SocraticGadfly: 5/21/06 - 5/28/06

May 25, 2006

Is Judith Miller’s old DC jail cell still open?

Perhaps it has room for Robert Novak if he gets called to the grand jury and cites source confidentiality.

May 24, 2006

Hang up, I can't talk!

Picture this hypothetical phone call, if you will, about the latest phon-y baloney from the White House.

Me: “I can’t talk to you right now.”

John Doe: “Why?”

Me: “You know why; Bush has ALL of our phone records, of ALL of us. Not just THEM, but US. And, without any search warrants.”

John Doe: “What do you mean, not just them?”

Me: “You know, the people with Arabic-sounding names, or wearing turbans or whatever. He has EVERYBODY’s phone records. Yours. Mine. The blue-haired ladies who adore him.”

John Doe: “Isn’t that illegal?”

Me: “Well, yes, according to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Congress passed three decades ago, giving phone records Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

John Doe: “Well, can’t you e-mail me what you wanted to tell me?”

Me: “I’ve got dial-up; it goes over phone lines.”

John Doe: “What about e-mailing from the office?”

Me: “T1 broadband goes over phone lines too.”

John Doe: “But is this really that serious? Bush Administration spokespeople are saying names and addresses have been deleted from the records the phone companies supplied.”

Me: “Deleting names and addressses mean nothing. I could Google those phone numbers and find names in a flash. Even older people who aren’t computer-savvy have used criss-cross phone directories to do back-searches to find people’s and businesses’ names.
“Second, do you really believe BushCo? Those weapons of mass destruction are still missing more than three years later, right? And Vice President Cheney has been discovered for pushing for even more spying on Americans than this.
“Besides, the Administration has already lied about this. Here’s what Attorney General Alberto Gonzales claimed a month when before Congress, specifically the House Judiciary Committee:
“Congressman Gerald Nadler: ‘Number two, can you assure us that there is no warrantless surveillance of calls between two Americans within the United States?’
“Gonzales: ‘That is not what the president has authorized. …’
“Nadler: ‘But you’re not doing that deliberately?’
“Gonzales: ‘That is correct.’”

John Doe: “But, don’t you think that Bush still rates high on trust? Don’t you think people think that actions like this are at worst overzealousness with good intentions, rather than some quasi-tyrannical attempt to run roughshod over our vaunted privacy rights? After all, he’s no Bill Clinton as far as trust, right?”

Me: “Well, speaking of that, you are correct he is no Bill Clinton. A new CNN poll, asking about presidential honesty, had the public favoring Clinton over Bush, 46-41.”

John Doe: “Sounds like you had a pretty busy time Googling and elsewhere on the Internet. Speaking of Google, I had some stuff to do on the ’Net myself.”

Me: “Remember, Internet access as well as e-mail goes over the telephone lines, unless you have cable Internet. Your static Internet Protocol traces to your computer.
“Got any websites you’ve been to recently you don’t want Bush and Company to know about? And no, I’m not necessarily talking about pornography or something like that.
“Been shopping for divorce lawyers online? Bankruptcy lawyers? Starting to get the drift?”

John Doe: “Hmm, maybe I need to be just a little more careful.”

Me: “And people need to be more proactive consumers, too
“I had been looking at upgrading from dialup to broadband Internet access for my house. As the only two options are ATT/Yahoo and Verizon, no thanks. As soon as Working Assets or some other populist organization, which already offers cell phone service, can find a way to get broadband, shielded in some way from AT&T or Verizon eyeballs, for sale, then I’ll look at the switch.”

John Doe: “It’s a good thing that the Bush White House isn’t connected to that criminal vote-buying Jack Abramoff, isn’t it?”

Me: “Are you talking about the White House claiming that Secret Service visitor logs show he was only at the White House twice? Well, the Secret Service is intimidated, whitewashed, incompetent or lying.
“Those two visits don’t include three other visits to which the White House has already fessed up to. Including the May 9, 2001, visit where Smilin’ Jack charged two of his clients $25,000 for the privilege of a White House lunch.”

John Doe: “But surely these incidents aren’t part of a larger culture of corruption, are they?”

Me: “I hate to disappoint you, but the latest incident has Dallas connections. Cabinet Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson, from Dallas, told a real estate group that he had cancelled a contract with a developer after the developer started criticizing Bush.”

John Doe: “Sounds like you had a busy day online.”

Me: “Well, I’m sure somebody already knows that.”

Vespa-riding hypocrites

I found it ironic -- maybe hypocritical -- to read in The Dallas Morning News that Josh Bailey sold a Nissan Altima and replaced it with a Vespa, when the page 2 photo shows the Explorer, mentioned in the story, behind Bailey in his driveway. Too bad Jim didn't have a pic at a slightly different angle to show that more clearly, or that you didn't use that pic if you had it available.
He needed a new vehicle — his 1995 Nissan Altima was on its last legs – but a new car would put a strain on his budget. He had just graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary and had a new baby, so keeping costs low was a priority.

That’s why he and his wife, Emily, headed to the scooter shop in August and laid down about $5,000 on a shiny Vespa. He sold his Altima, although his wife kept her Ford Explorer.

“Believe me, we’ve not jumped off the SUV bandwagon,” he said. “It would be very difficult if my only means of transportation was a scooter.”

Hey, so you have one baby, Mr. Bailey. You ever hear of a Taurus or a Camry? You replace your Explorer, which probably never sees mud, with a mid-sized car, and you'll save as much or more on gas than your Vespa did over your Altima.

May 21, 2006

They write letters to the Morning News

Here's what one hyperventilating BushCo supporter has to say about the unimaginable burdens of our Chief Exec, in writing to The Dallas Morning News:
Never, since the American Revolution, has the U.S. and its sitting president been faced with more!

— Ron Sexton, Frisco, Texas.

Uhh, Ron, did you forget the Civil War? Lincoln had a plate full of stuff that makes the last six years look like a tempest in a teacup.

Or, did you sleep through that high school American history class? John Adams had two different factions in the country, one trying to push us into war with England, the other into war with France. He struggled to sail between this Scylla and Charybdis.

Or, long before the Sept. 11, 2001, sneak attack, did you hear about Pearl Harbor?

Get a clue before you write anything else, John, and get away from the glue on the back of the BushCo bumper sticker you've been huffing.

Skeptical Inquirer, can we be more skeptical?

How SI can review a book like Christina Hoff Sommers' "One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture Is Eroding Self-Reliance" without pointing out the political slant she brings to the issue, I don't know.

This would be like reviewing John Stossel's latest diatribe, or Penn and Teller if they wrote a book about secondhand smoke, without pointing out the hardcore libertarian point of view from whence they write.

That's not to say that I don't agree with a fair amount of what she says, but, to pretend she's written this book in a vacuum is ridiculous.