Saturday, December 24, 2005

2005: Things We Wish We Could Forget

Arianna Huffington looks at the political events of 2005 (Terri Schiavo, Jeff Gannon, intelligent design, Harriet Miers and her worshipping of the President, Scooter Libby's letter to Judy Miller, the President's post-hurricane comments about Trent Lott's porch, Michael Brown's emails, the debate over torture, and Iraq in general) that we all wish we could forget:

-2005: Things I Want To Forget

-2005: Things I Want to Forget (Part Two)

2005: People/Mavericks Of The Year

Third in a series of looks back at 2005...

Time magazine has selected Bono as well as Bill and Melinda Gates as its People of the Year for their activism and their work in mobilizing efforts to tackle world poverty:
Persons of the Year

Meanwhile, Rolling Stone selects its 'Mavericks' of the year; the people who made a difference:
Mavericks, Renegades, and Troublemakers

Those acknowledged include- Cindy Sheehan (for restarting the national debate on the war), Rep. Jack Murtha (for doing the same in Congress), Capt. Ian Fishback (for his courage in speaking out on the use of torture by the U.S. military), George Clooney (for his classy political films), and Kanye West (for saying on live TV when many Americans were thinking in the aftermath of Katrina).

As Andrew Sullivan noted, this was a banner year for speaking truth to power.

Let's hope 2006 is even better.

2005: The Year We Questioned Authority

Andrew Sullivan has a great column in Time about why 2005 was a great year for democracy-

The Year We Questioned Authority-

For President Bush and other public figures, it was the end of the free pass

In mid-January 2005, President Bush declared that the 2004 election had been his "accountability moment." He spoke a bit too soon. The "moment," it turned out, lasted for the following 12 months. The President didn't see it coming. And who could blame him? For more than three years after 9/11, the American public had given the Administration, and indeed many authority figures, the benefit of the doubt. We were at war, even in mortal danger. Trust was essential. The bigwigs kept assuring us they knew what they were doing. And so most of us went along.

2005 was the year we stopped going along.


We tend to think democracies come truly alive only when we elect or throw out a President or Congressman or Senator. But the truth is that sometimes the democratic spirit is more vibrant in the intervals. Democracy is rooted in the impertinent belief that our rulers are no better than we are and that they are answerable always. We're occasionally amazed to discover that people who are used to power forget that. That's why, every now and again, we have to remind them. In that sense, 2005 was a great year for democracy. Because it was reborn this time after the votes were counted.

2005: The Most Outrageous Statements

Still a week away from the new year, but a good time to look back...

Media Matters looks at the most outrageous statements of the year.

My faves from the list-
Bill O'Reilly to San Francisco:
"[I]f Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. ... You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead." [Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, 12/8/05]

Rush Limbaugh on the kidnapping of peace activists in Iraq:
"I'm telling you, folks, there's a part of me that likes this." [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 11/29/05]

Tucker Carlson:
"Canada is a sweet country. It is like your retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head. You know, he's nice, but you don't take him seriously. That's Canada." [MSNBC's The Situation with Tucker Carlson, 12/15/05]

Pat Buchanan:
"Our guys" in Iraq "have got every right to have good news put into the media and get to the people of Iraq, even if it's got to be planted or bought." [MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, 12/1/05]

President Bush: Liar In Chief

In addition to the now well-known April 20, 2004 quote, here are more spy lies from President Bush:

"For years, law enforcement used so-called roving wire taps to investigate organized crime. You see, what that meant is if you got a wire tap by court order -- and, by the way, everything you hear about requires court order, requires there to be permission from a FISA court, for example."
-April 19, 2004

"First of all, any action that takes place by law enforcement requires a court order. In other words, the government can't move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order."
-July 14, 2004

"What the Patriot Act said is let's give our law enforcement the tools necessary, without abridging the Constitution of the United States, the tools necessary to defend America."
-July 14, 2004 as well

"Roving wiretaps allow investigators to follow suspects who frequently change their means of communications. These wiretaps must be approved by a judge."
-July 20, 2005

"The judicial branch has a strong oversight role in the application of the Patriot Act. Law enforcement officers need a federal judge's permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist's phone, or to track his calls, or to search his property. Officers must meet strict standards to use any of the tools we're talking about."
-July 20, 2005 as well

And here's a Vice President Cheney quote:
"The Patriot Act was carefully written to protect the civil liberties that have long defined American democracy. All of the investigative tools I've described would required the approval of a judge before they can be carried out."
-June 9, 2004

Semantics about the Patriot Act side... the President misled the public about the truth once again.

Again, there is no question that his actions constitute an impeachable offense if you simply go by the law. No legal rationale they have given holds any water and the history of abuse by this administration does not give them any benefit of a doubt.

Impeach now, please.

[Quotes courtesy of this MSNBC report]

It Keeps Getting Worse...

From the AP:
NYT: NSA Spying Broader Than Bush Admitted

The National Security Agency has conducted much broader surveillance of e-mails and phone calls — without court orders — than the Bush administration has acknowledged, The New York Times reported on its Web site.

The NSA, with help from American telecommunications companies, obtained access to streams of domestic and international communications, said the Times in the report late Friday, citing unidentified current and former government officials...

The NY Times article: Spy Agency Mined Vast Data Trove, Officials Report

Execute Order 66

Here's a quote I just thought of... not sure why.

"So this is how democracy dies... with thunderous applause."
-Sen. Padme Amidala ('Star Wars- Episode III: Revenge of the Sith')

The Left Is Proved Right, Right, Right

I like reading the letters in newspapers. They're always so emotionally driven.

Sometimes I find one I like... here is one such letter- From yesterday's Metro:

"Now that Bush has admitted that we liberals were totally correct and he was totally wrong about his faulty intelligence on WMDs, how many of you right-wing nutjobs are going to write in and publicly apologize? And is anyone keeping score? Right-wingers told us the world was flat (wrong); that the earth was the center of the universe (wrong); that blacks and women were three-quarters the human beings white males were (wrong); that Reaganomics would make all poor people wealthy (wrong); that Bush would be welcomed in Iraq and the war wouldn't last long (wrong and wrong); and that Saddam's billions would pay for it all (wrong- this madness is costing us taxpayers more than $500 billion). Bush has also conceded that liberals are smarter than all the world's greatest 'intelligence' agencies and our incompetent FBI and CIA. So will Bush fire any of those morons who cost 2,000 of our soldiers their lives? Of course not. All the people who supported Bush should pay 100 percent of the cost of the war."

-Janice Amato

Hello, Big Brother Calling...

As per Dollie's request, a take on the Bush/NSA scandal via toys-

"Yea I tell you Fozzie, I totally loved the movie. When Kong punched that dinosaur in the face, I was like OMG! That was definitely da bomb..." {*click on phone*}

{*listening intently*}

"I said 'da bomb', George, not 'a bomb'!"

"Dick, I think they're onto us..."

Last Minute Shopping For The NeoCon In Your Life

In addition to my original Christmas shopping list, more suggestions for that neocon in your life...

#1: Baby Bush Toys

This site is the one-stop shop for the baby Bush in your family. Bushies need to start out young and it's important to provide them with toys that stimulate the imagination as well as the skills needed to run the Executive branch of the world's most powerful nation. Featured products include: The Lil' Looming Disaster Pillow, The Smasher Breaker, Terror Alert Xylophone, and the Freedom Dinger.

Even adults, say 59 years old, can enjoy these great products.

#2: "The Deck of Republican Chickenhawks"

Do you advocate overzealous, and often disastrous, foreign policy decisions and attack the military service of others even though you yourself wouldn't fight the war and have never fought in a war at all? Then you're part of a great line of chickenhawks! Collect all the greats with this deck of novelty cards. All your favorite chickenhawk Republicans are here... Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and Dubya too!!!

#3: "The Apprentice" by I. Lewis Libby

Before he was the Vice President's chief of staff (and indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice), "Scooter" Libby was a successful author. This 1996 novel tells of the story of a young Japanese man who meets and falls for a woman, only to discover himself trapped in an ever-growing mystery! A classic page-turner!

Enjoy great passages such as: "At age the madam put the child in a cage with a bear trained to couple with young girls so the girls would be frigid and not fall in love with their patrons. They fed her through the bars and aroused the bear with a stick when it seemed to lose interest."


#4: The Blame Game

Relive the compassionate conservatism that marked the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. From waiting forever for FEMA to arrive to losing 3 turns in the Superdome to finding out your rescue helicopters have been diverted for a presidential photo-op, the fun never ends! No matter what you roll, you are screwed.

All proceeds go to hurricane relief.

Now that's a heck of a job!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Douchebag of Liberty: "Yea, I Knew WMD Intel Was Bullshit"

Courtesy of Think Progress, this exchange from Robert Novak's final CNN appearance-

NOVAK: I said several times on this network that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

BLITZER: How did you know that and the President of the United States, Vice President of the United States were convinced that there were?

NOVAK: Because my sources. I don’t run my own CIA. My sources didn’t think there were — in the military, people I trusted. And the indication of the inspectors indicated there was no weapons.

Wow, thanks for sharing that with us 3 years too late... douchebag. Have fun at Fox, Bobby.

Crooks and Liars has video: Novak: There never were WMD's

Holiday Humor

This time, Karl Rove has gone too far-

The Onion: Rove Implicated In Santa Identity Leak

WASHINGTON, DC—The recent leak revealing Santa Claus to be "your mommy and daddy" has been linked to President Bush's senior political adviser and deputy chief of staff Karl Rove...

...The identity of the mythical holiday gift-giver, previously known only in grown-up circles, was published in the popular Timbertoes cartoon in the December issue of Highlights For Children. Jean Abrams, a conservative firebrand known to have close ties to Bush appointees in the Department of Education, revealed "Santa" to be a code name for anonymous parental gift-giving....

Scott McClellan refused to comment on the leak, citing the ongoing holiday season...

The Revelations Continue...

From the Boston Globe:

Wiretaps said to sift all overseas contacts-

Vast US effort seen on eavesdropping

I Spy... A Growing Scandal

And the news just keeps on coming... From U.S. News and World Report:

EXCLUSIVE: Nuclear Monitoring of Muslims Done Without Search Warrants

In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts.

...These and other developments suggest that the federal government's domestic spying programs since 9/11 have been far broader than previously thought...

Bringing Them Home

Why is the Bush administration beginning withdrawals now?

ThinkProgress takes a look-
A Conditions-Based Withdrawal?

Links of the Day

It's beginning to look a lot like scandal, everywhere we go...

-Samuel Alito's confirmation hearings are going to be must-see TV:
Alito Defended Officials From Wiretap Suits

Top question- How are you planning to vote in U.S. v. Bush?

-The Iraqis continue to embrace their democracy:
Iraqis March, Say Elections Were Rigged

Yessir, that was really worth all the dead soldiers and taxpayer money.

-Life is so random when you're a crooked Vice President:
Cheney's iPod Takes Top Priority on Extended Flight-- Reporters Wait to File Stories as VP's MP3 Player Charges

Let me guess what song he wanted to hear... "Masters of War"?

2005 P.U.-litzer Winners Announced

Congratulations are in order to Charles Krauthammer, Bill O'Reilly, Judith Miller, Bob Woodward and others for their hard work in making a mockery out of the fine field of journalism. See this article-
Krauthammer, O'Reilly, Miller, Woodward Among 'P.U.-litzer Prize' Winners

Media Beat" columnist Norman Solomon of Creators Syndicate has announced his 2005 "P.U.-litzer Prizes" -- and several newspaper writers are among the recipients...

The awards they won:

Charles Krauthammer- "Self-Praise Stealth Prize"

Bill O'Reilly- "Put Them in Chains Award"

Judith Miller- "Outsourced to the Pentagon Award"

Bob Woodward- "All the President's Man Prize"

(See article for details)

Cut And Run

Proof that all the opposition to Democrats' withdrawal plans was purely political-

AP: Bush Cutting U.S. Troop Levels in Iraq

President Bush has authorized new cuts in U.S. combat troops in Iraq, below the 138,000 level that prevailed for most of this year, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Friday.

Addressing U.S. troops at this former insurgent stronghold, Rumsfeld did not reveal the exact size of the troop cut, but Pentagon officials have said it could be as much as 7,000 combat troops...

So nice of President Bush and Rhetorical Rummy to finally accept the phased withdrawal plans that Democrats like Rep. Murtha, Sen. Kerry, and others have been advocating for many months.

Hopefully the terrorists won't be emboldened by this move.

Bush Administration 'Defends' Spying Program (?)

I came across an AP article tonight entitled:
Bush Administration Defends Spying Program

Excited, I clicked on the link. 'Finally', I thought, 'a legal explanation for the President's behavior!'. Turns out... not so much.

Just more of the same "9/11!", "The President just wants to stop terrorists!", and "If Congress didn't want the President to conduct illegal surveillance on Americans, then why did they authorize him to invade Afghanistan?!" nonsense we've gotten already.

Let's take a look at the article's key passages-

The Bush administration formally defended its domestic spying program in a letter to Congress late Thursday saying the nation's security outweighs privacy concerns of individuals who are monitored.

Privacy schmivacy, that's what I always say! Of course, the Administration once again ignores (on purpose, natch) that the spying itself has, amazingly enough, only become the secondary aspect of the scandal. While we must have discussions on how to protect civil liberties (you know the freedoms we're fighting for), most Americans do respect the need for the government to protect the nation. However, there is a system, and laws, set up for them to do that. The main issue here is that the President deemed those laws too bothersome for a monarch like him to obey. No explanation they have given as to why they did this has held any water.

[Assistant Attorney General William E.] Moschella maintained that Bush acted legally when he authorized the National Security Agency to go around the court to conduct electronic surveillance of international communications into and out of the United States by suspects tied to al-Qaida or its affiliates.

So he acted legally when he broke the law? Ohh okay!

Moschella relied on a Sept. 18, 2001, congressional resolution, known as the Authorization to Use Military Force, as primary legal justification for Bush's creation of a domestic spying program

So the President was using military force when he broke the law and bypassed the FISA system to conduct illegal surveillance? Well with logic like that, who can argue? I mean 2001 was so long ago, it's hard to remember, but did the President mention to Congress that Fall that by authorizing him to invade Afghanistan to capture Osama bin Laden (did we ever do that, btw?) and battle terrorists that they were giving unlimited and unchecked power to do whatever he wanted even if it violated the law? Just wondering.

In fact, Tom Daschle makes clear he tried and they said no (Daschle: Congress Denied Bush War Powers in U.S.).

Moschella said the president's constitutional authority also includes power to order warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance inside the United States. He said that power has been affirmed by federal courts, including the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court.

Really? FISA affirmed the President's right to deem them unnecessary? It doesn't look that way to me.

Moschella said Bush's action was legal because the foreign intelligence law provides a "broad" exception if the spying is authorized by another statute. In this case, he said, Congress' authorization provided such authority.

No, it did not. In fact, Congress was quite clear about that when the resolution was authorized.

Moschella also maintained the NSA program is "consistent" with the Fourth Amendment — which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures — and civil liberties.

Oh good, the AP saved me the trouble of putting 'consistent' in quotes. It all depends on what the definition of is is.

"Intercepting communications into and out of the United States of persons linked to al-Qaida in order to detect and prevent a catastrophic attack is clearly reasonable."

So is getting the legally required warrant to do so.

These talking points bore me... Got anything new, guys?

"Hey Karl, get me TalkingPoints McGee, I'm in trouble!"

Where Do Bush Supporters Draw The Line?

Two bloggers ponder that question...

Glenn Greenwald: Do Bush defenders place any limits on his "wartime" power?

Peter Daou: How Far Will Bush Supporters Go

2005, You're Doing A Heck Of A Job

Proof that Matt Drudge does have a sense of humor-

[The article- here]

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Impeachment: The Rule of Law

Agree or disagree, the subject of whether to impeach President George W. Bush will be a major issue in the weeks and months to come. Legally, the case for it is incredibly solid. The main obstacle to it, besides the apathy of Americans and the short attention span of the mainstream media, will be the Republican-controlled Congress. Still, their power has dwindled and recent victories, such as that with the Patriot Act, that involved top Republicans working with Democrats, give me hope. The failures of the Bush Presidency are numerous- failing to prevent 9/11, not capturing Osama bin Laden, waging an unjustified war against Iraq that has resulted in a government sympathetic to our enemies, torturing prisoners which hurt our image and is making it harder to prosecute terrorists, failing to respond to the Gulf Coast disaster, and more- but now the unconstitutional actions of an imperial President spying on Americans has sealed the deal for many.

When President Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1998 (but then exonerated by the Senate) because of perjury and obstruction of justice relating to his affair with Monica Lewinsky, critics decried the act as a political stunt. No way, the Republicans insisted, the case was simply about the rule of law and making sure the villainous President Clinton was not above it. Fair enough.

However, they then must accept that is the standard and it must be followed.

The Republicans are likely fuming over the possibility that the President they saw as a successor to Reagan (but not in the Iran-Contra way, in the battling evil way) may be impeached, but they have no one to blame but themselves. By impeaching Bill Clinton, a President whose administration (according to his official White House bio) "enjoyed more peace and economic well being than at any time in [U.S.] history [and] could point to the lowest unemployment rate in modern times, the lowest inflation in 30 years, the highest home ownership in the country's history, dropping crime rates in many places, and reduced welfare roles, [and] the first balanced budget in decades and achieved a budget surplus.", over issues relating to an investigation of his sexcapades, they set the bar incredibly low over what justifies an impeachment.

To review, President Bush personally authorized the NSA to spy on American citizens without a court order. This is in direct contrast to assurances he made last year, which are now revealed to be lies. His actions were also unnecessary. The President claims he did what was necessary to track down terrorists and protect Americans. However, the secret FISA court (set up specifically to facilitate these actions) accomodates for this. The President can set up surveillance as long as he has a court order (and the FISA court has almost never rejected a warrant). If it is an emergency situation, the President can set up immediate surveillance without the warrant, as long as a retroactive one is approved within 72 hours. So there was no legal or logical reason to bypass the FISA system, unless the President was engaged in unjustified spying activities (such as those against his political enemies).

One excuse they have used is that they simply didn't want to be bothered with the paperwork the warrants required. But that is not their choice to make. The President, even if engaged in anti-terror activities, must follow the legal procedures. Despite the claims of the Attorney General (himself a known liar), a state of war does not nullify the President's requirements in this regard. Yet that is what is happening- the President has admitted to these activities and has stated that, as Commander-in-Chief, he is above the law.

So now that we know that President Bush has been spying on Americans for dubious reasons and has committed crimes that not only are more severe than the Lewinsky business, but Watergate as well, surely the Republicans will agree that (at a time when our Constitution and democracy are more important than ever) impeachment is absolutely necessary.

After all, this is not about politics, but simply the rule of law.

President Bush and the "I" Word

A new MSNBC poll shows that 85% support impeachment of the President:
Do you believe President Bush's actions justify impeachment?

An MSNBC/Newsweek report also tackles the issue-
Spying, the Constitution — and the ‘I-word’-

2006 will offer up Nixon-era nastiness and a chorus of calls to impeach Bush

These discussions are also beginning to grow in the media, hopefully not just for this week.

And the Wall Street Journal reports that this story is dividing Republicans:
Wiretap Furor Widens Republican Divide

Also, members of the FISA court are meeting to discuss the spying program.

Finally- Joe Conason gives his take on all of this:
Bush’s Abuse of Power Deserves Impeachment

Mission Accomplished

Just as with the bungled Jose Padilla case, the administration's actions in the NSA scandal could actually be hurting our ability to prosecute the war on terror:

Secret wiretaps could hurt prosecutions, experts warn

The Bush administration's decision to sometimes bypass the secretive U.S. court that governs terrorism wiretaps could threaten cases against terror suspects that rely on evidence uncovered during the disputed eavesdropping, some legal experts cautioned...

More Bush Claims/Republican Myths Debunked

The Washington Post has a great article on the bin Laden satellite phone story-
File the Bin Laden Phone Leak Under 'Urban Myths'

President Bush asserted this week that the news media published a U.S. government leak in 1998 about Osama bin Laden's use of a satellite phone, alerting the al Qaeda leader to government monitoring and prompting him to abandon the device.

The story of the vicious leak that destroyed a valuable intelligence operation was first reported by a best-selling book, validated by the Sept. 11 commission and then repeated by the president.

But it appears to be an urban myth...

See also this MSNBC report on the anti-Clinton talking points.

Republican Congressman Helps Shorten Patriot Act Extension

Darn those Republicans! Why do they hate America??

Seriously, though, this is a significant improvement...

AP: House OKs One-Month Patriot Act Extension

The House passed a one-month extension of the Patriot Act on Thursday and sent it to the Senate for final action as Congress scrambled to prevent expiration of anti-terror law enforcement provisions on Dec. 31.

Approval came on a voice vote in a nearly empty chamber, after Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, refused to agree to a six-month extension the Senate cleared several hours earlier...

Links of the Day

So tired today.. who knew a transit strike would be this tiring?

-Well good news, because it's all over:
New York's 3-Day Transit Strike Ends

-Iraq's 'democracy' is off to a good start:
Iraqi Groups May Boycott New Legislature

-And finally, Rumsfeld prepares to cut and run in Iraq:
Rumsfeld Hints at Cutting Forces in Iraq

The King's Red Herring

Recommended blog read on 9/11, War on Terror issues-

The King's Red Herring

They Hate Us For Our Freedoms

Good news! Congress began impeachment hearings today!!

Just kidding!

In reality, they approved a six-month extension of the Patriot Act. Hey, it's a 'compromise'!

Reuters: Senate votes to extend anti-terrorism bill

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday ended a high-stakes impasse and voted to extend for six months key provisions of the anti-terrorism USA Patriot Act set to expire in 10 days.

The temporary extension, approved without dissent, would provide time to try to resolve differences over safeguards for civil liberties before making permanent most of the provisions the Bush administration deems vital in its war on terrorism...

[*Chooses to pass out from commute-induced exhaustion instead of going on rant*]

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


It's Holy Father Christmas as pope dons traditional hat

Intelligent Design In Action

Truly some of the Designer's finest work-

Click here


The election results from Iraq are coming in... Who won?

Probably not who we wanted.


The Independent (UK): Iraq's election result: a divided nation

Iraq is disintegrating. The first results from the parliamentary election last week show the country is dividing between Shia, Sunni and Kurdish regions.

Religious fundamentalists now have the upper hand. The secular and nationalist candidate backed by the US and Britain was humiliatingly defeated...

Further reading...
-Iran's Victory in Iraq

-Voting Confirms: Iraq Is a Red State

Abramoff To Plead Guilty?

Infamously criminal Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, or "Abramamoff" as the President called him in a recent Fox interview, may plead guilty according to a new news report. This no doubt has the Republican power base in Congress very scared. Man when it rains, its pours for those poor saps.

Bloomberg News: Abramoff May Plead Guilty in Fraud Case Next Week, Person Says

More Links

Busy day, got to get my commute on soon... more links.

-Drilling in ANWR is blocked again thanks to some Senators:
Senate Blocks Alaska Refuge Drilling

-Vice President Cheney shows up in the Senate; manages to keep potty mouth under control:
Cheney Breaks Senate Tie on Spending Cuts

-Hillary Clinton's top competition for her Senate seat drops out:
Pirro Abandons Challenge to Sen. Clinton

An Impeachable Offense

Conservative scholars Bruce Fein and Norm Ornstein have confirmed that the President's actions in bypassing the required legal channels to engage in spying activities, and his defense of it and refusal to back down, constitutes an impeachable offense.

For instance, Bruce Fein (constitutional scholar and former deputy Attorney General in the Reagan Administration) stated that "On its face, if President Bush is totally unapologetic and says I continue to maintain that as a war-time President I can do anything I want – I don’t need to consult any other branches – that is an impeachable offense. It’s more dangerous than Clinton’s lying under oath because it jeopardizes our democratic dispensation and civil liberties for the ages."

From Think Progress:
Conservative Scholars Argue Bush’s Wiretapping Is An Impeachable Offense

See also from the Independent Institute: George W. Bush's Impeachable Offenses

No doubt the apathetic American people could care less, but some Congressional action might be taken.

Senators from both parties are calling for hearings into the program-
Senators members seek spying probe

Sen. Boxer looks into impeachment possibilities (see also video)-
Boxer Asks Presidential Scholars About Former White House Counsel's Statement that Bush Admitted to an 'Impeachable Offense'

And Rep. John Conyers continues his work-
The Constitution in Crisis: Censure and Investigate Possible Impeachment

[Meanwhile, more news comes in... Spying Program Snared U.S. Calls]

The Shit Begins To Hit The Fan

One of the FISA Court members has resigned in protest to the President's actions...

Washington Post: Spy Court Judge Quits In Protest-

Jurist Concerned Bush Order Tainted Work of Secret Panel

A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation...

Debunking More Clinton Myths

Matt Drudge, because he is Karl's lover a tool, has this headline up:

Conservatives love to use the Presidents they hated to justify things Bush does.

Too bad for them what they're implying is, umm, not true.

Think Progress gets the facts straight on those stories:
Fact Check: Clinton/Carter Executive Orders Did Not Authorize Warrantless Searches of Americans

They also take on another Clinton myth: The Gorelick Myth

Links of the Day

A special all-Republican-scandal edition of links of the day...

-Would Abramoff turn on Congressional crooks to save his own ass? Maybe:
Lobbyist Is Said to Discuss Plea and Testimony

-For a Texas 'Hammer', Tom Delay sure liked to be pampered... especially if others paid:
Donors underwrite jet-setting, luxury travel for DeLay, aides

-Bill Frist once again puts the American people against corporate interests. Or not:
Legal Shield for Vaccine Makers Is Inserted Into Military Bill

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Flashback, Pt. II

"Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires — a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so. It’s important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."
-President George W. Bush (April 20, 2004)

Think Progress has video:
Bush Caught on Tape: “A Wiretap Requires A Court Order. Nothing Has Changed.”

Impeach now, please.

[See also- For years, Bush said court orders required for spying]

Year In Review (pt. 1)

Good Enough For Ohio, Good Enough For Iraq

The Sunnis seem to think they live in a democracy and want an investigation based on concerns of voter fraud. Silly Sunnis. Democracy works better when you passively accept it and don't question the system, even if you find evidence of 'electoral' 'fraud', whatever that is.

Whiny loser libs Sunnis.

AP: Iraq's Sunni Arabs Demand Election Inquiry

The Truth Is Out There

Could I be correct in my fears on the reach of all of this?

Related story from The NY Times: F.B.I. Watched Activist Groups, New Files Show

Counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have conducted numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief, newly disclosed agency records show...

Not A Blank Check

Nothing excuses the silence of those Congressional officials who had heard about the program and did nothing, but it's clear they did not approve or know of the extent of what the President was doing...

AP: Democrats Say They Didn't Back Wiretapping

Some Democrats say they never approved a domestic wiretapping program, undermining suggestions by President Bush and his senior advisers that the plan was fully vetted in a series of congressional briefings...

And regarding the idea that the Afghanistan war resolution somehow gave the President unlimited power in wartime, Think Progress has compiled some old quotes:

"Some people say that is a broad change in authorization to the Commander in Chief of this country. It is not. It is a very limited concept of giving him the authority to pursue those who have brought this terrible destruction to our country and to pursue those who have harbored them or assisted them and conspired with them in any way."
-Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) [Congressional Record, 9/14/01]

"The body of this resolution is appropriately limited to those entities involved in the attacks that occurred on September 11th… It reiterates the existing constitutional powers of the President to take action to defend the United States, but provides no new or additional grant of powers to the President."
-Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) [Congressional Record, 9/14/01]

"In extending this broad authority to cover those ‘planning, authorizing, committing, or aiding the attacks’ it should go without saying, however, that the resolution is directed only at using force abroad to combat acts of international terrorism."
-Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) [Congressional Record, 9/14/01]

"The resolution is not a blank check. We do this with our eyes open and in fervent prayer, especially the prayer that President Bush and his national security team will be lavished with wisdom from God above to use only that force which is truly necessary and only that force which is truly appropriate."
-Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) [Congressional Record, 9/14/01]

"The tension that we face tonight is to provide the President with enough authority to eradicate wrongdoing without wronging the carefully crafted systems of checks and balances so essential to our democracy. … As we vote for this important resolution with the lives of so many at stake in this important endeavor against terrorism, we cannot let the executive branch become the exclusive branch."
-Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) [Congressional Record, 9/14/01]

See also- Senators seek probe of Bush's spying orders

Darn That Liberal Media

[See also previous blog post- Shame on the New York Times]

Jonathan Alter, of Newsweek, tells of an effort by Bush to stop the NY Times story...
...Bush was so desperate that The New York Times not publish its story on the National Security Agency eavesdropping on American citizens without a warrant, in what lawyers outside the administration say is a clear violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I learned this week that on December 6, Bush summoned Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futile attempt to talk them out of running the story. The Times will not comment on the meeting, but one can only imagine the president’s desperation...

Too bad for George, the Run-Amok days at the NY Times of their fave reporter taking cues from the Vice President's office are over. The Times made the right call, albeit one year too late. Call it How Sulzberger Got His Groove Back.

Still, the media coverage of this scandal has been extremely limited and oblivious in general. Most of that 'liberal media' are buying the President's lies that is standard wartime national security procedure. I watched alot of cable news last night and didn't hear anyone address why the President chose to bypass the FISA system and no one note that the 72-hour retroactive warrant clause blows away his only excuse- the need for speed. As David Sirota points out in his latest blog post, the talking heads are all treating this as it were another partisan squabble about the war, not a huge debate over unchecked and unconstitutional power of the executive branch. We should thank our lucky stars CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News didn't exist during Watergate.

Who needs to get a blowjob for people to pay attention to this?

Related links:
-Paper in a Bubble: Is the Times Even More Cut Off than George Bush?
-Critics Question Timing of Surveillance Story


"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."
-President-elect George W. Bush (December 18, 2000)

The Echelon Myth

As I wrote about yesterday, the typical right-wing crowd who hated Clinton with a passion but use his presidency to (incorrectly) justify some of Bush's actions again were up their 'Clinton Did It!' tricks to blow off the NSA scandal. I gave my take on it, but Think Progress has a good writeup on this talking point as well-

The Echelon Myth

Links of the Day

What do we want? LINKS! When do we want it? NOW!

-Us New Yorkers have another Big Apple adventure:
NYC Commuters Coping With Transit Strike

-A federal judge ruled against 'intelligent design' in Pennsylvania. A threat from Pat Robertson is no doubt near:
Judge Rules Against Pa. Biology Curriculum

-Finally, gay couples in the U.K. exchange vows:
'Gay weddings' first for Belfast

Bush/NSA Spying Scandal- Bottom line.

Did I post enough yesterday for you?

I think I covered every aspect of this scandal (more so than all the cable news channels I watched tonight which breezed through it in around four minutes so they could debate whether Bono truly deserved the Time cover), but I wanted to do a sort of 'final word' before I went to bed with visions of an MTA strike dancing in my head.

President Bush's defense on the program came on two fronts... the first being from Attorney General Gonzales, who gave the more Orwellian defense. Gonzales stated the legal justification comes from the authorization Congress gave Bush after 9/11 to respond military to the terrorists (the Afghanistan war declaration). He stated, in effect, that it was implied that President Bush could do this by virtue of being at war. Boil it down and they are saying that a nation at war gives the President unlimited power. Think about it long and hard, people. I mean didn't I just see that in the last 'Star Wars' movie? How'd that turn out for them?

The second front was a press conference by President Bush himself. Bush said these type of wiretaps are legal and that he has the authority as commander-in-chief to do what's required to protect us. He ignores the fact that no one questioned that. Of course they are legal... when you go through the system! Here is the process in a nutshell: Bush-FISA-NSA. Bush goes to FISA, gets the warrants, and then authorizes the NSA to begin the surveillance. The chain that was occurring was: Bush-NSA. The President was bypassing FISA and the warrants and is therefore in violation of the Constitution of the United States, a crime he pretty much admitted to. That's the scandal here and Bush's address did not give a real answer as to this behavior.

Regarding the President's 'need for speed' excuse/lie that "we must be able to act fast and to detect these conversations", the FISA system accounts for this scenario. As pointed out by David Sirota and others, "the law currently allows Bush to order surveillance as fast as he possibly can, and allows surveillance operations to take place immediately. The only thing that is required is a court-issued warrant that can be ussed retroactively within 72 hours of when the operation started". So why then didn't that occur? The President did not say nor was the issue addressed.

So, despite all the talk yesterday, we still don't know the real reason the President violated the law and bypassed FISA. Maybe the real answer is too scary. So no, the scandal isn't that President is working to protect us... it's something much scarier. The President bypassed the system when it was absolutely unnecessary to do so and he did it for unknown reasons. My feelings on this matter remain clear...

Impeach now, please.

[PS- Also see this animated translation/breakdown of Bush's speech]

Rockefeller's Letter

As we learned already, a few key members of the Senate were briefed on the NSA spying program, a fact made known by the GOP to imply that Congress was obviously okay with it. Shockingly, this approval is likely not the case. From Talking Points Memo yesterday came news that Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV) released a letter he sent the Vice President on July 17th, 2003. As Ranking Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Rockefeller was given a short briefing on the program and wrote a handwritten letter to Cheney objecting to the program. Quite ominous at the end is Rockefeller noting to Vice President Cheney that he is keeping a copy of the letter for his own records. No doubt the Senator knew this would blow up in the White House's face and he wanted a record that he opposed it and gave Mr. Cheney a warning.

You can read the letter here:
Letter from Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to Vice President Cheney regarding NSA domestic wiretapping, July 17th 2003

Monday, December 19, 2005

Technical Difficulties

Some HTML problems... hope to fix soon.

I blame Bush.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

What is FISA? Amid all this talk about it, many likely don't know what it is.

The following has a detailed FAQ on it:
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act-

Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers)

The President? Leave Out Bad News? NO WAY!

Speaking of the President's speeches...

Here's a good AP story of the 'No shit?' variety. They note that the ABC/Time poll he cited in his speech to prove all the 'progress' in Iraq when taken in full actually paints a more murkier vision of things.

The story: Bush Leaves Out the Bad News in Iraqi Poll

President Bush is making selective use of an opinion poll when he tells people that Iraqis are increasingly upbeat.

The same poll that indicated a majority of Iraqis believe their lives are going well also found a majority expressing opposition to the presence of U.S. forces, and less than half saying Iraq is better off now than before the war...

This should, of course, be no surprise to anyone who remembers the buildup to war in which the President cherry-picked all the (faulty) intelligence to justify the case for a war he'd already decided on, when in fact numerous sources and agencies had provided him information that casted large doubt upon the intel. You do remember, don't you?

Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

The CarpetBagger Report has a take on the improving press for the President's recent speeches:

The media reports on the president's speech last night seems to have a common thread... [It's] giving enormous credit to the president for a minimal degree of appreciating reality. Talk about your soft bigotry of low expectations, Bush won praise for acknowledging that the "work has been especially difficult in Iraq," and for recognizing that there are a more than a few Americans who disapprove of his handling of the war. It's as if there was an expectation that the president would, once again, tell us how great everything in Iraq is, facts be damned. It's frustrating; we seem to have reached a point in which the president's willingness to concede a few obvious facts is so unusual, it's literally front-page news.

Indeed. The fact that he's actually trying now is deemed a success by the easily pleased media.

Digital TV > Constitutional Crime

What Congress was focusing on today instead of the impeachable offense the President has admitted to...

House Moves for All-Digital TV by 2009

Whatta country!

Links of the Day

The daily crop of stories, none of which seem important today:

-Congress paves the way for the oil drilling up in ANWR:
House Opens Way for Oil Drilling in Arctic

-Cheney's visit to Iraq goes... about as well as everything else:
Cheney Fields Tough Questions From Troops

-A gay soldier is thanked by his fellow soldiers for his service to our country:
Gay soldier leaving Army after assault at Fort Huachuca

Fear will keep the local systems in line.

The President gave his speech defending the spying program this morning.

AP: Bush Says NSA Surveillance Necessary, Legal

He defended the program stating that it is "a necessary part of my job to protect" us and that it would continue "for so long as the nation faces the continuing threat of an enemy that wants to kill American citizens". Ummm, so as long as the United States has enemies, it will continue? So... forever then. Okay.

He also once again said the real scandal is that we, the American people, were informed about this.

Furthermore, he insisted that only international conversations were monitored illegally and that all domestic eavesdropping was done on the up-and-up, FISA-style. Ohh well now I'm totally reassured. Keep in mind that the article also mentions that the President's legal defense for this program was already laid out this morning by Attorney General Gonzales. His defense, which the AP report called a "detailed legal rationale", was that 'Congress authorization of the use of military force after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks was ample authorization for the surveillance'. That logic basically states the authorization to invade Afghanistan somehow gave the President the authority to do whatever he wanted. Makes sense, no?

My favorite passage from the article:
Raising his voice, Bush challenged Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton — without naming them — to allow a final vote on legislation renewing the anti-terror Patriot Act. "I want senators from New York or Los Angeles or Las Vegas to go home and explain why these cities are safer" without the extension, he said.

Reid represents Nevada; Clinton is a New York senator, and both helped block passage of the legislation in the Senate last week.

Ahhh, fear again. 'Support my programs or explain to your states why you embrace terrorism!'.

Bottom line- The President again used the specter of terrorism to frighten us into accepting this. But the issue was never about whether we would allow the government to take the necessary steps to monitor terrorists and to protect us. As Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo states "Wiretaps are conducted around the country every day. The FISA Court alone approves something like a half a dozen a day in highly classified national security or espionage related cases"... the issue here is that the President bypassed this system and put himself above the law for extremely dubious and potentially frightening reasons.

In the fight to save democracy, the President has declared that the rules of said democracy are irrelevant and do not apply to him in achieving his goals. That is unacceptable. The fact that the President, and his most ardent supporters, don't get that is indeed a scary thought.

Sorry George, I'm not sold. Executive privilege didn't work in '74 and won't work now. Accountability, please.

More Talking Points

Thanks to Matt "Scandal? What Scandal?" Drudge, another one for the pile:


As we know, when all else fails, blame Clinton. The right-wing bloggers are foaming at the mouth with excitement over a link Drudge posted this morning: Transcript of 60 Minutes on Echelon. The link is the transcript on a year 2000 '60 Minutes' report on Echelon, a Clinton-era program meant to "eavesdrop on enemies of the state: foreign countries, terrorist groups and drug cartels". The program (a computer system that searched airwaves for key words like 'bomb') would sometimes accidently breach into a civilian's conversation. Many politicians were concerned about this.

Is this the same thing that is occurring now? Similar sure, but definitely not the same. Scary, though. Indeed. But still... not the same. Echelon was an international, cooperative program run not just by the NSA here in America, but also by four English-speaking allies: Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. A bit different than a secret domestic program personally authorized by the President of the United States bypassing the required legal steps for such eavesdropping. There is, to my knowledge, no evidence that President Clinton ordered the type of wiretapping we are seeing now or that he violated the Constitution in connection with the Echelon system. Echelon was the type of satellite surveillance system we all assumed (even if we didn't like it) the governments of the world were using anyway. President Bush's program is not what we assumed was occurring. Republicans and Democrats would not be freaking out like they are if it were.

Of course, the argument is made almost moot by the source. Drudge? He led the 'Impeach Clinton' campaign. If he had known about this in 2000, he definitely would have put it top story for days as a reason why we shouldn't trust Clinton and therefore shouldn't vote for Gore. But now when President Bush does something that seems similar, but is actually far more secretive and frightening in terms of its implications, they use the Clinton story as a reason blow it off. Bill Clinton left office 5 years ago, people. If you want us to reimpeach him in our minds... fine. [*waits 5 seconds*] Done. Can we move on now?

George W. Bush is President. Let's focus on him and hold him accountable, as odd as that may sound.


The NY Post, devoid of any original thoughts, again has an editorial telling Bush's critics to shut up:

They conclude at the end that the loyal opposition has become too light on loyalty and too heavy on opposition and "That needs to stop. Now." No, sorry, guys. The lying needs to stop now. The imperial posturing needs to stop now. If the President isn't loyal to the Constitution, we shouldn't be loyal to him.

I gave the President a second chance last November. I wanted to believe. He failed all of us.

Impeach now, please.

Talking Points, continued

Yesterday, I unraveled the talking points used to defend the spying program.

My apologies- I forgot one. So here's #4...

4. Fear not! This doesn't apply to average Americans! Just terrorists!

Many right-wing bloggers, etc, are blowing off this scandal by stating that this isn't the big brother program people are fearing it is... it's only used to spy on known terrorist suspects. Former Ashcroft pal Carol Platt Liebau writes in a recent blog post that this is simply "the interception of international communications by people inside the United States who have been determined to have 'a clear link' to al- Qaida or related terrorist organizations."

Well that sounds okay, doesn't it? We want them to keep an eye on terror suspects.

Here's the catch, as I see it... If this program was legitimately on the up-and-up, and only directed at known/potential terrorists, why weren't the legal procedures followed? Why did the President, in a serious breach of power that makes Watergate look small in comparison, bypass the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) system and not seek the required warrants? The FISA courts are set up specifically, and secretly, for this exact type of scenario. The response he needed to keep it secret is nonsense. It's not as if the NSA officials would hold a press conference after receiving warrants to say "Hello, here is the list of people the President was given warrants to spy on today." Secrecy would be maintained, but so would the legal requirements.

Could the problem have arisen that, in many cases, they would not have legally been able to get warrants? That there wasn't enough evidence to warrant one, so they did it anyway? After all, who determines which Americans have "'a clear link' to al- Qaida or related terrorist organizations"? The intelligence community? The same one that failed to prevent the 9/11 attacks and said Saddam had a nuclear weapons program? My guess is that the President was casting his net a whole lot wider than those with a 'clear link' to terror groups. After 9/11, we know that people whose names just sounded like terror suspects were chucked into prisons without lawyers or trials. The singer formerly known as Cat Stevens is not allowed to fly on airplanes in the U.S. because his last name was 'Islam'. Many people who had no connection to terrorists were rounded up after 9/11 and some were quietly released a year or two later when the obvious was finally confirmed. My guess is that this is the case with the NSA spying program.

Furthermore, I don't believe that this program was only directed at just randomly 'suspicious' Muslims either. The President may have been pulling a Nixon and spying on his political enemies as well. Cindy Sheehan, I'd listen for clicks on your next phone conversation. We learned earlier this month that the Pentagon was spying on anti-war/peace groups. An MSNBC investigation learned that intelligence gathering at the Defense Department "now includes the monitoring of peaceful anti-war and counter-military recruitment groups" and that a "DOD database obtained by NBC News includes nearly four dozen anti-war meetings or protests, including some that have taken place far from any military installation, post or recruitment center." The database contained not only the location and nature of each meeting and protest, but also detailed information on the participants, including the names of attendees and car models and license numbers. If the DOD was doing this, do we have any reason to believe that the NSA and their eavesdropping program did not target the same type of organizations? Because there were no warrants or record... we may never know.

I know what you're saying, 'Jeremy, your tin foil hat is on too tight'. Bullshit. The facts are in and it doesn't take more than one step to jump to these conclusions. If I am wrong, then why the unconstitutional, and unprecedented, level of secrecy? Why not get the required FISA warrants? I do not believe the program only targeted those with "'a clear link' to al- Qaida or related terrorist organizations". I believe that we all were potentially targeted. Ever sign a Move-On petition, etc? You may be next.

If you believe I'm wrong and we should give the President the benefit of the doubt, I have WMDs in Iraq I want to sell you.


More of that progress, I suppose, that's occuring in Iraq...

'Dr. Germ,' Others Released in Iraq

About 24 top former officials in Saddam Hussein's regime, including a biological weapons expert known as "Dr. Germ," have been released from jail, while a militant group released a video Monday of the purported killing of an American hostage...

..."The release was an American-Iraqi decision and in line with an Iraqi government ruling made in December 2004, but hasn't been enforced until after the elections in an attempt to ease the political pressure in Iraq," said the lawyer, Badee Izzat Aref...

I guess Ramsey Clark didn't want to defend them too, eh?

Weren't these guys on the infamous deck of cards of the most vile Iraq 'villains'? These people were among the reasons we had to invade this country (so we could be protected, natch) and now we just struck a deal to let them go and leave the country? I thought the Democrats were the ones who would negotiate with our enemies? Why not let Saddam go too? It's not like his trial is going anywhere. Good grief!

Next thing you'll be telling me that a Shiite electoral victory could potentially lead to an Iraqi government sympathetic to Iran and/or embracing of religious fundamentalism. Wassat?... Oh dear.

I feel so confident these people know what they're doing. Armando, can I have my rum back?

This The Best Ya Got, Alberto?

Alberto Gonzales appeared in front the White House this morning to defend the NSA spying program...

From the AP report:
Gonzales said he had begun meeting with members of Congress on the Bush administration's view that Congress' authorization of the use of military force after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks was ample authorization for the surveillance.

"Our position is that the authorization to use military force which was passed by the Congress shortly after Sept. 11 constitutes that authority," Gonzales said.

It was the most detailed legal explanation given by an administration officials since the New York Times reported Thursday that since October 2001 Bush had authorized the NSA to conduct the surveillance.

Gonzales said Congress' action after Sept. 11 essentially "does give permission for the president of the United States to engage in this kind of very limited, targeted electronic surveillance against our enemy."

Congress authorizing the President to use military force to respond to terrorism overseas constituted (without their knowledge) their agreement he could bypass the legal process and authorize domestic spying activities?! This... THIS... is their legal defense? (!!!!) Wow, they had all weekend to come up with a justification and that is the best they can do? Vice President Cheney too busy being yawned at by soldiers in Iraq to phone in any better ideas? This is pathetic. What happened to the good ol' days of 'The Geneva conventions only protects prisoners of war and the war on terror isn't a real war so they're not protected by it and we can totally torture them!'? See, that was some quality, scummy legal defense right there. This new 'Well when Congress said to military respond to 9/11, I'm sure they understood it meant we had carte blanche to do whatever we wanted, ignoring any and all Constitutional and legal obstacles in our path' legal defense? Not so much.

Senator Feingold, will you take it from here, please?-
"This is just an outrageous power grab. Nobody, nobody thought when we passed a resolution to invade Afghanistan and to fight the war on terror ... that this was an authorization to allow a wiretapping against the law of the United States."

Thanks, Russ.

Now get to work, guys. This scandal is the real deal and we demand accountability.

I Am Not A Crook

The President will be giving another speech this morning.

He's spoken more in the past two weeks than he has in two years... at least he knows he's in trouble. The question is, will the American people buy it? After the last election, I don't have much faith in their intelligence/memory, so I'll guess 'yes'. Here we go again...

AP: Bush to Hold White House News Conference

Pay No Attention To The Scandal Behind The Curtain

The President gave a speech today to distract from the NSA scandal update (?) on Iraq.

Here it is in a nutshell:
"Dude, we're totally gonna win this war, I swear."

That's how pointless this speech was that I don't care to comment further.

AP article: Bush Asserts U.S. Is Winning Iraq War

"Please don't impeach me."

What Did Congressional Leaders Know And When Did They Know It?

So it appears that the top Congressional leaders were briefed on the spying program to some degree. This is all pretty murky. Just how much they were briefed on is not known. But here is what was said in the AP report:
Bush said congressional leaders had been briefed on the operation more than a dozen times. That included Democrats as well as Republicans in the House and Senate, a GOP lawmaker said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she had been told on several occasions that Bush had authorized unspecified activities by the National Security Agency, the nation's largest spy agency. She said she had expressed strong concerns at the time, and that Bush's statement Saturday "raises serious questions as to what the activities were and whether the activities were lawful."

As that states, this fact was made known by the GOP, likely to downplay the President's culpability in all of this. Whatever was briefed to these Congressional leaders does not excuse what occurred and the likely illegality of it (Constitution? We still believe in that musty old rag?)... This revelation just makes me angry that these leaders allowed it to continue. In the investigation (and there should be a large one) into this program, we should find out how much these leaders knew of the extent of what the President was doing. If they were aware of what was happening and did nothing to demand he get the FISA warrants or to, in general, rein in the President's power, well they too should pack their bags.

Again, we all respect the need to protect to us, but there is a system they set up for doing so. We have a democracy. We follow laws. We respect the Constitution. If the system's not working, discuss it, change it. The President is not above the law. We have spent billions and lost countless lives fighting to give Iraq freedom... at the expense of allowing our leaders to erode ours here at home. If anyone can explain that logic to me, let's grab a bottle of vodka and talk. Because it doesn't make any sense to me. I remember 7 years ago a President who led with a strong economy and peace was impeached for illegal actions he took to hide... an extramarital affair. And then, here we are today.

I see no incompatibility between being grateful that the government works tirelessly to protect us and our cities and wanting to see President Bush impeached for his actions. The President gave this warning last night in his latest Iraq speech- "do not give up on this fight for freedom." If we let allow this to pass, then we already have.


More editorials on the spying scandal:

-Kansas City Star: Surveillance puts rights at risk

-Denver Post: Domestic liberties require protection

-Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette: Big Brother Bush / The president took a step toward a police state

-St. Petersburg Times: Warrantless surveillance

-LA Times: Bigger brother

[PS- I love how much Drudge is downplaying this, he's so adorable]

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Where My Republicans At?

I was reading a comment on Crooks and Liars stating their curiousity where the far-right would land on this issue... meaning, these are the people who fear the power of the government so much they like the NRA to stay armed in case of a too-powerful government. The Republicans were supposed to exist to curb the power/scope of the federal government; they were the libertarians. The Democrats were supposedly the ones who wanted the government involved in all aspects of social life. That has not been the case for some time. The roles are reversed. The Republican Party has become the party of big, all-powerful government in a way that would LBJ blush. This spy story is the ultimate confirmation. Big Brother is very real... and he's a Republican.

This reminded I wanted to post the following letter from the most recent issue of Newsweek (the Bush Bubble issue). The writer was responding to a George Will column in which he complained that campaign-finance laws were a liberal assault on free speech (damn that liberal Sen. McCain!). The writer had some strong feelings on the stupidity of that notion:

"George Will's article 'Free Speech Under Siege' (Dec. 5) reminds me that most conservatives have either lost touch with reality or have become so buried in the right's false rhetoric that they actually believe the propaganda they peddle. He claims liberals have a 'program of extending government supervision of life'. It is what the right has been saying for years, and it is purely misleading. It was the conservatives who tried to decide what was best for Terri Schiavo. It is conservatives who want to tell a woman what to do with her body. It is conservatives who want to tell us who whom we can and can't fall in love with. Then they confuse liberal programs that help people with big government. Will tries to claim that campaign-finance reform - supported by Democrats and Republicans alike - is an attack on free speech. Campaign-finance reform is the last, best hope we have to limit career politicians. Attacks on free speech are more about calling people anti-American who don't agree with the war in Iraq, or limiting the press coverage of fallen soldiers' coming home in coffins."


Sunday Morning Talk Shows On Spying

I've been surfing around the old blogosphere trying to find any interesting tidbits from the Sunday morning shows on the spy scandal. So far, the two most interesting/amusing finds come from Meet the Press and Fox News Sunday. Let's start with the Tim Russert Magic Funtime Hour-

From Think Progress, this exchange between Russert and Condi:

RUSSERT: What Democrats and Republicans in Congress are asking, what is the authority that you keep citing? What law? What statute? Where in the Constitution does it say that the President can eavesdrop, wiretap American citizens without a court order?

RICE: Tim, the President has authorities under FISA which we are using and using actively. He also has authorities that derive from his role as Commander in Chief and his need to protect the country. He has acted within his constitutional authority and within statutory authority. Now, I am not a lawyer and I am quite certain that the Attorney General will address a lot of these questions.

State of the Day has the translation of what she said:
"Tim, I am not a lawyer. Tim, we don't have the time to follow the law. Tim, we need the American people to understand how scared they should be. Tim, September the 11th. Tim, September the 11th. Tim, September the 11th. Tim, the President has acted under the Constitution. Oh, and if I didn't mention it, Tim I am not a lawyer. Tim, OUR lawyers looked at it. Tim, are you scared yet?"

And Crooks and Liars has video: Condi: I am not a crook! Sorry, I meant: I am not a lawyer!

Moving on... On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol proves the official talking points aren't ready yet and so he falls back on the ol' Republican standby... IT'S ALL BILL CLINTON'S FAULT!!11!! Once again, Think Progress has a transcript:

BILL KRISTOL: I wish Bill Clinton had done this. I wish we had tapped the phones of people that Mohammed Atta, that Mohammed Atta here into the United States, if we discovered phone calls from Afghanistan to him. That’s why 9/11 happened. That’s what connecting the dots is.

JAUN WILLIAMS: If you’re going after the terrorists so would a FISA court support it, just as you support it.

See previous blog rant on this theme:
Clinton Did It! (aka- Bush who?)

And, as always, Crooks and Liars has video: Kristol: It's all Clinton's fault

Alberto Gonzales, Professional Liar

Alberto Gonzales is no longer just the guy who made U.S.-sanctioned torture possible...

He is now also the guy who helped make government spying possible.

From Think Progress, this old exchange from his Attorney General confirmation hearings last January:

SEN. FEINGOLD: I — Judge Gonzales, let me ask a broader question. I’m asking you whether in general the president has the constitutional authority, does he at least in theory have the authority to authorize violations of the criminal law under duly enacted statutes simply because he’s commander in chief? Does he — does he have that power?


MR. GONZALES: Senator, if I might respond to that, the president is not above the law. Of course he’s not above the law. But he has an obligation, too. He takes an oath as well. ....

SEN. FEINGOLD: I recognize that, and I tried to make that distinction, Judge, between electing not to enforce as opposed to affirmatively telling people they can do certain things in contravention of the law.

MR. GONZALES: Senator, this president is not — I — it is not the policy or the agenda of this president to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes.

SEN. FEINGOLD: Finally, will you commit to notify Congress if the president makes this type of decision and not wait two years until a memo is leaked about it?

MR. GONZALES: I will to advise the Congress as soon as I reasonably can, yes, sir.

Mr. Gonzales's assurances were, of course, in direct contrast to what was actually happening. According to the President's radio address yesterday in defense of the program states that "The review includes approval by our nation's top legal officials, including the Attorney General and the Counsel to the President", meaning Gonzales gave the thumbs up for it.

Add him to the list of people who should start packing their desks.

Links of the Day

Some links to keep you busy while the government spies on you, you liberal terrorist:

-Give us your tired, your poor, your... umm, or just build a big-ass fence:
House Votes to Toughen Laws on Immigration-

One Setback for Bush: No Guest-Worker Plan

-Was the destruction of Katrina overwhelmingly on the poor? Maybe not, though they'll have the harder time recovering:
Katrina Killed Across Class Lines

-Is Rumsfeld planning to stay until the end of Bush's term? That's what Mr. Douchebag of Liberty says:
Long-term Rummy?

Congress Have Oversight Of The President? What Is This- America?

Congress, five years too late, is considering exercising its Constitutionally-mandated oversight on the President:

Bush's Fumbles Spur New Talk of Oversight on Hill

My God, He's A Monster

Yahoo headline:

"Cheney visits Iraq; attacks kill 19"

Someone stop him before they're all dead!!

[The article- here... The trip was Hillary Clinton's idea, BTW.]

Talking Points

You know I love talking points.

I love even more knocking them down like the strawmen they are...

So here at the spy scandal Republican talking points, and my reactions:

1. President Bush is protecting us! Don't question it!

There is an AP story that Drudge is leading with: Bush: Eavesdropping Helps Save U.S. Lives. It includes a quote from the President, stating "The activities I have authorized make it more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time. And the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad." Most right-wing bloggers share this sentiment. For instance, Carol Platt Liebau said that the outrage is just people "denouncing the President's efforts to keep all of us safe".

A fair point... yet it misses the point simultaneously. The fact that the adminstration uses 9/11 to justify almost everything they've done (invade Iraq, torture, etc) completely devalues the argument to begin with. It is debatable whether this program prevented an attack. But it's beside the point... terrorist attacks are prevented all the time in countries like Israel without abusing the law. To use a fairly abused example, Mussolini made the trains run on time... but he was still a scumbag.

After 9/11, the President told us 'they hate us for our freedoms'. First off, that's bullshit, they hate us for more complicated reasons than that. However, if we were to believe that (as the President does), should we then believe that the way to combat those who hate our freedoms is to... surrender those freedoms to government under the assumption its for own protection? If you believe that, you probably thought "1984" was a lovely read.

If the President thought this was legal, necessary, and/or okay, it wouldn't have been hidden in this way. There would have been more transparency with the Congress. He would've obtained the warrants legally... which would made this entire scandal somewhat moot.

I will repost what I said yesterday- We all want the government to protect us (yes, even liberals!!) and we are all grateful that great efforts have been undertaken to accomplish this goal successfully. But there is a right and a wrong way to do so. The President chose the wrong way. I understand that, given the post-9/11 climate, certain aspects of crime-fighting law occassionally need bending. I understand that. So change the law. Don't break it over and over for over three years. Given the terrorist threat, should we give the White House the benefit of the doubt? NO. This administration has proven over and over it cannot be trusted.... We cannot surrender our democracy because of fears of enemies, no matter how serious (and I am not underestimating the genuine threat we face). The bottom line is this- The President cannot simply disobey laws (continually, for over three years) that he finds bothersome. He swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and our laws, not subvert them whenever he feels necessary.

2. This is a leak of classified info!! Shame on the Times for printing it! Prosecute the leaker!

Many conservatives are noting, correctly, that this is classified government information that was illegally leaked to the New York Times and a serious offense. They state that liberals should be as mad at this as they are over the Valerie Plame leak. First off, this argument is devalued by the fact that the people making it don't actually seem to give a shit that Plame's identity was leaked. They think the real villains in that story were Plame and Wilson themselves. Onto the main issue... yes, this does constitute the illegal leaking of classified info. But sometimes that can be justified (perhaps not legally, of course, but from a larger point of view). If people in the government have committed crimes, I believe it can greatly be argued that officials have an obligation to expose it to the public. There is a name for this- whistleblowing - and it's led to the exposing of powerful crimes.

As an example, Deep Throat (aka- Mark Felt) leaked classified info about the Nixon White House to Bob Woodward at the Washington Post. As the #2 man at the FBI, it was certainly illegal for him to do so. But it was also the right thing. And he is considered an American hero today for his actions.. except by people like G Gordon Liddy and Chuck Colson, the criminals he helped expose.

Final note on the Plame comparison. The leaking of her identity is more serious of a leak than this because that was not a case of whistleblowing. The only whistleblower in that saga was Joe Wilson. Valerie Plame committed no crime. Her name wasn't leaked to expose governmental wrongdoing, it was exposed out of vindictiveness and revenge. No comparison.

If the government wants an investigation to find the leakers, they should by all means do so, but that doesn't invalidate the crimes of the President that were exposed.

3. The Times only broke this story to help the book of an employee!

This is another point that is genuinely valid, but also besides the point. The Drudge Report (a fair and balanced news source, natch) posted NYT 'SPYING' SPLASH TIED TO BOOK RELEASE. The story notes that the author of the Times article, James Risen, has a book coming out entitled 'STATE OF WAR: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration', dealing with this and other issues. Drudge's story notes that "now comes word James Risen's article is only one of many 'explosive newsbreaking'stories that can be found -- in his upcoming book -- which he turned in 3 months ago!... The paper failed to reveal the urgent story was tied to a book release and sale."

This is shocking, of course, though I expect nothing less at this point from the paper that gave us Judy Miller and her run amok adventures with WMDs and Scooter Libby. Yes, the Times sucks and their motives for breaking this story are dubious... but they are not the issue here. The President is. I already gave the Times a great deal of criticism yesterday for their handling of this story: Shame on the New York Times. However, I am glad they did print the story and that, maybe, the President will be held accountable for his actions. No matter why they broke this story, the fact is that the story they broke is important. It is good that we have this information, no matter what the reasons. The Times' questionable ethics are nothing in comparison to the President violating his oath to protect the Constitution.

This is one problem I've always had with the right-wing... simplicity. One sign of a mature mind is the ability to hold two seemingly conflicting point of views without ones brain exploding. The right tends to see things in black and white (ie. that whole 'hate us for our freedom' nonsense). So to the right if they accept these things - the President needs to do what's necessary to protect us, classified info was leaked, and the NY Times had odd motives - that to them means the charges against the President are invalid. Liberals see complexities; they can agree that all those points are true, yet simultaneously appreciate the seriousness of the crime that the President has committed.

There are many angles to this story. But the bottom line is that the President has behaved inappropriately and has stated that his power is not limited by laws or the Constitution and he will continue to behave this way if he feels that it is necessary. This is unacceptable. As the honorable Feingold said, he is a President, not a King. If the Congress cannot rein in the President's imperial abuses of power, he must be impeached.

God bless America.

The President Is Above The Law

Joshua of Talking Points Memo brings up an excellent point. The President's argument in his defense is that he had to do what is necessary to protect us, even if there are legal blocks to taking such action. By that logic, despite the newly accepted McCain Amendment, the President can authorize torture whenever he wants if he deems it necessary. Torture ban be damned! If the President wants to get shit done, it's bamboo shoots up the fingernails for you, Mohammed!

The new standard is set: Any law that gets in the way of the President is considered moot.

Just Do It

Jack Cafferty's rant on CNN:

Who cares about whether the Patriot Act gets renewed? Want to abuse our civil liberties? Just do it!

Who cares about the Geneva Conventions? Want to torture prisoners? Just do it!

Who cares about rules concerning the identities of CIA agents? Want to reveal the name of a covert operative? Just do it!

Who cares about whether the intelligence concerning WMD's is accurate? You want to invade Iraq? Just do it.

Who cares about qualifications to serve on the nation's highest court? Want to nominate a personal friend with no qualifications? Just do it.

And the latest outrage, which I read about in "The New York Times" this morning... Who cares about needing a court order to eavesdrop on American citizens. Want to wiretap their phone conversations? Just do it.... What a joke. A very cruel, very sad joke.

Crooks and Liars has video:
Jack Cafferty on the administration: Just Do it!


Both sides are reacting to the spying news.

Which of the exception of a few, most are outraged.

Democratic quote:
"I tell you, he's President George Bush, not King George Bush. This is not the system of government we have and that we fought for."
-Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis

Republican quote:
"Well, the fact of the matter is that the Constitution is the Constitution, and I took an oath to abide by it…and the president did…if you have any government official who deliberately orders that federal law be violated despite the best of motives, that certainly ought to be of concern to us."
-Former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA)

And some newspaper editorials:
-Washington Post: Spying on Americans

-NY Times: This Call May Be Monitored ...