Saturday, December 31, 2005

Clipping the eagle's wings

While most of us imagined John Ashcroft would be the first in line to kick in our front door, it seems that this was not the case. The NY Times has some more information today about the early years of the Bushoviks turn toward Stalinism.
A top Justice Department official objected in 2004 to aspects of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program and refused to sign on to its continued use amid concerns about its legality and oversight, according to officials with knowledge of the tense internal debate. The concerns appear to have played a part in the temporary suspension of the secret program.

The concerns prompted two of President Bush's most senior aides - Andrew H. Card Jr., his chief of staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and now attorney general - to make an emergency visit to a Washington hospital in March 2004 to discuss the program's future and try to win the needed approval from Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was hospitalized for gallbladder surgery, the officials said.
And in a scene right out of Hollywood, in his hospital bed, surrounded by "tight security" Crisco John is appealed to in an effort to change his mind.
Accounts differed as to exactly what was said at the hospital meeting between Mr. Ashcroft and the White House advisers. But some officials said that Mr. Ashcroft, like his deputy, appeared reluctant to give Mr. Card and Mr. Gonzales his authorization to continue with aspects of the program in light of concerns among some senior government officials about whether the proper oversight was in place at the security agency and whether the president had the legal and constitutional authority to conduct such an operation.

It is unclear whether the White House ultimately persuaded Mr. Ashcroft to give his approval to the program after the meeting or moved ahead without it.
So, to avoid a "sudden relapse" Crico John agreed not to interfere if they allowed him a face-saving audit.
The concerns within the Justice Department appear to have led, at least in part, to the decision to suspend and revamp the program, officials said. The Justice Department then oversaw a secret audit of the surveillance program.

The audit examined a selection of cases to see how the security agency was running the program. Among other things, it looked at how agency officials went about determining that they had probable cause to believe that people in the United States, including American citizens, had sufficient ties to Al Qaeda to justify eavesdropping on their phone calls and e-mail messages without a court warrant. That review is not known to have found any instances of abuses.
But in the end, Crisco John was retired and Electrodes was placed in charge.And we all lived happily ever after safe in the knowledge that:
even after the imposition of the new restrictions last year, the agency maintained the authority to choose its eavesdropping targets and did not have to get specific approval from the Justice Department or other Bush officials before it began surveillance on phone calls or e-mail messages. The decision on whether someone is believed to be linked to Al Qaeda and should be monitored is left to a shift supervisor at the agency, the White House has said.
So you see, Our Dear Embattled Leader is not violating the Constitution after all. It's those pesky shift supervisors.

Our Dear Embattled Leader - a small man in a big world.

Many thanks to Maha for pointing the way to this piece from Matt Taibbi. It is a fine example of the Bushoviks concept of domesticated foreign policy. It starts out well and gets better, raed it.
Bush in person always strikes me as the kind of guy who would ask a woman for a hand job at the end of a first date. He has days where he looks like she said yes, and days where the answer was no.

Today was one of his no days. He frowned, looking wronged, and grabbed the microphone. I pulled out my notebook . . .

A few minutes later, I felt like a hooker who's just blinked under a blanket with a prep-school virgin. Was that it? Is it over?
Oh, would to God it were really over.

Juan Cole examines 2005 in the Middle East.

The good professor has put together an excellent summation of what has happened in the region in the last year. It is long, but if you want to know what is happening over there, take the time to read it all. Shorter version, it started with this:
The Bush administration has several major policy goals in the Middle East, which are often self-contradictory. They include:

1. Fighting terrorism emanating from the region, which might menace the US or its major allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

2. Ensuring the security of petroleum production in the Oil Gulf, which contains 2/3s of the world's proven reserves.

3. Reestablishing order in Afghanistan and ensuring that the Taliban and al-Qaeda cannot again use it as a base for Muslim radicalism.

4. Reestablishing order in Iraq and ensuring a government and system there favorable to US interests.

5. Weakening or overthrowing the governments of Syria and Iran, primarily because they are viewed as threats to Israel. As part of weakening Syria, the US applied enormous pressure to get its remaining troops out of Lebanon.

6. Pushing for democratization in the "Greater Middle East," even at the risk of alienating long-time US friends such as Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak.
And ended with this:
As for Bush's goals:

1. Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri are still at large, so the war on terror is not won.

2. Security in the Gulf is endangered by the Iraqi guerrilla war, and oil prices are very high, benefitting Iran and Saudi Arabia. Oil security is in doubt.

3. Resources to do Afghanistan right were diverted to Iraq. Afghanistan has a very weak government that might well not survive on its own. Suicide bombings are on the uptick. Oldtime warlords are back, as members of parliament.

4. Order has not been reestablished in Iraq.

5. The Syrian and Iranian governments have not been noticeably weakened. Iran is flush with extra petroleum income this year. The US may yet decide that it needs Damascus and Tehran, if it is to have a soft landing in Iraq.

6. Lebanon is more democratic at the end of 2005 than at its beginning, but also much less stable. These changes had little to do with the US. Egypt's elections were not free enough to accomplish much, and there is a question as to whether the US really wants a Muslim Brotherhood take-over of Cairo. The MB hates the Camp David accords and would immediately abrogate them. The Bush administration has said nothing publicly about the demand of Bahraini Shiites that a more democratic constitution be enacted in that country. Iraq has had two elections, but they have been deeply flawed, such that basic security could not be guaranteed candidates or voters, most candidates could not campaign, the electorate did not know the personalities for whom it was voting (but rather voted for ethnic lists), and some candidates were killed. The elections have exacerbated sectarian tensions of a sort that could pull the country apart, and they brought fundamentalist Shiites to power. Whatever is going on in Iraq, it is not a model that most Middle Eastern states would want to emulate.

I'd give the Bush administration a "D" (60 out of 100) on the Middle East this year. Support for the end of two military occupations, in Gaza and Lebanon, pull up the averages. But much of the policy is self-contradictory, in disarray, or likely to cause some wars. None of that makes us safer.
You're doing a heck'uva job Bushie!

What a differencs a year makes.

The Toledo Blade shows us the what happens when you are a Republican and you break the law.
A year ago, Tom Noe was a powerful GOP fund-raiser, chairman of the Ohio Board of Regents and the Ohio Turnpike Commission, and a key player in the American rare-coin trade.

He looked forward to President Bush’s second inaugural after having a hand in his re-election as one of his top fund-raisers. The Maumee-area coin dealer also controlled the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation’s $50 million rare-coin funds and looked forward to the agency’s giving him $25 million more to invest.

A year later, Mr. Noe lives in voluntary exile in the Florida Keys, accused of stealing millions from the state’s rare-coin funds he managed and indicted on three felony counts for allegedly laundering more than $40,000 to the President’s campaign.

Instead of hob-nobbing with politicians or closing coin deals, Mr. Noe spends his days in a big white house on Stinger Road in the Florida Keys.

The $2 million home has breathtaking view of the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. It also has a pool with its own artificial waterfall.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

Terry Jones hands out some awards

From The Guardian earlier this week we get a list of awards for politicians who bravely advanced their agendas in the face of reality during 2005. My favorite:
And now we come to the Dick Cheney "Goblet of Fire" Award for Courage in the Face of Action. And for the sixth successive year, the award goes to ... the vice-president of the US ... Dick Cheney!

This year the judge (who is, once again, Dick Cheney) cites in particular Mr Cheney's fearlessness in speaking with authority on military matters despite the fact that he has never served in the military. In fact Mr Cheney received no less than five deferments rather than serve his country in uniform. Nor has he lost his nerve, despite seeing the death rate of American servicemen and women climb above the 2,000 mark. Those who have already died will be heartened by his courageous determination to risk yet more people's lives.

Well done, Dick. The "Goblet of Fire" is yours once again.

Our Dear Leader shows what he does best

From the WaPo we get an article that shows off ODEL's one true talent.
On most of the 365 days he has enjoyed at his secluded ranch here, President Bush's idea of paradise is to hop in his white Ford pickup truck in jeans and work boots, drive to a stand of cedars, and whack the trees to the ground.
Damned Democrat mesquites!
Clearing brush is a lot like weeding the yard, although on a real ranch it is an economic necessity. In central Texas, cedar and mesquite trees are invaders competing for moisture with grass, gobbling water from the soil and hoarding rain and sunlight on their branches. With his livestock's food supply at stake, a farmer could live or die on how well his brush is cleared. Local agronomists say brush control has been a part of rural Texas since the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s, when the botanical bandits spread across the arid soil....

....Certainly the 1,583 acres of rugged canyons and rocky hillsides, creeks and pasture land on Prairie Chapel Ranch contain a lot of brush. Bush, a creature of habit, is not in danger of finishing the job. The Bush ranch, however, is not a working ranch. The president has kept only a handful of cattle on the property since Kenneth Engelbrecht, who sold him the former hog farm six years ago, stopped leasing back some pasture land that supported a herd of cows.
So if he is not a real rancher (he just plays one on TV) why does he do it? One of his neighbors suggests the answer.
"Most likely he's doing that to show the media he's got a chain saw," joked Larry Mattladge, who raises Black Angus cows three-quarters of a mile from the Bush ranch and built his fence rows out of cedar posts.

Was Toxic Tommy in bed with the Russians?

The gist if this WaPo article on one element of Jack Abramoffs lobbying empire would seem to suggest that was so. The connections between Tom Delay, the U.S. Family Network and Jack's money tree are just too convenient to be honest.
The U.S. Family Network, a public advocacy group that operated in the 1990s with close ties to Rep. Tom DeLay and claimed to be a nationwide grass-roots organization, was funded almost entirely by corporations linked to embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to tax records and former associates of the group.

During its five-year existence, the U.S. Family Network raised $2.5 million but kept its donor list secret. The list, obtained by The Washington Post, shows that $1 million of its revenue came in a single 1998 check from a now-defunct London law firm whose former partners would not identify the money's origins.

Two former associates of Edwin A. Buckham, the congressman's former chief of staff and the organizer of the U.S. Family Network, said Buckham told them the funds came from Russian oil and gas executives. Abramoff had been working closely with two such Russian energy executives on their Washington agenda, and the lobbyist and Buckham had helped organize a 1997 Moscow visit by DeLay (R-Tex.).

The former president of the U.S. Family Network said Buckham told him that Russians contributed $1 million to the group in 1998 specifically to influence DeLay's vote on legislation the International Monetary Fund needed to finance a bailout of the collapsing Russian economy.....

....Whatever the real motive for the contribution of $1 million -- a sum not prohibited by law but extraordinary for a small, nonprofit group -- the steady stream of corporate payments detailed on the donor list makes it clear that Abramoff's long-standing alliance with DeLay was sealed by a much more extensive web of financial ties than previously known.

Records and interviews also illuminate the mixture of influence and illusion that surrounded the U.S. Family Network. Despite the group's avowed purpose, records show it did little to promote conservative ideas through grass-roots advocacy. The money it raised came from businesses with no demonstrated interest in the conservative "moral fitness" agenda that was the group's professed aim.
"Moral fitness", indeed. Fiscal fitness might be more appropriate.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall has a good look at what was shown by this article.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Court to Jack: Fish or cut bait!

Well, in this case it might be more a matter of Shit or get off the pot! The NY Times is reporting that the judge in Miami Federal court has delivered an ultimatum to the lawyers.
The indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff must decide by Tuesday whether he will accept a plea or stand trial on fraud charges in a Florida case, a judge in Federal District Court told Mr. Abramoff's lawyers and prosecutors in a court hearing on Friday.

In a conference call, Judge Paul C. Huck of Miami told the two sides to inform the court about their plans and set a hearing for 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

If no agreement is reached, Mr. Abramoff will stand trial in Miami on Jan. 9.
Good call Judge Paul!

Quote of the Day

From the Vail Daily by way of Kos:
"Feingold, being a Jew, is behaving more Christian than the one who says he is a Christian,"

John Gorman of Glenwood Springs, referring to President Bush.

Krugman says goodbye to '05

Heck of a Job, Bushie
A year ago, everyone expected President Bush to get his way on Social
Security. Pundits warned Democrats that they were making a big
political mistake by opposing plans to divert payroll taxes into
private accounts. A year ago, everyone thought Congress would make
Mr. Bush's tax cuts permanent, in spite of projections showing that
doing so would lead to budget deficits as far as the eye can see. But
Congress hasn't acted, and most of the cuts are still scheduled to
expire by the end of 2010.

A year ago, Mr. Bush made many Americans feel safe, because they
believed that he would be decisive and effective in an emergency. But
Mr. Bush was apparently oblivious to the first major domestic
emergency since 9/11. According to Newsweek, aides to Mr. Bush
finally decided, days after Hurricane Katrina struck, that they had
to show him a DVD of TV newscasts to get him to appreciate the
seriousness of the situation.

A year ago, before ''Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job'' became a
national punch line, the rising tide of cronyism in government
agencies and the rapid replacement of competent professionals with
unqualified political appointees attracted hardly any national

A year ago, hardly anyone outside Washington had heard of Jack
Abramoff, and Tom DeLay's position as House majority leader seemed

A year ago, Dick Cheney, who repeatedly cited discredited evidence
linking Saddam to 9/11, and promised that invading Americans would be
welcomed as liberators -- although he hadn't yet declared that the
Iraq insurgency was in its ''last throes'' -- was widely admired for
his ''gravitas.''

A year ago, Howard Dean -- who was among the very few prominent
figures to question Colin Powell's prewar presentation to the United
Nations, and who warned, while hawks were still celebrating the fall
of Baghdad, that the occupation of Iraq would be much more difficult
than the initial invasion -- was considered flaky and unsound.

A year ago, it was clear that before the Iraq war, the administration
suppressed information suggesting that Iraq was not, in fact, trying
to build nuclear weapons. Yet few people in Washington or in the news
media were willing to say that the nation was deliberately misled
into war until polls showed that most Americans already believed it.

A year ago, the Washington establishment treated Ayad Allawi as if he
were Nelson Mandela. Mr. Allawi's triumphant tour of Washington, back
in September 2004, provided a crucial boost to the Bush-Cheney
campaign. So did his claim that the insurgents were ''desperate.''
But Mr. Allawi turned out to be another Ahmad Chalabi, a hero of
Washington conference rooms and cocktail parties who had few
supporters where it mattered, in Iraq.

A year ago, when everyone respectable agreed that we must ''stay the
course,'' only a handful of war critics suggested that the U.S.
presence in Iraq might be making the violence worse, not better. It
would have been hard to imagine the top U.S. commander in Iraq
saying, as Gen. George Casey recently did, that a smaller foreign
force is better ''because it doesn't feed the notion of occupation.''

A year ago, Mr. Bush hadn't yet openly reneged on Scott McClellan's
2003 pledge that ''if anyone in this administration was involved'' in
the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity, that person ''would no
longer be in this administration.'' Of course, some suspect that Mr.
Bush has always known who was involved.

A year ago, we didn't know that Mr. Bush was lying, or at least being
deceptive, when he said at an April 2004 event promoting the Patriot
Act that ''a wiretap requires a court order. When we're talking about
chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order
before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to
understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are
in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our
homeland, because we value the Constitution.''

A year ago, most Americans thought Mr. Bush was honest.

A year ago, we didn't know for sure that almost all the politicians
and pundits who thundered, during the Lewinsky affair, that even the
president isn't above the law have changed their minds. But now we
know when it comes to presidents who break the law, it's O.K. if
you're a Republican.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Sometimes blogging is fun

Your Porn Star Name Is...

Stroker John

What's Your Porn Star Name?

This porn star name was derived from Tom Delay. My Bad.

Republicans love the military

Mainly because it is a constant source of profit. How else can you explain this act of military procurement?
The Marine Corps is paying $100,000 apiece for a revamped military jeep that some critics call a rip-off of taxpayers, according to a news report Thursday.

The Marines budgeted to buy more than 400 vehicles, called Growlers, under a contract that could total $296 million including ammunition, USA Today said, citing Pentagon records.

Built by Ocala, Fla.-based American Growler, the Growler is made partly from salvaged M151 jeep parts and is available in several versions.

Four years ago, the Dominican Republic paid $33,000 for a version of the Growler, the paper said citing U.S. Export-Import Bank records.

A commercial version of the jeep costs just $7,500.
True, the Marine version has more bells and whistles but P-U-H-LEEZE! How much can you put on an unarmored JEEP that needs $67,000 more than the export model? No doubt the WSJ will soon list American Growler as one of the fastest growing companies in the US.

New ACLU ads

And a great big Thank You to John at AmericaBlog for posting these. Click on the image for a larger view.

Inside Jack Abramoff

The WaPo leads today with an in-depth look at the rise and fall of the Republicans uber lobbyist and money wrangler.
ack Abramoff liked to slip into dialogue from "The Godfather" as he led his lobbying colleagues in planning their next conquest on Capitol Hill. In a favorite bit, he would mimic an ice-cold Michael Corleone facing down a crooked politician's demand for a cut of Mafia gambling profits: "Senator, you can have my answer now if you like. My offer is this: nothing."

The playacting provided a clue to how Abramoff saw himself -- the power behind the scenes who directed millions of dollars in Indian gambling proceeds to favored lawmakers, the puppet master who pulled the strings of officials in key places, the businessman who was building an international casino empire.....

.....A reconstruction of the lobbyist's rise and fall shows that he was an ingenious dealmaker who hatched interlocking schemes that exploited the machinery of government and trampled the norms of doing business in Washington -- sometimes for clients but more often to serve his desire for wealth and influence.
This is a story of how he did it and offers a look at why. It is long but America needs to know.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Don't forget to watch Olbermann

M-F at 8:00 on MSNBC. The only bright spot on a punk network. And check out this clip up at Crooks & Liars.

Prosecutors flip the fat boy

And hopefully Kenny Boy will be doing time in 'pound him in the ass' prison for it. From the NY Times:
The former chief accounting officer of Enron pleaded guilty today to a single felony charge of securities fraud and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors, giving a significant lift to the government's case against the two leading figures in the scandal over Enron's collapse....

....In Mr. Causey, prosecutors get access to another top former Enron executive who was involved in discussions where numerous off-balance sheet transactions and creative accounting entries that led to the company's downfall were devised, approved and executed. For instance, Mr. Causey was one of two participants in a Oct. 21, 2001, meeting with Mr. Lay that is the basis of one of the seven charges against the former chief executive and chairman.
Happy New Year Kenny Boy!

Our Dear Embattled really screwed the pooch this time.

The NY Times had an article outlining how the various defense lawyers will use ODEL's disclosure of warrantless snooping on Americans in their cases.

For a good explanation of how this works against national security read ReddHead over at firedoglake.

George & Osama working from the same script?

Has bin Laden been hiding with Cheney in an undisclosed secret location? Most Americans would call these ideas the worst sort of tinfoil hat stuff. Why then, if you look at the events of the last four years together, does it make more sense than what the Bushoviks are telling us. Robert Steinback, writing in the Miami Herald does just that.
If, back in 2001, anyone had told me that four years after bin Laden's attack our president would admit that he broke U.S. law against domestic spying and ignored the Constitution -- and then expect the American people to congratulate him for it -- I would have presumed the girders of our very Republic had crumbled.

Had anyone said our president would invade a country and kill 30,000 of its people claiming a threat that never, in fact, existed, then admit he would have invaded even if he had known there was no threat -- and expect America to be pleased by this -- I would have thought our nation's sensibilities and honor had been eviscerated.

If I had been informed that our nation's leaders would embrace torture as a legitimate tool of warfare, hold prisoners for years without charges and operate secret prisons overseas -- and call such procedures necessary for the nation's security -- I would have laughed at the folly of protecting human rights by destroying them.

If someone had predicted the president's staff would out a CIA agent as revenge against a critic, defy a law against domestic propaganda by bankrolling supposedly independent journalists and commentators, and ridicule a 37-year Marie Corps veteran for questioning U.S. military policy -- and that the populace would be more interested in whether Angelina is about to make Brad a daddy -- I would have called the prediction an absurd fantasy.

That's no America I know, I would have argued. We're too strong, and we've been through too much, to be led down such a twisted path.
And where does it all lead us as a nation?
President Bush recently confirmed that he has authorized wiretaps against U.S. citizens on at least 30 occasions and said he'll continue doing it. His justification? He, as president -- or is that king? -- has a right to disregard any law, constitutional tenet or congressional mandate to protect the American people.

Is that America's highest goal -- preventing another terrorist attack? Are there no principles of law and liberty more important than this? Who would have remembered Patrick Henry had he written, ``What's wrong with giving up a little liberty if it protects me from death?''
Sure does seem that way.

Heck of a job, Chertoff!

From the AP comes a report from the Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee. And some of their findings are as follows:
The Homeland Security Department officially opened its doors in March 2003. It was created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks to bolster protections of potential domestic targets.

Since then, according to the report, the department has failed to:

-Compile a single, comprehensive list prioritizing protections for the nation's most critical and potentially vulnerable buildings, transportation systems and other infrastructure.

-Install monitors at borders and every international seaport and airport to screen for radiation material entering the country.

-Install surveillance cameras at all high-risk chemical plants.

-Create one effective network to share quickly security-related intelligence and alerts with state, local and private industry officials.

-Track international visitors through a computerized system that takes their fingerprints and photographs as they enter and exit the country.
But not to worry, they have your phone covered. Or as Our Dear Embattled Leader so aptly put it.

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Top 10 Myths about Iraq

From Juan Cole, we get a touch of reason wrapped in an American delicacy - a Top 10 list. Here is #1, you go read the rest on his informative website.
1. The guerrilla war is being waged only in four provinces. This canard is trotted out by everyone from think tank flacks to US generals, and it is shameful. Iraq has 18 provinces, but some of them are lightly populated. The most populous province is Baghdad, which has some 6 million residents, or nearly one-fourth of the entire population of the country. It also contains the capital. It is one of the four being mentioned!. Another of the four, Ninevah province, has a population of some 1.8 million and contains Mosul, a city of over a million and the country's third largest! It is not clear what other two provinces are being referred to, but they are probably Salahuddin and Anbar provinces, other big centers of guerrilla activity, bring the total for the "only four provinces" to something like 10 million of Iraq's 26 million people.

But the "four provinces" allegation is misleading on another level. It is simply false. Guerrilla attacks occur routinely beyong the confines of Anbar, Salahuddin, Ninevah and Baghdad. Diyala province is a big center of the guerrilla movement and has witnessed thousands of deaths in the ongoing unconventional war. Babil province just south of Baghdad is a major center of back alley warfare between Sunnis and Shiites and attacks on Coalition troops. Attacks, assassinations and bombings are routine in Kirkuk province in the north, a volatile mixture of Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs engaged in a subterranean battle for dominance of the area's oil fields. So that is 7 provinces, and certainly half the population of the country lives in these 7, which are daily affected by the ongoing violence. It is true that violence is rare in the 3 northern provinces of the Kurdistan confederacy. And the Shiite south is much less violent than the 7 provinces of the center-north, on a good day. But some of this calm in the south is an illusion deriving from poor on the ground reporting. It appears to be the case that British troops are engaged in an ongoing struggle with guerrilla forces of the Marsh Arabs in Maysan Province. Even calm is not always a good sign. The southern port city of Basra appears to come by its via a reign of terror by Shiite religious militias.

Some historical quotes today

From the Impeach Bush Coalition:

Tom Delay (R-TX):

"This nation sits at a crossroads. One direction points to the higher road of the rule of law. Sometimes hard, sometimes unpleasant, this path relies on truth, justice and the rigorous application of the principle that no man is above the law. Now, the other road is the path of least resistance. This is where we start making exceptions to our laws based on poll numbers and spin control. This is when we pitch the law completely overboard when the mood fits us, when we ignore the facts in order to cover up the truth.

No man is above the law, and no man is below the law. That’s the principle that we all hold very dear in this country."

Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.):

"I suggest impeachment is like beauty: apparently in the eye of the beholder. But I hold a different view. And it's not a vengeful one, it's not vindictive, and it's not craven. It's just a concern for the Constitution and a high respect for the rule of law. ... as a lawyer and a legislator for most of my very long life, I have a particular reverence for our legal system. It protects the innocent, it punishes the guilty, it defends the powerless, it guards freedom, it summons the noblest instincts of the human spirit.

The rule of law protects you and it protects me from the midnight fire on our roof or the 3 a.m. knock on our door."

James Sensenbrenner: (R-WI):

"What is on trial here is the truth and the rule of law. Our failure to bring President Clinton to account for his lying under oath and preventing the courts from administering equal justice under law, will cause a cancer to be present in our society for generations. I want those parents who ask me the questions, to be able to tell their children that even if you are president of the United States, if you lie when sworn "to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth," you will face the consequences of that action, even when you don't accept the responsibility for them."

Chuck Hagel (R-NB):

"There can be no shading of right and wrong. The complicated currents that have coursed through this impeachment process are many. But after stripping away the underbrush of legal technicalities and nuance, I find that the President abused his sacred power by lying and obstructing justice. How can parents instill values and morality in their children? How can educators teach our children? How can the rule of law for every American be applied equally if we have two standards of justice in America--one for the powerful and the other for the rest of us?"

Bill Frist (R-TN):

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

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas):

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

Monday, December 26, 2005

Anna Nicole Smith gets White House boost

From the AP:
Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith has an unusual bedfellow in the Supreme Court fight over her late husband's fortune: the Bush administration.

The administration's top Supreme Court lawyer filed arguments on Smith's behalf and wants to take part when the case is argued before the justices.
And why would these paragons of family values get involved with the "Woman With Two Huge 'Brains'"?
The issue before the high court is one only lawyers would love: when may federal courts hear claims that involve state probate proceedings. Smith lost in Texas state courts, which found that E. Pierce Marshall was the sole heir to his father's estate.

The Bush administration's filings in the case are technical. Without getting into the details of the family squabble, Solicitor General Paul Clement said that the justices should protect federal court jurisdiction in disputes.
So the feds just want to extend federal court jurisdiction at the expense of the states. Right! My own opinion is that Karl Rove wants an autograph, wink, wink,nudge, nudge.

Love on the border.

The LA Times has a bitter sweet article about a continuing problem among those who patrol our nations borders, love.
The forbidden romance between the Border Patrol agent and the illegal immigrant began in a gym.

Maria Terrazas, 31, met Jose Ruiz three years ago at LM's Body Builders in this remote border town. Terrazas, a waitress and mother of two, knew Ruiz was a catch. As a Border Patrol agent, Ruiz belonged to an elite class in town: available men with good jobs and an education.

The two began dating, and their relationship continued even after Terrazas was deported to Mexico in November 2004. She quickly bluffed her way through U.S. customs and back to Ruiz.

Terrazas, who said several of her illegal immigrant girlfriends have relationships with border agents, saw nothing unusual about dating a man whose job was to keep people like her out of the U.S. "He had his own job and I had mine," Terrazas said in an interview. "I never thought it'd cause problems."

But it did.
Reading the article, it is easy to say that all those cited should have known better, if you have never been in love yourself. But they went ahead and did what they did and found out that when your heart meets up with a bureaucracy, your heart will lose.

I'm not a judge, but I play one on the bench.

The NY Times reveals the failings of the immigration courts and their judges, as noted in various appellate decisions. According to several Appeals Court judges, the IA judges arefollowing "what they call a pattern of biased and incoherent decisions in asylum cases." The examples cited do appear to bear this out.
In the Philadelphia decision in September, Judge Julio M. Fuentes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit had this to say about Annie S. Garcy, an immigration judge, or I.J., in Newark: "The tone, the tenor, the disparagement, and the sarcasm of the I.J. seem more appropriate to a court television show than a federal court proceeding."

Judge Garcy ordered Qun Wang returned to China, where he said his wife had been forcibly sterilized. "He's a horrible father as far as the court's concerned," Judge Garcy ruled, saying Mr. Wang was obsessed with having a son and did not pay enough attention to his daughter, who is disabled.

All of that was irrelevant to the issues before Judge Garcy, Judge Fuentes wrote, returning the case to the immigration system for a rehearing before a different judge. "The factual issue before" Judge Garcy, Judge Fuentes wrote, had been only "whether Wang's wife had been forcibly sterilized and whether, if he returned to China, the Chinese government would inflict improper punishment on him for leaving the country."
In another decision, Judge Marsha S. Berzon of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, said a decision by Nathan W. Gordon, an immigration judge, was "literally incomprehensible," "incoherent" and "indecipherable." A crucial sentence in Judge Gordon's decision, she said, "defies parsing under ordinary rules of English grammar."
And all of this because of John Ashcrofts efforts to "streamline" the appeals process, something he did in what has become a common pattern in the current administration.
Judges at the top and bottom of the system blame the administrative body between them, the Board of Immigration Appeals, for the surge in appeals and the mixed quality of the decisions reaching the federal appeals courts. The board is meant to act as a filter, correcting erroneous or intemperate decisions from the immigration judges and providing general guidance. The losing party can appeal the board's decision to the federal courts.

But the board largely stopped reviewing immigration cases in a meaningful way after it was restructured by Mr. Ashcroft in 2002, several judges said.

Mr. Ashcroft reduced the number of judges on the board to 11 from 23. "They just hacked off all the liberals is basically what they did," said Ms. Rosenberg, who served on the board from 1995 to 2002.

Mr. Ashcroft also expanded the number of appeals heard by a single board member and encouraged the use of one-word affirmances in appropriate cases.
A-Ha! The "Electrodes" Gonzalez method of appellate review, Keep It Short and Stupid. Fast, efficient and it gets rid of all those pesky asylum seekers.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A modern Christmas Carol

In Dicken's classic Christmas tale his depiction of Scrooge as a man totally lacking in any sort of human warmth included this passage:
Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk's fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn't replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part.
From the NY Times editorial board comes this description of his modern counterparts in the Republican Party.
One of the shabbiest shell games of the year was played out in the closing hours of Congress in its now-you-see-it, now-you-don't offering of some badly needed winter heating aid to the nation's working poor. The climactic moment occurred when Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, huckstering his most treasured goal, tried to sell oil drilling in his state's pristine wildlife preserve by promising it would help finance a long list of shoppers' bonuses for his colleagues: extra money for flu vaccine, hurricane reconstruction, first-responder radios and - if you vote yes right away - $2 billion in extra heating aid for the poor this cold winter.

Mr. Stevens's cunning warning was that all those extras would die on the vine unless Alaska drilling was approved. His cynical flimflammery was deservedly rebuffed as enough opponents stood firm against the oil drilling. And soon enough the word went round that things like flu vaccine and hurricane aid were not endangered after all.

Not so the extra fuel aid for low-income families. There was a heating supplement tied to the Alaska proposal, as Mr. Stevens promised. But there was also a separate $2 billion appropriated for the same purpose elsewhere in the legislation - unconnected to the Alaska floor machinations - that somehow was struck from the final bill as lawmakers rushed to recess. Malice? Who can say? Obviously the poor can't afford a campaign donation PAC to catch Congress's attention for an answer.

The government's home heating supplement now stands at a half or less of what the poor will need if predictions of a harsh winter pan out and fuel bills increase 25 percent. Various studies have established that, in a pinch, the poor scrimp on food purchases in order to meet heating bills. Yet Congress's stinginess is being compounded by the administration's recent decision to reject a request from New York and several other states to increase food stamp outlays to the poor as fuel bills mount.
Obviously The Loofah King and his little dog Gibson have been seeking the wrong enemy in their War On Xmas.

Listening to the world since 1952

Sounds like a pretty catchy slogan, doesn't it? In fact it is what the NSA has been doing all these years. Until Our Dear Embattled Leader came along with his Evil Vizier Big Dick, it was looking outward, listening to the rest of the world. Now with the Republicans keen urge for Big Government, it is looking inward, directing its vast resources at Americans, you and me. James Bamford, in the NY TIMES, gives us a good look at the NSA, what it can do and what it means to all of us. Read the whole piece carefully, then consider this item from 30 years ago.
Thirty years ago, Senator Frank Church, the Idaho Democrat who was then chairman of the select committee on intelligence, investigated the agency and came away stunned.

"That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people," he said in 1975, "and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide."

He added that if a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A. "could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back."

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Barrons uses the I word.

And I don't mean Invest. The well respected investment weekly, owned and published by the Wall St Journal, has posted a very forceful editorial in opposition to Our Dear Embattled Leader's Divine Right To Spy on Americans.In it they include a few choice paragraphs like this:
Surely the "strict constructionists" on the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary eventually will point out what a stretch this is. The most important presidential responsibility under Article II is that he must "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." That includes following the requirements of laws that limit executive power. There's not much fidelity in an executive who debates and lobbies Congress to shape a law to his liking and then goes beyond its writ.
And this:
Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.

It is important to be clear that an impeachment case, if it comes to that, would not be about wiretapping, or about a possible Constitutional right not to be wiretapped. It would be about the power of Congress to set wiretapping rules by law, and it is about the obligation of the president to follow the rules in the Acts that he and his predecessors signed into law.
Laws may be made and unmade, but no one is above the Law.

Quote of the Day

"This is a war that's not worth the life of one American because it's a war based on a lie. And no amount of revisionism will make those lies true. And if you support this ridiculous notion that the ends justifies the means, then come up here, throw your passport on the stage and get the hell out of my country because that's un-American."
Scott Ritter - from the debate on the Iraq War with Christopher "Just One More Drink" Hitchens, courtesy of Bob Geiger of Yellow Dog Blog

He knows who you've been calling, he knows what you have said.

And his name is not Santa. The NY Times gives us a taste of what the NSA has been doing that required the Bushoviks to avoid the secret FISA court.
The National Security Agency has traced and analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the United States as part of the eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity, according to current and former government officials.

The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said.
So they are pretty much listening to everyone and hoping to find the needle. No wonder they have avoided warrants, there is no way you could assemble a list of violated persons in 3 days, much less give a viable reason for each. But you can be comforted in knowing that the NSA did not have to do all this fishing alone.
A former technology manager at a major telecommunications company said that since the Sept. 11 attacks, the leading companies in the industry have been storing information on calling patterns and giving it to the federal government to aid in tracking possible terrorists.

"All that data is mined with the cooperation of the government and shared with them, and since 9/11, there's been much more active involvement in that area," said the former manager, a telecommunications expert who did not want his name or that of his former company used because of concern about revealing trade secrets.
Trade secrets? Not even a little worry about the criminality?

I guess that all you folks using your new Christmas computers on your new Christmas high speed Internet connections should just remember one thing. Always say nice things about Our Dear Embattled Leader because He is keeping a list and you don't want Him to check it twice. (see previous post)

Our Dear Embattled Leader giveth and He taketh away.

The latest defense authorization bill shows just how weird this country has become, as detailed in this article from the WaPo.
But the measure awaiting President Bush's signature also would limit the access of detainees held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to federal courts. And it would allow the military to use confessions elicited by torture when deciding whether a detainee is an enemy combatant.

The legislative action affecting the treatment and legal status of detainees reflects conflicting views in Congress about the administration's handling of the terrorism fight and concerns about the U.S. image. Congress overwhelmingly supported language sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners after revelations of torture and abuse that embarrassed the country.

Yet, members of Congress from both parties were willing to grant the Bush administration more power over detentions at Guantanamo Bay by largely pushing the federal courts aside.
So if I understand this, we can't torture the detainees any more but if we just happen to torture a story we like from them, we can use it against them in one of the mock trials we use to determine their status. And no more habeas corpus.
An amendment sponsored by Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) eliminates detainees' ability to challenge the condition of their detentions through habeas corpus petitions. Graham, asserting that U.S. courts have become clogged by "frivolous" claims on behalf of nearly 300 detainees in Cuba, favored denying foreign terrorism suspects the same rights in federal court that are afforded to U.S. citizens.
Well, given the thorough investigations leading up to their capture and Guantanamation, why should we allow them to question their incarceration? After all, we are trying to give them all the comforts of home. I just want to know why Carl Levin was a co-sponsor on this? DC is a strange place where strange things happen but this is harder than most to understand

Kenny Boy gets a lump of coal for Christmas

In the excitement of Fitzmas we often forget the one who might be considered the granddaddy of Our Dear Embattled Leaders problems with corporate scandal, Kenny Boy Lay. With his trial about to begin, the WaPo reports that prosecutors may be set to flip a major player, his chief accountant.
Federal prosecutors are engaged in plea negotiations with former Enron Corp. official Richard A. Causey, working toward a deal that could provide crucial momentum for the government heading into the signature trial of the corporate scandal era.

If an agreement is reached, it could be announced in a Houston courtroom as early as next week, according to sources briefed on the case who spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations are at a sensitive stage and still could fall apart.

Testimony from Causey, who as chief accountant stood at the center of complicated maneuvers that prosecutors allege helped Enron bury debt and inflate earnings, could help the government substantially streamline its fraud case against former chairman Kenneth L. Lay and Jeffrey K. Skilling. The three men are scheduled to stand trial in Houston on Jan. 17. They could face decades behind bars if they are convicted on fraud and conspiracy counts.
With Causey's testimony, it would be very difficult for Kenny Boy to wiggle out, even with a jury of CEO's. Perhaps justice will be done.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Checklist

I received this from The Bulldog Manifesto over at the Impeach Bush Coalition.I am posting it in its entirety for all.
1. Familiarize yourself with "The Question":

"The Bush administration simply cannot answer this one question - if time was of the essence, why didn't they conduct the searches and get the warrants after the fact, something that is allowed under the FISA law? They conducted the searches alright, but they never once sought the retroactive warrants."

2. Send an email to all of these media folks and ask them "The Question."

3. Sign Senator Boxer's petition.

4. Contact your senator.

5. Contact your

6. Contact Congressman Pete Hoekstra too.

7. File a Freedom of Information Act request HERE.

8. Sign John Conyers' petition to censure and investigate impeachment.

9. Join the guerilla marketing campaign.

10. Make a donation to ImpeachPAC.

11. Join the Impeach Bush Coalition.

(Thanks to Redneck Mother for inspiring the list.)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Tom Toles

Security, it's not for Americans anymore

From the WaPo comes an interesting article on the disaster that is our protection from disaster-The Department of Homeland Security.
Nearly three years after it was created in the largest government reorganization since the Department of Defense, DHS does have a story, but so far it is one of haphazard design, bureaucratic warfare and unfulfilled promises. The department's first significant test -- its response to Hurricane Katrina in August -- exposed a troubled organization where preparedness was more slogan than mission.
Bureaucracy does not get better when it gets bigger. Read it and weep.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Soon we will know Jack.

Abramoff that is. The NY Times and the WaPo are reporting that Jack Abramoff, grand poobah of the pazuzahs in DC is trying to make a deal with prosecutors. Seems like a good idea when your closest associates have already flipped.
What began as a limited inquiry into $82 million of Indian casino lobbying by Mr. Abramoff and his closest partner, Michael Scanlon, has broadened into a far-reaching corruption investigation of mainly Republican lawmakers and aides suspected of accepting favors in exchange for legislative work.

Prominent party officials, including the former House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, are under scrutiny involving trips and other gifts from Mr. Abramoff and his clients. The case has shaken the Republican establishment, with the threat of testimony from Mr. Abramoff, once a ubiquitous and well-connected Republican star, sowing anxiety throughout the party ranks.

At issue is the complicated structure of the case against Mr. Abramoff. In August, he was indicted by federal prosecutors in Miami on charges of fraud stemming from his purchase of a fleet of casino boats in 2000. He pleaded not guilty in that case, and his lawyers say they are preparing him to stand trial. Mr. Abramoff has also been under investigation here in connection with his lobbying. No charges have been brought against him in that inquiry. The existence of what amounts to two separate but overlapping investigations partly explains why the plea negotiations for Mr. Abramoff have been so protracted and tough, said people with inside knowledge of the case.
Poor Jack, flying so high until he flew too close to the SunCruz.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A necessary book review.

As I was reading a NY Times review of "The Third Reich in Power: 1933-1939" by Richard J. Evans I was struck by a passage that, while adressing that arc of the books storyline, seemed totally appropriate for today.
Before the war, Evans explains, Germany underwent a brutal and chilling transformation. Behind a facade of legality, the Nazis dismantled the established protections of law. Not satisfied merely to crush a lively if troubled democracy, they used their police state and the mass media to dissolve traditional allegiances. Replacing most forms of organized social life with new, Nazi-themed activities, they left citizens with no place to share heretical thoughts. The result was a nightmare version of a normal modern society, with popular entertainment manipulating public enthusiasms and hatreds, and the government intruding into intimate matters of the mind and body while demanding an end to the coddling of the weak.

It is surprisingly hard to say just what Nazism was, other than a vague if radical ideology. Hitler, a leader bored by administrative detail, left the way open for endless squabbles among his fanatical and often corrupt subordinates.
To me, it seems that you can replace Nazi with neocon without losing any level of meaning. Or maybe my tinfoil hat is too tight. I wish it were the hat.

Jonathan Alter rips Our Dear Embattled Leader a new one.

In his latest column on Newsweek, Jonathan Alter says what all Americans should know and feel about what he labels "Snoopgate". In a few words, Mad As Hell!
Finally we have a Washington scandal that goes beyond sex, corruption and political intrigue to big issues like security versus liberty and the reasonable bounds of presidential power. President Bush came out swinging on Snoopgate—he made it seem as if those who didn’t agree with him wanted to leave us vulnerable to Al Qaeda—but it will not work. We’re seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator, or in his own mind, no doubt, like Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.
One has to wonder how such a large man as Abraham Lincoln couls fit into such a small mind.

Read the whole thing here.

Tom Delay lived high off someone else's hog.

At least that is what this story about the imperial Delay lifestyle says.
As Tom DeLay became a king of campaign fundraising, he lived like one too. He visited cliff-top Caribbean resorts, golf courses designed by PGA champions and four-star restaurants - all courtesy of donors who bankrolled his political money empire.

Over the past six years, the former House majority leader and his associates have visited places of luxury most Americans have never seen, often getting there aboard corporate jets arranged by lobbyists and other special interests.

Public documents reviewed by The Associated Press tell the story: at least 48 visits to golf clubs and resorts; 100 flights aboard company planes; 200 stays at hotels, many world-class; and 500 meals at restaurants, some averaging nearly $200 for a dinner for two.

Instead of his personal expense, the meals and trips for DeLay and his associates were paid with donations collected by the campaign committees, political action committees and children's charity the Texas Republican created during his rise to the top of Congress. His lawyer says the expenses are part of DeLay's effort to raise money from Republicans and to spread the GOP message.
Poor people live poorly because they use their own money.

What some spooks are saying about domestic spying

From we get a few reaction comments. I found this one most interesting.
"It's drilled into you from minute one that you should not ever, ever, ever, under any fucking circumstances turn this massive apparatus on an American citizen," one source says. "You do a lot of weird shit. But at least you don't fuck with your own people."
I guess we aren't Lil Georgie's people.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Most people would understand this.

Most of the words are too big for Our Dear Embattled Leader to understand, but I am sure he could get Electrodes or Big Dick to explain it to him in simple words.

Justice Powell speaking for the Supreme Court in the Mardian decision:
Fourth Amendment freedoms cannot properly be guaranteed if domestic security surveillances may be conducted solely within the discretion of the Executive Branch. The Fourth Amendment does not contemplate the executive officers of Government as neutral and disinterested magistrates. Their duty and responsibility are to enforce the laws, to investigate, and to prosecute. But those charged with this investigative and prosecutorial duty should not be the sole judges of when to utilize constitutionally sensitive means in pursuing their tasks. The historical judgment, which the Fourth Amendment accepts, is that unreviewed executive discretion may yield too readily to pressures to obtain incriminating evidence and overlook potential invasions of privacy and protected speech.

Quote of the Day

"The government will make use of these powers only insofar as they are essential for carrying out vitally necessary measures... The number of cases in which an internal necessity exists for having recourse to such a law is in itself a limited one."

Adolf Hitler, March 23rd, 1933

"Electrodes" Gonzalez has a press conference

And in it he weasels and waffles about The Bushovik domestic spy program. And, thanks to kos for pointing this out, he admits that Congress would never have given authorization to his prgram if the Bushoviks had tried to change the law.
Q If FISA didn't work, why didn't you seek a new statute that allowed something like this legally?

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: That question was asked earlier. We've had discussions with members of Congress, certain members of Congress, about whether or not we could get an amendment to FISA, and we were advised that that was not likely to be -- that was not something we could likely get, certainly not without jeopardizing the existence of the program, and therefore, killing the program. And that -- and so a decision was made that because we felt that the authorities were there, that we should continue moving forward with this program.
And so we made up shit to fool everybody.

But two more scary points pop up before the end of the presser.
Q And who determined that these targets were al Qaeda? Did you wiretap them?

GENERAL HAYDEN: The judgment is made by the operational work force at the National Security Agency using the information available to them at the time, and the standard that they apply -- and it's a two-person standard that must be signed off by a shift supervisor, and carefully recorded as to what created the operational imperative to cover any target, but particularly with regard to those inside the United States.

Q So a shift supervisor is now making decisions that a FISA judge would normally make? I just want to make sure I understand. Is that what you're saying?
So when they listened in to your Christmas call to your Aunt Helga in Fucking, Austria, it was A SHIFT SUPERVISOR who decided. Now that you feel safer, let me leave you with this last piece that cuts to the core of the matter.
Q General, when you discussed the emergency powers, you said, agility is critical here. And in the case of the emergency powers, as I understand it, you can go in, do whatever you need to do, and within 72 hours just report it after the fact. And as you say, these may not even last very long at all. What would be the difficulty in setting up a paperwork system in which the logs that you say you have the shift supervisors record are simply sent to a judge after the fact? If the judge says that this is not legitimate, by that time probably your intercept is over, wouldn't that be correct?

GENERAL HAYDEN: What you're talking about now are efficiencies. What you're asking me is, can we do this program as efficiently using the one avenue provided to us by the FISA Act, as opposed to the avenue provided to us by subsequent legislation and the President's authorization.

Our operational judgment, given the threat to the nation that the difference in the operational efficiencies between those two sets of authorities are such that we can provide greater protection for the nation operating under this authorization.

Q But while you're getting an additional efficiency, you're also operating outside of an existing law. If the law would allow you to stay within the law and be slightly less efficient, would that be --

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALEZ: I guess I disagree with that characterization. I think that this electronic surveillance is within the law, has been authorized. I mean, that is our position. We're only required to achieve a court order through FISA if we don't have authorization otherwise by the Congress, and we think that that has occurred in this particular case.
So remember to say Hi! to everybody on your next call, it's more efficient.

Rep. John Lewis D-GA calls for IMPEACHMENT

U.S. Rep. John Lewis said Monday in a radio interview that President Bush should be impeached if he broke the law in authorizing spying on Americans.

The Democratic senator from Georgia told WAOK-AM he would sign a bill of impeachment if one was drawn up and that the House of Representatives should consider such a move.

Lewis is among several Democrats who have voiced discontent with Sunday night's television speech, where Bush asked Americans to continue to support the Iraq War. Lewis is the first major House figure to suggest impeaching Bush.

"Its a very serious charge, but he violated the law," said Lewis, a former civil rights leader. "The president should abide by the law. He deliberately, systematically violated the law. He is not King, he is president."
The first, but he should not be the last.

Laura Bush leaked her husbands plan for a monarchy.

From the redoubtable BuzzFlash comes a reminder of this long ago story of Laura's remodel of the Lincoln Bedroom. This one paragraph tells it all, if only we had listened.
The pièce de résistance, both decoratively and symbolically, will be a carved bed canopy in the shape of a crown. It too has been sent for gilding. When affixed to the ceiling, the crown will support yards of regal purple satin over white lace, both trailing to the floor.
Heh! In french, no less.

Tom Toles

Our Dear Embattled Leader claims Divine Right of President

The Washington Post, reporting on ODEL's press conference today, leads with Li'l Georgies claim of powers not elsewhere granted in the Constitution.
President Bush today offered his most elaborate defense yet of his administration's domestic eavesdropping program, saying he was legally and constitutionally authorized to implement it and obligated to do so in order to protect the country from a new kind of enemy.

In a wide-ranging news conference this morning, Bush said his authority to have the National Security Agency eavesdrop without judicial involvement derived from his inherent constitutional powers as commander in chief as well as from the authorization for the use of military force approved by Congress in the wake of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "Congress gave me authority," he said.
But probably most telling is the use of a totally specious reason for use of warrantless wiretaps.
Bush and Gonzales both argued that they resorted to the new eavesdropping program because wiretaps under FISA were too slow because of the judicial participation.
The law in question specifically allows for wiretaps to be placed if needed immediately, only requiring that a warrant be applied for within 72 hours of doing so. It strikes me that someone would have to be pretty damn incompetent to fail this hurdle. What is more troubling is that the secret FISA court has only refused a handful of warrants, which were later approved after reworking the requests. A point of interest is that these mulligans happened during the reign of King Georgie II. Maybe they are rightly worried about incompetence. And maybe Alberto "Electrodes" Gonzales is at the center of it. His use of unstated authorizations has to raise serious questions about his abilities to perform the actual requirements of his job.
FISA says that, "A person is guilty of an offense if he intentionally . . . engages in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute." Congress did indeed authorize the newly disclosed eavesdropping by statute, said Gonzales, when it passed the 2001 resolution called "Authorization for the Use of Military Force."

The resolution does not mention eavesdropping or detention, which the administration has also said is supported by the authorization. It says, "The President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
It seems that our Attorney General views the law as so much Silly Putty, to be stretched to suit his master's purpose.

ADDENDUM: Perhaps Larry Johnson has a better reason for this Soviet style approach to the law.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

TBogg is on target

As he recounts some of what happened the last time aKing George tried to fuck with Americans.
"A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free People."

Nick Kristof offers a prayer and a challenge to The Lecherous Loofah.

Nick is not someone I normally read, but today he has a few good remarks in a NY Times column about Bill "The Lecherous Loofah" O'Reilly.
Let us all pray for Bill O'Reilly.

Let us pray that Mr. O'Reilly will understand that the Christmas spirit isn't about hectoring people to say "Merry Christmas," rather than "Happy Holidays," but about helping the needy.

Let us pray that Mr. O'Reilly will use his huge audience and considerable media savvy to save lives and fight genocide, instead of to vilify those he disagrees with. Let him find inspiration in Jesus, rather than in the Assyrians.

Finally, let's pray that Mr. O'Reilly and other money-changers in the temple will donate the funds they raise exploiting Christmas - covering the nonexistent "War on Christmas" rakes in viewers and advertising - to feed the hungry and house the homeless.

A true christian prayer for a true sinner and totally alien to The Lecherous Loofah's world view. But not stopping there, Nick offers Old Billzebub a challenge.
So I have a challenge for Mr. O'Reilly: If you really want to defend traditional values, then come with me on a trip to Darfur. I'll introduce you to mothers who have had their babies clubbed to death in front of them, to teenage girls who have been gang-raped and then mutilated - and to the government-armed thugs who do these things.

You'll have to leave your studio, Bill. You'll encounter pure evil. If you're like me, you'll be scared. If you try to bully some of the goons in Darfur, they'll just hack your head off. But you'll also meet some genuine conservative Christians - aid workers who live the Gospel instead of sputtering about it - and you'll finally be using your talents for an important cause.

So, Bill, what'll it be? Will you dare travel to a real war against Christmas values, in which the victims aren't offended shoppers but terrified children thrown on bonfires? I'm waiting to hear.
What a grand idea! The Falafel King broadcasting live on a road trip. The ratings would be, as Our Dear Embattled Leader likes to say, FABULOUS!

And I most like how they do ratings over there. "If you try to bully some of the goons in Darfur, they'll just hack your head off."

The Big Dick visits Iraq

And it's just like Our Dear Embattled Leader's trip to Iraq in 2003, except BD did not interrupt anyones dinner.
After arriving in Baghdad amid great secrecy this morning, Mr. Cheney hop-scotched around Iraq under intense security for nine hours, leaving here 12 hours before President Bush was to make a televised national address from the Oval Office on the war and what comes next....

....For this one highly scripted day, which unfolded exclusively behind concrete barriers, barbed wire, armed guards and the other measures necessary to ensure his safety, Mr. Cheney, who before the invasion in March 2002 offered a rosy view of Iraq after Saddam Hussein, was generally greeted warmly.
Gotta watch out for those last throes.

One has to wonder how many troops lost much needed downtime to protect his sorry, saggy ass?

The Toledo Blade keeps on plugging

And has begun to follow the threads of Tom Noe's activities from Ohio to the national stage.
Bush Administration policies, grand and obscure, have financially benefited companies or lobbying clients tied to at least 200 of the President's largest campaign fund-raisers, a Blade investigation has found. Dozens more stand to gain from Bush-backed initiatives that recently passed or await congressional approval....

.....The beneficiaries span industries and the nation. Examples include:

# Timber barons who pay lower tax rates on logging sales and face fewer barriers to harvesting trees in national forests because of administrative changes and laws Mr. Bush signed.

# Energy producers who dodged potential legal fees and cleanup costs after federal officials revised clean-air standards.

# Heads of stock brokerages and other multinational firms, which, under a special tax incentive in the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004, are bringing hundreds of millions of dollars they earned or stored abroad back into the United States this year at reduced rates.

# Executives of defense contractors United Technologies and the Washington Group, which won contracts potentially totaling more than $6 billion to supply American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and rebuild both countries' infrastructure. The same contractors won far less government work under President Bill Clinton.

# Mining executives who tapped new veins of coal, thanks to administrative rule changes that opened swaths of hills and forests to their backhoes and left once-protected streams vulnerable to pollution.
That is what appears to be the legal side of fundraising. Then there is the outlaw aspect of the trade.
With rare exception - such as a California Pioneer recently implicated in a congressional bribery scandal - the Bush supporters' benefits appear to come through legal channels of lobbying, rule-making, and legislation.

But a federal investigation of Ohio Pioneer Tom Noe, indicted in October on charges he laundered money into the President's campaign, has focused attention on Mr. Bush's network of elite fund-raisers, who accounted for at least 28 percent of Mr. Bush's $271.8 million in individual contributions for the 2004 campaign.

A Blade investigation beginning in April led to accusations by state officials that Mr. Noe stole millions of dollars the state invested in his rare-coin funds. The probe also brought the money-laundering allegations against Mr. Noe to light.
The Blade has a more complete rundown of indicted and indictable Bush fundraisers here.

Democracy On The March! Right into the mosques.

The LA Times points out an unintended consequence of Our Dear Embattled Leader's quest for Democracy in the Middle East.
When Iraqis swarmed to the polls last week to cast ballots in parliamentary elections, the Bush administration hailed a democratic victory in a region creaking under the weight of corruption, cronyism and dictatorship.

But the outcome may not be what the administration had in mind when U.S. forces swept President Saddam Hussein from power more than 2 1/2 years ago. Iraq's elections were dominated by Islamic clerics, and the incoming parliament is likely to include a large proportion of Islamist legislators, many of whom have ties to the mullahs of Iran.

In recent elections across Iraq and other countries in the region, Islamist parties have capitalized skillfully on new political freedoms to gain clout and legitimacy unprecedented in the modern Middle East. The growing strength of the religion-based parties is the single most unpredictable element in the Bush administration's grand vision to replace despots with democracy.

Whether it's the Shiite Muslim-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, Lebanon's Hezbollah, the Palestinian group Hamas or Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Islamist parties have benefited from the administration's promotion of democracy in the Arab world. But the Islamists also have gained strength from widespread opposition to U.S. policy, which has convinced some Muslims that their religion is under attack.

"U.S. foreign policy has helped directly in the rise of the Islamists," said Gamal Banna, a liberal Egyptian writer and brother of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. "The intervention in Iraq and the support for Israel's policies are creating so much anger in the region. The Islamists are benefiting from that anger."
Anybody who did not have their head firmly implanted in their ass could have seen this coming. Anybody except the Bushoviks.
Across the region, Islamist parties have proved themselves best poised to gain from any democratic opening. They enjoy easy access to mosques, which are virtually the only spaces where politics are publicly discussed in many Arab countries. Their slogans tap into deep religious feelings, and their legacy of social and welfare work gives them easy credibility on the street.

And Islamists have been clever in recasting themselves to suit the current mood. Many religious politicians stopped talking about Islamic republics and became unabashed democracy cheerleaders.
Unless this is another faith-based initiative of Our Dear Embattled Leader.

The inert mass starts to move.

Not very much movement yet in the great manure heap that is Congress but some of the moops are getting chippy.
Lawmakers have been caught by surprise by several recent reports, including the existence of secret U.S. prisons abroad, the CIA's detention overseas of innocent foreign nationals, and, last week, the discovery that the military has been engaged in domestic spying. After five years in which the GOP-controlled House and Senate undertook few investigations into the administration's activities, the legislative branch has begun to complain about being in the dark.

On Friday, after learning that the National Security Agency was eavesdropping on conversations in the United States, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said that the activity was "wrong and it can't be condoned at all," and that his committee "can undertake oversight on it."

That same day, the House approved a resolution that would direct the administration to provide House and Senate intelligence committees with classified reports on the secret U.S. prisons overseas.
Still, Henry Waxman D-CA probably said it best.
"There was nothing too small to be investigated in the Clinton administration and there's nothing so big that it can't be ignored in the Bush administration."
UPDATE:Harry Reid has called for investigations, according to the WaPo today. Let's hope he and Arlen can get something done. How hard could it be for the two of them to bulldoze that WATB Frist.

Our Dear Embattled Leader carries on the Soviet tradition.

Despite all their rhetoric during the Cold War, it seems that the Republicans very much admired Soviet style government. How else can you explain the disclosures of the last three months, as the WaPo reports.
In his four-year campaign against al Qaeda, President Bush has turned the U.S. national security apparatus inward to secretly collect information on American citizens on a scale unmatched since the intelligence reforms of the 1970s.

The president's emphatic defense yesterday of warrantless eavesdropping on U.S. citizens and residents marked the third time in as many months that the White House has been obliged to defend a departure from previous restraints on domestic surveillance. In each case, the Bush administration concealed the program's dimensions or existence from the public and from most members of Congress.

Since October, news accounts have disclosed a burgeoning Pentagon campaign for "detecting, identifying and engaging" internal enemies that included a database with information on peace protesters. A debate has roiled over the FBI's use of national security letters to obtain secret access to the personal records of tens of thousands of Americans. And now come revelations of the National Security Agency's interception of telephone calls and e-mails from the United States -- without notice to the federal court that has held jurisdiction over domestic spying since 1978.
The NSA revelations are most troubling as the actions of ODEL were absolutely unnecessary. As Josh Marshall has shown, the mechanism for doing what ODEL authorized was inplace and functioning smoothly during this time. The arrogance of His Holiness George II is amazing. Even when he has the necessary laws in his favor, he chose to violate them.

It's time for impeachment, folks. This is way bigger than a blowjob.

You think it can't happen to you

But in our present day you would be wrong. This little story from the Standard-Times should show you just how vulnerable you are.
A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's tome on Communism called "The Little Red Book."
Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library's interlibrary loan program.
The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand's class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number and Social Security number. He was later visited at his parents' home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the professors said.
The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a "watch list," and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.
So a student, doing research for his studies, receives an intimidating visit from a pair of RackMaster Chertoffs boys. But wait, you say, they were not intimidating, they were just inquiring of his purpose. And again you would be wrong.
Although The Standard-Times knows the name of the student, he is not coming forward because he fears repercussions should his name become public....

....The student told Professor Pontbriand and Dr. Williams that the Homeland Security agents told him the book was on a "watch list." They brought the book with them, but did not leave it with the student, the professors said.
What a curious move and not at all friendly. Still it could have been worse.
Dr. Williams said he had been planning to offer a course on terrorism next semester, but is reconsidering, because it might put his students at risk.
"I shudder to think of all the students I've had monitoring al-Qaeda Web sites, what the government must think of that," he said. "Mao Tse-Tung is completely harmless."
Are you feeling safer yet?

Saturday, December 17, 2005


This exchange between far right ex-congressmoop Bob Barr and batsit insane congressmoop Dana Rohrabacher is amazing. You can read the whole dialogue at CNN, it's about 2/3 of the way down.
BARR: Here again, this is absolutely a bizarre conversation where you have a member of Congress saying that it's okay for the president of the United States to ignore U.S. law, to ignore the Constitution, simply because we are in an undeclared war.

The fact of the matter is the law prohibits -- specifically prohibits -- what apparently was done in this case, and for a member of Congress to say, oh, that doesn't matter, I'm proud that the president violated the law is absolutely astounding, Wolf.

ROHRABACHER: Not only proud, we can be grateful to this president. You know, I'll have to tell you, if it was up to Mr. Schumer, Senator Schumer, they probably would have blown up the Brooklyn Bridge. The bottom line is this: in wartime we expect our leaders, yes, to exercise more authority.

Now, I have led the fight to making sure there were sunset provisions in the Patriot Act, for example. So after the war, we go back to recognizing the limits of government. But we want to put the full authority that we have and our technology to use immediately to try to thwart terrorists who are going to -- how about have a nuclear weapon in our cities?

BARR: And the Constitution be damned, Dana?
And to think, Dana was once a friend and enabler of Osama and the Taliban. Who'da thunk it?

Charity begins at home.

Billy "The Cat Killer" Frist is apparently a very charitable man, at least as the AP reports.
The returns for World of Hope Inc., obtained by The Associated Press, also show the charity raised the lion's share of its $4.4 million from just 18 sources. They gave between $97,950 and $267,735 each to help fund Frist's efforts to fight AIDS.

The tax forms, filed nine months after they were first due, do not identify the 18 major donors by name.

Frist's lawyer, Alex Vogel, said Friday that he would not give their names because tax law does not require their public disclosure. Frist's office provided a list of 96 donors who were supportive of the charity, but did not say how much each contributed.

The donors included several corporations with frequent business before Congress, such as insurer Blue Cross/Blue Shield, manufacturer 3M, drug maker Eli Lilly and the Goldman Sachs investment firm.

World of Hope gave $3 million it raised to charitable AIDS causes, such as Africare and evangelical Christian groups with ties to Republicans - Franklin Graham's Samaritan Purse and the Rev. Luis Cortes' Esperanza USA, for example.

The rest of the money went to overhead. That included $456,125 in consulting fees to two firms run by Frist's longtime political fundraiser, Linus Catignani. One is jointly run by Linda Bond, the wife of Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo.

The charity also hired the law firm of Vogel's wife, Jill Holtzman Vogel, and Frist's Tennessee accountant, Deborah Kolarich.

Kolarich's name recently surfaced in an e-mail involving Frist's controversial sale of stock in his family founded health care company. That transaction is now under federal investigation
I guess it's always good to be nice to your lawyer and your accountant.

Robert Scheer on Rendition

And why we need to do it.
What clearly is missing is the will to go all the way in “breaking down” prisoners. There are just too many decent people scattered throughout our military and intelligence forces who would object publicly to barbarism. They, and the American public when informed, would insist on limits, even when the president doesn’t.
Obviously, not enough video games in their training.

Quote of the Day

“I’m not anti-Bush; I’m anti-Bush behavior. In other words, I’m against cheating, greed, cruelty, racism, imperialism, religious fundamentalism, treason, and the seemingly limitless capacity for hypocrisy shown by Bush and his administration.”

Viggo Mortensen, interview in Progressive Magazine

Robert Byrd speaks out

On his website Sen. Byrd has posted a speech of the Soviet style practice of "rendition" and its destructive effect on America and the other Bushovik assaults on our freedom.
The United States should state clearly and without question that we will not torture prisoners and that we will abide by the treaties we sign. To fail to do so is to lose the very humanity, the morality, that makes America the hope for individual liberty around the world. The disgusting, degrading, and damaging practice of rendition should cease immediately.

"It's not about who they are. It's about who we are." Those are the words of my colleague, Senator John McCain. Senator McCain is a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He is a former prisoner of war, and he is exactly right.

There is no moral high ground in torture. There is no moral high ground in the inhumane treatment of prisoners....

.....The United States of America must not adopt the thuggish tactics of our enemies. We must not trash the Fourth Amendment because the United States Senate is being stampeded at the end of a congressional session.

Government fishing expeditions with search warrants written by FBI agents is not what the Framers had in mind. Spying on ordinary unsuspecting citizens without their knowledge is not what the Framers had in mind. Handing the government unilateral authority to keep all evidence secret from a target so that it may never be challenged in a court of law is not what the Framers had in mind. Yesterday we heard reports that the military has spied on Americans simply because they exercised their right to peaceably assemble and to speak their minds. Today we hear that the military is tapping phone lines in our own country without the consent of a judge. Labeling civil disobedience and political dissent as "domestic terrorism" is not what the Framers had in mind.

Our nation is the most powerful nation in the world because we were founded on a principle of liberty. Benjamin Franklin said that "those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Our founding fathers, intent on addressing the abuses they have suffered at the hands of an over zealous government, established a system of checks and balances, ensuring that there is a separation of powers within government, so that no one body may run amok with its agenda. These checks are what safeguard freedom, and the American people are looking to us now to restore and protect that freedom.

So many have died protecting those freedoms. We owe it to those brave men and women to deliberate meaningfully, and to ultimately protect those freedoms Americans cherish so deeply. The American people deserve nothing less.
It is a good read, and worth thinking about. Unless you hate Our Constitution.

There are still a few sticking points

In Our Dear Embattled Leader's Enabling Act. As much as he may criticize good people who won't let him have his way, there are some things that just won't flush, as this CNN story illustrates.
Roving wiretaps and the ability to peek into private medical records are among the provisions of the Patriot Act that will remain intact if the Senate follows the House lead on the bill.
ODEL is pulling out the stops on this one including an op-ed piece in the NY Times today by Rudy Giuliani and diligent efforts by AG Alberto "Electrodes" Gonzales and RackMaster Chertoff.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said if Congress fails to renew the Patriot Act before it adjourns for the holidays, it will "cripple" law enforcement in the battle against terrorists.
Curious, how these folks always say the law enforcement can't do their job without dungeons and lettres de cachet.

Fortunetely there are true blue Americans trying to stop this travesty from continuing. People like Russ Feingold, John Sununu and Arlen Specter. Call your congressmoop and give them a blast. Let them know how you feel before RackMaster's boys come after you.

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