Friday, May 26, 2006

When will the Dems learn?

The lapdogs are at it again.

By a vote of 12 to 3 (including 4 Democrats), General (I don't know the text of the 4th amendment) Michael Hayden was "overwhelmingly" approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

In a stirring display of a lack of spine, Feinstein, Rockefeller, Levin, and Mikulski, voted for Hayden I believe in an attempt to not look "obstructionist". With a president at 29%, an attorney general endorsing prosecution of the media, a congress at less than 20%, I have only one question. WHEN is a BETTER time to be viewed as obstructionist. This man (Hayden) is on RECORD misquoting the 4th amendment, and HE is going to be in charge of the largest intelligence agency in the country? MY GOD, is anyone EVER going to wake up and smell the coffee?

Is it obstructionist to stop the current administration from driving the country off a cliff?

At least Feingold, Baye, and Ron Wyden had some balls. I am sure the panicky DLC will have a "chat" with those guys and admonish them to not "make waves". To restate a quotation that is often misstated (and so will be by me), "All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing". That is the message we need to send to the current crop of roll over and play dead Democrats.

It truly shows (to me at least) that these elected representatives care much more about themselves than the country they are supposed to serve. Time for a groundswell folks, we need to keep the names of all of the Democrats that are rolling over and get them OUT of Congress. It may put us in the minority again, but to me it is far better to actually have an opposition party that to control the congress.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Second thoughts on Gonzales?

Given the evidence of the last couple of days, I am wondering if the Democrats are regretting their "roll over and play dead" trick regarding the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales to Attorney General.

In particular, the DINOs that voted to confirm him:

Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lieberman (D-CT)

While it's no suprise that Holy Joe backed the Republicans, the other four should be ashamed of rolling over for Bush.

Let's review, shall we?

March 7th: Gonzales supports extraordinary rendition, regardless of location.

May 20: Gonzales executes search (in clear violation of the separation of powers) of an office of a sitting member of Congress.

May 21: Gonzales says that media can be prosecuted for leaking "confidential information". In other words, the information that we the people need but the information that the WH doesn't wants us to have.

Information about an outed covert CIA agent? No problem.
Information about unconstitutional spying on Americans? We have to find out who did it and prosecute them.

Shame on all of you for allowing this man into the highest judicial office in the country, and shame on you for continuing to allow his blatant disregard for the constitution.

Hastert Comments on William Jefferson

When I initially read the story about the videotaped bribery of Rep William Jefferson (D, LA) my initial thought was, another crook, Dem or Repub, they are all tainted.

A search warrant executed on his home, no problem.

Then I read that Alberto Gonzales (Of the executive branch) authorized a warrant on his congressional office. I first must admit that I gave no thought to it, until I read this on newshounds. At first I saw no issue with it, but then realized that this action went against the separation of powers outlined by our founding fathers, in particular, those designed to limit the power of the executive branch. In other words, we don't want a KING!

Statement by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert

"It is the duty of the Justice Department to root out and prosecute corruption wherever it is found, including in the U.S. House of Representatives. I believe that all Members of the House should cooperate fully with any criminal investigation.

"That being said, I am very concerned about the necessity of a Saturday night raid on Congressman Jefferson's Capitol Hill Office in pursuit of information that was already under subpoena and at a time when those subpoenas are still pending and all the documents that have been subpoenaed were being preserved.

"The Founding Fathers were very careful to establish in the Constitution a Separation of Powers to protect Americans against the tyranny of any one branch of government. They were particularly concerned about limiting the power of the Executive Branch. Every Congressional Office contains certain Legislative Branch documents that are protected by the Constitution. This protection-as the Supreme Court has repeatedly held-is essential to guarantee the independence of the Legislative Branch. No matter how routine and non-controversial any individual Legislative Branch document might be, the principles of Separation of Powers, the independence of the Legislative Branch, and the protections afforded by the Speech or Debate clause of the Constitution must be respected in order to prevent overreaching and abuse of power by the Executive Branch.

"While all the facts surrounding Saturday night's raid have not yet been shared with me, it would appear that the Attorney General himself was aware that Separation of Powers concerns existed and that the Justice Department was treading on Constitutionally suspect grounds because in seeking the warrant the FBI suggested to the judge special procedures it would follow to deal with Constitutionally protected materials. However, it is not at all clear to me that it would even be possible to create special procedures that would overcome the Constitutional problems that the execution of this warrant has created.

"The actions of the Justice Department in seeking and executing this warrant raise important Constitutional issues that go well beyond the specifics of this case. Insofar as I am aware, since the founding of our Republic 219 years ago, the Justice Department has never found it necessary to do what it did Saturday night, crossing this Separation of Powers line, in order to successfully prosecute corruption by Members of Congress. Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe that there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years.

"Once I have more information about this raid made available to me, I have had an opportunity to carefully consider the long-term ramifications for the Legislative Branch of this action, and I have consulted with the appropriate bipartisan leaders of the House, I expect to seek a means to restore the delicate balance of power among the branches of government that the Founders intended."

Alberto Gonzalez' response (from the Kansas City Star):

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, asked about the search, said he understands the concerns raised about FBI agents raiding a congressional office.

"'I will admit that these were unusual steps that were taken in response to an unusual set of circumstances,' Gonzales said.

"The search warrant affidavit spells out special procedures put in place to ensure the search did not infringe on privileged material. The procedures include use of a 'filter team' of prosecutors and FBI agents unconnected to the investigation. They would review any seized items or documents and determine whether the documents are privileged and therefore immune from the search warrant.

"If the status of a document is in doubt, the filter team will give the documents to a judge for a definitive ruling before giving them to case prosecutors, according to the affidavit.

Hastert said those protections may not be enough.

"'It is not at all clear to me that it would even be possible to create special procedures that would overcome the Constitutional problems that the execution of this warrant has created,' he said.

"Jefferson has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing, but two of his associates have pleaded guilty to bribery-related charges in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

"The House Ethics Committee has opened an inquiry into the case."

Probably on Jefferson. It SHOULD be on Gonzalez and King George.

To me, the scary parts of this action are:

  1. The precendent it sets, particularly chilling in light of the other abuses of power taken by this administration and the support of a more powerful executive branch espoused by Gonzalez.
  2. The message sent by this action, "don't F--K with us or we'll get you".
  3. The continued failure of oversight executed by the legislative branch, and now apparently the judicial as well.

Maybe this will wake up some Republicans as well. We can only hope.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Choosing the Patsy

Well, it appears that the Rovian machine has claimed another vicitim. This time Jason Leopold of

Let's review for a moment.

On May 12, Leopold claims that Rove Informs White House of Imminent Indictment. Then on May 15th, Leopold writes that Rove had indeed been indicted.

Finally, Truthout supports Leopold by saying that they have iron clad sources.

Over a week later, the right wing bloggers are having a field day pointing out how the "moon bats" got it wrong about Rove and lumping all bloggers in with the Leopold story.

So, what's the problem? Leopold was overzealous? Leopold has an ax to grind?

No, the problem is (at least from this blogger's perspective) that Leopold was set up.

Why Choose Leopold?

  1. He has been one of the most dogged reports on the Rove story

  2. He has a history of telling lies in the press

  3. He has admitted to alcohol and cocaine addiction

So - Why do this?

  1. It discredits Leopold as a reporter (obvious)

  2. It discredits (to some extent)

  3. To the extent that the Righties can lump all liberal bloggers in with Leopold, it discredits them.

  4. It makes it look like we are all out to get Rove, and sets him up as a victim of a witch hunt

  5. It sends a chilling message (a la Dan Rather) to anyone who might report anything negative about the administration. "We'll get you too"

What Leopold needs to do RIGHT AWAY is to track back the original source of the "leak". We can no longer keep silent as this administration hijacks the truth and destroys anyone who tries to take them on.

With Gonzales now saying that reporters can be prosecuted for publishing "leaks", we are truly at the edge of a constitutional crisis.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

More politics of Division

There is a bias known in psychology as the "outgroup homogeneity bias", where members of "other groups" have less diversity that our own group. It is a bit like "all 'X' are 'Y'" or at least very similar to some prototypical exemplar or percpetion of the "average" member of that group.

Combine this with another well know psychological phenomenon of stereotyping. Basing your opinion of someone based on their membership in a certain group, generally a group that you feel is inferior to your own group (in-group bias), also known in an extremem form as racism, sexism, etc.

So - what does this have to do with the politics of division; the "us" vs. "them" mentality encouraged by the politicians and the punditry? LOTS.

It is difficult to fight with someone when you know about them, and is far easier to fight with someone when you can place them in some "external" group (e.g. Conservatives and Liberals). Note that there are two things going on here, one is by labeling someone, you have diminished their personhood, making them far easier to dislike. Also, by assigning them to a group (an outgroup), you have imbued them with a whole set of beliefs due to outgroup homogeneity bias.

So - how to fix this? Talk values. Get back to the basic values from which you derive a position. It is a well known recommendation in negotiations that you talk "issues" not "positions" because positions have some self-identity wrapped up in them.

In the political world, we can talk issues as well, not positions like "pro-life" vs. "pro-choice". What are you OBJECTIVES in the ISSUES and VALUES, not what position have you adopted.

By recognizing that all people cannot be adequately represented by the stereotyped examplar of a group, we can begin to debate the issues and try to take back this country.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

How are we doing part II

The Bill of Rights Update.

Now with signing statements and illegal wire taps, we are in a constitutional crisis.

To whit:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


We now have "protest zones" where anyone who disagrees with the administration is put behind a fence, away from the administration.

People in administration meetings (which should be free and open to the public) are removed for speaking their mind.

FOIA requests are being denied in record number.

DOJ cannot investigate the NSA spying because of a lack of security clearance?

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


NSA wire taps without a warrant, and the nominee to head the CIA says that the standard is reasonableness, not probable cause.

Phone call databases on Americans with no cause.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Comments: Unless you are an "enemy combatant" as determined by the administration.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.


Well, the PATRIOT act has pretty much done away with the need for this amendment. We can now hold people indefinitely without telling them the charges, no access to legal counsel, and no ability to find witnesses for his defence.

We ARE HAVING A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS here folks. We went to war with Brittain over similar issues. Americans have died defending this document, yet for a little false safety we are willing to allow the government to take these rights away from us?

Another King George?

From the Declaration of Independence... (outtakes)

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

Signing statements....

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

Control over what gets to the floor of the House.

For protecting them (troops), by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

Not the US yet, but clearly crimes commmitted against citizens of the world.

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

Yeah, but only for "enemy combatants".

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

Or torture...

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

The president is now selected rather than elected.

Sounds pretty bad.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Question to our Founding Fathers: How are we doing?

Preamble to the Consitution of the United States of America:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Establish Justice?

When politicians seem to be above the law... Dick Cheney not tested for alcohol after nearly killing someone, Patrick Kennedy given a "slap on the wrist" for driving while drunk. Face it folks, there are two justice systems in the US, one for those who can afford it, and one for those who can't.

Grade: D

Domestic Tranquility?

Fear and Hate, Fear and Hate, Fear and Hate. Demonstrations. Debates about people rather than issues and views. Families that are divided over politics. The list goes on and on. This is no longer a tranquil nation.

Grade: D

Provide for the common defense?

The defense of the wealthy and the corporations. The defense of contractor profits. Invasions of sovereign nations that are not threat to us. "Fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here" was bullshit during Vietnam, and it's still bullshit. Terrorists are the new Communists and "fighting them there" isn't making us more secure, it's making us less secure.

Grade: C-

Promote the General Welfare?

Growing distribution of income and distance between the wealthy and the poor. More consolidation of wealth in fewer hands. People forced into bankruptcy over medical bills because of lack of insurance. Less ability to declare bankruptcy because of our current congressional leaders.

Grade: F

Ensure the Blessings of Liberty?

Illegal Wire Taps. Detention with no charges and no access to legal representation. Free speech zones at political events. Vetted audiences. We are losing liberties daily.

Grade: D

Our posterity?

Record deficits and national debts passed on to our "posterity". Lower funding for education. Free access to schools by military recruiters but not to those opposed.

Grade: F

So - as far as the preamble goes, I think we are barely passing. Sorry Founding Fathers, What you fought and sacrificed for no longer exists. Hopefully, we can get it back.

This does not even go into the framers' desires for balance of power and the amendments. Sad what we have become.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The politics of division

Political discourse in the US has sunk to a horrible level. In essenece, there is no more civilized discussions, it has degraded to an almost immediate knee jerk reaction triggered more by who someone is (e.g. conservative, liberal, etc.) than by what they say.

We truly are a nation divided, but I believe that much of that is encouraged by what some would call the "power elite". In this group, I include the political pundits like Sean Hannity and Al Franken. Also responsible are the current crop of politicians who have wholeheartedly adopted the "I'm not them, so vote for me" campaign slogans. Look at the success of negative advertising, it's no longer about issues, it's about look at how bad the other candidate is.

Back to the pundits...

Bill O'Reilly: "The left wing smear machine"
Ann Coulter: "How to talk to a liberal (if you have to)"
Al Franken: "Lies and the Lying Liers who tell them"

This type of talk encourages an evaluation of the messenger rather than the message and that is HORRIBLE. It creates a situation where we (the non-elite) are even less likely to find common ground. This is a good thing for the politicians, because they can continue to stir up our emotions about how bad the other side is, which means we keep voting for them, even if it is because they are the "lesser of two evils".

Solutions? I wish I knew, but the first step I believe is listening to the message rather than prejudging it because of the messenger. I have been guilty of this as well, by immediately questioning anything from a known conservative messenger (e.g. Weekly Standard, Drudge Report, etc.).

Unless we can return to a discussion of issues rather than "sides", we are doomed to continue with the current crop of criminal politicians, far too deeply indebted to corporate interests.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Decision Theory and Debate

I am a decision researcher by trade and often times try to boil down a debate into issues instead of positions.

One of these times is the debate on welfare. Imagine a Two By Two matrix as shown below.

Needs WelfareNo Need
Gets WelfareGOODBAD
Doesn't Get ItBADGOOD

Everyone (I hope) can agree on that, depending on how you define "Needs", but once you agree on it (even most conservatives believe in "giving a hand up, not a hand out"), then you can get on to real issues.

In decision theory language, giving Welfare to someone who doesn't need it is a false positive, or a Type I error. Clearly, this is bad, since it is "wasting" tax payer resources that could go to better purposes.

Not providing welfare to someone who truly needs it is a false negative, or "Type II" error. This is also bad (if you believe in providing a hand up), since we are ignoring people in our society in need.

Here is the source (I believe) of a lot of debate. Which error is worse? Most progressives and liberals believe that the type II error is worse, in that failing to support someone who needs it goes against the "nurturant parent" model espoused by George Lakoff. I think (since I'm not really a conservative, but do speak with them) that most of them think that type I errors are worse (think Reagan's Food Stamp Lady Driving a Caddy).

So - I think all of us can agree that fraud is bad, the question boils down to what ratio is acceptable. How many fraudulent cases can we accept to make sure that people don't fall through the cracks? This is where a fundamental difference seems to arise.

If we can acknowledge that we have differing views on the relative "costs" of the two types of errors, we can work together to reduce BOTH of them, and all sides win.