Wednesday, September 27, 2006

War of The Worlds ~ It's The Credibility, Stupid

Two worlds clash!!

No, not the "freedom-loving" world of America vs. the world of "freedom-hating" fascist Muslim extremists. I'm talking about the far more dangerous battle we seem to waging amongst ourselves for the soul of the country. Odd that we seem to be so ferociously divided over that which we ostensibly should be unified.

Merely symptomatic but highly instructive & very timely is the battle between President Clinton and President Bush over who knew what, when they knew it & whether someone should have done more to prevent Osama Bin Laden from carrying out the attacks of 911. Yes. Still. Again. It's a well-overdue airing.

Clinton's appearance on Fox was just in time to remind us all how badly the Iraq war has been run from conception to present day. Iraq had nothing to do with the terrorist problem initially; however, our fearless Administration, unwilling to appear to be doing nothing (as it had the previous 8 months) cooked up faux rationales & faux intelligence to match--ruthlessly taking out any opposition along the way--to lead us into a situation that is viewed in the Middle East as an unjustified occupation & has created the one thing we most feared, a "Terrorist Central Training Camp" where angry extremist Muslims can vent their rage on actual American troops & the private contractors we send into harm's way. Clinton has graciously refrained from saying anything too awful about the Bushco reign--er, Administration--so far, much as it must have pained him to watch. He clearly was agitated & fed up. As a lot of us are.

Bravo for him. The Radical Right which seeks to hang onto power in the November elections should be called to task & invited to explain where the hell they think they're taking us, at home & abroad. Nowhere better than with the event that made their political careers.

As for being Bill, after the ludicrous fictionalized "Path to 911, " I don't blame him for refusing to allow himself to be baited by "smirking" smarmy Wallace. I thought Clinton showed admirable restraint with the fatuous faux news-Fox journalist who talked condescendingly at Clinton (with his eyes rudely closed half the time he was posing questions).

So, the who-knew-what-when arguments continued yesterday with a rehashing of events that, on balance, leave Clinton's version the more credible of the two. (But y'all know I'm no fan of Bushco in the first place.)

Yes, Clinton knew that Al-Queda was supposed to be behind the attack on the USS Cole, but at a time when he had less than a month in office. He left behind Richard Clarke, who was a Republican & had served Bush I, as well as George Tenet in the CIA. Bush ran them both off--who needs continuity when you're blessed with bald arrogance?
In response, "Bush complained yesterday that Clinton was engaging in "finger-pointing" by attacking the current administration's actions before the hijackings. "I don't have enough time to finger-point," Bush said.

"But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did, calling Clinton's version of
events "flatly false." Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) returned fire on his behalf, asserting that he would have paid more attention to intelligence warnings in the weeks before the attacks than Bush did."

About Bill's assertion in the interview "They had eight months to try," Clinton said. "They did not try. I tried:" Rice bristled at that in an interview in yesterday's New York Post. "The notion somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn't do that is just flatly false, and I think the 9/11 commission understood that," she said. "What we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years."

"Hillary Clinton pointed to the intelligence memo presented to Bush in August 2001. "I'm certain that if my husband and his national security team had been shown a classified report entitled 'Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States,' he would have taken it more seriously than history suggests it was taken by our current president and his national security team," she said.

"And Jay Carson, a spokesman for Bill Clinton, rejected Rice's contention: "Every single fact that President Clinton stated in his interview is backed up by the historical record -- including the 9/11 commission report. Everything President Clinton said was flatly correct."

"Some of Clinton's statements on Fox have drawn scrutiny. He said that after the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, "I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban and launch a full-scale attack search for bin Laden. But we needed basing rights in Uzbekistan."

"The Sept. 11 commission, though, found no plans for an invasion of Afghanistan or for an operation to topple the Taliban, just more limited options such as plans for attacks with cruise missiles or Special Forces. And nothing in the panel's report indicated that a lack of basing rights in Uzbekistan prevented a military response.

"Clinton also asserted that the Bush administration "didn't have a single meeting about bin Laden for the nine months after I left office." In fact, the Bush team held several meetings on terrorism through the interagency group known as the deputies committee and one on Sept. 4, 2001, through the principals committee composed of Cabinet officers.

"What Clinton may have been referring to was counterterrorism chief Richard A. Clarke's frustration that the principals disregarded his urgent calls to meet sooner because of a months-long policy review.

Rice came under fire for her assertion that "we were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al-Qaeda" by Clinton's team. In fact, Clarke sent Rice an al-Qaeda memo on Jan. 25, 2001, along with a strategy to "roll back" the terrorist network, but the Bush team decided to conduct the policy review."

A companion article by Dan Froomkin, also in the WaPo today ("Not So Tough on Terror?"), includes an extensively quoted interview by CNN's Wolf Blitzer of Richard Ben-Veniste, a Democrat & former prosecutor who interviewed Bush for the 911 Commission Report, accompanied by Cheney--at Bush's insistence, off the record, also at Bush's insistence. Thus what Bush had to say never made it into the 911 Commission's official report. (Cheney did not speak at all during the interview). The CNN interview marked the first time he has spoken publically about what transpired in that interview.

"Clinton said he came "closer to killing" Osama bin Laden in a 1998 missile strike on terrorist training camps in Afghanistan than anybody has since.

"I didn't get him," Clinton said. "But at least I tried. That's the difference in me and some, including all the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried.

"So I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke, who got demoted."

"White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend, appearing on CNN yesterday afternoon with Wolf Blitzer, issued a classic non-denial denial.

"BLITZER: Let me go back to the first eight months of the Bush administration. We heard over the weekend former President Clinton suggests the CIA and the FBI had certified at the end of his administration that al Qaeda was, in fact, responsible for the attack on the USS Cole. That when President Bush came into office, he was told this, yet, he didn't do anything between the time he took office and 9/11 to go after al Qaeda, even though he knew that al Qaeda was responsible for the attack of the USS Cole. Do you want to respond to that?

"TOWNSEND: I do, Wolf. You know, the notion that anybody is not doing all they could do to combat the war on terrorism, to defeat al Qaeda and prevent the next attack is just offensive."

But the Associated Press reports that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was then national security adviser, fired back yesterday with a more fervent (though similarly undetailed) defense: "'What we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years,' Rice said during a meeting with editors and reporters at the New York Post .....

"'The notion somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn't do that is just flatly false--and I think the 9/11 commission understood that,' she said.

"Rice also took exception to Clinton's statement that he 'left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy' for incoming officials when he left office.

"'We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al-Qaida,' she told the newspaper, which is owned by News Corp., the same company that owns Fox News Channel."

"Rice made it clear she'd rather be talking about something else: "'I think this is not a very fruitful discussion,' she said. 'We've been through it. The 9/11 commission has turned over every rock and we know exactly what they said.'"

To the contrary, by the way, Richard Clarke, appearing on Charlie Rose last night, confirmed that what Clinton had said on Fox was true. Apparently Bush, Cheney & Rice have agreed to present a united front in denying the existence of the plan turned over to them by the Clinton administration--which they ignored--by disingenuously quibbling over what it was officially called--a war plan, a plan for addressing the problem, or a strategy.

Seriously. PR over substance, after all. Too bad PR doesn't kill terrorists.

New Evidence

"Indeed, the 9/11 Commission Report very diplomatically concluded that both Bush and Clinton could have done more to prevent the terrorist threat.

"But up until now, it's remained a mystery what exactly Bush said to the commissioners when he grudgingly consented to an interview with them in the Oval Office, back in April of 2004.
Pretty much all we knew about that interview was that Bush insisted that it be held in private, unrecorded -- and with Vice President Cheney at his side. (See, for instance, my April 8, 2004, column , and this Tom Toles cartoon .)

"But yesterday afternoon, Democratic former commission member Richard Ben-Veniste dramatically broke his silence about that meeting in an interview with CNN's Blitzer. Here's the transcript . Forgive me for quoting so extensively, but it's fascinating stuff.

"BLITZER: All right. You, in your questioning in your investigation, when you were a member of this commission, specifically asked President Bush about efforts after he was inaugurated on January 20, 2001, until 9/11, eight months later, what he and his administration were doing to kill bin Laden, because by then it was certified, it was authorized. It was, in fact, confirmed that al Qaeda was responsible for the attack on the USS Cole in December of 2000.

"BEN-VENISTE: It's true, Wolf, we had the opportunity to interview President Bush, along with the vice president, and we spent a few hours doing that in the Oval Office. And one of the questions we had and I specifically had was why President Bush did not respond to the Cole attack. And what he told me was that he did not want to launch a cruise missile attack against bin Laden for fear of missing him and bombing the rubble.

"And then I asked him, 'Well, what about the Taliban?' The United States had warned the Taliban, indeed threatened the Taliban on at least three occasions, all of which is set out in our 9/11 Commission final report, that if bin Laden, who had refuge in Afghanistan, were to strike against U.S. interests then we would respond against the Taliban.

""BLITZER: Now, that was warnings during the Clinton administration. . . .

"BEN-VENISTE: That's correct.

"BLITZER: . . . the final years of the Clinton administration.

"BEN-VENISTE: That's correct.

"BLITZER: So you the asked the president in the Oval Office -- and the vice president--why didn't you go after the Taliban in those eight months before 9/11 after he was president. What did he say?

"BEN-VENISTE: Well, now that it was established that al Qaeda was responsible for the Cole bombing and the president was briefed in January of 2001, soon after he took office, by George Tenet, head of the CIA, telling him of the finding that al Qaeda was responsible, and I said, 'Well, why wouldn't you go after the Taliban in order to get them to kick bin Laden out of Afghanistan?'

"Maybe, just maybe, who knows -- we don't know the answer to that question-- but maybe that could have affected the 9/11 plot.

"BLITZER: What did he say?

"BEN-VENISTE: He said that no one had told him that we had made that threat. And I found that very discouraging and surprising.

"BLITZER: Now, I read this report, the 9/11 Commission report. This is a big, thick book. I don't see anything and I don't remember seeing anything about this exchange that you had with the president in this report.

"BEN-VENISTE: Well, I had hoped that we had--we would have made both the Clinton interview and the Bush interview a part of our report, but that was not to be. I was outvoted on that question. . . .

"BLITZER: Now, you haven't spoken publicly about this, your interview in the Oval Office, together with the other commissioners, the president and the vice president. Why are you doing that right now?

"BEN-VENISTE: Well, I think it's an important subject. The issue of the Cole is an important subject, and there has been a lot of politicization over this issue, why didn't President Clinton respond?

"Well, we set forth in the report the reasons, and that is because the CIA had not given the president the conclusion that al Qaeda was responsible. That did not occur until some point in December. It was reiterated in a briefing to the-- to the new president in January....

"BLITZER: Well, let me stop you for a second. If former President Clinton knew in December. . . .

"BLITZER: . . . that the CIA and the FBI had, in his words, certified that al Qaeda was responsible, he was still president until January 20, 2001. He had a month, let's say, or at least a few weeks to respond.Why didn't he?

"BEN-VENISTE: Well, I think that was a question of whether a president who would be soon leaving office would initiate an attack against a foreign country, Afghanistan. And I think that was left up to the new administration. But strangely, in the transition there did not seem to be any great interest by the Bush administration, at least none that we found, in pursuing the question of plans which were being drawn up to attack in Afghanistan as a response to the Cole." ...

Recently Uncovered Evidence

"And let's not forget: It was only a few weeks ago that Ron Suskind revealed in his book, "The One Percent Doctrine," just how cavalierly President Bush responded to being briefed on the al Qaeda threat, just a month before the attack.

From Barton Gellman 's review in The Washington Post: "The book's opening anecdote tells of an unnamed CIA briefer who flew to Bush's Texas ranch during the scary summer of 2001, amid a flurry of reports of a pending al-Qaeda attack, to call the president's attention personally to the now-famous Aug. 6, 2001, memo titled 'Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US.' Bush reportedly heard the briefer out and replied: 'All right. You've covered your ass, now.'"

Reminds us of the moment when it was also revealed that he knew the levees were giving way during Katrina. We watched him watch the footage dispassionately.

We also watched him give an aw-shucks, I'm just a hapless guy performance shortly thereafter, where he denied having the knowledge.

It's not just the Bush v. Clinton worldview that's disturbing. It's not only the failure to act on information in a preventive manner, it's the choice of the target, means & methods used once action is taken. Again, what did Iraq have to do with anything initially? And what amount of expense & lives will it cost to get us out now that we've created a terrorist training ground?

But those of us looking on & wishing for a meaningful change after the repeated lies & PR stunts that have been fed to us in lieu of good government (while simultaneously wrecking American democratic government) do have cause to hope. By focusing the re-election efforts on the debacle that is Iraq, they invite critique and exposure.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Let's Do The Time Warp ~ Congress Paves Way For Show Trials Timed To Preoccupy America During Election Season

"Tyrannical & UnAmerican"*

Sometimes it seems that the Bush Administration and the GOP have culled the lowest of low tricks & stratagems from history's most cruel & evil autocrats & are determined to play us ferociously with them, more than any purportedly free democratic government to date.

Sound histrionic? We've just passed a law giving Bushco carte blanche to treat prisoners any way they see fit--read indefinite detention without charges or trial, & torture as that word is defined not by international treaties to which the U.S. is signatory, but by Bushco-- & they want still more leeway to spy.

Illegal? Let's hope so, but that won't be determined until long after the crucial November elections are over. In the meantime, be prepared to be inundated with news from astutely-staged political show trials.

We'll start this post with a little history lesson from the Wikipedia regarding one of the most evil men in recent history, & you tell me how Bush's ploys differ. I invite you to draw your own conclusions as to why. The other is Joseph Stalin. Look him up under "Show Trials."
Removal of remaining limits

With this combination of legislative and executive power, Hitler's government further
suppressed the remaining political opposition. The KPD and the SPD were banned, while all
other political parties dissolved themselves. Labour unions were merged with employers'
federations into an organisation under Nazi control and the autonomy of state governments was abolished.
Soon after, president Paul von Hindenburg died on 2 August 1934. Rather than holding new presidential elections, Hitler's cabinet passed a law proclaiming the presidency dormant and transferred the role and powers of the head of state to Hitler as Führer und Reichskanzler (leader and chancellor). Thereby Hitler also became supreme commander of the military, which swore their military oath not to the state or the constitution but to Hitler personally. In a mid-August plebiscite these acts found the approval of 90% of the electorate. Combining the highest offices in state, military and party in his hand, Hitler had attained supreme rule that could no longer be legally challenged.
The bill passed by the GOP in Congress today paves the way for show trials just in time to distract the voters from other issues, & fulfill the purpose of fueling the heretofore unimaginable: the United States has departed from every notion of legal justice we've held in 200-odd years, because a puppet-dictator of a God-awful President says it must be so, and the GOP falls in line.

I can't go any further today. My dismay is overwhelming.

Instead I'll refer you to attorney Glenn Greenwald's* site, Unclaimed Territory, and his cogent argument why, despite their craven & cowering behavior, we need to vote Democratic.

"Beltway Democrats are seriously flawed, but the election is still critically important (updated below). Now that the torture and detention bill will become law, it is necessary to focus on the political implications of what happened yesterday and, more broadly, what has been done to our country by the Bush administration and the blindly loyal Congress for the last five years. It goes without saying that the conduct of Democrats generally (meaning their collective behavior) was far, far short of anything noble, courageous or principled. And one could, if one were so inclined, spend every day from now until November 7 criticizing the strategic mistakes and lack of principle of Beltway Democrats and still not exhaust the list.

"But that's all besides the point at the moment, because-- right now-- everyone has to answer for themselves these questions: (1) do you believe that the incalculable damage imposed on this country by the Bush administration and its followers (including in Congress) can be impeded and then reversed and, if so, (2) how can that be accomplished? For those who have given up and believe the answer to question (1) is "no," then, by definition, there is nothing to discuss. You' ve decided that there is no hope, that you're done fighting and trying to defend any of your beliefs and principles, and you're ready to cede the country to those who are in the process of destroying it.

"But for those who believe that the answer to question (1) is "yes" (and I believe that emphatically), then the answer to question (2) seems self-evidently clear. The most important and overriding mandate is to end the one-party rule to which our country has been subjected for the last four years. Achieving that is necessary -- it is an absolute pre-requisite -- to begin to impose some actual limits on the authoritarian behavior and unchecked powers of this administration-- because, right now, there are no such limits.

"And, independently, killing off unchallenged Republican rule is the only possible way to invade the wall of secrecy behind which this administration has operated and to find out what our government has actually been doing for the last five years. Shining light on the shadows and dark crevices in which they have been operating is vitally important for repairing the damage that has been done. If nothing else, a Chairman Conyers or a Chairman Leahy, armed with subpoena powers, will accomplish that.There is no point in trying to glorify the conduct of Democrats. I think the larger-than-expected Senate Democratic opposition to the torture/detention bill is illusory, almost a by-product of sheer luck more than anything else.

"The large number of votes against the bill seems to have been driven more by Democrats' objections to the significant changes made to the bill in the last several days (ones made even after the Glorious Compromise was announced) than objections to the core provisions of the bill themselves -- and even then, the Democrats' anger was more about the fact that they were excluded from the negotiating process rather than anger towards the substance of the changes

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

"And until yesterday, most prominent Democrats made themselves invisible in the debate over torture and detention powers. All of those criticisms are accurate and fair enough. But a desire to see the Democrats take over Congress -- even a strong desire for that outcome and willingness to work for it -- does not have to be, and at least for me is not, driven by a belief that Washington Democrats are commendable or praiseworthy and deserve to be put into power.

"Instead, a Democratic victory is an instrument -- an indispensable weapon -- in battling the growing excesses and profound abuses and indescribably destructive behavior of the Bush administration and their increasingly authoritarian followers. A Democratic victory does not have to be seen as being anything more than that in order to realize how critically important it is. A desire for a Democratic victory is, at least for me, about the fact that this country simply cannot endure two more years of a Bush administration which is free to operate with even fewer
constraints than before, including the fact that George Bush and Dick Cheney will never face even another midterm election ever again. They will be free to run wild for the next two years with a Congress that is so submissive and blindly loyal that it is genuinely creepy to behold.

"A desire for a Democratic victory is also about the need to have the systematic lawbreaking and outright criminality in which Bush officials have repeatedly engaged have actual consequences, something that simply will not happen if Republicans continue their stranglehold on all facets of the Government for the next two years. If a desire to put Democrats in office doesn't inspire you into action - and, honestly, at this point, how could it? -- a desire to block Republicans from exercising more untrammeled power, and to find ways to hold them accountable, ought to do so. Disgust and even hatred are difficult emotions to avoid when
reading things like this:

Republicans, especially in the House, plan to use the military
commission and wiretapping legislation as a one-two punch against Democrats this fall. The legislative action prompted extraordinarily blunt language from House GOP leaders, foreshadowing a major theme for the campaign. Speaker J. Dennis Hastert R-Ill.) issued a written statement on Wednesday declaring [emphasis in original]: "Democrat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and159 of her Democrat colleagues voted today in favor of MORE rights for terrorists.GOP leaders continued such attacks after the wiretapping vote." For the second time in just two days, House Democrats have voted to protect the rights of terrorists," Hastert said last night, while Boehner lashed out at what he called "the Democrats' irrational opposition to strong national security policies.
"My personal list of disagreements with most Democrats on a variety of issues is quite long. But the need to restore the rule of law to our country and to put an immediate end to the unlimited reign of the increasingly sociopathic Bush movement is of unparalleled and urgent importance, and it so vastly outweighs every other consideration that little else is worth even discussing until those objectives are accomplished.

"We are a country ruled by a President who has seized the power to break the law in multiple ways while virtually nothing is done about it. Yesterday, we formally vested the power in the President to abduct people and put them in prisons for life without so much as charging them with any crime and by expressly proclaiming that they have no right to access any court or tribunal to prove their innocence.

"We have started one war against a country that did not attack us and, in doing so, created havoc and danger -- both to ourselves and the world -- that is truly difficult to quantify. And we are almost certainly going to start one more war just like it (at least), that is far more dangerous still, if the President's Congressional servants maintain their control. For all their imperfections, cowardly acts, strategically stupid decisions, and inexcusable acquiescence -- and that list is depressingly long -- it is still the case that Democrats voted overwhelmingly against this torture and detention atrocity. The vote total on yesterday's House vote on Heather Wilson's bill to legalize warrantless eavesdropping reflects the same dynamic: "On the final wiretapping vote, 18 Democrats joined 214 Republicans to win passage. Thirteen Republicans, 177 Democrats and one independent voted nay."

"And, if nothing else, Democrats are resentful and angry at how they have been treated and that alone will fuel some serious and much-needed retribution if they gain control over one or both houses. By reprehensible contrast, the Republican Party is one that marches in virtually absolute lockstep in support of the President's wishes, particularly in the areas of terrorism and national security. It was a truly nauseating spectacle to watch each and every one of them (other than Chafee) not only vest these extraordinary powers in the President by voting in unison for this bill, but beyond that, blindly oppose every single amendment offered by Democrats --including ones designed to do nothing other than ensure some minimal Congressional oversight over these extraordinary new presidential powers.

"It was like watching mindless zombies obediently marching wherever they were told to march. That has been how our country has been ruled for the last five years and,unless there is a Democratic victory, we will have more of that, and worse, over the next two years.

"There is one other consideration which, by itself, ought to be determinative. The only branch of government that has shown any residual willingness to defend the Constitution and the rule of law is the judicial branch. But critical Supreme Court decisions such as Hamdan -- which at least affirmed the most minimal and basic constitutional protections -- depend upon the most precarious 5-4 split among the Justices.

"One of the five pro-Constitution Justices, John Paul Stevens, is 86 years old. If George Bush has free reign to replace Stevens, it will mean that the Supreme Court will be composed of a very young five-Justice majority of absolute worshippers of Executive Power -- Thomas, Scalia, Roberts, Alito and New Justice -- which will control the Court and endorse unlimited executive abuses for decades to come. In a GOP-controlled Senate, Democrats cannot stop a Supreme Court nominee by filibuster anymore because Republicans will break the rules by declaring the filibuster invalid.

"The only hope for stopping a full-fledged takeover of the Supreme Court is a Democratic-controlled Senate. Continued unchallenged Republican control of our government for two more years will wreak untold damage on our country, perhaps debilitating it past the point of no return. There is only one viable, realistic alternative to that scenario: a Democratic takeover in six weeks of one or both houses of Congress. Even that would be far from a magic bullet; the limits imposed by Democrats even when they are in the majority would be incremental and painfully modest.

"But the reality is that this is the only way available for there to be any limits and checks at all.In the real world, one has to either choose between two more years of uncontrolled Republican rule, or imposing some balance -- even just logjam -- on our Government with a Democratic victory.

"Or one can decide that it just doesn't matter either way because one has given up on defending the principles and values of our country. But, for better or worse, those are the only real options available, and wishing there were other options doesn't mean that there are any.

"And there are only six weeks left to choose the option you think is best and to do what you can to bring it to fruition. UPDATE: Please see this comment for some clarification about what I mean here and what I do not mean. And I think there is one other point that needs to be recognized about yesterday's vote: In 2002, virtually all of the Democratic Presidential hopefuls in Congress (Kerry, Edwards, Gephardt, Graham) voted for the Iraq war resolution, because they thought they had to be accommodationist in order to have a chance to win. But this time, all of the Democratic Presidential hopefuls in Congress (Biden, Clinton, Feingold, Kerry) voted against this bill, because now they know that they can't be accommodationist if they want to win the nomination. Call that the Joe Lieberman Lesson. That is genuine progress, no matter how you slice it.

"Is it glorious, tearing-down-the-gate-with-fists-in-the-air Immediate Revolution? No. But it's undeniable incremental progress nonetheless."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

U.S. Economy Slips In World Ranking ~ A Lot

The World Economic Forum has released its 2006-2007 Global Competitiveness Report. (Title bar.)

According to it, countries with (I can't help noting) universal healthcare, liberal policies regarding financing of higher education, & all the things conservatives tell us we can't afford) seem to be doing better then we are.

Must be a vast liberal conspiracy & partisan-hacks organization hell-bent on making us look bad.

"Finland and Sweden are the world’s most competitive economies according to The Global Competitiveness Report 2006-2007, released by the World Economic Forum on 26 September 2006. Denmark, Singapore, the United States, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom complete the top ten list, but the United States shows the most pronounced drop, falling from first to sixth.

"The rankings are drawn from a combination of publicly available hard data and the results of the Executive Opinion Survey, a comprehensive annual survey conducted by the World Economic Forum, together with its network of Partner Institutes (leading research institutes and business organizations) in the countries covered by the Report. This year, over 11,000 business leaders were polled in a record 125 economies worldwide."

Brits Get "Significant" A Terrorist For Us (Again) In Iraq

Omar al-Farouq, a terrorist alleged to be a lieutenant of Bin Laden's in South East Asia, was killed today by British forces in Basra. (BBC report, title bar.)

Thanks, Mates.

"In what the BBC's Jim Muir describes as a considerable embarrassment for the US, Farouq and three others escaped from the US military prison at Bagram airbase in Kabul last year.

"He even appeared in a video on an Arab TV station to boast about it."

Monday, September 25, 2006

File This Under Payback Is A Bitch

1. Pretty funny. President Clinton smacks down Fox News Sunday. And shows 'em all how a President is supposed to act under fire on enemy territory. With grace, class & style. Facts help, too.

As another blogosphere wag says, "Where can we get one like that?"

Partisan Brains On Boil: and furthermore, explaining why people who only watch Fox have partisan hardening-of-the-cerebral arteries. Perhaps, you, too, have learned that it's useless to try to talk sense to them. Why they always act shocked when they get their own hostile incivility, loud ranting & schoolyard name-calling thrown back in their faces I don't for the life of me know.

2. Also today in the PIAB Department:

Leaked intelligence document says, contrary to what Bush would have us believe (hold your breath), invading Iraq has caused more terrorist problems than it solved. Hell, I coulda tolja that. In fact, I believe I have, over & over again.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Social Justice Anti-Distraction Cure: Just Focus

Ill: Web Daily Planet

~ or relatively modest things state and local governments can do to ease burdens on working Joes ~

It’s about time, and I know it. Like everyone else, it seems, I’ve allowed myself to get distracted from the domestic issues I firmly maintain the collective “we” need to hear candidates’ views concerning before we vote in November, and that I, for one, believe need remedying after so long a period of neglect.

Instead I’ve gotten caught up in the ongoing drama that is the daily—lately hourly—contentious arguments & hairpin turns in what’s become a media-hogging three-ring circus over the tone and tenor of national thwart-the-terrorists legislation.

I suspect that neither the neglect of domestic matters—more precisely, for want of a better term, social justice issues--nor the timing of the ferocious battles between Bush & Congress over that proposed legislation is accidental. It’s no secret that the GOP strategy this year is to emphasize what the polls say is their slight strength in national security issues, aside from the imbroglio that is Iraq itself.

Thus the noise and hubris over issues that are really better left to be decided after the election, when the motivation to grandstand and blow thick clouds of smoke up our collective asses solely for the benefit of political kabuki theatre will have dissipated and we can all think with clearer minds and investigate the claims calmly, both pro and con. Like that’s gonna happen.

I sometimes think I resent nothing about Rovian politics so much as its calculated strategy of capitalizing on disastrous events to push through legislation with a forced sense of (manufactured) urgency such that nobody even knows what they’re voting for (e.g. the Patriot Act), nor is there provided enough accurate information to the public, or time to have a meaningful public debate.

It’s all theatre now—the illusion of good governance with none of the substance. In that, we’ve been hijacked.

But that’s not really the core of my intended topic today, which is (a stab, anyway) at domestic matters all the smoke and mirrors on the big national stage are intended to distract us from. I can’t possibly address all of the issues I believe need attention in what’s intended to be a rather short (*readable*) post, so I’ll have to begin somewhere, and nowhere better than with a story I saw aired on the Seattle-area news several days ago.

This story continues to haunt me, speaking so eloquently to the facts that-- despite the modern American economy of outsourced jobs, (still) relatively high unemployment rates, increasing tax burdens (if you’re not wealthy) and the intentional funneling of federal government dollars away from anything that could be seen as a “social safety net” in favor of the hollow rubric of “privatization” coupled with egregious examples of corporate welfare-- there really are some relatively simple and modest fixes available that our own state and local governments can do—that is, without having to make them national issues. Although the latter would be nice, they’d be much harder to get passed in the current contentious and divisive political climate.

Have we become so entranced with political events on the big national stage that we’ve forgotten that “all politics is local”?

The story, (title bar) details the experiences of two families whose homes were lost in scams.

"Rosa and Reginald Beck used to own a split-level home in Puyallup. They bought it using an adjustable rate mortgages, or ARM, a kind of loan that has been touted as a way to buy a house at ultra-low interest rates. They were popular when interest rates were low, but now the rates are being adjusted upward and it's leaving people vulnerable not just to bankruptcy, but to scam artists who promise to offer a solution to their problems.

"The Becks' ARM payment went sky high just as Reginald was laid off and the two were looking for solutions. 'It went from $950 for the first mortgage all the way to about $1500 plus, just for the first mortgage alone,' Reginald Beck said.

"Facing foreclosure, the Becks responded to a flyer in their mailbox from a company called Pierce County Residential Credit Advisors. The company promised to buy their house, take the mortgage out of their name and lease the house back to them with an option to buy down the road.

"Rosa Beck says a man named David Gintz pressured them to sign a 'quit claim'" a legal document that releases someone's interest in a piece of property.

'I was really upset and I didn't want to sign the paper but the guy was basically pushing us to sign the forms,' Rosa Beck says.

"With a stroke of a pen, the Becks lost their house and $70,000 in equity. Their mortgage wasn't paid off. They were evicted and were homeless for 15 months.

'We have children and we had to separate from our children. We couldn't take care of them and we had to send them to Florida to get taken care of because we couldn't provide for them,' Rosa Beck says."

After this story aired, I heard of yet another like it. So that's three families' reports & counting.

It seems obvious to me that when people have fallen behind on their mortgages, they quite understandably become desperate, and, as this article illustrates, easy prey to fast-talking con men, with (in this hot housing market) predictable results.

In that most families have most of their wealth tied up in their homes these days, it’s an especially reprehensible crime to steal that from them, dispossess them, and turn them and their families out into the streets. Although that sort of fraud should be a prosecutable matter in most states, this particular scam is so very reprehensible punishment for it should be escalated and be made more than usually sticky.

There should also be a fast-track way to avoid foreclosure under the circumstance where a victim is told the mortgage is going to be paid off--and if that conflicts with the new draconian national personal bankruptcy laws, all the better—we have to be able to force cases that show, in high, bright relief—how unfair the law really has become, and how truly inimical it now is to the notion of a “fresh start.”

For another example, when astronomical medical expenses force one into bankruptcy, which has become an increasingly common experience for a lot of Americans. It is now officially the most common cause of bankruptcy—not, as the Neocons and their credit-card campaign contributors would have it, “irresponsible” credit card spending for frivolous items avaricious, well-trained consumers merely want, but don’t really need.

Second, outlaw the practice of employers pulling credit reports and denying applicants work based on that alone, unless the employer can show that a credit report is relevant to the job. In this anecdotal case, for instance, the man worked in a high tech position—unless it was related to handling cash, or bookkeeping—what the hell did his credit report have to do with his capacity to do the job? Which, by the way, would have enabled him to avoid, or at the very least, fight back against the fraud perpetrators.

A friend in Massachusetts tells me that’s already the law there, but they also have universal health insurance that nobody can be denied, and which spreads the risks evenly among the population (unlike what we have here in Washington, which segregates the riskiest to a pool with premiums and deductibles so high that nobody can afford to carry it—that is, those who really need it, and can’t afford to drop it despite the fact they can’t use it, since if they do, they’ll never be eligible for health insurance in the private market again.)

Is it just me, or is it more than obvious that what we’ve got going on in this country are cataclysmic changes in the American job market and its traditional benefits-- besides the obvious peace of mind that comes from a regular paycheck---together with a lot of difficulty making the transition?

A truly moral “fair shake” would be greatly welcomed, and that, to me, is what has been so disastrous about public policy under the Bush Administration, which feeds us political theatre and propaganda about the imaginary booming economy in lieu of meaningful solutions.

Here in Seattle we’ve suffered one of the highest unemployment rates in the entire nation for more than three years, and the much-vaunted “recovery” has been counted in teeny numbers--only occasionally spiking before falling flat again. Circumstances are such that employers no longer even bother to acknowledge applications while demanding near-impossible qualifications and wages drift downward. Of course, unemployment benefits weren’t set up to last long enough to see the unemployed through it.

The federal government continues to starve programs of every and any stripe that formerly relied on those dollars to retrain workers, across the board. Even Worksource, the Washington state agency supposedly in charge of helping the unemployed to help themselves, until very recently hasn’t even been able to consistently provide training in what should have been the minor matter of learning Microsoft suite computer programs in which all employers demand (at the very least) proficiency. Is the financial titan Microsoft itself helping in that at all? (It is common knowledge that they don’t bother to respond to resumes submitted externally--that is, without benefit of an insider drawing it to their attention--no matter how qualified an applicant may be.)

Aside from that, the only advice is: everybody retrain for careers in the medical field, fast—while the gravy train is still running on a somewhat reliable schedule. Even if the sight of blood causes you to faint, nurse’s aides jobs go begging, or you can go to work for a biotech and torture small animals to death in the name of science. When the medical industry implodes of its own weight and outrageous expense to consumers, watch out! Your other choice is to retrain for a career in high tech. If those limited options don’t appeal to you, too bad. There aren’t enough public resources to help you advance in fields in which you may already have a long working history.

It seems to me that whole swaths of the country are undergoing changes something very much like conditions this nation has not seen since the Great Depression. Bad as it's been here, I really feel for people in & around the Motor City after the recent announcements of layoffs there (even while the CEO's of those comanies, who ran them into the ground, bail with multimillion dollar gold parachutes.)

And the GOP is not going to acknowledge it. As I once said here, in my blog: “What the GOP stands for on domestic issues is nothing so much as ‘I got mine and I’m slamming the door in your face.’” No signs from the Grand Old Party that things are going to improve anytime soon.

The most viable option is to start agitating for significant change on the local level. Start asking candidates the hard questions about where they stand on social justice issues like the ones presented here.

It’s a start, and a great way for local candidates to draw attention to and differentiate themselves from the heartless and immoral policies of the GOP.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Who Is George Really Spying On?

Well, seems that Arlen Specter has qualified that sudden spine-growing spurt I jumped the gun in awarding him.

In recent days he's pushed through not only his own bill on NSA warrantless spying (exactly & in as ludricous form as Bushco directed), but also a bill by Ms. Feinstein which makes Bush obey the law we've had in place since 1978--with the effect that they'd cancel each other out. Seems impossible to predict for sure (title bar), but it may come up for a vote this week.

If you haven't already done something to register your views on it with Congress, now would be the time to do so. A link to an action alert courtesy the ACLU is at the very bottom of this post.

By way of reminder, three civic-spirited organizations have so far challenged Bushco's outrageously broad extrajudical trolling for info. Now Bushco seeks permission retroactively. If that isn't a dirty trick rising to a fraud upon the American public & an outrage upon the Constitution, I don't know what is.

True to form, if & when they suddenly perceive the need to get anyone else's input, they wait until the very last minute so as to make it a (manufactured) crisis needing immediate attention, make a show of presenting the legislation they'd prefer, stack the deck with canned testimony & strongly suggested talking points, & present us a false choice: "you're either with us or for the terrorists!" Slam the brakes on the hyperbole, Bush--when were you first warned that this was an issue?

The Center for Constitutional Rights ("CCR"), which has been active in defending detainees, including the Canadian kidnapped & sent to Syria, where he was tortured (since exonerated of terrorist connections by the Canadian government), has also filed suit challenging the supersecret NSA warrantless spying program, as have the Electronic Frontier Foundation & the ACLU (the latter of which won a judgment in a lower court case involving journalists & academics, among others) has this to say on its website regarding its pending case, CCR v. Bush:

Docket: CCR v. Bush Center for Constitutional Rights Believes Privileged Attorney-Client Communications Were Intercepted by NSA without Warrants

..Thus far, seven amicus briefs have been filed in support of our case. On May 11, 2006 72 members of the House of Representatives filed an amicus brief in support of our motion for summary judgment, arguing that the surveillance program was not authorized under FISA nor Congress' Authorization for Use of Military Force, and is flatly illegal.

"In their own brief, a group of business leaders described how fear of surveillance has a deleterious effect on the economy. The Association of the Bar of the City of New York argued in its brief that illegal surveillance is particularly threatening to the work of attorneys, citing its danger to attorney-client privileged communications. A coalition of organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) argued together that surveillance has historically been used as a tool of repression in the US, citing its use against leaders of the civil rights movement, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [Emphasis added.]

"A number of experts in legal ethics filed a brief concerning the ethical obligations of attorneys to avoid surveillance of privileged conversations, an important issue with respect to plaintiffs' standing in this case. Finally, briefs concerning the state secrets privilege were submitted, one by the City Bar and the other by two noted historians, William Weaver and Louis Fisher. [Emphasis added.]

.."Since we filed for summary judgment more damning evidence about the program has emerged. On March 24, 2006 Attorney General Alberto Gonzales confirmed that no safeguards have been put in place to protect attorney-client privileged communications. In a letter to the Senate Foreign Intelligence Committee, Gonzales stated that 'Although the program does not specifically target the communications of attorneys or physicians, calls involving such persons would not be categorically excluded from interception.'

"This was confirmed when a group of NLG attorneys in Oregon filed Al Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Bush, alleging that they possessed a classified document, inadvertently released by the government, that showed that NSA was eavesdropping on conversations between the charity in Oregon and its attorneys in Washington, DC.

"The Oregon case also implies that the NSA is carrying out domestic surveillance, something initially denied vehemently by the administration, which claims the warrantless surveillance was confined to international calls and targeted at terrorists. [Emphasis added.]

"But shortly after CCR v. Bush was filed, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed Hepting v. AT&T, a class action lawsuit for injunctive relief plus damages against AT&T for its alleged complicity in the NSA Program. EFF claims to have documentary proof (turned over by a retired AT&T technician turned whistleblower, Mark Klein) that AT&T set up a secret interception room in its main switching station in San Francisco (and other cities as well), allowing the NSA to copy every email and record every phone call moving through those circuits. [Emphasis added]

"If true, the allegations give reason to question the idea that the NSA is in fact targeting specific communications of individuals it has reason to suspect are linked with terror, and make it more likely that NSA is conducting "data mining": computerized searching of every call and email made by every American.

"The idea that NSA was conducting data mining, discussed in media reports since December and hinted at by the AT&T case, was confirmed by a recent bombshell: USA Today reported on May 11 that several major telephone companies have been helping the NSA create a massive database tracking "every phone call ever made" in the US. Warrantless collection of calling records is prohibited by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Stored Communications Act.

"CCR attorney Shayana Kadidal, who has been working on this issue for months, says of these developments: 'This is the Bush Administration's surveillance program exposed. It's not about terrorists. It's not about security. And it's definitely not about that Constitution that administrations are supposed to follow. It's about massive, big brother surveillance of law abiding American citizens." Kadidal is posting updates about the NSA Program every week on"

ACLU Action Alert link:

And remember: "Bush is listening. Use big words."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

US Experience With Efficacy Of Torture To Date

Abu Ghraib
Corpse of Victim of CIA Torture at Abu Ghraib. No one has been prosecuted for the death.
Detainees bound for Gitmo

From the Memory Hole Website:
Abu Ghraib Interrogations "A Total Waste of Time"
"The Wall Street Journal has a long article titled 'At Abu Ghraib, Soldiers Faced Pressure to Produce Intelligence.' Based on 'interviews with more than 20 interrogators and analysts at the prison,' the crux of the matter is this:

..."But despite the arrival of two teams of interrogation experts, special training by interrogators from the U.S. facility for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and a crack-the-whip command, the Abu Ghraib intelligence operation appears to have produced little useful information.

"'At first I thought it was going to be really interesting,' says Spc. Gabriel Teaca, who served out the fall and winter on an interrogation team at Abu Ghraib. 'It was just a total waste of time.'

Among some of the interesting nuggets:

"Prisoners poured into Abu Ghraib at a rate of more than 60 per day, said Chief Warrant Officer Jeffrey Hanson, who screened prisoners at the facility until February. The vast majority had virtually no intelligence value, said Chief Hanson, a reservist who in civilian life is director of the Utah State Veterans Home. 'It seemed like when something bad happened the infantry would just roll up' a dozen Iraqis in the area, most of whom were not involved. ...

"Interrogators complained that the need for more and better intelligence drove them to disseminate intelligence reports to field units that were half-baked and of dubious worth. 'We'd get information that wasn't corroborated or that we thought probably wasn't true. But [Col. Pappas] was so desperate for numbers that we sent out the report anyway'" says Spc. Monath, an intelligence analyst who was responsible for drafting the final reports.

"The bad intelligence gave way to raids on innocent people, he said. In one case, he said, an entire Iraqi family was arrested while eating dinner because an interrogator's raw notes containing bad coordinates were sent to a field unit."
In today's news, an extensive report from the Associated Press on what, exactly we know so far about the numbers of detainees we probably have penned up & the odds they're really dangerous terrorists (not good), but still we don't release them, & don't charge them. Instead, we keep them imprisoned in legal limbo. (Title bar.)

"In the few short years since the first shackled Afghan shuffled off to Guantanamo, the U.S. military has created a global network of overseas prisons, its islands of high security keeping 14,000 detainees beyond the reach of established law.

"Disclosures of torture and long-term arbitrary detentions have won rebuke from leading voices including the U.N. secretary-general and the U.S. Supreme Court. But the bitterest words come from inside the system, the size of several major U.S. penitentiaries.

'It was hard to believe I'd get out,' Baghdad shopkeeper Amjad Qassim al-Aliyawi told The Associated Press after his release — without charge — last month. 'I lived with the Americans for one year and eight months as if I was living in hell.'"

"Captured on battlefields, pulled from beds at midnight, grabbed off streets as suspected insurgents, tens of thousands now have passed through U.S. detention, the vast majority in Iraq.

"Many say they were caught up in U.S. military sweeps, often interrogated around the clock, then released months or years later without apology, compensation or any word on why they were taken. Seventy to 90 percent of the Iraq detentions in 2003 were 'mistakes,' U.S. officers once told the international Red Cross.

"Defenders of the system, which has only grown since soldiers' photos of abuse at Abu Ghraib shocked the world, say it's an unfortunate necessity in the battles to pacify Iraq and Afghanistan, and to keep suspected terrorists out of action.

"'Every U.S. detainee in Iraq is detained because he poses a security threat to the government of Iraq, the people of Iraq or coalition forces,' said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Keir-Kevin Curry, a spokesman for U.S.-led military detainee operations in Iraq.

"But dozens of ex-detainees, government ministers, lawmakers, human rights activists, lawyers and scholars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the United States said the detention system often is unjust and hurts the war on terror by inflaming anti-Americanism in Iraq and elsewhere.
"Whatever the progress, small or significant, grim realities persist.

"Human rights groups count dozens of detainee deaths for which no one has been punished or that were never explained. The secret prisons — unknown in number and location — remain available for future detainees. The new manual banning torture doesn't cover CIA interrogators.

"And thousands of people still languish in a limbo, deprived of one of common law's oldest rights, habeas corpus, the right to know why you are imprisoned.

"'If you, God forbid, are an innocent Afghan who gets sold down the river by some warlord rival, you can end up at Bagram and you have absolutely no way of clearing your name,' said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch in New York. 'You can't have a lawyer present evidence, or do anything organized to get yourself out of there.'

"The U.S. government has contended it can hold detainees until the 'war on terror' ends — as it determines.

"'I don't think we've gotten to the question of how long,' said retired admiral John D. Hutson, former top lawyer for the U.S. Navy. 'When we get up to 'forever,' I think it will be tested' in court, he said.

"The Navy is planning long-term at Guantanamo. This fall it expects to open a new, $30-million maximum-security wing at its prison complex there, a concrete-and-steel structure replacing more temporary camps..."

And we dare call ourselves a civilized nation?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Update: Bush In Deep Denial

In today's news we see George freaking out at an overt rebellion by his own party members, & in a fit of pique, calling into question their critical thinking skills because they dare defy his proposed draconian legislation which would revise & redefine portions of the Geneva Conventions out of existence. Otherwise, he delares, the CIA won't be able to keep its torture playdates in its supersecret detention facilities abroad.

The rebels: John McCain, Lindsey Graham, John Warner & Colin Powell--who, unlike Bush or Cheney, have served in wars. McCain was held as a POW during the Vietnam War, Graham served as a military judge in the reserves.

Bush, still confusing obtuseness with strength, & steadfastly refusing to emerge from his bubble of self-absorption, threw hubris, bullshit & ample unintended irony by "snapping" at those who defied him that they were victims of "flawed logic."

Following up with one of his meanest displeased- dictator cranky faces ever.
Photo: Yahoo News

Following an earlier Washington Post article on the same topic (title bar), the Associated Press reported: "The president called a Rose Garden news conference to confront a Republican rebellion led by Sens. John Warner of Virginia, John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine.

"To the administration's dismay, Colin Powell, Bush's former secretary of state, has joined with the lawmakers. Powell said Bush's plan to redefine the Geneva Conventions would cause the world 'to doubt the moral basis' of the fight against terror and 'put our own troops at risk.'"

"Seven weeks before the November elections, the dispute left Republicans fighting among themselves — rather than with Democrats — about national security issues that have been a winning theme for the GOP in past elections.

"Responding to Bush, McCain rejected the president's assertion that an alternative bill approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee dealing with the trial and interrogation of terror suspects would require the closure of the CIA's detainee program.

"McCain said the measure would protect agents from criminal and civil liability and, by not reinterpreting the meaning of the Geneva Conventions, uphold the nation's obligations.
"To do any less risks our reputation, our moral standing and the lives of those Americans who
risk everything to defend our country," the senator said.
"Bush took vehement exception when asked about Powell's assertion that the world might doubt the moral basis of the fight against terror if lawmakers went along with the administration's proposal to come up with a U.S. interpretation of the Geneva Convention's ban on 'outrages upon personal dignity.'

"'If there's any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it's flawed logic,' Bush said. 'It's just — I simply can't accept that.'

"Growing animated, he said, 'It's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective.'"

Apparently Bush does not see the flawed logic of declaring a war on a country with no connection to terrorism at all, causing the deaths, and in some cases, premeditated murders of innocent civilians there. Never mind waging a proxy war through Israel on Lebanon with much the same results.

Moreover, since when can one country signatory to an international convention such as the Geneva Conventions unilaterally revise them without consulting the others? Does that not invite others to do the same?

Ah, but what do I know?

Sat. 9/16 Update:

Say it ain't so! Now there are allegations that Bushco twisted Judge Advocate General (JAG) arms in the signing of a letter inferring their approval of the Bush-proposed legislation not only allowing torture, but condoning its acceptance in proposed kangaroo courts. Unintended irony as to how well mere political coercion (as opposed to more extreme versions of torture presumably being practiced by the CIA overseas) goes largely unnoticed by Bushco.

Note: Evidence obtained by coercion comes back to bite you in the ass, Bushco, because it's just not believable. If I have to state the obvious, here, I will.

From the WaPo: "Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) called for a Judiciary Committee investigation into whether military judge advocates general were pressured into writing a letter this week saying they 'do not object' to two sensitive parts of the administration's legislation.

"Officials who attended the meeting in question, in the office of Pentagon general counsel William J. Haynes II on Wednesday, said there was no pressure on the military lawyers to produce the letter, describing a robust discussion about how to word its contents. The lawyers initially drafted a letter saying they "support" the two sections but later settled on saying they 'do not object' to them.

"'None of us would have signed anything if we had not believed it and absolutely agreed with it,' Col. Ronald M. Reed, counsel to the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said yesterday. 'The discussion was nothing out of the ordinary.'

"But late yesterday, Maj. Gen. Scott C. Black, the Army's judge advocate general, sent a new letter to McCain and other senators, saying 'further redefinition" of the conventions 'is unnecessary and could be seen as a weakening of our treaty obligations, rather than a reinforcement of the standards of treatment.' (Emphasis added.)

This in response to Bushco efforts to spin its proposed legislation as a mere clarification of a technicality & a strengthening of the Conventions as opposed to evisceration of them.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

"Cheney's Power No Longer Unchallenged"

Image of Original Painting Used With Permission

Your intrepid Demon reporter was up very early this morning, drinking her demonically strong coffee & catching up on the news, when this article in the New York Times (title bar) caught her eye. Excerpts follow.

"WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 — From those first moments five years ago when Secret Service agents burst into Vice President Dick Cheney's office on Sept. 11, lifted him off his feet and propelled him to the underground Presidential Emergency Operations Center, the man who had returned to Washington that year to remake the powers of the presidency seemed unstoppable.

"Within minutes, Mr. Cheney was directing the government’s response to an attack that was still under way. Within weeks, he was overseeing the surveillance program that tracked suspected terrorist communications into and out of the United States without warrants. Within months, he and his staff, guided by a loyal aide, David S. Addington, were championing the reinterpretation of the rules of war so that they could detain 'enemy combatants' and interrogate them at secret detention facilities run by the C.I.A. around the world.

"It was Mr. Cheney and his staff who helped shape the rules under which members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda were denied some of the core rights of the Geneva Conventions and would be tried by 'military commissions' at Guantánamo Bay — if they faced trial at all."

'I believe in a strong, robust executive authority, and I think that the world we live in demands it,' Mr. Cheney said in December on a flight from Pakistan to Oman. 'You know,' he added, 'it’s not an accident that we haven’t been hit in four years.'

"But as the nation observes the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Mr. Cheney finds the powers he has asserted under attack and his influence challenged. Congress and the Supreme Court have pushed back at his claim that the president alone, as commander in chief, can set the rules for detention, interrogation and domestic spying.

"On Wednesday afternoon in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Cheney sat silently as President Bush urged Congress to restore to him the powers, stripped away by the Supreme Court in a 5-to-3 ruling in June, to create military commissions and define the precise meaning of the Geneva Conventions when it comes to interrogations.

"There is little question that Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney still share the goal of expanding the power of the presidency: legislation they have sent to Congress would essentially allow them to set the rules of evidence, define interrogation techniques and intercept domestic communications as they have for the past five years.

"But they have been stymied in their effort to simply assert those powers and carry them out with minimal oversight, as part of Mr. Cheney’s declared goal to restore to the presidency an authority that he believed was dangerously eroded after Vietnam and Watergate.

"On national security issues, Mr. Cheney, once the unchallenged adviser to a president who came to office with little experience in foreign affairs, remains a pivotal figure but now vies for influence with other officials like Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser. Over the past 18 months, Mr. Cheney appears to have reluctantly given ground on detention practices and, at least for now, on policy disputes involving Iran and North Korea.

"On Friday, the Senate Intelligence Committee — controlled by Mr. Cheney’s Republican allies — declared that there had been no basis for Mr. Cheney’s repeated claims that Saddam Hussein had harbored an Qaeda leader and had ties to the group. But Mr. Cheney has never conceded that his statement was in error.

"His prediction in 2002 that overthrowing Mr. Hussein would force radical extremists 'to rethink their strategy of jihad' proved wrong, as Mr. Bush implicitly acknowledged last week when he described how the array of enemies facing America has multiplied. Mr. Cheney’s friends and former aides said they were mystified about how the same man who as defense secretary in 1991 warned that 'for us to get American military personnel involved in a civil war inside Iraq would literally be a quagmire' managed, 15 years later, to find himself facing that prospect."

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, nor one with more hands-on experience of war. Cheney says he'll wait for history to judge him.

BushAwol Action Figures

ou go on & read the rest of the article. I'll be looking for my little violin.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Grow-A-Spine Awards

Ill: Nat'l Institute of Health

Demon Princess is sick to death of people whose behavior is nothing but rank cowardice choosing to spin it to themselves & others as courage when in fact they would not recognize true courage if it hit them over their heads & cracked that ungainly protuberance in two. So I've decided to open a new category to laud people who have, actually, indeed—sometimes surprisingly--suddenly sprouted spines recently & shown some true grit.

Here's today's list, culled from news reports of the past couple of days.

1. Arlen Specter recovers his cajones after George, prankster that he is, hid them somewhere in the White House. Arlen suspends efforts to draft legislation regarding the NSA warrantless spying despite Bush’s renewed push to get it passed—in the ludicrous form he directed from on high, of course.

According to the Washington Post, “The president's appeal for congressional action to strengthen the legal underpinnings of the National Security Agency's surveillance program ran into roadblocks even as he spoke. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Spector (R-Pa.) suspended efforts to draft legislation until at least next week after Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) proposed new amendments and a bipartisan group of senators urged more hearings.”

No groans from the audience. I grant you that hearings were held before, but they were a joke. Bushco regarded them as an opportunity to grandstand, swagger, & act smug. As a result, nothing very substantive was learned about the extent of the programs in place. “State secrets,” doncha know.

2. Senate report finds no link to Al-Qaeda prior to invasion of Iraq. (In fact, Saddam regarded them as enemies & might have taken them out if left alone.)

Somebody should be feeling very foolish right about now, but he’s probably too obtuse & otherwise lacking in humility for that. God wanted him to be President, doncha know.

3. Military Lawyers AND some GOP resist Bushco’s irresponsible proposed legislation addressing how to treat detainees.

I should note that that struggle has been going on behind the scenes for some time. Bushco, & especially Gonzales (fueled, we imagine, by the incoherent ravings of John Yoo, Esq. in the background), steadfastly ignored them.

Demon Princess just has to snicker when fine legal minds implode & meet such a terrible fate. Tsk, tsk.

John Yoo:

I’ve been wondering since Toy George’s big speech last Thursday how on earth they think they’re going to get any statements extracted under torture admitted, or if admitted, taken seriously. Common sense tells ya, moonbats, it’s not exactly the most credible sort of evidence.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

SHAZAM~Brand Political Theatre: GOP Trots Out The Presidential Dress-Up Doll

Actual "Toy President" Doll

Here, Here, Lookie Here ~ It’s 911 All Over Again

he event that made Bushco’s political fortunes is back, and we can expect to see more reminders & new-found ties to it in the months leading up to November. All the better to keep our minds off domestic matters & distract us by loudly & aggressively pounding the war drums of fear & loathing.

In a masterstroke of wishful thinking, all those political liabilities for the GOP are “disappeared” —incompetence, greed & corruption domestically, the sell-out of all social safety nets to price-gouging special interests, lack of affordable health insurance, evisceration of student loan programs, renewed stealth attacks on social security, a stealth de-facto welfare reform pushing more off the rolls & into the streets, wage stagnation, outsourced jobs, & if all this isn’t enough to prove mismanagement of domestic policy on every matter that hits most Americans where they live, newly revised bankruptcy laws that make it nearly impossible to discharge your debts & get a fresh start if your increasingly fragile house of cards collapses. (Say, for instance, a health problem suddenly besets you, you can't go back to work right away, & your health insurance doesn’t cover the entire cost--or worse, you lose your health insurance altogether.)

What better way, by way of design or neglect, to foster the growing social stratification between the uber-rich & the new servant class? (Beat that low-wage, benefit-less labor into abject submission.) Don't forget gas prices, global warming, destruction of the national forests & escalating national debt just as an aside. Throw in the bungled response to Katrina & unexplained failures to fund homeland security needs for national ports for good measure.

Is it any wonder the GOP doesn’t want to draw your attention toward or take responsibility for the mess they’ve made domestically in their rapacious, winner-take-all race to the top? I’d be betting on a strategy to turn the electorate’s attention from all these problems, too, and despite the huge circus of omissions, lies & tactical errors in Iraq & Americans’ diminishing willingness to believe Iraq initially had any particular connection to anything at all. The GOP is gambling big-time that our short attention spans preclude us from remembering that it was pathological lying & kabuki theatre that got them elected last time--& rather than learn their lessons, thank God they’d squeaked by & go the straight & narrow, they keep up with the lies & bombast & expect us to take them back again.

So it is that Terror of Terror is the card the
GOP chooses to play now in its quest to distract us, hence yesterday’s grand press conference, wherein George had obviously been carefully rehearsed so as to avoid his natural tendency to stumble over his scripts, as well as the conspicuous round-up & parade of the evildoing bad guys after torturing had supposedly resulted in information that has enabled the U.S. to avoid more terrorist attacks (details of which are being withheld from us for our own safety, of course—classified info—just trust us, wouldja?) Mr. WalkingTalking Playing President™ is trotted out in hopes it will whip the fear-&-loathing crowd to new levels of frenzy & furnish enough wind in the sails to carry GOP incumbents safely into positions where they can continue to perpetuate the status quo.

In the brief time left before Congress adjourns before the elections, Bush issued them their marching orders & recipe for success: pass all of his proposed legislation—condoning torture in certain circumstances, and & so on & so forth.

Poof, the GOP’s problems magically disappeared (same as all those secretly rendered prisoners), magically justifed, magically handing Congress the opportunity to make it all legal with more Bushco-drafted legislation & save us from our untoward concern with human rights & piddling civil liberties.

Ah, the magic of political theatre. It worked once, after all.
• Little Plastic President - Berkshire Eagle - Today's Editorials, Pittsfield MA, August 14, 2003

“Those who say irony is dead haven't seen the new action figure of President Bush in the flight suit he wore for his taxpayer-funded campaign commercial on the USS Abraham Lincoln. The fortunate son of an influential politician, George W. Bush got into the Texas Air National Guard in order to avoid going to Vietnam, and then ducked out on much of his guard service. Now, front man for corporate interests and chicken hawks spoiling for war, he plays soldier, strutting about in a uniform for the cameras and then going home to leave uniformed soldiers to die daily. The war did not end as he said it had that day, so here we have an action figure commemorating an event conspicuous for its lack of action, a puppet of a puppet injection-molded in China. The distributor, K-B Toys of Pittsfield, says Internet sales are brisk, which raises the question of who is buying -- idol-worshippers or people who like their irony rich?”
*************************************************************************************" The only bombshell yesterday was Bush’s admission that yes, the U.S. and the CIA have indeed been engaged in legally questionable activities like kidnapping “enemies of the state” off the streets of Europe & rendering them to secret European detention facilities for dermabrasion treatments, foot massage & torture, just as the Washington Post (traitorous liberal media!) reported long ago.

Nothing else was very interesting except the adroitness with which this neat bit of theatre was presented: families of 911 victims in the audience, not-so-subtle warnings about the enemies among us (right here in our very own country!). In short, the battle of good versus evil cast in high relief on the big screen, Hollywood style, & not one from which Toy George intends to shrink.

It really isn’t true that Bush’s incompetence has been exceeded only by his
arrogance, nor that the mess made in Iraq has been a fuckup of Brobdingnagian proportions—he’s had a secret plan all along, & it is the war weenies, civil rights whiners & anti-torture babies, the naysayers who’ve got it all wrong.

And for those of you who have been reading along here, it’s just as John Dean predicted: in the days leading up to the crucial November elections, the Prez suddenly pulls some arch-evil alleged terrorists directly responsible for 911 (though Osama still eludes him) out of his ass--er, top-secret European torture chambers run by the CIA, pronounces harsh interrogation methods to have borne fruit & hopes we won't notice his about-face (wasn’t he just quoted as saying the human rights abuses carried out there were a mistake?) plonks them into Guantanamo Bay, a maneuver speaking most eloquently to the fantasy of instant redemption for the aggressive, abusive members of Bushco.

In a swoop of pomp, he claims triumph of the “torture works” canard & insists that Congress pass laws making it legal—in what they hope will be perceived as a concession to the Hamdan decision, reluctantly admitting that maybe torture is wrong on ALL prisoners, but we should be able to use it legally on some. (Satisfying the blood thirsty armchair quarterbacks among us at the same time, it’s to be hoped.) And elucidate the rules by which they will be tried.

The surprising admission of the existence of secret CIA prisons did not go unnoticed in Europe. Trenchant commentary: “’By his admission that the CIA has indeed practiced illegal kidnapping and detention, Bush exposes not only his own previous lies’ said Sarah Ludford, a British member of the European Parliament and vice chairman of a parliamentary inquiry into the CIA's clandestine prison program in Europe. ‘He also exposes to ridicule those arrogant government leaders in Europe who dismissed as unfounded our fears about 'extraordinary rendition,' the international transfer of suspects without judicial recourse."

And with respect to giving Congress its marching orders to pass Bushco-drafted legislation:, your Demon Princess especially enjoyed the coverage on PBS last night about the procedures & rules of evidence Bush wishes Congress would make legal (see also my previous posts about Kangaroo courts):

A Bush apologist, explainer & former counsel, Brad Berenson, illustrated for me the huge disconnect that's been going on here between most Americans' beliefs that we would only fight a just war justly, and the Bush Administration's insistence on clouding, obfuscating & stonewalling in order to capitalize on that core American belief & not to have to admit the truth that it hasn't been a just war, & it hasn't been fought fairly. One of their favorite tactics when cornered has been to tell the press, the public, and the courts (choose one), "We can't give you more specifics because it's: [a state secret], [sensitive information related to national security], [highly classified.]"

The aforementioned explainer, a faithful toeing the party line, said about the speech, “And I think that's because of a perception in the administration that, over the last few years, they have been taking a beating in the international community and, frankly, domestically as well, in part because they have had to fight with one hand tied behind their back.

“Because all of this information has previously been classified, it has really been difficult for them to demonstrate that the programs the president has put in place are not simply some sort of power grab by the executive; they're not pretextual; but, really, they are at the heart of what has kept us safe since 9/11; they have produced tangible successes; and that they are vitally necessary for continuing to fight the war.

“And I think this is sort of a coming-out party for the administration, where it is now engaging in the public -- in the public debate over this more robustly than it has.

“[Moderator] RAY SUAREZ: [to]“Eugene Fidell, a coming-out party?

“EUGENE FIDELL, PRESIDENT, INSTITUTE OF MILITARY JUSTICE: I -- I don't think I would have used that phrase.

“I think that what the administration has done is tried to grab or--take control of the conversation, in ways that it hasn't been able to over the last several years, for a variety of reasons. Whether this is more than a sort of rhetorical restructuring of -- of the debate remains to be seen, in my mind.

“The administration has taken a terrible beating, as Brad indicated, overseas. Within the country, there's been a lot of consternation, across the political spectrum, about the way events have unfolded. The ghost detainees, people who have been outside the reach of the International Committee of the Red Cross, people who have been the subject of the renditions that we have heard about here and elsewhere, these things have been extremely troubling.

“And I think one of the good things that can be said about today's announcement is at least there's something of a clean breast being made of the subject. The question now is, what happens next? What does Congress do? And what do the courts do?

“RAY SUAREZ: But you also heard Brad Berenson say a moment ago that the upshot of this legal push against the administration was that it was fighting the war against terrorism with one hand tied behind its back.

“EUGENE FIDELL: I don't agree with that at all. I think nothing has prevented the administration from putting its case out aggressively.

“I think it's done that. I don't think it's been particularly effective about it, but it can't say that its hands were tied. And what the president did today, the president could have done long, long ago, if he had felt it was necessary.

[With respect to Bush’s statements that the terrorists he presented to be tried & on what bases] …”I think these are really, really fundamental flaws. The notion that you might send somebody to the gallows or send somebody away for life after a -- quote -- "trial" in which at least some of the evidence, the accused has never been afforded an opportunity to see, or from which the accused has been -- for any part of the proceeding, been excluded from the courtroom, this is totally intolerable.

“And -- and it's also unnecessary. This is the really weird part about the administration's position. The current military law, like federal law generally, has procedures in place for dealing with classified information. Those procedures have been used in case after case. They have not proven particularly problematic, and I don't see any reason why they couldn't be employed here.

“Military justice is used to dealing with classified information. Now, the administration has proffered, in a number of respects, claimed that it is impractical to use the machinery set up for courts-martial in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the military disciplinary statute that governs courts-martial.

“However, all the administration bill does is assert it's impractical. It doesn't say why it's impractical. And I think one of the things that the justices of the Supreme Court expected was that a determination of practicability or impracticability requires more than a rote incantation of some formula. It requires some logical connection between facts and a conclusion. And the -- the administration's position does not have that conclusion, does not have that facts -- those facts.”

Demon Princess is left to wonder: will the voters forget that Bushco has lied, repeatedly, to them before, and that a man who lies with impugnity to serve his own ends will do so again & again unless he, & others sailing in his wake, are shown the door.

If so, reminder to them to check out this amusing interactive “Dishonest Dubya Doll:”

Ahem…you in the expensive business suit with the conspicuously & piously displayed American flag pin on your lapel: and you were saying?

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