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Tilting at Windmills

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February 9, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

THE NSA AND THE FOURTH AMENDMENT....Mickey Kaus, writing about the NSA's domestic spying program, has decided that the Fourth Amendment is obsolete:

If the administration went through 5,000 phone calls and emails and identified 10 people suspicious enough to watch, that's a good ratio of searches to success, not a sign that the program is overbroad or useless....Maybe the government's not casting its electronic net wide enough. I'd rather they go through 100,000 phone calls and identify 20 people.

Of course, 20 years ago Mickey decided the Fifth Amendment was obsolete too. Which part of the Bill of Rights will be the next to go?

But Mickey's post reminds me of something I've been meaning to write about. It's something that I know is obvious, and yet I keep getting the funny feeling that not everyone understands exactly what's going on with the NSA's program. NSA didn't go through 5,000 phone calls to find 10 suspects. They went through millions. Maybe billions.

President Bush has characterized the program this way: "If somebody from al Qaeda is calling you, we'd like to know why." Well, me too. But that isn't what's happening. We're not eavesdropping on phone calls from al-Qaeda leaders. We're not getting speed dial numbers from captured al-Qaeda cell phones. What we're doing is making wild guesses about whose phones to tap.

The details are still murky, but what the NSA appears to be doing is very large scale data mining on virtually every phone call and email between the United States and overseas, looking for patterns that fit a profile of some kind. Maybe twice or three-times removed links to suspected terrorist phone numbers. Or anyone who makes more than 5% of their calls to Afghanistan. Or people who make a suspiciously large volume of calls on certain dates or from certain mosques. Stuff like that.

Then, if you happen to fit one of these profiles, your phone is tapped and an NSA analyst decides if you're really a terrorist suspect. This apparently happens tens of thousands of times a year and most are washed out. Perhaps a thousand or two thousand a year are still suspicious enough to pass on the FBI, and most of these wash out too. At the end of the year, five or ten are still of enough interest to justify getting a domestic wiretap warrant.

Is this useful? Maybe. But we're not listening in on al-Qaeda's phone calls to America. We're tapping the phones of U.S. citizens who fit a hazy and seldom accurate profile that NSA finds vaguely suspicious. So here's a few questions for anyone who thinks the Fourth Amendment is obsolete:

  • The algorithms that determine NSA's profiles are almost certainly extremely complex and technical far beyond the capability of any lawyer to understand. So who gets to decide which algorithms are legitimate and which ones go too far? NSA's computer programmers?

  • What happens to the information that's collected on the tens of thousands of people who turn out to be innocent bystanders? Is it kept around forever?

  • Is this program limited solely to international terrorism? Are you sure? If it works, why not use it to fight drug smuggling, sex slave trafficking, and software piracy?

  • Since this program was meant to be completely secret, what mechanism prevents eventual abuse? Because programs like this, even if they're started with the best intentions, always get abused eventually.

Bottom line: if the Fourth Amendment is obsolete, then propose a constitutional amendment to change it. I don't think most Americans would be happy to substitute "fits a vague NSA profile" for "probable cause," but I could be wrong. Let's put it to a vote and find out.

Kevin Drum 12:58 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (189)

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Comments

Let's compromise, why don't we publish all of Bush's, Rove's and Delay's calls in the name of national security. After all, if they were talking to Al Qaeda, wouldn't you want to know about it?

Posted by: tomeck on February 9, 2006 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

"If somebody from al Qaeda is calling you, we'd like to know why."

Help me out, I know I'm missing something really obvious, but: Why are we sitting there listening to al Qaeda. If we know where they are, why don't we just go ARREST al Qaeda?

Posted by: AF on February 9, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

>We're not getting speed dial numbers from captured al-Qaeda cell phones. What we're doing is making wild guesses about whose phones to tap.

This is the nature of Bush's administration--instead of operating on firm information, take a stab in the dark based on your prejudices and do what you were going to do anyway. Doesn't matter if you're talking wiretapping, military strategy, or sex education--don't let the facts get in the way of what you suspect to be true.

Posted by: PCashwell on February 9, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

I've often wondered what it would be like to live in a surveillance society where all data were open -- no right to privacy, for anyone, rich and poor alike.

Something tells me that big money would suddenly care about the right to privacy. We might even get a constitutional amendment.

Posted by: wcw on February 9, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

I saw AG Gonzales on Charlie Rose last night. Rose asked Gonzales twice to assure Americans that if they weren't talking to Al-Qaeda, that their conversations were not being monitored.

Two times in a row Gonzales said if you're not talking to Al-Qaeda, "you have nothing to worry about." He used those exact words, twice. Rose didn't press him further, but from the AG's choice of words it is obvious that innocent Americans are having their conversations monitored.

Posted by: enozinho on February 9, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure that if the FBI went searching through 100 million households, they'd find some 20 "terrorists" too.

Would those be good odds for Kaus and his right wing friends? I'm thinking he and they would be happy as clams.

(You know, so long as they don't look at their neat collection of racy online photos they so desperately need for important one-handed "research". But if they had to take a look at that little stash, then he'd and his right wing friends would get religion fast on the 4th amendment.)

Posted by: frankly0 on February 9, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Well - what happens to the data of people who are found to be "innocent" or not worthy of further investigation?

Is that data purged? I highly doubt it.

I would argue that keeping that data (for what purpose?) is an unwarranted search.

Posted by: peBird on February 9, 2006 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, the entire Constitution is obsolete. We now have the Perfect King, an absent 'opposition' party, and Diebold -- no need to even keep up the sham of "Democracy."

Posted by: Gore/Obama '08 on February 9, 2006 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

NSA didn't go through 5,000 phone calls to find 10 suspects. They went through millions. Maybe billions.

Does Kevin even live in the Reality-Based Community (TM) anymore?

What basis does he have at all for making this statement?

Right, none at all.

Bye, bye, Reality-Based Community (TM)!

Posted by: Al on February 9, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

The innocent have nothing to worry about!!

Posted by: Gore/Obama '08 on February 9, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

You know what I'd like to see?

Any REAL evidence that those 20 "terrorists" were terrorists, without the quotes.

When will the Bush WH produce evidence of that that people who weren't born yesterday might possibly credit?

I'm thinking never.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 9, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

They went through millions. Maybe billions.

This would be a very good idea. Supposed we wiretapped millions, and we discovered one terrorist. This would be more than enough justification for the wiretapping because hundreds of American lives could be saved from this discovery. On 9/11 19 terrorists killed over 5000 Americans. This averages to over 250 Americans killed by each terroists. So discovering one terrorist could save 250 American lives. Who could be against a little wiretapping which could save over 250 lives by the capture of just one terrorist?

Posted by: Al on February 9, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

I've often wondered what it would be like to live in a surveillance society where all data were open -- no right to privacy, for anyone, rich and poor alike.

This issue just jumps from the keyboards of science fiction writers. David Brin has already speculated about it in his book "The Transparent Society" http://www.davidbrin.com/tschp1.html.

Posted by: jlo on February 9, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

As a corollary to Kevin's observation about the profiling that goes on in this kind of data mining, we should be keeping in mind the real pain that false positives generated by such profiling can cause. It makes the news when Ted Kennedy is booted from a flight because of an error on a watchlist generated by this kind of profiling, but for every publicly notable case like this, there are thousands of others that never make the news.

If you don't mind taking the risk of being falsely identified as someone needing scrutiny, someone who shouldn't be allowed to travel freely, someone whose work colleagues and personal associates should be interviewed (and told of the government's -- incorrect -- suspicions), then by all means, call your Senators and Representatives and tell them to spy away.

Posted by: Stephen Spear on February 9, 2006 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

This would be a very good idea.

Perhaps, Al, but that's not what's happening.

One wonders why Kevin left the Reality-Based Community (TM) and descended into fantasy land.

Posted by: Al on February 9, 2006 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

I am curious if someone here can explain to me how Kevin knows all of the details regarding this still-murky operation?

When Kevin says that "not everyone understands exactly what's going on with the NSA's program" what does he mean? Of course not everyone understands - we haven't been told - it's classified.

I confess that I just don't understand how Kevin seems to know more about this than I have been able to read anywhere. Where is the proof that "NSA didn't go through 5,000 phone calls to find 10 suspects. They went through millions. Maybe billions."

Posted by: jerry on February 9, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Al, real or fake,

So, by your argument, why shouldn't the FBI be allowed to search through every household and every computer in America without a warrant, if it might possibly conceivably save lives?

I'm waiting with crickets out here for your answer.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 9, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

What is not obsolete, or out of style, is chicken shit bastards ready to trash human rights and our Constitution at the first whiff of fear.

These losers never realize they're in a game of chicken, and always obsessively focus on the other guy, rather than realizing they themselves are also hurtling 120 mph on a collision course.

There is nothing obsolete or quaint about the Constitution, and anyone who doesn't realize it is really going to be in for a fight, and being scared will be the least of their worried.

Don't tread on us, or our liberty.

We've come too far to give it away now...if civilization is not our evolved regime of liberty and rights, that what good is it for?

I'm sure the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have given their lives to establish and protect our Constitution over the past few centuries are not comforted by our cowardice in the aftermath of 9-11.

Posted by: Jimm on February 9, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly's got it right. How soon will it be before they start doing searches without a warrant?

Posted by: tomeck on February 9, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

As Kevin points out, let's at least put the cowardice up for a vote. If the cowards are so plentiful that they're willing to amend the Constitution to sign the Bill of Rights away (freedom of speech will be next), by all means put up to the test. It will fail miserably, and, if somehow it didn't, it would give the signal a lot of us need to move on to another country that does respect their freedom and liberty.

Posted by: Jimm on February 9, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

The fact is - NOBODY outside of a privileged few really knows the methodology and the extent of this program. Debating it's legality is the equvalent of mental mastrubation. In public. On a public school playground at recess time. With FoxNews cameras rolling.

Just like NOBODY outside of a privileged few really knows what Scooter Libby said, and who he said it to, and what his boss knew, and when he knew it.

Just like NOBODY outside of a privileged few, really knows what Bush's CO said or thought about him and his abbreviated service in the TANG.

And nobody, outside a privileged few, will ever know. Because THEY control the message. Until all the facts are known, and until the message about those facts can be controlled (or at least taken out of control by Rove and his minions), then there is no way in hell to win this debate - and the mere act of debating helps them to continue to beat down the president's opponents.

They even taunt the dems with: "see they can only complain, they don't have any ideas of their own" - because when a democrat speaks his or her plan, they shut the cameras off. The people don't see it. It becomes truth in the public eye. The so-called faith-based community is manufacturing truth, and empirical fact.

They have control of the media. They have executive privilege, and security classification. We have squat.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on February 9, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum should read the Consitution.

The 4th Amendment talks about 'unreasonable' searches and seizures.

Look, if Al Queda is calling somebody in the USA, we should know what is going on.

Posted by: MountainDan on February 9, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I thought you were going to make the obvious point I was thinking of:

If the 4th amendment is obsolete, ammend it!

The option for a person to simply choose whether or not the law applies to them is the question at hand.

Perhaps it is obsolete, but we are still on that more important fundamental first question, whcih I would have thought would be both obvious, and outrage-inducing. I know it has been said before, but it hasn't yet been resolved.

Posted by: theCoach on February 9, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

On 9/11 19 terrorists killed over 5000 Americans

sorry, troll, you're over by more than 2000.

Posted by: cleek on February 9, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK


Give up Kevin.

This is a loser for you both politically and substitantively.
Notice how Congressional Dems are not trying to stop the program; they know that if they stop this and another attack happens, it will be their ass on the line, not Bush's.
Congressional Dems are trying to dance around this by saying that they want more oversight.
Ain't gonna happen.
If it comes to a court decision, it will certainly rule in favor of the Executive branch to have the wherewithal to conduct a war, not the Legislative branch.

The more Democrats and liberals squeak about the terrorist surveillance program, the closer they get to only having 40 seats in the Senate come November, and then it is bye-bye threat of filibuster.

If Democrats didn't exist in their current incarnation, Republicans would try their damndest to invent them.

Go Howard Go! Run Nancy Run! Winge Harry winge!
What great rallying cry for a party in its death throes.

Posted by: Fundamental Evangelical Christian on February 9, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, Americans are not cowards, no matter how cowardly our leaders, representatives, and media mouthpieces might be, so none of us will have to pack our bags.

The species of cowardice the above demonstrate is one born from privilege and comfort, and not really anything to do with existential threats or what not. It's just another natural result of hubris. Hubris and personal cowardice of those who benefit from hubris, especially in an impersonal war system, go hand in hand.

Posted by: Jimm on February 9, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

When liberals talk about safety nates for poor people, conservatives trot out the old line that life is not perfect, and just too bad that some people are too poor.

I wonder if there are any religous reasons that preclude them from extending this logic to security as well.

Posted by: lib on February 9, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

"At the end of the year, five or ten are still of enough interest to justify getting a domestic wiretap warrant."

Didn't the WaPo article say that the FISA Court isn't giving these warrants (unless independent info is developed)?

Posted by: Robert Earle on February 9, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Look, if Al Queda is calling somebody in the USA, we should know what is going on.

Therefore, we should have access to all phone calls, since any phone call could possibly be Al Qaeda, and we have mechanisms in place to prevent abuse.

Yea right. No thanks. Amend the Constitution, or shut up.

Posted by: Jimm on February 9, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

as a computer programmer for the last 25 years I would suggest that the code may be complicated but the search logic (algorithm) it implements is almost certainly trivial and could be understood in a few paragraphs. It would then be easy (for a programmer) to audit the code to make sure the code is implementing the logic. I would be happpy to volunteer to analyse the code if they give it to me.

Posted by: ed_finnerty on February 9, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

I see Kevin's third point as a very important one. If the NSA spying manages to survive legal scrutiny it will eventually be used in domestic criminal prosecutions. We've already seen some creative DAs try to use the Patriot Act in criminal cases. It would only be a matter of time before state and local law enforcement started to seek the fruits of NSA surveillance.

I could see the logic as this: If we can use the NSA to go after Al Qaeda, why not Cosa Nostra, drug cartels, Bloods, Crips... so on and so forth.

Posted by: joe bob on February 9, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Fundamental Evangelical Christian,

I guess you haven't really been looking at the polls lately, have you?

The Republican Congress has its numbers in the shitter. Likewise Bush. Bush only won by 3% in 2004, and his approval numbers were in the 50s. Now they're about 40%. A shift of only 1.5% would have turned the election to Kerry. You know, I'm thinking Kerry or just about ANY Democrat would win today.

So go ahead and act as if you've got it all sown up. There's nothing like overconfidence in a stupid opponent to make him lose big time.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 9, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

I've often wondered what it would be like to live in a surveillance society where all data were open -- no right to privacy, for anyone, rich and poor alike.

Look no further than the present.

We already have the polygraph. Drug testing. Toss out all the debate over whether it works or not. Assume it does, just for argument.

When people like you and me are accused of shoplifting, or taking drugs on the job, or when we apply for a Security Clearance, we get the polygraph and the whiz-quiz.

When people like Dick Cheney is accused of stealing, he gets "Executive Privilege".

When people like Rush Limbaugh are accused of taking illegal drugs, he gets his protection.

When people like Scooter Libby are granted Security Clearance, there's no polygraph, probably no investigetion. They rubber-stamp his SF-312, and - look, the fucker's under indictment and his clearance wasn't yanked.

If there existed a machine that was a perfect lie detector, that could gather up all your personal data, collated it, scan your brain, and find out every truth, face it - such a tool will only be used to keep YOU honest. It will never be used to expose Bush's ties to terror financing and illegal drug smuggling and energy market price fixing. Nobody's secret account in Barbados will be cracked open. Nobody's TANG records will be miraculously exposed.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on February 9, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Notice how Congressional Dems are not trying to stop the program

yeah.. notice that. keep noticing it, and maybe you'll come to understand what it is people really want: not to do away with the program per se, but to make sure it's legal and Constitutional.

but, you go right on molesting your strawman. i'm sure you find your fantasy much more satisfying than reality.

Posted by: cleek on February 9, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: Fundamental Evangelical Christian on February 9, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

There is nothing in your post that would indicate that you are Christian you satanic bastard.

Posted by: God on February 9, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with God.

That would be the first time.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 9, 2006 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

I could see the logic as this: If we can use the NSA to go after Al Qaeda, why not Cosa Nostra, drug cartels, Bloods, Crips... so on and so forth.

And what about people who indirectly support terrorists? Or encourage them by being against the war in Iraq? Are they not enemies within?

Posted by: tinfoil on February 9, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

From my understanding, I have yet to see any convincing argument that someone in the Bush Administration, with a high security clearance, say John Bolton, would not be able to see any seized communication at his discretion, thus opening the door up to abuse.

The very least these hearings need to find out is whether only well-trained NSA professionals have access to all this seized communications, and solely make the determination about terrorist activity, or if political appointees may also see this information before it is dismissed as not relevant to terrorist investigations.

Answering this question is the first in protecting against abuse, and it's still less important than the overall constitutional and legal questions of seizing all American communications without a warrant on a fishing expedition. You can't data mine data that hasn't been seized yet, which is why Kevin mentions it's no big deal to data mine against publically available information, but it is a big deal to do so with private constitutionally protected information.

Data mining could be me scanning your mail with my eyeballs on the street, looking for something (terrorist activity, porn, etc.), or it could be some machine code that runs as a routine against a very large set of information.

Posted by: Jimm on February 9, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

"If somebody from al Qaeda is calling you, we'd like to know why."

Too bad Commander Cuckoo didn't read the memo--you know, the one he got from Little Miss Miers on August 6, 2001, when she served up the Presidential Daily Briefing.

The one with the subject line that went "Bin Laden determined to strike in US."

NOTE TO Al:

"Supposed [sic] we wiretapped millions, and we discovered one terrorist. This would be more than enough justification for the wiretapping..."

Yeah, and suppose Commander Cuckoo had read the above-mentioned memo. Maybe 3,000 Americans would still be alive.


Posted by: g on February 9, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

If technological innovations can render a constitutional amendment obsolete, then I guess the Second Amendment (written in the time of flintlocks) is fair game. And we can just ignore it.

Right, Bush supporters? Right?

Posted by: Kashford on February 9, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

The algorithms that determine NSA's profiles are almost certainly extremely complex and technical far beyond the capability of any lawyer to understand. So who gets to decide which algorithms are legitimate and which ones go too far? NSA's computer programmers?

I think the algorithms should be irrelevant. It's the raw data that they run the algorithm against that matters. Their access to that data should be the issue.

Posted by: Red State Mike on February 9, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

I think the algorithms should be irrelevant. It's the raw data that they run the algorithm against that matters. Their access to that data should be the issue.

True. It's how the data that is data mined is seized that matters.

As for related arguments of effectiveness, and therefore appropriateness and reasonableness, the actual algorhithms aren't really the issue, just the success rate.

So either way it doesn't matter how complex the algorhithms are.

Posted by: Jimm on February 9, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

The Republican Congress has its numbers in the shitter. Likewise Bush. Bush only won by 3% in 2004, and his approval numbers were in the 50s. Now they're about 40%.
Posted by: frankly0 on February 9, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

We were all pretty sure Kerry had it sewn up until about 2pm November 2, 2004. I think the overconfidence is on the Dems' side.

The low poll numbers work in Bush's favor. It's cover for the Mighty Wurlitzer. They can complain and cry about "Liberal Media Bias" - when in fact, the opposite is true.

And at the end of the day, in November 2006, we've already been warned by the flakes that post here: Dems will never win because they're weak on security. And as long as they continue to fight on this NSA thing, they're going to be perceived as weak on security. TRUST ME: this will not be allowed to get too far. They'll get their hearings, their fake investigations, etc. And as soon as it looks like they're going to get into real trouble over it - POOF! Magically, the missing "fact" will appear that the NSA Spying program isn't what everyone thought it was, and it'll turn out that it was legal, and necessary, just like Bush says, and we'll all be scolded by the talking heads on FoxNews that we should have trusted Bush all along.

Mark my words.

The Dems are going to get slaughtered in November. They don't know it yet. We don't know it yet. But when (not if) it happens, we'll be whining about Diebold, etc. - and they'll just laugh at us and keep calling us conspiracy theorists.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on February 9, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Since this program was meant to be completely secret, what mechanism prevents eventual abuse? Because programs like this, even if they're started with the best intentions, always get abused eventually.

The corollary is that no matter how secret a program, it eventually gets exposed. Even this one.

I would prefer that a bipartisan committee of house and senate provide close oversight.

Posted by: Red State Mike on February 9, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

So does this NSA stuff mean we don't have to file our income tax anymore?

I mean, won't they already know?

Posted by: er on February 9, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

OBF, what's your deal? They barely squeaked by the last time, and 2006 is not looking good right now for the GOP, unless the Democrats just blow it. You have to be tough in every area in order to sell yourself as tough. Pursuing this NSA business, and all the other crimes, cronies, corruption and incompetence of the Bush Administration (and the Congress that enables them) is a clear ticket to victory. The Democrats refused to take this angle in 2004, despite my and many other calls for them to do so, and if they refuse to do so again in 2006, then they'll probably lose again (though still might squeak a victory with the economy being down).

Posted by: Jimm on February 9, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

"On 9/11 19 terrorists killed over 5000 Americans"

I thought the final count was lower.

Soon, the count of Americans killed in Iraq will pass 9/11. Combine Iraq with New Orleans, and President "ignore bin Laden" will have killed over 10k US citizens.

Posted by: Gore/Obama '08 on February 9, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have given their lives to establish and protect our liberty and Constitution over the past few centuries are not comforted by our cowardice in the aftermath of 9-11.

How many died on 9-11?

Posted by: Jimm on February 9, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

The details are still murky, but what the NSA appears to be doing...

The NSA program was explained patiently--as much as is possible--many times. Most of the complaints I see now are about what people think the NSA "might" be doing, or how it "could" be abused. Some speculations are downright hallucinations.

For a while, this seemed the ideal issue for Democrats. They could put out whatever speculation they wanted, knowing full well that the intelligence agencies couldn't counter with actual details. As usual, they drove it into the ground.

If the Democrats want to keep convincing people that they value politics more highly than national security--something that Leahy and Rockefeller proved to me a long time ago--they're doing a great job.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 9, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Jimm,

Are you stating the case that the economy is down (mighty hard case to make, if you ask me), or are you hoping the economy will be down in November so that our side can eke out a win.
Mighty big of you to hope that people suffer a bit economically so that you can feel good that we've got an extra Senator or two.

Posted by: 4.7% unemployment on February 9, 2006 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

OBF, what's your deal?

The deal is - with today's revelations on the NSA Spying program, I'm starting to see this as part of the same damn pattern we've been up against for the past 15 years or so (much more so in the past 5).

Every single thing that comes up in the media is staged to manipulate public opinion against the dems. We've won on very few occasions. And even when we've won (like on Social Security) - they ram it through anyway (see Bush's latest budget).

The Democratic party needs to come to grips with the reality of what they're up against. They need to focus their message and their discipline. And if you look at all the perfect issues the Bush Administration has practically giftwrapped for them, each and every one has demonstrated more and more how impotent the Dems are to change their situation. We knew Meirs was a feint. We discussed and warned that she was a feint. And we got stuck with Alito anyway. The Dems really need to get with the program, because they're getting murdered. As a Democratic voter, I'm asking myself (hell I've been asking since 2000) why I should bother voting for a party that is utterly unable to deliver on representing my interests. Because the only viable alternative is George Hitler?

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on February 9, 2006 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Mickey: I want Big Brother. Lay him on me baby!

And then he went back compulsively searching the internet for stories about small towns in the Heartland where Brokeback Mountain wasn't a success. (To prove his already invalidated argument that Brokeback was going to be a box office failure.)

Posted by: Bob on February 9, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Mighty big of you to hope that people suffer a bit economically so that you can feel good that we've got an extra Senator or two.
Posted by: 4.7% unemployment on February 9, 2006 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Ever read the Project for a New American Century website?

Mighty big of them to hope for "a new Pearl Harbor" to justify a military takeover of the Middle East.

Even bigger of them to make sure it fucking happened by their own incompetence. (at least we HOPE it was incompetence).

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on February 9, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

If the Democrats want to keep convincing people that they value politics more highly than national security...they're doing a great job.

hey, it's worked for the GOP.

Posted by: cleek on February 9, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

> I've often wondered what it would be like to live
> in a surveillance society where all data were open
> -- no right to privacy, for anyone, rich and poor
> alike.

And you can keep right on wondering, because as the surveillance society is developing under our eyes right now there is also developing a privilaged class whose data are not public and are not searchable.

Try an experiment: Open an account with ChoicePoint. Run a search on your next-door neighbor. Then run a search on Alberto Gonzales.

An enterprising reporter tried this for John Ashcroft. The search received no data, and he was interrogated by FBI agents the next day.

So much for an "open society".

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on February 9, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

There is one thing that really worries me here: who gets to define what is a threat to national security?

I am the first to admit that I am one of those right-wing fundamentalist Christian types and so I don't care if the NSA is listening for Binny and his sick ilk.

But what happens if someone with a totally different take on what is security and terrorism takes control?

What happens if it is someone (like we RWFC's all think Hitlery is) who thinks that folks who have more faith in God and their guns than in the government are a threat to the nation?

What happens if we get a government that is as far to the left (as the left claims it is to right currently) and who declare that guns are illegal and anyone who talks about resisting turning them in is committing a crime?

What if planning to protest at an abortion clinic becomes a federal violation of the new civil rights acts and you are also conspiring to cause civic unrest?

If you are using the internet or your cell phone to contact your fellow protestors you are committing a felony conspiracy and they are listening. There are some on the left that consider any anti-abortion or pro-gun movement to be a form of terrorism. Imagine they are in charge.

These are just a few examples of what can change in our society. Before anyone changes any laws permanantly we had better think this thru.

Posted by: Wayne on February 9, 2006 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Are you stating the case that the economy is down (mighty hard case to make, if you ask me), or are you hoping the economy will be down in November so that our side can eke out a win.
Mighty big of you to hope that people suffer a bit economically so that you can feel good that we've got an extra Senator or two.

The economy has been down the whole Bush presidency, aside from the housing bubble. Noone I know is doing "great". Job creation is lagging far behind population increase. Real wages are stagnant.

Posted by: Jimm on February 9, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Here's something Mickey hasn't thought of: if the police just systematically searched everyone's home in the United States, they'd be bound to find some al Qaeda-related activity.

After all, if the administration ransacked 5,000 homes and identified 10 people suspicious enough to watch, that's a good ratio of searches to success, not a sign that such a program is overbroad or useless....Maybe the government's not casting its house-to-house search net wide enough. I'd rather they go through 300,000,000 private residences and identify 2000 people.

Posted by: Bob on February 9, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Why is Mickey Kaus even referred to in any capacity? He's a tool.

Frankly, I'm tired of the argument that "if it works, it must be legal." We are abandoning the rule of law in the name of convenience. I keep hoping to wake up from this Orwellian nightmare, only to find that "pragmatic" jurists like Richard Posner and self-proclaimed "liberals" like Kaus think that the Bill of Rights can be suspended on the sayso of the President.

I'm just glad that our rulers still treat the Second Amendment as inviolate. It may be the only option left to those of us who think that we have some rights worth protecting.

Posted by: brewmn on February 9, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

What if planning to protest at an abortion clinic becomes a federal violation of the new civil rights acts and you are also conspiring to cause civic unrest?

go read USA PATRIOT's definition of "Domestic Terrorism" and see what happens to your legal status if your protest turns violent or dangerous.

Posted by: cleek on February 9, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

I think Mickey should watch Brazil tonight. It'd probably give him some more great ideas for improving national security.

Posted by: Bob on February 9, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Kashford:

> If technological innovations can render a
> constitutional amendment obsolete, then I guess
> the Second Amendment (written in the time of
> flintlocks) is fair game. And we can just ignore it.

Absolutely, Kashford. The Framers' intent was to provide a "bulwark
against tyranny," which English republican theory believed was ever
at hand with a standing army. That's why there's only the authority
to raise an army in the Constitution. The continual protection of
citizens was supposed to be provided by the state militias.

Well, the state militias have been morphed into the National
Guard and are routinely federalized. And our standing army
-- which the Framers so wished to avoid -- now has tanks,
stinger missles, guided weapons, nukes. The Second Amendment
was crafted in the day when your average well-equipped blacksmith
shop could fabricate artillery on par with any national army's.

> Right, Bush supporters? Right?

Oh absolutely. Just as the Fourth Amendment has been obsoleted
by technology, evolving threats and unforseeable security needs,
so in precisely the same way has a citizen's private so-called
right to keep and bear arms is rendered null and void today.

HEY WINGNUTS -- CHEW ON *THAT* FOR AWHILE.

Because after you let them take away your right to be free from
unreasonable search and seizure in the name of a grave threat
you can't address alone, they'll be coming for your guns.

COUNT ON IT.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 9, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Look, if Al Queda is calling somebody in the USA, we should know what is going on.

Here's the thing: NO ONE IS OPPOSED TO WIRETAPPING PHONE CALLS FROM AL QAEDA MEMBERS. Congress isn't, Democrats aren't, the FISA court isn't. Is Bush wants to wiretap phone calls from known Al Qaeda members, he won't get any opposition from anyone. Indeed, the FISA court will give him their blessing, if he'd only ask for it.

So why is Bush circumventing Congress and the courts, breaking not just the law but the constitution itself, for this program? The obvious answer is: Because it's doing a lot more than just wiretapping known Al Qaeda members.

Posted by: Boots Day on February 9, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Because after you let them take away your right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure in the name of a grave threat you can't address alone, they'll be coming for your guns.

No, they won't. Because I'm not the kind of person any authority figure would suspect of wrongdoing.

Posted by: Typical Tunnel-Visioned Republican on February 9, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

We were all pretty sure Kerry had it sewn up until about 2pm November 2, 2004. I think the overconfidence is on the Dems' side.

Osama, there IS a big difference between 40% approval and 50+%, right? You DO get that distinction, right?

In fact, many people thought Kerry had a good chance, and did so because no President had yet been re-elected with approval numbers of only 50%. But, as everyone knew, it was an unprecedented case: all the previous elections when an incumbent was up were cases in which either the incumbent had significantly higher approval numbers than 50% or significantly lower. Kerry came in at 3% below; he could as well have come in at 3% above, given reasonable interpolations from the past.

But, as I argued, Bush's approval numbers are already over 10% below where they were Nov 2004. We know that, on balance, only 1.5 % of voters would have to change from Bush to Kerry for Kerry to win. That's 1.5% where 10% at least now don't approve of Bush who previously did. That's a pretty safe bet, I'd think.

Is it a sure thing? No, IF the approval numbers change. But if they stay where they are, I don't see how it's in any way possible that he could win an election, as academic as that point is.

Of course, the real issue is whether or not the next Republican candidate might win. But he will certainly have to climb out of a hole dug for him by Bush's horrible numbers.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 9, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

It's about damn time someone started talking about the 4th Amendment, because it's what's being violated whenever someone's phone call is listened in on without probable cause or a warrant. Most liberal bloggers seemed more concerned about Bush "breaking the law" in regards to FISA, maybe because that's easier to understand, but I think what's really at stake are violations of our rights under the constitution. Again, I see nothing going on here that Congress can't grapple with. Why does President Bush get to decide the new standard for how our privacy rights can be violated? Why does the executive get to police itself? Who's making the decisions up there about who's listened to and what happens with that information, or how they even decide who to listen to in the first place? All of this implicates are 4th amendment rights and should be dealt with by Congress, not an executive department that wants to keep the program entirely secret and answer none of those questions. That's the real issue here.

Posted by: Alexander Wolfe on February 9, 2006 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

It's about damn time someone started talking about the 4th Amendment

Yeah, seems the only time this administration is interested in amendments is when it comes to new ones which restrict folks rights, e.g. the Constitutional Amendment Protecting Marriage

Posted by: Bob on February 9, 2006 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

The NSA program was explained patiently--as much as is possible--many times. - posted by tbrosz

Do you have a link to a news piece of something else where I could see this? I'm not being ironic - I still couldn't find this anywhere, so all I see in this NSA thing is spinning with the gravitational pull of a black hole.

Posted by: Brazil Connection on February 9, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Wayne:

> These are just a few examples of what can change
> in our society. Before anyone changes any laws
> permanantly we had better think this thru.

Thank you, Wayne. *Finally* a sincere, non-wingnut
Republican Christian patriot heard from.

I'm a lefty, but strongly civil libertarian. Hillary gives
me the creeps, too; I will not vote for her in the primary.

Whether or not we agree on specific issues, your views are part
of our American fabric. Thanks for expressing them here.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 9, 2006 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

The President is authorized by the Constitution and Ccongress (AUMF) to take whatever action he deems necessary to defend America. The reason the vast majority of Americans support Bush is that they know he does all that is in his power to defend America and save lives.

I doubt the that Kevin Drum actually knows how many conversations are monitored by NSA. And it is utterly irresponsible of him to state that he does know. Where is the evidence? He has none, he'd publish it.

Regardless, his opposition to his imagined NSA program demonstrates that there are things he would not do to defend America. Including something as innocuous as crunching a bunch of data on a computer. Their unwilllingness to defend America is why liberals will lose at the polls again and again.

There have been no terrorist attacks on America since 2001. That is an irrefutable fact. If Bush were doing a bad job, we would know by now. Whatever measures were put in place work, and removing them would be beyond foolish.

Posted by: Tom on February 9, 2006 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

The NSA program was explained patiently--as much as is possible--many times.

yeah, they've patiently explained that they're violating the law and the constitution--and dipshit hacks like you swallow their bullshit whole, because you believe anything they tell you, in this case that they're only listening to calls involving evil al-qaeda terrorists.

your faith in government is really touching, especially coming from a "libertarian". lol

Posted by: haha on February 9, 2006 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

Slipping a Mickey on us? The man routinely loses arguments with himself.

Kevin, the only people who read Kaus are you, JMM, and Jacob-effing-Weisberg.

Posted by: HeavyJ on February 9, 2006 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

"If Bush were doing a bad job, we would know by now."

Correct.

Posted by: HeavyJ on February 9, 2006 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

The President is authorized by the Constitution and Ccongress (AUMF) to take whatever action he deems necessary to defend America.

No he's not. Can't you think of anything more original than those lame old lies and talking points? I guess I shouldn't expect any better from another moronic wingnut.

Posted by: haha on February 9, 2006 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

The President is authorized by the Constitution and Ccongress (AUMF) to take whatever action he deems necessary to defend America. - posted by Tom

I think I remember reading quite a few of the guys in Congress who worked on this AUMF thing (some important ones, as far as I remember) saying that they surely as hell didn't mean to give the president this kind of authority. I don't know if technically this is sound or not, though.

There have been no terrorist attacks on America since 2001. That is an irrefutable fact. If Bush were doing a bad job, we would know by now. Whatever measures were put in place work, and removing them would be beyond foolish. - posted by Tom

But has the admin came forward with actual examples of terrorist plots that were thwarted by this program? Even if you think that it might be dangerous to do it from a secrecy standpoint, if the program is so important and efficient, I'd think the admin would trump those worries and spill out the goods to preserve it.

Posted by: Brazil Connection on February 9, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Forget wiretapping! Give up on clandestine searches. The only way we can truly be safe is if we let our Dear Leader round up those "terrorists" and put them in "detention centers" where they can be questioned more vigorously. I'm sure they have an excellent algorithm for identifying the proper suspects. Just ask Michelle Malkin
/crybaby rightwinger

Posted by: Col Bat Guano on February 9, 2006 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Great post on the subject. Even without the wonderful lawyer joke.

Posted by: HL Mungo on February 9, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the proof - or at least, further indication that the NSA is up to No Good. I blogged about this back in December. We should be asking, like Kevin is, what the deal is. What is the Bush administration trying to protect? A few wiretaps? No, no, no...

Posted by: Tom Paine II on February 9, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

It's about damn time someone started talking about the 4th Amendment, because it's what's being violated whenever someone's phone call is listened in on without probable cause or a warrant. Most liberal bloggers seemed more concerned about Bush "breaking the law" in regards to FISA, maybe because that's easier to understand, but I think what's really at stake are violations of our rights under the constitution.

Well, both issues are similar, and both are Constitutional. One deals with the Constitutional role and obligation of the President to faithfully execute the laws, and the subordination of the military power (including that of the Commander-in-Chief) to the express Congressional power to govern the military.

The othe deals with the limitations on the powers of the Government as a whole in the Bill of Rights.

Bush's actions broke the law and violated the Constitutional obligations of the executive even if they didn't exceed the Constitutional power of the government.

They may have exceeded the Constitutional power of the government as well (though the universal monitoring executed and authorized by statute in WW2 suggests it may not, though certainly Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has changed in the last 60 years.)

Posted by: cmdicely on February 9, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Few comments on the discussion above:

1) The President's approval rating are almost irrelevant now. He's got the power and he's using it. The GOP machine already appears to be moving to McCain. So if the Democrats need to start figuring out how to stop McCain, not Bush.

2) And that distracts from the fact that the Dems need to focus on 2006. They've got to stop yammering about the Presidential race.

3) Mickey Kaus is even worse that Sullivan in stringing non sequitors together and/ or not thinking anything through. This is but one of many just dumb assertions he makes.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on February 9, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Here's URL:

http://donkephant.blogspot.com/2005/12/terabyte-paranoia.html

Posted by: Tom Paine II on February 9, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

As many have pointed out, privacy is not some wonkish issue that deals with implementing an agreed-upon value in one of several ways. This is a question of whether to defend a value or relinquish it.

Kaus, of course, tries to make a name for himself by coming up with unbelievable statements and posts like this.

What is disappointing is not that there is a debate upon where the countours of the expectation of privacy are (see that recent discussion concerning cameras in public space) but that once again we are treated to a display of incompetence in actual matters of security.

Its as if Bush were hired as an assistant manager at a Home Depot. Informed that there was a security issue in terms of intentional and unintentional shoplifting, would he simply station a couple/three employees at the door to check reciepts on the way out? That's what you would expect from a reasonably competent manager. A brilliant manager might come up with something even better, but what would you actuall get with this guy?

With his performance, you would expect (i) surveillance in the Home Depot restrooms to check for shoplifters attempting to slip a couple of two-by-fours in their pants, (ii) long lines as all shoppers are searched on the way into the store, and (iii) a data mining program looking for the word "home" within five of "depot."

It would all cost a couple of billion dollars.

I mean, the actual security issues presented by the 9/11 attacks, and the threat posed by a couple of dozen guys in a cave are really not that remarkable. Yet, take a look at what this guy actually does and its a miracle, a real total piece of blind luck, that there hasn't been another successful attack.

Posted by: hank on February 9, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Samuel Knight: midterm elections are very much influenced by the popularity of and response to the sitting President, thus your #1 and #2 statements are both ill-considered.

#3 I think we can all agree with.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 9, 2006 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Tom:

> There have been no terrorist attacks on America since 2001.

One word for ya, babe: ANTHRAX.

> That is an irrefutable fact.

Which I just shredded.

> If Bush were doing a bad job, we would know by now.

How's Osama doin'? Seems he just claimed
he's got another big one in the pipes ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 9, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK
Mighty big of them to hope for "a new Pearl Harbor" to justify a military takeover of the Middle East.

Even bigger of them to make sure it fucking happened by their own incompetence.

That's an interesting coincidence theory.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 9, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

midterm elections are very much influenced by the popularity of and response to the sitting President

This is particularly true when the President AND both houses of Congress are all of the same party, and have marched in lockstep.

The Republicans have spent the last four years doing everything they can to tie themselves to Bush -- it's going to be impossible for them to disentangle themselves in well less than a year.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 9, 2006 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

One word for ya, babe: ANTHRAX.

The anthrax attacks were actually in late 2001, so are accounted for in the evolution of the standard wingnut line from "after 9/11" to "after 2001" (though the version occasionally heard of "after the surveillance program began" fails to account for them.)

The the LAX attack in 2002 was after all of those things.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 9, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

The NSA program was explained patiently--as much as is possible--many times. - posted by tbrosz

it was explained by noted intelligence experts Rush and Hannity, with legal assistance from the law firm of Coulter and Reynolds.

Posted by: cleek on February 9, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

There have been no terrorist attacks on America since 2001. That is an irrefutable fact. If Bush were doing a bad job, we would know by now. Whatever measures were put in place work, and removing them would be beyond foolish.

Utter rubbish. Almost a decade passed between the first attempted bombing of the WTC and 9/11.

These guys don't fight a war the same way we do. Even the Bush administration has said that another attack is inevitable. Just because we haven't been attacked since 9/11 - on our soil anyway - doesn't mean it couldn't happen tomorrow, a year from now, three years from now, whenever.

Get your head out of the sand.

P.S.: Dick Cheney: "Another attack is a matter not of if, but when."

"I think that the prospects of a future attack on the U.S. are almost a certainty," Cheney said on "Fox News Sunday." "It could happen tomorrow, it could happen next week, it could happen next year, but they will keep trying. And we have to be prepared."

Now, please put that idiotic argument away once and for all. Thank you.

Posted by: Bob on February 9, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

I'd rather they go through 100,000 phone calls and identify 20 people.

Maybe Mickey should move to China? I hear they can listen in on anyone's calls they darn well please.

I really think someone should get some input from people from nations that don't have the right to assume they are not unwittingly being spied. I want to hear from them. I want to hear the corrosive affect of involuntarily giving up your rights to privacy. And then I want to hear if they would be willing to volunteer to give them up under any circumstances.

Let's remove the legal aspects of it. It is obvious it against the law. But what about the human toll.

Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro likely made and make the same arguments. Does that make them justified?

Mickey Kaus may be willing to give up his rights because of a raving lunatic. I am not willing to make that sacrifice. If he wants to live in a state of fear, he can move to North Korea. I am going to staty here.

Posted by: justmy2 on February 9, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Are we becoming China?

Posted by: Jimm on February 9, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

IIRC, the anthrax attack happened *after* 9/11.

We all certainly recall that somnolent summer with Bush spending the (at that time) longest vaca in presidential history on his ranch -- while the press huffed about shark attacks and who killed Chandra Levy ...

No bro ... we would have been all huffing about anthrax prior to 9/11, and my less-than-perfect memory surely isn't blind to America's pre-9/11 coma.

You might also include the VA-area sniper attacks, as they were certainly terroristic (and masterminded by a Muslim -- if of the bogus NOI stripe) if you'd like.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 9, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Why don't we do ourselves a favor and kick that sonofabitching moron out of the Democratic Party? He is the biggest idiot we have and we must lose ten supporters every time that asshole opens his mouth. Mickey Kaus was NEVER a Democrat.

Posted by: TCinLA on February 9, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

You might also include the VA-area sniper attacks, as they were certainly terroristic (and masterminded by a Muslim -- if of the bogus NOI stripe) if you'd like.

And if we're simply talking about acts of terrorism on U.S. soil, how many churches have been burnt down in Alabama in the past week?

Anyone care to explain why those shouldn't be considered terroristic?

Posted by: Bob on February 9, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

it seems to me that kevin's 4th point is the most cogent, in terms of what's scary, objectionable, unconstitional aobut this stuff. The fact that the FISA courts were bypassed, and the secrecy of the operation itself, allows for the potential of secret abuses. Then if we add this to the general tactics and goals of this administration (and here i'm thinking especially of the runup to war, the "news" propaganda operation a la Armstrong Williams & the medicare figures, Social Security bamboozlement, the strict control of who is allowed int he crowd at Bush/cheney appearances, the survailliance of the peace groups in Iowa and new england, etc.) and we have the propensity, the likelihood that this information gathering system will be misused. These folks have shown a strong tendency to use whatever means necessary to consolidate political control.

bottom line: Do we trust these guys to carry out this kindof operation? No. The laws and constituinal safeguards thaey are bypassing are intended to keep folks like them, people willing to abuse this power, form having it.

Posted by: URK on February 9, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: The NSA program was explained patiently--as much as is possible--many times

I didn't know Tbrosz worked for a member of the gang of 8?

Which congressperson do you work for?

Otherwise, how do you know what was and was not explained? Or do you have a link to something I may not have seen?

Posted by: justmy2 on February 9, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Are we becoming China?

Posted by: Jimm on February 9, 2006 at 2:53 PM

I don't think you're quite there yet, but it sure looks like you're getting desensitized on the idea. You might crossover and not even notice. And this is worrisome for the whole world, I think.

Posted by: Brazil Connection on February 9, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK
IIRC, the anthrax attack happened *after* 9/11.

The anthrax attacks happened later in 2001 than 9/11, but the specific claim was that there were no attacks after 2001, so the anthrax attacks aren't a counterexample (though they do illustrate that the "after 2001" was rather carefully chosen, and perhaps not all that relevant.)

You might also include the VA-area sniper attacks, as they were certainly terroristic (and masterminded by a Muslim -- if of the bogus NOI stripe) if you'd like.

Yeah, you could. Though the thing with Anthrax and the LAX attacks is that the latter was, and the former cannot be authoritatively claimed not to be, foreign attacks, which I think makes them the most important markers of Bush's post-9/11 record, at least in rebuttal to the right-wingers who like to claim that at least he's protecting us against foreign enemies.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 9, 2006 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Brazil, I hear you, but for me personally, I will never be desensitized. No matter what happens, you'll hear me pushing the same principles. As a whole, as a country, as a people, I agree that we should be worried about "slipping".

Posted by: Jimm on February 9, 2006 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK
Are we becoming China?

Eh. A little bit of China. A little bit of Iran.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 9, 2006 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Ya know, I've really had it up to here with all the fear-baiting. I don't need GW Bush's protection from the Al Queda monsters. The fact is that these folks have had little impact directly on most Americans - aside from the obvious psychological ones.

9/11 was, for most Americans, a psychological experience. Residents (and visitors) of NYC and DC, of course, saw, smelled, heard, and directly felt those events. Very few of us actually saw any of this - we watched it on TV. We watched images. Like other shared experiences - seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, watching the JFK funeral - those vicarious experiences were psychological - the images had a life of their own.

We've then seen the manner in which these images were manipulated into other images - images of fear - a war on "terror" or "terrorism" (as if we can actually go to war with a feeling or a strategy). As these were obviously psychological ploys, meant to induce the feeling of fear, those like Al above who go into these bizarre calculations about how catching one terrorist will save 250 lives fail to see what is actually going on here.

Compared to other real wars - like WW1 or WW2, where 13 and 55 million people, respectively died - we are just not at war - at least not here! The war we're involved in is the one we started, where we were the aggressor, unprovoked, unattacked - aside from this psychological attack.

9/11 was disastrous for those who died, for their families and loved ones, for those who had to actually watch it. But we, simultaneously, feel nothing for the tens of thousands of "collateral damage" victims of our attack on Iraq. Our wound is too big for us to feel anything else ...or, more accurately, our fear is too big, and has been consciously pumped up by the fearmongers in charge. Be afraid, be very afraid!

I, for one, refuse to submit to the prepubescent fears of the Al's of the world. I don't need mommy's or daddy's hand to deal with the uncertainties and real fears that life on earth presents us with. My desire for freedom will rise above the fear of monsters under my bed. If I need to fight for that freedom at some point, so be it. But I will not be driven by the cold calculus of politicians, who clearly have other less-than-noble aims, to give in to this paranoia that has infected far too many Americans.

Posted by: Tom Paine II on February 9, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone care to explain why those shouldn't be considered terroristic?

there's no reason they shouldn't be. in fact, there's a good reason they should be:

USA PATRIOT (802):

    the term `domestic terrorism' means activities that--

    `(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

    `(B) appear to be intended--

    `(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

    `(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

    `(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

    `(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.'.

whether the terrorists are charged as such is a different matter. i imagine it will have a lot to do with who they turn out to be.

Posted by: cleek on February 9, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

That's funny, the "it's not 5,000:10 but millions:10" ratio of chaff to wheat reminds me of the infrequency of worthwhile commentary in Mickey Kaus's columns.

Also, I imagine that if cops busted down the doors of millions of Americans, just at random, starting with Mickey Kaus, Mike Hayden, Grover Norquist, etc., they'd probably find ten people they could describe as "bad guys" before they reached five thousand, much less millions. But there are reasons we don't do that, and those reasons overlap with the ones that make Mickey Kaus a shithead: namely, that just because George W. Bush finds the Constitution inconvenient does not mean that it is, or that Bush is right, or that he should be permitted to ignore it.

Posted by: Chris on February 9, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

II will never be desensitized - posted by Jimm

I agree, Jimm, and I do see most of the people in this thread do as well. But I also see many people here actually defending the concept that Kaus is forwarding. I only hope, for your sake and ours, that this will always be a non-influent minority.

Posted by: Brazil Connection on February 9, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's high time we used DNA to screen for those that hold "miscreant" genes.

Scan everyone, correlate them to prisoners, and put those that correlate highly on a watch list.

We can even pay for this program by selling the results to insurance companies and various advertisers.

Definitely a win-win solution for all involved.

Posted by: jerry on February 9, 2006 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Dear rustbelt jerry,

I have been posting here for several years using just the name "jerry" with the email address of "jerry@jerry.jerry".

I welcome your recent addition to these hallowed halls and look forward to your postings, but I would be appreciative if you would change your name slightly to help disambiguate our posts. I am certain that all of our eager readers would appreciate that as well.

Thank you,

Posted by: jerry on February 9, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

rmck1:

I think you misread cmdicely's post. He didn't say the anthrax attacks occurred before 9/11. He said they took place in late 2001, which is true.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on February 9, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Alek:

Well, we were both responding to another poster who made the claim that we haven't had any terrorist attacks since 2001, ergo Bush is keeping us safe.

I misread that original post to imply the timeline starting at 9/11, when all of a sudden terrorism was on the map, and Chris clarified that the original poster merely said "since 2001."

And both of us believe that the poster chose his/her words wisely for that reason.

It's kind of a hairsplitting point, but the anthrax attacks do serve as a contradiction of the "irrefutably true" point that George Bush has kept us safe from terrorism.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 9, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

"If somebody from al Qaeda is calling you, we'd like to know why."

If you have evidence of al Qaeda calling someone in the US then it should be easy to get a warrant.

If you have a enough to intercept the call, then that time plus 72 hours should be enough time to get a warrant.

Is following the law too much to ask ?

Posted by: Stephen on February 9, 2006 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you, Wayne. *Finally* a sincere, non-wingnut Republican Christian patriot heard from.

I second the welcome to Wayne. Please stick around. I am a Christian and I know that when you give a government power over religion it will be used to *suppress* religion as well as *promote* it.

If you make the system fair it will be fair, but if you make it better for those on top you better well make sure that you are on top.

Posted by: Tripp on February 9, 2006 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

I'm just glad that our rulers still treat the Second Amendment as inviolate. It may be the only option left to those of us who think that we have some rights worth protecting.
Posted by: brewmn on February 9, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

The second amendment is bullshit. Just like the first amendment is: You have the right to free speech - as long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it.

Think about it for a second. What is your free speech worth compared to Rush Limbaughs? You have the right to say whatever the fuck you want. But so does Rush Limbaugh, and he has millions of people listening to him.

And what is your right to bear arms worth? You can take your pea-shooter down to the range and punch as many holes in paper Osama bin Laden targets as you like. George Bush's second amendment rights consist of being able to send billions of dollars worth of military equipment anywhere he wants, to kill anyone he wants, any time, with machine guns, tanks, bombs, spy satellites, etc.

They don't violate your second amendment rights, because they're effectively worthless. Until they start letting you buy machineguns, antiaircraft misiles, and smart bombs.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on February 9, 2006 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

You have the right to free speech - as long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it.

know your rights. all three of them.

Posted by: cleek on February 9, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Hell, look at Bush's latest budget for a perfect example of Economic Terrorism against the American people.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on February 9, 2006 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

I'll bite: which part of the Fifth Amendment did Kaus toss out?

Unlike the Fourth Amendment, which enumerates one right, the Fifth Amendment enumerates five of them: (1) Can't be put on trial for a capital or other major crime without first being charged by a grand jury; (2) no double jeopardy; (3) can't be made to testify against oneself; (4) can't be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; and (5) the gummint can't take your property without just compensation.

So did Kaus reject one or two of these specifically, or did he toss out the whole pile? I personally don't see how any of them has become less relevant due to the passage of time.

Now the Third Amendment ("No soldier, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner...") is hopefully a historical artifact, but I'd just as soon keep it around, just in case Bush gets any ideas. And perhaps the "twenty dollars" of the Seventh Amendment needs adjusting for inflation.

Other than that, though, I think the entire Bill of Rights is just as relevant today as it was in 1791.

Posted by: RT on February 9, 2006 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

Gotta echo HeavyJ, above. Who gives a flying fuck what Kaus thinks? The guy can't write, he doesn't know shit, and he's not capable of anything deeper than his never-ending contrarian pose. Last I heard, "Brokeback Mountain" tweaked some of his inner "issues", and he spent weeks cranking out incoherent text over that. A Kaus opinion about the Constitution has all the heft of a Britney Spears essay on engine repair.

Posted by: sglover on February 9, 2006 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

On 9/11 19 terrorists killed over 5000 Americans.

Geez, Al, you might at least try to get your facts straight.

Oh, that's right: wingnuts can invent their own facts.

Posted by: RT on February 9, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Who gives a shit what Mickey Kaus thinks?

Posted by: Ben on February 9, 2006 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Get rid of your phones
Cut up your credit cards
Close your bank accounts
Turn off your internet connection
Say goodbye to TIVO
Get a job where you are paid by cash
Use only public transportation
Rent on a month to month basis, never sign a lease

Then the government will NEVER be able to invade your privacy.

Posted by: E. Nonee Moose on February 9, 2006 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

jerry@jerry.jerry

I'm happy to change my name if I ever post here again. I'm sure some readers can suggest something appropriate. I'll use sunbeltjerry, because I am nowhere near the rust belt.

If you know, could you explain how it is that Kevin seems so sure of the details of the NSA program? I'm quite confused as to how he seems to know so much about a classified program ...

Posted by: sunbeltjerry on February 9, 2006 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Clearly, this is better than what you posted yesterday. Good on you.

Historically, American overreactions like the Alien and Sedition acts have always been corrected. If there are abuses here, which I doubt, these continuing investigations will eventually correct them.

Meanwhile, a good and thoughtful law taking into account contemporary technology, of the enemies and of the NSA, might be worthwhile, and should be debated. If the Democrats want to make a proposal (and simultaneously make hay politically), they need to start with the idea that the foreign threat is neither false nor exaggerated. It is a true threat of some seriousness. They can't start with the idea that the primary threat is the Bush administration. And in view of American history, they can't start with the idea that Bush's overstepping (if it is such) was invented by him or by Republicans.

Posted by: contentious on February 9, 2006 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

I know I'm missing something really obvious, but: Why are we sitting there listening to al Qaeda. If we know where they are, why don't we just go ARREST al Qaeda?

This program has arisen to handle the case where we only know whom they are going to phone, or only know the number.

Posted by: contentious on February 9, 2006 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Just like NOBODY outside of a privileged few really knows what Scooter Libby said, and who he said it to, and what his boss knew, and when he knew it.

And also, nobody outside a priveledged few ever knows what's said in grand jury testimony, or during a medical procedure, or in a mortgage loan application.

Preserving the privacy of those whose phones are surveilled by NSA while simultaneously ensuring that there will be no abuses will be a difficult balancing act.

Posted by: contentious on February 9, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

"And what is your right to bear arms worth? You can take your pea-shooter down to the range and punch as many holes in paper Osama bin Laden targets as you like."

What about paper George Bush targets? I think you missed my point. It's a sad day for me when I start to find common ground with the Randy Weavers of the world, but I feel like we've already slipped into fascism lite. The blind support of the right in the face of our the desecration of our constitution only serves to confirm this.

If Bill Clinton came up with this program (and please don't bring up Gorelick's statement, it has no relevance here, as many other posters have pointed out) I would oppose it just as strongly as I do now. I didn't become a fan of Bill Clinton until I had to live with alternative.

In any event, I will go down fighting if it comes to that.

Posted by: brewmn on February 9, 2006 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Reid Aided Abramoff Clients, Records Show

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2006
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(AP) Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid wrote at least four letters helpful to Indian tribes represented by Jack Abramoff, and the senator's staff regularly had contact with the disgraced lobbyist's team about legislation affecting other clients.

The activities _ detailed in billing records and correspondence obtained by The Associated Press _ are far more extensive than previously disclosed. They occurred over three years as Reid collected nearly $68,000 in donations from Abramoff's firm, lobbying partners and clients.

Reid's office acknowledged Thursday having "routine contacts" with Abramoff's lobbying partners and intervening on some government matters _ such as blocking some tribal casinos _ in ways Abramoff's clients might have deemed helpful. But it said none of his actions were affected by donations or done for Abramoff.

"All the actions that Senator Reid took were consistent with his long-held beliefs, such as not letting tribal casinos expand beyond reservations, and were taken to defend the interests of Nevada constituents," spokesman Jim Manley said.

Reid, D-Nev., has led the Democratic Party's attacks portraying Abramoff's lobbying and fundraising as a Republican scandal.

But Abramoff's records show his lobbying partners billed for nearly two dozen phone contacts or meetings with Reid's office in 2001 alone.

Most were to discuss Democratic legislation that would have applied the U.S. minimum wage to the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory and Abramoff client, but would have given the islands a temporary break on the wage rate, the billing records show.

Reid also intervened on government matters at least five times in ways helpful to Abramoff's tribal clients, once opposing legislation on the Senate floor and four times sending letters pressing the Bush administration on tribal issues. Reid collected donations around the time of each action.

Ethics rules require senators to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest in collecting contributions around the times they take official acts benefiting donors.

Abramoff's firm also hired one of Reid's top legislative aides as a lobbyist. The aide later helped throw a fundraiser for Reid at Abramoff's firm that raised donations from several of his lobbying partners.

And Reid's longtime chief of staff accepted a free trip to Malaysia arranged by a consulting firm connected to Abramoff that recently has gained attention in the influence-peddling investigation that has gripped the Capitol.

Abramoff has pleaded guilty in a fraud and bribery case and is now helping prosecutors investigate the conduct of lawmakers, congressional aides and administration officials his team used to lobby.

Abramoff spokesman Andrew Blum declined to comment on the Reid contacts.

Reid has assailed Republicans' ties to Abramoff while refusing to return any of his own donations. He argues there's no need to return the money.

"Senator Reid never met Jack Abramoff and never has taken contributions from him, and efforts to drag him into this are going to fail," Manley said. "Abramoff is a convicted felon and no one has suggested the other partners we might have dealt with have done anything impermissible."

While Abramoff never directly donated to Reid, the lobbyist did instruct one tribe, the Coushattas, to send $5,000 to Reid's tax-exempt political group, the Searchlight Leadership Fund, in 2002. About the same time, Reid sent a letter to the Interior Department helpful to the tribe, records show.

Abramoff sent a list to the tribe entitled "Coushatta Requests" recommending donations to campaigns or groups for 50 lawmakers he claimed were helpful to the tribe. Alongside Reid's name, Abramoff wrote, "5,000 (Searchlight Leadership Fund) Senate Majority Whip."

Following a pattern seen with Abramoff and Republicans, Abramoff's Democratic team members often delivered donations to Reid close to key events.

Reid himself, along his Senate counsel Jim Ryan, met with Abramoff deputy Ronald Platt on June 5, 2001, "to discuss timing on minimum wage bill" that affected the Marianas, according to a bill that Greenberg Traurig, Abramoff's firm, sent the Marianas.

Three weeks before the meeting, Greenberg Traurig's political action committee donated $1,000 to Reid's Senate re-election committee. Three weeks after the meeting, Platt himself donated $1,000 to Reid.

Manley said Reid's official calendar doesn't list a meeting on June 5, 2001, with Platt, but he also said he couldn't say for sure the contact didn't occur. Manley confirmed Platt had regular contacts with Reid's office, calling them part of the "routine checking in" by lobbyists who work Capitol Hill.

As for the timing of donations, Manley said, "There is no connection. This is just a typical part of lawful fundraising."

The Marianas, U.S. territorial islands in the Pacific Ocean, were one of Abramoff's highest-paying clients and were trying to keep their textile industry exempt from most U.S. laws on immigration, labor and pay, including the minimum wage. Many Democrats have long accused the islands of running garment sweatshops.

The islands in 2001 had their own minimum wage of $3.05 an hour, and were exempt from the U.S. minimum of $5.15.

Republicans were intent on protecting the Marianas' exemption. Democrats, led by Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Rep. George Miller of California, wanted the Marianas to be covered by the U.S. minimum and crafted a compromise.

In February 2001, Kennedy introduced a bill that would have raised the U.S. hourly minimum to $6.65 and would have covered the Marianas. The legislation, which eventually failed, would have given the islands an initial break by setting its minimum at just $3.55 _ nearly $3 lower than any other territory or state _ and then gradually increasing it.

Within a month, Platt began billing for routine contacts and meetings with Reid's staff, starting with a March 26, 2001, contact with Reid chief of staff Susan McCue to "discuss timing and status of minimum wage legislation," the billing records say.

In all, Platt and a fellow lobbyist reported 21 contacts in 2001 with Reid's office, mostly with McCue and Ryan.

One of the Marianas contacts, listed for May 30, 2001, was with Edward Ayoob, Reid's legislative counsel. Within a year, Ayoob had left Reid's office to work for Abramoff's firm, registering specifically to lobby for the islands as well as several tribes. Manley confirmed Ayoob had subsequent lobbying contacts with Reid's office.

Manley cast doubt on some of the contacts recorded in the billing records, saying McCue was out of Washington for a couple of the dates. But he acknowledged the contacts could have occurred by cell phone.

In January 2002, McCue took a free trip, valued at $7,000, to Malaysia with several other congressional aides. The trip, cleared by Senate ethics officials, was underwritten by the U.S. Malaysia Exchange Association, a group trying to foster better relations between the United States and Malaysia.

The trips were part of a broader lobbying strategy by Malaysia, which consulted with Abramoff and paid $300,000 to a company connected to him, according to documents released by Senate investigators. The arrangements included a trip by then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and his wife to Malaysia in October 2001.

While Abramoff worked behind the scenes, the Alexander Strategy Group run by two former DeLay aides, Ed Buckham and Tony Rudy, publicly registered to lobby for the U.S. Malaysia Exchange Association.

Rudy, who was cited in Abramoff's court case, had worked temporarily for Abramoff before joining Buckham at Alexander Strategy, and the three men were friendly. In January 2002, Alexander Strategy arranged two congressional trips to Malaysia underwritten by the association.

One trip took a delegation of Republican congressmen. A Democratic consultant hired by Alexander Strategy, former Clinton White House aide Joel Johnson, invited McCue and went on the second trip with congressional staffers.

Johnson said he invited McCue on behalf of Alexander Strategy and went on the trip with her but said he knew of no connections to Abramoff. "My interest was in getting Democrats to travel to the country and to learn more about Malaysia," Johnson said.

Reid intervened on other matters.

On March 5, 2002, he sent a letter to the Interior Department pressing the agency to reject a proposed casino by the Jena band of Choctaw Indians in Louisiana. Fellow Nevada Sen. John Ensign, a Republican, also signed.

The Jena's proposed casino would have rivaled one already in operation in Louisiana run by the Coushattas, and Abramoff was lobbying to block the Jena. The day after Reid's letter, the Coushattas wrote a $5,000 check to Reid's Searchlight group at Abramoff's suggestion.

Reid and Ensign recently wrote the Senate Ethics Committee to say their letter had nothing to do with Abramoff or the donation and instead reflected their interest in protecting Las Vegas' gambling establishments.

"As senators for the state with the largest nontribal gaming industry in the nation, we have long opposed the growth of off-reservation tribal gaming throughout the United States," Ensign and Reid wrote. Reid authored the law legalizing casinos on reservations, and has long argued it does not allow tribal gambling off reservations.

On Nov. 8, 2002, the Nevada Democrat signed a letter with California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein urging Interior Secretary Gale Norton to reject a proposal by the Cuyapaipe Band of Mission Indians to convert land for a health clinic into a casino in southern California.

The casino would have competed with the Palm Springs gambling establishment run by the Agua Caliente, one of Abramoff's tribes.

Two weeks later, Reid went to the Senate floor to oppose fellow Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow's effort to win congressional approval for a Michigan casino for the Bay Mills Indians, which would have rivaled one already operating by the Saginaw Chippewa represented by Abramoff.

"The legislation is fundamentally flawed," Reid argued, successfully leading the opposition to Stabenow's proposal.

The next month, Reid joined six other Democratic senators in asking President Bush in mid-December 2002 to spend an additional $30 million for Indian school construction. Several Abramoff tribes, including the Saginaw and the Mississippi Choctaw, were seeking federal money for school building.

Six weeks after that letter, three Abramoff partners _ including Platt and Ayoob _ donated a total of $4,000 to Reid's Senate re-election campaign. Later in 2003, the Agua Caliente contributed $13,500 to Reid's political groups while the Saginaw chipped in $9,000.

Reid sent a fourth letter on April 30, 2003, joining Ensign a second time to urge Interior to reject the Jena casino.

Two months later, Abramoff's firm threw a fundraiser for Reid at its Washington office that netted the Nevada senator several more donations from Greenberg Traurig lobbyists and their spouses. Ayoob was instrumental in staging the event, Reid's office said.

Posted by: Skippy Liberal on February 9, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

In the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombings, plenty of peaceful weekend militia members were surveilled. I don't recall any liberal outrage then. the Southern Poverty Law Center shared their suspicions with the Justice Department, and portrayed all those men as threats to the US. The irony was that Timothy McVeigh wasn't one of them, but had only briefly associated with some of them.

Posted by: contentious on February 9, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

The algorithms that determine NSA's profiles are almost certainly extremely complex and technical far beyond the capability of any lawyer to understand. So who gets to decide which algorithms are legitimate and which ones go too far? NSA's computer programmers?
SOUNDS GOOD TO ME.


What happens to the information that's collected on the tens of thousands of people who turn out to be innocent bystanders? Is it kept around forever?
WHY??? IS THIS A SERIOUS QUESTION, EVEN? WHY NOT JUST DELETE IT?


Is this program limited solely to international terrorism? Are you sure? If it works, why not use it to fight drug smuggling, sex slave trafficking, and software piracy?
TOO EXPENSIVE TO USE FOR EVERYTHING. SOFTWARE PIRACY??? TAKE THE TINFOIL LINING OUT OF YOUR HAT ALREADY, KEVIN.

Since this program was meant to be completely secret, what mechanism prevents eventual abuse? Because programs like this, even if they're started with the best intentions, always get abused eventually.
OK, WHAT'S THE EVIDENCE THIS HAS BEEN ABUSED? CAN'T THE INTELLIGENCE SELECT OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE LOOK INTO IT ONCE IN A WHILE?

Posted by: nonesuch on February 9, 2006 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Skippy - ever think of posting links?

That's why it's called the World Wide Web.

Posted by: Bob on February 9, 2006 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

Via Powerline:

Former Moderate-Republican Congressman Robert Livingston has rejected the invitation of a former House colleague to sign a statement criticizing President Bush for wielding too much power in the war on terrorism. Here is how the honorable Mr. Livingston responded:

... I have always considered you as a good friend, and I continue to do so. But since you raised it, I must tell you I am emphatically on the other side of this issue.

The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces. He is Constitutionally obligated to do everything possible in time of war to safeguard the American People. This tempest in a teapot about treatment of cowardly un-uniformed mass murderers and terror mongers, as well as restriction of his ability to monitor conversations of potential terrorists is in my view asinine, and I will have nothing to do with any effort that might be used to undermine his ability to keep us free from terrorism.

Indeed, we are at war with a most formidable and intractable enemy. He is insidious, cowardly, and bent on the destruction of all civilized society. Innocent men, women and children are cannon fodder in his eyes, and efforts such as the one you are sponsoring will be unappreciated by practitioners of his cause. This effort would have looked insane in Lincolns day, and he was far more intrusive in his practice than anything that has been envisioned today. Frankly, some Members of Congress and self-appointed leakers in the Executive Branch have put this country in grave danger with this very discussion. I have seen no evidence at all that American citizens have had their Constitutional 4th Amendment rights infringed upon (as they were in the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon eras). Until such evidence is shown, I shall do nothing to keep this President from protecting American citizens from harms way.

Hoo-rah!

TOH

Posted by: The Objective Historian on February 9, 2006 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Tempest in a teapot, indeed. Nice quote, TOH.

Posted by: nonesuch on February 9, 2006 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

This effort would have looked insane in Lincolns day, and he was far more intrusive in his practice than anything that has been envisioned today.

Yeah, I hear folks were really upset with Lincoln's use of spy sattelites, internet data mining, cellular technology and other modes of surveillance without judicial authority.

Um, who cares what "Former Moderate-Republican Congressman Robert Livingston" thinks? I'm sure Zell Miller would agree too. And he's a Democrat. Doesn't mean either of 'em's right. Some folks want to give up their rights when their threatened. Some don't. Happens every time there's a war.

Perhaps the "Objective" Historian would like to trawl United States history for more safeguard ideas during times of war- like prison camps for people of certain ethic origins perhaps?

Posted by: Bob on February 9, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK
Via Powerline

And any sane person would be concerned with anything starting with those two words, why exactly?

Posted by: cmdicely on February 9, 2006 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

TOH:

Drop the "nonesuch" sock puppet, moron.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on February 9, 2006 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

Tempest in a teapot: (original British English: "tempest in a teacup") def: when a Republican President ignores and bypasses established law to create and maintain a program in secret his administration knows would not likely be considered favorably should said program ever see the light of day. Cf also: when Republican President anoints himself with the ability to create and nullify law; crowns self; declares himself Emperor

- from the New Republican Dictionary of Idiom & Obfuscation

Posted by: Bob on February 9, 2006 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

"Via Powerline"

cmdicely:

And any sane person would be concerned with anything starting with those two words, why exactly?

So, is it your theory that because it was quoted in Powerline that Livingston didn't say any of these things?

Posted by: tbrosz on February 9, 2006 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK
So, is it your theory that because it was quoted in Powerline that Livingston didn't say any of these things?

You can safely assume that if I suggest that a sane person would not read any further in a comment that began "Via Powerline" that I, too, did not read any further in that comment.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 9, 2006 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: "So, is it your theory that because it was quoted in Powerline that Livingston didn't say any of these things?"

Ummm, here's a theory: most folks care precious little what either Livingston or Powerline has to say.

It would be nice if people included a point with their cut & paste routines.

Posted by: chaunceyatrest on February 9, 2006 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Dear sunbelt jerry,

If you know, could you explain how it is that Kevin seems so sure of the details of the NSA program? I'm quite confused as to how he seems to know so much about a classified program .

I can't I honestly haven't figured out how any reporter, columnist, blogger, left/right/central has been able to make the claims and the analysis they have tried to based on how little has seemingly been revealed.

I suspect 95% of what we've been hearing is wrong.

But I do thank you for agreeing to change your signature here.

Posted by: jerry on February 9, 2006 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'm thinking that terrorism is a pretty murky word. Husbands threaten their wives. We'd like to know that, too. Congressmen take bribes. We'd like to know that, too. People fib to each other about who they're dating. We'd like to know that, too. Some people use insider information before selling their stock. We'd like to know that. Some people take bribes to rewrite legislation. We'd like to know that. Some people conspire to mislead the public about who they told about a certain CIA agent. We'd like to know that. Some baseball players take steroids and discuss it on the phone or in their mail. We'd like to know that. Some people think of committing crimes and plan them carefully ahead of time. We'd like to know that.

Trust us. We won't misuse the information.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on February 9, 2006 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

You can safely assume that if I suggest that a sane person would not read any further in a comment that began "Via Powerline" that I, too, did not read any further in that comment.

Too bad. You can learn a lot sometimes by stepping out from the echo chambers. I do.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 9, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK
Too bad. You can learn a lot sometimes by stepping out from the echo chambers.

The entire universe of discourse aside from references to powerline with no advance comment as to why I should be interested is hardly an "echo chamber".

Not that there is much evidence that, whether or not you step out of an echo chamber, you've ever learned anything.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 9, 2006 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

Too bad. You can learn a lot sometimes by stepping out from the echo chambers. I do.

Man, I'd love to see some evidence of that one day.

Posted by: trex on February 9, 2006 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

"Jinx!"

Posted by: trex on February 9, 2006 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

At some point in his life, Mickey Kaus will say something perseptive, as opposed to clever, but by that time nobody will care -- hardly anybody cares now. It is too bad that there are not any real conservatives any more -- aside from Andrew Sullivan -- who will actually defend the rule of law and have enough faith in the courage of our people, the wisdom of our founding fathers, and the capacity of our Constitutional system of government to deal with the war on terrorism. Our record in wars against dictators who didn't believe in the rule is pretty good -- World War II and the Cold War. And, yes, we did -- on more than one occasion during those conflicts -- violate some of our basic liberties and compromise the rule of law. Still, our record on those points was pretty good. Now, however, we are seeing people who ought to know better -- and a real conservative would defintely know better --saying that changes in technology and our fear of terrorists are good reason to scrap the greatest thing this country has ever produced, the bill of rights, and the most fundamental governing principle of a free people, the rule of law. Well, unlike Bush and his ditto head supporters, I actually believe that America is strong enough both to beat the terrorists and maintain our Constitutional system of government. But it looks like that make some kind of mindless America lover who just can't adapt to the modern world. Now, I won't say to those supporting Bush why do you hate America -- that always struck me as a real nasty rhetorical question. What I will say is, why do you lack the courage and imagination both to fight the terrorists and fight for liberty.

Posted by: RP on February 9, 2006 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: Via Powerline
****
And any sane person would be concerned with anything starting with those two words, why exactly?

Sane people understand that powerline is sometimes correct and thought-provoking. Besides, it is just a source, not an authority, same as political animal. You skipped a quote from a Republican Representative. His argument isn't trivial.

Posted by: contentious on February 9, 2006 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

You skipped a quote from a Republican Representative. His argument isn't trivial.

His argument isn't trivial, no. And neither is the argument that the President doesn't have the right to seize powers for himself. That is no tempest in a teacup.

His argument isn't trivial, no. And that doesn't make it right, either.

Many of BushCo's scare-tactic arguments are not trivial. This does not prevent them fron using such arguments to make various and sundry cases for reducing our rights as citizens.

Hopefully, some of you who have left your own hallowed echo chambers to parrot your administration approved talking points will begin to realize that.

Posted by: Bob on February 9, 2006 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK
Besides, it is just a source, not an authority, same as political animal.

I'm not real happy with any reference to any source not prefixed with a reason I should care, though I am a little more tolerant of sources without Powerline's track record of being almost completely without redeeming value.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 9, 2006 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

be happy to substitute "fits a vague NSA profile" for "probable cause," but I could be wrong. Let's put it to a vote and find out.

Kevin Drum 12:58 PM Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (146)

Nah. Why go the constitution route. Hand the Republicans power long enough to fix the Supreme Court...which is what the public is doing. The Supreme Court defines 'reasonable' search and the President's wartime powers.

Posted by: McA on February 9, 2006 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

Powerline's track record of being almost completely without redeeming value.

I seldom read powerline, but I have always found it to be worthwhile.

Posted by: contentious on February 9, 2006 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK


cmdicely: I wonder whether Dan Rather keeps on ignoring everything put out by Powerline.
I bet he wishes he'd paid some attention to them back in September 04.

Step back from your smugness and see what other people are thinking and writing about. It may do you some good, and will make your side's losses in November be less surprising.

Posted by: fred on February 9, 2006 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

Funny that you and your ilk don't seem to mind the fact that, starting with the new deal, the founder's meaning of the commerce clause of the constitution has been totlally eviscerated. Last I recall, there never was a proposed constitutional amendment, nor was there any kind of vote on the matter either.

Posted by: er on February 10, 2006 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

Step back from your smugness and see what other people are thinking and writing about.

Any takers on whether or not ol' fred here ever read a page of Indymedia or Commondreams without snorting about "moonbats" and going back to the comfy confines of the Free Republic?

It may do you some good, and will make your side's losses in November be less surprising.

Keep clapping, Fred. Maybe the American public will buy the bullshit just one more time.

Posted by: Dustbin Of History on February 10, 2006 at 2:29 AM | PERMALINK

"Jinx!"

Wow, I haven't heard that for awhile. Anyone know where this "jinx" thing came from? Used to say it all the time as a kid...

Oh, and Powerline bites. Non-stop apologetics and Bush man-love. I'm sure when the GOP falls out of power Powerline will suddenly turn into a voice of the people and suddenly have some consistent principles. Even then, it will suck, because the product is only as good as who's behind it.

Posted by: Jimm on February 10, 2006 at 3:16 AM | PERMALINK

Powerline may as well be called Republican Red Light District, or Right Wingnut Bordello.

Some serious prostitution going on there...

Posted by: Jimm on February 10, 2006 at 3:18 AM | PERMALINK

I seldom read powerline, but I have always found it to be worthwhile.

Posted by: contentious on
------------------------------

I will understand that you rate powerline as socially relevant as professional wrestling, then? Perhaps even as important as the Flintstones?

Posted by: mikmik on February 10, 2006 at 5:52 AM | PERMALINK

It's very simple: The wiretap issue is a loser for Democrats unless they tell voters: "What we want to keep Bush from spying on political foes and exploiting wiretap information for political gain, as Nixon did." Otherwise, Republicans will always be able to claim and with justification -- that they're the party that takes the terrorist threat more seriously. Even Kaus would have to agree that's a more promising line of criticism.

Posted by: beejeez on February 10, 2006 at 7:28 AM | PERMALINK

President Bush is winning the debate on the wiretaps: a new poll indicates a dramatic swing in his favor.

WASHINGTON Feb 9, 2006 (AP) President Bush's campaign to convince Americans that the government's eavesdropping program is essential to the war on terrorism has made an impact: Last month people disapproved, 56 percent to 42 percent. Now it's basically 50-50.

Bush has been particularly successful at making his case to core supporters, including Republicans, white evangelicals and suburban men. Support in each category grew more than 10 percentage points in the last month.

Posted by: rdw on February 10, 2006 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

Good advice to you to get out of the echo chamber and powerline would be a good place to start. Not only are they a very high traffic site but because they are often used as a source for news and analysis by Fox, Talk Radio and newspapers their influence extends far beyond their direct traffic.

For example they've been all over this NSA story from the beginning. On day one Jamie Gorelick was the 1st 'expert' off the liberal bench to attack GWB. Within a few hours Powerline had posted her Congressional testimony as a high Justice dept official saying BUSH DID HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO CONDUCT WARRANTLESS WIRETAPS. Princess was of course talking about Slick Willie. The video/audio of course were immediately replayed on talk radio/Fox/Blogs and wihtin 12 hours Jamie was rendered embarrasing and disappeared.

Powerline also found relevent comments by Clinton himself and Griffin Bell, Carters AG, SUPPORTING Bush. Search engines are a liberals worst friend. ALL of this information was available on Powerline before ABCNews could put it's evening newscast together AND had been referenced by Fox.

I can't tell you how cool it is to know that while 98% of liberals who surf refuse to do so outside their echo chamber ABCnews has no choice. They check Powerline because they must. They saw what happened to CBSnews and Dan Rather. Ever hear the term 'tiffany network' anymore? Of course not. They will be defined by Dan Rather for a generation or more.

The blogs absolutely put a check on the networks. After playing Gorelicks original quote they quickly found out she was talking out of both sides of her mouth and they pulled her completely. Moreover, she's damaged goods as a source.

That's not all Powerline did. All 3 are experienced lawyers with a wide range of contacts in the industry and Govt. As are several other bloggers. Also within 12 hours they had relevent quotes from a group of well-known and serious constitutional experts explaining why GWB is correct and why he will win if it get's to the courts. The next day the NYT's printed a report saying the vast majority of constitutional scholars said GWB was clearly conducting illegal activities and Congress needed to stop it. Classic NYT's. Their story was proven a fraud before they even wrote it. 25M+ people had read or heard or seen Constitutional experts say exactly the opposite BEFORE a few hundred thou read the NYT's. Then after the NYT's printed another 25M+ heard the NYTs get shredded for typically sloppy biased reporting.

In 1990 ABC would have gone ahead and led their evening news with Jamie Gorelick and others working hard to create the illusion this was an open and shut case of an administration run amok.

Those days are long gone. If you were to read powerline you'd quickly learn not to get your hopes to high on the daily Bush scandal. If you read it in the NYTs it's wrong.

BTW: included in the initial analysis of the legla merits was a review of how the supreme Court might rule. Sam Alito was an important victory of Bush. Know this, you can line up 1,000 consitutional scholars to support your cast. Only 9 count and GWB has a good mix.

Posted by: rdw on February 10, 2006 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

Some serious prostitution going on there...

Ever ask youself, "Why do we keep on losing?"

Posted by: rdw on February 10, 2006 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Sooner or later we are going to wake up one morning and find ourselves well and truly in the age of WMD's used as terrorist weapons. When that happens (and it will) it will become absolutely clear that ten guys can kill ten million innocent, unsuspecting people at the drop of a pin.

When this inevitable new age dawns civil liberties will take a huge hit and it won't matter which political party is in the saddle. The growing culture war, red state vs blue state schism may become even more exacerbated as both sides will be tempted to take advantage of clamps on civil liberties to attack internal enemies.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on February 10, 2006 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

The growing culture war, red state vs blue state schism may become even more exacerbated as both sides will be tempted to take advantage of clamps on civil liberties to attack internal enemies.

In a two party state these clashes will never disappear. They are designed into the system. I doubt they're growing, or if they are, all that much. There might be a higher intensity because there's been a fundamental shift in both political power and media power but if there's really more angst it's among those seeing their former control slipping away. The Alito hearings many have been more of a clash than the Breyer hearings but they were less so than the Bork or Thomas hearings. Panic is probably a more accurate description than angst.

All depends on where the attack is made and how. If it's a case of a USA attack that happened because some judge would not authorize a wiretap it would be a disaster for the ACLU and that would be the least of their problems. Worst Case is if it's a nuclear device and we have evidence and Iran or N. Korea is behind it. Does China 'protect' NK? If so we are at WWII

Posted by: rdw on February 10, 2006 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Yeh, I agree with Kevin: let's put it to a vote.

Let's be sure to use Sequoia and Diebold machines so we will be sure the vote was fair.
.

Posted by: bushwahd on February 10, 2006 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

On 9/11 19 terrorists killed over 5000 Americans
sorry, troll, you're over by more than 2000.Posted by: cleek on February 9, 2006 at 1:18 PM

Actually he's over by 3500, half of those killed on 9/11 were foreign nationals.

But they chicken shit conservatives will keep inflating the number because their cowardice knows no bounds.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on February 10, 2006 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

And what about people who indirectly support terrorists? Or encourage them by being against the war in Iraq? Are they not enemies within? Posted by: tinfoil on February 9, 2006 at 1:31 PM

I see the "Good Germans" brigade has finally come out.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on February 10, 2006 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

I would prefer that a bipartisan committee of house and senate provide close oversight. Posted by: Red State Mike on February 9, 2006 at 1:41 PM

Very good suggestion, and I agree.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on February 10, 2006 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Dr. Morpheus;

I think tinfoil was being rhetorical, and speaking in the voice of the Bush administration.

Bejeezus is right; we can win this in the court of public opinion, but we need the balls to advance speculation we can't prove.

We need to play the Nixon card. We need to assert the rhetorical question "Do you believe the Bush Administration is above spying on its political enemies?" The WH can't respond, of course, because it can't share details about who it's monitoring. It will piss the WH off no end if we do this.

But a little demagoguery is called for in this election cycle, don't you think? :)

Seriously -- it's time to fight fire with fire. "Do you trust Bush not to be Nixon?" has to become our rallying cry.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 10, 2006 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK
Seriously -- it's time to fight fire with fire. "Do you trust Bush not to be Nixon?" has to become our rallying cry.

Well, I do trust Bush not to be Nixon -- just worse, not better.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 10, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Technology, if powerful enough, will leak into domestic political life. Remember the rethug spying on the dumbos computer files. Small potatos, then, but shortly will be very common. That is the reason to have some controls and oversight on this program.
Lots of control and oversight. Impeachment for this would be a good small step in this direction. If a blowjob demanded impeachment this certainly does.

Posted by: dilbert dogbert on February 10, 2006 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

TOTALLY DEMAGOGIC, REVERSE-ROVIAN DNC AD:

{slo-mo shot of plane crashing into WTC}

Voicover: Four years ago, America was dealt a devastating blow by our
most implacable enemies ...

{shot of jihad types rallying and burning American flag}

George Bush, our Commander-in-Chief, rallied our country in
a shared sense of purpose ...

{shot of W at Ground Zero, in the fireman helmet with the bullhorn}

We liberated Afghanistan from the religious tyranny of the Taliban

{shot of Taliban shooting women in a soccer stadium --
crosscut to feel-good footage of post-invasion
Afghanistan -- schools, grateful citizens voting, etc.}

And then, Bush turned his attention to Iraq ...

{music turns ominous; shot of Rumsfeld on Russert "We know where the
weapons of mass destruction are; they're somewhere around Tikrit."}

George Bush assured us that Saddam Hussein had nuclear,
chemical and biological weapons -- but none were found ...

{sbot of Charles Duelfer press conference " ...
no weapons of mass destruction ... "}

And Iraq now is costing us over a billion dollars a week

{feel-bad Iraq footage of bombings and chaos, sewage in streets}

Now Bush wants to wiretap the al Qaeda
masterminds to prevent another attack

{shot of Osama video}

And all Americans support him in this goal

{shot of Congress applauding during SOTU}

But Bush doesn't want to tell Congress, or a secret
national security court, anything about the program.

{freeze frame of Bush's face on an exasperated expression}

And so did another president, when questioned on surveillance

{morph Bush's face into Nixon's, with a simlar expression}

Today, the stakes are even higher. Tell your legislators
that you support the Bill of Rights for all American citizens.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Now where's my goddam consultant's fee? :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 10, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Boy. Lotsa trolls these days. But on to substantive issues.

This is the most clearly impeachable offense I've seen in my lifetime (a smidge too young to be aware of Nixon at the time). But keeping in mind that future modifications of the wiretapping program in no way mitigate the illegality or unconstitutionality of what's already been done, is it possible to have our cake and eat it too?

Why is widespread data mining inconsistent with the Constitution? Is there a way to make this work? Perhaps what we need is a sort of "public key" data mining. The NSA goes to the FISA court not with a specific name or phone number but with an algorithm. At its simplest this is just a set of triggers (source of call, language of speaker, known code words, etc.); if a conversation satisfies enough of them, then that conversation is recorded and set aside for analysis. If not, the conversation is immediately purged. We might imagine intermediate cases, in which the call is kept on file to be compared (statistically) with future calls from the same number. Through all this, no human has the legal right to listen to the phone calls. The results of the data mining are checked frequently for effectiveness and false positives and the algorithm is modified based on the results. The existence of the program is publicly known, but all details are reserved for the FISA court or similar body. As long as the "insta-purge" mechanism is carefully enforced, the Fourth Amendment is preserved and we have what amounts to a high bandwidth preapproval process for FISA warrants.

Granted -- this relies on more competent and honest implementation than we are likely to get. And it will get your Terminator fans riled up ("on August 3, 2009, Skynet declared that all humans were terrorists...")

Comments?

Posted by: ask on February 10, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

i hope they tap when president bush talks to saudi king.after all they help support terrorist and it is only fair.
br3n

Posted by: br3n on February 10, 2006 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously -- it's time to fight fire with fire. "Do you trust Bush not to be Nixon?" has to become our rallying cry.

What is it with you people that you have to go so far back in time? This will have absolutely no effect. There's a name for people who still fear Nixon. They're called liberals. Sometimes called Seniors. You already have their vote.

You might have something if there was a politician on the left who provided a challenge. Are you kidding me? We just had an attempted cruicifixion of Sam Alito by Senate Dems and his ratings went up. Bush should spy on Reid? Dean? Kerry? Clinton? For what possible reason?

Posted by: rdw on February 10, 2006 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Bob -- that's not a bad ad. I might try to work the "frankly, I'm not concerned about him" Bush clip about Osama in their with the turning attention to Iraq part, as it suggests a lack of sincerity in Bush's motives for the surveillance.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 10, 2006 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

> Bob -- that's not a bad ad. I might try to work the "frankly,
> I'm not concerned about him" Bush clip about Osama in their
> with the turning attention to Iraq part, as it suggests a
> lack of sincerity in Bush's motives for the surveillance.

Well sure. This is just a brainstorm. It's also a very busy ad
and might be cut down in any number of ways. Since I'm not the
guy who'll be doing the video editing anyway, just thought I'd
toss out some ideas :) But here's my thinking on the subject ...

I don't want the ad to *directly* question Bush's sincerity so
much as his competence -- and I want the Nixon association to
do all the dirty work. Remember, I'm thinking like Rove here.

I want people to see the first 20 seconds of the ad and think it's
an RNC ad -- that's why it's loaded with all those jingoistic images.
It's importantly innoculating against attacks on our patriotism.

Bush is going to look like a hero in it until the Iraq section.
Then, the music will instantly turn ominous and you'll have the
WMD quotes. The idea is, if they guy can mislead on that, who knows
what he'd do with a surveillance program with exactly zero oversight?
The Nixon association makes all the nasty implications about motive
that I don't want made explicitly. I don't want the ad dismissed as
Michael Moore-like anti-Bush propaganda. I want the attack subtle
but devastating. I think the face of Nixon does that marvelously :)

rdw:

> "Seriously -- it's time to fight fire with fire. "Do you
> trust Bush not to be Nixon?" has to become our rallying cry."

> What is it with you people that you have to go so far back in time?

He he he -- lookit how *defensive* Wooten's beoming already :)
Folks, I think we're *definitely* on the right track here ...

> This will have absolutely no effect.

You sure? :)

> There's a name for people who still fear Nixon. They're called
> liberals. Sometimes called Seniors. You already have their vote.

The name of Richard Nixon is known to every schoolchild (yes, even
in red states) as the president who resigned in disgrace. You don't
need a history lesson when the only point is to play the exact same
guilt-by-association games that Rove has made de riguer in politics.

It's called dying by the sword, Wooten. Suffer your wounds :)

> You might have something if there was a
> politician on the left who provided a challenge.

Oh what a joke *this* is. Wooten, if a political virtuoso of
the left appeared on the scene -- the veritable reincarnation
of Jesus Christ -- you'd *never allow* that this person would
pose a challenge by definition. You'd only attack and attack.

Any Democrat has strengths and weakness. This is a broad strategy
that all can use to challenge Bush's competence and sincerity.

> Are you kidding me?

Not at all. If the DNC makes an ad like mine -- with Bush's
face morphing into Nixon's -- it would be devastating. The
only salient question is, would they have the balls to do it ...

> We just had an attempted cruicifixion of Sam
> Alito by Senate Dems and his ratings went up.

"Look -- a puppy!"

> Bush should spy on Reid? Dean? Kerry?
> Clinton? For what possible reason?

Because he *can*.

That's the only reason he'd ever need.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 10, 2006 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK
We just had an attempted cruicifixion of Sam Alito by Senate Dems and his ratings went up.

Sure. His ratings are almost exactly where they were at the end of November, and a whopping 3 points above the lowest point of his Presidency (mid-November).

His dead-cat bounce up to 42% -- lower, it might be noted, than he had ever hit prior to August of last year -- peaked at the end of the year, and the long-term downward spiral continues.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 10, 2006 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

We just had an attempted cruicifixion of Sam Alito by Senate Dems and his ratings went up.
Sure.

His ratings are almost exactly where they were at the end of November, and a whopping 3 points above the lowest point of his Presidency (mid-November).

His dead-cat bounce up to 42% -- lower, it might be noted, than he had ever hit prior to August of last year -- peaked at the end of the year, and the long-term downward spiral continues.

In my original post the 'his' was intended to refer back to Sam Alito. Not to GWB. I could have been clearer.

My point was that the Dems are so inept the thought of spying on them, and committing an obviously impeachable offense, is so far beyond absurd as to be incomprehensible. That's even before accounting the incremental stupidity of someone who's never ever running for office again authorizing such an action.

As far as GWBs ratings Rasmussen is much better at this and he's got him up in the 47% - 48% range. Liberals make a mistake is dwelling on that number. For one thing GWB is much different than Slick Willie in terms of poll watching. For another this is a far more ambitious man. On top of that these are far more challenging times.

It's going to be very interesting watching the '06 races stack up. Dems are clearly going to try to nationalize the election against Bush. It's not a bad move considering where they are but that's the larger problem. Libs are definitely looking to 94 and they got it 1/2 right. They are united against something. But Newt also had a positive agenda and was himself a uniting figure. You have 9 Presidential wannabe's not including the only one who has a chance. These are 9 people desperate to challenge Hillary. Your party will never unite until AFTER Hillary is nominated.

So run a negative campaign and hope for the best. Also hope all politics isn't local. I don't see it. I especially don't see it against this GOP team. Rove is exceptional and it's not just him.

Posted by: rdw on February 10, 2006 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

,i>The name of Richard Nixon is known to every schoolchild (yes, even
in red states) as the president who resigned in disgrace. You don't
need a history lesson when the only point is to play the exact same
guilt-by-association games that Rove has made de riguer in politics.


Tell me something I don't know. Every school child hears the name of each President. All 42. Name recognition is one thing. Real knowledge is something else. The Bush-Nixon connection is no more meaningful than Bush-Hitler or Bush-McCarthy. You are trying to recall memories over 30 years old. In politics that's ancient history. It's also a clear sign of how dead for ideas you are.


BTW: I do love the Red State smear. It's so cool. Please, please keep at it. They're only going to pick up another 7 to 10 electoral votes. It isn't like Northern libs have anything to lose. They wouldn't vote the same way you do even if they agreed with you.

Posted by: rdw on February 10, 2006 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

Remember, I'm thinking like Rove here.


At least you are aiming high but I think you give yourself just a little bit too much credit.

BTW: If you want to emulate good ads Rove is not your guide. Copy the SBVs. They clearly are masters of that domain.

Posted by: rdw on February 10, 2006 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

Not at all. If the DNC makes an ad like mine -- with Bush's
face morphing into Nixon's -- it would be devastating. The
only salient question is, would they have the balls to do it ...

You are talking about a friggin commercial. What's balls have to do with it?

Posted by: rdw on February 10, 2006 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

That's the only reason he'd ever need.

This is the guy famous for his total lack of curiosity remember? Let's suppose he really does want to spy on someone.

Harry Reid?

John kerry?

What possible reason?

You don't want to blackmail or remove these people. They're gifts.

Posted by: rdw on February 10, 2006 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

Oh what a joke *this* is. Wooten, if a political virtuoso of
the left appeared on the scene -- the veritable reincarnation
of Jesus Christ -- you'd *never allow* that this person would
pose a challenge by definition

Not true! There are a number of Dems I have a lot of respect for and very recently I told you to make Schumer top dog. He's got a bad image and will never translate nationally but he is a very shrewd politician.

Th 1st problem you have is you're party is far too urban and coastal to have broad appeal. Your liberals are too far left of center and the CA and NY versions are furtherest. Clinton won because he's not a liberal. Moderate democrats can definitely win a national election but have a hard time in your primaries.

Posted by: rdw on February 10, 2006 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

Bob,

it seems moveon.org stole your idea. I didn't see the commercial but Chris matthews was talking about the morphing thing. You have to know Moveon.org is the kiss of death. Every candidate they ever backed has lost and if I'm not mistake they were started to prevent Clintons impeachment. My guess is they get most of their funds from conservatives. Why would liberals ever contribute?

Posted by: rdw on February 10, 2006 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

Tactics often win wars. Those that were unwilling to alter them as things progressed often lost. The British lost the French Indian war for that reason. They didn't adapt. We lost in Vietnam for similar reasons (you might argue with that but the Vietnamese generals don't). If we don't adjust tactics continually then we eventually will either lose or be hurt severely. Most of us will probably live to see a NBC (nuke, bio, chemical) attack here on our soil. The cost of such a success by an enemy is going to outweigh some loss of rights. There are certain freedoms we give up for safety (it is against the law to speed, for example). Any loss of rights must be done in a public venue. For secret tactics there must be some oversight, even if it means a trained person from the judicial (in some cases the legislative) branch is involved in the decision making of such tactics. They could be given clearances and be held as responsible as those in the NSA.

Posted by: Paul Charles on February 10, 2006 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

rdw:

> Tell me something I don't know. Every school child hears the
> name of each President. All 42. Name recognition is one thing.
> Real knowledge is something else. The Bush-Nixon connection is no
> more meaningful than Bush-Hitler or Bush-McCarthy. You are trying
> to recall memories over 30 years old. In politics that's ancient
> history. It's also a clear sign of how dead for ideas you are.

Morphing Bush's face into Nixon's isn't an "idea" -- it's
character assassination :) It has no more substance than morphing
Max Clelland's face into Osama's. It communicates a fear that we
have on the left that the surveillance program has no oversight and
thus Bush could use it for any goddamn thing he feels like. It's
only a fear; nothing concrete. But if the right is going to call
it a "terrorist surveillance program," implying that only Osama's
buddies are subject to it when the truth is that hundreds of
thousands of American citizens are having their phone calls and
emails scanned into the NSA's computers, then this is the counter-
message that we have no fucking clue what will happen with all this
massive amount of data the NSA is collecting. Will it be deleted?
Archived for later use in criminal prosecutions? We don't know.

> BTW: I do love the Red State smear.

I wasn't smearing the Red States. Only noting that even red
staters immersed in a pro-Republican culture know that Nixon
was a bad guy who spied on his enemies and left office in
disgrace. The less people know about Nixon the better, because
they'll be less inclined to consider the comparison unfair :)

> "Remember, I'm thinking like Rove here."

> At least you are aiming high but I think you
> give yourself just a little bit too much credit.

Well, just like with Rove, the only way to test that out
would be if the ad was effective. This is a mental exercise
in thinking like, umm, you, Wooten. To totally divorce my
sense of ethics from politics and imagine doing what it would
take to win an election. It has nothing to do with ideology
and everything to do getting in touch with my Inner Sleazebag :)

> BTW: If you want to emulate good ads Rove is not your guide.
> Copy the SBVs. They clearly are masters of that domain.

Rove was responsible for the Clelland/Osama ad, and the
architect of the smear campaign against McCain in the primary.
The Swifties, I'm sure, learned at the feet of the master.

> "Not at all. If the DNC makes an ad like mine -- with Bush's
> face morphing into Nixon's -- it would be devastating. The
> only salient question is, would they have the balls to do it..."

> You are talking about a friggin commercial.
> What's balls have to do with it?

Well unfortunately, Wooten ... everything. One of the most
effectively insidious things the right wing has done to us in
the Bush era is to mount a perpetual psychout campaign. And
I've got to hand it to you, Wooten, because you are without
a doubt the most sophisticated troll on Political Animal who
practices this kind psychological guerilla warfare. Oh sure,
there are others; it's only the standard PowerLine talking
points after all, but nobody does it more relentlessly than you.

Wingers have painted us lefties into a box. Anytime we come out
with a strong position, we're instantly shot down as being too
"angry," too "partisan," too "extreme." Conversely, when we
come out with nuanced positions, we're then labeled "weak," or
"a flip-flopper." It is impossible to get any wood at all in
this game until we throw off the frames you define us with.

Conversely, Republicans don't suffer with this at all. In objective
terms, your Congressional back benchers are far more objectively
radical than our back benchers are leftist. You have a couple
GOP Congressmen who are *Dominionists*, for crying out loud, which
is a secretive theocratic cult. Yet you never seem to run away from
your most frothing wingers. But you have tormented our centrist
wing with accusations of "leftism" to the point where they collapse
in abject terror of being seen as "extreme" and attack their leftists.

This psychout game has to end. It's the reason that the DNC probably
wouldn't dare run an ad that pulls a Max Clelland on Bush. Even if
you are somehow right and we're more extreme than the country (which
can't be true because our issues poll consistently higher than your
issues) -- it is better to go down swinging in an honest fight over
clear principle than lose elections because people, given a choice
between the GOP and GOP Lite, would rather vote for the real thing.

> "That's the only reason he'd ever need."

> This is the guy famous for his total lack of curiosity remember?

Spying on political opponents isn't *idle curiosity*, like,
say, googling Mongolia to see how strong fermented yak's milk
is before Bush goes and drinks it for three hours in a yurt.

> Let's suppose he really does want to spy on someone.

It's not Bush alone, of course. It's his whole crew of
authoritarian scumbags who believe they have a right to spy on
whoever in the fuck they please for whatever reason they please.

> Harry Reid?
> John kerry?

> What possible reason?

Well this is, of course, part of the psychout routine: The
relentless assumption that all of our leaders are utterly useless.

> You don't want to blackmail or remove these people. They're gifts.

You're just saying this because the script is to refuse to
take us seriously. But let's say that you're, umm, wrong
about global warming and we have another ferocious hurricane
season and by mid-September Bush's polls tank again, taking
some vulnerable Republicans down with him. You certainly
would want an *insurance policy* as the election draws near.

> "Oh what a joke *this* is. Wooten, if a political
> virtuoso of the left appeared on the scene -- the veritable
> reincarnation of Jesus Christ -- you'd *never allow*
> that this person would pose a challenge by definition"

> Not true! There are a number of Dems I have a lot of
> respect for and very recently I told you to make Schumer
> top dog. He's got a bad image and will never translate
> nationally but he is a very shrewd politician.

I admire Schumer for the work he did in the 90s against the
anti-abortion fanatics and the NRA, but he's too close to
Israel (as is Hillary) for my tastes. He is also not a national
leader. We don't know who the national leaders will be in two
years, and we needn't worry about it now. We're focused on '06.

> Th 1st problem you have is you're party is far too urban
> and coastal to have broad appeal. Your liberals are too far
> left of center and the CA and NY versions are furtherest.

This is, once again, part of the psychout strategy. Howard Dean
is a DLC centrist, more noted for fighting with the Progressives
in Vermont than the Republicans. He hammered out states'-rights
solutions on two divisive issues -- gun rights and civil unions
and took a stand against Iraq that mirrored the stand that Gingrich
Republicans took against Clinton's action in Bosnia and Kosovo.

We're not "too left of center" anymore than the Republicans are
"too right of center." Our issues outpoll your issues. We've
just allowed you to frame us when we should be defining ourselves.

> Clinton won because he's not a liberal.

Clinton is the quintessential neoliberal -- and socially more
liberal than the country on a few key issues. His second executive
order (after the Family and Medical Leave Act which Bush I wouldn't
sign) was to end discrimination against gays in the military. It
was a horrible move, leading to the much-despised "don't ask/don't
tell" policy and setting him off on a bad foot with the military.

Clinton ended "welfare as we know it" which infuriated his
leftist base, yet it was the correct thing to do. But
economically, he surely never drank the tax cut Kool Aid.

> Moderate democrats can definitely win a national
> election but have a hard time in your primaries.

John Kerry wasn't elected because he was liberal; if that were true,
then Gephardt would have taken it. Kerry won because of a broad
perception that he was the most "electable" candidate -- which meant
that everyone expected him to try to run to Bush's right on terrorism.

Joe Lieberman didn't win because he's ... Joe Lieberman.

Democratic voters, like Republican voters, will respond to strong
stands on principle even if people don't agree with every issue.

Once we get that message out and defeat the bogus frame you've
tarred us with that it's because we're "too liberal," we will
start winning national elections. Voters respond to spine.

> it seems moveon.org stole your idea. I didn't see the commercial
> but Chris matthews was talking about the morphing thing.

Heh. I wonder what the ad was about.

> You have to know Moveon.org is the kiss of
> death. Every candidate they ever backed has lost

I believe they're an issues group, not a PAC.

> and if I'm not mistake they were started
> to prevent Clintons impeachment.

I think they were formed during impeachment to stop the
Senate from voting for it. How much effect they had I'm
not sure -- but the Senate did vote against impeachment.

> My guess is they get most of their funds from
> conservatives. Why would liberals ever contribute?

More psychout. Becuase MoveOn fulfills the important role of
keeping the base energized. That's like saying that Dobson's group
is the kiss of death because he's a fundamentalist who's way out
of the mainstream (which he is). But the GOP certainly doesn't
trash its membership or run screaming from issues that it advocates.

The psychout won't work anymore, Wooten. My goal is to
see to it that it doesn't. Democrats are going to start
being proud of who they are. That's what it takes to win.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 11, 2006 at 2:42 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know why you are so upset over this. The police in every state pull over thousands of drivers to look for probable cause of drunken driving every night. This local "data mining" has been upheld by the supremes as for the greater good of the public. You should direct your anger at this 4th amendment violation in your own home town and let the President do his job protecting your right to whine.

Posted by: Steve on February 11, 2006 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

Clinton is the quintessential neoliberal -- and socially more
liberal than the country on a few key issues. His second executive
order (after the Family and Medical Leave Act which Bush I wouldn't
sign) was to end discrimination against gays in the military. It
was a horrible move, leading to the much-despised "don't ask/don't
tell" policy and setting him off on a bad foot with the military.

Slick Willie is the quintessential politician. he's whetever the polls tell him to be. He's very pro-choice to womans groups and for reducing abortion elsewhere. He's flying to electrocute retarded types when he's in Red States and for rehab in blue. Bill Clinton has no discernble ideology and over the course of his Presidency wer saw constant recalibration on issues not with himself but with his polls.

The perfect example of this is his chicken-sh*t don't ask don't tell policy. It's also the perfect example of how not to start a Presidency and slick tactical maneuvering by the opposition. Bills 1st two years were a series of disasters and this was one of the 1st.

His decision had zero to do with Gays and everything to do with balancing the political impacts. This was also a clue as to what was to come. Bill never had a clue as to how to deal with the military and in this situation Colin Powell was a special problem. The draft-dodger versus the most respected man in America. He was the friggin Commander-in-Chief and should have issued a direct order. It was Powells job to salute. Clinton proved he had no balls.

There have always been gays in the military and there will always be gays in the military. Get over it.

Posted by: rdw on February 11, 2006 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Clinton ended "welfare as we know it" which infuriated his
leftist base, yet it was the correct thing to do. But
economically, he surely never drank the tax cut Kool Aid.

Typical Bill. He ended it only when he had no choice. He fought it and compromised only when it became veto proof.

John Kerry wasn't elected because he was liberal; if that were true,
then Gephardt would have taken it. Kerry won because of a broad
perception that he was the most "electable" candidate -- which meant
that everyone expected him to try to run to Bush's right on terrorism.

John kerry ran away for his liberalism. He banned the term from his campaign. He won the nomination because the field was so weak. I liked both Joe and Dick but neither can be described as charismatic. Dean capitivated the whacky and wealthy left and stole the oxygen from everyone else. He was and is an absolutely rotten politician and obviously doesn't handle money very well. His campaign was a disaster. By the time you realized he was unelectable you had little to choose from.

Posted by: rdw on February 11, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

I think they were formed during impeachment to stop the
Senate from voting for it. How much effect they had I'm
not sure -- but the Senate did vote against impeachment.

The Senate did not vote against impeachment. He was impeached. The Senate voted against removing him from office. There was never a chance of getting a 2/3's majority. Moveon.org takes credit for it and that's a perfectly smart thing to do. They've now made a nice living for 8 years presumably doing what they love.

Maybe they were successful then. I don't buy it but we can't prove it one way or the other. We do know they've been a disaster since.

Dobson may be outside the mainstream but he's also outside the party. I'd never know of Dobson if not for the MSM needing a demon to arouse their base. Unlike Michael Moore, Dobson doesn't get to sit in the President box at conventions.

Posted by: rdw on February 11, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

The psychout won't work anymore, Wooten. My goal is to
see to it that it doesn't. Democrats are going to start
being proud of who they are. That's what it takes to win.

That's not what it takes. Your party doesn't lack passion. If anything you have too much of it. You lack policies and coherence. Hating Bush is not a policy. Moral superiority is not a policy. Condescention is not a policy.

As far as I know Kerry's campaign was, "I am not Bush." Like George or not he is who he is. He does not apologize. That you don't like him is your problem not his. Kerry meanwhile was a liberal trying to be something else. I'm with you. He's had done much better being who he is. Clintons advantage was in never being anything. John had a history he ran away from.

Posted by: rdw on February 11, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

A1- "Who gets to decide" - I would suggest the people who are charged with the protection of this country. [Who does not get to decide? - ACLU types]

A2- "What happens to the information" - No one knows at this point, but there is not a single incidence of this information being used for anything other than the stated purpose.

A3- "Why not use this program for drug smuggling... etc" - To my understanding, far more intrusive and invasive efforts have been used for these purposes for years, without complaint."

A4- "Completely secret" - 45-day reviews, Congressional briefings do not constitute "completely secret".

As you state: "not everyone understands exactly what's going on with the NSA's program". Then you go on to imply that you somehow know "what's going on".

The underlying motivation here is, I think, not a concern for privacy so much as a complete and utter distrust of the Government (particularly under Republican leadership) - mixed in with a little personal guilt/paranoia. As reavealed in your 4th "question", any program has the potential for abuse and - to some - that potential is all that is necessary to raise objections.

My suspicion? Distrustful souls know how they themselves would act if given such powers.

The theif believes everyone is stealing from him.

Posted by: Logic on February 12, 2006 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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