Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Unimpeachable Logic

Leonard Jaffee has meticulously laid out a compelling case for impeaching our Vice-President. The most important point in his analysis is that the decision to impeach can be taken solely by the House and Senate, without constraints from the Judicial Branch.

"Still, for the House and Senate, the Supreme Court's inclination is irrelevant. The Supreme Court does not determine the meaning of "high Crimes and Misdemeanors." The House and Senate do. Their determinations are not subject to judicial review or limited by judicial precedent or any statute. Even if Cheney's coercions are not technical federal or state-law crimes, they were high Crimes and Misdemeanors. They perverted Cheney's office monstrously and harmed, hugely, our Republic."
Now the real question is: why shouldn't we impeach Dick Cheney? With a 28% approval rating, the general public won't shed any tears to see him on the hotseat. Those Rethugs in the House and Senate who may defend him will do so at considerable political cost.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Less Philanthropy, More Profit-sharing.

Barbara Ehrenreich, writing for The Nation, has this pithy critique of "mainstream" political economics in the U.S.

"But the moderate-to-conservative economic thinkers who long refused to think about class polarization have a fallback position, sketched out by Roger Lowenstein.... Briefly put: As long as the middle class is still trudging along and the poor are not starving flamboyantly in the streets, what does it matter if the super-rich are absorbing an ever larger share of the national income?

In Lowenstein's view: "...whether Roger Clemens, who will get something like $10,000 for every pitch he throws, earns 100 times or 200 times what I earn is kind of irrelevant. My kids still have health care, and they go to decent schools. It's not the rich people who are pulling away at the top who are the problem..."
Well, there is a problem with the super-rich, several of them in fact. A bloated overclass can drag down a society as surely as a swelling underclass.
First, the Clemens example distracts from the reality that a great deal of the wealth at the top is built on the low-wage labor of the poor. Take Wal-Mart, our largest private employer and premiere exploiter of the working class: Every year, 4 or 5 of the people on Forbes magazine's list of the ten richest Americans carry the surname Walton, meaning they are the children, nieces, and nephews of Wal-Mart's founder.
You think it's a coincidence that this union-busting low-wage retail empire happens to have generated a $200 billion family fortune?
Second, though a lot of today's wealth is being made in the financial industry, by means that are occult to the average citizen and do not seem to involve much labor of any kind, we all pay a price, somewhere down the line. All those late fees, puffed up interest rates and exorbitant charges for low-balance checking accounts do not, as far as I can determine, go to soup kitchens.
Third, the overclass bids up the price of goods that ordinary people also need -- housing, for example. Gentrification is dispersing the urban poor into overcrowded suburban ranch houses, while billionaires' horse farms displace the rural poor and middle class. Similarly, the rich can swallow tuitions of $40,000 and up, making a college education increasingly a privilege of the upper classes.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the huge concentration of wealth at the top is routinely used to tilt the political process in favor of the wealthy."
Nowhere on Earth is the political process not tilted in favor of the wealthy. But when the super-rich gobble up an ever-larger share of the pie, they begin to command an ever-larger amount of the political classes' attention. Thus, all but one of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate so identified with big money that they just voted to block consideration of the Employee Free Choice Act. This Act doesn't seek to dramatically redistribute the nation's wealth, or to impose "confiscatory" levels of taxation on the incomes of the most wealthy. It merely seeks to allow some of those who work very hard to generate huge profits--now exclusively enjoyed by the wealthy-- to band together and seek modest improvements in their wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The sad truth is 4.5 to 4 is all it takes

Today's Supreme Court Decision (entire text here) was the strongest evidence possible that this nation is in very real danger of rolling backwards into the swampy valley of old inequities, just as some of us had hoped we might make sufficient forward progress to reach drier elevations. Justice Kennedy seems to recognize as much in explaining why he can't concur entirely in the plurality's opinion.

"parts of the opinion by The Chief Justice imply an all-too-unyielding insistence that race cannot be a factor in instances when, in my view, it may be taken into account. The plurality opinion is too dismissive of the legitimate interest government has in ensuring all people have equal opportunity regardless of their race. The plurality’s postulate that “[t]he way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” ante, at 40–41, is not sufficient to decide these cases. Fifty years of experience since Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) , should teach us that the problem before us defies so easy a solution. School districts can seek to reach Brown’s objective of equal educational opportunity. The plurality opinion is at least open to the interpretation that the Constitution requires school districts to ignore the problem of de facto resegregation in schooling. I cannot endorse that conclusion. To the extent the plurality opinion suggests the Constitution mandates that state and local school authorities must accept the status quo of racial isolation in schools, it is, in my view, profoundly mistaken."

We desperately need new leadership in this country, capable not only of undoing the damage done to our republic by the Cheney -Bush administration, but of setting us back on a course of further progress towards a better society.

The Awful Truth

Well, it's official, folks. The wheels have come off the Neocon bus. Long habits of contempt for the rule of law have led the Executive and the Cheney branches of our national government to openly defy the legislative branch. Rather than work together with the duly elected representatives of the American Republic to restore the badly shaken faith of most citizens in the good will of their government, Cheney and his faithful lapdog lil'Bush are telling the House and Senate to "go f@#* themselves."
Laurie Kellman reports from Washington, D.C. for The Associated Press:

"The Senate subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's office Wednesday, demanding documents and elevating the confrontation with President Bush over the administration's warrant-free eavesdropping on Americans.
Separately, the Senate Judiciary Committee also is summoning Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to discuss the program and an array of other matters that have cost a half-dozen top Justice Department officials their jobs, committee chairman Patrick Leahy announced.
Leahy, D-Vt., raised questions about previous testimony by one of Bush's appeals court nominees and said he wouldn't let such matters pass.
"If there have been lies told to us, we'll refer it to the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorney for whatever legal action they think is appropriate," Leahy told reporters. He did just that Wednesday, referring questions about testimony by former White House aide Brett Kavanaugh, who now sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
The escalation is part of the Democrats' effort to hold the administration to account for the way it has conducted the war on terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The subpoenas extend the probe into the private sector, demanding among other things documents on any agreements that telecommunications companies made to cooperate with the surveillance program.
The White House contends that its search for would-be terrorists is legal, necessary and effective pointing out frequently that there have been no further attacks on American soil. Administration officials say they have given classified information such as details about the eavesdropping program, which is now under court supervision to the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress.
Echoing its response to previous congressional subpoenas to former administration officials Harriet Miers and Sara Taylor, the White House gave no indication that it would comply with the new ones.
"We're aware of the committee's action and will respond appropriately," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. "It's unfortunate that congressional Democrats continue to choose the route of confrontation."
In fact, the Judiciary Committee's three most senior Republicans Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, former chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah and Chuck Grassley of Iowa sided with Democrats on the 13-3 vote last week to give Leahy the power to issue the subpoenas.
The showdown between the White House and Congress could land in federal court.
Also named in subpoenas signed by Leahy were the Justice Department and the National Security Council. The four parties the White House, Cheney's office, the Justice Department and the National Security Council have until July 18 to comply, Leahy said. He added that, like House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., he would consider pursuing contempt citations against those who refuse.
Gonzales, in Spokane, Wash., on Wednesday to discuss gang issues with local officials, said he had not seen the subpoena documents and could not comment on them directly.
"There are competing institutional interests," Gonzales said.
The Judiciary committees have issued the subpoenas as part of a look at how much influence the White House exerts over the Justice Department and its chief, Gonzales.
The probe, in its sixth month, began with an investigation into whether administration officials ordered the firings of eight federal prosecutors for political reasons. The Judiciary committees subpoenaed Miers, one-time White House legal counsel, and Taylor, a former political director, though they have yet to testify.
Now, with senators of both parties concerned about the constitutionality of the administration's efforts to root out terrorism suspects in the United States, the committee has shifted to the broader question of Gonzales' stewardship of Justice.
The issue concerning Kavanaugh, a former White House staff secretary, is whether he misled the Senate panel during his confirmation hearing last year about how much he was involved in crafting the administration's policy on enemy combatants.
The Bush administration secretly launched the eavesdropping program, run by the National Security Agency, in 2001 to monitor international phone calls and e-mails to or from the United States involving people the government suspected of having terrorist links. The program, which the administration said did not require investigators to seek warrants before conducting surveillance, was revealed in December 2005.
After the program was challenged in court, Bush put it under the supervision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, established in 1978. The president still claims the power to order warrantless spying.
The subpoenas seek a wide array of documents from the Sept. 11 attacks to the present. Among them are any that include analysis or opinions from Justice, NSA, the Defense Department, the White House, or "any entity within the executive branch" on the legality of the electronic surveillance program.
Debate continues over whether the program violates people's civil liberties. The administration has gone to great lengths to keep it running.
Interest was raised by vivid testimony last month by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey about the extent of the White House's effort to override the Justice Department's objections to the program in 2004.
Comey told the Judiciary Committee that Gonzales, then-White House counsel, tried to persuade Attorney General John Ashcroft to reverse course and recertify the program. At the time, Ashcroft lay in intensive care, recovering form gall bladder surgery.
Ashcroft refused, as did Comey, who temporarily held the power of the attorney general's office during his boss' illness.
The White House recertified the program unilaterally. Ashcroft, Comey, FBI Director Robert Mueller and their staffs prepared to resign. Bush ultimately relented and made changes the Justice officials had demanded, and the agency eventually recertified it.
Fratto defended the surveillance program as "lawful" and "limited."
"It's specifically designed to be effective without infringing Americans' civil liberties," Fratto said. "The program is classified for a reason its purpose is to track down and stop terrorist planning. We remain steadfast in our commitment to keeping Americans safe from an enemy determined to use any means possible including the latest in technology to attack us."
Too bad these aspiring tyrants in the Cheney-Bush administration feel they have to keep Americans safe from allowing their own elected representative to get the full truth.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Justice Jackson knew the score in 1952

Wouldn't it be nice to have our constitutionally elected public officials at least show some modest familiarity with the basic concepts of the founding document that established, and defined their limited powers? Is that too much to ask?" Yet perhaps as a medievalist trained in paleography I expect too much from these guys. Well, fortunately for George, Dick, and Alberto there is a Cliff-notes version!
Short, sweet, and readily available, the opinion of Justice Black of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. SawyerSupreme Court of the United States,1952,

Justice Black (1952) concurring opinion:
"Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer
Supreme Court of the United States,

"The actual art of governing under our Constitution does not and cannot conform to judicial definitions of the power of any of its branches based on isolated clauses or even single Articles torn from context. While the Constitution diffuses power the better to secure liberty, it also contemplates that practice will integrate the dispersed powers into a workable government. It enjoins upon its branches separateness but interdependence, autonomy but reciprocity. Presidential powers are not fixed but fluctuate, depending upon their disjunction or conjunction with those of Congress. We may well begin by a somewhat over-simplified grouping of practical situations in which a President may doubt, or others may challenge, his powers, and by distinguishing roughly the legal consequences of this factor of relativity.

1. When the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of
Congress, his authority is at its maximum, for it includes all that he possesses in his
own right plus all that Congress can delegate. In these circumstances, and in these
only, may he be said (for what it may be worth), to personify the federal
sovereignty. If his act is held unconstitutional under these circumstances, it usually
means that the Federal Government as an undivided whole lacks power. A seizure
executed by the President pursuant to an Act of Congress would be supported by
the strongest of presumptions and the widest latitude of judicial interpretation, and
the burden of persuasion would rest heavily upon any who might attack it.

2. When the President acts in absence of either a congressional grant or denial of
authority, he can only rely upon his own independent powers, but there is a zone of
twilight in which he and Congress may have concurrent authority, or in which its
distribution is uncertain. Therefore, congressional inertia, indifference or
quiescence may sometimes, at least as a practical matter, enable, if not invite,
measures on independent presidential responsibility. In this area, any actual test of
power is likely to depend on the imperatives of events and contemporary
imponderables rather than on abstract theories of law.

3. When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will
of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own
constitutional powers minus any constitutional powers of Congress over the matter.
Courts can sustain exclusive Presidential control in such a case only by disabling
the Congress from acting upon the subject. Presidential claim to a power at once
so conclusive and preclusive must be scrutinized with caution, for what is at stake
is the equilibrium established by our constitutional system.

The actual art of governing under our Constitution does not and cannot conform to judicial definitions of the power of any of its branches based on isolated clauses or even single Articles torn from context. While the Constitution diffuses power the better to secure liberty, it also contemplates that practice will integrate the dispersed powers into a workable government. It enjoins upon its branches separateness but interdependence, autonomy but reciprocity. Presidential powers are not fixed but fluctuate, depending upon their disjunction or conjunction with those of Congress. We may well begin by a somewhat over-simplified grouping of practical situations in which a President may doubt, or others may challenge, his powers, and by distinguishing roughly the legal consequences of this factor of relativity.

1. When the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of
Congress, his authority is at its maximum, for it includes all that he possesses in his
own right plus all that Congress can delegate. In these circumstances, and in these
only, may he be said (for what it may be worth), to personify the federal
sovereignty. If his act is held unconstitutional under these circumstances, it usually
means that the Federal Government as an undivided whole lacks power. A seizure
executed by the President pursuant to an Act of Congress would be supported by
the strongest of presumptions and the widest latitude of judicial interpretation, and
the burden of persuasion would rest heavily upon any who might attack it.

2. When the President acts in absence of either a congressional grant or denial of
authority, he can only rely upon his own independent powers, but there is a zone of
twilight in which he and Congress may have concurrent authority, or in which its
distribution is uncertain. Therefore, congressional inertia, indifference or
quiescence may sometimes, at least as a practical matter, enable, if not invite,
measures on independent presidential responsibility. In this area, any actual test of
power is likely to depend on the imperatives of events and contemporary
imponderables rather than on abstract theories of law.

3. When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own constitutional powers minus any constitutional powers of Congress over the matter.
Courts can sustain exclusive Presidential control in such a case only by disabling
the Congress from acting upon the subject. Presidential claim to a power at once
so conclusive and preclusive must be scrutinized with caution, for what is at stake
is the equilibrium established by our constitutional system.

Fun with Draft Dodger Dick

This whole refusal of our creepy veep to hand over information to the national archives because he is supposedly not bound by the rules of the executive branch has led to quite a bit of fun on the many blogs I read.

Perhaps my favorite quip comes from Kevin Drum who poses an interesting question: "By the way, back in February when this story was first reported, Cheney wasn't arguing that the VP's office wasn't executive. He was arguing that the VP's office was both legislative and executive, and thus could ignore the rules of either branch whenever it suited him. So here's my question: If a quantum superposition of a dead cat and a live cat is Schrödinger's Cat, is a quantum superposition of legislative Cheney and executive Cheney Schrödinger's Dick?"

Thanks for making my day, K.D.!!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Power Behind the Throne

While we can have a few chuckles, mocking Dick Cheney's self- appointed position as his own fourth branch of government, (see Friday's post) there is a serious story to be told about the Veep's unprecedented power and influence.

And now, it seems, the mainstream press is finally starting to tell at least some of that story. Here is an excerpt from a piece (the first part of a four-part series) by Barton Gellman and Jo Becker, staff writers for the Washington Post.

"Cheney preferred, and Bush approved, a mandate that gave him access to "every table and every meeting," making his voice heard in "whatever area the vice president feels he wants to be active in," Bolten said.
Cheney has used that mandate with singular force of will. Other recent vice presidents have enjoyed a standing invitation to join the president at "policy time." But Cheney's interventions have also come in the president's absence, at Cabinet and sub-Cabinet levels where his predecessors were seldom seen. He found pressure points and changed the course of events by "reaching down," a phrase that recurs often in interviews with current and former aides.
Mary Matalin, who was counselor to the vice president until 2003 and remains an informal adviser, described Cheney's portfolio as "the iron issues" -- a list that, as she defined it, comprises most of the core concerns of every recent president. Cheney took on "the economic issues, the security issues . . . the energy issues" -- and the White House legislative agenda, Matalin said, because he became "the go-to guy on the Hill." Other close aides noted, as well, a major role for Cheney in nominations and appointments.
As constitutional understudy, with no direct authority in the executive branch, Cheney has often worked through surrogates. Many of them owed their jobs to him….

Stealth is among Cheney's most effective tools. Man-size Mosler safes, used elsewhere in government for classified secrets, store the workaday business of the office of the vice president. Even talking points for reporters are sometimes stamped "Treated As: Top Secret/SCI." Experts in and out of government said Cheney's office appears to have invented that designation, which alludes to "sensitive compartmented information," the most closely guarded category of government secrets. By adding the words "treated as," they said, Cheney seeks to protect unclassified work as though its disclosure would cause "exceptionally grave damage to national security."
Across the board, the vice president's office goes to unusual lengths to avoid transparency. Cheney declines to disclose the names or even the size of his staff, generally releases no public calendar and ordered the Secret Service to destroy his visitor logs. His general counsel has asserted that "the vice presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch," and is therefore exempt from rules governing either. Cheney is refusing to observe an executive order on the handling of national security secrets, and he proposed to abolish a federal office that insisted on auditing his compliance." You can read the rest of this first installment here.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Impeach Cheney First!!

TPM's election central Greg Sargent shares this gem of a chart and memo from Representative Emanuel Rahm of Illinois:
"Today, we discovered that everything we learned in U.S. government class was wrong. Evidently, the Vice President does not consider himself a part of the executive branch, and therefore believes he can obstruct meaningful oversight and avoid being held accountable. If the Vice President truly believes he is not a part of the executive branch, he should return the salary the American taxpayers have been paying him since January 2001, and move out of the home for which they are footing the bill." Washington, D.C., 6/21/2007
The scary part of this whole silly episode is it reveals the megalomania of Draft Dodger Dick. Like any true sociopath, he really feels himself far too grand for any of the legal, moral, or constitutional norms that constrain lesser mortals.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Taking Back Our Constitution

Many of us will never forgive some of the current Supreme Court Justices-- for effectively installing Dubya as President against the will of a majority of voters. Those Justices that Dubya nominated have largely lived up to liberal expectations, that they would use their power to roll back gains our nation had achieved in the last century. Indeed, our very future as a representative democracy hangs by a slender thread. Fortunately this thread was not snapped in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Justices Stevens, Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, and Kennedy managed to defend our constitutional system of checks and balances against the promoters of tyranny, or the euphemism for tyrannical power known as the unitary executive theory.
Justice Stephens:
Far from making the requisite substantial showing, the Government has failed even to offer a “merely colorable” case for inclusion of conspiracy among those offenses cognizable by law-of-war military commission. Cf. Quirin, 317 U. S., at 36. Because the charge does not support the commission’s jurisdiction, the commission lacks authority to try Hamdan. The charge’s shortcomings are not merely formal, but are indicative of a broader inability on the Executive’s part here to satisfy the most basic precondition—at least in the absence of specific congressional authorization—for establishment of military commissions: military necessity. Hamdan’s tribunal was appointed not by a military commander in the field of battle, but by a retired major general stationed away from any active hostilities. Cf. Rasul v. Bush, 542 U. S., at 487 (KENNEDY, J., concurring in judgment) (observing that “Guantanamo Bay is . . . far removed from any
hostilities”). Hamdan is charged not with an overt act for which he was caught redhanded in a theater of war and which military efficiency demands be tried expeditiously, but with an agreement the inception of which long predated the attacks of September 11, 2001and the AUMF. That may well be a crime,41 but it is not an offense that “by the law of war may be tried by military commissio[n].” 10 U. S. C. §821. None of the overt acts alleged to have been committed in furtherance of the agreement is itself a war crime, or even necessarily occurred
during time of, or in a theater of, war. Any urgent need for imposition or execution of judgment is utterly belied by the record; Hamdan was arrested in November 2001 and he was not charged until mid-2004. These simply are not the circumstances in which, by any stretch of the historical evidence or this Court’s precedents, a military commission established by Executive Order under the authority of Article 21 of the UCMJ may lawfully try a person and subject
him to punishment.
Justice Breyer:
The Court’s conclusion ultimately rests upon a single ground: Congress has not issued the Executive a “blank check.” Cf. Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U. S. 507, 536 (2004) (plurality opinion). Indeed, Congress has denied the President the legislative authority to create military commissions of the kind at issue here. Nothing prevents the President from returning to Congress to seek the authority he believes necessary.
Where, as here, no emergency prevents consultation with Congress, judicial insistence upon that consultation does not weaken our Nation’s ability to deal with danger. To the contrary, that insistence strengthens the Nation’s ability to determine—through democratic means—how best to do so. The Constitution places its faith in those democratic means. Our Court today simply does the same.
This language is what we should reasonably expect from our Supreme Court. It is not "liberal," by any means, it is merely a calm appeal to the core principles of government that guided our republic from its inception.
We as citizens cannot fail to use the democratic means available to us as voters to prevent any more apologists for tyranny like Scalia, Thomas, or Alito from being appointed to the Highest Court of the land.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Changing Times

There's an interesting law on the books in the United States that goes back to the early days of the labor movement in our country.

"The Anti-Pinkerton Act states: "An individual employed by the Pinkerton Detective Agency, or similar organization, may not be employed by the Government of the United States or the government of the District of Columbia." 5 U.S.C. § 3108. The Anti-Pinkerton Act was enacted by Congress in 1892 in response to reports that businesses had employed various groups and individuals, including the Pinkerton Detective Agency, to disrupt or harass labor organizers during disputes in the 1880s and early 1890s." This description of the Anti-Pinkerton Act and a great deal more of its interesting history can be found in a recent legal decision. While my post of 6/1/2007 showed that the use of private armed forces-- to intimidate and disrupt labor activists-- hasn't disappeared from North America, it is now a seldom-used tactic.
Many employers now live in a world where the need to negotiate with any sort of union simply doesn't exist. They are free to dictate unilaterally to their employees nearly all aspects of their relationship. One reason for this current situation is that certain minimal standards, of decent treatment of workers, were accepted long ago by U.S. capitalists in the hope that abiding by these standards would gain for them considerable tolerance on the part of government and the larger society. Thus, if a company paid at least minimum wage, paid time and a half for hours over 40 in a week, and didn't violate too egregiously legal norms of safety in the workplace, there would be little public clamor for ensuring that workers had the added protection of a union devoted to promoting their interests. Over the last three decades, U.S. business interests have used myriad forms of carrots and sticks to make union membership a rarity in the private sector workplace.
Nonetheless, some unions survive. A good example is the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with roughly 1.5 million members in the U.S. So what do you do if you're a highly profitable business, that derives a high percentage of its profits from the hard work of Teamster drivers and package handlers? The answer, if you happen to be UPS, is pretend to form a new union called the APWA! With a phony "rival union," promising the moon to gullible UPS employees, the company hopes to gain a slight advantage in the renegotiation of their Teamster's contract in 2008. Two North Carolina UPS drivers, Van Skillman and Danny Eason, were put forward as "organizers of a new union," and given funds to hire Francis (Tom) Coleman, a $900/hr. K Street lawyer to write their charter. And what qualifications are brought by Mr. Coleman to this enterprise of "forming a new union?" Well, he's been paid very handsomely his entire career for his work to destroy existing unions. As a matter of fact he is a longstanding, much-esteemed member of the Council for a Union Free Environment. A quick glance at their website makes it clear this is akin to asking Dr. Mengele to set up a Jewish Community Health Center!
The whole farce is ridiculous, yet it confirms an important point. Even companies (like UPS) who pay relatively high union wages, and contribute to generous benefit and pension packages for their drivers, have way too much money left over for playing silly games and stirring up mischief. This phony APWA will never be certified, or negotiate a contract, but it will harrass and distract a genuine union, the Teamsters, as they begin preparations for a new round of contract talks.
The saddest part of the story is that these charlatans have actually managed to convince several journalists, and even a handful of truck drivers, to take their "rival union" seriously as a legitimate labor group.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Better to laugh than cry...

We all need to thank Tom Tomorrow for his great work during these trying times. The Justice Department shenanigans are a case in point. Monica Goodling, Alberto Gonzales and the rest challenge our sense of propriety so thoroughly, that only by interpreting their deeds and actions as self-parody can we accept them as real. And yet, after the chuckles subside, we are left with the sobering realization that these clowns in the White House have seriously diminished our nation's respect for the rule of law. Even some prominent members of the Republican establishment are starting to speak out. Today's (6/18/2007) article by Marisa Taylor and Margaret Talev of McClatchy Newspapers has this analysis of the current mood in Washington D.C. :
"White House officials deny that the administration has allowed partisan politics to taint the Justice Department. They’ve also defended last year’s firings by emphasizing a president’s right to change his appointees and blaming the prosecutors for failing to carry out President Bush's policies.White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the congressional investigation proves only that the firings could have been “handled better” and that “it’s clear that the attorney general did nothing wrong.”The administration maintains that it's a coincidence that most of the fired U.S. attorneys served in battleground election states, were investigating Republicans or had irritated local Republicans with their refusals to prosecute Democrats.
Yet many of the nation’s legal experts, including Republicans with long government service, see a troubling change in the administration of justice.“We have a Justice Department that has substantially been turned into a political arm of the White House,” said Bruce Fein, a constitutional lawyer and a Justice Department official in the Reagan administration, who's become one of the conservative movement’s fiercest critics of the president.
“To elicit confidence in the legitimacy of law enforcement, you have to at least create the appearance to the public that prosecutorial decisions and high-level personnel decisions do not pivot on political affiliation,” Fein said. “Irrespective of whether there’s actual partisanship in these decisions, the fear among the public is that this is occurring. It creates a chilling effect on the entire political discourse of the country.”
A chilling effect? Let's hope that this splash of cold fear does not intimidate, but rather serves to invigorate people from all over the political spectrum to demand an immediate outside investigation of the DOJ by a special prosecutor. As a progressive, it was a startling revelation to me that even John Ashcroft came out as a paragon of restraint and moral scruples, when compared to these recently appointed bullies who harrassed him on his hospital sick-bed.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Cakewalk

Bremer and Bush celebrate a "mission accomplished" in Baghdad, 11/27/2003. Our Daring Decider just knew he'd done a great thing... maybe Baghdad 2003 wasn't exactly like Paris in 1945, but close enough, right? Hey, real smart guys like Wolfie and Dick Cheney promised us a hero's welcome and they should know, right?
2/19/2003 NPR Interview (Melissa Block) with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz:
Question from NPR reporter Melissa Block:
“We've been hearing concerns voiced by Arab countries about the risks of war with Iraq and an eventual U.S. occupation of that country. At the United Nations yesterday there were envoys from Muslim countries warning of massive political instability in the region, of huge numbers of deaths and injuries as well as refugees. How do you respond to those concerns?”
First of all to say that we will do everything humanly possible to achieve the defeat of the Saddam Hussein regime with minimum casualties to the Iraqi population and to try to -- There's no such thing as a humane war, but to try to minimize the inhumanity that will result. I think clearly some of the fears come from I think probably exaggerated notions of what may happen….
What I believe has contributed to some Islamic extremism is the fact that we have had to stay for 12 years now, containing Iraq with sanctions on Iraq, with weekly bombing of Iraq because Saddam Hussein continues to defy the United Nations. Another 12 years of doing that is certainly going to feed the Islamic extremism.
But we're not talking about the occupation of Iraq. We're talking about the liberation of Iraq. We're talking about the liberation of one of the most talented populations in the Arab world and perhaps the most long-suffering population in the Arab world….
Therefore, when that regime is removed we will find one of the most talented populations in the Arab world, perhaps complaining that it took us so long to get there. Perhaps a little unfriendly to the French for making it take so long. But basically welcoming us as liberators. Then it's up to us to behave as liberators, and I'm sure we will.
Americans are not conquerors. The Arab world is going to see that and it's going to have a very big impact not just in Iraq but throughout the Arab world….
We're seeing today how much the people of Poland and Central and Eastern Europe appreciate what the United States did to help liberate them from the tyranny of the Soviet Union. I think you're going to see even more of that sentiment in Iraq.
There's not going to be the hostility that you described…. There simply won't be.”
The full transcript of this delusional deputy secretary's NPR interview can be read here.
A few weeks later Wolfie's pal, Dick Cheney is just as confident the coming war will have mostly happy results for all involved, and their neighbors too.
NBC News MEET THE PRESS Sunday, March 16, 2003, GUEST: Vice President DICK CHENEY MODERATOR/PANELIST: Tim Russert
MR. RUSSERT: And you are convinced the Kurds, the Sunnis, the Shiites will come together in a democracy?VICE PRES. CHENEY: They have so far. One of the things that many people forget is that the Kurds in the north have been operating now for over 10 years under a sort of U.S.-provided umbrella with respect to the no-fly zone, and they have established a very strong, viable society with elements of democracy an important part of it. They’ve had significant successes in that regard and they’re eager to work with the rest of Iraq, that portion of it that still governs Saddam Hussein. And if you look at the opposition, they’ve come together, I think, very effectively, with representatives from Shia, Sunni and Kurdish elements in the population. They understand the importance of preserving and building on an Iraqi national identity. They don’t like to have the U.S., for example,come in and insist on dealing with people sort of on a hyphenated basis—the Iraqi-Shia, Iraqi-Sunni—but rather to focus on Iraq as a nation and all that it can accomplish as a nation, and we try to be sensible to those concerns. I think the prospects of being able to achieve this kind of success, if you will, from a political standpoint, are probably better than they would be for virtually any other country and under similar circumstances in that part of the world."

You can read Draft-Dodger Dick's calm assertion of how his boys in the military will surely know just how to strip Saddam Hussein of power, find the half-built nukes and other WMD hidden throughout Iraq, (he knows they must be there even if all competent intelligence from U.S. and our allies suggested they were not) and pass out candy bars to the good Iraqi folks who can't wait to enjoy this chance to become more like the Americans they've always secretly admired! The whole Meet the Press transcript is posted here.

These guys didn't fool all of us then, and they're fooling way, way fewer of us now. Yet our own mission won't be accomplished until all U.S. citizens understand the enormity of their leaders' crimes against our democracy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What's next?

The Right-Wing columnist Peggy Noonan actually poses an important question:

Most importantly for him, and for all the Republican candidates for that matter,
Mr. Thompson will have to answer this question: What is he running to do? Why
should the Republicans get another eight years, or four years, after all the
missteps they've made? Isn't conservatism, or Republicanism, or whatever you
call it, just tired? Isn't it over? Isn't America just waiting for whatever will
take its place?

Peggy's plaintive question almost makes you feel sorry for the Rethugs who've been driven off the cliff by their hapless "leaders." Almost, but not really. Because they have embraced nearly all of Bush/Cheney's most disgraceful initiatives aimed at making the rich richer while disenfranchising the poor. They have questioned the patriotism of all Bush opponents for years, and now they want us to believe they're a new party, with new ideas? No, the brave folks who challenged the Patriot Act, and have been fighting the Bush agenda for years have won the right to ask for the public's trust.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

This whole Scooter Libby thing is an ugly reminder of how the crooks and liars currently wielding power in Bush's administration cannot see how their own crimes are viewed by the rest of us outside the Beltway.

"Libby, however, refused to show remorse. He offered no contrition, only an
exercise in victimhood. Like the child who has killed his parents and demands
mercy for being an orphan, Libby tried to murder the truth and then got dozens
of people to plead for leniency based on his good character."

Sidney Blumenthal's excellent analysis of this pathetic spectacle points out very clearly the profound moral blindness of so many involved in this case. Yet there is another aspect of this episode not talked about so much. Former prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega draws attention to the danger that an outraged public might be distracted from the systemic abuse of power by this administration through too narrow a focus on the prosecution of relatively minor players.

We must not forget, De la Vega argues, "the interest the public has in ensuring -- no, demanding -- that Congress rein in the executive abuse of power that spawned the Iraq War, and so the smear campaign against Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson. Indeed, it is worse than illusory; it is actually quite dangerous in the long-term for the public to believe that the work of prosecutors and prosecutions can substitute for the work of Congress.
No, I am not decrying the "criminalization of politics" (as those on the right are so fond of doing). There are times -- and this is one example -- when our government officials have committed crimes and must be prosecuted. Nonetheless, the prosecution of those crimes, however expertly done, is a focused, precise task. To expect a federal prosecutor to remedy the gravely dysfunctional government that we currently have through one, or even many, criminal prosecutions is like expecting an orthopedic surgeon to cure a patient's multiple organ failure by setting a broken arm."

Those of us who worked so hard for change through the elections of 2006 must keep the pressure on Congress to rein in this gang of thieves in the White House. It won't be easy, but it has to be done.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Unpopular at home and abroad

The latest poll numbers tell a story of deep disaffection at home:

"Public approval of the job President Bush is doing now matches its all-time low, an AP-Ipsos poll says.The survey, released Thursday, reflects widespread discontent over how Bush is handling the war in Iraq, efforts against terrorism and domestic issues. It also underscores challenges Republican presidential and congressional candidates will confront next year when they face voters who seem to be clamoring for change.
Only 32 percent said they were satisfied with how Bush is handling his job overall, the same low point AP-Ipsos polling measured last January and a drop of 3 percentage points since May." Some of the other numbers are discussed in the rest of Alan Fram's article, here.

This isn't news-- we've all known for some time that our Pretender-In-Chief has lost the trust of the American people. Yet the image and moral standing of our nation abroad suffers even more than it should because people in other countries don't fully grasp the radical disconnect between Dubya and the citizens he still claims to represent. The European protesters, who demonstrated today against the presence of Bush in their midst, chose a potent symbol of their contempt. It is bad enough that Dubya is caricatured as a lying Pinocchio in Germany--what's really tragic is that it is Dubya as Uncle Sam that is portayed in this fashion. Like it or not, whoever succeeds Dubya in the White House will have to struggle a long time to overcome the damage to America's standing in the world, brought upon us by our current administration's disgraceful behavior.

Riot Police and Pinocchio in Germany today.

When Clinton visited our European allies, throngs of well-wishers showered him with affection. Now the streets of our closest political, economic, and NATO partners ring out with cries of "Yankee go home!!"

Hundreds of thousands cheered our country and our President, Bill Clinton, when he visited Ireland in 1995:

The rest of the world doesn't want to hate the United States. Let's give them some reasons to show us some love again! :) :)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Buck Stops Where ?

His credibility with the general U.S. public is already much lower than that of any President since Richard Nixon. Yet now our Pretender-in-Chief is faced with a situation that may well destroy whatever small reservoir of goodwill remains even among his hard-core supporters. Will he pardon Scooter Libby? How could he put a positive spin on that? He can't, argues Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post.

"Will Bush say that he doesn't believe Libby should be punished since all he did was fall on a dagger aimed at the vice president? That's possibly the most honest approach -- though also the least likely.
Or will Bush say nothing at all, and stick to the strategy of stonewalling on this case? It's a strategy that, in part because of the press corps' lack of tenacity, has served him well thus far.
Washington is abuzz with pardon talk. The thinking appears to be that Bush will grant one before Libby has to go to prison, which could be as soon as the end of July. The pardon will cause Bush a little political damage -- but what's a little more political damage these days?
But this kind of thinking may underestimate the potential fury of the American public.
Pardoning Libby would send the public the message that this White House thinks it is above the law. It's a point critics have made time and time again, whether it relates to the treatment of detainees, warrantless wiretapping or the purge of insufficiently partisan U.S. attorneys. But this time, the charge just might really stick.
Because Libby's lies came in the context of a White House campaign to defend its actions in the run-up to war, pardoning him would inevitably call renewed attention to the most tragic and least forgivable mistake of Bush's presidency: misleading the American people into a disastrous war. It could send the anti-war movement into overdrive.
And pardoning Libby -- a lawbreaker who may have been acting under orders from his superiors -- would finally and fully associate Bush in the public's mind with the one transgression that has forced a president out of office in the modern age: A cover up."

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Karl Rove, mastermind

"the most powerful people in the land appear to have acted as covert agents against their own country, manufactured evidence to deceive a great democracy into a hopeless war, committed the crime of lying to the US congress and an investigating grand jury, and cost the lives of young people from America, the UK, Spain, Italy, Australia, Iraq, and numerous Arab nations. The law and democracy are in great peril." The words of Jim Moore, published in the Sunday Independent of London, 8/13/2006 are a powerful indictment. Yet if we allow Rove to steal another election, the world beyond our shores will rightly begin to question if we are still a free democracy. Please, dear readers, don't underestimate Rove & Company-- they've stolen two already-- our extreme vigilance is required to make 2008 a fair election year.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Well, friends... I took the big plunge yesterday and drove up to Manchester, NH to stand out in the cold rain, for six hours, on a grimy street corner in front of an abandoned Chinese restaurant. I carried signs and shouted rhyming slogans at passing motorists all day long. I didn't wear a jacket because I couldn't bear the thought of passing citizens not reading the words printed on the front of my green t-shirt. What were those words? John Edwards '08. And the most incredible thing about my whole day was that I wasn't alone! There were many other hardy souls who drove up from Rhode Island and Massachusetts to cheer on this man from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. There was a student from State College, Pennsylvania who has committed to working for several months on the Edwards campaign. There were people from all over the country, and from all walks of life, sharing their stories, getting soaked, and loving every minute of it! An old schoolbus drove hordes of volunteers to the debate site, where the crowds were warmly enthusiastic despite the dismal, gray weather. I spoke to townspeople waiting at the stoplight who smiled, gave us the thumbs up and wished us good luck.
I must admit I was overwhelmed by the large outpouring of support for Edwards that I witnessed Sunday afternoon in Manchester. And what was very obvious to me was that this was strong, deep support for a man that people saw as "their" guy. Much like the enthusiasm I recall for Jesse Jackson years ago, this was all about John Edwards as a man who cared about and understood the concerns of working people. On health care, Iraq, fairness to workers, restoring the U.S.A's moral standing in the world, what Edwards had to say clearly resonated with large numbers of ordinary folks.
I think David Bonior explains Edwards' grassroots appeal very well in his recent interview for Newsweek :
" I haven't seen someone as a national figure do as much on workers' rights and poverty in my lifetime. That includes Bobby Kennedy and people in politics in the ‘60s. He helped organize people in probably 85 different actions, from hotel workers to university janitors to people who work in buildings and factories. He was out there demonstrating, marching, picketing, writing letters to CEOs, demanding that [workers] have the right to organize and represent themselves. He started a center on poverty and became the director at the University of North Carolina. He traveled the country and was a leader in getting a minimum-wage bill passed in eight states….That means a lot to me."
It means a lot to the teachers, waitresses, mechanics, college kids, truck drivers, small-business owners, professonals, and even Christian rock musicians who seem tuned in to what John Edwards has to say. It means a lot to this medieval historian turned labor activist who hopes John Edwards gets a crack, as our next president, at restoring this proud nation from the horrific damages inflicted on it by the Bush regime.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Making a Difference

Peter Lavrov issued a challenge to all who have enjoyed the blessings of intellectual or creative gifts-- "Neither literature, nor art, nor science saves one from immoral indifference. By themselves they do not include nor cause progress. They only furnish it with tools... But only that writer, artist or scholar serves progress who does all that he could to apply his energies to the dissemination and strengthening of the civilization of his time, who struggles with evil, embodies his artistic ideals, scientific truths, philosophical ideas, publicistic strivings in creations that are fully infused with the life of his times. Whoever does less... [whoever] forgets about the immense amount of evil and ignorance, against which he should be struggling, might as well be anything-- a skilled artist, an uncommon scholar, a brilliant publicist--but he excludes himself from the ranks of conscious actors of historical progress." -- quoted in Philip Pomper, Peter Lavrov and the Russian Revolutionary Movement (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972),
So what are you waiting for in your ivory towers? Put those tools to work and help better our world! Most of my fellow bloggers are trying to do just that. For those who prefer mocking the "do-gooders" as ineffective, O.K. Can you do better yourself? Constructive criticism may help improve things, careless, cynical mockery for its own sake is only cheap entertainment.
Today's quiz: "Who's the guy in the picture?" [hint-- it's not Peter Lavrov]

Friday, June 1, 2007

Anti-union goons bust up a picket line.

If this kind of nonsense can happen in Canada, you can be sure that worse violence against unions takes place here in the U.S.!!

VANCOUVER, May 31 /CNW/ - "The union representing striking railway maintenance workers at CP Rail is taking legal action against the company,after six Teamsters Canada members were confronted by CP's private policeforce and arrested for alleged "mischief" while walking a legal picket line inCoquitlam on Tuesday night. Bill Brehl, the President of Teamsters Canada Rail Conference,Maintenance of Way Employees Division, says the arrests were completely unprovoked and unnecessarily violent. "We have the whole thing on video. All the members were peacefully picketing between the lines of a public crosswalkin front of CPR property. The CPR police came in force and told them to movealong or they would arrest them. Then they almost immediately began dragging them off the picket line and handcuffing them. The video has sound and none ofthe members were belligerent or offered resistance. However, there is oneofficer who forcibly wrenches a member's arm way up at an unnatural angle andthen viciously kicks him to the ground. It is horrible to watch." The graphic video footage, released at a news conference in Vancouvertoday, outraged BC Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair. Sinclair iscalling for a public inquiry into the special powers granted to private policeforces that are being used by an increasing number of companies across thecountry. "This is not just a labour issue. It's an attack on the rights andf reedoms union members and all Canadian citizens have fought long and hard toachieve," says Sinclair." More details of this sordid episode can be read here.

We need a major revival of organized labor here in North America. Lots of people who've never belonged to a union complacently assume that 40 hour weeks, paid overtime, medical coverage and safe working conditions will be there for them without effort... The reality is that our generation has to fight again battles many thought were already won in the 1930's.