Saturday, December 31, 2005

DVD Review: Wholphin

I think I've mentioned here before the McSweeney's literary magazine I subscribe to (lifetime--they screwed up my account so bad once, early on, somebody felt bad and gave me a lifetime subscription to recompense!). They also have an ironically funny website,

They have done some fascinating stuff in the past. Each issue is a different format. The one before the latest was like a stack of mail, including postcards, ad circulars, and a couple of magazine/journals. So bizarre. Sometimes they include unusual items, like a comb. It's all very deconstructionist and postmodern.

The latest issue is a very regular copy of the journal, plus a DVD, the first "issue" of a quarterly DVD magazine called "Wholphin." You can see more about it at There's a sample clip there too.

I just spent a couple of hours watching it. It has a bunch of short features, dramatic, comedy, documentary. It's irresistible

There's one incredible sequence with a Dutch guy in front of St. Paul's Cathedral in London singing Stairway to Heaven, backwards, to a karaoke track. It sounds weird, and it is. He recorded singing the song BACKWARDS, and then this tape is run backwards. It's so dorky but cool. The same guy also did a longer piece, just set his camera on a beach. Lo and behold here comes a Hovercraft up onto the beach, and some guy runs onto it, and it takes off. It is creepy as hell for some reason.

There is a Spike Jonze documentary done during the Al Gore presidential campaign that showed him as just a regular, funny, warm guy... and the realization is, if they had shown this, he would have REALLY won.

Another item is an actual Civil Defense film from the 50s which proves that, if you would only paint your house, it will withstand the heat blast of an atomic bomb. I kid you not. It is so weird. It is subtly racist, and you can see where FEMA got its start.

There is also an episode of a Turkish sitcom based on The Jeffersons (for real; the credits are in Turkish but you can see Norman Lear's name there). You can watch it with english subtitles based on the actual show, but then they have six other versions with wacky subtitles by funny people, so you get a variety of versions of the same show.

There's also an Iranian cartoon.

And some other things.

Check it out. And Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Have a happy, I'm off

I'll be out of town and away from the computer all week on a little vacation trip with some friends. Have a great week and see you next weekend.

Daily Kos: Feingold doesn't care--and that's good

peacenik23 at Daily Kos: I Don't Care - Russ Feingold: "'Political watchers such as University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato point out that while Feingold's recent stands on civil liberties and the Iraq war may please liberal activists, they may well hurt his chances later on with moderate Democrats and conservatives. '

The Senator's response?

'I don't care,'... 'Whatever political considerations I have are absolutely irrelevant to the decisions I make having to do with people's civil liberties and something as weighty as Americans risking their lives overseas. The day that I start think politically about those things is the day I should leave politics.'

This is the embodiment of what we should demand from our political leaders. Decision making and real leadership sans politics. Just imagine if all our leaders acted like this rather than worrying non-stop about their political futures."

Cynthia Tucker in AJC: God helps those who help others

Cynthia Tucker in the AJC: "Though some self-serving ranters want us to believe in a phony 'war on Christmas,' I think most of us know that the season's deeper meaning has nothing to do with whether retailers hang banners saying 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays.' It has much more to do with how we treat one another — including the most vulnerable among us.

So let's talk about the poor. Let's talk about those among us who cannot afford basic medical care or decent housing. Let's consider those who, despite working 40 hours or more a week, still can't afford the prescription drugs they need. Let's talk about those who join the Army just to get dental care for their children.

Don't want to hear about them? You think they're stuck at the margins because they're lazy or dumb or inclined to crime? You think America offers prosperity to any man or woman willing to work hard enough to get it?


That political philosophy — which claims to be a hard-headed compassion rather than the hard-hearted selfishness it really is — has become the conventional wisdom. But it's an odd thing for a nation that claims to be overwhelmingly Christian. There is nothing in the New Testament that says that helping the poor merely makes them worse off.

Many of us may believe there is, of course. In the August 2005 issue of Harper's, Bill McKibben wrote: 'Three-quarters of Americans believe the Bible teaches that 'God helps those who help themselves.' That is, three out of four Americans believe that this �ber-American idea, a notion at the core of our current individualist politics and culture, which was in fact uttered by Ben Franklin, actually appears in Holy Scripture.

The thing is, not only is Franklin's wisdom not biblical, it's counter-biblical. Few ideas could be further from the Gospel message, with its radical summons to 'love [thy] neighbor.'

That's a theology not heard much these days from any pulpit — political, Catholic or Protestant. But it's worth thinking about."

Merry Christmas, y'all.

AJC: Bush pushes limits of presidential power

Bush pushes limits of presidential power--by Bob Deans in the AJC: "No sooner did President Bush declare last week that the presidency was not 'some kind of dictatorial position' than his detractors recast it as the equivalent of a denial: 'I am not a dictator.'

It was a thinly veiled allusion to the claim by President Richard Nixon: 'I am not a crook.'"

I think somebody ought to produce a knock-off of those pretentious black square bumper stickers, reading "W: The Dictator."

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Crooks and Liars has a direct link to the drunken Bush parody

Do check it out!

AMERICAblog: Barron's suggests impeaching Bush

AMERICAblog has the link and some comments: "This is big. I asked around about Barron's and found out that they're a BIG deal in the business community, every CEO reads them, and they're about as reputable in the eyes of America's top business leaders as the Wall Street Journal, if not more so. As for politics, Barron's doesn't it touch it, and no one thinks Barron's is even vaguely liberal.

Now with that as background, we find Barron's editorializing (entire editorial here) that what Bush did is potentially an impeachable offense. And that Congress needs to review what happened and either pass legislation giving Bush full authority to spy on Americans at will without a search warrant or they should impeach him.

Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.

I really appreciate the option Barron's has presented. Either you're with the Constitution or you're against it. If Congress thinks Bush has the power to do what he did, then pass legislation that explicitly lets him spy on us without any judicial check - stop playing games with this inferred and implied crap. Give him the power directly and let the American people know it (then see what happens). And if you don't want him to have the power, impeach him. But there's no in between. Either be man enough to give the man the power outright or charge him with high crimes against the Constitution.

Bush is in serious trouble if conservatives are starting to wake up to the fact that the un-Conservative no longer represents them, no longer represents Republicanism, and worse, is now a threat to everything Republicans supposedly hold dear."

Spy Agency Mined Vast Data Trove, Officials Report - New York Times

Spy Agency Mined Vast Data Trove, Officials Report - New York Times: "The National Security Agency has traced and analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the United States as part of the eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity, according to current and former government officials.

The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said."

WaPo: This must be where Bush got the idea to spy freely

Alito Urged Wiretap Immunity: "Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. once argued that the nation's top law enforcement official deserves blanket protection from lawsuits when acting in the name of national security, even when those actions involve the illegal wiretapping of American citizens, documents released yesterday show.

As a lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department, Alito said the attorney general must be free to take steps to protect the country from threats such as terrorism and espionage without fear of personal liability. But in a 1984 memo involving a case that dated to the Nixon administration, Alito also cautioned his superiors that the time may not be right to make that argument and urged a more incremental approach."

Media Matters: Top 12 media myths and falsehoods on the Bush administration's spying scandal

Media Matters has a great summary: "Media Matters presents the top 12 myths and falsehoods promoted by the media on President Bush's spying scandal stemming from the recent revelation in The New York Times that he authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on domestic communications without the required approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court."

Media Matters: Virginia, there is no War on Christmas

Media Matters - Newspapers, commentators agree: Virginia, there is no War on Christmas: "About this time last year, the media was abuzz with talk of a purported 'war' on Christmas, a charge promoted by Fox News hosts Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, who blamed the supposed offensive on 'secular progressives' who seek to drive religion from the public square. This October, O'Reilly resumed his fight against the 'war' -- the same month the book The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought (Sentinel, 2005), written by O'Reilly's fellow Fox News host John Gibson, was published. The allegation of a secular conspiracy against the Christian holiday became a recurring theme on Fox News programs; for example, over the course of a five-day period at the end of November through early December, the network had devoted 58 segments to the topic.

Media Matters for America surveyed the newspapers in the Nexis database called 'News, All (English, Full Text)' to examine how the allegations of a political attack on the Christmas holiday have been treated by editorial boards, columnists, and other commentators. "

Friday, December 23, 2005

DIAL B for BLOG: Jesus and Superman

DIAL B for BLOG has an interesting comparison today, part of a great series of Christmas-related entries.

WaPo: Daschle Says Congress Denied Bush War Powers in U.S.

Daschle challenges Bush's assertion: "The Bush administration requested, and Congress rejected, war-making authority 'in the United States' in negotiations over the joint resolution passed days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to an opinion article by former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) in today's Washington Post.

Daschle's disclosure challenges a central legal argument offered by the White House in defense of the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. It suggests that Congress refused explicitly to grant authority that the Bush administration now asserts is implicit in the resolution.

The Justice Department acknowledged yesterday, in a letter to Congress, that the president's October 2001 eavesdropping order did not comply with "the 'procedures' of" the law that has regulated domestic espionage since 1978. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, established a secret intelligence court and made it a criminal offense to conduct electronic surveillance without a warrant from that court, "except as authorized by statute.""

Here's the link to Daschle's op-ed.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Daily Howler: RNC Disinformation, a case in point

The Daily Howler: "Where does disinformation come from? Consider Bart Gellman’s short report atop page 12 in this morning’s Post. Here’s the headline, which helps to spread the latest RNC phony info:

WASHINGTON POST HEADLINE (12/22/05): Carter, Clinton Authorized Spying, RNC Says

...You’re right. Technically, that headline doesn’t actually claim that Carter and Clinton “authorized spying.” It only states that the RNC says so. Of course, Gellman knew how bogus that claim really is. But you had to read all the way to his final paragraph to ferret out that information:

GELLMAN (12/22/05): The RNC's quotation of Clinton's order left out the stated requirement, in the same sentence, that a warrantless search not involve 'the premises, information, material, or property of a United States person.' Carter's order, also in the same sentence quoted, said warrantless eavesdropping could not include 'any communication to which a United States person is a party.'

In other words, Carter and Clinton didn’t “authorize spying” on U.S. citizens, as the RNC has been claiming. This matter has been discussed in detail at various outlets. For example, see this report from ThinkProgress.

Where does disinformation come from? If you’re a reader of the Post, you get the impression, from scanning today’s headlines, that Carter and Clinton “authorized spying.” You had to read the full report, rather carefully, to find out that this claim is bogus. Even then, Gellman never explicitly raises the question of the RNC’s dissembling. You have to piece the basic idea together: The RNC is at it again.

Why did Gellman write this report as he did? Why did the Post put this headline atop it? We don’t know, but we do know this: Cheers rang out at the RNC when they saw their bunk at the top of page 12, with readers required to read very carefully to discern that the claim is pure hokum."

Check this out on Froomkin's blog

Froomkin links to the Craig Ferguson show's doctored Bush press conference clip: "Salon's Video Dog feature finds what it calls 'A brilliantly juvenile gag from last night's 'The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.' '

It's a clip from Bush's Monday press conference (here's the real video ) digitally altered to make Bush sound like he's drunk."

You gotta scroll to the bottom of Froomkin's page for the link, and suffer through the Salon ad to get to it, and then scroll down the Video Dog page to find it. But it's worth it.

AP: Can it get any worse in Iraq?

Iraq Sunni, Shiite Groups Threaten Boycott -- AP on Yahoo! News: "Dozens of Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups threatened to boycott Iraq's new legislature Thursday if complaints about tainted voting are not reviewed by an international body.

A representative for former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi described the Dec. 15 vote as 'fraudulent' and the elected lawmakers 'illegitimate.'

A joint statement issued by 35 political groups that competed in last week's elections said the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, which oversaw the ballot, should be disbanded.

It also said the more than 1,250 complaints about fraud, ballot box stuffing and intimidation should be reviewed by international organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference or the Arab League.

There was no one available for comment at the U.N. office in Baghdad, but a world body spokesman in New York rejected a review.


The trial of Saddam Hussein also adjourned until Jan. 24, after two days of hearings into the deaths of more than 140 people in the town of Dujail in 1982.

Saddam claimed he was "tortured" while in U.S. detention, but Investigative Judge Raid al-Juhi, who prepared the case, told reporters that neither the defendants nor their lawyers had ever complained about beatings. He did not say whether the defendants were examined specifically for signs of abuse.

Violence around the country, including a suicide car bombing and several shootings, left more than a dozen people dead, including six police officers, authorities said.

A U.S. soldier was killed by a bomb explosion Thursday while on patrol in Baghdad, the U.S. military command said. At least 2,159 U.S. service members have died since the war began, according to an Associated Press count."

Congrats to Mark Evanier on 5 Bloggin' Years

Mark Evanier has a great blog and website mostly about comics, pop culture, and some politics thrown in for good measure. Check it out. Note especially the entry "There's No Such Website!" which is fun. He also blogs about "Deal or No Deal" which got me hooked also, though I missed last night.

Bruce Feiler in the NYT: Teach, Don't Preach, the Bible

Teach, Don't Preach, the Bible - New York Times: "At a time when religion dominates the headlines - from Iraq to terrorism to stem cells - finding a way to educate young people about faith should become a national imperative. Achieving this goal in a legal, nonsectarian manner requires Americans to get over the kitchen-table bromide, 'Don't talk about politics and religion in public.'

The extremists talk about religion - and spew messages of hate. Religious moderates must denounce this bigotry and reclaim Scripture as the shared document of all. When flamethrowers hold up Scripture and say, 'It says this,' moderates must hold up the same text say, 'Yes, but it also says this.' The Bible is simply too important to the history of Western civilization - and to vital to its future - to be ceded to one side in the debate over values."

Daily Kos: Feingold blogs about Patriot Act

Daily Kos: PATRIOT ACT UPDATE: "I have never done this before, and I know that it's frowned upon, but here is my statement from last night:

Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold
On the Latest Regarding Patriot Act Reauthorization

'Today is a victory for the American people and the bipartisan group of Senators who have been fighting against efforts to extend the Patriot Act permanently without protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens. I am pleased that the Republican leadership backed down from their irresponsible threat to let the Patriot Act expire and agreed to a 6-month extension of the provisions that would have sunset at the end of this year. This will allow more time to finally agree on a bill that protects our rights and freedoms while preserving important tools for fighting terrorism. Those of us who stood up to demand modest and reasonable protections of our liberties never wanted to stop Patriot Act reauthorization. We just want to get it right this time around.

We could have avoided these last-minute negotiations if the House had just adopted the Senate version of the Patriot Act that passed unanimously earlier this year. As we move forward, I hope that the Republican leadership in the Senate and the administration will continue down the path they started on tonight so that we don't find ourselves in this same situation 6 months from now. One thing is clear - what happened in the Senate over the past few weeks shows that this conference report is dead.'

That's right, they backed down, for now. There was an agreement reached last night to extend the Patriot Act for 6 months so there is more time to finally get things right. I want to sincerely thank everyone for their support and for continuing to make their voices heard on this issue. We could not have reached this point without your support.

That said, our fight is far from over. Continue your efforts, whether it's writing your member of Congress, or talking to your "

WaPo: FISA judges are not happy

Judges on Surveillance Court To Be Briefed on Spy Program: "The presiding judge of a secret court that oversees government surveillance in espionage and terrorism cases is arranging a classified briefing for her fellow judges to address their concerns about the legality of President Bush's domestic spying program, according to several intelligence and government sources.

Several members of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said in interviews that they want to know why the administration believed secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading e-mails of U.S. citizens without court authorization was legal. Some of the judges said they are particularly concerned that information gleaned from the president's eavesdropping program may have been improperly used to gain authorized wiretaps from their court."

Born at the Crest of the Empire: Plame Gossip Update

Born at the Crest of the Empire: PLAME GOSSIP: "Big news in the Plame case. Plame Gossip has been quiet for awhile. With no public Fitzgerald actions in the last couple of days, I was beginning to wonder if the story had gone quiet through Christmas.

But, no. Our friend Jason at Rawstory is reporting... (oh, man, there's a lot here.)"

WaPo's Richard Cohen: Bush's rap sheet

Trust Him With Our Rights? No.: "So an administration that makes something of a reasonable case when it comes to tapping the international phone calls of American citizens has its standing and veracity considerably weakened by what went before. The White House cannot explain why it did not ask Congress for this authority because, it is now clear, it does not want to ask Congress for anything. It will not explain why it could not seek warrants from a judge because, really, it does not want to seek warrants from a judge. This is the Louis XIV school of government: In matters of national security, Bush must say to himself, he is the state.

Such a president cannot be trusted. In Bush's case, the extra inch that would be given another president in wartime has to be measured out in increments of tenths. He is so suffused with his own sense of righteousness that he cannot imagine his laws being abused -- not by him, certainly, and not by his chummy group of nicknamed nincompoops, either. He listens to Cheney, who still smarts from post-Watergate reforms that made the Gerald Ford presidency less imperial than Richard Nixon's -- and on purpose. Cheney was Ford's chief of staff."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Spying, the Constitution — and the ‘I-word’ - Howard Fineman -

Howard Fineman - "In the first weeks and months after 9/11, I am told by a very good source, there was a lot of wishing out loud in the White House Situation Room about expanding the National Security Agency’s ability to instantly monitor phone calls and e-mails between American callers and possible terror suspects abroad. “We talked a lot about how useful that would be,” said this source, who was “in the room” in the critical period after the attacks.

Well, as the world now knows, the NSA — at the prompting of Vice President Cheney and on official (secret) orders from President Bush — was doing just that. And yet, as I understand it, many of the people in the White House’s own Situation Room — including leaders of the national security adviser’s top staff and officials of the FBI — had no idea that it was happening."

The Independent (UK): Iraq is disintegrating

Independent Online Edition > Middle East: "Iraq is disintegrating. The first results from the parliamentary election last week show the country is dividing between Shia, Sunni and Kurdish regions.

Religious fundamentalists now have the upper hand. The secular and nationalist candidate backed by the US and Britain was humiliatingly defeated.

The Shia religious coalition has won a total victory in Baghdad and the south of Iraq. The Sunni Arab parties who openly or covertly support armed resistance to the US are likely to win large majorities in Sunni provinces. The Kurds have already achieved quasi-independence and their voting reflected that.

The election marks the final shipwreck of American and British hopes of establishing a pro-Western secular democracy in a united Iraq."

AP: Senate Blocks Alaska Refuge Drilling

AP: Dems are managing to do some positive things in the Senate: "The Senate blocked an attempt to open an Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling Wednesday, foiling an attempt by drilling backers to force the measure through Congress as part of a must-have defense spending bill.

It was a stinging defeat for Sen. Ted Stevens (news, bio, voting record), R-Alaska, one of the Senate's most powerful members, who had given senators a choice to support the Alaska drilling measure, or risk the political fallout of voting against money for American troops and for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Democrats accused Stevens, the senior Republican in the Senate, of holding the defense bill hostage to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

'It took a lot of guts for a lot of people to stand up,' Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said after the vote.

Republican leaders fell four votes short of getting the required 60 votes to avoid a threatened filibuster of the defense measure over the oil drilling issue. The vote prompted GOP leaders to huddle in private over their next move."

Super Cheney back in time to break tie to squash the poor and needy with budget cuts

Cheney Breaks Senate Tie on Spending Cuts - Yahoo! News: "The Republican-controlled Senate passed legislation to cut federal deficits by $39.7 billion on Wednesday by the narrowest of margins, 51-50, with Vice President
Dick Cheney casting the deciding vote."

AMERICAblog: Now we know why the administration didn't use the FISA courts

Too much paperwork: "I'm not kidding. This is the reason given by this two-bit un-American generalissimo who deserves to be fired and thrown in jail for life:

Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was NSA director when the surveillance began and now serves as Bush's deputy director of national intelligence, said the secret- court process was intended for long-term surveillance of agents of an enemy power, not the current hunt for elusive terrorist cells.

'The whole key here is agility,' he said at a White House briefing before Bush's news conference. According to Hayden, most warrantless surveillance conducted under Bush's authorization lasts just days or weeks, and requires only the approval of a shift supervisor. Hayden said getting retroactive court approval is inefficient because it 'involves marshaling arguments' and 'looping paperwork around.'

Oh, well a big fat general thinks the current law is 'inefficient' because it would require him to write down a few things and actually explain why he wants to invade the privacy of innocent Americans in violation of the law. Gosh, life must be really tough for General Hayden now that he no longer has Soviet dictators to emulate."

Think Progress: Drudge claim that Clinton, Carter authorized warrantless spying doesn't jibe with facts

Think Progress: Fact Check: Clinton/Carter Executive Orders Did Not Authorize Warrantless Searches of Americans: "The top of the Drudge Report claims “CLINTON EXECUTIVE ORDER: SECRET SEARCH ON AMERICANS WITHOUT COURT ORDER…” It’s not true. Here’s the breakdown –"

Check it out. Thanks to Think Progress--I was hoping somebody would refute this.

UPDATE: Think Progress also refutes Drudge's "Smilin' Harry Reid" photo at the signing of the Patriot Act, demonstrating Reid has always had problems with the act.

Abramoff Reportedly Negotiating a Deal

WaPo reports... this could be good, but I would also like to see Abramoff in jail for a long time: "Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, facing trial on fraud charges Jan. 9 in Florida, is negotiating a possible deal with the Justice Department, in which he would agree to plead guilty and cooperate in the wide-ranging political corruption investigation focused on his dealings with members of Congress and executive branch officials, people familiar with the talks said last night.

Abramoff would provide testimony about numerous members of Congress and their staffs if he and the Justice Department reach an agreement, the sources said. Negotiations have been ongoing for several months, people knowledgeable about the discussions said, but pressure is mounting because of the pending trial."

WaPo: Clash Is Latest Chapter in Bush Effort to Widen Executive Power

Interesting analysis in the Post--makes me wonder if they didn't gin up the terrorist situation in order to make their goal easier to attainr: "The clash over the secret domestic spying program is one slice of a broader struggle over the power of the presidency that has animated the Bush administration. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney came to office convinced that the authority of the presidency had eroded and have spent the past five years trying to reclaim it.

From shielding energy policy deliberations to setting up military tribunals without court involvement, Bush, with Cheney's encouragement, has taken what scholars call a more expansive view of his role than any commander in chief in decades. With few exceptions, Congress and the courts have largely stayed out of the way, deferential to the argument that a president needs free rein, especially in wartime.

But the disclosure of Bush's eavesdropping program has revived the issue, and Congress appears to be growing restive about surrendering so much of its authority. Democrats and even key Republicans maintain Bush went too far -- and may have even violated the law -- by authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens' overseas telephone calls in search of terrorist plots without obtaining warrants from a secret intelligence court.

The vice president entered the fray yesterday, rejecting the criticism and expounding on the philosophy that has driven so many of the administration's actions. "I believe in a strong, robust executive authority, and I think that the world we live in demands it -- and to some extent that we have an obligation as the administration to pass on the offices we hold to our successors in as good of shape as we found them," Cheney said. In wartime, he said, the president "needs to have his constitutional powers unimpaired.""

WaPo: Spy Court Judge Quits In Protest

Spy Court Judge Quits In Protest: "A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation.

Two associates familiar with his decision said yesterday that Robertson privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the president in 2001 was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA court's work."

The smiley facade cracks

AP reports: "The wife of the pastor of the nation's largest church was asked to leave a plane after she failed to comply with a flight attendant's instructions, the FBI said Tuesday.

Houston Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen, his wife, Victoria, and their two children boarded a Continental Airlines flight from Houston to Vail, Colo., Monday. The plane's door had been closed when Victoria Osteen and a flight attendant had a disagreement.

'She failed to comply with the flight attendant's instructions, and they were asked to leave the flight,' FBI spokeswoman Luz Garcia said without elaborating on the disagreement.

The FBI reviewed a report from Continental after the incident, Garcia said. No charges will be filed, she said.

The flight was delayed more than an hour while the Osteens' luggage was retrieved, Garcia said. The family took another flight to Colorado, where church spokesman Don Iloff said they were skiing Tuesday."

AJC: Bob Barr explains how the President broke the law

Conservative former Congressman in his weekly op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "'The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States and when carrying out duties in such capacity shall not be subject to the laws of these United States or of this Constitution.'

--- Constitution of the United States, Article II, Sec. 2, as amended 2005

When President Bush explained, over the course of three days, his administration's secret interception of communications involving American citizens without court approval, he repeatedly cited three authorities for such action. One of these was Article II of our Constitution, which provides authority for the president to serve as commander in chief of the armed forces. Not relying on my memory --- which has proved faulty from time to time (rarely, of course) --- I reread Article II to determine if in fact there was language in it that I had missed previously, that when the president serves as commander in chief, he can order federal agencies to violate the law.

Of course, I found no such authority, because none exists. Such was never even presumed to be implied by the drafters of that magnificent document. In fact, federal courts --- which over the decades have deferred greatly to the power of the president when he takes action involving national security --- have never held that when a president dons the hat of commander in chief he simultaneously is immunized from having to follow the laws of the land or of the other provisions contained in the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights.

Yet, this is precisely the power the president is now claiming. Truly, it is a breathtaking assertion of presidential power. If, in fact, the country allows it to stand, then there will be virtually no limit to the areas into which it might extend. Remember, the president claims that the venue of the so-called 'war' against terror is as much within our borders as outside, and its duration perpetual.

To be fair, the president did cite other authority in support of his assertion that he can order surreptitious surveillance of our citizens without following the laws that govern such actions.

First, he claims his 'responsibility to protect the country' subsumes the authority to order surveillance of American citizens in contravention of the law. Of course, there is no 'responsibility-to-protect-my-people' exception to the rule of law or the applicability of the Bill of Rights anywhere in the Constitution, or in any prior decision of any federal court.

The president also refers repeatedly to the resolution passed by the Congress in the first days following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as establishing his power to order the surveillance now at issue. However, a reading of that resolution, whether cursory or in-depth, reveals no such authority, explicit or implied. The resolution simply authorized the president 'to use all necessary and appropriate force' against those responsible for planning, carrying out or assisting in the attacks of Sept. 11. The resolution went on to provide that such 'necessary and appropriate force' might be used to prevent future acts of terrorism. Importantly, the resolution provided no authority whatsoever for any actions on the part of the president beyond authorizing the use of force.

To cite this resolution as authority to override specific federal laws that prohibit the surreptitious interception of communications of American citizens represents neither sound legal argument nor honest public policy."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

WaPo: Uh oh, trouble in the great democracy of Iraq

Sunni, Secular Groups Demand New Vote: "Sunni and secular political groups angrily claimed Tuesday that last week's Iraqi national election was rigged, demanded a new vote and threatened to leave a shambles the delicate plan to bring the country's wary factions together in a new government.

Faced with preliminary vote counts that suggest a strong victory by the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of Shiite religious parties that dominates the outgoing government, political leaders of Iraq's Sunni Arab minority hinted that insurgent violence would be accelerated by the suspicions of fraud."

NY Times: Sneaky Frist protects his buddies

Legal Shield for Vaccine Makers Is Inserted Into Military Bill - New York Times: "Companies making vaccines to protect against biological agents or pandemic viruses would be shielded from lawsuits, even if they are negligent or reckless, under a provision inserted into a military spending bill by Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader."

Think Progress: Conservative Scholars Argue Bush’s Wiretapping Is An Impeachable Offense

Think Progress: "Conservative scholars Bruce Fein and Norm Ornstein argued yesterday on The Diane Rehm show that, should Bush remain defiant in defending his constitutionally-abusive wire-tapping of Americans (as he has indicated he will), Congress should consider impeaching him."

Think Progress: The Echelon Myth

Think Progress debunks the latest right wing attempt at fogging the issue: "Prominent right-wing bloggers – including Michelle Malkin, the Corner, Wizbang and Free Republic — are pushing the argument that President Bush’s warrantless domestic spying program isn’t news because the Clinton administration did the same thing.

The right-wing outlet NewsMax sums up the basic argument:

During the 1990’s under President Clinton, the National Security Agency monitored millions of private phone calls placed by U.S. citizens and citizens of other countries under a super secret program code-named Echelon…all of it done without a court order, let alone a catalyst like the 9/11 attacks.

That’s flatly false. The Clinton administration program, code-named Echelon, complied with FISA. Before any conversations of U.S. persons were targeted, a FISA warrant was obtained. CIA director George Tenet testified to this before Congress on 4/12/00:

I’m here today to discuss specific issues about and allegations regarding Signals Intelligence activities and the so-called Echelon Program of the National Security Agency…

There is a rigorous regime of checks and balances which we, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the FBI scrupulously adhere to whenever conversations of U.S. persons are involved, whether directly or indirectly. We do not collect against U.S. persons unless they are agents of a foreign power as that term is defined in the law. We do not target their conversations for collection in the United States unless a FISA warrant has been obtained from the FISA court by the Justice Department.

Meanwhile, the position of the Bush administration is that they can bypass the FISA court and every other court, even when they are monitoring the communications of U.S. persons. It is the difference between following the law and breaking it."

Daily Kos: Spying: How's it playing in Peoria?

Daily Kos: Spying: How's it playing in Peoria?: "We know how the story is playing in the blogsphere and we've gotten the expected reaction from the 'big boys' of the MSM, but what are the editorial pages saying in the rest of the country? Here is a random sampling from five newspapers, three from red states, two from blue states."

Jon Carroll on another case of commentator-buying

JON CARROLL: "Well, here's a thing: A senior fellow at the Cato Institute, Doug Bandow, wrote at least 24 columns for the Copley News Service at the request of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who paid generously for the thoughtful thoughts thoughtfully expressed. Business Week broke the story; when it came out, Bandow resigned from Cato and acknowledged a 'lapse in judgment.'

Lapse? One column is a lapse, maybe; 24 columns is a lifestyle choice. Maybe he believed everything he wrote; I dunno. Seems like a darn slippery slope. And I guarantee you that he chose his subject matter with an eye toward Abramoff's pet issues. That looks bad. It suggests that the press is for sale."

UPDATE: Pittsburg paper won't publish anything Bandow writes ever again: "The prose of Doug Bandow never will appear on these pages again. It turns out that Mr. Bandow, the once-respected senior scholar at the Cato Institute, was on the take. And we find that as inexcusable as we do sickening."

Talking Points Memo: Constitutional Questions

Josh has some great insights on the current Constitutional crisis... get started here then go read: "William Kristol and Gary Schmitt have a column in today's Washington Post that advances a simple premise: the president 'uniquely swears an oath -- prescribed in the Constitution -- to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.' While Congress legislates for the 'in general', the president is the one who must face particular crises, ones whose dimensions, dangers and particularities legislators could not have foreseen. This mix of responsibility and authority gives the president the unique and awesome power to set aside Congress's laws in the over-riding interest of securing the nation.

This is a doctrine fraught with danger in a constitutional republic. But it is not a new theory and it is not without some merit."

F.B.I. Watched Activist Groups, New Files Show - New York Times

F.B.I. Watched Activist Groups, New Files Show - New York Times: "Counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have conducted numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief, newly disclosed agency records show.

F.B.I. officials said Monday that their investigators had no interest in monitoring political or social activities and that any investigations that touched on advocacy groups were driven by evidence of criminal or violent activity at public protests and in other settings.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, John Ashcroft, who was then attorney general, loosened restrictions on the F.B.I.'s investigative powers, giving the bureau greater ability to visit and monitor Web sites, mosques and other public entities in developing terrorism leads. The bureau has used that authority to investigate not only groups with suspected ties to foreign terrorists, but also protest groups suspected of having links to violent or disruptive activities.

But the documents, coming after the Bush administration's confirmation that President Bush had authorized some spying without warrants in fighting terrorism, prompted charges from civil rights advocates that the government had improperly blurred the line between terrorism and acts of civil disobedience and lawful protest.

One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a 'Vegan Community Project.' Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's 'semi-communistic ideology.' A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals."

Surprise: Bush spun the Iraqi poll results

AP: Bush Leaves Out the Bad News in Iraqi Poll on Yahoo! News: "President Bush is making selective use of an opinion poll when he tells people that Iraqis are increasingly upbeat.

The same poll that indicated a majority of Iraqis believe their lives are going well also found a majority expressing opposition to the presence of U.S. forces, and less than half saying Iraq is better off now than before the war."

Alter at Newsweek: Bush is a law-breaker

Hat tip to AmericaBlog--Jonathan Alter gives Bush a blasting (read the whole thing): "Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story—which the paper had already inexplicably held for a year—because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker. He insists he had “legal authority derived from the Constitution and congressional resolution authorizing force.” But the Constitution explicitly requires the president to obey the law. And the post 9/11 congressional resolution authorizing “all necessary force” in fighting terrorism was made in clear reference to military intervention. It did not scrap the Constitution and allow the president to do whatever he pleased in any area in the name of fighting terrorism."

Monday, December 19, 2005

Americablog: Talk about putting a guy in a bind

Yeah, they got Congress' "approval"--they told a few senators about it and then threatened them if they told anybody else: "Senator Rockefeller sent a handwritten letter to VP Dick Cheney expressing his concern about the secret domestic spying program [in 2003]. The Senator kept a copy in order to prove he'd raised these concerns. Today, after President Bush told the nation at a press conference that members of Congress were briefed on the spy plan and had approved it, Rockefeller released the letter to Cheney."

Jay's statement includes this:

“For the last few days, I have witnessed the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and the Attorney General repeatedly misrepresent the facts.

“The record needs to be set clear that the Administration never afforded members briefed on the program an opportunity to either approve or disapprove the NSA program. The limited members who were told of the program were prohibited by the Administration from sharing any information about it with our colleagues, including other members of the Intelligence Committees.

“At the time, I expressed my concerns to Vice President Cheney that the limited information provided to Congress was so overly restricted that it prevented members of Congress from conducting meaningful oversight of the legal and operational aspects of the program.

“These concerns were never addressed, and I was prohibited from sharing my views with my colleagues.

“Now that this issue has been brought out into the open, I strongly urge the Senate Intelligence Committee to immediately undertake a full investigation into the legal and operational aspects of the program, including the lack of sufficient congressional oversight.”

Reuters: US freeing Saddam's 'Dr. Germ' and 'Mrs. Anthrax'

Reuters reports: "U.S. forces in Iraq are freeing 'Dr Germ and 'Mrs. Anthrax,' two of Saddam Hussein's leading biological warfare experts, following the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, lawyers said on Monday."

I thought they were two of the worst terrorists we'd captured?

NY Times: Here comes another Islamic state, unless they can fudge the results

Early Results Show Religious Groups Leading in Iraqi Vote - New York Times: "Early voting results announced by Iraqi electoral officials today, with nearly two-thirds of the ballots counted, indicated that religious groups, particularly the main Shiite coalition, had taken a commanding lead.

The secular coalition led by Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister, had won only meager support in crucial provinces where it had expected to do well, including Baghdad.

The front-runner among Sunni Arab voters was a religious coalition whose leaders have advocated resistance to the American military and have demanded that President Bush set a timetable for withdrawing the American military from Iraq.

The preliminary results accounted for more than 90 percent of votes cast in 11 of Iraq's 18 provinces. About seven million ballots have been counted, of an estimated turnout of 11 million in the vote last Thursday for a full, four-year government, electoral officials said.

Officials warned that the results could still change. "

Street Prophets: America: A Shining Green Lantern to the World

Pastor Dan makes an interesting point: "While reading over the text of last night's Presidential Address, I had the uneasy sense that I was missing something about the speech, something terribly wrong.

* Morally dubious and self-serving contradictions about having to make the best of our mistakes, yet not having failure as an option? Check.

* Vague goals that aren't really so much goals as rhetorical devices to beat Democrats over the head? Check.

* Vague suggestions that Democrats are treasonous surrender monkeys? Check.

* Subtle, yet vicious, slander of Muslims of people who can't live in peace with their neigbhors ('in other places, the terrorists would not be peaceful citizens - they would be on the offense, and headed our way')? Check.

So what was I missing?

Ah, yes: here it is. Shallow appeals to American religious beliefs based on...the Green Lantern?"

Crooks and Liars: Feingold on Today

I've been a Russ fan for the past few years, but he just keeps getting better. Here he talks about the Bush spy program.

Born at the Crest of the Empire: Mike has a good point too

Born at the Crest of the Empire: "After sleeping on it, and re-reading the speech this morning, just a quick thought on the coverage of last night's presidential speech.

How low has the bar been set for this president that he gets wide ranging praise for simply admitting that his Iraq war hasn't gone perfectly? He gets credit for admitting that his WMD intel was bad when every reporter and independent analyst had come to that conclusion years ago?

Isn't the fact that he's not admitted this for the two years since his 'mission accomplished speech' really what we should be talking about? Have we gone so far that the President barely admitting part of the truth is worthy of praise?"

Talking Points Memo: Josh makes a good point

Talking Points Memo: "From perusing a few headlines it seems the White House and some editors are taking to arguing that surveillance or domestic wiretapping is necessary for national security, that it saves lives.

Of course, it does. What a stupid thing to say, or for the White House, what a disingenuous thing to say.

Wiretaps are conducted around the country every day. The FISA Court alone approves something like a half a dozen a day in highly classified national security or espionage related cases.

The only issue here is why the president decided to go around the normal rules that govern such surveillance, why he chose to make himself above the law."

Sunday, December 18, 2005

AP: Cheney Fields Tough Questions From Troops

Cheney Fields Tough Questions From Troops: "Facing tough questions from battle-weary troops, Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday cited signs of progress in Iraq and signaled that force changes could come in 2006.

Cheney rode the wave of last week's parliamentary elections during a 10-hour surprise visit to Iraq that aimed to highlight progress at a time when Americans question the mission. Military commanders and top government officials offered glowing reports, but the rank-and-file troops Cheney met did not seem to share their enthusiasm.

'From our perspective, we don't see much as far as gains,' said Marine Cpl. Bradley Warren, the first to question Cheney in a round-table discussion with about 30 military members."

smintheus at Daily Kos: Operationi Flabbergasted begins

Daily Kos: State of the Nation: "This cannot stand. In ordering the NSA to spy secretly on America, George Bush has: overturned United States Signals Intelligence Directive 18, which prohibits domestic spying by the NSA; violated the federal act which created the FISA court to oversee covert domestic investigations; and trampled upon the Fourth Amendment guarantee against warrantless searches. It cannot stand for a day, much less a month while Congress is in recess.

On Friday, when Sen. Specter said he'd make investigating the allegations a top priority in January, it was barely possible to pretend that they might be false. But by Saturday's radio address, when Bush defended his policy and insisted it would continue, we had entered a full-blown constitutional crisis. George Bush would love for Congress to back down from a fight next week, to go home grumbling 'Wait until next year.'

Operation Flabbergasted We cannot let that happen. We have to ensure that by Monday, all hell has broken loose in D.C."

Frank Rich: “Brokeback Mountain” a Landmark

The Huffington Post has part of Frank Rich's column on Brokeback Mountain. Unfortunately for me, the Times folks realized I had canceled my weekend subscription, so I no longer have access: "WHAT if they held a culture war and no one fired a shot? That's the compelling tale of 'Brokeback Mountain.' Here is a heavily promoted American movie depicting two men having sex - the precise sex act that was still a crime in some states until the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws just two and a half years ago - but there is no controversy, no Fox News tar and feathering, no roar from the religious right. 'Brokeback Mountain' has instead become the unlikely Oscar favorite, propelled by its bicoastal sweep of critics' awards, by its unexpected dominance of the far less highfalutin Golden Globes and, perhaps most of all, by the lure of a gold rush. Last weekend it opened to the highest per-screen average of any movie this year.

Those screens were in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco - hardly national bellwethers. But I'll rashly predict that the big Hollywood question posed on the front page of The Los Angeles Times after those stunning weekend grosses - 'Can 'Brokeback Mountain' Move the Heartland?' - will be answered with a resounding yes. All the signs of a runaway phenomenon are present, from an instant parody on 'Saturday Night Live' to the report that a multiplex in Plano, Tex., sold more advance tickets for the so-called 'gay cowboy picture' than for 'King Kong.' 'The culture is finding us,' James Schamus, the 'Brokeback Mountain' producer, told USA Today. 'Grown-up movies have never had that kind of per-screen average. You only get those numbers when you're vacuuming up enormous interest from all walks of life.'


By coincidence, 'Brokeback Mountain,' a movie that is all the more subversive for having no overt politics, is a rebuke and antidote to that sordid episode. Whether it proves a movie for the ages or as transient as 'Love Story,' it is a landmark in the troubled history of America's relationship to homosexuality. It brings something different to the pop culture marketplace at just the pivotal moment to catch a wave."

HuffPo links to numerous editorials decrying spying on Americans

Check it out. People are not happy.

WaPo: Pushing the Limits Of Wartime Powers

The Post has an analysis of the administration's use of surveillance on American citizens: "In his four-year campaign against al Qaeda, President Bush has turned the U.S. national security apparatus inward to secretly collect information on American citizens on a scale unmatched since the intelligence reforms of the 1970s.

The president's emphatic defense yesterday of warrantless eavesdropping on U.S. citizens and residents marked the third time in as many months that the White House has been obliged to defend a departure from previous restraints on domestic surveillance. In each case, the Bush administration concealed the program's dimensions or existence from the public and from most members of Congress."

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Atrios: Bob Barr on illegal spying

Atrios has the CNN transcript. I rarely agree with Barr, but on this he's right. Bush is clearly no conservative, as conservatives do not want big government nor big brother. Bush I guess is just a fascist.

AP: Bush Acknowledges Approving Eavesdropping

Bush Acknowledges Approving Eavesdropping: "President Bush said Saturday he personally has authorized a secret eavesdropping program in the U.S. more than 30 times since the Sept. 11 attacks and he lashed out at those involved in publicly revealing the program.

'This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security,' he said in a radio address delivered live from the White House's Roosevelt Room.

'This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power, under our laws and Constitution, to protect them and their civil liberties and that is exactly what I will continue to do as long as I am president of the United States,' Bush said."

He can spin it as "protecting civil liberties" all he wants, but he's doing just the opposite. And Russ Feingold (via Atrios) shows how this makes Bush a criminal:

* FISA makes it a crime, punishable by up to five years in prison, to conduct electronic surveillance except as provided for by statute. The only defense is for law government agents engaged in official duties conducting “surveillance authorized by and conducted pursuant to a search warrant or court order.” [50 U.S.C. § 1809]

* Congress has specifically stated, in statute, that the criminal wiretap statute and FISA “shall be the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance . . . and the interception of domestic wire, oral, and electronic communications may be conducted.” [18 U.S.C. § 2518(f)]

* The target of a FISA wiretap is never given notice that he or she was subject to surveillance, unless the evidence obtained through the electronic surveillance is ultimately used against the target in a criminal trial.

AP: Bush spins his own bad answer on Delay

The amazing thing about this is that, as usual, he expects us to believe this: "President Bush said Friday his statement that former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was innocent of criminal charges in Texas was meant to signal confidence in the justice system and not to make a pronouncement about the individual case.

'The point I was making was 'innocent until otherwise proven,'' Bush said in an interview to Friday for 'The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.' 'It's a belief in the system, and that's not always the way people are treated here in Washington as you know.'

On Wednesday, Bush was asked on Fox News Channel whether he believed DeLay was innocent, and he replied, 'Yes, I do.'"

Happy New Year 206 from the Prez, via Jib Jab

Friday, December 16, 2005

Feingold is my hero

Think Progress has the Video: Feingold Convinces Senators to Block Patriot Act Extension

Oh No... VP candidate is dead: West Wing's John Spencer

'West Wing' Actor John Spencer Dies at 58 on Yahoo! News: "John Spencer, who played vice presidential candidate Leo McGarry on NBC's 'The West Wing,' died of a heart attack Friday, his publicist said.

Spencer, 58, died at a Los Angeles hospital, said publicist Ron Hofmann.

Hofmann released no other immediate details.

Spencer's work on the show earned him an Emmy Award for supporting actor in a drama series in 2002, as well as a Golden Globe nomination.

Before appearing on the hit political drama, Spencer played the quirky and charismatic New York attorney Tommy Mullaney on 'L.A. Law.'"

Check out the brouhaha about Bush's illegal spying

AMERICAblog has a number of important posts and links to articles about the revelation that Bush has been spying on US citizens without a warrant, which is against the law. Note also that the NY Times had this scoop, or at least part of it, BEFORE last fall's election but kind of ignored it for a while.

UPDATE: Of course, Mike at Born at the Crest of the Empire has an even better link summary of the news here. I especially like Condi's defense of her husb-- I mean boss: It's not illegal because he signed an executive order saying it wasn't illegal.

Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts - New York Times

Losing our rights little by little: "Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible 'dirty numbers' linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

'This is really a sea change,' said a former senior official who specializes in national security law. 'It's almost a mainstay of this country that the N.S.A. only does foreign searches.'

Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation's legality and oversight."

AP: Maine GOP official convicted of violating voters' rights

So it's true, Bush's campaign people will do anything to keep Democrats from least in this case: "A former top Republican Party official was convicted on telephone harassment charges Thursday for his part in a plot to jam the Democrats' phones on Election Day 2002.

The federal jury acquitted James Tobin of the most serious charge against him, of conspiring to violate voters' rights.

Tobin, 45, of Bangor, Maine, was President Bush's New England campaign chairman last year. He could get up seven years in prison and $500,000 in fines when he is sentenced in March.

For nearly two hours on Election Day 2002, hundreds of hang-up calls overwhelmed Democratic get-out-the-vote phone banks in New Hampshire and a ride-to-the-polls line run by Manchester's firefighters union.

Tobin, who at the time was New England chairman of Bush's re-election campaign and a top regional official of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, was accused of orchestrating the phone-jamming.

In August, the Republican National Committee acknowledged it had spent more than $722,000 to provide Tobin with lawyers from a high-powered Washington law firm. Party officials who said they ordinarily would not discuss such matters said they underwrote Tobin's defense because he was a longtime supporter and assured them he had committed no crimes."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Daily Kos: It's Official: Congress Didn't See Same Pre-War Intelligence as Bush

Bush lied once again.

AMERICAblog: Now AFA is threatening a boycott; Wildmon feels violated by Ford

AMERICAblog reports on AFA's new press release and says: "Good luck selling that boycott, bucko. Not to mention, what company in America is going to want to sit down with AFA again knowing what the AFA has to say about Jews, Muslims and gays?"

MLK on God's purpose

A good thought for the day. Or any day:

God's purpose is not wrathful judgment. God's purpose is redemption, and the road to redemption is reconciliation.

--Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

SoVo: Ford reaffirms commitment to diversity "Ford Motor Company issued a statement Wednesday reaffirming its commitment to diversity and pledging to advertise all of its brands in gay publications. The announcement was the second by the company since a meeting on Monday between a coalition of gay rights groups and the automaker.

The statement was in response to reports last week that Ford made a deal with the conservative American Family Association to cease some advertising in gay publications and support for gay organizations to avoid a boycott. Media reports said Ford had agreed to not advertise its Jaguar and Land Rover brands in gay publications.

"It is clear there is a misconception about our intent," said Joe Laymon, a Ford V.P., in the Dec. 14 statement. "As a result we have decided to run ads in these target publications that will include not only Jaguar and Land Rover, but all eight of Ford’s brands."

Representatives of the gay organizations that met with Ford praised the company’s actions in a joint statement.

"It is an unequivocal reaffirmation of Ford’s historic commitment to our community and the core American values of fairness and equality," the statement said. "Moreover, it is conclusive proof of what Ford leaders have repeatedly assured us — that there never was any deal with anti-LGBT organizations concerning Ford’s support for our community."

"The most important issue here is that Ford was not intimidated [by the AFA]," said Neil Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, in an interview Wednesday. "It sends a message to the rest of corporate America."

The first statement issued by Ford, hours after meeeting with gay leaders on Monday, reaffirmed the automaker's commitment to diversity but stopped short of reversing its decision to pull advertising from gay publications."

WaPo: A Religious Protest Largely From the Left

The religious left continues to wake up (thanx to Mike at Bornatthecrestoftheempire): "When hundreds of religious activists try to get arrested today to protest cutting programs for the poor, prominent conservatives such as James Dobson, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell will not be among them.

That is a great relief to Republican leaders, who have dismissed the burgeoning protests as the work of liberals. But it raises the question: Why in recent years have conservative Christians asserted their influence on efforts to relieve Third World debt, AIDS in Africa, strife in Sudan and international sex trafficking -- but remained on the sidelines while liberal Christians protest domestic spending cuts?

Conservative Christian groups such as Focus on the Family say it is a matter of priorities, and their priorities are abortion, same-sex marriage and seating judges who will back their position against those practices.

'It's not a question of the poor not being important or that meeting their needs is not important,' said Paul Hetrick, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, Dobson's influential, Colorado-based Christian organization. 'But whether or not a baby is killed in the seventh or eighth month of pregnancy, that is less important than help for the poor? We would respectfully disagree with that.'

Jim Wallis, editor of the liberal Christian journal Sojourners and an organizer of today's protest, was not buying it. Such conservative religious leaders 'have agreed to support cutting food stamps for poor people if Republicans support them on judicial nominees,' he said. 'They are trading the lives of poor people for their agenda. They're being, and this is the worst insult, unbiblical.'

At issue is a House-passed budget-cutting measure that would save $50 billion over five years by trimming food stamp rolls, imposing new fees on Medicaid recipients, squeezing student lenders, cutting child-support enforcement funds and paring agriculture programs. House negotiators a"

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Ford disses GLBT groups, again "Neil Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, was among the gay leaders who met with Ford and said Monday night he was 'shocked and disturbed' by the company's statement.

'The statement from Ford does not begin to address the issues we discussed in our meeting,' said Giuliano. 'It clearly shows that they do not have an understanding of our positions, nor are they willing to distance themselves, and specifically correct, the statements that have been made by the AFA.'

Giuliano said gay leaders asked Ford to continue supporting gay organizations and events, continue using gay-specific imagery in ads for the company's Volvo brand placed in gay media, speficially disavow any deal made with the AFA on any of these points, and commit to continue advertising, at least at some level, the Jaguar and Land Rover brands in the gay media. Giuliano called the last issue 'a deal-breaker' for the gay rights groups.

He said the Ford representatives verbally agreed to each of the requests, but that the statement failed to adequately address even one of them. He also faulted the company for not specifically mentioning in the statement Monday's meeting in Washington, D.C., with gay leaders or the company's commitment specifically to gay and lesbian consumers.

'They are clearly not reaching out to the LGBT community to try to correct what they led us to believe was a wrong impression' made by the AFA, claiming credit with influencing Ford's business decisions, Giuliano said.

'It's very disappointing and frustrating. It almost feels like we were played.'"

HuffPo Jesse Kornbluth: 'Brokeback Mountain' and Ford's Gay Problem

Jesse Kornbluth: "My wife and I left the theater in silence, thinking the same thing: the unfairness --- the criminal stupidity, really --- of one set of people presuming to pass judgment on another. Those who are all riled up about homosexuality --- to say nothing of those who turned gay marriage into the big issue of the '04 election --- seem to think that homosexuality is only about sex. But for Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist in 'Brokeback Mountain,' their sexuality is a curse, a jail sentence: life in solitary, with infrequent, secret conjugal visits.

This is the movie's power --- the ability to make you feel the weight of two decades of desire and guilt, loneliness and recrimination. Ennis and Jack want the sex, but even more, they want the relationship, the dailiness of romantic partnership. Jack dreams of how it could be. Ennis won't let himself go there; he knows how two ranchers, living together, would play out in the West. 'If you can’t fix it, you got to stand it,” Ennis says, and you have to admire the rugged cowboy wisdom that makes him affirm a miserable reality instead of embracing a deadly dream.

...So it was astonishing last week --- the same week that 'Brokeback Mountain' opened --- to see how tentative 'progress' is: Ford Motor Company made the news for pulling its Jaguar and Land Rover ads from gay magazines and announcing that it won't sponsor any future gay and lesbian events. In exchange, American Family Association --- the Christian group whose members are not the likeliest readers of gay magazines --- ended its six-month boycott of Ford vehicles. [John Aravosis, at AMERICAblog, has the full story --- and the e-mail addresses of key Ford executives for those who feel like weighing in.]

Ford's was a dumb decision on the only two metrics that matter --- public relations and business. Even minimal research shows that AFA boycotts are hot air; they've made scarcely a dent in the earnings of major corporations. I'm going to guess that AFA members are likely to buy Fords and Ford trucks, and that the AFA boycott cost Ford a few thousand sales. On the other side, Ford's decision to bow to the Christian right will mean that tens of thousands of gays --- and who knows how many Americans who hate this kind of discrimination --- will decide not to buy Jags and Land Rovers and Lincolns. The profit margin on a Ford is modest; the profit on a fully-equipped luxury car is significant. So what was the gain for Ford here?"

Dependable Renegade: In a last-ditch effort to boost his ratings...

Dependable Renegade: In a last-ditch effort to boost his ratings,: "Bush employs Senor Wences to deliver a 'Plan for Victory' speech."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Raw Story: Diebold CEO resigns after reports of fraud litigation, internal woes

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm: "The chief executive officer of electronic voting company Diebold who once famously declared that he would 'deliver' Ohio for President Bush has resigned effective immediately, RAW STORY has learned.

'The board of directors and Wally mutually agreed that his decision to resign at this time for personal reasons was in the best interest of all parties,' the company's new chairman said in a statement.

O'Dell's resignation comes just days after reports from that the company was facing imminent securities fraud litigation surrounding charges of insider trading. It also comes on the heels of a RAW STORY interview with a Diebold insider, who raised new allegations of technical woes inside the company, as well as concerns that Diebold may have mishandled elections in Georgia and Ohio."

Wait just a minute: How can Ford be anti-gay...

How can Ford be anti-gay when they run an ad in Entertainment Weekly this week for the 2006 Explorer with this headline:

"How a 63% stiffer frame
adds up to 100% comfort."

AP: Byrd Warns Frist Against 'Nuclear Option'

Go, Senator Byrd, go: "Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia said Monday he doesn't expect Democrats to filibuster the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, but he still chastised Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for threatening to stop any such effort through a drastic parliamentary effort that has been dubbed the 'nuclear option.'

'If he ever tries to exercise that, he's going to see a real filibuster if I'm living and able to stand on my feet or sit in my seat,' Byrd said in a Senate debate with Frist, R-Tenn.

'If the senator wants a fight, let him try it,' said Byrd, the Senate's senior Democrat. 'I'm 88 years old, but I can still fight, and fight I will for freedom of speech. I haven't been here for 47 years to see that freedom of speech whittled away and undermined. '"

Speaking of Froomkin...

Here's the link to his latest White House Briefing, posted earlier today. He discusses Brian William's day with the Prez, and takes a look at the Newsweek article about Bush's isolation (which Williams showed the president, who pooh poohed it, and anyway he doesn't read those things).

firedoglake: WaPo's attack on Froomkin

Firedoglake takes a look at what's wrong at the Washington Post, especially when they are attacking one of the few bright spots in what they do, Froomkin's White House Briefing blog.

Crooks and Liars: Sam Seder and the War on Christmas

Crooks and Liars has the video and some links. Sam was pretty funny with a guy from Concerned Women of America. And right on. It's all so silly.

NYT: Supreme Court to Review Texas Redistricting Dispute

This will be interesting...depending on whoever ends up on the Court: "The United States Supreme Court agreed today to review the constitutionality of the Texas redistricting plan that was engineered by Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader until recently, and helped Republicans add to their majority from the Lone Star State.

The justices will consider several lawsuits by Democrats and minority groups challenging the redrawn maps of voting districts pushed through in 2003. The redistricting has been credited with helping Republicans gain five more seats in the Texas delegation to the House of Representatives in 2004, increasing the Republican ranks to 21, compared with 11 Texas Democrats.

Today's announcement by the Supreme Court comes 10 days after the Justice Department acknowledged that some of its top officials had overruled a determination by the agency's civil rights division staff in 2003 that the redistricting plan would dilute the voting strength of minorities in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1965."

Think Progress: Frist Resurrects Up-or-Down-Vote Principle

Think Progress has a piece about Frist's apparent change of heart. First he helps force Miers to drop out of the SCOTUS process, now he's back to demanding an up or down vote on Bush's nominees, as he said on Fox News: "So I think it would be unconscionable — I think it would be wrong — I think it would be against the intent of the founding fathers and our Constitution to deny Sam Alito an up or down vote on the floor of the United States Senate. I have stood from day one on principle that these Supreme Court justices — nominees deserve an up-or-down-vote, and it would be absolutely wrong to deny him that."

Can they get any more hypocritical?

Think Progress: The Rea$on For the $eason

I hope Nico excuses me for running his whole post at Think Progress, but it's just amazing how screwed up those right wingers are. If Jesus hadn't been resurrected, he'd be spinning in his grave: "Over the weekend, Pope Benedict warned that “rampant materialism” was “polluting the spirit of Christmas.”

Apparently, the conservatives in charge of the federal government don’t agree. This morning on CNN, Time reporter Mike Allen reported that President Bush and his allies will be “doing all kinds of things…reminding people the economy is good.” (For what it’s worth, the people don’t agree. Sixty-three percent of Americans view the economy as either “bad,” “very bad,” or “terrible.”) The Speaker of the House will be joining in the charade:

The Speaker of the House — Dennis Hastert of Illinois — will be out Christmas shopping on camera, so you’ll see [conservatives] reminding people of the good news — if there was inflation, things like that.

Of course, perhaps the Pope is wrong. According to Florida Rev. Tim Bumgardner, during his Dec. 1 appearance on the O’Reilly Factor, shopping is the reason for the season.

Rev. Tim Bumgardner: Be American. Celebrate Christmas. People spend more money. Jesus makes people want to spend money!

O’Reilly: I agree. I’m with you.

What does the Pope know about Christmas anyway?"

Sunday, December 11, 2005

AMERICAblog: Chris Wallace gets written out of the will

AMERICAblog has a Newsmax article about Chris Wallace saying his father has "lost it" and they would have a "competence hearing soon" because his dad said the other day that Bush has ******-up the country.

Is there a huge scandal behind the Duke Cunningham affair

I enjoy reading Cannonfire, Joseph Cannon's sometimes-tin-hatty blog, from time to time. Lately he's been doing some interesting work on the Wilkes defense contracting firm, which is being picked up by some Daily Kossacks as well as some in the mainstream media. It's a long, complicated story, but it's worth wading through, and this piece is a good place to start.

The gist: Wilkes "was a mechanism by which public funds earmarked for national defense were funneled to G.O.P. candidates and causes."

Frank Rich: It takes a Potemkin Village

Not sure how much longer I'll be able to quote from these Times Select columnists, as I've had to drop my weekend NYT sub which gave me free access, but Rich's column today is, once again, brilliant:

WHEN a government substitutes propaganda for governing, the Potemkin village is all. Since we don't get honest information from this White House, we must instead, as the Soviets once did, decode our rulers' fictions to discern what's really happening. What we're seeing now is the wheels coming off: As the administration's stagecraft becomes more baroque, its credibility tanks further both at home and abroad. The propaganda techniques may be echt Goebbels, but they increasingly come off as pure Ali G.

The latest desperate shifts in White House showmanship say at least as much about our progress (or lack of same) in Iraq over the past 32 months as reports from the ground. When President Bush announced the end of "major combat operations" in May 2003, his Imagineers felt the need for only a single elegant banner declaring "Mission Accomplished." Cut to Nov. 30, 2005: the latest White House bumper sticker, "Plan for Victory," multiplied by Orwellian mitosis over nearly every square inch of the rather "Queer Eye" stage set from which Mr. Bush delivered his oration at the Naval Academy.

And to no avail. Despite the insistently redundant graphics - and despite the repetition of the word "victory" 15 times in the speech itself - Americans believed "Plan for Victory" far less than they once did "Mission Accomplished." The first New York Times-CBS News Poll since the Naval Academy pep talk, released last Thursday, found that only 25 percent of Americans say the president has "a clear plan for victory in Iraq." Tom Cruise and evolution still have larger constituencies in America than that.

Mr. Bush's "Plan for Victory" speech was, of course, the usual unadulterated nonsense. Its overarching theme - "We will never accept anything less than complete victory" - was being contradicted even as he spoke by rampant reports of Pentagon plans for stepped-up troop withdrawals between next week's Iraqi elections and the more important (for endangered Republicans) American Election Day of 2006. The specifics were phony, too: Once again inflating the readiness of Iraqi troops, Mr. Bush claimed that the recent assault on Tal Afar "was primarily led by Iraqi security forces" - a fairy tale immediately unmasked by Michael Ware, a Time reporter embedded in that battle's front lines, as "completely wrong." No less an authority than the office of Iraq's prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, promptly released a 59-page report documenting his own military's inadequate leadership, equipment and training.

What raised the "Plan for Victory" show to new heights of disinformation was the subsequent revelation that the administration's main stated motive for the address - the release of a 35-page document laying out a "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" - was as much a theatrical prop as the stunt turkey the president posed with during his one furtive visit to Baghdad two Thanksgivings ago.

As breathlessly heralded by Scott McClellan, this glossy brochure was "an unclassified version" of the strategy in place since the war's inception in "early 2003." But Scott Shane of The New York Times told another story. Through a few keystrokes, the electronic version of the document at could be manipulated to reveal text "usually hidden from public view." What turned up was the name of the document's originating author: Peter Feaver, a Duke political scientist who started advising the National Security Council only this June. Dr. Feaver is an expert on public opinion about war, not war itself. Thus we now know that what Mr. McClellan billed as a 2003 strategy for military victory is in fact a P.R. strategy in place for no more than six months. That solves the mystery of why Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey of the Army, who is in charge of training Iraqi troops, told reporters that he had never seen this "National Strategy" before its public release last month.

In a perfect storm of revelations, the "Plan for Victory" speech fell on the same day that The Los Angeles Times exposed new doings on another front in the White House propaganda war. An obscure Defense Department contractor, the Lincoln Group, was caught paying off Iraqi journalists to run upbeat news articles secretly written by American Army personnel and translated into Arabic (at a time when American troops in harm's way are desperate for Arabic translators of their own).

The Pentagon earmarks more than $100 million in taxpayers' money for various Lincoln Group operations, and it can't get any facts? Though the 30-year-old prime mover in the shadowy outfit, one Christian Bailey, fled from Andrea Mitchell of NBC News when she pursued him on camera in Washington, certain facts are proving not at all elusive.

Ms. Mitchell and other reporters have learned that Mr. Bailey has had at least four companies since 2002, most of them interlocking, short-lived and under phantom names. Government Executive magazine also discovered that Mr. Bailey "was a founder and active participant in Lead21," a Republican "fund-raising and networking operation" - which has since scrubbed his name from its Web site - and that he and a partner in his ventures once listed a business address identical to their Washington residence. This curious tale, with its trail of cash payoffs, trading in commercial Iraqi real estate and murky bidding procedures for lucrative U.S. government contracts, could have been lifted from "Syriana" or "Glengarry Glen Ross."

The more we learn about such sleaze in the propaganda war, the more we see it's failing for the same reason as the real war: incompetence. ... the White House doesn't exactly get the biggest bang for the bucks it shells out to cronies for fake news.

Until he was unmasked as an administration shill, Armstrong Williams was less known for journalism than for striking a deal to dismiss a messy sexual-harassment suit against him in 1999. When an Army commander had troops sign 500 identical good-news form letters to local newspapers throughout America in 2003, the fraud was so transparent it was almost instantly debunked. The fictional scenarios concocted for Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman also unraveled quickly, as did last weekend's Pentagon account of 10 marines killed outside Falluja on a "routine foot patrol." As the NBC correspondent Jim Miklaszewski told Don Imus last week, he received calls within hours from the fallen's loved ones about how the marines had been slaughtered after being recklessly sent to an unprotected site for a promotion ceremony.

Though the White House doesn't know that its jig is up, everyone else does.

Born at the Crest of the Empire: How do you get fired from FoxNews?

Mike opines about the "war on Christmas" going on at Fox News, with O'Reilly and Gibson frothing at the mouth: "This isn't just some funny thing the right are going on about. This is part of a continuing effort to extend the role of heterosexual white Christians as the model and center of our society. And that has a scary history whether you're talking about Nazis, McCarthyism, or the Klan."

Check it out.

Bush to World: Drop Dead

U.S. Won't Join in Binding Climate Talks: "Despite the Bush administration's adamant resistance, nearly every industrialized nation agreed early Saturday to engage in talks aimed at producing a new set of binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions that would take effect beginning in 2012.

In a separate accord, a broader coalition of nearly 200 nations -- including the United States -- agreed to a much more modest 'open and nonbinding' dialogue that would not lead to any 'new commitments' to reduce carbon dioxide emissions associated with climate change."

Cynthia Tucker in the AJC: God help us if we can't help New Orleans

The GOP has decided NOLA shouldn't get so much help, rather, we should cut the taxes of the wealthiest instead: "A conservative Congress has drained the nation's treasury --- stuffing the Christmas stockings of the rich with tax breaks, handing out corporate welfare to Big Business and sticking to idiotic boondoggles such as the Star Wars missile defense program. Suddenly, though, this spendthrift Congress and its enabler, President Bush, have gotten fiscal religion. It's funny how that didn't happen until the Gulf Coast needed big money for reconstruction.

This is far from what the president pledged in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, making 10 trips to the devastated Gulf Coast in the span of six weeks. Standing before TV cameras in New Orleans' historic Jackson Square, he promised 'one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen.' But that's just a distant dream now. Suddenly, the richest country in the world cannot afford to spend billions to restore the Gulf Coast. The same country that has laid out $20 billion so far for the reconstruction of Iraq.

How is it that the Gulf Coast has disappeared so easily from the list of priorities for public spending? Why is it that American citizens who suffered from a devastating act of God find so little support from their elected representatives?

The entire tone of the conversation about the coastal region, especially New Orleans, has shifted. Much of the dialogue --- especially by the conservative pundits who act as the echo chamber for the GOP --- has painted a picture not of victims of a hurricane but rather of shiftless do-nothings who don't deserve aid. That's what happens when any group of people falls out of favor with the ruling Republican Party: They are portrayed as lazy and worthless losers who would be worse off if the government lifted a hand to help them. It's funny how that philosophy has taken hold in America, allowing us to comfortably escape responsibility for our fellow citizens."

Don't say anything mean about the religious right

AJC National brief: "A University of Kansas professor who drew sharp criticism for comments deriding Christian fundamentalists over intelligent design said he was forced out as chairman of the school's religious studies department. Paul Mirecki, who remains a professor, said he had no choice when he signed the resignation letter, typed on stationery from the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. University spokeswoman Lynn Bretz said Mirecki resigned on the recommendation of faculty members."

LA Times: Administration busted on Niger intelligence yet again

From the AJC, an LA Times story from Hamburger and Wallsten: "More than a year before President Bush declared in his State of the Union speech that Iraq had tried to buy nuclear weapons material in Africa, the French spy service began warning the CIA repeatedly in secret communications that there was no evidence to support the allegation.

The previously undisclosed exchanges between the United States and the French --- described by the retired chief of the French counterintelligence service and a former CIA official during interviews last week --- came on separate occasions in 2001 and 2002.

The French reached their conclusions after extensive on-the-ground investigations in Niger and other former French colonies, where the uranium mines are controlled by French companies, said the former intelligence official, Alain Chouet. He said the French investigated at the CIA's request.

Chouet's account was at odds with the U.S. understanding of the issue, an American government official said.

However, the essence of Chouet's account --- that the French repeatedly investigated the Niger claim, found no evidence to support it, and warned the CIA --- was extensively corroborated by a former CIA official and a French government official.

The repeated warnings from France's Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure, DGSE, did not prevent the Bush administration from aggressively making the case that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons materials.

It was not the first time a foreign government tried but failed to warn U.S. officials off of dubious prewar intelligence. In the well-known 'Curveball' case, an Iraqi who defected to Germany claimed to have knowledge of Iraq's biological weapons. Bush and other U.S. officials repeatedly cited Curveball's claims even as German intelligence officials argued that he was unstable, unreliable and incorrect."

AP: Politics rule at Justice Department

Mark Sherman of the AP reports: "Political appointees in the Justice Department have overruled career workers at least three times on high-profile matters, including a Georgia law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says that is what appointees are paid for: to consider the advice of professional staff and then exercise their best judgment.

Bush administration critics say the cases fit a pattern of allowing political considerations to trump sound policy.

In two of the three cases, the department gave its blessing to Republican-backed changes to state election laws despite strongly worded and lengthy opinions from the government's civil rights lawyers that the changes unfairly would affect minorities."

Friday, December 09, 2005

Krauthammer blasts Bush administration for Saddam trial bungling

One of the administration's key apologists turns on them: "Of all the mistakes that the Bush administration has committed in Iraq, none is as gratuitous and self-inflicted as the bungling of the trial of Saddam Hussein.

Although Hussein deserves to be shot like a dog -- or, same thing, like the Ceausescus -- we nonetheless decided to give him a trial. First, to demonstrate the moral superiority of the new Iraq as it struggles to live by the rule of law. Second, and even more important, to bear witness.


Instead of Hussein's crimes being on trial, he has succeeded in putting the new regime on trial. The lead story of every court session has been his demeanor, his defiance, his imperiousness. The evidence brought against him by his hapless victims -- testimony mangled in translation and electronic voice alteration -- made the back pages at best.

'This has become a platform for Saddam to show himself as a caged lion when really he was a mouse in a hole,' said Vice President Ghazi Yawar. 'I don't know who is the genius who is producing this farce. It's a political process. It's a comedy show.'

There hasn't been such judicial incompetence since Judge Ito and the O.J. trial. We can excuse the Iraqis, who are new to all this and justifiably terrified of retribution. But there is no excusing the Bush administration, which had Hussein in custody for two years and had even longer to think about putting on a trial that would not become a star turn for a defeated enemy."