THE BLOG
09/14/2006 04:40 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Odds and Ends

Altercation

I've got a new "Think Again" column called, "9/11: Business as Usual," here and don't forget, as of this Monday, Altercation is moving....

Reminder:  Altercation's new URL as of Monday, 9/18 will be MediaMatters.org/Altercation.

Following up on yesterday's post about the Bush Administration's purposeful destruction of the military, at Tomdispatch today, Nick Turse outlines the "dirty dozen" over-the-top recruitment steps the Pentagon has taken that may end up creating a military of misfits.  He describes the kinds of pressure the military puts on teens and discusses attempts to recruit young people in jail, the mentally off-balance, the criminal, gang-bangers, undocumented immigrants, and many others.  This certainly isn't the "transformation" of the U.S. military that Donald Rumsfeld has been touting all these years, but it does threaten to be a transformation of profound importance.  A much longer study on the question can be found at the Project on Defense Alternatives, here along with a study on the sorry state of US readiness overall, here.  Also, back at TomDispatch Tom Engelhardt takes Bush and Cheney seriously on this "There was a connection between the events of September 11, 2001 and Iraq," crap.  Here he considers some of the possible links, he concludes that there is indeed a deeper truth that lurks beneath the Cheney and Bush claims about 9/11 and Iraq -- and it goes like this:

In the immediate wake of 9/11, our President and Vice President hijacked our country, using the low-tech rhetorical equivalents of box cutters and mace; then, with most passengers on board and not quite enough of the spirit of United Flight 93 to spare, after a brief Afghan overflight, they crashed the plane of state directly into Iraq, causing the equivalent of a Katrina that never ends and turning that country -- from Basra in the south to the border of Kurdistan -- into the global equivalent of Ground Zero.

Meanwhile, writing in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Graham Alison would argue that the costs of the Bush administration's failure to focus the nation on genuine threats has left us unprepared for the ones that are coming, though he's kinda cagey about laying the blame.

Quote of the Day:  David Brooks has George Bush saying one of the dumbest/scariest things ever today:  "Let me just first tell you that I've never been more convinced that the decisions I made are the right decisions."

If Robert Novak murdered the first-born child of every editor of The Washington Post and then drank their blood, would they fire him then?

Also, Free Press released a report yesterday showing how and why the U.S. is falling behind the rest of the world in broadband penetration despite misleading rosy reports from the FCC.  Go here.  Policy recommendations at the end of the document.

And can we please declare a moratorium on journalists quoting anonymous discussion forum posters as if their words imply anything at all?  In this piece on Dylan, here.

We get:

But some fans are bothered by the ethics of Mr. Dylan's borrowing ways. "Bob really is a thieving little swine," wrote one poster on Dylan Pool pool.dylantree.com/phorum5/read.php?1,642969), a chat room where Mr. Warmuth posted his findings.  "If it was anyone else we'd be stringing them up by their neck, but no, it's Bobby Dee, and 'the folk process.'"

My question is: "Who cares what you think, punk? You don't even have a name."

From the Benton Foundation:

SPYING BILL CLEARS SENATE PANEL

[SOURCE: Reuters, AUTHOR: Thomas Ferraro]

A bill backed by President George W. Bush to enable a court review of his domestic spying program won the approval on Wednesday of a U.S. Senate panel under election-year pressure to safeguard civil liberties. Bush's Republicans hailed the measure and brushed off Democratic complaints that it could actually further undermine the rights of law-abiding Americans because of what they called loopholes that would expand presidential powers. The bill would clear the way for a secret court created by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to examine the legality of the warrantless surveillance program the White House launched after the September 11 attacks. On a party-line vote of 10-8, the Republican-led panel sent the bill to the full Senate for an uncertain fate ahead of November 7 congressional elections.

* Committee Votes to Expand Warrantless Surveillance Authority The Senate Judiciary Committee approved several NSA bills today -- two of which would radically expand the President's authority to conduct warrantless surveillance inside the United States.  Senator Arlen Specter's (R-Pa.) bill (S. 2453), which Specter revised to accommodate White House requests for greater authority, would ratify and dramatically expand the President's authority to wiretap Americans without judicial approval.  Senator Mike DeWine's (R-Ohio) bill (S. 2455) would authorize warrantless wiretapping programs without prior judicial approval and under a lower standard than the Fourth Amendment requires.  CDT supports the Specter-Feinstein measure (S. 3001), which, unlike the other bills, restores the constitutional balance of power while addressing the legitimate concerns the Administration has raised. The full Senate could take up the bills as early as next week.

Analysis: Specter and Wilson FISA Bills

* GOP Leaders Back Bush on Wiretapping, Tribunals

* NSA court review bill is sent to full Senate

* Senate Panel Sends a Mixed Message on Wiretapping

FEMA OVERHAUL DEBATE STALLS FUNDS FOR INTEROPERABLE RADIOS

[SOURCE: Washington Post (requires registration), AUTHOR: Spencer S. Hsu]

House Republicans are blocking an attempt to spend $3.1 billion to help the nation's police and fire agencies communicate in emergencies as Congress debates a proposed overhaul of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. As both parties intensified the election-season rhetoric over national security, Democrats accused GOP leaders of shortchanging the well-documented need to improve communication among first responders. Republicans acknowledged that they do not want to spend billions prematurely, saying more planning and coordination are needed. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff rebuffed calls for dedicated federal grants to upgrade equipment, coordinate plans, train emergency workers and adapt common technology standards.  Instead, he said, state and local leaders must first agree on radio codes and protocols. "This is not, frankly, a technology issue," Chertoff told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Tuesday. "This is an issue of having community leaders come to an agreement." The inability of police and firefighters to talk by radio was a critical factor after the 2001 World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, according to the Sept. 11 commission.

HEAD OF BROADCAST BOARD SURVIVES EFFORT TO OUST HIM

[SOURCE: New York Times (requires registration), AUTHOR: Stephen Labaton]

Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, the embattled chairman of the federal board that oversees most government broadcasts to foreign countries, narrowly survived an effort to oust him on Wednesday.  After a recent report by the inspector general at the State Department that Mr. Tomlinson had used his office to run a horse-racing operation and that he had improperly put a friend on the payroll, the three Democratic members of the seven-member Broadcasting Board of Governors offered two resolutions. One resolution called for his resignation as chairman during a continuing inquiry; the other sought to curtail his authority sharply. The Justice Department has declined to pursue a criminal investigation but is conducting a related civil inquiry. Both resolutions failed 3 to 3 on party-line votes. Mr. Tomlinson did not participate in the votes, people involved in the closed-door session said. Mr. Tomlinson has denied doing anything improper and had said the investigation "was inspired by partisan divisions inside the Broadcasting Board of Governors." Mr. Tomlinson, whose term has expired, has been nominated for a second term and continues to have the support of the White House. Republicans in the Senate said that in light of the continuing inquiry, they would not bring his nomination to the floor this year. Under federal law, board members may continue to serve past the expiration of their appointments until successors are named.

LOCAL LEADERS URGE OWNER OF THE TIMES TO AVOID CUTS

[SOURCE:  Los Angeles Times (requires registration), AUTHOR: James Rainey]

Twenty Los Angeles civic leaders sent a letter of protest to the Chicago-based owners of the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, saying that continued staff reductions threatened to seriously erode the quality of journalism at The Times. Former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher was among the prominent citizens who urged Tribune Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Dennis J. FitzSimons and the media company's board of directors "to resist economic pressures to make additional cuts which could remove it from the top ranks of American journalism." "All newspapers serve an important civic role," the letter adds, "but as a community voice in the metropolitan region, the Los Angeles Times is irreplaceable."

NEW SITE EDUCATES POLITICAL SPEAKERS ABOUT THEIR RIGHTS

[SOURCE: Center for Democracy & Technology]

The vast majority of political speech by individuals on the Internet is fully protected by the law and carries no risk of violating campaign finance rules. That is the key message of NetDemocracyGuide.org, a new Web site created by the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) to educate Internet users about their rights and obligations under campaign finance law. Developed with the support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, NetDemocracyGuide.org makes it easy for bloggers and other citizen activists to quickly understand the new campaign finance rules, and how those rules apply to them.

Net Democracy Guide

Press Release