Topic: General News.
First of all today, I'd like to thank the San Diego Chargers for their part in helping this year's Miami Dolphins to get to a .500 record at 7-7 and more especially for ensuring that the 1972 Dolphins perfect record of 17-0 remains unequaled. Last Sunday they beat the seemingly unstoppable Indianapolis Colts in their own home stadium by a score of 26 to 17. The Chargers embarrassed the Colts in front of their home crowd and the looks on the Colts fan's faces was just priceless! The Dolts has been regularly and effortlessly running over the opposition for the past 13 weeks but they came crashing back to earth on Sunday.
You would have thought Manning & Co. had just lost the Super Bowl by the way their faNS were pouting as the realization of the impending loss sunk in. This just goes to show how unused to experiencing meaningful games these fans really are. Dolphin’s fans, on the other hand, having had to only endure three losing seasons in over 35 years and five Super Bowl appearances are more able to put these types of losses into perspective. I would say to all you sour winner Colts fans out there: just grow up; you're 13-1, get over it!
The senate endangers America!!!!
As I write, the Senate is wrangling over some very important legislation. The reauthorization of the Patriot Act, due to expire on the 31st, is being help up because of Republican and White House arrogance. This time around, a simple appearance by Darth Cheney with his obligatory warning of impending doom isn't moving even some GOP senators to pass this bill without some serious consideration for civil liberties. The fact that we've now found out that the NSA is spying on citizens without a warrant from a court and the FBI is spying on anti-war groups and organizations like Green Peace and PETA isn't making for a charitable feeling on Capital Hill this Christmas season. Not that they care about Green Peace or PETA, it's just that they've finally woken up to the reality that the executive branch has slipped away with the bat, the ball, and home plate right under their noses and they're not happy about it.
The GOP rebels (John Sununu, Larry Craig, Lisa Murkowski and Chuck Hagel.) and the Democrats led by Russ Feingold are willing to extend the bill for three months while they make sure what's been plopped down in front of them at the last minute is gone over. John Sununu says, "There are specific aspects of the law we didn't have time to consider in depth between September 11th and the passage of the Patriot Act. We've taken a look at these areas in a more deliberative way."
That seems pretty reasonable, considering no one actually read the whole thing before they voted it for it four years ago, but that's not good enough for Caesar; "The senators who are filibustering the Patriot Act must stop their delaying tactics, and the Senate must reauthorize the Patriot Act." 'Yours is not to questions why but to do or die!' This edict from on high, however, isn't getting the reception it normally gets; legislators scurrying to obey the most exalted leader and vote the right way. Hopefully, they will stick to their guns and give W. another stinging defeat in the name of democracy and freedom.
Ted Stevens is an SOB:
The $453 billion defense spending bill (Includes McCain’s anti-torture provision.), which provides funding for our fighting men and women in Iraq, is has been stalled because of one jackass Alaskan Senator. Ted Stevens tacked on to the defense bill a provision for drilling in ANWR, the Artic Nation Wildlife Refuge, because he says, "Our national defense cannot operate without the basic potential of our own production of oil." [WaPo] To me, that would signal our desperate need to develop other forms of energy, because it's not like a few supposed billion barrels of oil from Alaska is going to make that much a difference, but what do I know? Obviously, the financial needs of the state of Alaska trump the rest of the country.
Stevens says also, that if the Senate doesn't pass this bill other non-defense related programs in it would suffer, too. Just to make sure he got this bill passed for his masters at Exxon/Mobil he added in a provision, to make it more palatable for those who were against it, that says, "royalty revenue from drilling would go to fund low-income heating assistance and relief to the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast." [WaPo] Stevens warns that, "The real possibility is that unless we pass this bill, a lot of people are not going to receive they assistance they should receive."
That's rich, he and his jackal colleagues slash education, health care, Medicare, Medicaid, student loans and heating oil assistance in another "cost saving" budget bill* (Passed only by Cheney's tie breaking vote.) and then say 'if you don't pass this the poor will suffer.' Or, we could just not give $50 billion in tax cuts to the rich, which will nullify all the $40 billion in "savings" taken away from the poor anyway, and we won't need to ruin a pristine wildlife refuge for a miniscule amount of oil.
[*Note: There is a possibility, as I write, that Congress might have to vote on the budget bill again, probably in late January or early February, because Democrats have successfully changed some of the language in the bill. This might cause problems for a bill that passed by only six votes in the House and one vote cast by Cheney in the Senate, when, as expected, the Republicans plan on pushing through a bill to give $50 billion in tax cuts to the rich. Both bills back to back look real bad together which is why they tried to ram the 'stealing form the poor' bill in the dead of night almost two months before the vote on 'relief for the rich' bill comes up.]
What shameless kowtowing to the oil industry! The WaPo writes that the American Petroleum Institute's president, Red Cavaney, actually had to gall to urge lawmakers to pass the bill. (Isn't that a bit of overkill on their parts, I mean really, how unseemly?) He said the 5 to 16 billion barrels of oil in ANWR could ease the current oil crunch, but even he had to admit, "ANWR will not provide the United States with all its domestic needs." By the way, didn't they say back in the 70's that the pipeline in Alaska would help out of our oil problems, too? Maybe, if they didn't send all that oil to Japan we could get by on that without having to drill in a national park! Besides, who is to say they won't decide they could make more money sending that very valuable ANWR oil to China instead?
[Note: the senate just voted against ending the filibuster against the ANWR portion of the defense bill. Now it's up to Frist to decide whether to keep fighting over it or just pass the bill as it is. If he decides to let it be, the House will have to come back to vote on the new language.]
Bill Frist, friend of PHARMA, does the bidding of his masters:
Another special interest provision inserted into the bill was put there by Bill Frist to help out his buddies in the drug industry. Described by him as a "Targeted liability protection" for vaccines, the law would allow pharmaceutical companies to get off scott-free from law suits if their product kills or maims people. In cases only of "willful misconduct," which doesn't include negligence or recklessness, would they be liable, which means basically not at all.
The NYT says, "The provision would provide immunity from lawsuits to any company that made 'countermeasures' --- broadly defined as drugs, vaccines or medical devices---to protect Americans against pandemics, epidemics or biological attacks. It would give the secretary of health and human services authority to determine what constituted a pandemic of an epidemic." (You think vioxx might be need to prevent an epidemic of heart disease?)
Apparently, the Republicans gave an assurance, in writing, to Democrats who opposed this PHARMA get-of-jail-free card, that they won't put it in the bill, but went ahead and did it any way. GOP promises even in writing are kind of like those assurances we get from Egypt and Jordan that they won't torture prisoners we render to them; not worth the paper their written on!
The Foundation for Tax Payer and Consumer Rights, by the way, says that Frist and 41 other senators own as much as $16 million in pharmaceutical stock, which obviously presents not even a whiff of an ethical dilemma. My God, these pirates in business suits are robbing us blind and meanwhile everybody is merrily going along doing their civic duty to keep the economy humming by shopping. Unbelievable!
To say unchecked power basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the president, which I strongly reject - W. Dec. 19 2005
The WaPo reports today that a FISA court judge, James Robinson, has resigned in protest over the president's stealth spying policy. It seems that there is a concern by him and the other FISA judges that the evidence which the administration provided to the court in cases where they actually bothered to get a warrant might have been illegally obtained. Lead judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said she had been told of the program but was bared from telling her colleagues on the court.
Something tells me that the more facts of this story come out the uglier its going to get. I mean, they might not have only been lying to congress but to the courts as well! It's really amazing that a judge on the already secret court wasn't allowed to tell the other judges what was going on.
That's just shocking! Senator John Rockefeller was one of the fourteen whole members of Congress that were informed of the spying program by Cheney, Tenet and NSA Director Michael Hayden,” a dozen times," but he was forced to write a letter to Cheney about his concerns about the program in his own hand because he was afraid to give it to someone else to type.
He wrote to Cheney that he would keep a copy of the letter in his safe in case Cheney tried to challenge his version of what was talked about in the future. He wrote," Without more information and the ability to draw any independent legal or technical expertise, I simply cannot satisfy lingering concerns raised by the briefing we received." There's no word if Cheney ever got back to him on his concerns.
As he expected W. & CO are trying to say Congress was in the whole thing. Peter Baker's question about how permanent the president's "expansion of the unchecked power of the executive..." would be, W. said, "There is oversight. We're talking to Congress all the time. I'm telling you we briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times." (Twelve times=all the time.) In actuality, the only other congress members at the meeting with Rockefeller for the briefing was, Sen. Pat Roberts, Rep. Porter Goss (Now the CIA chief), and Rep. Jane Harman. The WaPo writes that, "Rockefeller was frustrated by the 'characterization that congress was on board on this,' said one official who is close to him...'Four congressmen, at least one of whom was raising serious concerns, does not constitute being on board.'" [WaPo]
Extralegal equals constitutional according to Bill Kristol:
In an Op-Ed in the WaPo today, William Kristol and Gary Schmitt write that it's "foolish and irresponsible" to "engage in demagogic rhetoric about 'imperial' and 'monarchic' pretensions, with no evidence that the president has abused his discretion."
No, indeed, locking Americans up without recourse to even the most basic civil protections of Habeas Corpus enshrined in the Magna Charta,running secret prisons around the world without any oversight by the International Red Cross, kidnapping people off the streets of Europe, spying on Americans without warrants, all this evidence of the president's prerogatives are a "gray area" in constitutional law and the founders, "intended the executive to have---believed the needed to have---some powers in the national security area that were extralegal but constitutional."
The question is how something is extralegal while at the same time is constitutional. "Extralegal" does mean "outside the law," doesn't it? They might want to run this little theory by a few lawyers or read a little Ben Franklin before they use that defense again.