Friday, December 23


Tom Daschle destroys the president's argument that the Congressional resolution authorizing him to use all necessary force again the perpetrators of 9/11 inherently provides him with cover for his illegal NSA wiretapping scheme.

How did BushCo think they could get away with this? Did they think Congressional leaders are stupid, that they have no memories of those days?

I personally know several people who make a practice of lying in bizarre ways. They tell lies about certain people to others who are intimate with those people. How can they think their lies won't be exposed? Do they think friends never talk to one another? I've pondered those questions for several years, and I've never come up with a satisfactory answer. I guess, like George W. Bush and his similarly-minded cronies, their worlds are so self-centric that they just don't consider other people, period. Their constructs are, to them, the truth -- just because they're theirs.

On the evening of Sept. 12, 2001, the White House proposed that Congress authorize the use of military force to "deter and pre-empt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States." Believing the scope of this language was too broad and ill defined, Congress chose instead, on Sept. 14, to authorize "all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed or aided" the attacks of Sept. 11. With this language, Congress denied the president the more expansive authority he sought and insisted that his authority be used specifically against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Just before the Senate acted on this compromise resolution, the White House sought one last change. Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words "in the United States and" after "appropriate force" in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused.
All Americans agree that keeping our nation safe from terrorists demands aggressive and innovative tactics. This unity was reflected in the near-unanimous support for the original resolution and the Patriot Act in those harrowing days after Sept. 11. But there are right and wrong ways to defeat terrorists, and that is a distinction this administration has never seemed to accept. Instead of employing tactics that preserve Americans' freedoms and inspire the faith and confidence of the American people, the White House seems to have chosen methods that can only breed fear and suspicion.

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Thursday, December 22


Miss Molly never misses.

Here is a curious fact about the government of this country spying on its citizens: It always goes wrong immediately. For some reason, it's not as though we start with people anyone would regard as suspicious and then somehow slip gradually into spying on the Girl Scouts. We get it wrong from the beginning every time. Never seem to be able to distinguish between a terrorist and a vegetarian.

The Department of Defense has just proved this yet again with its latest folly of mistaking a flock of Florida Quakers for a threat to overthrow the government. A few months ago, a student at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth tried to check out a copy of Mao's "Little Red Book" and wound up being interviewed by two feds. Cointelpro and all those misbegotten Nixon-era spy programs were always making ludicrous mistakes.

The usual suspects, like that silly congressman Dan Burton, solemnly try to scare us with the dread specter of war, as though they alone are the hard-headed pragmatists, while only woolly minded liberals care about the Constitution. "Don't these people realize we're at war?" Well, yes. Why that justifies treating Unitarians like Islamofascists is beyond me.

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Here's a link to Rolling Stone's interesting 2005 people retrospective "Mavericks, Renegades & Troublemakers."

As RS states in the intro, "Why do we honor M,R&T's? Because this year, if you weren't one, you weren't doing it right."


The year in review. If nothing else, read it for the jokes (most of which are not among these excerpts -- I'm feeling too serious today).

By the time we got to Cunningham’s sobbing exit, no one — absolutely no one — could keep track of all the scandals involving the Bush-Cheney administration, the Republican Congress, and state and local Republican leaders and their corporate and evangelical cronies. There were procurement scandals, media scandals, emergency-preparedness scandals, even treason scandals. These people stole everything, from coins in Ohio to billions in Iraq — including, in the estimation of some, the 2004 election, giving George W. Bush a matched set of nebulous claims to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Bush-Cheney’s cynicism and contempt for the media, and their administration’s repeatedly exposed practice of fabricating and/or planting stories became so blatant in 2005 that newscasts should have begun with the disclaimer "I’m George W. Bush and I approved of this message."
Traitorgate was the epicenter of the snarl in the Bush-Cheney web of deceit, combining as it did the administration’s media manipulation, its phony case for war, and its low-blow tactics. New York Times reporter Judith Miller was the gray lady down on the administration for exclusive access to every falsehood it wanted planted in the paper of record to make its phony case for war in Iraq. Miller, a viciously ambitious, narcissistic journalist made up of equal parts tenacity and wrong-headedness, had been informed of Plame’s identity by Scooter Libby.
The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward also traded ethics for access and got caught in the swirl of Traitorgate. As the story was exploding, Woodward went on Larry King and matter-of-factly implied the whole affair was a tempest in a teapot. He failed to disclose his own involvement, but we soon learned that he was just another rat in the sewer that ran between the White House and the corporate media. Richard Nixon would be so proud of him!
The Republican Congress was a disgrace throughout the year. Low points included the ethics scandals that embroiled both the House and Senate majority leaders. Congressman Tom DeLay was indicted for money laundering, the only known connection to anything clean in his sordid career. A primary player in DeLay’s K Street (soon to be renamed Shakedown Street) Project was lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who funneled funds, goods, and junkets to DeLay and others in exchange for right of first refusal on all legislation...Dr. Bill Frist, the Senate’s majority leader, was plagued by vision problems that actually caused him to see too much — like the contents of his blind trust, which now has him under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. His super vision also allowed him to use a home video to pronounce that Terri Schiavo was not in a persistent vegetative state. Of course he was wrong -- she was in Florida.
Camp Casey was so traumatic for W that he was probably relieved when Hurricane Katrina’s epic storm surge washed Cindy Sheehan out of the headlines. As ever, Bush was careless about what he wished for, and soon the world was looking at shocking aerial views of a country run by dim frat boys.
After Katrina, it began to seem that Bush’s actions and policies were nothing more than the result of drunken bar bets. In fact, the very reputable National Enquirer posited that W was back on the bottle. That would explain Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers: Watch this, this’ll be funny — the next person that walks in here, I’m naming to the Supreme Court.

Two interesting stories came out in December. The first exposed Bush’s practice of wire-tapping American citizens without so much as clearing the microscopic hurdle of obtaining a special secret-court warrant. But hey, if you don’t have anything to hide, what are you worried about?
Notwithstanding attempts by Bush-Cheney to rig Iraqi and American news with phony stories planted by its media operatives in the slimy Rendon and Lincoln Groups, the truth has been announced in the blood-curdling screams of agony from the victims of its torture. Whether at the hands of US military personnel, CIA agents, private contractors, or collaborating thugs from other nations, torture has become synonymous with our nation’s foreign policy.

Despite Bush’s strong denials and Condi Rice’s assurances that this administration has a strict policy of probably never committing torture, Dick Cheney’s legislative arm-twisting on the matter tells the real story. Any agreement the administration may make with John McCain or anyone else will be entered into with all the sincerity of its promise to rebuild New Orleans.

Regardless of what Bush makes of the latest election in Iraq, his game is up there. Congressman Jack Murtha, a man who never met a military action he’d question, has become the voice of the generals Donald Rumsfeld has censored. He knows the cause is lost, and that it’s time to get out. He knows that US troop presence will do nothing more than provoke perpetual violence. And he’s earned a crisp salute for saying so.
The majority of Americans now know that Bush justified this needless fight by lying to Congress, the American people, and the entire world. His premises were false, his motives were megalomaniacal. The results are tragic.

Bush picked a fight he didn’t need to pick. And lost. In doing so he weakened our nation and allies, and strengthened our enemies. And he did one more thing: he secured his place in history as a dangerous and soulless lunatic. It would require serious generosity to simply label him as pathetic.


The word is impeachment. And among others, some conservatives are using it.

Indeed, speaking on the Diane Rehm show on public radio, Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said, "I think if we're going to be intellectually honest here, this really is the kind of thing that Alexander Hamilton was referring to when impeachment was discussed."
"The American public has to understand that a crime has been committed, a serious crime," Chris Pyle, a professor of politics at Mount Holyoke College and an expert on government surveillance of civilians, tells Salon. "Looking at this controversy objectively, you inevitably end up with a question of impeachment," says Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University School of Law.
"The fact is, the federal law is perfectly clear," Turley says. "At the heart of this operation was a federal crime. The president has already conceded that he personally ordered that crime and renewed that order at least 30 times. This would clearly satisfy the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors for the purpose of an impeachment."

Turley is no Democratic partisan; he testified to Congress in favor of Bill Clinton's impeachment. "Many of my Republican friends joined in that hearing and insisted that this was a matter of defending the rule of law, and had nothing to do with political antagonism," he says. "I'm surprised that many of those same voices are silent. The crime in this case was a knowing and premeditated act. This operation violated not just the federal statute but the United States Constitution. For Republicans to suggest that this is not a legitimate question of federal crimes makes a mockery of their position during the Clinton period. For Republicans, this is the ultimate test of principle."
"We have finally reached the constitutional Rubicon," Turley says. "If Congress cannot stand firm against the open violation of federal law by the president, then we have truly become an autocracy."

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Googling Gen. Hayden, I found this incredible article. It describes the damage done to the NSA by Gen. Michael Hayden's seven-year tenure as director. It's an amazing tale: "NSA professionals ... point to an agency wracked by poor morale, questionable outsourcing contracts, and ineffective and corrupt management." It includes details of a high-tech security force whose sole mission is to harass NSA employees; spying on unfriendly American journalists; and "purely political eavesdropping."

And in what will amount to the greatest demonstration of the law of unintended consequences, the damage done to NSA by Hayden and his neoconservative superiors will result in more and greater intelligence disclosures that will shine a bright light on the behind-the-scenes machinations of the Bush administration and may, hopefully, drive a final nail in the coffin of neoconservative politics.

This was written in May. A litle prescient, no? And the whole story is so part and parcel with the Bush administration modus operandi.

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Wednesday, December 21

Xpatriated Texan on the reason for the season:

"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

This is how St. Luke describes the reaction of the angels to the birth of Jesus. No Christmas trees, no six-foot plastic bubbles with blowing snow inside, no Santa Claus, no reindeer, and nary a sleigh in site. Peace. Good will. The birth of a child in a filthy barn.

Yet, some two thousand years after the birth of that child, we seem to have forgotten how to approach peace, much less make it happen. We seem to have a government that is grimly determined to continue a war despite repeatedly showing it cannot handle the responsibility. The President's national address seems more designed to distract the American public than it does to take personal responsibility or renew our sense of purpose. While Democrats line up to show how tough they are, Republicans are busy quietly cutting the guts out of modern America.

Peace. Good will. The birth of a child in a filthy barn.

Meanwhile, we argue about cultural hegemony.

This year, it seems to be, these things will be as unnoticed as they were over two thousand years ago.


I can't resist a good quip, even from this source.

We don't know what the criteria were for "expanding" that "chain," but it does begin to sound a bit like a massive game of Six Degrees of Qevin al-Baiken.


All hell is breaking loose.

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

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

Sens. Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) have joined Democrats in calling for Congressional investigations.

It's like reliving Watergate.

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So the secretly authorized, illegal NSA spy program netted purely domestic calls after all the administration's denials, huh?

I have a distinct feeling that we're going to eventually discover that "direct links to Al Qaeda" has been so loosely defined as to include anyone who's checked out a book, spoken or written anything on the subject, donated money to a Muslim charity, or questioned the president's war policy, Cindy Sheehan and Teresa Heinz Kerry, you've been warned. Better file your Freedom Of Information Act requests right now.

But questions about the legal and operational oversight of the program last year prompted the administration to suspend aspects of it temporarily and put in place tighter restrictions on the procedures used to focus on suspects, said people with knowledge of the program. The judge who oversees the secret court that authorizes intelligence warrants - and which has been largely bypassed by the program - also raised concerns about aspects of the program. [emphasis mine]

How did the FISA court judge know about the program? This is the first I've heard that. Interesting.

The concerns led to a secret audit, which did not reveal any abuses in focusing on suspects or instances in which purely domestic communications were monitored, said officials familiar with the classified findings.

How reassuring. A secret audit by whom? Alberto Gonzales?

General Hayden, at this week's briefing, would not discuss many technical aspects of the program and did not answer directly when asked whether the program was used to eavesdrop on people who should not have been. But he indicated that N.S.A. operational personnel sometimes decide to stop surveillance of a suspect when the eavesdropping has not produced relevant leads on terror cases.

"We can't waste resources on targets that simply don't provide valuable information, and when we decide that is the case," the decision on whether a target is "worthwhile" is usually made in days or weeks, he said.

National security and telecommunications experts said that even if the N.S.A. seeks to adhere closely to the rules that Mr. Bush has set, the logistics of the program may make it difficult to ensure that the rules are being followed.

The fact that "Mr. Bush" has set the rules is reason enough to be skeptical of the entire program. Mr. Bush has proven that he has little or no respect for rules. To him, they are at best meant to be elastic, at worst entirely breakable.

With roaming cellphones, internationally routed e-mail, and voice-over Internet technology, "it's often tough to find out where a call started and ended," said Robert Morris, a former senior scientist at the N.S.A. who is retired. "The N.S.A. is good at it, but it's difficult even for them. Where a call actually came from is often a mystery."

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Tuesday, December 20


HARDBALL tonight: During a discussion with Jonathan Alter and David Gergen about Dumbya's illegal wiretapping scheme for the NSA, substitute host Andrea Mitchell asked Gergen, "Are we heading into a constitutional crisis?"

David Gergen: I will be surprised if, now that it's all out, either side wants to push it really hard, especially Sen. Specter. I can't imagine considering the seriousness of the situation in Iraq that either side wants a crisis. Now that we know the problem, let's fix it! (my paraphrase)

Excu-u-u-se me? Now that the president's been exposed as having broken the law, violated the Constitution, repeatedly and egregiously, we should just "fix it"? What does that mean? That Bush will agree not to do it any more?

Imagine Bill Clinton being granted that courtesy by the Rethugs. "We won't impeach him for having a BJ and fibbing about it if he promises not to do it again!"

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Richard Cohen has had enough.

It's a good one.


Is Bush's illegal NSA spying program an extravagant data-mining venture? Emptywheel suggests it might be just that.

I've heard several administration apologists make claims that lend plausibility to this theory. One stated that it wasn't practical to use FISA to obtain warrants for such a volume of requests until the NSA program had somehow determined who should actually be monitored long-term. That raised my antennae, but I didn't put it together in precisely the way Emptywheel has. I conjectured that the statement was an indication that wholesale wiretapping was being conducted in a sort of fishing expedition, and that when information was obtained that provided probable cause, then individual warrants were solicited under FISA. But I think it's possible that Empty wheel may be closer to the truth than was my simple inference.

A few more details of the NSA spying program are beginning to leak out. I'm going to guess, based on the details we've got, that this program is some kind of reverse data mining project. That they're taking the laptops and cell phones captured from known Al Qaeda figures and from that hardware, developing a data profile of a "typical" Al Qaeda operative. Then, they're doing massive data mining in the US and overseas. And tapping people who fit the profile of that "typical" Al Qaeda operative.

It's clear now that one of the two remarkable aspects of this program is its new technology (the other being the warrantless search). Former Senator Bob Graham said he didn't remember any mention of warrantless searches. What struck him, from his briefings on the program, was the notion we were using new technology.

Former senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who chaired the Senate intelligence committee and is the only participant thus far to describe the meetings extensively and on the record, said in interviews Friday night and yesterday that he remembers "no discussion about expanding [NSA eavesdropping] to include conversations of U.S. citizens or conversations that originated or ended in the United States" -- and no mention of the president's intent to bypass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

"I came out of the room with the full sense that we were dealing with a change in technology but not policy," Graham said, with new opportunities to intercept overseas calls that passed through U.S. switches. He believed eavesdropping would continue to be limited to "calls that initiated outside the United States, had a destination outside the United States but that transferred through a U.S.-based communications system."

Senator Rockefeller said something similar--but more telling--in the CYA letter he released today.

As you know, I am neither a technician or an attorney. Given the security restrictions associated with this information, and my inability to consult staff or counsel on my own, I feel unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities.

As I reflected on the meeting today, and the future we face, John Poindexter's TIA project sprung to mind, exacerbating my concern regarding the direction the Administration is moving with regard to security, technology, and surveiliance.

Rockefeller complains that he's not a technician, echoing Graham's technical comment. Then Rockefeller mentions Pondexter's TIA program, a system that proposed to use massive data mining to profile and find potential terrorists. But the problem described with this TIA program--and with Able Danger, another data mining surveillance program--is that you don't know what a "hit" is. You don't know what the profile of a terrorist is, so you don't know what you're looking for as you data mine.

Well, the NYT story on this program suggests they may be working from the opposite direction to define what their "hits" are going to be. You see, the program started accelerating as they collected more hardware loaded with data that might help form a "typical" profile of an Al Qaeda operative.

What the agency calls a "special collection program" began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, as it looked for new tools to attack terrorism. The program accelerated in early 2002 after the Central Intelligence Agency started capturing top Qaeda operatives overseas, including Abu Zubaydah, who was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002. The C.I.A. seized the terrorists' computers, cellphones and personal phone directories, said the officials familiar with the program. The N.S.A. surveillance was intended to exploit those numbers and addresses as quickly as possible, they said.

And this is where the NYT story gets a little vague. The searches are based on people "linked" to Al Qaeda--but linked in what way?

Since 2002, the agency has been conducting some warrantless eavesdropping on people in the United States who are linked, even if indirectly, to suspected terrorists through the chain of phone numbers and e-mail addresses, according to several officials who know of the operation. Under the special program, the agency monitors their international communications, the officials said. The agency, for example, can target phone calls from someone in New York to someone in Afghanistan.

I'm proposing it's not an indirect link to Al Qaeda, that the NYT is using this language to shield the technical details (if these people were really linked to Al Qaeda, the FISA warrant would be a cinch). I'm proposing that it's a link of similarity. They find the communication patterns of a known Al Qaeda operative, and they start monitoring everyone who has similar communication patterns.

Which would explain why they needed to start monitoring large numbers of people at once.

Those involved in the program also said that the N.S.A.'s eavesdroppers might need to start monitoring large batches of numbers all at once, and that it would be impractical to seek permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court first, according to the officials.

Here they're claiming that the numbers are too onerous to get warrants for all the monitored numbers. Elsewhere they claim it's a time issue (which we know to be false, since you can get emergency taps under FISA). I'm suggesting the real issue was they couldn't defend tapping all those numbers at once since the only thing that connected them was a pattern of similarity, not probable cause.

Which explains why Bush wanted to hide the program. It's data profile layered on top (I'm guessing) of racial profiling divorced from any probable cause. Which is why they're finding people with dubious ties, if any:

But they said most people targeted for N.S.A. monitoring have never been charged with a crime, including an Iranian-American doctor in the South who came under suspicion because of what one official described as dubious ties to Osama bin Laden.

Is it possible the dubious ties are as little as a fondness for a take-out joint favored by suspected Al Qaeda operatives? The same gym? Friends in the same province of Iraq?

It's a kind of unreasonable search never imagined by our forefathers ... but one I'm sure they'd consider unreasonable nevertheless.

Hat tip to Bad Attitudes.

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Monday, December 19


I keep flashing on other things I heard Dumbya say during his amazing press conference today. At one point he said, "And the amazing thing in Iraq, as a part of a broader strategy to help what I call lay the foundation of peace: democracies don't war; democracies are peaceful countries...And it's not going to be easy. It's still going to be hard, because we're getting rid of decades of bitterness. You find these secret, you know, prisons, where people have been tortured; you know, that's unacceptable." Then he told what he called "an amazing story" about an Iraqi woman who questioned why Saddam should have a trial instead of immediate execution. "And I said to her, "Don't you see that the trial itself stands in such contrast to the tyrant that that in itself is a victory for freedom and a defeat for tyranny, just the trial alone, and it's important that there be rule of law?"

This man's lack of self knowledge and history are immense, perhaps incalculable. How could he not find irony in declaring that democracies don't wage war, are peaceful? The United States has conducted how many elective wars, police actions, or military attacks or incursions into foreign countries (wars not provoked by an attack upon our homeland) in the past sixty years? Let's see...Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Bosnia, Haiti -- this list isn't even nearly all-inclusive, and I'm not saying they were all unjustified. But the fact is that democratic countries are NOT necessarily peaceful. It's a patently ridiculous thing to say.

How could he not feel embarrassed to cite Saddam's "secret prisons" and "torture" when the whole world knows that the United States in the person of the Bush administration has been fighting for the right and justification for doing the same?

And how is he able to say with a straight face that it's important that there be rule of law at the precise time he is arguing that he is above the law?

He's a moron. A dangerous moron. And as Diane Keaton's Kay said to Al Pacino's Michael Corleone in Godfather III to explain why she aborted his son, "This has all GOT TO STOP!"

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The oath to be taken by the president on first entering office is specified in Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution:

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

No, Mister President, you didn't swear "to protect the American people," you swore to protect the CONSTITUTION. You swore it TWICE. If after five years in office you don't understand your responsibilities any better than that, then you have no business serving and the American people can't afford your ignorance and arrogance any longer. You have violated that oath, by your own admission, at least 30 times.

Impeach him.

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Morally bankrupt pondslime.

Federal authorization to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge moved closer to becoming law Sunday night as House and Senate conferees tied the controversial energy program to a must-pass spending bill to fund the war in Iraq and other defense needs.

The House was expected to approve the $453 billion defense conference report in the early hours of Monday before turning to legislation that would cut federal spending for Medicare, Medicaid, student loans and other programs by nearly $42 billion over five years.

Drilling in Alaska's wildlife refuge has long been a subject of great controversy in Congress. Proponents say it is essential to giving the nation energy independence. Opponents say it would disrupt an environmentally pristine area of the world for little long-term benefit.

By fusing the Arctic drilling legislation with the critical defense spending measure, Republican leaders made it extremely difficult for lawmakers to vote no without looking like they were failing to support American troops in Iraq.

"Republicans are holding funding for our military hostage in order to give a huge holiday gift to the oil industry," charged Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee.

The tactic also infuriated Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who accused Republicans of "changing the rules of the game in the middle of the game." That's because arctic drilling is not considered relevant to defense spending, and was not submitted to the conference by either chamber.

"The arrogance of power of the Republicans in the House and the Senate is beyond my ability to comprehend," said Reid, who threatened to slow down the work of the Senate in the final hours of the session before Christmas.


The attitude of the wingnuts towards Bush's clearly illegal surveillance of American citizens seems to be (1) We'd rather have the president break the law than have another 9/11; (2) Congress knew all about the program, the president said so; (3) It takes too long (hours, even!) to appeal to the FISA court for a warrant, precious hours when a plot could be hatched and launched! and (4) attacks have been thwarted through Dubya's illegal actions, so they're justified.

How many terrorists have you heard of being arrested in the U.S. lately? How many "thwarted attacks" have you heard detailed? Seems to me the administration is more than happy to trumpet any accomplishments in that area, even if they have to exaggerate them or make them up out of whole cloth. Sure seems fishy to me that we haven't heard about these.

Repeatedly this morning the spokespersons for the administration, Alberto Gonzales and the Chimpster himself during his press conference, asserted that his authority to conduct this domestic spying program was derived from the vote by Congress to authorize Bush to use force in the war on terror, that the same vote gave the president the power to allow such wiretaps.

You can bet if Bill Clinton or any future Democratic president interprets his powers so broadly there'll be a whole new attitude on the part of the right. But don't, as did one intrepid reporter, even suggest that THIS president is "dictatorial" or unworthy of unlimited power. And don't ask him about those "secret prisons" where "people were tortured" -- that only happened in Iraq under Saddam...OUR secret prisons and OUR torture are justified by 9/11. "It's a different world and this is a different kind of war."

David Gergen was on this morning saying this whole thing smacks of the Nixon days. The FISA law was specifically set up to prevent these kinds of abuses, he said.

If the president thought FISA was insufficient to protect Americans from attack, why hasn't he, in the three years since the program began, asked Congress to change the law?

Dubya got a little testy when asked several times if he would cooperate with Congressional hearings into the issue. "I TOLD the CONGRESS!" he snapped. "They were told 12 times!" Another theme he repeated ad nauseum was, "It's my job to protect you, and I'm going to do that. I'm also going to protect civil liberties by uh, I'm going to protect civil liberties."

Sorry, sport, the American people are not the same trusting fools they were a few years ago.

UPDATE: Forgot one fun thing during the presidential press conference today. The Shrub called the NSA "NASA." Freudian slip?

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Sunday, December 18


All hell's going to break loose.


Yawn. The president's big speech was a big snooze. The teleprompter was badly placed -- he never made eye contact with the audience, was clearly reading. Was he on drugs again? There was no energy, he seemed to be having dry mouth.

A lot of the pre-war intelligence was wrong. I take responsibility for it. But Saddam was a bad guy. I don't take lightly decisions that cause death. I really do listen, honest.

The war is difficult. It's been tougher than we thought it'd be. It doesn't mean that we are losing.

We are making steady gains with a clear objective in view: a democratic Iraq that can defend itself, that will never again be a haven for terrorists and will serve as a model of freedom for the Middle East.

He told the story of one voter holding up his purple finger and saying, "This is a stick in the eye of the terrorists" and another who was asked, Are you Sunni or Shi'a? "I am Iraqi," he replied. Does Dubya seriously expect us to believe that means sectarianism isn't a problem?

We have learned from our experience and fixed what did not work.

We not only can win the war in Iraq, we are winning the war in Iraq.

To retreat before victory would be an act of recklessness and dishonor, and I will not allow it. We would abandon our Iraqi friends and show the Middle Eastern dictators that we don't have any resolve.

He talked about political opportunists. You can either ignore the terrorists or fight them in places like Iraq and Afghanistan -- no middle ground.

Ended it with a little history and a Civil War Christmas carol (Longfellow).

It was a blatant appeal for patience on the part of the American people.

Tim Russert says he's heard from Republican and Democratic senators who've visited Iraq that the Kurdish and Shi'ite militias are stronger than the national army and that unless a strong national government is established that includes the Sunnis in a significant way, there will be no way to raise a strong national army. And if there's no strong national army, there will be no way for us to execute an exit strategy from Iraq.

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David Sirota gets it exactly right.

And that gets us right back to the most important question: why would the President deliberately circumvent a court that was already wholly inclined to grant him domestic surveillance warrants? The answer is obvious, though as yet largely unstated in the mainstream media: because the President was likely ordering surveillance operations that were so outrageous, so unrelated to the War on Terror, and, to put it in Constitutional terms, so "unreasonable" that even a FISA court would not have granted them.

Like, say, conducting surveillance on perfectly innocent Americans who protest against Bush administration policies?

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I don’t want to hear again from the Attorney General or anyone on this floor that this government has shown it can be trusted to use the power we give it with restraint and care. This shocking revelation ought to send a chill down the spine of every Senator and every American. -- Russ Feingold

The danger is that we can wind up with a government so secret and so closed that the public won't find out what's going and got so powerful that it intrudes into the privacy of every American. -- First Amendment expert Floyd Abrams, in a CBS interview

They tell us, ‘Trust us, we follow the law.’ Give me a break.” -- Ted Kennedy

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Nominations are open for the Koufax Awards.

Last year, No More Apples was a finalist in the category "Most Humorous Post" for The Rumsfeld Rag. That struck me as a little weird, since I didn't mean anything funny by it.


George Will, Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson are on This Week -- they all agree that the president is a criminal. That it wasn't necessary for him to break the law. And Sam said this is what we went to war in Iraq to defeat--unbridled executive powers.

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