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.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

In Which We Stand on the Brink

The Path Cheney Chooses Watch

We stand poised on the edge of a razor, at a fork in the road, at one of the most important crossroads for our country since its inception. Down the first path lies an end to the Cheney regency government for our child emperor on January 20, 2009; the beginning of the restoration of hopefully more normal relationships with the rest of the world, the beginning of a return to the rule of law for our government. Down the second path lies something quite entirely different: a continuation of the current regime, justified by suspension of elections in response to some deadly event on U.S. soil, which will be pinned on Islamic extremists but blamed on people who dissent against the current administration.

I know this is beginning to sound like the ravings of some kind of conspiracy nut, but bear with me for a few minutes. There are several things that we know about the last six years, and together with a bit of logic we may see that the second path is not only possible, but perhaps even probable.

What are these things that we know?

We know that the intelligence community was extremely alert to terror threats in the summer of 2001 (to the point that administration officials stopped flying commercial in favor of private planes).

We know that Bush himself was warned in no uncertain terms about the plans for an attack, in the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing titled “Bin Laden determined to strike in US”.

We know that no one in the administration, certainly not Bush or Cheney or Rice, did a single thing, based on these warnings, to prevent these attacks (or we’d have heard about it by now).

We know that the massive PATRIOT act, far from being written up in a deliberative process in response to the September 11 attacks, had already been prepared prior to the attacks.

We know that Cheney has set up a “shadow government” which is ready to take over from our actual government in the event of a terrorist attack. Its location is unknown, and it seems clear that it is populated by Republicans only. Note that in the initial Washington Post description of this planned coup, the Dauphin is even described as having a chance to survive the attack and give orders himself!

Known internally as the COG, for "continuity of government," the administration-in-waiting is an unannounced complement to the acknowledged absence of Vice President Cheney from Washington for much of the past five months. Cheney's survival ensures constitutional succession, one official said, but "he can't run the country by himself." With a core group of federal managers alongside him, Cheney -- or President Bush, if available -- has the means to give effect to his orders.

We know that this administration has secretly, and then when discovered boldly, asserted the right to monitor and record every phone conversation, email, and even paper mail correspondence of all US citizens, without warrants, without oversight, without limits. This kind of data mining is most likely next to useless for actually stopping attacks. But it has given them access to all of the communication of every Democratic politician in the country, every journalist, every administration critic, every Presidential candidate, every top businessman. The potential for blackmail and abuse of this information is overwhelming. We are asked to believe that even though Karl Rove could have monitored every conversation of John Kerry and every one of his top advisors in 2004, that he refrained. This administration hasn’t even had to put the denial of that implication on the record, because the press corpse has never even asked them the question.

We know that they have eliminated the right of habeas corpus, and although Democrats are currently trying to get it restored, it remains, as of this writing, dead.

We know that Bush thinks he can nullify any law by attaching a “signing statement” to it.

We know that with his recent executive order, Bush has eliminated the due process protection for people who “pose a risk” of committing an act of violence in order to “undermine efforts” in Iraq.

We know that Cheney has just asserted that once his administration claims “executive privilege”, neither the judicial or legislative branch has any power to enforce subpoenas: the executive is free to break any and all laws at will.

We know that Americans now accept, and that this administration engages in, torture.

We know that right-wingers are salivating at the thought of another big showy terrorist attack against Americans, because to their mind that will justify more powergrabs by Cheney.

We know that Michael Chertoff just knows, deep down in his gut, that we are going to be attacked again, maybe during the summer.

We have just learned that the Department of Justice has given the Office of the Vice President access to information regarding ongoing Justice Department investigations. There is no doubt in my mind that Cheney directly meddled in ongoing investigations, including the Valerie Wilson outing investigation.

And we know that, just recently, a Democratic member of the House Homeland Security Committee asked to review the government’s plan for government continuity after a terrorist attack, and was denied.

As a member of the U.S. House on the Homeland Security Committee, DeFazio, D-Ore., is permitted to enter a secure "bubbleroom" in the Capitol and examine classified material. So he asked the White House to see the secret documents.

On Wednesday, DeFazio got his answer: DENIED.

"I just can't believe they're going to deny a member of Congress the right of reviewing how they plan to conduct the government of the United States after a significant terrorist attack," DeFazio says.

"Maybe the people who think there's a conspiracy out there are right," DeFazio said.

Given all of the things that we know, is it really plausible to believe that Cheney is now just going to hand the reins of government over to a Democratic president? That Karl Rove is going to accept that all of his phone conversations and emails could be monitored by agents of a Democratic administration for the next four to eight years? That they are going to leave even the remotest possibility of any of their current crimes seeing the light of day while they are still alive to be prosecuted? I just find that the most implausible kind of thinking.

The dominoes are all in place for our current system of government to fall. All it would take is for this administration to let their vigilance slip, allowing an attack on US soil and the “COG” takes over. The worst part is that it isn’t citizens like you and me who will decide which of the two paths we take. It is Dick Cheney himself. His finger is on the first domino.

Impeachment Watch

Many people argue that impeachment of Bush and/or Cheney is a stupid thing to do, because even if impeachment was achieved in the House of Representatives, the Senate would never have enough votes to remove them from office. Here is why impeachment should be done anyway: According to John Dean, who knows some things about impeachment, Bush and Cheney cannot assert executive privilege over items in an investigation against them. All of the dirty, illegal, underhanded, and unconstitutional crap that they have been pulling since this all started would be subject to subpoenas that could not be ignored. Regardless of the outcome of the trial in the Senate, an impeachment in the House would finally allow the people of this country to get at the bottom of the crimes being committed. And who knows? The atrocities they uncover might even lead to some of the bedwetting Republican senators to change their votes.

Frog Boiling Watch

Glenn Greenwald analyzes the administration’s claim to be above contempt charges from Congess in much more depth. He also notes that by allowing previous atrocities to stand, we are tacitly inviting worse ones:

There is nothing new here. As has long been known, this administration believes themselves to reside above and beyond the reach of the law. What else would they need to do in order to make that as clear as can be? They got caught red-handed committing multiple felonies -- by eavesdropping on Americans in precisely the way the law we enacted 30 years ago prohibited -- and they not only admitted it, but vowed to continue to break our laws, and asserted the right to do so. And nothing happened.

This latest assertion of power -- to literally block U.S. Attorneys from prosecuting executive branch employees -- is but another reflection of the lawlessness prevailing in our country, not a new revelation. We know the administration breaks laws with impunity and believes it can. That is no longer in question. The only real question is what, if anything, we are willing to do about that.

Yes, it is true that, as various Democratic statements are claiming, this theory poses a constitutional crisis since, yet again, the President declares the other two branches of government impotent and himself omnipotent. But we have had such a crisis for the last five years. We have just chosen to ignore it, to acquiesce to it, to allow it to fester.

There is no magic force that is going to descend from the sky and strike with lighting at George Bush and Dick Cheney for so flagrantly subverting our constitutional order. The Founders created various checks for confronting tyrannical abuses of power, but they have to be activated by political will and the courage to confront it. That has been lacking. Hence, they have seized omnipotent powers with impunity.

At this point, the blame rests not with the Bush administration. They have long made clear what they believe and, especially, what they are. They have been rubbing in our faces for several years the fact that they believe they can ignore the law and do what they want because nobody is willing to do anything about it. Thus far, they have been right, and the blame rests with those who have acquiesced to it.

Monday, July 23, 2007

In which the atrocities come thicker and faster

Criminalizing Dissent Watch

David Neiwart at the blog Orcinus is one of the most important journalists at work today. His past work on hate crimes and the psychology behind them, on scapegoating and Japanese internment, on the tyranny of the majority against a minority, on proto-fascism and violence and right wing authoritarianism, makes him one of the most important and authoritative voices on the web concerning this country’s slow decent into darkness.

Neiwart’s co-blogger Sara Robinson has taken a look at that Executive Order that we saw last week, the one that seemed to make it legal for the President to take away your property if you “undermine efforts” to have Iraq become a land flowing with peace and honey. This executive order looks like it could be justified as being written to confiscate the property of “terraists” who are at work in Iraq. But there is certainly nothing in it that exempts American citizens. Robinson comments:

This government has now asserted -- without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress -- its right to take away our houses, cars, savings accounts, the stuff of our lives, on the say-so of the President and his Treasury Secretary. They are not kidding. What we do here, what I am doing right now (unless I choose my words very carefully) is being done in defiance of the Law According to George Bush.

For the past four and a half years, Dave has carefully and thoughtfully argued that there's a difference between proto-fascism -- the sprouts that are present in the garden, but have not yet borne flower or fruit -- and the real thing.

When the President can take away your life's savings without due process, under authority of a law no people's legislature ever approved, for simply disagreeing with his policies and publicly stating your intentions to do something about them, we are treading so close to that line that it's hard to tell whether we're actually over it.

And, worse, we've reached the point where these outrages seem to occur weekly -- bigger and more blatant every time, but by now we've seen so many so often that we're inured. We don't even know where to start fighting. In any other administration we've ever had, this one act on its own would be an impeachable offense. In this one, it's just another drop in an overflowing bucket.

She then quotes from Milton Mayer’s book “They Thought They Were Free”, in which Mayer describes how, as long as each successive outrage is just incrementally worse than the last, and the populace doesn’t have a history of protesting each step, that protest never comes. The “frog cooked in slowly heating water” analogy comes to mind. If I had a dollar for every “this (insert Bush administration atrocity) will be the thing that finally gets people marching in the street” email or post I’ve read in the last six years, I would be rich indeed. But Mayer’s description seems to indicate that having not protested the first steps (the PATRIOT act, for example), we can’t really expect Americans to ever protest, until:

The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed.

Robinson concludes:

The America that would accept this kind of edict in silence is not the America that we grew up in. Something has changed. We are poised to accept this like we've accepted every other insult. It's hard to imagine that, even when bloggers and other dissenters start losing their property, that there will be tens of thousands in the streets to protect us. As long as the forms are still there, and the system continues to do what it must to sustain itself, we will simply be collateral damage.

If we accept the forcible removal of our property without due process, forcible removal of our lives will not be far behind. And there are people eager to accomplish this: according to Barna Research, there are about 50 million hardcore fundamentalists who have been eagerly awaiting the day, training and planning and praying for the chance to do just that -- to take out their frustrations on the liberal traitors whom they have been taught to believe are responsible for everything that's wrong with their lives. They believe, in their bones, we have stabbed God's America in the back; and they are out for vengeance. This is the edict that will provide "legal" support and justification for their first tentative steps toward mob rule.

Are we there yet? Not quite. But Bush has just put the capstone on the doorway leading to the coming fascist state. Whether your own B clause is a passport or a gun, it's probably time to make sure both are in good working order.

Unchecked Authoritarians Watch

Speaking of ever-increasing atrocities, the Whitehouse has declared that as long as it keeps repeating “executive privilege”, then Congress can never hold them in contempt for not obeying Congressional subpoenas. From a Washington Post article:

Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action."

But administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege. Officials pointed to a Justice Department legal opinion during the Reagan administration, which made the same argument in a case that was never resolved by the courts.

"A U.S. attorney would not be permitted to bring contempt charges or convene a grand jury in an executive privilege case," said a senior official, who said his remarks reflect a consensus within the administration. "And a U.S. attorney wouldn't be permitted to argue against the reasoned legal opinion that the Justice Department provided. No one should expect that to happen."

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, added: "It has long been understood that, in circumstances like these, the constitutional prerogatives of the president would make it a futile and purely political act for Congress to refer contempt citations to U.S. attorneys."

So, if the executive branch commits a crime, and the Congress tries to investigate it by issuing subpoenas for witnesses and documents, and the executive branch tells Congress to go Cheney itself, the Congress would need a US attorney to bring contempt citations forward. The Bush administration has pulled this little conjuring trick: not only have they fired all the US attorneys who aren’t “loyal Bushies”, but they’ve now forbid any member of the Justice Department from bringing those charges forward.

Therefore, according to Cheney, Congress has no power whatsoever over the executive. Our Emperor is about to dissolve the Roman Senate. This is an atrocity, again along the sliding scales of atrocities we find ourselves on. There are quotes in the article from a number of professors and Democratic senators, all protesting this latest power grab by an executive holding itself COMPLETELY above the law, untouchable in all that it does. But that will be the extent of it. As the quote from Milton Mayer above shows, while this move would have been unthinkable 3 or 4 years ago, now it is just one more atrocity which will be allowed by a sleeping populace and a gelded Congress.

Here’s a footnote about how the sins of our past come back to haunt us. The Post article mentions that contempt charges can only be brought on behalf of Congress by the US attorney in Washington DC. The only precedent for something like this is during the Reagan administration, in 1982 during the Gorsuch-EPA scandal, when Anne Gorsuch refused to turn over documents to Congress and the Washington DC US attorney declined to pursue contempt charges. That attorney? Fred Fielding, now a Whitehouse counsel. He was aided in his strategy by John Roberts, who is now our Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. So, you can imagine how well this will go for the interests of the people if it ever gets to the SCOTUS. The water is simmering, little froggy.

Top Ten Conservative Idiots Watch

I highly recommend this week’s TTCI at Democratic Underground, which features not 10, not 20, not 25, but 30 Conservative Idiots, a bumper crop. Number one on the list? George W. Bush:

The key judgments of the new National Intelligence estimate were released last week. In a nutshell, Al Qaeda has apparently "regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability" and will "leverage the contacts and capabilities" it has gained since the U.S. invaded Iraq. That's Al Qaeda in Pakistan, by the way, since according to Baghdad reporter Michael Ware "al-Qaeda would be lucky to make up 3 percent of the insurgency" in Iraq.

But pay no attention to all that! Our Great Leader thinks that a resurgent Al Qaeda outside of Iraq is nothing to worry about, and announced last week that, "Al-Qaida would have been a heck of a lot stronger today had we not stayed on the offensive." Er, right. And maybe if you'd gone on the offensive against Osama Bin Laden instead of instead Saddam Hussein, it would all be over by now.

So to the few remaining Bush supporters out there: given the fact that George W. Bush seems to have failed to prevent Al Qaeda from regaining strength, which of the following do you think represents reality?

a) The president has spent five years pursuing wrong-headed policies which have directly damaged our national security, weakened our defense capability, and threatened our safety, or

b) The world works like the Dukes of Hazzard, where the U.S. plays bumbling but lovable Roscoe P. Coltrane who week after week manages to show up just as those terroristic Dukes are getting away.

I mean, do you really think that George W. Bush is doing the absolute best job he can, but those pesky terrorists are always just one step ahead of him? If you honestly don't believe Commander Guy bears any responsibility for making the world a more dangerous place, fair enough - but in that case you must believe that try as he might, he simply isn't quite as competent as the terrorists. Either way, don't we deserve a president who'll be more competent than the terrorists? Could we at least try to rise to that level, for fuck's sake?

Warmongering Redux Watch

The cartoon at the top is a This Modern World that describes the very serious way our news media gets us into wars.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Talking tough

How to Talk to a Republican, If You Must Watch

Diane Rehm’s public radio talk show is both interesting and frustrating. Her guests are often people you really wish to hear from, top-level politicians and journalists. But, because her show lives within the beltway, you often hear these people repeating the same tired, tainted, gelded “conventional wisdom” that somehow always manages to favor the corporate line.

A clinical psychologist whom Rehm interviewed on her show last week has recently quantified what progressive bloggers, pollsters in the GOP, people at Democratic Underground, the Daily Kos, and the population at large have known for quite some time: that people vote with their hearts and their heads. The importance of emotional engagement appears to be lost only on one group of people: top Democratic politicians. They present superior policy positions, and then wait passively for the votes to come rolling in. Ha ha. One of the reasons I supported Howard Dean so enthusiastically in the 2004 primaries, is that he really seemed to understand how to speak to Democrats’ heads AND hearts. (I think Kucinich is rather good at this too.)

The psychologist, Drew Westen, has written a book titled “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation“ in which he cites his own frustration with Democratic politicians and describes how they should actually talk and engage the populace with their message. He claims that several important politicians, including Bill Clinton, have read his book and reviewed it favorably, and that he is being courted by several of the Democratic presidential candidates. Towards the end of the show, he is asked to give examples of the kinds of language he thinks would have been most effective against Kerry’s SwiftBoat problems:

…southerners are characterized, particularly southern males, by what’s called by anthropologists a “culture of honor”, where if someone dishonors you, if someone speaks to your face ill of you and you don’t respond, you’ve been shamed. And you know, 200 years ago that would have lead to a duel. And here is this man who is a war veteran, he’s being run against with a story that he’s going to be weak on terrorism, he’s going to be weak on national defense. Someone punches him. What does he do? He says nothing. He waits three weeks and then he sends his female campaign manager out to write a letter to the campaign manager of Bush, imploring him, ‘Please take it down’. Boy, if you want to send a meta-message about what you’ll do if America’s attacked, he sure sent a powerful meta-message, and he could have done it very differently. . . At that particular point, I would have suggested that Kerry get right out on television immediately and say, “President Bush, for you, a man who dodged the draft, who did nothing but protect the borders of Louisiana, while being a staunch advocate of the Vietnam War, who called your daddy up and said ‘get me out of this!’ when you got the call, ‘please, send some Texas millworker in my place to get shot at’, and who managed to pull those strings, for you to say to me, a war veteran with the shrapnel still in my leg, that I don’t deserve the Purple Hearts that I earned and to put on a campaign ad like that that shows that I don’t deserve my Purple Hearts! Every veteran in the United States, you have just affronted. What you’ve done . . . and, and to do this in the middle of a war when we have boots on the ground, what do you think this says to our soldiers in Iraq or in Afghanistan who are fighting bravely, who are taking bullets right now, that someone someday is going to come back and make fun of their Purple Hearts? How can you have the moral authority now to be the commander-in-chief?”

Concerning Gore’s mistakes in 2000, Westen points out:

Here is a guy who is running against a man who had spent most of his life with his liquor cabinet better stacked than his bookshelves. He is a guy who had been investigated by his own father’s SEC for insider trading. He had handed his entire state over to polluters to such an extent that his Crawford Ranch - he couldn’t actually fish at the rivers in it, he had to stock it with man-made lakes because he had allowed the polluters to pollute it so badly that he couldn’t fish on his own ranch. Who had put to death a woman who was, like him, a born-again Christian, who for sixteen years had lived as a model prisoner, this was Karla Faye Tucker? When, I think it was Tucker Carlson actually, who asked him, “what were her final words to you when she pleaded for clemency?”, he pursed his lips and said “Oh, please, please, save me!”. That that wasn’t on ads that people saw over and over and over, with a president that was running as a “compassionate conservative”, that is absolutely malpractice by both the consultants and the strategists and by the candidates themselves.

Obviously, Westen doesn’t suffer from the severe politeness of our usual candidates. I’m glad he’s getting on board and that his research is being used, but his conclusions and framing have been obvious and available for free on the internet at progressive blogs for years (starting with the dear departed Media Whores Online). I urge you to listen to the show (on the same page, you’ll find a fascinating discussion on Iraq including Wesley Clark and “Surge” architect Kimberly Kagan, who pulls an audio deer-in-the-headlight act as she tries to spew the GOP talking points in front of Clark and Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress, who don’t let her get away with her spin). Westen is fascinating, and he’s right. But I would point out that he sounds exactly like Digby and Atrios and all of the others who have been trying to wake the Democrats up for so long. Why don’t the Democrats get this? Is it because they don’t really have the courage of their convictions? That they know that they are also bought and paid for by corporations, and can’t get their dander up on behalf of the people?

Let’s hope that now that an academic has published this (blindingly obvious to everyone but the Democratic leadership) thesis, the party begins to find its fighting voice and soul again.

The Horrors of Unchecked Capitalism Watch

If you’ve read either of Al Franken’s last two books, or have been following the Jack Abramoff scandal, then you will be familiar with the Mariana Islands. These islands were taken over by the United States from Japan in World War II. Free market fundamentalists like Tom Delay have fought hard to keep government regulations of industry out of the Marianas, stating that the islands are a “perfect Petri dish of capitalism”. He has been so pleased with the slime that has been cultured in this Petri dish that he told the governor “You are a shining light for what is happening in the Republican Party, and you represent everything that is good about what we’re trying to do in America in leading the world in the free-market system”.

So, what kind of regulation-free utopia do Delay and the GOP want to “do in America”? Well, I won’t tease you with the answer to that because the results of little to no regulation of industry are easily predicted. Left unfettered by such stupid concerns as the American minimum wage or even human rights, the Marianas have become a prison for thousands of workers, mostly women, imported from Asia in economic slavery, forced to work in sweatshops under horrible conditions (and still allowed to put “Made in the USA!” on the clothing), forced into sexual slavery, forced to have abortions when the natural results of sexual tourism occur. Child labor and child prostitution are also rampant. Essentially, workers are extremely abused at the hands of their corporate exploiters. Industries in the Marianas were among Jack Abramoff’s biggest clients, and he, Delay, John Doolittle, Richard Pombo, Bob Ney, a whole host of other GOP legislators have worked for years to keep conditions there unchanged, all the while taking “junkets” to the islands on the taxpayers’ dime to inspect and praise the “paradise” they created there. The irony of the “pro-life” GOP leadership working fist and glove with a sex industry that forces women to have abortions should not be lost either. It seems that Republicans are pleased either to force women to bear children or to force them to have abortions – as long as women have no say in it, they seem to be happy.

The elections of 2006 have potentially broken the GOP hold over legislation to mitigate this horror. The good news is that Democrats in the Senate are now trying to create immigration rules for the Marianas which could break the system of indentured servitude that has been created there. Let’s hope they find their way forward.

Career-Protection-Induced Temporary Amnesia/Lobotomy Watch

Upton Sinclair noted that “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it”. Television pundits have recently been proving his point brilliantly. There are very clearly areas of thought and speculation which are verboten for anyone on the airwaves, owned and operated largely by military contractors, to enter. If someone brings up one of these “outside the bubble” ideas on their show, these gelded TV personalities can be seen to freeze and blink vacantly, suffering from the rapid onset of a lacuna of thought brought on by contemplating where such a discussion might lead. I call this phenomenon Career-Protection-Induced Temporary Amnesia/Lobotomy, or CaPITAL for short. Appropriately enough, many sufferers of CaPITAL work inside the beltway, where the chatter of Washington DC cocktail parties informs their sense of boundaries for what may or may not be spoken of in “polite” company.

CaPITAL is most noticeable by the viewing audience when someone says something on a television show that is patently true on its face, yet the host of the show fails to be able to grasp the blindingly obvious because they are not allowed to. Some examples:

1) Chris Matthews interviews anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan. He asks her to answer the unfathomable: “Why do you think President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, the other hawks in this administration, why do you think they took us to war?” By now, the answer to that is obvious. The benefits of this war are fourfold: control of Iraq’s oil, regional hegemony in the Middle East, domestic political control (as you shout down your opponents by reminding them that we are “at war”), and war profiteering by the military industrial complex. Sheehan gives a great, cogent answer which touches on most of these points, ending with “It’s for the war profiteers and that’s why wars are usually waged.” Matthews is suddenly afflicted with CaPITAL. His face goes blank, he starts blinking rapidly, and his eyes start shifting left and right as he searches for a way to pretend she isn’t exactly right. “You believe that this was . . . this war was fought, because people in the Whitehouse decided to make some money for their pals in business – you really believe that?” Chris stammers out.

2) It is obvious to the least conspiracy-minded among us that Bush commuted Libby’s prison sentence to buy his cooperation in protecting Cheney and Bush. They were both complicit in creating the conspiracy to out Valerie Wilson as an undercover CIA agent. Just as Bush’s father pardoned Weinberger when Cap made it clear that he wouldn’t spend one day in jail to protect Poppy’s ass in the Iran Contra investigations, Bush commuted Libby’s sentence to keep him quiet. In this discussion between George Stephanopoulos and John Conyers, when Conyers states the obvious, Steph needs to stop Conyers and have him clarify what he is saying, in an incredulous voice with a dumb, blank, CaPITAL-stricken look on his face, as if he can’t believe anyone would think this way.

CONYERS: But what we have here — and I think we should put it on the table right at the beginning — is that the suspicion was that if Mr. Libby went to prison, he might further implicate other people in the White House, and that there was some kind of relationship here that does not exist in any of President Clinton’s pardons, nor, according to those that we’ve talked to — and this is why we’re doing the hearings — is that it’s never existed before, ever.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So it’s really…
CONYERS: We’ve never had…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me stop you there, because you seem to be suggesting that President Bush commuted Mr. Libby’s sentence in order to keep him quiet.

Duh, George.

3) Chris Matthews again, this time interviewing a representative from the International Association of Firefighters, an organization which is extremely pissed off at Rudy Giuliani. They claim that they were allowed to search for the remains of their co-workers in the debris pile after 9/11 only until $230 in gold and silver from the Bank of Nova Scotia was recovered from Ground Zero. The following day, again according to the firefighters, recovery efforts were abandoned. Now, emotions were running high at Ground Zero. Certainly recovery efforts did have to end at some point, at the very least with regard to the health of the survivors. But if the timing did happen this way, it certainly makes it appear that Giuliani was only letting the firefighters dig through the rubble until they recovered the precious metals, and that that was what was important to him. Matthews, who has a huge man-crush on Giuliani because he perceives the bald, lisping, Nosferatu-visaged politician as tough, a real “street fighter”, cannot grasp what the man is saying. CaPITAL strikes him again and again, as he repeatedly asks “What do you mean, I don’t get this. What is the connection between finding $200 million dollars in gold and stopping the search for bodies?” “Well, explain that because I can’t figure that connection out. What is the connection?” “Oooh oh, you’re saying he only kept the search going long enough to get the gold.” Yes, Chris, you CaPITAL-addled fool. That is what he’s saying.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

In Which the Gravy Train is Finally Threatened

Power of the Majority Watch

Republicans like to say that “elections have consequences” and moaned and complained in the Senate when Democrats wouldn’t let them have an “up or down vote”. Remember that? Now that they are in the minority, the GOP in the senate has been telling Harry Reid that they will filibuster everything that comes up. In fact, they tried to institute a standing threat of filibuster, requiring 60 votes to bring any measure relating to Iraq to a vote in the Senate. This obstructionism was way too easy for these lazy louts. And Harry Reid finally made them work for it a little bit. He called their bluff and actually made them filibuster overnight. Of course, the Democrats gave in after one day (of course!), but at least they made it more obvious to the country that the GOP really owned this war. The amendment in question was a toothless proposition that would have recommended that El Presidente change the strategy in Iraq and start withdrawing forces sometime in the future, certainly nothing either useful or even very controversial. After all, lots of Republicans, even Senators, have been complaining about Bush’s strategy and suggesting that we should begin to get out, most notably Dick Lugar and Pete Domenici recently. Suprisingly, the GOP caucus held together on the vote to keep the amendment from being voted on. Only four Republicans, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Chuck Hagel, and Gordon Smith, voted to allow the amendment to be brought to the floor. So, even though some Republicans sometimes talk as if they had a brain, they are too scared to ever vote against Dick Cheney. I guess they don’t want any US weaponized anthrax in their mailbox.

What was more surprising was Reid’s next move. He pulled the Defense Authorization bill off the floor, meaning that the voluminous flow of money into the pockets of the military-industrial complex will stop after September 30th. Finally, a Democratic majority in the Senate begins to mean something. With the sweet river of unrestrained war profiteering money under a small bit of threat, the American death industry sent out its fully-bought-and-paid-for puppets to whine and complain about the poor military, and how this was going to “hurt the troops”. I wonder if we’ll continue to fall for that tired BS? This, combined with the new commission to investigate war profiteering being assembled, should make the death merchants take notice. My prediction is that they will force Holy Joe Lieberman to stop caucusing with the Democrats very soon.

The Handmaid’s Tale Watch

One step in the mafia-like takeover of America by theocrats described in Margaret Atwood’s excellent novel was the government seizing the assets of its political enemies. Though it’s been fifteen years or more since I read it, I still remember how frightened for the protagonists I felt when she described how they went to an ATM to retrieve some cash, and their bank account had been wiped out.

Now, thanks to CheneyCo, we may be one step closer to that wonderful dystopian scenario. In an executive order issued on Tuesday, Bush seems to claim the right to seize all of the assets of anyone who “pose(s) a significant risk of committing an act or acts of violence that have the purpose of threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq”, or anyone who does any business with such a person. Given the way that protestors of the Iraq War are portrayed as harming our mission in Iraq, and given that you don’t have to actually commit an act of violence, it seems to me that this gives the President the right to seize the property of anyone who he thinks might protest the war. I’m certainly no lawyer, so I’d love to have some other opinions on that.

That’s a Lot of Lies Watch

This very excellent video compilation of all of the lies and manipulations of the Cheney regime should be seen by everyone. Pass it on!

It’s an Ideology, not a Strategery Watch

Glenn Greenwald highlights the fact that Bush’s decision to stay in Iraq has nothing to do with thinking critically about American interests or realistic assessments of the situation on the ground, but rather is based on a religion-like “faith” that this is the right thing to do, with no self-examination or any other kind of examination. This is one of the reasons that people of “faith” should not necessarily be at the reins of power – especially the kind of faith that grows from not being intellectually curious, from requiring feelings of security by listening to the voice of authority, from needing a daddy figure to tell them that everything will be all right if they just believe. You can’t change that kind of a person’s mind. An excerpt:

This is something Establishment Washington and the media simply refuses to digest. The way we show "respect for religion and people of faith" is by never questioning the specific prongs of the belief system and/or the role it plays in their public decision-making. Instead, these Wise Elite Opinion-makers continue to believe -- long after any rational person could -- that Bush is susceptible to Washington Wise Man persuasion, or to political pressure, or to the constraints of resources. That simply is not how Bush works. He believes he is supported by a much higher authority and as long as he acts in accordance with that, nothing can or should stop him.

That is why -- even in the aftermath of a shattering midterm election defeat for his party and the wrist-slapping of the Wise, Bipartisan Consensus Baker-Hamilton Report -- Bush not only stayed in Iraq but announced we would escalate. And nothing stopped him. He could not have cared any less about those standard Washington influences or even the limits of reality.

And if Bush believes -- as he almost certainly does -- that a military confrontation with Iran is necessary, nothing will stop him there either, no matter how many solemn David Broder columns and Fred Hiatt editorials or public opinion polls oppose it.

Shafting Retarded Kids – For Politics! Watch

In this interview, the former Surgeon General describes how he was told he couldn’t attend a Special Olympics event because the Kennedy family is very involved with the Special Olympics. How petty can they be? We are only starting to plumb those depths. He says he eventually attended the event on his own dime. One wishes that all of these brave Republicans who hate the regime while they work for it, would find the courage to do the right thing while they were still in office. I’m lookin’ at you, Colin Powell.

Now They’re Just Blatantly Breaking the Law Watch

Harriet Miers has, for a second time, rejected a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee. She reasons that since Bush is claiming executive privilege concerning the US Attorneys General matter, she doesn’t have to show up. Unfortunately for her (and you’d think a one-time nominee for the Supreme Court would know this *snark*), that isn’t how things work. You have to show up when Congress subpoenas you, and THEN you may claim executive privilege or the fifth amendment or that you can’t remember anything that has happened since 1972. But, YOU HAVE TO SHOW UP. She is in blatant violation of the law. And the press corpse yawns on.

Predicting the Future Watch

Bush keeps claiming that if we leave Iraq, “the terra’ists will gitcha”! It’s not really clear what he means by “fight them over here”, in that for the money we spend to defend our country, and the extraordinary power we give to law enforcement for protecting us, we should be pretty safe if everyone is doing their jobs (like they apparently weren’t concerning September 11th).

Interestingly, there is a way that grown ups try to actually predict things like: what would happen if we leave Iraq? They use modeling, in scenarios like war games or weather prediction. It turns out the DoD has war gammed our withdrawal from Iraq, and they predict a lot of violence and a de facto partitioning of Iraq into three countries. What they don’t find is Al Qaeda taking over Iraq or using it as a base to attack the US, or Iran benefiting greatly from it. Though an awful scenario, the DoD report supports withdrawal as one of the least bad courses for us to take. Keith Olbermann interviews “Fiasco” author Thomas Ricks on these findings.

College-Aged Chickenhawks Watch

Max Blumenthal is a young man who, in addition to excellent writing, rather bravely infiltrates and videotapes Republican events. In this excellent episode, he interviews BushBots at the College Republican National Convention. They spout logic-challenged GOP talking points effortlessly, and point to bum knees to explain why they aren’t in the 130 degree heat of Baghdad this summer. Thoroughly recommended for fulfilling your daily allowance of smug, ignorant, overprivileged, hypocritical asshattery.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Impeachment, it's not just for breakfast anymore

Endless War Watch

Here is a trailer for a film that is set to premier on July 27th, titled “No End in Sight”, that looks like it will expose just how disastrous the execution of the Iraq war has been. Again, since Bush and Cheney seem just as pleased as they can be with the way Iraq has turned out, we must assume that this is what they had in mind all along.

Modest Proposal Watch

The blogger Jon Swift examines the conservatives’ hopes for another terrorist attack, and notes that they really, really are hoping for another one. Because then, we’ll all get “serious” about the War on Terra and support the Chimpmaster General again. Right. It doesn’t seem to occur to anyone to actually blame the GOP for taking away all of our rights and STILL not protecting us from a future attack. Trading liberty for safety, anyone?

Impeachment Watch

Bill Moyers hosted an excellent discussion between conservative Bruce Fein and liberal John Nichols on Friday, in which both of them argued very eloquently on the absolute need of this republic to impeach Cheney and Bush. I couldn’t agree more. Every time a Republican administration gets away with treason, they pardon themselves and we are reassured that if we just let them get away with it, they won’t make any fuss and everyone in Washington will be comfortable and the nation needs to “heal” and there is too much partisan rancor. Meanwhile, the perpetrators only learn that they should continue to do this time and again, and they keep coming back to government. Cheney and Rumsfeld learned this from the Ford Nixon pardons; Negroponte, Poindexter, Abrams, Bush Jr., Powell, and Cheney learned it again from the Bush I pardons of the Iran Contra conspirators; now neocons everywhere will learn the same lesson (commit crimes and pardon, commit crimes and pardon) from the Libby commutation and the flurry of pardons which will no doubt happen in January 2009. This is one of the most cogent and correct presentations I’ve seen on television in the last 20 years, and it is no surprise that Moyers is the host.

Also on the subject of impeachment, this short article from After Downing Street points out that we don’t need any more lengthy investigations before deciding to impeach, especially for Cheney. The author notes that

Their crimes stand open on the table before us. Their lies about Iraqi ties to al Qaeda are on videotape and in writing, and they continue to make them to this day. Their claims about Iraqi weapons have been shown in every detail to have been, not mistakes, but lies. Their threats to Iran are on videotape. Bush being warned about Katrina and claiming he was not are on videotape. Bush lying about illegal spying and later confessing to it are on videotape. A federal court has ruled that spying to be a felony. The Supreme Court has ruled Bush and Cheney's system of detentions unconstitutional. Torture, openly advocated for by Bush and Cheney and their staffs, is documented by victims, witnesses, and public photographs. Torture was always illegal and has been repeatedly recriminalized under Bush and Cheney. Bush has reversed laws with signing statements. Those statements are posted on the White House website, and a GAO report found that with 30 percent of Bush's signing statements in which he announces his right to break laws, he has in fact proceeded to break those laws. For these and many other offenses, no investigation is needed because no better evidence is even conceivable. And rather than taking three months, the impeachment of Cheney or Bush could be completed in a day.

Stonewalling Watch

Here is another clip of Rove aide Sara Taylor at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings from last week. In this excerpt, Taylor repeatedly tells Patrick Leahy that Bush had nothing to do with the fired US attorneys, was never in a discussion or a meeting about them. Finally, Leahy lowers the boom and reminds her that if that is indeed the case, then Bush’s claim of executive privilege on this matter has been completely undercut by her testimony. Sorry, little Bushite.

Horrors of War Watch

The Nation magazine has published interviews with dozens of combat veterans from the Iraq war. In addition to the horrible brutality our military has meted out to the Iraq citizenry, what we have done to these soldiers and marines should also weigh heavily on our national conscience. Here is an excerpt:

"People would make jokes about it, even before we'd go into a raid, like, 'Oh fuck, we're gonna get the wrong house'. Cause it would always happen. We always got the wrong house."

"I'll tell you the point where I really turned... [there was] this little, you know, pudgy little two-year-old child with the cute little pudgy legs and she has a bullet through her leg... An IED [improvised explosive device] went off, the gun-happy soldiers just started shooting anywhere and the baby got hit. And this baby looked at me... like asking me why. You know, 'Why do I have a bullet in my leg?'... I was just like, 'This is, this is it. This is ridiculous'."

"I guess while I was there, the general attitude was, 'A dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi... You know, so what?'... [Only when we got home] in... meeting other veterans, it seems like the guilt really takes place, takes root, then."

"A lot of guys really supported that whole concept that if they don't speak English and they have darker skin, they're not as human as us, so we can do what we want."

Heaven help us.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Brain Dead Executive Branch

Lead Paint Watch

I think I've finally figured out what is wrong at the highest levels of our government: they are all into eating massive amounts of lead paint chips. This makes them ignorant, violent, and forgetful. Perfect for Republicans, of course, but not so good for running the country. Former Rove aide Sara Taylor appeared before the Senate Judiciary committee yesterday, although she claimed she didn't have to because she admired the President. She had the usual bout of amnesia that overtakes this administration when they testify. And Patrick Leahy had to correct her twice on the fact that she took an oath to uphold the Constitution, not a loyalty oath to Dim Son.

Also, apparently Bush has "ordered" Harriet Miers not to testify before Congress. Seeing as how she doesn't work for him anymore, it's not clear what that means. It may also be a felony.

Sicko Watch

Michael Moore had a second half of his interview with Wolf Blitzer and a debate with Sanjay Gupta on Larry King's show. While Gupta tried to nitpick Moore's numbers (with no real success I'd say, since Moore knows his sources well), the entire segment missed the big picture: That Cuba, while spending about 1/25 of what the US spends per capita on healthcare, provides almost as good healthcare to its citizens as we do.

Hordes of citizens have risen up against CNN to defend Moore. Again, thank goodness for the internet so people can read their own sources and check to see who is actually right. There is also a large backlash against Kyra Phillips, a CNN talking head who introduced the second part of Blitzer's interview with Moore by saying "if you can stomach it".

The larger picture here is of pharmaceutical companies and health insurers trying to cast doubt on Moore's credibility. This is the same crew that smeared "Hillarycare" in the early 90s. But Moore's basic message, that we spend much more and get much less for our healthcare dollars, just cannot be denied.

Holy Papa Watch

It's nice to see the Pope telling other Christians they don't have the keys of salvation. Reminds me just how rational religion is.

Politicization Watch

The last Surgeon General was, of course, told what he could and couldn't say by the Bushies.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

No Underlying Crime

Single Payer Watch

Following on this morning's link to the smackdown of Wolf Blitzer by Michael Moore, here is Moore's point by point refutation of the "fact-checking" done by CNN. Will CNN apologize? Don't hold your breath. You may also listen to a longer, very interesting and intelligent discussion of single payer health care in other countries, Moore's film, and the political stranglehold on our choices in this Fresh Air interview from NPR.

Hypocrites Watch

Well, some of the phone records of the "DC Madam" have been released, and guess who's on the list? You guessed it, a "pro-family" Republican from the deep south, senator David Vitter from Louisiana. Just as "scratch a homophobe, reveal a homosexual" is becoming an almost unbroken rule of thumb, so too is "scratch a morality-spouting right-winger, reveal an adulterer". It seems that like just as many psychology students enter the field to work on their own problems, right-wing authoritarians appear to be guilty of all the problems they are accusing the populace of having. Your favorite Republican in a twist about gay marriage? That was an important issue for Mark Foley and Ted Haggard. Are they clutching pearls over Clinton's affair? Like Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston, and Henry Hyde, you can be pretty sure they are playing "hide the subpoena" with some young aide of their own. Vitter is no exception. Glenn Greenwald outlines his political/sexual history:

So, to recap: in Louisiana, Vitter carried on a year-long affair with a prostitute in 1999. Then he ran for the House as a hard-core social conservative family values candidate, parading around his wife and kids as props and leading the public crusade in defense of traditional marriage.

Then, in Washington, he became a client of Deborah Palfrey's. Then he announced that amending the Constitution to protect traditional marriage was the most important political priority the country faces. Rush Limbaugh, Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich supported the same amendment.

As always, it is so striking how many Defenders of Traditional Marriage have a record in their own broken lives of shattered marriages, multiple wives and serial adultery. And they never seek to protect the Sacred Institution of Traditional Marriage by banning the un-Christian and untraditional divorces they want for themselves when they are done with their wives and are ready to move on to the next, newer model. Instead, they only defend these Very Sacred Values by banning the same-sex marriages that they don't want for themselves.

What was Vitter's response to Clinton's Lewinski affair? Well, he was stepping into Bob Livingston's congressional seat in 1998, after Livingston was denied the Speaker of the House position because of his "baroque" sexual excesses and resigned.

"I think Livingston's stepping down makes a very powerful argument that Clinton should resign as well and move beyond this mess," he said.

I wonder if he feels that way now. The CNN story on Vitter is entitled "Senator Sorry after number appears on D.C. Madam's List". Like all Republicans, he is sorry because he finally got caught. And, I would add, he was a sorry son of a bitch before that as well.

Federal Penury Watch

Thanks to Gary for this story, which reveals that the surge is only transferring our tax dollars into Halliburton and Black Water's pockets at the rate of $12 billion per month. Using our rule of thumb, that is $120 of my money per month to finance this outrage.

Libby Lies Watch

Today, our local newspaper published a letter to the editor which parroted one of the most common right wing lines with regard to Scooter Libby and his Technicolor get out of jail free card: that there was no "underlying crime" because prosecutor Fitzgerald already knew that Richard Armitage had leaked Valerie Wilson's covert status to Robert Novak when Libby was questioned. The logic seems to be that Libby's lies were therefore immaterial to the investigation of the crime, and could not technically be perjury.

Note that this is the reason that Clinton was never indicted of perjury. His testimony on a consensual affair with Monica Lewinsky was deemed immaterial to whether he had sexually harassed Paula Jones. And though right wingers continue to falsely claim that Clinton was "convicted" of perjury, he was never even charged.

However, used as a defense of Scooter Libby, this argument, which I have heard spoken and seen written by dozens of Bush apologists since his commutation of Libby's sentence, is incredibly retarded. That it is now being repeated by the sheep in the public indicates just how supine (or absent) the defenders of logic are in our public dialog.

The correct answer to this argument, which I have yet to see anyone effectively spell out, is that Fitzgerald, by the time he was questioning Libby in front of a grand jury, was not investigating the leak to Robert Novak any longer. He was investigating a criminal conspiracy made up of at least nine separate criminal acts.

Please see this chart prepared by the House Oversight Committee, showing the known flow of the knowledge of Valerie Wilson's undercover status through the CIA, the White House, and the State Department, out to people in the press. From people who have security clearance, to people who don't. Each of these transfers of information from the federal government to reporters was potentially a crime. That Novak, a shill for right wingers for decades, would be the first to rush the information into print, should surprise no one. The leaks were:

1) Ari Fleischer to Walter Pincus
2) Ari Fleischer to David Gregory
3) Ari Fleischer to John Dickerson
4) Libby to Judith Miller
5) Libby to Matt Cooper
6) Rove to Matt Cooper
7) Rove to Novak
8) Armitage to Novak
9) Armitage to Bob Woodward

The fact that Fleischer made an immunity for testimony deal with Fitzgerald indicates that Fitz was investigating far more than the leaks to Novak. (And by the way, note that none of the flying monkeys ever brings up the Rove to Novak leak). Any idiot can see that these Chatty Cathys were engaged in a coordinated effort to blow Wilson's cover, and that that effort was most likely coordinated from above, almost surely by Cheney and approved by Bush.

Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice because he prevented Fitzgerald from moving up the ladder to Bush and Cheney. It is that simple. And Bush commuted his sentence in another act of obstruction to keep it that way.

So when you hear someone repeating this tired lie, remind them that there were at least eight other criminal acts that were being investigated, all leading back to Dick.

Humor Watch

You may enjoy this funny, but ultimately sad, compendium of our dear leader's greatest moments caught on tape.

Torture Watch

Finally, this great quote on torture from a blog commenter: "The key distinction between you and the guy you are torturing is that he might be innocent, but you are not."

Michael Moore lays into Wolf Blitzer

Wow, here is a spanking that is richly deserved. CNN tries to do a "fact check" on Michael Moore's movie "Sicko", and he blasts media whore and Bush apologist Wolf Blitzer for about 5 minutes. Awesome.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Onward, Dark Christian Soldiers

Prognostication Watch

Above is a cartoon by Tom Tomorrow, written and published in 1998. Nearly ten years ago, Sparky the Penguin had everything right, while fools like Dick Cheney, Richard Armitage, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle were preparing to drive this country directly into the ditch. Ah, the hilarious irony, if only we didn’t have to suffer the consequences.

Fascism Watch

Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman recently interviewed the author of “American Fascists” about the Dominionist movement in this country, which overtly advocates a fascist theocracy in this country (rather than the slightly-less-than-overt advocacy of the GOP). Chris Hedges knows his theology, he knows his Dominionists, and because of his graduate training, he knows his fascists. And he is angry about where they want to go with this country. If only the leaders of the Democratic party could be half as knowledgeable and angry as he is, we might get somewhere. Fascinating to me is the importance of “husband as the head of household” in this political movement (also prominent in Islamic fundamentalism and the “Promise Keepers” group in this country) and the fact that he nails Pat Robertson on his investments in blood diamonds. Hedges has made an appearance on the Colbert Report, but this is the first long in depth interview I’ve seen with him. The transcript and links to audio and video are available above, but you can also watch it in two parts at YouTube. He talks a bit about the cult-like aspects of their recruiting:

And they talked about targeting people who are vulnerable. They used a technique very common to cults. It’s called love-bombing -- it’s a term taken from Margaret Singer -- where you -- three or four people go and you sort of focus intently on the person and are fascinated by everything that they say. You build false friendships. And eventually, of course, the goal is to draw them into these megachurches.

This movement talks about family, but it is the great destroyer of family. And I would stand up in these -- or I would be in these meetings and see people stand up weeping, and they would be weeping for unsaved spouses or children, because once you get sucked into these organizations, your leisure time, your religious worship time, you end up becoming involved in groups, you’re essentially removed from your old community and placed into this authoritarian community, where there is no questioning of those above you. You’re often assigned -- you’re called a baby Christian when you first come, and you’re assigned spiritual guides to teach you to think and act in the appropriate manner.

Brave Sir Colin Watch

Colin Powell is a fascinating figure to me. Not too many people know much about him, and because of that, they have a good feeling about him. His name is bandied about a lot as a possible presidential contender (or it used to be), and he had high positive poll numbers with Republicans and Democrats alike. But if you look at his actual record, the guy is dirty as hell. He was mixed up in the Mi Lai massacre cover up in Vietnam, and was up to his neck in the Iran Contra scandal as Reagan’s National Security Advisor. (Note that as part of his Teflon persona, neither of these are mentioned on his Wikipedia page. You have to go to the scandal pages directly to find him). Then, he cheerled the way into the US war in Iraq with his famous “Saddam’s Gonna Get You” speech to the UN (which he has since denounced as chock full o’ lies). The guy is a rotten apple to the core. And now, he has the temerity to tell us that he spend a whole 2.5 hours - 150 minutes! – trying to get the dimbulb-in-chief to understand what a disaster Iraq was going to be. Thanks for telling us four and a half years later, Colin. You’re a real profile in courage. From ThinkProgress:

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell revealed that he spent 2.5 hours “vainly trying to persuade President George W. Bush not to invade Iraq and believes today’s conflict cannot be resolved by U.S. forces. ‘I tried to avoid this war,’ Powell said at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. ‘I took him through the consequences of going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers.’” In terms of the current situation in Iraq, Powell said: “It is not a civil war that can be put down or solved by the armed forces of the United States.”

Your Disappearing Rights Watch

The ACLU has obtained a heavily redacted document from 2002 which describes how events should be prepared for El Presidente’s arrival. Though the original document is 103 pages long, the 13 (mostly blank) pages they did release did contain this advice for dealing with Americans exercising their first amendment rights:

Preparing for Demonstrators

There are several ways the advance person can prepare a site to minimize demonstrators. First, as always, work with the Secret Service and have them ask the local police department to designate a protest area where demonstrators can be place, preferably not in view of the event site or motorcade route.
The formation of “rally squads” is a common way to prepare for demonstrators by countering their message. This tactic involves utilizing small groups of volunteers to spread favorable messages using large hand held signs, placards, or perhaps a long sheet banner, and placing them in strategic areas around the site.

These squads should be instructed always to look for demonstrators. The rally squad’s task is to use their signs and banners as shield between the demonstrators and the main press platform. If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and lead supportive chants to drown out the protestors (USA! USA! USA!). As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the even site. The rally squads can include, but are not limited to, college/young republican organizations, local athletic teams, and fraternities/sororities.

There is much more concerning demonstrators, but apart from the appeal to the young brownshirts for protection against ideas they don’t like, how sad/cheesy is it to have them chant USA! like Colbert’s audience? What children. Sad, funny, fingers-on-the-button children.