Saturday, January 21, 2006

Unspinning The Bush/NSA Scandal

Last night, I did a post on Karl Rove's latest speech. In it, I highlighted one of his quotes, a lie meant to misdirect the American public on the wiretapping scandal. I wanted to discuss it in greater detail. Here again is the quote-
Let me be as clear as I can be: President Bush believes if Al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why," Mr. Rove said, referring to the program in which the National Security Agency eavesdropped on conversations without getting a warrant from a judge. "Some important Democrats clearly disagree."

This has been the official strategy of the White House and the conservative media... Deflect away from the real scandal of presidential overreach, ignore the issue of warrants/FISA, and frame the whole debate about a President who simply wants to spy on terrorists and the liberals who want to stop him. So far, the strategy seems to be working; polls show the American public remains wary but ill-informed about the nature of the President's action.

With their ethical standing and the ability to lead in general in the toilet, the Republican party is placing as their main issue for the '06 elections something that's worked for them before- national security. This misdirection will allow them to repaint themselves as the strong, aggressive party on national security... and the Democrats as the weak ones who worry about privacy and don't even want to wiretap Osama bin Terrorist. Statements by Scott McClellan and others in the White House indicate that they are actually glad the Democrats are making a big issue out of the wiretapping scandal. The White House plans to address the wiretapping program head-on, with key speeches and photo-ops planned, including one this Wednesday at NSA headquarters. They want to use the wiretapping program to remind a public (whom they find scared and easily manipulated) that President Bush is the serious War President and that his actions keep us all safe and free. This might be nice if it weren't a lie.

The reality is that this scandal isn't about national security per se (and as a sidenote, if it was, the public should note that the man the White House sent out to give this national security lecture is a man under 'ongoing investigation' in a conspiracy to out a CIA operative for political revenge) . Also, it remains to be seen how much this program is actually helping in the war on terror (see last entry). But that is not the main issue here.

The real scandal is that the President is aggressively overreaching in his powers ('sole organ' for foreign affairs? President Bush, meet Constitution) and has bypassed the legally required court approval for surveillance. This is what Democrats (and numerous Republicans like Arlen Specter, Bob Barr, Grover Norquist, etc) are looking to stop. Not one single member of Congress, not one, believes that the President shouldn't be wiretapping known terrorist agents and no one wants to stop that. Everyone (including terrorists) knew such surveillance was occuring. They just want to know why this activity was done illegally by bypassing the FISA system.

The entire reason FISA even exists is to accommodate the government's surveillance needs, but to do so legally and with accountability. It was created by Congress in response to... the presidential overreaching of Richard Nixon. FISA acts mostly as a rubberstamp, having rejected less than half a dozen warrants in its entire existence; you'd have to be asking for some extremely frivolous wiretap to be turned away. There are also numerous accommodations made for emergencies and wartime- the President can begin wiretaps without the warrant, as long as one is filed within due time. This did not happen. To date, the White House has yet to give a plausible explanation (beyond 'cumbersome' paperwork) of why it had to (as opposed to simply wanting to) go around this 30-year-old, Cold War-tested system of legal surveillance.

So to repeat- NO Democrats object to the notion that "if Al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why". None. And, certainly, Americans don't object either. However, they do rightfully object to the President declaring that system was something he couldn't be bothered with, not fully informing the Congress about his actions, and putting himself above the law.

But it would hurt the President to frame the debate honestly, so they lie and misdirect.

There is also the issue that numerous reports indicate the program reached far beyond just known terrorist suspects and have reached into the lives of countless innocent Americans for datamining and to add as many dots as possible to a growing pile. Obviously, the White House also doesn't want the American public thinking of the program in this way.

Democrats, and a growing number of sane Republican allies on this issue, need to point this out and hammer it home to the American people until it's imprinted in our brains. They cannot allow the White House to frame the debate in this dishonest way. If the opposition cannot even properly explain the scandal to the public, then we are in worse trouble than I thought.

Connecting the Dots

The other night on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart did a genuinely good report (truth through satire as usual) on how the President's secret wiretapping program may not be making fighting the war on terror any easier at all. At best, it may be a middleground- helping in some ways, hurting in others (and if it helps, hey let's get those warrants, people). The segment was in response to the recent New York Times report that stated:
In the anxious months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Security Agency began sending a steady stream of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names to the F.B.I. in search of terrorists. The stream soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month.

But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans...

Scott McClellan said at a recent White House press briefing that "What the 9/11 Commission pointed out was that there was a failure to connect the dots before the attacks of September 11th. What we've got to do is connect the dots to prevent attacks from happening."

Stewart used this quote to remind the audience of the fact that the government already had adequate tools prior to 9/11 necessary to prevent the attack, but they just didn't utilize them properly. One example that I can think of (not mentioned on the show) is the story that "Messages intercepted by U.S. intelligence may have warned of terror attacks a day before September 11, but they were not translated in time". If they had just processed the information they already had, they could have connected the dots and foreseen the attacks.

Stewart used the following graphic to illustrate the simple dots that could've been connected-

He then goes on to note that with the flood of unnecessary information to the FBI and other agencies, in addition to datamining projects, the President is adding so many dots that the relevent agencies have been swamped and often ended up at dead ends and innocent Americans (the officials interviewed by the Times mentioned getting files on teachers, etc). Finding the right clues could potentially be like looking for a needles in a haystack.

Stewart uses a second graphic to illustrate this-

You can watch the segment- here (title- 'Rampant Buggery').

It's a crude example, true, but it speaks to a larger point. We don't know how much good (or how little) this program actually does. President Bush says it's a vital tool. Vice President Cheney says it's prevented countless attacks. But, outside of plots mentioned many times before (ie. the self-aborted plot to topple the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches... sort of a terrorism for beginners plot), they provide little to no specific details. So we are left to have to take them at their word. And based on their track record for honesty, we have no reason to do so.

This is one issue the upcoming hearings should focus on. Of course, even if we do accept that in-depth surveillance (assuming it's focused and not just sucking up information randomly) is needed, there is still no reason to conduct outside the FISA system. And that brings me to my next post...


The White House spins on poll results; The New York Times corrects them-
...While the White House usually says it pays no attention to public opinion polls, Scott McClellan, the press secretary, said at a briefing Friday that recent surveys "overwhelmingly show that the American people want us to do everything within our power to protect them."

But several opinion polls this month showed a clear divide over the issue. One poll, conducted two weeks ago by CNN/USA Today, found that 50 percent of those surveyed thought it was right for the president to order wiretaps without warrants and that 46 percent said it was wrong...

[Hat tip- AmericaBlog]

Liberals Bloggers v. The Washington Post

Here's an interesting story I've half-followed but find fully fascinating... Liberal bloggers had been taking the Washington Post to task for inaccurate reporting about the Abramoff scandal by ombudsman Deborah Howell. Under the guise of fairness in reporting, Ms. Howell reported the story very delicately, going out of her way to portray it as bipartisan, in the process ignoring the content and nature of the story itself. Jay Rosen summarizes-
I understand why people were angry at Deborah Howell. She seems to have taken the concept of balance to new lengths, where not only news accounts and ombudsman columns need to be balanced, but the Jack Abramoff scandal itself "needs" to be balanced between the two major parties.

Her both-sides-fed-at-the-trough statements have been called inaccurate, outrageous, unfortunate, less-than artful. "He had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties..." I read these strained descriptions of bipartisan exposure as more of a wish-- a wish for balance in the facts of the scandal itself. (See also Deborah Howell responds at the

Liberal bloggers rallied around this story and urged readers to demand answers from Ms. Howell and the Post. People went to the Post's website blog to comment about the story. After numerous comments, the Post shut down the comments section on the blog. The reason for this, said Jim Brady (executive editor of, was that users were making personal attacks against Ms. Howell and that the staff could not "keep the board clean, there was some pretty filthy stuff." See the AP story and the Editor & Publisher story for more on that. Now bloggers are commenting on this, stating that to shut down the comments because of a very small handful of rude remarks (which occurs on every major blog; hey, some people are just angry) unnecessarily punishes the 95% who were legitimate (and accurate) critics of the story. Whether the intention or not, it gives the impression the Post wants to silence all criticism. I concur.

The Daily Kos has a compilation of all the removed comments, so we can judge for ourselves:
Here they are: the 42 blog posts WaPo wants to hide from you

[Note to the Kos blogger- Perhaps it might be more professional if you didn't remark that "Jim Brady is full of shit". Just saying.]

At the Huffington Post, Jay Rosen explores this issue and interviews Jim Brady about it:
Transparency at the Post: Q & A with Jim Brady of

It's worth a read.

Do Democrats Have The Will To Fight?

Last week, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid hit hard against the Republicans for all the corruption scandals, stating that Republican reform plans "is like asking John Gotti to do what he can to clean up organized crime". After some complaints about his recent criticisms, Harry Reid apologized for the tone of it. This backing down has some on the left concerned about how hard the Democrats are willing to fight in this election year.

Greg Saunders, on Tom Tomorrow's blog, is angry:
as much as I like Rep. Louise Slaughter, I’ve gotta take issue with her post over at DailyKos “Democrats Come Out Swinging for Honest Leadership in Washington”. I know a politician’s greatest skill is the ability to pat himself/herself on the back, but this is too much. When it came to proposing solutions to the Republican bribery scandal, you guys were beaten to the punch by Republicans! Do you have any idea how lame that looks? It sends the message that Republicans can do a better job policing themselves than the Democrats can. You guys didn’t come out swinging, you came out blocking.

When you get to the meat of the proposals, the Democratic plan is a slightly tougher laundry list of proposals that bears a striking resemblance to the GOP plan. When are you guys going to realize that “Me too!” isn’t a message that’s going to help you win elections? Sure, if you get into the meat of both proposals, the Democratic plan is much better, but who gives a shit at that point? Congratulations, you’ve won the confidence of a few hundred policy wonks. The rest of the country still thinks you’re wimps...

...For example, instead of a byzantine list of regulations on what lobbyists can and can’t do, you should just come out of the gate proposing a ban on all lobbying. Send a message that under Democrats, the rich and powerful don’t get more access to the halls of Congress than Joe and Jane Sixpack. You want to “petition the government”, then use the “Contact Us” form on a Senator’s webpage just like everyone else. Sure, the proposal is simple-minded and would never make it through committee, but that’s not the point. If you ever want to get into a position in which you can govern, you need to address the problems that voters are concerned about. Americans are sick and tired of the government working on behalf of professional ass-kissers...

He's right that plan would never be approved by Congress, but it is what the public wants to hear.

The Alito Nightmare

Sen. Frist finally gets something right-

AP: Frist calls Alito Democrats' "nightmare"
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told Republican Party activists on Friday night that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito was the "worst nightmare of liberal Democrats."...

Why is he a 'nightmare' to anyone, Doctor? Perhaps he is not as 'mainstream' as he is portrayed?...

Frist's spokesperson downplayed the Senator's private remark, stating that Alito "is a thoughtful mainstream conservative jurist who is well respected by his peers, by Democrats and Republicans alike." Well if that was the case, we wouldn't have an issue here. But it's not true. Sandra Day O'Connor is a thoughtful mainstream conservative jurist. And she is secretly (and not so secretly in the Coulter-wing of the party) hated by the right for being just that. The right wants someone extreme who will push their agenda. They hated O'Connor (and David Souter too) because she would not. That is the real reason they torpedoed the nomination of the unqualified Ms. Miers- they didn't know where she stood; she may have been mainstream. With Alito, they know exactly what they've got... a hardcore conservative who passes their litmus test on extreme issues. And this isn't even the main reason his nomination should be opposed. Considering he was a key architect for presidential signing statements, and his strong support for the 'unitary executive' in general, he is a walking conflict of interest at a time when Congress is seeking to investigate Executive actions and fight for renewed checks and balances.

Frist is right- he is a nightmare- and this country will regret it if he is placed on the Court.

[Related- It's Not Too Late on Alito -- Don't Be Afraid to Lose]

Non Sequitur


Stephen Colbert takes a look at renewed privacy concerns and wonders what the big deal is.

OneGoodMove has video: Public-See

Karl Rove Spins Scandals As Wins For GOP

Last week, the President made a call (in his own way) for respectable political debate in this election year.

Karl Rove comes out of hiding to demonstrate this for us...

NY Times: In Preview of G.O.P. Campaign, Rove Tears Into Democrats
...For 26 minutes, after calling for civility in politics in a packed speech before the Republican National Committee, Mr. Rove offered a lacerating attack on Democrats that other Republicans said was a road map for how the party would deal with a tough electoral environment. Mr. Rove sharply criticized Democrats for their opposition to tax cuts and Mr. Bush's Supreme Court nominations, but he left little doubt that once again - as has been the case in both national elections since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks - that he was intent on making national security the pre-eminent issue in 2006.

Mr. Rove speeches this early in an election year have proved to be accurate predictors of what Republican candidates would say in the fall, and thus every seat in the ballroom at a downtown Washington hotel was filled. He lacerated Democrats for what he described their "cut and run" policy on Iraq, for blocking a renewal of the broad antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act, and for challenging the legality of the administration's widespread use of warrantless wiretaps in the face of widespread criticism.

Mr. Rove made no mention of Republican opposition to both the Patriot Act and the surveillance program, which has posed a political problem for this White House, while he laid out his case against the Democrats, speaking rapidly...

Bold added by me.

Also, Rove continued the White House strategy of misdirection on the wiretapping scandal...
"Let me be as clear as I can be: President Bush believes if Al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why," Mr. Rove said, referring to the program in which the National Security Agency eavesdropped on conversations without getting a warrant from a judge. "Some important Democrats clearly disagree."

NO. THEY DON'T. No one in Congress disagrees with the NSA spying on Al Qaeda members. NO ONE.

Now please explain to us why this was done without FISA rubberstamp approval. [*waits as sagebrush rolls by*]


Karl, do America a favor and go back to pacing in your office waiting for the other Fitzgerald shoe to drop.

And The Winner Is...

The results are in on the Iraqi election. It shows promise. Let's hope it can quell the violence...

AP: Iraq's Shiites Win, but Must Share Power
An alliance of Shiite religious parties won the most seats in Iraq's new parliament but not enough to rule without coalition partners, the election commission said Friday. Sunni Arabs gained seats over previous balloting...

[See also: ‘New govt will not bring an end to Iraq insurgency’]

Bush Abuses 9/11 Resolution

Ari Melber at the Huffington Post wonders if Congress is going to call the White House on their BS defense of the warrantless wiretapping program as they have when they used the 9/11 resolution in appropriate ways before...

The Bush Administration's "new" defense of warrantless domestic spying sounds just like its old defense: the 9/11 resolution supposedly empowers the President to take actions that the resolution doesn't even mention.

You don't need to be a lawyer to know it's hard to authorize something without mentioning it.

But Bush's lawyers have claimed the 9/11 resolution authorized all sorts of actions it never mentioned.

Big things, like going to war with Iraq. And Syria. And now warrantless spying on Americans....

...Today the White House is facing a fierce backlash for claiming the 9/11 resolution authorizes spying. Specter, now Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, probably felt some déjà vu last week, when he had to tell George Stephanopoulos that the 9/11 authorization did not allow domestic spying either. We have to wait and see if he acknowledges this Administration pattern in his February oversight hearings on the spy program...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Bush Administration At The Zenith Of Their Desperation

The administration this week releases a new 'defense' of their warrantless wiretapping program, even though it's the same lame defense they've already been using that holds water worse than a New Orleans flood wall... Let's humor the Attorney General and see what he came up with-

NY Times: Administration Lays Out Legal Case for Wiretapping Program
The Bush administration today offered its fullest defense of the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program, saying that congressional authorization to defeat Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11 attacks "places the president at the zenith of his powers in authorizing the N.S.A. activities."

In a 42-page white paper, the Justice Department expanded on its past arguments in laying out the legal rationale for why the N.S.A. program does not violate federal wiretap law and why the president is the nation's "sole organ" for foreign affairs...

[You can see the document- here]

Sole organ? And these guys are the strict constitutional constructionists? Zenith of his powers? Is this a Saturday morning cartoon?

We're now in the post-irony phase of the defense and they've just started letting Orwell's ghost write these documents.

In order to buy this defense, we need to trust the President and ignore a lot of things... We need to ignore that the Congressional Research Service stated already this defense doesn't hold water. We need to ignore that numerous Senators (both Republican and Democrat) have stated the Afghanistan resolution didn't grant the President this power. We need to ignore that Tom Daschle stated (and was backed up by many still in the Senate) that the President specifically asked for these extra powers and was denied by the Congress. We must ignore that Congress wasn't notified fully of the program as legally required. We must ignore that the even the #2 man in the Justice Department objected to the program. We must ignore that the President almost went out of his way to reassure Americans all wiretapping was being done with court approval. We must ignore that there was nothing that prevented the President from legally initiating wiretapping of terrorist suspects within the FISA laws (despite the White House spin, this isn't about Americans objecting to surveillance of terrorists, but rather doing so illegally). We must ignore that even wartime needs don't make going around FISA necessary, since the law accomodates for emergencies and was revised after 9/11. We must ignore that this was not a 'limited' program as the President states it is. And we must ignore that there is ample proof that innocent Americans, political activists, etc, have been targeted by this warrantless program.

Finally, we must ignore that if this defense is accepted by Congress, then there is truly no limit to the President's powers and we have betrayed our very system of government.

So the question is... How much is Congress willing to ignore?

'We Do Not Torture'**

The torture loophole President Bush wrote himself via his signing statement continues to come under fire...

LA Times: Bush Urged to Specify U.S. Policy on Torture-

Retired military leaders express concern after the president made ambiguous remarks on the new ban last month.

A group of retired military officers urged President Bush on Thursday to spell out how he would enforce a ban on the torture of U.S.-held prisoners, complaining that he muddied the issue in a statement last month...

...Retired military leaders, including Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, who was commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, said Bush should clarify his stance after making a statement last month that some experts said signaled he would bypass rules for treatment of detainees when he saw fit, even after he signed them into law.

The 22 former military officers said in a letter that Bush should ensure that his administration spoke "with a consistent voice to make clear that the United States now has a single standard of conduct specified in law that governs all interrogations."...

Guys, the President has been speaking in a clear voice- "We do NOT torture"*

(*Except when we do)

Seems pretty clear to me.

'Time To Move On' Is Totally The New 'Stay The Course'

The conservative Pittsburgh Tribune Review now states it is time for us to leave Iraq.

...So we can go and invade Iran. Sorry Iraqis, you're on your own, we got a new war to plan! Third time's the charm.

The war in Iraq: Time to move on.
We didn't agree with Jack Murtha in November when he called for an immediate withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq. The timing was not right. But the times have changed....

...[T]he world situation has changed dramatically since November. The nuclear saber-rattling of neighboring Iran is heading for a showdown. To meet that threat should diplomacy fail, the United States must begin the six- to nine-month logistical process of drawing down its Iraqi force and repositioning it to respond, if need be, to the Iranian threat.

This is not retreat. This is not cut-and-run. This is a recognition of the reality in Iraq -- one that has evolved into an Iraqi problem that only the Iraqis now can solve -- and that the paramount world security threat now is Iran...

What a bunch of hypocrites. Rep. Murtha was wrong when he called for withdrawals, but they're right when they acknowledge the same reality he did? Abandon Iraq to ('if need be') go after Iran? Who can even keep track anymore of the nonsense and spin that comes out of these people's mouths?

I can't possibly be the only one who finds this trend disturbing.

True Dat. Double True!

With Osama bin Laden back in the headlines, the Bush administration sets its sight on...


Huh... Okay then.

USAToday: Google battles government over porn investigation

But Google is fighting back...

AP: Google Rebuffs Feds on Search Requests
Google Inc. is rebuffing the Bush administration's demand for a peek at what millions of people have been looking up on the Internet's leading search engine — a request that underscores the potential for online databases to become tools for government surveillance...

...The government wants a list all requests entered into Google's search engine during an unspecified single week — a breakdown that could conceivably span tens of millions of queries. In addition, it seeks 1 million randomly selected Web addresses from various Google databases.

In court papers that the San Jose Mercury News reported on after seeing them Wednesday, the Bush administration depicts the information as vital in its effort to restore online child protection laws that have been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court....

Another way the Bush administration continues to turn off the libertarian wing of the Republican party.

Chris Matthews: Osama "sounds like an over the top Michael Moore"

On Hardball last night, Chris compared Osama bin Laden to Michael Moore.

Keep in mind this is the same guy who thinks President Bush belongs on Mt. Rushmore. Darn that liberal media.

Sen. Kerry wasted no time in releasing a statement:
"You'd think the only focus tonight would be on destroying Osama Bin Laden, not comparing him to an American who opposes the war whether you like him or not. You want a real debate that America needs? Here goes: If the administration had done the job right in Tora Bora we might not be having discussions on Hardball about a new Bin Laden tape. How dare Scott McClellan tell America that this Administration puts terrorists out of business when had they put Osama Bin Laden out of business in Afghanistan when our troops wanted to, we wouldn't have to hear this barbarian's voice on tape. That's what we should be talking about in America."

Daaaammmnnnn. Where was this John Kerry when the Swift Boats came mud slinging?

I'm also sure that the same crowd who get mad at inflammatory statements like Hillary's 'plantation' remark will denounce this type of conflation as well. Oops, too late!

A Sequel No One Wanted

Not again...

AP: Fire Erupts in W.Va. Mine; Two Missing

Let's hope this one works out better.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Pat Robertson To Vatican: 'If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city.'

Watch out... it's coming! [*Tivos 700 Club in anticipation*]

The Vatican confirms the obvious...

AP: "Intelligent design" not science: Vatican paper
The Roman Catholic Church has restated its support for evolution with an article praising a U.S. court decision that rejects the "intelligent design" theory as non-scientific.

The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said that teaching intelligent design -- which argues that life is so complex that it needed a supernatural creator -- alongside Darwin's theory of evolution would only cause confusion...

PS- Mallard Fillmore will be pissed!

Bin Laden Releases New Single, Offers 'Truce'

Osama's back. Guess he ain't dead after all. He released a hot new track, check out these fresh beats-

AP: Bin Laden Warns of Attacks, Offers Truce
Al-Jazeera on Thursday aired an audiotape purportedly from Osama bin Laden, who says al-Qaida is making preparations for attacks in the United States but offering a truce "with fair conditions."...

...The voice on the tape said he was directing his message to the American people after polls showed that "an overwhelming majority of you want the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq but (Bush) opposed that desire."

He said insurgents were winning the conflict in Iraq and warned that security measures in the West and the United States could not prevent attacks there...

Sounds like he means business! Break out the duct tape, everyone!

And then there was the truce rhetoric...
..."We do not mind offering you a long-term truce with fair conditions that we adhere to," he said. "We are a nation that God has forbidden to lie and cheat. So both sides can enjoy security and stability under this truce so we can build Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been destroyed in this war.

"There is no shame in this solution, which prevents the wasting of billions of dollars that have gone to those with influence and merchants of war in America," he said...

The conservative blogosphere is creaming themselves over this latest development, tripping over each other in a mad rush to condemn liberals all over America (and making comparisons of Osama to said liberals) and use this tape as some sort of proof vindicating President Bush's erratic foreign policy. 'Look out libs, Osama's back to remind us how awesome Bush is!! Bad news Osama bin Howard Dean!11!!'. Contents of the tape aside for the moment, do conservatives really want to remind Americans that bin Laden is still on the loose, supposedly planning attacks? With congressional elections coming this year, perhaps they do want to play the 'terror' card again. That sort of fearmongering worked for them in 2002 and expect a repeat of the strategy this year.

The 'truce' talk is obviously the most discussed aspect of bin Laden's latest 'State of the Evil' address. I am not sure how seriously to take it, considering he also says "We are a nation that God has forbidden to lie and cheat" in all seriousness.

It seems clear to me he is not actually offering a 'truce' (c'mon, people); he knows the only common ground between both sides is that each wants the other destroyed. It just comes off more political (ie. not addressed to the American people, whom he loathes, but at the Muslim population to play off growing anti-U.S. anger and make him appear to be the reasonable party in this conflict) than any specific fear of defeat. If it a sign of a weakened Al Qeada... then, hey, that's great! No complaints there. Still, I contend this comes off as a half-smirk baiting of the U.S. which is not being ignored by Americans (liberal or conservative, we all want bin Laden captured or killed, like, yesterday), but you can bet this will be used by the administration to rejustify everything they've done in the last four years (warrantless wiretaps, Iraq, etc.) and increase the amount of 9/11 references in the President's speeches by 43.8%.

So I do hope this is an indicator of Osama's desperation, and I hope that we're on a path to some clear victories against Al Qeada, but (as I said in my Iran post last night) this administration has not behaved in a way that should lead us to trust them. In particular, I don't like the fact this new development could be used to further silence the President's legitimate critics here at home.

And so the story continues...

Would You Like Fries With That, Trent?

Still waiting for that new porch, Trent Lott thinks some ethical reform ideas are excessive...

From a Washington Post article on Democrats' lobbying reform proposals:
Some lawmakers said they thought Congress was overreacting to the lobbying scandal with an excess of new rules and requirements.

"Now we're going to say you can't have a meal for more than 20 bucks," said Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi. "Where are you going, to McDonald's?"

My god, smell the elitism... I'm lovin' it!

I'm sure Lott is exaggerating the law (and let's ignore that there are plenty of nice places where one can get a good meal for $20), but this sort of attitude of entitlement is exactly what is wrong with Congress. Our representatives in Congress are supposed to do just that... represent us. But they do not. They represent their own personal ideology and whatever corporate interest makes the highest bid. God forbid Mr. Lott ever have to eat a meal at an inexpensive restaurant with the mere common folk who (for some reason) keep electing him. Senator Lott comes from Mississipi, the state hit hardest by the winds and waters of Hurricane Katrina. And even before that storm blew in and totalled major towns like Baton Rouge and Biloxi, it was a very poor state (I've passed through; it's in pretty rough shape). And while these people suffer and deal with the struggles of everyday life, Mr. Lott and his colleagues feast on lobster dinners in fancy restaurants paid for the Abramoffs of Washington in an institutional relationship which amounts to legalized bribery.

The very fact that so many Congressional officials find the Democratic proposals so 'harsh' is exactly why I like them. The laws should discourage the influence of lobbyists as strongly as possible (in both parties). They are a stain on our democracy. Surely Congressmen can make up their own minds about legislative decisions without the help of paid dinners, gifts, and vacations? Is that such a crazy concept?

"Hey Senate, Ain't You Confirmed Sammy Yet?"

From The Onion, more satire that is surprisingly close to reality-

Bush Urges Senate To Give Alito Fair, Quick, Unanimous Confirmation
WASHINGTON, DC—President Bush urged the Senate Monday to act with speed, evenhandedness, and absolute obedience in confirming Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. "Each of you, as servants of the public trust, must consider this man carefully, review his record, and vote 'yes,'" Bush said. "I ask that you do your duty, and treat this as you would any of my priorities, be they judges, legislation, or wars." Bush's message was not well-received on either side of the aisle, with Democrats accusing him of bullying tactics and Republicans hurt he thought he had to ask.

Also, in real news, Senators are not allowed to debate Alito on the floor: Frist Not Allowing Senators To Speak On The Senate Floor About Alito...

Cleanup In Aisle 9!

The Center For Public Integrity takes a look at how serious the Republicans really are about reform-

Candidates for GOP House Leader Also Have Ties to K Street

At least 19 former staff members are lobbyists

The three candidates running to replace Rep. Tom DeLay as Republican Majority Leader in the House of Representatives have their own multiple "revolving door" connections to lobbying firms, each sending former staff members, and staff members of the committees they chair, to work for major K Street operations.

Rep. Roy Blunt, (R-Mo.), Rep. John Boehner, (R-Ohio), and Rep. John Shadegg, (R-Ariz.), are linked to more than a dozen lobbying firms and other organizations that lobby through employees who worked in their Capitol Hill offices, making the major differences between their operations and Delay's not immediately perceptible...

The Daily Show (yes, them) did a good report on this the other night.

Not satisfied with the Republicans' loophole-filled reform ideas, the Democrats have their own plan:
Congressional Democrats urged a ban on all gifts and travel paid for by lobbyists Wednesday, aiming to seize an issue for the fall elections and taking a shot at Republicans they say have sullied Congress' reputation.

The Democratic proposal, which also would end the "dead of night" insertion of special interest provisions into legislation, came a day after Republicans outlined their own lobbying ethics legislation....

Now that's much better. The ban on 'dead of night' insertions in particular will definitely cut down on pork.

The Washington Post also covers this: Democrats Unveil Lobbying Curbs

Meanwhile back at the White House... more stonewalling on Abramoff. What's George hiding?

The cleanup continues... slowly...

Breaking The Law, Breaking The Law...

More from the independent Congressional Research Service on the President's actions-

Congressional Agency Questions Legality of Wiretaps
The Bush administration appears to have violated the National Security Act by limiting its briefings about a warrantless domestic eavesdropping program to congressional leaders, according to a memo from Congress's research arm released yesterday.

The Congressional Research Service opinion said that the amended 1947 law requires President Bush to keep all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees "fully and currently informed" of such intelligence activities as the domestic surveillance effort...

Blog Links of the Day

Here's what other blogs are saying (you don't read other blogs, do you?!)...

-Robert Parry asks an important question:
Is Bush Stupid -- Or Is America?

-Trey Ellis finds it odd how the media obsessed over Hillary's remarks given the more important stories to cover:
Hilary: Tell the GOP to Stop Being Such Cry Babies

-Finally, Arianna Huffington looks at our plans, or lack thereof, for rebuilding Iraq:
Iraq: Deconstructing the Reconstruction

Brownie, You're Giving A Heck Of A Mea Culpa

Michael Brown addresses a gathering of meteorologists at a ski resort to apologize for the Katrina aftermath-

AP: Brown Accepts More Blame on Katrina

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Liberals and Iran

Just two days into his swanky blog on the Time magazine website, I already find myself both fascinated and frustrated by something Andrew Sullivan posted. Mr. Sullivan (lover of Bush's wars, critic of how Bush actually runs those wars), just to remind us he's no wimpy liberal, linked to this blog post elsewhere:
Liberal absurdities on Iran

The author, one Dan Drezner (an assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago), looks at how the liberal blogosphere is, in his opinion, downplaying the current Iran situation. He uses some random examples to back this up. To me, this all just comes off as standard "liberals/democrats can't be trusted with national security!" fare and I don't take that very seriously.

On behalf of liberals everywhere, I will defend our name.

For starters, in late 2002/early 2003, as the politicians and the all-too-gungho media ran around like chicken little screaming about Saddam's mushroom cloud, I never believed that Iraq was a threat to the United States, much less any nation outside its own borders. I always believed that the Bush administration was blowing smoke. The facts have vindicated this then-unamerican belief.

With that said, yes of course we should be worried about Iran. They are not an imminent threat as some would have us believe, but certainly a growing concern which has long been ignored. Anyone who doubts that need only listen to the words coming out of the mouth of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. So yes, we are right to be concerned about Iran's goal to acquire nuclear materials (of course North Korea already has nukes and the Bush administration gave up the diplomatic agreements the Clinton admininstration had been working on with them, so this seems like standard pick-and-choose foreign policy). It is an indicator of how great that concern that many other countries are working with us on this matter after we shot our credibility and gave them all the finger 3 years ago.

This issue with liberals isn't Iran... it's the Bush administration. We just don't trust them.

Mr. Drezner tries to make another point over what he believes is a partisan issue, by linking to a New Republic posting which states:
Kos and MoveOn have conveniently convinced themselves that the war on terrorism is a mere subset of the struggle against the GOP. Whatever brings Democrats closer to power, ipso facto, makes the United States safer.

This may be true (I only read Kos occasionally so can't speak for his/their views), but that belief is just as equal on the other side. The Republicans, President Bush in particular, believe that they (and only they) are capable of protecting America from the 'evildoers'. They believe the very fate of the nation relies on their being kept in office and being given as much power as possible. In fact, they state this decidedly non-democratic ideal explicitly. Vice President Cheney said last year about people considering voting for John Kerry that "If we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again -- that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States". So Drezner, and the New Republic, are kidding themselves if they think a 'us in power will make the U.S. safer' delusion is a liberal one.

This isn't about which party makes us safer (in theory people are equal there in the right hands); it's about the people running that party and the government.

So why then do liberals believe that, in terms of national security, the Democrats would be better suited to be in charge? They have been paying attention. Look at past foreign policy. Ronald Reagan, considered a hero for outspending the Soviet Union right into the political graveyard, is also the man whose administration built up Osama bin Laden and his muhjadeen in Afghanistan, as well as providing money and weapons to our 'ally' in Iraq Saddam Hussein until he became a problem for us. Bush the Elder went into Iraq but failed then to take out Saddam (whether he should've or shouldn't have was a highly debated issue inside his administration). And now George W. Bush has... well, have you seen Iraq? There is no question that the world has become a more dangerous place with President Bush and the neocons running the show.

That isn't to say that President Clinton was a perfect Commander-in-Chief, but any mistakes he made were on a far smaller scale, his success rate was higher, and he (*gasp*) showed compassion and concern for our troops and their well-being.

This idea that if liberals, or leading Democrats (who actually aren't that liberal compared to many in the blogosphere) were running things, the Iran situation would not be handled as aggressively as required is bull. Drezner himself notes, after listing the ways that we have responded to Iran thus far, that "The approach the Bush administration has pursued towards Iran -- multilateralism, private and public diplomacy, occasionally deferring to allies -- is besotted with the very tropes that liberals like to see in their American foreign policy. I'm still not sure what the end game will be with regard to Iran, but to date I can't see how a Kerry administration would have played its cards any differently than the Bush team.".

And that's the point. A Kerry administration likely would be proceeding exactly the same cautious way, but so many of the domestic messes that have distracted Bush would likely not be an issue. So far, the Bush administration appears to be taking the right steps with Iran (except for Dick "Am I capable of human emotion?" Cheney and his overly aggressive rhetoric), but Drezner notes a Democrat would do the same.

However, this newfound respect for the diplomatic approach is only because their hardball, shock-and-awe, "bring 'em on" approach with Iraq failed so miserably. And it is those failures which make liberals so paranoid and concerned about what's to come next. It is my personal belief that if a Democratic administration (ie. Al Gore) had been in power since 2001, that the foreign policy mistakes made (all but abandoning the real war in Afghanistan, invading Iraq and accidently creating a theodemocracy sympathetic to our enemies, and allowing al Qeada to regroup) would not have occurred. And then, when the growing concerns about Iran began to develop, we would be in a far better position to make our case (more allies, more credibility, an army not stretched and bloodied) for a decisive diplomatic solution.

So, in conclusion, yes liberals are extremely apprehensive and skeptical of the Bush administration as we proceed in our diplomacy efforts with Iran via the U.N. Security Council and other avenues. And who can blame us at this point? I also want to quickly note that Drezner doesn't mention how conservative blogs are discussing Iran. I check a few on a regular basis (mostly for my own amusement) and most of the people I have read are obsessing over Iran (better to keep their minds off Abramoff, Iraq, New Orleans, etc). In fact, many comes across as downright giddy at the thought of going in and kicking Ahmadinejad's ass. Case in point- Mr. Drudge's daily Iran war-baiting. If we end not going to war (and let's pray that's the case), I suspect many will be secretly upset at the President for acting like a pussy.

I hope that our fears and skepticism of this path are unfounded. But I also hope that the memories of Bush's supporters here aren't selectively short. Our fears are born not out of some sort of liberal madness, but rather the failures and hubris of an administration with one too many wars on its hands already.


Why Do Bob Barr and Grover Norquist Hate America?

The White House has been quick to paint any opposition to/concerns about the President's warrantless wiretapping program as standard partisan anger, when in fact some of the most outspoken critics of his actions have been Republicans (with notable Democratic exceptions like Al Gore and Sen. Feingold). This is made clearer today by announcement by the conservative Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances that they have asked Congress to investigate the President's actions.

U.S. Newswire: Leading Conservatives Call for Extensive Hearings on NSA Surveillance; Checks on Invasive Federal Powers Essential
Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances (PRCB) today called upon Congress to hold open, substantive oversight hearings examining the President's authorization of the National Security Agency (NSA) to violate domestic surveillance requirements outlined in the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, chairman of PRCB, was joined by fellow conservatives Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR); David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union; Paul Weyrich, chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation and Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, in urging lawmakers to use NSA hearings to establish a solid foundation for restoring much needed constitutional checks and balances to intelligence law...

You can visit their website- here.

Show them your support!

Purple Heartbreakers

As the swiftboating of Rep. John Murtha continues, some people are putting their foot down about this cheap, and often used, tactic to smear veterans who are critical of the Bush/Cheney organization. James Webb, a Marine who served in Vietnam (and a secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration), has an editorial today in the NY Times looking at this practice-
IT should come as no surprise that an arch-conservative Web site is questioning whether Representative John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who has been critical of the war in Iraq, deserved the combat awards he received in Vietnam...

...Military people past and present have good reason to wonder if the current administration truly values their service beyond its immediate effect on its battlefield of choice. The casting of suspicion and doubt about the actions of veterans who have run against President Bush or opposed his policies has been a constant theme of his career. This pattern of denigrating the service of those with whom they disagree risks cheapening the public's appreciation of what it means to serve, and in the long term may hurt the Republicans themselves...

...The political tactic of playing up the soldiers on the battlefield while tearing down the reputations of veterans who oppose them could eventually cost the Republicans dearly. It may be one reason that a preponderance of the Iraq war veterans who thus far have decided to run for office are doing so as Democrats...

Any others going to stand up to defend Murtha from these baseless attacks? Sen. McCain? Sen. Kerry?... Mr. President??

Remember Afghanistan? (Pt. II)

Another look at how the situation in Afghanistan is not going as well as we thought...

Meanwhile Back in Afghanistan

AP Fact Checks McClellan/Gonzales Lie

An AP report about the White House criticisms of Gore's speech note their charges are incorrect-
...McClellan said the Clinton-Gore administration had engaged in warrantless physical searches, and he cited an FBI search of the home of CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames without permission from a judge. He said Clinton's deputy attorney general, Jamie Gorelick, had testified before Congress that the president had the inherent authority to engage in physical searches without warrants.

"I think his hypocrisy knows no bounds," McClellan said of Gore.

But at the time of the Ames search in 1993 and when Gorelick testified a year later, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act required warrants for electronic surveillance for intelligence purposes, but did not cover physical searches. The law was changed to cover physical searches in 1995 under legislation that Clinton supported and signed...

(bold added by moi)

You mean you can update the laws when situations require rather than secretly violating them? Interesting!

And again, you can read Gore's response to their attacks- here.

Links of the Day

Rainy days suck... here's some links to keep you dry.

-These heroes worked in the Ground Zero debris for months, breathing in air they were told was safe:
Within 7 Months, 3 Sept. 11 Workers Die

-Still no one cares about the billions of U.S. taxpayer money 'lost' in Iraq:
Some Iraq Rebuilding Funds
Go Untraced-

Investigators Have Yet to Pursue
U.S. Contracting Money That May Be Missing

-An alumni group is offering UCLA students $100 to spy on "left-wing" professors:
"Radical" UCLA professors targeted by alumni group

I Can Change, I Can Change.

The Republicans are trying to one-up the Democrats and are repackaging themselves as the 'reform' party.

Yes, they have made a mess, but they're man enough to pretend to clean it up!

Reading all of this, I am reminded of the relationship between Satan and Saddam Hussein in the 'South Park' movie. Satan (the American people... no, not comparing us to Satan, but that's the character we play in this example) is basically a nice, trusting guy. Saddam (the Republican Congress) is a selfish egomaniac who seems only to want to screw Satan. Occassionally realizing this, Satan tries to end this damaging relationship. But Saddam needs the relationship and so whenever it's endangered, he bursts into a song-and-dance-routine in which he proclaims "I can learn to keep my promises, I swear it! I'll open up my heart and I will share it! Any minute now I will be born again! Yes I can change, I can change!!!". That is where we are now. And much like the weak-willed Satan, I expect the American people will buy it and take back their selfish partner. God only knows what it would take for the American people to get fed up enough to toss the current leaders in Congress down a fiery pit.

So let's see where we stand in this song-and-dance routine now...

One Republican who wants to lead the way for reform is Sen. Rick Santorum, probably best known for his negative remarks about homosexuality and his recent flip-flop on intelligent design. Santorum has been tapped by fellow Senate Republican leaders to draft legislation tightening restrictions on lobbyists. Of course, as noted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he "has received more money from lobbyists than any other congressional candidate so far in the 2006 election cycle". In addition, he was a major player in the 'K Street Project', (a project "by the Republican Party to pressure Washington lobbying firms to hire Republicans in top positions, and to reward loyal GOP lobbyists with access to influential officials") best known now for key players Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff.

Sen. Santorum is trying to downplay the group. From Talking Points Memo, here is what Santorum said-
QUESTION: Senator Santorum, you have been the Senate's liaison for the so-called K Street projects. It's been reported you hosted monthly meetings with lobbyists, the top lobbyists in town. What makes you the correct person to lead this charge to reform?

SANTORUM: Well, I don't know what you mean by Senate liaison to the, quote, "K Street Project." I'm not aware of any Senate liaison job that I do for the K Street Project.

What I've done is I do host meetings, you know, once or twice a month with members who represent a variety of different groups in Washington, D.C.

And here's what he said this past November-
"The K Street project is purely to make sure we have qualified applicants for positions that are in town," Mr. Santorum said. "From my perspective, it's a good government thing."

Think Progress also has a look at Santorum and K-Street:
-Santorum’s Amnesia On Abramoff And K Street
-Santorum’s K Street Whitewash

But what about the reform bills the Republicans are working on? That's good, right? The Washington Post takes a look:
Loophole in Lobbying Bill Leaves Wiggle Room
...According to lobbyists and ethics experts, even if Hastert's proposal is enacted, members of Congress and their staffs could still travel the world on an interest group's expense and eat steak on a lobbyist's account at the priciest restaurants in Washington.

The only requirement would be that whenever a lobbyist pays the bill, he or she must also hand the lawmaker a campaign contribution. Then the transaction would be perfectly okay.

"That's a big hole if they don't address campaign finance," said Joel Jankowsky, the lobbying chief of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, one of the capital's largest lobbying outfits...

Loopholes! You tricky, tricky little Congress, you! I can change, I can change...

Meanwhile, at the White House...
White House Silent on Abramoff Meetings (AP)
The White House is refusing to reveal details of tainted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's visits with President Bush's staff.

Abramoff had "a few staff-level meetings" at the Bush White House, presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said Tuesday. But he would not say with whom Abramoff met, which interests he was representing or how he got access to the White House...

Nothing to see here, move along, move along. Just a huge pileup, minor accident, keep moving folks...

The Army (Doesn't) Support Troops Who Support Themselves

Remember this story? It gets even more annoying.

Soldiers who bought their own body armor are being told to give it up... or face the consequences-

Army Orders Soldiers to Shed Dragon Skin or Lose SGLI Death Benefits
Two deploying soldiers and a concerned mother reported Friday afternoon that the U.S. Army appears to be singling out soldiers who have purchased Pinnacle's Dragon Skin Body Armor for special treatment. The soldiers, who are currently staging for combat operations from a secret location, reported that their commander told them if they were wearing Pinnacle Dragon Skin and were killed their beneficiaries might not receive the death benefits from their $400,000 SGLI life insurance policies. The soldiers were ordered to leave their privately purchased body armor at home or face the possibility of both losing their life insurance benefit and facing disciplinary action...

I... I don't even know what to say. This just speaks for itself.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

"Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol?"

I am still in awe of former Vice President Gore's call-to-arms speech yesterday about the Constitutional crisis we are currently facing in this country. I got a chance to hear it in full today, courtesy of C-Span's website (scroll down to Video/Audio- it's "Fmr. Vice Pres. Gore Speech on Executive Powers"). It was one of best political speeches I've heard in years (it ranks ahead of Al Sharpton's powerhouse speech on the promise of America at the 2004 DNC). It was so refreshing to hear it delivered, since I cant't imagine many of the Democrats in Congress today (while quietly critical of the President's actions, but then again so are as many Republicans) explaining the situation with such great detail and passion. It's no surprise he was the people's choice for President. If more Democrats gave speeches like that, I'd have higher hopes for this year's congressional contests. He covered every aspect of the danger we face, explained the laws and how they work, plowed through every Bush administration talking point, and laid out the path we need to take from here. And, of course, that tricky liberal media gave it no coverage, so no one saw it except for a few Washington insiders and people who read blogs.

If you haven't heard it, and have the time, I can't recommend it enough.

I think this was my favorite part, which came after his slam at today's media-
"The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.

Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the full Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of nuclear missiles ready to be launched on a moment’s notice to completely annihilate the country? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when the last generation had to fight and win two World Wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they did. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it’s up to us to do the very same thing!"

Amen, Al!

Also- Al Gore responds to criticisms of his speech by Attorney General Gonzales and Scott McClellan:
Gore responds to White House 'hypocrisy' comments

Remember Afghanistan?...

...Why the Bush administration might not want us to-

The Independent (UK): Remember Afghanistan? Insurgents bring suicide terror to country

A suicide bomber yesterday rode into town, killing at least 20 in the deadliest insurgent attack since the US invasion. More than 1,600 were killed in 2005, and the murder rate is rising. The rule of law has collapsed. The government is trapped in its own fortified compound in the capital. Soon, Britain will commit another 3,500 troops to a dangerous mission with no clear goals or exit strategy...

...The new Taliban are deploying tactics that have torn Iraq to shreds, and Afghanistan is seeing a surge in the previously unknown practice of suicide bombings ­ 25 in four months. This is seen as the reintroduction of al-Qa'ida into Afghanistan ­ a devastating example of how over-extending the "war on terror" into Iraq is rebounding on the West with vengeance. Tony Blair declared after the overthrow of the Taliban and the retreat of Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'ida that "this time we will not walk away" , a reference to how Afghanistan was allowed to sink into its cycle of destruction after the West had used and then abandoned the country in the Cold War against the Soviets...

Hey, What Did You Expect From Hillary?

Much controversy has occurred today over this statement made by Sen. Clinton yesterday-
“When you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation, and you know what I'm talking about.”

If the House is a plantation, then is pork barrel legislation the cotton?

I admit it was a stupid remark to make, and it was stupid when Newt Gingrich made it 12 years ago.

Still I found her other remarks more interesting. And as AmericaBlog pointed out, all the black Republicans in Congress are pissed... oh wait.

"If I've lost Hitchens, I've lost Neocon America."

Born-again-neocon Christopher Hitchens has been a huge supporter of the Bush administration and their wars, using his occassionally sober but always sharp oratory skills to take on critics ranging from British MP George Galloway to Jon Stewart... Now in light of recent events, concerns have prompted him to be named as a plaintiff in an ACLU lawsuit against the Bush administration regarding the warrantless spying program.

He explains his case on the Huffington Post blog:
What Reason Do We Have to Trust the State to Know Best?

The castle walls are crumbling.

[Andrew Sullivan is shocked too... nice new digs, Andrew!]

The Great O'Reilly-Off Of 2006

From the NY Post:
The Fox News Channel commentator last night announced a "Bloviate with Bill" contest in which six winners — fans, detractors, whomever — will be brought to New York to debate him one-on-one on his nightly television show, "The O'Reilly Factor."

You can enter by e-mailing a suggested topic to by Feb. 8.

Phil Donahue, Jeremy Glick, and George Clooney need not apply.

Anyone have any good suggestions? Here's mine-
1) We go all reality-show and I wrestle Bill'O in a large, inflatable swimming pool filled with jello. Winner gets the show. If I win, I will rename it "The O'Ducko Factor" and will cut off the mics of everyone, including myself. Much of the show will then be a Powerpoint presentation of my 'enemies'.

2) Bill'O and I have a harassment-off. Each of us will call a female coworker and make inappropriate and perverted remarks/advances to them. The first one whose coworker files a lawsuit against us loses. Bonus points if you can work a rant about Al Franken into the dirty talk.

3) In lieu of me, Bill'O will have Stephen Colbert on as a guest. The two will spend the hour trying to out-O'Reilly each other. They will argue over who loves America more. They will also debate which poses the greater threat to America- Cindy Sheehan or bears. My money's on Stephen.

"This is a limited program designed to prevent attacks... I repeat, limited"

The New York Times continues to go all Woodward and Bernstein, digging further and further into the Bush/NSA story. And the more they dig, they seem to find even more disturbing aspects of the program, thanks to an increasing supply of whistleblowers who are speaking out. Their newest report is a must-read and tells of great skepticism of the program from within the FBI and other law enforcement/counterterrorism agencies. We learn now that not only was the program not limited, intruding upon countless Americans, it was also wasting a lot of people's time.

From today's Times: Spy Agency Data After Sept. 11 Led F.B.I. to Dead Ends
In the anxious months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Security Agency began sending a steady stream of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names to the F.B.I. in search of terrorists. The stream soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month.

But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans.

F.B.I. officials repeatedly complained to the spy agency that the unfiltered information was swamping investigators. The spy agency was collecting much of the data by eavesdropping on some Americans' international communications and conducting computer searches of phone and Internet traffic. Some F.B.I. officials and prosecutors also thought the checks, which sometimes involved interviews by agents, were pointless intrusions on Americans' privacy...

But, wait! There's more-
More than a dozen current and former law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, including some in the small circle who knew of the secret program and how it played out at the F.B.I., said the torrent of tips led them to few potential terrorists inside the country they did not know of from other sources and diverted agents from counterterrorism work they viewed as more productive.

"We'd chase a number, find it's a schoolteacher with no indication they've ever been involved in international terrorism - case closed," said one former F.B.I. official...

This does not instill in me great confidence in national security efforts. Oh, and sorry GOP talking points crew, the President is spying on Americans. Anyone still giving him the benefit of the doubt on this has apparently been in a coma for the past few years.

To quote our President- "There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again".

[Also- More fallout from the story: Two Groups Planning to Sue Over Federal Eavesdropping]

Links of the Day

Morning. Time to rise and shine with some news...

-New Orleans Mayor Nagin promises that New Orleans will be a "chocolate" city again:
New Orleans Mayor Says God Mad at U.S.

-One week left before the Senate decides the fate of our judiciary:
Senate Panel to Vote on Alito Jan. 24

-Senate minority leader Harry Reid seeks to lead the Democrats' way in the ethics battles:
Reid To Introduce "Honest Leadership Act," Includes "Jack Abramoff Rule"

Hillary Comes Out Swinging

No doubt inspired by the memory of Dr. King, Sen. Clinton unleashes her strongest criticism yet of the administration-

"We have a culture of corruption, we have cronyism, we have incompetence. I predict to you that this administration will go down in history as one of the worst that has ever governed our country."

Now she's catching on.

See the full story: Clinton Slams Bush, White House in Harlem

(Hat tip- Atrios)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Al Gore: "The President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently"

Former Vice President Al Gore delivered a blockbuster speech today. Speaking at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington DC, Gore did what the Democrats in power today are afraid to do- laid out in no uncertain terms how serious President Bush's actions have been. Near the beginning of the speech he stated, "the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power". At the conclusion of the speech, Gore called for an independent investigation of the President's actions, stated a need for clearer whistleblower protection laws for those who wish to speak out, and also asked for serious investigations into this by both houses of Congress.

You can read the full text of the speech- here.

Crooks and Liars has some video.

AP report:
Gore Assails Domestic Wiretapping Program

Al Gore also had very strong words about the state of the media and political debate today:
"Forty years have passed since the majority of Americans adopted television as their principal source of information. Its dominance has become so extensive that virtually all significant political communication now takes place within the confines of flickering 30-second television advertisements...

...The constricted role of ideas in the American political system today has encouraged efforts by the Executive Branch to control the flow of information as a means of controlling the outcome of important decisions that still lie in the hands of the people."

A sentiment made clearer by the fact that none of the cable news channels covered this speech.

It's also a sentiment shared by Peter Daou.

Thanks Al for giving this speech, even if none of the networks cared. I never regretted voting for you.

"You say we're headed to war. I don't know why you say that."

The march toward WAR! SHOCK AND AWE! diplomacy with Iran continues...

AP: Big Security Council Members Agree on Iran
Russia and China agreed with the United States and its European allies Monday that Iran must fully suspend its nuclear program, but the countries stopped short of demanding referral to the U.N. Security Council, Britain's Foreign Office said...

[Note: Post title taken from old Bush statement here.]

Remembering Dr. King, Pt. II

There's a great op-ed column in today's NY Times entitled "Globalizing King's Legacy".

Key passage:
Only hours before his death, Dr. King startled an aide with a balmy aside from his unpopular movement to uplift the poor. "In our next campaign," he remarked, "we have to institutionalize nonviolence and take it international."

The nation would do well to incorporate this goal into our mission abroad, reinforcing the place of nonviolence among the fundamentals of democracy, along with equal citizenship, self-government and accountable public trust. We could also restore Dr. King's role in the continuing story of freedom to its rightful prominence, emphasizing that the best way to safeguard democracy is to practice it. And we must recognize that the accepted tradeoff between freedom and security is misguided, because our values are the essence of our strength. If dungeons, brute force and arbitrary rule were the keys to real power, Saudi Arabia would be a model for the future instead of the past.

Agreed 110%.

(Hat-tip- Andrew Sullivan)

Also, here's an interesting AP report if only for the headline:
AP Poll: Blacks Likelier to Celebrate MLK

Finally, Tom Tomorrow imagines Dr. King as a guest on Sean Hannity's show.

Remembering Dr. King

Today, once again, we honor the legacy of Dr. King. His dream of racial unity is far from complete (sadly, it seems that with a few exceptions, his movement has been running on fumes since his death without a unifying figure and with a repressive political climate), but it's important today to reflect on those who've campaigned and sacrificed toward that goal. I expect a lot of lip service praise from politicians about him today (including those whose current views indicate they would've voted against civil rights laws in the 1960s and/or engaged in the smear campaigns against King), but not much else. Still, we remember him and how far he and the movement came between the time from the Montgomery bus boycott to the tragic day his enemies finally caught up with him in the spring of 1968.

The Seattle Times has a good section/resources on King: Martin Luther King, Jr & The Civil Rights Movement

And this site has an mp3 and text of the 'I have a dream' speech:
Martin Luther King, Jr.: "I Have a Dream"

[AP report on today: Americans Honor Martin Luther King]

"If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."

Walter Cronkite weighs in on the Iraq war...

"We had an opportunity to say to the world and Iraqis after the hurricane disaster that Mother Nature has not treated us well and we find ourselves missing the amount of money it takes to help these poor people out of their homeless situation and rebuild some of our most important cities in the United States," he said. "Therefore, we are going to have to bring our troops home."

Iraqis should have been told that "our hearts are with you" and that the United States would do all it could to rebuild their country, he said.

"I think we could have been able to retire with honor," he said. "In fact, I think we can retire with honor anyway."

AP: Cronkite: Time for U.S. to Leave Iraq

[PS- Ann Coulter-wannabe Michelle Malkin calls him "Grandfather Moonbat". Such an original, intelligent remark is the state of the debate on the other side. Stay the course, Michelle!]

The Impeachment Remedy?

For the record, I acknowledge impeachment is not likely in the current political climate (in which Republicans control all branches of government and the prevailing wisdom is that 9/11 "changed everything"). If anything, Congress might decide to punish Bush, but take the safe road and simply censure him. Sometimes we get stuck here in the electronic echo chamber that is the liberal blogosphere and we need to face the political reality. I do. I don't kid myself. I know the road to a Bush impeachment lies not in some grassroots liberal campaign (in which people sign pointless petitions and post comments on blogs that will only be read by people who are already convinced), but through two paths.

The first path is that the media must decide that this is a story worth covering in a serious manner. It's been mentioned, but not in a major, front-and-center way; it just comes off as politics as usual to the uninformed viewer. Clinton's scandal had a sexy angle- blowjobs! Stained dress! Humorous 'I did not have sex with that woman...' soundbites! On the other hand, Bush's scandal involves... the NSA, distinctions between foreign and domestic wiretaps, FISA laws, and the issue of constitutional checks and balances. Not as sexy. And sadly, that means less coverage. That needs to be remedied.

The second path is through the voters. A Bush impeachment is not likely to happen in the partisan Republican-controlled Congress. The Alito confirmations hearings are proof of that; that was a partisan fiasco (as embodied by even moderate, pro-choice Arlen Specter smiling Alito right through). If only because of the massive and growing evidence of institutional corruption of Republicans in Congress (the main charge used by the Gingrich movement to oust the Democrats in 1994), voters must restore the control of Congress back to the Democrats. We need a change; we need a separation of power between the two main branches. Only then will a serious debate over the President's actions occur.

With that said, let's take a look at where we stand in the debate...

Just weeks away from Congressional hearings into the President's secret wiretapping program, polls show that Americans are far more concerned about Bush's actions than they were 8 years ago about President Clinton's 'Oral Office' problems-
[A new] poll was conducted by Zogby International, the highly-regarded non-partisan polling company. The poll interviewed 1,216 U.S. adults from January 9-12.

The poll found that 52% agreed with the statement: "If President Bush wiretapped American citizens without the approval of a judge, do you agree or disagree that Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment."

43% disagreed, and 6% said they didn't know or declined to answer. The poll has a +/- 2.9% margin of error.

And Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter agrees impeachment is potentially justified. From ABC’s This Week:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, if the president did break the law or circumvent the law, what’s the remedy?

SPECTER: Well, the remedy could be a variety of things. A president — and I’m not suggesting remotely that there’s any basis, but you’re asking, really, theory, what’s the remedy? Impeachment is a remedy. After impeachment, you could have a criminal prosecution, but the principal remedy, George, under our society is to pay a political price.

See also the AP article- Specter Skeptical of Domestic Spy Program

Elsewhere, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter asks "What if we faced a constitutional crisis and hardly anyone noticed?":
A Power Outage on Capitol Hill-

We are in danger of scrapping our checks and balances—not just for a few years (as was done during the Civil War), but for good

The New York Times also has a good editorial on the dangers of the President's current path:
The Imperial Presidency at Work
...Mr. Bush, however, seems to see no limit to his imperial presidency. First, he issued a constitutionally ludicrous "signing statement" on the McCain bill. The message: Whatever Congress intended the law to say, he intended to ignore it on the pretext the commander in chief is above the law. That twisted reasoning is what led to the legalized torture policies, not to mention the domestic spying program...

...Both of the offensive theories at work here - that a president's intent in signing a bill trumps the intent of Congress in writing it, and that a president can claim power without restriction or supervision by the courts or Congress - are pet theories of Judge Samuel Alito, the man Mr. Bush chose to tilt the Supreme Court to the right....

Finally, former Vice President Al Gore plans to address the nation today on these and other issues-
Gore to Address "Constitutional Crisis"

And that's where we stand now... Let's hope this is going somewhere.

"This nation sits at a crossroads."

While outrage at the President's actions has been fairly bipartisan so far, many of the more openly partisan Republicans seem as likely to support a move for impeaching President Bush as they are to be seen at a pro-choice rally. Given this, I think it is important to remember the rhetoric in Washington when the Congress was preparing Bill Clinton's impeachment. If the "rule of law" (and Clinton did break the law, no doubts there) was important enough to justify impeachment on the grounds of obstructing an investigation into a sexual affair, then I must believe Congress' concern is doubled in an environment of constitutional concern where the President is declaring himself above the Congress and the laws of the judiciary.

From Daily Kos, quotes from the Clinton impeachment-

Rep. Tom Delay (October 9, 1998):
"I believe that this nation sits at a crossroads. One direction points to the higher road of the rule of law. Sometimes hard, sometimes unpleasant, this path relies on truth, justice and the rigorous application of the principle that no man is above the law.

Now, the other road is the path of least resistance. This is where we start making exceptions to our laws based on poll numbers and spin control. This is when we pitch the law completely overboard when the mood fits us, when we ignore the facts in order to cover up the truth.

Shall we follow the rule of law and do our constitutional duty no matter unpleasant, or shall we follow the path of least resistance, close our eyes to the potential lawbreaking, forgive and forget, move on and tear an unfixable hole in our legal system? No man is above the law, and no man is below the law. That's the principle that we all hold very dear in this country."

Sen. Bill Frist:
"I will have no part in the creation of a constitutional double-standard to benefit the President. He is not above the law. If an ordinary citizen committed these crimes, he would go to jail."

Rep. Lamar Smith (December 10, 1998):
"When someone is elected president, they receive the greatest gift possible from the American people, their trust. To violate that trust is to raise questions about fitness for office. My constituents often remind me that if anyone else in a position of authority -- for example, a business executive, a military officer of a professional educator -- had acted as the evidence indicates the president did, their career would be over. The rules under which President Nixon would have been tried for impeachment had he not resigned contain this statement: 'The office of the president is such that it calls for a higher level of conduct than the average citizen in the United States.'"

I just want to state I don't mean these quotes as a game of political "Gotcha!" so popular with both sides; this is a very serious matter and all I hope is these same officials will remember how seriously they took the Constitution and the rule of law once upon a time.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


A lot of bloggers are interested in former U.S. Administrator of Iraq Paul Bremer's new book. I am not.

This new blog post by Arianna Huffington shares my feelings on why:
Russert Watch: Paul Bremer's "A Million Little Pieces"

Democrats Shock The World, Reveal A Plan

The Democrats will make battling DC corruption a cornerstore of their electoral strategy-

AP: Dems Ready Proposal on Code of Conduct
Democrats intend to unveil a sweeping plan this week to tighten Congress' code of conduct, officials said Saturday night, including a ban on lobbyists' gifts to lawmakers and a crackdown on special interest provisions slipped into legislation in the final moments before passage.

Eager to claim the mantle of reform in the wake of an election-year corruption scandal, Democrats also will propose doubling the current one-year cooling off period that former lawmakers or senior aides must observe before they are allowed to lobby without restriction...

Good start. But what they really need is a Newt Gingrich... sans the hypocrisy.

[Related editorial on the state of the GOP: Betraying the Reagan Revolution]

We don't want the smoking gun to come in the form of a...

The familiar drum-beating about Iran continues...

-President Bush dusts off the "grave threat" rhetoric:
Bush Warns Against Nuclear-Armed Iran-

U.S. Presses Allies for U.N. Action

[Jeremy's Note: Overly aggressive rhetoric bad; decisive U.N. action good]

-And Sec. of State Rice tries to avoid sanctions, but Cheney's ready to kick some ass:
Iraq Déjà Vu: Cheney Already Undermining Rice’s Diplomatic Efforts on Iran

[Jeremy's Note: Diplomacy good; Vice President Cheney BAD]

-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues to talk tough:
Iran's Leader Shrugs Off Sanctions Threat

[Jeremy's Note: Iranian President bad]

-Finally, one former Iranian citizen has an idea how the west can encourage Iranians to take back their own country:
The West should change its focus regarding Iran

[Jeremy's Note: If feasible, this idea = good. Me like democracy.]

Can You Hear Me Now?

Another good Alito-related cartoon...

[Taken from Bob Geiger's weekly roundup.]

Katrina Aftermath Is Subject Of Probe

Congress looks at the situation in Mississippi...

Congressional Panel Probes Katrina Delay (AP)
A lack of coordination among utility companies is one of the reasons why thousands of Mississippi families are still waiting for trailers more than four months after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their homes, a federal official told a congressional subcommittee Saturday...

And things in New Orleans remain very much stop-and-go...
A New Orleans reality check-

Residents scoff at President Bush’s plea for tourists to return
(NBC News)
...The lights are on in only 34 percent of the city. Only one out of three grocery stores has reopened. Where there were once 2,000 hospital beds, there are now just 200. And the plan to make things better is also in trouble.

Even as New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pitched the city's recovery plan to state and federal officials this week, saying, “We need help. We really need some help,” questions are growing about where the money will come from to cover the proposed $18 billion price tag.

President Bush was silent regarding legislation the city desperately needs to buy storm victims out — perhaps for good reason. Even before a dollar is spent rebuilding New Orleans, the White House projects the national deficit will grow by $60 billion next year...