Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Teh Personal Update

The boys and I went up to Cheyenne for the weekend to celebrate 5 birthdays. Four of them are in February, one late January. Also, to visit my dad and brother (two of the birthdays), who've taken up being truck drivers and are rarely home anymore.

I took up my Firefly DVD set and recruited three new Browncoats. They seem to find Jayne the most amusing. Plus, if you have the DVDs, try watching it with the captions on. I didn't realize how much of the dialogue I wasn't quite getting until I watched it with old deaf people. On the night my dad had control of the remote, he would let the episode run to the Grr Arrgh. I think he really enjoyed the music and the Mutant Enemy. My mom ordered the set through my website, and you can, too. It's on the sidebar to the right. Scroll down. Now click on it.

Sunday night I stayed up all night playing my nephew's World of Warcraft game. I usually just watch him play the online games. He's played Starcraft and some other game I can't remember the name of. He's got school and a job, so he asked if I wanted to try. Me being such the introvert, even the thought of playing online with other people caused me stress. But I didn't have to talk to anyone (I had a hard time figuring out how to do that, anyway).

I'm still not recovered. For one thing, I'm very sleepy. For another, every time I close my eyes, I see a Night Elf running down a cobblestone path. I want the game, but I can't get it until we get a better computer with video card and DSL.

So that's what I was doing this weekend instead of blogging. But it wasn't all a political waste of time. I think my mom may have been convinced Reaganomics isn't all it was cracked up to be. And I keep planting the seed that it's a ridiculous notion to tell people they shouldn't publicly criticize the president during a time of war. And I still don't understand how she differentiates between Bush's wars and Clinton's wars. It was apparently okay to criticize the president when Clinton was in office.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Reaganomics Doesn't Work, George

I had another argument with my mom, in which I declared that Reagan's tax cuts hurt the economy, so he had to raise taxes. She claimed Reagan's tax cuts helped the economy, and he never raised taxes. Such arguments always devolve to "where'd you get your information? " We both think the other's sources are liars. Thing is, I'm right.

An honest look at the numbers (you know, acknowledging FICA income to the government and real dollars adjusted for inflation) shows Reagan's tax cuts had no discernible effect on the economy (neither did Clinton's tax hikes). He reformed tax laws, some of which had the effect of raising taxes. The tax cuts definitely did negativaly effect government tax receipts, until the taxes were raised back up to cover his profligate and unnecessary defense spending.

Supply-side economics -- Reaganomics -- doesn't work to boost the economy, and George Bush's use of it, especially at a "time of war," is hurting our economy by increasing the deficit, and the interest payments on the debt.

Extra info: It was Fed Chairman Paul Volcker (1979-1987; yeah, Carter's Volcker) who helped create the boom (less of a boom than other decades in the latter half of the 20th century) which started in 1983, when he got inflation under control and, in 1982, reduced the interest rate again so people could buy homes, and businesses could borrow money. One of the Reagan myths debunked.
Carter didn't cause the inflation problem, but his tough policies and smart personnel solved it. Unfortunately for Carter, it took too long for the good results to kick in. Not only didn't Reagan help whip inflation, he actually opposed the Volcker policies!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The REAL Reason for Cheney's Delay

They weren't hunting quail, they were hunting hobos.

Think about it. It explains everything, including the "admission" that Cheney had been drinking beforehand. What's worse, getting drunk and accidentally shooting a 78-year-old man in the face, mistaking him for quail -- or being stone cold sober and accidentally shooting a 78-year-old man in the face, mistaking him for a hobo?

Fan Mail

I'm reaching back a couple of decades for the teeny bopper in me.

I've been thinking of writing Simon Cowell a letter of support. He's the guy people love to boo, but, dammit, he's nearly always absolutely right, and says what I was myself thinking.

Paula and Randy (especially Paula, whose interruptions and dismissiveness are really annoying) usually give wishy-washy opinions that don't tell anyone very much, except that they liked or didn't like something. It's Simon's opinion that means something.

Just tonight, after that guy sang Copa Cabana by Barry Manilow, Ryan was pressing Simon for "constructive criticism," as if Simon never gives it. Why not press Paula for constructive criticism? Because her criticism is devoid of substance.

It's Simon everyone wants to impress; it's Simon's opinion everyone values; it's Simon who usually offers the most constructive criticism, as in telling people what they should and shouldn't do. (Randy does it too, sometimes, though I just can't get much from "Dog wasn't feelin' it.")

Can you tell I'm really tired of Paula's interruptions and dismissiveness of Simon? The utter lack of respect for his opinion, which so many others value, and which is nearly always right?

I'm sad more people don't get Simon's sense of humor, too. It's so contrary. Tonight, Ryan was going on and on about Gedeon's smile, how it's so infectious and everyone loves it. In Simon's criticism, he threw in, "And your smile is very annoying." That's comedy.

Religious Persecution -- Texas Style

A woman moved with her son to Texas (that was her first mistake), and was sued for custody by her ex who lived in New York.

She lost all custody of her son when a Catholic judge decided her participation in a parody religion -- including nude romping in public and a satirical take on the Passion of the Christ -- made her a pervert and mentally ill. She can't even write her son.

Jesus' General writes a letter.

Click the link to find info on how to donate for her appeal.

Tancredo Blasts Churches

ColoradoLib reports on Tancredo's outburst against several major church organizations for opposing his anti-immigration legislation, with possible self-imposed injury from his own rhetorical shrapnel.

Tancredo says the "liberal church activists" are misrepresenting his legislation. However, he himself misrepresents the stance of the churches, though the RMN does not print this accusation, which is directly contradicted in the article.

Said Tancredo on his website,

...left-leaning religious activists have distorted what the bill would do and have impugned the motives of those who voted to secure our borders

...

[left-leaning religious activists] have all initiated lobbying campaigns against the House bill and in favor of blanket illegal alien amnesty, despite many of their members support for strong border security.

From RMN:

Jeanette R. De Melo, communications director for the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver, said the church does not support "blanket amnesty" for illegal immigrants, adding, "The idea that the choice is between completely 'open borders' or (a) homegrown Berlin Wall is misguided. Neither option is practical or just."

Further, the Catholic Church does support another bill which combines enforcement with a worker program. From RMN:
...a bill pending in the U.S. Senate, by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., comes closest to meeting the church's ideal, based on its proposed guest-worker plan. The Catholic bishops also support that bill.

Besides that, the churches have not distorted the effects of Tancredo's bill. The churches oppose "enforcement only" legislation, which is what Tancredo admits is what his bill will do. From his website:
... H.R. 4437, calls for the construction of a security fence along our southern border, requires federal and local law enforcement to cooperate on immigration matters, and mandates that employers use an instant check system to verify their employees' legal status.

From RMN:
Tancredo, leader of the congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, has vowed to fight various guest- worker plans, including McCain- Kennedy language, calling them tantamount to amnesty for people who broke the law to get into the country.

Rovian Tactic For the Forces of Goodness

Western Democrat reports that Gov. Schweitzer (D-MT) is putting an anti-lobbyist initiative on the ballot, in the hopes of:

1) curbing lobbyist influence by not allowing legislators to become lobbyists for two years after leaving office, and

2) getting out the Democratic vote this November at a time when Repub Sen. Conrad Burns is linked to Jack Abramoff and up for re-election.
While not endorsing Karl Rove's politics, Schweitzer noted how successfully Rove was able to turn out Republican voters in key states by putting anti-gay marriage initiatives on the ballot. Schweitzer's hope is to replicate that success and put people on notice that Montana will not become, in the words he uses to describe Congress, "a wholly owned subsidiary of Corporate America."

Let's go, Democratic Party. Get these initiatives going in key states. It has double goodness.

Treason

Can you commit it without even knowing?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bush Potemkin Villages

Thirty-two workers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden whose jobs were cut just last month were rehired two days before the President visited. The Department of Energy magically found exactly the amount of money that was needed to rehire them.

The director of Environment Colorado is hoping for a renewable budget program for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. "I hope he comes to the lab six or seven more times to take its budget back to where it was when his administration came to power."

Other instances:
Tom Engelhardt in Mother Jones, "So the President passes through the empty cities of the world and, even when in filled auditoriums, through a world emptied of all reality but his." The article describes how central Germany and the entire town of Mainz were shut down and emptied of people for Bush's visit.

The Potemkin Presidency -- Bush's factory photo-op using empty Made-in-America boxes to mask the real boxes stamped Made-in-China; the fake turkey; astro-turf campaigns.

Bush's Potemkin Town Meetings -- title speaks for itself.

Perhaps someone else remembers and can link to this incident, which my husband recalls. There was a factory that had been nearly totally shut down, and had only a skeleton crew. A large group of people were hired to stand around looking like workers for Bush's visit and photo-op.

Dems Have No Ideas?

No, Dems have great ideas, they just can't set the agenda while Republics are in power.

Consider Ken Salazar's ten ideas for the future of energy in our country, which he outlined to the President. Here's a few:
  • Set the ambitious goal of producing 25% of the total energy consumed in the United States from renewable resources (solar, biomass, wind, geothermal, new hydropower) by 2025. Your State of the Union Address outlined some of the essential elements for achieving this goal, especially your solar and bio-fuels initiatives. And your experts at the Department of Energy assure me that this goal is achievable.
  • Increase the manufacture and use of advanced technology vehicles, including flex-fuel vehicles able to run on either petroleum or renewable fuels. In this regard, it would be helpful for you to endorse and work with us to pass S. 2025, the Vehicle and Fuel Choices for American Security Act.
  • And consider possible amendments to the Pole Attachment Act to facilitate the transmission of wind power and the provision of broadband internet service to rural areas.
Salazar took the Republic President's general "we've got to do something" schtick to show that he's concerned, and outlined an actual strategery to achieve that end, chock full of workable ideas.

One of his solutions, though, is to better utilize nuclear power, which I have a problem with. Sure, we claim to have permanent storage for the waste, but the half-life of waste from a nuclear power plant is over 24,oo0 years. How many civilizations have lasted even 1000 years with a capacity to ensure the maintenance of nuclear waste? I hope I still have descendents in 1000 years, and I don't want them being poisoned by my society's laziness and selfishness.

But when I'm in one of my more philosophical moods, I think that the last few years were a necessary time for our country, a sort of cleansing by fire.

When the Republics were in the minority, they had all kinds of ideas that resonated with the public (obviously, since they got elected all over the place) at a time when the Dems were seen as wasting money and being too big for their britches. I, one of the masses who don't know too much about economics and foreign policies and whatnot, would sometimes think, "Eh, just let the Republicans have their way for a while so they'll shut up and prove they're wrong once and for all. And who knows, maybe they're right."

I only recall voting for one Republican in my life, however, Alan Simpson (R-WY). When Pat Buchanan got up at the RNC in '92 and declared a culture war, the Republicans lost me. "Me and my kind gotta lay down and die so you can live in your perfect world?" I thought (not really, since that's a line from the 2005 film Serenity).

But their bad ideas, like invading countries for no good reason, cutting taxes no matter what, and having no oversight of anything are having very negative consequences; corruption and graft is so rampant and blatant that when we have checks and balances again, it will be reformed; the media's horrible imbalance is beginning to be countered. Liberals are even beginning to get a rep for being the party of the military, of troop support.

We let the Republics have their way, and they are fucking up big time.

But their mistakes help lay the groundwork for creating and reaffirming many liberal agenda items, like nationalized healthcare, sensible progressive taxation, and possibly even public funding of elections. We just have to have the same patience and determination the neo-cons had over the past 40 years, realizing there will be setbacks along the way, the payoffs coming far into the future.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Solicitation Call from Colorado FOP

The call was from Out of Area

Caller: Hello, Mrs. O.?

Me: Yes, hello?

Caller: Hello, Mrs. O., my name is S.M., and I work directly for the Colorado State Fraternal Order of Police ...

Me: No you don't. Goodbye.

Click

It's possible the guy really did work for the Colorado FOP, as they do have a call center, which is surprising given the warnings from sheriff's departments and police officers to "never give money to people over the phone, period." That quote was from an officer warning the public after the Colorado State FOP itself was discovered possibly engaging in "charitable fraud" a year ago.

So if he was legit, I hope he understands and respects the defensiveness of the public to his calls.

Friday, February 17, 2006

A Case of Mistaken Identity

If Cheney thought








looked like











then I suppose








could look like

Unfair Edits

I love them. Bless you, Dave Letterman.

Via Crooks and Liars.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I Feel a Need to Post Every Day

So here's today's post.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Letter to Ed Schultz on Cheney's Excuse

One of the last things I heard on today's show was the quote by Cheney that they waited to report the shooting incident so Katharine Armstrong, an eyewitness who saw the whole thing, could report it.

But Katharine Armstrong, by her own admission, saw nothing. From http://www.ksat.com/news/7043932/detail.html:
Sitting in the hunting car, Armstrong didn't know there was a problem until she saw Cheney's security detail running.

"The first thing that crossed my mind was (Cheney) had a heart problem," she said.

So everything she described was fed to her by someone else.

I don't know where I'll be tomorrow during your show, and it's important for people to know Cheney's excuse doesn't hold water ... or beer, for that matter.


[hat tip, once again, to Seth Abramson of The Suburban Ecstasies]

Conservative Media Bias

That is now an official phrase.

Media Matters has documented the fact that, over the past decade at least, the three networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS, have been skewing rightward, having more guests on their Sunday talk shows -- including politicians and journalists -- who have conservative leanings.

Also, see how Meet the Press and CBS' Public Eye respond to Media Matters.

Then see how Media Matters responds to them.

Cheney Admits to "A Beer"

If someone admits to one, you can at least double that.

And why did he not report the incident immediately?
He said he thought it made sense to let the owner of the ranch where it happened reveal the accident on the local newspaper’s Web site Sunday morning.

Why does that make sense?
Cheney said he agreed that ranch owner Katharine Armstrong should make the story public, because she was an eyewitness, because she grew up on the ranch and because she is “an acknowledged expert in all of this” as a past head of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

He wanted an accurate story to get out. But Katherine Armstrong admits she was not an eyewitness. She said the first sign she had of any trouble was when she saw the Secret Service running as she was seated in the car, and she thought Cheney had suffered a heart attack.

Since she was not an eyewitness, the motive must have been other than an accurate story. He can't even be accurate about his reasoning of being accurate.

It's Not Always the Cover-Up

The old saw is, it's not the crime, it's the cover-up that gets you in trouble. But increasingly, I'm thinking that with the Bush Administration, it is the crime. That's why they always ignore the old saw and continue to cover things up. Treason really will get you in more trouble than obstruction of justice, after all.

And that's why I think Dick Cheney was probably drunk when he shot a 78-year-old man in the face. My initial reaction to hearing the story of the shooting was that I don't blame Cheney for a hunting accident, as these things will happen. I'm sure that was the reaction of most -- a normal and easily anticipated reaction -- which is why a delay in reporting the incident makes little sense.

There was the speculation that this is par for the course for Cheney. He hides things, doesn't think the public has a right to know. It's habit. That only goes so far.

But the delay makes perfect sense if Cheney had been drinking prior to the incident. A delay would give the alcohol time to leave his system.

We already know he's not the most responsible person when he drinks. We know he's not the most honest person. We know he lacks judgment.

We also know, despite Katherine Armstrong's protestations of sobriety, that the Armstrongs "are all made members in the Texas Republican party," [via Political Cortex]. Her mother, Anne Armstrong, was on the board of Halliburton when Cheney was hired. Halliburton gets -- very literally -- tons of taxpayer cash from this government, with little oversight. Strong motive to return a huge favor with a little lie.

For instance, a few contradictions:
  • She first admitted "there may have been a beer or two in there," but then said there had been no drinking.
  • The Suburban Ecstasies also discovered that Katherine Armstrong is being quoted as an eyewitness to the incident, specifically describing what happened, though she didn't see the incident.
  • Then there's the story (for you CSI/Bones fans) that Whittington was 30 yards away, when the amount of pellet spray clustered about his face and chest would indicate a much closer shot.


Even if Cheney hadn't been drinking, I'm going to say he had. A caller to Jay Marvin's show said that when she gets frustrated talking to her right-wing friends and family, she just turns the tables and uses their tactics against them by taking a factual incident and making it sound worse to smear the person involved, like "Laura Bush got off for killing her boyfriend in a drunk driving incident."

Add to that: "Dick Cheney got drunk and shot a 78-year-old man in the face."

Update: Prison Planet quotes a report about the type of weapon Cheney shot Whittington with.
"With the reduced powder load needed to drive the smaller shotcharge, the 28 is a much sweeter-shooting round than its two larger stablemates. Surprisingly, it also tends to pattern very efficiently. In fact, as far out as 35 yards, the 28 puts as much of its shot payload (on a percentage basis) into a 30-inch patterning circle as the 12 and 20 gauge..."

Less than three feet of scatter at 30 yards, which might be consistent with a partial hit in the face and chest. Only a real forensic examination of the distance between the pellets that struck Whittington will tell us more conclusively the distance at which he was shot. Who knows if we will ever get such a report? Paging Dr. Henry Lee.

The Shawskank Redemption

I try to actively avoid the information that follows the words Ann Coulter, but this is worth reading.
Lying on a voter's registration can cost up to $5,000 and five years behind bars.

I wonder if she and Rush will be cellmates? And then the thought comes unbidden: Who will be the bitch?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Whittington Long-Time Bush Crony

When Dick Cheney shot Harry Whittington in the face, he gave us the opportunity to revisit Bush in his days as Texas Governor, when he was honing his skills at corrupting government agencies.

Those who have long memories or live in Texas might recall a scandal from 1999 called Funeralgate, in which Bush was accused of using his office to pressure the former TFSC chairwoman, Eliza May, to back off an investigation of a large Republican donor, Service Corporation International.

After a lengthy investigation, a TFSC committee recommended that SCI be fined $445,000 for the violations. At about the same time that the agency began pushing for payment of the fine, the funeral giant was able to get extraordinary access to, and helpful intervention from, the staff of then Gov. George W. Bush.

Bush staffers, including Joe Allbaugh, held special meetings with SCI's CEO, Robert Waltrip. The executive director of the TFSC during the SCI investigation, Eliza May, was soon alleging that she was pressured by Allbaugh and other Bush staffers to halt the ongoing investigation into the company's misdeeds. She later sued the state for wrongful termination. In 2001, her lawsuit was settled when the state and SCI agreed to pay her an amount in excess of $200,000.

When she was hired, May was supposed to put a new face on the already scandal-plagued agency. Her predecessor, Wayne Butterfield, left the TFSC in 1996, after he was jailed on charges of aggravated perjury and witness tampering. Butterfield's predecessor at the TFSC left the agency after being hit with charges of sexual harassment.


When Ms. May proved to be up to the task of actually doing her job well, too well, she was replaced by someone who apparently fit in better at the TFSC. Harry Whittington was appointed chairman of the TFSC after her.

And the scandals didn't stop. In 2004, the TFSC was being accused of targeting a disproportionate amount of minority funeral homes for enforcement "because they didn't fight."
[Texas House, Rep. Miguel Wise, D-Weslaco] has asked both the Travis Co. District Attorney's Office and the Texas Rangers to investigate alleged wrongdoing at the agency. Wise says he is "amazed at all that crap that's going on" at the TFSC and calls it an "agency that is out of control."

Whittington felt differently.
The "board feels very confident in our executive director and the pattern we are pursuing," Whittington said.

But as always, I'm a day late and a dollar short. Shakespeare's Sister already blogged a little on his involvement in the TFSC, as well as other appointments he's had.

Mood Lifter

Sometimes it's good to stand back and take a look at the big picture, especially when the big picture is a really cool and funny photoshop I would do if I had photoshop.

But another way is with a list of indicators that our runaway President will soon be checked. So go read Arianna Huffington's list.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Living Up to My Name

When I started this blog, it was my intention to write letters to and keep track of responses from public officials and others. But writing wtf? posts have been much easier.

I'm going to try to write at least one letter every day to someone, starting today with Lou Dobbs:

I've often seen the media try to link Democrats to Jack Abramoff by implication, but I was stunned to see Lou Dobbs state so directly during his February 9 broadcast that Sen. Harry Reid was working on behalf of Abramoff to scam Indian tribes.

Mr. Dobbs said:
"And a new report tonight, apparently demonstrating the huge influence of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff in Congress. Senate Minority Leader Senator Harry Reid wrote at least four letters helpful to Indian tribes represented by Abramoff, according to The Associated Press. Senator Reid reportedly collected nearly $70,000 from groups associated with Abramoff."

This link is a guilt by association fallacy. Sen. Reid was working with Indian tribes and accepting their donations long before Abramoff dreamed up his scams. The two are simply not connected, and the only evidence I've ever seen that they were has come from media figures making implications and fallacious arguments.

Please ask Mr. Dobbs to correct the false and unfounded implication he made against Sen. Reid.

Thank you.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

No Criminal Pensions

John Kerry (D-MA) and Ken Salazar (D-CO) are co-sponsoring a bill called the "Duke Cunningham Act," which would strip the pensions from legislators who are convicted of abusing their public trust to personally profit.
In the largest bribery case in the Congress since the 1980s, former Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA) recently resigned from the House of Representatives after pleading guilty in federal court to receiving $2.4 million in bribes from military contractors and evading more than $1 million in taxes. In a plea agreement, Cunningham admitted a pattern of bribery lasting close to five years, with federal contractors giving him Persian rugs, a Rolls-Royce, antique furniture, travel and hotel expenses, use of a yacht and a lavish graduation party for his daughter. Unless the law is changed, Cunningham will be allowed to receive his Congressional pension of approximately $40,000 per year.

Currently, only crimes against the U.S., such as treason and espionage, will cancel the pension. Sadly, there are some who probably qualify under current law.

Friday, February 10, 2006

FEMA Flunkie Fires Back

The first time I've felt any sympathy for former FEMA flunkie Michael Brown was when I heard his reaction to getting piled on by Norm Coleman. It was basically, "Yeah, I screwed up, what do you want me to say? What else do you want me to admit to having messed up, just ask me and I'll apologize."

Lautenberg, and Brownie himself, went a long way to pointing out the Brownie is just a scapegoat, that the Adminstration was aware of the problems in NOLA and just failed to act. I get the feeling that everyone in the Admin said, "Well, someone will take care of it," and went back to bed.

But what Brownie should have have said that would have garnered sympathy as well as pointing out his scapegoat nature was, "Yeah, I was not qualified to head FEMA, and I was incompetent to the task ... but the White House hired me!"

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Why Gonzales Wasn't Under Oath

WashParkProphet documents the the reason quite thoroughly. Gonzales is a lying moron who knows only slightly more about history than he knows about law.

Becoming What You Hate

I just noticed that, for someone who hates the use of gerunds as the first word of a title (Saving Silverman, Raising Arizona, Educating Rita, Finding Forrester), I sure use gerunds as the first words of titles alot: Becoming What You Hate, Using the Internets ... there are many others, too many.

Here are gerunded movies un-gerunded.

If you like gerunds, then you are some kind of grammar wonk, like this guy, and may enjoy this story.

Using the Internets for the Forces of Goodness

I sometimes look up people I used to know, just to see where they're at, what they're doing. Most of my old friends apparently don't do much that finds its way onto the internet. To be fair, neither do I, especially since I blog pseudonymously, and would use my married name if I dared (a name which no one would guess off the top of their head -- but at least it's not Schitze, Hyman, or Faggot, names of other families my husband has known. True story: his grandfather went into a bar in another town in his state and asked "Are there any Faggots around here?" And there were.).

While looking up a friend from college who has a wildly talented family, I found that her older brother has a blog. I met him once when he and his wife were helping her move, and I found him highly entertaining. His blog is, too.

Square in the Nuts -- the Blog, by Ben Tripp, who also sometimes writes for Counterpunch. (As I recall, when I met him, he was a Disney Imagineer -- I hope he had nothing to do with Innoventions.) There's also a collection of essays in book form, also called Square in the Nuts.

And talk about square in the nuts, he wrote a somber eulogy for Ronald Reagan upon his passing which ended like this:
So here's to Ronald Reagan, our fortieth president, on the occasion of your passing from this life: fuck you back.

And don't forget the amusing swag.

While you've got your hand in your pocket (getting out cash to buy stuff -- get your mind out of the gutter) check out his dad's work, illustrator Wallace Tripp, who I also met once. I have one of his books, which I won't let my sons look at until they stop destroying things.

Bush's Circular War on Terror

It's from an April, 2005 issue of The American Conservative by James L. Payne, but it's worth re-examining.

The point of the AC article is that freedom doesn't prevent terrorism, as many "free" countries have terrorists, including the United States. The most recent example is Iraq, which is free and democratic without Saddam, but which is now crawling with terrorists.
If anything, freedom promotes or at least enables the growth of violent partisan groups, because it provides an opportunity for extremists to organize and proselytize. The point was perhaps first made by founding father James Madison over two centuries ago in Federalist number 10 in discussing the causes of “the violence of faction.” As he put it, “Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires.”

As Rummy would say, "Freedom's untidy."

In light of the existence of hundreds of terrorist organizations around the world for so many decades (and more pop up all the time), we should be doubly worried about Bush's reasoning that the War on Terror is a war which justifies suspending the Constitution for its duration.

It is a war that will never end, particularly with the Bush Doctrine of Spreading Democracy and Freedom. More "freedom" around the world (especially of Bush's variety, which involves Shockingly "Awe"ful invasions) means more terrorism, which means less freedom here in the U.S.
To the terrorist, the extreme evil of this enemy justifies his use of extreme violence to combat it.

It's something the extreme righties should be able to grasp very readily, considering all the fantasies they have which involve destroying their political opponents with gunfire.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Gonzales Chock Full of Phony Rationales

It was gratifying to see the AG use an argument I have used:
"But we are a nation governed by written laws," Mr. Gonzales said, "not the unwritten intentions of individuals. What matters is the plain meaning of the statute passed by Congress and signed by the president. And in this case, those plain words could not be clearer."

Me:
But "the stated intent of the legislature" is always an argument I hear when courts are interpreting statutes. Stated intent of legislators is not law. That is why legislators have such huge arguments over the wording of laws. On the floor of the Senate or House, a Congressperson may declare a benign and beneficial intent behind a law; the argument from the other side is that, regardless of stated intent, there may be a particular undesireable effect through the interpretation of the plain language of the law.

Thing is, the 1978 law against domestic spying contained plain language, while the AUMF which Gonzales relies on for its "plain language" contains no such thing with regards to domestic spying. The general rule courts go by is that the specific law takes precedence over a general law which requires interpretation.

But Gonzales wasn't done:
But the administration's reading is, Mr. Gonzales said, "fairly possible." Given that, he continued, the Constitution requires deference to the executive branch's interpretation under a doctrine known as constitutional avoidance, which counsels against reading statutes in a way that creates constitutional conflict when another reasonable interpretation is available.

However:
In a letter to Congress last week, a group of 14 constitutional scholars and former government officials said that "FISA is not ambiguous on this subject, and therefore the constitutional avoidance doctrine does not apply."

Has he run out or rationales yet? Nope:
The administration has a fallback position, but it was not one Mr. Gonzales discussed much yesterday. Even if the force authorization did nothing to alter the restrictions set out in the 1978 law, he said, the president's constitutional authority as commander in chief may by itself allow the surveillance program.

In other words, the President can do whatever he wants for as long as he perceives a threat without anyone saying he's gone too far. No checks, no balances ever again.

That is, until a Democrat wins the White House.

Signs of the Coming Repug Apocalypse

After not bothering to swear Alberto Gonzales to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, Sen. Specter got a little upset with the AG for not telling much of any truth at all:
To his credit, Mr. Specter pressed the attorney general hard on a legal position that, he said, "just defies logic and plain English." Mr. Specter forcefully pointed out that this isn't just an issue of public relations, but of the bedrock democratic principle of checks and balances.

Then he should have stopped down the proceedings and put the guy under oath so he couldn't play those little games anymore. Specter is not totally owned, as he apparently has enough conscience to not bend over at such disrespect for the laws, logic, and plain English.

But even Bush loyalists on the Senate panel seemed at least faintly troubled.

...

One hopeful sign of nonpartisan sanity came from the House yesterday. Representative Heather Wilson, the New Mexico Republican who heads the subcommittee that supervises the National Security Agency, told The Times that she had "serious concerns" about the spying and wanted a full investigation.


Sen. Lindsey Graham:
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said he "never envisioned that I was giving to this president or any other president the ability to go around FISA carte blanche."

"In all honesty," Mr. Graham told Mr. Gonzales, "this statutory-force-resolution argument that you're making is very dangerous in terms of its application for the future." An expansive reading of the 2001
resolution, Mr. Graham said, may make it "harder for the next president to get a force resolution if we take this too far."


And Rove coming out of the shadows to blatantly bribe Senators to protect Preznit Stoopid from impeachment shows just how close the WH is to a retribution enema. But he can only forestall the inevitable.

GOP Senators Fundraising Lagging

I was surprised to see this:
Senate Republican leaders yesterday urged GOP senators to meet ambitious individual fundraising goals to help close the fundraising disparity with their Democratic counterparts.

The Dems have $15 million more in the bank than the GOP.
Participants at yesterday’s meeting at the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) said that rank-and-file senators had been asked to raise about $100,000 for the NRSC and that chairmen had been asked to raise about $150,000.

I have trouble with the idea of raising $50 for the American Heart Association's jump rope fundraiser my son is doing at school so he can get a t-shirt. I hate asking for money.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Strongest Argument Against Bush's Claim to Absolute Power

I don't necessarily disagree that the President has some inherent war powers which run contrary to the Constitution. But they are to be of a temporary nature, not part of a conflict that will span decades. Benjamin Kleinerman, assistant professor at VMA, wrote an opinion piece that speaks very well on this subject.

It's worth remembering that Bush's current claim of absolute sovereignty is nothing new. Hamilton, the aristocracy advocate, argued the same point with Madison in 1793.
Madison said Hamilton's argument that the power of the executive to preserve the Constitution was illimitable pointed to the destruction of constitutional government.

...

The crucial problem for Madison is not the action itself - an attempt to keep the fledgling United States out of a looming European war - but the rhetoric and legal language with which the action is justified. Madison argues that Hamilton's justification could lead to the obliteration of essential limits on executive power.

Bush uses the same rhetoric to justify such an obliteration.

But that's opinion, which is really what we're stuck with when trying to decipher the Constitution. As Justice Jackson said in the middle of the last century, we
“may be surprised at the poverty of really useful and unambiguous authority applicable to concrete problems of executive power as they actually present themselves. Just what our forefathers did envision, or would have envisioned had they foreseen modern conditions, must be divined from materials almost as enigmatic as the dreams Joseph was called upon to interpret for Pharaoh. A century and a half of partisan debate and scholarly speculation yields no net result but only supplies more or less apt quotations from respected sources on each side of any question. They largely cancel each other.”


Madison and Hamilton were both great thinkers and writers with different opinions. Heck, you can find a Jefferson quote for just about any side of an argument. It's part of why the Constitution really is a living document, subject to opinions and interpretations based on the ruling school of thought of any generation. If government can be likened to a building, the Constitution provides the structure, but the people furnish the rooms, and I think President Bush has dreadful taste. More than that, he's letting the termites feast on the foundation.

But Hamilton's and Bush's argument that the power of the Executive is absolute in defense of the country is the fact that Congress has the power neuter the Executive's war-making ability:

The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; ...

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

...

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.


The Congress can defund the war and direct the National Guard to stand down and come home. Congress can defund the entire Executive itself. The Executive is cash poor.

Let Bush's war-profiteers use their ill-gotten gains to finish the job if they're such firm believers. Let Bush fund his own Executive Branch if it won't be curbed by the Legislature. It's hard to be an absolute Monarch when you don't have any cash or the ability to raise it.

And that is the single most persuasive argument I know for why the Executive Branch does not have absolute, illimitable war powers.

...Of course, the Congress would most certainly pay an enormous political price for such actions, as the Executive would argue the Congress is leaving the U.S. defenseless, which it would be.

But that is a political reality, not a legal one.

Reform the People in Charge, Not the Laws

Bryan Cunningham and Daniel B. Prieto wrote an opinion article in the RMN today, in which they say about U.S. intelligence laws, "The current rules were developed during the Cold War, when our most dangerous enemies were foreign armies overseas."

Didn't they ever watch Red Dawn or The Day After? Seriously, our most dangerous enemies were nuclear weapons and spies/potential saboteurs on our own soil, not armies we would have to transport our own armies to face. And the rest of the article wrongly identifies the problems, as well. They blame the success of terrorists on faulty intelligence-gathering methods, rather than implementation and corruption. That's what the Administration would have us believe, as well, but it simply isn't true.

Here's an example of the "unworkable" rules they say we currently have:

For example, if a Baltimore FBI agent monitors Internet conversations between a suspected terrorist in Bali and someone on a computer with a Boston IP address, and if the chat room is hosted by an ISP in Berlin, is the intelligence being gathered insided the United States or outside, and does it involve a U.S. person?

The physical presence of the person in Boston clearly means a U.S. person is involved, which means special Constitutional limits must also be involved. And such a situation is in no way hindered by any requirement to go to a court for a warrant. Roving wiretaps follow the person being monitored, regardless of who he talks to or where. Why do they see a difficulty surrounding this situation?

And why does the hypothetical always include a "suspected terrorist." If a suspected terrorist is involved, that means that he's already been identified as a suspected terrorist, and it is reasonable to monitor his communications, therefore reasonable to get a roving wiretap warrant. Data mining for word groups is not a reasonable basis for suspecting someone to be a terrorist, especially considering that the most effective and dangerous terrorists don't use those word groups!

How about this hypothetical? An FBI agent monitors Internet conversations between someone in Bali and someone on a computer with a Boston IP address, and the chat room is hosted by an ISP in Berlin. It turns out they are American students corresponding about all kinds of political topics, including jihad, 9/11, Islam and the West, and the illegal war in Iraq. The FBI agent got this information because the NSA went fishing for particular grouped words, found these people, and passed the information on to the FBI to check out, having no other reasonable basis for thinking either person might be a terrorist. And the NSA hears so many of these types of conversations so frequently, and passes so many of them on to the FBI to follow up on that the FBI is overwhelmed and rendered ineffective, as the actual threats are lost in a sea of innocuous conversations. Meanwhile, a real terrorist plot goes forward because the real terrorists don't have lengthy discussions about their plans on the internet or cell phones.

But the authors claim they are skeptical about the Administration's actions, especially about Total Information Awareness. Hello!? What I just described is Total Information Awareness in practice now, it's just not called that.

And what is one to think when the authors think there are problems that don't exist?

Congress and the administration must get past their constitutional power struggle and reach consensus on reforming our laws to provide all necessary tools to safeguard our security, but in a way that does not compromise our civil liberties.

Congress and the Administration must never get past their Constitutional power struggles. It's called "checks and balances." Those always have to be fought for.

But they offer redundant solutions to these problems which don't exist.

Update the laws. Develop new intelligence-gathering rules that provide speed and flexibility to pursue terrorism-related leads with less reliance on location of collection or "U.S.-Person" status.

What, like roving wiretaps and ex post facto warrants? They already exist. The Administration may use them now. But the Administration is saying they may wiretap everybody and never get a warrant for anything. Why? The Administration has already said that the current laws are speedy and flexible enough to pursue terrorism-related leads, that there was no need to reform the laws. Of course, they said that while they were breaking those laws, fishing even before 9/11. So if the problem isn't the laws which exist, it must reside in those who disregard those laws. If the laws allow the Administration to effectively pursue terrorism-related leads, then the motive for disobeying those laws must be other than pursuing terrorism-related leads.

New rules must provide protections for constitutionally protected civil liberties. They also must provide clear oversight, aided by robust technical and procedural audit mechanisms, to help rebuild lost trust in our government.

Hoo, boy. Do the words FISA court and oath or affirmation mean nothing to these guys? The rules are there, the Administration is just not using them.

Ensure a role for the courts. To preserve and promote appropriate judicial oversight, new methods of court involvement must be considered. As one example, courts could pre-approve categories of electronic surveillance. This would allow the government to apply strict, pre-determined criteria to particular communications without the need for case-by-case court approvals.

No, obviously FISA court and oath or affirmation mean nothing to these guys. We need new laws that ensure a role for the courts, because the old laws, like FISA, the PATRIOT Act, and the 4th Amendment, just aren't cutting it [/sarcasm]. How do they expect the Administration to adhere to new laws when it won't adhere to the old ones?

And what use are the courts if they don't look at each case? How is that a check on Executive power when the Administration can still eavesdrop on anybody it wants knowing a court won't be looking at each case? That's what they're doing now!

We have the tools we need to fight terrorism, we have the laws. We had them before 9/11, they just weren't being effectively used. They're still not being effectively used.

And it pains me to say this, but I think that the reason we haven't seen another terrorist attack by bin Laden's group in the U.S. is that they haven't tried one yet. That's a terrifying and sickening thought, and I get terrified and sick every time someone in our Admin comes out and says they've prevented such attacks using the methods they have.

I don't believe them, not after all the lies and abuses, not when our government is wasting its time and resources spying on Quakers and student protesters, kicking Arabic-speaking gays out of the military, and torturing detainees for confessions to bolster their propaganda that they are actually achieving something.

The real problem is, what do you do with a group of powerful people who refuse to follow the law? Reform the people, not the laws. That would require an enormous groundswell of outrage leading to massive turnovers in the next election and possibly the expunging of the Executive Department in its entirety. The Speaker Pro Temp of the House [confused, but corrected] can be replaced with a Democrat this year, making the impeachments of Bush and Cheney a meaningful solution.

The system isn't corrupted, the Executive is.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Republicans' Cindy Sheehan

Well, kicking both Cindy Sheehan and Beverly Young out of the SOTU were related and purposeful, except that Beverly Young apparently wasn't just a cover for Sheehan.

Democratic Underground reprinted the story about her, which includes the organizations she works with to help the troops.
Beverly supported the Iraq war but now has qualms. She has seen too many soldiers and Marines blown up by improvised explosive devices, the bombs used by insurgents.

"I'm all for (the troops) coming home because these IEDs are vicious," she says.

And a hell of a woman Beverly Young is. She doesn't hobnob with the elite, breaks unwritten rules to chew out the President, talks very bluntly, and once even voted for her husband's opponent because she liked his honesty. She was treated as all peaceful dissenters are treated by this Administration.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Must Have a Particular Sense of Humor To Click Here

We watched the The Aristocrats last night, and produced actual tears of laughter in several parts, including George Carlin's and Bob Saget's (Bob Saget is much funnier when he isn't being censored and cutesy). What they showed of Larry Storch's version was funny, too. I wish they'd showed the rest. There was even a ventriloquist and card trick that didn't make me roll my eyes. It's all in the delivery.

But to rival that joke, if you're into that kind of humor, I just came across the best blonde joke ever. Oh, man, that's all I can say.

Warrants? We Need Stinking Warrants!

Gov. Owens on Jay Marvin's show this morning, after pretending the Constitution doesn't require warrants, dismissed Bush's own words about wiretapping and warrants when Jay played the soundbite:

Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. 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.

Owens said that Bush was talking about a different issue. I wish Jay hadn't just called them Republican Talking Points and let it go, because I'd like to know what the other issue is.

First, go to the source.

Further examination of the totality of the quote shows Bush was talking about roving wiretaps. In an age of cell phones, a wiretap would follow the person, not the phone.

But a roving wiretap means -- it was primarily used for drug lords. A guy, a pretty intelligence drug lord would have a phone, and in old days they could just get a tap on that phone. So guess what he'd do? He'd get him another phone, particularly with the advent of the cell phones. And so he'd start changing cell phones, which made it hard for our DEA types to listen, to run down these guys polluting our streets. And that changed, the law changed on -- roving wiretaps were available for chasing down drug lords. They weren't available for chasing down terrorists, see? And that didn't make any sense in the post-9/11 era. If we couldn't use a tool that we're using against mobsters on terrorists, something needed to happen.

The Patriot Act changed that. So with court order, law enforcement officials can now use what's called roving wiretaps, which will prevent a terrorist from switching cell phones in order to get a message out to one of his buddies.

Bush took special pains to point out that he would still need to get a warrant, so I still can't figure what's so different about the issue.

Maybe it has to do with the Ticking Time Bomb Scenario. I try not to wade into the insanity/inanity that exists on the far-right, but once in a while, to understand the arguments that seemingly normal people like Gov. Owens come up with, I have to do it. I'm not even touching what I saw in Freeperville, but on to another purveyor of Right Wing Talking Points, which was bad enough.

WND:

Suppose the National Security Agency receives a tip that one of the merchant ships anchored in New York Harbor contains three hydrogen bombs – and that the captain of this bomb ship is on the telephone with an Arab consulate arranging to evacuate himself and crew along with securing their transfer off the ship and onto a submarine.

Should the National Security Agency, or any other of our intelligence or crime-fighting agencies, be required to seek a court order before tapping that phone?

No, which is why they have 72 hours after the fact to obtain the warrant. But the President would still need to get a warrant. That can't be the difference.

So I looked to Wikipedia, a generally neutral source. The Wikipedia article is under dispute on the FISA provisions, and an objector posted the relevant section of FISA which allows the Pres to spy on people with terrorist links. Apparently the President is authorized to conduct warrantless surveillance on foreign powers for up to one year.

"Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year" and that "the surveillance must be aimed at 'the acquisition of the contents of communications transmitted by means of communications used exclusively between or among foreign powers.'" and that "as defined in section 1801, subsection (a), 'foreign power' can mean 'a group engaged in international terrorism or activities in preparation therefore.'"


Both the merchant ship and the Arab consulate would be defined as foreign powers under FISA. So this situation is covered twice. Under the PATRIOT Act, the President has 72 hours after tapping the wire to get a warrant. Under FISA, he could be monitoring the Arab Consulate for up to a year without a warrant, at which time he would need to get a warrant or stop the surveillance.

But the words "need to get a warrant" keep popping up. And why? Because the 4th Amendment -- a part of the Constitution, the Supreme Law of the Land, changeable only by another Amendment, not an act of Congress, the President, or even the Governor of Colorado -- says so.

It's also the way it should be. Bush said so when he admitted publicly, without prodding, that wiretaps require warrants, and when his Administration said FISA was more than adequate to meet our surveillance needs.

If the Pres is just interested in spying on terrorists, that power is well covered. So why ignore the law? I believe it's the other spying he wants to do, on domestic groups which don't like him, like those damn Quakers. He has the technology to cast a wide net to do it, to spy on even purely domestic calls, whether connected with terrorism or not. But since they're not foreign powers and he has no probable cause, his searches would be unreasonable, therefore warrantless and illegal.

And some people don't want a check on this?

Gov. Owens Plays Dumb

Gov. Owens showed up for the last ten minutes of the Jay Marvin show just now, and he actually said there's nothing in the Constitution which forbids the President from eavesdropping on members of Al-Qaeda who are talking to American citizens.
Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

By what possible logic does Owens say the President is not prohibited from spying on American citizens? By the reasonableness of needing to eavesdrop on Americans talking to Al-Qaeda? The reasonableness or probable cause of the search does not negate the requirement for a warrant.

Thank goodness his term is nearly over. He should never again be in a position of power over we, the people.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Day Laborers

Unbossed studies one of the reasons I stopped being a Libertarian.
[Day laborers] are vulnerable because of their low skills and illegal immigrant status, and, as a result they are preyed upon by the unscrupulous who have power over them.

The unscrupulous nearly always have the power, and the more power the unscrupulous get, the more vulnerable people there are to be taken advantage of. "Freedom of Contract" is meaningless among starkly unequal parties when the alternatives are starvation and slavery.

CPA Corruption Punished

I just read the part of Al Franken's book, The Truth (With Jokes), about the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and how unqualified, incompetent, and corrupt it was. It made me wonder when those bastards were going to get some comeuppance.

TalkLeft reports on some retribution.

Capitol Police's Laughable Excuse

"We screwed up," in arresting Cindy Sheehan and ejecting the wife of Rep. Young (R-FL) from the SOTU.

WashParkProphet says the two acts are definitely related and purposeful, as cynical as that sounds, and the "screwed up" defense doesn't hold water.

Trampling on people's 1st Amendment rights at Republican events has been regular business for many years now, so it actually sounds quite reasonable.

Progressive Women's Blog Ring
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