This is the Archive site for Firedoglake. To go to the main site please click on the following link

Saturday, March 18, 2006

And They're Off....

Remember, tomorrow all the cool kids will be watching:
07:45 AM EST
News Review
C-SPAN, Washington Journal
Christy Hardin Smith,
Paul Mirengoff,
Go Redd. We'll be cheering you on.


FDL Late Nite: The Silent Majority

"A rooster crows only when it sees the light. Put him in the dark and he'll never crow. I have seen the light and I'm crowing." -- Muhammad Ali

According to the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, George W. Bush's overall approval rating stands now at 33%. That's 9% among democrats, 26% among independents and 73% among Republicans. The poll further points out that, since the beginning of his second term, Bush has lost sizable chunks of Republican support. That 73% is down from a 89% in January, 2005. This is the same poll that tells us the most popular, single descriptive word for Bush is incompetent. Oops.

How about Iraq? After all, national security is the republican's signature issue, right? Eh, not so much. According to NBC News/Wall Street Journal's most recent poll, 35% of the public approves Bush's handling of the war while 61% disapprove. And get this: only 4% are undecided, presumably because they have too much to handle walking and chewing gum simultaneously. Oops again.

But aside from Iraq, Republicans still enjoy a national security advantage, right? Look away, Unka Karl (the horror!). NPR released a poll yesterday that includes the following absolutely devastating conclusions in its executive summary:
Democrats win every security debate in this poll and when voters are asked who they trust more on issues including the Iraq war, foreign ownership of US ports, and homeland security issues, Democrats come out on top. The only exception is the nuclear threat in Iran, where Republicans have a narrow 5 point advantage.

[snip. . .]

Democrats have an historic 15 point advantage (52 to 37 percent) in the generic congressional vote, the result of an emerging trend over the last 7 months and serious conclusions drawn about President Bush, the war in Iraq, and the economy.

These results are brought about by independents including mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Baby-Boom college voters moving away from the Republicans and by a crash in key parts of the Republican base. The parties are now running even in the white rural counties and in the counties carried by Bush in 2004. Older blue collar voters - most impacted by the changing economy, and least interested in foreign spending and foreign ownership of American ports - have pulled away from the Republicans.
On November 3, 1969, the spiritual father of today's Republican Party, Richard M. Nixon ("When the president does it, that means it's not illegal."), delivered a speech containing the following famous phrase regarding another failed, idiotic war:
"So tonight, to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans, I ask for your support. I pledged in my campaign for the Presidency to end the war in a way that we could win the peace."
That was then; this is now. Today, March 18, 2006, we clearly have a new Silent Majority. It is not heard through the establishment media, though it shows up in the polls. And guess what: that majority includes the coveted likely voters. How do you think they feel about the president asserting the right to sniff panties in your home without a warrant?

I think Harry Reid is catching on. Otherwise, he would not have said of George Bush yesterday, "I really do believe this man will go down as the worst president this country has ever had." Representative Jane Harman got a lesson from the Silent Majority yesterday, too, when she got an earful over at kos (as Jane pointed out last night) over chalenging the president on warrentless wiretapping.

Nope. No more silence from the Silent Majority. And while the netroots/grassroots makes noise on the Internet and on the phone lines into the Capitol, the mass of voters will be heard in November. How will Tweety survive?

Take another look at that man in the picture above. In his day, establishment elites like Tweety wanted him to shut his damn mouth. They wanted him to accept his birth name when he chose another. They wanted him to fight a war he knew was bullshit. He refused. To their unending exasperation, he would not be silent. He's the model for today's Silent Majority. Let's get LOUD!

Today's Silent Majority wants to see action from leaders in Washington, not just timid posturing. In that vein, I have some advice for Harry Reid (Minority Leader) and Chuck Schumer (head of the DSCC) in the Senate: take a look at those polls again. It's time to play some offense. Get in front of the parade by getting behind Feingold's censure motion.

If you do, I'll bet many of the remaining 26% of democrats who currently oppose censure will flip to support it, moving overall population support for censure from 48% to well over 50% (hat tip to eRiposte). Some independents will follow along, too, if you stand together and make your case to a public starving for alternative leadership. (Note: censure polling varies by the wording of the question.) That will boost democratic turnout for the midterms, and also happens to be a political stance for the right fucking principle: the president does not get to break or ignore the law at his whim.

Nancy Pelosi (Minority Leader) and Rahm Emanuel (head of the DCCC) in the House, you have homework, too. Play some damn offense. End the off-the-record ethics truce in the House, and start filing charges. CREW has a fine list you and your senate colleagues have been ignoring for some time. Every indication is this year will hold a nationalized midterm election. Let your people run on accountability and ethics in Washington and ride the wave to glory. This is no time for rope-a-dope.

All this friendly advice comes with a warning: the Silent Majority will not be denied. The tectonic plates of American politics are fundamentally shifting. To those who would get in the way of the new majority politics, consider: like that guy in the picture, we in the Silent Majority know how to handle those who stand in our way.

PS - Don't forget to set your TiVo to record Christy (ReddHedd) on C-Span tomorrow morning at 7:45. We love ya, Redd!


Three Years Later

Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly -- yet, our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.

Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force. And I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half measures, and we will accept no outcome but victory.

My fellow citizens, the dangers to our country and the world will be overcome. We will pass through this time of peril and carry on the work of peace. We will defend our freedom. We will bring freedom to others and we will prevail.

President Bush - Operation Iraqi Freedom
March 20, 2003
The number of troops involved in Operation Swarmer is down from 1500 to 900. There was not one single firefight. Not one major terrorist nabbed. Nada.

The Republicans deserve to lose their edge on national security and foreign policy issues.

... "This is not the only poll that is showing significant problems for Republicans on the generic ballot, significant problems for the president," Bolger says. "We're in a hole, and we're at a point where we've got to start digging our way out, as opposed to digging deeper."

It's not uncommon to see polls where Democrats beat Republicans on domestic issues, such as the economy and jobs, health care and Social Security. But in this poll, when asked which party they trust more on issues such as the Iraq war, foreign ownership of U.S. ports and attention to homeland security, majorities chose the Democrats. ... GOP Losing Edge on Foreign Policy Issues
Unfortunately, Terror Guy's favorite toy is his shovel.

Three years after Bush launched a preemptive attack in Iraq, the Iraqi people have voted, they have a parliament, but chose not to choose a president or cabinet, and Saddam is on trial. What is there left for us to do? Pacification is not our problem. If the Iraqi people want peace they will have to fight for it themselves.

That said, I must admit I'm not a peaceful soul. We're a gun toting family and I was born in red state Missouri and raised on John Wayne. Give peace a chance has never been my refrain. I'm not bragging, believe me, just telling you the root of my rant. Frankly, I don't trust our neighbors around the world. Since we invaded Iraq I trust them even less. That's what has me so concerned. The mantra of the day for me is give strategic redeployment a chance. Three years later, I'm looking at Iran, North Korea and terrorists in other lands. I'm also starting to worry again about Afghanistan. Because while Bush has been playing preemption in Iraq, the Taliban are back, the weather is warming and things are going to get noisy.

But three years after preemption, we're in Iraq to "stay the course" until "victory" is achieved. We all remember the promises, the misinformation, the downright whoppers.

"To suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don't think is accurate. I think that's an overstatement." - Vice President Dick Cheney

“There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people…and on a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years…We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.” - Paul Wolfowitz (Source: House Committee on Appropriations Hearing on a Supplemental War Regulation, 3/27/03)

Q: Mr. Secretary, on Iraq, how much money do you think the Department of Defense would need to pay for a war with Iraq? Rumsfeld: Well, the Office of Management and Budget, has come up come up with a number that's something under $50 billion for the cost. - Donald Rumsfeld (Sunday, January 19, 2003)
The cost of the Iraq war is now estimated at $1 - 2 TRILLION.

And what of the mismanagement of the post war peace, the down right incompetence of President Bush and the Republicans to effectively prosecute the post war planning? I've got my own, but here's a sampling of Republican incompetence on Iraq.

Failing to build a real international coalition prior to the Iraq invasion, forcing the US to shoulder the full cost and consequences of the war.

Approving the demobilization of the Iraqi Army in May, 2003 – bypassing the Joint Chiefs of Staff and reversing an earlier position, the President left hundreds of thousands of armed Iraqis disgruntled and unemployed, contributing significantly to the massive security problems American troops have faced during occupation.

Not equipping troops in Iraq with adequate body armor or armored HUMVEES.

Ignoring the advice Gen. Eric Shinseki regarding the need for more troops in Iraq – now Bush is belatedly adding troops, having allowed the security situation to deteriorate in exactly the way Shinseki said it would if there were not enough troops.

Ignoring plans drawn up by the Army War College and other war-planning agencies, which predicted most of the worst security and infrastructure problems America faced in the early days of the Iraq occupation.

Making a case for war which ignored intelligence that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

Predicting Iraq would pay for its own reconstruction.

Wildly underestimating the cost of the war.

Disbanding the Sunni Baathist managers responsible for Iraq's water, electricity, sewer system and all the other critical parts of that country's infrastructure.

Including discredited intelligence concerning Nigerian Yellow Cake in his 2003 State of the Union.

Announcing that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended" aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, below a "Mission Accomplished" banner – more U.S. soldiers have died in combat since Bush's announcement than before it.

Having no real plan for the occupation of Iraq.

Shutting down an Iraqi newspaper for "inciting violence" – the move, which led in short order to street fighting in Fallujah, incited more violence than the newspaper ever had.
Three years of incompetence on Iraq from President Bush and the Republicans who control Congress. We, our country and our mighty military, simply cannot afford a fourth.

guest posted by Taylor Marsh


Feingold and the Censure Resolution: 2006 and 2008

Image hosting by Photobucket

Hi, it's Scott back from Lawyers, Guns and Money for a cameo appearance.

As a follow up to ReddHedd's post below, yesterday I wrote a post about Ryan Lizza's baffling claim, in response to Russ Feingold's proposed censure of the President, that "[c]hanging the FISA law is the way to address Bush's overreach." Ann Althouse objects, arguing that I am not "the best person to be deciding who's 'vacuous.'" The merits of the ad hominem I will leave to the reader, but I think that Althouse is missing the fundamental point here, and I don't think that what's at stake can be emphasized often enough. There are two issues here: the politics, and the merits. The former issue I see little point in discussing, because whether it's a net positive or negative the political impact of a censure resolution on mid-term elections in November will be negligible in any case. I will only point out another contradiction in Lizza's argument. His argument that the resolution will be politically damaging rests on his assertion that "providing a check on Bush and the Republican dominance of Washington is a key Democratic talking point, but it's being advanced subtly by candidates who still often must distance themselves from national Democrats." But, if a Democratic victory rests on red-state Democrats being able to distance themselves from the Senate leadership--a plausible enough claim--then how can the fact that Feingold's resolution has not produced a unified Democratic caucus be damaging? Lizza's argument gets more puzzling the more you think about it.

But the more important point, which I think Althouse also misses, is that Lizza's claim that supporters of the resolution have the policy wrong is just a transparent non-sequitur. Changing the FISA law is hardly an adequate response to presidential overreaching, given that the administration has asserted the authority to ignore any statutory restrictions placed on its authority to conduct domestic searches. The value of Feingold's resolution is that it draws attention to the point that pundits like Lizza seem unable to grasp: this dispute is not only about the best policy to gather information about terrorists, but is about central questions of the President's constitutional powers and the rule of law. The key issue here is that the President acted--and continues to act years after 9/11, and therefore with plenty of time to request changes in the statute if it was inadequate--against a law passed by Congress. And, as ReddHedd says, claims that FISA is unconstitutional because the President has unconstrained authority over foreign policy are exceptionally weak. It's worth repeating my quote from Cass Sunstein about how contrary to our Constitutional framework such claims of plenary presidential power are:

Yoo emphasizes Blackstone and British practice, arguing that the United States closely followed the British model, in which the executive--the king!--was able to make war on his own. But not so fast. There is specific evidence that the British model was rejected. Just three years after ratification Wilson wrote, with unambiguous disapproval, that "in England, the king has the sole prerogative of making war." Wilson contrasted the United States, where the power "of making war and peace" is in the legislature. Early presidents spoke in similar terms. Facing attacks from Indian tribes along the western frontier, George Washington, whose views on presidential power over war deserve special respect, observed: "The Constitution vests the power of declaring war with Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they have deliberated on the subject, and authorized such a measure." As president, both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams expressed similar views. In his influential Commentaries, written in 1826, James Kent wrote that "war cannot lawfully be commenced on the part of the United States, without an act of Congress."

the issue. The administration is claiming powers to act unilaterally with respect to a conflict with no logical end, powers far beyond what Lincoln claimed at the height of the Civil War. Changing the FISA statute not only doesn't address this crucial issue--which the censure resolution, at least, foregrounds--it compounds it by legitimating the President's lawbreaking and contempt for constitutional restraints retroactively. Feingold, unlike Lizza, actually understands the crucial issue at stake. As long as Congressional Republicans refuse to assert congressional prerogatives there's nothing Democrats can do policy-wise, but at least they should be making this point as often as possible.

One area where I agree with Lizza, however, is that this is more about 2008 than 2006, and that's where I'll throw open to the discussion to FDL readers. This probably won't make me a very popular in these parts, but as much as I admire Feingold I think that, ideally, the Democrats would be better served by running a red-state governor than a blue-state Senator. On the other hand, if Matt is right that this strengthens Feingold's odds against Clinton, that can only be good news. If it comes down to Clinton/Feingold, then I think there shouldn't be any contest: Clinton--who ran well behind Gore in New Work, while Feingold ran well ahead of Kerry in Wisconsin--has electability issues that are just as or more serious, and Feingold is much better on the merits. To the extent that it weakens Clinton by highlighting her unswerving commitment to a disastrous and increasingly unpopular war, this is a good thing for the Dems in '08.


Libby's Defense Could Be Our Answer

The trial of Scooter Libby is still 10 months away but already we are learning that his defense could expose serious problems within the White House, in particular, their claims for the war in Iraq.

Lawyers for Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide are suggesting they may delve deeply at his criminal trial into infighting among the White House, the CIA and the State Department over pre-Iraq war intelligence failures.

New legal documents raise the potential that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's trial could turn into a political embarrassment for the Bush administration by focusing on whether the White House manipulated intelligence to justify the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

In a court filing late Friday night, Libby's legal team said that in June and July 2003, the status of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame was at most a peripheral issue to "the finger-pointing that went on within the executive branch about who was to blame" for the failure to find weapons of mass destruction.

So does this mean one of the administration’s top allies in selling the war to the public could now become a greater asset to revealing the truth that lead is into this mess called Iraq? When it comes down to a threat of jail time that is exactly what could happen.

Since the invasion started three years ago there have been countless documents, reports and documentaries on the subject of “cooked intelligence”. One of the most damaging items has been reports from employees at Langley talking about the vice-President and his excessive “hands on” attitude when it came to the Iraq war. Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern even brought this up during the Downing Street Memo hearings last summer. He spoke of times where Cheney would come in and want “briefings” from the analysts and Tenet would be there with him. This was a highly uncommon practice with previous administrations and in fact put extra pressure on the analysts to say what Cheney wanted to hear.

Now that Scooter Libby is getting ready to go to court, stories like this have a greater chance of gaining more attention. It not only helps build the defense of him being under enormous pressure and the pressure building inside the beltway, but also the lengths this administration was going to in order to protect their lie.

Something else that will help back Scooter's defense is a July 30, 2003 Rose Garden press conference. This was the day President Bush accepted responsibility for the flawed intelligence of the Niger claim. This will help show that those times were in fact tense. At the same time it will be a damaging blow to the White House. Just a few weeks prior to that, the administration was in a full blown “attack Joe (Wilson)” campaign and one of those attacks was outing his wife which lead to all of this.

Perhaps Scooter will be able to convince a jury that he did “forget” about disclosing Plame’s identity. It is a long shot but even if he does, it will expose more truths about what was happening in Washington and to what lengths this administration would go to defend their illegal war. The only hurdle left for our side is hoping that this information is not kept from the public because it is classified. Even if it is we still have the ears of Patrick Fitzgerald listening in and he might just be willing to pursue other angles of this case.

Cross posted at IntoxiNation.


The Constitution Is Not a Legal Technicality

The indespensible Crooks and Liars has a great clip of Jonathon Turley discussing the illegal NSA domestic spying. Turley disgust and anger is palpible -- watch the clip and see if you don't agree with me on that. And it is anger not just at the Bush Administration for treating our Constitution as if it were some piece of paper filled with legal technicalities -- but he is also furious with Congress for their rubber stamp roll-over on this issue.
...the fact that it was so quick as a suggestion shows the inclinations unfortunately of this administration-it treats the constitution like some legal technicality, and instead of the thing we're trying to fight to protect.
Go watch the whole clip. It's worth a few minutes of your time this morning.

A housekeeping matter: We've removed Kerry and Menendez from the Lions box on the Feingold censure resolution until we can get a firm answer from both their offices on Monday whether the current position is for, against, or on the fence. I didn't feel comfortable leaving them in the Lions category at this point, because we've gotten some mixed signals the last couple of days via regular posters in the comments and via e-mail.

If there was some mistake in putting them there in the first place (as in a staffer in a local office told one reader one thing, and the DC office was saying another), or if someone just got wrong information and passed it along -- whatever -- I want to give both Senator's offices the opportunity to give us the full scoop. And I will pass that information along here on Monday or whenever I can get someone on the record about it.

We don't want to push information that is no longer correct, because that just isn't right -- but at the same time, I'm not saying that either of these Senators won't go right back up on Monday if their offices confirm they are supporting the Feingold resolution. It's just the weekend and I can't exactly get a complete answer until Monday, so this is how Jane and I have decided to handle it in the meantime. Don't read anything into it other than we'll let you know something certain when we know something certain for ourselves. I hope that's clear for everyone -- but if you have questions, post them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them.

Also, if you've heard news from either Senator's office in the last coupla days -- please feel free to share it in the comments. It isn't fair to tar a Senator with mixed messages coming from staffers who may or may not have been overly-eager, nor is it fair to blame a mixed message on a staffer if it is coming from the elected official. Which is why we will endeavor to get the full and complete scoop for everyone on Monday. (If there are Senators other than Kerry and Menendez that you feel we ought to contact on this as well, please let me know and I'll see what I can do.) Thanks everyone!


The Bush Administration's Infinite Spin Loop

Elizabeth de la Vega has a great article (via TomDispatch) on the Bush Administration's infinite spin loop regarding the illegal NSA domestic spying program. It's certainly worth a read -- and she hammers the idiocy of "we have been repeatedly breaking the law, but we'd like you to amend it so our illegal behavior won't be so illegal in the future."
If you have any doubt that the NSA spying "debate" is trapped in an infinite loop, you need only review two pieces of evidence. The first, which we'll call "Exhibit A," is an article, dated March 8, 2006, entitled "Gonzales: NSA Program Doesn't Need a Law." Aha, you say, a mere headline. But this is what the article says: "The Attorney General made clear Wednesday, March 8, that the White House is not seeking congressional action to inscribe the National Security Agency's monitoring into U.S. law."

How, you wonder, could that be true? Since December, the President, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among others, have said that FISA is outdated, not sufficiently agile, ineffective against terrorists, and too paper-intensive. Perhaps the AP reporter misinterpreted Gonzales' remarks…

I now refer you to Exhibit B -- a February 28, 2006 letter from Alberto Gonzales to Arlen Specter, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In answer to a question about what changes to FISA are needed, Gonzales explicitly says, "The Administration believes it is unnecessary to amend FISA" to accommodate the spying program.

Let's review. Members of the Bush administration have admitted that they routinely ignore FISA. That does not mean, however, that they believe there's anything wrong with the law. On the contrary, the Bush administration does not think the law needs to be changed; nor does it even want the law to be changed. So every time you hear a Bush team member mention problems with FISA, all you need to do is think like a lawyer and the terms "objection.. irrelevant" will come to mind. Under the circumstances, why should Congress waste one more minute trying to amend a law the administration has no desire to see amended?
Nothing like rewarding the law breaker by making actions which violate the 4th Amendment legal for as long as our courts will uphold the law.

Here's the thing: if we sacrifice who we are as a nation, if we sacrifice our commitment to basic freedoms and liberty, if George Bush willfully ignores the laws, the Congress, and the judiciary and just does whatever he wants, we are no longer the America that we have fought for centuries to protect and uphold.

And if we are no longer an America fully committed to our principles, then who is really winning?

UPDATE: Georgia10 has more on why the President is not a king, and why his authority is not plenary when confronted with laws passed by Congress.


Friday, March 17, 2006

FDL Late Nite Bonus Bayh Edition: Spring the Crooks

Anybody see this over at Josh Marshall's?

I just love that the guy Bush hired to spy on terrorists us (and provide "intelligence services" to the White House they don't want to talk about) is looking at 20 years for bribing Duke Cunningham.

Maybe Evan Bayh can change the law and have him back in the Quaker panty sniffing business in time for the War on Christmas. I'd hate to see O'Reilly have to face that alone.


Late Nite FDL: Everyone Wants to Take Us To the Prom

This is rich. From a Boston Globe article on how the big Democrats are all courting the netroots for their 2008 bids:
The next round of prospective Democratic presidential candidates, even those with centrist credentials, is actively courting the Democratic Party's left wing -- which speaks loudly through its blogs, enjoys rising fund-raising clout built on Howard Dean's 2004 campaign, and is imbued with a confidence that it can build on Republican disarray.


The 2008 prospects appear especially eager to stay in the good graces of bloggers, who enjoy growing influence though only a small percentage of voters read or write them. Even a solid centrist like Bayh felt compelled to take his message for a "tough and smart" foreign policy to the liberal Huffington Post, founded by commentator Arianna Huffington.
Jane Harmon posted a diary over at Kos recently asking people to email George Bush and tell him they didn't want permanent bases in Iraq. She was shocked when knowledgeable, articulate people showed up and told her in no uncertain terms that her Bayh-esque plans to change the law and make George Bush's illegal NSA wiretap activity legal were utterly ridiculous. To her credit she stayed around and addressed people's concerns but it certainly wasn't the response she anticipated.

On the heels of his backstabbing of Russ Feingold, can I for one say how much I'm looking forward to Evan "lemming" Bayh's next "tough and smart" diary on the Huffington Post?


More Rough 'n' Ready Russ

Glenn Greenwald:
The Feingold Censure Resolution is unmasking the hideous underbelly of almost every Washington institution as vividly as anything that can be recalled. Each of the rotted Beltway branches is playing so true to form that the distinct forms of corruption and dishonesty which characterize each of them are standing nakedly revealed. As ugly of a sight as it is, it is highly instructive to watch it all unfold.
Feingold stepped up and spoke for millions of Americans who see this administration's abuse of power as a very serious matter for which this president should be held to account. We are desperate for such leadership and we care nothing about the lack of political politesse with which it was raised. The president and his party are held in very low esteem by two thirds of the country. If not now, when?
Puppethead (from the comments):
The thing that pisses me off is how the Democrats are treating this as a political calculation. I want them to uphold our nation's Constitution and the rule of law. I don't care how many senate seats are lost over this, or whether or not anyone's re-election bid is jeopardized. I want accountability in my government.
I'll repeat -- Feingold's popularity among Democrats has soared from 22% before he introduced the resolution to 52% after the resolution. The nerve he tapped is way beyond political squabbling. This should not be some big mystery.


Lieberman Distorts His Record

It's no surprise that Joe Lieberman is afraid of Ned Lamont. Ned's a handsome guy, a self-made man with superb business acumen, a great sense of humor and the willingness to speak out and oppose this disastrous war. Lieberman is a squirrelly little opportunist who backstabs his own party while his election coffers grow fat from the contributions of war profiteers his petty bellicosity has done so much to enrich.

Most Connecticut residents oppose the war according to the Stamford Advocate in an editorial which appeared yesterday welcoming Lamont into the race. They hope that it spurs a serious local discussion about Holy Joe's warmongering which appears to have nothing to do with actually representing the views of his constituents.

So I guess it's no surprise that Lieberman feels he's got to distort his record to boost his credibility with his constituents. I noticed this in the National Journal today (subscription):
For his part, Lieberman is taking his first-ever primary challenge seriously. His campaign Web site prominently features his lifetime voting records from such left-leaning groups as the AFL-CIO (82 percent), NARAL (95 percent), the Human Rights Campaign (90 percent) and the League of Conservation Voters (88 percent), which has already endorsed him.
Yeah and if you go back to 1977 Joe never voted to authorize the war in Iraq, either. The fact is that Joe's 2005 NARAL voting record is 75%, and that doesn't even include his cloture votes on judges that put both both Roberts and Alito on the Supreme Court. Nor does it take into account his recent comments telling rape victims to get up off the gurney and leave Catholic hospitals in order to get emergency contraception (which the hospitals will not even tell them they need). NARAL may not be willing to speak out against Holy Joe but to imply that they are 95% happy with his record is 100% bullshit.

If you're from Connecticut you might want to drop an LTE to the local papers and let them know that Joe needs to stop sliding around on statistics and old news, and that he needs to be held accountable for what he does now:
Hartford Courant LTE Webform
Connecticut Post LTE email
New Haven Register LTE email
Stamford Advocate LTE email
While you're at it let them know that you're interested in hearing more about Ned Lamont, who actually cares about representing the views of Connecticut voters.

And on this Sunday, the third anniversary of the horrendous war Joe Lieberman got us into, there will be a demonstration outside of Lieberman's office. Crooks & Liars has the details.


I'd Be Happy, Too

I just don't understand this. Every time any Democrat opens their mouth they talk about how the netroots community is more an more influential every day on the course of party politics, and they are most certainly looking to turn us into a virtual ATM for the next election cycle.

Yet they are so disconnected from the palpable rage of the base -- and yes, we are the base, the people who show up every day, who write about this stuff, send letters, make phone calls, give money, give a shit -- that they have no concept of stepping into a leadership position on matters of great concern like the illegal NSA wiretaps and channeling that emotion into positive action.

They are then often startled to find that frustration turning back on them. Is it really such a mystery?

EJ Dionne understands:
Consider the disparity between the response to Feingold's initiative among Democratic senators and the reaction among Democratic activists.

Senators mostly scampered away from the cameras earlier this week, because they didn't want to say publicly what many of them said privately. Most were livid that Feingold sprang his censure idea on a Sunday talk show without giving them any notice. Many see Feingold as more concerned with rallying support from the Democratic base for his 2008 presidential candidacy than with helping his party regain control of Congress this fall.

Some Democrats want the party to forget the issue of warrantless wiretapping, because engaging it would let Bush claim that he's tougher on terrorists than his partisan enemies. Others share Feingold's frustration with the administration's stonewalling on the program, but they think they need to know more before they can effectively challenge Bush on the issue. Both groups were furious that Feingold grabbed headlines away from those delicious stories about Republican divisions and defections.

But at the grass roots and Web roots, Feingold has become a hero -- again. They already loved him for his courage in opposing the USA Patriot Act and his call for a timetable for troop withdrawals from Iraq. Feingold's latest move only reinforced his image of being "a Dem with a spine," as the left-liberal Web site put it in a comment representative of the acclaim he won across the activist blogs.

In an interview, Feingold was unrepentant, arguing that before he made his proposal, "the whole issue of the president violating the laws of this country was being swept under the rug."

"We were going to sit back as Democrats and say, 'This is too hot to handle' -- well that's outrageous." He warned that "the mistakes of 2002 are being repeated," meaning, he said, that Democrats should never again "cower" before Bush on security issues, as so many at the grass roots saw them doing before the 2002 elections.

And it's a sign of Feingold's view of some of his Democratic colleagues that he defended his decision not to let them in on his plan. Had they known what he was up to, he said, "they would have planned a strategy to blunt this."

Here's the problem: Feingold and the activists are right that Democrats can't just take a pass on the wiretapping issue, because Bush's legal claims are so suspect -- even to many in his own party. The opposition's job is to raise alarms over potential abuses of presidential power.

But Democrats, unlike Republicans, have yet to develop a healthy relationship between activists willing to test and expand the conventional limits on political debate and the politicians who have to calculate what works in creating an electoral majority.

For two decades, Republicans have used their idealists, their ideologues and their loudmouths to push the boundaries of discussion to the right. In the best of all worlds, Feingold's strong stand would redefine what's "moderate" and make clear that those challenging the legality of the wiretapping are neither extreme nor soft on terrorism.

That would demand coordination, trust and, yes, calculation involving both the vote-counting politicians and the guardians of principle among the activists. Republicans have mastered this art. Democrats haven't.

Turning a minority into a majority requires both passion and discipline. Bringing the two together requires effective leadership. Does anybody out there know how to play this game?
I don't know how to make it any clearer. You can't tell people what to care about. They can continue to harp on the Dubai Ports mess all they want, but that moment has passed. It will make a fine talking point but the white-hot emotion fueling the discussion is gone. Russ Feingold saw where the conversation was going and he stepped in to provide leadership in a timely manner, not six weeks from now when they'd caucused the fucker to death and the world had moved on.

So let me speak in a language that even the dullest, the most remedial, most thick-witted Democratic consultant can understand.

According to a new Rassmussen poll:
"Initially, 22% of Democrats had a favorable opinion of him while 16% had an unfavorable opinion. However, knowing he advocates censure, Feingold's numbers within his own party jumped to 52% favorable and 14% unfavorable."
Every day that goes by and the party leaders do nothing but carp about an investigation that will never happen they are single-handedly delivering the loyalty, dollars and activism of the base over to Russ Feingold.

Are we communicating now?


C-Span's Washington Journal and Me

I've had a lot of questions on this, and I can now give everyone a few answers.

I will be a guest on Sunday morning's Washington Journal on C-Span. The segment will begin at 7:45 am ET. (My apologies to all the bleary eyed West Coasters. All I can say is thank goodness for Tivo or your VCR.)

My conservative counterpart on the show will be Paul Mirengoff of Powerline. The host on Sunday morning will be Peter Slen.

Am trying to do a bit of prep -- we'll be discussing news of the day, per the usual Washington Journal format. I love the show, so this will be very fun for me.

I'll try to do you all proud.


You Tell Me They Aren't Motivated by Corruption and Cronyism

This is beyond the pale:
Lawyers for two airlines being sued by 9/11 victims prompted a federal attorney to coach witnesses in the Zacarias Moussaoui death penalty trial so the government's case against the al-Qaida conspirator would not undercut their defense, victims' lawyers allege.

A United Airlines lawyer received a transcript of the first day of the Moussaoui trial from an American Airlines lawyer and forwarded it to Carla J. Martin, a Transportation Security Administration lawyer, the victims' lawyers, Robert Clifford and Gregory Joseph, claim.

Martin forwarded that day's transcript to seven federal aviation officials scheduled to testify later in the sentencing trial of the 37-year-old Frenchman, in violation of an order by Moussaoui trial judge Leonie Brinkema.

Martin's e-mailing of the transcript and her efforts to shape their testimony prompted Brinkema to toss out half the government's case against Moussaoui as contaminated beyond repair.

American Airlines attorneys denied on Friday that the government position in the Moussaoui case would have undercut their defense in the civil suit and said that none of their attorneys had any direct contact with Martin about the Moussaoui trial.

The contacts between Martin and airline lawyers were detailed in a legal brief filed on Moussaoui's behalf Thursday. That brief contained a March 15 letter from Clifford and Joseph complaining about Martin's actions to U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, who is presiding over the civil damage case in New York.
You tell me they aren't motivated by corruption and cronyism.

I am so angry right now I am shaking. The perversion of our justice system to help out big party donors, the willful disregard of the law, the abject failure of this Administration to respect anything beyond its own greed is beyond my ability to describe in words right now.

This was the death penalty phase of a criminal proceeding. Not only were her actions in blatant disregard of the judge's direct order, but they were in direct violation of any sense of ethics that one would hope would prevail in our system of justice. All for the question of a buck for the Bush Administration's airline donor cronies and their civil suit fears. Absolutely shameful and wrong.

More than that, the families of all those people killed on 9/11 deserve a hell of a lot better than the Bush Administration coordinating with the airlines to prevent them from finding out the truth about airline safety and other issues involved in this case. I am just so, very angry.

You tell me they aren't motivated by corruption and cronyism.

(Thanks to a number of readers who sent me the link to this article.)

UPDATE: Jeralyn has much, much more on this at TalkLeft.


Give Me Liberty -- A Patriot's Case Against Appeasement

From the NYTimes: The Newspaper of Appeasement:
We understand the frustration that led Senator Russell Feingold to introduce a measure that would censure President Bush for authorizing warrantless spying on Americans. It's galling to watch from the outside as the Republicans and most Democrats refuse time and again to hold Mr. Bush accountable for the lawlessness and incompetence of his administration. Actually sitting among that cowardly crew must be maddening.

Still, the censure proposal is a bad idea. Members of Congress don't need to take extraordinary measures like that now. They need to fulfill their sworn duty to investigate the executive branch's misdeeds and failings. Talk about censure will only distract the public from the failure of their elected representatives to earn their paychecks.

We'd be applauding Mr. Feingold if he'd proposed creating a bipartisan panel to determine whether the domestic spying operation that Mr. Bush has acknowledged violates the 1978 surveillance law, as it certainly seems to do. The Senate should also force the disclosure of any other spying Mr. Bush is conducting outside the law. (Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has strongly hinted that is happening.)

The Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees should do this, but we can't expect a real effort from Senator Pat Roberts, the Intelligence Committee chairman, or Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. They're too busy trying to give legal cover to the president's trampling on the law and the Constitution.
Wow, what a stellar idea. The NYTimes editorial board would like Harry Reid to shut down the Senate again and demand a blue ribbon bi-partisan commission to investigate what it already reported was going on -- using the NSA (and other agencies) for illegal domestic spying without a warrant in violation of the FISA laws and the 4th Amendment. (Remember James Risen? Remember your big news back in December? Hello?!?)

And the shut down of the Senate? Sure, it was a brilliant tactical maneuver at the time -- but one that surely works well as a surprise, and when used rarely. Not gonna be much of a surprise at the point, now is it?

And it got us...erm...another blue ribbon panel, this time of Senators, who haven't been able to move Phase II forward in the Intelligence Committee because the Republicans on the panel aren't interested in doing any real oversight and the Democrats aren't the sort who will go public with their concerns. So what did we get? Stalemate.

Just what the nation needs.

You know what I think this nation hungers for -- what we are all feeling in the back of our minds and in the deepest parts of our hearts?

That the misuse of government for political payback, rampant cronyism, corrupt influence peddling and bribery, and the overstepping of national security and legal boundaries to spy on Americans whose only crime is to disagree with the President is flat out wrong. And there are a whole lot of us -- liberals, ultra-liberals, moderates, libertarians, fiscal conservatives (everyone but the "maintaining party power is my whole world" crowd) -- who think that our nation and our Constitution ought to come first.

How about some accountability? Some oversight? Some real work on the part of Congress?

Don't make me laugh. Republicans control Congress right now. The people who have been placed in the party hierarchy in Congress and in the Committee Chairperson seats are either party loyalists or members who are willing to suppress their own personal ethics in order to hold their power chair.

Remember the last time Arlen Specter forgot his place and got all uppity about honoring the Constitution -- and he got a visit telling him he'd be removed from his seat at the head of the Judiciary table? How quickly can a grown man back down from his principles, I ask you? Apparently, pretty damn quick.

This Congress is not going to step up and provide any oversight so long as Republicans control both houses. The party leadership has decided that political power interests trump any allegiance to the Constitution or to our long-term national interests with regard to liberty or laws, and the hell with that pesky oath to the Constitution they all take when they enter their public office. It's a sad fact, but it is true nonetheless.

There are two options for dealing with the illegal NSA domestic spying on the table at the moment that hold some promise for accountability: censure or the appointment of an independent counsel. Everything else is simply window dressing and appeasement.

And for all those wingnuts who are now hopping up and down and saying I'm soft on terrorists and unpatriotic and I don't want to give the President the tools he needs to protect America and fight terrorists, I have this to say: BULLSHIT.

No one in their right mind is saying that surveillance under the law is not an appropriate means of combatting terrorism. No Democrats are saying this that I've heard, and I spend a whole lot of time listening about this issue. Hell, I've helped write up enough wiretapping warrants in my day for undercover investigations to know how useful they are as a tool -- they are essential. But they also must be tempered with the review of a third party with no personal interest in the investigation, to be certain that this awesome power is not being misused.

And that is the point: every police officer and federal agent in this country knows that they have to do the proper paperwork and present it to a judge for their third party, objective review, before proceeding with the substantial power that the government has of investigation.

There are emergency provisions already written into these laws which allow for surveillance to begin -- and for the government to be able to wait up to 72 hours before obtaining the warrant, after they have already been doing the surveillance. The FISA laws already cover this contingency.

There are very good reasons for third party oversight by the judiciary -- the power that the government has to do surveillance is enormous. And it has the potential for misuse, because that temptation is great.

The fundamental question that every citzen in this nation ought to be asking themselves is this: do I trust the government to make appropriate choices each and every time they decide to surveil someone, and to not misuse this power to spy on their political enemies or on people who criticize them or for some other wholly inappropriate purpose?

And then ask yourself this question: would I trust the government not to misuse its power if it were being run by the person on the opposite side of the political chasm that I distrust most? Just think about that for a second, and see if you don't get a huge flinch in your gut at all the possibilities.

Our Founding Fathers had a substantial mistrust of unfettered power, which is why our system was set up as one of checks and balances. It was that whole getting out from beneath the boot of the King for them -- and the fact that they had to fight for every inch of liberty that we now blithely toss aside in the name of partisanship.

I remember the days when the Republican Party gave lip service to the notion that individual rights were most important and that government ought not tread on our freedoms or our liberties. Those days are over under the current party leadership -- and all those civil libertarians and anti-government folks out there had better get used to it, or rise up and start taking their party back. Today it's domestic spying without a warrant and to hell with the 4th Amendment. You think if the crony money isn't in it for them they won't start chipping away at the 2nd Amendment, too?

The 1st Amendment has already taken a hit -- can't have people disagreeing with George Bush where he might actually see or hear him, so we already scuttle those horrible, nasty people who want to hold their government accountable by having the Secret Service drag them out of any public appearance the President might make. (The fact that these appearances are paid for with public funding be damned.) You think the whole of the Bill of Rights isn't up for sale right now? Jane was absolutely right that the Dubai deal was the prime example of national security and public interest taking a back seat to the crony with the largest, bulging wallet.

This is not a partisan issue. That it may have use for partisan implications is plain, but fundamentally for me, this is an issue that is wrong at its Constitutional core. Our government is failing all of us, because they are no longer interested in governing. It's about maintaining power -- and the status quo -- and every citizen in this nation ought to be sick at how things are currently being run in Washington.

I do not trust the Bush Administration to do anything that is not in their own personal or crony interests, and the nation be damned. And a whole hell of a lot of Americans out there are feeling the same way -- I get e-mails about this daily, and not just from our usual progressive readers, it's been libertarians and fiscal conservatives as well.

The system of checks and balances is currently skewed, because Republicans control both Congress and the White House -- and the Republicans in Congress have abdicated their oversight and balancing responsibilities in favor of being a rubber stamp for the Bush Administration.

The New York Times is high on something if they think that simply setting up a "bi-partisan commission" to study the potential problems with the current system is going to do any good. What part of the President admitting publicly on multiple occasions that he was breaking the FISA laws -- and that he would continue to do so -- are they not understanding?

What part of this country being a nation of laws that the President -- who is after all only a man elected to office for a short period of time -- has to follow just like every other citizen in this nation do they not understand?

It's the accountability, stupid. For me it comes down to this: are you an accountability patriot -- or are you just another appeasement rubber stamp?

Give me liberty. Give me accountability. Give me my Constitution back.

NOTE: Sorry this is so late in going up. Blogspot was having issues -- this is the same post that has been up at the new website. Just FYI.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

FDL Late Nite: Trust Us

A surprisingly large number of Senate Democrats seem to be completely out of touch with the anger and frustration felt by people in America over their failure to hold the President accountable for his illegal NSA wiretap activities. While Feingold, Boxer and Harkin have shown tremendous bravery and leadership in co-sponsoring the censure bill, many others seem reluctant to commit themselves and hope for some sort of investigation that will give them political cover.

There is not going to be an investigation, we know it, they know it and George Bush knows it. The Senate Intelligence Committee voted on March 7 not to investigate. Do they somehow think Arlen Specter is suddenly going to change his stripes? The censure resolution has been referred to the Judiciary Committee, which if the GOP holds true to form will probably mean they'll wind up investigating Feingold for treason.

In the mean time we're supposed to trust the Bush Administration that all of this warrentless spying is being handled judiciously and in the interest of fighting the war on terror.

Right. Because they handle everything else so very competently, we are to simply trust that everyone involved in developing and implementing government surveillance technology will do so with Solomonic wisdom.

What kind of people are being hired to work on this shit? From the TPM Muckraker, via Josh Marshall:
Here's an interesting -- but overlooked -- detail of the Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) saga: one of the crooked contractors who bribed the Duke Stir was apparently involved in a Total Information Awareness-like data-mining operation that looked at U.S. citizens' data.

Mitchell Wade, former CEO of MZM Inc., pleaded guilty to several conspiracy and bribery charges a few weeks ago in connection with the Cunningham scandal. But a little-noticed piece of his history goes into one of the most sensitive domestic spying operations we have heard of to date: the Pentagon's Virginia-based Counterintelligence Field Activity office (CIFA).

Wade got over $16 million in contracts with CIFA by bribing Duke Cunningham, who forced earmarks in to Defense appropriations bills on his behalf. Furthermore, Wade's second-in-command was a consultant to the Pentagon on standing up the operation.

In its brief life -- it was created in 2002 -- CIFA has had trouble keeping its nose clean. Despite the ink that's been spilled on the center, little is actually known about what it does, and how MZM serviced it.
Feeling better yet? I know I am.
The area that's gotten [CIFA] into hot water recently is TALON, a system of receiving "threat reports" from around the country and storing them in a database, known as Cornerstone. Last December, NBC news got their hands on a printout of a portion of the database which revealed they were keeping tabs on nonviolent protesters, mostly anti-war, around the United States.


Where does Wade and MZM come in? We're learning more every day, but here's what we know now: CIFA culls "commercial data," including financial records, criminal records, credit histories and more. MZM won a contract -- through Cunningham -- to provide a data storage system to CIFA, presumably to hold a lot of that information. Unfortunately it was a piece of crap, and was never installed.

In addition, the Washington Post has reported MZM assisted CIFA in "exploiting" the data -- presumably by searching it, organizing it, and looking for patterns.

Keeping databases on citizens engaging in protected political activities? Datamining credit histories looking for terrorists? It looks like the place bad ideas go to stay alive, behind the curtain of secrecy. As Wade has proven, you can get away with a lot behind that curtain (for a while, anyway). I wonder what more is back there we haven't heard about.
So, in summation: the DOD hired a crook who ripped off the government to pick through the underwear drawers of Quakers. To look through your credit history, your financial records, and no doubt a whole lot else. And we are supposed to trust that this guy with all this extremely private information about our personal lives will keep it confidential and not exploit it because -- well, because the Bushies say so, I guess.

It is an enormous mistake for anyone to stick their finger in the wind right now to see which way it's blowing before committing themselves on this issue. This is not partisan politics. This is not political chess. These are our core beliefs as Americans, our rights as citizens that are being fucked with here, auctioned off to the crook with the fattest wallet -- just like the ports.

Do the wavering Democrats understand this? I do not believe that they do.

Russ Feingold looks pretty damn good for having been the only one to vote against the Patriot Act, and a year hence he'll look even better for having stepped out in the forefront of this because the corruption and mismanagement are only going to become more painfully obvious as the details are unearthed over time.

The question is -- who's going to look good for having stood with him?


The Tin Political Ear of Evan Bayh

Meet our newest Lemming. BushCo. is on the ropes, but Evan Bayh offers them a helping hand:
But the first thing Democrats need to do, Bayh said, is take Republicans on in an area they've dominated: national security.

"It's a threshold issue for us, and it's a threshold issue for America," Bayh said. "People aren't going to trust us with anything else if we first can't convince them to trust us with their lives."

Before he spoke, Bayh told reporters that he does not support efforts by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., another potential 2008 presidential candidate, to censure Bush for authorizing domestic eavesdropping. Bayh said it's not clear whether the law requiring court approval before surveillance was broken, and he instead favors revisiting and possibly updating the law.
How exaclty does Bayh plan to be the big national security badass? By changing the law so that the President's illegal actions are made legal? Wow you are one tough hombre, Evan.

I wouldn't trust you to guard my potted fern.
Evan Bayh
463 Russell Building
Washington, DC 20510
Washington, DC (202) 224-5623
Indianapolis (317) 554-0750
Evansville (812) 465-6500
Fort Wayne (260) 426-3151
Hammond (219) 852-2763
Jeffersonville (812) 218-2317
South Bend (574) 236-8302
I never want to hear "Evan Bayh" for anything, ever again. Not President, not Vice President, not dog catcher. Ever.


Way to Go, Lieberman

I'm going to give you a marketing tip, Joe. Take it for what it's worth.

If your polling indicates that your opponent only has 7% name recognizability factor among Democrats in your state, you do not mention his name. Ever. You don't do his work for him. You certainly do not go running to the Associated Press three days after he announces his campaign and accuse him of "angry name calling" because he calls you "Bush's favorite Democrat." Sort of boxes you in, see, because while many Republicans are trying to distance themselves from George Bush that option really isn't open to you -- you hitched your wagon to his war and you can't back away from it now.

They must have some truly awful internal polling that tells Camp Lieberman the more people know about Lamont the more they like him, and some really first-rate consultants are no doubt telling Holy Joe to get out in front of this thing by painting Lamont as an angry liberal (and Lieberman's favorite trick, after all, is using Republican memes). Trouble is, Lamont doesn't come off as an angry liberal. So the more Joe raises his awareness, the more Ned gets thrown into the spotlight and what Ned needs more than anything right now is to become the focus of press attention.

Of course the possibility still exists Joe is just a thin-skinned moron driving his own campaign and unable to control his mouth. Whatever. As a supporter of Ned Lamont, I offer my sincere thanks.

Update: Thread Theorist points out -- and rightly so -- that the 93% "had not heard enough about Lamont to form an opinion." Which is a bit different from name recognition. They go on to say that "For Lamont I would interpret that as a good sign, and it would also explain why Lieberman would want to go to the AP just 3 days after Lamont's declaration. Lieberman wants to mold the public's as yet unformed opinion of Lamont." I would agree.


Prayin' for a Miracle

In the face of a 33% Presidential approval rating, the New York Times quotes oodles of Republicans this morning who admit that their base is so disspirited that their only hope of holding them together is the Bush Cargo Cultist fear that the Chief Jeep will be impeached.

If that's all they've got, the Feingold resolution has clearly demonstrated that the wingnut tank is on empty. When the number one word that comes to people's minds about George Bush is "incompetent," impeachment is just not going to have the same primal, reptilian brain pull as gays, gods and guns (and we can now safely add "sluts" I think).

Quite the contrary, impeachment offers the hope of some 24/7 cable news scandal theater, always candy for the Fox News rabble.

As Jeffrey Feldman says this morning, the frame is now ours -- Feingold's resolution has the GOP is backed into a corner. In the public's eye they tried to sell our ports -- and our national security -- to the very people they've spent the past five years demonizing, all for the sake of a buck. Now their only answer to Feingold is to attack Democrats for being weak on terrorism when they themselves have just been revealed as craven opportunists on that front, willing to exploit it whenever they see fit.

How nice of them to take the bait.

Truly horrible timing -- it makes them look once again like there whole game is playing politics with national security, that they're trying to avoid a debate about the crimes of an unpopular president by engaging in partisan smear tactics.

Even though the press, and the wholly compliant David Kirkpatrick (no doubt the recipient of a truckload of cocktail weenies for that slavish bullshit) are repeating the GOP spin on the Feingold resolution, it is real now. It's concrete. It's on record, in has now entered the public discourse, and the GOP is on the run, playing defense, something they're neither comfortable with nor experienced at.

They can clap and stomp their feet all they want about how great this is, that's pure spin. The latest polls show that the public supports the censure resolution (as Attaturk says, "Holden pretty much can build himself a glue factory"). This is a perfectly timed disaster that shows no signs of dissipating no matter what kind of a face they want to put on it.


More on Samarra

I wanted to highlight an article that Gyro Gear Loose brought to everyone's attention in the comments of the previous thread. Absolutely right that Tom Lassiter of Knight Ridder has been doing some phenomenal reporting on Iraq, and this article (warning: some graphic bits in this) on the situation in Samarra from a month ago gives a bit of a snapshot of the region that is now dealing with an air assault.
Distrust of the Iraqi police in Samarra runs deep among U.S. troops.

Last month, 33 police recruits from Samarra were killed when gunmen ambushed their bus and shot them in the head, execution-style.

Most Iraqis assumed that Sunni insurgents had killed the men as a warning to anyone else who might be considering joining the security forces.

But Brannon, the Bravo Company commander, suspects that the killings were an inside job by police officials vying for control of which tribes supply recruits.

"I would not put it past them that someone in the IP leaked where that bus was going to be," he said. "There's a lot of politics here."
Some very graphic stuff in the article, but a great snapshot in terms of what our troops are dealing with, day in and day out, in a lot of the hot spots in Iraq.

Let me just say that the air assault troops (who most often come in via blackhawks) are incredibly good at what they do. These are the troops ostensibly involved in the Samarra assault today, according to Ret. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who I just heard interviewed on MSNBC. I agree with him that these air assault folks have excellent training, and are the type who really go in and get the job done in terms of rooting out insurgent nests in an urban population.

The political and religious questions of the assault, and the long-term implications of this happening during a holy pilgrimage week, well, I just don't know. According to Prof. Cole:
the season of Arba'in in Iraq, the 40th day commemoration of the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Pilgrims are walking to the holy city of Karbala, seat of Husayn's tombs. They are in danger of being killed by Sunni Arab guerrillas seeking to provoke Sunni-Shiite violence.
I know this pilgrimage goes to Karbala, not Samarra, but with religious tensions so high already in Iraq after the Samarra mosque bombing, this seems like such a potential powderkeg -- especially if we are using predominately Shi'ite Iraqi troops in a Sunni region like Samarra.

I suppose we'll see as time goes forward, but this has to be done very, very carefully.

The one thing that Gen. McCaffrey said that gave me any sense of things being done properly, perhaps, is that the planning for this assault was apparently out of the Pentagon and, specifically, by the commanders in the region. That the White House was cut out of the planning altogether was confirmed today by Scott McClellan, under questioning about whether or not the President gave a go ahead from NBC's David Gregory.

And, btw, no idea if that is true or not that the WH had no role whatsoever in any of the planning -- but the fact that this was floated out to McCaffrey via his military sources and was then said publicly is a huge red flag in terms of military commander trust -- let alone the trust of the American public -- about the lack of competence and lack of confidence in the Bush Administration with regard to any actions they've taken in Iraq.

For all those involved in the assault and their families here at home, here's hoping for a lot of safety -- both for our troops and the innocent civilians caught in the crossfire in Samarra. I've just had a bad feeling for quite a while, and it is getting worse by the hour.

Also, I wanted to highlight today's Froomkin, since he has some great information about the "preemptive doctrine" of the Bush Administration that we had all hoped had been so severely discredited that it would die the death of all bad policies -- well, it's back.

This was a huge catch by Froomkin in the Pew Poll results: the single most used word to refer to President Bush and his Administration is now...incompetent.

It's going to be a bumpy ride...and Atrios is gonna have to get a whole new herd of ponies, because Pew has the President at 33%. The speculation that the assault in Samarra had something to do with the political climate had McClellan's back up at today's gaggle -- but with the history of this Administration, and all the staged war photo-ops (remember "Mission Accomplished?" or the plastic turkey?), they had to know it would be coming. It just gets uglier and uglier this week, doesn't it?

UPDATE: In case it hasn't been clear in every freaking article I've ever written on Iraq -- our policy there is a mess. It's not working well, and things are falling apart. And our men and women in uniform have been ill-served by piss poor planning -- which I believe I said flat out yesterday. The Iraqis are currently staring into a long abyss of civil war because this President chose a preemptive war of choice which we need never have fought. Is that clear enough for everyone as to where I stand on this?

UPDATE #2: btw, Digby reminds all of us of the Sy Hersh article about the increase in air wars. Worth a reminder read, or a new one if you missed it.


Screw the Poor...Literally

According to the Missouri legislature, giving the poor the ability to do family planning is akin to "an endorsement of promiscuous lifestyles." Because married people would have no reason whatsoever to try to space their family appropriately for their current economic and personal circumstances.

It's not enough that the virginity police scream at our public schools for daring to even hint that something other than abstinance exists in the family planning arena. Now, virginity and abstinance are being promoted within the bonds of matrimony.

In Missouri, apparently God doesn't want you to have sex if you are poor. And if you do, then you deserve to get pregnant. Nice.

And, well, the hell with women who happen to be poor and have an illness that might cause pregnancy to be life-threatening. How dare they think they could have sex -- within the sanctity of marriage -- and use birth control that the state would pay for under medical coverage. No sex for you, poor women. How dare you want to enjoy yourself as a married person.

Let alone the fact that responsible birth control use could be a major preventative for the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and abortions both inside of and outside of marriage. Oh, except you can't get an abortion in Missouri if you are poor, and you want to have sex, it's a forced birth option for you, and that's it.

FiredUpMissouri has much more. I don't know about everyone else, but I am sick of a small group of people trying to impose their personal religious beliefs and sexually repressive mores on the rest of the entire population -- and I suspect that a majority of Americans are with me on that.

Welcome to the 1800s, women of Missouri. Screw the poor...literally.

(Graphics love to All Hat, No Cattle. Hilarious. Thanks to Crooks and Liars for the heads up on this story. As if I weren't angry enough this morning...)


Oh yeah. Last Throes. Not.

Oh yeah. Last throes.
The U.S. military said on Thursday it launched its biggest air offensive in Iraq since the 2003 invasion to root out insurgents near a town where recent violence raised fears of civil war.

A military statement said the operation involving more than 50 aircraft and 1,500 Iraqi and U.S. troops as well as 200 tactical vehicles targeted suspected insurgents operating near the town of Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad.

The statement said "Operation Swarmer" was launched on Thursday morning and is "expected to continue for several days as a thorough search of the objective area is conducted"....

The U.S. military has launched several major offensives against Sunni Arab insurgents, including one that captured the former rebel stronghold of Falluja, and a series of assaults in the rebel heartland in western Iraq's Anbar province.

But the crackdowns have failed to ease a raging guerrilla campaign that has killed thousands of U.S. soldiers, Iraqi security forces and civilians.

Juan Cole has some great information today. As does Swopa at Needlenose.

That feeling of dread I shared in yesterday's Ides of March post -- it's worse.


Classified Information Oughtn't Be Gamed by Team Libby

Team Libby is now objecting to the presentation of classified information to the judge ex parte by the government. According to Pete Yost of the AP (via Guardian UK), the lawyers representing Scooter Libby have filed objections to the ex parte submission of the classified information to Judge Walton, saying that:
Libby "has diligently protected some of this country's most sensitive secrets throughout his many years of public service," the lawyers added.

In arguing for keeping classified information away from the defense, Fitzgerald has noted in court papers that the underlying criminal activity Libby is charged with is the failure to adequately safeguard sensitive classified information.
The operative phrase in the Team Libby quote is "has diligently protected some of this country's most sensitive secrets." (emphasis mine) That's just not good enough.

Having access to classified material is a privilege, not a right. According to the nondisclosure agreement that you sign -- the SF 312 (PDF) -- requires that you never, ever discuss classified information with another person who does not have the requisite clearance to know about the material in question. This includes not leaking classified information to reporters. (For a basic primer on classified information and the duties involved in having your privileged clearance, see this.)

And in the case of Valerie Plame Wilson, who was a CIA NOC according to the CIA (who ought to know), even knowing her status within the CIA was a "need to know" bit of information. This has even higher levels of protection.

Additionally, as a clearance holder, you not only have an affirmative duty to ascertain whether the person to whom you are disclosing the information has adequate clearance before even opening your mouth about the classified information, you also have an affirmative duty to report anyone who has violated their clearance agreement by improperly disclosing such information. And when you are dealing with "need to know" matters, you do not disclose that information at all whatsoever unless that person has requisite clearance and a "need to know."

It's pretty simple, really, and Scooter Libby, in confirming Valerie Plame Wilson's status with Matt Cooper (after Karl Rove had already done so) violated the terms and conditions of his SF 312. Period. Let alone all the other classified bits and pieces that were leaking out of the Vice President's office via Scooter as an ass-saving measure for the Administration once the fact that they had lied their way into the Iraq War started becoming public knowledge.

Scooter Libby violated his SF 312 by disclosing classified information. Further, so far as we know publicly, he did not follow his affirmative duty to turn in Karl Rove nor himself for doing this -- with Matt Cooper, with Robert Novak, with Judy Miller, and with who knows which other journalists about town as the pushback on Joe and Valerie Wilson was in full swing.

And while we're talking about it, Karl Rove, as far as we know publicly, failed to do the same. Why is it that Karl Rove still has his high level security clearance? THAT is a question that journalists ought to be repeatedly asking until this Administration gives an answer -- since Karl has admitted to revealing Valerie Wilson's job to Matt Cooper and Bob Novak, his clearance, had he been treated like any other governmental employee or any other person in this nation who holds such a clearance, would have been immediately suspended, pending investigation, and likely yanked altogether once his admissions were confirmed.

Yet there he sits, with who knows how much classified information moving across his desk, his access intact. The Bush Administration consistently brings up legal violations in others, but when the laws are to be applied to them, it's "we don't have to follow the rules -- those are for little people."

Classified information is not something to be gamed. It's not some child's play with a tin can telephone, where you aren't ever held accountable -- releasing classified information of this level of importance, regarding an agent working on WMD matters related to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, is no laughing matter.

And once Scooter Libby violated the restrictions that everyone else has to follow regarding classified information, then he was subject to treatment just like everyone else under the law. That includes restricting his access to classified information unless and until it is determined that said information is material to his legal defense -- which is a determination that will be made by the Judge.

By breaking the law and releasing sensitive national security information, Scooter Libby forfeited his privilege of clearance -- any presumption that he had the integrity to protect the nation's secrets is gone. He is being treated like any other defendant in this situation -- and who he worked for and how high his friends go in the government ought not matter one whit.

The same goes for Karl Rove. Why does Karl Rove still have a clearance? Because George Bush has decided he is above the laws that apply to everyone else. Don't we as citizens deserve some answers about that?

NOTE: A few of housekeeping matters. First, we are clearly still trying to resolve some server issues with the new site. I apologize for the inconvenience for everyone -- we'll update as we get new information on this. But, for now, we're still here at blogspot.

Second, I've been asked to be on C-Span's Washington Journal on Sunday morning at 7:45 am ET. I'm not certain who will be my conservative counterpart on the show as yet, but I'll update when I get that information. We'll be discussing the news of the day for an hour, and I think they'll be doing some call-ins from the audience, so I wanted to give everyone a heads up on this. So, I suppose I'm going to be a Sunday talking head this week.

Third, the Libby filing on this is not yet on the Scooter Libby website. And I haven't had time this morning to pull the latest filings off Pacer. If anyone has already caught this and would be willing to send it to me at my address, I'd be eternally grateful. (It's been a very busy girlie morning here, and it's tough to do analysis, pull documents, and play chase your daughter at the same time.) Thanks in advance if anyone can send this along -- I'd like to see the whole document rather than just relying on the AP wire report. The article brings in questions on Valerie Wilson's NOC status, but doesn't give specifics on the Libby arguments on this, so I'd like the ability to review their case law citations and fact assertions.

UPDATE: From Cieran in the comments -- thought this was important enough to pull it up so folks wouldn't miss it:
Two quick related facts:

(1) all classified discussions must be motivated by a specific "need to know", so that there's a lot more to it than simply "insuring the right clearance level for classified communications". Two people having the proper clearances is not sufficient legal basis for classified discussions -- there must first be a "need to know" to justify the communication, regardless of whether the clearances permit it. Proper need to know motivations are inherently technical (not political!), and specifically exclude non-technical motivations, e.g., mere curiosity.

(2) classification is a LOT more complicated topic than the corporate media leads us to believe. There's a lot more than "secret" and "top secret" involved here, including compartmentalization classifications (e.g., NNSA Sigmas) that may themselves be classified. Given this, the recent assertion by the WH that the prez can simply "choose to declassify" information by administrative fiat is not only ill-considered, but also hopelessly infeasible in the real world of interlocking and nested classifications.
As anotherpawn reminded me in the comments, "If in the course of conducting classified CIA business you met Plame - you'd either be cleared to know Plame was a NOC and ought to be informed about that, or you'd be introduced to her alter ego."

That's correct, and I ought to have been more clear above -- I was talking about revealing the NOC status to someone who didn't even have any clearance at all whatsoever. There are very stringent rules -- but they are fairly simple and clear -- you don't discuss classified information, period, unless you have a very good reason to do so, and unless you ascertain the level of clearance and the level of "need to know" of the information and the people with whom you will be sharing it.

Wanted to be certain that was crystal clear -- because the shoddy treatment of classified information by members of the WHIG, and especially the Vice President's office and the neocons allied therewith, who were using each other for confirmation, spin, and who knows what else with the media needs some substantial investigative reporting. And understanding the basics really highlights that need.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

FDL Late Nite: Democratic Defeatism

I said this yesterday and I'll repeat it. This image of "powerlessness" at a time when the Republicans are on the ropes is the biggest problem we face for the fall elections. If Democratic pols don't understand that they are flirting with terrible grassroots defeatism, then they are going to lose. They must take action (and I don't mean boring press conferences and 10 point plans) or it won't matter a damn if the Republicans are on the ropes --- demoralized Democrats are not going to bother with them. Come on. Speak for us. If not now, when?
Declaring defeat NOW let's them off the hook now. It's not a question of trusting them, as one friend of mine wrote to me today. It's a question of understanding and thinking about what will be most effective in bringing pressure to bear on them in the battle to come.

I submit that declaring them a lost cause TODAY is not only not effective in this fight, it is harmful. Before we decry the defeatism of our Democratic officials it is best that we avoid it ourselves.