Saturday, December 31, 2005

GOP attacks on Granholm vetoes go too far
See? I'm not crazy.

To the GOP-ruled Legislature, Gov. Jennifer Granholm's veto pen is a terrible swift sword that's likely to make election-year relations with her all the more contentious on economic, welfare, transit and other issues.

"Gov. Granholm has sent a terrible signal to taxpayers and job providers today by vetoing needed welfare reform," House Speaker Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, said Tuesday. That day she vetoed eight bills, bringing her 2005 total to 12. She's signed 327 and has six pending.

But what elicited a more extreme reaction was her veto of a bill allowing Kent County to levy a property tax for public transportation. Rep. Jerry Kooiman, R-Grand Rapids, correctly described his bill as enabling Grand Rapids to secure $14 million in federal matching funds toward a streetcar or rapid transit bus corridor.

But he went over the edge in contending Granholm "has no concern for Kent County or residents of western Michigan (and) is attempting to cripple Kent County in the same way she has Michigan's economy."

The original bill applied to transit authorities throughout Michigan, and Granholm praised it. But it was amended to apply only to Kent County, prompting her to declare: "The crass political motivation that would provide funding flexibility to one county while leaving behind the rest of the state is bad for jobs in Michigan and cynically fosters division in a state that cries out for unity."

She says it so much better than I can. Must be that Harvard education. I would just call him a shithead and be done with it. ;-)
DeRoche, as Graholm requested, called the House back to vote today on a Senate-passed bill to extend the current welfare law, set to expire at year's end. He said reforms "can still be made in the future."

Looming largest in the near future is the 2006 election. Neither party will allow the other notable victories in Lansing.

Granholm will be attacked by Republicans with all the vigor that Democrats used in 1994 in assailing "mean-spirited" first-term Gov. John Engler -- who ended up as a national leader in welfare reform efforts ultimately embraced by both parties on Capitol Hill.

Welfare reform was a proud legacy for Engler, who championed the Michigan requirements now criticized by state Republicans as among the weakest in the nation. - Creators Syndicate - Molly Ivins
A must-read this week.

For those of you who have forgotten just what a stonewall paranoid Nixon was, the poor man used to stalk around the White House demanding that his political enemies be killed. Many still believe there was a certain Richard III grandeur to Nixon's collapse because he was also a man of notable talents. There is neither grandeur nor tragedy in watching this president, the Testy Kid, violate his oath to uphold the laws and Constitution of our country.

The Testy Kid wants to do what he wants to do when he wants to do it because he is the president, and he considers that sufficient justification for whatever he wants. He even finds lawyers like John Yoo, who tell him that whatever he wants to do is legal.

The creepy part is the overlap. Damned if they aren't still here, after all these years, the old Nixon hands -- Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, the whole gang whose yearning for authoritarian government rose like a stink over the Nixon years. Imperial executive. Bring back those special White House guard uniforms. Cheney, like some malignancy that cannot be killed off, back at the same old stand, pushing the same old crap.

I loved this bit:
You will be unsurprised to learn that, first, they lied. They didn't do it. Well, OK, they did it, but not very much at all. Well, OK, more than that. A lot more than that. OK, millions of private e-mail and telephone calls every hour, and all medical and financial records.

And this:
As many have patiently pointed out, the entire program was unnecessary, since the FISA court is both prompt and accommodating. There is virtually no possible scenario that would make it difficult or impossible to get a FISA warrant -- it has granted 19,000 warrants and rejected only a handful.

I don't like to play scary games where we all stay awake late at night, telling each other scary stories -- but there's a reason we have never given our government this kind of power. As the late Sen. Frank Church said, "That capability could at any time be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capacity to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide." And if a dictator took over, the NSA "could enable it to impose total tyranny."

Go read.
It's All About the Last Week of Football...

I don't expect a very good record with teams resting starters, protecting stars, or trying out the "B" team for evaluation of next year's plans.

Denver at San Diego
N.Y. Giants at Oakland
Arizona at Indianapolis
Baltimore at Cleveland
Buffalo at N.Y. Jets
Carolina at Atlanta
Cincinnati at Kansas City
Detroit at Pittsburgh
Miami at New England
New Orleans at Tampa Bay
Seattle at Green Bay
Houston at San Francisco
Tennessee at Jacksonville
Chicago at Minnesota
Washington at Philadelphia
St. Louis at Dallas

Justice Dept. Probing Domestic Spying Leak - Yahoo! News
I thought that the Attorney General of the US worked for the people, not as a personal lawyer for the President to persecute the whistleblowers of executive crimes.

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department has opened another investigation into leaks of classified information, this time to determine who divulged the existence of President Bush's secret domestic spying program.

Yes, we must find this person. Many rewards, parades and shiny medals to bestow!
The inquiry focuses on disclosures to The New York Times about warrantless surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, officials said.

The newspaper recently revealed the existence of the program in a front-page story that also acknowledged that the news had been withheld from publication for a year, partly at the request of the administration and partly because the newspaper wanted more time to confirm various aspects of the program.

White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Justice undertook the action on its own, and Bush was informed of it Friday.

"The leaking of classified information is a serious issue. The fact is that al-Qaida's playbook is not printed on Page One and when America's is, it has serious ramifications," Duffy told reporters in Crawford, Texas, where Bush was spending the holidays.

Now, I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me that if leaking this information is such a serious offense, with it's serious ramifications, then perhaps the White House should be charged with obstruction of justice for not investigating this leak for a whole year. They knew about it. Why didn't they investigate before?

As a side note, who thinks Trent Duffy is lined up to take the place of Scott McClellan? But, I digress...

Disclosure of the secret spying program two weeks ago unleashed a firestorm of criticism of the administration. Some critics accused the president of breaking the law by authorizing intercepts of conversations — without prior court approval or oversight — of people inside the United States and abroad who had suspected ties to al-Qaida or its affiliates.

The inquiry launched Friday is only the most recent effort by the Bush administration to determine who is disclosing information to journalists.

Two years ago, a special counsel was named to investigate who inside the White House gave reporters the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, an effort that led to perjury and obstruction of justice charges against Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide, Lewis I. "Scooter" Libby.

Time it took to start the Plame investigation- four months. Time to start this one- two weeks.

More recently, the Justice Department has begun examining whether classified information was illegally disclosed to The Washington Post about a network of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

Parades from them, too.
It is unclear whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will recuse himself from the inquiry. He was White House counsel when Bush signed the executive order authorizing the NSA, which is normally confined to overseas operations, to spy on conversations taking place on American soil.

For the past two weeks, Gonzales also has been one of the administration's point men in arguing that the president has the constitutional authority to conduct the spying.

"It's pretty stunning that, rather than focus on whether the president broke his oath of office and broke federal law, they are going after the whistleblowers," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Romero said a special prosecutor from outside the Justice Department needs to be appointed. "This confirms many of the fears about Gonzales' appointment — that he would not be sufficiently independent from the president and that he would play the role of a crony," he said.

And if you don't think that Bush's Supreme Court nominations will behave the same way, think again. Does this explain the appointment of Harriet Miers? What does Mr. Alito think of the use of executive power in cases such as this? Perhaps that should be in the line of questioning come January. Hint, hint, Senators.

Friday, December 30, 2005

United Press International - Security & Terrorism - German media: U.S. prepares Iran strike
Well. Won't that be fun.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- The Bush administration is preparing its NATO allies for a possible military strike against suspected nuclear sites in Iran in the New Year, according to German media reports, reinforcing similar earlier suggestions in the Turkish media.

The Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel this week quoted "NATO intelligence sources" who claimed that the NATO allies had been informed that the United States is currently investigating all possibilities of bringing the mullah-led regime into line, including military options. This "all options are open" line has been President George W Bush's publicly stated policy throughout the past 18 months.

But the respected German weekly Der Spiegel notes "What is new here is that Washington appears to be dispatching high-level officials to prepare its allies for a possible attack rather than merely implying the possibility as it has repeatedly done during the past year."

The German news agency DDP cited "Western security sources" to claim that CIA Director Porter Goss asked Turkey's premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan to provide political and logistic support for air strikes against Iranian nuclear and military targets. Goss, who visited Ankara and met Erdogan on Dec. 12, was also reported to have to have asked for special cooperation from Turkish intelligence to help prepare and monitor the operation.

The DDP report added that Goss had delivered to the Turkish prime minister and his security aides a series of dossiers, one on the latest status of Iran's nuclear development and another containing intelligence on new links between Iran and al-Qaida.

DDP cited German security sources who added that the Turks had been assured of a warning in advance if and when the military strikes took place, and had also been given "a green light" to mount their own attacks on the bases in Iran of the PKK, (Kurdish Workers party), which Turkey sees as a separatist group responsible for terrorist attacks inside Turkey.

Goss's visit to the Turkish capital followed the rising international concern over recent statements by the new Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Israel should be "wiped off the map," denying the existence of Holocaust, and suggesting that Israel's Jewish population might be re-located to Europe.

In a December 23 report, the DDP agency quoted an anonymous but "high-ranking German military official" telling their reporter: "I would be very surprised if the Americans, in the mid-term, didn't take advantage of the opportunity delivered by Tehran. The Americans have to attack Iran before the country can develop nuclear weapons. After that would be too late."

Let's hope this is a bluff.
Homeland Security poorly managed: audit - Yahoo! News
Geez, ya THINK?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nearly three years after President George W. Bush created the Department of Homeland Security after the September 11 attacks, the sprawling agency still faces management problems that were partly to blame for the poor response to Hurricane Katrina, an internal audit showed.

In a report issued on Wednesday, the inspector general outlined a series of problems with the agency that was created in early 2003 in the largest reorganization of the federal government in 50 years.

Inspector General Robert Skinner said Hurricanes Katrina in August and Rita, a month later, exposed weaknesses in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's information systems and its management of contracts and grants.

"When one considers that FEMA's programs are largely administered through grants and contracts, the circumstances created by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita provides an unprecedented opportunity for fraud, waste, and abuse," the report said.

The hurricane contracts went to the buddies of Republican lobbyists and lawmakers. We will see an investigation into the fraud, waste and abuse?

October 13, 2005 | The political ties of several contractors hired to help with Hurricane Katrina cleanup efforts are being called into question by some lawmakers and government officials who have said they fear those ties could lead to abuse.

Of the $2.3 billion in contracts awarded by the federal government in the weeks since Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, at least 15 exceed $100 million; including five that are valued at $500 million or more, according to a New York Times analysis. More than 80 percent of those contracts were awarded with little or no competition.

Several of the companies that won huge contracts have close ties to Washington lobbyists, as well as lawmakers. They include AshBritt Environmental, based in Pompano Beach, Fla., and Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root. Baton Rouge, La.-based Shaw Environmental, a subsidiary of the Shaw Group, is the largest local company, with 18,000 employees, to receive Katrina contracts, according to government records.

Anyone? Is anyone going to look into this and perhaps charge these people for the fraud (especially!), waste, and abuse? Apparently not. FEMA just needs a "re-organization", which I take as, "hire more of our buddies and spend more money on worthless directives that still will be rife with fraud, waste and abuse."
Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said reorganization at FEMA was one of the department's top priorities.

"The American public will be hearing from us in short order about how we intend to build the capability of FEMA into a 21st century agency with 21st century capabilities ... and restore the agency's core focus on response and recovery missions," he said on Thursday.

Knocke said the department would detail the changes early next year. Some changes to FEMA could include state-of-the-art communications equipment and improved capabilities to track emergency supplies -- like through bar codes -- in order to better distribute goods in an emergency.

As part of an effort to have FEMA focus mainly on response and recovery, the department has also created a new preparedness directorate that will be responsible for consolidating all preparedness functions, Knocke said.

Barcodes on the supplies! That will solve all the problems!

What a joke.

The DHS budget (warning: government link) has doubled from $20 billion to $40 billion since 2001. The hurricane money comes on top of that.

Isn't it about time to ask what the hell they are doing with all the money? Isn't it time to hold some of these firms liable for fraud?

Not as long as they are friends of the Culture of Corruption.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

NSA Web Site Places 'Cookies' on Computers - Yahoo! News
To anyone who clicked through to the NSA to look at the "NSA For Kids" link that I posted, my deepest apologies.

NEW YORK - The National Security Agency's Internet site has been placing files on visitors' computers that can track their Web surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most of them.

These files, known as "cookies," disappeared after a privacy activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week, and agency officials acknowledged Wednesday they had made a mistake. Nonetheless, the issue raises questions about privacy at a spy agency already on the defensive amid reports of a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States.

"Considering the surveillance power the NSA has, cookies are not exactly a major concern," said Ari Schwartz, associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy advocacy group in Washington, D.C. "But it does show a general lack of understanding about privacy rules when they are not even following the government's very basic rules for Web privacy."

Until Tuesday, the NSA site created two cookie files that do not expire until 2035 — likely beyond the life of any computer in use today.

Don Weber, an NSA spokesman, said in a statement Wednesday that the cookie use resulted from a recent software upgrade. Normally, the site uses temporary, permissible cookies that are automatically deleted when users close their Web browsers, he said, but the software in use shipped with persistent cookies already on.

"After being tipped to the issue, we immediately disabled the cookies," he said.

Uh-huh. I bet you did. "When they caught us, we stopped."

So, I'm supposed to believe that the NSA didn't know what their own software and web site was doing? The NSA? That's comforting.

Who made the software? And how much did they contribute to the Republican Party?

From now on- If I link to a government site and you get cooties, it's not my fault! You have been warned!

Courtesy of the ACLU. & WOOD TV8 - Grand Rapids news and weather - Local politicians upset over governor's veto of transit system funds
After reading crap like this, one has to wonder- Just how much is Mr. DeVos paying Mr. Albin?

By vetoing House Bill 4994, Governor Granholm has denied $14 million in federal funds to Grand Rapids for further study of a mass transit plan in the area.

It’s a move that has some area politicians wondering why.

Really, Rick? With a few clicks of a mouse I figured it out. I'm a bit perplexed as to why you and the "area politicians" can't do the same.

Governor Granholm has used her veto pen liberally this week. In addition to saying “no” to welfare reform, she turned back the $14 million from the federal government to study two transit routes in West Michigan.

Ah, nice trick. Slip the words "liberal" and "welfare" in there, even though that has no bearing on this particular story. That will get the juices boiling.
One idea was to develop some type of high-speed travel from the Cutlerville area to downtown Grand Rapids. The other idea was a route from the airport to downtown. The federal government was willing to pay for the study, but the governor said no.

So government spending is okey-dokey fine when it comes to the pork that benefits West Michigan, but when it comes to feeding women and children, not so much. Gotcha. Glad to know where your priorities lie. Big business - yes. People - no. Or why bring up the "welfare reform"? Moving on-

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell tried to get the governor to approve the bill, “I urged her, I pled with her not to veto it. I understand why she did it. It's a political game that's being played. But it's a high stakes game and Grand Rapids -- the whole Grand Rapids region -- is the loser on this.”

This little quote is taken out of context and made to look as if Granholm is the one playing the "political game". Let's go to the Grand Rapids Press for the rest of Heartwell's quote, shall we?
Heartwell blamed the Republican leadership in the state House for scuttling Kooiman's bill.

"House Speaker (Craig) DeRoche was not about to let anything hit the floor of the House that could help Detroit," he said.

Puts it in a little different perspective, doesn't it? But I guess Rick didn't want to tell you that part. Hmmmm.
Representative Jerry Kooiman sponsored the bill and says it was designed specifically for Kent County, “It's not for your typical grid bus system throughout the state. There is only one transit agency in the state that has been designated by the federal transit agency for this type of program and that is Grand Rapids. Her reasons for vetoing it are highly suspect.”

No, not really. She told you why. Let's go to Liz Boyd in case you have forgotten the explanation. It was short and sweet, and pretty clear.
Granholm said she liked the bill, but did not like that House Republicans tailored it to benefit the Grand Rapids system alone.

"She believes very strongly that the options outlined in the bill should be an option available to every community in Michigan, not just Kent County," said Liz Boyd, the governor's press secretary.

"The Republican leadership has put politics over policy on this issue."

If you want to talk "highly suspect", Mr. Kooiman, explain this next piece of information to me.
Since the $14 million from the federal government was only designated for Kent County, no other area could have benefited from the legislation.

My, that's odd. I wonder why Mr Kooiman didn't target his original bill just for Kent County then. I wonder why House Republicans felt the need to deny other communities this authority if the above sentence is true. Back to the Press.
State Rep. Jerry Kooiman, R-Grand Rapids, said his original bill did not restrict the authority to Kent County. But other legislators were worried about granting other transit systems the same authority and limited it to Kent County, he said.

So, which is it? Did the Fed money specifically say "Kent County"? If so, why the worry about other locations? Back to the Free Press for a little more information.
The best remedy is for Granholm to ask the Legislature for a bill like the one Kooiman initially introduced, giving transit agencies the same extended levy authority for rapid transit and rail projects.

Grand Rapids should have the authority provided in the bill. The region's Interurban Transit Partnership plans to develop a streetcar or rapid transit bus corridor serving its downtown and is seeking a $14.4-million federal grant for engineering work on the project. The Grand Rapids area has become the state's leader in transit and land use planning, and the Legislature ought to encourage its efforts.

But, without change, the bill on Granholm's desk could also block a proposed Detroit-Ann Arbor rapid transit line that would also serve the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Congress has already approved $100 million to design the system. The federal government could also chip in up to 80% of the costs of building such a line, but not if the region doesn't have a long-term plan to pay for operating costs. The Legislature's bill would prevent such a plan by limiting levy authority to five years. Either way, local voters would have to approve any plan to pay for transit systems through property taxes.

This part makes it seem like the Fed money could be used by anyone as long as they pony up the long term bucks to pay for it. So, Rick's statement is, well, a lie. The House Republicans changed the bill so other areas could not benefit. I wonder why Rick and Jerry didn't want to tell us that part.

And now for the grand finale- time to drag up the East vs. West divide, proving once again that Republicans can't govern unless they make someone the enemy. Turning the citizens against each other is such a wonderful tool, isn't it?

On the eve of the 2006 election cycle this move by the governor will be seen by some as an east-west issue with Granholm favoring southeast Michigan.

In a statement yesterday, Representative Kooiman said that the governor's action, "Sends a clear message that the future of West Michigan is not something that matters to her."

Yes, of course, back to the old canard that "Detroit gets all the money". I honestly don't see how the governor's move "favors southeast Michigan" at all. Seems to me she wanted this available to all communities. And had Kooiman's original bill gone through, that's what would have happened. But now Mr. Kooiman wants to play both sides of the fence and claim her actions are a direct slap at West Michigan, which I hope I have proved is complete and utter bullshit. House Republicans are the ones that jacked this bill around. House Republicans can fix it.

The question is, will they? Or will they continue to obstruct progress for the sake divisive politics that hurt the citizens of Michigan? And will Mr. Albin be there to fuel that fire? My guess is yes to all the above.

Granholm would have passed the damn tax cuts except for one thing. (and those finally did go through after a compromise. See how easy that was?). She would have passed the welfare reform except for one thing. She would have passed this bill except for one thing. She has been willing to compromise and negotiate on all of these proposals- House Republicans are the ones who have shown that they will not bend at all on these issues, and not only that, seem to go out of their way to find things that provoke a veto and divide us all.

But Mr. Albin chooses to leave out those little pesky details. Gee, I wonder why.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

WZZM 13 Grand Rapids - Heartwell: Granholm Veto Hurts GR
So, who were these Republicans that limited the bill to only Grand Rapids? Seems to me that they had a hand in defeating this bill all on their own.

Sorry George. As much as I love this idea, you know damn well that if all the money had gone to Detroit, the usual suspects would have been screaming about "favoritism".

Grand Rapids - Mayor George Heartwell spent 20 minutes on the phone with Governor Jennifer Granholm Tuesday. He tried in vain to convince her not to veto a law she feels unfairly benefits Grand Rapids to the exclusion of the state's other cities.

Governor Granholm and Heartwell are allies on the vast majority of issues, but not this one. "I believe that she's made a mistake - I told her that - that her veto will hurt Grand Rapids" Heartwell said Tuesday night.

In question is money, $14.4 million that would be used in the early study phases of an expanded mass transit system for greater Grand Rapids. Congress approved the money earlier this year, but its receipt was linked to action in Lansing. That action, sponsored by Grand Rapids republican Jerry Kooiman, would have extended the length of time local transit authorities could levy taxes to fund their systems. Kooiman's bill ended up applying only to Grand Rapids' Interurban Transit Partnership, something Granholm called "restrictive" and "short-sighted" in her veto letter.

I was all ready to jump down Kooiman's throat over this- but it turns out that "other" Repubs changed the provisions. Funny how party discipline falls apart on this one. Or suspicious. Take your pick.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm ought to veto a transit bill that would deny southeast Michigan, and other regions around the state, the same taxing options as the Grand Rapids area. As it stands, the bill is another slap by Republican leaders at southeast Michigan's efforts to improve public transportation.

The bill, as originally introduced by Rep. Jerry Kooiman, R-Grand Rapids, gave certain transit agencies uniform authority, with local approval, to levy property taxes for up to 25 years for rapid transit and rail projects. But other Republicans pushed to change the bill to apply to Kent County only. Current law limits transit levies to five years.

The best remedy is for Granholm to ask the Legislature for a bill like the one Kooiman initially introduced, giving transit agencies the same extended levy authority for rapid transit and rail projects.

Grand Rapids should have the authority provided in the bill. The region's Interurban Transit Partnership plans to develop a streetcar or rapid transit bus corridor serving its downtown and is seeking a

$14.4-million federal grant for engineering work on the project. The Grand Rapids area has become the state's leader in transit and land use planning, and the Legislature ought to encourage its efforts.

But, without change, the bill on Granholm's desk could also block a proposed Detroit-Ann Arbor rapid transit line that would also serve the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Congress has already approved $100 million to design the system. The federal government could also chip in up to 80% of the costs of building such a line, but not if the region doesn't have a long-term plan to pay for operating costs. The Legislature's bill would prevent such a plan by limiting levy authority to five years. Either way, local voters would have to approve any plan to pay for transit systems through property taxes.

Other than petty politics, there's no reason to give only one region the tools to move ahead on major federally funded transit projects. Michigan's local finance law should apply uniformly.

OK, I'm missing something here. What possible gain do the Repubs get by changing this bill so it's certain to get vetoed? And why did Kooiman allow it? Was this designed on purpose to strengthen the divide between Detroit vs. Everyone Else, and make the governor look like the bad guy in the process?

And why would I be so shocked that Michigan Republicans would hurt their constituents based on petty politics alone? Will I ever learn?

On another note- I had to go through three different sources to learn the full story here. A big "boo" to the Grand Rapids media for not presenting the all the details. Let's see if later editions present a balanced picture of why this happened, rather than taking this as just a slap at Grand Rapids.
Defense Lawyers in Terror Cases Plan Challenges Over Spy Efforts - New York Times
It seems there is a little problem with King George's plan...

WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 - Defense lawyers in some of the country's biggest terrorism cases say they plan to bring legal challenges to determine whether the National Security Agency used illegal wiretaps against several dozen Muslim men tied to Al Qaeda.

The lawyers said in interviews that they wanted to learn whether the men were monitored by the agency and, if so, whether the government withheld critical information or misled judges and defense lawyers about how and why the men were singled out.

The expected legal challenges, in cases from Florida, Ohio, Oregon and Virginia, add another dimension to the growing controversy over the agency's domestic surveillance program and could jeopardize some of the Bush administration's most important courtroom victories in terror cases, legal analysts say.

Disclosure of the N.S.A. program has already caused ripples in the legal system, with a judge resigning in protest from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court last week. The surveillance court, established by Congress in 1978 to grant warrants in terrorism and espionage cases, wants a briefing from the Bush administration on why it bypassed the court and ordered eavesdropping without warrants.

At the same time, defense lawyers in terrorism cases around the country say they are preparing letters and legal briefs to challenge the N.S.A. program on behalf of their clients, many of them American citizens, and to find out more about how it might have been used. They acknowledge legal hurdles, including the fact that many defendants waived some rights to appeal as part of their plea deals.

Government officials, in defending the value of the security agency's surveillance program, have said in interviews that it played a critical part in at least two cases that led to the convictions of Qaeda associates, Iyman Faris of Ohio, who admitted taking part in a failed plot to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge, and Mohammed Junaid Babar of Queens, who was implicated in a failed plot to bomb British targets.

David B. Smith, a lawyer for Mr. Faris, said he planned to file a motion in part to determine whether information about the surveillance program should have been turned over. Lawyers said they were also considering a civil case against the president, saying that Mr. Faris was the target of an illegal wiretap ordered by Mr. Bush. A lawyer for Mr. Babar declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the WH continues it's haughty arrogance.
Trent Duffy, a spokesman for the White House, declined to comment in Crawford, Tex., when asked about a report in The New York Times that the security agency had tapped into some of the country's main telephone arteries to conduct broader data-mining operations in the search for terrorists.

But Mr. Duffy said: "This is a limited program. This is not about monitoring phone calls designed to arrange Little League practice or what to bring to a potluck dinner. These are designed to monitor calls from very bad people to very bad people who have a history of blowing up commuter trains, weddings and churches."

He added: "The president believes that he has the authority - and he does - under the Constitution to do this limited program. The Congress has been briefed. It is fully in line with the Constitution and also protecting American civil liberties."

I love how they manage to sneak Little League, churches and weddings into the statement. Playing to the base once again- why, if you're for God, Mom, and apple pie, you have nothing to worry about! But if you're dark skinned and have relatives overseas, we are just going to assume that you are "very bad people" and monitor your calls. Perhaps we will even lock you up and worry about the charges later.

That's the American way, right?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Tampa Bay 27, Atlanta 24 (OT)
Buffalo 37, Cincinnati 27
Dallas 24, Carolina 20

Detroit 13, New Orleans 12
Jacksonville 38, Houston 20

Washington 35, N.Y. Giants 20
Pittsburgh 41, Cleveland 0
Kansas City 20, San Diego 7
San Francisco 24, St. Louis 20

Miami 24, Tennessee 10
Arizona 27, Philadelphia 21
Seattle 28, Indianapolis 13
Denver 22, Oakland 3
Chicago 24 Green Bay 17
Minnesota 23 Baltimore 30

New England 31 N.Y. Jets 21

9-7. The only good thing about this week- BUCCANEERS!

Mobile phones to announce 'you've been indicted' - Yahoo! News
We need to order a whole bunch of these for the Bush Administration.

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Koreans may look at their mobile phones with some trepidation in the new year because prosecutors will start telling people they have been indicted via text messages, an official said Monday.

In a country where about 75 percent of the population carries mobile phones, prosecutors felt it was time to move away from sending legal notices on paper and send them electronically instead, said Lee Young-pyo, an administrative official.

"Most people in South Korea have mobile phones and since the notices don't reach them immediately by regular mail, this is a more definite way for the individuals to know they have received a legal notice," Lee said.

The indictments by text messages are not intended to take people by surprise. "People will receive a text message of a legal notice only after they apply for the service," he said.

Don't everybody rush in to sign up at once.

Monday, December 26, 2005

ABC Bids Farewell to Monday Night Football - Yahoo! News
The end of an era...

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - If you were ready for some football, it was the place to be for 35 seasons on Monday nights. Tonight, the NFL bids farewell to ABC, with the New England Patriots playing the New York Jets.

The second longest-running series on network TV shifts to ESPN beginning next season.

The series began in 1970, with Keith Jackson handling the play-by-play.

ESPN is paying about $1.1 billion over eight seasons for the Monday night contract.

...but with NBC picking up Sunday Night Football, it could be a nice trade.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

It's All About Me:

Four jobs you've had in your life: Record Store/CD store Clerk/Manager (the bulk of my "career"), Market Research, Fine Furniture Touch-Up Artist, Waitress (my shortest job)

Four movies you could watch over and over: Shawshank Redemption (mentioned earlier in this blog), Twister (Helen Hunt at her peak in a white tank top!), Star Wars (the original- all time record for most views), Alien/Aliens (either one)

Four places you've lived: Grand Rapids, Ada, Walker, and, uh....Grand Rapids. (and, except for one brief stint on the NE side, it's always been the SE side of Grand Rapids!)

Four TV shows you love to watch: The Daily Show, Buffy (not on much anymore), Arrested Development, Sex & the City.

Four places you've been on vacation: Jamaica, Virgin Islands, Florida (numerous), Washington D.C.

Four websites you visit daily: Daily Kos (a must), Americablog (I go way back with Aravosis), Michigan Liberal, Ogie and Dad's (ok, that's two, but who counts!)

Four of your favorite foods: Prime Rib, Cheeseburgers (I've been craving a Fab so bad), Crab Legs, anything Breakfast

Four places you'd rather be: Anna Maria Island (I should be strolling the beach right now, man. Tradition interrupted.), the Bucs game yesterday (damn you Bryan!), taking pictures in New Zealand... but, today I am glad to be at home, with my parents coming over for dinner. Merry Christmas to me!
Family of purse-snatch victim sues Meijer
Remember when they first starting putting security cameras up everywhere? "Big Brother" we mumbled, joking, but with a slight sense of unease about their sudden prevalence, about the fact that there might be someone watching you at any given minute.

Now, we depend on them. We might even sue if you don't watch us.

WYOMING -- The husband of a woman who died of injuries she suffered in a purse-snatching said Meijer Inc. should have provided better security in the parking lot outside its Clyde Park Avenue SW store, where she was robbed.

James "Harv" Herrema filed a wrongful-death suit against Meijer in the April death of his 81-year-old wife, Margaret.

"(Meijer) knew, or should have known, that criminal activity in its Clyde Park Meijer store and surrounding parking lot was a frequent occurrence," attorney William Mills wrote in a lawsuit filed recently in Kent County Circuit Court.

The attorney for the victim's husband said he filed suit only after he obtained police reports regarding the Meijer store on Clyde Park, as well as others in Kent and Ottawa counties, which detailed criminal activity in the retailer's parking lots.

Mills said surveillance cameras aimed at the parking lot, with monitors inside in visible locations, were "largely ineffective."

The cameras left gaps in coverage and did not span the entire parking lot, he said. The lack of surveillance allowed the defendants to loiter in the lot "for a considerable length of time in search of a victim," the suit said.

Can store owners be held accountable for not "keeping us safe" on their property? When we traded our shopping anonymity for the promise of protection under surveillance, was there an unspoken expectation of complete security for doing so?

In light of the national news about spying on Americans and the constant, growing monitoring and tracking of our lives in general, this story brought to mind a passage in Shawshank Redemption- and I'm paraphrasing-

"These walls are funny. At first you hate 'em. Then you get used to them. Then you grow to depend on them."

Will we get to a point where we insist that the government watch us?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

From Me to You:

It's All About Football:

Tough choices this week.

Atlanta at Tampa Bay
Buffalo at Cincinnati
Dallas at Carolina
Detroit at New Orleans (whaddaya say, Joey?)
Jacksonville at Houston
N.Y. Giants at Washington
Pittsburgh at Cleveland
San Diego at Kansas City
San Francisco at St. Louis
Tennessee at Miami
Philadelphia at Arizona
Indianapolis at Seattle (my heart goes out to the Dungy family. go Colts. win 'em all.)
Oakland at Denver
Chicago at Green Bay
Minnesota at Baltimore
New England at N.Y. Jets

NYT: NSA eavesdropping wider than W.House admitted - Yahoo! News
Shocked. Shocked, I tell you.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The volume of information gathered from telephone and Internet communications by the National Security Agency without court-approved warrants was much larger than the White House has acknowledged, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

Citing current and former government officials, the Times said the information was collected by tapping directly into some of the U.S. telecommunication system's main arteries. The officials said the NSA won the cooperation of telecommunications companies to obtain access to both domestic and international communications without first gaining warrants.

What do you mean, "won"? Were they paid? Was it up for bid?

A former telecommunications technology manager told the Times that industry leaders have been storing information on calling patterns and giving it to the federal government to aid in tracking possible terrorists since the September 11 attacks.

Government and industry officials with knowledge of the program told the newspaper the NSA sought to analyze communications patterns to gather clues from details like who is calling whom, how long a phone call lasts and what time of day it is made, as well as the origins and destinations of phone calls and e-mail messages.

Calls to and from Afghanistan were of particular interest to the NSA, the Times said. This so-called "pattern analysis" on calls within the United States would often otherwise require a warrant if the government wanted to trace who calls whom.

U.S.President George W. Bush and his aides have said his executive order allowing eavesdropping without warrants was limited to monitoring international phone and e-mail communications linked to people with connections to al-Qaeda. What has not been acknowledged, according to the Times, is that NSA technicians combed large amounts of phone and Internet traffic seeking patterns pointing to terrorism suspects.

Still not convinced? Try this one- Nuclear Monitoring of Muslims Done Without Search Warrants.

In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts.

The nuclear surveillance program began in early 2002 and has been run by the FBI and the Department of Energy's Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST). Two individuals, who declined to be named because the program is highly classified, spoke to U.S. News because of their concerns about the legality of the program. At its peak, they say, the effort involved three vehicles in Washington, D.C., monitoring 120 sites per day, nearly all of them Muslim targets drawn up by the FBI. For some ten months, officials conducted daily monitoring, and they have resumed daily checks during periods of high threat. The program has also operated in at least five other cities when threat levels there have risen: Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, New York, and Seattle.

In Washington, the sites monitored have included prominent mosques and office buildings in suburban Maryland and Virginia. One source close to the program said that participants "were tasked on a daily and nightly basis," and that FBI and Energy Department officials held regular meetings to update the monitoring list. "The targets were almost all U.S. citizens," says the source. "A lot of us thought it was questionable, but people who complained nearly lost their jobs. We were told it was perfectly legal."

The question of search warrants is controversial, however. To ensure accurate readings, in up to 15 percent of the cases the monitoring needed to take place on private property, sources say, such as on mosque parking lots and private driveways. Government officials familiar with the program insist it is legal; warrants are unneeded for monitoring from public property, they say, as well as from publicly accessible driveways and parking lots. "If a delivery man can access it, so can we," says one.

Georgetown University Professor David Cole, a constitutional law expert, disagrees. Surveillance of public spaces such as mosques or public businesses might well be allowable without a court order, he argues, but not private offices or homes: "They don't need a warrant to drive onto the property -- the issue isn't where they are, but whether they're using a tactic to intrude on privacy. It seems to me that they are, and that they would need a warrant or probable cause."

Cole points to a 2001 Supreme Court decision, U.S. vs. Kyllo, which looked at police use -- without a search warrant -- of thermal imaging technology to search for marijuana-growing lamps in a home. The court, in a ruling written by Justice Antonin Scalia, ruled that authorities did in fact need a warrant -- that the heat sensors violated the Fourth Amendment's clause against unreasonable search and seizure. But officials familiar with the FBI/NEST program say the radiation sensors are different and are only sampling the surrounding air. "This kind of program only detects particles in the air, it's non directional," says one knowledgeable official. "It's not a whole lot different from smelling marijuana."

Well, America? Can we impeach him now?

Couple questions: Let's say they found something in either case. Wouldn't those results be thrown out of court due to lack of warrant? And, are they violating any state laws, or does the Fed always supercede the states? Even when it's warrantless? Someone needs to check the books.

Friday, December 23, 2005 & WOOD TV8 - Grand Rapids news and weather - Poll: Currently more Michigan voters prefer Granholm to DeVos
I would hazard a guess that Rick Albin wrote the copy for this. It reads like he talks, putting in a disclaimer ("this far away" "can not be used") for the results.

Nothing like discrediting your story before you even tell it.

Governor Jennifer Granholm and businessman Dick DeVos seem poised for a major showdown next year in the race for the states top elected position.

A poll this far away from the election certainly can not be used as a predictor of the outcome of next year's marquee race, but it does give us an idea of what likely voters are thinking right now.

A Georgia survey company called Strategic Vision asked 1,200 likely voters who they prefer when it comes to governor. Forty-six percent say they would choose Jennifer Granholm. Thirty-five percent prefer Dick DeVos.

When asked if the state was on the right track or wrong track, only 29 percent think the state was headed in the right direction. Sixty-one percent say the state is going the wrong way.

In the past, polls have indicated that more people in Michigan blame President Bush than Governor Granholm for the state's problems, and, while the question wasn't asked directly in this poll, these numbers may partially support that same feeling.

When asked about overall job performance, 46 percent of those surveyed approved of Governor Granholm's work. Forty-seven percent disapproved.

When the same question is asked about President Bush, 36 percent approve, and 54 percent disapprove. Once again showing Michigan voters are less satisfied with Bush than Granholm.

Between Rick and the GR Press, I'm sure election year 2006 will be an adventure for my blood pressure.
Daschle: Congress Denied Bush War Powers in U.S.
And off we go into the convoluted battle of language- but Tom makes it pretty clear that Congress did not authorize the words "in the United States".

The Bush administration requested, and Congress rejected, war-making authority "in the United States" in negotiations over the joint resolution passed days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to an opinion article by former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) in today's Washington Post.

Daschle's disclosure challenges a central legal argument offered by the White House in defense of the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. It suggests that Congress refused explicitly to grant authority that the Bush administration now asserts is implicit in the resolution.

The Justice Department acknowledged yesterday, in a letter to Congress, that the president's October 2001 eavesdropping order did not comply with "the 'procedures' of" the law that has regulated domestic espionage since 1978. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, established a secret intelligence court and made it a criminal offense to conduct electronic surveillance without a warrant from that court, "except as authorized by statute."

As drafted, and as finally passed, the resolution authorized the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons" who "planned, authorized, committed or aided" the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words 'in the United States and' after 'appropriate force' in the agreed-upon text," Daschle wrote. "This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused."

Daschle wrote that Congress also rejected draft language from the White House that would have authorized the use of force to "deter and pre-empt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States," not only against those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.

Sounds to me like Congress said "no" and King George went ahead anyway, and we are left to define the words "necessary and appropriate force". Maybe we pin it down in the impeachment hearings. :-)
Patriot Act Extension Is Reduced To a Month
Apparently this was done because Sensenbrenner has some really hot and happening July 4th vacation plans. I can see no other reason besides that, unless you count the fact that he is a cantankerous old windbag who likes pulling people's chains to assert his authority.

The House balked yesterday at a Senate plan to extend the USA Patriot Act by six months to give Congress and President Bush more time to work out their differences, instead forcing the Senate and the administration to accept a one-month extension.

At the same time, the House approved a $460 billion defense bill that was shorn of a provision promoted by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) that would have opened Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. But it put off until next year final agreement on a major budget measure that would trim federal spending by nearly $40 billion over five years.

That was interesting. No one is talking about that this morning.

One of the most contentious disputes was over whether to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act, and it appeared as if the Senate had finessed an impasse with the White House by agreeing Wednesday night to extend the existing domestic surveillance law -- set to expire on Dec. 31 -- by six months. But House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) refused to go along with the agreement yesterday. He demanded that the House pass an extension only through Feb. 3, forcing a few senators to return to the Capitol last night to give the Senate's consent.

"The fact is that a six-month extension, in my opinion, would have simply allowed the Senate to duck the issue until the last week in June," said Sensenbrenner, who had largely prevailed in negotiations with the Senate on a new version of the anti-terrorism law, only to see the compromise blocked by a Senate filibuster. "Now they came pretty close to wrecking everybody's Christmas. I didn't want to put the entire Congress in the position of them wrecking everybody's Independence Day."

Priorities, people. Congressional vacations are much more important than national security. Let's not forget that.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

House OKs One-Month Patriot Act Extension - Yahoo! News
What the f.....? Senate Republicans fought to get it six months and Sensenbrenner knocks it down to a month?

WASHINGTON - The House passed a one-month extension of the Patriot Act on Thursday and sent it to the Senate for final action as Congress scrambled to prevent expiration of anti-terror law enforcement provisions on Dec. 31.

Approval came on a voice vote in a nearly empty chamber, after Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, refused to agree to a six-month extension the Senate cleared several hours earlier.

House passage marked the latest step in a stalemate that first pitted Republicans against Democrats in the Senate, then turned into an intramural GOP dispute.

It was not clear when the Senate would act on the one-month bill, but approval was possible by evening.

Either there is something going on with the Repubs that I'm not seeing, or someone is going to get taken to the woodshed for a little ass-whuppin' later...

That's the News...

  • This can't be good. Officials are investigating the theft of 400 pounds of high-powered plastic explosives in New Mexico. "The missing 400 pounds of explosives includes 150 pounds of what is known as C-4 plastic, or 'sheet explosive,' which can be shaped and molded and is often used by terrorists and military operatives." Instead of listening in on phone conversations, perhaps we should watch the stuff that actually goes "boom" a little better, eh boys?

  • Check your Christmas candy. It might be a little...uh...heavy, especially if it came from Mexico. The FDA announced they were lowering the amount of lead allowable in certain types of children's candy. Probably a good idea.

  • Donald "Cut and Run" Rumsfeld announced that we would soon be lowering troop levels in Iraq. I expect to hear the condemnation from the right any second now...any second now... any...hey, where did everybody go?

  • Yet another reason to move to Canada- group sex is now legal. "Group sex among consenting adults is neither prostitution nor a threat to society, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Wednesday as it lifted a ban on so-called 'swingers' clubs." Man, they are so cool up there.

  • Santa has been given clearance to fly into US airspace, but there is no guarantee that we won't listen in on his cell phone conversations. You've been warned, fat guy.
  • Quote of the Day:

    From someone at Kos:

    "And, for those who don't know, this nutcase is right behind Hastert, and Cheney in the line of succession. Dream those impeachment dreams, but a perfect storm of Cheney indictment, Bush impeachment and Hastert sold up the river by an Abramoff plea - we could have President Stevens."

    There's a nightmare I don't need.
    Appeals Court Refuses to Transfer Padilla - Yahoo! News
    Well. I guess Luttig wasn't such a lapdog after all.

    WASHINGTON - A government request to transfer terrorism suspect Jose Padilla from military to civilian custody was rejected by an appeals court that said the administration's shifting tactics in the case threatens its credibility with the courts.

    The three-judge panel of the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also refused on Wednesday the administration's request to vacate a September ruling that gave President Bush wide authority to detain "enemy combatants" indefinitely without charges on U.S. soil.

    The decision, written by Judge J. Michael Luttig, questioned why the administration used one set of facts before the court for 3 1/2 years to justify holding Padilla without charges but used another set to convince a grand jury in Florida to indict him last month.

    Luttig said the administration has risked its "credibility before the courts" by appearing to try to keep the Supreme Court from reviewing the extent of the president's power to hold enemy combatants without charges.

    Those "activist" judges are getting a little uppity lately. Good for them.
    Democrats post wins as Congress nears close - Yahoo! News
    I like to think of it as "America posts wins as Congress nears close".

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Republican-led U.S. Congress was close to wrapping up its work for the year on Thursday in the wake of an unexpected string of Democratic successes on matters from energy to spending to security.

    Senate Democrats thwarted a permanent renewal of the anti-terrorism USA Patriot Act, setting up instead a temporary six-month extension of expiring provisions so changes can be considered to better safeguard civil liberties. It was a defeat for President George W. Bush, who had argued the law was mandatory for safeguarding U.S. citizens.

    Well, according to the Bushies, we are going to be < cue scary music > less safe now. *quakes with fear*.

    Or not.

    Go ahead and veto the extension, George. I dare ya.

    Senators also stripped from a $453 billion defense spending bill a provision that would have opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, another issue the administration had championed as necessary to ease U.S. dependency on foreign oil.

    Eat that, Stevens. I caught a little bit of him last night, ranting and raving about all those poor people who would be hurt...and this was after Ted voted to cut domestic programs that will hurt the poor, the sick, the elderly and the kids, so I'm not sure what the hell he was talking about. It was after ANWR was stripped and the defense bill was passed. (Edit: after reading some live bloggings of the session, I guess this came as they were voting to strip ANWR from the bill. Ted threatened to resign. Ted threatened to expose everyone else's pork. Ted threatened to "visit" every district and tell the people what their representatives did. If I find a transcript, I will pick out the juicy points and post them. I guess it was the rant to end all rants. I don't know, I didn't watch the whole thing. A rerun of "Everybody Loves Raymond" was infinitely more appealing.) Anyway, his Incredible Hulk tie was bouncing up and down as he yelled...literally yelled...on the Senate floor. I thought he would pop an aneurysm.

    With Senate approval, the House of Representatives was expected to give final congressional approval on Thursday to both the Patriot Act extension and the defense spending bill.

    Despite the last-minute Democratic gains, Republicans still touted what they called a highly successful year. They said it included upgrading roads and mass transit, expanding trade, revamping bankruptcy laws, enacting a comprehensive energy policy and confirming John Roberts to head the U.S. Supreme Court as the 17th chief justice.

    However, a nearly yearlong battle to cut spending was further delayed when Democrats forced another vote in the House on a nearly $40 billion reduction package Republicans had hoped would show they were cutting costs at a time of higher budget deficits and proposed tax cuts.

    Both the House and Senate had narrowly approved the spending cut measure but Senate Democrats forced small changes that meant the House had to take it up again.

    The "spending cuts" only passed by two votes, so Pelosi is making them come back today. Heh heh. It would be funny if the thing failed.

    I hope this gives the Democrats a clue that they can stop all this nasty legislation if they just stand up and stick together...and I hope they use this new found spine to stand up and stop Alito. Keep your fingers crossed.

    Wednesday, December 21, 2005

    That's the News...

  • U.S. District Judge John Jones smacked down the wingnuts and their attempts to push religion, under the cloak of "intelligent design", in the public schools. "Any asserted secular purposes by the board are a sham and are merely secondary to a religious objective," he said. Hope this dude has some bodyguards.

  • Tommy "Bugman" DeLay officially filed for re-election even though he is facing criminal charges for money laundering. Life is good when you are a member of the Culture of Corruption. A report on Tommy's lavish lifestyle shows that the Bugman enjoyed "cliff-top Caribbean resorts, golf courses designed by PGA champions and four-star restaurants — all courtesy of donors who bankrolled his political money empire." Go read the story for a complete description on Tommy's fun.

  • Drunken Santas run amok in New Zealand. "The rampage, dubbed Santarchy by local newspapers, began Saturday when the men, wearing ill-fitting Santa costumes, threw beer bottles and urinated on cars from an Auckland overpass, said Auckland Central Police Department spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty." There's a country with the Xmas spirit!

  • Happy Winter Solstice Day! Starting tomorrow, the Sun starts coming back to us. Baseball will be here before you know it.

  • That's all for today...I'm taking a little road trip with my Mom to get away from watching the Senate. Stick to your guns, Harry. I would love to read of a Ted Stevens complete and total melt-down when I come home.
  • Michigan Democratic Party- Brewer Gives DeVoses China Presents
    As they say on "That 70's Show"- Burn!

    LANSING - Today Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer sent gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos and his wife Betsy a letter along with appropriate Christmas gifts, a tie and a door hanging made in China. Brewer's letter is below:

    Dear Dick and Betsy,

    With Christmas approaching, I wanted to give you this festive tie and door hanging. I thought they would be appropriate gifts for both of you because both were made in China.

    The people of Michigan know that China is a place very near and dear to your heart. As head of Amway, Dick invested hundreds of millions of dollars in China and created tens of thousands of job there. You both sought and got favorable China trade legislation, legislation which resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of benefits for Amway. In 1997, you received a $300 million tax break on your China investments after your family had given millions of dollars in soft money to various Republican groups in the 1990's.

    So this holiday season, I hope these gifts remind you of the investments and job creation you've given to China.

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    Mark Brewer,
    Chair, Michigan Democratic Party

    Wow. This guy is good.
    Spying Program Snared U.S. Calls - New York Times

    "I can assure you, by the physics of the intercept, by how we actually conduct our activities, that one end of these communications are always outside the United States."- General Michael Hayden.

    Except when they are not.

    WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 - A surveillance program approved by President Bush to conduct eavesdropping without warrants has captured what are purely domestic communications in some cases, despite a requirement by the White House that one end of the intercepted conversations take place on foreign soil, officials say.

    The officials say the National Security Agency's interception of a small number of communications between people within the United States was apparently accidental, and was caused by technical glitches at the National Security Agency in determining whether a communication was in fact "international."

    Telecommunications experts say the issue points up troubling logistical questions about the program. At a time when communications networks are increasingly globalized, it is sometimes difficult even for the N.S.A. to determine whether someone is inside or outside the United States when making a cellphone call or sending an e-mail message. As a result, people that the security agency may think are outside the United States are actually on American soil.

    Eavesdropping on communications between two people who are both inside the United States is prohibited under Mr. Bush's order allowing some domestic surveillance.

    But in at least one instance, someone using an international cellphone was thought to be outside the United States when in fact both people in the conversation were in the country. Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the program remains classified, would not discuss the number of accidental intercepts, but the total is thought to represent a very small fraction of the total number of wiretaps that Mr. Bush has authorized without getting warrants. In all, officials say the program has been used to eavesdrop on as many as 500 people at any one time, with the total number of people reaching perhaps into the thousands in the last three years.

    Yup, just a little accident. Nothing to see here....move along....

    In other spy news, a federal FISA judge has quit in protest of the program. Wonder why it took him so long.

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of U.S. President George W. Bush's authorization of a domestic spying program, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

    Citing two sources, the newspaper reported U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as FISA, sent his resignation to Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday.

    The Post said the resignation letter gave no explanation for Robertson stepping down. Robertson declined comment when reached on Tuesday, the newspaper said.

    Robertson is considered a liberal judge who has often ruled against the Bush administration's assertions of broad powers in the terrorism fight, the Post said.

    Revelation that authorized domestic spying on Americans suspected of terrorists links without court approval spurred considerable debate among federal judges, including some on the FISA Court, The Washington Post said.

    The Post said Robertson indicated privately to colleagues in recent conversations that he was concerned that information gained from warrantless National Security Agency surveillance could have then been used to obtain FISA warrants.

    And the quote of the day goes to Senator John "Box Turtle" Cornyn, who absolutely blew my mind when he said-

    "None of your civil liberties matter much after you’re dead".

    Please check your civil liberties at the door, America. Welcome to the Police State.

    I am so incredibly creeped out by these people who would forfeit their freedom to Big Brother it's not even funny.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2005

    From the E-Mail Bag:

    Howard from Vermont writes:

    By now you have probably heard the news that George Bush is using the National Security Agency to conduct surveillance on American citizens without the consent of any court. After initially refusing to confirm the story, the President has admitted to personally overseeing this domestic spying program for years and he says he intends to continue the program.

    These actions explicitly violate a law designed to protect US citizens. But the administration says that other laws somehow allow for this unprecedented use of a foreign intelligence agency to spy on Americans right here in the United States. According to reports, political appointees in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel wrote still-classified legal opinions laying out the supposed justification for this program.

    I have asked our General Counsel to draft a Freedom of Information Act request for the relevant legal opinions and memos written by that office. Since the program's existence is no longer a secret, these memos should be released -- Americans deserve to know exactly what authority this administration believes it has.

    You can help pressure the administration to release these documents by signing on to our Freedom of Information Act request in the next 48 hours:

    This extra-legal activity is even more disturbing because it is unnecessary -- the administration already has access to a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. That court was created precisely to provide speedy, secure judicial review to the actions of our intelligence agencies.

    To allow authorities act as quickly as possible, officials can even apply for a retroactive warrant days after the surveillance has already begun. Secret warrants have been approved over 19,000 times -- only five applications were rejected in nearly thirty years. The court, which regularly acts within hours, is hardly a roadblock, but it prevents abuse by providing the oversight required by our system of checks and balances.

    This administration must demonstrate clearly what legal authority allows it to disregard criminal prohibitions on unilateral domestic spying. Sign on to the request now -- it will be delivered on Thursday:

    We have seen this kind of arrogance of power before.

    Richard Nixon once said in an interview that, "if the president does it, it can't be illegal."

    He found out that wasn't true. This administration may need a reminder.

    Thank you.

    Governor Howard Dean, M.D

    Go help Howard out. You'll be glad you did.

    P.S. You're not seeing things- I changed the link/visited link colors.
    Ehlers, Hoekstra critical of defense budget
    My man Vern strikes again.

    U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra said he was sending a message when he broke Republican ranks and voted against a record $453 billion defense bill early Monday.

    The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee should know how much is spent on gathering intelligence -- especially post 9/11, he said.

    "There's more than just a little frustration," he said.

    Hoekstra, of Holland, and U.S. Rep. Vernon Ehlers, of Grand Rapids, were among 16 Republicans who voted against the defense bill, which passed 308-106. For Ehlers, it was mostly a matter of energy policy. A provision to drill for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which he opposes, was tied to the bill.

    Hoekstra and Ehlers said they were not voting against the troops in Iraq.

    Hoekstra said he was unable to learn, until after the vote, where the money was going for intelligence.

    "I believe on a point of principle that the authorizing committees ought to have full exposure and access to how the appropriators spend money," Hoekstra said.

    Pete votes against the defense bill because he doesn't have full access to where the money is going. But, Pete supports the President on the wire-tap issue. Does that mean Pete has full access to who is being tapped and for what purposes? Or does that mean Pete is more concerned about money than civil liberties? You decide.

    U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra rejected claims White House-approved eavesdropping violates privacy rights, and he confirmed Monday that he was briefed "at least three times" about the secret program.

    Hoekstra defended the eavesdropping as a legitimate tool in the war against terrorists.

    The Holland Republican was briefed as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee at the White House by officials he described as the "upper levels" of the administration.

    Anyway, back to Vern. I'm proud of him for taking a stand on ANWR. Way to go, Mr. Ehlers.

    He couldn't let $5 million in local projects sway his vote on more than $400 billion in defense spending, Ehlers said, explaining the Arctic drilling provision was "something we should have voted on separately. I thought that was dirty pool."

    The drilling poses an environmental threat and keeps the United States in the wrong direction on energy, he said. The nation, he said, should spend more on alternative sources.

    "We're going to develop bigger appetites for oil. Ten years from now, when ANWR's gone, we're going to be in even worse shape than we're in now."

    He also said he didn't have time enough to study the defense bill.

    "I thought this was extreme -- a huge bill with that many expenditures," he said. He feared he would "read in the paper" about some "silly little things" -- pork barrel projects -- that were included.

    Yea for Vern. I wish more Congresscritters felt that way.
    FBI watched political, social groups, agency records show -
    Perhaps some answers to the "who" is being watched can be found here. (registration required)

    WASHINGTON // Counterterrorism agents at the FBI have conducted numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief, newly disclosed agency records show.

    FBI officials said yesterday that their investigators had no interest in monitoring political or social activities and that any investigations that touched on advocacy groups were driven by evidence of criminal or violent activity at public protests and in other settings.

    After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, John Ashcroft, who was then attorney general, loosened restrictions on the FBI's investigative powers, giving the bureau greater ability to visit and monitor Web sites, mosques and other public entities in developing terrorism leads. The bureau has used that authority to investigate not only groups with suspected ties to foreign terrorists, but also protest groups suspected of having links to violent or disruptive activities.

    But the documents, coming after the Bush administration's confirmation that President Bush had authorized domestic anti-terrorism spying without warrants, prompted charges from civil rights advocates that the government had improperly blurred the line between terrorism and acts of civil disobedience and lawful protest.

    Define "disruptive".
    The documents, provided to The New York Times over the past week, came as part of a series of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. For more than a year, the ACLU has sought access to information in FBI files on about 150 protest and social groups that it says may have been improperly monitored.

    The FBI had previously turned over a small number of documents on anti-war groups, showing the agency's interest in investigating possible anarchist or violent links in connection with anti-war protests and demonstrations in advance of the 2004 political conventions. And earlier this month, the ACLU's Colorado chapter released similar documents involving, among other things, people protesting logging practices at a lumber industry gathering in 2002.

    The latest batch of documents, parts of which the ACLU planned to release publicly today, totals more than 2,300 pages and centers on references in internal files to a handful of groups, including PETA, the environmental group Greenpeace and the Catholic Workers group, which promotes anti-poverty efforts and social causes.

    Many of the investigative documents turned over by the bureau are heavily redacted, making it difficult or impossible to determine the full context of the references and why the FBI may have been discussing events like a PETA protest. FBI officials say many of the references may be more benign than they seem to civil rights advocates, adding that the documents offer an incomplete and sometimes misleading snapshot of the bureau's activities.

    ACLU officials said the latest documents released by the FBI indicated the agency's interest in a broader array of activist and protest groups than they had previously thought. In light of other recent disclosures about domestic surveillance activities by the National Security Agency and military intelligence units, the ACLU charged that the documents reflected a pattern of overreaching by the Bush administration.

    "It's clear that this administration has engaged every possible agency, from the Pentagon to NSA to the FBI, to engage in spying on Americans," said Ann Beeson, associate legal director for the ACLU.

    "You look at these documents," Beeson said, "and you think, wow, we have really returned to the days of J. Edgar Hoover."

    Big Brother is already here.

    Democrats Say They Never OK'd Wiretapping - Yahoo! News
    Need answers to who, when, and what. Who knew. When were they told. How much did they know, and were they lied to about the scope of the program. And the big who- exactly who were they spying on? And why did it need such secrecy?

    Let the rumblings of impeachment begin.

    WASHINGTON - Some Democrats say they never approved a domestic wiretapping program, undermining suggestions by President Bush and his senior advisers that the plan was fully vetted in a series of congressional briefings.

    "I feel unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse, these activities," West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, said in a handwritten letter (pdf) to Vice President Dick Cheney in July 2003. "As you know, I am neither a technician nor an attorney."

    What's interesting about this handwritten letter is that Jay felt it necessary to include this at the end.
    "I am retaining a copy of this letter in a sealed envelope in the secure spaces of the Senate Intelligence Committee to ensure that I have a record of this communication."

    Was this a CYA (cover your ass) moment, or was he that afraid of what was going on that he felt the need to remind Cheney that there would be a record of this? (I'm leaning toward CYA).

    On to the others- starting with Bob Graham.

    Former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., who was part of the Intelligence Committee's leadership after the 9/11 attacks, recalled a briefing about changes in international electronic surveillance, but does not remember being told of a program snooping on individuals in the United States.

    "It seemed fairly mechanical," Graham said. "It was not a major shift in policy."

    So Bob didn't know the scope or the details. Next, our girl Nancy.
    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., received several briefings and raised concerns, including in a classified letter, her spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said.

    Nancy has been the most cagey in her statements, and she seems to be the only one who has known since the beginning. I'm getting the impression she knew everything. Tom?
    Former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle said he, too, was briefed by the White House between 2002 and 2004 but was not told key details about the scope of the program.

    Put another down for "not told the scope" of the program. Harry?
    Daschle's successor, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he received a single briefing earlier this year and that important details were withheld. "We need to investigate this program and the president's legal authority to carry it out," Reid said.

    Another story has Harry finding out only a couple of months ago, and he wasn't told the details.

    Which Republicans knew? And how much did they know? Congressional oversight seems to be an important part of the President's defense on this- let's get the facts out.

    Already Bush is implying that investigations would somehow help the enemy. This is the scariest thing of all to me.

    Bush said the electronic eavesdropping program lets the government move faster than the standard practice of seeking a court-authorized warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. "We've got to be fast on our feet, quick to detect and prevent," the president said.

    And he was cool toward investigations. "An open debate would say to the enemy, `Here is what we're going to do.' And this is an enemy which adjusts," he said.

    Which tells me he is going to use the "War on Terra" as an excuse to thwart investigations into his own criminal acts. Let's hope that bullshit won't fly anymore.

    Monday, December 19, 2005

    It's All About Me:

    New England 28, Tampa Bay 0 (ouch)
    N.Y. Giants 27, Kansas City 17
    Denver 28, Buffalo 17
    Houston 30, Arizona 19
    Carolina 27, New Orleans 10
    Miami 24, N.Y. Jets 20
    Philadelphia 17, St. Louis 16
    Pittsburgh 18, Minnesota 3
    San Diego 26, Indianapolis 17 (awwwww)
    Seattle 28, Tennessee 24
    Jacksonville 10, San Francisco 9
    Cincinnati 41, Detroit 17

    Cleveland 9, Oakland 7
    Washington 35, Dallas 7
    Chicago 16, Atlanta 3
    Baltimore 48 Green Bay 3


    U.S. SENATOR BARBARA BOXER | Newsroom- Boxer Asks Presidential Scholars About Former White House Counsel's Statement that Bush Admitted to an 'Impeachable Offense'

    Me loves Barbara.

    Washington, D.C.– U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today asked four presidential scholars for their opinion on former White House Counsel John Dean’s statement that President Bush admitted to an “impeachable offense” when he said he authorized the National Security Agency to spy on Americans without getting a warrant from a judge.

    Boxer said, “I take very seriously Mr. Dean’s comments, as I view him to be an expert on Presidential abuse of power. I am expecting a full airing of this matter by the Senate in the very near future.”

    Boxer’s letter is as follows:

    On December 16, along with the rest of America, I learned that President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to spy on Americans without getting a warrant from a judge. President Bush underscored his support for this action in his press conference today.

    On Sunday, December 18, former White House Counsel John Dean and I participated in a public discussion that covered many issues, including this surveillance. Mr. Dean, who was President Nixon’s counsel at the time of Watergate, said that President Bush is “the first President to admit to an impeachable offense.” Today, Mr. Dean confirmed his statement.

    This startling assertion by Mr. Dean is especially poignant because he experienced first hand the executive abuse of power and a presidential scandal arising from the surveillance of American citizens.

    Given your constitutional expertise, particularly in the area of presidential impeachment, I am writing to ask for your comments and thoughts on Mr. Dean’s statement.

    Unchecked surveillance of American citizens is troubling to both me and many of my constituents. I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter as soon as possible.


    Barbara Boxer

    United States Senator

    Be sure and let us know what they say, ok? OK!
    That's the News....

  • George "Dictator" Bush vows to continue to spy on Americans, and if you don't like it, tough shit. You must be a terrorist. Coming next, little TV cameras in every home just so, you know, we can watch what you are doing. Maybe a little recorder in your car to see where you are driving. Don't worry, it's to "protect your freedom". And if you don't like it, why, you must be a terrorist. Who can argue with that?

  • Bush pulled a Rovian slip-of-the-tongue in his press conference Monday, substituting "Saddam" when he meant to say "Osama". Aides were quite impressed that it took him this long to verbally screw this up after four years of implying the two were connected.

  • Dick "Dick" Cheney finally made it to a combat zone after forty years of successful dodging. First thing his Iraqi hosts said was, "Leave. Get your troops and leave." Dick replied that was not an option. "Guess what! We are never leaving. How are the pipelines coming along?"

  • Harry Reid calls this Congress "the most corrupt in history". I really can't add to that.

  • NSA has a page on their website just for kids! Yes, kids, you too can spy on your neighbors, just like the President! Any resemblance to the "Youth League" and the "Spies" in the book "1984" are purely coincidental, but we are getting closer and closer everyday.

  • The fact that Bill "Transmission Through Tears" Frist has an AIDS charity is hard to believe. The fact that he is probably funneling big money donations from major corporations through it is not.