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February 06, 2004
Makes me mad

I know not everyone shares my enjoyment of Krugman's writing, but I still think you should all read today's column that reminds us that just last year the CIA was under fire for its shocking behavior in trying to downplay the imminent threat of Iraq's WMD.

It would be nice to see the rest of the major news media pointing this out in their multiple stories demanding to know who's at fault and speculating on the make-up of the investigating committee. Oddly enough, the major media outlets don't seem to have access to their own archives. (Anyone who believes "investigative reporters" are the right people to put in charge of investigating the Bush Administration's WMD claims needs to think about this.)

If you take a look at the record, there's no need for a committee. It's very clear which group was the one insisting that Hussein was about to drop an anthrax bomb on the rest of the world at 45 minutes' notice.

But, of course, partisanship is what makes politics. Without partisanship, how could we tell the good guys from them other people? For instance:

Like everything else in election season, the politics of national security have become badly polarized. When a federal judge in California last month struck down part of the Patriot Act, liberals cheered the decision and conservatives denounced it. When President Bush, in his State of the Union address, called for a renewal of the act a year ahead of schedule, Republicans applauded and Democrats sat on their hands.

In fact, there is something opportunistic about the Democratic denunciations of the Patriot Act: when it was introduced two years ago, only one Democratic senator, Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, voted against it, and many of its provisions were originally proposed during the Clinton administration after the Oklahoma City bombing.

Don't get me wrong. Rosen has a point. Democrats did vote for the 'Patriot Act' in overwhelming numbers.

I think we all know the country was stampeding through the gulch of stupidity for a few months, but there are a couple of other things that need to be considered. First, there are plenty of Republicans who, having taken a second, calmer look at the provisions of the Act, support repeal or rewrite for those provisions.

And second, there's the matter of how the provisions were implemented. There's been a level of enthusiasm around using the 'looser' regulations in the Act to go after 'regular' criminals that I don't think most people anticipated. In an era when, we're told, security has to be Priority One and, by the way, there's not much money to go around so everyone tighten your belts, it seems odd to me that the Justice Department has managed to fund plenty of investigations against USofA citizens for everything but acts of terrorism.

I'm just saying. Many provisions under the Act are, in fact, unconstitutional. They might not have been intended that way, but the fact that they were immediately put to that use proves that our system of checks and balances is as important, or more important, in times of heightened national emotion as at any other time.

Anyhow. Rosen does chide Bush a little, but since he then goes on to discuss that proposed, all-inclusive informational matrix with a bit too much enthusiasm, I'm viewing the rest of this column with suspicion. For one thing, that "about half" of the population he cites as approving of the Patriot Act...did anyone ask them if they know exactly what the Act says? No? Didn't think so.

And that whole 'matrix' thing?

Under the program, each passenger's name, address, home phone number and date of birth will be linked to two commercial databases, Lexis-Nexis and Axiom, which collect information about consumer habits. The data may not contain medical or bank-account information, but may include information about passengers' magazine subscriptions and buying patterns, where family members live, and how long they have owned a car. Based on the information, passengers will be assigned to green, yellow or red categories, and will be subject to corresponding scrutiny.

This is a marketing database, okay? It's the marketing database of a corporation's wet dreams, in fact.

I predict that if the Bush Administration had their way and managed to carve the entire government down to nothing but a standing army, the next thing would happen is that they'd raise the money to maintain this database by selling the information to giant multi-national corporations who would use it to fill your life with an ever-increasing avalanche of 'targeted advertising.'

Removed - Several paragraphs of cursing and ranting.

Aside from that, that information is just none of their business and has precious little to do with finding terrorists.

Many people don't own cars for reasons that have nothing to do with their personal plans to commit suicide before they finish making the payments. Very few criminals, terrorist or otherwise, inform their families that they're about to commit mass murder. Any correlation between shopping at Wal-Mart and a desire to kill a lot of people is going to be coincidental. To the best of my knowledge, none of the 9/11 hijackers had lifetime subscriptions to Suicide Bomb Your Way To Paradise.


Posted by AnneZook at 11:22 AM