How to Buy the Government

For $5,000, a lobbyist can join lawmakers and staff members of the alliance, the Republican Main Street Partnership, for a lunchtime policy briefing by an outside expert. For $15,000, the lobbyist can attend four lunches, two of them with briefings by an outside expert and two with briefings from members of Congress.

And for $25,000, the lobbyist can have three lunch briefings with lawmakers, not to mention V.I.P. seating for eight at a black-tie dinner for the moderates’ coalition.
From the New York Times, April 30, 2006

Once again, John McCain disappoints. He is a member of the Republican Main Street Partnership. I have the feeling that rather than being a break from the legislature for politicians– the lunchtime “policy briefing” is the real business of being an elected representative. There is no question but that most politicians are there to get money for legislation. The only question is how elaborate or convoluted an organization you need to disguise what is happening from your constituents.

Your constituents, of course, keep demanding that you support legislation that reduces the influence of lobbyists. If you are a Republican, you create legislation that actually makes it easier for lobbyists to give you money for legislation and then you call it the “Integrity in Government Act” and you campaign on it as if it does the opposite of what it actually does. To make it all even more shameless, then you accuse your opponent of being in favor of lobbyists’ because he or she didn’t vote for your bill. Think of it as a “clean skies act” for money in politics.

Buying Out the Competition

Many titans of the software industry backed European regulators initially, but Sun Microsystems settled with Microsoft for $1.6 billion in April 2004, while Novell settled in November 2004 for $536 million. RealNetworks dropped out in October 2005 after settling for $761 million. From New York Times, April 28, 2006

Wonder if there will be competition in the software marketplace in ten years? Not if this continues. Microsoft simply pays off competitors who allege unfair practices. It’s so rich, it can afford to do that. Those companies see a large, immediate payoff. The executives in charge of those companies don’t, apparently, care much about the long-term prospects of their corporations competing against Microsoft.

Microsoft is rich because it has succeeded in becoming a monopoly, so it uses it’s incredible wealth to buy off those whom it cheats, who file legal challenges to its hegemony.

George W. Bush’s Justice Department will do nothing. The Republican Party can be bought off too, you know. If you think it’s just this government, think again: the Clinton White House pursued an aggressive strategy against Microsoft and was on the verge of taking real action when Bush was elected. It’s not just “government”. It’s the Republican Party.

The Europeans do take this all seriously and the European Court of Justice (doesn’t that sound to you like a redundancy? Like the “Army of Warfare” or the “Department of Bureaucracies” or whatever) is looking into competition. The Free Software Foundation Europe is fighting on behalf of the consumer and smaller software companies for “interoperability”. Microsoft which makes all the software you need disdains “interoperability” while bragging about it in their sales advertising. Interoperability means you can use a Palm Pilot with your Outlook mailbox. But why should Microsoft allow you to do that? Why don’t you just buy one of the many PDA’s that use the Microsoft operating system, even if you think you prefer the Palm OS?

Big Brother is Here, Now

This may well be one of the most chilling stories that I have read in a long time. Your leaders– they of the mighty speeches lauding our history of freedom and liberty and democracy– are enthusiastically spying on you, without warrants, without judges, without congress.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is doing what every citizen of the United States should be doing. It is asserting the right of any individual to not have his private conversations intercepted by his government without just cause.

The Bush administration, as is well known, has asserted that it has the right to spy on anyone whenever they damn well feel like it without the slightest degree of oversight. All they have to do is say aloud to themselves, three times, “we are at war, we are at war, we are war”. Astonishingly, we are then at war. If we are at war, then national security trumps all.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Gonzales responded: “Obviously, our prosecutors are going to look to see all the laws that have been violated. And if the evidence is there, they’re going to prosecute those violations.”

That’s hilarious– Mr. Gonzales doesn’t mean he’s going to check into the “laws that have been violated” of course– because the Bush administration has clearly violated laws in the holding of prisoners and domestic spying and the use of rendition.

There is not even a the need, apparently, to persuade congress that something like a “war” exists and that the U.S. is in it.

The Bush administration even now is considering whether to prosecute the press for publishing secrets about the government’s illegal domestic spying activities. Yes, up is down and down is up. The Supreme Court, stacked with Republican appointees, has never been more receptive.

The True Post Modernist: George Bush

As many people have remarked, Bush’s actions here are at odds with true conservatism, which views government with suspicion, and seeks restrictions on it’s ability to interfere with peoples’ lives.


And another…

Would Hamid Hayat have been convicted of providing material support to terrorists if his name had been Albert Smith and his race been Caucasian?

No. Not a chance.

An FBI fink claimed that Osama Bin Laden’s top lieutenant had been in Lodi, California. The FBI found that that was not true, but there were other Arabic-looking people in Lodi. Hamid Hayat and his father barely spoke English and were not provided with lawyers when they were interviewed after the FBI fink, Naseem Khan, pointed them out. Look– those guys look Arabic. The FBI provided the leading questions; nature provided the appropriate racial characteristics. An American jury decided that the FBI would not be prosecuting these men for no reason and convicted the son, largely on the basis of an alleged confession that he had traveled to Pakistan to attend a terrorist training camp.

Amazingly, the government seems to have no obligation to prove anything anymore. It did not offer any proof that Hamid Hayat had ever been to a training camp in Pakistan.

The government did not provide any proof that Hayat had actually taken a single action that would indicate preparation or planning of a terrorist act. It doesn’t matter. He’s Arabic.

Case closed.

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
-Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Where is the so-called liberal media on this? You would think this story would be on the covers of all the so-called liberal magazines and newspapers.

Are you people nuts?  Read this, from the New York Times, April 26, 2006:

Mr. Siraj talked about the economic damage that would be caused by stranding Staten Island without the bridges, and seemed pleased that he had recruited Mr. Elshafay, who he indicated was the actual author of the alleged plan.

Sound sinister?  You bet.  Consider this though– Mr. Elshafay is an informant for the New York City Police “intelligence” department, who received over $100,000 for hanging around some bookstores looking for “extremists”.  He befriended the pathetic Mr. Siraj and secretly recorded conversations with him.

Mr. Siraj hates America– no doubt about it– but it was Mr. Eshafay who brought up all kinds of exciting ides about building nuclear bombs or blowing up various bridges in New York.

Now, you’re a young, gullible, foreign-born Moslem.  Some lunatic befriends you and you end up driving around town in his car.  He starts talking about how evil America is and how great it would be to blow up some bridges.  I don’t know what you say exactly, but I know that if I was on a jury, I would think long and hard before coming to the conclusion that you were, by yourself, a threat to America.

Mr. Siraj did not actually take any steps– none at all– towards realizing his brilliant plan.  Not a single step.  Not one.

Mr. Elshafay is the actual author of the plan.  So the U.S. government has “informants” going around, hanging around with impressionable and misguided young Arabs, and saying, “hey, wanna blow up the Brooklyn Bridge?  Whaddya think– I could get a bomb.  Do you hate America or what,
huh?”  And when these pathetic and gullible young hostile Arabs say, “yeah, wouldn’t that be something.  I hate America” we arrest them and lock them up for terrorism.  What kind of whacked out country is this?  This is George Bush’s  America.

The bottom line is that there is not the slightest shred of evidence that Mr. Siraj, on his own, was up to anything other than minding his mosque and tending a bookstore.

Did he hate America?  Yes.  So let’s drop the pretense of looking for actual terrorists and just arrest everybody who hates America.  We are building a very large pool of candidates…

NY Times on Hamid Hayat Case

More Comments on Civil Liberties

More on Hamid Hayat


The Bush administration has been diligently addressing some very important issues. Recently, articles in the Washington Post and the New York Times showed that the government was holding detainees illegally in foreign countries where they are tortured for information, and that the government was eavesdropping on telephone conversations without a warrant.

In a right-side up world, the government would now be arresting and charging those responsible for these criminal acts. If they were authorized by officials in the White House, they would have resigned and would be facing indictments. If the President himself authorized them, he would be facing impeachment.

Not this government. This government is arresting and charging those who told you that your government is breaking the law and that it is spying on you and torturing people.

It is totally weird that the mainstream press, and the Democrats, are not screaming bloody murder. The Bush administration has undertaken activities that are literally stunning in the depth and breadth of their violations of human rights and democratic principles. But, in a world that could only have been envisioned by Josef Goebbels

In my darker moments, the only conclusion I can draw is that all those flag-waving, patriotic, gun-toting Americans who sit there idly watching TV and not caring about these actions do not deserve democracy. In fact, they are no longer entitled to democracy. You have approved and accepted and embraced tyranny. Your government showed you a bogey man and said “boo” and you cried and wet your pants and said, please, oh please, stop them, I’ll let you do anything, I surrender all of my rights. It was that easy.

I never would have believed it. I grew up watching the Watergate scandal unfold, convinced that when Americans become aware of malfeasance by their own government, they react with disgust, they tell the pollsters that the government has no support, which empowers the loyal opposition — who are presently themselves timorously cowering in the corner–to take decisive action. Sadly, I believe that most Americans don’t care about Bush’s dictatorial powers because the word “terrorist” has become, in his mind, synonymous with “Arabic”.

On Mary O. McCarthy.

If Mary O. McCarthy really is guilty of leaking information about the CIA’s illegal activities to the press, I hope some organization with guts announces that she will given a real “Medal of Freedom”.  She is someone who has made a genuine sacrifice on behalf of democracy and civil liberties.

Did you know:

CIA employees are all required to take a “lie detector test” every five years.

The world is indeed very topsy turvey.  Lie detectors don’t work.  They never have and they probably never will.  Doesn’t matter.  Porter Gross over at the CIA looks like a fine hunter of leakers.  That’s all that matters.  His bosses think he’s a bloodhound.   I cannot believe though that not a single CIA employee has yet taken his or her employer to court over the issue.  I repeat– check this with objective analysts if you doubt me– the polygraph does not work.  It never has.  It probably never will.  There is a good reason why results from a polygraph are not admissible in court.  And anybody under suspicion of anything who would agree to take a polygraph is a fool.

Mr. Lee Raymond’s Compensation

Lee R. Raymond is the most amazing executive in the history of the world. My only question is, why is he only receiving $400 million for his astounding labours, over an entire year.

Mr. Raymond is not like you or I. We look around and see things that need to be done and think of ways to do them. Mr. Raymond reaches into the heavens and touches the very source and fount of intelligence and channels the electrical vibrations of cosmic flatulence into the daily policy and managerial requirements of Exxon Corporation, with the result that Exxon, in a year of radically accelerating crude oil prices, recorded record profits.

America, behold your god. George W. Bush– bow your head!

So why only $400 million for a man who is surely smarter than the lawyers who sued the tobacco industry (more on lawyers)for $17 billion and then demanded, as payment for their diligence, $25 billion. Now those are lawyers!

Mr. Raymond is not only responsible for Exxon’s record profits– he is the creator of oil itself. It is only through his perplexing divinity that rotting deciduous trunks mutate into liquid energy, that we may then pour into our SUVs and incinerate. Compared to him, those trivial accountants and managers and derrick supervisors who toil into the night are mere gnats with the souls of pygmy gnats, and the minds of buffoon gnats. Turn away from Mr. Raymond, when he walks by, you worms. Prostrate yourselves and beg him, with all your soul, to accept $1 billion, for anything less than that is unworthy of such exquisite astuteness: this man sold oil at a time of rising prices.

Somewhere in Africa, perhaps, lives a humble old man who sits before his kerosene lamp tonight, and gazes up to the stars in the heavens above him, and is amazed that such a being could even exist that could burn up more energy in one second of urban traffic constriction, than he could burn in a hundred million life-times with his puny light.

May his face gaze upon us from the ether now that he has retired to ascend into the heavens.

Revenge is an Empty Motive

I had a choice of staying with these feelings or sort of nurturing them,” Bane said. “I tried to think of ways I could learn more. I felt the need for bridges of understanding with people who could do this kind of thing.” Bane eventually organized a Muslim-Christian dialogue in Delaware, where he now lives. Washington Post, April 20, 2006

Donald Bane is the father of Michael Andrew Bane, who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre. He spoke at the sentencing phase of the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. He spoke as a witness for the defense.

In America, such testimony is not permitted if it overtly asserts that the defendant should not be killed. I don’t fully grasp this concept. Now that I think about it, I suppose that the relatives of victims of 9/11 who testified for the prosecution couldn’t actually say, “we’d like to see Moussaoui die”. They could only say, look at how my life has been destroyed by this man. Draw your own conclusion. Why should this man be alive? So I suppose the witnesses called for the defense could say… well, what they did say?

The defense called Bane and a handful of other relatives of 9/11 victims to give quiet, dignified testimony to the effect that there are alternatives to vengeance, and alternatives to declaring that your life has been destroyed by a tragedy and is no longer worth living because the only thing that can give you satisfaction is to see someone– maybe anyone– die in retribution.

Bane said his life was worth living. He has even initiated some projects that he hopes will promote understanding and peace between Moslems and Christians.

A large number of family members of 9/11 are still angry, and they want to see someone die for the sins of Mohammed Atta and his co-conspirators. Since Atta and his friends are all already dead, Zacarias Moussaoui is the only prospective candidate.

But an execution doesn’t give any real satisfaction, and it doesn’t bring closure, and it doesn’t bring your loved one back. It just creates more people who wish their loved one could come back from the dead. Yes, even Zacarias Moussaoui has a mother. And even she knows he is a lunatic and that no civilized society would execute a lunatic, especially when he hasn’t actually committed any crimes.

Does that sound strange to you? It’s true: Zacarias Moussaoui has not committed any crimes– other than not registering his visa properly. Moussaoui has proclaimed that he wanted to be a 9/11 conspirator and even insists that he would like to be one in the future. We should wish that all our enemies could be so forthright. But if we hanged everyone who claimed to be responsible for sensational crimes, we’d have a busy hangman indeed.

So, when you consider George W. Bush and the military and the tendencies of conservatives to accuse liberals of being soft and weak and indecisive, and you consider that the school of vengeance sits weeping in the courtroom, confessing to everyone (in the mistaken belief that there is a point to it) that he or she is incapable of finding something in this world worth living for, other than revenge…. when you consider that Donald Bane seems like a perfectly decent human being…

Elmer Gantry 2006

Larry Ross is a PR man. He is a spin-master. He is a man who makes a very good living selling his ability to manipulate and control the mass media..

If Larry Ross had been around in 33 AD, perhaps Jesus himself might have ended up as one of King Herod’s top advisors, instead of on the cross. Larry Ross might have pointed out that the comment about tearing down and rebuilding the temple in three days would not go over well.

And Jesus doesn’t mean that the Pharisees are actually hypocrites. He means that some Pharisees hold views which could lead to misunderstandings if not received within the correct context.

And if he hadn’t been able to stop Christ from actually speaking those mistakes, he might at least have stepped in front of Jesus and declared to the crowd, “What the lord is saying is that, metaphorically, he hopes that all of us can renew our spirits after divesting ourselves of the residue of our sinful inclinations.”

Reporter: Does your client claim to be the son of God?
Larry Ross: I think that all Jews will be able to draw their own conclusion about who the messiah is once all the facts are in and the prophecies have been examined by qualified scribes and Pharisees.

Larry Ross has worked for Billy Graham and helped him straighten out the general public after tapes showed that he thought Jews were ruining the country. I say he had to straighten out the general public, which had perhaps obtained the erroneous impression that Billy Graham had said something offensive.

The idea was not to admit that it was offensive and that Graham– and Nixon– had held racist beliefs. No, no, no– the correct idea is that Billy Graham, a long time ago, used unfortunate language to make comments he could not remember having made but which, taken in the correct context, and understood within the larger framework of Billy Graham’s ministry, really shouldn’t disturb anyone. So I did nothing wrong, I don’t admit I did anything wrong, but if you think I might have done something wrong, that’s your problem.

Just as I am, without one plea. No no no! My client means that he approaches God as a humble man who may have made mistakes in the past but only wishes to devote himself now to end abusive sinfulness and it’s tragic effects on individual salvation.

Mel Gibson hired Larry Ross to help market “The Passion”. He chose wisely. Larry Ross had already had the distinguished opportunity to promote “Veggie Tales: The Movie” by getting Pastors to view it first, and then promote it within their congregations, before promoting to the general public and allowing movie reviewers to see it. Veggie Tales. Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter which.

He had one clever idea. He got Mel Gibson to record messages that could be send to Pastor’s recording machines while they were likely to be out. That way, a pastor could casually remark to a member of his congregation: “Yeah, got another message from Mel Gibson the other day. Geez, the guy won’t leave me alone. Maybe I will show his film in church next week, just to get him off my back…” That’s Christian PR.

Ross has also worked for controversial evangelist/faith-healer Benny Hinn and Promise Keepers and the makers of the film “Left Behind”. And his biggest star, Rick Warren, author of the “The Purpose-Driven Life”.

When asked by a New York Times reporter if he had ever made a mistake, he couldn’t think of any. Of course, he also denied, at first, having provided Benny Hinn Ministries with the benefits of his expertise.

I’m not sure anybody really cares that some of our so-called religious leaders make use of modern, cutting-edge public relations techniques in getting their message out. The argument would be that using the best methods to save souls for Jesus is a good thing.

But then, how difficult is it to turn around and beseech our young people not to compromise with the values of “the world” but stand firm and true and faithful to the values of the gospel? If the Christian values and Biblical principles are enough, why on earth would you need a spin doctor? If you really believed they were– you wouldn’t. You just wouldn’t. So if you tell young people not to surrender to the ways of the world while you’re consulting your spin doctor, you are a hypocrite.

How credible is the gospel message itself, if we know that it is now being test-marketed?

How credible is Graham when he responds to this documented exchange with Nixon with “I don’t remember the conversation”? Is it really possible? Even if he has forgotten this particular conversation, is it possible he could have forgotten that he hated the Jews? Or that he loved the status and the glory of visiting the White House?

Billy Graham’s conversation with Nixon about the Jews.

This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain,” the nation’s best-known preacher declared as he agreed with a stream of bigoted Nixon comments about Jews and their perceived influence in American life.

You believe that?” Nixon says after the “stranglehold” comment.

Yes, sir,” Graham says.

Oh, boy,” replies Nixon. “So do I. I can’t ever say that but I believe it.”

“No, but if you get elected a second time, then we might be able to do something,” Graham replies.

Mother Theresa had a lawyer.

Billy Graham’s remarks, followed by  rather distressing attempt to suck up to Nixon after a prayer breakfast.  Can you trust anybody nowadays?  No  Can’t trust the website above either.  If it worries you, try the BBC instead..

Marginal stuff..

“Bamboozled” by Spike Lee

This is not a popular film. Of the mainstream reviewers I checked, only the New York Times gave it what could be called a “favorable” review. Roger Ebert, who thought the incredibly pedestrian and schmaltzy “The Notebook” deserved 3 1/2 out of 4 stars, pans it, as does Slate. Village Voice liked it, while acknowledging it’s flaws.

Bamboozled is deeply flawed, but to rate it below “The Notebook” is like rating Picasso below Warhol because people actually enjoy the pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Campbell’s Soup cans more than the distorted Les Demoiselles of D’Avignon. Ebert buys James Garner breaking into a nursing home to try to clamber back into bed with his improbably well-coiffed demented wife because his love is so enduring and overpowering, but he thinks Spike Lee’s point is “obscured” by the actual use of “blackface” in the Millennium Minstrel Show. But there is not a single moment in any of a dozen films Ebert admires that rises to the level of sheer creative audacity as the audition scenes in “Bamboozled” and I can’t believe he doesn’t know that. It’s not hard to believe that “Bamboozled” would frustrate any serious critic: Lee is a brilliant film-maker. You want to “get” his films. You want more than anything else to be on the correct side of the racism equation– rooting for the good guys. But there are no good guys in “Bamboozled”. Not even the victims of racism.

Maybe that’s because Spike Lee himself has done a few Nike ads.

It is a difficult, challenging movie, but as the Village Voice and New York Times noted, it’s an important film. Name another film in recent history that deals even remotely honestly with race in America. No, I’m not talking about those ridiculously quaint melodramas that require an idealized black hero like Denzel Washington or Sidney Poitier or Will Smith to live up to our preconceptions about racial injustice. The blacks in “Bamboozled” are real, multi-dimensional, and complex, and so are the whites, for that matter. The blacks in “Bamboozled” are allowed to be equal to whites, even if it means they can be equally grasping, callow, and under self-delusions.

Given this context, I don’t understand why some critics didn’t like the ending, a long sequence of racist movie and television clips–including Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland putting on black-face–set against a dirge. I found the breadth and brutishness of the images somewhat shocking, even if you know they’re out there.