Saturday, December 24, 2005

Open Thread

There's nothing we can't face except for threads.

Christmas Eve Cat Blogging

Regular cat blogging will resume in the New Year, but until then let's have some Christmas Eve Kitten Blogging:

Admission of Guilt

NSA says 4th amendment important.

A Very Lileks Christmas

From Tbogg.

Open Thread

Well, our old thread was just fine 'til you went and had it burned down.

Open Thread

There's nothing we can't face except for threads.

Early Retirement

I think the weird reaction people have to early pensions is not so much about the money, but more a reaction of oh my god you mean someone maybe sorta gets to stop working before they turn 65 that's unAmerican (even though, of course, at half pay that's unlikely to genuinely be a good option for most.

We have strange attitudes towards work in the country. There's almost a social stigma to retiring "early." There's nothing wrong or bizarre or even costly about a pension system which lets people cash out before 65. If it's well-managed and done right any pension scale is simply based on expected return on dollars contributed over the life of the worker. The "cost" isn't the pension paid, but the annual contributions made by employer and employee. If it's actuarially sound, the only thing "wrong" with a pension scheme that lets you cash out before 65 is that we think it's somehow wrong to retire early.



Some communist rag called Barron's says it's time to consider impeachment. (via barry)

AS THE YEAR WAS DRAWING TO A CLOSE, we picked up our New York Times and learned that the Bush administration has been fighting terrorism by intercepting communications in America without warrants. It was worrisome on its face, but in justifying their actions, officials have made a bad situation much worse: Administration lawyers and the president himself have tortured the Constitution and extracted a suspension of the separation of powers.


Surely the "strict constructionists" on the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary eventually will point out what a stretch this is. The most important presidential responsibility under Article II is that he must "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." That includes following the requirements of laws that limit executive power. There's not much fidelity in an executive who debates and lobbies Congress to shape a law to his liking and then goes beyond its writ.

Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.

It is important to be clear that an impeachment case, if it comes to that, would not be about wiretapping, or about a possible Constitutional right not to be wiretapped. It would be about the power of Congress to set wiretapping rules by law, and it is about the obligation of the president to follow the rules in the Acts that he and his predecessors signed into law.

Some ancillary responsibility, however, must be attached to those members of the House and Senate who were informed, inadequately, about the wiretapping and did nothing to regulate it. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, told Vice President Dick Cheney in 2003 that he was "unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities." But the senator was so respectful of the administration's injunction of secrecy that he wrote it out in longhand rather than give it to someone to type. Only last week, after the cat was out of the bag, did he do what he should have done in 2003 -- make his misgivings public and demand more information.

Published reports quote sources saying that 14 members of Congress were notified of the wiretapping. If some had misgivings, apparently they were scared of being called names, as the president did last week when he said: "It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy."

Wrong. If we don't discuss the program and the lack of authority for it, we are meeting the enemy -- in the mirror.


I don't have time right now to give this the full treatment, but it is truly a weird world that we have become. Once upon a time good jobs came with good pensions. Some of those pensions you couldn't start receiving until 65 or similar, some of those pensions you could start receiving if you left after having X years on the job. This was pretty normal stuff. Then for various reasons (some good, some bad) we moved away from defined benefit to defined contribution 401(k) type plans where instead of promising you a nice pension they promised to put some % of your income in an investment account, or employee match, or sometimes nothing at all on the employer's end. 401(k) laws don't let you take out the money "early" without large penalties, but imagine if they did.

I plugged some quick numbers into a quick retirement calculator, imagining a person working from 18 to 55, starting salary $22,000, annual raise of 3.5%, modest expectations of investment returns. Assuming life expectancy of 75 (guaranteed income for 20 years after retiring at 55), the employer would have to contribute about 15% of salary (or 10% them, 5% you) over your employment tenure to allow you to retire at half salary at 55 until you die at 75.

It just isn't that generous a benefit, but we've been programmed to perceive defined benefit plans as a "gift" from companies, when all they're really doing is throwing money into a big investment fund year after year (at least, they're supposed to) and then paying off their employees from it. It doesn't cost employers that much to provide that level of retirement benefits.

And, that of course leaves aside the fact that for years many unions have been trading salary increases for better retirement benefits. So, turning around after the fact and being shocked at how "generous" those retirement benefits are is ridiculous.

Defined Benefit Plans

Retiring at age 55 at half salary? The horror!

What a weird world we live in now.

"President's Intent"

Jeebus Alito's a fascist.

In a second memo released yesterday, Judge Alito made another bald proposal for grabbing power for the president. He said that when the president signed bills into law, he should make a "signing statement" about what the law means. By doing so, Judge Alito hoped the president could shift courts' focus away from "legislative intent" - a well-established part of interpreting the meaning of a statute - toward what he called "the President's intent."

George Bush's America

In George Bush's America, the government spies on you whenever George Bush tells them to.

At least the little red book story was nonsense.

Open Thread

We saved the world. I say we thread!

Open Thread

We saved the thread. I say we have to party.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Open Thread

Thread makes you do the wacky.

Stupid Ideas

The fact that you can confirm someone's identity and confirm that they've never previously done something like crash a plane into a building is no guarantee that they'll never decide to do something like that. Proving someone is who they say they are does nothing to determine that they haven't decided to blow something up just for kicks.

Brill's identity based system is about nothing more than enhancing the ways we can make a two-tiered society. And it's fucking ridiculous.

Fresh Thread


Congratulations, Tweety!

The misinformer of the year!


"You know what? He's in big trouble, and I can't wait for the hearings to start."

Stupid Ricky

Doesn't even know what the hell he believes in:

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 22 -- Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) withdrew on Thursday his affiliation from the Christian-rights law center that defended a school district's policy requiring the teaching of "intelligent design."

Santorum, the Senate's third-ranking Republican, is facing a tough reelection challenge next year. Earlier, he praised the Dover Area School District for "attempting to teach the controversy of evolution."

But the day after a federal judge ruled that the district's policy on intelligent design is unconstitutional, Santorum told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he was troubled by testimony indicating that religion motivated some school board members to adopt the policy.

Santorum was on the advisory board of the Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center, which defended the district's policy. "I thought the Thomas More Law Center made a huge mistake in taking this case and in pushing this case to the extent they did," Santorum said. He said he will end his affiliation with the center.

Monitoring of Muslims Without Warrants

Well this is just lovely:

n search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts.

Federal officials familiar with the program maintain that warrants are unneeded for the kind of radiation sampling the operation entails, but some legal scholars disagree. News of the program comes in the wake of revelations last week that, after 9/11, the Bush White House approved electronic surveillance of U.S. targets by the National Security Agency without court orders. These and other developments suggest that the federal government's domestic spying programs since 9/11 have been far broader than previously thought.


n Washington, the sites monitored have included prominent mosques and office buildings in suburban Maryland and Virginia. One source close to the program said that participants "were tasked on a daily and nightly basis," and that FBI and Energy Department officials held regular meetings to update the monitoring list. "The targets were almost all U.S. citizens," says the source. "A lot of us thought it was questionable, but people who complained nearly lost their jobs. We were told it was perfectly legal."

The question of search warrants is controversial, however. To ensure accurate readings, in up to 15 percent of the cases the monitoring needed to take place on private property, sources say, such as on mosque parking lots and private driveways. Government officials familiar with the program insist it is legal; warrants are unneeded for monitoring from public property, they say, as well as from publicly accessible driveways and parking lots. "If a delivery man can access it, so can we," says one.

Georgetown University Professor David Cole, a constitutional law expert, disagrees. Surveillance of public spaces such as mosques or public businesses might well be allowable without a court order, he argues, but not private offices or homes: "They don't need a warrant to drive onto the property -- the issue isn't where they are, but whether they're using a tactic to intrude on privacy. It seems to me that they are, and that they would need a warrant or probable cause."

The Law is King

The wiretapping may or may not be potentially constitutionally - that is, if congress authorized it the Supremos would uphold it - but Bush has violated the constitution by directly disobeying the law. That is, by failing to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed. As Glenn Greenwald writes:

The issue is not whether the President has this authority to eavesdrop without a warrant but whether it is legal for him to do in the face of Congressional laws which make it a crime to do so. And none of the authorities they cite conclude that the President has such a royal power. Not one.

Marty Lederman has a superb and crystal clear post on precisely this issue. Even if one assumes to be true the dubious proposition that the President possesses inherent constitutional authority to order warrantless surveillance on American citizens, that does not mean that it is legal for him to do so in violation of a criminal statute enacted by Congress. But that is what Bush did here, and there is just nothing which even arguably gives that behavior the color of legality. That’s because we live under the rule of law where not even Presidents are bestowed with the right to engage in conduct which Congressional criminal law expressly prohibits.

All Your Uterus Are Belong to Alito

CNN sez AP reporting that in 1985 Alito memo said Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

Winning is Fun

Let's hope the Democrats remember that:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Republican-controlled Congress is staggering home for the holidays. Democrats, demoralized after last year's election losses, have a spring in their step after outmaneuvering President Bush and GOP congressional leaders in a series of session-ending clashes.

Open Thread

There's nothing we can't face except for threads.

Open Thread

There's nothing we can't face except for threads.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Hug Me Karl! Woof Woof!

I'll have more on this tomorrow, but the New York Times is so in the tank.

And I'll say so even though Franklin Foer worries I'll undermine the credibility of such an important institution.


I always had a soft spot for Daschle even though he was still bringing knives long after it had become a gun fight. Still, behind the scenes I think he was often better than he was given credit for. Now we get a bit more truthiness:

The Bush administration requested, and Congress rejected, war-making authority "in the United States" in negotiations over the joint resolution passed days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to an opinion article by former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) in today's Washington Post.

Daschle's disclosure challenges a central legal argument offered by the White House in defense of the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. It suggests that Congress refused explicitly to grant authority that the Bush administration now asserts is implicit in the resolution.


As drafted, and as finally passed, the resolution authorized the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons" who "planned, authorized, committed or aided" the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words 'in the United States and' after 'appropriate force' in the agreed-upon text," Daschle wrote. "This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused."

Daschle wrote that Congress also rejected draft language from the White House that would have authorized the use of force to "deter and pre-empt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States," not only against those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.

So, congress explicitly rejected all of the authorities they're claiming they were implicitly given.


Laura Rozen raises the point I've touched in a few times - if there are thousands (between 4 and 20 thousand are estimates I've seen) of people with direct links to al qaeda wouldn't we have arrested a few? Sure, there were the guys who wanted to take blow torches to the Brooklyn Bridge but even their arrests happened using actual warrants.

It's pretty much established that they know fully well that most or all of these people are not terrorists and that they have no intentions of committing terrroists acts. So we're spying on innocent people on the off chance we might learn something.

Look over there! Cameras in England!

More Wonkery

Just to add to the earlier discussion, it wasn't all that long ago that Left Blogistan was dominated by boring boring repetitive wonky wonkery of the most wonkish kind - during the Social Security Bamboozlepalooza tour. The president was lying, the Trustees' various reports were based on contradictory internal assumptions, and journamalists didn't know what the hell was going. We came, we wonk'd, and we kicked some ass.

...adding, I wrote this before reading Max's post but he is of course absolutely right. It was something I left out of the earlier post but shouldn't have. While I don't see wonkery as an especially important part of the day to day public discourse - by pundits, bloggers, columnists, and even politicians - that doesn't mean that the Wonks in Exile shouldn't be toiling away in their wonky dungeons doing the FSM's work. Research should be done, policy proposals written, etc... I just don't think that, in general, such things are an especially important feature of our public debate at the moment. There are exceptions and having the wonky tools in place when they arise is crucial.

But even the social security debate was basically a defensive one. Such wonkery is necessary when those moments arise, but there's little point in having public debates about detailed policies which can't possibly pass, etc...

Open Thread

She does pretty well with threads from hell.

Fiery Wreck

Will Chalabi get his US pals to jump on the Iraq election fraud claims? I can't imagine Bush talking trash on his pretty election, so it'll involve Chalabi convincing his neocon pals to choose him over Bush.

I think I got more votes than he did in that election.


Fox News affiliate runs a puff piece on a white power site. Gotta love it. The General had the story, and Think Progress provides more here and here.

The reporter who did the piece was named South Carolina Broadcaster's Association 2005 reporter of the year. Mighty white of them.


Still full of it after all these years...


It is strange how unshakeable the belief that bloggers and and blog readers are "young" is. I can't find the survey results for my blog but I remember the median age being in the 41-50 range. I may have a faulty memory, but it's certainly in the upper 30s at least. I'd guess it's in the 40 range.


Brad DeLong has a little dialogue trying to explain what's going on at the WaPo. One of his readers adds this bit:

Good one, Brad. But you left out some of the good stuff. You are, after all, something of a guest star in this little sitcom. Here's what Harris had to say about you:

John F. Harris: I said I was not going to return much to the Froomkin matter today, but I'm going to take this one because it bothers me. Also because many other questions I'm not posting are on a similar theme.

I did refuse to answer questions posed by a blogger named Brad Delong asking whether I knew that one of the people on record complaining about the confusion over White House Briefing was affiliated with Republicans.
As a journalist, I hate not answering questions, even from (in this case) someone who clearly was coming from a point of view quite hostile to me. But I had jointly decided with colleagues that I had responded enough to the blogosphere, so I took a pass.
I'll address the matter here...

Again with the obfuscatory sourcing nomenclature. Brad's not "fomer senior official in the Clinton Treasury department.." or "UC Berkeley academic.." he's simply a blogger. One who's clearly "quite hostile to me." Feel the love! Is Harris ignorant? Intentionally trying to mislead? Or what? Poor guy. He clearly has no clue at all that 90% of the people reading the Live Online thing are news junkies who know quite well who Brad is. It's been a bad month for the print divsion at the Post.


Patriot Act

I haven't figured out the strategy yet, but the House passed a 5 week extension of the Patriot Act. So, the Senate has to either pass that version or ping pong another one back to the House again.

happy holidays!

...Senate back in session at 8 tonight.


Not that I have an encyclopedic knowledge of Markos's life, but I thought a few things in the article sounded a bit unlikely to me. Suggestion: when writing article about prominent blogger with 3 gazillion hits per day check your facts.

As for me, I've been in the Capitol twice, I've never been asked to talk to a bunch of members of Congress about anything, don't believe I've ever met Rahm Emmanuel, have never met Harry Reid. I'm pretty sure the closest thing to a one-on-one conversation with a member of Congress (now former) I've had was a very brief chat with John Corzine. Not that you cared. Oh, wait, I've probably chatted with Joe Hoeffel a couple of times too.

Wonk Off

Garance and Kevin, responding tolWaMo profile of Markos discuss the lack of blogospheric wonkery.

I've said this before, but there's just little point in detail-oriented grand policy proposals when Bush and Republicans are in office. Just about everything their side offers up involves tax cuts, corporate pork, or cuts to programs that help keep granny from freezing to death in winter. The rest are complete disasters for obvious reason, like the Medicare drug plan, and there's really not much to discuss.

If our team actually had some power we could be debating the merits of various universal health care proposals, or considering just how large a minimum wage increase might be appropriate, or various other wonky things. It would be good fun. But we live in an unserious age where the people running the government have no interest in policy and the people not running government have no ability to get anything passed without having anything good about it destroyed by the Republicans.

The 90s were a delightfully wonky era when serious center-left political types spent lots of time debating lots of things. We had a wonky president, a wonky vice president, and an utterly bored press corps, until the blow jobs happened anyway. I'd like a chance to spend more time talking about how policy matters, but the space just isn't really there right now.


Drum writes:

One of the worst results of all this is that because George Bush treats terrorism mostly as a handy partisan club to make Democrats look weak and cement his own support with his corporate base, he's managed to convince a lot of liberals that the whole thing is just a game. Unfortunately, this is pretty understandable. At this point, I don't really blame liberals for feeling that terrorism is little more than a Republican bogeyman that's pulled out whenever the president's poll numbers are down. After all, that's pretty much how Republicans treat it.

I don't know any liberals who think that the issue of terrorism is just a game. Last I checked it was decadent liberal enclave New York that got hit the worst on 9/11. It's been obvious to some of us since about September 14, 2001 that any hopes that the Bush administration would treat it as anything but a political game were dangerously naive. Terrorism-as-politics has been a game from the beginning. What the hell is a war on terror anyway and who other than crazy people think it can be "won?" But if I were a politician I would've probably just ended my career by writing that, unless my name were George W. Bush and I had fluffers like Chris Matthews around.

Still, I think sensible people also understand that other than terrorists getting a hold of stray nukes, which as Kevin points out the Bush administration really doesn't give a shit about, terrorism isn't actually something to spend our days and nights obsessing about. Bad things can happen, lots of people can die, but probably not on a scale of, say, annual automobile crash deaths. We need a responsible government to have smart and sensible domestic security policies and improve our human intelligence operations overseas. But, an administration which uses domestic terror alerts for political reasons, outs covert CIA agents, spends its time spying on Quakers and people who want to read Mao's Little Red Book, and does almost none of the very simple and cheap things it could do to improve security of things like chemical plants is, in fact, a complete joke on the issue of terrorism. So, if ever we liberals talk about terrorism as if it were a big joke it's precisely because the political discourse on the issue has long been an obscene farce.

Cheney's iPod

I'm a bit confused. They could've just plugged the iPod into one of the laptops and charged them both at the same time.

Big Vagina

This is just, uh, funny.

Keep On Doing It

Yglesias notes BoBo's lack of concern about presidential lawbreaking.

The Rude Pundit has the right idea.

Ride the Wahhmbulance Back to Alaska!

Ted Stevens, don't come back!

But last night, when the Senate voted to strike the drilling provision, Stevens did not take it well. "This has been the saddest day of my life," he said. "It's a day I don't want to remember. I say goodbye to the Senate tonight. Thank you very much."


Our senate producer stayed here until the wee hours last night to try to find out if senator stevens was saying he was going to resign. Ken asked are you coming back? Stevens said, quote, 'I don't know'."

They Write Letters

To Romenesko:

From GEORGE ZACHAR: We learned in January that New York City newspaper hawkers earning $9 an hour were making more than Guild members at the Youngstown Ohio Vindicator.

Now, thanks to David Cay Johnston's research, we know that the average Wall Street Journal reporter makes about as much the average (striking) New York City bus driver, roughly $55,000 a year.

No doubt the various benefit and pension plans differ greatly, but it is still a sobering statistic. [Permalink]

Why is this a sobering statistic aside from the general belief that anyone who is a part of the "professional class" is intrinsically deserving of making more money than those who aren't?

There's a really weird class resentment going on. White collar workers "know" they deserve more money than blue collar workers. Some blue collar workers, ones in unions and skilled workers, can make decent money. Since a lot of white collar workers actually don't get paid very well, they resent the hell out of the fact that some uneducated lout gets to buy a nicer house than they do. And, thus, we get the out of touch media coverage of the NYC transit strike.

Meet the Press

Digby writes:

Because the beltway press corps has conditioned itself to respond only to Republicans. They've trained themselves not take Democrats seriously, either the rank and file who inconvenience them with e-mails they do not want to read, or the leadership they simply disdain. Unpopularity obligates them to criticize Bush at least mildly, but the relief they feel when his numbers edge up a bit is palpable. They don't seem to know this about themselves.

This really is true. The press really is unable to hear and comprehend press criticism which comes from the left. It's like they're unable to process it. They love parading Bernie Goldberg around endlessly so he can tell them how evil and horribly liberal and rotten they are but will then completely ignore a book like "What Liberal Media?" which had the advantage of containing actual research and not being utterly incoherent.

Santa Baby

Hurry down the chimney tonight:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 - Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under indictment for fraud in South Florida, is expected to complete a plea agreement in the Miami criminal case, setting the stage for him to become a crucial witness in a broad federal corruption investigation, people with direct knowledge of the case said.

At the same time, prosecutors in Washington have been sifting through evidence of what they believe is a corruption scheme involving at least a dozen lawmakers and their former staff members, many of whom worked closely on legislation with Mr. Abramoff and accepted gifts and favors from him. Although Mr. Abramoff is also in negotiations in that case, it is unclear whether a settlement can be reached in time for both agreements to be announced at once.


Drum has the best simple explanation of what happened in the Padilla case that I've seen. Shorter Michael Luttig:

We fucked up! We trusted you!

And that, I think, gets at the heart of it. Even judges willing to give almost unlimited power to the executive imagine that the executive is dealing with them in good faith.

Little Ricky - No Core Beliefs

What a wanker.

Open Thread

When the apocalypse comes... thread me.

Open Thread

So when do we destroy the thread already?


Not being plugged into the local media scene it's taken me a litle while to think I had any kind of handle on the NY transit strike.

But, now I'm aware of two things:

a) Majority of New Yorkers support the union/strike

b) That view is entirely lacking from the media coverage I've seen.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Activist Judges


The presiding judge of a secret court that oversees government surveillance in espionage and terrorism cases is arranging a classified briefing for her fellow judges to address their concerns about the legality of President Bush's domestic spying program, according to several intelligence and government sources.

Several members of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said in interviews that they want to know why the administration believed secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading e-mails of U.S. citizens without court authorization was legal. Some of the judges said they are particularly concerned that information gleaned from the president's eavesdropping program may have been improperly used to gain authorized wiretaps from their court.

"The questions are obvious," said U.S. District Judge Dee Benson of Utah. "What have you been doing, and how might it affect the reliability and credibility of the information we're getting in our court?"

Free Nellie

Sony still a bunch of idiots:

Several months after resolving a high-profile dispute with artist Fiona Apple over an album release, Sony Music ended a conflict with another singer-songwriter in a less harmonious manner.

Nellie McKay, who signed with the company's Columbia label in 2003 after a bidding war, said Monday that she had split with the label after a long dispute over the length of her upcoming second album.

McKay had publicly campaigned for her 65-minute, 23-song version of the album, "Pretty Little Head," even giving concert audiences the e-mail address of label head Will Botwin and urging them to complain about the company's plan to release a 48-minute, 16-song version.

Hopefully it does get released soon as claimed. Either way, her previous album is good fun.


If ever anyone could offer up an actual defense of such activities I'd be happy to listen:

Undercover New York City police officers have conducted covert surveillance in the last 16 months of people protesting the Iraq war, bicycle riders taking part in mass rallies and even mourners at a street vigil for a cyclist killed in an accident, a series of videotapes show.

In glimpses and in glaring detail, the videotape images reveal the robust presence of disguised officers or others working with them at seven public gatherings since August 2004.

The officers hoist protest signs. They hold flowers with mourners. They ride in bicycle events. At the vigil for the cyclist, an officer in biking gear wore a button that said, "I am a shameless agitator." She also carried a camera and videotaped the roughly 15 people present.

Beyond collecting information, some of the undercover officers or their associates are seen on the tape having influence on events. At a demonstration last year during the Republican National Convention, the sham arrest of a man secretly working with the police led to a bruising confrontation between officers in riot gear and bystanders.

Shoe Fittings Free of Charge

Bérubé on the end of conservatarianism.

One Decade

Things do change.

Adults Needed


9/11 changed everything. Suddenly the he-men of WalMart and the NRA leaped into Big Brother's arms and shrieked "save me, save me! Do what ever you have to do, they're trying to kill us all!" They now look to Daddy Government not to discipline the children, but to check under the bed for them every night, reassure them that the boogeyman won't hurt them and then read them a nice bedtime story about spreading freedom and democracy. It turns out that underneath all this swaggering bravado, the Republicans aren't the Daddy party --- they're the baby party.


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.

Lies and the Lying Liars

Amazing how conservatives manage to be wrong about the same things simultaneously.

Holy Crap

CanoFun has video of Andrea Mitchell actually doing her job.

Take the Poll

Because your opinion is important.


Oy, watching CNN makes me want to stab my eyes out. Toensing was on bringing up the case of the Aldrich Ames case and saying that because Jamie Gorelick argued that the president had the inherent authority that it's just what Bush did.

For the record I don't think a warrantless search was a desirable thing for Clinton to do, but as Toensing of course knows at that time there was no specific statute covering such things. It led to the expansion of FISA to cover physical searches, and the Clinton administration never aruged that they were not bound by the requirements of the expanded FISA authority. They just argued that since there was a statutory gap the executive had the right. Once that gap was closed, they followed the law.

That is the fundamental issue here - not what the president should and shouldn't be allowed to do with respect to searches, warrantless or not, but whether or not the Bush administration believes they have the right to explicitly break the law. They said they can, they have been, and will continue to do so. That's the issue.

Shorter version:

Clinton said there's no law covering this so we can do this. Congress passes law covering such circumstances. Clinton administration (presumably) follows law and never claims they have the right to not follow the law.

Bush administration situation covered by existing law. Decide they don't want to follow it. Realize Congress won't change law to make them happy. Decide they have Divine Right to explicitly break law. Gives speech saying how proud he was to have broken law.

There is a civil liberties issue, and we can have that debate too, but this is about President Bush willfully and intentionally committing multiple felonies.

Puke Funnel

The Right makes shit up, the RNC puts it out as gospel.

That's Gonna Leave a Mark

York Daily Record destroys former Dover school board wankers:

Investigate perjury in Dover ID case

Judge Jones issued a broad, sensible ruling - finding that some board members lied.

Daily Record/Sunday News

Dec 21, 2005 — They lied.
William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell wanted to bring God into high school biology class, and in the process, they lied.

They lied about their motives.

They lied about their actions.

They lied about what they did or didn't say at public meetings.

They even lied when they claimed newspaper reporters lied in stories about Dover school board meetings.

In his ruling on the Dover case, U.S. Judge John E. Jones III said it was "ironic" that individuals who "proudly touted their religious convictions in public" would "lie" under oath.

Yes, ironic - at the very least. But also sinful according to the 9th Commandment.

And perhaps also criminal. We can only hope that the appropriate authorities are investigating possible perjury charges in this case. There should be some consequences for what Mr. Bonsell and Mr. Buckingham have done in depositions and on the witness stand by otherwise misrepresenting the facts.

Not to mention what they've done to their community.

They've cost Dover its reputation. The district, even after sensibly voting out the entire school board, again has been made a national laughingstock - last week "The Daily Show" aired yet another embarrassing and insulting piece on Dover.

They have potentially cost Dover taxpayers perhaps a million or more in legal fees. The judge has indicated the plaintiffs are entitled to such fees.

The unintelligent designers of this fiasco should not walk away unscathed. They've damaged and divided this community, and there should be repercussions - a perjury investigation - beyond a lost election.

The ruling suggests board members who approved the ID policy were shockingly ill-informed and lackadaisical about what they were getting the district into. They allowed themselves, taxpayers and students to be made grunts on the front lines of the national culture wars without bothering to learn what they were fighting for.

Turns out it was a lie.

Click the link for the rest.

(via E&P)

Santa's On His Way

Just in time:

Dec. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Jack Abramoff, a Republican lobbyist at the center of a U.S. Justice Department-led investigation, may plead guilty in a Florida wire-fraud case as early as next week, a person close to the case said.

A plea a may help federal prosecutors build cases against lawmakers and their staffs in both the Florida investigation and in a related probe of Abramoff's lobbying activity in Washington.

100,000 Years in Prison

Alternate title: Did Assrocket get his law degree from a box of crackerjacks?


If Congress doesn't give us the authority we want we'll just make it up somehow:

QUESTION: Attorney General Gonzales, if the Senate does not reauthorize this provision for the Patriot Act, does the president have the authority under Article 2 and the authorization of use of force to give the go-ahead for these procedures on his own?

GONZALES: What I will say is we continue to have hope that these provisions will be reauthorized.

To the extent that they're not reauthorized, we will look at the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies throughout the government to see what authorities do exist. And we will do what we can do under existing authorities to continue to protect America.

Still Lying

Making shit up is all they know how to do.


At a press conference Gonzales basically just implied that Bush could do whatever the fuck he wanted no matter what Congress does with the Patriot Act.

Open Thread

We saved the world. I say we thread!

More on Posner

From Marty Lederman:

What's remarkable about Posner's Op-Ed is that his whole point is that the FISA law on this presently is (in his view) woefully inadequate to the task. He never even mentions the serious implication of this point, which is that, if he is right that FISA currently prohibits this -- and he is right -- then the Administration's data mining for the past four years has been a violation of criminal law. (No specious suggestions from Posner, who knows better, that this was authorized by the AUMF: He's forthright that the law needs to be amended.)

Posner may be right that current law is too restrictive. Congress should have that debate. But isn't it troubling that an esteemed federal judge seems so indifferent to the fact that, in the meantime -- before the Nation and the Congress have had the opportunity to debate Posner's proposal -- the Nation's Chief Executive is systematically authorizing criminal felonies?

This is the way Posner characterizes what's been happening: "The Defense Department is rushing to fill [the] gaps." I suppose that's one way of putting it. (I can imagine lawyers for criminal defendants with appeals to Posner's court: "Your honor, as you've written, this criminal restriction is very unwise and needs amending. My client was merely rushing to fill the statutory gap.")

Here's the most chilling line in Posner's column, taking euphemism to a new level: "It is no surprise that gaps in domestic intelligence are being filled by ad hoc initiatives." That's Posner's kinder, gentler way of saying "It is no surprise that current federal laws, which unwisely criminalize this conduct, are being circumvented by the President's authorization to commit felonies."

Stop the Local News

Digby pointed this out a little while back but it's driving me crazy. Not Every Single Car Accident Or House Fire For Which There is Film Footage Is Really Deserving of Coverage By A National News Network.


Daou Speak

You listen.


Shorter Bush administration: we have to break the law because we're lazy.

"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."

The Police State

Richard Posner's all for it:

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act makes it difficult to conduct surveillance of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents unless they are suspected of being involved in terrorist or other hostile activities. That is too restrictive. Innocent people, such as unwitting neighbors of terrorists, may, without knowing it, have valuable counterterrorist information. Collecting such information is of a piece with data-mining projects such as Able Danger.

The conservatarian movement is now officially dead.

Open Thread

Why do people keep coming to these threads because it's not the snacks.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005



A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John D. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation.

Two associates familiar with his decision said yesterday that Robertson privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the president in 2001 was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA court's work.

Drudging the Wankosphere

Think Progress explains why Drudge's latest is hooey, doing the work I was too lazy to do.

Nonetheless, we'll see how many wankospherians, including prominent law professors, will pile on.

And They All Fall Down

Byebye Republicans:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 - Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under criminal investigation, has been discussing with prosecutors a deal that would grant him a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against former political and business associates, people with detailed knowledge of the case say.

Mr. Abramoff is believed to have extensive knowledge of what prosecutors suspect is a wider pattern of corruption among lawmakers and Congressional staff members. One participant in the case who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations described him as a "unique resource."

Katherine Speak

You listen:

Look. We have a President here who is making a claim of unlimited power, for the duration of a war that may never end. Oh, he says it’s limited by the country’s laws, but they’ve got a crack legal team that reliably interprets the laws to say that the President gets to do whatever he wants. It amounts to the same thing.

I am not exaggerating. I am really and truly not.

September 11 started the war. When will it end? Maybe never. Where is the battlefield? The entire world, including the United States. Who is an enemy combatant? Anyone the President says is an enemy combatant, including a U.S. citizen–no need for a charge, no need for a trial, no need for access to a lawyer. What if they’re found not to be an enemy combatant? We can keep them in prison anyway, and we don’t have to tell their families they’re alive or their lawyers that they were cleared. What can you do to an enemy combatant? Anything you want. Detain him forever, for the rest of his life, because this is a war like any other and we have always been able to detain POWs for the duration of the war. But you don’t need to follow the Geneva Conventions, because this is a war like no other in our history. And oh yes–if the President decides that we need to torture a prisoner for the war effort, it’s unconstitutional for Congress to stop him. They took that position in an official memo, and they have not backed down from it. They have said it was “unnecessary” but they have never backed down from it.

They are not only entitled to do these things to people; they are entitled to do them in secret. When Congress asks for information about them, they can just ignore it. And they are entitled to actively deceive the public about all this.

That’s the power they claim. At what point are we going to take that claim seriously?

Stoller Speak

You listen.


If there really are 18,000 al qaeda operatives in the country then should we:

a) crap our pants

b) wonder why they aren't being arrested on conspiracy charges

c) wonder what kind of evil sinister terrorist organization with 18,000 members hasn't managed to accomplish much recently.


Drudge is all excited about various previous executive orders. Anyway, I'll let others do the heavy lifting on the precise legalities but right or wrong the argument was always that those executive orders fell clearly within the framework of the FISA statute. In addition those executive orders were, you know, not secret executive orders. The Bushies have argued that what they did was explicitly and deliberately outside statutory authority, or at least they started to argue that once their criminality was no longer secret. It's one thing to claim "law x gives me the right to do y," make that public, and give a court and congress the opportunity to slap you down. It's another thing entirely to say "fuck congress and fuck the courts."

Coin Again

Make sure to drop some change into Digby's tip jar if you have a bit to spare.

Open Thread

She does pretty well with threads from hell.

Evil Plots

They keep reminding us that Bush's illegal wiretap plan uncovered a dastardly plot to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge. Said plot involved bringing down the Brooklyn Bridge with blow torches. It's rather like busting me for my evil plot to blackmail the world's governments for ONE MILLION DOLLARS by threatening to send the moon crashing into the Earth.

But, either way, that isn't the issue. The president broke the law. Repeatedly.

Open Thread

Life?s a thread and we all play a part.

Don't Fuck With Your Own People

Seems like a reasonable rule of thumb:

A few current and former signals intelligence guys have been checking in since this NSA domestic spying story broke. Their reactions range between midly creeped out and completely pissed off.

All of the sigint specialists emphasized repeatedly that keeping tabs on Americans is way beyond the bounds of what they ordinarily do -- no matter what the conspiracy crowd may think.

"It's drilled into you from minute one that you should not ever, ever, ever, under any fucking circumstances turn this massive apparatus on an American citizen," one source says. "You do a lot of weird shit. But at least you don't fuck with your own people."

Dean On Bush’s Conflicting Statements on Secret Wiretap Program

Washington, DC – Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean issued the following statement on the President’s conflicting statements about his possibly illegal plan to spy on the American people:

“The Bush Administration’s secret program to spy on the American people reminds Americans of the abuse of power during the dark days of President Nixon and Vice President Agnew. Why is it that President Bush went in front of the American people and said that a wiretap ‘requires a court order,’ after having approved a wiretap program without a court order two years earlier? It’s time for the President to tell the truth. Americans deserve real answers.”

Bush Then
Bush: Wiretaps “Require a Court Order.” “Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.” [President Bush, 4/20/04,]

Bush Yesterday
Bush: I Authorized Secret Wiretap Program Without Going Through the Courts. “To save American lives, we must be able to act fast and to detect these conversations so we can prevent new attacks. So, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, I authorized the interception of international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. … This program has targeted those with known links to al Qaeda. I've reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for so long as our nation is -- for so long as the nation faces the continuing threat of an enemy that wants to kill American citizens.” [President Bush, 12/19/05,]

Wanker of the Day

Marshall Wittman, who apparently hates the constitution and advocates lawlessness by our elected leaders.

Who's really serious about defending the country?


Go thank Digby for all the free bloggy goodness we've been given over the years. Though, I do miss the good old days when Digby was regular commenter here and I could just C&P those comments and make a post out of them. Sure did make my job easier.

BoBo's World

From Tweety's show:

BROOKS: This is important. This is important -- it's not racist -- when the immigrants -- Listen, I'm for pretty open immigration. But when the immigrants come, they come with a culture of criminality. It's out of control, and I can see people wanting to put the system in control.

Right Wing Liars

They really just never stop lying.

More Bush Wiretap LIes


Beware the Gay


According to recent press reports, Pentagon officials have been spying on what they call "suspicious" meetings by civilian groups, including student groups opposed to the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual military personnel. The story, first reported by Lisa Myers and NBC News last week, noted that Pentagon investigators had records pertaining to April protests at the State University of New York at Albany and William Patterson College in New Jersey. A February protest at NYU was also listed, along with the law school's LGBT advocacy group OUTlaw, which was classified as "possibly violent" by the Pentagon. A UC-Santa Cruz "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" protest, which included a gay kiss-in, was labeled as a "credible threat" of terrorism.

Open Thread

I realize every thread comes with an expiration mark on the package, but I want mine to be a long time from now, like a Cheeto.

Criminal Presidency

NYT sat on story before election.

The New York Times first debated publishing a story about secret eavesdropping on Americans as early as last fall, before the 2004 presidential election.

Oh that liberal agenda driven New York Times.

Time for Pinch and Keller resign in shame, too.

And, of course, we have the return of Danny Boy:

"You are damned if you do and damned if you don't," said Okrent, who often wrote critical reviews of the Times before leaving in May to write a book. "For the right, this information never should have come out. And for the left, it never could have come out early enough."

So, the decision to publish a story should be dependent, in part, on the volume of partisan criticism you expect to receive. I guess that's how they approach the news now.

(via bunch)


Bush speech, April 20, 2004:

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.


(thanks to reader k)



Dec. 19, 2005 - Finally we have a Washington scandal that goes beyond sex, corruption and political intrigue to big issues like security versus liberty and the reasonable bounds of presidential power. President Bush came out swinging on Snoopgate—he made it seem as if those who didn’t agree with him wanted to leave us vulnerable to Al Qaeda—but it will not work. We’re seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator, or in his own mind, no doubt, like Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.

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. He insists he had “legal authority derived from the Constitution and congressional resolution authorizing force.” But the Constitution explicitly requires the president to obey the law. And the post 9/11 congressional resolution authorizing “all necessary force” in fighting terrorism was made in clear reference to military intervention. It did not scrap the Constitution and allow the president to do whatever he pleased in any area in the name of fighting terrorism.

Time for the president to resign.

Shorter Bill Kristol

The president IS king!

fucking hell.

Open Thread

Thread makes you do the wacky.

Mr. Pissy and the Pinch

Stunning. Just stunning.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Open Thread

So when do we destroy the thread already?


Bush is frist!

Boxer Asks Presidential Scholars About Former White House Counsel's Statement that Bush Admitted to an 'Impeachable Offense'

December 19, 2005

Washington, D.C.– U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today asked four presidential scholars for their opinion on former White House Counsel John Dean’s statement that President Bush admitted to an “impeachable offense” when he said he authorized the National Security Agency to spy on Americans without getting a warrant from a judge.

Boxer said, “I take very seriously Mr. Dean’s comments, as I view him to be an expert on Presidential abuse of power. I am expecting a full airing of this matter by the Senate in the very near future.”

Boxer’s letter is as follows:

On December 16, along with the rest of America, I learned that President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to spy on Americans without getting a warrant from a judge. President Bush underscored his support for this action in his press conference today.

On Sunday, December 18, former White House Counsel John Dean and I participated in a public discussion that covered many issues, including this surveillance. Mr. Dean, who was President Nixon’s counsel at the time of Watergate, said that President Bush is “the first President to admit to an impeachable offense.” Today, Mr. Dean confirmed his statement.

This startling assertion by Mr. Dean is especially poignant because he experienced first hand the executive abuse of power and a presidential scandal arising from the surveillance of American citizens.

Given your constitutional expertise, particularly in the area of presidential impeachment, I am writing to ask for your comments and thoughts on Mr. Dean’s statement.

Unchecked surveillance of American citizens is troubling to both me and many of my constituents. I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter as soon as possible.


Barbara Boxer

United States Senator


As Kos points out, Gonzalez is incoherent:

Gonzales says it was okay to spy on Americans without authorization because the war resolution gave them that power. But when asked why they didn't ask for specific congressional authorization, he says, well, Congress wouldn't have given them that power.

Perhaps we should've paid closer attention to Bush's earlier civics lesson for us all:

The legislature's job is to write law. It's the executive branch's job to interpret law.

Shorter Bush & Gonzales:

We make the laws.


John Lewis:

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

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

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

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

The Bush Bounce

It's ginormous:

President Bush's approval ratings do not appear to have changed significantly, despite a number of recent speeches he's given to shore up public support for the war in Iraq and its historic elections on Thursday.

A CNN/USA Today Gallup poll conducted over the weekend found his approval rating stood at 41 percent, with a majority, or 52 percent, saying it was a mistake to send troops to Iraq. More than half, or 56 percent, disapprove of how the president is handling his job, and 61 percent say they disapprove of how he is handling Iraq specifically. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The poll interviews were conducted before President Bush's Oval Office address, which was broadcast on primetime television Sunday. (Read what he said.)

Although half of those surveyed considered Iraq's first full-term parliamentary election since the ouster of Saddam Hussein either a major or key step toward the U.S. achieving its goals in Iraq, only 40 percent felt the U.S. was winning the war. Half said that neither side was winning.

The poll was nearly split, 49 percent to 47 percent, between those who thought the U.S. will either "definitely" or "probably" win, and those who said the U.S. will lose. That said, 69 percent of those polled expressed optimism that the U.S. can win the war. The margin of error for how respondents assessed the war was plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Waterboard Gonzales

Hey, what's the big deal? I mean, it's nothing compared arresting citizens and detaining them indefinitley without charges or access to attorneys!

Q You have stretched this resolution for war into giving you carte blanche to do anything you want to do.

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Well, one might make that same argument in connection with detention of American citizens, which is far more intrusive than listening into a conversation. There may be some members of Congress who might say, we never --

Sure, we broke the law, but we only did it because we thought Congress might not change the law!

Q If FISA didn't work, why didn't you seek a new statute that allowed something like this legally?

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

And, you know, we've like TOTALLY guaranteed that everyone we're wiretapping, even though we don't arrest them, is like SO TOTALLY GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY, and we have our VERY BEST SHIFT SUPERVISORS making sure that's true so shut up.

Q And who determined that these targets were al Qaeda? Did you wiretap them?

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

Q So a shift supervisor is now making decisions that a FISA judge would normally make? I just want to make sure I understand. Is that what you're saying?

(via first draft)

Reid Statement

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

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

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

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

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

“We need to investigate this program and the President’s legal authority to carry it out. We also need to review this flawed congressional consultation system. I will be asking the President to cooperate in both reviews.”

Wanker of the Day

Katie Couric.

Fresh Thread


Feingold and Graham


Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis) responded to Gonzales' comments in an NBC interview this morning. "This is just an outrageous power grab," he said. "Nobody, nobody, thought when we passed a resolution to invade Afghanistan and to fight the war on terror, including myself who voted for it, thought that this was an authorization to allow a wiretapping against the law of the United States. "There's two ways you can do this kind of wiretapping under our law. One is through the criminal code, Title III; the other is through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. That's it. That's the only way you can do it. You can't make up a law and deriving it from the Afghanistan resolution. "The president has, I think, made up a law that we never passed," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.)

My interpretation of the law would be yes, that he did not have the legal authority to do this under the Afghanistan war resolution or under the general powers as commander-in-chief. The Congress in 1978 — and there’s been no effort to modify it in any significant way since that time — understood that circumstances might change, but it did not provide for any circumstance in which the president alone, without consulting any other legal authority, judicial authority, could waive the rights of U.S. citizens to be free from having their phones wiretapped.

Spying on Journalists?

John has a sensible theory, though I think it's a mistake to limit it like this. The fact is we have no way of knowing who Bush was illegally spying on, and given how often they lie we clearly can't take them on their word for everything.

The President's Program

The apologists are incredible.

We don't know who the president was spying on. No matter what it was against the law, but even if you're so frightened by monsters under your bed that you think a little dictatorship is necessary at this time the administration has not given a satisfactory explanation about why this is necessary. FISA warrants can be obtained, retroactively, up to 72 hours after the fact.

Will the press demand an explanation? Or will they just buy this bullshit. It's fucking incredible.

"Secret Prisons - Where People Have Been Tortured - That's Unacceptable"

No shit.


Chat away.

Dictators and Lies

Gonzales argues we have a dictatorship.

Cheney says that if they had the authority they already had they could've stopped 9/11, despite doing nothing to do so, and that therefore they need to illegally spy on Americans even though they can legally do so.

Bush presser at 10:30.

Thanks, Republicans, for supporting this stuff.

Open Thread

Life?s a thread and we all play a part.

Open Thread

The thread I bear is scorching me.

They Write Letters


December 18, 2005

Dear Democratic Colleague:

In his December 17 radio address, President Bush disclosed that, after September 11, 2001, he authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to undertake certain activities that he said were designed to prevent additional terrorist attacks. The President argued that his action was “fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities.”

An article in the December 16 issue of the New York Times, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” has led to the inevitable conclusion that the President was referring to an authorization to allow the NSA to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance of U.S. persons.

When I was advised of President Bush’s decision to authorize these activities, I expressed my strong concerns verbally and in a classified letter to the Administration. The Bush Administration, however, made clear that it did not believe that Congressional notification was required and it also did not believe that Congressional approval was required to conduct these activities. I have attached a copy of my statement on the President’s disclosure.

Yesterday, several of my colleagues and I sent a letter to Speaker Hastert requesting that he immediately take steps to conduct hearings on the scope of Presidential power in the area of electronic surveillance, and that the Speaker and I jointly appoint a panel of outside legal experts to assist the committees involved in those hearings. I have attached this letter for your information.

I have also been advised by Congresswoman Jane Harman, Ranking Democrat on House Intelligence Committee, that the Bush Administration reversed its decision to brief the full House Intelligence Committee on the details of the activities to which the President referred in his radio address. The refusal to provide the Committee with the information necessary to discharge its oversight responsibilities is reminiscent of an Administration directive in October 2001, which severely restricted the flow of information from the intelligence community to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Congressional and public pressure forced the Administration to rescind that directive and I am confident that a similar result will eventually occur on the NSA surveillance issue.

We all agree that the President must have the best possible intelligence to protect the American people. That intelligence, however, must be produced in a manner consistent with our Constitution and our laws, and in a manner that reflects our values as a nation to protect the American people and our freedoms. Our suggestion for hearings and the appointment of an independent panel of experts is fully in keeping with that belief.

Nancy Pelosi
House Democratic Leader

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Open Thread

You know there are quite a few American threads that are highly underrated. This, unfortunately, is not one of them.


Read the speech so you don't have to watch it.

My review: Two snaps down.

Open Thread

When the apocalypse comes... thread me.

I'll Give Him Some Credit

Took a few real questions:

Facing tough questions from battle-weary troops, Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday cited signs of progress in Iraq and signaled that force changes could come in 2006.

Cheney rode the wave of last week's parliamentary elections during a 10-hour surprise visit to Iraq that aimed to highlight progress at a time when Americans question the mission. Military commanders and top government officials offered glowing reports, but the rank-and-file troops Cheney met did not seem to share their enthusiasm.

"From our perspective, we don't see much as far as gains," said Marine Cpl. Bradley Warren, the first to question Cheney in a round-table discussion with about 30 military members. "We're looking at small-picture stuff, not many gains. I was wondering what it looks like from the big side of the mountain - how Iraq's looking."

Cheney replied that remarkable progress has been made in the last year and a half.

"I think when we look back from 10 years hence, we'll see that the year '05 was in fact a watershed year here in Iraq," the vice president said. "We're getting the job done. It's hard to tell that from watching the news. But I guess we don't pay that much attention to the news."

Another Marine, Cpl. R.P. Zapella, asked, "Sir, what are the benefits of doing all this work to get Iraq on its feet?"

Cheney said the result could be a democratically elected Iraq that is unified, capable of defending itself and no longer a base for terrorists or a threat to its neighbors. "We believe all that's possible," he said.

Although he said that any decision about troop levels will be made by military commanders, Cheney told the troops, "I think you will see changes in our deployment patterns probably within this next year."

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

Of course the Veep is nowhere in the chain of command so they didn't need to fear his snarl.

Open Thread

Where do we go from here? When does the thread appear?

Fresh Thread



Somebody gets it:

The White House needs to tell the Pentagon promptly to destroy the records of protesters as required, within three months. It also needs promptly to tell the NSA to return to following the rules, to get the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before monitoring Americans' communications. The idea that all of this is being done to us in the name of national security doesn't wash; that is the language of a police state. Those are the unacceptable actions of a police state.

(tip from the truth)

Gonzales Lied

Claimed Bush didn't authorize anything which went against our criminal statutes when he was doing just that.

The Wankosphere Wanks

Someone misquotes statute, a hack law professor links to it approvingly, and suddenly we have new bullshit talking points.

Open Thread

I don't care what time it is, unlock his cell, unstrap him, and bring him to the thread!

Open Thread

So when do we destroy the thread already?

Things You Learn From Saturday Night Live


December 14, 2005 -- In a highly unusual move, the city's health commissioner has issued an "open letter" to the Jewish community urging that it stop an ancient circumcision practice that has infected seven infants with herpes.
Most mohels, men trained to perform the circumcision, remove blood from the baby using a sterile gauze pad, sponge or rubber suction bulb.

But some Orthodox parents insist on a "suction by mouth" method, in which the mohel puts his mouth to the wound.

"There is no reasonable doubt that the practice of metzitzah b'peh [suction by mouth] has infected several infants in New York City with the herpes virus, including one child who died and another who has evidence of brain damage," said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden.