Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Is it just me? Well?

It's just me, right?

I'm the crazy one. Obviously.

I read the news in the morning and I watch rich and powerful men with million dollar diplomas from Ivy League schools, men elected to run this country, men in thousand dollar suits and power ties, the fast movers and the shit shakers. And I listen to the words coming out of their smiling mouths and I think there is no way they can be this consistently inconsistent, no way they can continue to spout such nonsense and get away with it, no way they can continue to make such obviously self-serving decisions and not get called on it.

Surely, I think, Americans can't be buying this nonsense. Surely, today Americans are going to stop, scratch their collective heads and say, "Heeeeey, wait just one damn minute..." And yet every single day, the powerful men spew more silly nonsense and a significant fraction of Americans nod their heads and just let them get away with it.

From this morning's news feed:

Bush Presses House to Approve Bill on Surveillance: “There is no reason why Republicans and Democrats in the House cannot pass the bill immediately,” the President said from the White House. He added that failure to pass the bill “will jeopardize the security of our citizens.” OK, I don't even remotely agree with this unconstitutional travesty and I've justified my position elsewhere in prior posts, but maybe I can see how Bush and members of Congress can think that our security is in such dire peril that it has to be done. They are supposed to know things, have access to information - so maybe they know something I don't. I doubt it, this used to be my profession after all, but just maybe surveillance of US citizen's overseas phone calls without a warrant, without due adherence to the founding principles of this country, are necessary. The world changes, maybe the Constitution is a tad outdated. Hey, it once codified slavery, so maybe, just maybe, the 4th Amendment doesn't apply in this age of modern electronic communications. I don't think this is the case, but these men are supposed to know - that's what we pay them for. I don't like it, in fact I loath the idea of unfettered governmental power over it's citizens, but in time of war maybe I can see how the President might feel it necessary. I'll continue to speak out about it, I'll raise merry hell with my representatives over it, and if it passes I'll grit my teeth and live with it until such time as it is over turned. But just maybe I can understand why these men might think it necessary.

Then I'm asked to believe this:

White House Pushes Waterboarding Rationale: "Any technique that you use, you use it under certain circumstances. It was something that they felt at that time was necessary, and they sought legal guidance to make sure that it was legal and that it was effective," says the White House. Again, I think torture - and make no mistake, that is exactly what we're talking about here - is contrary to everything this country stands for. I've written extensively about this subject and my opinion on the matter hasn't changed. I despise the fact that my country, the country I spent two decades risking my life for, has become a nation that tortures human beings. However, I can understand how in the aftermath of 911, in a contrived climate of fear and war and terror, Americans might be convinced that the ends do indeed justify the means in certain cases. I emphatically don't agree, but I can understand how others might think so. I think those people are incredibly short sighted, I think they are dangerously naive and foolish, I think that they have little comprehension of history or how often and inevitably those means grow rapidly, like a cancer, far, far beyond the original justification, and how such capricious and unchecked power in the hands of a few leads directly and inevitably to tyranny. I think these people have been manipulated, have allowed themselves to be manipulated - but I can understand how and why, and why they believe that it just might be acceptable to strap a naked man to a board and pour water up his nose, or zap him with electricity, or menace him with snarling dogs, or flush his holy books down the toilet. I think it is an abomination of the highest order, but I can understand how others might think it justified.

All of this and more, much more, to make America safe. To protect us from those who would do us harm. It's war, and things have to be done in war. Yes? I don't like it and I don't agree with this or the thousand other things that have been done in our name over the last eight years, but again I can understand why the administration and a majority of our representatives might think this is the proper course of action.

So, what the fuck is this?

Facing a rapidly growing backlog of immigration cases, the Bush administration will grant permanent residency to tens of thousands of legal U.S. immigrants without first completing required background checks against the FBI's investigative files.

You want to run that by me again? Instead of fixing the problems with the bloated, hamstrung, Gordian-knot bureaucracy of the FBI and the rest of our jury-rigged intelligence system, we're just going to drop background checks for immigrants? Instead of holding the director of the FBI and his band of steely-eyed, square-jawed good ole boys responsible for fixing the mess their mismanagement and their rice-bowl grabbing feudalistic mentality has gotten their agency into, the White House says screw it, just hand out the green cards.

We've got enough extra dough laying around to hand out $168 billion in bonus checks, but we don't have enough to fix the background check process? We've got the money and assets to monitor American's phones calls, email, snail mail, and travel plans, but we don't have the assets to fix the background check process? We're in such desperate straits that we can kick the Constitution and our ideals of freedom and liberty to the curb, but we don't have the wherewithal to do the background checks on foreign nationals living within our own boarders?

It's just me, right?

Attention White House dipshits: failure to conduct proper investigations and background checks is what led directly to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 in the first fucking place. Issuing student visas and permanent residency cards to Mohammad Atta and his murderous brethren without complete background checks, and then failing to follow up on them despite numerous suspicious indicators and red flags is precisely what led directly to the deaths of over 6000 Americans (and counting, 3000 on 911, and 3000 KIA in the following war).

Don't get me wrong here. I have nothing against immigrants, and I welcome them to the United States and applaud the courage it takes to pick up and move to a foreign country in search of a better life. My great grandparents were immigrants. I believe whole heartedly that America's greatest strength is in her diversity. And I believe that the vast majority of people who come to America in search of a better life are good folks who will add to our strength and our future. But, there are a small percentage who come here for the express purpose of doing us harm, they are foreign agents, terrorists, criminals, and the whole damned reason that we've justified the suppression of the Bill of Rights and our treatment of the detainees captured in this war on terrorism.

The solution is not to just hand out green cards, the solution is to fix the process. There's no excuse in this day and age of instantaneous communication and data retrieval why the back ground check process cannot be streamlined.

But, again, it's just me. Isn't it?


  1. Rep. Brian P. Bilbray (R-Calif.), who seeks tighter U.S. immigration controls, objected. "Do they revoke them if they blow up something?" he asked. "There is a reason why the system was put in to do these checks, and it's national security. It's scary that we've reached a point where we're waiving that national security requirement because the bureaucracy is not responding."

    Here, here! No, it's not just you. The current administration is schizophrenic in dealing with terrorism. Suspension of personal liberties and torture is ok, but it's also ok to just grant permanent residency with no background checks because it's more convenient.

    The decision "just seems like a very logical way to get people who deserve benefits in a very fair and timely manner without compromising national security or the integrity of the immigration system," (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesman Christopher S.) Bentley said.

    Some days I really wish I could grab some of these people, slap them silly, then scream "What the fuck is WRONG with you people??!!"

  2. I just love it when your head gets all 'splodey.

  3. Nope. It's not just you.

    Just last night my Smart Man and I were discussing that the single most important criteria we have for our next president is a thorough understanding of, and reverence for, the Constitution. Political party? Who cares. Religion? Not important. Experience? It would be nice, but not necessary. Love for and knowledge of the Constitution? Absolutely necessary.

    And Jim? It might be time for a Dúnedain of the Week post. 'Cause I thought you were tired of politics, war and Berkely hippy-dippies. And your head's kind of getting a bit 'splodey. And shrill.


  4. My head is always 'esplodee. You can ask my friends, why they put up with it, I do not know :)

    You want a Dúnedain, Janiece, how about this?

  5. I gotta stop reading your 'splody posts because you're making me crazy, Jim. Security is so critical that we should suspend the rights of US citizens AND the rights of whomever they feel like torturing, but not so critical that handing out green cards like they were junk mail is OK?

  6. Go follow the Dúnedain link in my previous comment, Anne, it'll make you feel better, I'm sure of it.

  7. Why isn't the INS checking the SS#s of everyone paying SS taxes vs their name and DOB? Employers with more than one or two non-matches should get their asses in a sling, along with a nice surprise raid on their premises.

    If we are serious about security, there is a lot we could be doing that we don't. Politicians on both sides sponsored the last amnesty in hope that the new voters would feel loyalty to the politicos who sponsored the bill, and I suspect that's what's going on here, too.

  8. Jim, good post, great insights into the specific issues that are driving us all crazy. But "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." (Emerson)

    Janiece, even the constitutional issue is open to debate. There's the "strict constructionist" (i.e. conservative right) take on it, and, well, the opposite. I don't think "social constructionist" is quite the right concept.

    Nonetheless, I agree... rule of law vs. theocracy or autocracy.

  9. It's not just you, brother. Though you clarified what I feel much better than I could have, what with all the sputtering I'd be doing...

  10. Jeri, far be it for me to argue with Ralph Waldo Emerson, but for the record I am not a statesman (little or otherwise), a philosopher, and certainly not divine. And I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a certain degree of consistency when it comes to the big picture, or when it comes to things that affect the country I live in. I will admit that GWB has been a fairly consistent jackass, and Congress has been fairly consistent in letting him get away with it.

    What chaps my ass in this case is that in all items I mentioned, torture, monitoring, and waving of background checks - all have a common underlying cause, the utter inability of our leadership to face facts, behave honorably, and uphold the ideals they are sworn to. In each and every case, there is a proper course of action, a constitutional course of action, an honorable course of action - these actions require determination, guts, commitment, sacrifice, a sense of duty, and a belief in the rightness of the founding principles of the United States - and in every case, our leaders have chosen the easy path, the dishonorable path, the path of limited vision.

    It pisses me off.

  11. Jim, feel free to go watch that video you directed Anne and I to - I'm sure it will make you feel better.

    I watched the whole thing, and I'm not sure why. It's like a train wreck, or something.

  12. Jim, I would argue that you are a philosopher - one of the better ones I read. ;)

  13. Catchy, ain't it?

    For some reason I find the entire 'Rick Roll' meme hysterical. Probably because it's one of my favorite XKCD comic episodes. So, I just couldn't help doing it to you. Just because I knew you'd find it amusing. And I've been Rick Rolled several times, and have watched the video through completely every single time. I don't know why, in fact I may go watch it again right now.

    Jeri, I never thought of myself that way, but I suppose it's a better title than head 'sploding 'Ranter.' Thanks :)


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