Friday, February 17


I've mentioned this to a few friends, and joked about it, but keep forgetting to post.

Seems and have been reaming My reaction: Since cabinet members Don Rumsfeld and Michael Chertoff have revealed they don't use e-mail, it's not surprising to me to think that Fox News viewers haven't embraced the Internets.

So who practices pre-9/11 thinking and who doesn't? As Randi Rhodes says, these guys are more like pre-1776.


A friend made a comment to me today about the tagline for our blog that revealed he'd completely misunderstood what The Sage meant when he made the offhand comment I've enshrined below the title.

"Adam ate an apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It's a shame we ran out of apples."

What does that mean? Well, it's a reference to the fact that Adam and Eve, who were originally complete innocents, after succumbing to the temptation of the serpent and disobeying God by eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil recognized their nakedness and understood and acknowledged what is sin and what is righteous. There are so many people today who mistake evil for good and vice versa. They believe love is evil, violence is the proper response to insult or assault, selfishness is a virtue, great wealth is a sign of God's favor and poverty a disease of the lazy and ungodly, judgment is the prerogative of the powerful, and so on. They think torture is acceptable, the murder of innocents an unfortunate side effect of wars of vengeance, that further enriching the already wealthy is a noble goal even though it is done by cutting benefits to the poor and disabled, that might makes right, that some races are inferior and should be controlled by those superior. All of these sentiments are unBiblical, yet huge numbers of religious adhere to them.

The Sage's thinking was, since we're no longer innocents, it's a shame there aren't some of those apples available to open people's eyes to what is truly evil and what is truly good. I have a sneaking suspicion that if there were, there'd be fewer Rethuglicans and more progressives.


Lawmakers are worried about the Bush administration's decision to put our ports under the control of an Arab company.

Well heck, I'm worried too. What are they thinking???? We're talking about New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. And we want to outsource their port operations to the United Arab Emirates, a country with a history that includes acting as "an operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the September 11, 2001, attacks against New York and Washington."

This is preposterous, coming from the same people who have demonized Arabs as people who "hate our freedoms" and "want to kill Americans." I certainly don't hold with that attitude, but really, as Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said, "Outsourcing the operations of our largest ports to a country with a dubious record on terrorism is a homeland security and commerce accident waiting to happen."

Why does Bush hate America?

UPDATE: KOS has more.

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Don't tell me Bush isn't a racist when he keeps on making appointments like these. I don't care how many brown faces he surrounds himself with, he's deliberately and incessantly fixed on rolling back civil rights. Of course, people like him will always make way for "elites" like Condi. But in general they'll defend the same old boys network to the death.

Where does he find these people? No sooner had President Bush returned last week from Coretta Scott King's funeral than he nominated to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a lawyer with a terrible record on civil rights.
In March 1992, Frank Parker, then director of the Lawyers' Committee's voting rights project, said that Wallace's conduct in the Mississippi redistricting case showed Wallace "lacks the integrity, judicial temperament and respect for legal proceedings necessary for appointment to the judicial bench."

The White House knows who Wallace is and what he represents.
The White House seems confident that Senate Democrats are so cowed that Bush can nominate virtually anyone to these important courts, no matter how egregious the record.

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Could Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) be any more a stooge for the administration than he already is?

It's time for the Dems to force another closed session of the Senate. Although I'm not sure it would do any substantive good, since Roberts always reneges on his promises, it would at least bring media, and public, attention to his weaseling.

Mr. Roberts had promised to hold a committee vote yesterday on whether to investigate. But he canceled the vote, and then made two astonishing announcements. He said he was working with the White House on amending the 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to permit warrantless spying. And then he suggested that such a change would eliminate the need for an inquiry.

Stifling his own committee without even bothering to get the facts is outrageous. As the vice chairman of the panel, Senator John Rockefeller IV, pointed out, supervising intelligence gathering is in fact the purpose of the intelligence committee.

Mr. Rockefeller said the White House had not offered enough information to make an informed judgment on the program possible. It is withholding, for instance, such minor details as how the program works, how it is reviewed, how much and what kind of information is collected, and how the information is stored and used.

Mr. Roberts said the White House had agreed to provide more briefings to the Senate Intelligence Committee — hardly an enormous concession since it is already required to do so. And he said he and the White House were working out "a fix" for the law. That is the worst news. FISA was written to prevent the president from violating Americans' constitutional rights. It was amended after 9/11 to make it even easier for the administration to do legally what it is now doing.

FISA does not in any way prevent Mr. Bush from spying on Qaeda members or other terrorists. The last thing the nation needs is to amend the law to institutionalize the imperial powers Mr. Bush seized after 9/11.

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Thursday, February 16


BREAKING NEWS: Senate Intelligence Committee has made a deal with the White House re the president's illegal NSA domestic spy program. The WH has agreed to allow FISA to be fixed and to brief Congress on the program more often. In return, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) has announced that under the circumstances, he sees no reason to open an investigation into the program.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) responded that the Rethugs are trying to "sweep the whole thing under the rug" and are providing no oversight.

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Peggy Noonan speculates that the Dick has become such a red-hot hate magnet that Bush's men may decide it's time to let him go. Bushies may be considering how to dump Cheney and install a new Veep, electable as Pres in '08, that will continue Dubya's crusade in Iraq and the wider Middle East. He'd have to be wildly popular in the party, though, she says. Who could that be? she wonders.

The key thing is Iraq. George Bush cares deeply about Iraq and knows his legacy will be decided there. It has surely dawned on the White House that "Iraq" will not be "over" in the next two years. Iraq is a long story. What Dick Armitage or Colin Powell said about the Pottery Barn rule was true: If you break it, you own it, at the very least for the next few years.

George Bush, and so the men and women around him, will want the next Republican presidential nominee to continue the U.S. effort in, and commitment to, Iraq. To be a candidate who will continue his policy, and not pull the plug, and burrow through.

This person will not be Dick Cheney, who has already said he doesn't plan to run. So Mr. Bush may feel in time that he has reason to want to put in a new vice president in order to pick a successor who'll presumably have an edge in the primaries--he's the sitting vice president, and Republicans still respect primogeniture. They will tend to make the common-sense assumption that a guy who's been vice president for, say, a year and a half, is a guy who already knows the top job. Anyway, the new guy will get a honeymoon, which means he won't be fully hated by the time the 2008 primaries begin.


Does Dick Cheney have, as he claimed yesterday, authority to declassify classified information?

Let's see.

Declassification authority is defined in Section 6.1(l) of E.O. 13292. It is granted to: "(1) the official who authorized the original classification...; (2) the originator's current successor in function; (3) a supervisory official of either; or (4) officials delegated declassification authority in writing by the agency head or the senior agency official."

So the Vice President has authority to declassify anything that he himself classified. He also clearly has authority to declassify anything generated in the Office of the Vice President, which he supervises.

But is the Vice President, like the President, "a supervisory official" with respect to other executive branch agencies such as the CIA? Did the 2003 amendment to the executive order which elevated the Vice President's classification authority also grant him declassification authority comparable to the President's?

Political Cortex breaks it down.

4.1(c) Classified information shall remain under the control of the originating agency or its successor in function. An agency shall not disclose information originally classified by another agency without its authorization. An official or employee leaving agency service may not remove classified information from the agency's control.

It reads that "an agency" shall not disclose information without authorization. Does "an agency" include the Vice-President of the United States? Yep. In the definitional section of the order:

(i) "Agency" means any "Executive agency," as defined in 5 U.S.C. 105, and any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information.

So,  if we accept that "entity" includes individual entities like the Vice-President, it looks like Cheney should have asked permission from the "originating agency" (the CIA) before authorizing Libby to leak.

But wait! There's more. Read the whole article.

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Oh, this is sweet. Helen Thomas beating up on Hugh Hewitt.


As I've said repeatedly, it's always the shooter's fault.

If there is anything that Harry's friends at the Vaughn Building are angry about, it is not the shooting itself but the attempt by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan to place the blame on the victim. It's the shooter's duty to know what he is shooting at and where his companions are. A shooting accident is always the fault of the shooter. Always.

Well, it wasn't only Scottie who was blaming Harry. Katharine Armstrong did. Mary Matalin did. And it's been an incessant theme in the media since the whole blasted (excuse the pun) thing erupted.


So we spend thousands of American lives and $1 trillion just to trade one repressive, murderous gang of thugs for another. Good going, guys.

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Hoo-ee! It's been obvious from his recent appearances on the This Week panel that George Will has serious doubts about the Bush-Cheney execution of the "long war" that Mr. Conservative Columnist is finally, and highly, disapproving, but this op-ed is blistering. Will takes on what he characterizes as Bush's "monarchical doctrine" and its supporters' "incoherent arguments" in favor:

It is that whenever the nation is at war, the other two branches of government have a radically diminished pertinence to governance, and the president determines what that pertinence shall be.
Anyway, the argument that the AUMF contained a completely unexpressed congressional intent to empower the president to disregard the FISA regime is risible coming from this administration. It famously opposes those who discover unstated meanings in the Constitution's text and do not strictly construe the language of statutes.

Here's Will's final thought:

Congress should make all necessary actions lawful by authorizing the president to take those actions, with suitable supervision. It should do so with language that does not stigmatize what he has been doing, but that implicitly refutes the doctrine that the authorization is superfluous.

George is absolutely correct. But he neglects to highlight the fact that since the president has been breaking the law knowingly, deliberately, and incessantly for SEVERAL YEARS he should not get a pass. The pResident's attempt to usurp the authority of the legislative and judicial branches is the most serious threat to our system of governance in recent history, and must not go unchecked, or unnoted.

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Wednesday, February 15


Please, please read my previous post John Walker Lindh: Terrorist or Terrorized?


Russ Feingold scolds Democrats who are caving in on the Patriot Act. Seems a number of them are ready to accept the same deal they rejected in December. Preach on, brother.

Under this deal, the government can still access the library or medical records of someone with no connection to terrorism. After four years of public outcry over Section 215 of the Patriot Act -- the so-called library records provision -- and after the Senate unanimously passed an amendment fixing this provision in July, apparently a number of my colleagues have decided that government fishing expeditions aren't such a big deal.

Almost as bad, the deal fails to fix the "gag order" that prevents businesses from telling anyone that they've received a Section 215 order for records. The deal keeps the gag rule in place for a year; after that, the recipient can challenge the gag order in court but under rules that make it almost impossible to win.

The deal also fails to address the concerns Democrats expressed about news reports of growing use of National Security Letters, which don't even require a judge's approval, to obtain records of electronic communications, credit reports, and financial records. And it leaves in place the much criticized "sneak and peek" provision, which allows the government to secretly search Americans' homes in criminal cases that have nothing to do with terrorism or espionage.
Expect Democrats and some Republicans to insist that they have won some significant improvements to the Patriot Act. Don't believe it. The few minor concessions they got from the White House are a fig leaf to disguise a complete about-face. Thanks to this deal, the White House will be emboldened in its fear-mongering, Democrats will be perceived as timid, and the American people will still face the prospect of government intrusion into their private affairs. Some deal.

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I am so sick of that chickenhawk and his minions blustering and playing the tough kid on the playground at everyone else's expense.

Okay, I understand the principle that negotiating with terrorists breeds more terrorism. But if we've wrongly incarcerated innocent female prisoners, AND WE KNOW IT, and we were planning to release them anyway, why not just say ha ha, you went to a lot of trouble for nothing, we were going to let them go even before you demanded it, and do it? A woman's life is at stake here.

According to Iraqi officials, U.S. officials delayed the scheduled release of six female prisoners whom they knew had already been found innocent because of the kidnappers' demand for their release. Then they refused to speed up the review of the files of the five remaining female prisoners, in violation of a policy of giving priority to females in the review of detainee files for release.

Had the normal policy been followed, it is very likely that all the women held by the United States would have been released by now. By delaying the releases of female detainees to strike a tough anti-terrorism pose, the administration has increased the risk to Jill Carroll's life.

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National Journal handicaps the 2006 gubernatorial races.

Republicans continue to look as if they're playing defense when it comes to this year's governor races. Seven of the 10 most vulnerable seats are held by Republicans (including four of the top five). But there may be a bright side for Republicans. Out of the "big four" seats up for grabs – California, Florida, New York and Texas – it appears the GOP might be able to hold at least three of them, losing only New York. One other "glass is half-full" take for the GOP: Two of the three most vulnerable incumbents are Dems (Michigan's Granholm and Wisconsin's Doyle).



Ho ho ho. Ann Coulter falsifies her address on her voter registration and then votes in the wrong precinct.

That's a no-no, Ann.

No matter, Florida statutes make it a third-degree felony to vote knowingly in the wrong precinct. Lying on a voter's registration can cost up to $5,000 and five years behind bars.


Tuesday, February 14


Now this is ridiculous, criminal.

How much is good press worth? To the Bush administration, about $1.6 billion.

That's how much seven federal departments spent from 2003 through the second quarter of 2005 on 343 contracts with public relations firms, advertising agencies, media organizations and individuals, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

This reminds me of a scene from the Kevin Kline film Dave, where the substitute president is asking his cabinet to help him find ways to trim the budget so he can rescue a federal program for homeless children. He discovers that millions of dollars are being spent on public relations efforts to reassure owners of American cars that their purchase was a good one. Dave says: "I don't want to tell some eight-year-old kid he's gotta sleep in the street because we want people to feel better about their car. Do you want to tell them that?"

Oh, Dave, Dave. Would that we had a man of your values sitting in the White House.

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Miss Molly opines:

I was offended by the never-our-fault White House spin team. Cheney adviser Mary Matalin said of her boss, "He was not careless or incautious (and did not) violate any of the (rules). He didn't do anything he wasn't supposed to do." Of course he did, Ms. Matalin, he shot Harry Whittington.

Which brings us to one of the many paradoxes of the Bush administration, which claims to be creating "the responsibility society." It's hard to think of a crowd less likely to take responsibility for anything they have done or not done than this bunch. They're certainly good at preaching responsibility to others — and blaming other people for everything that goes wrong on their watch.

Let me reiterate: Stop blaming the victim! I don't care if Harry is willing to say it's all his fault. He's a gentleman, a loyal friend and Republican supporter -- of COURSE he's willing to fall on his sword for the Veep. But the media doesn't have to keep repeating ad nauseum the canard that because he approached Cheney from behind and didn't yell out, "I'm back, fellas!" he's responsible for his own shooting.

Look, it's ALWAYS the shooter's fault unless the victim runs into the line of fire. Whittington didn't do that. He was, remember, BEHIND Cheney. Cheney turned and shot without checking his line of sight first. That's all there is to it.

It was an accident, of course (although I'm suspicious about the timing of the announcement -- that 20 hours would have given Cheney time to get the alcohol out of his bloodstream). But the one who was responsible was the one who pulled the trigger.

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Slow leak. How Cheney managed the news about his shooting his 78-year-old hunting partner Harry Whittington.

Vice President Cheney overruled the advice of several members of the White House staff and insisted on sticking to a plan for releasing information about his hunting accident that resulted in a 20-hour, overnight delay in public confirmation of the startling incident, according to several Republican sources.

"This is either a cover-up story or an incompetence story," said a top Republican who is close to the White House and has rarely been critical of the Administration in the past five years. "Karl was constrained, as was the entire communications operation, because the Vice President had arranged for how this was to come out."

UPDATE: Whittington has suffered a "minor heart attack" as a result of the shooting.

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With apologies to Nancy Sinatra -- and Cher:

Both members of the good ol' boys,
And each armed with our shootin' toys,
We took the dogs along to hunt
And then I got the ace affront.

Bang bang, he shot me down
Bang bang, I hit the ground
Bang bang, that awful sound
Bang bang, Dick Cheney shot me down.

Now this is how it all occurred --
Since I was first to bag my bird
I went aside to seek it out
And when I did, I came about.

Bang bang, he shot me down
Bang bang, I hit the ground
Bang bang, that awful sound
Bang bang, that idjut shot me down.

I could hear him cursing then,
"Just how is this one going to spin?"

Now somehow it's become my fault:
It's adding insult to assault.
But I'll say nothing to dissent
For I am not Vice President.

Bang bang, he shot me down
Bang bang, that stupid clown
Bang bang, I'm now renowned
Bang bang, Dick Cheney shot me down...

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Riverbend asks:

Who do you call to protect you from the New Iraq’s security forces?

A powerful narrative of the reality that is the American-imposed "New Iraq."

Why do Islamists hate our freedom? Because they haven't experienced it.


My friend Sally and I have a favorite lunchtime restaurant. It's called The Bronx, and it's located squarely in the gay section/hangout (Cedar Springs) of downtown Dallas. I've also introduced it to a number of my coworkers, and they find it as congenial as I do.

One of the primary reasons we like it, besides the terrific food and reasonable prices, is our long-time regular waiter -- he's an intelligent, really cool guy (incidentally gay) who shares our politics and after more than a decade of regular patronage, we feel a certain bond with him.

One day during this past 10 days' vigil with my daughter Skye at Parkland Hospital my youngest daughter and I ventured down to the hospital's resident 24-hour McDonald's for hot chocolate when I saw my waiter friend approaching down the hall. I ran to him and threw my arms around him as with an old friend and poured out my story, knowing I would receive comfort and encouragement. When we parted and Shiloh asked for particulars I speculated that he was probably visiting a friend with AIDS (the gaunt figures of men I'd repeatedly encountered at the hospital led me to believe that Parkland has a vigorous AIDS treatment unit among its other notable facilities). She asked how I knew he was gay, and I stated that I just knew. That led me to reflecting on why it seems that the gay guys I know seem to have more compassion and sensitivity than the general male populace. Perhaps it's because they've experienced more unkindness than most men I've encountered in my life. I don't think it's because they're more "feminine" -- I know all too many women who are just as mean-spirited, harshly competitive or otherwise unlikable as many straight men I know.

I don't know why I knew that this mere acquaintance would offer me something I needed -- caring and compassion. I just KNEW it. And I was right. And that's been my experience with every gay person I've ever had real contact with. I suppose that's why I champion gay rights. There are so few truly kind people in the world. I have no inclination whatsoever to deny those few the opportunity to seek and find their own happiness. What can it avail a man (or woman) to do so?


Trust me. You must read this.


Failing at the language of diplomacy.

"Out of 34,000 employees, only 10 people at the State Department are fluent in the lingua franca of al Qaeda. Ten!"

How many ways in how many languages can you say, "This administration is incompetent"?

Monday, February 13


I have two daughters who are confirmed Republicans and Bush supporters. I don't get it, and I even grieve about it, knowing in my heart that they love their parents but yet reject our politics. I remind myself that we have two sons and our oldest daughter who share our philosophies, yet I am bewildered how Skye (regular readers should know by now that she's our injured child) and Shiloh should have drifted so far from our teachings. I try to tell myself that this is evidence that they are free thinkers but the fact is, it is no comfort. This morning, for example, our youngest daughter Shiloh phoned me very early to tell me that she'd heard on the radio a report that Al Gore had told a Saudi audience that America was wrong in dealings with Muslims. Her reason for calling, she said, was to report that my three-year-old grandson Valor was "smarter than Al Gore." She said that when the radio commentator said that Al Gore thinks America is evil, my grandson cried out, "No, it isn't!!" (Valor is, unquestionably, precocious.)

A couple of years ago one of my progressive sprouts gave me as a joke for Christmas a Bush doll that quotes some of Dubya's more ridiculous, and dumb, pronouncements. Valor loves to push the buttons on "Bush" but of course he doesn't understand how ludicrous they are. Today, Shiloh told me that she'd heard a right-wing radio replay some of Al Gore's misstatements. She was tickled pink, after two years of listening to the Bush doll's inanities, to think that a Democrat could also make linguistic mistakes. She's looking now for an Al Gore doll that will counter my Bush doll.

I have a problem, I admit, reconciling the facts that two of my daughters are wonderful human beings who love their parents and have charity in their hearts for all humanity yet cling to the Republican myth that George W. Bush is some kind of mystical, magical father figure who will keep us all safe from murderous Islamofascists. Perhaps I should mention that both Skye and Shiloh have converted to Judaism and are strongly influenced by neocon philosphies centering on conservative Israeli interests. It's a debate their father and I can not win, because the terms of their thinking are that Israel is always right and Islam is always wrong. And beyond that, they think that Bush is terrific and anyone who opposes him is wrong and even stupid and evil.

I guess in a small way our family is a microcosm of America today. My two younger daughters are brilliant in so many ways, and yet we cannot influence them politically. They consider abortion an unparallelled evil, and therefore Bush and his Rethugs who support his position are in line with God's will, and even though they support gay rights, the abortion issue takes precedence over all other issues. They have no health insurance (their employers don't offer it), they depend upon their parents (us) to supplement or provide that cushion, yet they defend the pResident for not addressing that issue as if only deadbeats have the same problem (they, of course, are not in that category, since they have parents who can and will take up the debt ).

So what's the deal? I think that many Americans who have not yet faced the reality of having a lifetime of hard work and responsiblity wiped out by a single catastrophic illness or injury, cling to the Rethug propaganda that they are more worthy of citizenship because they are lucky enough to have a job or have a culturally superior ethnicity. So they vote Rethuglican because it makes them feel that they belong to the same privileged class that the pResident refers to when he talks about the"ownership society." So what are progressives to do? I have tried to appeal to my young daughters (before the 2004 presidential vote and since) that middle-and-low-income wage earners have no advocate in Dubya's agenda. But the fact is, they don't care. Their concern is all for the "values" campaign. And while I'm proud that finances don't determine their values, I'm flummoxed that they don't see that the economics of the Bush administration are a mirror of their values -- the rich count, everybody else doesn't.

So now we get to the latest news, which they always question me about. Their stance is, what's the big deal about Cheney shooting somebody? After all, it was an accident, he didn't do it on purpose, and the liberals are trying to make a big deal out of nothing.

I told them tonight, the VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES SHOT A MAN, an uprecedented event (since Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton). Can you imagine if Al Gore or any other Democrat did the same?


Read this.


Jonah Goldberg thinks that if Whittington doesn't die, Dick Cheney's poll numbers could go up.

Please explain to me why this idiot gets paid for his opinions. What is he saying, that Americans will be so enamored of Cheney's machismo as a fearsome bird hunter that his popularity will increase, even though he used such poor gun safety that he could have killed the guy if he'd had a 12-gauge instead of a 28? What, exactly, does Jonah find in the whole story that is complimentary to Cheney and that could result in higher positives?

The International Hunter Education Association says, "The most common causes of hunting accidents, according to Wentz, include: failing to correctly identify a target; careless handling of the firearm; the victim being out of the shooter's line of sight; the victim moving into the line of fire; the shooter stumbling and falling; and failing to check beyond the target."

Only one of the cited causes involves responsibility on the part of the victim -- that of moving into the line of fire. All the others involve the shooter. From the published accounts, Whittington did not move into the line of fire. He approached Cheney from behind, Cheney whirled around to shoot his bird, and Whittington was shot instead. Therefore, Cheney is fully and totally responsible for the incident, and it is unconscionable and inexplicable to me why the media continues to throw blame on the victim.

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Yes indeedy, Director Goss, It is unconscionable to expose classified information that might risk the lives of American spies and compromise national security. So what have you got to say about high government officials blowing the cover of a covert CIA operative working on tracking weapons of mass destruction and zeroing in on Iran?

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The Bush administration and its Department of Justice are desperate to catch and convict somebody, ANYBODY for terrorist activity to distract the American voter from the fact that Bush has failed to make good on his boast to catch Osama Bin Laden and the Al Qaeda members responsible for 9/11. Just as the invasion of Iraq was a misfire in the "war on terror" (the old joke, "the Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, so let's invade Switzerland" comes to mind), show trials for low-level thugs are supposed to convince us that our Grand Old Papa, Dubya, has strapped on his six-shooters and is gunning for the bad guys to protect all us chil'ren. It's all theater with Rove and his minions, it's script and production values -- they have no real talent for, or indeed interest in, governing, policy or justice. It reminds me of the bad old days when ad agency hacks like H.R. Haldeman, Ron Ziegler, Dwight Chapin and others I can't remember had the run of the Nixon White House. Notice to America: when a politician has as his top advisers masters of public relations instead of subject matter experts, run the other way as fast as you can.

But I digress.

Dahlia Lathwick points out that the Bush administration has learned nothing about "overbilling a prisoner's capture from the embarrassment over [Hamdi's] detention," about "distorting the evidence from the embarrassement over Jose Padilla's detention," about "overzealous prosecution from the...Detroit 'sleeper cell' trial."

If Moussaoui, Padilla, Hamdi, and the whole Detroit sleeper cell really are ranking senior members of al-Qaida, I'm for trying them by closed military commission. But if they are merely what they appear to be—low-level terror thugs willing to die for Osama Bin Laden—they should be tried as such. Instead of puffing up the evidence to support equally puffed-up charges, prosecutors could charge them with precisely the crimes they've committed: as low-level foot soldiers in the war on terror.

Consider the benefits of trying Moussaoui as a mere terrorist, rather than as a perpetrator of 9/11: For one thing, his trial would appear fair, not just to the defendant, who might actually recognize himself in the indictment, but to the world, who would see that, when the charges actually correspond to the crime, the American court system works quite well. Consider, also, the message it would send to other lowly foot soldiers in al-Qaida (who might also recognize themselves in the indictment). "We don't just go after the ringleaders. We go after, and get, everyone, including the bumbling bottom feeders." That might persuade some sleepers to stay asleep.

It's tempting to argue that the Western justice system just doesn't work when it comes to catching terrorists; that we should just, I suppose, round 'em up and shoot 'em instead. But let's give open court the old college try first. Let's go in and try to prove what we know to be true, instead of what we merely wish we could avenge.

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What's good for Dubya and Goss ain't good for the CIA...or America, for that matter.

The CIA’s top counter-terrorism official was fired last week because he opposed detaining Al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons abroad, sending them to other countries for interrogation and using forms of torture such as “water boarding”, intelligence sources have claimed.
Porter Goss, who was appointed head of the CIA in August 2004 with a mission to “clean house”, has been angered by a series of leaks from CIA insiders, including revelations about “black sites” in Europe where top Al-Qaeda detainees were said to have been held.
Goss is believed to have blamed Grenier for allowing leaks to occur on his watch.

Since the appointment of Goss, the CIA has lost almost all its high-level directors amid considerable turmoil.

AB “Buzzy” Krongard, a former executive director of the CIA who resigned shortly after Goss’s arrival, said the leaks were unlikely to stop soon, despite proposals to subject officers to more lie detector tests.

Krongard said it was up to President George Bush to stop the rot. “The agency has only one client: the president of the United States,” he said. “The reorganisation is the way this president wanted it. If he is unwilling to reform it, the agency will go on as it is.”

“History will judge how good an idea it was to destroy the teams and the programmes that were in place.”

Let's see, just how many formerly effectively operating institutions does that make now that the Bush administration has destroyed? Well, there's FEMA, of course. Then there's the U.S. military (read this post on Now, in a declared effort to reform and improve the CIA, Bush has made it less effective, more political, and fired or chased away most of the experienced senior officials who actually know how to gather intelligence that means something and have some shred of decent American values.

How can we afford three more years of these guys? And how on earth are we going to be able to fix their mess even if we vote the buggers out?

Hat tip to Bad Attitudes Buck.

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BushCo is trying to do it to us again. If they can't get their policies in place publicly, they'll just go with the secret agenda. Read Mallaby:

In sum, health savings accounts are not just about ending the tax bias in favor of traditional company health plans. The administration is proposing a new kind of 401(k), and using it as an inducement to quit low-deductible insurance. Rich people, who gain most from the tax breaks on saving, will be first to sign on; healthy people, who subsidize sicker people in company health plans, will be right behind them. Their exit may force traditional health plans into a death spiral. The loss of the subsidy from healthy workers will drive premiums up, which will drive more healthy people into health savings accounts, which will drive premiums up further.

The State of the Union address (blue tie, white shirt) contained barely a mention of health savings accounts, but don't let that fool you. Because these accounts are being pushed modestly, with no grand Social Security-style talk of remaking the social contract, there's a chance that they'll be seen as just one of various bewildering tax tweaks and slip quietly through Congress. But the proposal cries out for a debate very much like last year's -- a debate about personal saving vs. collective insurance.
But when you talk to administration officials, they express remarkably few doubts. They believed in the ownership society last year; they still believe in it this year. They believe in individual choice; they distrust collective programs. They don't worry too much about the risks to the budget. Or to distributional justice. Or to existing safety nets.

It's hard not to conclude that Bush-Cheney and their Rethuglican supporters truly don't believe poor and middle-class people deserve to live other than as necessary labor for their rightful masters, the corporate elite. A careful examination of their policies that includes those proposed but not yet active, leads one to suspect that they are deliberately trying to establish a new order in this country, an exaggerated version of John Edwards' "two Americas," where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and more and more of the middle class is driven into the latter category.

Who believes that a majority of Americans have an extra $400 per month sitting around that they can stash into a health savings account, anyway? Don't these guys get it? Sure they do. And they want to get more. That's why they'll keep pushing budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy at the same time they propose eliminating small but critically important benefits for widows and orphans.

When you hear the words "class warfare," remember who it is that's waging the war and on whom.

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Update on my daughter Skye's condition:

We took her home yesterday from the hospital! And if I know my girl, she'll start to rapidly recover now that she's out of that dark, depressing environment.

Thanks to all of you who have expressed your concern and included us in your prayers. It's been a revelation just how much of a community we have established here on the Web. I heard a wonderful commercial for the Susan G. Komen Foundation the other day on the radio. In it, a woman said, "I used to wonder when someone would come along who would make a difference. Then I realized that I am someone."