Saturday, January 28, 2006

Kerry to Lead Filibuster of Alito!

Never underestimate John Kerry!

When America is faced with a President who flaunts his illegal wiretapping of Americans bypassing FISA courts, the Senate is faced with a nominee from this same President who believes in an expansive power of the Presidency.

John Kerry understands what is at stake. He has fought for America in Vietnam and he is now fighting for America on the floor of the Senate!

From Raw Story, here is an excerpt of Senator Kerry's statement on the floor of the Senate yesterday:
“Throughout his legal career -- these are not things that are made up. These are defined by the writings, by the decisions, by the memoranda, by the speeches that Judge Alito has made. In each of those, in all of those, there is a startling lack of skepticism that is healthy in judges towards government power that infringes on individual rights and liberties. Professor Goodwin Liu of the University of Berkeley Law School concluded after analyzing those:

“Judge Alito ‘is less concerned about the government overreaching than Federal appeals judges nationwide, less concerned than Republican-appointed appeals judges nationwide, and less concerned than his Republican-appointed colleagues on the Third Circuit.’

“Aren’t we going to be concerned that he is less concerned than those of the same stripe? Not only is his record outside the mainstream of the judicial spectrum, but ‘it is at odds with the Supreme Court's vital role in protecting privacy, freedom, and due process of law.’ That is Professor Liu.

“In 1984, for example, Judge Alito wrote a Justice Department memorandum concluding that the use of deadly force against a fleeing unarmed suspect did not violate the fourth amendment. The victim was a 15-year-old African American. He was 5 foot 4. He weighed 100 to 110 pounds. This unarmed eighth grader was attempting to jump a fence with a stolen purse containing $10 when he was shot in the back of the head in order to prevent escape. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found the shooting unconstitutional because deadly force can only be used when there is ‘probable cause that the suspect poses a threat to the safety of the officers or a danger to the community if left at large.’ That is what we teach law enforcement officials.

“But Judge Alito disagreed. Judge Alito said: No, he believed the shooting was reasonable because ‘the State is justified in using whatever force is necessary to enforce its laws’--even deadly force. That is his conclusion. That is the standard that is going to go to the Supreme Court if ratified. It is OK to shoot a 15-year-old, 110 pounds, a 5-foot-4-inch kid who is trying to get over a fence with a purse, shoot him in the back of the head.

“Otherwise, Judge Alito believed that any suspect could evade arrest by making the State choose between killing them or letting them escape. That is the conclusion. Think about that. Judge Alito believed that the State could use whatever force was necessary to enforce its laws regardless of whether the suspect was armed or dangerous. Does the Chair believe that? Do the other Senators believe that? I don't think so. Do mainstream Americans believe that?

“Lucky for us, we did not have to answer that question. Why? Because in 1985, Justice White rejected Judge Alito's position, and the court held that deadly force is not justified ‘where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others.’ The court stated unequivocally, ‘a police officer may not seize an unarmed, nondangerous suspect by shooting him dead.’

“So Judge Alito is out of touch with mainstream jurisprudence with respect to the use of force in America. Becoming a Federal judge did not make Judge Alito any more protective of an American's personal privacy and freedoms when it comes to government intrusion. That ought to concern every conservative in this Nation. Every conservative in America ought to care about the government's power to just walk into your home, to intrude on the rights of individual Americans.

“In Baker v. Monroe Township, over a dozen local and Federal narcotics agents raided the apartment of Clement Griffin, just as his mother and her three children were arriving for a family dinner. Officers forced the family down to the ground, pointed guns at them, handcuffed and searched them. Two Reagan appointees to the court held that a jury should decide whether excessive force was used, but Judge Alito disagreed. He agreed that the search was ‘terrifying’ and ‘most unfortunate.’ But he did not believe that the family had a right to make their case to a jury in court. He would have denied those American citizens, terrified as they were, their day in court.

“Judge Alito, I regret to say, often goes out of his way to justify excessive government actions. Many have talked in the Senate about Doe v. Groody, where Judge Alito, dissenting in an opinion by our current head of the Department of Homeland Security, then-Judge Michael Chertoff, concluded that the strip-search of a 10-year-old girl was unreasonable. That was the conclusion of Judge Chertoff. Judge Alito concluded that the strip-search of a 10-year-old girl was reasonable.

“He reached this astonishing conclusion on a technicality. Rather than relying on the search warrant to determine whether the strip search of a child was authorized, Judge Alito argued that the court ought to look to the police officer's supporting affidavits.

“As a rule, however -- now, I can say this as a former prosecutor because we used to labor over those warrants very carefully, knowing they were going to be scrutinized -- affidavits are not part of the search warrants unless the trial judge decides they are. That ‘goes to the heart of the constitutional requirement that judges, not the police, authorize the warrants.’ But Judge Alito said: No, no, no, no, it is OK to go look behind what they were intending, and decided they must have intended to include the search of the entire family, including a 10-year-old child. Is that the standard we want on the Court?

“Judge Alito's minimalist view of the fourth amendment's right to privacy is not limited to claims of excessive force. In United States v. Lee, he upheld the FBI's installation of a video and audio surveillance device in a hotel room in order to record conversations between the target of a bribery sting and a police informant. The FBI conducted the surveillance without a warrant, arguing, first, that the target had no expectation of privacy in a hotel room, and, second, that the device was turned on only when the informant was in the room. Judge Alito accepted the FBI's argument, and found no constitutional violation.

“His eagerness to buy the FBI's arguments, particularly in light of the Supreme Court decisions to the contrary, raises serious questions about how he would approach serious constitutional violations to the National Security Agency's program of domestic eavesdropping. Americans across the board are concerned about the violation of the law with respect to what we passed in the Congress overwhelmingly. After all, with the eavesdropping in Lee and the eavesdropping being conducted now, we see some startling similarity. Both are defended on the basis of Executive discretion and self-restraint.

“The fourth amendment is not defined that way. It is defined by judicial restraint itself, not the Executive restraint, and by judicial review.

“We also should never forget, as we think about this issue, the words of an eminent Justice, Justice Brandeis, who said:

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government's purposes are beneficent....The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.

“I believe that is what we need to protect ourselves against. That is what the Framers created the judiciary to do. And that is what I fear the record shows Judge Alito has not been willing to do.

“Now, if his judicial opinions and legal memoranda do not convince you of these things, you can take a look at the speech he gave to the Federalist Society in which, as a sitting judge, he ‘preached the gospel’ of the Reagan Justice Department nearly 15 years after he left it; a speech in which he announced his support of the ‘unitary executive theory’ on the grounds that it ‘best captures the meaning of the Constitution's text and structure.’

“As Beth Nolan, former White House counsel to President Clinton, describes it:

‘Unitary Executive’ is a small phrase with almost limitless import: At the very least, it embodies the concept of Presidential control over all Executive functions, including those that have traditionally been exercised by ‘independent’ agencies and other actors not subject to the President's direct control. Under this meaning, Congress may not, by statute, insulate the Federal Reserve or the Federal Election Commission...from Presidential control.

“Judge Alito believes you can. The phrase is also used to embrace expansive interpretations of the President's substantive powers, and strong limits on the Legislative and Judicial branches. This is the apparent meaning of the phrase in many of this Administration's signing statements.

“Now, most recently, one of those signing statements was used to preserve the President's right to just outright ignore the ban on torture that was passed overwhelmingly by the Congress. We had a long fight on this floor. I believe the vote was somewhere in the 90s, if I recall correctly. Ninety-something said this is the intent of Congress: to ban torture. But the President immediately turned around and did a signing in which he suggested an alternative interpretation. And Judge Alito has indicated his support for that Executive power.

“During the hearings, Judge Alito attempted to convince the committee that the unitary executive theory is not about the scope of Presidential power. But that is just flat wrong. Not only does the theory read Executive power very broadly, but, by necessity, it reads congressional power very narrowly. In other words, as the President gains exclusive power over a matter, the Constitution withholds Congress's authority to regulate in that field. That is not, by any originalist interpretation, what the Founding Fathers intended."
Thank you Senator Kerry! America needs your leadership now and in the future. America would not be involved in unnecessary wars, would not be tapping the phones of Americans, reviewing the reading habits of Americans, inspecting the Google searches of Americans or failing to provide aid to victims of natural disasters if you were President today!

Thank you Senator Kerry! America needs a President who respects the rights of privacy of all Americans. A President who not only enforces the laws but obeys the laws himself. We need a Supreme Court that protects the little guy against big government and big corporate abuses.

We need John Kerry in 2008! We've got your back John!


Thursday, January 19, 2006

"Big Brother is Watching" More Orwellian Actions from the Bush Administration!

George Orwell published the now famous novel 1984 in 1949.

In this novel, as summarized:
The novel, published in 1949, takes place in 1984 and presents an imaginary future where a totalitarian state controls every aspect of life, even people's thoughts. The state is called Oceania and is ruled by a group known as the Party; its leader and dictator is Big Brother.
In fact, much of the spying on the citizens of Oceania is done through television screens.

In the very first chapter of 1984, Orwell writes:
Behind Winston's back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig-iron and the overfulfilment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
Pretty scary? Nothing like that in America you say. That is, until today. As reported:
The Bush Administration has asked a federal judge to order the world’s most popular internet search engine to hand over the records of all Google searches for any one-week period, as well as other closely guarded data. The California-based company is to fight the move.

The immediate flashpoint is the Government’s effort to revive an online child pornography law that was struck down by the Supreme Court two years ago.

The US Justice Department requested access to Google’s search records as part of its effort to prove the constitutionality of the 1998 Child Online Protection Act.
Of course, that is for child pornography. Why should we worry if we aren't involved in that sordid activity.

But this is an Administration that has pursued warrantless wiretapping of American citizens. Who seeks information about our library activity. And who now is asking to peak into our internet affairs seeking to spy upon all of our communications.

Our computer screens are now watching us.

1984 is sooner than we think.

It is time for new leadership in America! A government that respects our privacy, guards our freedoms, and follows the law.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Medicare Part D: Bush Makes a "Katrina" of a Drug Benefit!

President Bush lobbied hard for the Medicare Part D Drug Benefit.

As reported by the New York Times on 11/17/03:
Republican leaders began an intensive campaign on Sunday to sell their new agreement on Medicare drug benefits, racing to push the legislation through Congress over the objections of leading Democrats.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, predicted that the measure as it now stands would not be approved by the Senate.

But President Bush hailed the agreement and said he would be "actively pushing the bill," one of his domestic priorities as he heads into a re-election year in which elderly voters are considered critically important.

Republican leaders said they were also counting on support from a powerful coalition of business and health care groups, as well as from AARP, the huge lobby for older Americans. John C. Rother, policy director of AARP, said Sunday that his view of the agreement was "generally favorable," though he wanted to see more details.

Senator Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, the Senate majority leader, expressed confidence that Medicare drug benefits would soon become a reality after "six years of empty promises, stalled negotiations and partisan gridlock."

Finally, Dr. Frist declared, the 40 million Medicare beneficiaries will be able to say: "Congress has delivered. Our government has delivered. Our president has delivered."
And yet, this Program is turning out to be another bungled attempt by this Administration at Domestic Policy.

For one thing, the government is PROHIBITED from negotiating with drug companies to allow seniors to obtain the benefits of such negotiating in terms of lower drug prices. In other words, the program prohibits the government, which would yield the greatest leverage in negotiations, from pressuring pharmaceutical firms to lower their prices for seniors.
As reported:
Price reductions are critical for beneficiaries. Most Medicare plans have a so-called "doughnut hole," where coverage stops for a while and people pay the whole bill out of their own pocket. If the drug plan can negotiate a 30 percent discount, that savings is passed on to the consumer.

VA and Department of Defense discounts average about 60 percent off the average wholesale price, according to a Congressional Budget Office study in June.

Medicare should shoot for similar discounts, said David Lemmon of Families USA.

"People ought to ask themselves, "Why do we have a plan set up to prevent a Medicare pool with 42-million beneficiaries negotiating a cheaper price?' In the end, that's what the pharmaceutical industry opposed for so long.

"Why do we have dozens of plans and dozens of negotiating pools all over the country?"
Instead of the government providing the pharmaceutical benefit for Medicare recipients, this Neoconservative Administration has empowered PRIVATIZATION, that has resulted in CHAOS for seniors, and especially those at the lowest rung of the ladder, the medicaid recipients with double coverage, have been transferred to the Plan D Program.

The stories of the bungling program are just starting to surface.

As reported by the Sun-Herald in Florida:
Besides a hectic schedule seeing patients at the Marion E. Fether Clinic in Immokalee, many with serious and chronic medical conditions, Quero finds himself hanging onto the telephone, trying to connect with insurance companies.

Nearly every day, he discovers that some of his patients who are "dual eligibles" have been lost in the transition to a Medicare drug plan. The massive federal program debuted on Jan. 1.

Before that date, these low-income and usually disabled patients had Medicaid coverage for medications and were supposed to be switched into Part D plans by the federal government. The intent was that there would be no lag in coverage, but that's not been the case.

"They're being dropped with no safety net," Quero said. "I would be sued if I treated my patients that way."

Widespread failure on the part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to enroll low-income seniors into Part D plans, or computer glitches with drug-plan insurers and enrollee records, has practitioners on the front lines of patient care at wit's end.

Their fear is many of their patients will suffer dire setbacks when they can't get timely refills and some may wind up in emergency rooms.

The agency has told drug plan insurers and pharmacies to do short refills until glitches can be worked out, but that directive appears not to be working, practitioners say.

Even when enrollment snags get resolved, drugs that Medicaid paid for aren't necessarily covered by the Medicare plans, creating new stress for patients and caretakers to find substitutes or retain the favored medications some other way.
Or how about this story from California:
The Medicare prescription program is off to an inconsistent and uncomfortable start, and the Californians who have suffered worst are the most vulnerable elderly — those with mental illness, disabilities and little money. Many of them were forced from Medi-Cal, a state health program that worked, to the new Medicare program, where confusion is rampant.
In the last two weeks, thousands walked away from their pharmacies either empty-handed or with the pharmacies providing the drugs for free because the insurers weren't paying.
Or maybe you would like to read this story from Connecticut:
Especially those in the “dual” category. They are often the poorest and the sickest citizens, since they qualify for both Medicaid, which serves the poor; and Medicare, which serves the elderly and the disabled. This group didn't even need a new prescription drug plan in the first place.

“I never had problems getting any medication. Never,” Hunt said from the condo she shares with her mother. Hunt was paralyzed from the waist down after a 1973 car accident. She has osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, hypoglycemia and asthma. She takes 12 medications every day, previously paid seamlessly by Medicaid.

Shortly after the new “Medicare D” law went into effect, Hunt went to pick up a pain med from Brooks Pharmacy on Hamden’s Dixwell Avenue, where she said she has been doing business for years. It was her first post-D purchase.

“They couldn’t fill it because they said Medicaid wouldn’t accept it, and did I have a Medicare plan,” she said.

Nothing could be done. She either had to pay for it or go without, which she said was not an option. Her bed had collapsed, injuring her back; she was in mucho pain. “I was in tears. I needed the medication,” Hunt said.

So she paid the $47.95 for the drug. That came out of her total monthly income of $719 from Social Security Disability.
Or maybe this report from Arkansas:
“If I didn't have it I wouldn't be able to get my medicine,” said senior Glenda Trantham. But when the New Year began the much anticipated Medicare Plan D Prescription Drug Benefit program started and yet millions who enrolled aren't on the list.

“They sent me a letter saying I was covered and I came in this morning to get some of my medicine and I am not even on file,” said Trantham, “Signing up 21 million people from November 15th to December 31st isn't feasible, and to promise it to people was stupid.”

As patients who still aren't in the system walk into their local pharmacies they are running into exorbitant costs for drugs that normally run them a couple dollars.

“This drug that I bought in December was $1.73 and today it was $14.54,” said recipient Lora Telley. For elderly patients who have fixed incomes extra costs are bringing a lot of extra stress.

“I have to pay for some of them, I won't be able to pay my bills or I won't be able to pay my pharmacist,” said Joan Russell. Some customers like Russell have to find ways to stretch their money and their medication a little farther now just to keep the lights on.

“What I’ll do is take one day and one the next to make one prescription last 2 months,” said Russell. Still some customers are overwhelmed by the costs and don't have the money to pay for them and local pharmacies like Gibson's pharmacy are having to help out.
Or this report from Oregon:
“It's mass confusion,” said Dean Warner, pharmacist for Umpqua Drug Company, a Reedsport pharmacy. “The government set out to cut prescription costs, and the ones who are bearing the brunt of it are the retail pharmacies and the customers who can't get the drugs they need.”

According to local pharmacists, since Jan. 1, customers have been trying to refill medications without insurance cards or proof of benefits. Phone lines and help centers for Medicare Part D plans are clogged with calls from pharmacies all over the country, causing long wait-times that keep pharmacists from verifying coverage.

“The wait times were terrible, and it basically meant we couldn't make those phone calls,” said Steve Wilson, owner and pharmacist of Shindler's Pharmacy in Bandon. “We just can't tie up our phone lines that long, or our personnel.”

Local pharmacies have been forced to decide between providing customers with an emergency supply of medications for free, in the hopes of verifying coverage once phone lines clear or insurance cards arrive, or turning seniors away.
Are you SICK yet?

Before the implementation of this latest in a string of disasters from Bush, the President had this to say:
"This is a good deal. I recognize that part of the problem we have is to convince people who don't really -- some people don't want to change," said Bush. "You kind of get set in your ways, and it's just kind of inconvenient to change. But in this case, take a look at the change. Take a look at this program because it's worthwhile."
Once again, this President is wrong about policy.

And poor people and sick people and uneducated people get hurt.

A President who cuts taxes for the wealthy and takes benefits from the poor and the elderly.

A President who threatens the Social Security benefits with a cockamamey privatization plan a la Plan D.

America Deserves Better! We need new leadership in the White House. We need to send the Republicans packing and bring back the kind of America that doesn't enact policy that threatens the very health of our poorest and least able to provide for themselves but which instead tries to raise the level of welfare for all of its inhabitants.

We've got your back Senator Kerry! 2008 is just a short ways down the road!


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Scott McClellan 'throws up chaff' on Wiretapping Question!

Scott McClellan is the Press Secretary for the White House.

He has to handle the tough questions. He faced lots of difficult questions today.

In particular he had a hard time managing all of the questions about the warrantless wiretapping by the NSA upon the direction of the President and approved by the Attorney General.

Especially the difficult attack on President Bush by former Vice-President Al Gore who has asserted that the President is breaking the law.

This is what McClellan had to say:
"MR. McCLELLAN: I reject that wholeheartedly, Helen. The legal justification has been spelled out by the Department of Justice.

In terms of Al Gore's comments, I think his hypocrisy knows no bounds. It was the Clinton administration that used warrantless physical searches. An example is what they did in the case of Aldrich Ames. And it was the Deputy Attorney General under the Clinton administration that testified before Congress and said, "First, the Department of Justice believes and the case law supports that the President has inherent authority" -- inherent authority -- "to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes and that the President may, as has been done, delegate this authority to the Attorney General." This is testimony, public testimony before the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

I would also point out that a former associate Attorney General under the Clinton administration said that every President since FISA's passage has asserted that he retained inherent power to go beyond the Act's terms -- under President Clinton -- and he pointed to the Deputy Attorney General's comments that I just referenced. So -- "
McClellan is well-briefed on the Republican Talking Points.

But it just so happens that his assertion isn't true.

McClellan claims the Clinton Administration handled the law the same way as the Bush Administration. But the law was different at the time of the Ames case. As reported:
"...the Ames investigation took place before the 1995 FISA amendment requiring warrants for physical searches. In other words, in conducting these searches, the Clinton administration did not bypass FISA because FISA did not address physical searches. Further, there is ample evidence that the Clinton administration complied with the FISA requirements that did exist on wiretapping: U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who previously served on the FISA court, has noted the "key role" the court played in the Ames case to "authorize physical entries to plant eavesdropping devices"; and former deputy assistant attorney general Mark M. Richard established that "the Attorney General was asked to sign as many as nine certifications to the FISA court in support of applications for FISA surveillance" during the Ames investigation.

Photo of former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick

But that did NOT prove that Clinton broke the law. As Media Matters points out:
But "physical searches" are not the same as electronic surveillance and, as Gorelick's testimony made clear, were not restricted at that time by the Foreign Intelligence Authorization Act (FISA), which has since been amended to include them. The foreign intelligence activity that the Bush administration has argued it can conduct without warrants -- domestic wiretapping -- has for 27 years been governed by FISA, which specifically requires court orders. On the other hand, the foreign intelligence activity to which Gorelick was referring -- "physical searches" -- was not covered by FISA when she said that Clinton had the "inherent authority to conduct" them. Further, Gorelick testified that she supported legislation requiring FISA warrants for physical searches. Following the passage of such legislation in 1995, the Clinton administration no longer asserted that it had the authority to conduct warrantless physical searches. By contrast, the Bush administration has claimed that it is not bound by the corresponding FISA provision requiring warrants for domestic eavesdropping.
McClellan is referring to testimony by then Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick who stated:
"At the outset, let me emphasize two very important points. First, the Department of Justice believes, and the case law supports, that the President has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes and that the President may, as has been done, delegate this authority to the Attorney General.

Second, the Administration and the Attorney General support, in principle, legislation establishing judicial warrant procedures under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for physical searches undertaken for intelligence purposes. However, whether specific legislation on this subject is desirable for the practical benefits it might add to intelligence collection, or undesirable as too much of a restriction on the President’s authority to collect intelligence necessary for the national security, depends on how the legislation is crafted."
I am sorry Mr. McClellan. This is not an act of hypocrisy by Vice-President Al Gore. The Clinton Administration followed the laws as they were written. When the laws changed, their procedures changed.

This Administration has chosen to place itself above the law. To violate laws, and declare laws non-applicable to them.

We are not victims of hypocrisy in America. We are victims of a President who believes himself to be above the laws. Terrorists do not have the power to destroy this nation which possesses a defence unrivaled across the globe. But Americans in high political office who show disrespect to the law, and who distort History to advance their agenda pose grave threats to our freedom!


Gonzales Defends Bush; Distorts Clinton Record!

This is the Attorney General of the United States, Alberto Gonzales.

This is his "Oath of Office":
"I(name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."
The Attorney General is our nation's top law enforcement officer. He is bound to understand and enforce the laws.

On "Larry King Live", Gonzales said:
""It's my understanding that during the Clinton administration there was activity regarding physical searches without warrants."

Gonzales also said that it was his understanding that, "the deputy attorney general testified before Congress that the president does have the inherent authority under the Constitution to engage in physical searches without a warrant. And so, those would certainly seem to be inconsistent with what the former vice president was saying today."
As Media Matters has pointed out, this distortion of the record was also repeated by Drudge, President Clinton issued EXECUTIVE ORDER 12949 on physical searches without warrants.

But within that ORDER is
"Section 1. Pursuant to section 302(a)(1) of the Act, the
Attorney General is authorized to approve physical searches, without a
court order, to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of
up to one year, if the Attorney General makes the certifications
required by that section."
But within that section 302(a)(1) [50 U.S.C. 1822(a)] of the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance] Act is the following:
"(ii) there is no substantial likelihood that the physical search will involve the premises, information, material, or property of a United States person"
And to once again quote the observant Media Matters:
"The entire controversy about Bush's program is that, for the first time ever, allows warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens and other people inside of the United States. Clinton's 1995 executive order did not authorize that."
Please don't talk about President Clinton Mr. Gonzales.

Let's talk about President Bush and your behavior.

Matters of history are important. But matters of law apply to you and President Bush. And America cannot tolerate violations of law, high crimes and misdemeanors, by our elected officials.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Bush Visits "Emancipation Proclamation" On Martin Luther King Day!

President Bush found comfort by visiting the Emancipation Proclamation on Martin Luther King Day.

He stated:
THE PRESIDENT: It seems fitting on Martin Luther King Day that I come and look at the Emancipation Proclamation in its original form. Abraham Lincoln recognized that all men are created equal. Martin Luther King lived on that admonition to call our country to a higher calling, and today we celebrate the life of an American who called Americans to account when we didn't live up to our ideals.
And this is President Lincoln.Indeed Mr. Lincoln believed that all Americans were created equal. That nobody was above the law!

Lincoln, in the Lyceum Address in 1838 had this to say:
Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor;--let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children's liberty. Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap--let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs;--let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.
I am sorry Mr. President. But you are no Abraham Lincoln!

This is former Vice-President Al Gore:

Al Gore knows President Bush has broken the law. As reported:
WASHINGTON -- Former Vice President Al Gore called Monday for an independent investigation of President Bush's domestic spying program, contending the president "repeatedly and insistently" broke the law by eavesdropping on Americans without court approval.

Speaking on Martin Luther King Jr.'s national holiday, the man who lost the 2000 presidential election to Bush was interrupted repeatedly by applause as he called the anti-terrorism program "a threat to the very structure of our government."
President Bush you are NO Abraham Lincoln!

John W. Dean knows about Presidents and violations of the law. After all he was President Richard Nixon's Counsel in the White House.

This is John W. Dean:

He recently stated about the NSA wiretapping case:
Initially, Bush and the White House stonewalled, neither confirming nor denying the president had ignored the law. Bush refused to discuss it in his interview with Jim Lehrer.

Then, on Saturday, December 17, in his radio broadcast, Bush admitted that the New York Times was correct - and thus conceded he had committed an impeachable offense.

There can be no serious question that warrantless wiretapping, in violation of the law, is impeachable. After all, Nixon was charged in Article II of his bill of impeachment with illegal wiretapping for what he, too, claimed were national security reasons.

These parallel violations underscore the continuing, disturbing parallels between this Administration and the Nixon Administration - parallels I also discussed in a prior column.

Indeed, here, Bush may have outdone Nixon: Nixon's illegal surveillance was limited; Bush's, it is developing, may be extraordinarily broad in scope. First reports indicated that NSA was only monitoring foreign calls, originating either in the USA or abroad, and that no more than 500 calls were being covered at any given time. But later reports have suggested that NSA is "data mining" literally millions of calls - and has been given access by the telecommunications companies to "switching" stations through which foreign communications traffic flows.

In sum, this is big-time, Big Brother electronic surveillance.
Mr. President, you are NO Abraham Lincoln.

Gore reminded his audience today that Martin Luther King was also the victim of overzealous wiretapping. As he stated:
Gore, speaking at DAR Constitution Hall, said his concerns are especially important on the King holiday because the slain civil rights leader was among thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government.

King, as a foremost civil rights activist in the 1950s and '60s, had his telephone conversations wiretapped by the FBI, which kept a file on him and thousands of other civil rights and anti-Vietnam war activists.

Gore said there is still much to learn about the domestic surveillance program, but he already has drawn a conclusion about its legality.

"What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently," the Democrat maintained.
We have many lessons to learn from Martin Luther King, Jr.

And we have many lessons we can all learn from Abraham Lincoln!

Among them is respect for the rule of law and the importance of the Constitution of the United States.

Nobody is above the law Mr. President! Not Richard Nixon and not you!

We have no kings. We have Americans. And every four years one of us is chosen by the people to serve them as President at their pleasure. And to faithfully execute the laws of this nation. We are now calling upon you to account for not living up to our ideals!


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Still Dreaming on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream.

As he stated:
"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today."
And this is what President Bush had to say Friday:
"Dr. King believed that all people are made in God's image and created equal. He dedicated his life to empowering people, no matter their circumstances, and challenged them to lift up their neighbors and communities. He broke down barriers within our society by encouraging Americans to look past their differences and refused to rest until our Nation fulfilled its pledge of liberty and justice for all.

As we observe and honor Dr. King's birthday, we are reminded that great causes often involve great sacrifices. In the five decades since Dr. King and Mrs. Parks stood together in Montgomery, Alabama, our country has made great progress toward equality for every citizen. Yet more work remains. In the words of Dr. King, "We will not be satisfied until 'justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.'"

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Monday, January 16, 2006, as the Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday. I encourage all Americans to observe this day with appropriate civic, community, and service programs and activities in honor of the memory and legacy of Dr. King.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirtieth."
And yet what has been the effect of the Bush Administration on African-Americans in the United States? And who has actually borne these "sacrifices" that President Bush refers to?

As reported on NPR On December 27, 2005:
"According to Bob Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the cuts include a $350 million reduction in child and family services programs, including Head Start, a cut of 4 percent, he says. That means there will be 25,000 fewer Head Start slots for low-income children.

A separate budget bill approved by the Senate Wednesday got somewhat more attention, after Vice President Dick Cheney cast a tie-breaking vote.

That measure would reduce spending for Medicaid, Medicare and other major health and welfare programs.

"Today what we voted on means that we're going to cut entitlement spending, slow that growth by $40 billion," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN). "It demonstrates fiscal responsibility. It shows that we're going to eliminate wasteful Washington spending."

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) said that Democrats were overreaching when they claimed the cuts would hurt poor people.

"What we've done here today is we've made some changes to those programs that make those programs better, more efficient and more targeted to the people in need," Santorum said. "That is not cutting benefits to those who are entitled to entitlements; it is making those programs work better and in the context of more fiscal responsibility."

But Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities disagreed.

"Rhetoric saying things like 'Oh, this just slows the rate of growth' makes it sound like low-income families are getting expanded benefits and the benefit will simply expand a little less. That is flatly not true," Greenstein said.

"No knowledgeable person who follows the low-income programs would accept the view that there's no pain to needy and vulnerable people in this bill," he added.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill would, among other things, cut funding for enforcement of child support, resulting in children losing some $8 billion. Also, poor families would pay more for their health care. And seniors would have a harder time qualifying for nursing home care.

Greenstein says one of the most potentially damaging provisions would require those applying for Medicaid to present proof of citizenship -- either a birth certificate or passport.

Many low-income Americans don't have access to their birth certificates -- or don't have one at all.

For example, African Americans born in the south in the 1930s and '40s -- as many as 20 percent, according to one study -- don't have birth certificates because hospitals wouldn't accept black women in labor.

As a result, Greenstein says, "We're facing the prospect of significant numbers of elderly black Americans being thrown off of Medicaid because they can't provide a birth certificate -- because they weren't born in a hospital due to discrimination."

Have you had enough?

Have you had enough of an Administration that cuts benefits for the poor and cuts taxes for the wealthy?

Senator Kerry is in Pakistan, visiting the earthquake damaged region.

In 2003, he explained his views on Martin Luther King, Jr.:
Over and over again, this Administration tries to substitute the rhetoric of diversity for a real civil rights agenda. Congressman Bobby Scott put it exactly right when President Bush criticized Trent Lott. He told us that it's not the President's words you need to focus on - it's the actions. Because while compassion is a great thing, it's not enough to feel badly for the child whose school doesn't have enough books - to feel badly for the machinist who can't support his family because he was laid off six months ago and can't find a job - or to feel badly for the single mom who works two jobs but can't afford health insurance. You have to do something about it. You and I share a different vision for America - an America that's impatient and bold in its commitment to justice and equality. Just as Martin Luther King dared to dream and challenged a nation to bring that dream to life, Robert Kennedy whose life was linked to Dr. King's, and who was killed less than two months later, shared his vision as he recalled the words of the poet George Bernard Shaw. He wrote: "Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream things that never were and ask why not." Why aren't we dreaming things that never were and asking "why not?" Today African American families earn two-thirds of white households - about the same gap that existed when Martin Luther King was killed 35 years ago. Why not recognize that the playing field is not level and take affirmative action to bring fairness? We can help up the disadvantaged, without holding others down.
America yearns for new leadership on Martin Luther King, Jr. day.

America yearns for a President who seeks peace and global understanding and doesn't lie to Americans to get us into an unnecessary war.

America yearns for a President whose first priority is healing the sick and not interfering with medical research or the delivery of drugs.

America yearns for a President who tackles the war on Aids in Africa by providing family planning agencies with the appropriate funds and not denying them funds because religious fundamentalists feel Africans should not have abortions.

America yearns for a President who understands that being Conservative means embracing conservation, protecting our natural wildlife areas and not drilling for more oil instead of finding alternative solutions to our energy crises.

America yearns for a President who respects the Civil Liberties of every American. A President who follows the law, does not commit felonious acts of wiretapping explicityly prohibited by law. A President who knows that he too is not above the law.

America yearns for a President who roots out corruption from within his own White House, who fires those involved in leaking names of CIA agents to the public, threatening our national security for his own political gain.

America yearns for a President who doesn't go to bed with Ken Lay, and Tom DeLay, and who doesn't have a Vice-President who secretly adopts oil company executive's strategies with dealing with the energy crisis and then prevents Congress from knowing who formulated these policies.

America yearns for a President who understands that Torture is not an American value. That no matter how heinous a prisoner may be, that we have American values that rise above this inhumanity.

America yearns for a President who strengthens Social Security and does not seek to tear down this safety net for our Seniors.

America yearns for a President who understands that Drug Benefits need to be provided by Medicare, and that Seniors shouldn't have to negotiate with Insurance Companies to obtain their coverage. America yearns for a President who supports negotiations with Drug Companies and who doesn't endorse laws that prohibit our own government from obtaining the best prices for our Seniors.

America yearns for a better day.

We need a President like John Kerry. And a Congress that holds these same values as well.

Keep on Dreaming John! I ask "Why Not?" when others say "Why?". America needs you more than ever at its helm! Let us never stop dreaming.


Friday, January 06, 2006

Go Away Pat Robertson!

Pat Robertson thinks Ariel Sharon's stroke was some sort of divine retribution for his political concessions in Israel.

He commented:
"Mr. Sharon "was dividing God's land, and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease" the European Union, the United Nations or the United States, Mr. Robertson said.
I never read that part of the Bible.

You know, the part that says you get a cerebrovascular accident when you are overweight and divide Israel.

Hey I wonder what Mr. Robertson thinks the miners were being punished for?

Or maybe Aunt Tilly who has diabetes. Or what about cerebral palsy, what are those people being punished for? Or everyone who gets cancer.

Or maybe has an auto accident.

Or those Americans who have died or lost limbs in Iraq? Hey wonder what they were doing?

Gosh, Mr. Robertson's God has been busy lately. The emergency rooms are busy with people with strokes, heart attacks, pneumonia, falls, burns and illness.

Hey Mr. Robertson....keep your hate to yourself.

My God doesn't hand out disease as punishment for your particular political agenda.

My God may have been behind the divine inspiration of man, but we are not angels. We are mortals. We suffer from diseases, diabetes, hypertension, and yes we have strokes.

So keep your meanness and nastiness to yourself. Go find yourself a place to hide and please don't pour out your vitriol on the American airways where people who suffer from diseases and afflictions for no necessary reason must add to their sufferings guilt and anger about a God that has punished them for no particular reason.

You represent what is wrong in America Mr. Robertson. You spread hate instead of love. Intolerance instead of understanding. And yes, even to the point of endorsing violence against your fellow man.


Sunday, January 01, 2006

"Wiretaps require a Court Order" President Bush, 2004

Sometimes it is best to let the President speak for himself.

President Bush speaking in Buffalo on the Patriot Act

On April 20, 2004, in Buffalo, he stated:
"So the first thing I want you to think about is, when you hear Patriot Act, is that we changed the law and the bureaucratic mind-set to allow for the sharing of information. It's vital. And others will describe what that means.

Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

But a roving wiretap means -- it was primarily used for drug lords. A guy, a pretty intelligence drug lord would have a phone, and in old days they could just get a tap on that phone. So guess what he'd do? He'd get him another phone, particularly with the advent of the cell phones. And so he'd start changing cell phones, which made it hard for our DEA types to listen, to run down these guys polluting our streets. And that changed, the law changed on -- roving wiretaps were available for chasing down drug lords. They weren't available for chasing down terrorists, see? And that didn't make any sense in the post-9/11 era. If we couldn't use a tool that we're using against mobsters on terrorists, something needed to happen.

The Patriot Act changed that. So with court order, law enforcement officials can now use what's called roving wiretaps, which will prevent a terrorist from switching cell phones in order to get a message out to one of his buddies."
If you prefer, you can listen to the entire speech and hear the President express this sentiment himself.

White House Video on Wiretaps and a Court Order

On December 19, 2005, President Bush pointed out that he had authorized warrantless wiretaps and would continue to do so in the future.

As reported:
WASHINGTON Dec 19, 2005 — President Bush brushed aside criticism over his decision to spy on suspected terrorists without court warrants Monday and said he will keep it up "for so long as the nation faces the continuing threat of an enemy that wants to kill American citizens."

"As president of the United States and commander in chief I have the constitutional responsibility and the constitutional authority to protect our country," he said at a year-end White House news conference.
And today things got more confusing.

Bush denied that his Buffalo statement showed some kind of inconsistency. That he previously had stated (after authorizing the NSA warrantless wiretapping) that a warrant was needed.

Bush explained:
Asked about that today, Mr. Bush said: "I was talking about roving wiretaps, I believe, involved in the Patriot Act. This is different from the N.S.A. program.

"The N.S.A. program is a necessary program. I was elected to protect the American people from harm. And on Sept. 11, 2001, our nation was attacked. And after that day, I vowed to use all the resources at my disposal, within the law, to protect the American people, which is what I have been doing, and will continue to do."

Mr. Bush also emphasized that the program was "limited" in nature and designed to intercept communications from known associates of Al Qaeda to the United States. He said several times that the eavesdropping was "limited to calls from outside the United States to calls within the United States."

That assertion is at odds with press accounts and the public statements of his senior aides, who say that the authorization for the program requires that one end of a communication - either incoming or outgoing - be outside the United States. The White House, clarifying the president's remarks after his appearance, said later that either end of the communication can in fact be outside the United States.
But in the Buffalo statement, Bush himself said that roving wiretaps would be allowed with court orders. The President is having a harder and harder time talking himself out of this mess.

Nobody is above the law in America.

We don't have a King or a Queen.

We have a democracy.

As Senator John Kerry has stated:
“Repeated statements by the President and the Vice President that wiretapping required a court order no doubt were designed to leave the impression with Americans that the government wasn’t authorizing the wiretapping of our own citizens without any warrant or oversight by a court. Now Americans know the truth, and they are owed a full explanation. Congress needs a full accounting and real oversight, not executive power run amok without checks and balances and Congress kept in the dark. Americans deserve an honest debate, not more misleading talk, not another public relations offensive when our security and our constitutional rights hang in the balance.”
Thank you Senator Kerry. America deserves better. Our nation is at risk. Not from whistle-blowers who point out the abuse of power. But from an Administration that defines law as it sees fit. That spreads propaganda into the news media, that authorizes wiretaps on American citizens without warrants violating Constitutional protections, that encourages torture of enemy combatants violating the Geneva Conventions, and that even wages war based on lies and distortion.

It is time for this Administration to be held accountable.