.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Listed on BlogShares

The Gross National Debt

Friday, December 30, 2005

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos)

This is the Green Family Tree.

At first glance, they look remarkably similar to many American families.  Only the Green's are different in one very significant way: they have all been uniquely affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Make the jump.

Look especially at the left-hand side of the picture.  Already Joyce Green and Shenae Green are lost to the hurricane.  The family's tale is harrowing - when a barge smashed through a levy close to Robert Green's home, the area quickly flooded with 20 ft. of water.  Green and his twin brother ran into the attic of the home and kicked a hole in the roof.  They pulled themselves, three small chidren, a 51-year old mentally disabled cousin and their ailing 73-year old mother onto what they thought would be the safety of the roof.

Then their house ripped free of its foundation.

This forced them all to be on the move to escape the peril of a house floating (and sinking) in the flood waters.  The family members moved from rooftop to truck beds to other rooftops.  Along the way, 3-year old Shenae and 73-year old Joyce fell into the water.  Shenae wasn't seen again.  They pulled Joyce out of the water and tried to revive her to no avail.  The placed her on the roof and forced themselves to move so that surviving family members had a chance at life.

The Green family in total experienced, as a family, virtually all of the horrors we have heard about on the news.  I'm not going to go into the survivor's experiences in the Superdome and the Astrodome and with the Red Cross - you can read the whole series, courtesy of CNN, here.  

Robert Green had a simple wish: to bury his mother and say a proper goodbye.  Shenae's body was located in early November by recovery workers.  His mother is and was a different issue.  He left her body on the roof of a 9th ward house, a house that you could see from the Claiborne Bridge, a house upon which anyone could clearly make out the body of Joyce Green.  Robert Green even managed to ascertain the exact address of the house on which his mother's body lay: 1617 Tennessee Street.  He told everyone - National Guard, Red Cross, Federal emergency officials, police officers - the exact location of his mother's body.

Robert Green naturally assumed that his mother's body would be found in the recovery effort and would be taken to - well, to wherever the bodies of the victims of Katrina were taken.  The process he had to go through to even get that information was ridiculous.  For weeks after the hurricane he literally got the runaround.  Finally, they provided Joyce's X-rays and their own DNA samples to what seemed like the right agency to locate his mother's remains.  They called the Coroner's office every day.  Nothing.  No Joyce.

Finally Robert's twin, David, had had enough.  Enough of being forgotten, enough of the runaround, enough of being told that their mother's body couldn't be located.  He loaded up on shovels and a pick axe and tools and returned to the vicinity in the 9th ward where he thought his mother's body may be located.  He recognized a landmark from that harrowing day and, not three minutes later, found the remains of his mother.  This happened today.  He didn't have to dig - he didn't need the pick axe or saw or shovel.

All that was left of Joyce was her skull, clothes, and skeleton - the ravages of four months of being the abandoned dead had taken its toll.

There are many, many more like Joyce.

The Greens lay the blame equally on Federal and State officials.  While they didn not express anger in their tone or words, they simply say that they had to come in and do the job that others were supposed to do for them.  The only solace the Green brothers have, in having lost everything and having been through hell, is that they will get to bury their mother and put her as well as their minds at peace - at least on this issue.

I can't even begin to tell you how viscerally this article hit me - those of you who were reading here when Katrina was still 24 x 7 news surely remember RobertInWisconsin's diary AMERICAN SHAME: The Edgar Hollingsworth Story.  If you didn't read it, go read it now.  The tribulations experienced by the Green family is no less shameful.  The injustice suffered by Katrina victims every day, especially those people of modest means and minority status, is shameful.  And the shame just continues - four months later.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 1:20 PM 8 comments
Wednesday, December 28, 2005

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos, My Left Wing and Booman Tribune)

Certainly the Bush administration is in a pickle over the recent revelation that Bush himself, in 2002, authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct electronic surveillance against US citizens.  Presumably, and I'm paraphrasing the President himself with this, it was only to listen to bad guys talking to bad guys.  According to Bush, this action was not only legal but required in his solemn duty to protect America and its citizens.

I think it's worthwhile to take a closer look at FISA itself, inform ourselves, and be prepared for the arguments the administration is going to make as to why these secret, warrantless surveillance activities are not, as the President asserts, illegal.  In fact, his argument is that they are proper.

Read on.

First, if you would like to browse the full text of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), you can click here.

I found a great deal of information about the explanation of FISA at the The Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) web site.  I visited their page detailing the constitution of the EFF's Board of Directors and nothing leapt out at me as to whether EFF is politically slanted - the Board seems to be comprised of technologists, law professors, and telecommunications industry representatives.  Visit the link and check for yourself.

With that out of the way, the FISA FAQ they provided contained a great deal of information (link).

From their site:

What is the purpose of FISA?

FISA is aimed at regulating the collection of "foreign intelligence" information in furtherance of U.S. counterintelligence, whether or not any laws were or will be broken.  (-snip-)  Department of Defense (DOD) guidelines state that the purpose of counterintelligence collection is to detect espionage, sabotage, terrorism, and related hostile intelligence activities to "deter, to neutralize, or to exploit them."

In short, counterintelligence and criminal prosecution are different.

I read that as pretty straightforward and very broad.  FISA is there and was created with the goal of allowing a mechanism to collect foreign intelligence to protect America and its citizens.  It continues:

How does FISA fit with regulation of electronic surveillance?

Given the "tendency of those who execute the criminal laws . . . to obtain conviction by means of unlawful seizures," the Supreme Court has viewed commumications interception as an especially grave intrusion on rights of privacy and speech.


Thus, the Court outlined seven constitutional requirements: (1) a showing of probable cause that a particular offense has been or is about to be committed; (2) the applicant must describe with particularity the conversations to be intercepted; (3) the surveillance must be for a specific, limited period of time in order to minimize the invasion of privacy (the N.Y. law authorized two months of surveillance at a time); (4) there must be continuing probable cause showings for the surveillance to continue beyond the original termination date; (5) the surveillance must end once the conversation sought is seized; (6) notice must be given unless there is an adequate showing of exigency; and (7) a return on the warrant is required so that the court may oversee and limit the use of the intercepted conversations.

Indeed, the Court said that if "neither a warrant nor a statute authorizing eavesdropping can be drawn so as to meet the Fourth Amendment's requirements . . . then the 'fruits' of eavesdropping devices are barred under the Amendment."

Where intelligence operations are concerned, however, the bounds of the Fourth Amendment are less clear than they are for ordinary criminal investigations. FISA creates a special court and legal regime for counterintelligence surveillance orders.


FISA does not regulate the use of electronic surveillance outside of the United States.

There's additional information in this section at the link provided above with case and law citations if you're so inclined.  I've extracted the parts I found interesting (I'm not a lawyer) in understanding FISA, its requirements, and applicability to the growing questions around Bush's current activities.  As such, I read in that section a delicate balancing act between the need to collect intelligence and guaranteeing the 4th Amendment rights of US citizens.  Which brings me to the next tidbit:

Is there really a secret FISA court?

Yes. FISA established a special court, composed of seven federal district court judges appointed by the Chief Justice for staggered terms and are from different circuits.

(-snip-)Individual judges of the FISC review the Attorney General's applications for authorization of electronic surveillance aimed at obtaining foreign intelligence information. The proceedings are nonadversarial and are based solely on the DOJ's presentations through its Office of Intelligence Policy and Review.

The records and files of the cases are sealed and may not be revealed even to persons whose prosecutions are based on evidence obtained under FISA warrants, except to a limited degree set by district judges' rulings on motions to suppress.  (...)  There is no provision for the return of each executed warrant to the FISC, much less with an inventory of items taken, nor for certification that the surveillance was conducted according to the warrant and its "minimization" requirements.

The FISC meets two days monthly, and two of the judges are routinely available in the Washington, D.C. area on other days.

I have heard on cable news different figures on exactly how many FISC judges there are - this document says 7, but I've heard also 10 and 11.  What's interesting to me is that FISA judges are appointed to the FISC by the Chief Justice of the SCOTUS.  Previously this would have been Rehnquist.  The job now falls to Robert.  Which jogged a memory for me, from listening to his confirmation testimony.  Of FISA and the FISC Roberts said:

Question from Senator DEWINE:

Judge, I want to ask you about one of your more important, probably least understood -- not by you, but least understood by the public -- role, if you are confirmed as the chief justice. And that is your job to appoint the members of the FISA court.

Judge, as you know, in 1978, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This law, of course, set up the FISA court.

As you well know, this is the court that our intelligence agents go to when they want to obtain wiretaps or search warrants against terrorists and foreign spies -- a very important court, a court that meets in secret, a court that deals with the most important national security matters that we have, really, in our country, but also a court it deals with our precious civil liberties.

And, Judge, because it's a court that meets in secret, it doesn't gave the public scrutiny, it doesn't have the glare of publicity and, quite candidly, does not have much oversight.

So I would like to know, besides what's in the statute -- the statute sets out that it will be your job to select the 11 judges who sit on the FISA court, the three judges who sit on the FISA court of review. There's certain guidelines in the statute.

But besides that, I wonder if you could tell us what your criteria will be when you select these men, these women, who will serve on the court. And I wonder if you could give me your personal assurance that this will be something that will be very important to you, that you will take a hands-on approach and that you will be very personally involved in.

Because really it is a question of the utmost national security. These are people who are going to make sometimes life and death decisions for our country.

ROBERTS: I appreciate that, Senator. And if I am confirmed, that is something that I will address and take very seriously.

I think, as in many areas, my first priority is going to be to listen, to learn a little bit more about what's involved.

I'll be very candid. When I first learned about the FISA court, I was surprised. It's not what we usually think of when we think of a court. We think of a place where we can go, we can watch, the lawyers argue, and it's subject to the glare of publicity. And the judges explain their decision to the public and they can examine them. That's what we think of as a court.

This is a very different and unusual institution. That was my first reaction. I appreciate the reasons that it operates the way it does. But it does seem to me that the departures from the normal judicial model that are involved there put a premium on the individuals involved.

I think the people who are selected for that tribunal have to be above reproach. There can't be any question that these are among the best judges that our system has, the fairest judges, the ones who are most sensitive to the different issues involved, because they don't have the oversight of the public being able to see what's going on.

Again, to be perfectly honest, it is a very unusual situation, and I do think it places a great premium on making sure that the best qualified people for that position are selected.

DEWINE: I appreciate your personal attention to that. I know how important you know it is, Judge.

And I would just add one more comment, that that court, as all courts do, but even more so, not only makes decisions, not only decides whether to issue the warrant or not, but it's the feedback that the Justice Department gets and the law enforcement agencies get that tells them what they can do and can't do. And that feedback is unbelievably important and it affects the intelligence operations in this country and is just vitally, vitally important.

My emphasis added.  It seems to me from that that both DeWine and Roberts take the mission and import of FISA seriously.

Senator Leahy also asked a question of Roberts regarding the FISA court:

LEAHY: Let me switch gears again.

Senator Grassley is not here right now, and Senator Specter and I have worked for several years to shed some light on the FISA court, the foreign intelligence court.

A lot of Americans are affected by their decisions. Most Americans don't know how it works, don't know whether their civil liberties are being curtailed or violated. We added some sunshine provision. The attorney general now submits a biannual report to four congressional committees, details how many people are the target of electronic surveillance and so on. It's still inadequate in the fact it doesn't get public reporting.

If you're confirmed as chief justice, you're the overseer of the FISA court. Most people don't even look at that role of the chief justice. I think it's probably one of the most important ones if you're going to talk about the liberties and how they're protected.

Would you be willing to work with members of Congress to add more transparency, or do you believe there's enough transparency in the work of the FISA court now?

ROBERTS: Senator, you said you think this is something most Americans aren't aware of. I suggest probably most judges aren't aware of...

LEAHY: Well, that's probably so.

ROBERTS: It is a specialized court. I will tell you when I became aware of it, it's a surprising institution. It's an unusual set-up.

LEAHY: Certainly different than what we think in our system of...

ROBERTS: That was exactly my reaction.

On the other hand, Congress, in setting up the court, obviously concluded there were reasons to do it that way.

I was asked a question about appointing the judges to it and my response was that, given the unusual nature of it -- very unusual nature, given the usual traditions of judicial processes -- that the people appointed to it have to be of the highest quality, undoubted commitment to all the basic principles, both of the need for the court and the need to protect civil liberties.

That I think is very important.

Beyond that, I would just tell you I don't know enough about the operations of the court at this point and how it functions to be able to make any representations about what I would do, other than that I certainly appreciate that it's an unusual establishment and in many respects doesn't have the sorts of protections that the normal judicial process has, and that I would be sensitive to those concerns.

LEAHY: And I'd hope -- my time is up. I apologize. But I'd hope that, if you are confirmed, that you might be willing -- and I think Senators Grassley, Specter, and myself could put together some suggestions -- at least keep an open mind on it.

ROBERTS: Certainly, Senator.

LEAHY: Because in an electronic age, in a digital age when more and more information is being pulled in on Americans that we sometimes don't even know about, it is frightening. We want security, but we want to be like -- as Benjamin Franklin said, a people who'd give up their liberties for security deserve neither. Thank you.

Again, my emphasis added.  Link to the DeWine transcript here and the Leahy transcript here.

A few observations.  First, DeWine's emphasis was on the national security aspects of FISA yet both it and Roberts' response underscored the necessity and gravity of the FISA court and the Chief Justice's role in that court.  Second, Leahy's emphasis was much more on civil liberties protections and a need for great transparency.  At the risk of slipping on my tinfoil hat, here, I found Leahy's line of inquiry very interesting.  Leahy is not on the Intelligence Committee.  A little tickle occurred in the back of my brain, however, when he referenced "transparency" and a greater need for oversight, especially in light of the fact that the Bush administration is claiming that it briefed various Congressional leaders.  I can't find any reference to a public statement on FISA specifically on Senator Leahy's website nor can I find any indication that he was one of the Congressional leaders who was briefed.  Yet I find it remarkable that he was so hard-over on the issue of transparency and oversight.  Perhaps this is just a long-standing issue he has had with FISA - I don't know - but I wonder at what specific Senators know but can't disclose (due to the classified nature of what they know) and, given that, how they might draw attention to the issue without violating disclosure laws.  (End speculative editorial comment).

Back to FISA.

Why is there a special legal regime for "foreign intelligence" surveillance?

But in the 1970s the political winds changed. The 1975-76 Church Committee hearings documented extraordinary federal government abuse of surveillance powers. Examples included the the NSA's Operation Shamrock and Operation Minaret, CIA's Operation CHAOS, the FBI's COINTELPRO domestic harassment of dissenters and anti-war protesters that included illegal wiretapping, and the illegal burglaries of the Nixon White House "plumbers."

The Church Committee Report found that covert action had been excessive, had circumvented the democratic process, and had violated the Constitution. It concluded that Congress needed to prescribe rules for intelligence activities.

On the judicial front, the Supreme Court first confronted the tension between unmonitored executive branch surveillance and civil liberties in United States v. U.S. District Court, 407 U.S. 297 (1972), in which the United States charged defendants with conspiracy to destroy government property. Defendants sought electronic surveillance information, held by the prosecution, that the CIA obtained during a potentially illegal wiretap, wanting to ascertain whether the government had relied on information in the indictment or the case for conviction and to suppress any tainted evidence at trial. The Attorney General admitted that a warrantless wiretap had intercepted conversations involving the defendants.

Before the Supreme Court, the government defended its actions on the basis of the Constitution and the Title III national security disclaimer. The Court rejected the statutory argument, saying that "Congress . . . simply did not legislate with respect to national security surveillances." As for the constitutional argument, the Court accepted that the President had the power "to protect our Government against those who would subvert or overthrow it by unlawful means" and that this power justified electronic surveillance of would-be subversives.

My emphasis added.

Wow.  A lot of information in that excerpt.  First, follow the links on Shamrock, Minaret, CHAOS and COINTELPRO.  I'm sure the links I've provided only scratch the surface of what these programs did and they are frightening.  The depth of surveillance that was being conducted against Americans in violation of their 4th Amendment rights is appalling.  It's clear that the Nixon administration's activities were the catalyst to address civil liberties abuses that had been going on for a long period of time.  Second, note the import of the SCOTUS decision in the excerpt.  We are seeing possible implications of that ruling today.  See EZ Writer's recent diary about terror cases being threatened by Bush's use of warrantless wiretaps.  Third, note that SCOTUS rejected the statutory argument of invoking the Constitution as a basis for warrantless wiretaps.  Finally, however, note the SCOTUS' validation of the President's right to use electronic surveillance of "would-be subversives" on Constitutional grounds.  I read this as a conundrum.

Invoking the "broader spirit" of the Fourth Amendment and "the convergence of First and Fourth Amendment values" in national security wiretapping cases, however, the Court was especially wary of possible abuses of the national security power. The Court then balanced "the duty of Government to protect the domestic security, and the potential danger posed by unreasonable surveillance to individual privacy and free expression," and found that waiving the Fourth Amendment probable cause requirement could lead the executive to "yield too readily to pressures to obtain incriminating evidence and overlook potential invasions of privacy and protected speech." Justice Powell wrote that the inconvenience to the government is "justified in a free society to protect constitutional values."

The Court emphasized that this case involved only the domestic aspects of national security: "We . . . express no opinion as to, the issues which may be involved with respect to activities of foreign powers or their agents." It invited Congress to act: "Given these potential distinctions between Title III criminal surveillances and those involving the domestic security, Congress may wish to consider protective standards for the latter which differ from those already prescribed for specified crimes in Title III. Different standards may be compatible with the Fourth Amendment if they are reasonable both in relation to the legitimate need of Government for intelligence information and the protected rights of our citizens."

My emphasis added.

There's the proverbial "money shot".  SCOTUS invited Congress to act and it did act, creating FISA to balance all these delicate concerns for security and simultaneous protection of 4th Amendment rights.

Go read the whole FAQ - it's fascinating.  I'll summarize a few of the remaining high points:

  • FISA can be used for 'ordinary criminal investigation' with qualifications.  Those qualifications are that the investigation must have foreign intelligence information (FII) collection as its primary purpose.
  • FISA is not limited to electronic eavesdropping and wiretapping.  It can be used to permit 'covert physical entries in connection with security investigations'.
  • FISA is not bound as are traditional warrants to show probably cause that a crime was or is being committed.
  • The FBI can use FISA surveillance information in criminal trials as long as the information was gathered with FII as the original target.  The prosecutorial evidence does not have to be related to FII.
  • FISA requests are funneled through the Justice Department.  The Attorney General of the US must first approve them.
  • Neither FISA defendants nor their counsel are likely to be given access to underlying FISA infromation for the purpose of challenging the validity of the surveillance.

FISA itself is viewed by many as a dangerous piece of legislation.  From the FAQ document:

"...FISA powers are broad and vague, and the secrecy of FISA proceedings makes FISA powers susceptible to abuse."

Wrapup - My Summary

I started this diary because I want to see what arguments are coming when Congress returns.  I was watching MSNBC last night, Hardball to be specific.  Nora O'Donnell is subbing for Matthews and spent a great deal of time talking and asking questions about the willingness of Congresspersons to take up the legality question of the President's actions.  The consensus was that Congress, on both sides of the aisle, will take the issue up in a strong fashion because the President's actions bring into question the legitimacy of Congress itself.  I won't go into a whole tangential diatribe on Congress' "legitimacy" (though I'm tempted) - but what was said rings true to me.  If for no other reason than the fact that inaction would invalidate the mission of Congress, they are going to hit this issue hard.

So in doing this diary I learned the particulars and the nuances of FISA and here's what I think:

I find it highly ironic that Bush is doing the same types of things in his administration, under the same auspices no less (national security), as the activities which led us to the FISA in the first place.  Are we living in some strange circular world where we allow mistakes that imperil the Constitution to be repeated?  What he's done is illegal.  There's no explaining or excusing that away.

I understand that the Bush administration is taking the "trust me" route.  The retort I would specifically use to that invocation would be why do I have to rely on trusting you when laws exist to ensure that you are being trustworthy??

Finally, the ultimate question, as far as I'm concerned: FISA gives all the necessary authorities and latitude to the Executive branch to ensure that national security interests are protected with a sensitivity towards civil liberties.  Why would the Bush administration feel the necessity to go around it?  That's the question we need to keep asking over and over - of our Congresspeople and each other and to anyone who will listen.

If you've made it this far, I thank you - it's a long diary (lots of information, I hope) but one that I felt compelled to write.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 12:49 PM 4 comments
Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas...
Happy Chanukkah...
Happy Kwanza...
Joyous Solstice...
Merry Ramadan...

However you celebrate - in whatever way you observe the season... May it be filled with happiness and may our New Year bring peace and prosperity to all.

Thanks for reading in 2005. I'm travelling - will be back at my desk Tuesday and will post more then!!


You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 9:33 PM 3 comments
Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Cross-posted at the Impeach Bush Coalition.

Congressman John Conyers has a post up at Daily Kos which outlines a credible initial plan for investigating the appropriateness of impeachment. I'm not kidding. I'm going to cross-post it below. Note that his reasons have nothing to do with the domestic spying - I'm sure there will be room for expansion as circumstances warrant - rather, this is about the Downing Street Memo and the case for taking the US to war in Iraq. Read the whole post below and be sure to visit Conyers' site (linked in the post) for the actual report.


The Constitution in Crisis: Censure and Investigate Possible Impeachment
by Congressman John Conyers [Subscribe]
Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 11:36:36 AM EST

For more information, go to www.johnconyers.com

Cross Posted at Huffington Post and ConyersBlog

Today, I am releasing a staff report entitled, "The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution and Coverups in the Iraq War.

Before talking about the report, I must express my profound gratitude to the readers of this site, who kept this story alive when no one would cover it, and continued to talk about it after some in the media moved on. Much of the research in this report is a product of the input and hard work of DailyKos, Huffington Post and Conyersblog readers over the last six months (the help with my "timeline project" was particularly useful). I also am so grateful to progressive talk radio hosts and listeners, who have refused to allow the American people to forget the nation was deceived into war.

Now on to the Report and what I plan to do about it. In sum, the report examines the Bush Administration?s actions in taking us to war from A to Z. The report finds there is substantial evidence the President, the Vice-President and other high ranking members of the Bush Administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq; misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such war; countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Iraq; and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of their Administration.

The Report concludes that a number of these actions amount to prima facie evidence (evidence sufficiently strong to presume the allegations are true) that federal criminal laws have been violated. Legal violations span from false statements to Congress to whistleblower laws.

The Report also concludes that these charges clearly rise to the level of impeachable conduct. However, because the Administration has failed to respond to requests for information about these charges, it is not yet possible to conclude that an impeachment inquiry or articles of impeachment are warranted.

In response to the Report, I have already taken a number of actions. First, I have introduced a resolution (H. Res. 635) creating a Select Committee with subpoena authority to investigate the misconduct of the Bush Administration with regard to the Iraq war and report on possible impeachable offenses. In Watergate, for example, the Congress did not begin matters as an impeachment inquiry, but investigated matters ? through the Ervin Committee ? and referred impeachable evidence to the Judiciary Committee.

Second, I have introduced Resolutions regarding both President Bush (H. Res. 636) and Vice-President Cheney (H. Res. 637) proposing that they be censured by Congress based on the uncontroverted evidence already on the record and their failure to respond to Congressional and public inquiries about these matters and have never accounted for their many specific misstatements in the run up to War.

As you know, taking these steps means that I am likely to be criticized by the political and media establishments in Washington and attacked by the right wing noise machine. There is a school of thought among Washington political consultants that criticizing the President about Iraq will make Democrats appear to be weak on national security. There is a media establishment that marginalizes politicians for espousing beliefs held by the majority of Americans. The right wing noise machine in turn retaliates against the President's critics.

Be that as it may, I just could not be silent any longer. The title of the report is exactly right: the Constitution is in Crisis. There are serious and well-substantiated allegations that the Executive Branch has usurped the sole power of the Congress to declare war by deceiving the Congress about the evidence for war. There are serious and well-substantiated allegations that the Executive Branch has deceived the American people to manufacture the people's consent for war.

If you agree with me, I am going to need your help like never before. Please go to my website, www.johnconyers.com, where you will find an action center, including a copy of the Report via Raw Story, and ways you can help. Also visit www.censurebush.org to join with other activists who want to move this issue forward.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 7:31 AM 2 comments
Sunday, December 18, 2005

It's time to stir the pot. Daily Kos diarist smintheus has this diary up over at Daily Kos. I'll excerpt the relevant portions below but I encourage reading the entire thing by following the link.

In a nutshell, the revelation that Bush has been using secret Presidential orders to circumvent both the Constitution and the law cannot be tolerated - it certainly can't wait until after the holiday break before the Congress considers it. Of course, all of these folks want to get back home for their break. We need to keep them here and we need to do it fast. See Smintheus' points below. Contact your Senators. Contact MSM outlets - call - fax - email - whatever it takes. Generate pressure on Congress to stay in Washington and deal with the issue of our fundamental 4th amendment rights being violated. Drop me a comment and let me know what you're willing to do as well as provide any information on other contacts we should be making.

An hour of your time could stop this egregious erosion of our liberties.

Click to expand the post and read Smintheus' contribution.

As far as possible, our declared goals must be as clear, straightforward, plausible, and uncontroversial as possible. I have no illusions that it will be easy to achieve these goals; George Bush and friends stonewall almost as a matter of course. But our declared goals must throw into stark relief the illegality of the administration's policies and the nature of the constitutional crisis.

I propose that we ask each U.S. Senator to demand that President Bush:

*    immediately reverse this directive on domestic spying

  • promise to desist in the future from warrantless spying on Americans

  • cooperate fully with a bi-partisan investigation of the policy

  • release the texts of the directives along with the legal opinions they were based on

  • identify to the Senate all residents of the US who were targets of unconstitutional spying


The most important things that need to be done are to

  • build an ad hoc network to promote this campaign, to include blogs, activist groups, grassroot organizations, local and state Democratic Party organizations, and some media darlings like Randi Rhodes

  • contact Senators to make the above requests

  • contact journalists covering Washington to alert them to the campaign and to request full coverage of the constitutional crisis that the President has provoked

I've arranged them in the order that they need to be addressed. We will want to have the main outlines of a network in place by late Sunday, if we are to get the word out far and wide on Monday to inundate Senate offices with calls, emails, and faxes demanding action.

Let's have at it. Are you game?

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 2:19 PM 2 comments
Saturday, December 17, 2005

Seriously - where is the outrage?

Yesterday The New York Times broke the story that our President authorized a secret program to be carried out by the National Security Agency (NSA - "you talk, we listen"). This program, at its simplest, allows the NSA to eavesdrop on American citiziens (and that's a key aspect) without obtaining a warrant. The surveillance monitored phone conversations (both mobile and conventional) as well as electronic activities and who knows what else. In theory the eavesdropping was only on those persons with known ties to terrorist groups.

Except there's this thing that we're forgetting - it's called The Constitution. The Constitution is a wonderful document, imo, and it clearly spells out something we refer to as a "separation of powers". The way I interpret it, separating the powers is a safety against any one particular branch of government becoming too powerful. When Bush wanted to invade Iraq, he had to ask Congress for authorization. When he wants to appoint a Supreme Court justice, he can only do so if that justice meets the approval of the Senate. It is one of the fundamental tenets of our Democracy.

Yet the President seems to think that the Constitution is great as long as it is not inconvenient. Let me back up here - for those who don't know, it is not illegal to conduct domestic surveillance as long as certain conditions are met by the government in so doing. Specifically, there is a provision in the law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act - FISA (pronounced Fye-sah) where a warrant can be obtained to conduct surveillance (spying). There are a cadre of judges who are FISA specialists and who deal with this issue regularly. There are provisions that allow for surveillance without authorization for 72 hours while a FISA request is evaluated. In the history of FISA only one request has been turned down. It is, simply, the law and despite the President's loud declaration this morning that he was within his legal rights and bound by duty to protect American citizens thereby making breaking of the law acceptable is and was flatly wrong.

There's only one reason Bush wouldn't use FISA to conduct this surveillance - especially when you consider that he had every reason to expect that his request would be granted. That reason is that FISA is subject to oversight by the Senate foreign intelligence committee. Democrats sit on that committee and requests as well as activities would be known to those from "across the aisle". The President and his mouthpieces are loudly declaring that they consulted with "members of Congress". How much are you willing to bet that those members are hard-line Bush loyalists?

The Constitution doesn't allow the President to consult cherry-picked "members of Congress" to receive "authorization" to spy on American citizens absent the oversight of those persons he finds less agreeable. This is truly a simple issue. If Bill Clinton was guilty of breaking the law in the Monica Lewinsky debacle, then why is this President not equally as guilty of hubris and law-breaking where the circumstances involve the civil rights of each and every American citizen as opposed to a blowjob involving two American citizens?

Where's the outrage? Find it. Stoke it. Talk about it while you still can - your rights and our American way of life are being continually assaulted. Let's stop this before we have nothing left worth fighting for.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 6:04 PM 4 comments
Wednesday, December 14, 2005

About two weeks ago, hannah posted this diary with links to New Orleans businesses for dKos users to shop during the holidays (and, hopefully, beyond).

I took up Hannah's call and did a lot of my shopping through the links she provided. One of these transactions put me into contact with Terrie Day, a Magazine Street shop owner. I had a lengthy conversation with Terrie this morning that I think the Daily Kos community needs to know about.

Read on.

At the end of the diary I will re-post links to all of the businesses Hannah highlighted in her original diary at which are still contained on her personal blog site. Be sure you at least check these businesses out - they desperately need our help.

Terrie runs a store called Sabai Jewelry. After the original diary I went to Sabai's site and found several items that I could purchase for a variety of people on my holiday list. There were a few glitches with Terrie's site, glitches that can't be fixed until things settle down for those folks in new Orleans. Suffice it to say that I could choose items but not complete the transaction online... So Terrie and I started up an email dialogue which moved to a phone dialogue earlier this morning.

Terrie's business seems to be intact. She was able, with some cleanup, to re-open. Her home didn't fare as well... It was among the hardest hit, winding up under eight feet of water. The lower level of her home is uninhabitable. She, however, is one of the lucky ones in that she had a second level to her house. She lives on this second level today, more than three months (closer to four) after Katrina devastated New Orleans and she lives there without power.

She has an amazingly good attitude though it is interspersed with profound frustration with the way things are for those who have returned to New Orleans. For one, we talked about the rebuilding of the levees. Everyone knows the levees have to be rebuilt... But The International Herald Tribune has reprinted this article from The New York Times. The article is aptly titled "Death of an American City". From the article:

The rumbling from Washington that the proposed cost of better levees is too much has grown louder. Pretending we are going to do the necessary work eventually, while stalling until the next hurricane season is upon us, is dishonest and cowardly. Unless some clear, quick commitments are made, the displaced will have no choice but to sink roots in the communities where they landed.

This has a very real effect on business owners like Terrie Day. They speak to displaced friends and business owners, many of whom are waiting to see if anyone will step up and commit to rebuilding the levees in New Orleans. Many don't want to return until a demonstrable plan is set in place. It is still an open question whether business owners like Terrie can survive while bureaucrats argue over the cost (a PITTANCE compared to what we're spending to rebuild Iraq, but that's another diary) and responsibility for rebuilding the levee system.

You can help. I explained to Terrie how I found her web site and all the things that caused me to shop NOLA online... She was overwhelmed. And let me be the first to tell all of you - IT'S WORKING. Terrie told me that she's seen a noticeable increase in traffic of out-of-state customers to her business - and those customers are placing orders.


So I reiterate Hannah's original diary imploring Kossacks to consider shopping NOLA online. I don't think it's a big leap to say that it does make a difference - and the difference could possibly be whether these intrepid and corageous business owners sink or swim in their post-Katrina devastation. Won't you help?

New Orleans Businesses Online, by way of Hannah's blog:

Jewelry and Fine Items

Sabai Jewelry Gallery - (504) 899-9555 - SUGGESTED ITEM: SINGING THE BLUES BRACELET
As You Like It - Silver Shop - (504) 897-6915 or 1-800-828-2311 - FOR THE SILVER CONOISSEUR
Melange Sterling - Silver Shop, Inc. - (504) 899-4796, 1-800-513-3991 - GREAT FOR A FLEUR DE LIS PEARL NECKLACE
Mignon Faget, Ltd - (504) 891-2005 - SUGGESTED ITEM: JEWELED DONKEY PENDANT
Ruby Ann Bertram-Harker - (504) 897-0811 or (800) 826-7282 - SUGGESTED ITEM: CARNIVAL CROWN PIN
Katy Beh Contemporary Jewelry - 877.katybeh 504 896 9600


Hove - Located in New Orleans' French Quarter, Hové® uses the finest of essential oils and ingredients from all over the world to create its fragrances. Hové®'s only store is its 18th Century shop in New Orleans.


House of Lounge
Total Woman - 504 891 3964 - Offering the most sophisticated styles since 1979
Jean Therapy - (504) 897-5535 - DESIGNER JEANS
Orient Expressed Imports, Inc. - (504) 899-3060 - CHILDREN'S HAND-SMOCKED CLOTHES
Fleur de Paris - 800-229-1899 - "We are thankful that our beautiful shop was spared the worst of both Katrina and Rita, and we are anxious to dress and accessorize our customers."
Pippen Lane - (504) 269-0106 - FOR CHILDREN'S GIFTS

Chocolates and Candies

Blue Frog Chocolates - (504) 269-5707 - Chosen the Best Candy Shop in New Orleans for the last five years
Laura's Candies - (800) 992-9699 - Our delicious Creole pralines and hand-made chocolates are made fresh daily in our French Quarter kitchen with recipes that date back to the 18th century
Aunt Sally's - Aunt Sally's - New Orleans Most Famous Pralines
French Market - 800-554-7234
Cafe du Monde
Zapp's Potato Chip Company - 800-HOTCHIP - Gimmie Those Chips!!
THE ABITA ONLINE STORE - Support New Orleans Restoration


Beaucoup Books - 504 895 2663

Arts, Crafts, Housewares and Antiques

Cole Pratt Gallery - Fine art - (504) 891-6789
Slingluff Photo - 504 314 6266
Moxy Studios - 504.309.2516
JC Graphics - Katrina-related designs by Louisiana artist "jc" can be seen at NOLA LIVES!
Aux Belles Choses - (504) 891-1009 - FOR HOME AND GARDEN ENTHUSIASTS
Gila Mosaics - 504 949-2338 - Fine Art Mosaics, interior & exterior installations & commissions
The Private Connection - 1 888 263 9693 - The Private Connection features arts of Indonesia, handcrafted gifts, jewelry, fashion and accessories, unique furniture and architectural pieces. The N.Y. Times named it "The most cheerful shop on the street!
Top Drawer Antiques - (504) 897-1004 - FINE, ANTIQUE FURNITURE
French Quarter Candles

Not Satisfied--There's More

Shop for New Orleans

When You're Done With Shopping for Yourself

Family to Family - IT'S IN THE BAG!

Be patient with these vendors - if you can't get their website to work for you but you know you want something, email them - call them - get the business to them.

Please recommend this diary. I hate asking for this - but I really think we are having an effect and can continue to have an effect. I don't know if the comments thing is fixed, but let's get this effort, STARTED BY HANNAH (major snaps to her), noticed.

One final note - Terrie has asked for a link to Daily Kos. I'm going to send her the link as well as the link to this diary. I'm going to stay in touch with her and encourage her to keep the information about what really occurs in New Orleans in the eyes of our very motivated, dedicated and caring community.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 11:30 AM 3 comments
Monday, December 12, 2005

I don't know what's wrong with me these days.  Perhaps it's holiday stress; perhaps it's personal stress; perhaps it's work stress - or some lethal combination of the three - but I totally lost it as I was driving on the Washington DC beltway today.

No, I didn't pull out a shotgun and commit roadrage - I didn't run anyone off the road or ram another car in anger (been there, done that - totally different story - ask me sometime).  But I still lost it.

This is what set me off:

More after the flip.

The DC beltway is not for the faint-of-heart, particularly any time between the hours of 6:30am and 7:30pm on any weekday.  People are in a constant rush.  Getting anywhere, even anywhere close by in Washington DC is a total crap shoot.  And, granted, I'm not the most patient driver in the world.  I have absolutely no patience for anyone going slower than I want to in the left-hand lane.  My basic approach is this: everyone's the enemy and they're all out to get in your way and slow you down.  Therefore I drive way ahead and seek to maneuver (safely, mind you) around people who are obvious bottlenecks in the flow of traffic.

Today I got behind a guy in a big-ass Suburban.  It was one of the older ones - kind of maroon but really dirty from all the chemicals and salt they've used to clear the roads of ice and snow lately.  He was doing about 65 in the left hand lane of the beltway and I like to go about 75.  The other three lanes were all moving along at about 63mph - just slow enough that I wouldn't accomplish anything by switching lanes yet just fast enough to never actually be passed by Mr. Suburban.  I was stuck.  Under the layers of dirt on his bumper his sticker caught my eye - "Sportsmen for Bush".  It was in good shape - not old or faded or cracked.

My eyes flashed at the back of the Suburban in anger and I said, out loud, "It's your goddamned fault you idiot."  No one else was in the car with me.  I said it loud.  A hole opened up in the lane next to me to get around this guy and continue on my merry way.  I went for it - hit the gas etc. - but slowed down just long enough when I was abreast of him to flip him a very visible bird.  He probably thought it was because I wanted to pass him - but it wasn't.  It was because he voted for Bush.

It was more than that, though, and my gesture-inducing rage made me pause and think for a bit once I was moving along.  I can understand, I suppose, having voted for him in 2000.  I didn't, I wouldn't have (and didn't) advise anyone else to vote for him, but hey - he got elected because some proportion of people voted for him.  Although it's a stretch, I can even, if I squint and concentrate really hard, understand a tepid but grudging vote for him in 2004 - stay the course - don't change horses - all that stuff.

I guess what I'm saying is that I can forgive poor decisions if, once realization is achieved, the decision is regretted.  But the presence of these stickers on these cars around the Washington beltway doesn't indicate a hint of regret.

So as I'm driving along, pondering that, I get behind another big-ass vehicle going more slowly than my preference in the left-hand lane.  I'm hip now - I'm looking for these bumper stickers - and this is what I saw:

On the bumper of a shiny, garage-kept banana-yellow Hummer H3.  The sticker itself was sparkling, just like the car.  It occurred to me, as my rage flashed, that the H3 is brand new model vehicle.  That means that the owner of that shiny, gas-guzzling, garage-kept H3 (who was a woman, by the way, not that it matters) went out of her way to ensure that that sticker made it onto her new car.  This wasn't some January or February 2001 sticker - this was I-put-it-on-in-the-last-few-months sticker.

I flipper her off as I went around her, too.

As I crossed the bridge back into Virginia I was thinking about all the wonders of the Bush administration:

If you voted for him, wouldn't you at least have the decency to be embarrassed by him, to scrape off the stickers that are emblematic of your support for him, today, after everything that's happened???

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 9:14 PM 15 comments
Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sadly, I think this cartoon from The Washington Post's Sunday Outlook section sums up the direction of our current economic policy:

And as to our policy and the decision landscape in Iraq?

I'm no Howard Dean apologist - I think he should check his brain before engaging his mouth and find a better way to say things that doesn't spark such controversy, but the twisting of Democratic policy by the GOP is despicable. Democrats should take note - it's the next attack front for these soul-less obfuscators:

While Howard Dean doesn't necessarily speak for me on all fronts, Joe Liebermann definitely doesn't speak for me - time for Joe to do what needs to be done and profess his love for George W. Bush.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 11:12 AM 6 comments
Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I had completely forgotten that it's Pearl Habor Day.  64 years ago today the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in an unprecedented attack on the native soil of the United States of America.

I'm not a World War II buff, but I certainly know how important this day was in US and world history - it was the day that America was inexorably pulled into WWII.  It was a day that sparked unparalleled patriotism and a day that began sacrifice on the part of Americans as men, goods and money went to the war effort.  It was a day that created the heroes of the near- and distant-future.  It truly was a day that will live in infamy.

Read on.

President George W. Bush spoke about Pearl Harbor today as well.  If, like me, you were unable to watch or listen to the speech, here's an excerpt:

Today we mark the anniversary of a fateful day in American history. On December the 7th, 1941, our peaceful nation awoke to an attack plotted in secret, and executed without mercy. The strike on Pearl Harbor was the start of a long war for America -- a massive struggle against those who attacked us, and those who shared their destructive ambitions. Fortunately for all of us, a great generation of Americans was more than equal to the challenge. Our nation pulled together -- and despite setbacks and battlefield defeats, we did not waver in freedom's cause. With courage and determination, we won a war on two fronts: we liberated millions, we aided the rise of democracy in Europe and Asia we watched enemies become allies, and we laid the foundation of peace for generations.

On September the 11th, 2001, our nation awoke to another sudden attack. In the space of just 102 minutes, more Americans were killed than we lost at Pearl Harbor. Like generations before us, we accepted new responsibilities, and we confronted new dangers with firm resolve. Like generations before us, we're taking the fight to those who attacked us -- and those who share their murderous vision for future attacks. Like generations before us, we've faced setbacks on the path to victory -- yet we will fight this war without wavering. And like the generations before us, we will prevail.

I can't tell you how angry it makes me to hear a man with no sense of service or responsibility invoke the spectre of heroes like my grandfather, a decorated WWII bomber pilot and bonafide hero.  I can't articulate how disgusted I am to think about my other grandfather, who rushed to serve his country in the Navy, and have the causes for which he fought compared to the shameful war in Iraq.  One grandfather is spinning in his grave in Arlington Cemetary; the other just switched off the television in abject disgust.

Yes, we were attacked on September 11th.  It was a vicious attack perpetrated on civilians.  It required retaliation on our part.  In some ways, the days following 9/11 felt like what my grandparents would describe as the national feeling immediately followig the bombing of Pearl Harbor - a feeling of horror and fear and life inevitably changed, but also a feeling of strength and unity.  United against our enemy, leaders rose up and crafted the vision and plan that would defeat our enemies and secure our freedom.  I wasn't alive during WWII - but to hear my parents and grandparents describe it, we knew who the enemy was and we understood absolutely what constituted "success".  We achieved that success definitively and without question.

Who must we defeat to achieve success in the War on Terror??  Is it Osama bin Laden?  I don't think so.  Symbolically, finding and killing bin Laden would do as much harm as good.  So when we say "War on Terror", what are we fighting?  Who and where are we fighting?  Afghanistan was a necessary step.  Denied of a base of operation, terrorist leaders at least experienced disruption in their activities in having to flee that country.

Yet it's been four years since we drove them into the fierce hills somewhere between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Four years is more than enough time to reconstitute the infrastructure necessary to conduct attacks against the United States, other western nations, and democratic interests across the world.  It's more than enough time to facilitate the planning of another catastrophic attack.

The "War on Terror", unlike WWII, has a vague and unaffiliated enemy.  In WWII, we truly "fought them over there" so we wouldn't have to fight them here... Not so with the War on Terror.  We fight, but only with a vague idea of what we hope to accomplish.  US and allied servicepeople die, clinging to the idea that they have participated in the liberation of an oppressed people - the people of Iraq - and they have.  And they should be proud.  But that's not the War on Terror.  

The War on Terror inexorably must have a US-based component - I would argue that, due to the nature of the enemy, it should be solely US-based.  Border security.  Transportation security.  Internal and external intelligence operations.  Cargo inspections.  Financial enforcement.  Information sharing.  Modern surveillance and communications equipment and techniques.  You get the idea.  All the things the 9/11 Commission says we are failing to accomplish four years after the day the President invokes as comparable to Pearl Harbor.

Four years after Pearl Harbor (roughly), the Americans and allied forces had defeated their enemy.  They had liberated a people designated to receive the most horrendous treatment and death imaginable at the hands of another human being.  Four years after Pearl Harbor, American soldiers were coming home to face the challenges of re-acclimating to civilian life.  They were picking up the pieces of their families, getting to know their children, buying homes, settling into new jobs...

What will our soldiers come home to, those who are able to come home at all at some undisclosed point in the future?  What jobs will they have?  What future will they face?  In coming back to the United States, will they truly be safer than they were when deployed in Iraq?  At least in Iraq it was commonplace to carry a gun and wear protective gear - the soldier back in the US that has failed to address the real issues and requirements of the War on Terror will be defenseless in a country that has failed to defend itself at home.  Their children will live their lives under threat.

It's said often, by way of joking, that what we did in going into Iraq to fight the "War on Terror" is tantamount to deciding to attack Sweden in response to Pearl Harbor.  I think sometimes ridiculous examples make the point with the greatest emphasis.  That is what it's like.  

And, when it happens again, American soldiers will be called back up to face the endless, relentless so-call-war-on-terror that this President seems intent on inflaming.

I can't think of a better reason to invest my spirit, fueled by the memory of the service of my grandfathers, in removing from power those who fail to properly honor my family's service to our great country.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 9:50 PM 7 comments
Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Do you know who wrote the much-anticipated and recently-declassified Comprehensive Strategy for Victory in Iraq? Magorn over at Daily Kos does and he's written an excellent diary about it:

Computer Outs WH: Poltical Hack wrote victory Plan

First, I haven't even started my Christmas shopping. This turns out to be a good thing - Hannah over at Daily Kos has written a diary on how you can shop online and support native New Orleans businesses while getting some wonderful, thoughtful gifts. The diary is here:


You can also place this button on your blog to link back to Hannah's post at her own blog which details the stores, links and category of goods. It's a great cause.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 12:47 PM 0 comments
Monday, December 05, 2005

Like many people, I have heard of an buy into the idea put forward in Vance Packard's 1957 book titled The Hidden Persuaders. In a nutshell, Packard talked, in part, about "motivational research" marketing techniques being used to influence purchasing behavior in America in the post-war boom. You might relate better to the phrase "subliminal advertising", though that was not the phrase used at the time. From Snopes.com:

Advertisements that focused on consumers' hopes, fears, guilt, and sexuality were designed to persuade them to buy products they'd never realized they needed. Marketers who could reach into the hearts and minds of American consumers soon found consumers' wallets to be within easy grasp as well.

Scary stuff. Read on.

James Vicary actually coined the term "subliminal advertising". His most notable experiment involved a movie theatre. Again, from Snopes.com:

Vicary placed a tachistoscope in the theater's projection booth, and all throughout the playing of the film Picnic, he flashed a couple of different messages on the screen every five seconds. The messages each displayed for only 1/3000th of a second at a time, far below the viewers' threshold of conscious perceptibility. The result of displaying these imperceptible suggestions -- "Drink Coca-Cola" and "Hungry? Eat Popcorn" -- was an amazing 18.1% increase in Coca-Cola sales, and a whopping 57.8% jump in popcorn purchases. Thus was demonstrated the awesome power of "subliminal advertising" to coerce unwary buyers into making purchases they would not otherwise have considered.

The veracity of the experiment has been challenged and the validity of the results have been questioned. Despite these questions, the reaction to the experiment were sensational. In 1974, in fact, the FCC banned "subliminal advertising" from both radio and television airwaves.

This is the classic example of subliminal advertising. Whether or not it occurred and, further, was effective remains an open question. What is not an open question, however, is the fact that "motivational research" is alive and well and is being used on Americans each and every day. One of the most effective uses is in political advertising.

You're being guided; directed - and it's the Bush Administration who has mastered the art of this technique.

I want to state up front that the idea for this post came from reading Al Franken's book The Truth - with Jokes. Have you heard of Terror Management Theory (TMT)? If you answered "no", join the club - I hadn't, either. It is an actual scientific discipline. From Wikipedia:

Terror management theory (TMT) is a developing area of study within the academic study of psychology. It looks at what researchers claim to be the implicit emotional reactions of people when confronted with the psychological terror of knowing we will eventually die (it is widely believed that our awareness of mortality is a trait that is unique to humans).


The Theory embarks on the assumption that the capability of self-reflection and the consciousness of one’s own mortality, can be regarded as a continuous source for existential anguish. Culture diminishes this psychological terror by providing meaning, organisation and continuity to men and women. Compliance with cultural values enhances the feeling of security and self-esteem, provided that the individual is capable to live in accordance with these particular cultural standards. The belief in the rightness of the cultural values and standards creates the conviction to live a reasonable and meaningful life. Because of this men and women strive to have their cultural worldview confirmed by others, thereby receiving the community’s estimation.

Let me net out how I read that statement. Subscribing to a culture and cultural norms lessens the anguish of the knowledge that we will eventually die. Working towards a purpose and receiving validation of that purpose within the norms of society relieves the pressure and fear that accompany death. (Note: I'm not a doctor nor do I have more than a junior-level psychology class under my belt. This was, for better or worse, my slightly-informed interpretation.)

Now - let's come back to Al Franken's book. Franken introduces us to TMT as part of an effort to explain how and why George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004. Think back on the 2004 Presidential campaign (I know, I know - it's painful to do so). Do you remember the ad that most referred to as "Wolves"? I do. A link to a Windows Media version can be found here if you're interested. Needless to say it was a dark and frightening ad. The text went like this:

In an increasingly dangerous world...
Even after the first terrorist attack on America...
John Kerry and the liberals in Congress voted to slah America's intelligence operations by 6 billion dollars...
Cuts so deep they would have weakened America's defenses.
And weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm.

Franken points out that the voice-over is deceptively vague - which first terrorist attack? It makes a difference in the truthfulness of the ad itself. But I digress.

A lot of criticism followed that ad, decried loudly by those on the left as "fear-mongering". It was fear-mongering - but it was so much more than that. It was likely a carefully orchestrated application of TMT.

I don't have the background or the patience to detail, specifically, the studies that I found on the internet when researching this. In the days immediately following 9/11, Bush's approval rating soared to 86%. 86%!!! One studious researcher proved empirically that Bush's approval ratings increased every time the terror alert level was raised by the Government. Another ground-breaking study solidified the connection between fear, a desire to be released from fear, the likelihood that this strong desire will lead to a search for psychological security, and the strong preference to choose a "charismatic" leader in these types of circumstances who affirm our world view and cause us to feel safe. This quote sums it all up for me:

In Escape from Freedom, Eric Fromm (1941) proposed that loyalty to charismatic leaders results from a defensive need to feel a part of a larger whole, and surrendering one's freedom to a larger-than-life leader can serve as a source of self-worth and meaning in life. Ernest Becker (The Denial of Death, 1973) posited that when mainstream worldviews are not serving people's need for psychological security, concerns about mortality impel people to devote their psychological resources to following charismatic leaders who bolster their self-worth by making them feel like they are valued participants in a great mission to heroically triumph over evil.

Go back to the "Wolves" ad and read/watch it again. We all knew at the time that it was fear-mongering. I didn't realize, however, that it was scientifically orchestrated to cause voters to behave in a way that would favor George W. Bush and/or why it was so effective.

Franken concludes this particular discussion with an interesting analysis. He takes issue with the 2004 Bush win being based on "moral values". Summarily, voters in the 2004 election who identified themselves as "moral values" voters (those who place moral and ethical issues at the top of their list) represented a much lower percentage (22%) than did the same group in the 2000 election (35%) and the 1996 election (40%). In 2000 and 1996 those who put the abortion issue at the top of their list were 14% and 9% respectively. Abortion voters were not considered in the moral/ethical values figures. therefore, nearly half the electorate voted on moral/ethical issues in 1996 and 2000 while in 2004, only about 20% did. The argument, then, is that "moral values" was an illusion. The Bush campaign simply applied science to scare people into voting for them.

Tell me, in light of this, how what Bush did in 2004 is any different than the unacceptable practice of subliminal advertising. It's nothing short of manipulation and 51% of America was hoodwinked.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 6:32 AM 4 comments
Sunday, December 04, 2005

Ok - first, I have no objection to the term "Christmas tree". I have a Christmas tree in my house. It's not a holiday tree, it's a Christmas tree. Personally, I think over-zealous political correctness hurts the progressive cause. For whatever reason, a need to call it a "Holiday tree" seems to be associated with liberals and progressives. I am a liberal progressive Democrat and I won't trifle with Christmas terminology. I care about religion in government - I don't think the Ten Commandments should be displayed on public grounds nor should children be required to recite "In God We Trust" or observe prayer in school. But too much political correctness hurts the overall cause, imo.

I've just finished putting up all of my Christmas decorations. I put up a nice tree in my living room and I pull out a veritable superstore-full of lights and array them all over the front of my house. It takes me a full day and often longer and I expand and replace what's already there... I love to do it even though I haven't felt the "Christmas spirit" in quite a few years. The children in my neighborhood love it and it seems to heighten their excitement - that makes it worth it right there.

Last January my husband and I agreed that we would start a new Christmas tradition in our household. We would exhcnage only small, thoughful gifts with each other and would take the bulk of the money we would have spent and go buy blankets and surplus jackets and distribute them to the homeless in Washington, DC. We intend to stand by that. We want to embody the season and that, for us, entails giving. It has made the decorating this year that much more meaningful. I'll try to blog our efforts as the holiday grows closer. I also have a rather major post planned for this week but it's requiring a lot of research and effort and is not something I can put up quickly. As always, I appreciate those who stop by and read whatever I have on my mind.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 4:33 PM 3 comments
Friday, December 02, 2005

Have you heard of Malawi? I hadn't, either, until about twenty minutes ago when CNN International did a piece on the growing humanitarian crisis in Malawi. So now, hopefully, you're going to learn a little about it. Then I'll ask you for something, which I don't usually do.

The Republic of Malawi is in the southeastern part of Africa. It's slightly under 46,000 square miles in size and has a population of slightly more than 10 million. (Source). In 2004, Malawi reported $503.4 million in exports consisting primarily of tobacco (60%), tea, sugar, cotton, coffee, peanuts, wood products and apparel. Its residents are primarily Protestant and Catholic with the existence also of some tribal regligions. Their official language is English.

Malawi is in crisis and many children are suffering.

The biggest and most pressing issue is that of food - Malawians are in grave danger of dying of hunger. This serious crisis is compounded by a variety of other factors, however. Approximately 400,000 children under age 15 in Malawi have been orphaned by the African AIDS crisis. These children are primarily cared for by relatives who cannot accommodate the economic and resource strain of additional responsibilities. Malawi also severely lacks medical staff and equipment to deal with both emerging and underlying health issues. The AIDS crisis alone has over-strained the system - the disease crisis created by malnutrition further strains the system in Malawi to the point that it is broken.

I am a big fan of the ONE Campaign. I even did a post back in August that included the subject of the ONE Campaign. If you're unfamiliar, the ONE Campaign, in part, seeks to hold G-8 leaders accountable and responsible to their adoption of the Millennium Development Goals. Specifically, a commitment was made by all member nations to halve extreme poverty by 2010. Extreme poverty is the underlying cause of the crisis in Malawi. Women and children are the hardest-hit and many, many children will die of simple diseases exacerbated by malnutrition or will die of hunger itself if the international community doesn't respond. We've all heard a lot about "donor fatigue". Last year it was the Tsunami... This year it has been the repeated hurricane damage and disasters. Also in the mix is the Kashmiri earthquake crisis. I know that it's difficult to keep up with who needs what and to have the resources to assist. But I implore you - there are areas of this world that remain largely ignored by Americans simply because they don't know about it. I didn't know about Malawi - but now I do. When I saw the piece on CNN I immediately went to UNICEF and donated some money. If you have any money you can spare - even as little as $5.00 could be the difference between life and death for a child - please, follow the link and help these people.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 12:51 PM 11 comments
Thursday, December 01, 2005

I thought I'd explain some changes I've made to my blog. First, I participate in the BlogExplosion traffic exchange program to drive traffic to my site. One of the new features they have is "Rent My Blog". The way it works is this: You can either earn credits or buy credits at BlogExplosion to drive traffic or to rent another person's blog. When you rent space, you spend "credits" and a thumbnail of your blog appears on the other person's site. You'll see in the upper-left of my blog that my featured blog belongs to Zaphod's Heads. I know this blog and have rented advertising over there as well. Visit it - it's a great and informative site.

Some of the changes I've made to the layout and structure have caused some quirky problems with Firefox users. G over at In The Middle of America was kind enough to suggest a fix. Because I'm at the office, however, I can't check if it worked for Firefox users. Drop me a comment and let me know!!

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 11:38 AM 8 comments