The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Kangaroo Court

Kangaroo Court Watch

When the US military captured Saddam Hussein, the Bush Administration embarked on a grandiose scheme to have Saddam convicted and executed by an Iraqi court. They figured that this way, they could control the court, ensure that only information that painted the US in a good light was released, and make sure that Saddam was convicted and executed in a rapid manner.

Unfortunately – like so many other Bush Administration schemes – the kangaroo court that they envisioned has seriously backfired.

First off, no Iraqi court can possibly satisfy all three major ethnic groups in the country. The oppressed Kurds and Shiites hate Saddam, and the Sunnis were the ruling party under his leadership and generally revere him. It seems impossible that a judge from any one of these groups could possibly be impartial -- yet this is the plan that the US concocted.

In the approximately three months since the trial started:

Two defense lawyers were assassinated;

The chief judge inappropriately commented on Saddam’s demeanor and attitude, saying that he appeared defeated and morose;

A judge resigned after learning that he may be related to one of Saddam’s victims;

The chief judge resigned, right in the middle of the trial;

The replacement chief judge kicked a defense lawyer out of the court;

When the rest of Saddam’s lawyers protested, they were also replaced – against the will of Saddam;

The remaining judges tried to remove the replacement chief judge;

Saddam has been allowed to speak whenever he wants;

Saddam has been able to claim that the US soldiers imprisoning him have abused him (Not that anyone would possibly believe such a wild, unlikely, incredible, and far-fetched claim – soooooo similar to evidence of abuse in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo);

Saddam has been prevented from seeing or knowing the identity of his accusers; they are hidden behind a shower curtain;

Judges have complained that the US is interfering in the trial (on the prosecution side);

Critical witnesses have gone “walkabout” on religious pilgrimages when they were supposed to be at trial.

Any of these would be more than sufficient grounds for a mistrial, yet – oh so surprisingly – none have been declared. Although I hold no love for Saddam – the golem created by Reagan the Just’s and Bush the First’s presidencies – justice will not be served by having him executed by a kangaroo court. Such a move will only inflame the Sunnis, make a martyr out of Saddam, and lead to greater civil war.

Indeed, former US attorney general Ramsey Clark, who is advising Saddam on his defense, has called for the trial to be abandoned, saying “There's too much violence in the country, there's too much division and too much pressure on the court. The project ought to be abandoned. It was a creature of the United States in the first place.”

Given the utter disaster that the Saddam trial has become, a mistrial should be declared and the trial should be moved to The Hague, where a real trial can be held, with real impartial judges and real defense attorneys. Only then, will there even be an appearance of fairness.

-John Locke

Censorship Watch

According to New York Times reporter, Andrew Revkin, the Bush Administration has been censoring scientists within NASA and NOAA. Not that this should be a surprise, because they have also muzzled the FDA and other governmental agencies; quotes from his article follow:

“The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt eductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists.

Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. "They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public," he said.

In several interviews with The New York Times in recent days, Dr. Hansen said it would be irresponsible not to speak out, particularly because NASA's mission statement includes the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet."

The fresh efforts to quiet him, Dr. Hansen said, began in a series of calls after a lecture he gave on Dec. 6 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. In the talk, he said that significant emission cuts could be achieved with existing technologies, particularly in the case of motor vehicles, and that without leadership by the United States, climate change would eventually leave the earth "a different planet."

The administration's policy is to use voluntary measures to slow, but not reverse, the growth of emissions.

After that speech and the release of data by Dr. Hansen on Dec. 15 showing that 2005 was probably the warmest year in at least a century, officials at the headquarters of the space agency repeatedly phoned public affairs officers, who relayed the warning to Dr. Hansen that there would be "dire consequences" if such statements continued, those officers and Dr. Hansen said in interviews.

The fight between Dr. Hansen and administration officials echoes other recent disputes. At climate laboratories of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for example, many scientists who routinely took calls from reporters five years ago can now do so only if the interview is approved by administration officials in Washington, and then only if a public affairs officer is present or on the phone.

Unbelievable, yet somehow… not. We are living in a country where our civil liberties are slowly yet inexorably being sucked away by this corrupt Republican administration and government.

-John Locke

Saturday, January 28, 2006

What is Wrong with the Republican Party?

What The Hell Is Wrong With Republicans?

Yesterday, the state legislature of Washington passed a bill that closed a loophole that allowed discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing and employment. The civil rights bill passed the Senate with a razor-thin 25-23 vote. The turning point came earlier this month when Sen. Bill Finkbeiner, a Republican, joined the Democrats.

“What the debate is about is whether it's OK to be gay or lesbian in the state,” Finkbeiner told his colleagues. “People don't choose this. People don't choose who they love. The heart chooses.” He was the only Republican to support the measure.

HE WAS THE ONLY REPUBLICAN TO SUPPORT THE MEASURE! First of all, Mr. Finkbeiner should be praised for having the courage to stand up and do what he thinks is right, even though the rest of his Republican colleagues were against him.

Second, the natural question that follows is: “What the hell is wrong with Republicans???” How can they be so hateful and bigoted? What is so wrong with protecting a minority in our society that only 1 of 24 Republicans (in a fairly liberal state) would to vote to protect them?

SHAME ON REPUBLICANS!!! Shame on Senators Benson, Benton, Brandland, Carrell, Deccio, Delvin, Esser, Hewitt, Honeyford, Johnson, Morton, Mulliken, Oke, Parlette, Pflug, Roach, Schmidt, Schoesler, Sheldon, Stevens, Swecker, and Zarelli for voting against the bill. Shame on Senator McCaslin for not voting.

Shame, too, on Senator Hargrove, the single Democrat who couldn’t muster up enough courage to vote for the bill.

But I have to ask: What is wrong with the Republican Party? Why do they hate people who are slightly different? Are they like the Grinch, with hearts “two sizes too small”?

I cannot believe that these people don’t know anyone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Indeed, some of their own colleagues are gay! So why do they hate? Alternatively, why are they so craven that they cannot stand up for what is clearly right?

Or, perhaps religion is to blame? Is the Christian religion so foul and corrupt that it is okay to HATE your neighbor? I don’t remember reading or hearing that Jesus Christ ever told people to condemn or hate gay people; in fact, I don’t think Jesus ever discussed homosexuality at all, except to tell people to LOVE thy neighbor!

So, what the hell is wrong with Republicans? Please, someone answer me.

-John Locke

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Alberto Gonzales and the Spymasters

Spying Watch

I am very angry. Alberto Gonzales, the Attorney General of the United States, has been lying his @ss off.

Last week, Gonzales issued a 42-page attempt at back-justifying the administration’s spying on Americans without obtaining warrants. (Remember, this is the same Alberto Gonzales who advocated using torture on “detainees”). This week, Mr. Gonzales is running around making so many false statements, it makes my head spin.

Speaking at Georgetown University law school, Gonzales claimed that a 15-day grace period allowed warrantless eavesdropping under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) demonstrated that Congress knew such surveillance "would be essential in wartime."

THIS IS A LIE. Actually, what the FISA law demonstrates, that except for the first 15 days after war is declared, even in wartime, warrantless eavesdropping is NOT allowed. FISA does allow the government in extreme circumstances to obtain a retroactive warrant a maximum of 72 hours after the eavesdropping occurs, but it does not allow the executive branch to spy on Americans without a warrant. PERIOD.

Gonzales also claimed that the legal standard the administration uses in deciding whether to carry out surveillance on Americans is “equivalent” to the standard required for complying with the Fourth Amendment, which bans unreasonable searches and seizures. Gonzales claimed that the reasonable standard basis, “is essentially the same as the traditional Fourth Amendment probable cause standard.”

THIS IS A LIE. On Monday, Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, the principal deputy director of national intelligence, publicly stated that “the trigger is quicker and a bit softer than it is [with FISA].” If the trigger is quicker and a bit softer, then the reasonable basis is NOT the same or equivalent to the Fourth Amendment probable cause standard.

Gonzales then went on to claim that “these press accounts are in almost every case, in one way or another, misinformed, confusing or wrong. And unfortunately, they have caused concern over the potential breadth of what the president has actually authorized.”

IS THIS A LIE AS WELL??? There is really only one way to tell – put Bush and Cheney and Gonzales and Hayden on the witness stand under oath and begin to ask them very simple questions. Questions like “Whom did the administration spy on?” Questions like “Did the administration spy on political opponents of the president?” Questions like “Did the administration spy on people who had no link whatsoever to Al Qaida?” Then compare their answers to subpoenaed documents that will undoubtedly prove otherwise.

While Bush is claiming that he “had all kinds of lawyers review the process” to ensure the warrantless spying didn't violate civil liberties or the law, a review of the comments by most of the experts on Constitutional law (ignoring spin-doctors from both parties) indicates that what Bush did was simply not legal.

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said that FISA's purpose “was never to grant warrantless surveillance for the war.”

Stephen Saltzburg, a law professor at George Washington University, said that Gonzales' comments do not explain why the administration doesn't go to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain warrants. “If they are using a probable cause standard, they would have no problem going to the FISA court,” said Saltzburg.

While Bush also claims that the 2001 resolution allowing Bush to use force in the anti-terror fight, wiretapping is not a “use of force” by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the administration approached Harry Reid and asked him to include a provision to allow warrantless spying and Reid refused.

I look forward to the impeachment of Mr. Bush, because that is the only honest thing that we can do at this point. It is time to defend the Constitution.

-John Locke

PS. I add this AP photo (taken by Charles Dharapak) of courageous students at Georgetown University law school, who apparently also believe that Bush broke the law and that Gonzales is simply not to be trusted.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Bin Laden's latest tape written in English, not Arabic, says expert

Former CIA employee Osama's (just WHEN was he taken off the payroll?) latest message provides some much-needed cover for the fear-mongers, war profiteers, and all those who have been working so hard (and profiting from ) the Israel/Palestine-ification of American relations with the Muslim world. In it, Osama threatens the US with more attacks, taunts Bushco a bit, and eventually offers a truce within Iraq and Afghanistan.

Weirdly, he mentions American domestic "opinion polls" at least twice. This is the first time I remember him talking about our political discourse and opinion polls. And wouldn't you know it? OBL agrees with all the people who think Iraq was a huge mistake and we should get out. He also specifically quotes Bush's "fight them over there so we don't fight them here" rhetoric, displaying an attention to American partisan political minutia that I don't recall reading about in his other tapes.

What a bit of good fortune for Mr. Bush. He thinks Iraq is going swimmingly, and can now point to the fact that anyone who disagrees with him shares a point of view with Bin Laden. How conveeeenient.

But here is something even more strange. Middle East politics expert (and presumed Arabic speaker) Mamoun Fandy declared on the PBS Newshour that the language of this tape sounds to him like the speech was written in English and then translated to Arabic.

MAMOUN FANDY: Right, but this particular tape is not terribly inspiring, just looking at the language of it. This is the first tape of bin Laden that has no single verse from the Koran. It does not have the flowery language of Arabic.

It seems to me that it is written in English first, and then translated into Arabic. It is very western style of tape. It is not very characteristic of bin Laden, at least it tells me that the non-Arabic speaking within the al-Qaida network are taking over the organization --

JIM LEHRER: You mean he didn't write this is what you are suggesting?

MAMOUN FANDY: The Arabic speakers in al-Qaida, the parts that are coming from the Arab world, are losing to the non-Arabic speaker, so it's really becoming more of a South Asian organization, rather than an Arab organization.

JIM LEHRER: Do you read it the same?

PAUL PILLAR: -- which may reflect his physical situation somewhere along that frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan where possibly his immediate entourage -- his staff, if you will are Urdu speakers or Pashtu speakers, rather than Arabic speakers, or at least part of them are.

Fandy's conclusion that the style of the speech, so different from all the other Bin Laden tapes, implicates bin Laden's Pakistani and Afghani staff (an implication that Pillar picks up on) does not agree with his earlier observation that the speech was written in English first and is "very Western".

So what's going on here? Just because bin Laden releases a tape which strengthen's Bush's rhetorical domestic position just before the Democrats begin having public hearings on the administration's warrantless wiretapping, and that tape seems to be of a speech written in English and then translated to Arabic, doesn't mean that Karl Rove wrote it and then faxed it to bin Laden. That's a conclusion we just don't have enough evidence to jump to here, though who among us is not cynical enough at this point to believe them capable of it?

Of course, the administration could never consider this tape as another likely possibility: a transparent bit of reverse psychology for the boy king. Keep taunting him, and Bush will continue to give bin Laden what he wants: continued wrecking of the American ship of state against the rocks of an intractable, illegal war, that drains our coffers, destroys our civil liberties, splits our political unity, and creates worldwide empathy for bin Laden's cause.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Abramoff scandal for dummies

I found this excellent graphic on DU. It shows why Democrats using legal campaign donations from tribes are not equal to Abramoff scamming money out of tribes to his "charities", which then got funneled to people like Tom Delay's wife, etc. Use this whenever someone starts slipping into a media-fogged "the Abramoff scandal is bi-partisan" fugue.

Congress says: insider trading laws are for thee, not for me

If you've ever owned stock in a company that you worked for, and have had to endure one of those insider trading training seminars, you know how intimidating they can be. Consulting companies are paid big bucks to come in, and with a few short powerpoint presentationgs, scare the bejeezus out of you. Essentially, the message is, if you work at a company, don't buy or sell the company's stock at any time. If you buy some, and the price goes up, the FEC will investigate you for insider trading. If you sell some, and then the price goes down, same thing. It doesn't matter how small the potatoes are. And they can throw you in jail or fine you huge amounts of money, and, according to the consultants, the burden of proof is on the employee to prove that they _didn't_ know something unknown to the general public. Those tough, tough guys at the SEC were really protecting the integrity of the market, I tell you.

My conclusion at the end of the last one of these sessions that I had to go to was that you are better off not owning any stock in your own company, than having to deal with the restrictions they recommend.

Now, here's something pretty outrageous. It turns out that people in Congress have no such restrictions whatsoever. If they know that a particular company is going to get a huge windfall in government contracts, they are free to run out and buy up big hunks of it before the public is aware of the situation. Likewise, they can short a company at any time, and then be a part of the legislation which would end their government contract. Wow, isn't that special? Gee, it kind of makes it seem like someone could get rich from working in Congress; and that our markets are being heavily gamed.

Most really succesful fund managers only manage to beat the market by about 3% or so. But studies have shown that US Senators do much better than that. See "Enter senators, and returns go sky-high":

They are US senators who, when they are not doing their day job running the country, are rather talented at investing. Senators beat the stock market annually by 12 percent on average, the first comprehensive study of share trading by members of the US's upper house has found.

That is an impressive performance, as fund managers are thought to have the Midas touch if they regularly outperform by about 3 percent, and even hedge funds - which charge steep fees for performance - are now on average only 6 percent better than the market.

"Capitol gains":

That the senators have done this without a hint of censure shouldn’t come as a surprise. Corporate insider trading is illegal, in theory, but prosecutions are rare. Economists have known for a long time that corporate insiders outperform the market by something like six or seven per cent a year. The only way they could pull that off is by trading on privileged information.

and "Senators' Stocks Beat the Market by 12 Percent"

First-time Senators did especially well, with their stocks outperforming by 20 per cent a year on average - a result that very few professional fund managers would be able to achieve.

So, though this behavior appears not to be illegal (amazing!), it does reek of poor ethical behavior. I realize that will not stop anyone. But it also appears that the offices of Delay and Frist were also passing this information on to favored brokers. And that may in fact be illegal. So, it isn't enough for these GOP congresscritters to enrich themselves unfairly at the expense of average investors. They also had to use this information to reward others in on the big scam. Nice.

The government wants to Google us

The San Jose Mercury news prints today that a federal judge has, on behalf of the Bush maladminstration, requested to collect one week's worth of Google searches. The stated reason?

The move is part of a government effort to revive an Internet child protection law struck down two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law was meant to punish online pornography sites that make their content accessible to minors. The government contends it needs the Google data to determine how often pornography shows up in online searches.

Right . . . the government just can't figure out how many times pornography shows up in online searches. (Answer: probably quite a lot).

And they couldn't, for example, just do their own tests, like enter a few million more or less random searches and count what they find there. No, instead they want to see what actual people are actually searching for. And link identities with searches. Because that will make us safer from porn, or something.

According to the article, Google is not complying. But who knows if this is true? Can Google stand up to the regulatory and enforcement pressures of the federal executive? And Google is only the most visible case, being the biggest search engine. You have to assume that other companies, which are well known both for violating their customers privacy and for quid pro quo relations with the federal government (I'm looking at you, Comcast), have already given this information up. (Edit: I was right, and had missed this sentence the first time through the article: "The government indicated that other, unspecified search engines have agreed to release the information, but not Google." Of course.)

Note also that the government isn't claiming that it is demanding this information to enforce a law. There is no law to enforce. The "child protection law" figleaf was defeated. But they still want the information to see if the law would have been a good idea?? Or something.

Clearly, what they want is all information about everyone. They tap our phones, they monitor the internet, they scan our email. They open private mail.

If the "War on a Method" doesn't work to justify their open assault on the Bill of Rights, they will employ a "war against little kids seeing breasts". Who can argue? If you don't give up your rights, they will say, you are pro-terrorist and pro-children with porn.

We can hope that Google continues to resist this clear attempt to destroy their users' privacy. But the power of a single company to defeat the government in which they operate only comes through honest courts. Maybe the ACLU can help. (I'm a card carrying member, too).

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What Is the ACLU?

Reality Check: What is the ACLU?

The fundamentalist wing of the Republican Party (including conservative commentators and Fox "News") spends a lot of time maligning the ACLU.

Bill O'Reilly states, "No organization in America enables terrorism as much as the ACLU, period."

Jerry Falwell stated that "The ACLU has got to take a lot of blame for [9-11]"
Ann Coulter writes, "ACLU and ABA Would Protect WTC Terrorists From U.S. Eavesdropping"

The American Legion claims that the ACLU wants to "destroy American values at taxpayer expense."

Columnist Alan Sears writes that the "American Civil Liberties Union is lost in the woods without a compass. A moral compass, that is."

Marine Major Rick Erickson stated that "To be sure, groups like the ACLU are domestic enemies of the United States."

Trent Lott has stated, "Most politicians run around worried about civil libertarians and being sued by the ACLU."

Rush Limbaugh recently pontificated, "It is the people versus Hollywood and the ACLU…. We've got memos from the judiciary committee staff showing us that these groups own the Democrats, these groups are radical leftist groups."

Wow! Reading these quotes, you would think that the ACLU was one of the most diabolical organizations that is allowed to exist in America. You might even conclude that the ACLU is a bunch of terrorists!

What is the ACLU really? Actually, the ACLU is one of the most misunderstood and indeed misrepresented organizations in America. The ACLU is the American Civil Liberties Union.

According to their website, the ACLU's mission is the following:

"The American system of government is founded on two counterbalancing principles: that the majority of the people governs, through democratically elected representatives; and that the power even of a democratic majority must be limited, to ensure individual rights. Majority power is limited by the Constitution's Bill of Rights, which consists of the original ten amendments ratified in 1791, plus the three post-Civil War amendments (the 13th, 14th and 15th) and the 19th Amendment (women's suffrage), adopted in 1920.

"The mission of the ACLU is to preserve all of these protections and guarantees:

1. Your First Amendment rights-freedom of speech, association and assembly. Freedom of the press, and freedom of religion supported by the strict separation of church and state.

2. Your right to equal protection under the law - equal treatment regardless of race, sex, religion or national origin.

3. Your right to due process - fair treatment by the government whenever the loss of your liberty or property is at stake.

4. Your right to privacy - freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into your personal and private affairs.

The funny thing is that the ACLU is so serious about its mission that it even defends its critics! The ACLU has defended Rush "Oxycontin" Limbaugh against inappropriate use of his medical records during his recent prosecution, and the ACLU joined with the "Reverend" Jerry Falwell in support of his lawsuit against a Virginia law that regulated how much property a church can own.

The ACLU sponsors lawsuits against teaching creationism (a.k.a. intelligent design) in PUBLIC schools. But the ACLU would just as readily challenge a law that prevented a PRIVATE school from teaching creationism if they so desired.

The ACLU also sues the various branches of federal, state, and local government when they overstep their authority. For example, the ACLU recently sued the NSA to stop them from spying on Americans without first obtaining warrants -- something reminiscent of the Vietnam War era.

The ACLU is at the forefront of defending the liberties and freedoms enjoyed by Americans. The ACLU is what makes and keeps America great. This is why I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. I urge you to join the ACLU as well; in this time of increasing fascism, they could really your help.

-John Locke

PS. If you have ever watched the movie The American President, one of the defining moments in the movie is when the President Andrew Shepherd, played by Michael Douglas, finally responds to criticism that he is a "card-carrying member of the ACLU."

I have included a link to the soundtrack and a transcript of the speech.

Reporter: Robyn, will the President ever respond to Senator Rumson's question about being a member of the American Civil Liberties Union?

President Shepherd: Yes, he will. Good morning. [Members of the White House Press Corps begin to rise] It's alright. Please keep your seats. Good morning.

For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being President of this country was, to a certain extent, about character. And although I've not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I've been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character.

For the record, yes, I am a card carrying member of the ACLU, but the more important question is "Why aren't you, Bob?" Now this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question, why would a senator, his party's most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the constitution? Now if you can answer that question, folks, then you're smarter than I am, because I didn't understand it until a few hours ago.

America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours." You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Staggering Success of the Cheney/Rove Presidency

Going over the list of disasters, failures, blunders, scandals, and woes of the last 5 years makes it clear that the Chimperial Presiduncy has been a monumental horror for the vast majority of Americans. Our government is poorer, we're more scared, we have fewer rights, we're tangled in a never-ending "war" deliberately started by our government so that it could grab up more power for itself. Study after study shows that we are physically no safer than we were before 9/11, and as the article below shows, if something really bad does happen again, we are basically screwed. Our rights of assembly, freedom of the press, free speech, freedom from illegal search (not to mention our implied right to privacy), have all been severely diminished. Even habeus corpus has been suspended for a few of our lucky fellow citizens.

Yet, watching our leaders conduct themselves before the public, you'd think nothing was wrong. "Stay the course!" they smile. "We're turning the corner in Iraq," they suggest, all evidence to the contrary. They seem quite pleased with themselves and the job they are doing, which gives people who are paying attention a real sense of cognitive dissonance. Can they really think they are doing a good job? we wonder.

Based on what we would assume they want for our country: safety, stability, economic robustness, solvency, allies, freedom, a healthy press, an educated citizenry, etc., it's clear they are failing miserably, and should walk around with their heads hung in shame.

But the disconnect is that they obviously don't share those goals.

Poster mike_c at Democratic Underground has put his finger on exactly what I have been feeling for a long time:

Consider the possibility that the Bush presidency is wildly successful, rather than the abject failure we've all thought. Consider the possibility that it might in fact be one of the most successful presidencies of the last half century. It's all a matter of perspective.


Near the end of Confessions of an Economic Hitman, John Perkins, who was an insider in the seamy marriage of the military-industrial complex and international development banking for many years, says "things are not as they seem." Here's a short list of the way things are:

  • In terms of foreign policy, the Bush administration has declared a vague "war on terrorism" that can be fought anywhere in the world, and is a cover for a perpetual state of war-- genuine shooting wars, rather than euphemistic wars like the "war on poverty." This enhances and consolidates the power of the executive branch considerably, and for the foreseeable future. The first genuine front in this "war" was Afghanistan-- a country whose ongoing occupation, aside from not going well at all, demonstrates the underlying intention to maintain an empire under strict U.S. economic and military hegemony.

  • The U.S. has undertaken the weakening, and perhaps ultimately the destruction, of the United Nations, the only international governing body with the street cred to organize opposition to the imperial ambitions of the United States.

  • Bush weaseled and manipulated the press, the popular sentiment, and the U.S. Congress into supporting an apparent military misadventure in Iraq, ostensibly to counter the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's leadership. That threat is now broadly understood to have been wildly exaggerated-- in truth, utterly lied about-- but the lies about Hussein began during the 1990's and were perpetuated during the administrations of the two previous presidents as well. Bush simply capitalized on them after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. The war against Iraq has resulted in:

    • War crimes accusations. At its heart, the war against Iraq is a war of aggression, by definition a crime against humanity under international law-- the law embodied in the Charter of the U.N., which Bush has hobbled by appointing a thinly disguised toady as his ambassador.

    • The deaths of many tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and several thousand American (and allied) service persons, mercenaries, and civilians. It has also resulted in the utter destruction of Iraq, which was once one of the best developed, most secular societies in the Middle East.

    • Saddam Hussein, who rebuffed U.S. efforts to enmesh Iraq more deeply into indentured servitude to U.S. development banks and the MIC for decades, has been deposed, discredited, and awaits certain execution at the hands of his own countrymen. He has been replaced by a provisional government that is entirely beholden to the U.S., not only for its continued existence, but for the very lives of its members. That government has already accepted enormous financial "assistance" from the U.S., and with it the obligations for repayment and national servitude-- the U.S. will directly control Iraq's economy for many years. This has long been a goal of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East-- Bush has achieved it.

    • Iraq is fractured along ethnic and sectarian lines, to the point of possible civil war. This further weakens its ability to deal with the U.S. military occupation and economic control. The threat of escalating civil strife is already cited among the rationales for continuing the U.S. occupation.

    • The U.S. has full military and economic control of one of the largest remaining oil reserves in the world. It can effectively challenge OPEC. Recall that Iraq was one of the driving forces behind the 1973 oil embargo.

    • Congress has appropriated $251 billion dollars (accurate as of October 2005) for the war against Iraq, approximately $233 billion of which have been spent. The larger "war against terror" has consumed some $350 billion dollars. Most of that money has been transferred directly to the budgets of a dozen or so major U.S. engineering and military service companies, whose top executives have long moved freely between government executive branch posts and corporate directorships, or to the Pentagon-- the other component of the MIC. This has been an unbelievably successful transfer of wealth, a windfall of epic proportions, with virtually no oversight. It has been accompanied by exactly the sorts of corruption that Perkins describes in Confessions, with king's ransoms simply disappearing from the vaults of Iraqi provisional government ministries. The transfer of wealth has been so loose that astronomical sums are simply gone and unaccountable, as though they were carried away in the backs of black SUVS. Many undoubtedly were, but that's chump change compared to the windfall that the robber barons in the U.S. have billed through "legitimate" channels. This alone makes the Bush presidency highly successful from their perspective.

    • The Pentagon has eclipsed the State Department as the primary office for implementing U.S. foreign policy. This keeps the oligarchs of the MIC in control of the future-- and remember, they slip back and forth at will between their corporations and the executive branch-- and relegates the career diplomats to service as waterboys and bad news messengers. The Pentagon is in the process of establishing itself as an alternate to the intelligence gathering services as well.

    • An insurgency against the occupation of Iraq maintains the chaos which partly justifies the U.S. occupation for the Congress and U.S. citizenry, maintaining the illusion of a just war.

    • U.S. control of Iraq is key to dominance in the Middle East. Iraq is like a keystone in the map of the region, with borders on Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, and Turkey. The U.S. is building huge permanent military bases in Iraq, and plans to build the largest embassy in the world in Baghdad. This will put the entire Middle East firmly under the U.S. boot heel.

    • The U.S. military presence in Iraq and in the Gulf states will finally eclipse the power sharing arrangements between Washington and the House of Saud, which have always been just too much a case of having all our eggs in one ugly basket.

  • The power of the executive branch is eclipsing that of Congress, which has been largely complicit in this process, and the courts, which are falling to the appointment of toadies who will guarantee their future compliance.

  • Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the invasion of Iraq and a full member of the MIC corporation-executive branch-Pentagon cabal, has been appointed chairman of the World Bank, one of the chief instruments used by the U.S. to enfold developing nations into long term indentured servitude.

  • The petroleum market has been destabilized to a greater extent than during any administration since the early 1970s, and the cost of crude oil has climbed precipitously. Concurrently, petroleum industry profits have grown to obscene heights.

  • Domestically, the U.S. has enacted new laws concentrating authority into arms of the executive branch, and extending that authority considerably under the supposition of "wartime necessity."

  • U.S. tax policy has shifted blatantly in favor of the wealthy and of corporations at the top of the food chain, including the pharmaceutical industry, the petroleum industry, and the MIC robber barons.

  • The most abusive elements of capitalism-- the ones Adam Smith warned about-- are running amok. The disparity in compensation between the average top executives in the U.S. and the average non-executive worker has climbed to something like 475:1, while in countries like England, France, and Sweden it's 24:1, 15:1, and 13:1, respectively (paraphrased from memory).

  • The social safety net has been dramatically slashed, with even more drastic cuts still on the horizon-- this redirects funds from social programs to tax savings for the wealthy on the one hand and further corporate enrichment on the other. The oligarchs benefit tremendously, while the poor fall deeper into destitution.

  • Congress is largely compliant, or distracted by its own partisan squabbles.

  • The Supreme Court is increasingly stacked with philosophical cronies of the robber barons.

OK, this is getting long, so I'm going to post it as is, in hopes that others will add to it and that discussion will flesh the thesis out further. The point I'm trying to make is that if you you follow the money and the power, as Perkins obliquely suggests, it begins to look like many of the Bush administration's abject failures have produced tremendous windfall benefits for a small ruling class of MIC oligarchs and their corporations, and for the Pentagon. This is so consistent that coincidence seems unlikely. By these measures, the Bush presidency has been wildly successful. The robber barons are in charge, and they've taken off the gloves. The rape and pillage are progressing better than anyone could have ever imagined, and with control of the Middle East in the game, the future looks very bright for the oligarchs indeed. The rest of us are screwed unless we can bring about some really fundamental changes in the social compact between government and the people in our nation-- the Republic is falling before our eyes.

The only other thing I would add is that the administration is being wildly successful at framing our place in the world as being antagonistic with all muslims everywhere in the world. Surely that is a lucrative worldview for us to have, from the point of view of the war profiteers.

Pigs at the trough

RollingStone has an article this month about the incredible graft and corruption that is happening in the Department of Vaterland Security:

The most glaring example of the for-profit marketization of DHS came on September 26th, barely a month after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, when some 300 corporate lobbyists and lawyers assembled for the Katrina Reconstruction Summit to learn how they could cash in on the federal effort to rebuild New Orleans. Such how-to sessions are nothing new in Washington, of course, and private firms certainly have a major role to play in relocating the 1.5 million people uprooted by the worst natural disaster in American history. What was extraordinary about this particular summit, however, was that it was held not in some conference room at a Beltway hotel, but in an office building of the U.S. Senate. It was a seminar on profiteering, held on the grounds of the very institution to be plundered.

Bill Hoagland, a senior aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, was on hand to address the corporate consultants in the Hart Office Building that morning. Katrina spending, he told the assembled group, was likely to total no more than $100 billion. But spirits were running high, and the contractors had bigger dreams. Two hundred billion was more like it, said a representative of a D.C. law firm that specializes in federal contracting. Two hundred fifty billion, said another man from the same firm -- and "we all recognize that that might be a low estimate." But hell, why put a number on it? "Trust me," declared Edward Badolato, executive vice president of the Shaw Group, one of the nation's largest engineering firms, "there's going to be plenty for everybody down there."


The boundaries between business and government had been effectively erased in 2002, when Bush created the Department of Homeland Security. Although the administration initially opposed the idea of an umbrella agency to oversee domestic security after 9/11, it wound up staging a political coup by approving DHS on the condition that it be conducted as a massive merger-and-acquisition deal. In what amounted to a hostile takeover, the self-proclaimed "MBA president" stuffed twenty-two federal agencies and more than 183,000 government employees into a single, gigantic department committed to shifting as much work as possible from the public to the private sector.

Bush appointed inexperienced friends to top posts, outsourced essential government services to the party's corporate backers and gave anti-terrorism programs priority over everything else, including disaster preparedness. Homeland Security became the only federal agency ever designed to hollow out government and enrich an administration's corporate cronies. "It was a brilliant tactic," says Don Kettl, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. "The Bush administration used DHS to seize power."

You can read the rest, if you can stomach it. For my friends who have been warning me about government "outsourcing" to private industry for some time, you were absolutely right.

President Gore speaks

Gore gave a barnburning speech today decrying the domestic wiretapping program. CNN waited until the GOP had their rebuttal ready, then showed 10 seconds of Gore's speech. They then read a rebuttal from the RNC (longer than the clip of Gore's speech that they showed!) which accused Gore of being angry and bitter and wanting to hog the spotlight. Way to go, CNN! Your corporate masters are pleased.

But please do go and watch or listen to Gore's speech, which is at CSPAN.

Here is one link to a Real Media version of it.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Spitting on their graves

When I think about all of the women who marched and protested for women's rights, who were beaten and shunned and mocked . . .

When I think about all of the brave leaders of the labor movement, who pressed forward despite broken kneecaps and bludgeoned heads and assassinations and other violence from the bully-boys hired by management to keep them down as they struggled for workers' protections and decent pay and a reasonable work week and heath care . . .

When I think of all the women and girls who died or were maimed in back alley abortions, and all of the brave women who even now have to force their way through racketeering mobs to make their own reproductive choices . . .

When I think of all the confused young American kids fed to the German machine guns to prevent the spread of fascism . . .

When I think of all the people who braved lynchings and beatings and fire hoses and dogs to try to win equality under the law for people of all races . . .

When I think of the brave journalists who stood up to the Pentagon and the President and huge, well-connected corporations to expose the truth, despite death threats and firings, to maintain the importance of freedom of the press . . .

When I think of all the people who have taken to the streets, despite tear gas and billy clubs and horses and riot gear and domestic surveillance, to maintain the freedom of assembly and to send messages to their leaders with an urgency that emails and letters will never have . . .

When I think about all of these people, toiling, sweating, worrying, fighting, dying, the lost lives, the shed blood, the tears, the despair, and finally the triumphs in all they have done to make our lives, collectively, better . . .

AND THEN I THINK about the way the Democratic leadership, with its mumbling, bumbling, fumbling, stumbling, bloviating, clueless and feckless non-leadership is just going to lay down and let the modern day fascists roll right over them and take it all away, I just cannot stand it. Biden acts like the most important thing about the Alito hearings is the sound of his own voice and how much air time he gets. DOESN'T HE UNDERSTAND what is at stake here?

Doesn't the Democratic leadership understand that they are spitting on their graves, all of those people, who suffered to achieve a little balance between the haves and have nots, between the oppressed and the oppressors, between the rich and the poor?

What will it take to wake them up? We cannot just capitulate and let them fall from their own incompetence, as they so richly deserve, because we will all fall with them. Yet, when we prop them up, all they can muster is more of the same foolishness, lack of focus, lack of a sense of what is important.

There is a conversation in Washington going on now, between the ruthlessly evil and the hopelessly mediocre. And all we can do is watch in horror as the whole lot of them spit on the graves of our benefactors.

Monday, January 09, 2006

We're all worse off now

Thanks to Democratic Underground poster LynnTheDem for this amazing list of links which show all the "benefits" of the Bush regime, both to US citizens and to everyone else on this globe:


Iraq Worse Off Than When Saddam Was in Power /

Blix: Iraq Worse Off Now Than With Saddam

“Better off under Saddam”- The Iraqis admit

A woman's place is in the struggle: Iraqi women worse off under US-led Occupation

Iraqis: Worse Off Than Before the War?

Dean: Iraqi standard of living worse now

War left Iraqis worse off, says Short,12956,11783...

Iraq: The situation is worse than ever; Amnesty International

"Our Lives Are Worse Now"

child malnutrition rate doubled since bush's invasion

Iraqis 58 times more likely to die since bush's invasion

less oil & electricity since bush's invasion

less clean drinking water, sanitation, since bush's invasion

Iraqis Endure Worse Conditions Than Under Saddam

Iraq is Worse Off Than Before the War Began, GAO Reports

”We have a stronger jihadi presence in Iraq today than in March 2003,” noted Roger Cressey, the former director for Transnational Threats in Bush's National Security Council at a briefing at the libertarian Cato Institute earlier this week.

Americans & everyone else

Terrorism threat worse in wake of Iraq war

Iraq now terrorist central: analyst

Worldwide terrorism-related deaths on the rise /

US Losing the War on Terror in Iraq; The invasion of Iraq has increased, not decreased, the threat of terrorist attack

Occupation Made World Less Safe, Pro-War Institute Says

Iraq Invasion Hurt War on Terror

Musharraf: World more dangerous because of Iraq War

Blix Says Iraq War May Have Worsened Terror Threat

Poll: Aussies, Brits, Italians say Iraq war increased terrorism

Iraq intervention increased threat of terrorism

UK Government; Iraq war 'increased terror threat'

Iraq war has swollen ranks of al Qaeda,3604,10...

US State Department Corrects Report to Show Rise in Terrorism /

Iraq has become a terrorist spawning ground, CIA admits

Iraq Conflict Feeds International Terror Threat

Iraq now a terror training center

More comments from those in the know:

"Stand tall and publicly tell the America people the truth about another bad war that could well lead to another died-in-vain black wall. Or even worse."
-Col. David Hackworth

"Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."
-President GHW Bush, 1998;

"Do we really want to occupy Iraq for the next 30 years? …In Japan, American occupation forces quickly became 50,000 friends. In Iraq, they would quickly become 50,000 terrorist targets…. Nations such as China can only view the prospect of an American military consumed for the next generation by the turmoil of the Middle East as a glorious windfall."
-James Webb, former Sec. of Navy under Ronald Reagan, Decorated Marine Veteran

"We are about to do something that will ignite a fuse in this region that we will rue the day we ever started."
-Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, former Head of Central Command for U.S.

"A billion bitter enemies will rise out of this war."
- Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2003, Full page ad in Wall Street Journal by major GOP contributors

"Right now, the course we're on, we're achieving Bin Laden's ends…. I've never seen it so bad between the office of the secretary of defense and the military. There's a significant majority believing this is a disaster.

The two parties whose interests have been advanced have been the Iranians and al-Qaeda. Bin Laden could argue with some cogency that our going into Iraq was the equivalent of the Germans in Stalingrad. They defeated themselves by pouring more in there. Tragic."
-Gen. William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency

"The idea that this is going to go the way these guys planned is ludicrous. There are no good options."
-General Joseph Hoare, the former marine commandant and head of US Central Command

"No, I don't think we're winning. We're in trouble, we're in deep trouble in Iraq."
-Republican senator Chuck Hagel, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Update: Published, but hacked

So, my LTTE got into the paper but they edited it to make it read like a lobotomy victim wrote it. Here's what they published:

Cowards are eager to have government spy on them

America has been called the home of the brave. Recent letters to The News Journal suggest that cowardice has gripped the country. If our enemies hate us for our freedoms, then they must be smiling as they read how citizens offer to allow the president to spy on them, even illegally, if it will make us safer.

It's not at all clear that even with good intelligence this administration is competent to protect its citizens from harm, as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina made tragically clear.

Be brave and defend your liberties, even if you weren't using them anyway. If we offer up our liberty in return for safety, we will be neither the home of the brave nor the land of free. We will become a country of cowards, rushing into the arms of Big Brother.

Compare that to the original.

I guess in the future I'll have to ask that they publish letters as is or not at all. Better that than have it hacked up by an editor with a tin ear. They removed the Patrick Henry quote (which I thought was the best part), removed all the words I used to link the thoughts smoothly together, and changed some things to make it just dumber - the "president" spying instead of parts of the federal executive, like the NSA.

I've had other LTTE's hacked up this way - it discourages me from writing more, when the ones they do publish make it sound like I'm pounding my keyboard with a rock. Blech.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Back to Spying

Spying Watch Continued

A recent poll indicates that only 56 percent of Americans value their privacy. A large number of people (42%) believe that the government should be allowed to spy on them without getting a court warrant. The remaining 2% are so braindead that they can't even figure out if they have an opinion. This makes me sick. As Benjamin Franklin once said: "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little safety will deserve neither and lose both." We are on the brink of losing civil liberties. Unless we speak up, we may lose the most important right of all - the right to privacy.

The Bush Administration has been spying on people. Without warrants. Which makes it ILLEGAL. It really is that simple.

Furthermore, Bush lied about it. On April 20, 2004, Bush made the following statement:

"Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."
I ask you to assess whether or not this was a lie. It really is that simple. In an election year, Bush lied about whether his administration was spying on people.

There exists the significant potential that this abuse of power has resulted in violation of civil rights. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Bush has become corrupted by all the power at his fingertips -- so much so that he feels he can spy on Americans without getting even a simple (and still secret) warrant.

Making this debate even more critical, is the fact that in 1984, Alito wrote a memo proposing blanket protection (absolute immunity) from lawsuits when authorizing wiretaps. ''I do not question that the attorney general should have this immunity,'' Alito wrote. The Supreme Court eventually ruled against Alito's position -- that the attorney general and other high level executive officials could be sued for violating people's rights via domestic wiretaps -- even in cases of national security... This is called a SYSTEM OF CHECKS AND BALANCES. Alito is so ultraconservative that he opposes checks and balances of the executive branch by the judicial branch! If Alito had his way, the government could abuse its power - spy on you without any cause - and you would have no legal recourse.

I defy anyone to show that Bush -- by his actions -- actually values the Constitution and actually values the Bill of Rights. I, for one, consider them priceless and I exercise them every time I write a column for this blog.

-John Locke

THIS is why I love Dean

Via CanOFun via Atrios, comes this video of Dean finally getting a chance to say what needs to be said: the Abramoff scandal implicates the GOP, not the Democrats. Abramoff himself never gave a dime to any Democrats, and though various Democrats are wussily busy "giving back" supposedly tainted money this week (one of my own Senators gave more than he needed to to some charity), I CAN'T believe the Democrats are this stupid.

For every Democrat that gives money back, it's like admitting they did something wrong. Most of them only took money from Abramoff's clients. It works like this: an Indian tribe hires Abramoff to lobby for them, gives him a bunch of money, and also gives money to GOP and Democratic Congresscritters. Abramoff screws the tribes, plays them off against each other, rips them off, chuckles to his associates about how he is ripping off the "troglodytes", and finally gets caught.

Democrats took money from Abramoff's VICTIMS, not Abramoff's MACHINE. And the Democrats (apart from Dean) seem to be rushing to act guilty about it. How could career politicians be so stupid about politics?

Anyway, watch the video. Dean finally gets a chance to tell the truth on TV (after weeks of all the talking heads going on about how "this is a Democratic scandal too!") and leaves Wolf Blitzer, who never met a GOP talking point that wasn't falling repeatedly from his presstitute lips, frustrated and mumbling "hamanahamanahamana".

Friday, January 06, 2006

The sound of a thousand GOP undershorts being soiled

attends this little item:

Disgraced Congressman 'Wore a Wire

Washington's power players have always bragged about being well-wired, but for disgraced former congressman Duke Cunningham, "wired" wasn't just a figure of speech. In a week when legislators are focused on the question of who else might be brought down by ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s cooperation with prosecutors as he seeks lenient sentencing over his two federal guilty pleas this week, sources tell TIME that in a separate investigation, ex-Rep. Cunningham wore a wire to help investigators gather evidence against others just before copping his own plea.

Sources familiar with the situation say Cunningham, a California Republican who pleaded guilty Nov. 28 to taking $2.4 million in bribes — including a yacht, a Rolls Royce and a 19th Century Louis-Philippe commode — from a defense contractor, wore a wire at some point during the short interval between the moment he began cooperating with the feds and the announcement of his guilty plea on Nov. 28.

The identity of those with whom the San Diego congressman met while wearing the wire remains unclear, and is the source of furious — and nervous — speculation by congressional Republicans. A Cunningham lawyer, K. Lee Blalack, refused to confirm or deny the story, and wouldn't say whether Cunningham will implicate any other members of Congress. The FBI is believed to be continuing its probe of defense contractors involved in the Cunningham case. An FBI spokesman declined comment. Asked whether Cunningham, an ace Navy fighter pilot decorated for his service in Vietnam, had worn a wire, the spokesman said the response from a higher-up was, "Like I'd tell you."

Uh oh!

Whom should we audit today? Tough one. Hmm, let me see . . .

Yesterday, the IRS revealed that it was going to remove political party affiliation information from its database of taxpayers. This caused many people to say, "huh?", as yesterday was also the first time that it revealed that it had gathered such information.

And make no mistake, this information was "gathered". It didn't just come along for free with the tax returns. Party affiliation information is state information, and the feds had to hire outside contractors to associate taxpayers lists from state information with federal returns. In other words, they were working hard on this. The information was gathered for taxpayers in 21 states, including Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

The deputy commissioner of the IRS claimed that the IRS doesn't use such information because that would be illegal. He really used that argument, swear to god, even in the face of laws meaning nothing to this administration. Here's the quote:

"However, the IRS makes no use of any information related to political party affiliation because IRS rules prohibit such usage," he wrote. "The only portion of voter registration information that is used relates to the voter's address."

Wow, I'm so relieved. Gee, I wonder why they were gathering the information, then, if they weren't planning to use it?

This humongous potential for abuse (do YOU think this administration would use the IRS to punish its political opponents?) was exposed by the union of treasury workers. Good old unionized civil servants, much maligned as they are, are still looking out for the people in this country.

Here's another article:

Kelly said the collection of such data was even more troubling because the IRS intends to start using private collection agencies later this year to go after back taxes.

“We think Congress should suspend IRS plans to use private collections agencies until these questions have been resolved,” she said.

This one has more GOP humor:

IRS officials acknowledged that party affiliation information was routinely collected by a vendor for several months. They told the vendor last month to screen the information out.

“The bottom line is that we have never used this information,” said John Lipold, an IRS spokesman. “There are strict laws in place that forbid it.”

Ha ha, make them stop, they're killing me. Love the logic: it's illegal, therefore we couldn't have done it!

Let's see if it gets published

My letter submitted to our local paper today:

America has been called the home of the brave. Recent letters to the News Journal suggest, however, that cowardice has gripped the country. Patrick Henry’s famous quote, “Give me liberty or give me death!” has been replaced by “Please take away my liberties, because I’m scared to death!” If our enemies “hate us for our freedoms”, then they must be smiling as they read out citizens’ offers to allow the federal executive to spy on them, even illegally, if it will make us “safer”. It’s not at all clear that even with good intelligence, this administration is competent to protect its citizens from harm, as both 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina made tragically clear.

I urge all citizens of this country to be brave and defend your liberties, even if you weren’t using them anyway. Loyalty to your President can be a good thing, but you dishonor all of the brave people who have struggled and died for our freedoms when you throw them away. If we offer up our liberty in return for safety, we will be neither the home of the brave nor the land of free. We will become instead a country of cowards, rushing into the arms of Big Brother.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Wiretapping their enemies

So, we know that the court which was handing out warrents for federal wiretaps was very nearly a hollow rubberstamp, that they were essentially an empty shell that approved nearly every request that came their way from the executive. If the request could be in any way tied to a justification that had to do in some way with counter-terrorism, it was full steam ahead.

Yet, the Cheney/Rove administration deliberately chose to ignore judicial oversight and wiretap whoever they wanted anyway. The ONLY conclusion that can be drawn from this (besides wanting to flip "checks and balances" the bird) is that their wiretaps were on people who could not be tied to counter-terrorism.

What kind of wiretaps would a court likely not approve? Well, we can speculate quite broadly about that. I imagine that a court, even a highly partisan court, would not approve of the Bushies wiretapping political opponents. That would clearly be done only for partisan purposes, not for "security". Also, most wiretapping of media figures would also probably be denied, as this constitutes a threat to the mostly fictional free press.

Therefore, we must conclude that Cheney and Rove were wiretapping their political opponents and memebers of the media. Why else would they bother to break the law when legitimate wiretapping is so easy and legal? I challenge this administration to prove otherwise.

The NY Times, that bastion of liberalism (ha ha), knew this was going on and sat on it for a year. Thanks for holding their feet to the fire, NY Times! They apparently did this so that one of their reporters, James Risen, could write a book about domestic spying. Risen is now on his book tour promoting his product, and we'll see if this book was worth the US not knowing that Bushco was using warrentless wiretaps on us for over four years.

In an interview with Risen on Tuesday, Andrea Mitchell implied that veteran reporter Christiane Amanpour, had been wiretapped:

Mitchell: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?

Risen: No, I don't. It's not clear to me. That's one of the questions we'll have to look into the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I don't know the answer to that

Mitchell: You don't have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?

Risen: No, no I hadn't heard that.

It's not clear where Mrs. Greenspan was going with this question. She's been such a good little foot soldier for this administration. Then again, she did seem pretty humiliated when she got caught out repeating the adminstration's lies that Valerie Wilson was widely known "around town" to be a CIA agent. (She eventually suggested that maybe she was a little drunk when she said that.)

This question regarding Amanpour has been scrubbed from the MSNBC transcript of the interview (huh, wonder why?), but they claim it is because they want to do "more research" in this area. We'll see if it ever escapes the memory hole again.

Why is it important whether or not Bush was illegally wiretapping Amanpour? John at AmericaBlog connects the dots for us:

1. Such a wiretap would likely include her home, office, and cell phones, and email correspondence, at the very least.

2. That means anyone Christiane has conversed with in the past four years, at least by phone or email, could have had their conversation taped by the US government.

3. That also means that anyone who uses any of Christiane's telephones or computers (work or home) could also have had their conversation bugged.

4. This includes Christiane's husband, former Clinton administration senior official Jamie Rubin, who was spokesman for the State Department.

5. Jamie Rubin was also chief foreign policy adviser to General Wesley Clark's presidential campaign, and then worked as a senior national security adviser to John Kerry's presidential campaign.

6. Did Jamie Rubin ever use his home phone, his wife's work phone, his wife's cell phone, her home computer or her work computer to communicate with John Kerry or Wesley Clark? If so, those conversations would have been bugged if Bush was tapping Amanpour.

7. Did Jamie Rubin ever in the past four years communicate with any elected officials in Washington, DC - any Senators or members of the US House? Any senior members of the Democratic party?

8. Has Rubin spoken with Bill Clinton, his former boss, in the past 4 years?

And there you have it, political opponents and media figures all with one illegal wiretap. Why couldn't Bush go to the FISA court to get a warrant? It may be because he was listening in to Kerry's political advisors during the campaign.

Amok time, executive branch edition

Need more proof that the executive branch is running completely amok? Take a look at yesterday's recess appointments.

The recess appointment has long been understood as a bit of an emergency procedure: if there is a vacancy in some important bureaucratic position at a time when Congress is out of session and can't confirm nominees, we allow the President to make a recess appointment which bypasses the confirmation process. The yin to this yang is that we expect the President not to cut Congress out of the loop completely on the confirmation process.

Yesterday, the President recess appointed 17 people to a variety of positions, including positions within State, Defense, Vaterland Security, and the FEC. (The Federal Election Committee - yes, THAT's what I want filled up with Bush cronies!) Even though his own corrupt party controls both houses of Congress, W. decided to sidestep the confirmation process and just ram these people through. One of the appointees, Julie Myers, is such a hack, so obviously mis-matched to her position dealing with immigration and customs, that Bush watchers have for some time have been wondering how he was going to get her through the confirmation process. Now we know.

No doubt that among the 17 are several more Brownies who will do a heckuva job.

The W administration: why go through all the niceties when you can give the legislative branch the finger?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Prophets Foretold It: W was inevitable

I'm almost done with the amazingly thoughtful and iconoclastic book Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James W. Loewen. In twelve of the most fascinating chapters I've ever read, Loewen details the differences between the myths that are taught as American "history" and compares them to what actually happened. And he discusses why some topics are emphasized, why others are ignored and made invisible, and why some are simply lied about in US textbooks. The topics include what Columbus was really about, what the Pilgrims were really up to, lies about Reconstruction, Vietnam, the labor movement, the wars against native Americans, the bromides about "progress", misrepresentations of racism and antiracism, democracy vs. federal power, etc. An excellent read.

The book was first published in 1995, and in a chapter on watching out for big government, he writes that Watergate is one of the few "scandals" that even appear in history textbooks. Most other criminal government activity is never mentioned. But here's some of what he writes about Watergate:

In telling of Watergate, textbooks blame Richard Nixon, as they should. But they go no deeper. Faced with this undeniable instance of governmental wrongdoing, they manage to retain their uniformly rosy view of the government. . . . As Richard Rubenstein has pointed out, "the problem will not go away with the departure of Richard Nixon," because it is structural, stemming from the vastly increased power of the federal executive bureaucracy. Indeed, in some ways the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan-Bush adminstrations . . . shows an executive branch more out of control than Nixon's. . . . Since the structural problem in the government has not gone away, it is likely that students will again, in their adult lives, face an out-of-control federal executive pursuing criminal foreign and domestic policies. To the extent that their understanding of the government comes from their American history courses, students will be shocked by these events and unprepared to think about them.

Behold the power of the honest historian. In a single paragraph, Loewen predicts not only the criminal Bush/Cheney regime and the shocking extent of its criminality, but also America's sleepwalking non-response to it. I suspect that professor Loewen is freaking out about now, as so many of our fellows are trying to convince us that Bush's illegal wire-taps are no big deal.

Now consider this information about "signing statements" from today's Liberal Oasis:

Bush believes by simply asserting authority in a “signing statement,” the Supreme Court cannot force him to follow the law and the Constitution when investigating Americans and interrogating prisoners.

Alito, who supports the “unitary executive” and masterminded the “signing statement,” agrees and will happily keep the Supreme Court off Bush’s back.

Nowadays, when Bush signs a bill from Congress, he writes his own little "statement" about what HE thinks the law means (note this is the judicial branch's job). In the most recent case, his statement on signing the bill that included the McCain amendment banning torture of detainees amounted to "I'm the President, and you can't enforce jack".

It’s a concept cooked up by Sam Alito, back when he was in the Reagan Justice Department, to diminish the weight of the congressional record and increase the weight of the president’s whims when the Supreme Court interprets the law.

Bush is a big fan of Alito's signing statements, though as the W. Post noted, the Supreme Court has not given them nearly as much weight as congressional debate when determining a law’s intent.

Sounds innocuous so far? Hold on.

This particular signing statement from Friday didn’t just merely offer a slightly different take on the law than Congress.

It asserted presidential authority to unilaterally interpret the law, since he is head of the “unitary executive branch.”

So, OK, Bushco is now running wild with unchecked executive power. But if Bush (Cheney and Rove, really) is only a symptom of the fact that executive power is unbalanced in this country, then I think it leaves the Democrats only one choice.

In order to fix things, they have got to run on a platform of reducing and balancing executive power. Can the legislative branch, the judiciary, the "free" press, and the other institutions of democracy be revived to the point where they can check the executive in any meaningful way? Even if we get rid of Chimpy, this issue will arise and re-arise each time a Republican is elected. And I'm not too hopeful about unscrupulous Democratic presidents' use of unchecked executive power. It's a bazooka, one we can't afford to leave lying around.

Is there a practical way to achieve this? Could the Democrats use this idea as a rallying point for liberals, libertarians, etc.? The world awaits the answer.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Spying Watch

The corruption in the Bush Administration is unbelievable.

It is unbelievable that Bush has been lying about how he authorized spying on American citizens without a warrant since 2004. In 2004 (an election year if I recall) while he was promoting the Patriot Act, Bush claimed that any wiretapping required a court order and that nothing had changed. Bush lied about this more than two years after he approved the NSA spying program.

It is unbelievable that Bush has corrupted the Internet, encouraging telecommunication companies to route international traffic through the US so that the NSA can spy on the information. Now, countries will be forced to route information AWAY from the US because, for some strange reason, they don't trust us. No sane country would want their communications routed through the US because we will spy on them.

It is unbelievable that Bush is continuing to defend the practice of spying and that he is willing to lie about it. Bush claimed this morning that we only spied on calls from Al Queda members to people in the US. The white house then issued a "correction" stating that what he really meant was any calls to or from people who may or may not be suspected of being somehow related to Al Queda. The only problem is that "Al Queda"-type people is clearly undefined. We have been unable to prove whether people are in Al Queda or just happen to have the same name as someone in Al Queda. Imagine tapping the phone lines of all people who happen to call someone named John Smith. Imagine that some Republicans are evil people. Just because there is an evil Republican named John Smith doesn't mean that the person you are calling (i.e. John Smith) is a Republican, much less evil. In the same way, the reason why the Bush Administration is unwilling to charge or prosecute all the people in Guantanamo is because we're not really sure whether they are John Smith the terrorist or John Smith the farmer or John Smith the mechanic or John Smith the unemployed. So we hold them without charges and without legal representation and we abuse them. Similarly, we spy on the John Smiths of the Muslim world and we spy on the American citizens they call.

The amazing thing is that there was a procedure set up in 1978 for the tapping of phone lines in the name of national security. All you have to do is have minimal evidence that the tap will provide information. The government can even go to the court AFTER they commit the wiretap and ask for retroactive permission. There's a court specifically set up for such requests. The Bush Administration apparently feels that its evidence of wrongdoing is so tenuous and so nebulous that it wouldn't even satisfy the rubberstamp court.

Note that the New York Times delayed reporting of these abuses of power for a year at the request of the administration... It's funny how the administration, in an election year, would ask a newspaper to refrain from publishing such an upsetting and clearly important article on the abuse of power by those in power. NOT.

Last week, we also learned that the federal government has also been spying on Muslim places of work and Muslim places of worship. This is called profiling and is unethical as well as illegal. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

Our country is going down the tubes, our civil liberties are being infringed upon on a daily basis, the executive branch is trying to seize power and become the ONLY branch, and the Bush Administration is driving the train down into this cesspool.

Unbelievable. It is time to impeach President Bush.

Ask not what thy government will do unto you. Ask not what thy government will do unto others.

-John Locke