Friday, February 29, 2008

Bush: Kiling David Before He Can Swing His Stone At Goliath

I love it when the President subjects himself to the Q & A process by reporters because, unscripted, he often reveals who he really is. Have a look at how he fumbles through a question about the possibility he is authorizing illegal wire taps on American citizens and see if you find his answer satisfactory.

Remember the fundamental question here is that if the telecommunications companies are not doing anything illegal, why would they need immunity?
Q You can get the Congress to protect telecom companies from lawsuits, but then there's no recourse for Americans who feel that they've been caught up in this. I know it's not intended to spy on Americans, but in the collection process, information about everybody gets swept up and then it gets sorted. So if Americans don't have any recourse, are you just telling them, when it comes to their privacy, to suck it up?

THE PRESIDENT: I wouldn't put it that way, if I were you, in public. Well, you've been long been long enough to -- anyway, yes, I -- look, there's -- people who analyze the program fully understand that America's civil liberties are well protected. There is a constant check to make sure that our civil liberties of our citizens aren't -- you know, are treated with respect. And that's what I want, and that's what most -- all Americans want.

Now let me talk about the phone companies. You cannot expect phone companies to participate if they feel like they're going to be sued. I mean, it is -- these people are responsible for shareholders; they're private companies. The government said to those who have alleged to have helped us that it is in our national interests and it's legal. It's in our national interests because we want to know who's calling who from overseas into America. We need to know in order to protect the people.

It was legal. And now, all of a sudden, plaintiffs attorneys, class-action plaintiffs attorneys, you know -- I don't want to try to get inside their head; I suspect they see, you know, a financial gravy train -- are trying to sue these companies. First, it's unfair. It is patently unfair. And secondly, these lawsuits create doubts amongst those who will -- whose help we need.

I guess you could be relaxed about all this if you didn't think there was a true threat to the country. I know there's a threat to the country. And the American people expect our Congress to give the professionals the tools they need to listen to foreigners who may be calling into the United States with information that could cause us great harm. So, on the one hand, the civil liberties of our citizens are guaranteed by a lot of checks in the system, scrutinized by the United States Congress.

And secondly, I cannot emphasize to you how important it is that the Congress solve this problem. The Senate has solved the problem. And people say, would you ever compromise on the issue? The Senate bill is a compromise. And there's enough votes in the House of Representatives to pass the Senate bill. It's a bipartisan bill. And the House leaders need to put it on the floor, let the will of the House work. In my judgment, it happens to be the will of the people, to give the professionals the tools they need to protect the country.
Really, if what the Bush Administration is doing is completely on the up-and-up, legal, legitimate, and scrutinized by the Congress, what's the worry? What if you or I get sued by some nut ball attorney? Would we get immunity because what they are doing is unfair? Hell no.

If the President's wiretap program is indeed a legal and legit operation, the Telecoms would have nothing to fear and the lawsuits would be dismissed. Moreover, if, just possibly, if it might be the case that the "government" has violated our rights, don't you think those who have done so should be held accountable?

Law suits are not patently unfair, are they? They are designed to bring people doing illegal things to justice. If you believe the President, and feel that they have not done anything illegal, will the plaintiffs and their fancy lawyers win? Not a chance. You have got to know that Telecoms have extremely good and highly paid lawyers to protect themselves from such lawsuits. That such lawsuits are unfair is outright foolish.

So, I ask the question again, do the telecoms really need such protection, or is this just another case where George Bush is advocating another subtraction of the ordinary citizens' rights and denying her or him the proper channels to get recourse to illegal behavior? It seems that this is clearly another case where George Bush is advocating that the meek get squashed by the mighty Goliath that is the W, Rove and Co. by killing our David before he can sling his stone.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Your Rights Haven't Been Violated, You've Been "Minimized"

I love the political rhetorical spin the W, Rove and Co has deployed to try and get out of a tight spot now and again. You might enjoy this exchange as some "Senior Administration Official (SAO)" who will be nameless tries to explain why the telecommunications industry may need immunity from lawsuits given their transgressions in the illegal wiretapping of Americans.

It's really quite a simple question and one reporter or another keeps asking because they don't receive satisfactory answers: "Why do the telecommunications companies need immunity if no laws have been broken?" If there were no legal grounds to the claims filed by some 40 individuals, they wouldn't sweat it would they?

Have a look at how this SAO tries to worm her/his way out of a legit answer:
Q But did they act under law? They knew they were acting under the law?


Q Why give them immunity if they were legal?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Because to show that somebody was acting under the law, under the allegations and the numerous lawsuits that were filed, first they would have to show what exactly was done, they would have to show whether or not they engaged in the activity --

Q All they have to do is get from the White House -- say we gave them permission under the law.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, if the Senate committee reports suffice, which says that the President authorized this, and the legality was -- assurances of legality were provided to them, I wish that were sufficient to make the lawsuits go away. But that's not sufficient.

Q -- go along with that they were legal when you say they're legal, when the government says they are legal, acting under the law?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we've seen there are, what, 40-some suits out there right now, and we've seen --

Q So they think they must have something. They think they're valid, don't they? Their lawyers obviously do.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I'm not going to speak to what the lawyers of the other parties think. But bottom line is that some of these cases have gotten some traction. But we have been resisting on a number of different grounds. The problem is, is that aside what effort it puts us to, the providers are being sued. And they are in a position where they can't really defend themselves, because this is all classified, confidential information. Their reputations are in some danger, they go through the expense and the disruption of a litigation process, all because they really stepped forward and were good citizens after 9/11. And it's just --

Q Well, you can't just show the judge the classified information and let them make a decision?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, what we've done is we've shown this to members of Congress, and to the Judiciary Committees and the Intelligence Committees, shown the documents -- the documents that contain the assurances that were given from the administration to the providers at the time when they were asked to assist. And those -- the Senate intelligence report, as [my colleague] said, found those were good faith -- those were assurances that the program was legal and that it was directed by the President, and that the providers had a good-faith basis for going ahead and stepping up and assisting the government and protecting the country against another attack.

Q I just have one more question. I know I'm being -- don't mean to monopolize -- but can you honestly say that no American has been wiretapped without a warrant in this country -- has not been wiretapped -- has been wiretapped, yes, who has been wiretapped without a warrant -- warrantless wiretapping in this country.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The reason I hesitate is because, as [my colleague] said, we will target surveillance against somebody overseas, and that person might -- 90 percent of the time that person is probably talking to people overseas, but sometimes that person is talking to somebody in the United States, and we intercept that communication. And as we've always done, we review that communication, and if it's irrelevant, we minimize it.

Q What do you mean, minimize?
Good question. What do you mean Minimized:
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, this is what [my colleague] was talking about. If it's an American -- United States person -- let's say we're targeting somebody, a terrorist suspect in the Middle East. That person calls over to an American phone number and gets a United States person. There are minimization rules in place that the intelligence community has been following for decades, for whenever they do target surveillance overseas they follow these rules. And if that communication is captured -- and [I], United States person, am on that phone call, there are rules that limit the dissemination of information about [me,] because I'm a U.S. person. My name can't be disseminated in intelligence reports in this kind of thing.

So there are protections in place to protect the privacy of Americans, but still allow us to target surveillance against targets overseas, where we really need to find out about threats.

Q Without a warrant?

Okay, so the reason the W, Rove and Co is concerned about the legal jeopardy that these companies may be in is that they could very well have illegally wiretapped a US Citizen in this country.

This leaves me with some remaining questions: Even if those warrantless wiretaps were executed accidentally but were "minimized," are they against the Constitution and thus against the law? Whoops, I violated your rights, so sorry? That's not what government is supposed to be about, no? Are they not supposed to be protecting our rights, not violating them?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Flip Flopping And Waterboarding

You may not remember this:
Q Sir, do you agree with the Vice President that a dunk in the water is a "no brainer" when it comes to interrogating a terror suspect?

PRESIDENT BUSH: This country doesn't torture, we're not going to torture.
You may not know this:
Our closest allies, the British, reaffirmed Tuesday that they consider waterboarding a form of torture prohibited by international law. That's an opinion shared by the U.N. human rights commissioner.
You also may be distracted by the tight Democratic race to the Whitehouse and not have heard about this:
on Wednesday the Senate joined the House in passing legislation that prohibits the CIA from using waterboarding or any similar "harsh" interrogation techniques.
But contrary to the President's earlier assertion, he's a flip flopper:
But President Bush says he'll veto the bill.
It is apparent that the President's agenda for waging war on terrorists does nothing to reduce but strongly increases the reasons why otherwise reasonable people in the Middle East who should like America no longer do. Hypocrisy is no way to run our government. When you decry atrocities like torture and waterboarding publicly, but refuse to stop using it yourself, you place the entire nation at risk of being considered untrustworthy.

But the President is an expert at spreading malaise for his own political gain. For example, there is no doubt that the terrorists will and can proclaim one more victory because they have the strongest trumpet for their cause in the man called President of the USA, George W. Bush:
At this moment, somewhere in the world, terrorists are planning new attacks on our country. Their goal is to bring destruction to our shores that will make September the 11th pale by comparison.
Any time he makes this kind of remark, he spreads fear not hope and all but assures the terrorists that they have won because they couldn't ask for a better spokesperson to instill terror into the hearts and minds of good Americans everywhere.

Excuse me for a second Mr. President, but you are speaking in generalities. Of course there are people still out there planning to attack us. You don't need to remind us. We were paying you to find them, route them out and kill them. Instead, you got us into an intractable war in Iraq that has cost us an incalculable amount with very little return.

Given the wherewithal of the American Military Might and the Intelligence Community, I would expect the President at this point in time be not speaking in generalities but specifics. Would it be refreshing if, after this many years pursuing terrorists, he would say something like, "We know where the terrorists are, and we now how to get them. We will get them, and fear not, they will be brought to justice." Of course, for W, that would require bold leadership instead of slinging more fear for the terrorists in order to play political games with Congress and the American People.

Does any one else find this man ridiculous? Fortunately (or is it unfortunate), though, like the boy who cried wolf, no one responds to this rant any more.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Why We Are Not Winning In Iraq

This should be no surprise to anyone:
After 18 months of research, RAND submitted a report in the summer of 2005 called “Rebuilding Iraq.” RAND researchers provided an unclassified version of the report along with a secret one, hoping that its publication would contribute to the public debate on how to prepare for future conflicts.

But the study’s wide-ranging critique of the White House, the Defense Department and other government agencies was a concern for Army generals, and the Army has sought to keep the report under lock and key.

A review of the lengthy report — a draft of which was obtained by The New York Times — shows that it identified problems with nearly every organization that had a role in planning the war. That assessment parallels the verdicts of numerous former officials and independent analysts.
We are not winning in Iraq because it really was an ill planned and poorly executed operation as a whole (not to mention ill advised - see George Bush Senior's book on the subject as to why he didn't go to Baghdad in Desert Storm if you don't believe me).

Indeed, the fault rests with those who pushed the green go button - each and every one of them - with the penultimate responsibility resting on the shoulders of George W. Bush (which of course, he will deny with his strongest deflection and denial techniques).

Watch George and his pals play the blame game (which they claim to abhor) as this dialog surfaces in the coming days. The Whitehouse's enormous wagging middle finger of blame will no doubt point in all directions except at themselves.

Gitmo Indictments: Why Now?

The GOP needs a boost in the polls? The President is trying to sprint out of office? The sagging numbers weighing heavy on our ratcheting national debt? The economy going down the toilet? Obama and Clinton getting too much positive press? The Pentagon just now finally figured out what to charge these men for? The world is short of martyrs caused by the USA?
The Pentagon is charging six detainees at Guantanamo Bay with murder and war crimes in connection with the Sept. 11 terror attacks on America, and will seek the death penalty.
This leaves us with a very nagging and troubling question as to why now? Why not when within the first year they were brought to Guantanamo?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Fiscally Conservative?

Just one short question emerges for me about this recent budget proposal from the Whitehouse's current batch of Republicans who vociferously proclaim to be fiscally conservative.
President Bush on Monday submitted a $3.1-trillion budget for the next fiscal year that reflected his strategy for dealing with a costly war and a troubled economy: substantially boost military expenditures, rein in domestic spending -- including for Medicare -- and more than double the deficit.
Indeed, where is the fiscal responsibility here? I wrote this thought in a prior post: "I'm...just suggesting that there is nothing fiscally conservative about the current batch of “conservatives” in the White House."

Craig, one of the regular commentators over at bio had this to sum up in response to a prior post and it fits well here.
Absolutely true. The first clue that this would be a problem was Bush's claim to represent compassionate conservatism. For "compassionate", read "when someone is hurting, it's the government's job to do something about it." While Bush's actual record is rather dubious about whether he is a consistent compassionate conservative, he is certainly a big government (if such a thing is not an oxymoron) conservative and, thus, the largest expansion of any government social welfare program in decades, Medicare Part D, "No Child Left Behind", expansion of public funding of "Faith-Based" programs, and the Terry Schiavo affair.

If President Clinton declared that the era of big government was dead, it has clearly been revived by President Bush in a sort of Frankensteinian fusion of liberal ideas with conservative sensibilities (read tax-cuts). If liberals are often painted as tax and spend happy, Bush appears to be tax-cut and spend happy. The worst of both worlds.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

This Economy Is Good For Whom?

Well, you may already know this, but every time some rightwinger suggests lowering taxes is the answer to what ails our economy, you should ask them how they expect to pay for those things we expect our government to do. Where is all the fiscal conservatism in the GOP these days? Certainly there is none when it comes to the W, Rove and Co.
President Bush wants to cut funding for teaching hospitals and freeze medical research in a $3 trillion budget for 2009 that is still likely to generate a record deficit once war costs are tallied up.

The Bush budget to be submitted Monday would cut the budget for the Health and Human Services Department by $2 billion, or 3 percent. By contrast, the Pentagon would get a $35 billion increase to $515 billion for core programs, with war costs additional.

With tax revenue falling as the economy slows - and with the deficit-financed economic stimulus bill adding more than $150 billion in red ink to federal ledgers over 2008-09 - the White House acknowledges that the budget deficit for this year and next is projected to reach $400 billion or more.

The largest-ever budget deficit, $413 billion, was recorded in 2004. Bush's budget will forecast a deficit for 2009 that's below that, an administration official said. But that assumes costs of $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, well below the almost $200 billion request for this year.
How the bleep are we going to pay down this debt? Well, of course, this is another heaping problem that Bush is loading onto whomever is in charge next. Perhaps it would be good to have McCain win then it would be his mess to clean up. Trouble is the GOP has not demonstrated one shred of fiscal conservatism they proclaim to advocate. Likely, if McCain is elected we would drown further down in the money pit the W, Rove and Co has been struggling to widen via their illustrious freedom spreading experiment in Iraq.

Think about it. It's a brilliant ploy. Defer expenses and costs. Cut taxes. Increase the debt so that the next democrat in charge has to raise taxes to recover. Then suggest that democrats are fiscally irresponsible for raising necessary taxes. Brilliant.

The question remains for whom is this economy good? Looks like the predators are winning:
Exxon Mobil Corp. shattered its own record as the world's most profitable publicly traded corporation, as rising oil prices helped the company bring in better-than-ever income and revenue for the fourth quarter and 2007.

Irving, Texas-based Exxon's net income rose 3% to $40.6 billion in 2007, surpassing its 2006 record of $39.5 billion.

Chevron Corp. also posted strong earnings despite lower production and lagging profit from making and selling gasoline. Full-year profit at the San Ramon, Calif.-based oil company jumped 9% to $18.7 billion.
Well, there's no surprises there. W is, after all, an oil man.