Thursday, December 22, 2005

Other Items

Do you ever think Scott Shane judges a good work day at the New York Times based on whether or not someone screams out, "Shane! Clean up on aisle six! Grab the mop!"? This morning, in the New York Times, Shane's again got the bucket and mop to clean up after Eric Licthblau and James Risen's article yesterday with "News of Surveillance Is Awkward for Agency." There's a lot in the article worth noting but we'll go historical with our excerpt:

For anyone familiar with the agency's history, the revelations recalled the mid-1970's, when the Senate's Church Committee and the Rockefeller Commission exposed the agency's abuse of Americans' privacy.
Under one program, called Shamrock, the agency and its predecessors for decades collected copies of all international telegrams leaving or entering the United States from the major telegraph companies. Another, code-named Minaret, kept watch lists of Americans who caught the government's interest because of activism against the Vietnam War or other political stances. Information was kept on about 75,000 Americans from 1952, when agency was created, to 1974, according to testimony.
In reaction to the abuses, Congress in 1978 passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which banned eavesdropping on Americans unless there was reason to believe they were agents of a foreign country or an international terrorist group. In such cases, N.S.A. - or the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which usually takes the lead in domestic wiretaps - had to present its evidence to a judge from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which then issued a warrant.
Loch K. Johnson, an intelligence historian now teaching at Yale who served on the Church Committee staff, said the 1978 reforms were the result of lengthy bipartisan negotiations. "To pick up the paper and see that all of the carefully crafted language, across party lines, to put together FISA, has been dismissed by secret executive order is very disheartening," Mr. Johnson said.
Mr. Johnson said he saw a link between the intelligence excesses of the 1970's and the N.S.A. program: fear. "Then the fear was of communism," he said. "Now it's terrorism."

(As noted on Tuesday, many consider the Rockefeller Committee, which predated the Church Committee, a white wash. It's strange that the Times doesn't bring up the Pike Committee.)

Scott Shane, the best little stocker/bagger the Times has. If he pushes your buggy to your car and puts your groceries in your trunk, be sure to tip and, as you do, wonder what he could do if he were at a paper really concerned with breaking news? He doesn't have time to wonder, he's off grabbing a break and dreading the next call over the intercom of, "Shane, clean up! Aisle six!" Maybe that explains why he's always so cranky about entertainment portrayals? (Today, it's Enemy of the State which film critic Shane feels "distorted the agency's purpose and capabilities.")

Kara e-mails to note Neil A. Lewis' "Court Refuses U.S. Bid to Shift Terror Suspect" in this morning's New York Times on Jose Padilla's status:

In denying the administration's request, the three-judge panel unanimously issued a strongly worded opinion that said the Justice Department's effort to transfer Mr. Padilla gave the appearance that the government was trying to manipulate the court system to prevent the Supreme Court from reviewing the case. The judges warned that the administration's behavior in the Padilla case could jeopardize its credibility before the courts in other terrorism cases.
What made the action by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., so startling, lawyers and others said, was that it came from a panel of judges who in September had provided the administration with a sweeping court victory, saying President Bush had the authority to detain Mr. Padilla, an American citizen, indefinitely without trial as an enemy combatant.
But the judges were clearly angered when the administration suddenly shifted course on Nov. 22, saying it no longer needed that authority because it now wanted to try Mr. Padilla in a civilian court. The move came just days before the government was to file legal papers in Mr. Padilla's appeal to the Supreme Court. The government said that as a result of the shift, the court no longer needed to take up the case. Many legal analysts speculated at the time that the administration's sudden change in approach was an effort to avoid Supreme Court review of the Fourth Circuit ruling.

Carl Hulse tells you about the defeat in the Senate of efforts to open the Artic to oil drilling (four Democrats were in favor of the proposal); Sheryl Gay Stolberg tells you how the Senate voted to extend the Patriot Act for six months (still needs House approval -- vote will take place today).
Stephen Labton tells you how "Senate Passes Bill to Convert to Digital TV." (Bill now goes to the house.) From Labton's article:

The legislation was sharply criticized by consumer groups, which have said that the program to provide coupons to millions of households will not be sufficient and that many viewers will be surprised when they find that their television sets no longer work.
"The consumer compensation program established in this program is unworkable, unfair and unacceptable to consumers," said Jeannine Kenney, senior policy analyst at Consumers Union. "It provides only a fraction of the funds needed to compensate consumers for the costs of a digital transition they never asked for. And by requiring consumers to jump through restrictive hoops to request vouchers, those who most need compensation will be the least likely to receive it."

Hulse and Stolberg are more concerned with the wheeling and dealing than the actual bills, so no excerpt from their articles. (Though I'm sure many senators are pleased with the coverage.)

Russell e-mails to note Molly Ivin's "So 9/11 Means it's OK to Spy on Americans?" (Boulder Daily Camera via Common Dreams):

Uh-oh. Excuse me. I'm so sorry, but we are having a constitutional crisis. I know the timing couldn't be worse. Right in the middle of the wrapping paper, the gingerbread and the whole shebang, a tiny honest-to-goodness constitutional crisis.
Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country: Damn the inconvenience, full speed ahead. On his own, without consulting the Congress, the courts or the people, the president decided to use secret branches of government to spy on the American people. He is, of course, using 9/11 to justify his actions in this, as he does for everything else -- 9/11 happened so the Constitution does not apply, 9/11 happened so there is no separation of powers, 9/11 happened so 200 years of experience curbing the executive power of government is something we can now overlook.
That the president of the United States unconstitutionally usurped power is not in dispute. He and his attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, both claim he has the right to do so on account of he is the president.
Let's try this again. The president is not above the law. I wish I thought I were being too pompous about this, but the greatest danger to our freedom always comes when we are scared or distracted -- and right now, we are both.

Keesha e-mails to note "a powerful editorial," "Bush's High Crimes" (The Nation):

Choosing his words carefully, George W. Bush all but accused critics of his extralegal warrantless wiretaps of giving aid and comfort to Al Qaeda: "It was a shameful act, for someone to disclose this very important program in time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy." If so, the ranks of the treasonous now include leaders of the President's own party, and the New York Times's revelations of illegal wiretaps foretell an earthquake. Senator Lindsey Graham, last seen carrying gallons of water for the White House on the status of Guantánamo prisoners, will have nothing of Bush's end run around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: "Even in a time of war, you have to follow the process," he said flatly. An infuriated Arlen Specter, Senate Judiciary chairman, whose good will the White House depends on in the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation of Samuel Alito, declared the President's domestic spying "inexcusable...clearly and categorically wrong" and plans hearings.
For the generations who came of age after the mid-1970s, it is worth recalling why warrantless domestic surveillance so shocks the political system. It needs to be repeated that the same arguments cited by Bush--inherent presidential power and national security--sustained the wiretapping of Martin Luther King Jr., unleashed illegal CIA domestic spying and generated FBI files on thousands of American dissidents. It needs to be repeated that in 1974, the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon included abuse of presidential power based on warrantless wiretaps and illegal surveillance. It needs to be repeated that a few months later, presidential aides named Cheney and Rumsfeld labored mightily to secure President Ford's veto of the Freedom of Information Act, in an unsuccessful attempt to turn back post-Watergate restrictions on homegrown spying and government secrecy.
Most of all it needs to be repeated that no constitutional clause gives the President "because I said so" authority. The fact that former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo tried to concoct a laughable fig leaf out of Congress's 9/11 use-of-force resolution in no way diminishes the President's culpability. Nor does the evident collusion of a handful of Senate leaders, including minority leader Harry Reid, who was evidently informed at least partly about the spying program.

Trevor wants to note Mike's sardonic take on recent news of spying in "Bully Boy keeps on spying and lying" (Mikey Likes It!):

Documents Show FBI Agents Tracked PETA For Years
According to the Washington Post, the documents offer no proof of PETA's involvement in illegal activity. But more than 100 pages of heavily censored FBI files show the agency used secret informants and tracked the group's events for years. The FBI also monitored political activities on college campuses. One FBI file included a contact list for students and peace activists who attended a 2002 conference at Stanford University aimed at ending sanctions then in place in Iraq.
Better spy on PETA because Pamela Anderson's gone after KFC! "They are crammed by the tens of thousands into pens. . . . They routinely suffer broken bones from being bred to be top heavy. . . . KFC refuses to do even the bare minimum . . . " It's like a communique from the Weather Underground! (Thanks to Jess for help with that.) We must stop Striparella! We must put the mastermind of V.I.P. beyond bars! If we don't, the terrorists have won!After many hours carefully studying the Pamela Anderson Lee & Tommy Lee tape, J-Ass has detected many things that raised his interest. He passed the tape onto Alberto Gonzales for further study. Gonzales is said to be aroused and passionate by the contents of the tape.Who will save us from Pamela Anderson? Only the Bully Boy!

(And to anyone who feels Maureen Dowd covered similar terrain in Wednesday's paper, Mike posted the above Tuesday evening. Apparently both had KFC on the brain.)

Rebecca and I both enjoyed Mike's (and Jess') take. Tori enjoyed Rebecca's comments on the Times editorial against the transit workers yesterday:

how embarrassing for the new york times. trashing the labor movement for, among other things, being concerned about their pensions. who's in prison for destroying worker's pensions?not for running off with the money but to funneling into bad investments (sometimes intentionally)? i'm not thinking of any name.
i'm sure there's some 1 but they aren't a poster boy. (or girl.) the new york times never looked more out of touch on workers than it did today with that hideous editorial. (no link, i don't want to give it traffic.)
here's something else the editorial didn't grasp. if you keep benefits or percentages withheld from a check for the workers in place but change the rules for new 1s, you change the also set one group of workers against each other. which is the intent, to weaken the union. and the new york times never cares about a worker, they've made that clear for years.

Tomorrow morning, we have an album review by Kat that begins three days in a row of contributions from Kat. (For those who scoff, Kat's got the first two finished already.) Tomorrow's review takes a look back at an older album (selected by Eli) and then? You'll have to wait and see. (We will have our usual morning coverage of the Times. Kat's contributions are additions -- and always appreciated.)

Don't forget that Rod gave us the heads up to scheduled topics for today's Democracy Now!:

The Executive Director of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities on the federal budget cuts. Extraordinary Rendition with the editor of Agence-France Presse. And a transit worker joins us to discuss the strike.

So listen, watch or read Democracy Now! today.

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