Saturday, February 11, 2006

Opposition to the President's Warrantless Domestic Spying Is...


NY Times: Republican Speaks Up, Leading Others to Challenge Wiretaps

Washington Post: Bob Barr, Bane of the Right?

Karl Rove and the White House have picked the wrong wedge issue; this is a fight they will lose.

And that's not just because I believe Americans care just as much about their freedoms as they do their safety (a few scary speeches and many will sadly be cowed back into submission), but because I don't believe the White House can convince people that their illegal surveillance has helped us more than the exact same surveillance, but done legally, would have (to the contrary, in fact). So far, the only thing that appears to be gained with illegal, warrantless spying over legal, FISA-warranted spying is... more power for the White House and its unitary executive.

They have thus far failed to provide any evidence to prove me wrong.

The recent LA speech song-and-dance about a thwarted attack was missing one thing- any mention or evidence that warrantless spying revealed the plot (in which terrorists would've hijacked a plane with shoebombs, as if they wouldn't just blow themselves up in the act). The President used the timing of that speech to imply a conclusion without ever stating it. Luckily, many in the media are onto their game at last. The only plot mentioned in conjunction with the program - the Brooklyn Bridge one- had not only been mentioned before, but would've been found out through other means (otherwise it wouldn't have been mentioned before the NSA revelations), and was so laughable as an actual plan the terrorists abandoned it themselves before we even found out.

The White House's secret actions have damaged our national security credibility, harmed our ability to prosecute terror suspects, and overloaded the respective investigative agencies with useless information leading mostly to innocent Americans. People can be made to understand that. And the fact that it almost assuredly violates our Constitution and the values of this country, well hopefully people can understand that too. The President needs to understand that fear and loyalty will only get you so much support.

[Related blog post by Glenn Greenwald- Blasphemy in the Cult of Bush]

Dick Cheney: An American Anti-Hero, Pt. II

In regards to the new revelation that Scooter Libby "had been 'authorized' by Cheney and other White House 'superiors' in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists" in their attempt to smear critic Joseph Wilson, many new questions are posed. One such question, as asked by Firedoglake's Jane Hamsher, is "Did Dick Cheney have the right to declassify information just on his say-so?". She attempts to find the answer here-

Could Cheney Declassify the NIE?

Her conclusion?
So Dick Durbin had to bite his tongue and watch the country go to war on what he knew to be a steaming pile bullshit because the NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] was classified and he couldn't speak about the INR dissent. The public remained blissfully ignorant and thousands died.

But Cheney told Scooter he could fling it around like a dirty napkin while he and Judy were buttering each other's toast at the St. Regis for no other purpose than perpetuating a public, ass-covering hoax.

Such is the regard that Dick, Scooter and the rest of the future perps treat national secrets and their own security clearances.

If the President is wiretapping dangerous enemies to the U.S., I have this to say... the call is coming from inside the house.

Dick Cheney: An American Anti-Hero, Pt. I

Andrew Sullivan examines the Vice President's impeccable record-

Adding them up. In recent days, leading Republicans have called for the Bush administration wire-tapping surveillance program to have some kind of legal framework, outside what David Addington thinks is appropriate on any given day; a key CIA intelligence expert confirms the notion that vice president Dick Cheney was not seriously interested in finding the whole truth about Iraq's WMD program, and railroaded the intelligence to produce the result he wanted; we have learned from the head of FEMA that the president knew fully about the dangers poised by Hurricane Katrina in plenty of time to coordinate a much better response; and we know that assurances by the administration about who's in Guantanamo Bay and why have been lies. We have also learned that the vice-president routinely authorized the release of classified information to advance his political goals, told Scooter Libby of Valerie Plame's identity, discussed how to handle the press, and shortly after one of the Libby-Cheney discussions, Plame's identity was leaked. The one thread between all these instances of incompetence, malice and poor judgment is that the sources are either impeccable or Republicans. And the person responsible all of them ... is Dick Cheney.

Hey, don't leave out King George, under whose command all this was done.

First Bush/Abramoff Photo Surfaces

The NY Times has a look at the first photo to leak...

Photograph Shows Lobbyist at Bush Meeting With Legislators
...By itself, the picture hardly seems worthy of the White House's efforts to keep it out of the public eye. Mr. Abramoff, a leading Republican fund-raiser who pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to corrupt public officials, is little more than a blurry, bearded figure in the background at a gathering of about two dozen people.

But it provides a window, albeit an opaque one, into Mr. Abramoff's efforts to sell himself to Indian tribes as a man of influence who could open the most secure doors in Washington to them. And it leaves unanswered questions about how Mr. Abramoff and the tribal leader, whom he was trying to sign as a client, gained access to a meeting with the president on the White House grounds that was ostensibly for a group of state legislators who were supporting Mr. Bush's 2001 tax cut plan...

Definitely not the most revealing picture, but Abramoff's presence there speaks volumes.

By the way, according to one poll anyway, people find Abramoff's version of events more credible than Bush's. And that's sad. Also, new court filings link three more congressman to Mr. Abramoff.

Finally- The LA Times has details on just what a scumbag this man is:
Abramoff's Charity Began at Home

The lobbyist admits he used nonprofits to evade taxes, pad his pockets and bribe officials.

Time magazine has more details on the photo... including quotes from Abramoff himself.

Links of the Day

Going to see Billy Joel tonight, hope we don't get snowed in at the Garden.

Here's some links to burn if you need to stay warm...

-Hypocrisy, thy name is Ken Starr:
Starr accused of sending fake clemency pleas

Prosecutors: Ex-independent counsel fabricated letters on inmate’s behalf

-Evangelical Christians are challenging kids... to reject science:
Their Own Version of a Big Bang

Those who believe in creationism -- children and adults -- are being taught to challenge evolution's tenets in an in-your-face way.

-Congress shut down the Total Information Awareness program in 2003; but it's secretly been spun off:
UPDATE: Total Information Awareness Lives

Lieberman <3 Hannity

Ohhh Senator Joe, dude, seriously, you have got to go.

Crooks and Liars has audio- Sean Hannity-Joe Lieberman Love Fest

If you live in Connecticut, encourage Ned Lamont to run for Senate.

[Hat tip- Atrios]

"Hey, Did We Start A War Last Year? Let's Check On That."

I quickly linked yesterday to the story on Paul Pillar, the former CIA official coordinating U.S. intelligence on the Middle East until last year, who is reiterating that the White House cherry-picked intelligence and who said "It has become clear that official intelligence was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between [Bush] policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community's own work was politicized."... Well, Crooks and Liars points out this section, which I missed-

Pillar wrote that the first request he received from a Bush policymaker for an assessment of post-invasion Iraq was "not until a year into the war."

That assessment, completed in August 2004, warned that the insurgency in Iraq could evolve into a guerrilla war or civil war. It was leaked to the media in September in the midst of the presidential campaign, and Bush, who had told voters that the mission in Iraq was going well, described the assessment to reporters as "just guessing."

'Way too late, after the fact post-war assessments? Bring 'em on.' - President Bush

The Truth

Al Franken sets the record straight on the Wellstone funeral- with some passing thoughts on the King one as well-

Reflections on the Wellstone Memorial and the King Funeral

Friday, February 10, 2006

An Absence of Leadership

Well, Brownie's testimony (along with other Homeland Security officials) is over... Here's the gist of it: Brown places blame on White House/Homeland Security. They, in turn, blame Brown. The real answer is, of course, that everyone screwed up. When their country needed them the most, our leaders were all was asleep at the wheel.

This graphic that was on Huffington Post says it all about their leadership-

The AP has details on the testimony-
Former federal disaster chief Michael Brown testified Friday he notified top White House and Homeland Security officials on the day Hurricane Katrina roared ashore that "we were realizing our worst nightmare" and New Orleans was seriously flooding...

If you didn't read it yet, today's NY Times provides the essential timeline of the failures:
White House Knew of Levee's Failure on Night of Storm

ThinkProgress has an even more detailed timeline- here.

I believe in the real world they call this 'criminal negligence'.

Here is an odd statement made by Brown-
Brown suggested the administration's fixation with fighting terrorism may have been to blame, in part, for the slow government response...

...Had there been a report that "a terrorist had blown up the 17th Street Canal levee, then everybody would have jumped all over that," Brown added

This is a very odd and stupid distinction to make. Why does it matter what caused the levee to break? All that matters is that the city of New Orleans was flooding... and experiencing far more widespread damage than has been caused in terrorist attacks. As Atrios notes, "Dealing with the aftermath of a terrorist attack is pretty much exactly like dealing with a major national disaster. It's the precisely the same thing from that perspective. For what possible reason would one cause of death and chaos invite a greater emergency response than another?"... Is that the cost of the administration's obession with terrorism? That the citizens of this country become an afterthought?

I watched some of the hearings this afternoon. The part I saw was two Homeland Security officials being questioned and responding to the new information Brown revealed. One of the officials blew off the emails Brown sent out about the flooding, saying they were "in the middle of the night" and no one could have seen. The Senator corrected him, noting the first email was at around 9:30pm and asked incrediously if, during such an emergency, everyone really shut off their computers and went home to sleep. The DHS official sheepishly admitted that, no, they did not. So they were aware. Brown, by the way, also states he personally informed White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card of the situation. Finally, as the Senator told the DHS official, the "we didn't know" defense was complete bullshit because all they had to do was turn on CNN and see that the city was being flooded.

Now, while I am glad to see Brown coming clean and finally revealing this info, I am hoping that everyone resists the urge to let him off the hook. Mr. Heck-Of-A-Job himself has plenty of blood on his hands. While FEMA's man in New Orleans, Marty Bahamonde, was frantically begging FEMA to get down there and help... he was blown off and told to leave Mr. Brown alone while he ate his dinner. Bahamonde was livid at this reaction to his pleas, noting that the people in the Superdome were eating MREs and shitting on the floor. And let us also not forget the emails that revealed Brown's "let them eat cake" attitude toward the destruction in New Orleans.

There was also Sec. of State Condoleeza Rice shoe shopping in NYC and laughing it up at Broadway shows.

And what about the President's role in all of this?

ReddHedd at Firedoglake has some great coverage and thoughts on the Katrina hearings. She asks, in response to the revelations that the White House was told on August 29 of the flooding (earlier than they previously claimed to have been informed), "Is that why the President stayed on vacation, until forced to return to the WH by public disgust and outcry? Why he told Dianne Sawyer that no one could have anticipated the levee breach? Why the President said the next morning after Katrina that New Orleans had "dodged a bullet?". She earlier noted that the only two possibilities are that: "[E]ither no one told the President what was going on in New Orleans -- or he knew and just went about his business without caring one bit about the disaster that had befallen New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf region."

Neither possibility is without precedent. If Bush knew and went about his business (fiddling while Rome burned), it is just like September 11 when the President went into his classroom photo-op after being informed of the first tower being hit. And then when told of the second tower being hit, he stayed in the classroom until his handlers finally escorted him out. If he was genuinely unaware (which is equally horrid), the precedent is last May's plane scare in Washington DC. That incident involved a plane flying erratically over the area (later found out to be an error); an attack was feared. The White House, Capitol Building, and other important buildings were evacuated.... But the President wasn't even informed until it was all over- He was riding his bike nearby. As I noted on my old blog, "In a moment of crisis, it was decided that, in the grand scheme of things, the President was unimportant."

This is a President who cut a vacation short for Terri Schiavo, but wouldn't do the same for New Orleans.

It should be noted again that, four years after 9/11, there was no excuse not to have a plan to respond to this kind of scenario. Especially since preparation scenarios for levee failures were discussed. And especially since their own website stated that "In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility [for] providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort"... If this had been a terrorist attack (biological, nuclear, or just destructive in general), we'd all be screwed. And yet no repercussions for the President whose entire reelection pitch was "I can protect you".

An American city was nearly destroyed on their watch... why is this being treated like just another political story?

[PS- Congress swore Mr. Brown in... what an odd concept.]

Timing Is Everything, Pt. II

Time magazine dissects the politics of the President's thwarted L.A. terror plot announcement-

The Finer Points of the L.A. Terror Plot

The President revealed new details of the foiled 2002 terror plot to show off how well he works with allies. With 13 Al Qaeda prisoners on the loose from Yemen, Bush needs all the help he can get

[PS- Keith Olbermann explored this on his show last night as well.]

Links of the Day

Days off are nice. Here's some links...

-A CIA official in charge of Middle East intelligence during the war buildup reiterates that the White House cherry-picked intel:
White House misused Iraq intelligence: ex-official

-The Iraq election results have been confirmed; celebratory car bombings ensue:
Iraq's Shiite alliance confirmed as poll winners

-Reelection behind him, NYC's mayor returns to his liberal roots (thanks, Mike):
With Green Light, Mayor Makes a Sharp Left

A Fight We Can Win

Sen. Evan Bayh calls out his fellow Democrats who are too afraid to fight the White House on the national security issue-

Money quote:
So today, I say to Mr. Rove and his fellow partisan strategists: You have thrown down the gauntlet, and we will pick it up.

As a lifelong Democrat I welcome this debate, because it is one we can win. George W. Bush's saying he wants the 2006 election to be about national security is like Herbert Hoover proudly claiming that the 1930 election should be a referendum on the economy. And if the Democratic Party can get its national security act together, the result should be the same.

Daaaaaammmmnn, them's fighting words! I love it!

The Senator promises to take this debate all over the country. Good for him.

Considering the numerous national security failures of this administration (Iraq, Katrina, etc.), it really shouldn't be hard to explain to the American people why they need a political course correction. The reason Rove and the White House are fighting so hard on this issue is because they know it's their greatest vulnerability. Kudos to people like Sen. Bayh who aren't afraid to call them on it.

Libby's Bombshell

"Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country."
-President George W. Bush

"I never leak. I de-classify."
-Henry Kissinger

Murray Waas continues his great reporting on the Libby case with this bombshell...

Cheney 'Authorized' Libby to Leak Classified Information
Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records...

(bold added by me)

So Libby's defense tactic seems to be throwing the blame onto a supposedly untouchable White House.

Mostly, though, it further exposes how broad the conspiracy to out Plame was. While the article doesn't talk of Cheney directly telling Libby "tell Judy about Valerie Plame!", we know that was the endgame. Libby was smart enough to omit that smoking gun from his grand jury testimony. But as former Time reporter John Dickerson revealed, he was told by White House officials to "go ask the CIA who sent Wilson", further noting that "It seemed obvious that the people pushing me to look into who sent Wilson knew exactly the answer I'd find".

Why is this revelation significant? Well-
First, it significantly adds to a mounting body of information that Cheney played a central and personal role in directing efforts to counter claims by Wilson and other administration critics that the Bush administration had misused intelligence information to go to war with Iraq.

Second, it raises additional questions about Libby's motives in concealing his role in leaking Plame's name to the press, if he was in fact more broadly authorized by Cheney and others to rebut former Ambassador Wilson's charges. The federal grand jury indictment of Libby alleges that he had lied to the FBI and the federal grand jury by claiming that when he provided information to reporters about Plame's CIA employment, he was only passing along what he understood to be unverified gossip that he had heard from other journalists.

Instead, the indictment charges that Libby had in fact learned of Plame's CIA status from at least four government officials, Cheney among them, and from classified documents. Indeed, much of Libby's earliest and most detailed information regarding Plame's CIA employment came directly from the vice president, according to information in Libby's grand jury indictment.

The article later notes his legal strategy is similar to the one used by Oliver North. What great company to be in.

Andrew Sullivan weighs in:
So some intelligence matters are so important that the administration will not divulge them even to critical members of Congress. But others are leaked to journalists to win a political war. This is a pointed reminder that when the administration says it is withholding information to protect national security, a hefty dose of skepticism is in order. The same goes for their assurance that their wire-tapping has never been abused. Remind me again: at this point, why should we trust them?

We shouldn't.

Once again, we see why this White House cannot be trusted on matters of national security. This is just the tip of the iceberg. It may take years for all the facts to come to light, but what we know already does not paint a pretty picture. Good people like Patrick Fitzgerald and Murray Waas will keep digging. And we are grateful to them for it.

Mr. Brownie Goes To Washington

Michael Brown is scheduled to testify before Congress again today.

Unless the White House instructs him otherwise, he is prepared to tell all... Ex-FEMA chief: I may tell all about Katrina

Michael Brown asks White House if they want him to stay quiet

Former disaster agency chief Michael Brown is indicating he is ready to reveal his correspondence with President Bush and other officials during Hurricane Katrina unless the White House forbids it and offers legal support....

What is there to reveal? Well, for starters, there's this-
White House Knew of Levee's Failure on Night of Storm (NY Times)
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Bush administration officials said they had been caught by surprise when they were told on Tuesday, Aug. 30, that a levee had broken, allowing floodwaters to engulf New Orleans.

An examination of documents shines a new light on the government response to Hurricane Katrina.
But Congressional investigators have now learned that an eyewitness account of the flooding from a federal emergency official reached the Homeland Security Department's headquarters starting at 9:27 p.m. the day before, and the White House itself at midnight.

I highly, highly recommend reading this. It details all that went wrong, at federal and local levels.

And Brownie states now that he did personally inform the White House of the situation-
Michael D. Brown, who was the director of FEMA until he resigned under pressure on Sept. 12, said in a telephone interview Thursday that he personally notified the White House of this news that night, though he declined to identify the official he spoke to.

But far be it for such news to cause our leaders to cut their vacations short...
But the alert did not seem to register. Even the next morning, President Bush, on vacation in Texas, was feeling relieved that New Orleans had "dodged the bullet," he later recalled. Mr. Chertoff, similarly confident, flew Tuesday to Atlanta for a briefing on avian flu. With power out from the high winds and movement limited, even news reporters in New Orleans remained unaware of the full extent of the levee breaches until Tuesday.

The federal government let out a sigh of relief when in fact it should have been sounding an "all hands on deck" alarm, the investigators have found.

Let that one sink in, folks.

I mean that doesn't sound like anything to be concerned about, right? After all, don't major American cities get drowned all the time? [*hits head on desk*] It was the Florida classroom all over again... This, THIS, is the supposed party of national security? These are the people who claim they are the only ones who can protect us? If they can't protect people from a storm and poor levees they knew about far in advance, can any sane person trust them on the terror front?

Remember, Americans: Homeland security begins at home. These people failed when it mattered most. There needs to be accountability for this.

The anger I felt that week remains. I won't forget New Orleans.

Watching The Watchmen

Below is a roundup of links relating to the investigation of the President's secret spying program...

The main one I wanted to highlight was this by the Washington Times' magazine-
Wiretaps fail to make dent in terror war; al Qaeda used messengers

In the post I did last night, I detailed growing concerns about not just the program's legality... but its effectiveness as well. After all, if a program is not only a gross violation of law, but useless for national security, then the President's crimes are doubled. The article begins, "The Bush administration's surveillance policy has failed to make a dent in the war against al Qaeda". It also later notes this startling revelation- "despite the huge amount of raw material gathered under the legislation, the FBI has not captured one major al Qaeda operative in the United States. Instead, federal authorities have been allowed to use non-terrorist material obtained through the surveillance program for investigation and prosecution."

Surprising revelations coming from a publication that is normally very pro-Bush. I think this represents an interesting shift in some conservative corners. Distrust of the government used to be a staple of conservatism. Maybe it's making a comeback.

-The administration's assurances that the spying program doesn't involve domestic activity doesn't make sense with their main argument:
Limiting NSA Spying Is Inconsistent With Rationale, Critics Say

-Glenn Greenwald explores this point as well... and notes how Gonzales' language may indicate a second program:
A Catch-22 for the Administration

-A Salon columnist also explores the rhetorical tricks employed by Gonzales:
Words by Gonzales, logic by Kafka

Alberto Gonzales' bizarre defense of Bush's illegal domestic spying revealed him to have unsuspected imaginative gifts.

-ThinkProgress catches Gonzales in another lie- this one on FISA's probable-cause requirement:
Washington Post: Gonzales Misled Congress Again

And where do we go from here?

-Former Deputy Attorney General Comey (who tried to stop the program) has been asked to testify:
Comey Asked by Specter to Testify Before Judiciary Committee

-White House talking points of solely Democratic concern continues to get squashed:
Majority Leader Boehner Supports Congressional Investigation Of Bush’s Warrantless Surveillance

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Bush's Social Security Sleight of Hand

Last year, the President made Social Security privatization the centerpiece of his second term agenda. Congress (but more importantly- the American people) were unimpressed and the President was forced to accept defeat. He acknowledged this in his State of the Union with all the quiet anger of a spoiled child. He didn't re-offer his proposal and just made some vague comments, asking Congress "to join me in creating a commission to examine the full impact of baby-boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid". He stated this commission would "offer bipartisan solutions"... In reality, once again, the President actually wants to work with no one.

The President found a solution of his own- put forth a version of his original proposal in secret (hidden in his federal budget proposal) and hope Congress doesn't say anything. Checks and balances, we hardly knew ye. I am curious just how irrelevant this Congress will allow themselves to become before they push back against this President.

Details on this and what changes will be made in a Newsweek article by Allan Sloan-
Sleight of Hand

Bush buried detailed Social Security privatization proposals in his budget. Can the surprise move jump-start bipartisan reform?"

Last year, even though Bush talked endlessly about the supposed joys of private accounts, he never proposed a specific plan to Congress and never put privatization costs in the budget. But this year, with no fanfare whatsoever, Bush stuck a big Social Security privatization plan in the federal budget proposal, which he sent to Congress on Monday.

His plan would let people set up private accounts starting in 2010 and would divert more than $700 billion of Social Security tax revenues to pay for them over the first seven years.

Read the full article for details and how Congress could still get involved in this.

I don't know why any of this keeps surprising me.

The Hypocrisy Of The Right

Power of Narrative's Arthur Silber challenges the right-wing's hypocrisy on the cartoon fury:
Get Your Propaganda Right Here: Cartoon Lies, and Stoking the Hatred

The detail with which he outlines his argument is worthy reading in full, but here's his main point-
The war propagandists have once again framed this controversy in a way that is deeply dishonest. As the Newsweek onslaught less than a year ago demonstrated -- and that example could be multiplied hundreds of times -- freedom of the press is not exactly a consistently high priority for them. What they truly want, as I pointed out in my entry about the Newsweek brouhaha, is a George Creel press, as in World War I: a press that prints "nothing but good news," 24/7. If they can't achieve official censorship, they'll settle for de facto censorship, achieved by relentless intimidation.

But in the case of the cartoons, the war propagandists now tell us that every news organ in the world is obliged to print them. Nothing less than the future of civilization is at stake. I do not exaggerate: "This really is a case of civilization against the barbarians."

I called out this hypocrisy a week ago, as well. The right is many things, but free speech advocates they're not.

He concludes with a harsh, but accurate, point-
The Bush administration and its most rabid supporters have internalized this view completely: at best, other cultures are inferior to the West. At worst, they are "barbaric" -- and not even human. This pattern of particularly vicious racism is a commonplace in American history, especially in wartime.

PS- For the some of the most hysterical, warmongering far-right shrill on the net, see Fox News darling Michelle Malkin in action (FreeRepublic and others provide similar examples, to a lesser extent). Unlike some others, she doesn't even bother to contain the glee with she stokes the fires. Ann Coulter may have been the only one to openly say we need to kill all these people or convert them to Christianity, but many others did share the same general sentiment, particularly right after 9/11.

We are fighting a serious war on terror and these people want a watered-down Crusades.

Timing Is Everything

Was the President being 100% honest in a speech describing a thwarted 2002 attack on Los Angeles?

The city's mayor had some questions about the announcement-
L.A. Mayor Blindsided by Bush Announcement

Some White House Press Corp members also had questions about what Bush reported today.

Links of the Day

Hey, remember when Vice President Cheney voted against making Martin Luther King Day a national holiday? Not sure why I thought of that this week. Good times.

Here's some links...

-It's an election year, so time for curiously-timed terror speeches from Bush:
Bush Details 2002 al-Qaida Plot on L.A.

-Congress continues to debate the merits of the Patriot Act:
Tentative Deal Is Reached on Patriot Act

-Finally, Sen. Frist sneaks lawsuit protection for pharmaceutical companies into a key Defense bill. That's Bill Frist- always looking out for the little guy.
Hastert, Frist said to rig bill for drug firms

Can't We All Just Get Along?

People, when Hamas is calling for peace... this situation has gotten out of control.

AP: Hamas joins call for calm in cartoon row
The radical Palestinian group Hamas joined voices for calm in the international furore sparked by cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, as a Taliban commander in Afghanistan said 100 suicide bombers were lined up on the side of further violence.

Hamas "is prepared to play a role in calming the situation between the Islamic world and Western countries on condition that these countries commit themselves to putting an end to attacks against the feelings of Muslims," the organisation's leader Khaled Meshaal told a news conference...

As I said yesterday, the solution is just so ridiculously obvious- Stop the violence on the first end, and stop offending Muslims because free speech gives you the right on the other. The Europeans can help by apologizing for unintentionally offending Muslims and the Muslims will stop, ya know, burning embassies. That's what I ask- humility for Europe, thicker skin for Muslims. I won't hold my breath, but I will hope for compromise.

For those still unfamiliar with this, Wikipedia fills in the blanks.

[PS- What the hell will poor Michelle Malkin do when it's over? Sorry, Michelle, you'll have to find a new outlet for your racism!]

I Have The Right To Post This!

In light of yesterday's revelations by Reuters that "The Danish newspaper that first published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad infuriating Muslims worldwide previously turned down cartoons of Jesus as too offensive", I have decided to fill in that blank. I have created some images of Jesus (using the themes of the Mohammed cartoons) based on the same original intent the Danish newspapers had when they commissioned the Mohammed pieces...
The modern, secular society is rejected by some [CHRISTIANS]. They demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own religious feelings. It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where you must be ready to put up with insults, mockery and ridicule. It is certainly not always attractive and nice to look at, and it does not mean that religious feelings should be made fun of at any price, but that is of minor importance in the present context.

And so I have invited myself to draw Jesus as I see him-

Here is another I did not create, but I really like- Link.

And hey, remember, I'm not trying to be offensive here, I'm just making a statement about intolerance (and maybe being intolerant in the act). If my work should happen to cause violence and rioting among the group I am commenting on here, that only means that I am more right, and should continue to post these images in greater visibility. And if you Christians don't like it... well you can go suck on a crucifix. After all, I have the democratic high ground here, and I'm just smug enough to let everyone know it, no matter the price.

[Related editorial- Muslim Cartoons: That's Enough, All of You!]

It's The Actually Winning Elections, Stupid!

This NY Times article has a lot of people talking...

Some Democrats Are Sensing Missed Opportunities
Democrats are heading into this year's elections in a position weaker than they had hoped for, party leaders say, stirring concern that they are letting pass an opportunity to exploit what they see as widespread Republican vulnerabilities...

...Democrats described a growing sense that they had failed to take full advantage of the troubles that have plagued Mr. Bush and his party since the middle of last year, driving down the president's approval ratings, opening divisions among Republicans in Congress over policy and potentially putting control of the House and Senate into play in November...

A few Democrats and liberal bloggers were upset by the article... but only because it's true. Some conservatives are likely grinning too (Karl Rove was so wrapped up in the article, he almost forgot to fax Roger Ailes the day's talking points), but if the best you can say is that the Democrats are too inept to capitalize on the increasing foul stench coming from ones party, well that's not much to brag about.

For an analysis of the Democratic pity-party, read this- Kick Me, I'm a Democrat

Back to the NY Times article, though... Despite having apparently spoken to no Democrats for the article itself, Mr. Nagourney is quick to create a narrative for their election year struggles, critics of his piece say. I say the article speaks for itself. If I were the Democratic Party chairman (sorry, Howard, you ain't cutting it), I would print this article out (with my own money, not the taxpayers' money!) and head down to Capitol Hill and hand it out to every Democratic Senator and Congressman. If any copies were left over, I might consider letting Joe Lieberman have one as well. Just to be nice. I would also distribute the article to all the challengers for Republican-held seats too. "Take notes!", I would say. "Why the hell can't you all find a way to defeat a party as shamelessly corrupt and incompetent as the Republicans (without resorting to heartland Christian pandering)?!!", I would demand angrily. I would then appoint an election year war-council, pick a Gingrich-esque leader (sans the hypocrisy), and launch a non-stop media effort and cross-country speaking tour to inform the American people of the positions, values, and promises my party will offer when they take control of Congress.

I mean... is that so crazy?

Money quote from the article-
Democrats said they had not yet figured out how to counter the White House's long assault on their national security credentials. And they said their opportunities to break through to voters with a coherent message on domestic and foreign policy — should they settle on one — were restricted by the lack of an established, nationally known leader to carry their message this fall.

As a result, some Democrats said, their party could lose its chance to do to Republicans this year what the Republicans did to them in 1994: make the midterm election, normally dominated by regional and local concerns, a national referendum on the party in power.

Arianna Huffington has read the article and notes in shared frustration that...
The Democratic arsenal is stocked with powerful weapons -- Iraq, Katrina, Abramoff, Libby, Osama, illegal spying, repeated lying, etc., etc -- and yet, according to the Times, "party leaders are divided about what Democrats should be talking about." What's more, if they ever manage to decide what to talk about, Dems are apparently clueless how they should talk about it -- "divided over whether to take on the Republicans in a more confrontational manner, ideologically and politically, or move more forcefully to stake out the center on social and national issues."

Helpful woman that she is, Arianna has some damn good advice for the Dems-
I've said it again and again and again -- and I guess I'll have to keep saying it: the Democrats will never become the majority party until they can convince the American people that they can keep the country safer than the Republicans. All together now: It's the national security, stupid! And if I sound like a broken record, so should the Democrats...

...The evidence is everywhere: neglected ports and railways. Underfunded first responders. A tripling of terror attacks worldwide. Poor and failing grades from the 9/11 Commission. Osama still on the loose. Iraq as a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists. Al-Qaeda making a comeback in Afghanistan. Depleted troops. Shaky allies. Emboldened enemies.

How to counter the Bush-as-protector myth? Aggressively and unrelentingly. Go after his supposed strength (indeed, his only remaining strength) and show it's actually his greatest vulnerability. The Democratic strategy must follow the old sports truism: the best defense against attacks that they are soft on terror is a great offense against the architects of the bungled response to the war on terror.

Sen. Clinton also has advice for her party- Sen. Clinton Urges Democrats to Speak Up

The President is wrong. The Republican Party is wrong. Polls show the American people are ready to hear that.

It's time the Democrats really let them know it... and how they will do better.

USAToday has a great article on this too: Dems in search of pithy agenda
Democratic leaders say they'll soon release a pithy agenda akin to the "Contract with America" that helped Republicans take over Congress in 1994. But the past two weeks underscore the difficulties of setting clear priorities and speaking with one voice.

I quiver with anticipation.

For an example of someone getting it right, check out former Sen. Max Cleland's article on a band of veterans joining the congressional fight in races all over the nation. Cleland introduces these candidates and notes "There are Fighting Democrats running from New Hampshire to Florida to California". Fighting Democrats- now that's a crazy enough idea to work:
Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fighting Democrats

More of that, please.

[Related- Handful of Races May Tip Control of Congress]

I Spy

Lots of buzz this week in the aftermath of the first round of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the President's warrantless wiretapping program. The buzz on the right seems to be outrage and shock that hearings were even held at all. After all, if his majesty says he has the authority to do it, than why question that? The rest of us are taking a more nuanced approach to the issue. In the wake of what we learned on Monday, the two key questions are: Is this program, and the President's behavior, legal? The Committee members were less than convinced. Second, is the program even effective? Numerous reports have hinted that it might not be.

One interesting story that came out today was this- White House Gives Details on Surveillance

After some serious pressure from Republican Rep. Heather Wilson, the very influential chairwoman of a House Intelligence Committee subcommittee, the White House gave that committee a top-secret briefing on the program. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Gen. Michael Hayden conducted the briefings, the details of which are understandably classified. This major turnaround shows that the White House is a lot more concerned about the political fallout of their actions than their Rove-ian tough guy posturing indicates... They are definitely scared. And they should be. They broke the law, lied about it, and in doing so may have harmed national security. This scandal is far from over.

Let's address program under two issues stated before- legality and effectiveness.

Legality- Numerous reports have come out that rebut the Administration's legal argument for the program. Even Arlen 'No I won't swear in the witness' Specter called their argument "strained". At the conclusion of Monday's hearing, Specter told Gonzales that his argument "just defies logic and plain English". The administration's legal defense of the program, besides resting on the President's constitutionally vague 'Commander in Chief' title, is based on the 2001 Authorization For Use Of Military Force, (which authorized the Afghanistan war). When the White House unveiled this defense, most Senators were quite shocked to learn that the resolution could have given the President any new powers or authorized him to violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (they had been previously been shocked to learn that Gonzales had declared the Geneva Conventions 'obsolete' and 'quaint'). This is because the resolution did no such thing. In fact, as reported by Tom Daschle and others, the President requested such blanket extra authority be added to the resolution and Congress refused. In addition, members of both parties stated at the time the resolution was being drafted that this was the case, including Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) who stated "The resolution is not a blank check". Here are two of the more pertinent quotes-

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

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

After the State of the Union last week, a Boston Globe article came out, describing legal specialists questioning the assertions the President made in the speech. Here is the main gist of that-
But legal specialists said yesterday that wiretaps ordered by previous presidents were put in place before warrants were required for investigations involving national security. Since Congress passed the law requiring warrants in 1978, no president but Bush has defied it, specialists said.

Bush's contention that past presidents did the same thing as he has done ''is either intentionally misleading or downright false," said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor. Only Bush has made the assertion that his wartime powers should supersede an act of Congress, Cole said.

And that is the key issue.

The FISA judges themselves have had numerous legal problems with the program. One even resigned in protest.

The administration's claims of a general consensus of the program's legality are an outright lie. In addition, many have contended (and I believe) that the administration simply thought up this faulty legal argument for the program just last December after the NY Times story leaked the program. The administration has not used the Afghanistan resolution to justify extra-legal actions before and it seems like a very recent decision to do so now.

Effectiveness- Numerous reports have also questioned how effective the program is to begin with. To date, the only success story the administration has openly linked to the program is a self-aborted plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge... with blowtorches. Needless to say, that plan never got off the ground to begin with. Last month, the NY Times reported that "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... [and] virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans." In addition, a Washington Post story just this week states that "Intelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat".

Newsweek has a new article up exploring this issue- Wanted: Competent Big Brothers-
As the Senate frets over whether the NSA has violated the outdated Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, no one is paying attention to the real issue: proficiency.

The article notes-
As our esteemed senators fret over whether the NSA has violated their outdated 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, they are not paying enough attention to the competence issue. And no one seems to recall that the same Senate intelligence committee report from 2002 also criticized the "NSA's cautious approach to any collection of intelligence relating to activities in the United States," and its "failure to address modern communications technology aggressively." In recent years the agency tried to do so, but failed. To little notice, a giant $1 billion-plus program called Trailblazer that was to have brought the NSA up to date in data mining and pattern analysis—transforming the NSA's blizzard of signals intelligence into an easily searchable database—has turned into such a boondoggle that, one intelligence official says, "nothing can be salvaged out of it." "It’s a complete and abject failure," says Robert D. Steele, a CIA veteran who is familiar with the program.

Read the full article for an elaboration on this issue.

The article concludes-
Only one person has the power to slice through the bureaucratic inertia and set real reform in motion: the president of the United States. But to do so, of course, could put the permanent war in jeopardy. And if you’re a "war president," as Bush describes himself, and you want to reassert presidential power, as he does, then permanent war can be a good thing. Perhaps that is why Karl Rove, with his war-works-for-the-GOP campaign strategy for 2006, looks so happy these days. Perhaps it is why the president—who once dismissed Osama bin Laden as unimportant as he diverted the nation’s attention and resources to Iraq—now says that Americans should take the mastermind of 9/11 "seriously." (Wasn’t it just Groundhog Day recently?) Perhaps it is why the Bush administration is now devoting so much to its military buildup while stripping critical education programs needed to make America more competitive, insisting on permanent tax cuts and ensuring monster deficits for decades.

Wait a minute. Drawing the lone superpower into an endless global struggle, draining it of its wealth and will … that was Osama bin Laden’s strategic goal, right? Didn’t we have some intelligence on that once?

Seems like ages ago to me.

So, in both legality and effectiveness, this program is almost the exact opposite of what the White House is claiming it is. The power to do something about this and rein in the President's power rests with Congress. However, that seems less and less likely in an election year with both parties struggling to appear extra tough on terror. In the meantime, we can do our part and stay armed with the facts.

[Related reading- The NSA fight begins - strategies for moving forward]

This Modern World

Tom Tomorrow continues to get the point across...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Like A Kid In A Candy Shop

Like some sort of malicious cat, Tom Delay lands on his feet-

AP: DeLay Lands Coveted Appropriations Spot
Indicted Rep. Tom DeLay, forced to step down as the No. 2 Republican in the House, scored a soft landing Wednesday as GOP leaders rewarded him with a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee.

DeLay, R-Texas, also claimed a seat on the subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department, which is currently investigating an influence-peddling scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his dealings with lawmakers. The subcommittee also has responsibility over NASA — a top priority for DeLay, since the Johnson Space Center is located in his Houston-area district.

Sounds like the Republicans are truly committed to ethics reform!

Washington DC will be cleaned up in no time with key players like... Tom Delay?

Money quote-
DeLay was able to rejoin the powerful Appropriations panel — he was a member until becoming majority leader in 2003 — because of a vacancy created after the resignation of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif. Cunningham pleaded guilty in November to charges relating to accepting $2.4 million in bribes for government business and other favors.

Looks like an even trade then.

Democrats, do you not know how to fight on this issue? Even the American people aren't so stupid this can't be explained to them.


Awwww.... now, isn't this just sweet? Kiss and make up you two!

AP: McCain, Obama Agree to Stop Bickering

Welcome To The I.R., Bitch!

Want to understand the Middle East crisis better, but find the interrelations and conflicts too confusing?

Are you also a fan of "The O.C."?

Then good luck! The Yale Daily News uses the latter to explain the former. Join your cast of characters - America (Ryan), Israel (Seth), Great Britain (Sandy), Iraq (Marissa), Julie (France), Iran (Kaitlin), Russia (Johnny), Italy (Summer), Spain (Kirsten), Saudi Arabia (Taylor Townsend), and Canada (Chilly) - and prepare to learn of a fascinating soap opera which has dominated U.S. foreign policy for 30 years.

Read- Global Conflict, here we coooooooooome

Bush Knows Jack

ThinkProgress has details about emails revealing a closer Bush-Abramoff relationship than the White House has stated. Jack, didn't you learn your lessons about emails? It should also be noted that the White House wouldn't have these problems if they hadn't stonewalled on their Abramoff history in the first place. It's always the coverup, guys!

EXCLUSIVE EMAILS: Jack Abramoff Describes Relationship With President Bush

Here is one email he sent to Washingtonian magazine editor Kim Eisler:

How can I say this strongly enough, Jack: YOU IZ DA MAN!

ThinkProgress states it will also have new details on the Bush/Abramoff photos tomorrow.

[See also- Wall Street Journal: White House Can't Sweep Aside Abramoff]

Mmmmm, Danish....

Well now, isn't this a twist...

Reuters: Danish paper refused "offensive" Jesus cartoons
The Danish newspaper that first published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad infuriating Muslims worldwide previously turned down cartoons of Jesus as too offensive, a cartoonist said on Wednesday...

..."My cartoon, which certainly did not offend any Christians I showed it to, was rejected because the editor felt it would be considered offensive to readers -- readers in general, not necessarily Christians," cartoonist Christoffer Zieler said in an email he sent to Reuters on Wednesday...

I said it before, all parties need to end this charade now.

Stop the violence on the first end, and stop offending Muslims because free speech gives you the right on the other.

[See also this editorial- THE ‘CARTOON RIOTS’:

Speaking The Truth

Politicians, not pundit, react to the funeral of Ms. King and her legacy-

Rep. Sherrod Brown: A Defining American Moment: Honoring Coretta Scott King

Rep. Jan Schakowsky: The "Shocking" Funeral of Coretta Scott King

Rep. Harold Ford, Jr.: Funerals Should Not be Ceremonies to Fabricate

PS- While we discuss her death, let's focus on her life too. As Clinton said, honor her by emulating her.

The Politics Of Indignation

I said my piece last night on the King funeral 'controversy', but some last words...

Firedoglake has a great take on this story, stating "How gauche, how distasteful, how horrible that mourners would use the occasion of Mrs. King's funeral to speak truth to power, we hear from folks who would tell those who marched with Dr. and Mrs. King that they don't know how to behave in public." And that is a key point- who are any of us to tell King's friends and family that they do not know how to conduct themselves properly? Before the outrage was manufactured, watching the clips of the funeral I saw nothing but respect for Ms. King. What concern is it if the genteel sensibilities of the Republican party were offended by some fiery rhetoric, especially given that such a public funeral would never have happened if people like her didn't keep fighting people like them?

The Wellstone funeral has been thrown around as a comparison, since the right feels they 'won' that 'battle', but that is another example of faux-indignation from conservatives who loathed everything the Senator stood for in life and used their anger to take his seat in the Senate away in death. When I die, I wouldn't want outsiders telling my friends that they honored me in the 'wrong' way.

At the end of her blog post, she also explores how quickly the Drudge-Hannity-Rove machine scripted the 'outrage' and got the talking points out to the media (and in time for "Hardball" too!). If they were as good at fighting against inequality and poverty as they are at playing politics, we would need less people like Ms. King or Rev. Lowery.

This outrage and shock is the inevitable result of how the Republican party and White House have kept the President sheltered from any and all criticism all these years; the GOP forgets just how much is out there. Heck, the President refuses to attend the funerals of fallen soldiers (not one attended to date) from his precious war, out of fear of coming face-to-face with the price of his policies or the possibility of hearing it from an angry mother or widow. On the rare ocassions the President is forced to attend an unscripted event, in front of an audience his handlers didn't hand-select, his inability to cope with reality is physically apparent. Check out the picture (link) of the President slouched in his chair, visibly bored, as his predecessor and his wife spoke of Ms. King's legacy. How shocking it must have been for the President to see people so unafraid, so proud to speak truth to power... and outside his designated free-speech zones no less. Perhaps the President should've sat up straight and listened to Bill Clinton as he said, "Her children, we know they have to bear the burden of their mother and father's legacy. We clap for that, but they have to go home and live it... You want to treat our friend Coretta like a role model? Then model her behavior."

Words to live by.

A commenter (African-American, for the record) said on a post at The Left Coaster something that reitered a point I made in my earlier entry about a cultural misunderstanding about how blacks and whites approach mass services-
We consider funerals celebrations. Our loved one is going home, no more suffering, crying, or living among earthly troubles. We celebrate the life of the person and what they stood for. We do this at EVERY funeral. So, White America got a true taste of a black funeral, and they can't handle it. They can't handle that in celebrating Coretta Scott King's life, [Bush] got ripped. Mrs. King stood for peace and equality for all. Her funeral celebrated it. Too bad everyone understood that but [Bush] and the right wing folks who usurped the title of Christian. A true Christian was laid to rest the other day. Think on that.

A commenter on this post by Marty Kaplan on HuffPo says the same-
Clearly, some people have never attended an African-American funeral. We often refer to them as "homegoings," and funerals in our community are celebrations of life. We do not mourn a person's death, we celebrate their life and what they stood for. We celebrate their legacy and, in some cases, vow to carry on their work. The people who are complaining the loudest probably haven't bothered to attend a funeral of an African-American, especially one as loved and admired as Coretta Scott King.

Something for angry white Republicans to keep in mind.

As much as they would've liked to sanitize her funeral and ignore her politics, to do so would've been the real disrespect. Speaking truth to power- That's what Coretta Scott King stood for and that's how many of her friends honored her yesterday.

The Boston Globe has a great editorial on her legacy:
The King who led on world peace

Let's remember her that way.

[PS- See video of Rev. Lowery defending his remarks to Bowtie Tucker]

Cartoon Violence

Hopefully the end of the cartoon riots is near as Islamic organizations call for an end to violence...

AP: Islamic Groups Call for End to Riots

Money quote-
"Islam says it's all right to demonstrate but not to resort to violence. This must stop," said senior cleric Mohammed Usman, a member of the Ulama Council — Afghanistan's top Islamic organization. "We condemn the cartoons but this does not justify violence. These rioters are defaming the name of Islam."

A sentiment I hope all can agree on.

Here is the two-fold compromise I suggest-
1- Muslims will declare an end to this violence.
2- The newspapers stop shoving the cartoons in the faces of those it offends.

On that second point, I (amazingly enough) agree with what the President says in condemning the violence:
"We believe in a free press, and also recognize that with freedom comes responsibilities, that with freedom comes the responsibility to be thoughtful about others."

Another sentiment I hope all can agree on.

Links of the Day

So... how is your day going?

I have some links for you. Are you hungry?

-The partisan liberal Treasury Department dares to question the wisdom of Bush's tax cuts:
Treasury says extending tax cuts would cost blns

-The Times-Picayune reports on efforts by Louisiana politicians to get the recovery funds they were promised:
'It's time to play hardball'-
Blanco rebukes Bush, challenges lawmakers

-And House Majority Leader Boehner isn't just in bed with lobbyists, he rents a room from them:
Boehner Rents Apartment Owned by Lobbyist in D.C.

Definitely Getting Somewhere

Checks... and balances? Wow!

Congress starts to get serious about standing up to executive bullying...

NY Times: Republican Who Oversees N.S.A. Calls for Wiretap Inquiry
A House Republican whose subcommittee oversees the National Security Agency broke ranks with the White House on Tuesday and called for a full Congressional inquiry into the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program.

The lawmaker, Representative Heather A. Wilson of New Mexico, chairwoman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, said in an interview that she had "serious concerns" about the surveillance program. By withholding information about its operations from many lawmakers, she said, the administration has deepened her apprehension about whom the agency is monitoring and why...

Couldn't Have Happened To A Nicer Crony

This weekend, I posted about White House attempts to "to control the flow of scientific information" at NASA. One of the people responsible for this effort was George Deutsch, a presidential appointee in NASA headquarters. Among his highlights, he sent an email to a colleague preparing a presentation for schools telling him the word 'theory' needed to be added after every mention of the Big Bang because it's "not proven fact; it is opinion" and that "It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator." Sounds like the kids will getting all the right info now!

Well now, poor Mr. Deutsch has had to resign.

It turned out that he had lied on his resume. How Michael Brown of him.

Honoring A King

As I noted before, the right-wing 'backlash' to the King funeral has begun...

Matt D. leads the way-

"King Funeral Turns Political"? That's like saying "Mozart Funeral Turns Musical".

Personally, I am shocked Drudge actually used that picture, given the contemptuous look on the Bushes' faces.

What did the right-wing expect? Dr. and Mrs. King were two of the most prominent political figures of the last 50 years, certainly the most prominent of the civil rights movement. Politics to them wasn't a day job or a hobby... it was their very lives. As a reader to AmericaBlog sarcastically noted "Why couldn't the service just be nice? Why did they have to bring up the ENTIRE POINT OF HER AND HER HUSBAND'S LIVES, STRUGGLES AND DREAMS?". As John at AmericaBlog notes, Ms. King led a civil rights march of 50,000 people the day before her husband was to be buried. Was she politicizing her husband's death? NO. She was honoring him by taking the opportunity to keep his struggle going. That's the kind of people the Kings were.

At the funeral of a fallen soldier (which Bush doesn't attend), do they not mention the war?

Conservatives, face it- the Kings were liberal and anti-war and activists. Stop acting offended this was represented at her funeral. As Greg Saunders notes, conservatives "hate being reminded that they’ve been on the wrong side of every civil rights struggle in our nation’s history". Stop accusing those close to her for getting 'uppity' at her funeral and start questioning what your party has really done to keep her dream alive.

For the right to fake outrage here seems to me to be the real political act. Maybe it's genuine; I don't know. I'm speaking for the anger as a whole... I'm sure there are individuals whose feelings are genuine and based on questions of respect. I don't want to categorically deny people their emotions because I have a differing view. I just want to have that stated. If I didn't, I'm no better than the Drudges. Still, I think the anger is misplaced.

It mostly seems hypocritical to me. And I don't just mean that the fact that the party that turned Terri Schiavo's death into a political circus has no business telling civil rights leaders how to eulogize an icon of the movement. The right should remember how they felt during the Alito confirmation hearings when Sen. Kennedy was lecturing Alito on his links to a sexist/racist alumni group, given Kennedy's membership in an all-male social club (and also, you know, the incident). I didn't like Alito and I knew that was ridiculous. They should sit back, relax, and remember how they felt watching that. That's the level of hypocrisy we're getting from them here. Do they even understand the passions of the civil rights movement or have seen what a black mass service is like? Black people approach their church services different than perhaps some conservatives are used to. It's not just an assembly line of prayers. It's a social thing. It's energetic, it's alive, and it's... yes, respectful.

So maybe it's partially a cultural misunderstanding. I doubt that's it, though.

Aren't the main people whose opinion on whether the comments were 'disrespectful' the ones actually at the funeral- all of Ms. King's family, friends, and community? Not us or mindless partisan pundits? When the Reverend made his comment, the entire funeral broke out in a spontaneous standing ovation that lasted a minute. To say that they did not take offense would be an understandment. So, again, who are any of us to tell them that they were wrong? When did the Republicans become the funeral police?

The right's real anger here is that, once again, someone has dared to question Dear Leader.

This faux-outrage is even worse than that surrounding the cartoon controversy. Since when did the right-wing care about Corretta Scott King and her fight? I imagine the ones who did care (ya know, before she died) saw no disrespect in some of the comments made. And are they so forgetful that the President Bush brought up Ms. King's passing just one week ago in his State of the Union (and few complained)... and then launched into discussing his political agenda (which just happens to be the antithesis of what Ms. King stood for). At the end of that address, the President had the nerve to compare himself to Dr. King. Someone tell me what President Bush has done to really honor Ms. King's memory, not just in easy words in a speech or eulogy. How has the Republican party leadership helped to advance the civil rights movement and the fight for social justice? In fact, have they not been doing the exact opposite? Answer that for me and then we can talk. Otherwise, the right can put away their quickly and shockingly well organized Wellstone-all-over-again talking points and knock this pretend outrage off.

Scan the transcript for Ronald Reagan's funeral... and tell me if it was free of politics.

Ms. King and her husband fought against war and poverty and racism most of their lives; if a sitting President is in attendance at their funerals who is turning back the clock on those issues, it is expected that someone would note that. That it was a man of faith who's spent his life in the fights for civil rights makes it even more relevant.

Dr. King said the following in a speech in the late 1950s-
"[E]very now and then I think about my own death, and I think about my own funeral. And I don't think of it in a morbid sense. Every now and then I ask myself, "What is it that I would want said?" And I leave the word to you this morning...

...I'd like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. I'd like for somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say, on that day, that I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity."

Finally, don't let a few soundbites encapsulate what was a truly respectful funeral. Crooks and Liars has video of an MSNBC report with lots of clips from the service. At the end, after the political comments, are many remarks from friends and family who do Ms. King proud with their words. Watch. Please. These few clips alone are moving.

I end with a better picture- of Ms. King herself. The picture is a link to a biography of her-

Why Is It?...

That when Bill Clinton gave Monica Lewinsky the business in the Oval Office, then said "I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky", and then used a rhetorical sleight-of-hand (read: lie) stating 'hey oral's not real sex!'... obviously nobody believed him.


When George W. Bush all-out violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, admits it and tells Congress he will not tolerate any question of that, and has his Attorney General use a legal sleight-of-hand (read: lie) stating 'Even though they clearly stated otherwise at the time, Congress meant the Afghanistan resolution to give the President unlimited and unchecked secret powers!' ... Republicans seem quite poised to believe him?

I'm confused.

Circus Minimus also explores this- If the President says it, it must be true

[PS- Keep in mind these are the same guys who insisted that the U.S. doesn't torture because of their obviously logically fool-proof "We don't torture because we don't call the things we do 'torture'" argument. A politician wouldn't lie, would they?]

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

No Need To Apologize

Andrew Sullivan takes a break from obsessing on the Mohammed cartoons to get it right on the NSA hearings-

Watching the hearings in the early hours, I was certainly impressed with Gonzales' unflappable calm and pleasant demeanor. I was also convinced that this program is not just about national security. The way it was implemented and the manner in which it is being defended represent a calculated decision within the White House to use this war as a golden opportunity to expand executive power for a generation. There's nothing unconstitutional about that - and the hearings struck me as an almost text-book case of one branch of government bristling up against another. But that also means that those liberals and, indeed, small government conservatives, who worry about individual liberty in this country need not apologize for fighting back. And they absolutely shouldn't be intimidated by the thought that they might be endangering national security. This isn't about the program; it's about how it's being conducted and authorized. Karl Rove is intent on erasing that distinction. The rest of us have to keep insisting that he fail.

More here- Gonzales - The Short Version

Gitmo Facts

A look at the realities of Guantanamo Bay-

Falsehoods About Guantanamo

Quote of the Day II

The United States will always rely on foreign imports of oil to feed its energy needs and should stop trying to become energy independent, a top Exxon Mobil Corp. executive said on Tuesday.

From this Reuters article:
Exxon: America will always rely on foreign oil

I was right... The $10.71 billion oil kings would not like their prince George suggesting such a thing.

Even if he didn't mean it literally.

How Do You Get To Sesame Street...

...If they close the roads?

AP: Bush seeks to slash public broadcast funds
President George W. Bush took a swipe at Big Bird and his ilk Monday as he proposed slashing funds to public broadcasting by more than $150 million...

The ABCs Of Political Diversion

The NY Post scores again with another "War on terror > Democracy" editorial rant.


There are several lies in this column I'd like to smack down-
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter — a Republican — joined knee-jerk Bush-bashers like Ted Kennedy and Patrick Leahy in their unwillingness to understand or to accept that America is in a global war on terrorism.

No one in Congress doubts the seriousness of the terror threats. That is why they authorized military force in Afghanistan so the President could capture Osama bin Laden (how's that going, by the way?) and unroot his terrorist network (only a few hundred more Al Qeada #2s to go!). I'm an extremely liberal person and I proudly had one of those newspaper cutout 'Osama: Dead Or Alive' wanted posters up after the attacks. And, unlike the President, I never stated that bin Laden was not of concern. Congress also has given the President broader legal abilities by statute (including making it easier to use FISA in wartime)... abilities he illegally surpassed in secret. The committment in Congress is strong. If the President insists on questioning that, then Congress should question the committment of the President who has undermined our global efforts by invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, stretched the military thinner than an Olsen twin, turned his back on former allies, and destroyed our reputation around the world through the use of torture and other immoral tactics. So let's not go tit-for-tat here. To suggest that a Congress trying to uphold the laws of our land is soft on terrorism is a (to use a cliche term) fascist tactic.

Not surprisingly, some Democrats deliberately tried to mislead the public. Leahy, for one, compared the Bush program to the 1960s-era wiretapping of Martin Luther King Jr. — a gross distortion on several levels.

The Democrats were actually the ones who got the main issue across better- the faulty legal basis for the program and the question of presidential power in wartime. It was the Attorney General who presented a false argument, using the Rove-ian argument that to support the war on terror means supporting this program. Regarding the issue with comparisons to the monitoring of King and others... how does the Post know that's not what's happening? No one knows. That's the issue. They have been spying without warrants or any oversight, so they could be spying on anyone for all we know. It's the 'trust us' argument from a White House with little credibility. The spying on King and others occurred in an age with little to no limits on presidential power; the issue is that the White House is recreating that atmosphere.

Next lie-
Indeed, said Gonzales, "The program provides the United States with the early-warning system we so desperately needed on Sept. 10 . . . We cannot forget that the Sept. 11 hijackers were in our country, living in our communities."

As the 9/11 Commission concluded, the problem wasn't having enough dots- it was connecting them. For instance, the government did have an early warning on September 10... On that date, the NSA intercepted Al Qeada calls between Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. One said "The match begins tomorrow". A second intercept said "Tomorrow is zero hour". The calls were made in Arabic and were not translated until the day after the attack. Had the government acted more quickly on information they had, perhaps proper security measures could've been put in place. Perhaps not. Still, the point remains that the government was quite capable, within the law, of preventing the attacks, had they just connected the dots in time.

And there's the 'unprecedented' card again-
President Bush and his administration are doing their jobs, against an enemy unlike any with which previous presidents have had to contend.

Cold War. Cuban missile crisis. Nuclear bomb shelters. Duck and cover. Mutually assured destruction. Any of these ring a bell?

As Gonzales rightly noted, "it is hard to imagine a president who would not elect to use these tools in defense of the American people — in fact, it would be irresponsible to do otherwise."

President Bush already had the tools needed to defend the American people and do so without violating the FISA law (or authorize illegal torture to use another example). He choose to do otherwise and has impaired the ability to legally prosecute any terrorist suspects we may capture (see: Padilla, Jose). How irresponsible of him.

You'll notice the Post ignored the issues of legality with the program, which is, ya know, the whole point of all this...

For better takes on the hearings, go see- Sen. Feingold's strongly worded summary (WHAT WE HEARD FROM THE ATTORNEY GENERAL) as well as Howard Kurtz's take in the Washington Post on the media's half-assed coverage of this important event (Eavesdropping on Congress).

Can You Say Conspiracy?

As the Plame leak story comes back into the spotlight (with a date set for the Libby trial and confirmation that, yes, Ms. Plame was covert) John Dickerson, former White House correspondent for Time magazine, has a two-part article in Slate explaining his role/knowledge in the story. In light of new revelations, he lays out a timeline of the battle between the White House and CIA, how this leads to the smearing of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, and just how broad the White House effort to lead reporters to the Plame identity was. If this scandal has been one you're following, this is a must read.

Where's My Subpoena?
Valerie Plame, Scooter Libby, and me.
(Pt. I)

Where's My Subpoena?
Valerie Plame, Scooter Libby, and me.
(Pt. II)

[Or for a summary of the key points, check out Firedoglake.]

Quote of the Day

"We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there [*standing ovation*]... but Coretta knew and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war billions more, but no more for the poor."
-Reverend Dr. Joseph Lowery at Coretta Scott King's funeral

And he said this with Presidents Carter, H.W. Bush, Clinton, and Dubya in attendance. Good for him.

(Update- Video, courtesy of ThinkProgress)

(Update #2- I have read that right-wing partisan hacks, under the guise of civility, are already feigning offense at comments like this at Ms. King's funeral (supposedly, sensitive Chris Matthews on MSNBC is scandalized!). The fact of the matter is that Ms. King was a political activist. Political comments at funerals of political figures- such as President Reagan's 2004 funeral- are common. To demand justice on the issues so important to Ms. King is the proper way to honor her. The problem for the right is that the issues she fought for are the same ones they have been fighting against for decades, so they want to be respectful about her after her passing but want to pretend she was not political. This woman, along with her husband, saw their home firebombed by racists and they were under constant threat of death. This was no ordinary woman. Having fought so hard for civil rights, it is my personal opinion that she would proud that her fellow travelers in that fight can now address such a crowd that includes three former American Presidents and the current one. Her fight is who she was; to hide that would be the real insult.)

Related- AP: Presidents Join Mourners at King Funeral

[Hat tip- Atrios]

McCain To Obama: STFU, Newbie!

Sen. McCain lashes out at Barack Obama... McCain launches harsh broadside at Obama
Sen. John McCain unleashed an unusually biting and blunt broadside Monday against Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, accusing him of backtracking on a previous commitment to help develop a bipartisan proposal for lobbying and ethics reform.

"I'm embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics, I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble," the Arizona Republican said in a letter to Obama...

And if anyone would know about partisan backtracking, it's John McCain.

Any comments on the President's torture bill signing statement, sir? No? Hmmm.

Sen. Obama responded with a little more tact-
In response, Obama sent a letter back to McCain, saying he was "puzzled" by McCain's reaction and insisting he still supported a bipartisan approach to ethics reform.

"The fact that you have now questioned my sincerity and my desire to put aside politics for the public interest is regrettable but does not in any way diminish my deep respect for you, nor my willingness to find a bipartisan solution to this problem," Obama wrote.

Gosh, aren't election years fun? [*hits head on desk*]

Just Because You Can... Doesn't Mean You Should

The Mohammed cartoon controversy rages on. Tom Toles has a good cartoon on the embassy burners.

I like what August Pollak has to say-
First off, I'm not supporting Muslim extremists here. Outrage or not, there's no "justification" or whatever for what many are now calling for, such as killing Danish and French soldiers. That said, there's no excuse for people like Michelle Malkin's brand-new and latest bout of selective memory loss.

Are the cartoons freedom of speech? Well, yeah. Of course you have the right to print shitty, racist cartoons that serve no purpose but to inflame Arab sentiment and make racist right-wingers feel good about themselves. You have the right to show a black man hanging from a tree or a buck-toothed Asian, too. But in any of those cases you don't have the right to feign petty self-righteous faux-amazement that people got upset about it...

...This isn't South Park, where there's actually some concept of social mores being challenged or questioned. Agree or disagree with various South Park episodes (like I do), there's an intelligent justification for most of the racial humor in that show. There isn't any here. The cartoons were drawn for one single purpose: to attack Muslims and provoke their ire....

I agree with this. In the past few days, I've gotten more upset with the pleasure (instead of the principle) with which the cartoons have been reprinted. There's a point where you're defending a right to publish controversial material in the face of those who want it censored... and a point where you're just being an asshole. You don't scream "fire!" in a crowded theatre, do you? I believe that line is being crossed. I am tired of right-wingers hiding behind freedom of speech/press (something they've openly loathed for years) to hide their racist glee at seeing Muslims get all offended. If you want to see the epitome of this, check out the non-stop race-baiting of Michelle Malkin, a foul Coulter-wannabe who considers Japanese internment camps a great era of American history (hey, Michelle, why no posts about the Attorney General legally embarrasing himself in front of the Senate?). As I noted last week, the hypocrisy of the most vocal defenders of the cartoons is astounding. That they are right on the essential points (freedom of press, standing up to religious extremists) is somewhat of a coincidence here.

Pollack hits on this point:
[Malkin]'s doing this because it feels so good to her to be a racist. And because she doesn't given a damn about the lives of soldiers. Or, at the very least, she cares about tweaking liberals and angering Muslims a hell of a lot more. And the same goes to any right-winger finding the first amendment as a token of convenience, yet again.

So a few points-
1. Europeans, stop being so smug. Americans are supposed to be the assholes, not you.
2. Muslims, stop burning buildings. You're only proving the cartoons right.
3. Right-wingers, stop pretending you care about our democratic values and go back to accusing the NY Times of treason.

Thank you.