Friday, November 11

Turning a Corner - as Republicans Fall, Democrats need to Rise

Crossposted on Dailykos:

Politicians love to say say that Polls don't matter but then again, maybe they do. Polls and approval ratings of Congress are currently abysmal.

From Survey USA
: Is the country headed in the Right Direction or the Wrong Direction?

Right 29% - Wrong 66%

Polling Approve or Disapprove of the way Congress is handling it's job?

Approve 32% - Disapprove 64%

This happened at the same time when Republicans were crushed in this years mid-term elections.
With President Bush facing his lowest job approval ratings and polls showing widespread dissatisfaction over the country's direction, the GOP suffered a series of bruising blows — from decisive losses in the New Jersey and Virginia governor's races to the clean-sweep rejection of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's ballot initiatives and even the resounding defeat of Randy Kelly, a Democratic mayor in St. Paul, Minn., who was hurt politically because he campaigned last year for the president.
It might just be me, but I think this may have something to do with the way Congress seems to have lost it's nerve to dropping the budget cutting axe on poor children, women and the elderly.

House Republican leaders were forced to abruptly pull their $54 billion budget-cutting bill off the House floor yesterday

There is growing dissension in Republican ranks over spending priorities, taxes, oil exploration and the reach of government

A battle between House Republican conservatives and moderates over energy policy and federal anti-poverty and education programs left GOP leaders without enough votes to pass the $54 billion budget-cutting bill

The budget measure had been framed by GOP leaders as one of the most important pieces of legislation in years


GOP Plans Failed
The House budget vote was supposed to reestablish the Republican commitment to a smaller government

Moderate Republicans made it clear that was not the way they wanted the party defined

The GOP leadership had already abandoned a provision in the budget that would have opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling

But it was not enough to secure the votes of moderates who said remaining policy changes were hitting the nation's most vulnerable citizens just as the party was preparing another round of tax cuts that would benefit the most affluent


Rep. Pelosi Comments
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, said, "I think that the Republicans are feeling the impact of the election and feeling the heat of our arguments about why this budget is a bad one."

Pelosi said, "Democrats were united and made those issues too hot to handle for Republicans."

Pelosi called the cuts "anti-family, anti-taxpayer and anti-American."

Pelosi said, "By having to pull it today, it is a failure on the part of the Republicans."
The trick of course will be for Democrats to articulate a vision that will protect the most vulnerable in our nation, maintain national security and eliminate the deficit without sounding like "tax and spend liberals". One way to address this is to simply let the current Bush Tax-Cuts expire, but that IMO isn't enough. Dems also need to offer offsetting tax credits for private investment into public projects. Republicans and Conservatives are fond of saying that the private making can find more efficient ways to solve problems - well, then I say let them.

Rather than simply giving resource rich persons and companies tax cuts for doing nothing other than existing, we should tie those cuts directly to how they take responsibility in their community.

  • Hire more American workers rather than persons from overseas - get a tax credit for it (Which was a Kerry Campaign Proposal).
  • Provide quality healthcare for all your workers, get a tax credit for it. Protect their pensions, get a credit.
  • Invest in environment-friendly materials, tools and products - get a credit.

Each and every time that a private company or person spends his own dollars in a way that prevents the government from having to do it - each time they take public responsibility in some way - they should get a credit to be applied against the Bush cuts after they expire. It's possibly they might come out with even lower taxes than they have now -- but more importantly, the need for government expenditures to help the helpless would decrease as well because more people will have better jobs with better benefits - rather than the continue Wal-martizing of America with increasingly diminishing expectations and higher corporate profits.


GOP to Veterans : FU

On this Veterans Day - it may be a good time to take good look at exactly how our Congressional leaders in the GOP have been supporting our troops as we fight two simultaneous Wars overseas.

Republicans Voted Against Veterans' Health Care FIVE TIMES This Year, Despite Warnings of Budget Shortfall.
Before the Department of Veterans Affairs announced a $1 billion budget shortfall earlier this year, Senate Republicans voted twice against $1.98 billion for veterans' health care, while also opposing a proposal to increase veterans' health care funding by $2.8 billion. And last month, Republicans said "no" to keeping veterans' health care funding in line with inflation and population growth. These votes all came despite at least five warnings from Sen. Patty Murray that the proposed federal funding for veterans' programs would not be enough to cover costs. [Vote #89, 4/12/05; Vote #90, 4/12/05; Vote #55, 3/16/05; Vote #251, 10/5/05; CQ Today, 10/5/05; U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs Press Release, 6/23/05; Office of Sen. Patty Murray; Tacoma News Tribune, 6/29/05]

Tall-tales and Hiding the Truth

According to Newsweek a new set of documents indicates that before his UN Speech, the truth about terrorist detainee al-Libi's Tall-tales about Al-Qaeda cooperation with Saddam Hussein was withheld from Colin Powell.
The new documents also raise the possibility that caveats raised by intelligence analysts about al-Libi’s claims were withheld from Powell when he was preparing his Security Council speech. Larry Wilkerson, who served as Powell’s chief of staff and oversaw the vetting of Powell’s speech, responded to an e-mail from NEWSWEEK Wednesday stating that he was unaware of the DIA doubts about al-Libi at the time the speech was being prepared. “We never got any dissent with respect to those lines you cite … indeed the entire section that now we know came from [al-Libi],” Wilkerson wrote.
On the issue of whether these doubt were passed on to the President:

Michele Davis, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said that President Bush's remarks were "based on what was put forward to him as the views of the intelligence community" and that those views came from "an aggregation" of sources. She added, however, that it was impossible at this point to determine whether the dissent from the DIA and questions raised by the CIA were seen by officials at the White House prior to the president's remarks. A counter-terrorism official said that while CIA reports on al-Libi were distributed widely around U.S. intelligence agencies and policy-making offices, many such routine reports are not regularly read by senior policy-making officials.
And what exactly was it they didn't tell Powell and claim the President couldn't have known?
But according to the newly declassified DIA and CIA documents provided to Levin, the credibility of those statements by Bush and Powell were already in doubt within the U.S. intelligence community. While the DIA was the first to raise red flags in its February 2002 report, the CIA itself in January 2003 produced an updated version of a classified internal report called “Iraqi Support for Terrorism.” The previous version of this CIA report in September 2002 had simply included al-Libi’s claims, according to the newly declassified agency document provided to Levin in response to his inquiries about al-Libi. But the updated January 2003 version, while including al-Libi’s claims that Al Qaeda sent operatives to Iraq to acquire chemical and biological weapons and training, added an important new caveat: It “noted that the detainee was not in a position to know if any training had taken place,” according to the copy of the document obtained by NEWSWEEK. It was not until January 2004—nine months after the war was launched—that al-Libi recanted “a number of the claims he made while in detention for the previous two years, including the claim that Al Qaeda sent operatives to Iraq to obtain chemical and biological weapons and related training,” the CIA document says.
Sounds to me like the intelligence was Stovepiped directly to policy makers without being properly vetted and verified.


IRS bullies Church for political commentary

Ok, when you want to talk about Truth 2 Power (the subtitle of this blog), saying something that needs to be said to someone who doesn't want to hear it - I can't think of a better recent example than this story about All Saints Church in Pasadena.

Two days before George W. Bush's re-election in 2004, the Rev. George F. Regas, a retired rector, denounced the Iraq war from the pulpit of Pasadena's All Saints Episcopal Church.

While cautioning that he wasn't telling people how to vote, Regas delivered a scathing indictment of the war. ``Mr. President, your doctrine of pre-emptive war is a failed doctrine,'' Regas said, summarizing how Jesus would have seen it. ``Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster.''

The Internal Revenue Service didn't like the sermon. The IRS is now threatening to take away the church's tax-exempt status, saying there's a ``reasonable belief'' that All Saints violated the rules against intervening in political campaigns.

Ok, so he didn't make a comment about how anyone should vote - he just gave his opinion on the War, which it seems to me the late Pope John Paul has also opposed the War.
Before the war, Pope John Paul II warned Bush that an invasion of Iraq would be viewed by the Vatican as a “criminal act.”
It seems clear that if All Saints Church is being investigated by the IRS for making political comments, then what about...

Pat Roberts calling for the Assasination of a Foreign Head of State by U.S. Forces?

Or his lying about comments that Sen Barbara Boxer never made about Judge John Roberts?

Or his comments that Democratic Judges are a greater threat to the U.S. than Al Qaeda, Nazi Germany of the Civil War.

And then there's Jerry Falwell whose said that the "Liberal" 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is the "most overtuned" of all Federal Appellate Courts - which it is not.

Not that I'm accusing the IRS of a malicious and biased abused of power.

Ok, wait - yes I am. It's seem to me that Rev. Regas has a First Amendment Right to shout Water in the middle of a Fire and share his feeling that our course of action at that time was deeply misguided and dangerous, just as numerous Biblical passages can be used as referrence to back up this assertion. It has to be recalled that Jesus is known as the "Prince of Peace".

But, if Regas and his Church have to face the possibility of losing their tax exempt status for criticizing the War, I don't see any justification for Roberts, Falwell or many other Radical Evangelical preachers keeping their's considering the highly political comments they make on a regular basis.

Not that I have any hope of that ever happening, but one can always dream.


Thursday, November 10

Melting the Skin Off Children

In response to a recent Italian Documentary about the assault on Falluah last year which featured some rather graphic images, the issue of both White Phosporous Munitions and Napalm (500 lbs MK77 Firebombs) has suddenly become a very - hot - topic. To borrow a line from a band I used to like until this year- "It aint pretty".

From The Independant.
In a documentary to be broadcast by RAI, the Italian state broadcaster, this morning, a former American soldier who fought at Fallujah says: "I heard the order to pay attention because they were going to use white phosphorus on Fallujah. In military jargon it's known as Willy Pete.

"Phosphorus burns bodies, in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone ... I saw the burned bodies of women and children. Phosphorus explodes and forms a cloud. Anyone within a radius of 150 metres is done for."
Rather than being just another Liberal attack on the Military, the use of White Phosphorous has been confirmed by the Military itself.

From an article on the attack on Fallujah featured in the March Edition of Field Artillery Magazine.
"WP [i.e., white phosphorus rounds] proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE. We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out."

Needess to say, this has cause a bit of a stir --- here's a sample from Hunter on dailykos

First, I think it should be a stated goal of United States policy to not melt the skin off of children.

As a natural corollary to this goal, I think the United States should avoid dropping munitions on civilian neighborhoods which, as a side effect, melt the skin off of children. You can call them "chemical weapons" if you must, or far more preferably by the more proper name of "incendiaries". The munitions may or may not precisely melt the skin off of children by setting them on fire; they do melt the skin off of children, however, through robust oxidation of said skin on said children, which is indeed colloquially known as "burning". But let's try to avoid, for now, the debate over the scientific phenomenon of exactly how the skin is melted, burned, or caramelized off of the aforementioned children. I feel quite confident that others have put more thought into the matter of how to melt the skin off of children than I have, and will trust their judgment on the matter.

Now, I know that we may be melting the skin off of children in order to give them freedom, or to prevent Saddam Hussein from possibly melting the skins off of those children at some future date. These are good and noble things to bring children, especially the ones who have not been killed by melting their skin.

I know, as well, that we do not drop "chemical weapons" on Iraq. We may, in the course of fighting insurgents in civilian neighborhoods, drop "incendiaries" or other airborne weaponry which may melt the skins off of children as an accidental side effect of illuminating their neighborhoods or melting the skins off their neighbors. In that this still can be classified as melting the skins off of children, I feel comfortable in stating that the United States should not condone the practice. (This may mean, when fighting in civilian neighborhoods, we take nuanced steps to avoid melting the skin off of children, such as not dropping munitions that melt the skin off of children.)

And I know it is true, there is some confusion over whether the United States was a signatory to the Do Not Melt The Skin Off Of Children part of the Geneva conventions, and whether or not that means we are permitted to melt the skin off of children, or merely are silent on the whole issue of melting the skin off of children.

But all that aside, there are very good reasons, even in a time of war, not to melt the skin off of children.

  • First, because the insurgency will inevitably be hardened by tales of American forces melting the skin off of children.

  • Second, because the civilian population will harbor considerable resentment towards Americans for melting the skin off of their children.


And, unless Saddam Hussein had a brigade or two consisting of six year olds, we can presume that children, like perhaps nine tenths or more of their immediate families, are civilians.

Fallujah: The Pentagon's War Atrocities & MassacreNow some like to call Liberals, who generally oppose this sort of thing - bleeding hearts. As if to imply that caring and compassion for non-combatants who've been burned alive is simply the result of misplaced guilt. If that's so, then exactly what - I wonder - would you call those who advocate charcoal children as a genuine method of achieve peace and democracy?

How could such a thing happen? Is it merely a by-product of "doing everything you can" to protect the people of America, or is it something else? Right now we have a President who claims "We do not torture" while his Vice President is beating every bush in Congress to ensure that - just in case - the CIA can use Torture if it needs too. Cognative Dissonance much?

"Last month, the Senate voted for a ban on torture 90-9. You heard me correctly: Nine United States Senators refused to vote against torture. Those senators included Illinois Democrat Thumbscrews McGee, Iowa's Cattleprod von Analpair and, of course, Ted Stevens [of] Alaska."
---Jon Stewart
Look, it's not like a few Ethics Refresher classes are going to replace what's clearly missing in these people. There's something fundamentally wrong with people who can rationalize means such as these, no matter what the ends might be.

Thirty five years ago it was pictures such as these that finally made the American public realize the wrongness of the Vietnam War -- how many more Abu Ghraib's, how many more detainee who've been murdered while in custody, how many more burned and charred children is it going to take?

Is this who we are? Is this how we fight terrorism and bring "justice" to the world? I'd like to scream "NO", but in truth can only shake my head and quietly whisper...


But then again, why bother being shocked. This is who we've been for a long time - don't you know that Napalm sticks to Kids?


Wednesday, November 9

There is a Diebold - uh, I mean God!

From Bradblog: This is story that just has to be read to be believed....

Due to a problem with Electronic Voting Machines in Los Angeles County, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was told he had already voted when he showed up at the polls today to cast his ballot in the Special Election that he himself declared for California today!

He was told he'd have to use a provisional ballot, but unlike most American voters, he was eventually allowed to use a regular ballot anyway.

Los Angeles County Registrar, Conny McCormack (a huge fan of Diebold machines, and a very good friend of their sales rep here in Southern California) is trying to mitigate the damage...big time...Though she admits that someone "breached protocol in advance of the election"

It should be further noted, that the Governator was attempting to vote in Brentwood (in Los Angeles County), but the "breach" -- which would have kept a normal non-Gubernatorial citizen from voting on anything but a provisional ballot -- occurred in Pasadena, about a 30 to 45 minute drive from Brentwood. Early voting, on paperless Diebold Touch-Screen Voting Machines, has been occurring in Los Angles County for the last several weeks.

From Los Angeles Times... [emphasis added]

Schwarzenegger Hits Snag at Polling Place

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up to his Brentwood neighborhood polling station today to cast his ballot in the special election — and was told he had already voted.

Elections officials said a Los Angeles County poll worker had entered Schwarzenegger's name into an electronic voting touch screen station in Pasadena on Oct. 25. The worker, who was not identified, was testing the voting machine in preparation for early voting that began the next day.
Schwarzenegger's aides were informed of the problem when they arrived this morning to survey the governor's polling station. The poll worker told the governor's staff he would have to use a "provisional" ballot that allows elections workers to verify if two votes were made by the same person. McCormack said the poll worker did the correct thing.

The governor, however, was allowed to use a regular ballot.
"This is someone who breached our protocol and was playing around in advance of the election," she said.

Tom Hiltachk, the governor's attorney, said: "I have no reason to believe anything nefarious occurred.

But Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, said the problem highlights the need for better verification of electronic voting.

"If the governor is going to have a mix-up on his ballot," she said, "it will make other voters wonder what is going to happen with their ballots."

Partying Democrats

Well, they're pretty jubilant over at Dailykos about last nights election results.

Wed Nov 09, 2005 at 12:10:42 AM PST

Intelligent designers on Dover school board were swept out en masse by the city's voters. Eight sane Dems swept out eight crazy fundamentalists.

In Tucson Arizona, Dems took out two Republicans and reverted the city council to Democratic control. In Washington State, a measure closely watched by anti-tax zealots to repeal Washington's fuel tax was narrowly defeated.

In Maine (as noted already), an anti-gay ballot initiative actually failed. That's something you don't see every day. An anti-gay marriage amendment in Texas passed easily (even though it may hilariously invalidate every marriage).

In both New Jersey and Virginia Democrats gained seats in the state legislatures. Bush actually lent some of that "political capital" to Virginia's Kilgore, for all the good (and probable harm) it did. Let's hope more and more Republicans decide to let Bush campaign for them. Heck, the Democratic Party should pay Bush's political travel expenses, since they will clearly help us more than their own guys. California is a disaster of epic proportions for Arnold (The One-Term-inator). How long before rumors about Arnold's retirement crop up? (And no, I haven't heard any. Yet.)

From Dailykos

This special election result has the feel of every teen movie from the 80s where some strutting bully, someone who would be a golden boy if it weren't for his overblown ego and petty cruelty... is handed his ass by a rag-tag group of misfits that he wouldn't deign to spit on.

In this case, the bully was taken out by a group of cops, nurses, teachers, and firefighters - people who eke out a living in service to their communities... and who are living rebukes to the Republican notion that a person's worth can be computed as a direct function of the magnitude of their investment portfolio.

After setting aside the election of Gray Davis in 2002 by a capricious and well financed attack on the principles of democratic process, Arnold probably thought he could once again pee on California and call it rosewater...

We showed that we can mobilize and win. The Alliance for a Better California was a truly unprecedented joint effort of the state's many unions, the Democratic party, and activists in groups like DfA and PDA all working together.

Progressives putting differences aside to work together? Who'd have thunk it?

It worked.

More from Dailykos:

Message Sent:

AHNULD: I vill go strate to du peepo uf Col-ee-for-nee-uh.

PEOPLE: Fuck you!

Republicans have very little to cheer about this election. They soundly defeated reform efforts in Ohio and they held on to the NYC mayorship. Retaking NYC would've been the "cherry on top" of this election, but whatever. No one ever wins them all.

But I have to say, while this beats the losing we've experiened the last couple of years, this is still quite unsatisfying. Let's call it the appetizer.

2006 is the real target. We've got the momentum and a Republican Party reeling from its inability to govern. We can't let them regain their balance. We've got to keep them on the defensive, take advantage of every opening they provide to score additional points.

Off-year elections are rarely harbingers of future performance. Dems actually did quite well in 2003, to little effect in 2004. Let's work to make this year an exception to that rule.

In the end, I agree here -- the last thing we can do is get complacent. The news is bad for the Republicans and Bush on every front and its looks likely to get nothing but worse. The only positive lining I see between now and next November is the likelyhood of Iraq ratifying their Constitution and the beginning of troop withdrawals from the region. John McCain stated last night on the Daily Show that "we should have our forces reduced by 1/3 - a year from now".

Will such good news be enough to feather the wind at the back the anti-war movement? Possibly. But then again, if there are more indictments of senior White House staff (Rove) and Officials (Cheney) in addition to the current indictments of Libby, Frist, DeLay and Abramov - even news that good may not be enough.

Keep the corks in the Champagne - the real party will be in 06, and then again in 08. Or not.


Tuesday, November 8

The Swiftboating of Patrick Fitzgerald

The Right makes it's next move on Wilson and Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald with a page right out of the Swiftboating Manual... has been reporting for some time that Fox Contributor Andrew Napolitano has claimed that "at least one" of his Fox colleagues has claimed that they were present at a party where former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV introduced Valerie Plame as "my CIA operative wife." This past Saturday on a WABC radio broadcast and tonight on Hannity & colmes "at least one" of these colleagues has come forward with the specifics of his claim.

His name is Maj Gen Paul Vallely (ret), a Fox Military Analyst, who proclaimed that he had met Wilson in the Fox Green Room in Washington and that during casual conversation Wilson mentioned that his Wife "worked at the CIA". During the segment colmes as for specific dates where the two men might have been in the same Green Room, but he Vallely couldn't provide specifics - although he did mention that this allegedly occured during the "Summer and early Fall of 2002" - over a year before the Novak column which publically announced Valerie's employement to the world.

colmes played a portion of the Fitzgerald Press Conference:

Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer. In July 2003, the fact that Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer was classified. Not only was it classified, but it was not widely known outside the intelligence community.

Valerie Wilson's friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life.

The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well- known, for her protection or for the benefit of all us. It's important that a CIA officer's identity be protected, that it be protected not just for the officer, but for the nation's security.

Valerie Wilson's cover was blown in July 2003. The first sign of that cover being blown was when Mr. Novak published a column on July 14th, 2003.

Apparently Gen Vallely has never been called, or voluanteered any information directly to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald - and while talking with Hannity went on to question the "depth" of Fitzgerald's investigation, claiming it was "incomplete" and "should be considered null and void".

According to Gen Vallely:
  • Fitzgerald and the FBI never talked to anyone at CIA to confirm Valerie's status.
  • Valeria Flame (he never called her Plame or Wilson) "we now know was an analyst, not a covert agent"
  • Fitzgerald and the FBi didn't even talk to Joe Wilson under oath.
  • It was common knowledge at State and CIA that Valerie Flame was an analyst, but not a covert agent.
  • Wilson's didn't sign a confidentiality agreement with the CIA, and wasn't one of their employees.
Hannity went on to proclaim that Wilson's Op-Ed in the New York Times is what outed his wife...
"if keeping her identify secret was so important - why right the article and risk that"? Naturally, Gen. Vallely agreed with this completely ridiculous assertion.

Of all Vallely's and Hannity's claims the only correct one is that Joe Wilson is not an employee of the CIA.

Joe Wilson's full report to the CIA on his trip was classified and is still classified - common sense says you can't write a classified report without having a Security Clearance and signing a Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement which is required for such a clearance, even for non-CIA employee. Even "Scooter" Libby signed one.

According to the Common Dreams website - Patrick Fitzgerald's FBI and Grand Jury witness list included:

Ex-CIA comm. dir. Bill Harlow
Ex-CIA dep. dir. John McLaughlin
CIA comm. dir. Jennifer Millerwise (did not go before grand jury)
Ex-CIA dir. George Tenet
Ex-Amb. Joseph Wilson
Joe Wilson has stated publically, once her cover was blown, that his wife Valerie Wilson was in fact - "a covert agent" as he did on "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer on Oct 31, 2005.
Wilson: But nonetheless, there's now clear evidence that Mr. Rove was leaking classified information. Mr. Fitzgerald made it very clear. My wife was a covert officer at the time that these people were leaking her name.
This H&c Report begins the true Swiftboating of Patrick Fitzgeralds investigation which has been lurking in the wings for the past week or more now that claims that "Perjury isn't a real crime" have begun to sink under the weight of their own flatulence. Not that facts were ever in great supply on Faux News, I suspect it won't be long before a new set of Right-Wing talking point echoing Vallely and Hannity "They didn't even talk to the neighbor until two weeks before the indictment..." are going to be making the rounds.

But never fear - Crooks and is already on the case.

UPDATE: Media Matters is now all over this one, as I knew they would be.


Frist: Gov Leaks must Stop

Yes, that's right Sen Majority Leader Bill Frist has finally got Religion on the leaking of classified information by government sources. Writing a letter to Senate Intelligence Committe Frist stated the following:
Dear Chairman Hoekstra and Chairman Roberts:

We request that you immediately initiate a joint investigation into the possible release of classified information to the media..

The purpose of your investigation will be to determine the following: was the information provided to the media classified and accurate?; who leaked this information and under what authority?;
Not only does he want to know who did it, but how much it may have hurt the U.S.
what is the actual and potential damage done to the national security of the United States and our partners in the Global War on Terror.

what is the actual and potential damage done to the national security of the United States and our partners in the Global War on Terror?
He goes further to point out how such releases of information are dangerous to our own troops.
The leaking of classified information by employees of the United States government appears to have increased in recent years, establishing a dangerous trend that, if not addressed swiftly and firmly, likely will worsen. The unauthorized release of classified information is serious and threatens our nation's security. It also puts the lives of many Americans and the security of our nation at risk.
It's good to see he's returned from the Dark side, except for the fact that the leak he wants to investigate isn't the outing of classified CIA Operative Valerie Plame, nor are they requesting this investigation to find out who outed a Pakistani Double Agent by the name of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan in 2004.
Khan had been secretly apprehended by ISI in mid-July and persuaded to become a double agent. He was actively helping investigators penetrate further into Al Qaeda cells and activities via computer, and was still cooperating when the “senior Bush administration” figure told New York Times’ Douglas Jehl about him. ISI told Reuters, “He sent encoded e-mails and received encoded replies. He’s a great hacker and even the US agents said he was a computer whiz … He was cooperating with interrogators on Sunday and Monday and sent e-mails on both days.” This proves that the Bush administration just blew the cover of one of the most important assets inside Al Qaeda that the US has ever had.
But no, that's not it. Frist wants to know who spilled the beans on the U.S. Secret Torture Centers around the world, because clearly - we can't let anyone know about that. We have to keep torturing people, we got such great and wonderful information from Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (except for everything he said about Al-Qaeda working with Saddam Hussein being a lie).

But oh wait, the President just said this weekend -- "We don't Torture" while Dick Cheney is running around Congress doing his best to make sure we still can just in case we want to.

From the Washington Post: "Q Mr. President, there has been a bit of an international outcry over reports of secret U.S. prisons in Europe for terrorism suspects. Will you let the Red Cross have access to them? And do you agree with Vice President Cheney that the CIA should be exempt from legislation to ban torture?

"PRESIDENT BUSH: Our country is at war, and our government has the obligation to protect the American people. The executive branch has the obligation to protect the American people; the legislative branch has the obligation to protect the American people. And we are aggressively doing that. We are finding terrorists and bringing them to justice. We are gathering information about where the terrorists may be hiding. We are trying to disrupt their plots and plans. Anything we do to that effort, to that end, in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the law. We do not torture.

The absurdity of this is obvious to nearly everyone - except the White House

Republican Columnist Andrew Sullivan writes: "If that's the case, why threaten to veto a law that would simply codify what Bush alleges is already the current policy? If 'we do not torture,' how to account for the hundreds and hundreds of cases of abuse and torture by U.S. troops, documented by the government itself? If 'we do not torture,' why the memos that expanded exponentially the lee-way given to the military to abuse detainees in order to get intelligence? The president's only defense against being a liar is that he is defining 'torture' in such a way that no other reasonable person on the planet, apart from Bush's own torture apologists (and they are now down to one who will say so publicly), would agree. The press must now ask the president: does he regard the repeated, forcible near-drowning of detainees to be torture? Does he believe that tying naked detainees up and leaving them outside all night to die of hypothermia is 'torture'? Does he believe that beating the legs of a detainee until they are pulp and he dies is torture? Does he believe that beating detainees till they die is torture? Does he believe that using someone's religious faith against them in interrogations is 'cruel, inhumane and degrading' treatment and thereby illegal? What is his definition of torture?"
Frist has even gone so far as trying to have the Security Clearance for the Senates top two Democrats revoked in response to a Democratic attempt to have the clearances removed for any White House personnel who have shared it improperly (like Karl Rove who spoke both to Matt Cooper and Robert Novak about Valerie Plame). A measure which failed 64 to 33 when 20 Republicans joined all present Democrats in voting against it.
Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) acknowledged the blatantly political tone of the debate. "This is a sad and a disappointing afternoon here in the United States Senate," he said.
But wait, this story gets even worse... Guess who it looks like leaked the information about the Secret Detention Centers we don't really have, and where people don't really get tortured? Apparently according to Trent Lott - it must have been a Republican Senator, since the information we don't really have seems to have come from a closed door Republicans only session.
But Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., told reporters the information in the Post story was the same as that given to Republican senators in a closed-door briefing by Vice President Dick Cheney last week. "Every word that was said in there went right to the newspaper," he said, and added, "We can't keep our mouths shut." (Posted 5:04 p.m.)
So apparently 1) The of Secret Detention Centers Story is True (the CIA has already referred the leak to the Justice Deparment) and 2) yet another set of Republicans has apparently leaked Classified information after hearing directly from the Horses, I mean Dick Cheney.

Oh and apparently Senator and sometimes Dr. Bill I-can-diagnose-that-disease-with-only-30-seconds-of-videotape-for-$149.95 Frist is livid. Good things do happen to patient people, don't they?

But then again on the subject of patience, while the Senate Intelligence Commitee is busy investigating other members of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- they probably won't have any time to deal with other big issue they were gonna work on -- what was that -- oh, yeah, just who cooked the Iraq WMD and Terrorism Intelligence and sent us into a misguided, unneccesary and illegal War?


Monday, November 7

The Conservative Fetish over "Judicial Activism"

This weekend on Meet the Press, Senator Tom Coburn (R) made what I think was an interesting description of what an "Activist Judge" is. In his view Judges should not "make law", that being the province of Congress, and when a Judge has a disagrement with the Congressional view in relation to the Constitution instead of striking down that law -- they should instead refer the matter back to the Congress for correction.
RUSSERT: Do you believe that Congress has the right to restrict the sale and transfer of machine guns, or do you think that Judge Alito's correct that Congress should not be interfering in that?

SEN. COBURN: No, I think we probably have the right to do it. But I don't think a judge has the right to make that decision. I think Congress--and that brings us back to the whole point. Those aren't decisions judges should be making. Those are decisions that legislators should be making. And that's how we've gotten off on this track is, that we allow judges to start deciding the law, new law, rather than interpret the law that the Congress--what the--what should have happened in that case is this an area that's up for debate and needs to go back to Congress. If Congress decides that, then it should be there.

My question is - where exactly is the Constitutional Foundation for that view?

Hamilton in the Federalist Papers #79
If it be said that the legislative body are themselves the constitutional judges of their own powers, and that the construction they put upon them is conclusive upon the other departments, it may be answered, that this cannot be the natural presumption, where it is not to be collected from any particular provisions in the Constitution. It is not otherwise to be supposed, that the Constitution could intend to enable the representatives of the people to substitute their WILL to that of their constituents. It is far more rational to suppose, that the courts were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and the legislature, in order, among other things, to keep the latter within the limits assigned to their authority. The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A constitution is, in fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as a fundamental law. It therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body. If there should happen to be an irreconcilable variance between the two, that which has the superior obligation and validity ought, of course, to be preferred; or, in other words, the Constitution ought to be preferred to the statute, the intention of the people to the intention of their agents.

So according to Hamilton, the Court is the arbiter of conflicts between Congressional Will, the Constitution and the People - with Congresional Will being trumped by either. In additional to Hamilton, this issue has been long settled by case of Marbury V Madison (1803):

While a section of the Judiciary Act of 1789 granted the Court the power to issue writs of mandamus, the Court ruled that this exceeded the authority allotted the Court under Article III of the Constitution and was therefore null and void. So, while the case limited the court's power in one sense, it greatly enhanced it in another by ultimately establishing the court's power to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional. Just as important, it emphasized that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and that the Supreme Court is the arbiter and final authority of the Constitution. As a result of this court ruling, the Supreme Court became an equal partner in the government.

So exactly where do people like Coburn get off accusing judges of being Activist for simply doing their job and placing the Constitution over and above the will of Congress, because that's exactly what we're talking about here. Time and time again - Judges have been accused of supposedly placing their interpretation above the will of lawmakers and even above the will of the people - but one of the core tenents of our entire society is that the Constitution is the protection against the tyranny of the majority.

Madison in Federalist #47

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. Were the federal Constitution, therefore, really chargeable with the accumulation of power, or with a mixture of powers, having a dangerous tendency to such an accumulation, no further arguments would be necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system. I persuade myself, however, that it will be made apparent to every one, that the charge cannot be supported, and that the maxim on which it relies has been totally misconceived and misapplied. In order to form correct ideas on this important subject, it will be proper to investigate the sense in which the preservation of liberty requires that the three great departments of power should be separate and distinct.

Federalist #51

In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself. Second. It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.

In short it is an distinct, independant and co-equal judiciary that alone stands to prevent the passions of majority factions in either Congress or the Public from creating tyranny of that of the minority. It has been through the Courts that Segregation began to erode via Brown V Board of Education (1958). This was clearly an Activist court, one that struck down laws which clearly violated the rights of all by supporting the majority faction over that of the minority. If persons like Coburn are to have their way, the final word on our nation which shift from the Courts and the Constitution to the Legislature and the President. The Judiciary would not be independant, but rather would be the subordinants of the Congress -- overring them notes on thier law as if they were a pesky assistant in the corner.

This isn't what America was ment to be, and with luck - something it will never be. But it seems to be what Conservatives want - but only for interpretations of the Constitution which they disagree withl as well documented by Media Matters.

Numerous media outlets (see here, here, and here) have reported Bush's claim that he wants to nominate a "strict constructionist" to the Supreme Court -- which he defines as someone "who will strictly interpret the Constitution and not use the bench to legislate from." The Washington Post even suggested that "judicial activism" is the unique province of liberal Supreme Court justices and judges. But these reports never offered a definition of judicial activism or probed the Bush administration for one, nor did the Post examine the validity of its accusation that liberals are more likely to legislate from the bench.

Yale law professor Paul Gewirtz and recent Yale Law School graduate Chad Golder have offered one definition of judicial activism -- a justice's propensity to strike down statutes passed by Congress -- and under their measure, it's the conservatives on the Supreme Court who are the real activists. Justice Clarence Thomas was the most likely to strike down federal laws, while Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer -- the only two current justices to have been appointed by a Democratic president -- were the least likely to do so.

Now, Clarence Thomas is not eactly what anyone would consideral a "Liberal Activist" Judge - but he happens to be the most Activist of Judges on the Supreme Court, following immediately by Justice Rehnquist and Scalia. As President Bush continues to pump the court full of Converstives, it's far more likely that the court will become far more "Activist" that it has ever been - but the question comes will this form of activism uphold the tenents put forth by the founders to protect the People from the power interests of majority factions (be they in the legislature - or in the corporate world)? Somehow, I strongly doubt it.