As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Delay (no, not that one)

I guess it'll be at least a week before John Bolton is confirmed as UN Ambassador. The math is hard to favor anything but confirmation at this point, but I would say that holding this up on the floor is a sensible idea. Why? Because the White House and the NSA has refused to release classified documents (specifically, documents related to Senate testimony on Syria, and NSA intercepts reportedly received by Bolton) to the Foreign Relations Committee. Not just Democrats on the committee, but Richard Lugar, the chairman. And Pat Roberts, chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

This is an excerpt of the Biden/Dodd letter sent to their colleagues in the Senate:

During the past four years, Mr. Bolton requested the identity of U.S. persons on ten occasions. There may be nothing improper in this; or there may be something highly improper. But we won't know unless we see the very same information shown to Mr. Bolton. So far that has not occurred. The Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence were shown the intercepts, but not the identities of the U.S. persons.

In refusing to provide the information about the Syria testimony, the State Department has asserted that it does not believe that the request is "specifically tied to the issues being deliberated by the Committee." In other words, the Executive Branch is deciding what it thinks is relevant to the Senate's review. That's unacceptable. In the case of the NSA intercepts, no one in the Executive Branch has even tried to explain why the chairman and ranking member of the Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees are not allowed to see information that was made available to Mr. Bolton and even to his staff. That, too, is unacceptable.

The refusal of the Executive Branch to provide information relevant to the nomination is a threat to the Senate's constitutional power to advise and consent. The only way to protect that power is to continue to demand that the information be provided to the Senate. The only means of forcing the Administration to cooperate is to prevent a final vote on the nomination today. We urge to you vote no on cloture.

This is about the balance of power in the government, executive versus legislative. Over the past 40 years or so the executive branch has co-opted more and more power from the legislative, so much so that the Founding Fathers probably wouldn't even recognize this government. This waned somewhat during the Nixon and Clinton investigations, but has returned with a vengeance under this new leadership.

I thought we learned during Watergate that no President is above the law. It is completely reasonable for the Senate to request and receive these documents. They may show that Bolton lied to the Foreign Relations Committee during his testimony. They may show that Bolton was surveilling people who didn't share his views. Or they might show nothing. The point is that the integrity of the legislative branch is at stake. This isn't partisan small potatoes; this is about what kind of government we'll have in this country; a rule by fiat from a small cabal in the White House, or three fully independent, equal branches. Consolidating power in the executive branch has been the MO of every President, Democratic or Republican, for many a year. It does the country no good.


Help me on this one

I find George Voinovich's impassioned speech on the Senate floor yesterday against the confirmation of John Bolton to be somewhat noble, an expression of conscience. However, help me out with one thing: couldn't he have ended the Bolton nomination simply by voting "No" to send him to the floor without recommendation?

It's like letting somebody eat all your food and then crying because you're hungry. Enabler, thy name is Voinovich.


Go Pay For Your Own Woody

For those who may think all I do is agree lockstep with liberals, here's some smart legislation from a Republican governor:

Governor George Pataki has suspended all public funding for Viagra, following a report by New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi that close to 200 Level-3 sex offenders received Viagra paid for with taxpayer money.

The governor says the ban will remain in effect until legislation is passed preventing sex offenders from getting Medcaid-reimbursed sexual dysfunction drugs.

OK, I mostly agree with him. Whether or not you're a sex offender shouldn't be the only reason the state shouldn't be funding Viagra. How about because it's not an illness? Erectile dysfunction (also known as GETTING FREAKING OLD) is one of these sham diseases that has been marketed to Americans by Pfizer without anyone stopping to wonder if the billions spent on it should actually be going to curing people of life-threatening illnesses. I'm not saying octagenerians don't need love too: just that if they want the nookie, they can go ahead and pay for it. The demographics for ED drugs are older and affluent. The fact that there are about 20 of these drugs on the market should piss you off as a taxpayer. Your tax dollars went into R&D for no societal benefit whatsoever.

The sex offender thing is a red herring, in my opinion. Viagra on Medicaid is ridiculous no matter who you're selling it to. other thing: in terms of improving sexual pleasure and sexual performance, is there any material difference between Viagra and Ecstasy? If not, why isn't E on the Medicaid plan?


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Retraction of the the retraction on page B59

I'm amazed this is getting any coverage at all, given the free press chill in the air, but apparently, all that outrage about Newsweek printing the story about interrogators flushing the Koran down the toilet? Funny story. Turns out it's true:

The conflicting accounts of how U.S. military guards handled Muslim prisoners' Qurans at Guantanamo Bay show two sides of a psychological war between the terror suspects and their holders.

Detainees have claimed guards used the holy books as a weapon to break their will to resist interrogation. The Pentagon asserts that some detainees fabricated their claims in a calculated effort to agitate the wider prison population and undermine the control of the U.S. military.

In the latest disclosure, declassified FBI reports showed that detainees at the U.S. naval prison in Cuba told FBI and military interrogators on a number of occasions as early as April 2002 three months after the first prisoners arrived at the makeshift prison that guards abused them and desecrated the Quran.

"Their behavior is bad," one detainee is quoted as saying of his guards during an interrogation by an FBI special agent on July 22, 2002. "About five months ago the guards beat the detainees. They flushed a Quran in the toilet."

The report was obtained by the ACLU through yet another Freedom of Information Act request. Why do Freedom of Information Act requests hate freedom?

Anyone who was paying attention the last couple of years knew that detainees were making these statements. That doesn't make them true, but that wasn't even what Newsweek claimed. Newsweek said the allegations would be in the upcoming Southern Command report. Turns out it was in reports dating back three years.

Still want to play that "Newsweek lied, people died" game, Michelle Malkin?

Scotty McClellan certainly doesn't. Because he came out and flatly denied ever saying that the Newsweek story cost people their lives. I know, get up off the floor. It's ridiculous. But read this:

Q: One other question. Karzai was quite definite in saying that he didn't believe that the violence in Afghanistan was directly tied to the Newsweek article about Koran desecration. Yet, from this podium, you have made that link. So --

McCLELLAN: Actually, I don't think you're actually characterizing what was said accurately.

Q: By whom?

McCLELLAN: As I said last week, and as President Karzai said today, and as General Myers had said previously, the protest may well have been pre-staged. The discredited report was damaging. It was used to incite violence. But those who espouse an ideology of hatred and oppression and murder don't need an excuse to incite violence. But the reports from the region showed how this story was used to incite violence.

Apparently it now takes exactly one week for statements to get flushed down the memory hole. How much clearer could you be than saying "people have lost their lives," like on May 16? Or "People did lose their lives," on May 17? Do you think that if it doesn't show up in the paper today, we won't remember? I know we all lead busy lives, and Paris Hilton has a new Carl's Jr. commercial out and everything, but there are these things called transcripts, and when you say "people did lose their lives" in answering a question about the Newsweek article, you can't come back the next week and say "I never said that people lost their lives" because of the Newsweek article.

Clearly we all know what the next move for this White House will be. Stopping these goddamn Freedom of Information Act requests! They're clearly the problem.

Actually, they're doing just that. According to this diary at Kos, a recent ruling has ensured that FOIA requests will be costly, time-consuming, and nearly impossible to complete. Particularly costly, as the ruling prohibits those requesting documents from being reimbursed by the government for attorney fees. It's the classic corporate endgame of making it too expensive to sue them.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Enemies List

If Republicans allege that the tree-huggers, the baby killers, the bleeding hearts, the latte drinkers are so out of touch with mainstream Murka, then why do they spend so much time on them? And I don't just mean talking about them, I mean surveilling them. This is from an ACLU press release:

Documents Obtained by ACLU Expose FBI and Police Targeting of Political Groups

WASHINGTON -- The American Civil Liberties Union charged today that the FBI and local police are engaging in intimidation based on political association and are improperly investigating law-abiding human rights and advocacy groups, according to documents obtained through a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

"Since when did feeding the homeless become a terrorist activity?" asked ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson. "When the FBI and local law enforcement target groups like Food Not Bombs under the guise of fighting terrorism, many Americans who oppose government policies will be discouraged from speaking out and exercising their rights."

The ACLU charged that the FBI is wrongfully withholding thousands of pages of documents, and today filed a lawsuit in federal court to compel the FBI to comply with the FOIA requests. The complaint seeks files kept by the FBI on the ACLU, as well as Greenpeace, United for Peace and Justice, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

The ACLU said that the few documents received to date through the December FOIA requests shed light on the FBI's misuse of Joint Terrorism Task Forces to engage in political surveillance. In Colorado, one memo indicates an ongoing federal interest in Food Not Bombs, a group that provides free vegetarian food to hungry people and protests war and poverty.

This comes right from the White House and everybody knows it. For those who think that the FBI is an apolitical organization, and are simply protecting the nation from terrorism, why don't you read up on a little program called COINTELPRO. Because it's apparently back.

COINTELPRO's mission was to destabilize progressive movements in America from within, from Black Nationalism to the "New Left." This is a similarly naked attempt to intimidate political enemies of this White House to further a permanent Republican majority. It's gone on largely under the radar, under the comforting sheath of the war on terror. And anybody who isn't down with the Administration's program is fair game. Even people of faith:

Reverend Raymond Payne, a United Methodist Minister from Russell, Kentucky is among the individuals seeking FBI documents. Last October, Canadian border officials interrogated Reverend Payne for more than an hour as he attempted to enter Canada for a vacation with his wife. According to Reverend Payne, the officials informed him that the interrogation was triggered because he is the subject of an FBI file. Reverend Payne has never been arrested, been charged with a crime, or even participated in a protest.

But he's not the right kind of Reverend, I guess, so he deserves to be detained and watched.

I hope that by writing this, the FBI will open up a file on me, so I can join the aforementioned groups like Greenpeace and PETA, along with Martin Luther King, John Lennon, The Congress of Racial Equality, David Dellinger, Jean Seberg, and others who have had this honor bestowed on them.


Get Over It

I see that Bill Frist is sending up the name of William Myers for cloture despite the deal made last night by the bipartisan coalition of Senators striking Myers from the possible list of confirmed judges (I guess Fristy is using the "put-my-fingers-in-my-ears-and-yell-'La La La!!! I can't hear you!!!'" technique of governance). And I hear tell that the right blogosphere is raising holy hell about the aforementioned deal.

I don't understand why they just can't get over it. Why can't they see that a majority of Senators voted to keep the institution the way it is, protective of minority rights and a model of consensus-building? See, there was an accountability moment for the Nuclear Option. That moment has passed, and continuing to squabble about it just hurts the country.

For the good of the nation, Republicans need to stop whining, get over their loss and return to the business of serving the interests of the American people.

(See what I did there? No? Then you haven't been living in this country the last five years, and hearing this kind of arrogant, disdainful nonsense coming out of the mouths of every Republican within earshot. Doesn't feel too good being on the other side, does it?)


Cooler Heads

As we all know, the definition of a compromise is something that both sides are unhappy about. The difference is the Republican majority is not only unused to compromise; it has no status in their worldview. They're going freaking crazy on the other side right now. I haven't seen that much whine since my last visit to Napa.

It's important to note that this compromise preserving the right to filibuster really did happen outside the control of the Senate leadership on both sides. I know both Reid and Frist would have preferred a vote (provided they won it). This was our second-best option. This was Frist's worst nightmare. He doesn't even get an up-or-down vote on up-or-down votes.

The minority party doesn't lose the right to filibuster. Everyone knows this was a pretext for a Supreme Court fight. If Democrats filibuster a nominee there it will be even MORE difficult to go nuclear when the whole nation is watching. We won the frame debate among the limited group paying attention to this fight, and we'll win that one too. Furthermore, legislative filibusters are preserved (see Social Security). Non-judicial nominations are preserved (see John Bolton).

And Democrats have actually stood for something noble, protecting the rights of the minority (and to an extent, free speech), while keeping Republicans on the record about stuffing judicial nominees by other means, like bottling up in committee. Should they still have control of the chamber in 2008 with a Democratic President, it becomes harder to pull those shenanigans.

Frist could have only won this fight with full up-or-down votes; he didn't get them. Brown (and Owen, for that matter) is not a given to even win a final vote.

I notice there is some grumbling on our side. We're 45 strong in the Senate; did anyone actually expect us to get everything we ever hoped and dreamed for? Anything with the word "compromise" in it is a huge loss for Republicans.


Sunday, May 22, 2005

Onward Christian Soldiers

In case you can't see that, it says "New Testament" on the barrel of the tank's gun. This photo wasn't surreptitiously taken by some renegade "liberal media' outlet and posted online. It comes from the Defense Department's own web site, and it's an official USMC photo. They even BRAG in the caption that this tank is known as the New Testament.

I guess it's just blasting some good Christian charity through the homes and schools of ordinary Iraqis.

It's a good thing Newsweek retracted their story about desecration of the Muslim religion, because we wouldn't want anybody in the Islamic world getting the wrong impression that this war is a crusade or a clash of civilizations or anything like that.