20 June 2008

John McCain Is Breaking the Law Right Now

Right this very minute. Every commercial that airs, every T-shirt and mailer printed, every minute every paid staffer works, every copy they make at every campaign office. He can do this openly and with impunity because the Federal Election Commission has been rendered inoperable by the current Republican administration.

This is the most glaring and salient fact about the state of public financing of the presidential election right now, and should be a prominent part of every article written about Barack Obama's decision to opt out of public financing.

But it's somehow nowhere to be found in discussions in the old media. Why? Because it's too complicated for Joe Sixpack to follow? Nonsense. Let me explain it with a simple dialogue.

Hey, let's make a deal you and me. Let's commit to only spending $100 a month on gas from now until the end of the year.

You're already spending nearly twice that? Well so am I. But let's do it anyway. It'll save us some money, save some gas, be good for the country and all of that.

Good... You agree in principle. We'll sit down next week and hash out all the details? Agreed.

Oh yeah, I did forget to tell you that I made a similar agreement with Jeff for $75 a month several months back, but since March I've been spending about 175. Sure he called me on it, but what's he gonna do?

What do you mean "no deal"? You gave your word! You're backing out on your commitment to me and to the American People!

I don't think it's so tough to understand not wanting to make a deal with someone who is already flagrantly violating the rules.

We should also review the facts, which also aren't too tough to follow.

In late 2007, John McCain's campaign was effectively broke, as he was not the favorite of the wealthy wingnuts who underwrite the Republican machine. So in December of 2007, shortly before the New Hampshire primary, McCain took out two loans, totaling about $4 million. Since the bank apparently didn't think the "Straight Talk Express" bus would cover that much as collateral, McCain had to pledge the money from the public financing system as repayment if he couldn't pay it back. The law is written so that taking out a loan against the public money is considered as using the money (in order to avoid a huge loophole), so that by doing so McCain obliged himself to follow the rules, including the most important of the rules, the spending limits. And even though the primaries are over, the spending limit is for the primary *phase* of the campaign, which goes through the party's national convention.

The spending limit for the primary phase of the presidential campaign is $54 million. Now once Republican voters, almost as disgusted with the GOP brand as the rest of the nation, voted heavily for the candidate the corporate media assured them was a "maverick" unlike those other Republicans as the best of a bad lot, McCain became the presumptive nominee. At that point the money started flowing in, and he started spending it, and not just on beating Mike Huckabee in the primaries either. McCain blew past the $54 million cap sometime in March. Seeing that coming, McCain tried to claim that he was withdrawing from public financing in late February, only to be told by FEC chairman David Mason, No you can't, because first we don't have a quorum to release you, and second, how do you explain this here loan agreement?

McCain kept on spending.

The DNC complained. The FEC did nothing. Then the DNC sued the FEC for its failure to act in April. And while the FEC's disciplinary actions have traditionally been of the "lashes with a wet noodle" variety, right now it can't even manage that level of discipline, due to the fact that it has been eviscerated by the current Republican administration. Not only has President Bush continued to insist on vote-suppression criminal Hans von Spakofsky, Bush went even further and gave the chairman David Mason (a fellow Republican) the boot for having the effrontery on calling McCain on his campaign funds shell-game.

Now, just how many people would find this an environment in which you would agree to a deal on campaign financing?

Personally I wouldn't have even considered the offer of negotiations valid under the circumstances. Remember, despite what the RWCM says, Obama never committed to public financing. He committed to trying for an agreement with the Republican nominee. Despite McCain's hypocrisy and the fact that he is actively cheating the system, Obama did send his people to talk to McCain's people about it. Of course, the McCain camp never had any intention of reaching a reasonable agreement. They insisted in keeping the 527s around, even while Obama had unilaterally put the kaibosh on several potential Democratic 527s.

But of course, the press maintains that it's all Obama's fault. The "liberal" New York Times has no less than three big pieces on this today. The front page headline (incorrectly) states Obama, in Shift, Says He’ll Reject Public Financing. (Where's this "shift"? He said he would seek an agreement with the Republican nominee, and he did. The two camps were unable to agree.) A "News Analysis" piece lays the charge straight out: Obama’s Decision Threatens Public Financing System. And the lead editorial laments Public Financing On the Ropes, a situation for which it tells us Barack Obama is to blame, with no mention of Bush's emasculation of the FEC or McCain's primary-fund perfidy, even though they are clearly aware of these facts, as they've reported on them plenty of times before now.

One more big honkin' example of the free ride John McCain will continue to get from our sorry excuse for a press.

The only question is, are you just gonna sit there and let them get away with it?

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01 May 2007

Hey Congress: Time To Sit On Your Hands

For those who practice not-doing,
everything will fall into place.

Tao Te Ching, 3

So George XLIII has vetoed the appropriations bill funding his war. So, no timeline. So, no funds for the war.

So what?

Are you as mystified as I am at our Dem congresscritters scurrying around to try to override the veto, and then going to the White House to talk things over? Why don't they just do nothing at all, and let the President sweat it?

Too many people, especially our own congressional representatives, have fallen into this RWCM frame that Congress has to "do something" if they want to end this war. Nothing could be further from the truth.

They don't have to find a bill that Bush won't veto. They don't have to try to get enough Republans to defect to override the veto. That's just spin.

The bill that Harry & Nancy sent to the Oval Office on "Mission Accomplished Day" was not a bill to end the war.  In fact, it was a bill to fund the war for another 6 months or so, just with a few conditions. It's not even clear how binding those conditions were, but they at least strongly encouraged the executive branch to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq in several months, or the money would run out, maybe next summer. The president, being the kind of guy he is, didn't even like having those kinds of softball conditions, so he vetoed it.

So where does that leave us now?

With only enough funding to prosecute the war until this summer.

So the war ends this summer, not next summer. And better yet, the president is the one who cut off funds to the troops.

Now whether your primary concern is ending the war, protecting the troops, or just screwing the Republican Party, I can't imagine a better outcome for us than the situation we have right now.

How can our Dems in Washington be so stupid as to go crawling to the President to ask what they can do next? They hold all the cards now. If the president wants the war to be funded even through this summer, he's the one who needs to come on hands and knees begging for another appropriation.

The only reason they need a majority, still less a super-majority, is to pass a bill. And the money only flows if the appropriations bills get passed. To do nothing, they just need enough parliamentary power to keep the bills from even getting to the floor, and we saw with the previous Congress how that could be done.

Or to make it even simpler:

No majority = No bill
No bill = No funds
No funds = No war

Now, what about Murtha's plan, or others, that say we should now send even stronger conditions on bills to the White House? Well, if you can guarantee that they will in fact be stronger, that might work. But we don't know how the votes will turn out. Same thing goes for Edwards' plan to just send the same exact bill back time and again. We don't know how many people might try to make some little changes, or might cave in to the Pundit Opinion Vortex in Washington instead of the nation.

And even if those bills did go forward, they would still be prolonging the war by funding it. And if Bush did sign them, he'd be accepting Congress's plan, and could share the blame.

I'll say it again, right now we're in the best possible situation for ending the war and scoring political points at the same time.

So, please contact your Reps and Chris Dodd and tell them to keep any war appropriations bills off the floor for the foreseeable future. Congress already approved the money the president asked for. If he tears up the check, that's his own damn problem.

Now I live in Shay's district, and I'll call him, I may even picket in front of his office tomorrow, but we have enough of a time trying to keep him from backpedaling away from his campaign promise to go with the timeline approach. And when I try to call the offices of the reality-based members of our delegation, they just laugh at me as being out-of-district. So other than Dodd, I got nobody to tell (but I'll still try).

Those of you who live in the more fortunate parts of Connecticut, with Larson and Rosa and Courtney and Murphy, please get to work. Tell them not to let the Speaker go crawling to a 28%-approval-rating president, or even consider another bill without major concessions on his side. Please Please Please.

Because if we do nothing about the veto, everything falls into place nicely.

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22 May 2006

furry mammals 33, dinosaurs 67

managed to get to the nutmeg state convention this last weeked, and saw lamont get on the primary ballot. that was sweet. in a month or two, things have gone from a hail mary primary challenge, to the petition drive because getting 15% at the convention was a longshot, and now suddenly he's doubled that. onward and upward!

and is it just me, or is it somehow odd, humorous and/or pathetic that lieberman "wins" the convention vote handily, but then rumors start flying that he'll bolt the party within a couple weeks? almost like the "scouring of the shire" at the end of LOTR (you know, one of those chapters that got chopped from the movie). just by showing up and standing strong, the hobbits get the mighty wizard to flee the scene, as he is revealed as a pathetic, defeated old man.

23 February 2006

port deal gets fishier

the more we hear about this deal to outsource the management of key US ports to a company owned by a bunch of emirs in the gulf, the more rotten it smells.

right now the administration is trying to peddle the line that the security measures they worked out with dubai ports world are unprecedented. i guess they're trying to convince us that means that the agreement is really stringent. but when you get a whiff of the details, it sure smells like they're unprecedented in laxity. get this latest little gem:
In approving the purchase, the administration chose not to require Dubai Ports to keep copies of its business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to orders by American courts. It also did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate requests by the government.

Outside legal experts said such obligations are routinely attached to U.S. approvals of foreign sales in other industries.
boy, you talk about some fast-talking used car salesmen. in case you didn't catch that, they're planning to allow the dubai company not to keep their records in the US where they could be subpoenaed by law enforcement, nor will they need even a token american on hand who can be prosecuted for non-compliance. and they're tring to tell us that makes us safer.

can anyone be so thoroughly programmed by the propaganda that they can believe this stuff anymore? just yesterday they were trying to claim that while the president feels so strongly about supporting this deal that he'll veto congress' attempts to scuttle it, he really didn't know anything about it. at one and the same time. now there's a level of flip-flopping right up there with schrodinger's cat.

but even the duplicity aside, there's something really screwy about those two details, and these are just the ones that got out. those provisions are SOP, the experts tell us, so why would they be blowing them off in this case? i can't think of a single hypothetical that would make this omission work out in our interest.

instead the administration is trying to convince us that they've implemented some kind of super-secret plan that makes this ultra-secure.

the busheviks working out a secret back-room deal with oil-rich sheiks and emirs. really now, can even the most mindless bushevik apologist not have qualms about that?

01 February 2006

flip-flop overdrive

anyone curious just how long george w. bush's new year's resolution to cut down on foreign oil would last?

less than 24 hours.

apparently the pusher-man called him up right away, worried that one of his best customers was toying with kicking the habit:
Speaking after Mr Bush’s Tuesday night State of the Union address, Edmund Daukoru, Nigeria’s energy minister and president of Opec, said: “We do believe that energy issues cannot be handled in a unilateral way; we all have to work together towards global energy security.”

Privately, Opec officials were more direct in warnings about Mr Bush’s declared intention to reduce America’s dependence on Middle East oil by 75 per cent by 2025. But they emphasised Opec would avoid a confrontational tone in its commentary.

An Opec delegate said: “Comments like that are unrealistic. Everyone knows the world will continue to depend on Middle East imports.” The organisation would raise concerns about such statements damping investment at meetings with the European Union and other organisations “more aligned with Opec’s view”

Opec’s concern was shared widely across the industry. John Felmy, chief economist of the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the US oil and gas industry, said: “If one of your big customers tells you they do not want to buy from you in the future, then of course this will impact how much you invest.”

...Opec delegates and Mr Bartenstein place responsibility for oil price volatility mainly on consuming countries that have failed adequately to invest in refineries and pipelines needed to get oil to their consumers.
got that? "gee, we know your gas prices are skyrocketing there in the US because industry hasn't built any refineries in decades there. and now with this talk of us not being bestest buddies anymore, well we might have to reconsider the terms of our relationship..."

but of course we all know that gee dubya is a man of firm resolve! surely he wouldn't let this kind of cheap threat from wannabe mafiosi change his mind once it's made up, right?

well, uh... not so much.
One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.

...Bush vowed to fund research into better batteries for hybrid vehicles and more production of the alternative fuel ethanol, setting a lofty goal of replacing "more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025."

He pledged to "move beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past."

Not exactly, though, it turns out.

"This was purely an example," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said.

...Asked why the president used the words "the Middle East" when he didn't really mean them, one administration official said Bush wanted to dramatize the issue in a way that "every American sitting out there listening to the speech understands." The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he feared that his remarks might get him in trouble.
you really have to read the full copy of each article to believe it. especially the numbers shell game they're trying to play. "well we're importing 2.2 million barrels a day now from the middle east, and it'll be 6 million in 2025, but if everyone drives a hybrid that'll save 5 million across the board, which is almost 6 million and, um..."

man, i expected them to at least claim they were making some kind of progress on this one, bogus or not. but it seems like the white house is afraid of even the appearance of reducing the money flow to the oil industry and their terrorist pals.

27 December 2005

NYT: Fit To Wrap Red Herrings

No conspiracies here, but I do want to take a look at how the New York Times' standards have seriously eroded recently.

And since we're talking about rational discourse, I'm picking a piece from their Op-Ed page today that illustrates one of the classic logical fallacies: the red herring.
SHORTLY after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush ordered surveillance of international telephone communications by suspected members of Al Qaeda overseas, even if such calls also involved individuals within the United States... Judicial warrants for this surveillance were neither sought nor obtained... The program's existence has now become public, and howls of outrage have ensued. But in fact, the only thing outrageous about this policy is the outrage itself.

The president has the constitutional authority to acquire foreign intelligence without a warrant or any other type of judicial blessing. The courts have acknowledged this authority, and numerous administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have espoused the same view.
Did you spot the red herring?

This is from a NYT Op-Ed piece titled "Unwarranted Complaints" today by David Rivkin and Lee Casey. Armando has already taken David Rivkin to task, but this Op-Ed needs to be taken apart piece-by-piece.  The regular columnists apparently have the day off, so instead the whole page seems to be devoted to a right-wing propaganda blitz: Democracy's on the march in Iraq, How Evo Morales will be rapidly brought to heel, and this piece of trash on why unwarranted wiretaps are actually legal, constitutional and good for your health.

Let's look at Rivkin's article, because it is a prime example of a classic logical fallacy: the red herring.  That is, supporting your argument with claims that may well be true but are irrelevant to the point under discussion.
SHORTLY after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush ordered surveillance of international telephone communications by suspected members of Al Qaeda overseas, even if such calls also involved individuals within the United States.
Rivkin doesn't waste any time here, he invokes 9/11 to scare you right off the bat, and tries to convince you that only Al Qaeda operatives were being monitored, even though whether the targets of the monitoring had any relation to Al Qaeda or any form of terrorism is one of the central issues.
The program's existence has now become public, and howls of outrage have ensued. But in fact, the only thing outrageous about this policy is the outrage itself.
Ah yes, outraged by the outrage.  The same intellectually and morally bankrupt position the administration's pet apologist adopted after the Abu Ghraib story broke.
The president has the constitutional authority to acquire foreign intelligence without a warrant or any other type of judicial blessing.
Ding Ding Ding! Did you spot the red herring?  Nobody is questioning the presidential authority to acquire foreign intelligence.  Rivkin's assertion of this, and the paragraph that follows, is completely irrelevant to the wiretap matter or the ensuing outrage.  Of course, one usually leads with one's strongest point in this kind of debate, and the fact that he picked a red herring is telling. His argument only goes downhill from there.

Although the administration could have sought such warrants, it chose not to for good reasons. The procedures under the surveillance act are streamlined, but nevertheless involve a number of bureaucratic steps. Furthermore, the FISA court is not a rubber stamp and may well decline to issue warrants even when wartime necessity compels surveillance.
This is nonsense with a bald-faced lie for a chaser.  Is he claiming that the President's "good reason" for not following the law was to save a few "bureaucratic steps?" That sounds more like laziness than a good reason.  Further, we know that the number of requests rejected by the FISC can be counted on one hand, which sounds an awful lot like a rubber stamp to me.  And I challenge anyone to produce a single instance of a warrant being denied despite "wartime necessity."  If that means the whole program needs to be declassified for public evaluation, let's do that.
More to the point, the surveillance act was designed for the intricate "spy versus spy" world of the cold war, where move and countermove could be counted in days and hours, rather than minutes and seconds. It was not drafted to deal with the collection of intelligence involving the enemy's military operations in wartime, when information must be put to immediate use.
Back-to-back red herrings here.  In fact the first sentence is an outright lie: the act was designed to curtail abuses stemming from cold-war surveillance, when the government turned the capability to domestic surveillance for purely political purposes.  History appears to be repeating itself. Then there's his bizarre implication that Al Qaeda operatives have some kind of bigger and badder superpowers than the agents of the USSR.  Sorry, not buying that one at all.  In the next sentence he is correct that FISA's purpose is not to deal with intelligence for war-fighting, but that fact is completely irrelevant.  Remember we're talking about unwarranted domestic surveillance here, not battlefield communications in Afghanistan.

Followed immediately by yet another red herring, and this one you've got to see to believe.  When you get to the conclusions he draws from it, you'll see that it is a whopper indeed:
Indeed, it is highly doubtful whether individuals involved in a conflict have any "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their communications, which is the touchstone of protection under both the Fourth Amendment and the surveillance act itself - anymore than a tank commander has a reasonable expectation of privacy in his communications with his commanders on the battlefield. The same goes for noncombatants swept up in the hostilities.
Again, he's using the red herring of battlefield communications here to argue that warrantless domestic surveillance is hunky-dory.  Now look at the implications: "The same goes for non-combatants..." Wow! The implication here is that since the "War On Terror" is being waged everywhere, including right here at home (hey aren't we fighting them over there so... oh never mind), that makes every single one of us "noncombatants swept up in the hostilities."  That means that no American has a reasonable expectation of privacy anymore, at least until the end of the conflict.  Which end will be at the very earliest some far off day generations from now, according to the Commander-In-Chief.
Even if Congress had intended to restrict the president's ability to obtain intelligence in such circumstances, it could not have constitutionally done so. The Constitution designates the president as commander in chief, and Congress can no more direct his exercise of that authority than he can direct Congress in the execution of its constitutional duties.
This part is not even spin and misdirection any more, it is simply breathtakingly false.  Congress directs the President's authority all the time, including his command of the military, and has done so since the birth of the republic.  They are (supposedly) responsible for declarations of war and the raising of armies and the budget allocated to the military, among other things.  In addition to being false, it is still another red herring, as domestic surveillance is not part of war-fighting, and he is not C-in-C of the entire United States, just of the military.
As the FISA court itself noted in 2002, the president has "inherent constitutional authority to conduct warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance."
Once again he brings up the red herring of foreign intelligence surveillance to claim unlimited power to conduct foreign and domestic surveillance.  If the FISC had concluded that the power to conduct foreign surveillance without a warrant included the power to conduct domestic surveillance, they would have been stating that they had no reason to exist, and would have promptly disbanded.
In this instance, in addition to relying on his own inherent constitutional authority, the president can also draw upon the specific Congressional authorization "to use all necessary and appropriate force" against those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks...
Do these guys even understand the English language?  How do you get from "necessary and appropriate force" against Al Qaeda to mean spying on Quakers and gay rights activists, or whoever was the target of the wiretaps they didn't think they could get FISC approval for?

Rivkin and Casey's conclusions? They have three.
Overall, this surveillance program is fully within the president's legal authority, is limited in scope (involving communications to or from overseas related to the war against Al Qaeda), and is subject to stringent presidential review.
The first is flatly contradicted by the courts and legal experts, the second is only an assertion completely unsupported by known facts, and the third is actually part of the problem.  FISA was set up specifically as a check and balance on the Executive Branch's actions in this matter.  While the special court has admittedly not done much to thwart surveillance, the mere fact that the Executive has to go before a court encourages them to limit their requests and marshal their arguments to justify their actions.  When they blow the process off they are trying to subvert that check, which is contrary to the whole American concept of separate powers.  And if the White House is pushing this overreach, then "stringent oversight" by that same White House only makes the problem worse.

Overall, this opinion piece is nothing more than crap from start to finish.  Just last week the New York Times was lamenting how the scientific world was suffering from a decline in standards including serious lapses in peer review and scientific methodology.  Is it too much to ask the Gray Lady to have some standards herself?  Rejecting pieces that flagrantly violate the rules of debate and discourse would seem to be a good start.

25 December 2005

Guerilla Good Deeds

Merry Christmas, fellow liberals!  If you've already opened your presents, visited friends and family and eaten Christmas dinner, and now you're wondering what to do with yourselves for the next week or so, we've got a fun and exciting little campaign for you to join.

And even if you're not celebrating Christmas today, it's something you can do on the way to the annual Chinese-food-and-movie observance.  In fact it's a great thing to do at the Chinese restaurant, or the movie theater, or the Native American Casino for that matter.

Because whether you're eating Christmas turkey or Peking Duck, we all know that there's a certain President whose goose needs to be cooked for his continued antipathy toward American values.

All I'm asking is that you spread the word.  And that word is IMPEACH

Now I thought you might want some seasonally-appropriate songs to sing while you're posting the word all over.  So I've written two impeachment carols, just for you, and you can find them right below this post.

The first is "Impeachment Clause, Impeachment Clause" and you sing it to the tune of "O Christmas Tree" ("O Tannenbaum" for you originalists)

The second one is "Impeachment Clause Is Coming To Town" and I think you know the tune.

Hey Zeke, I hear some of you saying, the IMPEACH campaign is all well and good some other week, but we just don't feel right skulking around right now.  Somehow going out by night attaching big signs to a freeway overpass, or lurking around busy street-corners pretending to check your cell phone while you wait for the coast to be clear so you can hit that lamppost with another sticker just doesn't feel like a Christmas-y activity right?

I hear ya.  But let me tell you a little story, about the real Saint Nicholas.

Yes, Virginia, Saint Nicholas was a real historical person.  No doubt some of the miraculous stories attributed to him were exaggerated if not outright fabricated.  Those stories are responsible for him becoming the patron saint of an extremely varied portfolio: children, sailors, barrelmakers, prostitutes, pawnbrokers, longshoremen, pharmacists, thieves, Russia and Amsterdam.  But there is one story that doesn't involve any supernatural miracles, and the reason he is associated with anonymous gift-giving.

In life, Nicholas was the bishop of Myra, in what is now Turkey.  Among his congregation was a nobleman's family who had suffered a devastating reversal of fortune.  Without dowries his three daughters would be consigned to lives of prostitution and slavery, but the father was too proud to ask for charity.  Bishop Nicholas, an orphan who had inherited great wealth himself (kind of like Bruce Wayne), decided to help.  He snuck up to the bedroom window of each girl in turn and deposited a bag of gold by their beds. The father was understandably concerned about exactly what was going on, so on the third night he hid himself by the window of the third daughter and watched.  He chased old Saint Nick down when he saw him, and being younger was easily able to catch him.  Imagine his surprise to find out it was the saintly old bishop!  Nicholas made him promise to keep the whole thing a secret, which he did until the old man died and then the story was told.

Because of this Nicholas is known as the patron saint of all those who do good deeds by stealth.  Even if you don't subscribe to my tradition, there are the teachings and example of holy men and women all over the place:  Rabbi Yohanan ben-Zakkai, the exhortations of the Qur'an, the teachings of the Bodhisattva, just for starters.

And there can be no question that you're doing a good deed.  Whether it's domestic spying, suppression of civil liberties, wars of aggression or the use of torture, it has become painfully obvious that under this administration America has abandoned all pretense to be good and instead embraced evil.  By calling for impeachment, you are calling for a collective repentance by the nation, explicitly rejecting the crimes committed under this president's so-called leadership, and demanding a return to true American values by our leaders.  

So follow the example of Nicholas of Myra, and skulk proudly!

Impeachment Carols!

Impeachment Clause, Impeachment Clause
(to the tune of O Tannenbaum)
Impeachment Clause, Impeachment Clause
How lovely are thy phrases!
Impeachment Clause, Impeachment Clause
How lovely are thy phrases!
Impeachment for, conviction of
High Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Impeachment Clause, Impeachment Clause
How lovely are thy phrases!

A constitutional government,
How lovely are three branches!
A constitutional government,
Designed with checks and balance!
The Legislative and_Judiciary
Can always check the Pres'dency.
Impeachment Clause, Impeachment Clause
How lovely are thy phrases!

The President, by law is bound,
That's what the Founders taught us.
The President, by law is bound,
We're not a dic-tay-tor-ship!
Authority is limitéd
If not the Rule of Law is dead
Impeachment Clause, Impeachment Clause
How lovely are thy phrases!

Impeachment Clause is Coming to Town
Oh! You better stand up
You better be heard
He's broken the law
We're spreading the word
Impeachment Clause is coming
To town!

They're making a list
Surveilling all night
Gonna find out who's left and who's right
Impeachment Clause is coming
To town!

He knows if you're a vegan
Or if you ACT UP queer
He knows if you like Michael Moore
Or seek peace for heaven's sake!

So, you better stand up
You better be heard
He's broken the law
We're spreading the word
Impeachment Clause is coming
To town!

29 October 2005

Remembering Ed Sinclair

Today we put Ed Sinclair in the ground.

“In the ground” is not the right phrase of course; we don’t really put people in the ground anymore, we Presbyterians, as Thomas Lynch took pains to remind us last week. “Once you have a dead guy in the room you can talk about anything,” he told us. All we have is ashes, these days, and I can’t imagine someone bringing an urn up to the lectern and dipping their fingers into it. Can you? Can you see someone’s grown child opening up one of those heavy brass milk jugs and pulling out a fragment of bone, their fingers trailing a dirty grey powder that drifts out over the edge and threatens to get on the front-row pew cushions? Would they hold up that chunk of burnt calcinate and declare, “This was my mother, this my father?”

No, we’re far too civilized to bring the mortal remains of our dead into our sanctuaries. Clean and modern – that’s how we like it.

Still, you had to feel something of Ed in the room, listening to the way Bill described his life. We did find that we could talk and think about just about anything, because he brought Ed into the room with words and stories. Woe to the person who doesn’t befriend the pastor! You might be but a pale and transparent shade at your own memorial. Ed made sure that wouldn’t happen. Bill told us of how some years back Ed “engineered” his own funeral, describing how he wanted things done. Part of that involved lunch at Indian Harbor and recounting his life’s story. Apparently the first session lasted over two hours and only made it through the first thirty-eight years. Because he started in 1913, a time when the “modern world” was something we’d find only half familiar. He talked about dragging an effigy of the Kaiser down the road behind a Model T Ford. He made it up through the way he had to stay behind on the homefront in World War II because he was an engineer in the energy business, and keeping the oil and gasoline flowing was a crucial part of winning the war.

Ed was a petrochemical engineer, you see. He was one of the people who designed, built and operated refineries. I bet he and his colleagues were the men who created the refineries we see today, because we haven’t built many refineries here in the US in the past three decades, and the basic technology came of age in the middle of the 20th century.

Of the pictures of Ed on the obligatory picture board down at Indian Harbor was one that looked to be from the fifties or early sixties. It was my favorite of the lot. This picture showed Ed leaning over a model of a refinery, his eyes cast upward to the top of one of the process stacks. He was looking up through those thick glasses of his, his hair already starting to lighten toward the white it would be when I knew him. Gathered around the model were a few of his colleagues, all in suits with those cheap black ties, all equipped with those thick glasses and their heavy rims. Engineers. Today’s engineers, especially the software guys, with their beards and Birkenstocks and cargos held up with hemp-canvas belts, you never quite know if they’re the guy sitting on the next killer app or just another aging deadhead. Not the engineers of Ed’s time. Everything about them – their hair, their demeanor, their glasses, their haberdashery – shouts Engineer. Still waters run deep. The strong silent type. These are the things we used to say about men like this. They reminded me of the old pictures I saw of the men at Mission Control back in its glory days of Gemini and Apollo. These are the men who built America into a world power. In Rome they would have been the men who designed and built the fabulous roads and aqueducts and mills which constituted the physical plant of that Republic-become-Empire. Ed was of that line, men who greatly dared and greatly built and never quit.

He never quit. If we can say anything, we can say that about Ed. Bill reminded us of that, telling us how Ed had offered to drive Kathy out to Michigan next year if she wound up having to drive herself again. As if we needed to be told. We had all seen him up in the choir, at all our events, his picture on the Stephen minister board. A week or so ago he was as he ever was for us. When we get back into the sanctuary, I’ll still be looking for him to come down the side aisle, getting a head start on the recessional hymn, and as I keep one eye on the hymnbook shaking my hand more often than not.

Because when I say “the strong silent type” that fits Ed, and yet it didn’t. He would talk your ear off given a chance. Just the other week we heard John Waters tell us about growing up in the church, and how he credited Ed Sinclair for telling him how to talk to the pretty girls at school. And I recall the things he said to me when I had just graduated MIT into the post-80s recession, how he told me about economic downturns nobody even recalls now. I mentioned how ridiculous the “Are you now or have you ever been” question on job applications was since the USSR had just then been thrown on the scrap-heap of unlamented empires. Ed of course remembered the heighday of McCarthyism, and how frightening a time that had been in the land of the free. Talk about perspective!

We probably all remember those conversations. Ed didn’t have such an easy time getting around a crowded room these past few years, but he never let that stop him. You could be zipping by in the devil’s own hurry and Ed would stop you in your tracks. You know what I’m talking about. He would hold out that cane, the tip pointing to just behind your feet like a wizard drawing a magic circle, and you’d be drawn in. Time would stop for a few moments, and you’d go away a richer person than before.

So it would be easy to say that we’re all poorer for the loss of Ed, but the truth is we’re all richer carrying what he shared with us. So let’s keep on sharing it. Because the more we share, the richer we all become.

27 October 2005

CIA Leak Case Explained In Five Words!

  • Secret Agent
  • Cover Blown
  • Whodunnit?

    Yes, it really is that simple.
  • Missed It By That Much.

    This explanation of the Valerie Plame Affair by the Christian Science Monitor isn't too bad, but they've managed to get a couple key facts wrong. This isn't really surprising given the complete lack of clue the RWCM has demonstrated over this case. (And if anybody is confused, it's only due to the efforts of the media - I can explain it in five words and will do so in my next post.) So let's look at this for a minute.
    At issue is whether Mr. Novak's government sources blew her cover as a CIA agent, in violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982.
    That is an issue, but not the whole of the case. Much of the discussion two years ago was focused on the IIPA because it appeared that Ms Plame's identity had been deliberately disclosed and a prosecution under this law, known as the "anti-Agee law" might be in the cards. This is noteworthy for its rarity, as the law was written to address a very narrow set of circumstances. But it is a red herring as far as the question of whether a crime has been committed.

    Disclosure of classified national security information is a crime. Period. Unless Ms Plame was not actually an undercover operative, it seems indisputable that a crime has occurred. The question is who did it and whether it can be proved in court.

    Look at it this way. The police have a dead body. The homicide detectives don't limit themselves to one specific part of the legal code such as second-degree murder. They are trying to find out what happened and what evidence they can hand over to the DA. The charge might be first-degree murder, or it might be manslaughter. But they would never consider that these other offenses would not fall inside their "charter." Nor do they limit their scope to the person who pulled the trigger; if it's part of some organized crime activity they will bring in everyone involved.

    Toward the end of the investigation, it has become clear that Mr. Fitzgerald has focused more on possible charges of obstruction of justice, perjury, and making false statements, rather than on laws prohibiting public revelation of a CIA official's undercover status.
    Nothing has become clear. The solid facts in this case are few and far between. Since this prosecutor has not been leaking information the way Kenneth Starr did, all of the "information" published in the last two weeks has come from "lawyers familiar with the case" which is another way of saying the criminal defense lawyers. The accuracy of their leads on where the investigation is focused is suspect, for obvious reasons.

    It is not illegal for Libby and Cheney to discuss classified information; they both have security clearance.
    Also not true, but a common misconception. Having a security clearance, regardless of how high it might be, is not sufficient. All classified information is segregated by need to know. Information on what is termed "sources and methods" is one of the most highly restricted categories because while the intelligence gathered is useful to many people, the real-world identity of the person who obtained it is not. So it would be very unusual for anyone in the White House to have a valid need to know that information. I realize this is not the way things work on TV or thriller novels, but that's how it is in the real world.

    The brief timeline isn't bad, but it is missing one key development. The Justice Department did indeed start their investigation in September, after the matter hit the print and broadcast media, but that was not the beginning of the investigation. The CIA requested the investigation on July 30th, sending a letter to DOJ to inform them that the agency believed a crime had been committed.

    26 October 2005

    A Fitzmas Fable

    We wish you a Merry Fitzmas,
    We wish you a Merry Fitzmas,
    We wish you a Merry Fitzmas,
    And a froggy perp-march!

    In those days a decree went out from C-Plus Augustus that all Iraq should be disarmed by force. This was in the September before the first midterm, when Ari Fleischer was still Press Secretary, because one does not launch a new product in August. All Washington bowed down, and Iraq was invaded, yet no WMD were found. And Joseph Wilson went unto the New York Times, telling of his trip to Niger in Africa, because he had evidence that the president’s claim of uranium from Africa was bunk. Yet he did not mention his wife Valerie’s involvement, for she was undercover and hidden. Once Joseph went public her cover was treacherously blown, endangering her life. The time came around for the CIA to be furious, and they delivered a request for an investigation. And this gave rise to a case, and Joseph and Valerie laid their faith in Fitzgerald, for there was no justice for them at the White House.
    Good Tidings we bring,
    To you and your kin,
    Good Tidings of Fitzmas!
    And a froggy perp-march.

    In that same country out in the fields (and gas stations) there were certain poor shepherds (and attendants and bus drivers) watching over their flocks (and pumps and routes and espresso counters) by night (and day or whatever rotten shift the boss’s nephew didn’t want, the jerk).

    Unto these poor working stiffs an angel appeared from the heavens saying, “Do not be afraid, for I bring you good news of great joy; for you a charge has been made, an indictment has been given, born of the Rule of Law which may yet save this land. This will be a sign for you: you will see a man dragged from the White House in cuffs, and find the lying bastard in an Alexandria jail. And his name shall be Blossom-Turd, Too-Smart-By-Half Counselor, Prince of Sleaze.”

    And suddenly there was with the angel a great multitude of the Kosterly host, praising Fitz and singing,
      “Old Glory besmirched, but Glory to come,
      Corruption in the highest!
      Peace on Earth for those of goodwill,
      Let’s bring our troops home now!”

    Then all around the shepherds (etcetera) shone the light of reality, dispelling the dark fog that had settled over the land for four years. And they said to one another, “Let us go and see for ourselves the truth of the matter that the net has made known to us.“

    So they went with haste and found Valerie and Joseph, and also the lying from the Oval. When they saw this, they made known all that had been sold to them about the war, and all were amazed at how much falsehood had been spun.

    And America measured all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
    Oh bring us some froggy marching,
    Oh bring us some froggy marching,
    Oh bring us some froggy marching,
    On prime time T.V.!

    There appeared in the land certain Techno-Magi from the East and West Coasts, who had been following the story in the internets for nigh unto two years. They came bearing gadgets, Phone and Treo and Blackberry, RSS-enabled for instant access to the breaking story. They came unto the domain of King Murdoch the Mogul of Media asking, “What of this case which might bring down George, King of the Losers? We have seen his star at its quenching, and have come to pay homage to Fitz.”

    When King Murdoch heard this, he was sore afraid, and all the Media Moguls and Beltway insiders with him; and calling together all the chief pundits and scribes of the Media he inquired of them where the investigation was going. They told him, “In a contempt jailing for Judy Miller, for the prosecutor has gone astray. Is it not said that secrets are a dime a dozen in Washington? And surely highly classified material can be no different.” Yet their words rang hollow in their ears.
    We won’t go until indictments,
    We won’t go until indictments,
    We won’t go until indictments,
    And convictions to boot!

    Then Murdoch secretly called for the Techno-Magi and learned from them the exact facts of the case. Then he sent them out on the internet, saying, “Go and search diligently for the truth, and when you have found it, bring me word that I may also go and have my people report it.”

    When they had heard the old fox they set out, and there ahead of them went the investigation they had seen from its beginning, until it stopped over the office of the Vice President and the Rove. When they saw where the prosecutor focused, they were overwhelmed with joy.

    Going into the indictments they saw the treason with Valerie its victim, and they knelt down with fear and trembling, but solemnly prayed for the Rule of Law. And all about the case the dumb beasts had come to comment, ox and ass and pundit, and the mouths of these were opened at last and they babbled, talking of the case incessantly.

    But having been warned on the net that Murdoch wished only to spin and kill the story, the Techno-Magi reported back in a different way. Opening their personal electronics they offered up the news directly, on blog and wiki and list-server.
    Good Tidings we bring,
    To you and your kin,
    Good Tidings of Fitzmas!
    And a froggy perp-march.

    Here endeth today’s lesson.

    13 October 2005

    Fisking Richard Cohen

    Somebody needs to dissect Cohen's dumbass column in detail, so here goes.
    The best thing Patrick Fitzgerald could do for his country is get out of Washington, return to Chicago and prosecute some real criminals.
    Perhaps if by for his country Cohen actually means for George W. Bush and the GOP this sentence makes sense.  There are plenty of people - well, freepers mostly - who think in this pre-rational manner.  I thought that perhaps if I made that small substitution, the rest of the column  might make some kind of wacked-out sense.

    I was wrong.  It only gets stupider.

    As it is, all he has done so far is send Judith Miller of the New York Times to jail and repeatedly haul this or that administration high official before a grand jury, investigating a crime that probably wasn't one in the first place...
    Probably wasn't a crime? Oh, I can feel a good rant comin' on already.  But I'll save that one for last.  Let's let Dick finish his sentence, shall we?
    ...but that now, as is often the case, might have metastasized into some sort of coverup -- but, again, of nothing much.
    Well that's cute, ain't it.  I've heard many people say, "It ain't the crime that gets you, it's the coverup."  Usually that means you should just take your lumps for whatever you did wrong instead of digging the hole deeper.  This is the first time I've seen that concept twisted around to mean "where there's smoke, who cares about the fire?"  But I guess if you're inside with the Washington DC set you pick up that ethos that just laughs at the idea that breaking the law might be of any moment.
    The alleged crime involves the outing of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative whose husband, Joseph Wilson IV, had gone to Africa at the behest of the agency and therefore said he knew that the Bush administration -- no, actually, the president himself -- had later misstated (in the State of the Union address, yet) the case that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger.
    How bizarre.  Cohen actually sounds incredulous at the idea that the President - of the United States no less - might have devoted a large portion of a State of the Union address to laying out all sorts of wild claims about Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical capability when months later not one bit of it would prove to be true.  I mean, next we'll be trying to tell him the guy said there were 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent in that same speech, right?

    Where has this guy been the past three years?  Did he just get rescued from a desert island in the trackless expanse of the Pacific or something?  Even Osama in his cave in ____istan is better informed than this.

    Wilson made his case in a New York Times op-ed piece. This rocked the administration, which was already fighting to retain its credibility in the face of mounting and irrefutable evidence that the case it had made for war in Iraq -- weapons of mass destruction, above all -- was a fiction. So it set out to impeach Wilson's credibility, purportedly answering the important question of who had sent him to Africa in the first place: his wife. This was a clear case of nepotism, the leakers just as clearly implied.
    A momentarily glimpse of reality, followed by hallucinatory fiction.  

    The question of who sent him to Africa was never the important question.  And for the record, it was the CIA.  They had been asked by the vice-president's office to investigate this whole "uranium from Africa" angle.

    Now, Dick, if you really think a trip to Niger is nepotism, let me let you in on a little secret.  Since you think it's such a cushy and lucrative assignment, perhaps you'd be willing to tender me a - let's call it a finder's fee - cashier's check for $5,000 USD for me to arrange a very sweet gig for you over there.  I have a business associate over there named DR KWASEI M'BUTAFUKO who is a high-powered ATTORNEY in NIGER.  He is trying to reclaim a sum equal to $17 MILLION USD that is held up in the courts, and you, RICHARD COHEN are exactly the man he needs...

    Not nice, but it was what Washington does day in and day out. (For some historical perspective see George Clooney's "Good Night, and Good Luck'' about Edward R. Murrow and that most odious of leakers-cum-character assassins, Joseph McCarthy.)
    So, McCarthyism is alive and well in Washington, is that what he's trying to say?  And moreover, Cohen is just fine with it?
    This is rarely considered a crime. In the Plame case, it might technically be one, but it was not the intent of anyone to out a CIA agent and have her assassinated (which happened once) but to assassinate the character of her husband. This is an entirely different thing. She got hit by a ricochet.
    pffha!  Not worth wasting keystrokes on - Americablog's got the smackdown on that graf anyway.

    Now we are told by various journalistic sources that Fitzgerald might not indict anyone for the illegal act he was authorized to investigate, but some other one -- maybe one concerning the disclosure of secret material.
    The disclosure of secret material is the illegal act Fitz is investigating, moron.
    Here again, though, this is a daily occurrence in Washington, where most secrets have the shelf life of sashimi.
    Really, Dick?  Are you talking about the who-slept-with-what kind of secrets, or are you telling us that beltway insiders are blabbing classified national security secrets to anyone who will listen on a daily basis?  Because if it's the latter, there are tens of thousands of workers with security clearances at military bases, defense contractors, research labs and the like who really oughta know how the DC crowd treats classified material so they can modify their behavior accordingly.  I mean gosh, they're keeping the stuff locked in safes and subjecting themselves to the evil eye of DISCO (and I ain't talkin' the bad 70's music here) on a regular basis, apparently all over a misunderstanding of what "vital national security information" means.  They haven't even been telling their wives or kids, for chrissake.  They'll be relieved to know that it's OK to tell the sushi chef or the hot chick behind you in line at Starbuck's.
    Then, too, other journalists say that Fitzgerald might bring conspiracy charges, an attempt (or so it seems) to bring charges of some sort. This is what special prosecutors do and why they should always be avoided.
    It's also what they do to bring down mob bosses.  You got a problem wit' dat?
    I have no idea what Fitzgerald will do.
    This one's just too easy.  Fill in the blank.
    My own diligent efforts to find out anything have come to naught. Fitzgerald's non-speaking spokesman would not even tell me if his boss is authorized to issue a report, as several members of Congress are now demanding -- although Joseph E. diGenova, a former U.S. attorney in Washington, tells me that only a possibly unprecedented court order would permit it.
    So there's a grand jury investigation happening, which is supposed to be closed and confidential, and Cohen can't get any information? To a logical person, this would be evidence that Fitz is a competent professional instead of a political hack like say, Ken "Brenda" Starr.
    Whatever the case, I pray Fitzgerald is not going to reach for an indictment or, after so much tumult, merely fold his tent, not telling us, among other things, whether Miller is the martyr to a free press that I and others believe she is or whether, as some lefty critics hiss, she's a double-dealing grandstander, in the manner of some of her accusers.
    That's some tortured sentence structure you got there, Dick.  Are you saying you pray he doesn't indict anyone after all this? Or just that you want to have your own curiosity slaked as to how bad a girl Judy M was?  And as to the question of whether she's a double-dealing etcetera etcetera, refer to my earlier curiosity about where you were when the whole WMD mess was unfolding.  Who and What she is is Wholly apparent to everybody.
    More is at stake here than bringing down Karl Rove or some other White House apparatchik, or even settling some score with Miller, who is sometimes accused of taking this nation to war in Iraq all by herself.
    Are there really people who say that?  Blaming the drumbeat to war on the media?  Who would say something that ignorant?

    But you're right there is something more important than "getting" Karl Rove.  It's called treason, and some people think that's something that ought not go unpunished.<

    The greater issue is control of information. If anything good comes out of the Iraq war, it has to be a realization that bad things can happen to good people when the administration -- any administration -- is in sole control of knowledge and those who know the truth are afraid to speak up. This -- this creepy silence -- will be the consequence of dusting off rarely used statutes to still the tongues of leakers and intimidate the press in its pursuit of truth, fame and choice restaurant tables.
    So in this case Wilson knew the truth and was not afraid to speak up.  The administration - in order to keep control of the information - retaliated against him by endangering the life of his wife.  That was also a signal to people with information at the CIA to keep mum.  If they get away with retaliation against a whistleblower unpunished, you'll have your creepy silence.  If you are someone who wants the information getting out, you want the creeps in the administration responsible to be taken down.  It's really that simple.
    Apres Miller comes moi.
    The denser you get, Dick, the more that sounds like a good idea.
    This is why I want Fitzgerald to leave now. Do not bring trivial charges -- nothing about conspiracies, please -- and nothing about official secrets, most of which are known to hairdressers, mistresses and dog walkers all over town. Please, Mr. Fitzgerald, there's so much crime in Washington already. Don't commit another.
    F'real?  There's so much crime in DC that punishing someone for treason would, what? Open up the floodgates to prosecute all the crooks and shady characters?  Dick says it like it would be a bad thing.

    And if it's really true that everybody in establishment circles in DC is spreading classified national security information as readily as office gossip, then I think we have two choices.  De-classify everything so the public can see what all those defense "contractors" have been doing with our money, or arrest, indict and convict all of these officials and their retinue, down to the mistresses and "dogwalkers."  Personally?  I'd do both.

    Overall, Dick, when you say truly dumbass things such as "investigating a crime that probably wasn't one in the first place," you seem to lack any understanding of basic concepts here, such as what crime means.  Maybe we should make sure you're clear on that before I let you go.

    Let's say the cops find a dead body floating in the river.  The coroner determines that the unfortunate died from a gunshot to the back of the head.  Since you can't do that yourself, the death was the result of someone discharging a firearm at the deceased.  Thus the police now have a crime on their hands, which they term homicide.  Now they don't know for sure if the crime was pre-meditated, or the other circumstances, so it might be first-degree murder, or if it was an accident, maybe it just winds up being prosecuted as manslaughter.  But the cops have the dead body, someone shot the guy, so ipso facto a crime has been committed.

    Same thing goes here.  The identities of covert operatives, especially non-official cover operatives (NOCs) are highly guarded secrets.  They are classified and highly compartmentalized information.  And the transfer of classified national security information to unauthorized parties is a crime.

    Valerie Plame was a NOC CIA operative working in the field of nonconventional weapons anti-proliferation.  This is something even highly idealistic libertarians and the most bleeding-heart liberals can agree is important to our national security, and a valid reason for covert activity. Even those who might think much of the rest of the CIA's activities are criminal.  Keeping Al Qaeda and Aum Shinrikyu from acquiring nuclear weapons and weaponized Ebola is pretty important. Wide consensus on that point.

    Now I say she was a NOC operative because two years ago, everyone found out who she was and what she was doing.  This highly classified information, which by law and procedure should be limited to fewer people than you can count on one hand, is now known to all of us, as evidenced by the fact we're talking about it now.  So ipso facto a crime was committed.  Whether it was a violation of the Intelligence Identities Act or the Espionage Act or some other statute is a matter for a grand jury to decide.  And for the prosecutor to figure out what kind of case he can build based on the evidence.  

    One of the great things about America is that we call ourselves "a nation of laws, not men."  Apparently we've been saying that longer than we've had gender-inclusive language.  What that means is that when crimes are committed, we go ahead and prosecute them whenever possible.  It depends on the ability of police and detectives and prosecutors and the like to get the evidence and witnesses needed to put the crooks behind bars, and they work like the dickens to make that happen.  It does not depend on whether newspaper columnists or politicians or anybody else would like to see an indictment.  That's the idea, anyway.  For the last two centuries we've considered it a national disgrace to work any other way.

    03 October 2005

    actions speak louder than words

    for most americans, talk is cheap.  and when it comes to politicians, nearly completely worthless.

    so honing "the message" if we ever figure out what it is, doesn't get us very far.  and showing "spine" when it's merely talk or even voting choices we know won't prevail doesn't do a whole lot except for activists and political junkies.
    the reason americans aren't switching over to trusting us in droves as they wake up the the stench of corruption from the right is simple:  they don't trust us either.

    the only way to fix that is to start doing things — start making changes that positively impact working people.  

    but, but, but we're in the minority the politicos and strategists and democratic camp followers all whine, we don't get to set the agenda!

    nonsense.  that's only true in DC.

    there are plenty of states and municipalities where we are in control.  we can take action and move forward there.  i see very little productive being done, with the major exception of the reform ohio now effort.

    take connecticut for instance.  republican governor who replaced another republican resigning under a cloud of corruption that got national attention.  democrats have a super-majority in the legislature there after last november.  what are they doing with it?  well they did get civil unions enacted.  good from the standpoint of the activist wing and the gay rights constituency.  doesn't do a whole lot for the average working joe, even though standing up for our principles will be perceived positively.  

    so where are the efforts to get universal healthcare for all residents?  why aren't they very visibly making serious changes to clean up corruption in the wake of rowland and help paint the whole GOP as corrupt?  why haven't they taken steps to prevent future home seizures for private developers as in kelo?  countering the new bankruptcy laws?  these are the kinds of things that get everyday people's attentions and get us some loyalty again.  that's just one small state - now magnify that by every state where we control the legislature or governor's mansion, every city where we dominate city hall.

    if people think we're only saying the right things, they won't bother to show up at the polls for us.  once they see us doing things to help them, we get their respect and trust again, and then their votes.

    13 September 2005

    Bush to Take Control of Executive Branch

    Let's go to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, live in the Habituation Room...

    WOLF: In a stunning development here in Washington, President Bush has just announced that he will be assuming command of the entire executive branch of the federal government. Here's the announcement, just minutes ago.
    BUSH: My decision earlier today to assume limited responsibility for possible oversights in the federal disaster of Hurricane Katrina - any possible federal response to the hurricane - has been proven enormously effective.  And so we've decided to do more for the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

    See, you have all these agencies and departments running around here in Washington, with their bureaucracies and career professionals and stuff.  What is really needed in this time of crisis is someone to exercise authority over all these different agencies.

    To the extent that more could be done to cordurate- coordinate the activities of all the many agencies and cabinet departments, I am taking command of the functions of the exacta- the executive branch, exect- effective immediately.

    WOLF: There you have it.  President Bush to take command of the entire executive branch.  A bold move by this president, reminiscent of his decisive leadership following 9/11.

    Sources tell CNN that this bold move is in response to the excess of criticism coming from fault-finding liberal Democrats over the government's response to Hurricane Katrina.  We have word that the White House at first considered appointing an executive branch czar, someone like Colin Powell, for this role, but the president decided to take it on himself.  It will certainly be a major addition to his already heavy workload.

    In a few moments we'll be getting reaction from both sides of the aisle, from Republicans and Democrats, on this extraordinary development.  But first let's go to Michael Wanker, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, for analysis of the Constitutional ramifications.

    Hello Michael, always good to have you with us.

    WANKER: Always glad to be here, Wolf.

    WOLF: So you've seen the announcement - the president to take charge of the executive branch of the federal government.  What do you make of this?  Is he going too far?  Is he trampling on the Constitution?

    WANKER:  Not at all. I think in fact you could make the case that he's not going far enough.  As you mentioned, he is only taking charge of one branch of the government, the executive.  That includes all those bureaucracies and civil servants who work for the federal government.  He's not even touching the judiciary or Congress the way that many people feel he ought to. Or state and local government which failed so miserably, showing the need for ironclad obedience to the head of state. This just demonstrates the president's scrupulous concern for the Constitution, a document which was of course written more than 200 years ago, in a much simpler time.

    WOLF: Well let's talk about that then.  Because just before this segment CNN learned from an anonymous source inside the White House Communications Office that there is discussion to go a little bit further, possibly even having the president assume the role of Commander-in-Chief of the military.  Attorney General Abu- uh, Alberto Gonzales is rumored to be scouring his law books looking for a precedent that would allow this under the Constitution.  Do you know anything about that?

    WANKER:  Well I'm not privy to the Special Plans of the White House, but this would be a welcome development toward getting the situation in Iraq well in hand.  As you know, the Posse Comitatus Act prohibits civilian control over the military and its contractors, but that law was really passed during the exigencies of the Civil War, and is anachronistic to our current fight against the terrorists.  The best solution would be to have Congress repeal it, or have the Supreme Court strike it down, but with liberal obstructionists controlling those two institutions that may not be likely to happen in a timely manner.

    WOLF: You got that right.  So sum this up for us.  Is this a truly extraordinary event on an extraordinary day?

    WANKER: A truly extraordinary and decisive move.  It shows just how far the President is willing to go to secure the nation.

    WOLF:  Indeed.  In just a few moments we'll be getting political response from both parties, but since the shocking events in New Orleans we have been getting not just both sides of the aisle but also the black view of events.  It's been tough to find black voices inside the Beltway, but it looks like Cindy Kaching has lined someone up.

    Hello Cindy.

    KACHING: Yes Wolf, it wasn't easy, but earlier this afternoon we followed down reports of an actual African-American community living here inside our nation's capital.  In fact we found a couple blacks up to something here, scant blocks from Capitol Hill, amazingly enough.

    I have here Dutch Jones.  Now Dutch, what's your reaction to President Bush's announcement that he will begin running the federal government?

    JONES: Begin running the government?  Wha- we just talking about the executive branch?

    KACHING: Uh-

    WOLF: Yes, Cindy, that's right. The executive branch, and there's talk about the military.

    KACHING: The executive branch.

    JONES:  Well what the f*@% he's been doing all this time?  This is-

    KACHING: Wow.  Still a lot of hurt feelings here in black America, Wolf...

    JONES: Ain't about no hurt feelings, we-

    WOLF: Wow. That guy was really black. Definitely still a lot of hurt feelings, as you can see.

    When we return, we'll have bipartisan discussion of the latest developments, with Republican Senator Rick Santorum and former Democratic presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche.

    Stay tuned, you're watching the Habituation Room.

    11 September 2005

    Brothers & Sisters: A Lamentation

    A cry for help, from the shackles of empire

    LORD your people perish down in Egypt
    In the land of the mighty river
    The priests and princes of the land
    Cared nothing for the poor who served them
    When the river rose and consumed the weak
    The poor were made food for dogs
    Leviathan feasted on their flesh
    Ransom your people from Egypt
    o LORD hear our cry

    Now the princes laugh at the slaughter
    They say, "Open the treasury, that we may rebuild"
    But take the money for themselves
    And build their own houses bigger
    Seeing the plight of your people, LORD
    They exploit their workers the more
    Ransom your people from Egypt
    o LORD hear our cry

    "Let us all bow down to Pharaoh!"
    The priests tell the people;
    A pampered son of privilege
    Who thinks he is a god.
    Ransom your people from Pharaoh
    o LORD hear our cry.

    LORD let your truth wash over the people of Pharaoh
    Like raging floodwaters, unstoppable
    Lend your strength to the widows and orphans,
    To those who have lost children
    Let them rise up and return
    Turn their sorrow into action
    Ransom your people from Egypt
    o LORD hear our cry

    The invisible hand of want
    Is master here in Egypt
    Yet those who trust in God
    Will eat manna in the desert
    Let justice be for all, LORD
    Bring us to the land overflowing
    Ransom your people from Egypt
    o LORD hear our cry

    You are the God who surely hears the cries of orphans
    And widows, and all the sojourners in foreign places
    Ransom your people from Egypt
    o LORD hear our cry

    15 June 2005

    Pentagon Minutes: Gitmo=War Crimes

    This just came up on ABC News this evening.  Apparently they got leaked some minutes of a Pentagon meeting in early 2003.  The fact that interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay would be considered torture under US law was raised, as was the prospect of prosecution for war crimes.
    June 15, 2005 -- The interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo Bay Detention Center in 2002 triggered concerns among senior Pentagon officials that they could face criminal prosecution under U.S. anti-torture laws, ABC News has learned.

    Notes from a series of meetings at the Pentagon in early 2003 -- obtained by ABC News -- show that Alberto Mora, General Counsel of the Navy, warned his superiors that they might be breaking the law.

    This development doesn't seem to have been reported anywhere else in the news, nor here on dKos. [note: this was originally a kos diary - zeke]

    I think it is worth bringing to everyone's attention.

    During a January 2003 meeting involving top Pentagon lawyer William Haynes and other officials, the memo shows that Mora warned that "use of coercive techniques ... has military, legal, and political implication ... has international implication ... and exposes us to liability and criminal prosecution."

    Mora's deep concerns about interrogations at Guantanamo have been known, but not his warning that top officials could go to prison.

    In another meeting held March 8, 2003, the group of top Pentagon lawyers concluded -- according to the memo -- "we need a presidential letter approving the use of the controversial interrogation to cover those who may be called upon to use them."

    No such letter was issued.

    Well hold on a minute on that last one - how do we know that no such letter was issued?  Some of the FBI emails we already know about referred to an executive order that may have been classified, but so far we haven't seen any meaningful analysis of whether such an order was issued or not.  I'm not inclined to simply take the administration's word for it the way ABC seems to be.

    Let's remember though that even if an executive order was issued, torture is still illegal.  All the order would prove is that the president not only had full knowledge that torture was being used, he actually approved it.

    There's a bit more:

    In another internal memo obtained by ABC News, a Navy psychologist observing the interrogation warned that the tactics used against Mohammed al Qahtani -- dubbed "the 20th hijacker" -- revealed "a tendency to become increasingly more aggressive without having a definite boundary."

    Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said on Tuesday that interrogating al Qahtani had produced results.

    This is exactly what was said in the broadcast, and it's exceptionally poor journalism.  I can't make out what that last bit means - are they trying to say that the torture used on al Qahtani escalated in brutality unchecked?  Or that the torture backfired because he became progressively more obstinate.

    As for MacnaRummy's comments, well they're clearly not worth the spittle in the air they were carried on.

    [PS] This whole thing seems kind of strange - almost like they were trying to bury the story. It was toward the top of the news, but there was no announcement of or promotion of the story - even though they're featuring it as an "exclusive." Then they took pains to say that there was no presidential authorization, even though they have no way of knowing that, and then to parrot Rummy's comments that at least one interrogation yielded results, even though there's no supporting evidence for that claim.

    Wouldn't a news organization normally trumpet getting a juicy leak like this to get people watching?

    The other thing that is very odd is that the text of the minutes is not available. Just a couple of heavily redacted quotes and a vague summary.

    Sounds almost like some investigative reporter scored this internal document, but then the producers said, "Torture? War crimes? Yeah whatever. We'll put it on right after the Jackson trial segment. Um, and good work kid."

    Update [2005-6-15 21:24:5 by zeke L]:Looks like Rimjob also mentioned this in an update to his breaking news diary.

    Here's more info on Mora's questions in a much more in-depth article in the Boston Globe (link from commenter in Rimjob's diary):

    Abuse led Navy to consider pulling Cuba interrogators

    A top Navy psychologist reported to his supervisor in December 2002 that interrogators at Guantanamo were starting to use ''abusive techniques." In a separate incident that same month, the Defense Department's joint investigative service, which includes Navy investigators, formally ''disassociated" itself from the interrogation of a detainee, after learning that he had been subjected to particularly abusive and degrading treatment.

    The two events prompted Navy law enforcement officials to debate pulling out of the Guantanamo operation entirely unless the interrogation techniques were restricted. The Navy's general counsel, Alberto Mora, told colleagues that the techniques were ''unlawful and unworthy of the military services."

    The previously undisclosed events were disclosed at a hearing of the Senate Armed Forces Committee yesterday...Senator Carl Levin... said the events are outlined in the largely classified report on military detention and interrogation operations delivered last week by Navy Vice Admiral Albert T. Church... the Navy's expressions of outrage prompted ... Rumsfeld's decision in January 2003 to revoke an aggressive interrogation policy for Guantanamo detainees... Rumsfeld then convened a Pentagon working group to examine interrogation issues more thoroughly. It came up with a more restricted interrogation policy in April 2003.

    Specifically, the chain of events began when Dr. Michael Gelles, the chief psychologist of the Navy Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS, completed a study of Guantanamo interrogations in December 2003 that included extracts of interrogation logs. Gelles reported to the service director, David Brant, that interrogators were using ''abusive techniques and coercive psychological procedures."

    The major source of Church's findings, Levin said at the hearing, is a memo Mora wrote in July 2004. At about the same time, FBI agents wrote a series of e-mails, recently made public, about abusive interrogations they said they witnessed.

    The FBI memos described ''torture techniques" that it said included shackling detainees into painful positions, forced nakedness, deafening music, temperature extremes, and sexual humiliation by female interrogators.

    ...Southcom has recalled to active duty four reservists who had served as interrogators because they may have to face courts-martial for their handling of prisoners...

    Rumsfeld tapped Church to review the military's detention-and-interrogation operations after the disclosure of the Abu Ghraib photographs in May 2004. Church concluded there was no policy, ''written or otherwise," by which top officials sanctioned abuses. He attributed abuses to battlefield stress and insufficient oversight.

    Boston Globe, 16 March 2005

    So a couple more questions based on this info...

    Sounds like the Boston Globe has also seen Mora's complaints. Is this the same thing, or is the Globe report based on a memo, while the ABC report is based on minutes of meeting where Mora raises the concerns. Is the text of either out there and publicly accessible?

    The Pentagon working group came up with a more restricted policy in April 2003. Does anyone recall when General Geoffrey Miller was sent to Abu Ghraib to whip their interrogations into shape? Also, I presume that the new policy only applied to the military (to make the Navy happy) but not to the CIA or their "contractors." AFAICT, any changes made since the Abu Ghraib revelations or listed here have only limited applicability, so there is really no policy in effect that says we are not still torturing people at Gitmo or any of the other camps. All that has probably changed is which command the interrogators are attached to.

    Is this Gelles study with the interrogation logs out there somewhere? Does anyone know if something like that is in the FOIA dump that SusanHu has folks researching?

    That last bit is something I hadn't noted about the Church report, but it pretty much tells you right there that it is a whitewash. Church had these records of torture being used in interrogations, but attributed it to "battle stress." Exactly what battle were the interrogators at Gitmo involved in? Maybe Fidel's been running skirmishes and nobody told us. Everything coming from the Pentagon and White House on this is so transparently a crock.