Saturday, January 14

Bush Administration creating Enemies List

Crossposted on Dailykos.

As you look at the recent revelation that Bush authorized illegal wiretaps prior to 9-11 - a picture slowly emerges which just might explain at least one reason why obtaining a FISA warrant even 72 Hours after the fact wasn't good enough for this President - and just who it was they were really spying on.

Ok so let's walk through this according to -

What had long been understood to be protocol in the event that the NSA spied on average Americans was that the agency would black out the identities of those individuals or immediately destroy the information.

But according to people who worked at the NSA as encryption specialists during this time, that's not what happened. On orders from Defense Department officials and President Bush, the agency kept a running list of the names of Americans in its system and made it readily available to a number of senior officials in the Bush administration...

So prior to 9-11 the NSA had a list of U.S. Citizens who've been flagged by Echelon as possibly making statements or having communications with persons who've made anti-American and/or pro-terrorist statements. And apparently some members of the Bush Administration (like say - John Bolton) have access to this information.

Then 9-11 happens and Bush says he wants the FBI to have this list -- and the NSA said "No!".

The NSA's domestic surveillance activities that began in early 2001 reached a boiling point shortly after 9/11, when senior administration officials and top intelligence officials asked the NSA to share that data with other intelligence officials who worked for the FBI and the CIA to hunt down terrorists that might be in the United States. However the NSA, on advice from its lawyers, destroyed the records, fearing the agency could be subjected to lawsuits by American citizens identified in the agency's raw intelligence reports.

It was at this point that these "Senion Administration Officials" apparrently convinced the President to sign orders which compelled the NSA to "get with the program"... however this sequence of events tells us quite a bit about what was going on.

The list of Flagged Names which had been culled over the course of months is the issue. With the pre-Patriot Act FISA Wall in place, any of these names which had been gained from information over 72-hours old could not be shared with any other agency.

The Bush Administration has claimed that "timeliness" is at issue, but it seems that it's not an issue of FISA being too slow -- it's far more likely that the issue is retention of data. The ability to compare against that list of flagged-names,to cross check and "connect the dots" between people on their list and current pro-active intelligence data coming in from other agencies...

From Walter Pincus:

Information captured by the National Security Agency's secret eavesdropping on communications between the United States and overseas has been passed on to other government agencies, which cross-check the information with tips and information collected in other databases, current and former administration officials said.
The NSA has turned such information over to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and to other government entities, said three current and former senior administration officials, although it could not be determined which agencies received what types of information. Information from intercepts -- which typically includes records of telephone or e-mail communications -- would be made available by request to agencies that are allowed to have it, including the FBI, DIA, CIA and Department of Homeland Security, one former official said.

This is quite possibly how former pop singer Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam) and James Moore (author of "Bush's Brain") both wound up on the No-Fly List.

But it goes much farther than that -- there was a report/blog from last month that indicates that NSA isn't just spying on "al-Qaeda" or potential sympathisers like Stevens - they spied on their own people, other government employees, journalist and members of Congress!

NSA spied on its own employees, other U.S. intelligence personnel, and their journalist and congressional contacts. WMR has learned that the National Security Agency (NSA), on the orders of the Bush administration, eavesdropped on the private conversations and e-mail of its own employees, employees of other U.S. intelligence agencies -- including the CIA and DIA -- and their contacts in the media, Congress, and oversight agencies and offices.

The journalist surveillance program, code named "Firstfruits," was part of a Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) program that was maintained at least until October 2004 and was authorized by then-DCI Porter Goss. Firstfruits was authorized as part of a DCI "Countering Denial and Deception" program responsible to an entity known as the Foreign Denial and Deception Committee (FDDC). Since the intelligence community's reorganization, the DCI has been replaced by the Director of National Intelligence headed by John Negroponte and his deputy, former NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden.


In addition, beginning in 2001 but before the 9-11 attacks, NSA began to target anyone in the U.S. intelligence community who was deemed a "disgruntled employee." According to NSA sources, this surveillance was a violation of United States Signals Intelligence Directive (USSID) 18 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. The surveillance of U.S. intelligence personnel by other intelligence personnel in the United States and abroad was conducted without any warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The targeted U.S. intelligence agency personnel included those who made contact with members of the media, including the journalists targeted by Firstfruits, as well as members of Congress, Inspectors General, and other oversight agencies. Those discovered to have spoken to journalists and oversight personnel were subjected to sudden clearance revocation and termination as "security risks."

This revelation puts the lie to Bush's claims that this surveillance only included phone calls from al-Qaeda into the U.S., clearly it goes much deeper than that - and very close to the creation of a Domestic ENEMIES LIST by the Administration.

And the real question is... once your name has been flagged by a "Special Access" Program like Echelon (which requires more than a Top-Secret Clearance in order to view) how exactly are mistakes corrected and inappropriate names removed from the list?

When, if ever, are any of these people going to clear there name?


Gov Warner seeks DNA for executed man

The Washington Post has the story of Gov Mark Warner ordering a DNA Test for a man, Roger K. Coleman, who has already been put to death via execution.

Since 1973 when the Death Penalty was re-established after being briefly repealed by the Supreme Court, the Innocence Project has used DNA to exonerate 172 condemnded individuals.

A similar finding in this case, that this man was wrongly executed could be a major blow to the legitimacy of Capital Punishment in America (which happens to be the last industrialized nation in the Western World to continue the practice).

Roger K. Coleman for years said he was innocent.
Roger K. Coleman for years said he was innocent. (Steve Helber - AP)
Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner has ordered DNA testing that could prove the guilt or innocence of a man executed in 1992, marking the first time a governor has asked for genetic testing of someone put to death.

The analysis, which began last month, comes in the case of Roger K. Coleman, a convicted killer whose proclamations of innocence -- including on the night of his execution -- raised concern nationwide over whether the wrong man died in the electric chair.

Warner's decision marks a dramatic turnaround in Virginia, where officials and judges have routinely refused to reexamine evidence in criminal cases after a defendant's conviction and have been steadfast in their denials of post-execution requests. Results of the Coleman tests, which are being conducted by scientists in a Toronto laboratory, could be announced before Warner (D) leaves office next week.

"This is an extraordinarily unique circumstance, where technology has advanced significantly and can be applied in the case of someone who consistently maintained his innocence until execution," Warner said yesterday in a statement. "I believe we must always follow the available facts to a more complete picture of guilt or innocence."

If Coleman were exonerated, it would be the first time in the United States that an executed man is cleared through genetic tests.

Ira Robbins, an American University criminal law professor, said that if Coleman was innocent, it would sway many Americans who are unsure about capital punishment to oppose it. But even if the tests confirm that Coleman was a killer, he said, it could spark a movement nationwide to test more old cases.

"It could be the biggest turning point in death penalty abolition," Robbins said. "Let's assume it comes back that he was proved innocent. Here is the case that the death penalty opponents have been looking for for a long time -- that we have executed an innocent person."
Update: BBC News reports that the test was Positive for guilt.

DNA tests have confirmed the guilt of a man who was executed in the US in 1992 whilst proclaiming his innocence.

Virginia state's outgoing governor, Mark Warner, had ordered the tests on Roger Coleman, who was put to death for raping and murdering his sister-in-law.

Anti-death penalty advocates had hoped this would be the first case of DNA testing exonerating an executed man.

The test results are a blow to those who supported Coleman and to the anti-death penalty movement in general.

A forensic laboratory in Toronto concluded there was virtually no doubt that the DNA recovered from the body of the victim, Wanda McCoy, belonged to Coleman.


Friday, January 13

Bush illegally spied on Americans prior to 9-11

Contrary to the Bush Administrations claims that they were granted the authority to conduct warrantless wiretaps of U.S. Citizens as a result of the 9-11 and the Authorization to Use Force in Afghanistan against al-Qaeda, Truthout reveals today that Bush performed domestic spying against U.S. Citizens long before September 11th, 2001.

The National Security Agency advised President Bush in early 2001 that it had been eavesdropping on Americans during the course of its work monitoring suspected terrorists and foreigners believed to have ties to terrorist groups, according to a declassified document.

The NSA's vast data-mining activities began shortly after Bush was sworn in as president and the document contradicts his assertion that the 9/11 attacks prompted him to take the unprecedented step of signing a secret executive order authorizing the NSA to monitor a select number of American citizens thought to have ties to terrorist groups.

In its "Transition 2001" report, the NSA said that the ever-changing world of global communication means that "American communication and targeted adversary communication will coexist."

"Make no mistake, NSA can and will perform its missions consistent with the Fourth Amendment and all applicable laws," the document says.

However, it adds that "senior leadership must understand that the NSA's mission will demand a 'powerful, permanent presence' on global telecommunications networks that host both 'protected' communications of Americans and the communications of adversaries the agency wants to target."

What had long been understood to be protocol in the event that the NSA spied on average Americans was that the agency would black out the identities of those individuals or immediately destroy the information.

But according to people who worked at the NSA as encryption specialists during this time, that's not what happened. On orders from Defense Department officials and President Bush, the agency kept a running list of the names of Americans in its system and made it readily available to a number of senior officials in the Bush administration, these sources said, which in essence meant the NSA was conducting a covert domestic surveillance operation in violation of the law.

Ok, so the point here is that the way the systems like Echelon are setup, they are always monitoring (as was alluded to by Russell Tice) but that information regarding persons within the U.S. is typically disgarded.or redacted.(As was the case with the NSA intercepts reviewed by John Bolton, until he requested and was granted access to the identities of U.S. citizens mentioned in the intercepts) Prior to 9-11 NSA did generally follow this procedure.

The NSA's domestic surveillance activities that began in early 2001 reached a boiling point shortly after 9/11, when senior administration officials and top intelligence officials asked the NSA to share that data with other intelligence officials who worked for the FBI and the CIA to hunt down terrorists that might be in the United States. However the NSA, on advice from its lawyers, destroyed the records, fearing the agency could be subjected to lawsuits by American citizens identified in the agency's raw intelligence reports.

Eavesdropping on Americans required intelligence officials to obtain a surveillance warrant from a special court and show probable cause that the person they wanted to monitor was communicating with suspected terrorists overseas. But Bush said that the process for obtaining such warrants under the 1978 Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act was, at times, "cumbersome."

In a December 22, letter to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Assistant Attorney General William E. Moschella wrote that the "President determined it was necessary following September 11 to create an early warning detection system. FISA could not have provided the speed and agility required for the early warning detection system."

However, what remains murky about that line of reasoning is that after 9/11, former Attorney General John Ashcroft undertook a full-fledged lobbying campaign to loosen the rules and the laws governing FISA [aka the Patriot Act] to make it easier for the intelligence community to obtain warrants for wiretaps to spy on Americans who might have ties to terrorists. Since the legislative change, more than 4,000 surveillance warrants have been approved by the FISA court, leading many to wonder why Bush selectively chose to bypass the court for what he said were a select number of individuals.

In addition to this revelation it appears that President Clinton has completely debunked the allegation that he ordered domestic spying in violation of FISA during his 2 terms as Commander in Chief.

Former President Clinton said Thursday that he never ordered wiretaps of American citizens without obtaining a court order, as President Bush has acknowledged he has done.

Clinton, in an interview broadcast Thursday on the ABC News program ''Nightline,'' said his administration either received court approval before authorizing a wiretap or went to court within three days after to get permission, as required by law.

''We either went there and asked for the approval or, if there was an emergency and we had to do it beforehand, then we filed within three days afterward and gave them a chance to second guess it,'' Clinton told ABC. link

When it comes down to it, the core of this spying scandal is actually a difference in interpretation of NSA legal duty between attorneys and employees (like Tice) at NSA who themselves feel that FISA should prevail and the Bush Administration who contend that FISA is unneccesary under the Presidents Article II powers -- however the question I have is why not go the extra mile and get the FISA warrants simply to protect the government from liability and protect any possible criminal cases from "fruit of the poison tree" contamination?

This dispute is what makes the Alito Nomination critically important - as his own stated views (at least those that he would admit too) of the "Unitary Executive" would tend to trump the NSA, regardless of precedents such as Hamdi where the famous "President doesn't receive a blank check" quote comes from.

A blank check and a rubber stamp to violate the civil rights of American citizens is exactly what this potential Justice would give the President.


Thursday, January 12

Graham's Gambit - will it backfire?

Crossposted on Truth 2 Power

Yesterday's crying jag by Mrs. Alito may have been the highlight of the hearings, but the truth is that Sen. Lindsay Graham was not only trying to rehabilitate Judge Alito from his delicate four-way position straddle on CAP.

    He doesn't remember joining the organization, except maybe he does - but that was because of the ROTC at Princeton, although that issue had been resolved 12 years previously - and he just might have been trying to impress Ed Meese with his references and would never support any of the anti-female, anti-minority, anti-handicapped positions of CAP, but then again he would never lie just to get a job, except for that one time with the Vanguard recusal thingy...

Sure, we all know Graham was attempting to shout "Bigot - bigot - bigot" in a crowded hearing chamber, make poor Mrs Alito cry and just hope every Democrat would run away screamming - but he was also up to something else.

Providing the Republicans political cover for the Jack Abramoff scandal, but will it work or will it backfire?

Transcript Courtesy of Michelle Malkin (thank's much Bitchy-poo)

GRAHAM: ...Are you really a closet bigot?

ALITO: I'm not any kind of a bigot, I'm not.

Yeah, that's right - as if any kind of half-way intelligent bigot is going to admit it in public, let alone under oath in a Senate hearing chamber and subject himself to possible criminal prosecution under U.S.C Title 18 § 242.  Um, not so much.

GRAHAM: No, sir, you're not.

Gee, Lindsay - so nice of you to concur, but if you already knew that - why'd you ask the question and then answer it yourself?

And you know why I believe that? Not because you just said it -- but that's a good enough reason,

And I'm sure Mr Senator and former Prosecutor and JAG Officer Graham has always thought "No Sir, I didn't chop down the cherry tree, honest" - was a good enough reason, too.

because you seem to be a decent, honorable man. I have got reams of quotes from people who have worked with you, African American judges -- I've lost my quotes.

And your marbles, but that's a diary for another time...

Judge Higginbotham -- I don't know where they're at. But glowing quotes about who you are, the way you've lived your life; law clerks, men and women, black and white, your colleagues who say that Sam Alito, whether I agree with him or not, is a really good man.

You know why I believe you when you say that you disavow those quotes? Because the way you have lived your life and the way you and your wife are raising your children.

Yeah, well - the Aryan Nations really do have a great youth outreach program, maybe we should just let them slide too?

Anyway, it's at this point that Lindsey finally starts to bring it home.

Let me tell you this: Guilt by association(DING!) is going to drive good men and women away from wanting to sit where you're sitting. And we're going to go through a bit of this ourselves as congressmen and senators.

You are?  Do tell.

People are going to take a fact that we got a campaign donation from somebody who's found out to be a little different than we thought they were -- and our political opponent's going to say, "Aha, I got you!"

A little different than you thought they were?  You mean like a mean-spirited ("little monkeys") two-timing scum-bag convicted felon with delusions of God-hood like say - Jack Abramoff?

And we're going to say, "Wait a minute. I didn't know that. I didn't take the money for that reason."

No, you took it because you needed to buy some shit.  Like "Duke" Cunningham who really needed to have that yatch. (Ok, technically Cunnigham owned the slip, and a Defense Contractor owned the Yatch, but you get my point)

And you know what? I'm going to believe these senators and congressmen for the most part, because that's the way we do our business. We meet people here every day. We have photos taken with people -- and sometimes you wish you didn't have your photo taken.

But that doesn't mean that you're a bad person because of that association.

Yeah, it's a good thing that Tom Delay didn't take tons of photos with Jack... oops.  Well, at least they don't have them together on Video or something, that might not look good.

Judge Alito, I am sorry that you've had to go through this. I am sorry that your family has had to sit here and listen to this.

And I'm sorry most of the country had to listen to you -- but then again, I quite afraid that most of them probably didn't pay attention and realize that Graham just admitted that the GOP Talking point about Democrats receiving money from Abramoff clients (who must be just as guilty as Abramoff himself right?) should be completely let off the hook for the association - just like Sam Alito had nothing to with CAP (except of coursse, for saying on his job application that he did).

That's right, we can all rest easy that Judge Sam Alito is "no kind of bigot" -- he's a weasling little kiss-ass suck-up toad, but he's not a bigot.

And all that Democrats (and a few Republicans here and there) who didn't take bribes from Jack Abramoff or Defense Contractors - have to do is recite Graham's own defense against "guilt by association" and they have nothing to worry about.


Crushing Dissent

The Bush Administation and Republican Congress moves yet another giant step backward to 1984 and 1930's Germany by attempting to Crush Dissent against the administration. Diaried by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse:

Bush wants to create the new criminal of "disruptor" who can be jailed for the crime of "disruptive behavior." A "little-noticed provision" in the latest version of the Patriot Act will empower Secret Service to charge protesters with a new crime of "disrupting major events including political conventions and the Olympics." Secret Service would also be empowered to charge persons with "breaching security" and to charge for "entering a restricted area" which is "where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting." In short, be sure to stay in those wired, fenced containments or free speech zones.

Who is the "disruptor"? Bush Team history tells us the disruptor is an American citizen with the audacity to attend Bush events wearing a T-shirt that criticizes Bush; or a member of civil rights, environmental, anti-war or counter-recruiting groups who protest Bush policies; or a person who invades Bush's bubble by criticizing his policies. A disruptor is also a person who interferes in someone else's activity, such as interrupting Bush when he is speaking at a press conference or during an interview.

What are the parameters of the crime of "disruptive behavior"? The dictionary defines "disruptive" as "characterized by unrest or disorder or insubordination." The American Medical Association defines disruptive behavior as a "style of interaction" with people that interferes with patient care, and can include behavior such as "foul language; rude, loud or offensive comments; and intimidation of patients and family members."


Bush's war against disruptors was then elevated to surveillance, monitoring, and legal actions against disruptor organizations. The FBI conducts political surveillance and obtains intelligence filed in its database on Bush administration critics , such as civil rights groups (e.g., ACLU), antiwar protest groups (e.g., United for Peace and Justice) and environmental groups (e.g., Greenpeace).

This surveillance of American citizens exercising their constitutional rights has been done under the pretext of counterterrorism activities surrounding protests of the Iraq war and the Republican National Convention. The FBI maintains it does not have the intent to monitor political activities and that its surveillance and intelligence gathering is "intended to prevent disruptive and criminal activity at demonstrations, not to quell free speech."

Surveillance of potential disruptors then graduated to legal actions as a preemptive strike against potential disruptive behavior at public events. In addition to monitoring and surveillance of legal groups and legal activities, the FBI issued subpoenas for members to appear before grand juries based on the FBI's "intent" to prevent "disruptive convention protests." The Justice Dept. opened a criminal investigation and subpoenaed records of Internet messages posted by Bush`s critics. And, the Justice Dept. even indicted Greenpeace for a protest that was so lame the federal judge threw out the case.

[The potential explosiveness of this situation was shown months ago when John Bolton's nomination as Ambassador to the UN was completely torpedo when it was discovered that he had attempted to access NSA Intercepts of State Department employees. At the time, almost no one asked - Why is the NSA listening to U.S. State Department personnel? Maybe they should have, and maybe that's why President Bush decided to bypass Congress and grant Bolton a recess appointment so that such a question wouldn't be asked.]

Certainly, those who support the Adminstration claim that this legislation is simply intended to "maintain the peace" and prevent potential confrontational situations, yet there is already ample evidence that efforts by the Secret Service to block lawful access to public events by potential dissenters has already crossed the boundary between peacekeeping and suppression.
Even under current law, the Secret Service has participated in harassment of individuals who have appeared at taxpayer-funded forums with the President if they are perceived to disagree with the administration’s position. For example, on March 21, 2005, two Denver students were expelled from a “town hall” forum with President Bush because they had an anti-war bumper sticker on their car. [Note: They had yet to "disrupt anything"] The students had obtained tickets from their Congressman. Officials, including an official who identified himself as a Secret Service agent, told the students that the event was limited to audience members who shared the President’s views and they would have to leave, even if they had no intentions of disrupting the event. Apparently it made no difference that the topic of the forum was Social Security reform, not the war in Iraq. Similar incidents have occurred at Presidential visits throughout the country.
When you combine this potential legislation with the previous ACLU report of FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force activities to perform surveillance on activist organizations, which has apparently been using information gained from quasi-legal NSA wiretaps, you have a toxic cocktail that smacks of COINTELPRO (where the FBI conducted illegal surveillance against political dissent for years) andMcCarthyism (a witchhunt, where blacklists of suspected communist where used to destroy people's lives and careers).

“The FBI should be investigating real terrorists, not monitoring controversial ideas,” said Ben Wizner, an ACLU staff attorney. “Americans shouldn’t have to fear that by protesting the treatment of animals or participating in non-violent civil disobedience, they will be branded as 'eco-terrorists' in FBI records.”

The ACLU said that some of the documents suggest infiltration by undercover “sources” at animal rights meetings and conferences. One highly redacted “Domestic Terrorism Operations Unit” document suggests that the FBI is using PETA’s interns for surveillance, while others describe attempts to locate and interview “several former disgruntled PETA employees.” Similarly, one cryptic e-mail kept in a Greenpeace file describes a source who “offers a unique opportunity to gain intelligence on activists who show a clear predisposition to violate the law.”

At times, the documents show aggressive attempts by the FBI to link PETA, Greenpeace and other mainstream organizations to activists associated with the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) or Earth Liberation Front (ELF), said the ACLU. PETA, in particular, is repeatedly and falsely singled out as a “front” for militant organizations although in at least one document released today the FBI appears to acknowledge that it has no evidence to back up such assertions.

“These documents show the erosion of freedom of association and speech that Americans have taken for granted and which set us apart from oppressive countries,” said Jeff Kerr, General Counsel for PETA. “McCarthyist tactics used against PETA and other groups that speak out against cruelty to animals and exploitive corporate and government practices are un-American, unconstitutional and against the interests of a healthy democracy.”

After Pop singer Cat Steven (Yusuf Islam) was detained and deported, and James Moore - author of "Bush's Brain" - found himself on the No-Fly list... the question of whether the President has simply been "listening to al-Qaeda" in order to protect us or whether he has in fact been spying on his political and idealogical rivals, as well as planning to use that information to pre-emptive restrict and curtail their rights and freedom has been answered.

And that answer is "Hell, Yes"...


Kennedy Reaction on Daily Show

The Dailyshow made some hay out of Sen. TEd Kennedy making a sour face during the Alito Hearings.

What's Kennedy Reacting To?

Basically Kennedy was responding the Sen Sessions (R) countering Kennedy's claim that Judge Alito has never "voted in favor of a minority plaintiff". When I saw the video on the Daily Show, it just struck me as wrong - didn't make sense. There's something Kennedy knows that apparently Sessions doesn't - or won't admit. Well, I finally found it contained in the Senate Democrats Response

Today, Senator Sessions mischaracterized Judge Alito's record on racial discrimination: "Senator Kennedy claimed that you've not offered an opinion or a dissent siding with a claim of racial discrimination. I would point him to U.S. v. Kithcart. There you made it clear the Constitution does not allow police officers to racially profile black drivers. A police officer received a report that two black males in a black sports car had committed three robberies. Later, they pulled over a driver because was a black man in a black sports car.

You wrote that this violated the Fourth Amendment. You stated that the mere fact that Kithcart was black and the perpetrators had been described as two black males was plainly insufficient. And they also may want to look at your majority opinion in Brinson v. Vaughn, where you ruled that the Constitution does not allow prosecutors to exclude African-Americans from jurors."

Senator Sessions cherry-picked two cases that are not reflective of Judge Alito's overall record.
It is true that Judge Alito ruled for the defendant in Kithcart. However, Judge Alito did not reverse the defendant's' conviction but sent the case back to the trial court to give the government a second chance to prove that the stop and search were constitutional. When the case came back to Judge Alito on appeal, he upheld the search and affirmed the conviction.

So apparently Sen Sessions considers it a "favorable" result for the defendent when Alito decides to let the original trial judge make the same decision he previously made over again.. and then affirm him when he does?

In Brinson, Judge Alito ruled that a prosecutor improperly struck jurors for racial reasons. However, it is worth noting that this case was decided unanimously and the facts were egregious -- the prosecutor used 13 of 14 of his peremptory strikes to remove prospective black jurors, and the prosecutor had made a videotape advising other prosecutors how to strike blacks from jury pools. Unfortunately, Kitchart and Brinson do not resolve the very real concerns raised by his entire record.

In fact, in most cases, Judge Alito has taken positions undercutting the ability of criminal defendants to question the government's exclusion of racial minorities from juries and has narrowly construed the Fourth Amendment.

Jury Selection

In Riley v. Taylor, 277 F.3d 261 (3d Cir. 2001), Judge Alito, in his dissent from an en banc decision in a capital case, denigrated the defendant's use of statistical evidence regarding the exclusion of black jurors by comparing it to a statistical analysis of the disproportionate number of recent left-handed U.S. Presidents. The majority, which found that peremptory challenges had been used improperly against potential black jurors, criticized Judge Alito's analogy, writing, "To suggest any comparability to the striking of jurors based on their race is to minimize the history of discrimination against prospective black jurors and black defendants...."

In another decision involving peremptory strikes of jurors in a criminal case, Judge Alito rejected a challenge to the dismissal of five prospective jurors, three of whom were Hispanic, because they spoke Spanish. Writing for the panel and reversing the district court, Judge Alito took pains to ground his decision in the fact that the proper translation of recorded Spanish conversations was an issue in the case. Nonetheless, his reasoning would make it very easy to strike all Spanish-speaking jurors from any case with Spanish-speaking defendants where conversations in Spanish are at issue - apparently without any Equal Protection problem. Pemberthy v. Beyer, 19 F.3d 857 (3d Cir. 1994).
So clearly Kennedy was completely out-of-bounds to suggest that Alito's decisions have been biased against minorities. Urm, maybe not so much..


Wednesday, January 11

Why Facism Grows, It's painless -- at least for a while.

Although many pundits and progressives have been blowing a blood-vessel over the NSA-Spying scandal and the President's claim of plenary powers which allow him to completely disregard Congress and the Law - this issue has yet to penetrate to the "heartland" and generate much general outrage by the general public.

An ABC News/Washington Post Poll from Jan 8th asked:

"Would you consider this wiretapping of telephone calls and e-mails without court approval as an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism?"

Answers - Acceptable (51%), Not Acceptable (47%), Unsure (2%)

The issue to me seems to be a matter of self-interest.

President Bush has managed to deflect much of this issue by claiming that "If al-Qaeda calls you, we want to know why". I think most people would agree with that and so far are willing let the rules slides if they receive a personal benefit from it (ie. they don't get hit by a WMD or Terrorist Attack).

It has yet to really hit the media that this wiretap information just might not be as limited as the President claims.

One NSA Whistleblower on ABCNews last night claimed that these NSA programs have the potential to affect Millions of Americans. This seems somewhat unlikely, but it has to mentioned that the potential danger here isn't limited by technology, only by our governments willingness to abuse that technology in secret.

There is growing concern that illegal taps could create a avalanche of poison fruit cases, which could lead to the release of dozens, if not hundreds of terrorist suspects currently in custody.

In the case of the Administration having the NSA do domestic spying without first getting warrants as required by FISA, the question becomes whether or not a particular defendant was identified via an illegal wiretap. If that is the case, then any subsequent surveillance of that defendant could be declared tainted as "fruit of the poisonous tree" by the Federal courts. Any investigative work that stems from an illegal warrantless surveillance can be tainted.

And lastly there is the issue that this (illegally gathered) NSA information is being widely shared with the Pentagon and FBI who in turn just may be using it to spy on Greenpeace, Peta, Anti-War Protestors, and Gays.

Walter Pincus in the Washington Post Writes

Information captured by the National Security Agency's secret eavesdropping on communications between the United States and overseas has been passed on to other government agencies, which cross-check the information with tips and information collected in other databases, current and former administration officials said.

The NSA has turned such information over to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and to other government entities, said three current and former senior administration officials, although it could not be determined which agencies received what types of information. Information from intercepts -- which typically includes records of telephone or e-mail communications -- would be made available by request to agencies that are allowed to have it, including the FBI, DIA, CIA and Department of Homeland Security, one former official said.

It's sad to that most people aren't going to wake up to the danger this situation presents until it bites them personally in the ass.

At which point, of course, it will already be far too late.

We did have a brief moment following the aftermath of Hurrican Katrina where many people realized the danger of Governmental incompetence and malfeasance - but it seems that moment has passed.


Tuesday, January 10

The Great Red-Blue Divide

This country has long had a large diversity of social and political views, but more and more this divide seems to have become a yawning chasm - a split between not just Left and Right, but Reality and Faith, Science and Fantasy, Compassion and Profit.

Those on the Right complain that Liberals are brainless "moonbats" who've let their pathological hatred of President Bush grow so rabid that they lost all ability to reason, and blindly accept any "Known Facttm" that criticizes the President. According to Charles Krathhammer, their suffering from a psychological disoder which he called "Bush Derangment Syndrome".

Maybe it's little surprise that I disagree with that assessment.

I counter that this is merely another excellent example of what the Self-Righteous Wing of the Republican Party has become excellent at accomplishing -- self-deception. Since the last Presidential Election, in fact since the beginning of this Presidency, the entire Republican Party, -not just Bush - have been faced with increasing challenges, challenges of Reality vs their ideology theories, and they have repeated failed.

Moonbats and BDS aside, and I do not deny that there may indeed people people of this type - some who may believe that "No plane ever hit the Pentagon" or "the levee's were blown up" for example, but there are so many many Genuine Facts tm that I think when listed back to back and in chronological order, the truth will make itself clear even to many of those who doggedly resist it. The following is humble, and far from perfect, attempt at assembling these facts into a Chronology of Right-Wing Corruption and Deception in the Bush Era


    The first issue that widened the divide was clearly the 2000 election and it's long messy aftermath of hanging chads and Superme Court Intervention which cost Al Gore the election despite the fact that he had won the popular vote. Not even everyone on the left automatically believed the allegations of voter intimidation and disenfrachisement that were circulated at the time. Not everyone believed that this election was "stolen" -- or agreed with Michael Moore's assertion that "Gore won Florida" but it did make many people begin to take notice of this President and his actions.

    Many people began almost immediately to distrust him - much of Europe was greatly concerned by his record 163 executions while Texas Governor - but only a few thought that the contentiousness of the 2000 election would become "standard-operating procudure" for the entire nation over the next 4 or more years.

    (Since the 2000 election several studies of the ballots have occured, most have indicated that Gore had a slim numerical advantage if both undervotes and overvotes had been included in the count -- but that Gore would have lost if his vote challenge, which focused only on undervotes in certain counties, had his original request been allowed to go forward by the Supreme Court. A more recent study of overvotes with right-in preferences indicates that Gore may actually have won Florida by as many 30,000 votes. One of the Bush foot soldiers who helped stop the Florida Recount was John Bolton.)

  • In January the Bush Administration ignored warnings that their greatest challenge would be "dealing with Osama Bin Ladin and al Qaeda", refusing to have a briefing or meeting on the issue for 8 months and instead chose to spend their entire first NSA briefing discussing Iraq and how to oust Saddam.
  • Vice-President Cheney participates in a Energy Task Force, whose attendies are shrouded in Secrecy, and which according to subsequent reports included a discussion of carving up Iraqi Oil Fields for American Companies after the removal of Saddam.
  • When the "California Energy Crisis" occured as a result of corrupt practices by companies such as Enron - the Bush Administration refused to consider caps to prevent prince gauging, a decision which ultimately cost California $50 Billion. Money which still hasn't been paid back.
  • In order to boost the flagging post DotCom/Enron economy, Bush implements the first round of tax cuts (which inordinately benefits those who don't need them), almost immediately this results in a dramatic reversal of the Federal Budget surplus which had existed sinced 1998, and a return to defecit spending.
  • Bush ignored the August 6th, 2001 PDB warning that "Bin Laden Determined to Attack within the U.S." He took no action. Shook no trees, connected no dots.
  • 9-11 Attack occurs while Bush reads "My Pet Goat" to school children in Florida.
  • On Sept 12th Bush asks NSC Counter-Terrorism Chief Richard Clark about 9-11 "See if Saddam did this. See if he's linked in any way..." Clark does look into it, and finds nothing. Cheney concurs on Meet the Press that there is no evidence that Saddam had anything to do with 9-11.
  • Bush submits the U.S. Patriot Act to Congress which significantly enhances the powers of the government to conduct domestic surveillance and intelligence gathering... but still unsatisfied by the additional powers granted by the act Bush secretly authorizes NSA wiretaps of U.S Citizens without requesting warrants from the FISA Court. The CIA also begin it's Rendition program which allows for terrorist detainees to be held in Secret Foreign U.S. Prisons, without access to legal council or protection from human rights abuses.
  • Less than two months after the 9-11 attack, while Bush claims to want "Osama bin Laden Dead or Alive", he began redeploying vital assests and troops from Afghanistan to Iraq (despite there beingl no evidence of a link to Saddam). This shift ultimately allowed Bin Laden to escape Tora Bora.
  • By Feb of 2002 the Defense Intelligence Agency had determined that the one person who had made claims linking 9-11 and Al-Qaeda to Saddam Hussein was a fabricator and couldn't be trusted, yet President Bush continued to make claims linking Saddam to al-Qaeda & 9-11 for the next 2 years (More recently he has said he "never made any such claim").
  • President Bush signs a Feb 2002 Memo stating that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to al-Qaeda or Taliban detainees, and that their humane treatment should be contigent upon "Military Neccesity", not the Constitution, U.S. Law or even the Uniform Code of Military Justice which strictly forebids the "maltreatment" of prisoners.
  • March 2002, Ambassador Joe Wilson returns from African at the request of the CIA and reports that claims that Iraq had attempted to by processed Uranium Ore (Yellowcake) were false. After several months of inaction by the Bush Administration, he eventually writes an Op-Ed on his trip, his veracity and credibility were attacked by the Bush Administration, his wife's status as a CIA Employee was leaked to the press and reported by Robert Novak. The CIA refers the matter to the Justice Dept for Investigation. Meanwhile Under Secretary of State John Bolton arranges to have Jose Bustani, a Brazillian diplomat fired because he insisted on sending weapons inspectors to Iraq.
  • President Bush says "He's not that concerned with Osama bin Laden", and opposes formation of the 9-11 Commision to investigate the attack.
  • In Mid 2002, George Tenet and Condoleeza Rice meet with their British Counterparts who reported back to Tony Blair that the "that U.S. was determined to go to war with Iraq, and that the "[wmd intelligence] facts were being fixed around [that] policy".
  • Information that Iraq continued to maintain WMD's and/or weapons programs were being provided by a single source - an expatriate Iraqi being held by German Intelligence code-named "Curveball", who had been determined to be "unreliable" by the Defense Intellegence Agency, yet his claims were heavily relied upon in the National Intelligence Estimate that was provided to Congress prior to their vote on the Iraq War Resolution.
  • Even without the doubts concerning Curveball, the complete Classified NIE contained significant dispute from the State Department and Department of Energy concerning the continuing of Iraq Nuclear programs involving the suspicion by the State Deparment's Intelligence Division (INR) that the Niger purchase documents were forged (a view reached independantly from Joe Wilson's claims), and that the aluminum tubes were not intended to be used for centerfuges - however these concerns were not included in the unclassified version of the report that was provided to full membership Congress
  • By late 2002, President Bush with Tony Blair's support had begun pushing the UN to take action on Iraq and managed to get Resolution 1441 passed which authorized the UNSOM Weapons Inspectors to return.
  • October 2002 Guantanamo officials "request that additional techniques beyond those in the field manual be approved for use." against terrorist suspects who have been captured in Afghanistan.
  • Bush submits the Iraq Force Resolution (HJ 141) to Congress which deviates significantly from the Constitutional Process which grants Congress the sole authority to declare war and instead shifts the power to be made based on a "Presidential Determination" of Saddam Hussein's full disclosure of his weapons and compliance to all relevant UN Resolutions. The resolution passes, but requires that the President must first ensure that all diplomatic means have been exhausted before using force - a point that is thoroughly hammered home by Sen John Kerry.
  • December 2002 Rumsfeld - in accordance with the memo previously signed by President Bush suspending the Geneva Conventions- prescribes new interrogation policy for Guantanamo, authorizing "stress positions," hooding, 20-hour interrogations, removal of clothing, exploiting phobias to induce stress (e.g., fear of dogs), prolonged isolation, sensory deprivation, and forced grooming. These techniques soon spread to Afghanistan and later to Iraq. Later that month FBI officials begin to complain to Defense Department of abuses at Guantanamo and of Afghan detainees killed during interrogation in U.S. custody at Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan.
  • During his State of the Union Address, President Bush utters the infamous 16-words claiming that Iraq had attempted to purchase Uranium from Africa in order to build nuclear weapons although this language had previously been removed from the speech at the repeated request of George Tenet - the information remained Unconfirmed and was based on a document already suspected as being a forgery. The claim was reportedly removed, then placed back in the speech by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley.
  • January 2003 Rumsfeld rescinds blanket approval of some techniques but indicates techniques may continue based on his individual case approval. Rumsfeld designates a "Working Group" to assess legal, policy and operational issues for detainee interrogation in the "war on terrorism."
  • Dept. Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz tells Congress "To assume we're going to pay for [The Iraq Conflict and Reconstruction] all is just wrong." He says that estimates of $95 Billion are "too high".
  • Bush Adminstration Officials such as Secretary of State Powell and Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley continue to claim that Iraq has developed and retains Chemical and Biological weapons, quoting interviews with an Iraqi defector, General Hussein Kamel, but fail to mention that during these interviews Kamel also stated that he had personally ordered the Iraqi Stockpiles of chemical weapons destroyed way back in 1991 following the first Gulf War.
  • After four months of searching in February of 2003 the UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors had found absolutely nothing - no mobile biological labs, (only a set of al-samoud missles which they promptly destroyed) - supporting the claim that Saddam either possessed WMD's, WMD programs or a Nuclear program. They called the US provided intelligence information - "garbage".
  • Iraq provides a full disclosure document of their current weapons programs, which indicates that they "Have No wmd's" - the Bush Administration flatly rejects it.
  • Although the Bush Administration has repeatedly claimed that "everyone had the same information" concerning Iraq's WMD programs, including France, Germany and Russia - President Bush decides not to seek a second authorization from the UN for further action against Iraq due to the opposition of France, China and Russia. He begins to form the "Coalition of the Willing" (CPA). (Germany also opposes military action, a position which is quite telling since Curveball, the primary source for allegations of Iraq WMD's, remained in German custody - if they didn't believe him, why did we?)
  • April 2003 Rumsfeld approves 24 of the recommended techniques for use at Guantanamo, including dietary and environmental manipulation, sleep adjustment, false flag and isolation.
  • Secret No-Bid Reconstruction Contracts offered to Kellog-Brown & Root (KBR), a Haliburton Subsidiary (Dick Cheney's former company), in preparation for a post-Saddam Iraq.
  • March 2003, Bush makes a determination that "Saddam can't be trusted" and although the UN inspectors haven't yet finished their job he orders them out of Iraq and on the 19th begins the invasion. Bush and Rumsfeld ignore requests for 500,000 troops by Paul Bremer, and advise from Gen Shinseki that more troops will be needd to "Keep the peace" once the fighting has ended - later claiming that he received "no such requests".
  • Shock And Awe - estimates vary from 15,000 to 20,000 Iraqis killed in the first few days by U.S. Bombs. The U.S. Attempts many "Decapitation Strikes" against Saddam - all of which fail. Troops who do find 380 tons of explosives at al-Qaqaa - but these were not connected to Chemical Weapons and subsequently left unguarded and looted.
  • Private Jessica Lynch captured, the news reports that she "fought valiantly" until captured and that her rescue was a "heroic effort" - but subsequent reports show that this story is exaggerated and false.
  • On May 1st Bush declares Mission Accomplished aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier "Major Combat Operations in Iraq have ended" which was followed by widespread looting in Iraq. Gradually an anti-American Insurgency begins to form and spread from disaffected former members of the Iraqi Military and foreign fighters who in all likelyhood may have been trained by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and had escaped as U.S. forces were prematurely committed to Iraq.
  • August 2003 Rumsfeld sends Guantanamo commander (General Sanchez) to Iraq to "gitmo-ize" Iraqi detention facilities, promoting wide-scale deployment of more aggressive interrogation methods in Iraq in order to gain better intelligence information on the insurgency.
  • Bush tells the growing Iraqi insurgency to "Bring 'em On". They do. Saddam Hussein is captured in a spider-hole, Osama bin Laden isn't.
  • September 2003 Lt. Gen. Sanchez authorizes 29 interrogation techniques for use in Iraq, including the use of dogs, stress positions, sensory deprivation, loud music and light control, based on Rumsfeld's April 16 techniques and suggestions from captain of military unit formerly in Afghanistan.
  • October - December, Torture and serious abuses of detainees take place at Abu Ghraib in a special unit which remains under direct Command of Gen Sanchez. Gen Karpinski, the overall Abu Ghraib commander, is kept "out of the loop". Reporter Sy Hersh in his book "Chain of Command" reveals that the original idea behind the sexually humiliating photos taken at Abu Ghraib, was to use them as blackmail so that the newly released prisoners -- many of whom were ordinary Iraqi thieves or even civilian bystanders rounded up in dragnets -- could be convinced to act as informants against the insurgency. "We operate on guilt, [Muslims] operate on shame," Hersh explained. "
  • Rather than being greated as "Liberators" as claimed by VP Cheney, the Iraq invasion "galvanizes al-Qaeda" and begins to "swell their ranks".
  • The Federal Debt reaches over $6 Trillion.
  • January 2004 Spc Joseph Darby gives Army criminal investigators a CD containing the Abu Ghraib photographs depicting detainee torture and abuses. Rumsfeld informed.
  • The Medicare Prescription Drug Plan passes in the middle of the night after extensive strong-arm tactics by House Majority Leader Tom Delay. Claims are that the plan will only cost $80 Billion, but that estimate quickly inflates.
  • February 2004 Maj. Gen. Taguba completes investigation; reports of "systematic" and "sadistic,blatant and wanton criminal abuses" at Abu Ghraib.
  • April 2004, 60 Minutes II airs segment showing Abu Ghraib photos. The insurgency intensifies. President Bush delays the scheduled Iraqi election to select an interim Parliament.
  • June, Transfer of Sovereignty from Coalition Provisional Authority to Interim Iraqi Government is completeed although $20 Billion in Oil Revenues under control of the CPA disappears. Bush is interviewed by Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald concerning the Plame-CIA Lead investigation "The leaking of classified information is a very serious matter."
  • Rep Tom DeLay is admonished three times by the House Ethics Committee for 1) offering a bribes to get votes on the Medicare Bill, 2) misusing Homeland Security resources in order to get a quorum of vote on Texas Redistricting (which alone gained the Republicans 5 additional seats), and 3) accepting inappropriate gifts from lobbyist such as Jack Abramoff.
  • August 2004, Rumsfeld-appointed panel reports Rumsfeld interrogation policy led to confusion in the field as to what techniques were authorized; also reports that civilian Defense Department leaders failed in their interrogation and detention duties.
  • Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld offers his resignation in the wake of Abu Ghraib, President Bush rejects it.
  • The New York Times delays reporting the NSA Wiretap Story after the Publisher and Editor are called to the Oval Office by President Bush.
  • The FDA finds and notes contamination problems with the creation of the 2004 flu vaccine. Yet, consistent with a general Bush policy to back-down on regulatory enforcement, they choose to ask that company to volantarily resolve the problem. They didn't. It eventually requirse the intervention of British authorities, who oversaw the flu manufacturing plant, to do something to protect the public and the result was aflu vaccination crisis.
  • Bush debates Presidential Challanger John Kerry and claims that he never said he "Doesn't think about Osama bin Laden". Kerry is accused of being a "flip-flopper" and fails to respond to the "Swift Boat Vets" who accuse him of falsifying the after-action report which led to his medal awards in Vietnam, and making false claims to Congress concerning "atrocities" which occured during the War, even though all available documentation and transcripts of testimony support Kerry's account he' s defeated in a close contest after exit polls initially indicate a Kerry victory and there are yet again, rampant allegations of voter disenfranchizement and tabulation errors in both Florida and Ohio. As a result Senator Barbara Boxer pratically stages a revolt in Congress.
  • November, CIA's full investigation of Iraq WMD's (The Dulfer Report) is completed and indicates that Saddam Hussein did not have chemical weapons, nuclear weapons or any current programs to reconstitute these weapons. Bush claims that it doesn't matter, that the War was justified even without the WMD's because "Hussein was still a threat".
  • U.S. Forces take back the city of Fallajah from insurgents in a violent battle, during the fight White Phosphorous is used on the civilian populace, including children, resulting chemical reaction that burns the flesh off of people.
  • December, the First Iraqi Election Occurs with massive turnout, although exactly what and who is being voted on remains unclear. Iraq War Price tag tops over $100 Billion. Donald Rumsfeld is asked "Why are we forced to scavenge for Armor" while visiting the troops in Kuwait.
  • The Federal Debt reaches $7 billion.
  • An Audit indicates that Iraq CPA "lost" another $8.8 Billion in funds.
  • Using documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, the ACLU sues Donald Rumsfeld (and others) for their involvment in Prisoner Abuse at Guantanemo and Abu Ghraib.
  • President Bush after "winning" re-election decides he now has "political capital, and he's going to spend it" - on turning Social Security into a Privatized/Personallized investment system. His plan dies on the vein - just like nomination of Harriet Meyers to the Supreme Court, which is knocked down by the far-right wing of his own party. Bush is Official a Lame-duck, and things really start to go sour.
  • Prepacked News Reports designed to support Bush Administration agenda items are found to have been provided by the Goverment and presented on local news stations as genuine.
  • The Terry Schiavo Controversy explodes and halts the functioning of Government. President Bush dramatically flies back to Washington in the dead of night to sign emergency legislation designed to allow a Federal Judicial Review of the case. Heart Surgeon and apparently closet Neurologist Bill Frist claims "she seems to be conscious and reacting to the light" after reviewing a few minutes of video tape. Talking points are circulated on the Senate Floor about how this is a "Bad issue" for democrats. Eventually the ruling that Schavio is indeed in a "permanent vegitative state" is upheld and she is permitted to die as per her own requests (as noted by three witnesses) - the autopsy shows that significant portions of her brain had atrophied and that she was completely blind due to brain damage. President Bush trumpets the "Culture of Life" despite the fact that he had signed the Texas Futile Care Act into Law while Governor of Texas - a Law that takes the decision to maintain the life of patient out of the hands of the family and gives it to the Doctors and Hospital when that patients is unable to pay the bill.
  • John Bolton is nominated by President Bush as the new Ambassador to the UN. He is reported as a "tough guy" who will "clean up the UN" following the overblown Oil-for-food Scandal, but his nomination hits a snag when it is discovered that he attempted to have a State Department Analyst fired for trying to keep exaggerated claims of Cuban WMD'S from one of his speeches. His nomination is permanently derailed when it's discovered that he attempted to access NSA Intercepts in order to spy on other members of the government. President Bush eventually grants him a recess appointment which expires at the end of the current Congress. Congress never discovers exactly who Bolton was trying to spy on, or why.
  • Amnesty International, the Worlds Leading Human Rights Organization, calls for the investigation and if found warranted the indictment, prosecution and imprisonment of George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Douglas Feith, George Tenet and Lt. General Sanchez for International War Crimes for Torture at Guantanemo, Bagram AFB in Afghanistan and Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq.
  • New York Times reporter Judith Miller is jailed from refusing to reveal her sources on the Plame-leak, after a personal visit releasing her from promise of confidentiality fromVice President Chief of Staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby she is released and Libby is indicted for Obstruction of Justice, and Perjury. Presidential Dept Chief of Staff Karl Rove remains under investigation.
  • Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist calls for an investigation of the Secret Prison Leaks, and even threatens to have the Security Clearance of the two top Democrats in the Senate revoked.
  • Category 5 Hurricane Katrina hits the Gulf Coast - unlike his dramatic cross-country late night flight in response to Terry Schiavo - President Bush goes to play guitar with a Country Singer. But not to worry, he left Fema Director Michael "you're doing a heck of a job" Brown(ie) in charge. With little to zero Federal help, New Orleans Mayor Nagin manages to evacuate 80% of his resident before the levee failes- still thousands remain trapped by flood in their homes and at the Superdome without food or water. The Department of Homeland Securitytells the RedCross to Stand-down, and FEMA blocked aid to Jefferson Parish - while the one lone FEMA person in New Orleans is practically screaming for help via his Blackberry, and Brownie goes out to dinner. Brown is eventually forced to retire, but not after blaming the problem on everyone else. Gas prices skyrocketed to $3.40/gallon and Bush's approval ratings drop down to 36%.
  • Bill Frist is investigated for SEC violations.
  • Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is indicted for money laundering in Texas.
  • Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham pleads guilting for accepting $2.1 million in bribes from Defense Contractors, and reportedly wore a wire during the investigation.
Now many of those on the Far Right-wing would have you believe that all of the above is either bad luck, coincidence or a collection of Left-wing smears. And certainly resonable people may certainly disagree with one or more specific points, but I think that if you look at the totality of it all, the ongoing pattern of disregard, negligence, greed and power-mongering not just by Bush, but by his political appointees and many of the major players in the Republican party, it becomes difficult to escape the reality.

This Presidency has been a total disaster of historic proportions, with repercussions which will continue for decades.<>Sadly, escape it many will - by burying deeper and deeper into denial and obfuscation. And so, the divide continues to widen further and further. I fear there is literally nothing that could possibly happen to snap us all back into the same reality once more, if what we've already seen isn't enough.


Monday, January 9

Proper Armor could have saved hundreds of US Soldiers

From the NYTimes...
Published: January 6, 2006

A secret Pentagon study has found that at least 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to their upper body could have survived if they had extra body armor. That armor has been available since 2003 but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.

The ceramic plates in vests currently worn by the majority of military personnel in Iraq cover only some of the chest and back. In at least 74 of the 93 fatal wounds that were analyzed in the Pentagon study of marines from March 2003 through June 2005, bullets and shrapnel struck the marines' shoulders, sides or areas of the torso where the plates do not reach.

Thirty-one of the deadly wounds struck the chest or back so close to the plates that simply enlarging the existing shields "would have had the potential to alter the fatal outcome," according to the study, which was obtained by The New York Times.

For the first time, the study by the military's medical examiner shows the cost in lost lives from inadequate armor, even as the Pentagon continues to publicly defend its protection of the troops. Officials have said they are shipping the best armor to Iraq as quickly as possible. At the same time, they have maintained that it is impossible to shield forces from the increasingly powerful improvised explosive devices used by insurgents. Yet the Pentagon's own study reveals the equally lethal threat of bullets.

The vulnerability of the military's body armor has been known since the start of the war, and is part of a series of problems that have surrounded the protection of American troops. Still, the Marine Corps did not begin buying additional plates to cover the sides of their troops until this September, when it ordered 28,800 sets, Marine Corps officials acknowledge.

The Army, which has the largest force in Iraq, is still deciding what to purchase, according to Army procurement officials. They said the Army is deciding between various sizes of plates to give its 130,000 soldiers; the officials said they hope to issue contracts this month.

Contrary to the claims of those on the right that the soldier who asked Donald Rumsfeld about "HillBilly Armor" was put up to it by the media - this report indicates that the Pentagon knew from the start of the war that their body-armor was inadequate - and have yet to address the issue, just as they have STILL yet to properly armor the military vehicles in Iraq.


Sunday, January 8

Tom Delay Steps down as Majority Leader

From Crocks and Liars...

Delay's outgoing Press Conference

Just listening to the first few minutes of this egomaniac is almost too much for any person to take. He actually said "we have shrunk the size of this government."

Video-WMP Video-QT Flash Video (thanks to David Edwards for the vid and the Flash)

Yes, he has led this country into almost being bankrupt. He says they have been united as a team. He should have said,"united as a K Street" team. The crowd behind him is very happy for Tom. I didn't know that disgrace was a time to celebrate. He says he's always acted in an ethical manner, within the rules of the house. Anyone want to tell me how many times he broke those rules?
Meanwhile Firedoglake has the scoop...
The DNC ought to pull clips from this and play them in districts all over the country, because hubris and failure to take any responsibility don't even begin to describe DeLay here.


The WaPo states the obvious: that DeLay has an ethics problem. (Is there a 12-step program for that, because I'm thinking there are a lot more folks on the Hill that may need it in the next few months...I see an enteprenurial niche for "Without Ethics Anonymous," I'm just saying.)

Meanwhile, the NYTimes explores how skittish Republicans are becoming about the 2006 elections, fearing that DeLay will be tied to them like a big, concrete block. If Dems are smart, that's exactly what they will do, in my opinion, because the KStreet project is still going whether or not DeLay is its figurehead of the moment -- and the whole dirty, smarmy mess needs some serious sunlight.
By 2003, the Republicans held a 2-to-1 advantage. Since 1998, the center found, more than 2,200 former federal employees had registered as federal lobbyists, as had nearly 275 former White House aides and nearly 250 former members of Congress. Many rules governing their conduct remain deliberately vague, and the House Ethics Committee has been paralyzed because of dysfunction and partisan disputes....

Of course, the record suggests that for every loophole any new law might close, lobbyists will find a way to open another....
This needs serious discussion, above and beyond whatever new indictments may come down over the course of the next few years. The way business is done in Washington needs some disinfecting. And I don't mean just by shutting out the Bugman.
Yes, it does - and I point front and center to serous Campaign Reform as well as Election Reform to help clean out the bugs.


Gore really did win Florida in 2000

It's been a long time, many people have decided that it doesn't matter, that it's just sour grapes - and that it does us no good to dwell on the past, but a new book which reexamines the overvotes from the Florida recount indicates that Michael Moore may have been more correct than even he knew - 30,000 votes.

From dailykos...

Lance Dehaven-Smith is a professor in the Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University. He has long been deeply immersed in the politics of Florida, and has just published a book through University Press of Florida entitled "The Battle for Florida:An Annotated Compendium Of Materials From The 2000 Presidential Election." (Amazon link)

He has an interview on the book in Florida State's Research in Review Magazine that you really have got to read. It's all about the disaster of 2000, and the man is full of insights and wise words (and by the way, terrified that we are in the late stages of losing our democracy).

From the interview with...

Research in Review caught up with the professor while he was waiting for people to check out his book—and simultaneously sighing in relief that it’s hardly garnered any attention, yet.

“I think if it would have come out a year earlier, it would have,” he says. “I’m kind of glad it didn’t, though, because of all the right-wing critics.” —J.P.

RinR: One of the most interesting points you make in the book is that the focus on undervotes (ballots containing no vote for president)—the hanging, dimpled and otherwise pregnant chads—was misplaced. Instead, you explain that a study by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, which looked at all the ballots that were initially rejected on election night 2000, revealed a surprise: most of these uncounted votes were in fact discarded because they were over-votes, instances of two votes for president on one ballot. What do you think the NORC study tells us about the election?

LdHS: It’s an embarrassing outcome for George Bush because it showed that Gore had gotten more votes. Everybody had thought that the chads were where all the bad ballots were, but it turned out that the ones that were the most decisive were write-in ballots where people would check Gore and write Gore in, and the machine kicked those out. There were 175,000 votes overall that were so-called “spoiled ballots.” About two-thirds of the spoiled ballots were over-votes; many or most of them would have been write-in over-votes, where people had punched and written in a candidate’s name. And nobody looked at this, not even the Florida Supreme Court in the last decision it made requiring a statewide recount. Nobody had thought about it except Judge Terry Lewis, who was overseeing the statewide recount when it was halted by the U.S. Supreme Court. The write-in over-votes have really not gotten much attention. Those votes are not ambiguous. When you see Gore picked and then Gore written in, there’s not a question in your mind who this person was voting for. When you go through those, they’re unambiguous: Bush got some of those votes, but they were overwhelmingly for Gore. For example, in an analysis of the 2.7 million votes that had been cast in Florida’s eight largest counties, The Washington Post found that Gore’s name was punched on 46,000 of the over-vote ballots it, while Bush’s name was marked on only 17,000.

RinR: For your research, you merged this set of data with detailed profiles of Florida’s electoral precincts. What did you find?

LdHS: One of the things I found that hadn’t been reported anywhere is, if you look at where those votes occurred, they were in predominantly black precincts. And (when you look at) the history of black voting in Florida, these are people that have been disenfranchised, intimidated. In the history of the early 20th century, black votes would be thrown out on technicalities, like they would use an X instead of a check mark.

So you can understand why African Americans would be so careful, checking off Gore’s name on the list of candidates and also writing Gore’s name in the space for write-in votes. But because of the way the vote-counting machines work, this had the opposite effect: the machines threw out their ballots.

So the sad tragedy may in fact have been that African-American voters, who were trying to makes sure there vote was counted -- may have in fact invalidated their own vote.

The important thing to remember here isn't really to wallow in past sins, but to focus on the fact that we all got it so wrong. And the real danger is that exactly what happened in Florida, or other even more eggregious mistakes may just happen again and again. It may have very well happened in 2004 - it could happen in 2006, and not neccesarily to the benefit of Republicans, it could help Democrats as well. Those people who truly believe in the value of a Democracy, the importance of the one person/one vote is truly sacred -- need to pay attention to this issue and look out how our elections have been and can be manipulated.

There is no more important issue facing us at this time.


Dean Abramoff Smackdown on Blitzer

Crooks & Liars has video of Howard Dean vs Wolf Blitzer on the Abramoff Scandal that is an absolute must-see knee slapper!

Dean issues Smack-down on Wolfie

They are trying so hard to link Democrats to Abramoff's scandal that on today's Late Edition, Howard Dean almost set Wolfie's beard on fire.

Video-WMP Video-QT (transcript)

Blitzer has been doing much better as an interviewer lately on the Situation Room using Russert's style somewhat, but not today.

Commenter: 8 seconds of dead air time as Wolf lets out a heavy sigh and ends the interview...

Transcript from Dailykos:

Wolf: "But didn't Democrats also ...?"

Dean: "No."

Wolf: "But isn't this ...?"

Dean: "No. There is absolutely no evidence that any Democrats took money from Jack Abramoff. We have gone through all of the FEC records to make sure that this was so."

Wolf: "Okay, but didn't Democrats take money from organizations controlled by Abramoff and can't it be said that this money came indirectly from him?"

Dean: "No. There is absolutely no evidence that that happaned. This is a Republican scandal only."

Wolf (now panic-stricken and becoming flustered): "But what about Senator Byron Dorgan?"

Dean: "Sen. Dorgan took money from a couple of Indian tribes. Are you really trying to say that Indian tribes are agents of Jack Abramoff?"

Wolf (Long, fifteen-second pause. There is a look on his face of total surprise and bewilderment. He doesn't know what to do or so. Finally, he appears to be listening to a voice in his earpiece.): "Okay, unfortunately, we have to let you go now ..."

Dean nods and winks at the camera.

The look of Blitzer's face at the end of the interview is just he just swallowed a sour lollipop. TV doesn't get much better than this.