Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Bill Gallagher: 'People getting wise to Bush lies on Katrina, Iraq, other disasters'

Bill Gallagher, Niagara Falls ReporterDETROIT -- The president of the United States is inept, a frightening reality for the American people and our neighbors around the world. It is chilling for someone with the responsibilities and powers of the president to lack the fitness, aptitude and sense to carry out the duties of that office.Bubble-Boy's bubble has burst. His failed policies and rampant incompetence now only enjoy unflinching support from the lockstep confines of GOP partisans, the Busheviks' corporate sponsors and their Amen chorus found on right-wing shout radio, the Fox News Channel and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal.The mainstream American media, which long ignored or supported President George Bush's string of disasters, are finally catching on to what a growing majority of American people know: This frat-boy slacker, selected president because of his name and big-bucks supporters, this media-made Churchillian figure standing in the rubble of the Twin Towers, has been out of touch -- and often out of sight -- for every major national crisis before and since.Bush, the great leader and commander, the protector of his people, is a myth. His now-dwindling support was built on the manufactured consent of fear, and now a majority rejects his handling of his hallmark issue. A Bloomberg-Los Angeles Times poll shows 54 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of terrorism. Hallelujah! The biggest lie of our times, that Bush makes us safer, is crumbling."I don't think anybody could have anticipated the breach of the levees," Bush told ABC's "Good Morning America" about flooded New Orleans as the waters were still rising and people were dying in the city and along the Gulf Coast. I heard him say it live and it didn't ring true at the time. When he repeated the line over and over again, as recently as last week, I smelled mendacity in the air.When Bush sounds like a skipping CD, you know Karl Rove told him to cling to the memorized script and that repetition will make the lines stick.The lie fizzled when the truth showed up on videotape and we all could see how inept and disengaged Bush really is. The tape is from a Federal Emergency Management Agency briefing for Bush on Aug. 28, before Hurricane Katrina hit. The video shows Bush sitting in a room at his Texas ranch getting briefed on the storm through a teleconference.Dr. Max Mayfield, the head of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, told the president he "didn't have any good news" and a "very dangerous hurricane" of enormous size and strength was going to hit the Gulf Coast. Mayfield warned that the levees around Lake Pontchartrain were in peril, posing the "greatest potential loss of life."Mayfield told Bush and all with ears to hear, "I don't think any (computer) models can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but obviously that's a very, very grave concern."Michael Brown, the head of FEMA, sounded the alarm and made it clear to Bush that he was worried about the Superdome's vulnerability to flooding and whether its roof could withstand a Category 5 hurricane. Brown expressed great concern about dealing with so many evacuees at the Superdome and the preparedness of disaster teams "to respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe." Oh, his prophetic soul. As I watched the tape, Brownie struck me as the one port in the storm with the globe on in his lighthouse, paying attention and anticipating the consequences of the looming disaster.Bush then gave what sounded like a political speech. He thanked everyone, mentioning a string of names, prayed that lives would be spared and promised, "I can assure the folks at the state level that we are fully prepared to not only help you during the storm, but we will move whatever resources and assets we have at our disposal after the storm."The wise and experienced expect Bush to lie about anything that exposes his poor judgment and inattention. The Army Corps of Engineers, surely at the behest of the White House, is making the distinction between a breach in the levees an actual break and water overrunning them. We are supposed to forget about the "very, very grave concern" warning. The Busheviks still think we are fools.What I found so fascinating was, as the presentation continued, Bush just sat there silently, inept and paralyzed. No comments. No questions. No orders. There were numerous opportunities for him to offer direction and leadership, but he just sat there.He reminded me of one of Baseball Hall of Fame broadcaster and friend Ernie Harwell's famous descriptions. When a batter would just stare at a fat pitch right over the plate and the umpire would call a third strike, Ernie would say, "He stood there like the house by the side of the road."Bush should have understood the gravity of the crisis and taken personal responsibility for the federal government's response. He did not. He remained on vacation and prepared for a political fund-raising trek to California, content to be the house by the side of the road.Twelve hours before Katrina struck, Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of Homeland Security, was off to Atlanta to attend a conference on the bird flu. Bush's ineptness comes in two basic, equally repulsive flavors: omission and commission.Inexcusable omissions flavor Katrina, the failure to heed pre-9/11 intelligence about al-Qaeda and ignoring the overwhelming evidence of global warming.Bush's glaring acts of commission include looting the Treasury and creating unconscionable debt for the middle class to pay for tax cuts for the rich, creating an unfunded new entitlement with prescription-drug benefits and making it as confusing for people as possible, and fostering a health-care abomination that leaves 45 million Americans uninsured while enriching the pharmaceutical industry, insurance companies and for-profit hospitals.Bush's mad adventure in Iraq required a blend of commission and omission, resulting in the tragic debacle and unending violence that will be Bush's legacy of ineptness for the ages.He used bin Laden's attacks as the pretext to invade Iraq. He was committed to that end and invented reasons to justify the aggression.New revelations based on two highly classified intelligence reports show Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and others in the administration made claims about the threat of Iraq they knew were highly questionable or flat-out false.Resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq shows no sign of letting up. Contrary to administration claims, the insurgency is not a containable threat composed of criminals, Saddam loyalists and non-Iraqi terrorists. A recent Knight Ridder report refers to an October 2003 National Intelligence Estimate that concluded "the insurgency was fueled by local conditions -- not foreign terrorists -- and drew strength from deep grievances, including the presence of U.S. troops."Last week, I had a Dick Cheney moment. No, I didn't shoot a hunting companion in the face after cocktails and then hide from the sheriff. My Cheneyesque behavior involved cherry-picking intelligence, relying on dated and confusing information, and seeking out facts to buttress a conclusion already made.I made the case in last week's column that crony capitalism, corporate trade interests and the Bush family's cozy relationship with the royal family in the United Arab Emirates were important factors in the deal to permit Dubai Ports World to take over major shipping operations at six U.S. ports. That is true.But some things I wrote about the Carlyle Group were not and I apologize for those errors. Carlyle did not buy CSX's World Terminals unit, as I reported, but rather CSX's container shipping units. These were certainly related activities, but totally separate business entities.The CSX sale of World Terminals was a deal done directly with the UAE and Carlyle was not part of that transaction. Carlyle sold Horizon Lines to a private equity group, Castle Harlan, for $650 million. Carlyle also sold military contractor United Defense in 2004, which I failed to note.While some wealthy sheiks from Dubai have stakes in Carlyle, a private equity firm with $35 billion under its management, the company's own investments in the Middle East are limited, with some small venture capital investments in technology businesses in Israel.Former president George H.W. Bush and former secretary of state James Baker still maintain close relationships with some partners at Carlyle, but no longer work for the company, as I mistakenly reported. Both men have relinquished their positions with Carlyle -- Bush in 2004, and Baker last year.I could blame a generally reliable blog I often use and my own flawed memory. But the truth is, I am responsible for failing to be more thorough. I thank Chris Ullman from Carlyle for patiently and graciously helping lift the shroud of my self-created confusion.I admit my mistakes and trust no one has died as a result. Bush, Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will never be able to say the same.

Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is gallaghernewsman@sbcglobal.net.

Monday, March 06, 2006

George W. Bush worst president since Richard Nixon
Letter to the EditorMarch 06, 2006

For all those of you who continuously defend republicans, and specifically George W. Bush, I ask you this ... WHY? Bush’s approval rating is at 34 percent; only Richard Nixon had a lower approval rating.
What I say now is without fear or hubris: George W. Bush is the WORST president since Richard Nixon and there’s still two years left for W to become the worst. Don’t believe me? Let’s go back and take a look at everything that has been blundered since Bush took office.
Emergency management: This administration failed its first big test since 9/11 with Hurricane Katrina. Now you can make the argument that the mayor of New Orleans failed to get his people out, and I’d say you were right to a degree, but FEMA took 4 days to get help to the people there when it should have been done within 24-48 hours.
Fiscal management: Let’s face it, America is broke. These borrow and spend neo-cons have doubled our national debt to 8.2 TRILLION dollars. These republicans waste money in ways that make the “tax-and-spend” liberals look like penny pinchers.
Medicare: States were forced to step in and save their own from this administration’s poorly planned and poorly executed attempt to privatize huge chunks of the federal health safety net.
Afghanistan: Another truth we need to face. We could have had Osama Bin Laden 4 1/2 years ago. We had him trapped in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, until we were distracted by a shiny object — Iraq. Now we’re $75 billion in the hole on Afghanistan, and the sitting president of that country only has rule within Kabul. Tribal warlords, the remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaida call the shots in the rest of the country.
Iraq: This was only supposed to cost us $65 million; the bill is now over $300 million. The Shiites and Kurds are carving out their piece of the country while the Sunnis are being treated like we Americans treated the Japanese in WWII.
Iran: The administration’s threats to attack Syria next is only making Iran more and more bold with its nuclear weapons program. The ultra-religious scholars within Iran are saying that those threats have made it perfectly clear what the U.S. is over there for (it’s oil, for those of you not in the know). I believe the only deterrent as to why the Bush administration hasn’t attacked Iran is because of the nuclear weapons program.
North Korea: See Iran, the only difference is that N. Korea DOES possess nukes and the Bush administration constantly drops veiled threats and wants to talk.
Social programs: It seems the only way to afford health care in this country is to get injured in Iraq or Afghanistan. Nearly 50 million Americans cannot afford health insurance, and yet this administration has proposed cutting $440 billion from domestic social programs, including health care for the working poor.
The environment: The coral in the world’s oceans is dying at an alarming rate. Coral is the first rung on the food chain ladder; when it goes, everything else in the ocean goes. If the oceans die, we die. Global warming is the culprit here. Why? Because the administration feels it is more effective to be dead than to force reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Trade: We are approaching a $1 trillion annual trade deficit, most of it with Asia, $220 billion of it with China ... just in the last year.
Energy: Record-high energy prices. Record-high energy company profits. Dick Cheney’s energy task force continues to meet in secret. Need I say more?
Human rights: America runs secret prisons and a secret judicial system that would give Kafka fits, and the U.S. has joined the list of countries that torture POWs (there are pictures), but it seems the administration doesn’t care.
The sun continues to shine on this fool’s paradise, and Bush isn’t the least bit worried. Why should he worry, doubt is Bush’s enemy. How can he worry when he has no doubt?
Me, on the other hand, I’m plenty worried about the future of this country if we continue down this path.

— Brandon Mars,
WSU theatre major
From: Smirking Chimp

Alex Sabbeth: 'America anesthetized'

Alex Sabbeth, Consortium NewsThe new Zogby poll gauging the opinions of American troops in Iraq has drawn attention mostly because it finds that 72 percent believe the United States should withdraw in a year or less and only 23 percent favor George W. Bush's plan to "stay the course."But the poll also illustrates the power of propaganda.Shockingly, 85 percent of the troops questioned believe they are fighting in Iraq "to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9-11 attacks" - one of the key Iraq War myths built by Bush's frequent juxtaposition of references to Osama bin-Laden and Saddam Hussein.This subliminal message has stuck with the vast majority of U.S. troops even though Bush eventually acknowledged publicly that there is no evidence linking Saddam to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.In other words, more than eight in 10 of the U.S. soldiers and Marines in Iraq think they are there avenging the 3,000 people killed on Sept. 11, even though the U.S. government lacks evidence of the connection.
The full story...
From:Smirking Chimp

Onnesha Roychoudhuri: 'Impeaching George W. Bush'

From discussion to action -- Michael Ratner and his fellow lawyers have drafted a call to impeach President Bush.Onnesha Roychoudhuri, AlterNetUntil recently, talk of ousting President George W. Bush has proved little more than a distant rumbling. For too long, impeachment has been deemed implausible. It’s not going to happen with a Republican Congress, so the argument goes. Not with the president finishing his second term, not while we're at war. But the distant rumbling is growing louder by the day, creating a resonant echo that is rapidly taking root in public discourse. “Impeach Him,” reads the cover of this month’s Harper’s magazine. And in a public forum in New York City last week, journalists, lawyers, and political figures came together to discuss the case against our president.Since September 11th, 2001, there has been no shortage of news regarding this administration’s involvement in torture, lies, secrecy and obstruction of the law. Yet, there has been little discussion in the mainstream media of holding those in power accountable for the actions so diligently catalogued by the press. It is a conspicuous vacuum that helps to explain why calls for impeachment are rapidly gaining currency. In fact, the case for the impeachment of President Bush is arguably the strongest in American history. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) makes this amply clear in its recent book, a concise indictment of President Bush that lays out four clear legal arguments that point to impeachment as a necessary remedy for the gross violation of our Constitution. The Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush covers illegal wiretapping, torture, rendition, detention and the Iraq war. An appendix compares the impeachment proceedings of Andrew Johnson, Nixon and Clinton to the comparatively more powerful case against Bush.
The full story...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

From: Smirking Chimp

Sidney Blumenthal: 'The imprisoned president'

The delusions of heroism that trap George W Bush are reinforced by the culture of servility that surrounds him.Sidney Blumenthal,
openDemocracyRepublicans representative of their permanent establishment have recently and quietly sent emissaries to President Bush, like diplomats to a foreign ruler isolated in his forbidden city, to probe whether he could be persuaded to become politically flexible. These ambassadors were not connected to the elder Bush or his closest associate, former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft, who was purged in 2005 from the president's foreign intelligence advisory board and scorned by the current president. Scowcroft privately tells friends who ask if he could somehow help that Bush would never turn to him for advice. So, in one case, a Republican wise man, a prominent lawyer in Washington who had served in the Reagan White House, sought no appointments or favours and was thought to be unthreatening to Bush, gained an audience with him. In a gentle tone, he explained that many presidents had difficult second terms, but that by adapting their approaches they ended successfully, as President Reagan had. Bush instantly replied with a vehement blast. He would not change. He would stay the course. He would not follow the polls. The Republican wise man tried again. Oh, no, he didn't mean anything about polls. But Bush fortified his wall of self-defensiveness and let fly with another heated riposte that he would not change.
The full story...
FRIST THREATENS REID In Friday Letter: If I Cant Win, I'll Cheat...
Posted by Kpete
Bill Frist has decided if they can't win on the merits, then he'll cheat. Frist threatened Harry Reid, in a letter delivered late on Friday, that he would change the composition of the Intel Committee unless they rubber stamped the Bush Administration's repeated illegal activity.Guess Frist was hoping reporters would miss his smarmy threat of cheating if he dumped it in the late Friday news cycle...too bad for him, .
Frist specifically threatened that if the Committee holds NSA hearings, he will fundamentally change the 30-year-old structure and operation of the Senate Intelligence Committee so as to make it like every other Committee, i.e., controlled and dominated by Republicans to advance and rubber-stamp the White House’s agenda rather than exercise meaningful and nonpartisan oversight.Yet again, Republicans are threatening to radically change long-standing rules for how our government operates all because they cannot manipulate the result they want. From redistricting games to changing the filibuster rules, when Republicans are incapable (even with their majorities) of manipulating the political result they want, they use their majority status to change how our government works in order to ensure the desired political outcome.While Frist’s threat here is, in one sense, of a piece with those tactics, it is actually quite extraordinary and motivated by a particularly corrupt objective. The whole purpose of the Senate Intelligence Committee – the only reason why it exists – is to exercise oversight over controversial intelligence activities. Whatever else one might want to say about the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program, it is controversial on every front. There is no conceivable rationale for the Intelligence Committee not to hold hearings.This truly is an unprecedented move: the Senate Majority Leader is threatening to make the Intelligence Committee a political rubber stamp because the White House and the Republican leadership are so terrified that the President's actions won't withstand scrutiny and will be found illegal by the Committee.

Trickle Down Republican Corruption; Poll Results show right wing corruption exists at all levels

by Rob Kall
It's clear that, at the top, the Republican Party, led by George Bush, Dick Cheney, Bill Frist, Denny Hastert, and until recently, Tom DeLay, has been thoroughly corrupt. It's clear that the rank and file Republican members of congress have been rubberstamping the crooked, unconstitutional, anti-democratic moves of their leaders, deferring ethics rules, attempting to pass laws that make the Bush team's lawbreaking legal. In the OpEdNews.com /Zogby People's poll of 850 Pennsylvania voters, we found that Republicans were far more likely to expect corruption. We asked, "Who is more corrupt, if at all, Republicans or Democrats?" 48% of respondents said Republicans and 9% said Democrats. 41% said both equally. Women said 60% Republicans and 4% Democrats. But it gets most interesting when you compare Republicans and democrats, looking at the crosstabs.83% of Democrats said Republicans were corrupt, compared to 6% of Republicans saying that Republicans are corrupt Only 21% of Republicans said Democrats are corrupt and only one percent of Democrats said Democrats are corrupt. Most interesting, 71% of Republicans said that both parties are equally corrupt, whereas only 14% of Democrats say both parties are equally corrupt.If you add up the percentage of Republicans who say that Republicans are corrupt and both parties are corrupt you get a total of 77% of Republicans saying that Republicans are corrupt, compared to 15% of Democrats saying Democrats are corrupt. What does this mean? Republicans assume their representatives are corrupt because they think everyone is corrupt. That's the mindset of a culture of corruption. They see they world as corrupt and they accept it. Let's take a closer look. There's the Republican base. Our OpEdNews.com / Zogby People's poll asked, Do you agree or disagree that Churches, Synagogues and Mosques, or other places of worship would l ose their tax exempt status if they openly and actively support politicians or political parties?" Seventy percent of voters support this. The one demographic group that disapproved was the "very conservatives" Less than 1% of Democrats identify themselves as very conservative. 22% of Born agains identify themselves as very conservative. After "very conservatives, the next demographic group that opposed revoking tax exempt status was the Born agains. I think they oppose this because they've been doing it-- violating the law against churches getting actively into politics. The majority of Americans-- 70% oppose this. These people are extremists who believe they have the right to break the law. It's trickle down corruption, trickle down law breaking, trickle down absence of integrity. These self-righteous, sanctimonious extremists are breaking the law. Their churches should be taxed. Their leaders should be charged with violating the law, and laws should be made tougher to prevent these abuses. Meanwhile, people on the left should organize "church-watches" which monitor, especially right before elections, activities and services in right wing churches. Then there's the corruption that surrounds the voting and election process. Democrats in the house and senate have entered bills that would make the voting process safer and more reliable. Republicans have failed to respond. At local levels, Republicans seem to have done all they can to keep the voting, vote counting, voter registration and voter access as untrustworthy, unfair and inaccessible for Democrats as possible. This is treacherous-- an attack on Democracy that should be punishable, in its worse forms, as a capital offense. Sorry, for most reasons, I oppose the death penalty, but when the most basic, core element of democracy-- the vote-- is "murdered" there is only one punishment that fits the crime-- the same one applied to traitors. Then there's the Republican position on cleaning up the money in politics-- in elections and in congress. The right wingers want to keep the money in. In our OpEdNews.com/Zogby People's Poll, we found that 66% of voters, want to take the money factor out of elections by providing a fixed amount of money to qualified candidates, and 65% of voters support a law that would require network and local TV stations to provide free ad time to qualified candidates. But just over 50% of Republicans oppose taking the money out, and while more Republicans support a law requiring free advertising for qualified candidates, that percentage doesn't reach 50%. The Republicans want to keep the influence buying, the ability of corporations and wealthy people to influence elections, at the price of a purer democratic process. I've been saying that part of the process of taking back America is waking people up. I've been saying that the only people left supporting Bush are either corrupt, greedy rich parasites who are tax avoiders and fools. But I need to modify that. These people are all tolerating an unbelievable level of corruption. These people MUST have impaired integrity and impaired character. There is hope for those right wingers who are finally waking up and seeing how bad the Republicans have been. Those Republicans who HAVE awakened MUST go to their legislators and tell them it is time to impeach both Bush and Cheney. One factor that may make a major difference in this year's elections is the response from moderates. Forty eight percent of them say republicans are corrupt, compared to one percent saying Democrats are. Frankly, there are enough DLC Republicrats so I think they are estimating too low. But the writing is on the wall. Unless Republicans take major steps to change the situation, they will be in deep doo doo this fall. It is time for the people on the right to either wake up and face the corruption they've allowed or accept that they are co-conspirators guilty of helping the crimes and corruption to continue.

Rob Kall is editor of
OpEdNews.com, President of Futurehealth, Inc, and organizer of several conferences, including StoryCon, the Summit Meeting on the Art, Science and Application of Story and The Winter Brain Meeting on neurofeedback, biofeedback, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology.

Monday, January 30, 2006

From: Opednews

GOP Lawmakers: Bush should disclose Abramoff contacts

-- Releasing the records would help eliminate suspicions that Abramoff, a top fundraiser for Bush's re-election campaign, had undue influence on the White House, the Republicans said. The comments from the Republicans, who hold the majority in Congress, show that it's not just Democrats who would like to see Bush come clean. In a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Friday, 76 percent of those surveyed said the Bush administration should provide a list of all meetings any White House officials have had with Abramoff. Two in three Republicans joined with eight in 10 Democrats and political independents in favoring disclosure, according to the poll.
From: America Blog

Even more documentation about FEMA incompetence after Katrina
by Chris in Paris -
Just more of the same and a glimpse of what the US should expect with any attempt by this administration to manage anything. Whether it's Iraq, Medicare, FEMA, whatever, it is always the same mess.
As Hurricane Katrina victims waited for help in flooded houses or in looted neighborhoods, hundreds of trucks, boats, planes and federal security officers sat unused because FEMA failed to give them missions, newly released documents show.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

From: Political Wire

Voters Favor Democrats
Key finding from the new ABC News/Washington Post poll

: "Americans — by a 16-point margin, 51 to 35 percent — now say the country should go in the direction in which the Democrats want to lead, rather than follow Bush. That's a 10-point drop for the president from a year ago, and the Democrats' first head-to-head majority of his presidency."In addition, Democrats lead Republicans by 14 points, 51 to 37 percent, "in trust to handle the nation's main problems, the first Democratic majority on this question since 1992. And the Democrats hold a 16-point lead in 2006 congressional election preferences, 54 to 38 percent among registered voters, their best since 1984."However, "whether this shifts many seats in the elections 10 months off is far from assured. Not only are the powers of incumbency immense, there's also no broad anti-incumbency sentiment in the country; indeed 64 percent approve of their own representative's work."
From: DU

Screw the Photos:Bush, Abramoff Smoking Gun is W Removing Prosecutor TWICE
Posted by Marleyb

Twice now, Bush has removed the prosecutor in the Abramoff case. Twice!From the LA Times, Aug 8, 2005 via Bellaciao:http://bellaciao.org/en/article.php3?id_article=7466 WASHINGTON — A US grand jury in Guam opened an investigation of controversial lobbyist Jack Abramoff more than two years ago, but President Bush removed the supervising federal prosecutor, and the probe ended soon after.SF Chronicle, Jan 27, 2006:http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/200... The investigation into Jack Abramoff, the disgraced Republican lobbyist, took a provocative new turn Thursday when the Justice Department said the chief prosecutor in the inquiry would step down next week because he had been nominated to a federal judgeship by President Bush. How can Bush remove Abramoff’s prosecutor twice and get away with it?I’m utterly speechless. Do I need to explain this? I mean, why isn’t this a major scandal that every politician and news network isn’t breaking. This is 24/7 headline news… but the corporate media buries it, while calling bloggers ‘irresponsible’.What could be worse... how bout this? Bush says he doesn’t really know Abramoff, but in May 2001, Abramoff charged his clients, the Coushatta Tribe, $25,000 to have lunch with Bush, The Texas Observer even has a copy of the check. http://www.texasobserver.org/showArticle_new.asp?Articl... http://benfrank.net/blog /What more do we need to impeach this guy and put him on trial? We shouldn't even be discussing Alito! A criminal should not be making appointments to the supreme court!

Friday, January 27, 2006

From: The people who brought you the Clinton Impeachment

U.S. Newswire/ -- Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances (PRCB) today called upon Congress to hold open, substantive oversight hearings examining the President's authorization of the National Security Agency (NSA) to violate domestic surveillance requirements outlined in the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, chairman of PRCB, was joined by fellow conservatives Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR); David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union; Paul Weyrich, chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation and Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, in urging lawmakers to use NSA hearings to establish a solid foundation for restoring much needed constitutional checks and balances to intelligence law.
"When the Patriot Act was passed shortly after 9-11, the federal government was granted expanded access to Americans' private information," said Barr. "However, federal law still clearly states that intelligence agents must have a court order to conduct electronic surveillance of Americans on these shores. Yet the federal government overstepped the protections of the Constitution and the plain language of FISA to eavesdrop on Americans' private communication without any judicial checks and without proof that they are involved in terrorism."
The following can be attributed to PRCB members:
"I believe that our executive branch cannot continue to operate without the checks of the other branches. However, I stand behind the President in encouraging Congress to operate cautiously during the hearings so that sensitive government intelligence is not given to our enemies." -- Paul Weyrich, chairman and CEO, Free Congress Foundation
"Public hearings on this issue are essential to addressing the serious concerns raised by alarming revelations of NSA electronic eavesdropping." -- Grover Norquist, president, Americans for Tax Reform
"The need to reform surveillance laws and practices adopted since 9/11 is more apparent now than ever. No one would deny the government the power it needs to protect us all, but when that power poses a threat to the basic rights that make our nation unique, its exercise must be carefully monitored by Congress and the courts. This is not a partisan issue; it is an issue of safeguarding the fundamental freedoms of all Americans so that future administrations do not interpret our laws in ways that pose constitutional concerns." -- David Keene, chairman, American Conservative Union
"If the law is not reformed, ordinary Americans' personal information could be swept into all-encompassing federal databases encroaching upon every aspect of their private lives. This is of particular concern to gun owners, whose rights guaranteed under the Second Amendment are currently being infringed upon under the Patriot Act's controversial record search provisions." -- Alan Gottlieb, founder, Second Amendment Foundation
Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances is an organization dedicated to protecting Americans' fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment and ensuring that all provisions of the Patriot Act are in line with the Constitution. For more information, visit the Web site at http://www.checksbalances.org.
All Venom, All The Time

By Charlie Cook© National Journal
This column was originally featured in National Journal
I am deeply troubled by the tenor of current political discourse in this country. More and more Republicans don't just disagree with Democrats, they despise them -- and vice versa. People don't just challenge someone's views -- they challenge the other person's integrity. Enjoyable, informative, and civil discussions between people with different points of view are becoming rare.
The most recent episode to deeply offend me occurred after Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's wife left the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in tears. An Alito opponent soon asked on a popular liberal Web site, "Do we want a judge who would marry such a weak-willed bitch?"
On the same day, I happened to watch The War Room, a documentary about the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign. In one scene, Clinton strategist James Carville fielded reporters' questions arising from allegations by conservatives that Clinton had been brainwashed or recruited as a Soviet agent while he backpacked across Europe during college.
There may well be plenty of reasons to oppose Alito's confirmation or to have opposed Clinton's candidacy, but aren't these attacks out of bounds for a civil society?
Of course, playing politics has never been a game of patty-cake. Politics junkies have all heard that a House member from the South beat an anti-slavery senator unconscious in 1856 and that the 1884 campaign chant against Grover Cleveland, who was accused of fathering a child out of wedlock, was "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa? Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha."
But an unreasonable share of today's political conversation is venomous and lacking any effort at accuracy or fairness. I blame this problem first on the rise of political food-fight shows on cable television, on radio talk shows, and most recently on the Internet, where political discourse has become the Wild West.
Although televised left-right sparring matches go way back -- at least to the 60 Minutes segment of the 1970s pitting conservative James Kilpatrick against liberal Shana Alexander -- the bounds of decency were respected as the other side's views were attacked. But talk radio erased those boundaries. Talk radio is tailored for like-minded people, and the host's goal is to promote outrage among listeners. The clear purpose is to inflame, not inform.
Fans of talk radio are quick to argue that its growth is due to a liberal and pro-Democratic bias among the mainstream media, a charge that is not completely without merit. It is certainly a plausible theory that the Newt Gingrich-led Republican sweep of the House and Senate in 1994 was powered largely by conservative talk-show hosts, most notably Rush Limbaugh.
Limbaugh and others tapped into a stream of outrage among alienated conservatives, and whipped their audiences into a frenzy that helped lead to the first Republican-controlled Congress in 40 years.
The Internet has simply taken the hostilities to new heights. Despite being one of the most amazing technological developments of the past 100 years, it is also an electronic version of the inside door of a public bathroom stall. Libelous accusations can be posted anonymously. And information that is inaccurate or taken totally out of context can get widely disseminated instantaneously.
What makes all of this so corrosive is that fewer people are reading, watching, or listening to political coverage that is balanced and fair. This results in hair-trigger reactions to any perceived misdeed by anyone in the opposite party, while partisans ignore comparable mistakes in their own party.
It all makes me nostalgic for my days as a high school debater. For one hour, we would have to argue the affirmative side of a proposal. During the next hour, we would have to make the case in opposition just as strenuously. Before long, most of us reached the conclusion that the truth was rarely found exclusively on a single side and that there are very legitimate arguments on each side of just about every important policy question. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer Americans share that view.
If there is a solution to the degeneration of our political debate, I haven't found it. But I certainly hope someone finds it soon.
From: Daily Kos

Senator John Kerry Calls For A Filibuster

by georgia10

Senator Kerry has officially called for a filibuster of Samuel Alito the Supreme Court. CNN reports the Senator will be making a statement shortly.
Three Democrats (Nelson, Johnson and Byrd) will vote for Alito. Senators Landrieu and Salazar have stated their opposition to a filibuster, and Senator Feinstein, if you'll recall, was also hesitant.
41 votes are needed to sustain a filibuster. CNN's congressional correspondent reports Kerry is calling on party and internet activists to support the filibuster. "I can't do this alone," he's telling them.
Update [2006-1-26 16:33:51 by georgia10]:: CNN story is up. Apparently, Senator Kennedy is joining Kerry in calling for a filibuster. The White House says it has the necessary votes to invoke cloture.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

From: The Seattle Times

Justice official endorsed spy curbs in 2002

By Jonathan S. Landay
A security officer stands guard during President Bush's visit to the National Security Agency on Wednesday in Fort Meade, Md.
WASHINGTON — A July 2002 Justice Department statement to a Senate committee appears to contradict several key arguments that the Bush administration is making to defend its eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without court warrants.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the law governing such operations, was working well, the department said in 2002. A "significant review" would be needed to determine whether FISA's legal requirements for obtaining warrants should be loosened if it was determined they hampered counterterrorism efforts, the department said then.
President Bush, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other top officials now argue that eavesdropping without warrants is necessary in part because complying with the FISA law is too burdensome and impedes the government's ability to rapidly track communications between suspected terrorists.
In its 2002 statement, the Justice Department said it opposed a legislative proposal to change the FISA to make it easier to obtain warrants that would allow the super-secret National Security Agency (NSA) to listen in on communications involving non-U.S. citizens inside the United States.
The eavesdropping program was authorized by Bush in 2001.
A Justice Department spokesman said Wednesday the administration opposed changing the law in 2002 in part because it did not want to debate the issue publicly.
"There was a conscious choice not to have a public discussion about it. It could have exposed the program. This was a military defense intelligence program," said the spokesman, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity surrounding the still-classified presidential order.
James Baker, the Justice Department's top lawyer on intelligence policy, made the statement before the Senate Intelligence Committee on July 31, 2002. He was laying out the department's position on an amendment to the FISA proposed by Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio. The committee rejected DeWine's proposal, leaving the law intact.
Bush and his allies contend today that Congress implicitly gave Bush the authority to evade the act's requirements when it authorized him to use force in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks three days after they occurred — a contention rejected by many lawmakers.
FISA requires the government to show a secret federal court that it has "probable cause" to believe a target for domestic eavesdropping is an agent of a foreign government or involved with a terrorist organization. DeWine's bill would have lowered the "probable cause" standard to one of only "reasonable suspicion" for warrants involving foreigners in the country.

Baker said in 2002 that because the "proposed change raises both significant legal and practical issues, the administration at this time is not prepared to support it."
Baker's 2002 statement drew new attention Wednesday as the White House continued its campaign to justify eavesdropping on Americans who are suspected of being in contact with al-Qaida or other terrorist groups, despite possible violation of the FISA.
Bush visited the NSA's sprawling complex at Fort Meade, Md., on Wednesday to deliver a closed-door morale-boosting talk to its work force. He later told reporters the eavesdropping operation was limited to communications in which one participant was outside the United States.
From: Opednews

Matthew Cardinale:

ACLU Georgia Uncovers Pentagon Spying Files

ACLU Georgia releases documents related to the spying of the Pentagon and other agencies on peace protesters. They pertain to vegans with signs, a protest medic, and the G8 Summit. ACLU says these are the tip of the iceberg.
From: Opednews
Prosecutors Investigating: Did DeLay Use Abramoff And Scanlon To Take Down House Speaker Livingston...

-- Jack Abramoff's partner Mike Scanlon admitted to digging up former Congressman Robert Livingston's private life. Set to become speaker, Livingston then got sidelined for Tom DeLay's man Denis Hastert. Prosecutors now checking if Abramoff and Scanlon took Livingston down at DeLay's behest.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

From: Democracy rising

General William Odom Supports the U.S. Empire But Opposes the Iraq War
Written by Kevin Zeese

Retired General William Odom, who served as a national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, spoke last Thursday to the Committee for the Republic in Washington, DC. He described the Iraq War as a historic blunder that the United States should end.
From: John Coyers blog

Fridays NSA Hearing
No Limiting Principle To Bush's excesses

Let me know your thoughts and suggestionsToday's hearing on the domestic wiretap scandal was a true milestone. The witnesses were informed and articulate. The Members were excellent as well. Rawstory has my opening statement, and all of the other statements from the hearing. We had good media coverage, with C-SPAN, ABC Radio, and Radio Pacifica covering live, and numerous other broadcast, print and bloggers were there. AP has a story, and I expect more to come.Although we were again forced into the basement, all of American heard us today and they now know we will not be silenced while the Constitution is shredded. One impression I came away with was how the witnesses all agreed that rather than improving the situation, the Administration's 42 page brief made things worse, as DOJ offered arguments that were not subject to any limiting principle to rein in the president at a time of unending war. In other words, not only are we being spied on, but we have a president who has laid out an ever deepening paper trail that he is above the law.Let me offer the following brief observations from the hearing:Bruce Fein-- the implausibility of the president's claims are self evident-- the principle of universal presidential power will lie around like a loaded gun, and if unchecked will be abusedJames Bamford-- Gave us a good history of FISA, the NSA was used by Nixon to wiretap Americans. The DOJ even investigated, but instead of prosecuting, FISA was enacted.Jonathan Turley-- Bush's actions constitute a clear crime-- There is no limiting principle to the president's arguments-- it is Congress' duty to protect the ConstitutionRichard Hersh-- Recounted how his peace activist group was investigated by DOD. Carole Frederickson-- discussed range of abuses by Bush, above and beyond secret spy program -- torture, enemy combatants, racial profiling, wiretapping lawyers, secret courts etc.Kate Martin-- explained how the wiretap program was not even an effective law enforcement tool.-- Bush's actions violate FISA several different waysQuestion and Answer-- Rep. Nadler reminds us that Bush can be prosecuted even after he leaves office because of the lenthy statute of limitations-- I asked the panelists what actions we should take. Fein says we should have hearings around the country. Turley says we must pursue all legal avenues. I also announced that I was sending a letter to various telecommunications companies asking them for information about the warrantless surveillance program.-- Rep. Schiff asks the panelists to cast Bush's arguments in the best light, and they all still are wanting.-- Rep. Van Hollen asks why we even consider laws like PATRIOT Act if Bush can just do what he wants. Tells us that just because the DOJ brief is longer the arguments aren't any better. -- Rep. Scott asks about Levi guidelines and notes that FBI can investigate Americans with no evidence or suspicion of a crime.-- Rep. Wexler asks Hersh about his group, which is mostly retirees, grandparents, and office workers.-- Rep. Dianne Watson (a former ambassador) asks how we can advocate for freedom abroad if the president is above the law here.If you get a chance, let me know your thoughts and suggestions about this critical issue.
From: Americablog

Washington Post, in rare moment of clarity, admonishes Bush for not coming clean about Abramoff

by John in DC
Hey, even a broken clock is right two times a day:
It's undisputed that Mr. Abramoff tried to use his influence, and his restaurant and his skyboxes and his chartered jets, to sway lawmakers and their staffs. Information uncovered by Mr. Bush's own Justice Department shows that Mr. Abramoff tried to do the same inside the executive branch.Under these circumstances, asking about Mr. Abramoff's White House meetings is no mere exercise in reportorial curiosity but a legitimate inquiry about what an admitted felon might have been seeking at the highest levels of government. Whatever White House officials did or didn't do, there is every reason to believe that Mr. Abramoff was up to no good and therefore every reason the public ought to know with whom he was meeting.You know, it's a bit late for the Washington Post to complain that President Bush is acting like he's above the law. The Washington Post and most of the traditional media enabled Bush, helped him get to where he is today by not questioning his repeated lies, his repeated over-reaching for more and more power, to hell with the law, and now that the chickens come home to roost, the Post is suddenly shocked - I say, shocked - that George Bush is refusing to come clean.You get the president you enable.
From: Kos

Daou's "Triangle"
by kos

This essay by Peter Daou, formerly Kerry's netroots guru, may be the most important thing I've read in a long time.
What's the common thread running through the past half-decade of Bush's presidency? What's the nexus between the Swift-boating of Kerry, the Swift-boating of Murtha, and the guilt-by-association between Democrats and terrorists? Why has a seemingly endless string of administration scandals faded into oblivion? Why do Democrats keep losing elections? It's this: the traditional media, the trusted media, the "neutral" media, have become the chief delivery mechanism of potent anti-Democratic and pro-Bush storylines. And the Democratic establishment appears to be either ignorant of this political quandary or unwilling to fight it [...]
What's so dumbfounding to progressive netroots activists, who clearly see the role of the traditional media in perpetuating these storylines - and are taking concrete action (here, here, and here) to remedy the problem - is that Democratic politicians, strategists, and surrogates have internalized these narratives and play into them, publicly wringing their hands over how to fix their" muddled" message, how to deal with Bush's "strength" on national security, how to talk about "values." It's become a self-fulfilling cycle, with Democrats reinforcing anti-Dem myths because they can't imagine any other explanation for the apparent lack of resonance of their message. Out of desperation, they resort to hackneyed, focus-grouped slogans in a vain attempt to break through the filter.
It's simple: if your core values and beliefs and positions, no matter how reasonable, how mainstream, how correct, how ethical, are filtered to the public through the lens of a media that has inoculated the public against your message, and if the media is the public's primary source of information, then NOTHING you say is going to break through and change that dynamic. Which explains, in large measure, the Dems' sorry electoral failures.
From: Daily Kos

From Daily Kos: Bush Admin knew "reasonable suspicion" standard ... was probably unconstitutional

Posted by Justice Is commin
Republican Senator Mike DeWine introduced an amendment to reduce the standard of FISA to reasonable "suspicion" for surveillance being acceptable instead of "probable cause."James Baker, Bush's top snoop dog at the time responsible for preparing all application to FISA for electronic surveillances said we are doing just fine now, thank you. We are moving quickly and effectively thanks to the laws Congress has already passed in the Patriot act. And it is a great concern that lowering this standard would cause constitutional concerns. "Little to gain, perhaps much to lose.This was in 2002 LONG AFTER 9-11 . DeWine's amendment was rejected in committee by the BUSH ADMINISTRATION
The admission that Bush's spying program uses a "reasonable suspicion" standard rather than a "probable cause" standard is explosive and damning. Why? Because the Bush administration knew--indeed, took the position--that a reasonable suspicion standard with respect to non-U.S. citizens was probably unconstitutional. Yet the administration now applies that same unconstitutional standard to United States citizens?In the summer of 2002--well after Bush's spying program was already secretly implemented- the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence held a hearing on the DeWine amendment. (Hearing Report PDF) What transpired at that hearing proves that the Bush administration (a) knew that wiretaps of United States citizens are, pursuant to the Constitution, always subject to a probable cause standard; and (b) Congress explicitly rejected a lower standard for non-U.S. citizens.DeWine himself limited his amendment to apply only to non-U.S. citizens, recognizing that "we must be cautious not to endorse an overly permissive use of the surveillance powers of FISA." The Committee heard testimony from the administration's top lawyers, and from top legal scholars in the field of eavesdropping and criminal law.James Baker was then counsel for intelligence policy at the Department of Justice and head of the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, which is the office that prepares and presents to the FISA court "all the applications under the FISA Act for electronic surveillance and physical search of foreign powers and their agents." If there was any expert on FISA warrant and applications at the time, it was Baker. He began his testimony by praising the PATRIOT ACT FISA changes, testifying as follows:In my view, the changes have allowed us to move more quickly and more effectively and to also be more focused in our approach in dealing with the kinds of threats that Mr. Bowman made reference to. So we at the Department are grateful for the changes that Congress made in the statute, because I believe they've been important and have been employed effectively.READ THIS ENTIRELY...
From: Opednews
Stephen Crockett:

Republican Scandals Spell Democratic Victories

Republican scandals are impacting races around the nation. Combined with voting machine scandals and demographic changes, the scandals spell an end to Republican rule.
From: Opednews
Mark S. Tucker:

Fascism Doesn’t Always Roar...

Corporation? Unitary Executive? What's the diff? Well, Santa Clara is the key.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

New Docs Show Gov't Forewarned on Katrina

Posted by RamboLiberal

The Homeland Security Department was warned a day before Hurricane Katrina hit that the storm's surge could breach levees and leave New Orleans flooded for weeks or months, documents released Monday show. An Aug. 28 report by the department's National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center concluded that a Category 4 or 5 hurricane would cause severe damage in the city, including power outages and a direct economic hit of up to $10 billion for the first week. "Overall, the impacts described herein are conservative," stated the report, which was sent to Homeland Security's office for infrastructure protection. "Any storm rated Category 4 or greater ... will likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching, leaving the New Orleans metro area submerged for weeks or months," said the report, which was released by a Senate panel examining the government's breakdown in responding to Katrina. More...

From: Democrats.org

Why Did President Bush Deliberately Choose to Break the Law?
Governor Dean:
"In our democracy no one, not even the President, is above the law. Democrats understand that we must take extraordinary measures to defend Americans, and existing laws were crafted to ensure that the President can legally listen to conversations when necessary. So the question remains: why did President Bush deliberately choose to break the law, as the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has twice reported? The American people deserve an answer."
From: Democrats.org

Justices Take Gifts Too
You might remember Senator Feingold asking Chief Justice Roberts about members of the Supreme Court accepting gifts from organizations while they sit on the bench. Turns out, there was a good reason for that question.
At the historic swearing-in of John Roberts as the 17th chief justice of the United States last September, every member of the Supreme Court, except Antonin Scalia, was in attendance. ABC News has learned that Scalia instead was on the tennis court at one of the country's top resorts, the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Bachelor Gulch, Colo., during a trip to a legal seminar sponsored by the Federalist Society. [...]
According to the event's invitation, obtained by ABC News, the Federalist Society promised members who attended the seminar an exclusive and "rare opportunity to spend time, both socially and intellectually" with Scalia.
"I think Justice Scalia should not have gone on that trip for several reasons," Gillers commented. "They are a group with a decided political-slash-judicial profile."
One night at the resort, Scalia attended a cocktail reception, sponsored in part by the same lobbying and law firm where convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff once worked.
"Roberts, Scalia and Thomas declined comment and requests for interviews by ABC News. A spokesman for the Federalist Society also declined to comment."
From: Smirking Chimp

John Nichols: 'What the President ordered in this case was a crime

YahooWhile Judge Sam Alito's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee has confirmed that he is not one of their number, a dwindling cadre of public servants still take seriously the dictates of the Constitution and the intents of it authors. And there is no more serious dictate of the document -- and no more solidly established intent -- than the one that requires the Congress to serve as a check and a balance against the excesses of the executive branch. Most particularly in a time of war, the founders intended for the Congress to question, challenge and constrain the president and his aides so that never again would Americans be subjected to the illegitimate, unwarranted and illegal dictates of a King George.This mandate, so well-established and so thoroughly grounded in history and tradition, places a particularly high demand on the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. It is in the House, the Constitution tells us, that the work of holding an out-of-control president to account, must begin -- and it is on the Judiciary Committee that the process is initiated.The committee's current chair, Representative James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, should understand this charge better than most. After all, he was at the center of the effort in 1998 and 1999 to impeach former President Bill Clinton.
( The full story...
From: Opednews

Administration preparing for Impeachment Hearings, says Insight, Conservative Mag

Impeachment proponents in Congress have been bolstered by a memorandum by the Congressional Research Service on Jan. 6. CRS, which is the research arm of Congress, asserted in a report by national security specialist Alfred Cumming that the amended 1947 law requires the president to keep all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees "fully and currently informed" of a domestic surveillance effort. It was the second CRS report in less than a month that questioned the administration's domestic surveillance program.
From: Consortium news

The End of 'Unalienable Rights'

George W. Bush's extraordinary assertion of unlimited Executive power signals a monumental change in the structure of American democracy. As Bush's legal analysts tout the "zenith" of his presidential authority, the impact on traditional American liberties is profound. It means an end to the concept of "unalienable rights" as envisioned by the Founding Fathers 230 years ago. The new reality is that all American rights are at the forbearance of the President. January 24, 2006