Tuesday, January 06, 2004

What's that slapping my ass?

December 13. You remember, the day they caught that guy that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, but we all felt safer anyway? I remember seeing the news that day, and it was all 'spider hole' and 'coward'. The thing I don't remember seeing on the news that day was something that speaks more directly to 'freedom and democracy' than the capture of one of our old puppet-dictators gone bad.

True to his weasely coward nature, pResident Bush used the media flurry to quietly sign key portions of the Patriot II act into law. The 4th amendment is basically gone, and the concept of judicial oversight is significantly diminished. (This should not be a surprise... remember that Bush and his cronies have shown scorn for the 'checks and balances' built into the system throughout his reign... such as when Congress voted to surrender their right to declare war, placing that power solely within the hands of the president... a situation that parts of the constitution were explicitly drafted to avoid).

The Act included a simple, yet insidious, redefinition of "financial institution," which previously referred to banks, but now includes stockbrokers, car dealerships, casinos, credit card companies, insurance agencies, jewelers, airlines, the U.S. Post Office, and any other business "whose cash transactions have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax, or regulatory matters"...

While broadening the definition of "financial institution," the Bush administration is ramping up provisions within the 2001 USA Patriot Act, which granted the FBI the authority to obtain client records from banks by merely requesting the records in a "National Security Letter." To get the records, the FBI doesn't have to appear before a judge, nor demonstrate "probable cause" - reason to believe that the targeted client is involved in criminal or terrorist activity. Moreover, the National Security Letters are attached with a gag order, preventing any financial institution from informing its clients that their records have been surrendered to the FBI. If a financial institution breaches the gag order, it faces criminal penalties. And finally, the FBI will no longer be required to report to Congress how often they have used the National Security Letters.

I know I'm a bit pessimistic about these things, but between the economy (which went from record surplus to record deficit in the last three years), world opinion of the US (which went from tolerance to disdain, where it isn't outright hatred), an out-of-control federal government (brought to you by the 'smaller federal government' party), and the fact that the average American doesn't seem to give a fuck that their president lies and directly causes the deaths of hundreds of Americans in addition to the thousands of people killed in our bombing raids, I'm pretty sure we're fucked.

(If you're still operating under the delusion that this guy isn't tanking the whole country, check this out... they compare things Bush has said to what he has actually done. He's batting pretty close to zero.)