Here is some much-needed GOOD NEWS from the War on Terror:
After a long two days of legislative battle, the House Judiciary Committee just finished its second day of debate on Chairman Conyers’ PATRIOT reform bill, HR 3845 (see our wrap-up of the first day). Thanks in no small part to those of you who used our action alert, the Committee rejected almost all amendments that would have weakened the bill’s reforms and voted to recommend the bill to the House floor by a vote of 16 to 10.
Even better, the Committee kept going after it was finished with PATRIOT to consider Representative Nadler’s State Secret Protection Act (HR 984), which would reform the state secrets privilege that the government has repeatedly used to try and throw EFF’s warrantless wiretapping cases out of court. After an impassioned defense by Mr. Nadler, who described how the government has used the privilege like a “magic incantation” to cover-up wrongdoing and warned that state secrecy “is the greatest threat to liberty at present,” the bill passed with even better numbers than the PATRIOT bill, 18 to 12!
I just heard the most poignant thing I’ve heard on TV in a while. Pete Townshend, writer and guitarist from The Who, said this in reference to his famous song “Baba O’Riley” (which many people mistakenly think is called “Teenage Wasteland”):
“For me – you know – that notion of ‘teenage wasteland’ – it is about waste. It’s not about getting wasted. It’s about waste. It’s about wasted life, wasted opportunity, wasted years. And I take full responsibility for the fact that my generation complained about the state of the planet and did nothing to change it.”
Now that’s a lot of guilt to live with! But I see his point. They were the biggest rock band and one of the most significant cultural phenomena in the late 1960s to the mid 1970s. That’s quite a bully pulpit they had, if they had chosen to use it.
Yeah! You go get ’em, Mr. Cuomo. These folks got some ‘splainin’ to do. Now if someone just had the cojones to go after Cheney the same way.
We learned over the weekend that AIG had, last Friday, distributed more than $160 million in retention payments to members of its Financial Products Subsidiary, the unit of AIG that was principally responsible for the firm’s meltdown.
Yesterday Beth and I traveled home by flying Southwest Airlines from New Orleans to Denver. As I was getting dressed, I had this little fantasy:
Wouldn’t it be cool if when we arrived they told us, “By order of the Obama Administration, the TSA has eliminated all elements of Security Theater and replaced them with only security screening practices that actually have an impact on passenger safety. So leave your shoes on, and bring your water bottle. Oh, and your Chap Stick – just keep it in your pocket.”
It turned out to be the most low-key security screening I’ve seen in the USA post-9/11. There was only one line, and most of the time the screeners were just standing around waiting for passengers to arrive. When we got to the front of the line, we had as much time to do the undress-pass-through-redress ritual as we needed, which is a good thing due to my current physical limitations.
Mark this one “duh” but I just now realized after looking at CNN’s election results that we’ll have a Democrat President as well as a Democratic majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Looks like the Dems will have all the chips, so to speak. If they can’t achieve great things in the next two years, then shame on them! They may not get this same opportunity again in my lifetime.
Streetsblog » Obama Builds Rail Cred With Biden Pick Barack Obama’s standing as an advocate for investment in US commuter rail looks to have gotten a boost with his selection of Joe Biden as his running mate. Whereas John McCain is the Senate’s sworn enemy of Amtrak, his colleague from Delaware is known as a “Champion of the Rails.”
A few years back, I was in Canyonlands National Park for a couple days. I went to a talk by a park ranger about the various types of wildlife that live in the park, including coyotes. And I learned something that’s been fascinating to me every since. The park ranger said that studies of coyote populations have shown they have an interesting counter-intuitive population pattern. The more coyotes that are trapped or shot, the bigger the average litter size is. In other words, when coyote mothers are in an area that has good food sources but not a high population, they create more pups to increase the population.
According to the park ranger, scientists have only discovered this weird pattern in the past 20 years. But all the efforts by ranchers in the late 1800’s and early to mid 1900’s to eradicate coyotes from their grazing areas has actually had just the opposite effect – more coyotes. To stop the coyote population explosion, we must end the organized efforts to extirpate them.
Shortly after President GW Bush and his administration started the “War on Terror” as an attempt to stop terrorism through military force, I immediately thought of the parallels to the park ranger’s coyote story. And it seemed to me that the more we try to eradicate terrorism by killing and subjugating people far from home, the more terrorists we’ll probably inadvertently create.
I can certainly imagine some kid growing up poor in a Muslim country. Let’s say his father falls in with the wrong crowd and gets shot by US soldiers as part of the “war on terror”. What is the kid likely to do? Do you think he’ll grow up thinking “Being a terrorist is a bad thing; Daddy did that and he got killed, so I’m going to be a bean farmer instead”? No, I think it’s a lot more likely that he’ll grow up thinking, “I’m gonna go get those bastards who killed my father and ruined my family’s life!” And his brother is probably going to say the same thing, so now we’ve got two terrorists (the sons) instead of one (the father).
It’s always seemed to me like getting to the real root cause of the problem – whatever caused Dad to become a terrorist in the first place – is the only way to solve it, ultimately. And I’m no expert, but I would guess that Dad probably became a terrorist because of something like foreigners occupying his country, or someone taking away his honest job, or destroying his culture, or some similar form of desperation. (Those are the exact reasons we Americans became terrorists a couple hundred years ago to drive the British out of our land, so I’ve got to think they’re probably good reasons.)
Now, fast forward about 6 years into the War on Terror, and it looks like some well-respected deep thinkers now actually agree with me! The Rand Corporation, noted military and political think tank, says after extensive study, that to defeat Al Qaeda, we need to end the war on terror.
A federal judge on Thursday rejected President Bush’s contention that senior White House advisers are immune from subpoenas, siding with Congress’ power to investigate the executive branch and handing a victory to Democrats probing the dismissal of nine federal prosecutors.