Saturday, January 28, 2006

Bush Administration To Climate Experts: STFU?

Bush administration solution to global warming? Pretend it doesn't exist.

What responsible leaders we have!

From the NY Times: Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him
The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists...

I'm not entirely convinced there was a conspiracy to silence this one guy, but the administration's hostility toward science is well known, so at the same time I'm sure they weren't exactly gonna encourage the publication of his work.

The Washington Post has a related article:
Scientists Debate Issue of Climate's Irreparable Change

Some Experts on Global Warming Foresee 'Tipping Point' When It Is Too Late to Act

Senator Sheehan?

Nothing against Cindy Sheehan, but if you're a person who doesn't think Dianne Feinstein is liberal enough, I can't get behind you. We don't need any more naive Naders splitting votes on the left. Cindy, please stick to the protesting and leave the nice Senator alone. Thanks.

AP: Sheehan Considers Challenging Feinstein

Liberal Bloggers v. Wishy-Washy Democrats

This Washington Post article posits the question- are liberal bloggers unintentionally sabotaging their party's political chances? One example they give is Hillary Clinton, the favorite '08 nominee of the Democratic establishment, but who is disliked by many on the left who seek to force her to take less calculated, conservative stances on key issues.

Blogs Attack From Left as Democrats Reach for Center

Personally, I think this new system isn't perfect (and yes, calm and rational heads should prevail), but it is good. It is merely copying the grassroots model conservatives used to launch themselves back into power in the early-mid '90s. Conservatives are getting mad at the liberal blogosphere because liberals finally learned how to play the game and stand up for themselves. The media is scared (as evidenced by the recent Washington Post/Howell brouhaha) because they have let the conservatives scare them with 'bias' charges into defaulting to the Republican point of view- and now many are calling them on their shoddy journalism. And the more moderate, politically triangulating Democrats are upset as well because they find that pandering to the right-of-center is costing them their base. It would certainly be foolish for politically concerned internet-ers to purposely sink viable candidates, but is definitely right to take them to task for foolish stances and demand they show backbone on key issues. The fact that Democrats haven't done this on their own is why they've been losing elections for the past 5 years.

Polls show consistently that the majority of Americans are liberal on many issues (concerned about civil liberties, want sensible foreign policy, are pro-choice, want strong environmental protections, etc), but are disenchanted with Democrats who seem wishy-washy. It's a testament to how strong American support is on these issues that the last two elections were still so close. Present the people with a strong, principled Democrat and he will win- period. That's all bloggers are aiming for.

(*Note: Admittingly there does tend to be a fringe ego-driven faction on some blogs, but that's true on both sides. And it's not typical. Grassroots are important and most bloggers urge sanity. After all, this is a democracy and we all deserve to participate. We've found our tool for doing that- blogs.)

Double Super Secret Background

Denis McDonough at ThinkProgress brings up an important question- Has Karl Rove been briefed about the President's secret, warrantless spying program? Last week, Mr. Rove gave a campaign-style speech lashing out at critics of the President's actions and describing the program as important. One would think that for Rove to speak in such certain terms means he is fully aware of how the program operates and the results it's gotten. But as a mere political advisor in 2001 and 2002 (and even now as Deputy White House Chief of Staff), he would not be in a position to have been briefed on the secret program. In fact, in violation of the law, even all the members of the House and Senate intelligence committees have not been briefed.

Given Rove's extremely close relationship with President Bush, and his heavy influence on policy, it's a safe bet that he was briefed by the President on it. Not that we're likely to find out for sure. So this begs noting (as ThinkProgress does) that this man who should not have been briefed on the program, but likely was, is a man still under investigation for involvement in leaking classified information about a CIA operative. Not the poster boy for national security integrity. Not that this whole scandal is even a national security debate anyway.

Assuming the opposite, that he wasn't briefed, begs the question of why he would then be in a position to make such public statements condemning critics of the President on the program if his knowledge of it is based on the same media reports we've all read. Either way, it's standard Rove-ian politics of misrepresenting the issue at hand to demonize ones enemies.

The Washington Post has a related editorial- A Discredit to the GOP
THE BUSH administration's distortion, for political purposes, of the Democratic position on warrantless surveillance is loathsome. Despite the best efforts of Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff, and Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman, to make it seem otherwise, Democrats are not opposed to vigorous, effective surveillance that could uncover terrorist activity. Nor are the concerns that they are expressing unique to their party. Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Arlen Specter (Pa.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Sam Brownback (Kan.) have expressed legal doubts about the surveillance program. Do they, too, have a "pre-9/11 worldview," as Mr. Rove said of the Democrats?...

...What we do know is that the country is in the midst of an important debate about the reach of presidential power and the scope of civil liberties in wartime. For Rove & Co. to try to turn this into just another partisan political skewer discredits their administration and their party.

Sadly, they don't care about any of that. All that matters is 'winning', whatever that means at this point.

"I Did Not Take My Picture With That Man, Jack Abramoff"

A Washington Post editorial on the White House's Abramoff stonewalling-

Mr. Abramoff's Meetings, Again

They correctly note the largest issue isn't the photos, but the depth of Abramoff's relationship with the White House. They also note that Republicans didn't much appreciate similar stonewalling from the Clinton White House. I suppose hypocrisy is easy when you're the ones in charge.

Links of the Day

Some links for a lazy Saturday afternoon...

-On September 15th, the President promised "one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen". Not sure that's happened yet. Of course this was also the same speech where he promised "to confront this poverty with bold action" [*checks sky for pigs*], so I think most of it can be classified as fiction. Here's the status:
Post-Katrina Promises Unfulfilled

On the Gulf Coast, Federal Recovery Effort Makes Halting Progress

-In better news, the state of Washington leads the way for gay civil rights:
Washington State OKs Gay Civil Rights Law

-And the Enron saga will finally come before the courts:
After four years, Enron's Lay and Skilling to face jury

Dems Don’t Know Jack

The Republicans have been trying to insist all month long (don't they get tired?) that the Abramoff scandal is a bipartisan one, as if it were just another general debate over DC ethics. Ignore that Abramoff was a Republican lobbyist who never contributed to Democrats, that he had ties to Delay's K Street Project, and was a "pioneer" Bush campaign contributer. Besides just outright lies about Dems getting money from Abramoff, the best they had to go on was the idea that by accepting legitimate and unrelated donations from Indian tribes that Abramoff had connections to (and was robbing), that they were somehow complicit as well. The Republicans have been getting help with this lie from the clueless members of the media. A new report further knocks down this talking point. Will the media pay attention?

The American Prospect: Dems Don’t Know Jack-

A Prospect exclusive: A new analysis of Abramoff tribal money by a nonpartisan firm shows it’s a Republican scandal

A new and extensive analysis of campaign donations from all of Jack Abramoff’s tribal clients, done by a nonpartisan research firm, shows that a great majority of contributions made by those clients went to Republicans. The analysis undercuts the claim that Abramoff directed sums to Democrats at anywhere near the same rate...

...[T]he Morris and Associates analysis, which was done exclusively for The Prospect, clearly shows that it’s highly misleading to suggest that the tribes's giving to Dems was in any way comparable to their giving to the GOP. The analysis shows that when Abramoff took on his tribal clients, the majority of them dramatically ratcheted up donations to Republicans. Meanwhile, donations to Democrats from the same clients either dropped, remained largely static or, in two cases, rose by a far smaller percentage than the ones to Republicans did. This pattern suggests that whatever money went to Democrats, rather than having been steered by Abramoff, may have largely been money the tribes would have given anyway...

The report features a detailed analysis of the donations.

Robert Schlesinger summarizes the findings: Puncturing the Abramoff Bipartisan Scandal Myth

This debate is settled. Now both parties please get back to your half-assed reform plans.

[In related news, Sen. Santorum tries to deny his K-Street ties.]

Hold Your Horses, Neocons

Matthew Yglesias urges caution amid the recent Iran concerns-

Think Again: Iran is a Problem, Not an Emergency
...Based on such pronouncements, the reasonable reader, while perhaps disagreeing with the neoconservative pundits' preferred "bombs away" policy, would no doubt conclude that, at a minimum, the Iranian nuclear program is, if unchecked, less than a year away from producing a usable nuclear weapon.

The reality, as Dana Linzer reported in the news pages of the Post last August, is rather different. Rather than being months from a bomb, a National Intelligence Estimate reflecting the consensus view of America's intelligence agencies concluded "that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon." This report revised earlier projections that, while more alarmist, still pegged the figure at five years, not months, and brings American estimates into line with analysis from British and Israeli intelligence. In addition, while manufacturing a sufficient quantity of highly enriched uranium (what Iran is thought to be about ten years from doing) is, indeed, the most difficult step in building a nuclear device, it is not, in and of itself, a usable weapon and building workable warheads and delivery systems are non-trivial engineering challenges on their own terms...

Pssst, Matthew, don't tell Drudgey, he's been getting so excited.

The Internets

Two good articles on renewed interest in the "internets"- the first focusing on blogs and the second on internet control issues-

National Journal - Beltway Blogroll: The Rise Of Blogs

Washington Post: The Coming Tug of War Over the Internet

It's Funny Sad Because It's True

C'mon guys, haven't you seen the polls? People are not happy! Get out there and do something!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Survey Says...

Another round of "Why do the the American people hate America?" as new polls come in...

Bloomberg: Bush Support Weak as Americans Favor New Direction, Poll Finds
...A Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll taken this week as Bush prepares to deliver his annual State of the Union speech shows that the president wins the approval of only 43 percent of the public, a 7-point drop from a year ago. Three out of five say America is seriously off course, and by 62 to 31 percent those surveyed want to move in a different direction than the one Bush has set forth.

The president has lost public support across a broad swath of issues, including most of the ones that especially concern Americans, as well as on matters of personal trust and leadership, according to the survey...

USA Today finds that 58% think a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate the President's illegal wiretapping program. The majority also agree the Bush administration was wrong in wiretapping without obtaining a court order. The poll also finds that a majority of Americans: disapprove of the President's job performance overall, disapprove of the economy's state, believe 'neither side' is winning the war on terror, and do not want Roe v. Wade overturned. Not what the President wants to hear after months of election year-style campaigning on these issues.

Still, the NY Times finds mixed support for the wiretaps, likely a result of White House spin.

Finally, from the Washington Post: Majority Believe White House Should Release Abramoff Records
A strong bipartisan majority of the public believes President Bush should disclose all contacts between disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and White House staffers despite administration claims that media requests for details about those contacts amount to a "fishing expedition," according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey found that three in four--76 percent--of all Americans said Bush should disclose contacts between aides and Abramoff while 18 percent disagreed. Two in three Republicans joined with eight in 10 Democrats and political independents in favoring disclosure, according to the poll...

Expect a temporary bounce after the State of the Union, as always.

We Do This Now?

Is kidnapping standard procedure for the U.S. army now? Is it more or less okay than waterboarding?

Are these questions we should even have to ask?

AP: Documents Show Army Seized Wives As Tactic
The U.S. Army in Iraq has at least twice seized and jailed the wives of suspected insurgents in hopes of "leveraging" their husbands into surrender, U.S. military documents show.

In one case, a secretive task force locked up the young mother of a nursing baby, a U.S. intelligence officer reported. In the case of a second detainee, one American colonel suggested to another that they catch her husband by tacking a note to the family's door telling him "to come get his wife."

The issue of female detentions in Iraq has taken on a higher profile since kidnappers seized American journalist Jill Carroll on Jan. 7 and threatened to kill her unless all Iraqi women detainees are freed...

...And That's The Word

Proof that modern politics is now officially a parody of itself, the host of the White House Correspondents' Association dinner will be...

...Stephen Colbert!

BREAKING: Colbert To Head WHCA Dinner

Tivo-worthy C-SPAN to say the least. Make sure to keep the dining hall bear-free.

Adventures In Right-Wing Punditry

MSNBC's Chris Matthews (Media Matters' 2005 "Misinformer of the Year") spoke with Los Angeles mayor Villaraigosa last night on his program about the American dream. In addition to asking the Mayor if he was comfortable speaking English (Villaraigosa had to remind Matthews that he a) was born in America, and b) speaks English as a first language), Matthews employed a variety of clueless stereotypes in his questioning. Inquiring about the tone of the Mayor's spanish language response to next week's State of the Union address, Matthews asked "What would be— call it— more romantic?". Muy caliente, senor Matthews! Then moving onto the American dream, Matthews states that when he thinks of hispanics starting a business here, he is impressed by their entrepreneurial spirit even if "just owning a flower ship, it's owning a small business, a bodega". Don't forget the taco stands, Chris. He also said that the can-do spirit of the Mexican immigrant makes them natural Republicans. Well, naturally.

The worst part to me was that it seems Matthews is lecturing Villaraigosa instead of interviewing him.

Crooks and Liars has video for your amusement: Matthews Speaks for the Latinos of the world!

And Digby has thoughts: Flower Shops and Bodegas

In other Matthews news, the Hardballer asks Rep. Delay a 'cosmic' question:
MATTHEWS: OK, I’ve got to ask you a cosmic question.


MATTHEWS: Tom DeLay, you are not in this business for the money. You live modestly You commute back and forth from Washington to Houston, Texas. Why? What drives you every day?

"Dave Shutton, Springfield Daily Shopper. Who are you? Where are you going?"

ThinkProgress has video- VIDEO: Matthews Slobbers All Over Tom DeLay VIDEO: Matthews Slobbers All Over Tom DeLay

Speaking of NBC, Tim "Was I involved in Plamegate? I can't remember" Russert is just all mad at Arianna Huffington. It's an political in-feud and what a soap opera! Arianna Huffington runs a regular feature on her website called Russert Watch in which she and others analyze Meet The Press and hold him accountable for his poor journalism. Some recent posts by Ms. Huffington has caused NBC News to get personal and start a smear campaign on her, as outlined by Lloyd Grove in the NY Daily News. Ms. Huffington wasted no time in responding to the accusations, stating that "instead of addressing the issue of his failure to come clean with his audience on a host of ethical questions, Russert has turned the NBC publicity machine into a vehicle for sleaze and rumor-mongering" and that "the Huffington Post and many others in the blogosphere will keep asking the questions Tim Russert doesn't want to answer".

Note to Russert- Just because you're a pushover, don't assume your critics are as well.

She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named jokes about poisoning Justice John Paul Stevens.

And that's all the free publicity I'll give her for another six months.

Finally, the champion- Bill'O - complains of "organized terror" in the liberal blogosphere:
O'Reilly: "Organized terror" on Lefty websites

Well, it's not as organized as Al Qaeda, but we try.

Links of the Day

What a week. TGIF. Here's some links...

-The fight to stop Alito may be futile, but god bless Kerry for trying:
GOP sets up showdown over Alito-

Massachusetts senators try 'uphill' filibuster push

-New developments in the Scooter Libby case:
Libby wants what reporters knew in CIA leak case

-The fiscal responsibility of modern Republicans continues to have great success:
Congressional Panel Expects $337B Deficit

Freedom Is On The March

"And so that was an interesting day yesterday in the -- as we're watching liberty begin to spread across the Middle East."
-President Bush, yesterday

Does he even listen to the words coming out of his mouth anymore?

Dan Froomkin looks at the giant mess that was yesterday's presidential press conference-
President Bush this morning faced a conundrum: How to reconcile all his soaring rhetoric about democracy with the democratic election victory of a radical Islamic group he has labeled as a terrorist organization?

The answer: Spin that conundrum away...

Andrew Sullivan also weighs in: Democracy and Terror


The Power-Madness of King George

Great new article in Salon on the domestic spying scandal. Highly recommended.

The Power-Madness of King George-

Is Bush turning America into an elective dictatorship?

It's tempting to dismiss the debate about the National Security Agency spying on Americans as a technical conflict about procedural rights...

...Would that so little were at stake. In fact, the Senate hearings on NSA domestic espionage set to begin next month will confront fundamental questions about the balance of power within our system. Even if one assumes that every unknown instance of warrant-less spying by the NSA were justified on security grounds, the arguments issuing from the White House threaten the concept of checks and balances as it has been understood in America for the last 218 years. Simply put, Bush and his lawyers contend that the president's national security powers are unlimited. And since the war on terror is currently scheduled to run indefinitely, the executive supremacy they're asserting won't be a temporary condition...

...The final problem with Gonzales' theories of unfettered executive authority is that they, as the lawyers say, prove too much. The Article II plus AUMF justification for warrant-less spying is essentially the same one the administration has advanced to excuse torture; ignore the Geneva Conventions; and indefinitely hold even U.S. citizens without a hearing, charges, or trial. Torture and detention without due process are bad enough. But why does this all-purpose rationale not also extend to press censorship or arresting political opponents, were the president to deem such measures vital to the nation's security?

I don't suggest that Bush intends anything of the kind—or that even a Congress as supine as the current one would remain passive if he went so far. But the president's latest assertion that he alone can safeguard our civil liberties isn't just disturbing and wrong. It's downright un-American.

Read the full article. You won't regret it!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

What A Tangled Web We Weave...

Amid more and more revelations that debunk their spin and lies, the White House has (as Andrew Sullivan notes) "tied itself up in knots with its defenses of its own law-breaking". They have tried many excuses and each from the first ('need for speed' debunked by the emergency clause/retroactive warrants) to the last (need for looser standards debunked by their opposition to the '02 DeWine proposal) has not held water for more than a day before the facts came to light. They broke the law because they wanted to, not because they had to.

All of which points to the conclusion that much of the surveillance was aimed domestically- and not at terrorists.

This conclusion is validated by numerous other related stories.

And today, the President stated that he will continue to bypass the laws and would strongly resist any legislative efforts to revise or change the laws to help improve surveillance (?!), because the legislative process in itself could reveal things to our enemies about how we operate. Think about that. Why, it could even reveal to our enemies that we still believe in the democratic process. Don't want them getting that impression.

Keeping track of all the different positions they've tried on this (the power was granted by the Afghanistan resolution, but Congress insists that it decidedly was not, the President couldn't ask Congress for change because they'd say no, Congress offered change and the President refused on consitutional ground, oh wait that wouldn't be unconstitutional after all and in fact the President has had the inherent authority all along) has been a textbook lesson in political desperation. The President is, as Sullivan stated, tying himself up in knots with increasingly contradictory defenses. I hope Arlen Specter agrees.

ThinkProgress explores how the administration's initial response to the new revelations is false as usual:
Administration’s Response To Greenwald Is Contradictory and Inaccurate

And former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Morton Halperin (who also later served on the National Security Council in the '90s) joins in the discussion:
Former NSA Director Hayden Lied To Congress And Broke The Law

Finally, Michelle Pilecki explores Greenwald's bombshell: Administration Flip-Flopped on FISA

You Win This Round, Iraqi Constitution

From the Iraqi constitution-
Article 38:

The freedom of communication, and mail, telegraphic, electronic, and telephonic correspondence, and other correspondence shall be guaranteed and may not be monitored, wiretapped or disclosed except for legal and security necessity and by a judicial decision.

Judicial decision? Doesn't Iraq have a 'unitary executive' who can just make all the decisions himself?

[Hat tip- Balkinization blog]

It's Always The Coverup

The White House continues to stonewall on their relationship with Abramoff.

But why? What are they hiding? Josh Micah Marshall looks at how deep the photo coverup goes...
...So, here we have it that the president of Reflections admits that she removed photos of Abramoff and the president from their online database. If what her employee told me on the 11th is accurate the photos were also deleted from the CDs they keep on file in their own archives. So the scrub seems to have been pretty thorough.

Did the White House send out the word to deep-six those Bush-Abramoff pics?

Scott McClellan won't answer our questions. But this mystery would not be difficult to solve by a press outlet with sufficient juice to get a question answered by Scott McClellan. Has the White House or anyone working at the White House's behest instructed Reflections Photography to destroy or remove from its archives photographs of President Bush and Jack Abramoff?

Simple question. I doubt it has a simple answer.

ThinkProgress has video of the President in action:
VIDEO: Bush Bobs and Weaves on Abramoff Photos

50 Most Loathsome People in America

Check out the list- The BEAST 50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2005

Good choices all.

When Democracy Fails

First the people of Iran elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, now this...

AP: Hamas Wins Landslide 76 Seats

The world reacts-
Foreign Leaders Shocked at Hamas Win
World leaders, uneasy at the prospect of a Hamas-led Palestinian government, immediately exerted pressure on the Islamic militants Thursday to recognize Israel and renounce violence as a precondition for support.

That a group listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States won seemingly fair-and-square at the ballot box compounded the dilemma for foreign governments. While they welcomed the smooth running of the Palestinian legislative elections, the militants' stunning showing also unsettled many and threw Middle East peacemaking into turmoil...

Maybe some parts of the world just aren't ready for democracy, no?

Now We're Getting Somewhere

From Sen. Arlen Specter's letter to Attorney General Gonzales, here are my three favorite questions-

In interpreting whether Congress intended to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by the September 14,2001 Resolution (Resolution), would it be relevant on the issue of Congressional intent that the Administration did not specifically ask for an expansion for Executive powers under FISA? Was it because you thought you couldn't get such an expansion as when you said: "That was not something that we could likely get?"

Wasn't President Carter's signature on FISA in 1978, together with his signing statement, an explicit renunciation of any claim to inherent Executive authority under Article II of the Constitution to conduct warrantless domestic surveillance when the Act provided the exclusive procedures for such surveillance?

Why didn't the President seek a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing in advance the electronic surveillance in issue? (The FISA Court has the experience and authority to issue such a warrant. The FISA Court has a record establishing its reliability for non-disclosure or leaking contrasted with concerns that disclosures to many members of Congress involved a high risk of disclosure or leaking. The FISA Court is at least as reliable, if not more so, than the Executive Branch on avoiding disclosure or leaks.)

I can't wait to see the pathetic lies he comes up with to respond in the hearings.

(And no, Alberto, "9/11" doesn't count as a real answer)

Read all the questions at the link above and know that Sen. Specter means business. In addition to these excellent inquiries, he also addresses the 72-hour retroactive warrant issue, Congressional notification, and the constitutional grounds (or lack thereof) used to justify the law breaking. I have hope that this hearing won't be a partisan mess and that the Senate truly is concerned about the level to which the President has overreached and action will be taken.

PS- The Washington Post picks up on Glenn Greenwald's exposing of the administration's latest lie :
White House Dismissed '02 Surveillance Proposal

PPS- More analysis of recent polls: More Americans favor impeaching Bush, poll says


President George W. Bush on Osama bin Laden-

"When he says he's going to hurt the American people again, or try to, he means it. I take it seriously, and the people of NSA take it seriously."

"And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him."
-March 13, 2002

And remind me again why people take anything he says seriously anymore?


The Onion's AV Club has a great interview up with Stephen Colbert (he's not in character).

Here's a highlight...
"[There is an] idea that authoritarian is better than authority. Because authoritarian means there's only one authority, and that authority has got to be the President, has got to be the government, and has got to be his allies. What the right-wing in the United States tries to do is undermine the press. They call the press "liberal," they call the press "biased," not necessarily because it is or because they have problems with the facts of the left—or even because of the bias for the left, because it's hard not to be biased in some way, everyone is always going to enter their editorial opinion—but because a press that has validity is a press that has authority. And as soon as there's any authority to what the press says, you question the authority of the government—it's like the existence of another authority. So that's another part of truthiness. Truthiness is 'What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true'..."

See Stephen in action- here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

President Bush: 'I Am Not A Spy'

The PR blitz continues today with the President's photo-op at NSA headquarters-

AP: Bush, Visiting NSA, Defends Surveillance
President Bush paid an in-person visit to the ultra-secret National Security Agency on Wednesday to underscore the importance of his controversial order authorizing domestic surveillance without warrants in the terrorism era.

"We must learn the intentions of the enemies before they strike," Bush said. "That's what they do here. They work to protect us."

That's great, sir. Now please explain why you authorized them to work outside the required FISA laws.

The President continues...
"We've seen that part of the terrorist strategy is to place operatives inside of our country. They blend in with the civilian population. They get their orders from overseas and then they emerge to strike from within," he told reporters, after speaking behind closed doors to NSA employees and going on a tour of the agency.

"We must be able to quickly detect when someone linked to al-Qaida is communicating with someone inside of America," he said.

That's also great, sir. Now please explain how the flexible, rubberstamp FISA system prevented you from doing that.

Of course, the article notes that:
Bush has argued that process isn't sufficiently flexible.

We already know, via James Baker's 2002 statement, that this is a lie. The President resisted congressional efforts to make the system even more flexible than previous changes had already done on constitutional grounds. Flexibility is not the issue. Transparency and accountability is; the President wanted to operate without both.

And showing he has a good sense of humor, the President said:
"The American people expect me to protect their lives and their civil liberties," he said.

Yes, we do expect that, sir. And we're hoping you'll start doing that any day now.

Sen. Clinton, hawkish on the President's foreign policy, would have none of this nonsense:
But Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., issued a blistering attack on Bush's explanations.

"Obviously, I support tracking down terrorists. I think that's our obligation. But I think it can be done in a lawful way," she said. "Their argument that it's rooted in the authority to go after al-Qaida is far-fetched. Their argument that it's rooted in the Constitution inherently is kind of strange because we have FISA and FISA operated very effectively and it wasn't that hard to get their permission."

Emphasis added. She gets it.

But the President then uses fear and his greatest failure (letting Osama get away) to manipulate the public...
Bush pledged to continue to reauthorize the program as long as a threat exists, and urged Americans not to be lulled into thinking that the threat from terrorism is over because there has not been an attack on U.S. soil since 2001.

"I understand there are some in America who say well this can't be true — there are still people willing to attack," he said. "All I would ask them to do is listen to the words of Osama bin Laden and take them seriously. When he says he's going to hurt the American people again, or try to, he means it."

9/11! Osama's comin' to getcha!!! You scared yet? Time for me to unnecessarily break laws and issue public platitudes about fighting our enemies! And if a few political activists, Quakers, journalists, or random Americans 'accidently' get spied on along the way (repeatedly and in large numbers), well hey sucks to be them, it's war, baby! I don't need no stinkin' warrants! 9/11!

Don't let the President treat this like a public relations campaign.

Arm yourself with the facts- here, here, here, here, here, and here.

And if you're really mad, you can contact your representatives and senators and ask them to do the same.

[PS- Sen. Arlen Specter has some damn good questions for the Attorney General. Read now!]

The Amazing Disappearing Millions

Another story of millions of dollars 'lost' in Iraq...

NY Times: Audit Describes Misuse of Funds in Iraq Projects
A new audit of American financial practices in Iraq has uncovered irregularities including millions of reconstruction dollars stuffed casually into footlockers and filing cabinets, an American soldier in the Philippines who gambled away cash belonging to Iraq, and three Iraqis who plunged to their deaths in a rebuilt hospital elevator that had been improperly certified as safe.

The audit, released yesterday by the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, expands on its previous findings of fraud, incompetence and confusion as the American occupation poured money into training and rebuilding programs in 2003 and 2004. The audit uncovers problems in an area that includes half the land mass in Iraq, with new findings in the southern and central provinces of Anbar, Karbala, Najaf, Wasit, Babil, and Qadisiya. The special inspector reports to the secretary of defense and the secretary of state....

Secretaries of Defense and State, huh? That explains the sound of crickets I hear coming from Rumsfeld and Rice's offices.

Where is the accountability? WWHTD (What Would Harry Truman Do)?


Things I agree with...

Bush the Incompetent (Washington Post)
Incompetence is not one of the seven deadly sins, and it's hardly the worst attribute that can be ascribed to George W. Bush. But it is this president's defining attribute. Historians, looking back at the hash that his administration has made of his war in Iraq, his response to Hurricane Katrina and his Medicare drug plan, will have to grapple with how one president could so cosmically botch so many big things -- particularly when most of them were the president's own initiatives...

...And things I don't:

Warriors and wusses (L.A. Times)
I DON'T SUPPORT our troops. This is a particularly difficult opinion to have, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to put bumper stickers on his car. Supporting the troops is a position that even Calvin is unwilling to urinate on.

I'm sure I'd like the troops. They seem gutsy, young and up for anything. If you're wandering into a recruiter's office and signing up for eight years of unknown danger, I want to hang with you in Vegas...

...But I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken — and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward...

I agree with him in his sympathy of the many who joined up after 9/11 to go after Osama and got sent to fight an Iraqi civil war instead, but hey the least we can do for them is throw them a parade when they come home to thank them (even if I disagree with the war itself) for their courage. Yes, things like adequate medical coverage are the priorities (though I'm sure funding's been cut to that), but I see no hypocrisy in supporting them in celebratory ways (though I share his dislike of hollow bumper-sticker 'support'). I think it's a perfectly reasonable, valid position for one to support the individual soldiers themselves who are just trying to make the best of a bad situation and hate the chickenhawk Commander-in-Chief who has screwed them over.

Maybe 'Firefly' Was Right...

...Maybe we will all be speaking Chinese one day-

AP: China's Economy Hits Growth Spurt
China's economy expanded by a stunning 9.9 percent in 2005 according to data released Wednesday which suggests it may now rank the fourth-biggest in the world...

Links of the Day

The media continues to use headlines on the NSA story that suit the administration's lies rather than risk appearing biased by acknowleding the controversy and falsehoods. This just in from the AP: "Nixon: 'I Am Not A Crook'". *yawn* Here's some other stories with better headlines (but equally depressing content)...

-New subpoenas are being issued to Texan businessmen as links are discovered between the Duke and the Hammer:
Earle Probes Possible Cunningham-DeLay Tie

-The UCLA alumnus who was offering $100 for people to spy on liberal professors suffers setbacks:
Conservative Alumnus Pulls Offer to Buy Lecture Tapes

-Amid revelations of pre-Katrina warnings, the administration stonewalls with investigations:
White House Declines to Provide Storm Papers

Spy Lies

Alberto Gonzales continues his job of being an upstanding Attorney General spinning for the President and doing legal gymnastics for the Executive branch to justify the unjustifiable (torture, warrantless wiretaps, etc):
Gonzales Says Criticism of NSA Misleading (AP)

You're right, Alberto, it is a little misleading. It doesn't fully explain what liars you all are.

And Alberto gets some founding fathers-inspired protesting...

[See video report here and full speech video here]

There is also new information out (in light of Gen. Hayden's remarks and fourth amendment confusion) that further damages the Administration's excuses on the spying program:
In June, 2002, Republican Sen. Michael DeWine of Ohio introduced legislation (S. 2659) which would have eliminated the exact barrier to FISA which Gen. Hayden yesterday said is what necessitated the Administration bypassing FISA...

...In other words, DeWine's bill, had it become law, would have eliminated the "probable cause" barrier (at least for non-U.S. persons) which the Administration is now pointing to as the reason why it had to circumvent FISA...

...And yet, look at what [Justice Department lawyer James A.] Baker said in his Statement [to Congress on behalf of the administration]. He began by effusively praising the Patriot Act on the ground that the 72-hour window provided by the Patriot Act had given the Administration the speed and flexibility it needed in order to engage in eavesdropping:

The reforms in those measures (the PATRIOT Act) have affected every single application made by the Department for electronic surveillance or physical search of suspected terrorists and have enabled the government to become quicker, more flexible, and more focused in going "up" on those suspected terrorists in the United States.

One simple but important change that Congress made was to lengthen the time period for us to bring to court applications in support of Attorney General-authorized emergency FISAs. This modification has allowed us to make full and effective use of FISA's pre-existing emergency provisions to ensure that the government acts swiftly to respond to terrorist threats. Again, we are grateful for the tools Congress provided us last fall for the fight against terrorism. Thank you.

...So, in June, 2002, the Administration refused to support elimination of the very barrier ("probable cause") which Gen. Hayden claimed yesterday necessitated the circumvention of FISA.

I am glad someone is keeping track of all this. As Atrios notes, the only logical conclusion we're left with (occam's razor- the simplest explanation is usually correct) is that "They wanted to spy on whoever they wanted to without any oversight or accountability".


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

There's That 'I' Word Again...

The conservative Washington Times-owned Insight magazine looks ahead:

Impeachment hearings: The White House prepares for the worst
The Bush administration is bracing for impeachment hearings in Congress.

"A coalition in Congress is being formed to support impeachment," an administration source said.

Sources said a prelude to the impeachment process could begin with hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. They said the hearings would focus on the secret electronic surveillance program and whether Mr. Bush violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act...

God, why are liberals so obsessed with impeachment?

Bumper Sticker Patriotism, Santorum Style

Sen. Santorum addressed the Centre County Republican Party and explained what it means to serve ones country-
"And yet we have brave men and women who are willing to step forward because they know what's at stake. They're willing to sacrifice their lives for this great country. What I'm asking all of you tonight is not to put on a uniform. Put on a bumper sticker. Is it that much to ask? Is it that much to ask to step up and serve your country?"

The worst part? He wasn't even talking about a 'Support The Troops' one... but a Santorum sticker.

See the video with your own eyes- Ask Not What Santorum Can Do For You

People of Pennsylvania: Do this country a favor and give this man a pink slip this November. Please.

What Is The White House Hiding?

ThinkProgress exposes the hypocrisy of the White House's stonewalling on Abramoff-
Today in the White House press briefing, Scott McClellan was asked again why the White House refuses to open up records of meetings that Abramoff had with Bush. Here’s what he said:

There’s a difference between responding to questions like that and engaging in a fishing expedition that has nothing to do with the investigation.

This most recent explanation shows the White House has completely spun itself into knots. Whereas the White House used to refrain from comment on matters related to the leak investigation because the questions WERE related to an ongoing investigation, the White House is now arguing it won’t comment because the questions are NOT related to an ongoing investigation.

And they also have news that the source of Time's Abramoff photo was... Abramoff himself. Huh.

"I'm A War President"

A new report reveals what President Bush's foreign policy has done to our army...

AP: Study: Army Stretched to Breaking Point
Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a "thin green line" that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon...

I don't expect 'relief' to come... until 2009.

The Economic Track

From the New York Times:

Iraq Rebuilding Badly Hobbled, U.S. Report Finds
The first official history of the $25 billion American reconstruction effort in Iraq depicts a program hobbled from the outset by gross understaffing, a lack of technical expertise, bureaucratic infighting, secrecy and constantly increasing security costs, according to a preliminary draft...

[See related previous entry- Rebuilding Iraq No Longer U.S. Priority]

Documents: Gov't Did Anticipate Breach of Levees

"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."
-President George W. Bush (September 1, 2005)

Well, actually...

AP: Documents Show Govt Forewarned on Katrina
The government had advance warning of the danger and potential damage from Hurricane Katrina before the storm hit, newly released documents show...

Despite early warnings, plans to evacuate people from New Orleans in the approach of a catastrophic storm were only 10 percent complete a month before the devastating hurricane that accounted for more than 1,100 deaths...

...The documents show that the Homeland Security Department, which directed the [mock Hurricane] Pam exercise, was warned a day before Katrina hit that the storm's surge could breach levees and leave New Orleans flooded for weeks or months...

See also: Pre-Katrina Warnings Not Heeded (AP)

Meanwhile, in New Orleans...
Committee OK New Orleans Election Plan

PS- For the best New Orleans coverage, see the amazing Times-Picayune.


The Alito confirmation hearings are over. As expected, a 10-8 party line vote.

And now the battle falls to the full Senate...

[PS- A special roll-of-the-eyes to Sen. Coburn for sneaking in another abortion rant before the vote]

There's A Fourth Amendment Now?

To those still wondering if we really are in the midst of a constitutional crisis or still remain secure our leaders (particularly those strict constructionists in the Republican party) remain faithful to our Constitution in light of revelations about the President's illegal actions, please read the following exhange between a reporter and Gen. Michael Hayden (former national director of the National Security Agency)... and cringe.

Defending Spy Program, General Reveals Shaky Grip on 4th Amendment
QUESTION: Jonathan Landay with Knight Ridder. I'd like to stay on the same issue, and that had to do with the standard by which you use to target your wiretaps. I'm no lawyer, but my understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American's right against unlawful searches and seizures. Do you use --

GEN. HAYDEN: No, actually -- the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: But the --

GEN. HAYDEN: That's what it says.

QUESTION: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.

GEN. HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: But does it not say probable --

GEN. HAYDEN: No. The amendment says --

QUESTION: The court standard, the legal standard --

GEN. HAYDEN: -- unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: The legal standard is probable cause, General. You used the terms just a few minutes ago, "We reasonably believe." And a FISA court, my understanding is, would not give you a warrant if you went before them and say "we reasonably believe"; you have to go to the FISA court, or the attorney general has to go to the FISA court and say, "we have probable cause."

And so what many people believe -- and I'd like you to respond to this -- is that what you've actually done is crafted a detour around the FISA court by creating a new standard of "reasonably believe" in place of probable cause because the FISA court will not give you a warrant based on reasonable belief, you have to show probable cause. Could you respond to that, please?

GEN. HAYDEN: Sure. I didn't craft the authorization. I am responding to a lawful order. All right? The attorney general has averred to the lawfulness of the order.

Just to be very clear -- and believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the Fourth. And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment. And so what you've raised to me -- and I'm not a lawyer, and don't want to become one -- what you've raised to me is, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is "reasonable." And we believe -- I am convinced that we are lawful because what it is we're doing is reasonable.

Here's the actual Fourth Amendment... pass it on-
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Matthew Yglesias explores this mess: Reasonable Boundaries

The Polls Are In

From a USA Today story on the President's pro-surveillance PR blitz-

A new USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows public sentiment is against the program. Fifty-one percent of Americans said the administration was wrong to intercept conversations involving a party inside the USA without a warrant. In response to another question, 58% of Americans said they support the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the program.

A question for the American people... Why do you hate America?

[Related blog post with a warning: Heads Up: Bush Is Winning the NSA 'Headline War']

Senate Judiciary Committee Prepares To Rock The Vote

Alito prepares to clear the initial non-hurdle in a party line vote-

AP: Republicans to Give Alito Committee Win

You can watch the final statements of the Senate Judiciary Committee live on C-Span now.

Geoffrey R. Stone has his take on Alito on the Huffington Post:
I supported the confirmation of John Roberts and, until recently, the confirmation of Samuel Alito. I have reluctantly come to the conclusion, however, that Judge Alito should not be confirmed, and that this is a matter of real importance to the nation...

...The most fundamental responsibility of the Supreme Court is to preserve both the separation of powers and the individual liberties guaranteed by our Constitution. They are the bulwarks of our freedom. History teaches that these indispensable elements of our constitutional system are most threatened in time of war. Too often in wartime, the President demands excessive authority in his role as "commander-in-chief" and the President and Congress run roughshod over civil liberties in their effort to protect, or appear to protect, the nation...

...Whatever else Judge Alito may or may not have made clear about his views on such issues as abortion, federalism, and religious freedom, he has certainly made clear that he has no interest in restraining the acts of this commander-in-chief. That, in my judgment, poses a serious threat to the nation, and is a more than adequate reason for the Senate -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- to deny his confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Also- President Bush winks to the anti-abortion crowd as the Alito vote nears:
Bush to anti-abortion activists: 'We will prevail'

Hillary's Falling Stock

A few takes on Hillary's not-as-decisive-as-predicted chances of getting the '08 nomination-

Molly Ivins: Not Backing Hillary

Arianna Huffington: The Chinks in the 'Hillary's an '08 Lock' CW Armor

Andrew Sullivan: Hillary can run, but she can’t hide from Bill

President Bush: "I, errr, umm, gay people, errr, I like ranches, uhhh, ummm."

Our incredibly articulate and progressive President tackles a question on 'Brokeback Mountain' with familiar ease-

Video: Questions for Bush-Brokeback Mountain

Q: "You're a rancher, a lot of us here in Kansas are ranchers. I just wanted to get your opinion on Brokeback Mountain, if you'd seen it yet. You would love it. You should check it out."

Bush: "I hadn't seen it. I'll be glad to talk about ranching, but I haven't seen the movie. I've heard about it. I hope you go, ohh, ya know, [*nervous laughter*]. I hope you go back to the ranch and the farms, is what I was about to say. Uh. I hadn't seen it."

President Bush, I wish America would quit you.

AP: Bush Hesitates to Give Take on 'Brokeback'

Links of the Day

Top of the morning. Here's some links from the AP...

-Et tu, Canada?:
Conservatives Win in Canadian Election

-Jobs, torture... is there anything we don't outsource now?
Investigator: U.S. 'Outsourced' Torture

-Ford steals GM's business model:
Ford to Cut Up to 30,000 Jobs, Shut Plants

Monday, January 23, 2006

Bush Lies, Democracy Dies?

(Rhyming makes people pay attention!)

What will it take for the media to come out and openly correct the White House spin on the Bush/NSA scandal? The traditional print outlets (TV remains a mess) have been describing the President's actions correctly, noting it involves "warrantless surveillance of some U.S. citizens by the National Security Agency". But the White House is spinning this as another partisan struggle between the War President and Democratic opponents. And if we've learned anything from the past 4 years, it's that their spin often gets accepted as fact quite quickly.

The need for a media pushback on these talking points is doubly important because the White House is now taking a proactive defense/offense on the criticisms, giving the surveillance a catchy name- 'terrorist surveillance program'- which continues its tradition (No Child Left Behind, Clear Skies Act, Healthy Forest Initiative, etc) of naming of something in almost direct contrast to what it actually does. 'Terrorist surveillance' sounds pretty clear cut and acceptable, but doesn't reflect the full nature of the program (which involves datamining, intrusions upon innocent Americans, and potential targeting of political activists and journalists). Newsweek in fact notes that Bush aides are describing this PR blitz as an attempt to "rebrand the domestic snooping program as 'enemy surveillance' vital to protecting the country" (emphasis added). Unconstitutional, illegal behavior reimagined with Madison Avenue moxie. If only Richard Nixon had this kind of marketing know-how.

And so greater is the need for accurate and aggressive media coverage.

Look, the bottom line is that the American people are not stupid, but they are lazy. 90% don't actively seek out and absorb the news/current events. They depend on the soundbites and talking points that the mainstream media throws at them. And thus they often end up ill-informed of current events and subsequently unconcerned. Ocassionally the media does a good job, as with the post-Katrina coverage, which obviously lead to a better informed populace who showed great concern for what was happening. This was sadly an exception and it's been business as usual ever since.

The mainstream media has not done a good job overall of reporting the Bush/NSA scandal, especially in light of the relevations being made daily by the New York Times or Washington Post. The best example of this problem is that you have still-under-investigation Karl Rove come out and say that "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. Some important Democrats clearly disagree"... and this statement is widely reported and circulated, yet any corrections in news items occur much later on, after the lie has already sunk in. Rove's statement is not merely misleading, it is an outright lie. The media is not supposed to report such lies at face value.

It would take not much effort for a paper or TV reporter/pundit to followup on the Rove statement by noting that a) the FISA laws already allow the President to spy on Al Qaeda as long as a warrant is filed for, but he chose to violate them anyway for dubious reasons, and b) Disagreement of the President's actions is bipartisan. Yet it does not occur. It speaks to how much of a common sense issue getting the legally required wiretaps is that polls show that 52% of the country agree 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". But despite these hopeful numbers, the media is allowing the White House to succeed in framing this debate as one between a tough, terrorism-fighting President and weak, partisan Democrats.

This isn't universally the case, of course, as there as some notable exceptions. The AP report linked above does note that "Several members of Congress from both parties have questioned whether the warrantless snooping is legal. That is because it bypasses a special federal court that, by law, must authorize eavesdropping on Americans and because the president provided limited notification to only a few lawmakers." So there is hope. But the presenting of talking points without correction remains an issue overall.

To give an example of the simplistic take on the story, here's today's State of the Union cartoon-

As if the media is crucifying him or anyone wants to stop him from preventing attacks.

The President says he wants open and honest debate... and here he continues to lie to the American people.

This lie will be the centerpiece of his spy program PR campaign this week.

I already gave my take on this the other day- Unspinning The Bush/NSA Scandal

Glenn Greenwald also tackles this subject today-
The media's distorted understanding of "neutrality"
...The Administration’s central goal, as always, is to depict opposition to the President as evidence of one’s sympathies with The Terrorists. We just spent a whole weekend hearing about how Democrats sound exactly like Osama. And simultaneously, and not unrelatedly, we hear Karl Rove issuing the indisputably false claim that the NSA scandal stems from the Democrats’ desire to block the Administration from eavesdropping on their allies in Al Qaeda as they plot their attacks against Americans.

The media need not take sides in the NSA debate or in any other. But it is failing in its primary purpose if it continues to allow the Administration to blithely make false statements without informing their readers that the statements are false. Allowing the Government to make false statements is not neutrality; it is an abdication of the principal journalistic responsibility....

He also uses the false Iraq/Al Qaeda 'links' to show this is a recurring trend. Recommended read.

As the Administration works overtime to 'rebrand' and spin the President's illegal and undemocratic actions as we head into the State of the Union next week, the media must present the American people with the whole story. The whole, complicated, spin-free story. The first line of defense in our democracy from internal tyranny is the press. If they can't hold their own against the President, I lose faith in Congress' ability to rein him in either.

Sen. Lieberman: "I don't believe that the president has the authority..."

The pile of bipartisan opposition to the President's warrantless wiretapping and claims of inherent authority continues to grow as Sen. Lieberman (D-CT) schools Sen. Pat Robert (R-KS) (who falsely claimed the President was losing the capability "to act to detect a possible attack on the homeland") on yesterday's Face The Nation-
Sen. LIEBERMAN: I don't believe that the president has the authority. I believe that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requires him to go to the secret FISA court, which has only turned down four or five requests out of about 20,000. I want my government to be listening to phone conversations that Americans, or people here, are having with al-Qaeda, and reading their e-mails. But I want them to have to at least go to one level of clearance, through a secret foreign intelligence court before they do that.

Let's hope this all actually translates to some serious repercussions for the President down the line.

Quote(s) of the Day, Pt. II

"OK, everyone who has studied the unitary executive theory of the presidency, raise your hand. Anyone? Anyone?

If you are not raising your hand, you're not alone. Only recently has the world received notice that President Bush's 'I can do anything I want' approach to governance has a name: the unitary executive theory of the presidency. Not having heard of this concept, and thinking perhaps that I had missed something in Constitutional Law, I decided to survey a random sampling of attorneys about it. The group included civil practitioners, prosecutors, a federal judge, a former federal prosecutor who has a PhD as well as a JD, defense attorneys and a US magistrate. The precise question was: 'When did you first hear about the unitary executive theory of the presidency?' Most said, 'The past few weeks.' But my favorite was, 'A few seconds ago, when you asked about it.' All agreed that the term does not appear in the US Constitution and that, the last time they checked, we still had three branches of government."

-Elizabeth de la Vega, on whether President Bush really knows best.

Quote(s) of the Day, Pt. I

"Please. We live in a democracy. Debating the government's ability to tap Americans' own phones without warrants is integral to any meaning of that word. And the final argument is completely circular. If the government's ability to tap phones without a warrant is due to "a constitutional authority beyond FISA," why bother explaining the rest? The truth, sadly, is that the Bush administration could have gotten Congress to fix FISA but decided to ignore the legislative branch. It has acted in this case as it has acted throughout the war: contemptuous of criticism, dismissive of democracy, and impervious to correction. And that's one reason why we haven't had as much success as we might have hoped for. The president is always hailing the value of democracy abroad. One of these days, he'll find something good to say about it at home."

-Andrew Sullivan, on the idea that hearings on the NSA program would be bad.

"We have nothing to fear but...

...Everything! Take our Constitution! Save us Jeebus!!!"
-Some crippled dude (March 1933)

Another election year with George W. Bush in power can only mean one thing- FEAR!! Manipulating national security concerns for political benefit is one thing the Rove political machine has mastered. Actually thwarting terrorism... well, not so much. It's a strategy that works on two levels.

On the first level is convincing the American people that they are in great, mortal danger from evildoers and unless they duct tape up the windows and vote Republican, their families are doomed. This strategy was perfected in the 2004 presidential campaign with suspiciously-timed terror alerts, a Convention held in the city where 9/11 occurred, and ominous statements from the Vice President like "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". It convinces American that their very lives depend on voting Republican; all other issues be damned.

On the second level is politically manipulating the Democratic party to side with the administration on key issues and scare them away from using critical rhetoric. We're seeing this already this year with the President issuing a warning to critics with ground rules on criticism, comparisons of Democrats' rhetoric to what Osama is saying, and Karl Rove turning opposition of warrantless wiretapping against the Democrats. All this is meant to say to the Democrats- 'Ease up on the President or we will convince your constituents that you're a member of Al Qaeda'. This second level was perfected in the 2002 congressional races. The White House rushed the Iraq resolution in the early Fall in order to force Democrats to sign it or risk appearing weak on terror. Sure enough, the key tactics Republican candidates used that year was running ads accusing their opponents of just that. The most famous victim of this was longtime Senator, and Vietnam veteran, Max Cleland. His opponent juxtaposed pictures of Cleland with Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden in TV ads. Expect a repeat of these tactics this year, as Democrats are pressured into moving to the right.

Glenn Greenwald explores this strategy:
What lies at the center of so many of our current political controversies is fear. Fear-mongering is the one and only weapon which Bush followers use time and again to solidify their support. When Karl Rove says, as he did yesterday, that "national security" is going to be the centerpiece of the GOP pitch leading into the 2006 elections, what he means is that they are going to spend the next 10 months doing everything possible to scare Americans as much as possible so that they once again dispense with all other issues and throw themselves into the arms of the party which promises to be their Protector...

Greenwald has previously discussed ways to combat this, as seen here- Attacking Bush's only weapon -- Fear

Finally, the new Tom Tomorrow cartoon confronts the fear-filled world of the far-right...

Gipper, The Talking Points Duck

Greg Saunders has a terrific post over at The Talent Show, where he reworks Mallard Fillmore cartoons. I am a huge fan of that wacky conservative muckraking duck, as my icon indicates. His recycled talking points and hatred of academia are an inspiration to us all. So I do enjoy seeing the strip get a good ribbing.

Here is a sample reworked strip of 'Gipper, The Talking Points Duck':

Enjoy the rest!

Links of the Day

When I get right-wing troll comments, I feel like I've made it. Good for me.

Here's some links...

-Abu Ghraib torture the work of a few bad apples? Or is the tree just rotten?:
Former Abu Ghraib Guard Calls Top Brass Culpable for Abuse

Wife of Jailed Soldier Says Tactics Were in Place From Start

-Oops, I'm mentioning Halliburton, I hope Osama doesn't steal my 'talking points'!!111!11:
Halliburton Cited in Iraq Contamination

-Diebold systems... prone to voter fraud? Suuurrre, Florida, I believe you:
As Elections Near, Officials Challenge Balloting Security

Join The Party!

Next week, President Bush will be giving the first State of the Union address of 2006.

I'm sure the President will be reminding us that we live in perilous times (so fuck all them laws, he's at the zenith of his power!), but that doesn't mean we can't party! The GOP is sending out emails to those on their list with information on how to throw a State of the Union House Party (where all my Republicans at!). Click below to get started... Remember today is the last day to sign up to get a special GOP House Party Packet!!!

As the email states, "The President's State of the Union Address is one of the most important political events of the year". It is something to share with all your fellow Republicans. Share some nachos with the guys and discuss the greatness of the Republican party! Note, as per Ken Mehlman's orders, the following topics are off limits: Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay, Bill Frist, Bob Ney, pretty much Congress all together, FISA, the Fourth amendment, New Orleans, Iraq, Afghanistan, body armor, torture, civil liberties, Republicans concerned with civil liberties, oil prices, Patrick Fitzgerald's ongoing investigation, and Medicare. Beyond that, you should be fine! Stick to these guidelines and you'll have a blast!

Why just look at how much fun these kids are having! Not one left behind!

To be helpful, I've created this helpful drinking game-

*Take one shot when:
-The President mentions the 9/11 attacks (you can stop if the count passes 35)
-The President uses the above to justify illegal actions (ie. warrantless wiretaps)
-The President proposes a half-assed, doomed-to-fail Medicare plan (see: last year's Social Security scam)
-The Republicans start applauding for the most random lines
-The Democrats boo

*Take two shots when:
-The President distinguishes between open and honest debate... and the unamerican stuff liberals are saying.
-The President mentions freedom
-The President reminds us how totally awesome those Iraqi elections were (and that's totally why we invaded in the first place, ya know)
-The President mentions the threat of Iran and assures us a diplomatic solution can be reached
-The President then adds overly aggressive rhetoric anyway to remind them we're tough
-Dennis Hastert forces a smile

*Take 75 shots and check for flying pigs when:
-The President mentions Jack Abramoff
-The President apologizes for that "uranium" line from the January '03 speech
-The President reiterates a committment to rebuilding Iraq
-The President explains in honest and clear detail why he had to bypass the rubberstamp FISA system and break the law when everything he says he needs to do (spy on terrorists with great vigilance and speed) was completely possible legally and with a warrant, why he failed to fully notify Congress as legally required, why datamining and surveillance of innocent/activist Americans are being reported, and acknowledges that opposition to this illegal behavior is equal among Democrats and Republicans.

You may need to assign a designated driver.

Finally- don't forget to order your party packs!

Arianna Huffington makes her plans:
State of the Union 2006: Make Your Party Plans Now

Also, the Keyboard Kommandos unveil the New Freedom in time for the speech- Deal 'F' For Freedom

[PS- A sneak peek- Bush Previews State of the Union Themes (AP) ]


Rep. James Harman plays the voice of reason to the GOP's Osama=Democrats talking points-
"I think Karl Rove made a big mistake last Friday to use this issue as his opening salvo to Republican operatives... The terrorists aren't going to check our party registration before they blow us up. ... We're under attack as America."

From this article: Lawmakers Say Will Press Bush on Spying (AP)
Several lawmakers said Sunday they will press President Bush to justify his decision to allow domestic eavesdropping, rebuffing GOP suggestions their criticism of broad executive authority puts the nation at risk...

Spy Hard

Spying on Americans? C'mon guys, this is sooo 1960s.

Newsweek exposes the secret enemies of the Pentagon: PB&J-eating protestors and Quakers...
The Other Big Brother

The Pentagon has its own domestic spying program. Even its leaders say the outfit may have gone too far.

More on those terrorist Quakers: U.S. accused of spying on those who disagree with Bush policies

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Sen. McCain: "I hate America."

Sen. McCain breaks ones one of President Bush's three rules of political discussion by mentioning oil politics...

AP: McCain: U.S. Can't Be Held Hostage for Oil
A top Republican lawmaker said Sunday that America must explore alternate energy sources to avoid being held hostage by Iran or by "wackos" in Venezuela — an apparent reference to Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's populist president...

Alternate energy sources? Go drive your hybrid to Starbucks, ya damn hippie. Oil is the only energy resource we need. You granola freaks probably want me to put a solar panel on my SUV. If we need more oil, we'll just dig up Alaska (congressional approval or not); that'll tide us over a few months.

This unamerican liberal Senator also had the nerve to question the President's power-zenithness...

ThinkProgress: McCain: Bush Does Not Have “The Legal Authority To Engage In These Warrantless Wiretaps”
Today on Fox News Sunday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Bush’s warrantless domestic wiretapping program is illegal:
WALLACE: But you do not believe that currently he has the legal authority to engage in these warrant-less wiretaps.

MCCAIN: You know, I don’t think so, but why not come to Congress? We can sort this all out. I don’t think — I know of no member of Congress, frankly, who, if the administration came and said here’s why we need this capability, that they wouldn’t get it. And so let’s have the hearings.

Crooks and Liars has video: McCain on Wiretapping: " I don't think so."

First he tries to rain on our torture parade, now this?! Sen. McCain must be stopped at all costs.


"We have a two party system- the Democratic Party, which is a party of no ideas; And the Republican Party, which is a party of bad ideas."
-Lewis Black, correctly summarizing American politics

[Video- here]

The World According To Dennis Miller

"Is Iraq an optimum scenario? No. Is it ever in war? Do I wish there was a country called Al Qeadia where we could have started all of this? Of course I do. But guess what. There isn't. So Saddam Hussein and his punk sons were just unlucky enough to draw the wonka ticket in the asshole lottery."
-Dennis Miller on his new HBO special, explaining the complicated history of the Iraq war to us common folk (and using the same exact joke he made on the Daily Show 9 months ago).

He also made this statement, letting us know where he stands on critical and independent thought:
"I'll tell you this. If I didn't believe in this war, in public I would lie and say I did 'til all these kids were home."

If you have HBO and the free time, I recommend watching this special, especially if you are a fan of Cialis jokes and 2 year old references to the Democratic presidential primaries. Bonus chuckles come during his rant on why he doesn't buy the idea of global warming because "I'm sorry, but isn't the sun supposed to be hot?". Dennis Miller, meet 2006 please.

Darn That Liberal Media, Pt. 2

Eric Alterman explores how the media tends to blow off and insult liberals, even when they are in fact right. This has been the trend for a few years now, but the rise of the blogosphere and more access for giving feedback to journalists/pundits has lead to a pushback. This pushback has lead many media reporters to get territorial and become hostile to bloggers (ie. Time magazine's Joe Klein). But Alterman that these insults occur at the expense of the truth...
The Alito hearings may not have revealed much about the new Supreme Court Associate Justice's constitutional views, but they did highlight the pro-Bush bias that continues to characterize most mainstream debate. CNN's Wolf Blitzer, as reliable a weather vane for conventional wisdom as can be found anywhere, continually skewed his coverage to reflect the Republican Party's talking points, announcing, "Some Democrats are delivering an early verdict on Alito's performance" without asking whether Republicans were doing the same...

...Liberal war opponents were clearly correct about the self-defeating stupidity of Bush's Iraq misadventure, but pundits treat their foresight as a kind of disqualifying handicap...

... [Time's Joe] Klein writes, "A strong majority would favor the NSA program...if its details were declassified and made known." In fact, when an Associated Press poll asked Americans if the Bush Administration should be required to get a warrant before wiretapping, 56 percent answered affirmatively....

...[W]hat Klein mocks as fetishism and a Vietnam hangover is the law of the land, according to fourteen scholars of constitutional law and former government officials who wrote to Congress that "the program appears on its face to violate existing law." The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service also reported that it is "unlikely that a court would hold that Congress has expressly or impliedly authorized the NSA electronic surveillance operations," and added that the Bush/Klein argument "does not seem to be...well-grounded."

So here, apparently, is the punditocracy argument in a nutshell: Never mind that liberals are constitutionally correct. Never mind that their view is supported by a majority of Americans. And never mind that the Bush Administration has repeatedly lied to the American people on exactly these issues. Never mind, most of all, the truth.

PS- Atrios looks at Joe Klein's Shiavo flip-flop as an example of this attitude.

Darn That Liberal Media, Pt. 1

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo explores the Washington Post/bloggers story and how it marks a turning point in a larger trend... a media that tends to default to Republican talking points out of 'bias' fears. In the process, they end up becoming biased. Blogger feedback seeks to correct that. Here's what Josh has to say-
...So much of the imbalance and shallowness of press coverage today stems from a simple fact: reporters know they'll catch hell from the right if they say or write anything that can even remotely be construed as representing 'liberal bias'. (Often even that's not required.) Indeed, when you actually watch -- from the inside -- how mainstream newsrooms work, it is really not too much to say that they operate on two guiding principles: reporting the facts and avoiding impressions of 'liberal bias'.

On the left or center-left, until very recently, there's simply never been an organized chorus of people ready to take the Howells of the press biz to task and mau-mau them when they get a key fact wrong. Without that, the world of political news was like an NBA game where one side played the refs hard and had roaring seats of fans while the other never made a peep. With that sort of structural imbalance, shoddy scorekeeping and cowed, and eventually compliant, refs are inevitable.

This is evening the balance, creating a better press.

Agreed. Leave the talking points to the Ailes crew. An equally critical, aggressive, and factual press is all we ask.

George + Jack = Crazy Scandalicious

The White House has been stonewalling on their relationship with Jack Abramoff.

This would indicate that they're hiding something or just worried in general. New pictures may expose the truth...

Time magazine: When George Met Jack-

White House aides deny the President knew lobbyist Abramoff, but unpublished photos shown to TIME suggest there's more to the story

As details poured out about the illegal and unseemly activities of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, White House officials sought to portray the scandal as a Capitol Hill affair with little relevance to them. Peppered for days with questions about Abramoff's visits to the White House, press secretary Scott McClellan said the now disgraced lobbyist had attended two huge holiday receptions and a few "staff-level meetings" that were not worth describing further. "The President does not know him, nor does the President recall ever meeting him," McClellan said.

The President's memory may soon be unhappily refreshed. TIME has seen five photographs of Abramoff and the President that suggest a level of contact between them that Bush's aides have downplayed...

Links of the Day

I would be watching Meet The Press right now, but I value my precious brain cells...

-No good can come from this:
Israeli Hints at Preparation to Stop Iran

-Last year, the President thought he could reinvent Social Security. This year he's trying Medicare:
Medicare Drug Program May Harm, Not Help, GOP

-Roe v. Wade? Never heard of it. Was it controversial or something?:
Rallies Mark 33rd Roe V. Wade Anniversary

Cut And Run

From The Observer (UK):
Colin Powell, who warned President Bush on the eve of the Iraq war that US forces would have to stay for the long haul after toppling Saddam, yesterday predicted that troop withdrawals would begin by the end of this year...

The 'stay the course' rhetoric has again been revealed for what we knew it was all along- a shallow and purely political move to stop the Democrats from putting forth their withdrawal proposal... so that the Republicans could enact theirs. And just in time for the '06 election cycle too!

As I noted last month, "President Bush will not predicate our departure upon the Iraqis or when his generals (who he doesn't listen to anyway) say so. That decision is/was always going to be made when it's politically convenient for Bush. If his approval ratings hit 30%, or the Republicans look like they might lose the '06 elections, expect to see convoys of returning troops on every TV station."

Oh, let's not forget that whole 'rebuilding Iraq' plan has been scrapped. Thanks for having us over, Iraq! Sorry about the mess!