Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Disciples Ministers Jailed

Are Disciples unruly by nature? From our Disciples News Service:
Two Disciples ministers were among five clergy who went to jail for protesting low pay and scarce benefits for janitors in Indianapolis on May 17. Another Disciples minister was handcuffed but later released by police.

The janitors are trying to organize a local chapter of the Service Employees Union International (SEUI) with certain contractors, but have faced retaliation, intimidation and harassment from the companies they work for. Some companies have tried to discourage the employees that were attempting to organize a union by firing them, reducing their working hours so they aren’t eligible for health benefits and using other tactics.
The campaign has forced some businesses to sign agreements that improve the pay, benefits and working conditions of their employees. Executive Management Services (EMS) has resisted the pressure and been accused of retaliating against those workers that are fighting for change. The clergy group is meeting with companies who contract with EMS in an effort to persuade them to exert pressure on EMS to cooperate or to switch to another service.

Disciples minister Garnett Day said, “The Bible talks about the need to serve the aged, the vulnerable, the poor and the oppressed. They always come first in the mind of God. As people of faith, we have a responsibility to stand with those who are vulnerable in our society. In this case, it’s janitors whose wages are low.”

About 125 Disciples clergy have signed a "Statement of Principle," which calls on employers to pay janitors wages that will allow them to support their families. The statement also urges employers to provide benefits for their workers and seeks protections for employees that are trying to organize unions. You can read the Statement here.

I'm a (former) Hoosier and went to seminary in Indianapolis. The list of Disciples clergy reads like a roll call from my graduating class. Way to go, guys! I'm proud of you!!

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Kentucky Fried Creationism

(Hat tip to Nasturtium for the mock-up Enquirer.)

The Creation Museum opened yesterday in Petersburg, KY, a community located about 20 minutes from my church. (Actually just about everything in northern Kentucky is located within 20 minutes of the church, which probably speaks volumes about the world view in these parts.) The museum spokespeople say they hosted about 4,000 visitors and noted some of those were "naysayers." reports, however, that only 3,000 visited. According to our local news station, about 100 protestors held a "Rally for Reason" outside the entrance. They mentioned many of the protestors were scientists, but did not mention that Christians like local minister, Rev. Mendle Adams, pastor of St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Cincinnati, were also in attendance. Boone County's finest were also well represented just in case the protests were, um, unruly. And flying above all this spectacle was a small airplane with a banner proclaiming, "Thou Shalt Not Lie."

For the record, I did not go. Like most of you, I saw the photos of humans living peacefully together with dinosaurs -
Oh, wait, I mean this picture:

And I thought, "Why bother?" Sure it might be fun. But mostly it would be annoying. And who wants to pay $19.95 to be annoyed? Let me give an example. The museum asserts that dinosaurs existed in the garden and because the garden was created "very good" all animals would have been vegetarians. It wasn't until after the "fall" that dinosaurs got a taste for blood. And yet, they then proceed to claim that dinosaurs were on Noah's Ark. Well, this takes place well after the fall. I shudder to think of what carnage took place on that tiny ark. Maybe that's when the unicorns met their demise.

Indeed, The foundational premise of the museum is flawed. The museum purports to take the creation account as found in Genesis as literally and factually true. That is, that God created the world in six 24-hour days on a planet just 6,000 years old. But that only takes into account Genesis chapter 1. Before you get halfway through Genesis chapter 2, even the most literal Bible reader should be left with their unevolved brain spinning. Because, you see, Genesis chapter 2 contains a wholly different explanation for the creation of the world:

Genesis 1:1 - 2:4a

1In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

6And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

9And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. 12The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

14And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

20And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” 21So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

24And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. 25God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

26Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

29God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

2Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

4These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

Genesis 2:4b-25

4These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; 6but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— 7then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

8And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 10A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. 11The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. 14The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. 15The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.

16And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

18Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner.

21So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” 24Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.

So, apparently Genesis 1 is factually and scientifically true. Genesis 2? Not so much. Indeed, it's been my experience that folks have only read the first chapter of the first book of the Bible (and selected verses from Leviticus apparently). Last year I did a study of these two chapters with a group of 80 year old ladies and the majority of these women - lifelong churchgoers - had no idea there were two creation stories in Genesis. I suspect that Ken Ham and the Universal Studios guy who developed the museum never heard of Genesis 2 either.

The bottom line is that the Bible was never meant to be read literally. And the Bible is not a history book. Nor is it a science book. Rather, it is stories that attempt to come to grip with existential questions about life and death and how we should live in the world. It's power doesn't come from the "fact" that it is literally true, but from its ability to transform hearts.

The Clergy Letter Project (which I signed about three years ago) puts it this way:
We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

If you plan to visit the Creation Museum, kindly check your brain at the door.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

A Reason For Hope?

Pundit Predicts Mass Exodus of Corrupt Members

Here's some good news for a change. Ethics Legislation Easily Passes House (Washington Post)
Prodded by Democratic leaders and by freshmen elected partly on promises to clean up Washington, the House approved new ethics legislation yesterday that would penalize lawmakers who receive a wide range of favors from special interests, and would require lobbyists to disclose the campaign contributions they collect and deliver to lawmakers.

Party leaders and new lawmakers worked until the day before the vote to sway some longtime members who had balked at the proposals. It took weeks of persuasion by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other key lawmakers to convince recalcitrant Democrats -- among them some members of the speaker's inner circle.
Now that last little bit about the recalcitrant Democrats is of course not good news. Not at all. It points out what many of us have been saying all along - that some (not all, and probably not even most, but a significant number) Democrats are in fact DINOs, or as I prefer to think of them, stealth Republicans operating under a false flag. In short, politicians whose loyalty is not to the country or its people, but to the deep pockets of corporate campaign donors.

My thinking on this follows that of Michael Moore as expressed in his book Stupid White Men - in which he reminds us that if a Republican runs against another Republican in an election, a Republican will prevail. The fact that one of the Republicans runs with a D in front of his name doesn't change that. Or as the Rude Pundit expressed it,
"Now, as we well know, we're a Lieberman or two away from the kind of one-party rule that would have made Stalin say, 'Goddamn, wish I'd thought of that.' "
I personally think this practice should constitute treason, since it robs the voter of any significant choice. But I digress. Back to the good news aspect of this story.
From Think Progress:
Today, on The Chris Matthews Show, CBS News’ national political correspondent Gloria Borger claimed that the new ethical standards could cause a mass exodus of corrupt lawmakers from the House. “Watch for mass resignations from House members who are now saying they can’t afford to live here unless they’re bought and paid for by lobbyists,” said Borger. “They’re going to leave.”
Great! Don't let the door slam into your bloated double-wide ass on the way out. Now let's take it a step further and outlaw lobbying altogether. Hell, let's go all the way and do whatever it takes to remove big money from the equation for good. After all, as I see it the problem with having the best government that money can buy is that the worst possible government is one that can be bought.

So what I think the country needs is called publicly financed campaign funding. This puts people into government that actually want to serve their country, rather than be serviced by hookers, as quite a few corrupt politicians have been caught doing as part of their lucrative 'second career' in influence peddling. Are you worried you can't afford it? I think you can't afford to keep going the way you are.

Consider this. The 2008 presidential elections are expected to reach a dubious milestone, with each candidate spending a BILLION dollars or more. Let's assume that the taxpayer was burdened with this cost. In a nation of 300,000,000, that would be a little over $6.60 per person, for both candidates. Of course if there were public financing, the cost could be a small fraction of this. The only reason that each candidate is spending so much is that they fear being outspent by their opponent. Add in the much lower campaign costs associated with Congress-critters and Senators, and the bill would still be well under $50.00 per taxpayer.

Contrast that with the fact that, due largely to deficit spending and tax cuts for the wealthy, every man, woman and child is burdened with a collective public debt of $30,000. This is money that will eventually have to be paid back with interest, money that was spent on subsidies to huge multinational corporations, or on unjust wars, or on massive pork projects like Alaska's infamous 'bridge to nowhere.' Money that could have been spent better on something that would have had more value to the average American, like hospitals, public schools, roadways, water treatment systems, and all those other infrastructure items a country needs to sustain prosperity and well-being for its citizens.

So long as money rather than common sense drives policy in America, policy will continue to drive America off a cliff. I think it's time to apply the brakes.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Steal ThisThese Talking Point(s)

I am getting sick and tired of the left caving in to the most facile and specious arguments. These are frustrating times for sure, with the recent capitulation by the DINO party over war funding, and the breaking of news story after news story that just doesn't get reported on any of the Corporate Owned Media outlets.

So, here are a couple of talking points, or slogans if you will, just in case you get in an argument with one of the 28%-ers that are still sufficiently misguided or delusional enough to still support Bu$hCo™, the criminal enterprise that is posing as legitimate government in America.

First up, concerning the Prosecutors' Purge scandal. Anyone with a functioning brain should be able to refute the weak and un-American talking points that the Republicans are relying on in this case. I'm sure you've heard them. The ever popular, "Clinton did it too." Well, he didn't really. He replaced all the prosecutors when he first got into office, but that is normal. What is not normal is replacing prosecutors in the middle of their terms, as the Bush administration has done. And what is certainly not normal is the interference in the performance of their duties while in office, as Sen. Pete Domenici (R. -epulsive) and Rep. Wilson (R. -eprehensible) of New Mexico did. That is criminal obstruction of justice, and they should be charged with those felonies. So the statements that this is 'business as usual', or that these vital law enforcement figures 'serve at the pleasure of the pResident' can neither stand on their own, nor can they be propped up by any number of talking heads on FOX and CNN. The Constitution very deliberately created the judiciary as a separate, independent, and co-equal branch of government. Tampering with that formula is a big deal. Huge.

Here's your talking point, that I have been spreading around the comment threads here and elsewhere. It's yours to repeat as necessary until the other side finally listens. Better yet, it will demonstrate that you are a better American than your opponent. This is a slight modification of something you may have seen in comments here or elsewhere. I thought it time to flesh it out a little.
It's not just the Democrats, but the people themselves, who have become complacent to the point of complicity. Among the grave offenses listed against King George in the Declaration of Independence are these,
  • He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
  • He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
  • He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
Doesn't that italicized bit sound a lot like the Prosecutors' Purge to you?
That and other Declaration offenses - of which the current King George is equally guilty - precipitated the American Revolution. But the Patriots who created this country had a courage seemingly lacking in this generation. Listen to the national anthem, especially the last line. How can it continue to be the Land of the Free unless it is also the Home of the Brave?
Looking again at the Declaration, I see that George Bush has committed other listed offenses. His whole administration seems to be focused on nothing so much as the repudiation of the Constitution of the United States of America. I could have expanded my talking point considerably. In particular,
  1. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation.
  2. For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.
  3. For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury.
  4. For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences.
  5. For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments.
  6. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
Now how is it that these offenses, worthy of a Revolutionary War in 1776 are not now worthy at least of impeachment? Is it not time NOW to resort to that most profound statement in the Declaration? "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.."

The Right of the People. Not the Democratic Party. THE PEOPLE - who are the Constitution's, and the country's last line of defense. The historical parallels to eighteenth century America demand that the people act, and act soon. Perhaps even more, the parallels to Germany in the 1930s demand it.

Feel free to spread these points around. It's not really stealing after all. Last I looked, the Declaration of Independence was still in the public domain.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Saturday Video

This Rocks!
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John Boehner is So Emo

John Boehner went before the House and cried like a baby during debate on the Iraq War funding bill.

This behavior is particularly disorienting. If he's legitimately crying (he's not), then he buys the bullshit coming out of his mouth.

If he's faking, than he's using the deaths of those citizens to cleanse the taint of the Iraq War.

Boehner has long been one of the most distasteful politicians in an era thick with them. Posting on a politican's smarminess has been passé for some time. Congrats Boehner, you've become notably odious.

Maybe you can find us the next Terry Shaivo.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Tongue Truth Twisters

The Language of Deception

I have a few thoughts after looking over a number of posts about Monica Goodling's testimony Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Station Agent's post (Live Blogging Monica Goodling's Testimony) and this post from The New Republic both focus on the language that has been used by one after another of the Bu$hCo™ gang members as they struggle to wriggle off a sharp legal hook without breaking the law of Omerta (silence) that is at the center of their corrupt enterprise.
Asked whether her efforts to hire GOP-leaning prosecutors was legal or illegal, Goodling replied, "I don't believe I intended to commit a crime."

Now it's clear enough why she didn't say merely, "I didn't commit a crime." (In all likelihood, she did.) But why not say "I did not intend to commit a crime"? Why add one more level of uncertainty to her denial? I mean, she presumably knows whether or not she was consciously breaking the law. Why not either fess up or lie flat-out?

My first observation is that Goodling should not only have been sworn in on the Bible, it should have been opened to Exodus, ch. 20 and the passage from the ten commandments about not bearing false witness read to her. It's high time that someone in this administration learned that loyalty to George W. Bush does not supersede all other considerations. In Goodling's case I would prefer that she recognize her obligations to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law in general, but I'll take what I can get. Oops, I see that Jon Stewart has already made that observation about swearing in, although in a much funnier way than I could have.

TDS on Goodling Testimony

One constant in the testimony of all players in the Prosecutor's purge is the use of passive voice. In the Bush Justice Department, the tactic of avoiding responsibility is implemented through the linguistic legerdemain of things, 'just happening.' Nobody actually does anything. It's like the list of prosecutors to be fired magically appearing apparently out of nowhere. (*cough* Rove's office *cough*) Things, to use Biblical language, just "come to pass." I don't understand how anyone could fall for this ploy. "Mistakes were made", even though it is legalistic, still has the meaning, "somebody made mistakes", however you want to parse it.

A continuing meme that the administration is trying to push in this scandal is that there was nothing improper about how and why these prosecutors were fired and slated for replacement by the worst Bushbots available. So why all the secrecy as to what really took place? And why are all of the principle players in the Department of Justice so concerned with passing it off like a particularly hot potato? Even a legal dunce like Goodling is careful (though clumsily so) to avoid admission that she deliberately broke the law. I'm surprised her answer didn't include something like, "The law? Oh, you mean the LAW? Like statutes in that criminal code thingamajig!! Now I get it. I thought you were talking about the ten commandments. I would never break any of those."

It might have been her best bet.

UPDATE: Don't miss this Countdown video, courtesy of Crooks and Liars. Jonathan Turley and Keith discuss the slam-dunk case against Gonzales for witness tampering, per Goodling's testimony.

UPDATE, Mark II: Slate has this totally different take on Goodling's testimony, focusing in on how well Goodling played the 'little girl' card. From ruthless to innocent in one easy step.
What really shot Goodling into the stratosphere of baby-doll girls were her own whispered words: "At heart," she testified, "I am a fairly quiet girl, who tries to do the right thing and tries to treat people kindly along the way." [Late-breaking discovery, courtesy of a sharp reader: Goodling used the word girl in the written rather than spoken version of her testimony.] The idea, of course, was to scrub away her past image as ruthless, power-mad, and zealously Christian. But—as professor Sandy Levinson noted almost immediately over at Balkinization—it was in calling herself a "girl" that the 33-year-old did herself a great favor. It was a signal to the committee that she was no Kyle Sampson. Or Anita Hill.
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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Criminal Intent

Must-See Video
Updated and bumped, Saturday Midnight

Palast Video, Part II

Palast Video, Part III

OK, in case you were still wondering what the prosecutors' purge was all about, these videos from Greg Palast lay it all out. All the credit goes to BradBlog and Democracy Now! I was tipped by this comment from Chicagokid at Americablog.
Greg Palast exposes true intent, cover up and criminal acts of Bush administration's US Attorney scandal. In summary, it's about wrongfully charging Democrats with made up crimes in order to influence the outcome of elections. In other words, it's about stealing elections or subverting our democracy. Just more evidence of the Bush administration's stated goal of turning America into a one-party state. Which comes pretty close to meeting the definition of treason.
The evidence in part comes from 500 of the 5,000,000 emails delivered into Palast's hands due to a mistake by someone in the White House, who sent them to instead of Yet another smoking gun pointed at the very heart of the White House, but the big question is, will the wound even bleed? If the MSM once again fail to report this, as far as the American public is concerned, it didn't happen. And don't expect the Democrats to kick up a fuss, even though they are the injured party here.

Here's a quick partial transcript I typed up, the closing statements from part III.
Palast: He's [Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.] saying, and Iglesias is suggesting now with this evidence, that it rises now to
obstruction of justice.

Democracy Now: And interestingly, McClatchy newspapers reporting as part of the strategy the Justice Department Civil Rights Division, (reading) "has sought to roll back policies to protect minority voting rights - and [in] virtually every significant decision affecting election balloting since 2001, the division's voting rights section has come down on the side of Republicans."

Palast: Well, even worse, what's not covered there is that they covered up the active attack on legal voters. I mean, we're talking, these caging lists we have in the 500 sheets, the 500 emails - we have 70,000 names, that's one state. This is a multi-million dollar, gold-plated attack operation on the right of minority voters to vote. And obviously Griffin knew it because he was in charge of it. So you actually have the guys who are supposed to be protecting voters are either actively covering up, or even actually participating in knocking out legal voters. It's like the mob has grabbed the police department. That's the problem by the way with voter fraud, with real voter fraud, not the phony stuff of grabbing the Juan Gonzaleses of New Mexico. If you win, you've now grabbed the apparatus of protection and enforcement. It's the perfect crime.
Yes it is the perfect crime. But it seems unlikely that anyone in the Bush White House will ever be found responsible. As this post at C&L points out, things aren't actually done by responsible individuals at Bu$hCo™, they just 'magically' happen.

Feel free to express your outrage in comments.

Cross-posted to Ice Station Tango.

UPDATE: Head over to fellow unruly mobster Station Agent's homepage at Ice Station Tango for more on this, including a podcast of Greg Palast discussing the case with Randi Rhodes. Always a good place to chill out, but this podcast contains critical details about this story.

UPDATE, v. 2.0: Thanks to this diary at dKos (and thanks for the link BTW, Jamess), I am now aware of a series of short YouTube videos of Greg Palast and John F. Kennedy Junior speaking in New York on May 1, a lot of it on the subject of these caging lists. There is tons of information here, hopefully enough to put KKKarl Rove behind bars for a long time. Total viewing time 65 minutes, 45 seconds. I would agree with Jamess that it is an hour well spent. I will just link to the first in the series. You can add parts 2-6 to a quicklist from the 'related videos' column on the right immediately, you have to scroll down the list quite a ways for parts 7 and 8.

Palast and JFK jr. in New York, Mayday, 2007 - Part 1

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

And They'll Know We Are Christians... our bombs, by our bombs, yes they'll know we are Christians by our bombs.

Here I was all upset that my 'puter had crashed and that it would take weeks for TimeWarner to hookup my new dsl and that any thoughts I had on the passing of Falwell would by then be rendered obsolete. That is until I heard about the counterprotest being planned by at least one Liberty University student, Mark David Uhl, who apparently planned to use the devices to thwart protesters at Falwell’s funeral.

Naturally, my mind wandered to that other great christianist bomber who has apparently has signed a "nonlethal presidential finding" that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions.

Nonlethal. Hmmmm. Maybe that's because of the calming and loving influence of that other great christianist who counseled the nonlethal president on Iran just last week.
“You know, the President seems to me does understand this, as I told you from that meeting I had with him the other day, but even there it feels like somebody ought to be standing up and saying, ‘We are being threatened and we are going to meet this with force — whatever’s necessary.’”
Whatever force necessary. Makes me wonder if any of these peace bombers have actually consulted Jesus recently.

Certainly if anyone had reason to drop a bomb, it was Jesus. Sold out for a few coins by his best friend. Arrested on trumped up charges. Tortured. Tried in a kangaroo court in the middle of the night. So how did Jesus respond to this terror? He forgave his accusers. He forgave his torturers. He forgave his executioners. He made sure his mother would be cared for when he was gone. He even had a word of good news for a thief hanging with him.

But the President continues his saber-rattling towards Iran with the blessings of the Religious Reich. And one of Falwell's students brings a bomb to the funeral.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23a

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Why This Scandal Matters

A New York Times Editorial

I'm taking the extraordinary step of reprinting this NYT editorial in its entirety for a couple of reasons. First, that it is SO important that people understand what the so-called Prosecutors Purge scandal is about. And second because currently this article requires registration to view, and as a matter of NYT policy it will eventually become 'Times Select' material and disappear behind a paywall. So a mere link to the article would be insufficient. (Emphasis added.) - SBT
As Monica Goodling, a key player in the United States attorney scandal, prepares to testify before Congress on Wednesday, the administration’s strategy is clear. It has offered up implausible excuses, hidden the most damaging evidence and feigned memory lapses, while hoping that the public’s attention moves on. This story should not end until Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is gone, and the serious damage that has been done to the Justice Department is repaired.

The Justice Department is no ordinary agency. Its 93 United States attorney offices, scattered across the country, prosecute federal crimes ranging from public corruption to terrorism. These prosecutors have enormous power: they can wiretap people’s homes, seize property and put people in jail for life. They can destroy businesses, and affect the outcomes of elections. It has always been understood that although they are appointed by a president, usually from his own party, once in office they must operate in a nonpartisan way, and be insulated from outside pressures.

This understanding has badly broken down. It is now clear that United States attorneys were pressured to act in the interests of the Republican Party, and lost their job if they failed to do so. The firing offenses of the nine prosecutors who were purged last year were that they would not indict Democrats, they investigated important Republicans, or they would not try to suppress the votes of Democratic-leaning groups with baseless election fraud cases.

The degree of partisanship in the department is shocking. A study by two professors, Donald Shields of the University of Missouri at St. Louis and John Cragan of Illinois State University, found that the Bush Justice Department has investigated Democratic officeholders and office seekers about four times as often as Republican ones.

It is hard not to see the fingerprints of Karl Rove. A disproportionate number of the prosecutors pushed out, or considered for dismissal, were in swing states. The main reason for the purge — apart from hobbling a California investigation that has already put one Republican congressman in jail — appears to have been an attempt to tip states like Missouri and Washington to Republican candidates for House, Senate, governor and president.

Justice Department headquarters has become deeply partisan. Young operatives like Ms. Goodling were apparently allowed to hire and promote based on party membership. Political appointees cleared the way for laws designed to disenfranchise minority voters, and brought litigation to remove Democratic-leaning voters from the rolls.

The department’s integrity lies in tatters. As a result of the purge, Tim Griffin, a Republican operative and Karl Rove protégé, was installed as the top federal prosecutor in eastern Arkansas. Rachel Paulose, a 33-year-old Republican activist with thin prosecutorial experience, was assigned to Minnesota. If either indicted a prominent Democrat tomorrow, everyone would believe it was a political hit.

Congress has to save the Justice Department, something President Bush shows no interest in doing. It should pass a resolution of “no confidence” in Mr. Gonzales, and push for his removal. But it also needs to insist on new leadership that will restore the department’s traditions of professionalism and impartiality, and re-establish that in the United States, the legal system does not work to advance the interests of a political party.
Monica Goodling is testifying today about the prosecutors' purge. For best coverage, and live blogging, visit FireDogLake. Also, read THIS POST while there, the perfect complement to this NYT editorial.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"So Long As I'm the Dictator"

Bush is Getting All His Ducks in a Row

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier,
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just so long as I'm the dictator.
— George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Dec. 19, 2000

The state of affairs that then President-elect Bush desired even before taking office has come one step closer with the new National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive. To provide the White House with your IP address click here to read the official May 9th press release. No? That's smart of you. OK then, click here for the story from
The directive released on May 9th, 2007 has gone almost unnoticed by the mainstream and alternative media.. ..In this directive, Bush declares that in the event of a “Catastrophic Emergency” the President will be entrusted with leading the activities to ensure constitutional government. The language in this directive would in effect make the President a dictator in the case of such an emergency..

..The language written in the directive is disturbing because it doesn’t say that the President will work with the other branches of government equally to ensure a constitutional government is protected. It says clearly that there will be a cooperative effort among the three branches that will be coordinated by the President. If the President is coordinating these efforts it effectively puts him in charge of every branch. The language in the directive is entirely Orwellian in nature making it seem that it is a cooperative effort between all three branches but than it says that the President is in charge of the cooperative effort.
Yeah, right. In Bushspeak, as we all know, 'cooperation' means you submit to Bush's will, without the slightest compromise from him. A situation only likely to get worse after the disastrous 'compromise' the legislative branch just made over funding Bush's continuing war crimes in Iraq.

What is he afraid of anyway, that his lapdog Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will suddenly learn to stand up on his hind legs? That the very Supreme Court that sElected him as pResident in Dec. 2000 (made even more subservient by two more Bush appointees) will suddenly apply the rule of law over their Republican blood oath of loyalty? Or that the spineless Democratic Congress and Senate will suddenly evolve from their current status as free floating jellyfish?

Truth be told, even without this directive Bush is a de facto dictator already. With the power to arbitrarily name anyone, citizen of the US or not, as an 'enemy combatant' and have that person or persons incarcerated indefinitely without charges, habeas corpus rights, or access to an attorney, what more power does he need? Never mind that this power is entirely unconstitutional, as long as the Supreme Court refuses to hear a defining case on the matter, and as long as the police and military continue to accept Bush's chain of command as valid, it doesn't matter, does it?
It is insane that this directive claims that its purpose is to define procedures to protect a working constitutional government when the very language in the document destroys what a working constitutional government is supposed to be. A working constitutional government contains a separation of powers between three equally powerful branches and this directive states that the executive branch has the power to coordinate the activities of the other branches. This directive is a clear violation of constitutional separation of powers and there should be angry protests from our legislators about this anti-American garbage that came from the President.
I agree, there should definitely be angry protests over this. But there weren't angry protests over the Military Commissions Act, there weren't angry protests over Guantanamo, nor Abu Ghraib, nor the rendition program. Not only are legislators silent over these matters, but so are the execrable Corporate Owned Media bobbleheads, and most lamentably the American public themselves. Personally, I'm getting sick and tired of hearing or reading the phrase, "clear violation of constitutional separation of powers" practically every day with no-one voicing anything like an effective expression of disapproval. I know, there's been some clamoring, but I said effective.

Perhaps some new tactics have to be contemplated. Maybe if voters in some strong progressive states agitated for secession it might have some effect. The fact is, the compact promised in the Constitution of the United States of America has been broken. All it would take is a declaration of that fact from a few state legislatures, and at the very least some of Bu$hCo™'s most egregious malfeasance could be, I don't know, at least mentioned by CNN reporters or something.

In related news that I find nearly as lamentable is this analysis of a Scotusblog report on the prospect of one branch of government that has already fallen into Republican hands in a way that the 2008 elections cannot reverse. The next President will choose two or three Supreme Court Justices. Yeah, that's right. So as useless as the Democrats are showing themselves to be, the American electorate has no choice but to put them into power in '08, the consequences of not doing so being too grave to contemplate.
For those of you not inclined to plumb the depths of Supreme Court analysis, a brief summary:

1-The next President will select two or three new Supreme Court justices in his or her first term.

2-All three will come from the Court’s liberal wing.

This is disturbing in the extreme. I always knew this election would be important to the makeup of the court because, to a certain extent, every election is, and also because Justice Stevens is 87. What I did not know is that Justice Souter, at 67 a relatively young Justice, is itching to retire.
Yet another compelling reason for progressives to look to any and all means to find a way to block Bu$hCo™ from their nefarious aims. It's like Dr. Evil was President Dr. Evil or something.

I don't know. I'm grasping at straws here. I'm that desperate to find some way out of this mess. One thing I fear to be a sad and frightening truth, if progressives in America don't find a way to get their ducks in a row, and soon, it may very well be too late.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Impeach Now

MSNBC Poll Shows Overwhelming Support

Come on Congressional Democrats, get the lead out. Listen up. Get off the stump, and go to work, fercryinoutloud!! We are tired of lame excuses. Sure, you say that the narrow majority in the Senate would preclude a conviction, but at least consider the political upside.
  • You'd be wildly popular for showing some guts for a change.
  • The Senate trial would bring the issues of malfeasance before the American public in a way the media could not ignore.
  • Senators up for re-election in 2008 would be put on the spot. Could they vote to support an unpopular President after overwhelming evidence of criminal behavior had been presented in the news? I think not.
Those last two points are key to bringing normalcy back to politics in the United States. Without a healthy news media, you can forget about true democracy. As Abraham Lincoln pointed out, it is ESSENTIAL that the voter be given the true facts upon which to base his electoral decision. That hasn't been happening since Reagan gutted the Fairness Doctrine. A public trial of a sitting President and Vice President would be so important to the American public that even FOX "news" and ABC/Disney might consider reporting the facts for a change. If they don't, they can face the consequences of losing their broadcast licenses after the Democratic landslide in '08. And if you DO impeach, you can count on that landslide. Should they elect to lie or spin the news in Bu$hCo™'s favor, they could even face charges of involvement in a criminal conspiracy to subvert the process of democracy. And that's TREASON. (cue image of a blindfolded Rupert Murdoch being offered a cigarette)

Finally, there are many more GOP senators than Democrats in the 2008 cohort up for re-election. I think it's 21 and 12 respectively. (Update: It is. Click for a list.)That is a major opportunity to put a lock on the upper house that will last until 2014. To ignore such a golden opportunity hardly sends a signal to the public that you're in it to win it, now does it? Just the opposite in fact, it at least hints that you are complacent in;
  • the erosion of democracy
  • the rigging of elections
  • the subversion of Justice
  • the selling out of the middle class to corporate interests
  • being led lied into an unjustified, wasteful war of aggression
  • the WAR CRIMES this administration is guilty of
  • the suspension of habeas corpus
  • illegal wiretapping of citizens
  • torture and murder of uncharged 'suspects'
  • a wholesale culture of corruption that is basically 'government for sale'
There comes a point where complacency becomes complicity, and you are very near to that point, beyond it in the opinions of some. When Russ Feingold called for a motion of censure over the NSA wiretapping where were you? Most of you sat on your hands, and the issue died, along with the fourth amendment. A LOT of you supported the odious Military Commissions Act, the most blatant outrage against Constitutional principles since the Constitution was drawn up in 1787. And some of you supported the traitor Joe LIEberman against Ned Lamont, not only in the primary, but in the election itself, after the Republicans had endorsed him for Gawd's sake! I could go on. I could go on and on.

If you want to earn back our trust, you must impeach Bush, Cheney, and Gonzales.

YOU MUST IMPEACH!! Can't hear me?



Update: You simply must visit the comments thread on this post, where I have taken this argument considerably further on second thought. You really should visit comments on this site anyway, sometimes that's where the best stuff is happening.

Cross-posted to Ice Station Tango.
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Lies, Damn Lies, and John Fund's Take on the Economy

During a particularly painful episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, John Fund of the Wall Street Journal repeated the infuriating claim that the economy is performing very well. Mr. Fund, really, if you're going to go on TV and say crap like this, your newspaper may as well sell out to Rupert Murdoch after all.

Fund expects that perception of the economy driven by Wall Street's record breaking numbers, misleading unemployment numbers, and the country's consistent economic growth numbers will allow that kind of a claim to go unchallenged. I'm sure the Bush economic team had similar expectations when they decided that less reported indicators--ones related to the well being of a great majority of Americans--could circle the bowl for all they care.

Here are some real economic indicators that Fund didn't bother mentioning.
As Bill Maher quickly pointed out, the economy is good for Fund, and that is the problem, right there.

VIDEO: I don't agree with the way Ron Paul might pay the bills, but he sure knows a economic mess when he sees one.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Open Letter

From Gonzo's Harvard Law School Classmates

(Click to Enlarge)

This is one of the few posts that needs no commentary, except to give a HUGE tip of the chapeau to Pam at MUSINGS OF A WORKING MOM, for finding this and posting it there. I'm disabling comments on this post, so if you have a response visit Pam's place and post it there.

Answering the Tag(s)

A LONG Overdue Response.

There is an old story from the second of two campaigns for the presidency mounted unsuccessfully by Adlai Stevenson against the very popular Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike, after all, saved the world from the Nazis, or so everyone was told at the time. For his part Stevenson was an intellectual giant and an unabashed liberal. He was ahead of the curve in promoting the environment, equality of opportunity, and a secular government.

(Did you know that it was Eisenhower who is responsible for putting the phrase 'one nation under God' in the pledge of allegiance, and the words 'in God we trust' on American currency? Yeah, it surprised me too.)

We could sure use someone like Stevenson now. To get an idea of what kind of man he was, I went to for a sample of some of his words. He really had some great ideas and expressed them beautifully. He was way ahead of his time.

But back to my story. During a campaign tour, presumably during his second (1956) campaign, Stevenson gave a stirring and well thought out speech at one of his many venues. At the end of the speech, one member of the audience hung around for an opportunity to meet and talk to the candidate. "Mr. Stevenson," he gushed, "After listening to your ideas I don't know how any thinking American could possibly fail to vote for you."

Without hesitating, Stevenson responded, "I'm afraid I'll need a lot more people than that voting for me if I'm to have any chance to win this thing."

I would like to acknowledge the selection of Les Enragé not once, but twice for a 'thinking bloggers award.' The first time by Betmo at Life's Journey, the second by Moxie Grrrl. Here and Here respectively. And, respectively, the dates of these posts are April 26 and April 29, so I have to be a little shamefaced about responding so slowly. My only excuse is that the weather has been very good lately, I've had cabin fever after the long dreary Canadian winter, and I really need to walk off the 10 or 15 pounds I've put on over that dreary winter. Also, I was thinking over my response, which I wanted to be something that made you think no less than any other post here.

I chose the Stevenson story because what really tickled me about being tagged by these particular bloggers was that they themselves are very thoughtful, the kind of people who, back in 1952 and 1956 would probably have discounted Eisenhower's heroism and popularity, given Stevenson a listen, and voted for him on the merits of his positions and policies. That's what you're supposed to use your franchise as a voter to do.

In fact, I would go further to say that you have a duty to your country to do so, and you MUST do so if you expect democracy to continue in America. As Stevenson pointed out,
"As citizens of this democracy, you are the rulers and the ruled, the law-givers and the law-abiding, the beginning and the end."
And that requires that everyone develop the habit of thinking. Equally to the point,
"The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal - that you can gather votes like box tops - is, I think, the ultimate indignity to the democratic process."
The point I'm trying to make if there is one, is that it's easy to get those people already in the habit of thinking to think some more. But we collectively have to work on finding a way to get those people who don't think much to think at least a little bit. Adlai Stevenson was the first Presidential candidate to fall victim to a tactic that has gained way too much traction in the current political arena. The idea that it is somehow wrong to be smart. In a global economy that hinges on intellectual property, this is tantamount to national suicide.

Some snippets from the Wikipedia article on anti-intellectualism. You should really look at the original article - it helps explain a lot of what's going on, from the fight to put Intelligent Design into the classroom, right to the morons that currently pose as journalists on TV.
Anti-intellectualism will often be expressed within communities through declarations of Otherness, that is, intellectuals will be said to be 'not one of us'..

..Although a variety of religions have rich intellectual traditions, some rely on arguments from authority that are not independently verifiable, along with a somewhat common tendency to reject secular critical traditions.It is more common for fundamentalist wings of a religion to harbor anti-intellectual sentiments, due to a tendency to reject that which runs contrary to their religious beliefs..

..Anti-intellectualism is often used by dictators or those seeking to establish dictatorships. Educated people as a social group have often been seen by totalitarian elements as a threat because of the tendency of intellectuals to question existing social norms and to dissent from established opinion.. ..Because many intellectuals refuse to embrace nationalism, they are also commonly portrayed as unpatriotic and subversive..

..intellectuals are presented as elitists and tricksters whose knowledge and rhetorical skills are feared, not because they are useless, but because they may be used to hoodwink the ordinary people, who are conceived of as the 'salt of the earth' and the source of virtue. President George W. Bush has used an appeal to this type of populism..

..Scientific and technological learning may be given a grudging respect; but the arts, literature, philosophy, and similar cultural pursuits are all considered a waste of time and money at best, and subversive at worst. Those who pursue them are supposed to inhabit an 'ivory tower' of academia, full of grand plans whose practice is seen as impossibly flawed..

..Conservative commentators such as Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh commonly argue that conservative politicians, particularly Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, have been attacked by media as being "incompetent" - this can be understood as an accusation of intellectual snobbery by the media. O'Reilly in particular is well known for having a hostile attitude towards what he calls the "Ivy League Elite." The word "intellectual" itself has been used as an insult by many on the right.
Just think of the polemics against Al 'Braniac' Gore and John 'Patrician' Kerry in the last two Presidential elections and you get an idea of how desperately the conservative movement wants to turn America against anyone who might actually be competent to turn the country back onto a path of recovery from their disastrously stupid policies.

VIDEO: Bill Maher - Liberals Have to Take the Word 'Elite' Back

Passing on the tag, I can easily select Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy, as standing head and shoulders above the rest of the field. Truly erudite. I also find Fade at House of the Rising Sons to get my intellectual juices going on a regular basis, as does Jolly Roger's crew at Reconstitution. I'm going to break the unwritten rule and give the nod to Station Agent at Ice Station Tango, whose contributions help make this blog so thought-provoking. Hope Springs a Turtle's Deep Confusion also stands in the warm glow from Diogenes' lantern.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Fearless Fosdick Presidency

As a kid I loved Al Capp's long running and very popular comic Li'l Abner. Li'l Abner himself had a favorite comic strip he read, called Fearless Fosdick, a parody of another popular comic of the time, Dick Tracy. While Tracy was upstanding, stalwart and fearless, Fosdick was naive, feckless and blindly loyal to authority. Kind of like Alberto Gonzales, or countless other Bu$hCo™minions.
Fosdick was introduced on Sunday, November 2, 1941, as Li'l Abner's "ideel" — not just a favorite comic strip character, not just a role model, not just an object of abject, undying worship, but his ideel itself, so tough that on the rare occasions he isn't wearing his black suit, he pins his badge to his bare chest. For the duration of that storyline in Abner's United Feature Syndicate comic, Abner's emotional roller coaster was tied to the ups and downs of Fosdick's adventures in Dogpatch's newspaper. Its happy conclusion, amid piles of bullet-riddled corpses of innocent bystanders, brought euphoric glee to the enraptured boy. (from
Fosdick's most memorable attribute though, was his response to being wounded.
Fosdick was a farcical and guileless hack and was never simply wounded. Perpetually riddled by flying bullets, Fosdick's enduring trademark was the Swiss cheese bullet holes revealing his truly two-dimensional comic strip body. (Li'l
- Kind of like Alberto Gonzales, his Department of Justice, or for that matter the entire Bush administration. No matter how many political wounds they endure, no matter how bullet-ridden their credibility, they somehow soldier on, declaring the most damaging revelations not worthy of consideration. 'No problem, it's only a flesh wound.'

The question needs to be asked, and asked repeatedly until a solid answer emerges, how the heck are they surviving? Because, unlike Fearless Fosdick, the Bush administration is not a cartoon within a cartoon, although it appears to be at times.

The short answer is that for six long years they enjoyed no effective oversight whatsoever, with both houses of Congress controlled by the Republican/fascist party. Worse, even since the Democrats have taken control, their investigations can't get any traction in the mainstream media, particularly on television news.

I reluctantly took a break from writing my latest post, on James Comey's revelations about the Justice Department's declaration that the NSA warrantless wiretapping program was illegal back in 2004, and the dramatic hospital bed meeting between Gonzales and then AG Ashcroft, to see what CNN had to say about it. So what did li'l Wolfie have to say on The Situation Room? Nada. Zilch. Bumpkis. Diddly Squat. NOT A PEEP about this story!! What happened to 'if it bleeds, it leads?' Comey's testimony has been described as being "like the script of a Hollywood movie."

But never mind the editorial imperative to make this a major story based on its 'infotainment' value. This is a story about the government repeatedly and knowingly breaking the law, and doing so in order to tread on the rights of US citizens. Constitutionally protected rights. This is EXACTLY the type of story that the fourth estate has the highest duty to pursue.

Like countless other stories that should have brought the Bush government down but didn't, the broadcast media are effectively misinforming the public by simply not informing them. It's as if they had reported the Hindenberg explosion as "some of the passengers' luggage went missing." It is the journalistic equivalent of the philosophical question, 'if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?'

It turns out that the democracy that theoretically, ostensibly, purportedly, supposedly exists in America is anything but. When the government is repeatedly allowed to say one thing but do another, to break the law and tread on the rights of ALL Americans, what you have is a LIE-ocracy, a form of government based entirely on deceit. This is not what America is supposed to be about. It looks more like another Li'l Abner fiction, Lower Slobbovia.
As wretched as existence was in Dogpatch, there was one place even worse: faraway Lower Slobbovia.. ..There was no visible civilization, no money, no hope. The politicians were even more corrupt than in Dogpatch. Conditions couldn't be worse.
With both political parties AND the media under the firm control of a small group of multinational corporations, there seems to be no political wound that will be fatal to this farcical, feckless government. I am reminded of a line from the Elvis Costello song, Watchin' the Detectives;

They beat him up until the teardrops start,
But he can't be wounded 'cause he's got . no-oh-oh . heart.

He's got no heart.

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The Iraq News

Congress Doesn't End War, Iraq Near Collapse, Embassy Not big Enough, Snow on the War Czar, Prince Harry Out, Harry's Butler In? More

Another vote to end the war tanked big time despite the support of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (she flopped around a bit). G-Spot Magazine, which is where I go for all my heavy duty news, in light of the government's unwillingness to carry out the will of the people, quoted the great Emma Goldman, "If voting made a difference, it would be illegal."

Here's The Iraq News:
VIDEO: The full documentary, Iraq for Sale.

Crossposted at IST.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Smoking Gun

"Showdown With the Justice Department"

Alberto 'Abu' Gonzales has a lot to answer for. The Prosecutors' Purge scandal, NSA wiretapping, signing off on torture at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, the illegal use of National Security Letters by the FBI. In his position as White House Counsel, and later as the Attorney General of the United States, if anything stunk to high heaven in the Bush administration, it has had an intimate connection to 'Electrode Al.' (nickname courtesy of Jolly Roger at ReConstitution)

The latest story breaking today is from yesterday's Senate Judiciary Committee testimony by James Comey, who was the Deputy Attorney General during John Ashcroft's tenure in that post, prior to Gone-zo assuming the job. There have been a lot of ugly stories associated with the BushCo™ manipulation of the Justice Department, but I think this one sinks to a new low. Desperate to have the Justice Department sign off on the infamous NSA wiretapping program, Gonzales and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card met with the gravely ill Ashcroft in the hospital to seek his signature approving the program.
From the New York Times:
"President Bush intervened in March 2004 to avert a crisis over the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping program after Attorney General John Ashcroft, Director Robert S. Mueller III of the F.B.I. and other senior Justice Department aides all threatened to resign, a former deputy attorney general testified Tuesday..

..[Acting Attorney General James B.] Comey provided a fuller account of the 48-hour drama, including, for the first time, Mr. Bush’s role, the threatened resignations and a race as Mr. Comey hurried to Mr. Ashcroft’s hospital sickbed to intercept White House officials, who were pushing for approval of the N.S.A. program.

Describing the events as “the most difficult of my professional career,” Mr. Comey appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of its inquiry into the dismissal of federal prosecutors and the role of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Several lawmakers wanted to examine Mr. Gonzales’s actions in the N.S.A. matter, when he was White House counsel, and cited them to buttress their case that he should resign.

Mr. Comey, the former No. 2 official in the Justice Department, said the crisis began when he refused to sign a presidential order reauthorizing the program, which allowed monitoring of international telephone calls and e-mail of people inside the United States who were suspected of having terrorist ties. He said he made his decision after the department’s Office of Legal Counsel, based on an extensive review, concluded that the program did not comply with the law.
Glenn Greenwald, who has been all over the NSA warantless wiretapping program since day one, raises some interesting points in his post today on the subject.
The overarching point here, as always, is that it is simply crystal clear that the President consciously and deliberately violated the law and committed multiple felonies by eavesdropping on Americans in violation of the law.

Recall that the only federal court to rule on this matter has concluded that the NSA program violated both federal law and the U.S. Constitution, and although that decision is being appealed by the Bush administration, they are relying largely on technical arguments to have it reversed (i.e., standing and "state secrets" arguments) and -- as has been true for the entire case -- are devoting very little efforts to arguing that the program was actually legal or constitutional.

Yet even once Bush knew that both Aschcroft and Comey believed the eavesdropping was illegal, he ordered it to continue anyway. As Anonymous Liberal wrote yesterday:
That's a rather stunning fact, and one that I wish at least a few mainstream journalists would attempt to grasp the significance of. The White House authorized a program that everyone of significance in the Justice Department had determined to be lacking any legal basis. They willfully violated the law.
Even The Washington Post Editorial Board -- long tepid, at best, concerning the NSA scandal -- recognizes that Comey has offered "an account of Bush administration lawlessness so shocking it would have been unbelievable coming from a less reputable source." And as I documented yesterday, these "shocking" revelations were long concealed due to Alberto Gonzales' patently false assurances that the testimony of Comey and Ashcroft -- which Democrats on the Senate Judiicary Committee sought last year -- would not "add to the discussion."
Yesterday he posted on the year-long effort by Gonzales to block Comey from testifying at all. No wonder!! This is as damaging a revelation as has come down the pike yet, and that is a high bar to pass in this administration.

The YouTube video (Courtesy of Politics TV, via TruthDig) of the testimony is riveting, to say the least. Comey describes a situation where several Bush political appointees, including Ashcroft, FBI director Robert Mueller, and Comey himself were all threatening to resign unless Bush modified his program to somehow bring it in line with the law. Perhaps the most compelling part of the testimony was when Andrew Card phoned Comey and asked him to come down for an interview about the incident in the White House. Comey's response was that he didn't think it appropriate to talk to Card 'after the behavior he had just seen' without a witness in the room, and that that witness should be the Solicitor General, Ted Olsen. And then there's the matter of Mueller instructing the FBI that Comey was not to be removed from Ashcroft's hospital room under any circumstances. As Greenwald points out, "Comey and Mueller were clearly both operating on the premise that Card and Gonzales were basically thugs."

Bottom line: Comey's story is a smoking gun, amply demonstrating not only that Bush was breaking the law (as ruled by Federal Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor), but that he knew that he was breaking the law, based on the Justice Department's own analysis. That stinks to be sure, but what will grab the public's attention is the high drama of the confrontation between Comey and Gonzales (with Andrew Card) in Ashcroft's hospital room. No-one will be able to ignore the slimy actions of someone who would try to take advantage of a desperately ill man under heavy sedation to get their way. As Anonymous Liberal put it, “Comey’s testimony today reads like the script of a Hollywood movie."

I would so love to be a reporter in the White House scrum, and ask Tony Snow about this. After the usual response that there was nothing improper about this conduct, my follow-up question would be, "If this was really on the up-and-up, why didn't you just issue a press release on the matter at the time?"

A couple of points I haven't yet seen in any of the other blogs (hey, I have to contribute something original) - When Judge Diggs Taylor ruled the NSA program unconstitutional and CRIMINAL, her injunction that it be discontinued immediately was stayed on the grounds that the DOJ held the activities to be justified under the AUMF. It turns out this was not so. Shouldn't the administration be held in contempt of court for their deliberately misleading the judge on this matter?

And, as I've mentioned before - Gonzales doesn't seem to have noticed that his duties were supposed to have changed when he went from being White House Counsel to his current post as Attorney General. When you see how fervently he worked in his previous post to circumvent the law, it becomes obvious why Bush wanted him in the A.G. post. Could the nomination of Harriet Miers have been a red herring? All he (Rove?) would have had to do is plant the idea in a few Republican Senators' ears to voice opposition to her. Bush then withdrew her name and substituted Gonzo. As if he didn't want him there in the first place.

UPDATE: Crooks and Liars has this piece from Countdown with Jonathan Turley commenting about this. Says Turley,
“I don’t know of a more clear potential charge of impeachment within the modern presidency.”
The FISA laws were enacted specifically to restrict a President from unwarranted spying on Americans, so I don't see how anyone can argue that any 'inherent' (ie unwritten) powers under the Constitution allow him to break the law. Another interesting point that Turley, a constitutional scholar, brings up. The Republican-dominated Congress that has been giving Bush a pass through all this has not only the authority, but also the RESPONSIBILITY of oversight when the administration is seen to be breaking the law. Republican asshats like ex-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Arlen Specter are guilty of a serious breach of their duties and OBLIGATIONS under the constitution.

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