The Aeration Zone: A liberal breath of fresh air

Contributors (otherwise known as "The Aerheads"):

Walldon in New Jersey ---- Marketingace in Pennsylvania ---- Simoneyezd in Ontario
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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

We are puppets on a string

Want to see in action how the press is cooperating with the government in manipulating you? The organization of 10 Asian countries known as ASEAN, including the predominantly Islamic countries Indonesia and Malayasia, officially called on the U.S. to start leaving Iraq in order to “contribute towards bringing normalcy.”

Like the polls you hardly heard of from the American media indicating that the great majority of Iraqis want our troops out at least within a year, and believe the security situation would improve if the occupation ended, don’t you think this is news? Even if they are all completely wrong, and only our presence keeps it all from blowing up, it’s still important news for American citizens and decision-makers, don’t you think? At minimum, shouldn’t the administration at least be pushed to say, “No, they are wrong and here’s why”? Granted, ASEAN couched it into language that wouldn’t drive Bush and Cheney up a wall – subject to military advice, etc. – but the mere suggestion in an official manner by friendly nations that it would actually improve things for us not to be there is a dramatic statement that directly contradicts what the administration is saying to scare us all into following along meekly.

Well, it’s not news according to either AP or Reuters, at least as reported by the New York Times in its lists of and links to the wire service offerings. Not to the Times, either. It barely shows up in Google, and you have to drill way down in the “International News” section to find it. It got reported in a couple of Asian newspapers, was picked up by the International Herald Tribune, was noted by Juan Cole briefly on his website, and then disappeared into the ether. And that’s that, I suppose.

Stealing electoral votes

It looks as though the Republicans are surreptitiously stealing electoral votes. From the New Yorker:

Two weeks ago, one of the most important Republican lawyers in Sacramento quietly filed a ballot initiative that would end the practice of granting all fifty-five of California’s electoral votes to the statewide winner. Instead, it would award two of them to the statewide winner and the rest, one by one, to the winner in each congressional district. Nineteen of the fifty-three districts are represented by Republicans, but Bush carried twenty-two districts in 2004. The bottom line is that the initiative, if passed, would spot the Republican ticket something in the neighborhood of twenty electoral votes—votes that it wouldn’t get under the rules prevailing in every other sizable state in the Union.

It's worth pointing out that that's almost as many electoral votes as the State of Florida (27) which has been the swing state in the last two elections. If this initiative goes through, we will have just given the Republicans almost the equivalent of the entire state of Florida.

Still waiting

Arlen Specter gave the White House 18 hours yesterday to produce a letter explaining to the Senate why Gonzales' testimony was truthful. He made a big announcement of this today and said there would be big news at noon, when the letter was supposed to arrive. Well ..... we're still waiting ...

The White House has refused to comply with a Republican senator's request for information about Alberto Gonzales's conflicting testimony on a secret surveillance program by a 12 p.m. Tuesday deadline.

But, don't count on this changing Specter's mind about Gonzo. He still won't support a perjury charge.

Compassionate conservatism, part III

From Tapped:

FAIR PAY ACT PASSES HOUSE. Congress today voted 225-199 to overturn the Supreme Court's May ruling that all claims of pay discrimination must be filed within 180 days of the first pay check at a new salary. The House bill reverts to the accepted interpretation of the Civil Rights Act, in which each pay check is a separate act that can serve as the basis of a discrimination claim.

Bush has sworn to veto the bill, so stay tuned.

Look, most people don't know what's happened to other people's salaries, and corporations (rightly) don't publish that kind of information. So, being required to file within 180 days of getting a raise is absurd. The Supreme Court knew that, but these guys just love businesses and hate the peons who work for them.

L'Etat c'est nous

Three current and almost consecutive headlines from Raw Story at 1:25 p.m.:

Any further questions?


Wow! I didn't think they had it in them, but the Democrats are actually beginning to learn how to use parliamentary procedure to screw the Rethuglicans. Kagro X has the details at Daily Kos:

The House is picking up on a long-overdue lobbying reform bill today -- and when I say, "long-overdue," I mean, "obstructed by Republicans."

Lobbying reform has been one of the top priorities in the new, Democratic Congress -- in fact it was the first bill introduced, S. 1, in the Senate. But a funny thing happened on the way to actually passing that reform. Although it passed the Senate on January 18th, by a vote of 96-2 (Coburn and Hatch, if you're wondering), and a reform bill passed the House on May 24th by a vote of 396-22 (1 present -- Hulshof, if you're wondering), no further movement on the bill has been possible. Why not? Because Republicans in the Senate have filibustered the motion to go to conference.

... So what to do? Well, the purpose of a conference committee is to get representatives of each house together and work out a compromise bill that can pass both the House and the Senate, and then go vote on it, right? So that's just what they did. Sort of.

In a somewhat unusual move that they're calling the "ping pong" strategy, the House and Senate leadership have decided to agree on a compromise version and have both chambers vote on it, only they're not doing it in a setting they're calling a conference committee. They're just deciding to do it. So there's no motion to go to conference needed. Instead, they'll just send the same exact bill to both the House and the Senate, and "ping pong" it with exactly the same language between both houses.

In the House, debate begins and a vote is expected today. The bill will come to the floor under suspension of the rules, an expedited procedure usually reserved for non-controversial bills. That procedure requires a 2/3 majority to pass a bill (which shouldn't be a problem, considering the last House vote totals on lobbying reform), but it also has the advantage of disallowing all amendments and motions to recommit on the bill, which will protect it from being changed in any way and thereby blowing up the "ping pong" strategy.

In the Senate, of course, the bill would be subject to filibuster, as usual. But again, this will be pretty close to the measure which passed the Senate 96-2 back in January. Filibustering a motion to go to conference is one thing. That's pretty obscure. But filibustering the bill itself is something the Republicans haven't been willing to do yet. They may yet find it in them to do so, even after their overwhelming support in January, but hey, there's only so much hypocrisy you can prevent, you know?

Propaganda, thy name is BushCo

WallDon has already commented on the recent business of The Regime's political manipulation of a report prepared by the Surgeon General but rejected by his handlers. Rep. Waxman of the House Oversight Committee is following up, and according to Raw Story has sent a letter to the Secretariat of HHS reqesting further information.

Raw Story offers excerpts from Waxman's letter (my emphases):

A comparison of the two drafts reveals striking differences. Dr. Carmona’s draft includes extended discussions of the impacts of women’s rights, poverty, climate change, tobacco, and obesity on global health. Mr. Steiger’s draft omits or barely mentions these topics. Dr. Carmona’s draft describes a U.N. declaration that establishes health as a human right. Mr. Steiger’s draft omits this language. Dr. Carmona’s draft contains references to condoms. Mr. Steiger’s draft does not mention condoms.

Mr. Steiger’s draft is considerably shorter than Dr. Carmona’s draft: 11,400 words compared to 17,000. Despite the shorter length of Mr. Steiger’s draft, it contains many more references to President Bush (ten references) than does Dr. Carmona’s draft (two references). Mr. Steiger’s draft also contains extended discussions of U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dr. Carmona’s draft does not.

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Mr. Steiger asserted that Surgeon General Carmona’s report was blocked because it was “often inaccurate or out-of-date” and contained “sloppy work, poor analysis, and lack of scientific rigor.” A comparison of the drafts does not support these assertions. Dr. Carmona’s draft thoughtfully covers a wide range of global health topics. Mr. Steiger’s draft ignores or glosses over serious global health problems and emphasizes the achievements and policies of the Bush Administration.

The differences between the two drafts are further evidence that Dr. Carmona’s report was blocked for political, not scientific reasons.

I have already expressed my own utter disdain about this particular matter in a comment to WallDon's posting.

But I think here we have incontrovertible proof, for those somehow not yet convinced, that The Regime routinely practices and values propaganda (see Update below) above any and all expressions of truth or even genuine, independent thinking. Even if one disagreed with the Surgeon General, or proved some assertions wrong, the fact that the revised document, a full one-third shorter, nevertheless mentions the Occupant's name five times more often, and introduces references to Iraq and Afghanistan, demonstrates what is going on.

Why say this? (Sigh. There really ain't much point, but . . . ) Well, this morning I read a "moderate" response to the left-wing blogs' furor over yesterday's NYT OpEd by Michael E. O’Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack in support of the Surge, at the Moderate Voice:

[Here] we have what’s wrong with today’s politics in a nutshell: Someone doesn’t like the message, so they shoot the messengers.

Um. The "message" in this and almost every case is propaganda (and bullshit propaganda at that); and the "messengers" (no matter how "serious"- heh) are in effect agents provocateurs. And I think that sort of messenger might well be shot.

Some people are still predisposed to give some level of credence to The Regime and those who support it. I do not see how. Nothing the current Administration says can be believed. Nothing.


A handy reference on propaganda-- excerpts from Manufacturing Consent, by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky (1998). This should sound familiar:

A propaganda model focuses on this inequality of wealth and power and its multilevel effects on mass-media interests and choices. It traces the routes by which money and power are able to filter out the news fit to print, marginalize dissent, and allow the government and dominant private interests to get their messages across to the public. The essential ingredients of our propaganda model, or set of news "filters," fall under the following headings: (1) the size, concentrated ownership, owner wealth, and profit orientation of the dominant mass-media firms; (2) advertising as the primary income source of the mass media; (3) the reliance of the media on information provided by government, business, and "experts" funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power; (4) "flak" as a means of disciplining the media; and (5) "anticommunism" as a national religion and control mechanism. These elements interact with and reinforce one another. The raw material of news must pass through successive filters, leaving only the cleansed residue fit to print. They fix the premises of discourse and interpretation, and the definition of what is newsworthy in the first place, and they explain the basis and operations of what amount to propaganda campaigns.

The elite domination of the media and marginalization of dissidents that results from the operation of these filters occurs so naturally that media news people, frequently operating with complete integrity and goodwill, are able to convince themselves that they choose and interpret the news "objectively" and on the basis of professional news values.

Caveat emptor

It will kill you, but go ahead and take the pill anyway. We can't allow regulation to hurt a major pharmaceutical company's bottom line.

GAITHERSBURG, Md., July 30 — A federal drug advisory committee voted overwhelmingly on Monday to recommend that the diabetes drug Avandia remain on the market, even after finding that it raised the risks of heart attacks.

Panel members said that studies concerning Avandia were too murky to merit drastic regulatory action and that other diabetes medicines might have similar risks.

The votes — 20 to 3 on the heart attack risk and 22 to 1 on the marketing — were cast after an extraordinary meeting in which officials from the Food and Drug Administration, which brought the committee together, openly disagreed with one another on the course to take.

Dr. David Graham, a drug safety officer at the federal agency, called for withdrawing the drug and estimated that its toxic effects on the heart had caused up to 205,000 heart attacks and strokes, some fatal, from 1999 to 2006. For every month that Avandia is sold, Dr. Graham said, 1,600 to 2,200 patients will suffer more of those problems.

Idiot power

Some years ago (quite a few, actually) in my former life as an academic, we had a new dean appointed by the University. The faculty at that time was very factional, with turf battles going on almost everywhere. In came the new dean. We all assumed that he would side with one faction or another in order to have a base of power. But, this guy was an idiot. He managed to alienate EVERY faction, which left him with no power whatsoever. The faculty rose up unanimously in protest, and the guy was ousted within two years of his initial appointment.

Now, it seems, the President wants to follow in this guy's footsteps:

A former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney is briefing lawmakers on Pentagon plans for secret military intervention in Turkey, Robert Novak reported Monday.

The Bush administration is considering covert military activity by U.S. Special Forces to help Turkish troops quash Kurdish guerilla fighters, who are believed to be using northern Iraq as safe-haven, according to the syndicated columnist.

Christ, the Kurds are the only allies we have in Iraq (oops, forgot the 5,000 Brits).
And, now we're going to be fighting them too?

Monday, July 30, 2007

“Serious people”: remember what happened when we backed “puppet governments”?

Several commentators have been properly taking the big-time pundits and editors to task for treating pro-war and pro-surge think-tankers as “serious” – as opposed to the “soft” people who want to begin ending our occupation of Iraq as soon as possible, who despite being right about virtually everything are nevertheless not allowed to contribute to the dialogue on how we deal with the mess the “serious” people created. Nevertheless, as Walldon shows below, the bully platform extended for the past five years by the national media to the pro-war people never gets yanked, no matter how much they deserve it.

In light of our historical experience with Batista and Cuba, Somoza in Nicaragua, the Shah of Iran and, of course, Viet Nam, how can anyone be considered “serious” who failed to realize that a government created and protected by the United States of America, a Western, predominantly Christian nation that is perceived as the heir to earlier colonial overlords in the region, after a military assault on country that did not invite us, with hundreds of thousands of people dead or injured as unfortunate collateral damage, in a country where almost none of our people speak the language or understand the culture, where there is already universal anger towards us for, in their eyes, unfairly protecting Israel as an interloper that took over Muslim land and displaced millions of Arabs, would not be seen as a legitimate government, and, therefore, that “success” would literally be impossible?

Why does the press refuse, absolutely refuse, to demand to know what Bush, Cheney and their supporters mean by “success,” or to recognize that success absolutely cannot be demonstrated until after our military ceases supporting the government we created? Why are they refusing to ask how this government created and protected by the U.S., especially under the uniquely unfavorable circumstances described above, could possibly not be considered by the people to be an illegitimate puppet government? What part of the term “puppet government” did these people not understand? What versions of history did they read? Shouldn’t anyone who did not understand it – the Pearls, the Adelmans, the Pollocks, the O’Hanlons, the Kagens, just to name a few – be required to forfeit their “serious” label for at least a generation? And shouldn’t anyone who continues to call them “serious” after all this time, and anyone who joins in the conspiracy of silence refusing to ask the central questions, be required to join them in their think-tank sinecures funded by the Scaifes and Coors?

A correction

The other day, I made the comment that data mining, in and of itself, isn't illegal. It may be that I spoke too loosely. Apparently, Congress did make the TIA (Total Information Awareness) program illegal by de-funding it. Of course, the real question is what data you are mining. If they were reading people's mail, that I'm sure would be illegal. If they were reading people's e-mails, I'm not so sure. I seem to recall a case or two where the courts looked rather unkindly on the sanctity of e-mail. If they were cross referencing IRS income tax filing data with auto registration data, I'm not sure either. If they were cross referencing data from the phone book with information from public speeches, I doubt that would be illegal.

I continue to be of the opinion, however, that the program described by the NY Times the other day (at least as far as it was described) was not the source of the objections at the Justice Department.

Does Bush have a new poodle?

Todays presidential news:

CAMP DAVID, Md. - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told President Bush Monday he shares the U.S. view that there are "duties to discharge and responsibilities to keep" in Iraq.

"Our aim, like the United States is, step-by-step, to move control to the Iraqi authorities," Brown said, joining Bush at a news conference at this mountaintop presidential retreat.

Brown hinted that a decision about British troop levels was coming soon, while assuring that such a determination would be based "on the military advice of our commanders on the ground," thus echoing language often heard from Bush.

If it's bad news, it didn't happen

The Bush administration is nothing if not predictable:

WASHINGTON -- As the Bush administration struggles to convince lawmakers that its Iraq war strategy is working, it has stopped reporting to Congress a key quality-of-life indicator in Baghdad: how long the power stays on.

Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that Baghdad residents could count on only "an hour or two a day" of electricity. That's down from an average of five to six hours a day earlier this year.

But that piece of data has not been sent to lawmakers for months because the State Department, which prepares a weekly "status report" for Congress on conditions in Iraq, stopped estimating in May how many hours of electricity Baghdad residents typically receive each day.

When idiots speak, why listen?

Maybe I'm just in a bad mood today, but the liberal blogosphere is sort of getting on my nerves. It seems to me inordinate amounts of time and energy are spent shooting down things that known idiots say. Today's most prominent example is all the hubbub over the O'Hanlan and Pollack op-ed entitled "A War we might just Win" in today's NY Times (no, I'm not linking to it. Go there yourself if you like, but not on my link). These guys have proven themselves wrong so many times, why should anyone spend more time shooting them down? Yet, that's what's going on today. Perhaps the worst offender in this regard is Glenn Greenwald, whose blog is now almost exclusively devoted to shooting down known idiots. Glenn writes powerfully and has great ideas, but I really get bored by some of these tedious knock downs of known idiots.

Perhaps all this is necessary, but it doesn't seem to be stopping the news organizations that publish these idiots' rantings from continuing to do so. The rest of us all know they're idiots. In my case, I simply don't read their garbage. These days I almost never read anything written by either David Brooks or Tom Friedman, for example, or the opinion pages of either the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post.

Simple answers to simple questions

TPM Muckraker asks:

Is Alberto Gonzales a liar? a slippery parser of language? an amnesiac (as yet undiagnosed)? Or is he just an idiot?

Perhaps before Atrios gets to this I'll preempt him.

Simple answers to simple questions: All of the above.

Collateral damage

I guess this is just collateral damage, nothing to really worry about:

Up to eight million Iraqis require immediate emergency aid, with nearly half of the population living in "absolute poverty", according to a report by Oxfam and a coalition of Iraqi groups.

About four million people are lacking food and "in dire need of different types of humanitarian assistance", said the report, released in Amman on Monday.

"Iraqis are suffering from a growing lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation, health care, education, and employment," said the report, compiled by Oxfam and the NGO Co-ordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI).

Another win in the GWOT

McClatchy News tells us that the passport snafu has forced the State Department to reassign people who would otherwise be helping to solve problems in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan and the Sudan to passport duty.

Between 375 and 400 employees, mostly junior officers, have been reassigned to passport duty.

They include the entire class of 130 Presidential Management Fellows, high-caliber recruits with graduate degrees who are virtually guaranteed diplomatic careers at the end of their stints; 70 people in another career-entry program; and 170 junior and mid-level foreign service officers.

But those entry-level employees are the ones frequently assigned to staff crisis task forces that address Sudan, Pakistan and other key issues. The presidential fellows, who have little recourse to protest, have been told they'll be working six-day weeks.

Another win in the Global War on Terror (for Osama).

It goes to the highest bidder

I think this is probably the clearest example of what's wrong with money in American politics:

But there is another way Mr. Schumer has been busy with hedge fund and private equity managers, an important part of his constituency in New York. He has been reassuring them that he will resist an effort led by members of his own party to single out the industry with a plan that would more than double the taxes on the enormous profits reaped by its executives.

These guys have their compensation taxed at capital gains tax rates, less than half the rate other people would pay on the same amount of income. They have nothing at risk and nothing of their own invested. There is absolutely no reason to let them get away with this except for the fact that they can buy a politician here and there.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Kevin Drum feels exactly as I do:

... my liberal blogger license would probably be suspended if I didn't link to this story in the Washington Post today:

A surgeon general's report in 2006 that called on Americans to help tackle global health problems has been kept from the public by a Bush political appointee without any background or expertise in medicine or public health, chiefly because the report did not promote the administration's policy accomplishments, according to current and former public health officials.

The sad thing is that this kind of story doesn't even outrage me anymore. It just seems like baseline performance from the Bush administration. And there's still 541 days to go.....

The only difference is that he got around to posting about it before I did. In fact, it was this post that forced me off my duff. What do they call this? Habituation? It's getting so bad, Bush could order the Army to arrest all Democrats in Congress and we'd all go "ho hum."

Data mining

The New York Times tells us today that Gonzales may not have been lying when he split hairs about whether there had been a controversy over the "terrorist surveillance program" that Bush had admitted. According to the Times, leakers in the Administration told them that the controversy was over a separate (though closely related) data mining program.

Now, I'm sorry, but this doesn't make any sense at all. As far as I know, as distasteful as it may be, data mining isn't illegal. The program Bush admitted to was clearly illegal. So, I just can't believe that the controversy was over a program that, albeit distasteful, was completely legal and not over a program that was clearly illegal.

My guess is these "leakers" are actually working for the White House, trying to offer the press a plausible excuse for Gonzales. I'm sorry, but this one isn't even plausible.

Of course, I certainly wouldn't rule out the possibility that there was a component to the so-called "terrorist surveillance program" that went far beyond what the president has admitted -- for instance, tapping purely domestic calls for political purposes. That may have been the element of the program that caused the controversy (and may have been dropped), but clearly whatever caused the controversy was originally part of the same overall domestic spying program.

Update: I see from reading Talking Points Memo and other blogs that I'm not alone in this conclusion.

Propaganda by Preposterousness

Glen Beck of CNN recently provided another example of deploying right wing analogy twisting to discredit Democrats. Attempting the ridiculous analogy between Hitler’s fabrications of Jews as a threat to Germany to secure support for his regime, Beck pathetically charges Gore with using the scientifically credible global warming alert for the same purpose. Not a citizen from NSCAR to Neocon is ignorant enough to support Beck’s absurd and false contention and CNN has discredited its reputation by sponsoring Beck.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Caught in the lie

Anonymous Liberal has a great find for those of us who have worried that Gozales may have a weasel way out of his perjury by claiming there were two different NSA spying programs he was talking about; the first, the one Comey and others refused to sign off on and the second, the one that was adopted after those objections. Gonzales appears to be saying he didn't lie to Congress when he said there were no objections to the program because he was talking about the second program, not the first. However, Anonymous Liberal found the following in Gonzales' testimony to Congress on that same occasion:

GONZALES: Pardon me. The authorization regarding the terrorist surveillance program occurred subsequent to the authorization to use military force and prior to the Patriot Act.

So, he has, in effect admitted that the program he is testifying about is the earlier program. And, there's more. The president himself confirmed the earlier date. Go read the whole thing.


Updated below:

I suppose we have to keep those dirty homos out of the country:

The United States and the European Union have agreed to expand a security program that shares personal data about millions of U.S.-bound airline passengers a year, potentially including information about a person's race, ethnicity, religion and health.

Under the agreement, airlines flying from Europe to the United States are required to provide data related to these matters to U.S. authorities if it exists in their reservation systems. The deal allows Washington to retain and use it only "where the life of a data subject or of others could be imperiled or seriously impaired," such as in a counterterrorism investigation.

According to the deal, the information that can be used in such exceptional circumstances includes "racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership" and data about an individual's health, traveling partners and sexual orientation.

I don't understand why Europe keeps knuckling under to the U.S.'s crazy demands on them. The E.U. is a bit like the Democrats used to be -- afraid of their own shadow.


I guess I should read my own blog before I post things. ChiTom got to this one before me.

Gay union(ist)s

Well, well. Looks like in order to protect us, Vaterland Securitat will expand the data it collects on trans-Atlantic passengers, with the collaboration of the EU. WaPo reports (h/t John Aravosis, at Americablog) that this agreement will greatly expand the already extensive information collected:
According to the deal, the information that can be used in . . . exceptional circumstances includes "racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership" and data about an individual's health, traveling partners and sexual orientation.
And of course, Michael Chertoff thinks this is just peachy: it is an "'essential screening tool for detecting potentially dangerous transatlantic travelers' . . . [and had it been] available at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, such information would have, 'within a matter of moments, helped to identify many of the 19 hijackers by linking their methods of payment, phone numbers and seat assignments.'"

Let me see if I have this right: if we had known that one or more of the 9/11 hijackers were gay Muslims and members of say a pilots' union, then we might have prevented the attack? Right! Of course!

If the EU is really going along with this, liberal democracy is likely on its last legs in the 21st century in more places than BushLand, and bin Laden has triumphed over us all. Well, it was a nice ride.

Methinks Schumer talks too much

Shumer announced yesterday that the Dems will refuse to okay any more Supreme Court nominees until Bush is out of office.

New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a powerful member of the Democratic leadership, said Friday the Senate should not confirm another U.S. Supreme Court nominee under President Bush “except in extraordinary circumstances.”

Now, I happen to agree with that. The Court is already badly unbalanced. But, I don't think it's a very good idea to announce that in advance. It makes the Dems look unreasonable. Far better to wait and shoot down each nominee on the merits as they come. But, Schumer loves to get on TV.

Friday, July 27, 2007

More Corporate Welfare

The major U.S. corporations screw up the capital markets driving up the cost of capital, and now Greenspan wants even further tax cuts to reward their greed and boost their profits. Unbelievable:

The US needs to reduce corporate tax rates to prevent business profits from being squeezed by the rising cost of raising finance through debt and equities, Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve chairman, warned on Thursday

“My own view is that the cost of capital is not going to stay down,” he said. “And as it goes up, the top corporate [tax] rate of 35 per cent begins to press.”

There is simply no limit to the greed of these people. They've already driven the middle class into the ground as they walk on top of them. Now they want still more, but where will it come from? Children's health care - who needs that? Care for the aged? Let them die. After all, they're going to die sooner or later anyway. Job security for the working class? What's that for? Workers are to work until we say they're expendable.

Why am I reminded of Marie Antoinette when she said, "If they don't have bread, let them eat cake?" Why doe the word "revolution" come more and more frequently to mind?

Michael Moore subpoenaed

Don't ever say anything bad about Bush or you may end up in jail.

They've subpoenaed Michael Moore for traveling to Cuba.

Heathrow may be off limits to environmentalists

Let's hope Bush doesn't get any new ideas from this:

Five million people in peaceful environmental organisations such as the National Trust and the RSPB have become the subject of an extraordinary legal attempt to limit their right to protest.

In legal documents seen by The Independent, the British Airports Authority has begun moves that would allow police to arrest members of 15 environmental groups to prevent them taking part in demonstrations against airport expansion.

While the threat of terrorism and consequent security checks have been dominating the headlines during the start of the summer holidays, BAA has been planning a pre-emptive strike against environmentalists.

Next week, in response to a demonstration due to be held outside Heathrow airport, BAA will go to the High Court to seek judicial approval for an anti-environmentalist injunction, the terms of which are so wide they have provoked astonishment among the green movement. Any one of five million people in groups such as the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England could be arrested for travelling on the London Underground or possessing a kite.

Anyone failing to give 24 hours' notice of a protest could be arrested for travelling on sections of the motorway or from standing on platforms 6 and 7 at Paddington station to catch the Heathrow Express. The terms of the injunction would cover: "All railway trains and carriages operating upon the Piccadilly line of the London Underground System ; the M4 and all service stations between and including junctions 3 and 6; and the M25 and all service stations between and including junctions 13 and 15..."

Civil rights campaigners claim the injunction, which will be heard on Wednesday, would put new limits on the right to peaceful protest. Liberty described the "massively wide ban" - which has no time limit - as ridiculously unenforceable. "The dangerous and undemocratic trend of large corporations seeking to trample the legal right to peaceful protest should be taken very seriously by the courts," the human rights group protested.


Suppose that a special prosecutor is appointed to look into whether Gonzales perjured himself in his Senate testimony. Question: Can Gonzales survive the firestorm that will attend the criminal investigation of a sitting Attorney General?

My guess is that Atrios would have an answer. "Yes." Simple answers to simple questions.

With Bush, any thing's possible.

Partisanship (v. collaboration)

Semantics is wonderful, usually a playground of sorts for me. But reading "I’m Proud to Be a Partisan" by Jane Hamsher is a far more useful exercise.

I'll say no more-- her piece is well worth a read, especially when thinking about the current batch of congressional Republicans.

Pat Tillman murdered?

From the AP:

SAN FRANCISCO - Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

"The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described," a doctor who examined Tillman's body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.

The doctors - whose names were blacked out - said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Israel Return of West Bank, Not Financial Props, Key to Ending Palestinian Enmity

US/UK strategy to bestow money and weapons on Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas (Fatah-dominated) pursuant to the hope that if Gaza will fail under Hamas while West Bank prospers under Fatah, Palestinian opinion will switch to supporting moderates will not succeed. The problem is that many Muslims view any pro-US leader as a traitor to the cause. Musharraf and Karzai are constantly under attack for selling out to the U.S. The U.S. has made itself deeply unpopular in the Islamic world by invading Iraq and standing by Israel. Arafat had a brief honeymoon upon his return from exile to Palestine. His corrupt and repressive regime did not help. Hamas (Palestine), Hizbullah (Lebanon), Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt and Jordon) revered for being more helpful to citizens than the government hold this skeptical view. Until Israel leaves the West Bank, giving Palestine an unencumbered political entity, this view will not change. U.S. has to show that moderate Arab allies can deliver desirable results, that Abbas can govern cleanly and end the Israeli occupation. Progress toward Palestinian statehood, not money, is the only US hope for progress.

The days of Patrick Fitzgerald are long gone

As I'm sure you've heard, four senators have called upon Paul Clement at the Justice Department to appoint an independent counsel to investigate perjury charges against Gonzales. They need to get someone who is totally unimpeachable for the post, like, say Harriet Miers.

My point is that no one in the Bush Justice Department is going to appoint someone who will do a professional job on this. The days of Patrick Fitzgerald are long gone. They learned their lesson there.


A couple of days ago, Arlen Specter sounded as though he was ready to sign on to asking for a special prosecutor to investigate Gozales' perjury charges, but like the true weasel he is, Specter is now criticizing the guys who are calling for it.

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) had asked Gonzales questions about the need for a special prosecutor on Tuesday. But he criticized his Democratic counterparts for threatening a special investigation in a subsequent press conference Thursday afternoon.

Bye, bye

The "fairness doctrine" has been relegated to the scrapheap of obsolete items, along with the Geneva Conventions, habeas corpus, and the Constitution.

WASHINGTON - The Federal Communications Commission has no intention of reinstating the Fairness Doctrine imposing a requirement of balanced coverage of issues on public airwaves, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said.

Director of FBI: Gonzales lied

The director of the FBI now says Gonzales was lying:

WASHINGTON - FBI Director Robert S. Mueller said Thursday the government's terrorist surveillance program was the topic of a 2004 hospital room dispute between top Bush administration officials, contradicting Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' sworn Senate testimony.

Of course, that won't make any difference. This administration was built on lies. The president is unable to tell the truth about anything. So, why should he care if his Attorney General lies?

Worse than Watergate

I was listening to the Lionel show on Air America Radio this morning, and, if I heard him right, he was saying that Watergate was a far worse crisis than the current one. I just don't see how anyone can see it that way. Yes, the President and the Attorney General were involved in a break-in, robbery, and cover up. That's pretty bad. Yes, it came down to a constitutional crisis. Yes, Nixon considered ignoring the Supreme Court but concluded the military wouldn't support him.

But, the Supreme Court held true to the constitution. The Republicans in Congress finally saw the light and decided to back the constitution instead of the president. And, the system of government created by the founders survived more or less intact.

In the current crisis, I see a real likelihood that our system of government will not survive. The current constitutional crisis is at least as bad, if not worse, than that in the Nixon years. The president is openly scornful of Congress and of any role Congress might play in governing the nation. Now, with everyone about to be found in contempt of Congress and with the president saying the government will not enforce a contempt citation, the matter may go before the courts. My guess is that the courts will refuse to intervene, saying this is a matter between the two other branches of government that they will have to sort out on their own. Congress may try to use it's inherent contempt powers, which means the Sargent at Arms will have to try to arrest people like Karl Rove and Harriet Meyers. My guess is that Bush would call out the FBI or the military to protect them from arrest. Clearly the Sargent at Arms couldn't confront the FBI. Even if the FBI and the military refuse to participate, Bush may hire Blackwater or some other Haliburton-type private militia to back him.

In the end, we will no longer have a Congress in anything but name. Sure, like the Roman Senate after Caesar took over, the House and the Senate may continue to meet, but no one will listen to them.

Gonzo's lies

As you probably already know, the Associated Press produced a White House document last night that utterly contradicts Gonzales' sworn testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee the day before yesterday:

WASHINGTON - Documents show that eight congressional leaders were briefed about the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration in 2004, contradicting sworn Senate testimony this week by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Leahy is giving Gonzo several days to "correct" his testimony, but Gonzo's office is saying he's standing behind his testimony that the briefing was not about the "Terrorist Surveillance Program" (TSP) but about some other program. In addition to the document, the recollection of the participants (at least the Democratic ones) refutes Gonzales'.

Now, Gonzales has only two choices. If he refuses to correct his testimony, he will clearly be subject to a perjury charge. On the other hand, if he corrects his testimony, that means he perjured himself a year ago when he told Congress that there was no controversy about the TSP. We now know, of course, from the testimony of Jim Comey, that there was serious controversy about the TSP that led Gonzo to try to get a sign off on it from Ashcroft while he was sedated in the hospital because he couldn't get Comey (who was then acting Attorney General) to sign off on it.

So, whichever way it goes, Gonzo perjured himself. Of course, it's unlikely he'll be tried for it, since he runs the Justice Department. And, even if he were tried and convicted, we have the Scooter Libby precedent.

Changing the size of the Supreme Court

In an op-ed in today's NY Times, Jean Edward Smith makes makes a point that I wasn't aware of until now:

If the current five-man majority persists in thumbing its nose at popular values, the election of a Democratic president and Congress could provide a corrective. It requires only a majority vote in both houses to add a justice or two. Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative colleagues might do well to bear in mind that the roll call of presidents who have used this option includes not just Roosevelt but also Adams, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln and Grant.

Apparently, the size of the Court is up to Congress. However, I have a feeling that any effort to change the size of the Court to re-balance it politically would raise such a stink in today's world that it would fail. If anybody would have tried it, it would have been the Thuglicans when they controlled Congress. The fact that even they didn't suggests to me that it is impossible. After all, what other taboos have they failed to cross when it benefited them politically?

Still, who knows? If the Roberts Court gets way out of hand, people might be willing to accept something like this.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Watch and weep

I'm still catching up on today's news, but if you haven't watched this video from Josh Marshall on yesterday's Gonzorbo's hearings, do yourself a favor. Get a drink in hand, sit back and relax, and be prepared to laugh/cry.


Sorry for my silence. Today was a beautiful :) day here in beautiful New Jersey, and I spent the day canoeing 18 miles (9 upstream and 9 downstream) on the Delaware River north of Dingman's Ferry. (Hint: It helps to have a little electric motor on your canoe when you're going upstream. Still, the motor needs really healthy paddle assistance through the rapids, so we got our fair share of exercise).

By the way, if you don't know New Jersey well and think it's the pits, it's probably because you've only seen the state from the NJ Turnpike. Whoever laid out that road did NJ the worst PR job in history. It goes through the oil refineries (which stink to high heaven, though not as bad as they did 40 or 50 years ago) and the industrial areas. Actually, NJ has more acres of forest than Ohio, which is more than 5 times larger. For all its faults -- traffic jams, population density, taxes, etc. -- it is one of the more beautiful states in the country -- and I've been to all of them except Alaska.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Clinton v. Obama; Edwards' trump card unnoticed

I didn't watch the recent YouTube debate, and have only cursorily attended to evaluations. (I want to know [a] who's electable, [b] who's competent, and [c] what their leading values are-- all programs offered as campaign promises can only be starting gambits, anyway, although they help to answer my three questions.)

But I have been amused a bit by the kerfuffle between Hillary and Obama over (shudder) talking to evil dictators and regimes, such as Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Il (after, that is, the hoped-for electoral demise of our very own current evil Regime). Surely you don't just talk to them without a plan, Sen. Obama? Well, duh.

But Greg Sargent at TPM Cafe points out that John Edwards' contribution to the debate has been completely eclipsed by the bogus debate between his better-heeled rivals. Edwards said he would talk to them with appropriate preparation, and then added:
But I think this is just a piece of a bigger question, which is, what do we actually do? What should the president of the United States do to restore America's moral leadership in the world. It's not enough just to [meet] with bad leaders. In addition to that, the world needs to hear from the president of the United States about who we are, what it is we represent.
Not that I suppose Hillary or Obama would dissent, but Edwards said it. And the media didn't really care.

The plot thickens at the Department of Just Us

It appears that Cheney and his thugs were given open access to Justice Department files on criminal investigations, possibly including the investigation of Scooter Libby:

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) questioned the Attorney General about the independence of the Justice Department and communications with the White House on pending cases or investigations.

He then pointed to a May 4, 2006 memorandum signed by Gonzales which showed that the Office of the Vice President had been granted parallel privileges with the Executive Office of the President on communicating directly with the Justice Department's staff on criminal and civil matters.

"What - on earth - business does the Office of the Vice President have in the internal workings of the Department of Justice with respect to criminal investigations, civil investigations, and ongoing matters?" the Senator asked.

Gonzales was stumped, "As a general matter, I would say that's a good question."

Whitehouse then pointed out that in the same memo, the Chief of Staff and Counsel of the Vice President were also explicitly granted the same authority.

"On its face - I must say - sitting here, I'm troubled by this," Gonzales added.

Impeach Gonzales

It's beginning to look as though impeachment may be an increasingly likely possibility for Gonzales. Everyone seems to agree he perjured himself at the Senate Judiciary hearings today. If not, he admitted that there was another domestic spying program not yet revealed publicly and perhaps even more invasive than the one we know about.

Dollar blues

Going down!

This graph depicts the value of the U.S. dollar in terms of Canadian dollars. As you can see, in a little over 4 months, the U.S. dollar has depreciated almost 20% relative to the Canadian dollar. The last time I remember the Canadian dollar being at or near par with the U.S. dollar was when I was a kid, about 50 years ago. Well, here we are again!

Every ambassador a shill

[Updated below: shills and more shills!]

It is just possible that this is slightly less disgusting than the corruption of the (In-)Justice Dept., or the partisan abuse of GSA and other federal departments, but still. According to WaPo today,

White House aides have conducted at least half a dozen political briefings for the Bush administration's top diplomats, including a PowerPoint presentation for ambassadors with senior adviser Karl Rove that named Democratic incumbents targeted for defeat in 2008 and a "general political briefing" at the Peace Corps headquarters after the 2002 midterm elections.

The briefings, mostly run by Rove's deputies at the White House political affairs office, began in early 2001 and included detailed analyses for senior officials of the political landscape surrounding critical congressional and gubernatorial races, according to documents obtained by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The documents show for the first time how the White House sought to ensure that even its appointees involved in foreign policy were kept attuned to the administration's election goals. Such briefings occurred semi-regularly over the past six years for staffers dealing with domestic policy, White House officials have previously acknowledged.

If only they had been this organized for the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath or for hurricane Katrina! But we know that the key value of The Regime is power and not national security or "domestic tranquilty."

[Addendum: OK, maybe this is that disgusting-- it looks like they also briefed career State Department officials (and the Peace Corps!) on GOP electoral priorities for 2008. As Sen. Joe Biden wrote, "Nor do I understand why department employees would need to be briefed on 'key media markets' in states that are 'competitive' for the president." This is clearly a continuation of the Lurita Doan/GSA escapade. They have, as the ancient prophet Jeremiah wrote of those who brazenly corrupted his nation's socio-political ethos, "forgotten how to blush." (Jeremiah 6:13-15)]

Updates(2) from TPM:
  1. David Kurtz reports the list (from WaPo) of federal agencies whose employees have been incorporated into The Regime Machine: 20 in all! Richard Daley the 1st would be so proud!
  2. My personal favorite, Josh Marshall excerpts an article by Joel Brinkley from the San Francisco Chronicle about an article that Condi Rice co-wrote with the CEO of Cisco Systems "about public/private partnerships and how they might be of use in rebuilding Lebanon after last summer's war. No one would publish it. . . . Every one of the major newspapers approached refused to publish an essay by the secretary of state." [My emphasis.]
    The coup de grace of the article are comments from Price Floyd, who recently left his position as the State Department's director of media affairs after 17 years. Floyd said that the article "was littered with glowing references to President Bush's wise leadership. 'It read like a campaign document.'" About his departure from State, "he said he was fed up with the relentless partisanship and the unwillingness to consider other points of view. His supervisor, a political appointee, kept 'telling me to shut up,' he said. Nothing like that had occurred under Presidents Bill Clinton or George H.W. Bush. 'They just wanted us to be Bush automatons.'" (Shades of the Surgeon General! And of various Communist dictators of less than blessed menmory: Chairman Dubya.)

"I'm so proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free!" (A line that never really made sense to me, but at least now gets to be ironic.)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

The White House has developed a new plan for how government will run if there's a major crisis, but Congress isn't allowed to know what it is:

WASHINGTON — Constituents called Rep. Peter DeFazio's office, worried there was a conspiracy buried in the classified portion of a White House plan for operating the government after a terrorist attack.

As a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, 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 said.

If you're not getting scared, very scared about what this government is up to, there's something wrong with you.

Obviously, the reason they're not telling Congress what the plan is is that Congress isn't part of the plan. And, while I doubt these guys pulled off 9/11, I don't doubt they would pull off a second 9/11 if they saw that the alternative was Democratic control of the government.


Updated below:

This piece says John Conyers is willing to proceed with impeachment proceedings if he can get three more votes even if Nancy Pelosi is not with him.

It appears to be more than that. Bree Walker told me, on the air, that Conyers said that all he needs is three more Congress Members backing impeachment, and he'll move on it, even without Pelosi. I asked whether that meant specifically moving from 14 cosponsors of H Res 333 to 17, or adding 3 to the larger number of Congress Members who have spoken favorably of impeachment but not all signed onto bills. Bree said she didn't know and that Conyers had declined to take any questions.

I don't know if this is true, but it's interesting if it is. My feeling is that we should go forward with it in the House if it appears there is a reasonable chance of getting it through the House. Of course, there's no chance of getting it through the Senate, but I've gotten to the point where I think we have to do something. We can't just let this president continue to trod upon the constitution without doing something to say at least we tried before we were shot down in flames.


I see from this piece that Cindy Sheehan has decided to challenge Nancy Pelosi in the Democratic primary because nobody will bring impeachment hearings. Her view is that Conyers won't go for it. Frankly, I agree with Conyers that we shouldn't go for it unless we can at least get it through the House.

Anti-Iraq War activist Cindy Sheehan announced in Washington on Monday afternoon that she would challenge Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the 2008 Congressional election.

"The Democrats will not hold this administration accountable so we have to hold them accountable and I for one will step up to the plate and run against Nancy Pelosi," Sheehan told a cheering crowd on Capitol Hill.

Sheehan brought a petition calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to the office of Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

According to Sheehan, Conyers said that there were not enough votes to impeach the President or Vice President, and so he did not intend to hold hearings on the impeachment resolution introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). The Ohio Democrat's Articles target the Vice President.

More shennanigans at Justice

McClatchy News gets another scoop in the politicization of the Department of Just Us:

WASHINGTON — Two years into a fraud investigation, veteran federal prosecutor David Maguire told colleagues he'd uncovered one of the biggest cases of his career.

Maguire described crimes "far worse" than those of Arthur Andersen, the accounting giant that collapsed in the wake of the Enron scandal. Among those in his sights: executives from a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, the investment empire overseen by billionaire Warren Buffett.

In May 2006, he felt strongly enough about his case that he prepared a draft indictment accusing executives from a Virginia insurer, Reciprocal of America, of concocting a series of secret deals to hide its losses from regulators. Although he didn't name anyone from Berkshire Hathaway's subsidiary, he described the company as a participant in the scheme.

But Maguire never brought those charges.

Months after preparing the draft, he was removed as the lead prosecutor on the case and reassigned.

His replacement, a prosecutor who hadn't been involved in the case until then, soon announced that the Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, General Reinsurance, wouldn't be indicted. By April of this year, the entire investigation, which the Justice Department once hailed as one of the largest insurance-fraud cases in the history of Virginia, had fizzled.

Former employees and policyholders of the Richmond-based insurer were astounded. Why had the Justice Department spent upward of $2 million to investigate the case only to decline to prosecute? Maguire and his team of investigators had secured two related guilty pleas, interviewed dozens of witnesses and gathered 7,000 boxes of documents.

... Tom Gober, a certified fraud examiner who worked on the case, thought investigators had gathered plenty of evidence.

Gober, a government-contracted investigator, concluded that the Justice Department had buckled under pressure from defense lawyers. Shortly before Maguire was removed, his supervisors were urging him to drop the case against General Reinsurance, Gober said.

Gober's suspicions were fanned by allegations of politicization in the Justice Department after nine U.S. attorneys were fired.

He took his complaints to the Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigates Justice Department misconduct.

"It just stinks," he said. "You don't come in out of nowhere and in no time kill three years of sophisticated effort."

...Internal documents that McClatchy Newspapers obtained show that Justice Department lawyers in Washington had become locked in an intense debate with Maguire over the case until he was removed from it.

Look, you can't interfere with the course of business in the United States. Whatever big business does, it must be right. Gee, if it were wrong the free market would stop it, wouldn't it? So, of course, it can't be wrong.

No news is no news

Updated twice below:

There doesn't seem to be much happening so far this morning, so I'm going to return to a subject I had reference to a couple of days ago -- Congress' ability to control Bush by cutting off funds for the war (or most anything else). I come back to this today because there was an opinion piece by Adam Cohen in today's NY Times entitled "Just What the Founders Feared: An Imperial President Goes to War," which relys heavily on this power as proof that Congress, not the president, has the power to start and stop wars.

Given how intent the president is on expanding his authority, it is startling to recall how the Constitution’s framers viewed presidential power. They were revolutionaries who detested kings, and their great concern when they established the United States was that they not accidentally create a kingdom. To guard against it, they sharply limited presidential authority, which Edmund Randolph, a Constitutional Convention delegate and the first attorney general, called “the foetus of monarchy.”

The founders were particularly wary of giving the president power over war. They were haunted by Europe’s history of conflicts started by self-aggrandizing kings. John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States, noted in Federalist No. 4 that “absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal.”

While Cohen is certainly correct about the founders' intent in the way the assigned the various powers between the branches of government, it is by no means clear that this President will see it that way. As I and others pointed out a couple of days ago, Congress' ability to cut off funds for the war (or for the government) in no way guarantees that funds will actually be cut off even if they try. After all, the Treasury department comes under the control of the executive branch, not the Congress. I see it as perfectly plausible that, should Congress defund the war, the President might just order the Treasury to continue providing funds under Bush's theory of the "unitary executive" in times of war (nowadays, defined as all times). How far the military would go to support this, who knows? But, it would really take a mutiny in the military to stop this.


Scarecrow, over at Firedoglake, expresses my sense of frustration at the press' unwillingness to cover these stories more eloquently than I:

As the New York Times lead editorial recognized Sunday, the Bush White House is now in complete and open defiance of all lawful Congressional efforts to hold the executive accountable for misconduct and possible crimes committed by members of the White House staff. Just as Bush claimed he had an inherent right to disregard Congressional statutes (e.g., FISA, the Geneva Conventions, signing statements) and the First, Fourth, anf Fifth Amendments, or to cover up WH complicity in crimes (via communting Scooter Libby’s prison term), the President is now claiming he can ignore any Congressional oversight of White House misconduct.

I’ve almost given up waiting for the media’s most public faces to express outrage over what is happening. The Administration has so systematically undermined the Constitution’s established checks and balances and means of accountability via Congressional and judicial oversight that there is virtually nothing left to check their lawless excesses except impeachment and removal from office. Fielding’s moves suggest that Bush and Cheney just want to “bring it on.”

The traditional media can’t seem to get their heads around how dangerously unAmerican this is and how serious a threat it poses to our constitutional framework. And there are too many in the media like the editorial writers at the Washington Post who pretend that the Administration might be more cooperative if only the Congress would be less insistent and simply offer the WH a face-saving compromise.

So I’m going to appeal to whatever remaining instincts the journalists in our media might still have as news people, and as Americans. There’s a story here, folks; a really big story. The details may be hard to follow, but the basics are simple: we are already deeply into a constitutional crises deliberately provoked by a brazenly lawless Administration, a regime that is violating the laws with impunity because it regards itself as above the law, and a regime that is openly daring Congress to impeach it. Can any of you smell a story here?

Too many in the media seem either in denial or blissfully ignorant that we are headed for a unavoidable showdown to determine whether the constitutional principle of checks and balances will survive. That’s the principle that stands between democratic government that respects the limits of government power so as to safeguard individual liberties against government encroachment, and a very different concept of government that recognizes no limits on the executive’s ability to slide into potential tyranny. In this showdown America will decide whether the rule of law applies to the executive or whether we move inexorably towards an unaccountable executive — in essence, a monarchy in which there is no meaningful check on the President’s power and no meaningful oversight of his actions while he remains in office. And if that doesn’t interest you as political news people, you’re in the wrong profession.

Hello, Tim Russert and Katie Couric! Hello Wolf Blitzer and PBS NewsHour! The biggest political story in a century is unfolding right in front of you, and you’re not reporting it; you’re missing the forest and just barely covering a few trees. Wake up and do your jobs, because we need you and it’s your country too.

Update II:

Kagro X at Daily Kos takes the research on presidential powers to fund the war without Congressional approval further. His conclusion, that although it would be illegal and unconstitutional, there's nothing that Congress could do to stop a determined president from doing whatever he wants if he's willing to put up with the opprobrium from the public. As we already know, this president has already sunk so low in the polls, he has really nothing to lose. And, since impeachment is off the table (if not because of the Dems, because nothing will ever convince the Thuglicans to go along), he's essentially a self-appointed dictator at this point.

I return to the question of the military. Is there some point to which they will refuse to follow him? I really don't know. And, even if they do refuse, what about the private military forces he's funding? Blackwater, et al. These owe their allegiance only to money.

Ah, the benefits of a free market for health care

Now, as I understand it, free markets are supposed to prevent shortages, aren't they. The price goes up enough to induce additional supply while discouraging demand. It works every time -- in theory:

GREENWOOD, Miss. - A national shortage of doctors is hitting poor places the hardest, and efforts to bring in foreign physicians to fill the gap are running into a knot of restrictions from the war on terror and the immigration debate.

Doctors recruited from places such as India, the Philippines and sub-Saharan Africa to work in underserved areas like the Mississippi Delta and the lonesome West already face an arduous and expensive gauntlet of agencies, professional tests and background checks to secure work papers and permanent residency.

Those restrictions have only tightened in the years since 9-11, and now many believe the process will become more difficult after the attempted terrorist bombings in Britain that have been linked to foreign doctors.

"The consensus seems to be that if you have a first name like Mohammed, you can forget it," Dr. Sanjay Chaube, a much-needed internist in Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Bay St. Louis, Miss., and one of more than 40,000 Indian doctors in the U.S. He is working in this country under what is known as a J-1 visa waiver.

The government estimates that more than 35 million Americans live in underserved areas, and it would take 16,000 doctors to immediately fill that need, according to the American Medical Association. And the gap is expected to widen dramatically over the next several years, reaching 24,000 in 2020 by one government estimate. A 2005 study in the journal Health Affairs said it could hit an astonishing 200,000 by then, based on a rising population and an aging work force.

I guess these people who live in rural areas just don't understand free markets. They need to learn that there is a price that would attract a doctor to their area; perhaps at $1,000 per office visit, they could get one. If you can't afford it, that's just tough luck. That's the way free markets work. Just go home and nurse your illness by yourself.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A tree is known by its fruit

Atrios' "wanker of the day" is David Gregory, who said,
[For] Hillary Clinton, her Sister Souljah moment is going to be telling the left to move beyond their hatred over Iraq, for Bush, and think about how they’re going to engage the war on terror in a very serious and tough way.
Let's see: 10s of thousands of civilians killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear military strikes are threatened, behind the thinnest of veils, against Iran, and the left has a problem with hatred?

(And the current form of "very serious and tough engagement" in the war on terror is accomplishing what exactly?)

Calls for censure

Russ Feingold has called again for the Senate to censure Bush. I'm sorry, it's not that Bush doesn't deserve censure (he deserves much worse, impeachment, conviction, then criminal trial and imprisonment), he does, but it simply isn't going to happen in this Senate. Everyone knows that. The Thuglicans will block it at every turn. Furthermore, it has no teeth. So, in my view to try for it and have it fail just hands Bush one more victory. I say, leave it alone. Let's do the things we can do and make as loud a stink about the Bush excesses as possible.

Well, what d'ya know?

Yesterday, I criticized the NY Times for failing to notice the extreme overreaching of the prez in his executive privilege claims. Finally, today, they take notice. Late, but better late than never:

The Bush administration, which has been pushing presidential power to new extremes, is reportedly developing an even more dangerous new theory of executive privilege. It says that if Congress holds White House officials in contempt for withholding important evidence in the United States attorney scandal, the Justice Department simply will not pursue the charges. This stance tears at the fabric of the Constitution and upends the rule of law.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

King George the Wth.

Kagro X over at Daily Kos has done some research on what happens if the Congress tries to shut off funding for the war/government/Bush and has found the answer I have long feared. Bush would probably just ignore Congress and keep right on spending the money. After all, the U.S. Treasury is part of the Unitary Executive Commander-in-Chiefy thing that trumps every other branch of government in times of war.

Whatever it is, it's always the Dems' fault

Ah yes, it's the Democrats' fault that we're not getting out of Iraq. That at least is the new meme of the Washington Post. But for Harry Reid's pulling the defense authorization bill off the floor the Lugar/Warner amendment that would have advised Bush to start to think about a pullback sometime sooner or later (in other words, done nothing) might have passed the Senate. Therefore, it's Reid's and the Dems' fault we're not pulling out.

Now, of course, it's also Reid and the Dems' fault that we're losing the war, because the mere mention of pulling out demoralizes the troops and empowers the enemy.

Whatever it is, it's always the Dems' fault. I guess Katrina was the Dems' fault too. Can't think why, but it must have been since everything is the Dems' fault.

Carrying water

The headline on this AP wire story reads:

Iraqi army detains 46 near Iran border

Which seems to imply that the Iranians were somehow complicit in this. But, as you read the story, nowhere in it is there any suggestion of Iranian involvement whatsoever. Yes, it's just possible that the headline was simply intended to indicate the location of the event, but I doubt it. After all, whoever wrote the headline had to get pretty far into the text of the article to find out that the area was near Iran. The first paragraph gives no hint of it unless you happen to know where Diyala province is located:

BAGHDAD - Iraqi troops have detained 46 suspected militants and killed five others in a new operation in eastern Diyala, the army said Saturday, while a U.S. soldier was reported killed in an explosion in the volatile province.

What I can't figure out though is why the press is carrying Bush's water on this Iranian involvement thing. I doubt this headline was written by the military, and, as I said, the location near Iran doesn't appear until deep in the article. What's in it for them, one way or the other?

Torture banned, not

Yesterday, I commented that I didn't trust anything Bush did and said I suspected his new order supposedly banning torture was less than it appeared. Now Human Rights Watch concurs:

(New York, July 20, 2007) – President George W. Bush’s new executive order on the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation program is contrary to the Geneva Conventions, Human Rights Watch said today.

The new order, issued today, purports to determine that the CIA’s detention and interrogation program “fully complies” with US obligations under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 as long as the CIA follows a series of requirements in carrying out the program.

But enforced disappearance – the hallmark of the CIA program, involving secret, incommunicado detention – is itself inconsistent with the requirement under Common Article 3 that detainees be treated humanely. A number of CIA prisoners were held for three or more years in secret detention facilities, known as “black sites,” before being transferred to military custody at Guantanamo Bay in September 2006. Others who were believed to have been held in CIA detention remain “disappeared.”

“By international human rights and humanitarian law standards, the CIA program is illegal to its core,” said Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch. “Although the new executive order bars torture and other abuse, the order still can’t purport to legalize a program that violates basic rights.”

Human Rights Watch also expressed skepticism that the treatment requirements set out in the new order – that detainees not be tortured or ill-treated, and be fed adequately, among others – will be followed. It is well documented that holding detainees in prolonged incommunicado detention, without judicial or other independent oversight, is an invitation to torture and other abuse. Human Rights Watch pointed out that even the International Committee of the Red Cross has not been allowed to visit detainees in CIA custody.

In addition, because the written policies governing the CIA interrogation program will be classified, it will be impossible for any outside monitor to assess whether the interrogation practices they allow are consistent with international standards. Given that then-CIA director Porter Goss once referred to waterboarding – a form of mock drowning – as a “professional interrogation technique,” Human Rights Watch is concerned that abusive methods might still be authorized.

Notably, US officials have still refused to publicly denounce waterboarding as torture.

Good news, bad news

This sounds at first hearing like good news:

A federal appeals court ordered the government yesterday to turn over virtually all its information on Guantánamo detainees who are challenging their detention, rejecting an effort by the Justice Department to limit disclosures and setting the stage for new legal battles over the government’s reasons for holding the men indefinitely.

But, I'm having second thoughts after reading this:

Then, later last month, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from detainees claiming a right to challenge their detentions in federal courts through habeas corpus cases, a contention the administration has fought with some success in the courts and Congress.

The cases in the appeals court and the Supreme Court are both efforts by lawyers for the detainees to challenge the military’s decisions to hold the men.

The lawyers are pursuing habeas corpus rights because such cases would give federal judges far more power to review Pentagon decisions than the appeals court has to review the military tribunal actions. The lawyers have argued that in a 2005 law, Congress so limited the review permitted by the federal appeals court that the detainees need access to federal courts through habeas cases to get a fair review of their detentions.

When the Supreme Court said it would hear the Guantánamo case last month, its order made clear the justices would be carefully watching the appeals court decision as they consider broader Guantánamo issues. In an unusual comment, the Supreme Court’s order in June said, “it would be of material assistance” for the justices to receive arguments from the lawyers that take into account the appeals court ruling setting the rules for the review process.

It would appear this ruling at the Appeals Court has set the stage for the Supreme Court to uphold the military tribunals and deny habeas review. Furthermore, the article goes on to note:

The ruling also included significant victories for the government, including a decision allowing the Pentagon to limit the subjects that the lawyers can discuss with detainees and authorizing special Pentagon teams to read the lawyers’ mail and remove unauthorized comments.

The decision noted that Congress said the appeals court’s review of the combatant status hearings was limited to determining whether the Pentagon followed its own procedures, and whether an enemy-combatant finding was supported by a preponderance of the evidence.

Hmmm. That doesn't sound like a reasonable process to me.

All the news that the NY Times choses not to print

If you got all your news from the NY Times, you wouldn't even know that on Thursday the White House threw down the gauntlet to Congress by saying Bush would order the Justice Department not to prosecute any contempt charges brought against members of his administration by Congress for invoking executive privilege. The only mention of the dispute is in this watered down article in today's paper.

WASHINGTON, July 20 — The Justice Department would be likely to block any efforts by Congressional Democrats to seek contempt charges against present and former White House officials for refusing to give information to Congress, a White House spokesman said Friday.

Congress and the White House have been moving toward a constitutional confrontation over the administration’s invoking executive privilege to prevent any testimony about its role in last year’s dismissal of federal prosecutors.

A White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, said Congressional threats to have presidential aides charged with criminal contempt would probably end in failure. “It has been the Justice Department’s long-held view that the law does not permit Congress to require a U.S. attorney to convene a grand jury or otherwise pursue a prosecution” when someone refuses on the basis of executive privilege to testify or turn over documents, Mr. Fratto said.

The administration’s warning that contempt citations would fail is the latest salvo in an escalating legal clash between the White House and Congress and appears intended to discourage Democrats in Congress from pursuing the charges against White House officials.

The administration sought on Friday to tamp down suggestions that a crisis was looming. “Obviously there are a number of steps that would have to occur before we reached a juncture where such a legal position could be considered,” said a senior Justice Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk about legal strategy in this case.

The Washington Post got the scoop on this story, and, of course, if the New York Times didn't originate the story, then it isn't news.

Friday, July 20, 2007

President Cheney

You'd better watch out -- President Cheney is coming:

When President Bush undergoes a colonoscopy Saturday, the power of the presidency will transfer to Vice President Dick Cheney while Bush is sedated, White House spokesman Tony Snow said Friday.

"Because the president will be under the effects of anesthesia, he once again has elected to implement Section 3 of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution," Snow said during his regular White House press briefing. "Once enacted, the vice president will serve as acting president until such time that the president notifies the appropriate authorities that he is prepared to reassume the authority of the president."

Of course, it probably won't make much difference since he's been acting as president the whole time.