Saturday, March 04, 2006

Checking Frist's Imbalances

After trying to help the President save face on the port deal, Sen. Frist is once again using his office not to help American citizens, but to cover for his King in the White House. One would assume that after embarassing the entire Congress by diagnosing Terri Schiavo via videtape in addition to his current legal woes with the SEC, that the Senator would have no credibility left as a leader. He is, to quote Andrew Sullivan, "one of the most mediocre men ever to have held the position he does."

His current scam? Threatening to re-structure the Intelligence Committee as a way of blocking NSA hearings.

How desperate must the White House be to use Frist to do their dirty work?

Glenn Greenwald (all over this scandal as always) has the details-
The Senate Intelligence Committee was created in 1976 and, from the beginning, it has been unique in its structure and operation. Due to the urgency of ensuring that our country has nonpartisan and non-politicized oversight over the Government’s intelligence activities, the Intelligence Committee is structured so that -- unlike every other Senate Committee -- the majority is unable to dominate the Committee’s operation and agenda, and the minority has much greater powers than it does on any other Senate Committee.

With the March 7 vote looming on Sen. Rockefeller’s motion for the Committee to finally hold hearings to investigate the scope and nature of the Administration’s NSA warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens -- and with several Committee Republicans indicating their intent to vote for hearings -- Majority Leader Bill Frist threatened the Committee yesterday and warned it not to hold any hearings.

Frist specifically threatened that if the Committee holds NSA hearings, he will fundamentally change the 30-year-old structure and operation of the Senate Intelligence Committee so as to make it like every other Committee, i.e., controlled and dominated by Republicans to advance and rubber-stamp the White House’s agenda rather than exercise meaningful and nonpartisan oversight...

Sen. Frist's disturbing letter was in response to a letter of concern by Sen. Reid.

So much for and the rule of law and "carefully safeguarding" the nonpartisan traditions of this Committee. This is nothing new... certain Republican leaders have spent much of the last few years changing rules and laws to suit their purposes. This may be a new low, though. Congress attempts to engage in its constitutionally mandated check and balance obligations (specifically with the exact type of program the Committee exists to regulate) and Frist's first instinct is to radically alter a Senate Committee to shield the White House from investigation. I am reminded here of Nixon forcing his subordinates to fire the special prosecutor when he was getting too close to the truth. Are we far off from a Saturday Night Massacre of our own at this point? Bottom line for me- Not only is this undemocratic... but these are not the actions of innocent men.

The White House knows it has broken the law (and the polls show most Americans believe this) and it will stop at nothing in intimidating Congress to stop looking into that. As Greenwald notes, "Sen. First is literally threatening the Committee not to exercise oversight over the President’s warrantless eavesdropping on Americans". Congress should not be intimidated. Rather, this imperial posturing (the latest in a seemingly neverending long line of it) should only further their resolve to give this matter their full investigative attention.

Let's hope Frist's threat is exposed for what it is- cheap political bullying- and that the Intelligence Committee is allowed to do their jobs without fear of further obstruction.

[PS- A good editorial from US News and World Report: Trust Me? Yeah, Right]

[PPS- This, of course, all comes in light of the Attorney General's "clarifications" on his Judiciary Committee testimony.]

Nothing Less Is Acceptable

Something to keep in mind before the next entry...

"The [Intelligence] Committee’s nonpartisan tradition has been carefully cultivated over the years by its members. The tradition is part and parcel of the Committee’s rules, which extend prerogatives to the Minority that are not found in other committee rule books.

For a quarter century, there has been a consensus in the Senate that the Committee’s nonpartisan tradition must be carefully safeguarded. Nothing less is acceptable, given the dangerous and sensitive nature of the subject matter for which it has oversight responsibility."
--Senator Bill Frist (November 7, 2003)

"The Committee was established and structured to reflect the Senate’s desire for bipartisanship, and to the maximum extent possible, nonpartisan oversight of our nation’s intelligence activities. If attempts to use the committee’s charter for political purposes exist, we may have to simply acknowledge that nonpartisan oversight, while a worthy aspiration, is simply not possible. If we are unable to reach agreement, I believe we must consider other options to improve the Committee’s oversight capabilities, to include restructuring the Committee so that it is organized and operated like most Senate Committees."
--Senator Bill Frist (March 3, 2006)

[Hat tip- Firedoglake]

"I Did Not Anticipate The Breaching Of That Woman, Ms. Levee"

Part of any new evidence emerging of wrongdoing on the part of the Bush administration is awaiting how his loyal supporters will spin a defense/distraction for him (ie. Fox News suggesting civil war in Iraq could have some unseen benefits!).

In regards to the videotape recently made public by the AP showing President Bush receiving a detailed briefing the day before Katrina hit on the extent of what the damage could be, the defense given back was two-fold. The White House first blew off the tape, releasing transcripts of a videoconference call and stating that the President was "fully engaged". Of course, we're apparently meant to take their word on that, since nothing we saw seems to support the notion that his mind was on anything other than his vacation (before the storm) and approval-saving photo-ops (after the storm). The second defense is one of semantics.

Supporters of the President insist the AP piece was biased against Bush (darn that radical Associated Press), even though video cannot lie. They stated that in the video, Bush is specifically warned that flooding may ensue in New Orleans when the levees are overtopped with water. Therefore, they insist, the President was not lying when he told Diane Sawyer on September 1st that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" (bold added by me). OMG, see! He never said anything about overtopping! It's, like, way different! These people forced an AP clarification and point back to it as a validation of this lame defense.

This is, as I said, all semantics. This is the Bill Clinton defense all over again(it all depends on what "is" is/blowjobs aren't sex)- bullshit wordplay which conservatives fumed at in '98/'99, but they now apparently embrace as airtight logic. As Lawrence O'Donnell said on yesterday's edition of KCRW's 'Left, Right, and Center', "This is a President who doesn't know the difference between the word 'Arab' and 'Muslim', do you really believe he knows the difference between 'topped' and 'breached' when discussing levees?"

Overtopping (which did occur at some levees, for the record) or breaching... it all means the same thing- a flooded New Orleans. The bottom line is that the tapes prove that the President was warned that the levees were a critical danger and that flooding would occur. His response was, of course, to stay on vacation and feign shock when it actually happened. Also, in his response to Diane Sawyer, the President clearly gave the impression that he did not anticipate the severity of the situation to any degree. He said that he didn't think "anybody" had anticipated it (this is definitely a lie). He also made no distinction on what warnings he received- the impression he wanted viewers to be left with was that no one anticipated, to any extent, the damage that had occurred in New Orleans. This impression was, yes, a lie. Besides that briefing we saw in the AP, numerous other experts (on the Weather Channel, etc) gave far-in-advance warnings that the levees would not hold and that water would enter the city. The President did not heed these warnings and failed in his leadership duties after the storm. No wordplay can change that reality.

Considering all the evidence to the contrary, if the President does continue to insist that the breaching wasn't anticipated by him, then either he is a liar or a complete buffoon. You can take your pick, I suppose.

Send In All Units Immediately!

Some Countries Don't Get Nukes...

...Some countries do.

We, as usual, make the call.

(Hey, they have all our jobs, why not our nuclear secrets too!)

Reuters: Bush defends nuclear pact with India

Reuters: Bush says "no" to giving Pakistan nuclear deal

[PS- So there's a difference between India and Pakistan... but no difference between Britain and the United Arab Emirates. Gotcha. Glad we're all being consistent.]

Links of the Day: Early Edition

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

-Things are so bad for Bush now, he's exacting his petty political revenge on Republicans:
No Iraq Trip for Legislator Who Opposed Deal on Ports

-A free press wins a round against our secretive government:
Pentagon Releases Names of Gitmo Inmates

-No-tax-and-lotsa-spend neocon Bush will increase the deficit by $1.2 trillion (not including war costs!):
Bush Plan Would Raise Deficit by $1.2 Trillion, Budget Office Says

The Rehabilitation Of Brownie?

It seems a lot of bloggers are discussing this, so I figured I'd throw my two cents in... the rehabilitation of Michael Brown in the eyes of the media. Six months ago, Brown was a national punchline, the face of the failures of the Katrina aftermath. Now, new information that's come to light shows us a bigger picture, one that shows Mr. Brown in command before the storm doing his best to warn the Bush administration about the dangers. Many liberal bloggers are jumping in to "forgive him" and apologize for jumping on him in September. Me? Not so much.

The bottom line is that, however good he was in the job beforehand, when Katrina hit, he screwed up big time. He was out to lunch... or more precisely, out to dinner. On one hand, I have always resisted the urge to paint Brown as the scapegoat for the disaster, as the White House has. Yes, Brown screwed up, but the buck stops with King George and the rest of his administration. So I, on that note, am glad that Brown is speaking out and throwing the blame back around to the others who deserve it. Glad as I am for that, that doesn't change the fact that Brown didn't belong in that job and failed to act when his leadership was needed most. That he was/is smarter and more capable than the President isn't saying much these days.

Brown was interviewed on 'Real Time w/ Bill Maher' last night and if you can find a video clip of it, I recommend it. Maher hit all the right angles. He commended Brown for helping to get the whole story out, but asked him tough questions about (among other things) the cronyism that put him in charge of FEMA. I think the interview summed up how I feel. This is great that the truth is coming to light, but in the end, Michael Brown is still... Brownie.

Josh at Talking Points Memo also says it well-
...I don't think there's any use or reason to reconsider the conclusion that Brown was manifestly unqualified to be the head of the country's emergency management agency or that he found himself in that job because of his longtime friendship with Joe Allbaugh, one of the president's fixers. He was either guilty of or implicated in various other instances of ridiculousness. He was a poster-child for the administration's essential lack of interest in effective government, as an aim of public service distinct from consolidating political power and paying off political supporters out of the public fisc. Also, for us critics, to the extent there is a Brownie redemption afoot, it is in large part because the same guy many of us lambasted six months ago is now flattering our assumptions about how this administration works.

Still, in this and so many other cases, our assumptions, always based on a lot of factual evidence, are being borne out in spades. And Brown is coming forward with a decent amount of evidence that even if he wasn't the guy who should have had the job, and even if he made plenty of mistakes during Katrina, he wasn't just bumbling along unaware anything serious was happening. If inept and blameworthy himself he seems clearly to have understood the magnitude of the catastrophe that was afoot and took steps to deal with it.

He also is coming forward with what appears to be a decent paper trail showing he had some sense and gave warnings about FEMA's degradation and decline under the consolidated DHS. No one listen.

I can't see glorifying Michael Brown. He shouldn't have been in the job. He screwed up in a lot of different ways. He then carried the administration's water in trying to pin the blame on the locals, what must be a mortal sin in a FEMA Director. But he does get some credit for coming clean now and spilling at least some of the beans. And the beans he's spilled so far show that he's hardly the most blameworthy figure in the administration's shameful and pitiful response to the disaster that befell the Gulf Coast.

Sounds right to me.

PS- A major postscript here... the conservative weekly Human Events Online is reporting that "the secretary of Homeland Security has "only a few days left" in the Bush Cabinet". Administration sources deny this, but it's an interesting rumor. He certainly deserves the boot.

PPS- A great Washington Post editorial on the AP tape-
Caught On Tape

Friday, March 03, 2006

Sutton Impact

Democracy Inaction

With the renewal of the Patriot Act this week, we should've had a public debate on whether the bill goes too far and is something we as a democratic society should accept. Unfortunately, that debate took place behind closed doors in Washington and all but 10 brave members of the Senate decided it wasn't worth worrying about. We must do anything, they decided, in order to protect our... freedoms?

This week did, however, bring two clear examples of how the law (and the general overreaching of the federal government since 9/11) are legitimate concerns and why all self-respecting Americans should be worried.

Story #1- Walter Soehnge and his wife had a large balance on their credit card bill and decided to pay it off in full. This act of fiscal responsibility sent off alarms in Washington DC. After noticing that the payment hadn't been processed, the couple called the credit card company and were told that "the amount they had sent in was much larger than their normal monthly payment. And if the increase hits a certain percentage higher than that normal payment, Homeland Security has to be notified." Once the couple was cleared of terrorism concerns, the payment was processed. Needless to say, the experience left the couple a little bit frightened.

Story #2- Laura Berg, a nurse at the VA Medical Center in Albuquerque, N.M., wrote a letter from home to her local weekly paper after Hurricane Katrina, criticizing the federal government's response to the tragedy. She stated the government was "playing games" and should be removed as a result of their incompetence. This letter caused the government to investigate Ms. Berg and to late seize and search her computer from work. She was informally accused of sedition by the officials. Ms. Berg was shaken by the experience, but many have rallied to her side. She told her story yesterday on the Democracy Now broadcast.

It's important to keep in mind that these two stories are not isolated incidents; quick Google searches will find numerous examples like these occurring since 9/11 in every corner of the country. These incidents are merely part of a larger picture of life in King George's Orwellian nightmare.

'We Do Not Torture'

Except, of course, for when we do.

As if the President's signing statement wasn't enough of a slap in the face to Congress' wishes to stop torture (Bush/Cheney answer to no one) and to the reputation of our nation, the White House is now asserting that the law doesn't apply to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay...

Washington Post: U.S. Cites Exception in Torture Ban-
McCain Law May Not Apply to Cuba Prison

Bush administration lawyers, fighting a claim of torture by a Guantanamo Bay detainee, yesterday argued that the new law that bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody does not apply to people held at the military prison.

In federal court yesterday and in legal filings, Justice Department lawyers contended that a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot use legislation drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to challenge treatment that the detainee's lawyers described as "systematic torture."...

I'm sure that in subsequent months, we'll learn that the new law also doesn't apply to our prisons in Iraq, our prisons in Afghanistan, our secret prisons across Europe (shhh, they're a secret!), or anywhere else who may be holding the type of prisoners the law specifically referred to.

As you know, the President (as Supreme Monarch of these United States) has the inherent authority not only to break any laws he finds inconvenient, but also to choose when and where other laws apply. That's how democracy works.

To see the President's legacy in action, click- HERE.

The clincher to the article-
A spokeswoman for McCain's office did not respond to questions yesterday.

He was really serious about stopping torture, ya know.

[PS- The military also now states evidence obtained through torture is admissible.]

Links of the Day

If you've got the time, read ReddHedd at Firedoglake's post - 'All Hat, No Cattle' - a beautiful take on why George W. Bush is such a poor leader. Don't have the time? It's all good, I have some quick links for you...

-Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter vows to "kill" the Dubia ports deal:
Republican Will Try to Squash Ports Deal

-Congress is looking out for you the food industry:
House mulls bill on food label removal

-The President travels overseas and (gosh!) isn't warmly received:
Bush Visits Pakistan Amid Protests

The Intelligence And Facts Were Being Fixed Around The Policy

"We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."
-- George Orwell (1946)

National Journal's Murray Waas has a major story of new information on what the President knew before the Iraq war, information that contradicted his case for war and was thus ignored and not revealed to the public-

What Bush Was Told About Iraq
Two highly classified intelligence reports delivered directly to President Bush before the Iraq war cast doubt on key public assertions made by the president, Vice President Cheney, and other administration officials as justifications for invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein, according to records and knowledgeable sources.

The first report, delivered to Bush in early October 2002, was a one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate that discussed whether Saddam's procurement of high-strength aluminum tubes was for the purpose of developing a nuclear weapon...

...The disclosure [that the tubes were "intended for conventional weapons"] and that Bush was informed of the DOE and State dissents is the first evidence that the president himself knew of the sharp debate within the government over the aluminum tubes during the time that he, Cheney, and other members of the Cabinet were citing the tubes as clear evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program. Neither the president nor the vice president told the public about the disagreement among the agencies...

...[The second classified report, delivered to Bush in early January 2003] report stated that U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously agreed that it was unlikely that Saddam would try to attack the United States -- except if "ongoing military operations risked the imminent demise of his regime" or if he intended to "extract revenge" for such an assault, according to records and sources.

Ignoring information/facts they do not like is a signature of this administration.

[PS- Speaking of, the U.S. was warned about potential civil war in Iraq... in 2003.]



It's not just that CBS poll... everywhere you turn, Americans have had enough.

Here are what some recent polls are saying...

The latest Quinnipiac poll finds opposition to warrantless spying among other things-
By a 76 - 19 percent margin, American voters say the government should continue monitoring phone calls or e-mail between suspected terrorists in other countries and people in the U.S., according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. But voters say 55 - 42 percent that the government should get court orders for this surveillance...

...Only 36 percent of voters approve of the job President Bush is doing, while 58 percent disapprove, his worst approval rating in a Quinnipiac University national poll...

...Voters disapprove 52 - 42 percent, 57 - 39 percent in purple states, of the way Bush is handling terrorism, his lowest score on this issue.

By a 49 - 37 percent margin, voters want the Democrats to win control of Congress in this year's House and Senate elections. And if a candidate for Congress supports President Bush, only 16 percent of Americans are more likely to vote for that candidate, with 37 percent less likely and 45 percent who say it won't make a difference. ...

Bloomberg polling finds similar results-
...For the first time, a majority of Americans, 54 percent, disapprove of Bush's dealing with terrorism, the latest Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll found. Bush's job approval rating fell to 38 percent, a five-point drop from a month ago, fueled also by rising discontent over the Iraq war...

Think Progress has a breakdown of several polls, including a Fox News one-
Bush Free Fall Continues in New Polls

Perhaps it's the "rhetoric of unreality"? So says George Will in his latest column.

To usurp an LBJ quote, "If I've lost George Will, I've lost Middle America."

Sean Hannity's Magic Right-Wing Asshole Funtime Show

"What part of saving the world from terrorism didn't you understand?"

Sean Hannity defends his Superhero President from a liberal caller.

Unable to answer the caller's original question, Sean: refers to facts about the President's recent performance as "talking points", asks the caller if he's calling from Area 51, accuses him of Marxism, tells him on his show he asks the questions, accuses liberals of undermining the war on terror, and tells him to get a job. Ohh, Sean.

Calling All Wingnuts has the audio: Hannity: War of Attrition

[PS- Bill O'Reilly threatens a caller for mentioning Keith Olbermann's name.]

Humor Break II: Truth In Satire

The Onion hits the nail on the head once again...

Democrats Vow Not To Give Up Hopelessness
In a press conference on the steps of the Capitol Monday, Congressional Democrats announced that, despite the scandals plaguing the Republican Party and widespread calls for change in Washington, their party will remain true to its hopeless direction.

"We are entirely capable of bungling this opportunity to regain control of the House and Senate and the trust of the American people," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said to scattered applause. "It will take some doing, but we're in this for the long and pointless haul."

"We can lose this," Reid added. "All it takes is a little lack of backbone."...

And Howard Dean has a message-
"Some rising stars with leadership potential like [Sen. Barack] Obama (D-IL) and [New York State Attorney General Eliot] Spitzer have emerged, but don't worry: We've still got some infight left in us," Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said. "Over the last decade, we've found a reliably losing formula, and we're sticking with it."

Dean reminded Democratic candidates to "stay on our unclear message, maintain a defensive, reactive posture, and keep an elitist distance from voters."

Sadly, this article could've been printed in the Washington Post and no one would've questioned its accuracy. To quote the wise philosopher C-3PO, "We're doomed".

Humor Break: Justice Ginsburg Takes A Nap

Apparently being surrounded by all those conservative windbags finally got to Ruth...

From WorldNetDaily (a vile site, for the record)-
...According to the Associated Press, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg snoozed during oral arguments today over political redistricting in Texas.

"The subject matter was extremely technical," notes AP writer Gina Holland, "and near the end of the argument Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dozed in her chair."...

I took this screengrab of the sketch from the Drudge Report.

As a woman, Justice Ginsburg ought to be more careful of passing out around Clarence Thomas.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Links of the Day: Late-Night Edition

After that review session, I put myself into a self-induced coma for a few hours. I'm better now.

Here's some links, which should make me long for that coma...

-Despite the required 45-day review, the ports deal is scheduled to close next week:
Ports deal to close by Monday: official

-With the exceptions of one independent and nine strong Democrats, Senators vote again for the Patriot Act (this time with 'protections'... wow, I'm sold!):
Senate Approves Patriot Act Renewal

-Tom Delay went golfing in Scotland in 2000... and Jack Abramoff paid the bill:
Lobbyist's Credit Card Bill Outs DeLay Trip

Review Session

Let's review some of the things we've learned...

-That President Bush was personally briefed on the 'grave danger' of a 'catastrophe within a catastrophe' in New Orleans before Katrina hit and that the levees could be breached, then completely failed to act (or even notice for days) when it happened, and then lied to ABC's Diane Sawyer and said "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees".

-That as early as January 25, 2001 the Bush administration was briefed on the dangers of Al Qeada and what a priority dealing with them should be.

-That the Bush administration's secret spying activities are far more broader than have been revealed previously, that their legal justification for said activities have changed over time, and that previous statements/testimony made to the contrary have been misleading at best.

These are all things I have learned- in the past 24 hours.

I don't know how much more my poor brain can take (no wonder more Americans would rather pay attention to the Simpsons and American Idol than this stuff). I am old enough (26 years young) to remember the olden days when obstructing justice to cover marital infidelity was enough to get a President impeached. That was a long time ago, of course, so I'm sure we have different standards now. Greg Saunders is right... if we lived in a parliamentary government, we would've had a vote of 'no confidence' by now and we'd be rid of this man. In our democracy, though, we're stuck with him unless Congress can be convinced to hold King George accountable for all that he has done.

Attorney General Gonzales 'Clarifies' His Lies

Glenn Greenwald continues to be all over the NSA spying scandal, with an update yesterday morning on the latest developments. These developments include- a poll showing that, in 37 out of 50 states, a plurality agree it is "clear" that Bush broke the law; another round of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, this time gathering legal scholars and former government officials; and Republican discord on how to handle the scandal. In the middle, Greenwald notes-
For several weeks now, many people, including many at this blog, have speculated that two important as-yet-unrevealed facts were likely true: (a) that Gonzales’ conspicuous efforts to confine his statements defending the NSA program to "the program described by the President" strongly suggested that there are other warrantless eavesdropping programs directed at Americans on U.S. soil which have not yet been disclosed; and (b) the whole AUMF justification for the warrantless eavesdropping program is an after-the-fact justification which the DoJ only invented long after the program started; the notion that the AUMF exempted the Administration from FISA was not an actual understanding of the AUMF which anyone -- including the Administration -- had when the AUMF was enacted.

These suspicions, likely discussed by Bush supporters as "moonbat"-ish at the time, have been given greater weight by none other than Attorney General Gonzales himself. Perhaps anticipating a new leak of information (aka 'the truth') that would contradict his testimony, Attorney General wrote a letter to Committee members earlier this week to "clarify" said testimony. The Washington Post has the goods...
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales appeared to suggest yesterday that the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance operations may extend beyond the outlines that the president acknowledged in mid-December.

In a letter yesterday to senators in which he asked to clarify his Feb. 6 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales also seemed to imply that the administration's original legal justification for the program was not as clear-cut as he indicated three weeks ago...

Here is the part that tackles the scope of the administration's illegal spying activities-
At that appearance, Gonzales confined his comments to the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program, saying that President Bush had authorized it "and that is all that he has authorized."...

...[Gonzales] wrote: "I did not and could not address . . . any other classified intelligence activities." Using the administration's term for the recently disclosed operation, he continued, "I was confining my remarks to the Terrorist Surveillance Program as described by the President, the legality of which was the subject" of the Feb. 6 hearing.

At least one constitutional scholar who testified before the committee yesterday said in an interview that Gonzales appeared to be hinting that the operation disclosed by the New York Times in mid-December is not the full extent of eavesdropping on U.S. residents conducted without court warrants...

And what about the illogical legal defense Gonzales used in his testimony?
On Feb. 6, Gonzales testified that the Justice Department considered the use-of-force vote as a legal green light for the wiretapping "before the program actually commenced."

But in yesterday's letter, he wrote, "these statements may give the misimpression that the Department's legal analysis has been static over time."

[Former government lawyer Bruce Fein said the letter seems to suggest that the Justice Department actually embraced the use-of-force argument some time later, prompting Gonzales to write that the legal justification "has evolved over time."

One government source who has been briefed on the issue confirmed yesterday that the administration believed from the beginning that the president had the constitutional authority to order the eavesdropping, and only more recently added the force resolution argument as a legal justification.

To summarize, Gonzales' clarifications seem to reinforce the previous suspicions that a) the program leaked by the NY Times in December is not the only spying program President Bush authorized that falls outside the legal parameters of FISA, etc; and b) that using the Afghanistan resolution as a legal defense for the program was a late decision the administration made after learning it had been leaked and was not something they originally thought of as a legal basis for their activities.

The Attorney General Gonzales' clarification letter not only underscores how widespread what they are doing is, but shows that they are scared of being caught in a lie. These new admissions/revelations should be a catalyst for more public concern and congressional action. Congress clearly has a lot to investigate and with all but 34% of the country ready to wash their hands of the President, now is the perfect time to start.

Not Just Some Terrorist Group

Last week, I posted on how another blogger posted the infamous Department of Defense notes from a meeting on 9/11 meeting in which Sec. Rumsfeld asked officials to figure out a way to use the event to justify an attack on Iraq. Now, another document has been released, by the National Security Archive, this one showing how far in advance intelligence officials tried to warn the Bush Administration about the dangers and reach of Al Qaeda.

A January 25, 2001 National Security Council memo (less than a week after Bush's inauguration, so not exactly last-minute) from counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke to national security advisor Condoleezza Rice strongly questioned the notion that Al Qaeda was "just some terrorist group" and stated at its header that they "urgently need a Principals level review on the al Qida network". The memo overall states that dealing with Al Qaeda shouldn't just be another drop in the foreign policy bucket, but treated as a challenge that must be "address[ed] centrally". The memo then outlines the goals of the group and how it could undermine stability in the Middle East. Clarke states "We would make a major error if we underestimated the challenge Al Qida poses".

In the final part of the memo, underminding Ms. Rice's March 22, 2004 statement that "No al Qaeda plan was turned over to the new administration", Clarke outlines a number of possible ways the U.S. could deal with the terror group (by aiding sympathetic allies in the Middle East, etc).

The preview image below is a link to the full document-

Add this to the numerous other warnings, the infamous 'Bin Laden determined to attack inside the U.S.' PDB memo, and other clues, and we have a greater picture of a federal government asleep at the wheel in the months before the attack.

It's a recurring theme with this administration.

And yet, low approval ratings notwithstanding, nobody seems to really care about all of this because we somewhat have accepted the incompetence and spin of the Bush administration as the status quo. We're so used to it by now, that we've almost stopped caring. Oh well. This information is out there; hopefully people will find it.

Just So You Know

Not that there's anything we can do about it now, but in case there was any doubts as to whether Justice Alito is connected to the far right wing in this country (as Republicans insisted he was not during his confirmation process), those doubts have been erased. By Mr. Alito himself. The newbie Justice sent a thank you letter to Focus On The Family founder James Dobson (you know the guy who teaches parents how to look for warning signs of homosexuality in their kids and how this can be stamped out, etc), for all his support of his appointment. The letter reads-
Dear Dr. Dobson:
This is just a short note to express my heartfelt thanks to you and the entire staff of Focus on the Family for your help and support during the past few challenging months.

I would also greatly appreciate it if you would convey my appreciation to the good people from all parts of the country who wrote to tell me that they were praying for me and for my family during this period.

As I said when I spoke at my formal investiture at the White House last week, the prayers of so many people from around the country were a palpable and powerful force.

As long as I serve on the Supreme Court I will keep in mind the trust that has been placed in me.

I hope that we'll have the opportunity to meet personally at some point in the future.

In the meantime my entire family and I hope that you and the Focus on the Family staff know how we appreciate all that you have done.

Sincerely yours,

Samuel Alito

Just wanted to post this as a reminder of whose agenda is now represented on the Supreme Court.

[Courtesy of Max Blumenthal at Huffington Post.]

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees..."

Tell me again... why is anyone supposed to take this President seriously?

AP: Tape: Bush, Chertoff Warned Before Katrina
In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage.

Bush didn't ask a single question during the final briefing before Katrina struck on Aug. 29, but he assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: "We are fully prepared."...
(bold added by me)

Video link... here.

34% is too high for this man.

Not only was he criminally negligent in his handling of the New Orleans disaster (a crime here in the real world), but now we know he is a liar. Republicans get mad when people accuse the President of lying about the case for war in Iraq and insist there is no definitive proof that he did. That's debatable... this is not. He stated, in no uncertain terms, that no one could have anticipated the levees' destruction. Yet he was briefed on it personally before the storm hit. He asked no questions, he insisted it was under control. And it's all on video for the world to see now. Your national security President, ladies and gentlemen.

Makes that blowjob look even more insignificant, no?

[UPDATE: Proving again they're only interested in disclosure if it serves their purposes, the White House is attempting to limit the fallout of this by leaking to Newsweek the transcript of a videoconference call after the administration "initially told Congress that no such document existed". It paints a bigger picture, but doesn't refute that the President clearly knew of the danger to New Orleans and failed to act. Are Americans fully prepared for the truth?]

[UPDATE 2: Greg Saunders is right... the President is a national disgrace.]

Dubai Theatre: The Saga Continues...

I was going to write a long update on the port situation, but I realized I've already stated my opinions a few times. Instead, this will just be a link-dump where I link to news updates and the opinion pieces on which I agree (to one degree or another). Enjoy.

This development is not likely to help the President- Lawmaker: Port deal never probed for terror ties
Coast Guard official says ports 'far more secure now'

A review of a United Arab Emirates-owned company's plan to take over operations at key U.S. ports never looked into whether the company had ties to al Qaeda or other terrorists, a key Republican lawmaker told CNN on Wednesday...

No wonder the Washington Post reported today that the GOP discontent with the White House is growing.

Joe Conason has a piece in the New York Observer defending critics of the deal-
How fortunate that the opinion pages of our mightiest newspapers are open to diverse viewpoints. We would otherwise miss the opportunity to learn from liberal, conservative and centrist pundits alike that opponents of the Dubai ports deal—which now include about 70 percent of the American public—must be crazed, racist and xenophobic.

One original thinker after another insists that there can be no honest criticism of the Dubai deal. They tell us that every critic, no matter how measured, is a protectionist bigot; and that every argument, no matter how rational, is a calumny against Arabs and Muslims. There is a strange whiff of demagogy in these screeds...

Matthew Yglesias shares those sentiments and has ideas for a compromise-
..Skeptics of the port deal suggest we discriminate between foreign entities based on their nation of origin, something the United States does regularly. Our border with Canada is administered differently from our border with Mexico. Visa rules distinguish between citizens of different countries. We share some intelligence with some states, and not with others. We have formal defense commitments to some countries, but not with all of them. That's foreign policy, that's National Security 101...

Cartoonist Tom Tomorrow throws his two cents in-
...Now, obviously I know essentially nothing about the operation of ports in America, and not too much more about the UAE. But I do know that the UAE was one of a small handful of countries that recognized the Taliban as a legitimate government. I know that the UAE was considered a financial safe harbor by al Qaeda. I know that members of the UAE royal family used to hang out in the desert with their buddy Osama bin Laden. This morning, I learned that the UAE boycotts Israel, and that dealing with countries that boycott Israel is apparently against US law.

The UAE may be a progressive state by regional standards. The people of the UAE may be the finest you’d ever hope to know. But the government of the UAE clearly plays both ends against the middle, and that’s the point here...

As for TruthDig founder Robert Scheer? Well he's just enjoying the theater-
Do You Buy Dubai? That’s this season’s big hit, a zany farce with pompous officials in the Bush administration and their hysterical courtiers in the mass media asserting positions that are patently absurd but hilarious to watch. Audiences are eating it up...

And this is one show a lot of people are watching closely.

Meanwhile, the President says he still stands by the deal. Naturally.

"Your desk is so clean Mr. President."

It is? Tell me more!!!!

Elizabeth Vargas is no Brit Hume or Bill O'Reilly, but she gave the President the best fluff interview she could. All the questions I had about the magnolia in the Rose Garden have now been answered. They did get down to some business, though (hey, it is a "news" show after all!). Here are some highlights of that...

VARGAS: So you don't agree with that report that calls the U.S. "woefully unprepared?"

BUSH: I think the U.S. is better prepared than woefully unprepared. There's no question we've got more work to do, and our report on Katrina outlined the work that needs to be done.

I thought, for example, the reaction to the 9/11 attack was a remarkable reaction, positively. When the terrorists attacked and destroyed two buildings, there were rescue teams rushing in to save lives. There was a response by the city that was a coordinated response. Katrina was one that we could have done a much better job [on], and we're learning the lessons from Katrina.

The President likely used 9/11 out of habit, but I don't see how it helps him. The President had nothing to do what was going on in NYC that morning. While he was reading 'My Pet Goat' and virtually absent all day (as he stayed hidden on Air Force One), that "remarkable reaction" he mentioned was being done by New York itself. The coordinated response was city-run. Rudy Guiliani, the NYPD, FDNY, and others became the leaders for the nation to look to that day until later that night when the President realized that maybe he should return to Washington. That one doesn't get to go on President Bush's resume. Katrina does. If city officials were able to organize a coordinate response on 9/11, that only makes it worse that Bush's federal government couldn't organize one for New Orleans when they had advance warning.

VARGAS: When you look back on those days immediately following when Katrina struck, what moment do you think was the moment that you realized that the government was failing, especially the people of New Orleans?

BUSH: When I saw TV reporters interviewing people who were screaming for help. It looked — the scenes looked chaotic and desperate. And I realized that our government was — could have done a better job of comforting people.

Two interesting things here- First, the President admitting that (as he was on vacation eating cake with Sen. McCain and later strumming a guitar in San Diego), he learned of the severity of the situation via television (or was it that DVD that Dan Bartlett made him?). Apparently Anderson Cooper has better information than Homeland Security.

Secondly, the President sees his initial failing as not failed to save people, but to comfort them. The President is so detached from what real leadership is, and so used to his photo-op presidency, that he just wished he could've soothed the chaos away with his concern. Maybe that's why his approval ratings have hit bottom; his presidency is not very comforting.

VARGAS: Let's move to Iraq. This has been a rough few days in Iraq since the bombing of the mosque in Samarra. ... What is the policy if, in fact, a civil war should break out or the sectarian violence continues? Are you willing to sacrifice American lives to get the Sunnis and the Shiites to stop killing each other?

BUSH: I don't buy your premise that there's going to be a civil war.

I singled this section out because I believe it's emblematic of the cluelessness with which the President operates. He lives in a bubble and chooses to reject any reality outside it he finds upsetting. The President makes a few concessions about "sectarian strife", but refuses to acknowledge how serious the situation has become. He refuses to buy the idea of civil war as a "premise" he can just "reject", as if Vargas is discussing a bad sci-fi movie. President Buchanan rejected the premise of a civil war here... how'd history judge him? It should also be noted that, before the war began, many people inside the government (and outside) rejected the White House's premises that: Iraq had ties to Al Qaeda, Iraq posed a threat to the United States, that we would be greeted as liberators, that the war would be financed by Iraqi oil and cost U.S. taxpayers next to nothing, that we wouldn't need more than 150,000 troops, etc. Who was right on all on that? Not Bush.

Things in Iraq will never improve on our end unless the President admits mistakes and adopts a new policy/approach.

VARGAS: So let me make sure I understand you. No matter what happens with the level of sectarian violence, the U.S. troops will stay there?

BUSH: The U.S. troops will stay there so long as — until the Iraqis can defend themselves. I mean, my policy has not changed. To summarize it, as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.

See? NO CHANGE AT ALL. A smart leader changes his plans to adapt to new circumstances. But not Georgie The War President. He knows what he's doing. After all, nothing's gone wrong with the plan so far, right?

The President also refuses to acknowledge that the situation with Iraqi security forces is not improving; in fact, it's actually getting worse. What if the Iraqis can never defend themselves? Do we stay forever? The President's withdrawal strategy doesn't mesh with reality... or with what the troops are saying.

VARGAS: But you haven't prejudged the 45-day security review. If in fact, there are still concerns, even if you don't share them —

BUSH: Well, there's a difference — well, there's a difference between somebody who has made up their mind regardless of the facts, and the facts, and so I want to hear what — again, I want to see the same facts presented to the Congress, and — but the 45-day period is a, is a good opportunity for people to find out the facts.

Do I even need to touch this one?

"I am so smart! SMRT! I mean, SMART!"

This explains a lot, no?

AP/MSNBC: D’oh! More know Simpsons than Constitution-

Study: America more familiar with cartoon family than First Amendment

Don't read the full article if the intelligence level of Americans frightens you.

Bowtie Boy Shills For Libby

Tucker Carlson... Another partisan Republican media operative.

But we knew that already, didn't we?

Arianna Huffington has the goods:
The Full Disclosure Tucker Carlson Isn't Making

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Why We Can No Longer Afford George W. Bush

I mentioned the new Harper's cover story on 'The Case For Impeachment' the other day.

Now their website has some excerpts- here.

I definitely recommend picking up the actual issue (on newsstands now!). The full article is really long and very well written, covering all the bases. It likely won't convert any faithful Bush believers, but it's an excellent summary of the case against him to date.

[PS- It speaks... tonight on ABC. Summary: "Everything's fine; why do you ask?"

ABC News: Bush Not Worried About Low Approval Ratings-
President Says He's Using 'Ample Capital' to 'Spread Freedom' In an Exclusive, Wide-Ranging Interview

I Don't Need Your Civil War

"There are some who feel like -- that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring them on. We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation."
--President George W. Bush (July 2, 2003)

The news on civil war in Iraq continues to pour out...

The Washington Post reports that "Grisly attacks and other sectarian violence unleashed by last week's bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine have killed more than 1,300 Iraqis, making the past few days the deadliest of the war outside of major U.S. offensives." Time magazine is reporting this week that "The reconstruction of Iraq has cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $30 billion so far, and is still plagued with problems, as evidenced by the daily power outages, degraded water supplies and skyrocketing local fuel prices... [and a] report, to be issued this week by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, catalogs a litany of blunders that had more to do with poor planning in Washington than with the insurgency or sectarian violence." Also, the AP reports on that same topic. Finally, CNN reports that "The only Iraqi battalion capable of fighting without U.S. support has been downgraded to a level requiring them to fight with American troops backing them up".

So the situation in Iraq? Not so good.

And in an interesting turn of events, new polls show that U.S. troops on the ground want the U.S. to get out of Iraq. ASAP. Editor & Publisher looks at findings by the NY Time's William Kristof:
A poll of U.S. troops currently serving in Iraq—reportedly the first of its kind—shows that 72% advocate a U.S. pullout within a year, with only 23% for staying as long ”as necessary,” reports Nicholas Kristof in his New York Times column today. Some 29% urge withdrawal “immediately.”...

John Zogby also explores the poll findings. I guess the big question is... Why are our troops defeatists and cowards? Troops- stop hating America! Note to Democrats: This is your break. Dust off your damn spines, establish a clear stance on the war, fight for your cause and don't be afraid to keep speaking out even if people attack you for it. It's a little something called leadership; we're not getting it from the right, so it's your turn to step up to the plate.

Also, here is a look at what people are saying around the internet on Iraq...

Glenn Greenwald holds a funeral for the conservative principle of personal responsibility:
[T]he pet neoconservative project of invading and bombing Iraq in order to transform it into a pro-U.S. beacon of peace, stability and freedom is a wholesale disaster, an abject failure on virtually every level. The cost of our little adventure is incalculable and will be with us for a generation, at least – the destruction of American credibility; the indescribable weakening of our military which leaves us vulnerable to real threats and enemies; and the staggering cost in both money and lives. ... Finally forced to accept the reality of their failure, war proponents have only two choices left: (a) admit their error and accept personal responsibility for their horrendous lack of judgment and foresight, or (b) blame others for their failure while insisting, in the face of a tidal wave of evidence, that they were right all along. Guess which option these Shining Beacons of Personal Responsibility are embracing?

Peter Galbraith sums up how President Bush has failed completely as a leader:
Much of the Iraq fiasco can be directly attributed to Bush's shortcomings as a leader. Having decided to invade Iraq, he failed to make sure there was adequate planning for the postwar period. He never settled bitter policy disputes among his principal aides over how postwar Iraq would be governed; and he allowed competing elements of his administration to pursue diametrically opposed policies at nearly the same time. He used jobs in the Coalition Provisional Authority to reward political loyalists who lacked professional competence, regional expertise, language skills, and, in some cases, common sense. Most serious of all, he conducted his Iraq policy with an arrogance not matched by political will or military power.

Andrew Sullivan (who once called war critics 'fifth columnists') is less than optimistic:
1300 dead in a few days is not a portent of civil war. It is civil war. The question is whether it can now be stopped. Imagine if 16,000 Americans had been slaughtered in a few days in sectarian conflict. Would you call it peace?

Even leading conservative William Buckley has had enough of Bush's war.

This is, of course, not just complaining for the sake of it. We need accountability for this disaster.

And that's the problem... Until we have that accountability, until we have people take responsibility for their mistakes and make changes, the situation in Iraq will not improve. This President's stubborness is legendary and he would rather let American troops and Iraqi civilians die than admit his pet project was a disaster. 'Stay the course' was never a credible policy; now, however, it is practically a death wish. As the Republican-to-English dictionary notes, 'staying the course' translates to "Continuing to perform the same actions and expecting different results. (See: insanity.)".

It's time to change course. Continue to work with the Iraqis in stabilization efforts and reconstruction. But we need to begin withdrawing troops now. Not all at once, but it must begin now. Yes, it is morally wrong to abandon a country we've shat on, but leaving our troops at this point would do more harm than good. The Iraqi people must learn to stand up for themselves and rid their country of insurgents and terrorists. We can't hold their hands forever. As Stephen Colbert said last night, "It's a civil war. By definition, we can't be involved!".

And that's not truthiness either, that's truth.

Links of the Day

No doubt right now our lame-duck monarch and Mr. Rove are cooking up a scheme to get the masses back in line...

While we wait for its unveiling, here are some links-

-In a Nixon-esque move, the White House rejects Congressional calls for investigations into his eavesdropping:
White House Rejects Special Counsel

-And the NY Times is seeking documents about the NSA's domestic spying activities:
NYT sues Pentagon over domestic spying

-Former CIA Middle East coordinator Paul Pillar wants the press to speak more truth to power:
Pillar to press: Don't get fooled again

Take Me To The Mardi Gras

The finale of Carnival season arrives as New Orleans finishes up a much-deserved party...

AP: New Orleans Turns Out for Mardi Gras

As I mentioned last week, Harry Shearer has been blogging from the city. His posts-
-What Kind of Carnival?
-A Carnival Diary, Part One
-Carnival Diary, part two
-Carnival Diary, part 3
-Carnival Diary, part 4
-Carnival Diary, Part 5
-Carnival Diary, Part Six
-Carnival Diary, Part 7
-Carnival Diary, part 8
-Carnival Diary, part 9

It's an interesting read. I also watched CNN's coverage this morning... you're better off with Shearer.


That's the President's current approval rating... an all-time low.

Surprised? I'm not.

CBS News: Poll: Bush Ratings At All-Time Low
The latest CBS News poll finds President Bush's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent, while pessimism about the Iraq war has risen to a new high...

Even Matt Drudge is taking note of this-

Vice President Cheney also finds himself at a not surprising 18% rating.

I hope these numbers aren't just a quickie/temporary reaction to the scandals of the past week and are actually more indicative of a larger trend of Americans moving away from this administration's policies and behavior. We desperately need Congress to act to rein in this administration, but many are too weak-willed to do so unless they believe the public is there with them. This is a good sign. For this to proceed, we also need some strong-willed members of Congress to keep getting the message out on the important issues. After all, an informed public is this administration's worst nightmare.

Finally, ThinkProgress breaks down the main poll findings:
– 30 percent approve of Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq — an all-time low.

– 27 percent approve of Bush’s energy policy.

– 32 percent approve of Bush’s handling of the economy.

– 5 percent of Americans are pleased with the way the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast is going.

Again, are any of those findings surprising at this point?

Monday, February 27, 2006

They Censor News Channels, Don't They?

Lou Dobbs has been doing some excellent, detailed reports on the Dubai port deal this past week. In some people's opinion... too detailed. Dobbs reported today that Dubai Ports World, the state-run company involved in the deal, told CNN to shut him up or they would block CNN from any and all media access to their operations. CNN, to their credit, is sticking by Dobbs.

No wonder President Bush likes them so much, they're both bullies who hate the concept of a free press. This isn't the biggest news relating to this story today (the Coast Guard concerns are making the rounds), but I think it speaks volumes about their attitudes.

The President and Dubai assure us they have nothing to hide and that this deal is on the level. That very well may be true, but the secret, antagonistic way both parties are handling this matter does not help their case. Whether or not the deal poses a legitimate national security threat, it is obvious that this deal is motivated more by global business reasons than a desire to foster friendly relations with the Arab world. If the President was truly concerned about that, he wouldn't have invaded Iraq in the face of overwhelming disagreement, wouldn't have turned a blind eye on the prison torture, and wouldn't have used the very xenophobic fears he's now accusing critics of to consolidate his power.

His ability to play the 'trust me' card is also long over, especially since he was as out of the loop on this as most of us until just last week. The answers we get may find less to worry about than we fear, but it's important that people like Mr. Dobbs continue to ask the questions.

Lost Civil Rights Era Photos Uncovered

Old photos of civil rights protests from the '50s/'60s taken, and concealed, by Birmingham News photographers were discovered by an intern there. The paper decided to print the photos now in a special series. These are iconic photos of a historical struggle that many in the media at that time hoped to keep hidden from the fragile eyes of Middle America...

AP: Ala. Paper Publishes Civil Rights Photos
Dozens of never before released photos from the civil rights era came to light this weekend after an intern discovered them buried in an equipment closet at the Birmingham News.

The photos had been in a box marked: "Keep. Do Not Sell." But at the time they were taken, the newspaper didn't want to draw attention to the racial discord of the 1950s and 1960s, news photographers from the period said.

"The editors thought if you didn't publish it, much of this would go away," said Ed Jones, 81, a photographer at The News from 1942 to 1987...

That's funny- That's the same attitude the Bush administration has toward dead soldiers coming home from Iraq! The more things change... you know the rest.

They have the photos online- here. Here is a sample:

Let's all remember that this was going on less than 50 years ago. It's still a work in progress, too. As for the uncovering of the hidden photos, Jane at Firedoglake finds similarity to the behavior of today's media- "[The photos] document the struggle of incredibly brave people with no money who banded together to fight a powerful elite that controlled the media and did everything possible to keep their message from getting through. But time has a way of unraveling those conspiracies, and history will judge journalists who currently collaborate with power to perpetuate war with lies that go unchallenged just as harshly as it did those who thought it was a good idea to stick that box of photos in a closet some forty years ago."


Dick Cheney To Cut And Run From White House?

More Cheney will retire/resign rumors, although they're getting increasingly credible...

From the Washington Times' Insight magazine-
Cheney seen retiring after midterm elections
Vice President Dick Cheney is expected to retire within a year.

Senior GOP sources envision the retirement of Mr. Cheney in 2007, months after the congressional elections. The sources said Mr. Cheney would be persuaded to step down as he becomes an increasing political liability to President Bush...

If this happens, he would be the first criminal Vice President since Spiro Agnew not to finish out his term.

The article implies the departure would take place around December/January. Now what else will be taking place in January? The beginning of Scooter Libby's trial. And, with new evidence coming out that could implicate him, who is believed to be the ultimate target of Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation? Yep, Vice President Cheney. This White House can't afford for the President to wear his tie crooked these days, the last thing they want is to have the sitting Vice President under criminal investigation. And so, after the elections (which they need Cheney around for, if only for the sake of appearance) and before the trial, he will gracefully resign for some vague 'health' reasons. The article hints at this as well.

The speculation would then be who will replace Cheney? Some might expect an outsider, but considering the President keeps the same dozen people in his inner circle and doesn't care to know/acknowledge/promote anyone else, I think it's a safe bet the new VP would be one of the usual suspects. Anyone expecting a major shakeup will likely be disappointed once more.

My hope is that Mr. Cheney will be retiring as the new Democratic Congress is sworn in... This way, Mr. Fitzgerald won't be the only one seeking accountability for the things he and George have done to this country.

[PS- Don't worry about Mr. Cheney; I think he has a nice retirement plan set up...
NY Times: Army to Pay Halliburton Unit Most Costs Disputed by Audit]

The Coast Guard Has Concerns

Stupid racist Coast Guard, you hush now!

AP: Paper: Coast Guard Has Port Co. Intel Gaps

Specter's Proposed Law... More Than Meets The Eye?

Yesterday morning, I posted on a piece of legislation Sen. Specter is proposing in response to the President's warrantless spying program. The Washington Post article on the bill made it seem like Specter intended to simply rubberstamp the President's actions. Glenn Greenwald (on this issue like white on rice, as usual) takes a closer look and finds it's different than what the Post described-

Having now carefully reviewed Sen. Specter’s proposed legislation to amend FISA (rather than just the amazingly incomplete and even misleading description of the legislation from yesterday's Washington Post article), I can say with confidence that neither this bill nor any modified version of it is going to be even remotely acceptable to the Bush Administration. And, in ways that may (or may not) be intended by Specter, this proposed legislation -- which the Administration is sure to reject -- can achieve the critical goal of highlighting the Administration's true motives in violating FISA.

As I have argued many times, this scandal arose not because the Administration has adopted some radical views specifically about its eavesdropping powers, but instead, this scandal, at its core, is based on the fact that the Administration has embraced the general theory that the President has the right to make decisions about all matters concerning national security without any limitation or "interference" from the Congress or the courts. The Administration did not eavesdrop in violation of FISA because it believed that the FISA standards were too restrictive or that the FISA process was too cumbersome. It eavesdropped outside of FISA because it believes it has the power to eavesdrop (or do anything else relating to national security) in total secrecy, without any judicial or Congressional oversight and without having to justify its actions to anyone.

For that reason, any legislation (such as Specter's) which simply liberalizes FISA standards but still requires judicial approval as well as judicial and Congressional oversight will be unacceptable to the Administration. The Administration has been and still is defending a general theory of unchecked Executive power, not a theory of eavesdropping. They don't care about tinkering with FISA standards. They care about the power to make national security decisions (including, but not limited to, eavesdropping) without any oversight or limitation. As a result, the Specter legislation will not be any more acceptable to them than the current FISA legislation is, and their rejection of it will only serve to highlight just how radical the Administration's position is -- something which, in my view, is a development that ought to be welcomed and encouraged...

Read his post for a detailed analysis of the proposed bill.

Seems like we may just wanna wait this one out and see where it's going.

In the meantime, Congress should continue to proceed with investigations into the President's actions.

[PS- Speaking of spying and governmental excesses, the National Journal has a great article about how the Defense Department's controversial (but believed to be stopped) 'Total Information Awareness' program still lives. It states that the program "was stopped in name only and has quietly continued within the intelligence agency now fending off charges that it has violated the privacy of U.S. citizens". Just more scary news to digest on this bitterly cold Monday.]

The Emperor Is Wearing No Clothes

More and more people are finally coming around to the reality that President Bush is not the big hero cowboy war president divine warrior his handlers have portrayed him as since late 2001. In fact, whether it's the disastrous war in Iraq, or his misuses of military funds and resources, or putting business deals ahead of security concerns, he is a national security disaster.

Hurricane Katrina helped expose this as well. While President Bush was obsessing over his failing Iraq adventure, he had left our homeland vulnerable and unprepared to deal with a catastrophe. In particular, it exposed how Bush has hurt the National Guard and misused them. All 50 governors are sending a message to the White House on that issue-
NY Times: Bush Policies Are Weakening National Guard, Governors Say
Governors of both parties said Sunday that Bush administration policies were stripping the National Guard of equipment and personnel needed to respond to hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, forest fires and other emergencies.

Tens of thousands of National Guard members have been sent to Iraq, along with much of the equipment needed to deal with natural disasters and terrorist threats in the United States, the governors said here at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association...

...The governors said they would present their concerns to President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Monday. In a preview of their message, all 50 governors signed a letter to the president opposing any cuts in the size of the National Guard...

History would indicate that the White House will reject their suggestions out of pride.

Also, more information is coming out on the Dubai port deal... New reports indicate they would take control at 21 ports, not 6 as originally reported. And Mark Kleiman ponders the business/lobbying aspects of the deal.

Finally, the NY Times has a report on the fallout of this deal-
How a Deal Became a Big Liability for G.O.P.

Won't Somebody Please Think Of The Children??!

I posted last week about how Republicans all over the country are once transparently using anti-gay sentiment for political purposes in an election year. Instead of gay marriage (sooo 2004!), they're fighting against gay adoption now. Those homos will sneak their cooties into the kids' Cheerios, dammnit!

One such state where an anti-gay adoption bill has been proposed is Ohio. State Senator Robert Hagan has proposed his own bill (which would bar Republicans from adopting) to expose the silliness and bigotry of that bill. has a summary of this-
State Senator Robert Hagan (D-Ohio) says he will introduce legislation to ban Republican couples from adopting children. According to Hagan, "credible research'' shows that adopted children raised in GOP households are more at risk for developing "emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities." Hagan agrees there is no scientific evidence backing his claims about Republican parents -- just, as Hagan notes, there is none backing State Representative Ron Hood's (R) bill banning gay parents from adopting. Hood claims children purportedly suffer from emotional "harm" when they are adopted by gay couples. Hagen admits he created his proposal to mock Hood's proposed ban on gay adoption in a way that people would see the "blatantly discriminatory and extremely divisive" nature of the bill. The GOP House leadership does not support Hood's proposal.

Good for Hagan. Hopefully even more Democrats will be willing to so publically call these anti-gay bills out for what they are- hate legislation. We can't afford to let the Republicans market intolerance as a 'value' again this year.

See also the Akron Beacon-Journal: Plan would bar Ohio adoptions by GOP

Sean Hannity...

...Fair and balanced.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Pictures Of The Week

Fox News- Always looking on the bright side...

"Nuclear Holocaust On East Coast: Just Another Bump In The Road?"

Neoconservatism Is Dead, Long Live Neoconservatism

One failure of a war later and they're all sounding the death knells...

NY Times: After Neoconservatism Neocon architect says: 'Pull it down'

ThinkProgress: Kristol: “We Have Not Had A Serious Three-Year Effort To Fight A War In Iraq”

Just consider the last 5 years a failed experiment. Sorry for all those dead people.

Sen. Specter: 'Bush Broke The Law. So I Will Create A New Law For Him!'

President breaks law. Senator proposes new law saying 'Please obey law'. I reach for Advil.

Washington Post: Specter Proposes NSA Surveillance Rules-
Measure Would Make Administration Seek FISA Court's Permission to Eavesdrop

The federal government would have to obtain permission from a secret court to continue a controversial form of surveillance, which the National Security Agency now conducts without warrants, under a bill being proposed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).

Specter's proposal would bring the four-year-old NSA program under the authority of the court created by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The act created a mechanism for obtaining warrants to wiretap domestic suspects. But President Bush, shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks, authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on communications without such warrants. The program was revealed in news reports two months ago...

...The draft version of Specter's bill, which is circulating in intelligence and legal circles, would require the attorney general to seek the FISA court's approval for each planned NSA intercept under the program...

So Sen. Specter wants to create a new law. A new law that basically, for all intents and purposes, says the same thing as the 1978 FISA law. A law that would require Bush to answer to the FISA court for his surveillance program. But still without warrants. Sort of. Just getting FISA court approval. Which is kind of the same thing as a warrant anyway.

Why not just make the President follow the original FISA law?!?!?

That is, if you choose to recall, why we are having this discussion in the first place. Because the President has been routinely violating the law with a secret, illegal surveillance program that has been continuously reauthorized since 2001, despite major objections by top Justice Department officials, U.S. Senators, and others before it even became public. And as it became public, and new details were revealed, we learned that not only is the program illegal, but it is also likely not even effective! The White House gave Congress its legal rationale for the move, which even Sen. Specter said was "strained and unrealistic". Polls showed Americans greatly concerned about the issue, if not for the civil liberties aspect, but in majority agreeance that the President breaking the law was a major issue. Hearings had begun on the issue, but were still in the early stages. And now?

Well, if Specter's law does get traction (which knowing Bush and his imperial stubbornness, it might not), that important debate may be stymied. Instead just simply demanding that his majesty comply with the existing law, or even "pay a political price" (to quote Mr. Specter from a few weeks ago), they are simply going to write new laws requiring he do what he was already required to do.

This move by Specter is boneheadedly naive. The President violated FISA for reasons so dubious, we have yet to get a straight answer from Attorney General Gonzales or any of his other surrogates. This scandal wasn't about spying, per se, it was about abuse of Presidential power during wartime. Perhaps Specter's intentions here are good; I'm not that doubting that. Likely, he means this to reinforce the authority the courts have over the President and our surveillance activities. I respect that. But what reasons does Sen. Specter have to believe the President will not simply (and secretly) invoke his imperial 'inherent powers' to override this new law the very first second it becomes inconvenient to him? What if the President agrees to sign the new law... but issues a signing statement effectively nullifying it anyway? Nothing in the administration's behavior, and stated belief on Executive authority, gives the Senator reason to believe that won't happen.

Instead of worrying about how to make the President stop breaking the law, the larger issue Congress needs to be focusing on is the idea of an unchecked Executive branch. What message would this move send to Americans about the rule or law? Or what message would this send to future Presidents (Democrat and Republican alike) about what they can get away with? Allowing this to pass would set a dangerous precedent. Are we a nation of laws? Of checks and balances? Or mere subjects to an Executive with seemingly no limits to his power?

Harper's Magazine has a cover story on impeachment. A passage from that article-
We have before us in the White House a thief who steals the country's good name and reputation for his private and personal use; a liar who seeks to instill in the American people a state of fear; a televangelist who engages the United States in a never-ending crusade against all the world's evil, a wastrel who who squanders a vast sum of the nation's wealth on what turns out to be a recruiting drive certain to multiply the host of our enemies. In a word, a criminal- known to be armed and shown to be dangerous.

Strong charges. Luckily for the President, his Congress will never see them answered.

Either we need Congress to act... or we need a new Congress. I vote for the latter.

Bush And Frist Work Out Political Deal On Port Issue

The rollercoaster ride of DC uproars winds down a bit as Congress prepares to help Bush save face...

After all, that is apparently the job of this Republican Congress.

Time magazine: A Face-saving Dubai Deal in the Works?

GOP officials are apparently mulling over a deal that would allow for a new review of the Dubai Ports World contentious acquisition

Moving toward a deal that could allow President Bush and congressional GOP leaders to save face and avert a prolonged confrontation, GOP officials said today that they were discussing the idea of having Dubai Ports World seek a new review of its acquisition of a British company's operation that runs several key U.S. ports.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, confirmed in a phone interview early Saturday afternoon to TIME that officials were close to a deal involving the Congressional leadership, the White House and the Dubai company. The agreement would call for a 45-day “CFIUS-plus investigation,” King said, referring to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a Treasury Department-run interagency panel that probes proposed acquisitions in the U.S...

...If approved by all parties, the new deal would allow Bush to avert a GOP-driven bill to overturn the Dubai deal with enough votes to override Bush's threat of his first veto. Republican sources tell TIME that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee proposed the basic terms of a deal designed to give the White House a graceful way out, while also allaying the concerns of the many lawmakers in both parties who have said the deal could be a threat to our security. Under the Frist plan, the deal could stand a good chance of ultimately going through after the extended review....

I'm glad the Republicans and Bush got their differences worked out. I was worried that they might actually behave like two separate, equally powerful branches for a second. As Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News, "Democrats are not going to shift on this. Republicans will." Darn those flip-flopping Republicans!

I'm too tired to comment fully, but while I do agree it's good this is actually going to be discussed now, it's still important for people to remind the American public that President Bush had to be politically pressured (by no less than his own base ready to thrown him under a bus) into accepting the legally-required 45-day review for such a deal. George W. Bush finds the law inconvenient and he hates having to accept he's required to follow it. This story isn't the most significant of 2006, but it once again reinforces the image of Bush as outside the law (and the loop) and a leader whose national security priorities often seem to defer to his political goals.

If the Democrats want to retain the temporary advantage they got this week, they need to keep pressing.

(But don't count on it)

[PS- Newsweek commentary... it's a interesting read: What Price Xenophobia?-
Bush has won a reprieve in the U.S. port uproar. But the naysayers must accept that Dubai really has helped in the fight against Al Qaeda.

Dick Cheney's Secret War

The more the Plame case is dug into, the more all signs point to Vice President Cheney-

TruthOut: White House 'Discovers' 250 Emails Related to Plame Leak

Rest In Peace, Don

Don Knotts has passed away.

Let's remember him by looking back at one of his finest roles...