Daniel's blog

Would MLK be treated as a terrorist today?

I saw this new article on WorkingforChange.com via Alternet:

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Martin Luther King: Terrorist?
Full article at
http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=17594.

This article should be read in the light of the definition of "Domestic Terrorism," contained in 18 USC 2331 -

" (5) the term ``domestic terrorism'' means activities that--
(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended--
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

A few choice quotes from the article:

"He would be decried, by powerful figures inside and outside government, as at worst a domestic terrorist, at best a publicity seeking menace whose criticisms of America gave comfort to our unseen enemies.

"snip"

The powerful black religious networks that produced King and so many other courageous civil rights leaders would be attacked by federal prosecutors as providing financial support for terrorism. Church groups' tax exemptions would be lifted; records would be seized. Charges would be brought, perhaps under federal RICO statutes or Patriot Act provisions. The FBI harassment that hounded King throughout his career would today be fiercer, and subject to no judicial oversight.

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I should say that
Alternet and
WorkingForChange are not much more "Fair and Balanced" in outlook than Fox News is. However, they state their biases up front, which Fox does not.

Are there any legal types out there willing to offer an interpretation of 18 USC 2331 (5), specificaly if all three points mentioned:

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by
intimidation or coercion; or
iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping;

must be fulfilled to be terrorism or whether only ONE of the three conditions needs to be met. If the latter, then it seems like the plain purpose of the Civil Rights marches was to "coerce" the American government and broader society to grant broader rights to blacks. Hence King would have been guilty of fomenting "Domestic Terrorism," as would Gandhi if a similar law existed in India.

Then again, I suppose any teenagers went on the marches without the permission of their parents, then the government could have added "kidnapping" charges as well -- thus fulifilling the full criteria for Domestic Terrorism.

Thanks for listening. Merton really is coming soon -- probably Thursday. - Daniel

Countryside Journal - Good Read / Practical Advice

I'm writing this entry especially for urban librarians and librarians who live at the edge of rural areas.

Try checking out Countryside Magazine. It is a print publication whose web site contains selected articles from issues going back to 1998. It is an extremely plain spoken magazine catering to the needs of homesteaders and people wanting to make a break for the country.

Some recent articles have included:

Practical Solar Power

How To Make Vinegar

Thinking About A Homestead Enterprise?

Every issue also hosts a whole bunch of recipes. Some are written by editorial staff and others are sent in by readers. I have found good recipes for pita bread, hummus, and oat cakes. Whether or not you live in the country, there will be something you or your patrons can use.

Part of what I think is great about Countryside is that no monthly issue sugarcoats rural life. Every issue has stories from people across the country making the homesteading life work. Even the ones who love what they are doing speak in great detail about how hard it all is.

The bottom line is that if you feel have have people interested in old-time recipes, frugality, or chucking the city life for the country, you would be doing them a favor by subscribing to Countryside. Alternative energy patriots would also benefit from a subscription.

If you already subscribe to EBSCO MasterFile Premier, you can already read Countryside Magazine online. As someone who's read entire issues online as well as in paper, I can tell you that the PDF version through EBSCO can't compete with a paper copy. At least on a computer screen. Maybe it would be okay on a reading tablet with an 8 1/2 x 11 screen.

Bush-Hatred Part II - Some bad policies are bipartisan

In my last post, I stressed the importance of focusing on policies rather than riduculing or demeaning an individual, say President Bush.

One of the reasons I think this is important is because some of the worst policies of the past few years have had bipartisan support. A few examples:

2001 "Bush Tax Cut" - This passed a Democrat controlled Senate and is one factor among several contributing to our $400 Billion Deficits.

The USA PATRIOT Act - Atty Gen Ashcroft is absolutely correct when he states this passed Congress by HUGE margins. All the current regret from some of the Dem pres candidates doesn't change that vote. They were weak and rushed when we needed them to be strong. I shouldn't blame them too much -- their offices were contaminated with Anthrax when they passed the thing.

We should also remember that most of the measures in USA PATRIOT were proposed by the Clinton Administration in 1996. Congress didn't pass it then because they didn't trust the executive with that much power.

The Iraq War - Dennis Kucinich ALONE of the Dem candidates IN CONGRESS voted against the war. Kerry and others remain proud of their votes, even if they quibble about intelligence.

I'm not saying you should vote for Kucinich, but I am saying that you should make sure that you are FOR someone who has at least some of the same positions that you do rather that AGAINST the Filthy, Psychotic Babbling Cowboy Bush and wind up with someone who happily carries out the Bush program. Someone like, say, John Kerry or Joe Lieberman.

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Viewers Note -- My next post is going to leave politics behind. I have some final quotes from Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation and a magazine recommendation for you.

Since there will be enough political commentary between now and November to fill the Galaxy, I'll try to restrain myself from overtly political commentary unless it somehow involves government documents.

Why I won't be buying "Bush-Hater's Handbook"

This week I got an e-mail solicitation to purchase:

"The Bush-Hater's Handbook: A Guide to the Most Appalling Presidency of the Past 100 Years"

The e-mail quoted Bob Fertik, co-founder of Democrats.com as saying: "Bush-hating is a
demanding vocation. Beginners simply hate Bush's character--ignorant, warmongering, and contemptuous of those who dare to question him.
Intermediates cite Bush's theft of the presidency, turning a $5 trillion surplus into a $5 trillion deficit, destroying 3 million jobs, and waging a war of lies in Iraq. But advanced Bush-haters need an in-depth understanding of the devastation Bush has wrought at home and abroad. From AIDS to the 'War on Terrorism,' from Ashcroft to welfare 'reform,' there is no better guide to Bush's reign of horror than The Bush-Hater's Handbook."

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If you want to explore the "Bush-Hater's Handbook" in more detail, go to http://www.nationbooks.org/book.mhtml?t=huberman. This book may well have a place in libraries, as might Richard Perle's new book "The End of Evil", but I don't plan to purchase either book.

My particular problem with this book starts with the title and the attitude expressed by Mr. Fertik, which I know is shared by many otherwise reasonable people. That of total visceral hatred of the President and his minions, which extends to bloody frothing and frequent crude humor.

I do hate many of the President's unjust and unwise policies. Many of these policies, especially that of "preventive war" will eventually destroy this country if continued indefinitely.

However, as Gandhi teaches, it is VITAL that we separate our anger at his policies from personal hatred of the man. In Christian tradition, "Hate the sin, but love the sinner."

Why is it vital? In my view, for two basic reasons related to November. First, focusing our hatred on the man, taking it out in crude humor, painting swastikas on his ties, etc, takes away energy that could be used to better explain the President's failed policies and more importantly, formulate some authentic alternatives. Second, the more we accept the originally Republican label of "Bush Hater," the easier Karl Rove's work is as he helps push the meme of "The hate Bush/Hate America" crowd. We sadly live in a society increasingly accepting of bald propaganda -- think of the "Saddam did 9/11" thinking that held (still holds?) more than half the country in thrall -- even though even the DoD disavowed a connection when they had a chance to have a "See I told you so!" moment. In the same way, the more that Republicans can say:

Democrats hate Bush
Hatred of Bush = Hatred of America
Therefore, Democrats HATE America

They can still TRY if we focus on the policies the President is pursuing, but it will be much harder to fool "middle America" if we're not flinging obscenties and ridiculing our enemies.

Going back to the example of Gandhi, he often stated that he hated every last brutal, unjust policy of the British Gov't in India, but he wished nothing but health and blessings for the Governor-General and prayed each night that the Governor would be converted to right and justice. Gandhi's approach did eventually lead to home rule. If we adopt his ways in our politics, perhaps we can convince the 5% or so of our opponents we need to send Mr. Bush back to Crawford. We sure won't get there by calling them mindless evil ones following their dark lord.

BB Watching Vegas / Almanacs vs. Guns

UPDATE: Newsweek reports that the names the FBI collected (see below) were searched against some master terror list. The full story can be read at
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/3868332/.

My concerns about the FBI needing EVERY name, and doubts about the accuracy and comprehensiveness of federal terror watch lists remain. Better that they should come up with a system like the National Instant Background Check that gun dealers use.

ORIGINAL STORY
1) Big Brother is watching you go to Vegas

To those who truly believe that our civil liberties have not been threatened since 9/11, check out the article, "Casinos, Airlines ordered to give FBI information" at http://www.casinocitytimes.com/news/article.cfm?contentID=140114

For at least the past few weeks, Las Vegas hotel operators and airlines serving McCarran Int'l Airport have been required to turn over ALL guest and passenger names and personal information. According to hotel operators who asked not be identified, this information includes: names, addresses and personal id information, but not casino records or guest gambling information. An FBI spokesman in the article confirms the request, but said "at this point" they were only collecting names. The article estimates that as many as 300,000 visitors A DAY were having at least their names passed to the FBI.

All but one of the hotel operators turned over their information simply on request. The one operator demanded a "National Security Letter" before complying. Remember, a "National Security Letter" requires neither probable cause nor judicial review.

This appears to be a waste of time and tax dollars in addition to a significant invasion of privacy. I'm not an intel expert but this seems like an open-ended fishing expedition that is meaningless as intelligence -- particularly if they truly are only collecting names. Remember how many false positives the No-Fly-Lists keep turning up?

What's happening with these names once they reach the FBI? Are they being searched against a database of known terrorists? I could ALMOST live with that, except that I know the GAO has reported serious factual and technical problems with the ten plus lists floating around the federal gov't. They should fix their database first, then collect names. If they're looking for one or two specific people out of 300K daily, they should just pass on those names, preferably with bio info. Call them car theives if you don't want to panic people.

Based on the gov't's past care for personal info (dating back decades), I'm willing to believe that that all these names, plus identifying information is flowing into some database for some future, yet unkown purpose -- CAPPS II? TIA II? Who knows? I just don't think it's the feds business if I go to Vegas.

2) Almanacs vs. Guns - Does anyone else think it's sadly funny that you can trace the buyer of an almanac using Section 215 of USAPA, but the FBI is PROHIBITED from using the National Instant Background Check Database from determining if a terror suspect has bought a gun? Which would fill you with more fear at your local McDonalds -- someone browsing an Almanac at the next table, or someone standing in front of the exit with an automatic pistol?

I just find it just short of infuriating that with this growing National Security State, so much is being done to track ordinary people and so little is being done that would actually make us safer -- there are still tens of thousands of shipping containers that go uninspected each and every day.

Book recommendations / nondenominational prayer

I had a chance to read CS Lewis' "Commentary on the Psalms" today. I can definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in the Psalms. Very down to earth, as many of his books are. Not a psalm by psalm annotation, but a series of essays on different themes.

Another book I've started reading is called Sun in Glory and other Tales of Valdemar, edited by Mercedes Lackey. Those familiar with the world of Valdemar will enjoy this book, even though they are written by other writers.

Strangely, even though this isn't a religious book, there is a wonderful prayer that I wanted to share with whomever might be interested. Although the prayer is addressed to Vkandis the Sunlord, the sentiment can be adapted to any faith tradition of good will:

"Vkandis Sunlord, Giver of Life and Light, be with us today. We praise you, we honor you, we keep you in our hearts and minds. What is good and true, help us to do and become. What is hateful and cruel, aid us in denying. We offer this day to you, Sunlord, and seek your blessings on all that we do."

Praise the Lord -- Keep him in our hearts and minds. Help us to do what is good and true. Help us reject what is hateful and cruel. God we offer this day to you and ask your aid in our work during it.

That seems like as sincere a prayer as you can get! Would that more of our national leaders who claim Christianity would pray that prayer!

Take care,

Happy New Year / Moral Theology of the Devil - Thomas Merton

A Happy New Year to everyone! May everyone find rich blessings irrespective of their faith tradition. May those without a faith tradition diligently seek and live truth as they understand it. As God is Love, so God is Truth.

As a committed Christian, I am the first to confess that the humans who embody my tradition have often failed (sometimes in spectacular ways) to live up to either Love or Truth. May God forgive us these failures and empower us to live according to God's Love and not according to our fears and pride.

As I write these words from Alaska, it is about 19 degrees (F) with winds up to 50mph. Sunrise is 8:46am and Sunset will be at 3:17pm. Mountains around my home cut off about an hour on either side of that figure. If I'm lucky enough to have readers, then PLEASE click on the comments links and let me know how the weather was on YOUR New Year's Day.

Ok. Now I'm ready to discuss "The Moral Theology of the Devil." This is Chapter 13 of Thomas Merton's "New Seeds of Contemplation." If I didn't support copyright as strongly as I do, I would key in the entire chapter into this blog, I think it is so important. As it is, I STRONGLY recommend that you consider ILL'ing the chapter if not the whole book. The citation for the book itself is:

Title: New Seeds of Contemplation
Author: Thomas Merton
Publisher: New Directions Publishing Company
Pub Year: 1961
ISBN: 0-8112-0999-x
LC Number: 61-17869

As I mentioned above. "Moral Theology of the Devil" is Chapter 13. I find this chapter important because it answers an important question about America's civil religion/nominal Christianity. How do we go from the radical love and self-sacrifice of Christ who healed his enemies to the fife-and-drum of the Presidential Prayer Team, which roots for a President to bring God's swift justice to the nations in the form of America's mailed fist?

Here are some quotes from Thomas Merton, written more than 40 years ago, that I think explain things:

"So, according to the devil, the first thing created was really hell--as if everything else were, in some sense, for the sake of hell. Therefore, the devotional life of those who are "faithful" to this kind of theology consists above all in an obsession with evil. As if there were not already enough evils in the world, they multiply prohibitions and make new rules, binding everything with thorns, so that man might not escape evil and punishment."

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"Not love but punishment is the fulfillment of the Law. The Law must devour everything, even God. Such is this theology of punishment, hatred and revenge. He who would live by such a dogma must rejoice in punishment. He may, indeed sucessfully evade punishment himself by "playing ball" with the Law and the Lawgiver. But he must take good care that others do not avoid suffering. He must occupy his mind with their present and future punishment. The Law must triumph. There must be no mercy."

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In referring to the "faith" that these sorts of people have as being a type of "magic" -- a "will power that is generated by 'profound convictions'", Merton writes:

"We will become popular because we have 'faith.' We will be rich because we have 'faith.' ALL OUR NATIONAL ENEMIES WILL COME AND LAY DOWN THEIR ARMS AT OUR FEET BECAUSE WE HAVE 'FAITH.' [Emphasis mine] Business will boom all over the world, and we will be able to make money out of everything and everyone under the sun because of the charmed live we lead. We have faith."

Is this not the public faith of the President, of Pat Robertson, and the backers of the Presidential Prayer Team? "God is ALLWAYS on our side, we have NO guilt whatsoever, and what we do, is good -- because it is of God?" If you disagree, click on the "comments" button and lets talk. Please look at my very first blog entry before posting.

Thanks for reading! I don't think most entries will be this long!

Tomeboy has a point about 9/11

In the recent discussion on the FBI alert on Almanacs, Tomeboy made this comment:

"The paradox that drives me mad is that many who decry supposedly draconian measures to thwart terrorism are the same ones demanding answers why Bush didn't know about 9/11 before hand. (except for Dean who believes he did). A discussion for another time."

I figured my journal would be a better place for this comment than another on the Almanac story.

I think it's definitely true that SOME civil libertarians protesting the PATRIOT Act, et al, are either saying 9/11 should have been known about about or, more darkly, that the President knew it was coming.

We civil libertarians should make it clear that we accept the risk of terroristic acts as part of the open society we want to live in. "Live Free or Die" was the cry of our founders, and it should be good enough for us today.

However, we should also point out that according to publically known information, the great failure of 9/11 wasn't the lack of intelligence per se, but a failure of agencies to share the information that they had. A few of these problems were addressed in the USA PATRIOT Act, but the most major -- the lack of coordination between FBI and CIA and the lack of translation resources for the National Security Agency were left unaddressed.

Additionally, I believe it can't fairly be said that the USA PATRIOT Act was meant "to fix the problems of 9/11" because 1) similar legislation had been proposed and rejected back in 1996, and 2) The Act was passed in Oct 2001, months and months before any reports on "what went wrong" were available.

One final note on 9/11 is that according to the minority authors of the Joint Intelligence report on 9/11, available through GPO Access, is that if standard visa procedures had been followed, 15 of the 19 hijackers would have been prevented entry. This might not have prevented 9/11, but probably would have diluted its impact.

Another blow to the free flow of information -DOD IG Reports

Two articles highlighting the increasing secrecy of the US Gov't and of the Defense Department in particular.

Secrecy News reports that the Dept of Defense Inspector General's new policy is
"Not only will classified information be banned from the web, as always, but so will all other information that has not been "specifically approved for public release," as well as "information that is of questionable value to the general public."

Secrecy News points out that although few of us wish to curl up at night with a DoD IG report, journalists and public accountability groups find them extremely helpful in identifying fraud, waste and abuse in our military that might otherwise be tolerated by an overworked Congress whose members live in terror of being "weak on national defense" by questioning DoD expenditures.

The Washington Post article cover other cases where information that could not possibly be of interest to terrorists (like the Energy Task Force members and minutes), but is of vital domestic interest is being removed or kept hidden from public view.

Sometimes lost in all of the ink about secrecy and erosion of civil liberties under President Bush is that nearly all Presidents since Wilson, and including President Clinton, have helped to expand what many people call the "National Security State."

Loss of information should not be a left/right issue -- it's a matter of basic democracy.

Quotes from Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation

In addition to my Library day job, I also helped set up and now volunteer alternate Sundays at my church library.

As a result, I've been reading a lot of Thomas Merton, whom you can read more about at http://www.merton.org/. My current Merton book is New Seeds of Contemplation, which you will be hearing from often in the next few weeks.

This morning I came across this quote about peace:

"If men really wanted peace they would sincerely ask God for it and He would give it to them. But why should He give the world a peace which it does not really want? The peace the world pretends to desire is really no peace at all.

To some men peace merely means the liberty to exploit other people without fear of retaliation or interference. To others peace means the freedom to rob others without interruption. To still others it means the leisure to devour the goods of the earth without being compelled to interrupt their pleasures to feed those whom their greed is starving. And to practically everybody else peace simply means the abscence of any physical violence that might cast a shadow over lives devoted to the satisifaction of their animal appetites for comfort and pleasure."

Hello World & tentative blog scheme

Having been reminded by one of Blake's automated e-mails that I have journal space here at LISNews.com, I will try to take advantage of it.

In case other people choose to read my musings, here is my current plan for updating this blog:

Frequency - Once a week, usually on weekends. I reserve the right to post more often, but know my own weaknesses well enough to realize that once a week is probably the freshest I can manage.

Topic - Ecletic! Most likely geared towards my personal readings (quotes I want to share, ocaisional reviews), postings about government documents and freedom of information, other items I think are even vaugly library related. The occaisional observations on the Imperial civil religion passing as Christianity in this country (I'll try to keep these to a minimum, but sometimes I can't help myself.)

Comment Response Policy - Since I can't picture many people reading this, maybe it's arrogant to HAVE a comments response policy. It's better to be safe than sorry:

1) I won't respond to comments with profanity whether or not I agree with your point of view. There is enough profanity on both sides of the political spectrum.

2) I don't feel compelled to respond on attacks on my patriotism.

3) If I'm not being clear in an item, never be afraid to let me know.

That's it for my intro! - Daniel

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