Dover Bitch

Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Holidays

Here's to 2006. Hope it's a peaceful a prosperous year for all.

Until then...


We were looking really, really hard

The Boston Globe reports today that the government has the capability and has been actively monitoring millions of international communications:

WASHINGTON -- The National Security Agency, in carrying out President Bush's order to intercept the international phone calls and e-mails of Americans suspected of links to Al Qaeda, has probably been using computers to monitor all other Americans' international communications as well, according to specialists familiar with the workings of the NSA.

The Bush administration and the NSA have declined to provide details about the program the president authorized in 2001, but specialists said the agency serves as a vast data collection and sorting operation. It captures reams of data from satellites, fiberoptic lines, and Internet switching stations, and then uses a computer to check for names, numbers, and words that have been identified as suspicious.

"The whole idea of the NSA is intercepting huge streams of communications, taking in 2 million pieces of communications an hour," said James Bamford, the author of two books on the NSA, who was the first to reveal the inner workings of the secret agency.

"They have a capacity to listen to every overseas phone call," said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which has obtained documents about the NSA using Freedom of Information Act requests.

Forget the implications of Big Brother for a minute and think about this: Is it possible that the same White House that is capable of monitoring every single piece of international communication leaving the United States was unable to find an email from Karl Rove to Stephen Hadley about Joe Wilson and Niger, when they were exclusively searching his mailbox for exactly that topic?

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Give 'em hell, Harry!

Nice wmv video of Harry Truman on outlawwebdesigns via CanOFun:

"Now I am going to tell you how we are not going to fight communism. We are not going to transform our fine FBI into a Gestapo secret police. That is what some people would like to do. We are not going to try to control what our people read and say and think. We are not going to turn the United States into a right-wing totalitarian country in order to deal with a left-wing totalitarian threat." -- April 24, 1950


More on wishful thinking

In an article in the Washington Post, Tom Daschle confirms that Congress refused to give Bush the broad powers he wanted.

As DB noted here and here, they have a habit of pretending they have authority they asked for and were denied by Congress.

UPDATE: Here's the story straight from Daschle.

Some key parts (emphasis mine):

As Senate majority leader at the time, I helped negotiate that law with the White House counsel's office over two harried days. I can state categorically that the subject of warrantless wiretaps of American citizens never came up. I did not and never would have supported giving authority to the president for such wiretaps. I am also confident that the 98 senators who voted in favor of authorization of force against al Qaeda did not believe that they were also voting for warrantless domestic surveillance.

On the evening of Sept. 12, 2001, the White House proposed that Congress authorize the use of military force to "deter and pre-empt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States." Believing the scope of this language was too broad and ill defined, Congress chose instead, on Sept. 14, to authorize "all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed or aided" the attacks of Sept. 11. With this language, Congress denied the president the more expansive authority he sought and insisted that his authority be used specifically against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Just before the Senate acted on this compromise resolution, the White House sought one last change. Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words "in the United States and" after "appropriate force" in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused.

The shock and rage we all felt in the hours after the attack were still fresh. America was reeling from the first attack on our soil since Pearl Harbor. We suspected thousands had been killed, and many who worked in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were not yet accounted for. Even so, a strong bipartisan majority could not agree to the administration's request for an unprecedented grant of authority.

The Bush administration now argues those powers were inherently contained in the resolution adopted by Congress -- but at the time, the administration clearly felt they weren't or it wouldn't have tried to insert the additional language.

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Hey, it's me! How are you?

Even when DB is on the road, it's always clear enough when the power has gone out at home or the computer has crashed or is waiting for some error message to be dismissed. Not psychic... it's just that the two dozen junk emails that slip through the spam program running on the home PC turn into about two or three hundred.

Hard to believe that these emails really generate any revenue for anybody, but they must, otherwise there wouldn't be a zillion of them, right?

But then there are the ones that try to trick you into thinking that they might be from a friend ("Haven't talked to you in a while!"), only to turn out to be peddling some penis drug. They start off with a deception and then ask you to trust them with your penis.

Which brings DB to the president.

Dahlia Lithwick really nailed it yesterday, when she wrote the following:

In the days after Sept. 11, everyone agreed that we needed to recalibrate the delicate balance that had been struck between security and civil liberties. It now appears, however, that while the American people thought they were bargaining in good faith with their president, he was nodding and smiling and taking what he wanted in secret.

At the start of this "war," Congress thought it was authorizing the use of force in Afghanistan. But now we've learned that in so doing it also gave the president limitless powers to break the law. Congress thought it was passing the Patriot Act. But it was actually giving the government broad and seemingly open-ended new surveillance authority. We believed the executive branch to be bound by the rule of law—by the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions and the ancient writ of habeas corpus. But the president was redefining torture, disregarding international conventions, and granting himself broad discretion to name and imprison enemy combatants for years on end.

Americans believed they were bargaining in good faith with their government over the original deal struck in 1978 when Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA was supposed to represent a compromise between security and civil liberties, by making it illegal to spy on Americans without judicial oversight but setting the bar for such oversight quite low. Even as amended by the Patriot Act—which further lowered the standards for a FISA warrant—the statute still purported to adhere to the fundamental bargain: Americans would not be spied upon by their government without basic constitutional checks in place.

Exactly right. Americans all understood that there would have to be some sacrifices. The president told us that he understood the importance of protecting our civil liberties. He didn't ask us to sacrifice them. In fact, he didn't ask us to sacrifce anything. He told us to go shopping.

In the face of this great tragedy, Americans are refusing to give terrorists the power. Our people have responded with courage and compassion, calm and reason, resolve and fierce determination. We have refused to live in a state of panic or a state of denial. There is a difference between being alert and being intimidated, and this great nation will never be intimidated.

People are going about their daily lives, working and shopping and playing, worshipping at churches and synagogues and mosques, going to movies and to baseball games.

Life in America is going forward, and as the fourth grader who wrote me knew, that is the ultimate repudiation of terrorism.

And something even more profound is happening across our country. The enormity of this tragedy has caused many Americans to focus on the things that have not changed, the things that matter most in life: our faith, our love for family and friends, our commitment to our country and to our freedoms and to our principles.

All the president's defenders this week, like DB's favorite Bay Buchanan, have been trying to say that Bush was just talking about the Patriot Act, when he was talking about wiretapping in 2004:

"Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretaps, it requires — a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

The president may have been talking about the Patriot Act, but he looked us in the eye and told us that he understood our concerns. He told us that the checks we expect to be there will still be there. He told us that our understanding of our Constitutional protections is shared by the White House.

Now, we are told that he's got methods to protect us, secret methods that every American knows can be abused. Methods that many suspect have already been abused. But he asks us to trust him to do the right thing. He starts with a deception and then asks us to trust him with our civil liberties.

DB's message to spammers in all offices: Take your penis drug and stick it in your ear!

UPDATE: This (CanOFun) wmv video clip of MSNBC's David Schuster reeling off Bush's speeches on civil liberties really says it all.

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F: Shame on you, Senator Stevens

Note: This is Part V of a short series on the issue of the failure of our representatives in Washington to provide our first responders with the communications technology necessary to save lives. Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV.

"This conference report is another in a series of important steps to freeing up the necessary spectrum for our nation's first responders. By providing our emergency response entities and broadcasters with a date certain for the digital transition, our first responders can move forward in ensuring that critical communication infrastructure is in place in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack." -- Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, Dec. 21, 2005

That "date certain" is now set for Feb. 17, 2009, which means that you shouldn't expect a police officer in your neighborhood to be able to warn a firefighter of potential danger until roughly Feb. 17, 2012.

DB gives Stevens the title of Worst Senator in Washington for his shameful work in stalling this transition until the most money could be made off the frequencies and for the corporations with the most to gain from the transition.

Also adding to his title are the facts that he was one of the nine Senators to vote for torture and, of course, his pathetic and unethical attempts to turn the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge into a cash register:

"This is one of the most unpatriotic acts ever attempted by an elected official -- tantamount to treason," said Brian Moore, legislative director for the Alaska Wilderness League. "It's Ted Stevens denying the troops food, funding, ammunition -- everything they need."

As reported here earlier, Stevens claimed that the public safety agencies needed three years to be ready to use these frequencies, so 2009 is just fine. He also said that it had to be 2009 in order to get the money, from auctions, needed to help people pay for digital tuners. But those auction revenues are also going to be used to buy the emergency equipment. So that three years of preparation won't even begin until 2009. [Edit: States may begin to apply for loans against some of those revenues, but there is still no chance of beginning the implementation of these systems until the bandwidth is available.] And there's no chance that our first responders are going to be ignoring the life-and-death situations they face every day so they can start thinking about the radios they won't be getting for another three years.

A Senator who swindled taxpayer money for a bridge to nowhere, in a state ranked in the bottom three in population and likely to never in our lifetimes experience a disaster like Katrina or attack like 9/11, has spearheaded the delays that caused our government to receive a much-deserved 'F' from the 9/11 Commissioners.

Go ahead, Stevens, resign from the Senate. Do America a favor.

Since it seems like a lost cause at this point, DB will conclude this series without getting into the actions on the House side... Joe Barton's efforts and the influence of lobbyists like the National Association of Broadcasters.

But let it be known that in the next disaster -- which will inevitably occur -- any lives that are lost because of a lack of communications will be the true cost of this legislation. Every dollar earned in the auctions, every profit margin increased by these corporations... none of it is worth the life of a single first responder.

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Are they serious?

New Jersey, Come See For Yourself

Gets DB's vote!


Live Free or Die, Stupid!

If there is one good thing to come out of this debate over warrantless spying, so far at least, it is that other people seem to be waking up to the fact that a bunch of F---ING CAVEDWELLERS shouldn't be enough to scare America out of the principles that have made this the greatest country on Earth.

Congrats to Digby and Glenn Greenwald, for fighting the good fight.

The way to protect America is to do what is necessary, not what is comforting. To go after loose nukes, not lesbians in Santa Cruz. To have the watchful eyes of Homeland Security focused on chemical plants and the nation's ports, not on animal rights activists.

During the 2004 election, DB was dumbfounded by the onslaught of supposed "liberals" gleefully abandoning their principles (salvaged from a copy of a page from the old, extinct blog):

On Sept. 14, 2001, I went out to a local hangout -- a place where street performers do their acts for the gathered crowds, standing around in front of all the usual national chain stores.

It was eerie.

On any other Friday night, it would take some maneuvering just to negotiate through the masses. But on the first Friday after 9/11, there was practically nobody there. I made eye contact with just about everybody who passed by. It was like we were all on high alert in case anybody suspicious was there. No funny moves...

I've been there dozens, maybe hundreds of times since then and every time I go there, I think of that night.

I also remember dialing a friend on my cell phone that night. He was a Bush supporter in 2000. I wasn't. We had some friendly debates at the time. Neither of us thought it would be the end of the world if our guy didn't get elected.

I called him that night and told him I was glad Bush won. He said, "Of course, you are."

I really was. I was glad, not because of Bush, to be honest. I was happy that the team he had assembled had been around for the first Gulf War. I thought that experience would be a real blessing, I explained to my friend. I had no doubt that we were at war. I was behind it 100 percent. In fact, I was only worried that our response wouldn't be overwhelming enough.

September 11 had an enormous impact on me. But it did not change my core values. As fervently as I supported the president in responding to the attacks with force, I was equally chagrined at the site of people like William Bennett on my television, explaining to people like me that what I was feeling was "moral clarity." How revolting.

It's been three years and I am no longer grateful that Bush and his team are in office. I haven't felt that way in a long time. In my estimation, they haven't done anything right, in any capacity, since they took out the Taliban.

I've listened to all the people on my TV and radio telling me why I should vote one way or the other. If they support Bush, I can still respect them, as long as I don't think they're being dishonest (there are so many dishonest people involved in both campaigns).

But there is one group of people, represented by a trio, for whom I hold particular scorn. I'm talking about the people who know and don't care that the president will actively oppose all the policies and causes in which they believe.

I, too, disagree with the president on every major domestic issue from taxes to Social Security. Yet I believe those issues are trumped by the overriding need to defeat international terrorism, the biggest threat to our freedom. -- Ed Koch

I think there are September 10 people and there are September 11 people. I'm one of the latter. Everything changed for me. Since then I see everything through the prism of what happened that day. For me this election is about one issue and that is the response to 9/11. In that sense I think the president is doing exactly the right thing. If 9/11 hadn't happened then I'd be firmly in the Democratic camp. -- Ron Silver

Well, you know, I'm libertarian, liberal in almost everything, Lou, except 9/11 changed me. I am quite frankly shocked it hasn't changed the whole country, but obviously that's the beauty of a democracy. Anybody can believe what they want, but the moment they blow up the two biggest buildings in your culture and the Pentagon, you know, I'm certainly thinking preemption. It doesn't seem like a dirty word to me anymore. I believe the game has to be taken to the enemy. -- Dennis Miller

First of all, I completely disagree with the premise that only Bush will take it to the enemy. I wouldn't vote for Kerry if I thought for a second that he wouldn't take his role as Commander in Chief seriously.

I also disagree with the premise, and according to the polls I've seen, a majority of the electorate, that Bush is more capable of handling terrorism. I think the Bush campaign has been successful at creating a national debate about preemption in order to divert the debate away from the specifics of how they've handled the war. I'm not against preemption, if there's sufficient evidence to justify it. Neither is Kerry. But Bush has botched it. Badly.

I've already spent a great deal of time on this blog pointing out how poorly Bush has conducted the war in Iraq. I could spend all the time up to the election cataloging his mistakes.

But the real root of my disdain for these three stems from their admission, offered without qualification and almost with a hint of glee, that they support Bush despite the fact that they are opposed to everything he stands for outside of the war.

I can think of nothing more cowardly than abandoning all your principles because some cave dwellers have attacked us.

People don't drive around New Hampshire with "Take my rights, just don't hurt me" on their license plates. Those plates say "LIVE FREE OR DIE."

Of course, I think it's not much of a coincidence that the three biggest spokesman for ditching your core beliefs are all financially secure white men over the age of 50 (make that five of them if you throw in moderate Republicans Giuliani and Schwarzenegger).

September 11 changed me, too, despite what Miller may think about me. But it doesn't make me forget who I am. It doesn't make me forget what I stand for. It certainly won't make me celebrate the abandonment of my principles the way these three have.

At the time of the election, DB wrote that the strength of an administration that publicly demonstrates its power solely through the use of military force is illusory. The added dimension of the secret domestic spying makes concrete the weakness and fear-based motivations of this president and his supporters.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

If at first you don't succeed, just say you did (The Sequel)

DB is so pissed off about the fact that Bush has broken the law and is spying on Americans with no oversight that there hasn't been a post here about it yet.

And this won't be an auspicious beginning to the rants here. But one thing begs for immediate blogging because it's something that has appeared here before.

DB pointed out that the White House asked for authorization to use force in Iraq, not once, but twice. The first request was worded so broadly that the president would have been able to do just about anything he wanted. It never made it to a vote; instead a more narrow version passed. But that didn't stop the administration from acting as if the first one made it through, no problem.

Well, the White House is arguing that the authorization for use of force in Afghanistan is what gives Bush the legal authority to reinterpret the only law governing the process of spying domestically.

Guess what they're talking about in USA Today?

The congressional debate and vote took place Sept. 14, 2001, as the nation reeled from the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. It was the day Bush went to Ground Zero and, using a borrowed bullhorn, told workers there that "the people who knocked down these buildings will hear all of us soon!"

On Capitol Hill, the White House proposed a resolution that would give the president authority to "deter and prevent any related future acts of terrorism and aggression against the United States." Members from both parties objected that the language was too broad.

"It would have given him authority to do anything he wanted, anytime, anywhere," recalls Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. The wording was revised.

Just like Iraq. They asked for a blank check and acted as if they got it.

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

He's a uniter

I also want to speak to those of you who did not support my decision to send troops to Iraq: I have heard your disagreement, and I know how deeply it is felt. Yet now there are only two options before our country – victory or defeat. And the need for victory is larger than any president or political party, because the security of our people is in the balance. I do not expect you to support everything I do, but tonight I have a request: Do not give in to despair, and do not give up on this fight for freedom.

Right... that's why the administration refuses to allow Democrats to have private discussions about Iraq with them.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

F: Do I hear $30 billion?

Note: This is Part IV of a short series on the issue of the failure of our representatives in Washington to provide our first responders with the communications technology necessary to save lives. Part I | Part II | Part III.

We've talked for years about the importance of getting new spectrum in the hands of our first responders. But today that priority was a casualty of the clout that powerful interests wield in Congress and a process driven by gimmicks aimed at making a fiscally irresponsible budget more palatable.-- Senator John Kerry, Oct. 20, 2005, after Senator John McCain's proposal to expedite the spectrum transition was defeated

There is a big component in this story that DB has only mentioned in passing -- the auction.

While the federal government has designated some of the frequencies in the 700 MHz band for our first responders, the rest will be put up for auction. One of the reasons this part of the spectrum will be so good for emergency services is that broadcasts at 700 MHz can penetrate walls easily. This also makes it ideal for wireless broadband or WiMax. The government expects these auctions to bring in tens of billions of dollars. Some independent analysts suggest as much as $30 billion or more.

The Senate has set an auction date of Jan. 2009, preceding the April 7, 2009 deadline they set for the relinquishing of those frequencies to the public. The House deadline is Dec. 31, 2008 and the auction date they set is Jan. 7, 2008.

Keep this in mind as we take a look at the legislation.

First, let's look at some of the people who are pushing for a 2009 deadline. Here's FCC Chairman (and son of the former Secretary of State) Michael K. Powell, testifying before the Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Sept. 8 2004.

Of course, questions will be asked about what is the "right" hard deadline for the transition. In choosing 2009 as a target date for our plan, we focused on three potential benefits. First, because the Commission's tuner mandate becomes fully effective on July 1, 2007, having a deadline of 2009 will add millions more digital sets to the marketplace before analog signals are turned off. The tuner mandate and other market forces will also further drive down the costs of digital-to-analog converters during that time for those households still relying on analog broadcast television.

Further, a 2009 deadline would provide time to prepare the public on the impending end of the transition so they could take steps to prepare themselves in the natural course of replacing old sets.

Finally, under the current 85 percent statutory test, the added DTV 8 sets with tuners and the expansion of DBS local-into-local markets will help ensure that most of the country meets the 85% threshold, providing for a nationwide end to the transition rather than a piecemeal result. The ultimate benefit of the 2009 deadline, in conjunction with steps we already have taken, will be to reduce to a minimum the number of consumers reliant on analog broadcast television.

Whenever the transition ends, however, we recognize that there will be consumers that still tune into analog over-the-air television.

We've already addressed his first point. Sure, "a deadline of 2009 will add millions more digital sets" but so will a deadline of 2008, or (remember this testimony is from 2004) so would 2007. The same goes for his second point. How long does a minority of TV watchers need to get a gadget? Four or five years? How many first responders and disaster victims need to die before their needs outweigh the TV viewers who would be surprised by the need for a gadget subsidized by the American taxpayer? His third point doesn't seem to support 2009 in particular, just the need for a transition from analog to digital, a goal he concedes will not be fully met.

In short, no reason given by the FCC for choosing 2009 over an earlier date outweighs the needs of our public safety agencies. None.

On Oct. 20, 2005, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced an amendment that would have pushed the Senate's deadline up to April 7, 2007, but it was defeated 5-17 by the Commerce Committee. He introduced a 2008 amendment to the full Senate on Nov. 3 and it was defeated, 60-39.

Here's what our friend Ted Stevens said in arguing against McCain's amendment:

Mr. President, this amendment would close off the analog broadcasting too close to the auction of spectrum. We currently have an April 2009 date. The auction date is January of 2009. It is just too close together. The leases cannot be processed. There is no way those auction proceeds can be available until licenses are issued. This amendment would end analog broadcasts before the funds are available for the converter box fund or the translator conversion fund authorized by S. 1932. We need help in this transition. The amendment makes spectrum available to public safety groups before they can put it to use because we are informed public safety groups must have at least 3 years to prepare for the use of spectrum.

We are going to get them the spectrum. They will not be able to use it until we have the money to bring about the transition. I believe our whole committee should oppose this amendment.

DB thinks Stevens was confused because his dates do not make sense at all. He seems to be complaining that the dates are already "too close" together. McCain's amendment would have set the deadline ahead by two years. How would this be "too close" to the auction date? The House had no problem setting an auction date after the transition deadline.

Also, the auction date is an arbitrary date set by the Senate. It's not Halley's comet. They could change it if they wanted, which also counters his next point, that the auction funds would come in after the subsidies for the consumer tuners. And perhaps if the subsidies weren't an outrageous $3 billion for consumers (to hand over to digital tuner manufacturers, plus $200 million for the broadcasters) and the Congress wasn't hell-bent on cutting taxes for the wealthy, then coming up with a reasonable subsidy before receiving a windfall of tens of billions from the auction wouldn't be too much of a sacrifice for Congress to make for the people who risk their lives to protect us from disaster.

Lastly, Stevens says that it will take three years before they can use the technology. This is the most offensive distortion of all. Our first responders won't be able to spend any time implementing the new communications systems until they can use the frequencies. Call your state's firefighters association and ask them if they have time to even think about what technology they'll be using in three years. These groups are worrying about how to protect the shrinking budgets they have right now. If Stevens is correct about the three years, then 2009 won't be when they start using the system. It will be 2012.

And if they don't get the funds to pay for the set-top tuners until the auction in 2009, how in the world can our first responders start preparing to use their new gear? The funds for that equipment come from the same auction as the $3.2 billion for the tuners and broadcasters. Outrageous. [Edit: States can begin to apply for loans against those funds in October 2006. States must pay at least 20% of the cost of implementation.]

Remember, Congress and the Senate will determine the auction date. If they have a problem with the date, if they need the funds sooner, they can change it. The question is why don't they want to change the auction date? The answer? Money.

You see, the government is already auctioning off 90 MHz beginning in 2006. This is important because the Congressional Budget Office recommends the 2009 date for the 700 MHz band (all emphasis mine):

CBO estimates that the proceeds from the auction of the 60 megahertz now used by broadcasters would most likely total between $10 billion and $15 billion, with an expected value of about $12.5 billion. But offering the wireless industry a total of 150 megahertz within a two- or three-year time period, would probably result in lower bids in the 90 megahertz auction that will take place under current law.

In other words, waiting until 2009 will be more profitable. Auctioning the 700 MHz band sooner will hurt profits expected from the auctions already in the works. Our public safely and national security have to wait because Congress doesn't want to lose money.

And it's not even a sure thing. Here's what the CBO said in a report on the exact same topic in 1999 (all emphasis mine):

The overall effect of the transition's lasting beyond 2006 is that some of the anticipated benefits from the move to digital TV may not be available as originally planned. Of particular significance for policymakers is that receipts from the scheduled auctions of licenses for the use of spectrum formerly available for analog broadcasting are likely to be lower. Each year of delay expected in freeing up those frequencies in a given market reduces a potential bidder's valuation of the license by the bidder's annual cost of funds. For example, if bidders desired a 10 percent rate of return on their investment, a one-year delay in receiving use of the spectrum would reduce what they were willing to pay for their license by about 10 percent (although the correspondence is not always exact).

The entire thing is a gamble and in the balance are the people who make up America's most important line of defense, our first responders.

DB will take a closer look at the House bills and the politicians and lobbyists involved in this mess in the next installment. Unfortunately, that won't be for a few days as DB has a business trip planned (gotta work).

In the meantime, any help would be welcome. This is the hardest part... figuring out which corporations profit the most and which politicians care the most about those companies. It is clear that they care more about the money than about the lives of our first responders.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

F: Deadlines

Note: This is Part III of a short series on the issue of the failure of our representatives in Washington to provide our first responders with the communications technology necessary to save lives. Part I | Part II | Part IV.

LEE HAMILTON: Absolutely. This is a no-brainer. From the standpoint of responding to a disaster, the key responders must be able to talk with one another. They could not do it on 9/11, and as a result of that, lives were lost. They could not do it at Katrina. They still cannot do it. And we think this is... must be urgently considered and approved. Now, that's not the only problem.

TIM RUSSERT: Will it get fixed this week?

MR. HAMILTON: I don't know.


MR. HAMILTON: It's a close call.

MR. KEAN: No, it's not...

MR. HAMILTON: We don't know.

MR. KEAN: It's not going to be fixed this week because the best hope we have is a bill that fixes it by '09.

-- Chair and vice chair of the September 11 Commission, Republican Tom Kean and Democrat Lee Hamilton, on Meet the Press, Dec. 4, 2005

Before our first responders have the communication tools they need to protect themselves and American citizens in times of crisis, they will need equipment and training. It will probably take years for emergency service agencies across the country to get this equipment and even longer to train officers to use it and finally implement its usage.

According to the McKinsey Report, issued in August 2002 on behalf of the NYFD, UHF (ultra-high frequency) radios purchased by the department in 1999 had yet to be put into use (although an unsuccessful attempt had been made). It is no small task to introduce completely new technology, improvement though it may be, to large organizations who are involved in a never-ending battle to save people from disasters and tragedies.

But before our public safety agencies can even begin to think about this multi-year process of implementing new technology, they need the frequencies upon which they will be transmitting their communications. Those frequencies are in the 700 MHz band of the broadcast spectrum and they are currently occupied by television stations.

Our government, if it comes through at all, will ask us to wait until 2009 for that process to begin. It could be years after that before a firefighter can talk to a police officer responding to the same emergency. This is a country that landed a man on the moon only eight years after President Kennedy challenged us to do it. Despite the worst terror attacks in our nation's history, it will take eight years before our first responders even have a chance to start solving their communications problems. As far as DB is concerned, this is outrageous.

What are the obstacles that have prevented this transition from taking place already?

  • There are thousands of television stations in America. Until recently, many were broadcasting exclusively in the 700 MHz band. Today, most stations broadcast both an analog signal and a digital signal in a different part of the spectrum. Converting a television station from analog to digital is an expensive proposition, costing millions of dollars and, for many small stations, more money than they make in years, maybe in over a decade. In addition to the station itself, the repeaters in the area that catch the broadcast, amplify it and send it back out to cover a wider range... all these repeaters need to be upgraded as well. For many of these stations, the end result of the upgrade will be that they spent millions of dollars just to be able to continue broadcasting the same shows with the same revenues from the same advertisers.

  • There are millions of televisions that cannot receive DTV broadcasts without additional hardware. Simply turning off the 700 MHz band broadcasts would mean that millions of households, mostly lower-income families, would lose access to those stations.

DB would like to point out here, before discussing why these obstacles have been essentially overcome already, that both are about money. Money that the broadcasters would have to spend. Money that television viewers would have to spend... theoretically. We're talking about money as we talk about why our first responders have been forced to wait.

Let's take a look at the first obstacle -- thousands of stations that need to be switched to DTV. As of today, Dec. 10, 2005, there are 1,525 stations in 211 markets that are on record as delivering broadcasts in DTV.

Although Motorola is one of the companies with the most to gain by the transition to DTV (IBM, Intel, Microsoft, AT&T and others will be big winners, too), their study, "700 MHz TV Clearing and its Impact on TV Viewership," says the following:

First, only 75 stations, equaling 5% of the 1500 U.S. TV stations, impact public safety's availability of its 700 MHz band spectrum. Second, Motorola's analysis of independent television industry data shows that on average, only 14% of the TV households who have the option to view these stations actually do so at all and that of those viewing, 82% watch by cable. This means that, on average, only 3% of the TV households within these stations' coverage areas tune to these stations over-the-air sometime during an average week. Therefore, the public interest benefits of clearing the 700 MHz spectrum for public safety access nationwide no later than December 31, 2006, far outweigh those of allowing it to stay encumbered by television.

That report was issued in February 2004. Those numbers have to be even lower today. In other words, the television stations will be ready to go all digital long before 2009. You could argue that they are ready right now.

Second -- the consumers and their outdated televisions. The Government Accountability Office recently estimated that there are 21 million households relying on outdated televisions. As noted by Motorola, there are relatively few viewers who will be impacted by the change. Just by virtue of a having a hard deadline, those consumers will be motivated to acquire a digital tuner, so the demand will be higher and manufacturers will have an incentive to develop better technology.

These numbers have no choice but to get even lower. The FCC is already requiring (since July 2005) that all 35-inch and higher TVs sold in America (and 50% of 25-inch-plus) have a built-in digital tuner and, since March 2006, that all 25- to 35-inch TVs. Starting March 1, 2007, the you will not be able to buy a new 13-inch TV without one. That's in three and a half months.

A Joint Economic Committee study, "The Transition to Digital Television: Setting a Hard Date Benefits Society," issued in October, adds that many of the older televisions might be used exclusively for DVD's or video games. It also makes the following point:

In previous decades, owners of Beta video players and 8-track tape players discovered that they could no longer purchase content for their machines because manufacturers of content had switched to alternative formats. Over the past decade, owners of phonograph record and cassette collections have found it difficult to purchase the equipment needed to listen to them. In none of these cases was there public pressure for either the industry or Congress to preserve the worth of past purchases.

Let's do the math. A digital tuner, manufactured in the numbers that would be required, will cost around $50 a unit. Even if every one of those 21 million estimated households needed to buy one, that would cost $1.05 billion. The real number is probably half of that.

The Senate has already passed legislation (S.1932 Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 2005), courtesy of Alaska "Bridge-to-Nowhere" Republican Ted Stevens, that would dole out $3 billion of taxpayer money so that everybody can get a DTV tuner. Think about that for a minute... $3 billion. The bill would take any of that $3 billion not spent and add it to the $1.25 billion devoted to first responders, but that whopping excess could have been aimed for that purpose to begin with. And the bill provides $200 million for the remaining low-power broadcast stations to get up to date with DTV. Let's face it, whether the money goes to the broadcasters or the companies making the tuners, Washington is making sure that we all take care of them.

So, as far as DB is concerned, there is absolutely no reason to say that we need to wait any longer to begin the transition.

So why do we need to wait until 2009? In the next installment, DB will discuss the auction.

Part IV is here.

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F: Incommunicado

Note: This is Part II of a short series on the issue of the failure of our representatives in Washington to provide our first responders with the communications technology necessary to save lives. Part I | Part III | Part IV.

A NYPD helicopter pilot reported early, before the fall of the South Tower, that the North Tower was going to fall, but the fire chiefs did not hear of this. When the pilot saw that the South Tower was falling his announcement to police command was instant, and police command issued a forceful and robust order to evacuate the remaining building and to move all department vehicles to safety. Notwithstanding that this was a successful communication that resulted in the saving of many lives, the fire chiefs did not hear this order.

The command of the North Tower was covered with debris when the South Tower fell, and Chief Joseph Pfeifer, in complete darkness, gave the order, "All units in Tower One evacuate the building."

Just how many firefighters escaped in the twenty-nine minutes from Chief Pfeiffer's order is not certain, but we do know that one police officer, at least five Port Authority police officers, and 121 firefighters were killed when the second tower collapsed. Others were killed on the street, including four ESU 5 officers and a number of other firefighters who had successfully evacuated the building. -- 9/11 testimony of Dennis Smith, June 19, 2004

The 9/11 Commissioners Monday gave our government an 'F' for its lack of progress in improving the communications capabilities of our first responders. What exactly is the problem the government needs to be addressing and what are the recommended solutions?

The problems are, in a nutshell:

  • The radio systems that different agencies use are not "interoperable." If the police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and other agencies all arrive at the scene of a catastrophe, they cannot speak directly to one another through the radios they are carrying. They have to be routed through other systems, costing them precious time. The astronauts in the space station have a more direct line of communication with NASA than a firefighter has with a police helicopter 100 feet above his head.

  • The frequencies that are used by these public safety agencies are too limited to deliver the valuable information that your iPod can display. We always see television shows where the police beam satellite photos, X-rays, bomb diagrams, etc... to officers on the scene or in an impressive "war room" lined with flat-panel displays. The reality is that the first responders, who selflessly run into horrific situations to protect us, don't have the kind of bandwidth to move more than their voices.

  • The frequencies devoted to the first responders are not ideal for mission-critical applications. What could be more mission-critical than life-or-death situations like accidents, terror threats or natural disasters? And yet, the frequencies that we give to the people upon whom we depend to risk everything for us are inadequate for the task. In a society in which average citizens consider switching cell phone carriers if they cannot make dinner plans on the elevator, it is a travesty that our first responders are out of touch with each other in the middle of dire situations. The frequencies they use are in "crowded" areas of the broadcast spectrum and there is often interference, especially in urban areas.

Bottom line: Our first responders need a bigger and better slice of the broadcast spectrum and more advanced equipment in order to take advantage of that bandwidth.

What is the spectrum?

If you go on a picnic and take an AM/FM radio to tune in your favorite station, you are pulling radio waves out of the air. The rate at which a wave moves in a single cycle (up, then down, then back up again) is what is called the "frequency." When you tune your radio to a particular station, you're pulling waves that correspond to that station's assigned frequency. The station licenses use of that frequency from the government. That is because all the frequencies in the nation's airspace belong to the public.

Here are some maps of the nation's frequency assignments. Looking at those maps, you can see that there's not a great deal that isn't designated for something already.

The important frequencies for this discussion are in the 700 MHz band of the spectrum, the area in which television stations have been broadcasting for years. Because of innovations in DTV, or Digital Television, stations are also broadcasting on frequencies that have been allocated for that purpose. Over 1,500 stations are currently broadcasting in both analog and digital, at a large expense to them. DB should also point out here that the procedures and effort involved in spectrum reassignment by the government are not trivial and a tremendous amount of work went into devising a way to assign these additional frequencies.

Congress passed laws requiring television stations to relinquish their control of frequencies in the 700 MHz band, but only when enough consumers (85%) in a given area have the capability to receive DTV broadcasts. Once they have been returned to the public, some of the old TV frequencies in this range can be used by public safety agencies.

Here's one of the sticky points: There are millions of televisions that cannot receive DTV broadcasts. If you have cable TV or a satellite, that probably doesn't matter because the box that your cable company provides does all the tuning and digital conversion before passing the picture and sound to your television. If you don't subscribe to cable and just have a pair of "rabbit ears" on top of your TV, you are pulling the broadcast from the 700 MHz band and your TV will go dark when the station stops broadcasting analog and only broadcasts digital. At that point, you will need to get a DTV tuner for your television, a new television with a DTV tuner, or you will need to subscribe to cable or satellite and use their tuner.

All the debates about this issue have to do with these 700 MHz band frequencies. They will eventually be relinquished by the television broadcasters. When that happens, the government will immediately give some of them to the public safety agencies (who will then require addition time, years even, before they have the equipment and training to use them). Other frequencies in this band will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. The government expects to make tens of billions of dollars from these auctions.

DB thinks the first responders should have these frequencies as soon as possible. So do the 9/11 Commissioners. So did the authors of the Final Report Of The Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee (PDF), issued on (note the date) Sept. 11, 1996:

In the short term (within 5 years), approximately 25 MHz of new Public Safety allocations are needed. The present shortages can be addressed by making part of the spectrum presently used for television broadcast channels 60-69 available as soon as possible.

The reason the 9/11 Commissioners gave the government its 'F' is that a hard date for giving up the 700 MHz band has still not been mandated. There is legislation up for a vote right now that would set the date in 2009.

The next post here will be about that deadline. Why 2009? Why not sooner? What is holding it up? Who says we need more time? Who in Washington has proposed a sooner deadline? Who killed that proposal?

DB has been looking into the answers for those questions and could use some help. So far, the picture that's coming into focus isn't pretty.

Part III is here.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

F: Broken Promises

No responsibility is more fundamental and reflective of the nation's values than that of its Public Safety agencies. The citizens' legitimate expectation is that when their life or property is endangered, their government will respond. Vast federal, state, and local resources are committed to ensure this obligation is met. The effectiveness of police officers, fire fighters, emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, and other Public Safety officials is inextricably tied to communications capability. Today's communications environment, however, impedes meeting this responsibility. Rescuing victims of the World Trade Center bombing, who were caught between floors, was hindered when police officers could not communicate with fire fighters on the very next floor. Similarly, the inability to communicate among the agencies that had rushed to the Oklahoma City bombing site required resorting to runners to relay messages. The lack of sufficient, quality radio spectrum suitable for Public Safety use deters technological innovation, diminishes the responsiveness and effectiveness of Public Safety, and ultimately compromises the safety of the responding officers and of the very individuals seeking their help.

In the past five years, America has not done a spectacular job of helping those among us who need help the most. DB has found that, in general, advocacy on their behalf is often met with a suggestion that they "help themselves." We see this attitude manifested in tax cuts for the wealthy and federal aid cuts for students. We see it in the slashing of funds for school lunches and food stamps. We see it in New Orleans.

But there is one group of people who needs help and not a soul among us can say they either can or should solve their own problems. Nobody can say they don't take personal responsibility for their actions. And absolutely nobody, not a single person, can say that what they do isn't vital to our existence.

DB is talking about the firefighters, who run into burning skyscrapers. Police, who wade through disease-infested flood waters to look for victims. DB's talking about our first responders, the people upon whom we can always count to step up to the challenges we face as a nation when disaster's course is inevitably cast.

The 'F' our government earned Monday for the lack of motion on the issue of communications for our first responders was labeled a "scandal" by the 9/11 Commissioners. DB objects to the word. Americans are used to scandals in Washington.

This 'F' is no scandal. It is a complete dereliction of duty by our representatives in Washington and a betrayal by the government in its responsibilities to our first responders. It is quite simply a breach of a sacred promise by the president: a vow to keep America safe after 9/11.

Every talking head Monday mentioned the failing grades. The word "communications" was bandied about in a torrent of other topics. But did anybody watching the news hear an explanation from any member of the government or media as to why the police cannot communicate with the firefighters at the same location? Did anybody explain why there have been delays in fixing the problem or for how long the possible solutions have been discussed?

All we heard is that our first responders -- from here on out, DB will refer to them as "heroes" because that is what they are -- will not get the "frequencies" they need to communicate until 2009. We heard groans because it seems like we have lost our sense of urgency... it seems like a long time after Sept. 11, 2001.

The reality is, however, that this problem did not begin on Sept. 11, 2001. That quote at the beginning of this post is from Sept. 11, 1996.

It is the introduction to the Final Report Of The Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee (PDF), presented to the FCC five years to the day before our lives changed forever and containing conclusions such as the following (emphasis mine):

This report identifies a number of approaches that can provide Public Safety with enhanced communications capabilities — higher quality transmission, access to emerging technologies, and availability of a broader range of services — immediately and in the long term. The first is allocation of additional spectrum for Public Safety. This entails reallocating spectrum from other uses and/or adding Public Safety uses to already allocated bands through sharing.


It is likely that widely accepted use of commercial services may take longer than five years. The need for spectrum to provide interoperability is immediate, and the alternatives for short-term solutions are limited.

Public safety cannot afford to wait five or more years for spectrum relief assistance from the commercial sector as a solution to pressing interoperability problems today. By the time commercial services become more widely used for Public Safety applications, the amount of spectrum needed to accommodate yet-to-be-discovered applications will likely increase with those new requirements.

The infuriating truth is that the delays have less to do with the lack of urgency that undoubtedly exists in Washington and more to do with avarice.

Avarice from the corporations that have resisted and continue to resist the relinquishing of publicly-owned frequencies. Avarice from our representatives in Washington, who are deliberately stalling in the hopes that these frequencies they intend to auction off to the highest bidder might be worth more money in 2009 than in 2007.

The technology and laws are quite complicated. The reason for the delays is that simple.

There will be times in the future, as there have in the past, when lives will be lost, heroes will die, because our government is more interested in profits than in its solemn duty to protect us. The reason we do not turn on the news and hear about the lobbyists who are fighting to stall the handing over of those frequencies is that it is the broadcasters and cable companies themselves who are resisting the transition. Politicians are not eager to engage in a battle with the corporations who control the television and radio stations that broadcast to their constituents. It is our national interest that is sacrificed.

The next few posts here will all be about this topic. DB will try to explain the basics of the technological challenges and the solutions that have been proposed. We will discuss the billions of dollars that are being promised and projected. We will discuss the reasons that have been given for the 2009 date and whether any of those reasons hold up to scrutiny. We will also discuss the interest groups, politicians and government agencies involved in this sorry affair.

DB will also ask for help... help getting information and help motivating Senators and Congressional Representatives who have cast votes on this issue and will cast more. There are associations who represent our heroes and there may be things you can do to help them. Some of these groups have to fight so hard to defend their budgets today that they can't even consider fighting big battles for equipment they won't get for several years.

DB is no expert in this arena. There is a tremendous amount that is unknown to this blogger and very few people DB has spoken to have been forthcoming. Many seem to be as in the dark as DB was when beginning this quest for answers. There will be big blanks that someone else can fill in. There will also be some mistakes here and when they are pointed out, DB will correct them if possible.

DB does not pretend to be the sole possessor of truth and knowledge. This endeavor began with a simple question: What is possibly holding things up and why isn't anybody talking about it? Hopefully this blog will get some visitors with some real insight.

One thing is clear: There are powerful people who obviously don't want a national conversation about any of this. But these are important questions and it is apparently up to those of us on the Internet and in the public square to get to the bottom of this problem and hold our government accountable. Our lives, quite frankly, depend on it.

Part II can be found here.

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The War on Horror

I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I'm gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that. -- Bill O'Reilly, Dec. 2, 2005

There you have it -- a home-grown American horrorist!

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Failing America

DB is a little thin on posting right now. Working to get to the bottom of why the 9/11 Commissioners gave the government one of its F's this week.

The issue behind all the F's seems to be money. Congress is putting money ahead of lives. Some of the ineffectiveness of the government in this regard is a basic reluctance to spend, compounded by a disappointing lack of urgency.

The particular failure this blogger is considering seems to stem from avarice. It is difficult for someone as admittedly out of the loop and far from Washington as DB to know all the facts. But in this case, there are practically no obvious specific causes for the failure and many on the Hill who are fighting to solve the problem seem unwilling to identify the forces working against them. The few who have pointed fingers really haven't made the case.

At some point in the near future, DB will feel confident enough to shine a light on this issue, or make a plea for help from the online community. It seems clear now that there will be no help from the MSM.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Chess Bitch

How could DB resist linking to this?


Monday, December 05, 2005

Now, who wants ice cream?

WOLF BLITZER: At this time of holiday purchases, Christmas shopping, people going to a Wal-Mart and other stores, they see a lot of products made in China. The deficit, the trade deficit, with China this year is projected to be at $200 billion.

In other words, they're going to export to this country $200 billion more than we export to China. And that number has been escalating over these years. Is that good for the U.S. economy?

JOSH BOLTEN, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: Well, trade overall is absolutely good for the U.S. economy. Keep in mind, Wolf, that the United States is the world's largest exporter. We have a lot of jobs tied up in that. We have a lot of revenue tied up in that.

To the extent that we can import as well, the U.S. consumer gets access and U.S. businesses get access to low priced goods that help us be competitive in the long run. There's no question in my mind and in the minds of everybody in this administration that keeping an open trading system is crucial to sustaining the growth in this economy over the long run.

BLITZER: Josh Bolten, we'll leave it there. Thanks very much for joining us.

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Culture Wars: The Media Menace

DB thinks anybody who would burn an American flag is a piece of crap.

DB also thinks any politician who tries to score political points by trying to outlaw the pathetic act is also a piece of crap. Especially on the day in which the 9/11 Commission members give Congress a string of F's for its progress on the crucial job of protecting America.

DB also thinks that any network that labels a flag-burning debate part of the fabled "Culture Wars" is... wait for it... a piece of crap.

Thanks to Hillary and CNN for the inspiration behind this message.

Iraq, you look mahvelous!

Even though the agonizing Christopher Hitchens should be sent a bill for the head bandage DB needed after reading his lede, "This time, someone really does have to be fired," at least he touched on the reasons why propaganda aimed at "our side" is a really bad idea as far as how it plays on the street in Iraq.

DB already argued that the administration's mendacity hits its nadir when they plant that overseas propaganda to sway opinions here at home.

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

GOP: We think Christians are stupid

Crooks & Liars has the screen grab of the week from Fox News, with a crawler begging the had-to-be-asked question: "ECONOMIC DISASTER IF LIBERALS WIN THE 'WAR ON CHRISTMAS'?"

Here's what Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff's partner (and former Tom DeLay aide) Michael Scanlon wrote in an email, as reported last month by

"The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees," Scanlon wrote in the memo, which was read into the public record at a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them." The brilliance of this strategy was twofold: Not only would most voters not know about an initiative to protect Coushatta gambling revenues, but religious "wackos" could be tricked into supporting gambling at the Coushatta casino even as they thought they were opposing it.

Vote Republican, wackos, or Christmas will be lost forever!

DB is hopefully just one of millions of Americans who is sick of these greedy, lying, corrupt SOB's coming into our homes and churches to trick good, honest people into thinking they share our decency.

Prove me right, America. I beg you.

UPDATE: DB forgot to mention that this topic will not appear here again. Debating a war on Christmas is exactly what the GOP wants all the news shows to be doing.

  • Instead of talking about the actual war they have lied us into.
  • Instead of talking about the soldiers who will never celebrate another Christmas.
  • Instead of talking about the residents of New Orleans, who will no doubt have an awfully difficult Christmas.
  • Instead of talking about the Republicans who are asking Santa to put a get-out-of-jail free card in their stockings.

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Friday, December 02, 2005

Tell the Lincoln Group to STICK IT

One debating tactic used in Washington is the isolation of one narrow aspect of a subject -- a point that can either be won or fought to an acceptable stalemate. DB calls that point a "stick," a term derived from the football scheme in which defenders line up at "the sticks" -- the line the offense must cross to get a first down. It's a low risk play of semi-concession for the defense, who are not going for a sack or anything; a nine-yard gain by the offense will still result in a turnover on downs.

Where the analogy comes up short is that in football, passing the sticks may be the offense's goal. In a debate, the stick is a distraction from a more relevant point of debate. But it's DB's analogy and we're, well... sticking to it.

For example, torture. Is it effective? Or will people just lie and say anything to stop the pain? An interesting academic debate.

And completely irrelevant to DB.

Why? Because torture is immoral and un-American. Period. Any time spent debating the effectiveness of torture is a waste of time that could otherwise be used to remind people what it is that we stand for as Americans -- in this case, humane treatment of prisoners and respect for the law. Is torture effective? Is selling meth to teenagers profitable? Who cares? They're both wrong.

Simple right? So why bring this up today? Because it is the preferred tactic of those who would tell us that the spreading of propaganda in Iraq is justified.

DB has heard three arguments in favor of the Pentagon's actions:

  • The stories that were planted are all "true"
  • It is an effective strategy and our troops need every break they can get
  • This is a time of war and overseas disinformation is ethical

All three points are sticks.

1. Are the stories really "true?" Who knows? It depends upon whether they're opinions or factual reports of progress. It depends upon how much information has been omitted and how much has been included. Are the included facts "cherrypicked?" DB hasn't read these stories and won't. It simply doesn't matter. One thing DB does know is that this administration doesn't have a whole lot of credibility when it comes to telling the truth.

2. Is propaganda effective? Some believe it is, others do not. While DB thinks there are certain examples of disinformation and propaganda that are helpful in a time of war, it is the opinion of this blogger in regards to the current situation in Iraq that the risks outweighed the rewards and that there exist far more effective, less cynical and less costly ways of aiding and protecting our troops while winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

3. Is it unethical to use propaganda overseas during a war? This is the classic stick -- a nice hypothetical/philosophical question when there is an actual event to evaluate. Bush destroyed Kerry with this kind of stick when the president got his opponent to clarify his views on the doctrine of preemption and his "global test" while Bush's actual elective war was being waged.

All three of these debates should be immediately dismissed and the focus should remain on the following:

This administration already poisoned these waters with its similar domestic tactics.

Paying Armstrong Williams and others, granting media access to fake journalists like Jeff Gannon and creating fake news to promote their domestic agenda at home has destroyed any chance the administration had to innocently claim that these tactics are acceptable because of the unique situation in Iraq and the war.

This administration has a record of using the media as an echo chamber for propaganda at home.

As Maureen Dowd pointed out on David Letterman this week and as Arianna Huffington praised Chris Matthews for repeating, the Bush Administration planted dubious and outright false information in the papers, not only to support their claims, but timed to exactly precede key television appearances by members of the administration. This way, people like Condi Rice and Dick Cheney could point to the stories the administration planted as confirmation of its own claims.

The U.S. borders do not protect its citizens from receiving administration propaganda.

In his excellent piece in Rolling Stone, James Bamford writes:

By law, the Bush administration is expressly prohibited from disseminating government propaganda at home. But in an age of global communications, there is nothing to stop it from planting a phony pro-war story overseas -- knowing with certainty that it will reach American citizens almost instantly. A recent congressional report suggests that the Pentagon may be relying on "covert psychological operations affecting audiences within friendly nations." In a "secret amendment" to Pentagon policy, the report warns, "psyops funds might be used to publish stories favorable to American policies, or hire outside contractors without obvious ties to the Pentagon to organize rallies in support of administration policies."

We hear over and over from administration allies that the MSM fails to report all the good news. But when they turn around and point to the "good news" reported in Iraq, they are (willingly or otherwise) fulfilling this psychological operation performed on Americans by our own government.

That the military reporters have an obligation to censor sensitive information is a given that any reasonable American must accept. That they will report "good news" and limit "bad news" is a reality that should also be accepted despite the fact that it is somewhat unpalatable.

But a strategy by the administration to plant stories in Iraq, or anywhere else outside our borders, in concert with an effort at home to point to the propaganda in an effort to push their agenda here is entirely unacceptable to DB.

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Still here

DB took a little vacation... will again soon. But since DB has no illusions about the importance of this blog, the upside is there is no guilt involved in unexplained disappearances. Gotta love upside.