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December 19, 2005

A few weeks ago, Illinois had a looming deadline and several unchallenged congressional Republicans. That deadline has passed, and just one Republican in Illinois lacks a Democratic challenger (Ray LaHood in IL18).

Not perfect, but better than things might've been. Congratulations to everyone who made that happen.

Next stop will be tougher -- Texas. Texas has a January 2, 2006 filing deadline, and still eight Republicans lack challengers.

Louis Gohmert (TX1)
Ted Poe (TX2)
Mike Conaway (TX11)
Kay Granger (TX12)
Mac Thornberry (TX13)
Henry Bonilla (TX23)
Michael Burgess (TX26)
Pete Sessions (TX32)

After Texas, West Virginia has a 1/28/06 deadline, but the lone Republican rep has a challenger. Then Kentucky on 1/31/06, which has two Republicans running unopposed -- Geoff Davis (KY4) and Hal Rogers (KY5).

In February 2006, we have deadlines in New Mexico and Ohio, both which have uncontested Republicans. In New Mexico, Steve Pearce (NM2) needs a challenger, and in Ohio we need candidates in the open seat in OH4 (Oxley is quitting) and challengers in OH8 (John Boehner) and OH12 (Pat Tiberi).

I'm still hoping Ben Konop runs again in OH4.

Overall, we've still got 80 unopposed Republicans.

Categories: Blogs
While you may have been mesmerized by Bush's tapdancing at this morning's press conference, the Senate has been debating very important pieces of legislation before its holiday break, including drilling in the wildlife refuge.  Watch the debate live here. Democrats have been particularly powerful in pointing out the GOP's dirty tricks in attaching the provision to the defense bill.  Also, in case you missed yesterday's debate in the House, Democrats were on fire.  Here is an excerpt from Rep. James McGovern's speech (D-MA):

  As we gather here today, the Sunday before Christmas and Chanukah, it is the process and the way the Republican leadership are running this House that I strongly object to. These last few days, in fact the entire year, I think is a great example of how not to run a government.

   Sometime today we expect to consider and vote on the Defense appropriations bill. No one will have time to read and examine the final product. We will not know what last-minute goodies are tucked into the bill. Mr. Speaker, we read news reports that drilling in the Arctic will be in the bill, but we do not know if ANWR is included because we have not yet seen it. And what drilling in Alaska's wilderness has to do with the Pentagon is beyond my comprehension, but there are some in the Republican leadership who do not care about the regular process and want to tuck this in the Defense bill because they know it cannot be enacted on its own. [...]

   Mr. Speaker, whether you are a liberal, a conservative, or whether you want more government or less, I think most of us would agree that whatever government we have must be competent and responsive to the people. Now, the Republicans control all of government. They control the House of Representatives, they control the Senate, and they control the White House. It is clear that they are unable to be effective stewards of our government.

More on the flip...

Categories: Blogs
In this morning's interview with Katie Couric on the Today show, Couric asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales what authorized the President to conduct warrantless spying on Americans.  Gonzales trotted out the "inherent authority" excuse, one that has been effectively shattered by Armando here and here. But then he also said that the President also was authorized by Congress to commit this act.  Specifically, he said that Bush was granted this power under the authorization for war.  I presume he was talking about the Authorization for War passed on September 14, 2001.

Having scoured the authorization (read it here) I can't find anything that would grant the President the power to skirt the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  Was Gonzales referring to the fact Congress gave the President the authority to use "all necessary and appropriate force" to combat terrorism?  But the word "force" there is invoked  with respect to the use of military force.  And even if in GonzalesWorldTM "force" includes spying just like "torture" excludes almost everything short of death, Congress added the phrase "necessary and appropriate" precisely because it intended to restrict the President to the confines of the law.

So the "resolved" clause is out. What other aspect of the authorization gives the President the right to ignore the 4th Amendment and the centuries of case law supporting it? Was Gonzales referring to this?:

Whereas, the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States: Now, therefore, be it resolved...

If he was referring to this clause, he should have his law license revoked. Because it is a basic tenet of statutory construction that "whereas" clauses have no binding legal effect.   Professor Glennon testified to the Senate that these specific "whereas" clauses have no legal effect back in 2002:

How much authority does this statute confer upon the President to use force in prosecuting the war against terrorism? Note at the outset that the statute contains five whereas clauses. Under traditional principles of statutory construction, these provisions have no binding legal effect. Only material that comes after the so-called "resolving clause"--"Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled"--can have any operative effect. Material set out in a whereas clause is purely precatory. It may be relevant for the purpose of clarifying ambiguities in a statute's legally operative terms, but in and of itself such a provision can confer no legal right or obligation.

Let's step back into GonzalesWorldTM for a second and assume that his argument is operative; he says this clause recognized that the President has unfettered power under the Constitution to skirt the law and order warrantless spying.  But the Constitution mandates that the President preserve and defend the Constitution--which includes the Fourth Amendment and its protection against warrantless searches and seizures.

Naturally, being the stellar "inteviewer" that she is, Katie Couric failed to ask Gonzales any follow-up questions.  But at least Gonzales named a statute--as opposed to Condoleeza Rice who fumbled and squirmed when Russert asked her the same this weekend.  Unfortunately, the administration's attempt to blame Congress falls flat on its face.

But let them keep talking about it. The more this administration trys to defend Bush's actions, the more ludicrous they sound. Take Dick Cheney, for instance. He claimed yesterday that had these wiretaps been in place earlier, 9-11 could have been prevented.   Of course!  Illegal wiretaps would have prevented 9-11, not acting on a certain memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Attack In US."

UPDATE -- Feingold Responds: Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis) responded to Gonzales' comments in an NBC interview this morning. "This is just an outrageous power grab," he said. "Nobody, nobody, thought when we passed a resolution to invade Afghanistan and to fight the war on terror, including myself who voted for it, thought that this was an authorization to allow a wiretapping against the law of the United States. "There's two ways you can do this kind of wiretapping under our law. One is through the criminal code, Title III; the other is through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. That's it. That's the only way you can do it. You can't make up a law and deriving it from the Afghanistan resolution. "The president has, I think, made up a law that we never passed," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.).

Categories: Blogs
Their latest effort is a good one:

Categories: Blogs
Liberal groups like Moveon.org outraised similar GOP groups in the last election.  Intimidated by Moveon.org's success, the right has sought to weaken its influence by (1) painting it as a fringe, "far-left" group, and (2) passing legislation which would slash the group's finances.  Specifically, the House GOP sought to limit individual contributions to such groups:

Republicans said their legislation would fix the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act that elevated the influence of organizations that operate during election years under a tax-law provision that leaves their activities less regulated than those of political parties.

"It's a loophole that is allowing big donor money into the process," said New York Rep. Tom Reynolds, chairman of the House Republican campaign committee. Reynolds who noted that four donors -- including billionaire George Soros -- together contributed $80 million to Democratic-aligned groups in 2004, and that four Republicans -- including Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens -- contributed a combined $23 million to groups supporting the GOP.

Now, if the numbers were the other way around--with GOP groups outraising Democratic groups at rate of about 3-to-1--you can bet they wouldn't be making an issue of this.  But the words "George Soros" are like fingernails on a chalkboard for the GOP, so House Republicans tried to sneak this provision in the defense bill.

Enter Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-VA), who refused to sign off on the defense bill unless the campaign finance provision was removed.  His counterpart in the House, Rep. Duncan Hunter, also joined in the effort.  In a game of chicken between GOP members, supporters of the provision blinked and agreed to remove it.

While the GOP has killed the campaign finance provision, drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge is still part of the defense bill.  That provision is sure to spark a contentious debate in the Senate this week.

Categories: Blogs
From President Bush's speech this evening:

Three days ago, in large numbers, Iraqis went to the polls to choose their own leaders - a landmark day in the history of liberty. In coming weeks, the ballots will be counted ... a new government formed ... and a people who suffered in tyranny for so long will become full members of the free world.
Second, we are helping the Iraqi government establish the institutions of a unified and lasting democracy, in which all of Iraq's peoples are included and represented.

From the Guardian today:

Suspected polling violations on voting day last week far exceeded the number in Iraq's first election in January, local and international monitors said yesterday.

On the deadline for filing complaints, the number of alleged violations which could swing results in the 275-seat parliament was "well into double figures", an accredited international election observer, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

Secular Arab parties have accused the Shia religious bloc, which dominates the current government, of intimidating voters in Baghdad and many southern cities.

At the Sharqia high school in central Baghdad, which was used as a polling station, a senior election official was said to have asked voters if they were going to vote for 555. Unless they said yes, they were not given ballot papers.

A source close to Mr Allawi's campaign said that in one Baghdad polling station "around 600 men, some with walkie-talkies and purple ink on their fingers showing they had already voted, forced their way in. When the manager tried to stop them asking for ballot papers, they threatened to put him in a car boot and drive him away ... He let them in."

Categories: Blogs
Open Speech Thread. Contribute your pithy snark in real time as talking heads play Spin the Whopper with America. And for the truly serious gamesters, tips on proper viewing attire courtesy of the fashion moguls at CorrenteWire.

Full Text Here

Categories: Blogs
Steven Dujack, a 1976 Princeton graduate who wrote about CAP for the Princeton Alumni Weekly in the 1980s, writes:

In a best-selling book published this fall, "The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton," sociologist Jerome Karabel documented in shocking detail how the nation's elite universities used their admissions policies to help maintain a male WASP aristocracy through most of the 20th century. Eventually even the most selective colleges opened their doors to women and minorities.

. . .[L]ast month, we learned that in the 1980s, Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. belonged to a group created to thwart the reforms that provided equal access to Princeton University, from which he graduated in 1972 with the last all-male class.

. . .  Alito [has] tried to sidestep the issue by claiming that he has "no recollection" of belonging to the group. That's simply not credible. He certainly knew he was a member in 1985, when at the age of 35 he highlighted his membership in the group in order to establish his far- right bona fides in an application for a promotion in the Reagan Justice Department.

. . .[W]hy was Alito a member of an organization that ran counter to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments, federal laws ensuring equal access to education for women and minorities? How can we be sure that he will view women and minorities as deserving full equality under the law when he once sought to exclude them from his alma mater?

[CAP sought] "a more traditional undergraduate population," warn[ing] that "a student population of approximately 40 percent women and minorities will largely vitiate the alumni body of the future." The group supported a permanent quota that would keep the female student population at only 1,000 out of a total of 4,400. Without irony, CAP simultaneously supported "affirmative action" for athletes and children of alumni.

. . . In 1984 Prospect [CAP's publication] noted that a female coal miner who had won her job through a discrimination suit had died in a mining accident. The item concluded, "Sally Frank, take note." Frank was a former student who successfully sued to open the doors of all-male eating clubs at the university to women.

Samuel Alito touted his membership in CAP at the same time Prospect was pushing these destructive messages. This fact should trouble all who cherish the right to equality before the law. Alito needs to be forthcoming about his involvement in CAP, and the Senate must carefully examine this record. Otherwise, Americans won't have the information they need to judge for themselves whether Alito would uphold the rights of all.

Categories: Blogs
Yesterday, I posted The Most Dangerous Branch in which I argued:

The . . . infamous Bybee Memo, is not an anomaly in the thinking of the Bush Administration. It is their doctrine:

In a series of opinions examining various legal questions arising after September 11, we have examined the scope of the President's Commander-in-Chief power. . . . Foremost among the objectives committed by the Constitution to [the President's] trust. As Hamilton explained in arguing for the Constitution's adoption, "because the circumstances which may affect the public safety" are "not reducible within certain limits, it must be admitted, as a necessary consequence, that there can be no limitation of that authority, which is to provide for the defense and safety of the community, in any manner essential to its efficacy."

. . . [The Constitution's] sweeping grant vests in the President an unenumerated Executive power . . . The Commander in Chief power and the President's obligation to protect the Nation imply the ancillary powers necessary to their successful exercise.

(emphasis mine.)

In short, when acting as Commander-in-Chief, the President is above the law says the Bush Administration. And so have they argued on everything. Torture. Enemy combatants. And now warrantless surveillance of American citizens.

The Bybee memo, and by extension, the Bush Administration and Republicans, argue that it is the Constitution that grants the President these powers. Of course they also have argued that FISA empowers the Bush Administration to carry out the warrantless surveillance that Bush admitted and defiantly embraced yesterday in his weekly radio address. But this is nonsense - simply dishonest, as Glenn Greenwald and others have demonstrated.

And the Bybee memo, and likely the Yoo memo, that provided the legal justification for the warrantless surveillance, also rely on dishonesty about the Constitution and about Alexander Hamilton and the Federalist Papers. I'll explain below the fold.

Categories: Blogs
The Toledo Blade describes how Bush's elite fundraisers are increasingly the subjects of criminal investigations:

Federal and state authorities are investigating the Bush Pioneers and Rangers, individuals who raised at least $100,000 or $200,000 for President Bush's re-election, for bribery, money laundering, stock manipulation, and extortion.

Democrats have said that as investigations continue, there will be "enough [convictions] for their own prison softball team."

"The Republican culture of corruption, it knows no bounds. It's a deterioration of values." said Amaya Smith, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee.

What's that line about the company you keep?

Update [2005-12-18 14:34:57 by georgia10]:: Bush's relationships with these alleged criminals didn't end with his re-election; as this article points out, his top fundraisers have been abundantly repaid for their support:

Bush administration policies, grand and obscure, have financially benefited companies or lobbying clients tied to at least 200 of the president's largest campaign fund-raisers, a Toledo Blade investigation has found. Dozens more stand to gain from Bush-backed initiatives that recently passed or await congressional approval. [...]
Mr. Bush's policies often followed specific requests from his 548 "Pioneers" and "Rangers," who each raised at least $100,000 or $200,000 for his 2004 re-election.

Categories: Blogs
Now, for today's "irony is dead" headline:

Cheney Visits Iraq; Attacks Kill 19

Here's your open thread.

Categories: Blogs
I could have sworn we'd lived through this particular episode in the continuing drama of "putting Democrats on the record as traitors and cowards" a few weeks ago. Something about Murtha, something about lifting and distorting his words, something about cutting and running and Jean Schmidt getting booed.

But no, there was a déjà vu moment Friday:

From AP: In a 279-109 vote, the GOP-controlled House approved a resolution saying the chamber is committed "to achieving victory in Iraq" and that setting an "artificial timetable" would be "fundamentally inconsistent with achieving victory."

Am I the only one getting a tad weary of this carping on the meaningless pablum word, "victory?"

Apparently not, thank God:

Some Democrats objected to the frequent use of the word victory. "What is victory? Nobody has defined what victory is," Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said.

You tell `em, Jim. And while you're at it, the next time they ask for one of these "victory" resolutions, consider forcing full, specific definitions of "victory" onto these purely poseur GOP motions. You know, numbers or benchmarks or detailed events that will allow us to say, "Yay! We won!" We realize, Jim, being in the minority as you are, you have zero chance of getting the wording into any motion, but the entertainment value of watching you try and watching the blustering scramble from the other side would be ... priceless.

And I really want to see someone grapple on public record with this dangerous and bizarro world view, from the ABC story that was posted hours before the vote was taken:

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said the resolution makes a strong statement: "Failure is not a part of the American nature nor of our moral fiber. It is certainly not a concept that is acceptable to our men and women in the armed forces."

What? Americans are a new breed of super-human demi-god? We don't ever, ever fail at anything? We have overcome the limitations of flawed human nature? We have attained the perfected nature of the Almighty?

This is truly weird stuff, thinking that trying something and not succeeding speaks to our lack of "moral fiber" (whatever that is). The time-honored process of trial and error is simply unacceptable to some Americans, a stain upon our collective national soul, it seems. How odd. How distant from everyday reality. How ... nearly insane this belief appears to me to be.

Honestly, people so out of touch with how the world works that they have a perfected view of  "the American nature" should not be allowed to stroll the public boulevards unaccompanied by attendants, much less hold a position of responsibility in government.

I fully expect more of such meaningless resolutions and hyperbole in the weeks to come as the entrenched establishment struggles to take the focus off the NSA wiretaps and the other sordid secrets of this administration that surely will emerge. Attempts to divide Democrats and paint them as traitorous "failure-mongers" will ratchet up. Decrying the fraying of our  "moral fiber" will begin, led by those who favor the feverish unraveling the web of our constitutional rights in the name of national security.

These sideshows to the national drama unfolding will continue to insist dangerously on American exceptionalism and abhorrence of failure. Like the revisited "stay the course" motion introduced on Friday, the majority party will continue its perseverant behavior patterns, defined in mental health circles as "compulsive persistence at meaningless activities" - a textbook definition that precisely describes this administration's obsessive use of propaganda, talking points and "staying the course," even when that course is leading to the destruction of our democracy.

These are not only times that try men's souls; these are times that are separating out the sick from the healthy in the halls of power.

Over and over. Again. And again. And again.

Categories: Blogs
When discussing the pros and cons of government power, a lot us immediately think of terrorists. The Bad Guys, Crooks, or Religious Fanatics. Obviously most folks wouldn't have a problem with collecting information on really dangerous actors through wire taps or other surveillance methods. A lot of people would even understand the decision to torture suspects under extraordinary circumstances such as the ticking atomic bomb scenario.

But that entirely misses the crux of public concern with granting any agency such broad authority. Rule of Law, Due Process, and Oversight do not exist to protect the guilty. They exist to protect the public at large from abuses of power perpetrated against them by the powerful and to protect the innocent from mistaken arrest or intentional persecution.

That's the issue here.

Categories: Blogs

December 16, 2005

Compelling piece by Hilzoy (from Obsidian Wings but guest blogging on Political Animal):

This is against the law. I have put references to the relevant statute below the fold; the brief version is: the law forbids warrantless surveillance of US citizens, and it provides procedures to be followed in emergencies that do not leave enough time for federal agents to get a warrant. If the NY Times report is correct, the government did not follow these procedures. It therefore acted illegally.

Bush's order is arguably unconstitutional as well: it seems to violate the fourth amendment, and it certainly violates the requirement (Article II, sec. 3) that the President "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed."

I am normally extremely wary of talking about impeachment. I think that impeachment is a trauma for the country, and that it should only be considered in extreme cases. Moreover, I think that the fact that Clinton was impeached raises the bar as far as impeaching Bush: two traumas in a row is really not good for the country, and even though my reluctance to go through a second impeachment benefits the very Republicans who needlessly inflicted the first on us, I don't care. It's bad for the country, and that matters most.

But I have a high bar, not a nonexistent one. And for a President to order violations of the law meets my criteria for impeachment. This is exactly what got Nixon in trouble: he ordered his subordinates to obstruct justice. To the extent that the two cases differ, the differences make what Bush did worse: after all, it's not as though warrants are hard to get, or the law makes no provision for emergencies. Bush could have followed the law had he wanted to. He chose to set it aside.

And this is something that no American should tolerate. We claim to have a government of laws, not of men. That claim means nothing if we are not prepared to act when a President (or anyone else) places himself above the law. If the New York Times report is true, then Bush should be impeached.

Categories: Blogs
  • Sen. Burns will return Abramoff's money after all, after his spokesman twice claimed they wouldn't do so. Things getting a bit hot over in Burns HQ? The Missoulan tells Burns to retire.

  • Trent Lott was against lawsuits, pushing hard for tort reform, until he decided to sue his insurance company over the destruction of his home by Katrina. So now I'm confused. Is he still against lawsuits? Or is he against lawsuits except those that he himself files?

  • The top 10 stories you missed in 2005, courtesy of Foreign Policy Magazine. Among them? The rash of Latin American merceneries hired for duty in Iraq.

    "If a contractor is killed," says Peter Singer, an expert on private military firms at the Brookings Institution, "it is less likely to make the news [than if it's a U.S. soldier]. If it's a contractor from another country, it is even less likely."

  • The White House asks for $1.5 billion to reinforce the New Orleans levees. Would've been nice had this been done two years ago.

  • More evidence we don't live in the real world: Britney Spears topped the list of "most searched" people on Yahoo.

  • Fitzgerald is back in DC.

  • It's been discussed already, but it bears repeating -- Republicans lied when they claimed Congress had seen the same Iraq intelligence that the administration worked from.

  • Sure, it's big news that the Pentagon has been spying on Americans without warrants. But let's not forget that the NY Times held the story for a year at the insistance of the White House. Unacceptable.

  • GOP dirty trickster James Tobin was convicted in New Hampshire for jamming Democratic phone banks in 2002 while working for the NRSC. He later served as the Bush/Cheney 2004 lead guy in New England. Now he'll serve up to seven years in prison.

  • I was going to blog some items from Swing State Project, but there's been too much good stuff lately. If you're into elections, pay DavidNYC a visit over there.

  • It's funny seeing the crazies call for a Ford boycott.

Categories: Blogs
The fun we're seeing on the Senate floor now with the PATRIOT Act reauthorization promises to continue as early as tomorrow with the Defense Appropriations. Sen. Ted Stevens has vowed to attach a provision that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling to the legislation.

Harry Reid calls foul:

But Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) said Democrats would filibuster the defense spending bill if necessary, to block the drilling provision. "The defense appropriations bill -- the bill to take care of the fighting men and women of the United States -- is being held up because they can't figure out a way to grovel and satisfy the oil companies," Reid said.

But it's not just Give-em-hell-Harry lining up in opposition to this one, despite the fact that, in addition the Arctic drilling, Stevens plans to pad the bill with Iraq war funding, Katrina aid, pandemic flu research money, and low-income energy assistance. Opposition to this move, like the PATRIOT Act, is bipartisan.

A group was drafting a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) saying that senators "ought not to exploit . . . the well-being of our troops" to advance the drilling measure.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a drilling opponent, said he wasn't sure how he would vote if the bill included the drilling measure.

"That's the dilemma," McCain said in an interview. "I think it's disgraceful I have to be put in that position."

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), another drilling opponent, said that adding the measure to the military appropriations bill would make the vote "very uncomfortable for me."

Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, a former Senate Republican leader, said that if Arctic drilling were attached to a military appropriations bill packed with other popular items, "a lot of people are going to have a hard time voting against it. . . . I couldn't vote against it."

Given this opposition, Stevens is likely to be short of the necessary 60 votes to cut off Reid's filibuster.

While we might not be getting all we wanted for Fitzmas, we're getting the gift of a further fracturing among Republicans, and continuing erosion of White House influence. It's shaping up to be a very disappointing Christmas for Bush. Yet another of his top priorities, opening the Arctic Refuge so his big oil buddies could wring out just a little more profit, seems out of reach.

Update: As encouraging as the early opposition is, let's not take anything for granted on this one. Contact your Senators to let them know you will expect and support their opposition to the Defense Appropriations bill should it contain the Arctic Refuge drilling provisions.

Categories: Blogs
The Senate is currently debating renewal of the Patriot Act. Watch the debate live here.   Cloture was just defeated (53 52-47), which means the debate will be ongoing.  Senator Feingold, joined by key Republicans, including Chuck Hagel, have stated that they will filibuster.

This is an open debate thread.

Update [2005-12-16 13:5:36 by georgia10]:: Roll call vote is up here. Note that Frist voted against cloture only for procedural purposes, obviously.

Categories: Blogs
For most of us here at Daily Kos, I think the last few days of revelations regarding multi-agency spying on American citizens comes as no surprise. In an administration that has authorized secret prisons, planted propaganda, fought restrictions on torture, and argued consistently for the right to detain whomever is deemed suspicious without recourse to trial, spying on American citizens seems both obvious and pedestrian. A kind of "duh" moment, if you will.

Indeed, the most surprising aspect is that the reports on domestic spying ever saw the light of day, given the complacency of the corporate media. The New York Times, in fact, admits to holding off for a year on revealing the NSA's use of warrantless wiretaps at the request of the administration.

No doubt we will see in coming weeks hair-splitting legal and constitutional debate over the precise wording of presidential orders, evocations of executive privilege and withholding of information in the name of national security, and mind-numbingly dull citations from dozens of obscure court cases. The administration will attempt to complicate, bluster, lie and attack its way out of answering for its spying on American citizens in the hopes that the electorate will give up on understanding the issue and will continue to sleep.

It's up to the minority party now to not let this happen. It's up to the Democrats, shut out of power, to keep the nation focused by using the only tool left to them: their voices. This is a challenge, and not one Democrats are historically successful at meeting. But this is, whether we feel up to it or not, a turning point in the national debate if we have the will, the clarity and the unity to make it so.

The truth is, the constitutional questions raised by the secret spying strike at the very heart of our form of government. This is no longer Republican versus Democrat, left versus right. In fact, for true rank-and-file conservatives, this should bring on a crisis of conscience and self-examination. Distrust of the government and its motives runs deep in American conservatism; witness the recoil from relatively benign "nanny state" interventions such as social welfare programs and anti-smoking laws. How much more repugnant is wiretapping, surveillance and massive record-keeping by the feds?

I am not naïve enough to believe elected GOP officials or the chattering chuckleheads of Sunday cable shows will acknowledge framing the issue this way. But if Democrats can break through the blizzard of bullshit that is ramping up to come our way from all sides, we can reach across the partisan divide to the average American with a focused, simple message:

This is about the very foundations of democracy: Is the government our servant or our master? And is the president, who is elected to execute our laws, allowed to suspend them?

We are heading into an election year when every House seat will be up for grabs. It's up to us to make every race about these constitutional issues. As concerned citizens, we can urge Democratic leaders to force the argument in this direction, but there is another action we can take as individuals to make this more of a reality.

I suggest that those of us who are represented by Republicans in the House contact our representatives and get them on record over the next few weeks on three specific questions:

1.    Does the president have unlimited power in a time of war, particularly an undeclared one?
2.    Do you believe the government has a right to spy on its citizens with no regulating oversight?
3.    Do you support a full and open Congressional investigation into the executive branch's authorization of spying on American citizens?

These questions, depending on how they are answered, may well prove to be a gift we can give to every Democratic challenger in the year ahead. It will force GOP reps to take a stand, if as constituents we don't let them get away with obfuscating. Insist on a clear-cut answer. Demand a yes or no. And keep ready at hand the letters or emails you receive back. It's time to force this issue. It's time for all of us to do our part. It's time to re-deliver this government into the hands of the people it was elected to represent.

Categories: Blogs
I remember it like it was yesterday: Speeding through the empty Texas prairie, Dec 26th, 1968 at 2 AM. I'm laying above and behind the back seats, my six-year old body easily stretched out on the old style rear console, staring up through the slanted glass of a Ford sedan at a crystal clear nightscape. The Milky Way spilled across the sky like powdered sugar. In a moment of pure Synchronicity the radio played a static filled, crackling Season's Greeting carried a quarter million miles on the gossamer wings of invisible light, conducted by bone to my inner ear via the speaker beneath my head, as I stared into the starry infinitude: For all the people on Earth ... the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you ...

My wonder aroused, the rest of the family dozing, I asked my father about those brilliant stars. He began to explain to me quietly, patiently, using analogies of distance a child could grasp. And IT hit me.

In an electrifying jolt of acceleration it was as though I was thrown head over heels off into the endless heavens, an infinitesimal mote of consciousness dwarfed by intimidating immensity. I was swallowed whole by space and time, united with uncountable tiny points of light flickering in a boundless black abyss.

It was terrifying, it was exhilarating, it was glorious. I was mainlining cosmic eternity, and like that first warm bourbon buzz for the latent alcoholic or that first rush for a burgeoning junkie, after my transcendental ride ended, all I could think of was: I want some more.

Categories: Blogs

Dan Kurtzman compiles a list of the 25 "Mind Numbingly Stupid Quotes" of 2005.  21 are by conservatives, but only because they're mind-numbingly stupid.  (And these guys are beating us...???) A sample...


21) "I am not going to give you a number for it because it's not my business to do intelligent work."
---Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, asked to estimate the number of Iraqi insurgents while testifying before Congress, Feb. 16, 2005


20) "I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."
---Vice President Dick Cheney, on the Iraq insurgency, June 20, 2005


15) "I question it based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office.  She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli."
---Sen. Bill Frist, diagnosing Terri Schiavo's condition during a speech on the Senate floor, March 17, 2005.  [The autopsy revealed she was blind.]


6) "You work three jobs? ... Uniquely American, isn't it?  I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that."
---President Bush, to a divorced mother of three in Omaha, Nebraska, Feb. 4, 2005


5) "Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well."
---FEMA Director Michael Brown, Sept. 1, 2005


4) "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."
---Bush, Sept. 2, 2005


What will they say in 2006?  I shudder to think...

Hey, before you take the poll, you might want to do some comparison shopping here.  See you at the mall this weekend---I'll be the one scaring the children.  Cheers and Jeers starts in There's Moreville... [Swoosh!!]  RIGHTNOW!  [Gong!!]

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