Monday, June 24, 2013


In the controversy  over secret government interception of phone calls and e-mails, the President and his administration say.."Not to worry”, the courts check these things and would not allow any excess."

I disagree and I suspect the media have been misled here. The administration always refers here to “the courts”, plural, when I suspect the correct word is “court” singular..and by that they mean the FISA Court alone.

FISA stands for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act..and is the court that oversees it. First of all, it is a secret court. It meets in secret, and while records are kept they are never made public. Second, ONLY ONE SIDE APPEARS IN COURT..the government. If the FBI sought a warrant against you, you would never be told, you would not be allowed to appear in court with your lawyer, and state your case.

Now it’s easy to argue, as the U-S does, that “we can’t let you know we are moving against you, that would alert you to stop whatever it is we suspect  you’re doing.” But others will argue that by that approach all the protections of our laws built up over centuries have been thrown they have.

No appeals may be taken to any other court (which doesn’t even know of the FISA Court rulings), except the FISA Review court. It took 24 years for the first decision of the FISA Court to be reviewed, and we don’t know what the decision was.

What we do know is that in the first 33 years of this court, the government won 33,800 cases it brought before the court, only 7 were turned down, although some of those government wins were  “modified”..whatever that means.

Not content with losing 7 cases, Congress in its wisdom modified the Act to allow the Justice Dept to issue its own warrants without court approval, so long as it told the court about it within 72 hours.  That wasn’t enough for the Bush administration which from 2002 to 2005 began secret surveillance on U-S citizens covered by the act WITHOUT going to the Court at any time.  When the news media made this public (and that’s a “leak.”) one FISA judge resigned in protest. But only one.

But the record of the government before this court is even worse…in 2002 the Court broke its own silence to say that in “more than 75 cases” the administration (Bush Two again) had given the Court “erroneous information” (that’s lying folks) upon which to base the Court’s decisions.

If there ever was a  “Heads I win, tails you lose” situation, this is it. The Court, the law, and the dice are loaded against the American citizen. And we have NO idea after thirty some years whether these Court decisions have worked..or not.  That’s secret ,too, and if the government revealed the answers that would be breaking the law.

Citizens, be very, very skeptical when your government says.."not to worry, the courts are looking after you.”

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, June 17, 2013


A BIT OF THIS…                 

That funny word, sequester is going to haunt us more and more and come back to haunt politicians of both parties more and more.

A few examples...AP stories about  Meals on Wheels and Head Start being cut back in various towns, and just when they are most needed.  It wasn’t all the military being cut; as critics pointed out, there is some real damage to be done by the sequester approach, and as predicted, on those of us least able to afford the cuts.  Whatever happened to the government’s responsibility of providing a “safety net” for these people? 

And BTW, wasn’t the ‘safety net” something the Great Spirit of the modern Republican Party came up with…I mean… Ronald Reagan? Not that today’s House Republicans seem to remember who started the shift to their control in Washington,

And out west, as fires rage in one of  the worst burning seasons on record, federal officials have pointed out, thanks to sequester, they are 500 fire fighters and 50 planes shy this year, compared to the forces they had to fight fires last year…and the flames roar on…


Writing in the New York Daily News last week, Richard Clarke, a respected counter-terrorism expert, who served under 3 presidents of both parties, had this comment:

“The argument that this sweeping search (PRISM and NSA eavesdropping) must be kept secret from the terrorists is laughable. Terrorists already assume this sort of thing is being done. Only law-abiding American citizens were blissfully ignorant of what their government was doing.”

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, June 10, 2013


Remember that nice guy in the Verizon commercials a few years back...a guy-next-door type going around the country always asking “Can you hear me now?”              

He’s been absent from our screens for a while, but the Chattanooga Times-Free Press brought him back with a vengeance recently in a political cartoon..he’s holding a newspaper with the headline “Verizon and NSA surveillance," as he asks.."Can they hear me now?”

Can they ever!

Not only hear but intercept; phone calls, e-mails and bank checks…and in some cases, letters. The President says.."No one is listening to your phone calls.”  Mr. President, I respectfully disagree. You can’t say that with a bureaucracy as big as ours and with the technical capability of ours. Remember that private (!) who gave 200,000 pages of our secrets to Wikileaks? No one thought he could do that either.

The President says we need to have a public debate on whether to give up a few of our freedoms for more security.  Mr. President, I agree…but the very secrecy your administration has imposed means the public has not gotten the absolutely essential information we need to hold such a debate…and make a wise decision.

You, and others in government, seem to be saying “Trust us.” No way, sir..not when your Director of National Intelligence lies to Congress, just as your former IRS Commissioner did.

A free society trusts the people to make the final decision. Trust us a lot more, and government agencies a lot less and maybe we’ll get out of this morass.

Remember what Ben Franklin knew:

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, June 3, 2013


All my life I have had this argument with people who say “Change is Good.” No, it isn’t. Good change is good—there are some bad changes. You have to apply some judgment.

Example, Joseph-Beth. Do I want to go to a bookstore and buy baby clothes? No!

But the new owners (and the original owner got in trouble by expanding at least once too much....bad change) say their surveys show otherwise. So they put in a clothes section near the kids books. Sensible—to them.  But that space could have been used for the great travel & maps section they once had...or more books. (If I want  kids clothes I’ll go to a kids clothes store. Betcha it  doesn’t have books.)

Another example:   the weather channel. The old two minutes of “weather on the eights” is gone. Now it’s one minute, if that, and often misses the “8” mark...robbing me of important local weather information I need. (I’m not talking about the channel’s excellent expanded coverage of severe weather, but the day-in, day-out reports. It was one of the things that attracted me in the first place...I could count on two minutes of local weather info every 8th minute, but no more!  As a result, I depend more on the local TV channels..which, BTW, often have been more accurate in their 5 day forecasts.  Now I watch the Weather Channel less because of its bad and needless change.

And the movies. I love movies, especially at the Kentucky Theatre.  I missed “Mud” there twice, but a friend got me to go to one of the multiplexes to see it. And I remembered all the reasons I don’t like the multiplexes: zillions of commercials. (Hey, my career was in commercial broadcasting. I know how important commercials can be. But if  there’s one I don’t like---and there are many—I can change the station. Not in the theater where I am a captive audience, which I dislike).  Oh, yes, and too many previews of coming attractions..including one for a film.. "Coming in the Fall.” Not even a date to remember if I wanted to see it.

Or the much too steeply angled steps for we old farts…making use of the handrail is vitally important..the world’s stickiest handrail. Don’t they ever clean these?

The picture was fine; I recommend it…just see it when next it comes to the Kentucky.

OK, I don’t like least  not these I guess I am an old stick in the mud..but you’re stuck with me, such as I am.

I'm just sayin'...