The Aeration Zone: A liberal breath of fresh air

Contributors (otherwise known as "The Aerheads"):

Walldon in New Jersey ---- Marketingace in Pennsylvania ---- Simoneyezd in Ontario
ChiTom in Illinois -- KISSweb in Illinois -- HoundDog in Kansas City -- The Binger in Ohio

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Saturday, December 31, 2005

The New Year

It's New Year's Eve, and this blogger will have no nostalgic reviews of the year just passing and certainly will have no predictions of what's to come. I do, however, have two wishes for the New Year. 1) The Republicans will lose control of both houses of Congress in the fall, and 2) that all of you have a healthy and happy New Year.

86% Favor Impeachment (MSNBC online Poll)

According to an online poll at MSNBC, 86% favor impeachment. Obviously, that's not a balanced cross-section of the public, but still...

Time to Bomb Iran

Elections are coming, so it must be closing in on the time for a new war. Let's go bomb Iran.

From Der Spiegel:

President George Bush refuses to rule out possible military action against Iran if Tehran continues to pursue its controversial nuclear ambitions. But in Germany, speculation is mounting that Washington is preparing to carry out air strikes against suspected Iranian nuclear sites perhaps even as soon as early 2006.

German diplomats began speaking of the prospect two years ago -- long before the Bush administration decided to give the European Union more time to convince Iran to abandon its ambitions, or at the very least put its civilian nuclear program under international controls. But the growing likelihood of the military option is back in the headlines in Germany thanks to a slew of stories that have run in the national media here over the holidays.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Big Brother

It turns out that it's not just the NSA website that's tracking you when you go to the site. The White House is doing it too. They're a bit more sneaky about it. They don't put the cookie on your machine. They use cookies that were put on your machine when you visited other sites.

DEC. 30 3:50 P.M. ET The White House said Friday its Web site will keep using Internet tracking technologies, deciding that they aren't prohibited after all under 2003 federal privacy guidelines.

The White House's site uses what's known as a Web bug -- a tiny graphic image that's virtually invisible -- to anonymously keep track of who's visiting and when. The bug is sent by a server maintained by an outside contractor, WebTrends Inc., and lets the traffic-analysis company know that another person has visited a specific page on the site.

Web bugs themselves are not prohibited. But under a directive from the White House's Office of Management and Budget, they are largely banned at government sites when linked to cookies, which are data files that let a site track Web visitors.

Cookies are not generated simply by visiting the White House site. Rather, WebTrends cookies are sometimes created when visiting other WebTrends clients. An analysis by security researcher Richard M. Smith shows such preexisting cookies have then been read when users visit the White House site.

The discovery and subsequent inquiries by The Associated Press prompted the White House to investigate. David Almacy, the White House's Internet director, said tests conducted since Thursday show that data from the cookie and the bug are not mixed -- and thus the 2003 guidelines weren't violated.

Jason Palmer, vice president of products for Portland, Ore.-based WebTrends, said Web browsers are designed to scan preexisting cookies automatically, but he insisted the company doesn't use the information to track visitors to the White House site.

The Clinton administration first issued the strict rules on cookies in 2000 after its Office of National Drug Control Policy, through a contractor, had used the technology to track computer users viewing its online anti-drug advertising. The rules were updated in 2003 by the Bush administration.

Nonetheless, agencies occasionally violate the rules -- inadvertently, they contend. The CIA did in 2002, and the NSA more recently. The NSA disabled the cookies this week and blamed a recent upgrade to software that shipped with cookie settings already on.

The Threat of an Unchecked Presidency

Co-blogger Marketingace in PA suggests I post this piece from the Progress Report:

James Madison warned Thomas Jefferson, "Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad." The threat to the United States today is real. Yet, in recognition of this threat, Congress painstakingly produced a constitutionally-sound system that allows our government to monitor the activities of those who wish to do us harm, whether they be foreign agents or American citizens. A much different danger has been exposed by President Bush's warrantless spying program: an active hostility by one branch of government to the checks and balances designed to protect our nation's democracy. This hostility "is as pernicious and as damaging as any abuse or panic or misstep of the past," Washington Post defense analyst William Arkin writes. Americans have been asked to "pledge allegiance to a certain post-9/11 Order, abandon the rule of law, compromise our values, turn against our neighbors, enlist in a clash of civilizations, all in the name of defeating the terrorists. We are being asked to destroy our country in order to save it."

Hang on to your hats

The Justice Department announced today they are beginning an investigation into the New York Times leak of the NSA spying practices. You can be we'll have a few more reporters in jail before this one is over, and these are the reporters who were actually doing their jobs (unlike Judy Miller). I have a feeling this one is going to be a wild ride.

Update: Firedoglake has the following lucid observation about this:

Strange how they are only starting the investigation now, a year after the Administration knew NYTimes was working the story. Can you say retaliation for this going public and making Bushie look bad? I mean, honestly, if they had been serious about getting to the bottom of the leak, wouldn't they have started looking into it a year ago when the WH started pressuring the NYTimes to keep the story under wraps? The closer to the leak you start the investigation, the better in terms of tracking down the leak. I'm just sayin'.

Culture of Corruption

No, this time it's not about Bush -- at least not directly. The federal government takeover of huge UMDNJ (The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey) due to massive Medicaid fraud at the school is what I have in mind. Apparently this has been going on for 20 years or so, and the Board of Trustees, along with many other people, has been aware of it but did nothing to stop it. The government was defrauded of a least several millions of dollars, perhaps much more.

These people who were running UMDNJ are presumably highly educated, well-placed individuals, living comfortable lives in upscale suburban homes. These are our most respected physicians, some of our leading educators and research scientists. You just have to wonder how thoroughly corrupted the movers and shakers of our society must be to allow this kind of thing to go on right under their noses without lifting a finger to stop it.

This obviously doesn't stop at the doors to UMDNJ. It seems to be endemic in our society these days, from the corporate scandals (e.g., Enron), to the political scandals (e.g., DeLay, Frist, Abramoff), to the Presidential scandals (repeated lying to Congress and the public), the whole country seems to be pervaded with corruption.

I don't know what kind of housecleaning is going to be required to rid ourselves of this pervasive cancer of corruption, but it clearly is going to have to be a massive effort. And, who is going to do it?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Effete Intellectual Snobs

Here's the crap that the Bush-loving hacks are putting out and that the Bush-loving listeners are soaking up:

the "Bush Spying" story for steadfast determination to ignore the facts in the service of the anti-war, Bush-hater agenda. Stories have resolutely failed to mention that the Americans who were spied on were taking phone calls from Osama's terrorists, and that all recent presidents, including Carter and Clinton, have done the same thing with court approval. (Quoted from the Cincinnati Enquirer)

Typical Bush-type obfuscating. What's wrong with this? First, EVERY American was spied upon by Bush, not just those who were taking phone calls from Osama's terrorists. (By the way, to the Bush administration, even the Quakers are terrorists). Second, the crap that every American president, including Carter and Clinton have done this is just bull s##$. To the extent any of them did it, they did it WITH warrants. Bush is flashing the bird at the Congress and at the Constitution by doing it without warrants. And, there is very little evidence Carter et al. did it at all. Beyond that, do two wrongs make a right? How far can the conservatives depart from their William Buckley itellectual base before the whole thing begins to cave?

I guess as far as they want. I'm reminded of Spiro Agnew's "effete itellectual snobs" labelling of the libruals.

Update: This editorial was written by the Conservative Reporters and Pundits of America. Even they recognized the acronym.


Several weeks ago I made a few nasty comments about Professor Bainbridge. However, despite the fact that a cursory search failed to locate it there, I am informed that Bainbridge said the following about the NY Times role in the NSA spying story. He basically said they had done the country a service because:

"Leaks are a fact of life. ... So let's think about the merits. Coercive interrogations. A gulag of secret prisons. And now warrantless surveillance. We're supposed to be better than this. ... It's enough to make me think about making a Christmas donation to the ACLU."

I take back (almost) anything nasty I said about the professor.

The Royal Finger

It turns out that the netroots bloggers in the UK are giving the Royal Finger to Tony Blair's government. Thousands of them are publishing the documents I referred to earlier that prove the US and the UK were rendering people to Uzbekistan for torture. This is in direct defiance of the "Official Secrets Act." Let's see if the Brits and their US string pullers have the guts to prosecute all of them. As Americans, those of us here cannot be prosecuted for this. But ... who knows where we will be rendered?

[Didn't we used to confine our rendering to fats and oils?]

Learn Something New Everyday

I just had a very strange telephone call with my stock broker. Some weeks ago, I liquidated all the shares I held in a particular stock. When I looked at my statement, however, there were still some shares of this company listed. As I looked further, I noticed that the dividend paid at about the time I had sold the shares was reinvested in the stock, explaining why more shares had appeared in my account. This dividend reinvestment, however, was a violation of my explicit instructions against reinvestment. My broker told me that the company had simply pre-emptorially ordered that all dividends be re-invested. I never knew they could do that in mid-stream without your permission. It's rather annoying.

I guess they've learned something from our President.

Proof of torture

Daily Kos has republished a number of secret British documents proving that the US and UK have conspired to use "extraordinary rendition" to Uzbekistan as a way to torture detainees. The documents were included in a book which the British are trying to block and were leaked by British bloggers and then republished by Kos. These documents prove rather conclusively that we are using torture rather routinely and are trying to cover it up.

One letter from Craig Murray (the UK's Ambassador to Uzbekistan) begins as follows:

Letter #3


OF 220939 JULY 04




1. We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services, via the US. We should stop. It is bad information anyway. Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe, that they and we are fighting the same war against terror.

2. I gather a recent London interdepartmental meeting considered the question and decided to continue to receive the material. This is morally, legally and practically wrong. It exposes as hypocritical our post Abu Ghraib pronouncements and fatally undermines our moral standing. It obviates my efforts to get the Uzbek government to stop torture they are fully aware our intelligence community laps up the results.

3. We should cease all co-operation with the Uzbek Security Services they are beyond the pale. We indeed need to establish an SIS presence here, but not as in a friendly state.

It's a fact!

I blogged yesterday about talking to friends who simply had their facts completely wrong. They disapproved of many of the same things I disapprove of in this administration, but they believed the Democrats were the culprits, not the Republicans. A new poll confirms that this problem with the facts is pretty widespread:

From a new Harris Poll: "About 22% of U.S. adults believe Saddam Hussein helped plan 9/11, the poll shows, and 26% believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded. Another 24% believe several of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis."
A hat tip to Political Wire.

A Christmas Greeting from Canada

Co-blogger, Simon from Ontario, sends the following Christmas greeting:

Christmas and New Year’s Greetings USA

For Our Democratic Friends:

"Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. We also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2006, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. And without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee. By accepting these greetings you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself or himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher."

For Our Republican Friends:

Here's wishing all of You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Pentagon Pays $100,000 for used Jeeps

According to this story, the Pentagon is paying $100,000 each for Jeeps made in part from used Jeeps. The manufacturer is Ocala, FL.-based American Growler. Hmmm. Do you suppose the guy who owns this company is a Bush friend? Their website is down for re-design.

NEW YORK ( - 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.

Erase your Cookies

If any of you clicked through to the NSA web page I linked to the other day, or if you have gone to the NSA web page on your own, erase your cookies immediately. Apparently, their web site has been placing persistent "cookies" on visitors' computers that can track your computer use through the year 2035.

DEC. 29 12:11 A.M. ET The National Security Agency's Internet site has been placing files on visitors' computers that can track their Web surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most of them.

These files, known as "cookies," disappeared after a privacy activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week, and agency officials acknowledged Wednesday they had made a mistake. Nonetheless, the issue raises questions about privacy at a spy agency already on the defensive amid reports of a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States.

A hat tip to Crooks and Liars.

By the way, it's probably a good idea to erase your cookies regularly anyway. Who wants all these people snooping at your web usage. If you don't know how to erase cookies, look it up in your browser's "help" feature.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Upside Down and Backwards

I'm back to good old blue state NJ, but still on blogging-lite for the next few days. However, I just couldn't help making a few comments today (so what else is new?)

A new Rasmussen poll has found that 64% of Americans agree that the NSA should have the right to listen in to telephone conversations with foreigners. As Americablog points out, that's the wrong question. Most of us might agree that certain conversations with foreigners should be tapped. The right question is whether the president is right to break the law and violate the Constitution by authorizing wiretaps without any oversight by anyone outside of his immediate control. Who knows how people would respond to that since no one has asked the question? But, I'm not very sanguine about the answer after having just returned from the reddest of the red-State part of Florida.

At a party the other night, I was totally surprised when a person I knew to be a died-in-the-wool Bush lover started saying a) that the Plame leak was just a horrible breach of national security and the perpetrators should be tried and convicted of treason, b) that the "no child left behind" law was a horrible piece of legislation and that those who wrote it should be un-elected, and c) that the Medicare Part-D perscription drug plan was absolutely idiotic and that anyone who supported that should be shot (not literally, but figuratively). As I said, I was amazed that this Republican, Bush-lover would be saying these things, so I said, "I totally agree with you. So why do you still like Bush?"

Her response was that the Plame leak was done by the Liberal/Communist NY Times, that the "no child left behind" act was a Democratic program pushed through by the fillibuster law that "lets minorities pass bills that no one wants," and that the Medicare Prescription Drug law was pushed through by Ted Kennedy because he had murdered MaryJo Kopecknik. "Fillibusters should be outlawed."

Now, this was not a joke. She was dead serious... as were any number of other people standing around during the conversation supporting her. All agreed that the NY Times should be closed down (most didn't understand that their own newspaper, the Polk County Ledger is a NY Times paper that spouts conservative propaganda because it's in a Red-State) due to the treasonous leak of Plame's name by NY Times' columnists. Others condemned the Dems for the "socialist legislation" of drug coverage under the Medicare Part D plan. Still others said Teddy was a radical leftist for pushing for government funding of school programs under the NCLB act.

Then, I went to another party, and started talking to a major real-estate developer in the area. He too is a died-in-the-wool Bush lover. He started by saying that this is the most robust economy in HISTORY! IN ALL HISTORY!

I mentioned that you couldn't prove that through wage increases or even employment increases. He disagreed, quoting statistics that he said were released last Thursday (which I haven't yet seen). Since I hadn't seen the stats, I said I hadn't seen them, but that everything prior to that date suggested real wages were down and that nowhere near as many new jobs had been created since Bush took office as new people potentially joining the job market. He countered with the low un-employment number. I countered with the large number of people who have simply dropped out of the labor force. He countered that those were all illegal aliens who shouldn't be counted anyway (as far as I know, he had no support at all for that one).

Then, we moved on to other topics. I brought up the NSA spying issue. He simply hadn't heard anything about it, even though he claims to read seven newspapers everyday and watches FOX News every evening. Moving on, he agreed that the Plame leak was an outrage, but when I said it was leaked by Bush operatives, he said, "No, it was leaked by the New York Times. They should all be hung by their toenails."

Meanwhile, others all agreed that torturing those "evil bastard muslims" was just what they deserved.

It's sort of interesting that these people all travel to Las Vegas regularly and to the hot spots in the Bahamas, but none of them have been out of the Country -- ever -- except to the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas.

Facts upside down. Logic backwards or worse, random.

How do you deal with this?

Frankly, I was so astounded by the ignorance and blindness and bull-headedness of these people (all of whom are pretty good people who I love in their own right) that I have no idea how to connect with them politically.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Boo-hoo, John Yoo

Andrew Rice, summarizing news stories in Slate today, writes:

The WP reefers a profile of John Yoo, who is not exactly doing his part to uphold the image of Berkeley law professors. The author of the now-infamous memos justifying torture of alleged terrorists and eavesdropping on American citizens says that he's not concerned that one newspaper editorial board says his way of thinking "threatens the very idea of America." He tells the paper: "It would be inappropriate for a lawyer to say, 'The law means A, but I'm going to say B because to interpret it as A would violate American values.' " Perhaps he ought to check on that with the American Bar Association.
In the same vein, I heard John Yoo take part in a radio panel on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" program on Dec 15, the day that the President agreed to Sen. John McCain's anti-torture amendment. I was appalled to hear how absolutely amoral Yoo's comments were. Everything was calculated in terms of what advantage it gave to the administration and its practices ("practices", as in less than "policies")-- nothing had to do with right and wrong, with humanity, with American values or principles. One was tempted to attribute this to his being a lawyer. But Rice's summary in Slate and the three links (count 'em!) he provides to ABA statements suggest that it is just that Yoo is a particularly amoral lawyer, perhaps even a bad lawyer in one or more senses of the term.

The fact that John Yoo advised, so significantly, our self-proclaimedly Jesus-loving President is highly disturbing. Except of course that our President has demonstrated that he possesses no particularly meaningful morality either, and his so-called allegiance to Jesus seems remarkably content-free.

Addendum: Having just read the original Washington Post article, I am reminded of how deeply the amoral, no, immoral strain in American (American Enterprise Institute-style) conservatism runs, from Dick Cheney to the religious Sen. Orrin Hatch who brought John Yoo to the staff of the Judiciary Committee. One university law professor says Yoo should not be demonized. I suppose I must agree to this: the issue is whether he is being demon-ized or whether we are recognizing the demonic element present in his positions and work, and calling it what it is. Obviously, I believe the latter.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

NSA Says Their Wiretaps Unconstitutional

From the NSA website: the fourth amendment guarantees Americans that they cannot be spied upon without a warrant. Hmmmmm.

A hat tip to Americablog.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Uncle Sam is Watching YOU!

From several reports today, it appears that the NSA has not just been listening in to a few people, but they are listening to every phone call and every e-mail made by everyone. It's a massive data mining operation where computers screen the info and report any suspicious sounding stuff to humans. Suspicious? Just what do you suppose is suspicious to these guys. Probably when I call my friends and say something like, "this President has got to go." That's VERY suspicious. Who knows, I might even say something like, "vote for someone else."

Meanwhile, if I don't get back to this tomorrow, have a very Merry Holiday.

Friday, December 23, 2005

This Patriot Act Stuff is Contagious

It turns out that the Patriot Act is contagious. Now, the State of Ohio is passing a Partiot Act that permits the police to arrest anyone in a public place for no reason at all. You had better watch out, you had better not pout, the Gestpo are coming to town.

Back to light blogging.

Light Blogging

I don't have much time today, so just a few quick notes. It appears that Fitzgerald knows the name of the person who leaked Plame's name to Novak. Just a matter of pinning perjury charges on him/her. ROVE?

The Iraqi elections don't look as though they have gone very well. It looks as though the militant far-right Shias will have grabbed the whole bag.

One good thing though. Chalabi got less than 1% of the vote. Will we make him dictator anyway?

Tom Daschel tells us that he refused to incorporate any of the language about domestic spying that the Administration wanted into the wara resolution Act, so it's pretty lame for the Administration to say now that the act permits domestic syping.

Heil W.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Several days ago, I was with my mother, who was watching an old re-run of Lawrence Welk. I commented on how different things are now, because there was not a single African American in the entire show.

Welcome from Disney World today. I went to the Candlelight Processional last night. The were about 80 Disney employees in the professional part of the choir and about another 70 or 80 people in the orchestra. Not one single black face in that group of 150 or so people. Frankly, not even anyone who looked obviously hispanic.

It occurs to me that the likelihood this occurred solely by chance is just about nil.


MSNBC Online Poll re. impeachment: As of the last I looked, 87% favor impeachment!

Yes, it's an online poll, so not very reliable. Still...

Only a Bush can Make Saddam Right

AP Headline this morning:

Saddam: "U.S. Denials of Torture are Lies"

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Republicans = Cowards

This morning I read another one of the "conservative" Republican editorialists supporting Bush, saying that civil liberties are fine in and of themselves, but that civil liberties are worthless if you're dead. This theme has been repeated over and over again recently. It's become a Republican talking point, and the more I think about it, the more dead wrong I think it is.

Just think what the founding fathers of the Revolution would say. Hell, many of them gave up their lives for these same civil liberties these wimps want to give up supposedly to save their own. Frankly, I think we should paint all these people as cowards. I would happily (well, maybe not happily, but willingly at least) give up my life to save the liberties that our country stands for! Where are they? Hiding and wimpering in the background.

These guys are just outright cowards. They're not the strong guys who are protecting us and our freedoms. They are the cowards who are giving our country away to the dictators within.

EPA administrator's "Dirty (Air) Bomb"

In a story reported on NPR and in the Washington Post, we learn today that EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson overrode the advice of his own scientific advisory board in promoting, single-handedly, a far less dramatic change to air quality regulations for "fine particulate matter" (soot) than the board had recommended. Characteristically for shills of The Regime, Johnson praised his own proposal (which is something of an improvement) in glowing terms:
This proposal is yet another step in ensuring Americans have cleaner air and healthier lives. . . . I made my decision based on the best available science.
How exactly overriding the collective recommendation of his own board gives him access to the "best available science" is not immediately obvious. But as the Post's article makes clear, energy companies are better served by lower standards, and one energy company spokesman cited "many studies indicating that fine particles are not a problem for public health." Those are probably what Johnson calls the "best science": why am I not surprised? The best facts are those that serve corporate interests (or neocon imperialistic fantasies or religious fundamentalists) best .

According to the Post, the American Lung Association figures that 60,000 Americans "die prematurely" each year from air pollution. A "recent EPA analysis" indicates that the board-recommended standards "would have reduced air pollution-related deaths in nine U.S. cities by 48 percent"; but Johnson's proposal, only "by 22 percent." (It strikes me that looking for a reduction of only 48% of the anticipated deaths is already a compromise. Human life is not an absolute value here.) Let's see: 48% of 60,000 is 28,800 and 22% of 60,000 is 13,200: so the net number of people to be killed by Johnson's substitute proposal is 15,600. Each year.

Osama bin Laden would love this sort of American death toll: it adds up to about five 9/11s annually. Somebody should inform Homeland Security of this dangerous man loose within the Beltway. Maybe the NSA should be monitoring his communications. Maybe such bureaucratic decisions, resulting in massive loss of life, should be criminalized and subject to capital punishment (Tookie Williams was executed for the deaths of several less people than 15,000). But of course The Regime never really has been genuinely concerned for human life, or science, or health, now, has it?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Au revoir

Back to light Christmas blogging. See you when I see you.

More Bush Lies

Atrios points out that John Dean has found one more outright lie from the mouth of King George. Back in April 2004, Bush said this.

Bush: Wiretaps “Require a Court Order.” “Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. 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.” [President Bush, 4/20/04,]

That was more than a year after he had authorized the warrantless surveilance.

Intelligent Design Undone

Kevin Drum points us to the opinion of the Judge in the Dover Schoolboard ID case. Short version, Intelligent Design is not science. Here's part of the opinion.

First, while encouraging students to keep an open mind and explore alternatives to evolution, [the Board's disclaimer] offers no scientific alternative; instead, the only alternative offered is an inherently religious one, namely, ID.

....The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

....Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

Conservatives bolt

Daily Kos has a nice rundown of a lot of conservative opinion that is against the King George usurpation of power.

That's encouraging, but I'm down here in Bushland Florida where the local papers are filled with glowing editorials praising Bush's strong response to the evil terrorists. Isn't it funny that the further you get away from any place that's likely to be a terrorist target, the more frightened people become of it?

Blogging will continue to be light to non-existent through next week.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas Pause

There is going to be a Christmas pause by this blogger. Sorry, if any of you care. But, for the period from now through about New Year's there will be very limited blogging by me. Maybe some of my co-bloggers will pick up the difference, but I have a feeling that we will all be busy in one way or another.

Till my next installment. Happy Holidays to everyone.

Impeachable Offense

As any number of others have pointed out, John Dean says Bush has admitted to an impeachable offense. God Damn it, it's time to impeach, convict, try and hang him.

Bush's Approval Ratings Soar

Just as I suspected, the idiots who live in this country have flocked around the ass hole who leads it. Now, Bush's approval ratings on the non-existent "war on terror" are 56%. And his overall approval ratings have surged from 39% to 47%. Americans deserve what they are about to get. Unfortunately, I am an American... I'm certainly thinking about moving away.


The problem here is that the Dems are waiting to see what the polls tell them to say. Of course, now they are going to say that King Louis XIV is totally correct to have taken over absolute power. It's the popular view point. They had a very limited window of opportunity to strike the man dead. Instead, they waited to see what the polls said. And, now the Dems are dead for good.

So be it. We now live in a dictatorship. Just don't feed me any s#$t about this be a free and open democracy anymore.

Sooner or later the goon squad will come to shut me down. It will be later since I don't get anything like the number of hits that Atrios gets, but it's going to happen. Just wait!

The So-called Briefings

Raw Story has published the following statement from Senator Harry Reid regarding the so-called briefings that members of Congress have received from the White House on the NSA domestic spying program.

“The President asserted in his December 17th radio address that “leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it.” This statement gives the American public a very misleading impression that the President fully consulted with Congress.

“First, it is quite likely that 96 Senators of 100 Senators, including 13 of 15 on the Senate Intelligence Committee first learned about this program in the New York Times, not from any Administration briefing.

“The President asserted in his December 17th radio address that “leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it.” This statement gives the American public a very misleading impression that the President fully consulted with Congress.

“First, it is quite likely that 96 Senators of 100 Senators, including 13 of 15 on the Senate Intelligence Committee first learned about this program in the New York Times, not from any Administration briefing.

“I personally received a single very short briefing on this program earlier this year prior to its public disclosure. That briefing occurred more than three years after the President said this program began.

“The Administration briefers did not seek my advice or consent about the program, and based on what I have heard publicly since, key details about the program apparently were not provided to me.

“Under current Administration briefing guidelines, members of Congress are informed after decisions are made, have virtually no ability to either approve or reject a program, and are prohibited from discussing these types of programs with nearly all of their fellow members and all of their staff.

Update: Senator Rockefeller kept a hand written letter he sent to Dick Cheney after the only briefing he had on this. The reason he had to hand write it is that he was not permitted to talk about the briefing to anyone, including his staff. And, he doesn't know how to type. So take a read. It's just pitiful. A Senator has to stoop to this, just to make a point.

Stealth of Night

In the stealth of last night, or more accurately around 6:00 am this morning the House passed a bill to strip about $50 billion from Medicare, Medicaid, and Student Loan Programs. Also attached to the bill was the Alaska oil drilling proposal.

The Rethuglicans feel they have to cut spending on the poor and elderly because they've given such lucrative tax cuts to the rich. And, this gift is just in time for Christmas. Lovely people, aren't they?

The Senate has a final opportunity to block this bill tomorrow. We'll see.

It ain't just the NSA

This domestic surveilance goes a lot deeper than we know. Here's today's WAPO contribution.

Pentagon's Intelligence Authority Widens

Fact Sheet Details Secretive Agency's Growth From Focus on Policy to Counterterrorism

By Walter PincusWashington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 19, 2005; Page A10

The Pentagon's newest counterterrorism agency, charged with protecting military facilities and personnel wherever they are, is carrying out intelligence collection, analysis and operations within the United States and abroad, according to a Pentagon fact sheet on the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, provided to The Washington Post.

CIFA is a three-year-old agency whose size and budget remain secret. It has grown from an agency that coordinated policy and oversaw the counterintelligence activities of units within the military services and Pentagon agencies to an analytic and operational organization with nine directorates and ever-widening authority.

Beacon of Freedom and Democracy

Here are the characteristics of a country that claims to be a beacon of freedom and democracy to the world:

  • Presidential candidate who came in second in the polling is appointed President by the Supreme Court, some of whose members were appointed by the candidate's father.

  • Invades country without provocation in order to remove leader of that country.

  • Unilaterally abandons strategic arms treaty obligations.

  • Unilaterally ignores Geneva Conventions.

  • Imprisons hundreds of persons without right of hearing or trial.

  • Kidnaps innocent civilians and tortures them or hands them over to other countries to torture them.

  • President is empowered to do anything he chooses to do, regardless of the law, so long as it is to protect the country.

  • President, in his sole discretion, chooses what actions are needed to “protect the country.”

  • Government spys secretly on its own citizens contravening laws preventing such spying.

  • Government pays news organizations to report false news and commentary.

  • Government claims anyone who disagrees with it is unpatriotic, perhaps traitorous.

  • Ruling party attempts to insure re-election by excluding voters from opposition party.

  • Ruling party attempts to insure re-election by acquiring voting machines that can be fixed by the ruling party to record extra votes for members of the ruling party.

  • Members of the ruling party threaten members of the judiciary who disagree with them.

  • Government ignores Constitutional provisions for separation of Church and State by funding religious organizations and religions favored by the government.

  • Government investigates and sanctions religious organizations that object to government policies.

  • Government surveils peace groups, like the Quakers, and maintains secret dossiers on them.

  • Legislature, controlled by the ruling party, refuses to investigate alleged crimes of its members.

  • Legislature, controlled by ruling party, refuses to investigate alleged crimes of executive branch, also controlled by ruling party.

  • Chief executive uses his power to appoint incompetent cronies throughout government.

Discussion helps the enemy

Well, he didn't actually order the New York Times to shut down, but he's getting closer and closer. Today he said that just discussing the illegal spying "helps the enemy." You sure don't have to take a big step to get from that to treason, do you?

Fake Contrition

I agree with the many other bloggers who are saying enough with the oozing in the press about how Bush is now so contrite, admitting mistakes, etc. He now says that he takes full responsibility for going into Iraq. So, what's new with that. We all knew it was his administration's decision to begin with. He now says the intelligence was flawed. Yes, and the sun rises every morning, too. Seems to me we knew that. Saying it's flawed isn't apologizing for the flaws. Let's face it, he's the one who flawed it. He now says mistakes were made along the way, but he doesn't say who made them. I don't see any of this as contrition. I see it as one more sleazy attempt to spin the press. And, it appears to be working. Suckers.

Bush to hold News Conference

Word is out that Bush has unexpectedly announced he will hold a news conference at 10:30 this morning. I'm wondering what that's all about. Do you suppose he will announce he's closing down the New York Times?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Abrogating Power

Hilzoy, who is guest blogging at the Washington Monthly, says it as well as I've seen it. This president is planning to take over, damn the electorate, full speed ahead.

Does he want to imprison a United States citizen indefinitely, without a warrant, and habeas corpus be damned? Fine! Does he want to tap our phones and read our email, also without a warrant, in defiance of the FISA statute and the Fourth Amendment? Also fine! As far as I can see, on this reading of the Constitution, there's no reason he couldn't decide that his war powers extended to levying taxes without Congressional approval (wars cost money, you know), or throwing Congressman Murtha in jail to prevent him from sapping our troops' morale, or suspending the publication of all newspapers, magazines, and blogs on the same grounds, or making himself President For Life on the grounds that we need the continued benefit (cough) of his awesome leadership skillz to successfully prosecute the war on terror.

To quote the Federalist Papers one last time (this time, no. 48):

"An ELECTIVE DESPOTISM was not the government we fought for; but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others."

In this country we do not have an absolute monarch. We have a President who is bound by the rule of law, just like the rest of us. When he asserts the right to set the laws and the Constitution aside, and to arrogate all the powers of government in his hands in secret so that he can use it unchecked, we have an obligation to make it clear that he is wrong. And if we love our country, we will.

Wikipedia v. Britannica

The news over the past few days has been pretty heavy. Here's a little light relief. A group has compared the accuracy of articles in the internet-based Wikipedia with those in the encyclopaedia Britannica. Despite the fact that anyone can post and/or edit Wikipedia articles, they were just about as accurate as Britannica's. I'm not sure whether that's a plus for Wikipedia or a minus for Britannica.

The online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, home to nearly four million articles contributed by volunteers, covers scientific topics about as accurately as Encyclopaedia Britannica, according to experts.

In a comparison of 42 articles from the two sources, covering a broad swath of the scientific spectrum, the respected journal Nature found little disparity in accuracy.

The findings were published in an online article on Wednesday which, according to its author, was the first time peer review had been used to compare the two encyclopaedias.

Cheney Received Cooly by Troops in Iraq

As we all know by now, Dick Cheney is in Iraq today -- he finally got to visit a war after having dodged the draft with five deferments during Vietnam. I assume they thought he would get a rousing ovation from the troops that would be a great lead in to Bush's "big" speech tonight. Things didn't work out that way.

Shouts of "hooah!" from the audience interrupted Cheney a few times, but mostly the service members listened intently. When he delivered the applause line, "We're in this fight to win. These colors don't run," the only sound was a lone whistle.

The skepticism that Cheney faced reflects opinions back home, where most Americans say they do not approve of President Bush's handling of the war. It was unique coming from a military audience, which typically receives administration officials more enthusiastically.

I think the Bush administration is imploding. But, as I said a day or so ago, beware of the wounded beast.

Powell says Rummy discarded Iraq plans

Colin Powell was interviewed today by David Frost on BBC. Here's a portion of what he said. I doesn't look as though Powell is a very happy camper.

He also referred to his relationship with Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice-President Dick Cheney - often depicted as icy.

"Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney and I occasionally would have strong differing views on matters. And when that was the case we argued them out, we fought them out, in bureaucratic ways," he said.

"Often maybe Mr Rumsfeld and Vice-President Cheney would take decisions into the president that the rest of us weren't aware of. That did happen, on a number of occasions."

Asked about post-war planning for Iraq, Gen Powell said his state department staff drew up detailed plans, but they were discarded by Mr Rumsfeld's defence department, which was backed by the White House.

"Mr Rumsfeld and I had some serious discussions, of a not pleasant kind, about the use of individuals who could bring expertise to the issue. And it ultimately went into the White House, and the rest is well known."

White House Ecstatic

I heard a comment in passing on one of the talk shows this morning that has me troubled.

Someone quoted a White House official as having said he couldn't believe how the Democrats were falling into the trap that Bush had set for them by complaining about the President's illegal directive to spy on Americans without a warrant. He apparently pointed to the polls showing that the public has not found anything wrong with Bush's efforts to infringe our civil liberties and invade our privacy. And, he indicated that by voting against the Patriot Act and now complaining about the spying, the Democrats had set themselves up once again to be trampled on as weaklings and traitors by the Republicans. He said the White House was jumping for joy over their triumph, believing that this was the turning point in their effort to win in 2006.

Damn, I hope he's wrong. If the American public thinks it's okay for a president to ignore and violate the law, they deserve to have this guy as their president, but what about the rest of the world?

A Call to Action

The netroots are starting a campaign to raise the roof about the NSA spying issue. I have already written my Senators and am planning to write to my Congressman. The details of the effort are laid out here. Let's all join in this effort. We simply cannot stand by and let this President become King.

FISA and the Unreasonable Request

Just back from listening to the Sunday talking heads. There's not too much of note there, but one thing is becoming clearer and clearer. The reason that Bush decided to ignore the FISA law and authorize espionage on U.S. citizens without a warrant is because he feared the FISA Court would not grant permission. All the rest of the crap about having to do things on the spur of the moment and, therefore, needing the authority to bypass the Court is just that, crap. FISA even provides for the President to authorize a wiretap first and notify the Court later in emergency situations. Given that, there is no reason whatsoever why he needed to bypass FISA unless he feared the Court would not grant him the warrant if he sought it.

As Josh Marshall informs us, in the 27 years since FISA was passed, there have been 1727 applications for taps or other forms of espionage on Americans. Of those, 1724 were granted! Only 3 requests have been turned down (all, by the way, since Bush has been in office). So, it seems fair to conclude that this Court is highly likely to grant any reasonable request.

If that's true, it's also fair to conclude that the requests Bush feared the Court would deny were not reasonable! So just what kind of requests do you suppose those would be? I have my answer.

Constitution will burn anyway

Last night CNN aired a debate between Republican Congressmen Bob Bar and Dana Rohrabacher over the NSA spying. Barr was against. Rohrabacher was for it. Towards the end, there was this exchange:

BARR: And the Constitution be damned, Dana?

ROHRABACHER: Well, I'll tell you something, if a nuclear weapon goes off in Washington, DC, or New York or Los Angeles, it'll burn the Constitution as it does.

So, I guess the conclusion is we should just forget the Constitution. Some fine democracy this is.

A hat tip to Atrios for this one.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Where is the Outrage?

So, where is the outrage from the Democrats over the NSA spying story. Bush has now confirmed it's true, but the only outrage I have heard so far is from one Democrat, Feingold, and one Republican, Specter. Here we are at a line in the sand where we could lose our democracy forever, and no one is saying anything! It's just disgusting.

Bush Suborning Perjury?

Americablog informs us that Bush has appointed Viveca Novak's husband to the Federal Elections Commission. Remember, Viveca just testified before the Grand Jury in the Plame leak investigation a few days ago. Could that be why she chose to forget which date she spoke to Luskin about Cooper? To get her husband a job? It sure looks fishy to me.

Student Book Request Draws FBI

Here's the kind of thing these thugs in the White House are investigating with their super power powers.

NEW BEDFORD -- 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.

This is absolutely outrageous! I just can't believe that people can sit by and watch all this calmly and say everything is just fine in this country. We have an absolute dictator. We have no democracy left in this country.

Constitutional Crisis

Bush proudly announced that he had violated the law by authorizing the secret NSA spying on Americans in his radio address today. SusanG said it better than I could have over at Daily Kos today:

This appears to me to be a true "line in the sand" moment for America, with a president openly and defiantly declaring himself ready to continue a program that legal scholars, members of Congress and - according to the Friday New York Times article that started this all - several NSA analysts themselves believe to be unconstitutional.

There appears to be no acknowledgement whatsoever of concerns voiced by critics of the program. There is the feeling in the air about all this - and perhaps it's just me - that we are being forced to a constitutional crisis by a president who no longer believes he needs to wear a mask to court public opinion. This reeks of raw will and power.

Lest we forget:

George Bush: "If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier - just so long I'm the dictator." December 18, 2000

I sincerely hope America is up to the challenges I sense ahead. Or let's hope I'm reading this wrong.

In bed with Bush

I almost puked while I was watching Hardball last night. There was Tweety Matthews, together with a couple of MSNBC legal "experts," all of whom had been to the President's Christmas party the night before. They were oozzing all over the place about what a great party it was and how much fun it was to pose for pictures with the Prez. The two legal "experts" opined that it was probably okay for the Prez to have ordered illegal wiretaps on American citizens without warrants. Tweety said that Bush deserved to have his bust on Mt. Rushmore, given how well democracy seems to have worked in Iraq.

This is a perfect example of the problem with the main stream media these days. They are so embedded with the people they are reporting about that they can't muster the healthy skepticism they need to really do their jobs. Even Bill Keller of the New York Times said yesterday, in an effort to justify the one year delay in reporting on the NSA spying story, that the White House officials had assured the Times that everything they had done was perfectly legal. And the Times just accepted those assuances?

I have a mind to call Keller to see if I can sell him this bridge over the East River.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Beware of the Wounded Beast

Steve Clemons makes an important point in regard to the recent White House losses on the Patriot Act and the McCain torture amendment

The White House is being handed one defeat after another, but the President and his team despise being beaten. I suspect that we are entering a dangerous period where the White House feels trapped and prone to excess to try and get back in control.

Stay tuned.

Who knows just what they will do, but it's becoming pretty clear that they won't give a damn whether it's lawful. Tail wagging dog stories come to mind.

La Loi, C'est Moi

The more I think about the NSA spying story, the more I am reminded of my post some days ago about Bush telling GOP leaders to stop worrying about whether things he did were un-constitutional. "Stop throwing the Constitution in my face," he said, "it's just a goddamned piece of paper." We clearly are living with Louis XIV all over again. "La loi, c'est moi."

NY Times may have elected Bush in 2004

In the NY Times report on the NSA Spying story, the Times says it held the story for a year at the administration's request. Several bloggers have wondered if the Times had this story before the November 2004 elections and failed to report it. If so, the paper needs to be comdemned in the strongest way possible. If the story had come out days before the election, Bush would almost certainly have lost.

Diebold Machines Fixed in 2000 Election?

An Orlando TV station reports that a Florida elections supervisor believes the Diebold voting machines in Volusia County were tampered with during the 2000 election. Believe me, if there's an opportunity to tamper with an election, this is the administration that will do it. And, apparently it's really quite easy to tamper with these Diebold machines.

But when Ion Sancho, Leon County's Supervisor of Elections, tested the Diebold system and allowed experts to manipulate the card electronically, he could change the outcome of a mock election without leaving any kind of trail. In other words, someone could fix an election and no one would know."

The expert that we used simply programmed it on his laptop in his hotel room," Sancho said.Sancho began investigating the problem after watching the votes come in during the infamous 2000 presidential election.

In Volusia County precinct 216, a memory card added more than 200 votes to George W. Bush's total and subtracted 16,000 votes from Al Gore. The mistake was later corrected during a hand count.After watching his computer expert change vote totals this week, Sancho said that he now believes someone on the inside did the same think in Volusia County in 2000."

Someone with access to the vote center in Volusia County put it on a memory card and uploaded it into the main system," Sancho said.

Sancho has been raising red flags about the system for months after other hackers were able to change votes during earlier tests. But Sancho said he's gotten nowhere with the company or with the Florida secretary of state's office, which oversees elections.

Bolton and the NSA

There's a new twist on the NSA spying on Americans story. Over at TPM Cafe, Larry Johnson reminds us that:

"During the confirmation hearings of John Bolton as the U.S. representative to the United Nations, it came to light that the NSA had freely revealed intercepted conversations of U.S. citizens to Bolton while he served at the State Department. . . . More generally, Newsweek reports that from January 2004 to May 2005, the NSA supplied intercepts and names of 10,000 U.S. citizens to policy-makers at many departments, other U.S. intelligence services, and law enforcement agencies."

It has long been suspected that Bolton was looking for dirt to use against his political "enemies" when he sought this information, which just seems to confirm what I suggested earlier; i.e., that Bush may well be using this spying operation against his political, not his terrorist, enemies. This administration has no respect whatever for any law that governs it. It makes me so angry I could screem -- which, by the way, I have done more than once since the idiot became president.

Patriot Act fails

What refreshing news! The Senate failed to invoke cloture on the Patriot Act vote, thereby killing the extensions to the provisions set to sunset at year-end. The vote was 52-47, with 2 Democrats and 47 Republicans voting "yes," and 41 Democrats, 5 Republicans and 1 independent voting "no."

Someone needs to take a look at the two Dems who are in there with the Republicans. They are Johnson of South Dakota and Nelson of Nebraska. Also, why did Chris Dodd abstain?

The rest of the roll call is here.

I wonder if the news today of Bush's spying on the American public helped swing a vote or two here. If so, the NY Times had great timing, after sitting on the story for a full year.

Why DeLay but not Scooter?

For quite awhile now, the White House has refused to comment on the Plame leak or the Scooter Libby indictment, arguing that they shouldn't comment on an "ongoing investigation." But, the night before last, Bush told Brit Hume on Fox News that he believed Tom DeLay was innocent of all the charges.

The inconsistency was so obvious that the press couldn't resist peppering Scotty McClellan with questions about it at yesterday's press briefing. Editor and Publisher has the transcript. It's hillarious to watch Scotty trying to justify this one.

More news about NSA Spying on Americans

There's more on the Government's spying on Americans from the Washington Post.

Congressional sources familiar with limited aspects of the program would not discuss any classified details but made it clear there were serious questions about the legality of the NSA actions. The sources, who demanded anonymity, said there were conditions under which it would be possible to gather and retain information on Americans if the surveillance were part of an investigation into foreign intelligence.

But those cases are supposed to be minimized. The sources said the actual work of the NSA is so closely held that it is difficult to determine whether it is acting within the law...

Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies at George Washington University, said the secret order may amount to the president authorizing criminal activity.

The law governing clandestine surveillance in the United States, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, prohibits conducting electronic surveillance not authorized by statute. A government agent can try to avoid prosecution if he can show he was "engaged in the course of his official duties and the electronic surveillance was authorized by and conducted pursuant to a search warrant or court order of a court of competent jurisdiction," according to the law.

"This is as shocking a revelation as we have ever seen from the Bush administration," said Martin, who has been sharply critical of the administration's surveillance and detention policies. "It is, I believe, the first time a president has authorized government agencies to violate a specific criminal prohibition and eavesdrop on Americans."

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said she is "dismayed" by the report.

"It's clear that the administration has been very willing to sacrifice civil liberties in its effort to exercise its authority on terrorism, to the extent that it authorizes criminal activity," Fredrickson said.

It's time to impeach this president. Impeach him now!

Iraq Elections

I haven't said much about the Iraqi elections in the past few days, but Juan Cole reminds us that a large voter turnout in Iraq does not necessarily bode well for the US cause there.

It is not actually a positive sign for the Americans that Sunni Arabs came out to vote in order toget rid of them, to see if they couldn't get rid of the current pro-American government, to underline that the armed struggle will continue, and to prove that Sunni Arabs (20% of so of the population) are a majority of the country! The American faith that if people go to the polls it means they won't also be blowing things up is badly misplaced.

We'll just have to wait and see how this turns out. I'm not very optimistic, but I certainly hope I'm wrong.

Is their something fishy in this?

It appears that the Iraqis arrested al-Zarqawi last year but didn't recognize him and let him go.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi security forces caught terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the Fallujah area last year but released him because they didn't realize who he was, the deputy interior minister said in an interview broadcast Friday.

The deputy minister, Maj. Gen. Hussein Kamal, told the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp., that Iraqi police "suspected this man" and detained him "along with other members" of his group. "Afterward, he was released because we did not know the identity of this criminal," Kamal told LBC. The station said the remarks were made Wednesday but were aired Friday.

What I don't understand about this is how do they now know it was al-Zarqawi if they didn't know it was him at the time? Sounds sort of fishy to me.

Only in Paris

Simon in Ontario sends the following to cheer us up:

Only in Paris

There was a thief in Paris who decided to steal some paintings from the Louvre. After carefully planning the crime, he made it past security, stole the paintings and got back to his van. But, as fate would have it, he was captured only two blocks away when his van ran out of gas. When asked how he could mastermind such a crime and then make such an obvious error, he replied: “Monsieur, I had no Monet to buy Degas to make the Van Gogh.”

(And now, do you have DeGaulle to pass this on?)

Torture List

Here is the list of Congressional Representatives who voted for torture the day before yesterday. The bill (HR 2863) called for the house to support McCain's anti-torture amendment. It passed 308 to 122, with 121 Republicans and one Democrat voting against it. Here are their names, organized by state. Do with them what you like.

Texas wins as the torture state!

Undoing McCain Already

I see that my prediction in my post yesterday on the McCain anti-torture legislation came true even more quickly than I imagined. The New York Times reports that as soon as the Bush-McCain deal had been announced Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "made it crystal clear that the administration would define torture any way it liked."

He said on CNN that torture meant the intentional infliction of severe physical or mental harm, and repeated the word "severe" twice. He would not even say whether that included "waterboarding" - tormenting a prisoner by making him think he is being drowned.

Meanwhile, as the Times points out, there are all kinds of other problems with the bill to which the McCain amendment is attached, not the least of which is the suspension of habeus corpus.

We all had the same intelligence (not)

As a number of bloggers have pointed out, Dianne Feinstein asked the Congressional Research Service to investigate the accuracy of Bush's claim that the Congress saw the same pre-war intelligence information he did. Their answer, Bush lied.

By virtue of his constitutional role as commander-and-in-chief and head of the executive branch, the President has access to all national intelligence collected, analyzed and produced by the Intelligence Community. The President's position also affords him the authority - which, at certain times, has been aggressively asserted (1) - to restrict the flow of intelligence information to Congress and its two intelligence committees, which are charged with providing legislative oversight of the Intelligence Community. (2) As a result, the President, and a small number of presidentially-designated Cabinet-level officials, including the Vice President (3) - in contrast to Members of Congress (4) - have access to a far greater overall volume of intelligence and to more sensitive intelligence information, including information regarding intelligence sources and methods. They, unlike Members of Congress, also have the authority to more extensively task the Intelligence Community, and its extensive cadre of analysts, for follow-up information. As a result, the President and his most senior advisors arguably are better positioned to assess the quality of the Community's intelligence more accurately than is Congress. (5)

Bush spying on Americans

Two articles in today's New York Times are cause for serious concern. In the first, we learn that Bush has authorized the National Security Agency to spy on Americans without warrants, and that this has been going on since at least 2002. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people have been snooped on by the NSA. In the second, we learn that the Pentagon is mishandling data it has gathered about anti-war groups and other American citizens. Among other things, they are required to delete data on innocent civilians within three months, but they have failed to do so.

I find these developments especially disturbing as a threat to our freedoms and our democracy. Atrios points out that it's not very difficult to get a warrant if you need one to fight terrorism and that the real reason Bush is doing this is to prove that he can. I would add that he may also be doing it because he knows that no judge would grant him a warrant to conduct the kinds of spying he wishes to do.

If the President can spy on people willy nilly, as he seems prepared to do, there's nothing that would prevent him spying on the Democratic National Committee, for example, in order to find out what his political opponents are up to or to gather dirt on them. In this administration, which seems unable to separate policy from politics, I believe that's more likely than not. After all, all Democrats are traitors, aren't they? Traitor, terrorist, they're all the same thing, aren't they? I you're not with me, you're against me.

What I can't understand is why the libertarians aren't up in arms about this stuff.

We need to impeach this guy and impeach him now!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Gift that Keeps on Giving

Abramoff-DeLay is the gift that keeps on giving. Atrios points us to the following:

Capital Athletic Foundation, a charity run by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff now at the center of an influence-peddling investigation on Capitol Hill, told the IRS it gave away more than $330,000 in grants in 2002 to four other charities that say they never received the money.

The largest grant the foundation listed in its 2002 tax filing was for $300,000 to P'TACH of New York, a nonprofit that helps Jewish children with learning disabilities.

"We've never received a $300,000 gift, not in our 28 years," a surprised Rabbi Burton Jaffa, P'TACH's national director, told the Austin American-States- man. "It would have been gone by now. I guess I would have been able to pay some teachers on time."

Federal investigators have not contacted P'TACH about the grant, Jaffa said. Representa- tives of three other nonprofits that supposedly received Capital Athletic money also said they have not been contacted.


The discrepancy also follows e-mails between Abramoff and members of his lobbying team that say then-House Republican Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land wanted to raise money through Capital Athletic for an unspecified purpose. In one of those e-mails, Abramoff announced a $200,000 fundraising goal.

Bush caves on torture

There has been some good news today. Bush-Cheney have caved on the torture issue and agreed not to block the McCain anti-torture legislation. I'm sure they'll try to sneak around it some way or other, perhaps by defining "humane treatment" to include what the rest of us would define as torture, but at least it's a step in the right direction.

Furthermore, the fact that Bush was forced to cave on this just demonstrates how weakened he has become. The weaker, the better as far as I'm concerned.

It also makes you wonder where Cheney stands in the overall scheme of things these days. Torture was his baby, and blocking this legislation was his top priority.

But, it is certainly a sorry commentary on the state of this country that we had to go through this in order to try to keep our government from torturing people.

You may need permission to work from Uncle Sam

The immigration bill, now pending in the House, requires every American to obtain a federal "permission slip" before they will be allowed to work, according to this notice from the A.C.L.U.

WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the House of Representatives to oppose a border security bill that fails to properly address the issue of illegal immigration, undermines due process and creates a federally mandated "permission slip" for all Americans. This sweeping legislation has not been thoroughly examined by Congress, and yet could be considered as early as today.

"Lawmakers have not had enough time to consider the enormous ramifications of this faulty bill; it must be rejected," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "This legislation would place an unprecedented burden on all American workers and American businesses, creating a federally mandated requirement for citizens as well as immigrants to get a permission slip from the federal government before they can take a job."

...The legislation would create a sea-change in federal employment rules by requiring all workers in the country to obtain a federal agency’s permission to work. All employers would be required to participate in a national employment eligibility verification program in an expansion of the faulty but voluntary "Basic Pilot" program in current law. Like Basic Pilot, the new program would use an Internet-based system to check the names and social security numbers of all employees -- citizens and non-citizen alike -- against a Department of Homeland Security database.

The ACLU said that such a move would place a huge burden on both employers and workers. The non-partisan Government Accountability Office reported that conservative estimates of implementing such a system would cost at least $11.7 billion annually, a large share of which would be shouldered by businesses. Also, even assuming a near-perfect accuracy rate in the program, millions of legal, eligible American workers could still have their right to work seriously delayed or denied --fighting bureaucratic red tape to keep a job and pay bills. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations have expressed strong reservations with the employment verification provisions.

The legislation would also further undermine our immigration system. Specifically, the bill gives certain low-level immigration officials broad authority to ignore due process and expel individuals suspected of being here without authorization, further militarizes the border and expands mandatory detention rules to apply to many non-citizens arriving at a port of entry or even far from the border. The ACLU called these steps an unwarranted abridgement of the fair process all people are due under the plain language of our Constitution. [Emphasis added]

This is just laughably absurd. The immigration people can't even process the work they have now in a timely manner. They don't even check to see whether people with expired visas are still in the country. How the heck are they going to oversee giving permission slips to every American worker?


The Rasmussen poll finds that 32% of Americans want Bush impeached and 35% want Cheney impeached. That's not the majority opinion by any means, but it's a pretty sizeable minority.

Constitution proves Creationism & Refutes Evolution

The wingnuts on the religious right have topped themselves, if that's possible. Here are their latest reasoned arguments on why evolution must be wrong and creationism correct. From the Eagle Forum:

Fact v. Fiction #1: Some evolutionists who claim to be Christians — but also evolutionists who label themselves "theistic evolutionists" — argue that God could have used the evolutionary process hypothesized by Darwin to create the universe. But evolutionism reduces man to an animal. Theism, conversely presents man as made in the image of God. If man is an animal, but man is also made in the image of God, what does that make God?

Fact v. Fiction #2: Evolutionists claim that their battle against creation-science is primarily a "scientific" issue, not a constitutional question. But our treasured U. S. Constitution is written by persons and for persons. If man is an animal, the Constitution was written by animals and for animals. This preposterous conclusion destroys the Constitution. The Aguillard Humanists leave us with no Constitution and no constitutional rights of any kind if they allow us to teach only that man is an animal.

Boy, does that convince me. God, of course, can't be an an-i-mal. That's too gross for words. Yuck!

The Holy Capitalists - Right Wing Ideologs

David Brooks had a strange op-ed (behind subscription barrier) in the New York Times today in which he chose to highlight recent research by Rodney Stark of Baylor University showing, at least as Brooks explains it, that science and capitalism developed because they were fostered by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, not because of the secularization of society and the growth of the Age of Reason.

As Brooks puts it, “Catholic theology had taught them that God had created the universe according to universal laws that reason could discover. It taught that knowledge and history move forward progressively, so people should look to the future, not the past.”

Frankly, that just doesn't sound right to me. I haven't had to opportunity to read Professor Stark's work, nor am I an expert in the period, so I am treading into a mine field by questioning this. But, everything I have read about the position of the church in the Middle Ages suggests that it believed insight and wisdom were found not through observation of nature or rational deduction, but through study of the scripture, study of church history, and prayer. Those are exactly the views that would encourage you to look to the past, not the future.

I'm sure that one can find any number of counter-examples among the writings of the Middle Ages, and obviously there is no question that the future always grows out of seeds planted in the past, but I doubt that the Church was particularly helpful in the rise of capitalism or science. I'm certainly skeptical that, “The Catholic Church nurtured one of the most impressive economic takeoffs in human history,” as David Brooks put it.

As I read this, I wondered what Brooks was up to. He rarely writes without a purpose in mind, and it's usually a right wing ideological purpose. Was he trying to argue in favor of theocracy? Was he suggesting that Muslims can't be expected to adopt democracy and capitalism because they're not Christian or Catholic? Is he wading into the “War on Christmas” stupidity? I really don't know for sure.

Brooks concludes his piece with, “Today, as Catholicism spreads in Africa and China, it's important to understand the beliefs that encourage people to work hard and grow rich.”

What's that supposed to mean?

Just for fun, I Googled Professor Rodney Stark to see what else he had done. He claims his field is “Sociology of Religion,” whatever that is, and has a bachelor's degree in journalism and a masters degree and doctorate in sociology. He is widely published and his curriculum vitae is as long as your arm. But, one thing I noticed – he has co-authored articles and books frequently with Professor William Bainbridge.

Among other things, Professor Bainbridge is a blogger – a wingnut blogger from the far far right. In fact, he's so far to the right that he got completely duped yesterday by a spoof in The Onion yesterday that claimed the liberal 9th. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that the private celebration of Christmas was illegal and must be stopped. Bainbridge bought that hook, line, and sinker and blogged that this was proof of the reality of the “war on Christmas.”

Of course, you can't judge Stark on the basis of his co-authors alone, but the relationship certainly suggests the two may share ideologies that taint their work. And, why else would David Brooks pick up on this?

Boston Globe to Romney: Resign

The Boston Globe had a New Year's request for governor Mitt Romney -- quit.

OUR NEW YEAR'S wish: a governor who wouldn't rather be elsewhere.

By thumbing his nose at Massachusetts after less than three-quarters of one term as its chief executive, Mitt Romney, yesterday surrendered his clout and squandered his legitimacy. If, as it appears, his heart and mind are no longer in Massachusetts, he should resign.

Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey is inexperienced. But the state would be far better off in the hands of someone focused on state problems, rather than someone touring the country ridiculing the people he was elected to serve. Romney has joked in several states that, as a Republican here, he feels like ''a cattle rancher at a vegetarian convention."

Heck of a Job Rummy

Yesterday, President Bush told Fox News that Don Rumsfeld was doing a "heck of a job," and said he had not intention of replacing him. Bush also had praise for Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.

Hmmm. The last time Bush said someone was doing a "heck of a job" was in the midst of the Katrina debacle. And ... "heck of a job Brownie" was out of office in a few days. Do you suppose this bodes the same for Rummy, Turdblossom, and Torture Dick?

Latest Poll

The latest MSNBC/Wall Stree Journal poll puts Bush's approval at 39%, only one percent higher than last month. That's a pretty measly rise given a 33% decline in gas prices! It doesn't even exceed the marging of sampling error in the poll. Approval of Congress is even lower, at 25%. If the Democrats can't capitalize on this, there's something badly wrong with them.

Pension Reform (not)

The House is set to pass a pension reform bill today that will force employers who maintain defined-benefit pension plans to fund their pension liabilities more fully. Unfortunately, while full funding of existing pension plans is certainly a desirable goal, this bill will almost certainly force many employers to join the growing trend to eliminate the pension plan altogether. Many will probably offer a 401K plan in its place. Unfortunately, most people don't participate fully in 401K matching plans, and among those that do, many mis-manage their funds. Since this country has no other adequate provision for worker retirement, people will be left on their own to sink or swim. What happens when vast numbers of people start to sink? Do we just let them drown, while smugly saying they should have known better? The Republican law of nature: survival of the smuggest.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Blog Power

Three cheers to John Avarosis at Americablog. He's been conducting a campaign against Ford Motor Co. for caving to the religious right by agreeing to pull all ads they had planned for gay publications. John and the gays who read him fought back in spades. Now Ford has caved again. This time, they have agreed not only to place the ads with the gay publications, but to increase the number. What a wonderful world we live in with the blogs having the power of the press.

Ford will again advertise in gay publications

Jaguar and Land Rover ads resume after criticism

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday it would reinstate and expand the scope of its advertising in gay publications after criticism from gay rights groups.

Ford said in a letter it would restore advertising for its luxury Jaguar and Land Rover brands in gay publications and run corporate ads marketing all eight of its vehicle brands in the publications.