Saturday, February 25, 2006

United Arab Emirates: Worse Than You Thought

The War Prez is true to his sport
And now can bring war to our ports
With terror at home and away
As a new form of play
With Dubai at our feet
We’ll have warlords to beat
And we’ll outsource Logistics
And plan with our mystics
While making some hay
By selling away
The home of the brave
To the UAE with her slaves

Lots of good Americans are wondering how the best politicians that money can buy including Snow and Bush himself could go so far into power and ego as to have selective memory on the UAE. Perhaps Bush feels a need to move us firmly into the 18th Century and the days of princes and slaves. Camel jockeys alone account for about 40,000 slaves in the UAE. The wealthy there buy boys as young as two to race on camels as early as age four. They are bought in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India for about $3,000 each and fed as little as possible to minimize the weight on the camels being raced. Of course, young girls are bought to be used as child sex slaves for the rich of Dubai. I guess that King George overlooked that since he has promoted these scions of sin to these United States. King George has claimed that he wants to bring democracy to the Middle East, yet the UAE has never held an election. There is a new twist on the old question. How can you tell when Bush is lying? It is when Scott McClellan is moving his lips.

As you may recall, two of the suicide hijackers in the 9/11 attack were UAE citizens. The UAE was one of only 3 nations in the whole world that recognized the Taliban in Afghanistan. UAE money financed the training of the UAE hijackers here in our United States. Millions of dollars were laundered through Dubai banks to support bin Laden and, in fact, the US attack planned on bin Laden in 1999 was called off because he was meeting with the princes of the UAE at that very moment and we did not want to hurt the princes or the Bush I investment deals. Al Qaeda and the UAE princes are banking buddies and, of course, George Bush Sr. is an investment buddy of the bin Laden family through the Carlisle Group. If this does not model on the royal privilege of the 1700’s, it is close enough for government work.

The "foreign company" that Bush has defended is not a private entity, but a direct arm of the sovereign UAE, the princes and the slave-holders. If we do not do business with Cuba that is 90 miles from our coast based on principles, what does this say about bringing the corruption of Dubai to our shores? We select our principles? Poor Cubans bad; rich princes good? There are no human rights in the UAE, but the Emirates have enough money to attract investors like Bush and Snow. Incidentally, the administration has probably lied about the scope of the deal and what was originally reported as a contract for 6 ports is now 21 ports. I guess that Bush’s dog Barney ate his homework. Even in a pass/fail system, Bush flunks this one.

As a token of respect and privilege for the princes of Dubai, the Administration has agreed not to require the UAE to keep its business records on US soil. This means that we have no audit trail. We have no way to trace the money or the manifests or the communications to the bank that has already been caught financing terrorism in the US and in Afghanistan. With no audit trail, we will have no way to demand production of paper for a court or even for a Congressional investigation. We should trust them based on the administrative skills that led us through Katrina. The license to the UAE becomes a license to steal and to kill. Bush, consistent with his Pharmaceutical Protection Act (Medicare, Part D) provides for government exclusion from control. If the Coast Guard cannot demand a manifest or a bill of lading, how can it defend us from a repeat of prior UAE support of our enemies? Maybe security is not a priority, but WAR is a priority.

Allow me to offer a few reasons beyond the usual Bush incompetence:

1. Cronyism. The sport of kings and princes (along with camel racing).
2. Union busting. The living wage is a 20th century anachronism. Slaves are cool.
3. War is good for business and the UAE is a trusted broker for profiteering.
4. No audit trail means no impeachment trial. Plan for success now.
5. Democracy is for Iraq, not for Palestine or the UAE.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Again: What Liberal Media?

Yes, journalist Eric Alterman reminds us one more time about the non-existent so-called Liberal media.

Please see here.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Donna Shalala, Hypocrite of the Month

faux Democrat
Did you hear about Donna Shalala, the former Secretary of Health and Human Services under the Clinton Administration?

Well these days Dr. Shalala, as president of University of Miami, is battling campus janitors who, God forbid, are trying to unionize in order to bargain for living wages and health benefits.

Wow, doesn’t Shalala, a life long Democrat, believe the role unions play in order to bring about a just society? I think she is clueless and/or a complete sellout. No two ways about this issue.

Currently the janitors make as little as $6.40 per hour and have zero, yes, zero health benefits. Shalala on the other hand makes over a half a million per year. Moreover, the university is not hurting for money and has recently raised over one billion dollars in a single fundraising drive. Woman, I ask, what happened to your Democratic values?

The irony: Shalala's 9,000 square-foot digs, paid by the university, was featured recently in the New York Times magazine. The article shows off her Coral Gables estate and discusses her other worldly possessions including the fact that her dog "Sweetie" has four dog beds. This case makes her the top candidate for the hypocrite of the month.

In unity, carajo!

Sí se puede.

For more information read here.

Uber blogger Wonkette has a super take on the topic here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Tone Deaf Bush

Bush has fallen into some very hot, if not boiling, political water with his proposed approval of the purchase by Dubai Ports World, a United Arab Emirates owned firm, of the London based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which runs six major United States ports. Bush even threatens a veto if Congress takes any action preventing the sale. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) calls the move foolish and said the Bush Administration was "unbelievably tone deaf politically." To quote the great fictional moral philosopher Forrest Gump, "Stupid is what stupid does."

The ports involved are very important and vital to our economy. They include some of our busiest: New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

The bipartisan angst felt about this issue brings about a good question: Why should we worry? Well, the company that will run the ports can select the personnel of their choice and have oversight of the cargo brought into the country. Moreover, the firm will have complete knowledge of the security plans along the eastern seaboard--an inviting opportunity for any terrorist organization with proactive plans that have hatred towards the U.S.

Rep. Edward Markey, (D-Mass.) said:
Almost none of the cargo that enters our ports is ever inspected. While the federal government is ultimately responsible for security at ports, much of the day-to-day security responsibilities, such as hiring security guards and ensuring adequate access controls and fencing are in place, are delegated to the companies that operate at the port.
Yet, the Republican in Congress will not go quietly into the night on this issue. They’re ticked off and are willing to challenge the Bush Administration on this strange decision. In fact, House Speaker Hastert called for an "immediate moratorium" to be placed on the deal. Oh, oh, those sound like fighting words.

We have enough problems in combating terrorism domestically to add another headache to worry about. As such, this issue is a winner for Democrats, and we can rightly make the case that we’re tougher on security issues than the Bush Administration. Dems can rightly argue that Bush allowed "bombs in a box" to be potentially brought into the country by outsourcing the management of ports.

We have a winner folks.

Update: Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly blog has a diferent take. See here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Jeff Parker Captures Bush in Action

We have another super political cartoon from Jeff Parker who is with Florida Today.

Mr. Parker captures Bush true interests in this drawing, and it’s not the same interests of the men who wear the uniform in our armed forces.

For more of Jeff Parker please visit here.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Republicans: Have You No Sense of Decency?

Photo: Senator Jay D. Rockefeller IV

In 1954 during the contentious Army-McCarthy hearings, Army general counsel Joseph Welch reprimanded daffy Senator McCarthy by saying, "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

The recent illegal domestic wiretapping inquiry by the Senate has been stonewalled by GOP operatives from the White House working in conjunction with Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. I say it's fair to ask the same question in this instance, "Chairman Roberts, have you no sense of decency."

Sen. Jay D. Rockefeller IV (D-West Virginia) said that Sen. Roberts had abdicated his responsibility as the leader of the committee that is supposed to oversee the intelligence activities in the Unites States. Clearly an important job if one believes in oversight and the proper role of Congress.

One could easily conclude that there is no separation of powers when it comes to the Republican controlled Senate. It appears the Senate is beholding to the executive branch, as the Intelligence Committee under the leadership of Roberts, seems under the commander-in-chief’s spell.

There is still hope for Americans who believe in justice as Congresswoman Heather A. Wilson (R-New Mexico), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, is considering its own inquiry. As they say in pop culture, “You go girl.”

On the bright side these conservative Republicans are giving lots of ammunition to Democrats running for office this year. This election cycle will be an interesting one politically. Let’s hope Americans eschew jingoism and an extreme nationalistic mentality for the sake of our Republic as envisioned by our Founding Fathers.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Republican-English Dictionary

Over at The Reality-Based Community Blog there is a super post by Mark Kleiman named "Entries from the Republican-English Dictionary." It's a complete hoot.

Two of my favorites are:

*class warfare/ n./* Any attempt to raise the minimum wage.

*pro-life/ adj./* Valuing human life up until birth

There are so many other good ones.

Check it out here.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Deadeye Dick

The more we hear about it, the more it becomes clear that Vice-President Cheney’s mishap, wherein he shot his hunting companion, Harry Whittington, stands as the perfect metaphor for this administration.

Consider: Here we have the man who, as Vice-President, is arguably the most powerful VP in United States history, one who is in large part responsible not only for the rush to invade Iraq without provocation, but also the man in charge of what Lawrence Wilkerson, military aide to Secretary of State Colin Powell, calls a "cabal" operating out of his office. He is the man who snarls and snaps not only in secret but also in public; a man whose office "outs" CIA agents in order to punish the perceived disloyalty of their husbands. He also may be responsible for a lot more that we don’t know about, or at least don't yet have proof of.

And yet, this is the man who has so little regard for the rules that he simply whirls and fires at an alleged quail and whacks his 76-year-old companion dressed in orange jacket and in the line of fire. And then keeps it secret for a day or two, while his minions try to make sure the story will disappear. Only it doesn't. Whittington ends up in the intensive care ward, is said to be happy and jolly and certainly not holding the Veep responsible, until suddenly, he has a heart attack and we find out the shotgun pellets not only pierced the skin, but one pellet has migrated into the heart!

Our Vice President shot his friend in the heart.

This is the man we are supposed to trust. This is the man whose selection as VP was supposed to assure us that even though George W. was a rookie, Dick Cheney was a veteran, cool, calm, collected, "old reliable" who would be capable of engineering both foreign and domestic policy. Only that the game plan began to unravel as early as 9/11, when, during the chaos following the initial attacks, we find that it was "old reliable" Cheney who ordered the planes that finally scrambled to "shoot to kill" flight 93.

Flight 93 which eventually crashed in a Pennsylvania field, supposedly brought down by the heroics of the passengers on board. Only now, perhaps we have to revise our notions. This is, after all, the "chicken hawk" so eager to get off a good shot and prove his manhood that he shoots his companion.

It’s all almost too symbolic. The old reliable "chicken hawk" the man too busy for such mundane matters as military service‹turns out to be trigger-happy. And if that doesn't symbolize and epitomize American foreign policy since the Bush administration took office, I don't know what does. The man and all he represents is a clear and present danger to himself, to his friends, to our country, to the entire world. At the very least, Deadeye Dick should resign.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Keefe on Cheney

Mike Keefe, an award winning political cartoonist with the Denver Post, explains why VP Dick Cheney was able to dodge the draft back in the 1960's. Forget that going to school business.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Congress Blames Homeland Security Dept.

Photo: Rep. Shays (R-Conn.)

A U.S. District Judge ruled that FEMA could evict 12,000 families staying at hotels, all causalities of America’s worst natural disaster: hurricane Katrina. It’s another example that the US government cares little about its citizens. The feds are more concerned about waging idiotic wars in far away lands and spending billions and billions on arms and fattening the coffers of companies like Halliburton than bringing some sense of normalcy to Louisiana.

FEMA spokesman Butch Kinerney said, ”People kind of get into a routine living in these hotels, and it’s not necessarily a good routine.” So what’s FEMA’s answer: to put the families on the street. Let’s not forget that the federal government via the Homeland Security Department totally bungled the relief effort. A House Report will state exactly how badly the feds blew it.

Expect the Homeland Security chief, Michael Chertoff, to be grilled by both Republicans and Democrats alike when he testifies in Congress. Yesterday Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) was on ABC’s Good Morning America making the case that The White House was clearly in “a fog." Shays, a member of the committee that will produce a sizzling House report scheduled for released today added, "We wanted the Homeland Security Department to be an asset to help FEMA, and instead it stood and watched it fail."

Of course Chertoff will begin to cover his behind just like former FEMA director Michael Brown did last week. And Republicans always talk about accepting responsibility. Ha, ha. ha, ha!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bush Continues to Ignore Congress

The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that the Bush Administration continues on the wrong track insofar how the US deals with prisoners in our so-called War on Terrorism (WOT). Of course I continue to mention that this conflict is a "so-called" WOT because it’s quite clear that terrorism is a tactic and not a philosophy; countries do not go to war against tactics per se.

According to the Times article a recent United Nations inquiry states that the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay very often amounts to torture and violates all sorts of international laws like the Geneva Convention where the US is a signatory.

There was a saying used during the 1960’s that captured the spirit the US should use when dealing with Third World countries and their battle with communism. The US should win their hearts and minds was the oft-used phrase. Well, how the US is currently dealing with prisoners is not the way to win the hearts and minds of the Arab and Muslim street.

The Bush Administration should heed the words of Sen. John McCain. Last year he took a strong stance against such abuses and distanced himself from such policies. Earlier in the month McCain attended the Munich Conference on Security Policy in Germany and was applauded by the audience for his stance against torture.

Of course the subject of the "unitary executive" seems to pop up again and again with the Bush Administration. After all Bush signed into law this year's Defense Appropriations Bill and it included the McCain Amendment forbidding the torture of detainees by all US personnel. Since Bush cares little about the separation of powers, he included a "signing statement" which is the official Bush Administration position pronouncing his interpretation of the new law. In this specific instance, Bush's signing statement declared that he views the new torture law to be limited by his "inherent authority" as commander-in-chief to protect the national security of America. In short, he could do want he wants, certainly not the intent of Congress.

The report, compiled by five UN envoys, interviewed former prisoners, detainees’ lawyers and family, and US officials. It strongly urges US policymakers to close Guntanamo and bring all captives to trial in the US.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Congressman Rangel On Bush

Here for your consideration is a trenchant and hilarious political commentary.

Note: At first blush one may think Rep. Rangel's (D-New York) quote was made up whole cloth by a political comedy writer, but his quip was first reported in the Washington Post by journalist Al Kamen. Click Here.

Mr. Kamen wrote in WAPO:

But there was nothing inadvertent about a quip from Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), second-most senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Rangel was interviewed on New York Public Television WLIW21 last Monday night and asked for his quick reaction to various people. The first was Bush.

"Well," Rangel said. "I really think that he shatters the myth of white supremacy once and for all; it shows that, in this great country, anybody can become president."

We have a winner.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Nixon-Bush Doctrine

Long time political correspondent Bruce Morton (now with CNN) warns that the all-powerful imperial presidency is here to stay unless Congress asserts itself and defends its proper role within the schema of our democratic republic. Otherwise, the executive will continue to be emboldened and continue to use powers not enumerated in the constitution and act in ways contrary to law.

Morton calls this executive usurpation of power the "Nixon-Bush" doctrine and recalls an interview Richard Nixon gave British journalist David Frost:

Frost: "So ... what ... you're saying is that there are certain situations ... where the president can decide that it's in the best interests of the nation or something, and do something illegal."

Nixon: "Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal."

Frost: " By definition."

Nixon: "Exactly, exactly. If the president, for example, approves something because of the national security ... then the president's decision in that instance is one that enables those who carry it out to carry it out without violating a law."

Of course the national security card can be used at will much like a wild card in poker, except, according to Nixon and Bush, it seems the president always has the wild card; a very scary concept. Because Nixon's view eschews the notion of checks and balance, he is talking more like a tyrant and not a leader of a democratic constitutional republic who swore an oath to uphold our Constitution.

The notion also becomes more daunting because Morton correctly notes that terrorism is not a philosophy per se but a tactic used by opponents who do not have the wherewithal to fight conventional type conflicts. So the "War Against Terror" becomes an eternal battle. If Congress does not assert itself, then the imperial presidency, dare I say the "unitary" executive, is here to stay.

No wonder Republicans who are serious about their oath to defend the Constitution (Sen. Arlen Specter and Sen. Lindsay Graham) were vocal in their objections to the "Nixon-Bush" doctrine as articulated by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales earlier in the week. But because they are Republicans and realize their Republican teammates are heading into a very tough election year, their objections were rather mild.

What puzzles me is how many conservatives are defending Bush and his actions. It's ironic because anyone who even thinks about regulating the spread of guns in American society is hit, and hit hard, by the Second Amendment argument. Gun-loving conservatives seem enamored with "the right of the people to keep and bear arms." It's a shame conservative folk do not respect the Fourth Amendment as much as they do the Second Amendment.

For additional information read CNN reporter Bruce Morton.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Richie Ross, Political Consultant Extraordinaire

There is a great background article in the Capitol Weekly about famed Sacramento political consultant Richie Ross who long ago worked as Assembly Speaker Willie Brown's chief-of-staff, to be sure, an incredible top post. He was there when California lawmakers saw maestro Speaker Brown at work. Under Brown's tutelage Ross became one of Sacramento's most influential Democratic insiders in recent years.

He's also a powerful lobbyist which has brought Ross some recent controversy and conflict of interest charges by his foes and his clients opponents. Of course controversy is always found in the world of politics and it should come as no surprise. Hello!

Ross was inspired by the tumult of the 1960's to get involved in politics, always keeping in mind social justice. He was a seminary student in Maryland when he first heard about the struggle of Cesar Chavez and his farm workers movement in California. Ross decided to join the struggle as an organizer and made the trek to arid Central California. After working long hours with Chavez and the United Farm Workers (UFW), and making great gains, Ross entered the hurly-burly world of elective politics.

The article discusses some of the inner workings in Sacramento and is a must read if Sacramento politics interests you.

Of course to get the full flavor I recommend you GOOGLE Richie Ross.

Read here about political consultant Richie Ross.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

James Madison, the Constitution and Tyranny

When the machiavellian pols at the White House found out that some brave soul with a conscience in the Bush Administration had contacted the New York Times to blow the whistle on the clearly illegal wiretaps the NSA had been conducting for a couple of years they went to work overtime. Via a request from the NSA the Department of Justice began an investigation into the leak. How paradoxical. The Bush Administration is going after the person/s who courageously warned Americans that something has gone awry in the executive leadership of this country.

Needless to say right wing-nut Republicans came to the defense of the law-breaking Bush and the actions of the NSA. The following was recently posted in a popular progressive Blog (as an example of idiotic thought):
Liberals continue to put our safety in jeopardy for purely partisan political reasons. Most liberals are so politically desperate that they cannot be trusted to keep secrets. The revelation of this program, unlike the Plaime crapola, has resulted in "severe harm" to our security and we have yet to hear the liberal outcry. It will take another 9/11 event in the homeland to put an end to the harmful liberal hackery. God save us all from liberal treachery.
The treachery I see is coming from the Bush White House. Leaving aside the rest of the reactionary nonsensical dribble, it comes down to what Senator Leahy said to Attorney Alberto Gonzales on Monday, "Nobody is above the law, not even the President of the United States." Sen. Leahy could have also added to the quote: "Not even in time of war." If one believes the president is above the law, at any time, then we’re sliding towards the destruction of our republican democracy (read: three separate co-equal governmental branches).

Remember that James Madison, known as the Father of our Constitution, once warned in Federalist No. 47 that the accumulation of power, unfettered power, in any of the three branches of our government was the definition of "tyranny."

In James Madison’s own words:
The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.
It was James Madison, in fact, that helped frame the Bill of Rights, including the Fourth Amendment. There is little doubt that the framers of our Constitution went to great lengths to secure for its citizens the arbitrary use of power from the government, even in time of war (Amendment III). Madison was a strong proponent of the Bill of Rights because he wanted to protect civil liberties that the federal government could easily curtail.

How ironic that hard-line Republicans always champion Constitutional originalism or strict constructionism and how the judiciary should use either as guiding principles. It seems they only argue that point when politically it best suits the Republicans, and only then. In this instance, it seems defenders of the Bush Administration adhere to a conceptual framework known as the "living Constitution," that is, interpreting the Constitution to the needs of the society rather than a fixed maybe outdated meaning. So, neo-conservatives and reactionary Republicans embrace the "unitary presidency," especially in time of war; screw FISA, warrants, and the intent of the legislature.

Instead of posting a painting of Founding Father James Madison, should I have posted an upside down flag of the United States, an international signal of distress? Maybe I should have because our American Republic, our Constitution, and the venerable separation-of-powers doctrine we cherish are in a state of crisis and the sooner we Americans come to realize that, the better.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Clash of Titans: Executive v. Congressional Powers

The "Wartime Executive Power and the NSA’s Surveillance Authority" hearings by the Senate Legislative Committee headed by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) yesterday were nothing short of contentious. The issue as revealed by the New York Times last year involves President Bush authorizing the NSA to perform thousands of wiretaps without Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court authorization, as required by law. Bush believes that his actions were legal because Article II of the Constitution gives him broad "commander-in-chief" powers, especially in time of war.

The hearing began with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales making a strange argument when he used both President Wilson and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as examples of broad executive power used during time of war. Both presidents used what today would be considered extralegal methods to surveil Americans during World War I and II. Of course Gonzales did not have to go back that far back in time, he could have used President Richard Nixon as a more recent example, or former FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover who wiretapped Americans, presidential hopefuls and their girlfriends at will.

However, Gonzales did not mention the fact that FISA enacted in 1978 did not apply in any of the instances that he mentioned. In fact, FISA was written in response to the abuses of the Nixon Administration a few years earlier. Prior to 1978 Congress had not flexed its legislative muscle; it did with FISA.

The Supreme Court can resolve this clash between the executive and legislative branches, and the sooner the better. And, the Supreme Court itself (if this issue gets to them at all) will more likely look toward the reasoning of Justice Robert H. Jackson in his concurrence in the landmark Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company v. Sawyer (1952) to determine if Bush has acted constitutionally. In Youngstown, the Court (6-3) held that President Truman had acted unconstitutionally when he seized private property because the president did not unilaterally have the inherent authority to do so without Congressional approval, even during a time when national security was at stake.

Justice Jackson, in his concurrence in Youngstown, divided presidential power into three quite specific categories. Presidential authority is the strongest in cases where the executive acts with the express or implied authority given by Congress. In cases where Congress has been silent, what Justice Jackson called the "zone of twilight," the power of the president is at best uncertain. The president’s power is the weakest, however, in cases where the executive branch defies laws passed by Congress.

I believe the constitutional issues when it comes to the NSA using domestic wiretaps on its citizens without going to the FISA Court are quite obvious. Does the executive branch have the authority to order such wiretaps without due process as stated in FISA? Justice Jackson’s third category in Youngstown—-that is, presidential power is weak in these cases because Congress has acted and passed a law-—is apparent in the current NSA domestic surveillance cases.

According to FISA, in order to spy on American citizens, the executive needs probable cause before the requisite warrants are issued. When President Bush allowed the NSA to use wiretaps without going through the FISA Court he acted contrary to a law mandated by Congress. Again, the Bush Administration believes they have the authority to by-pass FISA because the president is acting under the "war powers" articulated in Article Two of the Constitution and, as such, FISA does not apply. The Bush Administration believes when acting as the commander-in chief in time of war they have broad implied executive powers and Congress cannot interfere, even via statute.

Let’s note what Justice Jackson wrote in Youngstown:
When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own constitutional powers minus any constitutional powers of Congress over the matter. ...Presidential claim to a power at once so conclusive and preclusive must be scrutinized with caution, for what is at stake is the equilibrium established by our constitutional system.
The difficulty now lies with how civil libertarians can get the Court to review the actions of the Bush Administration since the Supremes are the only ones who can make a definitive ruling on the matter at hand. It’s impossible for individual Senators or members of the House to bring the case before the Courts because individual lawmakers lack standing (unless they were wiretapped without a Court order). Our hopes lies with the ACLU and that their case against the NSA will bear some judicial fruit.

To read the ACLU Fact Sheet: Legal Claims in ACLU v. National Security Agency, please Click Here.

To read the myths of the NSA spying brouhaha, please Click Here.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Power Corrupts

Guest Blogger: Larry Caballero, La Palma, Calif.

As an American, I am saddened by the culture of corruption in Washington DC, and it's disgusting that any politician is capable of abusing their office. I'm sure no one gets elected so he or she can be corrupt; it's just something that happens over time, but it still happens.

Campaign finance reform can help to stop some of this, but there is still too much money in campaigns. There are too many lobbyists who are willing to spend too much money on officials in order to influence their votes. And pork barrel projects are the name of the game in Washington since it helps politicians get elected back home, and to get elected, it takes money, lots of it.

Of course, when was the last time you gave any money to a politician to help with campaign expenditures?

That's the problem. Most voters are so turned off with politicians that they don't want to donate to them, so politicians have to depend on lobbyists and special interests to finance their campaigns. Wealthy candidates who are willing to fund their own political races are less dependent on these groups, but they are not immune.

So what is the answer? Perhaps the public media can provide free time for the candidates. Otherwise, they’ll need to raise millions of dollars to pay for TV ads. Limiting the amount of money a candidate can raise, and by whom, can help, but there are too many loopholes in the system.

Several groups and organizations have Political Action Committee (PAC) money, which they can use to support their candidates. This makes it too easy to abuse the system, and corruption follows soon.

In Sacramento much of the same problem exists. We will be having a primary in June for several statewide and local offices, and it's amazing the millions of dollars spent for an office that pays something over $100,000 a year. For the governor's race alone, each candidate will spend close to 40 million dollars.

Enough is enough. The voters need to be more involved in the political process and make it clear to our elected officials and candidates that we want them to represent all of the people, and not only those who contribute to their campaigns.

The reason for term limits was to ensure that no politician stays in office too long, but inevitably the best kind of term limits is the ballot box on Election Day. If a candidate is not being fair with the people who he or she represents, then that candidate needs to be removed from office.

Maybe it's time for a change in Sacramento in November. It's obvious to me and most Californians that Arnold the Governator has let us down over and over again. After his election he attacked for no good reason the very people who put him in office—the nurses, teachers, policemen, and firemen—then he wasted our tax dollars on a needless early election. Now he wants us to believe that he cares about the people of California by proposing a budget that is irresponsible.

It's a budget that will only lead to a larger deficit and I though the Republican Party was the party of fiscal responsibility. What happened under Arnold's reign? Is it possible that he too has become corrupt? Here’s a man who once said he was so rich he would not take money from the special interests then turned around to take more money than even Gray Davis took after serving five years!

It’s time for the people to demand that our elected officials and candidates promise to do what is right, or they should plan to be out of a job at election time.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Republican Moderates and the Constitution

I told my good political friend last year that the best hopes of Democrats in Washington lie with the Republican moderates, especially in the Senate. I still believe that, more or less.

Tomorrow, Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania), chair of the Judiciary Committee will begin a hearing on the “Wartime Executive Power and the NSA’s Surveillance Authority.” The main witness on Monday will be U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The hearing is scheduled for 9:30am EST.

The problem: According to the latest polling, 51% of Americans support the illegal wiretaps as a part of the so-called “War on Terror,” and I do not find that outlook surprising. After all the flag is waving very high these days and the Administration keeps reminding Americans of that: It’s code Orange people.

According to Kermit L. Hall, a constitutional law scholar and legal historian, Americans have always revealed a paradox towards civil liberties and civil rights. According to Hall surveys have historically shown that when Americans are offered the choice between quite specific libertarian and anti-libertarian choices they tend to select the more “pro government intrusive” options. So as it’s playing out right now, by a narrow margin, Americans agree that it does not matter what civil rights are violated as long as we get those “bastards.” After all if the ones whose constitutional rights have been violated are innocent what are they afraid of? Screw the Bill of Rights, is the mentality of many Americans; it’s war.

Let’s hope moderate Republicans take a stand on this issue for the sake of our Republic as envisioned by the Founding Fathers; the Fourth Amendment is quite clear.

Update: To read (PDF) the AP/Ipsos Poll Click Here.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Bush’s Armageddon Option in Iran

My friends, we’re headin’
To true Armageddon
Unless we can stop
Planting the crop
Of unrelenting fear
In the land we hold dear
To build up the case
For saving our face
While losing our can
And nuking Iran

Last weekend held a watershed moment for me as I participated in the Executive Board meeting for the California Democratic Party. I listened, truly listened, to a deeply conservative activist Republican who held forth at a small luncheon on Saturday. Scott Ritter, the Weapons of Mass Destruction inspector who made headlines prior to our invasion of Iraq has not re-registered as a Democrat. Far from it and despite the character assassination by Administration Republicans, Scott still holds to the ideals of the GOP because he believes that his party is on the wrong path and that it needs to return to its true path to the future. We Democrats have a model here for ourselves, because Scott’s enthusiasm and endurance shined through despite his treatment by the right wing.

Scott’s message, however, was not about his personal damage, but about the horrific pattern that has already begun to pre-justify a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the latest Enemy-du-Jour, Iran. Let me repeat that. The Bush administration is already greasing the skids to justify the unthinkable unleashing of nuclear weapons on Iran. Just as we vilified Iraq and its tyrant before our pre-emptive invasion, we are beginning to ratchet up the rhetoric to vilify Iran and its tyrant leader. A quick look at the Sunday Register Op-Ed section supported Scott. The right wing press is already beginning to color Iranians as the nuclear enemy. This time, however, and because we have handled the occupation in Iraq so badly, we do not have the ground forces to send troops in. Our allies are beginning to withdraw forces, so we can’t use surrogates to do our bidding. The all too obvious answer is that we have to resort to the Armageddon Option.

The name is not coincidental. It is borne in the mystic Revelations clutched as literal truth by the religious right. What is frightening is that these true believers are in bed with the NEOCONs who can make it happen. In addition, we have a Bush recess appointment to the UN in the name of John Bolton who is a charter NEOCON that signed the infamous 1998 letter demanding that Clinton invade Iraq. NEOCONs and the far right fringe see no inconsistency in actually initiating the END TIME instead of waiting for it to happen. All the talk about Israel and her religious enemies fan the flames. The dim-witted public statements by Iranian leaders provide ample fuel and the pattern builds. If you cannot see the pattern, you should smell it. It is corrupt and evil beyond description and it is gaining momentum. It is already following the model for invading Iraq except that this time Colin Powell won’t have to lie at the UN. We will have John Bolton who will present believable, if spurious, evidence and demand immediate action by the UN.

The UN, as before, will question the validity of the evidence. We will rush the process and demand action. Soon after demanding action, we will announce that “no options are off the table.” All this by the gang that cannot shoot straight, literally as well as figuratively. The Bush Administration with several days warning could not save lives or property in New Orleans and then lied about not having warning. Bush himself has recently misled Americans very directly by sneering, in his condescending way, that “Of course, we have to have court orders to wiretap,” and then NOT getting court orders available under FISA and conducting surveillance on Americans through the NSA in violation of their personal oaths not to do so. Then, having not been straight shooters with us in the build-up, they marched lock-step behind Military-Lite, Planning-Lite, Outsourcing Heavy and Torture Moderate Donald (everything is Ducky) Rumsfeld.

Other signs of Bush END TIME: the Administration and the literal press whores like Jeff Gannon (J.D. Guckert who had virtually unlimited access to the White House despite his male prostitute on-line credentials) and the quid quo pro whores like FOX who trade tip-offs for defending the indefensible will support Bush and attack Iran and any individual with the courage to demand the truth. Look for the attacks on Democrats and moderate Republicans to be both vicious and personal. Lies will be institutionalized by their quick repetition in the far right media followed by the unquestioning sheep of the rest of the network, cable and printed media. This is a done deal that can only be averted by concerted action to elect moderates in November.

Just imagine, boys and girls, Secretary of State Condi Rice may get her wish for a mushroom cloud even if she has to do it herself. Also imagine just how impossible it will be to put her genie (Jinn) back in the bottle once we have unleashed the immense and senseless slaughter of nuclear weapons. Clearly, we do not understand that, just as in parenting, our example is far more eloquent than our words. If we use pre-emptive strikes with nukes, who is to stop anybody else from following our lead? Bush is much like the parent who beats the crap out of his kids while screaming at them not to be violent. He is already setting up the “legal” interpretation that the (unitary) president needs no further authority. He already has it. Congress is irrelevant. May the Lord have mercy on us all and, please Lord, let me be wrong.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

SOTU and Groundhog Day

Guest Blogger: Eileen Becker Salmas, Southern California

This year, both Groundhog Day and the State of the Union Address fall on the same day.

As Air America Radio pointed out, "It is an ironic juxtaposition: one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication, and the other involves a groundhog."

SOTU and the Straw Men in the Room

To begin with, the most important event in the state of the union extravaganza last night took place before the speech. Activist Cindy Sheehan was invited to sit in the gallery by Representative Lynn Woolsey. But though Sheehan, like the President's showcase family, has lost a son in Iraq, she wore a T-shirt that announced her opposition to the war. So she was arrested and removed from the hall before the president arrived.

More than any speech, this tells us the real state of the union: wearing an anti-war T-shirt in the presence of the "leader" brands one a security risk.

Aside from that, the speech was a desperate attempt on the part of this president to revitalize his floundering presidency. He therefore harped on the war on terror for most of the speech, trying to change the rationale once again for the war in Iraq. All else having failed, he is calling it the war for "freedom." While Americans have shown conclusively that they now think the war was a mistake, the president tries once again to evolve a winning position: "No one can deny the success of freedom."

Ah yes. Freedom. Our legacy to the world. The only problem being that freedom in the hands of this president consists of death and destruction: death and destruction for countless thousands of Iraqis, and thousands of American troops, and any other nation the Administration decides it has to "pre-empt."

But the President insisted he was confident, "We're in this fight to win and we're winning."

If only it weren't for those damned "isolationists." But wait. Wasn't it this president who ran on the platform of staying out of the affairs of other nations, of rejecting "nation-building"? Now, suddenly, he is trying to sound like Franklin Roosevelt in the years before World War II.

It won't wash. His whole argument, his whole speech, consisted of nothing but straw-man arguments. Who in the opposition has proposed withdrawing from the world? Who has made an isolationist argument, either militarily or economically? No one. Isolationism is a straw man--an argument attributed to one's opposition, and then easily attacked. The same is true of "defeatism," and "protectionism" and those the president says counsel economic "retreat." All straw men. All designed to evoke the specter of the 9/11 attacks, inspire fear, and rally the macho response: let's kill those terrible terrorists, including all those who look like them, act like them, talk like them, live near them, and may be related to them in any way. Or converse with them on the phone. Or by email. All of which is legal, never mind the laws preventing it, because the President says so.

All the nonsense aside, the President did reveal one thing in his speech: he lacks real policies. Aside from the so-called war on terror, his only policy is tax cuts. And as all Americans should know by now, tax cuts are George Bush's way of providing social security for him and his wealthy cronies. Billions in welfare for the rich, but cutbacks in all programs for those in need. That is his program. And it was on full display last night.

The only question is how long will it take the American people to wake up to the theft of their birthright that is taking place.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

SOTU: Patriotism and Platitudes

The State of the Union (SOTU) address is a speech, mandated by the US Constitution to Congress, and as such, to the people of the United States collectively. Instead what we received was a speech targeted to his right wing political base.

The SOTU address was just as I expected: lots of bluster about American foreign policy in Iraq and terrorism. This is about the only time the Democratic lawmakers rose to their feet and applauded; they are politicians after all and in the end it’s much about posturing, and I can’t blame them as Democrats should never be seen as weak on American security. (Yes, we Democrats support our troops in Iraq, but not the foolish US-Iraq War, which will get many of our soldiers killed for no good national security reason.)

As Samuel Johnson in 1775 once said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel," and the Bush Administration took that road long ago. Democrats are along for the ride at this point. Yes, America should implement a muscular plan to protect America but how the Bushies go about it time and time again is to appeal to our fears, our super charged patriotism, and extra-legal methods like wiretapping Americans without a court order. "If you are not with us, you are against us," is Bush’s mantra.

And I can’t believe Bush continues to defend, in the SOTU, the clearly illegal wiretapping of Americans without a Court order; talk about chutzpah.

On the domestic side Bush’s comments were a litany of initiatives that will probably get nowhere and, as such, seem like platitudes. As it was often joked during the 2000 presidential election, "That Dubya from Texas, he’s all hat and no cattle."

Yet, the SOTU truly is not important. As Charlie Cook, a Republican analyst of congressional and national elections (and writes the non-partisan "Charlie Cook Political Report," and is fair and reasonable) said on PBS Tuesday evening:

The State of the Union speeches are not memorable and are not important. State of the Union speeches do not make a difference, they never make a difference. The average person may have watched the first 10 minutes, but they don’t stick around.

Finally, Bush forgot to mention, other than a few sentences, the plight of the citizens in New Orleans, the State of Louisiana, and the future of the victims of Hurricane Katrina. How terrible, as I know they must have been listening very closely.

I agree with Congressman Rahm Emanuel (D-Illinois) who after the SOTU speech said, "If you liked the last 5 years, he’ll give you 3 more years of that."

Oh no!

UPDATE: My apologies to Mr. Cook. He informs me that he has been registered as an independent fo18 years.