Saturday, March 18, 2006

'Round And 'Round We Go

Democratic politicians refuse to stand up to the Republicans' false smears.

This cowardice creates this perception...

Democrats: People like Feingold and Harkin have- these. Even Barbara Boxer has them. Please find yours.

(See again Feingold's Thursday press conference where he defends his decision strongly)

And Elizabeth de la Vega explores administration's circular argument-
...If you have any doubt that the NSA spying "debate" is trapped in an infinite loop, you need only review two pieces of evidence. The first, which we'll call "Exhibit A," is an article, dated March 8, 2006, entitled "Gonzales: NSA Program Doesn't Need a Law." Aha, you say, a mere headline. But this is what the article says: "The Attorney General made clear Wednesday, March 8, that the White House is not seeking congressional action to inscribe the National Security Agency's monitoring into U.S. law."

How, you wonder, could that be true? Since December, the President, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among others, have said that FISA is outdated, not sufficiently agile, ineffective against terrorists, and too paper-intensive. Perhaps the AP reporter misinterpreted Gonzales' remarks...

...Let's review. Members of the Bush administration have admitted that they routinely ignore FISA. That does not mean, however, that they believe there's anything wrong with the law. On the contrary, the Bush administration does not think the law needs to be changed; nor does it even want the law to be changed. So every time you hear a Bush team member mention problems with FISA, all you need to do is think like a lawyer and the terms "objection.. irrelevant" will come to mind. Under the circumstances, why should Congress waste one more minute trying to amend a law the administration has no desire to see amended?...

Read the full article. She also tears apart their false legal justification-
what Gonzales has acknowledged is that the administration's legal analysis has "evolved over time." This is a damning, if not entirely surprising, admission. The Office of Legal Counsel is charged with providing objective and balanced advice to the President before he takes action; it is not supposed to be a firm of defense lawyers dedicated to crafting justifications in hindsight.

And ends with a call for honesty and courage from Congress-
It should not require courage to insist on an honest debate about issues that are substantial and serious. It should not require courage to stand firm in the face of juvenile personal attacks on one's allegiance to the United States. But, of course, it does. For that type of courage, we need patriots, not politicians -- strength, not just strategy. So far, in the Senate, Wisconsin's Russ Feingold, California's Barbara Boxer, and Iowa's Tom Harkin have shown themselves to be patriots in calling for censure of the President as a result of his blatantly illegal NSA surveillance operation. That is a total of three. There must be more. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

She's right. This fight should be a no-brainer. Time for Dems to get off the wheel and start fighting again.

[PS- Newsweek has more bad news for Bush- Losing Ground-
A NEWSWEEK poll shows President Bush's approval rating dropping to new lows on domestic issues and rising public anger over Iraq and homeland security.

"Some of my opponents don't like freedom. I disagree."

The media seems to have realized the President's overreliance on straw-man arguments...

AP: Bush Using Straw-Man Arguments in Speeches

Warrantless Physical Searches, Too?

That's what U.S. News & World Report is hinting at in an article to be published tomorrow.

MSNBC's Countdown reported this last night. See video- here.

[Update: Raw Story has more... no known cases yet, but legal maneuvering galore.]

Links of the Day

*yawn* G'morning. Hung over?

Here's some links...

-America's highly underrepresented Christians want more pandering from Republicans:
US evangelicals warn Republicans

-John 'Patriot Act' Ashcroft is back- as a lobbyist! What a world we live in:
Same Washington, Different Office

-Things look good for Democrats and their election chances, don't screw it up, guys:
Democratic Prospects in Senate Looking Up

Jumping The Shark

A little humor to brighten your Saturday morning...

...But according to shark-jumping expert Jace Monteith, “The Bush administration is beginning to look like the fourth season of ‘Saved By the Bell.’ ”

Mr. Monteith points to Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent hunting accident as a sure sign the White House has jumped the shark.

“If you were reading TV Guide and it said, ‘This week, trouble ensues at the White House when the vice president shoots a man in the face,’ you’d be like, oh, man, they’re running out of ideas,” Mr. Monteith says. “What are they going to do on next week’s episode, give the ports away to Arabs?”...

No wonder the show's ratings are way down.

I hope the rumors of an Iran war story arc for October sweeps are wrong...

Friday, March 17, 2006

"As Congress heads into a weeklong recess..."

Senator Feingold held a press conference yesterday. Watch the video- here.

Compare this press conference (the calmness of it, the confident way in the Senator clearly lays out his case in response to each question asked) with the hysterical rhetoric that flew around during the Clinton impeachment debate. That was 'Jerry Springer' politics. That was a real-life SNL parody. This press conference, on the other hand, is how you should do it. This is grownup politics. Someone take notes.

(A transcript is available on his website)

He also released a statement on his website:
As Congress heads into a weeklong recess, I hope members of the Senate have a chance to listen to their constituents back home. All Americans want to fight terrorism and protect our country from those who wish to do us harm, but they don’t want to sacrifice the rights and principles our country was founded upon. One of those fundamental American principles is that the President doesn’t get to pick and choose which laws he follows.

There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks, and especially this week, about Congress changing the law to authorize the President’s otherwise illegal domestic surveillance program. Of course, anyone who makes that argument concedes that the program is illegal. In addition, the President has yet to explain convincingly why he can’t follow the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, which allows wiretapping of terrorists while protecting law-abiding Americans.

The President has broken the law, and the censure resolution I introduced on Monday is intended to hold him accountable. While there have been plenty of personal attacks directed at me this week, few have argued the merits. The facts for censure are clear. FISA makes it a crime to wiretap American citizens on American soil without the requisite court orders – which is exactly what the President has admitted doing. Before the program was revealed, he misled the American people by assuring them that he was getting warrants for wiretaps. Since it was revealed, he has misled the American people about the legal basis for his actions.

I look forward to a full hearing, debate and vote in committee on this important matter. If the Committee fails to consider the resolution in a reasonable time period, I will ask that there be a vote in the full Senate. I know Americans will have a lot to say when they see their elected officials during the break. I hope my colleagues listen.

He hit on every important point. The facts are pretty easy to understand when someone explains them.

Not surprisingly, a new poll shows that Sen. Feingold's approval rating among his Democratic base has grown significantly. The same poll, however, notes mixed feelings on censure. It seems to indicate a significant hesitation toward the move, but not necessarily resistance either. Scott Shields at explores how the wording of the new poll (versus the earlier American Research Group one, which mentioned the crux of the scandal- the lack of court approval for wiretapping) may have skewed the results. Still, some more numbers to look at.

And as the Democratic party runs scared from the issue, the Washington Post's E. J. Dionne insists they shouldn't and says not to underestimate the power of the base-
Consider the disparity between the response to Feingold's initiative among Democratic senators and the reaction among Democratic activists...

...Some Democrats want the party to forget the issue of warrantless wiretapping, because engaging it would let Bush claim that he's tougher on terrorists than his partisan enemies. Others share Feingold's frustration with the administration's stonewalling on the program, but they think they need to know more before they can effectively challenge Bush on the issue. Both groups were furious that Feingold grabbed headlines away from those delicious stories about Republican divisions and defections...

...Here's the problem: Feingold and the activists are right that Democrats can't just take a pass on the wiretapping issue, because Bush's legal claims are so suspect -- even to many in his own party. The opposition's job is to raise alarms over potential abuses of presidential power...

...For two decades, Republicans have used their idealists, their ideologues and their loudmouths to push the boundaries of discussion to the right. In the best of all worlds, Feingold's strong stand would redefine what's "moderate" and make clear that those challenging the legality of the wiretapping are neither extreme nor soft on terrorism.

A huge AMEN on that last point!

I think the best way to sum it up is this... The Republicans communicate with their base and rally them. They know who their voters are. The Republicans have been winning elections. The Democrats don't communicate with their base and/or try to pander to the Republican's base. They don't seem to know who their voters are. The Democrats haven't been winning too many elections (perhaps the Supreme Court jinxed them in 2000).

Russ Feingold is not of this mold. He's reaching out. And he has tapped into the legitimate concerns of not just Democrats, but independents (like moi) and even some more moderate conservatives too. More of this, please. I am not saying he is the great cure for all our political ills, but he understands what this issue is really about and he's communicating that loud and clear. So far, a good number of people are hearing him, despite the level of noise he has to cut through.

Hopefully this important debate will not get swallowed up in our ADD culture.

[Related blog post- The Dems are missing the boat on Feingold]

Media Show... Or Success?

[Update: Reports are conflicting. While the original stories below paint a less serious view of the assault, the LA Times is reporting that the Operation "has led to the capture of a possible ringleader of the bombing of the Gold Mosque" and that it's "resulted in 48 arrests and the discovery of at least six weapons caches consisting of mortars, AK-47s and insurgent training manuals". I hope that the LA Times is correct- we could use all the successes we can get at this stage.]

Many are affirming what we suspected... the airstrikes in Iraq were just more PR for the photo-op presidency.

Time magazine has an article on the assault:
On Scene: How Operation Swarmer Fizzled-

Not a shot was fired, or a leader nabbed, in a major offensive that failed to live up to its advance billing

...The press, flown in from Baghdad to this agricultural gridiron northeast of Samarra, huddled around the Iraqi officials and U.S. Army commanders who explained that the "largest air assault since 2003" in Iraq using over 50 helicopters to put 1500 Iraqi and U.S. troops on the ground had netted 48 suspected insurgents, 17 of which had already been cleared and released...

...But contrary to what many many television networks erroneously reported, the operation was by no means the largest use of airpower since the start of the war. ("Air Assault" is a military term that refers specifically to transporting troops into an area.) In fact, there were no airstrikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What’s more, there were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance, said the U.S. and Iraqi commanders...

Time magazine's Chris Albritton also adds his own thoughts-
“Operation Swarmer” is really a media show. It was designed to show off the new Iraqi Army — although there was no enemy for them to fight. Every American official I’ve heard has emphasized the role of the Iraqi forces just days before the third anniversary of the start of the war. That said, one Iraqi role the military will start highlighting in the next few days, I imagine, is that of Iraqi intelligence. It was intel from the Iraqi military intelligence and interior ministry that the U.S. says prompted this Potemkin operation. And it will be the Iraqi intel that provides the cover for American military commanders to throw up their hands and say, “well, we thought bad guys were there.”

It’s hard to blame the military, however. Stations like Fox and CNN have really taken this and ran with it, with fancy graphics and theme music, thanks to a relatively slow news day. The generals here also are under tremendous pressure to show off some functioning Iraqi troops before the third anniversary, and I won’t fault them for going into a region loaded for bear. After all, the Iraqi intelligence might have been right.

But Operation Overblown should raise serious questions about how good Iraqi intelligence is. ... So I guess it’s fitting that on the eve of the third anniversary of a war launched on — oh, let’s be generous — “faulty” intelligence, a major operation is hyped and then turns out to be less than what it appeared because of … faulty intelligence.

The media seriously needs to start asking more questions. Isn't that their job?

Senate To Validate Warrantless Wiretapping?

Picture this- You are a child living in a home with very clearly-defined rules and boundaries. But you are a mischievous lad and break and bend these rules regularly. One day, you get caught breaking a big one (after having repeatedly lied about it) and your parents are both shocked and upset. Your father insists you must be punished for what you have done- that to do otherwise would just make a mockery of the entire system of rules of boundaries on which the house rests. Your mother, being a little more sensitive (and far more coddling) disagrees. She not only insists no punishment is necessary, she yells down the father for attempting to scold the boy, and decides she will simply change the rules so that, in effect, the boy has not been breaking them. The boy is amazed at what he continues to get by his parents. The mother smiles at her darling child. The neighbors, as usual, peek in and shake their heads in shame at this poor parenting.

This is what some Republicans are doing right now to help the President continue warrantless wiretapping.

If only Bill Clinton thought to have the Senate make perjury legal in 1998.

Here is a Washington Post article that shows exactly why we need to support Feingold-
Bill Would Allow Warrantless Spying
The Bush administration could continue its policy of spying on targeted Americans without obtaining warrants, but only if it justifies the action to a small group of lawmakers, under legislation introduced yesterday by key Republican senators...

...The bill would allow the NSA to eavesdrop, without a warrant, for up to 45 days per case, at which point the Justice Department would have three options. It could drop the surveillance, seek a warrant from FISA's court, or convince a handful of House and Senate members that although there is insufficient evidence for a warrant, continued surveillance "is necessary to protect the United States," according to a summary the four sponsors provided yesterday. They are Mike DeWine (Ohio), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Olympia J. Snowe (Maine).

So, in essence, four partisan Republicans want to give the President a pass.

That's not oversight. That's not democracy. That's a joke.

The article shows the usual concern among some Senators-
It is far from clear whether the bill can win passage. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) -- whose panel plays a major role in the surveillance matter -- pointed his thumb down yesterday when asked about the measure. He said he particularly objects to letting the government "do whatever the hell it wants" for 45 days without seeking judicial or congressional approval.

I'm glad you feel that way, Arlen, but your comments on censure show that your real concern is limited.

The article concludes-
The bill introduced yesterday calls for fines of up to $1 million and prison terms of up to 15 years for those who disclose "classified information related to the Terrorist Surveillance Program," the administration's name for the NSA operation. The penalties would not apply to journalists.

Of course, the President will apply it to journalists anyway (the Justice Dept. is already going after them). The whole point of this scandal is that he has no respect for the rule of law and interprets them as he pleases! It seems the law is geared on its surface toward whistleblowers, which is bad enough. We have protections in this country for them. Without whistleblowers, Richard Nixon would've served out his second term in full. When those in government are violating the law and betraying the trust of the people, we deserve to know.

Finally- Glenn Greenwald, as usual, analyzes the situation:
It expressly empowers the President, in Section 2(a), to "authorize a program of electronic surveillance without a court order for periods of up to 45 days.” The President can simply renew the program every 45 days by certifying that renewal of the program is appropriate (Section 4(b)(2)). Contrary to initial press reports and to this morning's article in The Washington Post, the newly created Intelligence Subcommittee (at least as I read the bill - see below) has no power to approve or reject any warrantless eavesdropping programs. Its only purpose is to be briefed periodically on the eavesdropping activities undertaken as part of the program.

In sum, the bill authorizes and makes legal precisely the illegal conduct in which the Administration has been continuously engaging since September or October of 2001. The Administration claims that it reviews its warrantless eavesdropping every 45 days, so that's precisely what the bill authorizes. Or, as Richard Nixon says: "when the president does it that means that it is not illegal."

Bold added by me. This isn't oversight. It's just a rubberstamp.

Greenwald notes later on that-
This is a completely fruitless and absurd exercise to engage in without resolving the question of the President's claimed law-breaking powers. In reality, this is the only point worth making. Laws passed by Congress which are designed to place limits on the President's actions are worthless because the President has claimed the power to ignore those laws. And we know this both because he has said so and because he has been ignoring them. All other discussions about this bill or other bills are just academic as long as the President claims, as he does, the power to break the law.

And that's the main issue, isn't it?

Congress must understand this basic point:
There is no point to laws or Congress if the President is accountable to neither!

As with the torture ban (etc.), the President has made it clear that he will not obey any laws that displease him. He broke the FISA law because he said he was above it via his inherent constitutional authority (a shocking declaration with seemingly no limit). Ditto torture ban. Ditto god knows what else. Trying to make new laws (especially those as half-assed and permissive as this) for him to obey is futile. He may sign the law or not, but there is no guarantee that he will obey its terms. In fact, you'd be damn foolish to expect that he would.

This is why the steps Sen. Feingold has taken are so important.

Besides the obvious constitutional violations (goodbye, fourth amendment), the United States cannot survive as a democracy with a leader who declares himself (brazenly so) above the law and reduces the other two branches of government to that of servants. This is the problem that needs to be resolved, not whether Mike DeWine feels the President could maybe (pretty please?) poke his head in every few months to give him a heads up on his unchecked actions. If Congress wants to go down this road, then they don't deserve to even exist as a body of government. It took over 200 years, but the Founders essentially traded one King George for another (and the people aren't too fond of the new one).

The American people aren't happy with this President. They don't trust him. They don't like the direction he's taking this country in. They want accountability. It's time for Congress to step out of their beltway bubbles and realize that.

Ideally, the steps that would follow would be this...

1. Censure President George W. Bush
2. Vote out as many Republicans in November who refuse to do their job
3. Look over at what is happening in the House of Representatives with impeachment.
4. Stop pretending like the only democracy we care about is the one in Iraq

I ain't expecting that miracle, but at least (for starters), the Senate must not allow this bill to pass.

George And Dick's Excellent Adventure Bogus Journey

One of the big right-wing talking points about war critics is that we want the U.S. to lose- that we hate George W. Bush so much we hope and pray for our troops to be killed and defeated in the field of battle in order to prove him wrong. Understandable; as I noted yesterday, these sort of arguments are all they have left. It is, of course, an insulting charge. It's also the charge that is scaring Democrats away from actually giving any honest speeches on the war (and those who do speak pull their punches and say soft words like 'misled' instead of 'lies').

It's easier for Bush's supporters to blame the left and direct their anger there than it is to accept reality. It's all our fault; it's all the media's fault (as if the media wasn't an equal cheerleader in launching this war). These attacks worked for a long time, but times have changed.

The real truth is this- War critics never wanted to start this pointless war. War critics were not the ones who threw around pre-war accusations they had been told were dubious at best. War critics were not the ones who thumbed our noses at the rest of the world. War critics were not the ones who pressed forth with a failed policy, allowing the country they invaded to descend into civil war on our watch while we were too busy defending torture/murder and smearing those who wanted to see our troops brought home safely and soon. We didn't send our troops into battle with angry civilians without body armor or a plan. If the Republicans and Democrats had listened to war critics in 2002/early 2003 (about the dangers and cost of the war, the obviously fishy intelligence, etc), they could've stopped the war from ever starting and we wouldn't have to have this debate today.

We don't want the war to fail. We didn't the war to begin. And we want it to end now.

On this note, I wanted to reprint an email that Andrew Sullivan received on his blog. I was reading it this morning over there and thought it really explained why so many have a legitimate ambivalence about the outcome of Bush's little adventure-
"I've never been a Bush supporter, and could easily be counted as 'anti-Bush.' But I'm not anti-Bush just for the thrill of it. I have what I believe to be good reasons, among them many that you yourself have noted over the course of the last couple of years. What has scared and outraged me perhaps more than anything else about Bush is the extent to which he has followed a 'narrative' that is simply not supported by any empirical evidence and, more importantly, that he has apparently not been particularly interested in empirical evidence or expertise, period. It's as if the discussion about the Iraq war, and how to wage it, has been a private conversation between Bush and his Maker (with Rumsfeld and Cheney chiming in). I really don’t care what Bush's religious beliefs are, as long as he doesn't run the country and wage wars according to those beliefs alone, unencumbered by empirical facts or the opinions of experts. But that appears to be precisely what he's done.

Now, tens of thousands of deaths and billions of dollars later, Iraq is on the verge of civil war. And so, I've found myself actually ambivalent about how this war turns out. On the one hand, of course I want the United States to succeed. The potential consequences of losing the war in Iraq are horrendous. But on the other hand, I worry that if we finally do succeed in Iraq, Bush and his 'base' will conclude that, yes, if they just 'listen to God,' (and no one else), things will turn out just fine. And that conclusion, I fear, could be worse for this country than losing this war. I feel like I’m weighing two great potential catastrophes – one, a failed state where Iraq used to be; and the other, a United States 'cut loose' from its traditional basis of rational assessment and empirical evidence, 'guided' by a president who thinks the rest of us should just 'trust him,' since God is whispering directly into his ear. I honestly don't know which is the greater catastrophe. Hence the odd ambivalence about how the war ends."

I feel the same way.

And anyone who disagrees should recall this- King George brought this on himself. If we can pull out some success from this (big 'if' at this point), it will be in spite on the failed leadership of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld cabal. Our saving grace would be that the soldiers in their command are not as incompetent as they are.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

"If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow neo-Nazis into their parade? If African-Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade?... If we let the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization in, is it the Irish Prostitute Assocation next?"
--John Dunleavy (Chairman of the NYC St. Patrick's Day parade)

What a festive day. Anyone drunk yet?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Majority Of Americans Support Censure

With the clueless media and political hacks trying to wish away the topic of censure, Sen. Feingold and his supporters are staying strong... and gaining support. At the least, the Senator has succeeded in his goal of starting a national debate on the President's actions, which the White House has mostly managed to avoid thus far.

Also, despite sloppy reporting (ie. stating that Feingold stands alone or wondering why couldn't he wait for an Intelligence Committee investigation that is never happening), the American people understand the issue well enough. Perhaps that's because polls have shown since the story broke that the majority of Americans do not support warrantless wiretapping. The first polls on the censure issue show similar findings.

A American Research Group poll just released states-
Do you favor or oppose the United States Senate passing a resolution censuring President George W. Bush for authorizing wiretaps of Americans within the United States without obtaining court orders?

All Adults - 3/15/06

Favor - 46%
Oppose - 44%
Undecided - 10%

The media (not to mention, ohhh, the Democratic party and some sympathetic Republicans) should take a note: The majority of Americans support this resolution. It's a close vote, for sure, but the majority support speaks volumes considering how the press is burying it. The inside-the-beltway circle jerk gang may want to convince themselves otherwise, but the American people would like to see accountability and (gosh!) don't believe themselves unpatriotic for supporting that.


Speaking of Senator Harkin, he has released a statement on cosponsoring the resolution-
We have a President who likes to break things. He has broken the federal budget, running up $3 trillion in new debt. He has broken the Geneva Conventions, giving the green light to torture. He has repeatedly broken promises – and broken faith – with the American people. And now, worst of all, he has broken the law.

In brazen violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), he ordered the National Security Agency to conduct warrantless wiretaps of American citizens. And, despite getting caught red-handed, he refuses to stop.

Let's be clear: No American – and that must include the President – is above the law. And if we fail to hold Bush to account, then he will be confirmed in his conviction that he can pick and choose among the laws he wants to obey. This is profoundly dangerous to our democracy.

So it is time for Congress to stand up and say enough! That's why, this week, Senator Russ Feingold proposed a resolution to censure George W. Bush for breaking the FISA law. And that's why I fully support this resolution of censure.

Nothing is more important to me than the security of our country. Of course, we need to be listening to the terrorists' conversations. And sometimes there is not time to get a warrant. That's why the FISA law allows the President, when necessary, to wiretap first, and obtain a warrant afterward. But that's not acceptable to this above-the-law President. He rejects the idea that he should have to obtain a warrant before or after wiretapping.

We have an out-of-control President whose arrogant and, now, illegal behavior is running our country into the ditch. It's time to rein him in. And a fine place to start is by passing this resolution of censure. I hope that Senator Feingold's measure will be brought to the floor. And when it is, I will proudly vote yes.

And watch again Sen. Feingold's speech from Monday for his words on his resolution.

This debate will continue and that's a good thing. That's democracy in action. We'll see the familiar defenses (Rush, Fox News, et al) crying treason and opportunism, but by now the public has mostly tuned all that noise out. This may finally be an issue that is debated on its merits, not its supposed politics. Although who knows how things will get blurred in the weeks to come. The first poll is encouraging in that regard, because it says that people get that. Imagine how many more will get it when more Senators stand up like Russ and Tom and make their voices heard.

Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But it's clear so far that the public is more open to this than politicians in DC.

[PS- Anonymous Liberal compares this scandal to the Whitewater one they tried to bring Clinton down with-
A Tale of Two Scandals]

[PPS- Still no decision from Sens. Clinton or Schumer. Talk to you tomorrow, guys!]

The 'Commander In Chief' Cultists

That's the easiest way to describe who (besides the rich and the religious right) make up Bush's base.

In my catharsis entry this morning, I described the diehard Bush supporters as "authoritarian cultists ... advocating for the policies of fascism, and speaking as if we lived in a military dictatorship". These are the people who cry 'treason' when anyone questions their Leader (with a capital "L") and who speak of America as if it were a fragile flower facing immediate peril (think Cuban Missile Crisis x 9/11 and you have the worldview they live in). See the previously-linked Blogs For Bush (or check out Free Republic) for a look inside. They truly believe that if Bush were to be removed from office (or even scolded!!!), that we'd be 24 hours away from total annihilation. I don't know how they will handle it when 2009 arrives.

Meanwhile, all the pundits are gleefully declaring censure a dead issue (after only a few days?- jeez, people, it takes the Senate two weeks to debate funding farm equipment, give the censure debate some time!) and insisting this move will be what rallies the conservatives back to the President's side. Wishful thinking, most likely. A few bloggers are analyzing this line of thought and have compiled a few links here.

Glenn Greenwald:
There is a palpable increase in the level of extremism and desperation among Bush followers as the Commander in Chief's approval ratings fall lower and lower and as the views which Americans have of both him and his party become more hostile. This is going to be a significant dynamic -- as their power slips further and further away, Bush followers are going to resort to increasingly radical and rage-fueled measures to keep it...

...Many of them have become convinced -- or convinced themselves -- that it is literally a matter of their immediate and personal survival that the country be controlled by Republicans devoted to the neoconservative mindset. Many of them actually believe that if those who deviate from that worldview gain political power, that they will be irradiated or blown up by Al Qaeda. And then still others are just so filled with rage and contempt for "liberals" (meaning anyone who is not a Bush supporter) that those sentiments are, by themselves, sufficient to push them into extreme and irrational thought as they lose more and more power.

Jane Hamsher (Firedoglake):
In the face of a 33% Presidential approval rating, the New York Times quotes oodles of Republicans this morning who admit that their base is so disspirited that their only hope of holding them together is the Bush Cargo Cultist fear that the Chief Jeep will be impeached.

If that's all they've got, the Feingold resolution has clearly demonstrated that the wingnut tank is on empty...

Andrew Sullivan:
But you only have to watch O'Reilly or read Powerline or listen to Sean Hannity or David Horowitz to know that the only thing that really gets them fired up any more is loathing of liberals. The only way the GOP base will be motivated to vote for an incompetent, exhausted, fiscally insane administration is if they get to vote against "libruls". Michael Moore, the Daily Kos, Paul Krugman, George Clooney, et al. are therefore the GOP's last, best hope this fall. ... My gut predicts a huge swing against the GOP this fall. So watch out for the anti-left hate and hysteria from Republicans. It's coming. It's all they've got left.

What people like Karl Rove fail to realize is this- the type of people the censure/impeachment specter will rally back around Bush are the ones already in the 33-37% who support him in these current polls. They're the cultists. All the rest are gone... perhaps forever. The President's numbers have been this low since August. The 63-67% of Americans who have abandoned Bush have seen the Emperor is wearing no clothes and it will take alot more effort to fearmonger them back into supporting the President. The polls have held steady because all that the President has left is his base, who will never abandon him. They refuse to acknowledge this reality and that level of denial is part of the reason that they are in this state.

The President got here because of a failure of leadership. Complaining that people are pointing that out is not going to save him.

Links of the Day: Expanded Edition

Ahhh, nothing like a good catharsis to clear the mind. I needed that. Did you enjoy it? Thought you would. Here are some links today, the usual roundup, but with a little more commentary than usual...

-First up- "shock and awe"- 2006 style. In what on its face seems a total 'wag the dog', the U.S. has unleashed the largest air assault since the first few days of the war. Bush is down in the low 30s, it's the third anniversary, so why not give the people some good TV, no? I'm not sure I see the point. We are not fighting large armies- we are fighting a civilian insurgency. If this can help (and perhaps it can), why not start it now? Did the situation change in a way that makes this a more realistic strategy? Why this transparent timing? Just some thoughts:
Largest Iraq Air Assault Since '03 Begins

-Last week, Sandra Day O'Connor warned against the potential rise of dictatorship (gosh, here in America, you say?), brought upon by her anger at the Republican party's attacks on the judiciary. Many on the right have even advocated removal or violence toward judges they don't like. Justice Ginsberg has elaborated on this disturbing trend, describing the seriousness of these threats and their implications:
Justice Ginsburg Reveals Details of Threat

-Those wacky fiscal conservatives running our government have just taken another shit on the American people. According to the AP, "The Senate, on a 52-48 vote, sent to President Bush a bill raising the ceiling on the national debt to nearly $9 trillion and preventing a first-ever default on U.S. Treasury notes." The President, of course, will not veto this and we'll spend a few generations paying this off. The debt per person comes out to $30,000. Info:
Senate Votes to Raise Debt Limit

And still, this is just a small sampling of the day' news. Unbelievable!


A fair warning in advance- if a rant is not something you'd prefer to read here in your blog travels, please scroll past this entry to the next one. I won't be offended. Just getting that out of the way. Every once in a while I have a moment of soul-crushing political doubt, a moment where I am ready just to stop caring and become a mindless sheep like everyone else (when's the next 'American Idol' on?). Yesterday afternoon, spending my day off reading various blogs, I had such a "what's the point?" moment.

In my travels, I came across this- Censure Russ Feingold.

Mark Noonan, a high-profile member of the right-wing Free Republic and senior writer at the above-linked Blogs For Bush, is starting a movement to urge people to call for a censure of Russ Feingold. You see they have looked at our current political landscape and identified the enemy- and it is the Democratic senator who dared to take on the President. In his post, he mostly writes how the Democrats have aided our enemies and how this 'free ride' must be stopped. Apparently, he has forgotten which party holds the power in this country. In his replies to comments he says, with I assume a straight face, that the Democrats' actions "make the war longer and bloodier than it had to be" and that if we "don't liberate Iraq, [we] might as well just give up the whole concept of fighting terrorism". He states we have but two options- "support your country, or help the enemies of your country".

After reading all of this, I honestly wished I was complacent enough never to care about politics again.

The insanity of these people, the fact that they are 110% sure that they are right, the ease with which they have the internalized the President's "with us or against us" world view from 2002, and the fact that these thoughts are leading this country at the moment... it's all too much. I do not fear nor hate these loyal Bush supporters, rather I pity them. There is no limit to how far they will follow the President, as long as the war is going on, which will be forever. After all, without the war, there is no reason for Bush to even be President. His domestic agenda is mostly a failure, all he has left are the strings of a national security imperative. The link above should be ample proof of that.

I don't say this as a liberal absorbed in my own super righteous world. I don't stay in my own political echo chamber; I make a strong effort not to (and I love Fox News- some of the funniest stuff on television). I read all the big conservative blogs (Michelle Malkin- also hilarious! What a great satire!) and try to see how the other side is making their case. Sometimes I just sit and think... why do I believe what I believe? Where am I wrong? Is this issue not worth the fight? I am friends with Republicans, I know these debates aren't black and white. I know we are at war and I understand that that scares people. I know that it is base instinct to rally around ones leaders during such times. Yet, I also know that this an easy out for people like Mark Noonan.

We as a people aren't weak- we are stronger than those base instincts. We don't need to defend a failed leader to feel secure. I know that we have a constitution that is currently just as fragile as our ports. And while there are people overseas who want to do the latter harm, I know there are people in our government who are doing the former harm.

I give these issues plenty of thought. The conclusion I come to is always the same- that this administration is a failure (see for the instance the trial of 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, which they could not even get right) who have robbed America of its dignity in just five short long years. And not only are they dangerously incompetent, their belief that they are above the law (as well as an open hostility to the press, legislative branch, the courts, and civil liberties) presents a danger to our democracy.

Most people think these things to some degree, but many don't discuss them this passionately. People might be offended. People might question your patriotism. Politically it's declared better to pull your punches (as if the Republicans have ever pulled a punch, let alone a kick or stab). Well thank God I'm no politician; I couldn't do it.

In addition, I sometimes don't even know why I bother blogging. What's the point? Am I accomplishing anything? Am I just communicating with those who already believe all of this? And I often think that I blog too much. I think that is turning off people who may potentially read my blog. I try to keep this in mind. But I personally sometimes feel it's not enough. Not enough to keep up with the crimes of this administration. Not enough to keep up with all the ways in which our country is going down the gutter. Not enough to convince someone, anyone, that we are fast becoming a democracy in name only.

Still, I think bloggers (well the bigger ones, not lil' ol' me) can make a difference. A big difference... and that's why the politicians are scared of them. We've seen the power of netroots on politics (and there are two books out now- Crashing The Gates and An Army of Davids - on this phenomenon). However, it is a very uphill battle. After all, we are all labeled "left wing" by the media and our opinions are discredited as being 'radical'. I didn't use to live in a country where believing in the Constitution was considered radical.

Meanwhile, the lunacy of the authoritarian cultists who make up Bush's 33% base is never reported on. You have those people advocating for the policies of fascism, and speaking as if we lived in a military dictatorship, and that's ignored. Yet in every mainstream news article about the liberal blogosphere, they instinctively sneer and imagine it as a bastion of shack-dwelling revolutionaries. Not that many people read this blog, but still.

With the President's approval going down each new time the question is asked, could perhaps the establishment stop portraying liberals as somehow existing outside the mainstream American political spectrum? Could perhaps someone be willing to concede that we've been right on a large number of issues (the Iraq war, civil liberties, White House competence) from the beginning? Or will they continue to report the President's unpopularity as some random, arbitrary fact and buy into the far-right's talking points of "Bush Derangement Syndrome" and treason?

Because as the Noonan piece above notes, that's what they consider all of this- treason.

I, for one, refuse to be told I am unpatriotic for opposing a President who has bankrupted our nation fiscally and morally, started a new policy of preemptive war, authorized torture and kidnappings, used fear and hysteria to consolidate his power, used an attack on our country (whose perpetrators he has failed to bring to justice) for his own political advantage, alienated most of our former allies, allowed an American city to drown on his watch, capitulated to the whims of the nation's religious fundamentalists, slowly skimmed away our constitutional rights ('free speech zones', spying on protestors, warrantless searches, etc) and wiretapped American citizens without any legal oversight. Neither should the Democrats. Or any other self-respecting American.

I conclusion, I am just officially sick of all of this. I want America back. Now.

And if anyone actually read this far... thank you. I appreciate it.

Warmongering: Bush Turns Up The Heat

The President continues his predictable election year march to war...

AP: Bush Sees Iran As Possibly Greatest Threat
President Bush said Thursday Iran may pose the greatest challenge to the United States and diplomacy to thwart the Islamic nation's nuclear program must prevail to avoid confrontation...

And we remember how serious the President was about diplomacy with Iraq. [*cough*]

And even after their IED claim has proved to be unverifiable, the accusations still fly-
...Rice called Iran the “central banker of terrorism,” though she didn’t elaborate on that, and said it was time for the country to “heed the international community’s call” to resume negotiations on its nuclear program...

Here's the kicker- they could be right this time, but they have given us no reason to trust them on anything. The boys who cried "WMD". Not that I even believe that they care about being right. They sure didn't last time; they had plenty of intel that contradicted their WMD claims and they proceeded anyway. This is election year tough guy warmongering. Iran was #2 on the neocon 'axis of evil' list and they want in. The President knows that without a national security boogeyman to rally us against, his presidency has no legitimacy. And so, with the failure of Iraq his most vulnerable issue and with Osama still on the loose, it's time to rattle the sabers once again. The question is- How many people will buy into this? Will the Democrats stand up to this again? I am far too pessimistic to guess 'yes' to either question.


Just a topic I've been trying to read up on...

Since they took office, even before 9/11, the Bush administration has been reclassifying previously released documents. In essence, they are taking pieces of American history and making them off-limits and locking them up. Documents reclassified range from those from the Bush Sr. administration, to those relating to the current administration, and those from other eras as well. This aspect of the administration's imperial overreaching is not often discussed, but it is one that will have great impacts in years to come.

Hopefully someday, we'll have a President who will free these documents once more.

Good Night, And Good Luck.

CBS News has an interesting column on whether political debate is futile.

Speaking of CBS News, I bought "Good Night, And Good Luck" on DVD and was just as impressed as I was when I first saw it in theatres. It's a really great film that reminds us of the power of journalism done right and how a climate of fear is a danger to democracy. The most powerful moment in the film is the recreation of Murrow's March 9, 1954 "See It Now" broadcast, in which he took a critical look at Sen. McCarthy, using his own words against him. The conclusion of this broadcast had words that still loud in the year 2006-
...No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men -- not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it -- and rather successfully. Cassius was right. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."

Indeed, Cassius, indeed.

And Ezra Klein looks at how a McCarthy quote Murrow used also rings true today-
When Murrow took on McCarthy, he based his program on a quote uttered by the junior senator from Wisconsin. The quote was:
"The American people realize this cannot be made a fight between America’s two great political parties. If this fight against Communism is made a fight between America’s two great political parties the American people know that one of those parties will be destroyed and the Republic cannot endure very long as a one party system."
The story of the past few years has been the Republican party's attempt to recast the war against terrorism as a choice between the parties, one party who will fight and the other who will capitulate. And using that, they retook the Senate in 2002 and held the White House in 2004, consolidating control over the government and marginalizing the Democrats' ability to exert oversight. And now, with no Murrows able to call politicians to account, the system has veered vastly out of balance. Good night and good luck indeed.

Just more stuff to think about.

Won't Get Fooled Again.

...Except, of course, when we will.

Despite the policy being a failure (and morally abhorent), the President wants to reaffirm his belief in preemptive war.

Washington Post: Bush to Restate Terror Strategy-

2002 Doctrine of Preemptive War To Be Reaffirmed

President Bush plans to issue a new national security strategy today reaffirming his doctrine of preemptive war against terrorists and hostile states with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, despite the troubled experience in Iraq...

I'll save any comments I might have for my later rant.

Meanwhile, FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) has put together a great page compiling numerous quotes from media pundits from the early days of the Iraq war, as they all declare victory and demand apologies from critics of the war. See the full link for the whole package, but here are a few of my favorites-

"We had controversial wars that divided the country. This war united the country and brought the military back."
(Newsweek's Howard Fineman--MSNBC, 5/7/03)

"The war was the hard part. The hard part was putting together a coalition, getting 300,000 troops over there and all their equipment and winning. And it gets easier. I mean, setting up a democracy is hard, but it is not as hard as winning a war."
(Fox News Channel's Fred Barnes, 4/10/03)

"We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who's president. Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple. We're not like the Brits."
(MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 5/1/03)

"Well, the hot story of the week is victory.... The Tommy Franks-Don Rumsfeld battle plan, war plan, worked brilliantly, a three-week war with mercifully few American deaths or Iraqi civilian deaths.... There is a lot of work yet to do, but all the naysayers have been humiliated so far.... The final word on this is, hooray."
(Fox News Channel's Morton Kondracke, 4/12/03)

Hooray indeed, Morton.

Do I still owe them that apology?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Support For Censure (Slowly) Grows, As White House Continues To Blur The Debate

Pew has the President's approval rating at 33% in the latest poll.

Meanwhile, according to Roll Call- "Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has become the first co-sponsor to Sen. Russ Feingold’s (D-Wis.) controversial resolution to censure President Bush for authorizing an allegedly illegal domestic surveillance program."

This is encouraging news... support is building.

The article further states-
In a brief interview, Harkin said, “I think it makes sense. … Quite frankly, I think we ought to have a full-fledged debate on this.” …

Feingold said that even though support for his resolution is low so far, he believes he is already meeting his goal of reopening the debate on the matter.

“I’ve achieved what I wanted to achieve,” Feingold said, adding that he still hopes his resolution will pass. “I’m very pleased with what has happened.”

As promised, I again called my two Senators this afternoon (and will continue to do so until they go on record). I first called the offices of Senator Clinton and asked if the Senator had made a decision. In a total cop-out, the staffer told me this since the resolution has moved from the full Senate to the Judiciary Committee, she was holding back from making a statement for now. Of course, Senator Clinton is the person who, last month, said not to give in to the White House's politics of fear. She encouraged her fellow Democrats to speak out against this, stating "Since when has it been part of American patriotism to keep our mouths shut?". Looks she won't even take her own advice.

Next, I called the office of Senator Schumer, remembering that he is actually on the Judiciary Committee and therefore can't blow me off the way the Clinton staffer did. I asked the Schumer staffer whether the Senator, as a member of the Committee, supports the resolution, and I was simply told Schumer has not made any decisions yet. I look forward to the same answer tomorrow.

Some Republicans, while not openly supporting the resolution, encourage the debate-
Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, offered some praise for Feingold, saying the resolution would be “positive” if it fueled debate over the legality of some policies in the war on terrorism.

Meanwhile, that lih-buh-ral media still can't get their facts straight. This morning, they reported that "not a single Democrat has embraced [censure]" when as of last night, Senators Boxer, Harkin, Kerry, and Menendez have expressed some support. Elsewhere, the Washington Post had reported that "a majority of Americans side with the president on wiretapping tactics". It's the use of the word 'tactics' there that rings false... Polls show that while the majority do (naturally) support monitoring terrorists' phone calls, they also insist the government must get the required court orders to do so. Numerous other polls further show the majority disagree with the President's legal assertions and his actions in regards to warrantless wiretapping.

As I stated last night, the White House knows that Sen. Feingold's resolution is right on its merits and they fear this debate. That is the real reason their lackey Sen. Frist tried to force an early vote- they want this issue out of the way as quickly as possible. While claiming this debate will work to their favor, the White House has been relentless in trying to keep it out of the spotlight- sending Vice President Cheney to strongarm the Intelligence Committee into voting against an investigation, beginning a movement to jail reporters and whistleblowers, and insisting that anyone who disagrees with the White House has sided with terrorists. These are not the actions of innocent men. They are the actions of a desperate, pseudo-fascist government which has declared itself above the law and cannot stand that some wish to question that.

Anybody who could possibly be against the censure of President Bush doesn't understand what it is and has been so warped by the Bizarro America in which we live that they have forgotten how a real democracy works. Censure is simply a way of stating to the President that he has behaved wrongly and a way of reasserting the rule of law. If we can't even do that much, then we no longer deserve the right to call this country a democracy. Perhaps we'll just say we are a democracy... but with an asterick mark after it (democracy*- except during state of perpetual war in which 'Commander In Chief' becomes a law onto himself and expects the unquestioned support of his subjects).

Thanks to Russ Feingold, Tom Harkin, and the others who are standing up.

[PS- Watch this clip from the last 'Boston Legal'. If only our press had the balls of fictional TV characters.]

Paul Hackett + Daily Show = Good TV

Last month, I wrote about how the Democratic Party forced Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett out of his Senate race, choosing instead to back the 'safer' Rep. Brown, fearing that Hackett was too outspoken and underfunded for the national campaign. Reread that entry for my feelings on that matter... in short, I was pretty pissed. Well, last night, the Daily Show did a segment/interview with Mr. Hackett about what happened. It's a must watch- it's a brilliantly critical look at the cluelessness of the Democratic party and the theatre of campaign politics.

OneGoodMove has video:
Paul Hackett Doesn't Fit The Matrix

Crooks and Liars also has a downloadable video link.

"I believe we should take care of our environment, that's why I'm standing in front of a river."

Homophobia: Not Just A Christian Value, An American Value Too

Bigotry trumps security in George W. Bush's White House.

AP: Security Clearance Rules May Impede Gays
The Bush administration last year quietly rewrote the rules for allowing gays and lesbians to receive national-security clearances, drawing complaints from civil rights activists.

The Bush administration said security clearances cannot be denied "solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the individual." But it removed language saying sexual orientation "may not be used as a basis for or a disqualifying factor in determining a person's eligibility for a security clearance."...

I'll forgo my rant about the religious right controlling the White House and the President's moral hypocrisy.

Let me just say that if our politicians can't even stand up to the James Dobsons of this country (the vile faux-Christians who consider hate a moral value), then no one should have any confidence that they have the inner strength to stand up to the Osama bin Ladens of the world. And I'll leave it at that.

3 Years: That's The Civil War Anniversary

After three years of war, the White House finally realizes it should try to get its act together...

AP: New Panel to Investigate Iraq War Policy
Ten prominent Americans, including former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, are forming a bipartisan group to assess the Bush administration's policies in Iraq and political and economic developments in the troubled country....

I welcome this panel, as it can hopefully identify the key problems Iraq faces and allow for a change in our policy toward the war. I would like to assist the panel and point them in the direction of several such problems: George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. These problem areas have been hampering progress and should be looked into immediately.

President Bush's response to this panel's inquiries? "Bring 'em on!".

Oh no, I'm sorry, that's what he said about the insurgents in 2003. My bad.

Meanwhile CBS reports that-
March was supposed to be the month when the U.S. commander in Iraq made a recommendation to pull more troops out of Iraq. Instead, he has asked for more troops to be sent in.

With 133,000 American troops already in Iraq, an armored battalion of about 700 soldiers kept on standby in Kuwait is beginning to move north toward Baghdad. U.S. officials say Gen. George Casey asked for more troops because of a convergence of events, and danger, surrounding the third anniversary of the American invasion...

Sending in more troops? Gee willickers, why hasn't the President mentioned this at any of his rallies this week? I guess that was the problem- not the failed U.S. policy, not the sectarian violence, not the stubborness of all parties- we just needed a few hundred more U.S troops there! How stupid can they be? Rep. Murtha is right, our troops' presence there is fueling the insurgency. And if they couldn't quell the violence in three years, what difference can be made now as the country devolves into civil war? Our troops have done all they can do and it's time to let the Iraqis figure this out for themselves. Sending in more troops is backwards at this point. More lives to be lost for nothing.

The article also notes-
A CBS News poll finds the American public is increasingly convinced that the war in Iraq is going badly and may not get any better. An overwhelming number say Iraq is currently in a civil war, and nearly half think the U.S. effort there will not succeed.

The poll also finds that: only 25% believe the war has been worth the costs, only 3% believe Bush started the war to "free the Iraqis/promote democracy", 49% (the majority in this question) believe Iraq is part of the war of terror, 64% believe it won't make any difference to the U.S.'s safety whether or not Iraq becomes a stable democracy, 66% believe the President describes things in Iraq better than they are, and 41% believe the Democrats are more likely to make the right decisions for Iraq (vs. 35% for Republicans).

And that's the reality- the President's photo-ops this week aren't likely to change that.

[PS- The Memory Hole has a great resource up- They acquired via the Freedom of Information Act reports from the Future of Iraq Project (over 1,200 pages of previously unavailable reports from State Dept planning for post-Saddam Iraq). Lots of stuff to read through, if interested.]

Links of the Day

Happy hump day to all.

Here's some links...

-Veteran Republicans try to convince the White House to bring in at least one "adult":
Sources: Bush urged to bulk up inner circle

-Salon has revealed countless new Abu Ghraib torture photos:
The Abu Ghraib files

-The Washington Post has more on the FBI's unconstitutional surveillance of protestors:
FBI Took Photos of Antiwar Activists in 2002

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Censure Referred To Judiciary Committee / Democrats Cower

Not too much to update on in regards to the censure resolution. The big news is that the resolution is headed to the Senate Judiciary Committee, "advancing a contentious debate over whether the president deserves a formal rebuke for his secret wiretapping program". Feingold stated in response to this that-
"I look forward to a full hearing, debate and vote in committee on this important matter. If the committee fails to consider the resolution expeditiously, I will ask that there be a vote in the full Senate."

So much to the chagrin of the Bush/Frist crowd, this issue will remain in the public spotlight.

I called my Senators' offices again... still no decision. Surprise, surprise.

Via ThinkProgress, the following is a quote by Sen. Feingold on Fox News:
"I’m amazed at Democrats, cowering with this president’s numbers so low. The administration just has to raise the specter of the war and the Democrats run and hide. … Too many Democrats are going to do the same thing they did in 2002 and 2004. In the face of this, they’ll say we’d better just focus on domestic issues. … They cower to the argument, that whatever you do, if you question the administration, you’re helping the terrorists."

Agreed. Shameful. The real election-year politics is being played against Feingold.

The AP has a great story on Feingold's comments today.

What the Democrats are afraid of are accusations like this one, hurled yesterday by Sen. Allard, accusing Feingold of 'siding with terrorists'. Finally ahead in the polls on national security issues, the Democrats fear those kind of smears. However baseless they are. But beside being tasteless, such comments are part of the false debate people like Frist and the White House are engaging in. Feingold's resolution is not about the war on terror- it's about the rule of law.

Democrats, repeat after me: This is not about terrorism! This does affect the war!

If you have time, also mention how poorly the President is bungling said war.

Let's please, please get that false debate over with so we can have a real debate on the President's actions.

For this demagogic talking point in action, check out this post at Blogs For Bush, which reposts an insanely moronic entry from Sen. Cornyn's website. See also my repeated comments to that entry, desperately trying to get Bush cultists (and it is scarily like a cult at this point) to actually debate the issue on its merits. Spoiler... they won't. The very fact that Republicans like Cornyn are resorting to such childish drivel only reinforces how strong Feingold's argument is.

Democrats would do well to take note of that.

Instead, they're quietly lashing out... at Feingold. A Senate aide said-
“Feingold’s grandstanding screwed the pooch and played into Bill Frist’s hands,” the aide said. “Thank God Dems punted this down the field. Frist was going to force Democrats to vote on a resolution Feingold had kept a big secret and he would’ve split the caucus on an issue that needed time to get the whole caucus to support. Russ Feingold had only one persons’ interests in mind with his Sunday bombshell, and those were his own. He practically handed a victory to a Bush White House that desperately needs a win.”

Now, I can understand this anger from their point of view. They feel blindsided by Feingold's decision. This person isn't wrong in that regard. But that doesn't mean that Feingold did the wrong thing... unless you believe a Senator's job is purely political and not about actually taking action.

Sure, this very well may play into the White House's hand... after all, they are desperately looking to restore their credibility on national security and (lord knows) could use any boost they can get. However, think about this... if Republicans like Frist believe this debate will work to their benefit, why try to get a vote out of the way now? Why not milk it? Just to call Feingold's bluff? No, I think they wanted this over as quick as possible, before enough public support build up to change the minds of many Senators.

More importantly, the Senate aide quoted above fails to note the important factor here- the reason that the Republicans are dictating the terms of the dialogue on this issue is because the Democrats have let them. If the Democrats had stood as a whole here and gone wall to wall to knock down the "treason/war on terror" talking points, then the issue would have the credibility it deserves. Instead, they have given these smears legitimacy with their silence.

These cowards have let Bush and Rove fear-and-smear this country toward one-party rule.

Perhaps the Democrats should be reading Roll Call (the official Capitol Hill paper) more often. It has an article by Donna Brazile encouraging Senators to embrace the resolution. She states "As a Beltway insider, I am convinced that we cannot continue to tell those who have loyally supported our Democratic leaders to wait. Wait for what? Wait until our pollsters give us the green light to speak up?... It's time to break with the same-old, same-old and use the Feingold resolution to force the Republican-controlled Congress to commit to serious oversight of the controversial, but increasingly popular, surveillance program."

Digby has more excerpts and other thoughts on the issues surrounding the resolution.

The Democrats need to understand this- the Republicans didn't take power by playing it safe. They got their hands dirty and spread their message like wildfire, in their case actually shitting on the very same people whose votes they courted (and won) along the way. No way should the Democrats adopt that horrid model, but they should understand that the squeaky wheel gets the votes. Polls show the American people (by a significant majority) no longer support this President and the direction he is taking this country in. So Senators should not be afraid to stand behind Sen. Feingold and explain to the people what we can do to get us back in the right direction.

Simply reminding the President that he is bound by the rule of law (and that's all censure is- a scolding) is hardly a radical start to that campaign.

Is There Any Doubt As To Whether Bush Broke The Law?...

...Answer: Not really.

Another fantastic analysis/update on the spying scandal by Glenn Greenwald-
...It should go without saying that they have all the facts they need to conclude definitively that the President broke the law. Bush himself admits that he ordered eavesdropping on Americans without the judicial oversight and approval required by the law the Congress passed in 1978. There are no factual disputes about that. Even the Administration doesn't deny any of the facts necessary to establish that they broke the law.

A factual investigation into the NSA program would certainly be nice -- in order, for instance, to find out if there are other illegal eavesdropping progams which we do not yet know about, and/or to find out how the eavesdropping power was used (something we don't know because the eavesdropping was done in secret, exactly what the law criminalizes). But no investigation is necessary to conclude that the law was broken because the law makes it a criminal offense to eavesdrop on Americans without judicial approval and that - by the Administration's own (proud) admission - is exactly what they did.

And beyond all of that, there isn't going to be an investigation, so it borders on the surreal for these Senators to say that they want to wait until the investigation is complete. The reason there isn't going to be an investigation is because the President's allies voted against it. That just happened last week, and yet Democratic Senators literally seem either not to have heard about that event or to have forgotten that it happened, because they keep saying that they want to wait for the investigation to be complete -- the same investigation that is not going to occur...

Read more at the link above.

[PS- Please read this link for info on the FBI spying on anti-war protestors. Go democracy!!]

The President Lied

The march to diplomacy war with Iran has just begun and already the lies fly:
Remember that story about Iran supplying components for IEDs in Iraq? Surprise! It was a lie!

Expect a lot more where that came from.

[PS- See my previous entry on this all-too-familiar warmongering.]

We're Broke

Hope you enjoyed your tax cuts and the little Iraq adventure, Republicans.

Your reckless spending and greed are an inspiration to us all.

AP: Bernanke: Budget Deficits Endanger Economy
The persistence of big budget deficits raises risks to the country's long-term economic health and they need to be curbed, says Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

"The prospective increase in the budget deficit will place at risk future living standards of our country," Bernanke said. "As a result, I think it would be very desirable to take concrete steps to lower the prospective path of the deficit."...

Also in that article-
To that end, [Bernanke] was silent on whether Congress should reinstate budget rules from the 1990s. Those rules required that any tax cuts or increases in benefit programs such as Social Security be paid for either by higher taxes or spending cuts elsewhere.

What?! Never! Republicans shall not stand for such sacrifice and responsibility! Away with you!

This is an issue the Democrats should try to get traction on this year. It's still the economy, stupid.

[PS- See also this AP article- Snow warns Congress: US government's cash running out ]

Links of the Day: Blog Edition

Here's some links from around the blogosphere...

-George Clooney has some strong words for wimpy Democrats:
I Am a Liberal. There, I Said It!

-The gang at State of the Day explore how poorly the Bush administration is prosecuting terrorists:
Incompetence Prosecuting Terrorists

-And Josh Marshall wonders whether Claude Allen was framed by his twin brother:
The Evil Twin Theory?

Continuing To Support Feingold

An update to my last entry on the status of the censure resolution...

Well the conservative pundits spent a good deal of time pummelling Sen. Feingold yesterday and are already smirking and considering the move dead. Certainly, it's a long shot, with most Democrats cowering and avoiding the issue. With the President at record low approval and with a string of massive failures on his hands, you wouldn't imagine it would be so hard for Sen. Feingold to find more support on this. After all, there was little to no hesitation to take down Clinton in 1998/1999. But listening to the debate on the Senate floor yesterday, most seem to really believe that in a time of war, holding the President accountable would be tanamount to treason. Sen. Feingold, luckily, has a higher opinion of the American people's intelligence and is pressing forward. Sen. Frist failed to force a vote last night and so the topic remains open.

Here are some videos to see what happened yesterday...

See the video of Sen. Feingold introducing the resolution to the Senate.

Then see this video of Sen. Frist desperate to force an immediate vote.

See also this video of Sen. Durbin and Sen. Specter debating the resolution, in which Durbin tries his best to get Specter to acknowledge his own stated misgivings about the President's legal behavior... This didn't end well. As Talking Point Memo's Josh Marshall noted-
Responding to Sen. Feingold, Sen. Specter is now arguing on the floor of the senate that FISA is unconstitutional. Ergo, President Bush couldn't have been violating the law becuase it's not valid law.

Quite a way for Specter to end his career.

To quote Charlie Brown, "good grief".

[PS- I will be calling my Senators' offices again today, and every day, until this comes to vote.]

[PPS- Al Gore has strong words of warning for the country.]

Bush: 'I Will Withdraw Troops By Midterm Elections End Of Year'

Looks like the President does do timetables now. Fair enough. Hope this don't embolden things, though.

Washington Post: Bush Sets Target for Transition In Iraq-
Country's Troops to Take Lead This Year

President Bush vowed for the first time yesterday to turn over most of Iraq to newly trained Iraqi troops by the end of this year, setting a specific benchmark as he kicked off a fresh drive to reassure Americans alarmed by the recent burst of sectarian violence.

Bush, who until now has resisted concrete timelines as the Iraq war dragged on longer than he expected, outlined the target in the first of a series of speeches intended to lay out his strategy for victory. While acknowledging grim developments on the ground, Bush declared "real progress" in standing up Iraqi forces capable of defending their nation...

As opposed to all the fake progress up 'til now.

And still no mention of the civil war that even lazy Americans have recognized as the underlying problem.

In review- Democrats (ie. Rep Murtha) demand concrete withdrawal plan which accounts for all of the problems that have occurred in the war. TRAITOR. Bush sets concrete withdrawal plan while failing to acknowledge the failures of his administration. HERO WAR PRESIDENT.

Just wanted to review, it might be on the test.

Darn That Liberal Media, Pt. 237

Anybody who's watched just a few White House press conferences over the past few years knows what an insane kind of theatre they have become. The reporters ask some questions and Scott McClellan responds (answering some and ignoring others, with a form of logic not known to Humans), spinning so hard that most Bush critics genuinely feel pity for him and fear he may soon spontaneously combust. The standouts of these press briefings are Karl Rove's personal hooker Jeff Gannon Helen Thomas and NBC's David Gregory, who are among the few remaining journalists who remember how to ask a substantive question. With most of the media at large having adopted the Fox News model (internalizing GOP talking points, presenting everything in a marketable package, personality over substance) of "journalism", it's always good to have a few left who are to the task.

On that note, Helen Thomas has an excellent article in The Nation entitled "Lap Dogs Of The Press" in which she rails against her colleagues for this behavior, noting that they "became an echo chamber for White House pronouncements" in the buildup to war (call it Judy Miller disease). Highlights-
Of all the unhappy trends I have witnessed--conservative swings on television networks, dwindling newspaper circulation, the jailing of reporters and "spin"--nothing is more troubling to me than the obsequious press during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. They lapped up everything the Pentagon and White House could dish out--no questions asked.

Reporters and editors like to think of themselves as watchdogs for the public good. But in recent years both individual reporters and their ever-growing corporate ownership have defaulted on that role. Ted Stannard, an academic and former UPI correspondent, put it this way: "When watchdogs, bird dogs, and bull dogs morph into lap dogs, lazy dogs, or yellow dogs, the nation is in trouble."...

...By contrast, after the White House lost its credibility in rationalizing the pre-emptive assault on Iraq, the correspondents began to come out of their coma, yet they were still too timid to challenge Administration officials, who were trying to put a good face on a bad situation...

...It is past time for reporters to forget the party line, ask the tough questions and let the chips fall where they may.

And Eric Boehlert at the Huffington Post notes that the GOP has largely dictated the terms of the national media dialogue-
...Schumer's early port press conferences were not unlike the countless other Q&A's Democrats have held over the last six years; press conferences that raised serious questions about the policies and competency of the Bush White House, and press conferences that for the most part were completely ignored by Beltway media elites. The only, only, only reason the port story broke big was because Republicans turned on the White House. That's what made it newsworthy. Throughout the Bush presidency there's been a very simple formula for defining what's news -- if Republicans say it's news, than it is. Democrats are largely irrelevant. (Yes, Democrats are the minority party, but being in the minority didn't stop reporters from camping outside GOP Congressional offices during the Clinton years, eagerly amplifying whatever allegation the caucus had hatched the night before.)...

He notes the press still refuses to call Bush "unpopular"... despite record low approval ratings.

Finally, Keith Olbermann was interviewed on C-Span this weekend (actually watched the full thing- great interview) and confirmed what we all knew about how the corporate control of media dictates content. Olbermann is no doubt tired of being surrounded by people like Russert, Matthews, and Carlson who could easily fit in at Fox News. He notes at one point that-
There are people I know in the hierarchy of NBC, the company, and GE, the company, who do not like to see the current presidential administration criticized at all.

Anybody who knew anything about American history and stepped out at any point in American history and got an assessment of this presidential administration would say, yes, I don’t know how much they need to be criticized, but they need to be criticized to some degree.

There are people who I work for who would prefer, who would sleep much easier at night if this never happened.

Careful Keith, or they'll pull a Donahue on you.

We also see this lazy media bias in effect on the censure story, already jumping to the "Feingold is crazy" conclusion without even bothering to understand the most basic aspects of his decision (CNN's Soledad O'Brien asked him why not wait for the Intelligence Committee investigation, when in fact they voted not to even do one). I don't want the media to take sides, that's not their job. It is their job, however, to present the facts honestly and not allow politicians to spew propaganda without it being pointed out and/or corrected where necessary. The 'mainstream' media has failed in this regard and that's, sadly, why most young people get their news from Jon Stewart who has no incentive to spin for them.

We Don't Want The Smoking Gun To Come In The Form of A...

The Bush administration's Iran warmongering continues. The saddest part is that Americans are reacting as if they didn't just hear this exact same rhetoric (sometimes practically word for word) three and a half years ago. Never underestimate the ability of the public to have the same shit shoved up their ass every election cycle and refuse to blink.

Washington Post: U.S. Campaign Is Aimed at Iran's Leaders-
Uneasy About Tehran's Nuclear Plans, Bush Administration Tries to Build Opposition to Theocracy

...President Bush and his team have been huddling in closed-door meetings on Iran, summoning scholars for advice, investing in opposition activities, creating an Iran office in Washington and opening listening posts abroad dedicated to the efforts against Tehran.

The internal administration debate that raged in the first term between those who advocated more engagement with Iran and those who preferred more confrontation appears in the second term to be largely settled in favor of the latter. Although administration officials do not use the term "regime change" in public, that in effect is the goal they outline as they aim to build resistance to the theocracy...

Hmmm. With one of the original members of the White House Iraq Group facing prison and another ready to end an election bid amid scandal, are they bringing in new guns for this marketing campaign? Perhaps outsource the job to Dubai?

Clearly, Iran is a major area of concern, but the White House's aggressive stance will only backfire once again. No one advocates a "pretty please" attitude toward Iran, but there's aggressive diplomacy and there's, yep, warmongering. This administration does not want a diplomatic solution. They want war and, as we saw with Iraq, they will do anything to get it. Considering they are currently fighting two wars (and have failed to win either), it is literally insane that anyone is letting them getting away with beating the drums for another.

So why is no one pointing this is out?!

Well, Juan Cole is, if only he had the audience of a major newspaper...
TruthDig: Fishing for a Pretext in Iran
...If the Supreme Jurisprudent of theocratic Iran has given a fatwa against nukes, if the president of the country has renounced them and called for others to do so, if the International Atomic Energy Agency has found no evidence of a military nuclear weapons program, and if Iran is at least 10 years from having a bomb even if it is trying to get one, then why is there a diplomatic crisis around this issue between the United States and Iran in 2006?

The answer is that the Iranian nuclear issue is déjà vu all over again. As it did with regard to the Baath regime in Iraq, the militarily aggressive Bush administration wants to overthrow the government in Tehran. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, now in a coma, urged the U.S. to hit Iran as soon as it had taken care of Saddam Hussein. The Israelis have a grudge against it because it helped end their military occupation and land grab in southern Lebanon by giving aid to the Shiite Hezbollah organization, the only Arab force ever to succeed in regaining occupied land from Israel by military means. But Iran does not form a conventional military threat to Israel. ...

Cole presents a very balanced view of the situation in Iran.

Balance not being something the White House appreciates.

[PS- Meanwhile, the President wishes to connect Iran with roadside bombs in Iraq.]

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sen. Feingold: 'The President Has Created A Constitutional Crisis'

This morning, after my previous post, I called the local offices of my Senators- Schumer and Clinton- to ask if the Senators had made on decision on whether to support the censure resolution. The Schumer staffer said the senator had not made a decision yet (shocker). The Clinton staffer said the same thing, but did tell me that the phones had been ringing off the hook with calls like mine and there was lots of support. I'd be curious to call the offices of "red state" senators like DeWine or Roberts and see what the situation was there. If I do, I'll post the response(s) I get.

In my last entry, I also expressed concern that the media would take a pass on this story. For the most part, that seems the case. Considering how a rare a move to censure a President is, I assumed it would get as much press as the President's latest Iraq speech. I don't expect/want the media to take sides on this issue (although look for the Fox crew and the MSNBC Matthews/Russert-type crowd to smear Feingold), but at least present the debate honestly.

In my email to Sen. Feingold, I said "Most likely, these coming days will be difficult for you, with many in Washington and in the media questioning your motives and attacking your character". Not exactly a long shot of a prediction. Hellen Keller could've seen the political attacks on Feingold coming before he finished speaking. The usual suspects are trying to paint Feingold as an opportunist, which makes no sense whatsoever since this move is practically political suicide for a Presidential contender, which is why no Democrats (save for John Kerry) have yet issued a statement of support. In fact, most Democrats are distancing themselves from this for political reasons. If Feingold was playing '2008 politics' (as Scott McClellan insists), then he would've played it safe and kept his mouth shut until after the midterm elections. But Russ Feingold is a man of principle and, after the awful decision of the Intelligence Committee not even to investigate, he felt this was necessary. So he's putting himself on the line for something he believes in. Not a common move for a Senator of either party.

The crux of the White House's statements today (and what we saw in the Malkin link above) involved again presenting the false debate that not supporting the President's warrantless wiretapping means not supporting the war on terror. It's a low move, but I understand they've had success with it. McClellan said today-
"I think it does raise the question, how do you fight and win the war on terrorism? And if Democrats want to argue that we shouldn't be listening to al Qaeda communications, it's their right and we welcome the debate. We are a nation at war."

This is an ouright lie and McClellan knows it. Not one Democrat, not a one, has ever said we shouldn't wiretap and intercept Al Qaeda communications. Using surveillance is not a new thing and has unanimous support. But there are laws that govern surveillance (laws that give the President extremely broad powers and leeway) and the President has broken them. I posted yesterday what Glenn Greenwald has outlined as the three main points of this scandal-
(1) We all want eavesdropping on Al Qaeda and the law allows that;

(2) The problem isn't that the President eavesdropped; it's that he did it in a way that broke the law by eavesdropping without judicial oversight and approval, which Americans required in 1978 in order to prevent abuse of the eavesdropping power; and,

(3) We cannot maintain our constitutional republican form of government if the Congress stands by meekly and silently and allows the President to break the law, no matter what his intentions are. We did not declare martial law on 9/11. We are still a nation of laws and it is intolerable for the President to act illegally.

The White House and their supporters will not address those points and instead sidestep the actual debate with political smears and accusations of weakness on fighting terror. If they want to debate this issue on substance, I imagine most people are all ears.

McClellan also said-
"The American people have made it very clear they support the president’s efforts to defeat the terrorists and prevent attacks from happening."

More of the above. Regardless, it should have been pointed out to McClellan that the polls are against him on this. Polls show that the majority of Americans believe that "the president had definitely or probably broken the law by authorizing the wiretaps". Other polls show a declining support of how President Bush is (mis)handling the war on terror.

CNN interviewed Sen. Feingold this morning. It was exactly the type of interview I wish we saw more of... the reporter spitting talking points at the Democrat and the Democrat actually knocking them down. The reporter starts out the interview with Frist's statement, therefore beginning with the notion that Feingold is "crazy". Feingold's responses were absolutely perfect. He mentioned how there is general consensus among both Republicans and Democrats in Congress that the President broke the law and that investigations are getting nowhere and being scuttled. When the CNN reporter asked why not just wait for an investigation, Feingold reminded her that the Intelligence Committee refused to do one! He also mentioned that this isn't about removing Bush from office, but about sending a signal that the President must abide by the law. So given their refusal to cooperate with investigations and their stated decision to continue breaking the law, he reiterates that censure sends an important message while we continue to find out the facts of the President's actions. Feingold reminds the reporter that the President is the one who has harmed the war on terror with distractions like Iraq and other bad decisions. And as the reporter questions his assessment and reads an RNC statement, Feingold warns against taking seriously the "politics of intimidation". Finally, he reminds viewers that the President repeatedly lied in 2004 about the use of warrants in ordering surveillance.

Sen. Feingold has issued a a new statement on his decision today.

And while the Senator doesn't mention it in any of his arguments, I would like to note that another point here is the mass evidence of abuse by the White House on domestic spying. This has gone far beyond looking for Al Qaeda members. Government officials have confirmed that the White House has targeted innocent Americans. We know that Quakers and protestors and U.N. officials have been illegally spied on upon by this administration. We have numerous accusations that even people like Christopher Hitchens or CNN's Christine Amanpour have been wiretapped. We know that they are keeping databases of political activists and engaging in datamining activities. We also know that this program has flooded the F.B.I. and other agencies with phone calls of thousands of innocent Americans, which has slowed down their ability to follow important leads. We also know that the Attorney General has all but admitted the existence of other programs of secret surveillance.

The fact that those things are on the sideline here shows just how far-reaching the President's misdeeds are.

Anonymous Liberal has a good take on how this is the most textbook use for censure:
Senator Feingold's call for Congressional censure is an eminently reasonable response to the NSA scandal by any objective measure. Just eight years ago, Congressional Republicans impeached a president for lying about a private consensual affair in the context of a frivolous civil suit which was financed and litigated by the president's enemies. We are now faced with a president who is engaged in ongoing violations of a criminal statute intended to protect the constitutional rights of the American people. There is agreement that extends well beyond party lines that the President does not have the constitutional or statutory authority to do what he is doing. This administration has repeatedly ignored, misled, and marginalized Congress. If such facts do not warrant censure, it's hard to know what does.

Agreed. The very fact that so many don't even want to have this debate makes you wonder what they would actually consider an action justifying censure/impeachment. After all, it was the Republicans who set the bar to a new low by impeaching the previous President. And now when you have a textbook case of Executive abuse (considering the first censure and impeachment was about an issue where the President sidestepped Congress), they're ready to throw the whole idea out the window. As I said last night, that sounds more like an authoritarian dictatorship than a democracy.

I don't care what anyone says about this move, I believe this is democracy in action.

[PS- Sen. Feingold is on C-Span 2 right now.]

[PPS- A former senior national security lawyer at the Justice Department doesn't buy the White House's case:
Ex-Justice Lawyer Rips Case for Spying]