Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"A federal court's interpretation of federal law should not be kept secret from the American public"

Secret U.S. Intelligence Court Intends To Keep Wiretap Rulings Under Wraps

By Elizabeth Williamson
12 Dec 2007

A secret U.S. intelligence court has issued its third public ruling in 30 years, declaring that while it agrees on the benefits of making its rulings on warrantless wiretapping public, it will keep them secret.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) cited the "vitally important need to protect national security" in rejecting a request by the American Civil Liberties Union to release documents on the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program.

The ACLU had asked the court for copies of orders it issued early this year related to the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program, which was operated without court oversight from late 2001 until early this year. The ACLU filed its request in August, after Congress passed legislation that overhauled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and expanded the powers of U.S. spy agencies to eavesdrop on foreign terrorism suspects without a court order.

In particular, the ACLU wanted copies of at least one court order issued this year that, according to administration officials and congressional Republicans, concluded that parts of the program are illegal.

The 29-year-old FISC, which handles government requests for warrants in terrorism and espionage cases, is among the most secret institutions in Washington, with sessions held in a secure facility. Every proceeding before the one that led to yesterday's decision has been ex parte; that is, the government was the only party before the court.

The surveillance program that the Bush administration launched shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been the subject of intense battles involving Congress, the president and advocacy groups.

In a 22-page opinion signed by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, a judge on the intelligence court, the court ruled that releasing the documents would pose a "real risk of harm to national security interests and ultimately to the FISA process itself."

"The ACLU is correct in asserting that certain benefits could be expected from public access," Bates wrote. "There might be greater understanding of the FISC's decision-making. Enhanced public scrutiny could provide an additional safeguard against mistakes, overreaching or abuse. And the public could participate in a better-informed manner in debates over legislative proposals relating to FISA."

Nonetheless, he continued, "detrimental consequences of broad public access to FISC proceedings or records would greatly outweigh any such benefits. The identification of targets and methods of surveillance would permit adversaries to evade surveillance, conceal their activities, and possibly mislead investigators through false information."

And so, the court concluded, "these possible harms are real and significant, and, quite frankly, beyond debate."

The ACLU had been encouraged by the court's initial response to its request this summer, when it ordered the Bush administration to register its views about the records request. While rejecting portions of the administration's arguments, the court supported its position on continued secrecy.

"The decision is disappointing, both in its reasoning and its result. A federal court's interpretation of federal law should not be kept secret from the American public," Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU National Security Project, said in a statement.

"The Bush administration is seeking expanded surveillance powers from Congress because of the rulings issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court earlier this year. Under this decision, those rulings may remain secret forever."

The administration expressed satisfaction with the ruling.

"We agree with the court that the public release of these documents would pose 'a real risk of harm to national security interests and ultimately to the FISA process itself' and that these 'harms are real and significant, and . . . beyond debate,' " Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said.

Staff writer Dan Eggen contributed to this report.

~ Link [Source] ~

YOYO ("you're on your own") economics

Gene Sperling: 'Rising-Tide Economics'
Issue #6, Fall 2007

" ... Supply-Side Blindness: Rising Tide as Trickle Down

For many conservatives, the notion of a "rising tide lifting all boats" is not a test but an automatic assumption that growth–and specifically tax relief to upper-income Americans–will trickle down and lift everyone else up. Supply-siders even argue that Kennedy devised the "rising tide" metaphor to defend his decision to reduce the absurdly high marginal tax rates that existed at the time. For example, promoting the 2003 Bush tax cuts, former Treasury Secretary John Snow said, "I think it was President Kennedy who talked about ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’ when asked to characterize his tax plan back in 1962, I think. There is a lot of merit in that idea." But as his presidential papers reveal, Kennedy never used the "rising tide" line to defend tax cuts of any type. Indeed, the first time he used the line as president was, fittingly, in Colorado on August 17, 1962, to praise congressional approval of a giant dam project.

History aside, the ideological faith in trickle-down economics is wrong on three counts. First, while supply-siders see Reaganomics as a golden period, the 12 years of Reagan-Bush were more like a period of rising yachts and sinking row boats. From 1980 to 1993, average incomes of the top 5 percent rose 62 percent, the top 20 percent rose 34 percent, and the middle was stagnant. The bottom quintile actually saw its income decline by 10 percent in real terms. Second, the "don’t worry, be happy" attitude of the supply-siders shows a profound blindness towards the increased sense of risk and economic anxiety being felt by working Americans. Fear of outsourcing is not just the province of manufacturing workers; rather, 61 percent of Americans think their or a friend’s job may be at risk from globalization. A 2006 Pew Research Center poll found that half of the respondents worried that their children would be grow up to be worse off than they are. And while the Bush Administration’s rhetoric may show insensitivity to rising economic anxiety, its economic policies have been like a boxer leaning into a left hook–responding to that anxiety by imposing even more risk on the individual, from partially privatizing Social Security to pushing incentives to move more Americans into an often callous individual health market. Taken together, these policies amount to what Economic Policy Institute economist Jared Bernstein calls YOYO ("you’re on your own") economics. And finally, their ideological insistence on small government prevents conservatives from embracing growth-maximizing public policies that can help attract high value jobs, encourage more risk taking, and reduce the backlash against globalization, precisely by mitigating the negative effects of job loss. ... "

Why We Resist

10 Dec 2007
Chris Hedges
The refusal to pay my taxes if we go to war with Iran, and the portion of my taxes spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan if we do not cut off funding for these two conflicts, is not a means. It is an end. I do not know if my refusal, and the refusal of others, will be effective in halting these wars. All I know is that it is worth doing. The alternative, a complacency bred from cynicism and despair, is worse. Refusing to actively resist injustice and flagrant violations of international law, refusing to attempt to turn back the tide of American tyranny, is surrender. It is the death of hope.

Acts of resistance are moral acts. They begin because people of conscience can no longer tolerate abuse and despotism. They are carried out not because they are effective but because they are right. Those who begin these acts are few in number and dismissed by the cynics who hide their fear behind their worldliness. Resistance is about affirming life in a world awash in death. It is the supreme act of faith, the highest form of spirituality. We remember and honor the names of those who, solitary when they began, defied their age. Henry David Thoreau. Jane Adams. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Mahatma GandhiMilovan Djilas. Andrei Sakharov. Martin Luther King. Václav Havel. Nelson Mandela. It is time to join them. They sacrificed their security and comfort, often spent time in jail and in some cases were killed. They understood that to live in the fullest sense of the word, to exist as free and independent human beings, meant to defy authority. When the dissident Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was taken from his cell in a Nazi prison to the gallows, his last words were ”this is for me the end, but also the beginning.”

Bonhoeffer, who returned to Germany from Union Theological Seminary in New York to fight the Nazis, knew that most of the citizens in his nation were complicit through their silence in a vast enterprise of death. He affirmed what we all must affirm. It did not mean he avoided death. It did not mean that he, as a distinct individual, survived. But he understood that his resistance, and even his death, was an act of love. He fought for the sanctity of life. He gave, even to those who did not join him, another narrative. His defiance condemned his executioners.

"Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence,” Thoreau wrote in ”Civil Disobedience” after going to jail for refusing to pay his taxes during the Mexican-American War. “A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight. If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose. If a thousand men were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood.”

Those who recognize the injustice of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a war with Iran, who concede that these wars are not only a violation of international law but under the post-Nuremberg laws are defined as criminal wars of aggression, yet do nothing, have forfeited their rights as citizens. By allowing the status quo to go unchallenged they become agents of injustice. To do nothing is to do something. They practice a faux morality. They vent against war on the Internet or among themselves but do not resist. They take refuge in the conception of themselves as moderates. They stand on what they insist is the middle ground without realizing that the middle ground has shifted under us, that the old paradigm of left and right, liberal and conservative, is meaningless in a world where, to quote Immanuel Kant, those in power have embraced “a radical evil.”

"I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate,” King wrote from another era as he sat inside a Birmingham jail. “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

This lukewarm acceptance, this failure to act, is the worst form of moral cowardice. It cripples and destroys us. When Dante enters the “city of woes” in the “Inferno” he hears the cries of “those whose lives earned neither honor nor bad fame,” those rejected by heaven and hell, those who dedicated their lives solely to the pursuit of happiness.  These are all the “good” people, the ones who never made a fuss, who filled their lives with vain and empty pursuits, harmless no doubt, to amuse themselves, who never took a stand for anything, never risked anything, who went along.  They never looked too hard at their lives, never felt the need, never wanted to look. 

We face a crisis. Our democratic institutions are being dismantled. We are headed for a state of perpetual war. We are paralyzed by fear. We will be stripped, if we do not resist, of our few remaining rights. To resist, while there is still time, is not only the highest form of spirituality but the highest form of patriotism. It is, if you care about what is worth protecting in this country, a moral imperative. There are hundreds of thousands who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This number would be dwarfed by a war with Iran, which could ignite a regional inferno in the Middle East. Not a lot is being asked of us. Compare our potential sacrifices with what is being inflicted on and demanded of those trapped in the violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and soon, perhaps, Iran. Courage, as Aristotle wrote, is the highest of human virtues because without it we are unlikely to practice any other virtue. Once we find courage we find freedom.

Source: ICH

Kenneth Rexroth: Greeks and Buddhists in Afghanistan

21 Jun 1964
...My colleagues in reviewing the show have mentioned the Greek, or at least Hellenistic, influence which is apparent in several of the pieces. It is not generally known that after Alexander had conquered the Persian Empire to its eastern limits at the Indus River he established a number of Greek, or Greek garrisoned, cities in what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan. Cut off from the rest of the Greek world, Greeks ruled here until the beginning of the Christian Era.

This was the Bactrian Kingdom which at one time included most of Afghanistan (Bactria is the Afghan city of Balkh), Turkestan, Pakistan, and even, for a while, a large section of India south of the Indus.

We know little of the rulers, but they left behind their faces on the coins, the finest examples of portrait coinage ever done. Their subtle, arrogant faces look much like the British gentleman adventurers of the East India Company who were to come after them in 2000 years. Eucratides even wears something remarkably like a pith helmet.

Here Mahayana Buddhism grew up, flourished, and spread across Asia to Japan. With it went artists and decorators who filled the temples and monastic caves of Further Asia with paintings and sculpture that derive their plastic inspiration from the far away Greek Mediterranean. Their artistic output was incredible; its limitless bulk staggers the imagination. Although I suppose it was what we would call today a kind of commercial art, the product of studios organized on a modern production basis, it is nevertheless unquestionably the finest expression of the Greek genius after the days of Alexander, except possibly for some work done for the Romans during the reign of Augustus.

This is one of the most fascinating episodes of history, and it is tantalizing because we know so little about it and what we do know is so extraordinary.

We know that the plays of Euripides were performed in courts that looked out from the Hindu Kush over the deserts of Central Asia. We know that Hercules and Vishnu, Bacchus and Shiva were confused on their coinage. We know that Buddhism, originally a kind of atheistic religious empiricism, was turned into a Mystery Religion of the Mediterranean type.

A Mahayana Sutra, The Questions of Milinda, has as interlocutor the adventurer Menander who, driven out of Bactria by invading barbarians, conquered a sizable piece of western India. Here and there along the coasts as far south as Bombay are gravestones with Greek names. Some dedicate the dead man’s soul to Buddha and his Bodhisattvas, some to the Hindu gods, some to the deities of the homeland, half a world away.

All this has little enough to do with the main body of Indian art. Modern Indian critics and historians, intensely chauvinistic, resent any implication that they owe anything whatever to the West, at any time, ever. It is true that the main India tradition in sculpture had its origins northeast of the Ganges and in the non-Aryan south, and in the course of time came to push aside all Hellenistic influence from the northwest.

Had this been a show of the art of Pakistan, the story would have been different. It is there that most of this Greek-inspired sculpture — called, by the way, Gandharan art, after a place in Pakistan — is to be found.

A last detail — for a long time philologists were puzzled by an Aryan language spoken by a few savage, murderous, filthy robber bands in the mountains and valleys of the Northwest Border. They were certainly the most debased and intractable of all the inhabitants of an intractable region. Then somebody pointed out that the language was simply a degenerate form of the language of Plato.

A friend just asked me, “Is this sort of thing good newspaper copy?” Why not? I can’t be controversial three weeks running. I get elastic fatigues, like a tired bridge. It is unusual and fascinating information. And it is relevant and bears pondering. Amongst what sort of savages in what lonely mountains do you suppose English will survive two thousand years hence?

~ Link ~

letters of gratitude from Iraq's Freedom Congress
A letter of Appreciation from the Central Council of Iraq Freedom
Congress TO US Labor Against the War (USLAW)

Brother Michael Eisenscher, National Coordinator of USLAW
Brothers of USLAW Steering Committee
All members of USLAW

Greetings from Baghdad...

From IFC Central Council's sixth meeting we send our greetings and at
the same time we express our deepest appreciation for your support to
IFC and the entire libertarian movement. Your continuing support to IFC
will advance our movement to end the occupation, expulse ethnic and
sectarian gangs and build a secular non-ethnic government that defines
people in Iraq on the basis of humanity. We believe that our common
struggle for a better world is the only way to achieve security and
peace in Iraq and in the United States of America.

Our continuing effort is to strengthen ties between Iraqi and US people.

Our satellite TV (Sana) played a significant role towards this direction
and showed the viewers in Iraq and the region that there is a
humanitarian front in the United States who supports Iraqis cause and
struggle and works to put the US Administration under pressure to
withdraw its troops from Iraq. Broadcasting "Meeting Face to Face" was
one of the means to show the extent of solidarity between Iraqi and US
workers who denounce and reject war. In fact this film enlightened the
Iraqis of the existence of a third movement in the society that is not
sectarian or ethnocentric

We in Iraq Freedom Congress believe that the libertarian movement
represented by labor, women, youth and students movements are the only
ones who are able to form the humanitarian identity in Iraq. We were
able to bring the workers together and unite them against the draft Oil
Law by forming the Anti Oil Law Front. The workers are the ones who
fought for this abhorrent draft and we were able to force the government
and the National Assembly to back down from passing it till this very

Also by raising the slogan "No Shiite ... .. No Sunni, humanity is our
identity" we were able to block all efforts that aimed to allow planting
a wedge between workers to kill each others. At IFC first convention,
which was held forty days ago and was attended by delegates from various
cities such as Baghdad, Basra, Kut, Nasirya, Kirkuk, Mosul, Hilla,
Diwanya and Ramadi we proved that sectarian and ethnic identity is
nothing but false identity that was imposed by the sectarian and ethnic
factions to divide power and wealth among themselves. In fact, these
divisions are imposed by the occupation forces on Iraqi society through
its inhumane policy. Killing a human, whether in Iraq, in the United
States or anywhere else in the world is a heinous and unforgivable
crime. Ending the occupation through the withdrawal of all forces would
pave the way to turn the page of human killing, whether in American
uniform or innocent Iraqi once and for all...

The victory you have achieved in defeating the Republican Party in the
mid-term elections in November 2006 was a victory for us in Iraq. We are
certain that defeating the occupation projects such as the oil Law and
sectarian divisions are victories for our front in the US... Therefore
struggling together will lead us to defeat Bush, Dick Cheney, Rice and
all other killing supporters.

Once again thank you and our appreciation to your efforts.

Long live US Labor Against the War
Long live international solidarity
IFC Central Council's sixth meeting


A letter from IFC Central Council to Sato Kazuyoshi, President of the
Movement for Democratic Socialism in Japan.

Brother and comrade Sato Kazuyoshi,
Greetings ...

The role you played in having Sana TV continue broadcasting by providing
all sorts of support such as financial support, is a place of
appreciation to the farthest extent. It shows your deep understanding of
the responsibility that you hold for our movement in Iraq. The
individuals have a great role in making history and you were able to
fulfill this role with Iraq Freedom Congress. Our common vision towards
the political situations in Iraq is one of the strongest points of our
movement. We are proud of your confidence in our movement victory. We
pledge that our movement has no choice but to win. Linking your fate
with ours demands us to carry a huge responsibility towards human victory.

Leader such as you in our ranks is a guarantee for our progress and
defeat the enemies of humanity.

Once again we express our appreciation for the efforts that you spent
for our movement.

The sixth meeting of Central Council
Iraq Freedom Congress


Dan Clore
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:


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