Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Impolitical Person of the Year 2005: Brownie


Readers of the Impolitical blog will have seen this choice of Brownie as the Person of the Year coming. No high-falutin' choices here, no Bill and Melinda Gates/Bono altruistic selection to be made by this blog. Our man ran a close second. But is the clear winner of this award for his singular and momentous role in shaking up the U.S. political dynamic in 2005. Let us count the ways.

For exposing to the world the utter incompetence of Bush himself, who strummed, dithered on vacation and did a belated fly-by while was sinking, taking us back to pre-9/11 days.

For giving lie to the myth of Bush as the competent Chief Executive who could save his energy, focus and time for the high-end decision-making without micro-managing the details because he surrounded himself with the best and the brightest, competent managers like Brownie, for instance.

For briefly ushering in a new era of media responsibility, where the Bush administration's free ride magically came to a crashing halt (for a time anyway, and less so now) and reporters suddenly grew back bones, enough to question the policies and actions of the Bush administration to a degree unseen since 9/11.

For highlighting Bush's penchant for cronyism. Why, oh why was the unqualified Brownie ever placed in the position of FEMA Director, other than having been Joe Allbaugh's friend? When came along, Bush's crony tendencies became amplified even moreso, a focus that may not have predominated the Miers nomination to such an extent had Brownie not brought cronyism to the fore.

For providing countless hours of mischievous blogging material as Brownie's exploits compounded. The candid admissions that he did not know of the Convention Center disaster until well after it was unfolding, the e-mails on dinners and clothing to and from staffers, so hopelessly inappropriate amidst the surrounding circumstances, and by the end of the year, the new consulting venture Brownie launched on disaster preparedness (truly embodying the spirit that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade).

Perhaps most importantly, for single-handedly shattering the myth of Bush as the protector and strong leader to which America could turn in times of national crisis. "You're doing a heck of a job, Brownie" was chosen as the year end "quote of the year" for good reason.

For all of these reasons and more, including surviving the taunts and jabs of such muckrakers as myself, Brownie is the Impolitical Person of the Year 2005.

Dan Bartlett, methinks you've said too much

So W is playing cowboy this week. And listen to what our friend Dan Bartlett had to say about it:
White House counselor Dan Bartlett explained it this way: "It's therapeutic for him, I guess. There's very few things he gets to do hands on."
Yes, our little puppet gets to do very little in the way of hands on things in this Presidency, just enough to muck things up...

What will 2006 bring...

Friday, December 30, 2005

Someone's in a tight spot

This dude needs to get out of the community coffees where it looks like he's been serving cookies all week and shake things up, otherwise, he's the next leader of the opposition...

Whistleblowers beware

Your government is coming after you. Blow the whistle on the President who is engaged in questionable legal eavesdropping and it's you, not him, who will be investigated. Criminally. We'll see what the Senate Judiciary Committee does with this politically, but for now, the administration plan is to investigate who leaked to the New York Times. And undoubtedly, to continue to haul journalists before investigators. New York Times journalists at that. The bizarro world of Bushocracy, where the wrongdoers pontificate and the whistleblowers are left to feel the weight of a U.S. government investigation...Happy New Year...

Hire that man

Year end puff promo piece on the mighty Mrs. Bush and all of her supposed political prowess. But here's three cheers for the recently departed White House chef:
A hint of the steel behind her smile was evident early this year, when the White House ushered out longtime head chef Walter Scheib. One East Wing official, breaking months of silence on the issue, cited a "level of arrogance" Mr. Scheib displayed in preparing dishes the Bush family detested -- scallops in particular, which kept appearing on menus despite repeated complaints. Mr. Scheib declined to comment.

Future retirement spot for W

Bush visit the highlight of the year! In Latvia ...

Krugman kills today

Krugman's recollection of what we've learned in the past year. Some choice excerpts:
A year ago, Mr. Bush hadn't yet openly reneged on Scott McClellan's 2003 pledge that "if anyone in this administration was involved" in the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity, that person "would no longer be in this administration." Of course, some suspect that Mr. Bush has always known who was involved.

A year ago, we didn't know that Mr. Bush was lying, or at least being deceptive, when he said at an April 2004 event promoting the Patriot Act that "a wiretap requires a court order. ...When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."

A year ago, most Americans thought Mr. Bush was honest.

A year ago, we didn't know for sure that almost all the politicians and pundits who thundered, during the Lewinsky affair, that even the president isn't above the law have changed their minds. But now we know when it comes to presidents who break the law, it's O.K. if you're a Republican.
(emphasis added)
A fine year indeed...

Thursday, December 29, 2005

A little dose of perspective

CTV.ca | RCMP may be on 'wild goose chase': Bay St. veteran:
The Mounties, who on Wednesday disclosed a criminal investigation into complaints by opposition politicians of possible insider trading, "are blowing in the wind, quite frankly," Ross Healy, president of Strategic Analysis Corp., said Thursday.

"They admitted themselves that they don't have anything and I am baffled as to what they think they're going to get," Healy said.

"This just strikes me as being a wild goose chase. . . . I don't think there's anything there to find."

Tom Caldwell, chairman of Caldwell Securities Ltd., was similarly unconvinced the RCMP will get their man.

"My gut feel is that by the time the smoke clears and a lot of money's wasted, I don't think you're going to find any clear villains," said Caldwell.

He added that his own firm had increased its income-trust positions in the weeks before Goodale's announcement, on the assumption that the sector's uncertainty would be resolved in due course.
Nevertheless, lots of political posturing going on and could be a big nail in the Liberal coffin. We shall see. But Harper is creating high moral expectations for his party, never a good thing in politics.

Alberta handing out cash to teens

Oil cash for teens.

So it seems that 13 year olds in Alberta (and other teens) will be getting $400 from Alberta as part of the "$1.4-billion “rebate” shared by every man, woman and child in Alberta because of soaring oil and gas prices." Now, I don't have a particular use for this money that I'd advocate and it's not for the rest of the country to tell Alberta what to do with its provincial coffers. But somehow the prospect of teenagers buying Ipods and clothes with this money seems a little obscene. It just doesn't create a lot of goodwill in the rest of the country.

I recall Klein's announcement of late that Alberta will fund students across the country to the tune of @$650,000 per year as a gesture of goodwill, no doubt meant to blunt growing concerns about a fiscal imbalance among the provinces as a result of Alberta's wealth and allow for this $1.4 billlion rebate to occur, perhaps, under cloak of this gesture:
The scholarships complement the education and training priorities set by all Canadian premiers at their Council of the Federation meeting in Banff this summer. They also follow suggestions by influential Queen's University economist Tom Courchene, who has urged Alberta to start voluntarily funnelling some of its budget surpluses into other provinces through the council. Courchene fears Canada could become fatally imbalanced if too much talent and capital flow into booming Alberta.
What would be welcome from Alberta would be a more deft sense of national leadership and recognition of the sensitivities that are being created from such displays of wealth.

It's "detection," stupid - not "monitoring"

Condoleezza Rice was interviewed the other day by the Wolf man. Apparently we are all quite foolish. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is about "monitoring" and in view, "principally for a longer-term monitoring" of people acting on behalf of a foreign government. So FISA is about the old school-cold war type of spying. But what Bush needs, according to Condi, is agility, and an ability to "detect." What Bush is doing is "detecting" not "monitoring." Got that? Who's Clintonian now? Here's the key excerpt:
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Madam Secretary, thanks very much for joining us.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: A pleasure to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You were the national security advisor right after 9/11 when the president authorized this extraordinary decision to go ahead with surveillance eavesdropping on Americans and others, making international phone calls or faxes or e-mails, without getting court orders. How did that decision come about?

RICE: The president has -- first of all, let's talk about what he authorized. He authorized the National Security Agency to collect information on a limited number of people with ties to Al Qaeda in order to be able to close the gap, the seam, between the domestic territory of the United States and foreign territory.

One of the clear findings of the 9/11 Commission was that our intelligence agencies were looking outward. Our law enforcement agencies were looking inward. And a gap had developed. We didn't know the connection between what people with terrorist ties inside the United States were doing, to what people who were terrorists or might be planning terrorist operations outside the country were doing.

So the president made that decision. He did it on the basis of his constitutional authority under Article II and other statutory authorities. I think the attorney general spoke to those legal issues earlier. And he did it to protect the country. Because these days, after September 11th, we recognized and he recognized, as the one with real responsibility for protecting the country, that if you let people commit the crime, then thousands of people die. So you have to detect it before it happens.

BLITZER: But there was a mechanism, still is a mechanism that's been in place since 1978 -- the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the FISA Court to go ahead and get this authority with the court warrant. Why not use that?

RICE: First of all, the FISA Act, 1978, very different circumstances imagined at the time. FISA has been principally for a longer-term monitoring and it has been capable of helping us when we're principally concerned with the activities of people acting on behalf of a foreign government. You can imagine those are often longer-term matters.

But the kind of agility that is needed to detect rather than to monitor, as the president talked about today, it -- the president needed to draw on these other authorities, and he has.

BLITZER: But even within the FISA Act, there are extraordinary circumstances that would allow the wiretap, the surveillance to begin. Then within 72 hours you can still go and get the warrant.

RICE: Let's just say these people, these networks, these shadowy networks, which are not associated with countries -- they're stateless -- are not stable targets, are pretty agile themselves. And so, in order to give our intelligence agencies the agility they need -- in order to detect, Wolf -- and I want to say once again, the president has a constitutional responsibility to protect the country.

That means physically. It also means to protect the civil liberties of Americans under the Constitution. And he of course has both responsibilities and takes both very seriously.

That's why this was done with thorough levels of review. It has to be reauthorized every 45 days. It was briefed to Congress numerous times, or to relevant congressional officials numerous times. And so the president and his advisers thought this the best way to give him the ability as -- under his responsibilities as commander in chief to defend the country.
(emphasis added)
Call me crazy, but I still don't understand the difference between detection and monitoring. Detection, she seems to be suggesting, is not done on a long term basis. So presumably it's brief in nature and so the violation is less intrusive and that makes it acceptable? But she refuses to go into details so as to satisfy anyone that that is what detection means. So in the absence of further information, we are left wondering...if I listen in on your phone calls in order to detect a possible terrorist act, exactly how does that differ from my monitoring your phone calls?

Once again, we see the practitioners of Bushocracy re-defining the debate by deploying clever little words. "Detect" means to discover or investigate, to discern something. It's a word that means uncovering but does not convey any sense of the tactics that must be used in order to do the uncovering. It suggests a light hand. Looking forward to prevent something. And it doesn't convey in the slightest sense any notion of eavesdropping. Detection of an event, a fact, can occur through various methods other than eavesdropping or listening in on your phone calls. "Trust us, we're just trying to detect what's coming. We're not monitoring, for God's sake." For "monitoring," on the other hand, suggests a heavy-handed approach, one that clearly conveys the idea of listening in, observing, on a long term basis.

So let's watch and see how many times we see the use of the word "detect" in the coming weeks. More obfuscation and word games from the crowd who so vehemently denounced Clintonian parsing. Very clever, these Orwellian lords, and Rice is leading the pack.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The "Clinton did it too" defence

The Bush obfuscation campaign begins. Key feature of such campaigns usually includes the "Clinton did it too" defence. How ironic that the more these people get in trouble, the more they appeal to Clinton to legitimize their behaviour. Problem is, I think deep down we all know that the world would look a lot different if Clinton were President. The "Clinton did it too" appeals only serve as a reminder of the days when the world respected the U.S. President.

History repeating

Sounds like the Mulroney campaign of 1984, anyone remember? Talking up the military, extending olive branches to Quebec, pontificating against Liberal corruption ("You had an option, sir"), it's 1984 all over again. Liberals, take note. The key difference this time, there's no majority in the cards here, unless Ontario turns.

Kind of a 1984 theme in today's posts, coincidentally!

Bushocracy: meet 1984

Nifty little editorial comparing George Orwell's 1984 to Bushocracy:
In 1949, Orwell penned "1984," a dark, futuristic satire in which the totalitarian government used indoctrination, propaganda and fear to enforce order and conformity. His "Big Brother" — the face of this all-knowing regime — was never wrong, and to make sure of it, history was constantly being rewritten.

Orwell wrote his book as a cautionary tale to underscore the insidious danger of slowly eroded individual liberties. His Thought Police may not yet be on the march, but it's not hyperbole to point out the eerie parallels with today's America.

In America today, Big Brother is watching.
Read on to take in the full essence of this emerging theme...

Yeah, right

Rationalization. Saving their own journalistic asses (read: legacies), methinks...

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas from Impolitical

Hope your Christmas is more joyous than Donald Rumsfeld's...doesn't this photo just ooze Christmas spirit?

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Iceman cometh

Scary, scary stuff....

It's about time

Apparently Congress is doing its job. And this is news. Surprising quote from Lindsey Graham here:
"What you have seen is a Congress, which has been AWOL through intimidation or lack of unity, get off the sidelines and jump in with both feet," especially on the national security front, said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).
That should make him some new friends at the White House. This scrutiny of the Bush administration is long overdue....and a positive note to end 2005 upon.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Say it ain't so

Damn Yankees.

Pirro-uette

Alas, it was a great spectacle while it lasted:Pirro Ends Senate Bid and Will Run for Attorney General - New York Times. Have to say, one of the more entertaining political "campaigns" of 2005 and so, Impolitical is a little sad to see go. Who will take on Clinton now? Impolitical can't believe that would let Clinton waltz back to the Senate so easily in 2006 without attempting to drain her campaign funds or damage her 2008 prospects. So this is one Senate race that is still likely to be fiercely contested, despite the withdrawal of this former star candidate.

Fallout boy

Spy Court Judge Quits In Protest:
U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation.

Two associates familiar with his decision said yesterday that Robertson privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the president in 2001 was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA court's work.
...

Robertson indicated privately to colleagues in recent conversations that he was concerned that information gained from warrantless NSA surveillance could have then been used to obtain FISA warrants. FISA court Presiding Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who had been briefed on the spying program by the administration, raised the same concern in 2004 and insisted that the Justice Department certify in writing that it was not occurring.

"They just don't know if the product of wiretaps were used for FISA warrants -- to kind of cleanse the information," said one source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the FISA warrants. "What I've heard some of the judges say is they feel they've participated in a Potemkin court."
"Laundering" of surveillance information? Very interesting. This resignation was pretty quickly executed. Wonder what this judge knows and further wonder if he'll be called as a witness before Arlen Specter's hearings on the surveillance?

Oh my

Lobbyist Is Said to Discuss Plea and Testimony - New York Times:
Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under criminal investigation, has been discussing with prosecutors a deal that would grant him a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against former political and business associates, people with detailed knowledge of the case say.

Mr. Abramoff is believed to have extensive knowledge of what prosecutors suspect is a wider pattern of corruption among lawmakers and Congressional staff members. One participant in the case who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations described him as a "unique resource."
Is it possible that name will come up? Does he leave his finger prints anywhere?

The new technology at the root of the NSA wiretap scandal

What Bush might be doing:
A year after the CALEA passed, the FBI disclosed plans to require the phone companies to build into their infrastructure the capacity to simultaneously wiretap 1 percent of all phone calls in all major U.S. cities. This would represent more than a thousandfold increase over previous levels in the number of phones that could be wiretapped. In previous years, there were only about a thousand court-ordered wiretaps in the United States per year, at the federal, state, and local levels combined. It's hard to see how the government could even employ enough judges to sign enough wiretap orders to wiretap 1 percent of all our phone calls, much less hire enough federal agents to sit and listen to all that traffic in real time. The only plausible way of processing that amount of traffic is a massive Orwellian application of automated voice recognition technology to sift through it all, searching for interesting keywords or searching for a particular speaker's voice. If the government doesn't find the target in the first 1 percent sample, the wiretaps can be shifted over to a different 1 percent until the target is found, or until everyone's phone line has been checked for subversive traffic. The FBI said they need this capacity to plan for the future. This plan sparked such outrage that it was defeated in Congress. But the mere fact that the FBI even asked for these broad powers is revealing of their agenda.
It's unclear whether this actually is what the Bush program is doing, it's just unknown at this point. But if this is the kind of activity that they've got the NSA engaged in, it's potentially on a massive scale and would explain why there was, in their view, a need to avoid judicial scrutiny. Whether they have the technology to achieve such monitoring is another unknown question to be answered.

Hat tip to disco for this very intriguing link...[note: I was unable to view the link with Firefox, try Safari which worked for me, or another browser...]

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The "I" word

Boxer on Impeachment Trail. Talking Points Memo Cafe has posted Senator Boxer's letter to four constitutional scholars requesting their views on Bush's actions of late. Here it is:
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.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator
Very interesting....

Harper despises the federal government

Listen to his own words, here:
"We will limit the federal spending powers that the Liberals have so badly abused. This exorbitant spending power has given rise to a domineering federalism, a paternalistic federalism, and is a serious threat to the future of our federation."
...

"Ottawa is rolling in tens of billions of dollars in surpluses that for the most part it has hidden for years, at the same time as provinces and municipalities are having trouble meeting the essential core services without going into debt," Mr. Harper said.

He added that Mr. Martin's Liberals do not even "admit the existence" of the fiscal imbalance.

"It's pretty hard to have a discussion and negotiation on the subject if you don't actually admit there is a problem," he told reporters after his speech. "We also have so many billions of dollars in Ottawa that we can mismanage, that Ottawa can mismanage everything and yet still have billions of dollars in surplus.
"Ottawa can mismanage everything" - quite a generalization! And "Ottawa" is rolling in billions that "for the most part it has hidden for years"...the contempt for "Ottawa" is so apparent here. The mean old feds are hiding money and mismanaging everything. How does he run for Prime Minister on such a negative sounding policy? He hasn't evolved into a national leader, he's still playing the role of a Westerner attacking the feds. That may play well out West, but it isn't going to help in Ontario or the Maritimes. I have no idea how this makes it any easier for him if he actually were to win and attempt to govern as PM. How does he act with any kind of authority when he's mocked the federal role so clearly?

Besides his own positioning, is his anti-federalism really what the country needs right now? The minority government we have seen to date demonstrates, if anything, the fractured nature of our country. I question whether empowering the provinces by downloading spending powers to them is a suitable answer for the times. The problems we have now are not fiscal, as far as I can see (beyond the Gomery mess), our economic indicators are pretty good compared to much of the Western world. So this "mismanagement" he's harping on is really a strange choice. Once again, Impolitical must ask: is he running for Auditor General?

Martin can crush Harper's line of argument by hammering home his own economic record much more clearly in the latter part of the campaign, beyond the national unity and U.S. rhetoric.

Speaking of Martin, and in the spirit of the holiday season...here's the gingerbread version:

That's a stretch

At his news conference yesterday Bush explained his authority for the eavesdropping:
Bush said his authority to carry out the program derived from the US Constitution and the US Congress's vote to authorize the use of force in Afghanistan to wipe out Al-Qaeda after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
They are also citing the inherent executive authority of the President and a Supreme Court judgment from last year as authority for the eavesdropping. But here's Russ Feingold blowing the lid off the sheer lunacy of the Afghanistan resolution as justification for the wiretapping:
But Democratic Senator Russell Feingold told NBC television, "This is just an outrageous power grab."

"Nobody, thought when we passed a resolution to invade Afghanistan and to fight the war on terror, including myself who voted for it, thought that this was an authorization to allow a wiretapping against the law of the United States," he said.
There is much to answer for here and Arlen Specter, while bending a little today, still seems intent on pursuing this issue:
Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said, "I am skeptical of the attorney general's citation of authority, but I am prepared to listen."

Mr. Specter, who has said he will hold hearings on the program soon after the confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court nominee, Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., said he did not believe the president's decision to inform a handful of members of Congress was sufficient.

"I think it does not constitute a check and balance," he said. "You can't have the administration and a select number of members alter the law. It can't be done."

Mr. Specter also predicted that the domestic spying debate would spill over into Judge Alito's confirmation. On Monday, he sent the judge a letter saying he intended to ask "what jurisprudential approach" the judge would use in determining if the president had authority to establish the program.

"The fat's in the fire," Mr. Specter said. "This is going to be a big, big issue. There's a lot of indignation across the country, from what I see."
And look who's in the audience to monitor his protege. Could be the last shot of our man before the holidays and it sure looks like he could use a break. Looking a little pale there, guy!

41%

Bush at 41% approval. Seems you're going nowhere W. And ranked the worst of the past ten Presidents. And considered to be the "least popular" and "most bellicose" apparently. Nice way to top off 2005. Consider these items a holiday gift to all you Bush bashers from the Impolitical blog!

Bush playing fast and loose with the law

CNN.com - Toobin: Bush on 'questionable legal footing' - Dec 19, 2005. What's worse - Clinton debating what the meaning of the word "is" is, in the context of a sexual harassment suit that was thrown out of court (and regarding an incident which occurred years before he ever was elected) - or eavesdropping on U.S. citizens' phone calls without seeking a court order, as required by the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act? Hmmm....one President was subject to impeachment for his putative legal offences....let's just see what happens to the boy King.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Friday: I can't talk about it; Saturday: I absolutely did it

Guess W's marching orders changed a bit overnight:In Speech, Bush Says He Ordered Domestic Spying - New York Times. et al. have turned on a dime. Must be big stakes on this one.

On Friday, with Jim Lehrer on PBS, this was Bush's response to questions on domestic eavesdropping:
As recently as Friday, when he was interviewed by Jim Lehrer of PBS, Mr. Bush refused to confirm the report the previous evening in The New York Times that in 2002 he authorized the domestic spying operation by the security agency, which is usually barred from intercepting domestic communications. While not denying the report, he called it "speculation" and said he did not "talk about ongoing intelligence operations."
Sorry gang, with that wild eyed look I have, I'll tell the nation I can't talk about it. So you'd think he'd feel sheepish when the next day he's in the Oval Office making a no holds barred speech about it? Once again, they've been caught with their hands in the constitutional cookie jar and they're coming out with guns blazing with the usual accusations against those who refuse to condone such blatantly suspicious actions by Bush:
"In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment," Mr. Bush said forcefully from behind a lectern in the Roosevelt Room, next to the Oval Office. The White House invited cameras in, guaranteeing television coverage.

He said the Senate's action "endangers the lives of our citizens," and added that "the terrorist threat to our country will not expire in two weeks," a reference to the approaching deadline of Dec. 31, when critical provisions of the current law will end. His statement came just a day before he is scheduled to make a rare Oval Office address to the nation, at 9 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, celebrating the Iraqi elections and describing what his press secretary on Saturday called the "path forward."
Senators want to risk American lives? Is that it? Come on. And is anyone reassured by Alberto Gonzales and Harriet Miers reviewing the eavesdropping program every 45 days? Looking forward to seeing these guys wiggle over the coming months on this one. Arlen Specter has promised hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee on this as a priority in January, undoubtedly why they're turning up the heat right now.

Reactions to Bush's eavesdropping

Scathing:
But some legal experts outside the administration, including some who served previously in the intelligence agencies, said the administration had pushed the presidential-powers argument beyond what was legally justified or prudent. They say the N.S.A. domestic eavesdropping illustrates the flaws in Mr. Bush's assertion of his powers.

"Obviously we have to do things differently because of the terrorist threat," said Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, former general counsel of both N.S.A. and the Central Intelligence Agency, who served under both Republican and Democratic administrations. "But to do it without the participation of the Congress and the courts is unwise in the extreme."

Even if the administration believes the president has the authority to direct warrantless eavesdropping, she said, ordering it without seeking Congressional approval was politically wrongheaded. "We're just relearning the lessons of Vietnam and Watergate," said Ms. Parker, now dean of the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law.

Jeffrey H. Smith, who served as C.I.A. general counsel in 1995 and 1996, said he was dismayed by the N.S.A. program, which he said was the latest instance of legal overreach by the administration.

"Clearly the president felt after 9/11 that he needed more powers than his predecessors had exercised," Mr. Smith said. "He chose to assert as much power as he thought he needed. Now the question is whether that was wise and consistent with our values."

William C. Banks, a widely respected authority on national security law at Syracuse University, said the N.S.A. revelation came as a shock, even given the administration's past assertions of presidential powers.

"I was frankly astonished by the story," he said. "My head is spinning."

Today's dose of Bushocracy

In today's instalment, a supposedly independent scholar at a well-respected research institute admits to being paid to write favorable columns about Jack Abramoff's clients! Surprise! Read all about it here.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Thoughts on Leaders' Debate Friday night

Thought I would write down a few impressions on the leader's debate this past evening. Yes, I actually managed to get through it. Figured after all the travel of late and attention to things American, it's about time I paid due attention to our own landscape. So, here are some random observations on the spectacle:

Stephen Harper just doesn't want this badly enough. He is not passionate enough about wanting this job. I question why someone who is as passive as he is about the country wants to be PM, to be frank. He's worse than Dalton McGuinty in this respect. A technocrat with no real passion or vision. There's a real inability to inspire here. I think he'd be an adequate Auditor General (the office I suspect he'd secretly like to have) but not a good PM.

At the end of the debate, when asked what is his vision of Canada in 50 years time, to inspire young Canadians, prompted by the young woman questioner from B.C., he initially responded by mumbling about Canada's natural resources and incredible land mass. From there he went on, but awkwardly, like he was making it up as he went, as if it's a struggle for him to muster up some kind of vision. Like it was embarrassing or something.

And he continuously faded into the awkward grin thing at the end of each statement. Trying to increase a likability factor, clearly, but it just seems to bolster his odd quotient.

Overall, my verdict on Harper is that he didn't try hard enough. He needed to step up and grab this thing and he seems afraid to do so. I get the sense that he knows that he could win, but deep down, doesn't really want to win. And so it's a subtle form of self-sabotage that we're watching.

Because Harper didn't show, Martin was the clear winner. He won despite the fact that for much of the debate, he was good but not great. But he had at least 3 shining moments where he did what Harper didn't or couldn't. That is, he got passionate about some principles. The 3 instances I counted were the following: his redressing Harper on not standing up for the Charter as a potential PM and hammering him on his inconsistent gay marriage stance; his riveting lecture to the separatist on the stage about breaking up "my country" and serving notice that he's going to stand up vigorously on this issue; and the third, perhaps not the strongest moment, his articulation of a vision of Canada that was noticeably better than that offered by the technocrats Harper and Layton.

Martin seems to have settled into the role of PM, much more so than in previous debates and last night, at least, seemed to wear it well. Whether anyone is paying enough attention now is another question.

Bushocracy: Pt II

It keeps growing and growing and growing: Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts - New York Times.
Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.
You know, I'm not sure what else we could possibly find out about these people. It wouldn't even phase me if we were to discover hard evidence that the Diebold electronic voting machines in Ohio were rigged. Not a problem for these people. And we still might.

So once again they have surprised no one as it is uncovered that they have been engaging in yet another anti-democratic practice, eavesdropping on one's own citizens. A few weeks ago we hear about propaganda dissemination in Iraq, now it's eavesdropping at home. A hallmark of perhaps Eastern Europe or the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War, yet brought to present-day America courtesy of Bushocracy...

Yes, Bushocracy. Where the naive prince-King, once again must have gotten in over his head, we can only guess....signing off on a questionable legal program, with likely little knowledge of the consequences of allowing such eavesdropping. Lesson after lesson in what occurs when a President has NFC as to what he's doing. Exercising precious little sense of the traditional values of American democracy that are respected the world over...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Latest on Ali G vs. Kazakhstan

Borat goes offline in Kazakhstan. 14/12/2005. ABC News Online. This is funny.

Could not get any better for Martin

Is David Wilkins trying to re-elect Paul Martin? Looky here,Canadian Leader Angers U.S. Envoy - New York Times:
The American ambassador, David H. Wilkins, interjected himself into the Canadian national elections on Tuesday with an implicit but strong warning to Prime Minister Paul Martin to stop attacking the United States while on the campaign trail.

"I understand political expediency, but the last time I looked, the United States was not on the ballot for the Jan. 23 election," Mr. Wilkins said in a speech in Ottawa. "It may be smart election-year politics to thump your chest and constantly criticize your friend and your No. 1 trading partner, but it is a slippery slope."
...
American diplomats have often complained about Canadian criticisms, but Mr. Wilkins's remarks were perhaps the strongest since the cold war.

Mr. Martin said he was not putting the United States in the campaign. "We do expect our partners to honor their agreements," he said, referring to the disputed lumber tariffs. "And I will defend Canada. Period."
If I were on Team Martin, I think I'd be teeing off on this theme right now. Beer and popcorn? Give me a break... if Martin gets to play Captain Canada standing up to the big baddie down south right now, cha ching....I'll take that issue any day.

The Bubble boy


Very funny today. Dowd, here on the bubble boy:
"The president's bubble requires constant care. It's not easy to keep out huge tragedies like Katrina, or flawed policies like Iraq. As Newsweek noted, a foreign diplomat "was startled when Secretary of State Rice warned him not to lay bad news on the president. 'Don't upset him,' she said."

Heaven forbid. Don't burst his bubble."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Bush's thug,Wilkins, speaks out

So Bush's is speaking out during our federal election campaign:Stop slamming U.S., Washington warns Martin. I can't use the language I'd really like to as I really don't want to lose all sense of decorum on the Impolitical site. Some readers don't like swearing.

Having said that, let's remember that the vaunted U.S. ambassador to Canada earned his position by tarring and feathering John McCain in the 2000 South Carolina primary. Polling stations in Greenville, S.C. mysteriously weren't open during voting during that primary back in 2000. And to no one's surprise, Greenville was the fiefdom of the honourable Mr. Wilkins. The McCain campaign cried foul over this. They also cried foul over the portrayal of McCain as having an illegitimate black child, being mentally imbalanced, etc., etc., etc. This is the kind of electoral politics that Mr. Wilkins plays. And he was a crucial player for Bush in winning that primary. And so he was a key person who helped bring W to the White House. Thanks for that Mr. Wilkins, the world owes you big time.

So while your own electoral politics are sleazy and you think you can say anything you like, your telling us to watch what we say in the midst of our election won't fly. For your democracy is broken, my friend.

Corrupt lobbyists like your Republican pal, Jack Abramoff, buy meetings at the White House for millions of dollars. Exemplary leaders like Tom DeLay rig the Texas electoral boundaries to bolster a political majority in the House of Representatives, a plan which the Department of Justice said was in violation of the Voting Rights Act yet was OK'd to proceed by political superiors...your Pentagon buys political propaganda in Iraq and yes, even in your very own newspapers, paying columnists like Armstrong Williams to shill for your Orwellianly named laws like "Leave No Child Behind"...shall we go on Mr. Wilkins? You know what they say about those who live in glass houses...

I hope that your comments only ratchet up the volume from Paul Martin and other leaders. So thanks for helping them out in this election campaign, at that. American influence is like kryptonite to Superman here. Didn't you learn anything from your predecessor, the condescending Cellucci? Many of us simply don't care what you think about us at this point. Your nation is run, to quote Colin Powell's former deputy, by a cabal of neocons. What are you going to do? Close the border again on another product? Show the world one more time that the U.S. doesn't abide by the rules that other nations do? Embarrass yourself the way your government did in Montreal last week?

Thanks but no thanks, Mr. Wilkins. We'll look after our election by ourselves. If you don't like it, feel free to put in with W for a transfer to a friendlier nation - that is, if you can find one.

And I have a bridge in China I'd like to sell you...

The Globe and Mail: Duceppe seeks to reassure Anglo-Quebeckers.

Ass

It speaks.

Another of DeLay's little time bombs has gone off

The chickens coming home to roost for Tom DeLay, again:Supreme Court to Hear Dispute on Texas Redistricting - New York Times. The issue they'll be looking at is this:
The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would decide the validity of the much-disputed Congressional map that Texas Republicans pushed through the State Legislature two years ago in a highly unusual mid-decade redistricting that led to the loss of five Democratic Congressional seats.
And the problem with that plan, is essentially this:
In the 2004 Congressional election, with the new plan in place, the Texas delegation went from an even division of 16 Republicans and 16 Democrats to 21 Republicans and 11 Democrats. The plan was engineered by Representative Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican and former House majority leader.

"Tom DeLay and his corrupt cronies were willing to sacrifice the voting rights of millions of Texans to carry out a corrupt, partisan, mid-decade redistricting scheme," said Charles Soechting, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party in a statement expressing his hope that the court would overturn the plan.
At the risk of making a broad understatement...this should be an interesting case. Hopefully the fact that the Court is hearing it is a good sign for anyone who is concerned with the fragility of American democracy these days. The fact that a partisan state legislature can re-draw congressional district boundaries to its own party's benefit is remarkable in and of itself. Quite a power to wield. And apparently it has been exercised very controversially in the case of Texas.

One more example of a frail American democracy that will find it increasingly difficult to exercise any moral leadership in the world as a leading democracy if such practices are allowed to go unchecked...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Attention Wal-Mart shoppers

Krugman continues to dog the big baddie:Big Box Balderdash - New York Times. Taking on Wal-Mart's latest claim:
But instead of resting its case on these honest or at least defensible answers to criticism, Wal-Mart has decided to insult our intelligence by claiming to be, of all things, an engine of job creation. Judging from its press release in response to the religious values campaign, the assertion that Wal-Mart "creates 100,000 jobs a year" is now the core of the company's public relations strategy.

It's true, of course, that the company is getting bigger every year. But adding 100,000 people to Wal-Mart's work force doesn't mean adding 100,000 jobs to the economy. On the contrary, there's every reason to believe that as Wal-Mart expands, it destroys at least as many jobs as it creates, and drives down workers' wages in the process.

Think about what happens when Wal-Mart opens a store in a previously untouched city or county. The new store takes sales away from stores that are already in the area; these stores lay off workers or even go out of business. Because Wal-Mart's big-box stores employ fewer workers per dollar of sales than the smaller stores they replace, overall retail employment surely goes down, not up, when Wal-Mart comes to town. And if the jobs lost come from employers who pay more generously than Wal-Mart does, overall wages will fall when Wal-Mart moves in.
Krugman cites a UCal study that has found that retail employment and average wages drop when Wal-Mart sets up in a new county. His conclusion, Wal-Mart should think about paying higher wages.

Let's all keep this in mind as we consider our next venture out to Wal-Mart for those discounted prices, especially at this time of year...

Worth reading, in case you missed it

Death of an American City - New York Times.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Some Australia photos

The impressive Sydney Harbour Bridge. If you look carefully at the top arc of the arch, on the left side of the photo, just beyond the concrete gateway (about a cm up from it), you can make out tiny figures (approximately 10)...this is a tour group of people. For @$150-200 you can climb to the top of the arch. Impolitical thinks these people are out of their freakin' minds.

Eye catching newspaper headlines displayed at a news stand on the Rundle shopping mall plaza in the city of Adelaide.

A much needed instruction, painted on the street corners of most busy streets in Sydney, for travellers who are conditioned to look in the opposite direction for oncoming traffic.

Brightly painted beach "houses" on Brighton beach, a suburb of Melbourne. People pay over $100,000 for these.

Kangaroo at the Healesville wildlife sanctuary outside Melbourne. What trip to Australia would be complete without a shot of its most famous resident?

I'm back

Back from 10 day Australia trip...now have to find out WTF has been going on with all my faves, Karl in particular! And we actually have a federal election going on here! I see Stephen Harper is trying to be a sensitive "senior citizens" issue type guy and has taken to wearing turtlenecks...this should be good...

More details on the Rove effect on Katrina aftermath

More details here, Politics delayed troops dispatch to N.O., on the political fights in the wake of the Katrina disaster as Governor Blanco prepares to testify this week in Washington. This is a thorough piece, and here's a key excerpt:
The documents show that the White House delayed its decision to deploy federal troops while it pressured the nation's senior National Guard official to persuade Blanco to accept the president's hand-picked commander to run the entire response effort.

The records also reveal a Democratic administration in Baton Rouge seized with anxiety that the media, swayed by a Republican spin machine, would make it appear that the relief effort would improve overnight if the president took control, and that Blanco was dragging her feet to invite federal help.

"The (White House) spin is that this (is) state and local fault," Blanco Chief of Staff Andy Kopplin e-mailed to Blanco's top aides on Sept. 4.

Any paranoia that Blanco officials might have had about a GOP agenda was fed by phone calls and e-mail messages from national media and other sources. For example, an ABC News reporter wrote Blanco's press secretary, "2 senior GOP aides have called me to suggest we should be focusing more blame on Governor Blanco." A New York Times reporter wrote an e-mail message saying, "Several officials in Washington are asserting that the Federal Government should have assumed control of the overall operation . . . As it would have meant, they suggested, better coordination of the response."

An e-mail message between Blanco aides said a prominent New Orleans banker "called . . . this morning and has it on very good authority that (White House strategist) Karl Rove is directing effort to put blame on kbb (governor) for mess saying that the reason feds not on ground sooner was that she refused to give up her authority."
Amazing the way name keeps popping up, isn't it?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Sydney blogging

Posting has been light, I haven't had the time or access to a computer that I'd like, so apologies for the lack of updates!

Went out and about in Sydney this afternoon for a few hours, that's all the time I've had to explore so far in this city! It is as hot as an oven in this city. You walk down the street and you'll experience a hot blast of strong wind. It sounds bad but it's not as humid as the Toronto heat. It's a beautiful clear and hot day today, quite a bit hotter than Melbourne was.

I appreciate the reminders, painted on the street at each street corner, as you wait for the lights to change, telling you to "Look Left" or "Look Right"...for the North Americans, this is an important reminder as we're so used to looking for oncoming traffic from the opposite direction.

Have yet to hit the Sydney tourist spots, possibly tonight or tomorrow morning, then it's off to Adelaide before the trek home on Saturday. Good news on that front, the Impolitical husband has finagled an upgrade from Business to First Class on the long leg from Sydney to LA. Can't imagine what First Class will be like, Business was outstanding on the journey over!

A real dearth of American news over here. The pages of the Australian, for example, are concerned with Iraq news and terrorist issues of relevance to Australia. Asian trials of Australians are also big news, where their use of the death penalty is coming under fire by the Australian government and people. The Commonwealth games occur in Melbourne in March and that's big news along with high security preps. Recall that an Al Qaeda spokesman mentioned Melbourne as a target, at some point in the past six months, and so they're leaving little to chance, using Blackhawk helicopters during the games apparently to patrol the skies.

That's it for now, off to dinner...

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Rove effect

Whether intentional or not, everything Rove touches becomes intensely political, and in the aftermath of the Katrina flooding, apparently any moves by him were viewed through this lens by the Democratic Louisiana Governor and her staff:Katrina documents highlight political standoff - The Boston Globe. If you were a Democratic Governor in her shoes, watching the Bush team flailing and struggling to recover, wouldn't you view Rove in the same way? If he's asking you to do something, it likely isn't for your benefit. And isn't it nice to know that a Governor in her situation had to fear the political arm of the White House at a time like this?

McCain the maverick? Don't think so

Check this out for more on a point I have recently made on the putative maverick:MyDD :: More McCain Reality.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A little more justice in the world today

High Court in S. Africa Backs Gay Marriage - Los Angeles Times.

Dowd on Bushocracy too

She's back, expanding on the latest episode of Bushocracy, the propaganda escapade:
Guess the Bush administration didn't learn anything this fall when federal auditors said it had violated the law by buying favorable news coverage of its education polices. Bush officials got right back into the fake news business, paying to plant propaganda in the Iraqi press. They outsourced this disinformation campaign to something called the Lincoln Group - have they no shame?

You have to admire Scott McClellan, the president's spokesman. He kept a straight face when he called the U.S. "a leader when it comes to promoting and advocating a free and independent media around the world." He added, "We've made our views very clear when it comes to freedom of the press."

Exceedingly clear. The Bushies don't believe in it. They disdain the whole democratic system of checks and balances.

The big story in Melbourne

A story you might not hear about in North America today but which has greatly affected people here in Melbourne, found here. It's the front page story in all the papers. A 25 year old Australian from Melbourne was hanged in Singapore today at dawn...he had smuggled heroin and apparently was caught in Singapore, the penalty being death by hanging. Australians are feeling quite strongly about the harsh penalty and a bit of a backlash is even occurring in Singapore over the use of the death penalty. A bit of Melbourne blogging for you...

Last gasp for Pirro

Here's an update on one of the races watched by this blog, the formerly much vaunted Pirro-Clinton matchup. Pirro Won't Drop Senate Race vs. Clinton despite the writing being on the wall:
"Clearly the only person who doesn't know that the Pirro for Senate race is over is Jeanine Pirro," said Michael Long, state Conservative Party chairman. "There's a meltdown taking place here and she's not aware of it."
...
Speculation that Pirro might quit the race has been running high since Tuesday, when state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, the Legislature's top Republican, said she should give up her Senate bid and run instead for New York attorney general, a job Democrat Eliot Spitzer is leaving to run for governor.
No one is likely to defeat Clinton here, it's a question of who the Repubs can put up against her to try to inflict some damage before '08. Get her to spend some money and take some test shots. That's what it's all about. And Pirro can't do it, apparently, in the eyes of the New York Conservatives. Guess will have to dig out the Rolodex and tap the next candidate with the most capacity to cause damage? Gotta be someone out there who can do the dirty work for the master?

Another minor lesson to be learned here, you can look good on paper as a candidate but you still have to run the race. And this one apparently will not even make it to the starting line.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

This is not democracy, it's Bushocracy, where anything goes

There are just so many things wrong with this picture, it's hard to know where to start. The Defense Department is paying a contractor, the "Lincoln Group" (how Orwellian), to plant sunny, everything-is-coming-up-roses articles in the media and to pay "sympathetic" journalists for positive coverage. Propaganda, sponsored by the U.S. military and . And if you read the article carefully, it sounds like the whistle is being blown by insiders on this one:
The Lincoln contract with the American-led coalition forces in Iraq has rankled some military and civilian officials and contractors. Some of them described the program to The New York Times in recent months and provided examples of the military's storyboards.
Good for them, this story is emblematic of an anti-democratic undercurrent that frequently pops up here and there in many of the Bush administration's actions. And while they are theoretically engaged in their "mission" to spread freedom and democracy, such episodes are all the more damning. Let's let one of the quotes from the article sum up the damage such escapades cost:
Others seemed to share the sentiment. "I think it's absolutely wrong for the government to do this," said Patrick Butler, vice president of the International Center for Journalists in Washington, which conducts ethics training for journalists from countries without a history of independent news media. "Ethically, it's indefensible."

Mr. Butler, who spoke from a conference in Wisconsin with Arab journalists, said the American government paid for many programs that taught foreign journalists not to accept payments from interested parties to write articles and not to print government propaganda disguised as news.

"You show the world you're not living by the principles you profess to believe in, and you lose all credibility," he said.
So I have a question. Why is this being slagged off on to the shoulders of the Pentagon? Yes, they've instituted this contract. But it is an action of the U.S. government that has occurred here, and the President bears responsibility for the actions of his government. Every time an event like this happens, there is an instant "localization" of responsibility elsewhere away from the White House.

Bush is not in control of his people, i.e., Rumsfeld, and clearly departments run amok without any kind of supervision from the top or any clear setting of examples from any semblance of White House leadership. Bush, and Cheney, have given a wink and a nod to torture practices and it seems that propaganda is just one more tool in the fight against terrorism that also is worthy of a similar wink and a nod. "Let's let the Department of Defense get the facts" or some other pathetic response is the word from the White House spokesman. How about this is unacceptable and the United States of America does not and cannot stand for such corrupt, anti-democratic practices? How about freedom of speech is the bedrock principle of any democracy, be it a nascent democracy like Iraq or mature, like the U.S.?

Oh yes, sadly, I forgot for a moment that we're not dealing with a traditional American government that actually practices the ideals upon which the nation was founded. We're dealing with Bushocracy where the ends clearly justify the means. And so we see this embarrassment of propaganda, just the latest example of what happens when you elect a President who has no idea what he's doing.

Greetings from Australia

Impolitical is in Australia for a brief visit with the Impolitical husband. Business, speeches and other interesting goings on taking place. In Melbourne now. Will be travelling on to Sydney and Adelaide. First visit beyond the shores of North America.

Experienced terrible, absolutely terrible turbulence taking off from Toronto on the way to LA. Never experienced anything like it in my life. Not a big fan of flying and that didn't help! The flight from LA to Melbourne, 14.5 hours was actually not bad considering the length. Fly Qantas airlines people, business class, and you're set. Tons of room and lots to keep you occupied. Pretty comfortable "pod" like compartments contain the seats and give you lots of privacy. Enough though of my Qantas ad for now...haven't seen much of Melbourne yet, need to catch up on sleep after the loss of a day - maybe some touring around tomorrow.

Thankfully, I'll be able to keep up with the blog via laptop and hi-speed in the hotel. So I'll be watching you , even from down under. Not much in the way of North American news, just the CNN International channel and the big news of the day appeared to be that the French successfully carried out a surgical face plant. That and Bush speaking about Iraq. Ho hum, the mmore things change, the more they stay the same?

G'day from Australia everyone! Time to catch up on that lack of sleep...!