Newsbusters and the Wall Street Journal: Dumb and Dumber

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During the recent right-wing howling over the British terror plot once again the fringe right has proved itself incapable of having a intelligent discussion about national security and the Constitution. This is from a wing-nut site called Newsbusters, dated 9-11-2006, Thank NSA Wiretapping for Foiled Terror Plot?

Will the New York Times write stories on how eavesdropping is what alerted U.S. authorities to the terrorist airplane attack? Time magazine reported in an exclusive that the “U.S. picked up the suspects’ chatter and shared it with British authorities.”

The operation involved cooperation between British and American authorities.

Britain’s MI-5 intelligence service and Scotland Yard had been tracking the plot for several months, but only in the past two weeks had the plotters’ planning begun to crystallize, senior U.S. officials tell TIME. In the two or three days before the arrests, the cell was going operational, and authorities were pressed into action. MI5 and Scotland Yard agents tracked the plotters from the ground, while a knowledgeable American official says U.S. intelligence provided London authorities with intercepts of the group’s communications.

The Wall Street Journal says media and Democratic opposition to the programs now looks foolish after the foiled terror plot.

The plot was foiled because a large number of people were under surveillance concerning their spending, travel and communications. Which leads us to wonder if Scotland Yard would have succeeded if the ACLU or the New York Times had first learned the details of such surveillance programs

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It looks like Newsbusters is run by someone only capable of winning arguments with small frail straw-man. No Democrat, let me repeat that, NO Democrat of any prominence has said that we shouldn’t spy on suspected terrorists. Our laws allow for spying on the British and any communications going into and out of Britain. That is not even an issue. None of the plotters as far as we know were in the US or US citizens. Newsbusters and the editorialists at the WSJ are simply lying sacks and not speaking to the real issue. President Bush and conservatives want to spy on any American citizen in America anytime they want without a warrant. Newsbusters and the WSJ are liars when they state the issue in any others terms. The NSA can by law spy on the British and the Pakistanis all day without restriction and no Democratic member of Congress or the Senate has voiced any objection to that. No one has any objection to spying on suspects in the US if they are non-US citizens. We have no objection to the spy first arrangement in FISA whereby the NSA may spy on someone for 72 hours before getting a warrant. Either Newsbusters and WSJ are simply the most immoral of liars or they cannot grasp the constitutional issues involved. If the first case is true this will not be the first or the last time that our nation will pay the price for conservative’s slim grasp of morality and the truth. If the second is true, one could say that whatever they have to offer by way of opinion on constitutional issues are just the irrelevant rantings of mentally deficient nationalists that could care less about the rule of law and the common good.
The Suit Challenging the NSA’s Warrantless Wiretapping Can Proceed, Despite the State Secrets Privilege: Why The Judge Made the Right Call

It seems possible that Judge Walker’s decision might be upheld by the Supreme Court (though by a slim majority) if it ever reaches there. For not only the Rasul and Hamdan decisions, but also a decades-old Supreme Court decision, Reynolds v. United States, support the idea that the Executive simply does not have the one and only say-so when it comes to the state secrets privilege.

In Reynolds, decided in 1953, the Court already foresaw that the Executive might try to get a rubber stamp from the courts for state secrets claims, and said that no such stamps would be forthcoming. The Court stressed, instead, that “[t]he court itself must determine whether the circumstances are appropriate for the claim of privilege….” (Emphasis added.) This language clearly implies that the court can’t just accept the Executive’s word for it when it claims that privilege is warranted in a given case or situation; it must undertake an independent factual inquiry of its own.

It’s just this kind of independent factfinding that has been anathema to the Bush Administration, which would prefer to make, for instance, its “enemy combatant” certifications without any judicial review at all. Failing that, the Administration has sought a rubber stamp from courts, asking them to simply review affidavits from executive branch officials containing conclusory claims that a given person is an enemy combatant.

But Reynolds makes no bones about what the legal rule is: When it comes to the state secrets privilege, independent factual determinations by the court are absolutely necessary, and rubber stamps must be thrown out the window.

That should be no surprise: What’s surprising is the Bush Administration’s position that it should be able to “certify” facts that the federal courts cannot question, rather than submitting to courts’ basic function of assessing evidence for themselves.

In our constitutional system, courts are not puppets, but independent actors in their own right. As Judge Walker put it, “the court has a constitutional duty to adjudicate the issues that come before it.” And “adjudication” means hearing evidence, and making independent decisions — not just reading papers that are filed, and dismissing a case whenever the government asks you to.

You gotta punch your weight

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Economic populism just can’t seem to get a head of steam going and maybe its because most people take consumer protection for granted. Conservatives in philosophy, though seldom in actual practice cry let the market decide, with a small background echo from economic libertarians. While the phrase “let the market decide” is somewhat appealing, most of us know a marketing gimmick when we hear one. Though the ones that would be the best spokespeople for a populist regulated economy, one that looks out for the average Jane or Joe are the ones that bought that pumped up stock or got burned on the miracle program that said you could lose fifty pounds by watching TV and eating chocolate chip cookies. When people are taken for a ride they’re generally not keen on announcing the fact on tomorrow’s evening news. At least most people feel that way. Sure an economy that is structured on free market concepts is great, but also guarantees that there is a shoddy product or unethical service waiting around every corner. Why anyone thinks thinks that simply squawking let the buyer beware is enough protection for consumers or investors has never been faced with financial ruin because they trusted someone. Yes the greedy are sometimes easy targets and maybe even deserving targets, but more often then not in everyday economics for millions of Americans where a hundred bucks can make the difference between buying groceries or living on peanut butter, consumer protection is not a luxury its an imperative and in some cases even conservatives have been forced to come to terms with that, Economic Populism Proves Popular

Payday loans are short-term, high-interest loans. Borrowers receive an immediate cash payment and, in exchange, write a post-dated check that can be cashed once they receive their next paycheck. The interest rates are far, far higher than loans through commercial banks, up to 500 percent (and in some cases, as high as 900 percent). Most perniciously, the loans can be rolled over for additional fees, which means customers can end up paying more interest than the principal they’d originally borrowed. In the last few years the industry has exploded: From 2000 to 2003, the number of payday lenders more than doubled, and the industry’s sales quadrupled to $40 billion.

In response, states from Florida to Arkansas to Illinois have been cracking down on payday lenders, imposing strict disclosure regulations, limits on the number of rollovers and interest caps. Until recently, Oregon was one of only seven states with no such caps, and the lack of regulation served as a magnet for the industry, with out-of-state companies flocking in to set up shop.

As payday lending exploded, so too did horror stories about cyclical debt and eye-popping interest rates. Portland resident Maryann Olson, a 58-year old retired nurse on disability, didn’t have the $150 she needed to buy orthopedic shoes, so she took out a payday loan. Several months later, she owed $1,900 to six different lenders. After housing and medical costs, she had so little money left over to pay down her debt, she says she “was going out to other payday loaners, trying to rob from Peter to pay Paul.”

Social service agencies around the state began noticing more and more of their clients in situations like Olson’s. Angela Martin, Our Oregon’s director of economic-fairness campaigns, says that at the Oregon Food Bank, where she previously worked, the fastest-growing type of clientele was working families. “They couldn’t make room for the grocery bill,” she says, “because they had to pay the payday lender.”

ROB
What I really learned from the
Charlie Debacle is that you gotta
punch your weight. Charlie was out
of my Class: too pretty, too smart,
too witty, too much. What am I?
Average. A middleweight. Not the
smartest guy in the world, but
certainly not the dumbest. I’ve
read books like The Unbearable
Lightness of Being, Angela’s Ashes,
and Love in the Time of Cholera,
and understood them, I think —
they’re about girls, right? — just
kidding — but I don’t like them
very much. My all time top five
favorite books are Johnny Cash’s
autobiography, Snow Crash by Neil
Stevenson, Zen and the Art of
Motorcycle Maintenance, The Trouser
Press Guides to Rock, and, I don’t
know, probably something by Kurt
Vonnegut. I look through the New
Yorker when my neighbor’s done with
it, and I’m not averse to going
down to the Fine Arts to watch
subtitles films, although on the
whole I prefer American films.
Top five being Blade Runner, Cool
Hand Luke, the first two Godfathers
which we’ll count as one, Taxi
Driver, and The Shining. I’m okay
looking, average height, not
skinny, not fat. My genius, if I
can call it that, is to combine a
whole load of averageness into one
compact frame.
from the screenplay HIGH FIDELITY by D.V. De Vincentis, Steve Pink, & John Cusack, based on the novel by Nick Hornby