Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Saturday, September 11, 2021 8:46 am

9/11 + 20

I’ve already said what I need to say about what we lost on 9/11 and in its aftermath — what we lost, and what we pissed away. So today, as is my habit on this anniversary, I’m directing you to what Sars Bunting wrote three days after 9/11, as haunting and elegiac as anything I’ve ever read on the subject.

Friday, September 11, 2020 8:37 am

“For Thou are with us …”

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:37 am
Tags: , ,

As is my custom on this day, I’m going back to read Sarah “Sars” Bunting’s post-9/11 essay, “For Thou Art With Us,” and I strongly urge you to do the same.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019 7:35 am

“For Thou art with us …”

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 7:35 am
Tags: ,

As is my custom on this day, I’m going back to read Sarah “Sars” Bunting’s post-9/11 essay, “For Thou Art With Us,” and I strongly urge you to do the same.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018 7:00 am

“For thou art with us …”

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 7:00 am

As is my custom on this day, I’m going back to read Sarah “Sars” Bunting’s post-9/11 essay, “For Thou Art With Us,” and I strongly urge you to do the same.

Monday, September 11, 2017 7:20 am

“For thou art with us …”

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 7:20 am

As is my custom on this day, I’m going back to read Sarah “Sars” Bunting’s post-9/11 essay, “For Thou Art With Us,” and I strongly urge you to do the same.

Sunday, September 11, 2016 7:15 am

“I didn’t really want to go downtown in the first place.”

As always on this date, I refer you to the gospel according to Sarah Bunting, “For thou art with us …”

We’ll talk soon.

Friday, September 11, 2015 8:48 am

For thou art with us

As always on this date, I find nothing to say that Sarah Bunting hasn’t already said better.

Friday, April 10, 2015 9:24 pm

I’ll just let the TSA rock you to sleep tonight; or, One random business traveller sees how it could happen

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 9:24 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I recently went on a business trip, which, unfortunately, involved interaction with the U.S. commercial aviation system. If you fly, I don’t have to tell you how pure-T miserable the experience has become. But this trip included a lagniappe.

I was flying back from … well, I won’t say, because I don’t want to get anyone in trouble. The important thing is that I had in my suitcase a box of the small Flip brand video cameras that we use in our work. The TSA at airports usually gets very interested in them, because on X-ray they and their accessories look like, well, a bunch of small, rectangular things with wires and batteries. In other words, awfully like a bomb.

So I wasn’t terribly surprised when they opened up my suitcase and took out the box, and then opened the box and emptied it completely. That had happened before. They emptied my suitcase completely, too, and checked everything for explosive residue. Finding none, they repacked it all (or so I thought), and my flight went on uncomfortably but uneventfully.

Only when I got home did I discover that one of the cameras was missing. I had counted them before we left the client’s offices, and they had all been there. I called the client to be sure; no camera there. But I was definitely one short. The only thing I could figure was that when TSA tossed my suitcase, they’d taken out all the cameras and somehow failed to put one back in the box.

TSA actually has a lost-and-found page you can check for numbers to call if you’ve lost something, so I called. After a bit of phone tag, I got a supervisor who asked about my flight, date, time, airport, and so forth, and said he could pull the video of the search and also check with that airport’s TSA folks to see if the camera had turned up. When he called me back, long story short, neither his colleagues nor the video had had any useful info. In fact, he said, the video appeared to show that everything taken out of that box had, indeed, been put back in.

“Did you gate-check your bag?” he asked me.

Well, yes, I did. Because on most domestic flights, the overhead bins fill up well before the seats do, so I pretty much had to. I suppose I could check my bag, but, particularly on a flight with connections, as surely as I do, my luggage will get lost (with the cameras in the suitcase) and I’ll arrive at a client’s unable to do what we’re being paid to do. So if I don’t want to check my bag, principles of Newtonian physics dictate that I inevitably have to gate-check it.

And that’s the thing, the supervisor said. There was a time there after you gate-checked your bag where your bag was unattended. Maybe, he said, that’s when the camera disappeared.

Never mind the implausibility of someone opening the suitcase AND opening the box inside and just taking one camera, rather than simply snatching the whole box (smaller than a shoebox, though much heavier).

“So you’re saying that my bag was unattended during gate-check and so somebody opened it up and stole the camera then?” I said. “Does it bother you at all that if someone could have done that, they also could have put an explosive device in the bag and blown the plane out of the sky?”

“I know,” was all he said. “I know.” Over and over. “I know.”


We as a nation have spent an ungodly amount of money since 9/11 on making sure American commercial aviation is as safe as it can be — or so we’re told. But apparently it’s still possible for someone to steal a camera from — or place explosives within — a bag that has been checked and is supposedly being supervised. And I got that straight from a TSA supervisor.

Enjoy your next flight. I know I will.


Thursday, September 11, 2014 6:48 am

Out of the wilderness

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 6:48 am
Tags: , , ,

As always on this date, I recommend you read Sarah Bunting’s first-person account of 9/11 ,”For Thou Art With Us.” I’ll talk to you later.

Saturday, May 10, 2014 10:46 pm

An even more special kind of stupid


It takes a very special kind of stupid to inherit peace, prosperity and a budget surplus and explode the deficit, allow a horrific terrorist attack, launch a war both illegal and unnecessary (killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in the process), order Americans to carry out exactly the same kind of torture for which we hanged Germans and Japanese after World War II AND push policies that allowed the worst economic crisis in three-quarters of a century.

But it takes an even more special kind of stupid to say, on the subject of George W. Bush, to intelligent Americans, “Who ya gonna believe, me or your lyin’ eyes?” Naturally, these days we do not lack for that very special kind of stupid; we need only turn to Matt Bai, formerly of the Times Almighty and now with Yahoo, to find it:

A graphic this week on showed how fewer and fewer Americans blame Bush for the country’s economic morass, even though his successor, Barack Obama, won two presidential campaigns based on precisely that premise.

Bush’s critics will argue that this is testament to how quickly we forget the past. But it has more to do, really, with how we distort the present.

The truth is that Bush was never anything close to the ogre or the imbecile his most fevered detractors insisted he was. Read “Days of Fire,” the excellent and exhaustive book on Bush’s presidency by Peter Baker, my former colleague at the New York Times. Bush comes off there as compassionate and well-intentioned — a man who came into office underprepared and overly reliant on his wily vice president and who found his footing only after making some tragically bad decisions. Baker’s Bush is a flawed character you find yourself rooting for, even as you wince at his judgment.

Not just no, Matt, but hell, no.

I don’t need to read your buddy’s slobbery hagiography: I know what I saw and heard, out of the man’s own mouth, for eight long, painful, and disastrous years. For sheer incompetence, only Buchanan comes close, and in terms of the consequences of his stupidity, he is without peer or even parallel. America is vastly poorer, dumber, less free and yet more vulnerable today than it was in 2000, and the blame for that can be laid squarely at the feet of Li’l Boots McDrydrunk and the monsters he hired. I heard the man talk, so I know for a fact that he is an imbecile. I heard him admit on ABC News that he ordered torture, so I know for a fact that he is an ogre. And you, sir, can go straight to hell with him.

The only thing I’m rooting for where Bush is concerned is a seat in the dock at The Hague. And while oral sex is no longer a crime, public oral sex still is, so, Matt, buddy, next time you sit down to write about Bush 43, I’d look around for cops first.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014 6:49 pm

“NSA itself had enough information to prevent 9/11, but chose to sit on it …”

This open memo to President Obama, written in part by former high-ranking employees of the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies, claims that the NSA could have prevented 9/11, claims that the NSA could have taken economic and effective action after 9/11 to prevent future attacks but chose expensive, ineffective, and constitutionally damaging approaches instead, and even accuses former director Michael Hayden of corruption. It’s fairly long, but it’s simple to understand and it comports with the facts as we know them today. Some key excerpts:

From the executive summary:

The sadder reality, Mr. President, is that NSA itself had enough information to prevent 9/11, but chose to sit on it rather than share it with the FBI or CIA. We know; we were there. We were witness to the many bureaucratic indignities that made NSA at least as culpable for pre-9/11 failures as are other U.S. intelligence agencies.

From the section “Clapper and Alexander”:

Surely you have asked National Intelligence Director James Clapper flat-out why, in formal testimony to the Senate on March 12, 2013 he answered “No, Sir” to Senator Ron Wyden’s question, “Does the NSA collect any type of data on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

Surely you know that Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein persists in covering for Clapper, telling ABC three months after Clapper’s falsehood that “there is no more direct or honest person than Jim Clapper.” And now Director Clapper’s lawyer, Mr. Litt, is trying to convince readers of the New York Times that Clapper did not lie.

Surely you intuit that something is askew when NSA Director Keith Alexander testifies to Congress that NSA’s bulk collection has “thwarted” 54 terrorist plots and later, under questioning, is forced to reduce that number to one, which cannot itself withstand close scrutiny. And surely you understand why former NSA Director and CIA Director Michael Hayden protests too much and too often on Fox News and CNN, and why he and House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers publicly suggest that whistleblower Edward Snowden be put on your Kill List.

Does a blind loyalty prevail in your White House to the point where, 40 years after Watergate, there is not a single John Dean to warn you of a “cancer on the presidency?” Have none of your lawyers reminded you that “electronic surveillance of private citizens … subversive of constitutional government” was one of the three Articles of Impeachment against President Richard Nixon approved by a bipartisan 28 to 10 vote of the House Judiciary Committee on July 27, 1974? …

We are ready – if you are – for an honest conversation. That NSA’s bulk collection is more hindrance than help in preventing terrorist attacks should be clear by now despite the false claims and dissembling.

From the section “Fourth Amendment-Compliant Technology That Worked”:

No one currently working for NSA Director Alexander is likely to tell you this, so please hear it from us. In the years before 9/11, a group of NSA mathematicians and computer technology experts led by Binney, Loomis, and Wiebe devised a process called THINTHREAD for collection and rapid analysis of billions of electronic records relating to targets of intelligence interest, with automatic encryption of information about U.S. persons, per the standard of FISA and the Fourth Amendment.

Data on U.S. citizens could be decrypted only if a judge approved it after a finding that there was probable cause to believe that the target was connected with terrorism or other crimes. It was also considerably cheaper, easier, and more secure to store such data in encrypted format rather than allow that raw information to remain vulnerable to unauthorized parties in unencrypted form, as NSA chose to do. A fuller understanding of THINTHREAD’s capabilities is necessary to appreciate the implications of what came next.

THINTHREAD, you see, was a fundamental beginning to breaking the endemic problem of stovepipes – that is, standalone collection systems with standalone databases. There was such a maze of databases, with special security compartmentation, that it was impossible for an analyst to “see” more than a few pages, so to speak, about a target, much less a whole chapter, let alone the whole available book. Information was fragmented by design, in order to placate functionaries blindly placing tight security above virtually all other considerations – even, in this case, the analyst’s need to know.

Thus, THINTHREAD was developed precisely to unite data associated with terrorists/criminals from all databases. An analyst was able to do one simple query on participants on a targeted activity and get access to all related content – be it from computer, phone, or pager.

From the section “Some Programs Don’t Cost Enough”:

In 2000, as THINTHREAD was beginning to show promise, the head of the NSA Transformation Office (NTO) asked the creators of THINTHREAD (Loomis, Binney, and Wiebe) what they could do with $1.2 billion. We told him that, with that amount of funding, we could upgrade every one of our field installations that had access to foreign Internet sources, as well as upgrade collection equipment to access greater bandwidths available on fiber. But for the equipment, maintenance, and other costs for THINTHREAD, we only needed about $300 million.

Director Hayden reacted swiftly on learning of this. He removed the NTO chief, replacing him with a senior vice president of Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), which became one of the leading contractors for a replacement project called TRAILBLAZER. TRAILBLAZER was originally budgeted for $3.8 billion, but after burning away most of that money, it had to be jettisoned in 2006.

No functioning components had been produced, much less delivered; Gen. Hayden had been forced to confess to the Senate Intelligence Committee that TRAILBLAZER was vastly over budget as well as well behind schedule. And our (Binney/Loomis/Wiebe) complaint to the Department of Defense Inspector General had generated a highly critical report on TRAILBLAZER, which was also a factor in its termination. SAIC, though, continued to serve as one of NSA’s major prime development contractors and remains so to this day.

Hayden had announced TRAILBLAZER to great fanfare in the spring of 2000, as he began to show more preference for opening the door wider to the private sector. A year before, NSA’s New Enterprise Team, which included some of the undersigned, had begun to learn of contractor complaints over getting only maintenance contracts, while the most interesting work was being conducted in-house.

That fall, an NSA Red Team predicted that TRAILBLAZER would fail unless major changes were made to the program. Hayden, however, ignored the Red Team report, and none of the Red Team recommendations saw the light of day.

This particularly unconscionable (Hayden-SAIC-Congress) corruption is a case study in how the drive for big money and the power can squander big taxpayer bucks, chip away at our constitutional protections – and, more important, as we shall explain below – play a crucial role in the worst intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor – 9/11.

And there’s more:

“[Among data collected by THINTHREAD was] where I found the pre- and post-9/11 intelligence from NSA monitoring of some of the hijackers as they planned the attacks of 9/11 had not been shared outside NSA [writes former senior NSA executive Thomas Drake]. This includes critical pre-9/11 intelligence on al-Qaeda, even though it had been worked on by NSA analysts. I learned, for example, that in early 2001 NSA had produced a critical long-term analytic report unraveling the entire heart of al-Qaeda and associated movements. That report also was not disseminated outside of NSA.

“Make no mistake. That data and the analytic report could have, should have prevented 9/11.

“Top NSA management knew that. They knew that I knew that. I was immediately shut down. In spring 2002, the remnants of THINTHREAD were unceremoniously put on the shelf in NSA’s ‘Indiana Jones’ data warehouse, never to be seen again. …

“In December 2001, Senator Saxby Chambliss, chair of a House Subcommittee on Homeland Security announced a preliminary investigation into 9/11.  At a SIGINT Leadership Team meeting in February 2002, SIGINT chief Maureen Baginski directed me to lead a NSA Statement-for-the-Record effort for a closed-door hearing scheduled by Sen. Chambliss for early March to discuss what NSA knew about the 9/11 hijackers and their plotting before 9/11.

“As indicated above, the highly embarrassing answer was that NSA knew a great deal, but had not shared what it knew outside of NSA.

“After a couple of weeks Baginski rejected my draft team Statement for the Record report and removed me from the task. When I asked her why, she said there was a ‘data integrity problem’ (not further explained) with my draft Statement for the Record. I had come upon additional damaging revelations. For example, NSA had the content of telephone calls between AA-77 hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar in San Diego, CA, and the known al-Qaeda safe house switchboard in Yemen well before 9/11, and had not disseminated that information beyond NSA.

“In short, when confronted with the prospect of fessing up, NSA chose instead to obstruct the 9/11 congressional investigation, play dumb, and keep the truth buried, including the fact that it knew about all inbound and outbound calls to the safe house switchboard in Yemen. NSA’s senior leaders took me off the task because they realized – belatedly, for some reason – that I would not take part in covering up the truth about how much NSA knew but did not share.

“When the 9/11 Commission hearings began, Director Hayden chortled at executive staff meetings over the fact that the FBI and CIA were feeling the heat for not having prevented 9/11. This was particularly difficult for me to sit through, for I was aware that NSA had been able to cover up its own culpability by keeping investigators, committees, and commissions away from the truth,” [Blake writes].

Seriously, go read the whole thing, which prompted this response from blogger Alex Marthews (yes, that’s how he spells it), who is involved in a Massachusetts campaign to “protect digital data from warrantless government surveillance.” After summarizing the facts asserted in the letter, he eloquently concludes:

You know that on this blog I tend not to use the swears. This time, I do use the swears:
I am [expletive] pissed off. What a [expletive]. What a gargantuan, despicable, offensive [expletive].These clowns gleefully threw the Constitution on the fire, and gave us NOTHING in return. We’re not safer. We’re certainly not richer. We have lost so much, so that a few people could become extremely rich and powerful, and our corrupt system is now incapable of holding them personally to account. Yet still they yammer on, clamoring for more funding for an NSA that doesn’t work, a TSA that doesn’t work, an FBI that chases imaginary plots instead of focusing on locking up actual criminals. They have played on our fears to make us exchange realistic risk assessment for a meaningless, nightmarish pantomime where we, the American people and indeed the people of the whole world, have to accept the loss of every freedom we hold dear in order to “do whatever it takes” to “catch the bad guys.”

I’m sick of it. Aren’t you sick of it? I am goddamn heart-sick of it.

It’s been more than thirteen years since my fiancee and I went out and bought our first TV and brought it home and watched stunned as the towers burned.

Thirteen years of watching the victims of 9/11 being used to justify horror after horror. Mass roundups of Muslims. Torture. Detention, even of US citizens, without trial, and now assassinations too. War in Afghanistan, war in Iraq, now apparently drone warfare [expletive] everywhere, and a constant stream of broken people being dropped back here like flotsam and told to get on with their chewed-up lives.

“If this was the day after 9/11,” says that bloviating [expletive] John McCain, “we wouldn’t even be talking about these [surveillance] programs.” I bet not. We were too busy putting up flags, grieving, and praying that we and those we loved wouldn’t be next. But grief, as we all know, has stages, and that state of mind doesn’t last thirteen years.

“The victims of 9/11 would have wanted us to do whatever it takes.” No, they [expletive] wouldn’t. Do you think we’re all scared six-year-olds hiding underneath our stairwells, waiting for Big Daddy NSA to tell us that everything’s OK and we can come out now?

[Expletive] that. You like us just where we are, cowering every time you say Boo, and you have no incentive to stop us until we tell you the game is over.

You’re the six-year-olds here, standing there with the Constitution on a skewer over an open flame and hollering, “9/11 MADE ME DO IT.”

Just quit it. We’re sick of it. We’re not going to freak out any more over a few seventh-century-loving lunatics. We have seen the real danger to our way of life, and it’s you, and people like you.

I’ve been raising hell about warrantless government surveillance of U.S. citizens for about a decade — ever since news of it belatedly came out. For most of that time it has been like pissing into a hurricane. Now, finally, whatever you think of Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, they have put this stuff out where it can’t be ignored anymore, and some of the most senior former members of the intelligence committee — no doubt acting from both selfish and unselfish motives; whistleblowers tend to do that — are challenging/begging the people in charge to start returning us to the appropriate status for a constitutionally established democratic republic.

I have no confidence that will happen under the incumbent president — or under the obvious candidates to succeed him. But it needs to happen, and we need to raise hell about it until it does.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 9:19 am

Looking back through the dust cloud

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 9:19 am
Tags: , ,

My last big post on the anniversary of 9/11 was in 2010, and I really have little to add to that, other than deep gratitude that we might be getting an indication in the case of Syria that things don’t always have to be like this. Instead, I’m going back, as I do every year, to read Sarah “Sars” Bunting’s post-9/11 essay, “For Thou Art With Us,” and I strongly urge you to do the same.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 12:05 am

The Boston bomb and who we are

I was so buried in my own little world of work and homework today that I didn’t hear about the bombs in Boston until almost five hours after the first explosion. About 4:30 this afternoon, the whole Internet seemed to freeze, so I tweeted from my phone, wondering who had broken the Web. I got answers almost immediately but didn’t see them until much later.

We appear to know little now, and that’s OK. We’ll find out what we need to. I refuse to speculate, except to say this: Whoever set those bombs, whoever killed and wounded those innocent people, is a coward. Of that I’m confident to a moral certainty.

In addition to the Boston Marathon, and tax day, today is the day on which are commemorated the battles of Lexington and Concord, the beginning of the American fight for independence. And so it is that I am reminded of two quotes, both by Edward R. Murrow, the broadcast journalist who grew up a stone’s throw from where I type this evening:

“No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.” – 7 March 1954

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.” — 9 March 1954

The cowards who planted the bombs want us to be afraid. But so do many of our leaders. “Be afraid,” they told us after 9/11. “Be afraid,” they told us after 7/7. “Be afraid,” they told us after 3/11. And why not? For the more afraid we are, the more of our freedoms they can take, and the more they have taken already. If you doubt me, look at what has happened to the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments after 9/11. And yet we worship the Second as if it were some Aztec idol into whose bloody maw the still-beating hearts of our countrymen must be thrown for appeasement, even as we know that no number of firearms could have prevented what happened today.

But no. Let us not be afraid. Not this time, and never again. This time, let us bury our dead, minister to our wounded, and comfort our bereaved as best we can even though we know for some there is no comfort and never will be. And then let us go live as the best Americans and the best human beings we can be, knowing that the time may come when any or all of us might have to run into the fire, like the cops and firefighters and EMTs did today, whether that fire be caused by a bomb or by the sociopathy of those, domestic and foreign, who would destroy what is best about America and who have run wild for far, far too long.

(Edited to correct late-night grammar.)

Thursday, March 7, 2013 8:52 pm

The forever reporter in the forever prison from the forever war

New York magazine profiles Carol Rosenberg, the reporter for the Miami Herald who has been on the Gitmo beat for 11, count ’em, 11 years, with no end in sight:

How long do you think you’ll continue covering Guantanamo?
There are people who call the War on Terror the “forever war”; if this is the forever war, then this is the forever prison. I want to stay here for the 9/11 trial, which I think is years away. I feel like I have an institutional knowledge. Everyone else rotates in and out of here. The soldiers come and go, the lawyers come and go, most of the reporters come and go. I feel a responsibility to stay. I want to see how it ends. I’m a little concerned it’s never going to.

Camp X-ray was built for the specific purpose of getting around the Constitution, full stop. The people who created it committed crimes, full stop. And if the people who continue to defend it today aren’t criminals, they’re moral pygmies at best.

Rosenberg (who, earlier in her career, reported for the Charlotte Observer) can’t do anything about that, but she’s doing the next best thing: surrendering a significant chunk of her life, and a lot of creature comforts most Americans take for granted, to tell people what’s going on down there. Metaphorically, she’s almost as much a prisoner as the inmates. She seldom talks much about herself — her tweets tend to be about the court proceedings she covers — but I have a feeling that even if the trials ended tomorrow, Gitmo would be with her the rest of her life.

She’s not a prisoner, of course. Subject to the military’s irregular flight schedules, she can and does return to Florida from time to time. But I suspect that for the rest of her life, a significant part of her psyche and self will be living in those nasty tents, tweeting from a makeshift courtroom, knowing that every conversation, call or email she gets or receives will be monitored.

At some point, years from now, perhaps after the 9/11 trials are over, she’ll check out. But the Eagles were right, and so I suspect the only a part of her leaves Gitmo is via death or Alzheimer’s.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012 5:54 am

For Thou Art With Us

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 5:54 am
Tags: ,

For my money, still the only thing written in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 that’s worth revisiting every year. Would to God it weren’t necessary, but take a bow, Sars.

Sunday, September 11, 2011 8:23 am

What we lost

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:23 am

Fortunately, no one personally close to me died on 9/11. I have friends who were not so fortunate.

I plan to spend today doing homework, reflecting quietly and, if I’m lucky, watching the Panthers lose to Arizona. I have had no time to reflect on 9/11 up ’til now, and although I am oddly eager to read some 9/11 retrospectives, homework comes first.

So don’t look for anything new from me on this today. Some stuff  I’ve said about it in the past holds up pretty well, particularly this and some of this. If you want to skip the media orgy entirely but not ignore the occasion, then I cannot recommend highly enough Sarah Bunting’s “For thou art with us,”  an elegiac first-person account written just days after the attacks by a New Yorker who was in lower Manhattan that morning.

UPDATE: If you run across anything you think is really worthwhile, leave a link in the comments. Thanks.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010 10:07 am

Dr. Death

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 10:07 am
Tags: , , ,

That’d be Tom Coburn, the physician-turned-senator who seems to think having “M.D.” after his name entitles him to inordinate amounts of deference even when his behavior is both insane and a violation of the Hippocratic Oath.

Right now, Coburn is the main obstacle to passing the Zadroga 9/11 act, which would compensate 9/11 first responders for health problems related to their exposure to toxins at the World Trade Center site on and after 9/11. These people responded with incredible bravery to try to rescue people in the Twin Towers. Hundreds of them died in the attempt, and many of the survivors are now seriously ill, even dying, because of the risks they took on.

Coburn doesn’t want them to get that help, and whatever his real reasons are, he’s lying. He claims he objects because the bill is being rushed through at the end of the session without a committee hearing. In fact, it has been pending for more than a year, has already been brought to the floor once, and did indeed get a committee hearing in June of this year before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, whose members include … Tom Coburn.

“First, do no harm,” Dr. Coburn. If you don’t want to pass this bill because you think it’ll mean smaller tax cuts for zillionaires or something, at least be enough of a grownup to say so. Don’t lie to the American people about it.

One other thing: It’s worth remembering that this guy was considered one of the more reasonable members of the ’94 Gingrich revolution — not because it wasn’t true, but because it was.

One other other thing: The so-called liberal media has been shamefully absent on this story. It has taken Jon Stewart’s flogging this issue like a rented mule on “The Daily Show” for it to get anywhere, and even the White House knows it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 8:03 pm

Quote of the day …

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 8:03 pm

… from Jon Stewart:

Republicans, if you don’t owe 9/11 responders health care, at least you owe them royalties.

Burn in hell, the lot of them. Republicans who voted against the health care, I mean.

Thursday, September 30, 2010 8:01 pm

A question

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 8:01 pm

Why do most Republicans hate the heroes of 9/11?

Saturday, September 11, 2010 3:34 pm

Remembering what we lost on 9/11 — and what we threw away thereafter

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 3:34 pm
Tags: ,

On most anniversaries of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and Flight 77, I have been much more about sorrow than anger.

Not today. Today I’m pissed.

A recent confluence of events is emerging into a mosaic that depicts the destruction of some of what’s most valuable about America. Our Fourth Amendment in particular, and many of our essential rights in general, are under attack by our own government at all levels by officials of both major parties.

This not only could have been avoided, it should have been. But as a country, we panicked; constitutionally speaking, we filled our pants. Worse, and even less defensibly, some who didn’t panic sought to exploit the fears of those who did and, disregarding Benjamin Franklin’s timeless warningThey who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety –we let them get away with it.


  • After the government’s surveillance abuses of mid-century, Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Amended several times thereafter, the provision provided a constitutional avenue for us to keep an eye on friend and adversary alike while protecting the rights of U.S. persons at home and abroad. Just as important, it established both civil and criminal penalties for violations of the rights of U.S. citizens. But when The New York Times disclosed serial violations of the act by the Bush Administration, neither Congress nor the Justice Department took any action. Worse, Congress, including then-Sen. Barack Obama, granted retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies that had cooperated with the government’s illegal surveillance of U.S. persons.
  • The Electronic Communications Privacy Act hasn’t been updated since 1986 and currently leaves our privacy vulnerable.
  • The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently approved police putting GPS tracking devices on suspects’ cars without a warrant.
  • Police are buying the same body scanners used in airports to use for searching people on the street … without a warrant or probable cause.
  • Here in North Carolina, the N.C. Sheriffs’ Association is seeking access to the state’s prescription-drug database — without a search warrant.
  • The widespread and growing use of National Security Lettersadministrative subpoenas (that is, subpoenas issued directly by an executive-branch government agency without judicial-branch review or oversight) that also typically include a gag order forbidding the subject from discussing the letter/case.

I could go on, but you get the picture: The three branches of the federal government are colluding with weak, unscrupulous and/or uninformed citizens to gut the Fourth Amendment by ignoring the plain meaning of the text:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

In short, if you want a search, get a warrant, and if you want a warrant, you provide probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, and you swear to that probable cause on penalty of perjury, and you explain exactly what it is you’re looking for — no fishing expeditions allowed. Memo to our courts: Where are the strict constructionists when we need them?

This is a basic and easy-to-understand rule. In fact, it has been under assault for most of the country’s history by law-enforcement officers who cheerfully perjured themselves, swearing to things “upon information and belief” when lacking the former and lacking any basis for the latter, and never suffered legal consequences. More recently, however, it has been under assault by politicians who knew what they wanted to do and also knew that what they wanted to do was unconstitutional by the plain meaning of the Fourth Amendment, so they set up NSLs and the like as a kind of legal window dressing or fig leaf. And illiterate and/or dishonest judges have let them do it.

This must stop, and I can think of no better tribute to the Americans of all races, faiths and political orientations who died in the terror attacks of 9/11 than to start rolling back the destruction of our rights, particularly our Fourth Amendment rights, that began in their name the minute they could no longer speak for themselves.

You don’t have to burn a copy of the USA Patriot Act, although frankly, I like the symbolism. Holding your elected officials accountable would be a start. And I don’t just mean voting out the ones who have done the wrong thing. I mean impeaching them for violating their oaths of office to uphold the Constitution.

Thursday, August 5, 2010 8:32 pm

Congress. Is. Broken.

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,We're so screwed — Lex @ 8:32 pm
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
I Give Up – 9/11 Responders Bill
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
I Give Up – 9/11 Responders Bill
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Saturday, September 12, 2009 8:02 am

“For thou art with us … “

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 8:02 am

Every year on 9/11, I go back and read Sarah Bunting’s first-person account of being in lower Manhattan when the planes hit the towers, and her subsequent one-day odyssey home.

Like everyone else born before, say, 1997, I have my own memories of that day. But for the fact that they are mine, they are not remarkable. Unlike many with more compelling stories to tell, I lost no one on 9/11. Writing about my memories, at least now, seems like it would be the equivalent of coasting on someone else’s grief.

It’s not that I don’t grieve. I do. But I mourn more than just the loss of lives that day, though that loss was enormous.

I mourn what has happened since, as unity and a sense of national purpose gave way to divisive politics, a misbegotten military campaign and governmental lying and lawbreaking of such scope that a century from now historians will still be uncovering new evidence of misdeeds.

I mourn not only the blood but also the treasure — what we could have done for ourselves as taxpayers, or for the least among us, with much of the money we have spent since 9/11.

I mourn the loss of the opportunity to capture the man behind the attacks, the loss of the opportunity to show the world why we believe our system of justice is the best in history.

I mourn the lost opportunity to unite the world as it had not been united since World War II, and perhaps ever.

We tell ourselves that they attacked us because they hate us and that they hate us for our freedoms. And yet, in the wake of the attack, so many of us were willing to trade those freedoms for even the illusion of safety that it makes me wonder whether we are, or ever have been, as strong a nation as we like to think.

For true strength does not reside in the caliber of one’s weapons or the truculence of one’s public statements or the number of diplomatic bridges one is willing to burn.

No, true strength manifests itself in living out the principles we profess. True strength resides in our willingness to uphold the rule of law, to use force when we must and only when we must, to look out for one another, even across national borders, as we did in those days just after 9/11 and must re-learn to do before circumstances force it upon us once again.

No hijacked jetliner can destroy that strength. No terrorist can destroy that strength. The only people who can destroy that strength are We, the People.

But facing these realities isn’t the point of what Sars wrote. Her point was no more or less than her coming to grips with her own experience. She wrote about it to acknowledge it, to try to make real that which her mind had not yet accepted as real in the first hours after the attacks. And it matters because all of us, to a greater or lesser extent, had to fight the same battle and yet each of us had to do it by him/herself, alone but for his/her God, in his/her own way. Some of us fight it still.

That battle was important enough to be remembered, to be reminded of. That’s why I go back to Sars’s blog every 9/11. I’ve happily scampered over battlegrounds from Gettysburg to Cowpens before and no doubt will do so again, but for this one event, for me, re-reading Sars’ account is more meaningful, more of an honor to those who lost their lives, than trekking to a place I’ve never been to listen to someone speak in hushed tones about people I never knew.

And maybe this will be the year she finds Don.

Friday, September 11, 2009 8:46 am


Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:46 am

Y’all say a prayer.

Talk to you this weekend.

Sunday, June 28, 2009 8:42 pm

Another item on the long list of Things I Did Not Know

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:42 pm
Tags: ,

You know that iconic photograph from 9/11 of the three firefighters and the American flag? Well, that flag has gone missing.

Quasi-relatedly, a less-well-known but equally striking photo.

(h/t: Andy)

Thursday, September 11, 2008 6:21 am


Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 6:21 am

Sars does.

Blog at

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