Saturday, December 31, 2005

Justice Official Objected to Surveillance Program

Add a top Justice Department official to those who recognized the illegality of Bush’s domestic surveillance program, per this report in the New York Times:

A top Justice Department official objected in 2004 to aspects of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program and refused to sign on to its continued use amid concerns about its legality and oversight, according to officials with knowledge of the tense internal debate. The concerns appear to have played a part in the temporary suspension of the secret program.

The concerns prompted two of President Bush’s most senior aides - Andrew H. Card Jr., his chief of staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and now attorney general - to make an emergency visit to a Washington hospital in March 2004 to discuss the program’s future and try to win the needed approval from Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was hospitalized for gallbladder surgery, the officials said.

The unusual meeting was prompted because Mr. Ashcroft’s top deputy, James B. Comey, who was acting as attorney general in his absence, had indicated he was unwilling to give his approval to certifying central aspects of the program, as required under the White House procedures set up to oversee it.

With Mr. Comey unwilling to sign off on the program, the White House went to Mr. Ashcroft - who had been in the intensive care unit at George Washington University Hospital with pancreatitis and was housed under unusually tight security - because “they needed him for certification,” according to an official briefed on the episode. The official, like others who discussed the issue, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the program.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Boston Globe Identifies Problems in Medicare Drug Plans

The Boston Globe has an excellent summary of the problems we are seeing so far with the Medicare prescription drug plan. The problem stems from the initial political goals:

It was clear back in 2003, when the Bush administration rammed this bill through the Republican Congress, that the purpose was not to devise an affordable prescription drug program for seniors. Rather the administration wanted to help two friendly industries, the pharmaceutical companies and the HMOs, and to get bragging rights for the 2004 election that President Bush had helped seniors. Few voters would grasp just how bad the law was, since its effective date was deliberately put off until 2006.

They provide more information on how the plan both provides inadequate benefits for beneficiaries and increases profits for pharmaceutical companies. It should be added that, while the plan is very poorly designed, many who qualify should still strongly consider signing up. The plan is better than nothing for most, and the penalties for signing up after May make it a better deal to sign up by then.

The column has a number of recommendations for improving the plan:

First, get rid of the costly crazy-quilt of private programs and bring the ‘’Medicare” drug program back into public Medicare.

Second, allow Medicare to negotiate bulk discounts the way the VA does.

Third, get rid of the doughnut hole, and design a simplified benefit structure with modest copays and then 100 percent coverage after a set annual cap on out-of-pocket costs.

Finally, if the savings from the bulk price discounts are not quite sufficient to cover the costs of filling in the doughnut hole, take back a little of Bush’s tax cuts to the richest 1 percent.

I have already encountered a number of problems while assisting patients in signing up for the plan. I’ll wait until January, when the plan is actually in operation, to discuss this in more detail.

Republicans Grumbling About Senate Campaign Committee

With the Democrats showing prospects for picking up several Senate seats in 2006, the Republicans are getting nervous. The Wall Street Journal reports:

REPUBLICANS GRUMBLE about party’s Senate campaign committee, which has been outraised by Democratic counterpart. One strategist faults the committee for “wasting its time” handing out “Politician Awards” to Democrats, arguing the gibe is ineffectual. Spokesman Brian Nick says the committee is well ahead of its fund raising compared to this point in the last election cycle. The awards, he adds, cost nothing and have been well received in local media.

Republicans Grumbling About Senate Campaign Committee

With the Democrats showing prospects for picking up several Senate seats in 2006, the Republicans are getting nervous. The Wall Street Journal reports:

REPUBLICANS GRUMBLE about party’s Senate campaign committee, which has been outraised by Democratic counterpart. One strategist faults the committee for “wasting its time” handing out “Politician Awards” to Democrats, arguing the gibe is ineffectual. Spokesman Brian Nick says the committee is well ahead of its fund raising compared to this point in the last election cycle. The awards, he adds, cost nothing and have been well received in local media.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Debunking Myths

There were two excellent posts in the blogosphere this week on debunking myths.

Media Matters for American debunks “Top 12 media myths and falsehoods on the Bush administration’s spying scandal.”

Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan (go blue!) debunks “Top Ten Myths about Iraq in 2005.”

ACLU Runs Ad Calling for Investigation of Bush

The ACLU is calling for a special counsel to investigate whether Bush violated his oath and broke the law with his NSA spying program in an ad in today’s New York Times. A copy of the ad and related documents are posted at their web site.

Bush Adminstration Propaganda Efforts No Longer As Effective

George Bush won reelection largely due to a massive propaganda campaign to justify his policies, including deception regarding the events leading up to 9/11. While many Americans remain continue to believe the misinformation spread by the right wing noise machine, the number is gradually decreasing, as shown in this Harris Poll as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

According to the poll, 48% believe Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, was a serious threat to U.S. security. This is down from 61% last February. The number who believe Saddam Hussein had strong links with Al Qaeda is still amazingly high at 41%, but at least this is down from 64% in February. The number who believe that Saddam Hussein helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001 is down from 47% to 22%. The number who believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded decreased from 36% to 26%. Those who believe that Several of the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11 were Iraqis has fallen from 44% to 24%.

Along with a more realistic view of the pre-war situation, the number who believe the Bush administration on the effects of the war has also changed. The number who believe that The Iraqis are better off now than they were under Saddam Hussein has fallen from 76% to 56%.

The large numbers of people who were so terribly misinformed about the connection between Saddam and 9/11, or believed WMD was present even after the United States conceded they were not present, is an alarming fact in a democracy. Voters cannot intelligently elect public officials when under the influence of such propaganda. Fortunatley, even despite the massive propaganda efforts of the Bush adminstration to deceive the public, the truth is gradually getting out to an increasing number of people.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Vets vs. Chicken Hawks

Democrats have recruited more than thirty veterans of the two Iraq and Persian Gulf wars to run in 2006 according to a count by The Denver Post. The group is calling themselves Veterans for a Secure Ameri ca, and plan to meet in Washington to respond to Bush’s State of the Union Address.

In contrast, Republicans have so far recruited two veterans (one from the Iraq war) to run in 2006. Republicans still plan to run on their bogus claims that they can do a job of keeping America safe. Hopefully voters, who have fallen for this in the past, will think twice after seeing the results of the Republicans’ disasterous foreign policy moves as well as the number of veterans running as Democrats. Republicans are likely to try their old dirty tricks, but can they get away with swift-boating over thirty veterans?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Democrats Look to Take Back Senate in 2006

The Associated Press looks at Charles Schumer, who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and his strategy to pick up seats in 2006. Democrats need to pick up five seats, and Schumer is concentrating on seven races in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Montana, Tennessee, and Arizona.

What looked like a long shot a year ago now looks difficult but possible. Yesterday Robert Novak even gave hopes of a Democratic pick up in yet another state–Mississippi should Trent Lott decide not to run. Novak writes that Republicans in Mississippi believe that if Lott does not run the seat will be picked up by a Democrat, former state Attorney General Mike Moore.

Votes recounted, John Kerry assumes Presidency

That’s a headline we’d all love to see. Unfortunately it appears at The Spoof.

Bush Denied Wiretaps, Ignored FISA Court

As I read more on the Bush wiretaps, things are making more sense–and looking worse and worse for Bush. My initial impression was that Bush was needlessly ignoring the law as, in the post 9/11 climate, I wouldn’t expect him to have much trouble getting any wire taps he wanted approved by the conservatives appointed to the FISA court.

It looks like I was wrong on this. Hearst newspapers reviewed the Bush administration’s wiretap requests to the FISA court and found that they modified far more requests from the Bush adminstration than from the previous four administrations combined. The court modified only two search warrant orders out of the 13,102 applications approved over the first 22 years since the court was formed. Since 2001 they modified 179 of the 5,645 requests for surveillance by the Bush administration. The judges also rejected or deferred at least six requests for warrants during 2003 and 2004. Prior to Bush taking office the court had never outright rejected a request for a wiretap.

It looks like the Bush administration had requests for wiretaps refused or modified, and therefore decided to just ignore the FISA court.

Monday, December 26, 2005

How bin Laden Ruined America With Bush's Help

Robert Steinback of The Miami Herald shows how the reaction to 9/11 did far more harm to this country than the harm caused by the terrorist attacks:

One wonders if Osama bin Laden didn’t win after all. He ruined the America that existed on 9/11. But he had help.

If, back in 2001, anyone had told me that four years after bin Laden’s attack our president would admit that he broke U.S. law against domestic spying and ignored the Constitution — and then expect the American people to congratulate him for it — I would have presumed the girders of our very Republic had crumbled.

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

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

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

After further discussion of these issues, Steinback concludes by asking:

Ultimately, our best defense against attack — any attack, of any sort — is holding fast and fearlessly to the ideals upon which this nation was built. Bush clearly doesn’t understand or respect that. Do we?

Is Bush Drinking?

Is Bush drinking again?

We report, you decide.

Bush Shows Long Pattern of Contempt For Rule of Law

George Bush has come under criticism for his failure to follow the law and exceeded the authority granted by Congress in ordering domestic wire taps. This really shouldn't have come as a surprise as such disregard for the law is the norm in this Administration.

We saw this on health care when the Bush administration threatened to fire Richard S. Foster, the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services if he testified before Congress about the true cost of Bush's Medicare prescription drug program.

The manipulation of intelligence presented to Congress leading up to the Iraq war is another example of such disgregard fro Congress and for the law.

Besides such misuse of intelligence, there was another act during the lead up to the war in which the Bush administration broke the law and misled Congress. The Bush administration diverted $700 million appropriated for use in Afghanistan for use to prepare for an invasion of Iraq without informing Congress.

Such a clear pattern of contempt for the law and the authority of the Congress provides examples of what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they included provisions for the impeachment of the President.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

No Bush Rebound

The CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll is not showing any meaningful rebound for George Bush. His approval is at 41% based on data from December 16-18. While better than his low of 37%, this represents three polls in a row with decreased approval. Plus, this came out before the latest reports on Bush violating the Constitution, and breaking law, with his domestic wiretapping.

Barons Calls For Investigation of The Impeachment of George Bush

While some in the right wing blogosphere are willing to excuse any abuse of power by George Bush, many other conservatives have realized he has gone too far. Bush is finally at risk of losing his base. When Barons is talking about impeachment, it is time for everyone, left and right, to acknowledge that the man is a criminal who does deserve to be removed from office. Following is their editorial (emphasis mine):

Unwarranted Executive Power

The pursuit of terrorism does not authorize the president to make up new laws


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.

It was not a shock to learn that shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to conduct intercepts of international phone calls to and from the United States. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act permits the government to gather the foreign communications of people in the U.S. -- without a warrant if quick action is important. But the law requires that, within 72 hours, investigators must go to a special secret court for a retroactive warrant.

The USA Patriot Act permits some exceptions to its general rules about warrants for wiretaps and searches, including a 15-day exception for searches in time of war. And there may be a controlling legal authority in the Sept. 14, 2001, congressional resolution that authorized the president to go after terrorists and use all necessary and appropriate force. It was not a declaration of war in a constitutional sense, but it may have been close enough for government work.

Certainly, there was an emergency need after the Sept. 11 attacks to sweep up as much information as possible about the chances of another terrorist attack. But a 72-hour emergency or a 15-day emergency doesn't last four years.

In that time, Congress has extensively debated the rules on wiretaps and other forms of domestic surveillance. Administration officials have spent many hours before many committees urging lawmakers to provide them with great latitude. Congress acted, and the president signed.

Now the president and his lawyers are claiming that they have greater latitude. They say that neither the USA Patriot Act nor the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act actually sets the real boundary. The administration is saying the president has unlimited authority to order wiretaps in the pursuit of foreign terrorists, and that the Congress has no power to overrule him.

"We also believe the president has the inherent authority under the Constitution, as commander-in-chief, to engage in this kind of activity," said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The Department of Justice made a similar assertion as far back as 2002, saying in a legal brief: "The Constitution vests in the president inherent authority to conduct warrantless intelligence surveillance (electronic or otherwise) of foreign powers or their agents, and Congress cannot by statute extinguish that Constitutional authority." Gonzales last week declined to declassify relevant legal reviews made by the Department of Justice.

Perhaps they were researched in a Star Chamber? Putting the president above the Congress is an invitation to tyranny. The president has no powers except those specified in the Constitution and those enacted by law. President Bush is stretching the power of commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy by indicating that he can order the military and its agencies, such as the National Security Agency, to do whatever furthers the defense of the country from terrorists, regardless of whether actual force is involved.

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.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Festivus Airing of Grievances

The Festivus Airing of Grievances

Today is Festivus, the nondenominational holiday made famous on Seinfeld. The Festivus celebration includes The Airing of Grievances in which each participate at the Festivus Dinner tells each other all the instances where they disappointed him or her that year. In the spirit of George Lakoff’s “strict father” model for Republican leadership style, for Festivus this year I rant to one and all about all the ways in which George Bush has disappointed me:

George, you twice took an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution and you claim to support judges who look to the intentions of its framers. Yet you take executive powers, and the powers of the commander in chief, far beyond what the framers ever intended. Emergency powers are intended to allow for immediate response to a crisis, not to allow for an indefinite expansion of your powers without legislative approval or judicial review.

You failed in the most important duties of your office, protecting the country when under attack. You ignored the warnings about al Qaeda from your predecessor upon taking office. You ignored warnings in your own intelligence briefings that terrorists planned an attack involving hijacked airplanes, and then on the day of the actual attack you sat down to read a book, possibly for the first time in your life. I hope you enjoyed The Pet Goat. Now if you would only read a few books explaining the background to the problems you have been mishandling.

After failing to take action to protect us from an imminent attack, you totally screw up in retaliating against the wrong country. Your failure to settle matters in Afghanistan before attacking Iraq allowed Bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora when he could have been captured.

Who has your foreign policy helped? You sure helped al Qaeda grow, as Saudi and Israeli studies showed that it was opposition to the war which radicalized those fighting American troops. The other big winner has been Iran as you have spread our military too thin to respond to problems beyond Iraq.

You even considered bombing al-Jazeera. Listen, if you really wanted to get rid of a bunch of religious fanatics and political extremists who were using biased news reports to prop up a corrupt government and reduce freedom you should have gone after Fox News. If Pravda had been as effective in deceiving the public as Fox News and the rest of the right wing noise machine is, the Soviet Union would probably still exist.

Then there’s this Medicare plan of yours. The plan is so messed up that only one million have voluntarily enrolled so far. The rest are people who were automatically signed up because they were already in Medicaid programs. Those in Medicaid programs had their prescriptions paid for at negotiated discount prices, but your plan prevents such discounts in the Medicare programs providing a financial windfall to the pharmaceutical industry at the expense of the taxpayers. What a great deal for the pharmaceutical companies who donated fortunes to you–plus you gave them a great excuse to eliminate their patient assistance programs. Of course don’t forget the insurance industry, which also makes out great thanks to the subsidies you are providing for Medicare managed care plans–plans which have historically been so inefficient that insurance companies will only get involved if they receive such subsidies, again at taxpayer’s expense.

You sure are great for your friends in the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Then there’s the oil companies. How much did they stand to gain if you got away with the ANWR drilling? I’m sure they would have gotten a better deal than the consumers who would have save a whole one cent per gallon at the pump.

Besides undermining our national security and harming the environment, you have run up record deficits to undermine our financial futures while giving huge tax cuts which primarily benefit the rich. You have undermined important parts of the Constitution as you have engaged in illegal surveillance of American citizens, worked to destroy the checks and balances which have so far saved us tyranny, and you have harmed the separation of church and state which is so important to guarantee that everyone can practice (or not practice) religion in the manner they desire.

Your disdain for the democratic process was especially seen in your campaign last year. You both avoided contact with all but firm supporters, and avoided discussing any real issues. You were too afraid of a real discussion of the issues, knowing in such a situation you would be rejected, so instead you based your campaign upon distorting the positions and record of your opponent. I don’t think you ever commented on a single position actually held by John Kerry.

You were even so far off the wall as to suggest that intelligent design be taught in schools as an alternative to evolution. At least you aren’t flip flopping this time (which is something you and not John Kerry has been guilty of). Supporting such superstition over science is consistent with your overall disregard for science. Calling intelligent design a valid alternative to evolution to explain the development of life is as nonsensical as promoting the belief that earth quakes occur because the gods are angry as a valid alternative to geology.

Traditionally, at the Festivus dinner we have the The Feats of Strength. This year I propose that we show our strength by working to remove from Congress those who have collaborated with you and replace them with new members who are willing to vote for your censure or impeachment and restore Constitutional rule as intended by the Founding Fathers. You already have the distinction of being the first President to admit to an impeachable offense in your illegal surveillance, and your lying us into war was an even worse crime. Both are certainly more deserving of impeachment than a private sexual affair and creative uses of cigars.

Next year, when we have a Congress willing to take action against you and to reestablish the form of government envisioned by the Founding Fathers, we can call it a Festivus Miracle.

Now, in the spirit of Festivus, I invite you all gather around an aluminum pole to air your grievances or perform a feat of strength.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Festivus Celebrations Planned for Tomorrow

We are now on the eve of Festivus. Tomorrow we will be celebrating Festivus at The Democratic Daily and The Unofficial Kerry Blog with the traditional Airing of Grievances as well as a Feat of Strength and our very special wish for a Festivus Miracle.

Be sure to visit us tomorrow to celebrate Festivus.

Washington Monthly on Daily Kos

The Washington Monthly looks at Daily Kos. One of our problems with Kos is that, while he bashes those he doesn’t like (such as Kerry) as Bush-lyte without any ideological justification, the candidates he supports are often significantly less liberal than Kerry. Washington Monthly sheds light on this:

The conventional wisdom is that a Democratic Party in which Moulitsas calls the shots would cater to every whim of its liberal base. But though he can match Michael Moore for shrillness, the most salient thing about Moulitsas’s politics is not where he falls on the left-right spectrum (he’s actually not very far left). It’s his relentless competitiveness, founded not on any particular set of political principles, but on an obsession with tactics —and in particular, with the tactics of a besieged minority, struggling for survival: stand up for your principles, stay united, and never back down from a fight. “They want to make me into the latest Jesse Jackson, but I’m not ideological at all,” Moulitsas told me, “I’m just all about winning.”

One of the problems with Kos is that he gave misleading impressions that victory over Bush should be easy, ignoring the difficulties in beating an incumbent during war time. When Kerry lost, the ditto heads at his site blamed Kerry, weakening the party in the long run. The Washinton Monthly gives a reason as to why readers at Kos had unrealistic expectations:

Moulitsas wasn’t just posting any polls, he was selecting those that suggested Democrats—from John Kerry to congressional candidates—were heading for victory, while downplaying less encouraging signs. It left liberals trapped in a bubble of reassurance. Heading into the election, it would have been reasonable to assume from the evidence presented on Daily Kos that Kerry was the clear favorite to beat Bush, and that Democrats were likely to pick up seats in both houses of Congress. When none of these things happened, there was a sense of incomprehension. All of Kos’s confident predictions had been wrong. “It’s a valid criticism. Looking back, I was too optimistic,” Moulitsas told me. “[At] the beginning, I didn’t even know what a margin of error was.”

While I fear it will be quite damaging to Democrats in the long run to allow Kos to appear as an unofficial spokesman, the article does point out that he has not actually been very successful politically:

Worse, Kos hadn’t just fared poorly as an armchair quarterback—he’d been beaten on the field, too. In the Democratic primaries, he first backed Dean, then Wesley Clark. Both sparked grassroots excitement, but ultimately, of course, flamed out. Then, of the 13 Democratic candidates for Congress that Moulitsas handpicked for his readers to support—and for whom he raised over $500,000– not a single one prevailed.

Ultimately where we differ from Kos is that we care about what happens after a candidate is elected. This is all about the government policies we will ultimately have. Therefore we continue to back John Kerry based upon his policy positions, while Kos continues his vendetta against Kerry dating back to when he was paid to support his primary opponent. While on the one hand Washington Monthly gives Kos far too much importance than it has in politics, it also sums up his failings:

Moulitsas is just basically uninterested in the intellectual and philosophical debates that lie behind the daily political trench warfare. By his own admission, he just doesn’t care about policy. It’s here that the correlation between sports and politics breaks down. In sports, as Vince Lombardi is said to have put it, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” When the season is over, you hang up your cleats and wait for the next season. But in politics, that’s not the case—you have to govern, and if you don’t govern well, you won’t get reelected. So while tactics and message are crucial, most voters will ultimately demand from politicians ideas that give them a sense of what a party is going to do once in power. Wanting to win very badly is an admirable and necessary quality in politics, and Moulitsas is right that Democrats have needed it in greater quantity. But it is not really a political philosophy.

Conservative Brainwashing Extends to Children

Conservative parnaoia hits childrens books. In efforts to brainwash children, they use their usual tactic of creating stawmen to attack rather than actually responding to liberal ideas. Here’s the description for Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!:

This full-color illustrated book is a fun way for parents to teach young children the valuable lessons of conservatism. Written in simple text, readers can follow along with Tommy and Lou as they open a lemonade stand to earn money for a swing set. But when liberals start demanding that Tommy and Lou pay half their money in taxes, take down their picture of Jesus, and serve broccoli with every glass of lemonade, the young brothers experience the downside to living in Liberaland.

The Oregonean repors that, thanks to promotion from Rush Limbaugh (who perhaps will also teach kids how to take OxyContin) and the ususal right wing bloggers, the book is in its third printing. Follow up books are planned such as “Help! Mom! Hollywood Is in My Hamper!” and “Help! Mom! There Are Lawyers in My Lunch Box!”

Of course there is a liberal response with Why Mommy is a Democrat.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

John Kerry: A Win for Reform as ANWR Drilling is Removed from Defense Appropriations Bill

As Ron posted a short time ago, the Senate rejected ANWR Drilling. Ted Stevens denied Democratic charges that he violated a Senate rule (see this post for rule violation) "to get the drilling provision inserted into the defense appropriations bill. "There's nothing I've done here that violated the rules," he said."

John Kerry made the following statement after defeating an attempt to include drilling for oil in the Arctic Refuge as part of the Defense Appropriations Bill:

“The Senate today stood up against a dangerous abuse of power and made it clear it’s unacceptable to put oil companies ahead of our troops. We won’t be bullied, we won’t be blackmailed. The lines have rarely been drawn so clearly between right and wrong. It’s wrong to put the wishes of oil companies ahead of brave American soldiers. It’s right to stand up, speak your mind, and follow your conscience by keeping faith with our troops and starting to fix a broken Washington. This is just the start. As long as I have a vote in the United States Senate, I won’t let special interest demands destroy the environment and endanger our energy security. This is a start to the fight to reform Washington.”

Senate Rejects ANWR Drilling

Remember a year ago when Bush thought he had the political capital to do whatever they wanted, and Republicans like Grover Norquist thought they were in complete control and on the way to a permanent majority? It looks like the Republicans have been stopped again:

The Senate blocked oil drilling in an Alaska wildlife refuge Wednesday, rejecting a measure that had been put into a must-pass defense spending bill in an attempt to garner wider support.

Drilling supporters fell four votes short of getting the required 60 votes to avoid a threatened filibuster of the defense spending legislation. Senate leaders were expected to withdraw the legislation so it could be reworked without the refuge language. The vote was 56-44.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

From the Salon War Room

Did Bush lie about wiretaps to cover up his spying program?

Sometimes we wonder why the White House maintains a Web site, let alone one where it's awfully easy to search prior statements and speeches for "gotcha" moments. Once George W. Bush admitted that he signed an executive order authorizing warrantless wiretaps on American citizens, it didn't take the blogosphere long to find statements from the past in which Bush seemed to insist that he never did any such thing.

At an event aimed at talking up the Patriot Act in April 2004, Bush addressed the question of wiretaps. "Now, by the way," he said, "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."

That certainly seems to be different from what Bush is saying now -- that over the past three years, he has authorized and repeatedly reauthorized the "interception" of communications without warrants. John Kerry, among others, wants an explanation. In a statement issued today, the once-and-future Democratic presidential candidate said that prior statements by Bush and Dick Cheney "no doubt were designed to leave the impression with Americans that the government wasn't authorizing the wiretapping of our own citizens without any warrant or oversight by a court," when in fact it was doing just that.

Was Bush lying when he said "nothing" had "changed" and suggested that his administration was continuing to obtain warrants for its wiretaps? Maybe, but maybe he was just choosing his words carefully. We still don't know much about the secret spying program the president authorized. And, as many commentators have pointed out, the program could have involved some sort of widespread communications monitoring or data mining rather than simple "wiretaps," at least as that term is commonly understood. The repeated references to "technical" issues -- in the New York Times report, in the defenses mounted by administration officials, in the extraordinary letter Jay Rockefeller sent to Dick Cheney -- suggest that there's something more than garden-variety listening in going on here.

That's the kind of thing that a congressional investigation could and should uncover. As Kerry said today, "Congress needs a full accounting and real oversight, not executive power run amok without checks and balances and Congress kept in the dark. Americans deserve an honest debate, not more misleading talk, not another public relations offensive when our security and our constitutional rights hang in the balance."

In a message to supporters today, Howard Dean put it even more bluntly. "We need to know whether George Bush went beyond the limits of the law, and whether he and his administration believe that there are any limits at all." In pushing for the release of documents related to the spying program, Dean invoked memories of Richard Nixon, who once said: "If the president does it, it can't be illegal." Nixon learned the hard way that his ideas about the law weren't necessarily true. "This administration," Dean says, "may need a reminder."

Spy Court Judge Quits in Protest

Following up on my last post on the differences between surveillance under Clinton and Carter compared to Bush, this news comes from the Washington Post:

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 G. 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.

Robertson, who was appointed to the federal bench in Washington by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and was later selected by then-Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist to serve on the FISA court, declined to comment when reached at his office late yesterday.

Robertson’s resignation in protest highlights the differences between surveillance conducted in the past, under the rule of law, and the Bush Administration’s refusal to abide by the legal constraints built into the system to attempt to preserve civil liberties in this country.

Right Wingers Falsify History to Justify Bush Crimes

The willingness of many so-called conservatives to make excuses for the Bush Administration, regardless of the degree to which he tramples upon the Constitution, and regardless of the crimes he commits, appears to have no limits.

In the past week, as an example of either his arrogance or stupidity, George Bush became the first President to admit to committing an impeachable offense. The right wing apologists are trying to excuse Bush’s acts by claiming Clinton and Carter committed similar offenses.

There are two problems with this argument. First, even if Clinton or Carter did violate civil liberties, this would not justify the same by Bush. Secondly, their claims are incorrect, as Think Progress has documented. Bush is unique in authorizing such wire taps on American citizens, for ignoring legally required oversight, and for exercising emergency powers for an extended period of time.

Kerry, Isakson Push for Tougher Penalties for Child Internet Pornography

Today, Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) introduced legislation to dramatically increase penalties for anyone who downloads child pornography off the Internet. The current penalty for downloading songs off the Internet is three times the penalty for downloading pornographic materials of children and infants. Their bill also will fix the law to allow adults to sue those who download images of them taken when they were children.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, child pornography has become a multi-billion dollar internet business. Every year, the Center’s Cybertipline receives tens of thousands of calls reporting child exploitation and pornography on the internet.

“It’s really a sad statement that we have tougher penalties for downloading music than for downloading sick images of infants and children. These are the youngest, most vulnerable victims in our society, and it’s our moral responsibility to protect them,” said Senator Kerry.

The bipartisan bill, “Masha’s Law,” which is named after a 5-year-old Russian orphan who was sexually abused by the American man who adopted her, was authored by Kerry and is co-sponsored by Isakson.

“What happened to Masha was a terrible tragedy that should never be repeated. Unfortunately, reminders of her horrific ordeal remain posted on the Internet for all to see every day,” Senator Isakson said. “We must impose more severe penalties against those who download these disgusting images of our nation’s innocent children.”

Kerry was inspired to write this legislation after learning of Masha - a 5-year old girl adopted from a Russian orphanage in 1998 by Matthew Mancuso, who began sexually abusing Masha the first night she spent with him. Mancuso began disseminating Masha’s pictures over the Internet almost immediately, which is what led law enforcement to his home, where they were shocked to find that the victim was Mancuso’s adopted daughter. Subsequently, Masha was removed from the home and Mancuso was arrested, tried and convicted. He was found guilty of 11 counts of child sexual abuse stemming from his abuse of Masha, but her images - hundreds of them - are on the Internet and being downloaded around the world. And while the man who sexually abused Masha and posted the pictures on the web is in jail, the damage will continue until people stop downloading pictures of her off the Internet.

Under current law, a victim of child exploitation is entitled to civil statutory damages in U.S. District Court in the amount of $50,000. If someone downloads a song off the Internet, federal copyright law provides for statutory damages to be awarded to the copyright holder in the amount of $150,000. Kerry’s legislation increases the statutory damages a victim of child exploitation can recover to at least $150,000. This increased penalty will serve as a deterrent to those who disseminate and possess child pornography, as well as a means of compensating victims of this terrible abuse.

The legislation will also fix a flaw in the current law that prevents adults from suing those who download images of them taken as minors. The current statute states that “any minor who is a victim of a violation [of the act] may sue in United States District Court.” This language has been interpreted literally by a federal district court to restrict recovery to only those victims who are under 18 at the time of the crime. Thus, when victims turn 18 they cannot recover against their perpetrators even if pornographic images of them as children are still being distributed via the Internet. Kerry’s legislation would clarify the statute to include victims of child pornography who are injured after they turn 18 by the downloading of their pornographic images.

Kerry on The Bill Press Show, Wednesday Morning

Today, John Kerry did an interview with Bill Press and Christy Harvey for "The Bill Press Show."

The interview will air Wednesday morning at 8:33 a.m. est, on the Sirius Radio Network.

If "The Bill Press Show" doesn't air in your market, you can listen in live at, and they will podcast it later in the day.

I am told, that in the interview John Kerry talks about the wiretaps, the PATRIOT Act, ANWR and other things you won't want to miss!

Conyers Calls for Censure of Bush and Cheney

Conyers Releases Report on Misconduct of Bush Administration Concerning Iraq War
Calls for Censure of President Bush and Vice President Cheney

WASHINGTON - December 20 - Representative John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, released the following statement regarding today's release of a staff report entitled "The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retributions and Cover-ups in the Iraq War." The Report is my best effort to examine all of the charges of misconduct by the Bush Administration concerning the Iraq War.

Conyers Report:

"In brief, we have found that there is substantial evidence the President, the Vice-President and other high ranking members of the Bush Administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq; misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such war; countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Iraq; and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of their Administration. There is at least a prima facie case that these actions that federal laws have been violated - from false statements to Congress to retaliating against Administration critics.

In response to the Report, I have already taken several initial steps. First, I have introduced a resolution (H. Res. 635) creating a Select Committee with subpoena authority to investigate the misconduct of the Bush Administration with regard to the Iraq war and report on possible impeachable offenses. In addition, I have introduced Resolutions regarding both President Bush (H. Res. 636) and Vice-President Cheney (H. Res. 637) proposing that they be censured by Congress based on indisputable evidence of unaccounted for misstatements and abuse of power in the public record. There are a number of additional recommendations in the Report that I expect to be taking up in the coming weeks and months.

The Report rejects the frequent contention by the Bush Administration that there pre-war conduct has been reviewed and they have been exonerated. No entity has ever considered whether the Administration misled Americans about the decision to go to War, and the Senate Intelligence Committee has not yet conducted a review of pre-war intelligence information, while the Silberman-Robb report specifically cautioned, that intelligence manipulation "was not part of our inquiry." There has also not been any independent inquiry concerning torture and other legal violations in Iraq; nor has there been an independent review of the pattern of cover-ups and political retribution by the Bush Administration against its critics, other than the very narrow and still ongoing inquiry of Special Counsel Fitzgerald."

Kerry: White House Spying Unconstitutional, Bush Excuse `Lame’

Glen Johnson, AP Political Writer, reports today that "Sen. John Kerry said Tuesday that the domestic spying authorized by the White House "doesn't uphold our Constitution," and that President Bush offered a "lame" defense in recent public appearances." Kerry also said the "alleged White House leak of a CIA agent's identity was more serious than the media's disclosure of the spying program."

Bush said Monday that it was "a shameful act" for someone to have leaked details of the program to The New York Times, and he suggested the Justice Department is investigating the leak.

Though leaking any classified information is against the law, "there is a world of difference between what the president's engaged in and what was leaked out of the White House," Kerry told reporters after addressing ironworkers at a local labor hall.


The Dover Decision

Judge Jones certainly got it right in the decision. Here’s from the conclusion:

The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions. The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

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

The Real War on Christmas

National Review looks at the Real War on Christmas. Nina Shea looks at countries where Christians really are persecuted rather than talking about the absurd War on Christmas in the United States discussed by many right wingers recently.

Religious persecution is reviewed in many countries. There is one common trend–these countries fail to support separation of church and state. This is something which current Republicans who oppose this important principle should keep in mind. Support for separation of church and state is not an anti-religious position. It is a position necessary to guarantee that all people will remain free to practice (or not practice) the religion of their choice.

Judge Rules Against Teaching Intelligent Design in Biology Classes

From AP reports:

A federal judge has ruled “intelligent design” cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district.

The Dover Area School Board violated the Constitution when it ordered that its biology curriculum must include “intelligent design,” the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled Tuesday.

The school board policy, adopted in October 2004, was believed to have been the first of its kind in the nation.

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

The board’s attorneys said members sought to improve science education by exposing students to alternatives to Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection causing gradual changes over time; intelligent-design proponents argue that it cannot fully explain the existence of complex life forms.

The plaintiffs argued that intelligent design amount to a secular repackaging of creationism, which the courts have already ruled cannot be taught in public schools.

Leading the Charge to Protect ANWR

The battle to keep drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge will rage on tomorrow with Senators Cantwell and Kerry leading the charge.

By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post

The WaPo reports, Drilling opponents will try first to strip the ANWR provision by asserting that it flouts Senate rules against unrelated legislation on spending bills.

If that fails, members from both parties are raising the politically risky prospect of a filibuster that would take 60 votes to break.

Both Kerry and Cantwell have vowed to filibuster. Stevens, the former Appropriations Committee chairman who sponsored the ANWR drilling provision is "a master of legislative larding, but this latest gambit may be riskier than usual." We can best remember Stevens earlier this year for his "Bridge to Nowhere."


John Kerry's Floor Statement on Inserting ANWR Drilling into Defense Appropriations Bill

Earlier today I watched John Kerry on C-Span speaking on the attempt by Senator Ted Stevens to inset ANWR drilling into Defense Appropriations Bill. His passion on this issue, as always, went beyond the as prepared text below.

Text as Prepared for Delivery:

Mr. President, the shame of what’s happening with the Defense Appropriations Bill is that this entire debate in unnecessary. It’s a strong, bipartisan bill that could and should have passed months ago. Yet here we are, just hours before the end of session, and our armed forces still don’t have their funding. For all the talk about supporting our troops, they’re not getting that support from Washington.

Senator McCain got it right when he called this maneuver on arctic drilling “disgusting.”

Let’s be very clear about what’s going on here. Republicans are putting oil companies ahead of our troops. They could have passed the Defense Appropriations Bill months ago. But first the White House, and now the Republican Leadership, decided other interests come before our troops. Their priorities are incredibly misplaced.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Tuesday Should Be A Big News Day

There should be a lot to talk about on Tuesday.

The Washington Post reports on the FBI’s spying on domestic organizations:

FBI counterterrorism investigators are monitoring domestic U.S. advocacy groups engaged in antiwar, environmental, civil rights and other causes, the American Civil Liberties Union charged yesterday as it released new FBI records that it said detail the extent of the activity.

Newsweek shows that Bush is a crook, or as they call it, a law-breaker:

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. . .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.

Plus, Raw Story reports that the Congressional Democrats will be releasing a report entitled, “The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution and Coverups in the Iraq War.” If this isn’t enough, there is also expected to be a ruling in the Dover case on teaching intelligent design.

Right Wingers Deny Horrors of Holocaust

The right wingers are becoming seriously deluded if they really mean what they write. At WorldNetDaily Eric Rush compares the position of Christians in the United States to that of Jews in Nazi Germany. He compares those who laugh at the right wingers’ claims of a War on Christmas to those who denied the existence of the holocaust (perhaps not realizing that to make such an absurd comparison is to deny the actual horrors of the holocaust). He even believes that “there are indeed groups of Americans who are dedicated to eradicating Christianity completely, if at all possible.”

It is absurd to compare the position of Jews in Nazi Germany to that of Christians here, in a nation where over 80% of the population is Christian, well over 90% of elected officials are Christian, and their imagined enemies on the left are dedicated to preserving freedom of religion. This is especially absurd in the current climate where the religious right has been more successful than ever before in imposing their religious beliefs on government decisions.

There are several related articles today on the war on Christmas, and the search for weapons of Christmas destruction, at The Democratic Daily.

West Wing Undecided On Dealing With Loss of John Spencer

Santos McGarry

With the unexpected news on the death of John Spencer, questions remain as to how The West Wing will deal with the loss of a Vice Presidential candiate during an election. Decisions have not yet been made as to how to handle this, as reported by the New York Times:

This season, the show’s seventh, Mr. Spencer’s Leo McGarry has been a critical character. McGarry, former chief of staff to the incumbent president, Josiah Bartlet, is the running mate of the Democratic candidate for president, Matt Santos, played by Jimmy Smits.

So far this season, NBC has broadcast nine new episodes of the show. Mr. O’Donnell said five more episodes had been completed, including the next one - to be shown on Jan. 8 - titled “Running Mates,” which centers on Mr. Spencer’s character. The episode or episodes in which the election takes place have not yet been filmed, Mr. O’Donnell said, nor have producers said when the fictional election would be broadcast.

Mr. O’Donnell said the show’s staff had been on hiatus since last Monday and that questions about whether the next episode would need to be edited - to say nothing of the larger question of how to deal with the loss of a vice-presidential candidate in the midst of a campaign - would not be broached until the next scheduled production meeting, in the first week of January.

While this reports gives the impression that the next show featuring McGarry won’t appear until January, program listings at present do include an episode on the campaign as scheduled for December 25.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

John Kerry Tells Esquire What He's Learned

John Kerry was interviewed for the What I’ve Learned feature in the January Esquire (contents not currently on line). Here’s some of what Kerry had to say:

Unfit for Command was a pack of lies. I said so at the time.
My crew said so. The Navy said so. But a lot of money was put behind the lies. If a lot of money is put behind a lie, it will become the truth for some people–particularly if they don’t get enough of the real truth. I take the blame for not making certain there was moeny behind the real truth. That’s what I meant when I said I should have come back and coldcocked him.

Katrina stripped away the curtain, and we found there wasn’t even a wizard behind it.

They should have gotten him at Tora Bora. They should have gotten him before Tora Bora. They blew several opportunities, and now it’s much harder because oall the bad habits he had–how he talked on his cell phone and the inattentiveness in the way he moved–have all been corrected. So now it’s much more difficult because of what Osama has learned.

A tranformation is taking place, so I’m very encouraged. But we have to translate it into people winning in the House and Senate and governors around the country. That’s one step in anybody changing anything or doing anything. You’ve just got to plow ahead and see where things fall.

One word I’d like on my tombstone to describe myself for generations to come? President would be a good one.

The Honeymoon's Over

Congress might finally be figuring out what it should have been doing for the past five years. The Washington Post has an article entitled Bush’s Fumbles Spur New Talk of Oversight on Hill:

After a series of embarrassing disclosures, Congress is reconsidering its relatively lenient oversight of the Bush administration.

Lawmakers have been caught by surprise by several recent reports, including the existence of secret U.S. prisons abroad, the CIA’s detention overseas of innocent foreign nationals, and, last week, the discovery that the military has been engaged in domestic spying. After five years in which the GOP-controlled House and Senate undertook few investigations into the administration’s activities, the legislative branch has begun to complain about being in the dark.

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

Hopefully this is a sign that the Republicans realize thier failings and we might see some changes:

In an interview last week, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said “it’s a fair comment” that the GOP-controlled Congress has done insufficient oversight and “ought to be” doing more.

“Republican Congresses tend to overinvestigate Democratic administrations and underinvestigate their own,” said Davis, who added that he has tried to pick up some of the slack with his committee. “I get concerned we lose our separation of powers when one party controls both branches.”

Democrats on the committee said the panel issued 1,052 subpoenas to probe alleged misconduct by the Clinton administration and the Democratic Party between 1997 and 2002, at a cost of more than $35 million. By contrast, the committee under Davis has issued three subpoenas to the Bush administration, two to the Energy Department over nuclear waste disposal at Yucca Mountain, and one last week to the Defense Department over Katrina documents.

It is a sure bet that we will see some changes. With his confession today that he broke the law in authorizing domestic wiretaps without a subpoena, along with the manner in which he tried to hide behind national security concerns, Bush has clearly jumped the shark. Even many Republicans in Congress now realize that unless they begin to do their jobs, and separate themselves from the most disastrous Presidency in American history, they are at risk of losing both houses of Congress.

Kerry Spoke Correctly

A letter to the editor I just found on line:

Kerry spoke correctly
Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Herald Courier said, in its Dec. 10 “Thumbs Down column,” Sen. John Kerry “stuck his foot in his mouth by tarring American soldiers.”

I remember the Army, and mostly soldiers do whatever they are ordered to do. Therefore, in Iraq, Kerry was speaking about policy. As well, the civilian population is suffering more than can be imagined; I thought the main American goal is to win the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqi people?

Eighty percent of the Iraqis think that we are foreign occupiers, and oil is our main goal. They want us out because they can see a civil war coming, if it is not already a civil war.

There is another irony here. At least, Kerry knows something about war. In his presidental bid the Bush campaign cut him to threads over his Vietnam Army record. Bush’s Vietnam record speaks for itself.

Even with all the bashing back and forth the worst thing about the war situtation may be the divisions as to the war in this country. To be clear, of course, the killing and maiming of our young and best is always number one.

Iraq is just one small island in the Middle East and Persian Gulf. Everyone should shut up and get our troops out sooner than later. Maybe the historians can sort out the validity of this war. However, at this time, it’s mostly cut and run or stay the course, and the only sure thing is each of us has the right to speak his own opinion.

Charles Gilmer
Lebanon, Va.

Safeguarding Our Way of Life

Our new friend Dave, who visited us in the comments section at The Democratic Daily, has introduced us to his Klansman like friends in a link in order to argue about the need to safeguard our way of life.

Safeguarding our way of life is what this is all about. I responded with suggestings to help safeguard our way of life and thought I should repost them as a separate blog entry:

1) Effectively fight al Qaeda rather than doing exactly what they wanted in attacking Iraq, while allowing Bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora.

2) Contain Iran rather than helping them out by attacking Iraq.

3) Contain North Korea, rather than stretching our military too thin in Iraq.

4) Do something about the rising cost of health insurance which is resulting in 45 million being uninsured and far more being so under-insured that their coverage is virtually worthless. Plus the cost has made our industries much less competitive. See the recent bankruptcy of Delphi, and the problems General Motors are now facing.

5) Preserve the free market system, rather than having a government based upon corporate welfare which is supporting a handful of large companies as they destroy the small business climate in this country.

6) Help keep jobs at home, rather than giving tax breaks to large corporations which encourage out sourcing of jobs to other countries.

7) Protect the environment. Our way of life is dependent upon clean air and water.

8) Find alternative energy sources, which is important both our economy and our national security.

9) Preserve the tradition of separation of church and state established by our founding fathers. Such separation is the only way to guarantee that your religion will remain free to practice its beliefs.

10) Keep the American way of life open to all. Drop the racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia of your right wing friends who count on the fact that you will vote for them in order to prevent two guys from kissing or getting married, even if it means people will go without health care.

11) Preserve the separation of powers and checks and balances written into the Constitution, which the Bush Administration has been weakening.

David Friedman on Attracting Libertarian Votes

David Friedman, libertarian economist and son of Milton Friedman, has started a blog. No guys, stop making those faces. There are people across the political spectrum with valuable things to say, and David Friedman is likely one of them.

One of his first posts suggests that Democrats go after the libertarian vote, such as by supporting legalization of medical marijuana.

This makes a lot of sense. Considering the degree to which Republicans have supported increased government intrusion in individual’s lives, as well as supporting corporate welfare over the free market, the Democrats are currently much closer to Republicans in libertarian beliefs. I remain amazed at the number of libertarians who continue to provide excuses for the Bush administration. While hard core, big-L Libertarians are unlikely to vote Democratic (and if consistent wouldn’t vote Republican either), this message may also be helpful in the indivdualistic western states.

(See The Democratic Daily for further discussion, including a comment from David Friedman)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Are Godless Communists Stealing The North Pole?

I wonder how this will play with the War on Christmas crowd. National Geographic reports that the north magnetic pole is moving rapidly towards Siberia.

Natural phenomenon or Communist plot? We report, you decide.

Congress Protests Bush Domestic Surveillance

The Washington Post reports on Congressional response to the news that Bush authorized spying on American citizens. While many members objected, once (and perhaps future) Republican Senate leader Trent Lott expressed a different opinion. “I don’t agree with the libertarians,” said Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.). “I want my security first. I’ll deal with all the details after that.”

For the rebuttal we go to Benjamin Franklin:

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

Bush Ranked Worst President

George Bush is ranked as least popular President in a survey of the last ten Presidents conducted by the Chicago-based National Qualitative Centers. John Kennedy came in first at 26%, followed by Bill Clinton who edged out Ronald Reagan.

Bush wasn’t in last place in every category. Bush came in first in the categories of most warlike, worst for the economy, and least effective.

RIP John Spencer

John Spencer

John Spencer, who played Leo McGarry (former White House Chief of Staff, and in the current season Vice Presidential running mate to Matt Santos) on The West Wing, died of a heart attack today at age 58.

Kerry, Pryor, Obama Provision to Help Troops Save Thousands on Their Taxes Passes Senate

A provision offered by Senators John Kerry, Mark Pryor and Barack Obama to protect our troops from losing an important tax credit passed the Senate today. This provision, added to the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005, will continue giving men and women serving in the military the option of applying their pay earned in a combat zone toward the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The original tax legislation was authored and passed under the leadership of Senator Mark Pryor in 2004.

The measure is endorsed by the National Military Family Association.

The EITC is a refundable tax credit that supplements the earnings of low- and moderate-income workers and has proven to be an extremely effective tool to fight poverty. As it was originally written, their pay earned in a combat zone was not counted toward the credit, which prevented service members from receiving thousands of extra dollars under the program that they would otherwise qualify for. The current provision allowing pay earned in a combat zone to count toward the EITC expires at the end of 2005, and the amendment would provide an extension of this fix through the end of 2006.

Our troops fight bravely for our country everyday. They shouldn't be punished by a glitch in the tax code because they are deployed in a combat zone. Combat pay is supposed to help families, not hurt them,” Kerry said. “We’ve seen how effective the earned income tax credit has been in helping American families make ends meet, and I am proud that the Senate has made this a reality for our military families. Now we have to get President Bush to sign it into law."

“Our soldiers serving in combat risk life and limb every hour of every day; they do not deserve to be penalized when it comes to tax relief,” Pryor said. “Allowing this tax benefit to expire would have meant shortchanging men and women serving heroically in combat who are not making much money, have families to provide for and have little or no savings or spousal income. Extending this legislation sends a clear message to our brave service members that while they are away fighting for us we will be here in the Senate fighting for them and their families.”

“This legislation is just common sense,” said Obama. “When our troops put their lives on the line to protect ours, they should be allowed to count their combat pay in qualifying for larger tax credits to help support their families back home. If the Senate had not acted today, many of our troops would have faced a tax increase next year.”

Joyce Wessel Raezer, Director of Government Relations for National Military Family Association said, “NMFA believes this provision must be made permanent to ensure young military families-who often find themselves in a precarious financial situation-retain the tax benefits they to which they would normally be entitled. They should not lose their eligibility for the important relief provided by the Earned Income Tax Credit simply because their servicemember has deployed to a combat zone.”

Democrats to Fight ANWR Drilling in Defense Bill

I posted yesterday about Senator Stevens plan to insert ANWR drilling into the Defense Department budget bill. It's astounding that that they keep hammering away at this absurd idea that there is enough oil to make a difference. The BIG OIL folks with their BIG OIL agenda will stop at nothing to try to slip this by. Senate Democrats said on Thursday "they will fight an effort by Republicans to use a must-pass Defense Department budget bill to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling."

Tapping into the refuge's potential 10 billion barrels of crude oil is a key part of the Bush administration's national energy plan to boost domestic petroleum supplies and reduce America's addiction to foreign oil imports.

Drilling supporters see attaching the ANWR provision to the defense spending measure as their last-ditch effort to finally give oil companies access to the refuge after a group of House of Representative Republicans threatened to kill a separate budget deficit reduction bill if that legislation contained the drilling language.

Most Democrats are against drilling in the refuge and argue the Defense Department budget bill should not be used to settle the issue.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said if the ANWR drilling language is in the defense spending legislation Democrats would argue it violates Senate rules because the provision is not related to defense issues. "The (Senate) parliamentarian will rule in our favor," Reid told reporters.

"It's appalling that the United States Senate is willing to hold our troops and hurricane victims hostage to their desperate attempts to satisfy big oil and drill in the Arctic Refuge," said John Kerry.

The Sierra Club sent out an Action Alert -- "Call your Senators RIGHT NOW at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to do everything in their power to stop the drilling lobby from hijacking the Defense spending bill with Arctic Refuge drilling."

Un-named Senator Stalls Intelligence Spending Bill

AP News is reporting that "one unidentified Republican is objecting to some portion" of the intelligence spending bill and that's created a snag in "legislation that would force the Bush administration to divulge more about secret CIA prisons and the prewar Iraq intelligence."

It's unclear who the senator is or what the precise objections are.

Two separate amendments -- from Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and John Kerry, D-Mass. -- would require the national intelligence director to provide classified information on secret CIA prisons to congressional intelligence committees. The agency has not acknowledged that the sites exist.

The intelligence bill -- much of which is classified, "broadly sets spending for the more than $40 billion U.S. spy agencies."

Congressional aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity while the legislation's status was in flux, said at least one unidentified Republican is objecting to some portion of the bill, which could otherwise be passed unanimously by voice vote. That process would allow the Senate to quickly finish the legislation before the holidays and begin negotiating its differences with the House early next year.

Kerry's spokeswoman April Boyd noted the Senate already approved his secret prisons amendment on another bill this year.

"He would welcome another vote and another strong message from Congress to the administration that they cannot keep Congress in the dark," she said.

On Wednesday, Kennedy said he could find no reason why Congress shouldn't have the presidential briefings "now that the president's insisted that we had all the information."

John Kerry: Romney Should Focus on Massachusetts

Governor Mitt Romney confirmed last night that Massachusetts yesterday pulled out of a landmark multistate pact to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from Northeast power plants. Rhode Island has also dropped out of the pact, according to two government officials involved in the negotiations.

In a statement today on Romney's decision John Kerry said: Romney Should Focus on Massachusetts.

“Republican presidential nominating politics should never trump the health of Massachusetts families. By dismissing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Governor Romney is joining the wingnuts in his party who think climate change is a 'hoax.' I wish the Governor would listen to sound science that says we have to address this problem, families who want their kids to breathe clean air, and those of us who want to grow the high-skilled jobs Massachusetts needs to stay competitive in technological innovation and environmental protection.”

John Kerry: Senate Holding Our Troops and Hurricane Victims Hostage to Big Oil Interests

CQ Today reported yesterday that "Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said hurricane disaster relief would be put on the same bill as ANWR - either the budget savings package or on the Defense appropriations bill (HR 2863)."

Stevens chairs the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. “It’s going to be awfully hard to vote against [hurricane aid],” Stevens said. “If it’s in there, maybe people will vote with me on ANWR.”

John Kerry responded today that the Senate is holding our Troops and Hurricane Victims hostage to Big Oil Interests:

“It’s appalling that the United States Senate is willing to hold our troops and hurricane victims hostage to their desperate attempts to satisfy big oil and drill in the Arctic Refuge. There’s no more infuriating example of this Congress putting corporate welfare over the public good. No wonder Americans are fed up with Washington. The American people aren’t interested in selling off America’s wilderness to the Republicans’ buddies at the oil companies. It’s time for Congress to end these backroom special interest deals and instead use the remaining hours of session to do right by our troops and the people of the Gulf Coast who have sacrificed so much.”

John Kerry: SBA Needs to Help Gulf Coast Instead of Holding Press Conferences

With SBA Administrator Hector Barreto on his way to Capitol Hill for yet another press conference to spin away the SBA's failure to help small businesses in the Gulf Coast devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Senator John Kerry, top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, issued the following statement:

“This administration should be ashamed of the SBA's response to Katrina. Hector Barreto is not doing a heck of a job. Out of more than 300,000 applications, they've only approved 20,251. Small business owners throughout the Gulf Coast are still hurting months after Katrina, but the Small Business Administration's leadership is offering them only hurricane force spin. There's no sense of urgency, no understanding of the challenge that lies ahead. For the SBA Administrator to stand up and brag about their success completely ignores what's happening in the Gulf Coast. Administrator Barreto needs to either lead, or get out of the way. They need to stop stalling and stonewalling and make the Republican Congress pass our Small Business Relief legislation to help the Gulf Coast.”

Read more »

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Far Right Republicans Return To Their Roots

Those in control of the Republcan Party today are those who were on the fringe in the not too distant past. They have far more in common with the Birchers, KKK, and neo-Nazis than with traditional Republicans. With their support eroding they are falling back to their old tactics to maintain their base, as we see an increasing use of code words for anti-semitism and racism. A column at attempts to deny the growing anti-Semitism on the right which is fueling their claims of a war on Christmas. I do not find passages such as this very reassuring:

The sad fact is that the ACLU is made up in good part of Jews, and it is that organization and its lawyers who are leading the assault against Christmas. What makes it particularly unfortunate is that most Jews are not only opposed to the policies of the ACLU, but are embarrassed by and ashamed of the organization. However, when every ACLU lawyer who appears on TV to announce the latest attempt to remove Christian symbols and traditions from America seems to be Jewish, it’s all too easy for Christians to assume the rest of us support this vile campaign.

Bush Authorized Spying on Americans

While Bush claims to be spreading democracy to justify his actions in Iraq, the New York Times reports on yet another of his actions to decrease liberty at home:

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible “dirty numbers” linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

Congress doesn’t see same intelligence as president

A nonopartisan congressional research agency report reviewed by Knight Ridder shows that the Bush Administration claims that Congress had access to the same intelligence information as the White House were untrue:

President Bush and top administration officials have access to a much broader ranger of intelligence reports than members of Congress do, a nonpartisan congressional research agency said in a report Thursday, raising questions about recent assertions by the president.

Bush has said that Democratic lawmakers who authorized the use of force against Iraq and now criticize the war saw the same pre-invasion intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction that he did.

The president made that claim in recent speeches about Iraq. Support for the war has decreased, and critics have said that the administration misled the country when it relied on erroneous intelligence about Iraqi weapons programs that supported its case for war and discarded information that undermined it.

“Some of the most irresponsible comments - about manipulating intelligence - have come from politicians who saw the same intelligence I saw and then voted to authorize the use of force against Saddam Hussein,” Bush said on Wednesday in his most recent speech. “These charges are pure politics.”

The Congressional Research Service, by contrast, said: “The president, and a small number of presidentially designated Cabinet-level officials, including the vice president … have access to a far greater overall volume of intelligence and to more sensitive intelligence information, including information regarding intelligence sources and methods.”

Republican Convicted in Phone Jamming Scandal

From (email alert):

CONCORD - A federal jury found Republican consultant Jim Tobin guilty on two counts of telephone harassment and innocent in the much harsher conspiracy charge all relating to the 2002 Election Day phone jamming scandal.

Kerry Jokes About Impeachment, Some Bloggers Don’t Get It

Despite all the stereotypes in the press we are learning once again what we already knew–John Kerry has a sense of humor. When in small groups with friends he talks just like we do, in this case questioning why if Clinton was impeached for misleading the country, Bush might not be impeached for the same should the Democrats take control of Congress.

No big deal, except some bloggers appear to be the ones lacking a sense of humor. We’d expect Rush Limbaugh to come up with his usual nonsense, but I’d expect better from liberal bloggers. After the clarification came out that Kerry was joking, some bloggers are attacking Kerry for not actually calling for impeachment, and taking this as an overall sign of Democratic weakness.

It’s one thing for John Kerry to talk about impeachment in private. As David Wade said in his email response to this report, “Impeachment jokes in Washington are as old as Don Rumsfeld and as funny as Dick Cheney is gruff.” It’s another matter for a Senator to formally call for impeachment at this point. First of all , acts of impeachment are initiated in the House, not the Senate. Secondly, it is premature to call for impeachment before a formal mechanism is initiated to investigate the the crimes.

The proper and sensible course of action is not to call for impeachment at this point but to work to reveal the manner in which Bush has deceived Congress and the country. John Kerry has been doing this, just as he worked to expose the BCCI and Iran Contra scandals. The bloggers who think that calling for impeachment now will increase Democratic votes are spending too much time listening to other liberals and not enough time considering the country as a whole. At the moment, only 32% of the country favors impeachment. While not a good sign for Bush, this is far from enough people to give Democrats control of Congress. I bet a far larger number would support a more general platform supporting holding Bush accountable.

Hey guys, there are real issues out there. I’ve backed John Kerry because of the way he has intelligently looked at these problems and proposed solutions. I don’t care whether he’s joking or serious when bringing up impeachment.

As for the Republicans who are protesting, it would be interesting to hear exactly how they can justify impeaching a President over a private sexual affair and but not for lying the country into a war.