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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Far right set to lose in Austria

Here's some good news. With far right seemingly gaining ground all across the globe -- witness the new Prime Minister in Japan, for example or Angela Merkel in Germany, or the recent election in Sweden -- this is good news:
VIENNA (AFP) - Campaigning is wrapping up in Austria for general elections that are expected to result in the far-right being out of power for the first time in over six years.
Hopefully, the tea leaves are correct. I have a number of good friends in Austria, most of whom don't support Haider & Co.

A pledge (sort of)

The more I think about it, the more I think the Democrats have to win at least one house on November 7 or this country will be permanently destroyed as a democracy. Maybe it's already too late, but it certainly will be if the Thuglicans continue to control every branch of government for two more years. So, as disgusted as I am with many "inside the beltway" Democrats, I think we have to support them. They're the only game in town. Therefore, today I'm making a "sort of" pledge not to criticize Democrats between now and November 7.

Of course, if there's a complete outrage (like the Foley scandal) on the Democratic side of the aisle, I'll register my disgust, but short of something like that, I'm going to hold my nose and push for a Democratic victory.

The scandal grows

Josh Marshall makes three important points about the Foley scandal:

… I don't think cover-up is too strong a word since there was apparently an active effort to keep the allegations from the only Democrat who serves on the Page Board. That decision, I think, speaks volumes.

Another point. A number of the leadership principals who apparently knew about this for months have made two arguments -- a) that the evidence they saw didn't clearly point to wrongdoing and b) that the matter wasn't pursued because the parents wanted the matter dropped to protect their privacy. In the real world, I think those are mutually contradictory rationales for not pursuing the matter. If you're dropping the matter because the parents don't want you to pursue it, I think that means there was a problem. That also ignores the apparently criminal nature of the activity.

Finally, one detail here isn't getting enough attention. Rep. Alexander (R-LA), the first member of Congress to be alerted to the problem, says he contacted the NRCC. That's the House Republicans' election committee, a political organization entirely separate from the House bureaucracy and the Congress. (The head of the NRCC this cycle is Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY).) That is, to put it mildly, not in the disciplinary and administrative chain of command of the House of Representatives... More to the point, however, you tell the head of the NRCC because you see the matter as a political problem. Reynolds is the one in charge of making sure Republican House seats get held... I cannot see any innocent explanation for notifying the head of the NRCC while not information [sic] the full membership of the page board.

Rice-Tenet pre-9/11 meeting not mentioned to 9/11 Commission

John Aravosis (I don't know why I always want to spell his name Avarosis) points out that it appears nobody ever informed the 9/11 Commission about this meeting between Tenet and Rice shortly before 9/11 when Tenet told Rice we were about to be hit, and Rice ignored him. The meeting is disclosed in these excerpts from Woodward's new book:
Tenet called Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser. "For months," Woodward writes, "Tenet had been pressing Rice to set a clear counterterrorism policy... that would give the CIA stronger authority to conduct covert action against bin Laden.... Tenet and Black hoped to convey the depth of their anxiety and get Rice to kick-start the government into immediate action.

"Tenet had been losing sleep over the recent intelligence. There was no conclusive, smoking-gun intelligence, but there was such a huge volume of data that an intelligence officer's instinct strongly suggested that something was coming....

"But Tenet had been having difficulty getting traction on an immediate bin Laden action plan, in part because Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had questioned all the intelligence, asking: Could it all be a grand deception? "

Woodward describes the meeting, and the two officials' plea that the U.S. "needed to take action that moment -- covert, military, whatever -- to thwart bin Laden."

The result? "Tenet and Black felt they were not getting though to Rice. She was polite, but they felt the brush-off. President Bush had said he didn't want to swat at flies."

"Tenet left the meeting feeling frustrated. Though Rice had given them a fair hearing, no immediate action meant great risk. Black felt the decision to just keep planning was a sustained policy failure. Rice and the Bush team had been in hibernation too long....

"Afterward, Tenet looked back on the meeting with Rice as a lost opportunity to prevent or disrupt the attacks. Rice could have gotten through to Bush on the threat, Tenet thought, but she just didn't get it in time. He felt that he had done his job and been very direct about the threat, but that Rice had not moved quickly. He felt she was not organized and did not push people, as he tried to do at the CIA.

"Black later said, 'The only thing we didn't do was pull the trigger to the gun we were holding to her head.'"

… "The July 10 meeting of Rice, Tenet and Black went unmentioned in various investigations into the Sept. 11 attacks, and Woodward wrote that Black 'felt there were things the commissions wanted to know about and things they didn't want to know about.'

"Jamie S. Gorelick, a member of the Sept. 11 commission, said she checked with commission staff members who told her investigators were never told about a July 10 meeting. 'We didn't know about the meeting itself,' she said. 'I can assure you it would have been in our report if we had known to ask about it.'

"White House and State Department officials yesterday confirmed that the July 10 meeting took place, although they took issue with Woodward's portrayal of its results."
Seems like a rather important omission, n'est ce pas? Particularly now, when the White House is trying to lay the blame for 9/11 on Clinton's shoulders.

A voice is heard in the wilderness

Maybe the Democrats have finally found a spokesperson. At least this gal got some press when she talked. When is the last time that happened to a Democrat (excepting the Clintons, of course)?

WASHINGTON - An Illinois congressional candidate who lost both her legs during combat in Iraq said Saturday that President Bush has no real strategy for securing the war-ravaged nation, just political talk designed to appeal to voters.

"Instead of a plan or a strategy, we get shallow slogans like 'mission accomplished' and 'stay the course,'" former Army Capt. Tammy Duckworth said in the Democrats' weekly radio address. "Those slogans are calculated to win an election. But they won't help us accomplish our mission in Iraq."

Duckworth's address served as a response to the president's weekly radio talk and gave the Democratic Party a chance to showcase one of its strongest candidates as it seeks to regain control of the House in November's elections.

Duckworth, who copiloted a Black Hawk helicopter that crashed while under a rocket grenade attack almost two years ago, also criticized Bush and others in his administration for accusing anyone who challenges the president's policies of "cutting and running."

Rhetoric check

I thank my friends and colleagues on this blog for their reaffirmation of the Democratic Party as our best hope to resist and turn back the terrible, anti-Constitutional, unAmerican (etc., etc.) actions and impulses (more war, more censorship, less environmental protection, and on and on and on) of the Apparatchiks in power. I will hold on for now. I am also helped by some things that Glenn Greenwald said the other day ("Beltway Democrats are seriously flawed, but. . .", cited below).

But then I want to come back to the seriousness of our rhetoric. Do we really believe that we are dealing with (neo-)fascism in The Regime and in the reigning elements of the Republican Party? Fascism is serious, absolutist stuff, and requires, it seems to me, a correspondingly total rejection and opposition. And this doesn't square with "our" current desire to see 2-party politics as usual at work in the upcoming elections-- particularly as the Democratic Party is not there yet.

We hear and reject complaints about rabid, hysterical left-wing bloggers. Yet, we are using very serious language while advocating not really comparably serious responses here. Isn't there a disconnect somewhere? Sounds like we don't quite believe what we are saying, then, to me. I have used the term "fascism" myself, so there is no finger-pointing here, but I am getting very worried that the term is less and less rhetorical and more and more descriptive as time passes.

At any rate, the promised quotes from Greenwald:

Down side:

There is no point in trying to glorify the conduct of Democrats. I think the larger-than-expected Senate Democratic opposition to the torture/detention bill is illusory, almost a by-product of sheer luck more than anything else. The large number of votes against the bill seems to have been driven more by Democrats' objections to the significant changes made to the bill in the last several days (ones made even after the Glorious Compromise was announced) than objections to the core provisions of the bill themselves -- and even then, the Democrats' anger was more about the fact that they were excluded from the negotiating process rather than anger towards the substance of the changes themselves.

It seems that this is what accounts for the fact that most of the Democrats did not even unveil their opposition to this bill until the very last day. Many of them were likely prepared to vote for the "compromise" and only decided not to due to the substantive worsening of the bill in the last few days. After all, if they are so gravely offended by the core provisions of torture and indefinite detention, why did Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, etc. all refuse even to say how they were going to vote on this bill until yesterday (I suspect many of their votes against the bill were sealed only once the habeas corpus amendment failed yesterday). And until yesterday, most prominent Democrats made themselves invisible in the debate over torture and detention powers. All of those criticisms are accurate and fair enough.

"Compromise" with . . . with what? Fascism? Say it ain't so.

Up side quotes:

For all their imperfections, cowardly acts, strategically stupid decisions, and inexcusable acquiescence -- and that list is depressingly long -- it is still the case that Democrats voted overwhelmingly against this torture and detention atrocity. The vote total on yesterday's House vote on Heather Wilson's bill to legalize warrantless eavesdropping reflects the same dynamic: "On the final wiretapping vote, 18 Democrats joined 214 Republicans to win passage. Thirteen Republicans, 177 Democrats and one independent voted nay." And, if nothing else, Democrats are resentful and angry at how they have been treated and that alone will fuel some serious and much-needed retribution if they gain control over one or both houses.
And in his first Update--
And I think there is one other point that needs to be recognized about yesterday's vote: In 2002, virtually all of the Democratic Presidential hopefuls in Congress (Kerry, Edwards, Gephardt, Graham) voted for the Iraq war resolution, because they thought they had to be accommodationist in order to have a chance to win.But this time, all of the Democratic Presidential hopefuls in Congress (Biden, Clinton, Feingold, Kerry) voted against this bill, because now they know that they can't be accommodationist if they want to win the nomination. Call that the Joe Lieberman Lesson. That is genuine progress, no matter how you slice it. Is it glorious, tearing-down-the-gate-with-fists-in-the-air Immediate Revolution? No. But it's undeniable incremental progress nonetheless.

Shredding the Constitution, one article at a time

Erwin Chemerinsky informs us the Thuglicans have quietly shredded another piece of the Constitution under the cover of darkness -- separation of church and state:

With little public attention or even notice, the House of Representatives has passed a bill that undermines enforcement of the First Amendment's separation of church and state. The Public Expression of Religion Act - H.R. 2679 - provides that attorneys who successfully challenge government actions as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment shall not be entitled to recover attorneys fees. The bill has only one purpose: to prevent suits challenging unconstitutional government actions advancing religion.

… Such a bill could have only one motive: to protect unconstitutional government actions advancing religion. The religious right, which has been trying for years to use government to advance their religious views, wants to reduce the likelihood that their efforts will be declared unconstitutional. Since they cannot change the law of the Establishment Clause by statute, they have turned their attention to trying to prevent its enforcement by eliminating the possibility for recovery of attorneys' fees.

Potential war between India and Pakistan

India is accusing Pakistan's government of planning and executing the bombing of Mumbai's railroad system last July.
A deadly bombing on Mumbai's railway system was masterminded by Pakistan's spy agency and carried out by the Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, Indian police said.

"We have solved the July 11 bombings case. The whole attack was planned by Pakistan's ISI [Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence] and carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba and their operatives in India," A.N. Roy, Mumbai's police commissioner said.

Roy said the ISI had begun planning the attacks in March and later provided training to those who carried out the bombings.

Pakistan said India had shown them no evidence of Pakistani involvement in the blasts which killed more than 200 people.

"India has always chosen this path of pointing fingers at Pakistan without evidence," Tariq Azim Khan, the information minister, said. "If they have any evidence, they should provide us evidence and we will carry out our investigations."
This sounds incendiary enough to lead to a new war between the two countries. Wouldn't that be just ducky on top of everything else that's going on, a nice little nuclear war?

Building a wall to keep those damn 'mericuns out

Well, they're going to take a billion or two (or more) out of our pockets to build a useless wall to "keep those damn mezcans out." Aren't you pleased? Hadrian had a wall too. So did Berlin. China had one.

Maybe, once our society collapses upon itself of its own weight, the Mexicans will use this wall to "keep those damn mericuns out."

Republicans boo Pelosi when she calls for investigation of Foley mess

Great good citizens that they are, the Republicans booed Nancy Pelosi when she called for an investigation of the Foley pedophilia scandal.

Diebold up to no good

Diebold caught with its hand in the machine:

(APN) ATLANTA – Top Diebold corporation officials ordered workers to install secret files to Georgia’s electronic voting machines shortly before the 2002 Elections, at least two whistleblowers are now asserting, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.

Former Diebold official Chris Hood told his story concerning the secret “patch” to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., for Kennedy’s second article on electronic voting in this week’s Rolling Stone Magazine.

Hood’s claims corroborate a second whistleblower who spoke with Black Box Voting and Wired News in 2003.

Whistleblower Accounts

“With the primaries looming, [Chief of Diebold’s Election Division] Urosevich was personally distributing a ‘patch,’ a little piece of software designed to correct glitches in the computer program,” Rolling Stone Magazine reported.

"We were told that it was intended to fix the clock in the system, which it didn't do," Hood told Rolling Stone. "The curious thing is the very swift, covert way this was done."

"It was an unauthorized patch, and they were trying to keep it secret from the state," Hood told Rolling Stone.

It seems to me there were serious questions about the outcome of that election in Georgia too.

Burying my head in the sand for awhile

Thinking about what Congress did the other day in the torture bill makes me so depressed that I have decided to stop thinking about it for awhile and concentrate on other things. So, you probably won't see me comment on this for the next few days until my system gets back to some sort of equilibrium. Meanwhile, let's focus on happier things, such as pedophilia in Congress.

The stench is growing

Josh Marshall was tracking the Foley story through the night last night as the news came fast and furious. To summarize: John Shimkus (R-IL), Chairman of the Page Board, learned of e-mail contacts between Foley and an underage page last year. He informed Hastert's office, but Hastert claims he wasn't informed. Not much was done. Later, John Boehner learned of it. He told the Washington Post last night that he had informed Hastert. Later, he called the Post and said he didn't remember whether he had informed Hastert.

So what we seem to have here is several Republican members of Congress (the exact number is not known) who knew there was a potential problem here for quite awhile but either did nothing themselves or, if they passed the information on to others, failed to follow up when the others did nothing.

It seems to me that the stench coming from the Republican wing of the House is getting overpowering.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Light at the end of the tunnel

Today, we are told (for the thousandth time) that the insurgents in Iraq are losing ground:
The insurgents are losing ground, and Iraqi security forces are gaining, said Army Col. Sean B. MacFarland, commander of 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division. He also said his soldiers' goal is not to destroy the insurgency but to build up the Iraqi army and police to a point where they can fight the insurgents on their own.
You know, the "light at the end of the tunnel" line might have worked for awhile. But, when we heard it being repeated the very day before the last of our troops chaotically fled Saigon by heliocopter airlift from the roof of the embassy on live TV, it doesn't sell well anymore.

Everyday, we hear about dozens of dead bodies showing up all over Iraq. Almost every day the body count of US soldiers killed in action increases. These things are getting worse, not better. Only the craziest kind of analysis could lead to the conclusion that "the insurgents are losing ground."

But, I've come to believe that commanders on the ground are incapable of realistically assessing progress in a war like this. They couldn't in Vietnam, and they can't in Iraq.

Foley out

Updated below

This sure didn't take long. I just read he had been outed this morning on TPM Muckraker:

WASHINGTON - Rep. Mark Foley (news, bio, voting record), R-Fla., resigned from Congress on Friday, effective immediately, in the wake of questions about e-mails he wrote a former male page.

"I am deeply sorry and I apologize for letting down my family and the people of Florida I have had the privilege to represent," he said in a statement issued by his office.
I'm not sure what this does in terms of the Congressional race in Florida. I'll report back when I learn something.

Is it my imagination, or does it seem as though there are more of these kinds of things going on than usual? I don't think you can chalk this one up to the Rethuglican culture of corruption. This is obviously a mental aberration, not just ordinary corruption. But, still, it seems as though there have been quite a number of pedophilia cases cropping up among Republican hacks.


This was rated a "safe" Republican seat up till now. I'm still trying to find out what Florida law permits in terms of mounting a replacement candidate. Tim Mahoney is the Democratic challenger.

Update II:

This is strange. According to a commenter at MyDD, the ballots must remain unchanged under Florida law. However, all votes for Foley will automatically be awarded to his Republican replacement. Frankly, I don't know how that plays out. With Foley in disgrace, many may chose not to vote for him. On the other hand, many may not even know he's in disgrace and will vote for him because he's a Republican, thus giving their vote to whomever the Thugs pick to replace him.

Democrats: Time to realize you need to PLAN AHEA-d

I will stick with the Democrats as the only chance left. They are close to 50%. But Democrats could have gotten way, way out front on the torture-habeas bill by declaring very early that the bill is not only wrong, it is stupid. As noted before, because it is seen throughout the world as the United States favoring torture of Muslims, whether guilty of anything or not, the bill only weakens us by creating more terrorists and making it harder for allies to support us. That’s stupid. The debate should have been not whether it is wrong or not – everyone knows it is wrong, but many Americans don’t care if they think (or imagine) it keeps them safe – but whether doing something we know is wrong actually works. Whether it is stupid to be seen as the “torture country.” By imagining themselves that McCain and his two sidekicks would do all the heavy lifting on principle, Democrats allowed themselves to be painted into the corner of weakly opposing the bill only on moral and philosophical grounds – so now they look weak because they failed to take a strong position, and they are still going to be accused of exactly the thing they were afraid of. Lots of people have said that, but somehow in Washington they just don’t get it.

Who could have led that charge? There is one and only one individual Democrat right now -- unfortunate but true -- with (1) sufficiently broad moral authority and (2) command of media attention, to have initiated the charge. And, what, first, was that charge exactly? It was this: persuading a majority of Americans long before any vote that this bill, once it became known as the “torture bill,” regardless of its actual provisions or any showy “compromises,” is not only an egregious violation of what America stands for, but also stupid: S-T-U-P-I-D. And persuading almost everyone else that it is probably stupid, or might be stupid (and we shouldn’t rush on it). The case is frightfully easy to make: more terrorists, fewer allies. When we fight the war on terror, we need all of our weapons – and checking our brains back in the locker room, and flailing at anybody we can grab with an Arabic name, is no way to win anything, much less something this complicated.

And who despite protestations of not being ready needed to lead it? Not Harry Reid -- he’s been good on many things, but he’s still just a Democratic spokesman who will only get a single quote insufficient to create the necessary debate among the talking heads on the news shows. John Kerry would have presented the similar partisanship issue as Reid, and would not have been able to break the media screen to get the traction. Biden would not have stood a chance, and Kennedy is old news now.

Both of those elements would have been necessary to do it right: broad credibility and ready command of media attention. Bill Clinton could come close, but he is unwilling to do anything political other than in defense of charges against him. Hillary comes fairly close, too – with ability to command media attention -- but right now there is the high negatives that would foreclose some 40% or more from even listening, and give the talking heads easy counter-attacks by changing the subject. Although not being able to penetrate more or less the same audience who would never listen to Hillary, Al Gore could have generated a bit of buzz, with some authority from having been involved on the inside in the beginnings of the war against Al Qaeda, and partly from the fact that the right-wing message machine would inevitably have attacked Clinton again for not “getting” Bin Laden – which, if the Democrats were ever prepared, could prompt ton-of-bricks retorts reminding all Americans how Bush, Cheney and Rice, despite the departing warnings of Clinton, Madeline Albright, William Cohen, and despite the continuing warnings of Richard Clarke and George Tenet, completely ignored the terrorism issue before 9-11, even the specific threat in the CIA memo headed “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” And never forget to remind the public of what Bush said, as reported in Ron Suskind’s recent book, to the CIA agent hand-carrying the smoking gun memo before 9-11: “OK, you’ve covered your ass now,” before resuming his golf swing or whatever he was doing at the ranch.)

The one media star who could have broken through is, obviously, Barack Obama. He is trying to avoid that kind of leadership role as a national figure too early, and is concentrating now on building his bipartisanship cred – probably wisely in anticipation of a national desire for deliverance (and is “deliverance” the right word or what?) from the horrendously divisive Bush years. But Obama has that leadership role, like it or not, and is someone who would have been able to couch a blistering attack on the stupidity of fighting terror this way as something that should concern all Americans, liberals and conservatives alike. Once having laid the groundwork with a single broadside, Hillary, Reid, Kerry, Kennedy, Leahy, Biden and all the other prominent Democrats could have continued the talking-heads assault – with far more credibility because it was endorsed by Obama first – and Obama could have backed away to avoid getting drawn into the strongest exchanges and resume building the bipartisan mantle. And who better to make the case for the importance of using our brains than the guy everyone knows is the smartest person in Washington? Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Law Review? Crikeys!

Right now, a majority of Americans are willing to see principles bent (even broken entirely, many would say) in the face of threats of physical destruction. Americans believe, with a lot of visible evidence, that there are terrorists out to kill Americans – and that with planning and minimal technology and resources, they can do it by the thousands. We know, of course, that Bush’s program is more pretense of fighting terrorism than reality, a show for political purposes, and is so incompetently conceived, designed and implemented that it has only made the problem worse. But Democrats must recognize the fear and command the ground of victory, not just the moral high ground. But even the moral high ground can be brought into the security equation: when we stick to the principles that make America great, when we adopt laws that all Americans can support enthusiastically, then we strengthen the country. When we use our brains as well as our military might, we strengthen the country. When we lurch around throwing fearsome punches that never connect like some punch-drunk palooka (imagery courtesy of another blog, I forget whose), we weaken the country. When we violate our principles before the whole world for something like the right to torture, we create more terrorists, lose allies in the war on terror, divide Americans and weaken the country.

Democrats could successfully take the initiative like that with some planning, but cannot constantly be in a state of response to what we ought to know weeks in advance is coming: “No, that’s not fair for them to call us ‘cut-and-run,’ we believe in fighting terror, too, really.” When the pundits say Democrats are just objecting and are offering nothing constructive, tell them listening to the experts like we did successfully for most of 60 years in winning the Cold War is the real meaning of “stay the course.” In order to make the news and the late night jokes, and shut the Republicans and the pundits up, the retorts must be clever, blunt, vicious and more vicious, accurate, directly on-point, and very, very, very short. Otherwise, only the first Republican shot gets any footage. Unfortunately, nobody is minding the store when it comes to strategic and even tactical planning. Many concerned Democrats have said that, too, but once again – as with lack of anticipation and preparation for the Swift Boat commercials – we see how true it is.

Howard, Rahm, we certainly need to get the troops out there, but they need strong leaders to fight for. And yes, we need the advertising focused at crunch time, but the advertising needs to be sealing the deal, not climbing back up the hill after our candidates have been knocked down. As they say in business, somebody somewhere needs to get their shit together.

Judge rules Ashcroft can be sued for wrongful detention

With Congress having walked off the job, maybe the courts are the last defenders of Democracy in this country. Many believe the torture bill will be rejected as unconstitutional very quickly, yesterday Judge Anna Diggs Taylor failed to lift her injunction preventing the Bush wire tap program, and now this:

A federal judge in Idaho has ruled that former attorney general John D. Ashcroft can be held personally responsible for the wrongful detention of a U.S. citizen arrested as a "material witness" in a terrorism case.

U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge, in a ruling issued late Wednesday, dismissed claims by the Justice Department that Ashcroft and other officials should be granted immunity from claims by a former star college football player arrested at Dulles International Airport in 2003.

Attorneys for the plaintiff in the civil suit, Abdullah al-Kidd, said the decision raises the possibility that Ashcroft could be forced to testify or turn over records about the government's use of the material witness law, a cornerstone of its controversial legal strategy after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Justice Department officials did not respond to telephone messages yesterday seeking comment. A spokeswoman for Ashcroft also did not respond to requests for comment.

Robin Goldfaden, one of Kidd's attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the case "could be the launching point for more fully documenting how the government is misusing the material witness statute."

The law was intended to give authorities the power to detain witnesses they feared might flee before testifying. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, the government used it to hold 70 men, nearly half of whom were never called to testify in court, according to a study by the ACLU and Human Rights Watch.

Kidd -- a Kansas native who was known as Lavoni T. Kidd before converting to Islam -- was arrested in March 2003 as he prepared to board a flight to Saudi Arabia, where he was planning to pursue a doctorate in Islamic studies. Federal prosecutors claimed he was a flight risk crucial to the prosecution of a fellow University of Idaho student, Sami Omar al-Hussayen.

Kidd was imprisoned for 16 days in three states and then placed under restrictive court supervision for more than a year. But Kidd was never called to testify against Hussayen, who was eventually acquitted of computer-related terrorism charges.

Even when they're caught in the act, they stay on the job

HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson admits to political bias in contract awards but remains on the job. From TPM Muckraker:

A recent report from the HUD Inspector General found that Jackson repeatedly told his deputies that they should favor supporters of the President when awarding contracts. New revelations from the report show that Jackson himself admitted to investigators that political affiliation was a factor: "I’m not going to go out of my way to help somebody who’s castigating the President…Now, if that’s my bias, I have it."

But the IG seems to have found "no direct proof" that a contract was actually awarded or rescinded because of political affiliation.

"I think they saved his butt," said Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor and Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, referring to Jackson's suboordinates. If it turns out they just listened to his windbag speeches about helping Bush supporters, but then went off and did their jobs, Jackson may be off the hook. "However, it’s totally unethical and the guy ought to be fired," she added.

Green(er) on the other side?

I have been following (and agonizing over) the decline and fall of American democracy over the past 6 years along with the other writers (and most readers) of Scatablog. I wish I had the advantage of retrospect: is the passage of the grab 'em, hide 'em, fry 'em bill in the Senate the truly decisive step? Has Caesar now crossed the Rubicon (or the Mall)? Beer Hall Putsch, anyone? I don't know for sure.

What I am wonderng about is the notion that supporting the Democratic Party is the best, let alone the honorable, course of action for those of us still loyal to the Constitution and Jeffersonian democracy, and who want to resist and roll back the neo-fascist takeover of our government. If we are truly convinced that the strong language of "fascism" is appropriate here, and if we are equally convinced that the Democrats as a collective whole are not willing or able to recognize that, let alone energized to struggle strenuously against it, then it is probably time to find a coherent party of opposition. We need a party that is unambiguously loyal to America, to its Constitution and to the "better angels of our [nation's] nature", as Lincoln once said in a different context, that is to our historic commitments to the rule of law (domestic and international), habeas corpus, human rights, freedom of speech and association and religion, and so forth. Is the Democratic Party that party? Not in New Jersey apparently.

I once lost a German friend who had joined the Green Party at home, around the time of Reagan's election. I told him I thought the Green's interests were too narrow. My daughter and son-in-law in Maryland are Greens and vote that way. I know, I know: Gore would have won the election, if not for the Greens and Nader. But that was then. And even then, the Democrats were losing focus from my point of view (dare I say "our point of view"?): the Al Gore of 2000 is not the Al of 2006, who at least has rediscovered his better angel, I reckon.

I am not saying I am about to go Green. I am not sure if they are exactly the party of alternate choice. But I think I am willing to consider them. The success of Democratic Party may seem like the best opportunity, in the short-term, to turn things around. But there are many indications that they are not able to win enough elections, nor really to constitute a clear alternative. Where do I go from here?

Where do we go from here?

I'm pretty depressed by what's happening to my country, and I guess my posts have been reflecting that. I'm particularly depressed by the fact that even Democrats are unwilling to stand up and fight -- witness the two Democratic Senators from my state, Lautenberg and Menendez, who voted for torture and against habeas corpus. I agree with Tristero, see the post below and one of my posts yesterday, that this has become a fascist state and that one reason the Congress has been so submissive to the President is that they know he would ignore them if they stood up to him. Then, it would be clear to all that we no longer live in a democracy.

I even wrote a nasty letter to Menedez just now, saying, "don't expect my support in November."

But, the more I think about this, the more I think we can't let the horrible state we're in now stop us from trying. Glenn Greenwald has written about this along these lines:

But a desire to see the Democrats take over Congress -- even a strong desire for that outcome and willingness to work for it -- does not have to be, and at least for me is not, driven by a belief that Washington Democrats are commendable or praiseworthy and deserve to be put into power. Instead, a Democratic victory is an instrument -- an indispensable weapon -- in battling the growing excesses and profound abuses and indescribably destructive behavior of the Bush administration and their increasingly authoritarian followers. A Democratic victory does not have to be seen as being anything more than that in order to realize how critically important it is.

A desire for a Democratic victory is, at least for me, about the fact that this country simply cannot endure two more years of a Bush administration which is free to operate with even fewer constraints than before, including the fact that George Bush and Dick Cheney will never face even another midterm election ever again. They will be free to run wild for the next two years with a Congress that is so submissive and blindly loyal that it is genuinely creepy to behold. A desire for a Democratic victory is also about the need to have the systematic lawbreaking and outright criminality in which Bush officials have repatedly engaged have actual consequences, something that simply will not happen if Republicans continue their stranglehold on all facets of the Government for the next two years.

If a desire to put Democrats in office doesn't inspire you into action - and, honestly, at this point, how could it? -- a desire to block Republicans from exercising more untrammeled power, and to find ways to hold them accountable, ought to do so. Disgust and even hatred are difficult emotions to avoid when reading things like this:
...In the real world, one has to either choose between two more years of uncontrolled Republican rule, or imposing some balance -- even just logjam -- on our Government with a Democratic victory. Or one can decide that it just doesn't matter either way because one has given up on defending the principles and values of our country. But, for better or worse, those are the only real options available, and wishing there were other options doesn't mean that there are any. And there are only six weeks left to choose the option you think is best and to do what you can to bring it to fruition.
Publius tackled the issue of Menendez head on. In his original post he concluded that if he knew that control of the Senate didn't depend on his vote, he would vote for Tom Kean, not Menendez and thought he might vote for Kean anyway. In an update to the post, he flip-flopped:

I guess I'm flaking on the Kean question. The real question is not who you would support knowing the outcome, but who you would support behind the veil (i.e., if you don't know who will control). That's really tough, but in light of what we saw today (suspension of habeas), maybe you have to hold your nose. I mean, I would rather have habeas corpus and a stinking rotten NJ Democratic Senator than having no habeas corpus but a less-rotten guy representing NJ.

So if I'm forced to pick behind the veil, I guess I'll flip-flop and take a one-time-only ticket on Menendez just to ride out the Bush presidency. But if it turns out that the Dems have either 49 or 51 without Menendez, I'll be glad he lost.

America is now a fascist state

I think I have to agree with Tristero:
But it is imperative that we fully recognize how seriously godawful the situation is.

I'll say it again: Americans are living in a fascist state. Don't like the word "fascism?" Neither do I. So what? It's ludicrous to call the gutting of habeas corpus, etc, etc, by near unanimous consent merely "authoritarian."* We are living in a fascist state.

Some commenters in the post below said I am being too discouraging. Hardly. This country's government has been transformed and is no longer recognizable as a working democracy. That's simply a fact and we better accept it.

Because when you're dealing with fascism, "We can beat this, people if we just fight harder!" is naive win-one-for-the-Gipper fantasy-land. It's gonna get a lot worse than it is now before it gets better. We're gonna be lucky if more of us don't end up "persons of interest" to the Bush administration. Remember, if you're not with Bush, you're objectively pro-terrorist...
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. If these guys are unlucky enough to lose an election (which is unlikely, given the way they've got the system rigged), they're not going to give up power. It's as simple as that. Frankly, I doubt Bush will step down in 2009. I'm not sure about that because he may just be sick and tired of the job. After all, he's a lazy slob. But, I don't think absolute monarchs give away power willingly.

What that means, I don't know, because there is probably no way a violent revolution could succeed. Maybe something like the "people power" revolution in the Phillipines that toppled Marcos would work, but somehow, I doubt it.

They all look the same to me

I couldn't resist posting this gem of a quote from Trent Lott:

"It's hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what's wrong with these people," he said. "Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion? Why do they hate the Israeli's and despise their right to exist? Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me."

Some laws Congress will want to pass

Iraq, that center of freedom and democracy Bush so loves to refer to, has some new laws that I'm sure Bush will want us to adopt here:

Under a broad new set of laws criminalizing speech that ridicules the government or its officials, some resurrected verbatim from Saddam Hussein’s penal code, roughly a dozen Iraqi journalists have been charged with offending public officials in the past year.

Your Congress at work

Another atrocity passes the House without debate:

The House voted Thursday to impose mandatory sanctions on entities that provide goods or services for Iran's weapons programs. The vote came as U.S diplomats continued to press the U.N. Security Council to penalize Tehran if it fails to end its uranium enrichment program.

House sponsors of the Iran Freedom Support Act said they had hoped for Senate action as early as Thursday night, sending it to President Bush for his signature. But they said there was resistance from Senate Democrats to passing it without a debate.

The bill, passed by a voice vote, sanctions any entity that contributes to Iran's ability to acquire chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. The president has the authority to waive those sanctions, but only when he can show that it is in the vital national interest.

The Hall of Shame

Updated below:

Democrats who support torture and the suspension of habeas corpus:

Carper (Del), Johnson (SD), Landrieu (LA), Lautenberg (NJ), Lieberman (CT), Menendez (NJ), Nelson (FL), Nelson (Neb), Pryor (Ark), Rockefeller (WVa), Salazar (Colo0, Stabenow (MI).

I am devastated to see that mine is the only state with two Democratic traitors.

Keep knitting Madame Lafarge!


I mean, maybe I can understand Menendez. He's running in a closely contested race. But Lautenberg? He's not even running this year!

And, frankly, to vote for torture just to save your job is pretty disgusting, so I'm not giving Menendez a pass either.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Israeli group blames Israel for war crim

It's interesting that there's more criticism of Israel from within its boundaries than there is from the U.S. Witness this article from the UK's Independent:

The air strike on Gaza's only power station that has left most residents with half their normal electricity supply three months later was a war crime, according to the Israeli human rights group B'tselem.

A 34-page report says the cuts in power are: harming health care; drastically limiting water supplies to three hours a day; plunging sew-age treatment to near crisis levels; limiting the mobility of high-rise dwellers by halting lifts; and threatening residents with food poisoning because of interruptions to refrigeration.

Judge Taylor enjoins Bush

Today, Judge Anna Digs Taylor refused to stay her ruling to enjoin the Bush Administration from continuing it's NSA eavesdropping program until it can be appealed to the Circuit Court.  That means that, beginning in five days Bush must stop unless the Appeals Court steps in to stay the injunction, which it probably will.  But, what if it doesn't.  Does anyone really believe that Bush would stop just because a court enjoined him from something?  I certainly don't. 

Suppose he essentially tells Taylor to go to hell, he's going to proceed whether she likes it or not.  Suppose she then finds him in contempt of Court and orders him jailed. That would be a truly interesting Constitutional crisis.  Unfortunately, Bush might well win. 

Question, would the military support him against the Courts?  I don't know, but I suspect the answer is yes.

This is a spooky as it gets folks. 

Two polls, two different conclusions

Two polls on the Lieberman-Lamont race are out today, and they seem to be completely contradictory.  The Quinnipiac poll shows Lieberman leading by 10 percentage points and concludes that Lamont has lost his momentum.  The Zogby poll concludes that Lamont is within 2 percentage points of Lieberman and gaining.  Take your pick.

Habeas Corpus dies in the Senate

As you probably know, the Senate rejected the Specter amendment to the detainee bill which was designed to preserve our Constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights. One Democrat, Ben Nelson from Nebraska, voted with the Republican majority. Four Republicans voted with the Democrats. So, the President will now have the right to arrest anyone, citizen or not, on his say so alone, detain them indefinitely without right to a hearing or trial of any kind, and torture them if he chooses.

It's a wonderful country we live in folks. It's almost as good as the Soviet Union under Stalin.

To make matters worse, in the House vote yesterday, 34 democrats joined the Republicans to support torture, imprisonment without trial, Kangaroo courts, and the like. Among the Dems voting for torture were prominent figures like Sherwood Brown who is running for Senate in Ohio and Ted Strickland, who is running for Governor. If they lose, now they deserve it.

Madame Lafarge, keep up the knitting.

Just wondering

Just wondering whether our torture President, who believes God annointed him to be the leader of the Christian World, has ever read this from Matthew 5:38-45

[38] Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
[39] But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
[40] And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.
[41] And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
[42] Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
[43] Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
[44] But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
[45] That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
From the 5th. verse of the same chapter we also find, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

Somehow, it doesn't seem to fit the man, does it?

The Rogue Presidency

Blogger's acting up again (so what else is new?), so I'm trying this post by e-mail.

Tristero at Hullabaloo may be on to something.  His thesis in this post is that the reason Congress is trying to authorize Bush in everything he does is that they don't dare confront him.  Were they to do so, he would ignore them, thereby proving that the American democracy is forever broken.

The truth is that there is a rogue presidency and there has been, since January, 2001 (earlier, if you count the stolen election). Certainly, everyone in Washington knows it, but no one dares to admit it. The bill legalizing torture merely enables Congress to pretend they still have some influence over an executive that from day one was governing, not as if they had a mandate, but as if Bush was a dictator. If, for some miracle, the bill didn't pass, every congress-critter knows Bush would keep on torturing.

Better to vote to pass and preserve the appearance of a working American government, the thinking goes. For the very thought that the US government is seriously broken - that the Executive is beyond the control of anyone and everyone in the world - is such a truly awesome and terrifying thought that it can never be publicly acknowledged. If ever it is, if the American crisis gets outed and Congress and the Supremes openly assert that the Executive has run completely amok and is beyond control, the world consequences are staggering. It is the stuff of doomsday novels.

Another day, another 40 bodies

The morning news from Iraq:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The bodies of 40 men who been tortured were found in the capital in a span of 24 hours, police said Thursday. Bombings and shootings killed at least 21 people in and around Baghdad, including five people who died from a car-bomb explosion near a restaurant.
It's becomming so common, the reporters probably don't even have to write a new story each day. They can just use the same one over and over again.

And, we also learned today, that six in ten Iraqis favor attacks on US troops. Frankly, wouldn't you if you were an Iraqi?

Rushing off a cliff

The editorial from today's NY Times:

Rushing Off a Cliff

Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists — because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That’s pure propaganda. Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.

It was only after the Supreme Court issued the inevitable ruling striking down Mr. Bush’s shadow penal system that he adopted his tone of urgency. It serves a cynical goal: Republican strategists think they can win this fall, not by passing a good law but by forcing Democrats to vote against a bad one so they could be made to look soft on terrorism.

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error…

There is not enough time to fix these bills, especially since the few Republicans who call themselves moderates have been whipped into line, and the Democratic leadership in the Senate seems to have misplaced its spine. If there was ever a moment for a filibuster, this was it.

We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

I have a dream

For whatever it's worth I had a very vivid dream last night. My wife and I were going to the polls to vote next November (not likely, since I plan to vote absentee to avoid the machines). The machines are acting up, Republican poll watchers are demanding photo identification from every voter and challenging all, the lines are out the door and around the block. It's around 2:00 pm when word comes down that the governor of New Jersey, along with about fifteen other governors, has cancelled the election due to the chaos. Shortly thereafter, Bush comes on the air announcing the all elections acrosss the United States have been cancelled. He also announces that he is declaring a state of emergency, calling up the National Guard, commandeering all television and radio stations, shutting down the printed press, and closing off all non-government approved sites on the internet.

That's about the point where I woke up.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Now and forever, it’s the “torture bill.” Soon we will find out whether "we" are for it or not

It is really a worthless exercise now to examine the actual content of the “torture bill.” That is what it is, and that is what it will be forever, and no amount of explaining and clarifying will ever undo that. As we have noted earlier, just the fact that the President of the United States supports torturing Muslim prisoners is incalculably damaging enough. But at least there is the fig-leaf consolation that many Americans do not agree with President Bush, and we can hope that the world continues to draw that distinction. How often do we see the concern with whether it’s the policies or the people of the United States that are hated?

But if Congress ratifies it, all Americans become guilty, like it or not – and the damage will be virtually un-repairable for a generation. So who cares what the world thinks? That might be a valid point, except it’s the rest of the world where the terrorists are coming from, and it’s the rest of the world that we will need to stop them.

Only an idiot cannot see that this one needs to torn up, and that, at a minimum, we need to start over with something that can no longer be called the “torture bill.”

Musharaff deal allows Taliban to run wild

So much for Bush's bloviating about how the Musharaff deal to stay out of the remote areas of Pakistan won't hurt the war effort:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A U.S. military official said Wednesday that American troops on Afghanistan's eastern border have seen a threefold increase in attacks since a recent truce between Pakistani troops and pro-Taliban tribesmen that was supposed to have stopped cross-border raids by the militants.

The peace agreement, which followed a June 25 cease-fire, also has contributed to the Taliban's resurgence, the U.S. official said, requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The blame game

In the first poll to wade into the Bush-Clinton "who let Osama go" wars, Gallup finds 53% blame Bush while only 36% blame Clinton. Disney and Chris Wallace take notice.

When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out

Digby finds the quote for the day:

... this may be a day to remember the famous poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
Incidently, some people ask why I blog. That's why. I can't remain silent when these things are being done to my country -- no, not even if no one hears.

Hear ye, hear ye, read all about it: Democrats are pro torture

Frankly, I hope that's the headline across every newspaper in the country. I'm utterly disgusted.

In the Senate, GOP leaders won an agreement from Democrats to debate the bill for less than a dozen hours and then vote on it.

Who will be our Madame Lafarge?

I think it may be time to find a Madame Lafarge who can start inscribing the names of the good guys and the bad guys in her knitting. Louise Slaughter should go down as one of the good guys. It goes without saying that every elected Republican should go on the bad list, but then there are any number of Democrats and "Independents" who deserve to be on that list too. Joe Lieberman, of course. But others as well. Madame, keep a sharp eye out.

I think I may add Barak Obama to the list. From what I can tell, he has still not told us whether he is for or against torture.

The occupied don't like the occupiers - duh

The Iraqis seem to have made up their minds. They want us to go, but they don't think we will:

BAGHDAD, Sept. 26 -- A strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence, according to new polls by the State Department and independent researchers.

In Baghdad, for example, nearly three-quarters of residents polled said they would feel safer if U.S. and other foreign forces left Iraq, with 65 percent of those asked favoring an immediate pullout, according to State Department polling results obtained by The Washington Post.

Another new poll, scheduled to be released on Wednesday by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, found that 71 percent of Iraqis questioned want the Iraqi government to ask foreign forces to depart within a year. By large margins, though, Iraqis believed that the U.S. government would refuse the request, with 77 percent of those polled saying the United States intends keep permanent military bases in the country.

ESPN plays fake cheers and boos for politicians to help the right wing

Updated below

I have no idea whether this report about ESPN is true or false, but if it is true, it is truly outrageous:

As a person who dabbled with sportscasting in college, I operated under the impression that my job was sports not politics. Sports were sports and you leave your politics off the air It's a very simple standard. If I want to watch football for three hours, give me football. Unfortunately, ESPN has continuously violated this concept. If ESPN is going to play phony tapes for politicians, then they need to be pressured off the air.

For several years, ESPN has been manufacturing fake cheers and fake boos for politicians. It's a very simple rule. If you are a Democrat not named Joe Lieberman, ESPN will play a tape of boos previously recorded and insert them into the audio after the Democrat is announced. If you are a Republican and ESPN is expecting boos, ESPN will play a pre-recorded tape of cheers unrelated to the Republican.


ESPN denies this story.

A bad day for Bush, methinks

I'm not a great lover of Musharraf -- in fact, I rather loath the man -- but he's right about this:

(CNN) -- The war in Iraq has not made the world safer from terror, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has told CNN, saying he stands by statements on the subject he makes in his new book, "In the Line of Fire."

In the book, Musharraf -- a key ally who is often portrayed as being in complete agreement with U.S. President George W. Bush on the war on terror and other issues -- writes he never supported the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

"I stand by it, absolutely," Musharraf told CNN's "The Situation Room." Asked whether he disagreed with Bush, he said, "I've stated whatever I had to ... it [the war] has made the world a more dangerous place."

When even your best friends start to turn on you, you know you're having a bad hair day.


My wife reminds me that she thinks Bush probably left the "Iraq is a cause celebre for the jihadists" in the redacted version of the NIE that was released yesterday because he didn't know what it meant.

Democrat doesn't know how to vote, for or against torture

Here's a quote from Democratic Senator Carl Levin talking about the torture/kangaroo court bill the Republicans are planning to ram through before the end of the week:

“These are significant changes, not technical changes,” said Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, where the original bill backed by Senators Warner, McCain and Graham was approved. “It’s hard to know how to vote on a bill that’s this much in motion.”
God. "Hard to know how to vote," on a bill that endorses torture, retroactively pardons those who have committed it, eliminates habeas corpus, thus allowing the President on his say so, alone, to arrest, indefinitely imprison, and torture anyone?

With Democrats like this, why do we need Rethuglicans?

By the way, the NY Times predicts easy passage for the bill this week.

I think it's about time the French re-possessed the Statue of Liberty. It certainly doesn't reflect the values this country has adopted.

Tip of the iceberg

You may recall back in the days when TV commentators broadcasting from places like Saddam's Baghdad or Hue's Peking (Bejing, or whatever the hell it's called now) used to warn viewers that the content of their broadcast had been reviewed and approved by local authorities. The obvious purpose of that warning was to alert the viewer that the story they were about to tell was somewhat one-sided, since obviously the stuff the censors didn't approve had been screened out.

Where did that sense of caution go? Last night, the cable networks ranted and raved on one side or another about the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) that had just been released. Not once, while I was listening did they ever mention that the document Bush released was heavily redacted, amounting only about a page and a half out of a large multi-page document.

Undoubtedly, some of the redacted material was properly kept from the public as it might have revealed the sources or methods by which the intelligence had been obtained or targets we should be aiming at.

Equally undoubtedly, most of the redacted material was stuff Bush didn't want public because it would have been politically embarrassing. I mean, my God, if the stuff we saw in the redacted version (e.g., the Iraq war is the "cause celebre" for jihadists around the world) is the just the tip of the iceberg, what more damaging information is there in the redacted version?

It's also interesting to note that a document that was so sensitive it couldn't even be shared with key members of Congress and had to be kept secret for six months could be so quickly and easily de-classified and handed out to the newspapers and TV networks when it seemed to suit the President's political purposes.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Dear Democratic Senators: Stand up for the Rule of Law and don't let Karl get under your skin

Here is a letter I just sent to all the Democratic Senators on the torture bill.

Dear Senators:

Please, please, please, you do not need to be shoved around by Karl Rove. You can throw strength in the war on terror back in their faces. Please "Stand Tall for the Rule of Law": by focusing on the importance of the Rule of Law, it becomes clear that we strengthen ourselves by not letting Osama Bin Laden and a few violent men get us to abandon our principles, and that promoting torture will weaken us in the war on terror. This is a simple point to make, and it is the right one. It will not take many words, and no complicated words, to remind most Americans that they really agree with you, and to make Bush and Cheney look as stupid as they are. Here's the one-and-one-half minute speech. Democrats will win this battle if you use it -- or pull out elements of it for the 45, 30 and 15 second versions (use just the bold portions in sequence, for example, for a 30-second statement) -- and repeat it over and over and over:
This bill is a political ploy by the Administration before an election. You can hear Karl Rove chortling: Make Democrats vote to PROTECT TERRORISTS, no matter how stupid the bill is. And make no mistake about it, this is an incredibly stupid bill that actually weakens us in the war on terror. It's kindergarden math: lose allies, create more terrorists, learn nothing. Strike Three -- not exactly a recipe for success.

We led the way in creating the Rule of Law in the Geneva Accords to protect our own soldiers, and we undermine it at our own peril even if this enemy could not care less about it.

Once upon a time, the Republican Party stood for Law and Order. Not any more.

We need to fight tough AND smart. It's very simple: IF we don’t stand up for the Rule of Law, IF we fall for this adolescent made-for-TV fantasy of beating the truth out of prisoners if we just get gruesome enough, or that in order to beat al Qaeda, we must descend to the same level of barbarism as al Qaeda … and IF we are seen as the country that wants to torture prisoners, especially Muslim prisoners, and as a country that will let a handful of criminals cause it to abandon its historic Constitutional principles of checks-and-balances, then we lose the help of allies in the war on terror, and we create more terrorists – all for getting prisoners, who may or may not be guilty of anything, to make up any story they think their torturers want to hear. Lose allies, more terrorists – How stupid can we get? [as they say in Hollywood, what a concept! In this case, of course, what a stupid concept!]

Wiretap bill may have died -- at least for now

Well, this is good news I think. If the wiretap bill is dead, then existing law prevails. Bush, of course, will continue to pursue illegal taps, but the Courts will continue to pursue Bush.

Congress is unlikely to approve a bill giving President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program legal status and new restrictions before the November midterm elections, dealing a significant blow to one of the White House's top wartime priorities.

House and Senate versions of the legislation differ too much to bridge the gap by week's end, when Congress recesses until after the Nov. 7 elections, according to two GOP leadership aides who demanded anonymity because the decision had not yet been announced.

Rice claim debunked

Somebody at Raw Story did some fact checking and concludes that Condoleezza Rice is growing Pinnochio's nose:

"We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda," Rice told a reporter for the New York Post on Monday. "Big pieces were missing," Rice added, "like an approach to Pakistan that might work, because without Pakistan you weren't going to get Afghanistan."

Rice made the comments in response to claims made Sunday by former President Bill Clinton, who argued that his administration had done more than the current one to address the al Qaeda problem before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. She stopped short of calling the former president a liar.

However, RAW STORY has found that just five days after President George W. Bush was sworn into office, a memo from counter-terrorism expert Richard A. Clarke to Rice included the 2000 document, "Strategy for Eliminating the Threat from the Jihadist Networks of al-Qida: Status and Prospects." This document devotes over 2 of its 13 pages of material to specifically addressing strategies for securing Pakistan's cooperation in airstrikes against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

One Democrat takes a stand

Giving the lie to my last post, it turns out at least one Democrat has taken a stand. Sen. Patrick Leahy. This quote is from Tom

Sen. Patrick Leahy is the ranking Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee. This is the text of his statement to the panel from Monday, September 25, 2006.

For weeks now, politicians and the media have breathlessly debated the fine points and political implications of the so-called "compromise" on proposed trial procedures for suspected terrorists. In doing so, we have ignored a central and more sweeping issue. Important as the rules for military commissions are, they will apply to only a few cases. The administration has charged a total of 10 people in the nearly five years since the president declared his intention to use military commissions, and it recently announced plans to charge 14 additional men. But for the vast majority of the almost 500 prisoners at Guantánamo, the administration’s position remains as stated by Secretary Donald Rumsfeld three years ago: It has no interest in trying them.

Today we are belatedly addressing the single most consequential provision of this much-discussed bill, a provision that can be found buried on page 81 of the proposed bill. This provision would perpetuate the indefinite detention of hundreds of individuals against whom the government has brought no charges and presented no evidence, without any recourse to justice whatsoever. That is un-American, and it is contrary to American interests.

Going forward, the bill departs even more radically from our most fundamental values. It would permit the president to detain indefinitely—even for life—any alien, whether in the United States or abroad, whether a foreign resident or a lawful permanent resident, without any meaningful opportunity for the alien to challenge his detention. The administration would not even need to assert, much less prove, that the alien was an enemy combatant; it would suffice that the alien was "awaiting [a] determination" on that issue. In other words, the bill would tell the millions of legal immigrants living in America, participating in American families, working for American businesses, and paying American taxes, that our government may at any minute pick them up and detain them indefinitely without charge, and without any access to the courts or even to military tribunals, unless and until the government determines that they are not enemy combatants.

Detained indefinitely, and unaccountably, until proven innocent. Like Canadian citizen Maher Arar. As the Canadian government recently concluded in a detailed and candid report, there is no evidence that Mr. Arar ever committed a crime or posed a threat to U.S. or Canadian security. Yet, while returning home to Canada from a family vacation, he was detained, interrogated, and then shipped off to a torture cell in Syria by the Bush-Cheney administration. While the Canadian government has now documented that the wrong thing was done to the wrong man, the Bush-Cheney administration has, as usual, evaded all accountability by hiding behind a purported state secrets privilege.

The administration’s defenders would like to believe that Mr. Arar’s case is an isolated blunder, but it is not. Numerous press accounts have quoted administration officials who believe that a significant percentage of those detained at Guantánamo have no connection to terrorism. In other words, we have been holding for several years, and intend to hold indefinitely without trial or any recourse to justice, a substantial number of innocent people who were picked up by mistake in the fog of war.

The most important purpose of habeas corpus is to correct errors like that. It is precisely to prevent such abuses that the Constitution prohibits the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus "unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." I have no doubt that this bill, which would permanently eliminate the writ of habeas for all aliens within and outside the United States whenever the government says they might be enemy combatants, violates that prohibition. And I have no doubt that the Supreme Court would ultimately conclude that this attempt by the Bush-Cheney administration to abolish basic liberties and evade essential judicial review and accountability is unconstitutional.

It would be utterly irresponsible for Congress to neglect our oath to the Constitution and the American people and pass this unconstitutional legislation in the hope that the court will ultimately rescue us from our folly. Doing so would only undermine the War on Terror by prolonging the legal limbo into which the administration has dragged the entire regime of military detentions.

We should have put military detentions on a solid legal footing and established military tribunals four years ago. I introduced a bill in 2002 to authorize military commissions. So did Senator Specter. But the White House and the Republican leadership ignored us, choosing instead to roll the dice and hope that it could prevail on its radical go-it-alone theories of presidential power.

The Bush-Cheney administration got a rude awakening earlier this year in the Hamdan case. The Supreme Court—which happens to include seven Republican appointees in its nine justices—affirmed what we had told it all along: when the terrorists brought down the Twin Towers on 9/11, they did not bring down the rule of law on which our system of government is founded. They did not supplant our republican form of government with one in which an unaccountable executive can imprison people forever without trial or judicial review.

On its way to losing that case, the administration wasted four years. Actually, it did more than waste four years. Just yesterday the press reported what the administration has been misrepresenting to the American people and what was apparently confirmed in a National Intelligence Estimate: That the invasion and continuing U.S. military presence in Iraq has created a new generation of anti-American terrorists, that the terrorist threat against the U.S. has grown and, according to intelligence officials, that the Iraq war has "made the overall terrorism problem worse." Meanwhile, having failed to try a single detainee, and having failed to secure a conviction of a single terrorist offense, the administration is demanding that we pass a bill it drafted last week before the end of this week.

The administration’s sudden and belated haste to move ahead makes no sense, other than as a matter of crass electoral politics. We are taking a first look at a bill that the administration claims is central to the decisive ideological battle of the 21st Century, a bill that would suspend habeas corpus for the first time since the Civil War, and a bill that, if enacted, will almost certainly be used by America’s enemies as a pretext for the torture and indefinite detention without judicial review of Americans abroad.

If the administration and the Republican leadership of the Senate believe that suspending the writ is constitutional and justified, they should grant the joint request that Chairman Specter and I made last week for a sequential referral of the bill. Constitutional issues involving the writ of habeas corpus are at the center of this Committee’s jurisdiction. We can and should review this legislation thoroughly, and if a few habeas petitions are filed in the meantime, we will not lose the War on Terror as a result of those filings. If this Congress votes to suspend the writ of habeas corpus first and ask questions later, liberty and accountability will be the victims.

Let's hope this isn't just empty rhetoric. Whenever any Democrat says he's trying to do something with Arlen Specter, my level of skepticism rises about 100%.

Where are the Democrats?

Please explain to me why any single Democrat, much less "many Democrats" would chose not to vote on this question:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has called for a secret session to review the National Intelligence Estimate, which some contend has found that the Iraq war has made America less safe from terrorist attacks, RAW STORY has learned.

The House has defeated the motion, 207-170, with just one Republican and one Independent breaking an otherwise party-line vote. Many Republicans and Democrats chose not to cast a vote.

It is utterly mind-boggling how completely clueless these guys are. And, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Where are they when it comes to torture? Where are they when it comes to illegal spying? They are out to lunch, asleep at the switch. And, they expect us to get excited about voting for them in November?

Newsweek covers up bad news

For a couple of days now, Raw Story has been reporting that Newsweek has chosen a different cover story for it's US edition than it is using for all its international editions. I had elected not to post about this, but the more I think about it, the mose telling I think it is about what's going on with the press in this country. The cover stories are at right. Newsweek just couldn't bring itself to tell Americans the bad news that we are losing the Afghan war. Why is that? Are they afraid the right wing machine will smack them down? I've never seen the press as fully intimidated as they are now (nor the Democrats for that matter). We need a few people with spines to stand up and combat these creeps.

[A hat tip to Americablog for the pics]

Another NIE being covered up?

Josh Marshall is reporting that there's another NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) floating around. This one is solely on the Iraq war, and it's described as very bleak. The Bushies are trying to cover it up and won't even call it an NIE in order to avoid having to brief Congress on it.

Another NIE being covered up?

Josh Marshall is reporting that there's another NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) floating around. This one is solely on the Iraq war, and it's described as very bleak. The Bushies are trying to cover it up and won't even call it an NIE in order to avoid having to brief Congress on it.

Rice v. Clinton

From the New York Post:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday accused Bill Clinton of making "flatly false" claims that the Bush administration didn't lift a finger to stop terrorism before the 9/11 attacks.
So it comes down to "he said, she said." Well, on the one hand we have "mushroom cloud" Rice, who told us we had to go to war with Iraq because of WMD. On the other hand, we have "I didn't have sex with that woman" Bill. Which lie was bigger? Furthermore, just what did Geeorge Bush do pre-9/11? All I recall is time at Crawford.

Seems to me the scales tip in Clinton's favor.

The other war

It looks as though Afghanistan is rapidly deteriorating into something like Iraq:

A bomb attack in a southern Afghan town has killed 18 people, while an Italian soldier has also died after a separate blast near the capital, Kabul.

At least six Afghan policemen or soldiers were among the dead in the attack in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, when a bomber detonated explosives strapped to his body at the front of the governor's compound, officials said.

Many of the civilians killed were reportedly queuing to complete paperwork so that they could go on the Hajj pilgrimage to Makka.

U.S. economic competitiveness falls

What is the most competitive economy in the world? The U.S.? Nope, think again. Switzerland is the most competitive. Is the U.S. second? Nope, think again. Finland is second. Is the U.S. third? Nope, think again. Sweden is third. Is the U.S. fourth? Nope, think again. Denmark is fourth. Is the U.S. fifth? Nope, think again. Singapore is fifth. Yes, the U.S. is sixth.

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United States fell to sixth place in the World Economic Forum's 2006 global competitiveness rankings, ceding the top place to Switzerland, as macroeconomic concerns eroded prospects for the world's largest economy.

In a report released on Tuesday, the World Economic Forum said Washington's huge defense and homeland security spending commitments, plans to lower taxes further, and long-term potential costs from health care and pensions were creating worrisome fiscal strains.

"With a low savings rate, record-high current account deficits and a worsening of the U.S. net debtor position, there is a non-negligible risk to both the country's overall competitiveness and, given the relative size of the U.S. economy, the future of the global economy," it said.

Switzerland was deemed the most competitive economy in 2006, followed by Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Singapore. After the United States, which had topped the 2005 index, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain rounded out the top 10.

Nothing like having Bush running our economy.

The war we should have fought

It's sad to watch what the criminal incompetence of our President is doing to other people. Now, a leader of the women's movement in Afghanistan has been murdered:

Safia Amajan promoted women's education and work - a fairly ordinary job in most places - but in the Afghanistan of a resurgent Taliban it was a dangerous path to follow. She was a target, and yesterday she was gunned down outside her home.

Five years after the "liberation" of Afghanistan by the US and Britain, with promises of a new dawn for its downtrodden women, her murder was a bloody reminder of just how far the country is slipping back into a land of darkness.

If Bush had focused on the war we should have fought instead of the one in Iraq, things might be different. But, given the incompetence of this group of fools, it probably wouldn't have been.

An Olbermann rant against Bush

Take ten minutes to watch this Keith Olbermann clip on the effort to sandbag Clinton. The whole thing is powerful, but I think my favorite was this:

The distractions of 1998 and 1999, Mr. Bush, were carefully manufactured, and lovingly executed, not by Bill Clinton… but by the same people who got you… elected President.

Thus instead of some commendable acknowledgment that you were even in office on 9/11 and the lost months before it… we have your sleazy and sloppy rewriting of history, designed by somebody who evidently redd the Orwell playbook too quickly.

Thus instead of some explanation for the inertia of your first eight months in office, we are told that you have kept us "safe" ever since — a statement that might range anywhere from Zero, to One Hundred Percent, true.

We have nothing but your word, and your word has long since ceased to mean anything.

Leave it to the Rethuglicans

Blogger is slower than molasses today, so I'm posting by e-mail.  We'll see how that works.

We'll leave it to the Reyhuglicans to take a terrible bill -- the McCain/Graham/Warner "torture them to hell and then try them in a kangaroo court" bill -- and make it worse.  Now the Thuglicans are amending the bill to broaden the definition of "enemy combattant" to include those who have "materially supported" hostile acts against the U.S.  "Materially supported" is one of those slippery concepts that the Prez could interpret to mean almosts anything, up to and including participation in an anti-war rally. 

I sure hope the text and not the title of the article cited in my previous post is correct.