horses and saddles sold cheap and other metaphors

Saturday, December 24, 2005

An overload of cute can't kill ya, but you might get diabetes of the retina........Cute Overload

Merry Holiday from Barron's Unwarranted Executive Power

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

Daddy, what did you do in the War on Christmas?
I have written before that certain Christians have taken Christ out of Xmas and then blamed the rest of us for taking Christ out of Christmas, and I have also written about the insanity of certain Christians focusing on what Wal-Mart clerks say during the holiday season, rather than on the decidedly non-Christian way that Wal-Mart conducts business.

Now we are told that liberals are waging a War on Christmas, but none of the liberals I know has enlisted or taken up arms. I am all for inclusion, and believe that Muslims and Jews should have their holidays respected, that Kwaanza should be acknowledged, and that Buddhist, Hindu, athiest, agnostic, Unitarian, and other festivus-for-the-rest-of-us citizens do not need for others to assume that they are Christian.

John Grinch Gibson and Bill O'Lielly really should have called it the war on leaving people alone. The war to exclude and disenfranchise. Neither of these guys seem particularly honorable or happy. Hardly the kind of people that embody the spirit of anything good, much less the spirit of Christmas, you know, peace on earth and good will toward men/women. That's OK though, because in American, even on Christmas you have the right to be a crank.

The Lie Factory for those that may have missed it the first time around, the story of the Office of Special Plans or better the office that molded intelligence to what Cheney and company wanted to hear.

by Clement Clarke Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Bush and Cheney were against warrantless domestic spying before they were for it

Crooks and Liars has a video up from MSNBC's HARDBALL.....Domestic Spying-Hardball that shows Bush and Cheney and in series of speeches where he assures the audiences that civil liberties will be protected and warrants will be sought through the courts, he evn mention FISA in one speech.

Are Muslim Americans the Jews of the perpetual battle against terrorism.....EXCLUSIVE: Nuclear Monitoring of Muslims Done Without Search Warrants
In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts.

----The Warsaw Ghetto, 1940-3
Jews over the age of 12 had to wear white armbands showing a blue Star of David, Jews’ bank accounts were closed, and their houses and businesses were confiscated. Jewish patients were expelled from the hospitals, and schools were closed to Jewish children. In 1940, the synagogues were closed and Jewish prayers forbidden.

From February 1940, the Nazi leaders were considering a separate area for the Jews, but they hesitated because Germany needed Warsaw’s production for their war effort, and feared that setting up a ghetto would cause too much disruption. In April 1940, however, Jewish workers were put to building walls, and on 2 October 1940 the decree was signed defining a Jewish Residential Area around the Nalewki quarter. On the night of 15-16 November 1940, without warning, the ghetto was closed. Jews were not allowed to leave the ghetto, under punishment of death. Originally, there were 20 gates through the wall, but this was later reduced to 15, to tighten security.

As with the domestic spying, there may be in some cases probable cause to monitor certain people, but the administration is using a scatter shot approach without adhering to established legal precedent. If the rules need changing the president is obligated to seek the consent of the people's elected voice in Congress. No president represents the last word on issues that call into question matters of powers granted or denied by the constitution. A poster at Think Progress
who claims to be familiar with Radiation monitoring devices says that it may be possible to do the radiation monitoring without intrusion on buildings or persons and makes a good point about the security issues around the materials needed to build a dirty bomb....
I would have thought a large network of environmental radiation sensors spread throughout the city in public places would allow for this sort of monitoring without being targetted at any one group. The lack of targetting would be a much better security solution as it would have the potential to stop any terrorist from using any location to gather enough material to create a dirty bomb.

And as the poster eludes to, we already do monitor the environment for dangerous radiation levels

Media Matters on Most outrageous statements of 2005

Former Reagan administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett: "[Y]ou could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." [Salem Radio Network's Bill Bennett's Morning in America, 9/28/05]

Pat Robertson: "If [Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it." [Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club, 8/22/05]

Bill O'Reilly to San Francisco: "[I]f Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. ... You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead." [Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, 12/8/05]

There is more at the link and while you're over there, this is certainly worth a read.....Top 12 media myths and falsehoods on the Bush administration's spying scandal
Timeliness necessitated bypassing the FISA court, 2: Congress was adequately informed of -- and approved -- the administration's actions, 3: Warrantless searches of Americans are legal under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, 5: Only Democrats are concerned about the Bush administration's secret surveillance
and more falsehoods at the link. I thought the following was interesting, especialy in light of the obsession the far-right has with Ames.
9: Aldrich Ames investigation is example of Clinton administration bypassing FISA regulations

Some conservatives have specifically cited the joint CIA/FBI investigation of Aldrich Ames, a CIA analyst ultimately convicted of espionage, as an example of Clinton invoking executive authority to overstep FISA by authorizing a physical search of a suspect without a court order. For example, on the December 21 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, Republican attorney Victoria Toensing falsely claimed that the Clinton administration did "carry out that authority" to bypass the FISA requirements "when they went into Aldrich Ames's house without a warrant."

But as with Gorelick's testimony, the Ames investigation took place before the 1995 FISA amendment requiring warrants for physical searches. In other words, in conducting these searches, the Clinton administration did not bypass FISA because FISA did not address physical searches. Further, there is ample evidence that the Clinton administration complied with the FISA requirements that did exist on wiretapping: U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who previously served on the FISA court, has noted the "key role" the court played in the Ames case to "authorize physical entries to plant eavesdropping devices"; and former deputy assistant attorney general Mark M. Richard established that "the Attorney General was asked to sign as many as nine certifications to the FISA court in support of applications for FISA surveillance" during the Ames investigation.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

African lion cub Panthera leo

How Far Will Bush Supporters Go?
“If a theory of limitless Executive power is not what Bush defenders are advocating, then it is incumbent upon them to articulate what limitations they believe exist on Presidential power in times of undeclared war. What is it that courts or Congress can do, if anything, to serve as a check on these powers?”

here's a shocker, Bush's own Justice folks don't think hes' King yet..........Daschle: Congress Denied Bush War Powers in U.S.
The Justice Department acknowledged yesterday, in a letter to Congress, that the president's October 2001 eavesdropping order did not comply with "the 'procedures' of" the law that has regulated domestic espionage since 1978. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, established a secret intelligence court and made it a criminal offense to conduct electronic surveillance without a warrant from that court, "except as authorized by statute."

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

Daschle wrote that Congress also rejected draft language from the White House.......

So if they sincerely believed that Sept. 11 gave them unlimited presidential powers, why did they ask Congress for them ?
It looks like they asked to have a weekend stay over for a kegger, the parents said no, so they snuck out anyway.

I see that Kos has also taken on the Carter and Clinton did it first myth. Think Progress had a good post up on the Corelick myth.
In stark contrast to the Clinton/Carter orders, Bush's order marks the first time that an American President has unilaterally turned our nation's massive spying apparatus against its own citizens. Unlike the Carter order, Bush has not followed the check-and-balance requirements of FISA. And unlike Clinton, his order allows the government to spy on communications of ordinary Americans.

Faux's John Gibson might want to ask Santa for an anger management class for the Holidays.

Except for Dick Cheney who's brain may very well be oxygen deprived,most Americans think that beginning with Nixon or possibly Lyndon Johnson, presidential powers have exceeded the limits that would make it an equal branch of goverment with Congress and the Supreme Court. Bush has pumped the presidential horse with even more steroids ultimately at the sacrifice of the Constitution and the future of democracy...........Warrantless Wiretapping: Why It Seriously Imperils the Separation of Powers, And Continues the Executive's Sapping of Power From Congress and the Courts

The President's real argument, however, is not based on the AUMF, but - once again -- on what he claims is his inherent constitutional powers as commander-in-chief. Here, the President's claim seems breathtaking in scope. He appears to be claiming that the President may disregard every law as he - in his own discretion - deems necessary, to fight a war on terror that has no clearly defined scope, nor any clearly defined foe, nor any knowable end point.

Furthermore, under this theory, it would appear that Congress has no power to curb the President's authority -- because the President alone has the power to define the terrorist threat and the means necessary to combat it.

This is not a constitutional design I recognize. Wasn't one of the Framers' primary concerns to avoid the concentration of such power in a king-like chief executive? Didn't the Framers believe that such a concentration of power was deeply corrupting? And hasn't history only reinforced those lessons?

This is amazing news. One of nature's great detective stories. In this case its not when the crime happened, but when for reasons of vanity and knowledge, when did human history begin. Scientists Narrow the Time Limits for the Human and Chimpanzee Split

ANWAR drilling has been stopped for now......Pelosi Salutes Senate Democrats on ANWR Vote; Vows to Force House Budget Vote in Light of Day
"I am pleased to see that our Senate colleagues secured a crucial victory and joined the vast majority of House Democrats to vote for preserving our pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In a bill that should be about supporting our troops, Republicans have attempted to defile one of our nation’s most beautiful areas. Instead of wrapping up a present for big oil companies, Democrats have helped to ensure that generations to come will enjoy the gift that is our nation’s wild lands and creatures.

"I also want to commend my Democratic colleagues in the Senate for delaying the final passage of the immoral budget spending bill. Just four days before Christmas, this Republican Congress wanted to go home for the holidays, leaving a lump of coal in the stockings of American families. That is contrary to the spirit of this holiday season and contrary to the values of this nation.

As H.L mencken said - “In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican”

Talk about closing the barn door after the horses run out, now the Bushies are going to tell the FISA court what they've been up to.............Judges on Surveillance Court To Be Briefed on Spy Program
"The questions are obvious," said U.S. District Judge Dee Benson of Utah. "What have you been doing, and how might it affect the reliability and credibility of the information we're getting in our court?"

Yep, the Bushies have been keeping everyone informed on what they've been doing. The FISA courts are such a rubber stamp process there's no excuse for not going through the proper channels. Rule of law and all.

The semi-professional propagandists at NRO are trying to pass off a myth about President Big Dog and Jamie Gorelick, only that bird just don't fly..........York Clinging To Gorelick Myth
Yesterday we wrote:

Neither Gorelick or the Clinton administration ever argued that president’s inherent “authority” allowed him to ignore FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act].

This morning, The National Review’s Byron York responded:

The Center’s position appears contradicted not only by Gorelick’s testimony but by a statement she made to Legal Times in November 1994, several months after her testimony, in which she said, “Our seeking legislation in no way should suggest that we do not believe we have inherent authority.”

Actually, our argument is perfectly consistent with Gorelick’s statements. Both her testimony and in the Legal Times quote, were about physical searches. In 1994, the FISA did not cover physical searches. She was explaining what the President’s authority was in the absence of any congressional statute. She wasn’t arguing that the President had the authority to ignore FISA.

In 1995, with President Clinton’s signature, FISA was amended to include physical searches. That law prohibited warrantless domestic physical searches. No one in the Clinton administration, including Gorelick, ever argued that the administration could ignore the law, before or after it was amended.

What is it that York doesn't understand ? Will we get an honorable retraction of this rightie linguistic gymnastics or will they just lay there like an old dog with fleas.

Some thoughts on where all of this is headed:
The president says that his highest duty is to protect the American people and our homeland. And it is true that, as commander-in-chief, he has sweeping powers to, as his oath says, “faithfully execute the office” of president. But the entity he swore to “preserve, protect and defend” isn’t the homeland per se — but the Constitution itself.

New lithium batteries may power Christmas
Battery-powered devices are fun Christmas gifts until the batteries go dead -- but scientists say thin-film lithium batteries may help end that problem.

Nothing like getting some neat battery powered gizmo for the holidays and having to spend more then the cost of the gadget on batteries.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Was Bush Lying about wiretaps and warrants then or now

h.t. ro The Democratic Daily blog
At an event aimed at talking up the Patriot Act in April 2004, Bush addressed the question of wiretaps. “Now, by the way,” he said, “any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires — a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so. It’s important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think ‘Patriot Act,’ constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.”

Court rejects 'intelligent design' in science class
Here's a highlight from the Evolutionblog of the courts' finding, an understated, but strong slap down of the new creationism that some call ID.
After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980's; and (3) ID's negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community. As we will discuss in more detail below, it is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research.

This is not the end of the debate, not when you have the media dispense garbage like this on a near daiiy basis...Robertson claimed "evolutionists worship atheism," evolutionary theory a "cultish religion"

Is CNN anchor Kitty Pilgrim on the side of objective journalism and fact finding or just pushing talking points from some insepid right-wing radio program,
PILGRIM: And it certainly seems like a clear stand against the president on terror, a fairly risky move given that any day there could be another attack.

All we've had so far is a president, for reasons not made at all clear to the American public, why Bush passed the rubberstamp of the FISA courts. Its also not a completely partisan issue since Arlen Specter and George Will among others have expressed concerns about the legality of what Bush did and the violation of the rather simple protocols involved. This idea that if we don't give Bush or any president unfettered power to protect America we'll all die is just ludicrous. Why not move the entire population into cement bunkers if SAFETY is the one and only issue of importance. Bush has been a blessing to the Islamic radical movement, in going after terrorists he took a side trip to Iraq ( not exactly a terrorists hotbed compared to Iran and Pakistan ) rather then concenstrating on Al-quida and finishing the job in Afghanistan. This president seems to think that fighting terrorism is like being in an endless video game where anytime the lead avatar bumbs into something he can't overcome with the rules, whips out the all powerful magic spell of National Security dust that he sprinkles indiscrimnately while he simultaneously holds down the shift key. We've all noticed at this point that conservatives are and have always been for the most part pro-party, not pro America. They are incapable of putting aside their petty small mindedness to see what is best for our country tomorrow and the next 100 years.

When Did Strikes Become Illegal?.

Did Rummy just contradict Bush's chicken-little speech about needing information five minutes ago and shouldn't be bothered with warrants... Bin Laden may be unable to command, Rumsfeld says

"I don't know what it means, but I suspect in any event if he is alive and functioning that he is spending a major fraction of his time trying to avoid being caught," Rumsfeld said.

"I have trouble believing he is able to operate sufficiently to be in a position of major command over a worldwide al Qaeda operation, but I could be wrong," he said.

Monday, December 19, 2005

So the Attorney General, a political appointee, gave Bush the thumbs up to break the law...Gonzales: Congress Gave President The Authority To Spy On Americans ......I think thats called a political circle jerk of the Who's on first variety
How much authority does this statute confer upon the President to use force in prosecuting the war against terrorism? Note at the outset that the statute contains five whereas clauses. Under traditional principles of statutory construction, these provisions have no binding legal effect. Only material that comes after the so-called "resolving clause"--"Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled"--can have any operative effect. Material set out in a whereas clause is purely precatory. It may be relevant for the purpose of clarifying ambiguities in a statute's legally operative terms, but in and of itself such a provision can confer no legal right or obligation.

From Crooked seems like both the Administration’s rationale and the response from supporters online is essentially the same as the effort to justify the arbitrary detention and torture of people (including U.S. citizens). In other words, choose any or all of:

I liked #5
World Weary: “Oh, puh-leeze. This is nothing new. It’s been going on for years—Americans have no idea how little legal protection they have from arbitrary government surveillance. That’s why I became a libertarian. I still fully support the Government’s right to monitor, lock up, ‘render’ and torture anyone they declare is an enemy combatant, though. I absolutely still don’t trust them to run a Social Security Program or redistribute taxes to the poor, obviously.”

One Veteran's Voice has some interesting pictures of his stay in Iraq posted on Flickr

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The new and very dishonest argument from the anti-social security forces is that its not relevant for the new global economy. Sounds all new-agey and kool doesn't it. Like a balloon its mostly filled with air. People still get old, they still retire, they still need a safety net in a world where no, you probably will not work for the same employer until you collect that cheap gold watch. At TPM
Truly, you really don't have to reason through this one very far or very hard to see that if anything has changed over the last few decades it is that Social Security has become more important and more suited to the circumstances of the time rather than less.

Muckraking Columnist Jack Anderson Dies
"He was a bridge for the muckrakers of a century ago and the crop that came out of Watergate," said Mark Feldstein, Anderson's biographer and a journalism professor at George Washington University. "He held politicians to a level of accountability in an era where journalists were very deferential to those in power."

There's still some muchrakers out there, but Anderson was one of the modern eras god fathers.

Purposely misquoting FISA to defend the Bush Administration is probably the must read of the day.

Auckland police hope Santa mayhem a one-off
Police are hoping the drunken antics of 50 men in Santa Claus outfits on Saturday will not become a regular problem at this time of year.
The group, participating in this year's "Santarchy" - Santa anarchy - stole from shops, urinated in the streets and threw rocks at buses in downtown Auckland on Saturday.

Pentagon's Intelligence Authority Widens
A former senior Pentagon intelligence official, familiar with CIFA, said yesterday, "They started with force protection from terrorists, but when you go down that road, you soon are into everything . . . where terrorists get their money, who they see, who they deal with."

He added, noting that there had been no congressional oversight of CIFA, that the Defense Department is "too big, too rich an organization and should not be left unfettered. They rush in where there is a vacuum."

A former senior counterterrorism official, also familiar with CIFA, said, "What you are seeing is the militarization of counterterrorism."

CIFA's authority is still growing. In a new move to centralize all counterterrorism intelligence collection inside the United States, the Defense Department this month gave CIFA authority to task domestic investigations and operations by the counterintelligence units of the military services.

Will someone send up a flare when its OK for me to say without appearing paranoid that this Jeffersonian democracy we live in is over, the people have spoken and they choose the illusion of safety over liberty.

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