Saturday, January 14, 2006

Blog Links of the Day

Slow news day. Well so you'd assume flipping through the dial. None of the news channels seem to care about all the governmental lawbreaking. Oh well. Hey, let's see what the other blogs are up to!

-Atrios has an advance timeline of the all-too-familiar buildup to war with Iran:
How It Goes

-Crooks and Liars takes a look at Michelle Malkin's latest paranoid madness (involving a Texas terrorist sleeper cell, disposable cell phones, and more accusations of NY Times treason) and digs for the truth of the matter:
We’re all (Paranoid, Imbalanced) Homeland Security Agents now

-Finally, Bob Geiger asks a very important question:
Why Does George W. Bush Hate America?

George W. Bush: Spy-In-Chief

The main justification (not a legal one, just general support) by Bush supporters of his warrantless wiretapping program is that it was necessary for national security after 9/11. Ignore that the surveillance that occurred could just have easily been done in compliance with the FISA law, that a 72-hour retroactive warrant clause is allowed for emergencies, that even greater accomodations were made for wartime after 9/11 already, and that the White House has still offered no viable reason why they needed to continuinly violate the law over several years other than that the paperwork was 'cumbersome'. Don't worry about it- leave that to the tin-foil-hat libs and their pesky constitutional fussing. Just remember 9/11.

Except... not so much.

A new report reveals that a domestic surveillance program began before 9/11:
Bush Authorized Domestic Spying Before 9/11 (TruthOut- Jason Leopold)
The National Security Agency advised President Bush in early 2001 that it had been eavesdropping on Americans during the course of its work monitoring suspected terrorists and foreigners believed to have ties to terrorist groups, according to a declassified document.

The NSA's vast data-mining activities began shortly after Bush was sworn in as president and the document contradicts his assertion that the 9/11 attacks prompted him to take the unprecedented step of signing a secret executive order authorizing the NSA to monitor a select number of American citizens thought to have ties to terrorist groups...

It further states-
On orders from Defense Department officials and President Bush, the agency kept a running list of the names of Americans in its system and made it readily available to a number of senior officials in the Bush administration, these sources said, which in essence meant the NSA was conducting a covert domestic surveillance operation in violation of the law...

...The NSA's domestic surveillance activities that began in early 2001 reached a boiling point shortly after 9/11, when senior administration officials and top intelligence officials asked the NSA to share that data with other intelligence officials who worked for the FBI and the CIA to hunt down terrorists that might be in the United States. However the NSA, on advice from its lawyers, destroyed the records, fearing the agency could be subjected to lawsuits by American citizens identified in the agency's raw intelligence reports.

Read the full article for more.

I'd say this is unbelievable, but I'm not really surprised. Hey, can I mention this again?

In related news, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said yesterday that he will testify publicly at a Senate hearing on the President's spying program to occur possibly next month. The list of things Senators need to ask him just got a lot longer.

Firedoglake again has a great roundup of information/thoughts on this: Something's Gotta Give

[Related link- Bush in the Briar Patch:
Why the president wants hearings on spying

The Swiftboating Of John Murtha Begins...

The White House has no shame.

Without the facts/reality on their side, they fall back on their favorite weapon- character assassination. From John McCain in 2000 to Paul O'Neill to Richard Clarke to John Kerry to Cindy Sheehan to Democratic senators questioning Alito, the Rove-fueled machine of perpetual campaigning is all about the smear. With Rep. Murtha still out there delivering the truth to the masses, the administration of chickenhawks is once again doing something McCain and Kerry know well... the attacking of a decorated Vietnam veteran.

From the shameless Murtha's War Hero Status Called Into Question
Having ascended to the national stage as one of the most vocal critics of President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman John Murtha has long downplayed the controversy and the bitterness surrounding the two Purple Hearts he was awarded for military service in Vietnam...

Hey, I think I've heard this story before....

The Huffington Post exposed this planned strategy on Thursday:
Bush Admin. Launched Secret Smear Campaign Against Murtha...

Unlike Kerry, Rep. Murtha is not shying away from defending himself. After all, he was a Marine-
Questions About My Record (Rep. John Murtha)
"Questions about my record are clearly an attempt to distract attention from the real issue, which is that our brave men and women in uniform are dying and being injured every day in the middle of a civil war that can be resolved only by the Iraqis themselves."

"I volunteered for a year's duty in Vietnam. I was out in the field almost every single day. We took heavy casualties in my regiment the year that I was there. In my fitness reports, I was rated No. 1. My record is clear."

I hope the American people have become smart enough to see through it this time. The President owes us the truth, not smears. He can attack Murtha all he wants, but it's a losing battle. He can't change the reality of the war. We can't accomplish anything more militarily in Iraq, the country's not a flowering democracy, and our troops will start coming home this year. The American people know it, the Pentagon knows it, it's time for the President to accept that and not insult our intelligence with any repetitive 'stay the course' speeches given against a graphical background of flags and bumper-sticker phrases like 'Strategy For Victory'. We all want our soldiers to succeed, but we don't want them fighting the Iraqis' civil war. "Victory or defeat" are not our only two options; there are more practical options available.

Firedoglake has a good take on the Murtha swiftboating- This Is How It 's Done -- Pt. 2

You Can Fool Some Of The People Some Of The Time...

The NY Post may be making an art form out of covering for the Bush administration (and labeling as treasonous anyone who stands in their way), but even their readers know a scandal when it's in front of them. After Ralph Peters' Malkin-esque column last week (in which he called the Democratic Party the "Osama bin Laden Fan Club" and said that civil liberty safeguards in surveillance law are "overkill"), the Post got some letters. Because the Post's readers apparently have a better understanding of our intelligence laws than former military intelligence officer Ralph Peters, they didn't buy his non-argument. A sampling of the letters:

Before the story broke, almost any person on the street would have said that domestic wiretapping should require a court order. In fact, the president in the past has said the same thing.

It's absurd that, while politicians on both sides of the aisle are debating renewal of the Patriot Act, the president would insist that he had the right to secretly assume unchecked power far beyond the act's provisions.

If President Bush wants this power, he needs to take his case to the public and try to change the law.

Eroding civil rights is cheap, and the administration looks to this first because it doesn't tread on their tax cuts.
Michael Faherty

Has Peters finally gone off the deep end? He throws around the word "treason" just a bit too easily.

Peters challenges readers to name anyone who has suffered from Bush's illegal surveillance of American citizens. How can we? It is a secret program deliberately kept away from judicial scrutiny.

What Peters does not seem to understand is that all Americans suffer when another American is denied his civil liberties.

The nature of tyranny is not that all suffer equally, but that each of us has the potential to suffer at a tyrant's whim.

When any American citizen can be made to disappear as an enemy combatant on the sole discretion of the president, all Americans are at risk.

When a president can unilaterally decide which laws he will obey and which ones he will not, the groundwork for tyranny is laid.

Peters may hold the Constitution in contempt and wish for the creation of the "national security police state," but this reader, and I suspect many others, are still willing to fight for those freedoms.

Andrew Burroughs
Paramus, N.J.

If I said that Edward Cardinal Egan was wiretapped by the NSA, could Peters prove I was wrong? Of course not — he has no more knowledge than anyone else outside the NSA or the Bush administration.

If the administration's pattern of secrecy continues, the list of those who were under surveillance will be classified for many years, with only successes leaked.

Once again, Peters declines to state that the surveillance was legal or that getting warrants would have been impossible.

If the names of the innocent U.S. citizens who were wiretapped were leaked, Peters would call for punishment for the leaker.

Justin Gensler

To quote Stephen Colbert, "You guys get it. You come from a long line of it getters."


Related- The Republicans don't want future indictee Bob Ney on their committees anymore:
Breaking: Hastert Asks Ney To Resign As Admin. Cmte. Chair

Score One For AmericaBlog

Regarding the selling of private phone records, AmericaBlog is getting results.

Also, a Chicago Sun-Times article on their work in exposing this:
Blogger buys presidential candidate's call list

Friday, January 13, 2006

Soldiers Go To War With The Armor They Have, Not The Armor They Want

Speaking of being all alone...

With Rumsfeld and the Pentagon MIA, our soldiers are taking it upon themselves to improve the armor (and adding other detection devices, etc) on their humvees to protect themselves from roadside bombs:
AP Enterprise: Soldiers Beef Up Humvees (AP)
Soldiers exposed to Iraq's increasingly lethal roadside bombs, which can rip through armored Humvees, are drawing on wartime experience and stateside expertise to protect their vehicles with stronger armor and thermal detection cameras.

The upgrades are being done by individual soldiers and units as the Pentagon decides how Humvees should be changed, and follow public criticism of the Bush administration for not armoring all Humvees ahead of the war...

This speaks volumes of the resourcefulness of our troops and the apathy of their leaders in Washington.

They're not placing blame, though, and their humility on this issue is almost frustrating-
Maj. Tom Bryant, the brigade spokesman, said the armor program is not a reaction to faulty equipment but a response to change on the battlefield.

"We're not interested in creating controversy," he said. "It's about saving soldiers lives."

Mr. Rumsfeld, is that something you're interested in as well?

Alone In The Wild?

Peter Daou has a great post on the political isolation of the liberal/progressive blogosphere-

THE (Broken) TRIANGLE: Progressive Bloggers in the Wilderness

New Orleans, You're Doing A Heck Of A Job

"It's a heck of a place to bring your family."
-President Bush yesterday, giving the kiss of death to New Orleans

The NY Times has more on the President's visit: In New Orleans, Bush Speaks With Optimism but Sees Little of Ruin
President Bush made his first trip here in three months on Thursday and declared that New Orleans was "a heck of a place to bring your family" and that it had "some of the greatest food in the world and some wonderful fun."

President Bush and Mayor C. Ray Nagin of New Orleans attended a meeting Thursday with the city's political and business leaders.
Mr. Bush spent his brief visit in a meeting with political and business leaders on the edge of the Garden District, the grand neighborhood largely untouched by the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina, and saw little devastation. He did not go into the city's hardest-hit areas or to Jackson Square, where several hundred girls from the Academy of the Sacred Heart staged a protest demanding stronger levees...

The President then headed off to Florida for a Republican Party fundraiser. Heck of a job.

Open Wide Baby Bird, Mama's Got A Fat Nightcrawler Of Truth

To say that "The Colbert Report" has exceeded my expectations would be an understatement. Stephen Colbert's completely in-character take on O'Reilly and all the other partisan pundits of cable news is just pure genius, and "jujitsu satire" (as the NY Times said). From the opening 'The Word' take on the news to recurring segments like the "Threatdown" (bears, you're on notice), "Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger", and his 435-part "Better Know A District" series, it's non-stop laughter.

Mr. Colbert may be getting his most press yet because his use of the word "truthiness" on his show, which the American Dialect Society named word of the year. The AP article about that didn't mention Colbert and so, good news bears, Colbert informed the AP that they are now the "No. 1 threat facing America". Colbert has been leading a mock, O'Reilly-esque crusade against the AP. Some may note that the term had been in the dictionary before Colbert used it for his show, but as he said- "You don't look up truthiness in a book, you look it up in your gut."

Proving they do have a good sense of humor, the AP has picked up the story:
Colbert: AP the Biggest Threat to America
Stung by a recent Associated Press article that didn't credit him for coining the word "truthiness," Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert has struck back...

Go here to see Stephen in action- The Colbert Report - Videos - Most Recent
("A Glaring Omission" is the original segment on this)

Hopefully his phone call to professor Michael Adams will be up soon.

Links of the Day

Saw Arlen Specter on C-Span. Said the hearings went well. Said he wanted an up or down vote. I want a drink.

Here's some stories of random interest for the day...

-Iran said it won't cooperate with the U.N. Security Council on inspections. I don't expect this will end well:
Iran Threatens to Block U.N. Inspections

-In addition to the House, reform may come in the Senate too:
Frist Weighs Ban on Lobbyist Gifts, Travel

-A Muslim Barbie-like doll is a big hit in the Middle East:
Barbie loses out to veiled rival-

Step aside Barbie - a veiled doll with, as her creator describes it "Muslim values", is proving a popular choice in Egypt's toy stores.

Classic Rummy

Donald Rumseld in action in Japan, January 1974- Picture.

Good times.

Judge Alito: The Babe Ruth Of Evasion

This Washington Post editorial gets it exactly right:
A Hearing About Nothing
...The senator was expressing frustration over a process that doesn't work. It turns out that, especially when their party controls the process, Supreme Court nominees can avoid answering any question they don't want to answer. Senators make the process worse with meandering soliloquies. But when the questioning gets pointed, the opposition is immediately accused of scurrilous smears. The result: an exchange of tens of thousands of words signifying, in so many cases, nothing -- as long as the nominee has the discipline to say nothing, over and over and over...

...Democrats seem to be wary of mounting a filibuster. What they should insist upon, to use a euphemism Alito might appreciate, is an extended debate in which his evasions will be made perfectly clear to the public. If moderate senators want to vote for a justice highly likely to move the Supreme Court to the right, they can. But their electorates should know that's exactly what they're doing.

[I also liked this post by Greg Saunders on Tom Tomorrow's blog: The Reason We Have Confirmation Hearings]

The Impeachment of George W. Bush

After a slight hiatus (hey, it was the holidays!), the I-word is returning to political discussions. The media could seemingly care less for the most part, but the story of President Bush's warrantless domestic wiretapping has remained a major issue and more and more Americans are learning the facts and are likely uneasy about the President's powergrabbing (in addition to all his previous offenses). It's caused political thinkers to requestion seemingly settled issues, such as whether the President does truly intend to adhere to the McCain torture ban, since he's set the precedent that national security concerns put him above the law. The issue also certainly played a big role in this week's confirmation hearings for Judge Alito. The fragile status of checks and balances is known to be at stake.

One of the best articles on this issue (and one that will likely be buzzed about quite a bit) has just been published in The Nation, by former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman. As someone on the Committee who voted for Nixon's impeachment, she makes the case for the impeachment for President Bush. She also discusses the steps that should be taken to energize the American public toward this goal and to get Congress to fulfill its duty to rein in the President. Print it out, read it, and act.

The Nation (Elizabeth Holtzman): The Impeachment of George W. Bush
Finally, it has started. People have begun to speak of impeaching President George W. Bush--not in hushed whispers but openly, in newspapers, on the Internet, in ordinary conversations and even in Congress. As a former member of Congress who sat on the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon, I believe they are right to do so...

...The framers of our Constitution feared executive power run amok and provided the remedy of impeachment to protect against it. While impeachment is a last resort, and must never be lightly undertaken (a principle ignored during the proceedings against President Bill Clinton), neither can Congress shirk its responsibility to use that tool to safeguard our democracy. No President can be permitted to commit high crimes and misdemeanors with impunity.

But impeachment and removal from office will not happen unless the American people are convinced of its necessity after a full and fair inquiry into the facts and law is conducted. That inquiry must commence now...

One (hopefully not futile) way to act is to contact your Congressional representatives and your Senators to express your concern about the President's action and to ask for his/her support on impeachment if the President cannot be controlled by the law and the Congress. Nothing fancy is required. One letter may not make a difference, but a lot of them can.

[Related links-
-Analysis of the Legality of the Secret NSA Warrantless Electronic Surveillance Program

-Elizabeth Holtzman--from Nixon to Bush & the Case for Impeachment

-Elizabeth Holtzman: The Nation's Impeachment Brief]

$400 Billion...

...That could be the deficit for this fiscal year.

Don't worry, folks, once the next round of tax cuts come in, we'll all be rich and get this paid off.

Don't Kill The Messenger; It's The President Who Did It

The Village Voice has two interesting articles this week on the President and his spying program.

The first- Another great article by Sydney Schanberg in his 'Press Clips' feature:
The Messenger Takes a Beating

Don't blame the Times. Save some anger for the government that's spying on us.

The second- An article by Nat Hentoff in their 'Liberty Beat' series:
George Bush: Master Spy

Unilateral president exposed in his ignorance of Constitution he's sworn to protect

Recommended reading. If you get bored, surf over to Dan Savage's sex advice column.

Republicans And Civility

Glenn Greenwald is fast becoming one of my favorite bloggers (especially after this and this). He's been blogging on Crooks and Liars lately; his latest post in light of the Alito hearings drama is his outrage at this newfound Republican demand for 'civility' given their past tactics. A good read if you enjoy people's hypocrisy being pointed out-

Republican Sermons About Civility

[A related blog post by James Wolcott- Noxious Fumes]

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Your Phone Records For Sale

Earlier this month, AmericaBlog discovered that some companies will sell you the cell phone records of anyone (anyone), as long as you provide them with the number and a fee.

To prove what a major issue this is, they bought Wesley Clark's cell phone records-
AMERICAblog just bought General Wesley Clark's cell phone records for $89.95

Scary to say the least. Kudos to AmericaBlog for pushing the issue; they may get results.

God's Wrath

[PS- Pat Robertson has apologized for his Sharon remarks.]

Abramoff: The GOP's ATM

The Whiskey Bar beautifully debunks the myth of the "bipartisan scandal" of Jack Abramoff with numerous quotes. One also need only look at his contributions to see who he was in business with.

Whiskey Bar: A Bipartisan Scandal

Judging Alito, Day 4

I don't have much else to say about the Alito confirmation hearings; I think that I said it all yesterday (about the serious questions being asked by Democrats, the general handling of the hearings by Republicans/Democrats, the biased media coverage, etc). Alito's confirmation is said to be a given, yet there are a number of serious concerns that need to be addressed and not ridiculed. Some members of the panel, but not enough, are doing that. Whether or not Samuel Alito becomes an Associate Justice of our Supreme Court, these are important questions to ask and are more important than the supposed 'drama' of the hearings themselves obsessed about by the media.

With that said, here are two relevant articles I recommend-

NY Times editorial: Judge Alito, in His Own Words
Some commentators are complaining that Judge Samuel Alito Jr.'s confirmation hearings have not been exciting, but they must not have been paying attention. We learned that Judge Alito had once declared that Judge Robert Bork - whose Supreme Court nomination was defeated because of his legal extremism - "was one of the most outstanding nominees" of the 20th century. We heard Judge Alito refuse to call Roe v. Wade "settled law," as Chief Justice John Roberts did at his confirmation hearings. And we learned that Judge Alito subscribes to troubling views about presidential power.

Those are just a few of the quiet bombshells that have dropped. In his deadpan bureaucrat's voice, Judge Alito has said some truly disturbing things about his view of the law. In three days of testimony, he has given the American people reasons to be worried - and senators reasons to oppose his nomination...

(See the link for their detailed reasons that followed)

And a must-read Washington Post article today:
Alito Leaves Door Open to Reversing 'Roe'-
Membership In Controversial Group Surfaces As an Issue

[Note: Both Yahoo and C-Span have options for viewing the hearings]

Links of the Day

I'm listening to those Democrats having the audacity to do their jobs. Here's some links while you listen too-

-A new poll states "Americans overwhelmingly lack confidence that Iraq will have a stable government in place within the next year, and more than half say that the war has not been worth its cost". Oops:
Poll: Iraq won't be governing itself soon-

Asked if it was worth going to war, smaller majority says no

-NSA whistleblower Russ Tice was warned not to testify to Congress:
Ex-official warned against testifying on NSA programs

-A senior British officer is criticizing the US army for its conduct in Iraq, accusing it of institutional racism:
US army in Iraq institutionally racist, claims British officer

News Orleans/Gulf Coast Update

President Bush to visit Trent Lott's porch the ravaged Gulf Coast...

AP: Bush to Visit Hurricane-Damaged Gulf Coast
President Bush is making his first visit in three months to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, where, his chief of staff says, there is still "great need — indescribable need."

Andy Card said the Thursday trip to New Orleans and Mississippi was for Bush to see progress there firsthand and personally restate his commitment to rebuilding.

You mean this commitment? I am pleased some in the White House have remembered it.

And the city of New Orleans plans its resurrection-
New Orleans Dreams Big in Rebuilding Plan (AP)

Some residents are not happy, however.

Sen. Clinton: Lack of Body Armor is "Unforgiveable"

In light of last week's news that "at least 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to their upper body could have survived if they had extra body armor", some action is being taken... but as usual it doesn't seem to be enough (few seem to be pointing out the obvious that this is a failure connected to the continued apathy of Donald Rumsfeld).

Senator Clinton is calling for an investigation: Sen. Clinton Says Lack of Body Armor is 'Unforgivable'-

She Has Called for an Investigation Into Why Soldiers Are Not Fully Protected
(ABC News)

And the military is sending thousands of plates to Iraq this year (though this might not help those who've already been injured or killed) which will be distributed by the Marine Corps: Army to Send Body Armor Plates to Iraq (AP)

Godspeed, guys.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Questioning Alito

The official take, via the media at large, on the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings is that Democrats are being vicious partisan bullies who are grasping at straws to find anything possible to knock down Alito. Why, Mr. Drudge and others are reporting that Alito's wife left the hearing room in tears after seeing her husband attacked (though it was Sen. Graham's comments that triggered it)! The Republican members of the Committee are reiterating this point, taking every chance possible to apologize to Alito for the behavior of their "liberal colleagues".

With possibly some exceptions (such as the mindless blathering of Sen. Biden), it seems what Republicans are trying to define as 'attacks' are merely some intense questions. But is that not the point of all this? To ask the tough questions? I feel bad for Ms. Alito if she's been upset by the hearings, but it was wrong for anyone to expect a cakewalk. And surely, given the extremely high stakes of this nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States, is the main issue to be focusing on the emotions of Alito's family? As Atrios noted, "The media keeps declaring these hearings to be just political theater, and then they focus on the soap opera."

In addition, Wolf Blitzer on CNN said that that the Democrats have prejudged Alito from the beginning and are "delivering an early verdict" on him. This may be true (I'm not a psychic; I won't claim to know what any Senator is thinking), but it is blatantly hypocritical to paint this as a Democratic problem. It can just as well be argued that every single Republican on the Committee has already decided Alito is in.

In his opening statement on Monday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (whose statement/apology to Alito prompted his wife to leave the room today and who turned his party's Abramoff troubles into a punchline yesterday) said that "It's possible you could talk me out of voting for you, but I doubt it. So I won't even try to challenge you along those lines. I feel very comfortable with you being on the Supreme Court... I expect that most all of us, if not all of us, will vote for you." So he's admitting his mind was already made up before the Q&A process even began. That's a more open statement than any given by the Democrats. If they all had made up their minds, why even bother showing up for the questioning?

In addition, having watched/listened to pretty much the entire hearing so far, I have noticed that the Republicans are throwing softballs at Alito. The toughest question I recall a Republican asking him today was whether he agreed with "one man, one vote". Alito said that he did. And how else would he have answered that question?

Much of the Republicans' time has been spent scolding Democrats (and I don't recall the supposedly mean Democrats scolding Republicans for their Gannon-esque questioning) for their behavior, praising Alito for his admittedly impressive upbringing and education and record, and continuous personal ranting about the evils of abortion (Sen. Coburn, I'm looking at you) and activism.

So yes, the media critics are correct that these hearings have been a masturbatory farce (with occassional moments of genuine insight) to some degree, but it's wrong to pretend that one party over the other is responsible for that.

These accusations of bullying and personal attacks by the Republicans and the mainstream media meant to discredit the Democrat's concerns are all too similar for me to the President's remarks yesterday warning Democrats not to attack him too hard on the war because that would be dishonest. Since when did the Republicans get all sensitive? Since when did asking questions become dishonest?

One could also make the point that Republicans lost the right to decry the intense grilling of Alito after the way in which they handled the Harriet Miers nomination. She never even made it to a confirmation hearing. Extremely partisan Republicans (the Kristol crowd, etc) torpedoed her nomination in a far more explosive and well-promoted way than liberal groups could ever of dream of (Miers' name was watercooler talk; Alito buzz hasn't remotely reached mainstream Bork status). Why? Because Ms. Miers was not qualified? No, that they didn't care about. They demanded her withdrawal because she didn't pass their ideological - yep you guessed it- litmus test on key issues of conservative concern. I'll tell you this, I opposed her nomination because of her lack of qualifications, but by the end I almost felt bad for her on a personal level. Was Ms. Miers ever driven to tears by all the demands for her withdrawal? If she was, Drudge didn't tell me about it.

And having now gotten their desired nominee, the right insists that we should accept him without question.

Are the Democrats being tougher than perhaps had been the case in previous confirmation hearings? Sure. It may be a reflection of these divided times, but this may also be necessary to make up for the lack of adequate questioning on the other side. In addition, there are very serious concerns with Alito's honesty. Too often has he played the "I can't remember" card when controversial parts of his past are brought up. He has answered more questions that Chief Justice Roberts did for sure, but his answers have often been dodges and political wordplay.

As Sen. Schumer noted yesterday, Alito's burden in these hearings is "triply high" because he is replacing a respected swing vote in a time where critical issues of civil rights and presidential power may be coming before the Court. This is an extremely important hearing and should not be treated as a rubber stamp. I do not approve of either side bullying Alito (and no one's crossed that line yet, in my personal opinion), but I do want Alito to be questioned as thoroughly as possible. This is a lifetime appointment and he can be only be questioned once. It's critically important that we get it right, especially if his confirmation is said to be a given.

Bush To Congress: "Yea, you can do your jobs, I guess."

The President said he's not opposed to hearings on his eavesdropping-

AP: Bush Open to Hearings on Domestic Spying
President Bush said Wednesday that congressional hearings to investigate his domestic eavesdropping program will be good for democracy as long as they don't give secrets away to the enemy...

Note that he didn't say he'd cooperate with the hearings. "Wanna investigate my awesome program? Go ahead, knock yourself out. I won't be there, though, you already dragged me to those lame 9/11 hearings. I've got all the appropriate Senators wiretapped anyway, so I'll know how it's going. Now watch this drive."

Sullivan On Torture Laws, Signing Statements, And Alito

Andrew Sullivan supports Alito, but...
BUSH AND TORTURE: If he has to break the law he signed, he will. The consequences of presidents doing this to clear legislative intent are profound. I have no doubt that, for all his platitudes yesterday, the fundamental reason Alito was nominated was to remove one check from the president's assumption of new and permanent powers. In an issue like the McCain Amendment, Roberts and Alito will back the president against the veto-proof vote of the Congress. That's why they're there.

PS- Thanks to Jon for clarifying for me Sullivan's post on the Robertson controversy.

Scottish Golf Courses = Pissed

The Republicans are beginning a round of ethics reforms to recover from the mess they've made. One good idea-

AP: House GOP Considering New Travel Rules
House Republicans, seeking to recover their standing with voters in the wake of a lobbying scandal, are considering a total ban on privately funded congressional trips, the lawmaker leading the reform effort said Wednesday.

Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., said GOP leaders were "seriously considering" the need to eliminate all privately financed travel. "That would be a very strong statement. We want to be bold," said Dreier, chairman of the House Rules Committee...

Speaking of Republican corruption, let's turn to the master...

Tom Delay is threatening to sue TV stations who run a new anti-Delay ad. Desperate much?

See the ad- here.

Sam Alito and The Concerned Alumni of Princeton

One big controversy surrounding Judge Alito during his confirmation hearings is his past membership in an organization known as the Concerned Alumni of Princeton (Drudge had sensationally previewed this battle last weekend). This was an alumni organization which largely fought against the growing numbers, and acceptance, of minorities (blacks, hispanics, women, gays, etc.) in Princeton. Alito had been member of the organization and, in fact, had boasted of his membership in a 1985 application for a job in the Reagan administration. Obviously, this is an important issue because it speaks to the heart of Alito's character and his dedication (or lack thereof) to issues of equality. The Senators questioning Alito on it just want to clarify these matters.

In his hearings this week, Mr. Alito is playing the "I can't remember" card in regards to the organization. He says he was unaware of the extremely conservative, and racist/sexist, nature of the group and doesn't remember being actively involved in it. Under questioning from Sen. Leahy, Alito claimed his reason for joining was connected to Princeton's decision to remove the ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) from the school. Alito, as an ROTC member and supporter of the military, said he was very concerned about that. But he does not recall any other aspects of the Princeton alumni group.

To say his story doesn't fully add up is stating the obvious.

Attytood digs into Alito's membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton, his real reason for joining ROTC, and the ways in which his story simply doesn't add up. Read it all here:
He can't handle the truth: The real story of Sam Alito, ROTC, and Concerned Alumni of Princeton

Also, during today's hearings, Sen. Kennedy issued a subpoena request for documents containing 'clipping files, background information, correspondence and memoranda, financial records, fund-raising material, lists of supporters, minutes of meetings, issues and other items' relating to the group which could fill in the blanks in Alito's story. Committee Chairman Arlen Specter got into a heated argument with Kennedy about that, claiming he never received an earlier request from Kennedy about this. ThinkProgress has detailed info on this and a video clip of the exchange: BREAKING: Specter Stonewalls on Concerned Alumni of Princeton Docs

(Update: ThinkProgress has a report on Specter's post-lunch agreement to get the records)

Jeralyn Merritt at Huffington Post also looks at the situation: Alito Plays Dodge Ball

[PS- Most Americans aren't sold on Alito:
Poll: Americans 'Undecided' On Alito]

Flip Flop?

"I can bring centrist judges to the bench."
-Sen. Arlen Specter (October 2004)

Can you, Arlen?

Where's Osama?

The world's most wanted terrorist has lately been the world's quietest. So what's he up to?

This article explores the possibilities...

BostonHerald: No Osama-grams in a year
Osama bin Laden hasn’t made a single peep publicly in over a year — his longest absence since 9/11. The ghoul’s eerie silence is both disturbing — and odd — for the leader of a global terrorist organization hellbent on changing world order.

So what is Public Enemy No. 1 up to? Osama’s glaring absence from the world stage means one of three things: a) We’ve been closing in on him and he’s gone deeper underground; b) He’s lulling us into complacency while planning another big terrorist strike, or c) He’s dead...

Let's hope some folks in Washington know the answer.

Who Can Check the President?

There's a great article in the most recent issue of the New York Times Magazine about presidential power in light of recent events. It's one of the best I've read on this issue so far. It is written in three parts- the first looks at the history behind the growth of the Executive branch and what Bush is doing today, the second explores the role of the Supreme Court in checking this, and third looks at how Congress can redeem themselves by reasserting their authority in key matters. Please read it! You'll feel smarter and maybe even become smarter too!

#1 non-blog recommended reading for the week.

Our Presidential Era: Who Can Check the President?

Bush To Democrats: Discuss The War On My Terms, Dammit!

From a NY Times article-
President Bush issued an unusually stark warning to Democrats today about how to conduct the debate on Iraq as midterm elections approach, declaring that Americans know the difference "between honest critics" and those "who claim that we acted in Iraq because of oil, or because of Israel, or because we misled the American people."

Daaaammmnnn, George. Them's fighting words.

Enemies of his majesty beware, the gauntlet of fear has been thrown down.

[See also the AP article- Bush to Democrats: Don't Slam Iraq Policy]

The King's Court

A great Toles cartoon from the Washington Post.

NSA Whistleblower: "We've had abuses, and they need to be addressed."

One of the NY Times' NSA whistleblowers comes forward-

ABC News: NSA Whistleblower Alleges Illegal Spying

Good for him. Hopefully this will encourage others to come forward too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Sen. Graham Makes With The Jokes

I've been listening to the Alito hearings (good times) and they just had another laughter break. After Sen. Feingold and Sen. Hatch were quickly cross-questioning Alito about the Vanguard conflict, Sen. Graham's turn for questioning came up (he's still on now, discussing prisoners of war and the protection of laws during wartime). Before he began, and taking a cue from the Feingold/Hatch questioning, Sen. Graham said:

"I hope if any of us come before the Court and we can't remember Abramoff, you will believe us."

Wocka wocka wocka!

A round of temporary laughter followed by all in the room. Ohh Congress.

[PS- A good post by Glenn Greenwald on why it will hurt the Democrats to "meekly accept defeat on Alito"]

Sullivan on Robertson: What's He Saying?

Popular conservative blogger (and occassional Bush critic) Andrew Sullivan made an extremely odd post ("ROBERTSON'S GAFFE") about Pat Robertson's controversial recent statement that Ariel Sharon's stroke could be vengeance from an angry God-
Plenty of evangelicals and Republicans have dumped on Pat Robertson for saying that Ariel Sharon's stroke is related to his decision to divide the land of Israel. I'm baffled. It would be astonishing if Robertson did not believe something like that. Robertson's version of Christianity is fundamentalist pre-millenarianism. He believes, as do most members of the religious right, that the world is soon coming to an end, and that the unification of Israel is integral to that story-line. (The Jews who don't accept Christ will all die in a second and more extensive Holocaust, orchestrated by Jesus.) He also believes, as do millions of Americans, that God directly involves himself in our lives, as does Satan, and that He is a terrifying God who has committed mass murder and genocide in the past against those who flout his will (the Bible proves it) and will do so again. A mere stroke for Sharon? He should count himself lucky.

I couldn't read if Sullivan was defending Robertson or attacking him. It's very odd. My instinct was that he was defending him, which is kind of insane. If this is indeed what Sullivan thinks of the religious right, and he supports that, than this is a scary statment on the state of religious thought in this country today.

Anyone have a take on that?

[PS- A later post, 'FOLGER ON ROBERTSON', also tackles the subject.]

Meet The Tool

This is why I don't watch 'Meet The Press'...

Washington Post: Russert Resisted Testifying on Leak
Lawyers for NBC News reporter Tim Russert suspected in the spring of 2004 that his testimony could snare Vice President Cheney's top aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, in a lie and Russert resisted testifying at the time about private conversations with Libby, according to court papers released yesterday.

Russert was aware that a special prosecutor probing the leak of a CIA operative's name knew of his summer 2003 telephone conversation with Libby, and that Libby had released him from any promise of confidentiality. But Russert, the Washington bureau chief for NBC News and host of "Meet the Press," and his attorneys argued in previously sealed court filings in June 2004 that he should not have to tell a grand jury about that conversation, because it would harm Russert's relationship with other sources...

This is what his show has always been for politicians- meet the press, get a foot massage.

Poll: Most Americans Hate Crime

A USA Today/CNN/Gallop poll shows that most Americans are paying attention to the Abramoff/Republican ethical scandals. While it doesn't seem to indicate that Democrats should stock up on victory champagne for November just yet, it does indicate that Americans are at least paying attention. Among the findings-
Most Americans say they're following news of the Abramoff scandal closely, and 53% call it a major scandal. Just 9% see it as "not a serious matter."

Corruption will be a voting issue in November, they say. Only the war in Iraq, terrorism and health care are cited more often as "extremely important" issues this year; 43% describe "corruption in government" that way. In comparison, 38% call the economy an extremely important issue.

Also, National Review's Rich Lowry has a good article on the scandal:
The Abramoff Scandal (R., Beltway)-

It’s the Republicans, stupid

Judging Alito, Day 2

A quote from Sen. Schumer's opening statement that I think sums it all up-
"While every Supreme Court nominee has a great burden, yours, Judge Alito, is triply high. First, because you have been named to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the pivotal swing vote on a divided court; second, because you have been picked to placate the extreme right wing after the hasty withdrawal of Harriet Miers; and, finally, because your record of opinions and statements on a number of critical Constitutional questions seems quite extreme."

PS- The NY Times had a good editorial on Alito on Sunday:
Judging Samuel Alito

Uncle George

$2 Trillion+

That could be the ultimate cost for taxpayers of George, Dick, and Rummy's little adventure-

AP: Cost of Iraq war could top $2 trillion: study
The cost of the Iraq war could top $2 trillion, far above the White House's pre-war projections, when long-term costs such as lifetime health care for thousands of wounded U.S. soldiers are included, a study said on Monday.

Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes included in their study disability payments for the 16,000 wounded U.S. soldiers, about 20 percent of whom suffer serious brain or spinal injuries.

They said U.S. taxpayers will be burdened with costs that linger long after U.S. troops withdraw...

I'll keep that in mind when I'm giving change to a homeless Iraq veteran in 10 years.

San Francisco Starbucks Survives Bomb Scare

A bomb was found in San Francisco today in the heart of liberalism- Starbucks.

From the AP: Device Defused at San Francisco Starbucks
SAN FRANCISCO - Police defused an explosive device found in the bathroom of a Starbucks on Monday. No one was injured...

...Once the device was disabled at about 2:10 p.m., police allowed people back into the apartment building and reopened the street. The store, located at a busy city intersection, remained closed Monday evening while authorities investigated...

Quick, someone check Bill O'Reilly's alibi.

Monday, January 09, 2006

O'Reilly To Media: Stop Pointing Out My Stupidity

I was watching "The O'Reilly Factor" tonight (well, just the last 10 minutes until I could switch to wrestling) and Bill'O was continuing to spin his Letterman appearance. His focus tonight was the media coverage the appearance got. He ranted about the negative way the appearance was portrayed in some papers (gosh, I can't imagine why). He singled out two newspapers- local papers New York Daily News and Newsday. He is therefore adding Newsday to his online blacklist of "media defamers" (meaning people like MSNBC's Keith Olbermann who accurately quote him, thereby revealing his insanity). The NY Daily News had already been on the list, but he added US News and World Report which shares the same owner as the Daily News.

Bill'O said that Newsday has become a "far left" newspaper, something he thought the Daily News has been for a while. The papers may be unfamiliar to those outside the New York area, but as a Queens resident, I assure you that neither could be remotely construed as "far left". The Daily News in particular is a traditionally conservative newspaper (read: not radical right like O'Reilly, but very much conservative). Newsday is even more so; it reflects the conservative/Republican opinions of its Long Island readers. Both papers endorsed Bush in the '04 elections, have cheerleadered for the war (even on extreme issues like torture), and have been extremely critical of Democrats and anti-war activists. These are conservative papers through and through. So for O'Reilly to call them "far left" says more about how extreme and radical Mr. O'Reilly himself is than the papers he is attacking.

Bill'O, before you boycott Newsday, please fulfill what you told them and retire please.

PS- Here's the Newsday article about the Letterman issue that somehow upset O'Reilly:
Bill O'Reilly gains publicity from verbal joust with David Letterman

The Intelligent Designer Strikes Again

See the Designer's latest creation- Cy.

Abramamoff? Never Heard Of The Guy.

A new Time magazine article on the President's relationship with Tom Delay has some odd revelations, all of which paint a picture of a White House very desperate to distance itself from the disgraced Congressman and their mutual friend, Jack Abramoff. Let the whitewashing begin.

First, the imperial White House looks down on its loyal Hammer-
Even before DeLay's announcement that he would abdicate his leadership post, top Bush advisers tell TIME, the President's inner circle always treated DeLay as a necessary burden. He may have had an unmatched grip on the House and Washington lobbyists, but DeLay is not the kind of guy—in background and temperament—the President feels comfortable with. Of the former exterminator, a Republican close to the President's inner circle says, "They have always seen him as beneath them, more blue collar. He's seen as a useful servant, not someone you would want to vacation with."

Yes, because Mr. "Clearing Brush" President is oh so classy.

Second, the White House rushes to hide its history with Jack Abramoff-
Bracing for the worst, Administration officials obtained from the Secret Service a list of all the times Abramoff entered the White House complex, and they scrambled to determine the reason for each visit. Bush aides are also trying to identify all the photos that may exist of the two men together. Abramoff attended Hanukkah and holiday events at the White House, according to an aide who has seen the list. Press secretary Scott McClellan said Abramoff might have attended large gatherings with Bush but added, "The President does not know him, nor does the President recall ever meeting him."

Aww, Scott, you're so cute!

USA Today has more on Abramoff's relationship with the White House:
Controversial lobbyist had close contact with Bush team

[PS- TruthDig has a good compilation of Abramoff-related resources/articles.]

The Fox Guarding The Henhouse

More of the Republicans being clueless about why they're in so much trouble...

From ThinkProgress: DeLay Takes Over Cunningham’s Spot On Appropriations Committee
When DeLay announced his official resignation on Saturday, he also announced he was “reclaiming” his seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

Why is there a seat available? From the San Diego Union Tribune, 12/10/05:

A vacancy on the panel occurred earlier this week when Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Rancho Santa Fe, formally resigned from Congress after pleading guilty to charges that he accepted bribes from defense contractors.

Should be a smooth transition.

The guy is indicted for ethical/money issues and he's put on the Appropriations Committee?!?

What's next? Rep. Bob Ney teaching ethics? Oh.

Links of the Day

While my brain recovers from those opening statements, here's some links...

-Tom Delay's bid to get his charges thrown out was rejected:
Texas Court Won't Dismiss DeLay Charges

-Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Arlen Specter wants answers on the President's spying:
Attorney General Is Asked to Testify on Spy Program

-Finally, the U.S. is working hard to keep terrorists out of outer space:
US draws up space tourism rules -
Space tourists must be screened to ensure they are not terrorists, according to proposed regulations from the US Federal Aviation Administration.

Blah Blah Abortion, Blah Blah Up Or Down Vote

Well, that was fun (?).

If anyone cares to be filled in, FireDogLake did a great live recap-
Pt. I- Alito Hearings: Senator Opening Statements
Pt. II- Alito Hearings: Sen. Statements, Part II
Pt. III- Alito Hearings: Sen. Statements/Alito, Part III

Alito: The Hearings Begin

Live video feed of the hearings-

Already the issue of executive power was brought up, as well as the Miers mess.

AP has a story: Senate Opens Alito Nomination Hearings

A good quote to start things off...
"The Supreme Court is the ultimate check and balance in our system. Independence of the courts and its members is crucial to our democracy."
-Sen. Patrick Leahy (D- VT)

Alito: Ashamed Of Himself; A Shame Of A Nominee

Michael at AmericaBlog has a great writeup on Samuel Alito's past, why he's ashamed of it, and why we cannot trust him to be on our nation's highest court. Much like the man who appointed him, Alito refuses to take responsibility for his actions and statements. I expect his hearings will reflect that. Take it away, Michael-
The far right wants us to believe that Supreme Court nominee Alito is similar to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Even though everyone knew Ginsburg was a liberal, she was passed by a vast majority in the Senate. They are both in the mainstream of judicial philosophy, the far right says. So Alito deserves the same treatment because he's "qualified."

So why is Alito so ashamed of his entire career?

Ginsburg IS in the mainstream of judicial philosophy, even though she's clearly a strong liberal. But she never pretended to be anything else. And everything on Ginsburg's resume was something she was proud of. Every group she belonged to, every organization she worked for, every position she staked out on the issues of the day and every promise she made reflected who Ruth Bader Ginsburg was, what she stood for and what she believed in....

...Nothing could be further from the truth for Alito. He is apparently ashamed of everything he's ever done ... The reasons change, but the fact remains: Alito gave his word and then he broke it. He can't be trusted.

Since Alito is so clearly ashamed of himself, shouldn't we be ashamed of him and keep him off the Supreme Court?

Read the link above for the full post, with details from Alito's past.

And should the Democrats get tough on Mr. Alito during these hearings and Republican pundits and politicians then denounce their behavior and demand they stop and just let Alito have an "up or down vote", remind them of their hypocrisy with two words-- 'Harriet Miers'.

Good Lord!

The religious right is getting a little overly excited for the Alito confirmation hearings...

Wall Street Journal: Ministers Say They Blessed Seats Ahead of Alito Hearing
Insisting that God "certainly needs to be involved" in the Supreme Court confirmation process, three Christian ministers today blessed the doors of the hearing room where Senate Judiciary Committee members will begin considering the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito on Monday.

Capitol Hill police barred them from entering the room to continue what they called a consecration service. But in a bit of one-upsmanship, the three announced that they had let themselves in a day earlier, touching holy oil to the seats where Judge Alito, the senators, witnesses, Senate staffers and the press will sit, and praying for each of the 13 committee members by name...

[PS- The hearings begin today. From the AP: Judiciary Committee to Open Alito Hearings]

Howard Dean Confuses Wolf Blitzer With Facts, Blitzer Sighs

Howard Dean was on CNN being interviewed by Wolf Blitzer. Blitzer did his competitors at Fox proud by repeating all the White House talking points, but he had opposite him a rare species of Democrat... one with balls. Dean gave his thoughts on the White House photo-op with former secretaries, the news that 80% of soldier injuries/fatalies could've been prevented with adequate armor, and shooting down the notion that somehow Democrats are also involved in the Abramoff mess. In the end, Blitzer lets a hugh sigh and declares the interview over. Good times.

Crooks and Liars has video: Dean issues Smack-down on Wolfie

And Atrios has a transcript... here's a highlight regarding the Abramoff scandal-
DEAN: There are no Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff, not one, not one single Democrat. Every person named in this scandal is a Republican. Every person under investigation is a Republican. Every person indicted is a Republican. This is a Republican finance scandal. There is no evidence that Jack Abramoff ever gave any Democrat any money. And we've looked through all of those FEC reports to make sure that's true...

....There's no evidence that I've seen that Jack Abramoff directed any contributions to Democrats. I know the Republican National Committee would like to get the Democrats involved in this. They're scared. They should be scared. They haven't told the truth. They have misled the American people. And now it appears they're stealing from Indian tribes. The Democrats are not involved in this.

*SIGH* Howard, come on. I read on NewsMax that some loosely connected associates of Abramoff's aides donated money to a few Democrats. Ohh sure, Abramoff was a Republican lobbyist and key friend to former Majority Leader Tom Delay and had close connections with the White House and directly donated to dozens of Republican officials many of whom are under criminal investigation, but a few Democrats did receive some money from people who were somehow connected to Abramoff... and that's the real scandal. Democrats received donations from Indian tribes; Republicans stole money from Indian tribes. Same dif!

Sorry Howard, your facts are no match for the awesome power of... the talking point.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Note To PowerLine Bloggers- Terrorists Aren't As Clueless As You Are

Frank Rich further smacks down the idea that the NY Times somehow damaged national security with their revelations and states at one point that "Given that the reporters on the Times story, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, wrote that nearly a dozen current and former officials had served as their sources, there may be more leaks to come, and not just to The Times. Sooner or later we'll find out what the White House is really so defensive about". Indeed.
ALMOST two weeks before The New York Times published its scoop about our government's extralegal wiretapping, the cable network Showtime blew the whole top-secret shebang. In its mini-series "Sleeper Cell," about Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in Los Angeles, the cell's ringleader berates an underling for chatting about an impending operation during a phone conversation with an uncle in Egypt. "We can only pray that the N.S.A. is not listening," the leader yells at the miscreant, who is then stoned for his blabbing.

If fictional terrorists concocted by Hollywood can figure out that the National Security Agency is listening to their every call, guess what? Real-life terrorists know this, too...

...That the White House's over-the-top outrage about the Times scoop is a smokescreen contrived to cover up something else is only confirmed by Dick Cheney's disingenuousness. In last week's oration at a right-wing think tank, he defended warrant-free wiretapping by saying it could have prevented the 9/11 attacks. Really? Not with this administration in charge. On 9/10 the N.S.A. (lawfully) intercepted messages in Arabic saying, "The match is about to begin," and, "Tomorrow is zero hour." You know the rest. Like all the chatter our government picked up during the president's excellent brush-clearing Crawford vacation of 2001, it was relegated to mañana; the N.S.A. didn't rouse itself to translate those warnings until 9/12...

...[The White House's] motive is not, as many liberals would have it, a simple ideological crusade to gut the Bill of Rights. Real conservatives, after all, are opposed to Big Brother; even the staunch Bush ally Grover Norquist has criticized the N.S.A.'s overreaching. The highest priority for the Karl Rove-driven presidency is instead to preserve its own power at all costs. With this gang, political victory and the propaganda needed to secure it always trump principles, even conservative principles, let alone the truth. Whenever the White House most vociferously attacks the press, you can be sure its No. 1 motive is to deflect attention from embarrassing revelations about its incompetence and failures...

And guest blogger Julian on Andrew Sullivan's site adds his two cents on that and Glenn Greenwald's remarks:
The claim that it's "extremely unlikely" that al-Qaeda terrorists were aware of FISA until now because "few Americans knew anything about FISA before the current controversy arose" is, well, mindboggling. I guess it could be that they only just started reading the New York Times, but even ignoring the fact that FISA's been prominently discussed in the news since the early debates on the Patriot Act, it seems as though hardened terrorist might, you know, have somewhat more of a personal incentive to learn about American wiretap policy than the average Joe. Bush apologists need to make up their minds: Are these guys such a fiendishly clever and unique threat that they require massive expansion of executive power to defend against, or are they some sort of darkside Qeystone Qops so inept that disclosing the obvious gives them new information?

Careful Julian, that's the kind of critical thinking that'll end you up on the no-fly list.

GOP Senator Confirms Afghanistan Resolution Didn't Authorize Wiretaps

More Republicans coming out against the President's illegal, warrantless spying program-

From ThinkProgress: Brownback: 9/11 Resolution Did Not Give Bush Authority for Warrantless Wiretapping
This morning, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) added his name to the growing list of conservatives who have expressed disapproval of Bush’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program, further undermining the right-wing spin that the only critics of the program are liberals. On ABC’s This Week:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you confident that the administration has acted lawfully in this case?

BROWNBACK: I think we need to hold hearings on it and we’re going to. Both in the intelligence committee, there will be closed hearings and then the judiciary committee will have open hearings.

I think we need to look at this case and this issue. I am troubled by what the basis for the grounds that the administration says that they did these on, the legal basis, and I think we need to look at that far more broadly and understand it a great deal.

I think this is something that bears looking into and us to be able to establish a policy within constitutional frameworks of what a president can or cannot do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You don’t think the 9/11 resolution gave the president the authority for this program?

BROWNBACK: It didn’t, in my vote. I voted for that resolution. That was a week after 9/11. There was nothing you were going to do to stop us from going to war in Afghanistan, but there was no discussion in anything that I was around that that gave the president a broad surveillance authority with that resolution.

Expect to see more Republicans distancing themselves from the President's actions in the coming weeks.

Crooks and Liars has video: Brownback wants answers on wiretapping


Bill'O writes about his Letterman appearance in his current article and spins it as proof of the culture war.

You can't get more moronic than this opening sentence...
Even though the war on terror dominates the headlines, the culture war in America is almost as intense.

Really? Between 2,000 and 3,000 American soldiers (not to mention tens of thousands of innocent civilians) have been killed in the culture war? Entire countries have been destabilized and infrastructure destroyed in the culture war? Half a trillion dollars of taxpayer money have been pissed away in the culture war? Sounds intense, Bill! Please tell me more!

I really think he believes it's a real war too. People like Bill'O have built up the 'culture war' in their minds as an epic historic struggle. They need this delusion to feed their belief that, despite conservatives controlling all three branches of government and their cable news channel being the highest rated, that they are a persecuted minority on the verge of extinction. It's up to Bill'O and the other pundit warriors to save America. In his mind, there is no difference between him ranting about Ludacris and a Marine running through a mine field outside Tikrit. But I suppose I shouldn't knock his dedication to this fake 'war'. It's the one war chickenhawk reactionaries like himself are willing to serve in.

Bill'O continues by defining the two sides in this war...
On one side you have traditionalists, people who believe the country was well founded, does mostly good things, and has become the most powerful nation on earth by adhering to Judeo-Christian principles like generosity, justice, and self-sacrifice. On the other side of the culture war are the secular-progressives who believe that the USA is fundamentally a flawed country, which has caused considerable misery both within and outside our borders. The S-P's want drastic change and a new direction for America.

Yes, thank Jebus for traditionalists like good ol' Bill'O. It's traditionalists like Bill'O who are protecting the right of Americans to sexually harass their employees and romance them with good ol' fashioned woo-ing like "So anyway, I'd be rubbing your big boobs and getting your nipples really hard, kinda kissing your neck from behind... and then I would take the other hand with the falafel thing and I'd put it on your pussy, but you'd have to do it really light, just kind of a tease business." Very traditional and Judeo-Christian.

Bill'O also fights for the traditionalists who like to endorse terrorist attacks against cities whose politics he disagrees with.

He also fights for the traditionalists who believe that all this sympathy for the Iraqi people (the ones we 'liberated') is pussy stuff. Here's a traditional, Judeo-Christian statement from Bill'O two months before the Iraq war: "Now, I don't know about you, but I don't have a lot of sympathy for the Iraqi people." ..... And here's another traditional rant on the same note, this one about two weeks after the war began: "There is a school of thought that says we should have given the citizens of Baghdad 48 hours to get out of Dodge by dropping leaflets and going with the AM radios and all that. Forty-eight hours, you've got to get out of there, and flatten the place. Then the war would be over. We could have done that in two days…. You flatten Baghdad, you flatten all the troops, we know where they go, there's nowhere to hide in the desert. We know where everybody's moving. And you know as well as I do, this war could have been over in two days…. It's just frustrating for everybody to know that we have been fighting this war with one hand behind our back."

Yes, if only more of us were like Bill'O, this country would truly be a Norman Rockwell painting.

He concludes his column...
By far more important is the wake up call many late night viewers got. We in America are becoming a deeply divided country along cultural lines. The more we all understand what the issues are, the better. The culture war is real, and now everybody that watched Letterman that evening knows it.

Really? I thought they saw you smacked down by a guy whose show involves stupid pet tricks. PWNED.

Better luck next time, Bill'O.

Watering Down The Kool-Aid

In the poll I posted earlier, we see now (thanks to a slightly better worded poll), a majority of Americans (56%) believe the government needs to get the legally required warrants to eavesdrop. Ignoring those undecided, a minority 42% feel it is perfectly okay to conduct the surveillance without any legal oversight. That number is probably exactly where Bush's approval ratings are about now (although it's back on a downward trend). See what that poll really ended up reflecting?

It's been obvious for a while now through the ups and downs of the past year (Iraq, Katrina/New Orleans, indictments, etc.), that there is a base of support for the President (around 32% on the low end, around 40% on the high end) no matter what happens. They support him fully. Not necessarily any particular goal, ideal, or principle... just the President. To them, he is the ideal. He represents America and America's success depends on his complete political success and the destruction of his political enemies (because they are trying to hurt him and, therefore, America). They have to believe him; their worldview depends on the black-and-white idea of Bush as the strong leader doing everything to keep them safe and protect their money and families. This isn't without precedent. Heck, even Nixon still had a 25-28% approval rating the week he resigned. They had Nixon on tape conspiring and discussing crimes and over a quarter of the country still stood by him. Some people just need to believe. In some odd way, the President is their religion. The second commandment would be so pissed.

I have two links relevant to this tonight (both by Glenn Greenwald)- the first explains the mental/logistical gymnastic Bush's supporters are performing in order to justify the warrantless spying program; the second explores how to break the fog of fear the Bush administration has created to keep its supporters in line.

#1- Sharing our "secrets" with Osama
One of the most revealing aspects of the NSA scandal has been the way in which Bush followers have been running around shrieking that national security has been damaged and treason has been committed by the New York Times. All of that is based upon the Times' disclosure that Bush ordered the NSA to eavesdrop without judicial oversight (rather than with it). Now that the initial screaming and demands for hangings are dying down a little, his followers are confronted with the fact that this accusation makes no sense whatsoever, since whether we eavesdrop with judicial oversight or without it can’t possibly be of any use to terrorists.

What has become unavoidably apparent is that their rage over this disclosure stems from the fact that it has embarrassed George Bush and harmed his political interests, not that it has harmed the national interests of the United States. But to them, George Bush is America, and whatever he does is, by definition, the national security of the U.S. Thus, to undermine or impede George Bush -- even to point out that he broke the law -- is, in their minds, to impede the United States and therefore to commit treason...

#2- Attacking Bush's only weapon: Fear
Among those who now recognize that the Bush Administration has not just deliberately and repeatedly broken the law, but is literally claiming that George Bush has the “wartime” power to continue to break the law, there is a growing impatience to move to the next step – to take action to ensure that there are serious consequences from Bush’s brazen law-breaking. But in order for that to happen, Bush opponents must finally overcome the one weapon which has protected George Bush again and again: fear. Fear of terrorism is what the Administration has successfully inflamed and exploited for four years in order to justify its most extreme and even illegal actions undertaken in the name of fighting terrorism...

...It is that deeply irrational, fear-driven view of the world which has to be undermined in order to make headway in convincing Americans that this Administration is engaged in intolerable excesses and abuses of its power. The argument which needs to be made is the one that we have seen starting to arise in the blogosphere and elsewhere: that living in irrational fear of terrorists and sacrificing our liberties and all of our other national goals in their name is the approach of hysterics and cowards, not of a strong, courageous and resolute nation...

If only there was an easy way to convince them. I'm not capable of it, so I'll just leave it with Ben for now.

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
-Benjamin Franklin

PS- A round-up/debunking of talking points on this issue can be found here.

Sutton Impact

The latest from Ward Sutton-

Today, I Weep for my Country...

In the comments section of the Daily Show "Coot-Off" post at OneGoodMove, one reader objected to Stewart's notion that Sen. Robert Byrd is "the cootiest man in the world's cootiest body". The commenter rebutted to the coot-y actions of Sen. Byrd by posting his speech, delivered on the floor of the Senate at the beginning of the Iraq war, as proof that he is still a great man worthy of respect. It certainly was a good speech, and is possibly even more relevant today than when it was originally delivered.

And so I am posting it here-
I believe in this beautiful country. I have studied its roots and gloried in the wisdom of its magnificent Constitution. I have marveled at the wisdom of its founders and framers. Generation after generation of Americans has understood the lofty ideals that underlie our great Republic. I have been inspired by the story of their sacrifice and their strength.

But, today I weep for my country. I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned.

Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination. Instead of isolating Saddam Hussein, we seem to have isolated ourselves. We proclaim a new doctrine of preemption which is understood by few and feared by many. We say that the United States has the right to turn its firepower on any corner of the globe which might be suspect in the war on terrorism. We assert that right without the sanction of any international body. As a result, the world has become a much more dangerous place.

We flaunt our superpower status with arrogance. We treat UN Security Council members like ingrates who offend our princely dignity by lifting their heads from the carpet. Valuable alliances are split.

After war has ended, the United States will have to rebuild much more than the country of Iraq. We will have to rebuild America's image around the globe.

The case this Administration tries to make to justify its fixation with war is tainted by charges of falsified documents and circumstantial evidence. We cannot convince the world of the necessity of this war for one simple reason. This is a war of choice.

There is no credible information to connect Saddam Hussein to 9/11. The twin towers fell because a world-wide terrorist group, Al Qaeda, with cells in over 60 nations, struck at our wealth and our influence by turning our own planes into missiles, one of which would likely have slammed into the dome of this beautiful Capitol except for the brave sacrifice of the passengers on board.

The brutality seen on September 11th and in other terrorist attacks we have witnessed around the globe are the violent and desperate efforts by extremists to stop the daily encroachment of western values upon their cultures. That is what we fight. It is a force not confined to borders. It is a shadowy entity with many faces, many names, and many addresses.

But, this Administration has directed all of the anger, fear, and grief which emerged from the ashes of the twin towers and the twisted metal of the Pentagon towards a tangible villain, one we can see and hate and attack. And villain he is. But, he is the wrong villain. And this is the wrong war. If we attack Saddam Hussein, we will probably drive him from power. But, the zeal of our friends to assist our global war on terrorism may have already taken flight.

The general unease surrounding this war is not just due to "orange alert." There is a pervasive sense of rush and risk and too many questions unanswered. How long will we be in Iraq? What will be the cost? What is the ultimate mission? How great is the danger at home?

A pall has fallen over the Senate Chamber. We avoid our solemn duty to debate the one topic on the minds of all Americans, even while scores of thousands of our sons and daughters faithfully do their duty in Iraq.

What is happening to this country? When did we become a nation which ignores and berates our friends? When did we decide to risk undermining international order by adopting a radical and doctrinaire approach to using our awesome military might? How can we abandon diplomatic efforts when the turmoil in the world cries out for diplomacy?

Why can this President not seem to see that America's true power lies not in its will to intimidate, but in its ability to inspire?

War appears inevitable. But, I continue to hope that the cloud will lift. Perhaps Saddam will yet turn tail and run. Perhaps reason will somehow still prevail. I along with millions of Americans will pray for the safety of our troops, for the innocent civilians in Iraq, and for the security of our homeland. May God continue to bless the United States of America in the troubled days ahead, and may we somehow recapture the vision which for the present eludes us.

-Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) March 19, 2003