Friday, February 17, 2006

On Vacation

I am out of town for the next two weeks... so just do... well, what you normally do and I'll be back soon


So, beyond the three ring circus of Cheney's aim, there is much happening on the NSA wiretapping front.

The House looks to have agreed on a bipartisan investigation of the Bush administration's use of the NSA to spy on Americans without a warrant. The only thing to iron out is the scope of the investigation (Accord in House to Hold Inquiry on Surveillance).

The Senate, on the other hand, will not be investigating the NSA wiretapping (Senate Rejects Wiretapping Probe). The possible probe was halted when Bush made it known that he would not clear Ashcroft to testify in a Senate hearing.

On the same NSA program, a federal judge has ordered the release of documents related to a civil suit (Judge orders spying documents released). It is unlikely that the docs will actually ever be released, but this steps up the pressure on the courts who will most likely be the final arbitrators of the legality of the program. Expect to see this go all the way to the Supreme Court. While I am sure that the SC would love to take a pass on this, it would be difficult for them to pass without knowing the scope, and therefore, the details of the program.

And of final note, Republicans look to make laws on leakers of NSA type programs harsher (Senator May Seek Tougher Law on Leaks) while some Republicans are joinging Democrats in giving stronger protection to wistle blowers (Bipartisan Support Emerges for Federal Whistle-Blowers)

Easy In, Easy Out

I am a fairly trusting person, but this does not make me feel the securest. The Bush administration has just awarded a company based in the United Arab Emirates the right to major control of NY City ports. Not only has the administration not closed the loopholes in port security as they promised 4 years ago, but now they have handed over much of the control to an Arab run company.

Despite Fears, a Dubai Company Will Help Run Ports in New York


Chuck Hagel takes a nice little jab at Dick Cheney after he shot a fello hunter last week while talking about the Iranian crisis.

"If he'd been in the military, he would have learned gun safety."

And that is coming from his friends...

U.S. should be talking with Iran, Hagel says

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

House Blasts Bush on Katrina

The House panel hearings on the Katrina failures blasted the Bush administration yesterday when it released its findings (House Probe Blasts Katrina Preparation). A 520-page report, titled A Failure of Initiative laid blame at the feet of Bush for having no initiative in the matter:

"Passivity did the most damage," it said. "The failure of initiative cost lives, prolonged suffering, and left all Americans justifiably concerned our government is no better prepared to protect its people than it was before 9/11, even if we are."

The panel, made up mostly of Republicans, faulted state and local officials for not being prepared for the initial consequences of Katrina, but also blamed Bush for not recognizing or completely ignoring the situation as it unfolded.

The report finds fault with Chertoff for failing to activate a national plan to trigger fast relief, and with Homeland Security for overseeing a bare-bones and inexperienced emergency response staff. It found that the military played an invaluable role in the response but lacked coordination with Homeland Security and other relief agencies.

The report, coming on the heals of Senate hearings, is an indictment of the Bush administration claim that it has prepared the nation for emergencies. But, hey, Bush has conviction, right... and he looks good with a blow horn in his hand, standing on top of a pile of rubble.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Ok, I don't think Cheney meant to shoot his hunting partner. I am sure it was an accident. And, I am not going to give him flack for not disclosing it for a day. I have no idea why it took so long, but that really doesn't bother me so much.

But what does bother me is blaming it on the victim as Cheney's office has now done. It is always the shooters fault, ok. It is like rear ending a car in front of you. It doesn't matter that they stopped short, or whatever. If you rear end them, it is always your fault.

Be a man, Cheney. Just say, "look, it was an accident. I am sorry that it happened. I regret that I didn't know where he was. My sympathies go out to Harry." That's it. That is all you have to do. People understand that accidents happen and everyone makes mistakes.

But don't be an ass and blame it on the guy you shot. Was Harry not where he should have been? Possibly, but it is the shoots job to know his surroundings. Why is it impossible for anyone in this administration to ever say that they could be at fault for anything. They are like a bunch of teenagers.

Cheney's companion at fault in shooting, White House says

Update: He has only himself to blame for this now. Cheney's Response A Concern In GOP, Gunning for Cheney
Update: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart: "I'm joined now by our own vice-presidential firearms mishap analyst, Rob Corddry. Rob, obviously a very unfortunate situation. How is the vice president handling it?

Rob Corddry: "Jon, tonight the vice president is standing by his decision to shoot Harry Wittington. According to the best intelligence available, there were quail hidden in the brush. Everyone believed at the time there were quail in the brush.

"And while the quail turned out to be a 78-year-old man, even knowing that today, Mr. Cheney insists he still would have shot Mr. Whittington in the face. He believes the world is a better place for his spreading buckshot throughout the entire region of Mr. Whittington's face."

Jon Stewart: "But why, Rob? If he had known Mr. Whittington was not a bird, why would he still have shot him?"

Rob Corddry: "Jon, in a post-9-11 world, the American people expect their leaders to be decisive. To not have shot his friend in the face would have sent a message to the quail that America is weak."

Jon Stewart: "That's horrible."

Rob Corddry: "Look, the mere fact that we're even talking about how the vice president drives up with his rich friends in cars to shoot farm-raised wingless quail-tards is letting the quail know 'how' we're hunting them. I'm sure right now those birds are laughing at us in that little 'covey' of theirs.

Jon Stewart: "I'm not sure birds can laugh, Rob."

Rob Corddry: "Well, whatever it is they do ... coo .. they're cooing at us right now, Jon, because here we are talking openly about our plans to hunt them. Jig is up. Quails one, America zero.

Jon Stewart: "Okay, well, on a purely human level, is the vice president at least sorry?"

Rob Corddry: "Jon, what difference does it make? The bullets are already in this man's face. Let's move forward across party lines as a people ... to get him some sort of mask."

Monday, February 13, 2006

Libby Will Sleep Wit Da Fishes

Cheney claims that it was an accident when he shot a fellow hunter over the weekend. I think it was a message to Lewis Libby to stop implicating Cheney in the authorization to leak classified information to the press.

After shooting Harry Whittington in the neck and face, Cheney was overheard saying, "of course it was an accident! I only eat babies! Harry is 78 and way too stringy for my taste."

Cheney Shoots Fellow Hunter in Texas Accident

Friday, February 10, 2006

Babies Eating Their Parents

It looks like a solid day of Republicans turning on their own today.

it starts off with the testimony of former FEMA manager, Michael Brown in front of Congress (Brown says he's been made Katrina scapegoat, Former FEMA Chief Blames DHS). He is claiming that the Bush administration abandoned him and there was nothing he could do. I think it was a combination of incompetence and apathy all around. Some records show that Bush, again, lied about the surprise's he felt when the levies broke (White House Knew of Levee's Failure on Night of Storm). No surprise there.

But Congressional investigators have now learned that an eyewitness account of the flooding from a federal emergency official reached the Homeland Security Department's headquarters starting at 9:27 p.m. the day before, and the White House itself at midnight.

Libby's defense (unconfirmed) may be that Cheney 'OK'd' him to leak the info about Valerie Plame to the media to discredit her husband Joe Wilson (Libby Says 'Superiors' Authorized Leaks, Libby Testified He Was Told To Leak Data About Iraq, Cheney 'Authorized' Libby to Leak Classified Information). Of course the claims are beyond the leaking of Plame's name, but a whole host of other classified information. Hmmm... classified info... national security... hypocrisy... I guess classified info being leaked is only dangerous if it is Democrats doing the leaking. Otherwise, it is perfectly ok.

Additionally, it looks like the connections between Abramoff and the White House are more than what the White House wants to let on too (E-Mail Notes Say Lobbyist Met President Many Times).

And last but not least, former CIA chief analyst, Paul R. Pillar, is also making the claim that Bush manipulated pre-war intelligence to make the case for war (Ex-CIA Official Faults Use of Data on Iraq).

The former CIA official who coordinated U.S. intelligence on the Middle East until last year has accused the Bush administration of "cherry-picking" intelligence on Iraq to justify a decision it had already reached to go to war, and of ignoring warnings that the country could easily fall into violence and chaos after an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

But, I am sure the White House will find some reason to discredit him also.

But, of course to divert attention, Bush and Cheney are doing exactly what they always accuse the democrats of doing - politicizing the war on terror (Besieged Bush touts foiled plot, Cheney Says NSA Spying Should Be an Election Issue). It is nothing new for the duo, but Cheney is especially keen on pulling the 'vote for me or Bin Laden will have sex with your wife' out for political gain time and time again. I watched Cheney on The News Hour earlier this week talk about who the NSA program saved bazillions of American lives over the past years. Every time I watch him, I can't help but think what a great Hannibal Lecter he would make. I could so see him sitting down to a filet de bebe with a side of fava beans and a nice Chianti Classico.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


The Republican controlled House stepped in a big pile of dog crap on the way to the office today.

After much resistance and whining, the GOP finally replaced indicted Tom DeLay as the Republican leader last week.

So, the bum is out. "Great!" you might think. Well, not so fast. Tom DeLays consolation prize? As spot on the most coveted committee in Congress. The appropriations committee. The spot was open because the last Republican to hold the seat (Cunningham) is in jail for accepting bribes. So, they replaced a convicted criminal with an indicted criminal... good thinking guys.

Why is this committee so coveted? Well, that is because that is the committee that doles out the money. That is the committee that has 80% of the lobbyists targeting.

Adding insult to injury for the Republican hopes of getting out from under the "culture of corruption" name that has dogged them for the past year, DeLay was also named to the sub-committee on Judicial Affairs. This is the committee in charge of the investigation of influence-peddling scandal involving convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is directly tied to DeLay. This is like putting the accused criminal in charge of the court proceedings.

The GOP is loyal to their big money man, I'll give them that. But when you are trying to move on from ethics scandals, you don't put DeLay (the fox) in charge of the hen house.

Democrats have pulled some stupid moves lately, but this tops all of those. The GOP just made the attack ad commercials for the Dems without the Dems having to lift a finger.

DeLay Lands Coveted Appropriations Spot

Compassionate Conservative My Ass

This is what I am talking about when I say that Bush's priorities are completely out of whack. Bush's new budget proposal slashes Medicare and Medicaid over the next 10 years. Whether you are for the cut or against it is irrelevant to what I am talking about here.

In defending the cuts, Bush responds to critics who call his proposed budget "immoral" by saying that it is not immoral to stop retired persons to transferring their assets to their kids so they can qualify for Medicaid (Medicaid, Medicare Growth to Slow).

Without naming him, Bush rebutted criticism by Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "People talked about how the decision to reform Medicaid was immoral," Bush said. "Well, it's not immoral to make sure that prescription drug pharmacists don't overcharge the system." Nor is it immoral, he said, to stop recipients from transferring assets to children to make themselves eligible for more benefits: "We're able to keep the commitment to the poor."

The process that Bush is talking about is called a spin down. to qualify for Medicaid, the elderly person must have less than $2000 of assets (not including their home). In a spin down, those close to the Medicaid limit will give to their kids their inheritance now, instead of when they die. Because of limits on the participant's income, and asset levels, this way of qualifying for Medicare is only applicable to the elderly who are fairly poor in the first place. Someone living on much more than just Social Security payments can't qualify for Medicare.

You may or may not agree with people doing this, but here is where Bush's values are out of wack. He finds a relatively poor person to be immoral, but at the same time, he thinks it is perfectly acceptable to remove the estate tax so that billions of dollars that no one has ever paid taxes can be passed down tax free.

That is right - little ol' grandma living on SSI who gives away the $10,000 she has saved up in the bank over her life = immoral.

Mommy and Daddy Hilton can pass along billions of dollars of assets that they nor there bratty little kids will ever pay taxes on = moral.

Additionally, he is slashing billions from student aid over the next decade (Years of Deep Cuts Needed to Meet Goal On Deficit, Data Show) along with a whole host of other social programs. Yet, tax cuts for the wealthy remain.

Something is wrong here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bush's Budget

In an election year, it appears to be dead on arrival (Administration touts '07 budget). Not only are the Democrats criticizing the proposal, so are many Republicans. Most of the cuts are unlikely to be actually enacted.

Cuts in Medicare, in addition to the ones already passed are unlikely (New York Health Care Industry Says It Faces $1.2 Billion in Cutbacks Under Bush Plan ). Even the vets are going to get hit (Veterans, lawmaker join to fight plan to raise health care fees). His energy policy is lacking and counter productive to his State of the Union address (Energy gaps seen in Bush's budget). His back door approach to dropping Social Security will be a no go (Bush's Social Security Sleight of Hand). And the long run affects of his tax cuts will leave us in dire straits in the future (Getting Past Budget Blab).

Bush has ignored the fact that many of his cuts have been dropped in the past (Many Proposed Cuts Have Met Limited Success in the Past), and will probably have the same amount of success this time around.

This will all play out soon, and most of it will not ever be introduced to the house floor.

Bush Sure Knows How To Pick'em

As I asked before, why should I trust this administration? First, we had Brownie, now we have Deutschie.

A Young Bush Appointee Resigns His Post at NASA

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.

Hmmm... How did he come by this job?

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.

Sorry, Dubya. You are not making the case for yourself.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Gotta Love Pat

You just gotta love Pat Robertson, dontcha? I mean, every time he speaks, he gives me new reason to feel like a genius. This time, he is saying that Europe is committing racial suicide due to its declining birth rate. I guess it is important to him to keep the master race around. Its that whole "white man's burden" thing. But, what I loved his reasoning:

ROBERTSON: Studies that I have read indicate that having babies is a sign of a faith in the future. You know, unless you believe in the future, you're not going to take the trouble of raising a child, educating a child, doing something. If there is no future, why do it? Well, unless you believe in God, there's really no future. And when you go back to the existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre, the whole idea of this desperate nightmare we are in -- you know, that we are in this prison, and it has no hope, no exit. That kind of philosophy has permeated the intellectual thinking of Europe, and hopefully it doesn't come here. But nevertheless, ladies and gentlemen, Europe is right now in the midst of racial suicide because of the declining birth rate. And they just can't get it together. Why? There's no hope.

In 2003 (latest year that number has been release for), the US fertility rate hit the lowest level since 1990 and one of the lowest in our nations history. I guess by Pat's logic, that tells you something about a Republican controlled government... No hope.

What?!?! It is his logic, not mine.


Darn Sudan

Take one step forward - Sudan softens resistance to UN force in Darfur

And take two steps backward - East Sudan rebels call off peace talks

It is also now been almost a year since legislation to impose economic sanctions against Sudan was proposed in Congress. Since then, the only action that the US has taken was when Bush lifited sanctions that were already in place.

Stupid Is as Stupid does

No one ever said the world was filled with smart people, or that smart people always made smart decisions. This is an example of one of those situations where the person who decided to do this was either just not thinking, or just plain dumb.

A newspaper in Iran is planning on running a "holocaust cartoon competition" similar to the Danish newspaper's Mohammad cartoon competition that sparked off riots and violence around the Muslim world (Iran paper plans Holocaust cartoons). The holocaust cartoon competition will ask participants to draw cartoons of the event of the world largest genocide (Iran Leader Denounces Prophet Cartoons).

Can the Iranian newspaper run the competition? Sure. I is wrong, offensive and stupid, but freedom of press is elemental and as I said about the Danish Cartoons, as offensive and stupid as I find the whole thing, I still defend the freedom of expression. That does not change just because it is of the holocaust and not Mohammad.

Here is were things get just plain stupid.

First, the newspaper is owned by the municipality, which means, it is a state run newspaper. It is not independent and free, but part of the government. How much editorial independence does the newspaper have? I honestly have no idea, but my guess is that it is even less independence than the National Review has (wingnuts... that was a joke... settle down).

Second, and even more importantly, even if they publish these cartoons all over the Islamic world. You will not see riots in Denmark and France (Danish mission in Beirut torched). I will stake my entire net worth that there will be no New York Jews storming the Iranian consulate here and torching the place (Cartoon Protests Stoke Anti-American Mood - Three Killed). There will be now death decrees ordered by Rabbis (Cleric demands cartoonists' death). There will be outrage, there will be indignation, and there will be hurt to those who actually suffered the horrors of genocide. But there will be no violence. The after effect of this will only go to prove that Muslim culture is out of control.

It is also saying to the world that Iran is willing to whine, but not live up to its own rhetoric. If what the Danish newspaper did was so wrong, what makes it right for them to do it, even in spite?

Of course, this also arises the question of, will the Danish newspaper reprint the holocaust cartoons. One of the French newspapers claimed that the context of the cartoon was irrelevant (Tension Rises Over Cartoons of Muhammad)

"We would have done exactly the same thing if it had been a pope, rabbi or priest caricature," wrote Editor in Chief Serge Faubert in Thursday's editions of France Soir, one of the newspapers that printed the cartoons.

The newspapers cannot refuse to print them on the basis of offense. They knew that the Mohammad cartoons were offensive and printed them anyway. And, if they don't print them, it only is more proof to Muslims that this is more to do with disrespect of Islam than it is about freedom of expression.

I hope that western papers do republish the cartoons. It will be offensive to many, but it will also show that we can handle offense without violence. It will show that freedom of expression, both the good and bad of it, are more important to us than the offenses it may bring.

Monday, February 06, 2006


I watched the NSA hearings today. I have seen many of the conservative blogs that are all ra-ra over it.

Take a second and think. Think about the amount of power you are vesting the in president with this "inherent constitutional authority." This issue is so much bigger than just tapping phones or reading e-mail.

This boils down to potentially giving the president unlimited authority in a time of war and for him to fight the war "as he sees fit."


The war on terrorism is a war that we will not see the end of in most of our lifetimes. We are not talking about another year or two. We are talking about your kids and possibly your grand kids. You want to grant the president the authority not only to ignore congress in the next session, but the next generation. Do you ever think there will be a declaration of victory? Not one that you or I will ever see.

And for all of you who are Bush fans and trust him. The next president will not be Bush. I can guarantee you that.

Guess what... it might not even be a Republican.

So, before you go ga-ga over NSA spying. Think about the amount of power that you will be vesting in one man (or woman). Think about the programs beyond terrorism that inherent power to protect us could incorporate. Think about what you are handing down to your kids.


Luckily, it is not just a right-left issue (Activists on Right, GOP Lawmakers Divided on Spying). But, apparently, the president considered making the program bigger but didn't because of 'negative publicity.' Not constitutional rights, mind you, but publicity (Gonzales Defends Surveillance)

Just Trust Me

I have been listening to the Senate hearings on the NSA program (Gonzales Defends Legality of Surveillance). The defense from the Administration on the illegal domestic wiretaps seems to be "trust me." Gonzales won't answer most questions on the program. He won't say what the boundaries are. He won't say what protections for civil liberties are in place. He won't say if domestic to domestic calls have been tapped without warrant. He won't say how many American citizens have been tapped. Under Gonzales's interpretation of the "inherent authority" argument, there is nothing that the president cannot do during war. That means that as long as there is terrorism, the president can do anything.

My question is why should we trust you?

If the law needs to be changed, go to congress and say "lets change it."

The reason FISA was created was because past presidents were not trustworthy (For Some, Spying Controversy Recalls a Past Drama). The executive has made bad decisions in the past. What makes this administration different?

The Bush administration has never given me a reason to trust them. Why trust them now? Congress created the PATRIOT act as recommended by the president. Congress has given the president all the moneies asked for in the war on terror. Why does the president need to ignore the law if the Congress has bent over backwards to give the president the tools needed to fight the war on terrorism. Congress has invited the Bush administration to come to them and discuss how to change the law to ensure oversight, but for some reason they refuse.

Listening to him defend a program that subverts the constitution and has little impact (Surveillance Net Yields Few Suspects) is not making a case to "trust" them.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Eh? Civil Liberties?

How two hundred years have changed things. It used to be "live free or die," but not anymore.

Chairman Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, criticized those who questioned the program despite the ongoing threat of a terrorist attack, saying ''you really don't have any civil liberties if you're dead."

It is time for New Hampshire to change it listen plates. I guess we also need to change "don't tread on me" to "boot marks is the new black."

Senator calls spy program 'most extensive' in history

Senators grill intelligence chief about surveillance

Senate Panel Rebuffed on Documents on U.S. Spying

Cartoons and Censorship

If you have not heard about the Cartoons originally published in a Danish paper and the outrage from Muslims around the world, you probable don't have electricity in your cave and therefore cannot get online to read this. (Tension Rises Over Cartoons of Muhammad)

I have two things to say about the Cartoons.

First, about the publishment of them. It was stupid, it was offensive, and it was wrong! The paper that published them is a right wing news paper that was not trying to initiate debate or to put forth opinion or commentary. Instead the printing of them was intended to incense and offend Muslims for no other reason other than to incense and offend Muslims.

The paper has every right to publish them. Freedom of speech is elemental. But, that being said, with freedom also comes responsibility. Freedom of speech is for the betterment of the community and if your intention is not for the betterment, but for the degradation of it, then you must act responsible. The cartoons should have never been published in the first place. Not because of government censorship, but because of self censorship.

Second, Muslims around the world need to get a grip. They have every right to be outraged, to be pissed, and to be hurt. Not only did the paper print the likeness of their prophet, which is sacrilegious, but they did it in a derogatory manner. Christians get pissed off all the time when Christianity is presented in a derogatory way. Christians picketed the Brooklyn museum when it displayed a painting of Christ smeared with blood. The Mayor even tried to pull public funding from the museum. Just today, a school teacher in Colorado had to write a letter of apology to parents of 1st and 2nd graders because she showed them a clip of the famous opera Faust, because the parents thought that it glorified Satan. ('Faust' Opera Video Stirs Angry Parents) I think the parents are unbelievably nuts, but they have every right to feel that way.

But Muslims have taken this a step farther. They have kidnapped foreigners and threatened to kill more unless the governments of the respective government apologize and take steps to make sure it never happens again. This is stupid and wrong. They cannot dictate restrictions of speech to the rest of the world, especially through violence. Islamic news papers publish derogatory cartoons of Jews all of the time, but you don't see Israel bombing the news papers.

Every nation in which the cartoons were published should publicly state that the cartoons were offensive and wrong, but firmly state that freedom of speech will not be dictated to them by a gang of thugs. It should be stated that while the governments are embarrassed by the offensive actions of a few of their citizens, there will be no move to stop these or any other publication now, or anytime in the future. (U.S. Calls Muhammad Drawings 'Offensive')

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Short Memory Conservatives

I have seen post after post on the "outrageous" behavior of how the democrats behaved with the Alito nomination.

Ironically, the conservative have already forgotten about their own behavior on Harriet Miers.


Gee, how does this not surprise me?... How embarrasing is it not to even to be able to manage their own election when claiming they should be left to manage the country.

House Republicans are taking a mulligan on the first ballot for Majority Leader. The first count showed more votes cast than Republicans present at the Conference meeting. Stay with for updates.

Roll Call

Warrantless Searches Revisited

Carl at No Oil for Pacifists has been blogging on the NSA surveillance program and whether or not Bush has legal authority to do what he is doing. There are a lot of court cases that are flying around and being quoted and I just wanted to slow things down a bit and look at what these mean in context.

To begin with, I would like to point out something about court opinions that most people don't know/understand. In the opinion, the court will restate the issue at hand. This is the issue that the court was called upon to decide. Examples of this is "was the person negligent," "did the person commit arson," etc. In the opinion, the court will state its holding (decision). This is legal authority. This means that other attorneys and judges can rely on this. Also, in an opinion, a judge may enter into opining and offering opinion not directly related to the issue at hand. This is called dicta. While dicta is in the opinion, it is not legal authority. That means, other attorneys and judges can use this in subsequent cases as a persuasive argument, or completely ignore it. Dicta carries absolutely no legal weight. It is just opinion. When reading court cases, you must know the difference between the two. Otherwise, what you think is law might not be anything at all.

Now, back to the issue at hand. In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled on a case that has been called Keith (
In Keith, the court held that the president did not have the authority to conduct domestic warrantless wiretaps and flatly rejected the assertion that national security somehow trumped the 4th amendment. The court held that the president has no inherent constitutional authority to collect national security intelligence information domestically.

These Fourth Amendment freedoms cannot properly be guaranteed if domestic security surveillances may be conducted solely within the discretion of the Executive [407 U.S. 297, 317] Branch. The Fourth Amendment does not contemplate the executive officers of Government as neutral and disinterested magistrates. Their duty and responsibility are to enforce the laws, to investigate, and to prosecute. Katz v. United States, supra, at 359-360 (DOUGLAS, J., concurring). But those charged with this investigative and prosecutorial duty should not be the sole judges of when to utilize constitutionally sensitive means in pursuing their tasks. The historical judgment, which the Fourth Amendment accepts, is that unreviewed executive discretion may yield too readily to pressures to obtain incriminating evidence and overlook potential invasions of privacy and protected speech.

We cannot accept the Government's argument that internal security matters are too subtle and complex for judicial evaluation. Courts regularly deal with the most difficult issues of our society. There is no reason to believe that federal judges will be insensitive to or uncomprehending of the issues involved in domestic security cases. Certainly courts can recognize that domestic security surveillance involves different considerations from the surveillance of "ordinary crime." If the threat is too subtle or complex for our senior law enforcement officers to convey its significance to a court, one may question whether there is probable cause for surveillance.
Nor do we believe prior judicial approval will fracture the secrecy essential to official intelligence gathering. The investigation of criminal activity has long [407 U.S. 297, 321] involved imparting sensitive information to judicial officers who have respected the confidentialities involved.

It is noteworthy that the court rejected to decide what powers the president had to collect national security information internationally.

We emphasize, before concluding this opinion, the scope of our decision. As stated at the outset, this case involves only the domestic aspects of national security. We have not addressed, and express no opinion [407 U.S. 297, 322] as to, the issues which may be involved with respect to activities of foreign powers or their agents. 20

Further, the court opined (not legal holding) that congress can legislate on issues of domestic intelligence gathering.

It may be that Congress, for example, would judge that the application and affidavit showing probable cause need not follow the exact requirements of 2518 but should allege other circumstances more appropriate to domestic security cases; that the request for prior court authorization could, in sensitive cases, be made to any member of a specially designated court (e. g., the District Court for the District of Columbia or the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit); and that the time and reporting requirements need not be so strict as those in 2518.

The above paragraph does not, of course, attempt to guide the congressional judgment but rather to delineate the present scope of our own opinion. We do not attempt to detail the precise standards for domestic security warrants any more than our decision in Katz sought to set the refined requirements for the specified criminal surveillances which now constitute Title III. We do [407 U.S. 297, 324] hold, however, that prior judicial approval is required for the type of domestic security surveillance involved in this case and that such approval may be made in accordance with such reasonable standards as the Congress may prescribe.

After the court decided Keith, the congress went on to create FISA to deal with the issue of national security intelligence gathering. Congress restricted the ability of the president to spy domestically on US citizens, but recognized the ability of the president to conduct foreign intelligence gathering. For the purposes of FISA, foreign intelligence gathering meant purely foreign. That means that the US could conduct surveillance without a warrant (but pursuant to written notification) on calls from someone in Poland to someone in Russia. But Congress did not stop just at foreign to foreign calls. In FISA, Congress gave permission to the president to conduct surveillance domestically if, and only if the surveillance was not on US citizens or permanent residents. That means the president was free to conduct warrantless surveillance on a Russian citizen working in DC at the embassy, calling home to Moscow. This also means that people like Mohammad Atta, someone who entered the country on a student visa, was fair game for warrantless searches.

People are talking about how the court has upheld the presidents inherent constitutional authority to conduct warrantless foreign intelligence gathering. This is true. They have. But what people are not understanding is the the definition of foreign, was just that. Foreign. There has never been a case that has held that domestic to international surveillance falls within the president authority. Any argument that there has been it just flat out wrong. the president has tired to redefine foreign, and that is where people reading these former rulings are falling into a trap. You must read them as defined then. Foreign meant foreign and domstic meant domestic. Under the NSA program, you have a combination of the two.

Personally, I believe that the courts should find that it is not legal. Others believe the courts should find this legal. Either way, there has never been a determination, so you cannot, on either side, say that there is authority to support it. Speculation, yes. Authority, no. This is why the president has not cited any court ruling to support his claim. It just does not exist. If the court were to follow Keith, the NSA program would clearly be illegal. In Keith, the court falls clearly on the side of civil liberties over national security. But, hey, this is a new court that is tilting towards the right, so civil liberties may fall to the wayside. Either way, I am sure we will find out in another two years or so when this makes its way to the SC.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Bush Says Old Laws Suck

"The FISA law was written in 1978. We're having this discussion in 2006. It's a different world. ... I said, look, is it possible to conduct this program under the old law? And people said, it doesn't work in order to be able to do the job we expect us to do."

It is nice to know that the defender of the nation has no respect for old laws. The constitution was written over 200 years ago. I suppose that the 4th amendment is out of date, too, huh? I guess it is time to get rid of that pesky freedom of speech thing also.

H/T Linnet

State of the Union

So, like a dutiful American, I watched the State of the Union last night. It definitely didn't hurt the president, but maybe only because it was so lackluster. I suppose that is what happens when the government is already running the largest deficits in out nations history and the president is still calling for tax cuts along with the loss of almost all his political capital. (Lowered Expectations Reflect Political and Fiscal Realities) I am still baffled by his tax cuts in a time of war, but that is another subject all together. Overall, it was delivered ok, but packed no punch at all. At a time when Americans are looking for inspiration, it gave none.

I knew it was coming, but I still giggled as Bush called for energy independence. The best rebuttal quote I have heard on this initiative was by Marc Sandalow of the San Francisco Chronicle who compares Bush's call for the United States to end its addiction to oil, to Barry Bonds calling for an end to steroid use. Yeah, like that will ever happen. This is the same man who invited only oil companies to consult on the nations energy policy. He can't afford real funding of R & D since the government is broke, and unless the Republican Congress is ready to change the laws to help spark private initiative, it is just words in a speech, and nothing more. I also doubt that congressional Republicans will be up to actually increasing R & D budget. That might bite into their tax cuts. (In a Lean Budget Year, A Pledge for Research)

I also laughed at his conciliatory tone to congressional Democrats. You can't call for bipartisanship and then lock the Democrats out of all of the legislative process. The only way that bipartisanship will be fostered is if the Republicans actually include Democrats. Otherwise, we are in for the same old, same old. Additionally, if Bush was serious about being bipartisan, he would be reigning in his mouth pieces, but Rove and the gang are still out there giving divisive speeches. There is only one group who can make the first step here, and that is the Republicans. The Dems are in the minority and have already been shut out and have no power to change the status quo. So, if anything is to change, it must come from the GOP and I won't be holding my breath on that one.

The Health Saving Accounts will go very quietly into the night also. His proposals still do nothing for low income people who don't have health insurance. A tax $3000 credit for a family of four making $25,000 is absurd. Someone making that much is already taking the EIC credit and is paying no where near enough in taxes for the credit to be effective. And I am sorry to all the liaise faireist, but there are two things that just don't work on a market basis. They are education and health care.

I didn't get a chance to see Kaine's rebuttle, but it sounds as if it went decent. (Va.'s Kaine Assails 'Poor Choices, Bad Management')

I think we can fully expect more of the same for 2006 as we saw in 2005.

More on the Speech:
Bush Calls for Cuts in Oil Reliance

Analysis: State of the Union Agitated

Republican political requirements suffuse president's annual adress

Passing of Coretta Scott King

Monday marked the passing of a great woman, great leader, a great American, and a great inspiration. Coretta Scott King carried on in the civil rights struggle after many of us would have folded up and gone home. She endured bombings, death threats, violence, and the death of her husband, but never gave in, never gave up.

Watching the people who knew her well speak on her achievements and sacrifices, it is a sad reminder of from where we came, how much more we have to go, and how much our principles have drifted from those four decades before.

They sought to unify the nation... we seek to divide it.

They sought to dignify America... we seek to undermine it.

They sought to better America... we seek to better own interest of small subsections and individuals.

The nation is as divided now as it was then, but we don't have the same leaders now that can pull us together and lead us forward. I don't see anyone soon who can fill the shoes of those who we are losing.