Saturday, February 11, 2006
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 11, 2006; A07
NEW YORK, Feb. 10 -- James E. Hansen, the NASA climate scientist who sparked an uproar last month by accusing the Bush administration of keeping scientific information from reaching the public, said Friday that officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are also muzzling researchers who study global warming.
Hansen, speaking in a panel discussion about science and the environment before a packed audience at the New School university, said that while he hopes his own agency will soon adopt a more open policy, NOAA insists on having "a minder" monitor its scientists when they discuss their findings with journalists.
"It seems more like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union than the United States," said Hansen, prompting a round of applause from the audience. He added that while NOAA officials said they maintain the policy for their scientists' protection, "if you buy that one please see me at the break, because there's a bridge down the street I'd like to sell you."
NOAA Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher denied Hansen's charges, saying his agency requires its scientists to tell its press office about contacts with journalists but does not monitor their communications.
"My policy since I've been here is to have a free and open organization," Lautenbacher said. I encourage scientists to conduct peer-reviewed research and provide the honest results of those findings. I stand up for their right to say what they want."
Hansen prefaced his speech, which focused largely on how quickly humans must act in order to prevent irreversible climate change, by saying he was speaking as an individual. "I'm not speaking for the agency or the government," he said.
Most scientists who study climate change have concluded that Earth's current warming is being driven by the burning of fossil fuels. The administration does not question the link between human activity and climate change, but it has called for more research and supports solutions other than mandatory limits on carbon emissions.
After the panel discussion -- which also featured Princeton University professor Michael Oppenheimer, American Enterprise Institute fellow Steven Hayward and Stanford University professor Paul Ehrlich -- Hansen said he knows of NOAA scientists who are chafing at the administration's restrictions but are afraid to speak out.
New School President Bob Kerrey, a former Democratic senator from Nebraska, said he invited Hansen to speak because he was "very concerned" about what he called the administration's efforts to steer the debate over global warming: "It's not only inappropriate; it stifles the very debate we're trying to have today, and that we need to have on this issue."
Kerrey said of Hansen, "He's not a radical; he's a scientist who's studied the issue. Let the disagreement occur without stifling one side of the argument."
After Hansen told the New York Times and The Washington Post in late January that political appointees at NASA had made it hard for him and other researchers to convey their findings on climate change to the public, NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin e-mailed agency employees last week and vowed to support "scientific openness."
Griffin, who had been chastised by House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.) over the issue earlier in the week, said he would draft a new policy that would respect scientists' right to speak out.
In an interview Friday, Boehlert -- who has met personally with Griffin and spoken on the phone with him several times since the controversy erupted last month -- said he was satisfied Griffin was taking the necessary steps.
"The administration should make it abundantly clear, as Michael Griffin did in his letter to NASA employees, that there will be no effort, in any way, shape or form, deliberate or hinted at, that would stifle a respected scientist working for the government, doing research paid for by the American taxpayers, from talking about their work," Boehlert said.
He added that he had not received "outpourings from the scientific community" alleging government censorship and that, to his knowledge, "there are no plans in place to intimidate or stifle science."
Also Friday, George C. Deutsch, 24, a NASA spokesman who resigned this week after allegations that he had edited scientists' writings to conform to administration views and tried to limit reporters' access to Hansen, e-mailed reporters to say there is a "culture war" in the government over climate change. Deutsch's resignation came after it was learned he had not graduated from Texas A&M University, as he claimed on his résumé.
"There is no pressure or mandate, from the Bush administration or elsewhere, to alter or water down scientific data at NASA, period," Deutsch said, adding that after being tasked to work with Hansen, "I quickly learned one thing: Dr. Hansen and his supporters have a very partisan agenda and ties reaching to the top of the Democratic Party.
"Anyone perceived to be a Republican, a Bush supporter or a Christian is singled out and labeled a threat to their views. I encourage anyone interested in this story to consider the other side, to consider Dr. Hansen' s true motivations and to consider the dangerous implications of only hearing out one side of the global warming debate," Deutsch said.
Vice President Cheney and The Fight Over "Inherent" Presidential Powers: His Attempt to Swing the Pendulum Back Began Long Before 9/11
Vice President Dick Cheney has stirred up an old fight in Washington. He sent a rookie, however, to make his case publicly. It did not work.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to offer what may have been the weakest legal argument for presidential power to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance since Nixon's Justice Department invoked the views of King George III.
King George III's take on the matter did not carry any weight either. Indeed, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals could barely believe the Nixon Justice Department was serious. The panel reminded the government's lawyers that warrantless searches were among the very reasons the colonies fought for their independence. As for the reaction to the Gonzales testimony, a New York Times editorial described it as "a daylong display of cynical hair-splitting, obfuscation, disinformation and stonewalling." The Times also noted committee chairman Arlen Specter's analysis of the Attorney General's legal position: It "just defies logic." The Illogic Of the Bush Administration's Position on Congress' Law and Views Chairman Specter is correct. Gonzales' position is that the President can make his own rules, notwithstanding the existence of a federal statute - the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) - that is directly on point, expressly prohibiting warrantless electronic surveillance. For the Attorney General to defend such a view defies "the equilibrium of our constitutional system" to use Chairman Specter's words - treating Congress' clear word on the matter, as if had never been spoken at all. Warrantless wiretapping, moreover, is not just a separation-of-powers violation; it is also a federal crime. I suspect we will hear more from Chairman Specter on this issue, for he has great respect for the rule of law. Equally illogical is Vice President Dick Cheney's position -- and if anyone does not believe that Cheney is not behind this ruckus, they do not know Cheney or his history. Let me start by describing his give-no-quarter stance. After the Attorney General's testimony concluded, and given the doubts expressed about it by both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, PBS newsman Jim Lehrer asked Cheney if President Bush would cooperate with Congress to "settle some of the legal disputes about the NSA surveillance program?" Cheney responded with a polite, hell no. (Incidentally, this was Cheney's first interview with other than a conservative news person.) "We believe, Jim, that we have all the legal authority we need," Cheney said. "[The President] indicated the other day he's willing to listen to ideas from the Congress, and certainly they have the right and the responsibility to suggest whatever they want to suggest." The President will listen to ideas and suggestions from the Congress, but he will not follow a law it has written (and a prior President has signed into law) on the subject? This is not exactly a logical stance. Congresswoman Wilson's Call For Details: Initially Resisted, Finally Addressed Nor is the on-again/off-again stance the administration has taken regarding whether it will even share with Congress the details of the NSA surveillance program. The off-again stance was simply absurd. With every indication suggesting that the President directed the NSA to violate federal law, the Administration seemed to maintain that Congress somehow lacked even the authority to investigate the most basic facts relating to the illegality: Who, what, when, where and how. At first, the Administration refused even to brief the House intelligence subcommittee that oversees the NSA. Laudably, the Committee's Chair, Heather Wilson, R-N.M., subsequently broke with the Administration and called for a full review of the NSA's program. Initially, the White House once again resisted. But finally, it instructed the NSA to brief the House subcommittee. It wasn't logic that made the Administration capitulate, of course. It was a tactical, political decision: an effort to not let too much steam build among Congressional Republicans on this issue. What I have called illogical, former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr appropriately described as a kabuki dance with Congress in his recent column for this site. Cheney Wants To Swing the Pendulum Back on the Executive Power Issue Actually, all this is something of a periodic Washington ritual. And no one enjoys beating this drum to keep the executive power issue alive more than Dick Cheney. It may, in fact, be the reason he selected himself to be George Bush's Vice President. "In the aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate," Cheney recently told the Wall Street Journal, "there was a concerted effort to place limits and restrictions on presidential authority." There were "a series of decisions," he explained, "that were aimed at the time at trying to avoid a repeat of things like Vietnam or ... Watergate." "I thought they were misguided then," he continued, and "given the world that we live in [today] that the president needs to have unimpaired executive authority." Cheney said the only restraint on the president should be "the Constitution." He did not say, however, as he has on other occasions, that it is the president who says what the Constitution means, as far as his own duties and responsibilities. But that point of view is implicit in Cheney's comment that "the pendulum from time to time throughout history has swung from side to side--Congress was pre-eminent, or the executive was pre-eminent--and as I say, I believe in this day and age, it's important that we have a strong presidency." This View Long Predated 9/11: Startling Statements in Iran-Contra Minority Views Do not, however, mistake Cheney's reference to "this day and age" as having anything to do with terrorism. Long before 9/11, Cheney was pushing this cause. To understand Cheney's position, he suggests that others "go back and look at the minority views that were filed with the Iran-Contra report, [and] you'll see a strong statement about the president's prerogatives and responsibilities in the foreign policy/national security area in particular." If one does as Cheney says, as I have, what will be found is rather startling, to say the least. The so-called Iran Contra report to which Cheney is referring emerged as part of a five-hundred page final report of a Congressional investigation which lasted eleven months. The investigation was undertaken by a joint committee of both House and Senate, of which then-Representative Dick Cheney was Vice-Chair. At issue was whether the Reagan Administration had ignored the Boland Amendment, a 1984 law that restricted the CIA's use of appropriated funds to support the Nicaragua Contra movement - and, relatedly, whether Congress had been properly informed about the Administration's actions. The majority report asserted that the entire affair "was characterized by pervasive dishonesty and inordinate secrecy." But Cheney authored a minority report - joined by several other Republicans, though not all. Cheney's report took a very different view: He called the failures of the Reagan White House to comply with the laws "mistakes," insisting they "were just that -- mistakes in judgment and nothing more." These so-called mistakes were actually serious criminal offenses according to Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh, who successfully prosecuted some eight Reagan officials for their mistakes. All eight, however, either had their verdicts reversed on technicalities, or were pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. The George W. administration hired many of these people, and has made the records of George H.W. Bush disappear. Somewhat astoundingly, Cheney's minority report not only defended the White House's lawbreaking but also scolded Congress for passing the relevant laws in the first place. Congress, he argued, was "abusing its power" when it adopted laws restricting the president's spending of money to aide the Nicaraguan Contras. "Congress must recognize that effective foreign policy requires, and the Constitution mandates, the President to be the country's foreign policy leader," Cheney's report declared, ignoring the fact the Constitution gives Congress exclusive power over the purse. Clearly, Cheney's mindset about the Congress vis-à-vis the president has changed little since 1987. His position, however, is far from as solid as he claims. Presidents Do Not Have Exclusive Authority in National Security Since the time the Constitution was adopted, there has been an unresolved (if not irresolvable) debate over the allocation of foreign policy powers between Congress and the president. There are highly respected authorities on both sides of the question. No wonder, for as Harvard professor and presidential powers scholar Edwin S. Corwin explained, the Constitution itself "is an invitation to struggle for the privilege of directing American foreign policy." Corwin added, however, the "verdict of history … is that the power to determine the substantive content of American foreign policy is a divided power, with the lion's share falling usually, though by no means always, to the President." (Emphasis in original.) If there is a more accurate assessment of these powers, I have never found it. Article II of the Constitution, which sets forth presidential powers, is so vague that not even the Framers of the Constitution themselves agreed about its meaning. James Madison made the point in Federalist No. 37, stating "that no skill in the science of government has yet been able to discriminate and define, with sufficient certainty, its three great provinces -- the legislative, executive, and judiciary; or even the privileges and powers of the different legislative branches." Madison believed the meaning of this great charter would "be liquidated and ascertained by a series of particular discussions and adjudications." But it has not worked out that way. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court has two rival holdings regarding the conduct of foreign affairs - each suitable for citation by one side in the ongoing debate. Cheney, and those who subscribe to his point of view, find solace in the Court's 1936 decision in U.S. v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation. Ironically, conservatives once loathed this ruling - which recognized President Franklin Roosevelt's preeminence in foreign policy. Meanwhile, those who believe presidential powers in foreign affairs may be constrained by laws passed by Congress, find support in the Court's 1952 decision in Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer. There, the Court directly prohibited President Truman from seizing the nation's steel mills for military needs during the Korean War, on the ground that Congress, by law, had prohibited using such means to settle a strike. Both of these precedents stand. But the Youngtown ruling, particularly the concurrence by Justice Robert Jackson, has long been considered the best statement of the law. Still, with both decisions on the books, the "discussions and adjudications," which have been going on for two centuries now, have never been fully judicially resolved. I believe they have been politically resolved, however. Moreover, Bush and Cheney's presidency presents a clear-cut case of a violation of that political resolution - for it has pushed the exclusivity of the president in matters of national security further than any predecessor, including the Nixon Administration, did. For that reason, I will return to this subject in a following column.
King George III's take on the matter did not carry any weight either. Indeed, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals could barely believe the Nixon Justice Department was serious. The panel reminded the government's lawyers that warrantless searches were among the very reasons the colonies fought for their independence.
As for the reaction to the Gonzales testimony, a New York Times editorial described it as "a daylong display of cynical hair-splitting, obfuscation, disinformation and stonewalling." The Times also noted committee chairman Arlen Specter's analysis of the Attorney General's legal position: It "just defies logic."
The Illogic Of the Bush Administration's Position on Congress' Law and Views
Chairman Specter is correct. Gonzales' position is that the President can make his own rules, notwithstanding the existence of a federal statute - the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) - that is directly on point, expressly prohibiting warrantless electronic surveillance. For the Attorney General to defend such a view defies "the equilibrium of our constitutional system" to use Chairman Specter's words - treating Congress' clear word on the matter, as if had never been spoken at all.
Warrantless wiretapping, moreover, is not just a separation-of-powers violation; it is also a federal crime. I suspect we will hear more from Chairman Specter on this issue, for he has great respect for the rule of law.
Equally illogical is Vice President Dick Cheney's position -- and if anyone does not believe that Cheney is not behind this ruckus, they do not know Cheney or his history. Let me start by describing his give-no-quarter stance.
After the Attorney General's testimony concluded, and given the doubts expressed about it by both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, PBS newsman Jim Lehrer asked Cheney if President Bush would cooperate with Congress to "settle some of the legal disputes about the NSA surveillance program?" Cheney responded with a polite, hell no. (Incidentally, this was Cheney's first interview with other than a conservative news person.) "We believe, Jim, that we have all the legal authority we need," Cheney said. "[The President] indicated the other day he's willing to listen to ideas from the Congress, and certainly they have the right and the responsibility to suggest whatever they want to suggest."Column continues below ↓
The President will listen to ideas and suggestions from the Congress, but he will not follow a law it has written (and a prior President has signed into law) on the subject? This is not exactly a logical stance.
Congresswoman Wilson's Call For Details: Initially Resisted, Finally Addressed
Nor is the on-again/off-again stance the administration has taken regarding whether it will even share with Congress the details of the NSA surveillance program.
The off-again stance was simply absurd. With every indication suggesting that the President directed the NSA to violate federal law, the Administration seemed to maintain that Congress somehow lacked even the authority to investigate the most basic facts relating to the illegality: Who, what, when, where and how.
At first, the Administration refused even to brief the House intelligence subcommittee that oversees the NSA. Laudably, the Committee's Chair, Heather Wilson, R-N.M., subsequently broke with the Administration and called for a full review of the NSA's program. Initially, the White House once again resisted. But finally, it instructed the NSA to brief the House subcommittee.
It wasn't logic that made the Administration capitulate, of course. It was a tactical, political decision: an effort to not let too much steam build among Congressional Republicans on this issue. What I have called illogical, former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr appropriately described as a kabuki dance with Congress in his recent column for this site.
Cheney Wants To Swing the Pendulum Back on the Executive Power Issue
Actually, all this is something of a periodic Washington ritual. And no one enjoys beating this drum to keep the executive power issue alive more than Dick Cheney. It may, in fact, be the reason he selected himself to be George Bush's Vice President.
"In the aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate," Cheney recently told the Wall Street Journal, "there was a concerted effort to place limits and restrictions on presidential authority." There were "a series of decisions," he explained, "that were aimed at the time at trying to avoid a repeat of things like Vietnam or ... Watergate."
"I thought they were misguided then," he continued, and "given the world that we live in [today] that the president needs to have unimpaired executive authority." Cheney said the only restraint on the president should be "the Constitution." He did not say, however, as he has on other occasions, that it is the president who says what the Constitution means, as far as his own duties and responsibilities.
But that point of view is implicit in Cheney's comment that "the pendulum from time to time throughout history has swung from side to side--Congress was pre-eminent, or the executive was pre-eminent--and as I say, I believe in this day and age, it's important that we have a strong presidency."
This View Long Predated 9/11: Startling Statements in Iran-Contra Minority Views
Do not, however, mistake Cheney's reference to "this day and age" as having anything to do with terrorism. Long before 9/11, Cheney was pushing this cause.
To understand Cheney's position, he suggests that others "go back and look at the minority views that were filed with the Iran-Contra report, [and] you'll see a strong statement about the president's prerogatives and responsibilities in the foreign policy/national security area in particular."
If one does as Cheney says, as I have, what will be found is rather startling, to say the least.
The so-called Iran Contra report to which Cheney is referring emerged as part of a five-hundred page final report of a Congressional investigation which lasted eleven months. The investigation was undertaken by a joint committee of both House and Senate, of which then-Representative Dick Cheney was Vice-Chair.
At issue was whether the Reagan Administration had ignored the Boland Amendment, a 1984 law that restricted the CIA's use of appropriated funds to support the Nicaragua Contra movement - and, relatedly, whether Congress had been properly informed about the Administration's actions.
The majority report asserted that the entire affair "was characterized by pervasive dishonesty and inordinate secrecy." But Cheney authored a minority report - joined by several other Republicans, though not all.
Cheney's report took a very different view: He called the failures of the Reagan White House to comply with the laws "mistakes," insisting they "were just that -- mistakes in judgment and nothing more."
These so-called mistakes were actually serious criminal offenses according to Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh, who successfully prosecuted some eight Reagan officials for their mistakes. All eight, however, either had their verdicts reversed on technicalities, or were pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. The George W. administration hired many of these people, and has made the records of George H.W. Bush disappear.
Somewhat astoundingly, Cheney's minority report not only defended the White House's lawbreaking but also scolded Congress for passing the relevant laws in the first place. Congress, he argued, was "abusing its power" when it adopted laws restricting the president's spending of money to aide the Nicaraguan Contras. "Congress must recognize that effective foreign policy requires, and the Constitution mandates, the President to be the country's foreign policy leader," Cheney's report declared, ignoring the fact the Constitution gives Congress exclusive power over the purse.
Clearly, Cheney's mindset about the Congress vis-à-vis the president has changed little since 1987. His position, however, is far from as solid as he claims.
Presidents Do Not Have Exclusive Authority in National Security
Since the time the Constitution was adopted, there has been an unresolved (if not irresolvable) debate over the allocation of foreign policy powers between Congress and the president. There are highly respected authorities on both sides of the question. No wonder, for as Harvard professor and presidential powers scholar Edwin S. Corwin explained, the Constitution itself "is an invitation to struggle for the privilege of directing American foreign policy."
Corwin added, however, the "verdict of history … is that the power to determine the substantive content of American foreign policy is a divided power, with the lion's share falling usually, though by no means always, to the President." (Emphasis in original.) If there is a more accurate assessment of these powers, I have never found it.
Article II of the Constitution, which sets forth presidential powers, is so vague that not even the Framers of the Constitution themselves agreed about its meaning. James Madison made the point in Federalist No. 37, stating "that no skill in the science of government has yet been able to discriminate and define, with sufficient certainty, its three great provinces -- the legislative, executive, and judiciary; or even the privileges and powers of the different legislative branches."
Madison believed the meaning of this great charter would "be liquidated and ascertained by a series of particular discussions and adjudications." But it has not worked out that way. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court has two rival holdings regarding the conduct of foreign affairs - each suitable for citation by one side in the ongoing debate.
Cheney, and those who subscribe to his point of view, find solace in the Court's 1936 decision in U.S. v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation. Ironically, conservatives once loathed this ruling - which recognized President Franklin Roosevelt's preeminence in foreign policy.
Meanwhile, those who believe presidential powers in foreign affairs may be constrained by laws passed by Congress, find support in the Court's 1952 decision in Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer. There, the Court directly prohibited President Truman from seizing the nation's steel mills for military needs during the Korean War, on the ground that Congress, by law, had prohibited using such means to settle a strike.
Both of these precedents stand. But the Youngtown ruling, particularly the concurrence by Justice Robert Jackson, has long been considered the best statement of the law. Still, with both decisions on the books, the "discussions and adjudications," which have been going on for two centuries now, have never been fully judicially resolved.
I believe they have been politically resolved, however. Moreover, Bush and Cheney's presidency presents a clear-cut case of a violation of that political resolution - for it has pushed the exclusivity of the president in matters of national security further than any predecessor, including the Nixon Administration, did. For that reason, I will return to this subject in a following column.
Friday, February 10, 2006
Fox News: Republican Spin Machine
After Fox edited out applause following Lowery's remarks at King funeral, Kondracke expressed surprise at audience's muted reaction
Summary: Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume showed an edited video clip of Rev. Joseph Lowery's remarks at Coretta Scott King's funeral, during which he mentioned the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Lowery's remarks were greeted with 23 seconds of applause and a standing ovation, but the clip Fox News aired presented nine seconds of applause and little hint of the standing ovation without noting that the clip had been doctored. After seeing the clip, Roll Call's Morton Kondracke concluded that the audience "wasn't exactly uproarious in its response" to Lowery.
The February 8 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume featured an edited video clip of civil rights leader Rev. Joseph Lowery's address at the February 7 funeral of civil rights activist Coretta Scott King, during which Lowery mentioned the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. While Lowery's remarks were greeted with 23 seconds of applause and a standing ovation, the clip Fox News aired presented nine seconds of applause and little hint of the standing ovation -- and no indication that the clip had been doctored. The clip was aired during a segment in which guest host Chris Wallace asked his "Fox All-Star" panel to comment on Lowery's remarks. Fox's editing of the clip apparently had some effect on Wallace's own guest, Roll Call executive editor Morton M. Kondracke, who while apparently having formed one impression based on what he had heard about the crowd's response to the remarks, concluded from the curtailed video that "it wasn't exactly uproarious in its response."
After the clip aired, Kondracke stated:
KONDRACKE: What was interesting to me was, when I saw it -- and on this tape, the crowd did not go as wild as you -- as it sounded as though it did at the time and as various people have represented. I mean, I thought that the crowd basically treated President Bush very respectfully, and it wasn't exactly uproarious in its response to either Lowery or to President Carter. So I thought it -- on the whole -- it was a -- it was quite a dramatic and sensitive tribute to Mrs. King.
Media Matters for America previously noted that CNN similarly spliced out the majority of the applause following Lowery's "weapons of mass destruction" comment, also with no indication that it had done so.
Lowery's unedited comments, as broadcast live by Fox News on February 7:
LOWERY: We know, now, there were no weapons of mass destruction over there --
[23-second standing ovation]
LOWERY: -- but Coretta knew, and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here.
From the February 8 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
[begin video clip]
PRESIDENT BUSH: Coretta Scott King showed that a person of conviction and strength could also be a beautiful soul.
JIMMY CARTER (former president): It was difficult for them, personally, with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the targets of secret government wiretapping.
LOWERY: We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there --
LOWERY: -- but Coretta knew, and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here.
[end video clip]
WALLACE: Those were some of the comments at yesterday's six-hour long funeral for Coretta Scott King, and people are still talking about it today, including our panel.
KONDRACKE: What was interesting to me was, when I saw it -- and on this tape, the crowd did not go as wild as you -- as it sounded as though it did at the time and as various people have represented. I mean, I thought that the crowd basically treated President Bush very respectfully, and it wasn't exactly uproarious in its response to either Lowery or to President Carter. So, I thought it -- on the whole -- it was a -- it was quite a dramatic and sensitive tribute to Mrs. King.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
From the American Family Association's propaganda organ (note, I've x'd out the names of the kid's parents):
Two Christian parents say their son was a victim of homosexual indoctrination at the prestigious "Governor's School of North Carolina."Congratulations. You've now made this kid and his sexuality a national story. I'm sure his classmates are very happy to know that he might be gay, and now much of the country knows. Gym class is gonna be a joy now. And walking home after school? Well, let's just say I'll be very surprised if this kid gets to walk home undisturbed. Are you people that frickin' stupid and naive and careless that you couldn't at the very least leave the parents' name out of the article?
The Governor's School of North Carolina describes itself as "program for intellectually gifted high school students, integrating academic disciplines, the arts, and unique courses." But one North Carolina couple is suffering some after effects of their son's involvement in the program. xxxx and xxxx xxxxx say after their son attended a Governor's School seminar called "The New Gay Teenager," he began telling them he was unsure of his "sexual orientation."....
xxxx xxxxx says he noticed a big difference in his otherwise normal son upon his return from the school.
"He [said he] was thinking now that he perhaps was gay -- and of course I was floored by this [pronouncement] and was, like, 'where did this come from?' This kind of came out of left field," the dad says.
How this helps a teenager's mental well-being, when teenagers already have more than enough to handle, is beyond me. Has no one in the religious right thought about what they're doing to this kid by telling the world about his sexual orientation? Seriously, are you people that uncaring and sick that you would use a child in this way? Are you not the least bit worried about what a young kid might do, facing this kind of national attention, let alone attention from everyone in his hometown?
Jesus, people, maybe it's time you starting put the Christ back in Christian. If you think a school seminar "made" this kid gay, you are out of your minds. Whatever feelings this kid is having, he's had for them for a while, he didn't just develop them at a seminar. The seminar simply gave him the courage to tell his parents what he was feeling. And by blowing this up to a national religious rights public relations offensive, you've taught that kid one very important lesson about coming clean to his parents: Don't. Think you're gay, hide it. Think you're pregnant, hide it. Questioning your religion, hide it. Do you have anything to tell your parents that might concern them, confuse them, or anger them? Hide it. That's what the religious right wants today's kids in America to do - don't trust your parents, courtesy of the religious right.
If that's the lesson you wanted to be teaching kids, to lie and hide things from their parents, well congrats. You just ruined a kid's life. I'd like to think that the radical right would prefer that teenage kids not kill themselves. But honestly, I can't say with any certainty that I believe that to be true.
What would Jesus do? I doubt the religious right hate groups could care less.
WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert engineered a backroom legislative maneuver to protect pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits, say witnesses to the pre-Christmas power play.
The language was tucked into a Defense Department appropriations bill at the last minute without the approval of members of a House-Senate conference committee, say several witnesses, including a top Republican staff member.
In an interview, Frist, a doctor and Tennessee Republican, denied that the wording was added that way.
Trial lawyers and other groups condemn the law, saying it could make it nearly impossible for people harmed by a vaccine to force the drug maker to pay for their injuries.
Many in health care counter that the protection is needed to help build up the vaccine industry in the United States, especially in light of a possible avian flu pandemic.
The legislation, called the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, allows the secretary of Health and Human Services to declare a public health emergency, which then provides immunity for companies that develop vaccines and other "countermeasures."
Beyond the issue of vaccine liability protection, some say going around the longstanding practice of bipartisan House-Senate conference committees' working out compromises on legislation is a dangerous power grab by Republican congressional leaders that subverts democracy.
"It is a travesty of the legislative process," said Thomas Mann, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
"It vests enormous power in the hands of congressional leaders and private interests, minimizes transparency and denies legitimate opportunities for all interested parties, in Congress and outside, to weigh in on important policy questions."
At issue is what happened Dec. 18 as Congress scrambled to finish its business and head home for the Christmas holiday.
That day, a conference committee made up of 38 senators and House members met several times to work out differences on the 2006 Defense Department appropriations bill.
Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the ranking minority House member on the conference committee, said he asked Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, the conference chairman, whether the vaccine liability language was in the massive bill or would be placed in it.
Obey and four others at the meeting said Stevens told him no. Committee members signed off on the bill and the conference broke up.
A spokeswoman for Stevens, Courtney Boone, said last week that the vaccine liability language was in the bill when conferees approved it. Stevens was not made available for comment.
During a January interview, Frist agreed. Asked about the claim that the vaccine language was inserted after the conference members signed off on the bill, he replied: "To my knowledge, that is incorrect. It was my understanding, you'd have to sort of confirm, that the vaccine liability which had been signed off by leaders of the conference, signed off by the leadership in the United States Senate, signed off by the leadership of the House, it was my understanding throughout that that was part of that conference report."
But Keith Kennedy, who works for Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., as staff director for the Senate Appropriations Committee, said at a seminar for reporters last month that the language was inserted by Frist and Hastert, R-Ill., after the conference committee ended its work.
"There should be no dispute. That was an absolute travesty," Kennedy said at a videotaped Washington, D.C., forum sponsored by the Center on Congress at Indiana University.
"It was added after the conference had concluded. It was added at the specific direction of the speaker of the House and the majority leader of the Senate. The conferees did not vote on it. It's a true travesty of the process."
After the conference committee broke up, a meeting was called in Hastert's office, Kennedy said. Also at the meeting, according to a congressional staffer, were Frist, Stevens and House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
"They (committee staff members) were given the language and then it was put in the document," Kennedy said.
About 10 or 10:30 p.m., Democratic staff members were handed the language and told it was now in the bill, Obey said.
He took to the House floor in a rage. He called Frist and Hastert "a couple of musclemen in Congress who think they have a right to tell everybody else that they have to do their bidding."
Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., also was critical of inserting the vaccine language after the conference committee had adjourned.
"It sucks," he told Congress Daily that night.
Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., another member of the conference committee, was upset, too, a staff member said, because he didn't have enough time to read the language. The final bill was filed in the House at 11:54 p.m. and passed 308-102 at 5:02 the next morning.
The Senate unanimously approved the legislation Dec. 21, but not before Senate Democrats, including several members of the conference committee, bashed the way the vaccine language was inserted.
"What an insult to the legislative process," said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., a member of the conference committee. Byrd is considered the authority on legislative rules and tradition.
President Bush signed the legislation into law Dec. 30.
When asked about Frist's earlier denial, spokeswoman Amy Call said: "Bill Frist has fought hard to protect the people of Tennessee and the people of the United States from a bioterror emergency and that's what he did throughout this process."
Hastert's office did not provide a response.
Not against the rules
The practice of adding to a compromise bill worked out by bipartisan House-Senate conference committees, while highly unusual, is not thought to violate congressional rules.
Some Senate and House Democrats have proposed banning the practice as part of broader attempts at ethics reform in Congress.
They, consumer groups and others with concerns about possible harm caused by vaccines charge that the move was a gift by Frist to the pharmaceutical industry, which they point out has given a lot of campaign cash to the Nashville doctor through the years.
"The senator should be working to ensure there are safe vaccines to protect American families rather than protecting the drug industry's pocketbooks," Pamela Gilbert, president of Protect American Families, said in a statement. The group is an alliance of consumer, labor and advocacy organizations.
Frist has received $271,523 in campaign donations from the pharmaceutical and health products industry since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group.
He is also a possible candidate for president in 2008.
In the interview, Frist reiterated how important he thinks the vaccine protections are.
"The United States of America, if a pandemic occurs, is totally unprepared," he said. "And the only way we are going to be prepared is rebuilding our manufacturing base to build a vaccine infrastructure that can be timely and responsive. We don't have it today."
Frist has long advocated liability protection for vaccine makers, and it was widely reported that he would attempt to attach the legislation to the Defense Appropriations bill because it is considered must-pass legislation.Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said that, while the group favors liability protection, it did not take a position nor did it lobby on behalf of the law that passed.
Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006
Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records.
Beyond what was stated in the court paper, say people with firsthand knowledge of the matter, Libby also indicated what he will offer as a broad defense during his upcoming criminal trial: that Vice President Cheney and other senior Bush administration officials had earlier encouraged and authorized him to share classified information with journalists to build public support for going to war. Later, after the war began in 2003, Cheney authorized Libby to release additional classified information, including details of the NIE, to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case for war.
Libby testified to the grand jury that he had been authorized to share parts of the NIE with journalists in the summer of 2003 as part of an effort to rebut charges then being made by former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson that the Bush administration had misrepresented intelligence information to make a public case for war.
Wilson had been sent on a CIA-sponsored mission to investigate allegations that the African nation of Niger had sold uranium to Iraq to develop a nuclear weapon. Despite the fact that Wilson reported back that the information was most likely baseless, it was still used in the President's 2003 State of the Union speech to make the case for war.
But besides sharing details of the NIE with reporters during the effort to rebut Wilson, Libby is also accused of telling journalists that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, had worked for the CIA. Libby and other Bush administration officials believed that if Plame played a role in the selection of her husband for the Niger mission, that fact might discredit him.
A federal grand jury indicted Libby on October 28, 2005, on five counts of making false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice, alleging that he concealed his role in leaking information about Plame to the media. He resigned his positions as chief of staff and national security adviser to Cheney the same day. Libby has never claimed that Cheney encouraged him to disclose information about Plame to the media.
In a January 23 letter, related to discovery issues for Libby's upcoming trial, Fitzgerald wrote to Libby's attorneys: "Mr. Libby testified in the grand jury that he had contact with reporters in which he disclosed the content of the National Intelligence Estimate ("NIE") … in the course of his interaction with reporters in June and July 2003.… We also note that it is our understanding that Mr. Libby testified that he was authorized to disclose information about the NIE to the press by his superiors."
Although it is not known if Cheney had told the special prosecutor that he had authorized Libby to leak classified information to reporters, Dan Richman, a professor of law at Fordham University and a former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, said, "One certainly would not expect Libby, as part of his defense, to claim some sort of clear authorization from Cheney where none existed, because that would clearly risk the government's calling Cheney to rebut that claim."
The public correspondence does not mention the identities of the "superiors" who authorized the leaking of the classified information, but people with firsthand knowledge of the matter identified one of them as Cheney. Libby also testified that he worked closely with then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove in deciding what information to leak to the press to build public support for the war, and later, postwar, to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence.
In the correspondence, Fitzgerald also asserted that Libby testified that he had met with then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller on July 8, 2003, with the "purpose" of intending "to transmit information" to her "concerning the NIE."
That particular meeting has been key to Fitzgerald's investigation because the special prosecutor alleges that Libby lied both to the FBI and to his federal grand jury by saying that he had not discussed Plame with Miller on that date, when in fact he did tell her of Plame's work for the CIA.
In an account of her grand jury testimony, Miller has written that Libby discussed the NIE with her: "Mr. Libby also cited a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, produced by American intelligence agencies in October 2002 … which he said had firmly concluded that Iraq was seeking uranium." Portions of the NIE were later declassified, but the material in it related to Niger was still classified at the time.
Libby, through a spokesperson, declined to comment, and the vice president, through a spokesperson, also declined to comment for this story.
The new disclosure that Libby has claimed that the vice president and others in the White House had authorized him to release information to make the case to go to war, and later to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence, is significant for several reasons. First, it significantly adds to a mounting body of information that Cheney played a central and personal role in directing efforts to counter claims by Wilson and other administration critics that the Bush administration had misused intelligence information to go to war with Iraq.
Second, it raises additional questions about Libby's motives in concealing his role in leaking Plame's name to the press, if he was in fact more broadly authorized by Cheney and others to rebut former Ambassador Wilson's charges. The federal grand jury indictment of Libby alleges that he had lied to the FBI and the federal grand jury by claiming that when he provided information to reporters about Plame's CIA employment, he was only passing along what he understood to be unverified gossip that he had heard from other journalists.
Instead, the indictment charges that Libby had in fact learned of Plame's CIA status from at least four government officials, Cheney among them, and from classified documents. Indeed, much of Libby's earliest and most detailed information regarding Plame's CIA employment came directly from the vice president, according to information in Libby's grand jury indictment. "On or about June 12, 2003," the indictment stated, "Libby was advised by the Vice President of the United States that Wilson's wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counterproliferation Division."
Libby testified that Cheney told him about Plame "in an off sort of, curiosity sort of, fashion," according to other information recently unsealed in federal court. Not long after that date, Libby, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and a third administration official began to tell reporters that Plame had worked at the CIA, and that she had been responsible for sending her husband to Niger.
Finally, the new information indicates that Libby is likely to pursue a defense during his trial that he was broadly "authorized" by Cheney and other "superiors" to defend the Bush administration in making the case to go to war. Libby does not, however, appear to be claiming that he was acting specifically on Cheney's behalf in disclosing information about Plame to the press.
Libby's legal strategy in asserting that Cheney and other Bush administration officials authorized activities related to the underlying allegations of criminal conduct leveled against him, without approving of or encouraging him to engage in the specific misconduct, is reminiscent of the defense strategy used by Oliver North, who was a National Security Council official in the Reagan administration.
North, a Marine lieutenant colonel assigned to the National Security Council, implemented the Reagan administration's efforts to covertly send arms to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages held in the Middle East, and to covertly fund and provide military assistance to the Nicaraguan Contras at a time when federal law prohibited such activities. Later, it was discovered that North and other Reagan administration officials had diverted funds they had received from the Iranian arms sales to covertly fund the Contras.
If Libby's defense adopts strategies used by North, it might be in part because the strategies largely worked for North and in part because Libby's defense team has quietly retained John D. Cline, who was a defense attorney for North. Cline, a San-Francisco partner at the Jones Day law firm, has specialized in the use of classified information in defending clients charged with wrongdoing in national security cases.
Among his detractors, Cline is what is known as a "graymail" specialist-an attorney who, critics say, purposely makes onerous demands on the federal government to disclose classified information in the course of defending his clients, in an effort to force the government to dismiss the charges. Although Cline declined to be interviewed for this story, he has said that the use of classified information is necessary in assuring that defendants are accorded due process and receive fair trials.
In the Libby case, Cline has frustrated prosecutors by demanding, as part of pretrial discovery, more than 10 months of the President's Daily Brief, or PDBs, the president's morning intelligence briefing. The reports are among the most highly classified documents in government, not only because they often contain sensitive intelligence and methods, but also because they indicate what the president and policy makers consider to be the most pressing national security threats. In the past, the Bush administration has defied bipartisan requests from the Intelligence committees in Congress to turn over PDBs for review.
After Cline demanded the PDBs, Fitzgerald wrote to him on January 9 that the prosecutor's office has only "received a very discrete amount of material relating to PDBs" and "never requested copies of PDBs" themselves, in part because "they are extraordinarily sensitive documents which are usually highly classified." Moreover, Fitzgerald wrote, only a relatively small number of PDB pages included reference to Wilson's trip to Niger.
But Cline has insisted that it is imperative for his client's defense to be able to review the PDBs because part of Libby's defense is that he may have had a faulty memory regarding conversations he had with government officials and reporters regarding Plame, in that he had so many other pressing issues to consider every day as chief of staff and national security adviser to the vice president.
In a January 31 court filing, attorneys for Libby argued: "Mr. Libby will show that, in the constant rush of more pressing matters, any errors he made in FBI interviews or grand jury testimony, months after the conversations, were the result of confusion, mistake, faulty memory, rather than a willful intent to deceive."
In the North case, the Iran-Contra independent counsel, Lawrence Walsh, was forced to dismiss many of the central charges against North, including the most serious ones-that North defrauded taxpayers by diverting proceeds from arms sales to Iran to finance the Nicaraguan Contras-because intelligence agencies and the Reagan administration refused to declassify documents necessary for a trial on those charges.
Walsh and many of his deputies believed that the Reagan Justice Department refused to declassify documents necessary to try North because officials were personally sympathetic to him. A North trial would also have politically embarrassed the Reagan administration, and a North conviction might have led to charges against higher officials.
In court filings, Walsh said that much of what intelligence agencies and the Reagan administration had refused to declassify had long before been published in the media or made public in some other way.
"It was a backdoor way of shutting us down," said one former Iran-Contra prosecutor, who spoke only on the condition that his name not be used, because his current position as a private attorney requires frequent dealings with attorneys who were on the other side of the North case at the time. "It was a cover-up by means of an administrative action, and it was an effective cover-up at that."
The former prosecutor added: "The intelligence agencies do not declassify things on the pretext that they are protecting state secrets, but the truth is that we were investigating and prosecuting their own. The same was true for the Reagan administration. Cline was particularly adept at working the system."
Is it possible that a prosecution of Libby might be impeded or even derailed entirely by the refusal of the Bush White House or its Justice Department to declassify information that might be necessary to try Libby? "Under the current statute, it may well be the attorney general's call-or whomever he designates-to ultimately decide what should be declassified, and what might not be, in the Libby case," said Michael Bromwich, a former associate Iran-Contra independent counsel and a former Justice Department inspector general.
William Treanor, the dean of Fordham University's Law School, and also a former associate Iran-contra special counsel, said that it is less likely that the Bush administration would challenge Fitzgerald as former administrations did with special prosecutors. Walsh, dealing with the Reagan and elder Bush administrations, and Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr, dealing with the Clinton administration, often alleged that political appointees in the Justice Department worked purposely to undermine their investigations.
"Walsh and Starr were not appointed by an attorney general," Treanor said, noting that Walsh, Starr, and earlier special prosecutors had been appointed by a three-judge federal panel instead of by the Justice Department. Currently, he pointed out, special prosecutors are appointed by the attorney general or their designate.
"With Walsh or Starr, the president and his supporters could more easily argue that a prosecutor was overzealous or irresponsible, because there had been a three-judge panel that appointed him," Treanor said. "With Fitzgerald, you have a prosecutor who was appointed by the deputy attorney general [at the direction of the attorney general]. The administration almost has to stand behind him because this is someone they selected themselves. It is harder to criticize someone you yourself put into play."
There are other reasons why it might prove difficult to undercut Fitzgerald, including outstanding questions about the role that Cheney and others in the Bush administration played in the effort to discredit Wilson, and the fact that Cheney is still the point man in defending the White House's use of prewar intelligence on Iraq.
And the new disclosure, that Libby is alleging that Cheney and other Bush administration officials "authorized" him to disclose classified information as a means to counter charges that the administration misused prewar intelligence, might also make it difficult for this administration to refuse to declassify information for Libby's trial.
But a Libby defense strategy asserting that he released classified information or took other actions as broadly authorized by Cheney might have other advantages, if the North case is any guide. At North's trial, the counts on which the jury acquitted him tended to be those involving actions that appeared to be authorized by superiors. He was found guilty of three felonies on which the evidence indicated that he was acting on his own initiative or for his own financial benefit.
"It was a memorable and powerful moment when North told the jury that he was 'a pawn in a chess game played by giants,'" Treanor said.
The claims by North that his activities had been broadly authorized by higher-ups, including even the president, also worked to his advantage when he was sentenced. Despite the fact that North had been convicted of three felonies and that Iran-Contra prosecutors argued before sentencing that letting North off with "only a slap on the wrist … would send exactly the wrong message … [only] 15 years after Watergate," he was sentenced to only probation, a fine, and community service.
North's trial judge, U.S. District Court Judge Gerhard Gesell, took note that the jury had acquitted North of criminal charges mainly where it appeared that his conduct might have been authorized by higher authorities: "Observing that many others involved in the events were escaping without censure or with prosecutorial promises of leniency or immunities, [the jury] used their common sense. And they gave you the benefit of a reasonable doubt."
Explaining his own leniency in sentencing the former NSC aide, Gesell told North: "I do not believe you were a leader at all, but really a low-ranking subordinate to carry out initiatives of a few cynical superiors. You came to be a point man in a very complex power play developed by higher-ups."
Later, North's convictions were overturned on appeal because of concerns that some of the evidence used against him during his trial might have been derived from his testimony before the House-Senate Iran-Contra investigating committee. North had been given immunity for that testimony.
But most outside legal observers say that Libby, because he was himself such a high-ranking official, will most likely face a much more difficult time than North did in arguing that, in some of his activities, he was just carrying out orders from Cheney or other senior White House officials."A defendant can make a claim that he is just a victim of Washington politics or doing the bidding for someone else," said Richman, the former prosecutor, "But there may be limits to a jury's sympathy when that defendant himself was so high-ranking. Given Libby's position in the White House, the jury is less likely to view him as a sacrificial lamb than as a sacrificial ram."
Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said Democrats who submitted the resolutions should "at least silently confess to themselves that their actions pose real dangers to our country."
Hyde accused Democrats of playing politics, with an eye on November's congressional elections, by offering the three resolutions demanding:
* Information on a practice that has been called extraordinary rendition, or sending suspects abroad to countries where they would allegedly be tortured for information.
* Documents about U.S. policies regarding U.N. anti-torture conventions.
* Documents and records involving Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's December trip to Europe, during which she was dogged by reports of alleged secret European jails.
All three proposed resolutions were defeated on almost straight party-line votes.
The committee's senior Democrat, Rep. Tom Lantos of California, denied Hyde's accusations of partisan motivation.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press WriterWed Feb 8, 5:39 PM ET
Indicted Rep. Tom DeLay, forced to step down as the No. 2 Republican in the House, scored a soft landing Wednesday as GOP leaders rewarded him with a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee.
DeLay, R-Texas, also claimed a seat on the subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department, which is currently investigating an influence-peddling scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his dealings with lawmakers. The subcommittee also has responsibility over NASA — a top priority for DeLay, since the Johnson Space Center is located in his Houston-area district.
"Allowing Tom DeLay to sit on a committee in charge of giving out money is like putting Michael Brown back in charge of FEMA — Republicans in Congress just can't seem to resist standing by their man," said Bill Burton, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
GOP leaders also named California Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon as chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee. Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, vacated that post after winning a campaign to replace DeLay.
McKeon is a seven-term conservative who has a generally good relationship with educators. He authored a 2001 law to remove disincentives for workers who would have lost part of their Social Security benefits when switching jobs to become public school teachers.
DeLay was able to rejoin the powerful Appropriations panel — he was a member until becoming majority leader in 2003 — because of a vacancy created after the resignation of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif. Cunningham pleaded guilty in November to charges relating to accepting $2.4 million in bribes for government business and other favors.
February 8, 2006
By Nancy Greggs from Democratic Underground
It's the beginning of a new year, a time to reflect on the mistakes of the past and resolve to improve the future. That being said, my Fellow Citizens, I think it's time we admitted that we just can't get along anymore - it's time to think about a divorce.
For the past few years, we've been engaged in a civil war; a war of ideas and ideals. The rhetoric got out of hand a long time ago, and before this really comes to blows, let's agree to disagree - and separate.
Drastic times call for drastic measures, so let's pick up the sword of Solomon and cleave the country in two, and pray that somehow both sides survive.
Those of you who are ardent believers in the Bush regime can take one-half of the nation (hereinafter called Bushistan); those of us who still believe in old fashioned notions like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights will take the other half, known as the Good Ol' USA.
Citizens will have to relocate to the side of their choice - and for many of you, it may be the last freedom of choice you enjoy, so choose wisely.
Undoubtedly G.W. Bush will declare himself your President-In-Perpetuity (PIP), but those of you who are enamoured of the man and his policies will have no problem with that. We here in the Good Ol' USA will hold fair and transparent elections - and by the way, you can take the Diebold machines; they'll be immediately outlawed on our side of the fence.
The first order of business will, of course, be the erection of giant wall between Bushistan and the Good Ol' USA, and it's only fair to share the expense. Our side will be built by Good Ol' American workers, paid a fair wage; your side will be built by Halliburton via a no-bid contract, so it will inevitably cost you a lot more. But you haven't squawked about their contracts up to now, so I'm sure you won't mind.
The period of adjustment will be difficult, but much less so for you over in Bushistan. You've already acclimated yourselves to things like loss of personal freedoms and civil liberties, the loss of respect around the world. We Good Ol' USAers, on the other hand, will have to go through the difficult, albeit joyous, re-adjustment of having those things back in our lives.
You will still have your usual newscasters, like O'Reilly and Limbaugh, and under their Bushistan government-controlled mandate, they'll feel even freer to slant the news, just the way you like it. You won't have to put up with any real news anymore, and every day will be a great day in Bushistan - at least that's the way you'll hear it, day in and day out.
We in the Good Ol' USA, on the other hand, will have to face the real news: we'll hear about how things aren't really going too well in Iraq, and if there are any discrepancies in our voting system, we're going to have to hear about it, 24/7, in excruciating detail. So while you get to hear about Paris Hilton's latest fashion faux pas, we'll have to content ourselves with things like international and domestic news of substance. You get to keep FOX; we'll keep Seymour Hersh and Maureen Dowd. Seems fair.
On a darker note, you Bushistanians will have to brace yourselves for some hard times economically. Your income tax rates will probably soar to somewhere in the 80% to 90% range; after all, once your PIP Bush is installed as supreme leader, the wealthiest among you will be declared totally tax-exempt, right along with all of the corporations (Big Oil, Big Business, Big Pharma) he so adores. That means a heftier tax burden on the middle-class and poor - but again, you've shown your acquiescence in the past, so you're sure to welcome the new tax code with open arms.
You'll also be bearing the ever-escalating costs of the war in Iraq (along with whatever new wars your PIP will be involving you in). We'll be giving the soldiers currently stationed there the choice between coming home to the Good Ol' USA or staying in the Middle East to fight for the non-freedoms of Bushistan - so I think you may be seeing a rather dramatic draw-down of troops as a result.
But life will go on for you in Bushistan, just the way you seemingly want it to be. You'll attend state-sanctioned churches every Sunday, a one-stop-shopping site for Jesus-and-government all rolled into one. After services, you can take the family to a Triple-G-rated movie, without fear of the kiddies seeing anything that depicts homosexuality, criticism of the government, or any of those other unhealthy things that destroy society.
Economically, I don't think it will take too long for the Good Ol' USA to get on its feet. With your PIP's penchant for sanctioning the outsourcing of your jobs (after all, a financially-strapped citizen is a malleable citizen), he'll undoubtedly be sending a lot of jobs our way. Imagine going to your local WalMart and seeing "Made in the Good Ol' USA!" stickers on the products you buy! That will be a new concept for many of you younger folk, who have never seen that label before.
Of course, there won't be any "Made in Bushistan" labels on the products sold on our side of the Continent. The Good Ol' USA will be following its traditional policy of not doing business with repressive regimes that advocate torture, and without any restrictions on your PIP and his Administration in that regard, that kind of keeps you out of the trade loop, doesn't it?
You'll also be taxed to fund the various governmental programs to "keep you safe," and due to your PIP's aforementioned proclivity for torture, as well as invading and occupying sovereign nations, you'll be a lot more vulnerable to terrorism than we here in the Good Ol' USA. You'll also be funding those secret prisons around the globe - and hey, let's face it, water-boarding experts don't come cheap.
We in the Good Ol' USA, free of those financial burdens, will spend our tax dollars on things like education, hospitals, stem-cell research to cure diseases - you know, the kinds of things you Bushistanians no longer see any need for.
On the other hand, you'll never have to face the heartbreak of your children leaving home. After being educated under your system, they won't be able to secure jobs anywhere else but Bushistan. Once they start spouting what they've learned - like the fact that God created the world 6,000 years ago, and the fact that the sun revolves around a flat earth - they're sure to be turned down for continuing education or job opportunities anywhere beyond mom and dad's backyard.
Once we rebuild NOLA and its environs, the tourist trade will also be a great source of income here in the Good Ol' USA. Of course, in Bushistan, once any of your major cities fall prey to natural disaster, they'll be replaced with tent cities and FEMA trailer parks - not exactly a big tourist draw. Without any pesky oversight, PIP Bush will be free to appoint whomever he chooses for important government positions, and disaster victims shouldn't expect too much assistance from Barbie Bush (new head of FEMA), or Jenna Bush (new head of Homeland Security). But on the brighter side, Momma "Babs" Bush will be more than happy to remind disaster survivors how much better off they are, which will undoubtedly be a big morale booster when you're left with nothing.
There's also the matter of the population explosion that is bound to happen in Bushistan, once abstinence is the only sex education allowed, and abortions and birth control become a thing of the past. But once the FDA and the Department of Agriculture are privatized and free of oversight, tainted meat and experimental drugs will keep the population down, along with those of you who die of overwork trying to fund your PIP's most important policy (making the rich even richer). So your numbers should stay at an acceptable level, i.e. just enough workers for the factories and fields.
And yes, there will be jobs. With the institution of the new minimum wage of 9-cents-per-hour, and the abandonment of such crazy ideas as health benefits and sick pay, multi-national corporations will flock to Bushistan; they're always happy to relocate in "cheap labor markets."
After a while, we in the Good Ol' USA will undoubtedly lose touch with all of you over in Bushistan. Travel outside of your borders will be restricted - for your "own good," your PIP will explain - and Internet access to the outside world will, of necessity, eventually be outlawed. But there's always the hope that some kind-hearted NSA agent, who will be monitoring your every communication, will clandestinely pass along some news of you to the outside world now and then.
Now, I know a lot of you prospective Bushistanians are already having second thoughts. Maybe you're thinking that life in the Good Ol' USA would be preferable; perhaps you're already pining for the way things used to be, before you threw in your lot with a PIP who is more interested in clearing brush than he is in your well-being as citizens.
Well, it's not too late. As much as some of you drive me crazy at times, you're still my Fellow Citizens, and I want you to be part of my country, and part of my life.
So maybe we should give it one more try, if not for ourselves, for the sake of the kids. Maybe we can come to some sort of mutual understanding, some sense of cooperation.
After all, it's not that I don't want you living in my world; it's just that living in your world is no longer an option for we who still firmly believe in the Good Ol' USA.
Editor's Note: Bushistan Already exists. It's that big chunk of red states on the electoral map that gets back more money from the federal government than it contributes. Money that comes from those pesky blue states.
Heck of a Job there Deutschie!
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters' access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word "theory" at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.
Mr. Deutsch's resignation came on the same day that officials at Texas A&M University confirmed that he did not graduate from there, as his résumé on file at the agency asserted.
Officials at NASA headquarters declined to discuss the reason for the resignation.
"Under NASA policy, it is inappropriate to discuss personnel matters," said Dean Acosta, the deputy assistant administrator for public affairs and Mr. Deutsch's boss.
The resignation came as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was preparing to review its policies for communicating science to the public. The review was ordered Friday by Michael D. Griffin, the NASA administrator, after a week in which many agency scientists and midlevel public affairs officials described to The New York Times instances in which they said political pressure was applied to limit or flavor discussions of topics uncomfortable to the Bush administration, particularly global warming.
"As we have stated in the past, NASA is in the process of revising our public affairs policies across the agency to ensure our commitment to open and full communications," the statement from Mr. Acosta said.
The statement said the resignation of Mr. Deutsch was "a separate matter."
Mr. Deutsch, 24, was offered a job as a writer and editor in NASA's public affairs office in Washington last year after working on President Bush's re-election campaign and inaugural committee, according to his résumé. No one has disputed those parts of the document.
According to his résumé, Mr. Deutsch received a "Bachelor of Arts in journalism, Class of 2003."
Yesterday, officials at Texas A&M said that was not the case.
"George Carlton Deutsch III did attend Texas A&M University but has not completed the requirements for a degree," said an e-mail message from Rita Presley, assistant to the registrar at the university, responding to a query from The Times.
Repeated calls and e-mail messages to Mr. Deutsch on Tuesday were not answered.
Mr. Deutsch's educational record was first challenged on Monday by Nick Anthis, who graduated from Texas A&M last year with a biochemistry degree and has been writing a Web log on science policy, scientificactivist.blogspot.com.
After Mr. Anthis read about the problems at NASA, he said in an interview: "It seemed like political figures had really overstepped the line. I was just going to write some commentary on this when somebody tipped me off that George Deutsch might not have graduated."
He posted a blog entry asserting this after he checked with the university's association of former students. He reported that the association said Mr. Deutsch received no degree.
A copy of Mr. Deutsch's résumé was provided to The Times by someone working in NASA headquarters who, along with many other NASA employees, said Mr. Deutsch played a small but significant role in an intensifying effort at the agency to exert political control over the flow of information to the public.
Such complaints came to the fore starting in late January, when James E. Hansen, the climate scientist, and several midlevel public affairs officers told The Times that political appointees, including Mr. Deutsch, were pressing to limit Dr. Hansen's speaking and interviews on the threats posed by global warming.
Yesterday, Dr. Hansen said that the questions about Mr. Deutsch's credentials were important, but were a distraction from the broader issue of political control of scientific information.
"He's only a bit player," Dr. Hansen said of Mr. Deutsch. " The problem is much broader and much deeper and it goes across agencies. That's what I'm really concerned about."
"On climate, the public has been misinformed and not informed," he said. "The foundation of a democracy is an informed public, which obviously means an honestly informed public. That's the big issue here."
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Mr. President, last week the President of the United States gave his State of the Union address, where he spoke of America’s leadership in the world, and called on all of us to “lead this world toward freedom.” Again and again, he invoked the principle of freedom, and how it can transform nations, and empower people around the world.
But, almost in the same breath, the President openly acknowledged that he has ordered the government to spy on Americans, on American soil, without the warrants required by law.
The President issued a call to spread freedom throughout the world, and then he admitted that he has deprived Americans of one of their most basic freedoms under the Fourth Amendment -- to be free from unjustified government intrusion.
The President was blunt. He said that he had authorized the NSA’s domestic spying program, and he made a number of misleading arguments to defend himself. His words got rousing applause from Republicans, and even some Democrats.
The President was blunt, so I will be blunt: This program is breaking the law, and this President is breaking the law. Not only that, he is misleading the American people in his efforts to justify this program.
How is that worthy of applause? Since when do we celebrate our commander in chief for violating our most basic freedoms, and misleading the American people in the process? When did we start to stand up and cheer for breaking the law? In that moment at the State of the Union, I felt ashamed.
Congress has lost its way if we don’t hold this President accountable for his actions.
The President suggests that anyone who criticizes his illegal wiretapping program doesn’t understand the threat we face. But we do. Every single one of us is committed to stopping the terrorists who threaten us and our families.
Defeating the terrorists should be our top national priority, and we all agree that we need to wiretap them to do it. In fact, it would be irresponsible not to wiretap terrorists. But we have yet to see any reason why we have to trample the laws of the United States to do it. The President’s decision that he can break the law says far more about his attitude toward the rule of law than it does about the laws themselves.
This goes way beyond party, and way beyond politics. What the President has done here is to break faith with the American people. In the State of the Union, he also said that “we must always be clear in our principles” to get support from friends and allies that we need to fight terrorism. So let’s be clear about a basic American principle: When someone breaks the law, when someone misleads the public in an attempt to justify his actions, he needs to be held accountable. The President of the United States has broken the law. The President of the United States is trying to mislead the American people. And he needs to be held accountable.
Unfortunately, the President refuses to provide any details about this domestic spying program. Not even the full Intelligence committees know the details, and they were specifically set up to review classified information and oversee the intelligence activities of our government. Instead, the President says – “Trust me.”
This is not the first time we’ve heard that. In the lead-up to the Iraq war, the Administration went on an offensive to get the American public, the Congress, and the international community to believe its theory that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction, and even that he had ties to Al Qaeda. The President painted a dire – and inaccurate – picture of Saddam Hussein’s capability and intent, and we invaded Iraq on that basis. To make matters worse, the Administration misled the country about what it would take to stabilize and reconstruct Iraq after the conflict. We were led to believe that this was going to be a short endeavor, and that our troops would be home soon.
We all recall the President’s “Mission Accomplished” banner on the aircraft carrier on May 1, 2003. In fact, the mission was not even close to being complete. More than 2100 total deaths have occurred after the President declared an end to major combat operations in May of 2003, and over 16,600 American troops have been wounded in Iraq. The President misled the American people and grossly miscalculated the true challenge of stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq.
In December, we found out that the President has authorized wiretaps of Americans without the court orders required by law. He says he is only wiretapping people with links to terrorists, but how do we know? We don’t. The President is unwilling to let a neutral judge make sure that is the case. He will not submit this program to an independent branch of government to make sure he’s not violating the rights of law-abiding Americans.
So I don’t want to hear again that this Administration has shown it can be trusted. It hasn’t. And that is exactly why the law requires a judge to review these wiretaps.
It is up to Congress to hold the President to account. We held a hearing on the domestic spying program in the Judiciary Committee yesterday, where Attorney General Gonzales was a witness. We expect there will be other hearings. That is a start, but it will take more than just hearings to get the job done.
We know that in part because the President’s Attorney General has already shown a willingness to mislead the Congress.
At the hearing yesterday, I reminded the Attorney General about his testimony during his confirmation hearings in January 2005, when I asked him whether the President had the power to authorize warrantless wiretaps in violation of the criminal law. We didn’t know it then, but the President had authorized the NSA program three years before, when the Attorney General was White House Counsel. At his confirmation hearing, the Attorney General first tried to dismiss my question as “hypothetical.” He then testified that “it’s not the policy or the agenda of this President to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes.”
Well, Mr. President, wiretapping American citizens on American soil without the required warrant is in direct contravention of our criminal statutes. The Attorney General knew that, and he knew about the NSA program when he sought the Senate’s approval for his nomination to be Attorney General. He wanted the Senate and the American people to think that the President had not acted on the extreme legal theory that the President has the power as Commander in Chief to disobey the criminal laws of this country. But he had. The Attorney General had some explaining to do, and he didn’t do it yesterday. Instead he parsed words, arguing that what he said was truthful because he didn’t believe that the President’s actions violated the law.
But he knew what I was asking, and he knew he was misleading the Committee in his response. If he had been straightforward, he would have told the committee that in his opinion, the President has the authority to authorize warrantless wiretaps. My question wasn’t about whether such illegal wiretapping was going on – like almost everyone in Congress, I didn’t know about the program then. It was a question about how the nominee to be Attorney General viewed the law. This nominee wanted to be confirmed, and so he let a misleading statement about one of the central issues of his confirmation – his view of executive power – stay on the record until the New York Times revealed the program.
The rest of the Attorney General’s performance at yesterday’s hearing certainly did not give me any comfort, either. He continued to push the Administration’s weak legal arguments, continued to insinuate that anyone who questions this program doesn’t want to fight terrorism, and refused to answer basic questions about what powers this Administration is claiming. We still need a lot of answers from this Administration.
But let’s put aside the Attorney General for now. The burden is not just on him to come clean -- the President has some explaining to do. The President’s defense of his actions is deeply cynical, deeply misleading, and deeply troubling.
To find out that the President of the United States has violated the basic rights of the American people is chilling. And then to see him publicly embrace his actions – and to see so many Members of Congress cheer him on – is appalling.
The President has broken the law, and he has made it clear that he will continue to do so. But the President is not a king. And the Congress is not a king’s court. Our job is not to stand up and cheer when the President breaks the law. Our job is to stand up and demand accountability, to stand up and check the power of an out-of-control executive branch.
That is one of the reasons that the framers put us here - to ensure balance between the branches of government, not to act as a professional cheering section.
We need answers. Because no one, not the President, not the Attorney General, and not any of their defenders in this body, has been able to explain why it is necessary to break the law to defend against terrorism. And I think that’s because they can’t explain it.
Instead, this administration reacts to anyone who questions this illegal program by saying that those of us who demand the truth and stand up for our rights and freedoms have a pre-9/11 view of the world.
In fact, the President has a pre-1776 view of the world.
Our Founders lived in dangerous times, and they risked everything for freedom. Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty or give me death." The President's pre-1776 mentality is hurting America. It is fracturing the foundation on which our country has stood for 230 years. The President can't just bypass two branches of government, and obey only those laws he wants to obey. Deciding unilaterally which of our freedoms still apply in the fight against terrorism is unacceptable and needs to be stopped immediately.
Let’s examine for a moment some of the President’s attempts to defend his actions. His arguments have changed over time, of course. They have to – none of them hold up under even casual scrutiny, so he can’t rely on one single explanation. As each argument crumbles beneath him, he moves on to a new one, until that, too, is debunked, and on and on he goes.
In the State of the Union, the President referred to Presidents in American history who cited executive authority to order warrantless surveillance. But of course those past presidents – like Wilson and Roosevelt – were acting before the Supreme Court decided in 1967 that our communications are protected by the Fourth Amendment, and before Congress decided in 1978 that the executive branch can no longer unilaterally decide which Americans to wiretap. The Attorney General yesterday was unable to give me one example of a President who, since 1978 when FISA was passed, has authorized warrantless wiretaps outside of FISA.
So that argument is baseless, and it’s deeply troubling that the President of the United States would so obviously mislead the Congress and American public. That hardly honors the founders’ idea that the President should address the Congress on the state of our union.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was passed in 1978 to create a secret court, made up of judges who develop national security expertise, to issue warrants for surveillance of terrorists and spies. These are the judges from whom the Bush Administration has obtained thousands of warrants since 9/11. The Administration has almost never had a warrant request rejected by those judges. They have used the FISA Court thousands of times, but at the same time they assert that FISA is an “old law” or “out of date” and they can’t comply with it. Clearly they can and do comply with it – except when they don’t. Then they just arbitrarily decide to go around these judges, and around the law.
The Administration has said that it ignored FISA because it takes too long to get a warrant under that law. But we know that in an emergency, where the Attorney General believes that surveillance must begin before a court order can be obtained, FISA permits the wiretap to be executed immediately as long as the government goes to the court within 72 hours. The Attorney General has complained that the emergency provision does not give him enough flexibility, he has complained that getting a FISA application together or getting the necessary approvals takes too long. But the problems he has cited are bureaucratic barriers that the executive branch put in place, and could easily remove if it wanted.
FISA also permits the Attorney General to authorize unlimited warrantless electronic surveillance in the United States during the 15 days following a declaration of war, to allow time to consider any amendments to FISA required by a wartime emergency. That is the time period that Congress specified. Yet the President thinks that he can do this indefinitely.
In the State of the Union, the President also argued that federal courts had approved the use of presidential authority that he was invoking. But that turned out to be misleading as well. When I asked the Attorney General about this, he could point me to no court – not the Supreme Court or any other court – that has considered whether, after FISA was enacted, the President nonetheless had the authority to bypass it and authorize warrantless wiretaps. Not one court. The Administration’s effort to find support for what it has done in snippets of other court decisions would be laughable if this issue were not so serious.
The President knows that FISA makes it a crime to wiretap Americans in the United States without a warrant or a court order. Why else would he have assured the public, over and over again, that he was getting warrants before engaging in domestic surveillance?
Here’s what the President said on April 20, 2004: “Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires – a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so.”
And again, on July 14, 2004: “The government can’t move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order.”
The President was understandably eager in these speeches to make it clear that under his administration, law enforcement was using the FISA Court to obtain warrants before wiretapping. That is understandable, since wiretapping Americans on American soil without a warrant is against the law.
And listen to what the President said on June 9, 2005: “Law enforcement officers need a federal judge’s permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist’s phone, a federal judge’s permission to track his calls, or a federal judge’s permission to search his property. Officers must meet strict standards to use any of these tools. And these standards are fully consistent with the Constitution of the U.S.”
Now that the public knows about the domestic spying program, he has had to change course. He has looked around for arguments to cloak his actions. And all of them are completely threadbare.
The President has argued that Congress gave him authority to wiretap Americans on U.S. soil without a warrant when it passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force after September 11, 2001. Mr. President, that is ridiculous. Members of Congress did not think this resolution gave the President blanket authority to order these warrantless wiretaps. We all know that. Anyone in this body who would tell you otherwise either wasn’t here at the time or isn’t telling the truth. We authorized the President to use military force in Afghanistan, a necessary and justified response to September 11. We did not authorize him to wiretap American citizens on American soil without going through the process that was set up nearly three decades ago precisely to facilitate the domestic surveillance of terrorists – with the approval of a judge. That is why both Republicans and Democrats have questioned this theory.
This particular claim is further undermined by congressional approval of the Patriot Act just a few weeks after we passed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. The Patriot Act made it easier for law enforcement to conduct surveillance on suspected terrorists and spies, while maintaining FISA’s baseline requirement of judicial approval for wiretaps of Americans in the U.S. It is ridiculous to think that Congress would have negotiated and enacted all the changes to FISA in the Patriot Act if it thought it had just authorized the President to ignore FISA in the AUMF.
In addition, in the intelligence authorization bill passed in December 2001, we extended the emergency authority in FISA, at the Administration’s request, from 24 to 72 hours. Why do that if the President has the power to ignore FISA? That makes no sense at all.
The President has also said that his inherent executive power gives him the power to approve this program. But here the President is acting in direct violation of a criminal statute. That means his power is, as Justice Jackson said in the steel seizure cases half a century ago, “at its lowest ebb.” A recent letter from a group of law professors and former executive branch officials points out that “every time the Supreme Court has confronted a statute limiting the Commander-in-Chief’s authority, it has upheld the statute.” The Senate reports issued when FISA was enacted confirm the understanding that FISA overrode any pre-existing inherent authority of the President. As the 1978 Senate Judiciary Committee report stated, FISA “recognizes no inherent power of the president in this area.” And “Congress has declared that this statute, not any claimed presidential power, controls.” Contrary to what the President told the country in the State of the Union, no court has ever approved warrantless surveillance in violation of FISA.
The President’s claims of inherent executive authority, and his assertions that the courts have approved this type of activity, are baseless.
The President has argued that periodic internal executive branch review provides an adequate check on the program. He has even characterized this periodic review as a safeguard for civil liberties. But we don’t know what this check involves. And we do know that Congress explicitly rejected this idea of unilateral executive decision-making in this area when it passed FISA.
Finally, the president has tried to claim that informing a handful of congressional leaders, the so-called Gang of Eight, somehow excuses breaking the law. Of course, several of these members said they weren’t given the full story. And all of them were prohibited from discussing what they were told. So the fact that they were informed under these extraordinary circumstances does not constitute congressional oversight, and it most certainly does not constitute congressional approval of the program. Indeed, it doesn’t even comply with the National Security Act, which requires the entire memberships of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee to be “fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States.”
In addition, we now know that some of these members expressed concern about the program. The Administration ignored their protests. Just last week, one of the eight members of Congress who has been briefed about the program, Congresswoman Jane Harman, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said she sees no reason why the Administration cannot accomplish its goals within the law as currently written.
None of the President’s arguments explains or excuses his conduct, or the NSA’s domestic spying program. Not one. It is hard to believe that the President has the audacity to claim that they do. It is a strategy that really hinges on the credibility of the office of the Presidency itself. If you just insist that you didn’t break the law, you haven’t broken the law. It reminds me of what Richard Nixon said after he had left office: “Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.” But that is not how our constitutional democracy works. Making those kinds of arguments is damaging the credibility of the Presidency.
And what’s particularly disturbing is how many members of Congress have responded. They stood up and cheered. They stood up and cheered.
Justice Louis Brandeis once wrote: “Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”
The President’s actions are indefensible. Freedom is an enduring principle. It is not something to celebrate in one breath, and ignore the next. Freedom is at the heart of who we are as a nation, and as a people. We cannot be a beacon of freedom for the world unless we protect our own freedoms here at home.
The President was right about one thing. In his address, he said “We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it.”
Yes, Mr. President. We do love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it. We will fight to defeat the terrorists who threaten the safety and security of our families and loved ones. And we will fight to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans against intrusive government power.
As the President said, we must always be clear in our principles. So let us be clear: We cherish the great and noble principle of freedom, we will fight to keep it, and we will hold this President – and anyone who violates those freedoms – accountable for their actions. In a nation built on freedom, the President is not a king, and no one is above the law.
I yield the floor.
Top Ten Reasons Why the Republican Senators On The Intelligence Committee Did Not Want Alberto Gonzales to Testify Under Oath.
9. He could be lying.
8. He may be lying.
7. He might accidentally lie.
6. He might lie on purpose.
5. He just might possibly make a false statement.
4. By lying he could expose himself to charges of perjury.
3. The truth might hurt Republicans in the Polls.
2. He's too dumb to know if he's lying.
1. He is lying.
As we all know, with this Republican Congress, the only time one is required to testify under oath is if you are going to be asked if you ever got a blowjob from an intern.
In the president's 2007 budget request, funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will be cut by $53.5 million in 2007 and $50 million more in 2008. Those cuts don't reflect others made in funding at the Education and Commerce departments and the elimination of specific programs for digital TV conversion and satellite delivery system. Public broadcasting officials estimate that the entire budget cuts run $157 million over the two-year period.
"Oscar the Grouch has been friendlier to the Sesame Street characters than President Bush, who has chosen to make huge cuts to children's television programming," said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. "In a world of fast-and-furious television with ratings-driven content, the public broadcasting system represents the last stronghold of quality child-oriented programming -- we owe this to America's children."
The cuts in public broadcasting are part of an attempt by the White House to reduce the country's red ink as the administration seeks more money for the military and seeks to make Bush's first-term tax cuts permanent.
Attempts by conservative Republicans to cut CPB funds are nothing new. Many conservatives view the public broadcasting as a bastion of liberalism. While there have been attempts to make cuts, the service has wide support in Congress from Republicans and Democrats who like its dedication to public affairs and educational programming.
Last year, an overwhelming majority in Congress voted to restore cuts proposed by the administration. This year, those cuts go even deeper, and it could be more difficult to win the fight in Congress, said John Lawson, president and CEO of the Association of Public Television Stations.
"We've dealt with cuts from this White House every year, but these are the deepest he's ever presented," Lawson said. "We see a clear and present danger here."
It took an advertising campaign from public TV stations to mobilize the service's supporters, something that might not be as effective a second time, he said.
"This is a tough environment in Washington right now, and we're competing with other priorities," Lawson said. "If you don't make your case, you lose," he said. "We won last year, but only after we asked the stations to go on the air and tell their communities what was happening. It's an effort we won't foreclose, but if you do that every year, it loses its effectiveness. We're going to try to win this one on the ground."
In his $2.77 billion budget, Bush asks Congress to sharply cut or eliminate 141 government programs. Almost one-third of the targeted programs are in education, including ones that provide money to support the arts, vocational education, parent resource centers and drug-free schools.
"My administration has focused the nation's resources on our highest priority -- protecting our citizens and our homeland," Bush said in his budget message.
Bush's spending proposals are for the 2007 budget year that begins October 1. The $2.77 trillion in spending would be up 2.3% from projected spending of $2.71 trillion this year.
The administration in its budget documents said the deficit for this year will soar to an all-time high of $423 billion, reflecting increased outlays for the Iraq war and hurricane relief.
Alberto Gonzales Thinks George Washington Used Electronic Surveillance. He Knows Even Less About Constitutional Law.
Bob Cesca - The Huffington Post
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Monday: "President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale."
Three questions here. How did President Washington generate the 1.21 gigawatts of power required to fire up the flux capacitor in his souped up DeLorean time machine? Did he use the Mr. Fusion modification to get up to the requisite 88 miles per hour? And, as Atrios asked, what war was he fighting during his presidency which enabled him wartime executive powers? Strike that. I forgot. Washington fought with John and Sara Conner in the war against cybernetic organisms -- unsuccessfully since one of them would go on to become governor of California.
So for those of you Bush apologists ready to regurgitate Gonzales' justifications at the office Tuesday, you should know that electronic communication didn't exist during Washington's presidency. Neither did electric power for that matter. Or a war. Thought I'd save you the embarrassment. Especially those of you who are IT professionals.
Some other presidential facts which Gonzales failed to mention whilst citing precident from decades and centuries ago...
President Roosevelt's war included federally sanctioned Japanese internment camps in which American citizens were detained en masse. But unlike President Bush's war, Roosevelt's war had a reasonably defined end: the surrender of the Axis powers.
Bush's war doesn't have a defined end. In August 2004, Bush said, "I don't think you can win it." Maybe the president meant "you" as in, "you, the person asking the question can't win the war but I can." How's about Bush and his sudden use of nuanced language? Like, "Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025 -- NOT LITERALLY." Or, "Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way." Bush didn't mean all wiretaps, just "a" wiretap -- the singular -- as in one wiretap. Nuance.
Andrew Jackson didn't conduct electronic surveillance -- unless he borrowed Washington's DeLorean, that is. He did, however, defy the Supreme Court by expelling the Cherokee nation from their homeland dooming 4,000 of them to die along the way. He did it all with full support of the American people.
Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe all owned slaves. While they were president. Out of 18 total slave-owning presidents, eight of them owned slaves while in office. Then again, slavery was perfectly legal in the United States in those days -- as was wiretapping without a warrant once, you know, wires were invented.
We've come a long way as a nation. Questionable, illegal, and immoral acts committed under the banner of the Executive in the past don't qualify as legal justifications for President Bush -- or any other president for that matter -- in the present or future. Speaking of which, a note to future generations: if you see a guy in pantaloons and a powdered wig running around with a googly-eyed scientist named Doc Brown, he's probably tapping your phones. From inside his DeLorean. Which is a time machine.
Editor's Note: Even more funny. Gonzales mentions 4 Presidents all of whom served in office BEFORE Congress passed the 1978 law that George Bush ignored. I imagine this type of "wave a shiny object" argument works on those brain dead Bush fans, Rush listeners and Fox News Watchers, but the rest of us need a little more convincing.