Saturday, January 28

Bush's most famous Flip-Flops

The Center for American Progress has compiled a list of Bush's most famous position flip-flops.

1. Social Security Surplus

BUSH PLEDGES NOT TO TOUCH SOCIAL SECURITY SURPLUS... "We're going to keep the promise of Social Security and keep the government from raiding the Social Security surplus." [President Bush, 3/3/01]

...BUSH SPENDS SOCIAL SECURITY SURPLUS The New York Times reported that "the president's new budget uses Social Security surpluses to pay for other programs every year through 2013, ultimately diverting more than $1.4 trillion in Social Security funds to other purposes." [The New York Times, 2/6/02]

2. Patient's Right to Sue

GOVERNOR BUSH VETOES PATIENTS' RIGHT TO SUE... "Despite his campaign rhetoric in favor of a patients' bill of rights, Bush fought such a bill tooth and nail as Texas governor, vetoing a bill coauthored by Republican state Rep. John Smithee in 1995. He... constantly opposed a patient's right to sue an HMO over coverage denied that resulted in adverse health effects." [Salon, 2/7/01]

...CANDIDATE BUSH PRAISES TEXAS PATIENTS' RIGHT TO SUE... "We're one of the first states that said you can sue an HMO for denying you proper coverage... It's time for our nation to come together and do what's right for the people. And I think this is right for the people. You know, I support a national patients' bill of rights, Mr. Vice President. And I want all people covered. I don't want the law to supersede good law like we've got in Texas." [Governor Bush, 10/17/00]

...PRESIDENT BUSH'S ADMINISTRATION ARGUES AGAINST RIGHT TO SUE "To let two Texas consumers, Juan Davila and Ruby R. Calad, sue their managed-care companies for wrongful denials of medical benefits ‘would be to completely undermine' federal law regulating employee benefits, Assistant Solicitor General James A. Feldman said at oral argument March 23. Moreover, the administration's brief attacked the policy rationale for Texas's law, which is similar to statutes on the books in nine other states." [Washington Post, 4/5/04]

3. Tobacco Buyout

BUSH SUPPORTS CURRENT TOBACCO FARMERS' QUOTA SYSTEM... "They've got the quota system in place -- the allotment system -- and I don't think that needs to be changed." [President Bush, 5/04]

...BUSH ADMINISTRATION WILL SUPPORT FEDERAL BUYOUT OF TOBACCO QUOTAS "The administration is open to a buyout." [White House spokeswoman Jeanie Mamo, 6/18/04]

4. North Korea

BUSH WILL NOT OFFER NUCLEAR NORTH KOREA INCENTIVES TO DISARM... "We developed a bold approach under which, if the North addressed our long-standing concerns, the United States was prepared to take important steps that would have significantly improved the lives of the North Korean people. Now that North Korea's covert nuclear weapons program has come to light, we are unable to pursue this approach." [President's Statement, 11/15/02]

...BUSH ADMINISTRATION OFFERS NORTH KOREA INCENTIVES TO DISARM"Well, we will work to take steps to ease their political and economic isolation. So there would be -- what you would see would be some provisional or temporary proposals that would only lead to lasting benefit after North Korea dismantles its nuclear programs. So there would be some provisional or temporary efforts of that nature." [White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, 6/23/04]

5. Abortion

BUSH SUPPORTS A WOMAN'S RIGHT TO CHOOSE... "Bush said he...favors leaving up to a woman and her doctor the abortion question." [The Nation, 6/15/00, quoting the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, 5/78]

...BUSH OPPOSES A WOMAN'S RIGHT TO CHOOSE "I am pro-life." [Governor Bush, 10/3/00]

6. OPEC

BUSH PROMISES TO FORCE OPEC TO LOWER PRICES... "What I think the president ought to do [when gas prices spike] is he ought to get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say we expect you to open your spigots...And the president of the United States must jawbone OPEC members to lower the price." [President Bush, 1/26/00]

...BUSH REFUSES TO LOBBY OPEC LEADERS With gas prices soaring in the United States at the beginning of 2004, the Miami Herald reported the president refused to "personally lobby oil cartel leaders to change their minds." [Miami Herald, 4/1/04]

7. Iraq Funding

BUSH SPOKESMAN DENIES NEED FOR ADDITIONAL FUNDS FOR THE REST OF 2004... "We do not anticipate requesting supplemental funding for '04" [White House Budget Director Joshua Bolton, 2/2/04]

...BUSH REQUESTS ADDITIONAL FUNDS FOR IRAQ FOR 2004 "I am requesting that Congress establish a $25 billion contingency reserve fund for the coming fiscal year to meet all commitments to our troops." [President Bush, Statement by President, 5/5/04]

8. Condoleeza Rice Testimony

BUSH SPOKESMAN SAYS RICE WON'T TESTIFY AS 'A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE'... "Again, this is not her personal preference; this goes back to a matter of principle. There is a separation of powers issue involved here. Historically, White House staffers do not testify before legislative bodies. So it's a matter of principle, not a matter of preference." [White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, 3/9/04]

...BUSH ORDERS RICE TO TESTIFY: "Today I have informed the Commission on Terrorist Attacks Against the United States that my National Security Advisor, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, will provide public testimony." [President Bush, 3/30/04]

9. Science

BUSH PLEDGES TO ISSUE REGULATIONS BASED ON SCIENCE..."I think we ought to have high standards set by agencies that rely upon science, not by what may feel good or what sounds good." [then-Governor George W. Bush, 1/15/00]

...BUSH ADMINISTRATION REGULATIONS IGNORE SCIENCE "60 leading scientists—including Nobel laureates, leading medical experts, former federal agency directors and university chairs and presidents—issued a statement calling for regulatory and legislative action to restore scientific integrity to federal policymaking. According to the scientists, the Bush administration has, among other abuses, suppressed and distorted scientific analysis from federal agencies, and taken actions that have undermined the quality of scientific advisory panels." [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2/18/04]

10. Ahmed Chalabi

BUSH INVITES CHALABI TO STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS...President Bush also met with Chalabi during his brief trip to Iraq last Thanksgiving [White House Documents 1/20/04, 11/27/03]

...BUSH MILITARY ASSISTS IN RAID OF CHALABI'S HOUSE "U.S. soldiers raided the home of America's one-time ally Ahmad Chalabi on Thursday and seized documents and computers." [Washington Post, 5/20/04]

11. Department of Homeland Security

BUSH OPPOSES THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY..."So, creating a Cabinet office doesn't solve the problem. You still will have agencies within the federal government that have to be coordinated. So the answer is that creating a Cabinet post doesn't solve anything." [White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, 3/19/02]

...BUSH SUPPORTS THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY "So tonight, I ask the Congress to join me in creating a single, permanent department with an overriding and urgent mission: securing the homeland of America and protecting the American people." [President Bush, Address to the Nation, 6/6/02]

12. Weapons of Mass Destruction

BUSH SAYS WE FOUND THE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION..."We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories...for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them." [President Bush, Interview in Poland, 5/29/03]

...BUSH SAYS WE HAVEN'T FOUND WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION "David Kay has found the capacity to produce weapons.And when David Kay goes in and says we haven't found stockpiles yet, and there's theories as to where the weapons went. They could have been destroyed during the war. Saddam and his henchmen could have destroyed them as we entered into Iraq. They could be hidden. They could have been transported to another country, and we'll find out." [President Bush, Meet the Press, 2/7/04]

13. Free Trade

BUSH SUPPORTS FREE TRADE... "I believe strongly that if we promote trade, and when we promote trade, it will help workers on both sides of this issue." [President Bush in Peru, 3/23/02]

...BUSH SUPPORTS RESTRICTIONS ON TRADE "In a decision largely driven by his political advisers, President Bush set aside his free-trade principles last year and imposed heavy tariffs on imported steel to help out struggling mills in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, two states crucial for his reelection." [Washington Post, 9/19/03]

14. Osama Bin Laden

BUSH WANTS OSAMA DEAD OR ALIVE... "I want justice. And there's an old poster out West, I recall, that says, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.'" [President Bush, on Osama Bin Laden, 09/17/01]

...BUSH DOESN'T CARE ABOUT OSAMA "I don't know where he is.You know, I just don't spend that much time on him... I truly am not that concerned about him."[President Bush, Press Conference, 3/13/02]

15. The Environment

BUSH SUPPORTS MANDATORY CAPS ON CARBON DIOXIDE... "[If elected], Governor Bush will work to...establish mandatory reduction targets for emissions of four main pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and carbon dioxide." [Bush Environmental Plan, 9/29/00]

...BUSH OPPOSES MANDATORY CAPS ON CARBON DIOXIDE "I do not believe, however, that the government should impose on power plants mandatory emissions reductions for carbon dioxide, which is not a 'pollutant' under the Clean Air Act." [President Bush, Letter to Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), 3/13/03]

16. WMD Commission

BUSH RESISTS AN OUTSIDE INVESTIGATION ON WMD INTELLIGENCE FAILURE... "The White House immediately turned aside the calls from Kay and many Democrats for an immediate outside investigation, seeking to head off any new wide-ranging election-year inquiry that might go beyond reports already being assembled by congressional committees and the Central Intelligence Agency." [NY Times, 1/29/04]

...BUSH SUPPORTS AN OUTSIDE INVESTIGATION ON WMD INTELLIGENCE FAILURE "Today, by executive order, I am creating an independent commission, chaired by Governor and former Senator Chuck Robb, Judge Laurence Silberman, to look at American intelligence capabilities, especially our intelligence about weapons of mass destruction." [President Bush, 2/6/04]

17. Creation of the 9/11 Commission

BUSH OPPOSES CREATION OF INDEPENDENT 9/11 COMMISSION... "President Bush took a few minutes during his trip to Europe Thursday to voice his opposition to establishing a special commission to probe how the government dealt with terror warnings before Sept. 11." [CBS News, 5/23/02]

...BUSH SUPPORTS CREATION OF INDEPENDENT 9/11 COMMISSION "President Bush said today he now supports establishing an independent commission to investigate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks." [ABC News, 09/20/02]

18. Time Extension for 9/11 Commission

BUSH OPPOSES TIME EXTENSION FOR 9/11 COMMISSION... "President Bush and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) have decided to oppose granting more time to an independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks." [Washington Post, 1/19/04]

...BUSH SUPPORTS TIME EXTENSION FOR 9/11 COMMISSION "The White House announced Wednesday its support for a request from the commission investigating the September 11, 2001 attacks for more time to complete its work." [CNN, 2/4/04]

19. One Hour Limit for 9/11 Commission Testimony

BUSH LIMITS TESTIMONY IN FRONT OF 9/11 COMMISSION TO ONE HOUR... "President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have placed strict limits on the private interviews they will grant to the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, saying that they will meet only with the panel's top two officials and that Mr. Bush will submit to only a single hour of questioning, commission members said Wednesday." [NY Times, 2/26/04]

...BUSH SETS NO TIMELIMIT FOR TESTIMONY "The president's going to answer all of the questions they want to raise. Nobody's watching the clock." [White House spokesman Scott McClellan, 3/10/04]

20. Gay Marriage

BUSH SAYS GAY MARRIAGE IS A STATE ISSUE... "The state can do what they want to do. Don't try to trap me in this state's issue like you're trying to get me into." [Gov. George W. Bush on Gay Marriage, Larry King Live, 2/15/00]

...BUSH SUPPORTS CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT BANNING GAY MARRIAGE "Today I call upon the Congress to promptly pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of man and woman as husband and wife." [President Bush, 2/24/04]

21. Nation Building

BUSH OPPOSES NATION BUILDING... "If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road." [Gov. George W. Bush, 10/3/00]

...BUSH SUPPORTS NATION BUILDING "We will be changing the regime of Iraq, for the good of the Iraqi people." [President Bush, 3/6/03]

22. Saddam/al Qaeda Link

BUSH SAYS IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEEN AL QAEDA AND SADDAM... "You can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror." [President Bush, 9/25/02]

...BUSH SAYS SADDAM HAD NO ROLE IN AL QAEDA PLOT "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in Sept. 11." [President Bush, 9/17/03]

23. U.N. Resolution

BUSH VOWS TO HAVE A UN VOTE NO MATTER WHAT... "No matter what the whip count is, we're calling for the vote. We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council. And so, you bet. It's time for people to show their cards, to let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam." [President Bush 3/6/03]

...BUSH WITHDRAWS REQUEST FOR VOTE "At a National Security Council meeting convened at the White House at 8:55 a.m., Bush finalized the decision to withdraw the resolution from consideration and prepared to deliver an address to the nation that had already been written." [Washington Post, 3/18/03]

24. Involvement in the Palestinian Conflict

BUSH OPPOSES SUMMITS... "Well, we've tried summits in the past, as you may remember. It wasn't all that long ago where a summit was called and nothing happened, and as a result we had significant intifada in the area." [President Bush, 04/05/02]

...BUSH SUPPORTS SUMMITS "If a meeting advances progress toward two states living side by side in peace, I will strongly consider such a meeting. I'm committed to working toward peace in the Middle East." [President Bush, 5/23/03]

25. Campaign Finance

BUSH OPPOSES MCCAIN-FEINGOLD... "George W. Bush opposes McCain-Feingold...as an infringement on free expression." [Washington Post, 3/28/2000]

...BUSH SIGNS MCCAIN-FEINGOLD INTO LAW "[T]his bill improves the current system of financing for Federal campaigns, and therefore I have signed it into law." [President Bush, at the McCain-Feingold signing ceremony, 03/27/02]

26. 527s

Bush opposes restrictions on 527s: "I also have reservations about the constitutionality of the broad ban on issue advertising [in McCain Feingold], which restrains the speech of a wide variety of groups on issues of public import." [President Bush, 3/27/02]

…Bush says 527s bad for system: "I don't think we ought to have 527s. I can't be more plain about it…I think they're bad for the system. That's why I signed the bill, McCain-Feingold." [President Bush, 8/23/04]

27. Medical Records

Bush says medical records must remain private: "I believe that we must protect…the right of every American to have confidence that his or her personal medical records will remain private." [President Bush, 4/12/01]

…Bush says patients' histories are not confidntial: The Justice Department…asserts that patients "no longer possess a reasonable expectation that their histories will remain completely confidential." [BusinessWeek, 4/30/04]

28. Timelines For Dictators

Bush sets timeline for Saddam: "If Iraq does not accept the terms within a week of passage or fails to disclose required information within 30 days, the resolution authorizes 'all necessary means' to force compliance--in other words, a military attack." [LA Times, 10/3/02]

…Bush says he's against timelines: "I don't think you give timelines to dictators." [President Bush, 8/27/04]

29. The Great Lakes

Bush wants to divert great lakes: "Even though experts say 'diverting any water from the Great Lakes region sets a bad precedent' Bush 'said he wants to talk to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien about piping water to parched states in the west and southwest.'– [AP, 7/19/01]

Bush says he'll never divert Great Lakes: "We've got to use our resources wisely, like water. It starts with keeping the Great Lakes water in the Great Lakes Basin...My position is clear: We're never going to allow diversion of Great Lakes water." [President Bush, 8/16/04]

30. Winning The War On Terror

Bush claims he can win the war on terror: "One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we're asking questions, is, can you ever win the war on terror? Of course, you can." [President Bush, 4/13/04]

…Bush says war on terror is unwinnable: "I don't think you can win [the war on terror]." [President Bush, 8/30/04]

…Bush says he will win the war on terror: "Make no mistake about it, we are winning and we will win [the war on terror]." [President Bush, 8/31/04

Posted in it's entirety because it's only by listing it all that the impact can truly sink in. Now, I don't begrudge anyone honestly changing their mind, or finding a better arguement more compelling - but for someone who claims to be "stedfast and resolute" this record is stunningly flaccid and flexible.

Vyan

Memo to Matt, Katie and Timmeh!

From TAP:

A new and extensive analysis of campaign donations from all of Jack Abramoff's tribal clients, done by a nonpartisan research firm, shows that a great majority of contributions made by those clients went to Republicans. The analysis undercuts the claim that Abramoff directed sums to Democrats at anywhere near the same rate.

The analysis, which was commissioned by The American Prospect and completed on Jan. 25, was done by Dwight L. Morris and Associates, a for-profit firm specializing in campaign finance that has done research for many media outlets [...]

The analysis shows:

  • in total, the donations of Abramoff's tribal clients to Democrats dropped by nine percent after they hired him, while their donations to Republicans more than doubled, increasing by 135 percent after they signed him up;

  • five out of seven of Abramoff's tribal clients vastly favored Republican candidates over Democratic ones;

  • four of the seven began giving substantially more to Republicans than Democrats after he took them on;

  • Abramoff's clients gave well over twice as much to Republicans than Democrats, while tribes not affiliated with Abramoff gave well over twice as much to Democrats than the GOP -- exactly the reverse pattern.

    "It's very hard to see the donations of Abramoff's clients as a bipartisan greasing of the wheels," Morris, the firm's founder and a former investigations editor at the Los Angeles Times, told The Prospect.

  • George10 Brings it home.

    The media has had a field day villanizing Indian tribes, implying that any donation by an Indian tribe is a bribe. Of course Democrats accepted funds from tribes. But there is no evidence whatsoever that any Democrats are involved in this scandal. Jack Abramoff, an admitted felon, is a Republican lobbyist. This is Republican scandal, through and through.

    So will the newsreaders (I refuse to call them "reporters") like Katie Couric and Matt Lauer eat crow on national television? Of course not. The smear is out there, their deed is done.

    Draft Patriot Act Show NSA Spying is Illegal

    From Georgia10

    The Washington Post reports on draft legislation proposed in 2003 which would have expanded the President's power for warrantless spying:

    Legislation drafted by Justice Department lawyers in 2003 to strengthen the USA Patriot Act would have provided legal backing for several aspects of the administration's warrantless eavesdropping program. But officials said yesterday that was not the intent. [...]

    Some critics of the NSA program said the draft legislation raises questions about recent administration claims that Bush had clear legal authority to order warrantless domestic spying in late 2001 and had no need to go to Congress for explicit approval.

    "It's rather damning to their current view that they didn't need legislation," said Timothy H. Edgar, a national security lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union. "Clearly the lawyers at the Justice Department, or some of them, felt that legislation was needed to allow the government to do what it was doing."

    FISA allows the president to conduct warrantless surveillance, without FISA approval, for 15 days after a declaration of war. This draft legislation sought to amend that section and expand its application to authorizations for the use of force, not just formal declarations. It may be that the 2003 draft legislation was a type of pre-emptive measure to protect the program. My suspicion is that the language was ultimately dropped because the administration feared the debate that would have resulted. I suspect the administration balanced the odds. Option #1: Kill the amendment, continue without the cover of law, and hope no one would find out about the program. Option #2: Proceed with the amendment, and hope it passes for legal cover. But if it failed to pass, then the administration would truly be screwed. If Congress rejected this amendment, it would have explicitly rejected the very conduct the administration was engaged in. Perhaps the administration went with Option #1 and rolled the dice.

    Some bloggers were emphasizing this shortly after the story broke. For example, I highlighted this amendment in Patriot Act II back on January 1st (link). Back then, I pointed out that the administration sought to include this language in the Patriot Act revival:

    The 2001 resolution was not a declaration of war formal enough to trigger Section 1811 and its warrantless searches. Indeed, the dept. argued to expand the section specifically to include "authorizations for use of force".

    The draft legislation was included in what's been dubbed "Patriot Act II". You can find a copy of it here. While the Justice Department dismisses the proposed legislation as being drafted by a few low level staffers, it stands as a key indicator of the concerns which permeated the DOJ about this program. Recall that the deputy Attorney General would not sign off on the program. This is a critical fact which must be repeated as often as possible. Doubts about the legality of the program reached the very top of the DOJ.

    It's the fight that counts

    Crossposted on Dailykos:

    We've been told over and over again that the odds are against us - that there's no way to get 41 votes and block the Confirmation of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court.

    But I think that those on Dkos and elsewhere among the Netroots movement have come to realize that it's not about the ends, it's about the means. It's about whether we truly have the power to spur our Representatives to Fight the Good Fight.

    We've been joined by Senator Kerry and by Senator Kennedy in the last few days. The momentum is on our side, the tide is behind us -- it's time to put your backs into it lads.

    This is a critical moment in American History. The founding fathers clearly envisioned this day when they created the Senate.

    Madison in Federalist #51

    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. There are but two methods of providing against this evil:

    Ultimately the method developed in government to protect against the tyranny of majority factions was the creation o f the Super-majority and tools such as the Filibuster. It must be remembered that these tools exist precisely to protect the rights of the minority, of the disenfranchised and the disaffected from the will of a powerful majority faction.

    More from Madison.

    Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger; and as, in the latter state, even the stronger individuals are prompted, by the uncertainty of their condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves; so, in the former state, will the more powerful factions or parties be gradnally induced, by a like motive, to wish for a government which will protect all parties, the weaker as well as the more powerful.

    Judge Alito clearly represents the power of the (financial) majority against those of the minority, and threatens to tip the balance distinctly away from individual rights for the next several decades.

    Whether he can or can't be defeated, Democrats, Liberterians and Consciencious Republicans who care about civil Liberties alike, must take a stand or we will all likely suffer the long-term consequencss of this nomination.

    It is also quite ironic the Judges such as Alito call themselves "Federalists" and join groups such as the "James Madison Society" - when it appears they know little of either subject.

    Alito has character issues, which have come out in his relationship to CAP and to Vanguard. Either he truly supported the repressive goals of CAP, or doesn't and he commited fraud by listing his membership with that organization on his DOJ job application.

    Either he is incredibly absent-minded, or he commited perjury when he claimed during his first judicial confirmation that he would recuse himself from cases in which he held a personal financial interest.

    He refused to answer questions about Roe arguing that there are upcoming cases related to Roe currently before the court, yet he did comment on Reapportionment - despite the fact that there are several Redistricting Cases which will also soon be before the court. (Including the Texas Case involving Indicted Former House Majority leader Tom DeLay) Ultimately, with a lifetime appointment, just about any case might come before the court. We have to refurm the confirmation process so that the nominee has to answer questions. Answer that not neccesarily show how they plan to rule of future cases, but that make their method of thinking known, rather than play hide and seek with the Senate.

    Besides his integrity, there is also his judgement to consider.

    Alito on Federal Power and Responsibility from from the ACLU:


    While in the Solicitor General's office, in a brief before the Supreme Court in Mitchell v. Forsyth, Alito advocated that the Attorney General, who had authorized illegal wiretaps of Americans, was entitled to absolute immunity for any personal liability.9

    In addition to the extremely broad view of executive authority taken in his earlier writings, Alito has also taken a narrow view on congressional power in his judicial opinions. For example, in United States v. Rybar, Alito argued in dissent that Congress had exceeded its power under the Commerce Clause by making it a federal crime to possess a submachine gun, despite the federal government's long history of regulating firearms.

    In another example of ruling to limit congressional authority, Alito wrote the majority opinion in Chittister v. Department of Community & Economic Development. In that case, Alito held that a provision of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitling employees to leave when they or family members are seriously ill could not be applied against the states. Doing so, he wrote, exceeded Congress' authority under the Fourteenth Amendment.

    There is every indication from Alito's record that his confirmation to the Supreme Court would tip the Court away from a balancing of powers toward undue deference to presidential and executive power. The basic civics lesson here is that there are three co-equal branches of government hat should provide checks and balances to the others.
    This concept is being fundamentally rejected by this Administration, the same Administration that now has nominated a jurist to the Supreme Court who not only agrees with its philosophy, but also has been instrumental in developing this approach.

    Alito on Individual and Civil Rights:

    There is often considerable room to interpret Supreme Court decisions and congressional statutes, and Alito has regularly used that room as an opportunity to narrow and restrict civil rights and civil liberties protections. For example, Alito:


    • Wrote a dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey arguing that a state's spousal notification requirement did not unduly burden a woman's right to privacy, a position later rejected by the Supreme Court;
    • Joined a dissent arguing that a student-led prayer at a high school graduation ceremony did not violate the Establishment Clause;
    • Wrote several dissents arguing for higher standards for plaintiffs seeking trial on their race, gender and disability discrimination claims;
    • Dissented from a decision ruling that the strip search of a suspect's wife and ten-year-old daughter exceeded the scope of the search warrant and was therefore unconstitutional;
    • Rejected a death row inmate's ineffective assistance of counsel claim where the trial counsel had failed to uncover substantial mitigating evidence - a decision later reversed by the Supreme Court;
    • Dissented from an en banc ruling in a death penalty case arguing that the prosecution had unconstitutionally used its peremptory challenges to exclude all the black prospective jurors;
    • Wrote a dissent arguing that a policy prohibiting all prisoners in long-term segregation from possessing newspapers, magazines or photographs unless they were religious or legal did not violate the First Amendment.

    The wrap-up:


    It is, of course, impossible to summarize a fifteen-year judicial career in a few bullet points or with a few cases. But it is also fair to say that these highlighted decisions illustrate a broader pattern of judicial decision-making privileging governmental power over individual rights. What is critically important to remember is that while Alito may state that he would be guided by stare decisis - the principle of following prior case law - as a Supreme Court Justice, unlike a court of appeals judge, Alito would create precedent according to his own interpretations, not be bound by it. [Ed. The very definition of an "Activist Judge"]

    Recent revelations about presidential authorization of domestic spying, in defiance of the law, make it clear that the Senate cannot, and must not, approve a nominee who has little regard for the constitutional system of checks and balances. The Supreme Court is the final guardian of our liberties, and Alito has all too often taken a hostile position toward our fundamental civil liberties and civil rights.

    The end (goal) of government is to protect the weakest of among us - not to pile on and crush those who stumble and fall as would a Judge like Alito. It is now high noon - time for those who may be in the numerical minority to stand up and fight the good fight against overwhelming odds. Win or lose - the battle must be waged.

    Vyan

    Friday, January 27

    The Bush Legacy in Pictures

    From dbnk on Dkos : The Bush Presidency in Images.

    A Broken Army
    A Drowned City
    A National Disgrace
    Ending Saddam's Torture and Rape Rooms
    We Listen to You, America
    Extraordinary Rendition
    Cheap Oil
    Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
    Global Warming? What Global Warming?
    Defending the Constitution & Bill of Rights
    Honor and Integrity Restored
    Crony Capitalism
    Crony Appointees
    "Take Charge" Leadership
    The Stunt Pilot
    2,237 Homecomings (and counting)

    Bush Admin debunking itself

    And the Corporate Media ignores it - From Media Matters:

    On January 26, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and Knight Ridder reported that a 2002 Department of Justice (DOJ) statement, in which the department explained its refusal to support a bill proposed by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) appears to undermine several of the Bush administration's key arguments for bypassing FISA to conduct warrantless domestic surveillance.

    According to the Post's report, DOJ now seeks to defend its refusal to support the DeWine bill by drawing a distinction between that legislation, which it claims would have lowered the standard for conducting surveillance, and the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless surveillance, which DOJ claims complies with the stricter standard. But while the Post report cited one remark by Gen. Michael V. Hayden that contradicted DOJ's distinction, though without explicitly noting that contradiction, other media have yet to report that this latest defense of the administration's domestic spy program contradicts recent statements by Hayden, White House spokesman Scott McClellan, and President Bush himself -- each of whom has defended the program in the last week.

    Hayden remark contradicts DOJ suggestion that "probable cause" and "reasonable basis" are "essentially the same"

    According to the Post, DOJ spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos explained the administration did not support DeWine's bill because it would have lowered the standard for obtaining warrants to "reasonable suspicion." By contrast, Scolinos said, the operative standard for NSA surveillance is "reasonable basis," which she said was "essentially the same" standard as FISA's requirement for "probable cause."

    Scolinos's assertion directly contradicts a statement made by Hayden earlier in the week. In a January 23 press conference, Hayden, the former head of the NSA who was the first official put forth by the administration to defend the program, acknowledged that the "reasonable basis" standard employed by the NSA is "a bit softer than it is for a FISA warrant." Hayden then directly acknowledged that the warrantless domestic surveillance had adopted a "lower standard" than required under FISA in response to a question from a reporter. The reports by the Post and the Los Angeles Times noted Hayden's "a bit softer" remark, but the Times did not report the DOJ defense.

    Bush, McClellan comments blur distinction between "reasonable basis" and "reasonable suspicion"

    Moreover, any distinction between the "reasonable basis" standard of the Bush administration's domestic spy program and the "reasonable suspicion" standard of the DeWine amendment was already blurred by Bush and McClellan, who each adopted a near-identical formulation to the "reasonable suspicion" standard while describing the administration's warrantless surveillance program. In a January 23 speech, Bush said: "What I'm talking about is the intercept of certain communications emanating between somebody inside the United States and outside the United States; and one of the [phone] numbers would be reasonably suspected to be an Al Qaeda link or affiliate" [emphasis added]. In a press briefing the next day, McClellan similarly said that the program "is focused only on communications in which one person is reasonably suspected of links to al Qaeda or affiliated terrorist organizations" [emphasis added].

    Will the media report the administration's latest contradictions in defending program's legality?

    Now that they have reported on the 2002 DOJ statement, will the Post, the Los Angeles Times, and Knight Ridder -- as well as other media who have not yet reported on the topic -- explore the veracity of the administration's response?

    Vyan

    Thursday, January 26

    Kerry calls for Filibuster of Alito

    Senator Kerry has officially called for a filibuster of Samuel Alito the Supreme Court. CNN reports the Senator will be making a statement shortly.

    Three Democrats (Nelson, Johnson and Byrd) will vote for Alito. Senators Landrieu and Salazar have stated their opposition to a filibuster, and Senator Feinstein, if you'll recall, was also hesitant.

    41 votes are needed to sustain a filibuster. CNN's congressional correspondent reports Kerry is calling on party and internet activists to support the filibuster. "I can't do this alone," he's telling them.

    Update [2006-1-26 16:33:51 by georgia10]:: CNN story is up. Apparently, Senator Kennedy is joining Kerry in calling for a filibuster. The White House says it has the necessary votes to invoke cloture.

    Personally I'm glad and proud that Kerry's done this. It may or may not work (block the confirmation), but it's important that someone steps up to the plate and tries. It's important that someone does the right thing to protect all of our individual rights - yes, there's a woman's right to control and determine what happens to her own body, but also there's the issue of Overeraching Executive Power, and Accountability for Corporate Malfeasance, Discrimination and so many other issues.

    Bill Frist has already said "Alito is the Liberal's worst Nightmare" - well, I say it's time to share the pain and give the Republicans a matching set of night-sweats.

    Vyan

    C&L: 4th Amendment and Wrong

    Olberman (via Crooks and Liars) hits another one out of the park.

    Gen. Hayden: "4th Amendment and wrong"

    Keith Olbermann posted this video clip of Gen. Hayden botching the fourth amendment- which Keith says:

    OLBERMANN: To quote the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in its entirety, the one the general and the NSA folks are so familiar with and know is about reasonableness and not about probable cause, quote, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

    Well, maybe they have a different Constitution over there at the NSA.

    Video-WMP Video-QT (hat tip Arnie)

    This also helped to open the door for Glenn Greenwald to expose them on FISA.

    Glenn: "In other words, DeWine's bill, had it become law, would have eliminated the "probable cause" barrier (at least for non-U.S. persons) which the Administration is now pointing to as the reason why it had to circumvent FISA...read on"

    Why I love David Gregory (MSNBC)

    Crossposted on Dailykos

    In yesterday's White House press gaggle, David Gregory (MSNBC) just stepped up and Cleaned-Scotty's-Clock and it was a wonderful thing to witness - and it should be remembered, therefore I am presenting it here as well as my own appropriately snarky commentary and background info.

    First the Party-line From The White House

    MR. McCLELLAN: We've already talked about the FISA court. That is a very important tool, as well, and we make very good use of the FISA tool. But FISA was created in a different time period for longer-term monitoring. This program is for a shorter period of time aimed at detection and prevention. And so that's what it's focus is.

    And I think we have to step back and remember that -- and I think the Attorney General talked about this in his remarks yesterday -- there is a longtime tradition in war of engaging in surveillance of the enemy.

    Overseas? Yes. Domestically, well yes too if you include COINTELPRO, but I wouldn't recommend using that as your example, Scotty.


    That's what this is. We are a nation at war, and there is an enemy that is deadly and determined to strike us again and inflict even greater damage. And we saw the problem highlighted in the 9/11 Commission report when we learned too late about communications that were taking place from two hijackers that were in the United States talking to people outside the United States.

    But the problem there wasn't that the couldn't pick up the communications - they did. The problem with some of the most daming communictions was that they didn't translate them soon enough. The 9/11 Commission Report also said this...


    In May 2001, the drumbeat of reporting grew louder with reports to top officials that "Bin Ladin public profile may presage attack" and "Bin Ladin network's plans advancing." In early May, a walk-in to the FBI claimed there was a plan to launch attacks on London, Boston, and New York. Attorney General John Ashcroft was briefed by the CIA on May 15 regarding al Qaeda generally and the current threat reporting specifically. The next day brought a report that a phone call to a U.S. embassy had warned that Bin Ladin supporters were planning an attack in the United States using "high explosives." On May 17, based on the previous day's report, the first item on the CSG's agenda was "UBL: Operation Planned in U.S."9 The anonymous caller's tip could not be corroborated.

    Why do you need to tap the phones of Americans without a warrant when you have people calling you direcly, and walking in the front door telling you "Osama Bin Ladin is going to attack" - and you don't listen?

    Ok, Rant over....back to Scotty.

    MCCLENNAN: That's the kind of problem this is designed to detect, and then be able to act and prevent attacks. It's about connecting the dots. That's what the 9/11 Commission said we need to do.

    So the President not only had the authority to do what he's doing, but he has the responsibility to do what he is doing, because it's about saving lives. It's about preventing attacks. It's very limited in nature, and it's focused on international communications involving al Qaeda members or affiliated terrorist organizations from either communicating inside the United States to someone outside, or communicating from outside the United States to someone inside. And I think the American people expect us to do everything within our lawful power to protect them. And the President made it very clear that as long as he is President, he will continue acting to do everything he can within his powers and within the law to protect the American people.

    But we work very closely with Congress. We have briefed members of Congress on this vital tool over the course of the law few years, and we'll continue to work closely with Congress.

    So they've prevented attacks, eh? Which attacks? Who whom? Where? During his Presidency the Clinton Administration prevented attacks on LAX, the UN, the Holland Tunnel, the Lincoln Tunnel, CIA Headquarters and 11 simultaneuos airliner bombs over the pacific. Just what you done for us lately Scotty?

    This is where David steps up to the plate.

    DAVID GREGORY Q I think that -- I mean, the way I read this question, he's asking, will you ask the FISA court for approval of this program -- not specific instances, but will you ask the FISA court if this is -- if this program, the overall program, is sanctioned under the law. And that's the -- MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if the FISA court wants to talk any more about any communications that they have had with administration officials, that's up to them. It is a highly classified court, for good reasons.

    Q They won't talk about it.

    MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's why I leave it up to them. If there's anything more they want to say, then I would leave it up to them.

    So basically, the court can't talk about it for security reasons and the President, Attorney General and General Hayden are talking about it, but Scotty won't answer questions about whether they've considered amending the law? Huh?

    Q Can I just follow on this point, because let's be clear about a couple of things. First of all, the President argues, asserts, that he has the power to unilaterally authorize this wiretapping, okay? It's not -- he doesn't have the monopoly on the truth of how --

    MR. McCLELLAN: The courts have upheld it and previous administrations have asserted it, as well.

    Q Well, that was different, and that is, again -- this is your position --

    MR. McCLELLAN: Same authority. Same authority, David.

    Q -- that's in dispute.

    MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's not -- hang on -- that's not in dispute. And look at the Associate Attorney General under the Clinton administration. The courts have upheld this authority in the past. Look at the federal courts. The President talked about it and we provided it in a document. So that's wrong.

    Q No, I don't think that's wrong, and we can go into that, but I don't -- our time is not best spent doing that.

    No, Scotty it's not the same authority and it's not wrong.. McClellan it would appear is referring to the congressional testimony made in 1993 by Clinton Admin official Jamie Gorelick during the Aldrige Ames case where his home was physically searched without a warrant. At that time, the FISA Law didn't cover physical searches - but was amended to do so in 1995. The Clinton Administration assertion that they had an inherent right to warrantless physical searches of foreign intelligence did not violate FISA. Bush's warrantless electronic surveillance does.
    MR. McCLELLAN: That the courts haven't upheld it.
    No, the courts have not upheld this authority in the past. The "document" that Scotty is referring too is certainly the 40-page DOJ defense of the extra-FISA program. That document notes the Hamdi case where the court found that an American Citizen could be held as an "Enemy Combatant". It said nothing about surveillance, and further the court insisted on judicial review of the case prior to the designation being assigned to that prisoner. Transfering the rules in Hamdi to the NSA situation would clearly indicate that judicial review and a warrant are still required before subjecting American citizens to the same treatment as foreign terrorist targets.

    One of the other cases mentioned by the DOJ, Youngstown v Sawyer involved President Truman taking control of the nations steel mills in order to prevent a strikes in the midst of the Korean War. The court held that the President did not have that power under Article II of the Constitution and his "Command in Chief" duties. The DOJ, bizarrely, argues the reverse. I'm a layman, not a lawyer and I could figure this out, as apparently has David Gregory, what's Scotty's excuse?

    Q My question is, instead of spending time trying to fine-tune the rhetoric over what you want to call this program for political purposes, why not seek to amend FISA so that it can better suit your purposes, which is another thing the previous administration did when it wasn't considered to be agile enough? So why not, if you want the program to be more responsive, to be more agile, why not seek to amend FISA?

    Seems a perfectly reasonable question to me. If you need this authority, why not ask for it? What was the Patriot Act all about anyway?

    MR. McCLELLAN: Let's look at a practical example. Do you expect our commanders, in a time of war, to go to a court while they're trying to surveil the enemy? I don't think so. This is a time of war. This is about wartime surveillance of the enemy. That's what this is about. And we don't ask our commanders to go to the court and ask for approval while they're trying to gain intelligence on the enemy. So I think that's a real practical term to look at it in when you're talking about this issue, because that's what this is about.

    Well, gee - do you expect that the "enemy" just might sometimes include the American people? If yes, and you assert that we are now doing law enforcement via the Military you have a problem with the Posse Comitatus Act now don't you? (NSA is a part of DOD btw)

    "Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

    The PCA generally prohibits U.S. military personnel from direct participation in law enforcement activities. Some of those law enforcement activities would include interdicting vehicles, vessels, and aircraft; conducting surveillance, searches, pursuit and seizures; or making arrests on behalf of civilian law enforcement authorities. Prohibiting direct military involvement in law enforcement is in keeping with long-standing U.S. law and policy limiting the military's role in domestic affairs.

    And if the Military is not doing law enforcement, then basically - we are under Martial Law. But then that's exactly what these guys are really thinking isn't it - with their Signing Statements and all. It doesn't matter what the law is if the President simply chooses to ignore the law and make up a quasi-Constitutional Justification that is in direct contradiction to "previous administrations and the courts".

    Q There's no way to amend --

    MR. McCLELLAN: Well, no, let me back up, because I talked about this the last couple days. I mean, it's a very good question and an important question. FISA is an important tool. We use it. General Hayden talked about that. When we were briefing members of Congress over the course of the last few years -

    No, you briefed the "Gang of Eight" and they had no advisory capacity nor could they share the information with anyone else, including their own staff due to security. The Congressional Research Service has noted that failing to notify all of Congress (not just the Gang of Eight) may have broken the law.

    MCCLENNAN - I think it was more recently, over, maybe, the last couple years -- I think the Attorney General talked about it -- we talked with congressional leaders, bipartisan congressional leaders, about this very issue: Should we go and get legislation that would reflect the authority the President already has?
    Why not? Particularly since FISA is currently the sole and exclusive controlling legal authorization for Foreign (International) Surveilance under Under 18 USC § 2511?
    MCCLENNAN - cllAnd those leaders felt that it could compromise our national security interest and this program if we were to go and get legislation passed. Because we don't want to let the enemy know about our play book, and the more you talk about this program, the more potential it has to harm our national security interest. That's why we don't get into talking about the operational aspects about it.

    Oh, so you think Al-Qaeda is out there reading the Congressional Record, becoming versed in U.S. Federal Law and would like stop calling the U.S. if they knew you might be listening in? Yeah, right. Logic dictates that they've long ago adapted to the possibility of NSA phone taps on "international" calls and are using code-words and phrases to mask what's really going on. Why stop doing that when calling the U.S.?

    Btw, the FISA court is already Secret - so why are you expecting al-Qaeda to get your "play book" and know who we're tapping, when and where? Roving Wiretaps were approved under the Clinton Administration in 1995 weren't they?

    MCCLENNAN: But it is important for the American people to understand exactly what this program is and how limited it is and what its purpose is. There's been some misrepresentations. Now, with that said, as I pointed out, we work very closely with Congress. We'll continue to work closely with Congress as we move forward. But the President has the authority and the responsibility to do what he's doing and he's going to keep doing it.
    You'll work closely with Congress,eh? Well it seems they don't have the security clearance to even listen to a whistleblower like Russell Tice, and they won't even share information about Katrina which isn't classified in any way shape or form. Tell us another one, Scotty...


    Vyan

    Domestic or International Spying - you decide?

    Countdown, Keith Olberman's excellent segment last night in response to Scotty McClennan desperate dance to gloss over the fact that people are being spied upon domestically by the NSA.

    Video-WMP Video-QT

    Courtesy of Crooks and Liars.com

    Wednesday, January 25

    Time to Start Playing Offense

    By the time of, or at least soon after the State of the Union, Democrats -- not just the party, but we the rank and file - need to realize it's time to stop playing Defense and start playing Offense.

    Simply complaining endlessly about the failings and foibles of the Bush Administration isn't enough (Although it's fun and theraputic). We also, vitally, need to point out how and why our path and philosophy is better. Some of this is obvious - Curruption and Lies:Bad, Honesty:Good - but on some issues we still need some work (Taxation, Governments Role in our lives, Being comfortable in our own faith, Support nearly for unlimited Abortion).

    Well past the point where we made everyone understand who we really and where we stand rather than let Bully O'Reilly's repeatedly define us as the Far-Left Secular-Progressives who with to put porn in your homss 24/7, take God out of your lives, and homosexualize your teenagers.

    We'll never get Bush's true poll numbers down to just those who actually believe in the policies he implements - as opposed to the policies he exposes - to finally show up as the 12-15% of hard-core bat-crazed wing-nuts that they are.

    We have to realize that what we have staring us in the face - is a completely golden oppurtunity to completely repudiate the policies and practicies of the neo-conservative movement and set them back for decades, if not completely run them out of politics.

    I know that seems like a tall order, but bear with me. The truth is the neo-cons who currently control the Republican party are hell-bent on self-destruction. They're like deeply addicted power-junkies who don't know when or how to restrain themselves. Just look at Jack Abramoff's behavior - openly scorning his own clients with epithets and insults in email, after email. Everyday we hear about another scandal, another hotbed of curruption and incompetence.

    • The Bush Administration failed to head the numerous warnings, and crunch the intelligence to prevent 9-11.
    • Osama Bin Laden got away at Tora Bora.
    • Koran Desecration, Humiliation, Stress positions and Waterboarding at Guantanemo Bay. One prisoner, al-Libi, claims under duress that Iraq still has Nuclear aims - he's Wrong.
    • We go to War with Iraq, but all the WMD and Nuclear intelligence, our justification for going to war, is all Wrong.
    • We didn't have enough troops to secure the nation allowing a deadly Iraqi insurgency to grow and spread, we still don't properly equip them with proper armor or helmets - if they try to equip themselves they get threatened, and we've cut their benefits while locking them into perpetual service with "Stop-loss" policies. All the Pentagon's expectations and plans are just plain Wrong.
    • Vice-Presidential Chief of Staff "Scooter" Libby Indicted, Rove implicated in Plame Affair.
    • Abu Graib gets Gitmo-ized, and photos of prisons in humiliating poses and stress positions begin to appear. Repubs claim it was just "frat styled hazing" on the night shift - they're Wrong.
    • Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay Indicted for Money Laundering.
    • $8.8 Billion just plain disappears in Iraq under the Coalition Provisional Authority.
    • 2000 U.S. Soldiers dead since "Mission Accomplished", 50,000 wounded. Another estimated 100,000 Iraqi casualties, President Bush only admits to 30,000.
    • Secret Detention Centers and the Extraordinary Rendition program.
    • Terry Schiavo gets her own personal Congressional Legislation and a Grandstanding Red-Eye flight by the President to sign it. Republican Heart surgeon and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist gives her a video diagnosis, "She seems responsive to light". She dies anyway as per her wishes, and the autopsy shows that she was blind.
    • The levees break in New Orleans - Bush remains on vacation and in avoidance of Cindy Sheehan.
    • Republican Congressman "Duke" Cunningham pleads guilty to bribery.
    • Republican Lobbyists Mike Scanlon and Jack Abramoff plead guilty to bribery of Congressmen. Tom Delay and Bob Ney implicated. Repubs and Corporate Media try to implicate Dems also, but they're Wrong.
    • The NSA has been spying on American's without a warrant for over four years and causing the FBI to be flooded with makeshift busy-work instead of focusing on legitimate threats. Bush Admin claims they could've stopped 9-11 if they'd already been doing this, except that they were and they are still Wrong.
    And just in the last couple days you also have.
    Just look around, these guys are crashing and burning all on their own steam. Democrats have had almost nothing to do with any of it. Yes, a few voted for the Iraq War - but that was based on intelligence that the Bush Administation gave them, and it was Wrong. The blame belongs where on the people who provided the information, not those who were duped by it.

    Yet, there are those who simply refuse to believe all the above. They live in a world of pseudo-reality, swamped by denial and self-deception. They know and suspect the truth, but can't bring themselves to admit it -like a junkie who can't put down the Fundie/Wingnut crack-pipe. They get bogged down in semantics - "How can you say Bush lied", and we get bogged down with them - arguing irrelevancies.

    Truth is, it doesn't matter whether Bush lied or not - he was Wrong, and that's the point. We can't afford a President who makes this many bone-head mistakes and is wrong this often, deliberate or not. If he lied, well then he simply knew he was wrong, so he's a bastard - but if he didn't, he was just plain ignorant now wasn't he? Just which is really worse? I vote being a bastard is better than being a deluded dumb-ass, but maybe that's just me.

    Bush personally shouldn't be the target anyway IMO, he's a lame duck President. The target needs to be the Bush Administration as a non-functioning organization, Cheney, Rove and all of Bush's political appointees like Brownie need to be the target - and of course their lackeys in Congress.

    What people need to know, is just what Dems will do about all this?

    Can we Dems seriously give them - particularly those who continue to support the President and Republican Party against their own best interests - a sense that we won't make the kinds of gross (deliberate?) mistakes that the Bush administration has made? Sadly, probably not.

    But that doesn't mean we can't get there. People, we have some work to do. It's not enough just to let the Repubs implode if people fail to recognize that all the above is a direct result of the Republican Philosophy of Government - which is a Government that Doesn't Work. Their main campaign arguement since Ronald Reagan has been that "Government can't solve your problems, Government is the problem", and they've worked long and hard to make sure that axiom is true. Right now, with Repubs in charge - They are the problem.

    We need to hang that sound bite around their neck like a scarlet letter. Their government doesn't work - but Dems in power have and will make Government limited, but effective.

    We have to stop running away from Monica, and learn to crow about the great things we've already accomplished. A Democratic President Balanced the U.S. Budget, reduced the size of government by 15% while preventing drastic unneccesary cuts in Medicaid and Medicare. A Democratic President and Administration, brought peace to Northern Ireland, ended the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo saving the lives of Millions from Ethnic Cleansing, and at the same time prevented al-Qaeda Jihadist from starting an anti-American insurgency in the region. (Now that, was a noble causetm). A Democratic Administration prevented the Millenium Bomb Plot, the attempted bombing of LAX, the Lincoln Tunnel and the Holland Tunnel. A Democratic Administration caught Aldridge Ames, caught Eric Robert Rudolph and executed Timothy McVeigh.

    We have to make it clear that the Democratic vision is one that isn't for unneccesary government intrusion into our personal lives or the operation of our businesses without due and probable cause. We have to learn some consistency on this - it shouldn't matter if it's guns or pornagraphy. People have an equal freedom to own either, as long as they show the personally responsibility [yes, that's right - Steal those soundbytes and turn them around] not to let either fall into the wrong hands or be used irresponsibly. It should be about what you do and how it impacts those around you - not what you possess.

    Our primary objective has to be election reform and accountability. We can't have a government "by and of the people" if we can't verify what the people actually voted for. At the moment this needs to be a state-level initiative, as various states have begun to test and challenge the security of Diebold and other automatically voting equipment. WIthout this, we have nothing.

    Our secondary objective needs to be a revamping of our tax policy. Dems are also being accused of "taxing and spending", when the truth is that Republicans are Super-spending (with the debt approaching $8 Trillion) and tax-shifting the burden from us onto our children, and their children. A tax-cut doesn't really cut anything if all it does is explode the defecit, rather it simply forces those same taxes to be paid years later with interest.

    Government isn't a surrogate Mommy or Daddy - but it can and should be a tool to help us get back up when we fall down as a result of medical problems, natural disasters or other tragedies. The axiom should be that government provides a platform where the strong can pool their resources and help those who need aid the most, simply because if they don't - no one else can without the neccesary resources.

    Dems needs to allay the fears of Conservatives - No, not cynically shift to the right DLC style - but make it clear that they have a plan to address the deficit and welfare of America in new and innovative ways such as John Kerry campaign suggestion of a tax credit to businesses who provide for American jobs rather than overseas jobs.

    I think this idea should be expanded and ceased upon.

    Rather than simply rollback the Bush Tax cuts and thereby "raising taxes" (although the truth is that a full rollback would simply put the taxes back where they were when we were running surpluses) another idea would be to offer public service tax credits.

    A Public service tax credit should be available anytime that an individual or corporation chooses to spend money to meet public service goals, for example television stations that provide for campaign ads to candidates free of charge (thereby removing the need to develop complex campaign finance laws and schemes to catch people who try to "game the system" like Abramoff and co.), or provide for books, materials and facilities donated to public schools, or add more employees to your health-care rolls. etc. The point being that the more that private citizens and companies do to take care of themselves and each other -- the less government has to spend doing it for them. Conservatives like to crow that people always know better than government. Well, sure sometimes they do - and sometimes they don't. Either way government taxes should NOT disable them from trying to do the best they can on their own before it the guvmint comes in afterward to pick of the left-over peices for all those who are -- to borrow a phrase - left behind. Public Service Tax Credits should be offered as an alternative to a straight repeal of the Bush Tax-Cuts.

    Under this plan It's possible that the overall tax burden might go down even further than Bush's cuts if enough people and companies embrace the credit option, the end goal is on eliminating the need for government spending by having as many people as possible able to stand on their own without government assistance. This strategy would completely destroy the old "Tax and Spend Liberal" canard.

    We also need to re-address not just tax issues, but moral ones. Issues of faith and values. A recent episode of West Wing contained a scene where the Ambassador stated the following to the American representative...

    With "Life, Liberty and the Persuit of Happiness". All the aspirations of your people are financial - not ethical.
    And the chilling truth of that statement was palpable. We equate the "greatness" of America not with our character or values, but with or individual financial circumstances. The size of our SUV and the strength of our economy. Dems certainly need to take this bull by the horns.

    It goes without saying that bribery, corruption and cronyism are wrong. But it also needs to be said that abortion is great moral issue as well, and that we Dems certainly do not celebrate in the destruction of human life. Rather, we must seek policy which supports personal ethics that make abortion unneccesary. We must support comprehensive sex education,since almost 90% of teens indoctrinated into abstinence-only programs break their vows and have unprotected sex within 18 months (since they are discouraged and withheld knowledge of effective contraception). Abstinence is a good choice - but so is Safe-sex. Our foster system care needs to be serious reformed. Adoption should be cheaper and far more open. We should encourage the formation of extended families for child care, as well as family support from the corporate world as well such as on-site day care. Our schools need deep and serious reform using innovation rather than rote test teaching..

    Being "Pro-Choice" need to include all the choices, all of the positive things that people can say "Yes" too, rather than simply say "No" to an embryo.

    There are just a couple examples of what we need to allow people to be able to comfortably say "Yes" to the Democratic party, rather than simply say "No" to Repubs. Those that only say "No" are likely to sit-out the 2006 mid-term or even the 2008 elections, and we need them - we need them on our side if we're going to save this country from itself.

    We need them as part of the Reality-based community, not neccesarily as Democrats - True Conservatism can function within our reality, I firmly believe this is true, but they still need to be in the same reality as the rest of us to start with.

    The Conservative movement has been hijacked by Neo-cons, who are just exploiting the "wackos" with anti-Liberal rhetoric. Just remember, A Balanced Budget Amendment was included in the GOP's Contract on America a decade ago. Where did those Conservatives go? Just think, if the Neo-cons can pull all this crap, fail at so much of it this badly and still not be held accountable, just what will stop them from going even further next time?

    Vyan

    NYT: Millions disappear from Iraq Rebuilding Funds

    NYTimes reports that $Millions have been wasted, stolen and disappeared from the Iraq Reconstruction Funds, leaving the work incomplete and conditions unsafe.
    A new audit of American financial practices in Iraq has uncovered irregularities including millions of reconstruction dollars stuffed casually into footlockers and filing cabinets, an American soldier in the Philippines who gambled away cash belonging to Iraq, and three Iraqis who plunged to their deaths in a rebuilt hospital elevator that had been improperly certified as safe.

    The audit, released yesterday by the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, expands on its previous findings of fraud, incompetence and confusion as the American occupation poured money into training and rebuilding programs in 2003 and 2004. The audit uncovers problems in an area that includes half the land mass in Iraq, with new findings in the southern and central provinces of Anbar, Karbala, Najaf, Wasit, Babil, and Qadisiya. The special inspector reports to the secretary of defense and the secretary of state.

    Agents from the inspector general's office found that the living and working quarters of American occupation officials were awash in shrink-wrapped stacks of $100 bills, colloquially known as bricks.

    One official kept $2 million in a bathroom safe, another more than half a million dollars in an unlocked footlocker. One contractor received more than $100,000 to completely refurbish an Olympic pool but only polished the pumps; even so, local American officials certified the work as completed. More than 2,000 contracts ranging in value from a few thousand dollars to more than half a million, some $88 million in all, were examined by agents from the inspector general's office. The report says that in some cases the agents found clear indications of potential fraud and that investigations into those cases are continuing.

    Some of those cases are expected to intersect with the investigations of four Americans who have been arrested on bribery, theft, weapons and conspiracy charges for what federal prosecutors say was a scheme to steer reconstruction projects to an American contractor working out of the southern city of Hilla, which served as a kind of provincial capital for a vast swath of Iraq under the Coalition Provisional Authority.

    But much of the material in the latest audit is new, and the portrait it paints of abandoned rebuilding projects, nonexistent paperwork and cash routinely taken from the main vault in Hilla without even a log to keep track of the transactions is likely to raise major new questions about how the provisional authority did its business and accounted for huge expenditures of Iraqi and American money.

    "What's sad about it is that, considering the destruction in the country, with looting and so on, we needed every dollar for reconstruction," said Wayne White, a former State Department official whose responsibilities included Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and who is now at the Middle East Institute, a research organization.

    Instead, Mr. White said, large amounts of that money may have been wasted or stolen, with strong indications that the chaos in Hilla might have been repeated at other provisional authority outposts.

    More...

    Vyan

    Tuesday, January 24

    Bush Admin Fumbling the NSA Pushback

    From Reuters:

    A top U.S. intelligence official on Monday said President George W. Bush's warrantless spying program was necessary because the war on terrorism has rendered laws governing electronic surveillance ineffective.

    As part of a high-profile White House campaign to defend the controversial program, former National Security Agency director Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden said eavesdropping was not as wide-ranging as has been described by critics who say Bush may have overstepped his authority by authorizing it.

    "This isn't a drift net out there where we're soaking up everyone's communications," said Hayden, who is now principal deputy to U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte.

    "This is hot pursuit of communications entering or leaving America involving someone we believe is associated with al Qaeda," he said in remarks delivered at the National Press Club.

    Now the Washington Post has the full transcript of Hayden's statement - and going through it helps establish exactly what the NSA and Administration have been thinking and doing. First he notes that the 9-11 highjackers would not normally have been targeted by NSA surveillance.

    Hayden: The American SIGINT system, in the normal course of foreign intelligence activities, inevitably captures this kind of information, information to, from or about what we call a U.S. person. And by the way, "U.S. person" routinely includes anyone in the United States, citizen or not.

    So, for example, because they were in the United States -- and we did not know anything more -- Mohamed Atta and his fellow 18 hijackers would have been presumed to have been protected persons, U.S. persons, by NSA prior to 9/11.

    Technically most of the 19 highjackers were in the U. S. illegally using expired visas - and it's fair to note the NSA wouldn't normally know their immigration status that alone is no excuse to violate FISA. With a FISA Warrant these persons could be tapped at will, but the Catch-22 of the situation is that the FISA court will not accept evidence to begin a surveillance based on evidence that clearly comes from an unwarrant tap. Basically these persons have to be identified via non-NSA means (such as an FBI FISA application) in order for NSA to tap them.

    There were in fact two NSA domestic spying programs, one which began almost immediately after Bush was elected as directed by Dick Cheney along with Hayden and one directed by the President.

    <>Cheney's plan is described here:

    ... NSA started receiving numerous requests from Cheney and other officials in the state and defense departments to reveal the identities of the Americans blacked out or deleted from intelligence reports so administration officials could better understand the context of the intelligence.

    Separately, at this time, Cheney was working with intelligence agencies, including the NSA, to develop a large-scale emergency plan to deal with any biological, chemical or nuclear attack on US soil.

    Requesting that the NSA reveal the identity of Americans caught in wiretaps is legal as long as it serves the purpose of understanding the context of the intelligence information.

    But the sources said that on dozens of occasions Cheney would, upon learning the identity of the individual, instruct the NSA to continue monitoring specific Americans caught in the wiretaps if he thought more information would be revealed, which crossed the line into illegal territory.

    Cheney advised President Bush of what had turned up in the raw NSA reports, said one former White House official who worked on counterterrorism related issues.

    "What's really disturbing is that some of those people the vice president was curious about were people who worked at the White House or the State Department," one former counterterrorism official said. "There was a real feeling of paranoia that permeated from the vice president's office and I don't think it had anything to do with the threat of terrorism. I can't say what was contained in those taps that piqued his interest. I just don't know."

    So we've established that sharing the names of U.S. Persons indentified by normal NSA surveillance with other U.S. Agencies was illegal. I've posted previously about this attempt to share data in the days soon after 9-11 and the resulting revolt it generated with the halls of NSA.
    QUESTION: Sam Husseini from IPA Media. You just now spoke of, quote, "two paths," but of course the FISA statute itself says that it will be the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance may be pursued. Are you not, therefore, violating the law?

    GEN. HAYDEN: That's probably a question I should deflect to the Department of Justice, but as I said in my comments, I have an order whose lawfulness has been attested to by the attorney general, an order whose lawfulness has been attested to by NSA lawyers who do this for a living. No, we're not violating the law.

    The second plan, which was authorized by the President after 9-11, allows for NSA surveillance and the sharing of targeted U.S. persons without using the FISA court. Probable Cause is required (by the 4th Amendment) to be presented to the FISA court, prior to the issuance of a warrant - and it appears that a lack of probable cause as well as the illegal sharing of "protected names" may have been the prime justification for the Presidents action based on questions put to Hayden during his statement.

    QUESTION: General Hayden, the FISA law says that the NSA can do intercepts as long as you go to the court within 72 hours to get a warrant.

    I understood you to say that you are aggressively using FISA but selectively doing so. Why are you not able to go to FISA as the law requires in all cases? And if the law is outdated, why haven't you asked Congress to update it?

    GEN. HAYDEN: Lots of questions contained there. Let me try them one at a time.

    First of all, I need to get a statement of fact out here, all right? NSA cannot -- under the FISA statute, NSA cannot put someone on coverage and go ahead and play for 72 hours while it gets a note saying it was okay. All right? The attorney general is the one who approves emergency FISA coverage, and the attorney general's standard for approving FISA coverage is a body of evidence equal to that which he would present to the court. So it's not like you can throw it on for 72 hours.

    So basically, you have to have a everything sufficient to justify probable cause in order to apply an Emergency Tap, in the expectation that you will eventually have to go before the FISA with the evidence supporting your claim. The 72-hour time window doesn't work for you when you can't meet probable cause. Moving on to the last question:

    QUESTION: Jonathan Landay with Knight Ridder. I'd like to stay on the same issue, and that had to do with the standard by which you use to target your wiretaps. I'm no lawyer, but my understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American's right against unlawful searches and seizures. Do you use --

    GEN. HAYDEN: No, actually -- the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure.

    QUESTION: But the --

    GEN. HAYDEN: That's what it says.

    QUESTION: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.

    GEN. HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

    QUESTION: But does it not say probable --

    GEN. HAYDEN: No. The amendment says --

    QUESTION: The court standard, the legal standard --

    GEN. HAYDEN: -- unreasonable search and seizure.

    QUESTION: The legal standard is probable cause, General. You used the terms just a few minutes ago, "We reasonably believe." And a FISA court, my understanding is, would not give you a warrant if you went before them and say "we reasonably believe"; you have to go to the FISA court, or the attorney general has to go to the FISA court and say, "we have probable cause." And so what many people believe -- and I'd like you to respond to this -- is that what you've actually done is crafted a detour around the FISA court by creating a new standard of "reasonably believe" in place in probable cause because the FISA court will not give you a warrant based on reasonable belief, you have to show probable cause. Could you respond to that, please?

    GEN. HAYDEN: Sure. I didn't craft the authorization. I am responding to a lawful order. All right? The attorney general has averred to the lawfulness of the order.

    Just to be very clear -- and believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the Fourth. And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment. And so what you've raised to me -- and I'm not a lawyer, and don't want to become one -- what you've raised to me is, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is "reasonable." And we believe -- I am convinced that we are lawful because what it is we're doing is reasonable.

    The problem with Hayden's statement, and apparently with version two of the NSA Surveillance programs is this:

    Routh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
    More analysis on this subject from georgia10 on Dkos.

    The admission that Bush's spying program uses a "reasonable suspicion" standard rather than a "probable cause" standard is explosive and damning. Why? Because the Bush administration knew--indeed, took the position--that a reasonable suspicion standard with respect to non-U.S. citizens was probably unconstitutional. Yet the administration now applies that same unconstitutional standard to United States citizens?

    In the summer of 2002--well after Bush's spying program was already secretly implemented- the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence held a hearing on the DeWine amendment. (Hearing Report PDF) What transpired at that hearing proves that the Bush administration (a) knew that wiretaps of United States citizens are, pursuant to the Constitution, always subject to a probable cause standard; and (b) Congress explicitly rejected a lower standard for non-U.S. citizens.

    DeWine himself limited his amendment to apply only to non-U.S. citizens, recognizing that "we must be cautious not to endorse an overly permissive use of the surveillance powers of FISA." The Committee heard testimony from the administration's top lawyers, and from top legal scholars in the field of eavesdropping and criminal law.

    James Baker was then counsel for intelligence policy at the Department of Justice and head of the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, which is the office that prepares and presents to the FISA court "all the applications under the FISA Act for electronic surveillance and physical search of foreign powers and their agents." If there was any expert on FISA warrant and applications at the time, it was Baker. He began his testimony by praising the PATRIOT ACT FISA changes, testifying as follows:

    In my view, the changes have allowed us to move more quickly and more effectively and to also be more focused in our approach in dealing with the kinds of threats that Mr. Bowman made reference to. So we at the Department are grateful for the changes that Congress made in the statute, because I believe they've been important and have been employed effectively.
    No word of how "ineffective" FISA is there.
    Indeed, the problem here isn't with FISA, including the 72 hour post-hoc feature, it's with a demonstrably lowering of the bar from probably cause to the "reasonable suspicion" standard. The most telling answer Hayden gave was to the question of whether the Administration political opponents were being targeted for NSA surveillance, presumably under the "reasonable suspicion" standard rather than the legal and constitutional "probable cause".

    QUESTION: No, I asked, are you targeting us and people who politically oppose the Bush government, the Bush administration? Not a fishing net, but are you targeting specifically political opponents of the Bush administration? Because as Vice President Gore recently said, "It is much worse than people realize."
    Hayden didn't answer the question, and when you note that this entire process began with the Vice President using NSA to spy on White House and State Deptartment personnel, it seems obviuos that if they can brazenly do that, what's to stop them from spying on an anti-war anti-Bush outfit like World Can't Wait?

    Looks like Wayne Madsen might just not be ready for that tin-foil hat after all.

    Meanwhile, Alberta Gonzales has been getting the raspberry on his barnstorming tour in support of the Presidents policies, as law students turn their back on him
    WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defended the Bush administration's domestic spying program Tuesday and suggested that some critics and news reports have misled Americans about the breadth of the National Security Agency's surveillance.

    Gonzales said the warrantless surveillance is critical to prevent another terrorist attack within the United States and falls within President Bush's constitutional authority and the powers granted by Congress immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (Related video: More from Gonzales)

    At a Georgetown Law School Forum, Gonzales said the nation needs "to remember that ... it's imperative for national security reasons that we can detect reliably, immediately and without delay" any al-Qaeda related communication entering or leaving the United States.

    As he spoke, more than a dozen audience members stood silently with their backs turned to the attorney general. Outside the classroom where Gonzales was to speak, a pair of protesters held up a sheet that said, "Don't torture the Constitution."


    If they keep this up, this entire NSA Pushback might do just about as well as the President's Social Security Reform program did.

    Vyan