Monday, October 31, 2005

Political Cartoonist Conrad's Latest Volley


The above is former Los Angeles Times Editorial Cartoonist Paul Conrad's take on the current condition of the Bush Administration. Clearly Bush tapped Judge Samuel Alito, Monday morning at 8:00am, for the Supreme Court in order to metaphorically get the heat off and help his Administration stop melting. Bush wants the media to talk about anything else other that his recent woes; it's so transparent. I hope the media won't buy in. I fear they will.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Initiatives: What were the Progressives Thinking?

In 1911 California Governor Hiram Johnson, one of the leaders of the Progressive movement, sought to draw "the people" more directly into public affairs and was able to convince the California legislature and the people to pass into law the initiative, the referendum, and the recall. What were the Progressives thinking? The upcoming special elections in California where the citizens are asked to vote in incredibly complex issues is nothing short of surreal. (Not to even talk about the money the special election will cost.) What it does illustrate is the hubris of Governor Schwarzenegger and how he’ll have to depend on showmanship to win the votes needed to pass the initiatives he is advancing. What a way to govern the most important State in the Union.

Originally the initiative was seen as a method to control the railroad "barons" in the early part of the century. In fact, the "barons" opposed the initiative but historically the initiative was not successful in controlling the power of the "barons." Today, special interest groups, very often, corporate, use the initiative to advance their economic and political agenda. These corporate interests often pursue policies that are anti social justice in nature. Proposition 13, here in California is an excellent example of an initiative that has not advanced social justice. By and large, the biggest winners with the passing of Proposition 13 have been corporate interests.

There is an inherent conflict between representative democracy and "direct democracy" (the American form) in any state that allows initiatives. After all the Founding Fathers of this nation and of this founders of this State structured a constitution where the citizens choose their representatives to the legislature and they, in turn, would enact the laws. In the States where Progressives were a powerful political movement a certain tension began as the initiative was adopted. Who governs became a serious concern? In fact, the Greek philosopher Aristotle, feared direct democracy--and for good reason, he believed it would ultimately degenerate into "mob" rule due to the prejudices of the citizens and the possibility of them being swept away by emotion. This is especially true when a community is confronted by severe economic hardships.

Then there is the problem of the complexity of the initiatives. I recently read the 2005 Official Voter Information Guide: Special Statewide Election, and even though I am a political scientist by training, I found it incredibly difficult to slog through the booklet. One has to be a specialist in public finance and an expert in the recent political history of California to know what is going on. I can just see the millions and millions of citizens eyes glaze over as they attempt to read this very complex book with very particular and esoteric language.

So what does the citizenry do? No, they don’t read the Voter Guide or try to analyze the issues, they, as political scientists would say, look for "cues." People will make their choice by trusting the people they trust and maybe, more importantly, who they distrust; enter the firefighters, the nurses, rescue workers, and the teachers in this volatile race, and they are used in vast mailers, television commercials, slate mailing and radio spots. This bodes well for the Democratic Party, as the Guvernator's popularity ratings are an all time low. One can easily see in this Special Election how "emotion" (popularity ratings) plays such an important role in "direct democracy," and in the long run I see this as very problematic. In this election the emotions of the citizenry are on the side of the Democrats but due to the vagaries of politics that will change some day--depending on the cause, economic situation, other uncontrolled conditions and the players--and Democrats will be unhappy. I guess I’m a republican (small r, people) at heart with Democratic Party core values.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Governing from the Center

President Nixon always believed that when you run presidential campaigns, if one is a Republican, you always run from the "Right," but when you get into office, in the main, you govern from the "Center." Sounds like good advice, especially since most of America is to be sure, "Moderate." Well, Bush has been trying to follow Nixon's advice somewhat, the nomination of Ms. Miers for Supreme Court Justice is a good example. But, radical "movement conservatives" just won't let Bush do that. Very scary.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

On the Ropes

It seems prez Bush is on the "ropes." Everyone in his admin is going off the wrong track and the media is so clued in. Bad news for this administration. Now we'll probably hear about media bias from Republican operatives. Right! Sure!

That will be a lot of bull. It takes common sense to realize that this administration as gone astray. Bad direction. It does not take rocket science to know that. Why? No leadership. End of story. The guy has always been a weak sister and we all know that!

The Lies and the Cover-Up: the Bush Administration in Action

By Lt. Col. George N. Giacoppe, USA, Ret.

The death of Democracy
Just may be hypocrisy
As leaders on high
Stand there and lie
And then say, “It’s not important”
But simply a portent
Of a world that has changed
We’re not deranged
But if truth makes you free
What does a lie make you be?

Fitzgerald is about to announce indictments for the outing of CIA agent Valarie Plame and the spin machine is in high gear. Senator Kay Bailey Hutcheson has not only tried to depress expectations for faithful Republicans, but has stated that perjury and obstruction of justice are simply “technicalities.” This is the same team of high-minded Christian icons that screamed for the impeachment of President Clinton for perjury on a matter of sex.

No after President Bush has clearly lied about the reasons for going to war, and his staff has been caught trying to punish Ambassador Joe Wilson for telling the truth. Maybe it is true that the truth shall make you free and lies will get you jail time…at least until the pardons sprinkle down from the throne of the Emperor. I am not sure that covering up Bush’s lies during the State of the Union address or the potential treason of the White House leakers deserves more attention. We are admitting that 2000 service men and women have been killed in Iraq and the administration lies daily that only by staying the course can we honor the fallen. That does not say a hell of a lot for those who are yet to fall or nor does it hide the likely outcome of a reprise of Nixon’s walkout on Vietnam. Unfortunately, we are all imprisoned by the lies of the White House. While the truth shall make us free, these lies have locked us into a no-win war where we all die a little more each day. Sorry, Kay. The lies and the cover-up are important. Don’t preach religion. Live it.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and her job

Well, it was super to see my political friend Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-46-Garden Grove, Calif.) performing a class act and questioned Ben Bernanke very tough today (the supposed new chair of the US Federal Reserve). That is so super! Go, go, go Ms. Sanchez. You did our Democratic Party proud. And, as you are a financial analyst by training, you are well qualified to ask the tough questions. Kudos Congresswoman!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Get Out the Vote

Hey Democratic activists (and a few others):

Let make sure we get out the vote next week. Please talk to all our friends and neighbors, please.

Also: this is from the prez of the Hubert H. Humphrey Club in the Cerritos-Artesia area in California, Alon.

Visit the following sites:
Hubert H. Humprhey Democratic Club, Cerritos-Artesia

Crooks and Liars (SNL post)

Randi Rhodes, Air America

God bless our wonderful state of California. As Father Charlie Ara would say, "We shall overcome."

In unity,
Lou Delgado
Cerritos, Calif.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Torture Question

By Lawrence DiStasi

Let it be said up front: I am ashamed of America. In my opinion, every American should be similarly ashamed.

The PBS show Frontline aired a powerful documentary last night called “The Torture Question,” and despite the fact that I have read extensively about Abu Ghraib and seen the photos and followed the show trial of Pvt. Lynddie England for her part in those abuses, I was still shocked and ashamed. And outraged.

There is no longer any question about this major fact: torture has been an established policy of the United States since the so-called War on Terror began. It has been considered at the highest levels of the Bush Administration. It has been the subject of new executive orders and Justice Department memos by administration lawyers, especially John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales (the latter having famously termed the Geneva Conventions “quaint”)—memos designed to bypass the Geneva Conventions and redefine torture to make it harder to violate strictures against it. And it has been aggressively pushed on reluctant generals and military lawyers by the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. Since torture is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, the administration was quick to label prisoners captured in Afghanistan “enemy combatants.” This meant that they were not protected as POWs, but inhabited some other category of captivity supposedly incurred by their ‘outlaw’ status as ‘terrorists.’ But the vindictiveness of this administration was still not satisfied, and so it formulated its plan to ship all captives from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. This supposedly put them beyond not only the constraints of the Geneva Conventions, but also the Constitution’s guarantees of due process.

The Torture Question makes plain that Guantanamo Bay was fully intended to be torture central. Its first commander, General Baccus of the Rhode Island National Guard, was soon judged to be too lenient, precisely because he insisted that his MPs respect the Geneva Conventions. He was replaced by General Geoffrey Miller, a no-nonsense disciplinarian who immediately tightened things up. Insisting on mickey-mouse routines such as the fact that every time soldiers saluted, they were required to utter a formulaic “Honor Bound,” General Miller instituted such “honorable” practices as the terrifying of prisoners with dogs, humiliating them with sexual contact and nudity, employing psychological techniques and medical records to break and intimidate prisoners, using hypothermic isolation, and countless other horrors. The code for this was “the gloves have come off,” as if what had been imposed on hapless prisoners before this had been wimp torture by Marquis of Queensbury rules. Significantly, instances of attempted suicide immediately spiked under Miller’s reign. Also significantly, the FBI personnel who visited and worked at Guantanamo began to keep logs of all interrogations to document what they clearly saw as potential war crimes. To a viewer of this, the sight and accounts of prisoners hooded, chained to the floor in their own excrement, and pulling their hair out in despair, was enough to induce rage, revulsion, and nausea.

With the United States invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the resultant accumulation of massive numbers of prisoners, the need for a large internment site led inevitably to the notorious Abu Ghraib prison where Saddam Hussein had held and tortured his victims. One might have thought that American leaders would have avoided this huge and desolate and accursed place, hard by one of the most dangerous neigihborhoods in Baghdad where it was subject to routine shelling. But despite the protests of the eventual commander of Abu Ghraib, the female General Janis Karpinski, that the place was inadequate to its task, the prison soon filled to capacity with Iraquis captured by the American occupiers. Like those at Guantanamo, the prisoners at Abu Ghraib were a collection of suspected insurgents and hapless civilians caught up in the confusion of war. Little seems to have been done to verify that such detainees were dangerous or in any position to know more than their names. The working assumption was simple: ‘they are Iraquis, “ragheads,” and so they probably know things that can help us find Saddam Hussein and pacify the country.’ The fact that such captives were, in fact, war prisoners and hence covered by the Geneva Conventions, seemed to make no difference. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, in a repeat of his procedure at Guantanamo, is portrayed as almost immediately haranguing the Commanding General in Iraq, General Sanchez, to stop pussyfooting around and produce more information. To implement this second “removal of the gloves,” Rumsfeld sent General Miller of Guantanamo Bay to Iraq. Soon thereafter, the horrors that the world would soon see in vivid color commenced at Abu Ghraib. Dogs, electric shock, beatings, bone breakings, sexual humiliation all became part of the interrogators’ arsenal.

Besides the shame and horror, one conclusion emerges from “The Torture Queston.” Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, is responsible for implementing and insisting on practices that reach the level of war crimes. If the tortures documented in this film were to be adduced in a legal tribunal, he would likely be judged, plainly and simply, a war criminal. All the generals beneath him, including the joint chiefs of staff and the commanding generals in Iraq, would likewise be guilty of war crimes. For it is not only those who actually inflict torture who are guilty. The Nuremberg Trials, which the United States initiated to try the Nazis who inflicted such horror on Europe in World War II, established the legal procedure for responsibility: those who command and control forces which commit war crimes are themselves guilty of war crimes. Though Hitler and Goering and Goebbels and Himmler may never have tortured or murdered anyone personally, they were judged to be war criminals nonetheless. Under this standard, the Commander in Chief of American Forces, George W. Bush, would also be vulnerable to charges as a war criminal.

The defense by these leaders, so far, has been that terrorism justifies any means to get information useful in protecting the American people. The claim has also been made that the torture documented at Abu Ghraib was unusual, carried out only by the “night crew” at that prison, and the responsibility of a few privates and sergeants and other “rogue elements” in that one prison at one short period of time. Those few people, like Lynddie England and General Janis Karpinski, have been tried and/or dismissed and demoted. The problem is therefore solved.

However, recent allegations by current troops in the 82nd Airborne Division have raised new suspicions that torture by American troops is far more common than the administration would have us believe. Again, Secretary Rumsfeld has tried to refute such allegations by asserting that the person who made them was simply repeating stories he had heard. In other words, this was not an eyewitness account. But one interviewee on “The Torture Question” gives the lie to these defenses. Spc. Tony Lagouranis, identified as a U.S. Army interrogator, recently retired, insisted time and again that torture is still going on in Iraq, and is routine policy among Army personnel. Finding a “culture of abuse” in Iraq, Lagouranis states plainly that he has witnessed American troops on raids regularly beating and torturing Iraquis in their own homes, and/or in shipping containers found throughout Iraq. They “smash people’s feet with the back of an axe-head,” and regularly break bones and ribs. He attests to his own use of working dogs to intimidate prisoners (being blindfolded, the prisoners cannot know the dogs are muzzled; terrified, they often wet themselves). He attributes such practices to the confusion inspired by the doubts about whether prisoners in Iraq deserve the protection of the Geneva Conventions, by the ever-present danger, and by constant urging from higher-ups to produce actionable intelligence.

“The Torture Question” does not conclude with a judgment about the guilt of the Bush Administration and the United States Armed Forces regarding torture. But it makes a strong case for the presumption that torture has been approved for use against Iraquis and any others captured in the war on terror at the highest levels of the U.S. Government. This in itself should be enough for all citizens to demand of their elected representatives a thorough accounting. The Secretary of Defense, the Commanding Generals in Iraq, the officers in charge of interrogations both at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the legal advisers who presented the case justifying the discarding of Geneva’s contraints, and the President who issued executive orders and who, as Commander in Chief, holds the ultimate responsibility—all should be required to stand before the bar of justice and explain how what has been inflicted on the prisoners taken in this most recent war, as well as on civilian populations, accords with both U.S. and international law. Nor would it be unwarranted, if they refuse, to use the instrument of impeachment to compel this accounting.

The shame, the suffering, and the death that has been brought upon this nation and those it has abused, demands it.

Former Governor Jerry Brown Fundraiser

Well a few days ago I was invited to a Gov. Jerry Brown fundraiser at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, Southern California. What fun. I chatted with the governor for at least 10 minutes. I just wish he was governor one more time. We need to support these great men and women who take civic duty seriously and get involved not because of "movie-star-type" ego (Governator) but because they care about responsibility to the all the citizens in the State, not just the fat-cats.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Battle Hymn of the Republicans

The following was sent to me by my friend, a public relations expert, Eileen Becker Salmas who lives in Los Angeles.

The author is unknown.

BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLICANS

(apologies to a truly great hymn)

Mine eyes have seen the bungling of that stumbling moron Bush;
He has blathered all the drivel that the neo-cons can push;
He has lost sight of all reason 'cause his head is up his tush;
The asshole marches on.

I have heard him butcher syntax like a kindergarten fool;
There is warranted suspicion that he never went to school;
Should we fault him for the policies - or is he just their tool?
The lies keep piling on.

Glory! Glory! How he'll Screw Ya'!
Glory! Glory! How he'll Screw Ya'!
Glory! Glory! How he'll Screw Ya'!
His wreckage will live on.

I have seen him cut the taxes of the billionaires' lone heir;
As he spends another zillion on an aircraft carrier;
Let the smokestacks keep polluting - do we really need clean air?
The surplus is now gone.

Glory! Glory! How he'll Screw Ya'!
Glory! Glory! How he'll Screw Ya'!
Glory! Glory! How he'll Screw Ya'!
Your safety net is gone!

Now he's got a mighty hankerin' to bomb a prostrate state;
Though the whole world knows its crazy - and the U.N. says to wait;
When he doesn't have the evidence, "We must prevaricate."

Diplomacy is all done!
Oh, a trumped-up war is excellent; we have no moral bounds;
Should the reasons be disputed, we'll just make up other grounds;
Enraging several billions - to his brainlessness redounds;
The Asshole marches on!

Glory! Glory! How he'll Screw Ya'!
Glory! Glory! How he'll Screw Ya'!
Glory! Glory! How he'll Screw Ya'!
The...Asshole...marches...on....

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Loyalty Uber Alles

Evildoers torture
But we do not
Not our culture
Not even a thought
We interview hard
And maybe use chains
For men in the yard
To check on their brains

Recently, Senator McCain and 90 additional senators placed an amendment on the Military Appropriations Bill that would have the US military use its own Field Manual and the Geneva Conventions with military prisoners. The deepest irony is not that the Senate did so, but that the amendment was needed by an Administration that is out of control. McCain can be a highly partisan politician, but he knows more about torture than all the George Bush, Alberto Gonzales and Donald Rumsfeld staff weenies put together. The Administration wants the “freedom” to use extraordinary methods. Now let us be clear. If we do not use the methods described in our own manuals, then what are the standards to be used by our military? Could it be that the War President wants fuzziness so that we can continue to prosecute nobody any higher than a sergeant? Whether it is the specific intention of the President or not, this does demonstrate that it is policy to have methods outside the law, and he is threatening to veto the appropriations bill because of it.

Now let me review all this. The President says that he does not want torture, but given the opportunity to reinforce already standing military policy that prohibits torture, he threatens a veto. What is most alarming about all this is that the whole world views the dozens of incidents in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo as the American Shame. How much longer can we use the excuse that torture was only the work of a few low level soldiers when the President refuses to reinforce the rules at a perfect opportunity? If we return to the first major investigation of Abu Ghraib by Major General Taguba, it was reported then that Major General Miller was sent to Abu Ghraib to “Gitmoize” the prison in Iraq. Internal investigation methods did not permit Taguba to fault Miller; still, the evidence was put on the record. If that does not connect the dots for you, perhaps the fact that 34 prisoners died in custody should. Also, identical illegal techniques were used in all three places. If this were the work of low-level soldiers, is it not a little unusual that they all used the same techniques? Maybe it was email in the ranks and not policy and maybe the Tooth Fairy has a dental clinic.

There is one bright spot in all this. Captain Ian Fishback, a West Point graduate, has taken it on himself
to report violations, first through the chain of command and then through the United States Senate. Unfortunately, the US Army is holding Captain Fishback in custody at Fort Bragg. The Army appears to be threatening him with charges. At each step along the way, commanders attempted to talk him out of reporting the torture he witnessed. Several Non Commissioned Officers corroborated Captain Fishback’s account and the Army is threatening him with charges for withholding information instead of conducting investigations that might demonstrate that the morality of this administration is as bankrupt as the Treasury. While this is nothing new in the Army, it reaches a new level of official misconduct. In my own experience when I supported one of my officers who had, in turn, supported a student officer who objected to some minor extortion (a couple cases of beer for the return of a guidon stolen by cadre), all hell broke loose and I was accused of not respecting tradition. In my twisted mind, extortion was not a tradition worth keeping, but things would have been easier if I had been loyal to the brass instead of the men and the law.

Maybe that is what all this is about. This President would prefer personal loyalty over truth and justice. Loyalty is his strong suit. Loyalty over competence. Loyalty over fairness. Loyalty over performance. Loyalty over the Constitution. Loyalty Uber Alles. We have a motto.