17 November 2007

My suggestion for a Clinton ad for general election against Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani endorses George W. Bush’s foreign policy. He has chosen as one of his main advisers Norman Podhoretz, one of the architects of the failed war in Iraq a man who in the 1980s criticized Ronald Reagan for even talking to Russian leader Gorbachev.

The American people do not want more of the same. We want a new direction, that puts America’s interests first.

Ask yourself, are you safer today than you were the day after America was attacked on September 11?

George Bush, at the urging of Donald Rumsfeld, dropped the ball when America’s military forces had Osama Bin Laden on the run at Tora Bora in Afghanistan in late 2001, and let him get away-- so that Al Qaida could regroup; so that now Intelligence Estimates say these enemies are as strong as they were before 9/11. Thanks to George Bush.

George Bush, at the urging of Dick Cheney, misled Americans, saying Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction when he didn’t; and saying there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida, when there wasn’t, in order to launch an invasion of Iraq, that was supposed to be over in a month and cost no more than $50 billion dollars. Now, after over 3000 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis have lost their lives, at a cost already approaching $1 trillion, what has been accomplished? How have we been made better off by George Bush’s foolish war in Iraq?

  • Oil prices are $100 a barrel, mainly due to insecurity in the Middle East
  • Thousands of lives lost
  • Iraq in turmoil
  • Sabre rattling for and even more calamitous war against Iran, if they can get away with it
  • U.S. prestige at its lowest point in modern times
  • The dollar at its lowest value in decades
  • American moral example tarnished by an administration that can’t even understand that torture is un-American?
  • And nothing has been done about Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden

Rudy Giuliani represents more of the same.

Vote for real change, for a new direction in the world. The Republicans have no strategy, and have failed to make Americans safer or advance our interests in the World. They’ve slashed taxes for the rich and run up huge deficits, but instead of advancing our interests, they have made matters worse.

Senator Clinton understands that unilateralism isn’t the solution, and knows how to talk turkey to foreign leaders, how to achieve America’s interests in the world by being smart, strong, and determined. She knows how to restore America’s leadership and moral example.

Vote Clinton/[Veep] in 2008.

Paid for by Clinton for President.
Hillary Clinton: “I approved this message.”

12 November 2007

Feinstein is no longer a Democrat in any meaningful sense of the word

See Greenwald on Dianne Feinstein's latest capitulation to Bush Administration interests. I wrote recently to Sen. Feinstein deploring the fact that she is no longer a Democrat in any meaningful sense of the word. Some of her positions are actually worse than those of Joseph Lieberman. It's really unfortunate that she's Class I, meaning she's in through 2012. She's probably the ripest for a primary challenge on ideological grounds of any Democratic senator in California in a long, long time. I hope and pray when that time comes, she retires (she's 75 now), making room for a real Democrat.

05 November 2007

US drops to 53rd rank on press freedom

I imagine the same folks who smugly don't care that U.S. access to health care is ranked just above Slovenia, i.e. about 40th in the world, aren't troubled by this either:

"...the U.S. has tumbled progressively downward in the worldwide press freedom rankings maintained by the widely respected journalist group, Reporters Without Borders. While oppressive countries such as North Korea, Cuba, China, Saudi Arabia and Iran occupy their rightful place at the bottom of the list, the U.S. -- historically at or near the top -- has fallen drastically over the last several years to 53rd place. The U.S. is thus now tied with Botswana and Tonga and well behind El Salvador, Mozambique, Panama, Namibia, Jamaica, Israel and Lithuania. Its practice of arresting journalists [in Iraq] and holding them for years with no charges is obviously a significant factor."
(From Greenwald on salon.com).

You could make an argument that our founders invented press freedom. But if you don't get that this is a shameful --and frightening-- state to have fallen to, you just aren't paying attention. Because, if you don't think it affects you, you are wrong. Already the lack of access to truthful information has poisoned our political system. And it can only get worse without a concerted effort... i.e., political action... to correct these positively unAmerican developments.

30 October 2007

My comment on news that Mukasey still refuses to say whether Waterboarding is Torture

Here's my comment on TPM Muckraker piece on Mukasey's continued refusal to answer the question "Is waterboarding torture?"

OK, fine. If Cheney and Addington (no need to ask where Bush is in all of this) want to resist any questioning of "presidential authority" to torture, and Mukasey's willing to be their stooge, then turn him down flat. And if they send up another stooge who won't answer legitimate questions in his nomination hearings, turn him down too. These people have to be shown that the Congress has constitutional powers no matter what dangerous crackpot theories they have, and if they want to paralyze the government by refusing to participate in the constitutional process, that's their choice, but the onus is on them.

Personally, I think Congress has been extremely remiss in failing to impeach Cheney AND Bush, a long, long time ago.

26 October 2007

Why Tortureboy Rudy Giuliani is totally unqualified to be president

I would like to propose it as an axiom that anyone who is as morally unclear on the concept of torture, and why it is unacceptable in civilized society, as Rudolph Giuliani, is unqualified to be president of the United States, period. Ever.

Let's leave alone for the moment the obvious lack of qualification for the same office of the current incumbent and his patron, Dick Cheney, for the same reasons.

This isn't hard, or even close to being a judgment call. Water torture is never acceptable to civilized people. If you don't get that, get off the political stage and go crawl in some hole. It's truly nauseating that this kind of stuff can be said in ordinary political discourse in this country today without widespread, open-mouthed, wide-eyed-in-disbelief condemnation.

Here's Conason today in salon:

"It depends on how it's done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it."

Such lazy-minded clichés--"it depends on the circumstances" --
are emblematic of the moral relativism that swaggering absolutists like Giuliani claim to despise in liberalism. He went on to disparage media coverage of the technique, claiming that "liberal newspapers" have exaggerated its brutality. "So I'd have to see what they really are doing." Perhaps as president, he would attend the interrogations and even pour a few pitchers over the face of a suspect himself.

If tough Rudy does go waterboarding, however, he should have no illusions about its status under American law and tradition. As a former federal prosecutor, he should know that the United States has indicted, convicted and punished a substantial number of torturers whose offenses included waterboarding or, as it used to be known, "the water cure." American prohibitions on the mistreatment of prisoners date back to George Washington, but the earliest prosecution of an American military officer for using that particular technique occurred in 1902, during the U.S. occupation of the Philippines under the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.

Following a series of Senate hearings led by Massachusetts Republican Henry Cabot Lodge, the Army tried Maj. Edwin Glenn in a court-martial in the Philippine province of Samar for misconduct and breach of discipline, including "infliction of the water cure" on suspected Filipino insurgents. The Army's judge advocate general rejected Glenn's defense of "military necessity," and he was suspended from his post for a month and fined $50 (not an insignificant sum in 1902). President Roosevelt affirmed the major's conviction. More severe punishments were meted out to the Japanese imperial officers who inflicted the water ure on Allied military officers and civilians during World War II in such places as Korea, the Philippines and China. In war crimes trials overseen by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the supreme commander in the Pacific and a great Republican hero, testimony about water torture led to numerous convictions -- and sentences that ranged from years of imprisonment at hard labor to death by hanging. As head of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, MacArthur voted to uphold those convictions and sentences.

Just so there can be no mistake about what the Japanese perps were convicted of doing, here is a sliver of the copious testimony that can be found at Law of War, where an excellent essay on waterboarding and American law can be found. It comes from the trial in Manila of Sgt. Maj. Chinsaku Yuki, a Japanese military intelligence officer. The witness is Ramon Lavarro, a Filipino lawyer suspected by the Japanese of providing assistance to resistance forces. "I was ordered to lay on a bench and Yuki tied my feet, hands and neck to that bench lying with my face upward," Lavarro testified. "After I was tied to the bench Yuki placed some cloth on my face and then with water from the faucet they poured on me until I became unconscious. He repeated that four or five times." Such testimonies all sound very much the same because waterboarding is a simple practice that even Giuliani should be able to comprehend. When he argues that it is an act whose significance depends on who does it and under what circumstances, does he mean to suggest that the Japanese war criminals were wrong, but the CIA is right? Does he think that laws and treaties apply only to foreigners and not to Americans? Or that the president can abrogate those laws and treaties at will? That is a formula for tyranny -- and it was rejected by Republicans and Democrats alike, all much better men than he.

Giuliani, as Conason notes, was echoing Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey, who also refused to say whether waterboarding (aka Chinese Water Torture) was, as it unquestionably is, in fact torture. The Democratic senators (Leahy, Durbin) who have announced that Mukasey's nomination will be blocked if he doesn't give an answer to this question, should be commended. For once, a bit of backbone in evidence.

Better if they'd said, "Look. This isn't a hard question. The fact that he couldn't... or wouldn't... answer it without hesitation means he's not qualified to be Attorney General and we will vote to block his nomination." But even what they did say is a step in the right direction.

23 October 2007

Bush's Amazing Achievement

From Bush's Amazing Achievement, in the New York Review of Books, in which Jonathan Freedland discussed books by Chalmers Johnson, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Dennis Ross:

One of the few foreign policy achievements of the Bush administration has been the creation of a near consensus among those who study international affairs, a shared view that stretches, however improbably, from Noam Chomsky to Brent Scowcroft, from the antiwar protesters on the streets of San Francisco to the well-upholstered office of former secretary of state James Baker. This new consensus holds that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a calamity, that the presidency of George W. Bush has reduced America's standing in the world and made the United States less, not more, secure, leaving its enemies emboldened and its friends alienated. Paid-up members of the nation's foreign policy establishment, those who have held some of the most senior offices in the land, speak in a language once confined to the T-shirts of placard-wielding demonstrators. They rail against deception and dishonesty, imperialism and corruption. The only dispute between them is over the size and depth of the hole into which Bush has led the country he pledged to serve.

(Stolen from Prof. Juan Cole's incomprable blog, Informed Comment).

19 October 2007

Chris Dodd for President

Mainly because of his principled stand against Telecom immunity for 4th amendment violations at the behest of the lawless Bush administration (which would foreclose the only avenue the people have to find out the truth about how far these violations of the constitution actually went)... and because of his support for strengthening and preserving the Constitution generally, I've decided to support Chris Dodd's presidential candidacy.

Issues: check out Dodd's stands.

Quixotic? Maybe. But at least at the Primary stage I refuse to vote for Centrists who are more interested in calculating what will least offend the Beltway elites than actually advocating what's best for the American people.

17 October 2007

Dalai Lama Congressional Gold Medal

I reply to an (unconventionally) conservative friend who asked my opinion about the Dalai Lama receiving the Congressional Gold Medal, and in so doing remarking that it seemed like a provocation, comparable to another state awarding a medal to Osama bin Laden. (He also commented on positive role of China in resolution of North Korea crisis):

You kindly asked for my opinion, (paraphrasing and supplying some implicit context), on the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama, i.e., whether it’s an unwarranted provocation to the Chinese. This has to be considered in light of their stated position that Tibet is part of China, and any recognition or even official conversation with the Dalai Lama constitutes interference in their internal affairs. (This has been their position since 1959, and has been expressed quite distinctly in these terms since the 1970s).

I’ll avoid giving you a long diatribe on the historical reasons for believing that the Chinese interpretation of their sovereignty over Tibet is untenable, although that is my opinion. Sufficient to say, Tibet was de facto independent, and at most a tribute state (early on the tribute usually went the other way), continuously from about A.D. 750 until 1959, when the Chinese invaded and enforced their claim, which they had proclaimed with the founding of the P.R.C. in 1949. Their primary interest in Tibet is its mineral wealth, which is enormous, and they have been systematically displacing the indigenous population and installing Han Chinese population. With China having a population of 1.2 billion and Tibet having a population of 6 million, the threat to Tibet’s culture and identity as a people is quite real.

I’ll also avoid a diatribe on the brutal oppression of the Chinese towards Tibet, which has abated somewhat in the last ten to fifteen years. There is quite strong evidence that the suppression (and outright destruction) of hundreds of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and political dissidents during the Cultural Revolution resulted in at least 200,000 Tibetans (out of that six million population) being killed.

So the case that China has bloody hands with regard to Tibet is there to be made. I am a little biased, I suppose, so in the interests of disclosure I admit I am a Buddhist, of the Gedan tradition of Je Tsongkhapa, which originated in Tibet, and that I have great love and admiration for Tibetan culture and spiritual traditions. But this isn’t really the issue. The fact is that Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama, is not a separatist. This is a Chinese canard. He has called for autonomy with Tibet as a part of China, much to the dismay of some of his own refugee population. The Chinese position on Tibet is quite simply indefensible, and they know it. They are flat out lying about the position taken by the Tibetan Government in Exile, which is that there should be recognition of the interests of the Tibetan people and self-determination on issues of development and what’s normally called domestic policy. Much like the arrangement that Catalunya has with Spain. It’s all negotiable, and the Tibetans aren’t fooling themselves about how weak a position they’re in. But the Chinese are lying about this, claiming that the Tibetan Government in Exile is militant and separatist, which just isn’t true. It’s classic disinformation propaganda.

So, yes, I think the Congressional Gold Medal was perfectly appropriate. It’s not an interference in Chinese internal affairs to say, in effect, “we don’t have a beef with you, but we recognize the truth, too, which is that you need to negotiate a resolution to the legitimate interests of the Tibetan people, and we recognize His Holiness as a rightful representative of the exile community.” The Chinese will pout and stamp, but it’s posturing. They’ll get over it. And it is well for us to occasionally give them a little taste of resistance and speaking of truth. China is an authoritarian empire, much like what it has essentially always been. Our interests are not congruent with theirs, and an occasional reminder of that fact is not a bad thing.

Incidentally, I have to say that comparing, even obliquely, the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, to Osama Bin Laden, is just preposterous. I have received teachings from His Holiness and heard him speak on several occasions, and I can tell you from personal experience that he is an honest man of peace. My spiritual tradition is in conflict with some of his religious edicts, but politically he is doing the best he can in a very difficult and precarious position to preserve and defend the interests of his extremely beleaguered people. Moreover, the Tibetans have never (in modern times) attacked the Chinese. Quite the opposite. So to compare their leader in exile in any way to Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaida is offensive and untenable. And, once again, the Chinese know perfectly well what the Dalai Lama has really said and done.

Korea is an entirely separate issue, and there it has been in the Chinese interests to help broker a deal, much to the chagrin of the more militant authoritarian neoconservatives in the White House, such as John Bolton and Dick Cheney. (I know Bolton’s out, but there are plenty of folks who think just like him). The Bush administration’s negotiator, Christopher Hill, is a State Dept. guy, aligned with Rice and Negroponte, and one of the best diplomats they've got. Before these six party negotiations were finally embarked upon, the administration’s policy towards Korea had been entirely less than zero. Here’s a good case for how, thanks to the neocons, NK built nuclear weapons they wouldn’t have otherwise built. But I agree with you that the Chinese were undoubtedly instrumental in bringing about a favorable outcome. (Let’s just hope it holds). The last thing they want is a unified Korea with American troops on their border, not that that was a particularly likely outcome. They want NK to continue to exist, and to gradually come under their hegemony as a sort of client state after Kim Jong Il dies. Which is a pretty likely outcome. Marxisim-Leninism is just a slogan for them nowadays, it’s all about hegemony and centralized control. If nothing else, the Chinese are smart enough to look down the road a bit further than we usually do. So, in this case, the Chinese interests and ours coincided, and we were smart enough (for once) to cooperate with them.

Anyway, in general I believe we need to find common ground with the Chinese where it serves the interests of peace and prosperity for our people, and diplomatically resist them when not. Pretty much like any other country. They don’t want open hostility with us any more than we do, so a watchful coexistence is the only course for both countries. Anyone who thinks we have anything more friendly than that going on with them, though, is, in my humble opinion, deluded. They will trade with us, of course, because that relationship is frighteningly lopsided in their favor. If it weren’t, they’d curtail it. They buy US made airplanes, and admittedly it takes a lot of 99ct widgets to pay for a Dreamliner, but if they thought we were getting the better of the trade relationship, they’d forego the benefit to their consumer economy and cut it back. Because they think strategically first and foremost.

I think it likely that in the long run, since they own so much of our debt, we're going to have to accommodate them more than we would care to. Not to mention there are disturbing signs that they will lose interest in US debt as the dollar becomes weaker and weaker, and start buying equity. At the end of the century they're likely to be the world's superpower, not us. Certainly, economically. A prospect that doesn't thrill me, although I'll be dead, so it won't matter to me personally.

12 October 2007

McCain says Gore shouldn't have won.

The Des Moines Register reports that McCain said Al Gore shouldn't have won the Nobel Peace Prize. What an ungracious jerk.

Bush administration criminal leak

salon editor Joan Walsh notes:

« The latest debacle is the news that the administration leaked the most recent Osama bin Laden video, obtained by the private SITE counter-terror institute, to Fox News and other friends, after SITE shared the video with the White House for its intelligence value, while asking that it be kept under wraps. As a result of the administration leaks, SITE's ability to obtain comparable videos and other intelligence has been compromised. As its founder told the Washington Post: "Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless." Can you imagine the outrage if, say, Democratic leaders leaked intelligence information and cost counter-terror experts a valuable way into terror operations? Sure you can. »

If these jerks ever have the gall to imply a lack of patriotism on the part of a political opponent again, this should be thrown in their faces. Which it should anyway. I think this deliberate leak of sensitive intelligence for political purposes, just like the Libby and Rove Valerie Wilson identity leak, only fails to look like seriously detrimental, unpatriotic criminal conduct, bordering on treason, to the hopelessy deluded.

04 October 2007

Rampant Lawlessness threatens our Republic

Greenwald today is in fine fettle. Unfortunately, what he has to say makes me fear more than ever for the future of our republic. Gentle Reader, if you don't see this, I fear that you, like many others in our society as Glenn mentions, are being willfully blind. Read the NYTimes article he links too in the first paragraph, and then tell me it doesn't concern you.

I say, we simply cannot afford to allow the rule of law to die in our country, and if we do, we will pay a very, very high price-- namely that our nation will have ceased all semblance of being a free society. Once that line is definitively crossed, it will be very hard, if not impossible, to bring it back. Our constitution is gravely ill, and if we don't take some action to save it, it will become little more than a shell.

Wake up, folks, this is not exaggeration. If future presidents are permitted to subscribe to the Bush/Cheney theory that they can violate any and all law "in the defense" of the country, in secret , and to act accordingly, then we will cease to be a republic and will become a nation with a form of government all to common in the world, authoritarian government effectively by executive decree. If you'd like an example, another nation has rushed even more headlong in that direction just recently, and it should stand as a stark warning to us. I refer, of course, to the rise of Putin's dicatatorship in Russia. What is happening here is not so very different, and the end result could easily be much the same thing.

In the past, our system has been self-correcting. Maybe this will prove true again. So I hope and pray. But what has made our system self-correcting in the past is that the people have become sufficiently disturbed by what they've seen that they've demanded reform and the removal of lawbreakers from office. I don't see that happening in this 21st Century America, where most people don't even vote.

Think about it. The legislative branch is about to meekly vote for $200 billion more to fund a war that 69% of the population wants to end as soon as it can be done logistically. $200 billion that isn't even in the budget, which is a joke, since our national debt is stratospheric and owned to an alarming degree by foreign governments. What kind of representative government continues, year after year, to enact and reinforce policies that more than two thirds of the population oppose? And continues to mortgage the future of our country's prosperity, without so much as a by your leave?

The legislative branch is effectively disconnected from accountability to the people. As for the executive, I think the case is so clear it doesn't even need to be argued. The people have next to no say in the policies of the executive. Just how can this be described as representative government? This is the way it already is. Take away, as is already well underway, the constitutional protections which allow us to at least find out about, and sometimes, at least, to restrain the secret torture, detention, surveillance of Americans, denial right of trial, habeas corpus, representation of counsel, as this administration has done, and what you are left with is not the constitutional republic our founders conceived, at all. I'm sorry, but it just isn't.

Can the First Amendment long stand in such circumstances? Do you really think so? And to anyone who still thinks, but it's just the terrorists, not ordinary folks, I say, come on. Think, please. Think about what Lutheran anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemöller famously said: "In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist; And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist; And then they came for the Jews, And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew; And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up."

It's time for us, as Americans, to speak up, and to say, no more will we tolerate the subversion of our constitution by our own government. It's past time.

27 September 2007

My e-mail to Senator Feinstein's office

Your automated e-mail reply says the staff "tallies" the input, but it seems to have no effect. The Senator continues to enable the right wing of the Republican party by voting for such atrocities as the Lieberman/Kyl amendment and the unconstitutional FISA extension. Surely Ms. Feinstein knows that these votes are inimical to the majority of her California Democratic constituents' views? Reliable and easily available polling data will advise her of this fact. I am wondering just what the Senator thinks it means to be a Democrat? I can tell you quite plainly what it does not mean. It does not mean endorsing conservative Republican foreign policy and "national security" initiatives which are contrary to the founding principles of our nation and counterproductive to our national interests. This, regrettably, the Senator has done repeatedly.

I'm sorry to have to put this so bluntly, but at this point I have to hope Senator Feinstein chooses to retire at the end of her term so we can elect a real Democrat.

26 September 2007

Greenwald: Iran baiting, telecom immunity, so depressing

Astounding. Read Greenwald today. Even Chris Matthews and Pat Buchanan (!!!) are repelled by the madness of Iran baiting that's going on in the media and political discourse in this country.

His other topic is so depressing. The damned Congressional Democrats are fixing to forfeit the rule of law again and hand extraordinary and just plain unAmerican immmunity to the telecoms for FISA violations. Why even have laws? The King and his minions need not obey them. Cause they say so, and that's that, and you have nothing to say about it.

Olbermann yesterday noted, and I think it was normally pretty tepid Howard Fineman who agreed, that any sort of logic of this particular Bush admin. request is utterly lacking. They claim, in their usual undocumented and dubious manner, that there were no FISA violations by the telecoms. If that's so, why are they and their Dem Congressional enablers so determined to cut a semi-secret deal, freezing out civil liberties advocates from even knowing what's in the bill, to immunize them for their past actions? Makes no sense. Or, wait. Sure it does. They're lying. Again. Big surprise.

The real reason, of course, is that they're afraid that the civil lawsuit against AT&T now pending in the Ninth Circuit will actually establish as irrefutable fact the already known massive illegal activities on the part of the Bush administration between 2001-2005. If this dirty deal passes, that suit is mooted immediately, and the Government's motion to dismiss is granted. Poof.

25 September 2007

Blackwater Mercenaries Out!

I cannot for the life of me understand how it is that the killing of unarmed civilians last week by Blackwater mercenaries in Iraq has not produced (1) an official condemnation and 'statement of regret,' at least, from the U.S. Government; and (2) an outpouring of condemnation from the U.S. Public, accompanied by a demand that the use of lawless mercenaries be first reined in, then ultimately eliminated, from any ongoing or future U.S. military involvement on foreign soil.

The use of mercenary troops by the British was one of the justifications for the American Revolution, lest we forget. Their use by the current administration in Iraq, like many of their other war policies, is despicable and unAmerican.

19 September 2007

My letter to both senators and Congressman re: no extension of FISA expansion and no retroactive immunity to telecoms

Dear Senator Feinstein/Senator Boxer/Congressman Berman:

I am writing to urge you to OPPOSE any extension of President Bush's previously and rightfully ILLEGAL use of warrantless wiretaps without court supervision; and further, to urge you to STRONGLY OPPOSE any retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies for their violation of then-existing law in the period 2001-2005 or at any other time.

It is vital that the secret usurpation of the rule of law by this White House be resisted, and that a strong message be sent that violations of the law will not be retroactively condoned.

I am of the view that this President, his Vice President, and others in the administration, should have been, and still should be, impeached for the clear commission of numerous felonies in connection with illegal wiretapping. But, AT THE VERY LEAST, it is vital that secret unconstitutional surveillance be stopped, and that those who violated the law be held to account.

Thank you.

David Studhalter

17 September 2007

My letter to Glenn Greenwald, how about some commitments to demand from presidential candidates?

Mr. Greenwald,

I'd like to suggest that you would be an ideal person to formulate and explain a list of ten or so commitments which voters should demand of candidates for president (of both parties, but particularly Democrats), to reverse some of the worst excesses of the present administration. Things like: no warrantless wiretapping without compliance with FISA; no more signing statements asserting the right to act above the law; full compliance with the War Powers Act in spirit and letter, restoration of habeas corpus and endorsement of the right not to be held without due process, etc. You, much better than I, can think of and prioritize what's really important.

I fear that many of Bush's 'unitary executive' powers will be more than comfy for Democratic presidents in the future unless it's made clear to them now that the people want their Constitutional government back. It seems to me a little holding of their feet to the fire, demanding that they commit now to reversing these horrible developments, is in order.

Thank you.

14 September 2007

Pathetic, W.

Josh Marshall about says it all with regard to the now completely pathetic explanations for the failed war coming out of President Bush's mouth:

Like I said, whatever. I know this reads like an expression of cynicism or disengagement. But while the president's chatter, with its brainlessness and brazenness, drives many to distraction, I think this is the only appropriate response. Anyone watching what's happening can see that what the president is talking about bears no relation to what's actually happening in Iraq -- a fact well confirmed by the fact that polls show no change in the public's take on what's happening in response to the president's speech. Primitive animals will sometimes keep chattering or twitching their muscles even after their heads have been cut off. And that's probably the best analogy today to the president's continuing enunciation of his policies.

The president's continuing power as commander-in-chief, behind a wall of 1/3+ support in the Congress, is key. His arguments aren't. They have simply predeceased his presidency.

The sad thing about all this is the victims: soldiers still dying and being injured for no legitimate American interests, Iraqis who by now would, on the whole, have been better off had we never been involved there, and the absolute fiasco that is American foreign policy and damage to its repuation in the world for decades to come.

Bush already setting up Dolschtoss

Here's the conclusion of Krugman's column today (unfortunately behind Times Select wall):

Here’s how I see it: At this point, Mr. Bush is looking forward to replaying the political aftermath of Vietnam, in which the right wing eventually achieved a rewriting of history that would have made George Orwell proud, convincing millions of Americans that our soldiers had victory in their grasp but were stabbed in the back by the peaceniks back home.

What all this means is that the next president, even as he or she tries to extricate us from Iraq — and prevent the country’s breakup from turning into a regional war — will have to deal with constant sniping from the people who lied us into an unnecessary war, then lost the war they started, but will never, ever, take responsibility for their failures.

Only a right-wing ideologue could disagree with this, I'd say. But in actual fact, they fully intend to use this Big Lie in the future to try to shift blame for 'losing the war' to Democrats.
-- * Dolschtoss (n. -Ger.): 'a stab in the back.' Used by Nazis as a code word for alleged betrayal by Weimar liberals in acquiescing to Versailles strictures, among other things.

12 September 2007

Moveon.org: General "Betray Us" and double standard in political rhetoric

Glenn is absolutely right that there's a huge double standard in the "permissible" rhetoric of pro-war and anti-war politics. When Fox News' most rabid right-wing loudmouth hosts (or fawningly approved guests like Michael Reagan) do things like call for Howard Dean to be "arrested" and "hung for treason," everybody just chuckles at the rhetorical excess, but when an anti-war ad refers to General "Betray-Us" in reference to the general's demonstrable deliberate political shilling for the administration and its failed policy, and in reference to the cooked numbers in his testimony before Congress, which are deceptive in a deliberate effort to influence policies that the majority of Americans now believe will harm America's interests, even the "liberal media" (like Time's Joe Klein) gets all in a lather about the "grave slander."

Slander (or libel), it should be pointed out, requires untruth, and opinion isn't slander. I read the moveon.org ad. Whatever you think of the use of the loaded pun (at worst, in my view, dumb because it stirred up a pointless controversy)... it isn't slander. We do still have a First Amendment in this country, at least for the present.

23 August 2007

Seriously, how can we NOT impeach this President?

This (quoted in full below) is as good a brief explanation as you’ll find of exactly how the President, by his own admission, condoned and/or ordered the commission of innumerable felonies by secretly subverting and massively violating the existing FISA law during the period 2001–2005, including by pressuring telecommunications companies to do so. Whatever you may think of the ambiguous changes Congress has since made to this law (in my case, rank horror), the fact remains that this occurred, and it is admitted. If you have enough faith in “leaders” to think this is OK... we’ll just let it go this time, next time how ‘bout letting us know in advance?.... you sure have a lot more trust in the essential goodness of American politicians, and a lot less belief in the checks-and-balances system of the Constitution that served us pretty well before this century, than I.

I doubt any of my farflung correspondents entirely buys the Administration’s Unitary Executive theory, which essentially says what Nixon said during the Frost interviews in 1977, ‘when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.’

So, doubters: since it was unquestionably illegal, and kept secret from the people and Congress, I have to ask: exactly how can this be tolerated in a society supposedly ‘of laws, not of men’? What rational reason can there be not to impeach this president? Please? Anyone?

If you answer, because it can't be done, politically, OK, but I disagree. We cannot let this stand without at least registering that it was fought against with all we had. We've already wasted two years.

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell yesterday gave a strange and rambling interview concerning the new FISA amendments, and several commentators -- including Spencer Ackerman, Digby and Jeralyn Merritt -- have discussed various oddities in what he said. I want to focus on a different, and I think highly revealing, aspect of his remarks.

Unintentionally, McConnell articulated what is an unusually clear and straightforward explanation as to the state of federal law regarding eavesdropping on Americans by our government -- unusually clear particularly for a Bush official, but even in general. McConnell explained:

"The reason that the FISA law was passed in 1978 was an arrangement was worked out between the Congress and the administration, we did not want to allow this community to conduct surveillance, electronic
surveillance, of Americans for foreign intelligence unless you had a warrant, so that was required."

That is exactly what happened, and the NSA scandal has always been, and always will be, this simple and crystal clear. In 1978, the American people responded to the discovery of decades-long abuses of secret eavesdropping powers by making it a felony for any government official to eavesdrop on Americans without a warrant. What McConnell describes an "arrangement worked out between the Congress and the administration" is what most people call a "federal law," but McConnell's basic point -- that "we did not want to allow th[e intelligence] community to conduct surveillance . . . of Americans . . . unless you had a warrant, so that was required" -- is exactly correct.

But in 2001, George Bush ordered the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans in violation of that very law, and continued to do so for the next five years at least. Bush ordered the NSA to commit felonies; we now that he did so; and nothing has happened. It is and always has been as clear as it is extraordinary.

Equally extraordinary is McConnell's admission -- which marks, I elieve, the first time this has been acknowledged -- that private telecommunications companies enabled this lawbreaking by giving the administration access to the conversations of Americans with no warrants:

"Now the second part of the issue was under the president's program, the terrorist surveillance program, the private sector had assisted us. Because if you're going to get access you've got to have a partner and they were being sued."

McConnell went on to explain that the number one priority for the administration regarding FISA now is to demand that Congress make further FISA revisions by providing retroactive immunity to the telecom companies to ensure that there are no consequences from their breaking of the law:

"Now if you play out the suits at the value they're claimed, it would bankrupt these companies. So my position was we have to provide liability protection to these private sector entities. So that was part of the request. . . . The issue that we did not address, which has to be addressed is the liability protection for the private sector now is proscriptive, meaning going forward. We've got a retroactive problem. When I went through and briefed the various senators and congressmen, the issue was: all right, look, we don't want to work that right now, it's too hard because we want to find out about some issues of the past. So what I recommended to the administration is, 'Let's take that off the table for now and take it up when Congress reconvenes in September.' . . . No, the retroactive liability protection has got to be addressed."

Think about how amazing this is. McConnell clearly described that in 1978, we enacted a law prohibiting warrantless eavesdropping; the Bush administration broke that law repeatedly; and the telecommunications companies actively participated in that lawbreaking.

And now -- as a matter of national security -- the Bush administration is demanding that Congress pass a new law declaring that telecom companies are immune from any and all consequences -- both civil and criminal -- in the event they are found to have violated the law. It is hard to imagine open contempt for the rule of law being expressed more explicitly than this.

What possible reason is there to protect anyone -- including telecom companies -- with a special law enacted to declare that they are relieved of all accountability for illegal behavior? And the premise of this argument is even more dangerous than the conclusion: it is all premised on the claim that these companies were only acting at the behest of George Bush, and therefore were entitled, even obligated, to do what they did. In other words, the President has the power to order private actors to break the law and when those orders are obeyed, the
private actors are immune from the consequences of their lawbreaking, because they acted at the Leader's behest.

That government officials like McConnell feel so comfortable openly admitting that the government broke the law, obtaining amendments to legalize that behavior after the fact, and then demanding immunity for the lawbreakers, demonstrates how severely the rule of law has been eroded over the last six years. It is not hyperbole to say that government lawbreaking has become formally legitimized.

So much of this is due to the profound failure of the media and our various "experts" simply to state the basic facts here -- that it is a felony to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants and yet that is what the Bush administration did. Instead, we have self-proclaimed "experts" like the Brookings Institutions' Benjamin Wittes trying to show how smart and thoughtful and knowledgeable he is (and explicitly describing himself this way) by writing in The New Republic articles claiming that these matters are far too complicated for even the most thoughtful experts (like him) to understand, let alone the hordes of simpletons acting as though they know Bush did anything wrong here by breaking the law.

Bush-defending Beltway elites have continuously clouded what is a clear issue of lawbreaking by engaging in all sorts of ill-informed "hand-wringing" and obfuscation masquerading as angst-ridden, Serious deliberation. Hence, as always, we have had two types of opinions dominating our mainstream discourse on the issue of patently illegal eavesdropping: (1) hard-core absolute Bush apologists, and (2) those whose overriding goal is to demonstrate how reasonable and thoughtful and Serious they are by stressing how important it is to fight The Terrorists and how complex and serious and terribly difficult and therefore murky these issues are. Mike McConnell therefore knows that he can expressly admit lawbreaking and demand immunity for it because there will never be any clear voices condemning it.

In the wake of the debacle of the Democrats' FISA capitulation, many
angry Bush critics have focused on the 6-month sunset provision in order to hope that Democrats will allow this law to lapse. That will never happen. Why would it? The administration will simply use the same Terrorist fear-mongering rhetoric and Democrats will respond in exactly the same way. Why would anyone think it will be any different in six months?

The real open issue is not whether the Democratic Congress will un-do the damage they have done. The issue, as McConnell makes clear, is whether the Congress will submit to still further administration demands by granting retroactive immunity to all lawbreakers (governmental and private lawbreakers alike). That is plainly what the administration is after, and it is hard to have much hope that they will be denied what they seek. McConnell's comments yesterday suggested strongly that Democrats were prepared this last round to include immunity, but only requested more time to determine how best that should be done and to obtain some information they have sought about past eavesdropping ("the issue was all right, look, we don't want to work that right now, it's too hard because we want to find out about some issues of the past").

Basically, then, the administration's posture towards Congress is now this: "we have been refusing to provide you any information about what we did over the last six years, and we will provide you some of that information only on the condition that you agree to provide full immunity for the consequences of any lawbreaking." Between (a) the Democratic Congress completing its capitulation to the administration's demands by granting full immunity and (b) reversing themselves on FISA after the 6-month period elapses, it hardly requires much consideration to know which is the far more likely outcome.

Glenn Greenwald

22 August 2007

Greenwald: Congress unpopular because they aren't doing what we want them to do

Glenn is in particularly fine fettle today and yesterday. He argues persuasively that the usual right-wing mantra about the Democratic Congress being almost as unpopular as Bush is total nonsense. The reason the Congress is polling low, as he proves with targeted poll questions, is that Democrats themselves are angry at Congress, but not for failing to "cooperate" with Bush, but for failing to stand up to him, and in particular for failing to end the War. Today's post elaborates that the usual conventional wisdom that Americans dislike investigations is in fact, just plain not true.

Now, it's become clear that many Congressional Democrats intend to give heart to the Republicans and vote to 'stay the course'... prolonging the War even further. These people just don't get it. By a large majority Americans want them to defy the Administration and get out of Iraq. If they don't do it, they will continue to be reviled and despised.

I just hope none of the Democratic presidential candidates... like Hillary Clinton, who seems to be drifting in this direction, misreads the Washington tea leaves yet again and ends up supporting some kind of continuing presence in Iraq, because they gotta know it'll never be over till we decide it's time for it to be over, and undergo whatever hardship is involved, and just get out.

How hard is that, really, to understand? Not very, since about 70% of the electorate gets it perfectly fine.


17 August 2007

R.I.P.: Right not to be imprisoned without trial; 1215-2001

Greenwald makes the excellent point that the Padilla guilty verdict, although dubious and certain-to-be-appealed due to the long history of extralegal procedures (including, unquestionably, torture) carried out against him, actually demonstrates the fallacy of the Bush administration's rationale for keeping executive imprisonment without charges: once they finally did charge him, he was convicted, so the claim they made that it was "too dangerous" to try him is obvious nonsense.

Elsewhere, Glenn has pointed out that the right to be charged with a crime, and not to be imprisoned merely at the whim or accusation of the king, has been Anglo-Saxon law since the Magna Charta. It was, in fact, one of the key provisions of that document. (In case you've forgotten, the MC dates from 1215, when the nobles forced King John the One and Only to sign it at Runnymede).

The Bush administration still claims the right to do this, upheld by an extremely right-wing Fourth Circuit panel. Supreme Court review will eventually occur, so there's hope for the restoration of our 800-year old rights.

**Please!** Don't misinterpret the above to be some kind of defense of Padilla. I'm not defending him. But the rights demonstrably guaranteed in law since long before the American constitution, and systematically violated by this Administration, must be protected. And if there is anyone who still claims, 'yeah, but it's wartime, and rights are always suspended in wartime,' I would ask that person to seriously ask himself if he really believes that this kind of war would ever end.


14 August 2007

Response to Patriotic Rap Video

I received a link from a relative to a patriotic rap on u-tube, by a "bad-ass" African-American marine who celebrated the patriotic willingness to sacrifice by fighting for our country. (Sorry, no link). This is my response.

I appreciate this because Americans need to be reminded ... frequently ... that only a small group of people are willing to actually serve the nation in the military. We treat our military without nearly enough honor, especially in the way they are underpaid and receive inadequate services, despite taking risks and suffering death and injury at rates that most Americans would never voluntarily accept. That's one of the reasons why I am a strong supporter of much better pay for our military, including Guard and Reserves; more guarantees that they will not be aked to always bear the total brunt, being sent back over and over for repeat tours; more guarantees of support for themselves and their families, free education, and, especially, free medical care and adequate income for life if they suffer disabling injury. (Shamefully, reservists and national guard do not get medical care beyond two years). These are the kinds of things that brought on an era of robust prosperity and peace in the era after World War II.

But patriotic messages like the one you sent are sometimes misinterpreted as endorsement for policies which, I believe, have not only unnecessarily put servicemen and women in harm's way without their being a compelling national interest for doing so, but have actually made our country less, not more secure. Support for the troops is the right thing to do... it's also right to ask the people to sacrifice a little, at least, to make sure they are taken care of and supported in real, practical ways. But that doesn't translate to support for unwise policies that have involved America in an dangerous and ultimately counterproductive conflict in Iraq, and which seem poised to involve us in still more dangerous and unnecessary conflict in Iran and elsewhere. The military doesn't make policy, and it's a soldier's responsibility to carry out what he's asked to do; but unfortunately there is no guarantee that what they're asked to do is wise policy.

I think it's very sad that we seem to have become so determined to project military power against those who have not attacked us, nor threatened to attack us... even at the expense of prosecuting the just action against those, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, who actually did attack us. We may support international action against genocide, but we must return to a policy of aggressive diplomacy; aggressive peacemaking, first and foremost, with military action always a last resort, and only to protect the vital interests of the United States, never to project power or to try to remake the world in our image. "Blessed are the peacemakers," as the Christian prophet, Jesus, said. We must always look for ways to defuse conflicts; to remove from our own actions causes of conflict and hatred towards us and others; to prevent war rather than cause it. These are the responsibilities of civilized, moral human beings everwhere and always. And for the main part, our country has upheld these ideals better than most. But I think we need a new infusion of these goals and intentions, and a major rethinking of how we can attain them.

Categorizing people as "enemies" becuase of their religion, however dangerous some of their beliefs may be, isn't helpful. Sometimes conflict is inevitable, but great care must be taken to minimize our role in causing it. This is part of our responsibility, too, as people of peaceful religions (or ideologies), who hew to decency, universality, and virtue... not violence, oppression and exclusion, as our ideals. I fear that much of what has occurred since 9/11 has failed these tests. It's time for a completely new vision of where we're headed and how we can and should best relate in the world, including how to best respond to the real threats that do exist.

10 August 2007

Jane Mayer: Black sites

The extent to which, under this administration, we as a nation have lost our moral compass, is documented in Jane Mayer's excellent article in the New Yorker, available online. It is absolutely sickening to realize that we have come to this pass as a society. I would hope that every candidate for office in both parties will be relentlessly queried as to whether they will repudiate this kind of use of torture by American officials once and for all. If not, they should be shunned and shamed back into private life, where they should retreat to some hole somewhere, because I hold it as absolute: civilized human beings do not commit or tolerate torture.

08 August 2007

Warrantless Surveillance and National Security, a debate

In memory of Nagasaki, August 8, 1945; may it never happen again.

I've been in a dialog with a friend about, generally, the justification of illegal surveillance for national security. The debate spills over into the whole subject of credible threat of domestic major terrorism, and what's being done about it. Below is the last go-round in an e-mail exchange.

My friend:

I am not worried about ANY administration during a war spying or wiretapping those whom they believe are attempting to injure citizens. I really don't think that the administration or any administration for that matter NEEDS any'permission' to wiretap or spy on anyone they choose as they'll do it anyway and then deny it...so what else is new. It may be warrantless, but it isn't unwarranted in my opinion. If there weren't people trying to kill us at home, then I would feel as you do now...as I did during Nixon's administration, or the subsequent discovery of such things routinely happening. Those are wrong because they're not national security issues (even though they might say they are)....

and no...I really don't think I'm paranoid about their wanting to kill us here. So we'll just differ on that one and hope for godsake that such events never unfold here. Personally, I wouldn't take the risk...certainly history is on my side of this one.


I didn't mean to impugn your views as paranoid. Poor choice of words. I just meant that that particular fear, which has been much discussed (i.e., Musharraf falls, al Qaida takes over and gets Pakistan's nukes), fails to take a number of factors into account that actually make that particular outcome so unlikely that it isn't worth the time to worry about it. (Not that there aren't plenty of other security concerns to worry about; and not that a wise government wouldn't have contingency plans even for these less-than-likely kinds of scenarios; I hope ours does).

You're right, we'll have to agree to disagree. I don't discount that there is a significant danger of terrorist attack, but I also don't expect you to agree with me about my assessment of it and my views of what should be done about it. Because it's only natural that people with different perspectives will look at the same situation, and reach different conclusions.

But ask yourself. If this administration, with its supposed secret intelligence that we're not privy to, really believed, as you do, that the danger of nuclear or other grand-scale wmd internal terrorist attack is so extreme, as to justify throwing out the 4th amendment (because that's what they've done, among other abuses of power), wouldn't they take serious action on some other rather obvious fronts? Wouldn't they tell the shipping companies their bottom line is less important than security, so we're going to spend the money, and make some sacrifices in the free flow of commerce, to make ports secure? Wouldn't they make an energy security "Manhattan Project" a highest national priority, because independence from Mideast Oil is so obviously a longterm strategic imperative? Wouldn't they at least encourage American youth to join the military, instead of sending National Guard and Reservists, who don't even get lifetime medical care if they're injured, for two and three tours of duty? (When have you heard Bush or Cheney ask for any sacrifice?) Wouldn't they distance themselves (at least) from the regime in Saudi Arabia, which is clearly playing both sides? Wouldn't they focus their war on where the terrorists are, not on some failed neoconservative dream of Empire? Wouldn't they ask the American civilian population to make some sacrifices, instead of cutting taxes in "wartime" and running up the worst deficits in history? I just don't buy it. The danger is real, but not extreme, and, even if it were, it does not justify this abrogation of the constitution.

The "warranted" surveillance you're talking about can and should be done legally. I've never said we shouldn't pursue domestic intelligence. We have in place a system that allows for this, and the argument that it isn't working is, I'm convinced, entirely bogus. I've read reams about this subject, and I'm totally convinced that's true. When a government asks for and gets secretive powers it doesn't need and uses national security as a pretext, watch out. We've been down this road before, with some real ugly results. This will likely be much worse if it isn't reversed. And the effects will have nothing to do with national security.

OK, I know, you don't agree, which is fine. People differ. I listen to what you've said, and I read what you sent me to read, but I'm not convinced.

I mentioned (before and above) several things that are really, really obvious that we should do to increase our security from domestic terrorist attack. Until those things are done, I can't take the fear-mongering of this administration too seriously, because I don't believe they believe their own story line. It just doesn't add up. They're more interested in preserving their domestic political power and preserving right-wing government, and that's the real reason they want to trash the constitution.

And having reiterated all that, I'll concur, let's hope and pray it never happens. I don't believe this issue (illegal surveillance) has anything to do with preventing it, but to tell you the truth, the other failures I mentioned above actually do worry me quite a bit, and I have not seen any significant interest in addressing them to make us safer in either party. I hope the next administration, even if it's (oh, the pain! the horror!) Republican, will do something about those problems, which to my mind are far more serious issues of national security.

07 August 2007

Senator Feingold on Warrantless Surveillance Shame

Thank you, Russ Feingold:

"Six years ago, in the aftermath of 9/11, Congress rammed through the USA PATRIOT Act with little consideration of what that bill actually contained. Five years ago, Congress authorized a reckless and ill-advised war in Iraq. One year ago, Congress passed the deeply flawed Military Commissions Act. And late last week, a Democratic Congress passed legislation that dramatically expands the government's ability to conduct warrantless wiretapping, which could affect innocent Americans. It is clear that many congressional Democrats have not learned from those earlier mistakes, two of which happened when Democrats controlled the Senate. Once again, Congress has buckled to pressure and intimidation by the administration. . . .

"The American people see through these tactics, and don't buy the president's attempts to use the threat of terrorism to get what he wants any more. Unfortunately, 16 Senate Democrats and an Independent, as well as 41 House Democrats were all too willing last week to let the president successfully employ this ruse yet again. . . . After all the wrong-doing by this administration, it was disheartening to see Congress bow to its demands one more time."

06 August 2007

FISA "Reform:" In Memoriam 4th Amendment, R.I.P.

The Democratic-controlled (allegedly) Congress has capitulated to the Bush White House's demand that they abrogate the 4th Amendment by passing of Administration bill to legalize Warrantless Wiretapping. This is bad news, folks, even though the Mainstream Media has scarcely mentioned it.

Greenwald, of course, has written extensively on this subject, which is the main topic of his book How Would a Partiot Act? He has often pointed out that by giving in to fear-mongering over the potential for terrorism, we have repudiated the basic bargain Franklin referred to when he said "The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either." And what ever happened to the American society that heard another Franklin (FDR) remind us that fear is itself to be feared, for it can defeat us more easily than external enemies.

One more nail in the coffin of American representative government, a sick puppy indeed by this time.

At one time, I would have been confident that the Courts would not let this obviously unconstitutional legislation stand, but now, I feel no such confidence.

Requiescat in pace, O Constitution. Maybe someday a reformed court will say no to this. Otherwise, a basic bill-of-rights principle of the constitution will have been scrapped for good.

30 July 2007

O'Hanlon and Pollack not credible cheerleaders

Read Greenwald's critique of O'Hanlon and Pollack's non-credibility as cheerleaders for the New Way Forward. My comment, as posted:

I think the point Glenn makes at the end of Update (II) is important. As I read the main piece, I was thinking that some would criticize the analysis because almost everything quoted from O'Hanlon was from 2003, when many people were taken in by the War fever and believed that the whole mess would end well. But it's well worth noting that O'Hanlon and many other early-on war boosters only started criticizing the war policies when it was inescapably obvious that things were going badly, i.e. after the Spring of 2004.

I think Glenn's thesis is fundamentally sound: that people who demonstrated extremely poor judgment, understanding, and foresight n the first year of this war, when many others saw reality far more accurately, have no credibility to lecture us now on how we should be giving the policies of this administration yet one more chance to defy reason and the obviously untenable situation there, and snatch victory from failure.

26 July 2007

Very Scary: Blumenthal's Unauthorized Visit to the Christians United for Israel Convention

This is really, really scary. Notice how the so very moderate and serious Sen. Lieberman embraces this lunatic Hagee and has nothing but nicey nice words for extremist former Sen. Rick Santorum (forntunately dumped in the 2006 election). (Includes video).

Medical Care for Wounded War Veterans

I listened to the piece on NPR this morning on care for returning war veterans with unbridled horror. I suppose I was somewhat negligently ignorant, but I did not know that reservists and National Guard troops only received two years of medical care, regardless of injury.

This is a terrible, really horrible, national shame. Congress must correct this travesty immediately. Anyone who serves in combat and suffers injury is owed medical care for life, among other benefits. At minimum. I just can't conceive of anyone seriously maintaining otherwise.


I favor impeachment of V.P. Cheney and President Bush, immediately. Obviously, it must be both, as the supposed model of a "unitary" executive, ironically, is actually a dual presidency unprecedented in U.S. History.

I cite Reagan administration Asst. A.G. Bruce Fein's explanation, now given in numerous sources for those interested, as the most cogent statement of the case I've seen. See this, for perhaps the best source (in discussion with The Nation editor John Nichols).

I note that Josh Marshall, of TPM, has now drifted close to endorsing the idea. I want to point out that one of Marshall's arguments contra, i.e., that there are just not going to be 17 Republican senators* to convict no matter what, is completely unpersuasive to me. (*18 really, because Old Joe will never join the Dems).

I agree with Bruce Fein that impeachment is a necessary function envisioned by the founders to be used in precisely the kinds of 'abuse of power' scenarios as we are currently living through. The reason the unlikelihood of conviction should not deter Democrats is that it is largely the very challenge of impeachment, never mind conviction and actual removal from office, that will have a nullifying effect on the extremely dangerous precedent being set. Marhsall says it clearly enough himself:

"I think we are now moving into a situation where the White House , on various fronts, is openly ignoring the constitution, acting as though not just the law but the constitution itself, which is the fundamental law from which all the statutes gain their force and legitimacy, doesn't apply to them.

"If that is allowed to continue, the defiance will congeal into

This, of course, is also why just waiting out the end of the Bush term is not sufficient. Even if a Democrat replaces this administration, the precedent of this devastating and breathtaking abuse of power will have a serious, possibly irreparable, damaging effect on the 'living constitution.' With many Federal courts, and now the Supreme Court, dominated by 'unitary executive' extremist ideologues, the effect will be amplified and our country could be changed for the worse forever. I also disagree with the often-expressed view that the Democrats will alienate newly won independent and moderate Republican voters by focusing on impeachment rather than "the business of government."

First, Democratic leaders must lead. They must demand that the media give them the opportunity to say why they are doing it, purchasing time on television with campaign funds if necessary. The must make the case to the people. Second, I believe that even many so-called moderates now have a profound sense of unease at the rampant abuses of power in this administration. This unease can be influenced by leadership and advocacy to become support for impeachment, and for a "new way forward" in our country (never mind Iraq). Third, and perhaps most tritely, what business of government? Virtually nothing is being done, with the obstructionism of the Republicans in the Senate, other than maintaining the status quo. (For example, the antiquated and damaging policies bundled in the Farm Bill up for renewal currently).

Many so-called conservatives, of course, like this just fine, as the status quo, an unprincipled set of policies favoring wealthy special interests that keep them in office, is exactly what they want to maintain.

It seems to me that impeachment, although surely risky, would galvanize the issues and very possibly shake loose some of the Republican support for the president, when it becomes clear, as I believe it would, that a largish majority of Americans is thoroughly fed up with this administration, and worried about its long term consequences for our nation. Of course, there is risk. But there is also opportunity. Accepting the status quo, in my view, and "waiting it out," will virtually guarantee that the damage already done will continue to reverberate with negative consequences for a long, long time.

24 July 2007

Congress should enforce subpenas against Bolten and Miers now

Please see this piece in today's Post by Rutgers Law School constitutional scholar Fred Askin, on why the Congressional committees seeking to enforce subpenas against Bolten and Miers should forget about seeking the assistance of the Justice Department, since the administration has already made known it will follow the erroneous reasoning of the Reagan area attorney general opinion that says they don't have to comply with that request. This article explains not only why that isn't the only option, but exactly how the Congress can proceed to enforce its subpenas itself, through direct use of contempt citations, and imprisonment of the defiant witnesses until they cooperate.

OK, Congressional Democrats, quit yapping and take action to enforce the proper powers of the Congress, now.

13 July 2007

Hey, Whaa? NEW war authorization?!

This is from the NYT today, an article about Lugar and Warner seeking a "new war authorization:"
The Senate was already scheduled to consider a variety of proposals next week, including one by Senators Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, seeking to de-authorize the original war authorization. That proposal, though, is not favored by the Democratic leadership because several senators who voted against the 2002 authorization are reluctant to endorse a new one.

EXCUSE ME? Hey, Dems! What part of the overwhelming message of the 2006 election, that the American people want this war to END, as soon as is feasible, DID YOU NOT UNDERSTAND???

Get this: we expect you to take action, whatever it takes, however it may be possible, and keep at it until you succeed, in fulfilling this mandate. No new war authorization has any role to play in accomplishing this. And if you are even considering authorizing any further military adventurism by this proven-unreliable bunch in the White House, you not only aren't doing your jobs, you should have your heads examined. Byrd and Clinton have it right, de-authorize. But then, no new authorization. Make this war unquestionably illegal, then we'll see what the Decider thinks he has the power to do.

31 May 2007

Fred Thompson, Dangerous Extremist and Hypocrite

Just in case, please see this, in the unlikely event that anyone didn't already realize that Fred Thompson holds dangerously extreme right-wing views, has a long history as a corporate and foreign-government Washington lobbyist (perhaps a tad inconsistent with his "folksy" red-pickup truck image), and is a complete hypocrite as a Vietnam era draft evader now trumpeting "military toughness;" and as a serial divorcé with a trophy wife 25 years younger than he trumpeting "traditional family values."

It is only through the massive ignorance of the public* and deliberate media eye-aversion that people like this can get away with running for office in this country, when their chief qualification is that they play an obnoxious autocrat on TV. I'd say the central thesis of Al Gore's new book The Assault on Reason is pretty obviously bang-on right.

Link: http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/05/31/thompson/index.html
*Unrelated, but if you have doubt that Mencken was right about the ignorance of the masses, consider this. According to a survey cited on the CBC radio show Testing Science (a lecture by Harvard historian of science Steven Shapin), nearly 1 in 4, 24%, of the U.S. public recently surveyed did not know that the earth goes around the Sun.

21 May 2007

More congressional oversight needed

This is my comment on Glenn Greenwald's post today.

17 May 2007

Marty Lederman on Comey: How Bad it must have been

Marty Lederman: How bad it must have been <Link>.

Greenwald says WaPo editorial shows Warrantless Surveillance Finally Coming to fore

Glenn Greenwald today (May 17) again focuses on the Comey testimony and the Warrantless Surveillance scandal, saying that the May 17 WaPo editorial is an indication that the importance of this issue is finally coming to the fore.

[ http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/05/17/nsa_follow_up/index.html ]

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Warrantless Surveillance -- Constitutional Crisis

Farflung correspondents,

It does not yet seem to be the consensus in this country that the undeniable willingness and history of this administration to act outside, indeed in clear violation, of the law, and to stonewall and keep in secrecy such actions, is a constitutional crisis. I believe it is. The warrantless surveillance of American citizens in the US, in blatant and unambiguous felony violation of FISA, which is still going on, is probably the chief, but by no means the only, example. Differing views of the proper powers of the presidency go all the way back to the Federalist papers, and the trend, certainly since WWII, with some reining back after Watergate, has been more and more towards a view of the executive as a sort of elected King, especially in the foreign policy and war powers arenas. But this administration, has gone far, far beyond any previous view of the powers of the presidency, and has all but declared, in various signing statements, public prevarications, and simply by refusing to answer inquiries even of the Congress, that it can do whatever it wants, without reference to the laws Congress makes, whenever it, in its own unreivewed and unchecked judgment, decides that somehow or other "national security" is involved.

This is a horrible, horrible precedent, and I truly believe that if the Democratic Congress fails in its oversight responsibilities on these issues between now and the end of this president's term, this precedent will have the effect of grossly weakening the separation of powers which are the very essence of our system of government, for a long time to come if not permanently.

Please read Gleen Greenwald's piece (5/16/07), on the importance of the Comey testimony to Congress yesterday and the very sorry state of affairs with respect to oversight and action on the clearly illegal actions of this administration with respect to warrantless domestic surveillance.

I hope it's not necessary to reiterate, but I will anyway: The question is not whether particular surveillance was necessary, or whether the administration's aggressiveness in spying on potential terrorists was admirable. The fact is we have a system in place to allow this kind of surveillance, with legal oversight and within the law. With the amendment to FISA in 2001, the government can conduct surveillance without court order for 72 hours, and can easily obtain a warrant to continue it within hours. The FISA court has never refused a warrant for domestic wiretaps, and is available to rule on short notice. The fact is inescapable: the check on executive power of even this all but pro forma oversight is seen by the Unitary Presidency true believers in this administration as an unacceptable limit on the President's kinglike powers, so they insist on the right to conduct these actions, in secret, without recourse, without anyone's right to know, and in completely clear and blatant violation of law. The suspicion is very, very hard to escape, that they wanted and seized these powers because they acutally conduct all kinds of surveillance for other reasons, on a massive scale, and don't want anyone, not even a Federal judge whose job it is, primarily, to rubber stamp approvals for surveillance, to know what's going on.

10 April 2007

Democratic Congress Should Stand Up to Bush

Speculation on last night's Countdown with Keith Olbermann centered on the reason for Carl Levin's signaling that the Democrats in Congress will cave on Iraq funding: that the Democrats don't want to "own" the Iraq issue, they prefer to give Bush what he wants and let him have full responsibility for the consequences of the continued occupation.

I think this is cowardly, even if it is good politics (which I concede it may be). Too many lives are at stake. Bush's arrogant stance, effectively saying that Congress' only responsibility is to agree with him and pony up the money, just can't be countenanced. (Perino as much as said exactly this yesterday). Bush wants Democrats in Congress to come to the White House so he can lecture them and harangue them into capitulating. They should say, no, thank you, Mr. President. We will meet with you to negotiate a resolution of this issue, not to be dictated to. If you cannot move towards accommodating the clear will of the American people, we have nothing to talk about. The funds are appropriated, with the conditions imposed which reflect the desires of the majority of Americans. Deal with it.

The leadership should send the president an open letter, and use some of their leftover campaign funds to publish it in newspapers around the country. It should say clearly that the American people want this occupation to end, that continued funding of the occupation forces will not be forthcoming without provisions for ending the occupation, and if the president chooses to veto the funding measure, the consequences are on his head. It should call on the American people to make clear to this rogue administration, with calls, letters, and e-mails, that this is in fact the will of the people, which the president must accede to.

UPDATE: This is what Sen. Reid actually said:

"The American people want the President and the Congress to work together to bring this war to an end, safely and responsibly. Congressional Democrats are willing to meet with the President at any time, but we believe that any discussion of an issue as critical as Iraq must be accomplished by conducting serious negotiations without any preconditions. Our goal should be to produce an Iraq supplemental bill that both fully funds our troops and gives them a strategy for success.

"With his threat to veto such a plan for change in Iraq, President Bush is ignoring the clear message of the American people: we must protect our troops, hold the Iraqi government accountable, rebuild our military, provide for our veterans, and bring our troops home.

"The President is demanding that we renew his blank check for a war without end. Despite the fact that the President persists in trying to score political points at the expense of our troops, congressional Democrats have repeatedly reached out in the spirit of cooperation. We renew our request to work with him to produce a bipartisan bill that provides our troops and our veterans with every penny they need, but in turn, demands accountability."

This isn't quite strong enough, to my mind, but it's a start. As I've said before, though, it's time to explicitly revoke the 2003 Iraq War resolution, and make it clear that the president's policy of indefinite occupation of Iraq will become illegal after a certain date, to be specified.

04 April 2007

John Edwards' Statement on Bush plan to veto funding for military

From Edwards's website.
John Edwards Calls On President Bush To Take Responsibility For The Consequences Of His Veto Threat On Iraq

"If President Bush vetoes funding for the troops, he will be the one who is blocking funding for the troops. Nobody else.

"Now is not a time to back down; it is a time for strength and conviction. The President's veto threat should only strengthen our resolve to stand by our troops and end this conflict.

"The Congress should make absolutely clear that they are going to stand their ground, supporting the troops and reflecting the will of the American people to end this war. If the President vetoes a funding bill, Congress should send him another bill that funds the troops, brings them home, and ends the war. And if he vetoes that one, they should send him another that does the same thing."

03 April 2007

An Open Letter to the President

Dear Mr. President:

I am very, very disappointed in the stance you have taken on the Iraq funding Supplement, as indicated by your press conference this morning. I am particularly disappointed by your bellicose name-calling and refusal to even acknowledge the will of the majority. You blame the representatives of the people for voting the way the last election clearly indicated the people want their Congress to vote: to begin to bring to an end the occupation which has emerged from the war in Iraq, which you started on false pretenses. The people have spoken, and they demand that your protracted war, with no end in sight, to fight the wrong enemy at the wrong time for the wrong reasons, must come to an end.

You claim, against all evidence, that the people are with you. But you are wrong. By a significant majority, the American people want this useless, baseless war ended. It seems that only you, and others so isolated in their blind support of you that they cannot see the evidence before their eyes, continue to believe a majority still supports this war.

More disturbingly, you seem to fail to grasp the essential principles of American government. Foreign policy, especially military policy, is ultimately decided by Congress in our system. The power to declare war is explicitly reserved in the Constitution to the Congress. The practice since World War II of ceding this power to the presidency with “resolutions,” or sometimes simply acquiescing in the illegal usurpation of this power by presidents, without any authorization, has proven unwise and dangerous. The Iraq occupation proves this yet again.

Regardless of the appropriateness of war-by-resolution, it should be clear that when the Congress unambiguously votes to bring a military operation to an end, as it has here, the permission given to the president in some past resolution is revoked, and his failure to comply with the express wishes of Congress is unlawful usurpation of powers he does not have. I only wish this Congress had made even clearer that the 2003 resolution, passed as it was on the basis of misinformation and deceit, is now revoked. But how you can conclude that the Congress continues to authorize the indefinite continuation of this occupation is beyond me. Apparently, you do not consider yourself answerable to the electorate, or the Congress, at all.

If funds are ultimately denied for the continued military occupation of Iraq, it will be because, and only because, you have refused to accept the clear will of the people and their representatives, in appropriating funds conditioned on the commencement of the process of disengaging from this war of occupation.

You are not the Emperor of America, sir. You are the servant of the people, whose will you are now openly and dangerously defying. This is shameful, illegal, and very, very dangerous.

I hope you will reconsider your reckless disregard for the principle that government of the United States is by consent of the governed. I hope you will sign the appropriations supplement bill when it comes to your desk, and begin, as is your real job, executing the instructions of the people’s representatives, which are clear: you are to end the occupation of Iraq and bring the troops home.

David Studhalter

Update: Glenn Greenwald's related comments on Giuliani's scary views on presidential power.

26 January 2007

McCain votes with Wingers to Eliminate Federal Minimum Wage

In my ongoing campaign to get Americans to wake up and realize that Saint John McCain is a right winger, not a moderate, please note that he was one of 28 Wingnut Senators to vote to eliminate the Federal Minimum Wage entirely.

12 January 2007

The Escalation, a set-up

Take a look at this. [Sullivan]

President Bush has less respect for the constitution than any president in living memory: of that, I'm sure. He is probably also overall the least honest. (Nixon lied about everything, but I think this one takes the cake).

10 January 2007

My e-mail to John McCain

I sent this to John McCain's Contact point on his website:
Dear sir:
With all due respect, it is one thing to say, 'I recognize
what polls show the public predominantly wants in Iraq, but I believe what I've proposed is what's right, and it's the policy I intend to fight for.'

That I could respect. Disagree with, but respect.

But to claim, as you have done, that the re-election of Mr. Lieberman "proves" that the American people do not favor expeditious extrication of American forces from Iraq is either dishonest or simply ignores reality. Numerous recent polls have shown that a significant majority of Americans want just that, and exit polls in Connecticut showed that only 15 percent... FIFTEEN... favored sending more troops to Iraq. A recent Salt Lake City Observer poll showed that even a majority of Utahns favor orderly withdrawal.

Stand up for what you believe, if you think it's the right thing to do, but don't pretend it's not a minority view. To do so is either dishonest or foolhardy.

08 January 2007

Working Harder for the Man / Bob Herbert NYT

Robert L. Nardelli, the chairman and chief executive of Home Depot, began the new year with a pink slip and a golden parachute. The company handed him a breathtaking $210 million to take a hike. What would he have been worth if he’d done a good job?

Data recently compiled by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston offers a startling look at just how out of whack executive compensation has become. Some of the Wall Street Christmas bonuses last month were fabulous enough to resurrect an adult’s belief in Santa Claus. Morgan Stanley’s John Mack got stock and options worth in excess of $40 million. Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs did even better — $53.4 million.

According to the center’s director, Andrew Sum, the top five Wall Street firms (Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley) were expected to award an estimated $36 billion to $44 billion worth of bonuses to their 173,000 employees, an average of between $208,000 and $254,000, “with the bulk of the gains accruing to the top 1,000 or so highest-paid managers.”

Now consider what’s been happening to the bulk of the American population, the ordinary men and women who have to work for a living somewhere below the stratosphere of the top corporate executives. Between 2000 and 2006, labor productivity in the nonfarm sector of the economy rose by an impressive 18 percent. But workers were not paid for that impressive effort. During that period, according to Mr. Sum, the inflation-adjusted weekly wages of workers increased by just 1 percent.

That’s $3.20 a week. As Mr. Sum wryly observed, that won’t even buy you a six-pack of Bud Light. Joe Six-Pack has been downsized. Three bucks ain’t what it used to be.

There are 93 million production and nonsupervisory workers (exclusive of farmworkers) in the U.S. Their combined real annual earnings from 2000 to 2006 rose by $15.4 billion, which is less than half of the combined bonuses awarded by the five Wall Street firms for just one year.

“Just these bonuses — for one year — overwhelmingly exceed all the pay increases received by these workers over the entire six-year period,” said Mr. Sum.

In a development described by Mr. Sum as “quite stark and rather bleak for the economic well-being of the average worker,” the once strong link between productivity gains and real wage increases has been severed. The mystery to me is why workers aren’t more scandalized. If your productivity increases by 18 percent and your pay goes up by 1 percent, you’ve been dealt a hand full of jokers in a game in which jokers aren’t wild.

Workers have received some modest increases in benefits over the past six years, but most of the money from their productivity gains — by far, it’s not even a close call — has gone into profits and the salaries of top executives.

Fairness plays no role in this system. The corporate elite control it, and they have turned it to their ends.

Mr. Sum, a longtime expert on the economic life of the American worker, said he is astonished at the degree to which ordinary workers have been shortchanged over the past several years. “Productivity has been exceptional,” he said. “And for most of my life, the way to get wages up was to be more productive. That’s how our economy was supposed to work.”

The productivity gains in the go-go decades that followed World War II were broadly shared, and the result was a dramatic, sustained increase in the quality of life for most Americans. Nowadays workers have to be more productive just to maintain their economic status quo.

Productivity gains are no longer broadly shared. They’re barely shared at all.

The pervasive unfairness in the way the great wealth of the United States is distributed should be seen for what it is, an insidious disease eating away at the structure of the society and undermining its future. The middle class is hurting, propped up by the wobbly crutches of personal debt. The safety net, not just for the poor, but for the middle class as well, is disappearing. The savings rate has dropped to below zero, and more Americans are filing for bankruptcy than for divorce.

Your pension? Don’t ask.

There’s a reason why the power elite get bent out of shape at the merest mention of a class conflict in the U.S. The fear is that the cringing majority that has taken it on the chin for so long will wise up and begin to fight back.