Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005 In Review- Don't Forget New Orleans

'Nuff said.

2005 In Review- Bonfire Of The Inanities

From Barry Crimmins at the Boston Phoenix comes the absolute best political year in review article I have read so far. All of the major stories and issues are covered in an informative, yet humorous, way. It's quite engaging. He starts off with Duke Cunningham's tear-filled confession, moves onto to Diebold, then the media, then the Plame case, more Congressional scandals, how 'Camp Casey' helped reshape the war debate, the aftermath of Katrina, the Miers nomination, the wiretapping scandal, then the Iraqi elections, and wraps it all up for us in four well written pages.

The bonfire of the inanities-

Seriously, could it get any worse?

Highly-recommended read. Grab a glass of champagne, print it out, and enjoy.

[Hat-tip: State of the Day blog]

2005 In Review- Faith-Based New Year's Toasts

A recent Sutton Impact cartoon-

2005 In Review- Person of the Year (No, Not Bono)

Earlier this month, Time magazine named Bill and Melinda Gates as its People of the Year for their activism and their work in mobilizing efforts to tackle world poverty. Rolling Stone in turn named their favorite 'Mavericks, Renegades, and Troublemakers' of the year including Cindy Sheehan, Rep. Jack Murtha, Capt. Ian Fishback, George Clooney, and Kanye West.

Now TvNewsLIES, a watchdog site that looks at media spin, has named its Person of the Year- Rep. John Conyers. They state "We believe that he has proved himself as a most distinguished and indefatigable leader and a tireless and intrepid fighter against the abuses of power by the present administration. In that role, we believe that John Conyers, in his dignified and determined way, also has become the voice of the people." They cite three acts in particular: Exposing election fraud in Ohio, holding the Downing Street hearings, and releasing 'The Constitution in Crisis'. It's an excellent choice, though those honored by Time and Rolling Stone were certainly no slouches.

You can read some of Rep. Conyers' writing here:
The Blog - Rep. John Conyers - The Huffington Post

2005 In Review- President Bush's 'Accomplishments'

Well here we are at the end of 2005. What a year, huh? I'm going to just do a series of 'year in review' posts today and that will be it. I'll be back when I wake up tomorrow, which might not be until Monday. So enjoy these posts for now and have a Happy New Year. May this year's movement toward accountability in government be merely a preamble to the full document ahead.

First, for an amusing look at quality spin, check out this document on the White House website:
Fact Sheet: President Bush's Accomplishments in 2005

My favorite section- "The President Nominated Well-Qualified Candidates To The U.S. Supreme Court"

Occasionally, sure.

The section mentions his nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito. Aren't we forgetting something, Mr. President?

Washington poised for revelations from top lobbyist

2006 will be an interesting year for sure.

AFP: Washington poised for revelations from top lobbyist
The political establishment here is on edge as a former top lobbyist embroiled in a wide-ranging corruption scandal appears poised to reveal some dark political secrets...

...[F]ormer lobbyist [Jack Abramoff] is reportedly negotiating a plea deal with Justice Department prosecutors and his insider revelations could rock the political establishment in the nation's capital.

Such a deal would likely see Abramoff, 47, serve a reduced prison term in return for a guilty plea and an agreement to testify against former associates in related fraud and bribery cases...

More revelations about the gruesome twosome: The DeLay-Abramoff Money Trail-

Nonprofit Group Linked to Lawmaker Was Funded Mostly by Clients of Lobbyist

Friday, December 30, 2005

Impeachment Supporters = Future Terrorist Victims

Anyone advocating the impeachment of the President is asking for a terrorist attack.

This means YOU, constitutional scholars!! You've been warned.

[PS- This artist is printed in the NY Post. He also supports torture. A real patriot.]

"When the President does it that means that it is not illegal."

More articles/editorials looking at the President's latest constitutional crisis-

The Nation (Jonathan Schell): The Hidden State Steps Forward
...The alarming argument is that as Commander in Chief he possesses "inherent" authority to suspend laws in wartime. But if he can suspend FISA at his whim and in secret, then what law can he not suspend? What need is there, for example, to pass or not pass the Patriot Act if any or all of its provisions can be secretly exceeded by the President?

Bush's choice marks a watershed in the evolution of his Administration. Previously when it was caught engaging in disgraceful, illegal or merely mistaken or incompetent behavior, he would simply deny it...

...But in the wiretapping matter, he has so far exhibited no such vacillation. Secret law-breaking has been supplanted by brazen law-breaking. The difference is critical. If abuses of power are kept secret, there is still the possibility that, when exposed, they will be stopped. But if they are exposed and still permitted to continue, then every remedy has failed, and the abuse is permanently ratified...

The NY Times (Paul Krugman): Heck of a Job, Bushie
...A year ago, we didn’t know that Mr. Bush was lying, or at least being deceptive, when he said at an April 2004 event promoting the Patriot Act that “a wiretap requires a court order. ...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.”

A year ago, most Americans thought Mr. Bush was honest.

A year ago, we didn’t know for sure that almost all the politicians and pundits who thundered, during the Lewinsky affair, that even the president isn’t above the law have changed their minds. But now we know when it comes to presidents who break the law, it’s O.K. if you’re a Republican.

The Progress Report (Ivan Eland): Are Republicans Abandoning Law and Order?: George W. Bush's Impeachable Offenses
...Executive searches without judicial review violate the unique checks and balances that the nation’s founders created in the U.S. government and are a considerable threat to American liberty. Furthermore, surveillance of Americans by the NSA, an intelligence service rather than a law enforcement agency, is a regression to the practices of the Vietnam-era, when intelligence agencies were misused to spy on anti-war protesters -- another impeachable violation of peoples’ constitutional rights by LBJ and Nixon.

President Bush defiantly admits initiating such flagrant domestic spying but contends that the Congress implicitly authorized such activities when it approved the use of force against al Qaeda and that such actions fit within his constitutional powers as commander-in-chief. But the founders never intended core principles of the Constitution to be suspended during wartime. In fact, they realized that it was in times of war and crisis that constitutional protections of the people were most at risk of usurpation by politicians, who purport to defend American freedom while actually undermining it...

Also- Watch this great interview on MSNBC with former Nixon counsel John Dean:
John Dean on Olbermann

Bush Defenders Love The Jesus Juice

In the face of ever-growing facts and revelations, how can the President's supporters continue to defend him?

Cenk Uygur looks at how Bush's loyal defenders are very similar to loyal Michael Jackson fans-

How Republicans Are Like Michael Jackson Fans

...Most people saw the fans supporting Michael Jackson throughout his trial and cheering for him outside the courthouse as an embarrassment. That’s how most of the country and the rest of the world are beginning to see Bush supporters. The party is over and these guys keep going back up to Neverland...

...Ignored Hurricane Katrina victims. No problem, pass the Jesus Juice. Ignored the constitution and did warrantless searches of American citizens. No problem, pass the Jesus Juice. Passed more tax cuts in the middle of an out of control, record deficit. No problem, pass the Jesus Juice. Never caught Osama and isn’t even trying. No problem, pass the Jesus Juice.

Remember as Nixon was being pushed out the door in lieu of impeachment, 25% of Americans still supported him. You just can’t shake some people, no matter how overwhelming the evidence. Michael just loves kids. OJ didn’t do it. Nixon meant well. And Bush is just trying to protect us. Pass the Jesus Juice...

Justice Department Begins Investigation...

...Of who leaked the Bush/NSA information to the New York Times.

AP: Justice Dept. Probing Domestic Spying Leak

The Justice Department has opened an investigation into the leak of classified information about President Bush's secret domestic spying program, Justice officials said Friday.

The officials, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the probe, said the inquiry will focus on disclosures to The New York Times about warrantless surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks...

Okay, fair enough, this probe is definitely legally justified.

But when is the Justice Department going to probe the actions of the President?

{*sagebrush rolls by*}


Now call me Mr. Cynical, but I can't help but think that this probe isn't based on genuine anger at the leak per se, but rather is a PR attempt to distract from the main issue- The President's secret spying program and his refusal to adhere to the legal FISA requirements.

All the predictable, lazy right-wing sources (ie. the New York Post) have been ranting and raving about the New York Times as if they were the story here and not the President. They ignore the fact that the White House (according to the original Times story) knew about the leaked info in 2004, but merely asked the paper to keep quiet. So the White House isn't mad that someone leaked the info (otherwise the probe would've begun last year), they're just mad that we all finally know about it. As the Plame case shows, this White House doesn't really care about leaks or the President would be more cooperative in helping Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation.

And what national security was damaged by the leak? Any terrorist stupid/naive enough not to know the U.S. engages in covert surveillance was likely too stupid to pull off an attack anyway. Wiretapping happened before Bush's program; they were just done legally (but still secretly). We still don't know who was spied on, so no specific surveillance was compromised. Common sense told us these activities were occuring; the issue here is the scope of the surveillance (not just terrorists?) and the failure to comply with legal requirements and oversights. What this leak really told us is the President has been violating the law.

The bottom line is that if you can convince the public that the leak is worse than the crime (which Bush supporters don't care about anyway), then you can marginalize the outrage at the President.

After all, isn't this like going after 'Deep Throat' and the Washington Post instead of President Nixon during the Watergate scandal? W. Mark Felt, as the #2 man at the FBI, certainly violated the law by revealing classified information about the investigation to Bob Woodward. But his actions helped uncover very serious crimes committed in the Executive branch and he is, for the most, considered a brave hero for his whistleblowing. But in today's climate, he would've been sniffed out and jailed. President Nixon would be proud/jealous of how the current administration is covering up this scandal. What's next for the Bush White House? Plot to kill Jack Anderson (too late, he's already dead)? Firebomb the Brookings Institute?

Let's hope 2006 brings better directed investigations.

Flawed Premise

Yesterday I wrote an entry on why impeaching the President during wartime would not harm our democracy as some Bush supporters claim. As I do occasionally with some entries, I crossposted it to the LiveJournal Democrats community. There are two resident Bush supporters who troll that community; they always pop up in comments with defenses of Bush of a Hannity-esque quality. I was pleased to get responses from both. The first just wondered what exactly made me think Bush had done anything impeachable. The second (a little nicer) said it was well written, but I had a 'flawed premise'.

I responded to each. I wanted to repost those responses here, in case anyone reads this is interested...

To the first guy who said there was no crime at all committed:
If Bush's defense hangs on the Afghanistan war resolution, then yes he is in trouble. That resolution did not grant him the authority he claims it did. If you believe it did, then what limits do you believe there are on his power? If he can bypass judicial oversight (etc.) and do all these things, do you personally feel there are any limits on his 'wartime' power? Bush's argument is just the 2005 version of Nixon's executive privilege nonsense. We live in a democracy; there are rules and procedures to be followed.

Bill Clinton was impeached and I will go out on a limb and guess that you supported that. Why? Because he violated the law. Republicans back then assured everyone that was not a partisan act, but simply about the rule of law. We are now seeing how false and hypocritical that was.

PS- Members of Congress were quite clear the Afghanistan resolution did not grant him carte blanche war powers:
"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]

To the second guy who said my premise was flawed:
Thanks for the compliment.

Regarding the idea that an argument for Bush's impeachment is flawed, I disagree. He broke the law; that much is clear. His only defense seems to rest on (as I wrote) that as a wartime President he must have the power to bypass the law. If you agree with that, that's very scary. Bush's use of the Afghanistan war resolution as a defense is the flimsiest excuse since "Executive privilege says these tapes belong to me!!".

The President had all the tools he needed to do the wiretaps. The FISA court is a secret court and barely a hurdle or a step; basically, it's a rubber stamp. They've almost never rejected a warrant. And if the President needs to order surveillance quickly in an emergency, he can certainly do so, but only has to then get a retroactive warrant within 72 hours. The only defense for why they didn't do that was because they were lazy. The embarassingly minimal requirements were just too cumbersome for him... and so the President deemed himself above the law.

A pretty scary notion considering we're supposedly spreading democracy all over the world.

Finally, if we accept Bush's defense that he had the right to bypass these requirements due to his 'inherent' powers as a wartime President, then where do we draw the line? If this is the case, then why bother with any laws? The President can do as he sees fit. The argument over the Patriot Act is moot; the President doesn't needs its provisions, he can just do it all anyway. John McCain and others wasted their time getting the President to agree to torture ban; the President can just order illegal torture when he wants if he says it was for 'national security' reasons. Etc etc...

We are right to defend freedom overseas, but it is hypocritical to be deeming the most basic aspects of a democracy moot simultaneously. If we do, our soldiers are dying for nothing, and we are headed down a very dangerous road that was supposed to have fixed after Nixon resigned.

U.S. to Launch Phased Iraq Pullout

Take THAT, Democrats!

Hey, wait a minute...

AP: Pace: U.S. to Launch Phased Iraq Pullout

The U.S. will carry out planned withdrawals of American troops in Iraq only from regions where Iraqi forces can maintain security against the insurgents, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said Thursday.

Gen. Peter Pace said the current force of 160,000 would drop to below 138,000 by March, then U.S. commanders on the ground would work with the Iraqi government to determine the pace of future pullbacks in areas that have been secured by local security forces...

Links of the Day

Only one more day left in 2005. Bush = stoked.

-Long lines for gas??! [*insert Jimmy Carter joke here*]
Long Gas Lines in Baghdad; Attacks Kill 6

-The President likes to keep his friends close... and our enemies closer:
After 5 Years, White House Core Intact

-Finally, Willie Nelson leads the way to cleaner, more efficient energy:
Willie Nelson Markets 'BioWillie' Fuel

Thursday, December 29, 2005

To Defeat Terrorism, Put Democracy On A Shelf?

One of the top objections to impeaching the President I have heard is that impeaching the president in a time of conflict would undermine the war and be a sign of weakness to our enemies. It's a fair point; I certainly prefer it to the "Bush didn't do anything wrong! Libs wanna help terrorists!~ OMG Clinton did it too!!11!" talking points. Still, I strongly disagree.

Certainly impeaching our Commander-In-Chief during wartime seems unusual, but it is not without precedent. The U.S. Congress was planning the impeachment of Richard Nixon (he opted, of course, to resign and save what little dignity he could) in 1974, when there were still U.S. troops in Vietnam (though the war was winding down at that point). The U.S. was also still engaged in the continuing Cold War, similar to today's 'War on Terror', with a lingering fear of nuclear conflict. The state of war was not something that made Congress reconsider impeachment. To the contrary, Congress at one point considered adding to the articles of impeachment charges relating to President Nixon's illegal attacks on Cambodia. So Nixon's status as Commander-in-Chief offered no saving grace for him as his impeachment was prepared; in fact, it actually added to his troubles. Nor did Nixon use his title as a defense, choosing rather the "executive privilege" defense our current Vice President is so fond of. The Supreme Court didn't buy it and the rest is history.

Impeaching President Bush would do no greater damage to the United States or our security than the impeachments of Andrew Johnson or Bill Clinton did or the resignation of Nixon did. Rather, it would be a sign that our democratic process is alive and well and that it holds precedent above fears of terror. It would show the world that we value democracy above all, and that we place no one ruler above the law.

The President denies that he sees himself as an imperial leader who is above the law. He states that he always acts in accordance with the law and the Consitution. But we know that is not true. The President states that he only needs this extra legal leeway because we are at war with terror. He implies these illegal actions are temporary and not aspects of a permanently imperial presidency. One problem with that temporary claim is that these actions have been going on for four years, way too long a time to be bypassing easily persuadable FISA courts. Secondly, how can it be temporary in a war that had no official beginning (an official declaration was never made) and no forseeable end?

To put it simply- you cannot defeat terror. In a rare moment of nuance and honesty, the President declared last year on TV that you can't. He stated "I don't think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the — those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world". He was 100% correct. You can't defeat it, you can of course work to curb it and stop certain actions. Therefore a war on terror is, by definition, a war without end. And these legal accomodations we are asked to make for the President are therefore not temporary- they become permanent powers of an Executive branch without limits, exactly what Vice President Cheney wanted when he took office pledging to restore the branch to its Nixonian monarchy.

Four years ago, the President and others (correctly) stated that to interrupt our way of life would be to give victory to the terrorists. After all, the goal of terrorism (besides the destruction) is to create, well, terror and to disrupt economies and governments. Therefore, the President told us that it was imperative that we help defeat them... by continuing to be lazy and shop with money we don't have and not think too much about things. It's a strategy that no doubt has Osama shaking in his boots, wherever he is. Right idea, wrong execution.

Now here, in 2005, the President and his supporters are saying just the opposite. They state that because of the continuing terrorist threat, we must interrupt our normal way of doing things, our democratic processes, as the war itself is more important. Our laws, the Constitution, and Congressional and judicial oversight should put on hold (or at least looked at as less important) while the President works to unroot terrorist plots, hopefully harder than he did in August of 2001.

The president was absolutely right in the Fall of 2001 to tell us we must not alter our way of life because of terrorism fears (though perhaps asking for a greater domestic sacrifice than shopping would be good too). The President failed to note this refusal to give in also includes not altering our democracy, the checks and balances, and procedures that are in place to keep the government from becoming the enemy.

If we put democracy on the shelf and ignore clear and unquestionable crimes committed by our President (even if in the name of 'protecting us')... then (to use the old 2001 phrase) the terrorists have already won.

It is absolutely clear that President Bush has committed numerous crimes, the biggest of which is his secret refusal to get the required warrants for wiretapping for no legitimate reason (he had all the legals tool needed already to do wiretapping quickly and quietly). This is a very serious offense and just the tip of the iceberg.

For the sake of our democracy, and because the law requires it, Congress must bring articles of impeachment against President Bush in 2006. Let no partisan squabbling get in the way of this. There's so much at stake.

Fair and Balanced

Only in the NY Post can I find the ramblings of William Kristol and Robert Novak on the same page-

Fair and balanced journalism from Rupert, as always.

PS- Only Bobby Novak could write an article on the downfall of American politics without noting the irony.

Deja Vu All Over Again

"People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook."
-President Richard M. Nixon (November 18, 1973)

They sure do, sir!

Saddama bin Laden

"[Y]ou can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror."
-President Bush (September 25, 2002)

"There was no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the attack of 9/11. I've never said that and never made that case prior to going into Iraq."
-President Bush (December 16, 2005)

A new Harris poll shows that many Americans are still... well, probably watching too much Fox-

Forty-one percent (41%) of U.S. adults believe that Saddam Hussein had "strong links to Al Qaeda."

Twenty-two percent (22%) of adults believe that Saddam Hussein "helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the United States on September 11."

Twenty-six percent (26%) of adults believe that Iraq "had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded."

Twenty-four percent (24%) of all adults believe that "several of the hijackers who attacked the United States on September 11 were Iraqis."

Those numbers should reach 0% sometime around... never, I fear.

McCain's Retreat

There is a great article in this week's Village Voice on the President's 'acceptance' of John McCain's anti-torture legislation amendment and all the other new laws and loopholes that may, in effect, render it pointless. I guess all that matters is that now both Sen. "Is it 2008 yet?" McCain and President "Is 2005 over yet?" Bush can pat themselves on the back for tackling torture, even if they really haven't.

McCain's Retreat-

Praise for the president's yielding to John McCain ignored the awful details in fine print

Gross Abuse Of Trust And Of Public Office

Some web surfing found the following quote of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) from a 1999 Congressional record. You may remember Ms. Hutchison as the Senator who thought Scooter Libby's indictment was totally unfair. Anyway, here's what she said on February 17th, 1999:

"I do not hold the view of our Constitution that there must be an actual, indictable crime in order for an act of a public officer to be impeachable. It is clear to this Senator that there are, indeed, circumstances, short of a felony criminal offense, that would justify the removal of a public officer from office, including the President of the United States. Manifest injury to the Office of the President, to our Nation and to the American people and gross abuse of trust and of public office clearly can reach the level of intensity that would justify the impeachment and removal of a leader."

It's a good thing we have a President who's never abused our trust.

Links of the Day

Links for lunchtime reading...

-Tom Delay's spokesman lied and said the Texas Court Criminal Appeals agreed to hear Delay's appeal. Turns out, not so much the truth. Media says "WTF?". Delay's spokesman says "My bad":
Justices agree to consider hearing DeLay's money laundering case

-The Bush administration focuses on its top priority... their approval ratings:
Bush Team Rethinks Its Plan for Recovery-

New Approach Could Save Second Term

-Finally, a look back in the year of pork:
'What's in that bill?' The risk of deadline votes.

Weekly Lack Of Standards

Neocon superstar William Kristol currently sees nothing wrong with the President's actions:
Was the president, in the wake of 9/11, and with the threat of imminent new attacks, really supposed to sit on his hands and gamble that Congress might figure out a way to fix FISA, if it could even be fixed? The questions answer themselves.

Apparently you also answer yourself, Bill.

Ignoring the fact that changes were made and, either way, it's hardly an excuse to continue to be breaking the law over four years later, ol' Mr. Kristol had a much higher standard in 1998 when it came to Presidential wrongdoing. From a May '98 issue of the Weekly Standard on the unconstitutional ejaculation of the then-President:
The lines have been drawn. What Republicans now need is the nerve to fight. They must stand for, to quote Helprin again, 'the rejection of intimidation, the rejection of lies, the rejection of manipulation, the rejection of disingenuous pretense, and a revulsion for the sordid crimes and infractions the president has brought to his office.'

I guess acceptance is the new rejection.

Lookin' forward to 2006!

[Hat tip- Digby]

Talk About SPYware!

More fun with the NSA...

AP: NSA Web Site Places 'Cookies' on Computers

The National Security Agency's Internet site has been placing files on visitors' computers that can track their Web surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most of them.

These files, known as "cookies," disappeared after a privacy activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week, and agency officials acknowledged Wednesday they had made a mistake. Nonetheless, the issue raises questions about privacy at a spy agency already on the defensive amid reports of a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States...

Big Brother's on my harddrive now too? Get out, guys. I need that space for illegally downloaded music.

"I'm umm-ahhh, you know the, the Abramamoff-I'm frankly, I'm not all that familiar what's going on up there in Capitol Hill"

The Washington Post has a primer on the man who embodies all that is wrong with Washington DC-

The Fast Rise and Steep Fall of Jack Abramoff-

How a Well-Connected Lobbyist Became the Center of a Far-Reaching Corruption Scandal

Weapons Of Mass Distortion

Did you know there were WMDs in Iraq?

That's a claim one conservative advocacy group is making in new ads aimed to help Bush's approval ratings-

Some Conservatives Return To Old Argument:

Outside Advocacy Group Aims To Rally Support by Backing Bush's Initial Claims on Iraq

PS- Don't let any liberals, like the White House, tell you otherwise.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Military Afraid Of Its Own?

Two related stories about the military being concerned about the seemingly harmless actions of its members and/or veterans...

First, a sign next door to a recruiting center causes controversy:
A Veteran's Iraq Message Upsets Army Recruiters
As those thinking of becoming soldiers arrive on the slushy doorstep of the Army recruiting station here, they cannot miss the message posted in bold black letters on the storefront right next door.

"Remember the Fallen Heroes," the sign reads, and then it ticks off numbers - the number of American troops killed in Iraq, the number wounded, the number of days gone by since this war began.

The sign, put up by a former soldier, has stirred intense, though always polite, debate...

The sign seen here-

Definitely a buzzkill when you're trying to convince some high-schooler why he should become an army of one.

US military finds soldiers' blogs too close for comfort
In a development that is worrying US military commanders in Iraq, a growing number of US soldiers - 200 at the last count - have set up their own blogs, or internet diaries, and are updating them from the battlefield...

...It is a phenomenon that has inevitably raised concern among commanders. In April the US military published its first policy memorandum on websites maintained by soldiers, requiring them to have official approval before starting internet postings.

Afraid the soldier bloggers will reveal classified details like Geraldo did?

Strategy For Victory

Iraq, the little democracy that could. Go, democracy, go!

Kurds in Iraqi army proclaim loyalty to militia
Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan.

Five days of interviews with Kurdish leaders and troops in the region suggest that U.S. plans to bring unity to Iraq before withdrawing American troops by training and equipping a national army aren't gaining traction. Instead, some troops that are formally under U.S. and Iraqi national command are preparing to protect territory and ethnic and religious interests in the event of Iraq's fragmentation, which many of them think is inevitable...

Totally worth it, best war ever even.

Sorry Kenny Boy, No Pardon 'Til 2009

A late Christmas present...

AP: Ex-Enron Accountant Pleads Guilty to Fraud

Former top Enron Corp. accountant Richard Causey pleaded guilty to securities fraud Wednesday and agreed to help pursue convictions against Enron founder Kenneth Lay and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling...

The Story Is Bush's Spying, Not The Story's Messenger

As a followup to my post about the NY Post editorial, I present this excellent Village Voice article (from Sydney Schanberg's Press Clips series) of a similar note-

Checks and No Balance-

The story is Bush's spying, not the story's messenger

The domestic spying controversy is a story of immense importance... Some Bush supporters have attacked the Times for running the piece. On the other hand, some journalists have attacked theTimes for holding it for a year. From where I stand (I'm a Times alumnus), the paper should get credit for digging it out and publishing it. But whatever one's journalistic point of view, the Times' decision-making is not the central story here. The president's secret directive is.

[Note: Bingo.]

...As for his drumbeat claims that he is honoring the Constitution and the nation's laws, then why did a FISA judge resign, and why are his colleagues now demanding intelligence briefings on the president's secret sidestepping of their jurisdiction? Why are moderate Republicans leaving Bush's side over these issues—all of which have their origin in the president's self-expansion of power as he devised the invasion and ongoing war in Iraq?...

All good points, all blissfully ignored by the Post in their efforts to shield the President while simultaneously accusing their competition of treason. And if the clueless rantings of the Post amuse you as much as they do me, then enjoy today's NY Post letters page- a totally fair and balanced (*WINK*) collection of takes on yesterday's editorial:

Letters- THE ISSUE: The New York Times' potentially dangerous publication of secret security information.

Why Due Process Is Important

Again, as with the Jose Padilla mess, the White House's beliefs that they must be above the law in order to better prosecute the war on terror are likely only to undermine those very efforts...

NY Times: Defense Lawyers in Terror Cases Plan Challenges Over Spy Efforts

Defense lawyers in some of the country's biggest terrorism cases say they plan to bring legal challenges to determine whether the National Security Agency used illegal wiretaps against several dozen Muslim men tied to Al Qaeda...

...The expected legal challenges, in cases from Florida, Ohio, Oregon and Virginia, add another dimension to the growing controversy over the agency's domestic surveillance program and could jeopardize some of the Bush administration's most important courtroom victories in terror cases, legal analysts say...

Links of the Day

A hump day in between holidays? Now that's depressing. Here's some links...

-Robert Scheer has an excellent column wondering why no one seems to notice or care that the U.S. quietly released two of the supposedly most vile criminals of Saddam's former regime:
Dr. Germ and Mrs. Anthrax Set Free

-As if Katrina wasn't evidence enough, a reports find Homeland Security has major problems:
Democrats Cite Gaps in DHS Record

-And NSA wiretaps might not be the only bugs in the war on terror:
Scientists recruit wasps for war on terror

NY Post Editorial: Colonial Muckrakers Undermine King George's Rule

Every day on the subway I see many people reading the New York Post; it is definitely the most-read paper by commuters. And I wonder why. It's quick and easy to read? The endless celebrity gossip and tabloid nonsense passing itself off as news is amusing at 8am? The sports section? Mallard Fillmore in the comic section? Suduku? Because I refuse to believe that a city filled with intelligent and bullshit-proof people would want to get their news and current events from Rupert's rag, a paper so awful in terms of journalism it makes Hannity & Colmes look like Face The Nation.

Still, I like to flip through it to see the day's events through the right-wing prism. That, and Mallard Fillmore. Every once in a while, I find something that's so amazingly dumb, I feel compelled to comment. Today is one such day... The Post had an editorial today, about the NY Times' role in uncovering the Bush/NSA scandal, entitled-


It starts off with this totally-not-reactionary statement:
"Has The New York Times declared itself to be on the front line in the war against the War on Terror?"

Wow, when did Michelle Malkin's blog became the NY Post editorial page?

Their basic argument is that the NY Times exists solely to hurt the President (and therefore America) and that they have gone too far this time by publishing classified government information that impairs the President's ability to do whatever he sees fit to protect us in the name of the neverending War On Terror.

Translation: How dare the NY Times expose this crime! Now it will be harder for the President to commit that crime! The President is our dear leader! Only he can protect us from the bad men! All hail the President!

This represents the typical mindframe of many right-wingers. The actions of the press bother them more than the actions of the politicians. Somewhere, Thomas Paine is rolling around in his grave (see, Michelle, I can use hyperbole too).

Conservatives, those who supposedly wanted to curb the power of federal government, now want the government to be left alone to do what's best for us... and when the press fulfills its duties to shine a light on the secret workings of that government, then of course they are committing treason. I couldn't disagree more. Their only real crime of the Times in this is holding the story for over a year for very dubious reasons. The government works for us- We elect them (in theory), we pay their salaries... we deserve to know what they do in our names, particularly when it is as extreme as this.

The real treason is committed by people like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, and others who illegally authorize surveillance on Americans, authorize torture on prisoners, and authorize prison without trial. As Steve Chapman stated, they "want more power not because they need it to protect the nation, but because they want more power".

Is this what our soldiers are dying to defend? A Presidency with no limits, checks, or balances?

That's funny, because I was told they were dying to protect our 'freedoms'.

Not only does the Post blow off the crazy idea that this is unconstitutional and illegal (by trying to pretend that it's only left-wing types stating, and not, oh, almost everyone who's bothered to look at the details of the case), they actually go so far as to praise the President's actions. They state that "the Times managed only to blow the lid off of what President Bush rightly calls 'a vital tool in our war against the terrorists' — one that already has uncovered several terrorist plots." Again, it is clear the Post doesn't even know the most basic facts of how this system works and what the laws are. The Post says that the President needed to authorize secret wiretaps for national security reasons. Yet to fail to note that there was nothing in the law that prevented him from doing that! The embarassingly minimal requirements were just too cumbersome for him... and so the President deemed himself above the law.

Predictably, because they are Fox's cousin after all, the Post doesn't care about the facts of the case, but instead relies on right-wing talking points, two in particular, to make their argument.

#1- "[T]he folks who reacted to the naming of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative aren't exactly shrieking for another grand jury investigation."

This is one of the original talking points of the case. It misses the point. Not all leaks were created equal. Leaks are justified if they are the actions of a whistleblower, someone exposing crimes to right a wrong. The most famous example of this is, of course, Bob Woodward's Deep Throat. He is now considered an American hero. If I cared enough to check their archives, I have no doubt I'd find that the editorial writers of the Post were among those who wanted Mark Felt crucified when he outed himself earlier this year. How dare the evil Felt expose the actions of the Blessed Saint Nixon??!

The outing of Valerie Plame was not a whistleblower exposing crimes of the government; it was an act of unnecessary political revenge by people at the highest levels of the Executive branch. Neither Plame or her husband committed any crime. But the President has and that's the issue here. There is no comparison.

#2- "[B]oth the last two Democratic presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, used warrantless searches — and strongly defended them as fully justified under the authority granted the president by the Constitution."

Also an already debunked talking point. You can read all about that if you care, but the facts about what Carter and Clinton did are almost irrelevant here. Because they are not the President now. George W. Bush is. And so we are focusing on him. Bill Clinton was a "rapist", according to Ann Coulter. If we believe that lie, then can George Bush in theory rape people too? I'll let him know.

Finally, in the ultimate case of missing the point, they ask:
"Does The New York Times consider it self a law unto itself — free to subversively undercut basic efforts by any government to protect and defend its citizens?"

A better question we all should be asking right now is...
Does President Bush consider the White House a law unto itself- free to subversively undercut the basic rights and laws of our Constitution written to protect its citizens from tyranny and guarantee them freedom?

I would like to see the NY Post do an editorial on that.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

American Dreamz

Best. Movie. Ever.


Just... watch.

Ohh Mr. Kristol, Why Do You Even Try?

ThinkProgress smacks down another right-wing talking point-

Reality Check: We Did Amend FISA After 9/11

The I-Word

As Katrina vanden Heuvel states in her recent blog post, the I-word is gaining ground.

Here are some more editorials on that topic from all different areas of the political spectrum. Each has a unique take. One consensus seems to be clear... legally, there is no question that President Bush needs to be impeached for his actions. The only remaining question is whether the other two branches of government (you know, the ones the President has deemed irrelevant) are ready for the fight.

-Chicago Tribune (Steve Chapman): Beyond the imperial presidency
...But the theory boils down to a consistent and self-serving formula: What's good for George W. Bush is good for America, and anything that weakens his power weakens the nation. To call this an imperial presidency is unfair to emperors...

...The government easily could have gotten search warrants to conduct electronic surveillance of anyone with the slightest possible connection to terrorists. The court that handles such requests hardly ever refuses. But Bush bridles at the notion that the president should ever have to ask permission of anyone...

-Salon: Bush's impeachable offense-

Yes, the president committed a federal crime by wiretapping Americans, say constitutional scholars, former intelligence officers and politicians. What's missing is the political will to impeach him.

..."The fact is, the federal law is perfectly clear," [Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University School of Law] says. "At the heart of this operation was a federal crime. The president has already conceded that he personally ordered that crime and renewed that order at least 30 times. This would clearly satisfy the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors for the purpose of an impeachment."

Turley is no Democratic partisan; he testified to Congress in favor of Bill Clinton's impeachment. "Many of my Republican friends joined in that hearing and insisted that this was a matter of defending the rule of law, and had nothing to do with political antagonism," he says. "I'm surprised that many of those same voices are silent. The crime in this case was a knowing and premeditated act. This operation violated not just the federal statute but the United States Constitution. For Republicans to suggest that this is not a legitimate question of federal crimes makes a mockery of their position during the Clinton period. For Republicans, this is the ultimate test of principle."...

-WorldNetDaily (Ellen Ratner): Not a suicide pact
...During World War II, Frank Capra made a wonderful series called "Why We Fight," basically giving the reasons for the outbreak of the war and reminding soldiers of what America stood for. Bush does that now, constantly reminding us that our Islamo-fascist enemies "hate our freedom" and "oppose our liberty and way of life."

Well, here's a stupid idea: Let's start eroding our liberties, fudging our civil rights, ignoring due process, and maybe they'll like us better, eh? Of course, trying to explain "Why We Fight" becomes a much harder sell in a country where we're not quite as free as our parents were...

Also- The decisions of President Bush's advisors come under examination:
Bush's counsel on spying now under close scrutiny

"If we don't discuss the program and the lack of authority for it, we are meeting the enemy -- in the mirror."

Yesterday I posted a Barron's editorial which made strong arguments for Bush's impeachment. The Barron's link requires registration, so I was able to find a blog post that had the full text of the article in case anyone wanted to read it in full. It's an excellent piece. And here ya go-

Barron's Editorial: IMPEACH

Links of the Day

Back to work, back to bloggin'...

-The Bush administration continues to buy good press, this time from bloggers:
Bloggers, Money Now Weapons in Information War-

U.S. Recruits Advocates to the Front, Pays Iraqi TV Stations for Coverage

Note: For $500 and an X-Box, I'd be happy to pretend Iraq isn't an explosive waste of taxpayer money.

-The U.S. may have given Kyoto the finger, but others who didn't aren't meeting their pledges:
Europe 'behind on Kyoto pledges'

Polar bears = pissed.

-The White House will be spinning from a new locale as it cleans up the press room:
White House Press Room To Be Closed For Makeover

Will someone please repair Scott as well? His gears look awfully rusty.

Year In Review (pt. 2)

[See Pt. 1- here]

2005: Year In Review

Yahoo looks back at 2005 in a photographic retrospective-

2005: Year In Review

The Cost of War

President Bush casually dropped the number 30,000 in a speech earlier this month as the number of Iraqi civilians killed in the war. It's a likely bet the real number is much higher than the Pentagon cares to estimate. Still, the 30,000 number (like the 2,100+ number of U.S. troops killed) doesn't begin to tell the full story of those injured and of families and lives torn apart.

It is on that somber note that the New York Times' John Burns and Adam Nadel published an article, and series of photos, yesterday addressing the civilian destruction in Iraq. Because, despite the high election turnouts (which can't really be used as a symbol of 'victory' in the war, rather just the determination of Iraqis to end this mess), life in that country is still hellish. Polls show that fewer than half say the country is better off now than it was before the war. The people don't seem to blame anyone in particular, they just know what they have lost.

The article:
The Face and Voice of Civilian Sacrifice in Iraq
IN Iraq, nobody knows, and few in authority seem concerned to count, just how many civilians have been killed and injured. Soon it will be three years since the American-led invasion. The estimates of those killed run into the tens of thousands, the numbers of wounded two or three times the number who lost their lives. Even President Bush, estimating recently that 30,000 civilians may have been killed, acknowledged that was no more than an abstraction from unofficial calculations, not a Pentagon count.

To take his own measure of the war for The New York Times, Adam Nadel broke from the compulsions that dictate the days of many photographers in Baghdad... He visited them in their hospital wards, in their neighborhoods, and in their homes, and captured, in images and in words, what the war has meant for them.

Photo-Essay: Face of Sacrifice in Iraq

A note to remember- these people are the average in Iraq, not the exception.

Also- A Times editorial on the aftermath of the election:
Winners and Losers in Iraq

Iraq To U.S.: Please Leave, Thanks

If you can believe it, the Iraqis aren't happy about having us in their country.


Financial Express: Guerrillas kill two US soldiers, 10 Iraqi security personnel-

Top commander admits Iraqis want US out 'as soon as possible'

The top US military commander admitted Sunday that Iraqis wanted US and other foreign troops to leave the country "as soon as possible", and said US troop levels in Iraq were now being re-assessed on a monthly basis.

The admission by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine General Peter Pace followed a decision by the Pentagon to reduce its presence in Iraq by two army brigades, which amounts to about 7,000 soldiers...

Does this mean the Pentagon admits that Rep. Murtha was right? Of course, it does. You'd have to waterboard them to get them, of any right-wing pundit, to admit that, but that's the reality. The Murthas of Congress were correct and their plans for redeployment and phased withdrawals will be co-opted in 2006 by the Bush administration/Pentagon, who will of course take all the credit for bringing our boys home even though they spent the latter half of 2005 calling anyone who even addressed the topic as defeatists and traitors. How utterly predictable.

"[T]hey're not happy they're occupied. I wouldn't be happy if I were occupied either."
-President George W. Bush (April 13, 2004)

Monday, December 26, 2005

I Want YOU...

...To forget that I've committed an impeachable offense.


[Poster courtesy of]

Top 12 media myths and falsehoods on the Bush administration's spying scandal

Media Matters debunks the top talking points being used to defend/excuse Bush in this scandal-
Top 12 media myths and falsehoods on the Bush administration's spying scandal

The 12 myths and falsehoods they tackle are:
1. Timeliness necessitated bypassing the FISA court
2. Congress was adequately informed of -- and approved -- the administration's actions
3. Warrantless searches of Americans are legal under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
4. Clinton, Carter also authorized warrantless searches of U.S. citizens
5. Only Democrats are concerned about the Bush administration's secret surveillance
6. Debate is between those supporting civil liberties and those seeking to prevent terrorism
7. Bin Laden phone leak demonstrates how leak of spy operation could damage national security
8. Gorelick testimony proved Clinton asserted "the same authority" as Bush
9. Aldrich Ames investigation is example of Clinton administration bypassing FISA regulations
10. Clinton administration conducted domestic spying
11. Moussaoui case proved that FISA probable-cause standard impedes terrorism probes
12. A 2002 FISA review court opinion makes clear that Bush acted legally

See the article for full details... a really handy guide.

[I did my own take on a few of these talking points here, here, and here.]

Impeach Now, Please

A few articles looking at the Bush/NSA scandal-

-NY Times editorial: The Fog of False Choices

After five years, we're used to President Bush throwing up false choices to defend his policies. Americans were told, after all, that there was a choice between invading Iraq and risking a terrorist nuclear attack... But none of these phony choices were as absurd as the one Mr. Bush posed to justify his secret program of spying on Americans: save lives or follow the law...

...[W]e can reach a conclusion about Mr. Bush's assertion that obeying a 27-year-old law prevents swift and decisive action in a high-tech era. It's a myth...

...Mr. Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales offered a whole bag of logical pretzels yesterday to justify flouting this law. Most bizarre was the assertion that Congress authorized the surveillance of American citizens when it approved the use of "all necessary and appropriate force" by the United States military to punish those responsible for the 9/11 attacks or who aided or harbored the terrorists. This came as a surprise to lawmakers, who thought they were voting for the invasion of Afghanistan and the capture of Osama bin Laden...

-Barron's: Unwarranted Executive Power-

The pursuit of terrorism does not authorize the president to make up new laws

...Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment...

-Washington Post: Bush Presses Editors on Security

President Bush has been summoning newspaper editors lately in an effort to prevent publication of stories he considers damaging to national security.

The efforts have failed, but the rare White House sessions with the executive editors of The Washington Post and New York Times are an indication of how seriously the president takes the recent reporting that has raised questions about the administration's anti-terror tactics...

Big Brother Is Watching

The New York Times takes a look at the operations of the NSA...

The Agency That Could Be Big Brother

Links of the Day

So how was everyone's holiday? Good, good. Here's some links to start off the week...

-A somber day for many as we remember last year's tsunami:
World Reflects on Fury of Asia Tsunami

-President Bush hopes for a less scandal-ridden 2006:
Bush Seeks More Wins for His Agenda in '06

-And it's business as usual in Iraq:
Iraq Violence Leaves at Least 2 Dozen Dead

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas, Blog Friends!

I know we liberals hate Christmas, but we'll muddle through somehow. Today is also the start of Hanukkah, so if anyone Jewish is reading this, you have a great holiday as well. This will be my only post of the day (that's your present), so let's all remember today all the people (the residents of the Gulf Coast, U.S. soldiers overseas, the citizens of Iraq, the people in the Sudan and other troubled regions) endorsing hardships this holiday season. Hopefully the next year will be better than this last.

In conclusion... happy holidays, peace on earth, goodwill toward men.

Behold, for he has arrived-