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Monday, January 30, 2006

Kill the Messenger (Or if you can't kill him, give him a high level appointment)

I really don't know what more to say about this, other than this is the ultimate example of corruption and conflicts of interests. The Jack Abramoff investigation, which has thousands of connections to the White House directly, has been effectively halted because Bush has appointed the chief prosecutor to a federal judgeship. What a nice way of ensuring that he won't/can't do anything to implicate the Criminal President or the Criminal Congress.

The Democrats are trying to use this disgusting appointment to get an independent prosecutor to conduct the investigation, as they should:

The timing of Mr. Hillman's nomination "jaundices this whole process," Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said in an interview. "They have to appoint a special counsel. I think there will be broad support for one."

Representative George Miller, Democrat of California, called the timing "startling" and said, "You have one of the chief prosecutors removed from a case that has tentacles throughout the Republican leadership of Congress, throughout the various agencies and into the White House."

The Federalist Society Rejoices At Alito's Confirmation; Conservative "Reformation" Of the Court is Nearly Complete

I have often made the point that the Federalist Society is nothing more than the legal arm of the Republican party, a tool in the conservative movement (as they call it) or the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (as some of us call it.) Today's New York Times has an article explaining the utter delight in which the founding members of the Federalists take in Alito's nomination. Here's a snippet from the article:

Judge Alito's ascent to join Chief Justice Roberts on the court "would have been beyond our best expectations," said Spencer Abraham, one of the society's founders, a former secretary of energy under President Bush and now the chairman of the Committee for Justice, one of many conservative organizations set up to support judicial nominees.

He added, "I don't think we would have put a lot of money on it in a friendly wager."

Judge Alito's confirmation is also the culmination of a disciplined campaign begun by the Reagan administration to seed the lower federal judiciary with like-minded jurists who could reorient the federal courts toward a view of the Constitution much closer to its 18th-century authors' intent, including a much less expansive view of its application to individual rights and federal power. It was a philosophy promulgated by Edwin Meese III, attorney general in the Reagan administration, that became the gospel of the Federalist Society and the nascent conservative legal movement.

. . .

With grants from major conservative donors like the John M. Olin Foundation, the Federalist Society functioned as a kind of shadow conservative bar association, planting chapters in law schools around the country that served as a pipeline to prestigious judicial clerkships.

Make no mistake about it, the Federalist Society was created as a way for the Republican party to take firm control of the judiciary away from independant jurists. The group's law school chapters provide the breeding ground for future Republican appointees. No such group serves as a liberal counterweight. There are many liberal legal organizations, but none of them serve as the kind of "litmus test" that membership in the Federalist Society does. For those who would like to claim that the Federalist Society is non-political, I offer another tidbit from the New York Times:

Conservatives had begun planning for a nomination fight as long ago as that February meeting, which was led by Leonard A. Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society and informal adviser to the White House, Mr. Meese and Mr. Gray.

The founding members of the Federalist Society were mostly Reagan appointees who were determine to effectuate social change, not to provide some kind of new legal legitimacy. Theories such as originalism are but methods for the right-wing to rewrite the law without being totally obvious about it.

The revelation that emerged that Alito admitted that "the Constitution does not protect the right to abortion" was dealt with just as any corporate would shrug off negative news. The Federalist Society turned to their PR firm:

"It was a done deal," one of the Democratic staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the staff is forbidden to talk publicly about internal meetings. "This was the most evidence we have ever had about a Supreme Court nominee's true beliefs."

Mr. Leo and other lawyers supporting Judge Alito were inclined to shrug off the memorandum, which described views that were typical in their circles, people involved in the effort said. But executives at Creative Response Concepts, the team's public relations firm, quickly convinced them it was "a big deal" that could become the centerpiece of the Democrats' attacks, one of the people said.

Judge Bork, a far-right conservative jurist whose nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected by the Democratic Senate in 1987, is an active member of the Federalist Society and a huge proponent of Alito and Roberts. This is the same man who said that anytime you take away one person's rights, you necessarily take away another's. Apparently someone has the "right to segregate", under this demented quasi-logic. Bork loves Alito and Roberts:

"It has been a long time coming," Judge Bork said, "but more needs to be done."

What do Judge Bork and the rest of the Federalists mean as "more"? I'll tell you -- they want to overturn Roe v. Wade, they want to increase the power of big corporations, they want to continue to narrow down the Commerce Clause until it only protects the interests of "morality" (as Scalia claims it can), they want to ultimately eliminate the right to privacy, prevent any future social progress (as exemplified by the activist destruction of VAWA). None of these goals has anything to do with legitimate legal theory. Legal goals are procedural in nature, but the Federalists are more concerned with results.

I have a question for conservatives: how come "originalism" and other theories used by conservative jurists always result in acheiving conservative social change? How come originalism just happens to do away with laws protecting against spousal abuse and gun violence, but doesn't stop the federal government from telling states if they can allow medicinal cannabis? How come the interests of the rich are always favored? It's because legal theory provides but mere rationalizations for stealing rights and making the law work only for rich, white males.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Ann Coulter Calls for the Assassination of Justice Stevens
The presence of frail liberal stalwart Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court is all that prevents extremist conservative domination of the Court. As is, the conservatives have 5 votes to the liberals' 4 votes; fortunately one of those conservatives -- Justice Kennedy -- is a somewhat honest, reasonable man who believes in the Constitutional protection of a woman's right to choose.

Justice Stevens is 85 years old. It's hard to imagine him surviving another 3 years on the court in order to have a potential Democrat President replace him. At least one Republican, however, thinks that Justice Stevens might live to see another Democrat President. And she has a solution.

While giving a speech at Philander Smith College, longtime right-wing psychopath Ann Coulter remarked that "We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee."

Coulter quickly remarked that was a joke, as if that were enough to remedy her hate speech. Coulter jokes about the treasonous assassination of a Supreme Court justice, an event that could provoke a Constitutional crisis that could literally throw this country into a civil war. Now Coulter has the right to free speech, but this comes dangerously close to being unprotected speech.

At the bare minimum, the FBI should interview Coulter and place this one in her file. Coulter was a key mover in the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy's attempted political assassination of President Clinton. She was known as one of the "elves" who worked tirelessly to mold the corporate media into aggressively persuing the Lewinsky non-scandal. She has friends in the highest places of the conservative movement. I suggest that law enforcement should not take these threats likely. If such a horrendous event ever occurred, the Republican party would be free to obliterate any remaining vestiges of democracy.

In addition, Coulter should never be allowed to speak as a legitimate "pundit" on any news organizations. Her hateful rhetoric more closely resembles Osama bin Laden's than normal conservative pundits. Sean Hannity, no friend of mine, is nonetheless a legitimate pundit; Coulter is far from it. She's a hack and a professional liar. NBC, CNN, CBS and all the other mainstream news networks frequently feature Coulter on her show. They should do so no more. Her insane comment about Stevens warrants an immediate blacklist.

Coulter has previously called the Democrats "
gutless traitors". She claimed the Democrats' behavior demonstrated that they "long to see U.S. troops shot, humiliated, and driven from the field of battle." During the Clinton administration, Coulter claimed the only question was whether to "whether to impeach or assassinate." That last assassination threat got her fired from MSNBC. After 9/11, Coulter said that "invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."

I urge everyone with a moral compass, Republican or Democrat, to call or email CNN and demand that Coulter be banned from the airwaves. MediaMatters has set up a page here with CNN's contact info. People like Coulter are directly responsible for the demise of intelligent discourse in America. Coulter is propped up and financially supported the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. Her role is to be as conservative as humanly possible so that other Republicans can point to her and say "See, they are people even more conservative than I am!" It's a scheme and it needs to be stopped.
It's Time to Ban Handguns: The Comments

Earlier this week I argued that the time had come to ban handguns. I copied that blog entry onto my DailyKos page and got a whopping 187 comments. DailyKos is a mainstream lefty blog but the vast majority of the replies were negative. Some argued that if we ban guns, we should ban alcohol too; others went further off-track and argued that, as part of the 2nd amendment, citizens should be allowed to own advanced weaponry such as missiles and bombs in addition to guns.

Let me make one thing clear that I obviously didn't in my original post. My argument is more of a moral and thought based one than a pragmatic, realistic one. I for one know for certain that handguns will never be banned within my lifetime. The forces on the other side are simply too powerful to overcome. Most of the attacks I received centered around the fact that if Democrats try and ban handguns, we'll be finished as a political party. I agree. I'm not advocating Democrats take up this position; I am just using my morals and knowledge of the law to forward a legitimate opinion.

People's attacks on my free speech are quite troubling. Under the logic of my attackers, no one should have questioned slavery in 1800 because it would "finish" the Whigs as a political party. But I'm not advocating the Democrats adopt my position, I'm just advocating that we should, we must, we need to have this debate. It may be a loser in 2005, but our intellecutal sparring today could very well fix the laws in 2055. It is immoral of those to assail me simply for making a valid point.

Check out the full comments here. Here are some selected comments I received:

we need to get much better at enforcing our laws before writing new ones. that said if we collectively made firearms illegal ( exempting museum use ) I'd be ok with that. I don't need them I just like them. they are interesting historical pieces and target shooting is fun.

standard response to the 'guns are defensive' statements. sorry, as a well trained combatant by the military I can tell ya that if you carry a gun you most likely (~70% ) just armed your assailant; you also are more likely to escalate things. so no they aren't :P

. . .

My sister worked in an exchange program for japanese students wanting to learn english in the US. one of the students went trick-or-treating, dressed as john travolta ala saturdaynight fever.

evidently a paranoid man with a gun started gesturing to the kid to stop proceeding onto his property, but the kid did not understand english enough to understand, and just thought the man was fooling around, because it was Halloween. The man shot the kid and killed him as he walked up to the front door.

. . .

  • The Supreme Court has never agreed with your interpretation of the Second Amendment. This strikes me as strange, though, since the clause clearly pertains to "a well regulated Militia."

  • No fair, all you people trying to compare guns with alcohol, automobiles, doctors, and whatever else you have. By your logic, crack cocaine should be legal, since it kills less people than automobiles. The diarist's point is a cogent one: guns are manufactured for the purpose of shooting, and in the case of handguns, to shoot other people. Keep apples to apples.

  • Statistics involving the negligence of gunowners are not a convincing argument against gun ownership. If anything, they're a convincing argument against stupidity.

  • I have yet to see any statistics showing that gun ownership cuts down on violent crime. Policemen I know tell me that people who carry guns for protection are more likely to be shot, in their experience.

  • The root of the crime problem isn't guns - it's people. People will kill each other with baseball bats, if it comes to that.
. . .

A troll is someone who posts something to the net (originally newsgroups) in order to get people to respond and look stupid. It's modeled after the "trolling" technique of fishing, where they put out a line and move their boat along slowly waiting for a fish to bite. Basically, the guy that posted this intended to start controversy and arguments, and is probably sitting behind his computer jacking his **** off and laughing while seeing all the arguments he created here.

. . .

I decided against participating on this board after seeing all these posts where people defend gun ownership for hunting and target-shooting - AFTER bonds specifically qualified what s/he said in the diary.

If people are going to handle the discussion like that, on purpose, forget it. Maybe a lot of folks here are correct and there is just too much of a national fixation on guns for such policies to be implemented, or for the matter to even be discussed properly.

. . .

Handguns.... Not Guns... Handguns

Does anyone else see the distinction???

Just thought I would ask....

. . .

why not missle launchers?

How can you be serious about a revolution without access to modern weaponry?

. . .

The original post was made by Karl Rove.

No Filibuster for Alito -- Who's to Blame?

Today, Sen. Reid announced the depressing truth that we've all been fearing: The Democrats lack the votes to mount a filibuster. Alito's rise to the Supreme Court assured, short of any stunning revelation this week, we are now left to figure out how this happened.

For those of you who don't know, a filibuster is a procedure that can permanently delay an "up or down" vote by the entire Senate. 60 votes are required to overturn a filibuster, but the Republicans only have 55 votes. The Democrats have 44 votes and usually get one more from Independant Jim Jeffords. Looking at these bare numbers alone, the Democrats have the power to filibuster any judicial nominee they choose.

Many liberal websites such as the highly informative Buzzflash have used these numbers to assail the Democratic leadership. Buzzflash called for Sen. Reid to resign for his failure to organize the Democrats and mount a successful filibuster. At first glance, I'd agree with them. Dig a little deeper, however, and it becomes clear that Sen. Reid did everything in his power to try and filibuster Alito. The problem is that although 44 Senators call themselves "Democrats," we don't have even 40 who are truly committed to our cause. The web's #1 blogger Markos Moulitsas Zúniga explains it better than I can:

Jeffords was a Republican and remains one of the two most conservative member of our caucus. We lose Nebraska's Ben Nelson more often than we get him because of local political factors. So we're down to 43.


Not much of a margin for error, is it?

Then consider the solid-red-state Dems --

We have two Democrats in North Dakota, one in South Dakota, and one in Montana. In the South, we have two in Arkansas, two in West Virginia, and one in Louisiana.

That's nine Democrats who, like it or not, we are blessed to have in the Senate. Shit on them if you want, but would you rather the count be 43 or 34? But fact is, we're not going to get these guys 100 or even 80 percent of the time. That is, if we want any chance at remaining competitive in the Senate.

So Reid had to hold three of these nine Red-state-Dems plus Jeffords. He got Baucus to declare a "no" vote, which was a minor miracle in its own right. Jeffords will also vote "no". But a filibuster? Much tougher. Can he get three of those ten to not just vote "no", but take the much more explosive step of engaging in a filibuster?

The problem, as Markos points out, is that we just don't have enough "real Democrats" in the Senate. Although we can and should be infuriated at conservative Democrats who hold our party down, but the reality is that conservative Democrats are totally unavoidable. Moreover, we want conservative Democrats. Why? Because the alternative is having them defect to the Republican party. It's better to have them on our side part of the time instead of never having with us. The Democrats need to be a "big tent" party that accepts people of varying political pedigrees.

Now to be clear, I don't think the Democrats should adopt some kind of wishy-washy agenda that tries to offend no one and ends up inspiring no one. I think the party needs to move to the left and be agressive about it. That's a different statement than saying that we shouldn't have conservative Democrats and accept them into our party. We just shouldn't give them any power to control the broader national agenda.

Here's the real solution to prevent the Democrats from being unable to launch filibusters in the future: Elect more Democratic Senators. It's that simple. It we have 55 "real Democrats" and 5-10 conservative Democrats, we will have the power to control the Senate without any need to placate the conservative Democrats. This fall is a huge turning point in this country. I would argue that these midterm elections could possibily be the last chance to save our fragile democracy. If we can retake the Senate (it's not realistic to retake the House, but we can make gains) we can prevent Bush choosing any more wingnut Supreme Court justices in the Scalia/Thomas/Roberts/Alito mold. We can hold Bush accountable for his crimes and begin real investigation into the various scandals that the Republican party has ignored. We can prevent conservative legislation with a mere up or down vote that causes us no political headache. We can prevent Bill Frist's chilling promise to eliminate the filibuster.

Now some people might dsy that Republicans are more united than we are and that they would have no problem filibustering a Democrat if the numbers are the same. Perhaps so. The Republicans are run like a top level corporation and people like Karl Rove repeatedly make promises to politically destroy any Republican who steps out of line. Party loyalty is a good thing, but the Republicans immorally achieve it with their thinly veiled threats to moderate members of their caucus. On the other hand, moderate Republicans such as Arlen Specter would likely be very cautious about filibustering a Democrat. The real reason for the GOP's intense party loyalty, as I see it, is that the national Republican leadership has been highly effective at ensuring that the most conservative candidate wins in the primaries. This ensures a more conservative Senate that will more likely to side with the party. Another explanation is simply that conservatism is an ideology that favors power above all else, so it should be no suprise that members willingly sell out their own beliefs in exchange for retaining and increasing that power.

In conclusion, don't bash Sen. Reid. He's a tough talker and I think he's done a decent job. Instead, let's keep up the pressure on the Republicans about the ludicrous crimes of the Bush administration. United we stand, divided we fall.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Was Congress "Fully Briefed" on Bush's Warrantless Wiretaps?

Bush and other Republicans have frequently made the argument that "Congress" was fully briefed on the Warrantless Wiretap program. Although this wouldn't change the illegal nature of the program, that statement is also totally false. The Washington Post says it best, so I'll leave it to them:

Bush and his top aides have repeatedly stressed that "Congress" had been briefed on the program over the past four years, but have often neglected to mention that the briefings were limited to the "Gang of Eight": the speaker and minority leader of the House; the majority and minority leaders of the Senate; and the chairmen and ranking Democrats on the two intelligence committees. And they were barred from taking notes or discussing what they heard with other lawmakers or their staffs.
Responding to the Wingnuts

I've been trying to publicize my blog a bit more, including on right-wing websites. I've gotten some interesting responses, so I decided to respond in kind to one of them. I think these kinds of replies are a pretty good example of the hollowness of many Republican arguments:

First off, if a person is charged with a crime because of a warrantless wire tap then that person has a remedy within out court system. Also, 4th Amendment matters are decided by the Supreme Court and not Ted Kennedy, Michael Moore or some dumbass liberal blog.

Abe Lincoln tapped a telegraph for the same purpose Bush has. You are not gonna say Lincoln was a bad President?

The Lewinski scandal had everything to do with what Clinton was in trouble for in the private courts. If you think getting a BJ in the Oval Office is ok then you live in a sick twisted world and should seek help!

Go out and find a court that wants to indict Mr. Bush. Good luck!

Now I shall refute all 4 "arguments," if you can call them that.

First, people do indeed have a remedy in the court system, and yes, the Supreme Court is the ultimate arbitrer of the law. This isn't an argument, however. If I murder a man in cold blood and you tell me that's illegal, do I have a defense by saying "well that person's family has a remedy in the court system?" Of course not. We are debating the legality of the issue. This argument almost seems to be "No one know the law, it's the Supreme Court's job, so you have no business blogging about it." If that's the case, we should just stop printing newspapers or having any political discourse whatsoever.

Second, I don't know if the Lincoln comment is true, but its irrelevant for several reasons. Foremost, FISA didn't exist back then. There was no statute to violate. Did it violate the Fourth Amendment? Maybe so. It's distinguished from tapping a phone line, however, because there is a greater expectation of privacy via a phone than via a telegraph. Telegraph operators handled all messages so there was no real expectation of privacy. It's just like the fact that you give your phone number to the phone company so you have no expectation of privacy in regards to that. Regardless, this issue has nothing to do with whether Lincoln or Bush were bad presidents. The issue is whether Bush broke the law. Under this line of reasoning, a President can flagrantly violate the law as much as he pleases as long as he is a "good" President. That's nutty.

Third, the poster argues that getting a BJ in the oval office is a greater crime than massive warrantless wiretaps. In one instance, no one's rights were violated. In another, thousands of US citizens had their constitutional rights violated. There is simply no comparison. Further, my original point was simply that if Clinton gets impeached for perjury in a private civil suit, then Bush necessarily should be impeached for violation of a Congressional statute and the Fourth Amendment.

Also, I really don't care what goes on in people's private sexual lives. If you want to know the intimate details of another man's sexual escapades, then I think that "you live in a sick twisted world and should seek help!" Bush has done far more evil, disgraceful, disgusting things in the Oval Office such as conspiring with mega-corporations to rape the poor and devising strategies to mislead the American public into the phony Iraq war.

Fourth, the poster has no clue of the impeachment process. No court indicts the President to begin impeachment. The House of Representatives approve the Articles of Impeachment and the Senate holds a trial. This is an extra-judicial proceeding. Go read up on the law before making bogus arguments.
New Evidence Reveals that Bush Knew He Was a Criminal

A remarkable turn of events has taken place this week in regards to the NSA Scandal. As you already know, the Bush administration decided to conduct warrantless wiretaps of American citizens in direct violation of the FISA Act. Bush had said, on video tape, that wiretaps require warrants.

On Monday of this week, former Bush NSA Director Gen. Michael Hayden said that Bush bypassed the FISA court because the probable cause standard was too high of a bar. Hayden admitted that the President's executive order allowed for wiretaps with less evidence than FISA did.

On Tuesday, a highly resourceful blogger named Glenn Greenwald revealed the results of an investigation he conducted into Hayden's claim. While the mainstream corporate press was content to simply file news reports based on press releases, Greenwald did some actual investigating and reporting. Greenwald discovered that in June 2002, Republican Senator Michael DeWine of Ohio introduced a bill that would have removed the 'high' probable cause standard that Hayden claimed provided the basis for Bush's executive order. Under the legislation, "reasonable suspicion" would have replaced "probable cause" for all wiretapping of non-US citizens.

So what did the Bush administration say in response to DeWine's bill? Did they hail it as a key, necessary part of the war on terror? No. Bush's lawyers told the Senate that the bill likely violated the Constitution and refused to support it:

The Department of Justice has been studying Sen. DeWine's proposed legislation. Because the proposed change raises both significant legal and practical issues, the Administration at this time is not prepared to support it.

The Department's Office of Legal Counsel is analyzing relevant Supreme Court precedent to determine whether a "reasonable suspicion" standard for electronic surveillance and physical searches would, in the FISA context, pass constitutional muster. The issue is not clear cut, and the review process must be thorough because of what is at stake, namely, our ability to conduct investigations that are vital to protecting national security. If we err in our analysis and courts were ultimately to find a "reasonable suspicion" standard unconstitutional, we could potentially put at risk ongoing investigations and prosecutions.

The practical concern involves an assessment of whether the current "probable cause" standard has hamstrung our ability to use FISA surveillance to protect our nation.
. . .

It may not be the case that the probable cause standard has caused any difficulties in our ability to seek the FISA warrants we require, and we will need to engage in a significant review to determine the effect a change in the standard would have on our ongoing operations. If the current standard has not posed an obstacle, then there may be little to gain from the lower standard and, as I previously stated, perhaps much to lose.

The bill never passed Congress. Although it wouldn't have removed all of the burdens that Bush claims FISA imposed -- because probable cause still would have applied to US citizens and the FISA court would need to dole out warrants based on reasonable suspicion -- the Bush administration's rejection of the bill reveals that they knew that warrantless wiretaps violated the law. It also refutes the argument that these warrantless wiretaps were necessary to fight terror because Bush claimed "the current standard has not posed an obstacle."

What's the 2006 Bush response? Pretty much ridiculous:

"The FISA 'probable cause' standard is essentially the same as the 'reasonable basis' standard used in the terrorist surveillance program," said spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos, using the term for the NSA program the White House has adopted. "The 'reasonable suspicion' standard, which is lower than both of these, is not used in either program."

Translation: Bush didn't want the 2002 bill because he wanted higher constitutional safeguards. If you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you. First, no one really knows what the so-called "reasonable basis" standard is and whether it really is "essentially" the same as probable cause. Only secret Bush lawyers ever got to create and analyze the standard. No judge ever approved of it. Second, a Gen. Hayden was the head of NSA, the agency conducting the spying, and claimed that the "probable cause" standard was indeed part of the reason for Bush's subversion of the FISA law.

This next line of argument should be assailed by the mainstream press:

Justice officials also said that even under a different standard, the process of obtaining a surveillance warrant would take longer than is necessary for the NSA to efficiently track suspected terrorists.

Translation: If the law makes it tricky to do our jobs, we get to ignore the law. That's like saying I can legally speed to work if I am late. More importantly, the law did not make it tricky for the NSA to efficiently track suspected terrorists. FISA allowed the NSA to begin spying without a warrant and gave them a 72 hour window to obtain one. 72 hours is more than enough time to get a warrant. The Bush administration has a massive cadre of Federalist Society lawyers eager to do anything they can for the President. Obtaining these warrants requires perhaps an hour or two of work at best. Surely the President can just order some overtime instead of flagrantly violating a law of Congress. This line of argument posits that the President can break the law anytime he pleases if it is more convienient. This is a dangerous line of reasoning that all Americans must reject. Republicans should not want future Democrat Presidents to have this kind of power and I certainly don't want an extremist like Bush having that type of power.

In conclusion, Greenwald's story revealed a few things. First, bloggers are doing more actual news reporting than the corporate media. The Washington Post and LA Times covered the story today, 2 days after Greenwald broke the story. Second, Gen. Hayden's claim that "probable cause" provided too high of a bar directly contradicts the DeWine bill's rejection by the White House. Third, even if Bush didn't like current FISA law -- if he felt that "probable cause" was too high of a bar or that the FISA court process was too long -- the President had no right to rewrite the law inside of his cold, hateful mind. The President is not above the law. Congress makes laws and the Courts interpret them; the President's duty is just to enforce the law. When you consider that potential Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito favors giving the President even more powers under his insane "unitary executive" theory, it's a troubling time indeed.

Impeachment is the only option at this point. Bush has committed crimes that would potentially justify a prison sentence.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

It's Time to Outlaw Handguns
The Second Amendment only grants a communal right to have a well organized militia. Once the Federal government raised an army, the entire Amendment should have been voided; but an overreaching Congress decided to alter the text of the Amendment without putting it through the ratification process. The Supreme Court has never held that individuals have the right to bear arms via the Second Amendment, despite the propaganda of pro-death groups like the NRA.

Since the basis in law exists, I would argue that state legislatures and/or Congress should ban all handguns. These weapons are nothing more than killing machines that serve no legitimate, non-criminal purpose. Hunters do not use handguns, so the sporting argument fails to apply to a handgun ban. Law-abiding people who own handguns for "protection" are 22 times more likely to accidentally shoot a loved one than they will shoot a criminal. The Medical Journal of Pediatrics estimates that 1,400 children are killed by guns every year. We can squabble statistics, but there can be denying that but for handguns, thousands of people would still be alive. 3,000 people died on 9/11; that led to two wars, the massive erosion of our civil liberties and a universal dedication to opposing the evils of terrorism. But when many thousands more die from the terrorist at home -- handguns -- America is silent and doesn't do a thing.

I usually don't read news accounts of crime because they are sensationalistic and mostly irrelevant. But a recent story documented how an 8 year old boy found a handgun in a hidden container in his father's home and then used the gun to shoot a girl, nearly killing her. Worse, the father had taught his son how to use the firearm, likely for "protection" or "sporting" reasons. That grizzly education helped his son violently attack a fellow human being.

The other side of this debate will say that it's up to parents to be more responsible. I have a real problem with that argument because the logic of it necessitates more gun killings. Humans are flawed creatures. We make mistakes and it's unavoidable. Robotic machines may be incapable of error, but humans are not. Even if parents use 100% strict vigilance in protecting firearms, children will still find a way to find them and use them to kill others. Further, not all adults are created equal. As long as you aren't legally retarded or a convicted felon, the state allows you to own firearms. Many people with low IQs or simply a lack of foresight will inevitably use less than 100% strict vigilance in maintaining their firearms.

Do gun owners generally use vigiliance in securing the safety of their weapons? No. "A 2002 University of North Carolina study found 36 percent of gun owners with young children in the home reported keeping a firearm loaded; 50 percent of them failed to lock the weapon or store the ammunition in a locked box."

So if you want to defend the legality of handguns, you have to be comfortable with the unavoidable fact a certain percentage of guns will be used to accidentally kill people. You have to be comfortable with the fact that thousands die every year to maintain a "right" that provides people with no liberties. If you want to use guns for sporting, buy a rifle. If you want to protect yourself, buy a baseball bat. Handguns don't help do anything but kill innocents. If we are to respect life in this nation, we need to end these easily avoidable deaths.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Scalia Chooses Federalist Society Over John Roberts...and Clarence Thomas is on the Take

This is an interesting article. Part of it is pure "dish" -- Scalia decided to skip Robert's swearing-in (the only Justice to skip) in favor of a high paid Federalist Society retreat. Part of this article is very troubling -- the fact that Supreme Court Justices, especially the conservative ones, accept gifts that one could argue influence their opinions. Here's the relevant portions of the article:

At the historic swearing-in of John Roberts as the 17th chief justice of the United States last September, every member of the Supreme Court, except Antonin Scalia, was in attendance. ABC News has learned that Scalia instead was on the tennis court at one of the country's top resorts, the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Bachelor Gulch, Colo., during a trip to a legal seminar sponsored by the Federalist Society.

Not only did Scalia's absence appear to be a snub of the new chief justice, but according to some legal ethics experts, it also raised questions about the propriety of what critics call judicial junkets.

. . .

Scalia spent two nights at the luxury resort lecturing at the legal seminar where ABC News also found him on the tennis court, heading out for a fly-fishing expedition, and socializing with members of the Federalist Society, the conservative activist group that paid for the expenses of his trip.

. . .

According to the event's invitation, obtained by ABC News, the Federalist Society promised members who attended the seminar an exclusive and "rare opportunity to spend time, both socially and intellectually" with Scalia.

. . .

"I think Justice Scalia should not have gone on that trip for several reasons," Gillers commented. "They are a group with a decided political-slash-judicial profile."

One night at the resort, Scalia attended a cocktail reception, sponsored in part by the same lobbying and law firm where convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff once worked.

. . .

An examination of the Supreme Court disclosure forms by ABC News found that five of the justices have accepted tens of thousand of dollars in country club memberships. And Justice Clarence Thomas has received tens of thousands of dollars in valuable gifts, including an $800 leather jacket from NASCAR, a $1,200 set of tires, a vacation trip by private jet, and a rare Bible valued at $19,000.

Friends in Low Places

Jack Abramoff began his political career as a member of the College Republicans. It was the beginning of a career devoted to furthering the conservative movement at all costs. Today, this career has led to a scandal that reveals the corrupt nature of the Republican Party.

bramoff's work as a top Republican lobbyist led to three felony counts of conspiracy, mail fraud and tax evasion. There are multiple elements to this story, so let's break them down.


The Abramoff scandal is not a bipartisan scandal but is a Republican scandal. The corporate news media, partially because of the Right Wing Noise Machine and partially because of incompetence, has implicated both parties. The facts are otherwise. In fact, CNN stated today that the GOP claim that the scandal implicates both parties "does not seem substantiated by Federal Election Commission records."

Abramoff personally donated over $180,000 to political campaigns between 1998 and 2006. As this link and this link demonsrate, Abramoff gave 100% of these contributions to Republicans.

Some Democrats did, however, receive money from Abramoff's clients and associates. This doesn't mean that Abramoff donated to them. Indeed, the opposite is true. Abramoff defrauded his clients, many of which were Indian tribes. Native American tribes tend to support Democratic causes so it should not surprise anyone that they donated to Democrats. But these donations are not part of the scandal. It's the pay for play donations given exclusively to Republicans that form the heart of this scandal. Regardless, two thirds of the $4.4 million donated by Abramoff's associates went to Republicans. When you add in the 100% of his personal donations went to Republicans, this is clearly a Republican scandal.

Abramoff's personal memberships indicate his Republican beliefs. Abramoff personally led 3 organizations under the umbrella of the Heritage Foundation, a main player in the Vast Right Wing Conpsiracy. He was a member of the United Students of America foundation, a group dedicated to educating students on the need to defund political activism on campus and a group that funneled money to conservative causes.

Abramoff was an associate of many of Congress' top Republicans including Tom DeLay. He is a Republican powerhouse and there's no denying it.


George W. Bush was a direct beneficiary of Abramoff's crimes. In fact, their close relationship hints that Bush knew about the crimes but didn't care.

First, Abramoff donated $100,000 to Bush's re-election campaign, a donation that marked him as a "Pioneer". Despite words to the contrary, Bush has donated just $6,000 of the $100K figure to charity and has kept the rest of the tainted cash.

Second, Bush has felt it necessary to lie about his relationship with Abramoff. Bush's spokesperson originally claimed that Abramoff was not present at a May 9, 2001 meeting with the President. Time magazine, however, confirms that photographs prove Abramoff's attendance at the meeting.

In fact, Time magazine has viewed 5 photographs that show Bush and Abramoff together. Unfortunately these photos have not yet become public, but when they are you can count on seeing them adorn this blog on a daily basis.

Abramoff was admitted to the White House several times for meetings with top aides, including one with Bush's chief aide Karl Rove. Abramoff met with over 200 top administration officials. Grover Norquist, a Republican operative famous for admitting that "my goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub,"wrote in a letter that he would be honored if Abramoff joined him for a meeting at the White House.

Last week, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan refused to answer questions about Abramoff's meetings in the White House unless reporters had "something specific" to discuss. The emergence of the Time magazine article gave them "something specific" indeed. McClellan's response? He cancelled yesterday's daily White House press briefing.

The Right Wing Lie Machine has been working in overdrive to lie about the scandal, mislead reporters and cover its tracks. I won't let them. Abramoff's corruption was but an example of the pay-for-play model of governance that the Republicans abide by. Bush needs to answer for his dealings with this shady criminal. The Democrats must not let this issue die. The Republicans run this country like criminals and Abramoff's acts provide the smoking gun.

My question to Republicans is this: why do you continue to support massive criminality in government? Between Bush's illegal warrantless wiretaps and the illegal acts of a Republican lobbyist, it's clear that the GOP simply has no respect for the rule of law. As a future lawyer, I am outraged by the Republican Party's disrespect for the laws that make this nation great. Every other American citizen should agree.

Monday, January 23, 2006

33 Years of Choice

Unable to find a doctor willing to expose himself to criminal charges, a young girl's quest to avoid teenage motherhood takes a disturbing turn. She turns to the black market, composed primarily of drug dealers and weapons peddlers, to find someone willing to terminate her pregnancy. In the worst part of town, a dirty table in a musty room provides the girl with her only hope of choice.

All alone, the girl lays down on the cold table. She hands over a wad of cash. A man, lacking any medical experience, "sanitizes" his instrument by running it under hot water for a few moments. He then unravels his instrument, a rusty coat hanger, and plunges it inside the girl. The horrific tearing of her interior sends the girl into horrific pain. Blood gushes everywhere and the man starts to panic. Within minutes, the girl is no more. Her cold, emotionless, dead body is all that remains.

This story happened every day before Roe v. Wade guaranteed women the right to choose. Today is the 33 year anniversary of this landmark Supreme Court decision. The Court correctly forced states to follow the Constitution and uphold a woman's private right to make her own decisions regarding her medical care. Every poll indicates that a super-majority of Americans favor choice and oppose governmental restrictions on valid medical procedures.

But across a sea of red states, groups inspired by religion alone seek to enforce their beliefs and others. These radicals seek to change the law via a novel Constitutional theory. Under so-called "originalism," precedent means nothing and the only Constitutional interpretation that matters is that of the majority of the current Supreme Court. 33 years of established jurisprudence are irrelevant in the eyes of these madmen.

President Bush is the leader of this group. Today Bush publicly showed his flagrant disrespect for the rule of the law and the Supreme Court in general. Bush declared the anniversary of Roe v. Wade "National Sanctity of Human Life Day." Not only does this day contradict the law of the United States, it actively mixes religion with law:

When we seek to advance science and improve our lives, we must always preserve human dignity and remember that human life is a gift from our Creator. We must not sanction the creation of life only to destroy it.

What if you don't "remember that human life is a gift from our Creator" because you don't believe that? In Bush's version of America, you don't count. The Constitution itself doesn't count, only the religious beliefs of the minority in America who seek to replace the law with the King James Bible.

In his declaration, Bush brags about all the work he has done to weaken Roe and steal women's Constitutional rights:

America is making great strides in our efforts to protect human life. One of my first actions as President was to sign an order banning the use of taxpayer money on programs that promote abortion overseas. Over the past 5 years, I also have been proud to sign into law the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, and a ban on partial-birth abortion.

America is making great strides in Bush's efforts to steal women's rights in favor of flagrant violations of the separation between church and state. It's fundamentally un-American to use religion as the sole justification for undermining the settled law of the Supreme Court. Today is an important holiday and Bush's disgraceful proclamation is yet another reason why you can be certain that both Roberts and Alito will vote to overturn Roe.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Do Condi and Colin Make the Republicans a Diverse Party?

I recently received the following comment:

you said "whites hold nearly all positions of power in our nation." . . . perhaps this is true in the democratic party, but it's not in the republican party. Examples that come to mind are, Collin Powell (Secretary of State) Condi Rice (National Security Advisor and Secretary of State), Alberto Gonzalez (Attorney General), Clarence Thomas (Sup Ct justice appointed by republican).

It appears it's the Democratic party which is responsible for "white people holding nearly all positions of power."

Well Tom's right that there are at least four non-whites in the Republican Party. I decided to research the percentages of minorities currently serving in elected office. There are 540 members of the Congress (House + Senate combined) but only 74 of them are minorities. This means that whites make up 86.3% of the House even though whites were only 75.1% of the population in the 2000 census. When you account for the fact that the percentage of whites has certainly decreased since the 2000 census, the property right granted by white skin becomes apparent. Minorities are underrepresented in most professions as well. For example, 90% of attorneys are white.

The senate.gov website reveals some numbers that prove which party is more diverse.

25 Hispanics are in the 108th Congress. 20 are Democrats, 5 are Republicans.

39 African-Americans serve in Congress. All are Democrats. Let me restate that. There are zero elected black Republican officials in the Federal Government.

7 Asians serve in Congress. 7 are Democrats, 0 are Republicans.

3 Native Americans serve in Congress. The Republicans finally have an advantage (albeit with a ludicrously small sample size) 2-1.

Altogether, 68 of the 74 non-whites in Congress are Democrats. 91.8% of the elected minority Congresspeople are Democrats. Tom's claim that the Republicans are the more diverse party is patently false.

But Tom is likely not alone in believing that the GOP really is more diverse. I'll tell you why. Just like a bad sitcom, the GOP knows the power of the token black guy. You bring in one or two blacks and suddenly people get the impression that your party isn't full of racists. All of Tom's examples -- Condi, Colin, Alberto Gonzales and Clarence Thomas -- are tokens. All four of these people are aggressively working to harm their race, but that's not the point. You can always find self-hating members of any group and the Republicans welcome those people. That's why you have the occassional gay Republican.

The Republicans don't have token minorities on board in order to win minority votes. Non-whites are more keen to the abuses of the Republican party and demonstrate that fact in massive numbers at the ballot box. Blacks voted for Kerry 9-1 in 2004; a majority of Asians and Latinos voted for Kerry as well despite Bush's victory. The reason for these token minorities is to make white people feel safer. Most whites abhor overt racism. People won't vote for a party that is openly racist, so the presence of Condi and Colin make moderate whites feel more comfortable voting Republican.

All of this isn't, of course, to say that Condi and Colin aren't perfectly qualified for their positions, despite their political leanings. It's just that the Republicans should have more minorities than the few token ones they do now. Clinton appointed double the minorities that Bush has when you factor in appointments that do not require Senate approval.

Most importantly, the number of non-white males working for your administration has nothing to do with what your policies do for non-white males. The pro-corporation, anti-affirmative action, anti-public schools, pro-tax cut, pro-war agenda of the Republican party aggressively favors the interests of those with entrenched privilege, aka white males, over those without, aka everybody else. The Democrats' overwheming advantage in minority representation in Congress, however, speaks volumes as to which party non-whites prefer.

The numbers for women are equally troubling and also reveal the Democrats' huge advantage in terms of representation.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Free Speech and the Internet UPDATE

Yahoo! has chosen not to fight the Bush administration in the same way that Google has. In fact, Yahoo! turned over records to the White House this summer without a fight. This should not suprise anyone. Yahoo donates primarily to the Republican Party while Google doesn't give the GOP one cent.

NEVER search Yahoo. Never use their any of their website. I will try and stop even linking to Yahoo news stories. These people are part and parcel of the right wing conspiracy to control the information on the internet.

Big Brother is here.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Free Speech and the Internet

I. Bush = Big Brother

The Bush administration's assault on privacy rights never ends. In one of the most chilling news stories I have read in some time, the Bush team has subpoenaed Google to find out details on what users type into the search engine.

This specific subpoena isn't terribily controversial. It concerns whether laws regarding child pornography work to prevent access. The problem is that if Google releases search engine details now, a terrible precedent will be established for future privacy intrusions.

Worse, the Bush legal team is predictably asking for much more information than needed for the case. The Attorney General has requested 1 million randomly selected Web addresses from various Google databases. This information will provide a massive amount of data that the government can study for various purposes. The discovery of popular search terms, for instance, could be used to increase the visibility of right-wing propaganda on the internet. Searches for anti-Republican party news could lead to the creation on FBI files on law-abiding Americans. (This website has likely led to the creation of a file on me.)

If Google must release these records, where does it end? Once it is established that the government may discover Google's records relating to criminal prosecutions, anything and everything on Google becomes fair game for government intrusion.

II. Self-Censorship

I mention self-censorship in order to highlight the challenges that people already face when it comes to free speech on the internet. Allowing the government intimate access to minute details of web surfing provides another, but totally unavoidable, barrier to free speech.

The biggest challenge that I face in blogging is that everything I post here will remain viewable to the public for the rest of my life. My goal is to become a Public Defender, hopefully here in San Francisco. This goal creates problems for me because I, on several occassions, have refrained from criticism of those in San Francisco politics for fear of repercussions down the road. Further, organizations that I am currently affiliated with could punish me for criticism I hurl towards them on this blog.

I don't think these limits that I've placed on my blogging are a good thing. My freedom of speech has already been slightly muted for fear of personal loss. To be fair and honest, I must at least inform my readers of this quandry. When it comes to national politics, I never hold anything back. I have no desire of attaining any national prominence nor do I have any fear or regrets about anything I've ever said. When it comes to local politics, I have held back on occassion. The scope of this blog is much larger than issues in little old San Francisco, so I don't think this is a huge harm. Still, I think it's more important to write the truth than withhold criticism for personal fear. As such, I have decided to stop self-censorship of local politics.

The only self-censorship I impose is with regards to organizations that I am a member. But let me get my message out on a particular issue, even if I cannot divulge the full scope of the facts. I attend law school at night as part of a larger evening program. Many of the students in this program with me attend school at night because we have to work during the day to support ourselves. Government loans don't even pay our entire tuition, so the system has been gamed in such a way as to make it virtually impossible for the poor to attain Master's Degrees of any sort. This is one of the key methods of entrenched privilege holding others out so that they can benefit for themselves. If the government would allow greater amounts for loans, I could quit my day job and devote myself to law school in the way that my comparatively wealthy peers can.

Most law schools do not offer night classes. This is another way of furthering the goal of keeping the rich wealthy and the poor in their place. Because of this disgusting reality, I am grateful to USF for providing a night program. However, our school does a poor job of meeting the needs of night students. Few classes are provided at night so our quality of education pales in comparison to that offered to day students. Nearly all groups at school hold all meetings in the middle of the day. As such, poor working students like me are excluded from these groups while rich trust fund kids get the experience and the access. The school takes no effort whatsoever to pressure these groups into ending the exclusion of working students from these groups. Grants for public interest work are only issued to those who are a member of a group that steadfastly refuses to meet in the evening. Another group carelessly scheduled an important event on a Friday without any consideration of the effect of such a change on working students. Our Student Bar Association exclusively holds massive student get-togethers during the working day. As a result of this disregard for poor students, I have less chance of getting a job as students with worse grades but more time to participate in extra curricular activities.

I doubt much of this interests many of you, but I decided to end part of my self-censorship and none of this really warrants its own post. I think it's worthwhile to remember that there is a concerted effort in America to create enough hurdles so as to make the "rags to riches" dream a myth. The rich stay rich because they have all the advantages; the poor stay poor because we get screwed every step of the way. I believe it's a crime against humanity to artificially limit the amount of loans people receive for education. Rich kids don't need loans so this doesn't change their situation, but it's helping keep poor people like me down. Loans are just that -- loans. If I want to get into more debt so that I can improve my education, the government should let me. The government, however, feels that it's more important to give massive tax cuts to the mega-rich and give corporate welfare to Halliburton than it is to temporarily lend me some money to improve my standing as a citizen.

America is no meritocracy and my law school experience is a case in point. People with wealth and access rise to the top; intelligence and hard work isn't nearly as important.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. vs. George W. Bush

On Monday, America celebrated a national holiday in honor of the legendary civil rights warrior and philosopher, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I negligently failed to recognize Dr. King on his birthday (January 15), so today I'm making up for it.

Let me begin by saying that Dr. King is the greatest historical figure in American history. Other greats such as Lincoln, FDR and Washington were all flawed men despite other achievements. Dr. King's separation from the intimate nature of politics kept him pure. Further, his motivations were to acheive fairness and a more moral America. Politicians necessarily have other motives behind their acts. Dr. King brought an articulate, relentless, hopeful voice to the Civil Rights Movement. He was a master orator who could change minds with his words. Dr. King's work helped unravel 200 years of evil and illegality that had led to the unconscionable segregation in the conservative south.

What the mainstream media and the Republican Party want you to forget today is two-fold: 1) Dr. King also was a passionate anti-war activist and champion of the poor ; 2) conservatives and the Republican Party fought his work at every turn.


If Dr. King were alive today, one person would emerge as his polar opposite on all issues: George W. Bush. The Republican Party's love of entrenched privilege and hatred of the freedom movements of the 1960s stand diametrically opposed to Dr. King's message of equality for all peoples across race and class. Dr. King was a vehement anti-war activist who pointed out the moral bankruptcy of killing other men while ignoring the problems of poverty:

Now what are some of the domestic consequences of the war in Vietnam? It has made the Great Society a myth and replaced it with a troubled and confused society…It has given the extreme right, the anti-labor, anti-Negro, and anti-humanistic forces a weapon of spurious patriotism to galvanize its supporters into reaching for power, right up to the White House. It hopes to use national frustration to take control and restore the America of social insecurity and power for the privileged.

It is disgraceful that a Congress that can vote upwards of $35 billion a year for a senseless immoral war in Vietnam cannot vote a weak $2 billion dollars to carry on our all too feeble efforts to bind up the wound of our nations 35 million poor. This is nothing short of a Congress engaging in political guerilla warfare against the defenseless poor of our nation.

When I first decided to take a firm stand against the war in Vietnam, I was subjected to the most bitter criticism, by the press, by individuals, and even by some fellow civil rights leaders. There were those who said that I should stay in my place, that these two issues did not mix and I should stick with civil rights. Well I had only one answer for that and it was simply the fact that I have struggled too long and too hard now to get rid of segregation in public accommodations to end up at this point in my life segregating my moral concerns.

For this noble stance, Dr. King would be called a freedom-hater who coddles terrorists by President Bush. For his fight in the civil rights movement, Dr. King would be called a reverse racist who fails to see the benefits of a color-blind society. For adovcating spending more money on the problems of poverty instead of optional warfare, Dr. King would be assailed as a socialist who hates the free market. For speaking out against cash giveaways to the rich in the form of tax cuts, Dr. King would be called a madman.

All Bush shares with Dr. King are words, and those are empty words coming from Bush. George Bush and the GOP have done nothing to help the problems of race relations other than to ignore them. His party has fought affirmative action for years by claiming that we have a level playing field in America. This despite the fact that half of our country was totally segregated just 40 years. This despite the fact that whites hold nearly all positions of power in our nation. This despite the fact that the evil blemish of slavery is but a few generations past.

The evils of war were opposed by Dr. King. A war of choice, when larger problems of poverty and racism persist at home, is even more appalling. Instead of spending billions fighting poverty, educating the nation and building up our country into something far greater, we have wasted all of it killing civilians and lining the pockets of immoral defense contractors. Dr. King would not let this evil stand unchecked.


Bush and his corporate tool cronies in the GOP have fought the poor at every turn. Dr. King would not have been silent; he would have fought the GOP's "War on the Poor." When Reagan cut social programs in the 1980s so that he could give huge tax cuts to the richest Americans, Dr. King would have protested. If Dr. King could see that the Republican Congress was about to confirm a man with an affiliation with a racist group, he would have protested.

This is nothing new nor accidental. Although he remained officially nonpartisan, Dr. King's only political allies lay in the Democratic Party. After JFK's victory in 1960, Dr. King took partial credit for his success:

"It is pretty conclusive now that the Negro played a decisive role in electing the president of the United States, and maybe for the first time we can see the power of the ballot and what the ballot can do...Now we must remind Mr. Kennedy that we helped him to get in the White House. We must remind Mr. Kennedy that we are expecting to use the whole weight of his office to remove the ugly weight of segregation from the shoulders of our nation."

The Democrats did not forget the help of African-Americans in (temporarily) preventing the future criminal Richard Nixon from taking office. JFK's baby was the Civil Rights Act; LBJ ultimately signed it into law. LBJ famously said that "we have lost the South for a generation" and he was right. A painful, but incredibly necessary, split emerged in the Democratic party. Racist Southern Democratic Senators led a filibuster that ultimately failed. The majority of these Democrats, known as "Dixiecrats," fled the party for the Republicans after the Civil Rights Act. Dr. King was instrumental in purging the Democratic party of its most racist and vile elements. The Republicans greeted these villians with open arms. Today, the Republicans have a solid majority in the still racist South.

King was a strong supporter of the Voting Rights Act. The George Bush White House, while publicly raving about the Act, undermines it constantly in practice.

Not suprisingly, conservatives everywhere fought against the establishment of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Rep. John Conyers introduced legislation for a holiday four days after Dr. King's assassination. (Conyers remains in the House and is a hero in his own right.) The bill became stalled but Conyers faithfully reintroduced the legislation every single legislative session . Ultimately the Civil Rights Marches of 1982-1983 forced the creation of the holiday. Still, conservative states that had become GOP strongholds resisted the celebration of the great Dr. King. Republican Governor Evan Mecham of Arizona rescinded the holiday as one of his first acts in office. This evil man was later impeached for illegal campaign contributions. In 2000, GOP strongholds South Carolina and Utah finally enacted legitimate MLK holidays.


Dr. King was a man of peace, love and integrity. He constantly fought entrenched power and privilege in order to create a more fair America. Today's Republican want you to believe that optional wars and tax cuts for the rich create "freedom" that helps everyone. This sad message remains mostly unquestioned by modern progressive leaders. If Dr. King had not been murdered in cold blood, he'd be the number one soldier in the War on Corporate Evil.

Think about this: If you want to be a Republican, you have to oppose Dr. King.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

GOP Fights Gore's Straight Talk With Lies

Last post for the day. The GOP is flagrantly lying and mixing facts in order to smear Al Gore. No big suprise, but I wanted to refute their non-arguments before anyone else mentions them:

McClellan said the Clinton-Gore administration had engaged in warrantless physical searches, and he cited an FBI search of the home of CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames without permission from a judge. He said Clinton's deputy attorney general, Jamie Gorelick, had testified before Congress that the president had the inherent authority to engage in physical searches without warrants.

"I think his hypocrisy knows no bounds," McClellan said of Gore.

The truth is that McClellan's ability to lie knows no bounds. Even the AP wouldn't allow McClennan's brazen lie to stand unchallenged:

But at the time that of the Ames search in 1993 and when Gorelick testified a year later, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act required warrants for electronic surveillance for intelligence purposes, but did not cover physical searches. The law was changed to cover physical searches in 1995 under legislation that Clinton supported and signed.

I'll repeat this for all of you who still don't get it: Warrantless physical searches were LEGAL under FISA when Clinton ordered them. Warrantless electronic surveillance was illegal under FISA when Bush ordered them. Ergo, Clinton obeyed the law and Bush flagrantly violated it.

These liars need to start coming up with legitimate arguments and stop fighting battles through pure lies and deception. I honestly don't understand how any citizen, Republican or Democrat, could defend Bush's crimes. Their only defense is to lie and say "Clinton did it." That's like me getting caught for murder and saying "George Bush killed someone." No he didn't, and even if he did, that has nothing to do with the crime in question.
The Radical Bloc Emerges: John Roberts Sides With Scalia and Thomas in His First Dissent

A remarkable thing happened today: by a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court upheld Oregon's assisted suicide law in Gonzales v. Oregon. The Court failed to overturn a previous decision that declared that individuals lack the right to die. However, the holding of this case ensures that the Attorney General cannot unilaterally determine that assisted suicide is not a "legitimate medical purpose" in order to punish doctors following a state law.

Justice Kennedy, the only remaining conservative on the court with a legitimate commitment to the rule of law, wrote that the "authority claimed by the attorney general is both beyond his expertise and incongruous with the statutory purposes and design." Ashcroft's stunning decision to expand his power was rejected and our nation is safer as a result of today's decision.

The real story lies beyond this case. Chief Justice John Roberts took part in Scalia's dissent; Clarence Thomas dissented separately. I predicted that Roberts will be somewhere between Scalia and Thomas months ago as others tried to claim that he would not be as conservative. This opinion indicates Roberts' view that the executive has expansive power beyond that which the Founders contemplated. More disturbing opinions will result in the future. For now, Justice Kennedy is all that stands between the rule of law and absolute tyranny. We need to hope, pray and wish that the 5 legitimate Justices remain on the Court until a Democratic President can appoint successors. Otherwise the rule of law may be lost forever.
Al Gore: "It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored."

If the United States were a real democracy, Al Gore would be President and George Bush would be busy working for some evil mega-corporation like Halliburton. Gore got more votes in 2000 nationwide and would have gotten more votes in Florida if the Supreme Court hadn't prevented the counting of the votes. To be fair, Gore ran a poor campaign in 2000 and turned a landslide into a squeaker. Instead of embracing the remarkable record of the Clinton administration, Gore ran away from Clinton. Gore turned to Corporate Tool Joe Lieberman as his running mate, a horrible move that added nothing to the ticket. Gore tried not to be himself, i.e. a stiff, but he came off as awkward and strange.

After having his job stolen from him by the corrupt Rehnquist court, Gore changed. He started to do everything he could to help America. He came alive as himself, free of the constraints imposed by the corporate spotlight. Today, Al Gore is a bold hero who is not afraid to speak truth to those in power. He's my favorite Democrat and I believe he should be our Presidential nominee in 2008. He's got the experience, the clear message and the southern accent needed for election.

Yesterday, Al Gore gave a stunning speech in which he called out Bush for his crimes and provided a refreshing dose of straight talk. Here's a portion of Gore's speech; click here to view it in its entirety. If you would like to view the video instead, click here.

It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored.

So, many of us have come here to Constitution Hall to sound an alarm and call upon our
fellow citizens to put aside partisan differences and join with us in demanding that our Constitution be defended and preserved. It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by extending its promise to all our people.

On this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially important to recall that for the
last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped—one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during this period. The FBI privately called King the “most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country” and vowed to “take him off his pedestal.” The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide. This campaign continued until Dr. King’s murder.

The discovery that the FBI conducted
a long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King’s life, helped to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping. The result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there is a sufficient cause for the surveillance. I voted for that law during my first term in Congress and for almost thirty years the system has proven a workable and valued means of according a level of protection for private citizens, while permitting foreign surveillance to continue.

Yet, just one month ago, Americans awoke to the shocking news that in spite of this long
settled law, the Executive Branch has been secretly spying on large numbers of Americans for the last four years and eavesdropping on “large volumes of telephone calls, e-mail messages, and other Internet traffic inside the United States.” The New York Times reported that the President decided to launch this massive eavesdropping program “without search warrants or any new laws that would permit such domestic intelligence collection.”

During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the President went out of his
way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place. But surprisingly, the President’s soothing statements turned out to be false. Moreover, as soon as this massive domestic spying program was uncovered by the press, the President not only confirmed that the story was true, but also declared that he has no intention of bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.

At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA’s domestic surveillance. What we
do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently. A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Samuel Alito: In His Words

Here's what Alito had to say himself in his infamous job application in 1985:

I am and always have been a conservative and an adherent to the same philosophical views that I believe are central to this [Reagan] Administration. . . . I believe very strongly in limited government, federalism, free enterprise, the supremacy of the elected branches of government, the need for a strong defense and effective law enforcement, and the legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values. In the field of law, I disagree strenuously with the usurpation of the judiciary of decisionmaking authority that should be exercised by the branches of government responsible to the electorate. The Administration has already made major strides toward reversing this trend through its judicial appointments, litigation, and public debate, and it is my hope even greater advances can be achieved during the second term, especially with Attorney General Meese' leadership at the Department of Justice.

When I first became interested in government and politics during the 1960s, the greatest influences on my views were the writings of William F. Buckley, Jr., in the National Reveiw, and Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign. In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause, and reapportionment. I discovered the writings of Alexander Bickel advocating judicial restraint, and it was largely for this reason that I decided to go to Yale Law School.

. . . Most recently, it has been an honor and source of personal satisfaction for me to serve in the office of the Solicitor General during President Reagan's administration and to help to advance legal positions in which I personally believe very strongly. I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion.

. . . I am a life-long registered Republican . . . I am a member of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy and a regular participant at its luncheon meetings and a member of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton University, a conservative alumni group. During the past year, I have submitted articles for publication in the National Review and the American Spectator.

This is why the Republicans are frothing at the mouth.


Democrats Have All the Ammo They Need, If They Choose to Use It

As the Alito hearings reach day 4, so far no revelation has emerged that will sink his nomination, at least in the eyes of Democrats like Dianne Feinstein. The Democrats may have just decided that they don't want to attempt a filibuster because then Bill Frist will make good on his promise to eliminate it for good. On the other hand, if we have the power to filibuster but never use it, it's as good as dead. Two incidents in Judge Alito's past make him unfit for the Supreme Court and should be used as a basis for a filibuster:

1. Alito Explicitly Admitted that He Believes No Constitutional Right to Abortion Exists

In a 1985 "Personal Qualifications Statement" that Alito submitted as part of a job interview for Ronald Reagan's Solicitor General office, Alito wrote the following:

Most recently it has been an honor and source of personal satisfaction for me to serve in the office of the Solicitor General during President Reagan's administration and to help to advance legal positions in which I personally believe very strongly. I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect the right to an abortion.

The right-wing's lie machine is on overload regarding this statement. First, they claim it was part of his job to support the administration's policies. But he didn't have the job yet and he didn't have to mention this as some sort of "personal qualification." Second, and more importantly, Alito was not giving a personal opinion. The key word in his statement "legal" positions, not personal ones. Supreme Court Justices do not have personal opinions on constitutional issues. Here's an example that makes it painfully obvious. My personal opinion may be that abortion is immoral, but I might feel the constitution requires choice. My personal opinion may be that the death penalty is evil, but I might feel the constitution fails to forbid it. But one cannot have the personal opinion that the Constitution doesn't protect abortion, but feel that the Constitution does protect abortion. Alito expressly gave a constitutional opinion, not a personal opinion.

As an accomplished 34 year old, Alito should have known that this constitutional opinion would be known to the entire world forever. Perhaps in the midst of the Regan Revolution Alito thought that his interpretation would win him points. History, however, has shown the anti-choice crowd to be a distinct minority in the United States. As such, Alito should have to pay the price for his opinion and be filibustered. He's a lock to overturn Roe v. Wade if given the choice and that constitutes extreme judicial activism of the highest order.

2. Alito's membership in the Racist Organization "CAP"

In 1972, Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP) was formed as a classic old, rich, white boys network. It's main purpose was to discourage the admission of women and minorities, hence the name "Concerned". CAP's magazine, Prospect, contained some of the following hate:
"the makeup of the Princeton student body has changed drastically for the worse" "Everywhere one turns blacks and hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and hispanic, the physically handicapped are trying to gain equal representation in professional sports, and homosexuals are demanding that government vouchsafe them the right to bear children."

The second comment was written in 1983 when Dinesh D'Souza, a well-known conservative liar and racist, was in charge of Prospect. Just 2 years later, Alito boasted about his membership in CAP in his hateful job application with Ronald Reagan. (Sidenote: It's almost like trying to join the mob. He had to brag about how many guys he's killed, which in this case is memberships in right-wing hate groups like CAP and the Federalist Society.) Most important, he touted his membership 13 years after graduating. Although he had an entire adult life to build new connections after school, his longtime membership in CAP indicates that it was of some importance to him. If he "could not recall" it, he wouldn't have been putting on his resume for over 13 years. It's just not plausible.

But that's the crock of shit lie that Alito and his right-wing cronies want you to believe. Alito claims he cannot recall membership in CAP. Circumstantial evidence proves this to be a lie and prevaricators have no place on this nation's highest court. Worse yet, CAP is committed to fighting the goals of Equal Protection and the fundamental rights that are essential to the Constitution.


Another scandal is his decision to rule in the Vanguard case even though he explicitly promised not to years before. In my opinion, however, conflicts of this sort are 1) unavoidable, since both Scalia and Ginsburg do it all the time, and 2) petty, at least in a Constitutional sense.

The issues of the Right to Choose and Equal Protection mean so much more to the debate. Americans are highly concerned about freedom of choice and equality of people across race and sex. Membership in a racial or sexist hate group should preclude entry onto this nation's highest court no matter your sorry excuse for joining. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that Democrats will filibuster. They talk of "concern" and "alarm" instead of anger and outrage. They talk of the Vanguard scandal instead of Alito's amazingly dumb admissions regarding his constitutional view of abortion. They talk of "thumbs up or down" votes instead of using the power they have to protect our Constitution from those who wish to destroy it.

Hope is not lost; even Corporate Tool Joe Lieberman hasn't publicly taken filibuster off the table. But knowing the Democrats in the Senate like I do, don't expect any brave stances. They'll sign off on Alito and then shrug their shoulders when young girls are dying in alleys from coat hanger abortions.