Filtered news 1/15

"So let freedom ring. From the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, let freedom ring. From the mighty mountains of New York, let freedom ring. From the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania, let freedom ring. But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. And when this happens, when we let it ring, we will speed that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last, free at last/Thank God Almighty, we're free at last."

MLK Day has excerpts of John Edwards' planned Martin Luther King Day speech. The part that will be widely quoted is this

If you’re in Congress and you know this war is going in the wrong direction, it is no longer enough to study your options and keep your own counsel.

But I also like this.

That’s the thing I find the most important about the sermon Dr. King delivered here that day. He did not direct his demands to the government of the United States, which was escalating the war. He issued a direct appeal to the people of the United States, calling on us to break our own silence, and to take responsibility for bringing about what he called a revolution of values.

A revolution whose starting point is personal responsibility, of course, but whose animating force is the belief that we cannot stand idly by and wait for others to right the wrongs of the world.

And this, in my view, is at the heart of what we should remember and celebrate on this day. This is the dream we must commit ourselves to realizing.

"We are stuck in a hopeless war led by a clueless man who enjoys only a passing relationship
with reality. Rather than admit his many, many errors, he prefers to kill many, many people.
And he will continue to do so until someone finds a way to stop him. Our political system has
broken down, and our soldiers, the Iraqis, quite possibly the Iranians, and many others must
pay for our refusal to admit that with their lives."
-- Eric Alterman,

Educator in chief? God help us. Following George Bush's appearance last night on 60 Minutes, CBS put up the of the entire interview by Scott Pelley, kindly cleaning up the worst of Bush's mangling of the English language. What follows are a few excerpts from that interview, transcribed without the kindness, starting with the understatement of the century:

Pelley: You mention mistakes having been made in your speech

Bush: (nods and smiles) What mistakes are you talking about? Abu Ghraib was a mistake. Using bad language like, ya know, "bring 'em on," was a mistake. I think history is going to look back and see a lot of, uh, ways we could've done things better. No question about it.

Somehow Bush admitting mistakes reminds me of going to confession as a child, where each week I'd say, "I hit my brother and lied to my mother" (which for the record, was worth 3 Hail Mary's and an Act of Contrition). Meaningless repetition, said only because finding fault with oneself was expected. Pelley then asked about troop levels, with Bush saying that they were inadequate and:

...the reason I brought up the mistakes, and I, is one, that's the job of the commander-in-chief, and two, I don't want people blaming our military. We got a bunch of good military people out there who are doing what we've asked them to do. And the temptation is gonna find scapegoats. Well if people want a scapegoat, they've got one right here in me. 'Cause it's my decisions.

News flash, Mr. Bush; no one is blaming the military. And does Bush owe the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job regarding security after the invasion?

No, I, I, I, I don't, that we didn't do a better job? Or they didn't do a better job? (smile)

Not at all. I think, I think I'm proud of the efforts we did. Uh, we liberated that country from a tyrant. Uh, I think the Iraqi people owe the, the American people a huge debt of gratitude. That's the problem, here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq.

Yes, I wonder every single day whether Iraqis spend more of their time dodging bombs and death squads or feeling gratitude for their liberation, hoping against hope that gratitude wins out. That is my main concern with the situation in Iraq.

The next portion of the interview took place after Bush had met with some families of the fallen. And how did that go?

It's uh (sigh), you know I, uh (looking to sky), uh, it's hard to, uh, for the family members to recount, uh, or relive their love in front of the President (shrug). Yet, you know once we get beyond the initial (pause), kind of meeting, it's amazing how strong the folks are and umm, they want to just let 'em, let me know a lot of things. They want me to let me know what their son or husband was like.

...Umm, (sigh) you know, you know a lot of them say, you know, Mr. President, don't, don't let my son die in vain.

One has to wonder how Bush responds to a lot of them that say, you know, you know, Mr. President, don't, don't let anyone else's son die in vain.

And finally he was asked:

Pelley: How can you escalate the war when so many people in this country seem to be against it?

Bush: Uh, I, uh, I'm going to have to keep explaining. That's why I'm doing this interview with you. Uh, Scott, uh, sometimes you're the commander-in-chief, sometimes you're the educator-in-chief, and a lot of times you're both when it comes to war. (smile)

The commander-in-chief, the Decider and now the educator-in-chief? Somehow the phrase, "three strikes and you're out" comes to mind.

Stay informed Do not miss this in The Guardian of the evolving Sunni insurgency and Iraq's deepening Civil War.

Clinton lied, too No real rationale for linking to this two year-old article except a lot of people don't know it exists. Suffice it to say, however, that the Bush administration wasn't the first one to about Iraq's WMD programs.

A sad, sick man Dick Cheney still thinks it's for the US to "win" in Iraq. If it has the "stomach." And of course "You cannot simply stick your finger up in the wind and say gee public opinion's against, we better quit," Cheney said. If the president did that, it would just "validate the al Qaeda view of the world," he said. It's like they've sealed the man back in 2003. This view of the world was disgusting and wrong then, too, but now the level of denial it displays seems near-clinical.

Not telling the whole truth? I'm shocked! : “President Bush and his aides, explaining their reasons for sending more American troops to Iraq, are offering an incomplete, oversimplified and possibly untrue version of events there that raises new questions about the accuracy of the administration’s statements about Iraq.” The real news here, though, is that a mainstream news outlet is writing this.

Bush can't hear? From President Bush’s radio address today: “But those who refuse to give this [escalation] plan a chance to work have an that has a better chance for success. To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible.” (Note to the President: Progressives do have a plan, called .)

Medicare: That dog won't bite Apparently the congressional Democrats' much-touted plan to have the HHS Department negotiate prices for Medicare's prescription drug purchases is something of a scam. See and . The problem is that these are negotiations without teeth. As Reich puts it "The Department of Veterans Affairs gets a 25 percent discount on drug prices for veterans because if a drug company won't give a big discount, Veterans Affairs won't include the drug in its plan." Medicare won't be authorized to drop a drug of the manufacturer won't offer a discount, so there's no reason for drug makers to offer any kind of meaningful discounts. One hopes this sham bill may be the start down a slippery slope to something more meaningful, but so far so bad.

Abigail Kimbell, President Bush’s new appointment to head the U.S. Forest Service, helped developed Bush’s “healthy forests program,” widely “ as a giveaway to logging companies.” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) said Kimbell has shown she is “inclined to raise fees, close campgrounds and otherwise make it harder for people to access their lands to raise revenue.”

The official Department of Defense offers new evidence in the debate over Iraq terminology. As MoveOn.org’s Adam Green , the Pentagon’s dictionary has no entry for “surge” but : escalation : (DOD) A deliberate or unpremeditated increase in scope or violence of a conflict. ThinkProgress has that media outlets are misleading Americans when they use the term “surge” to describe President Bush’s new Iraq proposal. As documented Wednesday, when “surge” was first adopted by the mainstream media in November 2006, the term was specifically defined as a . In fact, the most prominent advocates of escalation all reject a short-term increase in U.S. forces, and the Bush administration will not specify the length of the current policy. “,” Defense Secretary Gates said yesterday.

Dems cut back on the wages of sin “Members of Congress convicted of serious crimes would , sometimes totaling more than $100,000 a year, under a measure unanimously approved by the Senate Friday.”

It's my war and I'll do what I want This week, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) introduced a resolution requiring President Bush to before escalating the War in Iraq. President Bush, however, says that he is going to send more troops to Iraq no matter what Congress does. Legal scholars on the right and left agree that Congress has the or end the war completely. Transcript:

Q: If you have the authority to put the troops in there no matter what the Congress wants to do.

BUSH: I think I’ve got, in this situation I do, yeah. I fully understand they could try to stop me from doing it. But I’ve made my decision. And we’re going forward.

Will Obama announce this week? Political Wire is that Barack Obama may announce his candidacy for president on Wednesday's Oprah Winfrey Show, citing an inside source and the fact that:

The Oprah schedule for Wednesday, January 17 says to "check back later" for more details on the show. Since all shows are taped in advance, this suggests something is up.

More signs of the imminence of his announcement come from his on Face the Nation.

"I will have something to say about that fairly soon," Obama told Bob Schieffer. "Obviously, there's been a lot of talk. It's something that I've been considering. I've said I've been considering it. And we'll be making an announcement fairly soon."

When pressed for a more specific timetable, Obama only smiled and said, "It will be pretty soon."

And the has Sen. Harry Reid pointing to a prospective Obama visit to Nevada as a sign of the viability of the Nevada caucus.

Political Wire also points to a article on "Obama's Inner Circle." The article several times stresses Obama's willingness to be challenged by his friends and advisors.

"He really wants to know all the points of view in the room. He doesn't want to shut people down or force a consensus," said Michael Froman, an informal Obama adviser who was a Harvard Law classmate and chief of staff to former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin.

Obama "pushes back" in those conversations, said Jarrett, a friend of both Obamas whose dining room table in Hyde Park has sometimes been the setting for consultations. He's intent on thinking through ideas thoroughly, she said.

In other words, the article, perhaps guided by his friends, works to show that he may not have the most experience of anyone in the race, but he's no George W. Bush, simply accepting what he's told by Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.

According to the article, Obama has many pieces of a presidential campaign lined up:

David Plouffe, an Axelrod partner who worked on Obama's 2004 Senate campaign, is the likely campaign manager.

Bill Burton, national press secretary for the House Democrats' midterm campaign, is likely to join up, associates said.

Direct mail consultants, a pollster, and a finance director are also named. Meanwhile, the has an article on someone not named in the Tribune article, reporting that Louis Susman, John Kerry's national finance director in 2004, is an Obama supporter - in fact, it is unclear whether the article should be read as a portrait of someone involved in the campaign or as a public job application. Whatever the case, things are clearly coming together and it may be an interesting week in Obama news.

Voting really, really matters Despite the diversion caused the introduction of Bush's plan to increase the pace of disaster in Iraq, the newly-seated Democratic congress has stuck to its goal of turning out legislation vital to the American public. Where Republicans squandered the last congress squandered the session on silliness and arm-waiving over subjects like flag burning, Democrats in the House have already produced ethics reform, adopted the recommendations of the 9/11 commission, raised the minimum wage, supported stem cell research, and authorized the government to negotiate Medicare drug prices. Friday, a that would move $13 billion now spent on oil subsidies, and move it to supporting renewable fuels.

Condi Rice Donald Rumsfeld:

Aboard her plane, Rice also told reporters that the United States would not abandon Iraq even if Bush's latest plan fails. "We're not pulling the plug on Iraq," she said. "I think we'll worry about making Plan A work for now. And obviously, if it doesn't, then you know, we're not going to say, oh my goodness, that didn't work, there's nothing that can be done."

Oh my goodness.

Immigration debacle update In the latest development involving those at meat packing plants last month, a federal judge in Denver has gotten his hands on the and apparently doesn't like what he sees:

A federal judge ordered immigration officials Friday to provide the names and whereabouts of at least 260 immigrant workers arrested during a raid at Greeley's Swift & Co. meatpacking plant. U.S. District Judge John L. Kane also warned lawyers representing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that he is scrutinizing how they handled the detainees. . . . In response to allegations that ICE agents denied detainees their due-process rights and coerced them to sign voluntary deportation orders after the Dec. 12 sweep, Kane ordered ICE to hold bond hearings within 48 hours for any jailed Swift workers who had not yet had such a hearing. Kane also ordered ICE not to deport Swift detainees who had signed papers agreeing to leave the country and giving up legal rights, and to withdraw those orders if the detainees want.

Each of us will mark our own low point of the Bush presidency. This is on my short list. :

 

The senior Pentagon official in charge of military detainees suspected of terrorism said in an interview this week that he was dismayed that lawyers at many of the nation’s top firms were representing prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and that the firms’ corporate clients should consider ending their business ties.

The comments by Charles D. Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, produced an instant torrent of anger from lawyers, legal ethics specialists and bar association officials, who said Friday that his comments were repellent and displayed an ignorance of the duties of lawyers to represent people in legal trouble.

Stimson is himself a lawyer, sad to say. Here's the money quote:

I think, quite honestly, when corporate C.E.O.’s see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those C.E.O.’s are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms, and I think that is going to have major play in the next few weeks. And we want to watch that play out.

The Administration has already done virtually everything possible to deny detainees any hope of justice. Encouraging boycotts of the law firms representing detainees is an effort to close off any last chance that the detainees will be treated in accordance with Anglo-American legal standards.

Oh yeah, Too bad one of those firms, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison is in his trial that starts Monday. Guess Scooter won't be honoring the boycott.

Meanwhile, The Pentagon is the comments made by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles Stimson, saying they don't represent the views of the Department of Defense or the thinking of its leadership.

Political corruption trumps law enforcement The top FBI official for San Diego, on the of U.S. Attorney Carol Lam: "I guarantee politics is involved." It's just stunning to have a FBI agent blast the Department of Justice and the White House like this. Lam prosecuted the Duke Cunningham case and is in charge of other high-profile cases involving Republicans. from the San Diego Union-Tribune ...

The Bush administration has quietly asked San Diego U.S. Attorney Carol Lam, best known for her high-profile prosecutions of politicians and corporate executives, to resign her post, a law enforcement official said.

Lam, a Bush appointee who took the helm in 2002, was targeted because of job performance issues – in particular that she failed to make smuggling and gun cases a top priority, said the official, who declined to be identified because Lam has yet to step down.

Lam has had high-profile successes during her tenure, such as the Randy “Duke” Cunningham bribery case – but she alienated herself from bosses at the Justice Department because she is outspoken and independent, said local lawyers familiar with her policies.

Some context .

Wrong About Everything yet again, how our country has been run by the stupidest people on the face of the planet for years.

Your liberal media. NY Times says the dirty hippies are wrong. We need to stay in Iraq and do a bunch of stuff that

Big Brother in your wallet A lot of folks don't seem exercized that the government might be listening in on their phone calls without a warrant or reading their e-mails and letters with no oversight from anyone. But I have noticed for years that people would much rather tell you every detail of their sex lives than reveal their financial status. So, I wonder how happy they are going to be to know that the Pentagon and the CIA have taken it upon itself to s of American citizens with no warrants or oversight and keep the information on file forever:

The Pentagon has been using a little-known power to obtain banking and credit records of hundreds of Americans and others suspected of terrorism or espionage inside the United States, part of an aggressive expansion by the military into domestic intelligence gathering.

The C.I.A. has also been issuing what are known as national security letters to gain access to financial records from American companies, though it has done so only rarely, intelligence officials say.

Banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions receiving the letters usually have turned over documents voluntarily, allowing investigators to examine the financial assets and transactions of American military personnel and civilians, officials say.

The F.B.I., the lead agency on domestic counterterrorism and espionage, has issued thousands of national security letters since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, provoking criticism and court challenges from civil liberties advocates who see them as unjustified intrusions into Americans’ private lives.

But it was not previously known, even to some senior counterterrorism officials, that the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have been using their own “noncompulsory” versions of the letters. Congress has rejected several attempts by the two agencies since 2001 for authority to issue mandatory letters, in part because of concerns about the dangers of expanding their role in domestic spying.

The military, the clandestine spy service and the FBI have all been gathering financial information on American citizens. Nobody knows what they have, who's been targeted or if the information is correct or useful.

Usually, the financial documents collected through the letters do not establish any links to espionage or terrorism and have seldom led to criminal charges, military officials say. Instead, the letters often help eliminate suspects.

“We may find out this person has unexplained wealth for reasons that have nothing to do with being a spy, in which case we’re out of it,” said Thomas A. Gandy, a senior Army counterintelligence official.

Except the records are going into a database:

But even when the initial suspicions are unproven, the documents have intelligence value, military officials say. In the next year, they plan to incorporate the records into a database at the Counterintelligence Field Activity office at the Pentagon to track possible threats against the military, Pentagon officials said. Like others interviewed, they would speak only on the condition of anonymity.

Military intelligence officers have sent letters in up to 500 investigations over the last five years, two officials estimated. The number of letters is likely to be well into the thousands, the officials said, because a single case often generates letters to multiple financial institutions.[..]

Some national security experts and civil liberties advocates are troubled by the C.I.A. and military taking on domestic intelligence activities, particularly in light of recent disclosures that the Counterintelligence Field Activity office had maintained files on Iraq war protesters in the United States in violation of the military’s own guidelines. Some experts say the Pentagon has adopted an overly expansive view of its domestic role under the guise of “force protection,” or efforts to guard military installations.[...]

“There’s a strong tradition of not using our military for domestic law enforcement,” said Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, a former general counsel at both the National Security Agency and the C.I.A. who is the dean at the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific. “They’re moving into territory where historically they have not been authorized or presumed to be operating.”

Similarly, John Radsan, an assistant general counsel at the C.I.A. from 2002 to 2004 and now a law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, said, “The C.I.A. is not supposed to have any law enforcement powers, or internal security functions, so if they’ve been issuing their own national security letters, they better be able to explain how they don’t cross the line.”

I thought the Intelligence Czar was supposed to coordinate all this; the whole idea was that DNI and DHS was that they were going to streamline things and end the useless duplication and cross wires in the investigative agencies. Instead, it appears that we have the FBI, CIA, Pentagon, local and state police agencies all running amock and using the provisions of the patriot act in the most expansive way possible to spy on US citizens without warrants and then each keep the information they have on file forever.

I have written before that the most dangerous thing we have done to ourselves domestically since 9/11 is to hugely expand our policing powers and throw unlimited funds at the agencies who will find a reason and a way to flex their new, expensive muscle. It is a law of nature. If you build it they will use it.

We have thrown so much money away on the Department of Homeland Security that they for billions in missing funds. Small towns in the Alaskan Bush are with their free money from Uncle Ted Stevens. (To catch the terrists, dontcha know.)

We are building a well funded national police state apparatus at the same time that we are giving unlimited money and power to our military and foreign intelligence agencies to operate in the United States. This is incredibly dangerous and I can't help but wonder why there is so little effort on the part of anyone in public life to educate the public on the inherant dangers of such powerful, unaccountable institutions. This is why we had a revolution to begin with. It's why we fought two world wars in the last century. (Where is the Al Gore of civil liberties?)

And the most laughable thing is that all of this is apparently perfectly acceptable to the principled right wingers and "libertarians" who spent decades railing against the jack booted government thugs --- at least until a Republican administration was wielding the power. It seems that unless the target in question is buying weapons or explosives (in which case they come roaring in to protect the only amendment in the Bill of Rights they care about) these people are just fine with all this. After all, only the "right" people are being spied upon --- Muslims, war protestors, liberals, Democrats and other enemies of the state.

But guess what? That could change. The list of enemies will grow longer. It always does. And you never know who might land on it. This is not a partisan issue and it's tragic that there are so few on the right who can't extricate themselves from their pep club and cheerleader team sport world to consider that this is one issue we civil libertarians and at least some conservatives should be able to agree upon. I can say with absolute confidence that if a Democratic administration were institutionalizing spying on Americans and building a new all-powerful unaccountable police state apparatus, I'd be screaming just a loudly.

This exposes the right's total intellectual bankruptcy as nothing else has, in my opinion. They are nothing more than rich authoritarian thugs whose only real mission is to maintain their prerogatives. One of these days somebody is going to find a reason to think they are unamerican too --- and they are probably going to use that very same police state power against them. Then they'll screaming too --- but it will be too late.

Published

January 15, 2007 - 12:20pm

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