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February 8, 2006

Hmmm, I thought Bush didn't know who Abramoff was?

The emails written by Abramoff were addressed to Kim Eisler, the national editor of Washingtonian magazine. The Washingtonian recently reported on the existence of several photographs showing Abramoff and Bush together. Eisler is also the author of Revenge of the Pequots, a book about tribal politics for which Abramoff was interviewed.

In the emails, Abramoff describes meeting Bush "in almost a dozen settings" [...]

The White House has continually downplayed the relationship between Abramoff and President Bush. At a January 26 press conference, President Bush said "You know, I, frankly, don't even remember having my picture taken with the guy. I don't know him."

But according to Eisler, Abramoff told him that the two have met almost a dozen times, shared jokes, and spoke about details of Abramoff's family:


Categories: Blogs
  • Yeah, we've had some db issues the last couple of days. It's not a repeat problem, it's new problem after new problem. We're working on it.

  • Is it any wonder the GOP is the party of racists? Not every Republican is a racist. But the opposite (every racist is a Republican) is just about right. The legacy of the politics of division and the "Southern Strategy".

  • Jane Hamsher on Time's disgraceful "reporting" on the Plame Affair is a must read. So is her take on hatchet-woman Kate O'Beirne.

  • Josh has more on political opportunist Heather Wilson's sudden concern about Bush's illegal spying. Of course, Wilson also expressed outrage at the Abu Ghraib scandal, then voted against efforts to investigate. So let's see if she follows through, or whether this is just another cynical election-year ploy to curry favor with a district far more moderate than she is.

  • Former Chris Matthews producer getting paid speaking gigs on "reaching conservative voters". He must've learned quite a bit from his tenure with Matthews.

  • 1,570 contributors to Ciro. It'd be nice to break 2,000. In addition to financing the election just under four weeks away, that milestone would help Ciro generate more media attention (good) and offline contributors inspired by the netroots activism and media attention. It's a nice little circle.

  • Tim Russert tries to intimidate college newspaper columnist. Pathetic.

  • Boehner -- new boss, same as the old boss. And an oopsie:

    When asked about the contacts between his office and Abramoff's, including a dinner Boehner attended in May 1996, Boehner told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday: "Some of his (Abramoff's) underlings worked with some low-level employees of my office. I'm telling you I never met the man."

    Boehner spokesman Don Seymour said Tuesday that Boehner now does recall meeting Abramoff once, in "a brief, incidental conversation at a widely attended event that he estimates was about five years ago."

  • That darn Antony, he had to turn Julius Caesar's funeral into a political circus!

  • You wondering how bad Roberts and Alito will be? These water-rights cases will be the first indication.

  • Rasmussen has new polls on the Maine governor's race (bad), the Wisconsin governor's race (pretty good), and the Alabama governor's race (better than expected).

Categories: Blogs
This morning's Band of Brothers rally on the National Mall in Washington, DC was AMAZING. Cleland was absolutely inspiring. And it was just tremendous to see so many Fighting Dems arrayed together. I'll have some pictures later.

But I also wanted to tell you some very exciting news: Two more veterans are coming to tonight's fundraiser at the Frederick Douglass House (320 A Street NE, 6pm-8pm). You may have heard of them: John Kerry and Wesley Clark. I'm extremely excited. If you were wavering about coming, now you have no excuses! See you there!

(Click here for more details about tonight's event.)

P.S. Check out Puckish's diary here - she was there at this morning's event.

Update: More at the DNC's blog.

Categories: Blogs

February 7, 2006

Seriously, can this administration be straight up about anything? Anything at all?

On paper, President Bush's budget seems to meet his promise of cutting the federal deficit in half by the time he leaves office.

But in practice, the budget is much less realistic than it appears because it omits nearly a half-trillion dollars in costs that are likely to be incurred over the next five years.

The omissions include any costs for the war in Iraq after 2007, any additional reconstruction costs for New Orleans after 2006 and any plan for preventing a huge expansion in the alternative minimum tax after the end of this year.

And because Mr. Bush's blueprint is limited to the next five years, it offers little guidance on how he would restrain the soaring costs of Medicare and Social Security as the nation's 70 million-plus baby boomers begin to retire in 2008.

If all of the White House proposals and projections are taken at face value, the budget deficit will climb to $423 billion this fiscal year and then shrink to $208 billion by 2009.

That would fulfill Mr. Bush's promise to halve the deficit, but only if he manages to avoid the gremlins that have bedeviled his previous plans.

In addition to costs that will assuredly be included in further budgets -- the wars, AMT reform, and Gulf Coast reconstruction -- there's the matter of budget cuts that have been met with hostility from key Republicans.

From the subscription-only CQ Today (2/6):

The $2.77 trillion fiscal 2007 budget proposal would cut non-defense discretionary spending for the second straight year, saving about $15 billion by eliminating or significantly reducing 141 programs, including 42 education programs and a food subsidy for poor seniors.

Bush also proposed saving $65.2 billion over five years by slowing the growth of entitlement spending, including $35.9 billion in Medicare cuts [...]

"It is scandalous to provide insufficient funding for our nation's two greatest capital investments, health and education," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, saying he would not support a budget resolution that included such cuts [...]

Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, cautioned that cutting Medicare and Medicaid this year could be especially difficult, noting that achieving $11 billion in savings from the two programs in last year's package "wasn't easy."

Moderate Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, expressed surprise and dismay at the nearly $50 billion in cuts over five years proposed from Medicare and Medicaid, including $12.2 billion in Medicaid savings that the White House is seeking by regulation rather than legislation.

"I have long fought to protect access to Medicare and Medicaid, and as the budget process moves forward, I will continue to fight against any cuts that would impact those in greatest need," Snowe said. She and Grassley again took aim at a $10 billion stabilization fund for insurance companies included as part of the Medicare drug benefit, which they said should be eliminated.

Bush's $65 billion savings package proposes to pick up $16.7 billion by increasing pension insurance premiums paid by corporations. It also carves $5 billion from agricultural subsidies as well as smaller amounts from Medicaid, food stamps and federal employee health benefits. The plan also includes $4 billion from opening up Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, a dim prospect as long as it is coupled with the other cuts.

Senate Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., meanwhile, criticized the budget for "unfairly" targeting farmers for savings.

"We will continue to work for deficit reduction that will not burden farmers, particularly after the high fuel costs and extreme weather of the 2005 crop year," Chambliss said.

And then, for good measure, we see once again how much this administration loves the troops:

Bush's budget also assumes $43 billion in various fee increases over five years, including many that Congress has rejected in the past. Among these are higher charges for soldiers, veterans, air travelers and pensions. Higher aviation security fees would raise $9.7 billion over five years, and veterans would face $6.8 billion in new fees on medical care.

And this can't be good news for GOP efforts in Minnesota, where even Coleman is outraged at the budget:

Even the state’s Republican U.S. senator says Minnesotans would feel federal cuts if President Bush’s budget proposal passes.

“While fiscal discipline must be our priority, there are some places where the president’s budget either cuts too deeply or fails to recognize the positive impact of a program, such as our agriculture program, Pell grants, Medicaid and Medicare and the Community Development Block Grants program,” said Sen. Norm Coleman, usually a Bush ally. “I will urge my colleagues to proceed cautiously and measure twice.”

Oh, and the Army Corps of Engineers budget has been cut again. Sen. Vitter (R-LA) is outraged about that.

These sorts of cuts in the past are what led to cutting corners. And that led to catastrophic flooding in New Orleans. The Administration has to remember that most of that flooding was a man-made, not natural, disaster.”

Categories: Blogs
Reading through the transcript of Attorney General Gonzales's testimony and reflecting on the utter ineptitude of our nation's top lawyer, I feel almost sorry for Gonzales. Almost:

BIDEN: How will we know, General, when this war it over?

GONZALES: I presume the straightforward answer, Senator, is that when Al Qaida is destroyed and it no longer poses a threat to the United States.

Whenever that may be, we know it's not today. We know we're still at war today. We know we'll probably be at war still tomorrow. And so we know it still continues today.

BIDEN: The truth is, there is no definition of when we're going to know whether we've won, because Al Qaida, as the president points out, has mutated into many other organizations that are not directly dealing with bin Laden and are free agents themselves.

BIDEN: Is that correct?

GONZALES: It is certainly true that there are a number of terrorist groups who share many of the same objectives of Al Qaida in terms of destroying America.

BIDEN: So as long as any of them are there, I assume you would assert you have this plenary authority.

GONZALES: Well, Senator, obviously if Congress were to take some kind of action, and say the president no longer has the authority to engage in electronic surveillance of the enemy, then I think that would put us into the third part of Justice Jackson's three-part test, and that would present a much harder question as to whether or not the president has the authority.

Putting aside the Rumsfeldian "known unknowns" aspect of Gonzales's interpretation of the WoT, um, didn't Congress "take some kind of action" and explicitly say that "the president no longer has the authority to engage in electronic surveillance of the enemy" when it enacted FISA?

That's what happens when you spin like crazy, folks. Sometimes, you end up bumping up against the facts.

Categories: Blogs
[Promoted from the diaries by SusanG. Note some problems reported with CSPAN.]

This blog is to log in comments and impressions about the funeral now on C-Span and on CNN.  

If you are at work, you can access on the C-Span webpage.

Lines are still forming to view Mrs. King's body.  But thousands will not let her go.  

Copy of the funeral program is here.

Bless you, Mrs. King.

Update [2006-2-7 13:25:28 by blksista]: C-Span 1 and 2 now showing King funeral.

Categories: Blogs
From the Senate NSA hearings yesterday, via Crooks and Liars:

Gonzales:  President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale.

Rumor has it that President Washington also suggested legislation leading to the Do-Not-Call list and penalties for unsolicited commercial spam flooding your inbox. Lincoln, as we all know, issued several white papers on the admissibility of DNA evidence in court and guidelines for stem cell research. And President Wilson? Let's just say Mr. Bush wasn't the first to voice concern over that human/animal hybrid problem.

Categories: Blogs

Top Ten Surprising Facts About Osama Bin Laden:

10.  Plans to release next threatening videotape in high-definition

9.  In the seventies, had a gay fling with the blind sheikh

8.  Secretly likes Kosher pickles

7.  Middle name: Duane

6.  Stole "Death to America" catchphrase from Fran Tarkenton

5.  Got cave hooked up with Sirius so he can listen to Howard Stern

4.  Knows all the words to the Black Eyed Peas song "My Humps"

3.  After Colts loss to Steelers, declared jihad on Mike Vanderjagt

2.  Has a bumper sticker that reads, "Don't blame me, I voted for Kerry"

1.  The son-of-a-bitch is still alive

---Late Show with David Letterman

And whose fault is that, I wonder.  Cheers and Jeers starts in There's Moreville... [Swoosh!!]  RIGHTNOW!  [Gong!!]

Categories: Blogs
We are a nation conceived in crises, forged under the looming threat of imminent destruction, by Constitutional Craftsmen who put their heads on the chopping block for a piece of paper. Since our fiery red, white, and blue birth, we have been recast many times in that same unforgiving furnace of burning hostility and unending global warfare; Redcoats; Napoleon; the Blue and the Gray; Mustard Gas; Kamikaze; Duck & Cover; Chosen Reservoir; JFK; My Lai; Apocalypse Now; Oklahoma City; Mutual Assured Destruction.

It's scary stuff, made all the more frightening because it really happened. But we survived and freedom spread.

In the Revolutionary War the world's greatest superpower landed large forces on American shores and marched into battle against a poorly trained collection of farmers and tradesmiths armed with muskets. After being beaten, at great cost to ourselves in both blood and treasure, the same nation did it again in the War of 1812; this time they succeeded in capturing Washington, DC., and burned much of it to the ground. Yet freedom spread.

In World War One, German forces attacked allied lines with poison gas killing thousands, some soldiers and civilians died quickly, some took years to succumb. But freedom spread.

In World War Two, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan, attacked the free world and communist states alike. In the Pacific, Pearl Harbor was decimated, and hundreds of suicide bombers in explosive laden planes gleefully smashed their human guided missiles into military and civilian targets for years. In Europe, the death camps opened, millions of Jews and other minorities were turned into slave labor to run the gas chambers and ovens, or to manufacture the weapons of war; and they were arguably lucky ones. That conflicted ended with the US and our allies victorious. And freedom spread.

Thus began the Cold War. The USSR and the US building ever more sophisticated methods of incinerating one another. Within just a few decades, each side could utterly destroy their opponent and much of the civilized world with the push of a button. But we prevailed, and freedom spread.

In that bloody light of conflicts past and won, as a son of parents who grew up in a Depression and the ensuing World War, and as a child of the Cold War, let me make this crystal clear: If you think you're going to scare me or my nation into reversing two hundred years of history, becoming a Police State, and subjecting ourselves to a tyrannical Overlord in the form of the President of the United States, then you damn well better come up with a significantly greater threat than that posed by a handful of religious maniacs armed with explosive belts and boxcutters.

Categories: Blogs

February 6, 2006

Ohio's filing deadline is just 10 days away (Feb. 16th). Unfortunately, we appear to have several holes in our lineup. Barry Welsh's Congressional race tracker site is a terrific resource. However, in some cases, it's over-inclusive, listing candidates whose names have been floated but who aren't necessarily running. Here are the problem districts:

OH-07: Sharen Neuhardt is not running. I am unsure of the status of Tony Bourne, another listed potential candidate, but his website appears to be down. Fortunately, a knowledgeable e-mailer tells me that a fellow named Dan Saks is planning on getting into the race. Hopefully this candidacy will in fact pan out.

OH-08: I haven't heard a peep about this CD, the home of the new GOP Majority Leader John Boehner. We need someone to run here so that we can keep pressure up on Boehner and make sure he stays linked to the GOP's corruption scandals. Yes, this is a super-red district, but simply running against the GOP's top guy ensures you'll get at least some media coverage.

OH-16: This is the district I'm most concerned about, particularly because it's the most viable of the three. The 16th CD has actually gotten a bit more Democratic recently: It went to Bush in 2000 by 11 points, but in 2004 by just 8 points. You may recall that this seat is held by Republican Ralph Regula, who demolished one-time blogosphere darling Jeff Seemann the last time out. (Regula won 67-33.)

Welsh's site lists Seemann as our candidate for this district once again, but this is very problematic:

  • Seemann's website isn't working.
  • His Blogspot blog hasn't been updated since 2004.
  • His TypePad blog hasn't been updated in over two months.
  • He never filed his final FEC report in 2004. An apparent proxy posting under Seemann's account claimed that he raised $130K in 2004. However, the reports he did file only cover some $60K in expenditures. If the $130K raised claim is true, that leaves $70,000 unaccounted for.
  • He has received a whopping six notices for his failure to file from the FEC, on 10/22/04, 12/17/04, 2/16/05, 5/2/05, 8/2/05 and 11/01/05.
  • He was fined $9,075 by the FEC in October of 2005 for his failure to file.
  • According to the DCCC's site, he has not yet filed to run.
  • In short, this is not the portrait of a responsible candidate. There is simply no way anyone will take you seriously if you're in arrears to the FEC and haven't even completed all your legally mandatory filings. Moreover, Seemann (with his $130K and broad netroots support) did only two points better than the Dem who ran in 2002 - and that guy didn't raise any money. The bottom line is that we need someone else to run in this district.

    Again I say, Ohio's filing deadline is right around the corner, and we're three candidates short. Given the toll that scandal has taken on the OH GOP, and the seemingly resurgent fortunes of the Ohio Democratic Party, it would be a tragedy if we let three Republican seats go uncontested. Hopefully we'll see some last-minute filings, because 2006 is the year to be a Dem in Ohio.

Categories: Blogs
Senator McCain is putting together a bipartisan task force to address lobbyingcorruption reform in Congress. Of course, when any Republican mentions the word "bipartisan" they really mean Republican and Joe Lieberman, which, in essence, isn't really bipartisan at all. True to form, ol' Joe has signed aboard McCain's task force, as has the reliable Democrat Ben Nelson. Today, an angry and vitriolic McCain express outrage that Senator Obama has refused to play in his bipartisan sandbox.

First, Obama's reasoned and articulate explanation for why he is declining to join the task force:

I know you have expressed an interest in creating a task force to further study and discuss these matters, but I and others in the Democratic Caucus believe the more effective and timely course is to allow the committees of jurisdiction to roll up their sleeves and get to work on writing ethics and lobbying reform legislation that a majority of the Senate can support.  Committee consideration of these matters through the normal course will ensure that these  issues are discussed in a public forum and that those within Congress, as well as those on the outside, can express their views, ensuring a thorough review of this matter.

And now, McCain's response, which reads like the wail of a screaming banshee:

Dear Senator Obama:

I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere. When you approached me and insisted that despite your leadership's preference to use the issue to gain a political advantage in the 2006 elections, you were personally committed to achieving a result that would reflect credit on the entire Senate and offer the country a better example of political leadership, I concluded your professed concern for the institution and the public interest was genuine and admirable. Thank you for disabusing me of such notions with your letter to me dated February 2, 2006, which explained your decision to withdraw from our bipartisan discussions. I'm embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. Again, sorry for the confusion, but please be assured I won't make the same mistake again.

While I go off to wash my eyes (which certainly need a good bleaching after reading that trash), please reflect upon the real purpose of McCain's "bipartisan" task force, which is to whitewash a purely Republican scandal. Maverick McCain is just pissy that Obama's not stupid enough to meekly follow along while McCain carries out Bush's promise at the SOTU (about the only Bush promise that has survived the 24-hour retraction deadline he's imposed on almost every SOTU proposal).

McCain continues by calling Obama a political opportunist (projection, anyone?) and claiming Obama isn't acting in the public interest:

As I noted, I initially believed you shared that goal. But I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party's effort to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman Senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness. Again, I have been around long enough to appreciate that in politics the public interest isn't always a priority for every one of us. Good luck to you, Senator.

Obama, bless the man's restraint, sets the record straight in more gentlemanly terms than McCain afforded him:

[I] am puzzled by your response to my recent letter.  Last Wednesday morning, you called to invite me to your meeting that afternoon.  I changed my schedule so I could attend the meeting.  Afterwards, you thanked me several times for attending the meeting, and we left pledging to work together.

As you will recall, I told everyone present at the meeting that my caucus insisted that the consideration of any ethics reform proposal go through the regular committee process.  You didn't indicate any opposition to this position at the time, and I wrote the letter to reiterate this point, as well as the fact that I thought S. 2180 should be the basis for a bipartisan solution.

I confess that I have no idea what has prompted your response.  But let me assure you that I am not interested in typical partisan rhetoric or posturing.  The fact that you have now questioned my sincerity and my desire to put aside politics for the public interest is regrettable but does not in any way diminish my deep respect for you nor my willingness to find a bipartisan solution to this problem.


Barack Obama
United States Senator

A freshman Democrat shows class, a senior Republican acts likes an ass.

Categories: Blogs

BIDEN: Thank you very much.
General, how has this revelation damaged the program?

I'm almost confused by it but, I mean, it seems to presuppose that these very sophisticated Al Qaida folks didn't think we were intercepting their phone calls.

I mean, I'm a little confused. How did it damage this?

GONZALES: Well, Senator, I would first refer to the experts in the Intel Committee who are making that statement, first of all. I'm just the lawyer.

And so, when the director of the CIA says this should really damage our intel capabilities, I would defer to that statement. I think, based on my experience, it is true -- you would assume that the enemy is presuming that we are engaged in some kind of surveillance.

But if they're not reminded about it all the time in the newspapers and in stories, they sometimes forget.


Al Qaida isn't that stupid. This is called "grasping at straws".

(From the Stakeholder.)

Update: Digby explains how it all shakes out. Very plausible, actually.

Categories: Blogs
In the immediate days and weeks after 9/11 - we heard the dates repeated today in the Senate hearings: September 14, September 18, early October of 2001 - this nation was in fear of immediate, continuous, coordinated attacks. As a people we were reeling in shock, fear, rage and grief. We were understandably reacting from our place in the midst of a severe national emergency, like a nation with its house on fire.

And when your house is on fire, you grant privileges to the rescue personnel you would never allow under any other circumstances: permission for total strangers to enter your house, whisk your baby out of sight to safety, toss your belongings out the window, hose down your Reniors, hustle you off to the nearest Red Cross center. We granted intrusions into our lives in those shaky days right after 9/11 (appropriately so, in light of possible other follow-up attacks) that we would never allow under any other circumstances.

But we are now in a preventive phase and have been for several years. The questions we're grappling with as a country now are not about putting out a current fire; rather, they focus on any and all ways to avert another one. To carry out the fire metaphor: We know there is an arsonist in the neighborhood who wishes us ill. The powers we granted to the rescue workers during the fire are no longer appropriate, and at any rate would not yield the results we need. After all, four years after a home fire, we don't allow firefighters to roust us from our beds at 3 AM, to kick down our doors, to destroy our property in the name of "rescuing" us when there are only rumors of planned flames some vague time in the future.

What struck me today listening to Gonzales was that he is relying on us - and emphatically trying to rouse in us - a regression to that "Oh, my God! The house is on fire! Again!" mentality. Leahy did a nice job of cutting the attorney general short when Gonzales started his warm-up to panic pitch, beginning to evoke the dreaded day in verbal sketches clearly designed to make us see those planes flying into the towers over and over and over again. Leahy deserves a great deal of credit for shutting down that attempt to once again reduce us to a primitive, quivering state with his brusque You don't need to recap for me. I was there. We all were there. The American people were there. He couldn't have signaled sanity more clearly: That was then, this is now, and we're having a very serious constitutional discussion here, so knock off the scare tactics.

Taking the most extreme powers granted under emergency conditions - and interpreting even those powers as extremely as possible - the current administration has undertaken a vast backfill operation. On 9/11, they jumped to the very bottom of the civil liberties-limitation ravine and have systematically shored up, over the past four-and-a-half years what I'm now thinking of as Operation Backfill. For example, in the past few days I've run across repeated accounts of how they considered shooting down Flight 93 on the fateful day. Well, if we were willing to do that, the reasoning seems to go, what's wrong with torture, surveillance, killing without trial an individual suspected of plotting terror? Isn't granting the administration the right to shoot down a plane with a majority of innocent civilians aboard evidence enough that we can undertake namby-pamby warrantless surveillance? In other words, we already turned over, in our panic after 9/11, the right to do anything - anything - to protect us. Any objections we make now to lesser violations than loss of life (which we implicitly agreed to), the administration intimates, are silly.

Aside from continuing actions that are appropriate during an emergency - an attack happening this very minute - there's been a dilution and spreading of definitional terms on the proverbial slippery slope as well, making the slope not only steeper, but wider. Consider how we've gone from discussing a foreign terrorist piloting a plane to foreigners suspected of actively planning to pilot a plane to foreigners vaguely wishing they could pilot a plane into a landmark. And notice too the smudge between foreign and domestic, as well as the intentional blur from known terrorist to suspected terrorist to anyone who aids a terrorist to anyone who is "affiliated" with a terrorist (with "affiliation" totally defined by the executive branch), and from Al Qaeda to Al Qaeda enablers to Al Queda affiliates to people who mighta sorta kinda agree with Al Qaeda to American citizens who don't agree that the proper response to Al Qaeda's attack was invading Iraq (like Quakers).

What we are faced with is, as numerous observers have pointed out, is a perpetual, never-ending war, kind of a general war declared on "bad stuff" - bad people who think bad thoughts about America. This is declared to be an emergency situation, and one that will obviously never end because people will always resent and have bad feelings about the most powerful nation on earth, and thus the crisis is deemed - conveniently for the executive branch - eternal.

In short, this administration wants to argue that we will never, ever, ever be in a rational, analytical prevention phase, but more of one in which an arson unit is trying to come up with detection and preventive standards while the roof is raging on fire above their heads.

I'm not buying it.

Someone's got to tell Mr. Bush the fire's out and that what this country needs more than boogeyman visuals from its attorney general are firm, well-reasoned, coordinated, legal policies to ensure we don't catch fire again. Don't like the surveillance restrictions in FISA, Mr. Attorney General? Well, now's as good a time as any to offer calm rationalizations in front of the cameras of this country, using old, verifiable, truthful instances (the Brooklyn Bridge plot doesn't fly, Mr. Gonzales) or clear-cut, specfic hypotheticals in which these "backfilled" rights violations should be legalized to spare us an attack. Then we can have a national conversation about what rights we're willing to give up in the trade-off for personal security. Simply relying on crisis-granted powers - and even those considered by most legal scholars as illegal - is not selling me.

Categories: Blogs
While Gonzales takes his break, caption this Reuters photo.

"How much of what I'm saying is true? About this much. Mebee less. Mebee much less."

Categories: Blogs
More questions. Let's cut to the chase.

  1.  Yes or no, is the President using this program to spy on his political enemies?

  2.  Yes or no, is the President using this program to spy on the communications of groups critical of White House policy?

  3.  Evidence has emerged that the FBI and government Joint Terrorism Task Forces have kept files on peaceful citizen groups like the Quakers, Greenpeace, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, PETA, and the American Civil Liberties Union.  If the Joint Terrorism Task Force, as evidence has shown, has kept files on such peaceful domestic groups, does that constitute a "link" to terrorism which would bring these peaceful groups under the umbrella of the domestic spying program?

  4. Yes or no, is the program used to spy on members of Congress, either in their domestic or international communications?

  5. In Katz, the Supreme Court stated "The Fourth Amendment does not contemplate the executive officers of Government as neutral and disinterested magistrates...[] those charged with this investigative and prosecutorial duty should not be the sole judges of when to utilize constitutionally sensitive means in pursuing their tasks."  Why then, does the executive branch believe that NSA staff can act as neutral and disinterested magistrates? Also, what makes you believe the Supreme Court would approve of the Executive Branch being the sole judge of the constitutionality of its own actions?

  6.  You hid this program from Congress. You hid it from the Intelligence Committees, save eight members of Congress who could not take notes at your "briefings" and could not speak of the program to anyone, including attorneys. You hid it from the super-secret FISA court. The key question, Mr. Gonzales, is what do you have to hide?

By the way, Feingold is doing a great job.

Categories: Blogs
Some questions for Gonzales:

  1.  The Washington Post, citing current and former government officials, and private sector individuals recruited by the government to aid in the domestic spying program, reports that that the program as implemented is indeed a data-mining program, one which spies on thousands of Americans and sorts through hundreds of thousands of American communications. Is this an accurate representation of the program or are current government officials, former government officials, and private sector individuals lying?

  2.  After September 11th, the Bush administration began a program called 'Total Information Awareness' or, alternatively, the "Terrorism Awareness Program." The program used highly sophisticated and far-reaching data collection technologies.  Out of constitutional concerns about the privacy of American citizens, Congress explicitly banned the Terrorist Information Awareness Program on Sept. 23, 2003, and also banned any similar program.   The software technologies used in the banned program were transferred to the NSA.  If this is the same or similar program that was explicitly banned by Congress(and you may not be able to answer that, that may be something for the Intelligence Committee to resolve) but if it is such a program, does the President's repeated renewal of the program break the law?

  3.  The General Accounting Office reported in 2004 that the government is using or will be using 199 data-mining programs, of which 122 collect personal information. With the disclosure of this domestic spying program, that number reached 200.  Yes or no, without disclosing the nature of such programs, are there other data-mining or surveillance programs which have not been reported to Congress, which are not included in the GAO report, and which the President implemented as a response to 9/11?

  4.  You state that "we are at war" and the President is exercising his wartime powers. Do you interpret the AUMF to be a formal declaration of war by Congress?  If not, do you believe the President has the authority to unilaterally declare us to be at war?

  5.  The chief of the FISA court, both Judge Lamberth in 2002 and current chief Judge Kollar-Kotelly, were briefed on the program and expressed grave reservations about its legality. Why did you not inform the remaining members of the FISA court?

  6.  The Washington Post reports that in 2002, when then Chief Judge Lamberth first learned of the program, "he agreed to a system in which prosecutors may apply for a domestic warrant after warrantless eavesdropping on the same person's overseas communications. The annual number of such applications, a source said, has been in the single digits."  Can you explain what system Judge Lamberth established to accomodate you needs, and why you decided to use his accomodation only a handful of times per year?

Categories: Blogs
(Bumped -- kos)

To catch up a bit on where we're at in the hearings, we've heard Gonzales say, essentially "We're not spying on al Qaeda, we're spying on Americans." Interestingly, he says that the outcry against such surveillance would be worse that what is going on now. Huh?

I think Gonzales has it backwards. Democrats have criticized Bush for NOT going after Al Qaida. At Tora Bora. By diverting for the Iraq Debacle. For not finishing the job in Afghanistan. For not protecting the "homeland."

For getting an F from the 9/11 Commission.

The Bush Administration is failing us in the fight against Al Qaida AND demolishing the Constitution at the same time.

As for Gonzales' justifications thus far, as SusanG says, "I'm detecting NOT a slippery slope, but a backfill operation."

Feingold up now. Reiterates Bush's "Pre-1776 view of the world."

Update [2006-2-6 14:10:24 by Armando]:This is what Feingold is referring to:

Does the president, in your opinion, have the authority, acting as commander in chief, to authorize warrantless searches of Americans' homes and wiretaps of their conversations in violation of the criminal and foreign intelligence surveillance statutes of this country?

GONZALES: Senator, the August 30th memo has been withdrawn. It has been rejected, including that section regarding the commander in chief authority to ignore the criminal statutes.

. . . And so what we're really discussing is a hypothetical situation that...

FEINGOLD: Judge Gonzales, I've asked a broader question. I'm asking whether, in general, the president has constitutional authority -- does he at least in theory have the authority to authorize violations of the criminal law when there are duly enacted statutes, simply because he's commander in chief?

FEINGOLD: Does he have that power?

GONZALES: Senator, in my judgment, you phrase it as sort of a hypothetical situation. I would have to know what is the national interest that the president may have to consider.

What I'm saying is, it is impossible to me, based upon the question as you've presented it to me, to answer that question.

I can say is that there is a presumption of constitutionality with respect to any statute passed by Congress. I will take an oath to defend the statutes.

And to the extent that there is a decision made to ignore a statute, I consider that a very significant decision and one that I would personally be involved with, I commit to you on that, and one we would take with a great deal of care and seriousness.

FEINGOLD: Well, that sounds to me like the president still remains above the law.

GONZALES: No, sir.

Gonzales NOW says the President's power as King as Commander in Chief trumps the law.

He is, and always has been, a liar in service of BushCo.

He is, and always was, unfit to be Attorney General.

Categories: Blogs
Forward Together PAC
2005 total: $3.3 million
COH on 12/31/05: $2.4 million

Heartland PAC (not a federal PAC)
2005 total: $1.6 million
COH on 12/31/05: $1 million

All America PAC
2005 total: $379K
COH on 12/31/05: $819K

Keeping America's Promise PAC
2005 total: $1.4 million
COH on 12/31/05: $488K

Progressive Patriots PAC
2005 total: $595K
COH on 12/31/05: $289K

Unite Our States PAC
2005 total: $539K
COH on 12/31/05: $240K

2005 total: $113K
COH on 12/31/05: $71K

2005 total: $383K
COH on 12/31/05: $48K

One America Committee
2005 total: $625K
COH on 12/31/05: $23K

This is money that these candidates will theoretically spread around contested races this year, building goodwill and loyalty as they gear up their presidential bids.

Categories: Blogs

February 3, 2006

  • Ahem: Give Ciro Rodriguez a hand. There's the generic netroots ActBlue page, but if you'd prefer, you can go through the Atrios page or the Firedoglake page. At the end of the day, the money all goes to the same place -- Ciro HQ. Oh, and people ask about the $0.01. Really, that's no longer necessary -- the important thing is that campaigns realize where their money is coming from -- special and corporate interests or regular people. And only regular people give $25, or $50, or $100 contributions.

  • Fighting Dem Vet Chris Carney on the Band of Brothers event in DC next Wednesday.

  • The Department of Homeland Security prepares kids, and King George, for the next disaster.

  • Sallie Mae and John Boehner, sitting in a tree...

  • The iPod accessory market is now a $1 billion industry. That's a lot of muscle vested in keeping the iPod the premier digital music in the world. Meanwhile, USA Today gives us some obvious iPod workplace etiquette tips.

  • Reddhedd updates us on today's Libby hearing.

  • New Yorkers in the house can check out Laughing Liberally tomorrow night, from the folks who brought us Drinking Liberally. The long-term plan is to get a traveling political comedy troupe. Maybe even get them to do YearlyKos?

Categories: Blogs
A series of cartoons, depicting the Prophet Mohammed, has sparked an uproar of protest from Muslims around the world. Today, Iraq's top Shiite cleric joined in condeming the cartoons.  The cartoons were initially published in September, but were recently republished in a Danish paper. Other papers in turn printed the cartoons. The publication caused such an uproar in the Muslim world, that numerous editors who chose to publish the cartoons in their respective publications have been fired.

Some context for the printing of the cartoons is needed. Danish writer Kare Bluitgen wrote a children's book about Mohammed, but was unable to find any artists willing to illustrate his children's book.  Clerics have interpreted the Quran as forbidding depictions of the Prophet Muhammad and other major religious figures to prevent idolatry.

More below...

Categories: Blogs