Those whose arguments are empty of fact are usually full of shit. --David Porter
Get it out there. Call, write, talk, inform.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Always a Brides Maid, Never The Bride

The NJ Supreme Court yesterday did NOT rule that NJ must allow Gays to marry.

The NJ Supreme Court (rightly and justly) ruled that Gays must be allowed to have the same Civil Rights that a marriage license grants to hetero couples.

The NJ Supreme Court decided that it was unconscionable to withhold from Gays the same economic and medical benefits that married couples are granted by federal and state governments (and corporations) through a state issued marriage license. There about 1,400 legal rights conferred upon married couples (about 400 state benefits and over 1,000 federal benefits).

But wait! What’s that the knuckle dragger’s on the Far Right say?
“Same sex couples CAN already get those rights by signing some legal documents.”

Well, after spending months and months and thousands and thousands of dollars for an attorney to draw up legal documents, the Gays can get about a third of the same Civil Rights that a $25 marriage license grants.

SO, for about $25 a heterosexual couple automatically has the right to :

joint parenting;
joint adoption;
joint foster care, custody, and visitation (including non-biological parents);
status as next-of-kin for hospital visits
medical decisions where one partner is too ill to be competent;
joint insurance policies for home, auto and health;
dissolution and divorce protections
immigration and residency for partners from other countries;
inheritance automatically in the absence of a will;
inheritance of jointly-owned real and personal property
the right of survivorship (which avoids probate);
benefits such as annuities, pension plans, Social Security, and Medicare;
spousal exemptions to property tax increases upon the death of one partner who is a co-owner of the home;
veterans' discounts on medical care, education, and home loans;
joint filing of tax returns;
joint filing of customs claims when traveling;
wrongful death benefits for a surviving partner and children;
bereavement or sick leave to care for a partner or child;
decision-making power with respect to a deceased partner cremation or burial;
crime victims' recovery benefits;
loss of consortium tort benefits;
domestic violence protection orders;
judicial protections and evidentiary immunity;
and more...

So, sure the Gays could spend thousands of dollars and POSSIBLY get SOME of the above rights, but contrary to the lies spread by conservatives, most of these legal and economic benefits CANNOT be privately arranged or contracted for.

What the Gays CANNOT get from an attorney after months and thousands of dollars, (because absent a legal or civil marriage there is no guaranteed joint responsibility to the partner and to third parties) are rights in such areas as:

child support;
debts to creditors;
joint filing of tax returns;
employer health insurance;
annuities, pension plans, Social Security, and Medicare;
joint insurance policies for home, auto and health;
joint filing of customs claims when traveling;
veterans' discounts on medical care, education, and home loans;
decision-making power with respect to a deceased partner cremation or burial;

And, of course, when people cannot marry, they are denied all the emotional and social benefits and responsibilities of marriage as well.

The majority of Gays are not out to “change the definition of marriage.” We are “out” to change misguided and hateful misperceptions and we are “out” to become responsible, productive, and caring members of our society.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

An open letter of warning

This is an open letter of warning to those who really care about the United States of America and all the men and women who have fought and died for her ideals.

The Republican strategy for the midterms doesn't focus on the issues. The Republican Strategy is to not only confuse, deter, and outright eliminate voters but to also reduce resources such as paper and provisional ballots. Republicans cannot win on the issues and they know from experience that controlling the voting process and the vote counting is a guaranteed way to win elections.

We must get as many people as we can to vote early and to use paper ballots.

As the Supreme Court (in)famously decided in the 2000 election, you have the right as an American to vote, but you do not have the right for that vote to be counted. Let's take that to heart in this extremely important election cycle.

A Zogby poll revealed that 92% of Americans, spanning every party and democraphic group, believe that the public has the right to view and verify the counting of votes.

Secure, fair, and unalterable voting has become particularly important because of the use of electronic voting systems, which employ secret, proprietary code, do not allow public inspection, and fail to issue a receipt. Even your ATM machine gives you a receipt.

After the primary in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, it was found that 15% of paper ballot records did not match the touch-screen electronic counts. CNN correspondent Kitty Pilgrim called that election "a debacle."
I call it the greatest threat to Democracy the world has ever seen.

Get it out there. Call. Write. Talk. Inform. VOTE©

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Doin' It With the Children

This would be hilarious if it weren’t so callous and disgusting. Rep. Thomas Reynolds gave a press conference today to discuss his role in helping cover up Mark Foley’s lecherous behavior. Afraid of getting stung with embarrassing questions like “When did you find out Foley had a ‘cast fetish’?” , Reynolds decided to take out a little insurance.

To their credit, reporters saw through his transparent attempt to hide behind children. From Firedoglake :

Reporter: Congressman, do you mind asking the children to leave the room so we can have a frank discussion of this, because it’s an adult topic. It just doesn’t seem appropriate to me.

Reynolds: I’ll take your questions, but I’m not going to ask any of my supporters to leave.

. . .

Reporter: Who are the children, Congressman? Who are these children?

Reynolds: Pardon me?

Reporter: Who are these children?

Reynolds: Well, a number of them are from the community. There are several of the “thirtysomething” set that are here and uh I’ve known them and I’ve known their children as they were born.

Reporter: Do you think it’s appropriate for them to be listening to the subject matter though?

Reynolds: Sir, I’ll be happy to answer your questions, I’m still, uh…

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Tenet-Rice Meeting On July 10, 2001

Update: Former Counsel to the 9/11 Commission suggests that "[v]ery possibly, someone committed a crime" by engaging in a "cover-up" of the warning)

According to a new book written by Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward, two months before the September 11 attacks, then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice gave the "brush-off" to an "impending terrorist attack" warning by former C.I.A. director George J. Tenet and his counterterrorism coordinator.

An article in Friday's New York Times first mentioned the warning, and a front page book review of Woodward's State of Denial in Saturday's edition provides more details.

"On July 10, 2001, the book says, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, met with Ms. Rice at the White House to impress upon her the seriousness of the intelligence the agency was collecting about an impending attack," David E. Sanger reported on Friday. "But both men came away from the meeting feeling that Ms. Rice had not taken the warnings seriously."

Sanger also reported that Tenet told Woodward that before 9/11, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was "impeding" efforts to catch Osama bin Laden.

"Mr. Woodward writes that in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Tenet believed that Mr. Rumsfeld was impeding the effort to develop a coherent strategy to capture or kill Osama bin Laden," wrote Sanger. "Mr. Rumsfeld questioned the electronic signals from terrorism suspects that the National Security Agency had been intercepting, wondering whether they might be part of an elaborate deception plan by Al Qaeda."

Saturday's New York Times review claims that in Woodward's book, Rice "is depicted as a presidential enabler, ineffectual at her job of coordinating interagency strategy and planning."

"For instance, Mr. Woodward writes that on July 10, 2001, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism coordinator, J. Cofer Black, met with Ms. Rice to warn her of mounting intelligence about an impending terrorist attack, but came away feeling they’d been given 'the brush-off' — a revealing encounter, given Ms. Rice’s recent comments, rebutting former President Bill Clinton’s allegations that the Bush administration had failed to pursue counterterrorism measures aggressively before 9/11," writes Michiko Kakutani.

Saturday's Washington Post has more details regarding the meeting.

"The book also reports that then-CIA Director George J. Tenet and his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, grew so concerned in the summer of 2001 about a possible al-Qaeda attack that they drove straight to the White House to get high-level attention," Peter Baker reports for the Post.

"Tenet called Rice, then the national security adviser, from his car to ask to see her, in hopes that the surprise appearance would make an impression. But the meeting on July 10, 2001, left Tenet and Black frustrated and feeling brushed off, Woodward reported," the article continues. "Rice, they thought, did not seem to feel the same sense of urgency about the threat and was content to wait for an ongoing policy review."

Excerpts from Post article:

The report of such a meeting takes on heightened importance after former president Bill Clinton said this week that the Bush team did not do enough to try to kill Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said her husband would have paid more attention to warnings of a possible attack than Bush did. Rice fired back on behalf of the current president, saying the Bush administration "was at least as aggressive" in eight months as President Clinton had been in eight years.

The July 10 meeting of Rice, Tenet and Black went unmentioned in various investigations into the Sept. 11 attacks, and Woodward wrote that Black "felt there were things the commissions wanted to know about and things they didn't want to know about."

Jamie S. Gorelick, a member of the Sept. 11 commission, said she checked with commission staff members who told her investigators were never told about a July 10 meeting. "We didn't know about the meeting itself," she said. "I can assure you it would have been in our report if we had known to ask about it."

White House and State Department officials yesterday confirmed that the July 10 meeting took place, although they took issue with Woodward's portrayal of its results. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, responding on behalf of Rice, said Tenet and Black had never publicly expressed any frustration with her response.

"This is the first time these thoughts and feelings associated with that meeting have been expressed," McCormack said. "People are free to revise and extend their remarks, but that is certainly not the story that was told to the 9/11 commission."


'This is going to be the big one'
Another Post article slated for Sunday's edition provides even more details.

"For months, Tenet had been pressing Rice to set a clear counterterrorism policy, including specific presidential orders, called "findings," that would give the CIA stronger authority to conduct covert action against bin Laden," the uncredited Post article reports. "Perhaps a dramatic appearance -- Black called it an 'out of cycle' session, beyond Tenet's regular weekly meeting with Rice -- would get her attention."

J. Cofer Black later said that "[t]he only thing we didn't do was pull the trigger to the gun we were holding to her head."

Excerpts from Sunday's Post article:

Tenet had been losing sleep over the recent intelligence. There was no conclusive, smoking-gun intelligence, but there was such a huge volume of data that an intelligence officer's instinct strongly suggested that something was coming.

He did not know when, where or how, but Tenet felt there was too much noise in the intelligence systems. Two weeks earlier, he had told Richard A. Clarke, the National Security Council's counterterrorism director: "It's my sixth sense, but I feel it coming. This is going to be the big one."

But Tenet had been having difficulty getting traction on an immediate bin Laden action plan, in part because Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had questioned all the intelligence, asking: Could it all be a grand deception? Perhaps, he said, it was a plan to measure U.S. reactions and defenses.

Tenet had the National Security Agency review all the intercepts, and the agency concluded they were of genuine al-Qaeda communications. On June 30, a top-secret senior executive intelligence brief contained an article headlined "Bin Laden Threats Are Real."


Tenet left the meeting feeling frustrated. Though Rice had given them a fair hearing, no immediate action meant great risk. Black felt the decision to just keep planning was a sustained policy failure. Rice and the Bush team had been in hibernation too long. "Adults should not have a system like this," he said later.

An "editor's note" appended to the end of the article notes that "[h]ow much effort the Bush administration made in going after Osama bin Laden before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, became an issue last week after former president Bill Clinton accused President Bush's 'neocons' and other Republicans of ignoring bin Laden until the attacks."

"Rice responded in an interview that 'what we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years,'" the editor's note continues.


'Very possibly, someone committed a crime'
Saturday night at Think Progress, former Counsel to the 9/11 Commission Peter Rundlet guest-blogged a post called "Bush Officials May Have Covered Up Rice-Tenet Meeting From 9/11 Commission."

"Most of the world has now seen the infamous picture of President Bush tending to his ranch on August 6, 2001, the day he received the ultra-classified Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) that included a report entitled 'Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US,'" Rundlet blogs. "And most Americans have also heard of the so-called 'Phoenix Memo' that an FBI agent in Phoenix sent to FBI headquarters on July 10, 2001, which advised of the 'possibility of a coordinated effort' by bin Laden to send students to the United States to attend civil aviation schools."

But Rundlet writes that a "mixture of shock, anger, and sadness overcame" him when he read about Tenet's "special surprise visit" to see Rice in July of 2001.

"If true, it is shocking that the administration failed to heed such an overwhelming alert from the two officials in the best position to know," writes Rundlet.

"Many, many questions need to be asked and answered about this revelation — questions that the 9/11 Commission would have asked, had the Commission been told about this significant meeting," adds Rundlet. "Suspiciously, the Commissioners and the staff investigating the administration’s actions prior to 9/11 were never informed of the meeting."

Rundlet suggests that the "withholding of information" from the Commission may constitute a crime, and scoffs at Cofer's excuse in Woodward's book.

"Was it covered up?" asks Rundlet. "It is hard to come to a different conclusion."

"If one could suspend disbelief to accept that all three officials forgot about the meeting when they were interviewed, then one possibility is that the memory of one of them was later jogged by notes or documents that describe the meeting," Rundlet continues. "If such documents exist, the 9/11 Commission should have seen them."

Rundlet quotes a line from Woodward's book which he says shows how "Black exonerates them all."

"Though the investigators had access to all the paperwork about the meeting, Black felt there were things the commissions wanted to know about and things they didn’t want to know about," wrote Woodward in the third volume of Bush at War.

"The notion that both the 9/11 Commission and the Congressional Joint Inquiry that investigated the intelligence prior to 9/11 did not want to know about such essential information is simply absurd," writes Rundlet. "At a minimum, the withholding of information about this meeting is an outrage."

"Very possibly, someone committed a crime," Rundlet concludes. "And worst of all, they failed to stop the plot."


White House: Five Key Myths in Book
On Saturday, the White House "went on the offensive," Caren Bohan reported for Reuters.

In the latest edition in its "Setting the Record Straight" series which uses official statements and media accounts it favors to counter articles in the press or Democratic arguments, the White House lists "Five Key Myths in Woodward's Book." The first "Setting the Record Straight" posted in February of 2005 took on a Washington Post article which reported that a Bush plan would result in participants forfeiting part of their retirement account profits, an assertion the White House blasted as "flat wrong."

To counter the third "myth," the White House presents the "fact" that "according to State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack, the recollections portrayed by Woodward do not reflect Tenet and Black's 9/11 Commission Testimony," then quotes from another Times article written by Sanger.

"But Rice and other State Department officials denied [Woodward's claim], noting that the report of the Sept. 11 commission, which had sworn testimony from Tenet and others at the meeting, made no mention of the July 10 encounter," wrote Sanger. "'The recollections as portrayed in the Woodward book in no way reflect the public and private testimony under oath of those individuals to the 9/11 commission,' said Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman."

The full list of "five myths" can be read at