Friday, December 30, 2005
This is surprising in light of the fact that an even larger majority of people would probably answer “yes” to the question: “Should the President of the United States be required to obey the law?” How can the two ideas be reconciled?
First, let’s look at the poll itself. It was conducted by the Rasmussen organization, recipients of $50,000 from the Republican National Committee during the 2004 election cycle.
Now here’s the kicker: According to Rasmussen Reports, the homepage of the polling group:
"December 28, 2005--Sixty-four percent (64%) of Americans believe the National Security Agency (NSA) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that just 23% disagree."
That’s the good news.
But wait! Can’t we all agree that the President of the United States should be allowed to get a warrant in the special court provided for that purpose and then, pursuant to that warrant monitor conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living here? That’s what the law provides for.
King George W has taken a different position, best expressed by the immortal words attributed to the bandit in Treasure of Sierra Madre: “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”* Imagine Bushie saying with an appropriate accent: “Warrants? We don’t need no stinking warrants!” I wonder what percentage of Americans would agree with that.
I have no idea of what percentage of Americans agree that the President is above the law, but the Rasmussen Report doesn’t give any support for the idea touted that a majority of American’s support W. in this matter.
Now for the bad news.
According to the same Rasmussen poll: Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans say they are following the NSA story somewhat or very closely.
This is very bad news for the Republicans. What it means is that two out of three Americans aren’t going to be so easily fooled.
For the rest of us, it is good news, because it means that we can take back our country, enforce the laws, throw the crooks and liars out of office and into prison, and have a democracy again. Very good news, indeed.
Keep paying attention, America …
… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”
* Actually, the above quote is from Blazing Saddles. The correct quote from Treasure of Sierra Madre is “Badges? We ain't got no badges! We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!”
Thursday, December 29, 2005
No man is above the law, and no man is below the law. That’s the principle that we all hold very dear in this country."
By Tom DeLay, (R-TX) speaking of the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Here’s a 10-point manifesto that, if followed, may both win Congress back for Democrats and get the nation back on a path toward true prosperity, peace, and progress. Eat your heart out.
1. Competence. We promise America a competent government headed by people with expertise and experience. We will never appoint or confirm cronies whose main qualification for office is personal connection or party loyalty.
2. Fiscal responsibility and a capital budget. We will get the federal budget back under control by barring special spending (pork to political loyalists back home) and corporate welfare (subsidies to particular industries like agribusiness, oil, and pharmaceuticals). We will create a national “capital budget” so that federal construction money never again goes to bridges to nowhere in Alaska and instead goes to stronger levees in New Orleans.
3. Fighting terrorism and getting out of Iraq. We will fight terrorism with a strong military and with economic investments and aid for poor nations that are often the breeding grounds for terrorism. But we will withdraw American troops from Iraq. As even our generals now tell us, our presence there is incubating new terrorists and fomenting anti-Americanism around the world.
4. Ending torture and respecting the rule of law. We will respect the Geneva Conventions. We will never condone torture or keep people imprisoned indefinitely without due process of law.
5. Reducing oil dependence and greenhouse gases. We will reduce American dependence on oil and reduce global warming. By 2020, 20 percent of our energy will come from solar, wind, biomass, and other alternative sources. Also by 2020, America will utilize 20-percent less fuel than today.
6. Restoring the middle class. We will restore the growth of the American middle class and of middle-class incomes. Supply-side economics, which rewards the rich with generous tax breaks and tells us that the resulting economic growth will “trickle down” to everyone else, has proven a cruel hoax. Little or nothing is trickling down. A quarter of all the benefits of economic growth now go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent of Americans. We are determined to reverse course.
7. A progressive tax code. The cost of making the nation’s homeland secure against terrorism and natural disasters and of providing adequate health care and education -- without falling deeper into debt -- will require more federal revenue. Yet the middle class cannot afford more taxes. It’s time for the rich to bear their fair share. We will impose a surtax of one-tenth of 1 percent per year on net worth in excess of $1 million and will roll back the administration’s tax cuts for those earning more than $300,000 a year.
8. A minimum health-care wage. The cost of health insurance for the typical family is rising by double digits, while 46 million Americans are without insurance altogether. We will establish a simple “minimum health-care wage” offering basic health insurance -- one free checkup per year, five free medical visits, one free dental, choice of doctor or dentist limited to an approved list, free drugs up to $1,000 per year -- to any American wishing to join. The expected large scale of this program will give government bargaining leverage to get low prices from providers and drug companies.
9. Lifelong education through progressive vouchers and re-employment insurance. We will finance every K-14 student (that’s right -- two years beyond high school) with a progressive voucher in an amount inversely related to family income. (This year, for example, it would range from $15,000 for students from families at or below the poverty line to $3,000 for students from families in the wealthiest 10 percent.) The vouchers could be used at any publicly certified school. In addition, we will turn the unemployment insurance system into a “re-employment insurance system.” Recipients will get job training, job-search assistance, and, if the new job pays less than the old, wage insurance paying half the difference for a year.
10. Maintain separation of church and state. We will never allow religion to dictate whether an individual must be kept on life support, young people can gain access to birth-control information or counseling, women will have the freedom to choose to terminate a pregnancy, research can be done on stem cells or any other potential scientific innovation, or public schools must teach nonscientific interpretations of sacred texts.
Robert B. Reich is co-founder of The American Prospect.
Monday, December 26, 2005
-- Tom Lehrer
Last night marked the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, which commemorates the victory of the Hasmoneans against Antiochus IV and the Seleucid Greeks in 164 BCE. The Hasmoneans (usually called Maccabees), defeated a powerful occupying force, rededicated the Temple, and established a theocratic dynasty that lasted almost 80 years. In these uncertain times, the story of Chanukah has something to offer every reader: neoconservatives may rejoice at the toppling of a Middle Eastern tyrant, grass-roots liberals may celebrate the victory of the weak against the mighty (as long as they do it over secure phone lines), and Jews of faith may offer a prayer of thanks that God does not forsake His covenant. But we must also read the story of Chanukah as a cautionary tale.
The Chanukah story with which most folks are familiar tends to stop at the rededication of the Temple and the miracle of the oil, which is the part of the story that gives us the eight nights of candle-lighting. This makes for a good little celebration, especially when you figure in the tradition of eating deep-fried foodstuffs to commemorate the miracle of the oil. Unfortunately, the holiday falls on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, which is usually around the 25th of December. Since Christmas is such a big deal, Chanukah turned into a big deal, for fear that Jewish kids would feel left out. These days, Chanukah is treated as if it were on par with Christmas, which bothers different folks for different reasons.
Now, there are those who would have you believe that America is waging a war on Christmas. It’s a claim that I’ll dignify with counter-argument just as soon as my friends come home from Iraq. As far as I can tell, the front lines of the war on Christmas are in department stores, where clerks are greeting people with “Happy Holidays.” Some people object, claiming that this is an attack on the Christian faith. They are idiots, for reasons explored at length by Big Mitch and his sources. I am not a fan of “Happy Holidays” either, but my reasons for disliking the greeting are twofold, and they do not change the fact that said people are idiots.
The first reason for disliking “Happy Holidays” is that it conflates Chanukah with Christmas. The anniversary of Jesus’s birth seems like it might be an important thing for Christians to observe. While the commercialization of Christmas strikes me as vaguely obscene, I do not begrudge the Christians their spectacle. After all, it comes but once a year. But there’s no reason to make a similar fuss about Chanukah. Not only is Chanukah a minor holiday (about which more below), the appropriation of Gentile tradition was the very root of the Hasmonean revolt. “When the Jews came under Grecian rule, their real enemy was Hellenization,” writes Max I. Dimont in his indispensable Jews, God and History. Greek culture exerted an overwhelming influence on every aspect of Jewish life. It was not Greek rule that radicalized the Jews, it was the way in which their culture was subsumed by Greekness. Antiochus IV appointed a Jewish High Priest named Jason under whose stewardship, Dimont writes, “Greek games performed by naked Jewish boys became a common spectacle in the Temple courtyards.” (And you thought 50 Cent at a bat mitzvah was over the top.)
Faced with this sort of thing, more and more Jews began to object to Greek influence, until an anti-Hellenization movement called the Hasideans overthrew Jason and the Seleucid appointees and wiped out the Hellenized Jews. Modern Jews who celebrate Chanukah as if it were an eight-day Christmas would do well to remember that the story of Chanukah started with a fight to preserve cultural uniqueness.
The Hasidean victory was short-lived. Antiochus IV sent his armies into Jerusalem, slaughtered the Hasideans and whomever else happened to be standing around, and re-established a Hellenized priesthood. But then he overplayed his hand. Facing military failure abroad (he’d just gotten punked by the Romans, and nobody likes getting punked by the Romans), he did what any moron would do after taking over his dad’s job and finding it harder than he’d imagined: he started curtailing freedoms at home. He outlawed the Sabbath and circumcision, which really got the Jews riled up. Dimont goes on: “The Hasidean party, whose members had been practically wiped out in the Seleucid reprisals, now found new adherents among those Jews who previously had stood for moderate Hellenization.” The new anti-Hellenization movement gave way to the Hasmonean revolt.
Here is where the neoconservatives might want to put down their dreidels and think about how well Western influence (for which read democracy and Coca-Cola) will fare among third-world Muslims weary of seeing their coreligionists getting shelled. You see, we’ve reached the point at which some parallels might be drawn. All this pseudo-Yuletide Chanukah hoopla (say that five times fast) has obscured some of the real story of Chanukah. Antiochus IV is usually cast as a Disney villain, when in fact he was just a spectacularly irresponsible leader. He tried to build a global empire by fighting unwinnable wars. Rather than encouraging diversity as his predecessors did, he tried to undermine it, by imposing a uniform set of cultural values through appointed officials. Finally, he proved a tyrant, by taking away freedoms that were theretofore considered inalienable. After a while, it bit him in the ass. I would say some of the Bible-thumpers in office would do well to heed the lessons of this particular Bible story, but there are a couple of problems. The first is that if the Bible-thumpers in office actually heeded the Bible once in a while, our nation wouldn’t be in such a terrible fix. The second is that, well, Maccabees 1 and 2 aren’t actually in the Bible. At least not the Jewish Bible. Which brings me to my next point.
Another reason for disliking “Happy Holidays” has little to do with Christmas and a great deal to do with the problematic nature of Chanukah itself. There’s a reason that Chanukah isn’t a major holiday, and that Maccabees 1 and 2 weren’t redacted into the Jewish Bible. It has to do with the fate of the Hasmoneans, which may prove instructive.
After the revolt, governmental power was placed in the hands of Simon, the last surviving Hasmonean brother. As the son of a priest, he was made High Priest, and as the leader of the revolt he was made governor of the Kingdom of Judah. Simon’s descendents were anointed as royalty, and there the trouble began. Although the Jews had united against Antiochus IV, once they had a kingdom of their own they broke into political factions, which were still the major Jewish cultural movements at the birth of Jesus: the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenes. (I’m pretty much cribbing all of this from Dimont at this point, so read him if you don’t believe me). Despite the fact that the priests had just waged a war against Hellenization, the Sadducees were more favorably inclined to the Greek influence. This is not all that confusing when you consider that the priesthood and the sacrificial rites were themselves taken from Egyptian custom, so that the fresh-from-slavery Jews would have a familiar way of relating to God. The Hasmonean king pissed off the Pharisees and then went with the Sadducee ticket, which pissed them off even more.
The Pharisees, for their part, hated Greek influence, and moved away from Temple Judaism to create a brand of faith based on communal worship and pragmatic legal theory. The rabbinic tradition founded by the Pharisees provided the seed for the vast tree that is modern Judaism. Meanwhile, the Hasmoneans were in rapid decline. The dynasty was marked by every act which may define a tyrant: forcible conversion, violent suppression of dissent, hiring of mercenaries, and intrafamilial murder. After a couple of civil wars, the kingdom was conquered by Pompey, who turned it into the Roman province of Judea. The fall of the Hasmonean dynasty made possible the ascension of Herod, who was appointed king of Judea and who, if the Gospel of Matthew is to be believed, actually did wage a war against Christmas, so to speak.
In other words, the glory of the Hasmoneans pretty much ended where the Chanukah story tends to leave off: at the rededication of the Temple. Nowadays, we overlook the epilogue, but the rabbis, descended as they were from Pharisees, did not. Chanukah was downplayed as a holiday, and its story left out of the Bible, because it sparked a chain of events that nearly destroyed Judaism. We cannot celebrate Chanukah--and we surely cannot reduce it to a simple festival with generic greetings and glossy trappings--without considering the scope of Jewish history and the price the Jewish people have paid for following bad leaders.
Once again, we should look for parallels. By linking religion and government, the Hasmoneans degraded both. By imposing religion on others, they weakened their own. By meeting dissent with despotism, they forfeited claims on legitimacy. And by seizing and maintaining power through corrupt means, they made their downfall inevitable. As Bob Knight of the Culture and Family Institute says, “If you can‘t understand the force of history...” See, “War on Christmas, Part Deux,” infra.
So, this holiday season, let us take a stand against extremism in all its forms. Let us honor our individual heritages by learning from those who came before us. Let us bring about regime change through peaceful means, and let us choose leaders who respect that greatest of all gifts, freedom.
"… and tell ’em Young Ike sent you!"
Sunday, December 25, 2005
I wonder what he would say to the editors of Barron's magazine, which is not a notably left wing magazine. This is from their editorial:
[...] Surely the "strict constructionists" on the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary eventually will point out what a stretch this is. The most important presidential responsibility under Article II is that he must "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." That includes following the requirements of laws that limit executive power. There's not much fidelity in an executive who debates and lobbies Congress to shape a law to his liking and then goes beyond its writ.
Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.
It is important to be clear that an impeachment case, if it comes to that, would not be about wiretapping, or about a possible Constitutional right not to be wiretapped. It would be about the power of Congress to set wiretapping rules by law, and it is about the obligation of the president to follow the rules in the Acts that he and his predecessors signed into law. ...
" ... and tell'em Big Mitch sent ya!"
Thursday, December 22, 2005
But is Abuse of Power grounds for impeachment? The grounds for impeachment are listed in the Constitution of the United States at Article II, Section 4. They are “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
We have Patrick Fitzgerald on the job trying to find out if W was involved in outing Valerie Plame, which W’s daddy and some others have described as treason. I am one of them.
We know that the White House was engaged in paying guys like Armstrong Williams to plant stories in the press. Back in the day, that was called “payola,” and some may say it is a form of bribery. I am one of them.
But what about “high Crimes and Misdemeanors?” During the last impeachment effort there was extensive debate about what this term meant. Some took the position that “high” modified both Crimes and Misdemeanors, and that it meant in this context, crimes connected with the execution of official duties. I am one of them.
Others took the view that the term “high crimes” referred to any felony, e.g. perjury in a civil suit. All agree that a felony committed in connection with the execution of official duties is a “high Crime.”
Which brings us to the next question: Is unauthorized electronic surveillance of American citizens a high Crime? For this we must look at Title 50 of the United States Code, section 1809.
§ 1809. Criminal sanctions
(a) Prohibited activities
A person is guilty of an offense if he intentionally—
An offense described in this section is punishable by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than five years, or both.
(By definition, a felony is a crime punishable by imprisonment by a year or more.)
So, some would say, we’ve got Treason, Bribery and high Crimes. I am one of them.
Hey, Bush: Three out of four ain’t bad.
Tell your congressional delegation that Bush must be impeached,
… and tell ‘em Big Mitch sent ya!
Well well well. What do we have here?
George W. Bush has picked new nominees for the FEC. One is a Republican, Hans von Spakovsky, whom Ted Kennedy says "may be at the heart of the political interference that is undermining the [Justice] Department's enforcement of federal civil laws." And in an uncharacteristic moment of cheerful bipartisanship, Bush is also appointing a Democrat, Robert D. Lenhard, who was quite helpful to the 1600 Crew as part of the legal team that challenged the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.
But there is perhaps another reason why Mr. Lenhard is being rewarded by BushCo. at just this moment. He's the husband of Viveca Novak, whose testimony now provides the foundation for Karl Rove's defense in the CIA leak case.
A small but rather key fact that both the Washington Post and the White House Press Release manages to leave out, wouldn't you say? They WaPo is having quite a stint in the GOP stenography department this week, it would seem.
Visit firedoglake blog ...
"... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"
History abundantly documents the tendency of Government -- however benevolent and benign its motive -- to view with suspicion those who most fervently dispute its policies. Fourth Amendment protections become the more necessary when the targets of official surveillance may be those suspected of unorthodoxy in their political beliefs. The danger to political dissent is acute where the Government attempts to act under so vague a concept as the power to protect "domestic security." Given the difficulty of defining the domestic security interest, the danger of abuse in acting to protect that interest becomes apparent. Senator Hart addressed this dilemma in the floor debate on § 2511(3):
"As I read it -- and this is my fear -- we are saying that the President, on his motion, could declare -- name your favorite poison -- draft dodgers, Black Muslims, the Ku Klux Klan, or civil rights activists to be a clear and present danger to the structure or existence of the Government."
The price of lawful public dissent must not be a dread of subjection to an unchecked surveillance power. Nor must the fear of unauthorized official eavesdropping deter vigorous citizen dissent and discussion of Government action in private conversation. For private dissent, no less than open public discourse, is essential to our free society.
These Fourth Amendment freedoms cannot properly be guaranteed if domestic security surveillances may be conducted solely within the discretion of the Executive Branch.
United States v United States District Court, 407 U.S. 297 (1972). (Powell, J,, writing for the unanimous court. Emphasis added.)
I couldn't have said it better myself.
... tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Funny you should ask.
To give you some perspective on how secret the NSA is, consider this: For a year, The New York Times, which had published the Pentagon Papers, sat on the story of NSA violating the rights American citizens.
Not quite a year ago, the President had nominated John Bolton to be the US Ambassador to the United Nations. In April, his nomination hit a snag when it was revealed that he wanted the names of some U.S. citizens that had been blacked out of NSA intercepts he had requested.
At the time of his nomination, Bolton was the Under-Secretary of State, dealing with non-proliferation. He had had his run-ins with Colin Powell, then Secretary of State and it has been widely speculated that he was spying on the boss. This is important because if true, it shows that the NSA was engaged in domestic spying for political purposes.
We may never know if Bolton was bugging his boss, though Powell's willingness to speak out about W's lame defense of Snoop-gate, suggests that he has his own opinion on this.
Here's what we know so far: Bush was breaking the law to snoop on Americans. It is only logical to assume that the reason the Bushies didn't go to the FISA court is because they knew it wouldn't grant their request for authorization.
What kind of request would the FISA court turn down? I suppose one kind of snooping that they would frown upon would be snooping for purely political purposes. Can you think of another?
" ... tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"
After all, as Colin Powell and I pointed out: "It didn’t seem to me, anyway, that it would have been that hard to go and get the warrants. And even in the case of an emergency, you go and do it [begin surveillance]. The law provides for that. And three days later, you let the court know what you have done, and deal with it that way.”.
Yesterday, we received the answer. "The whole key here is agility," according to Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden who was the NSA director when the surveillance began. According to a quote buried deep within a page one article in the Washington Post, Hayden said getting retroactive court approval is inefficient because it "involves marshaling arguments" and "looping paperwork around."
You got it! Two much paperwork is the justification for breaking the law. I expect that Bushies are next going to claim that this was their environmental program. No trees were harmed in the trampling of your rights!
There are still unanswered questions. But they all boil down to this: Does this Congress aim to sit by and let George Bush ignore the law, or will it do its Constitutional duties and impeach him? Talk to your Congressional delegation.
"... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
- Remarks by the President in a Conversation on the USA Patriot Act
Kleinshans Music Hall, Buffalo, New York
April 20, 2005
"Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."
The complete text of W's remarks, along with links to the audio and the video of his speech can be found here. If you find that this link leads nowhere, it is because the White House has taken down the link.
The President has authority to wiretap anyone's phone, and intercept any communication for 72 hours, according to Senator Joe Biden, the self-described “guy who wrote the FISA statute 25 years ago.” After that, the government must go to the FISA court, which is secret, and give its justification. If the court rules that the justification is inadequate, the remedy is to destroy the evidence seized.
This raises the first of three big questions, namely: Why then did the President need to resort to illegal wiretaps?
The President says that he briefed Congress about these activities. Serious doubts exist about this. Clearly, the letter of Jay Rockefeller dispels the implication that Congress assented to these wiretaps. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has stated "leaders of the relevant oversight intelligence committees" -- had been briefed on the NSA activities. This is just another one of her lies. Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) was the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time the program was initiated. Graham says that he was never briefed by the administration about the program: “There was no reference made to the fact that we were going to...begin unwarranted, illegal, and I think unconstitutional, eavesdropping on American citizens.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she had been “advised by Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Ranking Democrat on House Intelligence Committee, that the Bush Administration reversed its decision to brief the full House Intelligence Committee on the details of the activities.” Tom Daschle, the former senate majority leader says that the White House briefed him, but withheld important details. Though the White House ommitted the most egregiously illegal aspects of their program, Daschle nevertheless objected, and he disputes the White House assertion that no one objected.
Something is big time fishy here, which gives rise to the second question, namely: Why is W lying about this?
We've gotten used to a lot of nasty things done by W and his crooked cronies. Things like:
All of which gives rise to the third big question, namely, "Who does a guy have to screw around here to get impeached?"
... tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"
Sunday, December 18, 2005
NEW HAMPSHIRE: CONVICTION IN ELECTION DAY TELEPHONE JAMMING
A former top Republican Party official was convicted on charges of telephone harassment in a plot to jam the Democrats' phones on Election Day 2002. The federal jury acquitted the defendant, James Tobin, on the most serious charge, conspiring to violate voters' rights. Mr. Tobin, 45, of Bangor, Me., could receive up to seven years in prison and $500,000 in fines when he is sentenced in March. For nearly two hours on that Election Day, hundreds of hang-up calls overwhelmed Democratic get-out-the-vote phone banks in New Hampshire and a ride-to-the-polls line run by the Manchester firefighters' union. Mr. Tobin was accused of orchestrating the phone jamming. (AP)
That’s a heck of a tidbit to bury deep within the paper of record. If I got this right some yahoo in New Hampshire took a fall for tying up the Democratic GOTV phones on Election day. Is this news? And who is this guy, anyway?
Understandably, the Concord (NH) Monitor dug a little deeper. I’m not into that whole plagerism thing but just to give you a flavor of what’s going on here’s the lede on the article they published under the headline:
Ex-GOP official guilty on two counts.
A jury convicted former national Republican Party official James Tobin yesterday on two counts of telephone harassment for his role in a plot to jam Democratic phone banks on Election Day 2002 in New Hampshire. But the federal jury acquitted Tobin on the most serious count, conspiracy to violate voters'rights.
Tobin, 45, of Bangor, Maine, was the New England political director for the Republican National Committee and the Northeast field representative for the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the 2002 election. He later served as New England chairman for the Bush-Cheney campaign but resigned shortly before the 2004 election, after allegations about his involvement in the phone scheme became public.
Tobin, who will be sentenced in March, faces up to seven years in prison and a $500,000 for the two counts on which he was convicted -conspiring to commit telephone harassment through repeated phone calls, and aiding and abetting telephone harassment committed by others. A guilty verdict on the voters' rights count could have added 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The 2002 election in New Hampshire included a close race for U.S. Senate between Jeanne Shaheen and John Sununu. On Election Day, a telemarketing firm hired by Republicans barraged six phone lines - belonging to four state Democratic field offices, the Manchester City Democrats and the Manchester firefighters union -with hundreds of anonymous, hang-up phone calls over two hours before the plot was called off.
Chuck McGee, the state Republican who came up with the idea, and Allen Raymond, the consultant with the telemarketing connections to make it possible, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy last year for their roles. McGee served seven months in federal prison, and Raymond is awaiting a five-month sentence. Both testified in U.S. District Court last week that Tobin put them in touch with each other so they could tie up Democratic phone lines, although they worked out the details on their own.
Did you catch that? (The NYT didn’t seem to.)
So here it is: The New England chairman of the Bush/Cheney campaign committee was convicted of illegally trying to prevent Dems from voting!
Here’s a little tidbit that Rachel Madow dropped on the air. The RNC plunked down a cool $750,000 for Tobin’s defense. I am completely down with the idea that everyone deserves a defense, but (silly me) I was just wondering, did donors to the Republican’s know that there money would be spent on defending a criminal who was trying to suppress the vote?
Probably, most of them wouldn’t really mind, but the guys who hand out that money, you know, to candidates f’rinsance, they don’t just give away ¾ a million bucks because he was a longtime supporter and he assured them that he had committed no crimes. You would think that for that kind of money, they would maybe be hoping that some uncomfortable details don’t become so generally widely known.
Oh, by the way, officials of the RNC, when asked why they underwrote Tobin’s defense said, “because he was a longtime supporter and he assured them that he had committed no crimes.”
Think it couldn’t get worse? Stay tuned for the Tobin-Abramoff connection.
On a personal note, I am sure you are wondering, where does Big Mitch get this stuff. Listen, if you want to write a blog about Republican corruption, you will never run out of material. Don’t believe me? Check this out.
"... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"
Saturday, December 17, 2005
My friend, Wayne Anthony Ross, who is a big mucky-muck in the NRA makes the case that it was fought over the right to own guns (or at least, that was the spark that ignited it at Lexington and Concord.) As usual, WAR is wrong.
Here’s the real deal: it was all about freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, the right enjoyed by Americans, which is enshrined in the Bill of Rights in the Fourth Amendment. That’s the view of John Adam’s anyway, and he was there at the time. You can read all about it in a book by Sam Dash, who achieved fame as the chief counsel for the Senate’s Watergate Committee. It's called The Intruders: Unreasonable Searches and Seizures from King John to John Ashcroft (2004).
You see, when the Founders signed the Declaration of Independence and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and sacred honor to the cause of freedom, they fully appreciated what William Pitt meant, when he said, “A man’s home is his castle.” The plaintiff in the companion to that case was the first man to successfully sue the British Crown after officers searched his house under a general warrant. He was so highly regarded as a hero in the fight for liberty that a half a century later, Americans were naming their babies after him. His name was John Wilkes.
Well, I was thinking of that revolutionary fervor when I changed the heading on my blog. Follow the link above.
Some people think the most important freedom is the freedom to elect the people who rule our country. I’ll have more to say about that in a different posting.
By 1949, Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, had been the chief United States prosecutor of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg. In Brinegar v. United States (1949) 338 U.S. 160, 180-81 he wrote as follows:
Fourth Amendment freedoms … are not mere second-class rights but belong in the catalog of indispensable freedoms. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart. Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government. And one need only briefly to have dwelt and worked among a people possessed of many admirable qualities but deprived of these rights [i.e., the German people just after their years under Hitler] to know that the human personality deteriorates and dignity and self-reliance disappear where homes, persons and possessions are subject at any hour to unheralded search and seizure by the police.”
(Jackson, J., joined by Frankfurter and Murphy, JJ., dissenting).
So, now that I’ve got you thinking about the need to resist tyranny, and the extremes of inhumanity that government can sink to when it takes away the right to be left alone, take a gander at this from the New York Times of December 16, 2005:
Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Court
Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.
Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible “dirty numbers” linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.
The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.
"This is really a sea change," said a former senior official who specializes in national security law. "It's almost a mainstay of this country that the N.S.A. only does foreign searches."
Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation's legality and oversight.
You can read the rest of the article here. Elsewhere the Times reported that “Disclosure of the eavesdropping prompted immediate calls from some lawmakers for an end to the program and for Congressional and possible criminal investigations into its operations.”
Some will say that it is too early to jump to conclusions, but faithful readers of this space know that has never stopped me before. My conclusion is that this is really big and that America is at a fork in the road. Down one path lies submission with no pretense that we live in a nation of laws, where criminals are held accountable, even if they commit their heinous acts at the highest level of government.
Or we can choose the high road. This route leads inexorably to re-affirming the principles that our country was founded on – not merely freedom, but accountability, and equal justice under the law. Of course this will mean impeaching the President of the United States, convicting him, and then commencing a criminal prosecution.
Sic semper tyrannis.
... tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Friday, December 09, 2005
Bill O'Reilley wants to sell media, too, and if it requires a war, he'll furnish it. In this case, he has declared that there is a war against Christmas in America. If you think that Christmas is in jeopardy, not only have you drawn the wrong conclusion, but you're too deluded to draw your own bath. There can hardly be imagined anything as secure as the place of Christmas in the hearts of Americans.
To the extent that there is a problem, it is entirely a creation of some right wing nuts. These folks will say or do anything for money. That is why they are whores. If it means driving a wedge between Christians and non-Christians, hey, don't take it personal. It'’s only business.
But what if ...…
What if there really were a war against Christmas? Who would be on the other side? The number one example of the war on Christmas that is given by O'’Reilley and others is that greeters in Macy's say, "Happy Holidays"” instead of a less inclusive salutation. At the start of the 20th Century, Macy's was owned by Nathan Strauss, the famous Jewish philanthropist. Since then, the owners of Macy's have made a lot of money catering to Christmas shoppers.
Look, I am all in favor of making fun of right wing stupidity, and taking an idea to absurd extremes is a time-tested technique of comedy. But we are dealing here with absurd extremists, and that's nothing to laugh about. In the past, Non-Christians suffered greivously on account of false accusations that they have undermined Christian institutions, which accusations were made on the far right.
And what are the putative enemies of Christmas allegedly seeking to replace it with? The imagined enemies of Christmas can't be imagined to propose no substitute for Christmas, because Christmas is too good for business. Christmas couldn't be replaced by Kwansa because people who celebrate Kwansa also celebrate Christmas, and probably at a higher rate than any group of Americans of their size or larger. So, I am thinking that what the imagined enemies of Christmas must want is to instill Chanukah in the hearts and minds of Americans, and this is what scares the b'jeezus out of Bill O'Reilly.
It should scare them, too. Chanukah celebrates religious freedom. It is the story of the few who chafed under the repressive measures of the many, and how they rose up and defeated the most powerful Army ever to have appeared on earth. That kind of story could be bad for business, if your business is being a right wing demagogue.
So, what I propose is that if you ever see one of these right wingnut fear mongers, you wish him a Happy Chanukah. He'll probably recognize you as a guerrilla in the War on Christmas, and lob a hand-grenade at you. That's how they celebrates the birth of the Prince of Peace.
Just smile at this lunatic and feel free. Free to ...
... tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
We are at war in Iraq, and there is an active insurgency resisting our presence there. It may be a fool’s errand, but the mission is to gain the hearts and minds of Iraqis and to promote democracy there. Personally, I am persuaded that we are going about it all wrong, but as the web-chatters would say, WTFDIK?
It seems to me that a program of getting the Iraqis to accept democracy by placing the written word in their hands is better than say, burning their skin off with phosphorous. “Better,” as in more moral. “Better,” as in more effective. But, you know, that’s just my opinion. Anyway, we're doing both.
So, here’s what’s wrong with that American Department of Defense contractors paying to place articles in the Iraqi press.
The average Iraqi who picks up the Baghdad Bugle knows very well that Americans are not being greeted with candy and flowers, and that the Iraqi army is not standing up. They have fewer delusions about the Americans standing down than the 72% of us who think that George W. Bush is not generally truthful. The typical reader of the Mosul Mavin doesn’t need a paper to know whether or not the bases being built are temporary or if the oil revenues are flowing. If the Karkuk Crier writes about the humane treatment of Iraqi prisoners in American custody, what it basically is saying is, “we don't give a damn about our credibility; we just want some of that Lincoln Group payola!” In other words, the DOD is not targeting the Iraqis with its subcontracted propaganda.
Who then are the intended targets of the articles in the Iraqi press? You. Here’s how it works. Cindy Sheehan, or Jack Murtha, or Joe Blow stands up and says, “Hey, this is a damn quagmire. Energy production, employment, industrial output – you pick the measure – things are worse now than they were before the war began. Rape rooms are back, sectarian warfare is breaking out, terrorists are being trained, and religious tolerance is down the tubes. Those are not Iraqi battle-ready battalions – they are private militias of religious warlords. Etc., etc., etc. It’s all true, too.
But then up jumps Bill O’Reilley, Rush Limbaugh or Joe Blow-harder. He says, “What does Cindy Sheehan or Jack Murtha or you know? You’re over here. Let’s look at what is being said by real people on the ground; let’s listen to the Iraqi people.” Then he reads some lies placed in the Faluga Fishwrap by Spec 4 Armstrong Williams.
The main stream media, ever consciencious to present both sides of an argument, repeats the points made by each side. The typical listener comes away confused, and unsure about what is true and what is not. Hey, that's good enough for the crooks and liars who are running the government.
It is against the law for the American government to spend your money on propaganda to influence you. And that’s just what they did. And that's what's wrong with the paying for the hearts and minds of folks.
"... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"
Friday, December 02, 2005
Okay, already. I know you are not going to read Our National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. Hell, I doubt that even W. is going to read it. After all, it’s 38 pages and no pictures.
I myself had difficulty getting through the executive summary. But when I got to page 8, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Here’s the part that got to me:
➢ If we and our Iraqi partners fail in Iraq, Iraq will become:
• A safe haven for terrorists as Afghanistan once was, only this time in some of the world’s most strategic territory, with vast natural resources to exploit and to use to fund future attacks.
• A country where oppression – and the brutal imposition of inhumane practices, such as those of the Taliban in Afghanistan – is pervasive.
• A failed state and source of instability for the entire Middle East, with all the attendant risks and incalculable costs for American security and prosperity.
(Weird formatting and italics in the original.)
What we know so far is that Saddam Hussein ruled with an iron fist, and he was a son-of-a-bitch, which is how he was able to keep the terrorists out of Iraq. That's the same Iraq that we are told, is “in some of the world’s most strategic territory, with vast natural resources to exploit and to use to fund future attacks.”
How do I know the part about terrorists not in Saddam’s Iraq? Well, unlike some people I knoW, I actually read the Presidential Daily Briefing whenever I get a chance.
On September 21, 2001, W’s daily briefing said that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks 10 days earlier, and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda.
Well, that was then, and this is now. Al Qaeda is operating freely in Iraq, if you are to believe W. And why wouldn’t you?
You may wonder why I accuse Bush of not reading his memos. Well, after Bush received the Sept. 21st memo, he continued to push the Saddam -Al Qaeda connection to the point where most Americans thought that Saddam was personally involved in the 9-11 attacks. It just seems to me that accusing him of not reading the memo is more charitable than calling him a lying sack of shit.
How is Iraq doing on the human rights in Iraq front? In Iraq, (as contrasted to the rest of the Arab world) women had achieved a measure of equality. The burka of the Taliban is making a comeback in Shi’ite areas of Iraq, thanks to our removal of Saddam.
Look, I am no fan of tyranny, but tyranny is the enemy of instability. As Congressman Jack Murtha took pains to point out, oil production, electricity generation, clean water availability, industrial output and every other measure of quality of life in Iraq are all below pre-war levels. Not so good for the whole stability thing.
Here's the point: The invasion of Iraq has produced the very conditions identified by the National Security Council as “failure.”
Let me tell you about Martin van Creveld. He is a professor of military history at the Hebrew University, the author of Transformation of War and the only non-American author on the U.S. Army's required reading list for officers. Here's what he had to say about this war:
For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins.
That’s quite a trick, W. The debate has moved on from whether or not you are the worst president in history to whether or not you are the dumbest leader in the last millennium. Think about it.
"... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775.
No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.
Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.
I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish
to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication?
What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!
They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary.
But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
Saturday, November 26, 2005
"The president and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone -- but we're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history," said Cheney.
According to Cheny, the claim that Bush or any member of the administration misled Americans before the war "is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."
What do we know so far? Here’s just one example of what a dishonest piece of work Fearless Dick Cheney is.
On Sunday, July 6, 2003, the New York Times published, “What I didn’t Find in Africa,” Joe Wilson’s account of his trip to Niger. As everyone knows by now, he reported that the President’s State of the Union Address was misleading in it’s assertion that Saddam was attempting to purchase uranium.
The Vice President obviously thinks it is reprehensible for Ambassador Wilson to say this, and he will not sit by and let it be said. So what is his plan of attack?
First, Cheney must claim that he had no idea that Wilson had gone to Niger and not found what he didn’t find. This is ridiculous on its face, since the mission to Iraq was a direct response to Cheney’s question.
Apparently Cheney wants us to think that the CIA responded to his question by sending Wilson to Iraq, but then forgot to pass along his findings.
Let’s listen to Cheney trying out this tactic. This is from his September 14 2003 appearance on Meet the Press:
I don’t know Joe Wilson. I’ve never met Joe Wilson. A question had arisen. I’d heard a report that the Iraqis had been trying to acquire uranium in Africa, Niger in particular. I get a daily brief on my own each day before I meet with the president to go through the intel. And I ask lots of question. One of the questions I asked at that particular time about this, I said, “What do we know about this?” They take the question. He came back within a day or two and said, “This is all we know. There’s a lot we don’t know,” end of statement. And Joe Wilson—I don’t who sent Joe Wilson. He never submitted a report -- that I ever saw -- when he came back.
How is that possible? Well, for an answer let’s look again at what Wilson said in the now famous article in the Times:
Though I did not file a written report, there should be at least four documents in United States government archives confirming my mission. The documents should include the ambassador's report of my debriefing in Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a C.I.A. report summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know that this is standard operating procedure.
Oh Dick, your pants are on fire. Of course you didn’t see his report – it was oral! And you know that this is standard operating procedure for the CIA, too. Go back to your undisclosed location, and think about the fact that America is on to you, you lying bastard.
... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!
Thursday, November 24, 2005
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Leaders of Iraq's sharply divided Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis called Monday for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in the country and said Iraq's opposition had a "legitimate right" of resistance.
The final communique, hammered out at the end of three days of negotiations at a preparatory reconciliation conference under the auspices of the Arab League, condemned terrorism, but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if their operations do not target innocent civilians or institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens.
Readers, this is really bad news because it means that there were serious miscalculations about the whole invasion. I'm shocked, SHOCKED! Looks like W. is going to have to give out some more Medals of Freedom.
... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Some have called for an immediate withdrawal, like Representative Duncan Hunter, (R.–Calif.), who introduced Resolution 571, “Expressing the sense of the of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States’ forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.” This was such a goofy idea that even Hunter voted against it along with 401 other members.
Others, like Representative Jack Murtha, (D. -Pa.) have taken a more reasonable approach. He suggested a phased re-deployment to get American soldiers out of harm’s way, where they will not be an instigation to further radicalism and more acts of terrorism. He was attacked by everyone from Jean Schmidt, (R.-Ohio) far right, who had a message for him (Cowards cut and run; Marines never do!) to White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who said that Rep. Murtha "had joined the Michael Moore wing of the Democratic party."
Subscribers to the Republican talking points memoranda including W, have stated that if we were to announce a withdrawal date, the terrorists would just lay low until that date, biding their time. The President called this “a recipe for disaster,” but Big Mitch says: Hey! Terrorists laying low -- that sounds like a good thing!
My suggestion therefore is to announce a withdrawal date two years down the road. Assuming that our President is right about insurgents laying low - and who would know better than he? - we will have just bought two years of peace.
With two years of peace at hand, we simply leave. Of course, we would have to be quiet about it. And it might not hurt to have a few bases with tall walls surrounding them. It is crucial that the walls be too tall to see over, because we don’t want anyone to notice that the bases are empty.
I know it sounds crazy, but it is so crazy that it just might work.
Speaking of crazy, I call Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfield “The Dream Team,” because they say such wacky stuff that they must be dreaming. They warn us that Iraq will descend into chaos if we leave. What the hell do we have there now?
Here's a question: if you were the head of the Iraqi government, would you be hustling to get your battle troops ready, knowing that until you do, it's the Americans who will draw the fire? Don’t forget that as soon as your troops are ready, they will be caught up in a civil war, in which the insurgents will be firing at your troops rather than at the Americans?
Maybe that would explain why the number of Iraqi battle-ready battalions in the Iraq military had dropped from three to one from mid-summer to September 29, 2005. Frankly, if you’re looking for people who might be lying low until our withdrawal, the people you should look at are the Iraqi military.
Hey, Congress: It might not be such a bad idea to send a message to the Iraqi’s to get ready to take care of themselves, cause we’re bugging out.
... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!
Monday, November 21, 2005
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Today, the United States House of Representatives was rich with irony. It started earlier in the week when Jack Murtha (D. – Pa.) came out with a thoughtful call for a change in direction in Iraq.
Who is this guy? His website tells us that he had a long and distinguished 37-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps, retiring from the Marine Corps Reserve as a colonel in 1990, having risen from the enlisted ranks which he volunteered for in 1952. He is a decorated combat veteran of Viet Nam, the recipient of two purple hearts, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star with Combat “V” and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.
Murtha was elected to Congress in 1974, one of only 131 people in the nation's history to have served more than 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is ranking member and former chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Congressman Murtha is so well-respected for his first-hand knowledge of military and defense issues that he has been a trusted adviser to presidents of both parties on military and defense issues.
As you can see in this clip, Mr. Murtha has a steely eyed, resolute look that quietly says, “No me hoda.” If you are not one to judge a book by its cover, (See, Beauty is as beauty lies.) than consider how Jack Murtha answered criticism of his position on Iraq from Dick Cheney:
I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."
Referring to Bush, Murtha added, "I resent the fact, on Veterans Day, he criticized Democrats for criticizing them."
Murtha has a realist’s view of war, and what it can accomplish. At the same time, Murtha speaks with heartfelt compassion for soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen, and their families.
Clearly, this man is the Republican’s worst nightmare. A true military hero, with a safe seat and impeccable credentials, he's a man who knows what he is talking about, and is not afraid to speak his mind.
And here's what he said:
The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of us. The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We can not continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region.
His plan calls:
W, in his characteristically lame way, responded by saying that the plan for withdrawal was "a recipe for disaster." He overlooked the fact that not withdrawing is a recipe for a greater disaster. It is hard to know which is more appalling, W's ignorance, or his hypocrisy: it was learned that he has ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans for the withdrawal of approximately half the troops now stationed in Iraq, following the December elections.
So what's a Republican controlled congress to do? Well, you might expect that they would attack him personally, and you would be right. We will see if they can trump up some ethics charge that will stick, but my money is against it. They couldn’t attack him in the well of the House because this guy is the real deal. Indeed, they praised Murtha so lavishly that he joked that people wouldn't need to attend his funeral, because they have already heard the eulogy.
Instead, they employed one of the most cynical, dispicable, disgusting and dishonest tactics imaginable. They introduced Resolution 571, "Expressing the sense of the of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States’ forces in Iraq be terminated immediately." They changed the rules so that the debate could occur on the same day the resolution was introduced, and then, debate it they did.
They continuously referred to the counterfeit resolution as if it were Representative Murtha's. Mr. Murtha had talked about a 6 month redeployment, consistent with the safety of the troops there. The object of this low Republican enterprise was to get the Democrats on record voting against withdrawal. Later, they will take the vote out of context. If they are lucky, the candidate they are smearing will say something stupid, like: "I actually voted against the resolution before I voted for it."
According to the principle that "turnabout is fair play," I offer the following suggestions for resolutions that Democrats can propose, so that we can have recorded votes from Republicans in time for the 2006 elections:
Let's demand to know what Republican's are willing to go on the record in support of. Oh, they will squeal like stuck pigs, but they started it. And as Paul said, For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap.(Galatians 6:8)
... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!
Thursday, November 17, 2005
"On March 19, 2003, President Bush sent a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate in which he made Presidential determinations required by law to justify the use of force in Iraq. His second justification was:
(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
"I realize that this question arises in the context of an on-going investigation, but could you please tell the American people whether or not, two years into the war, we have found anyone in Iraq who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attack that occurred on September 11, 2001.”
If you are reading this, and you happen to be in the White House Press Corps, please go ask Scott McClellan some tough questions.
... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
White House Communications Director, Nicolle Wallace, leftand Senator Kit Bond, (R. -- Missouri)far right
White House Communications Director Nicolle Wallace was on Hardball doing the dirty work of the White House. It was a remarkable performance and it should be an inspiration to any telegenic young person who has no regard for the truth.
There are no limits to the heights such a person can reach, especially if she is a comely blonde with blue eyes, and well-straightened teeth. It is hard to reconcile such an attractive appearance with such a mendacious attitude towards reality.
With Scott McClellan lying low, Ari Fleischer gone (but still a person of interest to the Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald in Plamegate) and the Vice President cowering in an undisclosed location, Ms. Wallace is doing the work of three men: Moe, Larry, and Curly.
Lest I be accused of being sexist, I hasten to point out that Senator Kit Bond, (R -Missouri) followed her and he was just as faithful to the Republican script. No ingénue he, he was equally disingenuous. Bond, whose name itself betokens faithfulness, had a wizened, wide-eyed, down-home look of a sixth generation hard-scrapple man of the Puke State.
It occurred to me that ‘wide-eyed’ and ‘bald-faced’ could both be used to describe this lying bastard. It made me want to puke.
Tony Roberts, the motivational speaker, describes how to deal with the nay-saying self-talk that sometimes holds people back from accomplishing more. He suggests that you imagine the inner voice as Daffy Duck’s.
In that spirit and as a public service, I offer herewith a selection of whopper’s from Chris Matthews’ show, together with Big Mitch’s comments in bold. Please imagine each delivered in the goofy voice of your choice by one of the individuals pictured above.
WALLACE: It is a blatant lie to assert that somehow the president misled people. The French—and you tell me the last time the French, the U.N., the Russians, the Brits and the Americans, a Democrat administration and a Republican administration, all agreed on something? They all agreed, Chris, that Saddam Hussein had WMD.
Are you smoking crack? The French, the U.N., and the Russian were not in favor of going to war, and they denounced the American effort to deceive them. The Democrat administration did not, as far as I can recall support going to war to remove Saddam’s WMD. The Brits were saying in their private meetings that:
“For the P5 [the permanent members of the Security Council] and the majority of the Council to take the view that Iraq was in breach of [Security Council Resolution] 687: “they would need to be convinced that Iraq was in breach of its obligations regarding WMD, and ballistic missiles. Such proof would need to be incontrovertible and of large-scale activity. Current intelligence is insufficiently robus [sic] to meet this criterion.”
The issue wasn’t whether or not Iraq had WMD at some time in the past. The issue was whether or not the regime of inspections and no-fly zones sufficiently restrained Sadam from posing a danger. On that question, the world was unanimous in its belief that the answer was “Yes!” Unanimous, that is except for the neo-cons in the White House.
MATTHEWS: You know, sometimes I have to admire people for the strangest reasons. Vice President Cheney is absolutely fearless to take on an issue, which is so unpopular on its face. I mean, nobody wants to be out there it seems as the case advocate for torture as an option. And, yet, he has gone out there and done it. How did he get this job?
WALLACE: Well, I agree with you on one thing, the vice president is fearless in his defense of this country, and he is fearless in the case that he will make to protect America.
Oh-my-God! I think I am going to laugh myself sick! Dick Cheney, of recent undisclosed location fame, formerly known for skipping military service during one of the wars he favored because he “had other priorities”—this is the fearless Dick?
MATTHEWS: But, what is wrong with outlawing cruel and degrading treatment of prisoners?
WALLACE: Well, you know, again you are talking about the specific language of Senator McCain‘s amendment. And, you know, I have enough respect for Senator McCain to leave his debate and his policy discussions something private that doesn‘t get debated on TV.
Har-Har-Hardy-Har-Har! Far be it from this White House to disagree publicly with people. Perish the thought! After all, this President used his Veteran’s Day address to troops to criticize and impugn the patriotism of anyone who disagreed with him, naming Democrats by name. You may say, “yes, but they respect Senator McCain.” Just remember: This is the crowd that said that John McCain had become mentally unstable as a result of the torture he endured in Viet Nam while Bush was busy not taking flight physicals. Maybe they had a point, considering the fact that McCain refused to denounce Karl Rove, who organized a whispering campaign to promote the idea that he had fathered an illegitimate black baby.
WALLACE [regarding torture]: And I point out, and not enough attention is paid to this, Chris, when people operate outside the laws, when people are found to have treated inmates or prisoners in a way that is outside our laws, they are prosecuted and they are held to account.
Just ask Pfc. Lynndie England. She’ll tell you that all of the people responsible for the Abu Ghraib have been brought to the bar of justice.
Or maybe she won’t because (according to the school psychologist where she grew up) from the time she was in kindergarten, she struggled with pronounced learning disabilities made worse by a lack of oxygen when she was born and a severe speech impairment.
That would explain why Lynndie England can’t name person above the rank of E-4 that was brought to trial. But why can’t Wallace?
Actually, there is a sense in which Ms. Wallace’s statement is accurate. Recall that the President said in South America that “anything we do is legal.” That being the case, nothing is illegal, and therefore no one can operate outside the laws, and therefore no one needs to be prosecuted. Q.E.D.
MATTHEWS: This is the time to think about how we eventually get out of there [Iraq], not why we got in.
WALLACE: And not just, Chris, not how we get out of there, but how we win. The American people...
MATTHEWS: … What do you think winning is over there?
WALLACE: Well, I think that we see it every day. …
But, I think we went from five battle-ready battalions to 91 in the last about 13, 14 months. And the debate in America gets boiled down to, are there - was there one battalion that can fight without the support or three.
Do you think we’re stupid? Or do you think that we forgot that the commander of coalition forces in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 29th that the number of battle-ready battalions in the Iraq military had dropped from three to one since the last time he testified, three months earlier?
Somehow the Iraqi’s picked up 90 battle-ready battalions in the last month and a half. Stranger things have happened, but none come readily to mind. That’s about 63,000 troops, about the number of men in all of Anchorage. Where did they come from? And how did they still have men left over to perform suicide bombings in Jordan?
Let’s see if Kit Bond can lie any more convincingly.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, 58 percent of the American people think the president deliberately misled them on pre-war intelligence. Doesn‘t that doubt, that skepticism, which seems to be growing every week, because of the problems with the war itself have to be addressed?
BOND: Unfortunately, our intelligence findings in the Senate Intelligence Committee, unanimously adopted by Democrats and Republicans, that said there was no pressure, no change.
The intelligence was what it was at the time. The Silverman-Robb report said the same thing.
Objection! Non-responsive, and you’re ugly, too! The question asked about the President deliberately misleading the American public. The Senate Intelligence Committee, and the Silverman-Robb report said that the President’s information was not very good. Harry Reid had to send the Senate into closed session in order to force the Republicans to investigate whether or not Bush just made shit up to get us into a war. Now why would that be? Because the Republican controlled committee decided that we didn’t need to know the answer to that question before the 2004 election. At least they promised to investigate the President’s deception after the election. And now that they have been called on it, they are going to have to keep that promise before the 2006 election. Or will they?
MATTHEWS: Why did the vice president get a trip—when I asked Tenet, why didn‘t the vice president get a report back on a trip that his question had triggered, he says ask the vice president. There is something queer about this thing. Why doesn‘t the vice president get a report back if it was his question about the uranium deal in Africa that led to Joe Wallace‘s trip?
Why didn‘t the CIA go back and say, well here Mr. Vice president, it turns out there is something to it, there is some kind of deal under works there? Why didn‘t he ever get that information back? I don‘t get it.
BOND: Well, I can‘t tell you what the CIA thought about. …
Shirley you jest! You’re a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, you’re shilling this B.S. position that we don’t need an investigation to find out if W knew that he was lying when he made the State of the Union address, and you can’t tell us whether or not Joe Wilson’s findings made it to the White House? You’re too ugly to tell a lie like that.
... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!
Friday, November 11, 2005
The decision was especially unpopular with Conservatives who envision a very limited role for government, and hold a reverential attitude towards private property. For example: a Committee for the Protection of Natural Rights sprung up in New Hampshire “To protect our National Righs as granted by our Creator …” Their website reports:
“To that end we are currently encouraging the legislative body (the voters of Weare) to apply the logic found in the Kelo v. New London , CT decision and take by eminent domain the Property of US Supreme Court Judge David Souter who owns property in Weare NH.”
On November 4th the NEW YORK TIMES reported that:
“The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Thursday [11/03/05] to discourage the seizure of private property for private development by denying federal economic development money to local governments for two years if they take such a step.
“The bill, similar to one being considered in the Senate, would bar the federal government, states and localities from using their power of eminent domain to seize property for projects like shopping centers or condominiums.”
The bill will be passed into law with speed that would make Terry Schiavo's head spin, if she hadn't been brain dead for several years.
The Associated Press reported that, "Several lawmakers who opposed the House bill said eminent domain has long been used by local governments for economic development projects such as the Inner Harbor in Baltimore and the cleaning up of Times Square in New York. The District of Columbia is expected to use eminent domain to secure land for a new baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals."
The Bush administration, backing the House bill, said in a statement that "private property rights are the bedrock of the nation's economy and enjoy constitutionally protected status. They should also receive an appropriate level of protection by the federal government." This is nothing new for W. When he ran for Governor of Texas, he promised in campaign speeches, "I will do everything I can to defend the power of private property and private property rights when I am the governor of this state."
Clearly, the President is on the side of private property, and against taking private property for public development such as Baseball Stadiums. But how long has he felt this way? You might want to ask Horace Kelton.
Kelton owned land that the Texas Rangers, led by George W. Bush, wanted. The owners got Arlington to seize it, with the city paying less than $1.50 per square foot even though it had previously paid $10 a square foot for other land nearby. "It was an extremely low price, and that's why we had a court case that lasted seven years," Mr. Kelton recalled. Eventually, his family got $11 a square foot.
Essentially, Mr. Bush and the owners' group he led bullied and misled the city into raising taxes to build a $200 million stadium that in effect would be handed over to the Rangers. As part of the deal, the city would even confiscate land from private owners so that the Rangers owners could engage in real estate speculation.
Bush was given 1.8% of the team for $600,000 of borrowed money on the strength of a resume that included several years working at failing oil companies, and his political connections through his father. The investors, including W, tripled their money. But the partnership decided to give W a little bonus, namely 10% of the company.
The main value of the team was the new stadium and 300 acres of vacant land the team acquired between the stadium and 5 Flags of Texas, which is next door. How did the Rangers acquire this very valuable property which the owners didn’t want to sell? Bush and his partners gave them only a lowball offer, and when it was rejected they arranged for a new government agency (the Arlington Sports Facility Development Authority, or ASFDA) to condemn it for them.
The agency foreclosed the land and paid the owners a very low price, later judged by a jury to be only 1/6th of its actual value. The agency also floated bonds, guaranteed and repaid by taxpayers, to finance the purchase. This amounted to a $135 million subsidy for Bush and partners, compared with the $80 million they paid for the franchise. When they sold the entire franchise for $250 million, Bush and friends walked of with a tidy chunk of taxpayer's cha-ching.
The saddest part of this story is that this small fortune, more than most of us will ever see, financed one of the most tragic events in American history: the entry of George W. Bush into politics.
This sorry tale raises a lot of troubling questions. Here are some of the most obvious:
... tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Originally, tax cuts were sold on the basis that the government was running a surplus, and that therefore, taxpayers deserved a refund. Well, in W’s own words, he hit the trifecta: national disaster, war and recession, and thus he no longer feels bound by his election year promise not to have deficit spending.
Look, this is no time for the blame game, but some have pointed out that the disaster (9/11) could have been foreseen by the simple expedient of reading the Presidential Daily Briefing. These same critics would like to accuse the President of waging a war that was not, strictly speaking, necessary to neutralize Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. Anyway, when it comes to the recession which started on Bush’s watch, you know what they say: “The buck stops with the previous administration.”
What we do know is this: the budget surplus/taxpayer refund rationale basically was, to borrow a phrase, “no longer operative.” Those who say that the war in Iraq was a big waste of blood and treasure fail to take into account the lessons that the White House learned.
The White House had learned that they could switch rationales faster than a three-card monte dealer makes the ace disappear, and people wouldn’t seem to notice. And so it was that the President announced the new, improved rationale for the tax giveaways to his billionaire buddies: Americans know how to spend their money better than the government does!
Those nattering nabobs of negativity who criticize everything the President says and does leaped on this. Why, they asked, if Americans are so smart, didn’t those folks in New Orleans do the reasonable thing and invest their tax refunds in fixing up the levies? Surely they could have done this better than the Government what with all the bureaucracy and such.
But these critics of President Bush don’t know the things he knows. For instance, who knew that, as W informed us, “no one could have anticipated the breach of the levies”?
A lot of those nay-saying nudnicks thought that just because we had created a Department of Homeland Security we would be made more secure. Some of those knuckle-heads thought that in the brain-storming about terror scenarios, someone would have thunk about sabotaging the levies.
These critics were so intent on finding fault with our President, that they failed to notice that the government had turned FEMA into a horse-and pony show, even though the head of FEMA had been replaced by the commissioner of judges at Arabian horse-and-pony shows.
The Republicans used to criticize the Democrats for "tax and spend" policies. This crop of crooks has a new policy: "steal and spend." I call it "stealing" because they are borrowing the money from the next generation, and have no intention of repaying it.
There is another big difference between the "tax and spend" policies of yesteryear, and the current legislative larceny. In the by-gone era, there was the idea that the spending was for the benefit of citizens. The Radical Republicans believe, as we have seen, that government has no role to play in helping, or even protecting, the citizenry.
... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!