Saturday, June 21, 2008

What Is This FISA Thing

that I keep yammering about?
Okay, my writing skills and patience have dwindled. I just want you to read my mind.
So, here's the straight skinny from semiloon at Greenwald's site:

You see we already have a mechanism (enacted into law with the original FISA) where telecoms can be compelled to cooperate with the government.

It's called a "warrant."

When a warrant is presented to a telecom to enact a wiretap, that assures the telecom that the requested tap is legitimate and that a judge (a non-elected and presumably non-political entity) decided that there was compelling evidence to issue the warrant.

The problem with "warrant-less wiretapping" is that there is no judicial overview of the process. The government goes to the telecoms and says, "Hey we want to wiretap a whole bunch of communications, maybe millions of people, and by the way we don't have a warrant, but if you cooperate with us (i.e. look the other way) you'll get a bunch of big government contracts that will make you millions of dollars.

The telecoms knew this was illegal because the law clearly requires warrants, but said,"Sure, we'll do this, and we especially like the part of about the millions of dollars, but if the shit goes down, you government guys have got to get our backs so we don't get our asses sued off by all the people we illegally spied on. And oh yeah, we'll kick back some of those millions in the form of lobbyist contributions."

And the government said, "No worries, we'll get your back because if this shit goes south some of us here might go to prison, so we're on the same team."

Breaking: Obama Ahead 15 Points

in Washington state. Newsweek also has him up 15 points nationally, but Newsweek polls are notoriously volatile.
And...we're 4 months out. His to lose, in other words.

Barbie Joke Day One

Mattel recently announced the release of limited-edition Barbie Dolls for the Greater Washington market:

(Nine of these are making the email rounds among a variety of Puget Sound area women. I received it in a forward from my daughter, who works in Bremerton.
There will be one a day until they run out.)

' Issaquah Barbie'
This princess Barbie is sold only at Nordstrom's in Bellevue . She comes with an assortment of Kate Spade Handbags, a Lexus SUV, a long-haired foreign dog named Honey and a cookie-cutter house. Available with or without tummy tuck and face lift. Workaholic Ken sold only in conjunction with the augmented version.

FISA: Do This

Yesterday, someone in conversation reminded me that Jimmy Carter predicted that Americans in the future would have far less freedom than they had when he was president. It was eery, since I'd almost resigned myself to Obama's declaration of reluctant support for the new electronic spying bill.
It's a horror even without telecom immunity for past cooperation with Bush administration illegal surveillance.
Glenn Greenwald is fuming but I'd been on the fence. I didn't want to abandon my faith in Obama's promise. But I can't disagree with this.
No political leader merits uncritical devotion -- neither when they are running for office nor when they occupy it -- and there are few things more dangerous than announcing that you so deeply believe in the Core Goodness of a political leader, or that we face such extreme political crises that you trust and support whatever your Leader does, even when you don't understand it or think that it's wrong. That's precisely the warped authoritarian mindset that defined the Bush Movement and led to the insanity of the post-9/11 Era, and that uncritical reverence is no more attractive or healthy when it's shifted to a new Leader.

There's one particular promise he made that we should hold him to. Back when the bad Rockefeller bill was before the Senate, his spokesman Bill Burton promised Obama would support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.
Greenwald gives us Burton's email address and urges us to send him a message demanding that he abide by that promise.

Yesterday, even after Obama's disheartening announcement about his position on the new FISA bill, I posted the link where you can donate to him. I was planning on doing that again.
Now, I've decided to send my money to the coalition that is raising money to oppose Democrats who are bad on this crucial constitutional issue. It includes the ACLU and Ron Paul "money bombers."
Greenwald explains what they're doing here.
You can donate here.
Oh, and I'm telling Burton what I'm doing and why.

UPDATE: I can't believe I spent hours reading all the comments on the Greenwald blog, but I learned a few things.

You can also go to and express dissatisfaction, although those who did said it was not satisfying.

And, you can call his campaign office, 866-675-2008, #6 during weekdays and talk to a real person.
Someone on the comments thread said s/he was assured that Obama can and will kill the immunity provision.
Next week, we'll see.

Vely Intelesting

Remember Arte Johnson as the Nazi in the bushes on Laugh In?
I felt a little like him this morning, lurking through a lot of vely intelesting comments responding to Steve Rosenbaum's assertion at Huffpo that McCain will decline the Republican nomination because he can't win and a fresh new team will emerge to put on a helluva show for the last two months of the campaign.
I'm neither convinced nor unconvinced, but I do believe that Donald Duck could beat McCain.
So -- before the Democrats go and game out how to beat McCain, it may be worth thinking about what happens when he says he won't accept the nomination. For the Republicans, a wide open convention would be both good theater and good politics.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Aw, Jeebus, He Is A Politician

Obama mostly caves on the FISA bill, although he says he'll work in the Senate to remove telecom immunity.
I'm not even going to look at Greenwald today. Going to the garden to eat worms.
Tune in next week.

UPDATE: Harry Reid says he's going to try to separate out the immunity portion of the bill so those opposed to it can express their opinion in a vote. But he doesn't know if that will work, either. That gives Obama cover.
What do I think. There are two theories about this. Pelosi and Reid were among the "gang of 8" the congressional leaders who the White House can claim were fully briefed about the surveillance when it was illegal.
Hoyer was, too, I suppose.
Plus the Dems believe they're vulnerable at election time on the national security issue if they continue to oppose the bill and it would be bad for their presidential aspirations as well as ability to take bigger majorities in Congress.
You can't make change if you don't get elected.
Is it better to fight like hell and lose? Or do they overestimate the effectiveness of such an argument?
I don't want to lose. I also don't want to give the telecoms immunity, but that's probably going to happen, the Senate signed off on it before. Feh (spits)!

Time to Pony Up

Barack Obama's campaign goal is 750,000 donors by July 4.
If you were holding off during primary season, kick him some love. It doesn't have to be much and it's easy and safe online.

FISA: Last Chance

So, too many Democratic cowards in the House, after raising our hopes by rejecting the Senate bill with telecom immunity, voted this morning in favor of the so-called "compromise" bill cooked up behind closed doors and only made available to members yesterday.
In my state of Washington, my Congressman Norm (Norm!) Dicks, who will never have serious opposition and is not considered a Blue Dog, voted for it.
Rick Larsen, Jay Inslee and Jim McDermott voted against it.
It goes to the Senate next week. Is it worth a filibuster? If I were a vote counting Senator, I would save my energy for something more likely to succeed and issue a sternly worded statement of condemnation.
So, I'm not urging anybody to contact Patty and Maria to urge them to filibuster. They're solid votes against a winning bill.
However, if you want to chime in anyway, here's the info.
F 202-224=0238


Free FAX

Fast Eddie Obama

I think David Brooks is a no-nothing schmuck and Republican mouthpiece who gets paid to mislead and lie.
He's decided that Obama is a politician after all and that people like me didn't know that.
But it's an entertaining column.
On the one hand, Obama did sell out the primary cause of his professional life, all for a tiny political advantage. If he’ll sell that out, what won’t he sell out? On the other hand, global affairs ain’t beanbag. If we’re going to have a president who is going to go toe to toe with the likes of Vladimir Putin, maybe it is better that he should have a ruthlessly opportunist Fast Eddie Obama lurking inside.

All I know for sure is that this guy is no liberal goo-goo. Republicans keep calling him naïve. But naïve is the last word I’d use to describe Barack Obama. He’s the most effectively political creature we’ve seen in decades. Even Bill Clinton wasn’t smart enough to succeed in politics by pretending to renounce politics.

UPDATE: Brooks' column basically blasts Obama for flip-flopping on campaign finance and previous perceived reversals (Rev. Wright) while at the same time seeming to appreciate his advanced political skills.

Wonder what he thinks of today's news that MoveOn will not activate its 527 out of respect for Obama's wishes that no independent groups raise and spend big money in support of him.

If you don't remember what a 527 is, think Swiftboating. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was the group that slimed Kerry in 04, but as it turns out, MoveOn was one of the top 527s that cycle.

There is no limit to the money they can raise, the amount donors can give and it's a big hole in campaign finance reform. The fact that he's actively discouraging them says a lot about his seriousness. Or, it could be a matter of message control, since campaigns are not allowed to coordinate with 527s.

Anyway, for what it's worth, seems like a good move and shows his confidence in ability to raise money.

Bushism No. 5,823

From Catholic journalist Rocco Palmo:

POTUS Demotes Pope
The protocol's never been any sort of state secret: the Pope is addressed as "Your Holiness" or, by his own, "Most Holy Father."

But as he began his farewell visit to B16 last Friday, President Bush -- whose administration has shown a bizarre, unchecked penchant for the, er, unique term "His Holy Father" over the years -- took the salutation to an even odder place:

"Your Eminence, you're looking good," Bush told the pope.

For the record, the greeting would've been perfectly delivered... were the President giving it to a cardinal.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Obama's First GE Ad

Starts tomorrow in 18 states.

War Crimes

There's not likely to be trials here, but they're getting ready for them in Europe, according to Scott Horton in The New Republic.
But Colin Powell's chief of staff, Colonel Larry Wilkerson, nails it: "Haynes, Feith, Yoo, Bybee, Gonzales and--at the apex--Addington, should never travel outside the U.S., except perhaps to Saudi Arabia and Israel. They broke the law; they violated their professional ethical code. In the future, some government may build the case necessary to prosecute them in a foreign court, or in an international court." Augusto Pinochet made a trip to London, and his life was never the same afterwards. The Bush administration officials who pushed torture will need to be careful about their travel plans.

Ad of the Year

Priceless new Heinz ad in Britain, via Andrew Sullivan.

FISA Action

You can tell Nancy Pelosi to pull the bad FISA bill from the floor, preventing the vote scheduled for Friday.
It's likely her phones are jammed, so I'm including FAX numbers and you can FAX for free here.
Pelosi, Phone 202-225-4965, FAX 202-225-4965.

Ask Obama to take a public stand again reiterating his opposition to telecom immunity.
Obama Senate office 202-225-4131, FAX 202-228-4260

How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic

Bookmark this, you may need it some day. Pass it along.

FISA: Awful, Awful News

A so-called compromise that is the same thinly veiled immunity for telecoms that broke the law and spied on Americans is about to be voted on in the House tomorrow. Democrats engineered it under apparently heavy pressure from the telecoms.
We have been betrayed.
There are two things to do.
Join the new coalition forming under the aegis of the ACLU to fight for all constitutional issues.
And call Obama and tell his campaign what's expected.
Read all about it in Glenn Greenwald's piece today, with links for action.
I feel sick.

Iraq War: By the Numbers

We all know it's about the oil, but I'd never seen the actual dollar figures. Andrew Sullivan dug it up today, the day news surfaced about the Iraqi government's no-bid contracts for its oil — at U.S. direction presumably — to a consortium of four western companies — Exxon, BP, a French and a Dutch firm.
The numbers? $30 trillion worth over time. And the war has cost us $1 trillion. Such a deal.
More here, and more links, if you want.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm Voting Republican

This video is going viral. I've received it from several friends in the last few days. Go to this link to pass it on via email. Spread the word.


The ACLU has a site up where you can automatically write your congress critter about the new sham "compromise" on telecom immunity that basically lets all the companies off the hook for cooperating with the administration to illegally spy on our phone calls and emails.
Go there and sign up now. It was massive public response that killed action on an earlier bill and it needs to happen again.

More Women I Wouldn't Vote For

The Guardian

The whole "vote Hillary, elect a woman president" meme was annoying for any number of reasons, not least of which that we wouldn't be urging feminists to elect a Condi Rice or Margaret Thatcher.
There's a long list of women we shouldn't have in power, just as long as the list of men.
Here's my most recent favorite, retired Lt. Col. Diane Beaver (quit snickering), who was the top military lawyer at Gitmo.
AP reports that in a recently revealed memo:
Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, explains that the Defense Department had made a practice of hiding prisoners who were being treated harshly, even abusively, from the International Committee of the Red Cross, a non-governmental body empowered to monitor compliance with Geneva Convention rules for the treatment of military prisoners.

Beaver also confirmed that the military was secretly using previously forbidden techniques, such as sleep deprivation, but hiding them so as not to draw "negative attention," according to minutes of the meeting.

"Officially it is not happening," Beaver said, according to minutes from the meeting. "It is not being reported officially. The ICRC is a serious concern. They will be in and out, scrutinizing our operations, unless they are displeased and decide to protest and leave. This would draw a lot of negative attention."

Beaver said interrogators should "curb the harsher operations while ICRC is around."

Beaver was speaking at an Oct. 2, 2002 meeting between CIA and military lawyers and military intelligence officials on how to counter the resistance of Guantanamo detainees to military interrogation.

Beaver's comments suggest that the CIA's practice of hiding unregistered "ghost detainees" from the ICRC at military jails may have been as much in service to the Pentagon's interrogation program as it was to the CIA's.

A senior CIA lawyer at the meeting, John Fredman, explained that whether harsh interrogation amount to torture "is a matter of perception." The only sure test for torture is if the detainee died.

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin is holding hearings on all this today, and maybe we'll get to see Diane in person. Oh, goody.

I say, put her on trial. And all the rest of them.

U.S. Attorneys Scandal

Hmm, take a little vacation and news breaks out.
This is really exciting to me because Talking Points Memo was all over it last year at about this time and is the real reason I became addicted to the internet, there was something new every day.
Here's a brief folo to yesterday's news, which I will have to find. Updates later.
The Times has a bit more detail about the on-going Inspector General's and Office of Professional Responsibility probe's into the US Attorney firings. Seems, as we learned yesterday from the Wall Street Journal, that Bradley Schlozman has moved furthest along toward potential criminal charges. Meanwhile Alberto Gonzales' attorney, George J. Terwilliger III, assures the Times that Gonzales is not the target of any criminal investigation tied to the US Attorney firings but he was not willing to give any such assurance about whether his client is being looked at for perjury in the NSA wiretaps case.