Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Bruce Schneier is one of us now:

Unchecked presidential power : The result is that the president's wartime powers, with its armies, battles, victories, and congressional declarations, now extend to the rhetorical "War on Terror": a war with no fronts, no boundaries, no opposing army, and -- most ominously -- no knowable "victory." Investigations, arrests and trials are not tools of war. But according to the Yoo memo, the president can define war however he chooses, and remain "at war" for as long as he chooses. This is indefinite dictatorial power. And I don't use that term lightly; the very definition of a dictatorship is a system that puts a ruler above the law. In the weeks after 9/11, while America and the world were grieving, Bush built a legal rationale for a dictatorship. Then he immediately started using it to avoid the law.

This is, fundamentally, why this issue crossed political lines in Congress. If the president can ignore laws regulating surveillance and wiretapping, why is Congress bothering to debate reauthorizing certain provisions of the Patriot Act? Any debate over laws is predicated on the belief that the executive branch will follow the law.This is not a partisan issue between Democrats and Republicans; it's a president unilaterally overriding the Fourth Amendment, Congress and the Supreme Court. Unchecked presidential power has nothing to do with how much you either love or hate George W. Bush. You have to imagine this power in the hands of the person you most don't want to see as president, whether it be Dick Cheney or Hillary Rodham Clinton, Michael Moore or Ann Coulter. Laws are what give us security against the actions of the majority and the powerful. If we discard our constitutional protections against tyranny in an attempt to protect us from terrorism, we're all less safe as a result.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Barron's is shrill:

moquol - Journal - Impeach : So sez Barron's:

Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Norm Ornstein is shrill:

NORM ORNSTEIN, AEI scholar: : I think if we're going to be intellectually honest here, this really is the kind of thing that Alexander Hamilton was referring to when impeachment was discussed.

The Los Angeles Times is shrill:

Editor in chief - Los Angeles Times : ONE OF THE PERKS OF being commander in chief is that you get to edit the Constitution, even the Bill of Rights, from time to time. That is in essence the legal justification offered by the Bush administration for its authorization of a secret program to wiretap, without any court order, international communications of individuals within the United States suspected of ties to terrorist groups.

The FISA courts are notoriously accommodating to government requests, which can be made even after the eavesdropping has taken place. Nonetheless, Bush claims they're not nimble enough to be effective in the war on terror. Yet if that's the case, why is the government still relying on them in the domestic context? What if you had two suspected Al Qaeda cells communicating with each other within the United States? If the current setup is so cumbersome, the president should have pushed for a change in the law. The fact that he instead made a secret decision to cut out judicial oversight of wiretaps may have had more to do with the White House's desire to expand executive power than with any real shortcomings in the process.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Senior Shoggoth Susan Madrack informs us that Federalist Society honcho Bruce Fein sees George W. Bush as a clear and present danger to the rule of law:

Susan Madrack : Thankfully, many principled conservatives see the inherent constitutional threat to the Bush Doctrine. Federalist Society honcho Bruce Fein in today's Moonie Times:

President Bush presents a clear and present danger to the rule of law. He cannot be trusted to conduct the war against global terrorism with a decent respect for civil liberties and checks against executive abuses. Congress should swiftly enact a code that would require Mr. Bush to obtain legislative consent for every counterterrorism measure that would materially impair individual freedoms.

The war against global terrorism is serious business. The enemy has placed every American at risk, a tactic that justifies altering the customary balance between liberty and security. But like all other constitutional authorities, the war powers of the president are a matter of degree. In Youngstown Sheet & Tube v. Sawyer (1952), the U.S. Supreme Court denied President Harry Truman's claim of inherent constitutional power to seize a steel mill threatened with a strike to avert a steel shortage that might have impaired the war effort in Korea. A strike occurred, but Truman%u2019s fear proved unfounded.

Neither President Richard Nixon nor Gerald Ford was empowered to suspend Congress for failing to appropriate funds they requested to fight in Cambodia or South Vietnam. And the Supreme Court rejected Nixon's claim of inherent power to enjoin publication of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War in New York Times v. United States (1971).

Mr. Bush insisted in his radio address that the NSA targets only citizens "with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist organizations...."

But there are no checks on NSA errors or abuses, the hallmark of a rule of law as opposed to a rule of men. Truth and accuracy are the first casualties of war. President Bush assured the world Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction before the 2003 invasion. He was wrong. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Americans of Japanese ancestry were security threats to justify interning them in concentration camps during World War II. He was wrong. President Lyndon Johnson maintained communists masterminded and funded the massive Vietnam War protests in the United States. He was wrong. To paraphrase President Ronald Reagan's remark to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, President Bush can be trusted in wartime, but only with independent verification.

The NSA eavesdropping is further troublesome because it easily evades judicial review. Targeted citizens are never informed their international communications have been intercepted. Unless a criminal prosecution is forthcoming (which seems unlikely), the citizen has no forum to test the government%u2019s claim the interceptions were triggered by known links to a terrorist organization.

Mr. Bush acclaimed the secret surveillance as "crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies." But if that were justified, why was Congress not asked for legislative authorization in light of the legal cloud created by FISA and the legislative branch's sympathies shown in the Patriot Act and joint resolution for war? FISA requires court approval for national security wiretaps, and makes it a crime for a person to intentionally engage "in electronic surveillance under color of law, except as authorized by statute."

Mr. Bush cited the disruptions of "terrorist" cells in New York, Oregon, Virginia, California, Texas and Ohio as evidence of a pronounced domestic threat that compelled unilateral and secret action. But he failed to demonstrate those cells could not have been equally penetrated with customary legislative and judicial checks on executive overreaching.

The president maintained that, "As a result [of the NSA disclosure], our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk." But if secrecy were pivotal to the NSA's surveillance, why is the president continuing the eavesdropping? And why is he so carefree about risking the liberties of both the living and those yet to be born by flouting the Constitution's separation of powers and conflating constructive criticism with treason?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Last year Kevin Drum sneered at Jonathan Alter's lack of shrillness:

Back in 2004, I took a swipe at Newsweek's Jonathan Alter for not being forthright enough about expressing his real opinion of George Bush...

But now, Kevin says, Jonathan Alter's level of shrillness is off-scale high:

The Washington Monthly: We're seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator.... Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story%u2014which the paper had already inexplicably held for a year%u2014because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker.... If the Democrats regain control of Congress, there may even be articles of impeachment introduced....

Hell. If twenty Republican representatives with either a concern for separation of powers, a regard for the Constitution of the United States, or a sense that this ought to be a free country eat their wheaties some morning, there will be articles of impeachment introduced.

Welcome, Jonathan! Alter Ftagn!

William Arkin of the Washington Post--ooops! we're not supposed to say that, are we?--William Arkin of WPNI is shrill:

Early Warning by William M. Arkin - washingtonpost.com : The New York Times and the government may not want to say the obvious, that by and large, it is Muslims in America who are being monitored in the 9/11 Order. It is not the liberal or the literary in the back of the New York City taxicab that is the target. It is the driver.

If the government is going to find the next Mohamed Atta in our midst, it is going to do so, it thinks, through the intercepted phone call to uncle Mohamed in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. It is going to correlate the purchase, the airline ticket, the license plate at the Mosque.

What has happened since the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks is as pernicious and as damaging as any abuse or panic or misstep of the past: We must pledge allegiance to a certain post 9/11 Order, abandon the rule of law, compromise our values, turn against our neighbors, enlist in a clash of civilizations, all in the name of defeating the terrorists.

We are being asked to destroy our country in order to save it.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Dan Nexon joins the Order of the Shrill. Welcome, Dan. Don't worry. With a little practice you'll be able to tackle prey with the suckers on your tentacles as well as the rest of us.

The Duck of Minerva: States of exception : Those conservatives who defend the President's actions have lost their collective minds. We can debate the appropriateness of impeachment, but what does the conservative movement stand for anymore if it will put up with this - let alone every other instance in which the Republican leadership has shown a complete disregard for its stated principles? Lower taxes and crony capitalism? As Brad DeLong often says, on far shakier grounds: "Impeach him. Impeach him now."

Friday, December 16, 2005

Hilzoy is shrill. She calls for the impeachment of George W. Bush:

The Washington Monthly : I just wanted to echo what Shakespearer's Sister said about the report that Bush signed an order allowing the NSA to spy on US citizens without a warrant. This is against the law... the law forbids warrantless surveillance of US citizens, and it provides procedures to be followed in emergencies that do not leave enough time for federal agents to get a warrant. If the NY Times report is correct, the government did not follow these procedures. It therefore acted illegally.

Bush's order is arguably unconstitutional as well: it seems to violate the fourth amendment, and it certainly violates the requirement (Article II, sec. 3) that the President "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed."

I am normally extremely wary of talking about impeachment. I think that impeachment is a trauma for the country, and that it should only be considered in extreme cases. Moreover, I think that the fact that Clinton was impeached raises the bar as far as impeaching Bush: two traumas in a row is really not good for the country, and even though my reluctance to go through a second impeachment benefits the very Republicans who needlessly inflicted the first on us, I don't care. It's bad for the country, and that matters most.

But I have a high bar, not a nonexistent one. And for a President to order violations of the law meets my criteria for impeachment... it's not as though warrants are hard to get, or the law makes no provision for emergencies. Bush could have followed the law had he wanted to. He chose to set it aside.

And this is something that no American should tolerate. We claim to have a government of laws, not of men. That claim means nothing if we are not prepared to act when a President (or anyone else) places himself above the law. If the New York Times report is true, then Bush should be impeached.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Armchair Capitalists read National Review--and their brains explode:

Armchair Capitalists: The National Review Is Fun : The 50th Anniversary issue especially has some real gems. Like Ramnesh Ponnuru arguing for the coherency of conservatives in that....wait for it....conservatives take the American Founders seriously. Not that there is any particular piece of wisdom we can learn from the past, but that conservatives engage in a conversation with the Founders. Sure they may emphasize different things, but what's important is that they respect the Founders. Now this has the slight problem that suddenly American conservatism has been defined to be entirely distinct from conservatism in every other country -- and in fact has nothing in common with conservatism in any other country, which is odd, to say the least. And trying to differentiate this from liberals is rather strained. Plus it is just odd: I've always understood conservatism to either be a statement about human nature or a respect for tradition. Tradition not in terms of what some random dead dudes wrote down, but as in what has worked in society before -- and what is perceived to make it work today.

Maybe Yog-Sothoth will clean up the mess...

Unholy Keening Heard From the Newsweek Offices

What the heck is keening? We don't know. But boy is there a lot of it floating out of the 3rd floor of the Newsweek windows of Newsweek's offices. Shrill. So very, very shrill.

Bush likes to say that his hero is Ronald Reagan, a true-blue conservative who knew his own mind. But Reagan also knew when to compromise, and when he got into trouble early in his second term, he reached out for help, making a moderate, former senator, Howard Baker, his chief of staff. The chance that George W. Bush will give a top White House job to an establishment moderate (say, Brent Scowcroft, his father's national-security adviser) is about the same as that Texas will become a province of France.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Bulldog Manifesto is really shrill:

The Bulldog Manifesto : The question always comes up-- "Is the president stupid, or is he just heartless?" Does he make mistakes because he lacks the sufficient skill to manage his position, or does he make decisions selfishly, with kindless indifference towards those outside his own "circle of friends"?....

At first glance, it may seem hard to tell. But when all signs point to a war in Iraq that is so unwinnable that the current "stay the course" policy seems to be trumped by the common housefly's "repetitive-crash-into-same-glass-window" exit strategy, one must wonder whether Bush Co., is genuinely that fucking stupid.

Looking back, there is no way in hell they could have genuinely believed that we would be greeted in Iraq as liberators. No fucking way. They can't be that dumb.

There is no way that they could have reasonably believed that Iraq was trying to acquire fissile material from Niger. No way.

There is no way they could have believed we are in the "last throes" of the insurgency. No way.

There is no way they could have believed Iraq was friendly with al-Qaeda prior to the American invasion. Nope.

There is no fucking way in hell that they could have genuinely believed that Iraq was an immediate threat to attack us. NO WAY IN HELL!

There is no way these fuckers can try to say that they "never expected" that terrorists would fly planes into buildings. Yeah right!

As Bush said so eloquently, "There's an old saying in Tennessee... I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee... that says, fool me once, shame on... shame on you. Fool me... you can't get fooled again."

Ex-right-wing moonbat Dennis the Peasant has had enough: he has joined the reality-based community and succumbed to shrill unholy madness. Welcome, Dennis! Collect your black robe, your hand of glory, and your copy of the *Krugmanomicon* from the registrar, and report to the newly-enlarged Randolph Carter Tower for further instructions.

Dennis The Peasant: About Politics... : I'm starting to get some"Hey, the whole Roger Simon/Pajamas Media thing has been fun, but when are going to get back to the serious and/or necessary business of ragging on Kerry/Dean/Clinton/Reid and their evil minions Kevin Drum/Josh Marshall/Markos Moulitsas?" Glad you asked. The answer? Probably never.

Sorry, but I'm really past the point where I can defend either the Bush Administration and/or Congressional Republicans and maintain either my sense of dignity or a straight face. Let's face it, those boys have Screwed The Pooch. Big-time.... So, as far as I am concerned, if the citizenry, in its collective wisdom, decides to start throwing The Bastards out in 2006, so be it. The Republican Party will have earned that. And I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I can think of anything that warrants the defense of people like Duke Cunningham. I'll leave that to folks like Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin... people who at least can earn a dishonest buck doing it.

I didn't join the Republican Party to encourage institutional corruption, massive deficits and mindless governmental secrecy. If I'd wanted that, I'd have dismissed Ronald Reagan as a dimwit and voted for Walter Mondale and the Democrats.

You want me to defend the Republicans? Fine, find me some defensible Republicans and I will.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Warning: Mark Mitchell of CJR has been driven completely insane by reading Ben Stein in the Sunday New York Times. Do not approach. Call for help from trained professionals:

CJR Daily: The Sunday Times Rocks!!! : Hey everybody!! You'll never guess what we've been doing on Sundays. We've been reading the New York Times business pages!!!!!!! ... ha-ha-ha! ... don't ask us why ... maybe it's because it's been, like, TOTALLY freezin' outside and Sunday is THE worst day for watching TV. :( It's like, geez, there's NOTHING on, except the Sabbath Gasbags who dominate the morning news/talk shows, and the occasional New York Giants game, which, let's face it, has its own built-in stupor-inducing effect.

Anyway, the best thing about the Sunday Times is this writer they have named Ben Stein. His job is to write about financial and business stuff. But he makes everything really simple so even we can understand it. And you know what he used to do? He was that totally funny actor who played the math teacher on "The Wonder Years." That show was sooooooo funny!!

This last Sunday, Ben wrote a really great article about this economist dude named Milton Friedman. Even before he became an actor, Ben's mom and dad introduced him to all sorts of really famous people -- even Richard Nixon!!

Well, as it turns out, Milton Friedman is the smartest friend who Ben ever "inherited from his parents." And the whole point of Ben's story is that he was supposed to go to Milton's birthday party this week but instead he had to go "preach the good gospel of freedom and gratitude at the University of Utah." We're not exactly sure what that meant, but it reminded us of that "Wonder Years" episode where Kevin's birthday party was scheduled for the same day as Paul's bar mitzvah. That was friggin' hilllariass! LOL.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Jim Henley takes up residence as Waterboarding-isn't-torture Visiting Fellow at Miskatonic University:

Unqualified Offerings: : Triumph of the Shrill (Shills): This blog, over the years, has made a lot of arguments and dealt with a lot of arguments. But I have no obligation to waste my time on flim-flam. The people I call shills don't "address arguments" themselves. They cast aspersions, yank side issues center-stage, and take innuendo for debate. For these people patriotism is simply the cracker in a circle jerk of self-righteousness and hubris. Matt Welch has been respectful of these people to a fault, but it has earned him nothing in the way of consideration - a choice between today's party line and a friend of years' standing who flouts it is no choice at all. "Slime and defend," baby.

I owe these people nothing. By now, the ones who were ever going to have their Come to Jesus moment have had them. The rest will spend their political lives hunting scapegoats among their own people for the failure of their big ideas. I've never once demanded that anybody crawl back to geopolitical sanity tearing their forelocks and begging I, Zeuslike, forgive them. Not my place. I've simply thought, and maybe said, something like"Dude. Good to have you back." There's been quite a lot of "coming home" from my fellow citizens, which is what has the die-hards so frantic.

But fewer and fewer of the diehards by vocation or avocation are going to be able to make it. In addition to the pride - How easy is it to renounce years of advocacy? - the most prominent hawks are tremendously invested in their positions financially now. No one reads Hugh Hewitt for style. No one gives a shit what Charles Johnson thinks about the latest movies. No one tunes in because the twists and turns of Glenn Reynolds's mind fascinate them. Their readership tunes in to feel good about their positions, biases and resentments. We know what happened to Andrew Sullivan's audience when he began merely to equivocate from unstinting support for the Great Work of continuing the beatings until morale improves - it deserted him in droves. The same fate awaits the next Loyalist who shirks. They would be stripped of their pajamas. Whether they're directly on the take or just implicitly, the shills are shills. They've done what they love and the money has followed.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Continuing studies in the Krugmanomicon

Shrillness … mad unholy shrillness … worming through my brainlike a dream from which there is no awaking. The world seems different to me now, so different from the carefree, sunlit world I once knew - terrifying, alien, a soulless emptyness, a nameless hunger, dead-yet-undying, an ancient, malevolent Thing whose smallest horror, were it to be apprehended truly, would blast the mind of the strongest mortal to insensate ash. I try to tell myself that it is just because Oprah and Letterman made up, but I know it is not the case … for it is not the world that has changed, no - it is I! It is that blasphemeous book which my own impish perversity compelled me to read, that hateful manuscript printed out by an ancient 9-pin dot matrix printer of fiendish design, that … that … Krugmanomicon!

How long has it been since first I read those tenebrous pages? A month? A week? An ocean of years? I cannot say, any more than I can say what drove me to translate the rude, low pidgin binary written thereon into some semblence of human ASCII. I have wandered far, since then, ‘neath the dead and uncaring stars, twinkling in bitter malice within the black void of space. I could not escape the shrillness of that book, and, if truth be told, I would not have escaped it if I could. For I am part of the shrillness now, and the shrillness is part of me, for in a world as mad as this one, only the shrill are truly sane! And now I have the book in my hands again - I know not how, nor do I recall my name, and I do not care to remember either - I shall taste this awful shrillness again, and be flung howling and babbling into the void! Behold:

The National Security Council document released this week under the grandiose title "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" is neither an analytical report nor a policy statement. It's simply the same old talking points - "victory in Iraq is a vital U.S. interest"; "failure is not an option" - repackaged in the style of a slide presentation for a business meeting.

It's an embarrassing piece of work. Yet it's also an important test for the news media. The Bush administration has lost none of its confidence that it can get away with fuzzy math and fuzzy facts - that it won't be called to account for obvious efforts to mislead the public. It's up to journalists to prove that confidence wrong.

Here's an example of how the White House attempts to mislead: the new document assures us that Iraq's economy is doing really well. "Oil production increased from an average of 1.58 million barrels per day in 2003, to an average of 2.25 million barrels per day in 2004." The document goes on to concede a "slight decrease" in production since then.

We're not expected to realize that the daily average for 2003 includes the months just before, during and just after the invasion of Iraq, when its oil industry was basically shut down. As a result, we're not supposed to understand that the real story of Iraq's oil industry is one of unexpected failure: instead of achieving the surge predicted by some of the war's advocates, Iraqi production has rarely matched its prewar level, and has been on a downward trend for the past year.

What about the security situation? During much of 2004, the document tells us: "Fallujah, Najaf, and Samara were under enemy control. Today, these cities are under Iraqi government control."

Najaf was never controlled by the "enemy," if that means the people we're currently fighting. It was briefly controlled by Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. The United States once vowed to destroy that militia, but these days it's as strong as ever. And according to The New York Times, Mr. Sadr has now become a "kingmaker in Iraqi politics." So what sort of victory did we win, exactly, in Najaf?

Moreover, in what sense is Najaf now under government control? According to The Christian Science Monitor, "Sadr supporters and many Najaf residents say an armed Badr Brigade" - the militia of a Shiite group that opposes Mr. Sadr and his supporters - "still exists as the Najaf police force."
I must stop now, for I feel unwell. I am no mere acolyte in the dark mysteries of shrillness - I have read the black and deranged Atrios Codex, I have perused the wicked and revolting Henley Fragments, I once flipped through the Cliff Notes to the poisonous and damnable Digby Omnibus and ran a mile - but what I read on these old pages fills me with a nameless and bottomless dread. I feel as if the universe I once knew - the sunlight world of rationality, where goodness triumphs and the evil are punished and reason and knowledge are respected - is slipping from my grasp. I feel as if ... as if we were ruled by idiots, idiots and liars, all of us! I cannot take it! I feel as if I shall go ... MAD!!

And now ... what is that sound? ... where is it coming from? ... from inside the walls of my dark study? ... is it inside my head? ... no, I hear it now ... it is coming down through the centuries ... it is clear now, a high, girlish, hysterical voice ... a chanting ... words I have heard before ... OH DEAR GOD IT CANNOT BE!!!

Aaaiii! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Krugman R'lyeh wagn'nagl fhtagn! Aaaiii!!!! AAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIII!!!1!