Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Dickie's Quickies

Yes, yes, the bloggers are all a twitter about the new Gmail + Chat features. Big deal. Hotmail has had this for years (without the save chat logs to your mail feature). I'm happy to support Google and use their services quite a bit, but this one is a ho hum item. However, Google cheerleaders and clueless media folks are jumping onto the hype bandwagon which, if anything, proves how inept MSN can be at promoting their own features. Expect a shirk, a shrug, and a terse comment from MSN some time later today followed by a cry heard from Redmond to Puget Sound - "We got there fiiiiiiirst!"

Have I missed something about the Democrats? Many of them have joined Republicans in saying that the Bush administration should have gone to Congress if it wanted to modify the FISA law in such a way as to allow warrantless wire taps on American citizens. Um, folks, that was part of the original Loyal Citizen Patriot Act. It was proposed, but congressional leaders in both parties said that it wouldn't fly. If it didn't fly in 2001, why are members of Congress asking the administration to give it a try in 2006? Has the concept gotten better all of a sudden? Are Democrats flip flopping on this? Do they think that they can't fight the good fight with Bush over this one? If the change is proposed legislatively, then when Democrats oppose it, Bush will say "I told you so" and accuse the Democrats of being against Fatherland security, strengthening the terrorists, and flip flopping. However, if they stand strong and keep their original convictions while attacking the Bush administration for breaking the law, then Democrats appear to be steadfast defenders of civil rights and leaders. Why are these idiots doing this?

Speaking of "I told you so", the Guardian Unlimited has an interesting article today on a speech given by American Brigadier General Mark Kimmett. In his speech Kimmett suggested that the U.S. would not become a permanent presence in Iraq and that we would turn over the bases that we have built there. He didn't give a time table, but he did assure folks that we wouldn't be there as long as we've been in either Korea or Europe. Great, 60 years and counting. The article also says this:
Brig Gen Kimmitt's speech is the latest indication that the American army is planning significant reductions in its 130,000-strong force in time for the mid-term congressional elections, to be held in November.
Regular readers will note that I have stated that this was the (cynical) plan all along, based purely on political calculations.

Back to the NSA hearings yesterday, Washington Posts William Arkin is on target with his latest post:
I would argue that the failure to connect the dots prior to 9/11 was caused by massive incompetence on the part of the intelligence and law enforcement agencies, by excessive secrecy born of government power struggles and arrogance, and finally by a massive failure on the part of either the Clinton or Bush administrations to really make counter-terrorism a priority. Some in the Clinton inner circle might have recognized the gravity of the al Qaeda threat, but they we unable to convey any urgency to those outside of the secret world, be they airport screeners at Boston Logan or visa processor in the bowels of the government. For all of the blame Bush and company deserve, President Clinton was not even able to convey to the incoming administration that this was a real threat...

In the minds of the Bush administration, the law prevented the CIA from speaking to the FBI, the law stopped NSA from eavesdropping on targets that might have saved the day, the law created a wall between intelligence and law enforcement, laws made the CIA "risk averse," laws stood in the way of assassinations, renditions, interrogations, etc.

This is an elaborate self-justification that dis-obligates anyone in office on 9/11 from actually taking any responsibility for failure. Shackles on the government are blamed for the event; the poor CIA and FBI were prevented from doing their work. No wonder then that the President as commander-in-chief is made perfectly justified ordering the secret agencies to PROTECT AMERICA archaic laws and procedures be damned.

So to the Bush administration, it doesn't really matter whether the risky NSA program thwarted a specific plot or netted a specific suspect. Though no doubt the anti-terrorism warriors would like to have caught or killed Osama bin Laden, what is more important is that the dots are being collected and connected as never before. In those dots rests America's security, the dotists believe. Yielding to Congressional pressure to operate within the constraints of a 1978 law will weaken America, blah, blah, blah.

Will one Senator point out to Gonzales, or whoever is on the stand, that A) George Washington didn't use electronic surveillance methods, B) that he failed to include the Nixon administration in his analysis of the history of Presidential orders on surveillance, and C) that none of the examples presented are relevant because they all occurred before the FISA law was in place, outlawing such activity, therefore no laws were broken and there would be no challenges to the President in making such orders? Impeach the bastard already!

Has anyone challenged the NSA assertion that the technology they are wielding is considerably more effective than chance? I'm curious because I read that there have been very little real good leads from this surveillance, yet the NSA claims it is far better than 1 in 100 million odds that you would get through chance. I'm not sure that it is better, given the numbers and quality of leads we're hearing about.

OK, enough politics. Here's a blog which rates virtual prostitutes in the game Second Life. Bonus points and a gold star to the first person who creates a Second Life character based on the likeness of a politician, then gets a screen grab of him or her bedding down with a prostitute in the game!

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