The Deaf Claque

Because they’re worth clapping for…probably…

Obama’s Statement on the FISA Bill

I hope this isn't an accurate metaphor for Obamas campaign

Yesterday after hearing about and reading through the FISA bill, I sent an email to Senator Obama/ his campaign. It basically said that I supported him and was very disappointed to see that he voted in favor of the bill.

I also said that though his message is of empowering the people and encouraging them to participate in the political process, his vote had the opposite affect on most that I’ve talked to. It’s one thing to be let down by the Bush Administration, but it’s something else to be let down by someone you support.

Here’s the message I received back; Obama’s statement in response to criticism for his vote:

Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.

That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.

After months of negotiation, the House passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year’s Protect America Act. Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President’s illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance – making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future.

It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I voted in the Senate three times to remove this provision so that we could seek full accountability for past offenses. Unfortunately, these attempts were unsuccessful. But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.

It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives – and the liberty – of the American people.

I, sir, am not convinced. The bill is considerably better, but taking the opportunity of just compensation for losses from American citizens is just not acceptable, no matter how much better it is than the original bill.

If a car dealer asks $2 Million for a Hyundai, I’m not going to pay $500,000 for it just because it’s a lot better than $2 Million.

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July 11, 2008 Posted by | 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Bills, Congress, FISA, General Discourse, Nathan Schmitt, Senate | Leave a comment

I Need a Brand-Aid


So. A rather depressing realization just struck me. Our political process here in the states has become, LOL like totally, dominated by brands.

Brands are simply, specifically a means of you telling me what you mean for me to see. Basically. That is to say, a brand is the personal feeling–emotional aftertaste, as Ze Frank likes to call it–that is felt when a word or phrase is heard, read, spoken, or otherwise experienced. Brands are often used to convey a complex message or feeling in very few words.

In the first paragraph above, “the brand” is responsible for the awkwardness of the presence of the valley girl expletive in the context of an otherwise…arguably intelligent…sentence.

We don’t usually think about them, but brands very much shape the decisions we make. Would you rather eat “Spew’s Potato Chunks” or “Lightly Salted Kettle Chips”? Familiarity notwithstanding, your decision is probably the latter, thanks to the concept of the brand.

I’ve been reading The Federalist Papers lately–the single most important document in American political history. The difference in methods of persuasion between then and now is unmistakable and unacceptable. To me at least. I guess.

In the The Federalist Papers, persuasion was achieved or at least attempted chiefly through a clear, content-based presentation of arguments. But now it ain’t no thang.

If you pay as much attention to politics as I, two thoughts may have crossed your minds:

1. “I pay far too much attention to politics.”

and

2. “These politicians talk more than an excited Valley Catholic schoolgirl but never really say anything.”

How is this tolerated you may ask? My answer to you, dear friend, would be “brands.” In the case that you don’t ask, on the other hand, my answer to you, dear friend, wouldn’t be.

Because I am authoring this essay into–this examination of–the brand, and because it is a tradition among pseudo-philosophers (and philosophers alike, I might add) I will now pull two terms out of a certain one of my human orafaces that have no real meaning. BUT! They will when I’m done with them.

The first is this: the “Explicit Brand”

The second is this: the “Implicit Brand”

By the first, I mean what we normally think of in the rare instances that we think of the meaning of brands. The feeling you get when you hear the word “warm cookie,” for example.

By the second, I mean the feeling you get when you hear a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Or a speech by Adolf Hitler. This is one of the rare instances in which those two men can stand in common example of a singular idea so I thought I might as well make use of it. Seize the moment or something. An experience can be recalled, and only in part, by the phrase “Adolf Hitler’s speech” (and explicit brand) but it is initially constructed by the experience of the speech itself–the implicit brand. (I realize “explicit” and “implicit” aren’t really the proper terms but flow is more important to me right now as I write.)

Contemporary politicians use both. Regularly. In fact I would argue that politicians almost entirely rely on brands when communicating with the general public. They give speeches, appear on telivision and radio, make visits to various locations, etc…. But, when you listen to what they are actually saying–and I’m speaking about 99% of the population of politicians in an attempt to seem legitimate by avoiding generalizations–you see that, though there is some kind of content, it is clearly not the focus of the experience.

It’s not JUST the fault of politicians though; we demand it of them.

In order to compete in the politics of a nation that has sooooo many people and is so like-totally-instant-gratification-nowly-minded you HAVE TO create a brand for yourself or you just won’t get your rep.

It’s fast food politics for a fast food nation. But as we all know, fast food isn’t good for us and if we continue eating it 24/7 we’re going to die a lot sooner than we’d like.

July 10, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Senate Passes Telecom Immunity Bill

Yesterday, July 9, 2008, the Senate (the House has passed it as well) passed H.R. 6304, the telecom immunity bill.

Under Title II, Section 802, the bill states that:

[…] a civil action may not lie or be maintained in a Federal or State court against any person for providing assistance to an element of the intelligence community, and shall be promptly dismissed, if the Attorney General certifies to the district court of the United States in which such action is pending[…]” [and there is a list of qualifications you can read if you click the hyperlink above]

It should be noted that the protection is only for civil actions from which citizens may seek damages; there is no protection from criminal charges being brought against parties. As far as the accountability of telecoms goes, and any other party for that matter (as defined under Title II, Section 802), there is still some degree of accountability to which these parties may be held, but it is specifically criminal.

What this means for the American people is that private citizens may not sue for damages (compensation for losses of any sort) as a result of surveillance. The offending parties may only be sued by the United States government, thereby providing no just compensation for transgressions against private citizens, and can only result in the punishment of the offending parties.

This is a very, very sad day for America as well as the United States Constitution and anyone who believes in it. Here is the text of the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

And Obama voted for it…What is happening?…I’m starting to get that feeling about Obama that I got about McCain when he flipped from a harsh critic of the Bush Admin to a supporter of them. Not that the big O is joining the ranks of the Bush Administration by any means, but his vote in favor of this bill is, in my mind, a serious transgression against the people of the United States. And that’s from an Obama supporter.

There’s another thing that’s bothering me. The bill is ridiculously sloppy. For example, Title II, Section 802, Paragraph 5 (which is one of the circumstances under which the Attorney General may dismiss a relevant case):

“(5) the person did not provide the alleged assistance.”

Excuse me? What? The Attorney General’s job is to argue cases, not to decide them.

I’m really ashamed to be an American right now.

I’d like to just leave you with this, the Presidential Oath of Office:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

The President regularly referrs to his oath and states that it is his job to protect the American people. I don’t know if he wasn’t paying attention when he took it or if he just forgot what it says, but he swore an oath to protect the U.S. Constitution, NOT the American people.

If we Americans don’t wake up and do something, we deserve what’s coming to us.

July 10, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Bills, Congress, FISA, George W. Bush, Video | 2 Comments