Friday, December 30, 2005

Back from death row

(I'm cross-posting again with The Central Pennsylvania Abolitionist.)

Well, I'm back after a 525 mile round-trip jaunt. I left early this morning while it was still dark. That was fitting because I felt like I was driving into the unknown. I didn't know what to expect this day. Appropriately, I took a route I had never driven before, which seemed symbolic, as I took I-70 and I-68 across western Maryland. (Of course, I took that route just to avoid tolls.)

Along the way, there was a pit stop in Cumberland, Maryland, in search of a good cup of coffee. Although I know nothing about Cumberland, it gives the appearance of one of those towns with a story similar to so many towns in the northeast. It's best days appear to be behind it. Many older brick buildings, empty storefronts, other stores that obviously haven't changed their marquees for decades. It's gritty, and the dreary skies and my own melancholy about visiting a prison probably added to that effect. It seemed only right that Bruce Springsteen was playing in the cafe that I walked into for coffee.

Admittedly, I'm a bit of a coffee snob. I don't need to have Starbucks, but it's got to be quality coffee. Well, when I walked in to the cafe, there was one of those two-burner industrial models that is in every office in America. It wasn't looking good, but I bought a cup, anyway.

On my way out of town, what to my eyes did appear but the Queen City Creamery and Coffee Shop. It appeared that the quality coffee I craved was before me. When I walked in, behold, all of the signs of quality coffee were there- a menu with various lattes, cappucinos, and cafe au laits, the flavor syrup bottles on the wall. They were even playing Sirius Satellite Radio, which I was seriously missing from my car since I had a rental. Of course, even with these options, the house blend has been my choice of late. It must have something to do with taking the middle path.

After a stop in Morgantown, WV, for lunch, it was off to the prison. This is a relatively new prison, less than 15 years old, and its look is similar to other public buildings. The main entrance and other parts of the building are topped with the pyramid that is popular in the construction of new schools.

The main lobby is like other state buildings with bright flourescent lights, a large main desk, and rows of cushioned seats. Walking the halls you could feel like you're in a school or a hospital with the cinder block walls, tiled floor, and flourescent lights. Of course, one look at the three fences, spirals of razor wire, and sliding steel doors and it's obvious this is no school. (Then again, the kids at the residential school where I used to work called it a "prison" all the time.)

I have to be honest at this point: The visit was not as earth-shattering or life-changing as I thought. The guards were either pleasant or non-expressive. They were certainly respectful and helpful. And the prisoner I visited is very social and does not have some of the mental and/or social deficiencies that many prisoners have. He's also been in a long time so he is adjusted. I'll keep the contents of our conversation private, but I will say that it wasn't any different than conversations I have with other activists. This activist just happened to be wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs and was sitting behind a double-paned window and talking through a vent between the window and wall. And this activist is also living with a death sentence.

As I headed out, I thought about why it wasn't as heavy an experience as I thought it would be, and it dawned on me. Everyone I encountered this day- the guards, the prisoner, other visitors- are all human, just like the rest of us, with their own dreams and hopes and fears. It's a reminder that regardless of our situation, our race, our religion, our nationality, we all share that common bond of humanity.

So I've done it and will probably do it again. I can add "visited a death row prisoner" to my list of other interesting life experiences, like attending the Super Bowl and drinking quintuple espressos with a former Congressman. It was another adventure....


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Live from death row

Well, not exactly. I'm at home, but tomorrow morning I'll leave home at 6am to do something I've never done before- visit a prison. This particular prison is SCI-Greene in Waynesburg, PA, the home of the majority of PA's capital prisoners, and I'm going to visit an inmate who is living hell on earth, living with a death sentence. It seems only appropriate that my first prison visit would be to death row. I never attended a court proceeding until about two months ago, and it was a huge trial, one that's been in the news a lot lately. Might as well dive into the deep end with the big kids.

When you see descriptions of blogs, they are often described as online "diaries". I like for NLM to be more like an editorial page, but in this case, I'm going to try to transcribe some of my thoughts and emotions, both before and after. This is important enough that I'm cross-posting with The Central Pennsylvania Abolitionist.

For some reason, I'm drawn to criminology and the justice system and am especially both fascinated and torn by the way we handle prisoners. I'm not naive enough to think that we can live in some restorative utopia, and I know that criminals need to pay a debt to society. But our pendulum seems to swing too far in the other direction. As I write this, legislators are cooking up ways to continue a prisoner's punishment even after his/her sentence has ended. A recent example is the attempt in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to take away voting rights from ex-felons, who currently can vote the moment they walk out of prison. This is an important piece of their reintegration into society, but some legislators want to continue to pound them.

We can put greater energy in trying to help the incarcerated improve themselves and prepare them for post-prison life. I'd guess my feelings on this come from my spiritual background, both the Christianity of my childhood and the Buddhism of my adult life. Jesus fraternized with the "least among us", including criminals. In the dharma, we keep faith in the belief that all of us have a true self, which is gentle and compassionate. Even criminals have this true self. We also believe that we are never the same person from minute-to-minute. We are in constant flow and change. Thus, a man who commits a crime, even a violent crime, at 22 is not the same man at 42 or 52 or whatever age he is at release.

According to legend, the Buddha even took in the serial killer Angulimala as a monk (PDF), and the story goes that he became a fine monk. When a representative from the government visited the Buddha to ask him about Angulimala, the monk was the first person he encountered, not realizing that he was Angulimala, and the official remarked to the Buddha what a nice man he was.

While the dharma teaches that we have a true self, it also teaches that there are consequences for our actions, so I believe in a middle path for prisoners that is neither too heavy-handed nor too lenient.

I don't know what to expect during this visit, and I will keep an open mind. That is not a naive open mind but instead a recognition that anything could happen. The prison personnel could be difficult, rude, and disrespectful or they could be quite nice. When I walk into that prison, a feeling of dread could overcome me or it might just seem like another building (minus the razor wire, of course). I will be ready for anything. Fortunately, the prisoner I am visiting is a conversationalist and is socially aware, so we will not be lacking for chatter.

I will be sure to report back tomorrow night when I return home.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The more you know...

As we continue to learn more about SCOTUS nominee Sam Alito, the vibe coming from the Senate seems to be his confirmation is becoming a lock. And yet the more we learn, the scarier his nomination becomes.

USA Today has done a series of editorials on the nomination. Here's the lead from Monday's editorial:
When Samuel Alito was a Justice Department lawyer in the 1980s, he wrote that he saw no legal problem with a police officer shooting and killing an unarmed 15-year-old who was fleeing from a $10 burglary.

If you cherish your rights, this nominee bears questioning

Words of wisdom from Tony Dungy

''Parents, hug your kids every chance you get,'' he said. ''Tell them you love them every chance you get because you don't know when it's going to be the last time.''

Tearful Dungy urges parents to "hug kids"
If you're a sports fan, you know that there may not be a classier guy in the NFL than Tony Dungy. Reading about this is just heartbreaking and gives me a lump in my throat and butterflies in my stomach each time that I read more.

Tim Sullivan of the San Diego Union Tribune wrote this today:
Just last year, Dungy, now 50, said he was not sure how much longer he would continue to coach because of the price the profession had exacted on his family. He said he had missed too much of James' life, and that "I don't want the same thing to happen with my other children."

How eerie those words sound now. James Dungy was 18 years old.

It's too early to tell how Dungy's "holding up"

Big UnEasy

New Orleans police kill man who swung knife

I'd be the first to let loose on police misconduct or abuse, but the initial accounts give this the appearance of a justified shooting. The police have to be able to defend themselves. This will get some attention, though, more than usual, since it occurred in N'awlins. Presumably, tensions are still high amongst the 100,000 or so folks who are there, and it can't be easy being an officer under those circumstances. CTV has quoted some witnesses who say that the man was not endangering anyone. Details are murky. As the CTV article points out, it is worth asking the question of whether or not the NO police can handle the job right now:
About 80 per cent of the city's police officers lost their homes in the hurricane, and many are still living in temporary barracks aboard barges. Critics have questioned how fit the officers are to do their jobs, considering the stress many are already dealing with.

"Police officers working regular shift work can have a degradation of their capacity to make split-second decisions and make appropriate choices in regular circumstances," criminologist David Klinger told ABC. "So you can only imagine what it must be for those men and women down there who are still trying to do the job."

It's difficult to get a handle on just what, exactly, is going on in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast and the government's response to it. We all know that all levels of government screwed up the initial response. Once that became water under the bridge, so to speak, the government had the opportunity to do right by the people of the region by providing leadership in the rebuilding.

By all accounts, though, that hasn't happened. On December 11, the New York Times wrote an editorial on the Death of an American City:
We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum.
At this moment the reconstruction is a rudderless ship. There is no effective leadership that we can identify. How many people could even name the president's liaison for the reconstruction effort, Donald Powell? Lawmakers need to understand that for New Orleans the words ''pending in Congress'' are a death warrant requiring no signature.

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 alien communities where they landed.

This prompted a fair amount of conversation on the lefty talk shows, and Congress approved the money to rebuild the levees to pre-Katrina strength. (We saw how well they worked.)

The Chicago Tribune on Monday expressed a measure of hope and preached patience:
The president, the Louisiana governor, the mayor of New Orleans and others have promised that New Orleans will rise again, better than before. But they haven't said when. The answer, at least for now, is: Not soon. Rebuilding on this scale takes planning and deliberation. Doing it right is far more important than doing it fast.

That is not the answer that many want to hear. Doomsayers are writing New Orleans' epitaph, suggesting that Congress and the Bush administration are abandoning a great American city. A Nov. 13 editorial headline in the New Orleans Times-Picayune wailed: "Forgotten Already."

Nonsense. The city isn't forgotten. FEMA has billions in the bank earmarked for flood relief. So far, a little more than half of the $62 billion in federal Katrina relief has been spent. In recent days, the White House asked for another $1.5 billion to rebuild the levees to pre-Katrina strength. Before adjourning for the year, Congress allocated billions, including grant money that will be used to compensate those who did not have flood insurance. There's another $8 billion in tax breaks for businesses damaged or destroyed by those hurricanes.

The impulse to move quickly is natural. People are suffering. But as this page said in the first days after the disaster, we now have the opportunity to build a smarter--smaller--New Orleans.

The Big Queasy

So, it's hard to say where this is going. It's important that the public doesn't forget about our friends in the Gulf Coast.

Monday, December 26, 2005

No war on Christmas, but there is a war on Jesus

"Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." --Matthew 25:40

Let's get real: Jesus was a liberal. Forgiveness? Loving thy neighbor? That reeks of liberalism! A rich man has as much chance of entering the Kingdom of Heaven as a camel has of getting through the eye of a needle? That's class warfare!

While Sean Hannity, John Gibson, Bill O'Reilly, and Jerry Falwell and the American Taliban spent much of December crying incessantly about the fake war on Christmas (and then whining more about the real ruling on the fake scientific theory of intelligent design), three important social justice issues flew by with either apathy or even hostility from the thugs mentioned above: the death penalty, budget cuts for programs that aid the poor, and torture. What would Jesus do? It's hard to imagine that he would torture, execute, and cut programs to help the least among us.

(It pains me to be fair to O'Reilly, but it is worth noting that he is a death penalty abolitionist.)

The death penalty
The execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams of Crips gang fame drew the most attention, but there were two other very important stories that slid by, barely noticed.

In Texas, the Houston Chronicle revealed that it is likely that a man executed in 1993 was innocent. The national media yawned. I heard that CNN did a segment on this on a Sunday afternoon, but that was the only noticeable coverage. It's possible that others touched on it, but it did not receive nearly the attention that Tookie's execution received. The proven execution of an innocent person could lead to the ultimate downfall of capital punishment, but if the press doesn't bother to tell anyone, it won't even be noticed. The idea that the media has a liberal bias is laughable.

Meanwhile, in a first in the blogosphere, broke the story of Cory Maye, a man wrongfully caught up in a drug raid. Maye shot and killed a police officer when the officer broke into his home at midnight while executing the raid. The police were raiding Maye's next door neighbor, who lives on the other side of a duplex, and broke into Maye's home, thinking that it was one unit. Maye was home alone with his 18-month old daughter and fired at the officer because he thought the officer was an intruder. A jury of 12 Mississipians convicted Maye and sentenced him to death.

Finally, there's Tookie. We often hear from the AT (American Taliban) that this is a Christian nation. Tookie's case is clear proof that we are not. Our feelings about redemption were on trial here, and it's apparent that redemption has no place in the American criminal justice system. Plus, a recent study revealed significant problems with race and the death penalty in Cali. In a similar situation, Maryland Governor Parris Glendening declared a moratorium on executions in 2002. Ah-nold felt no need to do the same.

I tune in Hannity about once a week. If I listened any more than that, I'd probably want to set myself on fire. One week, Hannity was crying about the attacks on Christmas. The next week he was calling for the murder of Tookie. He told his audience that he believed Tookie would have to face God and that He is a just God. If that's true, sir, then you, too, will have to face God. Good luck with that one.

America hit a new low when the Vice President lobbied Congress to allow the CIA an exemption under the McCain amendment against torture. By all appearances, Bush finally came around to McCain's way of thinking, but the Birmingham News reports that the Prez only signed off on it because he realized that the votes were there to override his threatened veto.

Meanwhile, the ACLU filed suit on behalf of a German man wrongly imprisoned and allegedly tortured by U.S. officials. The ACLU was roundly criticized by some of the same propagandists who claim Christmas is under attack. Apparently, torture is acceptable in their brand of Christianity. That's truly taking Christ out of Christmas.

Budget cuts
115 people of faith bravely committed an act of civil disobedience to oppose the U.S. House budget proposal that would inflict cuts to programs that aid "the least among us", including cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and student loan programs. The Religious Wrong, meanwhile, wanted nothing to do with it and was happy to let the cuts happen.

The House passed it, but the Senate passed a modified version, although the Senate version includes cuts to the programs mentioned above. The House will have to vote on the Senate version when they return from the holiday break.

Although I do not view Jesus as the world's saviour, I recognize and respect the impact of his teachings on social justice on my own life. Thus, it's insulting to see these faux Christians doing very little to truly carrying out the Word.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Wal-Mart: Exhibit A for the need for unions

So it's real easy to hate on unions these days with the NYC transit strike, and, of course, the propaganda machine has been in full gear against the striking workers. Then along comes Wal-Mart to remind us all why we need unions.

Jury backs Wal-Mart workers

These days workers often tangle with their employers over health insurance, salary, and retirement. But not Wal-Mart. W-M is so stuck in the Dark Ages its employees can't even find time to grab a bite of a PB&J. And it goes beyond lunch breaks.
(Attorney Chris Lebsock) said the employees also allege they were denied rest breaks and that Wal-Mart managers deliberately altered time-cards to keep people from earning overtime.

If someone had worked 41 hours in a week, which ordinarily would qualify for an hour of overtime, Wal-Mart would subtract an hour from the time card or move the extra hour onto the following week's pay period, Lebsock said.

Workers who forgot to punch out their time cards at the end of the day also were cheated, Lebsock said. Instead of paying them for all the hours they worked, he said, the company would mark their time cards as if they had gone home hours before they actually did.

"They do it electronically," Lebsock said. "It's unbelievable."


Wal-Mart Watch

Back to NYC, on the first day of the strike, NBC quoted a woman who complained that the transit workers retire at age 55 and she doesn't. Let's break this down scientifically.
A. Union transit workers collect retirement at 55.
B. This lady, presumably a non-union worker, doesn't.
Solution? Go union!

And lest anyone thinks the pension issue is insignificant, here's evidence that workers have to scratch and claw for whatever they can get:
Nearly 1 in 10 pension plans said frozen

I worked in a union shop where management wanted to lower the salary for future workers. It's a classic union busting tactic. When new workers come in, resentment builds over the disparity in benefits and infighting occurs.

TWU workers make $30,000-$55,000 per year. There was a day when you could drive a bus and support a family. Try supporting a family in New York City on $30,000. Heck, try supporting a family in Harrisburg on $30,000.

I feel bad for the people of NYC who had to put up with it, but the TWU absolutely did the right thing. Come to think of it, if the economy of NYC relies so heavily on public transportation, maybe it's worth it to give the people who drive you to work every day nice benefits. Show some appreciation. You depend on them.

Theological wolf in scientific sheep's clothing

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Mad House

When did the House of Representatives become the Mad House?

House OKs one-month extension of Patriot Act

Here's the best part:
Approval came on a voice vote in a nearly empty chamber

Representative government at its worst. Can we just hit the reset button and start all over again?

Hell bent on a police state

Rep. James Non-Sensenbrenner, C-Wisc. (C is for crazy...actually he's an R), is threatening to block the six-month extension of the Patriot Act that the Senate passed yesterday.

Key House Republican balks at Patriot Act

Keep in mind that this is the same Rep. Non-Sense who nearly held up the intelligence reform bill last year if the REAL (National) ID Act wasn't a part of it. His fellow Rs talked him down off the water tower on that one by promising to take up REAL ID after the 2004 holiday season, which they did and passed....tacked on to a funding bill for the troops overseas and tsunami victims, that is. (There oughta be a damn law.)

There's no telling what he wants in exchange this time. An apartheid wall at the Mexican border, perhaps?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

ID falls, knees jerk at Discovery Institute

Judge Jones saw through the intelligent design charade (sha-RAID? sha-ROD?) with his biting decision that sent the ID movement scattering like cockroaches when the lights are flipped on.

And the predictable reaction came from the ID pests.

Discovery Institute:
"The Dover decision is an attempt by an activist federal judge to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate, and it won't work," said Dr. John West, Associate Director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute, the nation's leading think tank researching the scientific theory known as intelligent design.
full text of press release

Who could have predicted that the "activist judge" slam would come? Never saw that one coming. Actually, Judge Jones saw it coming:
"Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy."

The activist judge charge is so tired that it's become like the boy who cried wolf. Now, I just wish the wolf would come along and take these people away.
Meanwhile, in Ann Arbor at the Thomas More Law Center, all's quiet in the newsroom with nary a press release to be found, so we'll have to rely on some quotes from Dick Thompson, TMLC's executive director, from today's New York Times:
"A thousand opinions by a court that a particular scientific theory is invalid will not make that scientific theory invalid," said Mr. Thompson, the president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, a public interest firm in Ann Arbor, Mich., that says it promotes Christian values. "It is going to be up to the scientists who are going to continue to do research in their labs that will ultimately determine that."
Judge rejects teaching intelligent design

But here's the rub, Dick. The evidence presented at trial showed where the scientific community stands on this today, and it soundly rejects ID as a scientific theory.

Cutting through the nonsense, as he did throughout the trial, is the York Daily Record's Mike Argento, who posted a brilliant column today. It included this:
This ruling should consign intelligent design to the scrapbin of bad ideas and finally permit the fanatics who push it - the disingenuous drones of the Discovery Institute - to fulfill their true destiny of trying to sell their ideas, along with flowers, at the airport with their fellow cultists, Scientologists and people who believe the CIA is trying to give us all brain cancer with satellites.

The Times article actually revealed one moment of clarity from an ID'er, William Dembski, who said
"I think the big lesson is, let's go to work and really develop this theory and not try to win this in the court of public opinion," Dr. Dembski said. "The burden is on us to produce."

Dr. Michael Behe, the defense's star witness, which is akin to being a star on the Houston Texans, told the Times, "That was a real drag." I guess he's saying that the decision wasn't groovy, man.

Finally, there's former school board member Bill Buckingham with this gem in the Patriot News:
Contacted at his home in Mount Airy, N.C., Buckingham said of Jones: "If he says I'm a liar, he's a liar. I would love to be in a room one on one with him, with cameras. I would like to ask him where it says in the Constitution that there is a separation of church and state. If someone violated the Constitution, it was the Supreme Court when it said there was a separation of church and state, and Judge Jones.

"It's one thing to lose playing by the rules. It's another thing to lose by having things taken away unjustly, and that's what happened in Dover."

To which a friend of mine responded, "Buckingham wants to make himself into a martyr when he is actually the pesky little twerp on the playground who pokes at you until he leaves you no choice but to knock him on his ass."

There's plenty more to be said on this topic, but this post would go on and on. For now, check out these resources:

Panda's Thumb, a pro-science blog
Speaking Freely, a pro-freedom blog from the ACLU of PA
National Center for Science Education's Dover trial page
ACLU-PA's "Intelligent Design Challenge" page

Sister Joan takes on the "war on Christmas" fraud

Sister Joan Chittister of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie is one of the great voices for social justice in the Christian church. In the latest issue of the National Catholic Reporter, she writes on the faux war on Christmas hysteria.

Here's my favorite line:
Say you're a Christian and you believe in the death penalty and nobody blinks. Say an evergeen tree is not a sacred Christian object and the world descends into spiritual spasm.

Something else she said caught my attention:
To be frank, for some rather established historical reasons, I don't really care where people come down over whether or not a decorated evergreen tree is a "Christmas tree" or a "Holiday tree." At the same time, the thinking behind the question may be more important than the answer itself.

This reminded me of when the Taliban blew up the giant Buddhas. As a Zen practitioner, the destruction of the Buddhas was of less concern than the suffering mind of the Afghans who destroyed them. I'm sure other practitioners would agree. In fact, there was greater outcry from the art community than the Buddhist community.

Senator Stevens doesn't support our troops

Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and the Repugnantcans in the U.S. House care more about a little oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) than our troops overseas. In a disgusting display, Stevens tacked an amendment on ANWR drilling onto an unrelated defense spending bill, the House passed it, and then Old Man Stevens went to bat for it in the Senate. The bill also included a laundry list of other unrelated amendments. Well, the Senate just knocked it down.

If you want to debate drilling in ANWR, fine. But to play games with a bill that everyone knows would have bipartisan support is gutter politics. In fact, the Philadelphia Inquirer said today
The integrity of the U.S. Senate is up for a vote today.

Inquirer editorial: U.S. Senate shenanigans same old drill- An Arctic end run

Note the headline. That's the kind of reframing of the message that the southpaws have to do. Yesterday a caller on Ed Schultz's show was defending the no-warrant "3-way calling" that Bush has been indulging in, and Schultz said, "You right-wing nuts are un-American." Exactly right. Steal their lines.

For a hilarious bit on Senator Stevens as The Incredible Hulk, check out the podcast of today's Bill Press Show. The bit is 2.5 hours into the show.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Big Eddie catches the presidential flip-flopper

Ed Schultz today led off his radio show with comments from President Bush from a town hall meeting in Buffalo during the 2004 campaign in which he said this:
Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

Full text of Bush's comments

Intelligent Design nixed

Judge John E. Jones III has ruled against the Dover Area School District in its attempt to jam creationism, errrr, "intelligent design" into biology class:
Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District et al.

The theocrats lost this battle. Unfortunately, we know that the American Taliban will live to fight another day.

Spies like us

It's impossible to stop on the domestic spying, errr, "keeping the American people safe" topic.

The Prez and his henchmen have talked throughout the day about expediency and immediacy in monitoring potential terrorists. But the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court allows law enforcement to start monitoring without a warrant, as long as they get one within 72 hours. Meanwhile, they've also been arguing that the monitored are dangerous suspects with links to terrorism. If that's the case, then getting a warrant should have been no problem. That begs the question: Who, exactly, were they spying on? They tell us these were terrorist suspects and one party on the calls/e-mails is international. But who has verified that? Answer: No one. And the ACLU's Spy Files project revealed that the government has been spying on peace groups, environmentalists, and faith-based organizations.

How do we know the NSA program wasn't used to spy on Bush's political opponents? Answer: We don't.

On the Today show, Gonzo said, "Obviously, the President is concerned about civil liberties." Actually, Mr. Attorney General, it's not obvious.

Finally, on Bill Press's show this morning, former Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) said the i-word.

Monday, December 19, 2005

An American patriot

Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin), a Democrat with stones who won't go mush-mouth in a debate.


How entertaining it was to watch Dr. No, err, Rice on Tim Russert's hotseat yesterday on Meet The Press. The intro was all about Iraq, but Russert spent the first 15 minutes blistering her over el presidente's shredding of the US Constitution. Her two most heavily used responses were "I'm not a lawyer" and "September 11". The latter, of course, is always the administration's fall back. 9/11 is their excuse for the Iraq debacle. It's their excuse for pushing for unconstitutional provisions in the USA Patriot Act. And the list goes on.

So on this morning's shows, here comes Al Gonzo, who says, "This is not a situation of domestic spying." Really? So then what do we call it? Three-way calling?

Gonzales says Congress authorized spying

Of course, NLM's favorite defense is the "commander-in-chief" card. I must have slept through my high school civics class. I missed the constitutional amendment that says, "The president may disregard this entire document."

Welcome to Nasty Little Man!

Nasty Little Man is, as the description states, a place for left-wing conspiring. It's largely political but might stray occasionally. NLM is an activist who likes to write and is hoping to add a few team members so that there is a variety of voices here.