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A Faerie's Farthing

Flitting through the internets looking for sparkly bits. All content mine and not to be reproduced without permission.

Location: All Material Copyrighted, United States

Friday, December 30, 2005

Borrow and Squander

Borrow and Squander

Ok, I give up; can someone please explain to me the mental disconnect that allows the GOP to persist in their asinine tax cuts? If any household, business or other entity ran their affairs in this manner, they wouldn't last a day.
U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow warned lawmakers on Thursday that a legally set limit on the government's ability to borrow will be hit in mid-February and urged Congress to raise it quickly.

Failure to do so potentially risks throwing the country into its first default in history, Snow warned in what has become virtually an annual rite as U.S. borrowing needs spiral.

I'm especially bothered by the expression "borrowing needs." It is not a need; it's a choice and a very sorry indicator of the priorities of this administration and its congressional enablers. Medicare and Medicaid are slashed so the rich can have tax cuts. "Appalling" doesn't begin to cover it.
Snow said that Treasury, if the debt limit was not raised by then, would have to take "extraordinary actions" to keep paying its bills for everything from Social Security to national defense spending.

Even if Treasury took "all available prudent and legal actions to avoid breaching the statutory debt limit, we anticipate that we can finance government operations no longer than mid-March."

I've got a suggestion: every member of the administration who really doesn't need their federal salaries could forego them. Ditto for those members of Congress voting in favor of tax cuts and debt increases - anyone who can afford to should follow the noble example set by Governor-elect Corzine. Or maybe Congress could pull a Newt and let the government shut down. The tax cuts only benefit 1% of the population, after all; surely moderate Rs up for re-election could be pressured into being reasonable. There's simply no reason they should stick their necks out for the squanderer-in-chief when such reckless financial policy is detrimental to most of the population and the nation as a whole.
The call for an increase in the debt ceiling typically provokes a round of criticism from opposition politicians over excessive government spending and the process is drawn out until nearly the last possible moment.

Well I would hope so. I also hope it doesn't pass. I really think the GOP does this on purpose when they're in power so that when the Dems take the reigns, they're the ones who, of necessity, end up raising taxes. Being the adult is never any fun.

Abramoff Worse Than Abscam

Abramoff Worse Than Abscam

WaPo has a *great* story on Abramoff.

Alan K. Simpson (R), the former Wyoming senator who was in Washington during the last big congressional scandal -- the Abscam FBI sting in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in which six House members and one senator were convicted -- said the Abramoff case looks bigger. Simpson said he recently rode in a plane with one of Abramoff's attorneys, who told him: "There are going to be guys in your former line of work who are going to be taken down."

Abramoff is now officially toxic:

Burns, one of half a dozen legislators under scrutiny by the federal Abramoff task force, returned $150,000 in campaign contributions this month.

"This Abramoff guy is a bad guy," Burns told a Montana television station. "I hope he goes to jail and we never see him again. I wish he'd never been born, to be right honest with you."

Former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards (Okla.), usually a defender of lobbying and Congress, said there have always been members who get caught "stuffing money in their pants." But he said this is different -- a "disgusting" and disturbingly broad scandal driven by lobbyists whose attitude seemed to be "government to the highest bidder."

"This is at a scale that is really shocking," said Edwards, who teaches public and international affairs at Princeton. "There is a certain kind of arrogance that in the past you might not have had. They were so supremely confident that there didn't seem to be any kind of moral compass here."

wing tip to Attaturk!

If Baghdad Bob Were a Lawyer

If Baghdad Bob Were a Lawyer

I imagine he would sound a lot like Saddam's chief lawyer, Khalil Dulaimi. In a letter to shrubya, he proclais "complete innocence" for his client and demands he be released, saying "His popularity gains by the day and (he) is beloved by millions of Iraqis."

The United States should free Saddam Hussein if it wants to end its problems in Iraq and earn the friendship of Arabs, the former Iraqi president's lawyer wrote in a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush.

The chief lawyer for Saddam at his trial for crimes against humanity in Baghdad told Bush that Iraqis who supported their former leader were waiting for a bold decision from the world's most powerful statesman to free him.

I have to hand it to him, though; his appeals to shrubya's vanity and delusions of grandeur are fantastic. He even goes so far as to suggest that freeing Saddam would make him the legend he yearns to be, securing his place of greatness in history.

Such a decision would prove to be the panacea that would end Washington's woes over Iraq, Dulaimi asserted.

"Your relations with Iraq will then be historic and you will win the favor of the Arabs and Muslims and the entire world," Dulaimi said.

Shall we take bets?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Sen. Gordon Smith on the Rule of Law

Sen. Gordon Smith on the Rule of Law

It's time to remind all the GOoPer politicians of the principled stances they once espoused regarding the president and our nation's laws. You can fax for free via the web! This is what I sent:

"But we have to decide on the evidence today, and the evidence to me is clear. Soldiers and sailors are discharged and punished for far less than what the President did. And judges are impeached by the House and removed by the Senate for far less than this. Indeed, we have to ask, is the President to be held to a lower standard than those he sends to war or those he appoints to dispense justice? I cannot and I never will agree to such a low standard for the Presidency of the United States."

Dear Senator Smith:

I hope you recognize the above quotation; those are your words on the subject of Clinton's impeachment. I hope you are still willing to hold the president of the United States to such a standard, because we are a nation of laws, not men or political party. I'm sure you realize that the crisis before us is not a partisan issue, but a question of the foundation of our democracy.

I am counting on you to uphold the rule of law and our Constitution, which you have sworn to defend. Nixon faced impeachment over lying to the American people and using illegal wire taps. This situation is no different - the evidence is clear.

"Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- *a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so*. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."

- George W. Bush, April 20, 2004

Presidential Oath of Office:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

U.S. Constitution; Article II, Section III:

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; *he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed*, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

Thank you for your attention to this gravely important matter. To quote a recent column from Anne Applebaum, "The rule of law is an ongoing process, not a goal." That process is what defines America; our goal should be to support it absolutely.


A Few Moments From History

A Few Moments From History

Presidential oath of office, sworn by shrubya on Jan. 20th, 2000 & 2005:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

U.S. Constitution; Article II, Section III:
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

Specification of Charges (Bill of Particulars) for articles of impeachment against Nixon:

Pursuant to the plan or scheme specified in Count 1, President Nixon and his co-conspirators:

2. Illegal Wiretaps. Caused wiretaps to be placed on the telephones of seventeen persons without having obtained a court order authorizing the tap, as required by federal law; in violation of sections 241, 371 and 2510-11 of the Criminal Code.

Don't miss the ACLU's great advertisements - they've been putting them in the NYT!

Impeachment: It's Not Just for Blowjobs Anymore

Impeachment: It's Not Just for Blowjobs Anymore

Neither is it just for democrats, liberals and other assorted leftists anymore. Congressional republicans have joined the calls for an investigation and the momentum for impeachment is steadily growing. Bob Barr, a former U.S. Representative who was active in Clinton's impeachment is now turning the same ire on shrubya, saying "This is just such an egregious violation of the electronic surveillance laws." Robert Levy, a Senior Fellow of Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute - and Board Member of the Federalist Society - makes some excellent points regarding limits on presidential power before concluding that shrubya has "overreached." I think he was euphemizing.

In a recent interview with Diane Rehm, conservative scholars Bruce Fein and Norm Ornstein were a bit more blunt. Ornstein is quoted as saying, "I think if we’re going to be intellectually honest here, this really is the kind of thing that Alexander Hamilton was referring to when impeachment was discussed." Fein was not so reserved:

I think the answer requires at least in part considering what the occupant of the presidency says in the aftermath of wrongdoing or rectification. On its face, if President Bush is totally unapologetic and says I continue to maintain that as a war-time President I can do anything I want – I don’t need to consult any other branches – that is an impeachable offense. It’s more dangerous than Clinton’s lying under oath because it jeopardizes our democratic dispensation and civil liberties for the ages. It would set a precedent that … would lie around like a loaded gun, able to be used indefinitely for any future occupant.

But I think even they were too restrained. The right-thinking members of the right must make themselves heard on this issue; eloquent comparisons to loaded guns will, I'm afraid, get lost in the translation. Unlike their GOoPer doppelgangers, true conservatives are serious in the things they say and the sentiments they express; they also tend to know a lot more on the subjects at hand. They are actually capable of arguing their points and could truly reach people - if they can be heard above the RWNM.

And they must be; this has nothing whatsoever to do with partisanship and the dittoheads of the world need to understand that this is real. Which is why I was so happy to see Fein kickng it up a notch in an op-ed for the very conservative Washington Times yesterday. He lays out the finer points of the legal violations involved and pretty much shreds the administration's defenses, saying "the Constitution's separation of powers is too important to be discarded in the name of expediency."

President Bush secretly ordered the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on the international communications of U.S. citizens in violation of the warrant requirement of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, abominations.

...Mr. Bush has adamantly refused to acknowledge any constitutional limitations on his power to wage war indefinitely against international terrorism, other than an unelaborated assertion he is not a dictator.

...Volumes of war powers nonsense have been assembled to defend Mr. Bush's defiance of the legislative branch and claim of wartime omnipotence so long as terrorism persists, i.e., in perpetuity.

...President Bush preposterously argues the Sept. 14, 2001, congressional resolution authorizing "all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons [the president] determines" were implicated in the September 11 attacks provided legal sanction for the indefinite NSA eavesdropping outside the aegis of FISA. But the FISA statute expressly limits emergency surveillances of citizens during wartime to 15 days, unless the president obtains congressional approval for an extension.

...Moreover, the White House has maintained Congress was not asked for a law authorizing the NSA eavesdropping because the legislature would have balked, not because the statute would have duplicated the war resolution.

Yes; they were too stupid/drunk with hubris to even lie about it. Why does it always come down to "criminal or incompetent" with this bunch? Not only did shrubya brazenly admit to breaking the law; he also vowed to continue doing so. Even Barron's - a conservative stalwart owned by the WSJ - was appalled.

"the Bush administration has been fighting terrorism by intercepting communications in America without warrants. It was worrisome on its face, but in justifying their actions, officials have made a bad situation much worse: Administration lawyers and the president himself have tortured the Constitution and extracted a suspension of the separation of powers.

...Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation.

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

...the president said: "It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy."

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

But even they were too generous. As encouraging as these pieces are, none of these conservatives has yet called for impeachment directly. I wish they were all as vociferous as Paul Craig Roberts, who has been calling for outright impeachment since at least circa the Downing Street Memos. The current outrage is another in a long line of impeachable offenses as far as he's concerned. He's also delightfully scathing in his criticisms. After Katrina, he described this administration as "the most incompetent government in American history and perhaps in all history." With the suspension of habeus corpus, he characterized shrubya and the GOP as "bringing evil to the world and tyranny to America." Now that man knows how to castigate!

wing tip to dkosser fabooj for the title. also, don't miss this fabulous collection of quotes from republicans on the importance of the rule of law. and mark your calendars - impeachment rallies are being planned for March!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Guerrilla Marketing Is Fun!

Guerrilla Marketing Is Fun!

I just put my sign up tonight and it's already been fucked with. w00t! I went outside to check on it and someone had folded it on top of the bricks. At least they didn't take it, I guess.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Scrap fabric - $0
Hot glue gun - $0 (it was abandoned by an ex-roomie along the way)
Seeing that !@#$%& impeached - priceless!

Have you read the impeachment checklist? Even more fun is this collection of quotes from republicans on how so very important the rule of law is.

Two Georges, Two Iraqs, One Good Decision

Two Georges, Two Iraqs, One Good Decision

If only shrubya had read his father's book...

"Incalculable human and political costs...We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect rule Iraq,"

"The coalition would have instantly collapsed. ... Going in and thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations mandate would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish."

"Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."

- The adult George Bush

"Even if Hussein were captured and his regime toppled, U.S. forces would still have been confronted with the specter of a military occupation of indefinite duration to pacify the country and sustain a new government in power.

"Removing him from power might well have plunged Iraq into civil war, sucking U.S. forces in to preserve order. Had we elected to march on Baghdad, our forces might still be there."

- James Baker, Sec. of State to the adult George Bush

Hell, even Darth Cheney agreed with them, but that was before he had worked for Halliburton. And of course, terra, terra, Sadamma Bin laden, 9/11 changed everything; this time, we had to invade. I guess he doesn't read either, which is a pity. I'd really like to see the spin on this:

"If the Kurds want to separate from Iraq it's OK, as long as they keep their present boundaries," said Sgt. Hazim Aziz, an Arab soldier who was stubbing out a cigarette in a barracks room. "But there can be no conversation about them taking Kirkuk. ... If it becomes a matter of fighting, then we will join any force that fights to keep Kirkuk. We will die to keep it."

Kurdish soldiers in the room seethed at the words.

"These soldiers do not know anything about Kirkuk," Capt. Ismail Mahmoud, a former member of the Kurdish Peshmerga militia, said as he got up angrily and walked out of the room. "There is no other choice. If Kirkuk does not become part of Kurdistan peacefully we will fight for 100 years to take it."

Five days spent interviewing Iraqi army soldiers in northern Iraq - who are overwhelmingly Kurdish - made clear that many soldiers think that a civil war is coming.

Parades! Rose petals! "Kumbayah" in Arabic!

Achieving independence is a matter of life and death for Mahmoud, as with most other Kurdish soldiers interviewed.

...Col. Sabar Saleem, the head of intelligence for the 4th Brigade of the Iraqi 2nd Division in the city of Mosul, said there would be no compromise over Kirkuk.

"War is just another kind of political solution," said Saleem, a former Peshmerga.

He said that while he wore an Iraqi army uniform he had a much larger mission in mind.

"I tell you that I am a part of the Iraqi army, but when it comes to the Kurdish cause I am willing to offer my life, my head, for one inch of Kurdish land," Saleem said. "Especially for Kirkuk."

There are roughly 10,000 equally impassioned Kurds serving in the Iraqi army. Their loyalty also lies with an independent Kurdistan that includes Kirkuk.

The soldiers said that while they wore Iraqi army uniforms they still considered themselves members of the Peshmerga - the Kurdish militia - and were awaiting orders from Kurdish leaders to break ranks. Many said they wouldn't hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades, especially Arabs, if a fight for an independent Kurdistan erupted.

"It doesn't matter if we have to fight the Arabs in our own battalion," said Gabriel Mohammed, a Kurdish soldier in the Iraqi army who was escorting a Knight Ridder reporter through Kirkuk. "Kirkuk will be ours."

The Kurds have readied their troops not only because they've long yearned to establish an independent state but also because their leaders expect Iraq to disintegrate.

Not only do they expect it, they don't seem to mind the prospect one bit.

Col. Sabar Saleem, a former Peshmerga who's the head intelligence officer for the 4th Brigade, said he answered to the Peshmerga leadership. He also said he had little use for most Sunni Arabs.

"All of the Sunnis are facilitating the terrorists. They have little influence compared with the Kurds and Shiites, so they allow the terrorists to operate to create pressure and get political concessions," Saleem said. "So they should be killed, too ... the Sunni political leaders in Baghdad are supporting the insurgency, too, and there will be a day when they are tried for it."

I'd almost say they're even looking forward to it.

"We will do our best diplomatically, and if that fails we will use force" to secure borders for an independent Kurdistan, Mustafir said. "The government in Baghdad will be too weak to use force against the will of the Kurdish people."

...One key to the Kurds' plan for independence is securing control of Kirkuk, the seat of a province that holds some of Iraq's largest oil fields. Should the Kurds push for independence, Kirkuk and its oil would be a key economic engine.

..."Kirkuk is Kurdistan; it does not belong to the Arabs," Hamid Afandi, the minister of Peshmerga for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, one of the two major Kurdish groups, said in an interview at his office in the Kurdish city of Irbil. "If we can resolve this by talking, fine, but if not, then we will resolve it by fighting."

You're doin' a heckuva job, Georgie...

wing tip to dailykos and americablog!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Wanker in Chief

Wanker in Chief

This is what shrubya's biography should look like:

Monday, December 26, 2005

AFA Goes After Santorum

AFA Goes After Santorum

His Frothiness has been chastized by the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Family Association for not behaving to their liking. It seems they're upset with him for not further endangering his re-election prospects in defense of intelligent design curricula. As Atrios says, "Poor little Ricky. He's stupid and he's ugly and nobody likes him."

A conservative organization that touts itself as a supporter of traditional values blasted Sen. Rick Santorum for his withdrawal of support for the Dover Area School District's unconstitutional intelligent design policy.

"Senator Rick Santorum's agreement with Judge John Jones' decision ... is yet another example of why conservatives can no longer trust the senator," the American Family Association of Pennsylvania said in a news release Friday.

..."It's a warning that he needs to be careful" Gramley said. "That he's beginning to lose his conservative base."

Wingnut™ Wars are fun!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Wall? What Wall?

Wall? What Wall?

I really can't believe I just read this. But read it I did.

A Cincinnati appeals court ruled Tuesday that a Kentucky courthouse can display the Ten Commandments alongside other historical documents, even though the U.S. Supreme Court recently barred a similar display 50 miles away.

The decision from the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals means the display in Mercer County is permitted as long as the religious document is not given significance over the other documents, which include the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.

...Manion said the Supreme Court rulings in the other Kentucky cases left an opening for such displays as long as those who erect them don't make religion a focal point.

In the other counties, the court noted, the displays were put up as pastors and others applauded the effort to bring religion into public places. The judges concluded that did not happen in Mercer County, thus making the display there permissible.

"The Ten Commandments are part of an otherwise secular exhibit," Judge Richard Suhrheinrich wrote for the panel.

...we conclude that the Mercer County display lacks a religious purpose and further conclude that it does not endorse religion.

It lacks a religious purpose, but is part of an "otherwise secular" exhibit. Do those of the wingnutosphere never think about the things they say? I can't wait to see what happens when Hindus, Muslims, Pagans, and Jews petition to have their religions acknowledged in such a display. That will tell us whether or not it's an endorsement of religion.

As you enter the Mercer County Courthouse from the front, on the left wall are framed displays of the national anthem, the preamble to the Kentucky Constitution, the Ten Commandments, the Mayflower Compact and the Declaration of Independence.

On the right wall is Lady Justice, an explanation of the Foundation for American Law and Government, the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution and two frames containing the Magna Carta.

One of these things is not like the others; one of these things just doesn't belong. The wingnuts themselves aren't even trying to pretend there's no signifigance in displaying the Ten Commandments alongside the documents which form the foundation of our legal system. In the full text of the ruling, we are informed that the display also contains a commentary page providing an explanation for each of the items featured. Here is the explanation for the Ten Commandments:

The Ten Commandments have profoundly influenced the formation of
Western legal thought and the formation of our country. That influence is clearly
seen in the Declaration of Independence, which declared that “We hold these truths
to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their
Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the
pursuit of Happiness.” The Ten Commandments provide the moral background of
the Declaration of Independence and the foundation of our legal tradition.

Never mind that most of our founding fathers ascribed to no specific religion; never mind the Treaty with Tripoli, which explicitly states "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." I think God himself could tell the dominionists that America was not established as a Christian nation and they'd probably still persist in these delusions. Needless to say, they're ecstatic over this ruling. The same groups who want to see Biblical edicts codified into law are almost as gleeful over this as they were after Alito's nomination. Which makes this development really scary - would the Supreme Court continue to rule against such practices if he is seated?

Opponents, however, said the ruling is a rebuke to the Supreme Court decision in June that barred almost identical displays at courthouses in Pulaski and McCreary counties in southeastern Kentucky.

...In those cases, a 5-4 Supreme Court majority found that the displays in McCreary and Pulaski counties violated the Constitution because they were erected with a clear religious purpose.

"This creates a situation where a court of appeals is essentially ignoring a Supreme Court decision," said Scott Greenwood, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the displays. "It's a slap in the face."

Greenwood said the display in Mercer County is virtually identical to the other displays and was put up with the same purpose: to promote religion.

...ACLU attorney David Friedman said he is disappointed with the ruling.

..."It endorses religion by trying to wrap the Ten Commandments in the flag," Friedman said.

And that's the bottom line. I don't care what technical hairs they split over the Ten Commandments not having any prominence over the other pieces in the display; the very fact that they are being presented as equal to legal documents is problematic enough. Neither do I buy this nonsense about it being a "historical" display. Yes; these documents are all of historic importance, but they are specifically relevant to our nation's legal history. If the display included information about the town's development or history about the courthouse being built, they might have a point. But it doesn't and neither do they. They have placed their religious doctrine in a display with items of legal provenance at the county offices of law and justice. They know full well what this means; this "opening" means everything to them.

"Courts across the country are closely split on these issues," Friedman said. "This panel is more tolerant of government conduct that endorses religion."

But those who have defended counties in their quest to post the Old Testament edicts said Tuesday's decision is a sign that judicial opinion on the separation of church and state is moving to the right.

"It gives a road map to cities and counties that want to display the Ten Commandments," said Francis A. Manion, of the American Center for Law and Justice, which represented Mercer County in the case. Manion also represents other counties in Kentucky facing similar lawsuits.

That's the same American Center for Law and Justice founded by Pat Robertson. Their other distinctions include representomg Terri Schiavo's parents and protecting the free speech rights of "pro-life" demonstrators. They also have quite the quarrel with the ACLU as outlined by Jay Sekulow:

I spent this past weekend reviewing a number of issues involving the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). It has been clear for a long time that the ACLU is out of step not only with the American people, but oftentimes with common sense.

...On the religious liberty front, the ACLU’s assault on the Ten Commandments and other forms of expressions of faith in the public square has been unrelenting.

...I have instructed our ACLJ regional offices and our affiliates throughout the country to aggressively pursue cases involving the ACLU. We are prepared to defend cities, counties, members of Congress and others who are placed in the legal crosshairs by the ACLU and their lawyers.

If one didn't know any better - maybe we don't - one might think that Judge Suhrheinrich's legal opinion was ghost written by Mr. Sekulow himself.

Suhrheinrich took several swipes at the ACLU at the end of the ruling. Throughout the ruling, he wrote that a reasonable person might see the McCreary and Pulaski displays as a religious documents while a reasonable person would see the Mercer County display as secular.

"And the ACLU ... does not embody the reasonable person," he wrote.

Friedman's reply: "Judge Suhrheinrich thought it was appropriate to put in the opinion, so he did."

Gratuitous disparagement of the case's plaintiff...classy. If that doesn't qualify him as a judicial activist, maybe this will:

The appeals judges also said the ACLU misinterpreted the Constitution's ban on establishing a religion to mean there can be no acknowledgement of religion by government.

"The ACLU makes repeated reference to the 'separation of church and state,' " Suhrheinrich wrote. "This extra-constitutional construct has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state.

Ok, sure; technically, it is an "extra-constitutional construct," but I would certainly expect a federal judge to appreciate the significance of its source. Originating as it did with Thomas Jefferson - who played a large role in the creation of the Bill of Rights - has got to count for something. To most constitutional scholars, it does; for those with an agenda, it doesn't. And so we end up with federal judges pretending that "de jure" is a prerequisite for "de facto" and ignoring the very necessary, practical and invaluable wall between legislative and spiritual affairs.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.

(signed) Thomas Jefferson

Maybe they're just testy because he equated "religion" with "opinion." The Wingnut™ Brigade never has had a sense of humor; there's nothing they enjoy more than taking themselves far too seriously. After all, if the only tool you have is a persecution complex, you tend to see every problem as a lion.

Full text of the ruling, if you're interested. wing tip to dailykos!

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

R.I.P. - Best. Dog. Ever.

R.I.P. - Best. Dog. Ever.

I had to put my baby down today. Okay, she was 14 and not technically a "baby," but you know how it is with pets. She was recently diagnosed with oral cancer and things turned south real quick. You always know it's an eventuality, but you're never prepared for it. But this is not about being sad. This is about what a wonderful dog she was. And she was the greatest.

Since both of her parents were mutts, I've always figured that made her a purebred mutt. The best description would be border collie-lab-setter. And she had the best of all those worlds. Even as an adult dog, her hair was luxuriously soft and so very wonderful to pet. Here is a picture of her at roughly age 9 wearing bunny ears.

She was a spoiled little beastie, but she deserved it. I really did get extremely lucky - you never really know how a puppy will be as an adult dog. But she was just the sweetest, happiest thing. People always commented that she smiled a lot. I actually had her trained for off-leash really, really well, so I took her most everywhere with me. It was always heaps of fun. The best thing, though, was when I would ride my bike down the street and she'd run along with me on the sidewalk! We both loved the hell out of that.

We hiked a lot, too; she was a great hiking dog. She'd always run way ahead of me on the trail (or off of it - she loved hikes) and would then poke her head back around the corner to make sure I was still catching up. Secure in that knowledge, she'd tear right back off again. And so we hiked.

She also loved water. The first time I ever took her to a lake, I could barely get her leash off before she was jumping in. She would fetch a stick from halfway across a river and swim back to you with it. She definitely preferred rivers and lakes to oceans though; not really sure why.

Even though I've always considered her to be the quintessential dog, she did have some very un-doglike habits. She was never one to stick her head out of car windows to slobber in the wind. Thank goodness. She also loved fruits and vegetables of all kinds, which I fed her often.

This all started when I was trying to train her as a puppy. If you've ever been through dog training, you know that "stay" is really a very abstract thing and one of the hardest to teach. One day, though, she was doing it perfectly and I really wanted to reward her with one of her carob treats, but they were in the other room. I knew that if I left her field of vision, all would be lost.

As it happened, the only thing nearby was a canister of raisins. I figured they were small and brown and sweet; maybe she wouldn't notice. So I gave her two or three and told her what a good "stay" she was doing. She scarfed them right up without a second thought. Later, I gave her a few more just to see if that was a fluke, but she ate those too.

So I was really curious to see what else she might like and made a point to always test new fruits and vegetables. I think about the only things she ended up not liking were lettuce and mushrooms. She actually didn't go for as many fruits as she did vegetables. She liked apples, pears, strawberries and pineapple well enough, but her absolute favorite was cantelope. I always gave her my rinds, making sure to leave a few healthy bites on them for her. For hours afterward, I would find shredded melon rind all over the place, most of it scraped as clean as dog teeth can get it.

Over the years, I learned that she was moody about cucumbers and zucchini, sometimes eating it, sometimes dropping it in the middle of the floor. Tomatos were one of her favorites; she definitely liked organic romas the best. Her other favorites included pickles, avocados, red peppers, asparagus, peas, all kinds of beans and carrots. She LOVED carrots.

But I think her favorite of all would have to be broccoli. It had to be steamed though; she wouldn't touch it raw. I'm sure that dog ate more organic broccoli than any human I know, except myself. I couldn't think of having broccoli without sharing some with her. She would smell it steaming and not leave the kitchen - by the way she acted, you'd think I was cooking steak.

It was a wonderful 14 years. Pets are truly good for the soul; she taught me so much. I already miss her.

Not To Belabor the Point

Not To Belabor the Point

But damn...it really is as though shrubya is using 1984 as a "Dictatorship for Dummies" guide to high office. The similarities are almost cliché, as though the administration were living a Roger Corman adaptation of the story. How else to you end up with "I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace" in a speech about home ownership?

Then there's Operation Big Brother, wherein shrubya himself authorized extralegal spying on Americans. Now they're trying to claim that they never associated Saddam with 9/11.

Senior U.S. officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, had also warned before the war of possible links between Hussein's government and the planners of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Bush acknowledged on Friday there was no evidence of such a link.

"There was no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the attack of 9/11," Bush said. "I've never said that and never made that case prior to going into Iraq."

Yes; we've always been at war with Oceana.

"If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say this or that even, it never happened—that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death." —pg 32

"And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'" —pg 32

"Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct; nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary." —pg 36

For the record, here is a lovely collection of various quotes on 9/11 and Saddam.

You also want to check out this story - the Oakland Tribune is taking donations so that they can send a copy of 1984 to all of Congress and the administration. I love it!

wing tip to dailykos!

Me Fail English? That's Unpossible!

Me Fail English? That's Unpossible!

I think shrubya's been winging it in his public statements again. I hate to use the term "flip-flop," so I'll just say that some of his positions on recent events haven't exactly been consistent.

After declaring that he would veto any extension of the Patriot Act, shrubya changed his tune:

(White House-AP) December 22, 2005 - The White House is hailing the Senate's vote to extend the Patriot Act for six months, a day after vowing President Bush wouldn't accept a short-term extension.

Press Secretary Scott McClellan calls Wednesday night's Senate vote "an important victory for the American people."

It's amazing what the public backlash over domestic spying will to do unbridled hubris. Sometimes, it can even get a president to admit to a criminal offense. If his handlers are really distracted, he might even completely contradict himself in every way possible.

For 24 hours, Bush and other top administration officials refused to confirm the existence of their secret domestic spying program, arguing that doing so would endanger the American people:

President Bush, 12/16/05

I know that people are anxious to know the details of operations, they– people want me to comment about the veracity of the story. It’s the policy of this government, just not going do it, and the reason why is that because it would compromise our ability to protect the people.

...This morning, President Bush not only confirmed the existence of the program but provided details about how it worked.

Does he operate under the assumption that no one pays attention to a word he says? Or maybe he can't remember, so figures we won't either. The only other explanations are he's either counting on people to not understand what he says or he really has no idea himself. A stunning case in point lies in the administration's defense of its extralegal domestic spying campaign. It's attempt to explain the rationale to bypass the FISA court - and get perfectly legal wiretaps - really lends credence to the "no clue what the words really mean" theory. One has to wonder if they ">listen to themselves at all.

Bush administration officials believe it is not possible, in a large-scale eavesdropping effort, to provide the kind of evidence the court requires to approve a warrant.

Sources knowledgeable about the program said there is no way to secure a FISA warrant when the goal is to listen in on a vast array of communications in the hopes of finding something that sounds suspicious.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said the White House had tried but failed to find a way.

To paraphrase, "Well, we couldn't get permission to do it, so we just did it." They blithely dance around the issue of not being able to meet the court's criteria with apparently no consideration of what that implies. It's as though authorization for wiretaps were as mundane and legally neutral as any other bureaucratic process - it involves paperwork, so it must be administrative. To read this explanation, they regard their inability to meet the legal standards as a mere technicality, a process glitch and nothing more.

One government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the administration complained bitterly that the FISA process demanded too much: to name a target and give a reason to spy on it.

"For FISA, they had to put down a written justification for the wiretap," said the official. "They couldn't dream one up."

It doesn't seem to occur to them that not meeting the FISA court's requirements intrinsically means the endeavor is illegal. I think they've been speaking in soundbytes for so long, they've actually forgotten what a broader context does to individual words. True to form, they focus only on the most superficial interpretations of their statements, oblivious to the deeper implications. Excepting, of course, the traitorous notion that Mr. Preznit is above the law; they can envision that one all too clearly.

Politicians - Take Note

Politicians - Take Note

Why can't they all be like this?

Visiting the UW-Madison campus Friday, U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold tore into what he called attacks on Americans' civil liberties, then laid out how he'll decide whether to make a much-speculated-on presidential bid in 2008.

..."This is a fight against terrorism and an effort to protect innocent Americans who have done nothing wrong. We can do both," said Feingold, who cast the lone vote against the [P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act]legislation when it was first passed in 2001.

...Feingold said he'd continue to speak out about a recently revealed secret wiretapping program by the National Security Agency, saying the practice was possibly illegal and helped make the case for greater checks on authorities charged with rooting out terrorism.

Political watchers such as University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato point out that while Feingold's recent stands on civil liberties and the Iraq war may please liberal activists, they may well hurt his chances later on with moderate Democrats and conservatives.

I don't know which politics Mr. Sabato is following; the ones I saw had bi-partisan support for the filibustering the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act renewal. I've also seen former officials from republican administrations castigate shrubya for spying on innocent Americans. People, pundits and politicians from all over the spectrum are outraged by this latest revelation. I can't imagine who Sabato thinks will be alienated by a statement with overwhelming public support. Typical Wahoo.

Feingold, in his own glorious way, was also dismissive of Sabato's musings.

"I don't care," he said. "Whatever political considerations I have are absolutely irrelevant to the decisions I make having to do with people's civil liberties and something as weighty as Americans risking their lives overseas.

The day that I start to think politically about those things is the day I should leave politics.

I &hearts Russ!

wing tip to dailykos!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Guerrilla Marketing: Impeach

Guerrilla Marketing: Impeach

I think fabric banners would be really easy to do. Thrift stores always have scrappable fabric and the letters can even be glued in place or you could use paint - no sewing required. And it would be very weather-resistant.

Feel Safer Yet?

Feel Safer Yet?

I sure don't. Since DHS, the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act and domestic spying apparently aren't working, can we just have our freedoms back already? All these civil rights encroachments seem to be distracting our resources from real safety concerns:

Officials are investigating the theft of 400 pounds of high-powered plastic explosives in New Mexico. The material was stolen from a bunker owned by a bomb expert who works at a national research lab outside Albuquerque, N.M.

ABC News has been told it's one of the most significant thefts of high-power explosives ever in the United States.

...The missing 400 pounds of explosives includes 150 pounds of what is known as C-4 plastic, or "sheet explosive," which can be shaped and molded and is often used by terrorists and military operatives.

"It is a very dangerous material, we want to keep this off the streets," Cherry told ABC News.

Also, 2,500 detonators were missing from a storage explosive container, or magazine, in a bunker owned by Cherry Engineering.

...A special agent at ATF said the incident was unusual because such high-powered material was targeted.

The missing material could potentially make numerous bombs.

But no worries...they don't think terrorists were involved. Obviously, it's your garden-variety street thugs who are interested in high-powered, undetectable "sheet explosives" that can be hidden in letters and books. Yessir, Chertoff's doin' a heckuva job!

wing tip to Americablog!

Alito's Tilted Balance

Alito's Tilted Balance

Bush gets permission slips:

Taken together, the memos advised the President that he had almost unfettered latitude in his prosecution of the war on terror. For many years, Yoo was a member of the Federalist Society, a fellowship of conservative intellectuals who view international law with skepticism, and September 11th offered an opportunity for him and others in the Administration to put their political ideas into practice.

...Soon after September 11th, Yoo and other Administration lawyers began advising President Bush that he did not have to comply with the Geneva Conventions in handling detainees in the war on terror. The lawyers classified these detainees not as civilians or prisoners of war—two categories of individuals protected by the Conventions—but as “illegal enemy combatants.” The rubric included not only Al Qaeda members and supporters but the entire Taliban, because, Yoo and other lawyers argued, the country was a “failed state.” Eric Lewis, an expert in international law who represents several Guantánamo detainees, said, “The Administration’s lawyers created a third category and cast them outside the law.”

Given his druthers, that's where shrubya would like to be to - outside the law, wholly unfettered by pesky prohibitions and stifling statues. His legal advisors have been all too happy to indulge these imperialist fantasies, arguing that being a war-time president allows him to do anything necessary for the defense of the nation. Torture? No problem! Indefinite detention? Sure! Spying on Americans? Why not; you're the leader!

I don't know when exactly a preternatural deference to the president came into vogue, but this is not a healthy state of affairs for our country. It's alarming, but to be expected, from his own staff. It's despicable when Senators invoke it to seat Alberto Gonzales as the chief law enforcement officer in the land. If it works its way onto the Supreme Court, I think we will find ourselves at a full-blown constitutional crisis. All the Padillas in the world could sue and it wouldn't matter one whit; the Supreme Court crowned boy george once and they could do it again. Only in the future, they might not take the courtesy to label the rule unfit for establishing precedent.

Take the anti-torture amendment, for example. What happens when it is ratified as a law and used as the basis of a lawsuit against the governmet, especially if the case goes to the Supreme Court? Well, a lot of that depends on the make up of the Supreme Court. If the justices believe in checks and balances, the administration would likely be vulnerable to prosecution. But if the court is stacked with justices who believe in carte blanche plenary powers for the executive - especially in a time of war - would he evade accountability? I'm content to never know the answer to that question, but if Alito's nomination is successful, we may find ourselves conducting that ghastly experiment.

Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. once said that a Supreme Court decision upholding the creation of an independent counsel "hit the doctrine of separation of powers about as hard as heavyweight champ Mike Tyson usually hits his opponents."

Alito's remarks, delivered as an introduction to a 1989 debate sponsored by the conservative Federalist Society, offer a window into his thinking on the separation of powers, an issue that the Supreme Court regularly wrestles with but that seldom came up during Alito's 15 years as a federal appellate judge.

...Alito said the 1988 ruling upholding the law undercut several important doctrines that had protected presidential power "from congressional pilfering."

I wonder if ScAlito would exhibit the same hostility towards "reckless empowerment of the executive branch." Somehow, I doubt it.

Former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson said that Alito's deference to presidential power in both cases is not surprising, given that Alito had served in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. A key duty of the Office of Legal Counsel is to prevent against encroachments into presidential power, he said.

"He's clearly sensitive to the issue," Olson said, "but as to how he would rule on any given case, I wouldn't draw any conclusions."

But Cass R. Sunstein, a liberal constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago, said that Alito's views are relevant to understanding how he may rule. "It's noteworthy that he shares the view of Justice Scalia, and it suggests that he has a quite broad understanding of presidential power," Sunstein said.

I'm with Cass; for a Federalist Society "strict constructionist," Alito seems quite content to elide some of the Constitution's most salient points. He just doesn't seem too concerned about the "coequal branch" and "separation of powers" edicts explicitly outlined by our founding fathers. Maybe he used the Clif's notes; maybe he just doesn't respect Congress and its primacy in our government.

Congress is the branch the framers set up in Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution. It is not coincidence that Article 1 is twice as long as Article II, which created the executive branch, and almost four times as long as Article III, which established the judiciary. Judges should bend over doubly and triply backward before overturning a Congressional statute, especially if it is clear that Congress acted carefully and deliberatively...

Congress had passed the law in a reasonable and deliberate fashion. A genuine practitioner of judicial restraint would have allowed them a wide enough berth to do so. Alito's colleagues did just that. But Alito used his own logic to call for its overturn, arguing that the possession of machine guns by private individuals had no economic activity associated with it, and that no real evidence existed that private possession of guns increased crime in a way that affected commerce -- and thus Congress had no right to regulate it. That kind of judicial reasoning often is referred to as reflecting the "Constitution in Exile."

Whatever it is, it's not judicial restraint.

More from WaPo:

Alito's views on presidential power are significant on several fronts, not the least of which is what deference the chief executive should get to conduct anti-terrorism efforts, legal analysts said. President Bush has claimed the right to try foreign terrorism suspects before military tribunals, an issue that may come before the Supreme Court this term.

...The decision [to uphold the Independent Counsel statute], Alito said, meant that any alleged infringements on the president's power "would be judged by whether, in the court's subjective view at the time, the encroachment went too far."

Justice Antonin Scalia, to whom some of Alito's critics have compared the judge, wrote "a brilliant but lonely dissent" in the case, Alito said, when he remarked that "this is not analysis. It is ad hoc judgment."

Imagine that! Judges...making judgements on a case-by-case basis! If passing "ad hoc judgements" is a distasteful notion to Alito, just what does he imagine a court's role to be? Luckily, he's already told us; notice his comment about "the court's subjective view at the time." There's Alito's perception of the court in one ugly nutshell - it is a changeable body whose rulings and decisions are simply functions of the biases of its current members. I don't know that it's possible to find a more stark admission of judicial activism. And given the nature of his specific biases, we should be very worried indeed.

Even before the news of shrubya's domestic spying broke, an article at The New Republic presciently stated "During the coming days, many people will want to know where Samuel Alito stands on the question of executive power." Thanks to spygate, the entire Senate Judiciary Committee is now among those "many people."

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito will have to answer questions about how he views the president's powers in the war on terror, senators said Monday after the White House defended its orders of warrantless domestic spying.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and ranking Judiciary Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont sent separate letters to Alito telling him they would ask about the president's authority to order warrantless spying at Alito's Jan. 9 confirmation hearings.

"Recent revelations that the president authorized domestic eavesdropping without following the statute that requires approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is but one of several areas where the court's role as a check on overreaching by the executive may soon prove crucial," Leahy said in his letter.

Sorry, Pat, but this situtation is already "crucial." What we have here - besides a failure to communicate - is a boy who would be king circumventing established law and insulating his actions from any oversight by the other branches of government. There is also the added complication that shrubya's duplicity could collaterally damage the integrity of the FISA court; one of the court's judges has already resigned in protest.

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

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

...Robertson indicated privately to colleagues in recent conversations that he was concerned that information gained from warrantless NSA surveillance could have then been used to obtain FISA warrants. FISA court Presiding Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who had been briefed on the spying program by the administration, raised the same concern in 2004 and insisted that the Justice Department certify in writing that it was not occurring.

"They just don't know if the product of wiretaps were used for FISA warrants -- to kind of cleanse the information," said one source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the FISA warrants. "What I've heard some of the judges say is they feel they've participated in a Potemkin court."

I suppose it's only fitting that a Potemkin President would have a Potemkin court, but a lot of judges, especially the ones sitting on the FISA court, don't find the irony at all humorous. Some have even suggested that if shrubya feels entitled to circumvent the FISA court, why not just dismantle it? As Senator Feingold pointed out, the same is true of the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. act - if the administration can just order domestic wiretaps outside of legal constraints, why bother fighting over the legislative authority?

The point is rendered similarly moot if one can just pack the courts with right-wing idealogues who actively endorse an expansive notion of governmental powers, as Alito's history demonstrates.

As a young Reagan administration lawyer, the Supreme Court nominee, Samuel A. Alito Jr., took an expansive view of government law-enforcement powers in numerous cases in which he was called upon to balance the prerogatives of police and prosecutors with the rights of individuals, according to 400 pages of documents released yesterday by the Justice Department.

The documents show that Alito once advised against including a ban on capital punishment for minors, in an agreement by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

...While working in the Office of Legal Counsel from 1985 to 1987, Alito also wrote an opinion allowing the Internal Revenue Service to secretly record conversations with taxpayers who were under investigation.

He backed broader authority for the Drug Enforcement Administration to allow agents to set up shell companies to help them conduct undercover operations.

In January 1986, Alito dismissed concerns raised by the FBI that it might be unconstitutional to add to its files the fingerprints of Iranian and Afghan refugees who had sought asylum in Canada. Alito wrote that those who are not US citizens have no constitutional protections.

That month, Alito also raised concerns about a proposed ethics rule that would have barred prosecutors from investigating an individual without a ''good-faith" belief that the person had committed a crime.

A lot of people knowledgable in the minutiae of legal life readily defend Alito's history as simply "advocating for his client." Since he worked for the executive branch, it was his job to be protective of those powers. But I don't buy it. There's nothing about successfully representing a client, even conservative presidents, that necessitates placing oneself to the right of Antonin Scalia.

While Alito goes to conservative places Scalia won't, the more telling point is that Scalia goes to liberal places Alito won't. Scalia has a libertarian streak that can yield surprising results.

...The Alito record holds few such surprises. In the Washington Post, Cass Sunstein examined Alito's dissents and found them "almost uniformly conservative." That's nearly true for criminal matters—just forget the "almost." In 15 years on the bench, Alito has filed more than a dozen dissents in criminal cases or cases involving the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Not one of those dissents urges a position more protective of individual rights than the majority.

...for example, Alito sat on a dozen panels in which judges disagreed regarding a citizen's Fourth Amendment rights. In each of those cases, Alito adopted the view most supportive of the government's position. Alito would have upheld the strip searches of an innocent 10-year-old girl.

...Alito crossed swords with two Reagan appointees in arguing that a jury shouldn't decide whether a police officer lawfully allowed his men to push to the ground, handcuff, and hold at gunpoint another innocent family. That case was echoed three years later when Alito, this time writing for a majority, found that in the course of an eviction, marshals could reasonably pump a sawed-off shotgun at a family sitting around its living room.

Of course, caveats apply. All of the cases are more complicated than short summaries can capture. In any given case, Alito's position often seems reasonable; it is the accumulation of consistent results that surprises. Alito has also written or joined unanimous opinions ruling for defendants or citizens pushed around by police. And in en banc reviews where the entire 3rd Circuit sits, and where his vote has not been decisive, he has joined a few decisions not fixed on the right side of the court. None of this changes the basic point: Scalia's rulings on police power push back against conservative colleagues. Alito's don't.

I guess someone had to take up the "more conservative than Scalia" mantle now that Rehnquist has passed, but I'd have preferred it not be the next candidate for the Supreme Court. Given that Mr. Alito already seems to have quite a reputation as an activist judge, defers to the executive branch and disrespects Congress, this bodes not well. Not well at all.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Wish O'Reilly "Happy Holidays"

Wish O'Reilly "Happy Holidays"

wing tip to mr. lestatdelc!

Christmas in NOLA

Christmas in NOLA

Anti-Alito Brigade For Justice, Day 11!

Anti-Alito Brigade For Justice, Day 11!

Today's letter on Alito is good stuff:

Dear Senator:

I am writing today to express my displeasure with the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court of the United States. As I have reviewed Judge Alito's records of past rulings, it is apparent to me that he consistently puts the needs and interests of corporations over the rights of everyday workers in the United States. He has also shown blatant disrespect for the environment, again siding with business interests.

So is Boxer's petition demanding hearings on the domestic spying before we can address Alito's nomination. My prayers have been answered!

More Fundraisers

More Fundraisers

Digby isn't the only blogger deserving of support. Once Upon a Time needs some love, too.

Even if you can't donate, you want to check out the blog anyway. It would be a shame if it became inactive.

Asphalt Activism

Asphalt Activism

This is the coolest !@#$%& thing! You can insert your own tile mosaic [UPDATE: the link seems to no longer work. meh. any leads?] into any asphalt surface! Imagine the possibilities for the Impeachment Guerrilla Marketing movement!

This is a method for making colorful, permanent mosaic installations in asphalt roads and lots. Like glass, asphalt appears to be a solid but is actually a liquid. This means that a design affixed to it with more asphalt will eventually settle in and become a part of it. We owe our awareness of this technique to a nameless mystic we have never encountered in person.

How fun is that!?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Mixing Business With Pleasure

Mixing Business With Pleasure

Join the Anti-Alito Brigade For Justice! Unless we get really insanely lucky and Specter's promised investigation of spygate interferes with ScAlito's1 nomination, we've got about a month to derail his dysfunctional vision of American dystopia.

Until then, your inner schadenfreude can bask in the imminent demise of "Southlawn Scotty", aka, our very own "Baghdad Bob."

1 - "ScAlito" actually came from conservative quarters near as I can tell. They throw it around quite affectionately at confirm them dot com.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Digby Fundraiser

Digby Fundraiser

He deserves it.

Even Republican Senators Want an Investigation

Even Republican Senators Want an Investigation


Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe of Maine joined Democratic Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan, Dianne Feinstein of California and Ron Wyden of Oregon in calling for a joint investigation by the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees into whether the government eavesdropped "without appropriate legal authority."

Nice to see my good Senator on this list! But it's even nicer to see at least some republicans taking this seriously.

"It is critical that Congress determine, as quickly as possible, exactly what collection activities were authorized, what were actually undertaken, how many names and numbers were involved over what period, and what was the asserted legal authority for such activities," they wrote in a letter to the Republican chairmen and ranking Democrats on the two panels.

..."I have grave doubts as to its applicability," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, adding Bush's order "raises very fundamental questions ... about privacy and the Bill of Rights."

Frist, of course, remains a wanker:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, was noncommittal, saying he first wanted to further explore the matter.

"I have been in discussion with the various chairmen and will continue that discussion," Frist said." And then decisions will be made as to whether or not (there will be) hearings, and where such hearings would be carried out."


Let's pray they get a clue, recognize shrubya for the nukular albushtross he is and - even if for no other reason than their own selfish interests - do the right thing. Unfortunately, a lot of them still need swift kicks in the pants to do so under any circumstances. We are talking about extralegal spying on U.S. citizens - wtf does it take for some people to say "enough!" Apparently, they only have such limits regarding wildly popular Democratic leaders who actually, you know, have sex lives and who are respected around the world and stuff. I wonder if they'd even allow that this is at least worse than "inhaling":

A surveillance program approved by President Bush to conduct eavesdropping without warrants has captured what are purely domestic communications in some cases, despite a requirement by the White House that one end of the intercepted conversations take place on foreign soil, officials say.

The officials say the National Security Agency's interception of a small number of communications between people within the United States was apparently accidental, and was caused by technical glitches at the National Security Agency in determining whether a communication was in fact "international."

Yes; it's "apparantly accidental" in much the same way that shrubya is "apparantly brilliant." But, apparently, the simple logic of "only an investigation will tell us if it was accidental or not" is beyond far too many people.

So, kick them we must; any member of Congress who wouldn't want to investigate unchecked abuse of executive power doesn't deserve to serve in those chambers. Wouldn't that be in violation of their affirmation oath?

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution

I do believe it would. So, let's kick 'em! Let any good Congressmembers (like those cited above) you might have know how you much you appreciate and support their efforts. If your Congresscritters are being bad, gently remind them that you take their oath of office seriously, even if they don't.

By the by, this really is not sitting well with anyone except the truest of the true Kool-Aid kids. We're all in Peoria, now...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Ted "Tantrum" Stevens

Ted "Tantrum" Stevens

[UPDATE] Cantwell seems set to Filibuster - yay!

There is a special place in hell for Senator Ted Stevens. Preferably involving being stuck on an ice floe with starving polar bears or maybe waking every day knowing a giant elk is going to gore him. Maybe penguins could nip him in the ass incessantly and poke him a lot. He deserves it all.

The man is almost as shameless and narcissistic as shrubya, plays politics every bit as dirty as DeLay and he's just as much of a bully as either of them. After insisting on his precious bridges to nowhere while areas of Louisiana and Mississippi suffer with Katrina-ravaged highways, he now has the audacity to attach a bill for drilling in the Arctic Refuge on to the must-pass defense spending bill.

The wily and cantankerous Alaska Republican is trying to secure the mother of all pet projects for his state: oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Stevens has attached the provision to a popular defense spending bill and has put holiday plans of his Senate colleagues on hold as he dares Democratic and moderate Republican opponents to vote against it.

The former Appropriations Committee chairman is a master of legislative larding, but this latest gambit may be riskier than usual.

...Alaska drilling is the most controversial environmental issue before Congress, a far cry from the usual Native Alaskan and salmon subsidies. And Stevens has tucked it into a bill that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stevens once described himself as a "mean, miserable SOB;" if his recent petulant outbursts are any indication, he prides himself on the fact. He has basically threatened to hold the Senate hostage, saying "I could go all month; I've been with it for 25 years." When your first line of defense is "I've done nothing illegal," you might want to consider holding yourself to a higher standard. If your second line of defense - "I've done nothing immoral" - meets with criticism from your own party, you should really be having second thoughts.

An aide to Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), who has consistently opposed drilling in the Arctic, said her boss was also outraged at Stevens's move. "Senator Snowe believes that inserting ANWR into the defense appropriations bill discredits the integrity of the process," spokeswoman Antonia Ferrier said. "The American people will see this for what it is, a cynical approach to legislating that will further erode public confidence in the federal government."

..."It doesn't belong on a defense bill," Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.) said of the drilling provision. The moderate Republican said Stevens is misusing his authority as the sponsor of the defense spending bill, granting drilling "a significance that is out of proportion. It's just not fair."

"I support what he's doing, but if you're too cute in maneuvers, they can backfire on you," warned Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.). "That's a big package there, and we are up against Christmas. I sure hope someone has counted the votes."

As much as I love subtle digs on Frist, all the GOP infighting in the world can't make up for the appalling hubris of Stevens' most recent depravity. It can really only be described as "bullying." He is wantonly abusing Senate procedure to force passage of a wildly unpopular bill.

Earlier this year, Stevens and his longtime friend and drilling ally Pete V. Domenici hatched a plan to insert the Arctic provision in a major deficit reduction bill. Because the budget-cutting measure enjoyed special protection from parliamentary hurdles in the Senate, Stevens and Domenici thought it would be the perfect vehicle for passing the drilling plan. But that tactic had to be scuttled in the House because of strong objections from Republican moderates. At the urging of House GOP leaders, Stevens decided to try his luck on the defense bill.

...Democrats are considering their parliamentary options for a showdown expected tomorrow in the Senate. A memo circulating among Democratic senators and their staffs pointed out that the new language authorizes drilling in a larger area than would have been allowed in the budget bill. They also noted that President Bush would have broad discretion over how royalties are spent.

"Despicable" doesn't even begin to adequately describe this travesty. But wait; it gets even more atrocious. His pet excuse - to reduce our dependency on foreign oil - has already been shot down by his own sponsors Big Oil itself, when American Petroleum Institute's president conceded that "ANWR will not provide the United States with all its domestic energy needs." And our troops' salaries and equipment aren't the only things being held hostage.

It remains unclear whether Stevens -- who has said hurricane-stricken Louisiana's "levees will be paid for when we drill in ANWR" -- will succeed in his latest gambit.

...But Stevens said that if the drilling provision falls, other non-defense programs in the bill would suffer, because royalty revenues from oil would fund low-income heating assistance and relief to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast. "The real possibility is that unless we pass this bill, a lot of those people are not going to receive the assistance they should have," Stevens said.

Stevens has been rated the No. 1 pork purveyor for six years in a row by Citizens Against Government Waste. I hope he chokes on all of it. It is simply beyond the pale for the nation's pork leader to hold a national treasure hostage against emergency relief funds; revenue from any Arctic drilling won't even be realized for several years, but the GOP sees nothing wrong with pitting people in immediate need against a pristine wilderness area. But they're serious. Katrina relief funding is directly tied to Arctic drilling, i.e. their relief package is structured around bidding revenue on drilling projects.

Meanwhile, the $29 billion hurricane assistance bill, which passed at 4 a.m. New Orleans time by 308-106, would, among other things, give Louisiana $2 billion as its share of bidding revenue and $4 billion over 30 years as the state's share of drilling royalty revenue -- all associated with the proposed exploration of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR.

...Critics said the proposal, which also provides a financing source for heating and air-conditioning assistance for low-income households and for homeland security, was an attempt to buy support for the controversial drilling provisions long opposed by environmentalists.

Yes; communities ravaged by hurricane Katrina will have to wait 10 years for some of the emergency funds to come through, but we've got plenty of room in the budget for tax cuts that only help the rich.

Flake, 42, of Arizona, belongs to the 100-member Republican Study Committee. Its members backed a tax-cut package totaling almost $90 billion, and most want even more than the $50 billion in spending reductions that the House has approved in the past month. Castle, 66, of Delaware, belongs to the 40-member Tuesday Group, most of whom seek to limit spending reductions in anti- poverty programs and are wary of tax cuts that would increase the federal deficit.

...The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington think-tank that has been critical of Bush's economic agenda, released a study this month that found that households with more than $100,000 in income would reap three-quarters of the benefits from the $90 billion tax-cut package. The center estimated that the top one percent of U.S. wage earners received about 43 percent of the benefits from Bush's $1.35 billion tax cut enacted in 2001.

...Flake says his group will push next year for further cuts to benefits programs, including a reduction in the costs of the Medicare prescription drug program, and cuts -- perhaps about 5 percent -- in non-defense domestic programs. He backs drilling in the Alaska reserve and plans to push for a ban on inserting lawmakers' pet projects into legislation, known in congressional parlance as earmarks.

Houston, we have a problem.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Let's Watergate Bush!

Let's Watergate Bush!

[UPDATE]: Act for Change has a petition demandnig an investigation...pass it on!

Smintheus has now posted three diaries on Operation Flabbergasted:

Part I - Let's Watergate Bush

This cannot stand. In ordering the NSA to spy secretly on America, George Bush has overturned United States Signals Intelligence Directive 18, which prohibits domestic spying by NSA; violated the federal act which created the FISA court to oversee covert domestic investigations; and trampled upon the Fourth Amendment guarantee against warrantless searches. It cannot stand for a day, much less a month while Congress is in recess.

Friday, when Sen. Specter said he'd make investigating the allegations a top priority in January, it was barely possible to pretend that they might be false. But by Saturday's radio address, when Bush defended his policy and insisted it would continue, we had entered a full-blown constitutional crisis. George Bush would love for Congress to back down from a fight next week, to go home grumbling "Wait until next year."

Operation Flabbergasted: We cannot let that happen. We have to ensure that by Monday, all hell has broken loose in D.C.

Part II - A Nation of Laws, Not Men

Part III - Take Back Your Country

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Feingold Fix

Feingold Fix

The Honorable Senator Feingold will be on "Good Morning America" and CNN's "Late Edition" at approximately 10:25 am central time.

I &hearts Russ!

Shrubya Needs Permission Slips After All?

Shrubya Needs Permission Slips After All?

There is an excellent diary up by Jeffrey Feldman calling shrubya's domestic spying program the spade that it is. The administration's theory is that as long as they can get someone, anyone, in the legal department to contort and distort American jurisprudence in support of their draconian agenda, then it's "legal." When they no longer felt like adhering to our obligations under the Geneva Conventions, they just got ol' Albertorquemada to declare them "quaint" and "obsolete." They decided they wanted to spy on U.S. citizens without going through the proper legal channels, so they had John Yoo give shrubya carte blanche during wartime. No wonder he has no interest in peaceful resolutions of conflict; he wouldn't be able to play king anymore.

If Russ Feingold and other right-minded Americans have their way, though, his days as a dictator are over anyway. Feingold's response regarding spying on U.S. citizens is a truly delectable smackdown. Have I mentioned I &hearts Russ!?

Reacting to Bush's defense of the NSA program, Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., said the president's remarks were "breathtaking in how extreme they were."

Feingold said it was "absurd" that Bush said he relied on his inherent power as president to authorize the wiretaps.

"If that's true, he doesn't need the Patriot Act because he can just make it up as he goes along. I tell you, he's President George Bush, not King George Bush. This is not the system of government we have and that we fought for."

I'd love nothing more than for Gore to run in '08, but if he refuses, Feingold is the man! Actually, a ticket with any combination of Feingold/Gore and Clark would be phenomenal! Any man who never voted for the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act gets my vote!

I &hearts Russ!             I &hearts Russ!             I &hearts Russ!

Anti-Alito Brigade For Justice, Day 6!

Anti-Alito Brigade For Justice, Day 6!

Today's action item is about separation of church and state. The fundagelicals are beside themselves with glee at the thought of Alito on the bench.

Threatened by the religious right over his nomination of Harriet Miers, President Bush selected their preferred choice. This nomination has been applauded by Christian fundamentalists who fear a loss of their power.

Pat Robertson said he "can see the majority shifted on the court, instead of 4 to 5 against the Lord, going 5 to 4 in His favor." Television ads placed by religious groups hail Alito as a savior and protector against evil forces such as "The ACLU's attempt to scrub away our religious heritage."

Every decision by Judge Alito has favored the public display and proselytizing of the religious. He has indicated in meetings with Senators that he believes the Court has gone too far in separating church and state.

We need to make sure the Senate is paying attention; America was never intended to be a theocracy. Let's leave a nice pile of faxes for them to find on Monday morning!

Friday, December 16, 2005

So Orwell Was a Few Years Off

So Orwell Was a Few Years Off

But in substance, he was spot on.

"Parsons was Winston's fellow employee at the Ministry of Truth. He was a fattish but active man of paralyzing stupidity, a mass of imbecile enthusiasms—one of those completely unquestioning, devoted drudges on whom, more even than on the thought police, the stability of the Party depended." —pg 22

That could easily be Scotty or Rove.

"Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?… Has it ever occurred to your, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?…The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness." —Syme, pg 46-47

We understand that all too well...

"In Oceania at the present day, Science, in the old sense, has almost ceased to exist. In Newspeak there is no word for 'Science.' The empirical method of thought, on which all the scientific achievements of the past were founded, is opposed to the most fundamental principles of Ingsoc." —pg 159

We've got that covered, too. With this week's news of shrubya's domestic spying program, I hardly think the book qualifies as fiction anymore. No, really; Big Brother is watching, with the full blessing of the preznit.

President Bush has personally authorized a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States more than three dozen times since October 2001, a senior intelligence official said Friday night.

The disclosure follows angry demands by lawmakers earlier in the day for a congressional inquiry into whether the monitoring by the highly secretive National Security Agency violated civil liberties.

“There is no doubt that this is inappropriate,” declared Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Inappropriate?" Try "illegal" or "impeachable." I don't care what John Yoo says; any program that leaves wolves guarding the henhouse is a bad idea.

The official said that since October 2001, the program has been renewed more than three dozen times.

...At each review, government officials have provided a fresh assessment of the terrorist threat, showing that there is a catastrophic risk to the country or government
, the official said.

“Only if those conditions apply do we even begin to think about this,” he said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the intelligence operation.

"Trust us...we would never abuse these powers." Yes; they would never overhype the security situation or falsely elevate the terror alerts or anything. Goodness no! Have we even had one since the election? Maybe Chertoff doesn't know how to run the "terralert" machine.

The Bush administration periodically put the USA on high alert for terrorist attacks even though then-Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge argued there was only flimsy evidence to justify raising the threat level, Ridge now says.

Ridge, who resigned Feb. 1, said Tuesday that he often disagreed with administration officials who wanted to elevate the threat level to orange, or "high" risk of terrorist attack, but was overruled.

...The level is raised if a majority on the President's Homeland Security Advisory Council favors it and President Bush concurs. Among those on the council with Ridge were Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI chief Robert Mueller, CIA director George Tenet, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

So which government officials were providing these terror threat assessments to justify domestic surveillance? It certainly seems in character for Rummy and Ashcroft. Larry Johnson's money is on Bolton. The MSNBC article hints that Dick Cheney and Andrew Card might be involved. In short, it's all the usual suspects.

The surveillance, disclosed in Friday’s New York Times, is said to allow the agency to monitor international calls and e-mail messages of people inside the United States. But the paper said the agency would still seek warrants to snoop on purely domestic communications — for example, Americans’ calls between New York and California.

“I want to know precisely what they did,” said Specter. “How NSA utilized their technical equipment, whose conversations they overheard, how many conversations they overheard, what they did with the material, what purported justification there was.”

That's a really good question, seeing as how the official in question refused to give examples of the program's success. Specter has promised to hold hearings early next year. With any luck, they'll interfere with and delay Alito's nomination hearings!

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., a member of the Judiciary Committee, said, “This shocking revelation ought to send a chill down the spine of every American.”

Even worse, though, is the fact that the NYT sat on this story. For a year, including through the election. Worse still, Dana Rohrbacher is actually defending the practice, telling us we should be proud of and grateful to shrubya for violating our civil rights! Chills down the spine and blood 'a boiling. This is definitely a week that will live in infamy.

Do read the msnbc article; McCain takes the milquetoast award: Sen. John McCain said he wanted to know exactly what is going on before deciding whether an investigation is called for. “Theoretically, I obviously wouldn’t like it,” he said of the program.

What a maverick, that guy!

I also highly recommend reading the whole diary by SusanG at dkos.There are lots of wonderful analyses in the comments. Aravosis as well - he makes the excellent point that nothing should happen with the Patriot Act until this spying issue is resolved. Good Call!