Saturday, January 28, 2006

Pundits gone wild!

The American supporters of Israel have gotten over their initial shock of the Hamas earthquake and now they're really on a roll. Last night on Washington Week, Janine Zacharia was the point person on the Hamas issue and she was literally breathless trying to get the idea out that there was no way Israel or the US could possibly deal with Hamas---ever. The "peace process" is "impossible" now that Hamas is in control, she said. What she forgot to mention was that Israel hasn't participated in the peace process in the past four years either. Barbara Slavin on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon had an answer for that little problem, though. According to her, the Israelis have had to act unilaterally because the Palestinians have "such difficulties conceding land." That's a fine idea, unless you take into consideration that the Israelis were the aggressors in the 1967 war and every UN resolution since then has said Israel can't build on the land it took---and oh yeah, by the way, they have to give it back. The Palestinians have problems conceding land mainly because it's theirs to begin with. But since the Palestinians can't produce a viable "partner for peace" to negotiate with---even Abu Mazen isn't good enough---the Israelis just have to define their borders by themselves and if East Jerusalem just happens to be a part of what Israel says it wants, then too bad---to hell with final status talks.

Slavin said that even if the US and EU cut off funding to the PA the Palestinians would probably be able to get money from elsewhere, "unfortunately." I like that "unfortunately" part, as if the Palestinian people, who are already dirt poor, should have to suffer for electing Hamas. That's what David Brooks, my favorite pundit, was proposing on the NewsHour last night. (Mark Shields, as usual, was hunched over the table like he was bellying-up-to-the-bar.) Brooks said the Palestinians had to learn a lesson about democracy by living with the consequences of their decisions. See, next time they should vote for who the Israelis tell them to. Silly Palestinians, when will they ever learn?

Naturally, the Israeli/American mainstream media is getting a boost from the Palestinians themselves. This snippet from the AP demonstrates this pretty well: "Gaza City, Gaze Strip---Thousands of Fatah supporters burned cars and shot in the air across the Gaza Strip yesterday, demanding the resignation of corrupt party officials." I'm all for the ousting of corrupt party officials, but they have to cut out the gun fire and car burning. Someone ought to sit both the leaders of Fatah and Hamas down and explain to them that their followers look like crazy people to the rest of the world and everything Israelis say about them is reinforced every time they do stuff like this.

Oh, what the hell, both sides over there are ridiculous; I don't know why I bother getting so worked up about this stuff. It doesn't matter what you say one way or the other on this issue because you're either going to be called a Zionist apologist or an anti-Semite. Sanity need not apply in the Middle East!

Oh, Canada.

In addition to her looney views on the Palestinians and Hamas, Barbara Slavin predicted warmer relations with Canada, now that they have a "conservative" in Ottawa. Where have I heard that before?

USA Today 12/12/03 "(Paul)Martin, considered slightly more conservative than Chretien on some issues, has expressed interest in improving ties with Washington."

The CBC writes that another right winger Paul Weyrich says, the Canadians "are 'so liberal and hedonistic' that Stephen Harper can't hope to change their philosophy of 'cultural Marxism' right away. Given time, however, the Conservative prime minister-designate may straighten them out." Let's hope so.

Where do these crazy people get these warped ideas about Canada? Any PM who isn't the last one will have a better relationship with Bush, but they never do. No Canadian PM is going to "adopt a more reasonable view of the United States," as long as W. is in office, if they want to keep their job. That's called democracy.

By the way, didn't Harper just tell Bush to butt out of it's artic waters?

"Conservative leader Stephen Harper said Thursday he would assert more strongly Canada's northern territorial claims following reports that a US submarine recently traveled unannounced through Canadian Arctic waters. 'The single most important duty of the federal government is to protect and defend our national sovereignty,' said Harper. 'There are new and disturbing reports of American nuclear submarines passing though Canadian waters without obtaining the permission of -- or even notifying -- the Canadian government." [Democratic Underground]

Well, that and soft wood lumber ought to get us back to the status quo with the great White North in no time, I predict.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Democrats playing politics with secrets!!!!!!

I think we should all keep it in mind that, it's the Democrats who are using W.'s domestic spying program for political gain, not the Republicans. I agree with Senator Pat Roberts when he says, "I think we can all agree that intelligence issues, especially in the middle of a war, should not be used as fodder for political advantage. Doing so is unnecessary, unwise and potentially dangerous." Here, here! Bully!

This coming from such a prominent Republican Senator just reinforces the fact that W.'s photo-op at the NSA yesterday was certainly not a political stunt. Inviting a bunch of reporters into the most secret of secret intelligence gathering agencies was just his way of letting the employees at the NSA know he supports them "a hundred percent." (I'm sure morale at the NSA was just sky high when W. showed up with his three ring media circus.)

The AP reported that, before reporters could follow W. inside the NSA building, they had to check their phones, pagers, laptops and wireless e-mail devices---all of which were probably being tapped---at the door. Journalists were allowed to bring cameras and video equipment but, "were allowed to take photos only of Bush..." (Well, naturally, that was the whole point of this absurd exercise.) Naturally, for reasons of national security, reporters were only able to follow the president on his NSA tour for a few minutes, "as he walked through the high-tech Threat Operations Center, where intelligence experts monitor internet traffic." Hmmm...Threat Operations Center: that doesn't sound like the kind of place you wouldn't want reporters with cameras roaming around.

After his tour, W. spoke from a podium set up in a hall way and warned everyone that OBL wanted to attack us again. "When he says he's going to hurt the American people again, or try to, he means it. I take it seriously, and the people at the NSA take it seriously,"

Then why, one might ask, haven't you gone out and actually got him and why is the NSA wasting its time sending the FBI on wild goose chases? (My God, it's been four years; there are only so many caves in western Pakistan!)

Now, not to say that W. is in a bubble or anything, he knows what's on the minds of the American people: He understands that, "there's some in America who say, 'Well, this can't be true there are still people willing to attack.' All I would ask them to do is listen to the words of Osama Bin Laden and take him seriously."

I'm confused; I thought they said we shouldn't listen to, or rebroadcast, his tapes because they could contain secret coded messages for his agents in the US? Is that out the window now that the administration is desperately trying to talk its way out if an impeachment? (Are we sure OBL isn't on Rove's payroll?)

By the way, who are these people who W. says don't think we could be attacked again? Are they part of the 3% of every poll who are always undecided? I mean, who told W. there are people out there who think no one wants to blow us up? Sometimes he says things and you just have to wonder what on earth he's thinking about and where he gets his information from. Well, anyway, the bottom-line is: There's nothing W. won't do to protect the American people and by "American people" I mean his political ass.

Moving on to another world leader with delusions of grandeur:

It looks like Vlad "the Impaler" Putin's new bastard in Chechnya is proposing polygamy as a way to repopulate his war torn republic. Ramzan Kadyrov, the first deputy prime minister of Chechnya, says, "Chechnya needs that because it has a war and, statistically, the number of women is 10 percent larger than the number of men....The law of Shariah allows this, it does not run counter to it. Therefore, each man who can provide for four wives should do it. It should be allowed" The Itar-Tass news agency reports that Kadyrov says men should be legally allowed to take several wives. Perhaps, if he and his Russian masters hadn't killed all of the male population, they wouldn't need polygamy.

Maybe, we should hook this guy with the Sciri in Iraq. I hear their new constitution basically is based on Shariah law as well. Girls can now be married at the age of nine and men are free to beat their wives to their hearts content.

Tossing gays out of the military is getting expensive:


"WASHINGTON - Hundreds of highly skilled troops, including many translators, have left the armed forces because of the Pentagon’s rules on gays, at a cost of nearly $200 million, the first congressional study on the impact of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy says. The estimated cost was for recruiting and training replacements from 1994 through 2003 for the 9,488 troops discharged from the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps because of the policy, the General Accountability Office estimated."

Are we really trying to win this war or not?

[Check out my posts at LTAD for more on Hamas.]

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The president needs an Enabling Act!

It's not as if there seems to be a death row inmate being exonerated every other day in the U.S., even after numerous trials and appeals, but now the Army wants the power to execute Guantanamo detainees, who never had a trial and don't even know what they're accused of.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - New US military rules mean that executions of condemned "war on terror" detainees could be carried out at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, the US Army said. The new rules authorize the army to set the location for executions "imposed by military courts-martial or military tribunals and authorized by the president of the United States."

"Enemy combatants could be affected by this regulation," said Sheldon Smith, a spokesman for the US Army.

I don't think there is anything imminent but eventually there might be," said Richard Deiter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington. "I suspect it is aimed at the military tribunals in Guantanamo. They don't want to bring people from Guantanamo and put them on US soil," he said.

Of course not, because then they might be under the jurisdiction of the courts and they don't want that. Senator Lindsay Graham's amendment to the Military Authorization Bill recently signed by W., which ironically also contained John McCain's anti-torture bill (which W. has decided to ignore)was, according to the Center for constitutional Rights:

"Brought up on the floor of the Senate without committee deliberations and virtually no advance warning to the American people that it was happening...The Graham amendment will create a thousand points of darkness across the globe where the United States will be free to hold people indefinitely without a hearing and beyond the reach of U.S. law and the checks and balances of the courts ensuring in our Constitution. The last time this country suspended habeas corpus was for the internment of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II, a travesty that is now universally recognized as a blot on our nationÂ?s history. The purpose of the writ of habeas corpus has always been to relieve those wrongfully held from the oppression of unchecked executive power. The most reliable way to determine whether someone is properly held or a victim of injustice is to have a right to judicial review of the detention. This has been understood at least since the proclamation of the Magna Carta in 1215."

The Magna Carta! That dusty old thing? We're in a new war, NEW, NEW, NEW! We're afraid of our own shadows, we need a strong president who will protect us from more Reichstag fires!

We need a NEW Enabling Act! How about something like this?

The Reichstag has enacted the following law, which has the agreement of the Reichsrat and meets the requirements for a constitutional amendment, which is hereby announced:

Artikel 2

Laws enacted by the government of the Reich may deviate from the constitution as long as they do not affect the institutions of the Reichstag and the Reichsrat. The rights of the President remain undisturbed.

Democracy on the march!

It looks like George Bush's effort to democratize the Middle East is going according to plan today in Gaza and the West Bank. (With a little financial help to weight the outcome)Palestinians are coming out in droves to vote for Hamas. It appears though, our good democratic friends the Israelis are preventing Palestinians from voting in East Jerusalem.

The BBC reports:

"Over 100,000 Palestinians living in Jerusalem are eligible to vote in the Palestinian election but just 6,300 residents are allowed to cast their ballot inside the city. The remainder have to travel outside Jerusalem's boundaries.

Local Palestinian election observers claimed they had not been allowed to enter the post office. But European Election monitors could be seen standing inside the post office."

The ballots in these post offices are not secret and the concern is that Palestinians who might want to vote for Hamas will be retaliated against when the international media and election monitors leave. I don't know, doesn't sound very democratic to me.

I think the main problem is, that the Israelis think East Jerusalem is a part of their capital---they're the only ones---and they aren't about to allow the Palestinians who live there to vote, especially not for Hamas. Once again the Israelis are creating facts on the ground and it's unlikely you'll be hearing much about this gross interference of the democratic process from Condi Rice who will no doubt praise the Israelis for their cooperation. At first, you'll remember, the Israelis refused to allow the Palestinians vote in East Jerusalem at all and it was only because of "pressure" from Condi that they relented. Of course, they didn't say at the time they were going to make it impossible for the vote to go ahead, but that will all be forgotten as the news comes in that Hamas is now a part of the PA government.

I heard some nonsense on an NPR newscast this morning that people were bracing for the take over of the PA by Hamas, but from what I've been reading over the past few weeks, that's the last thing Hamas wants. The PA is such a mess and the chances of Israel dealing with Hamas as the legitimate leaders of the Palestinians is so remote, that the best place for them is in the opposition.

Regardless of where they wind up in the government, the calculus of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict has changed dramatically. From the view point of the US government, it's going to be difficult to direct financial aid to the Palestinians because Hamas is a banned terrorist organization and Israel says they might stop transferring taxes that are owed to the PA, but at some point reality needs to set in and all the sides have to figure out a convenient fiction of some sort to move on with the peace process, such as it is.

If we could do business with that "statesman" Moammar Gaddafi on his nukes and do deals for Exxon/Mobil with him---while at the same time he was plotting to assassinate Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah---and we can look the other way while the Saudis persecute Christians, decapitate homosexuals and gouge eyes out, we can certainly come up with some formula to talk to Hamas, maybe through a third party. Besides, the Al Aqsa brigades, the militant arm of Fatah, are the ones not honoring the cease-fire signed last year; Hamas actually is; more or less.

Hopefully, all the militant wings in the PA will eventually put down the guns and pick up the pen and get on with it. The more reasonable they act the more radical the Israelis are going to look as the Gush Emunim and their ilk rampage in the West Bank. Violence hasn't worked on either side, so it's time for a new plan. I think it's a hopeful sign that such a radical bunch as Hamas is willing to go the political route. And they're soon going to find out that as much as the average Palestinian may rely on their social programs and admire the fact that they're not corrupt, they are not going to be into the Sharia side of the bargain. Hamas is going to have to tone that whole thing down, because the Palestinians are pretty much secular---about a third of them are Christians to boot---and they're not going to have much patience with a bunch of self appointed Mullahs telling them what to do.

If I were in the US State Dept., I'd be much more worried about our Shia buddies in the Iraqi government who have already set up their morals police squads in the southern provinces and are going around whipping woman for not be covered from head to toe and are killing barbers for shaving beards. As we gnash our teeth about Hamas winning power through the democratic process, let's keep in mind that the winners of that "landmark" election in Iraq are turning into the Shiite version of the Taliban.

Foresight should have been 20/20

Remember after the 9/11 attacks when Condi was telling everyone, "I don't think anybody could have predicted ... that they would try to use an airplane as a missile," ---despite all the evidence to the contrary---and she kept repeating the lie until she had to testify to the 9/11 commission under oath and then she said she had "misspoke?" Well, now it turns out the administration had had ample warning that Katrina could devastate New Orleans days before it actually struck, despite what W. said four days after the hurricane that, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm."

The WaPo reports:

In the 48 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit, the White House received detailed warnings about the storm's likely impact, including eerily prescient predictions of breached levees, massive flooding, and major losses of life and property, documents show.

The NISAC paper warned that a storm of Katrina's size would "likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching" and specifically noted the potential for levee failures along Lake Pontchartrain. It predicted economic losses in the tens of billions of dollars, including damage to public utilities and industry that would take years to fully repair. Initial response and rescue operations would be hampered by disruption of telecommunications networks and the loss of power to fire, police and emergency workers, it said.

But not to worry, White House spokesman Trent Duffy says, "No one was pleased with the response by the government -- federal, state or local. We have already taken steps to be better prepared for future hurricanes, as you saw in the response to the hurricanes that followed Katrina."

Yeah, right, ask my parents about that.

India recieves threat from US:

In a new move that's just sure to win us new friends in New Dehli the AP reports:

NEW DELHI - A landmark nuclear deal between India and the United States will "die" in Washington if New Delhi supports Iran at the upcoming meeting of the U.N. atomic watchdog agency, the U.S. ambassador said Wednesday.

The deal, seen as a cornerstone of the emerging alliance between India and the United States, "will die in the Congress," he said....After Mulford's comments, India reiterated that the two issues should remain separate...."We categorically reject any attempt to link (Iran) to the proposed Indo-U.S. agreement on civil nuclear energy cooperation, which stands on its own merits," Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said in a statement..."The position that India will take on this issue at the IAEA will be based on India's own independent judgment."

Yeah, good luck with that approach. Are W. & Co. trying to alienate the rest of the world or are they just stupid?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

More speeches, more nonsense:

W. is back on the road again speechifying' and Oh-pinin' on Iraq and his domestic spying program. Yesterday in Kansas he said he'd talked to a whole bunch of lawyers and they said it was legal to make an end 'round the courts to spy on American's communications. He said, "If I wanted to break the law, why was I briefing Congress?"

Of course, he really didn't brief Congress, which is the rub. The Congressional Research Service in their second opinion on the NSA spying program said the president appeared to have violated the National Security Act of 1947 by limiting its briefings to congressional leaders. Dan Eggen in the WaPo wrote on the 19th that, "The amended 1947 law requires president Bush to keep all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees 'fully and currently informed' of such intelligence activities as the domestic spying effort." National security specialist Alfred Cummings wrote in the CRS memo that the law requires the president to inform both committees, not just the leaders, because the program involves intelligence gathering. If the program is considered to be covert, the so-called "Gang of Eight," House and Senate leaders including the heads of the intelligence panels, would have to be informed. Egan writes, "The administration can also withhold some operational detail in rare circumstances, but that does not apply to the existence of entire programs. Unless the White House contends the program is covert action, the memo said, 'limiting congressional notification of the NSA program to the Gang of Eight...would appear to be inconsistent with the law.'" [WaPo]

I don't know, W. might want to think about firing "a whole bunch of lawyers" because someone gave him bad advice. His old lawyer, Alberto Gonzalez, is making the rounds on the talk shows and in speeches claiming that the president has the perfect right to do anything he wants based on the congressional authorization to use force after 9/11, but a lot of the congressmen who signed off on it say they never gave the OK for domestic spying. The previous CRS report found no evidence that congress intended to authorize warrentless wiretaps in its 2001 resolution, either. It seems like W. & Co. want it both ways: On the one hand some presidential powers are "beyond Congress' ability to regulate," according to a 42-page DOJ legal analysis sent up to the Hill last week, but on the other hand, authorization from the Congress to "use all means necessary" "places the president at the zenith of his powers in authorizing NSA activities." So, when Congress givith, the president likes the law, but when Congress taketh away again, then he's a unitary power above Congress and the courts. [Interestingly, W. isn't arguing FISA is an unconstitutional infringement on presidential power, which the law is duly passed by Congress saying he can't wiretap without a warrant.]

I'm not lawyer, but it looks like to me he's guilty as hell. It's just a matter of whether the Republican Congress can live with a president who breaks their laws. In the DeLay and Abramoff cases I've heard a lot of right wing pundits say they 'support the principle not the man;' we'll see how that very high minded position works out when it becomes very clear that the president is spying on people illegally. I swear, if the Democrats can at least win one of the houses of Congress back, we could have president Dennis Hassert finishing out W.'s term.

Back to Iran:

This morning on Radio Times, Patrick Clawson and Joseph Cirincione made a lot of sense on the whole Iranian nuclear issue. The main thing Patrick Clawson focused on was keeping the Strait of Hormuz open and he thought if it came down to the military option, industrial sabotage would be a much more effective tool than air strikes, which could backfire in Iraq. (In that regard, it appears Muktada al-Sadr is in the news again, having spent some time in Tehran recently vowing to start up his rebellion again if the US or Israel attacked Iran.) Joseph Cirincione was of the opinion that Ahmadinejad was skating on thin ice and the powers that be in Iran would only tolerate him as long as he was successful in preventing Iran from going to the Security Council. He pointed out, as I have, that Hashemi Ali Ransanjani has been appointed to lead the Expediency Council (even though, I got the name wrong) which was a move to check Ahmadinejad and that in a few months he and his band of nut jobs could be out of the picture entirely.

If sanctions were to be imposed it was both their views that "smart sanctions" targeted at particular members of the Iranian government would be the most effective method. Cirincioni was really more concerned about proliferation and the real possibility of al-Qaeda getting their hands on a nuke. He pointed out, that there wasn't any way a terrorist organization would have the industrial wherewithal to build a bomb---look at how long it's taken Iran---but that terrorists might be able to get their hands on loose Russian nukes or Muslim sympathizers in Pakistan might be able to pass one on to them. After all, as I've said before, we wouldn't be in this situation with Iran if it hadn't been for A.Q. Khan and Pakistan in the first place.

Back to Pakistan:

Speaking of Pakistan, they're a real big help, aren't they? After the CIA's failed attempt to kill Ayman al-Zawahiri in Damadola, a town in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the Pakistani response was so muddled that to this day no one really knows what the hell happened. First they said 11 civilians were killed, then they said 18 were killed and maybe four al-Qaeda types might have been there as well, but the bottom line is their credibility is pretty much shot. I don't know if taking a chance at killing a few al-Qaeda types is such a good bet when the result is undermining Musharraf's credibility and violating Pakistan's sovereignty, which inevitably leads to inflaming the Pakistani radicals who are always looking to overthrow his government.

Musharraf is playing a very dangerous game trying to play both sides and since he hasn't done anything to really promote democracy or reach out to moderate elements in society, we have nothing to fall back on if al-Qaeda or the Taliban, or name the radical organization in Pakistan, finally gets him one day. Talk about the Islamic Bomb! Joseph Cirincione made an interesting point when he compared Iran to Pakistan. In Iran the young walk around with their Nike shoes and listen to American music, but in Pakistan, which is supposedly our good ally in the war on terror, everybody hates us. And they're not exactly doing a great job in getting their border under control.

The NYT reported the situation in the FTA is completely out of control with thousands of fighters from Central Asia, Arab countries, the Taliban and al-Qaeda militants running rampant. Carlotta Gall and Muhammad Khan write that, "Pakistani officials who know the area say the military campaign is bogged down, the local political administration is powerless, and the militants are stronger than ever." (Hmmm...why does this sound familiar?) But not to fear, Maj. General Shaukat Sultan, chief spokesman for the Pakistani military says the 'accounts of the size of the militants' forces was exaggerated. He put the number of foreign militants in the whole tribal areas at '100, plus or minus.'"

In Iraq:

Well, it's good to see there's a reality check going on there just like here at home with W. now coming out of his bubble and talking straight to the American people about Iraq. And how is that national unity government getting on in Baghdad? It looks like the Shia and Kurdish blocs are just 10 seats short of a majority and they might be able to sign up a few of the other non-Sunni parties and bypass the Sunnis entirely. (Or just change the electoral law and get 10 more seats that way.) And even though the Americans, through Zalmay Khalilzad, are hoping Sciri leader Abdul Aziz Hakim was just posturing when he said they wouldn't be amending the constitution like they had promised, to allay Sunni fears of a break up of the country into ethnic zones, it appears that this might be just what he meant.

Jalal Talibani, the Iraqi president and Kurdish leader, said he was aware that running rough shod over the Sunnis, completely out of power, would not be "the correct way to rule the country." But all bets were off if the Sunnis tried to deal politically while being a front for the insurgency. "They must be clear they are with the terrorists, or with the political process. We will never accept this dirty game. If they are with the political process, they are welcome. If they are with the terrorists, they will lose everything. This is my advice to them." If the Sunnis were out of the political picture Talibani said the Kurds and Shiites would "rule the country in a democratic way. And we will impose peace and freedom on the country." (Yeah right, just like we've been imposing peace and freedom for the past three years.) [NYT]

So, that sounds like a prescription for success in Iraq, eh? Some how I don't see the Sunnis just sitting back and letting the Shiites and the Kurds split the country up into two independent oil kingdoms and leaving them to the desert. The Turks and the Saudis won't, either, which is why Zalmay better come up with a plan pretty quick. If not, if he can't get all the various factions together to form a stable government, I begin to see an Iraqi future without us coming very soon.

There's already talk that the Iraqis are getting the message from the Americans that the money spigot might be turned off soon. If things keep going on the way they have been into the '06 midterms, Congress is going to be hard pressed to keep signing W.'s checks, so I don't know what kind of leverage we'll have with these crazy people as they position themselves in their life or death struggle for power. They know we're leaving sooner or later, so they're really not going to listen to us forever. Theoretically, if we were to leave sooner; the Badr brigade, the Medhi Army and the Peshmerga could probably hold their own against the insurgents. One could envision this new government holding on to power in most of the country, even without the US military. In order to keep Iran's greedy hands out of the pot I could see us continuing to provide logistical and diplomatic support, but in the long run we're already out of the game. The only question is when W. is going to get the message.

Monday, January 23, 2006

W. and Co. have launched another PR campaign to convince everybody that the NSA's domestic spying campaign is perfectly legal and only intended to protect America from another 9/11. They've got the NSA director and the Attorney General going out this week to grab the headlines and W. is speaking today in Kansas at the Alf Landon center. (I wonder what Alf Landon would say about his spying plan?) As usual, the media is framing the question of whether W. has the right to make up his own laws as a political question rather than a constitutional one. I've seen a lot of articles that say Americans "are divided" on whether its ok for the government to listen in on their phone conversations and read their e-mails, as if we decide which amendments of the Bill of Rights we tear up based on polls. Amazingly, an ABC poll found that 51 % of those questioned said "wiretapping of telephone calls and e-mails without court approval" was an acceptable tool for the federal government to use when investigating terrorism! So, if the president decides to designate an entire group of Americans, lets say Muslim-Americans, as threats to national security and 51% of those polled say that's ok, too, then, I guess, the media would have no problem with a robust concentration camp building project in the Arizona desert either.

The NYT says in an article today that the fact that Karl Rove's bellicose speech a few days ago got such large headlines, highlights the problem Democrats are having not having a "single Democrat that stands as the voice of the opposition." It could also be a sign that the media just ignores Democrats when they do speak out. Certainly, when Al Gore said W. had been "breaking the law repeatedly and insistently" and that "A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government." his speech is put back on page A-15 in a caption next to another much larger article. And, might I add that "liberal" David Broder mainly dismissed Gore's speech saying he was "hardly an objective observer, " implying that calling a spade a spade, as so many spineless Democrats are afraid to do, is just sour grapes from the 2000 election. [WaPo]

Al Gore points out that "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 truly troubling to American in both political parties," but while the mainstream punditocracy is quick to swallow W.'s characterization of the Abramoff scandal as "bi-partisan.," the real bi-partisan nature of the opposition to the NSA spying program in the Congress is downplayed. I haven't heard much discussion of Arlen Specter, in an apparent Freudian slip, saying that Bush could be impeached if he was found to have broken the law on ABC's "This Week" the Sunday before last. When Stephanopoulos asked him he was serious he backtracked, slightly, saying, "I'm not suggesting remotely there's any basis" for impeachment. "After impeachment, you could have a criminal prosecution, but the principal remedy, George, under our society is to pay a political price." Whatever that means.

The "I" word keeps coming up but you have to really look for it because you're not going to find it on the front page. A new Zogby poll finds a majority of Americans would support impeachment if W. broke the law, but in this case, I assume the American people are an uninformed rabble that can be ignored. I agree with Al Gore that Congress should "start acting like the coequal branch of government you're supposed to be." but I'm not holding my breath. If the recent revelations of massive eavesdropping on millions of American's phone conversations and emails wasn't enough to get a pulse in the somnambulant general public maybe the news that the government has been going through many more millions of people's search engine records on MSN, AOL and Yahoo will wake them up. [Don't worry though, former NSA director Gen. Michael V. Hayden says, "The intrusion into privacy is also limited: only international calls and only those we have a reasonable basis to believe involve Al Qaeda or one of its affiliates." Riiiight!]

After all, for all the talk about the president needing virtually unhindered power to do whatever the hell he feels like doing to protect the American people---while at the same time spying on them and locking them up without recourse to any legal protections---OBL is still out there---four years after 9/11---thumbing his nose at us. While the FBI is plowed under by an avalanche of phone numbers, phone calling records, emails and URL addresses from the NSA--that are, of course, all terrorist related---al-Qaeda is apparently up and running and functioning just fine, thank you very much. W. said OBL could run but he couldn't hide, but that's just what he's doing. The only ones who can run but can't hide, it seems, are the American people.

You want an abortion? The government needs your medical records. You want to look at porn? The government needs to know exactly what your into, to protect the children, naturally. Who are you calling and who are they calling and what are you saying? The government needs to know. But you can trust them, now that they're completely unchecked, they don't have to justify their snooping to any judge or Congressman, or anyone else for that matter. They're free to protect your freedom.

Not that we can't trust the Russians or anything but:

The Guardian reports: "Two simultaneous explosions at 3am yesterday cut through both tubes of a gas pipeline just on the Russian side of the border with Georgia. Another blast struck an important electricity pylon nearby nine hours later. The three blasts left Georgia with limited supplies of Russian gas for heating. It also meant Georgia could only supply about 40% of the electricity demanded by its 3 million inhabitants in temperatures of -5C (23F)."

Interstingly, Reuters reports: "The explosion came just after further talks between Georgian and Iranian officials about a possible gas pipeline to Armenia and on to Georgia. The United States is against the plan."

After what happened to Ukraine the timing of these bombings leads me to believe Vlad "the impaler" Putin is throwing his weight around because he thinks he's got W. under a barrel (An oil Barrel?) on the Iran issue; just like the Chinese have been getting a pass while they lock up dissidents because we need them to deal with North Korea.
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