Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Feingold snares Gonzales

Senator Russ Feingold, my presidential candidate, has caught AG Abu Gonzales lying under oath.
In a letter to the attorney general yesterday, Feingold demanded to know why Gonzales dismissed the senator's question about warrantless eavesdropping as a "hypothetical situation" during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in January 2005. At the hearing, Feingold asked Gonzales where the president's authority ends and whether Gonzales believed the president could, for example, act in contravention of existing criminal laws and spy on U.S. citizens without a warrant.

Gonzales said that it was impossible to answer such a hypothetical question but that it was "not the policy or the agenda of this president" to authorize actions that conflict with existing law. He added that he would hope to alert Congress if the president ever chose to authorize warrantless surveillance, according to a transcript of the hearing.

Ouch. When will the perjury charges be filed? Hardy-har-har.

WaPo: Gonzales is challenged on wiretaps

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The attack on science continues

This first came on my radar screen a month or so ago, and now it's in the NY Times. According to NASA's "top climate expert", higher-ups (read: political appointees) have told him to put a cork in it when talking about global warming.
But Dr. Hansen said that nothing in 30 years equaled the push made since early December to keep him from publicly discussing what he says are clear-cut dangers from further delay in curbing carbon dioxide.

In several interviews with The New York Times in recent days, Dr. Hansen said it would be irresponsible not to speak out, particularly because NASA's mission statement includes the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet."

Dr. Hansen is loyal to science (gasp!), but the lackees above him are loyal to party.
But Dr. Hansen and some of his colleagues said interviews were canceled as a result.

In one call, George Deutsch, a recently appointed public affairs officer at NASA headquarters, rejected a request from a producer at National Public Radio to interview Dr. Hansen, said Leslie McCarthy, a public affairs officer responsible for the Goddard Institute.

Citing handwritten notes taken during the conversation, Ms. McCarthy said Mr. Deutsch called N.P.R. "the most liberal" media outlet in the country. She said that in that call and others, Mr. Deutsch said his job was "to make the president look good" and that as a White House appointee that might be Mr. Deutsch's priority.

It's not news that the Bush and their knuckle-draggers on the right have an open hostility toward scientists, professionals, and the educated. Anyone recall Bush's reaction to the 2002 EPA report about global warming?
"I read the report put out by the bureaucracy."

Or how about the DOJ's reaction to its lawyers suggesting that a voter identification law in Georgia be rejected due to its discriminatory nature?
A team of Justice Department lawyers and analysts who reviewed a Georgia voter-identification law recommended rejecting it because it was likely to discriminate against black voters, but they were overruled the next day by higher-ranking officials at Justice, according to department documents.
State Rep. Tyrone L. Brooks Sr., a Democrat and president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, said he was not surprised by the Justice Department's position in the case.

"Some of my colleagues told me early on that, because of politics in the Bush administration, no matter what the staff recommendation was, this would be approved by the attorney general," Brooks said. "It's disappointing that the staff recommendation was not accepted, because that has been the norm since 1965."

(FYI, that law was struck down as unconstitutional by a federal district court, which stated that the photo ID requirement was the equivalent of a poll tax, and the ruling was upheld by the circuit court.)

And then, of course, there's good ol' Dover.
Considering the (legal) bill, former student Max Pell said it was almost a joke that the board that voted for the policy came into power on a platform of saving money on a new school building project.

Pell is a Penn State pre-med student who spoke against the concept of intelligent design during one of the June 2004 board meetings and was ridiculed by former board member Bill Buckingham.

The New Dark Ages can't be far off.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The "No Hillary" campaign has begun

I've already started to allude to my own misgivings about Hillary Clinton running for President. She gives me the impression that she stands for nothing but her own power gain. Many of her stances are hard to fathom, unless she really is just to the left of Ben Nelson.

Well, the "don't run, Hillary" drumbeat has begun. Molly Ivins had this to say:
I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.

Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.

Right on. I'm a Russ Feingold guy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Santorum goes ape

Which is possible since he has disavowed intelligent design.

America Blog is reporting that Santorum went off on a reporter getting off the subway.
It seems a reporter approached Santorum just as he got off the train and asked Santorum something to the effect of: "Can you tell me about the 'K Street Project.""

Santorum's response?

He started screaming, according to our source. "It's just a meeting!", Santorum reportedly yelled (again, in public, right near the Senate cafeteria where lots of folks are gathered). "What Harry Reid said Wednesday [when he announed the Democrats' ethics reform package] is a total lie!"

In fact, the K Street Project is an infamous little conspiracy that Tom Delay created back in the 1990s, and Santorum is the Senate's liaison to that little conspiracy.

A sinking ship tends to put a person in a foul mood.

America Blog: Santorum blows his stack at reporter in public today

Can't argue the facts? Can't argue the law? Distort the facts and the law!

More things are trickling in on Abu Gonzales' Georgetown speech. From insomnia:
Future American lawyers to be proud of
Fortunately for him, it was a brief speech... followed by a panel discussion that basically ripped his argument a new asshole.

Patriot Act talks stalling?

Washington Post: Patriot Act talks hit roadblock on privacy issues

So, who's going to budge first? The defenders of the Constitution or the enemies of the Constitution?

Better pic from Gonzo at Georgetown

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Wear Your Bigotry on Your Sleeve Day in Harrisburg; First Semi-Regular Harrisburg Hoser Award

Today marked Wear Your Bigotry on Your Sleeve Day as all the haters trotted out an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution, HB 2381, that would ban gay marriage and not recognize legal status for unmarried individuals. More on that in a minute, but first...

It's time to introduce NLM's new Semi-Regular Harrisburg Hoser Award. Named for the famous insult coined by SCTV's the McKenzie Brothers, this award will be presented when it is deemed necessary for those in Harrisburg in state government or connected to state government (or whoever I just feel like giving it to) who act like, well, hosers. And so, without further delay, the 1st winner of the Harrisburg Hoser Award is...

Rep. Tom Yewcic (D-Cambria and Somerset)! That's right, Rep. Yewcic, congratulations. I managed to stomach about 30 minutes of the haters' rally tonight on PCN, and there were plenty of candidates for the first Harrisburg Hoser Award, but Rep. Yewcic took the cake. This DINO stated that if the marriage amendment is not passed, "words like mother and father, husband and wife will become obsolete." And before he spoke, I bet you didn't know that marriage was on the verge of extinction.

(Speaking of which, I wonder how many of those lawmakers standing up there are divorced or have cheated on their wives or have paid for a girlfriends' abortion. How could gays threaten the institution of marriage any more than we heteros are?)

So, to recap, according to Yewcic, Susan the accountant and Lisa the lawyer down the street who live a perfectly normal, quiet life are a threat to wiping my family and I away. My G_d, man, someone call the NSA to start wiretapping those people!

Rep. Yewcic's award is a pay raise.

Thankfully, there was some voice of reason in Harrisburg today as the Value All Families Coalition held a press conference to counter the haters' message.

"The reality is this is an anti-family amendment," said Stacey Sobel of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights. "It will negatively impact many families and could take away some of the rights that protect them today. This is what would be accomplished by those who want to write discrimination into our state constitution."

"This is a political and divisive attack on thousands of families across Pennsylvania," said Larry Frankel of the ACLU of PA. Frankel noted that not only are gay couples impacted by the amendment but unmarried heterosexual domestic partners are also endangered. Sobel later cited other states that have amended their constitutions with similar language that led unmarried, heterosexual domestic violence victims to be denied protection from their abusive boyfriends.

The advocates weren't the only ones speaking as Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) (no relation to Larry) said that if the amendment passes, "we are going to become the backwater of the United States."

History 101

What's wrong with this?
Stepping up the Bush administration's defense of the National Security Agency's eavesdropping program, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales today cited a long history of military surveillance conducted without warrants, going back to George Washington's reading of captured mail between the British and Americans during the Revolutionary War.

Maybe it's the fact that what we know now as the 4th Amendment didn't exist.

NY Times: Administration continues eavesdropping defense

I love young idealists

And their sign says, "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither. --Ben Franklin".

It only took 215 years

PA Senator Stewart Greenleaf announced Monday that he is introducing legislation to establish an "innocence commission" to study why innocent people are convicted in PA. The Central Pennsylvania Abolitionist is all over it.
New criminal justice study in PA?
PAUADP on innocence commission
Greenleaf officially introduces bill to establish the Innocence Commission of Pennsylvania
The purpose, as reported here previously, is to examine "the causes of wrongful conviction and finding the best methods of reducing the chances that what happened to Thomas Doswell will not happen to any other person."

Now, I can tell you the reasons:
1. Underpaid, overworked, underfunded, sometimes unskilled defense attorneys for the poor
2. Prosecutorial misconduct
3. Police misconduct
4. The impact of race
See? That was easy. They can just forget the commission and give me the money that would have been spent.

Swann ducks, Scranton dodges, the people lose

The more things change, the more they stay the same. After the pay raise debacle, you would think that PA politicians would understand that they must answer to the people. Yet, after Lynn Swann decided not to take part in Wednesday's scheduled GOP gubernatorial debate in Harrisburg, Bill Scranton withdrew, too. That only left Jim Panyard, so the co-sponsors of the debate cancelled the event.

"Bill's an aristocrat," Panyard said. "He certainly doesn't want to debate the son of a factory worker."

Swann is only willing to debate Scranton after February 11, when the state GOP endorses a candidate.

"The reason voters do not have more choices at the polls is because, in many cases, a few decide who gets on the ballot," said Paula Harris, CEO of Andrew Young National Center for Social Change, one of the debate's co-sponsors. "Deals are made behind closed doors to keep people off the ballots that want to run for public office."

I would love to laugh at the Repugnantcans on this, but, alas, Bob Casey dodged a debate tonight with Chuck Pennacchio and Alan Sandals in the Dems' Senate race. The only difference in the two situations is that Swann actually has competition. Nevertheless, Casey missed an opportunity to actually tell us what he thinks.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Baer: Why is Swann ducking?

John Baer, political columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, got in his shot at Lynn Swann for ducking a debate with Bill Scranton the same day that I took my swipe.

Baer: Why is Swann ducking a Scranton debate?
The biggest question about Swann is whether he knows anything.

By declining to appear at a scheduled Harrisburg debate next Wednesday with Scranton and businessman Jim Panyard (a GOP candidate not seeking party backing), he doesn't answer the question.

Instead he says one, two or three things:

1. I have more momentum than Scranton, maybe even sewed up the endorsement, and don't want to screw the pooch now.

2. I've gotten this far on glitter, grip and grin, so no need to change game plans.

3. Everyone's right, I know nothing, but I know enough not to show it.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Google: The E-Freedom Fighter

People who are paying attention know this by now, but Google is fighting a subpoena for records on searches done in June and July of 2005.

The NSA 3-way calling scandal enlightened us to the Bush adminstration's disregard for the use of search warrants, not to mention the 4th amendment, so it's no surprise that now they're searching phrases rather than people. And, of course, searching that phrase could sweep up millions of people, potentially.

Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft all complied with the same request. This comes on the heels of the reports that both Yahoo and Microsoft have cooperated with Chinese authorities in cracking down on dissidents. Yahoo's release of e-mails helped put a man in jail.
Business, and repression, as usual
The Internet may be new, but not the issue of whether an American corporation should do business with bad people. Many an American fortune was based on the slave trade or exploitation of the Indians or some such atrocity. According to allegations in a recent book, IBM did business with Nazi Germany and, more recently, a good number of U.S. corporations helped the old apartheid regime in South Africa with its security concerns. Capitalism has always been amoral, eschewing moral considerations for the only one that counts: Will the check clear?

The use of Chinese labor by U.S. companies has long been a concern of many. In those situations, companies are taking advantage of Chinese citizens by paying them a pittance, but that pales in comparison to helping put a citizen in jail for researching or expressing views the PRC doesn't like.

Cheers to Google. And jeers to Yahoo and Microsoft.

Operation Misinform America, Part IV

If you don't pay a lot of attention to the blogosphere, you might not be aware that there is a big ol' dust-up over a column written by Deborah Howell, the Washington Post's ombudsman, which is a term I haven't totally figured out. A "readers' advocate"? Anyway, Howell wrote that Jack Abramoff donated campaign funds to both Repugnantcans and Democrats, and the southpaw bloggers jumped her for it. And, by the way, Lou Dobbs is still reporting that Abramoff gave to both parties, which is completely false.

Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo said this about the controversy:
But the whole blow-up has created this subdiscussion about whether honorable press types like Howell and others are being mauled and knocked around and generally abused by cyber-ruffians who have been on her case over the last few days.

This stuff isn't always pretty. But, really, thank God those folks are on her tail because shoddy reporting isn't pretty either.

So much of the imbalance and shallowness of press coverage today stems from a simple fact: reporters know they'll catch hell from the right if they say or write anything that can even remotely be construed as representing 'liberal bias'. (Often even that's not required.) Indeed, when you actually watch -- from the inside -- how mainstream newsrooms work, it is really not too much to say that they operate on two guiding principles: reporting the facts and avoiding impressions of 'liberal bias'.

On the left or center-left, until very recently, there's simply never been an organized chorus of people ready to take the Howells of the press biz to task and mau-mau them when they get a key fact wrong. Without that, the world of political news was like an NBA game where one side played the refs hard and had roaring seats of fans while the other never made a peep. With that sort of structural imbalance, shoddy scorekeeping and cowed, and eventually compliant, refs are inevitable.

This is evening the balance, creating a better press.

It's like I said on Friday: These are people who have been kicked around for a long time, are sick of it, and have the energy to fight back. Here, here!

Feds: Have armor, lose life insurance

Karl Rove recently encouraged Republicans to run on national security issues in 2006, but the only way that strategy can work is if the Repugnantcans lie and misinform America. At the least, the GOP can't run on the claim that they support our troops.

A week after the report that 80% of soldiers killed in Iraq from upper body wounds could have survived if they had the proper body armor, now comes a report that soldiers who purchased body armor on their own could lose their federal life insurance if they are killed in Iraq.

So, let's run through the Bush record on supporting our troops:
1. Cut VA funding.
2. Start a pre-emptive war on bad intelligence, which plenty of experts both inside and outside of government knew was faulty.
3. Send soldiers into war without armored vehicles.
4. Send soldiers into war without sufficient body armor.
5. Send soldiers into war without sufficient troop levels.
6. Cut life insurance when soldiers take the initiative to buy their own body armor.
With a friend like this, who needs enemies?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Yet another issue on which to raise our voices loudly: Child sex slaves

Those of us who enjoyed and appreciated Bowling for Columbine (back in the days before anyone knew who Michael Moore was, before he became the lead comrade of the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy) tend to be a little cynical about the MSM's (over)reporting of violent crime. "If it bleeds, it leads," and while crime rates have gone down, reporting of crimes has gone up.

It's hard to get a handle on whether or not the media blows the issue of sexual abuse of children in America out of proportion. As we know, the abuser usually knows the victim, but it is the stranger who randomly kidnaps a child that gets the most media attention, a crime that is significantly less likely to happen than acquaintance abuse.

I know victims of child sex abuse and don't want to downplay it or act like it's not a problem. It alters lives.

I've said that to set this up: There is another child sex abuse issue that does not get nearly the attention from the MSM that it should- children around the world in slavery for sex. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times delivers a devastating (and much too short) piece in Sunday's Times on the issue.
Historians will look back in puzzlement at the way our 21st century world tolerates the slavery of more than a million children in brothels around the world.

That's the lead, but later Kristoff delivers this.
The Lancet, the British medical journal, has estimated: "The number of prostituted children is thought to be increasing and could be as high as 10 million."

Kristoff reports from Calcutta and delivers the story of Geeta Ghosh, who was sold into sex slavery when she was 12, before she had even had her first period.

This issue came right in my face a month or two ago in a graduate class at Penn State. One of my classmates is a police officer in a major northeast city. She has done work on this issue in her city. She told us that she watched a home where children from Latin America were brought in to work as sex slaves and that the kids are rotated from city to city. She spent hours watching men go in and out of the house and eventually got on her radio and said, "You better send someone over here because I'm going in there."

She talked with one of the little girls who told her that she had 25 johns in a day.

Maybe Greta Van Susteren could afford to take five minutes off from the Natalee Holloway story to report on this.

Amazingly, it is very difficult to find information on this issue on the websites of some of our most significant human rights organizations. I dug through the sites of Amnesty International (both AI and USA), Human Rights First, and Human Rights Watch and could find nothing on the topic. The only time I got even in the ballpark of the topic was in a report from Human Rights First on child slavery in India but without mention of sex slavery.
Whether they are sweating in the heat of stone quarries, working in the fields sixteen hours a day, picking rags in city streets, or hidden away as domestic servants, these children endure miserable and difficult lives.

This is devastating. What can we do about it? Kristoff says that he will address that question in his next column.

Religious leader embraces science

There's a headline you don't see regularly. In a New York Times op-ed in November, the Dalai Lama expressed the common Buddhist belief that its philosophy and science can co-exist and even that Buddhism would change (!) if science proved a part of the philosophy to be wrong.
If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview.

By and large, the op-ed is about the Mind and Life Institute, which is a collaboration between Buddhist monks and neuroscientists to study the neurological impact of meditation.

(You might need NY Times Select to get the entire op-ed. If you want to read it but don't want to buy Select, drop me an e-mail. We can get crafty.)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Something odd about bin Laden tape

Mamoun Fandy on PBS' Newshour:
Right, but this particular tape is not terribly inspiring, just looking at the language of it. This is the first tape of bin Laden that has no single verse from the Koran. It does not have the flowery language of Arabic.

It seems to me that it is written in English first, and then translated into Arabic. It is very western style of tape. It is not very characteristic of bin Laden, at least it tells me that the non-Arabic speaking within the al-Qaida network are taking over the organization

(Mamoun Fandy is the President of Fandy Associates, a Washington DC based research group and think-tank. Dr. Fandy is a senior fellow at the Baker Institute. He is also a Senior Fellow at The United States Institute of Peace. He is a former professor of Politics at Georgetown University and professor of Arab Politics at the Near-East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University. His research focus is the politics of the Arab World, terrorism and radical Islamic politics, and regional security issues in the Middle East.)

When the latest bin Laden tape came out, I'll admit that the idea that it could be a fake crossed my mind but figured that was my irrational side thinking. But what Dr. Fandy is saying is very, very strange. Anyone recall when the last bin Laden tape was released? It was the weekend before the 2004 election. Now the Republicans are having trouble on multiple fronts, and conveniently the Boogeyman reappears.

I'm not saying. I'm just saying.

The metamorphosis is on

I'm...changing...something...is happening. Ah!

I can feel my own transformation from consumer of the "old media" (cable television news, commercial-swamped radio, newspapers) to consumer of the "new media" (satellite radio, blogs).

The mainstream media's laziness has long been a thorn in my side. They no longer investigate the truth. They simply take what the powers-that-be and the advocates feed them and rerun it. The controversy over contributions by Jack Abramoff to Democrats, which never happened but is continuously reported by the MSM, is a perfect example.

Meanwhile, CNN is trying it's best to become Fox News, hiring national talkradio host Glenn Beck, who called New Orleans Katrina victims "scumbags", said that he wanted to kill Michael Moore, stated that he hates the 9/11 victims, and called Cindy Sheehan "a pretty big prostitute".

Then there's Chris Matthews. While my radar on Matthews has been pinging a little more steadily recently, it went off the charts earlier this week. First, he yucked it up on Don Imus' show about a Michael Savage joke in which America's Number One Wacko called Brokeback Mountain "Bareback Mounting". Apparently, Matthews finds Savage credible enough to quote him on another national radio show.

That night, Matthews compared Osama bin Laden to Michael Moore. In response, America Blog said this:
It seems that for some reason Matthews feels the need to become the uber-Republican. Trash Hillary for making comments that Newt, Bob Novak, and the Wall Street Journal have made. Tell fag jokes like one of the good ole boys. Defend Bush at all costs. If Matthews can just ingratiate himself a bit more, then maybe the Republican establishment will really like him.

According to a poster over at America Blog, Hardball just started a new segment called "Hardball Hot Shots". It's a discussion with Matthews, Rita Crosby, Tucker Carlson, and Joe Scarborough. Notice who is missing? Keith Olbermann.

Tonight Matthews tried to clarify his Michael Moore comment, but the blogosphere ain't buyin' it.

Hardball was the one cable talk show that was tolerable, but Matthews blatant attempts to shuck for the right are too much to take.

Seeing the passionate response to Matthews, the Washington Post, CNN's hiring of Glenn Beck, and other issues in which the left bloggers have made serious waves, it's obvious that this is a group that is fed up with being kicked around and has energy to burn. More power to them.

Plug in. Log on. Tune out.

True conservatives v. Imperial conservatives

Wall Street Journal: Wiretap furor widens Republican divide
But the current debate over using the National Security Agency for domestic surveillance -- which the administration has defended as legal and necessary -- hit a rawer nerve because it pits national-security concerns against a core constitutional right, in this case, the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

"It seems to me that if you're the president, you have to proceed with great caution when you do anything that flies in the face of the Constitution," said Warren Rudman, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire who has served on a number of government intelligence advisory boards. He calls the administration's surveillance program "a matter of grave concern."
Some even have accused the administration of treading on the Constitution and stretching the prerogatives of the presidency to the detriment of balanced government.

David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, described the spy program as a case of "presidential overreaching" that he said most Americans would reject. Columnist George Will wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece that "conservatives' wholesome wariness of presidential power has been a casualty of conservative presidents winning seven of the past 10 elections."

Bob Barr, a Georgia conservative who was one of the Republican Party's loudest opponents of government snooping until he left Congress in 2003, says the furor should stand as a test of Republicans' willingness to call their president to task. "This is just such an egregious violation of the electronic surveillance laws," Mr. Barr says.

Sen. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee, has called the program "inappropriate" and promised to hold hearings early next year. Republicans joining him include centrist Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and John Sununu of New Hampshire, along with limited-government types like Larry Craig of Idaho.

Can the Dems take advantage of this divide? Not likely. They did little on the body armor issue. Why should we trust that they can exploit this?

That's not John Elway

It's been awhile since I've watched a Broncos game. When did they sign Grizzly Adams at quarterback?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Operation Misinform America, Part III

I just sent the letter below to Time magazine in response to this column by Joe Klein.
Like much of the mainstream media, it seems that Joe Klein is partaking in Operation Deflect Attention with his column chastising Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for her "concern" over an NSA data-mining program. At a time when the Republicans are in great turmoil for committing far worse acts than Bill Clinton ever did, Klein and his media pals are sniffing for ways to go after the Democrats. This is a statement on the state of the media, which has been cowed into not criticizing the Republicans.

Klein called those who suggested impeachment "the wilder donkeys", but it was Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) who said that impeachment would be a logical consequence for a president who breaks the law. Klein states that those who stopped the Patriot Act renewal were "a stampede of Senate Democrats", but the worst portions of the Patriot Act are opposed by conservatives like David Keene of the American Conservative Union, former Congressman Bob Barr, Senator Larry Craig, and Senator John Sununu.

Klein has taken a page out of the Republican playbook: Misinform whenever possible.

The original draft included the point that Klein's column is about an NSA program but not the NSA program that everyone is talking about. By including reference to the NSA and a New York Times story, it misdirects the reader (at least, the less perceptive reader) into thinking that this is the same story that is making news.

The SCOTUS' Gang of Three, soon to be Four

So, the Supreme Court decided not to interfere with the will of the people of Oregon and ruled against the Bush Administration, which tried to stop Oregon's assisted suicide law by prosecuting doctors under federal drug laws. Clearly, the SCOTUS is moving toward the right as it takes up one of the right wing's favorite mantras, states' rights. Certainly, the three justices who dissented are activist judges attempting to legislate from the bench and overturn a law that the people of Oregon passed not once but twice.

And who were those three activist judges? Of course, it was Thomas, Scalia, and Roberts, the darlings of the right. The states' rights platform is only relevant when the state agrees with the right wing.

On the Repugnantcans' platform, states' rights has gone the way of responsible spending and limited government.

Bloomberg: Roberts role in execution, suicide cases hints at court's future

Here's the best part of that article:
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the administration was disappointed. "The president remains fully committed to building a culture of life," he said.

Riiiiiight. And where, exactly, does the death penalty fit into the president's "culture of life", Scottie? If the White House press corps had any balls, they would ask that question, but they enjoy going to the White House Christmas party too much to actually ask some tough questions.

Swann dodges Scranton

This happens every election cycle, and it drives me nuts every election cycle. There's always a candidate trying to dodge a debate. This time around it's Lynn Swann, GOP candidate for governor in PA. Oh, sure, Swannie is willing to debate former lieutenant governor Bill Scranton...after the state GOP endorses a candidate on Feb 11:
Swann, a former Pittsburgh Steeler star, said he would not debate Scranton before the state committee makes its choice.

"If there's a primary, we'll debate," Swann said. "After the endorsement process, I'd be very glad to debate Bill or anybody else."

The Patriot News: Scranton, Swann disagree on debates

If Swann wins the nomination, I can already envision his approach to debating Governor Ed Rendell:
Sure, Governor, I'll debate. Let's debate on Wednesday, November 8.

Of course, Swann was a wide receiver, not a running back, so one can expect that he would dodge a tackler rather than taking him head-on.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bomb the messenger

Two months after saying, "Uh, no comment," the British government finally coordinated its story and denies that President Bush suggested bombing Al Jazeera in a conversation with Tony Blair, as reported by The Daily Mirror in November.

Telegraph: Al Jazeera plot denied
New York Times: Britain denies memo cited Bush threat

I'm not suggesting that it's true. It just says something about the absurdity of the current administration that reasonable people would sit back and ponder the possibility that he said it.

Puerto Rico gets a vote in DC

This is just one of those interesting little tidbits, one of those "learn something new every day" moments.

The Hill: Puerto Rico's Fortuno has a vote in contests

I tend to lean toward statehood for PR (my in-laws live there), but if they're going to send a Republican to Congress, forget it.

Monday, January 16, 2006

You can call me Al. And you can call me pissed.

The Al Gore that was on display at Constitution Hall, across the street from the White House, is an Al Gore that I would have voted for in 2000, rather than going idealistic and voting Nader. Apparently, it took a Bush presidency and five years out of the political arena for Gore to speak truth instead of what he was fed by consultants.

This isn't the wild-eyed, screaming "He lied!" Gore of 2004. Listening to that speech, one gets visions of Al's hair pinging off his head and his arms flailing wildly.

No, today's Gore was like a precise surgeon, taking apart the Bush administration piece-by-piece with sharp, exact cuts.
we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens-Democrats and Republicans alike-to express our shared concern that America's Constitution is in grave danger.

In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.

Gore harkened back to the nation's founding and reminded the audience of the values the Framers held dear.
A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."

An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free.

There's a lot of great stuff in Gore's speech, and it's hard to pick out just a few highlights. Here's my favorite section, which came near the end.
The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.

Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march - when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.

Transcript of the speech
Video of the speech (You'll need Real Player 10, to which C-Span.org provides a link.)

If this Al Gore runs in 2008, it will be difficult to choose between him and Russ Feingold. (Not that it matters in PA since our primary doesn't happen until the race is long over.)

Bush Administration: "one of the worst"

This must be Hillary Clinton's week to work the Democratic base.
"We have a culture of corruption, we have cronyism, we have incompetence," she said. "I predict to you that this administration will go down in history as one of the worst that has ever governed our country."

And on the House of Representatives...
The House "has been run like a plantation, and you know what I'm talking about," said Clinton, D-N.Y. "It has been run in a way so that nobody with a contrary view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument, to be heard."

AP: Clinton slams Bush, White House in Harlem

Next week I'm sure she'll be back to claiming the Israeli apartheid wall doesn't hurt the Palestinians and introducing bills to ban flag-burning.

Jimmy James

You can't help but admire state Senator Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny). His most recent crusade is a petition drive to impeach President Bush. This just a few months after he spent a few days in Crawford, TX, in August, a lovely vacation destination at that time of year, to support the anti-war vigil of Cindy Sheehan.

A former City Councilman, it seems this has been Ferlo's MO for decades, according to this article from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
Assigned to cover a union protest some 30 years ago, veteran broadcaster Bob James arrived in time to see Pittsburgh police grabbing the limp body of a shaggy-haired protester and throwing him into the back of a wagon.

James bent over the tailgate to interview the protester, who appeared upside down on the evening news that night.

"I said, 'Who are you and why are you here?'" recalled James, 81, who retired last year after 46 years of covering Grant Street politicians.

"He said, 'I'm Jim Ferlo.'"

Senator Ferlo also stood in the way of bulldozers that were assigned to demolish the Syria Mosque, an old theater in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood, just off the Pitt campus. My first week at Pitt in 1991 I attended a "Save the Syria Mosque" street concert that featured Rusted Root. Reading this about Ferlo's protest brought back fond memories. Unfortunately, the mosque is now a parking lot.

How many politicians who have risen to the level of the state Senate can say that they've been arrested for what they believe in? Come to think of it, a few Republicans in Congress might soon be arrested for what they believe in- money.

Politicians like Ferlo, Howard Dean, and Russ Feingold are refreshing. They don't put their finger to the wind in an attempt to figure out just the right thing to say, ala Hilary Clinton, Bill Clinton, and John Kerry. We desperately need more straight talk.

When I saw that Ferlo is now calling for Bush's impeachment, I thought he might be preparing for a Congressional run, but the more I read about him, the more I realized that it's just Ferlo being Ferlo. Bless him.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Slick Rick

The lead of this article from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette says enough:
Sen. Rick Santorum, who has been tapped by fellow Senate Republican leaders to draft legislation tightening restrictions on lobbyists, has received more money from lobbyists than any other congressional candidate so far in the 2006 election cycle.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go page Mr. Fox. I have a henhouse for him to watch.

Whither the republic

Reuters reports that SCOTUS nominee Sam Alito has picked up the endorsement of PA's Arlen Specter, chair of the judiciary committee. If a nominee who threatens the very balance of powers that is the foundation of our system does not get people to stand up, then the republic itself is in serious danger.

So much for Specter's oath to uphold the Constitution.

With the Republicans on the march, blasting the Democrats for being big meanies and giving little Sammy a swirley, Kathleen Reardon foresees the dangerous new ground we are treading:
Of course questions should be asked -- and they should be tough ones. Judge Alito's entire career revolves around questioning. If he can't deal with them competently and persuasively, he shouldn't be on the Supreme Court.

A cult of no criticism is emerging in Washington, evidenced once again at the Alito hearings. It's like an invisible bubble contrived to protect the White House and most Republicans from challenges. I'm to some extent reminded of my father's view of the presidency -- "Respect the office if not the man." But I have no recollection of hearing "And don't ever question or you'll be rightly demeaned and denounced for aiding the country's enemies."

If the American people and a free press demure from questions and are suckered by baseless claims of incivility, democracy will be undermined and the path for extensive power abuses will surely be paved.

JoePa, rape, and the culture of athletics

Penn State football coach Joe Paterno stepped in it last week at the Orange Bowl when commenting on the case of Florida State's AJ Nicholson, who was accused (not charged yet, by the way) of sexual assault and promptly sent home by FSU head coach Bobby Bowden. When asked about it, Paterno said this:
"There's some tough -- there's so many people gravitating to these kids," Paterno started. "He may not have even known what he was getting into, Nicholson. They knock on the door; somebody may knock on the door; a cute girl knocks on the door.

"What do you do? Geez. I hope -- thank God they don't knock on my door because I'd refer them to a couple of other rooms.

"But that's too bad. You hate to see that. I really do. You like to see a kid end up his football career. He's a heck of a football player, by the way; he's a really good football player. And it's just too bad."

The National Organization of Women (NOW) of PA called for Paterno's resignation, and the commentators have been chiming in. Most have recognized the insensitivity of the remark. Nancy Eshelman of the Patriot News suggested that it was the ramblings of a batty 79-year-old while Walt Moody of the Centre Daily Times thinks Paterno is nearing his Woody Hayes moment.
In sports, we have come up with the term "Woody Hayes incident" to describe when a coach does something to get himself canned. The aging Ohio State legend was fired the day after belting a Clemson player who made a game-clinching interception in the 1978 Gator Bowl.

Paterno would never strike a player -- although he has been known to chase down a referee -- but if he has a "Woody Hayes" it will be in front of a microphone.

He's said some other incendiary things over the past few seasons -- remember wide receiver Tony Johnson "didn't do anything to anybody" when he was charged with DUI.

How long will it be before he says something that can't be spun with the "Just Joe being Joe" or the "out of context" excuses?

That's something no one wants to see.

There are two different topics being discussed here. One is rape and sexual assault and the justifications that have been used over the years to excuse it, i.e. "she asked for it". Clearly, Joe whiffed on this and should apologize.

The other issue is the one that Paterno was really trying to get at and that is the culture around big-time college athletics. It can be overwhelming, and Moody noted this, too:
Having seen Paterno enough over the past few seasons, my guess is he took the question as an opportunity to express his frustration with the number of people who hover around college players. There were plenty hovering at the Penn State team hotel in Miami Beach.

I spent a season broadcasting minor league baseball in North Carolina. It was low-A ball, so the players were young, ranging in age from 19-23. These guys, at a low level of pro ball in an obscure Southern town, had groupies, and they did not handle it with dignity, to say the least.

As the patriarch of the PSU program, my hunch is that this culture frustrates Paterno.

Clearly, he misspoke, in light of the allegations against Nicholson, and should apologize. But I'm certain his intent was not malicious. This is not an offense worthy of ending his career. Hopefully, he won't commit such an offense in the future and will be able to retire gracefully.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

ID'ers just won't go away. Like herpes.

LA Times: 1st suit in state to attack "Intelligent Design" filed

Speaking Freely, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, and The Questionable Authority have all opined on this situation.

From Dispatches:
There have been two syllabi for the course so far. The first syllabus was incredibly blatant in advocating creationism and looks as though it was thrown together on the back fo a cocktail napkin. It includes a list of some 19 creationist videos to be shown and not a single resource on evolution to be used. Perhaps the most amusing thing about the original syllabus is that it includes as a speaker "Francis Krich - evolutionist". Apparently, someone recommended to the teacher that she ask Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA along with James Watson to speak to the class. Good idea, except for the fact that he's dead.
The second syllabus tried to sand away some of the obvious rough edges from the original, but it's still pretty bad. It puts a veneer of balance over the top, but it is still clear that the teacher plans on advocating creationism. For instance, the wording of the first two items under section 3, "Why is this a movement and why is it gaining momentum?" and "Why is it so threatening to society, the educational system, and evolutionists?" clearly is setting up to make the typical argument from IDers that a "growing number of scientists" (never mind that they keep referring to the same few year after year) are supporting ID (never mind also that they never produce an actual theory of ID or any research to support it) and that their movement is "threatening" to some Darwinian orthodoxy that jealously guards its privileged position. That argument is nonsense, of course. The threat is to science education and it comes in the form of an aggressive public relations campaign on the part of ID advocates, not from any actual scientific work they've ever done that challenges the validity of evolutionary theory.

ID'ers make terrible criminals. They've left behind fingerprints, DNA samples, and the bloody glove. (They would probably contend that the bloody glove was planted by some atheist, heathen evolutionist.) They are so overzealous that they can't hide their tracks.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Miseducation of America

So, it was just on Saturday that I posted on the way misinformation and lies are used to manipulate the people and the public discussion on important issues. And lo and behold, controversy erupted over a Rasmussen poll regarding the NSA 3-way calling program. The poll suggested that 64% of Americans support Bush's warrantless program, and this poll was touted by multiple conservative pundits, including Pat Buchanan, Charles Krauthammer, and Michael Reagan.

But here's the rub. Here's the question that Rasmussen asked:
Should the National Security Agency be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States?

Now, who would say no to that? The positive response should be 100%. The controversy is not about whether or not there should be surveillance. It's about the oversight of law enforcement by the courts.

The only way these people can win is to misinform the public.

Media Matters: Media conservatives cited faulty poll

Return to Brokeback Mountain

I've been thinking a little more about the discomfort that some might feel regarding the gay love scene in Brokeback. I don't knock anyone for their discomfort or suggest that they're wrong or bad for it. I do think that it's worth noting the contrast between our discomfort with a gay love scene and our apparent lack of discomfort with the tremendous amounts of violence in so many movies. In Syriana, one of the characters gets his fingernails pulled out. In Reservoir Dogs, a character has his ear cut off. I'm sure we can all come up with our favorite example.

The point is that we don't blink when it comes to violence in films, but we squirm when it comes to gay love in a film.

I can tell you that there is a recent movie that I avoided specifically because of the excess violence- Kill Bill. Because of the way it was described to me, I opted to stay away.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Thoughts on Syriana

Syriana is for the cynical, conspiracy theorists. So it seemed perfectly plausible to me. Actually, this isn't conspiracy theory along the lines of Area 51, green men from outer space that the government is hiding, Art Bell-type conspiracy theories. Syriana is about the ways corporate interests become entangled with our political interests.

For a while, it seems like there are multiple movies running at the same time, but as the poster says, "everything is connected". Eventually, everything comes together. Personally, I thought more time could have been devoted to George Clooney's story as the renegade CIA agent. Nevertheless, the point is well made.

Thoughts on Brokeback Mountain

My wife thought that she would be going to see it alone because she thought I wouldn't be interested, but I was interested for several reasons.
1. It's the odds-on favorite for Picture of the Year.
2. I don't mind spending $7 to stick it to Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and Jerry Falwell. Yes, I went to the movie as a political statement.
3. While I knew in advance that there is a love scene, I didn't allow that to keep me away for two main reasons. First, it's healthy to put ourselves in potentially uncomfortable situations. (As it turned out, it wasn't that uncomfortable.) Two, if gays avoided hetero love scenes in movies, they would be left with Harry Potter and those Ernest films. Turn-about is fair play.

This is a great film, and I highly recommend it. Even if initially you cannot relate to the gay relationship, at some point, the viewer (at least, this viewer) is taken over by the simple fact that these characters are human beings.

Plus, you can't help but have feelings for all of the main characters. There's no real antagonist here. Jack (Jake Gyllenhall), Ennis (Heath Ledger), Ennis' wife, and Jack's wife are all deserving of the viewer's care and concern. (Although, Mrs. Jack is not very well-developed. Mrs. Ennis is, though, and I felt terrible for her.)

The generations ahead of mine are really out of touch on this issue. A co-worker of my wife, who is of my parents' generation, said "no one" would go see the movie. They just don't realize how much more open my generation and, especially, those after mine are to gays and gay issues. And who is it that movies are marketed toward? By and large, it's the 18-35 year olds.

In fact, in October, Time did a cover story on The Battle over Gay Teens. ("Battle" seems like an odd choice of words, but we'll go with it.) The article points out an emerging trend among teens and young adults today: It's almost uncool at this point to be anti-gay.

Although this seems like a pitched battle right now, those on the side of equality for homosexuals will ultimately win out. We just need the Baby Boomers to start kicking off. Sorry to any Boomers reading this, but let's face it: Your generation causes quite a bit of the problems we face. Today the idea of opposing the civil rights movement of the 1950s and the 1960s seems absurd, but it wasn't then. In a few decades, we'll feel the same way about opposing equality for gays.

Jesus The Amusement Park

We couldn't make this stuff up.

The Guardian: Plans for Holy Land theme park on Galilee shore where Jesus fed 5,000

I already have their spokesman picked out.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Rush Goebbels caught in a lie

Media Matters for America caught Rush Limbaugh in his latest lie, and Keith Olbermann then trumped it up, naming Rush as "The Worst". Rush and a caller claimed that a FISA judge blocked the FBI from getting into the laptop computer of Zacarias Moussaoui, when, in fact, it was the FBI that decided not to go for a warrant because FBI attorneys felt they didn't have enough evidence to get a warrant.

It's great that we live in a day and age when there are watch-dogs watching the watch-dogs because, let's face it, the mainstream media is clueless. They have kow-towed to Bush for more than four years now and are only now showing some glimmer of coming out of their shell.

But there are two ongoing problems here. First, the mainstream media is called "mainstream" for a reason: They have the most viewers/listeners/readers. Rush and Hannity are in a similar category since they also have millions of listeners. Outfits like Media Matters, America Blog, Crooks and Liars, etc. are great, but they are not reaching the masses. By and large, they are a potential primer for stories for the mainstream media, but it's hard to say what will and will not stick.

Second, when Goebbels, err, Limbaugh and his ilk toss their lies and misinformation out there, it has a much greater probability of sticking, at least with their true believers and maybe with that great swath in the middle that can go either way. Even if The Great Middle Swath is not listening to Limbaugh, they catch these things at the water cooler and can become easily convinced.

And that's how those of us who believe in that great "technicality" known as the Constitution become "extremists" and how the Wrong Wing stays in power.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Did the NSA spy on Christiane Amanpour?

Hot talk in the blogosphere is an interview that NBC's Andrea Mitchell did with NY Times reporter James Risen, who originally broke the NSA spying story. Only a small portion of Mitchell's interview actually went over the air, but MSNBC.com posted the transcript of the entire interview. In the transcript, Mitchell asks Risen if he found that NSA was spying on journalists and he answered no. Mitchell followed up by asking if he found that the NSA was spying on CNN's Christiane Amanpour, and Risen again replied no.

When this hit the blogs, NBC took the paragraph with the Amanpour question out of the transcript and released a statement saying that the network is doing further inquiry.

Americablog has been hitting on this extensively. Here's the original post (NBC changes official transcript of Andrea Mitchell interview), and you can find updates by visiting Americablog's homepage.

If it's true that the NSA tapped Amanpour's communications, there could be a variety of reasons why, which are examined by Attytood (Was Christiane Amanpour spied on-and, more importantly, if so why?). My favorite possibility, as a moderate cynic? Her husband is Jamie Ruben, a former State Department officiall under Bill Clinton and a foreign policy advisor to both Gen. Wesley Clark and John Kerry in the 2004 campaign.

Aside: I heard this story listening to The Young Turks on Sirius Satellite Radio on my way home from work. I pick up great stories listening to these guys. They talk about the stories that I don't catch because I'm busy with the rest of my life. And you don't need Sirius to listen to them. Visit their website, and you can listen or watch live, 6pm-9pm ET. I highly recommend them. They are funny, young guys (and one young woman) with a dry sense of humor who talk about great stories.

Did Jesus exist? Court to decide

That sounds like a headline from The Onion, but it's real.
CNN: Did Jesus exist? Court to decide

If Jesus loses, I'm sure James Dobson and Jerry Falwell will find a way to blame the ACLU. "They've gone international!"

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

King George: I'll follow the law...if I feel like it

Just when you think it can't get any worse, it gets worse.

Today the Boston Globe revealed that President Bush added a signing statement, a little-known presidential power, to the signing of the defense budget bill, which included the McCain amendment against torture. A signing statement is a public record of the president's interpretation of a law. I'm sure you see where this is going.

From the Globe article:
''The executive branch shall construe [the law] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President . . . as Commander in Chief," Bush wrote, adding that this approach ''will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President . . . of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks."

Here is one administration official's take on it:
''We are not going to ignore this law," the official said, noting that Bush, when signing laws, routinely issues signing statements saying he will construe them consistent with his own constitutional authority. ''We consider it a valid statute. We consider ourselves bound by the prohibition on cruel, unusual, and degrading treatment."

But, the official said, a situation could arise in which Bush may have to waive the law's restrictions to carry out his responsibilities to protect national security. (my bold)

In other words, it's my empire, and I'll torture if I want to.

For further translation...
David Golove, a New York University law professor who specializes in executive power issues, said that the signing statement means that Bush believes he can still authorize harsh interrogation tactics when he sees fit.

''The signing statement is saying 'I will only comply with this law when I want to, and if something arises in the war on terrorism where I think it's important to torture or engage in cruel, inhuman, and degrading conduct, I have the authority to do so and nothing in this law is going to stop me,' " he said. ''They don't want to come out and say it directly because it doesn't sound very nice, but it's unmistakable to anyone who has been following what's going on."

And, finally, before I go gouge my eyes out:
Legal academics and human rights organizations said Bush's signing statement and his stance on the wiretapping law are part of a larger agenda that claims exclusive control of war-related matters for the executive branch and holds that any involvement by Congress or the courts should be minimal.

Vice President Dick Cheney recently told reporters, ''I believe in a strong, robust executive authority, and I think that the world we live in demands it. . . . I would argue that the actions that we've taken are totally appropriate and consistent with the constitutional authority of the president."

I saw that movie!
"The Imperial Senate will no longer be of any concern to us. I have just received word that the Emperor has dissolved the Council permanently, the last remnants of the old Republic have been swept away."

Letterman stands up to O'Reilly

David Letterman told Bill O'Reilly last night that he feels that 60% of what O'Reilly says is "crap". Watch the video here.

PA paper, former CIA agent agree with NLM

The Reading Eagle and former CIA agent Larry Johnson, a regular on the cable news shows, agree that the hunt for the leaker of the NSA spy program story is absurd.

Reading Eagle: Who leaked story is not the concern
The argument is similar to the one used to defend the Patriot Act, which infringes on the constitutional rights of all people living in the United States: In effect those who make such an argument are saying we have to protect our constitutional rights by taking them away.

No Quarter: Leak Hypocrisy
Then there is the whistle blower variant. This is more important and, in my opinion, the most valuable. It exists to keep politicians honest and alert the public to serious policy disputes. The two most recent examples are the revelations that the United States was holding possible terrorists in secret prisons around the world and that George Bush was circumventing the law and approving illegal electronic surveillance inside the United States. While the Bush White House is certain that those responsible for these leaks are political partisans hell bent on damaging the President, it is really a sign that folks on the inside with a conscience finally decided to speak out.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Mosque bombed, crickets chirp

Raise your hand if you knew that a mosque in Cincinnati was bombed the week before Christmas. I just found out last night, thanks to a radio show that I listen to. Where was the national media? Nowhere to be found. It was too busy tracking down Jerry Falwell for interviews about the fake War on Christmas.

I generally detest the "if it had been a..." line that people use, but here it must be said. If it had been a church...

Thank Allah no one was killed or injured.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Our continuing descent into the absurd

Here's the playbook on how to grab dictatorial-like power:
1. Approach the Congress about altering the FISA law to allow warrantless spying on American citizens.
2. When you get shot down by Congress, do it, anyway, and break the law in the process.
3. Mark the program as "classified".
4. When the word gets out to the media, investigate the informants who fibbed on your illegal power grab because they leaked "classified" information.

As you probably heard by now, the Justice Department has opened an investigation into the domestic spying program by the NSA. Common sense tells you that the Justice Department would investigate the legality of the program, but common sense has been missing from the U.S. government for years. No, the DOJ is investigating those who gave the information about the program to the New York Times.

If it is carried out in the worst way, an investigation like this can only hinder freedom, particularly the freedom of the press but also other freedoms that we hold dear. Already, visions of reporters being brought before investigators or even a grand jury to testify are dancing in our heads. From there, the reporters protect their sources, go to jail, and the downward descent continues. Freedom of the press is chilled because reporters really don't like going to jail, and the media becomes less of a watchdog of the government, as our Framers intended it to be. Government informants who aren't comfortable carrying out unconstitutional acts are deterred from whistleblowing in the future, opening up Pandora's Box of governmental abuse of our most basic freedoms.

And, of course, it is worth noting that Gonzo is now the Attorney General and was the White House counsel at the time that the domestic spying program started.

Meanwhile, yesterday the NY Times reported that then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey refused to approve aspects of the program while acting as attorney general during John Ashcroft's gallbladder surgery. The Times reported that even Ashcroft felt uncomfortable and not just because he was recovering from getting stuck:
But some officials said that Mr. Ashcroft, like his deputy, appeared reluctant to give Mr. Card and Mr. Gonzales his authorization to continue with aspects of the program in light of concerns among some senior government officials about whether the proper oversight was in place at the security agency and whether the president had the legal and constitutional authority to conduct such an operation.

When John Ashcroft and his top assistant are the voices of reason, we are all in serious trouble.

More from the Times story:
Several senior government officials have said that when the special operation first began, there were few controls on it. Some agency officials wanted nothing to do with it, apparently fearful of participating in an illegal operation, officials have said.

On Wednesday, the Philadelphia Inquirer did a great editorial, Protect life and liberty:
Nobody ever said it was a risk-free proposition to stand by the U.S. Constitution.

Not the nation's founders, certainly: They risked their very lives in waging the war for independence that led to enshrining the Constitution's democratic ideals in the first place.

And now the threat of terrorism sharpens the risk posed by living in an open, democratic society.

As long as the nation values and protects by law the rights of everyday Americans to be spared from unwarranted snooping, its enemies could find ways to exploit that openness - as they assuredly did on Sept. 11, 2001.

Citizens have a choice. They can live with that risk, understanding it for the central role it plays in making this a nation worth preserving. Or they can surrender to fear - out of a misguided sense that no civil liberty is so cherished as to risk another terror attack by its defense.