Patriot Actor

On December 26th, the Buffalo News and other news outlets trumpeted a report that the FBI's Buffalo office claimed that the USA Patriot Act helped them in the Lackawanna Six case. Seeing our fair city's FBI leading the charge in the truthiness offensive to get the Patriot Act reauthorized made us swell with pride. It made us recall bolder times gone by like when our northern suburb's namesake Lord Jeffrey Amherst infected blankets with smallpox before giving them out to the pesky Indians. These bold revelations by the local office of the FBI regarding the use of the USA Patriot Act in the investigation of the Lackawanna Six remind us that it takes guts to implement laws to do things to your citizens that would not normally be permitted to stand in an open democratic society.

It must have took tremendous inner strength for special agent in charge of the Buffalo FBI office Peter Ahearn to state that the use of CIA obtained information by the FBI agents "would not have been possible without the Patriot Act" while being fully aware that any recent Quantico grad would know in 1979 the CIA alerted the FBI that fugitive financier Robert Vesco was hiding out in the Bahamas. Or that the 9-11 Commission revealed that the CIA had shared information with the FBI regarding a terrorist plan to fly a plane filled with explosives into the World Trade Center in 1999. Just because intelligence agencies could always share information related to criminal activity doesn't mean that just because they were too stupid to do it means that they don't need new expansive powers to spy on an ever expanding universe of potential terrorists, subversives and ne'er-do-wells.

National Security Letters enable the FBI to obtain individuals records without useless judicial oversight. It allows the FBI to spy on people without having to worry about that contitutiony stuff. They've got to be careful though because some constitution hugging civil right lawyer might make a big deal about this kind of thing. So when Agent Ahearn asserted that "National Security Letters" are used "very sparingly and very cautiously" he was just doing his job trying to keep a lid on things. Who could have known that the November 6, 2005 issue of the Washington Post revealed that they are used more than 30,000 times a year? Or the government can't claim even one instance where NSLs were used to stop a terrorism plot. Hey, lying to make our bosses like us is something we all do, and Ahearn's ability to tell whoppers in the face overwhelming contrary proof shows exactly why Bush has some much faith in him. In fact, Ahearn's just been promoted to work with one of the most seasoned vicious liars in the business, John Negroponte.

We're also glad Mr. Ahearn didn't go out of his way to muddy the waters by mentioning that the FBI didn't need the USA Patriot Act to investigate anyone. National Security Letters, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts were available to the FBI before the USA Patriot Act. The FISA Act of 1978 established a secret court whose jurisdiction is to oversee requests for surveillance warrants by federal police agencies (primarily the F.B.I.) against suspected foreign intelligence agents inside the United States. Because of the sensitive nature of its business, the FISA court is a "secret court" and its hearings are closed to the public. Through the end of 2004, 18,761 surveillance warrants were granted, while just five were rejected.

No matter how hard our FBI, CIA, NSA or other unknown nefarious agencies work to protect us from terrorist there will always be some people that hate America. In fact there are nearly 400 communities, including seven states, that have passed anti-Patriot Act resolutions. In New York State alone, more than two dozen communities have passed resolutions in support of the Bill of Rights to help the terrorists. We could expect this from the likes of the New York and American Civil Liberties Unions but traditionally conservative organizations such as The American Conservative Union, Gun Owners of America, and the Eagle Forum have become traitors and called for the repeal of the USA Patriot Act.

You have to be a real moron not to see how important it is to have the USA Patriot Act would to make Federal Investigators jobs easier-it by removing useless due process protections from the law. Due Process doesn't free the innocent, it protects the terrorists. The USA Patriot Act insures that the most fundamentally protected rights guaranteed by our Constitution, the right to get the terrorists, must never be fucked with.


Stakes is High

Last week, a coalition of individuals and community groups filed a federal lawsuit to halt the building of the Seneca Indians Buffalo Creek Casino. The plaintiffs were in essence borrowing a page out of nutty Amherst Town Board Member Bill Kindel's play book and saying to the Indians, "we have rules in this country." The difference is that in this case the admonishment is justified.

We can't stand the Pollyanna complaints of the religious community and the clueless Buffalo boosters goose-stepping around Elmwood Village, whining about how gambling is going to destroy our city. They are often just as willing to ignore the law when it suits their needs. That's why this lawsuit is so important.

The problem really isn't that the Seneca want to build a casino in Buffalo. The Seneca are a sovereign nation and therefore they are permitted to do what they want on their land. They are merely taking advantage of the freedom the state has given them. The problem is that if they are sovereign, then they are not part of the state where the rest of us live.

We do not begrudge the Seneca or any Indian tribe doing whatever they want free of the white man's corrosive influence. They deserve it. We probably owe them a lot more than that, but that is not the dynamic at play in the casino debate. What is happening here is that we are plopping down a foreign endeavor in the middle of our metropolis, exempt from laws of this country, this state, this county and this city.

The laws the state permits the Seneca to flout, like labor laws, environmental laws, tax laws and other such constraints, which were put in place over decades. They can't just be flushed down the drain in order to fill the pockets a small group of greedy bastards consisting of the casino industry, developers, politicians and mobsters. This nation was built on laws and those were not just cast down from on high by some misguided monolithic protectorate as the kooky libertarians would have you believe. No, many of these laws, labor and environmental laws for instance, were fought for, often for years and decades, by ordinary people in the face of tremendous odds. More often than not, this was done in spite of unresponsive government leaders, who throughout our history have been consistently loath to even consider doing what's in the interests of ordinary citizens.

Every asshole politician since Reagan has preached the religion of free markets. Like all religions, it's steeped in myths held high to distract our attention from the reality, that it is nothing more than a scam, allowing the chosen few to exploit and control the hapless many. If a casino is such a surefire economic panacea for a depressed city like Buffalo, free market principles would dictate the entire city be allowed to take part in the economic renaissance. Shouldn't we all be allowed to gamble under the circumstances we prefer to our heart's content? If one casino is good for the economy, why not two or two hundred? Why not have mom and pop casinos on every block?

If that were the case, then gamblers wouldn't need to be entombed in the windowless, chaotic and stultifying environs that make up the modern casino milieu. They'd be able to gamble whenever and wherever they wanted. And you want to know what would happen if that were the case? Most people would lose interest in it, because out in the open it would become apparent that gambling just ain't all that. There would be those who would overdo it like they overdo everything, from horses at OTB to baubles on QVC.
But the real losers would be the huge gaming interests that back, and profit immensely from these casino endeavors. Without their state sponsored fiefdoms they'll have no real leverage over us serfs.

Putting our faith in the rapacious businessmen and politicians who have been getting us nowhere for too long has got to stop. If we want to change Buffalo, we have to do it by relying on truly democratic principles to ascertain the will of the electorate. And something tells us that doesn't include giving a big chunk of downtown away to a sovereign nation.

 

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Our disturbingly popular annual list of the foulest among us, for a particularly objectionable year.
The Year in Ephemera
Our 2005 Timeline.
Andrew Gullerstein Predicts!
Iron-clad predictions for the new year.
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What you won't be hearing this week about Ariel Sharon
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Mine Shaft
Undermining mine safety
by Kit Smith

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