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Use Your Imagination

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Patricia Goldsmith

I'm tired of playing the self-defeating electoral game. We have no reason to expect that in 2006, after six years of rigged elections, everything is suddenly going to work. In 2006, HAVA will really kick in; our situation could well be worse.

I know in my own state of New York, lobbyists are busily flogging voting machines. Now and then I get a notice from a committed activist, and I write e-mails requesting optical scanners with paper ballots, but it's a pretty secret process. Responsibility for purchase decisions passed from the state level, where legislators could be attacked en masse, down to the county level, and I just have this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that the people in charge of choosing our new black box voting systems can be bought for a not-too-fancy lunch.

There's a lot of money sloshing around out there, and there's a lot of takers. Even Democrats are lobbying for Diebold et al. now, after years of being frozen out. Happy days!

The homophobic black preachers, the journalists taking payola, the 23-year-old Intelligent Design ignoramuses with jobs at NASA, and the good folks cutting deals for voting machines, on both ends of the transaction: yes, all the mosquitoes in this Okefenokee are so fat on our blood they can barely buzz. And this is the moment George W. Bush has chosen to declare himself dictator.

Of course, he's been acting like one for years now, but people weren't getting the point, and what's the fun of being dictator if nobody knows it?

But it's the way he has announced himself that has finally scared the bejesus out of congressional Thugs and the MSM: universal wiretaps. All the phone companies are in. The Bushitters have secured the whole flow of electronic communications.

Certain more moderate Bush-backers, like James Klurfeld of Newsday, have practically begged Bush to restore the fig leaf of a nominal law: ask for changes in the law if you need it, just ask:

What baffles me, however, is that there are no compelling national security reasons for Bush to have instituted his program of listening to the communications of U.S. citizens without a judicial warrant. . . .

Why isn't [FISA] enough for the Bush administration? And if it isn't why couldn't Bush have asked for an amendment to the law?

Claiming unfettered, unchecked, unbalanced power to protect national security is how dictators operate.

His puzzlement seems genuine, and anguished. Klurfeld, apparently a moderate Republican, ended the piece, which was entitled "Bush spying defense: Politically bright, legally dim," with the line, "This is truly scary."

He at least has the wit to be frightened. Tom Vilsack, the Democratric governor of Iowa who may be running for president, seems to have absolutely no inkling of the potential political uses of all the information that streams through the big switches at AT&T, Verizon, MCI, and Sprint, the phone calls, e-mails, and faxes of an entire nation. Deirdre Mulligan, Director of the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at the UC Berkeley School of Law, speculates as to how much power the telecom companies have given to BushCo:

That is probably the most troubling issue right now domestically. So, the telephone companies deal with the law enforcement apparatus of the United States government all the time. They have incredibly regular relationships. There are wiretaps going on all the time. And they know the rules, and they know that whoever came in and asked them to capture this information wasn't playing by them. And it's incredibly problematic that they were complicit in this and remained silent for so long. I mean, this has been going since 2001. And the fact that not a single telephone company stepped up and complained about this in a way that was public or even, you can imagine, to the intelligence communities of the House or the Senate, I think is just totally shocking. . . .

And the FBI, actually, or NSA, could position people at the telephone companies""right?""who are then able to kind of be there, and so the level of scrutiny that the telephone companies have over what the government officials who are engaged in listening in have, I'm not clear.

Now here's how Tom Vilsack, head of the Democratic Leadership Council, views our present constitutional predicament:

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Patricia Goldsmith is a member of Long Island Media Watch, a grassroots free media and democracy watchdog group. She can be reached at plgoldsmith@optonline.net.
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