Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Gary Hart: Rushing Towards a Constitutional Crisis

The Huffington Post

by Gary Hart

The trouble with the course of action President Bush has taken is that it directly contradicts both the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution. The Founding Fathers, who always come to mind when the Constitution is in danger, anticipated the possibility of power grabs. Writing in the Federalist Papers, James Madison defined tyranny as the concentration of powers in one branch of the government, going on to point out that "the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department consists in giving to those who administer each department, the necessary constitutional means, and personal motives, to resist encroachments of the others."

Warming to his subject, Madison continued, "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition;" the interest of the office holders must "be connected with the constitutional rights of the place." Recognizing that he was making an appeal to interest over ideals, Madison concluded that it "may be a reflection of human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government."

"But what," he asked, "is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary; If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary."

What James Madison would have thought of a latter-day president who held himself above the law, treated Congress as a nuisance, subjected American citizens to state intrusion, and manipulated intelligence, meant to protect the people as a whole, is difficult to fathom. But it is most certainly the kind of presidency he was concerned to curb.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Jaron Lanier: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism


The collective is more likely to be smart when it isn't defining its own questions, when the goodness of an answer can be evaluated by a simple result (such as a single numeric value), and when the information system which informs the collective is filtered by a quality control mechanism that relies on individuals to a high degree. Under those circumstances, a collective can be smarter than a person. Break any one of those conditions and the collective becomes unreliable or worse.

Meanwhile, an individual best achieves optimal stupidity on those rare occasions when one is both given substantial powers and insulated from the results of his or her actions.

If the above criteria have any merit, then there is an unfortunate convergence. The setup for the most stupid collective is also the setup for the most stupid individuals.


9/1/06: Reaction to this essay.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Self Organizing: How the Internet Avoids the Babel Objection

I came across Yochai Benkler's book The Wealth of Networks a month ago and highlighted it in a post titled Self-exemplification. I called it that because the book seemed to be exemplifying its topic with a Creative Commons License, a wiki and a free PDF download.

I just started reading the book today. The section from the introduction re-printed below does a great job of giving some insight into why the internet, the blogosphere, etc. do not suffer from the Babel objection (which the uninitiated often immidiately cite as why this all can't work).

Benkler defines the the Babel objection:

According to the Babel objection, when everyone can speak, no one can be heard, and we devolve either to a cacophony or to the reemergence of money as the distinguishing factor between statements that are heard and those that wallow in obscurity.

Here is the passage:

The networked public sphere has also begun to respond to the information overload problem, but without re-creating the power of mass media at the points of filtering and accreditation. There are two core elements to these developments: First, we are beginning to see the emergence of nonmarket, peer-produced alternative sources of filtration and accreditation in place of the market-based alternatives. Relevance and accreditation are themselves information goods, just like software or an encyclopedia.

What we are seeing on the network is that filtering for both relevance and accreditation has become the object of widespread practices of mutual pointing, of peer review, of pointing to original sources of claims, and its complement, the social practice that those who have some ability to evaluate the claims in fact do comment on them.

The second element is a contingent but empirically confirmed observation of how users actually use the network. As a descriptive matter, information flow in the network is much more ordered than a simple random walk in the cacophony of information flow would suggest, and significantly less centralized than the mass media environment was.

Some sites are much more visible and widely read than others. This is true both when one looks at the Web as a whole, and when one looks at smaller clusters of similar sites or users who tend to cluster.

Most commentators who have looked at this pattern have interpreted it as a reemergence of mass media—the dominance of the few visible sites. But a full consideration of the various elements of the network topology literature supports a very different interpretation, in which order emerges in the networked environment without re-creating the failures of the mass-media-dominated public sphere.

Sites cluster around communities of interest: Australian fire brigades tend to link to other Australian fire brigades, conservative political blogs (Web logs or online journals) in the United States to other conservative political blogs in the United States, and to a lesser but still significant extent, to liberal political blogs.

In each of these clusters, the pattern of some high visibility nodes continues, but as the clusters become small enough, many more of the sites are moderately linked to each other in the cluster. Through this pattern, the network seems to be forming into an attention backbone.

“Local” clusters—communities of interest—can provide initial vetting and “peer-review-like” qualities to individual contributions made within an interest cluster. Observations that are seen as significant within a community of interest make their way to the relatively visible sites in that cluster, from where they become visible to people in larger (“regional”) clusters. This continues until an observation makes its way to the “superstar” sites that hundreds of thousands of people might read and use. This path is complemented by the practice of relatively easy commenting and posting directly to many of the superstar sites, which creates shortcuts to wide attention. [I would add that these superstar sites (and possibly others along the way) seem increasingly to be having an impact on the mass media as well.]

It is fairly simple to grasp intuitively why these patterns might emerge. Users tend to treat other people’s choices about what to link to and to read as good indicators of what is worthwhile for them. They are not slavish in this, though; they apply some judgment of their own as to whether certain types of users—say, political junkies of a particular stripe, or fans of a specific television program—are the best predictors of what will be interesting for them. The result is that attention in the networked environment is more dependent on being interesting to an engaged group of people than it is in the mass-media environment, where moderate interest to large numbers of weakly engaged viewers is preferable.

Because of the redundancy of clusters and links, and because many clusters are based on mutual interest, not on capital investment, it is more difficult to buy attention on the Internet than it is in mass media outlets, and harder still to use money to squelch an opposing view. These characteristics save the networked environment from the Babel objection without reintroducing excessive power in any single party or small cluster of them, and without causing a resurgence in the role of money as a precondition to the ability to speak publicly.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

GOP Heavy Hitters Pressuring White House to Talk With Iran

Republican Heavyweights have publicly urged the administration to leave the current path of escalation and join European allies in direct talks with Tehran

Los Angeles Times

Amid concern that the U.S. is drifting toward eventual confrontation with Iran, a growing number of influential statesmen, Republican senators and foreign policy experts are stepping up pressure on the Bush administration to consider doing what no U.S. administration has done in 27 years: talk directly with Iran.

"I think the administration is gradually and with some reluctance moving in the right direction," said a central figure in the Republican foreign policy establishment who is trying to shift the administration's stance."But I don't think they are taking initiatives now. I think they are being dragged."

The administration's stance toward Iran, refusing direct talks while allowing other nations to negotiate, has paid few dividends and could add to the unpopularity of future sanctions or military action, the foreign policy expert said. But the administration may be forced to change as a result of "pressure from Europeans, from the Russians, and the general sense that they are just on a wicket they can't sustain there," the expert said.

. . .. ... ..... ........ oOo ........ ..... ... .. . .

John McCain in 2006:

. . .. ... ..... ........ oOo ........ ..... ... .. . .

flash forward: 5.15.2008

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Andrew Sullivan on Karl Rove

The Daily Dish

The right has long sought to portray Karl Rove as a genius; and the paranoid left has been only too happy to go along. Andrew Sullivan's view is that he's always been a dreadful political strategist:
Rove has destroyed the Republicans' advantage on fiscal issues for a generation. By harnessing the GOP to religious fundamentalism, he has all but lost the center and independents; and by relying exclusively on that base, he is also alienating Hispanics on the immigration issue. His decision to ignore Iraq and go for an incoherent social security reform last year was another massive miscalculation. Yes, he can whip up hysteria against already-disliked minorities for short-term gain. But anyone with no scruples or conscience can do that. As for communicating the Bush message: Rove's tenure has been marked by some of the worst p.r. I've yet seen from a White House. So, yeah. Rove is a terrible political guru.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Worse than Watergate

An Interview with John Dean
The Progressive
Q: I'm very interested in the comparisons you make between Nixon and Bush.
Dean: Both mean learned about the Presidency from men they greatly respected: Richard Nixon from Dwight Eisenhower, George Bush from his father. When both men became President, you got the very distinct impression that they don't feel that they quite fit in the shoes of the person from whom they learned about the Presidency. Nixon would constantly be going down to Key Biscayne, San Clemente, or Camp David—he just didn't like being in the Oval Office. I saw this same thing with George Bush, who is constantly away. The other striking similarity is that both men talk in the third person about the office of the President. It's like the royal we. You look at other Presidents, like Reagan and Clinton, who clearly filled that office. You almost had to pry Clinton out at the end of his term. And Reagan, despite whatever weaknesses he had intellectually, filled the role of President and played it to the hilt. So Bush has a Nixonian distance from the White House.

And I was stunned at the secrecy of this Administration. I knew that there's no good that can come out of secrecy. So I began looking closely at Bush and finding the striking Nixonian features of this Presidency: It's almost as if we'd left an old playbook in the basement, they found it, dusted it off, and said, "This stuff looks pretty good, we ought to give it a try." As I dug in, and still had some pretty good sources within that Presidency, I found the principal mover and shaker of this Presidency is clearly Dick Cheney, who is not only reviving the Imperial Presidency but expanding it beyond Nixon's wildest dreams.

The reason I wrote a book with the title Worse than Watergate, and I was very cautious in using that title, is because there was a real difference: Nobody died as a result of the so-called abuses of power during Nixon’s Presidency. You might make the exception of, say, the secret bombing of Cambodia, but that never got into the Watergate litany per se. You look at Bush’s abuses, and Cheney’s—to me, it’s a Bush/ Cheney Presidency—and today, people are dying as a result of abuse of power. That’s much more serious.
Q: Dying in Iraq?
Dean: Dying in Iraq. God knows where they’re dying. In secret prisons. To me the fact that a Vice President can go to Capitol Hill and lobby for torture is just unbelievable. Just unbelievable! The fact that a small clique of attorneys in the Department of Justice can write how can we get around the Geneva Conventions so that we can torture during interrogations—I can’t even get there mentally. And when you read their briefs, they didn’t get there mentally.
Q: The amazing thing about your book is that it was written before Cheney went up to lobby for torture, before the NSA scandal broke, and before the Valerie Plame thing.
Dean: They just keep walking into my title and adding additional chapters.

* * *

Related Post April 4, 2006

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

t r u t h o u t || Update on the Rove Indictment Story

Sun May 21st, 2006 at 11:58:26 AM EDT

Update from
By Marc Ash

I'd like to break this posting into two categories: What we know, and what we believe. They will be clearly marked.

We know that we have now three independent sources confirming that attorneys for Karl Rove were handed an indictment either late in the night of May 12 or early in the morning of May 13. We know that each source was in a position to know what they were talking about. We know that the office of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald will not confirm, will not deny, will not comment on its investigation or on our report. We know that both Rove's attorney Robert Luskin and Rove's spokesman Mark Corallo have categorically denied all key facts we have set forth. We know we have information that directly contradicts Luskin and Corallo's denials. We know that there were two network news crews outside of the building in Washington, DC that houses the offices of Patton Boggs, the law firm that represents Karl Rove. We know that the 4th floor of that building (where the Patton Boggs offices are located) was locked down all day Friday and into Saturday night. We know that we have not received a request for a retraction from anyone. And we know that White House spokesman Tony Snow now refuses to discuss Karl Rove - at all.

Further, we know - and we want our readers to know - that we are dependent on confidential sources. We know that a report based solely on information obtained from confidential sources bears some inherent risks. We know that this is - by far - the biggest story we have ever covered, and that we are learning some things as we go along. Finally, we know that we have the support of those who have always supported us, and that must now earn the support of those who have joined us as of late.

We now move on to what we believe. (If you are looking for any guarantees, please turn back now.)

We believe that we hit a nerve with our report. When I get calls on my cell phone from Karl Rove's attorney and spokesman, I have to wonder what's up. "I" believe - but cannot confirm - that Mark Corallo, Karl Rove's spokesman gave Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post my phone number. I believe Howard Kurtz contacted me with the intention of writing a piece critical of our organization. I know that Anne Marie Squeo of the Wall Street Journal attacked us and independent journalism as a whole in her piece titled, "Rove's Camp Takes Center of Web Storm / Bloggers Underscore How Net's Reporting, Dynamics Provide Grist for the Rumor Mill." We believe that rolling out that much conservative journalistic muscle to rebut this story is telling. And we believe that Rove's camp is making a concerted effort to discredit our story and our organization.

Further - and again this is "What We Believe" - Rove may be turning state's evidence. We suspect that the scope of Fitzgerald's investigation may have broadened - clearly to Cheney - and according to one "off the record source" to individuals and events not directly related to the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. We believe that the indictment which does exist against Karl Rove is sealed. Finally, we believe that there is currently a great deal of activity in the Plame investigation.

We know that this story is of vital interest to the community, and that providing as much information as we can is very important to our readers. We want you to know that this is challenging territory and that we are proceeding with as much speed as the terrain will allow.

* * *

By Marc Ash,

Fri May 19th, 2006 at 04:23:39 PM EDT

On Saturday afternoon, May 13, 2006, TruthOut ran a story titled, Karl Rove Indicted on Charges of Perjury, Lying to Investigators. The story stated in part that top Bush aide Karl Rove had earlier that day been indicted on the charges set forth in the story's title.

The time has now come, however, to issue a partial apology to our readership for this story. While we paid very careful attention to the sourcing on this story, we erred in getting too far out in front of the news-cycle. In moving as quickly as we did, we caused more confusion than clarity. And that was a disservice to our readership and we regret it.

As such, we will be taking the wait-and-see approach for the time being. We will keep you posted.

Marc Ash, Executive Director - t r u t h o u t

By Marc Ash,
Wed May 17th, 2006 at 12:52:48 PM EDT

For the past few days, we have endured non-stop attacks on our credibility, and we have fought hard to defend our reputation. In addition, we have worked around the clock to provide additional information to our readership. People want to know more about this, and our job is to keep them informed. We take that responsibility seriously.

Here's what we now know: I spoke personally yesterday with both Rove's spokesman Mark Corallo and Rove's attorney Robert Luskin. Both men categorically denied all key points of our recent reporting on this issue. Both said, 'Rove is not a target,' 'Rove did not inform the White House late last week that he would be indicted,' and 'Rove has not been indicted.' Further, both Corallo and Luskin denied Leopold's account of events at the offices of Patton Boggs, the law firm that represents Karl Rove. They specifically stated again that no such meeting ever occurred, that Fitzgerald was not there, that Rove was not there, and that a major meeting did not take place. Both men were unequivocal on that point.

We can now report, however, that we have additional, independent sources that refute those denials by Corallo and Luskin. While we had only our own sources to work with in the beginning, additional sources have now come forward and offered corroboration to us.

We have been contacted by at least three reporters from mainstream media - network level organizations - who shared with us off-the-record confirmation and moral support. When we asked why they were not going public with this information, in each case they expressed frustration with superiors who would not allow it.

We also learned the following: The events at the office building that houses the law firm of Patton Boggs were not in fact a very well-guarded secret. Despite denials by Corallo and Luskin, there was intense activity at the office building. In fact, the building was staked out by at least two major network news crews. Further, although Corallo and Luskin are not prepared to talk about what happened in the offices of Patton Boggs, others emerging from the building were, both on background and off-the-record. There were a lot of talkers, and they confirmed our accounts. We do have more information, but want additional confirmation before going public with it.


We reported that Patrick Fitzgerald had, "instructed one of the attorneys to tell Rove that he has 24 business hours to get his affairs in order...." That does not mean that at the end of that 24-hour period, Fitzgerald is obliged to hold a press conference and make an announcement. It just means that he has given Rove a 24-hour formal notification. Fitzgerald is not obliged to make an announcement at any point; he does so at his own discretion, and not if it compromises his case. So we're all stuck waiting here. Grab some coffee.

* * * Updates * * *

5/20/06: Wayne Madsen Report (latest theory: Major Bush Admin. attempts to quash the Rove subpoena, or otherwise mess with Fitzgerald's powers through political pressure mirrored here)

5/19/06: Capitol Hill Blue's

5/18/06: Capitol Hill Blue's reprinting from the Wayne Madsen Report (see comments to the current the geebus post for fulltext).

5/18/06: MVP discussion thread

[See more history links here.]

The Power of the Collective?

Pa. Voters Oust at Least 14 Lawmakers - Yahoo! News

PHILADELPHIA - Angry voters were passing out the pink slips in Pennsylvania, where state lawmakers voted themselves a huge pay raise in the dead of night last year.

More than a dozen legislative incumbents, including the state Senate's top two Republicans, lost in Tuesday's primary election. With retirements, it means at least one in every six seats in the 253-member Legislature will turn over.

Graph Theory & Civil Liberties

The NSA's Math Problem
courtesy Information Agers - Bentley

NY Times Op-Ed by Jonathan David Farley,
science fellow at the Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation

If the program is along the lines described by USA Today -- with the security agency receiving complete lists of who called whom from each of the phone companies -- the object is probably to collect data and draw a chart, with dots or 'nodes' representing individuals and lines between nodes if one person has called another.

Mathematicians who work with pictures like this are called graph theorists, and there is an entire academic field, social network analysis, that tries to determine information about a group from such a chart, like who the key players are or who the cell leaders might be. [See, e.g., here and here (from]

But without additional data, its reach is limited: as any mathematician will admit, even when you know everyone in the graph is a terrorist, it doesn't directly portray information about the order or hierarchy of the cell. Social network researchers look instead for graph features like centrality: they try to identify nodes that are connected to a lot of other nodes, like spokes around the hub of a bicycle wheel.

But this isn't as helpful as you might imagine. First, the "central player" -- the person with the most spokes -- might not be as important as the hub metaphor suggests. For example, Jafar Adibi, an information scientist at the [Information Sciences Institute] University of Southern California, analyzed e-mail traffic among Enron employees before the company collapsed [see also here]. He found that if you naively analyzed the resulting graph, you could conclude that one of the "central" players was Ken Lay's ... secretary. [Note: While I have no trouble believing the assertion about the secretary, I did not see it mentioned in Abidi's papers. Also, the op-ed did not mention Abidi's co-author, Jitesh Shetty.]

And even if you manage to eliminate all the "central players," you may well still leave enough lesser players that the cell retains a complete chain of command capable of carrying out a devastating terrorist attack.

In addition, the National Security Agency's entire spying program seems to be based on a false assumption: that you can work out who might be a terrorist based on calling patterns.... Guilt by association is not just bad law, it's bad mathematics...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Boyce of the Blogosphere

James Boyce: My Name Is James And I'm A Blogger
The Huffington Post

Yesterday in the NY Times, David Carr continued to perpetuate a myth about bloggers, in this case claiming the media was the realm of those who rant from their basement. Whether it be describing bloggers as lefty lunatics, or losers typing in their pajamas, mainstream media writers are continuing the tradition of decades past when the emerging media is panned, criticized and haughtily dismissed by the guardians of a crumbling legacy world.

This is particularily galling to me, not just because I am proudly one of the "700 bloggers you've never heard of" that post here on the Huffington Post, but because I know many of the prominent bloggers in the Progressive and Democratic arena and during my time on the Kerry Campaign, I met many of the mainstream journalists and I am here to tell you - I'm with the bloggers.

But who are the bloggers? Who are these random people with small black and white pictures on the HuffPost and other sites? Why should you listen to them, to me, for that matter?

Read more ...

Renew US

Renew US

from the not kid kid

Check out this 4 minute film:

(click on image to go to to view video)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Will the Real Traitors Please Stand Up?

New York Times (Frank Rich) via

When America panics, it goes hunting for scapegoats. But from Salem onward, we've more often than not ended up pillorying the innocent. Abe Rosenthal, the legendary New York Times editor who died last week, and his publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, were denounced as treasonous in 1971 when they defied the Nixon administration to publish the Pentagon Papers, the secret government history of the Vietnam War. Today we know who the real traitors were: the officials who squandered American blood and treasure on an ill-considered war and then tried to cover up their lies and mistakes. It was precisely those lies and mistakes, of course, that were laid bare by the thousands of pages of classified Pentagon documents leaked to both The Times and The Washington Post.

This history is predictably repeating itself now that the public has turned on the war in Iraq. The administration's die-hard defenders are desperate to deflect blame for the fiasco, and, guess what, the traitors once again are The Times and The Post. This time the newspapers committed the crime of exposing warrantless spying on Americans by the National Security Agency (The Times) and the C.I.A.'s secret "black site" Eastern European prisons (The Post). Aping the Nixon template, the current White House tried to stop both papers from publishing and when that failed impugned their patriotism.

We can see this charade for what it is: a Hail Mary pass by the leaders who bungled a war and want to change the subject to the journalists who caught them in the act. What really angers the White House and its defenders about both the Post and Times scoops are not the legal questions the stories raise about unregulated gulags and unconstitutional domestic snooping, but the unmasking of yet more administration failures in a war effort riddled with ineptitude. It's the recklessness at the top of our government, not the press's exposure of it, that has truly aided the enemy, put American lives at risk and potentially sabotaged national security. That's where the buck stops, and if there's to be a witch hunt for traitors, that's where it should begin.

Laura Bush doesn't believe bad polls

and neither do I. I'm sure that the New York Times is a left-leaning newspaper just like CBS and CNN and Newsweek and Fox and Opinion Dynamics and AP and Ipsos and Cook and USA Today and Gallup and those pinkos at the Wall Street Journal and Pew and the LA Times, Bloomberg, ABC, NBC, Time Magazine, The Washington Post - it is a whole consipracy thing. Laura and I, we see people, we see their responses to the President. We see a lot of appreciation for him.

"I don't really believe those polls. I travel around the country. I see people, I see their responses to my husband. I see their response to me," she said.

"As I travel around the United States, I see a lot of appreciation for him. A lot of people come up to me and say, 'Stay the course'."

Cheney's Margin Notes on Wilson Op-Ed

Newsweek (Michael Isikoff) via The Huffington Post

Cheney's notes, written on the margins of a July 6, 2003 New York Times op-ed column by former ambassador Joseph Wilson, were included as part of a filing Friday night by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the perjury and obstruction case against ex-Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

The notes, Fitzgerald said in his filing, show that Cheney and Libby were "acutely focused" on the Wilson column and on rebutting his criticisms of the White House's handling of pre-Iraq war intelligence.

Examine a copy of Joseph Wilson's July 6, 2003 New York Times Op-Ed with Handwritten Notes by Vice President Cheney
Talking Points Memo Document Collection

5/16/06 Hardball: Cheney's Role in the Plame Leak Case

Saturday, May 13, 2006

t r u t h o u t || Karl Rove Indicted (?)

Note: Look here for an update as of 5/19/06.

By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t Report

Saturday 13 May 2006

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spent more than half a day Friday at the offices of Patton Boggs, the law firm representing Karl Rove.

During the course of that meeting, Fitzgerald served attorneys for former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove with an indictment charging the embattled White House official with perjury and lying to investigators related to his role in the CIA leak case, and instructed one of the attorneys to tell Rove that he has 24 business hours to get his affairs in order, high level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said Saturday morning.

* * *

5/15/06: No official word yet. Here's the scuttlebutt update (Talk Left)

5/15/06: Mainstream Media Meta-Coverage: WSJ and also CBS



5/17/06: Houston Chronicle: It's the War, Stupid [see also David Corn]



Friday, May 12, 2006

t r u t h o u t || Rove (supposedly) Informs White House He Will Be Indicted

Note: Look here for an update as of 5/19/06.

Karl Rove told President Bush and Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, as well as a few other high level administration officials, within the last week that he will be indicted in the CIA leak case and will immediately resign his White House job when the special counsel publicly announces the charges against him, according to people knowledgeable about these discussions.

Details of Rove's discussions with the president and Bolten have spread through the corridors of the White House where low-level staffers and senior officials were trying to determine how the indictment would impact an administration that has been mired in a number of high-profile political scandals for nearly a year, said a half-dozen White House aides and two senior officials who work at the Republican National Committee.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources confirmed Rove's indictment is imminent. These individuals requested anonymity saying they were not authorized to speak publicly about Rove's situation. A spokesman in the White House press office said they would not comment on "wildly speculative rumors."

NSA Whistleblower To Expose More Unlawful Activity: "People...Are Going To Be Shocked"

Think Progress

A former intelligence officer for the National Security Agency said Thursday [5/11/06] he plans to tell Senate staffers next week that unlawful activity occurred at the agency under the supervision of Gen. Michael Hayden beyond what has been publicly reported, while hinting that it might have involved the illegal use of space-based satellites and systems to spy on U.S. citizens.

[Tice] said he plans to tell the committee staffers the NSA conducted illegal and unconstitutional surveillance of U.S. citizens while he was there with the knowledge of Hayden. "I think the people I talk to next week are going to be shocked when I tell them what I have to tell them. It's pretty hard to believe," Tice said. "I hope that they'll clean up the abuses and have some oversight into these programs, which doesn't exist right now."

Tice said his information is different from the Terrorist Surveillance Program that Bush acknowledged in December and from news accounts this week that the NSA has been secretly collecting phone call records of millions of Americans. "It's an angle that you haven't heard about yet," he said. He would not discuss with a reporter the details of his allegations, saying doing so would compromise classified information and put him at risk of going to jail. He said he "will not confirm or deny" if his allegations involve the illegal use of space systems and satellites."

r r r
Matt Cooper of Time asks in this article whether the recent events will cause a tipping point in public opinion on civil liberties and terrorism, two issues where Bush still has support.
"So to review the bidding: Bush's Justice Department is blocked from investigating its own controversial spy program; a leading conservative jurist resigns, reportedly in part over the government's handling of civil liberties; and a big NSA program of eavesdropping on Americans' phone-calling patterns is revealed. Will this be enough to turn public opinion against Bush on civil liberties and terrorism? Given the collapse in public support for the President on so many issues, it wouldn't be surprising. "
r r r
WASHINGTON, May 12 — The telecommunications company Qwest turned down requests by the National Security Agency for private telephone records because it concluded that doing so would violate federal privacy laws, a lawyer for the telephone company's former chief executive said today.
In a statement released this morning, the lawyer said that the former chief executive, Joseph N. Nacchio, made the decision after asking whether "a warrant or other legal process had been secured in support of that request."
Mr. Nacchio learned that no warrant had been granted and that there was a "disinclination on the part of the authorities to use any legal process," said the lawyer, Herbert J. Stern. As a result, the statement said, Mr. Nacchio concluded that "the requests violated the privacy requirements of the Telecommunications Act."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Ahmadinejad to Bush

Interesting quotes from the letter by Iran's President to Bush:

Full Text Link on

If billions of dollars spent on security, military campaigns and troop movement were instead spent on investment and assistance for poor countries, promotion of health, combating different diseases, education and improvement of mental and physical fitness, assistance to the victims of natural disasters, creation of employment opportunities and production, development projects and poverty alleviation, establishment of peace, mediation between disputing states and distinguishing the flames of racial, ethnic and other conflicts where would the world be today?
Would not your government, and people be justifiably proud? Would not your administration's political and economic standing have been stronger? And I am most sorry to say, would there have been an ever increasing global hatred of the American governments?

Mr. President, it is not my intention to distress anyone.

If prophet Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, Joseph or Jesus Christ (PBUH) were with us today, how would they have judged such behavior? Will we be given a role to play in the promised world, where justice will become universal and Jesus Christ (PBUH) will be present? Will they even accept us?
* * * *

Many people around the world feel insecure and oppose the spreading of insecurity and war and do not approve of and accept dubious policies.

The people are protesting the increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots and the rich and poor countries. The people are disgusted with increasing corruption.

* * *

History tells us that repressive and cruel governments do not survive. God has entrusted The fate of man to them. The Almighty has not left the universe and humanity to their own devices. Many things have happened contrary to the wishes and plans of governments. These tell us that there is a higher power at work and all events are determined by Him.

Can one deny the signs of change in the world today? Is this situation of the world today comparable to that of ten years ago? Changes happen fast and come at a furious pace.

Congress Demands Phone Records Answers

Yahoo! News

The Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said he would call the phone companies to appear before the panel in pursuit of what had transpired.

"We're really flying blind on the subject and that's not a good way to approach the Fourth Amendment and the constitutional issues involving privacy," Specter said of domestic surveillance in general.

"I don't know enough about the details except that I am willing to find out because I'm not sure why it would be necessary to keep and have that kind of information," said House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News Channel: "The idea of collecting millions or thousands of phone numbers, how does that fit into following the enemy?"

* * *

See also Bush says U.S. Spying is Not Widespread NY Times

* * *

from Huffington Post link: CNN's Cafferty:

Sen. Specter "May be all that's standing between us and a full blown dictatorship"

Watch this:

Newt Gingrich: "I'm not going to defend the indefensible."

Had Enough?

Washington Post

Michael Dimock of the Pew Research Center, a leading polling group, said one of the most striking findings of recent surveys is the growing number of conservatives who "don't see Bush as one of them" as they did earlier. Pew found that Bush has suffered a 24-point drop in his approval rating among voters who backed him in 2004: from 92 percent in January 2005 to 68 percent in March.
* * * *
"The problem in my mind, and the only way to explain the very significant erosion is just a disgust with what appears to be a complete abandonment of limited government," said former Republican congressman Pat Toomey, who runs the conservative Club for Growth. Toomey said commitment to smaller government has been the unifying idea for most elements of the GOP coalition since Ronald Reagan's presidency.
"Republicans have finally had enough,"
he said, a sentiment echoed by several other conservative activists and lawmakers.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Media Evolution: Discovery vs. Consumption

Genuine VC from emcee
In my own personal experience, I can anecdotally observe these changes. Prior to having TiVo, I learned about new television shows in the ad promos between during the commercial breaks. Now as I skip through these, I am really not discovering new shows at all. Movies are the same way; I used to learn about them on television commercials and in the previews, now I only do through the latter (when I am forced to sit through them). I used to learn about new music from CMJ New Music Monthly magazine, but as its circulation has dwindled, so has the quality of its suggestions.

"Welcome to the age of electronic accountability"

Open letter from William Rivers Pitt to Richard Cohen:
On Colbert, Iraq, Vietnam, and Anger
Greetings! I was inspired to write you after reading your missive in [the 5/9/06] Post regarding all the nasty emails you have received of late. Personally, I found Colbert's performance hilarious and timely, the kind of satirical backhand so desperately needed these days. I don't begrudge you your opinion that he wasn't funny, and I agree with your belief that it wasn't your opinion on his performance that motivated such an angry response.

It wasn't. You yourself nailed the reason: "Institution after institution failed America - the presidency, Congress and the press. They all endorsed a war to rid Iraq of what it did not have."

The fact that your Colbert commentary became the flint against this rock doesn't mean that Colbert, or your opinion of him, is to blame for the resulting firestorm. The fact is that people are angry - brain-boilingly, apoplectically, mind-bendingly so - at what has happened to this great country. I am, quite often, so angry that my hands shake. Yes, a former high school teacher from New England here, so filled with bile and rage that I sometimes don't recognize my face in the mirror.

You, sir, should not be asking why so many of your email friends are so angry. You should be asking why you yourself are not with them in their rage. I have admired a number of your articles over these last years, and know that you are no fool regarding our situation in Iraq and here at home. It isn't your grasp of the issues that concerns me, but the absence of outrage. Do you really care about the things you write about, or is all this merely grist for the mill that provides you a paycheck?

"I have seen this anger before," you wrote, "back in the Vietnam War era." No, sir, you have not.

Read the whole editorial.

Another comment on Richard Cohen (Eric Boehlert via HuffPo)
"Can we get a newspaper moritorum on boy-I-get-lots-of-angry-email columns. Very tired."

Monday, May 08, 2006

Wiki Wiki World

Congresspedia - SourceWatch

Congresspedia is a collaborative project of the Center for Media and Democracy and the Sunlight Foundation and is designed to shine more light on the workings of the U.S. Congress.

Congresspedia is part of SourceWatch, a collaboratively-written, wiki-based website documenting the people, organizations and issues shaping the public agenda.

Congresspedia is designed to be a place where you can get a closer look at representatives in Congress and a better understanding of the environment in which they work. Because this site is a wiki, it’s open for anyone to edit or add new information, so you can share what you know with everyone else.

To help insure fairness and accuracy, Congresspedia is overseen by a paid editor. More about Congresspedia.


Instapundit (Glenn Reynolds, author of An Army of Davids, which I won't shut up about, I know) had this comment:
PUSHING FOR TRANSPARENCY: Check out the new Sunlight Foundation website. Plus the Congresspedia. And here's a story from the Washington Post. These people are lefties, which has engendered some suspicion (see the WP story), but I think that this stuff transcends partisanship.

Intelligent Thought

Edge 181: Intelligent Thought: Science vs. the Intelligent Design Movement Editors Note: Just as I was about to send out this edition of Edge announcing the publication of Intelligent Thought: Science Versus The Intelligent Design Movement, I received the email below which it a stark reminder of why this book is necessary, why it belongs on your bookshelf, and why sixteen of the world's leading scientists (and Edge contributors) dropped everything to write essays on a crash schedule so the book would be published before the end of the school year.

Date: Mon, 8 May 2006
From: Maulik Parikh
To: John Brockman
Subject: Intelligent Design


I have been teaching a new course on the frontiers of science, required for all freshmen at Columbia. These students are mostly sharp, capable, and open-minded. Still, many of them think that intelligent design should be studied in the interest of being fair and balanced. What's troubling is that even those who accept evolution often treat it as a matter of belief, of political persuasion, as if it were akin to being for or against free trade. And if they reject intelligence design it's often not because they can see its vacuousness as a scientific theory, but merely because the religious and conservative stripes of ID can sometimes look a little uncool. As for science, reason, evidence — what's that?

—Maulik (a post-doc in the Physics Department of Columbia University, leaving the U.S. to teach physics at a university in India).

This book — sixteen essays by Edge contributors, all leading scientists from several disciplines — is a thoughtful response to the bizarre claims made by the ID movement's advocates, whose only interest in science appears to be to replace it with beliefs consistent with those of the Middle Ages. School districts across the country — most notably in Kansas and later in Pennsylvania, where the antievolutionist tide was turned but undoubtedly not stopped—have been besieged by demands to "teach the debate," to "present the controversy," when, in actuality, there is no debate, no controversy. What there is, quite simply, is a duplicitous public-relations campaign funded by Christian fundamentalist interests.

Contributors: Jerry Coyne, Leonard Susskind, Daniel C. Dennett, Nicholas Humphrey, Tim D. White, Neil H. Shubin, Richard Dawkins, Frank Sulloway, Scott Atran, Steven Pinker, Lee Smolin, Stuart A. Kauffman, Seth Lloyd, Lisa Randall, Marc D. Hauser, Scott Sampson

YouTube, MySpace, Web 2.0

A grand unified theory of YouTube and MySpace.
by Paul Boutin,
Both YouTube and MySpace fit the textbook definition of Web 2.0, that hypothetical next-generation Internet where people contribute as easily as they consume. Even self-described late adopters like New York's Kurt Andersen recognize that that by letting everyone contribute, these sites have reached a critical mass where "a real network effect has kicked in."


Forget YouTube: Your laptop will never replace your TV
by Sean Captain,
The next logical step, it seems, would be to stream high-definition video via the Internet. In the long term—10 years or more—perhaps. But for the foreseeable future, that won't happen. That's because the very properties that make the Internet great make it a lousy video-distribution network, especially for the high-def era.

What ants and golfers can teach investors / Home UK - What ants and golfers can teach investors:

Michael Mauboussin has been commenting from a broader academic perspective at Credit Suisse First Boston and now Legg Mason Investment Management. His inspiration comes from Edward Wilson, the Harvard biologist who argued, in his book Consilience that the study of arts and sciences could fruitfully be integrated. More Than You Know brings together many of the essays and research notes that Mauboussin has written in an attempt to follow Wilson's example.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Judge calls Net wiretap rules 'gobbledygook' - Business - International Herald Tribune

via Huffington Post

Judge calls Net wiretap rules 'gobbledygook' - Business - International Herald Tribune:

"'Your argument makes no sense,' Judge Harry Edwards told the lawyer for the Federal Communications Commission, Jacob Lewis. 'When you go back to the office, have a big chuckle. I'm not missing this. This is ridiculous.'

At another point in the hearing, Edwards told the lawyer his arguments were 'gobbledygook' and 'nonsense.'"

A later comment:

"There's nothing to suggest that in the statute," Edwards replied. "Stating that doesn't make it so."

Friday, May 05, 2006

Tidal Wave

Al Neuharth (USA Today founder) Bashes Bush, Says His Supporters are 'In Denial' (Editor&Publisher)

"What happened to the 37% who have switched from pro-Bush to anti-Bush? They finally realized they were suckered by Bush and his buddies back then about Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction, his tie to terrorists and his threat to the USA."

Republican Right Abandoning Bush (AP)

"Angry conservatives are driving the approval ratings of President Bush and the GOP-led Congress to dismal new lows, according to an AP-Ipsos poll that underscores why Republicans fear an Election Day massacre."

April 2006 marked Bill O'Reilly's lowest-rated month in the 25-54 demographic since August 2001 (Media Bistro)

Republican leaders rip Frist's $100 gas rebate plan (NY Times)

. . .. ... ..... ........ oOo ........ ..... ... .. . .

Flash Forward: Clinton/McCain attempt Gas Tax Pander in Spring 2008. Falls flat.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Blogosphere Cheers Colbert

Thank You Stephen Colbert ...

and Harry Taylor ...


And let's not forget Jon Stewart's legendary appearance on CrossFire:

link to April 29 Colbert post

Democracy Under Attack

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, accusing the White House of a ''very blatant encroachment" on congressional authority, said yesterday he will hold an oversight hearing into President Bush's assertion that he has the power to bypass more than 750 laws enacted over the past five years.

"There is some need for some oversight by Congress to assert its authority here," Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said in an interview. "What's the point of having a statute if . . . the president can cherry-pick what he likes and what he doesn't like?"

Specter said he plans to hold the hearing in June. He said he intends to call administration officials to explain and defend the president's claims of authority, as well to invite constitutional scholars to testify on whether Bush has overstepped the boundaries of his power.
* * * *
"The problem is that you have a statute, which Congress has passed, and then the signing statements negate that statute," Specter said. "And there are more and more of them coming. If the president doesn't like something, he puts a signing statement on it."

Specter added: "He put a signing statement on the Patriot Act. He put a signing statement on the torture issue. It's a very blatant encroachment on [Congress's constitutional] powers. If he doesn't like the bill, let him veto it."

It was during a Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on the FBI that Specter yesterday announced his intent to hold a hearing on Bush's legal authority. Another committee member, Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, also questioned Bush's assertions that he has the authority to give himself an exemption from certain laws.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Ship of State

Conceive of something of this kind happening either on many ships or one. Though the shipowner surpasses everyone on board in height and strength, he is rather deaf and likewise somewhat shortsighted, and his knowledge of seamanship is pretty much on the same level.

The sailors are quarreling with one another about the piloting, each supposing he ought to pilot, although he has never learned the art and can’t produce his teacher or prove there was a time when he was learning it. Besides this, they claim it isn’t even teachable and are ready to cut to pieces the man who says it is teachable. And they are always crowded around the shipowner himself, begging and doing everything so that he’ll turn the rudder over to them. And sometimes, if they fail at persuasion and other men succeed at it, they either kill the others or throw them out of the ship.

Enchaining the noble shipowner with mandrake, drink, or something else, they rule the ship, using what’s in it; and drinking and feasting, they sail as such men would be thought likely to sail.

Besides this, they praise and call "skilled sailor," "pilot," and "knower of the ship’s business" the man who is clever at figuring out how they will get the rule, either by persuading or by forcing the shipowner, while the man who is not of this sort they blame as useless.

They don’t know that for the true pilot it is necessary to pay careful attention to year, seasons, heaven, stars, winds, and everything that’s proper to the art, if he is really going to be skilled at ruling a ship. And they don’t suppose it’s possible to acquire the art and practice of how one can get hold of the helm whether the others wish it or not, and at the same time to acquire the pilot’s skill.

So with such things happening on ships, don’t you believe that the true pilot will really be called a stargazer, a prater and useless to them by those who sail on ships run like this?

* * * *

[But] blame their uselessness on those who don’t use them and not on the [true pilots]. For it’s not natural that a pilot beg sailors to be ruled by him nor that the wise go to the doors of the rich. The man who invented that subtlety lied. The truth naturally is that it is necessary for a man who is sick, whether rich or poor, to go to the doors of doctors, and every man who needs to be ruled to the doors of the man who is able to rule, not for the ruler who is truly of any use to beg the ruled to be ruled. You’ll make no mistake in imagining the statesmen now ruling to be the sailors we were just now speaking of, and those who are said by them to be useless and gossipers about what’s above to be the true pilots.

The Republic of Plato, Book VI/488-89 (A. Bloom trans.)