Saturday, December 31, 2005

"The Hidden State Steps Forward

When the New York Times revealed that George W. Bush had ordered the National Security Agency to wiretap the foreign calls of American citizens without seeking court permission, as is indisputably required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed by Congress in 1978, he faced a decision. Would he deny the practice, or would he admit it? He admitted it. But instead of expressing regret, he took full ownership of the deed, stating that his order had been entirely justified, that he had in fact renewed it thirty times, that he would continue to renew it and--going even more boldly on the offensive--that those who had made his law-breaking known had committed a "shameful act." As justification, he offered two arguments, one derisory, the other deeply alarming. The derisory one was that Congress, by authorizing him to use force after September 11, had authorized him to suspend FISA, although that law is unmentioned in the resolution. Thus has Bush informed the members of a supposedly co-equal branch of government of what, unbeknownst to themselves, they were thinking when they cast their vote. The alarming argument is that as Commander in Chief he possesses "inherent" authority to suspend laws in wartime. But if he can suspend FISA at his whim and in secret, then what law can he not suspend? What need is there, for example, to pass or not pass the Patriot Act if any or all of its provisions can be secretly exceeded by the President?
Bush's choice marks a watershed in the evolution of his Administration. Previously when it was caught engaging in disgraceful, illegal or merely mistaken or incompetent behavior, he would simply deny it. "We have found the weapons of mass destruction!" "We do not torture!" However, further developments in the torture matter revealed a shift. Even as he denied the existence of torture, he and his officials began to defend his right to order it. His Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, refused at his confirmation hearings to state that the torture called waterboarding, in which someone is brought to the edge of drowning, was prohibited. Then when Senator John McCain sponsored a bill prohibiting cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners, Bush threatened to veto the legislation to which it was attached. It was only in the face of majority votes in both houses against such treatment that he retreated from his claim.
But in the wiretapping matter, he has so far exhibited no such vacillation. Secret law-breaking has been supplanted by brazen law-breaking. The difference is critical. If abuses of power are kept secret, there is still the possibility that, when exposed, they will be stopped. But if they are exposed and still permitted to continue, then every remedy has failed, and the abuse is permanently ratified. In this case, what will be ratified is a presidency that has risen above the law.
The danger is not abstract or merely symbolic. Bush's abuses of presidential power are the most extensive in American history. He has launched an aggressive war ("war of choice," in today's euphemism) on false grounds. He has presided over a system of torture and sought to legitimize it by specious definitions of the word. He has asserted a wholesale right to lock up American citizens and others indefinitely without any legal showing or the right to see a lawyer or anyone else. He has kidnapped people in foreign countries and sent them to other countries, where they were tortured. In rationalizing these and other acts, his officials have laid claim to the unlimited, uncheckable and unreviewable powers he has asserted in the wiretapping case. He has tried to drop a thick shroud of secrecy over these and other actions.
There is a name for a system of government that wages aggressive war, deceives its citizens, violates their rights, abuses power and breaks the law, rejects judicial and legislative checks on itself, claims power without limit, tortures prisoners and acts in secret. It is dictatorship.
The Administration of George W. Bush is not a dictatorship, but it does manifest the characteristics of one in embryonic form. Until recently, these were developing and growing in the twilight world of secrecy. Even within the executive branch itself, Bush seemed to govern outside the normally constituted channels of the Cabinet and to rely on what Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff has called a "cabal." Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill reported the same thing. Cabinet meetings were for show. Real decisions were made elsewhere, out of sight. Another White House official, John DiIulio, has commented that there was "a complete lack of a policy apparatus" in the White House. "What you've got is everything, and I mean everything, being run by the political arm." As in many Communist states, a highly centralized party, in this case the Republican Party, was beginning to forge a parallel apparatus at the heart of government, a semi-hidden state-within-a-state, by which the real decisions were made.
With Bush's defense of his wiretapping, the hidden state has stepped into the open. The deeper challenge Bush has thrown down, therefore, is whether the country wants to embrace the new form of government he is creating by executive fiat or to continue with the old constitutional form. He is now in effect saying, "Yes, I am above the law--I am the law, which is nothing more than what I and my hired lawyers say it is--and if you don't like it, I dare you to do something about it."
Members of Congress have no choice but to accept the challenge. They did so once before, when Richard Nixon, who said, "When the President does it, that means it's not illegal," posed a similar threat to the Constitution. The only possible answer is to inform Bush forthwith that if he continues in his defiance, he will be impeached.
If Congress accepts his usurpation of its legislative power, they will be no Congress and might as well stop meeting. Either the President must uphold the laws of the United States, which are Congress's laws, or he must leave office."

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Can Congress Authorize Constitutional Violations?

Could Congress pass a resolution or a law authorizing the President of the US to violate the 4th Amendment rights of Americans via 'spying' by permitting warrantless searches or seizures of protected zones without having probable cause absent the well defined classes of cases that presently exist that permit such warrantless searches (none of which permit this outrageous conduct)?

Of course not.

So, what does it matter if - as Bush argues - the war resolution can be read (which it cannot) to implicitly or explicitly authorize these searches (an idiotic argument indeed)?

The entire dialogue is ludicrous. Entering into the debate as if the Congressional "war resolution" could - if it said so - authorize violations of the 4th Amendment is to accept a red herring and eat it too.

Again: The 4th Amendment OF THE US CONSTITUTION overrides the power of congress or the president, or the judiciary in this instance. End of argument. If the president does not have the inherent power to do these warrantless searches, congress could not give it to him.

A first month law student with crim const law under his/her belt knows this to be true.

That's that.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Few Questions/Thoughts

When was the last time Bushie boy and his whacked sidekick Cheney treated us to one of their terror alert designed to scare the hell out of the easily manipulated? Think there was one after November 2004?

Ever consider that the reason that we have not been struck by Al-Q on our land is because Bush has done more than enough to cripple this country all on his own, that Al-Q is merely too busy sitting back and laughing at him?

How is it with all that spying Bush has done for all these years, and the huge rewards that have been offered, Bush has failed to capture Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi?

If Al-Q was such a huge threat and they are all around us in the 50 states as we are told, how is that we have not identified and arrested more than a couple of nit wits since Al-Q caught Bush sleeping at the wheel on 9/11?

This country is wide open to murderers who kill at their whim every day. If we cannot stop regular murderers before they act, why in the world would someone believe that Bush is actually preventing terrorists from acting because we check their email?

There's a sucker born everyday, and here in America most of them seem to work for the media.

If Muslims are so evil and hate us so much, how is that out of the millions who live here, that not one has blown himself up in a theater, or shot a cop, or set FEMA on fire?

On 9/11, 19 murderers managed to kill thousands of Americans for no good reason, so we vanquished what was left of the Al-Q (as if they waited around knowing that we were coming) and their hosts in Afghanistan, and then we decided to gut our treasury, kill thousands of Iraqi citizens, cause the death of our own military personnel by not protecting them, and waste our credibility around the world, while the country that caused it all, Saudi Arabia, still owns us. Make sense?

Could Congress pass a resolution or law authorizing the President to violate the 4th Amendment rights of Americans via spying? Of course not. So who cares if, as Bush argues, the war resolution can be read (which it cannot) to authorize it (an idiotic argument indeed)?

In the end, pray that the 2006 elections bring democrats into control of the House, so that hearing and articles of impeachment can be had.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bush’s Abuse of Power . . .

"Recklessly and audaciously, George W. Bush is driving the nation whose laws he swore to uphold into a constitutional crisis. He has claimed the powers of a medieval monarch and defied the other two branches of government to deny him. Eventually, despite his party’s monopoly of power, he may force the nation to choose between his continuing degradation of basic national values and the terrible remedy of impeachment.
Until Mr. Bush openly proclaimed as commander in chief that he can brush aside the law, cries for impeachment were heard only on the political fringe, although most Americans have long since realized that he misled America into war. Much as he is disliked and disdained by liberals, even they have shown little enthusiasm for impeachment. In addition to the obvious obstacle of a Republican-controlled Congress, there appeared to be no firm proof of an offense that justified such action. To mention the word was to be dismissed—even by people who believe that this President may well have committed “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
The partisan peepshow of the Clinton impeachment did not leave much enthusiasm for that process. Nor would any thoughtful citizen want to risk abusing it in the manner made infamous by Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay.
For responsible citizens, the reluctance to seek the ultimate sanction against the President is especially strong in a time of peril. He and his supporters could argue, quite plausibly, that to impeach him now would be dangerous and destabilizing. His pet pundits and flacks would deploy all the defensive arguments they scorned in 1999.
He might well be able to rally the public to his side again by denouncing “politicians in Washington” for “undermining national security.”
As political strategy and as public policy, the impeachment of Mr. Bush is an unappealing prospect. (Besides, if he could be thrown out somehow, who would want Dick Cheney to succeed him?) And yet, the actions and attitudes of this President raise the question of how else we can preserve the bedrock principles of a democratic republic.
Dark suspicions would be aroused by Mr. Bush’s insistence on his supposed wartime exemption from the law even if he had greater credibility than he now possesses. Hearing a leader with his diminished reputation for honesty announcing such claims, as he seeks to regain authority by promoting fear, it is impossible not to imagine the worst.
The President says that if he is to protect the nation from our enemies, he must be able to order the surveillance of American citizens without seeking the authority of a court. He has repeatedly violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which provides very few safeguards of traditional civil liberties. He disdains a law that permits him to order the immediate electronic monitoring of anyone, requiring only that his officers seek a warrant within 72 hours from a secret court that approves those requests in almost every case and never hears an opposing brief. He claims that even those minimal restraints are too onerous.
Why would the President instruct the Attorney General not to seek warrants from the FISA court, as the statute requires? What did he and his aides fear from that court’s conservative judges—appointed by the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist—who have routinely approved all but a tiny percentage of the warrants presented to them by this and other administrations over the past quarter-century? Which wiretaps did he expect those pliable judges to reject?
The Bush doctrine of a President above the law and the Constitution has a dishonorable tradition that dates back to his father’s idol, Richard Nixon. More recently, its pedigree derives from memoranda prepared by the same White House lawyers who have told Mr. Bush that he can tear up international treaties and American statutes that prohibit torture and protect against detention without trial.
What has provoked fresh discussion of impeachment is the President’s admission that he has ignored the law’s requirements and that he intends to keep doing so. The impeccably conservative legal scholar and former Reagan aide Bruce Fein explained the deep implications of the President’s arrogance:
“If President Bush is totally unapologetic and says, ‘I continue to maintain that as a wartime President I can do anything I want—I don’t need to consult any other branches,’ that is an impeachable offense. It’s more dangerous than Clinton’s lying under oath, because it jeopardizes our democratic dispensation and civil liberties for the ages. It would set a precedent that … would lie around like a loaded gun, able to be used indefinitely for any future occupant.”
There are politicians in both parties who know that Mr. Bush’s trespasses cannot be allowed to stand. Only a bipartisan coalition can restrain and, if necessary, remove him. It is to be hoped that he steps back before such a struggle becomes inevitable.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


"1809. Criminal sanctions
Release date: 2005-03-17

(a) Prohibited activities
A person is guilty of an offense if he intentionally-
(1) engages in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute;
(2) discloses or uses information obtained under color of law by electronic surveillance, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through electronic surveillance not authorized by statute.
(b) Defense
It is a defense to a prosecution under subsection (a) of this section that the defendant was a law enforcement or investigative officer engaged in the course of his official duties and the electronic surveillance was authorized by and conducted pursuant to a search warrant or court order of a court of competent jurisdiction.
(c) Penalties
An offense described in this section is punishable by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than five years, or both.
(d) Federal jurisdiction
There is Federal jurisdiction over an offense under this section if the person committing the offense was an officer or employee of the United States at the time the offense was committed."

Saturday, December 3, 2005

U.S. three star general (ret.) calls for Iraq pull out

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- The U.S. general who used to head the National Security Agency says the only way to stabilize the Middle East is to leave Iraq.

Retired three star Lt. Gen. William Odom, writing for, wrote that while President George W. Bush wants to bring democracy and stability to the Middle East, the only way to achieve that goal is for the U.S. armed forces to get out of Iraq now.

Odom, one of the most respected U.S. military analysts and a prominent figure at the conservative Hudson Institute in Washington, wrote, "We have seen most of our allies stand aside and engage in Schadenfreude over our painful bog-down in Iraq. Winston Churchill's glib observation, 'the only thing worse that having allies is having none,' was once again vindicated.
"There is no chance that our allies will join us in Iraq," he wrote. "... Iraq is the worst place to fight a battle for regional stability. Whose interests were best served by the U.S. invasion of Iraq in the first place? It turns out that Iran and al-Qaida benefited the most, and that continues to be true every day U.S. forces remain there."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

War Words Fail Us All

The number of American casualties in Iraq is now well more than 2,000, and there is no end in sight. Some two-thirds of Americans, according to the polls, believe the war to have been a mistake. And congressional elections are just around the corner.

What had to come, has come. The question is no longer if American forces will be withdrawn, but how soon — and at what cost. In this respect, as in so many others, the obvious parallel to Iraq is Vietnam.

Confronted by a demoralized army on the battlefield and by growing opposition at home, in 1969 the Nixon administration started withdrawing most of its troops in order to facilitate what it called the "Vietnamization" of the country. The rest of America's forces were pulled out after Secretary of State Henry Kissinger negotiated a "peace settlement" with Hanoi. As the troops withdrew, they left most of their equipment to the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam — which just two years later, after the fall of Saigon, lost all of it to the communists.

Clearly this is not a pleasant model to follow, but no other alternative appears in sight.

Whereas North Vietnam at least had a government with which it was possible to arrange a cease-fire, in Iraq the opponent consists of shadowy groups of terrorists with no central organization or command authority. And whereas in the early 1970s equipment was still relatively plentiful, today's armed forces are the products of a technology-driven revolution in military affairs. Whether that revolution has contributed to anything besides America's national debt is open to debate. What is beyond question, though, is that the new weapons are so few and so expensive that even the world's largest and richest power can afford only to field a relative handful of them.

Therefore, simply abandoning equipment or handing it over to the Iraqis, as was done in Vietnam, is simply not an option. And even if it were, the new Iraqi army is by all accounts much weaker, less skilled, less cohesive and less loyal to its government than even the South Vietnamese army was. For all intents and purposes, Washington might just as well hand over its weapons directly to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Clearly, then, the thing to do is to forget about face-saving and conduct a classic withdrawal.

Handing over their bases or demolishing them if necessary, American forces will have to fall back on Baghdad. From Baghdad they will have to make their way to the southern port city of Basra, and from there back to Kuwait, where the whole misguided adventure began. When Prime Minister Ehud Barak pulled Israel out of Lebanon in 2000, the military was able to carry out the operation in a single night without incurring any casualties. That, however, is not how things will happen in Iraq.

Not only are American forces perhaps 30 times larger, but so is the country they have to traverse. A withdrawal probably will require several months and incur a sizable number of casualties. As the pullout proceeds, Iraq almost certainly will sink into an all-out civil war from which it will take the country a long time to emerge — if, indeed, it can do so at all. All this is inevitable and will take place whether George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice like it or not.

Having been thoroughly devastated by two wars with the United States and a decade of economic sanctions, decades will pass before Iraq can endanger its neighbors again. Yet a complete American withdrawal is not an option; the region, with its vast oil reserves, is simply too important for that. A continued military presence, made up of air, sea and a moderate number of ground forces, will be needed.

First and foremost, such a presence will be needed to counter Iran, which for two decades now has seen the United States as "the Great Satan." Tehran is certain to emerge as the biggest winner from the war — a winner that in the not too distant future is likely to add nuclear warheads to the missiles it already has. In the past, Tehran has often threatened the Gulf States. Now that Iraq is gone, it is hard to see how anybody except the United States can keep the Gulf States, and their oil, out of the mullahs' clutches.

A continued American military presence will be needed also, because a divided, chaotic, government-less Iraq is very likely to become a hornets' nest. From it, a hundred mini-Zarqawis will spread all over the Middle East, conducting acts of sabotage and seeking to overthrow governments in Allah's name.

The Gulf States apart, the most vulnerable country is Jordan, as evidenced by the recent attacks in Amman. However, Turkey, Egypt and, to a lesser extent, Israel are also likely to feel the impact. Some of these countries, Jordan in particular, are going to require American assistance.

Maintaining an American security presence in the region, not to mention withdrawing forces from Iraq, will involve many complicated problems, military as well as political. Such an endeavor, one would hope, will be handled by a team different from — and more competent than — the one presently in charge of the White House and Pentagon.

For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins.

Monday, November 28, 2005

More of the Republocan Collapse

"SAN DIEGO - Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, an eight-term congressman and hotshot Vietnam War fighter jock, pleaded guilty to graft and tearfully resigned Monday, admitting he took $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors to steer business their way.

"The truth is I broke the law, concealed my conduct, and disgraced my office," the 63-year-old Republican said at a news conference. "I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, most importantly, the trust of my friends and family."

He could get up to 10 years in prison at sentencing Feb. 27 on federal charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and fraud, and tax evasion."

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Dishonest, Reprehensible, Corrupt ...

George W. Bush is so desperate for allies that his hapless Asian tour took him to Ulan Bator, a first for an American president, so he could mingle with the yaks and give personal thanks for Mongolia's contribution of some 160 soldiers to "the coalition of the willing." Dick Cheney, whose honest-and-ethical poll number hit 29 percent in Newsweek's latest survey, is so radioactive that he vanished into his bunker for weeks at a time during the storms Katrina and Scootergate.

The whole world can see that both men are on the run. Just how much so became clear in the brace of nasty broadsides each delivered this month about Iraq. Neither man engaged the national debate ignited by John Murtha about how our troops might be best redeployed in a recalibrated battle against Islamic radicalism. Neither offered a plan for "victory." Instead, both impugned their critics' patriotism and retreated into the past to defend the origins of the war. In a seasonally appropriate impersonation of the misanthropic Mr. Potter from "It's a Wonderful Life," the vice president went so far as to label critics of the administration's prewar smoke screen both "dishonest and reprehensible" and "corrupt and shameless." He sounded but one epithet away from a defibrillator.

The Washington line has it that the motivation for the Bush-Cheney rage is the need to push back against opponents who have bloodied the White House in the polls. But, Mr. Murtha notwithstanding, the Democrats are too feeble to merit that strong a response. There is more going on here than politics.

Much more: each day brings slam-dunk evidence that the doomsday threats marshaled by the administration to sell the war weren't, in Cheney-speak, just dishonest and reprehensible but also corrupt and shameless. The more the president and vice president tell us that their mistakes were merely innocent byproducts of the same bad intelligence seen by everyone else in the world, the more we learn that this was not so. The web of half-truths and falsehoods used to sell the war did not happen by accident; it was woven by design and then foisted on the public by a P.R. operation built expressly for that purpose in the White House. The real point of the Bush-Cheney verbal fisticuffs this month, like the earlier campaign to take down Joseph Wilson, is less to smite Democrats than to cover up wrongdoing in the executive branch between 9/11 and shock and awe.

The cover-up is failing, however. No matter how much the president and vice president raise their decibel levels, the truth keeps roaring out. A nearly 7,000-word investigation in last Sunday's Los Angeles Times found that Mr. Bush and his aides had "issued increasingly dire warnings" about Iraq's mobile biological weapons labs long after U.S. intelligence authorities were told by Germany's Federal Intelligence Service that the principal source for these warnings, an Iraqi defector in German custody code-named Curveball, "never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so." The five senior German intelligence officials who spoke to The Times said they were aghast that such long-discredited misinformation from a suspected fabricator turned up in Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations and in the president's 2003 State of the Union address (where it shared billing with the equally bogus 16 words about Saddam's fictitious African uranium).

Right after the L.A. Times scoop, Murray Waas filled in another piece of the prewar propaganda puzzle. He reported in the nonpartisan National Journal that 10 days after 9/11, "President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda."

The information was delivered in the President's Daily Brief, a C.I.A. assessment also given to the vice president and other top administration officials. Nonetheless Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney repeatedly pounded in an implicit (and at times specific) link between Saddam and Al Qaeda until Americans even started to believe that the 9/11 attacks had been carried out by Iraqis. More damning still, Mr. Waas finds that the "few credible reports" of Iraq-Al Qaeda contacts actually involved efforts by Saddam to monitor or infiltrate Islamic terrorist groups, which he regarded as adversaries of his secular regime. Thus Saddam's antipathy to Islamic radicals was the same in 2001 as it had been in 1983, when Donald Rumsfeld, then a Reagan administration emissary, embraced the dictator as a secular fascist ally in the American struggle against the theocratic fascist rulers in Iran.

What these revelations also tell us is that Mr. Bush was wrong when he said in his Veterans Day speech that more than 100 Congressional Democrats who voted for the Iraqi war resolution "had access to the same intelligence" he did. They didn't have access to the President's Daily Brief that Mr. Waas uncovered. They didn't have access to the information that German intelligence officials spoke about to The Los Angeles Times. Nor did they have access to material from a Defense Intelligence Agency report, released by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan this month, which as early as February 2002 demolished the reliability of another major source that the administration had persistently used for its false claims about Iraqi-Al Qaeda collaboration.

The more we learn about the road to Iraq, the more we realize that it's a losing game to ask what lies the White House told along the way. A simpler question might be: What was not a lie? The situation recalls Mary McCarthy's explanation to Dick Cavett about why she thought Lillian Hellman was a dishonest writer: "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.' "

If Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney believe they were truthful in the run-up to the war, it's easy for them to make their case. Instead of falsely claiming that they've been exonerated by two commissions that looked into prewar intelligence - neither of which addressed possible White House misuse and mischaracterization of that intelligence - they should just release the rest of the President's Daily Briefs and other prewar documents that are now trickling out. Instead, incriminatingly enough, they are fighting the release of any such information, including unclassified documents found in post-invasion Iraq requested from the Pentagon by the pro-war, neocon Weekly Standard. As Scott Shane reported in The New York Times last month, Vietnam documents are now off limits, too: the National Security Agency won't make public a 2001 historical report on how American officials distorted intelligence in 1964 about the Gulf of Tonkin incident for fear it might "prompt uncomfortable comparisons" between the games White Houses played then and now to gin up wars.

Sooner or later - probably sooner, given the accelerating pace of recent revelations - this embarrassing information will leak out anyway. But the administration's deliberate efforts to suppress or ignore intelligence that contradicted its Iraq crusade are only part of the prewar story. There were other shadowy stations on the disinformation assembly line. Among them were the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, a two-man Pentagon operation specifically created to cherry-pick intelligence for Mr. Cheney's apocalyptic Iraqi scenarios, and the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), in which Karl Rove, Karen Hughes and the Cheney hands Lewis Libby and Mary Matalin, among others, plotted to mainline this propaganda into the veins of the press and public. These murky aspects of the narrative - like the role played by a private P.R. contractor, the Rendon Group, examined by James Bamford in the current Rolling Stone - have yet to be recounted in full.

No debate about the past, of course, can undo the mess that the administration made in Iraq. But the past remains important because it is a road map to both the present and the future. Leaders who dissembled then are still doing so. Indeed, they do so even in the same speeches in which they vehemently deny having misled us then - witness Mr. Bush's false claims about what prewar intelligence was seen by Congress and Mr. Cheney's effort last Monday to again conflate the terrorists of 9/11 with those "making a stand in Iraq." (Maj. Gen. Douglas Lute, director of operations for Centcom, says the Iraqi insurgency is 90 percent homegrown.) These days Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney routinely exaggerate the readiness of Iraqi troops, much as they once inflated Saddam's W.M.D.'s.

"We're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history," the vice president said of his critics. "We're going to continue throwing their own words back at them." But according to a Harris poll released by The Wall Street Journal last Wednesday, 64 percent of Americans now believe that the Bush administration "generally misleads the American public on current issues to achieve its own ends." That's why it's Mr. Cheney's and the president's own words that are being thrown back now - not to rewrite history but to reveal it for the first time to an angry country that has learned the hard way that it can no longer afford to be without the truth."

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

The Abramoff Effect

Last year Ohio Republican Representative Bob Ney, one of Tom DeLay's lieutenants, coasted to re-election by a 2-to-1 margin over an obscure foe. Next year Ney will face an aggressive, well-financed challenge from a former state legislator who is currently the Democratic mayor of one of his district's largest cities. Why the sharp rise in Democratic prospects? Was it mounting frustration with the Iraq War? Concern about the damage done to Ohio's industries by Bush Administration free-trade policies? DeLay's indictment? All were factors in Chillicothe Mayor Joe Sulzer's decision to take on Ney. But the real appeal of the race--as it is with contests involving a growing number of GOP Congressmen--is Ney's link to an old-fashioned bribery and influence-peddling scandal that has already sullied the reputations of some of Washington's most powerful Republicans and that could muddy the 2006 re-election prospects of dozens more.

The burgeoning controversy surrounding Jack Abramoff, a conservative lobbyist whose Washington ties stretched deep into the Bush White House and the Republican Capitol, has yet to gain anywhere near the media attention accorded the CIA Plamegate leak investigation or DeLay's indictment. Yet with the bank fraud indictment of Abramoff now part of a Florida grand jury inquiry and the guilty plea by Michael Scanlon, a former DeLay aide who became Abramoff's partner, on charges of conspiring to bribe a Congressman, the scandal is creating headaches for Republicans--and opportunities for Democrats to turn a national scandal into political pay dirt. Even the Wall Street Journal admits that the Abramoff imbroglio "raises the risk of serious embarrassment to the [GOP] before next year's congressional elections." Ohio's Sulzer is making the risk a reality with an in-your-face challenge to Ney, who accepted overseas trips, gifts and hefty campaign donations from Abramoff, allegedly in exchange for using his office to advance the interests of the Indian tribes and casinos that were Abramoff's big-ticket clients. Sulzer says Ohioans "need a Congressman who getting headlines for providing better healthcare or better jobs for our district, not for ethics scandals and investigations."

There is every reason to believe that candidates in other states can pick up on that theme. Ney is, after all, only "Representative No. 1" in the Justice Department investigation of how Abramoff used ties to top Republicans--going back to college alliances with Grover Norquist, one of Washington's best-connected conservative activists, and Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition--to build a powerful DC lobbying operation. The investigation is already examining his relationships with DeLay, Representative John Doolittle and Senator Conrad Burns, as well as seventeen current and former Congressional aides and two former Bush Administration officials. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Abramoff had working relationships with dozens of Congressmen, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who collected more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from Abramoff's firm and clients between 2001 and '04 and in 2003 urged Interior Secretary Gail Norton to favor the lobbyist's clients in an Indian-gaming dispute; House majority leader Roy Blunt, who accepted at least $8,500 for his PAC and campaign from Abramoff's firm and clients between 1999 and 2003 and who intervened at least three times in matters involving those clients; and California Representative Dana Rohrabacher, who accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Abramoff and turned up as a financial reference for the lobbyist's purchase of a casino cruise line. Dozens of GOP House members have banked direct contributions from Abramoff.

The lobbyist's ties to Senator Burns, who accepted $150,000 in campaign contributions from Abramoff and his cronies and helped an Abramoff client score a $3 million federal grant, could be an especially big deal in 2006, as Burns's Montana Senate seat is a top Democratic target. Another vulnerable Republican senator, Missouri's Jim Talent, has also been a recipient of Abramoff's largesse. At a point when Democrats are excited by the prospect of picking off GOP Senate seats in blue states Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, as well as the classic swing state of Ohio, blows to Republican incumbents in red states Montana and Missouri make talk of a Democratic turnaround in the Senate credible. Another GOP senator up for re-election next year, John Ensign of Nevada, signed a letter on behalf of Abramoff's tribal clients and accepted $16,293 from the lobbyist, his associates and clients--creating an opening that might not otherwise have been found in a red state that has been trending blue.

To be sure, Democrats have a sorry history of running as reformers. The party's inability to exploit the Enron debacle--at least partly because some Democrats accepted Enron-linked donations--shows there's more to hanging a scandal around your opponents' necks than merely watching it unfold. But because of Abramoff's long and close ties to the GOP establishment, the scandal of this particular lobbyist presents a unique opening. Indeed, while the primary focus should be on House and Senate races, one of the most interesting playouts of Abramoff's troubles may come in Georgia, where his pal from college Republican days, Reed, is running for lieutenant governor. Reed's most aggressive Democratic foe, former State Senator Greg Hecht, has created a model for Democrats seeking to make hay from the scandal by banging away at what he refers to as the Abramoff-Reed scandal. It appears to be working. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia Republicans are worried about polls that show Reed's negatives beginning to move ahead of his positives. If Democrats are smart, they'll recognize that these trends can apply well beyond the borders of Georgia."

Sunday, February 6, 2005

Ebb and Flow of Democracy

World History teaches that democracies come and go. Noble Savage tells of his days teaching English in Bangkok in 1992, where he almost got shot in the head, and what that day meant to him:

    "I was teaching English in Bangkok in 1992 when Thailand saw the bloody consequences of its last military coup. General Suchinda Kraprayoon had seized power and within a year had suspended the constitution and installed himself as Prime Minister. The normally complacent Thais, now tasting economic success and enjoying a growing middle class, decided not to stand for this brazen hijacking of power. In May of 1992, I went to Sanam Luang and watched as thousands of Thais protested in front of lines of soldiers. I stood at the fringe of the crowd and saw the soldiers lower their machine guns and, on command, open up with bursts of machine gun fire just over our heads. I remember running with the crowd as the bullets ricocheted off the surrounding buildings. Although it did not receive much international media coverage, those who were there will never forget the bravery of the Thais who had stood up to their illegitimate government."

Reality MSM, What a Mess

With hundreds of millions around the world looking to our MSM for their news and information, the state of our freedoms at home comes under scrutiny with a greater sense of urgency. This analysis focuses on what's really going on with Reality MSM:

    "George Monbiot correctly observed in his commentary, A Televisual Fantasy, Americans do not live in a free society, they live in a corporate society. Simply put, there can be no real democracy if information is controlled, manipulated and censored.

    The corporate decision to censor critical reporting is pushing millions of viewers off their TVs and on to their computers, which is ultimately bad for advertisers and business, and great for website owners, especially liberal website owners.

    Regimes are not necessarily defined by a single despot or dictator. ABC, NBC, CBS, FOXTV, CNN: what the CEOs of these media corporations refuse to acknowledge is that in the process of censoring watchdog reporting, regarding the Bush administration’s policies, they are turning at least fifty percent of the population off to their networks. Millions of people are disgusted with the media programs from news to entertainment.

    Large sectors of the population have had enough of the silly propaganda being aired as “news” over network channels. We’re not screaming from opened windows, “I’m not going to take it anymore!” as in the film, “Network,” instead, we’re just turning the TV off and using it only for viewing DVD movies. As for news, the fifty percent that voted for Kerry are turning more and more to the web for facts and critical analysis."

Looking for Holocaust Survivor

Per Esther's request at Outside the Blogway, if anyone out there knows of an Ellen Ackemann, 58-1460 Limberlot, London, Ontario, Canada, or relatives of Franciska Frieda Borchardt (nee Pasmantier) born 1888 in Warsaw, or Helmut Michael Borchardt, born 1923 in Berlin, please take a look a this request from Irene Liron, of Haifa, Israel, a Holocaust survivor, who is looking for a long-lost relative who may be her last surviving relative.


Addendum: Under the heading 'never forget and never give up,' comes this illustrative story and subject lesson:

"RISHON LEZION, Israel · Klara Bleier and Hana Katz thought each other dead, swallowed 61 years ago, like the rest of their family, in the maw of Auschwitz. The sisters were separated in October 1944 in the Budapest ghetto when Hana left one day to find work and food. She never returned.

But both came through the chaos of the end of the war against the Nazis, the death marches and the refugee camps; both came to Israel in 1948 and raised families, 45 miles apart. Both thought they were sole survivors.

In the years since, Bleier's son-in-law became obsessed with the missing family history. Katz's granddaughter did, too. Six years apart, they filed survivor testimonies with Yad Vashem, Israel's center for Holocaust studies and commemoration.

A new computerized archive matched the two testimonies, and on Thursday, a week after heads of state bowed their heads at Auschwitz on the 60th anniversary of its liberation, the two women were restored to each other, astounded, slightly frightened and unrecognizable, at least at first."

Abu Ghraib, Again

It will be a wonderful thing if the New Iraq does not copy all of our ideas about democracy:

    "Unqualified US military medics stationed at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison carried out amputations, recycled used chest tubes and lacked medical supplies to treat the overcrowded jail's inmates after the fall of Baghdad, according to a report."

I'm sure I will hear from some that the enemy treated their prisoners no better. That may be so, but hundreds and more of these Iraqis were not our enemy, just Iraqis in our custody. These were the same Iraqis who voted, the same Iraqis for whom applause was loud, and the same Iraqis for whom Senators and Congresspeople had the 'courage' to dip their finger in ink and show them to the world at the State of the Union address in celebration of these Iraqis.

If the story is true, the conduct is beyond torture and beyond incivility; it is inhumane, intolerable, un-American and criminal. Hopefully, this time, the buck stops where it belongs.

Has the President Gone Crazy?

"(SNN) We have been told that democracy can cure all ills and that a leader elected with a majority of the popular vote can not go wrong. But now is the time to start to seriously question those deep seated beliefs, because many are beginning to believe that the President has gone crazy.

The current opinion of experts is that the President has become dangerous confused and radical. While rising to power though democracy and remaining popular, the President’s policies have become anything but democratic.

Even Fox News has been increasingly critical of the President. Fox quotes one political science professor named Anibal Romero to let us know that the President is a threat to the US. Romero called him "a dangerous fellow, a confused person who is deeply anti-American and is prepared to do terrible things."

Bargaining with Terrorists?

"Jewish blood will again flow in the streets of Israeli cities unless all jailed Palestinian Arab terrorists are set free, a senior PA minister threatened Sunday.

"If the prisoners aren't released, we will return to the cycle of violence,” PA Communications Minister Azzam al-Ahmed told reporters, attesting to terrorism’s place as a bargaining chip for the “Palestinians” in their negotiations with Israel.

That position is consistent with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’s repeated pledge to following in the footsteps of deceased arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat." There.

Saturday, February 5, 2005

What Bin Laden Sees in Hiroshima

    "At a conference on the future of al Qaeda sponsored by Los Alamos National Laboratory last month, I posed a dark question to 60 or so nuclear weapons scientists and specialists on terrorism and radical Islam: How many of them believed that the probability of a nuclear fission bomb attack on U.S. soil during the next several decades was negligible -- say, less than 5 percent?

    At issue was the Big One -- a Hiroshima-or-larger explosion that could claim hundreds of thousands of American lives, as opposed to an easier-to-mount but less lethal radiological attack. Amid somber silence, three or four meek, iconoclastic hands went up. (More later on the minority optimists. They, too, deserve a hearing.)

    This grim view, echoed in other quarters of the national security bureaucracy in recent months, can't be dismissed as Bush administration scaremongering. "There has been increasing interest by terrorists in acquiring nuclear weapons," Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the world's chief nuclear watchdog, said in a recent interview, excerpts of which were published in Outlook last Sunday. "I cannot say 100 percent that it hasn't happened" already, he added, almost as an afterthought. Worried yet?"

Then go here for the rest.

The secret is out: The Jews are in partnership with Osama bin Laden.

Much ado about Lt. Gen. John Mattis, a/k/a "Mad Dog Mattis," having said that "it's fun to shoot some people." Come on folks, the guy's name is Mad Dog, what do they expect? This one is a no brainer. I have no doubt that these are the kind of words that are the least of the crude, rude and tough as nails lingo used to psyche up our men and women about to risk their lives in a terror war. All Mad Dog was doing was repeating the kind of things that are used to exemplify how tough are military is. The criticism is childish.

"Women are less likely than men to receive recommendations from their doctors for preventive therapies such as cholesterol-lowering drugs, aspirin therapy and cardiac rehabilitation to protect them against heart attacks and death, according to a study published in today's issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association." There for the treatment gap.

"Men between the ages of 65 and 75 who are or have been smokers should have a one-time ultrasound to screen for abdominal aortic aneurysm, according to a new recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Nearly 70 percent of men in this age group have smoked and would benefit from routine screening to check for aneurysms. The recommendation is published in the February 1 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine." There for the older guys.

Friday, February 4, 2005

Views from Iran

    "Iran was one neighbor who forcefully supported elections on schedule in Iraq – in hopes of seeing the rise of a Shi'ite government working in concert with Iran.

    The Iranian reformist daily Sharq wrote: "Vote counting in Iraq's parliamentary election will soon be completed. Iraqis took part in a general election for the first time in 50 years. The election was held in a healthy atmosphere, despite threats by terrorists to prevent it. The percentage of voters… was much higher than predicted. It is evident that Iraq is not a totally safe place now, but it is also obvious that the rule of a minority over the majority in that country has ended."

    By contrast, in the conservative daily Kayhan, Hussein Saffar-Harandi gave the credit for Iraq's elections to Iran's Islamic regime, and called on the Iraqis to "thank" the Iranians that election day coincided with the rise of the Khomeini regime in 1979. The daily maintained that the 1979 Islamic revolution and Iranian students' takeover of "the American spy nest, [i.e. the U.S. Embassy in Tehran] started a chain of events and processes that led to the Saddam's removal and the launching of the elections." Scroll down there.

"A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the Justice Department (news - web sites) cannot seek $280 billion it alleges the tobacco industry earned through fraud, an enormous victory for American cigarette makers." There. I'm a'thinkin that Ashcroft never hired any of those so-called 'Trial Lawyers,' Bush rails against all the time. Maybe if they hired a few to do this job, Americans would be closer to that $280 billion.

"(SNN) [Yesterday], the Senate approved the nomination of Alberto Gonzales in a 60 to 36 vote. Gonzales was quickly sworn in by Vice President Dick Cheney before anyone could change their minds. Democrats tended to vote against Gonzales, citing his weak position on civil rights, his record of hiding evidence in court cases and his support of torture. Republicans tend to like Gonzales because of his weak position on civil rights, his record of hiding evidence in court cases and his support of torture. It is not know whether Cheney wore his signature parka and boots." There.

"Less than a day after President Bush declared he was "working with European allies" to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States would continue to rebuff European requests to participate directly in offering incentives for Iran to drop what is suspected of being a nuclear arms program." There.
"A peaceful student sit-in turned unruly at Manual High School, and school police used a chemical spray to disperse the crowd Thursday afternoon. Duncan Pat Pritchett, the Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent, said it appeared officers overreacted by using the spray. "Students do have First Amendment rights," he said." There.

"The sophistication of Iraqi insurgents was what stunned members of the 63rd Ordnance Battalion, the only active-duty battalion based at this Army Reserve post in Burlington County."

It's Good to be Free

Today, in a landmark, 62 page opinion, New York City trial judge (called Justice in NY) Doris Ling-Cohan, has ruled that, New York's constitution is violated by denying marriage certificates and the right to marry to same-sex couples. Her remedy? The word spouse shall substitute for the words "husband," "wife," "groom" and "bride," and ordered the City Clerk not to deny a marriage license to any couple based soley on the ground that couple is of the same sex.

The case cannot be reviewed by the United States Supreme Court as it has no jurisdiction. You can bet the Clerk will seek appellate review. No one can tell you what the Court of Appeals of New York will ultimately do, but the facts of the case and the analysis follow the analysis of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in the Goodridge case, which granted the same rights.

Not Good, Unless You're Iran

    "BAGHDAD, Iraq - A new, partial tally of votes Friday from Iraq (news - web sites)'s landmark elections showed a Shiite coalition whose leaders have close ties to Iran rolling up a strong lead over other tickets, including that of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

    The United Iraqi Alliance, which has the endorsement of Iraq's top Shiite clerics, won more than two-thirds of the 3.3 million votes counted so far, the election commission said. Allawi's ticket was running second with more than 579,700 votes." There. Debka's analysis here.

My post, Iran-Iraq, One in the Same?, addresses this nightmare scenerio:

    "Wiping out Saddam may be the final chapter to the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, which ended in a draw. At its roots, that war was waged over dominance of the Persian Gulf region. Iran had been alienated from the West (hostage crisis and the Shah being ousted), and it became a target of Saddam Hussein. The Iranian leadership, delivered by a Shi'ite Islamic revolution, sought to defeat Saddam Hussein, a secular leader, and export their revolution to Iraq bringing the Shi'ite majority in Iraq into power. Bush delivered to Iran, what Iran could not do itself. Now the race is on for what ideology will command the allegiance of Iraqis: Democracy or Islamism, Shi'ite style."

Flight Risk

"Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Thursday he has not decided whether to attend an international security conference next week in Germany, where he might be subject to arrest on a war crimes complaint." There.

He should stand and defend, not run and hide. What's he afraid of? Millions voted in Iraq knowing they could be killed for it, yet they stood their ground. So should Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Heh, and some call Europeans cowards.