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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 01/15/2006 - 01/22/2006
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"Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a really easy way: stop participating in it."
- Noam Chomsky
Send tips and other comments to: profmarcus2010@yahoo.com

And, yes, I DO take it personally

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Just when you thought Wolfowitz might have ceased to be a threat

actually, i never did think he would cease to be a threat... i figured we would start hearing about shit like this, it was just a matter of time...
Paul Wolfowitz, architect of America's failing foray into Iraq as Rumsfeld's former Deputy at the Pentagon, now heads the World Bank and finally seems like his true self is coming out of the closet.

In recent months, picking up steam in recent weeks, there has been a massive exodus of top talent from the World Bank.

[...]

Paul Wolfowitz, architect of America's failing foray into Iraq as Rumsfeld's former Deputy at the Pentagon, now heads the World Bank and finally seems like his true self is coming out of the closet.

In recent months, picking up steam in recent weeks, there has been a massive exodus of top talent from the World Bank.

and what's the bottom line...?
Wolfowitz may be showing his stripes now -- and may be finally tilting the Bank into a groove where it becomes a harsher instrument of U.S. foreign policy -- rewarding friends and punishing those who don't fall into lockstep behind George W. Bush's vision.

there were those who speculated that bush was sending wolfie to the world bank to neutralize him and get him out of the line of fire in the defense department particularly since he was one of the principal architects of the iraq war... i didn't believe that for a minute...

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In support of Skadi: bin Laden's tape doesn't pass the smell test

skadi's earlier post in which she expressed serious doubts about the authenticity of the recent bin laden tape released to al jazeera evidently has provoked others to incredulity as well... tanya's diary in daily kos spells it out...
I thought this thing didn't pass the smell test as soon as I heard it. Tonight on the News Hour, some of the inconsistencies from previous tapes were pointed out.
MAMOUN FANDY: Right, but this particular tape is not terribly inspiring, just looking at the language of it. This is the first tape of bin Laden that has no single verse from the Koran. It does not have the flowery language of Arabic.

It seems to me that it is written in English first, and then translated into Arabic. It is very western style of tape. It is not very characteristic of bin Laden, at least it tells me that the non-Arabic speaking within the al-Qaida network are taking over the organization --
Why would Bin Laden need to have someone write this speach for him? He has been speaking to his followers since the 70's.
JIM LEHRER: You mean he didn't write this is what you are suggesting?

MAMOUN FANDY: The Arabic speakers in al-Qaida, the parts that are coming from the Arab world, are losing to the non-Arabic speaker, so it's really becoming more of a South Asian organization, rather than an Arab organization.

JIM LEHRER: Do you read it the same?

PAUL PILLAR: -- which may reflect his physical situation somewhere along that frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan where possibly his immediate entourage -- his staff, if you will are Urdu speakers or Pashtu speakers, rather than Arabic speakers, or at least part of them are.

tanya goes on to quote the bow-tied, conservative wussy, tucker carlson who is even having a hard time swallowing it...
CARLSON: I`m amazed by what an astute student of that rhetoric Osama bin Laden has proved himself to be, I mean, every single line. There`s none of this sort of crackpot, "We will fulfill the prophecy of Allah" stuff that his previous communiques have been stuffed with.

This is not an Islamic tape. It`s a propaganda tape parroting the DNC. It`s bizarre. And I wonder what the Democrats think tonight............

CARLSON: I mean, really, you couldn`t make this up.

SCARBOROUGH: Yes.

CARLSON: Is this really from Osama? I guess it is. But if the CIA hadn`t verified it, if NBC News hadn`t verified it, I wouldn`t believe it.

SCARBOROUGH: Yes. I wouldn`t either, Tucker. And when I read it, I started laughing...

tanya concludes...
Listen to Rove today. This is all about 06' and I hope those more expert then me look into this tape. This is Rove at his best. When we know Bush lies at every turn and the Media covers for the administration why are we accepting this on face value.

Are we really just going to buy into this? Am I alone in thinking this is all Rovian Bullshit?

the answer to the rove question is in the previous post...

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His satanic majesty, Karl Rove, is gearing up for an election year

when is fitz going to indict this son-of-a-bitch and put him out of my misery...?
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove offered a biting preview of the 2006 midterm elections yesterday, drawing sharp distinctions with the Democrats over the campaign against terrorism, tax cuts and judicial philosophy, and describing the opposition party as backward-looking and bereft of ideas.

"At the core, we are dealing with two parties that have fundamentally different views on national security," Rove said. "Republicans have a post-9/11 worldview and many Democrats have a pre-9/11 worldview. That doesn't make them unpatriotic -- not at all. But it does make them wrong -- deeply and profoundly and consistently wrong."

karl rove is evil... deeply and profoundly and consistently evil...

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The selling of fascism

they can trot out all the p.r. they want... like skadi said in her earlier post, i ain't buyin' it...
Vice President Dick Cheney gave Congressional leaders a closed-door briefing at the White House Friday on the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program, as Democrats escalated their attacks on President Bush over the operation by drawing comparisons to British tyrants and Nazi Germany.

With the White House under increasing attack over the program, the administration also announced that President Bush, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the former head of the agency, will each give talks next week in support of the program.

The day's events showed the White House's increasingly forceful effort to build public support for the program, as it seeks to demonstrate that Mr. Bush acted within constitutional authority in ordering the agency to monitor international e-mail and phone calls linked to Al Qaeda without seeking warrants.

i ain't buyin' none of it... i've had it with their friggin' p.r. and bogus justifications for turning the u.s. into a fascist state... it's gotta stop... NOW...!

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Iran's central bank isn't going to be left holding an empty bag

hey...! what would YOU do...?
Iran is transferring its assets out of European banks as the possibility of economic sanctions over its nuclear program looms, according to the governor of the nation's Central Bank.

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U.S. wants to block sale of Brazilian aircraft to Venezuela

the u.s. won't be happy until every corporate chief and head of state has to ask permission from the u.s. to go to the bathroom...
Brazilian jetmaker Embraer said on Friday it still hopes to sell 20 planes to Venezuela, despite what government officials have called pressure from the United States to halt the sale. The potential deal, valued at some USD$200 million, ran into trouble last week because the planes contain US technology and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is a foe of the White House.

"I think there will be some change, because the plane that we are talking about isn't for aggression. It's a plane to enforce laws against drugs and arms trafficking," Embraer Chief Executive Mauricio Botelho said at a news conference. "The plane responds to worries of Venezuela, Brazil and the US. That is what gives us hope that there will be an agreement reached, because this plane will never be used for international aggression," he said.

Embraer's Super Tucano is a light combat and training plane. Chavez has said the United States was prohibiting the sale and that he would buy planes from other nations if he could not purchase Embraer planes. Brazil's foreign minister, Celso Amorim, has said he would lobby for the Embraer sale.

Embraer normally has to gain permission from the governments of Brazil or the United States to sell military planes internationally, Embraer said. "The issue is between the US and Venezuela," not between Embraer, Brazil and Venezuela, he said.

an issue between the u.s. and venezuela...? oh, yeah, i would say so...

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Sorry...I am just not buying it

Too convenient...

Just a few days ago, there were news stories on the heels of al Zawahiri's audio tape on how bin Laden had not been heard from in over a year. At the time I thought...uh oh...we're gonna get a tape.

When the tape surfaced, the CIA, contrary to past behavior, verified the the tape immediately.

Cheney immediately asserted that this tape proves that Bush must continue his unwarranted taping of Americans to "protect Americans."

Today the administration released a forty page thesis on why Bush should be allowed to continue domestic wiretaps.

In the meantime, the right wing pundits are falling all over themselves to portray the bin Laden tape as proof that anyone on the left is with bin Laden.

And frankly, his wording, "just a matter of time," just doesn't ring true. It doesn't sound like past tapes.

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The birthday of the coup d'état

funny... i don't doubt this for one single second...
If there is a birth date for today’s American Imperium, it would be Jan. 20, 1981, exactly a quarter century ago, when Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President and Iran released 52 American hostages under circumstances that remain a mystery to this day.

The freedom of the hostages, ending a 444-day crisis, brought forth an outpouring of patriotism that bathed the new President in an aura of heroism as a leader so feared by America’s enemies that they scrambled to avoid angering him. It was viewed as a case study of how U.S. toughness could restore the proper international order.

That night, as fireworks lit the skies of Washington, the celebration was not only for a new President and for the freed hostages, but for a new era in which American power would no longer be mocked. That momentum continues today in George W. Bush’s “preemptive” wars and the imperial boasts about a “New American Century.”

However, the reality of that day 25 years ago now appears to have been quite different than was understood at the time, much as George W. Bush’s cowboy rhetoric of smoking Osama bin Laden out and getting him dead or alive has proved more bluster than reality.

What’s now known about the Iranian hostage crisis suggests that the “coincidence” of the Reagan Inauguration and the Hostage Release was not a case of frightened Iranians cowering before a U.S. President who might just nuke Tehran.

The preponderance of evidence suggests that it was a prearranged deal between the Republicans and the Iranians. The Republicans got the hostages and the political bounce; Iran’s Islamic fundamentalists got a secret supply of weapons and various other payoffs.

Though the full history remains a state secret – in part because of an executive order signed by George W. Bush on his first day in office in 2001 – it appears Republicans did contact Iran’s mullahs during the 1980 campaign; agreements were reached; and a clandestine flow of U.S. weapons followed the hostage release.

In effect, while Americans thought they were witnessing one reality – the cinematic heroism of Ronald Reagan backing down Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – another truth existed beneath the surface, one so troubling that the Reagan-Bush political apparatus has made keeping the secret a top priority.

long live the king and many happy returns...!

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What...?? No heightened security level...???

is bush actually passing up a chance to engender more fear among the masses...?
The United States has no plans to raise the security threat level because of a new tape of Osama bin Laden saying al-Qaida is planning attacks, counterterrorism officials said Thursday.

The White House firmly rejected bin Laden's suggestion of a negotiated truce. "We don't negotiate with terrorists," Vice President Dick Cheney said in a television interview. "I think you have to destroy them."

dear prick dick vice president cheney... what you "think" has already proved to be unmitigated disaster for your country... please desist...

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Google just says no to releasing info on tens of millions of queries...

there are evidently no lengths to which bushco will not go to eliminate the privacy rights of u.s. citizens...
Google Inc. is rebuffing the Bush administration's demand for a peek at what millions of people have been looking up on the Internet's leading search engine — a request that underscores the potential for online databases to become tools for government surveillance.

Mountain View-based Google has refused to comply with a White House subpoena first issued last summer, prompting U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales this week to ask a federal judge in San Jose for an order to hand over the requested records.

The government wants a list all requests entered into Google's search engine during an unspecified single week — a breakdown that could conceivably span tens of millions of queries. In addition, it seeks 1 million randomly selected Web addresses from various Google databases.

as a regular google search engine user, i know some of my queries will be part of the information requested... meanwhile, osama is still out there, eluding capture and essentially giving us the finger...

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Iraqi minorities are among the most endangered in the world

(from juan cole...)
Iraqi minorities are among the more endangered in the world according to Minority Rights Group International.
According to a study by the London-based Minority Rights Group International (MRG), minority groups in Iraq and Sudan were most at risk, while ethnic groups in Somalia, Afghanistan and Myanmar also made the top five of minorities under threat.

The UN-backed State of the World's Minorities report by the non-governmental organisation, flagged up the threats to minorities in Ethiopia, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast during 2005, as well as more reported conflicts in the Darfur region of Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Burundi and Angola.

Other countries included in the top 15 of states where minorities were most threatened included Indonesia (ten), Russia (14), and the Philippines (15).

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Cruisin' the Blogs will be back on Tuesday the 24th

I will be traveling from Buenos Aires to Sofia, Bulgaria, tomorrow and Cruisin' the Blogs will be taking a short hiatus until next Tuesday, January 24. I'm going to be doing the show from Bulgaria Tuesday through Friday for the next two weeks and then Tuesday through Friday, February 7 - 10, from Skopje, Macedonia. Cruisin' the Blogs will be back on its regular schedule beginning Valentine's Day, February 14.

I hope to have some interesting interviews with some very interesting folks in both Sofia and Skopje. Be sure to listen.

"Cruisin' the Blogs" is my daily blog review radio show airing on WBAT (Buenos Aires Today), an internet radio station in Buenos Aires, Argentina. You can listen Monday through Friday, 11-12 in the morning, Argentina time (9-10 a.m., U.S. eastern time and 2 p.m. UTC). The program repeats at 10-11 p.m., Argentina time. WBAT is the first english language radio station in Argentina.




Be sure to listen at:

http://www.batodayradio.com.ar/vivobsas.htm

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Bush has the Justice Department publish the "justifications" for warrantless spying

in a 40-page document dated today, the justice department has rushed into print the so-called "justifications" for the power-crazed outrages the boy-king continues to perpetrate on his subjects...
"The NSA activities are supported by the President’s well-recognized inherent constitutional authority as Commander in Chief and sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs to conduct warrantless surveillance of enemy forces for intelligence purposes to detect and disrupt armed attacks on the United States," Justice Department lawyers write, referring to the President's order to wiretap Americans' calls overseas.

It adds, "The President has the chief responsibility under the Constitution to protect America from attack, and the Constitution gives the President the authority necessary to fulfill that solemn responsibility."

(thanks to raw story who also has the link to the full pdf document...)

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Raising the Army recruiting age by FIVE YEARS...?

this is a huge story and throws a spotlight on the terrible, terrible consequences of bush's misadventures in iraq and rummy's rotten job at the defense department... it should be right up there with the top stories on the nightly news... will it be...? probably not...
The U.S. Army, which missed its fiscal 2005 recruiting goal, said on Wednesday it has raised the maximum enlistment age for new soldiers by five years to 39, greatly expanding its pool of potential recruits.

Army officials said the move did not reflect desperation to reverse recruiting shortfalls, noting the Army had achieved seven straight monthly recruiting goals despite coming up 7,000 short of last year's target of 80,000 recruits. The Army has blamed recruiting shortfalls in part on reluctance by some potential recruits to serve in the Iraq war.

OF COURSE they're gonna say the move doesn't reflect desperation to reverse recruiting shortfalls... what the hell else are they gonna say...? but you gotta ask yourself, why the hell else ARE they doing it...? hmmmmmmmm...????
"Raising the maximum age for active Army non-prior service enlistment expands the recruiting pool, provides motivated individuals an opportunity to serve, and strengthens the readiness of Army units," it said.

The Army, offering new financial incentives to recruits, also doubled the maximum combination of cash enlistment bonuses, up to $40,000 for the regular Army and up to $20,000 for the Army Reserve.

uh-huh... ok... sure... yeah... you bet... how interesting... really...? wow... thanks for setting me straight...

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Besides being vicious, bigoted and homophobic, she's just plain WRONG

god, i hate to read stuff like this... AND, i would like to know what the hell larry king, the mainstream, plain vanilla talk show host, is doing offering a hate-monger like this a public platform...
During the January 17 edition of CNN's Larry King Live -- dedicated to a discussion about the implications of "the buzz around" award-winning film Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features, 2005) -- radio host Janet Parshall referred to the adoption of children by same-sex couples as "state-sanctioned child abuse" and implied that the "lifestyle" of Matthew Shepard, a gay man, was partly to blame for his 1998 murder.

Opining on gay marriage, Parshall called it a "pretend family," arguing that "God himself" defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and that "everything else is a fraudulent misrepresentation." She then asserted that allowing a gay couple to adopt constituted "state-sanctioned child abuse because you've purposely taken away either a momma or a daddy, and mom and dad are both necessary in a child's life."

Speaking about Shepard's death -- the result of severe injuries sustained during a violent beating at the hands of two men who, purportedly claiming to be gay, lured him from a campus bar at the University of Wyoming -- Parshall first asserted that she was not offering "a justification of what happened, because it was wrong, wrong, and wrong;" nonetheless, she suggested that "there's a lot of questions about his [Shepard's] background," and asked, "[W]as he looking for trouble in all the wrong places?"

where the hell does this bitch get off...? "pretend family," my ass... if you wanna go THAT route, there's plenty of us who grew up in "pretend families" - kids raised by cousins, uncles, aunts, neighbors, in foster homes, orphanages, by single gays, married gays, you name it - and many of those families are as real and, as often as not, as or more loving and nuturing than the vaunted mom, dad and kids that ms. hate holds up as the ideal...

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The Unitary Executive Theory of the Presidency... 'Scuse ME...? THE WHAT...???

a career federal prosecutor does a survey on the "unitary executive" theory of unobstructed executive power and gets some interesting responses...
Elizabeth de la Vega has recently retired after serving more than 20 years as a federal prosecutor in Minneapolis and San Jose.

[O]nly recently has the world received notice that President Bush's "I can do anything I want" approach to governance has a name: the Unitary Executive Theory of the Presidency.

Not having heard of this concept, and thinking perhaps that I had missed something in Constitutional Law, I decided to survey a random sampling of attorneys about it. The group included civil practitioners, prosecutors, a federal judge, a former federal prosecutor who has a PhD as well as a J.D., defense attorneys, and a U.S. magistrate.

The precise question was, "When did you first hear about the Unitary Executive Theory of the Presidency?" Most said, "The past few weeks," but my favorite was, "A few seconds ago, when you asked about it." All agreed that the term does not appear in the U.S. Constitution and that, the last time they checked, we still had three branches of government.

[...]

You don't have to be a constitutional scholar to know that Bush's legal justifications are weak. You merely have to consider the administration's duplicitous conduct. The Bush team has deliberately concealed this program, not only from the public and Congress, but, most damning of all, from the very agency that is responsible for executing the laws of this country: the Department of Justice (DOJ).

[...]

After 20 years as a federal prosecutor, I am absolutely certain that the vast majority of career attorneys at DOJ and criminal prosecutors from U.S. Attorneys' Offices around the country, as well as federal law enforcement agents, would have refused to participate knowingly in this program. Bush and his coterie knew that their legal arguments were weak and intellectually dishonest, if not ludicrous, so rather than making their case honestly, even to their own people, they avoided dissent by acting in secret and affirmatively misleading the entire country. Using a tragically familiar modus operandi, Bush has carried out his unlawful spying scheme by acting not as a unitary executive (whatever that is), but as a solitary executive -- as if the President Knows Best.

i sure am getting tired of saying how much trouble i think the u.s. is in... gore's term, "constitutional crisis," while apt, seems almost understated...

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UK strategy to suppress discussion of extraordinary rendition follows U.S. lead

ah, the u.s. and the uk... what a lovely pair we make...
A hidden strategy aimed at suppressing a debate about rendition - the US practice of transporting detainees to secret centres where they are at risk of being tortured - is revealed in a briefing paper sent by the Foreign Office to No 10.

The document shows that the government has been aware of secret interrogation centres, despite ministers' denials. It admits that the government has no idea whether individuals seized by British troops in Iraq or Afghanistan have been sent to the secret centres.

[...]

It was drawn up in response to a Downing Street request for advice "on substance and handling" of the controversy over CIA rendition flights and allegations of Britain's connivance in the practice.

[...]

The document advises the government to rely on a statement by Condoleezza Rice last month when the US secretary of state said America did not transport anyone to a country where it believed they would be tortured and that, "where appropriate", Washington would seek assurances.

how convenient... using the other's lies to support your own...

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"The worst ineptitude I've seen" - the consequences of telling the truth

truth-telling is rarely the route to popularity and this story reflects a great deal more about colin powell than it does about larry wilkerson...
The split came as both men left the administration -- Powell as secretary of state, Wilkerson as his chief of staff -- after working side by side for 16 years. Wilkerson, a once-loyal Republican with 31 years of Army service, has emerged in recent months as a merciless critic of President Bush and his top people, accusing them of carrying out a reckless foreign policy and imperiling the future of the U.S. military.

with a presidential administration dead set on demonizing, marginalizing and virtually destroying any and all critics, wilkerson, a career insider, must have concluded that, despite the consequences, he could no longer remain silent...
Wilkerson calls Bush an unsophisticated leader who has been easily swayed by "messianic" neoconservatives and power-hungry, secretive schemers in the administration. In a landmark speech in October, Wilkerson said: "What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made."

He is particularly appalled by U.S. treatment of enemy detainees, counting at least 100 deaths in custody during the course of the war on terrorism -- 27 of them ruled homicides. "Murder is torture," he says. "It's not torture lite."

As for the invasion of Iraq? A blunder of historic proportions, he believes.

"This is really a very inept administration," says Wilkerson, who has credentials not only as an insider in the Bush I, Clinton and Bush II presidencies but also as a former professor at two of the nation's war colleges. "As a teacher who's studied every administration since 1945, I think this is probably the worst ineptitude in governance, decision-making and leadership I've seen in 50-plus years. You've got to go back and think about that. That includes the Bay of Pigs, that includes -- oh my God, Vietnam. That includes Iran-contra, Watergate."

Such a critique, coming from a man who was long thought to speak for Powell, is seismic in Washington power circles. Some observers used to regard Powell and Wilkerson as so close that they enjoyed a "mind meld," but now Powell distances himself from the pronouncements of his former aide.

shame on powell... after his performance in front of the united nations, powell has a great distance to go to achieve redemption and forgiveness, not only with the american people but with himself and, after all, when it comes down to it, it's ourselves we have to live with every day...

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Cruisin' the Blogs on a Thursday, January 19

Coming up tomorrow -

  • Daily Kos' georgia10 blogs on Executive Power & Illegal Imprisonment Without End: What happens when an overly broad executive power clashes with the traditional notions of fairness and justice? One must yield, but which one?
  • Steve Clemons of The Washington Note reports on the bloggers' conference call with U.S. Senator Harry Reid: Just say no to Alito
  • David Corn writes The Loyal Opposition twice a month for TomPaine.com. Corn is also the Washington editor of The Nation and is the author of The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception. David's post from yesterday on TomPaine: Hiding Behind The Troops
  • And, we have Toby from La Plata with his unique blend of science, the environment and humor
"Cruisin' the Blogs" is my daily blog review radio show airing on WBAT (Buenos Aires Today), an internet radio station in Buenos Aires, Argentina. You can listen Monday through Friday, 11-12 in the morning, Argentina time (9-10 a.m., U.S. eastern time and 2 p.m. UTC). The program repeats at 10-11 p.m., Argentina time. WBAT is the first english language radio station in Argentina.



Be sure to listen at:

http://www.batodayradio.com.ar/vivobsas.htm

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USAID, the folks that have to make it happen, are telling prospective contractors just how BAD Iraq REALLY is...

when the troops leave and the long-haul REALLY begins, it's USAID that is often the only major U.S. presence in a country besides the embassy... (well, i suppose in the case of iraq, there'll still be all those huge military bases we keep pretending we're not building...) anyway, USAID folks often have to face a reality that others don't and they're not very happy about their prospects in iraq...
An official assessment drawn up by the US foreign aid agency depicts the security situation in Iraq as dire, amounting to a "social breakdown" in which criminals have "almost free rein".

The "conflict assessment" is an attachment to an invitation to contractors to bid on a project rehabilitating Iraqi cities published earlier this month by the US Agency for International Development (USAid).

The picture it paints is not only darker than the optimistic accounts from the White House and the Pentagon, it also gives a more complex profile of the insurgency than the straightforward "rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists" described by George Bush.

The USAid analysis talks of an "internecine conflict" involving religious, ethnic, criminal and tribal groups. "It is increasingly common for tribesmen to 'turn in' to the authorities enemies as insurgents - this as a form of tribal revenge," the paper says, casting doubt on the efficacy of counter-insurgent sweeps by coalition and Iraqi forces.

Meanwhile, foreign jihadist groups are growing in strength, the report said.

"External fighters and organisations such as al-Qaida and the Iraqi offshoot led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi are gaining in number and notoriety as significant actors," USAid's assessment said. "Recruitment into the ranks of these organisations takes place throughout the Sunni Muslim world, with most suicide bombers coming from Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region."

The assessment conflicted sharply with recent Pentagon claims that Zarqawi's group was in "disarray".

The USAid document was attached to project documents for the Focused Stabilisation in Strategic Cities Initiative, a $1.3bn (£740m) project to curb violence in cities such as Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk and Najaf, through job creation and investment in local communities.

bushco iraq happy talk, something we all know is bogus, is even more bogus than we thought... i don't imagine contractors are necessarily going to be falling all over each other bidding on projects where the professionals they send in to do the job may end up coming back in body bags...

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Who wants to be a veteran when you're gonna get trashed...?

james webb, former navy secretary under reagan, in today's nyt...
Military people past and present have good reason to wonder if the current administration truly values their service beyond its immediate effect on its battlefield of choice. The casting of suspicion and doubt about the actions of veterans who have run against President Bush or opposed his policies has been a constant theme of his career. This pattern of denigrating the service of those with whom they disagree risks cheapening the public's appreciation of what it means to serve, and in the long term may hurt the Republicans themselves.

as a vietnam veteran who earned two army commendation medals (non-combat) for my vietnam service and another one for my service in the stateside army, i recall thinking to myself when kerry was being smeared, why couldn't my medals be called into question too...? then i thought, what a pile of shit... it's nothing but a political smear game... evidently webb agrees...
The political tactic of playing up the soldiers on the battlefield while tearing down the reputations of veterans who oppose them could eventually cost the Republicans dearly. It may be one reason that a preponderance of the Iraq war veterans who thus far have decided to run for office are doing so as Democrats.

A young American now serving in Iraq might rightly wonder whether his or her service will be deliberately misconstrued 20 years from now, in the next rendition of politically motivated spinmeisters who never had the courage to step forward and put their own lives on the line.

and just in case you might wonder whose wonderful, totally sleazy strategy this is... two guesses and the first two don't count...

yep...! KARL ROVE...!

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Steve Clemons reports on the bloggers' conference call with Harry Reid: Just say no to Alito

i'm very glad that there's someone like steve clemons out there who can engage in such candid conversation with someone like senator reid, another individual who holds my greatest respect...
I complimented Senator Reid for invoking Rule 21 and shutting down the Senate to compel Senator Pat Roberts and the Republican Senate establishment to stop dragging its feet on its investigation into the administration's use and potential abuse of WMD intelligence. Reid relished telling the tale of how it all unfolded.

I told him that such demonstrations of backbone needed to be less rare -- and that the absence of such resolve in the Alito confirmation process was disheartening. He said that he was meeting today with the Democratic caucus to see if there are 41 Senators willing to say no to Alito -- and really say no (meaning a filibuster). He indicated that there was only a 50/50 chance that there were 41 Senators and sounded doubtful.

But while I am all for constructive policy proposals, I also believe that "winning" is important. Alito should be filibustered in my view. He is the wrong judge to go to the Supreme Court in these times -- and Dems should send that message.

However, as I told Senator Reid yesterday, Democrats have too much of a tendency to concede defeat before the battle has really been fought -- and many Republicans, in contrast, are declaring victory even if they may be losing.

Dems need a combination of hard-edged tactics and serious resolve as well as good vision and proposals.

But we have three years left of one of the most dramatic and often disturbing presidencies in decades -- and I believe that the reasonable and sensible personalities in the Bush administration should be supported while the clan that holds close to Vice President Cheney -- and which is responsible for the worst disasters of Bush's term -- need to be exposed and vilified.

good luck, harry... i'm looking forward to hearing the outcome of the caucus...

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WaPo - clueless on Bolivia



ya know what... the wapo is clueless and it's too bad cuz when you're clueless, reason would suggest that you go about finding a clue rather than regurgitate the bush administration's propaganda...
Though his presidency symbolizes the expansion of Bolivian democracy to fully include the country's poor, indigenous majority, Mr. Morales is a throwback to Latin America's past. His "socialism" is the populist statism that first appeared in the region more than half a century ago. Mr. Morales promises to nationalize Bolivia's oil and gas reserves, reverse the sale of state companies to foreign investors, and defy the international financial community. Like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, his mentor, he expects to raise living standards through statist pump-priming; foreign trade and investment are regarded with suspicion. That these policies have led repeatedly to catastrophe, and were long ago discredited elsewhere in the world, is trumped in these Latin countries by the politics of class resentment, anti-Americanism and, more often than not, authoritarian muscle.

here's what morales said when he met with argentina's president nestor kirchner yesterday during his visit to buenos aires...
After meeting with President Kirchner Evo Morales said that his country aims to achieve "changes and deep transformations in Bolivia’s democracy". He reassured President Kirchner that "it is false that his government plans to take away private property, on the contrary, we are going to protect it and also guarantee that private investors recover their investment and make a profit, however, those profits must be balanced ". Evo Morales also reassured everyone that he is ready to open a dialogue with the United States.

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"We hope" Congress will halt Bush's spying

maybe i'm being unnecessarily picky, but i would really like to see the nyt use a little bit stronger language than "we hope..."
The first lawsuits challenging the legality of the domestic spying operation were filed this week, and Congress plans hearings. We hope that lawmakers are more diligent about reining in Mr. Bush now than they have been about his other abuses of power in the name of fighting terrorism.

"i hope" alitalia's one-day strike tomorrow isn't going to affect my flight on friday... "i hope" the sun continues to shine all day today and it doesn't rain... "i hope" my new laptop will last longer than the old one... "i hope" george bush and his criminal posse decide to resign...

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Cruisin' the Blogs Wednesday on WBAT

Al Gore's speech put a lot of things over a low but steady flame. The pot started a slow boil last night when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was rushed to an appearance on CNN's The Larry King Show. It was boiling a little faster when Scott McClellan hosted the White House press briefing today and even faster when Gonzales reappeared on CNN News this afternoon. We're going to follow the chain of events and possibly add some that may take place between now and showtime in the morning. We'll hear from both Judd Legum at Think Progress and Al Gore himself who have responses for Gonzales. We're also going to hear from an individual named in one of the two suits filed against the federal government to stop the NSA spying.

Also on tap:


  • Juan Cole offers some informed speculation on Vice President Cheney's Middle East trip
  • We're joined by Nick Stern, destined to become a Cruisin' the Blogs regular, offering his unique perspectives on politics, science and the environment.
Don't miss it.

"Cruisin' the Blogs" is my daily blog review radio show airing on WBAT (Buenos Aires Today), an internet radio station in Buenos Aires, Argentina. You can listen Monday through Friday, 11-12 in the morning, Argentina time (9-10 a.m., U.S. eastern time and 2 p.m. UTC). The program repeats at 10-11 p.m., Argentina time. WBAT is the first english language radio station in Argentina.



Be sure to listen at:

http://www.batodayradio.com.ar/vivobsas.htm

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Gore fires back - he's got more of a spine than he used to have, that's for sure...

al, don't you dare fade back into the woodwork... you need to make sure you're out front 24/7... you started this ball rolling and now you gotta keep it rolling... this is a good start...
Following is a statement by former Vice President Al Gore:

"The Administration's response to my speech illustrates perfectly the need for a special counsel to review the legality of the NSA wiretapping program. The Attorney General is making a political defense of the President without even addressing the substantive legal questions that have so troubled millions of Americans in both political parties.

"There are two problems with the Attorney General's effort to focus attention on the past instead of the present Administration's behavior. First, as others have thoroughly documented, his charges are factually wrong. Both before and after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was amended in 1995, the Clinton/Gore Administration complied fully and completely with the terms of the law.

"Second, the Attorney General's attempt to cite a previous administration's activity as precedent for theirs -- even though factually wrong -- ironically demonstrates another reason why we must be so vigilant about their brazen disregard for the law. If unchecked, their behavior would serve as a precedent to encourage future presidents to claim these same powers, which many legal experts in both parties believe are clearly illegal.

"The issue, simply put, is that for more than four years, the executive branch has been wiretapping many thousands of American citizens without warrants in direct contradiction of American law. It is clearly wrong and disrespectful to the American people to allow a close political associate of the president to be in charge of reviewing serious charges against him.

"The country needs a full and independent investigation into the facts and legality of the present Administration's program."

don't stop, al... for god's sake, don't stop...

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Scotty on Gore - mucho mas b.s.

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

question for you, scotty... when you get up in the morning and look in the mirror, do you see a reflection...?
The White House accused former Vice President Al Gore of hypocrisy Tuesday for his assertion that President Bush broke the law by eavesdropping on Americans without court approval.

"If Al Gore is going to be the voice of the Democrats on national security matters, we welcome it," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said in a swipe at the Democrat, who lost the 2000 election to Bush only after the Supreme Court intervened.

[...]

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

judd at think progress debunks scotty's (and gonzales') b.s...
Despite what Gonzales is implying, the Clinton administration never violated FISA and never claimed they could violate FISA. Here’s why:

1. Prior to 1995, FISA did not cover physical searches. (With Clinton’s signature, the law was expanded to cover physical searches in 1995.) The search of Aldrich Ames home occurred in 1993. It did not violate FISA.

2. Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick testified in 1994 that the President could conduct warrantless physical searches, before FISA required physical searches to be conducted pursuant to a warrant. Gorelick was arguing that the President could conduct warrantless physical searches in the absence of Congressional action. At no time did she suggest that, after Congress required the President to obtain a warrant, the executive branch could ignore the law, nor is there any evidence the Clinton administration failed to comply with FISA.

The fact that the Attorney General of the United States is resorting to such obvious deception shows that they have no real answers. The administration is getting desperate and grasping at straws.

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Survey sez: 52 to 43 percent - Impeach Bush

just between you and me and the gatepost, i don't want to wait around for impeachment... he needs to go now and his posse with him...
By a margin of 52 to 43 percent, citizens want Congress to impeach President Bush if he wiretapped American citizens without a judge's approval, according to a new poll commissioned by AfterDowningStreet.org, a grassroots coalition that supports a Congressional investigation of Pres. Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

The poll was conducted by Zogby International.

The poll found that 52 percent of respondents agreed with the statement: "If President Bush wiretapped American citizens without the approval of a judge, do you agree or disagree that Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment."

Of those contacted, 43 percent disagreed, and 6 percent said they didn't know or declined to answer. The poll has a margin of error of 2.9 percent.

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Informed speculation: A "very desperate" and "very worried" U.S. will ask middle east countries to send forces to Iraq

juan cole offers this interesting and plausible possibility underlying cheney's middle east trip...
Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney will meet Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday. Al-Zaman ("The Times of Baghdad") says that its sources in Cairo tell it that Cheney will ask that Egypt be ready to send troops to Iraq if the situation there calls for it.

There has been no official acknowledgment of any such talks on either side, so it is a little speculative. But I think the reports are at least plausible, and are worth thinking about seriously.

Iraqi politicians have repeatedly said that they might accept troops from other Muslim countries, but not from any direct neighbors. Egypt might therefore in principle be acceptable to them. The problem is that the government of Iraq is dominated by Shiites and Kurds, who are fighting Sunni Arabs. The Egyptians are Sunni Arabs, and will be suspected in Baghdad of sympathizing with the guerrilla movement. Still, if it were a matter of avoiding civil war or being taken out and shot by Zarqawi, perhaps the Shiite and Kurdish leaders could accept Egyptian troops out of desperation.

Mubarak would certainly be happy to crack down on Muslim radicals such as the Zarqawi group, just as he has virtually destroyed the al-Jihad al-Islami and the al-Gama'ah al-Islamiyah in Egypt itself.

The wording of the Al-Zaman article suggests that Cheney is angling with Mubarak for a contingency plan, in case things go very badly indeed when the US withdraws its troops. In other words, the Bush administration is going on hands and knees to Cairo because it is very, very desperate and very, very worried.

Al-Zaman says that Cheney will also talk to Saudi Arabia about the issue. Since Saudi Arabia is a neighbor, and anyway doesn't have much of an army, presumably Cheney would be asking Riyadh to fund the Egyptian/ Arab peacekeeping force in Iraq. Saudi Arabia had played a similar role in funding the Syrian peacekeepers in Lebanon in the 1970s and after.

Cheney will also seek greater support in the Arab world for the new Iraqi government, which will begin being formed as soon as the final results of the December 15 elections are announced. The previous Iraqi government had sometimes tense relations with the Arab League. Arab nationalist governments had tilted toward Saddam Hussein's Baath regime and had viewed the rise of a Shiite-Kurdish government in Baghdad, established by an American military intervention and with implicit Iranian support, with sullen suspicion.

i get very, very nervous when i think about dick cheney representing my country to ANYONE...

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Oh, surprise, surprise... Gonzales rejects Gore's call for an independent counsel

if they're acting within the law and have nothing to hide, why wouldn't a special counsel be welcomed... it would provide vindication and regain the trust of the american people as nothing else could at a time when that trust is dropping right through the floorboards...
KING: Back to former Vice President Gore asking for a special counsel to investigate, would you object to that?

GONZALES: Well, I don't know why -- I don't know why there would be a need for a special counsel at this time, Larry, because what I can tell you is that from the very beginning, from its inception this program has been carefully reviewed by the lawyers at the Department of Justice and other lawyers within the administration and we firmly believe that the president does have the legal authority to authorize electronic surveillance in order to gather up foreign intelligence particularly, Larry, when we're talking about foreign intelligence of the enemy in a time of war.

KING: Thank you so much, general. It's always good seeing you. GONZALES: Thank you, Larry.

KING: That was General Alberto Gonzales, the Attorney General of the United States. He previously served as White House counsel to President George W. Bush.

"we firmly believe..." PROVE IT, ASSHOLE...! oh, and btw, larry king is a toady...

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18 paragraphs in, the NYT briefly mentions Gore's speech

under this headline...

Two Groups Planning to Sue Over Federal Eavesdropping

you would think that al gore had never been vice president of the united states or a presidential candidate who, by all rights, could be sitting in the oval office today...

at least the wapo does better with this article headline on p. 3...


Gore Says Bush Broke the Law With Spying

so much for our liberal media...

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Monday, January 16, 2006

The (Australian) media deigns to report on Al Gore's speech [UPDATE: Peter Daou]

sydney's daily telegraph offers the first media coverage I'VE seen (that's a deliberate qualification, btw) on gore's speech...
Democrat Al Gore, President George W. Bush's rival in the 2000 presidential election, accused him Monday of breaking the law by authorizing a domestic spying program.

"What we do know about that pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and consistently," Gore said during an event honoring Martin Luther King Jr. here.

Speaking on the US public holiday honoring the slain civil rights hero, the former vice president noted that King was himseld the target of secret FBI wiretaps for several years.

"It is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Doctor King was illegally wiretapped, one of the hundred of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the US governement during that period," Gore said.

[UPDATE]

(from Peter Daou on Salon...)
GORE V. BUSH: If a tree falls in a forest... A former Vice-President of the United States delivers a major speech accusing George W. Bush of breaking the law. What do all three cable news nets cover under the "Breaking News" banner? An overturned tanker truck on a New York highway. THIS is the problem for the left. And as I've said a hundred times: if the Dem establishment doesn't go after the media institutionally, things simply will not change. It's astonishing to me that they haven't gotten it yet. The only other option is for the progressive netroots to organize and fight the media on its own, an uphill struggle, to say the least...

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Cruisin' the Blogs, Tuesday edition, Al Gore special

I had planned, like I did last Tuesday, to devote tomorrow's show to conservative weblogs but, given Al Gore's speech yesterday and the virtual lack of media coverage so far, I've, yet again, changed plans. On tomorrow's show, I'll be featuring excerpts from Gore's speech, perhaps one of the most important speeches he has ever made and maybe one of the most important speeches made by anyone so far this century. If time permits, I'll see if I can find some reactions to Gore's speech on the conservative blogs.

"Cruisin' the Blogs" is my daily blog review radio show airing on WBAT (Buenos Aires Today), an internet radio station in Buenos Aires, Argentina. You can listen Monday through Friday, 11-12 in the morning, Argentina time (9-10 a.m., U.S. eastern time and 2 p.m. UTC). The program repeats at 10-11 p.m., Argentina time. WBAT is the first english language radio station in Argentina.



Be sure to listen at:

http://www.batodayradio.com.ar/vivobsas.htm

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The full text of Al Gore's speech delivered today in Washington D.C. [UPDATE]

[UPDATE]

as the commenter points out, i don't know where the hell the media disappeared to on this but the silence is deafening...

(thanks to raw story...)
In an address delivered in Washington to multiple standing ovations, Vice President Al Gore repeatedly attacked the Bush Administration for the expansion of executive power -- the ability of the government to wiretap its own citizens without legal authority and kidnap Americans abroad.

His speech -- which compares the wiretapping of Martin Luther King to the broad surveillance now imposed on Americans by President Bush -- called on Congress to resume its oversight responsibilities, and enjoined Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to appoint a special prosecutor. Gore was to be introduced by former Rep. Bob Barr, a Georgia Republican who has advocated for the constitutional right to privacy. The full text of his speech follows.
Congressman Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years, but we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens-Democrats and Republicans alike-to express our shared concern that America's Constitution is in grave danger.

In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.

As we begin this new year, the Executive Branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress to prevent such abuses.

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

So, many of us have come here to Constitution Hall to sound an alarm and call upon our fellow citizens to put aside partisan differences and join with us in demanding that our Constitution be defended and preserved.

It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by extending its promise to all our people.

(click here for the complete text)

On this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped-one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during this period.

The FBI privately called King the "most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal." The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide.

This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder. The discovery that the FBI conducted a long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life, helped to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.

The result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there is a sufficient cause for the surveillance. I voted for that law during my first term in Congress and for almost thirty years the system has proven a workable and valued means of according a level of protection for private citizens, while permitting foreign surveillance to continue.

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

During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the President went out of his way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place.

But surprisingly, the President's soothing statements turned out to be false. Moreover, as soon as this massive domestic spying program was uncovered by the press, the President not only confirmed that the story was true, but also declared that he has no intention of bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.

At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently.

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."

An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet, "On Common Sense" ignited the American Revolution, succinctly described America's alternative. Here, he said, we intended to make certain that "the law is king."

Vigilant adherence to the rule of law strengthens our democracy and strengthens America. It ensures that those who govern us operate within our constitutional structure, which means that our democratic institutions play their indispensable role in shaping policy and determining the direction of our nation. It means that the people of this nation ultimately determine its course and not executive officials operating in secret without constraint.

The rule of law makes us stronger by ensuring that decisions will be tested, studied, reviewed and examined through the processes of government that are designed to improve policy. And the knowledge that they will be reviewed prevents over-reaching and checks the accretion of power.

A commitment to openness, truthfulness and accountability also helps our country avoid many serious mistakes. Recently, for example, we learned from recently classified declassified documents that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the tragic Vietnam war, was actually based on false information. We now know that the decision by Congress to authorize the Iraq War, 38 years later, was also based on false information. America would have been better off knowing the truth and avoiding both of these colossal mistakes in our history. Following the rule of law makes us safer, not more vulnerable.

The President and I agree on one thing. The threat from terrorism is all too real. There is simply no question that we continue to face new challenges in the wake of the attack on September 11th and that we must be ever-vigilant in protecting our citizens from harm.

Where we disagree is that we have to break the law or sacrifice our system of government to protect Americans from terrorism. In fact, doing so makes us weaker and more vulnerable.

Once violated, the rule of law is in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws.

The President's men have minced words about America's laws. The Attorney General openly conceded that the "kind of surveillance" we now know they have been conducting requires a court order unless authorized by statute. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act self-evidently does not authorize what the NSA has been doing, and no one inside or outside the Administration claims that it does. Incredibly, the Administration claims instead that the surveillance was implicitly authorized when Congress voted to use force against those who attacked us on September 11th.

This argument just does not hold any water. Without getting into the legal intricacies, it faces a number of embarrassing facts. First, another admission by the Attorney General: he concedes that the Administration knew that the NSA project was prohibited by existing law and that they consulted with some members of Congress about changing the statute. Gonzalez says that they were told this probably would not be possible. So how can they now argue that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force somehow implicitly authorized it all along? Second, when the Authorization was being debated, the Administration did in fact seek to have language inserted in it that would have authorized them to use military force domestically - and the Congress did not agree. Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Jim McGovern, among others, made statements during the Authorization debate clearly restating that that Authorization did not operate domestically.

When President Bush failed to convince Congress to give him all the power he wanted when they passed the AUMF, he secretly assumed that power anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother. But as Justice Frankfurter once wrote: "To find authority so explicitly withheld is not merely to disregard in a particular instance the clear will of Congress. It is to disrespect the whole legislative process and the constitutional division of authority between President and Congress."

This is precisely the "disrespect" for the law that the Supreme Court struck down in the steel seizure case.

It is this same disrespect for America's Constitution which has now brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in the fabric of the Constitution. And the disrespect embodied in these apparent mass violations of the law is part of a larger pattern of seeming indifference to the Constitution that is deeply troubling to millions of Americans in both political parties.

For example, the President has also declared that he has a heretofore unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation, and that, notwithstanding his American citizenship, the person imprisoned has no right to talk with a lawyer-even to argue that the President or his appointees have made a mistake and imprisoned the wrong person.

The President claims that he can imprison American citizens indefinitely for the rest of their lives without an arrest warrant, without notifying them about what charges have been filed against them, and without informing their families that they have been imprisoned.

At the same time, the Executive Branch has claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture in a pattern that has now been documented in U.S. facilities located in several countries around the world.

Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by Executive Branch interrogators and many more have been broken and humiliated. In the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, investigators who documented the pattern of torture estimated that more than 90 percent of the victims were innocent of any charges.

This shameful exercise of power overturns a set of principles that our nation has observed since General Washington first enunciated them during our Revolutionary War and has been observed by every president since then - until now. These practices violate the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, not to mention our own laws against torture.

The President has also claimed that he has the authority to kidnap individuals in foreign countries and deliver them for imprisonment and interrogation on our behalf by autocratic regimes in nations that are infamous for the cruelty of their techniques for torture.

Some of our traditional allies have been shocked by these new practices on the part of our nation. The British Ambassador to Uzbekistan - one of those nations with the worst reputations for torture in its prisons - registered a complaint to his home office about the senselessness and cruelty of the new U.S. practice: "This material is useless - we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful."

Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is "yes" then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited? If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?

The Dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said after analyzing the Executive Branch's claims of these previously unrecognized powers: "If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution."

Congressman Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years, but we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens-Democrats and Republicans alike-to express our shared concern that America's Constitution is in grave danger.

In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.

As we begin this new year, the Executive Branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress to prevent such abuses.

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

So, many of us have come here to Constitution Hall to sound an alarm and call upon our fellow citizens to put aside partisan differences and join with us in demanding that our Constitution be defended and preserved.

It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by extending its promise to all our people.

On this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped-one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during this period.

The FBI privately called King the "most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal." The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide.

This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder. The discovery that the FBI conducted a long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life, helped to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.

The result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there is a sufficient cause for the surveillance. I voted for that law during my first term in Congress and for almost thirty years the system has proven a workable and valued means of according a level of protection for private citizens, while permitting foreign surveillance to continue.

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

During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the President went out of his way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place.

But surprisingly, the President's soothing statements turned out to be false. Moreover, as soon as this massive domestic spying program was uncovered by the press, the President not only confirmed that the story was true, but also declared that he has no intention of bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.

At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently.

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."

An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet, "On Common Sense" ignited the American Revolution, succinctly described America's alternative. Here, he said, we intended to make certain that "the law is king."

Vigilant adherence to the rule of law strengthens our democracy and strengthens America. It ensures that those who govern us operate within our constitutional structure, which means that our democratic institutions play their indispensable role in shaping policy and determining the direction of our nation. It means that the people of this nation ultimately determine its course and not executive officials operating in secret without constraint.

The rule of law makes us stronger by ensuring that decisions will be tested, studied, reviewed and examined through the processes of government that are designed to improve policy. And the knowledge that they will be reviewed prevents over-reaching and checks the accretion of power.

A commitment to openness, truthfulness and accountability also helps our country avoid many serious mistakes. Recently, for example, we learned from recently classified declassified documents that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the tragic Vietnam war, was actually based on false information. We now know that the decision by Congress to authorize the Iraq War, 38 years later, was also based on false information. America would have been better off knowing the truth and avoiding both of these colossal mistakes in our history. Following the rule of law makes us safer, not more vulnerable.

The President and I agree on one thing. The threat from terrorism is all too real. There is simply no question that we continue to face new challenges in the wake of the attack on September 11th and that we must be ever-vigilant in protecting our citizens from harm.

Where we disagree is that we have to break the law or sacrifice our system of government to protect Americans from terrorism. In fact, doing so makes us weaker and more vulnerable.

Once violated, the rule of law is in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws.

The President's men have minced words about America's laws. The Attorney General openly conceded that the "kind of surveillance" we now know they have been conducting requires a court order unless authorized by statute. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act self-evidently does not authorize what the NSA has been doing, and no one inside or outside the Administration claims that it does. Incredibly, the Administration claims instead that the surveillance was implicitly authorized when Congress voted to use force against those who attacked us on September 11th.

This argument just does not hold any water. Without getting into the legal intricacies, it faces a number of embarrassing facts. First, another admission by the Attorney General: he concedes that the Administration knew that the NSA project was prohibited by existing law and that they consulted with some members of Congress about changing the statute. Gonzalez says that they were told this probably would not be possible. So how can they now argue that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force somehow implicitly authorized it all along? Second, when the Authorization was being debated, the Administration did in fact seek to have language inserted in it that would have authorized them to use military force domestically - and the Congress did not agree. Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Jim McGovern, among others, made statements during the Authorization debate clearly restating that that Authorization did not operate domestically.

When President Bush failed to convince Congress to give him all the power he wanted when they passed the AUMF, he secretly assumed that power anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother. But as Justice Frankfurter once wrote: "To find authority so explicitly withheld is not merely to disregard in a particular instance the clear will of Congress. It is to disrespect the whole legislative process and the constitutional division of authority between President and Congress."

This is precisely the "disrespect" for the law that the Supreme Court struck down in the steel seizure case.

It is this same disrespect for America's Constitution which has now brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in the fabric of the Constitution. And the disrespect embodied in these apparent mass violations of the law is part of a larger pattern of seeming indifference to the Constitution that is deeply troubling to millions of Americans in both political parties.

For example, the President has also declared that he has a heretofore unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation, and that, notwithstanding his American citizenship, the person imprisoned has no right to talk with a lawyer-even to argue that the President or his appointees have made a mistake and imprisoned the wrong person.

The President claims that he can imprison American citizens indefinitely for the rest of their lives without an arrest warrant, without notifying them about what charges have been filed against them, and without informing their families that they have been imprisoned.

At the same time, the Executive Branch has claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture in a pattern that has now been documented in U.S. facilities located in several countries around the world.

Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by Executive Branch interrogators and many more have been broken and humiliated. In the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, investigators who documented the pattern of torture estimated that more than 90 percent of the victims were innocent of any charges.

This shameful exercise of power overturns a set of principles that our nation has observed since General Washington first enunciated them during our Revolutionary War and has been observed by every president since then - until now. These practices violate the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, not to mention our own laws against torture.

The President has also claimed that he has the authority to kidnap individuals in foreign countries and deliver them for imprisonment and interrogation on our behalf by autocratic regimes in nations that are infamous for the cruelty of their techniques for torture.

Some of our traditional allies have been shocked by these new practices on the part of our nation. The British Ambassador to Uzbekistan - one of those nations with the worst reputations for torture in its prisons - registered a complaint to his home office about the senselessness and cruelty of the new U.S. practice: "This material is useless - we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful."

Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is "yes" then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited? If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?

The Dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said after analyzing the Executive Branch's claims of these previously unrecognized powers: "If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution."

The fact that our normal safeguards have thus far failed to contain this unprecedented expansion of executive power is deeply troubling. This failure is due in part to the fact that the Executive Branch has followed a determined strategy of obfuscating, delaying, withholding information, appearing to yield but then refusing to do so and dissembling in order to frustrate the efforts of the legislative and judicial branches to restore our constitutional balance.

For example, after appearing to support legislation sponsored by John McCain to stop the continuation of torture, the President declared in the act of signing the bill that he reserved the right not to comply with it.

Similarly, the Executive Branch claimed that it could unilaterally imprison American citizens without giving them access to review by any tribunal. The Supreme Court disagreed, but the President engaged in legal maneuvers designed to prevent the Court from providing meaningful content to the rights of its citizens.

A conservative jurist on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that the Executive Branch's handling of one such case seemed to involve the sudden abandonment of principle "at substantial cost to the government's credibility before the courts."

As a result of its unprecedented claim of new unilateral power, the Executive Branch has now put our constitutional design at grave risk. The stakes for America's representative democracy are far higher than has been generally recognized.

These claims must be rejected and a healthy balance of power restored to our Republic. Otherwise, the fundamental nature of our democracy may well undergo a radical transformation.

For more than two centuries, America's freedoms have been preserved in part by our founders' wise decision to separate the aggregate power of our government into three co-equal branches, each of which serves to check and balance the power of the other two.

On more than a few occasions, the dynamic interaction among all three branches has resulted in collisions and temporary impasses that create what are invariably labeled "constitutional crises." These crises have often been dangerous and uncertain times for our Republic. But in each such case so far, we have found a resolution of the crisis by renewing our common agreement to live under the rule of law.

The principle alternative to democracy throughout history has been the consolidation of virtually all state power in the hands of a single strongman or small group who together exercise that power without the informed consent of the governed.

It was in revolt against just such a regime, after all, that America was founded. When Lincoln declared at the time of our greatest crisis that the ultimate question being decided in the Civil War was "whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure," he was not only saving our union but also was recognizing the fact that democracies are rare in history. And when they fail, as did Athens and the Roman Republic upon whose designs our founders drew heavily, what emerges in their place is another strongman regime.

There have of course been other periods of American history when the Executive Branch claimed new powers that were later seen as excessive and mistaken. Our second president, John Adams, passed the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts and sought to silence and imprison critics and political opponents.

When his successor, Thomas Jefferson, eliminated the abuses he said: "[The essential principles of our Government] form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation... [S]hould we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety."

Our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. Some of the worst abuses prior to those of the current administration were committed by President Wilson during and after WWI with the notorious Red Scare and Palmer Raids. The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII marked a low point for the respect of individual rights at the hands of the executive. And, during the Vietnam War, the notorious COINTELPRO program was part and parcel of the abuses experienced by Dr. King and thousands of others.

But in each of these cases, when the conflict and turmoil subsided, the country recovered its equilibrium and absorbed the lessons learned in a recurring cycle of excess and regret.

There are reasons for concern this time around that conditions may be changing and that the cycle may not repeat itself. For one thing, we have for decades been witnessing the slow and steady accumulation of presidential power. In a global environment of nuclear weapons and cold war tensions, Congress and the American people accepted ever enlarging spheres of presidential initiative to conduct intelligence and counter intelligence activities and to allocate our military forces on the global stage. When military force has been used as an instrument of foreign policy or in response to humanitarian demands, it has almost always been as the result of presidential initiative and leadership. As Justice Frankfurter wrote in the Steel Seizure Case, "The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day. It does come, however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the restrictions that fence in even the most disinterested assertion of authority."

A second reason to believe we may be experiencing something new is that we are told by the Administration that the war footing upon which he has tried to place the country is going to "last for the rest of our lives." So we are told that the conditions of national threat that have been used by other Presidents to justify arrogations of power will persist in near perpetuity.

Third, we need to be aware of the advances in eavesdropping and surveillance technologies with their capacity to sweep up and analyze enormous quantities of information and to mine it for intelligence. This adds significant vulnerability to the privacy and freedom of enormous numbers of innocent people at the same time as the potential power of those technologies. These techologies have the potential for shifting the balance of power between the apparatus of the state and the freedom of the individual in ways both subtle and profound.

Don't misunderstand me: the threat of additional terror strikes is all too real and their concerted efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction does create a real imperative to exercise the powers of the Executive Branch with swiftness and agility. Moreover, there is in fact an inherent power that is conferred by the Constitution to the President to take unilateral action to protect the nation from a sudden and immediate threat, but it is simply not possible to precisely define in legalistic terms exactly when that power is appropriate and when it is not.

But the existence of that inherent power cannot be used to justify a gross and excessive power grab lasting for years that produces a serious imbalance in the relationship between the executive and the other two branches of government.

There is a final reason to worry that we may be experiencing something more than just another cycle of overreach and regret. This Administration has come to power in the thrall of a legal theory that aims to convince us that this excessive concentration of presidential authority is exactly what our Constitution intended.

This legal theory, which its proponents call the theory of the unitary executive but which is more accurately described as the unilateral executive, threatens to expand the president's powers until the contours of the constitution that the Framers actually gave us become obliterated beyond all recognition. Under this theory, the President's authority when acting as Commander-in-Chief or when making foreign policy cannot be reviewed by the judiciary or checked by Congress. President Bush has pushed the implications of this idea to its maximum by continually stressing his role as Commander-in-Chief, invoking it has frequently as he can, conflating it with his other roles, domestic and foreign. When added to the idea that we have entered a perpetual state of war, the implications of this theory stretch quite literally as far into the future as we can imagine.

This effort to rework America's carefully balanced constitutional design into a lopsided structure dominated by an all powerful Executive Branch with a subservient Congress and judiciary is-ironically-accompanied by an effort by the same administration to rework America's foreign policy from one that is based primarily on U.S. moral authority into one that is based on a misguided and self-defeating effort to establish dominance in the world.

The common denominator seems to be based on an instinct to intimidate and control.

This same pattern has characterized the effort to silence dissenting views within the Executive Branch, to censor information that may be inconsistent with its stated ideological goals, and to demand conformity from all Executive Branch employees.

For example, CIA analysts who strongly disagreed with the White House assertion that Osama bin Laden was linked to Saddam Hussein found themselves under pressure at work and became fearful of losing promotions and salary increases.

Ironically, that is exactly what happened to FBI officials in the 1960s who disagreed with J. Edgar Hoover's view that Dr. King was closely connected to Communists. The head of the FBI's domestic intelligence division said that his effort to tell the truth about King's innocence of the charge resulted in he and his colleagues becoming isolated and pressured. "It was evident that we had to change our ways or we would all be out on the street.... The men and I discussed how to get out of trouble. To be in trouble with Mr. Hoover was a serious matter. These men were trying to buy homes, mortgages on homes, children in school. They lived in fear of getting transferred, losing money on their homes, as they usually did. ... so they wanted another memorandum written to get us out of the trouble that we were in."

The Constitution's framers understood this dilemma as well, as Alexander Hamilton put it, "a power over a man's support is a power over his will." (Federalist No. 73)

Soon, there was no more difference of opinion within the FBI. The false accusation became the unanimous view. In exactly the same way, George Tenet's CIA eventually joined in endorsing a manifestly false view that there was a linkage between al Qaeda and the government of Iraq.

In the words of George Orwell: "We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."

Whenever power is unchecked and unaccountable it almost inevitably leads to mistakes and abuses. In the absence of rigorous accountability, incompetence flourishes. Dishonesty is encouraged and rewarded.

Last week, for example, Vice President Cheney attempted to defend the Administration's eavesdropping on American citizens by saying that if it had conducted this program prior to 9/11, they would have found out the names of some of the hijackers.

Tragically, he apparently still doesn't know that the Administration did in fact have the names of at least 2 of the hijackers well before 9/11 and had available to them information that could have easily led to the identification of most of the other hijackers. And yet, because of incompetence in the handling of this information, it was never used to protect the American people.

It is often the case that an Executive Branch beguiled by the pursuit of unchecked power responds to its own mistakes by reflexively proposing that it be given still more power. Often, the request itself it used to mask accountability for mistakes in the use of power it already has.

Moreover, if the pattern of practice begun by this Administration is not challenged, it may well become a permanent part of the American system. Many conservatives have pointed out that granting unchecked power to this President means that the next President will have unchecked power as well. And the next President may be someone whose values and belief you do not trust. And this is why Republicans as well as Democrats should be concerned with what this President has done. If this President's attempt to dramatically expand executive power goes unquestioned, our constitutional design of checks and balances will be lost. And the next President or some future President will be able, in the name of national security, to restrict our liberties in a way the framers never would have thought possible.

The same instinct to expand its power and to establish dominance characterizes the relationship between this Administration and the courts and the Congress.

In a properly functioning system, the Judicial Branch would serve as the constitutional umpire to ensure that the branches of government observed their proper spheres of authority, observed civil liberties and adhered to the rule of law. Unfortunately, the unilateral executive has tried hard to thwart the ability of the judiciary to call balls and strikes by keeping controversies out of its hands - notably those challenging its ability to detain individuals without legal process -- by appointing judges who will be deferential to its exercise of power and by its support of assaults on the independence of the third branch.

The President's decision to ignore FISA was a direct assault on the power of the judges who sit on that court. Congress established the FISA court precisely to be a check on executive power to wiretap. Yet, to ensure that the court could not function as a check on executive power, the President simply did not take matters to it and did not let the court know that it was being bypassed.

The President's judicial appointments are clearly designed to ensure that the courts will not serve as an effective check on executive power. As we have all learned, Judge Alito is a longtime supporter of a powerful executive - a supporter of the so-called unitary executive, which is more properly called the unilateral executive. Whether you support his confirmation or not - and I do not - we must all agree that he will not vote as an effective check on the expansion of executive power. Likewise, Chief Justice Roberts has made plain his deference to the expansion of executive power through his support of judicial deference to executive agency rulemaking.

And the Administration has supported the assault on judicial independence that has been conducted largely in Congress. That assault includes a threat by the Republican majority in the Senate to permanently change the rules to eliminate the right of the minority to engage in extended debate of the President's judicial nominees. The assault has extended to legislative efforts to curtail the jurisdiction of courts in matters ranging from habeas corpus to the pledge of allegiance. In short, the Administration has demonstrated its contempt for the judicial role and sought to evade judicial review of its actions at every turn.

But the most serious damage has been done to the legislative branch. The sharp decline of congressional power and autonomy in recent years has been almost as shocking as the efforts by the Executive Branch to attain a massive expansion of its power.

I was elected to Congress in 1976 and served eight years in the house, 8 years in the Senate and presided over the Senate for 8 years as Vice President. As a young man, I saw the Congress first hand as the son of a Senator. My father was elected to Congress in 1938, 10 years before I was born, and left the Senate in 1971.

The Congress we have today is unrecognizable compared to the one in which my father served. There are many distinguished Senators and Congressmen serving today. I am honored that some of them are here in this hall. But the legislative branch of government under its current leadership now operates as if it is entirely subservient to the Executive Branch.

Moreover, too many Members of the House and Senate now feel compelled to spend a majority of their time not in thoughtful debate of the issues, but raising money to purchase 30 second TV commercials.

There have now been two or three generations of congressmen who don't really know what an oversight hearing is. In the 70's and 80's, the oversight hearings in which my colleagues and I participated held the feet of the Executive Branch to the fire - no matter which party was in power. Yet oversight is almost unknown in the Congress today.

The role of authorization committees has declined into insignificance. The 13 annual appropriation bills are hardly ever actually passed anymore. Everything is lumped into a single giant measure that is not even available for Members of Congress to read before they vote on it.

Members of the minority party are now routinely excluded from conference committees, and amendments are routinely not allowed during floor consideration of legislation.

In the United States Senate, which used to pride itself on being the "greatest deliberative body in the world," meaningful debate is now a rarity. Even on the eve of the fateful vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq, Senator Robert Byrd famously asked: "Why is this chamber empty?"

In the House of Representatives, the number who face a genuinely competitive election contest every two years is typically less than a dozen out of 435.

And too many incumbents have come to believe that the key to continued access to the money for re-election is to stay on the good side of those who have the money to give; and, in the case of the majority party, the whole process is largely controlled by the incumbent president and his political organization.

So the willingness of Congress to challenge the Administration is further limited when the same party controls both Congress and the Executive Branch.

The Executive Branch, time and again, has co-opted Congress' role, and often Congress has been a willing accomplice in the surrender of its own power.

Look for example at the Congressional role in "overseeing" this massive four year eavesdropping campaign that on its face seemed so clearly to violate the Bill of Rights. The President says he informed Congress, but what he really means is that he talked with the chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate intelligence committees and the top leaders of the House and Senate. This small group, in turn, claimed that they were not given the full facts, though at least one of the intelligence committee leaders handwrote a letter of concern to VP Cheney and placed a copy in his own safe.

Though I sympathize with the awkward position in which these men and women were placed, I cannot disagree with the Liberty Coalition when it says that Democrats as well as Republicans in the Congress must share the blame for not taking action to protest and seek to prevent what they consider a grossly unconstitutional program.

Moreover, in the Congress as a whole-both House and Senate-the enhanced role of money in the re-election process, coupled with the sharply diminished role for reasoned deliberation and debate, has produced an atmosphere conducive to pervasive institutionalized corruption.

The Abramoff scandal is but the tip of a giant iceberg that threatens the integrity of the entire legislative branch of government.

It is the pitiful state of our legislative branch which primarily explains the failure of our vaunted checks and balances to prevent the dangerous overreach by our Executive Branch which now threatens a radical transformation of the American system.

I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of government you're supposed to be.

But there is yet another Constitutional player whose pulse must be taken and whose role must be examined in order to understand the dangerous imbalance that has emerged with the efforts by the Executive Branch to dominate our constitutional system.

We the people are-collectively-still the key to the survival of America's democracy. We-as Lincoln put it, "[e]ven we here"-must examine our own role as citizens in allowing and not preventing the shocking decay and degradation of our democracy.

Thomas Jefferson said: "An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will."

The revolutionary departure on which the idea of America was based was the audacious belief that people can govern themselves and responsibly exercise the ultimate authority in self-government. This insight proceeded inevitably from the bedrock principle articulated by the Enlightenment philosopher John Locke: "All just power is derived from the consent of the governed."

The intricate and carefully balanced constitutional system that is now in such danger was created with the full and widespread participation of the population as a whole. The Federalist Papers were, back in the day, widely-read newspaper essays, and they represented only one of twenty-four series of essays that crowded the vibrant marketplace of ideas in which farmers and shopkeepers recapitulated the debates that played out so fruitfully in Philadelphia.

Indeed, when the Convention had done its best, it was the people - in their various States - that refused to confirm the result until, at their insistence, the Bill of Rights was made integral to the document sent forward for ratification.

And it is "We the people" who must now find once again the ability we once had to play an integral role in saving our Constitution.

And here there is cause for both concern and great hope. The age of printed pamphlets and political essays has long since been replaced by television - a distracting and absorbing medium which sees determined to entertain and sell more than it informs and educates.

Lincoln's memorable call during the Civil War is applicable in a new way to our dilemma today: "We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."

Forty years have passed since the majority of Americans adopted television as their principal source of information. Its dominance has become so extensive that virtually all significant political communication now takes place within the confines of flickering 30-second television advertisements.

And the political economy supported by these short but expensive television ads is as different from the vibrant politics of America's first century as those politics were different from the feudalism which thrived on the ignorance of the masses of people in the Dark Ages.

The constricted role of ideas in the American political system today has encouraged efforts by the Executive Branch to control the flow of information as a means of controlling the outcome of important decisions that still lie in the hands of the people.

The Administration vigorously asserts its power to maintain the secrecy of its operations. After all, the other branches can't check an abuse of power if they don't know it is happening.

For example, when the Administration was attempting to persuade Congress to enact the Medicare prescription drug benefit, many in the House and Senate raised concerns about the cost and design of the program. But, rather than engaging in open debate on the basis of factual data, the Administration withheld facts and prevented the Congress from hearing testimony that it sought from the principal administration expert who had compiled information showing in advance of the vote that indeed the true cost estimates were far higher than the numbers given to Congress by the President.

Deprived of that information, and believing the false numbers given to it instead, the Congress approved the program. Tragically, the entire initiative is now collapsing- all over the country- with the Administration making an appeal just this weekend to major insurance companies to volunteer to bail it out.

To take another example, scientific warnings about the catastrophic consequences of unchecked global warming were censored by a political appointee in the White House who had no scientific training. And today one of the leading scientific experts on global warming in NASA has been ordered not to talk to members of the press and to keep a careful log of everyone he meets with so that the Executive Branch can monitor and control his discussions of global warming.

One of the other ways the Administration has tried to control the flow of information is by consistently resorting to the language and politics of fear in order to short-circuit the debate and drive its agenda forward without regard to the evidence or the public interest. As President Eisenhower said, "Any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America."

Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: "Men feared witches and burnt women."

The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.

Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.

We have a duty as Americans to defend our citizens' right not only to life but also to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is therefore vital in our current circumstances that immediate steps be taken to safeguard our Constitution against the present danger posed by the intrusive overreaching on the part of the Executive Branch and the President's apparent belief that he need not live under the rule of law.

I endorse the words of Bob Barr, when he said, "The President has dared the American people to do something about it. For the sake of the Constitution, I hope they will."

A special counsel should immediately be appointed by the Attorney General to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the President. We have had a fresh demonstration of how an independent investigation by a special counsel with integrity can rebuild confidence in our system of justice. Patrick Fitzgerald has, by all accounts, shown neither fear nor favor in pursuing allegations that the Executive Branch has violated other laws.

Republican as well as Democratic members of Congress should support the bipartisan call of the Liberty Coalition for the appointment of a special counsel to pursue the criminal issues raised by warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the President.

Second, new whistleblower protections should immediately be established for members of the Executive Branch who report evidence of wrongdoing -- especially where it involves the abuse of Executive Branch authority in the sensitive areas of national security.

Third, both Houses of Congress should hold comprehensive-and not just superficial-hearings into these serious allegations of criminal behavior on the part of the President. And, they should follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Fourth, the extensive new powers requested by the Executive Branch in its proposal to extend and enlarge the Patriot Act should, under no circumstances be granted, unless and until there are adequate and enforceable safeguards to protect the Constitution and the rights of the American people against the kinds of abuses that have so recently been revealed.

Fifth, any telecommunications company that has provided the government with access to private information concerning the communications of Americans without a proper warrant should immediately cease and desist their complicity in this apparently illegal invasion of the privacy of American citizens.

Freedom of communication is an essential prerequisite for the restoration of the health of our democracy.

It is particularly important that the freedom of the Internet be protected against either the encroachment of government or the efforts at control by large media conglomerates. The future of our democracy depends on it.

I mentioned that along with cause for concern, there is reason for hope. As I stand here today, I am filled with optimism that America is on the eve of a golden age in which the vitality of our democracy will be re-established and will flourish more vibrantly than ever. Indeed I can feel it in this hall.

As Dr. King once said, "Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us."

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