Saturday, December 31, 2005

I guess he really does represent the public

from the NYT Public Editor in Sunday's paper (via Eschaton):
The New York Times's explanation of its decision to report, after what it said was a one-year delay, that the National Security Agency is eavesdropping domestically without court-approved warrants was woefully inadequate. And I have had unusual difficulty getting a better explanation for readers, despite the paper's repeated pledges of greater transparency.

For the first time since I became public editor, the executive editor and the publisher have declined to respond to my requests for information about news-related decision-making. My queries concerned the timing of the exclusive Dec. 16 article about President Bush's secret decision in the months after 9/11 to authorize the warrantless eavesdropping on Americans in the United States.

I e-mailed a list of 28 questions to Bill Keller, the executive editor, on Dec. 19, three days after the article appeared. He promptly declined to respond to them. I then sent the same questions to Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher, who also declined to respond. They held out no hope for a fuller explanation in the future

The public is outraged and asks, "What did the Times know, and when did it know it?" So does PubEd Calame. And Pinch and Keller extend the same gracious response to Calame that they have to the public: they tell him to go fuck himself.

Calame tries to make excuses for their stonewalling, and constructs a rationale based on the need to protect the anonymity of the Times' source(s). If you are thinking that perhaps you have seen this movie before, you are correct, although unlike the original, in the remake the reporters got the story right.

If Calame is really supposed to function as the conscience of the New York Times, he needs to act like it and resign.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Minister steps aside amid Iraq oil crisis

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi has assumed direct control of the powerful oil ministry as crude exports grind to a halt due to sabotage attacks and logistics problems, officials say.

Mr Chalabi, who has been improving relations with Washington after previously falling out with the US administration, was appointed acting oil minister after the incumbent Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum was given leave, the officials say.

Mr Uloum told Reuters he was "intent on resigning" while aides to Mr Chalabi, a former financier, confirmed he had been appointed acting oil minister.

"I object to the decision of putting me on leave and the mechanism by which it was done after I objected to the government's decision to raise fuel prices," Mr Uloum said.

I wasted some time trying to find a clever sports analogy for the latest stepping stone in Ahmad's career--you can probably think of a perfectly miserable baseball manager, football coach or some such who keeps getting hired for job after job because he goes hunting with the general manager, belongs to the same golf club as the team president, or something like that.

Then I realized that I was overlooking the obvious role model.

Victor Davis Wingnut alert

I could do another tapdance on the latest from VDH, but TBogg has aready done the pseudo-heavy lifting. Hanson joins all-star wanker Richard Cohen in faulting the politics of the film Syriana.
A slickly filmed "Syriana" is the worst of the recent releases. The film's problem is not just that it predictably presents the bad, ugly sheik as a puppet of American oil interests while the handsome and good independent crown price is assassinated for championing his oppressed people against Western hegemony. Or that the conniving corporate potentates have big bellies and Southern accents while the goodhearted, sloppily dressed George Clooney is double-crossed by his stylish, pampered CIA bosses safe in the Washington, D.C., suburbs.

"Syriana" also perverts historical reality. Everything connected with the oil industry is portrayed as corrupt and exploitative, with no hint that petroleum fuels civilization.

How could anyone possibly think such a thing?

Hanson will soon have to be be given his star on the Wingnut Walk of Fame and declared ineligible for "Wanker of the Day" competitions.

Update: As a reader points out, Wolcott tees off as well. (Better, actually.)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

When good conservatives go bad

Sully is not the only split-personality blogger I read from time to time. James Howard Kunstler is usually insightful and well-tethered to reality. However, like the famous Pooh, Kunstler appears to have some wingnutty blind spots.

The full-bore warbloggers justify their defacto repeal of the rule of law with unapologetic Hobbesian rhetoric: might makes right and we should sacrifice everything in the pursuit of order. I disagree profoundly, of course, but I understand the internal logic.

But what Kunstler is doing here is something else entirely. More principled thinkers feel some need to harmonize their primal fears with the Constitution they want on some level to preserve. And so, as so often happens, the way they resolve the conflict between inconvenient facts and essential belief is to toss the facts out the window:

...while I think much of the public views 9/11 as just another drama that came over the cable channels, I also think it was an extraordinary injury to the nation in reality, and a huge insult to the professionals in the defense, state, and various intelligence departments. This extraordinary injury and insult has produced extraordinary results -- an unprecedented use of invasive electronic surveillance to desperately try to prevent another such injury. Unlike the Nixon years, no evidence has emerged yet that this spying was directed widely at critics of government policy. If we are listening in on phone conversations and Internet chatter involving jihadists, then that is okay with me. If this spying were to swing over to critics of the war and the news media on a wholesale basis -- as in the Nixon / Vietnam years -- I'd feel differently about it. But I do not see any evidence that it has. In the meantime, I don't see how it can be avoided.

Ummm..hate to break it to you, Jim, but if you don't see any evidence of abuse of power in the Bush police state, it is because you are suffering from a profound case of willful blindness. The Times belatedly let us all in on the massive over-reaching now happening on a regular basis. We know that the Pentagon is spying on anti-war and environmentalist groups. In short, exactly the things you say would cause you to change your opinion if they were happening, are happening.

So go ahead and reject the data if you must, but don't expect to break bread with those of us on the logical side of the ideological divide.

(Blogged from the kitchen table of Dr. Bloor, who is alive, well, and better get his bloggy ass in gear.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bad Sully

I suspect we will never be able to reconcile Good Sully -- the one who ridicules Bush and his merry band of criminals -- and Bad Sully -- the one who ridicules people who ridicule Bush et al. Sully offers brickbats to the author of this:
"George Bush's second inaugural extravaganza was every bit as repugnant as I had expected, a vulgar orgy of triumphalism probably unmatched since Napoleon crowned himself emperor of the French in Notre Dame in 1804. The little Corsican corporal had a few decent victories to his escutcheon. Lodi, Marengo, that sort of thing. Not so this strutting Texan mountebank, with his chimpanzee smirk and his born-again banalities delivered in that constipated syntax that sounds the way cold cheeseburgers look, and his grinning plastic wife, and his scheming junta of neo-con spivs, shamans, flatterers and armchair warmongers, and his sinuous evasions and his brazen lies, and his sleight of hand theft from the American poor, and his rape of the environment, and his lethal conviction that the world must submit to his Pax Americana or be bombed into charcoal."

"Sounds the way cold cheeseburgers look" -- I dunno, Sully. I like that one -- a lot. I think Sully's biggest complaint about Bush is that he LIKES the Pax Americana fantasy, and is sad the Chimp has screwed it up so badly.

Wait'll we turn this corner

Kurds in Iraqi army proclaim loyalty to militia

Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan.

Five days of interviews with Kurdish leaders and troops in the region suggest that U.S. plans to bring unity to Iraq before withdrawing American troops by training and equipping a national army aren't gaining traction. Instead, some troops that are formally under U.S. and Iraqi national command are preparing to protect territory and ethnic and religious interests in the event of Iraq's fragmentation, which many of them think is inevitable.

The soldiers said that while they wore Iraqi army uniforms they still considered themselves members of the Peshmerga - the Kurdish militia - and were awaiting orders from Kurdish leaders to break ranks. Many said they wouldn't hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades, especially Arabs, if a fight for an independent Kurdistan erupted.

"It doesn't matter if we have to fight the Arabs in our own battalion," said Gabriel Mohammed, a Kurdish soldier in the Iraqi army who was escorting a Knight Ridder reporter through Kirkuk. "Kirkuk will be ours."

The Kurds have readied their troops not only because they've long yearned to establish an independent state but also because their leaders expect Iraq to disintegrate, senior leaders in the Peshmerga - literally, "those who face death" - told Knight Ridder. The Kurds are mostly secular Sunni Muslims, and are ethnically distinct from Arabs.
Jafar Mustafir, a close adviser to Iraq's Kurdish interim president, Jalal Talabani, and the deputy head of Peshmerga for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, a longtime rival of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, echoed that.

"We will do our best diplomatically, and if that fails we will use force" to secure borders for an independent Kurdistan, Mustafir said. "The government in Baghdad will be too weak to use force against the will of the Kurdish people."

This could well be it: the move that seals Iraq's fate and starts the inevitable all-out (and un-spinnable) civil war. That possibility (an independent Kurdistan) has always been there, but a couple of moves away on the chessboard. Now the Kurds, who have been the most likely all along to trigger the end game, seem to be just about there. The newsworthy thing here isn't the fact that they are planning this, but that they are so confident in their position that they are so open in their discussion of it. When you are weak, your plans are likely to rely on surprise; when you are strong, you feel free to telegraph your moves and use fear and intimidation as allies.

If the Sunnis call bullshit on the elections, my guess is the Kurds will quickly run out reasons to delay, and the American act in this long-running tragedy will end. Unless, of course we are prepared to nuke into slightly premature oblivion our own petroleum fix.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Wolcott and me

Professor of Snark James Wolcott, today:

"It's no accident that it is the rightwing bloggers and pundits who have been avid about defending the use of torture against suspected terrorists. Nor is it an accident that many of them pooh-poohed Abu Ghraib, sluffing it off as no more harmless than fraternity hazing. But what their decapitation odes reveal is that what they'd really like to do is permit torture closer to home. Domesticate it. Trivialize it. Completely destigmatize it as a tool of the state.

I don't worry about this being actually implemented, though I worry fractionally more every day. I'm interested in it more as a pathological rash afflicting the more rabid warbloggers. It's a sign of impotence, this lurid fury of theirs. It bugs the hell out of them that those of us who opposed the war have turned out to be right. It thwarts the hell out of them that Ward Churchill still has tenure, that they couldn't convict Sami Al-Arian down in Florida, and that their latest purple-finger festival fizzled out so soon. If postwar Iraq swirls down the drain, they'll be looking for someone to blame, and since they never blame themselves for anything (a bedrock neoconservative trait), they leaves nobody here but us chickens. I dread to think of the imaginary punishments they'll devise for us appeasers, turncoats, and traitors; I'm sure they'll be quite vivid. I may have to quarantine myself from these sites to preserve my serene disposition. "

Your humble scribe, more than four months ago:

...all the delusional energy that these ostrich hawks had devoted to holding their heads beneath the sand is now going to be dedicated to a new, equally dysfunctional task – blaming the military, blaming the CIA, but first and foremost – blaming the liberals. As Vietnam repeats with eerie precision, and our military might is again worn down by an enemy our generals don’t understand and our foot soldiers can’t distinguish from the people we are supposedly protecting, the baffled will again seek their favorite scapegoats – those who committed the capital offense of being right from the beginning.

No worries, mate -- love your stuff, and even if I said it first, you probably said it better.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

More on why the NY Times still sucks

PressThink: "I'm Not Going to Talk About the Back Story."

Long, but worth a read if you harbor any hope of resurrection from the Gray Lady down.

Iraq: Game Over

A couple of days ago, I predicted Very Bad Things coming out of the triumphant election in Iraq. Robert Dreyfus @ concurs, and offers compelling arguments to boot.
The last hope for peace in Iraq was stomped to death this week. The victory of the Shiite religious coalition in the December 15 election hands power for the next four years to a fanatical band of fundamentalist Shiite parties backed by Iran, above all to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Quietly backed by His Malevolence, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, sustained by a 20,000-strong paramilitary force called the Badr Brigade, and with both overt and covert support from Iran's intelligence service and its Revolutionary Guard corps, SCIRI will create a theocratic bastion state in its southern Iraqi fiefdom and use its power in Baghdad to rule what's left of the Iraqi state by force.

The consequences of SCIRI's victory are manifold. But there is no silver lining, no chance for peace talks among Iraq's factions, no chance for international mediation. There is no centrist force that can bridge the factional or sectarian divides. Next stop: civil war.

There isn't any point in looking for silver linings in the catastrophic Iraqi vote. The likely next prime minister, Adel Abdel Mahdi, is a smooth-talking SCIRI thug. His boss, Abdel Aziz Hakim of SCIRI, is the former commander of the Badr Brigade and a militant cleric who has issued bloodthirsty calls for a no-holds-barred military solution to the insurgency. The scores of secret torture prisons by the SCIRI-led Iraqi ministry of the interior will proliferate, and SCIRI-led death squads will start going down their lists of targets. The divisive, sectarian constitution that was rammed down Iraq's throat in October by the Shiite religious bloc will be preserved intact under the new, "permanent government" of Iraq led by SCIRI.

The Kurds, ensconced in northern Iraq, will retreat further into their enclave, content to proceed step-by-step toward what they hope will be a breakaway rump state. Earlier this year, after the January 31 transitional elections, the Kurds made their deal with the Shiite devil, winning in exchange two vital (for them) points: that Iraq will have a virtually nonexistent central government will power reserved for the provincial regions, and that revenues from future Iraqi oil fields will go to those regions, not to the state. All the Kurds want now is to take over Kirkuk, which they will do with force, violence, and ethnic cleansing aimed at Arab residents of the Kirkuk area.

The Sunnis are already charging vote fraud, threatening to boycott or withdraw from the new assembly, and openly predicting that Iraq will now slide into civil war. There is virtually no combination of political alliances now that can guarantee Sunnis a fair share of power in the new Iraq. Every Sunni leader, from the most militant Baath Party activist to the most conservative Sunni clergyman, knows that a regime led by Hakim's SCIRI bloc will mean war. As a result, proponents of cooperating with the new government will become fence-sitters, and fence-sitters will join the resistance. The insurgency will continue, and possibly strengthen.

The more perceptive among U.S. intelligence officials and Iraq experts know how to read the situation, and they mostly believe it is hopeless. "I hate to say, 'Game over,'" says Wayne White, who led the State Department's intelligence effort on Iraq until last spring. "But we've lost it." There is no mechanism for the Sunnis now to restore a modicum of balance in Iraq, and the Shiite religious parties have no incentive to make significant concessions either to the Sunnis or to the resistance, White says.

Most worrying is the fact that centrist elements in Iraq—ranging from the CIA's favorite candidate, Iyad Allawi, to the Pentagon's chosen vehicle, Ahmed Chalabi—got blown away. Therefore, as I had hoped earlier (and wrote, in this space, two weeks ago, in a piece called "Iraq's Last Small Hope," and again, last week, in "Iraq's Tipping Point"), any chance that someone like Allawi could emerge as a power broker who could bridge the divide between religious Shiites and the Sunni-led resistance is gone. The planned-for Arab League peace conference, scheduled for late February or early March, likely won't happen. Violence will intensify.

Merry Christmas indeed.

General Candyass to the rescue

Powell Speaks Out on Domestic Spy Program - New York Times
Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said on Sunday that it would not have been "that hard" for President Bush to obtain warrants for eavesdropping on domestic telephone and Internet activity, but that he saw "nothing wrong" with the decision not to do so.

"My own judgment is that it didn't seem to me, anyway, that it would have been that hard to go get the warrants," Mr. Powell said. "And even in the case of an emergency, you go and do it. The law provides for that."

But Mr. Powell added that "for reasons that the president has discussed and the attorney general has spoken to, they chose not to do it that way."

"I see absolutely nothing wrong with the president authorizing these kinds of actions," he said.

Asked if such eavesdropping should continue, Mr. Powell said, "Yes, of course it should continue."

Mr. Powell said he had not been told about the eavesdropping activity when he served as secretary of state.

I just don't get it. Powell does this time and time again -- says enough to make himself very unpopular with his former masters, but not enough to accomplish anything positive. If you reverse engineer from the results, it is hard to escape the conclusion that he is either mind-bogglingly stupid or just as mind-bogglingly self-destructive. It is like he is auditioning to be a 21st century Sergeant Schultz, intoning a mantra of "I know NOTH-INK!" ad nauseum.

What a wanker.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

travel day

Happy happy.

Federal agents' visit over Little Red Book a hoax

Just peachy.
The UMass Dartmouth student who claimed to have been visited by Homeland Security agents over his request for "The Little Red Book" by Mao Zedong has admitted to making up the entire story.
The 22-year-old student tearfully admitted he made the story up to his history professor, Dr. Brian Glyn Williams, and his parents, after being confronted with the inconsistencies in his account.
In the days after its initial reporting on Dec. 17 in The Standard-Times, the story had become an international phenomenon on the Internet. Media outlets from around the world were requesting interviews with the students, and a number of reporters had been asking UMass Dartmouth students and professors for information.
The story's release came at a perfect storm in the news cycle. Only a day before, The New York Times had reported that President Bush had allowed the National Security Agency to conduct wiretaps on international phone calls from the United States without a warrant. The Patriot Act, created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to allow the government greater authority to monitor for possible terrorism activities, was up for re-authorization in Congress.
There was an increased sense among some Americans that the U.S. government was overstepping its bounds and trampling on civil liberties in order to thwart future attacks of terrorism. The story of a college student being questioned for requesting a 40-year old book on Communism fed right into that atmosphere.

I will cop to swallowing this one hook, line & stinker. There is overwhelming evidence that far worse has been happening, so it took no great logical leap to believe this story as well.

The really bad news is that the same tactics Karl Rove used to kill forever the investigation into Shrub's National Guard record will now be deployed to try to Swiftboat our concerns about runamok domestic spying. The fact that this particular sad sack of a student made his story up does not disprove the larger truth. But the wingnuts will make him this year's Bill Burkett: his fabrication will be all you hear on the subject from the right wing for the next few weeks. And the short attention span theatre that is the American public will probably allow them to get away with it.

Friday, December 23, 2005

... and right on schedule

Iraqis March, Say Elections Were Rigged
Large demonstrations broke out across the country Friday to denounce parliamentary elections that protesters say were rigged in favor of the main religious Shiite coalition.
Several hundred thousand people demonstrated after noon prayers in southern Baghdad Friday, many carrying banners decrying last week's elections. Many Iraqis outside the religious Shiite coalition allege that the elections were unfair to smaller Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups.

"We refuse the cheating and forgery in the elections," one banner read.

During Friday prayers at Baghdad's Umm al-Qura mosque, the headquarters of the Association of Muslim Scholars, a major Sunni clerical group, Sheik Mahmoud al-Sumaidaei told followers they were "living a conspiracy built on lies and forgery."

"You have to be ready during these hard times and combat forgeries and lies for the sake of Islam," he said.

Sunni Arab and secular Shiite factions demanded Thursday that an international body review election fraud complaints, and threatened to boycott the new legislature.

One could argue that they are already a lot farther along than we were as recently as November of 2000. On the other hand, I would not wish on anyone the shitstorm that is probably only weeks away now.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Here we go....

Dozens of Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups threatened to boycott Iraq's new legislature Thursday if complaints about tainted voting are not reviewed by an international body.

A representative for former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi described the Dec. 15 vote as "fraudulent" and the elected lawmakers "illegitimate."

A joint statement issued by 35 political groups that competed in last week's elections said the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, which oversaw the ballot, should be disbanded.

I know, we've been here before. But this is likely to spiral very quickly into yet another big time factual refuation of Republican sunshine. It has been widely reported that the result of our cure-all Iraqi election will be -- surprise, surprise -- an Iran-friendly theocracy. The folks we naively thought would bring truth, justice and the American way to the heathens have been rejected by said heathens, who have made it clear that they would like to stay heathens, than you very much.

Now the losers are crying foul. When no one trusts the basic fairness of the system, that's what losers do. (Are you watching, Senator Kerry?) The Sunnis and Vichy secularists have a pretty good idea how this movie ends (cf. Iraq's new bestest friend, Iran), and they are not going down without a fight. That fight may well make the last three years look like tame by comparison.

Desperation led our ruling Junta to put all of its chips on the success of this election. But as many predicted, the election is likely to serve only to accelerate Iraq's descent into ever deeper levels of Hell. What horizon will the Junta point to after yet another mile stone turns out to be another millstone?

It also said the more than 1,250 complaints about fraud, ballot box stuffing and intimidation should be reviewed by international organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference or the Arab League.

There was no one available for comment at the U.N. office in Baghdad, but a world body spokesman in New York rejected a review.

"The U.N. is not going to conduct an independent review of the election results," U.N. associate spokesman Robert Sullivan said.

Anybody who thought the U.N would ride to the rescue this time needs to put down the crack pipe once in a while. The UN made it very clear long ago that this clusterfuck is ours and ours alone. Bail out the perpatrators and beneficiaries of the war they tried to prevent and had the balls to call illegal? Yeah, sure.

All the Administration whispers about drawing down troop levels are likely to stop. And full speed ahead for our endless war.

Glenn Greenwald: Do Bush defenders place any limits on his "wartime" power?

No, they don't. And as Glenn notes, Digby knows why.
They are rhinestone cowboys who are scared to death and don't know how to contain their fear. So they lash out at their domestic political enemies, who they can bluster about and pretend to be tough, while hiding behind the military uniforms of their Big Brother and Preznit Daddy (which is a real stretch when it comes to Junior.)

The fact that they continue to win elections as being the tough guys perhaps says more about our puerile culture than anything else. They lash out like frightened children and too many people see that as courage or resolve.

Violent Islamic fundamentalism is a serious problem, not an existential threat. And it's a difficult problem that requires adults who can keep their heads about them when the terrorists put on their scary show, not big-for-their-age eight year olds staging a temper tantrum.

I think there might be some real value in emphasizing the coward meme in dealing with the willfully blind -- overwhelming evidence and appeals to reason certainly haven't shaken them. OTOH, cowards are likely to react badly when their cowardice is thrown in their faces, so it is a pretty risky move.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Maybe Ted Stevens isn't the craziest guy in Alaska

Heard a piece of a story about this on NPR this afternoon:

Wired News: The Cyclotron Comes to the 'Hood
Albert Swank Jr., a 55-year-old civil engineer in Anchorage, Alaska, is a man with a mission. He wants to install a nuclear particle accelerator in his home.

But when neighbors learned of plans to place the 20-ton device inside the house where Swank operates his engineering firm, their response was swift: Not in my backyard.

Local lawmakers rushed to introduce emergency legislation banning the use of cyclotrons in home businesses. State health officials took similar steps, and have suspended Swank's permit to operate cyclotrons on his property.

"Some of the neighbors who are upset about the cyclotron have started calling it SHAFT -- Swank's high-energy accelerator for tomography," attorney Alan Tesche said. "Part of what's got everyone so upset is we're not sure when it's going to arrive on the barge. We know Anchorage is gonna get the SHAFT, but we just don't know when." Tesche is also the local assemblyman who represents the area where Swank and his cyclotron would reside.

Johns Hopkins University agreed to donate the used cyclotron, which is roughly six feet tall by eight feet wide, to Swank's business, Langdon Engineering and Management.
For Swank, the backyard cyclotron is a personal quest: He lost his father to cancer years ago, and he says his community needs the medical resource. He also wants to use it to inspire young people to learn about science.

"My father worked with me while I was building my first cyclotron at age 17 in this same home, and he encouraged all of the educational pursuits that resulted in who I am," Swank said.

"Because of that and my desire to not see other cancer patients suffer -- if I can use this technology to prevent one hour of suffering, or stimulate one young person's mind to pursue science, I will devote every resource that I possess to that."
"Cyclotrons are not nuclear reactors," explains Roger Dixon of the Fermi National Accelerator laboratory or Fermilab in Illinois, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. "Probably the worst thing that could happen with small cyclotrons is that the operator might electrocute themselves."

At Fermilab, Dixon oversees the world's highest-energy collider, about four miles in circumference. It smashes matter and antimatter together so scientists can study the nature of energy.

Dixon told Wired News that shielding from concrete walls or lead sheets is typically used to prevent the electrical beams produced by smaller cyclotrons from escaping.

"Our neighbors here at Fermilab like us," said Dixon. "But then, our particle accelerator is not installed in a living room."
Messing with nature and the forces thereof seems to be coded into Alaskan DNA.

Greatest Hits, Vol III

The critcs raved, but the hits eluded us at the time. It is only now, with the fullness of time that fans have come to appreciate the subtlety of interplay between harmony and lyric, between emotion and intellect, and between Steinway and kazoo.

There was this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this.

Posner's anxiety closet

Richard Posner, a well-regarded judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote a fear-driven apologia for Bush's FISA power-grab in the WaPo. Numerous bloggers, notably Marty Lederman at Balkinization, took his absurd reasoning apart.

But it doesn't end there. Posner actually took some questions online. (Imagine the fireworks if the hardcore wingnuts did the same.) His comments reveal a great deal.

Lansing, Mich.: You offered up this hypothetical: "Suppose that unbeknownst to you your neighbor is a terrorist, and you happen to mention his name in the conversation. A government computer picks up the name and learning from your conversation where he lives, arrests him." But this is beside the point; the hypothetical that concerns most reasonable persons is when your neighbor talks about you or you talk about yourself. Could you please address those situations, much as the Fourth Amendment does?

Richard Posner: I thought I did answer the question, but maybe I wasn't clear. If the neighbor is talking about you, and you are not a terrorist, what he is saying is not of interest to the intelligence services and will not be flagged by the search engines for human scrutiny. But suppose his phone number is on a list of terrorists' phone numbers; then the conversation will be scrutinized in an effort to find out the terrorist's address, or other pertinent information. Does this level of scrutiny worry you? It doesn't worry me.

Is he really that gullible? Those being surveilled under color of the war on terrah have included lots of people who have nothing to do with the 9/11 Al Qaeda stuff, unless there is some devastating secret bombshell document that ties vegans and environmentalists to Islamist Fundies.

When you trust the police/military to spy sans oversight, they will spy on their definition of the enemy, not mine.

There's more:
(H)ow do you know you're at less risk of being killed by a terrorist than being run down by a car? The risk in the sense of probability of being killed by a nuclear bomb attack on Washington, a dirty-bomb attack, an attack using bioengineered smallpox virus, a sarin attack on the Washington Metro (do you ever take the metro?), etc., etc., cannot be quantified. That doesn't mean it's small. For all we know, it's great.

Better safe than sorry.

But I want to ask you and the other questioners: what precisely is the privacy value that you fear would be impaired by data mining?

That is an internally coherent way of loooking at things. But it wasn't the intent of the framers, and it sure as hell isn't what traditional conservatives used to think. Our Bill of Rights does not put the onus on the public to justify our discomfort with warrantless searches. It puts the burden on the givernment to justify itself when it climbs into our shorts.

The guy sounds scared shitless. If he would just shut up and go away, I might feel sorry for him.

Doesn't she look just like Andrea Mitchell?

Click here to watch a video of someone who looks just like Andrea Mitchell on TV doing the unthinkable -- debunking a Republican talking point.

That is the funny thing about going to your favorite Dr. Lookgood and ordering up an uncreased face that is incapable of expression -- somebody can put on a cheap halloween-quality mask of your face, and no one will know the difference.

I don't know who it was impersonating Mrs. Greenspan, but I like what he/she is doing while the ruse goes undiscovered.

Update: The real Andrea managed to fight her way back on air.

Can I use the "paperwork" excuse, too?

Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was NSA director when the surveillance began and now serves as Bush's deputy director of national intelligence, said the secret- court process was intended for long-term surveillance of agents of an enemy power, not the current hunt for elusive terrorist cells.

"The whole key here is agility," he said at a White House briefing before Bush's news conference. According to Hayden, most warrantless surveillance conducted under Bush's authorization lasts just days or weeks, and requires only the approval of a shift supervisor. Hayden said getting retroactive court approval is inefficient because it "involves marshaling arguments" and "looping paperwork around."

Well sure, Mr. IRS agent, I knew there was this law on the books requiring me to file a tax return. But that is so pre-9/11. Those laws were not written to cover me. The clear intent of the recent tax cuts was to keep rich people form paying any taxes. If I stop paying taxes, I'll become a rich person much quicker, right?

And I didn't want to have to loop a bunch of paperwork around, so I just decided to ignore the law.

If you challenge me on it, you are just letting the terrorists win.

Elephant Talk meme spreads....

Teaching a pig to sing

NY Observer - Why the Times finally ran the wiiretap story

The NYO again provides context for the strange behavior of the Times, confirming the forensics from the LA Times (they threw the election), Eric Alter in Newsweek (Pinch and Keller met with Shrub about it) and, in effect, Drudge (the reason they finally ran it was that they were about to be scooped by their own lead reporter's book.)

If you can find any idealistic motives in all that, you win today's Ronald Reagan There's a Pony in Here Somewhere Award.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


from Daily Kos

Bluememe's greatest hits, volume 2

Our best work was already behind us, of course. The endless tours and mandatory drug abuse had begun to take their toll. Still, there were a few hits, like this, and this and this and this and this and this.

February's "no duh" prescient prediction:

When gasoline in the U.S. starts costing $3 or 4 bucks a gallon -- and it will -- GM is going to find selling Hummers and its other dreadnaught-class barges about as easy as selling cancer.

On the other hand, man was I wrong about this one: at the time, I thought the court decision forcing Matt Cooper and the Queen of Iraq to testify was a Bad Thing. Mea culpa. I was foolishly looking for potential threats to the legitimacy of a free press from without. I vastly misunderestimated their ability to destroy themselves from within.

And this still cracks me up.

Oh, and ummmmm..... Koufax.

Yeah, it's a monarchy, part XIV

via Think Progress:
Last night in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended the president’s decision to authorize a warrantless domestic spying program:

The President spoke to this earlier and the Attorney General, who is, after all, the highest legal authority in the country, has spoken to this.

As any veteran of an 8th grade civics class can tell you, the highest legal authority in the country is the Supreme Court. Rice’s position illustrates the problem with this administration – the belief that the power of the executive is unchecked.

And, um, Marbury v. Madison -- the first case in every Con Law textbook.


Critics Question Timing of Surveillance Story - Los Angeles Times
The New York Times first debated publishing a story about secret eavesdropping on Americans as early as last fall, before the 2004 presidential election.

But the newspaper held the story for more than a year and only revealed the secret wiretaps last Friday, when it became apparent a book by one of its reporters was about to break the news, according to journalists familiar with the paper's internal discussions.

And so the Times manages to simultaneously confirm the worst suspicions of the left (that they threw the election) and the right (that they went with the story now for craven reasons unrelated to the internal merits of the story).

I guess that means you are doing a heckuva job, eh, Pinch?


Two U.S. newspapers said on Monday they would stop publishing articles by a conservative commentator who was paid by a criminally indicted lobbyist to write pieces favorable to his clients.

Peter Ferrara has admitted taking payments from Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a key figure in a growing probe into payments to members of Congress who has already been indicted for fraud in the purchase of a casino cruise line in Florida.

The Manchester Union Leader and the Washington Times, which run influential conservative opinion sections, said they did not know that Ferrara took undisclosed payments for his op-ed pieces and did not think the activity was appropriate.

Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley said, "Obviously you can't write an article where you have a financial interest in it and not identify that. That's simply wrong."

Ferrara, a prominent advocate of Social Security reform, told BusinessWeek Online last week that he takes payments from lobbyists "all the time" to write articles favorable to their clients and did not see anything wrong with the practice.

C'mon, boys and girls, there must be more of you. It can't just be Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher and Doug Bandow and Peter Ferrara, right? Come forward now, and maybe you can get yourself lost in the scramble.

The roots of Bush's Junta virus

In the online Newsweek, Jonathan Alter shares an interesting scoop, and nails the expression of Dubya's advanced case of the Junta virus:

No wonder Bush was so desperate that The New York Times not publish its story on the National Security Agency eavesdropping on American citizens without a warrant, in what lawyers outside the administration say is a clear violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I learned this week that on December 6, Bush summoned Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futile attempt to talk them out of running the story. The Times will not comment on the meeting, but one can only imagine the president’s desperation.

The problem was not that the disclosures would compromise national security, as Bush claimed at his press conference. His comparison to the damaging pre-9/11 revelation of Osama bin Laden’s use of a satellite phone, which caused bin Laden to change tactics, is fallacious; any Americans with ties to Muslim extremists—in fact, all American Muslims, period—have long since suspected that the U.S. government might be listening in to their conversations. Bush claimed that “the fact that we are discussing this program is helping the enemy.” But there is simply no evidence, or even reasonable presumption, that this is so. And rather than the leaking being a “shameful act,” it was the work of a patriot inside the government who was trying to stop a presidential power grab.

No, Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story—which the paper had already inexplicably held for a year—because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker.

First, thanks for echoing the point I made yesterday. But as I am wont to do, I have been thinking about the why of it all, because it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I mean, if someone said to you, "Just fill out this form and you can have a thousand dollars," but you decided instead to rob a bank to get that same sum, most of us would think you a sociopath, a moron, or both.

Considering that all the wiretaps Bush could have wanted were his for the asking, you have to wonder why he chose to rob the bank instead. As with so many of the ways he has wreaked havoc on the world stage, I think the reasons flow from his staggering constellation of psychopathology. (cf. Justin Frank's "Bush on the Couch.")

In this case, as in so many others I think it is yet another devastating manifestation of his Oedipal struggle with 41. Shrub has always had a serious problem with authority. Perhaps that's why he effectively flipped off Congressional oversight, and refused to ask any judical authority figures for permission do whatever the hell he damned well wanted to do. The fact that they would almost certainly say yes to his every desire is not the point -- his megalomania means that he feels he shouldn't even have to ask.

And the (current) official justification -- that authority to ignore the law is inherent in his status as President -- sounds to me like a convenient overlay of rationalization gussying up his default view of the world: unlimited privilege in service of a raging, infantile id. He wants what he wants when he wants it, and the mere suggestion that anyone else has a say in the matter triggers a raging "fuck you and the horse you rode in on" response.

In short, I think he deliberately stuck his finger in the eye of the Constitution because his narcissistic self-image is incompatible with anything resembling democracy. Like a typical two year-old, Bush doesn't grok the concept of sharing. That base, emotional incomprehension drove him to drive all the mature kids out of the sandbox in Iraq. And unless the Senate wakes up and puts him in time out, it will make ours the second country Junior destroys in order to get back at his father.

Monday, December 19, 2005

...And his equally brilliant boss

Raw Story;Bush says discussing secret wiretaps helping the enemy

I know, I know.. judging the stuff that spills from Dubya's oral sphincter by logical standards is about as productive as applying the same metrics to the stuff that only comes out of the southern orifice in most of us.

"The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy," Bush said.

"It is a shameful act," he said when asked about the leakers who revealed the program.

Bush said he hasn't ordered an investigation, but expects the Justice Department will seek out the leaker.

"We’re at war, and we must protect America’s secrets, and I presume the Justice Department will proceed forward with an investigation," he said.

Is he, shocked, shocked to learn that the terrorists know he can tap phones? I suppose it is possible that there are terrorists out there who are that clueless. Personally, I am not worried about the risks posed by a hypothetical class of terrorists who are even dumber than our Moron in Chief.

Everybody with two neurons to rub together knows you tap phones, sir. About the only thing that might be news to some people here is that you really are intent on dictatorship. (It was yet another open secret, but none so blind as them that shall not see, you know.) My guess is that that will only make the evildoers like you more.

And tell you what ... I'll support your leak investigation right about the time you do something about the porosity in your Brain.

The keen legal mind of Alberto Gonzales

Gonzales Says Congress Authorized Spying

Until today, the wingnut position was that domestic spying by the NSA, otherwise banned by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is permitted by virtue of a completely absurd inversion of basic statutory analysis. (For the wingnut claim, look here. For the smackdown, read this.)

I was planning to spend an hour or so this morning explaining basic statutory analysis, but it seems the clown posse has recognized that this dog won't hunt, because the Administration have already moved on to the next rationale: that the president's broad Constitutional powers trump the clear language of the statute. In other words, they want a constitutional crisis here. But Team Fascista is trying oout a few other approaches as well. Gonzo went on the Tee Vee today and shoveled the following horse manure:
Responding to a congressional uproar, the Bush administration said Monday that a secret domestic surveillance program had yielded intelligence results that would not have been available otherwise in the war on terror.

With Democrats and Republicans alike questioning whether President Bush had the legal authority to approve the program, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales argued that Congress had essentially given Bush broad powers to order the domestic surveillance after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

"Our position is that the authorization to use military force which was passed by the Congress shortly after Sept. 11 constitutes that authority," said Gonzales. He called the monitoring "probably the most classified program that exists in the United States government."

OK, in that order:

1) The existing FISA process already makes it ridiculously easy to get wiretaps, even after the fact. So I think we are entitled to considerable skepiticism about the claim that ignoring the FISA process yielded anything the government could not have gotten by following it. Remember -- no one is arguing that the government should not be able to obtain wiretaps. The only issue here -- the issue we need to keep front and center -- is whether there should be any oversight whatsoever on the reach of the executive. Like I said, they want Showdown at the Article II Corral.

2) The September 11 resolutions authorized repeal of the 4th Amendment? Puhleeze. I give this one a half-life of 72 hours.

3) The "highly classified" argument breaks down under even cursory examination. If I am a terrorist, the government has eight ways to Sunday under the law to put every aspect of my life under a microscope -- all without me ever knowing about it. Again, all we are talking about here is whether the NSA asks the court specifically created for this purpose for approval. The surveillance target will never know one way or the other if that permission was obtained. So the only reason the program needs to be secret is because they know it is illegal.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Keller's non-denial denial

via E&P, NYT Exec Ed Bill Keller, still smarting from the Miller snafu, tries to tapdance his way past the graveyard on the spying coverup:

"A year ago, when this information first became known to Times reporters, the administration argued strongly that writing about this eavesdropping program would give terrorists clues about the vulnerability of their communications and would deprive the government of an effective tool for the protection of the country's security. Officials also assured senior editors of the Times that a variety of legal checks had been imposed that satisfied everyone involved that the program raised no legal questions. As we have done before in rare instances when faced with a convincing national security argument, we agreed not to publish at that time.

"We also continued reporting, and in the ensuing months two things happened that changed our thinking.

"First, we developed a fuller picture of the concerns and misgivings that had been expressed during the life of the program. It is not our place to pass judgment on the legal or civil liberties questions involved in such a program, but it became clear those questions loomed larger within the government than we had previously understood.

"Second, in the course of subsequent reporting we satisfied ourselves that we could write about this program -- withholding a number of technical details -- in a way that would not expose any intelligence-gathering methods or capabilities that are not already on the public record."
What a containerload of crap. The very people violating the law assure you that everything is jake, and that's good enough for you. Some of them were a little squeamish about what they were doing, and that made you feel sorry for them, or something. And it took you a year to work up the gumption to take on this constitutional crisis.

You can buffalo and shim sham 'till the cows come home, but you still haven't answered the goddamned question: What did the Times know and when did it know it?

Until and unless you convince me otherwise, I am working from the assumption that you threw the 2004 election.

Billmon's back!

Cheney Visits iraq; Attacks Kill 19

Sometimes headlines hint at deeper truths.

Bluememe's greatest hits, Vol. 1

I'm scanning through the last year of posts as part of a sort of year-in-review OpEd I'm working on. And for those of you who might have joined the bluememe inner circle recently, here are a few of our greatest hits from way back when...

Like this, and this and this and this and this and this and this.

And a few one-liners:

In the Bush White House, "conflict of interest" means two simultaneous ball games and no Tivo.

I'm not sure which is sadder -- the fact that the Administration treats us like greyhounds, expecting us to keep eagerly following their mechanical rabbits
toward a finish line that never comes, or that it works.

And while I am in self-promotion mode, please keep these in mind as you think about who deserves a Koufax for "blog deserving wider recognition."

Rewriting all of history

The wingnuts don't just rewrite recent history. They are hellbent on rewriting the stuff spoonfed to our children as well. Back in January I pointed to some wingnuttia from in which they tried to go after blasphemer Michael Moore. Here's their latest, in which they seek to recreate the Founding Fathers in their own graven image:

Here, in the land of the free and home of the brave, is it not still the duty of our nation's instructors to teach American history as it really happened? The philosophical and religious origins of our precious liberty must not be purposefully ignored or cowardly omitted (sic) to be "political correct" and please a few vocal revisionists.
Don't let school officials keep teachers from doing their duty.
Let's start with California while Cupertino's situation is attracting attention. Sign this petition to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and State Superintendent of Public Education Jack O'Connell calling for implementation of already existing state standards to teach the religious roots of America's liberty.
In answer, we the people need to again hear and affirm the message of the Declaration of Independence as the bedrock creed of this American Republic, and the articulation of our nation's civic religion.

Barred from using handouts because some were deemed unsuitable due to the errant misunderstanding (sic) of "separation of church and state," teacher Steve Williams filed a lawsuit. His case, set to be heard on March 28, is based in part on complaints by school officials that intended handouts improperly indicated a religious foundation in the thinking of the Declaration of Independence and the writings of such Founding Fathers as Sam Adams and John Adams.

Williams' school principal, responding to parents' complaints, directed him not to distribute the materials even though the excerpts, such as "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" from the Declaration, entirely are in accord with the mandates of the California Department of Education for social studies and history. Williams not only is ALLOWED to introduce such evidence of the religious and philosophical origins of American Liberty, he is DUTY-BOUND to teach these concepts.

Not only students need to hear and fully realize there is no constitutional "separation" obligation to scour God from public education and civic life, because according to the Constitution's First and Tenth Amendments, there cannot be any federal law pertaining to the issue of religion. This is reserved to the states and to the people.

As Sam Adams once wrote: "Just and true liberty, equal and impartial liberty, in matters spiritual and temporal, is a thing that all men are clearly entitled to by the eternal and immutable laws of God and nature, as well as by the law of nations and all well-grounded municipal laws, which must have their foundation in the former."

OK, I'll walk this by you s-l-o-w, OK? By and large, the Founders were Deists. And as discussed at length in the December issue of Harpers ("Jesus without the Miracles"), Thomas Jefferson (remember him -- author of the Declaration of Independence?) created his own version of the New Testament which excised all the water-into-wine, leper-healing, died-for-our-sins and such, leaving only the pacifism and screw-the-rich stuff you modern pseudo-Christians conveniently ignore. As subsequent archeological discoveries have shown, Jefferson's version is probably pretty close to the historically correct one -- Christ's teachings before the ancient version of Hollywood got hold of it and sexed it up for the rubes.

As Deists, they did not believe in a divine Jesus, Bubba. They were not Christians.

A few choice quotes, most courtesy of

George Washington: "The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy."

John Adams: “Twenty times in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, ‘this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.’”

James Madison: "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."

Thomas Jefferson: "History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose."

and: “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.”

Oh, and this: "The clergy converted the simple teachings of Jesus into an engine for enslaving mankind and adulterated by artificial constructions into a contrivance to filch wealth and power themselves...these clergy, in fact, constitute the real Anti-Christ."

Also deists: Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Ethan Allen.....

So if you want to teach our kids that our Founding Fathers were very interested in protecting their new nation from wingnuts like you, be my guest. By all means, let's "teach American history as it really happened."

And while we're at it, let's teach them to write better than you do, too.

Better not "Know thy enemy"

Daily Kos: One Nation Under Surveillance: 'The Little Red Book' can still get you in trouble
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.

Had our hapless student tried to read Mein Kampf, I assume no alarm bells would have been rung.

Our lying Attorney General

Think Progress: In January, 2005, Gonzales Testified that Bush Did Not Authorize Actions In Contravention of Our Criminal Statutes

According to President Bush’s radio address today, as White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales personally approved Bush’s program for warrantless domestic wiretaps. By circumventing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, those wiretaps violated federal law.

During his confirmation hearings for Attorney General in January 2005, Sen. Russ Feingold asked Gonzales about this precise issue:

SEN. FEINGOLD: I — Judge Gonzales, let me ask a broader question. I’m asking you whether in general the president has the constitutional authority, does he at least in theory have the authority to authorize violations of the criminal law under duly enacted statutes simply because he’s commander in chief? Does he — does he have that power?

After trying to dodge the question for a time, Gonzales issued this denial:
MR. GONZALES: Senator, this president is not — I — it is not the policy or the agenda of this president to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes.

Mr. Fitzgerald, please investigate your boss. Please. Perjury, lying to Congress, conspiracy -- all there on a platter for you.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Write your Congressman, Bugman

Judge deals DeLay a setback
A state district judge on Saturday dealt U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay a setback in his quest for a trial in January.

Judge Pat Priest cancelled a Dec. 27 pre-trial hearing and refused to rule now whether DeLay, charged with conspiracy and money-laundering, could be tried in early January on the money-laundering charge alone. The decision could postpone DeLay's trial by weeks, if not months, unless his lawyers can get higher courts to intervene.

DeLay's co-defendants, John Colyandro of Austin and Jim Ellis of Washington, D.C., don't want a quick trial with DeLay.

The Sugar Land Republican, who had to resign as U.S. majority leader when he was indicted in September, wants to be tried alone in January so he can reclaim his leadership job before Congress begins a new term at the end of next month.

The judge said that's not the best use of the court's time.

"Though Mr. DeLay may be entitled to sever the counts (a decision I have actually not yet made), to go to trial on his case alone would require at least two trials where otherwise one would suffice for all three defendants. Out of considerations of judicial economy, I have determined to let my decision concerning a severance of counts wait until after the Third Court of Appeals of Texas, sitting at Austin, has made its ruling," the judge wrote in an e-mail Saturday morning.
Dick DeGuerin, DeLay's lead lawyer, complained that the judge is putting the efficient use of the court's time and resources over DeLay's right to a speedy trial.
Although Priest wrote that he was sure the appellate court would act with "all reasonable dispatch," Priest's decision could mean a delay of weeks, if not months, in DeLay's trial.

Whatsamatter, pumpkin? Don't like the way courts handle the rights of the accussed? Wondering why the overworked, underfunded courts are so slow? Maybe you should talk to the folks who write the laws that stack the deck and short the funds and... oh, right. Never mind.

Gannon calls Ron Reagan, Jr. 'twinkle toes' and 'nancy boy'

PageOneQ reports:

Former White House journalist Jeff Gannon posted a blog entry on the cancellation of Ron Reagan Jr.'s television show on MSNBC. In the post, Gannon refers to the TV host and son of the nation's 40th President as "twinkle toes" and as a "nancy boy." Gannon also calls Reagan, Jr. a "disgrace" to his namesake father.

I used to wander over to GannonGuckert's website occasionally for yucks, but his full-frontal moment in the sun has passed like a kidney stone. I guess he misses the attention, because this outburst must have people laughing wherever clueless irony is still appreciated.

On the other hand, I can imagine how this might just be part of his professional personna: top being dismissive toward bottoms, or suchlike. Maybe it's good for business.

Glenn Greenwald: Bush's unchecked Executive power v. the Founding principles of the U.S.

I was, with some trepidation, feeling the need to slog through the Federalist Papers in order to explain why the latest affront from our semi-elected king is so utterly at odds with the intent of the framers. Greenwald did the heavy lifting for me.

You really need to read the whole thing. But the conclusion is spot-on.

Both the Bush Administration’s theory of its own unchecked power and its indiscriminate and aggressive use of that power to violate Congressional law contradicts every constitutional principle created to ensure that we do not live under unchecked Executive tyranny. If the President is allowed to get away with secretly decreeing that he can violate the law and then doing exactly that, then there really are no remaining checks on Executive power -- and we have, without hyperbole, arrived at the very definition of tyranny.

The Archies?

Ananova - Bush's iPod muddle

President Bush got in a muddle when he tried to show of his new iPod.

The President was trying to show how cool he was as he showed off the music player in the Oval Office.

But he blundered when he called American Pie singer Don McLean 'Dan', says the Mirror.

And then he seemed to get confused when he tried to explain how the iPod worked.

"I get the shuffle and then I shuffle the shuffle," he told confused reporters.

Asked by a TV crew which artists he had stored in the gadget, he started reeling off names.

"The Beatles, the Beach Boys, Angels, Archies, Aretha Franklin." Then he said: "Dan McLean... remember him?"
OK, I'm trying to be fair here. We all have our guilty musical pleasures -- I like Crowded House and a few sappy ballads like Paul Young's cover of Darryl Hall's "Every time you go." But I'm old enough to remember the music of the 60's. And I'm deeply shaken by the idea that the most powerful man in the world is reading stuff like this while listening to "Sugar, sugar," though I guess it all fits the profile. Bubblegum music for a bubblegum president.

The leader of the free world listens to the Archie's? No wonder he doesn't listen to the adults -- he still doesn't listen to adult music.

Padding the fascism count

Bush Approved Eavesdropping, Official Says

President Bush has personally authorized a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States more than three dozen times since October 2001, a senior intelligence official said Friday night.

The disclosure follows angry demands by lawmakers earlier in the day for congressional inquiries into whether the monitoring by the highly secretive National Security Agency violated civil liberties.

"There is no doubt that this is inappropriate," declared Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He promised hearings early next year.

Bush on Friday refused to discuss whether he had authorized such domestic spying without obtaining warrants from a court, saying that to comment would tie his hands in fighting terrorists.

In a broad defense of the program put forward hours later, however, a senior intelligence official told The Associated Press that the eavesdropping was narrowly designed to go after possible terrorist threats in the United States.

The official said that, since October 2001, the program has been renewed more than three dozen times. Each time, the White House counsel and the attorney general certified the lawfulness of the program, the official said. Bush then signed the authorizations.
The surveillance, disclosed in Friday's New York Times, is said to allow the agency to monitor international calls and e-mail messages of people inside the United States. But the paper said the agency would still seek warrants to snoop on purely domestic communications — for example, Americans' calls between New York and California.
Some intelligence experts who believe in broad presidential power argued that Bush would have the authority to order these searches without warrants under the Constitution.

In a case unrelated to the NSA's domestic eavesdropping, the administration has argued that the president has vast authority to order intelligence surveillance without warrants "of foreign powers or their agents."

"Congress cannot by statute extinguish that constitutional authority," the Justice Department said in a 2002 legal filing with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review.

Other intelligence veterans found difficulty with the program in light of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, passed after the intelligence community came under fire for spying on Americans. That law gives government — with approval from a secretive U.S. court — the authority to conduct covert wiretaps and surveillance of suspected terrorists and spies.

I guess I need to update my list.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Op-Eds for Sale

Op-Eds for Sale (from Business Week, of all places):

A senior fellow at the Cato Institute resigned from the libertarian think tank on Dec. 15 after admitting that he had accepted payments from indicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff for writing op-ed articles favorable to the positions of some of Abramoff's clients. Doug Bandow, who writes a syndicated column for Copley News Service, told BusinessWeek Online that he had accepted money from Abramoff for writing between 12 and 24 articles over a period of years, beginning in the mid '90s.

"It was a lapse of judgment on my part, and I take full responsibility for it," Bandow said from a California hospital, where he's recovering from recent knee surgery.
A former Abramoff associate says Bandow and at least one other think-tank expert were typically paid $2,000 per column to address specific topics of interest to Abramoff's clients. Bandow's standing as a columnist and think-tank analyst provided a seemingly independent validation of the arguments the Abramoff team were using to try to sway Congressional action.

Hmmmm. I've had 21 columns published @ Raw Story this year. I have the backing of a prestigous think tank. Somebody owes me $42,000. I just have to find some cash-rich multi-national that benefits from columns like this, and this and this.


Daily Kos: NY Times Self-Censorship, AKA "the President's Press"

A month or so ago, when I was heaping scorn on those pathetic incompetents at the NYT, loyal reader esoder repeatedly voiced his hope/expectation that the Judy Miller mess would be the turning point, and that a renaissance would soon begin.

I guess the jury just came in on that idea, and it doesn't look good.

The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.
Let's get this straight. The NY Times has this story which, as it reports, has been confirmed by a dozen officials. It possibly had this information prior to the election. And when the White House asks pretty please can you not let the American people know we're destroying their civil rights, the NY Times says "sure"? Because, you know, Americans don't need to be informed as they go to the polls. Better to keep them ignorant and scared--and Republican.
In a failed attempt to excuse its actions, the NY Times has released a statement:

Officials also assured senior editors of The Times that a variety of legal checks had been imposed that satisfied everyone involved that the program raised no legal questions.
Well, if the Bush Administration says it's legal, it must be! When did the Fourth Estate adopt the policy of accepting government statements as gospel? Since when did the press decide that it would forfeit its duty to hold the government independently accountable? Oh yeah, back in 2001.

What the Times did here was outrageous, and constitutes a dereliction of duty at least as heinous as its handling of the Miller episode. Put the two together, and what you get is the utterly inappropriate attempt by the Times to use one essential part of the Bill of Rights as a fig leaf even as it looked the other way while another was obliterated -- for more than a year, and perhaps even while the perpetrator had his "accountability moment."

Forgive my pessimistic view of the chances of better things from this Tony Blair of the newspaper world, esoder.

We must demand that they tell us exactly when they got this story.

Update: My letter to the NYT public editor:

Sitting on a story exposing the defacto repeal of the 4th Amendment at the same time the paper was claiming the mantle of the guardian of the Bill of Rights in the Judith Miller snafu is the height of hypocrisy. The excuses given so far all ring hollow.

The article reporting this outrage states that "After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting." This vague language certainly creates the impression that the Times knew the Administration had repealed the 4th Amendment by executive fiat before the 2004 election. Is that true? We need to know: exactly what did the NYT know, and when did it know it?
Please add your voice.

Update: Emptywheel.

Made for each other: It's Fauxvak!

Robert Novak Leaving CNN for Fox News
NEW YORK -- Commentator Robert Novak, who hasn't been seen on CNN since swearing and storming off the set in August, will leave the network after 25 years and join Fox News Channel as a contributor next month.
Novak walked off the set in August during a political debate after James Carville said that he's "got to show these right-wingers that he's got a backbone."

Novak quickly apologized, but CNN never let him back on the air. A CNN correspondent, Ed Henry, said he had been about to ask Novak on the air about the leak investigation, but Novak said that had nothing to do with why he walked off.

"I'm sorry it ended that way but I am confident if it hadn't happened that I would still be leaving CNN," he said. The network has been de-emphasizing political content, and canceled the long-running debate show "Crossfire."
The decision to leave was by mutual consent and there were no hard feelings, he said.
While his CNN shows included "The Capital Gang," "Inside Politics" and "Evans and Novak," he was best known for the political trench warfare of "Crossfire," where his fiery conservative views led some opponents to give him the nickname the Prince of Darkness.

Note that is the Washington Post calling him that, not me.

Now can we have that stolen election conversation? - News - Elections Official: Some Voting Machines Could Be Hacked
Voting machines used in four Central Florida counties might be flawed.

There's new evidence that computer hackers could change election results without anyone knowing about it, WESH 2 News reported.

The supervisor of elections in Tallahassee tested voting machines several times over the last several months, and on Monday, his workers were able to hack into a voting machine and change the outcome. He said that same thing might have happened in Volusia County in 2000.

The big controversy revolves around a little black computer card that is smaller than a floppy disk and bigger than a flash drive. The card is inserted into voting machines that scan paper ballots. The card serves as the machine's electronic brain.

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 thing in Volusia County in 2000.

Now it isn't wild-eyed posturing from radical lefties. The supervisor of elections in a Florida district is now convinced. That, when viewed in the context of the resignation of Diebold's "I will deliver Ohio" CEO, the new fraud litigation against them,and the conviction this week of a high-level Republican for jamming Democratic phone banks, ought to be a watershed event. You know, investigative reporting. Congressional committee hearings. That sort of thing.

I guess we'll need a new name for blame-slipping politicans...

Via the Environmental Working Group:
Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will fine Teflon maker DuPont $16.5 million for two decades' worth of covering up company studies that showed it was polluting drinking water and newborn babies with an indestructible chemical that causes cancer, birth defects and other serious health problems in animals. The chemical is in the blood of over 95 percent of Americans.

After learning about the company cover-up from an Environmental Working Group (EWG) petition, EPA brought its lawsuit against DuPont in July 2004.

Today's fine is the largest administrative fine the EPA has ever levied under a weak toxic chemical law. However, as EWG noted, the $16.5 million fine is less than half of one percent of DuPont's after-tax annual profits from the Teflon product when averaged over the 20-year cover-up.

I always used to think of Teflon as one of the real miracles of modern science: a material with amazing physical properties, one of which was its inertness. Turns out there were some serious issues regarding birth defects among children of exposed workers. And, what do you know, it also turns out that there are even issues regariding the safety of teflon when heated -- you know, like for instance on a stove or in an oven.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Wanker du jour: Vic the Brick

It is almost a gimme at this point: if Victor Davis Hanson puts up a column, he is the odds-on favorite to lead the wank parade. And today is no exception; his entry is his latest piece, Throw-in-the-towel remarks common in past U.S. wars.

"I implore you to inaugurate or invite proposals for peace forthwith. And in case peace cannot now be made, consent to an armistice for one year."

What unpopular war was that?

And does the following gloom about American military prospects also sound familiar?: "Unless some positive and immediate action is taken, hope for success cannot be justified. . . . Final destruction can reasonably be contemplated."

The first throw-in-the-towel remark, however, did not come from Howard Dean or John Murtha -- but from Horace Greeley about the Civil War during the depressing summer of 1864. And the second quote is Douglas MacArthur's bleak assessment not long after the Chinese Red Army crossed the Yalu River in the autumn of 1950.

Similar despair could be recalled from the winter of 1776, the Imperial German offensive of March 1918 or the early months of 1942 after Pearl Harbor and the Allies' loss of the Philippines and Singapore.

Ah, yes. The good Dr. Classics loves his Wayback machine, and often reaches back a few millenia to find support for his arguments. Here he limits himself to American history in his search for reasons to stop worrying and love the IED.

So let's tally up his inventory of past conflicts, shall we? There's the War of Independence, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea ..... wait. Isn't he missing one? Let me think.... Oh, yeah -- VIET FUCKING NAM.

Professor Doomed-to-repeat-it has labored mightily to avoid and debunk the obvious, elephant-in-the-room parallels between Quagmire I and Quagmire II for some time. Here he conveniently omits Vietnam from his list, though he does engage in his trademarked backhand sans evidence near the end of the piece:

Some Americans cannot see any of this yet, because we are still in our own summer of 1864. But as the conditions in Iraq improve, and comparisons to our sole loss in Vietnam ring hollow, expect critics to grow silent. And savvy fence-sitters like Hillary Clinton will begin to preen, rather than express ambivalence, over past votes to remove Saddam.

The blame game is not unusual on the impatient home front during American wars -- and is soon mostly forgotten after we finally win. Iraq is, and will be, no exception.

Well, that sure settles that. Of course, if wishes were horses, Hanson would be one big-ass Cydsedale. But we are winning, y'all. Vic promises.

Speaking of wishes, here is his take on the words of the naysayers:

In this context, Dean's assertion that the present war is unwinnable or John Kerry's claim that our troops are engaging in terrorizing Iraqis is hardly novel.

Second, there is also no necessary connection between occasionally terrible news and the final outcome of the war. The near-fatal losses of the Army of the Potomac in 1864, the advances of the Kaiser's armies in the 1918 German offensive or the carnage on Okinawa in May and June 1945 nevertheless all presaged our own victory not much later.

Notice the rhetorical sleight of hand here -- what Dean and Kerry say has been said before, therefore it is wrong. Bad things "occasionally" happened to us in previous wars and we won them, so bad news is really good news!

What crop do you grow on that farm of yours Vic, and why do you insist on bogarting it?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I'm so confused....

Redhedd @ firedoglake works through this:

Bob Novakula emerged, from whatever secret vault they've been keeping him in since the CNN fight with Carville, to reveal a few tidbits to the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Tuesday. According to the Under the Dome column in the News and Observer, Novak said that his source and Woodward's source were one and the same.
Woodward, a Washington Post editor, recently disclosed that he, too, had been told by an administration figure about Plame's secret identity -- probably, he said, by the same source who told Novak.

This passage was a little mystical for me, so I confirmed with Rob Christenson that, indeed, that was what was intended, and was told that "Novak made the comment in his speech -- referring to earlier remarks by Woodward." Hmmm...isn't that interesting?

But if Woodward's source is Novak's source, something important doesn't make sense. Novakula sang to Fitz long, long ago. I assume he told Fitz who his source was. And I assume Novak's source waived confidentiality to allow him to do so. (The alternative is to assume that Novak merely squealed like a stuck pig without a word of protest ... nah, let's not go there.)

So if the mystery senior administration official already cleared Novak, or is at least fully aware that he has been outed to Fitzgerald, why would he insist that Woodward continue to keep his yap shut?

Is a puzzlement...

Tortured logic

Latest piece for your edification @Raw Story. Some thinking required.

Steve Clemons on the Bolton disaster

A long piece on the ongoing train wreck that is our UN Ambassador at The Washington Note.

Where's Billmon?

Whiskey Bar is (not, I hope, was) one of the best of the lefty blogs. But Billmon has been silent for more than two weeks -- the last posting was on November 30th.

Anybody know what is up? I really hope we will see more, and soon.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Freud in the steno pool


BALAD, Iraq - Long before he came to Iraq, Spec. Russell Nahvi hoped to save the world. In a spiral-bound notebook filled with math equations, he jotted his secret yearnings: "I PRAY one day I can make the world proud of me. I hope I can restore an unknown peace to wartorn nations, peoples, families, friends."

Nahvi's ambitions led him to a dark road on the outskirts of this town, where, on a patrol Oct. 19 a bomb hidden in a pothole dismembered him and incinerated his Humvee. Two other Americans were also killed. One soldier survived: a platoon sergeant who managed to wrench himself out of the vehicle, flames rolling off him.

Afterward, the Pentagon tersely attributed the soldiers' deaths to "enemy indirect fire." An officer handed Nahvi's mother, Nancy, a form asking if she wanted her 24-year-old son's body parts returned if they were recovered. President Bush sent his parents a three-paragraph condolence letter. It contained a typo: "God less you."

A clearer window into Bush's condescension toward the "fodder units" and his grandiose religiosity would be difficult to imagine.

Wanker of the Day: Richard Cohen

One of the more creative pieces on the ill-fated "Chappelle's Show" was his racial draft sketch, in which various ethnic groups got to choose members from among the famous. Which got me thinking... we should be able to get something for Senator Joe Lieberman and columnist Richard Cohen. I might be persuaded to take Lincoln Chafee, though think we might be better off with the money we would get if they sent us an Xbox 360 and we sold it on eBay.

You remember Richard Cohen, right? He's the WaPo columnist who covered himself in, well, not glory, exactly, when he wrote and argued on a few talking head pundithons that the Valerie Plame outing was just DC biz-as-usual.

Well , the Joe Lieberman of liberal columnists is at it again.

Today he takes on the film "Syriana" in Hollywood's Crude Cliches.

Just as the Republicans who admit being Republicans demonized Michael Moore and F-9/11 as a proxy for all anti-war activists, faux liberal Cohen finds a Hollywood movie simplistic and tars us all with that brush:

You will not be surprised to learn that the locus for all this "oil, terrorism, money and power" is the United States, which is up to no good. With the exception of the Clooney character, everyone is corrupt, including, of course, the CIA. The agency not only sets up one of its own, Clooney, but it assassinates a perfectly nice Middle Eastern potentate to ensure that his oil remains in friendly hands. This sort of thing is distinctly against the law, a true career-ender at the CIA and elsewhere, but never mind. A movie does not have to stick to the facts.

Still, if it is going to say anything, then it ought to say something smart and timely. But, the cynicism of "Syriana" is out of time and place, a homage to John le Carre, who himself is dated. To read George Packer's "The Assassin's Gate" is to be reminded that the Iraq war is not the product of oil avarice, or CIA evil, but of a surfeit of altruism, a naive compulsion to do good. That entire collection of neo- and retro-conservatives -- George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and particularly Paul Wolfowitz -- made war not for oil or for empire but to end the horror of Saddam Hussein and, yes, reorder the Middle East.

They were inept. They were duplicitous. They were awesomely incompetent, and, in the case of Bush, they were monumentally ignorant and incurious, but they did not give a damn for oil or empire. This is why so many liberals, myself included, originally supported the war. It engaged us emotionally. It seemed . . . well, right -- a just cause.
I have seen the equal of this kind of self-delusion in the blogosphere -- Assrocket's immortal neuro-onanistic eruption comes to mind. But I don't recall ever seeing anything this mind-bogglingly stupid in a mainstream outlet.

You need look no further than the neocon's own pre-war advocacy to see how utterly absurd Cohen's bare assertion is. But there is lots more evidence, if Cohen could get over himself and only look at it. Dick Cheney's Halliburton reaped billions from the Iraq debacle. Dubya's oil-patch kids are raking in record profits. CIA operations were burned, torture was committed, lies were told, documents were forged, the Constitution was trampled, tens of thousands of lives were ruined. But the flaw in the neo-con formula? A "surfeit of altruism."

I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that Cohen is so clueless that his writing so clearly shows the etiology of his delusion. Cohen supported the war because it "engaged" him "emotionally." That certainly explains his willful blindness to reason and evidence, and his willingness to carry fetid water for those who hypnotized him with shiny metal objects. Admitting that the Administration is less than saintly would require calling into question his own gullibility and cheerleading -- his willingness to embrace a hugely risky and deeply flawed strategy, just because it made his sclerotic heart beat faster. And like his masters, he will continue to double down his sycophantic absurdity rather than admit his own error.

Or is that just another crude cliche?

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