Someone got here today looking for:
sound bite of ted kennedy singing
Don't worry, you'll not find that here.
Martin Samuel - racist:
THERE IS NO situation in the Middle East so dire, that we cannot get a white guy in to make it worse. Next on the agenda: let’s bomb Iran. Yeah. That’ll work.
You think I'm being too harsh? Substitute just about anything else "Middle East" and anyone else for "white man" and listen to the howling that would result.
This is evil:
Senator Clinton told a largely friendly audience here Saturday night that the slow pace of government-sponsored reconstruction following Hurricane Katrina was the result of a deliberate decision by the Bush administration and may have been motivated by a desire to discourage Democratic voters from returning to the devastated region.
I'm still trying to figure out which is worse, that she believes this or that she doesn't and said it anyway.
No doubt stern warnings are being prepared:
The United States and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council agreed Tuesday that Iran should be hauled before that powerful body over its disputed nuclear program.
If only we had a decade or more before it becomes necessary to act.
Things were so much better when Saddam was in charge:
CNN's top war correspondent Christiane Amanpour now says the Iraq war has been a disaster and has created a "black hole." Amanpour made the comments Monday evening on the all-news network. "The Iraq war has been a disaster. It's a spiraling security disaster," Amanpour explains to Larry King. "It just gets worse and worse."
Or is this just an overreaction to Bob Woodruff's injuries?
I think I'm going to start holding utopians to utopian standards.
Good to know that anti-semitism is a "historic" problem:
Former US president Bill Clinton warned of rising anti-Islamic prejudice, comparing it to historic anti-Semitism as he condemned the publishing of cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper.
"So now what are we going to do? ... Replace the anti-Semitic prejudice with anti-Islamic prejudice?" he said at an economic conference in the Qatari capital of Doha.
"In Europe, most of the struggles we've had in the past 50 years have been to fight prejudices against Jews, to fight against anti-Semitism," he said.
Clinton described as "appalling" the 12 cartoons published in a Danish newspaper in September depicting Prophet Mohammed and causing uproar in the Muslim world.
Am I to understand that Bill Clinton has now come out in favor of censorship? Remarkable. Before he's done I expect he'll surpass Jimmy Carter as history's greatest monster.
Sharpen your #2 wits and have at it:
Winner announced next Monday.
Rejected Images for this week's contest:
NATO treads cautiously into Afghan quagmire
Jeez, even the successes are Vietnam all over again.
End in a tie...
Rodney Dill: I could've been president, I would've had the election in my pocket, if I just could've found my pants at the time.
Mr. Right: Ted Kennedy attempts to prove wrong all those who would dare to say that he doesn't know squat!
And a Special Musical Award Winner for Maggie:
You can walk like a duck, swim like a duck
Do just like ducks do
Quack like a duck, flap like a duck
Paste feathers all over you
You might smell like a duck, waddle in muck
An’ leave behind a lot'ta ducky-doo
But if you ain’t a genuine duck
FOLKS JUST MIGHT NOT
GIVE A DUCK 'BOUT YOU.
And I thought they were merely being reactionary:
Steven Spielberg: "I just feel that filmmakers are much more proactive since the second Bush administration. I think that everybody is trying to declare their independence and state their case for the things that we believe in. No one is really representing us, so we're now representing our own feelings, and we're trying to strike back."
Sad, isn't it.
When things are looking their darkest as failure upon failure is topped only by institutionalized corruption, what does the U.N. do?
A. Clean House
C. Double Down
And the answer is..., wait for it..., C!
The most potent threats to life on earth - global warming, health pandemics, poverty and armed conflict - could be ended by moves that would unlock $7 trillion - $7,000,000,000,000 (£3.9trn) - of previously untapped wealth, the United Nations claims today.
The price? An admission that the nation-state is an old-fashioned concept that has no role to play in a modern globalised world where financial markets have to be harnessed rather than simply condemned.
Then again, expecting central planners to do anything other than advocate central plans is yet another triumph of hope over experience. The proposals laid out in this article are so mind-boggling as to defy coherent fisking -- I especially love the absolutely immense, yet strangley phantom, sums of money that can be "released" if only we will irrevocably sacrifice our freedom to act in favor of the transnationalist utopian fantasy du jour. These people really do seem to believe they can be Masters of the Universe and manage all human affairs for the benefit of all, presumably becuase their hearts are so pure.
Enter at your own risk.
Since I do want to see them lose, and lose badly, I hereby encourage the Kos Kids and all the members of the Angry Left to continue to insist that every battle be fought to the death -- especially the ones you know are already lost.
Thier swords have been drawn and they want blood. If it can't be their opponents, then damnit, they'll turn on each other and insist on martyrdom. Hmm... where have I seen this before?
Borrowing and bowdlerizing the motto of France, is it fair to call Palestine a failed state?
Fatah activists marched to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' compound, police briefly stormed the parliament building in Gaza and security forces clashed with Hamas gunmen on Saturday as the long-ruling party lashed out in anger for its devastating election loss.
Fears over the future of the security forces under a Hamas-led government added to the chaos.
Most of the 58,000 security officers are allied with Fatah and worry that they will lose their jobs. The Islamic militant group, which won a majority in Wednesday's parliamentary vote, has its own armed force of about 5,000 gunmen in the Gaza Strip.
"The security forces will stay. Hamas has no power meddling with the security forces," Jibril Rajoub, Abbas' national security adviser, told the hundreds of Fatah activists at Abbas' compound.
From Israel, that wall has got to be looking better and better every day. Oh yes:
Militants from Fatah and Hamas capped a tense and emotional day with violent clashes on Friday, while a Hamas leader said the group had no intention of recognizing Israel's right to exist or changing its charter, which calls for Israel's destruction.
"I Would Die For Israel"
Well, how about America then? Oh, and check out this little self-serving snippet from Steven Spielberg:
I am now extremely happy that I had the courage to make "Munich".
Courage. Yeah, that's the ticket. Courage.
Wake up with fleas.
It's a perception of cowardice that's going to take a long time to shake.
Warned of two armed men approaching the Canadian border on Washington State's I5, dozens of B.C. border guards fled. The fugitives didn't make it to Canada, but only because a lone Whatcom County sherriff rammed their vehicle after a high-speed chase -- one metre south of the border.
So, the Canadian border is safe because an American police officer risked his life when 40 to 50 Canadian border guards wouldn't. God bless America.
I'm no fan of her silly prattle, but this is still sad:
Molly Ivins facing third round of cancer
Here's hoping she beats it for good this time. Then we can all get back to our usual snarking.
Is from Tom Waits:
Will you sell me one of those if I shave my head?
"Get me out of town," is what Fireball said.
Never trust a man in a blue trench coat,
Never drive a car when you're dead.
I'm not sure what to think of this:
BISBEE - Two immigrants are now the owners of a Douglas-area ranch seized from an anti-immigrant activist. Documents granting the 70-acre ranch once owned by Casey Nethercott to Fatima del Socorro Leiva Medina and Edwin Alfredo Mancia Gonzales were signed Monday by a Cochise County judge.
Nethercott is serving a five-year prison term in Texas stemming from a 2003 incident on a Texas ranch where he confronted Leiva and Mancia and was accused of pistol-whipping them. He was acquitted of assault, but convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The Southern Poverty Law Center brought suit against Nethercott on behalf of the two immigrants. Nethercott did not respond and a Texas judge ordered him to pay $500,000. Leiva and Mancia were illegal immigrants from El Salvador. They received temporary legal status in the United States as crime victims and are seeking visas to stay longer.
But how often do you see a story reported from Lynn Bracken's hometown?
Ohmigod, you mean it's real?
Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan has threatened to run for Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) seat unless Feinstein filibusters Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito.
Sheehan, who was in Caracas, Venezuela Friday attending the World Social Forum, heard that several Democrats planned to filibuster Alito but that Feinstein, who is up for re-election in November, announced that she will vote against Alito but would not filibuster the nomination.
"I'm appalled that Diane Feinstein wouldn't recognize how dangerous Alito's nomination is to upholding the values of our constitution and restricting the usurpation of presidential powers, for which I've already paid the ultimate price," Sheehan said in a statement.
Multiple Response Post:
1. Well, um, actually, your son paid the utimate price, not you Cindy.
2. The closer the cliff gets the faster they seem to run.
3. Are you sure Hugo can spare you, Cndy?
Or in other typical UN leadership words, not on my watch:
U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei on Friday called on the United States to provide Iran with nuclear reactors and urged Tehran to declare a moratorium on enriching uranium for at least eight years.
ElBaradei said that amount of time would enable the country to earn the confidence of the international community that it was really interested in nuclear energy - not nuclear weapons.
I was going to add something about Danegeld, but the Imam's have already sworn off Danish.
When I read this:
Iran atomic program called major U.N. test
I wasn't sure it conveyed quite the message they intended. Hmm..., are they grading on a curve or is it pass/fail? And the consequences of failing are what exactly?
Imams Back Call for Danish Boycott in Cartoons Row
More danish for me!
Killings, rapes and indiscriminate attacks on civilians continue in Darfur, the United Nations said Friday, accusing Sudanese soldiers of apparently coordinating with armed militia in terrorizing the troubled region.
Please tell me again what the UN is good for aside from writing sternly worded resolutions, I mean.
Well, this won't be above the fold tomorrow:
On Thursday the Congressional Budget Office released its annual Budget and Economic Outlook, and buried in one of its nearly impenetrable tables of numbers is a remarkable story that has gone entirely unreported by the mainstream media: The 2003 tax cut on capital gains has entirely paid for itself. More than paid for itself. Way more.
Tax cuts are like abstinence, they work every time they are tried.
But I know better:
"Truth no longer matters in the context of politics and, sadly, in the context of cable news," said Aaron Brown, whose four-year period as anchor of CNN's NewsNight ended in November, when network executives gave his job to Anderson Cooper in a bid to push the show's ratings closer to front-runner Fox News.
And no doubt the man who once said, "I am CNN," considers himself in no way responsible for this.
Democracy is a good thing, but people can still make bad choices:
Hamas and Fatah gunmen exchanged fire on Friday in political turmoil as the long-dominant Fatah faction was threatened with a violent backlash from within after its crushing election defeat by the Islamic militant group.
This should put to rest the tired Arab adage that the enemy of my enemy is my friend since Israel cannot look upon either of these adversaries as a friend.
When Jack Murtha, Cindy Sheehan, the Kos Kids, Zarqawi, or others of their ill ilk wish for the U.S. out of Iraq, do you think this is what they have in mind?
57% Americans support military action in Iran
Kevin Murphy made me do it, though I've slightly modified it.
Four Movies You Could Watch Over And Over (and Over and Over):
1. The Godfather, Part II. Best. Sequel. Ever. Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro at their best.
2. The Exorcist. Scariest. Movie. Ever. Put yourself in the role of any of the characters of this film and try and imagine what you would do.
3. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. Funniest. Movie. Ever. So funny and so few opportunities to use the best lines in public.
4. The Name of the Rose. Average. Movie. But the memories it stirs of a tour de force book keep my mind swirling for hours.
(Note to Kevin -- Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman each deserved the Best Actor Oscar that year for Midnight Cowboy over John Wayne who apparently got it because the Academy wasn't yet giving lifetime achievement awards. Also, by definition, you have to watch Groundhog Day over and over and over...)
Four TV Shows You Love To Watch:
1. Blackadder. Best. Sitcom. Ever.
2. ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown. Best. Studio. Sports. Show. Ever.
3. Have I Got News For You. They actually featured a tub of lard as a contestant once.
4. Live sports.
Four Places You’ve Been on Vacation:
1. Munich. For Oktoberfest.
2. The Lake District. My, ahem, friends took me out for a little walk one weekend. Nice pub at the end of the day though.
3. Alaska. Cruising the Inner Passage, does anyone know what that theme music is?
4. Yellowstone National Park. Still underappreciated.
Four Places You’d Rather Be:
1. Glacier National Park. Thar be bears there -- I know from experience.
2. The Prince of Wales -- My home pub when I lived in England.
3. Pinehurst #2. Preferably accepting a U.S. Open trophy.
4. Augusta National. Being fitted for a green jacket.
Four People To Tag With This Meme (Alas, I do not know how to reach any of them):
1. Ryne Sandberg.
2. John Prine.
3. George Carlin.
Alright, fine. I couldn't pass up this opportunity to run my first caption contest.
Have at it. Winner announced on Monday.
Been on the road.
My laptop died on the plane ride out.
Laptop not yet fixed.
Anybody want to buy some Girl Scout cookies?
DOWNDATE: If you should ever seriously corrupt your Windows XP laptop by correctly and properly deleting a Cingular broadband application and you are then eventually able to get it it restored after several days effort using the Windows XP Sytem Restore function, do not then immediately test your theory that it was the entirely correct and proper removal of the Cingular broadband application that corrupted your Windows XP laptop under the assumption that you can just use the Windows XP System Restore function to fix it right back again.
Trust me on this.
Seven teams, three championships.
I won again. I even got my own category this time.
Hmmm..., I wonder if the NY Times or the Washington Post would publish the Barrett Report if it was leaked in full, and if they would fete the leaker. Or would that be regarded as helping the nation's enemies, i.e., Republicans?
That's a good phrase to keep in mind if you read the transcript of Al Gore lecturing the Bush administration on the rule of law.
Much more below the fold.
Congressman Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years, but we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens-Democrats and Republicans alike-to express our shared concern that America's Constitution is in grave danger.
In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.
As we begin this new year, the Executive Branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress to prevent such abuses.
It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored.
So, many of us have come here to Constitution Hall to sound an alarm and call upon our fellow citizens to put aside partisan differences and join with us in demanding that our Constitution be defended and preserved.
It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by extending its promise to all our people.
On this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped-one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during this period.
The FBI privately called King the "most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal." The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide.
This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder. The discovery that the FBI conducted a long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life, helped to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.
The result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there is a sufficient cause for the surveillance. I voted for that law during my first term in Congress and for almost thirty years the system has proven a workable and valued means of according a level of protection for private citizens, while permitting foreign surveillance to continue.
Yet, just one month ago, Americans awoke to the shocking news that in spite of this long settled law, the Executive Branch has been secretly spying on large numbers of Americans for the last four years and eavesdropping on "large volumes of telephone calls, e-mail messages, and other Internet traffic inside the United States." The New York Times reported that the President decided to launch this massive eavesdropping program "without search warrants or any new laws that would permit such domestic intelligence collection."
During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the President went out of his way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place.
But surprisingly, the President's soothing statements turned out to be false. Moreover, as soon as this massive domestic spying program was uncovered by the press, the President not only confirmed that the story was true, but also declared that he has no intention of bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.
At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently.
A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."
An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."
Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet, "On Common Sense" ignited the American Revolution, succinctly described America's alternative. Here, he said, we intended to make certain that "the law is king."
Vigilant adherence to the rule of law strengthens our democracy and strengthens America. It ensures that those who govern us operate within our constitutional structure, which means that our democratic institutions play their indispensable role in shaping policy and determining the direction of our nation. It means that the people of this nation ultimately determine its course and not executive officials operating in secret without constraint.
The rule of law makes us stronger by ensuring that decisions will be tested, studied, reviewed and examined through the processes of government that are designed to improve policy. And the knowledge that they will be reviewed prevents over-reaching and checks the accretion of power.
A commitment to openness, truthfulness and accountability also helps our country avoid many serious mistakes. Recently, for example, we learned from recently classified declassified documents that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the tragic Vietnam war, was actually based on false information. We now know that the decision by Congress to authorize the Iraq War, 38 years later, was also based on false information. America would have been better off knowing the truth and avoiding both of these colossal mistakes in our history. Following the rule of law makes us safer, not more vulnerable.
The President and I agree on one thing. The threat from terrorism is all too real. There is simply no question that we continue to face new challenges in the wake of the attack on September 11th and that we must be ever-vigilant in protecting our citizens from harm.
Where we disagree is that we have to break the law or sacrifice our system of government to protect Americans from terrorism. In fact, doing so makes us weaker and more vulnerable.
Once violated, the rule of law is in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws.
The President's men have minced words about America's laws. The Attorney General openly conceded that the "kind of surveillance" we now know they have been conducting requires a court order unless authorized by statute. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act self-evidently does not authorize what the NSA has been doing, and no one inside or outside the Administration claims that it does. Incredibly, the Administration claims instead that the surveillance was implicitly authorized when Congress voted to use force against those who attacked us on September 11th.
This argument just does not hold any water. Without getting into the legal intricacies, it faces a number of embarrassing facts. First, another admission by the Attorney General: he concedes that the Administration knew that the NSA project was prohibited by existing law and that they consulted with some members of Congress about changing the statute. Gonzalez says that they were told this probably would not be possible. So how can they now argue that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force somehow implicitly authorized it all along? Second, when the Authorization was being debated, the Administration did in fact seek to have language inserted in it that would have authorized them to use military force domestically - and the Congress did not agree. Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Jim McGovern, among others, made statements during the Authorization debate clearly restating that that Authorization did not operate domestically.
When President Bush failed to convince Congress to give him all the power he wanted when they passed the AUMF, he secretly assumed that power anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother. But as Justice Frankfurter once wrote: "To find authority so explicitly withheld is not merely to disregard in a particular instance the clear will of Congress. It is to disrespect the whole legislative process and the constitutional division of authority between President and Congress."
This is precisely the "disrespect" for the law that the Supreme Court struck down in the steel seizure case.
It is this same disrespect for America's Constitution which has now brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in the fabric of the Constitution. And the disrespect embodied in these apparent mass violations of the law is part of a larger pattern of seeming indifference to the Constitution that is deeply troubling to millions of Americans in both political parties.
For example, the President has also declared that he has a heretofore unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation, and that, notwithstanding his American citizenship, the person imprisoned has no right to talk with a lawyer-even to argue that the President or his appointees have made a mistake and imprisoned the wrong person.
The President claims that he can imprison American citizens indefinitely for the rest of their lives without an arrest warrant, without notifying them about what charges have been filed against them, and without informing their families that they have been imprisoned.
At the same time, the Executive Branch has claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture in a pattern that has now been documented in U.S. facilities located in several countries around the world.
Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by Executive Branch interrogators and many more have been broken and humiliated. In the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, investigators who documented the pattern of torture estimated that more than 90 percent of the victims were innocent of any charges.
This shameful exercise of power overturns a set of principles that our nation has observed since General Washington first enunciated them during our Revolutionary War and has been observed by every president since then - until now. These practices violate the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, not to mention our own laws against torture.
The President has also claimed that he has the authority to kidnap individuals in foreign countries and deliver them for imprisonment and interrogation on our behalf by autocratic regimes in nations that are infamous for the cruelty of their techniques for torture.
Some of our traditional allies have been shocked by these new practices on the part of our nation. The British Ambassador to Uzbekistan - one of those nations with the worst reputations for torture in its prisons - registered a complaint to his home office about the senselessness and cruelty of the new U.S. practice: "This material is useless - we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful."
Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is "yes" then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited? If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?
The Dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said after analyzing the Executive Branch's claims of these previously unrecognized powers: "If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution."
The fact that our normal safeguards have thus far failed to contain this unprecedented expansion of executive power is deeply troubling. This failure is due in part to the fact that the Executive Branch has followed a determined strategy of obfuscating, delaying, withholding information, appearing to yield but then refusing to do so and dissembling in order to frustrate the efforts of the legislative and judicial branches to restore our constitutional balance.
For example, after appearing to support legislation sponsored by John McCain to stop the continuation of torture, the President declared in the act of signing the bill that he reserved the right not to comply with it.
Similarly, the Executive Branch claimed that it could unilaterally imprison American citizens without giving them access to review by any tribunal. The Supreme Court disagreed, but the President engaged in legal maneuvers designed to prevent the Court from providing meaningful content to the rights of its citizens.
A conservative jurist on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that the Executive Branch's handling of one such case seemed to involve the sudden abandonment of principle "at substantial cost to the government's credibility before the courts."
As a result of its unprecedented claim of new unilateral power, the Executive Branch has now put our constitutional design at grave risk. The stakes for America's representative democracy are far higher than has been generally recognized.
These claims must be rejected and a healthy balance of power restored to our Republic. Otherwise, the fundamental nature of our democracy may well undergo a radical transformation.
For more than two centuries, America's freedoms have been preserved in part by our founders' wise decision to separate the aggregate power of our government into three co-equal branches, each of which serves to check and balance the power of the other two.
On more than a few occasions, the dynamic interaction among all three branches has resulted in collisions and temporary impasses that create what are invariably labeled "constitutional crises." These crises have often been dangerous and uncertain times for our Republic. But in each such case so far, we have found a resolution of the crisis by renewing our common agreement to live under the rule of law.
The principle alternative to democracy throughout history has been the consolidation of virtually all state power in the hands of a single strongman or small group who together exercise that power without the informed consent of the governed.
It was in revolt against just such a regime, after all, that America was founded. When Lincoln declared at the time of our greatest crisis that the ultimate question being decided in the Civil War was "whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure," he was not only saving our union but also was recognizing the fact that democracies are rare in history. And when they fail, as did Athens and the Roman Republic upon whose designs our founders drew heavily, what emerges in their place is another strongman regime.
There have of course been other periods of American history when the Executive Branch claimed new powers that were later seen as excessive and mistaken. Our second president, John Adams, passed the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts and sought to silence and imprison critics and political opponents.
When his successor, Thomas Jefferson, eliminated the abuses he said: "[The essential principles of our Government] form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation... [S]hould we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety."
Our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. Some of the worst abuses prior to those of the current administration were committed by President Wilson during and after WWI with the notorious Red Scare and Palmer Raids. The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII marked a low point for the respect of individual rights at the hands of the executive. And, during the Vietnam War, the notorious COINTELPRO program was part and parcel of the abuses experienced by Dr. King and thousands of others.
But in each of these cases, when the conflict and turmoil subsided, the country recovered its equilibrium and absorbed the lessons learned in a recurring cycle of excess and regret.
There are reasons for concern this time around that conditions may be changing and that the cycle may not repeat itself. For one thing, we have for decades been witnessing the slow and steady accumulation of presidential power. In a global environment of nuclear weapons and cold war tensions, Congress and the American people accepted ever enlarging spheres of presidential initiative to conduct intelligence and counter intelligence activities and to allocate our military forces on the global stage. When military force has been used as an instrument of foreign policy or in response to humanitarian demands, it has almost always been as the result of presidential initiative and leadership. As Justice Frankfurter wrote in the Steel Seizure Case, "The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day. It does come, however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the restrictions that fence in even the most disinterested assertion of authority."
A second reason to believe we may be experiencing something new is that we are told by the Administration that the war footing upon which he has tried to place the country is going to "last for the rest of our lives." So we are told that the conditions of national threat that have been used by other Presidents to justify arrogations of power will persist in near perpetuity.
Third, we need to be aware of the advances in eavesdropping and surveillance technologies with their capacity to sweep up and analyze enormous quantities of information and to mine it for intelligence. This adds significant vulnerability to the privacy and freedom of enormous numbers of innocent people at the same time as the potential power of those technologies. These techologies have the potential for shifting the balance of power between the apparatus of the state and the freedom of the individual in ways both subtle and profound.
Don't misunderstand me: the threat of additional terror strikes is all too real and their concerted efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction does create a real imperative to exercise the powers of the Executive Branch with swiftness and agility. Moreover, there is in fact an inherent power that is conferred by the Constitution to the President to take unilateral action to protect the nation from a sudden and immediate threat, but it is simply not possible to precisely define in legalistic terms exactly when that power is appropriate and when it is not.
But the existence of that inherent power cannot be used to justify a gross and excessive power grab lasting for years that produces a serious imbalance in the relationship between the executive and the other two branches of government.
There is a final reason to worry that we may be experiencing something more than just another cycle of overreach and regret. This Administration has come to power in the thrall of a legal theory that aims to convince us that this excessive concentration of presidential authority is exactly what our Constitution intended.
This legal theory, which its proponents call the theory of the unitary executive but which is more accurately described as the unilateral executive, threatens to expand the president's powers until the contours of the constitution that the Framers actually gave us become obliterated beyond all recognition. Under this theory, the President's authority when acting as Commander-in-Chief or when making foreign policy cannot be reviewed by the judiciary or checked by Congress. President Bush has pushed the implications of this idea to its maximum by continually stressing his role as Commander-in-Chief, invoking it has frequently as he can, conflating it with his other roles, domestic and foreign. When added to the idea that we have entered a perpetual state of war, the implications of this theory stretch quite literally as far into the future as we can imagine.
This effort to rework America's carefully balanced constitutional design into a lopsided structure dominated by an all powerful Executive Branch with a subservient Congress and judiciary is-ironically-accompanied by an effort by the same administration to rework America's foreign policy from one that is based primarily on U.S. moral authority into one that is based on a misguided and self-defeating effort to establish dominance in the world.
The common denominator seems to be based on an instinct to intimidate and control.
This same pattern has characterized the effort to silence dissenting views within the Executive Branch, to censor information that may be inconsistent with its stated ideological goals, and to demand conformity from all Executive Branch employees.
For example, CIA analysts who strongly disagreed with the White House assertion that Osama bin Laden was linked to Saddam Hussein found themselves under pressure at work and became fearful of losing promotions and salary increases.
Ironically, that is exactly what happened to FBI officials in the 1960s who disagreed with J. Edgar Hoover's view that Dr. King was closely connected to Communists. The head of the FBI's domestic intelligence division said that his effort to tell the truth about King's innocence of the charge resulted in he and his colleagues becoming isolated and pressured. "It was evident that we had to change our ways or we would all be out on the street.... The men and I discussed how to get out of trouble. To be in trouble with Mr. Hoover was a serious matter. These men were trying to buy homes, mortgages on homes, children in school. They lived in fear of getting transferred, losing money on their homes, as they usually did. ... so they wanted another memorandum written to get us out of the trouble that we were in."
The Constitution's framers understood this dilemma as well, as Alexander Hamilton put it, "a power over a man's support is a power over his will." (Federalist No. 73)
Soon, there was no more difference of opinion within the FBI. The false accusation became the unanimous view. In exactly the same way, George Tenet's CIA eventually joined in endorsing a manifestly false view that there was a linkage between al Qaeda and the government of Iraq.
In the words of George Orwell: "We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."
Whenever power is unchecked and unaccountable it almost inevitably leads to mistakes and abuses. In the absence of rigorous accountability, incompetence flourishes. Dishonesty is encouraged and rewarded.
Last week, for example, Vice President Cheney attempted to defend the Administration's eavesdropping on American citizens by saying that if it had conducted this program prior to 9/11, they would have found out the names of some of the hijackers.
Tragically, he apparently still doesn't know that the Administration did in fact have the names of at least 2 of the hijackers well before 9/11 and had available to them information that could have easily led to the identification of most of the other hijackers. And yet, because of incompetence in the handling of this information, it was never used to protect the American people.
It is often the case that an Executive Branch beguiled by the pursuit of unchecked power responds to its own mistakes by reflexively proposing that it be given still more power. Often, the request itself it used to mask accountability for mistakes in the use of power it already has.
Moreover, if the pattern of practice begun by this Administration is not challenged, it may well become a permanent part of the American system. Many conservatives have pointed out that granting unchecked power to this President means that the next President will have unchecked power as well. And the next President may be someone whose values and belief you do not trust. And this is why Republicans as well as Democrats should be concerned with what this President has done. If this President's attempt to dramatically expand executive power goes unquestioned, our constitutional design of checks and balances will be lost. And the next President or some future President will be able, in the name of national security, to restrict our liberties in a way the framers never would have thought possible.
The same instinct to expand its power and to establish dominance characterizes the relationship between this Administration and the courts and the Congress.
In a properly functioning system, the Judicial Branch would serve as the constitutional umpire to ensure that the branches of government observed their proper spheres of authority, observed civil liberties and adhered to the rule of law. Unfortunately, the unilateral executive has tried hard to thwart the ability of the judiciary to call balls and strikes by keeping controversies out of its hands - notably those challenging its ability to detain individuals without legal process -- by appointing judges who will be deferential to its exercise of power and by its support of assaults on the independence of the third branch.
The President's decision to ignore FISA was a direct assault on the power of the judges who sit on that court. Congress established the FISA court precisely to be a check on executive power to wiretap. Yet, to ensure that the court could not function as a check on executive power, the President simply did not take matters to it and did not let the court know that it was being bypassed.
The President's judicial appointments are clearly designed to ensure that the courts will not serve as an effective check on executive power. As we have all learned, Judge Alito is a longtime supporter of a powerful executive - a supporter of the so-called unitary executive, which is more properly called the unilateral executive. Whether you support his confirmation or not - and I do not - we must all agree that he will not vote as an effective check on the expansion of executive power. Likewise, Chief Justice Roberts has made plain his deference to the expansion of executive power through his support of judicial deference to executive agency rulemaking.
And the Administration has supported the assault on judicial independence that has been conducted largely in Congress. That assault includes a threat by the Republican majority in the Senate to permanently change the rules to eliminate the right of the minority to engage in extended debate of the President's judicial nominees. The assault has extended to legislative efforts to curtail the jurisdiction of courts in matters ranging from habeas corpus to the pledge of allegiance. In short, the Administration has demonstrated its contempt for the judicial role and sought to evade judicial review of its actions at every turn.
But the most serious damage has been done to the legislative branch. The sharp decline of congressional power and autonomy in recent years has been almost as shocking as the efforts by the Executive Branch to attain a massive expansion of its power.
I was elected to Congress in 1976 and served eight years in the house, 8 years in the Senate and presided over the Senate for 8 years as Vice President. As a young man, I saw the Congress first hand as the son of a Senator. My father was elected to Congress in 1938, 10 years before I was born, and left the Senate in 1971.
The Congress we have today is unrecognizable compared to the one in which my father served. There are many distinguished Senators and Congressmen serving today. I am honored that some of them are here in this hall. But the legislative branch of government under its current leadership now operates as if it is entirely subservient to the Executive Branch.
Moreover, too many Members of the House and Senate now feel compelled to spend a majority of their time not in thoughtful debate of the issues, but raising money to purchase 30 second TV commercials.
There have now been two or three generations of congressmen who don't really know what an oversight hearing is. In the 70's and 80's, the oversight hearings in which my colleagues and I participated held the feet of the Executive Branch to the fire - no matter which party was in power. Yet oversight is almost unknown in the Congress today.
The role of authorization committees has declined into insignificance. The 13 annual appropriation bills are hardly ever actually passed anymore. Everything is lumped into a single giant measure that is not even available for Members of Congress to read before they vote on it.
Members of the minority party are now routinely excluded from conference committees, and amendments are routinely not allowed during floor consideration of legislation.
In the United States Senate, which used to pride itself on being the "greatest deliberative body in the world," meaningful debate is now a rarity. Even on the eve of the fateful vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq, Senator Robert Byrd famously asked: "Why is this chamber empty?"
In the House of Representatives, the number who face a genuinely competitive election contest every two years is typically less than a dozen out of 435.
And too many incumbents have come to believe that the key to continued access to the money for re-election is to stay on the good side of those who have the money to give; and, in the case of the majority party, the whole process is largely controlled by the incumbent president and his political organization.
So the willingness of Congress to challenge the Administration is further limited when the same party controls both Congress and the Executive Branch.
The Executive Branch, time and again, has co-opted Congress' role, and often Congress has been a willing accomplice in the surrender of its own power.
Look for example at the Congressional role in "overseeing" this massive four year eavesdropping campaign that on its face seemed so clearly to violate the Bill of Rights. The President says he informed Congress, but what he really means is that he talked with the chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate intelligence committees and the top leaders of the House and Senate. This small group, in turn, claimed that they were not given the full facts, though at least one of the intelligence committee leaders handwrote a letter of concern to VP Cheney and placed a copy in his own safe.
Though I sympathize with the awkward position in which these men and women were placed, I cannot disagree with the Liberty Coalition when it says that Democrats as well as Republicans in the Congress must share the blame for not taking action to protest and seek to prevent what they consider a grossly unconstitutional program.
Moreover, in the Congress as a whole-both House and Senate-the enhanced role of money in the re-election process, coupled with the sharply diminished role for reasoned deliberation and debate, has produced an atmosphere conducive to pervasive institutionalized corruption.
The Abramoff scandal is but the tip of a giant iceberg that threatens the integrity of the entire legislative branch of government.
It is the pitiful state of our legislative branch which primarily explains the failure of our vaunted checks and balances to prevent the dangerous overreach by our Executive Branch which now threatens a radical transformation of the American system.
I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of government you're supposed to be.
But there is yet another Constitutional player whose pulse must be taken and whose role must be examined in order to understand the dangerous imbalance that has emerged with the efforts by the Executive Branch to dominate our constitutional system.
We the people are-collectively-still the key to the survival of America's democracy. We-as Lincoln put it, "[e]ven we here"-must examine our own role as citizens in allowing and not preventing the shocking decay and degradation of our democracy.
Thomas Jefferson said: "An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will."
The revolutionary departure on which the idea of America was based was the audacious belief that people can govern themselves and responsibly exercise the ultimate authority in self-government. This insight proceeded inevitably from the bedrock principle articulated by the Enlightenment philosopher John Locke: "All just power is derived from the consent of the governed."
The intricate and carefully balanced constitutional system that is now in such danger was created with the full and widespread participation of the population as a whole. The Federalist Papers were, back in the day, widely-read newspaper essays, and they represented only one of twenty-four series of essays that crowded the vibrant marketplace of ideas in which farmers and shopkeepers recapitulated the debates that played out so fruitfully in Philadelphia.
Indeed, when the Convention had done its best, it was the people - in their various States - that refused to confirm the result until, at their insistence, the Bill of Rights was made integral to the document sent forward for ratification.
And it is "We the people" who must now find once again the ability we once had to play an integral role in saving our Constitution.
And here there is cause for both concern and great hope. The age of printed pamphlets and political essays has long since been replaced by television - a distracting and absorbing medium which sees determined to entertain and sell more than it informs and educates.
Lincoln's memorable call during the Civil War is applicable in a new way to our dilemma today: "We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."
Forty years have passed since the majority of Americans adopted television as their principal source of information. Its dominance has become so extensive that virtually all significant political communication now takes place within the confines of flickering 30-second television advertisements.
And the political economy supported by these short but expensive television ads is as different from the vibrant politics of America's first century as those politics were different from the feudalism which thrived on the ignorance of the masses of people in the Dark Ages.
The constricted role of ideas in the American political system today has encouraged efforts by the Executive Branch to control the flow of information as a means of controlling the outcome of important decisions that still lie in the hands of the people.
The Administration vigorously asserts its power to maintain the secrecy of its operations. After all, the other branches can't check an abuse of power if they don't know it is happening.
For example, when the Administration was attempting to persuade Congress to enact the Medicare prescription drug benefit, many in the House and Senate raised concerns about the cost and design of the program. But, rather than engaging in open debate on the basis of factual data, the Administration withheld facts and prevented the Congress from hearing testimony that it sought from the principal administration expert who had compiled information showing in advance of the vote that indeed the true cost estimates were far higher than the numbers given to Congress by the President.
Deprived of that information, and believing the false numbers given to it instead, the Congress approved the program. Tragically, the entire initiative is now collapsing- all over the country- with the Administration making an appeal just this weekend to major insurance companies to volunteer to bail it out.
To take another example, scientific warnings about the catastrophic consequences of unchecked global warming were censored by a political appointee in the White House who had no scientific training. And today one of the leading scientific experts on global warming in NASA has been ordered not to talk to members of the press and to keep a careful log of everyone he meets with so that the Executive Branch can monitor and control his discussions of global warming.
One of the other ways the Administration has tried to control the flow of information is by consistently resorting to the language and politics of fear in order to short-circuit the debate and drive its agenda forward without regard to the evidence or the public interest. As President Eisenhower said, "Any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America."
Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: "Men feared witches and burnt women."
The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.
Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.
Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously?
It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.
We have a duty as Americans to defend our citizens' right not only to life but also to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is therefore vital in our current circumstances that immediate steps be taken to safeguard our Constitution against the present danger posed by the intrusive overreaching on the part of the Executive Branch and the President's apparent belief that he need not live under the rule of law.
I endorse the words of Bob Barr, when he said, "The President has dared the American people to do something about it. For the sake of the Constitution, I hope they will."
A special counsel should immediately be appointed by the Attorney General to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the President. We have had a fresh demonstration of how an independent investigation by a special counsel with integrity can rebuild confidence in our system of justice. Patrick Fitzgerald has, by all accounts, shown neither fear nor favor in pursuing allegations that the Executive Branch has violated other laws.
Republican as well as Democratic members of Congress should support the bipartisan call of the Liberty Coalition for the appointment of a special counsel to pursue the criminal issues raised by warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the President.
Second, new whistleblower protections should immediately be established for members of the Executive Branch who report evidence of wrongdoing -- especially where it involves the abuse of Executive Branch authority in the sensitive areas of national security.
Third, both Houses of Congress should hold comprehensive-and not just superficial-hearings into these serious allegations of criminal behavior on the part of the President. And, they should follow the evidence wherever it leads.
Fourth, the extensive new powers requested by the Executive Branch in its proposal to extend and enlarge the Patriot Act should, under no circumstances be granted, unless and until there are adequate and enforceable safeguards to protect the Constitution and the rights of the American people against the kinds of abuses that have so recently been revealed.
Fifth, any telecommunications company that has provided the government with access to private information concerning the communications of Americans without a proper warrant should immediately cease and desist their complicity in this apparently illegal invasion of the privacy of American citizens.
Freedom of communication is an essential prerequisite for the restoration of the health of our democracy.
It is particularly important that the freedom of the Internet be protected against either the encroachment of government or the efforts at control by large media conglomerates. The future of our democracy depends on it.
I mentioned that along with cause for concern, there is reason for hope. As I stand here today, I am filled with optimism that America is on the eve of a golden age in which the vitality of our democracy will be re-established and will flourish more vibrantly than ever. Indeed I can feel it in this hall.
As Dr. King once said, "Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us."
If anyone embodies the reason why the nuclear showdown with Iran sends shivers through Western capitals, let alone the country's Arab neighbours, it is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...
More worrying for some is that Ahmadinejad is closely identified with the cult of the "hidden imam", the 12th and last of the line of imams revered by Shia Muslims. In a clear parallel with Jewish and Christian visions of Armageddon, Shias believe the imam zaman will return at a time of great turmoil to defeat the forces of evil; recently the president urged Iranians to work hard for this moment. As one commentator pointed out, this was like Tony Blair telling Britons to prepare for the Second Coming.
The most extreme zealots, a group called the Hojjatieh, say total chaos should be created to hasten the coming of the Mahdi, and there have been claims that Ahmadinejad, if not a member, sympathises with them. This explains his reckless attitude, say his critics. If the final triumph of Islam can be brought closer by provoking a nuclear war with Israel or America, why hold back?
And a git, for that matter.
Didn't Mary Shelley cover some of the philosphical implications of this?
British scientists are seeking permission to create hybrid embryos in the lab by fusing human cells with rabbit eggs. If granted consent, the team will use the embryos to produce stem cells that carry genetic defects, in the hope that studying them will help understand the complex mechanisms behind incurable human diseases.
He complained that "a few" Western countries were lobbying against Iran and said Tehran did not trust them. "They speak and behave as if they are living in the medieval age," the hard-line leader said. "I'm recommending these countries not isolate themselves more among the people of the world. Resorting to the language of coercion is over."
In related news:
A top commander in Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said on Sunday that the Islamic Republic has more than 300 nuclear sites scattered across the country, Iran Focus has learnt.
Three hundred. For peaceful uses.
Speaking at a seminar in the northern city of Rasht, Brigadier General Mostafa Haji-Najjar, deputy director of the IRGC’s political bureau, also said that Iran had “an absolute right” to develop nuclear bombs.
For tonight's performance, the part of Neville Chamberlain will be played by the EU:
French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said Sunday talks should be pursued with Iran even though the country was resuming sensitive nuclear activities.
'In a situation like this, there are two options: either we will finally take steps that will isolate the country or we will try as hard as we can to talk to convince and make advances,' Alliot-Marie during an RTL-Le Figaro-LCI radio and television debate.
Oh, I can think of more than two options. Meanwhile, half of Congress is preoccupied with whether a Justice Alito will overturn Roe v. Wade and the other half with precisely how much graft is permissible as it selects a new leader in the House.
We are so screwed.
DOWNDATE: And if anything should happen to the EU, noted transnational deafeatist understudy Walter Cronkite has the lines well rehearsed:
Former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, whose 1968 conclusion that the Vietnam War was unwinnable keenly influenced public opinion then, said Sunday he'd say the same thing today about Iraq.
DOUBLE DOWNDATE: Hey, thanks for the Instalanche!. Oh, it's Austin Bay. Never mind.
The "I just rolled out of bed with greasy, uncombed messy hair" looks stupid on 18 year-old men, but at least they have the excuse that they are only 18.
The American ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, upped the ante in an escalating confrontation between America and Turtle Bay on the issue of Israel's place at the world body. In a sharply worded letter to Secretary-General Annan, Mr. Bolton threatened to cut funding to the United Nations if it continues to promote anti-Israel events.
Mr. Bolton's January 3 letter, which was seen yesterday by The New York Sun, is a response to a November 29 event celebrating an annual "International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian People." At the event, which was attended by Mr. Annan and other top diplomats, a map that "erases the state of Israel," as Mr. Bolton wrote, was displayed.
"Given that we now have a world leader pursuing nuclear weapons who is calling for the state of Israel to be wiped off the map, the issue has even greater salience," Mr. Bolton wrote.
A photo of Mr. Annan standing below the map - several days after President Ahmadinejad of Iran made his statement - was carried last month on the Web site eyeontheun.org, creating a storm of criticism. The site also highlighted the seven-figure budget of U.N. bodies dedicated to promoting what Israel and America consider one-sided, anti-Israel propaganda in the guise of solidarity with Palestinian Arabs.
Yeah, I did.
What troubles me most about this is that, once again, the Grand Poohbahs of our society are promoting the idea that who says something is more important than what is said:
Having ascended to the national stage as one of the most vocal critics of President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman John Murtha has long downplayed the controversy and the bitterness surrounding the two Purple Hearts he was awarded for military service in Vietnam.
Being a hero in the past and now saying stupid things are not mutually exclusive. Cripes, doesn't anybody remember Charles Lindbergh anymore?
Global warming and nuclear energy are good and the way to save forests is to use more wood.
That was the message delivered to a biotechnology industry gathering yesterday in Waikiki. However, it wasn't the message that was unconventional, but the messenger — Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore. Moore said he broke with Greenpeace in the 1980s over the rise of what he called "environmental extremism," or stands by environmental groups against issues such as genetic crop research, genetically modified foods and nuclear energy that aren't supported by science or logic.
At least Bjorn Lomborg won't have to eat lunch by himself anymore.
And just post on the weekends.
Damn Republicans probably cut the budget from the original $2.6 billion appropriation:
After more than a decade of navigating an ever-shifting pattern of detours and dead ends, Boston drivers finally had something to cheer about Friday as Big Dig officials opened what they said is the project's last major piece of roadway.
The opening of the Albany Street off-ramp from Interstate 93 south marks the moment when the $14.6 billion highway project's road pattern is substantially finished, according to Turnpike Authority chairman Matt Amorello.
Oh, and it only took 15 years, or approximately 4.25 years per mile. When you consider the expected lifespan, the cost of future repairs, and 15 years of traffic jams, I find it very, very hard to believe this was worth the effort or expense. Hey, maybe Senator Kennedy is right to be concerned about Samuel Alito seeming to favor the government.
I reead somewhere once that justice delayed is justice denied:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has denied clemency for death row inmate Clarence Ray Allen, who is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection next Tuesday for three murders 26 years ago.
The friend of my enemy is my enemy:
BRITAIN'S threat of international sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear programme was yesterday undermined by China and France.
The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, said yesterday that Iran could face UN Security Council sanctions for resuming nuclear activities, but added that military action was not being considered, a message backed by US president George Bush.
However, China's UN ambassador expressed concern that even referring Iran to the Security Council might "complicate the issue" and stiffen Tehran's resolve to carry on work to develop nuclear power, a plan that other countries fear is a cover for nuclear weapons.
And the French foreign ministry said the priority was to convene a special session of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to refer Iran to the UN Security Council, but added that talk of sanctions was premature.
God, how I despise the UN, even the very utopian concept of it.
Daniel Ellsberg is absolutely right:
Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers 35 years ago, said Friday that whistleblowers shouldn't be afraid to reveal government secrets in an effort to save people's lives, even if it means going to jail.
"Don't do what I did," Ellsberg said. "Don't wait until the bombs are falling in Iran. Don't wait until people are dying. Go to the press and reveal."
Of course, the lives probably saved will be those of our enemies. Can you say traitor? Sure, I knew you could.
Although this particular geopolitical game of chess with a harbinger of death might well unleash the four horsemen of the apocalypse before it's over:
Iran has "broken the seals". The phrase refers to the seals placed by UN nuclear inspectors on equipment that, unsealed, enables uranium enrichment, making possible the development of a nuclear bomb.
To paraphrase Matt and Trey-- "What would Max Van Sydow do?"
To be fair, he didn't become famous on Monty Python's Bicycling Circus:
MICHAEL PALIN is facing moves to oust him as president of a leading environmental group because of his passion for long-distance air travel. The Times has learnt that senior members of Transport 2000, which campaigns for sustainable travel and against growth in flights, believe that Palin sets a poor example.
He has flown more than a quarter of a million miles in the past 17 years while making his six TV series, which began in 1988 with his attempt to retrace the fictional footsteps of Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days. He has travelled across every continent, visited both poles and, most recently, climbed the Himalayas.
On screen he is seen riding dog sleds, camels, elephants and hot-air balloons. But few viewers will have realised how many air miles he clocked up making the programmes. For the Himalayas series alone, Palin made seven return trips between London and Asia. His share of the carbon dioxide emissions of those flights was 24 tonnes, 12 times more than the average car emits in a year.
Palin recently admitted that he had spent the past 17 years “busy polluting this environment on almost every conceiv- able form of carbon-emitting vehicle”. But he also claimed that his adventures reduced overall greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging people to remain on their sofas.
I would say this is classic Left "do as I say, not as I do" behavior (behaviour?), but the UK's NHS is probably going to sue him now for making Brtions fatter.
Of course, we will still have to pick up the phone:
Canada is installing a hotline that will allow military brass and politicians to talk with their American counterparts during a time of war or in any other crisis.
About $20 million is being spent on what is called the Defence Red Switch Network. The communications system is already running in some locations, including the defence minister's office and other undisclosed sites for the military's senior leadership. The system will provide a link for the Canadian government to various U.S. military headquarters as well as the North American Aerospace Defence Command, the joint U.S.-Canada alliance that monitors air and space approaches to the continent.
So many smart-ass remarks, so little time.
And Michael Brown, of course:
Renovations in state Capitol offices used by Gov. Kathleen Blanco staffers jumped in cost by more than 50 percent partly because the state used a private company and expensive walnut trim and granite countertops, according to a published report.
The project, one part of larger renovations begun long before Hurricane Katrina, had originally been estimated to cost $111,000 but the price tag jumped to just under $300,000, according to a review of documents by The Advocate.
FWIW, this represents a growth rate of 270%, not 50%. But to be fair, math really isn't a strength for Big Media, unless it's simple addition of whole numbers to count dead soldiers.
I haven't been blogging much lately, primarily because time is scarce. But I have been entering some caption contests. Here are my timely, topical, obscure, and laden with pop culture leitmotif entries from Rodney Dill's latest contest over at James Joyner's Outside the Beltway using this image from Reuters/Jim Young:
Speak evil, see evil, hear evil.
Must be a hidden camera, Chuck Schumer’s not in the frame.
Even Senator Leahy is thinking to himself, “My God, is there a question in here somewhere?”
Biden’s caption: “Winkin’, drinkin’ and God.”
Joe Biden: “Judge Alito, I’m confused by your inability to convince me that you’ve never been caught in bed with a live boy or a dead girl.”
Senator Leahy (thinking): WTF?
Senator Kennedy (thinking): Careful Teddy-boy, remember not to show any reaction whenever anyone mentions a dead girl.
Charter members of CASF (Concerned Alumni of San Francisco).
Honestly, who ever thought our biggest problem would be old white men not wanting to send kids off to war?
While Joe Biden serenades himself, Ted Kennedy calculates how many more years he would have had before he was eligible for parole if justice were truly blind, and Patrick Leahy contemplates President Bush’s appointment of two more associate justices to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace Justice Stevens and Justice Ginsberg.
Joe Biden: “I know some of you think we’re pretty bad, but just remember that for all intents and purposes, Barbara Boxer represents one out of every ten Americans. Things can always be worse, and don’t you forget it.”
While Senator Biden asks Judge Alito what kind of tree he would be if he were a tree, Senator Kennedy corrects all his notes by striking all the extra “o”s from Alioto, and Senator Leahy tries to find a happy place where Republicans are found only in reeducation camps and history books.
While Joey Walnuts laments his loss of stature in the DNC family, Crazy Uncle Junior Kennedy takes notes on who hasn’t been showing the proper level of respect and Patty frets that America is watching and knows that, as Tony always says, there has to be consequences.
But here's my favorite, especially for those of us who spent our formative years participating in high school and other amateur productions of Broadway musicals:
Fugue for Dems Scorned (with apologies to Damon Runyan)
It’s in my notes right here,
A scholar I revere,
Says Tribe’s a guy who knows when a penumbra’s near.
Can’t do, can’t do,
Larry says Alito’s through.
If he says Alito’s through,
Can’t do, can’t do.
(SENATOR KENNEDY starts singing his part at this time, while SENATOR BIDEN continues:)
Can’t do, can’t do,
Larry says Alito’s through.
If he says Alito’s through,
Can’t do, can’t do.
(SENATOR LEAHY starts singing his part at this time, while SENATOR BIDEN and SENATOR KENNEDY continue:)
With Larry Tribe I’ll fight
Sammy with all my might.
Of course, if Dujack’s here it’s sweet prince good night.
Likes mud, likes mud,
Senate Democrats like mud.
Senate Democrats fling mud,
Sling mud, like mud.
Now Chucky Schumer here,
Can be a horse’s rear,
He does a great impression that’s real sincere.
Lie one, lie two,
A lie told enough ‘comes true.
Larry says Alito’s through,
Can’t do, can’t do.
Horse’s rear. I got the mud right here.
I’m pickin’ Ballantine,
On ice, this morning’s fine.
It’s got to be at least five ‘til nine.
No chance, no chance,
This extremist has no chance.
If I say he’s got no chance,
No chance. No chance.
Thanks for the Ballantine,
It’s really quite sublime,
Start pouring if you see it fall below this line.
Needs ice, needs ice,
My aide says my drink needs ice.
If he says my drink needs ice,
Needs ice. Needs ice.
Bring me more Ballantine,
My buzz is in decline.
I don’t give a damn if it’s not yet nine.
No chance, no chance,
Alioto’s got no chance.
Ballantine! I got my drink right here.
This is our epitaph,
As people point and laugh,
While we try and pin our failure on devoted staff.
“Flop sweat” – “Flop sweat”
Rusher called our bluff – “Flop sweat”
Enough is enough – “Flop sweat”,
Flop sweat, flop sweat.
And just a minute, boys.
Let’s pull out all our toys,
And make the nominee’s wife cry and lose her poise.
No class. No class.
Smears, lies, and nonsense, no class.
We don’t need no stinkin’ class.
No class. No class.
So write our epitaph, since we failed to gaff
Sam Alito with our posturing silly chaff.
Epitaph! I got the smear right here!
Add your own captions of at OTB. Personally, I think too clever by half rewrites of old show tunes that maintain as much of the original as possible remain woefully underappreciated. But that's just me.
What a sad, sordid spectacle the Alito confirmation hearings were. The world's greatest deliberative body indeed,
One observation: from the Robert's confirmation hearing and the Alito confirmation hearing, it is clear that the Democratic Party, the Left in general, and apparently even a few Republicans want judges to act in a political manner, rather than a judicious one. Despite the nominees stating over and over that they do not want to act in a manner that is dictated by popularity or the application of Solomonaic wisdom, most senators seem to want the justices on the Supreme Court to ignore the law in favor of the "the little guy," affirmative action-like outcome based judgments, or worst yet -- to just "do the right thing" according to the ever-changing mores of the day regardless of what the U.S. Constitution or the laws the Congress passed might actually say.
Are we still a nation of laws, or men, robed or otherwise?
P.S. Just out of curiousity, was anybody else waiting for Senator Kennedy to ask: "Are you now, or have you ever been a member of conservative/racist/sexist/sizist/lookist orgnanization?"
You will take all your immigrants and go home?
How bizzare have things become when this has to be said to appease some senators?
Vicky Drachenberg has fallen ill. I'm sure that she and Matt welcome words of encouragement and support.
Alright, this makes fifteen posts tonight. That ought to keep y'all busy for a while.
But do not pass up Mark Steyn's, It's the Demography, Stupid. It is probably the best thing I've read on the Internet for several years.
In case you are wondering about the title of this post, the unemployment rate fell to 4.9% in December, though the New York Times couldn't find the space to mention this in it's editorial, much less that last month's unemployment numbers were adjusted upward (again) by 100,000.
Responding to yesterday's government report showing paltry job creation in December, Treasury Secretary John Snow urged Americans not to overreact to one month's snapshot, but to focus on the bigger picture. But that picture is not so pretty.
Don't worry America, the NY Times will overreact for you.
In 2005, the economy added about 2 million jobs. At this point in the last recovery, the yearly job-gain total was 3.5 million.
Perhaps because the recession we were recovering from was a little worse. Not to mention Hurrican Katrina and it's aftermath.
The longer view is even uglier. Job growth in the current period is the worst by far of the four comparable economic upturns since the 1960's: 2.7 percent versus the 7.8 percent tallied in the weakest of those earlier recoveries.
This is what is sometimes called lying with statistics. Notice how subtle the switch is from absolute to relative numbers? And why only the last four recoveries? Didn't the fifth and sixth previous recoveries fit the storyline? Exactly how low does the NY Times expect the unemployment rate to go?
It's little wonder, then, that President Bush cherry-picked his way through the latest economic figures in his speech yesterday before the Economic Club of Chicago, rattling off numbers without context. The president's prescription - more tax cuts - has failed in the past to create a robust job market and is still not the right answer.
And the NY Times' vast experience with cherry picking statistics makes them experts at spotting its use. Sour grapes seem to have been replaced with sour cherries. Tax cuts are like the war in Iraq. They both have to be abandoned now before their respective successes become irrefutable -- even to the reality-based community.
For the past two years, average hourly wages and weekly salaries have been flat or falling. Americans' borrowing binge has masked the decline in earning power, but good jobs and rising wages are essential for widespread prosperity. Without them, economic growth has become increasingly concentrated among corporations, shareholders and the top 20 percent or so of earners. The holiday shopping season illustrates this situation: retailers that cater to lower- and middle-income shoppers, like Wal-Mart, Sears and Kohl's had disappointing results, while higher-end chains, like Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, thrived.
Shades of Fox Butterfield -- it couldn't be that ever more American's have ever more money in their pockets now, could it? And anyway, when did the NY Times suddenly decide that Wal-Mart's success was a good thing?
Can a leaf fall to earth prematurely without it being President Bush's fault?
Since the Bush administration took office in 2001, it has been more lenient toward mining companies facing serious safety violations, issuing fewer and smaller major fines and collecting less than half of the money that violators owed, a Knight Ridder Newspapers investigation has found.
At one point last year, the Mine Safety and Health Administration fined a coal company a scant $440 for a "significant and substantial" violation that ended in the death of a Kentucky man. The firm, International Coal Group Inc., is the same company that owns the Sago mine in West Virginia, where 12 workers died earlier this week.
The $440 fine remains unpaid.
Relaxed mine safety enforcement is widespread, according to a Knight Ridder analysis of federal records and interviews with former and current federal safety officials, even though deaths and injuries from mining accidents have hovered near record low levels in the past few years.
What, what, what? Deaths are at record low levels? You only have to read down another 23 paragraphs to find out that:
It doesn't have anything to do with who's the president because, actually, the people who are doing those fines are apolitical," Gooch said. "They're employees that are covered by the federal civil service, and their own union, by the way, so they compute the fines the way they come out."
Mining industry officials defended the Bush administration and pointed to recent years of record low deaths and injuries in mining as the most important numbers.
For coal mining, 2005 and 2002 were record low years for fatalities. Only 22 people were killed last year in coal mining deaths - down from 47 in 1995. The number of workers killed in all mines hit consecutive record lows of 56 and 55 in 2003 and 2004, respectively, but increased slightly to 57 in 2005.
But small fines are not being paid! Proper respect for the authority of government policy must be restored at all costs -- let's get some perspective here people. Those miners minors wouldn't be orphans if Bush had made that coal company pay it's fine.
Just to be clear, what happened in Sago was a terrible tragedy. The people in that community have my deepest sympathy. And the vultures trying to score political points with their deaths need to be thrown down the mine shafts. Bastards.
Uh, I mean let them commit suicide. Do you think that is what she has in mind?
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in an interview published days before her first visit to the United States, said Washington should close its Guantanamo Bay prison camp and find other ways of dealing with terror suspects.
I mean, that's what happened to Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, and Jan-Carl Raspe.
You must not subvert the dominant paradigm:
HUNDREDS of thousands of years worth of climate records in ice cores show there is nothing unusual in a global warming trend over the past 25 years.
Marine geophysicist Bob Carter, a professor at Queensland's James Cook University and leading climate change sceptic, said the effects of human activity would barely register in the long-term history of climate change.
Take me to your leader.
We certainly want to ensure that Ahmadinejad and his little buddies can prepare their enriched uranium safely and efficiently:
U.N. atomic inspectors have arrived in Iran to supervise Tehran's resumption of nuclear fuel research, a senior Iranian official said on Saturday.
Am I the only one who wonders if the U.N. excludes Jews from the IAEA inspection teams as a matter of policy so as not to offend?
Would that our politicians could see things so clearly:
AN Iraqi who is one of the favourites to become the country’s next prime minister has said that Saddam Hussein should have been summarily executed and warned that his continuing trial is having a negative effect on the country.
And then have the balls to actually say it.
"You have to wash the blood off your hands and get off your apathetic butts and do something," she told several hundred people crowding a union hall to overflowing.
Cindy then speaks again:
"Anybody could do what we did in Crawford, Texas. We just went down and sat down," Sheehan said. "We have to get so freakin' fed up with what's going on that we all go and sit down."
So, all you progessive activists should do what Cindy says -- get off your apathetic butts and sit down!
Think globally, sit locally!
Today's Madison, WI, Capital Times editorial:
Today marks a critical turning point in the debate about holding President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney accountable for the deliberate deceptions, failed strategies and assaults on the Constitution that have been associated with their ill-fated invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Across the United States, in more than 135 communities, town hall meetings are being held to call for extracting U.S. troops from the quagmire and to explore how best to censure Bush, Cheney and their aides for the wrongdoing in which they have engaged.
Many of the events will discuss the rationale for impeaching the president and vice president, and the Madison town hall meeting, which runs from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Madison Labor Temple, 1602 South Park St., is one of them.
Organized by local veterans and co-sponsored by a broad cross-section of local political, labor and community groups, the meeting offers an opportunity to start 2006 right: by recognizing that the best way to end the war is by calling to account the dark players who launched it in our name but without our informed consent.
It takes years of therapy and/or the prolonged application of some strong pharmaceuticals to be this delusional. I'm impressed.
That's wierd, from his rhetoric I thought Ahmadinejad was the one acting like a bully. But I am curious, does Ariel Sharon's condition make Israel more or less likely to do what must be done?
Shouldn't that be "Reporter Questions Legal Basis for Bush's Spying Program"?
President Bush's rationale for authorizing eavesdropping on American citizens without warrants rests on questionable legal ground and "may represent an exercise of presidential power at its lowest ebb," according to a formal Congressional analysis released today.
And that would be illegal because..., because..., Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? I don't know, maybe there is some mention of illegality in "The Report" but since there are no other excerpts from "The Report" in the story, I guess I just have to take the reporter's word for it. Or I can put my faith in someone who did read the report and isn't a reporter, though to be fair, John Hinderaker is calling the Washington Post out rather than the NY Times.
Stephen F. Hayes writes:
THE FORMER IRAQI REGIME OF Saddam Hussein trained thousands of radical Islamic terrorists from the region at camps in Iraq over the four years immediately preceding the U.S. invasion, according to documents and photographs recovered by the U.S. military in postwar Iraq. The existence and character of these documents has been confirmed to THE WEEKLY STANDARD by eleven U.S. government officials.
Clearly, there needs to be a special prosecutor to look into the leaks by the these eleven government officials. Don't worry about the NY Times editorial that says these people have to be protected since the NY Times would have to publicize this story first.
Gloabal warming strikes again!
Japan was bracing for more snow on Friday after some of the heaviest snowfall on record that has left 57 people dead and paralysed transport.
Almost 4 metres (13 ft) of snow has piled up in the worst-hit areas of Niigata near the Japan Sea coast, though the snowiest season of the year is yet to come.
Senate Democrats have put into place a plan that includes one last push to take down the nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito as he heads into his confirmation hearing next week, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.
Senate Democrats intend to zero in on Alito’s alleged enthusiastic membership to an organization, they will charge, that was sexist and racist!
Democrats hope to tie Alito to Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP).
Alito will testify that he joined CAP as a protest over Princeton policy that would not allow the ROTC on campus.
THE DRUDGE REPORT has obtained a Summer 1982 article from CAP’s PROSPECT magazine titled “Smearing The Class Of 1957” that key Senate Democrats believe could thwart his nomination!
In the article written by then PROSPECT editor Frederick Foote, Foote writes: “The facts show that, for whatever reasons, whites today are more intelligent than blacks.”
Senate Democrats expect excerpts like this written by other Princeton graduates will be enough to torpedo the Alito nomination.
One Democrat Hill staffer involved in their strategy declared, “Put a fork in Scalito. It doesn’t matter that Alito didn’t write it, it doesn’t matter that Alito wasn’t that active in the group, Foote wrote it in CAP’s magazine and we are going to make Alito own it.”
In apparently unrelated news, Congressperson Louise Slaughter (D-Safe Seat) assured America today that her party would:
"...uphold the highest standards of integrity."
Integrity must have alternate definitions of which I am unaware.