By Matthew Rothschild on June 24, 2008

Barack Obama’s rightward sprint is nowhere more obvious than in his betrayal on the FISA bill.

This bill allows the President to grab all incoming and outgoing international communications without a warrant.

The ACLU says it represents “an unprecedented extension of governmental surveillance over Americans.”

Obama, sounding on Friday a lot like Bush, said: “Given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay.”

Here’s what Bush said the same day as Obama: The bill “allows our intelligence professionals to quickly and effectively monitor the plans of terrorists abroad, while protecting the liberties of Americans here at home.”

But it doesn’t protect our liberties, and Obama ought to know that.

Obama said it “firmly reestablishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance.”

But the ACLU notes that the bill “permits only minimal court oversight. The FISA Court only reviews general procedures for targeting and minimizing the use of information that is collected. The court may not know who, what, or where will actually be tapped, thereby undercutting any meaningful for the court and violating the Fourth Amendment.”

What’s more, in the incredibly rare instances where the FISA Court denies a warrant to the President, under the new bill the President can go ahead and do the wiretapping anyway while the appeals process continues, a process that the ACLU says can take two months.

Russ Feingold calls the idea that this is a good compromise “a farce” and “political cover.”

Says Feingold: “Anybody who claims this is an OK bill, I really question if they’ve even read it.”

Has Obama?

If not, that’s a problem.

And if he has, and still approves of it, that’s an even bigger one.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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