Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


So, we have been told by the chickenhawks in D.C. that the current troop surge in Iraq is going well. What do the actual soldiers think? The Army Times decided to ask:

"Troop surge in Iraq:

The White House and Congress have debated whether the president's Iraq strategy -- sending a surge of U.S. troops to quell the violence in Baghdad, starting this past spring -- is an effective one. How much time should the surge strategy be given before the government assesses how well it's working?

Until September
15.11 % (558)

Until November
9.78 % (361)

Until next spring
17.39 % (642)

It's clear now that it's working
21.32 % (787)

It's clear now that it's not working
36.40 % (1344)

Total votes: 3692"

Source: Poll of ArmyTimes.Com Readers 7/31/07

How could we interpret this data? An apologist for the Bush regime might claim that more than 73% of these readers are willing to give the surge at least a few more weeks. A skeptic might infer that more than 78% remain unconvinced of the strategy's ultimate value. In any case, this same publication has pointed out an inherent weakness in the strategy-- not enough "boots on the ground." Army Times reporter Jim Tice points out how a new "short-notice call-up of former recruiters" was ordered Friday, 7/27/07:

Under that surprise program, 1,106 former detailed recruiters are being pulled from their current assignments with stateside units to temporarily support a final recruiting push for fiscal 2007.
Recently, the Army’s regular recruiting force of 6,500 noncommissioned officers has struggled to meet monthly goals, and it now appears possible the service will fall short of the mission of 80,000 for the budget year that ends Sept. 30.

In the meantime:

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Paul Clement to the Rescue?

Today's New York Times editorial page:

Lawmakers who have been briefed on the administration’s activities said the dispute was about the one eavesdropping program that has been disclosed. So did Mr. Comey. And so did Mr. Mueller, most recently on Thursday in a House hearing. He said he had kept notes.
That was plain enough. It confirmed what most people long ago concluded: that Mr. Gonzales is more concerned about doing political-damage control for Mr. Bush — in this case insisting that there was never a Justice Department objection to a clearly illegal program — than in doing his duty. But the White House continued to defend him.
As far as we can tell, there are three possible explanations for Mr. Gonzales’s talk about a dispute over other — unspecified — intelligence activities. One, he lied to Congress. Two, he used a bureaucratic dodge to mislead lawmakers and the public: the spying program was modified after Mr. Ashcroft refused to endorse it, which made it “different” from the one Mr. Bush has acknowledged. The third is that there was more wiretapping than has been disclosed, perhaps even purely domestic wiretapping, and Mr. Gonzales is helping Mr. Bush cover it up.
Democratic lawmakers are asking for a special prosecutor to look into Mr. Gonzales’s words and deeds. Solicitor General Paul Clement has a last chance to show that the Justice Department is still minimally functional by fulfilling that request.
If that does not happen, Congress should impeach Mr. Gonzales.

What is most encouraging to me about this editorial is that it shows a plain refusal of the mainstream media to play the game White House Spokesman Tony Snow tried to get started late this week. Something very close to the second "possible explanation," outlined above, was how Snow tried to account for all the "apparent discrepancies" so obvious in Gonzales' testimony before the Senate.

Finally, a little common sense. From what I've seen, the Attorney General was not semantically slippery enough to avoid outright perjury. Yet, even if there is some incredibly contorted way to weasel this into a debate over what Gonzales understood Senators to mean by the "Terrorist Surveillance Program," so what? At best, Gonzales intentionally misled the American people on several different occasions.

Maybe, if we can restore some integrity to our Justice Department, the Judicial and Legislative branches of our national government can thwart the hostile takeover of our Republic by the executive and Cheney branches. Let's hope it's not too late!!

Waiting for Action

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi just paid a brief visit to our little state of Rhode Island, as the guest of my Congressman, Patrick Kennedy. Their public words simply confirmed my gratitude that two such fine people serve our country in Washington D.C. Nonetheless, neither one of them wanted to grapple with the ever-worsening Constitutional crisis, provoked by Cheney-Bush's insane power-grabs, stonewalling, and blatant lies.

As a human being, I fully understand their reticence. As an alarmed citizen, I'm losing patience with the entire Congress. This last week may have seen the beginning of a more assertive chapter in the legislature's history of struggles with the executive. If not, we the people will have to speak up loud and clear during the August recess about the House and Senate's duty to defend our U.S. Constitution!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Machines don't lie?

Incredibly, Congress is coming under pressure to block speedy passage of Rep. Rush Holt's paper ballots bill. Because the 2008 election cycle looms near, some have suggested it makes more sense to work on a plan that will be ready for 2012. The American people are in no mood to see another Presidential election stolen! 2012 is simply too late. I implore my readers to let their own representatives know how critical this insistence on a paper trail is to the future of our democracy.

The sorry spectacle of an inept, illegitimate, and corrupt regime making a mockery of our Constitution must not be followed by anything less than squeaky clean elections. Otherwise, we run the risk of allowing big-money interests to distort not only the campaign media coverage, but to "fix" results they don't like if their propaganda doesn't dupe enough voters into voting for Rethugs. Karl Rove might have gotten away with deleting e-mails-- let's not allow him and his partners in crime to erase our votes!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Contempt of Congress

Picture from: Whitenoiseinsanity

The latest appearance of Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee was so outrageous that it may help tip the balance towards eventual prosecution for perjury. Here's the latest optimistic report from a diarist at DailyKos:

Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 09:19:45 PM PDT
Rep. John Conyers is methodically setting up the legal elements for Congress to pursue statutory and/or inherent contempt proceedings against executive branch officials in a manner that essentially wipes out any claim to executive privilege to shield the truth. A few weeks ago, I... suggested that Congress had a better chance -- according to US Supreme Court precedent -- to obtain evidence and testimony from the Bush gang if it conducted a "criminal proceeding" to investigate potential criminal or unlawful conduct by executive branch officials. The beauty of the "criminal proceeding" is that Bush is not likely to prevail on executive privilege claims. Well, it looks like the US Attorney probe has now been officially transformed into a "criminal proceeding" to determine whether Bush officials have violated specific laws. The Supreme Court has affirmed Congressional power to investigate possible criminal or unlawful conduct of executive branch officials in McGrain v. Daugherty. In fact, Congressional investigative powers are at its peak when probing whether executive branch officials have committed criminal conduct. This probe is a type of "criminal proceeding" because Congress is investigating "suspected illegal conduct" or "alleged abuses of authority at hearings in which people testify under oath or face potential contempt, including the possibility of jail time. The investigation is valid as long as Congress is considering potential legislation to address or remedy the alleged misconduct of executive branch officials.
There are two key components of this type of oversight powers: (1) Congress investigates alleged criminal or unlawful conduct by executive branch officials for the (2) purpose of potential legislation to address the alleged misconduct.
Yesterday, in preparation for today's hearing on contempt citations against Bush's chief of staff and former counsel, the House Democrats published a report which sets out both of these key elements. It is a 52 page memorandum by Conyers or the Conyers' Report.
Congress commenced the US Attorney probe to determine if the Justice Dept. and White House were using US Attorney positions for political reasons. Now, Democrats are stating "for the first time" specific allegations of how "several administration officials may have broken the law during the multiple firings of U.S. attorneys."
The Conyers' Report says that Congress's investigation into the firings has "uncovered serious evidence of wrongdoing by senior White House and Justice Department aides" involved in the removal of nine U.S. attorneys. The alleged wrongdoings include obstructing justice and violating federal statutes that protect civil service employees and prohibit political retaliation against government officials. The report states that the investigation has yielded evidence that:
The decision to fire or retain some U.S. Attorneys may have been based in part on whether or not their offices were pursuing or not pursuing public corruption or vote fraud cases based on partisan political factors, or otherwise bringing cases which could have an impact on pending elections;
Department officials appear to have made false or misleading statements to Congress, many of which sought to minimize the role of White House personnel in the U.S. Attorney firings, or otherwise obstruct the Committee's investigation, and with some participation by White House personnel, and actions by some Department personnel may have violated civil service laws and some White House employees may have violated the Presidential Records Act.
This report then cites specific examples of evidence for each of these allegations, and includes citations to criminal laws. For example, if one US Attorney was fired in retaliation for his failure to "bring a politically useful prosecution," the firing could also be a federal crime under the Hatch Act.
Thus, the US Attorney probe may now have been transformed into a "criminal proceeding" in which Congress is investigating whether executive branch officials violated the law.
The Conyers' Report also addresses the second key element. The purpose of this proceeding and the reason Congress needs to obtain testimony and documents via subpoenas is to enable Congress to "determine whether laws were broken and to rewrite laws regarding U.S. Attorneys." The report then analyzes the existing laws which may need to be modified and potential areas of new legislation.
In fact, the report states that the need to modify or enact new laws is a well-recognized basis for "Congress to conduct investigations and obtain executive branch information, as the Supreme Court stated in McGrain v. Daugherty. It is interesting that the report cites this case, which involved the use of inherent contempt powers when the Senate investigated misfeasance and nonfeasance in the AG's office in order to determine effective legislative measures that "might be taken to remedy or eliminate the evil."
Weeks ago, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley suggested that Congress may avoid the executive privilege scam by stating that it is "investigating a potential crime." Of course, Turley was right. I checked out some of the judicial decisions on executive privilege in my frog-marching diary and concluded that Bush does not have a slam dunk right to assert executive privilege when Congress is exercising its constitutional right of investigative powers in a criminal context. Moreover, Bush is likely claiming his own theory of executive privilege, which is based upon his view of unitary executive prerogatives for which no specific legal authority is or can be cited.
Well, the Democrats also evaluated these same factors and concluded that executive privilege may not prevail when Congress is probing wrongdoing by the executive branch:

Even if executive privilege were properly asserted, the privilege is not
absolute, but rather is subject to a "balancing of interests" based on the needs
of the President and the Congress. In the present case, where there is clear
evidence of wrongdoing leading to the White House, where the information is
important for considering possible legislative changes, where the Committee has
sought to obtain the information elsewhere and has sought to obtain a reasonable
accommodation, and where there is no overriding issue of national security, it
is clear the Committee's oversight and legislative interests should prevail."

Bravo Conyers and fellow Democrats! The US Attorney probe is now officially a "criminal proceeding" to investigate alleged criminal and unlawful conduct by the Bush gang. US Supreme Court precedent has confirmed these powers over the years and has also indicated that executive privilege is not favored when the president raises it in a criminal context or when Congress needs the information to perform its legislative functions, such as considering potential legislation in the US Attorney probe.
The Democrats have just taken a gigantic step toward prevailing in this showdown with Bush.

Let's hope this analysis turns out to be correct! The nation waits...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Let's not play "chicken" with the survival of our Republic

Some of my friends have pointed out the strategic interests Congressional Democrats may have in steadfastly keeping impeachment "off the table." The idea is that the more time Cheney, Bush, Rove, and their cronies behave badly, the greater chance there is for a tremendous Democratic landslide in 2008. Yet this is a mistake. At this point the American public is fed up with the Bushies, and fed up with the war in Iraq. The administration's approval ratings cannot get much lower... However, the longer the Congress fails to rein in the outrageous, unconstitutional misdeeds of these punks, the more the public will feel bitter disappointment in their elected representatives' failure to restore the rule of law. If we wait too long, the kleptocrats in the Whitehouse may decide they don't even have to pretend they respect our Constitution. Here's the take of a conservative Reagan appointee, Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury:

Roberts said that because of Bush's unpopularity, the Republicans face a total wipeout in 2008, and this may be why "the Democrats have not brought a halt to Bush's follies or the war, because they expect his unpopular policies to provide them with a landslide victory in next year's election."
However, Roberts emphasized, "the problem with this reasoning is that it assumes that Cheney and Rove and the Republicans are ignorant of these facts, or it assumes that they are content for the Republican Party to be destroyed after Bush has his fling." Roberts believes instead that Cheney and Rove intend to use a renewal of the War on Terror to rally the American people around the Republican Party. "Something's in the works," he said, adding that the Executive Orders need to create a police state are already in place.
"The administration figures themselves and prominent Republican propagandists ... are preparing us for another 9/11 event or series of events," Roberts continued. "Chertoff has predicted them. ... The National Intelligence Estimate is saying that al Qaeda has regrouped. ... You have to count on the fact that if al Qaeda's not going to do it, it's going to be orchestrated. ... The Republicans are praying for another 9/11."
Hartmann asked what we as the people can do if impeachment isn't about to happen. "If enough people were suspicious and alert, it would be harder for the administration to get away with it," Roberts replied. However, he added, "I don't think these wake-up calls are likely to be effective," pointing out the dominance of the mainstream media.
"Americans think their danger is terrorists," said Roberts. "They don't understand the terrorists cannot take away habeas corpus, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution. ... The terrorists are not anything like the threat that we face to the Bill of Rights and the Constitution from our own government in the name of fighting terrorism. Americans just aren't able to perceive that."
Roberts pointed out that it's old-line Republicans like himself, former Reagan associate deputy attorney general Bruce Fein, and Pat Buchanan who are the diehards in warning of the danger. "It's so obvious to people like us who have long been associated in the corridors of power," he said. "There's no belief in the people or anything like that. They have agendas. The people are in the way. The Constitution is in the way. ... Americans need to comprehend and look at how ruthless Cheney is. ... A person like that would do anything."
Roberts final suggestion was that, in the absence of a massive popular outcry, "the only constraints on what's going to happen will come from the federal bureaucracy and perhaps the military. They may have had enough. They may not go along with it."

Food for thought from Roberts, a lifelong Republican... if even Pat Buchanan(!?!) is alarmed, then I'm in no position to be complacent.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Last night's Democratic YouTube/CNN debate was an interesting event. Many of the Youtube submissions were clever, most of them asked questions of substance. The candidates all made good faith efforts to really answer most of the questions posed to them. The variety of questions, and questioners, was a real bonus. Yet I think a few less videos, and more time to answer them, could have improved the debate.

John Edwards did himself a lot of good with this question: "Do you believe that compromise, triangulation will bring about big change? I don't. I think the people who are powerful in Washington - big insurance companies, big drug companies, big oil companies - they are not going to negotiate. They are not going to give away their power. The only way that they're going to give away their power is if we take it away from them." In this brief moment John Edwards made a powerful case for choosing him over Hillary Clinton. Senator Clinton has accomplished many wonderful things in her career. Yet, when working to reform U.S. healthcare she sought to compromise and negotiate with the healthcare industry. She managed to piss off liberals, conservatives, and everyone else, and health care is still a mess in this country. Senator Clinton would like to see workers treated more fairly by corporate America. And yet, she has sat on the board of Walmart. John Edwards, by contrast, has aggressively fought big-money interests as a trial lawyer-- and won.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

To the barricades!

Many times in the past few years members of the Bush administration have said or done outrageous things. As a consequence, White House credibility has steadily declined. Unfortunately, while the majority of U.S. citizens are no longer inclined to trust this administration, they are also not very keen on paying close attention to its doings. And who can blame them? Why suffer the agony of observing crooks and liars with far too much power, when you can watch the Red Sox? Well, now is a moment where our very survival as a representative republic demands that large numbers of us suddenly become far more alert, assertive, and articulate. Why?

The simple answer is that the pressures put on Bush/Cheney and their accomplices following the 2006 elections has revealed their eagerness to completely cast off traditional, constitutionally based, restraints on their exercise of power. How? Well, beyond the evasion of checks and balances so evident in the attorney firings scandal, the administration has now asserted vast new powers-- to suppress dissent-- that go beyond anything seen in this country since the Civil War.

Here's what I'm talking about:

I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, find that, due to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by acts of violence threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq and to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people, it is in the interests of the United States to take additional steps with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, and expanded in Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, and Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004. I hereby order:
Section 1. (a) Except to the extent provided in section 203(b)(1), (3), and (4) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(1), (3), and (4)), or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the date of this order, all property and interests in property of the following persons, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons, are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense,
(i) to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of:
(A) threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq; or
(B) undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people; …

Sec. 3. For purposes of this order:
(a) the term "person" means an individual or entity;
(b) the term "entity" means a partnership, association, trust, joint venture, corporation, group, subgroup, or other organization; and
(c) the term "United States person" means any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States….
Sec. 5. For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that, because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render these measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 and expanded in Executive Order 13315, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1(a) of this order.

White House, 7/17/2007

The rest of the order, as posted on the White House website, can be read here.

So what does this mean? It means that you or I, without notice, due process, or even any sort of review from the other branches of government, can have our property seized. Not because of any hard evidence that we are conspiring to commit illegal acts of violence, or even that we have knowledge of such acts that we refuse to share with authorities. No, it is sufficient that this omnipotent unitary executive "determine" that we pose "a significant risk" of "undermining" administration efforts in Iraq. In other words, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, and former secretaries of State Colin Powell and James Baker could all easily fall under this category of risky individuals. Cheney and others have already accused the vast majority of Americans-- who firmly oppose his Iraq policies and strategies-- as "giving aid and comfort to the enemy." We need to beseech our elected representatives in Congress to free us from the clutches of this tyrannical bully. The American people are patient and peaceful. We would all prefer that this lame-duck administration would fade quietly away and leave a horrific mess to be cleaned up after 2008. Yet this administration seems intent on sweeping away our Bill of Rights and Constitution in a cyclone of power grabbing excess. Impeachment, not appeasement, is the only patriotic response!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Focus on Poverty & Public Policy

One of the great blessings in my life has been the opportunity to travel to different parts of the world. In every place I have found myself, I have also found the poor, in cities, in remote rural surroundings, in small pockets of deprivation surrounded by suburban abundance. My own family has seen moments of more and less abundance, but we have always had a roof over our heads and food on the table. We have been sheltered by a loving extended family, and even the shock of involuntary unemployment has brought few dramatic changes to our comfortable life. The bill collectors don't call after 9:00 p.m., or before 8:00 a.m., we enjoy clean running water, electricity, and my parents even financed a wonderful family excursion to Pennsylvania. I have so many advantages in my experience and education that I know any economic setbacks, while unsettling, are not everlasting. However, for millions of Americans, poverty is a hard, grinding trudge through an endless tunnel of despair.

A recent ballot initiative here in Rhode Island roused many of the poor to get behind the Narragansett Indian proposal to build a casino in South County. It's not that folks didn't understand the arguments against it, they simply couldn't afford to let an opportunity to trade their lousy $7/hr. job for a slightly less lousy job, at $10/hr. plus tips, get away from them. The entry of these infrequent voters into the process made the casino's defeat a much closer thing than anyone anticipated.
Conventional political wisdom has held lately that fighting poverty does not win many votes. Nonetheless, John Edwards has made this a central issue of his campaign. He unabashedly embraces the right of workers to organize into unions, promotes access to health care and education for all, while refusing to accept contributions from corrupt corporate special interests. Naturally most of the narcissistic media elite can't stand this rabble-rouser.
Kudos to E.J. Dionne for giving Edwards some credit in today's Washington Post:
Democrats have lost enormous ground by allowing a myth to take hold that Lyndon Johnson's Great Society was a failure. "In the 1960s, we waged war on poverty, and poverty won" is one of the most powerful bits of rhetoric in the conservative arsenal.
Edwards took on this falsehood directly in his speech Wednesday in Prestonsburg, Ky., at the end of his tour of impoverished regions. "We accomplished a lot," he said of LBJ's time, "civil rights laws, Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps and Head Start and Title I aid for poor schools. The Great Society and other safety-net programs have cut the number of people living in poverty in half."
Edwards understands that unless the country is given hard evidence that government can succeed, it will never embrace government-led efforts at social reform....
Edwards put forward a pro-labor agenda to increase wages and benefits. He would also step up the recruitment of good teachers for poor children and create 1 million housing vouchers to allow "all families -- not just wealthy ones -- the freedom to move to the communities they choose."
As one of the shrewdest students of poverty has said, "the poor are politically invisible," removed as they are "from the living, emotional experience of millions upon millions of middle-class Americans."
Those words were written in 1962 by the late Michael Harrington in "The Other America," the book that helped launch the War on Poverty. In 2007, the poor are less politically invisible than they have been in a long time. That gives a new war on poverty at least a fighting chance. Edwards deserves some credit for that.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pay no attention to the man behind the screen

Thank Goodness for Tom Tomorrow!!

We have reached a point of national nervous breakdown... It's as if the U.S. Public were the students at a terribly dysfunctional school, with a principal, vice-principal, school-nurse and an entire administration run amok in the hallways. Frightened by the deranged behavior of the front office, the kids run to the teacher's lounge and beg for help. "Please, you have to get rid of these crazy people, before they destroy our school." Yet the teachers are afraid to take decisive action, telling the kids "we know it's scary, but we can't do our jobs properly with the terrible distractions of firing and replacing our administration." At this, the kids throw up their hands in frustration: "Do your jobs?!? What are talking about? Right now, the principal has locked up all the desks, books, and classrooms-- he refuses to release them to us until you teachers agree to help him set fire to the police station! Your contract tells you that with an administration that blocks our learning, your duty is to remove this obstruction and restore an environment conducive to peaceful study."

Well, we're all tempted to stay in the teacher's lounge and hope that our students go home for summer vacation and leave us alone. That's not going to happen... sooner or later the school board is going to have to make a ruling. Even if they let the administrators remain, the disciplinary hearing reassures the kids that gross incompetence, pathological dishonesty, and insatiable avarice aren't rewarded with uncritical acceptance.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Time to defy the Prez

Stephen Pizzo has a powerful metaphor to explain Congressional diffidence in regards to our Commuter and Thief (A.K.A. President Bush). Congress suffers from battered wife syndrome!

While it's refreshing to see and hear accomplished, articulate and sane adults suddenly talking right out loud about impeachment, nothing is going to happen unless the idea catches fire in Congress. So far it has not, and I have a theory why. Since last November's switch of control in Congress to Democrats, Congress been treated by this administration like the classic battered wife.
For the first six years of the Bush presidency he hardly had to raise his voice. During that period Congress was a perfect Stepford wife, obedient, deferential and which spoke only when spoken to. Then came the 2006 elections and the new Congress got restless. (Call it the Seven Year Itch.) Congress suddenly started talking back, demanding her "rights" and questioning the head of the household.

That's when the real abuse began, and it's gotten progressively worse ever since.
It's time for us to let Congress know that we the people will shelter them from Bush's wrath. Working to appease the tyrant hasn't resulted in transforming him into the kinder, gentler leader our nation needs. Like a spoiled brat, when lil'Bush gets his way, it just makes him worse.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Keeping the heat on!

Digby has a beautiful concluding paragraph to a recent post:

Evidently, this is another of the new Village edicts -- the president tells the press and the congress whom they may or may not speak to. If he withholds his permission, then that's that. And it looks as though the press and the congress are inclined to go along, which one would normally think is counter to their own interests. But it isn't. Their interests are in keeping the Village secure, not in keeping our democracy secure. So naturally they are more worried about outsiders trashing the place than they are about insiders trashing the constitution.

Well put Digby!! Although there are a few exceptions in Congress to the above rule. Those of us living outside the BeltWay can't rely on a few brave individuals like Dennis Kucinich to do all our work in this regard. We can demand answers from folks at the state and national level who can't afford to alienate angry citizens beyond a certain point. "Hey, Mr. Governor, what do you think about Bush defying the wishes of the vast majority of Americans in commuting Libby's sentence? Are you disaffiliating from the Republican party? Why not?" If a lot of big-city papers start running stories like this, their Washington desk people will face greater pressure to actually do their job.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dangerous and Delusional

From the John Edwards website:

Chapel Hill, North Carolina – Senator John Edwards released the following statement about President Bush's remarks today on the war in Iraq.
"The president's remarks today defending his Iraq policy without regard to actual facts border on the delusional. The president claimed that the same people attacking U.S. troops today are the ones who perpetrated 9/11. It must be nice to live in a world where your actions have no consequences. There was no group called Al Qaeda in Iraq before the president's disastrous mismanagement of the war gave them a foothold, a fact the president flagrantly ignores. After being discredited again and again, the president is still trying to link Iraq and 9/11 - a rationale for the war that virtually everyone except Dick Cheney has now recognized was false.
"The president needs to stop pretending and start taking responsibility for the results of his failed strategy: There are more terrorists. Al Qaeda is resurgent and restored to full strength. And that's according to the Bush Administration."

We can't make progress, restoring sanity to our national leadership, without overcoming the deep denial that has fogged the judgement of so many for so long. We don't have to be nasty, we don't have to make gratuitous insults, we just need to tell the truth. Nothing in Edwards' statement is the least bit controversial. Very many of the people who eagerly cheered on the invasion of Iraq are now ready "to stop pretending." I predict the next year we will see the U.S. public cringe, with ever-growing embarassment, when they are forced to listen to this failed leader trot out his tired old lies in such a pathetic fashion.

Friday, July 13, 2007

One Country, One Rule of Law, One Constitution

"Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein F├╝hrer!" One People, one State, one President Bush! The genius of our Founding Fathers was to create a system of checks and balances that would make loyalty to a constitutional ideal the only acceptable patriotic loyalty for soldiers, government officials, and ordinary citizens. This is what makes our system work. We argue vehemently about what is best for the country, tinker with the appropriate means for achieving our political and social ends, and fully expect no one vision to triumph completely. A Democratic general serves a Republican commander-in-chief, then a Democratic commander-in-chief, never pledging loyalty to a person, only to the entire constitutional system the executive represents. That is why we don't have military coups, palace coups or any other total upheaval-- we have elections.

Right from the Florida election theft in 2000, the Bushies have not shown much devotion to our constitutional system. In fact, they not only disdain more than two centuries of U.S. experience, the Bushies seem quite willing to ignore far more ancient principles of English Common Law, like habeas corpus, whenever it suits their purposes.

Sara Taylor was born well after Watergate. Perhaps she can't understand the chilling effect of her words the other day to those of us a few decades older, but this reader of Andrew Cohen's piece caught my mood exactly.

Did you hear Sara Taylor explain that she wouldn't testify because she takes her oath "to support the President" seriously?!? She needed to be advised that the oath she took was to protect the Constitution of the United States, NOT the President. Seriously, we can't get this new generation of the Hitler Youth out of American government fast enough.
Posted by: view from the couch July 11, 2007 02:33 PM

Yes, it's unfair. Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld et al. have a lot to answer for as regards their evil warmongering. Yet they also should be held to account for their corruption of a whole new generation of Beltway Bullies, robbed of the opportunity to learn respect for the U.S. principles and traditions that have served thus far to hold tyranny at bay.
A growing majority of Americans are waking up to smell the coffee. They are starting to realize that business as usual is no longer possible with this wannabe tin-horn dictatorsip that has hijacked the White House. Call your representatives in Washington, D.C. and let them know how you feel!!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Unhealthy Hubris

From an editorial in this morning's New York Times:

Dr. Carmona told a House committee that the administration would not allow him to speak on the scientific and medical aspects of stem cell research, emergency contraception, comprehensive sex education and prison or mental health issues. He said a surgeon general’s report on global health issues was quashed because he refused to insert glowing references to the efforts of the Bush administration. His report on prisoners’ health care was held up for fear it would lead to demands for costly reforms.
Other disturbing improprieties included an order that Dr. Carmona insert President Bush’s name at least three times on every page of his speeches, requests that he make political speeches on behalf of Republican candidates and an admonition not to speak to a group affiliated with the Special Olympics because of the charity’s longtime association with the Kennedy family.
It all sounds so ham-handedly partisan that it would be laughable if it weren’t so damaging to the public’s understanding of important public health issues. Dr. Carmona declined to name his tormentors but made it clear that they included assistant secretaries in the Department of Health and Human Services as well as other top political appointees….

Dr. Carmona testified alongside two other former surgeons general [C. Everett Koop & David Satcher-- Ulysses] who also met political resistance, but nothing close to what Dr. Carmona experienced during four years of service in the Bush administration.
The descriptive term covert totalitarianism seems called for in this instance. Rather than a robust, in-your-face policy of constant propaganda in the tradition of Mussolini or Stalin, the Bushies seem to have developed a new technique of control. First they flatter people by appointing them to prominent positions, then they arm-twist these once credible figures into doing their partisan bidding. This works remarkably well, as human psychology prevents people from admitting to their puppet status, and thus casting doubt on their own credibility. It is only later, after re-asserting their independence through leaving the administration, that these people admit to the public how they were manipulated behind the scenes. In the case of a Surgeon General this is damaging to the aims of free scientific inquiry and a vigorous effort to improve public health.
Far more tragically, former Secretary of State Colin Powell's credibility was put forward as a shield behind which warmongerers like Cheney and Wolfowitz could advance their agenda. Even before he left the administration, Powell let subtle hints fall that he wasn't an enthusiastic supporter of the chickenhawk's rush to war. Yet the U.S. public didn't notice these subtle hints. They did notice Powell lending the legitimacy of his presence at the U.N. to the Bush administration's reckless plans. The puppetmaster always wins, at least up until the point at which the puppet finally summons up the courage to cut the strings.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

King George to U.S. Citizens: "Back off, you filthy peasants!"

So here's the firm, yet polite and restrained request:

June 29, 2007

Fred Fielding, Esq., Counsel to the President

The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

N.W.Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. Fielding:
The return date and time for the White House Chief of Staff, Joshua Bolten, to appear before our Committees on behalf of the White House and bring with him the documents compelled by the subpoenas we issued on June 13 was yesterday at 10 a.m. Mr. Bolten did not do so. Instead, you wrote us that, despite conceding that you have responsive documents in your possession, you refuse to produce even a single one based on a blanket executive privilege claim. We had hoped our Committees’ subpoenas would be met with compliance and not a Nixonian stonewalling that reveals the White House’s disdain for our system of checks and balances.
We urge the President to reconsider this step and withdraw his privilege claim so the American people can learn the truth about these firings. If he is unwilling to withdraw these claims, we call on you to provide more specific information to facilitate ruling on those claims and our consideration of appropriate action to enforce our subpoenas.
On June 13, we issued subpoenas compelling the White House to produce documents related to our Committees’ investigations into the mass firings and replacements of U.S. Attorneys and politicization at the Department of Justice. We did so reluctantly after seeking voluntary cooperation from the White House for three months. Even though the evidence gathered by our Committees shows that White House officials were heavily involved in these firings and in the Justice Department’s response to congressional inquiries about them, the White House has not produced a single document or allowed even one White House official involved in these matters to be interviewed.
Our Committees rejected your “take it or leave it” offer of off-the-record, backroom interviews and severe limits on the scope of our requests as unacceptable, more than three months ago. Since that time, despite our many attempts to narrow the dispute and begin to obtain the information we need, you have not made any effort to work with us on a voluntary basis. Even now, in response to subpoenas authorized by our Committees, you have again merely restated your initial, unacceptable offer. Your proposal is not commensurate with our exercise of the broad investigatory power of Congress.
Our power to investigate has been described as essential to the legislative function by the Supreme Court and “as penetrating and far-reaching as the potential power to enact and appropriate under the Constitution.” Eastland v. United States Serviceman’s Fund, 421 U.S. 491, 504, n. 15 (1975). Indeed, the Court has specifically recognized that Congress’ “broad” investigatory authority “encompasses inquiries concerning the administration of existing laws as well as proposed or possibly needed statutes,” and includes the power to “inquire into and publicize corruption, maladministration, or inefficiencies” in the Executive Branch. Watkins v. United States, 354 U.S. 178, 182, 200 n.33 (1957). Moreover, as we have said many times, your proposal would constrain not only our investigation, but also the ability of the American people to learn the truth about these firings.
In fact, the letter you enclosed from Acting Attorney General Clement makes clear that internal White House documents, which you have refused even to discuss making available, contain information directly responsive to our subpoenas. According to Mr. Clement, those documents specifically discuss “the possible dismissal and replacement of U.S. Attorneys,” the “wisdom of such a proposal, specific U.S. Attorneys who could be removed, potential replacement candidates, and possible responses to congressional and media inquiries about the dismissals.” The subject matter of these documents heightens our concern about the involvement of White House officials in these firings and in the inaccurate testimony given to our Committees about them, including possible obstruction of justice and other violations of federal law. It is precisely for these reasons that we have sought for many months to obtain information from the White House.
Your action today in stonewalling the Committees’ investigations is also inconsistent with the practices of every Administration since World War II in responding to congressional oversight. In that time, presidential advisers have testified before congressional committees 74 times voluntarily or compelled by subpoenas. During the Clinton Administration, White House and Administration advisors were routinely subpoenaed for documents or to appear before Congress. For example, in 1996 alone, the House Government Reform Committee issued at least 27 subpoenas to White House advisors. The veil of secrecy you have attempted to pull over the White House by withholding documents and witnesses is unprecedented and damaging to the tradition of open government by and for the people that has been a hallmark of the Republic.
Moreover, your blanket assertion of executive privilege belies any good faith attempt to determine where privilege truly does and does not apply. A serious assertion of privilege would include an effort to demonstrate to the Committees which documents, and which parts of those documents, are covered by any privilege that may apply.
Indeed, the subpoenas themselves specifically stated that for each document withheld, you should provide a description of the nature, source, subject matter, and date of the document; the name and address of each recipient of an original or copy of the document and the date received; the name and address of each additional person to whom any of the contents of the document were disclosed along with the date and manner of disclosure; and the specific legal basis for the assertion of privilege. Such privilege logs have been provided by the White House in previous Administrations, and this Justice Department has provided similar logs in this very matter, which have been used to help resolve disputes about the production of documents. Yet, you have failed to provide any such information.
In addition, at least since the Reagan Administration in 1982, there has been a specific determination and signed statement by the President when executive privilege has been asserted. In accord with this procedure, President Bush himself has issued such assertions during his Administration. See, e.g., Memorandum for the Attorney General re Congressional Subpoena for Executive Branch Documents (December 12, 2001). See also “Procedures Governing Responses to Congressional Requests for Information,” issued on November 4, 1982, and 6 Op. OLC 31 (1982). Yet you have failed to include any such Presidential assertion or even state whether you have now decided to disregard this established procedure.
Please provide the documents compelled by the subpoenas without further delay. If you continue to decline to do so, you should immediately provide us with the specific factual and legal bases for your claims regarding each document withheld via a privilege log as described above and a copy of any explicit determination by the President with respect to the assertion of privilege. You have until July 9, 2007, at 10 a.m. to bring this and any other information you wish to submit to our attention before we move to proceedings to rule on your claims and consider whether the White House is in contempt of Congress.
We were disappointed that we had to turn to these subpoenas in order to obtain information needed by the Committees to learn the truth about these firings and the erosion of independence at the Justice Department. We are even more disappointed now with yet further stonewalling.
Whether or not we have the benefit of the information we have directed you to provide by July 9, we will take the necessary steps to rule on your privilege claims and appropriately enforce our subpoenas backed by the full force of law.
Chairman Senate Judiciary Committee, Chairman House Judiciary Committee
cc: The Honorable Arlen SpecterThe Honorable Lamar S. Smith

Source: Senate and House Judiciary Chairmen

So today is July 10. At the very least we should know from the White House what their specific objections are to the subpoenas, and what are the precise documents, testimonies, etc. that are being kept secret from the American people. Right?

Well... , according to news reports this morning, none of us should hold our breath. Here is the "response," of King George's Court:

(P. Baker, D. Eggen, Washington Post, 7/10/2007)

White House counsel Fred Fielding informed lawmakers in a letter Monday that Bush was asserting executive privilege for the second time in two weeks regarding requested testimony by former counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor.
Fielding wrote that Bush was acting 'to protect a fundamental interest of the presidency' by preserving the confidentiality of internal deliberations, including communications 'with others inside and outside the Executive Branch.' Fielding also rejected a demand for a more detailed accounting of Bush's privilege claim.
The decisions pushed Congress and the executive branch closer to a courtroom showdown over the limits of a president's power to shield deliberations by his staff. Democrats accused the White House of stonewalling their request and reiterated that they would seek contempt citations if documents and testimony are not provided.
'The White House continues to try to have it both ways - to block Congress from talking with witnesses and accessing documents and other evidence while saying nothing improper occurred,' said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
His House counterpart, Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., said that 'contrary to what the White House may believe, it is the Congress and the courts that will decide whether an invocation of executive privilege is valid, not the White House unilaterally.'

Monday, July 9, 2007

Focus on Poverty

While the news from Washington gets more depressing every day, all is not bleak on the national political landscape.... our next President, John Edwards, is shining a spotlight on a major problem in our country, too often ignored by politicians and the press.

At their campaign website the Edwards team explain how they will:

take the campaign on the road for three days, through eight states and 12 towns and cities, in order to bring attention to the 37 million Americans living in poverty.
John Edwards:
"Everyday, one in eight Americans wakes up in poverty. That's not okay. Today, we have Two Americas in our country - one America that has everything it needs and another that is struggling to get by. Our next president needs not only to understand the struggles facing the 37 million Americans living in poverty, but also have a plan to lift them up out of poverty. That is what this tour and my campaign are about - giving them a voice so that we can build One America, where every person has the opportunity to work hard and get ahead."
The tour kicks off Monday, July 16th. The "Road to One America" tour will begin in New Orleans, Louisiana and travel more than 1,800 miles before ending on Wednesday, July 18th, in Prestonsburg, Kentucky, where Senator Robert F. Kennedy concluded his 1968 200-mile tour of impoverished regions in Southeastern Kentucky. The tour also includes a stop in Marks, Mississippi, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. launched his 1968 Poor People's March to Washington, D.C.
Along the way, John will meet with residents devastated and displaced by Hurricane Katrina and with people who have experienced persistent poverty in the Deep South, the Mississippi Delta and rural Appalachia. He will also visit communities in the Rust Belt region that have suffered from the loss of American manufacturing jobs and cities that are struggling to cope with both urban poverty and the rising problem of poverty. With this tour, we will focus attention not just on problems, but also on solutions and all of the good work that is being done across the nation to help lift people out of poverty.
The new faces of poverty in America come from a wide variety of racial, ethnic and regional backgrounds - from urban, suburban and rural areas. They range in age from the very young to the very old. Some are suffering from disabilities, which prevent them from finding work, and many are hardworking men and women with full-time jobs who are still struggling to make ends meet. All too often they don't have access to the affordable health care, housing and education they need. And their numbers are growing. We'll meet with these Americans, tell their stories to the rest of the nation, and show the diversity of the problem of poverty in America.
We all have a stake in doing something about our fellow Americans living in poverty and believe that working together we can help end poverty.
Good Luck, John Edwards!!

The Silence of the Lambs

WASHINGTON, (AP) 7/8/2007 - The Bush administration is urging a former White House political director to ignore a subpoena and not testify before Congress about the firings of federal prosecutors, her lawyer says.
The Senate Judiciary Committee wants to hear from Sara Taylor at its hearing Wednesday and she is willing to talk. Testifying, however, would defy the wishes of the president, “a person whom she admires and for whom she has worked tirelessly for years,” lawyer W. Neil Eggleston said.
Eggleston stated, in a letter this weekend to committee leaders and White House counsel Fred Fielding, that Taylor expects a letter from Fielding asking her not to comply with the subpoena.
“In our view, it is unfair to Ms. Taylor that this constitutional struggle might be played out with her as the object of an unseemly tug of war,” Eggleston wrote.
He added, “Absent the direction from the White House, Ms. Taylor would testify without hesitation before the Senate Judiciary Committee. She has committed no wrongdoing. She will assert no personal privileges.”
The committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, said he expects Taylor to testify.
“It is unfortunate that the White House is trying to interfere with Ms. Taylor’s testimony before the Senate and with Congress’ responsibility to get to the truth behind the unprecedented firings of several U.S. attorneys,” Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement. (Read the full story here)
What clearer example could there be of how the Bush administration is interfering with the lawful operations of the other branches of government? A citizen wants to cooperate, but is told not to violate the omerta* imposed on anyone who might shed light on the crimes of her superiors.
This kind of nonsense will only stop when the House and Senate step up to the plate and do their constitutionally required duty in removing the tyrants (Cheney & Bush) now grievously oppressing the American people.
*Omerta-- a term meaning "code of silence," most often used in reference to the Sicilian Mafia.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Overcoming righteous resistance

People of a progressive persuasion face very little opposition from the general public, when making the case that Cheney and Bush deserve impeachment for their misdeeds. Yet it's a harder sell to convince people that impeachment would be the best thing for the country right now. One group, in particular, are hesitant to sign on to the course of action proposed by Representative Kucinich. Many democrats in Congress sincerely believe that impeachment debates and proceedings will only distract them from "doing the people's business." They had hoped to focus on healthcare, the environment, and winding down the war in Iraq. Yet the sad truth is they won't make any real progress in these areas without an impeachment process. This is so, because even overiding Bush's veto no longer suffices to accomplish the goals that the American people want. "Signing statements," the Patriot Act, and a whole host of techniques developed in the last few years allow Bush, Cheney and their accomplices to act as if the legislative branch simply didn't exist. The American people are slowly awakening to this fact, although a residual desire for normalcy makes many wish they could simply ignore the mess in Washington. In every congressional district throughout the land signs of massive popular discontent can no longer be ignored. My friend, an active-duty Marine officer currently stateside, told me the other day he sees posters and banners as he drives to his base proclaiming: "Support our Troops. Impeach the Liars." He tells me, after three tours in Iraq, that he and his veteran buddies are glad to see this new public anger. He's proud of his own honorable service, and he understands the anger isn't directed against people like him. Instead, he tells me most career military are privately disgusted by the immoral warmongering of Bush and Cheney. My friend wants a withdrawal that is gradual and orderly, yet certain. "We can't be referees for this civil war over there... it's just not gonna work."

So call your friendly representative today and ask them to consider these arguments. The life you save might be my friend's!!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Life after sentencing "not so bad" says "Scooter" Libby

You might think being tried, convicted, and handed a 2.5 year prison sentence would get a guy down. Not the ever-chipper "Scooter!" Somehow he knew Dick and George would keep him from suffering any consequences for lying to protect their sleazy butts. Cast adrift on a sea of public scorn, poor Mr. Libby now faces this difficult choice: margaritas or gin and tonics before dinner?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

I'm the Commuter

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush spared former White House aide I. Lewis ''Scooter'' Libby from a 2 1/2-year prison term in the CIA leak investigation Monday, delivering a political thunderbolt in the highly charged criminal case. Bush said the sentence was just too harsh.
Bush's move came just five hours after a federal appeals panel ruled that Libby could not delay his prison term. That meant Libby was likely to have to report soon, and it put new pressure on the president, who had been sidestepping calls by Libby's allies to pardon Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff.
''I respect the jury's verdict,'' Bush said in a statement. ''But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.''
You can read the full account in the AP story here.

Where do you start? Maybe the only appropriate response is to point out that Bush thinks going to prison is too harsh for someone duly tried and convicted, yet has no qualms about imprisoning people for years in Guantanamo, who have never even been charged with any crime at all.

Monday, July 2, 2007

A reflective 4th of July

Moving here to Rhode Island from Ithaca, I've managed to discover several cool things about the Ocean State. One is that the oldest, continuous 4th of July parade in the nation was begun at Bristol, RI when George Washington was still President. Some fife and drum corps from nearby Connecticut have made an appearance at every parade from the late 18th century forward! Our Republic has survived many terrible challenges, yet the parade has always gone forward-- to the point where it flourishes triumphantly, attracting visitors from far and wide. The music, food, beautiful coastline and small-town atmosphere are the attractions that draw thousands to congregate in Bristol every year. But how did this all get started? What were folks celebrating, on these same streets, more than two centuries ago? They were proudly showcasing our Declaration of Independence.
WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness....
HE has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
HE has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People, unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyrants only....

HE has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
HE has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and the Amount and Payment of their Salaries.
HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their Substance.
HE has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the consent of our Legislatures.
HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
HE has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation....

FOR depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury
FOR transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended Offences....

FOR taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments....

IN every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.
We, as a free People, must ask ourselves, in all seriousness: Are Dick Cheney and lil' Bush fit to be our rulers?