Saturday, January 28, 2006

Why not smear John McCain? 

My sole idea, in response to the current state of emergency and general insanity, is this:

I call on all Democratic, liberal, "progressive," and left-leaning elected officials, staffers, strategists, operatives, coordinators, functionaries, affiliates, henchmen, sympathizers, et al, to immediately launch a full-fledged and indefinitely prolonged smear campaign against John McCain: his person, character, mythology, record, history, family, friends, etc. etc. Smear John McCain. Let's get a nice early start, get it under way, and keep it going.

Anyone got any better ideas?

Update: I'm taking the liberty of promoting speakingcorpse's comment, so that it can be permanently enshrined in the archive:

Proposed smears (also known as "dirty wipes"):

1) He has cancer of the face.

2) He developed a disturbing taste for rice noodles while being held as a prisoner in Vietnam.

3) He likes to suck cock.

4) He has penguin wings instead of arms.

5) He is an African-American.

Drunk Friday ... err ... Saturday! 

This is my first, and likely last, installment of Drunk Friday … Err Saturday.

In our last installment, you’ll recall that speakingcorpse posted a great 15-page post by Digby, then apologized for it. Blicero, meanwhile, has been laying low, and looking for “precious.” I hug him. And Scats has been keeping the site together with his posts and comments.

Here are a few quotes from a site that claims Ben Franklin is the source. I have no clue whether the quotes are actually associated with Franklin. Nevertheless, I include them because I like the quotes:

“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”

A lamb, like a girl at a bar. Let’s rape the lamb!

“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”

Been there, done that, Jack.

And for you crazy theists

“Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”

And for my favorite:

“...a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles...is absolutely necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty and keep a government free.”

Hell, yeah. Civics 101 rock.

Please note that tomorrow I will disclaim any knowledge of this post [Content edited on advice of counsel].


Here we go 

Homeland Security To Build Detention Camps In The United States

KBR announced today that the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) component has awarded KBR an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contingency contract to support ICE facilities in the event of an emergency. KBR is the engineering and construction subsidiary of Halliburton (NYSE:HAL).


The contract, which is effective immediately, provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) Program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs. The contingency support contract provides for planning and, if required, initiation of specific engineering, construction and logistics support tasks to establish, operate and maintain one or more expansion facilities.

The contract may also provide migrant detention support to other U.S. Government organizations in the event of an immigration emergency, as well as the development of a plan to react to a national emergency, such as a natural disaster. In the event of a natural disaster, the contractor could be tasked with providing housing for ICE personnel performing law enforcement functions in support of relief efforts.

I'm sorry. An "emergency influx of immigrants"? And how and why and when and where would something like this happen? And if this is a danger then why is this program only now being instituted? Hm?

This also is very interesting:

The U.S. Army changes rules on capital punishment. Executions -- rare in modern-day military annals, although more are in the works -- could now be held outside Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Opponents fear executions in places far from the public eye.

The Army claims
there's no plan to build execution chambers at Guantanamo. However, they won't say why they want the rules changed; why Leavenworth is insufficient.

What sort of community do you live in?

Saturday Morning Double Feature: Despotism 

Today's film was produced in 1946 by Encyclopedia Brittanica. This film:

Measures how a society ranks on a spectrum stretching from democracy to despotism. Explains how societies and nations can be measured by the degree that power is concentrated and respect for the individual is restricted.

See the 1946 version.

See the 2005 version.

What sort of community do you live in?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Losing Well 

Digby has a great post on cynicism among Democrats who are tired of losing. And Kos has a great post reminding us of just how hard, almost possible, it is for Democratic leaders like Kerry to muster and sustain a filibuster. Remember that 9 of the Dems in our caucus have, by the grace of God, been elected by populations in Red states that are now solidly fascist. So if the filibuster is on, good. And if it doesn't last, well, that's good, too. That is to say, it's better than not having had the filibuster. (It will never be good that the mafia hitman Samuel "I like to kill" Alito is on the Supreme Court.) Anyway, here's Digby:

"John Kerry stepped up today. Apparently, that isn't enough for some. He is still a 'loser' in their eyes and is to be shunned. He didn't do it soon enough. Or he didn't do it right. Or he is nothing but a political opportunist. I'm beginning to think that some Democrats have gotten attached to their vision of Democrats as losers so they won't be emotionally shattered anymore. That's understandable. It's painful to get beaten. But, the rank and file need to step up too and be willing to lose and not hate ourselves or our leaders for it. How we lose on issues like this makes the difference for the future.

Sustaining a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee is a huge undertaking with the numbers we have. (Read Kos' Reality Check on this.) It's worth doing anyway because it's important to stand up for principles. We can 'lose well' by beginning to make a case to the American people that we believe in something other than splitting the difference. And we might just pull it off. Either way, we make the country (and the media) see that there are lines that we won't cross."

It's on 

Kerry called for a filibuster on Alito.

Help out here or get the contact info for your Senators here.

Every little bit helps.

Katz and My Tinfoil Hatz: The DeWine Wrinkle 

I recently argued that General Hayden was making an actual legal argument, rather than a mistake, during his Fourth Amendment bumbling. With that post in mind, I turn to the DeWine revelations, and speakingcorpse’s question of why, in 2002, the Bush administration would argue against the legal position it now appears to be advancing. There are many possible answers, but I just want to consider one here.

As speakingcorpse suggests, part of the answer “is that they really did want to keep it secret at all costs, clearly because it’s being abused.” Just so. Secrecy was their first line of defense. However, spiking DeWine’s bill may also have been part of a legal strategy the Bush administration was using as a fallback position. That is, maybe the Bush administration argued against their own view in 2002 because it would have been more inconvenient down the line if the program were exposed and challenged in the courts with DeWine’s bill on the books. In other words, one of the administration’s plans might be to legitimize the abuse by going to the Supreme Court, if necessary – something that DeWine’s plan would have made more difficult.

The first point here is that DeWine’s bill didn’t go nearly far enough for the Bush administration. As Glenn Greenwald pointed out, DeWine’s bill would only have lowered the standard for non-US persons, so the standard for US persons would have remained probable cause. Also, DeWine’s amendment wouldn’t have eliminated FISA court oversight. So, the bill was just no good from the Bush administration’s point of view. But why wouldn’t the Bush administration even take DeWine’s half-measure?

One possibility: the timing - post-9/11 - would have gutted a Katz-related argument they otherwise would have had to legitimize domestic spying in court. Recall the breadth of the Executive Branch’s arguments in the history of Katz: it asserted the power to wiretap against domestic subversion and against foreign intelligence operations. There were two theories: 1) a theory of “inherent” presidential power; and 2) a theory that such surveillance was a “reasonable” search and seizure and therefore valid under the Fourth Amendment (aka the Hayden argument). However, the Supreme Court expressly held that compliance with the warrant provisions of the Fourth Amendment was required in cases of domestic subversive investigations. So, fine, they could argue that the foreign intelligence question was still live, ala Justice White, but they’re screwed on the domestic subversion angle, right?

Not necessarily. Yes, there is clear Supreme Court precedent on the domestic spying issue, but stare decisis is “not an inexorable command.” At least Justice Roberts claimed as much during his confirmation hearings. So did Judge Alito. With that wiggle room, Bush could then use the classic argument in this context that “times have changed” since 1967 – i.e. the facts have changed, so the law should too. After all, isn’t it true that “9/11 changed everything”? And given Justice Roberts and Judge Alito’s expansive views of Executive authority, they might even subscribe to the Katz version of “inherent” presidential power.

However, the stare-decisis-isn’t-an-inexorable-command-and-9/11-changed-everything argument to legitimize domestic spying would have vanished if Congress had passed DeWine’s amendment in 2002. Times haven’t changed enough since then. In the end, then, this all might be another hint that Bush is conducting extensive domestic surveillance, that he thinks it’s legal, and that he’s prepared to argue as much in court.

Then again, that’s silly. I mean, “domestic subversion”? It’s not like President Bush would say Democrats are traitors who are giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Right?

A letter to John Kerry 

A fine piece of vitriol from Simbaud, the so-called King of Zembla, written in response to an appeal from John Kerry to sign an anti-Alito petition. Below I've pasted in the whole exchange.


Rec'd earlier today from a politician who couldn't pour piss out of a boot if it had instructions printed on the heel:

Dear [Simbaud],

I've studied Judge Alito's legal record. I met with him one-on-one. After all this, I am left with one simple conclusion: if Judge Alito becomes Supreme Court Justice Alito, he will move the Court backwards.

I will vote against Judge Alito's confirmation, and I hope a majority of Senators choose to join us on the Senate floor, voting and speaking out against him. I know we face tough odds, but this is an important fight.

The bottom line is Judge Alito cannot be trusted on the Supreme Court. We can't trust him to stand up to government abuse of power. We can't trust him to ensure all citizens enjoy equal protection under the law. We can't trust him to protect our right to privacy. We can't trust him to defend mainstream American values.

To muster enough Senators to defeat Judge Alito, the American people have to make it clear that they are against his nomination. That's where you come in. By speaking out, you will help us convince other Senators to join our fight.

Stand with us today against Judge Alito . . . .

To join this fight, please sign our letter. When I go down to the Senate floor to speak out against Judge Alito, I'll enter your name in opposition to Alito into the Congressional Record as well. And I'll show my Senate colleagues that as far as the American people are concerned, this is not some inside the beltway conversation; this is a landmark struggle for the future of our nation.

Please join us in this fight for our most cherished rights and freedoms.

John Kerry

To which we can only reply:

Dear Senator Kerry,

You dithering fuckwit. Do you imagine for one nanosecond that a letter ("Dear Senators, I am writing to ask that you vote against Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court and work hard to convince other Senators to join you") signed by thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of Democrats, and then waved around on the Senate floor by you, is going to change a single Republican vote? It won't. It might allow you to experience a momentary illusion of usefulness. It might allow you to feel as though you Fought the Good Fight and Went Down Swingin', and yes, that would be very nice for you, but in practical terms? Please. The one and only way to keep Alito from sitting on the Supreme Court for the rest of our natural lives is to filibuster his wack ass, and that means pulling your own party into line. Could you do us that little favor? Are you up to it?

We would be happy indeed to sign a letter urging you and your gormless colleagues, a couple of whom used to represent the interests of the American people on the rare occasions when they could be roused from their torpor, to support a filibuster against a cracker jurist who is actively hostile to the rights of women and minorities and who advocates de facto dictatorship. Do you have such a letter? No? Then we can't help you, except to recommend that you stock up on Astroglide before you toddle down to the Senate floor to assume your characteristic position. By the way, don't ever bother us again.

King of Zembla

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

i have a dream...i think we all have this dream 

I've never heard of Insight magazine, so I can't really determine how worthwhile this is:

The Bush administration is bracing for impeachment hearings in Congress.

"A coalition in Congress is being formed to support impeachment," an administration source said.

Sources said a prelude to the impeachment process could begin with hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. They said the hearings would focus on the secret electronic surveillance program and whether Mr. Bush violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

If it's true then obviously I'm happier than a Republican with a firehose in a black neighborhood. Actually, I'm even happier than Me with a firehose in a Republican neighborhood.

To learn more about the Impeachment Movement, and sign the various and sundry petitions, click here.


Apparently Insight is the weekly mag of the Washington Times. Curiouser and curiouser.

Also, Steve Gilliard opines that Bush will resign if impeachment proceedings begin on the theory that the Chimp is a punk ass bitch.

If true then its all the more incentive to get the letter writing, phone calling, and click-petitioning into high gear.

Katz Out of the Bag 

Atrios and mcjoan at Dkos have ridiculed General Hayden for saying, “The constitutional standard is ‘reasonable’” when the plain text of the Fourth Amendment requires “probable cause.” Just to be clear, the General isn’t making a mere silly statement here because he isn’t familiar with the text of the Fourth Amendment. No, it’s almost certain that he’s correctly parroting the Bush Administration’s legal view on the matter.

General Hayden’s argument, such as it is, goes back to Katz v. US (1967). According to FindLaw, the Executive Branch then asserted the power to wiretap against domestic subversion and against foreign intelligence operations. First, the Executive Branch based its authority on a theory of “inherent” presidential power. Then, in the Supreme Court it withdrew to the argument that such surveillance was a “reasonable” search and seizure and therefore valid under the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld that compliance with the warrant provisions of the Fourth Amendment was required at least in cases of domestic subversive investigations. However, Justice White, concurring, sought to preserve for a future case the possibility that in “national security cases” electronic surveillance upon the authorization of the President or the Attorney General could be permissible without prior judicial approval. Justices Douglas and Brennan, concurring, rejected that suggestion.

Therefore, it looks like the Bush Administration has revived the “reasonableness” argument that the Supreme Court rejected in Katz when it was applied to domestic subversion situations. The Administration can properly claim that this argument was not rejected in the foreign intelligence context because the Court did not squarely consider that issue. So, General Hayden’s comments, I think, are properly understood to be an accurate reflection of the Bush Administration’s legal position.

Drum's "Unitary Congressional Theory"? 

Kevin Drum has a post up about General Hayden’s discussion of the standard the government is using to monitor people in the NSA spying scandal. The government’s standard is “a reasonable basis to believe” rather than the higher showing required for “probable cause.” Drum asks, “So what do you do if the FISA court won’t approve a lowered standard, Congress won’t change the law, and even the attorney general refuses to play ball? Answer: You go ahead and do what you want anyway.” I think this is a little muddled.

I don’t like Drum’s question because it implies that the options he outlines are realistic possibilities. Despite General Hayden’s understanding of the text of the Fourth Amendment, it explicitly says that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause.” So: 1) How could the FISA court “approve a lowered standard” in a manner inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment?; 2) How could Congress “change the law” in a manner inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment?; 3) How could the attorney general “play ball” in a manner inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment?

I don’t think they can, legally. The text is too plain. So, when General Hayden admits, according to the Times, that the difference in legal standards played a key role in determining whether to seek warrants from the FISA court, the General is revealing that the Bush Administration broke the law precisely because it knew the government’s conduct was forbidden by the Constitution.    

UPDATE: Drum has another post up about FISA. He writes, “the only problem was that both FISA and the attorney general required a standard of evidence they couldn’t meet before issuing a warrant. In other words, the only change necessary to make this program legal was an amendment to FISA modifying the circumstances necessary to issue certain kinds of warrants.”

Under my understanding, the Fourth Amendment sets probable cause as the minimum standard. It’s not like Congress or the attorney general can evade fundamental constitutional protections by instituting a lower standard like “a reasonable basis to believe” just because they feel like it. I repeat: the Constitution itself says “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause.”

So, when Drum asks, “why didn't they ask Congress for that change?” My answer is that Congress doesn’t have the power to amend the Constitution by ordinary legislation. The Bush Administration was intent on spying on people without probable cause. Thus, the program could only proceed illegally.

What am I missing here?

Back from the dead! 

There is a strange drama going on at the Washington Post, which keeps on restoring the hundreds of allegedly obscene comments on post.blog regarding Deborah Howell's incompetence. For more details, see jukeboxgrad's diary at Daily Kos. Now, all but SIX of the hundreds of intolerable comments have been restored. Jukeboxgrad apparently has these six, and they are fairly innocuous.

Anyway, my comment never actually appeared, as I submitted it, coincidentally enough, at the exact time that the shut-down occured. But now my comment has been restored, and it is actually at the very top of the list. So if you visit the "Deborah Howell Responds" entry at post.blog right now (who knows what will happen tomorrow?) you can read what I wrote, prominently displayed. Nothing special, but it is there.

Monday, January 23, 2006


To my amusement, I have apparently been branded as a troll by one of the good folks at TAPPED. Writing about Hillary, Matthew Yglesias stated the following:

"To restate my nuanced view on the flag-burning question, I'm not really for either an amendment or a law. On the other hand, I don't have a serious problem with either approach. Given that such measures are likely to be popular, I'd prefer Democrats to move to the right on this issue than to do so on more consequential issues like reproductive rights or gay and lesbian equality."

First of all, ick. Flag-burning is expressive conduct properly protected by the First Amendment. As the Supreme Court asserted in Texas v. Johnson (1989), a flag-burning case: “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” But Yglesias apparently doesn’t have a “serious problem” with Democrats discarding a “bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment” because such a move is “likely to be popular.” Wow. You don’t get much more unprincipled than that.

Second, is Yglesias really suggesting that it might be politically beneficial for Democrats to stake out positions they don’t believe in? To tack to the right, presumably in order to capture the center? What would our slogan be, “2008: Just like 1996 -- Only Better!”? How about: “The Left Knows How to Pander Right: Vote Democratic!”?

Anyway, here’s how TAPPED re-wrote my comment, which no longer exists. “Her” refers to Hillary:

"Ban flag desecration? I will never vote for her. Ever, ever, ever. I support flag burning, urinating on the flag, flag-ass-wiping, making fun of the world's ugliest flag on the internets, whatever. This bitch will never do us any good at all. She is a coward and a climber. To hell with her. Fuck these stupid gestures, fight goddamit."

Funny stuff. Completely disingenuous, but funny.

You Gotta Love the Democrats! (Part MCMXXXVI) 

I was just listening to a rebroadcast of this morning's Meet the Press, featuring Illinois Senator Barack Obama. The exchange (from memory) went something like this:

Russert: As you know, 3 million dollars of Abramoff-related money went to Republicans, and 1.5 million to Democrats. Is this a bipartisan scandal?

Obama: Well...as far as the money problem goes, it's bipartisan.

Obama continued to speak for five more minutes about the "money problem," without once correcting Russert's little joke.

I guess this is where we are.

Update: OK, here's the actual transcript:

MR. RUSSERT: You’ve been appointed, selected as the Democrats’ point man on lobbying reform in the Senate. I want to talk about Jack Abramoff and the scandal now in terms of lobbying and potential reform. According to the Center for Responsive Politics and The Washington Post, Mr. Abramoff and his clients and his associates gave about $3 million to Republicans, about $1.5 million to Democrats. Is this a bipartisan scandal?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, I think the problem of money in politics is bipartisan....

Granted, at the end of his pointlessly long-winded comment he says:

And I think Jack Abramoff and the Case Freak Project, that whole thing is a very particular Republican sin.

But so what.

[By the way, who the hell transcribed "K Street Project" as "Case Freak Project"? Weird.]

Sunday, January 22, 2006

"Why do you hate our children?" 

Bush is attempting to get Google to turn over a broad range of information from its databases because Justice “needed the information to prepare its case to revive the 1998 Child Online Protection Act, which the Supreme Court blocked from taking effect two years ago,” according to WaPo. Color me suspicious.

We know that in Bush’s spying program the information the NSA obtains is passed on to other government agencies, “which cross-check the information with tips and information collected in other databases,” according to current and former administration officials. So, the NSA dumps the information into a database that is at least accessible to the DIA, FBI, CIA, and Department of Homeland Security. Share and share alike, it seems. As a result, it doesn’t matter how or why the information gets dumped into the database. Once it’s there, the agencies have access to it.

Given how the information-sharing works, then, the child porn rationale may be mere political cover. Bush has another avenue to spy on “dangerous” Americans, but when pressed on the issue, Bush can deflect by saying that he’s just trying to protect our children. I mean, if Bush is only worried about child porn, why is Justice asking for, among other things, “all searches entered on Google during any one-week period” (my emphasis). Remember that this request is a narrower version of what Justice originally asked for, according to its motion. Even this “narrow” request is absurdly overbroad --unless Bush intends to use the information for purposes other than those related to preparing its Child Online Protection Act case.

I can already hear Bush’s three-pronged defense: 1) “Trust me,” he will implore; 2) “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you don’t have anything to worry about;” and 3) “Why do you hate our children?”  

res ipsa loquitur...again! 

Saddam Hussein's defense against his indictment by an ad hoc Iraqi tribunal is simply that has the head of the state he had unlimited power to defend the state. That enemies of the state did not have legal protection, and therefore he cannot be charged for what he did during that time.

via BopNews

Also, in the non-self refuting argument department:

Any Glenn Greenwald fans (ahem...Rat), might want to check out David Luban's sterling takedown of Harvey Mansfield's defense of King Bush over at Balkinization. Mansfield is an eminent Straussian and holder of a named Chair at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He is also apparently ignorant of 10th grade civics. But really, why go to the trouble of learning anything when Scaife is paying by the word?

So would Harvey Mansfield be more aptly compared to a Mandarin or a Pharisee? Discuss.


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