Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

George Bush:

I just couldn't resist... we all need a good laugh now and then!!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Neo-con madness

I never really warmed up to Francis Fukuyama, whose best-sellling book, The End of History, came out just a few years after I had embarked on a career as a professional historian. Nonetheless a review of Fukuyama's After the Neocons: America at the Crossroads by Stephen Holmes, in the London Review of Books might just tempt me into giving him another chance :

Neo-Con Futurology

After the Neocons: America at the Crossroads ,
by Francis Fukuyama

The Soviet Union collapsed because of ‘its internal moral weaknesses and contradictions’, Fukuyama tells us. But the neo-cons credited President Reagan with ending the evil empire by forcing the Russians into an economically unsustainable arms race. As we know from the case of bin Laden and the Afghan Arabs, the illusion of having brought down the USSR can reinforce latent psychological tendencies to megalomania. Fukuyama does not highlight this parallel. But his account suggests that many neo-cons, like many of the jihadists, experienced a high when the Soviet Union came crashing down in 1991, for somewhat analogous reasons and with distressingly analogous results.
It is also important to remember that during the Cold War neo-cons had adamantly opposed détente. They didn’t believe that the US should learn to coexist with the Soviet Union, insisting instead that it could win an uncontested victory. Coexistence, they argued, implied accommodation, which would turn into appeasement, which would soon dissolve into capitulation. After the Soviet Union unexpectedly fell apart, they did not revisit, or apologise for, their overestimation of the Communist system’s resilience and strength. On the contrary, they felt totally vindicated. Although they had been spectacularly blind-sided, they concluded that they had been brilliantly prescient. As a result, according to Fukuyama, they were unwilling to admit that their eccentric intuitions of impending danger might ever prove to be false alarms. This is why ‘so experienced a foreign policy team’ came to make ‘such elementary blunders’. They committed fundamental errors because their guiding principles, distilled from the Cold War stand-off, had become obsolete.
Excessively pleased with themselves, the neo-cons drew two lessons from the collapse of Communism. First, threats should be eliminated, not managed. Second, American security is invariably enhanced by the transformation of autocracies into democracies. That the democratic transformation of Eastern Europe was triggered not by an invasion but by the withdrawal of a foreign army apparently made little impression on them. All they knew was that the threat to the US from the Communist bloc had been eliminated by the more or less successful transformation of its former members into democracies or, at the very least, democracies in the making.
That an anxious electorate would prefer to eliminate a lethal threat, rather than live under its ominous shadow, goes without saying. But when applied to the current terrorist threat, this impetuous desire ‘to end evil’, as Richard Perle defines the neo-con project, has deeply pathological consequences. The danger posed by radical Islamic anti-Western terrorists armed with weapons of unimaginable destructiveness cannot be dismantled overnight. The conditions that make Islamic radicalism dangerous to the West are ineradicable features of the modern world. They include global systems of transportation, communication and banking, rivers of petrodollars coursing through politically unstable Muslim countries, and the gradual spread of nuclear know-how. Under such conditions, a counterterrorism policy that aims at extirpating the terrorist threat is bound to be delusional. Promoted by an unsound analogy with the end of the Soviet Union, such utopian impatience can also be profoundly self-defeating, especially if it prompts policy-makers to focus irrationally on the wrong part of the threat – for example, on a minor danger that happens to lend itself to definitive obliteration. Saddam Hussein comes to mind.
As for the neo-con democratisation project, Fukuyama writes that the disgraceful failure of the war party around Cheney and Rumsfeld ‘to think through the requirements of post-conflict security and nation-building’ reveals the emptiness of their feigned interest in the fate of post-Saddam Iraq. For the vice-president and secretary of defense, the suggestion that the invasion would bring about ‘Iraqi democracy’ was merely an ‘ex-post effort to justify a preventive war in idealistic terms’. Their cavalier attitude to the sovereignty of other nations was the flip-side of their unapologetic commitment to America’s globally unlimited freedom of action. True, they agreed that it would periodically be ‘necessary to reach inside states’ to create conditions favourable to US interests. But this doesn’t mean that Cheney or Rumsfeld shared the democratising hopes of those self-described idealists in and around the administration who stress ‘the importance to world order of what goes on inside states’. For a start, the willingness of Cheney and Rumsfeld to intervene in the internal affairs of other nations was not and is not humanitarian. And they haven’t extrapolated from American efforts in postwar Germany and Japan to suggest that democratisation serves US security interests everywhere and always. They understand perfectly well the tactical benefits of cloaking narrow American interests, as they define them, in the language of do-gooder morality. But this doesn’t make them eager to spread electoral democracy, with all its unpredictable consequences, into politically unstable and strategically vital regions of the world.
In other words, the desire to demonstrate America’s unrivalled military power, after the country’s vulnerability was exposed on 9/11, played a much more important role in the decision to invade Iraq than the desire to establish a model democracy there. But the illusion of democratisation nevertheless deserves special examination. Why did Paul Wolfowitz and a few others argue, with reported sincerity, that a democratic Iraq was vital to America’s national security interests? True, they did not anticipate the exorbitant costs of the war, in lives and money. But they did assert that Iraqi democracy had become especially important to America after 9/11. Why?
The neo-con argument goes roughly as follows. The US had to deploy its military might because American national security was (and is) threatened by the lack of democracy in the Arab Middle East. The premise behind this allegation is not the much debated notion that democracies seldom go to war with one another and, therefore, that democratisation makes an important contribution to the pacification of the globe. The neo-con argument is concerned not with relations among potentially warring states, but with class or group dynamics within a single state that may spill over and affect other countries adversely.
The thesis is that democracy is the most effective antidote to the kind of Islamic radicalism that hit the US on 9/11. Its exponents begin with the premise that tyranny cannot tolerate the public expression of social resentment that its abuses naturally produce. To preserve its grip, tyranny must therefore crush even modest stirrings of opposition, repressing dissidents and critics, with unstinting ferocity if need be. In the age of globalisation, however, repressed rebellions do not simply die out. They splash uncontrollably across international borders and have violent repercussions abroad. Middle Eastern rebellions have been so savagely and effectively repressed that rebels have been driven to experiment with an indirect strategy to overthrow local tyrannies and seize power. They have travelled abroad and targeted those they see as the global sponsors of their local autocrats.
On 9/11, this argument implies, the US woke up in the middle of someone else’s savage civil war. The World Trade Center was destroyed by foreign insurgents whose original targets lay in the Middle East. The explosive energy behind the attack came from Saudi and Egyptian rebels unable to oust local autocrats and lashing out in anger at those autocrats’ global protectors. Thus, the rationale for reaching ‘inside states’ is not the traditional need to replace hostile or unco-operative rulers with more compliant successors (of the type Ahmed Chalabi was apparently slated to become), but rather to ‘create political conditions that would prevent terrorism’. The political condition most likely to prevent anti-American terrorism from arising, so the neo-cons allege, is democracy.
Their reasoning at this point becomes exasperatingly obscure and confused, but their guiding assumption is clear enough: democratic government channels social frustrations inside the system instead of allowing discontent and anger to fester outside. Autocratic governments in the Arab world have shown themselves capable of retaining power by sheer coercive force, but their counter-revolutionary efforts, under contemporary conditions, have serious ‘externalities’, especially the export of murderous jihad to the West. America’s security challenge is to shut down this export industry. To do so, the US must find a way to democratise the Middle East.
This convoluted and debatable argument played only a marginal role in the administration’s decision to invade Iraq. It plays a more substantial role in the current presentation of its ‘mission’ in Iraq, however. It is also a central focus of Fukuyama’s book. So how should we evaluate the idea? Is a democratic deficit in the Middle East the principal cause of anti-Western jihadism? And is democratisation a plausible strategy for preventing the export of political violence?
The first thing to say is that fighting terror by promoting democracy makes little sense as a justification of the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. Although the lack of democracy in Saudi Arabia and Egypt may indirectly fuel anti-Western jihad, in Iraq it has never done so. In non-democratic countries with which the US is allied (such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt), anti-regime violence naturally escalates or swerves into anti-American violence. The idea that a lack of democracy in countries overtly hostile to the US (such as Saddam’s Iraq or contemporary Iran) will have such an effect is logically implausible and unsupported by historical evidence.
To argue that creating democracy in Iraq will help defeat Islamic terrorism is to bank on a multi-stage process by which democracy, once established in Iraq, will spread to Egypt, Saudi Arabia etc by force of its inspiring example. Only then, after neighbouring dominoes (including governments allied with the US) begin to fall, would the democratisation of Iraq contribute seriously to draining the terrorists’ proverbial recruitment pool. Of course, such political revolutions, in the unlikely event that they actually erupted, would be wholly impossible to control or steer. That is reason enough to doubt that Cheney or Rumsfeld, for example, ever took seriously this frivolous bit of neo-con futurology....

An even more fundamental argument against fighting terrorism by promoting democracy, however, is that no one in the US government has any idea how to promote democracy. Fukuyama accuses the neo-cons of chatting offhandedly about democratisation while failing to study or even leaf through the ‘huge academic and practitioner-based literature on democratic transitions’. Their lack of serious attention to the subject had an astonishing justification: ‘There was a tendency among promoters of the war to believe that democracy was a default condition to which societies would revert once liberated from dictators.’ Democracy obviously has many social, economic, cultural and psychological preconditions, but those who thought America had a mission to democratise Iraq gave no thought to them, much less to helping create them. For their delicate task of social engineering, the only instrument they thought to bring along was a wrecking ball.
One might have thought that this ‘remove the lid and out leaps democracy’ approach was too preposterous ever to have been taken seriously. But it is the position that Fukuyama, with some evidence, attributes to neo-cons in and around the administration. They assumed, he writes, that the only necessary precondition for the emergence and consolidation of democracy is the ‘amorphous longing for freedom’ which President Bush, that penetrating student of human nature, detects in ‘every mind and every soul’. Their sociology of democracy boils down to the universal and eternal human desire not to be oppressed. If this were democracy’s only precondition, then Iraq would have no trouble making a speedy transition from clan-based savagery and untrammelled despotism to civilised self-restraint and collective self-rule: sceptics who harped on the difficulty of creating a government that would be both coherent and representative in a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian and tribally fragmented country, simply failed to appreciate the love of freedom in every human heart.
Cavalierly designed by mid-level bureaucrats who were both historically and theoretically illiterate, the administration’s half-baked plans backfired badly. This should have come as no surprise. And prospects for reform in the Middle East have not been improved by the perception that democratisation in the region, at least when promoted by the West, spells violent destabilisation, criminalisation and a collapse of minimally acceptable standards of living.
Neo-cons, Fukuyama implies, seldom do the hard work required to learn about the evolving political and social dynamics of specific societies. Instead, they over-personalise any ‘regime’ that they dream of destabilising, identifying it with a single reprehensible ruler who can, in principle, be taken out with a single airstrike. But here again they walk into a serious self-contradiction. One of their principal claims is that a bad regime will have long-lasting negative effects on the society it abuses. A cruel autocracy puts down ‘social roots’ and reshapes ‘informal habits’. Thus, ‘Saddam Hussein’s tyranny bred passivity and fatalism – not to mention vices of cruelty and violence.’ It is very likely, in other words, that Saddam unfitted the Iraqi people for democracy, for a time at least. This is a logical implication of the neo-cons’ theory of ‘regimes’, but not one they considered, presumably because it would have knocked the legs from under their idealistic case for war.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Perfected: The Ann Coulter Song

When I first met Ann Coulter, at Cornell in the early 1980's, her vapidity and narcissism were tiresome, but they didn't appear dangerous. Now, she's a national disgrace, fer' chrissakes!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Wonderful new resource to learn about "Fraudex"

Well-informed reader Robert Vandy (see comment on earlier post) suggests that fedexaminer.com-- a paid membership site-- is "where the action is," on developments at FraudEx. Fortunately, for those of us too broke to splurge on a membership, the good folks at ARAW have put up an awesome report on their website. Thorough, thoughtful, and chilling in what it tells us about the kind of s__t a huge corporation thinks it can get away with!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Deja vu all over again

Brian Berman has a fascinating piece in Esquire:

In the years after 9/11, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann worked at the highest levels of the Bush administration as Middle East policy experts for the National Security Council. Mann conducted secret negotiations with Iran. Leverett traveled with Colin Powell and advised Condoleezza Rice. They each played crucial roles in formulating policy for the region leading up to the war in Iraq. But when they left the White House, they left with a growing sense of alarm -- not only was the Bush administration headed straight for war with Iran, it had been set on this course for years. That was what people didn't realize. It was just like Iraq, when the White House was so eager for war it couldn't wait for the UN inspectors to leave. The steps have been many and steady and all in the same direction. And now things are getting much worse. We are getting closer and closer to the tripline, they say.
"The hard-liners are upping the pressure on the State Department," says Leverett. "They're basically saying, 'You've been trying to engage Iran for more than a year now and what do you have to show for it? They keep building more centrifuges, they're sending this IED stuff over into Iraq that's killing American soldiers, the human-rights internal political situation has gotten more repressive -- what the hell do you have to show for this engagement strategy?' "
But the engagement strategy was never serious and was designed to fail, they say. Over the last year, Rice has begun saying she would talk to "anybody, anywhere, anytime," but not to the Iranians unless they stopped enriching uranium first. That's not a serious approach to diplomacy, Mann says. Diplomacy is about talking to your enemies. That's how wars are averted. You work up to the big things. And when U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker had his much-publicized meeting with his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad this spring, he didn't even have permission from the White House to schedule a second meeting.
The most ominous new development is the Bush administration's push to name the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization.
"The U.S. has designated any number of states over the years as state sponsors of terrorism," says Leverett. "But here for the first time the U.S. is saying that part of a government is itself a terrorist organization."
This is what Leverett and Mann fear will happen: The diplomatic effort in the United Nations will fail when it becomes clear that Russia's and China's geopolitical ambitions will not accommodate the inconvenience of energy sanctions against Iran. Without any meaningful incentive from the U.S. to be friendly, Iran will keep meddling in Iraq and installing nuclear centrifuges. This will trigger a response from the hard-liners in the White House, who feel that it is their moral duty to deal with Iran before the Democrats take over American foreign policy. "If you get all those elements coming together, say in the first half of '08," says Leverett, "what is this president going to do? I think there is a serious risk he would decide to order an attack on the Iranian nuclear installations and probably a wider target zone."
This would result in a dramatic increase in attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, attacks by proxy forces like Hezbollah, and an unknown reaction from the wobbly states of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where millions admire Iran's resistance to the Great Satan. "As disastrous as Iraq has been," says Mann, "an attack on Iran could engulf America in a war with the entire Muslim world."
Mann and Leverett believe that none of this had to be....

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Independent Contractor Scams at home and abroad

Carl G., an alert reader in London, England reminded me via e-mail that it's not just model corporate citizens like FraudEx (see above post) that like to play games with misclassification of employees. Paragons of paramilitary virtues like Blackwater are also neck deep in the same fraudulent waters:

Waxman Accuses Blackwater of Millions in Tax Fraud, Cover-Up
By Spencer Ackerman - October 22, 2007, 11:52AM
It just gets worse and worse for Blackwater's relationship with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Today, committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) accused Blackwater CEO Erik Prince of hiding "tens of millions of dollars, if not more" in Social Security, Medicare and retirement taxes by classifying its security guards in Iraq as independent contractors. In a letter
to Prince, Waxman also called a financial settlement reached with one such former independent contractor "deplorable." The settlement required that the ex-guard not disclose a March 2007 IRS ruling that Blackwater's tax records were out of whack; and the guard was specifically prevented from disclosing that to any "politician" or "public official."

You can enjoy the rest of Spencer's piece here. Just like Al Capone's mob was eventually brought down because of tax evasion, some of today's corporate gangsters may soon suffer the same fate!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Why do the Republicans hate our troops?

Rick Maze, a contributor to the respected Military Times, had this important piece on the importance of passing S-CHIP not only for children without health insurance, but even for military familes with health coverage:

House passes military family leave expansion

By Rick Maze - Staff writerPosted : Thursday Sep 27, 2007 9:56:21 EDT
A bill that would expand family leave rights for people caring for wounded service members is now speeding its way through Congress on a path that appears likely to end with a presidential veto.
Legislation to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act to allow a relative to take up to six months of unpaid leave to care for a wounded veteran was attached to the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, HR 976. The House passed the bill Tuesday and the Senate expects to pass it before the end of the week.
Putting the military-related legislation into that bill allowed for quick passage, but it also may have doomed the proposal, at least temporarily, as President Bush has vowed to veto the children’s health bill because it is overly generous by his standards.
Still, supporters of the military family leave proposal said getting the legislation through the House and Senate is a major endorsement of a proposal that could help many families who risk losing their civilian jobs if they take too much time off work to care for a wounded combat veteran.
A Bush veto of the children’s health bill would delay expansion of military family leave but would not end prospects for its passage. Three Senate Democrats running for their party’s presidential nomination — Hillary Clinton of New York, Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Barack Obama of Illinois — are trying to get similar legislation attached to the 2008 defense authorization bill, which would create another opportunity to make it law.

Uninsured little girl to her Mommy: "Mommy why do the Republicans hate me and our troops?"

Friday, October 19, 2007

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Close (roll) call!

Well, the override didn't happen. It came down to a handful of Republicans in Congress who refused to budge-- and do the right thing in overriding Bush's S-CHIP veto. We did pick up a substantial number of new votes, from Republicans who preferred facing the wrath of big medicine to the righteous anger of the voters.

Sadly, there were still too many Rethugs who bought into the Bushies cynical argument-- that this shameful vote could be spun away before the Fall of 2008. There's going to be a fall of 2008 allright-- the fall of a shameless, hypocritical party that has spent the last few years running our nation into the ground.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Facts on the Ground are changing fast and furiously at FedEx Ground


Yesterday was a real roller-coaster ride for those FedEx Ground/Home Delivery drivers whose plight was highlighted last week in unbossed.com (see above post).

In the morning, Jane Roberts had this report in the Memphis Commercial-Appeal (the hometown newspaper of FedEx corporate headquarters):

Restraining order denied

No delay for FedEx ground plans in Calif.

A U.S. district judge has ruled against a worker request that would have delayed FedEx Corp.'s plan to consolidate ground routes in California.
Federal judge Robert Miller in the Northern District of Indiana said the workers did not demonstrate threat of irreparable damage in their request for a restraining order under the Family Leave Medical Act.
He also said to delay the case now would "menace" FedEx's ability to maintain a stable work force in the busiest time of its year.
On Sept. 20, FedEx Ground announced it planned to begin consolidating single routes in California, where it lost a $5.3 million appeal this fall over whether its drivers are employees or independent contractors.
The appellate court ruled the workers were employees. The case is now before the California Supreme Court.
All the drivers in the suit were single-route drivers. To eliminate the uncertainty of California's regulatory environment, FedEx offered to pay the drivers between $15,000 and $81,000 for their single routes and consolidate them into more lucrative multiple routes.
It gave the contractors until late October to make their decisions and sign contracts.
Company spokesman Maury Lane said more then two-thirds of single-route drivers in California have already taken advantage of the incentives, "which shows the value our contractors place in the program."
Its contractor model is the subject of a potential class-action suit, filed in the northern district of Indiana. It represents 14,000 drivers. Miller will hear the case.
Suits have been filed individually in 29 states, including Tennessee, by contractors who say they are really employees who are due benefits, including overtime and medical expenses.
"FedEx could serve its customers better by first treating its drivers better, since they are the face of the company that customers see," said Chris Gilreath, the Memphis attorney representing the Tennessee plaintiffs.

Judge Robert L. Miller turns out not to have been such a Grinch, after all. In his denial of the proposed injunction, the judge pointed out that the national class of drivers hadn't yet been certified by his court. This raised an obviously very high hurdle to anyone seeking to prevent injuries to the "putative class." Well, this class is "putative" no longer! The Judge seems to have deliberately accelerated his certification of the class to prevent FedEx from pulling their California stunt anywhere else in the country. From a website devoted entirely to this (just now certified) national class action, came this stunning news yesterday afternoon:

South Bend, Indiana (October 15, 2007) - In a major development, Judge Robert Miller of U.S. District Court for Northern Indiana, today granted class certification on behalf of approximately 14,000 current FedEx Ground/Home Delivery drivers – as well as upwards of 10,000 former drivers - across the nation who are challenging the company’s embattled independent contractor model.
“This is a landmark decision for workers everywhere serving under sham independent contractor arrangements such as the one exploited by FedEx,” said Lynn Rossman Faris, Esq., lead counsel for the drivers who brought separate class-action lawsuits in 36 states that have been consolidated into a multi-district litigation (MDL) before Judge Miller. “The judge’s 56-page opinion is compelling on many levels, including its certification of nationwide claims brought under the Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA), state wage-and-hour and common law claims.”

So... the plot thickens in the struggle of these hardworking drivers to be treated as they deserve. Stay tuned right here for any more breaking news!

Mitch McConnell and the Caucus of Cruelty

Excellent words from the good folks at The People's E-mail Network:

Republican leaders are afraid their caucus of cruelty is caving out from under them. They are afraid that the House of Representatives will join the 2/3 majority in the Senate to override the heartless White House veto of a health safety net for those just above the poverty line. And the evidence of their mean spirited desperation is their carpet bomb smearing of a 12-year-old child with a serious brain injury, personally coordinated by an aide in the office of Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Yes, that's right, a member of the U.S. Senate actually has his dirty hand prints all over the despicable distortions about an American family whose only sin was having two of their children seriously injured and hospitalized for months, and the courage to tell their story to the American people of the true value of the SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program) program. Since which time they have been bombarded with hate mail, made even more terrifying by having their home address published for any lunatic to act on. There comes a point when "playing" negative attack politics turns so monstrously ugly that the American people become repulsed by the spectacle of the entire mass corporate media kicking the head of a brain-injured child around like it's a political football. Who did they think would speak out for this program, someone who did NOT need it? That's exactly what the sick minds behind this "swift boat" campaign want everyone else to believe.

For more information on the shameful Republican smear campaign against 12-year old Graeme Frost, and his family, see this report.

Gaming the System

Philip Shenon has this report in the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 14 — For now, the most powerful law-enforcement official in the federal government is a 47-year-old lawyer little known outside Washington.
Or inside Washington, for that matter.
He is acting Attorney General Peter D. Keisler, who is running the Justice Department until a new attorney general is confirmed by the Senate to replace Alberto R. Gonzales. Mr. Keisler had been in charge of the department’s civil division.
The No. 2 and No. 3 officials are also acting — acting Deputy Attorney General Craig S. Morford and acting Associate Attorney General Gregory G. Katsas. More than a quarter of the department’s 93 United States Attorneys around the country are “acting.”…

With only 15 months left in office, President Bush has left whole agencies of the executive branch to be run largely by acting or interim appointees — jobs that would normally be filled by people whose nominations would have been reviewed and confirmed by the Senate.
In many cases, there is no obvious sign of movement at the White House to find permanent nominees, suggesting that many important jobs will not be filled by Senate-confirmed officials for the remainder of the Bush administration….

But recess appointments often subject the White House to criticism that it is trying to circumvent the Senate confirmation process. And because there is relatively little time left in the Bush administration, there may be less pressure, or need, to consider them. The indefinite appointment of acting officials might have the same effect of circumventing Congressional oversight of nominations for what remains of the Bush presidency.
While exact comparisons are difficult to come by, researchers say that the vacancy rate for senior jobs in the executive branch is far higher at the end of the Bush administration than it was at the same point in the terms of Mr. Bush’s recent predecessors in the White House….

No cabinet agency has been more hard-hit by vacancies in senior posts than the Justice Department.
Its ranks have been depleted in recent months, which may be a reflection in part of the scandals that engulfed the department under Mr. Gonzales, especially the furor over the firing of several United States attorneys last year for what appear to have been political reasons.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for the department, said “We are confident in the individuals who are leading their respective offices in an acting capacity — these are veteran department lawyers with significant experience.”
The heads of the department’s civil rights, natural resources and tax divisions are all “acting,” as are the directors of the elite Office of Legal Counsel and the Office of Legal Policy.
The acting head of the counsel’s office, Steven G. Bradbury, who functions as the department’s lawyer, has found himself under intense scrutiny with the disclosure last week that he was the author of a pair of secret legal opinions that endorsed brutal interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects in the custody of the C.I.A. The acting attorney general, Mr. Keisler, has relatively little experience in criminal prosecutions.
He has worked in the department’s civil division since 2002 and, before that, had spent most of his career in private practice in Washington or as a law clerk. He may be best known in Washington legal circles as one of the founders of the conservative Federalist Society.

So is this good news or bad news for the country? Well... the positive is that "acting/interim" type folks are rarely swashbuckling, energetic evildoers. The obvious negative is that these folks have nothing to lose from stonewalling, hindering, and refusing to cooperate with oversight investigations into the sins of their disgraced predecessors, and their bosses in the Cheney/Bush (mal)administration.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Resist the War Criminals

Frank Rich is moved to lament the decline in our nation's moral authority from our time as liberators of Europe, from the Nazis, to our present government's secret memos redefining torture as "enhanced interrogation techniques."

“We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture,” said Henry Kolm, 90, an M.I.T. physicist whose interrogation of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, took place over a chessboard. George Frenkel, 87, recalled that he “never laid hands on anyone” in his many interrogations, adding, “I’m proud to say I never compromised my humanity.”
Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those “good Germans” who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo. It’s up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day. Let the war’s last supporters filibuster all night if they want to. There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country’s good name.

More than 2/3 of the nation have lost any confidence in the moral authority of the Cheney/Bush regime in Washington, D.C. The 2006 elections proved that many of us wanted Congress to work, actively, right now, to restrain the warmongers from doing worse harm than they have already. It is not enough to grumble, privately, that too many on Capitol Hill seem content to "run out the clock" until 2008. We, who live and pay taxes in the United States of America, must demand more from our elected representatives.

Secret overseas prisons, "enhanced interrogations," billions looted by corrupt war profiteers. Our outrage over these abuses needs to become more immediate, more personal. These abuses depend for their funding on our contributions to the Treasury. We are the real bosses, here. Cheney, Bush and their cronies depend on us feeling helpless to change what is done in our name. We are not mere spectators-- we are citizens. Let us thank our representatives when they do their jobs well, like in voting for SChip expansion of subsidies for children's health care. Let us hold them to account when they enable the crooks in the White House. It's time to talk back to the right-wing blowhards on T.V., and demand that our "free press" live up to its name and help inform the public about important issues that affect us all.

I saw a bumpersticker the other day: "If you're not outraged then you're not paying attention!"

Here's my new slogan idea for my fellow outraged citizens: "If you're outraged, then for mercy's sake do something!" Call, write, boycott, march and bring the kids... I know we're all too busy to right every wrong. The hijacking of our government by right wingnuts demands our strongest resistance. Fight back now while we still have something left to defend!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Socialized Medicine: a bad thing??!?

Logical consistency has never been our Commuter and Thief's strongest suit. He recently defended his veto, of a modest increase in help for children lacking health insurance, by arguing that too much government help discourages private employers from doing their part. Yet a year ago he was celebrating the achievements of a company who exploits the misclassification of workers as "independent contractors," to deny them health benefits and other protections.

Official Statement of Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President

October 6, 2006

Today, President Bush used mediocre monthly payroll figures to give himself a self-congratulatory pat on the back about an economy that is failing American workers. It is fitting that the White House chose to spin their skewed economic message at a FedEx facility in Washington, D.C., one of the most anti-worker companies in the United States.
FedEx has created a business model with a cutthroat mentality even Machiavelli would admire. CEO Fred Smith will collect over $10 million in compensation and dividend income this year alone, money that he earns by exploiting thousands of FedEx Ground drivers through an “independent contractor” model.
FedEx has abused this independent contractor status to shift risks and costs onto the drivers and taxpayers. The drivers take on costs that should be paid by the company, including trucks, uniforms and digital scanners.
As a bonus, this model allows FedEx to avoid paying income tax withholding, unemployment insurance premiums and worker compensation contributions while dodging state labor laws and federal laws like the Family Medical Leave Act and Equal Employment Opportunity Laws.
The good news is that this model is unraveling as state and federal agencies expose this business model for what it is—a scam perpetrated upon the American workforce.
A California court ruled this business model to be illegal in 2005. California found that FedEx Ground owed nearly $8 million in back taxes. Since 1988, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled seven out of eight times that the FedEx Ground drivers are employees and not independent contractors.
The Teamsters won two such NLRB decisions in Massachusetts this year and drivers at three FedEx Ground locations are on their way to joining the Teamsters and securing their rights through collective bargaining.
With every record profit reported by corporate America and new stock market high, working men and women in America are reminded that they are expendable, a disposable part in a machine that is designed to make money in the most efficient manner possible.
The rich get richer, lining their pockets with profits earned on the backs of exploited workers, while the majority of Americans have not seen any appreciable increase in their income. It is fitting that Bush held his press conference at FedEx, a company that is blatantly violating its workers’ rights every day.
The White House should be more careful in selecting the company that represents our “healthy economy,” rather than choosing one as political payback because the CEO hosted a $2,100-a-plate fundraiser last week in Memphis, where Bush was the headliner.

So, how are things over at Fred Smith's FedEx these days? Has the company seen the error of its ways and decided to become a model corporate citizen? Well... here's a report from the good
folks over at unbossed.com:

Saturday, October 13, 2007
The drivers have been F****ed
Last August 19, in
FedEx and Its So-Called Independent Contractors we reported on FedEx's big loss. FedEx had claimed that drivers it had claimed the drivers were independent contractors, but the court found they were actually employees. So how did FedEx respond? It F****ed them.
That's right. They've been FedExed.
FedEx fired the workers.
The FedEx mass firing of over 1000 single-route truck drivers at Ground/Home Delivery terminals in California is an appalling abuse of the legal process and demonstrates the company’s rank indifference to its employees. This action is clearly in retaliation to the class action law suits that assert that FedEx’s misclassification of those drivers is illegal. FedEx seeks to not only punish the California drivers by eliminating their livelihoods, but it also intends to have a chilling effect on drivers across the nation. Refusing to accept the recent determination of the California Court of Appeals that its drivers are legally employees and provide them the rights and benefits to which they are entitled, FedEx instead says to them, "you’re fired."
These drivers are among the 12,000 drivers in the nationwide class of drivers challenging FedEx's illegal independent contractor model, recently found to violate California law. Similar cases are pending in over 30 other states.
Taking the law into its own hands, FedEx has illegally retaliated against innocent workers who simply exercised their right to go to court to redress FedEx’s illegal system which denies them every employment right to which they are entitled. FedEx’s aggressive action also violates every principle of fairness and decency. No matter how FedEx spins this, the reality is that it has announced the firing of every single-route driver in California.
Plaintiffs' counsel Lynn Rossman Faris said, "The drivers are stunned by this retaliation which was surely intended to send a message to all the other drivers in America that they better not step out of line." Rossman Faris added that she and her co-counsel are reviewing their legal options.
Basically FedEx is continuing on with its illegal actions, trying to make it appear that these workers are independent contractors while depriving them of the protections and money employees get. FedEx has said it will not renew the California drivers' contracts unless they will take on contracts with other companies, giving the impression that they are true independent contractors. In other states they are continuing on with the same structure found to be illegal in California.

Guess I'm going with UPS!! :)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Constitution, what Constitution?

Here's some food for thought from the GOP presidential debate in Michigan the other day:

MR. HUCKABEE: A president has to do whatever is necessary to protect the American people. If we think Iran is building nuclear capacity that could be used against us in any way, including selling some of the nuclear capacity to some other terrorist group, then yes, we have a right to do it. And I would do it in a heartbeat.
MR. MATTHEWS: Without going to Congress? Without going to Congress?
MR. HUCKABEE: Well, if it's necessary to get it done because it's actionable right now, yes. If you have the time and the luxury of going to Congress, that's always better. But Chris, the most important single thing is to make sure --
MR. MATTHEWS: And if Congress says no, what do you do? If Congress says no, what do you do, Governor?
MR. HUCKABEE: You do what's best for the American people, and you suffer the consequences. But what you don't do is -- what you never do is let the American people one day get hit with a nuclear device because you had politics going on in Washington instead of the protection of the American people first.

And Huckabee isn't even the scariest of these creeps! Here's a man who's asking the country to elect him as our most powerful official, with a sworn duty to preserve and defend the Constitution of the U.S.-- and he's obviously never even read the document!! This is worse than someone applying for a job as an IT systems analyst asking the interviewer: "Linux? Who is this Linux that you speak of?"

I mean WTF??!!??

The apparently sincere belief that everything's good if you think you're doing what's "best for the American people," has me sincerely terrified. Huckabee would be the first to tell you that he thinks it would be "best for the American people," if all American Roman Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Buddhists, gays, atheists and Hindus were either "converted" or dead. If he thought the former path might take too long and expose the country to an unacceptable risk of eternal damnation-- would mass extermination be the only choice? Would he think it O.K. to "suffer the consequences" of genocide if it left his kind of Americans better able to face the Second Coming?

If you can't rule out unprovoked, "pre-emptive" war against the wishes of Americans' elected representatives in Congress, what can you rule out? Is the proposed anti-flagburning amendment to our Constitution, that men like Huckabee support, the only part of the Constitution the Republicans will defend?

FYI-- The Law of the Land is Crystal Clear

Public Law 93-148

93rd Congress, H. J. Res. 542, November 7, 1973

Joint ResolutionConcerning the war powers of Congress and the President.

Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


SECTION 1. This joint resolution may be cited as the "War Powers Resolution".


SEC. 2. (a) It is the purpose of this joint resolution to fulfill the intent of the framers of the Constitution of the United States and insure that the collective judgement of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicate by the circumstances, and to the continued use of such forces in hostilities or in such situations.
(b) Under article I, section 8, of the Constitution, it is specifically provided that the Congress shall have the power to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution, not only its own powers but also all other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.
(c) The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

Please note that in Sec. 2.c,3 the word "attack" stands for an actual attack, not a situation where the President thinks there may be an attack!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Republican Shambles

John Cole, a "fiscal conservative" blogger who voted Republican in 2004, explains why he no longer feels he can fit in the GOP's "big tent:"

For starters, people got tired of being associated with these drooling retards. Then, when they realized that these drooling retards had ideological allies running the show in the Bush administration and then began to experience their idiotic policies, they moved from disgusted to outright hostile.
Like me. It had nothing to do with Burke, and everything to do with what the party had become. A bunch of bedwetting, loudmouth, corrupt, hypocritical, and incompetent boobs with a mean streak a mile long and no sense of fair play or proportion.
Seriously- what does the current Republican party stand for? Permanent war, fear, the nanny state, big spending, torture, execution on demand, complete paranoia regarding the media, control over your body, denial of evolution and outright rejection of science, AND ZOMG THEY ARE GONNA MAKE US WEAR BURKHAS, all the while demanding that in order to be a good American I have to spend most of every damned day condemning half my fellow Americans as terrorist appeasers.And that isn't even getting into the COMPLETE and TOTAL corruption of our political processes at every level
. The shit is really going to hit the fan after we vote these jackasses out of power in 2008.
Screw them. I got out. They can have their party. I will vote for Democrats and little L libertarians and isolationists until the crazy people aren’t running the GOP. The threat of higher taxes in the short term isn’t enough to keep me from voting out crazy people and voting for sane people with whom I merely disagree regarding policy. Hillarycare doesn’t scare me as much as Frank Gaffney having a line to the person with the nuclear football or Dobson and company crafting domestic policy.
That is why the Republican party is in shambles. The majority of us have decided that the movers and shakers in the GOP and the blogospheric right are certified lunatics who, in a decent and sane society, we would have in controlled environments in rocking chairs under shade trees for most of the day, wheeled in at night for tapioca pudding and some karaoke.

The really tragic aspect of the current situation in Washington D.C. is that Democrats, who have been ruthlessly vilified for years by these Republican clowns, somehow feel compelled to show them more respect than many of those who now regret voting for these same clowns in the first place!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Can't we all just get along?

I'm starting to get a little riled up! The nonsense that passes for political discourse in our times is so repulsive, that it's a struggle not to jump off the cliff with the rest of the lemmings driven mad by the cruel absurdity of it all. Barack Obama decides to forego an American flag lapel pin-- and the noise from the surrounding "controversy" nearly drowns out the stunning revelation that the White House has secretly continued the extensive use of torture, while renaming it "harsh interrogation tactics." The disturbing story recently appeared in the NY Times:

After the Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the Geneva Conventions applied to prisoners who belonged to Al Qaeda, President Bush for the first time acknowledged the C.I.A.’s secret jails and ordered their inmates moved to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The C.I.A. halted its use of waterboarding, or pouring water over a bound prisoner’s cloth-covered face to induce fear of suffocation.
But in July, after a monthlong debate inside the administration, President Bush signed a new executive order authorizing the use of what the administration calls “enhanced” interrogation techniques — the details remain secret — and officials say the C.I.A. again is holding prisoners in “black sites” overseas. The executive order was reviewed and approved by Mr. Bradbury and the Office of Legal Counsel.
Douglas W. Kmiec, who headed that office under President Ronald Reagan
and the first President George Bush and wrote a book about it, said he believed the intense pressures of the campaign against terrorism have warped the office’s proper role.
“The office was designed to insulate against any need to be an advocate,” said Mr. Kmiec, now a conservative scholar at Pepperdine University
law school. But at times in recent years, Mr. Kmiec said, the office, headed by William H. Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia
before they served on the Supreme Court, “lost its ability to say no.”
“The approach changed dramatically with opinions on the war on terror,” Mr. Kmiec said. “The office became an advocate for the president’s policies.”
From the secret sites in Afghanistan, Thailand and Eastern Europe where C.I.A. teams held Qaeda terrorists, questions for the lawyers at C.I.A. headquarters arrived daily. Nervous interrogators wanted to know: Are we breaking the laws against torture?
The Bush administration had entered uncharted legal territory beginning in 2002, holding prisoners outside the scrutiny of the International Red Cross and subjecting them to harrowing pressure tactics. They included slaps to the head; hours held naked in a frigid cell; days and nights without sleep while battered by thundering rock music; long periods manacled in stress positions; or the ultimate, waterboarding.
Never in history had the United States authorized such tactics. While President Bush and C.I.A. officials would later insist that the harsh measures produced crucial intelligence, many veteran interrogators, psychologists and other experts say that less coercive methods are equally or more effective."

These secret memos "justifying" non-compliance with U.S. and international laws were all that Bush and his enablers needed-- to defy the expressed will of the American people and their representatives in Congress. They are also all that Congress should need to bring forward articles of Impeachment against our Commuter and Thief.

Democrats gain nothing trying to reason with these insane warmongers. They lose credibility if they compromise on core principles just to "make nice" w1th the Republican minority.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Just do what you promised!

The latest ABC/ Washington Post polls confirm what many of us have been saying for months: the overwhelming majority of folks in this country still disapprove of G.W. Bush-- he's not going to get more popular if the Congress stands up to him. The country also expects the Democrats in Congress to do what they promised in 2006-- change course in Iraq. People don't expect the Democrats to end the war overnight by passing a bill with a veto-proof majority. They expect the Congress to do what they can easily do right now. Refuse to authorize any new money for the war, or at least drastically reduce the amount they are willing to authorize. It ain't rocket science, folks. Just do what you promised!

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Excellence of Ezra

Ezra Klein has a fantastic post in response to Roger Cohen's column:

Cohen may not, personally, think like Bill Kristol. But he certainly writes like him. "Neocon, for many, has become shorthand for neocon-Zionist conspiracy," he says, naming no names, and instead offering a simple, generalized accusation of anti-semitism against all those who question the neoconservatives. "Baghdad is closer to Sarajevo than the left has allowed," he writes, obliterating the difference between a bombing campaign undertaken to end an ongoing genocide and a ground invasion undertaken to unearth weapons that didn't exist, overturn a regime we couldn't replace, and forcibly impose a system of governance that lacked foundations. "MoveOn.org is the Petraeus-insulting face of never-set-foot-in-a-war-zone liberalism," he scoffs, having never, himself, fought in a war, but nevertheless adopting the authority of those who have.
These are not arguments. They are smears. They are attacks aimed at degrading the credibility, rather than the beliefs, of the coalition that opposes the Iraq War. And in intent and effect, they are indistinguishable from Bill Kristol's worst columns, save for the possibility that they are more effective, because they ostensibly come from within the Left, rather than outside of it.
Cohen would no doubt respond that he is not a neoconservative, but a liberal interventionist. "Distinction matters," he protests. "The neocon taste for American empire is not the liberal hawk’s belief in the bond between American power and freedom’s progress." But this war, and any that occur until January 2009, will not be conducted by Roger Cohen. They will be conducted by neoconservatives animated by a taste for American empire. And so the distinction does not matter, because any hawkish actions will be undertaken and overseen by those on the wrong side of it. Roger Cohen may feel like he is a liberal hawk, and thus distinct. But what Roger Cohen feels does not matter, because Roger Cohen does not control any branch of the American military. Who he empowers, and which actors in American politics find their ideas legitimized by his columns, is all that matters. And in that, he is worse than a neoconservative. He's a liberal hawk who knows better, but whose interest in writing about his own virtue overwhelms his judgments concerning the actual actions of those who wield power. He is not a neoconservative. He is a narcissist.
The glib defense of the indefensible is always dangerous-- whether it comes from a right wingnut, or a so-called "moderate liberal." In fact, Roger Cohen's support, for the decision to invade Iraq, was arguably more dangerous than Rush Limbaugh's because it gave some intellectual cover to Democrats, like Hillary Clinton, for their tragically misguided authorization vote.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Bullies of the Boardroom

Phil Kerpen, a policy director for the benign-sounding right-wing think tank Americans for Prosperity, seems outraged that working people might seek to have any influence at all on their own working lives:

The biggest threat to free-market capitalism today may not be coming from the Democratic majority in Congress, but from the Republican majority at the Securities and Exchange Commission. At issue is shareholder access to company proxy statements, a seemingly esoteric subject, but one that has profound implications for economic freedom in the United States.
The SEC purportedly is considering a rule that would allow shareholders with as little as a 3 percent stake in a company to nominate directors to that company, with the requirement that those directors be include on the company’s proxy statement. The result would be special interests — primarily labor unions through their pension funds — gaining seats on corporate boards...

To understand what this is really about you need only look to the plaintiffs in the case that triggered this situation. By way of their pension funds, unions have big stakes in virtually every significant corporation today. A shareholder-access rule would allow them to achieve through the backdoor what they have been unable to accomplish through honest collective bargaining.

I mean the nerve of those pesky union people! There are an army of lawyers who belong to a multi-billion dollar union-busting industry, that, with its allies in the Republican appointed NLRB has successfully attacked unions in this country to the point where only a handful remain with any real power. Now, their backs to the wall, the Teamsters and the UAW are looking to at least voice their concerns to the corporate billionaires who have gotten rich off the labors of their membership. Through buying millions of dollars of stock, these unions feel, they at least have bought themselves a ticket to the show put on by their corporate bosses.

Who do they think they are? Investors with rights? No, they need to be put in their place these sweaty worker types! How dare they enter the opulent boardrooms of those who rake in billions of profit from their work! The arrogance of people like Mr. Kerpen is astounding. How anyone who works in this country can vote for Republicans, who serve the interests of these greedy corporate pirates, is hard to fathom...