Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Georgia judge strikes down gay marriage ban

Via CNN:

ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- A judge has struck down Georgia's ban on same-sex marriages, saying a measure approved by voters in 2004 violated a provision of the state constitution that limits ballot questions to a single subject.
The ruling by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Constance C. Russell had been eagerly awaited by gay-rights supporters who filed the court challenge in November 2004, soon after the constitutional ban was approved.
Russell said the state's voters must first decide whether same-sex relationships should have any legal status before they can be asked to decide whether same-sex marriages should be banned.
"People who believe marriages between men and women should have a unique and privileged place in our society may also believe that same-sex relationships should have some place -- although not marriage," she wrote. "The single-subject rule protects the right of those people to hold both views and reflect both judgments by their vote."
Russell said "procedural safeguards such as the single-subject rule rarely enjoy public support."
"But ultimately it is those safeguards that preserve our liberties, because they ensure that the actions of government are constrained by the rule of law," the judge wrote.
Gov. Sonny Perdue decried the ruling stating that 76% of voters supported the amendment and, "It is sad that a single judge has chosen to reverse this decision." Oh, boy. Can't miss a moment to parrot the activist judge meme.

Proud of you, Sonny, showing off those red-dirt homophobes. I know you're running for re-election so you've got to keep 'em happy. You know, Georgia also resisted desegregation and abolition of slavery. Splendid heritage. Change much?

I wonder what Dobson will say. Two-to-one odds... activist judge....legislating from the bench... blah, blah, blah. Just another familiar experience on the 2006 campaign trail.

UPDATE: Southern Voice published an article, good background, from May 5, 2006, and the old "activist judge" routine was performed by the regular characters. Details on the legal "single-subject rule" in Georgia courtesy Lambda Legal:
Unlike other states, Georgia’s ballot question does not reflect the entirety of the amendment’s language. The ballot question asks only about limiting marriage to a man and a woman and does not address civil unions or the jurisdiction of Georgia courts, which are part of the proposed amendment to the constitution. Lawsuit: The lawsuit was filed by Lambda Legal, the ACLU of Georgia and the Atlanta law firm Alston and Bird, who argued that the proposed amendment violates the single-subject rule of the state’s constitution because it has multiple objectives (a definition of marriage, a ban on civil unions and a restriction of court jurisdiction, among others). In addition, the suit argued that the language on the ballot misleads the voters and disguises the various consequences of a ratification vote. The single-subject rule requires that on a constitutional ballot question, only one issue at a time be posed to the voters. The Georgia Supreme Court found that it did not have jurisdiction to rule on the matter until after election day. The justices did not answer the constitutional issue and instead preserved that option for a potential legal challenge after the vote if the measure passes on November 2.
The Georgia Supreme Court ruled in favor of of the anti-gay marriage ballot before the November 2004 election:
"The ruling, written by Justice George Carley, said that while the amendment 'can be challenged in the event it is 'enacted' by virtue of approval of the voters,' the judiciary cannot block the amendment until it is enacted by the Legislature and then approved by the voters." While polling shows a majority of Georgia voters support the amendment, opponents remain optimistic. Jack Senterfitt, a Lambda Legal attorney working on the case, said "The majority did not reject our arguments on the merits. No court has ruled that this proposed amendment would pass constitutional muster. No court has ruled that it does not violate the single-subject rule, and no court has ruled that the ballot language is not misleading."
Since the measure did pass, has been challenged, and now ruled against it, you can gu-ar-an-tee that Judge Constance C. Russell's ruling will be appealed just as Ga. Gov. Perdue indicated.

SSDD. In the meantime, I'm going to plan a wedding.

Privacy desensitized and declassified

I don't get it either. Maybe it's the way the polling questions were posed but why don't more Americans object to having their phone records and their privacy under the government magnifying glass? A brilliant op/ed from Eugene Robinson today elaborates on why the home of the brave has succumbed to becoming a nation of fear.

If a psychiatrist were to put the nation on the couch, the shrink's notes would read something like this: "Patient feels vulnerable to attack; cannot remember having experienced similar feeling before. Patient accustomed to being in control; now feels buffeted by outside forces beyond grasp. Patient believes livelihood and prosperity being usurped by others (repeatedly mentions China). Patient seeks scapegoats for personal failings (immigrants, Muslims, civil libertarians). Patient is by far most powerful nation in world, yet feels powerless. Patient is full of unfocused anger."
It's shameful to watch Bush and his minions take advantage of these acute symptoms. And if the immigration issue didn't threaten to disrupt so many people's lives, it would be amusing to witness Bush's attempts to calm the irrational fears he has so often encouraged. It's at least somewhat comforting, in a way, to know that with the president's approval ratings so low and Congress in a state of dysfunction, we may be entering a phase of one-party gridlock in which nothing much gets done -- which means there's a chance that things might not get much worse.
But it's unnerving to see the country so unnerved. I intend to return to this theme of anxiety from time to time; I don't fully understand it, but I think it's important. Diagnosis is the first step toward treatment.
Yup, let's call it what it is--fear--and get out of denial that just because virtually all of us Americans wouldn't plot or conspire with terrorists to blow up our beautiful country, that we can trust the government with our phone records.

Think about it. Networks of your calling circle, and your calling circles' calling circle, and beyond can be examined and analyzed. Connections will be made. Data will be bumped up against other databases--perhaps financial, medical, motor vehicle records, and more--all within reach using a government contractor to complete a dossier on who you are, your transactions, and your relationships. Love affairs, sports bookies, and secret investments or savings won't be secret much longer and God help you if you have a political liaison within six degrees of separation from your calling circle who opposes Big Brother Bush, Inc. God help you even more if you traveled to Las Vegas and visited a strip club as the 9/11 hijackers did--information available from travel and credit card transactions tied to your telephone number or calling network.

And what if the government screws up? Remember Katrina? How about Hayden and 9/11? We still don't know where the $9 billion that the CPA managed in Iraq disappeared to and who got it. Ask Brandon Mayfield how an investigation can go bad and the price he paid in attorney's fees and investigators to clear his name on top of his time in jail though he was innocent. Thank god, he could afford a good defense team and was exonerated.

If the FBI can issue NSLs to reporters to monitor their telephone contacts, don't think ordinary citizens can dodge the high-powered scope of an investigation handed down from federal to local law enforcement. If you don't think that can happen, that our government wouldn't abuse the privacy of its citizens, then ask a group of vegans in Atlanta. Or gay servicemen. Or peace-loving quakers.

It's the magical thinking of children to trust government officials who have shown that their word is as good as all those WMDs we found in Iraq--that some won't abuse the public's trust with bribery, money laundering, and corruption schemes involving $20,000 per night resort bills, hookers, inflated defense contracts, or worse--and won't misuse our personal data. It's naive to think innocent Americans won't suffer from the wide net our government will cast over our private records. It's dishonorable to blood that has been shed so that we can be free to misplace our hope in an administration that has yet to prove it can be relied upon. And it's irresponsible to allow our sons and daughters--who use parent's telephones--to get dragged into the web because we didn't protect them.

The nation of fear hasn't rationally thought through the privacy issues and the vulnerabilities to abuse the compilation of our telephone records can entail. But when all of us do, I hope it isn't too late.

More voodoo economics from Rove

Why do I like E.J. Dionne? Maybe because he doesn't suffer fools and can catch a rat nibbling the cheese even when it's Tuesday and not Friday cat-blogging time. Dionne writes about Rove's public appearance at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative propaganda mill, and uncovers two Rovian myths frequently hawked as Bush strengths: (A) tax cuts, and (B) national security. Add in Mallaby's exposé on voodoo economics and how tax cuts don't pay for themselves and you're on your way to figuring out what we shouldn't do to remedy American's slumping prosperity.


...Rove started talking about "game changers," a nice, wonky term to throw around at a leading conservative think tank. The idea is that certain changes in policy can push the political debate in new and -- from the point of view of the game changer -- more congenial directions. The phrase told us everything about what Bush's No. 1 guy had once hoped to accomplish -- and everything about the fix he and the president are now in.
...Rove shelved the world-historical perspective in favor of the staple issue of midterm politics, pleading with his audience to think kindly of the Bush economic record. He spoke at length about the mess the economy was in toward the end of Bill Clinton's term (though he did not mention Clinton's name), and how our economic problems were deepened by the consequences of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Bush's economic policies, particularly his tax cuts, helped cure what ailed us, Rove said bravely. They "have strengthened the economy, increased productivity and created new jobs."
That Rove needed to make this case in the first place tells you the trouble the administration faces. All the polls, which Rove played down but acknowledged reading avidly ("I love all these polls," he said before dismissing the idea of poll-driven policies), show large majorities disapproving of Bush's handling of the economy.
Dionne refers to perceptions about the good old days of the Clinton economy, and then E.J. hammers the propaganda that Bush's tax cuts have been good that's repeated by Republicans ad nauseum:
Most astonishingly, Rove tried to make the case that Bush's tax cuts actually left the rich paying more. Everyone knows the Bush cuts in levies on dividends, capital gains and inheritances overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy. But here was Rove playing class politics by arguing that the wealthy now pay a larger share of total income taxes than they did before Bush.
This is statistical flimflam, of course. It leaves out payroll taxes, which hit most Americans the hardest. And the wealthy are paying more of the total share of income taxes, even though their rates are much lower, because their share of national income has gone up. Rove's numbers actually prove the rich are getting richer. But the fact that Rove tried to sound like William Jennings Bryan is the surest indicator that the administration is worried about its image as protector of the privileged.
Now for myth No. 2, Bush's national security credibility:
The real game changer is the very question of national security that Rove has used over and over as the killer issue against Democrats. In explaining Bush's poor standing, Rove kept going back to the war in Iraq. "They're just sour right now on the war. And that's the way it's going to be," Rove said of the voters. At another point, he acknowledged that the war had created discontent in the land. "I think the war looms over everything," he said. Indeed.
Rove doesn't like reality--a world where more Americans rank the Iraq War as a mistake than Vietnam. And the Vietnam War was a huge mistake. The preznit's approval ratings hovering in the low 30s, a result from policies that were touted as the Holy Grail, perhaps explains why Karl appeared "more defensive." Too much reality.

Maybe this Friday, Rove will awaken to a hard dose of reality from Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.

UPDATE: Dana Milbank offers more on Rove's voodoo economics and Karl did a heckuva job.

Squeal like a pig, boy!

I didn't tune into Dear Leader's speech about immigration because I anticipated that Bush's words would splat like Georgia clay shakin' off a dirty hound dog. If I want to listen to pandering to a bunch of radical bigots, I can flip the channel to the CBN. Isn't that the voter audience that Bush wanted to placate? House Republicans have gotten the message to get tough or else and they oppose any plan from Bush that would allow any route to citizenship that does not require first leaving the country, having already passed a $2.2 billion initiative to build border fences 700-miles long. House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), speaking after Bush's address on immigration, "did not praise the path-to-citizenship plan." Now why is that? Perhaps Republicans can't afford to ignore those that put them in office.

Some of President Bush's most influential conservative Christian allies are becoming openly critical of the White House and Republicans in Congress, warning that they will withhold their support in the midterm elections unless Congress does more to oppose same-sex marriage, obscenity and abortion.
"There is a growing feeling among conservatives that the only way to cure the problem is for Republicans to lose the Congressional elections this fall," said Richard Viguerie, a conservative direct-mail pioneer.
Mr. Viguerie also cited dissatisfaction with government spending, the war in Iraq and the immigration-policy debate, which Mr. Bush is scheduled to address in a televised speech on Monday night.
"I can't tell you how much anger there is at the Republican leadership," Mr. Viguerie said. "I have never seen anything like it."
In the last several weeks, Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and one of the most influential Christian conservatives, has publicly accused Republican leaders of betraying the social conservatives who helped elect them in 2004. He has also warned in private meetings with about a dozen of the top Republicans in Washington that he may turn critic this fall unless the party delivers on conservative goals.
And at a meeting in Northern Virginia this weekend of the Council for National Policy, an alliance of the most prominent Christian conservatives, several participants said sentiment toward the White House and Republicans in Congress had deteriorated sharply since the 2004 elections.
When the group met in the summer of 2004, it resembled a pep rally for Mr. Bush and his allies on Capitol Hill, and one session focused on how to use state initiatives seeking to ban same-sex marriage to help turn out the vote. This year, some participants are complaining that as soon as Mr. Bush was re-elected he stopped expressing his support for a constitutional amendment banning such unions.
Christian conservative leaders have often threatened in the months before an election to withhold their support for Republicans in an effort to press for their legislative goals. In the 1990's, Dr. Dobson in particular became known for his jeremiads against the Republican party, most notably in the months before the 1998 midterm elections.
But the complaints this year are especially significant because they underscore how the broad decline in public approval for Mr. Bush and Congressional Republicans is beginning to cut into their core supporters. The threatened defections come just two years after many Christian conservatives — most notably Dr. Dobson — abandoned much of their previous reservations and poured energy into electing Republicans in 2004.
Midterm Congressional elections tend to be won by whichever side can motivate more true believers to vote. Dr. Dobson and other conservatives are renewing their complaints about the Republicans at a time when several recent polls have shown sharp declines in approval among Republicans and conservatives. And compared with other constituencies, evangelical Protestants have historically been suspicious of the worldly business of politics and thus more prone to stay home unless they feel clear moral issues are at stake.
According to people who were at the meetings or were briefed on them, Dr. Dobson has made the same point more politely in a series of private conversations over the last two weeks in meetings with several top Republicans, including Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser; Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican leader; Representative J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, the House speaker; and Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the majority leader.
Ah, yes, Ohio, where anti-gay social conservatives made the difference for Bush in 2o04. George needed to go on national T-V to assuage rising tempers since...
No one expects the same-sex marriage amendment to pass this year. Republican leaders have not scheduled votes on a measure to outlaw transporting minors across state lines for abortions, and the proposal faces long odds in the Senate. A measure to increase obscenity fines for broadcasters is opposed by media industry trade groups, pitting Christian conservatives against the business wing of the party, and Congressional leaders have not committed to bring it to a vote.
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and another frequent participant in the Council for National Policy, argued that Christian conservatives were hurting their own cause.
"If the Republicans do poorly in 2006," Mr. Norquist said, "the establishment will explain that it was because Bush was too conservative, specifically on social and cultural issues."
Dr. Dobson declined to comment. His spokesman, Paul Hetrick, said that Dr. Dobson was "on a fact-finding trip to see where Republicans are regarding the issues that concern values voters most, especially the Marriage Protection Act," and that it was too soon to tell the results.
Ha! Maybe too many corporations have had to spend big marketing bucks or have lost revenue due to the radical agenda of the Religious Right. In the long run, discrimination isn't good for business or the economy and eventually that may lead to loosening the claws of the theocons on the party that favors corporate interests. But in the meantime, the heart and soul of the GOP continues to be held hostage by power-wielding Christian evangelical leaders.

Had enough of being ruled by the dueling banjos? If you haven't realized the entrenched hatred wrapped up as "for your own good" oppression and bigotry of the aggressive Anti-Christ movement masquerading as Christians (Warren Jeffs), read GOP strategist Kevin Phillips. Or read New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, to understand that the Bible isn't so inerrant as to be taken literally and rigidly as the Religious Right would have people to believe. I daresay, given their ambition for power and influence, Dobson theocons would sell Jesus to Pontias Pilate to advance their anti-Jesus agenda and some of their ilk would crucify Christ again mistaking him for a liberal traitor to their cause. These folks are cultists legitimized by the auspices of "church." Shame on whatever so-called Christian church sanctions their activities.

Re-examine the life of Christ and tell me where he extorted politicians with threats to accept his teachings. He didn't. He advocated forgiveness, good works, and compassion as the Way to witness to the un-believer. No one can be "saved" by coercion or mandates and that's why I accuse Dobson and his Judas Gang of being ruthless hypocrites. Someone, please, enlighten the GOP that Republicans are in bed with false prophets.

Americans, especially God-fearing God-loving Christians, need to tell their politicians to get a spine and defend and protect the U.S. Constitution from the nonsensical heresy proselytized by the Judas Gang. It's bigotry plain and simple that they want to legislate. They're mad as hell and will take revenge if they can't influence politicians to their liking. God has nothing to do with it. Envy, ambition, and covetousness drives the theocons--not Jesus. Don't be deceived.

Freedom of religion is just that. Dobson is free to believe that Jesus taught political dominance. My religious belief is that Jesus would not only advocate gay marriage but would gladly marry my partner and me and bless our sacred union without giving politics a second thought.

Whose religion gets precedence according to the Constitution? If my religion can be overruled by another's beliefs, then so can yours.

God help us.

UPDATE: Ari Berman convinced me. Bush is the farthest right president in recent memory but evidently not enough for Dobson.

Dump your Verizon stock

They played the game with Big Brother Bush, Inc., now they pay. And they will pay dearly later.

Verizon stock fell more than 1% (down $0.36 to $31.43) on the NY Stock Exchange on Monday, a reaction to a $50 billion lawsuit filed on behalf of Verizon subscribers.

"The Telecommunications Act of 1934 is as clear as clear can be," plaintiff Carl Mayer said. "You can't turn over the records of your customers and if you do so it's $1,000 per violation. The Constitution is very clear. The Supreme Court has consistently held that the Fourth Amendment prevents unlawful searches and seizures which we believe this to be."
Once again the Bush Administration demonstrates its incompetence:
Mayer said the information, only collected from landline subscribers, would not provide the government any information to help national security. "The terrorists are on the pay phones or using the prepaid phones," he said. "They are not on landlines so this entire exercise is another one of the administration arguments that we have to protect national security by doing something which doesn't have any protection for national security."
So ask yourself, what is the Bush WH doing with our phone records? I don't believe it has to do with national security. Oh, no.

Part II: Monitoring press corp phone calls

The encroachment upon America's free press to be free, a tenet of our democracy, won't stop until the villagers stop it. But will we? Who's paying attention and will they care? The news media has undermined its usefulness to people, once the public's watchdog, now in some quarters a propaganda machine and in others, the manufacturers of Ta-boom! Crack! swirling headlines that elevate the banal to sensational heights. I doubt the public will feel little sympathy for "the most significant story of the day," that Big Brother Bush, Inc. has escalated its warfare on America's free press, what little of it that's left.

Earlier yesterday I posted a piece on the government tracking of ABC News Brian Ross and Richard Esposito phone calls.

John Nichols at The Nation provided a midnight update:

An entry posted Monday evening on "The Blotter," an ABC News blog, by investigative reporters Brian Ross and Richard Esposito, reports that, "The FBI acknowledged late Monday that it is increasingly seeking reporters' phone records in leak investigations. 'It used to be very hard and complicated to do this, but it no longer is in the Bush administration,' said a senior federal official."
The report by Ross and Esposito, respected journalists with solid sources in the law enforcement community, continued:
FBI officials did not deny that phone records of ABC News, the New York Times and the Washington Post had been sought as part of a investigation of leaks at the CIA.
In a statement, the FBI press office said its leak investigations begin with the examination of government phone records.
"The FBI will take logical investigative steps to determine if a criminal act was committed by a government employee by the unauthorized release of classified information," the statement said.
Officials say that means that phone records of reporters will be sought if government records are not sufficient.
Officials say the FBI makes extensive use of a new provision of the Patriot Act which allows agents to seek information with what are called National Security Letters (NSL).
The NSLs are a version of an administrative subpoena and are not signed by a judge. Under the law, a phone company receiving a NSL for phone records must provide them and may not divulge to the customer that the records have been given to the government.
Monday evening's report from Ross and Esposito followed their revelation earlier in the day that they had been told by "a senior federal law enforcement official" that the government is monitoring phone calls they are other journalists are making in order to identify confidential sources.
If these reports are accurate -- and Ross and Esposito have a solid record of getting things right -- it does not require much of an imagination to determine what has transpired.
Any serious discussion will turn, for reasons hardly unreasonable considering recent revelations regarding this White House's disregard for the rule of law, to the question of whether a frustrated Bush-Cheney administration is seeking the phone records of journalists not merely to identify leakers but to thwart the sort of whistleblowing that has embarrassed the president and vice president by linking them to warrantless wiretaping, rendition of prisoners, the defense of torture, the distribution of classified information in order to punish political critics and other abuses of power.
If the administration has begun reviewing the telephone calls of reporters not to catch lawbreakers but to prevent revelations of its own lawlessness, then this White House has strayed onto dangerous political turf.
To be sure, the Bush-Cheney administration would not be the first to go after journalists in order to protect itself from challenges to its authority. President John Adams actually jailed journalistic critics in the early days of the Republic, provoking the crisis that would make him the first president to be defeated for reelection. President Richard Nixon produced an "enemies list" that included the names of prominent journalists such as Daniel Schorr.
This could mark a turning point for the usually pliant Washington press corps, however.
White House reporters are by any measure a docile lot, and there is no question that the Bush-Cheney administration has benefited tremendously from the frequently stenographic reporting of even its most outlandish spin by unquestioning national correspondents -- two words: "Judith Miller." But it is difficult to imagine, especially with the approval ratings for the president and vice president dipping to depths previously explore[d] by Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew in their darkest days, that Washington reporters will take kindly to being spied on by an administration bent to shutting up confidential sources.
To be sure, the members of the White House press corps should not need a threat to their own privacy -- not to mention their most vital sources of honest information -- to be inspired to practice their craft as the founders intended. But the track record of the past several years indicates that a jolt of some kind was needed. Let's just hope that the reporters who cover the Bush-Cheney White House will prove to be self-serving enough to want to protect the whistleblowers without whom journalists cannot begin to tell the full story of what this administration is doing in our name but without our informed consent.
Big Brother Bush, Inc. like the Frankenstein monster is loose, stomping around in the town square and scaring the villagers. Some hysterical villagers helped animate the monster and now add their shrieks to the plunder. Let's hope heroes will rise up and destroy the monster before they are strangled and tossed aside like a used newspaper.

Pick up your torches, villagers, and burn the monster in a blaze of light.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Say NO to bigotry and get America back on track

The Human Rights Campaign alerted me today to take action on the June 5 vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment. Republicans fearing losses during the midterm elections have resurrected one of their favorite boogey-men and a divisive issue--gay marriage--to distract the nation from more important congressional business--the Iraq War, immigration, energy costs, health care, and the economy.

Examine the most important issues facing Americans and you won't find gay marriage on the current list.

Only one poll back in 2004--the last time the GOP used gay-baiting to mobilize social conservatives--listed gay marriage at all and it was a low priority compared to the economy, terrorism, Iraq, and health care.

To the Time Poll's discredit, they lumped the gay marriage topic into "moral values issues," a specious attempt to frame the civil rights of a sexual minority as a "moral issue"--ugly political chicanery--which completely ignores the immorality of discrimination against a legit minority. Shame on Time.

Dishonest GOP politics and the outrageous, undocumented falsehood that allowing gays to legalize their unions will destroy the marriages of hetero people is a dubious claim. The divorce rate won't alter one bit for married hetero couples if gays can marry or legalize their relationships with civil unions. The Right's assertion that the sanctity of marriage is under assault is red herring, a diversion away from the truth, and an underhanded way to exploit the fear of conservatives to react with an emotional knee-jerk. Gay unions won't change how, when, or why heteros marry or divorce. Not. At. All.

But why bring gay marriage into the national debate and to a vote in Congress? Why now? With Bush's job disapproval at an all-time high and division within the GOP, putting FMA on the front-burner will rally the homophobic contingent of the conservative base and distract attention from Republican failures. Don't take the bait.

Do Americans truly want to codify discrimination into the U.S. Constitution? I don't think so and polls demonstrate that Americans oppose a federal amendment that takes away citizen rights. As Americans--and religious leaders--denounce the actions of right-wing efforts to keep gay U.S. citizens at the back of the bus, consider the words of the late civil rights advocate, Coretta Scott King. She didn't agree with anti-gay bigotry and her words powerfully speak the truth:

"I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice... But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of brother and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people."

...Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood," she said in a speech in Chicago in April 1998, just days before the 30th anniversary of her late husband's assassination. "I've always felt that homophobic attitudes and policies were unjust and unworthy of a free society and must be opposed by all Americans who believe in democracy."

But out-of-touch floundering Republicans want to hype an issue that won't affect the vast majority of Americans in the least to avert scrutiny from their abject failures in leading the nation to more prosperous and peaceful times. Republicans will do most anything to avoid accountability:

Rather than defend Bush, Rove will seek to rally the Republicans’ conservative grass roots by painting Democrats as the party of tax increases, gay marriage, secularism and military weakness. That’s where the national message money is going to be spent.

Take action and stop the insanity of Republicans off-track, heading us in the wrong direction and ignoring America's priorities. Say NO to the Federal Marriage Amendment and YES to no longer being manipulated politically. Voice your dissent and get Congress back on track and on the main issues affecting us all. Don't fall for gay-baiting and the GOP tactic to change the subject as they did in 2004. Look at what that got us.

Monitoring ABC journalists phone calls

ABC News journalists Brian Ross and Richard Esposito have learned that their phone calls are being monitored by the Bush government (h/t Pam Spaulding).

A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we (Brian Ross and Richard Esposito) call in an effort to root out confidential sources.
"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.
ABC News does not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.
Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation.
One former official was asked to sign a document stating he was not a confidential source for New York Times reporter James Risen.
Our reports on the CIA's secret prisons in Romania and Poland were known to have upset CIA officials. The CIA asked for an FBI investigation of leaks of classified information following those reports.
People questioned by the FBI about leaks of intelligence information say the CIA was also disturbed by ABC News reports that revealed the use of CIA predator missiles inside Pakistan.
Under Bush Administration guidelines, it is not considered illegal for the government to keep track of numbers dialed by phone customers.
I suspect ABC, NYTimes, and WaPo aren't the only news media that the Bush Administration tracks. How 'bout CNN's Christiane Amanpour?

Had enough of Big Brother Bush? I'm sure Hayden knows a lot more than he will say during his confirmation hearings. Maybe Russell Tice will shed light this week.... I hope.

Whistleblowers, Hayden, and Bush

This week, NSA whistleblower Russell Tice will tell the Senate Armed Services Committee:

...the NSA conducted illegal and unconstitutional surveillance of U.S. citizens while he was there with the knowledge of Hayden. … “I think the people I talk to next week are going to be shocked when I tell them what I have to tell them. It’s pretty hard to believe,” Tice said. “I hope that they’ll clean up the abuses and have some oversight into these programs, which doesn’t exist right now.” …
Tice said his information is different from the Terrorist Surveillance Program that Bush acknowledged in December and from news accounts this week that the NSA has been secretly collecting phone call records of millions of Americans. “It’s an angle that you haven’t heard about yet,” he said. … He would not discuss with a reporter the details of his allegations, saying doing so would compromise classified information and put him at risk of going to jail. He said he “will not confirm or deny” if his allegations involve the illegal use of space systems and satellites.
Maybe Russell will testify to illegal spying on, say, political opponents, a prosecutor or two, or innocent Americans such as vegans, animal rights advocates, labor leaders, and antiwar protesters. Hopefully, Tice can provide us with hard evidence on why Bush's nominee, former head of the NSA, Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, should run the CIA. What makes Hayden qualified and how many terrorist attempts has he stopped?

What was Hayden doing on 9/11?

Frank Rich explained on Sunday how Hayden protected our nation on the eve of 9/11:
It was under General Hayden, a self-styled electronic surveillance whiz, that the N.S.A. intercepted actual Qaeda messages on Sept. 10, 2001 — "Tomorrow is zero hour" for one — and failed to translate them until Sept. 12. That same fateful summer, General Hayden's N.S.A. also failed to recognize that "some of the terrorists had set up shop literally under its nose," as the national-security authority James Bamford wrote in The Washington Post in 2002. The Qaeda cell that hijacked American Flight 77 and plowed into the Pentagon was based in the same town, Laurel, Md., as the N.S.A., and "for months, the terrorists and the N.S.A. employees exercised in some of the same local health clubs and shopped in the same grocery stores."
I know, I know. The GOP faithful will indignantly retort... but, but, there have been. No Terrorist. Attacks. On. American. Soil. Since. 9/11! Yes, dear hearts, poor wittle Bushbots miss the point that maybe there would have been. No. 9/11. If. Bush had taken the "bin Laden cell in New York" and "preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks" written about in the Aug. 6, 2001, PDB, Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S., seriously. Had Bush fulfilled his duties as Commander-in-Chief with as much passion as his compulsion to clear brush on his ranch and exerted leadership over men whose "hair was on fire," men like Gen. Hayden and women like Condi Rice, prodding them to shake the trees and make 'em shed terrorists like falling fruit, maybe Bush would have succeeded in averting the 9/11 attacks:
“If we had had that kind of process in the summer of 2001 that we had in December '99, where the national security adviser was every day in the White House asking the FBI director and the attorney general and the secretary of defense, ‘Go back to your building, find out all that you can’ ... maybe the information that was in the FBI would have shaken loose.”
“We had Iraqi-sponsored terrorism against the United States; he used military force, and they stopped. We had Iranian-sponsored terrorism against the United States; he used covert action against them, and they stopped,” Clarke told Russert.
“We had al-Qaida attempts to blow up things in the United States during the millennium period, attempts to blow up embassies around the world, attempts to take over Bosnia during the jihad in Bosnia. And all of those attempts were thwarted.”
“Now, that doesn't mean that he did everything he should have done, but the president of the United States was active on these issues in the Clinton administration. The president of the United States was not active on these issues prior to 9/11 in the Bush administration,” Clarke said.
Frank Rich sums up Bush's Hayden nomination with an exclamation point:
If Democrats — and, for that matter, Republicans — let a president with a Nixonesque approval rating install yet another second-rate sycophant at yet another security agency, even one as diminished as the C.I.A., someone should charge those senators with treason, too.
Hear, hear. (h/t to Tristero)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

On the 2006 campaign trail

Foggo, Wilkes, Cunningham, Lewis & Associates

Friends since high school in San Diego and Young Republican college chums, defense contractor Brent Wilkes and ex-CIA Dusty Foggo appreciated family values so much that they took their families together on vacations and stayed at a resort that cost more than $20,000 per night. Zowie! Federal agents raided Foggo's home and Langley office on Friday "amid a widening criminal investigation into allegations of government corruption and bribery." Ya think?

That Brent Wilkes guy gets around. Trickle down from the Cunningham investigation caught Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) in cahoots with lobbyist Bill Lowery. And who's a buddy to Lowery and Lewis? Yup, Wilkes. And who was subpoened by Texas investigators in the Tom DeLay corruption probe? Wilkes again! The intermingling of Wilkes, Cunningham, Foggo, Lowery, Lewis, Wade, DeLay, Doolittle, Plescia-Dollaghan, Schwarzenegger, and more yet to be named boggles the mind.

But I feel better knowing that Wilkes' friend, Foggo, had absolutely nuthin' to do with CIA Director Porter Goss' sudden out-of-the-blue, hurry-up, be-gone resignation.

THE slogan

Ari Berman at The Notion asks "Had enough?" and quotes a passionate Obama speech that illustrates the slogan perfectly. A clip:

Four years after 9/11, I've had enough of being told that we can find the money to give Paris Hilton more tax cuts, but we can't find enough to protect our ports or our railroads or our chemical plants or our borders.
I've had enough of the closed-door deals that give billions to the HMOs when we're told that we can't do a thing for the 45 million uninsured or the millions more who can't pay their medical bills.
I've had enough of being told that we can't afford body armor for our troops and health care for our veterans. I've had enough of that.
I've had enough of giving billions away to the oil companies when we're told that we can't invest in the renewable energy that will create jobs and lower gas prices and finally free us from our dependence on the oil wells of Saudi Arabia.
Hang up the faded mantle of the official Democratic motto, "Together, America Can Do Better." Thumbs up for, Had enough?

Cheney's handiwork

Would Libby ever flip on Cheney? John Dean of Watergate fame didn't seem to think so. After Mary Cheney's glowing remarks on Larry King Live about what a close and great friend of the family Scooter was, an indirect communique that I'm sure wasn't missed by Libby or his lawyers, Scooter must figure he has a pardon or (*cough*) gobs of money to compensate him handsomely if he's convicted next year. That potential outcome appears more and more inevitable. Since Fitzgerald has insisted on jail time--no plea deal--and based on the May 12 filing by the Special Counsel, the government's case thus far makes Scooter look guilty as sin. But Libby isn't alone.

The Fitzgerald filing places Cheney once again at the center of the CIA leak scandal, the Veep Creep having hand-printed notes across a copy of Joe Wilson's op/ed, a column that criticized the Bush Administration's rationale for war and disputed its Iraq-Niger uranium connection. After reading the news story on the Newsweek website, I scanned several recent reports for differences. The NYTimes, the newspaper that printed Wilson's July 6, 2003, column, "What I Didn't Find in Africa," provided these intriguing nuances:

In neat writing above the text of the column, prosecutors say, Mr. Cheney wrote: "Have they done this sort of thing before? Send an Amb. to answer a question? Do we ordinarily send people out pro bono to work for us? Or did his wife send him on a junket?"
The legal papers do not address how prosecutors know it is Mr. Cheney's handwriting or when the notes were written. A spokesman for the vice president could not be reached for comment Saturday night.
Mr. Fitzgerald wants to use the notations to support the prosecution's contention that Mr. Libby lied to investigators and a grand jury when he testified that he had learned of Ms. Wilson's existence from reporters. Prosecutors have said that Mr. Libby, who has been charged with perjury, learned about Ms. Wilson's role from several people, including Mr. Cheney.
The notes, included in a brief filed late Friday and first reported on Saturday by Newsweek magazine on its Web site, add new detail to what is already known about Mr. Cheney's interest in rebutting the assertions in Mr. Wilson's column.
In addition, the notes add to evidence in the case showing that Mr. Cheney and his aides viewed Mr. Wilson's article with deep concern and looked for ways to counter its impact. Previous prosecution filings have said the article was viewed as a direct assault on the administration's policy and provoked efforts to discredit Mr. Wilson.
The neatness of Cheney's handwriting fascinates me as if the notes were carefully penned for a reason. Emptywheel presents a compelling argument that the annotation was disingenuously contrived to communicate a GOP talking point that Wilson's wife sent him on the "junket" or "boondoggle," an implication that was politically convenient and incidentally spread by Libby, Rove, faithful red-staters, and news media to discredit Wilson. With Fitz' addition of Cheney's "Exhibit A" in his filing, as Emptywheel wrote:
...Fitzgerald is clearly communicating to Dick that he has evidence Dick conceived of the terms of the smear, ordered Libby to implement it, and possibly extended it after receiving warning of the repercussions of it.
Of the news accounts on Cheney's handwritten notes, NYTimes is the only one I've read that contains the neatness detail, according to "prosecutors," and raises the question of "how prosecutors know it is Mr. Cheney's handwriting or when the notes were written." Nowhere in the 10 pages of the May 12 Fitzgerald filing can I find a single reference to the "neat" handwriting of Dick Cheney, how prosecutors know Dick wrote those notes other than assuming they have handwriting examples for comparison, or when Dick actually wrote them. Does the filing statement, "the article reflects the contemporaneous reaction of the Vice President to Mr. Wilson's Op Ed article," mean on the day of, within 24 hours, a week, or shortly thereafter? Curious. Clever Fitz wouldn't tip his hand. He said as much in the footnote on page one. However, I agree with Emptywheel's conclusion that Fitz is telegraphing he has evidence on Cheney. Perhaps the prosecutor is also planting doubt in Cheney's mind about Libby's loyalty while signaling to Rove to flip on Cheney if he knows anything before it's too late.

Today's WaPo reports:
The filing by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald is the second that names Cheney as a key White House official who questioned the legitimacy of Wilson's examination of Iraqi nuclear ambitions. It further suggests that Cheney helped originate the idea in his office that Wilson's credibility was undermined by his link to Plame.
Fitzgerald's filing states that Cheney passed the annotated article by Wilson to his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who Fitzgerald says subsequently discussed Wilson's marriage to Plame in conversations with two reporters, despite the fact that Plame was a covert CIA officer and her name was not supposed to be revealed....
Fitzgerald does not allege in his filing that Cheney ordered Libby to disclose Plame's identity. But he states that Cheney's note to Libby helps "explain the context of, and provide a motive for" many of the later statements and actions by Libby....
Wilson's credibility became a key issue for the White House because the results of his probe into Iraq's nuclear program surfaced when the administration had already been hit by charges it had distorted intelligence before invading Iraq. Wilson had concluded after taking a CIA-sponsored trip to Niger two years earlier that evidence of Iraqi attempts to acquire nuclear weapons materials there was dubious.
Libby has not said in grand jury testimony that Cheney instructed him to leak Plame's name, according to a court filing by Libby's attorneys last month. His attorneys have also said that Plame's role in the matter was of peripheral interest to the White House, a circumstance that explains why he may have forgotten exactly what he said to reporters about Plame. Libby's attorneys have also said they will attempt to demonstrate at trial that Plame's identity was known by many officials in Washington and that Libby had no special reason to believe her identity was protected information.
Fitzgerald, in contrast, spelled out in his new filing that it was an article about Wilson's trip in the New Republic that prompted Libby to discuss the matter with a former colleague, Eric Edelman. During that conversation, Libby said he could not talk about the trip because of "complications" at the CIA that could not be discussed on the telephone, Fitzgerald states -- evidently based on Edelman's statements.
Fitzgerald also says in the filing that after columnist Robert D. Novak published the first newspaper article mentioning Plame's name on July 14, 2003 -- the disclosure that sparked Fitzgerald's investigation -- a CIA official discussed in Libby's presence "the dangers posed by disclosure of the CIA affiliation of one of its employees."
This conversation, Fitzgerald said, directly undermines Libby's claims that he had no reason to believe he or others had done anything wrong and had no reason to lie to the FBI. It also helps explain, Fitzgerald said, why Libby told a grand jury he thought Wilson was fully qualified to go on the trip and he was unsure if Wilson was even married.
The new filing also expands on Fitzgerald's revelation last month that Libby had disclosed portions of a previously classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq by describing portions of it to a Times reporter. It states that Libby also provided -- "through another government official" -- a copy of portions of the NIE to the Wall Street Journal before it published a July 17, 2003, editorial on that subject.
Libby's authorization to reveal the classified NIE came from Cheney according to Scooter's GJ testimony. And "only hours after Cheney reportedly instructed Libby to disclose information from the CIA report," Scooter leaked Valerie Plame's CIA identity to Judith Miller at the NYTimes and Matt Cooper at Time Magazine explaining that "she [had] been involved in selecting her husband for the Niger mission."
Both Libby and Cheney have repeatedly insisted that the vice president never encouraged, directed, or authorized Libby to disclose Plame's identity. In a court filing on April 12, Libby's attorneys reiterated: "Consistent with his grand jury testimony, Mr. Libby does not contend that he was instructed to make any disclosures concerning Ms. Wilson [Plame] by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, or anyone else."
But the disclosure that Cheney instructed Libby to leak portions of a classified CIA report on Joseph Wilson adds to a growing body of information showing that at the time Plame was outed as a covert CIA officer the vice president was deeply involved in the White House effort to undermine her husband.
If Libby won't flip, holding out for a Cheney quid pro quo, there's Karl Rove whose self-delusional invincibility, I believe, will be shattered by indictments. Bush's wimpy approval ratings and the unpopularity of Dick Cheney might prompt Bush's Brain, especially under the threat of prosecution, to plea bargain, flip on Dick discreetly and perhaps spin the machination with stars and stripes--the veep was defending the preznit against Wilson's attempt to stunt momentum on the WoT, blah, blah, blah. Rove could rid the WH of its Veep Creep liability by forcing Cheney to resign and bring in fresh veep meat for 2008. Ha! Take that Hillary. All trussed up with presidential pardons for the felons.

Yeah, I'm speculating as others have, Jeralyn at TalkLeft and Emptywheel, plus countless other bloggers. But it's oh, so fun to do. Like constructing a Tom Clancy plot.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Bill Clinton nostalgia

Yesterday, CNN published the results of a new poll conducted May 5–7, by Opinion Research Corp. (margin of error +/- 3%, 1,021 adult Americans) that asked participants to compare and rank Clinton and Bush. Overwhelmingly, respondents favored former President Bill Clinton over President George W. Bush on major policy areas. Overall, 57% of Americans rated Bush unfavorable versus 40% favorable. Clinton, however, ranked just the opposite: 57% favorable versus 38% unfavorable.

Of the two presidents, who do Americans think has done a better job at handling the economy? By more than 2-to-1, Clinton beat Bush, 63% versus 26%. If you skim the CNN transcript during Friday's broadcast of the poll, you can read a few respondent verbatims. One businesswoman said, "When [Clinton] was president, my business did well and I made a lot of money.... and I kind of miss that." Yeah, babe, a bunch of us Americans feel the same.

When it comes to solving the problems of ordinary Americans, Clinton wins again by a wide margin--62% versus 25% for Bush. Democrats traditionally lean toward helping working class Americans, small businesses, and the poor. Perhaps that explains the whopping 37-point difference for Clinton.

In foreign affairs, Americans favored Clinton by 56% compared to Bush at 32%. I suspect the Iraq War remains the primary factor in Bush's poor rating. A Gallup poll shows that 57% of Americans think the Iraq War was a mistake. Compare that to three years into the Vietnam War--48% of Americans said that Vietnam was a mistake. Whoa! Not so good. Add in mishandling nuclear proliferation and conflicts with Iran and North Korea and no wonder Bush's ratings have fallen into the crapper. Internationally, foreign opinion of America's reputation has suffered greatly under the Bush presidency.

And who can forget Hurricane Katrina and the incompetent management of the Gulf Coast disaster by the Bush Administration? Americans ranked Clinton higher at handling natural disasters, 51% versus Bush at 30%. Clinton gave FEMA Cabinet-level status. Bush reorganized the agency under the management of Homeland Security and shifted its priority to terrorism over disaster preparedness. That dissipated FEMA's capability to respond effectively to America's worst natural disaster. After the latest congressional effort to revamp FEMA, God help us this hurricane season. Bush doesn't have Brownie to blame anymore but Chertoff's still in charge.

The big surprise in the Clinton versus Bush poll for me was the topic of taxes, usually a main selling point for the GOP. Bush promoted tax breaks as "it's your money" in 2000 and 2004 campaigns. Evidently, Bush's tax breaks haven't helped a majority of Americans--no surprise for liberals who had repeatedly reminded us that the wealthiest Americans have benefitted the most. Clinton won on doing a better job at taxes with 51% compared to Bush at 35%. A few days ago, the House passed a $70 billion tax cut by a vote of 244-185. Democrats voted against the package saying that the tax breaks were irresponsible due to record budget deficits and the war, and the tax cuts once again will aid the richest Americans. The Tax Policy Center, courtesy John Roberts of CNN, analyzed the new $70 billion tax cut package and found that Americans earning between $20,000-$30,000 will save $9, households earning $50,000-$75,000 will get $110 off their taxes, and $100,000-$200,000 incomes will save $1,400. Households earning $1 million and up receive the biggest savings on their tax bill--$42,000. So when Democrats say that the wealthiest Americans benefit most from Republican tax cuts, it ain't no spiel.

In 2000, Bush promised to be a "uniter, not a divider." Ha! I knew that was a truckload of Texas fertilizer. Americans rate Bush poorly as a "uniter" with 59% saying that Bush has done more to divide the country than Clinton did.

Two areas where Clinton and Bush rate closely: On the subject of who was the more honest president, 46% cited Clinton and 41% said Bush. Apply the margin of error, +/- 3% and the ratings stack closer together.

The second area, another talking point that Bush and Republicans like to boast about is national security, especially since 9/11. Clinton and Bush finished in a dead-heat with Clinton edging out Bush by a few points. Forty-six (46%) percent of Americans said Clinton did a better job of handling national security while 42% named Bush. With terror alerts, Osama bin Laden still at large, and the regularity of OBL's and his terrorist associates' taped threats, I'm unsurprised that more Americans feel less safe now than they did three years ago. And port security? Don't get me started on the foot-dragging Bush Administration and the Rubber Stamp Republican Congress.

Bill Clinton wasn't my favorite president--flip-flopping on gays in the military turned me off. But he did so many more things right compared to Bush. Looking toward the midterm elections, I'd expect more Republican incumbents and candidates to continue to distance themselves from Bush and his crummy approval ratings. Slowly, Americans have awakened to the train wreck presidency of George W. Bush. He's the worst president I've seen in my lifetime and I'm saddened that my fellow Americans didn't wake up before the 2004 election. Still, I have to admit, I wouldn't wish the mess George has made on any Democratic president at this time. Maybe Kerry dodged a bullet. However, I fancy that America would have avoided our woes altogether if President Gore had been running the show. Hopefully, if Democrats can take back the House and maybe the Senate, they can keep the preznit in check and get America back on track domestically while holding Bush accountable for his decisions on Iraq and foreign affairs. With some Democratic congressional muscle, they can pave the way for a return to smart leadership at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2008. Domestically and internationally, America desperately needs an FDR who can lead us successfully without leaving any American behind.

Mary Cheney on Larry King Live

If you missed Mary Cheney's theatrics on Larry King Live, there was nothing more noteworthy than the performance of a toxic lesbian's apologia for her immoral vice presidential father. Ever heard of toxic lesbians? They're power dyke types who would sell their gay brothers and sistahs for money, fame, status, and power like assimilating in a political party that abhors gays and endeavors to keep them at the back of the bus. Power dykes want to win: win at sports, win at politics, win at business. Winning, making money, and materialism--all the accouterments of power--get them off. Toxic lesbians don't value morality and integrity. Civil rights causes are for suckers. Power and status are their virtuous pursuits and they don't care who they hurt in the process to claw to and stay at the top of the nouveau riche heap. They would barter with devils in high places to gain power even if those dangerous liaisons work tirelessly to outlaw their right to marry the partner of their choice. Better yet. Toxic lesbians live to lord over the rest of us, to strut their status especially if those people are liberals. Power is as much a fetish for a Mary Cheney as feet were for the eccentric artist Dali. Her raison d'etre is more about how notoriously-closeted Roy Cohn lusted for Washington power than living honestly as a U.S. citizen deserving of equal rights.

On Larry King Live Wednesday night, I watched a toxic lesbian in action, rolling her eyes, taking potshots at Kerry and Edwards while batting her fake eyelashes and playing innocent coquette. "I don't know nothing about being no hypocrite or the deceptions of my father" postured the coy fluff dyke. He's such a swell guy and so misunderstood.

Mary Cheney's spiel was flecked with honeysuckle-scented saccarhin oozing through flashes of her sparkling smirk that betrays an inner knowledge--where truthfulness resides--that she's promoting dishonesty with an alto voice just a bit too sharp. Take this exchange. When King asked why she wrote her book, It's My Turn, she replied with an enthusiastic pat answer that appeared too rehearsed:

One of the big ones was because there are so many misconceptions out there about my dad, you know.
I think something happens when you're in the public eye. A lot of times people caricature you or try and stereotype you and I really wanted to tell the stories about what it's really like to grow up inside my family and real stories about my family and my dad. ... That was a huge incentive.
Mary wouldn't know a real story if it goosed her in her hoo-hoo. What's her real incentive? Could it involve money? How about portraying her dad as a nice guy. Could this be her mission as her daddy's personal PR flak?

Dick is one of the delusional neocons who had grandiose dreams of spreading democracy by imperial force in the Middle East while multi-billions of the U.S. Treasury have been drained by war-profiteers and Cheney's secret energy committee oil barons. Delusions must run in the family. Mary proves that the idealization of a toxic parent knows no bounds by carrying on the legacy as a deluded prodigy.

Adults cut the chords from their families to grow up into whole human beings. Not Mary. She's enmeshed with the Bush-Cheney power clan. As a flak for Coors, her father's 2004 election campaign, and now AOL, she knows how to spin a yarn or two. On Dick Cheney's hunting accident, forget about the beer he had at lunch before shooting Harry Whittington in the face, or that it took four days for Cheney to go on the record publicly about the accident, or that 36 hours lapsed before Dick briefed the president. Oh, no. He was too busy attending to his wounded friend. Mary explains in a way that only the daughter trained by an arrogant liar can:
He was just upset as everybody was but especially my dad. He accidentally shot his friend Harry Whittington and his main concern was making sure that Harry was going to be OK and making sure that Harry's family got down to the hospital and that they had all the information that they needed and, you know, making sure that that family was OK.
Doesn't the Veep Creep have aides who work for him who could have released a statement while Dada took care of his ol' friend? Larry King asked her if the story had been handled wrong. Her denial continued:
I don't think so. I mean, Larry, because if you think about it, you know, I actually think my dad handled it just right. His main concern was making sure that Harry was OK, making sure that Harry's family was OK and making sure that he had all the facts right.
You know and the story did -- he is the one who put the story out. I just, I think making sure that Harry was OK certainly should take precedence over whether or not somebody in the White House press corps knew about it.
The hunting incident occurred on Saturday. Dick made his public statement on FoxNews on Wednesday. But Mary''s PR spiel paints Dick as the compassionate all-concerned best friend to Harry. Maybe Dick was a faithful comrade. But the excuse about delaying the news? What a crock. But her spin didn't stop.
I think one of the images and I talk about it a little bit in the book is that people have this idea of my dad as Darth Vader, as this force, and he's really just a great guy, very funny, very smart, tough, very caring. He's a great dad and a great grandfather. If you ever saw him with my sister's kids, you'd see what a doting grandfather he is.
Well, Mary. Even evil Darth Vader can entertain followers and have family they dote over. So?
He is tough. I certainly don't deny that. I admire it about him. And one of the other things I really admire about him is he focuses his attention and his effort on doing what needs to get done, on worrying about what is right for this country, worrying about how he can help this country and help further President Bush's agenda. He spends a lot more time worrying about that than he does about whether he's politically popular at the moment.
Whose America is Dick Cheney helping, Mary? The wealthy, the elite, the Republicans, the plutocracy, the theocons, and his personal corporate buddies? Why don't you come clean, Mary, and tell the whole truth and not these PR-homepun half-truths? Dick doesn't care about his political stature. He's not running for president so his agenda is to rake in as much moolah for his cronies and him in furthering his self-interested ideology as much as possible before exiting the WH in 2008.

More empty chatter from Mary:
No, I mean he's really focused on doing what's right. And one of the things that both he and my dad and I talk about it in the book that both he and President Bush do is they really take the long view of history that they are focused more on doing what is right and doing what they know is right rather than worrying about what's politically popular or politically expedient at the moment.
Bush-Cheney's view was so long-sighted that they developed no plans for a post-war Iraq. They've mired America down in Iraq and have single-handedly marched the U.S. into a war based on lies and more unpopular than Vietnam. That's some foresight. But to dutiful daughter Mary, the preznit and the veep are more interested in "doing what is right." Where was their righteous dedication when Katrina smacked the Gulf Coast? Where was the right thing when the prescription drug bill was hawked at a budget that clearly misrepresented its true cost? Where's the right thing as gasoline prices soar without relief? Why do Rummy the incompetent and Rove the leaker still have their jobs in the Administration? As a lesbian, I wish Mary would shut up. She makes gays look vacuous and pretentious. Great job, Mary! You demonstrated that a certain faction of gays and lesbians have no morals. If there's a "homosexual agenda," it exists in the cravenly rapacious activities of a lesbian colluding with the GOP and unaware, or so she acts, about her father's abuse of power.

Mary's only genuine tale that seemed truthful was that her sexual preference was something she "just kind of always knew" and that her mother "worried that my being gay in a prejudiced society... ...would limit my ability to achieve my goals." A glimmer of truth shined through but only for a few seconds. Too bad Mary hasn't used her political clout to change the plight of gays and she has such a powerful father. Oh, but Dick's hands are tied. The preznit calls the shots. Yeah, right.

Two moments in the Larry King interview captured just what a political operative Mary is. Karl Rove would have been proud. One had to do with John Kerry and the other, John Edwards. King delved into Kerry's remarks with a video clip from the presidential debate. John Kerry said:
I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was. She's being who she was born as. I think if you talk to anybody it's not choice.
I thought Kerry stated his position in a manner that dignified gays and lesbians. It's not a choice and being gay is who we are, not unnatural or an abnormality as the GOP likes to spout. But to Mary Cheney, Kerry was taking political advantage of the fact that she was gay, the daughter of the vice president, and also Dick's campaign manager, a political job. King also read a recent statement from Kerry spokesman, John Wade about Mary's book:
"She'd be more credible if she pushed dad's administration to support hate crimes legislation and equal rights for gay Americans rather than inflecting for the most anti-gay administration in history."
I have to agree with Wade. But the chip off the ol' Veep Creep block didn't. Every opportunity to, as Mary put it, "caricature... or try and stereotype" can't be missed and she exploited the moment to her full advantage:
Well, I'd heard that Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards both responded to my book and I got to admit I'm actually really surprised, you know, particularly with Senator Kerry because he is a Senator and, you know, we are at war in this country, so I'm thinking usually you should have some bigger things to worry about than my book.
Like Sen. Kerry hasn't been focused on the war? And gay rights isn't an issue worthy of a senator's attention? Where have you been, Mary? Busy making up shit?
As for a reaction, quite honestly I think I'll probably wait a day or two to think about reacting to it just because it's John Kerry and quite honestly he'll probably change his mind by the time we get there.
Ah, the John Kerry flip-flopping meme. Thank you, Mary, for demonstrating what an attack poodle you are. You and Kenny Girl Mehlman must refine your snappy repartees over martinis with a little help from the original political hatchet man, Karl Rove. Like a toxic lesbian, using specious claims to score points, to counter with a sarcastic cutdown, and puff herself up as a self-righteous power dyke, her remarks about John Edwards revealed her armored Amazonian veneer. Larry King read Edwards' statement:
What I did was express my respect and admiration for the way the Cheney family, along with millions of other families, have embraced members of their family. And, if I remember, the vice president was very gracious in reacting to it.
Faux indignant Mary reacted:
Well, if you look at the video, and I don't know if you actually have the video, but if you watch the video of that debate it's pretty obvious to anybody who knows my dad that he's angry and my mom and my sister and I obviously all were primarily just because, you know, John Edwards doesn't know us and John Edwards, if you...
At this point, Larry King interjected, saying, "But he wasn't attacking you." And he wasn't. I saw the debate and followed Edwards who I thought treated the subject with respect and dignity. But not Mary. Not missing another opportunity to draw a "caricature" or "stereotype," she confirmed, "No," that Edwards hadn't attacked her...
...but if you read John Edwards or watch John Edwards' comments the first thing, the first words out of his mouth are, you know, "I think the Cheneys love their daughter."
Well, I certainly appreciate Senator Edwards' opinion but, you know, I don't really understand what would give him the right to comment on my family and, of course, the implication would be that because I was gay maybe they don't.
Hey, Mary. If your daddy is so proud of you, why was he so outraged about the fact that Kerry and Edwards identified you as a lesbian? Riddle me that, Catwoman. Get a fucking clue. Your family is in politics. The Bush-Cheney campaign that you were a party to, you fucking hypocrite, used gay marriage as a political wedge issue to GOTV. Talking about gay rights is 100% part of the political discourse of our country. You're gay. Talking about the vice president's campaign manager--that's you, Mary--is an appropriate subject especially considering how Republicans pander to the anti-gay vote, and also how Americans, and yes, even Republicans have gay children.

King played the clip from the vice presidential debate when Edwards talks about how Dick and Lynne love their daughter:
...they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children who want their children to be happy.
Who would argue that Edwards' remarks were anything but respectful and complimentary? He related the issue to millions of American families with gay sons and daughters. Mary defends disingenuously:
One of the things that is so interesting about watching that videotape is what strikes me is how smart my dad was. He knew that -- we knew and I talk about in the book we knew going in to that vice presidential debate that one of John Edwards' goals was going to be to try to get my dad to lose his temper. And, I honestly think that that was what Senator Edwards was trying to do and my dad was just too smart to take the bait.
Ha! Ever heard of projection, Mary? Nothing in Edwards' words or his demeanor exuded antagonism. Nothing! Again, I ask, if your dad is so proud of you, Mary, why would talking about your lesbianism in a thoughtful manner cause your dad consternation? Why would that subject "bait" your father?

King asks whether talking about gays "is a fair political issue at all?" Mary replies:
Yes, I think that gay rights is an issue, are issues that we as a country really need to debate and discuss that we should be having substantive discussions about.
OK, fair enough. But then she can't help but show some of the Veep Creep's persona in her:
And, I frankly think it's a little disappointing that when both John Edwards and John Kerry had the chance to talk about the substance of the issue, to talk about, you know, their own positions, that instead of doing that they, you know, decided to score some cheap political points.
Oh, let's see who attempted to score cheap political points. King reminds Mary, "Isn't their own position though more progressive than the administration's... both of them?" Yes, indeed it is. But please, Larry, one mustn't make the almighty GOP look like the small-tent bigoted hypocrites they are. Republicans used homophobia to rally the anti-gay evangelical vote and introduced legislation to ban gay marriage. But tossing those facts aside, Mary gets tough and dirty like her daddy:
Well you're going to have to figure out what John Kerry's position is. But, you know, I've made it clear in my book that I don't support the president's position on a lot of gay rights issues, particularly...
Way to go, girl. You must make Darth Vader proud as his obedient, spew those anti-Kerry talking points Bushbot babe. So you made your position in a book clear that you don't support Bush's policy on gay rights but when you were in a place of political power that could influence the party, you did nothing. Can't go off script in winning elections and pandering to the theocons, can you, Ms. Power Dyke? Winning is everything, isn't it?

You can read the rest of the transcript for more life is so wonderful as a lesbian in the Cheney household, the telephone call-in questions and answers, why Bush-Cheney were the best candidates for national security, to fight terrorism, and more. I tried to call in during Larry King Live to ask Mary, "When you were spokeswoman for Coors in the 1990s, is it true that Coors sponsored International Mister Leather? And what part of the decision to sponsor IML did you play? Also, did you attend the IML event in Chicago?" But I never got through the switchboard to ask Mary my question. Too bad. That would have been an interesting TV moment. I would have loved to have heard Mary Cheney's answer.

WaPo has more about Mary Cheney's Teflon gene in reaction to attacks and her uninhibited venom for Kerry and Edwards. Odd that a gay or lesbian would harbor animosity for Democrats, progressives who have accomplished more for gay equality than her doting father or party ever has. But power dykes don't make sense. Power is their religion and sometimes faith requires blind obedience more than reason.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Spying on Americans

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) articulated my reaction to the USAToday report that the NSA has been "secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth."

"Are you telling me that tens of millions of Americans are involved with al Qaeda? These are tens of millions of Americans who are not suspected of anything ... Where does it stop?'
The WH went into full denial mode with a flimsy attempt to blunt the damage as a scowling President Bush stepped up to the lectern at the WH.
In defending the previously disclosed program, Bush insisted that the NSA was focused exclusively on international calls. "In other words," Bush explained, "one end of the communication must be outside the United States."
As a result, domestic call records — those of calls that originate and terminate within U.S. borders — were believed to be private.
Sources, however, say that is not the case. With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans. Customers' names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA's domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information.
Big brother is watching you under the guise of fighting terrorism. Ha! What a joke. So where's Osama?
The NSA's domestic program began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the sources. Right around that time, they said, NSA representatives approached the nation's biggest telecommunications companies. The agency made an urgent pitch: National security is at risk, and we need your help to protect the country from attacks.
The agency told the companies that it wanted them to turn over their "call-detail records," a complete listing of the calling histories of their millions of customers. In addition, the NSA wanted the carriers to provide updates, which would enable the agency to keep tabs on the nation's calling habits.
The sources said the NSA made clear that it was willing to pay for the cooperation. AT&T, which at the time was headed by C. Michael Armstrong, agreed to help the NSA. So did BellSouth, headed by F. Duane Ackerman; SBC, headed by Ed Whitacre; and Verizon, headed by Ivan Seidenberg.
With that, the NSA's domestic program began in earnest.
AT&T, when asked about the program, replied with a comment prepared for USA TODAY: "We do not comment on matters of national security, except to say that we only assist law enforcement and government agencies charged with protecting national security in strict accordance with the law."
In another prepared comment, BellSouth said: "BellSouth does not provide any confidential customer information to the NSA or any governmental agency without proper legal authority."
Verizon, the USA's No. 2 telecommunications company behind AT&T, gave this statement: "We do not comment on national security matters, we act in full compliance with the law and we are committed to safeguarding our customers' privacy."
I wonder how many Republican corporate donors will get a nice dossier on consumers to help them market their products and services. Big Pharma already has received a billion dollar hand-out at the expense of taxpayers with the prescription drug bill and that took congressional approval--legislators who were bamboozled with an intentionally faulty price tag. Data-mining, however, under King George doesn't get the oversight of Congress, not when Pat Roberts (R-KS) runs the show. Roberts has stonewalled the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence investigation into how the Administration misused intel in its march to war on Iraq. Oversight by the Senate Intelligence Committee virtually doesn't exist with wacky Chairman Roberts in charge.

Had enough... yet? I know I have a long time ago. Will the Rubber Stamp Republicans do something about stopping the intrusion of Big Government into the private lives of Americans? Probably not. Read Digby on how our government has been abusing the promise that we're spying only on terrorists. When Republicans say they object to Big Government what they really mean is they object to them not running it.

It's time to kick the bums out this fall and elect Democrats who can put the brakes on Big Brother Bush and his gang.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

At 31%, how low can Bush go?

Bush's approval dips to 31% in the new USAToday/Gallup poll conducted May 5–7. Significantly, approval among Republicans weakened to 68%.

Compared to the five most recent presidents:

Bush has the widest gap between Republicans' and Democrats' approval ratings of any of the five presidents at the low points of their administration. There is a 64 point gap between Republicans' and Democrats' ratings of Bush right now. This compares with a 50 point partisan gap for Reagan, a 45 point gap for Clinton, a 45 point gap for the elder Bush, and a 15 point gap for Carter.
George, you're doing a "heckuva job" as a "uniter."

Charles Franklin, professor of political science who teaches statistical analysis of polls, elections, and public opinion at the University of Wisconsin, provides a startling comparison of Bush's midterm ratings to previous presidents from 1950 forward (h/t to Mark Blumenthal). The professor's grafs:
If the current rate were sustained throughout the year, approval would stand at 20.4% on election day, below the all time low of 22% for Truman. (Gallup cites 23% as Truman's low, and they should know, but there is a February 1952 Gallup poll that appears to show the 22% I cite. I'm trying to get this clarified. Either way Bush would be below Truman's record.)
If the rest of the year returned to the rate of most of 2005, -.0309 rather than -.0720, then election day approval would be 28.1%.
If the president can rally and sustain the same rate as during November-January, then election day approval would be 40.8%.
Sustained improvement in presidential approval has not been seen in the Bush administration except during the 2004 election campaign period. From 5/1/2004 through 11/2/2004 approval rose at a rate of +0.0112% per day (or +1% every 89 days.) At that rate, approval at the midterm would stand at 36.1%.
And, of course, if approval simply stabilizes at the current level, approval would be 34% on election day.
Approval can surge dramatically, as the aftermath of 9/11 and the start of the Iraq war illustrate. However, such surges commonly accompany dramatic international events and not new domestic initiatives. By their nature, such events are unpredictable. The surge in support is also usually short-lived.
I was frankly shocked at the above results. Other presidents have suffered low approval ratings, and President Bush still stands above the lows of four of the ten other post-war presidents. But I had not appreciated how much the current approval is below other mid-term approval ratings, even without extrapolating current trends. We have simply never seen a president this unpopular going into a midterm election.
I will be surprised if the current rate of decline continues. But I will also be surprised by a sustained upturn at the rate of November-January. Either would be an extreme outcome. But approval between the upper 20s and lower 30s seems entirely plausible. There is no precedent for a midterm with approval at those levels.
A commenter took exception with Franklin's analysis since he started with 1950 and didn't include Truman's dive in post-war 1946. So amending his data to factor in Truman's poor approvals, Franklin restated that there's "almost no precedent for a midterm with approval at those levels." Blumenthal warned that Bush wouldn't want to share Truman's 1946 low at 33% since that year, the opposition party, the Republicans, "won 55% of the congressional vote and took control of both houses of Congress and a majority of state governorships."

Franklin also posted some nifty charts so click the link. Here's one, a projection of how Bush's October approval ratings might look based on May ratings:
The picture isn't pretty at 38.1%. Yet, Franklin predicts, based on the past 16 months, that Bush's approval ratings in October will measure "in the high 20s to low 30s."

Franklin also examined the new Gallup poll that I quoted at the top of this post and he cites "conservative discontent" for the erosion of the president's ratings with Republicans. Hmm, causes me to wonder if the Bush camp plans an extraordinary event or series of crises to rally the base. It could happen.