republican Assembly Leader Tedisco. Until you demand that Vitter resign from the U.S. Senate, you need to shut up about Spitzer.

Jan 112008
 

Well, well, well. It seems the big telecom companies (you remember, the ones wanting immunity for assisting Dick Cheney and King George in their illegal wiretapping scheme because of the dire consequences to national security), have been having to cut off the phone lines providing wiretap information to the feds because the FBI can’t pay their bills on time.

The New York Times is reporting on an FBI audit that found that several wiretaps were cut off because the FBI was so behind on paying their bill.

In at least one case, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation ”was halted due to untimely payment,” the audit found. FISA wiretaps are used in the government’s most sensitive and secretive criminal and intelligence investigations, and allow eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies.

”We also found that late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence,” according to the audit by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.

So let me get this straight…

  • The telecom companies just HAD to provide the government with the illegal wiretaps because of the obvious threats to national security.
  • Now, because they were really just protecting all of us, they expect the government to give them immunity.
  • The Congress probably will give them immunity in a couple of weeks.
  • But when the bills didn’t get paid, it wasn’t really an important enough threat to national security to keep the wiretaps open.

As one writer put, I guess they believed the government when they said the warrant was in the mail, but not when they said the check was in the mail.

Aug 252007
 

Another Representative of Republicanism
Angelo Cappelli. In St. Petersburg, Florida, he was hailed as a rising GOP star, with an uncanny ability to raise funds, a hot banking job, lots of friends in the local Republican party and he made it a close race for a seat in House District 52. Unfortunately, Angelo’s got a little problem.

After a six-week investigation, police arrested Cappelli on Wednesday morning at his lawyer’s office on Central Avenue. He faces grand theft and perjury charges, according to St. Petersburg authorities.

Cappelli, 37, is accused of stealing more than $100,000 from the trust of a deceased bank client. By Wednesday evening, Cappelli was out of jail on $55,000 bail. He could not be reached for comment.

Justice 40 Years Too Late (FindLaw)
For three decades, Marie Salvati and Olympia Limone essentially lived as widows, struggling to make ends meet as each raised four children on her own. Their husbands grew old behind bars after being convicted of a murder the FBI knew they did not commit.

Finally, in 1997, Gov. William Weld commuted Salvati’s sentence, and he was released from prison. It would be another four years before he and Limone were exonerated by a state judge. The judge found two Boston FBI agents had allowed Barboza to frame the men because Barboza and his friend, Vincent “Jimmy” Flemmi, one of Deegan’s killers, were FBI informants who provided evidence in the agency’s highly publicized war against crime bosses.

Last month, a federal judge excoriated the agency for withholding evidence of the men’s innocence and ordered the government to pay a record $101.7 million to the Salvati and Limone families and those of two other men convicted with them who died in prison.

Sorry, but this why you can no longer sit a jury and just accept as gospel whatever a cop may say. It is most likely not true.

Destroying Freedom

 General  Comments Off
Apr 202007
 

From Stop Illegal Spying

Click to learn more about helping stop illegal spying in America.George Christian, executive director of Library Connection, a consortium of 27 libraries in the Hartford, Conn., area, has, since 2005, been fighting a National Security letter request from the FBI for subscription information on patrons of the library system. Because of the way the PATRIOT Act is written, he was only recently, through a court order, un-gagged to be able to testify before Congress about the experience.

Said Christian, “Terrorists win when the fear of them induces us to destroy the rights that make us free.” Christian said his experience “should raise a big patriotic American flag of caution” about the strain that the government’s pursuit of would-be terrorists puts on civil liberties. He said the government uses the USA Patriot Act and other laws to learn, without proper judicial oversight or any after-the-fact review, what citizens are researching in libraries.

A recent report by the Justice Department’s inspector general found 48 violations of law or rules in the FBI’s use of national security letters from 2003 through 2005. Some congressional critics want to tighten legal safeguards on the letters.

” ‘Trust us’ doesn’t cut it when it comes to the government’s power to obtain Americans’ sensitive business records without a court order and without any suspicion that they are tied to terrorism or espionage,” said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on civil rights.

Now the Bush administration wants even more power to secretly spy on Americans who have done nothing wrong, further destroying American liberty. This administration tells us that “terrorists hate our freedom.” Yet, it seems that this administration hates our freedom even more, for it’s hell bent on destroying it. Do we have to destroy freedom to save it from terrorists?

The truth is that U.S. government agencies had all the information they needed to detect and stop the September 11, 2001, attacks. That they failed to do so is not because they didn’t have the power to spy on ordinary Americans without warrants or reason that the administration demanded and received and now wants more of.

You should urge Congress to pass the Read the Bills Act, which would prevent Congress from passing bills it hasn’t actually read, the way the Patriot Act was passed.

Mar 092007
 

A new report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General (IG) “has found pervasive errors in the FBI’s use of its power to secretly demand telephone, e-mail and financial records in national security cases.” “The inspector general’s audit found 22 possible breaches of internal FBI and Justice Department regulations — some of which were potential violations of law — in a sampling of 293 ‘national security letters (NSLs).’” (The Patriot Act gave FBI agents the right to “demand telephone, bank, credit card and library records by issuing” NSLs, “bypassing the need to seek a warrant from a federal judge.”) “In nearly a quarter of the case files” IG Glenn Fine reviewed, “he found previously unreported potential violations.” The report also found that in 2005, the FBI issued over 19,000 NSLs, “amounting to 47,000 separate requests for information.” Some agents issued these letters “without citing an authorized investigation, claimed ‘exigent’ circumstances that did not exist in demanding information and did not have adequate documentation to justify the issuance of letters.” “In an unknown number of other cases, third parties such as telephone companies, banks and Internet providers responded to national security letters with detailed personal information about customers that the letters do not permit to be released.” “Expect a weekend firestorm,” one Justice Department official said of the report. Ironically, on the same day of the report’s release, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will “deliver keynote remarks before the International Association of Privacy Professionals.”

Breach

 Culture, General, Movies, Movies I Own  Comments Off
Feb 232007
 

BreachBased on the true story, FBI upstart Eric O’Neill enters into a power game with his boss, Robert Hanssen, an agent who was ultimately convicted of selling secrets to the Soviet Union. (view trailer)

Directed by
Billy Ray

Genres
Drama / Thriller

Cast
Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, Laura Linney, Caroline Dhavernas, Gary Cole, Dennis Haysbert, Kathleen Quinlan, Bruce Davison, Jonathan Watton, Tom Barnett, Jonathan Potts

Breach is based on the true story of the capture of Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent responsible for many treasonous acts against the United States. Chris Cooper is excellent throughout in portraying a Catholic family man who goes to church constantly with his wife and kids while hiding his sexual perversions. Ryan Phillippe is Eric O’Neill, Hanssen’s new assistant who is assigned by boss Laura Linney to keep tabs on Hanssen to use as evidence against him. Caroline Dhavernas as Eric’s European wife who wants Eric to come clean about his job, Gary Cole as another agent, and Dennis Haysbert as Linney’s superior round out the fine cast in a film that slowly but surely builds up suspense in the various ways of snooping that brings the bureau closer to catching Hanssen in the act of treason. Don’t expect James Bond or Alias action here. Do expect an excellent drama about an agent who almost slipped from the FBI’s hands.

Chris Cooper, already an established actor, gives the performance of a lifetime. Cooper convincingly portrays the smugness, cockiness, and “holier than thou” attitude which eventually (in my eyes) led to Hansen’s downfall.

The movie is tense and moves swiftly without compromising the story line. Ryan Phillipe is equally impressive as the young FBI employee who is brought on to earn Hansen’s trust and find out what made him tick.

This is a must-see – I saw it with about 100 people … and from what I heard, almost everyone was still talking about it afterward as they walked out and in the bathrooms – and all were great comments.

Definitely an early Oscar contender for 2008 in my opinion.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 9.00 out of 10)
Loading ... Loading ...
Oct 162006
 

They just keep going and going and going.

It seems that Rep. Kurt Weldon, (R-PA) is now under investigation for using his power to help his daughter get contracts and favorable consideration for her lobbying practice. The FBI today raided her home. Of course, being a member of the party of personal responsibility, Weldon blames it all on a liberal conspiracy and partisan politics.

Uh, just nevermind that the FBI is part of the Justice Department…which, at last check, was run by Bush appointee and staunch Republican Conservative, Alberto Gonzales. Go figure. Watch it on YouTube.

YouTube Preview Image

Our weather forecast is from Wunderground for WordPress