Thursday, June 29, 2006

Court rejects military tribunals

Court rejects military tribunals
The high court's 5-to-3 ruling Thursday scuttled US plans for Guantanamo detainees
By Warren Richey | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
In a landmark decision restricting tahe president's powers during wartime, the US Supreme Court has dealt the Bush administration a severe blow in its push to prosecute terrorists in military tribunals. 

The court ruled 5-to-3 Thursday that Mr. Bush acted outside his authority when he ordered Al Qaeda suspects to stand trial before these specially organized military commissions. The ruling said that the commission process at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, could not proceed without violating US military law and provisions of the Geneva Conventions. "The commission lacks power to proceed," writes Justice John Paul Stevens for the court majority.

President Bush said he would honor the decision in the case called Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, but do it in a way that did not jeopardize the safety of Americans.

"I want to find a way forward," Bush told reporters. "I would like there to be a way to return people from Guantánamo to their home countries, but some of these people need to be tried" in court.

Human-rights organizations praised the ruling as a step forward for the US, while administrtation supporters expressed concern.

"This is a very serious blow for the president," says Andrew McBride, a former federal prosecutor who filed a friend of the court brief in the case. "It takes a very narrow view of the president's authority."

Thomas Wilner, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who represents several detainees at Guantánamo, said the ruling shows that presidents must act in accord with other branches of government. "It really reaffirms what courts have said from the beginning of the republic. That at times of crisis, the executive is not exempt from following the law," Mr. Wilner says.

The case sharply split the high court with six separate opinions covering 177 pages.

"The (Uniform Code of Military Justice) conditions the president's use of military commissions on compliance not only with the American common law of war, but also with the rest of the UCMJ itself," Justice Stevens writes. "The procedures that the government has decreed will govern (detainee Salim Ahmed) Hamdan's trial by commission violate these laws."

Joining Justice Stevens' opinion were Justices Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer.

Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito dissented, saying the court lacked jurisdiction to take up the case. In a second dissent on the merits, Justice Thomas said the court owed the president "a heavy measure of deference."

"The court's evident belief that it is qualified to pass on the military necessity of the commander in chief's decision to employ a particular form of force against our enemies is so antithetical to our constitutional structure that it simply cannot got unanswered," Thomas writes.

Chief Justice John Roberts did not participate in the case because he was part of a three-judge federal appeals court panel that ruled on the same case in the Bush administration's favor last July.

On Thursday, the high court overturned that earlier ruling.

The decision comes in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan of Yemen, who is alleged to have worked as a driver and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. Mr. Hamdan is one of 10 detainees at Guantánamo facing war crimes trials before a military commission.

Defense officials say 65 more detainees are under consideration for commission trials.

Overall, there are some 450 detainees at the controversial detention facility. US allies in Europe and the UN's Committee Against Torture have urged the US to close the detention camp. Critics say harsh treatment of detainees at the camp has tarnished America's image as a champion of international human rights.

Supporters of the camp say it is necessary to facilitate intelligence gathering and that without military commissions many "enemy combatants" could not be prosecuted. Evidence against some of them was obtained through sensitive intelligence operations and using methods that likely violate constitutional protections, legal analysts say.

The Supreme Court ruling does not address whether Guantanámo should remain open or shut down. Instead, it focuses on the process for holding commission trials established by the president in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Lawyers working on Hamdan's behalf had charged that President Bush violated US and international law in ordering specially formulated commission trials at Guantánamo.

The Supreme Court agreed.

"It bears emphasizing that Hamdan does not challenge, and we do not today address, the government's power to detain him for the duration of active hostilities," Stevens writes. "But in undertaking to try Hamdan and subject him to criminal punishment, the executive is bound to comply with the rule of law that prevails in this jurisdiction."

The case was being closely watched because it required the justices to confront the fundamental constitutional tension between presidential, congressional, and judicial power during times of national peril.

In reaching their decision, the majority justices said provisions within the Uniform Code of Military Justice - rules for conducting trials and other judicial matters within the US armed forces - bar the president from establishing military commissions with fewer procedural safeguards than are afforded to American soldiers charged with crimes.

At the same time the majority justices adopted a narrow view of the Congress's 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. The administration had argued that the AUMF authorized more than just military operations, it also authorized military detentions and special military trials.

The majority justices did not rule that the president was unable to conduct military commission trials, only that the procedures set out for those trials did not comply with US and international law.

The court ruled that the procedures violated a portion of the Geneva Conventions. The ruling invalidates a presidential determination that Al Qaeda suspects by virtue of their terrorist activities are not covered by the Geneva accords.

"There is at least one provision of the Geneva Conventions that applies here," Stevens writes, referring to Common Article 3 of the conventions which appears in all four of the accords.

He quotes one part of the accords as prohibiting: "the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."

Mr. McBride called this part of the court's ruling "startling."

He adds: "Given the strictures of Common Article 3, it's just outrageous to say that a terrorist organization whose sole purpose is to violate the laws of war should be given the protection of the Geneva Conventions."

In addition, the court said its review of the matter was not preempted by passage in December of the Detainee Treatment Act. The DTA bars federal courts from hearing cases filed by detainees at Guantánamo Bay, but permits appeals to the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. The Justices said the law did not apply to pending cases like Hamdan's.

Paul Kamenar of the Washington Legal Foundation said the ruling will not necessary end the commission process at Guantánmo. "The court struck down the military tribunals in terms of their procedural defects," he says. "The Bush administration can fix that by reinstituting the procedures that the court indicates lacked safeguards."

David Remes, a Washington, D.C., lawyer representing 17 detainees at Guantánamo, says the decision has broader implications. "It repudiates the broad assertion of unilateral power by the president to take any action that he considers to be justified in the name of fighting terrorism," he says.

Mr. Remes adds, "This was a case about presidential power - the power to break free from our system of checks and balances, the power to declare the law, the power to act as judge and jury and prosecutor and rulemaker. He is not a king. That is the meaning of this decision."

The decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld stems from an attempt by military prosecutors to try Hamdan for allegedly conspiring to commit terrorism. Prosecutors at the terrorism prison camp at Guantanámo Bay said Hamdan was a member of Al Qaeda who served as Mr. bin Laden's personal driver. He helped deliver weapons to other Al Qaeda members and was trained in the use of rifles, handguns, and machine guns at the group's Al-Farouq camp in Afghanistan, according to commission documents.

Defense lawyers say Hamdan was just a hired driver who was captured by Afghan forces while trying to return to his family. In addition to arguing that their client had not engaged in terrorism, the lawyers also attacked the legality of the military commission process.

Hamdan's trial was halted in November 2004 when a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that Hamdan's trial by military commission violated US and international law. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed that decision, ruling in the Bush administration's favor last July. In November, the Supreme Court agreed to take up Hamdan's appeal.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Limbaugh is Busted Again

Limbaugh is Busted Again

Limbaugh detained after luggage search produces pills
By Kevin Deutsch, Susan Spencer-Wendel
Palm Beach Post Staff Writers

Less than two months after striking a deal to avoid criminal prosecution, conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh was detained for more than three hours Monday at Palm Beach International Airport after customs agents found a bottle of Viagra prescribed to someone else in his luggage.

Limbaugh, 55, arrived on a private plane from the Dominican Republic about 2 p.m. and walked into a private terminal at Signature Flight Support. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer checked his luggage and found the bottle containing 29 blue Viagra tablets, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

The label listed the names of two doctors; Limbaugh told officials they were his personal physicians in Florida. Limbaugh's name was nowhere on the bottle, sheriff's office spokesman Paul Miller said.

Viagra is used to treat erectile dysfunction. Possession of certain drugs without a prescription could be a second-degree misdemeanor, Miller said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials detained the Palm Beach resident before turning the investigation over to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office about 4:30 p.m. Limbaugh cooperated with deputies and gave a statement indicating that the bottle was for his use, Miller said.

Zachary Mann, special agent and spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said luggage checks are "typical." Limbaugh was allowed to leave the airport about 5:30 p.m., Miller said.

The sheriff's office will turn the investigation over to the state attorney's office, which will determine whether charges will be filed.

"We believe there might be a violation of state statute, but it will be up to the state attorney's office to make the final determination," Miller said.

The incident comes as Limbaugh waits in legal limbo, a felony charge of doctor-shopping still hanging over his head. Prosecutors charged him with the crime in late April, but entered an agreement with him whereby the charge would be dropped after 18 months upon completion of substance-abuse treatment. He is required to submit to random drug analysis.

State attorney's office spokesman Mike Edmondson said his office also will look into whether Limbaugh violated that agreement with prosecutors. Prosecutors also will examine the possibility of "any doctor being complicit and the possibility of doctors being charged as well."

According to the deferred-prosecution agreement, Limbaugh must refrain from violation of any law.

If prosecutors determine the Viagra possession to be a crime, Limbaugh could again face the felony doctor-shopping charge. Doctor-shopping is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Limbaugh's attorney, Roy Black, said in a statement Monday night that Limbaugh was detained after returning from an international trip.

The drug "had been prescribed by Mr. Limbaugh's treating physician but labeled as being issued to the physician rather than Mr. Limbaugh for privacy purposes," the statement said.

Limbaugh, an admitted prescription-drug addict, reported to the Palm Beach County Jail April 28 and was out within an hour on the felony doctor-shopping charge.

His former housekeeper triggered the investigation after telling prosecutors she supplied Limbaugh with thousands of doses of OxyContin and other painkillers from 1998 to 2002.

Investigators seized Limbaugh's medical records in 2003, igniting a legal battle all the way to the Florida Supreme Court and arguing a right to privacy.

Limbaugh decried the investigation to his millions of listeners as a political witch hunt headed by a Democrat, State Attorney Barry Krischer. For months, his Web site featured a link to material about the "fishing expedition."

Mann said the search of Limbaugh's luggage was allowable under "border search authority" and is a common practice when people enter the country.

"It's like a police officer making a traffic stop," Mann said. "They do those things all day."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Is the NSA Spying On US Internet Traffic?

Is the NSA Spying On US Internet Traffic?

Salon exclusive: Two former AT&T employees say the telecom giant has maintained a secret, highly secure room in St. Louis since 2002. Intelligence experts say it bears the earmarks of a National Security Agency operation. 
By Kim Zetter

Jun. 21, 2006 | In a pivotal network operations center in metropolitan St. Louis, AT&T has maintained a secret, highly secured room since 2002 where government work is being conducted, according to two former AT&T workers once employed at the center. 

In interviews with Salon, the former AT&T workers said that only government officials or AT&T employees with top-secret security clearance are admitted to the room, located inside AT&T's facility in Bridgeton. The room's tight security includes a biometric "mantrap" or highly sophisticated double door, secured with retinal and fingerprint scanners. The former workers say company supervisors told them that employees working inside the room were "monitoring network traffic" and that the room was being used by "a government agency." 

The details provided by the two former workers about the Bridgeton room bear the distinctive earmarks of an operation run by the National Security Agency, according to two intelligence experts with extensive knowledge of the NSA and its operations. In addition to the room's high-tech security, those intelligence experts told Salon, the exhaustive vetting process AT&T workers were put through before being granted top-secret security clearance points to the NSA, an agency known as much for its intense secrecy as its technological sophistication. 

"It was very hush-hush," said one of the former AT&T workers. "We were told there was going to be some government personnel working in that room. We were told, 'Do not try to speak to them. Do not hamper their work. Do not impede anything that they're doing.'" 

The importance of the Bridgeton facility is its role in managing the "common backbone" for all of AT&T's Internet operations. According to one of the former workers, Bridgeton serves as the technical command center from which the company manages all the routers and circuits carrying the company's domestic and international Internet traffic. Therefore, Bridgeton could be instrumental for conducting surveillance or collecting data. 

If the NSA is using the secret room, it would appear to bolster recent allegations that the agency has been conducting broad and possibly illegal domestic surveillance and data collection operations authorized by the Bush administration after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. AT&T's Bridgeton location would give the NSA potential access to an enormous amount of Internet data -- currently, the telecom giant controls approximately one-third of all bandwidth carrying Internet traffic to homes and businesses across the United States.

The nature of the government operation using the Bridgeton room remains unknown, and could be legal. Aside from surveillance or data collection, the room could conceivably house a federal law enforcement operation, a classified research project, or some other unknown government operation. 

The former workers, both of whom were approached by and spoke separately to Salon, asked to remain anonymous because they still work in the telecommunications industry. They both left the company in good standing. Neither worked inside the secured room or has access to classified information. One worked in AT&T's broadband division until 2003. The other asked to be identified only as a network technician, and worked at Bridgeton for about three years. 

The disclosure of the room in Bridgeton follows assertions made earlier this year by a former AT&T worker in California, Mark Klein, who revealed that the company had installed a secret room in a San Francisco facility and reconfigured its circuits, allegedly to help collect data for use by the government. In detailed documents he provided to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Klein also alleged there were other secret rooms at AT&T facilities in other U.S. cities. 

NSA expert Matthew Aid, who has spent the last decade researching a forthcoming three-volume history of the agency, said of the Bridgeton room: "I'm not a betting man, but if I had to plunk $100 down, I'd say it's safe that it's NSA." Aid told Salon he believes the secret room is likely part of "what is obviously a much larger operation, or series of interrelated operations" combining foreign intelligence gathering with domestic eavesdropping and data collection.

"You're talking about a backbone for computer communications, and that's NSA," Russ Tice, a former high-level NSA intelligence officer, told Salon. Tice, a 20-year veteran of multiple U.S. intelligence agencies, worked for the NSA until spring 2005. "Whatever is happening there with the security you're talking about is a whole lot more closely held than what's going on with the Klein case" in San Francisco, he said. (The San Francisco room is secured only by a special combination lock, according to the Klein documents.

Tice added that for an operation requiring access to routers and gateways, "the obvious place to do it is right at the source." 

In a statement provided to Salon, NSA spokesman Don Weber said: "Given the nature of the work we do, it would be irresponsible to comment on actual or alleged operational issues as it would give those wishing to do harm to the United States insight that could potentially place Americans in danger; therefore, we have no information to provide. However, it is important to note that NSA takes its legal responsibilities seriously and operates within the law." 

Since last December, news reports have asserted that the NSA has conducted warrantless spying on the phone and e-mail communications of thousands of people inside the U.S., and has been secretly collecting the phone call records of millions of Americans, using data provided by major telecommunications companies, including AT&T. Such operations would represent a fundamental shift in the NSA's secretive mission, which over the last three decades is widely understood to have focused exclusively on collecting signals intelligence from abroad. 

The reported operations have sparked fierce protest by lawmakers and civil liberties advocates, and have raised fundamental questions about the legality of Bush administration policies, including their consequences for the privacy rights of Americans. The Bush administration has acknowledged the use of domestic surveillance operations since Sept. 11, 2001, but maintains they are conducted within the legal authority of the presidency. Several cases challenging the legality of the alleged spying operations are now pending in federal court, including suits against the federal government, and AT&T, among other telecom companies. 

In a statement provided to Salon, AT&T spokesman Walt Sharp said: "If and when AT&T is asked by government agencies for help, we do so strictly within the law and under the most stringent conditions. Beyond that, we can't comment on matters of national security." 

According to the two former AT&T workers and the Klein documents, the room in the pivotal Bridgeton facility was set up several months before the room in San Francisco. According to the Klein documents, the work order for the San Francisco room came from Bridgeton, suggesting that Bridgeton has a more integral role in operations using the secured rooms. 

The company's Bridgeton network operations center, where approximately 100 people work, is located inside a one-story brick building with a small two-story addition connected to it. The building shares a parking lot with a commercial business and is near an interstate highway. 

According to the two former workers, the secret room is an internal structure measuring roughly 20 feet by 40 feet, and was previously used by employees of the company's WorldNet division. In spring 2002, they said, the company moved WorldNet employees to a different part of the building and sealed up the room, plastering over the window openings and installing steel double doors with no handles for moving equipment in and out of the room. The company then installed the high-tech mantrap, which has opaque Plexiglas-like doors that prevent anyone outside the room from seeing clearly into the mantrap chamber, or the room beyond it. Both former workers say the mantrap drew attention from employees for being so high-tech. 

Telecom companies commonly use mantraps to secure data storage facilities, but they are typically less sophisticated, requiring only a swipe card to pass through. The high-tech mantrap in Bridgeton seems unusual because it is located in an otherwise low-key, small office building. Tice said it indicates "something going on that's very important, because you're talking about an awful lot of money" to pay for such security measures. 

The vetting process for AT&T workers granted access to the room also points to the NSA, according to Tice and Aid. 

The former network technician said he knows at least three AT&T employees who have been working in the room since 2002. "It took them six months to get the top-security clearance for the guys," the network technician said. "Although they work for AT&T, they're actually doing a job for the government." He said that each of them underwent extensive background checks before starting their jobs in the room. The vetting process included multiple polygraph tests, employment history reviews, and interviews with neighbors and school instructors, going as far back as elementary school. 

Aid said that type of vetting is precisely the kind NSA personnel who receive top-secret SCI (Sensitive Compartmented Information) clearance go through. "Everybody who works at NSA has an SCI clearance," said Aid. 

It's possible the Bridgeton room is being used for a federal law enforcement operation. According to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994, telecom companies are required to assist law enforcement officials who have legal authorization to conduct electronic surveillance, either in pursuit of criminal suspects or for the protection of national security. The companies must design or modify their systems to make such surveillance possible, essentially by making them wiretap-ready. 

The FBI is the primary federal agency that tracks and apprehends terrorist suspects within the U.S. Yet, there are several indications that the Bridgeton room does not involve the FBI. 

"The FBI, which is probably the least technical agency in the U.S. government, doesn't use mantraps," Aid said. "But virtually every area of the NSA's buildings that contain sensitive operations require you to go through a mantrap with retinal and fingerprint scanners. All of the sensitive offices in NSA buildings have them." The description of the opaque Plexiglas-like doors in Bridgeton, Aid said, indicates that the doors are likely infused with Kevlar for bulletproofing -- another signature measure that he said is used to secure NSA facilities: "You could be inside and you can't kick your way out. You can't shoot your way out. Even if you put plastique explosives, all you could do is blow a very small hole in that opaque glass." 

Jameel Jaffer, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union's national security program, said it is unlikely that the FBI would set up an ongoing technical operation -- in this case, for several years running -- inside a room of a telecommunications company. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, passed by Congress in 1978, requires law enforcement officials to obtain warrants from a secret federal court for domestic surveillance operations involving the protection of national security. If the FBI (or another federal agency) wanted data, it would more likely be targeting a specific individual or set of individuals suspected of engaging in criminal or terrorist activities. The agency would obtain a warrant and then call AT&T, or show up in person with the warrant and ask for the wiretap to be engaged. According to Jaffer, the FBI, NSA or any other federal agency could also legally tap into communications data under federal guidelines using technical means that would not require technical assistance of a telecom company. 

In an e-mail statement to Salon, FBI spokesperson Paul Bresson said: "The FBI does not confirm whether or not we are involved in an alleged ongoing operational activity. In all cases, FBI operations are conducted in strict accordance with established Department of Justice guidelines, FBI policy, and the law." 

Rather than specifically targeted surveillance, it is also possible that the Bridgeton room is being used for a classified government project, such as data mining, with which the Pentagon has experimented in the past. Data mining uses automated methods to search through large volumes of data, looking for patterns that might help identify terrorist suspects, for example. According to Tice, private sector employees who work on classified government projects for the NSA are required to undergo the same kind of top-secret security clearance that AT&T workers in the Bridgeton room underwent. 

According to the former network technician, all three AT&T employees he knows who work inside the room have network technician and administration backgrounds -- not research backgrounds -- suggesting that those workers are only conducting maintenance or technical operations inside the room. 

Furthermore, Tice said it is much more likely that any classified project using data collected via a corporate facility would take place in separate facilities: "The information that you garner from something like a room siphoning information and filtering it would be sent to some place where you'd have people thinking about what to do with that data," he said. 

Dave Farber, a respected computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University and former chief technologist for the Federal Communications Commission, also said it is likely that data collected in a facility like the Bridgeton center would be used elsewhere, once the facility is set up to divert the data. "If I own the routers, I can put code in there to have them monitor for certain data. That's not a particularly difficult job," said Farber, who is considered one of the pioneers of Internet architecture. Farber said that "packets" of data can essentially be copied and then sent to some other location for use. "Most of the problems would have to do with keeping your staff from knowing too much about it." 

According to the former network technician, workers at Bridgeton, at the direction of government officials, could conceivably collect data using any AT&T router around the country, which he says number between 1,500 and 2,000. To do so, the company would need to install a wiretap-like device at select locations for "sniffing" the desired data. That could explain the purpose of the San Francisco room divulged by Klein, as well as the secret rooms he alleged existed at AT&T facilities in other U.S. cities. 

"The network sniffer with the right software can capture anything," the former network technician said. "You can get people's e-mail, VoIP phone calls, [calls made over the Internet] -- even passwords and credit card transactions -- as long as you have the right software to decrypt that." 

In theory, surveillance involving Internet communications can be executed legally under federal law. "But with most of these things," Farber said, "the problem is that it just takes one small step to make it illegal." 

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Music Legend Stevie Wonder to Be Honored With National Artistic Achievement Award Live on PBS' a Capitol Fourth

Music Legend Stevie Wonder to Be Honored With National Artistic Achievement Award Live on PBS' a Capitol Fourth

To: National Desk, Entertainment Reporter, Photo Editor 

Contact: Kristina Hallman, 202-537-5199 or, Press website:, Ross Moonie, 917-690-5713 or, Karen Baratz, 240-497-1811 or

News Advisory:

-- Music Legend Stevie Wonder to Be Honored With National Artistic Achievement Award Live on PBS' a Capitol Fourth
-- America's National Independence Day Concert, Hosted by Jason Alexander, Features Cuba Gooding, Jr., Vanessa Williams, Michael Bolton, Sesame Street's Elmo, Jo Dee Messina and JoJo With the National Symphony Orchestra -

Multi-Grammy award winning musician and Motown legend Stevie Wonder will be presented with the National Artistic Achievement Award live on America's premier Independence Day holiday concert – the PBS extravaganza A Capitol Fourth 2006. The award will be presented by Academy award-winning actor Cuba Gooding, Jr., in recognition of Wonder's dedication to the arts and his contribution to enriching the national legacy of the performing arts. Offering an unrivaled evening of patriotic and uplifting music followed by a spectacular display of fireworks over the Washington Monument, the multi-award winning A Capitol Fourth 2006 will be broadcast live on PBS from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, July 4, 2006 from 8 to 9:30 p.m. ET (check local listings). This is only the third time the National Artistic Achievement Award has been presented. The first recipient was John Williams who was honored for his incomparable film scores; followed by husband and wife duo Gloria and Emilio Estefan in 2005. In addition to receiving the award, Wonder will perform a medley of his best-known hits showcasing the trademark sound that has made him a musical legend. One of the most prolific artists in music history, Wonder has delivered 35 U.S. albums with sales totaling more than 72 million units. He has scored more than 30 Top Ten Hits, 11 number one pop singles, winning 19 Grammy's and a Lifetime Achievement Grammy plus Billboard's 2004 Century Award. "We are honored to present Stevie Wonder, one of America's finest musical artists, with the National Artistic Achievement Award live at the U.S. Capitol in tribute to his remarkable 40- plus year career," said Jerry Colbert, the founder and executive producer of A Capitol Fourth. "From Motown prodigy to musical innovator, Wonder's songwriting legacy continues to bring joy to multiple generations of music fans." Hosted for the first time by Jason Alexander, the seven-time Emmy nominee, A Capitol Fourth will feature performances from some of the country's best known and award-winning musical artists including international superstar Michael Bolton; Sesame Street's Elmo who will join dazzling singer and actress Vanessa Williams for a patriotic medley; teen sensation JoJo; and multi- platinum country recording artist Jo Dee Messina performing with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Erich Kunzel. Capping off the show will be a rousing rendition of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" complete with live cannon fire provided by the United States Army Presidential Salute Battery, an audience favorite and now A Capitol Fourth tradition. A Capitol Fourth can also be heard live in stereo over National Public Radio and is broadcast by American Forces Network to U.S. Armed Forces, Department of Defense civilian employees and their families stationed overseas in 176 countries and territories and aboard more than 200 U.S. Navy ships at sea. The program is viewed by millions at home and attended by more than half a million people at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. For A Capitol Fourth executive producer Jerry Colbert has lined up a production team that features the top Hollywood talent behind some of television's most prestigious entertainment awards shows. This includes Emmy award-winning producer Walter Miller, America's leading director and producer of live programs including the Grammy Awards and Country Music Awards; award- winning director Paul Miller whose credits include the Country Music Awards and Tony Awards, and Saturday Night Live; writer Jon Macks, whose credits include the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the Academy Awards and the Emmy Awards. The program is a co- production of Jerry Colbert of Capital Concerts and WETA, Washington, D.C. For more than two decades, Capital Concerts has produced the nation's two premier patriotic events at the U.S. Capitol. In 1981, Colbert presented the first PBS Fourth of July telecast with the National Symphony Orchestra and guest artists performing live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. In 1990, he introduced the National Memorial Day Concert. Since then, both holiday specials have become among the highest-rated performance programs on PBS. The programs have been honored with the New York Film Festival Award, the Telly Award, the Golden Cine Award, the Videographer Award, the National Education Association Award, the Christopher Award, the Communicator's Award, the AXIEM Award and the Omni Award. A Capitol Fourth 2006 is made possible by grants from Lockheed Martin Corporation, the National Park Service, the Department of the Army, National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and public television stations nationwide. Air travel is provided by American Airlines. ------ PHOTO AVAILABLE: A high-resolution, publication-quality photo supporting this story is available for free editorial use at 

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Welcome To Missouri where we have Talent-less Senators

Welcome To Missouri where we have Talent-less Senators
Dear Mr. Rosen:

Thank you for contacting me regarding your opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment. I appreciate the time you have taken to share your views with me, and I welcome the opportunity to respond. 

This issue is upon us because the Massachusetts Supreme Court decided, with no input from the citizens of Massachusetts, that same sex marriages should be permitted. Because of the way our federal system works, it is likely that other courts will force people in other states to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in Massachusetts, and the federal courts may force it upon the people in a national case. 

Marriage is our oldest social institution. It is older than our formal religions and our systems of property and justice, and it certainly predates the Constitution and the existence of the United States. And marriage may be the most important of all these institutions because it represents the accumulated wisdom of literally hundreds of generations over thousands of years about how best to lay the foundation of a home in which we can raise and socialize our children. This does not mean that every child is or can be raised as the product of a traditional marriage. It just means that, for reasons which we cannot fully explain but which have been overwhelmingly validated by social science, the idea of marriage is tremendously important to the fabric of civil society. 

In other words, marriage is what it is because our society has collectively judged over centuries that marriage as so defined is the best way to perpetuate and perfect the mores of good individual and social life. And according to the traditional definition, everyone has the right to get married but not to anybody he or she may choose; you can't marry a sibling, for example, or a person who is already married-and this is true regardless of the perceived justice or injustice of such restrictions in particular cases. The same has always held true for same-sex marriage, and we don't have anywhere near enough experience with same-sex couples to say that we should discard this restriction. To the extent we have experience with same sex marriage, the results have been disquieting. In the Scandinavian countries which have permitted same sex marriage, marriage of all kinds has systematically declined. The more malleable the definition of marriage becomes, the less respect people have for it, and the less important it is as part of family life.

But apart from all this is the question of whether courts should be deciding these issues. The first and most basic political right is the right to self government. This means, among other things, that courts have no authority to issue and enforce decrees upon the people of this country unless they act on the basis of some law which was enacted with popular consent. Of course, a court decision actually based upon the Constitution would have a basis in the consent of the people. But on what intellectually honest basis can it be said that the constitution of Massachusetts requires the people of that state to change their marriage law in such a radical way? 

The only way to justify such a decision is on the theory that the people intended to vest in judges the right to govern by decree-to rule as they see fit, regardless of what the Constitution and statutes actually say, were intended to say, or have always been understood as saying. The question is not whether judges should be strict or liberal constructionists, but whether the judicial function is still one of construction at all, or whether judges should be allowed to make the law up as they go along. This can not be admitted without discarding the first principles of representative government.

I voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment because a Constitutional amendment is the only sure means now remaining for trying to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. If the courts complete the process of imposing their views on the people, their decisions will be irreversible through any process other than Constitutional amendment. 

Again, thank you for contacting me. If I can be of further assistance, please don't hesitate to call or write. 

If you would like to contact me via e-mail, please visit 


Senator Jim Talent

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Homosexual Agenda!

I know this fosters unbelieveable stereotypes, but I thought it was funny enough. I actually found it on one of my old journal pages

8:00 a.m. Wake up. Wonder where you are.

8:01 a.m. Realize you are lying on 100 percent cotton sheets of at least a 300 count, so don't panic; you're not slumming.

8:02 a.m. Realize you are actually in your own bed for a change. Wake stranger next to you and tell them you are late for work so won't be able to cook breakfast for them. Mutter "sorry" as you help him look for his far-flung underwear. You find out that you tore his boxers while ripping them off him last night, so you "loan" him a pair of boxer-briefs, but not the new ones because you never intend to see him again.

8:05 a.m. Tell the stranger, whose name eludes you, "It was fun. I'll give you a call," as you usher him out the door, avoiding his egregious morning-breath.

8:06 a.m. Crumple and dispose of the piece of paper with his telephone number on it when you get to the kitchen.

8:07 a.m. Make a high protein breakfast while watching the Today show. Wonder if the stories you've heard about Matt Lauer are true. Decide they must be.

8:30 a.m. Italian or domestic? Decide to go with three-button Italian and the only shirt that is clean.

8:45 a.m. Climb into red Miata and try not to look too much like Barbie driving one of her accessories as you pull out of your underground parking. Revos or Armanis? Go with Revos.

9:35 a.m. Stroll into office.

9:36 a.m. Close door to office and call best friend and laugh about the guy who spent the night at your condo. Point out something annoying about best friend's boyfriend but quickly add "It doesn't matter what everyone else thinks, just as long as you love him."

10:15 a.m. Leave office, telling your secretary you are "meeting with a client." Pretend not to notice her insubordinate roll of her eyes (or the cloying "poem" she has tacked to her cubicle wall).

10:30 a.m. Hair appointment for lowlights and cut. Purchase of Aveda anti-humectant pomade.

11:30 a.m. Run into personal trainer at gym. Pester him about getting you Human Growth Hormone. Spend 30 minutes talking to friends on your cell phone while using Hammer Strength machines, preparing a mental-matrix of which circuit parties everyone is going to and which are now passe.

12:00pm Tan. Schedule back-waxing in time for Saturday party where you know you will end up shirtless.

12:30 p.m. Pay trainer for anabolic steroids and schedule a workout. Shower, taking ten minutes to knot your tie while you check-out your best friend's boyfriend undress with the calculation of someone used to wearing a t-back and having dollars stuffed in their crotch.

1:00 p.m. Meet someone for whom you only know his waist, chest and penis size from AOL M4M chat for lunch at a hot, new restaurant. Because the maître d' recognizes you from a gay bar, you are whisked past the Christian heterosexual couples who have been waiting patiently for a table since 12:30.

2:30 p.m. "Dessert at your place." Find out, once again, people lie on AOL.

(My Favorite)
3:33 p.m. Assume complete control of the U.S., state, and local governments (in addition to other nations' governments); destroy all healthy Christian marriages; recruit all children grades Kindergarten through 12 into your amoral, filthy lifestyle; secure complete control of the media, starting with sitcoms; molest innocent children; give AIDS to as many people as you can; host a pornographic "art" exhibit at your local art museum; and turn people away from Jesus, causing them to burn forever in Hell.

4:10 p.m. Time permitting, bring about the general decline of Western Civilization and look like you are having way too much fun doing it.

4:30 p.m. Take a disco-nap to prevent facial wrinkles from the stress of world conquest and being so terribly witty.

6:00 p.m. Open a fabulous new bottle of Malbec.

6:47 P.M. Bake Ketamine for weekend. Test recipe.

7:00 P.M. Go to Abercrombie & Fitch.

7:40 P.M. Stop looking at the photographic displays at Abercrombie & Fitch and actually begin shopping.

8:30 p.m. Light dinner with catty homosexual friends at a restaurant you will be "over" by the time it gets its first review in the local paper.

10:30 p.m. Cocktails at a debauched gay bar, trying to avoid alcoholic queens who can't navigate a crowd with a lit cigarette in one hand and a Stoli in a cheap plastic cup in the other. Make audible remark about how "trashy" people who still think smoking is acceptable are.

12:00 a.m. "Nightcap at your place." Find out that people lie in bars, too.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

From AmericaBlog

From AmericaBlog
Boehner reveals GOP strategy: Exploit 9/11, attack Dems 
by Joe in DC - 6/14/2006 10:29:00 AM 

The House debate on their "Iraq resolution" has nothing to do with an Iraq policy. It's only about politics. Big hat tip to Think Progress. They got Boehner's memo and it's posted on their site. TP also summarized the key points: 
1. Exploit 9/11. The two page memo mentions 9/11 seven times. It describes debating Iraq in the context of 9/11 as imperative.

2. Attack opponents ad hominem. The memo describes those who opposes President Bushs policies in Iraq as sheepish, weak, and prone to waver endlessly.

3. Create a false choice. The memo says the decision is between supporting President Bushs policies and hoping terrorist threats will fade away on their own.
This is a crass, craven bunch. The GOP only has one playbook -- exploit and attack. It's worked for them before. Again, we ask, are the Democrats ready?