Reasonably Ascertainable Reality

Thoughts and musings on current events and other random occurrences.

Location: South Jersey, United States

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

NSA and What I Dont Understand

Over at Justus for All, I made a comment/question, which to my satisfaction, still hasn't been answered.

Basically, what is it about the FISA law that hampers the administration and intelligence officials so badly, that they must bypass in order to protect the country? What is it about the 72-hour after the fact time allowance that hampers the ability to get warrants? And if FISA put such handcuffs on the intelligence community in investigating these leads, why weren't changes to it sought? Surely, after 9/11, when something like the Patriot Act was able to be passed, changes to FISA could have been made as well.

This bothers me for one reason...why? Why not go get the warrants? What is the adminstration trying to hide? Dave posits that its all related to 'probable cause':

My guess is probable cause is the problem. We have a lot of ‘maybe terrorists or terrorist sympathizers’ out there that we don’t have enough evidence are directly involved. Doubtless, terrorist organizations try to route communications through unknown people to prevent them from being interecepted.

...Probable cause in my opinion is a great standard for prosecution and a horrible standard for intelligence gathering.

This seemed like a rational reason. I can put it along with the 'constitutional authority' reasoning, the 'it takes too long' and '72 hours isn't enough time reasoning'. But here is the problem...

In June, 2002, Republican Sen. Michael DeWine of Ohio introduced legislation (S. 2659) which would have eliminated the exact barrier to FISA which Gen. Hayden yesterday said is what necessitated the Administration bypassing FISA. Specifically, DeWine's legislation proposed:

to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to modify the
standard of proof for issuance of orders regarding non-United States persons
from probable cause to reasonable suspicion. . . .

In other words, DeWine's bill, had it become law, would have eliminated the "probable cause" barrier (at least for non-U.S. persons) which the Administration is now pointing to as the reason why it had to circumvent FISA.

Sounds pretty good right. So there was someone trying to change FISA. Here is where is goes all bad:

The reforms in those measures (the PATRIOT Act) have affected every single application made by the Department for electronic surveillance or physical search of suspected terrorists and have enabled the government to become quicker, more flexible, and more focused in going "up" on those suspected terrorists in the United States.

One simple but important change that Congress made was to lengthen the time period for us to bring to court applications in support of Attorney General-authorized emergency FISAs. This modification has allowed us to make full and effective use of FISA's pre-existing emergency provisions to ensure that the government acts swiftly to respond to terrorist threats. Again, we are grateful for the tools Congress provided us last fall for the fight against terrorism. Thank you.

The Department of Justice has been studying Sen. DeWine's proposed legislation. Because the proposed change raises both significant legal and practical issues, the Administration at this time is not prepared to support it.

Thats James A. Baker, Justice Department lawyer. So someone explain to me why now FISA isn't good enough; 72-hours isn't good enough and why probable cause isn't good enough.

Read Greenwalds whole piece. Its pretty disturbing. I wasn't too crazy about the idea of the warrantless tapping, however, the more excuses which are offered and the more information and examination of the past, its becoming more and more clear that there is, apparently, something to hide. And to say that those criticizing these actions or who are looking for an explanation are 'chicken littles' or even worse to say something like "Let me be as clear as I can be: President Bush believes if Al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why," Mr. Rove said. "Some important Democrats clearly disagree." I think is really misleading and really just trying to decieve people.

Awaiting the outcome of all this; however instead of feeling more comfortable, I'm feeling more and more duped.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Gays? Hell No. Torture? Absolutely

Via Ezra, I thought this was pretty damn interesting.

The Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons in the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy decided to pull director Ang Lee's cowboy love story at the last minute on Thursday night, despite having agreed to play the picture. The theater is owned by Larry H. Miller, who also owns the Utah Jazz, a National Basketball Association team."It's the most despicable practice that any exhibitor can do," Focus' head of distribution, Jack Foley, told Box Office Mojo. "It was a flagrant dismissal of a commitment, and without even a phone call. So I'm not in business with him anymore. It's a breach of contract. It's unethical. We can sue him."

Calls to the Megaplex 17 resulted in "no comments" in regards to why Brokeback Mountain was yanked. "You're not going to get any comment from us on that," said Dale Harvey, General Manager for Megaplex Theatres.

As of Sunday, Megaplex Theatres' Web site had Transamerica, a comedy-drama about a transsexual parent, listed for Jan. 20 in their "Coming Soon" section, but the movie has since vanished from their schedule.

The Megaplex 17 is showing Hostel as well. Though No. 1 nationwide, the sex-and-gore saturated horror picture ranked fourth at the theater with $10,700.

A tender love story that involves two men is bad for families, culture and our country. A movie in which torture scenes are so disturbing as to make people sick, well now, thats just fine.
A better illustration of these people's homophobia, masked by 'family values' could not be found.

Environmental Republican touched on this subject as well.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Something we can all support

Hat tip, Balloon Juice.

I think this is something both the right and left side can support and I hope that bloggers make this into a great issue in the upcoming months. Its been far to easy to pass laws in this country in which no one knows exactly what the hell is 'passing'. is a new national organization dedicated to forcing Congress to post all proposed legislation online for 72 hours before it goes to the floor of Congress. We call this the "72 Hours of Sunshine Rule". It is needed because Congress has degenerated into chaos. The House of Representatives still has a rule on the books requiring proposed legislation be available to members for three days. But the House waives this rule routinely and rubber stamps huge bills in the middle night, clueless of their content or cost. Senate rules are fuzzier but the result is the same. This chaos in Congress costs every American. Provisions and giveaways slipped through Congress are one reason that the U.S. has a national debt of $8 trillion. These sneaky provisions also invite plain-old corruption.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

From the wierd chronicles

At my alma mater, no less:

Last March, Jacques Pluss was fired from his job as an adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University soon after it came to light that he was a prominent member of the National Socialist Movement of the United States. This weekend, in an online essay titled "Now It Can Be Told: Why I Pretended to Be a Neo-Nazi," Mr. Pluss purports to reveal his true intentions in joining the white supremacist group: He did it all for scholarship.

Citing Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, the medievalist Ernst Kantorowicz, and the English Romantic poets, Mr. Pluss says he developed a highly participatory theory of historical investigation. "It slowly yet surely dawned on me," he writes, "that any attempt to understand a group, a movement, or an individual psyche, would have to include becoming, as much as an individual can, the subject under study."

To that end, Mr. Pluss joined the National Socialist Movement in February 2005 and soon began serving as host for a weekly Internet radio show called White Viewpoint, on which he railed against the "browning of America" and described Fairleigh Dickinson's treatment of him as "Hebrew" and "lawyerly." Within a few weeks of joining, he became a national officer of the group. He continued as a member until October.

Perhaps the strangest part of Mr. Pluss's account is his claim that he engineered his own dismissal from Fairleigh Dickinson in order to suffer the kind of public marginalization often experienced by neo-Nazis. "I realized that if I were going to experience the white power movement in America I was going to have to have something happen to me on a professional level," he said in the interview. "It was not going to be enough just to hang back and make the radio show and exchange emails with people."

To achieve this, Mr. Pluss says that while he was on vacation in Ireland, he wrote a pseudonymous letter to the editor of the Fairleigh Dickinson student newspaper, outing himself as a neo-Nazi. Soon after returning from Ireland, he says, he was notified of his dismissal.

I wonder if we can file this under 'closing the barn door after the horse has already escaped'?

Hap tip Instapundit.



The House "has been run like a plantation, and you know what I'm talking about," said Clinton, D-New York. "It has been run in a way so that nobody with a contrary view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument, to be heard."

Why can't people just say what they think without making completely idiotic metaphorical statements?


"It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild New Orleans the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans," the mayor said. "This city will be a majority African American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans."

Way to come together Mayor. I had much patience during the Katrina affair regarding some of the statements of black leaders and officials. No matter what was going on, it sure as hell looked like, in a predominantly black city, no one was there to help and that people were abandoned. However, this is just stupid, reverse segregation and personally, I'm not sure God is down with that.

I think I can hear many conservatives moaning right now, "Say it isn't so Hitch!".

Good. Some people are wondering what this ruling would have been should Alito be on the court. I don't think its hard to guess.

Bad. Not sure what the hell is going to come of this. I have more fear about this issue than any other since 9/11.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday Fun

Oh Hindrocket...please, PLEASE try and keep up with the blogosphere if you are going to make comments like this:

It's no wonder that Alito wasn't interested in pursuing this any further, but Kennedy's suggestion that the paragraph he read constituted some kind of ideological statement is silly. "People nowadays just don't seem to know their place." Does Kennedy think that's really how conservatives talk? (Maybe he considered it plausible because that's what Kennedy actually thinks.)

Because, this, which made its way around the blogosphere in the beginning of the week, makes you look like a complete assclown.

Even before DeLay's announcement that he would abdicate his leadership post, top Bush advisers tell TIME, the President's inner circle always treated DeLay as a necessary burden. He may have had an unmatched grip on the House and Washington lobbyists, but DeLay is not the kind of guy--in background and temperament--the President feels comfortable with. Of the former exterminator, a Republican close to the President's inner circle says, "They have always seen him as beneath them, more blue collar. He's seen as a useful servant, not someone you would want to vacation with."

I'll go with a YES, I think thats how some conservatives talk.

There's no crying in baseball

Someone explain to me why I'm supposed to be moved by SCOTUS nominee Samuel Alito's wife crying during the hearings. There are several reasons why I'm not only NOT moved and unsympathetic, but honestly, I feel the woman should be ashamed of herself.

First, in what you knew was going to be a complete and utter grilling of your husband, to put it bluntly, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. I'm quite positive both he, and probably you, have been briefed many times over on what the Democrats tactic was going to be in these hearings. The Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP) story has been out for a while and you must have known some Senator was going to bring it up. You can say what you will about those tactics, however, you knew it was coming.

Secondly, she should be ashamed for allowing herself to become part of something that she should be completely and wholly uninvolved in. This is about her husbands qualifications and his judicial philosophy. By allowing herself to lose control, she became the story and will likely influence public opinion just by shedding a tear. I'd be ashamed of that.

And lastly, she lost control. Listen, there are many times during work or professional occasions or even in public, where I have been close to shedding a tear. I will not allow it. The times I have cried at work, I have been monumentally ashamed of myself. It is inappropriate and uncalled for. She lost emotional control over herself and that should not have happened.

So no, I have no sympathy for her and I already think the Democrats have been pretty pathetic in these hearings, so she doesn't change my opinion on that. Its not news, its entertainment and ratings and feeds the lowest common denominator...emotion. I won't allow myself to get caught up in it.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Leaks and the leaking leakers who leak them

I have many thoughts on all this leak business going on lately around the media, government and blogosphere. First, I have a real problem with Bush seemingly circumventing a law that allowed him plenty of time (72 hours) after the fact to seek what he needed. If this is indeed what he did, the only plausible reason seems to be that he thinks he would have been denied these warrants. I'd like to get to the bottom of that.

Secondly, leaker versus whistleblower. This is one of the more insightful things that I've read on that and I tend to agree with it.

Part of the reason we can applaud them, is that unlike the mysterious leak sources, we are able to analyze whether they are ‘motivated by policy disputes or nagging consciences’ or beaurocratic infighting for that matter. They put their reputations on the line.
Anonymous leaking information to a news source is the opposite of whistle-blowing (the metaphor itself conjures an image of an clearly identifiable blower of the whistle.) If a major figure at the NSA, or even more appropriately a member of Congress who was breifed on the program, had come forth openly announcing that despite the secrecy of this program, the legal issues needed to be addressed and the Bush administration had failed to do so and exposing this was necessary, I would be very supportive of protecting them from legal penalties.

If you are concerned and willing to put your reputation on the line, then do it. However, I do see instances where this might not work for someone, or possibly where a developing story, and targeted leaks over time would help find out the whole sotry, needed to be investigated. Therefore, maybe anonymity would be precious. For instance, would we know as much about Watergate if Mark Felt had come forward, out of anonymity, and told us what he knew instead of learning more and more as the story developed? I'm not so sure.

Thirdly, and lastly, every last and single conservative blogger/pundit sounds so disingenious when they are so concerned about 'leaks' now, when they didn't care when somone leaked Valerie Plame's name. I repeat, and this is a fact no matter how much whining and crying there is going on, that no one knows yet how much damage this might have done to her contacts, her co-workers and intelligence gathering in general. So to say one incident harmed national security and the other didn't just shows one to be ignorant of the KNOWN facts and to have a rampant tendency towards speculation.

That disingenious-ness also goes towards liberal bloggers who, while rightly concerned about the FISA incident, should also be concerned about our ability to gather intelligence being compromised. BOTH incidents are worriesome for different reasons.

Could the blogosphere please go to their local drugstore and get an injection of intellectual honesty?

Whiney McWhinestein strikes again

I got an idea...maybe we should design it in the form of a Japanese internment camp. Maybe that will make Michelle Malkin happy?

Careful...Michelle is whining aga....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...oh, sorry, I feel alseep I was so bored.

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