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Bush Administration

A Special Prosecutor for Torture?

Should the Department of Justice or a special prosecutor prosecute the Bush administration officials responsible for the authorization of torture? David Corn explores the problems in a thoughtful article on the Mother Jones web site.

The question is “What do we want?” Do we want to know what really happened, or do we want convictions? We may not be able to get both.

As Corn points out, Patrick Fitzgerald unearthed far more wrongdoing than he was able to disclose, due to the rules and regulations that control the prosecutor’s office. Since he concluded that he did not have enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Rove, Chaney and a number of other officials were guilty of crimes, the evidence he had collected could not be disclosed. His hands were tied.

In other words, if the Obama administration prosecutes we may get neither truth nor convictions.

Congressional hearings and even independent commissions have their weaknesses, too. The members of the 9/11 Commission were clearly chosen to favor the government’s version of events and to ignore evidence that conflicted with the that version.

Congressional hearings can turn into three-ring circuses when the stakes are high and one party feels threatened. When members of both parties are compromised, the truth will never emerge.

As I mentioned the other day, Obama’s decision to release the secret memos authorizing torture was most likely designed to test the level of outrage among the public, and thus enable him to gauge the support that he would receive were he to prosecute.

Prosecuting the previous administration carries serious political risks, not the least of which is that the Supreme Court could declare the president immune from prosecution for acts taken in his capacity as commander-in-chief on matters of national security. If you think this is far-fetched, consider that in 2000 the court , on specious legal grounds, stopped the vote recount in Florida and thus determined the outcome of the presidential election in favor of George Bush. The justices appointed since then, having been ideologically vetted before being nominated by Bush and confirmed by a Republican Senate, have not demonstrated that they would have any more scruples about stretching the Constitution to protect Bush and Cheney from prosecution.

It’s a tough question. The only workable solution may be truth and reconciliation commissions modeled partially after South Africa. Persons who are willing to appear before a commission and confess their crimes get a break, ranging from amnesty in the least serious cases, to a reduced sentence in the more heinous ones.

There are serious moral and legal problems inherent with truth commissions, however. As a general proposition, persons who have abused the public trust should not be allowed to escape the consequences of their actions, especially when their misdeeds have resulted in the death and suffering of so many innocent persons. To persuade guilty parties to submit to the commissions, the government must be willing to back up such commissions by prosecuting those who either refuse to appear, perjure themselves, or hold back from telling the entire truth.

Individuals without remorse would have to face the full force of the criminal law. This would probably involve, at the very least, putting Dick Cheney on trial, as he is unlikely to ever admit wrongdoing.
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Poor Obama!

Poor Obama! He made the egregious mistake of releasing secret memos written by legal prostitutes in the Bush administration justifying torture, and now, as a result, pressure is building for legislative, possibly criminal, investigations of said whores and the higher officials who ordered the memos.

Obama could have saved himself all this trouble with the judicious use of a shredder and some Cheneyesque stonewalling.

Now it’s too late. He may eventually be forced, kicking and screaming, to authorize criminal investigations, and, heaven forbid, even prosecutions.

He should have known that this would happen.

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Rove to Speak at Mississippi College

A couple of weeks ago I was floored to receive an invitation to hear Karl Rove speak at a $125 per plate scholarship banquet benefitting Mississippi College. That an institution calling itself “of higher learning” would choose to be associated with a scoundrel who deserves, not praise, but a lengthy prison sentence, is overwhelming and deeply disheartening. Is there an ample supply of idiots in this state willing to pay $125 to eat rubber chicken and consume the bile, venom and half-truths that will almost certainly be served up along with the dessert?


Rove is shortly to testify before Congress, under oath, about the firing of U.S. Attorneys insufficiently enthusiastic about bringing frivolous criminal actions against Democrats just before critical elections. Unfortunately, the hearings will be closed, so the public will not be able to see him squirm and attempt to evade questions, the answers to which we all are entitled
to know. Hopefully, transcripts of the hearing will be made available.


Reactionary genius Fred Sullens, editor of the now defunct Jackson Daily News, hated Theodore G. Bilbo, governor and senator, with an intensity matched only by his hatred of Governor Paul Johnson, Sr. Once, when he learned that Bilbo was to deliver a speech in Oxford, he wrote, and the date is illustrative only, “ On May 5, 1943 at 10:00 o’clock A.M., in Oxford, Mississippi, a vulture will puke.” Seems appropriate now.
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The CDC Starts Recovering

I ran into Sam (not his real name) the other day who was in town on personal business. He has worked for the CDC as long as I can remember, and he was unusually chipper when we met.

According to Sam, things started improving at the CDC on January 20, 2009, and have been getting better ever since, as more and more political/religious hacks depart the agency to crawl back under whatever rocks they came from when they were first appointed by the Bush administration.

“For the past eight years,” Sam said, “management would give us their policy decision and tell us to get the science to support it. Now they are once again asking us to get the science so they can use it as a basis for a rational decision.”

Since the CDC is charged with assessing health threats, including the likelihood of epidemics, politicization is a serious matter. It is good to know that the agency is back in responsible hands.

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N. Klein and the Shock Doctrine

Via the Raw Story, Naomi Klein explains on the Colbert Report that the Wall Street collapse is merely another planned disaster to rob the nation of even more money and resources and enrich Bush’s friends.

http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Naomi_Klein_Bush_admin_invented_no_1003.html

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The U.S. Attorneys Purge - Hitting the Fan

Via TPM, the Department of Justice Inspector General’s Report on the U.S. Attorneys firing went on the web today, and it is as damning a picture of the Gonzales DOJ and the Bush administration as anyone could imagine. After this report, it is impossible not to conclude that the DOJ under the Bush administration became a branch of the Republican Party. Here is a short sample from the section on David Iglesias, the US Attorney for New Mexico:

Third, we believe a full investigation is necessary to determine whether other federal criminal statutes were violated with regard to the removal of Iglesias. For example, Iglesias and others have alleged that he was removed in retaliation for his failure to accelerate the indictment of a public corruption case and his alleged failure to initiate voter fraud investigations. Iglesias said that Representative Wilson, who was running for reelection in a close race, called him before the 2006 election and asked him about delays in public corruption cases being handled by his office, apparently referring to the courthouse case. In addition, Iglesias believed that Senator Domenici attempted to pressure him to indict the courthouse case before the election in order to benefit Wilson, and when Iglesias declined to do so Domenici engineered his removal. The evidence we have developed so far shows that Wilson and Domenici in fact called Iglesias shortly before the election, and that the substance of the calls led Iglesias to believe he was being pressured to indict the courthouse case before the upcoming election. Moreover, New Mexico Republican politicians and party activists contacted Iglesias, the Department, and the White House to complain about Iglesias’s handling of voter fraud investigations and public corruption cases.

It is possible that those seeking Iglesias’s removal did so simply because they believed he was not competently prosecuting worthwhile cases. However, if they attempted to pressure Iglesias to accelerate his charging decision in the courthouse case or to initiate voter fraud investigations to affect the outcome of the upcoming election, their conduct may have been criminal. The obstruction of justice statute makes it a crime for any person who “corruptly . . . influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct or impede, the due administration of justice . . . .” 18 U.S.C. § 1503(a). While we found no case charging a violation of the obstruction of justice statute involving an effort to accelerate a criminal prosecution for partisan political purposes, we believe that pressuring a prosecutor to indict a case more quickly to affect the outcome of an upcoming election could be a corrupt attempt to influence the prosecution in violation of the obstruction of justice statute. The same reasoning could apply to pressuring a prosecutor to take partisan political considerations into account in his charging decisions in voter fraud matters.

Inspector General’s Report, pp. 199-200.

The report calls for further investigation, in large part because so many persons involved in the decisions to fire the attorneys refused to be interviewed. The list of those who refused includes Karl Rove, Harriet Miers. Monica Goodling, and New Mexico Senator Pete Dominici, In addition, the Inspector General’s investigators were refused White House documents that were relevant to the investigation.

It appears that officials in both the White House and the Department of Justice may have committed multiple criminal acts in collaborating with the firing of Iglesias.

Prosecutions here in Mississippi of Paul Minor and Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz by the U.S. Attorney smack of the same partisan flavor, timed as they were to coincide with the gubernatorial race.

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MS Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Tells of his Political Prosecution at the Hands of U. S. Attorney Dunn Lampton

Oliver Diaz was appointed by Governor Ronnie Musgrove to the Mississippi Court of Appeals and then to the Mississippi Supreme Court. In the subsequent election he defeated Republican-supported state judge Keith Starrett, a childhood friend of U. S. Attorney Dunn Lampton. Several months before the ensuing gubernatorial election, Lampton had him indicted for bribery. After he was acquitted of all charges, Lampton unsealed a further indictment against him and his wife for tax evasion. He was again acquitted on all charges after the jury had met only 15 minutes, but not until after the Feds intimidated his wife into pleading guilty in return for her promise to cooperate in the prosecution of her husband. (she was never called as a witness.)

The prosecution of Diaz follows the pattern followed in other states by federal prosecutors, targeting popular Democratic officeholders, often on vague and ominous charges shortly before close elections. In Diaz's case, it was loans to his campaign by plaintiff lawyer Paul Minor, that the prosecutors claimed influenced Diaz and gave Minor an advantage when his cases came before the Mississippi Supreme Court. The problem with that theory was that Diaz had recused himself on every single case of Minor's and could not have possibly had anything to do with the outcome of Minor's cases.

The Raw Story recently featured an interview with Justice Diaz telling what happened. Every Mississippian with the slightest interest in what is going on in this state should read it:

Diaz: One of the main reasons that I feel that I as an individual was targeted rather than my conduct was targeted was because there were actually other judges that I served with who also had campaigns loans guaranteed by Paul Minor and these judges were not prosecuted. Specifically, the Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court, Edwin Pittman, also had a campaign loan guaranteed by Paul Minor.

The main difference between me and Pittman was that Pittman voted in all of Minor’s cases and even authored opinions that were favorable to Minor and his clients while I did not participate. Now, I am not saying that Pittman did anything wrong. However, I could never understand, and it has never been explained to me, how his conduct and active participation and favorable rulings were ignored and I was indicted and prosecuted for bribery and I had never been involved in Minor’s cases.

The only reasonable explanation seems to be that prosecutors were more interested in specific individuals and not the conduct of an individual. James Thomas (who has since died) was another judge I served with who had a campaign loan guaranteed by Minor. Judge Thomas also participated in Minor’s cases and was not prosecuted. I do not believe, and do not want to be seen as implying, that Thomas did anything inappropriate, just that under similar circumstances I was prosecuted and others were not. Federal prosecutors were fully aware of these other loans but chose not to prosecute them, even though these judges ruled in Minor’s favor in cases before them. Again, I did not participate in any of Minor’s cases and was indicted and tried for bribery [and eventually exonerated]. The only reasonable explanation is that prosecutors were more interested in prosecuting particular individuals.


There are many facets to the story of the events surrounding the much-publicized trial of Diaz, Minor and state trial judges John Whitfield and Wes Teal, and hopefully someone will eventually write a book that weaves together the numerous threads spun by Karl Rove, the Justice Department, Dunn Lampton, and the FBI. When and if the whole story is told, it will likely be revealed as a part of a nationwide project by the Bush administration to use the justice system—judges, prosecutors, and the FBI—to further its own partisan political ends. It will not reflect well on any of the officials involved in the proceedings, least of all District Judge Henry Wingate, whose rulings on critical issues invariably favored the prosecution.

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Nir Rosen:Iraq is Utterly Lost

Steve Clemons features a CNN interview worth reading with free-lance writer, filmmaker and photographer Nir Rosen of the New America Foundation on the situation in Iraq. According to Rosen, who has spent two years in Iraq, the Shiites have ethnically cleansed Baghdad of Sunnis, so that it is no longer a Sunni city. Iraq has been completely remade and it has no central government, only warlords. The picture is grim:

FOREMAN: So Nir, we keep hearing reports, though, nonetheless out of Baghdad. People saying that give us time, we are trying to get this government worked out. We are going to make some progress. Do you see any way that can happen?

ROSEN: No. This has been the case for the past ... two years at least. There is no hope. There is no government. Neither side is interested in compromise and why should they? The Shias control Baghdad. They have removed the Sunnis from Baghdad, from Iraq's political future.

FOREMAN: What's going to change that if anything?

ROSEN: Nothing is going to change that.

It will be interesting to see how General Petraeus manages to spin that reality in the coming weeks.

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Gonzales Resigns - Blogger Eats Crow

Yes, I know, this is not exactly hot news. You didn't need me to tell you Gonzales quit, since it was splashed all over the mainstream media and the blogosphere in great detail.

I must eat humble crow as a prognosticator, however, having offered to bet anyone that Gonzales would leave the day that Bush leaves. I was flat wrong. I remained silent until now, because I didn't understand why I was so wrong. I still don't and neither the MSM or the blogosphere has helped to enlighten me.

Greg Palast believes that Karl Rove quit in order to work his dark magic for the next Republican presidential candidate, but I am skeptical of that explanation, since Rove's magic has dramatically faded in the last couple of years. That explanation, even if true for Rove, wouldn't explain Gonzales's exit, since Gonzales has no marketable skills beyond his willingness to betray every principle he swore to uphold if ordered by his boss to do so.

I briefly considered what one might call the Lew Alcindor substitution. As a graduate student at UNC Chapel Hill, I watched UCLA, on March 3, 1968, crush UNC for the NCAA Mens Division basketball championship. Most humiliating, though, was Alcindor's being taken out of the game long before it was over. Perhaps Bush is demonstrating that he doesn't need Gonzales any more—that he can act with impunity for the rest of the game without having the nations' chief prosecutor in his hip pocket.

The Alcindor explanation doesn't make much sense, either. Gonzales was Bush's insurance policy that covered his whole administration and he will not get another Gonzales confirmed by the Senate, even with the Democrats as feckless as they have been since returning to majority status.

It is difficult to believe that Gonzales left to avoid impeachment or because he was about to be indicted. He's the attorney general of the United States; without a special prosecutor, there is no way he will be indicted by his own department. The Democrats lack a sufficient majority in the Senate to remove Gonzales even if the House of Representatives voted to impeach.

Sidney Bumenthal, Writing in Salon, contends that Rove was the puppeteer pulling Gonzales's strings:

From the beginning of his rise with George W. Bush until the day of his abrupt resignation, Alberto Gonzales was anointed, directed and protected by Karl Rove. At the Department of Justice, Gonzales served as Rove's figurehead. In the real line of authority, the attorney general, a constitutional officer, reported to the White House political aide. Bush did not nickname Gonzales "Fredo," after the weak brother in "The Godfather," without reason.

As White House counsel and attorney general, Gonzales operated as the rubber stamp of the two great goals of the Bush presidency -- the concentration of unaccountable power in the executive and the subordination of executive departments and agencies to partisan political imperatives. Vice President Cheney directed the project for the imperial presidency, while Rove took charge of the top-down politicization of the federal government. Gonzales dutifully signed memos abrogating the Geneva Conventions against torture, calling them "quaint," and approved the dismissal of U.S. attorneys for insufficient partisan zeal.


Thus when Rove left, goes the argument, Gonzales the puppet collapsed.

There may be some truth in this. Gonzales is clearly not the sharpest tack in the box, and his usefulness to the Bush administration largely rested on his unswerving loyalty and obedience to Bush, Cheney and Rove.

Still, there is something extremely odd about all these people close to the president leaving 17 months before the end of the administration that makes me feel that there is more to these departures than what has been said up to now. Too many dogs are not barking in the night. This blogger is not privy to what Washington whispers, but something tells me that Gonzales's departure is related to Rove's departure and that this is a big deal.

Time will tell.

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Rove Resigns

According to the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove is resigning from the Bush Administration to spend more time with his family.

Of course, we all believe what he told Paul Gigot—that he sincerely desires more quality time with his family back in Texas.

We also believe that pigs fly.

Addicts to power don't resign voluntarily, and Mr. Rove certainly qualifies as such an addict, along with nearly everyone of significance in the White House. It therefore goes without saying that Mr. Rove was asked to resign by George W. Bush, and, given Bush's friendship and almost total reliance on Rove for political advice—which in this strange government has come to mean the same as policy advice—Bush's decision to dump Rove portends a political development of tectonic magnitude.

It is unlikely that Rove is being let go for failing to win the 2006 elections, or that his policies might lead the Republican Party to disaster in 2008. Bush is a lame duck president and, besides having nothing to lose in 2008, has shown no dissatisfaction with Rove's shortcomings.

It briefly crossed my mind that Bush, approaching the end of his presidency, is contemplating how to make the transition from controversial and almost universally loathed psychopath into a widely-admired, wise elder statesman, and may have realized that being closely associated with the junkyard dog that is Karl Rove is rapidly becoming a liability. This is unlikely, however, because Bush doesn't operate that way. Rove's strategy was the major reason that Bush became president, and Bush has shown a mafia-like loyalty to his friends and benefactors far beyond what one would reasonably expect from a person with his sense of entitlement. Bush wouldn't have fired Rove unless he absolutely had to.

Besides, Rove knows all the White House dirt, especially since he is responsible for much of it. Given Congress's complacency towards Bush's known impeachable acts, it is difficult to imagine anything that Karl Rove might reveal that would make much difference. Some offenses, however, while not as damaging to the constitutional fabric as Bush's expansion of executive power, have the power, if revealed, to provoke such a degree of popular outrage on the gut level that the resulting outcry would compel Congress to act. Since Rove undoubtedly has knowledge of such behavior on the part of Bush, Cheney and others, Bush would not fire him lightly, irrespective of any feelings of loyalty.

There is a strong possibility that Rove has good reason to know that the Bush administration is about to sink and that he had best jump before he goes under with the rest of the crew. As one of the principal navigators responsible for sailing the ship of state into an iceberg, he stands to shoulder much of the blame when it goes down.

Whatever the reason for Rove's departure, this is a big deal. We just don't know quite yet how big.

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Wimps

The Senate caved, giving our current lying, justice obstructing, lackey of an attorney general even more power than ever to spy on Americans without judicial supervision or even permission. What are our senators scared of that they would allow this, even for six months? Why should this authoritarian administration be given any more power over anything? Should we even be paying our senators' (or representatives') salaries if they jump whenever the president says "frog"? They are rapidly becoming useless parasites.

I am utterly disgusted and pessimistic. This really seemed like a no-brainer.

Update: Democrat Gene Taylor, U. S. Representative from the 4th District of Mississippi (Gulf Coast) voted for this abominable bill, which was passed by the House yesterday. Thanks, Gene, for giving away some more of our freedoms under the pretense of protecting them. You failed us utterly.

Representative Bennie Thompson did the right thing.

Republicans Lott, Cochran, Wicker and Pickering voted like the administration whores they are, which came as no surprise whatever.

House of Representatives Roll Call Vote

Senate vote not available on Thomas

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NY Times: Impeach Gonzales

Over the past six months, even the power elite-serving NY Times has come to realize that the attorney general is a liar, an obstructor of justice, and, in general, a knave. To most of us, this was obvious six years ago, but one must make allowances for the politically-challenged.

This week was the last straw. Gonzales gave the finger to the Congress and the rest of the nation and Bush ratified that finger. The president should fire Gonzalez, and if he doesn't the solicitor general should appoint a special prosecutor to investigate him. If that doesn't happen, then Congress should impeach.

As far as we can tell, there are three possible explanations for Mr. Gonzales’s talk about a dispute over other — unspecified — intelligence activities. One, he lied to Congress. Two, he used a bureaucratic dodge to mislead lawmakers and the public: the spying program was modified after Mr. Ashcroft refused to endorse it, which made it “different” from the one Mr. Bush has acknowledged. The third is that there was more wiretapping than has been disclosed, perhaps even purely domestic wiretapping, and Mr. Gonzales is helping Mr. Bush cover it up.

Democratic lawmakers are asking for a special prosecutor to look into Mr. Gonzales’s words and deeds. Solicitor General Paul Clement has a last chance to show that the Justice Department is still minimally functional by fulfilling that request.

If that does not happen, Congress should impeach Mr. Gonzales.


New York Times: Mr. Gonzales's Never-Ending Story


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Whither the Republic?

It has been difficult to write about the crisis in Washington, D.C. these last few days; the possible outcomes are too awful to contemplate.

Bush has finally demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty that he is not simply a bad president, but a knave, and that there is nothing he will not do to preserve his power and the power of his close supporters. That much of the mass media have not yet reached this conclusion—at least openly—is testimony to its stupidity and corruption.

For the first time in a political career notable for lack of compassion towards convicts, Bush has commuted Scooter Libby's sentence long before his conviction has been affirmed on appeal, for the obvious reason that that the sound of the cell doors closing behind him might have persuaded Libby to spill the beans on Karl Rove, vice president, Dick "Go fuck yourself" Cheney, or even the president himself.

With a sufficient robo-Republican minority in the Senate Bush can defeat any impeachment proceedings, We hanged Nazis at Nürnberg for doing exactly what Bush has done: attacking a nation that was no threat to either its neighbors or the United States. If he cannot be impeached for lying the nation into an illegal war he is virtually immune from being removed from office, no matter how heinous his crimes

Since the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia is charged with prosecuting contempt of Congress charges, Bush, through his buddy Gonzales, can squech any efforts by Congress to enforce its subpoenas through the judicial system.

That leaves only the inherent contempt power of Congress, which can send its sergeant-at-arms to arrest a recalcitrant official and haul him/her before the appropriate chamber to be held in contempt. Anyone want to make bets on what will happen if the sergeant-at-arms of the house attempts to arrest Karl Rove or Dick Cheney? The thought of such a confrontation is enough to sicken this constitutionalist and small-r republican.

The nation is presently as close to a coup as it has ever been. The institutions of our government are being stressed to the breaking point.

Let us pray that they hold.

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Washington Post Series on VP Cheney Begins Today

Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency begins today in the Washington Post. I'll be making comments on this series as I have the opportunity to study it more carefully, but it looks to be very interesting. Cheney is truly unique in the annals of the U.S. presidency; no other VP has exerted the influence over the president and the power over the executive branch as he has. No vice president has been so secretive and gotten away with it.

Remember one caviat: Over the past six years the Washington Post has printed most of its political ink in support of the Bush Administration, including some of its most idiotic and counterproductive policies. The really important information to be conveyed by these articles will be the information that is left out.

We wrote in 2000:

Jungian psychology often refers to the "shadow," meaning that part of the personality that is rejected and repressed but which still exists and exerts a deep influence upon the conscious ego. Likewise, organizations may be usefully imagined as casting a corporate shadow--institutional issues and facts that by tacit agreement don't exist in the corporate consciousness. It's easy to ascertain the shadow of your own organization; make a list of issues, events and things that cannot be mentioned, let alone discussed. Often these unmentionables are extremely important to the life of the organization, and ignoring them can spell institutional disaster, either from within or without. Nevertheless, the organization achieves a stable identity, a corporate ego, by denying and refusing to consider issues, events and things that threaten the corporate identity. Like the human ego, the corporate ego perceives the raising of those issues as a threat to its very existence and reacts in ways that from the outside often seem irrational and self-destructive. What is being preserved is not the organization but its ego, which has identified itself with the whole organization.

Like corporations, like governments.

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Palast: How Rove May Have Already Won the 2008 Election

One of my favorite journalists, Greg Palast, has recently related to Buzzflash how the Republicans stole the 2000 and 2004 elections and how they are planning to steal the election in 2008. He also had some suggestions on how the nation might overcome this vast right-wing conspiracy to suppress the votes of millions of Democratic voters. It will take work.

Of course, the Republicans must nominate somebody that's electable, and the present herd of contenders is pitiful at best.

On the other hand, it was obvious in 2000 that George W. Bush had absolutely nothing to bring to the presidency beyond his family name, but, nevertheless, a shade under half the electorate was willing not only to overlook his monumental shortcomings but to invest him with virtues he did not even remotely possess. One can only hope that the electorate is wiser as well as sadder now that it has become impossible to ignore the bitter fruits of its willful foolishness bordering on collective insanity.

Palast is the author of Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans--Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild in an updated paperback edition. The JP has reviewed the original edition.

Read Palast's interview with Buzzflash.

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Relax; Gonzales Isn't Going Anywhere

More Republicans are telling Gonzales that it's time for him to go. Senator Schumer (D-NY) predicts a no-confidence vote, but doesn't say exactly when. The latest Republican senator calling for Gonzales's scalp is that boneless wonder of American politices, chief stealth legislative enabler of the U. S. Attorney firing scandel, whose statesmanlike words and protestations of outrage are belied by his record of voting in lockstep with all that Bush and his minions have decreed, Senator Arlen Specter (R) of Pennsylvania. And Specter is one of the better Republican senators on a scale of integrity and honesty.

You read it here: Gonzales will cease to be the attorney general of the United States on the day that George W. Bush ceases to be president, which is almost certain to be January 20, 2009.

The reason (for the tenth time): Bush, Cheney and Rove are toast if Gonzales goes. A Democratic congress will not confirm another Gonzalez willing to obstruct justice the way Gonzales has. The next attorney general will not have as his raison d'etre the protection at all costs of Bush and Company. So don't look for Gonzales to be replaced.

The media are playing games with the American public over this issue.

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What the U. S. Attorney Purges are About

I've been following an interesting discussion on TPM Cafe on the growing U. S. Attorney scandal, What Was the U. S. Attorney Purge Meant to Achieve?, and also on FireDogLake: The Math, which correlates the firings with the electoral map.

Everyone has their own theory about why those six were fired, but here are the principal ones:

  • To make way for administration-favored lawyers to pad their resumes with the prestigious position. This is one of the reasons advanced by the administration;

  • To eliminate attorneys not willing to bring frivolous voter fraud cases against Democrats shortly before elections. The fact that most of the fired attorneys were located in highly contested states supports this thesis;

  • To kill investigations and prosecutions of Republicans for corruption and install U. S. Attorneys who would instead prosecute Democrats;

  • This is related to the previous reason: To stop Carol Lamm, U. S. Attorney in San Diego, from further investigations and prosecutions of Republican corruption. Under this theory, the remaining firings were merely a smokescreen to obscure the real objective of the administration, which feared that Lamm would follow the trail of corruption higher and higher in the administration.

One can be sure that all of these reasons played a part in the administration's decision, but the firing of Carol Lamm is the one most directly related to an immediate threat to the Bush regime. Lamm had already put U. S. Representative Duke Cunningham (R-CA) in jail for bribery. She was investigating corruption related to the Cunningham case and in the top levels of the C.I.A. Without a Republican-dominated Congress to ignore or whitewash the Bushites' crimes, the threat posed by Lamm's investigations was simply too dangerous to allow it to continue, irrespective of the political fallout. Apparently Lamm was taking Deep Throat's advice to follow the money, and if this administration and its political party is about anything at all, it's about money. And property. Cunningham attempted to conceal his payoff through a mansion that he sold at an inflated price for considerably more that it was worth.

Corruption on a grand scale cannot be hidden without an infrastructure of corrupt law enforcement that ignores graft and abuses of power and concentrates its resources on red herrings like voter fraud or election fraud. The current federal prosecution of Paul Minor and two judges for bribery here in Jackson is a typical example of what the Bushites like. Minor, a wealthy trial lawyer, has been contributing to Democratic campaigns for many years, so a conviction on just one count would tar the image of the plaintiffs' bar and eliminate Minor's influence in future elections. Since one of the financial mainstays of the Democratic party is plaintiffs' lawyers, anything that reduces their influence or income helps the Republicans. Thus the intense lobbying for tort "reform" designed to eliminate the large judgments that have allowed the trial lawyers to be a political force on behalf of the common man. Interestingly enough, the prosecutors in the Minor trial are from the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. This is an important case for the Bushites.

For that reason, it is highly unlikely that Bush will fire his longtime crony Gonzales, no matter how much heat he takes. Gonzales is the one official that can protect Bush, Cheney, Rove and the rest of the criminal conspiracy from exposure. Gonzales is the one official that can prevent an FBI investigation or kill one that comes too close. Bush will throw all his other minions under the bus before he fires Gonzales, because a Democratic Senate will not confirm another Gonzales. This is so important that it bears repeating:

A Democratic Senate will not confirm another Gonzales.

As long as Bush can control the Justice Department, the only remedy for his crimes is impeachment, and although Bush's crimes might be heinous and proven beyond a reasonable doubt, there are not enough Republicans in the Senate with the integrity, intelligence, or courage to vote for impeachment.

Under those circumstances, Bush would have to be even stupider that I thought to fire Gonzales. I don't think he's that stupid.

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The Royal "We"

By way of Aziz Huq at the Huffington Post, Bush in his speech the other day used the royal pronoun:

Incidentally, in the "is-it-funny or scary" category, I note that President Bush in his address commented that U.S. attorneys are "decent people. They serve at our pleasure."

That says everything, doesn't it?

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Thinking About Iraq and the Parties of Interest

There is an insurgency. The Sunnis, formerly in power in the Baathist regime, are major players in the campaign against the American occupation. The Shia are more circumspect, mainly because the U.S. is tilting towards them and they are a majority.

The question arises: Why don't the Sunnis and Shiites temporarily make up until the U.S. troops leave, after which they can fight it out or come to terms with each other? Nothing would be more persuasive of withdrawal than a united Iraqi government that pacifies Iraq and gives the Americans no reason to stay. In other words, to get the U.S. forces out of Iraq, the different sides must bury their differences and unite. The logic is impeccable. Iraqis are not so stupid or so blinded by religious prejudice that they don't see this, and it is foolish to think otherwise.

So what's the problem? Why are the Iraqis, especially the Sunnis, so hostile to the U.S. and the Shia when all they have to do is come together and ask the U.S. to leave?

It's because no one in Iraq believes that the U.S. intends to ever leave. Accepting this proposition changes the political equation drastically in terms of how each side calculates the costs and benefits of each course of action.

If the U.S. forces stay in Iraq, the U.S. will not allow a sovereign and strong democratic government to rule Iraq, because the first thing a popular government will do is ask the U.S. to leave. Once the U.S. leaves, it will then do whatever is necessary to appropriate its vast oil resources for the benefit of Iraq and the Iraqi people, not for the benefit of the international oil corporations like ExxonMobil and BP.

Second, the withdrawal of U.S. forces will ultimately lead to Iraqi sovereignty over the oil fields, even if a civil war intervenes. Whoever comes out on top will take over the oil industry in Iraq. This would be true even if another bloodthirsty dictator like Saddam Hussein seizes power.

It is good bet that Bush plans never to leave Iraq. The U.S. is constructing huge bases, which clearly points to a long-term occupation whose object is the control of Iraq's oil, either to assure the U.S. a stable supply of oil (the popular view), or to keep Iraq from driving down the price of oil, which would hurt the oil companies that are the mainstay of the Bush administration.

Under those circumstances, what is the logical strategy for the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds, given the assumption that the Bush administration plans to occupy Iraq indefinitely?

The Kurds, under the present situation, can have their cake and eat it, too. They control the north, which includes the major oil fields around Kirkuk, and they have been left alone by the U.S. for the most part. Their long-term objectives are independence and appropriation of oil revenues from the oil fields in their region. At the moment, they are getting neither, but they can afford to wait. The U.S will not permit exclusive Kurdish control of the oil fields and Turkey will not permit an independent Kurdish state. Having been given a free reign in their area, they can afford to wait and watch what happens in the south. They clearly have no interest in a unified Iraq under the control of any central government. Having been betrayed over and over by every nation around them, including the U.S., they are not inclined to trust anyone for their security.

The Shiites, although they want the U.S. to leave eventually, are politically in a strong position. They form the majority of the population. The U.S. has handed the government over to them, but they are discovering that there is little substance to the government they have been given. At best, this is a relatively quiet interlude in which they can position themselves to suppress the Sunnis and Baathists when the Americans leave. They can afford to bide their time.

The Sunnis, on the other hand, have nothing to gain from any possible scenario that the U.S. would allow in Iraq. They can expect nothing but oppression under the Shiites or the Kurds, whom they oppressed under Saddam. They are being ethnically cleansed from their neighborhoods in Baghdad. They have been all but banned from participation in the puppet government. The only course of action left to them is to drive the U.S. out of Iraq using the resources available to them, and those resources have turned out to be formidable indeed. It is likely that Saddam's general staff is intact, as well as the command structure of his secret police. They would be in a good position to seize power when the U.S. leaves.

This puts the Bushites in an impossible position. There is simply no way to squelch the insurgency short of putting 500,000 troops on the ground, and even that number is probably insufficient. A draft (which isn't going to happen, now that Congress is Democratic) would take years to produce a sufficient number of trained combat troops. The "surge" now being executed by Bush is no more than a stunt and would be almost comical were it not for the extreme gravity of the current situation.

In addition to the four parties mentioned above—U.S. forces, Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds—there two other groups that have an interest and an influence on what happens in Iraq: private contractors and the major oil companies.

This is the first war in which practically all support functions have been privatized, to include a sizable contingent of combat personnel--mercenaries, in other words. The largest corporations, such as Halliburton, Dyncorp, and Bechtel are only the visible tip of the iceberg. They are raking in literally billions and tens of billions of dollars on this war and thus they have a strong interest in keeping it going as long as possible with as little oversight over spending as they can arrange. They have influence in Washington, especially in the White House, which has used the contracts as a form of patronage, granting them without bidding and awarding them only to Republicans. They are a strong force pushing the administration to stay the course.

The other party with a stake in the Iraq War is big oil, which has experienced its largest profits in history from the rise in energy prices. They don't need Iraq's oil assets, at least for now. In fact, they want Iraqi oil to stay out of the world market, where it has the potential to cause a collapse in oil prices. Greg Palast has written extensively on this subject and the evidence he brings to the table is persuasive that Iraq's oil has been the subject of a political battle between the neocons, who want to auction off the oil fields to private companies, and the major oil companies, who want a single Iraqi oil company that can control production and play the price game. They don't want the oil so much as they want to control production. They would be happy with a puppet government in Iraq.

There is one more party in this war that I nearly forgot: the American public, which has had quite enough of the war and is finally beginning to see through all the deception and lies used to gain public consent to the invasion. The public now wants the war to be over and no longer believes that the war is worth all the death, suffering and sacrifice that is being asked of it. Barring a meltdown in the Democratic party over the next two years, the public will elect a Democrat for president and a strongly Democratic house and senate that will end the war on whatever terms it can get.

Bush, his administration and his corporate masters will never attain their objective: a puppet government in Iraq able to keep order and which permits the major oil corporations to control its oil fields. Such an outcome would have been difficult to attain under the best of circumstances by a competent, corruption-free American government. Not only has Bush violated international law in attacking a nation that was no threat to the U.S., a crime for which we hanged Nazis after WWII, but in his utter incompetence and his indifference to gross and widespread corruption, he has thrown away any opportunities the invasion might have presented. The American occupation of Iraq is now on course to a catastrophic, costly, and bitter end. An attack on Iran will only hasten the end in Iraq and even in Afghanistan.

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Jung, Leo Strauss and BCR, Inc.

A first-class post in the Daily Kos by ordinary expat explains how neocons, Christian fundamentalists and proto-fascists have written our nation's current story to their advantage and to our extreme prejudice.

Our story tells us who we are as a people. It delineates our values. It assigns us a place among the nations of the earth.

It also designates and characterizes our enemies. Whom we call enemies and what we think about the people, groups and nations that we call enemies is part of our story and it defines us just as much as what we call ourselves. It may be even more accurate, since the enemy is as much projection of our own unacknowledged dark side as it is an objective description of the actual enemy.

It's always been the philosophy of the JP that when intelligent people seem to be doing everything wrong and failing egregiously in what they are supposed to be doing, you are probably judging their behavior by the wrong scoring system. Ordinary expat contends that Iraq (and now Iran) are just so much meat thrown to the ignorant masses to distract from their real objective.

We have made it clear that most of us can be entertained forever by a cartoon reality that reduces the real complexity of life to the level of the Simpsons, --or Rush Limbaugh. We’re the market, folks. BCR Inc. just supplies the product.

It worked for a long time- it kept us occupied, and, with well-chosen archetypes as key parts of the story, it provided apparent justification for a raft of moves that consolidated executive power to an unprecedented degree. Now it is failing as a story. Now resistance to further power accumulation is growing. They need a new story. That will be Iran.

The only remedy to this state of affairs is to stop allowing BCR, Inc. (Bush, Cheney and Rove — convenient symbols for the fascist kleptocracy that is in control of the executive branch) to write our story for us. We can do this only by writing our own story, a story based on reality. This is all the more important since members of the power elite (BCR, Inc.) eventually come to believe the story they originally foisted upon us, a story divorced from reality.

Isolated and unable to think out of the box- in a real systems fashion- the theocon and the cynical pol share the huge blind spot of coming to think their own fabricated stories ARE reality, instead of sucker bait. Fortunately for us, there is a wider world, a world where, after enough public catastrophe and elite contempt, Mussolini ends up strung up on a lamppost. A wider world view that makes a fair try at including the complexities of human society works better. It is still very flawed, but the secular, early systems thinking that brought us the US Constitution, quantum theory and the French health care system worked. We need to stop wasting time chewing on the bait BCR inc. throws us.


Read the article and ponder.


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How Cheney and the Neocons Managed to Bury the Baker Commission Report

Sidney Blumenthal, writing in Open Democracy, presents a sad and sobering narrative of the events leading up to Bush's embracing of a "surge," rather than seeking a diplomatic and political solution to the Iraq quagmire. Three facts stand out: 1. Bush is incapable of admitting mistakes, either in strategy or policy, and he is incapable altering his course in response to evidence of failure; 2. Brent Scowcraft, a prominent member of the commission, had pinned his hopes on Condi Rice to talk the president into following the commission's recommendations; and, 3. Cheney and the neocons at the American Enterprise Institute still have the president's ear, along with the major share of influence over Bush's foreign policy.

Blumenthal's description of Rice as an enabler for Bush is an astute characterization of a relationship that is looking more and more like a destructive psychological codependency

Bush is not an unintelligent man, but the incontrovertible evidence before our very eye compels the conclusion that he is a fool at best and a dangerous psychopath at worst. The damage he has done to the nation and the world cannot begun to be repaired until he leaves office.

Sidney Blumenthal: Washington's Political Cleansing

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To Our Last Drop of Blood

It looks as though George W. Bush and his chickenhawk coterie are determined to fight to our last drop of blood in Iraq (and possibly Iran and other parts further east).

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Torture: A Christian Value?

I'm trying to determine just which American values the newly-passed torture bill doesn't offend. Orcinus makes a compelling case that this nation is rapidly sinking into fascism:

The appearance of legal torture as part of the American landscape is a profound change, and certainly signals the approach of the totalitarian state, though it may not herald its actual arrival. And considering that a right-wing regime is involved, discussing the specter of fascism is not only appropriate but necessary.

Even if it does not signal the actual arrival of fascism, it's the clearest warning sign of its approach yet. Torture is a quintessentially fascist act; codifying it means that the massive brick in the wall that it represents has been plunked into place. And it's the kind of brick that can be the cornerstone of a massive national pathology of apocalyptic proportions.

After all, they have always had ways of making us talk. Now they have the legal power to do so too.

It is simply incomprehensible that some right-wing, supposedly "Christian" organizations publicly approve of torture, as long as the persons tortured are "them," and not "us." It all goes to prove the proposition that churches (or any other religious bodies) should never be permitted to have political power; they cannot resist the third temptation of Christ. Mat. 4: 8-10:

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
           ‘Worship the Lord your God,
                     and serve only him.’ ” (NRSV)

I am ashamed to say that I have not heard a word about the torture bill from the pulpit of my own mainstream church.

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Suppose "Terrorism" and "Terrorist" Didn't Exist?

Imagine that the words "terrorism" and "terrorist" were stripped from our language and even our memory and we had only our remaining vocabulary to describe them. What words would we use? Insurgents/insurgency? Guerillas/guerilla warfare? Jihadists/Jihad? Partisans/resistance?

None of the substitutes evokes the same feelings as "terrorism" and "terrorist," although the substitutes might describe them more accurately. It is because the terms insurgent, guerilla, jihadist and partisan are far more concrete and specific. The administration has refused to tell us just what a terrorist is, for two very good reasons:

First, it gives the president the unprecedented and unchecked discretion to label a person a terrorist and deprive him of the protections of the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Conventions. That degree of power we usually associate with a dictatorship, not a republic.

Second, and more importantly, terrorism only has power when we give it power—by projecting our own shadow onto an enemy about which we know very little. Terrorism makes us fearful because it resists definition, and that is no accident. It is difficult, if not impossible, to project such evils onto ordinary men and women or even insurgents or jihadists. The target of projection cannot be too familiar, because projection becomes impossible in such a situation. Demonized persons are too likely to turn into real people when we come to know them.

Strictly speaking, a terrorist is one who strikes with the primary purpose of making us fearful. For him, the deaths of the innocent are a secondary consideration. If he fills us with terror, he succeeds, because fearful people are people whose judgment is impaired. Fearful people are easily manipulated by crafty politicians against their own interests.

When we refuse to be afraid of the terrorist, he is utterly defeated. We don't have to lift a finger.

There is no rational reason to be fearful of a terrorist attack. The danger to the average American citizen of a terrorist attack is miniscule. There are too many other things that deserve our attention. Yes, there is a small possibility that one might be killed by a terrorist, but one is far more likely to die in an automobile accident or even from influenza.

So ask yourself, has Bush or his minions even once told the American people not to fear? To be of good courage? To keep a stiff upper lip?

No. At every opportunity he has stoked that fear. He has no interest in defeating the terrorists or wiping out terrorism. It took serious creative work on the part of countless politicians, military officers, right-wing think tanks, television networks, and neocons to create an enemy evil and mysterious enough to replace communism and the Soviet Union, which may be one of the reasons that Bush chose not to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden in the mountains of Tora Bora. Why kill a perfectly serviceable enemy that can be recycled over and over to scare the American public, whose short and selective memory makes it so susceptible to this kind of repeated demagoguery?

H.L. Mencken said it best:

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.


William Golding's novel, Lord of the Flies, also comes to mind.

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Where is Vader When You Need Him?

According to the New York Times, George W. Bush took "full responsibility" for the slow federal response to the Katrina disaster. Apology accepted, Captain Bush.

On a more serious note, Bush's acceptance of responsibility reminds me of Richard Nixon's acceptance of responsibility for the Watergate mess: words meant to sound repentant but spoken with no intention of doing anything different or correcting the behavior that caused the problem.

Acceptance of responsibility means more than merely mouthing words; it means that one willingly bears the just consequences of one's malfeasance or nonfeasance, which in this case ought to be the loss of office and the disgrace that ordinarily accompanies such a breach of trust.

Nixon wouldn't resign until impeachment and loss of office were inevitable. It looks like Bush is following the same philosophy: apologize but stay the course.

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It Took Katrina to Wake People Up to Bush's Character

Today is the day when the nation's mind turns to Katrina, the lives lost, the inconceivable destruction--not only of people's homes but also their hopes and dreams--and profound disappointment and disgust at the response of the Bush administration before and after the catastrophe. In every single aspect, Bush failed. Even the administration's spinmeisters were incompetent. The usual CYA propaganda from Washington was not only ineffective; it was infuriating.

Bush fooled a large part of this nation into believing that we could invade Iraq on the cheap, cut taxes for the wealthy and shrink government without having to endure the cost of a war, a burgeoning deficit, inadequate public services and decaying infrastructure.

Bush lied. Katrina exposed the lie and showed him to be a liar, along with the rest of his administration and the Republican majority in Congress. There is no truth in them.

When Bush became president, FEMA was a cabinet-level department, staffed with experienced and capable managers, and adequately funded to handle serious national disasters. When Katrina struck, some four and a half years after this nation entrusted itself to the care of George W. Bush, FEMA was a cash-starved shell of its previous self, staffed by political hacks, without access to the president, and as a consequence totally incompetent and unwilling to do what needed to be done before and after Katrina. By August 2005, the agency personnel who knew what to do had left in frustration, as life and death matters came to be decided on political grounds, rather than mission requirements.

The pattern has been repeated throughout the federal government. Bush has nothing but contempt for competence; loyalty to the administration is everything. Cabinet-level departments are being run by politically reliable appointees who know nothing about the organizations they are supposed to manage. It takes years and years to develop expertise within a government agency , but less than four years to destroy it. Whoever succeeds Bush, Republican or Democrat, will be faced with the almost impossible task of restoring these agencies to functioning.

To the folks in Mississippi who feel they must be loyal to the Republican Party: It's OK to be loyal to a football team that has losing seasons, because that kind of loyalty is harmless and enjoyable. It's OK to be loyal to your family and friends because we are bound to them by ties that make their welfare a part of our welfare.

A political party, however, is not a family; It's not a football team. Its actions have consequences far beyond family, friends and football team. Our loyalty to a political party ought to depend entirely on how competently and honestly it carries on the work of the people. There is no place for sentimentality or foolish loyalty to a den of thieves, and that is what the Republican Party has shown itself to be, time and time again since 1994 when it took control of both houses of Congress.

In 2000, FEMA was a cabinet-level functioning agency that would have made a huge difference before and after Katrina had struck. The proof of the pudding is in the eating thereof. Bush destroyed FEMA and did not replace it with anything else that could have fulfilled its mission. One year after Katrina, New Orleans is unprepared for another major hurricane and the Mississippi Gulf Coast is still a shambles with little prospect of rapid recovery. The facts speak for themselves; New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast are not priorities for the Bush administration.

The resources that should have been devoted to rebuilding the devastation and preparing for future hurricanes were and are being poured down a rathole on the other side of the world, with nothing to show for it but high gas prices and body-bags being shipped into Dover AFB under cover of darkness. It is time to wake up and smell the latrine. George W. Bush, his administration, and his party are no friends of Mississippi.

Greg Palast reveals more of the corruption and criminal negligence of the Bush administration on Katrina.
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A Chilling Thought

USA Today reports that our reserve forces not actually in Iraq are in terrible condition:

Up to two-thirds of the Army's combat brigades are not ready for wartime missions, largely because they are hampered by equipment shortfalls, Democratic lawmakers said Wednesday, citing unclassified documents.In a letter to President Bush, Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said that "nearly every non-deployed combat brigade in the active Army is reporting that they are not ready" for combat. The figures, he said, represent an unacceptable risk to the nation.

At a news conference, other leading Democrats said that those strategic reserve forces are critically short of personnel and equipment.

"They're the units that could be called upon or would be called upon to go to war in North Korea, Iran, or any other country or region," said Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a decorated Marine who has called for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.


The Congress and the American people have been warned time and time again that our military strength is being systematically hollowed out by the administration's cannibalizing the home-front units in order to keep the forces going in Iraq.

Now, dear reader: think the unthinkable and imagine that from the standpoint of the Bush administration things are going just as planned and that its intent
is to hollow out our regular armed forces and render them impotent. Let us imagine further: if the right-wingers in Washington, D.C. wanted to toss the Constitution overboard and establish some kind of authoritarian corporate state, the U.S. military as it stands now would be the biggest obstacle to a takeover; our soldiers swear to uphold the Constitution, not the president or the Congress. But ship all the weapons and ordinance overseas and destroy the morale of the domestic troops, and a well-managed paramilitary force formed from private "security" services and militarized police forces could become a Praetorian Guard in fact, if not in name.


New Orleans after Katrina is a chilling example. It was swarming with heavily-armed paramilitaries hired by by the rich and powerful, ostensibly to keep order, but in fact terrorizing the people that stayed, even in neighborhoods that had not been flooded. The National Guard is supposed to keep order in the event of natural disasters, but Louisiana's National Guard had been stripped by the Bush administration of the personnel and equipment it needed to do the job. So instead, New Orleans got soldiers of fortune with no loyalty to anyone but their paymasters. There are names for this method of keeping order, and none of them are good.

Lebanon was nearly destroyed by private armies within memory.

So be concerned, very concerned, but don't be afraid. They want you to be afraid so that you trade your freedom for a little security. It's the eternal con game; fools and cowards are the marks, as usual.

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Spying on the American People: A Loophole so Wide that the Entire NSA can Walk Through It

Bush has been spying on innocent American citizens, pretending that it's all in aid of the War on Terror™. We have a law that requires the executive branch to seek permission of a special court before it can listen in on the conversations of American citizens. Bush ignored the law and thus he is a self-admitted criminal.

If you want some insight into the soul of the 21st Century Republican Party, consider that one of the their finest, Sen. Arlen Specter, has introduced a bill that is supposed to rectify the situation. Exactly why the situation needs to be rectified is not clear; the statute, on the other hand, is quite clear. If it wants to listen in on American citizens, the executive branch must explain to the FISA court why it feels the need to do so and the court must grant permission, which it invariably does.

From the Robo-Republican viewpoint, however, the problem is the law, not that the president has violated the law. They want to solve the problem by changing the law, not reining in the executive branch, which is what the law was intended to do in the first place.

The bill is a sham. It gives the president the power to ignore the law.

Specter is a scoundrel, along with any other Republican or Democrat that supports this bill.

References:

Balkinization: Specter Gives Up the Game-- The Sham NSA Bill

Feral Scholar (Stan Goff): Spectral Security

USA Today ignored Democratic criticism of Specter's FISA proposal

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Bush Makes Sure He Isn't Investigated

The New York Times and Washington Post reported today that the president ensured that that the Justice Department would be unable investigate the NSA's wiretapping of American citizens; he refused to grant DOJ investigators security clearences. Without security clearances, they had no legal access to the matters they were supposed to be investigating.

It is a fundamental principle of any constitutional government, and especially a government of a democratic republic like the U.S., that no person, including the president, is above the law. It follows that no person, agency, or even branch of our government, including the president, should be immune from investigation, because anything that is immune from investigation is, for all practical purposes, above the law.

Bush, by thwarting the investigation of what is clearly a crime by the executive branch, has held himself above the law. If he is allowed to get away with it, our constitutional system of government is gone, pure and simple. Our founders feared precisely this kind of aggrandizement of power by the executive branch and created a number of constitutional provisions to prevent it. Without the other two branches of government fulfilling their constitutional role to keep the executive in check, however, the Constitution—arguably the most profound political document in the history of civilization—is nothing more than a quaint artifact of an era where men wore wigs and soldiers fired muskets.
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Plantation White House

The National Journal, via Kos, reports that the president's top aids received generous annual costs of living increases:

President Bush’s most senior aides -- the ones who hold the coveted title of "assistant to the president" -- recently received a $4,200 cost-of-living bump-up in compensation and now earn a top pay rate of $165,200, according to an internal White House list of staff salaries. The list was compiled by the administration for the year that ended June 30 and is displayed both alphabetically, and by dollar ranking, below. Those at the bottom of the White House staff pay scale -- the folks answering phones and responding to the president’s mail, for example -- remain stuck at last year’s pay floor of $30,000, according to a year-to-year comparison of White House data obtained by National Journal.


Because the cost of living in Washington, D.C. is so much higher than it is here, a salary of $30,000 there is the equivalent of $20,094 here in Jackson, Mississippi. Think about it: office workers in the office of the most powerful man in the world are being paid $20K/year. Here are comparative statistics for American cities.

It's a microcosm of the brave new world for which the Republican Party has been striving ever since the founders emerged from the womb with railroad stock certificates in their little hands. It's David Ricardo's iron law of labor made into a religion. It's the plantation system being imposed on the whole nation.

The vast majority of us—white, black, red and yellow—have always been darkies in the eyes of the power elite represented by the Bushes. That's the message of Dubya's famous sneer: "Tough luck, peons. " Maybe the new massehs will be generous and give us their old clothes when they buy new ones. I've always wanted to wear Gucci and Armani.

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Rove has Rolled Over

The New York Times reports this morning that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has notified Karl Rove's lawyer that his client will not be indicted in connection with Plamegate. For most of us, this came as a surprise, since Rove has testified in front of the grand jury six times and had obviously been up to his ears in the planning and execution of the White House campaign to discredit Joe Wilson.

It seems to this writer that, from the news reports on what transpired during the Plamegate episode, Rove is criminally liable for lying in one form or the other and perhaps for conspiring to out an undercover CIA agent. It is therefore fair to conclude that Fitzgerald has been squeezing Rove relentlessly for information about the classified leaks and Rove has been fervently singing to keep himself out of the slammer.

With Rove being let off the hook, it is reasonable to conclude that the special prosecutor now has all the evidence he needs to proceed with the indictment and prosecution of more important high-level miscreants.

What has transpired up to now is prelude; let the drama begin.

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A New Treasury Secretary: Will anyone notice?

A couple of thoughts on the nomination of Henry M. Paulson, Jr. for the office of Secretary of the Treasury:

1. Secretaries of the treasury have zero influence in the Bush administration. The current secretary, John W. Snow, has been frozen out of the administration and left dangling for almost a year before being cut down and told to leave. His predecessor, Paul O'Neill, was fired when he opposed the administration's reckless fiscal policy. Incidentally, Bush himself couldn't bring himself to personally fire O'Neill and had Cheney call him with the news.

2. Since the rentier class already controls the government, a financier as treasury secretary won't be noticed unless he unexpectedly acquires a concern for the common good. The Treasury Department has some very fine economists on its staff with hundreds of years of combined experience. The new secretary, a very able person by all accounts, will almost certainly be alarmed by what they tell him. If he is a man of integrity, he will find himself in conflict with the administration over economic policy and suffer the same fate as his predecessors.

3. In other words, don't look for any changes as a result of this appointment. The ship of state will still be sailing towards a financial iceberg with Mr. Paulson limited to scraping barnacles off the hull.

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Bush to Congress: Screw You

When Bush quietly signed the "Patriot" Act this month, in addition to signing away some of our most precious freedoms, he signed an addendum that said that he didn't have to obey the law requiring him to inform congress how the FBI was using its extended police powers under the Act. This president really believes he is above the law--that it does not apply to him.

Read the article from the Boston Globe (free registration required)

And Congress is letting him get by with it.

In fact, the Republicans are proposing to amend FISA so as to decriminalize Bush's felonious authorization of illegal wiretapping.

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Former Top Bush Domestic Advisor Charged With Theft

According to the Washington Post, former Whitehouse advisor Claude A. Allen was arrested for stealing approximately $5,000 from two department stores in Montgomery, Alabama. Allen had resigned his post last month "to spend more time with his family."

Bush nominated Allen to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in 2003, but his nomination was blocked by Democrats who pointed out his inexperience. It look as though inexperience was the least of his problems.

It's hard to describe my reaction to this news. The time for smugness has long gone; the story of Bush appointees making the transition from power and respect to conviction and contempt has happened so often that it has lost its ability to surprise. It's all weariness now. Never in the history of this nation has the executive branch harbored so many crooks, sycophants and political hacks. Grant's administration was a Trappist monastery by comparison.

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Doug Thompson of "Capitol Hill Blue"

Renowned muckraker Doug Thompson published an impressive rant on the Bush Administration's effort to intimidate journalists who expose the ever-widening circles of corruption emanating from the Whitehouse. He also has some bitter barbs at a few mainstream media reporters who called him on the telephone or emailed him requesting his sources. Thompson is a courageous man and represents a great American tradition more honored in the breach than in the observance by the MSM.

7/7/2006 Unfortunately, Thompson's rant is no long on the site.

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Profile in Courage: One Brave Resister

By way of Progresso Weekly comes the story of Alberto J. Mora, former general counsel for the Navy, a staunchly Republican, conservative, Cuban-American, appointed to the position by the Bush administration, who, when he learned of the mistreatment of prisoners in Guantánamo, attempted to stop it. To his dismay, he learned that the policy of allowing cruel and inhuman treatment had been approved by Secretary Rumsfeld. The complete story by Jane Mayer appears in The New Yorker. A memo written by Mr. Mora to the inspector general of the Navy is reproduced here (1.3 Mb)

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Bukovsky on Torture - An Instrument of Oppresson, not Investigation

Via MaxSpeak, former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, in an essay published by the Washington Post, explains how torture destroys the intelligence services that use it, to the extent that even Stalin, that master of torture, could not control it once it became the modus operandi of the NKVD. Every Czar, he notes, abolished torture at the beginning of his reign, but every successor found it necessary to abolish it once again.

The use of torture internationally carries even greater liabilities in the long run:

If America's leaders want to hunt terrorists while transforming dictatorships into democracies, they must recognize that torture, which includes CID [cruel, inhuman and degrading techniques], has historically been an instrument of oppression -- not an instrument of investigation or of intelligence gathering. No country needs to invent how to "legalize" torture; the problem is rather how to stop it from happening. If it isn't stopped, torture will destroy your nation's important strategy to develop democracy in the Middle East. And if you cynically outsource torture to contractors and foreign agents, how can you possibly be surprised if an 18-year-old in the Middle East casts a jaundiced eye toward your reform efforts there?



The article is not a pleasant one; Bukovsky describes in detail his treatment in captivity when he went on a hunger strike demanding a lawyer of his own, rather than the one the NKVD had appointed him. It is a grisly story of prison doctors force-feeding him through the nostrils.

We, fellow Americans, have a stake in this controversy. We elected a president in full knowledge of what went on at Abu Ghraib, naively assuming that the torture of Iraqis, many of them perfectly innocent, was the work of over-zealous underlings. Now that the torture memos of Gonzales and other lawyers in the executive branch have been revealed, we have no such excuse; the torture was approved and encouraged at the highest levels of the government, including President George W. Bush

By what political and psychological process have we come to the point that Congress is debating whether or not to prohibit torture by our security forces? As I mentioned before, the propaganda mill that is the mainstream media for years preached that torture was one of the things that distinguished us from the Soviet Union. In the '50s the family-friendly pages of the Readers Digest carried some of the most explicit, X-rated, descriptions of communist torture imaginable. The message was clear: governments that torture are evil. The Russians torture, therefore they are evil.

Now the United States Government tortures. Complete the syllogism. Welcome to the 21st Century.

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The Enemy Within

President Bush has admitted authorizing warrantless searching and eavesdropping by executive order, a Federal crime, and is attempting to use the War on Terror© to excuse his behavior. If Republicans and conservatives can't figure out where Bush and the neocons are leading this country, they either are deliberately complicit or willfully ignorant of the Fourth Amendment.

Bush ought to be impeached. He is utterly unworthy of the office he holds. If the Congress fails to impeach it will have betrayed the American people.

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America, Whitman, Melville and D. H. Lawrence

Via Maxspeak, Harold Bloom writes a fascinating essay in the Guardian on America. The opening, for a sampler:

Huey Long, known as "the Kingfish," dominated the state of Louisiana from 1928 until his assassination in 1935, at the age of 42. Simultaneously governor and a United States senator, the canny Kingfish uttered a prophecy that haunts me in this late summer of 2005, 70 years after his violent end: "Of course we will have fascism in America but we will call it democracy!"

I reflected on Huey Long (always mediated for me by his portrait as Willie Stark in Robert Penn Warren's novel, All the King's Men) recently, when I listened to President George W Bush addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was thus benefited by Rupert Murdoch's Fox TV channel, which is the voice of Bushian crusading democracy, very much of the Kingfish's variety. Even as Bush extolled his Iraq adventure, his regime daily fuses more tightly together elements of oligarchy, plutocracy, and theocracy.



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Not Quite Lettres de Cachet--at Least Not Yet

Congress is working through a renewal of the PATRIOT Act, a collection of laws passed shortly after 9/11 that gives our government's law-enforcement agencies unprecedented power to violate a citizen's privacy without any kind of judicial oversight. Last Sunday, the Washington Post ran The FBI's Secret Scrutiny, an article that sets out in layman's terms just what is at stake in this legislation.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the courts, forms the basis for privacy rights. It states that "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." The text is comprehensive; it designates a line around the individual that governments may not cross without submitting their reasons to a judge, who must refuse permission unless the government can show a good reason for the search permitted by law. The amendment also requires governments to narrow their searches to only those particular persons, houses, papers and effects that they can show good cause to search or seize.

In their effort to square the language of the amendment with the dictates of common sense and political and social reality the courts have created exceptions to a literal interpretation of the amendment. One class of exceptions involves the right of police to investigate suspicious circumstances that do not arise to the level of probable cause. For instance, if a person is behaving suspiciously in public, police may stop him and perform a Terry search--a brief questioning and a pat-down for weapons--named after Terry v. Ohio, a 1968 Supreme Case.

The second class of exceptions, if that is the correct word, expands the notion of personal security into a generalized right to privacy. Our modern technological society provides so many more ways in which the government (or others) may obtain personal information, a rigid interpretation of the amendment can lead to absurd results. The courts have grappled with the idea of privacy for a long time. Is intercepting a telephone call a violation of the 4th Amendment? What about a person's bank and credit card records? Can police cruise the streets using infrared detection devices to look for indoor marijuana farms? Many of these methods of gathering personal information, either with or without the knowledge of the object of the investigation, were inconceivable at the end of the 18th Century. To insure privacy under a strict interpretation, the Constitution would have to be amended every time a new surveillance gadget was invented.

The USA PATRIOT Act (Public Law 107-56), passed after 9/11 with virtually no debate or discussion, represents a powerful intrusion by the Congress into the philosophical give and take between proponents of privacy rights and and proponents of broad law-enforcement powers. By creating a new class of offenders--terrorists--it has seriously weakened the protections that most Americans have long taken for granted. If the government designates you a terrorist, you suddenly lose a number of rights guaranteed to you by the Constitution, chief of which is the right to challenge that designation in a court of law. Even without your being designated a terrorist, the FBI may now subpoena your bank records, credit card records, and a host of other personal information held by third parties, including library records showing which books you checked out, without judicial approval and without your ever learning about it. The person or institution subject to the subpoena cannot inform you that your information is subpoenaed, and if he does, he is subject to criminal prosecution.

In order to get the bill passed in 2001, many of the more controversial provisions were written to lapse after a few years. Congress is now considering renewing those provisions. To get a taste of how the act works, here is a short excerpt of the Washington Post article:

The Connecticut case affords a rare glimpse of an exponentially growing practice of domestic surveillance under the USA Patriot Act, which marked its fourth anniversary on Oct. 26. "National security letters," created in the 1970s for espionage and terrorism investigations, originated as narrow exceptions in consumer privacy law, enabling the FBI to review in secret the customer records of suspected foreign agents. The Patriot Act, and Bush administration guidelines for its use, transformed those letters by permitting clandestine scrutiny of U.S. residents and visitors who are not alleged to be terrorists or spies.

The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters -- one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people -- are extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans.

Issued by FBI field supervisors, national security letters do not need the imprimatur of a prosecutor, grand jury or judge. They receive no review after the fact by the Justice Department or Congress. The executive branch maintains only statistics, which are incomplete and confined to classified reports. The Bush administration defeated legislation and a lawsuit to require a public accounting, and has offered no example in which the use of a national security letter helped disrupt a terrorist plot.



Is this the America that we know? Unfortunately, it is. If you don't like it, you need to let your feelings be known. These are not lettres de cachet, but they are getting close.
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The Torture President

The administration is now advancing the proposition that treaties prohibiting torture solemnly entered into by our government and ratified by our Senate apply only within U.S. territory and not territories our forces occupy.

President Bush, who proclaims himself a born-again Christian, has threatened to veto a defense appropriations bill that contains a provision outlawing torture by U.S. forces or agencies anywhere in the World.

What would Jesus have used to torture terrorists?

In my youth at the height of the Cold War one of the most serious accusations our government leveled at the Communist world was its use of torture. Torture was considered something so evil and heinous that no country calling itself civilized would admit to using torture.

Now our armed forces and intelligence agencies routinely use torture as an interrogation method. Have we become the very thing we feared and fought all those years? It's beginning to look like it.

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The Shoe Drops

So Libby's the first one down. The language of the 22-page indictment makes it impossible to believe that Libby will be the only one. The senior official in the White House, Official "A," (¶ 21) thought by the AP to be Carl Rove, is clearly a target and probably a snitch, otherwise there would be no point in keeping him anonymous. Then there is an Undersecretary of State (¶ 4), one or more other persons in the Office of the Vice President (¶ 5), Chaney himself (¶ 9), Libby's principal deputy (¶ 13) and the "then" White House Press Secretary (¶ 16), any one or more of whom could be guilty of outing a CIA agent, disclosing classified information, conspiring, perjury, obstructing justice or any combination of them. Fitzgerald must play the part of Hercule Poirot on the Whitehouse Express. Too many clues, too many suspects.

Why did the Bush administration go nuts when Wilson challenged them on their Niger yellowcake uranium scam? This administration had gotten away with far bigger lies than a single sentence in the president's state of the union address. In the past they had blithely ignored criticism like that and it had invariably gone away. There was something different this time, and Josh Marshall has been digging into it over the past year. The origin of the fake uranium papers, forged on Nigerian embassy stationary and used by the administration to substantiate its allegation against Saddam, is slowly coming to light and it's beginning to look as though certain members of the administration were involved early on. The implications are truly explosive.

Fitzgerald has wide jurisdiction and, as a prosecutor who leaves no stone unturned, will undoubtedly look into the forgeries. Perhaps he will discover why the Bushites tried so hard to quash the yellowcake story and to intimidate anyone that called them out on it.

This story will be going on a long time.

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I Never Thought I Would Read This

A Dutch court has refused to extradite a terrorist suspect to the United States, finding that his fundamental right to due process could not be guaranteed by the U. S. Government:

Last month, the court sought guarantees from U.S. prosecutors that the detainee would be afforded those basic rights if he were extradited. In Wednesday's ruling, it rejected a U.S. submission that "the United States views such a request as unwarranted and unnecessary."


The judge feared that U.S. authorities would use interrogation techniques forbidden by international law. That means torture, dear reader. There was a time not long ago when the worst thing our government could say about our enemies was that they routinely used torture. Were we merely projecting our own dark side onto the latest "rogue" state? It's beginning to look that way.

Before January 20, 2001, I could not have, in my wildest dreams, imagined that this would ever happen here. Have we descended so far that a court in a modern, democratic country would conclude that a defendant could not get basic rights guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution?

Now that terrorists--as defined by our government--can be denied essential Constitutional rights, what other groups will be seen by the ruling party as so odious or dangerous that they should be denied basic rights on the grounds of expediency? Think about Richard Nixon's "Enemies List." Think about another even grimmer enemies list compiled at the end of another long-lived and powerful republic:

Actus Quartus

Enter Antony, Octauius, and Lepidus.

Ant. These many then shall die, their names are prickt

Octa. Your Brother too must dye: consent you Lepidus?

Lep. I do consent

Octa. Pricke him downe Antony

Lep. Vpon condition Publius shall not liue,
Who is your Sisters sonne, Marke Antony

Ant. He shall not liue; looke, with a spot I dam him.
But Lepidus, go you to Caesars house:
Fetch the Will hither, and we shall determine
How to cut off some charge in Legacies

--Julius Caesar, IV,i



The ability of the average American to believe that our government will not abuse its powers seems to be limitless. Only people totally ignorant of history could be so gullible.

Thanks to Brian Leiter for the reference.


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Miers

So President Bush has nominated his Whitehouse counsel, Harriet Ellan Miers, for associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. She is no legal scholar, having never published a law book article. She has no judicial experience whatever. She went to a second or third-tier law school. Her law firm in Dallas has paid some stiff fines over some shady deals in the past, but George likes her and a checkered past would not bother him.

The hard-right wingers are not happy. They know as little about her as the liberals or anybody else.

Here's my take, for what it's worth. One doesn't get to the top of a large law firm by being nice. Big law firms are usually back-stabbing, every man for himself, dog eat dog kind of places that employ large numbers of very intelligent and ambitious people trained in the art of legal combat. Lawyers are continually leaving the firm and attempting to take with them as many of the firm's clients as they can persuade. Few sane people would undergo that kind of life if they really knew the kind of toll it would take on them over the years. As a sole practitioner for nearly all my legal career, I've watched from a distance what it does to lawyers and their families and it's not pretty.

Back to Miers; my guess is that she is hard as nails and loyal as convenience allows. That means that when she dons the robes she will become very jealous of the independence of the judiciary and its freedom from political influence. A lifetime job bestows more independence than just about anything else.

As to what kind of justice she will be? That is anybody's guess. Will she be confirmed by the Senate? Almost certainly. She will charm the Senate Judiciary committee like Scarlett charmed Rhett. She has made her way in a world dominated almost completely by men and done extremely well. She is a match for any senator.

She's a Leo. As a matter of fact, we were born the same day, which disturbed me a bit when I looked up her bio on Wikipedia.

It looks to be an interesting fall.

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Deflecting the Blame

Sometimes reality trumps fiction. I couldn't have possibly made this up. The Clarion-Ledger reported today that the Justice Department set out a memo to various U. S. Attorneys requesting information on any lawsuits filed by environmental groups:

SUBJECT: Have you had any cases involving the levees in New Orleans?
QUESTION: Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the Corps' work on the levees protecting New Orleans? If so, please describe the case and the outcome of the litigation.
District: __________
Contact: _________
Telephone: ________



It seems that the entire Federal Government is becoming one big spin machine.

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Taking Responsibility

Today Bush "took responsibility" for the delays and screwups in getting aid to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, but he would not confess to having made any "mistakes."

I always thougt that to take responsibility meant to be willing to admit your mistakes and to suffer the consequences, but the message here is that there are no consequences to Bush. Taking responsibility in the real world means resigning or accepting a demotion for messing up. In these strange times, taking responsiblity means mouthing the words "I'm responsible" and expecting that to end the controversy.

The last time I recall someone taking responsiblity like this was when Richard Nixon, trying to put out the fires that would ultimately consume his presidency, accepted responsibility for crimes committed by persons in the Whitehouse. He calculated that once he accepted responsibility the investigators, Congress and the press would move on and that would be the end of it; no price to pay.

That didn't work for Nixon. We'll see how it works for Dubya.

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Plamegate: Explanation Requested

There seems to be little doubt that one or more officials high in the Bush administration knowingly and deliberately leaked that fact that Valerie Plame, wife of former ambassador Joe Wilson, was an undercover agent for the CIA. That this leak followed by a few days the publication of Wilson's letter to the New York Times disputing the administration line on Saddam and Niger leaves little doubt that the leak was intended as retaliation against Wilson for exposing the president as a bald-faced liar.

Since that time, there has been a virtual blizzard of reports and allegations that Plame was responsible for sending Wilson to Niger and therefore (inexplicably to this writer) no one in the administration violated 50 U.S.C. §451. Ergo Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is on a vindicative witch hunt.

Can someone explain to me how Plame's sending Wilson to Niger, or suggesting his name, or influencing in any way the CIA's decision to send him to Niger, exonerates the leaker? Until a reasonable explanation emerges, I think it is fair and reasonable to assume that the rightwing noise machine is throwing up the Chewbacca defense.

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The Plot Thickens

Scooter Libby and Judy Miller met on July 8, 2003, two days after Joe Wilson published his column. And Patrick Fitzgerald is very interested.

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Plamegate: Eleven separate leaks

Rep. Henry Waxman D-CA, released a fact sheet the other day outlining the evidence for eleven different leaks of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity as an undercover agent for the CIA. It's now becoming obvious that this was no "slip of the tongue," but a concerted effort to strike back at Joe Wilson (through his wife) for calling the administration a liar on the Saddam Hussein/yellowcake uranium/Niger connection.

That persons at the top of the administration would deliberately reveal the identity of a CIA agent with no official cover, putting her life and the lives of her overseas networks of contacts in extreme danger as well as killing off an information-gathering operation on weapons of mass destruction, simply beggars the imagination.

And then we are treated to the spectacle of a New York Times reporter jailed for refusing to testify in front of a grand jury as a witness to a crime. Considering Miller's sorry record as a shill for Cheney and Chalabi during the buildup for the invasion of Iraq, we believe that Miller is refusing to testify not because of any misguided notion of journalistic privilege but because she doesn't want to be faced with the choice of taking the Fifth Amendment or going to jail for conspiracy. We also think that she's probably terrified at what the thugs in power could and would do to her if she talked.

As the saying goes, when you lie down with dogs you rise up with fleas.

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