Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Monday, April 30, 2007

NOLA not forgotten in Indiana

The Reverend Jesse Jackson and Mayor Ray Nagin led a march through the lower 9th ward on Saturday to draw attention to the fact that it still lies in ruins. Of course, only a few networks covered it.

Jackson said the Bush administration and much of the nation had largely forgotten the working class and mostly black hurricane victims in the Lower 9th, while areas that draw tourists and more affluent sections recover more quickly.

“The waters have subsided, but the abandonment continues. The president did not mention Katrina in his last State of the Union address,” Jackson said. While the Saints, the city's professional football team, and Mardi Gras have returned, “the people are not back,” he said.
I haven't forgotten. I will never forget.

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Is Blackwater a 'Standing Army?'

Is Blackwater a 'standing army?'

If we ever manage to extract ourselves from Iraq, what will become of this new army of corporate mercenaries - and who will they report to? What will be their chain of command? Will they be disbanded? Or will they be integrated into the U.S. Army and subjected to the same rules and laws that govern our own armed forces?

At the moment they are under no one's jurisdiction but that of the Executive Branch and their own CEO - and if I may make a dubious connection here, Hitler demanded that the Gestapo take a vow of allegiance to himself directly, and not to 'the Motherland.' I think we can do without this sort of 'private, presidential army' - or worse, an unaccountable corporate army - if we plan to remain a free democracy.

And what of Blackwater's founder, Erik Prince, brother of Betsy DeVos, former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party? According to a recent Associated Press article, his Moyock, N.C.-based company has received at least $800 million in federal contracts over the past five years, according to government records.

Deborah Avant, professor of political science at George Washington University, said Prince and others like him share an interest in proving the legitimacy of their companies' services. But some qualities set Blackwater and its founder apart from other military services companies, she said.

"Blackwater is owned by one guy, who is very rich," Avant said. "He's very connected. He's very tied to the Christian right."

So who does this mercenary army really answer to - and who will they report to when they finally come home from Iraq? Will they report only and directly to their CEO, an avowed neocon conservative and fundamentalist Christian?

Perhaps we should give this some thought.

Our forefathers had a lot to say about standing armies, although unfortunately there is scant mention of them within the Bill of Rights (only the third amendment, and it is rather cryptic on the subject.)

Amendment III: No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

I think the answer becomes a little clearer when you take the third amendment in context with the rest of amendments, and the entire Constitution. Our forefathers were talking about freedom from oppression: safeguarding liberty in the fledgling United States, and hopefully throughout its future.

Today, other amendments within our Bill of Rights have been 'bent' for political purposes - and this should be reason enough for every American to read the Bill of Rights and keep close watch on governmental practices. One could easily argue that our fourth amendment was broken when the NSA, under George Bush's executive orders, began spying on American citizens' phone calls and electronic messages.

Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

In our day and age, 'papers and effects' can easily include electronic documents and emails. Unreasonable searches and seizures would easily include spying on law-abiding citizens without their knowledge by siphoning off their private emails and storing them in a secret database.

So what about the third amendment?

Obviously no one is 'quartering troops' in anyone's houses these days. But what about in their backyards? What about these new Blackwater military training installations that are springing up all over our country? And what happens when these mercenary troops come home from Iraq? Will they constitute a corporate, standing army on our soil?

There are warnings throughout history about the dangers of standing armies, and especially armies of mercenaries that are not answerable (or accountable) to the ruling government of the land. Even Machiavelli, author of 'The Prince,' believed that standing armies - and especially mercenaries - were a danger to society. Machiavelli wrote of mercenaries that they were "disunited, ambitious, without discipline, faithless, bold amongst friends, cowardly amongst enemies, they have no fear of God, and keep no faith with men."

Additionally, Machiavelli warned that their lack of patriotism left "no motivation beyond wages, which were not enough to motivate men to die; and, more fundamentally, any mercenary army powerful enough to defend a state must be more than powerful enough to subjugate it."

Machiavelli spoke of mercenaries again in the 'Art of War,' warning that any prince who relies on mercenaries within his army, must either remain embroiled in wars forever, or risk overthrow when the mercenaries became unemployed with the advent of peace. By the way, one has only to see the trouble Roman rulers had with their own legions to see how this plays out.

I am specifically referring to Machiavelli's words, because his is a manifesto that every neocon has undoubtedly read - and likely worships in secret. 'The Prince' is all about gaining and holding power; whatever the costs. If Machiavelli was against mercenary armies, we as a free nation should be concerned.

We also have the words of our forefathers to consider: and they had direct experience with British standing armies in the early American colonies. According to a nice list of quotes provided by Jacob G. Hornberger in his article "The Bill of Rights: Antipathy to Militarism:"

Henry St. George Tucker, in Blackstone’s 1768 Commentaries on the Laws of England:
"Wherever standing armies are kept up, and when the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction."

Patrick Henry:
"A standing army we shall have, also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny; and how are you to punish them? Will you order them to be punished? Who shall obey these orders? Will your mace-bearer be a match for a disciplined regiment?"

The Commonwealth of Virginia, as it ratified the Constitution in 1788:
"...standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances and protection of the community will admit; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to and governed by the civil power."

North Carolina, in its Declaration of Rights, 1776:
"...that the people have a Right to bear Arms for the Defence of the State, and as Standing Armies in Time of Peace are dangerous to Liberty, they ought not to be kept up, and that the military should be kept under strict Subordination to, and governed by the Civil Power."

The Pennsylvania Convention:
"...standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military shall be kept under strict subordination to and be governed by the civil power."

Our forefathers believed the best and perhaps only protection of liberty in a free society was safeguarded not by an enormous standing army but by the individual, "citizen-soldier" protecting his and his family's rights and freedom. This 'militia' would translate today to our own National Guard. Our National Guard was never intended to be a tool of foreign invasion, but rather as a local militia to serve and protect our own citizen liberties and freedoms here at home.

So what would our forefathers have thought of Blackwater USA?

I think we as American citizens had better give this some serious thought. I have yet to get my hands on a copy of Jeremy Scahill's 'Blackwater," so I don't know if he addresses the subject of standing armies. I do know that I watched "Iraq for Sale" last night - I rented the DVD from Netflix, and I highly recommend that every American with even a shred of patriotism and decency watch this documentary.

After seeing Blackwater in action (along with Halliburton's 'KBR', and the other war profiteers who are plundering our economy, our armed forces and the people of Iraq,) I was immediately concerned about this 'standing army' issue. Blackwater in Iraq is bad enough - these armed soldiers are not accountable to our government or our military chain of command, and can kill anyone - Iraqi or otherwise - with immunity.

Now, imagine Blackwater operating here, on American soil. If allowed to continue their mercenary ways, with no accountability or oversight, they could easily pose a direct threat to our free society, especially if they eventually outnumber our own National Guardsmen - our 'militia.'

Just ask our forefathers...

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Bill of Rights: Better learn it

Amendments 1-10 of the Constitution

The Conventions of a number of the States having, at the time of adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added, and as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution;

Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two-thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States; all or any of which articles, when ratified by three-fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the said Constitution, namely:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.


Terror attacks up nearly 30%

Apparently the "fight them there so we won't have to fight them here" agenda backfired just a little. Now, "everyone gets to fight them everywhere."

I'm sure the world is very grateful to us.

A State Department report on terrorism due out next week will show a nearly 30 percent increase in terrorist attacks worldwide in 2006 to more than 14,000, almost all of the boost due to growing violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. officials said Friday.

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Bush: AWOL in Iraq

The following is a transcript of the Democratic Radio Address delivered by Lieutenant General William E. Odom, U.S. Army (Ret.) on Saturday April 28, 2007:

“Good morning, this is Lieutenant General William E. Odom, U.S. Army, retired.

“I am not now nor have I ever been a Democrat or a Republican. Thus, I do not speak for the Democratic Party. I speak for myself, as a non-partisan retired military officer who is a former Director of the National Security Agency. I do so because Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, asked me.

“In principle, I do not favor Congressional involvement in the execution of U.S. foreign and military policy. I have seen its perverse effects in many cases. The conflict in Iraq is different. Over the past couple of years, the President has let it proceed on automatic pilot, making no corrections in the face of accumulating evidence that his strategy is failing and cannot be rescued.

“Thus, he lets the United States fly further and further into trouble, squandering its influence, money, and blood, facilitating the gains of our enemies. The Congress is the only mechanism we have to fill this vacuum in command judgment.

“To put this in a simple army metaphor, the Commander-in-Chief seems to have gone AWOL, that is ‘absent without leave.’ He neither acts nor talks as though he is in charge. Rather, he engages in tit-for-tat games.

“Some in Congress on both sides of the aisle have responded with their own tits-for-tats. These kinds of games, however, are no longer helpful, much less amusing. They merely reflect the absence of effective leadership in a crisis. And we are in a crisis.

“Most Americans suspect that something is fundamentally wrong with the President’s management of the conflict in Iraq. And they are right.

“The challenge we face today is not how to win in Iraq; it is how to recover from a strategic mistake: invading Iraq in the first place. The war could never have served American interests.

“But it has served Iran’s interest by revenging Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran in the 1980s and enhancing Iran’s influence within Iraq. It has also served al Qaeda’s interests, providing a much better training ground than did Afghanistan, allowing it to build its ranks far above the levels and competence that otherwise would have been possible.

“We cannot ‘win’ a war that serves our enemies interests and not our own. Thus continuing to pursue the illusion of victory in Iraq makes no sense. We can now see that it never did.

“A wise commander in this situation normally revises his objectives and changes his strategy, not just marginally, but radically. Nothing less today will limit the death and destruction that the invasion of Iraq has unleashed.

“No effective new strategy can be devised for the United States until it begins withdrawing its forces from Iraq. Only that step will break the paralysis that now confronts us. Withdrawal is the pre-condition for winning support from countries in Europe that have stood aside and other major powers including India, China, Japan, Russia.

“It will also shock and change attitudes in Iran, Syria, and other countries on Iraq’s borders, making them far more likely to take seriously new U.S. approaches, not just to Iraq, but to restoring regional stability and heading off the spreading chaos that our war has caused.

“The bill that Congress approved this week, with bipartisan support, setting schedules for withdrawal, provides the President an opportunity to begin this kind of strategic shift, one that defines regional stability as the measure of victory, not some impossible outcome.

“I hope the President seizes this moment for a basic change in course and signs the bill the Congress has sent him. I will respect him greatly for such a rare act of courage, and so too, I suspect, will most Americans.

“This is retired General Odom. Thank you for listening.”

General Odom has served as Director of the National Security Agency and Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, the Army’s senior intelligence officer. In his address, General Odom will discuss why he believes President Bush should sign the conference report on the Iraq Accountability Act.

You can download the radio address by clicking here.

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Mr. Bush... if for no other reason than this one alone: you deserve to be impeached for your complete mismanagement of Katrina. Be it your own personal pride, arrogance, lack of empathy for those who were of a different race, political party and social standing... or perhaps a desire to see this annoyingly democratic and largely African American bastion destroyed - New Orleans still lies in ruins. The majority of residents still can't come home.

I am sure you and your cronies will label me as unpatriotic for writing this. That is your favorite answer for everything, your favorite bully slap-down. So I have to ask you... do you consider it patriotic to kill an entire American city? Who is being unpatriotic here!

Today I am reading in the Washington Post:

Allies offered $854 million in cash and in oil that was to be sold for cash. But only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction, according to U.S. officials and contractors. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Some offers were withdrawn or redirected to private groups such as the Red Cross. The rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.

In addition, valuable supplies and services -- such as cellphone systems, medicine and cruise ships -- were delayed or declined because the government could not handle them. In some cases, supplies were wasted.
Meanwhile, almost two years after the hurricane and failure of the levees, much of New Orleans still lies in ruins.

Mr. Bush... this is not a war zone in some foreign land that you have invaded... this is an American city that you allowed to be completely destroyed by levees that you refused to reinforce. And now you have left this city to die. College students on spring break are doing more to rebuild New Orleans. Everyday American citizens are doing more to rebuild New Orleans.

As with Climate Change, your 'leadership' is so abysmal - in fact, it could easily be labeled criminal neglect - that American cities, towns, volunteer groups, churches and just about every other sector of American life has been forced to fill your void. Because that is what you are sir: a void. A vacuum at the top. A black hole into which our money disappears and never resurfaces.

Other than passing out financial treats to your yacht club, oil tycoon buddies, you have done nothing but loot our institutions and our economy at home, while pillaging Iraq abroad - even the supposed 'reconstruction projects' in Iraq are already crumbling into ruin. Our tax dollars, hard at work. No wait... our tax dollars were neatly pocketed by Halliburton, shortly before they moved their offices off shore (so its not likely we'll be getting any of those tax dollars back, now will we sir?)

And you wonder why no one likes you? If you knew anything at all about history, you'd realize that robber barons have historically been quite unpopular. You get a choice, sir: behave like a criminal and go down in history as a criminal, or behave like a legitimate president (even if you were never really elected) and warrant a little more respect from the populace, and later history. Because history will crucify you, as soon as we manage to recover from your tenure.

I only wish we could impeach you first and save a little face as a nation. The rest of the world is no doubt wondering what the hell is wrong with us for allowing this to go on for 6 years. God only knows what will happen in the remaining two.

Mr. Bush, grow a heart. The Grinch managed it... what will it take for you to grow one yourself?

And while television sets worldwide showed images of New Orleans residents begging to be rescued from rooftops as floodwaters rose, U.S. officials turned down countless offers of allied troops and search-and-rescue teams. The most common responses: "sent letter of thanks" and "will keep offer on hand," the new documents show.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Calling out the media

The further you get from power, the closer you get to truth. - Bill Moyers

Bill Moyers uttered this brilliant comment during an interview with Amy Goodwin on "Democracy Now," when discussing his latest double-barrel blast of the news media's coverage of the buildup to the war in Iraq. In his documentary 'Buying the War,' Moyers takes just about everyone to task for failing to ask the basic questions anyone would expect of a real news reporter: is my source credible? Does he or she have an ulterior motive? Can I dig deeper and find a differing story?

Investigative reporting is dying out in this country. The corporations who now own us don't like it; or perhaps they fear it. How can they be sure we won't turn the microscope on them one day?

Greg Palast, an American who writes for the BBC, recently reported:

I’ve been through this before, too many times. Take this investigative report, also buried in the U.S.: Back in December 2000, I received two computer disks from the office of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Analysis of the data, plus documents that fell my way, indicated that Harris’ office had purged thousands of African Americans from Florida’s voter rolls as “felons.” Florida now admits that many of these voters were not in fact felons. Nevertheless, the blacklisting helped cost Al Gore the White House.

I reported on the phony felon purge in Britain’s Guardian and Observer and on the BBC while Gore was still in the race, while the count was still on.

Yet the story of the Florida purge never appeared in the U.S. daily papers or on television. Until months later, that is, after the Supreme Court had decided the election, when it was picked up by the Washington Post and others.

U.S. papers delayed the story until the U.S. Civil Rights Commission issued a report saying our Guardian/BBC story was correct: Innocents lost their vote. At that point, protected by the official imprimatur, American editors felt it safe enough to venture out with the story. But by then, George W. Bush could read it from his chair in the Oval Office.

Not only has investigative reporting disappeared, thanks to the dominance of the 'sound bite,' and general laziness (my opinion,) but basic journalistic standards seem to have been tossed to the wayside. I'm talking about injecting thought into writing... not simply writing down whatever comes out of the mouth of the source you are 'interviewing,' typing it up and handing it in. And this assumes there are actually interviews taking place. From watching that fake news conference Bush staged before the Iraq war, one has to wonder if the journalists are asking questions or the administration is simply feeding propaganda.

This isn't journalism - any tape recorder is capable of this much. Are there no trained journalists working in the business these days? Are they now operating under a smothering, corporate gag order? My alma mater seems to still be turning them out every year... so where are they going, and why aren't they checking their facts before rushing the story? Is the competition to be first on a story so fierce - and the standards for accuracy now so lax - that its no longer fiscally productive to spend time verifying your 'news' is actually true?

Thank God Moyers is back. Many reputable newspapers are finally returning to real news coverage (and even investigative work) in print, but this is not the case on television. Many of us are driven to Jon Stewart for our 'spoonful of sugar' - and a drop of actual news we won't find on network news. We're all desperate for an alternative to the blowdried, shiny-eyed talking heads on the network news channels.

I think most Americans are now aware that the 'news' they are getting on TV isn't really news at all, but only the sensationalism du jour. Those who want real news now turn to the BBC, Democracy Now, or a variety of alternative news sources on the web... and of course, Jon Stewart and hero Stephen Colbert, of White House Correspondents Dinner fame.

Stewart had a hilarious - if maddening - bit on how the television media was actually patting themselves on the back for their coverage of the VT shootings. If I hadn't been laughing at Stewart's delivery, I would have been throwing up. These being the same blathering TV media idiots that I referred to as 'ghouls' while still trying to get real information during the crisis, as it unfolded 'live' on television. That they actually took the time to gloat afterwards over their blatantly sensationalist coverage is sickening - but not surprising. I suppose by ghoul standards, they did a ghoulishly good job.

Now we have Bill Moyers again! With a little luck - and perhaps a little American common sense thrown into the mix - people will simply stop watching network news and find the news where it is: just about anywhere else on cable.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

James Madison had W on his radar

Apparently James Madison, considered by many to be the 'father of the Constition,' saw George W. Bush coming.

Here are a couple of examples that speak directly to our times - and to our current administration's real agenda. Notice how well everything has fallen into place, with a little help from our idiot media:

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.... [There is also an] inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and ... degeneracy of manners and of morals.... No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

- James Madison

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.

- James Madison

Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation.

- James Madison

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.

- James Madison

The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, & most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care, vested the question of war in the Legislature. But the Doctrines lately advanced strike at the root of all these provisions, and will deposit the peace of the Country in that Department which the Constitution distrusts as most ready without cause to renounce it. For if the opinion of the President not the facts & proofs themselves are to sway the judgment of Congress, in declaring war, and if the President in the recess of Congress create a foreign mission, appoint the minister, & negociate a War Treaty, without the possibility of a check even from the Senate, untill the measures present alternatives overruling the freedom of its judgment; if again a Treaty when made obliges the Legislature to declare war contrary to its judgment, and in pursuance of the same doctrine, a law declaring war, imposes a like moral obligation, to grant the requisite supplies until it be formally repealed with the consent of the President & Senate, it is evident that the people are cheated out of the best ingredients in their Government, the safeguards of peace which is the greatest of their blessings.

James Madison, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, April 2, 1798 (The Writings of James Madison, ed. Gaillard Hunt, vol. 6, pp. 312–13 1906)

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Feingold grills Gonzales

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Gonzales: I have no recollection... of anything...

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

That was then...

Once I was a Democrat, until being Democrat became synonymous with being - as Colbert so blatently put it - 'a pussy.' But more even than cowardice, it is the Democratic Party's closet, lobbyist connections and corruption, and especially the partisan positioning at the expense of the nation that disgusts me. Here they are in the position of power - a position where they can finally reign in Bush and Cheney, not to mention restore Habeas Corpus, close Gitmo, overturn the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act, and most importantly, file articles of impeachment for all of the crimes against our Constitution and the people of this country. Have they done any of these things? "Not on the table."

We elected them into office to restore oversight and fix the damage caused by this run amok Presidency. Waxman and Leahy get it. Pelosi does not.

Kucinich does, but the Democratic party is doing everything it can to marginalize him, even though he represents the will of the people. So how exactly are the Dems any different than the GOPs? Color. Blue vs. Red. Alas, we the people are green. And while all of our tax money is being wasted on wars of aggression and lobbyist pandering, we're quietly trying to battle Climate Change on our own.

Once I belonged to Moveon.org. It was a great, up-and-coming grassroots organization, and our best hope at having our voices heard in our suddenly citizen-deaf government.

Moveon.org was at the forefront of the internet grassroots surge. Then they moved to Washington and set up shop as an official lobbying organization. Suddenly we were getting emails telling us that we 'couldn't do this' or 'say that' at MoveOn events, because it might get the mother ship in legal trouble.

Hmm. OK. That should have tipped us off.

The came the famous email poll, shortly before the war supplemental vote (and while Pelosi was actively blocking an amendment from Rep. Barbara Lee that would limit the use of new funding to the safe withdrawal of all U.S. troops and military contractors from Iraq by December 31, 2007, to reconstruction in Iraq and to regional diplomacy efforts.) Moveon carefully crafted their email to give members no choice but to vote for Pelosi's bill - or side with the Republicans.

For the anti-war caucus in the House, the Moveon poll was a huge blow. To MoveOn.org members, it was betrayal from an organization we had thought was ours; and that we had trusted - had helped to build. The organizers even had the gall to claim that '80% of their membership supported the Pelosi bill,' when in fact, only about 1000 out of the 3 million members even voted in the confusing, email poll.

Now, Alternet has become a morass.

I used to love Alternet. It was one of the original, alternative news sources. It was also a place where progressive readers and thinkers could discuss current events. The discussions were interesting, for the most part intelligent and thoughtful.

Boy has that ever changed.

These days Alternet seems to exist only to incite argument by posting inflamatory and divisive issues (often overlooking the really interesting, informative news that I now look to Truthout.org to disseminate.)

The discussions on Alternet have sunk even lower. The comment area is now the battle ground between the right and left wingnuts: rabid Vegans, rabid gun-lovers, rabid athiests - rabid anarchists. Gone are the days of respectful discussion. I post occasionally, but my attempt at reasonable commentary is now met with nastiness and occasional insults.

I am no longer a Democrat, a member of Moveon.org, or a regular reader of Alternet. Extremes - people who scream that everything is either black or white - cowardice and manipulation... these are things I can live without.

Like most Americans these days, I am looking for honest leadership, truthful news, thoughtful commentary, and common ground. I want to see my government cleaned up and representing the will of the people. I want justice: which now translates to impeachment.

Once I could watch the television, nightly news. These days, I can't relate to the sensationalist drivel the media spews and passes off as news. Anna Nichole Smith, 24/7? I want real news - Dan Rather-style - not lies and gossipy speculation from blow-dried actors pretending to be journalists. Ah for the days of Walter Cronkite. How far television news has fallen... it slipped right down into the Fox Network sewer.

We were almost entertained yesterday while watching CNN's coverage of the Virginia Tech aftermath (scary thought) because the correspondents kept tossing their hair, raising their eyebrows and 'looking very sad' (some absolutely terrible acting) - just like the fake correspondents on the Jon Stewart show. We found ourselves giggling as we watched them, because we could see Rob Riggle arching his eyebrow, or John Oliver nodding sadly in their every insincere gesture. John Oliver is actually more convincing. Rob Riggle gives much better eyebrow. Perhaps CNN just needs to hire better actors.

Kucinich about to make a move

Kucinich to Congress:

April 17, 2007

Dear Colleague:

This week I intend to introduce Articles of Impeachment with respect to the conduct of Vice President Cheney. Please have your staff contact my office . . . if you would like to receive a confidential copy of the document prior to its introduction in the House.



Dennis J. Kucinich

Member of Congress

Quip from one un-named, Democratic aide:

"We'll see a Kucinich Administration before we'll see a Cheney impeachment."

Quip from the author of this blog:

And that is why I am no longer a Democrat, you politically-correct, off-the-record coward.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What is wrong with this sentence?

I've seen this quote three times now, in three different articles:

"This man was brutal," Dr. Joseph Cacioppo, an emergency room physician who treated the wounded, told CNN. "There wasn't a shooting victim that didn't have less than three bullet wounds in them."

Heh, CNN again. Figures.

Will no one translate this for us? The Doctor can be forgiven for providing a quote while under pressure. But I can't understand how the journalists covering this story can keep using this same quote without ever reading it. Did no one ask this man whether he in fact meant to say: "There wasn't a shooting victim with less than three bullet wounds?"

Current wording leaves the hapless reader to wonder why shooting only one or two bullets - but never three or more bullets - would qualify this shooter as especially 'brutal.' Double and even triple negatives are terribly hard to negotiate.

Do news writers read the reports they reprint from the wire? Do wire reporters question quotes that make no sense?

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"We are not the stuff of massacres"

A different small town, much like ours. Locals, students, faculty... different races, cultures, languages even, all mixed and jumbled together. Tolerance. Hokey birds everywhere.

Up until the Hokeys, this could easily be Bloomington. Quiet town, friendly people. Nothing much happens here, other than arguments about politics, and in our case, terrific music. Walking across campus you see students from all over the world. We have a mosque. We have Jewish temples. And of course, every flavor of Christian Church imaginable. We get along pretty well.

I can't imagine what the people of Blacksburg are going through today. I am trying to imagine sitting in a classroom at IU, and suddenly a gunman breaks in and starts shooting everyone. The problem is, I can imagine it... right up until the part about the gunman. Our campus isn't really much different than Virginia Tech. Quiet, normal days, students with backpacks and IPods, limestone buildings and trees. If it happened to Blacksburg, it could happen anywhere.

"But Blacksburg isn’t a place of massacres — Blacksburg is my home in southwest Virginia. It’s boring — that’s why I like it. We are Virginia Tech, the fighting gobblers, the ones who wear the funny turkey hats and plant tasteless turkey sculptures all over town. We are not the stuff of massacres."

Much is being made in the news of the many things that should be done to make sure this will never happen again. But that is impossible: of course it can happen again. If there is a will... a disgruntled or mentally ill student with a vendetta, it will happen again, and no amount of daily searches, metal detectors, and armed guards will stop it from happening again. At some point, we all have to accept that we are not safe from life. Things happen. People snap.

Perhaps we should look instead at our culture for the answers. The pressure we put on our kids to achieve, to 'make it' academically, as we pull the rug out from under them financially. Rather than investing in metal detectors, perhaps we should salvage the student loan program. Not radical enough? Sometimes the things that are most effective aren't radical at all. It just involves seeing people.

I'm sure the details will come out, and soon. The daytime ghouls at CNN will finally have their facts to trumpet over the airwaves, 24/7. Finally, a new drama. Things have been a bit dry post-Anna Nichole Smith (especially in light of CNN's seeming unwillingness to cover the scandals coming out of the White House.) Now they will be happily telling us all how to remake our collage campuses into little Nazi camps with 'safety everywhere' and freedom locked up, locked down... for the good of the students of course. Maybe you've noticed, our media isn't a big proponent of freedom. They disseminate terror. Fear makes for great headlines. And then they have a lot of fun dreaming up wonderful solutions for us: prisons of safety for the masses.

But I digress. This isn't about CNN, thank God. It's about people. It's about a quiet, quaint college town where 'nothing ever happens.'

By now, the parents and families of the dead have gotten word. I can't imagine their feelings of dread last night, when children attending Virginia Tech failed to call home. It must have been a lot like awaiting news from a child in Iraq; only these parents thought they were merely sending their child off for an education, not to serve as human targets.

I hear one entire class was massacred. I try not to imagine what that must have been like. Unfortunately, in a college town, its much too easy to picture the setting on a normal day, students sitting in a classroom with their notebooks open, perhaps a few laptops scattered here and there.

We are not the stuff of massacres either. I can imagine the classroom perfectly. But not the gunshots....

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The East Coast is washing away

Weather's getting a bit sucky, wouldn't you say? The East Coast is pretty much washing away - 8 inches of rainfall in Central Park, NYC? I remember Westchester Co., from the last time I was in New York. The residents are being rescued from their houses by boat?


I keep waiting for something to hit Washington D.C. and bring the gravity of the situation home to our Capitol. Don't they get severe weather in D.C.?

God knows the rest of us do. Here in Indiana, we had 'another ho-hum freeze' - another day of not planting. The blossoms have fallen off the trees - given up for this year. I'm starting to wonder if we'll even have any leaves.

Is the jury in now Mr Bush? Because we really don't care if its inconvenient for you and your oil buddies... its getting a little inconvenient for us too. But its here.

Bloomington scores a spot on the National Ticker!By the way, our Step It Up for Climate Change went very well Saturday, even though we had to bring it inside the City Hall Chambers and out of the pouring rain, rather than hold it outside in the Farmer's Market. Rep. Baron Hill spoke, along with our Mayor, who issued a special proclamation honoring Step It Up. Author Scott Russell Sanders read a very moving 'letter to his children' that brought many in the crowd to tears. Every gathering should have their bard... we had more than one. We also had music! Carrie Newcomer sang, along with the a cappella group Kaia. Many City and Environmental organizations had booths set up all through the City Hall Chambers, and demonstrated many ways that each of us can cut our carbon footprint. Afterwards, many braved the rain and planted trees outside our Public Library.

From watching the ticker on the National site, it appears the movement was a huge success all over the country. There were 11 events in Indiana alone!

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Watching the media ghouls strut their stuff

The horror that unfolded on the Virginia Tech Campus today is hard to grasp, and of course, we all want to know what happened and why. Unfortunately - for me at least - the horror of the event was compounded by my own horror at the coverage.

I was forced to turn on CNN. The day anchors were very excitedly reporting any and every possible clue or tip - replaying a video that had been taken by a student with a cell phone, replaying an interview with said student, replaying any interview with any student... replaying any photos they could find, and speculating wildly about what might have happened and why.

As a former journalism student, I felt sick.

It went on. I finally couldn't watch any more of the sensationalism, but when I turned on CNN tonight (hoping for more level heads prevailing,) it was even worse. A press conference is in progress, and a bunch of... frankly moronic reporters are badgering the Virginia Tech president and Police Chief Wendell Flinchum, who was a lot more patient than I could have been. They asked the same questions over... and over... and over... apparently not listening to each other (or perhaps they never do.) Sometimes they were accusing: "Why didn't you stop the gunman at the dorm, before he had a chance to kill more people?" Ironically, there is still an investigation underway and the police are not yet sure the same gunman DID kill the people in the Engineering building. Maybe yes - probably yes - but that is why there are investigations and not simply guesses. The media loves to guess. Remember how they 'guessed' the outcome of election 2000? They are guessing today, all day long. Its appalling.

Has the media always been this atrocious? I am not sure. It was pretty horrible in the 80s when I made my choice not to go into the profession. I could easily see that it wasn't a profession for someone with a strong ethical center... because the 'if it bleeds, it leads' rule is law. Respect for truth, respect for people, respect for justice... these are all secondary.

One of the most horrifying moments (other than the general happenings at the campus) was when one of these giddy, CNN day anchors actually asked the SWAT team leader how he would set up security on college campuses across the nation, so this could never happen again. Yes, she asked him this. A SWAT team leader.

Of course on this day, in this circumstance, the chaos and general freedom of a college campus was making it hard for him to do his job, so of course he spoke of having backpack searches (although he didn't specify if this would be before EVERY class, or just once a day,) and well trained security personnel posted all around campus, monitoring the comings and goings of the general populace. He spoke of keeping non-campus people off campus. Etc.

I live in a college town. I can tell you that the college and the town are intermixed. We all go to events at the college, and the students (many of them) live in the community. I can't even imagine some knee jerk reaction where suddenly the town people can no longer go on campus... because they don't have some required student or faculty pass, and the students are forced to go through metal detectors every time they go back on campus. This is... mind boggling in its antithesis to what college campuses are all about.

The fact is... we are not safe. Ever.

We can never be completely safe. Bad things are going to happen in life, here and there, sometimes at malls, sometimes in schools, sometimes on campuses and sometimes even in airplanes and giant skyscrapers. It is what we do in the wake of these tragedies... how we react, that defines us. It defined us after 9/11. We gave away our freedom with the Patriot Act. I pray that this kind of cowardice doesn't define us once again after the Virginia Tech shootings. Decisions made in a time of fear have a way of leading to a lifetime of regret.

What I have seen today makes me fear for my country, my city and its campus.... much more than I will ever fear the random gunman.

And the media shall lead the maniacal charge... straight over the cliff.

An FBI agent interviewed by Wolf Blitzer, just prior to Lou Dobbs: Wolf was taking the apparently official CNN line, that something MUST BE DONE to make our campuses safer (under control, even from isolated cases of random violence.) The FBI agent reminded Wolf - thank God - that we live in a free society, and that in a free society, things like this can happen anywhere. Finally, some words of wisdom. And thank you to Jack Cafferty for his comment that 'Psychos can turn up anywhere.'

Ah, thank heavens... Lou Dobbs at last. Finally someone with a brain, to present the actually known news, in a dignified fashion. I was finally able to take in the horror and process it - without being distracted by my feelings of disgust at the ghoulish behavior of the media messengers.

Those poor people in Virginia. The campus looked... familiar. Could have been here. The trees, the limestone buildings. The town sounded wonderful. Just like here. Could have happened anywhere.

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The wolf in the middle of the room

How to get rid of the Neocon you just caught with his hand in the cookie jar

Hell no - we won't go.

It seems the latest refuge for Neocons caught stealing, lying or cheating these days - is to simply ignore the fallout. Just refuse to step down. No cutting and running for these guys. Gonzales won't resign - and of course Bush won't fire him - and now Wolfowitz says he won't resign from his position as President of the World Bank either.

This probably doesn't come as much of a shock. These guys will never willingly give up the power. Power and money are the center of their universe. They are counting on their belief that everyone else - the great unwashed - are too weak to strike them down.

Sources close to the executive directors, speaking on the condition of anonymity while the matter remains undecided, said the board is reluctant to appear to cave to the staff and take the unprecedented step of firing a president. But a majority believes it would be "best if he decided on his own" to resign, one source said.

"Neener neener neener - can't make me!"

I'm curious... can't the bank simply fire him?

Apparently they can, and might.. although they are reluctant to do so. And guess what... just as with Gonzales, and Rumsfeld before him, and Brownie before Rummy - Bush is backing his man all the way.

The U.S. president traditionally names the World Bank head. Bush said last week that he strongly supports Wolfowitz and expects him to continue in the job.

"Wolfie, you're doing a heck of a job."

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Friday, April 13, 2007

The problem with the email scandal

Something is really bothering me. Its the whole 'Karl's emails were deleted' issue.

First of all, in this day and age, emails can't just 'be deleted'; they can be restored from just about any failed hard drive, and exist in many forms and in many places throughout the internet and on recipients' computers.

So... if every one of Karl's emails are truly gone, there must have been a concerted effort to destroy those emails - a very comprehensive operation which would undoubtedly have involved the NSA, because they apparently keep everything. The sheer volume of missing emails implies that they have done just that.

"You can't erase e-mails, not today," Leahy said in an angry speech on the Senate floor. "They've gone through too many servers. Those e-mails are there -- they just don't want to produce them. It's like the infamous 18-minute gap in the Nixon White House tapes."

Jawohl. So many crimes to hide... no doubt.

But that isn't even the part of the story that is eating at me right now.

Its the 'secret room' at AT&T; the fact that the rest of us great unwashed have to put up with the government nosing into every single detail of our personal lives - illegally - and storing every email (seemingly forever) on some government, or worse, subcontractors' database.

We took no public oath of disclosure, but everything we write is being read and saved somewhere by people we have never even met. Our crime? We are Americans, and apparently there are those within our government who are afraid of us. The mastermind? Well that's exactly the point I now speculate. Who could possibly slip this net, if not the very guy holding the net? Unless of course he is simply lying -- a very real possibility, because like most people in the George W. Bush White House, he wouldn't know the truth if it bit him. Truth is something to be invented for partisan gain.

Think about it. According to the White House, Karl Rove can actually still lose email. The rest of us can't. Who is he - Joseph Goebbels? Is he the mastermind behind this 'spy on all Americans' scheme? Does the NSA work for him? Else... wouldn't the NSA simply supply Karl's emails from their massive electronic archive?

And what of AT&T? Don't Karl's emails go through that same 'secret room' that siphons off the rest of our emails? Did Karl get a pass from AT&T as well? Or was this entire (illegal) plan his idea in the first place?

And what does that really indicate about our Executive Branch and their partisan plan for outright dictatorship? What is in Karl's emails that would warrant this much concerted effort to destroy them?

If they can't find Karl's emails when they undoubtedly have all of mine - and believe me, I'm an absolute nobody in Indiana - we have a real Constitutional crisis on our hands. But then again, we already knew that.

Subpoena them all, then hold Karl Goebbels in contempt for obstruction of justice if he can't produce. If he can produce them when faced with jail time - he's lying to us again. Business as usual.

The answer to this question - whether he can or can't produce them -
will tell us more than the contents of the emails themselves. If he can't produce emails in this day and age, a very real and pervasive cover-up is in effect... obstruction of justice.

Surely that at least is impeachable. Surely you can throw a 'public servant' in jail for that.

Doesn't that Monica Lewinsky thing look more and more ludicrous by the day?

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sometimes the hypocrisy is too much

Today I read a follow-up on Alternet, about Walter F. Murphy, and his story of how he landed on the no-fly list.

I try - you have no idea how hard I try - not to engage with 'wingnuts' out there, but one comment entitled 'hypocrisy and fear mongering from the left' set me off.

I suppose this is a sign of the times. So much is now broken within our government - and this war 'surge' is destined for an obvious failure on an epic level - that its becoming harder and harder to remain neutral, calm and reasonable. During these distressing and infuriating times, when lies are everywhere, and truth is hard to come by, it is hard to let a comment like this slide.

I wish I could... abstain. I failed again. I engaged:

The left engages in scare tactics? You mean... like those color coded 'danger levels' - that kind of thing? Or the 'we must fight them over there or they will swim across the ocean with their AK-47s in their teeth to kill us here' kind of scare tactics? Or perhaps the 'if we don't make sure Iran doesn't get a nuke - by nuking them into kingdom come - they might somehow overcome the ungodly defenses and enormous military arsenal of nuclear missiles in the United States and somehow destroy our country with a single bomb?'

Or did you mean the way your government uses fear -- say, that document called the "Patriot Act," designed to take full advantage of 9/11 and everyone's fear in the aftermath (the anthrax helped - that was a smart move;) by giving unprecedented dictatorial control to the Executive branch, allow for spying on all American citizens by listening in on phone conversations, reading and storing all of our emails, spying on peace groups with permits. And then there was the follow up "Military Commissions Act" legislation that removed habeas corpus protection. And of course, the use of 'fear' in our own hands as torturers... that should make us all proud. We now routinely break Geneva Conventions that have been in place since WWII.

Oh, and I forgot to mention - post 9/11, the Executive Branch immediately used the power they gained by exploiting our fear to launch an offensive invasion of a country that had no weapons of mass destruction - sorry, this has been proven so many times even Fox can't argue with it now - and at that time, no ties to Al Qaeda.

Meanwhile they somehow misplaced Bin Laden in Afghanistan (but really, he's much more useful and inspires a lot more fear in Americans when he's alive, doesn't he?) Do you really believe Bush wants to catch Bin Laden? Don't you think he'd be in our custody by now, with all of our great spy toys and surveillance satellites? If Bush caught Bin Laden, the American people might be less afraid, and more likely to ask questions... can't have that, now can we?

You speak of hypocrisy? I don't even recognize 'democracy' in this country now - and yet ever-dwindling 'patriots' like yourself keep spouting this outdated jargon about 'defending liberty,' and accuse the left of creating fear. Your government is all about fear - fear, fear, and more fear - and endless diet of fear and lies created to cause more fear.

Why don't you start defending liberty here at home for a change? Still too afraid of the boogyman? I'm curious how you can make it all work inside your head - that "we must fight them over there to keep from fighting them over here" kind of cowardice and still claim to be a fearless patriot and wrap yourself in the flag.

It appears the majority of Americans have finally awakened from their terror and have decided they have more to fear from their government than terrorists. It would seem that they are no longer willing to sacrifice their freedom - the freedom our ancestors died for - for a little 'temporary safety."

That you continue to defend those who attack our Constitution, our Bill of Rights and our real freedom as Americans proves one of three things: you are either ignorant of these documents and have never read them, you are scared out of your mind, or you've been brainwashed by Fox and have lost your ability to reason for yourself.

Yes John - but would you eat in the cafeteria?

John McCain - you and Mike Pence, in your flak jackets with the entire U.S. Army in tow, shopping in the Baghdad market... you made believers out of all of us. In fact, many of us will do all of our shopping in Baghdad from here on out. I for one, could use a few new rugs. At least they don't have genetically modified corn in Iraq, and they may still have a fruit crop, if the fighting hasn't yet blown the branches off the trees.

But Mr McCain... had you really wanted to impress us with the success of the surge and new found safety in Baghdad, I wonder why you didn't just have lunch in the Green Zone? You could just as easily have had yourself a nice, safe lunch in the Parliamentary cafetaria...

... or not.

An explosion has hit a cafeteria at the Iraqi parliament, killing at least eight people, at least two of them MPs, the US military has said.

Police said they believed a suicide bomber was involved. Dozens more people were injured in the attack.

The cafe, in Baghdad's highly fortified Green Zone, is for MPs and their staff, some of whom were having lunch there.

Earlier, a bomb on a bridge in Baghdad killed at least eight people and sent several cars into the River Tigris.


The convention centre where parliament meets is one of the most heavily guarded buildings in the country, he says.

There are sniffer dogs, and all the other usual precautions are taken. Sometimes several searches are made within the space of just a few metres.

So the markets are now safe, but the Parliament cafeteria is not? Surge seems to be going well... don't you think?

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Obstruction of Justice

American Heritage Dictionary - Cite This Source
obstruction of justice

n. The criminal offense, under common law and according to the statutes of many jurisdictions, of obstructing the administration and due process of law.
Are you just a little fed up with Rove and his blatant disdain for the American judicial system? I'm referring to the existing system as designed by the founders of our country - when it works - and not Rove's version of 'justice' that he was attempting to create when he hijacked it for partisan gain.

The latest from the White House, where the usual defense has been 'I can't remember that,' is the admission that possibly thousands of private emails - emails that legally should have gone through official channels in accordance with the Presidential Records Act - are now 'lost'. Even in this day when virtually ANY email can be extracted from any hard drive, and somehow the NSA is able to keep tabs on the entire population of our country and track all of our email correspondences - and keep copies of them - we are to believe that Karl's official emails are off limits to Congress and to the people.



Ironically, these emails are the ones that shed light on what really happened during the firing of eight prosecutors who wouldn't operate under GOP partisan lockstep. How convenient, Karl! I can see your puffy, smirking face -- you're laughing at them, aren't you? Laughing at Waxman and all of Congress. "Can't touch me!"

We'll see about that.

Washington - The White House said Wednesday that it may have lost what could amount to thousands of messages sent through a private e-mail system used by political guru Karl Rove and at least 50 other top officials, an admission that stirred anger and dismay among congressional investigators.

The e-mails were considered potentially crucial evidence in congressional inquiries launched by Democrats into the role partisan politics may have played in such policy decisions as the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
Mr Waxman, I think a little jail time is in order at this point. Its amazing the things people suddenly 'remember' when they find themselves sharing a jail cell with Bubba. Can you imagine Rove in jail? Don't you think its time we finally made that rosy daydream a reality?

Since 2001, about 50 staffers e-mailed using the system, he said. One former White House staffer told National Journal recently that Rove uses his RNC e-mail account for 95% of his e-mail communications.

He's laughing at you Waxman. He's laughing at all of us. He's been laughing his entire life, and he is quite sure he is above the law, and so very cynically smart that he will get away with it.

How long are you going to let this guy make a mockery of our legal system? He's a criminal. We all know it. We managed to lock Capone up on tax evasion -- I think we can handle Karl... if you have the will.

God knows the American people are about 5 years past ready to see this man in handcuffs. Just ask Valarie Plame - and the other undercover CIA agents he compromised.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The truth about Indiana markets...

Mike Pence's recent comment comparing shopping in a Baghdad bazaar with "a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime" has many Hoosiers baffled and bewildered.

Should we buy flak jackets for that stroll through the weekly farmers market this summer?
Are the farmers crankier than last year; perhaps because of the frost damage this past week?

Or did Mr Pence simply spend too long in the Iraqi sun? He should come home. It's snowing here.

We do have a town in Indiana called Lebanon... but I've never heard of any IEDs going off there - or anywhere else for that matter. We also don't have a proclivity for snipers, suicide bombers, or anything more exciting than an occasional fire cracker.

Still, many of us are considering that perhaps we are simply behind the times. Maybe Rep. Pence knows more than we do... it doesn't hurt to take precautions.

I know I'll be procuring protective gear before I head out to buy tomatoes this summer...

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

We all have a stake in protecting our freedom

To my Representatives:

If you expect me to believe that we are not living -- right now -- under a dictatorship, then please write back and let me know what you intend to do about the contents of the article I am attaching below. Thank you.

"I have a personal stake here, but so do all Americans who take their political system seriously. Thus I hope you and your colleagues will take some positive action to bring the Administration's conduct to the attention of a far larger, and more influential, audience than I could hope to reach." - Walter F. Murphy

As an American citizen, I know my Constitutional rights, and I also refuse to accept tyranny in any form. That's right, as an educated American citizen, I was raised to reject tyranny: raised on the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the rule of law. If this is all now dismantled, then I demand an explanation.

I plan to travel to Ireland next year. And yes I did attend a peace rally, finally, in Washington D.C. last January. I took part in the rally and march around the Capitol building in an attempt to get your attention about this bone-headed war. This is the first time I have ever done this, and it was at great cost to myself physically (I have severe Fibromyalgia, and the 16 hour bus ride each way was excruciating.) I felt that I had no other choice - you all have left me no other choice. No one was listening. It was my right as an American to be there, assembling peacefully with a permit in defense of my democracy. As I recall, John Conyers was there - I suspect he is still flying, as are the Hollywood celebrities who spoke at the rally.

Just giving you a heads up, that if I ever find myself on one of these bogus no fly lists, I will get into my car and drive to Washington to visit each of you personally (or wait outside your office) until you - my representatives in this broken government - make it right.

I'd prefer you made it right in advance.

The Patriot Act was obviously put into place as a means to persecute American citizens and expand the reach of a power-grabbing executive branch -- and no I do not feel safe. I don't recognize my country at all. I ache for those who really did die for our freedom... because its being taken from us, by stealth, while those who should be defending it stand by and do nothing.

"I confess to having been furious that any American citizen would be singled out for governmental harassment because he or she criticized any elected official, Democrat or Republican. That harassment is, in and of itself, a flagrant violation not only of the First Amendment but also of our entire scheme of constitutional government. This effort to punish a critic states my lecture's argument far more eloquently and forcefully than I ever could. Further, that an administration headed by two men who had "had other priorities" than to risk their own lives when their turn to fight for their country came up, should brand as a threat to the United States a person who did not run away but stood up and fought for his country and was wounded in battle, goes beyond the outrageous. Although less lethal, it is of the same evil ilk as punishing Ambassador Joseph Wilson for criticizing Bush's false claims by "outing" his wife, Valerie Plaime, thereby putting at risk her life as well as the lives of many people with whom she had had contact as an agent of the CIA. - Walter F. Murphy

I will not be bullied by anyone, especially my own government. I am a law-abiding citizen. I am also - apparently - more patriotic and informed than my President. It appears to me that the people who refuse to abide by the rule of law and our Constitution are mostly in Washington these days. If they can fly, I expect to be able to fly as well.

Thank you, and please excuse my anger... but you will notice that this Walter F. Murphy -- professor emeritus at Princeton University and "most distinguished scholar of public law in political science" who also happens to be a retired Marine colonel, fought in the Korean War, was wounded, and decorated for heroism -- is a lot more distinguished than I am. If he is on a no-fly list for speaking out against Bush, then I ask you: who exactly is allowed to fly these days? Exxon executives? Christian fundamentalists? Or just loyal Bushies?

My God -- my country is looking more like a banana republic by the day. Did you not all -- all of you -- swear to uphold the Constitution? Did anyone happen to read it first?

Fix this.

March in peace protest, get on the no-fly list
By Joshua Holland
Posted on April 9, 2007, Printed on April 10, 2007

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Excuse me while I double over laughing...

The House Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, has asked for approval to hire outside investigative attorneys to expand its capacity to review documents related to the prosecutor dismissals. Commenting on this request, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel says President Bush "opposes using $275,000 of taxpayers' money to increase the number of lawyers who can go on investigative searches and fishing expeditions."

Three trillion of our tax money - against our will, and sinking our children and their children in debt for generations - on an illegal war with billions wasted or just plain 'lost' to Bushie contractors -- and suddenly W is opposed to an expenditure of $275,000 to reign his bad self in?

I can't type this without laughing.

Friday, April 06, 2007

What on earth can I feed my pets?

An open letter to my Senators. FIX IT.

Dear Senators Lugar and Bayh:

We have four animals: 2 older cats, an aging, beloved dog and a younger, feisty Brittany spaniel that we rescued from the side of the road in 2000. We have no children, so this is our family. They sleep with us (well, the cats do,) and are our daily companions. It is our responsibility to protect them, provide good health care, good nutritious food, and exercise. We take our responsibility very seriously... but right now, we are completely paralyzed.

Dog that died of Kidney failureEvery day more and more animal foods - and now biscuits - are being added to the food recall, as pets all over the country are dying. The FDA has fielded 12,000 complaints in three weeks!

My cats are on a Hills prescription diet (one of them has bad kidneys,) and cannot eat any other food. We already survived that cold stab of fear in our stomachs when we saw that one Hills dried (prescription) food was recalled - so far their special diet food is considered safe. But for how long? Every day, it changes. We are also afraid to buy their favorite 'Greenies' because now dog biscuits are being recalled.

One company is apparently responsible for the distribution of ALL pet food in the United States! How on earth could this be a good idea - a safe idea for consumers? I am sure its terrific from a business perspective, but this nation is made up of people -- not simply businesses!

What on earth has happened to our FDA? I know what has happened to our EPA... it was 'privatized, ' meaning that the 'fox is now guarding the hen coop,' and representatives of the companies being regulated are now in charge of regulating themselves. As you can imagine (especially after Katrina,) this does not inspire confidence. What is happening all across the nation with our pet products is outrageous and unacceptable in America. We count on our government to regulate business and protect us, and this includes our beloved pets.

We trusted you!!

I have no idea what to feed our dogs or cats... I dread going to the store to buy more dog food. I won't buy their Greenies at all until this has passed (if it ever passes.) I know my entire family is going through the same confusion, as are my friends. This is... a very, very large bloc of voters. You can call us the 'pet owner' vote. And you can't imagine how angry we are... unless you have pets of your own.

Our trust is gone. And these days, we are finding it harder and harder to trust our government, our regulatory commissions and any other agency diluted and infiltrated by the Bush administration. Its FEMA all over again. This is not America... this is not how we do things here. This would never have happened under Reagan, Bush Sr, or any other American president in history. This is a nation of the people -- not of big corporations with the people as 'customer/victims. '

I am asking you to please do something about this. Please exercise your oversight and join Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in demanding that oversight be returned to our pets' food - and while you are at it, our own food.

Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who is Senate majority whip, said he would hold an oversight hearing on the FDA's response perhaps as early as next week.

"The system broke down," he said. "It's not just about contaminated food killing pets, it's a system that failed." Menu Foods "felt no sense of urgency" to publicly raise an alarm when it first became aware of a potential problem Feb. 20, Durbin said.

This time it is our beloved pets... the next bell will toll for us.

Thank you.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Restoring the Rule of Law

Lately I have been struggling to keep track of Waxman, Leahy, and all of the scandals they are unearthing - this rampant partisan misuse of power in the White House and Justice Department, and throughout the GOP.

The sheer number of reports, investigations, findings, contents of emails, and leaks is mind-boggling. All this from a president we didn't even really elect. Imagine. I suppose he believed that if we were going to let him get away with stealing the presidency, he may as well run off with the entire government.

We knew it was going on, of course... we saw the results post-Katrina, and with the commencement of the war in Iraq.

But the details... its hard to keep track of them all. Emails, prosecutors, Abramoff, oil deals, corruption in the EPA, corruption in the Forest Service, corruption in the Justice Department, laws broken right and left -- one wonders if there are any laws Bush actually does respect.

I'm not sure how Waxman does it. I still have a few pet peeves I'd like to see him address, but I can see he is just beginning to crank up the machine of democratic oversight. We've been without it for so long, it is going to take awhile to ferret out all of these abuses.

And then the biggest question of all... the proverbial elephant in the middle of the room: with all of these broken laws, what will be the consequences? Because surely... surely there will be consequences.

Madam speaker Pelosi, I do ask you once again... at what point is Impeachment on the table? At what point will you have seen enough?

As an American citizen, I find my now banana republic government a total embarrassment. I think its high time we showed the world that we can use the tools our forefathers gave us and fix it. Surely, this is Democracy 101 - this isn't rocket science.

I still don't understand how so many in the GOP could have kept quiet for so long - including my own Senator, Richard Lugar, who I respect. What about duty to country over political party? What about the rule of law?

How could they have done this?

Is our country in such bad shape, that its now 'OK' to mock the law, or create your own partisan laws on the fly?

I think not.

Senator Kennedy recently summed up our current situation very well in a recent speech to the Alliance for Justice -- and I will post it in its entirety here. I can't keep track anymore.

Restoring the Rule of Law

Senator Edward Kennedy | Statement

Monday 02 April 2007

The following remarks were delivered by Senator Kennedy at an event organized by the Alliance for Justice on Wednesday, March 29, 2007.

Thank you, Nan, for that wonderful introduction. I commend the Alliance for its long-standing commitment to the rule of law and your dedication to liberty, justice and opportunity for all. You've been a pioneer in educating the public about the impact of the federal courts on Americans' everyday lives, and the important film you will present today continues that vital service.

At the heart of many of the serious challenges we face is the Bush administration's lack of respect for the rule of law. The administration views our system of justice as merely another arena for furthering its rightwing ideology. It sees the Senate's constitutional role in confirming those who enforce our laws as a road block to be circumvented whenever possible.

The ongoing scandal over the firing of United States attorneys is a stunning example. Using a stealth provision slipped into the Patriot Act reauthorization, the administration has replaced US attorneys without Senate review.

Each day the evidence grows that the White House fired US attorneys because they balked at using the enormous power of federal law enforcement to serve the partisan ends of the Republican Party. Carol Lam in San Diego had been too vigorous in pursuing corrupt Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. David Iglesias in New Mexico had refused to indict Democrats before last November's election. John McKay in the State of Washington had refused to pursue voter fraud charges as a means of challenging a Democrat's close victory in the 2004 election for governor.

Equally disturbing, several of the US attorneys appointed without Senate review have scant litigation experience, but deep partisan credentials. For instance, Bradley Schlozman, the new US attorney for the Western District of Missouri, was involved in the politicization of the Justice Department's voting rights enforcement efforts.

After President Bush took office in 2001, the Department filed only one case alleging race discrimination against African Americans in voting, but it took a number of steps to undermine voting rights for partisan gain. In 2003, Mr. Schlozman and other political appointees approved Tom DeLay's Texas redistricting scheme over the unanimous objections of career staff that the plan discriminated against Latino voters. The Texas plan was later struck down by the Supreme Court because of its discriminatory effect.

In 2005, Mr. Schlozman again overrode career professionals in approving a Georgia photo identification requirement for voting that clearly discriminated against minority voters. That law was later blocked by a federal court that compared it to a twenty-first century poll tax.

Mr. Schlozman also was involved in filing amicus briefs in the key battleground states of Florida, Michigan and Ohio in 2004, seeking to prevent the counting of provisional ballots in the presidential election.

Other attorneys with relatively little litigation experience but strong partisan credentials have been placed in US attorney positions in states likely to be vital in the 2008 election, such as Florida, Iowa, Minnesota and Arkansas, to name a few. Add to this that John McKay and David Iglesias were removed in battleground states because of their unwillingness to pursue meritless voter fraud allegations. Tim Griffin, Karl Rove's former deputy, was sent to Arkansas. The conclusion is inescapable that the administration has methodically placed reliable partisans in positions where they can influence the outcome of the 2008 election.

The havoc the administration has played with the Justice Department is complemented by the damage it has done to the courts. In choosing nominees for the federal courts, particularly the Supreme Court, President Bush selected ideologues, and then sought to circumvent the process by which the Senate obtains information about the nominees' legal views.

In my years in the Senate, I've had the honor of participating in 23 Supreme Court nominations, including the nominations for each of the justices now serving on the Court and hundreds of lower court judges.

More than any other president before him, George Bush has succeeded in denying the Senate the information it needs to make informed judgments about nominees to the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts. Despite days of testimony, the hearings for John Roberts and Samuel Alito served only to obscure the legal views and philosophies that would guide their work if confirmed.

The film Quiet Revolution comes at a time when the Supreme Court nomination process is in need of a serious overhaul. I intend to work with Senator Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and my colleagues on the Committee, to ensure that the process again becomes a means for learning about legal views and philosophies before nominees are confirmed.

The breakdown in the nomination process matters because the Supreme Court decides issues of enormous importance to Americans' daily lives. The confirmation process is the Senate's constitutionally-conferred opportunity to determine that nominees deserve to be entrusted with this awesome res'onsibility.

In the past, questions asked at confirmation hearings - together with the candidates' records - often gave senators a solid basis for deciding whether or not to confirm a nominee. In fact, I voted for three of the five Supreme Court justices nominated by President Reagan.

In rare instances, it may be possible to know from the nominees' records alone whether they should be confirmed. In most cases though, a realistic exchange during the hearings is invaluable. This is particularly true when - as in the Roberts and Alito nominations - a president intentionally selects nominees for their legal views and for their lack of a paper trail that would reveal such views.

In past years, Senate questioning of nominees generally served well the Framers' desire to ensure checks and balances in appointing Supreme Court justices. The system worked as it was intended in 1970 when President Nixon's nomination of Harrold Carswell was derailed after the Senate discovered his segregationist past. The process also worked in 1987 when the Senate rejected Robert Bork's extreme views, prompting President Reagan to nominate the more moderate Anthony M. Kennedy, who was confirmed unanimously.

The confirmation process broke down, however, because the Bush administration learned the wrong lesson from the failed Bork nomination. It decided it could still nominate extremists as long as their views were not well known. The previous Bush administration tried a similar approach with Clarence Thomas's nomination, but the current White House turned the effort to hide nominees' views into an art form.

It insisted that the Senate must confine its inquiry largely to its nominees' personal qualities, and coached its nominees to evade the Committee's questions. Many Republican senators used their time to praise, not probe, the nominees. Guided by White House aides, the nominees resisted attempts to explore their judicial philosophies. As a result, the thoughtful exchanges of past hearings were replaced by carefully directed theater, which left the Committee with only hints about how nominees viewed the major legal issues of the day.

That's unacceptable. Qualified Supreme Court nominees are selected from among the nation's most seasoned and intellectually vigorous lawyers, scholars and judges. Of course they have thought deeply about the law and have substantive views on important legal issues. At the very least, they have read and debated the major cases that every first-year law student has read, and they can intelligently discuss whether they agreed or disagreed with those cases.

Instead of substantive answers on these issues, Roberts and Alito worked hard to give the impression of moderation. Over and over, they assured us that they would not bring an ideological agenda to the bench.

After confirmation, we saw an entirely different side of Judges Roberts and Alito. Although it's still very early in their terms on the Court, they have already begun to reveal themselves as ideologues ready and willing to tilt the court away from core protections important to the American people. In fact, in their very first term on the Court, according to a report completed at Georgetown University Law Center, they voted together in 91 percent of all cases and 88 percent of non-unanimous cases - more than any other two justices.

They have held that the First Amendment does not protect public workers who blow the whistle on internal fraud and corruption. They have sought to radically cut back the Clean Water Act, which protects our natural heritage from pollution.

The topics in which their decisions raise the greatest concerns, however, are among those that were most troubling during their confirmation hearings - government power and civil rights.

Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito have voted repeatedly to expand the power of the state at the expense of cherished individual rights. Their position is particularly troubling in light of the Bush administration's unprecedented effort to expand presidential power. It claims that t'e president can arrest American citizens on American soil and jail them for years, without access to counsel or the courts. It claims that the president can open the mail of US citizens and spy on persons on American soil, without the court order required by law. The administration even believes that torture can be an acceptable practice, despite laws and treaties that expressly prohibit it.

Seldom has the nation been more in need of a Supreme Court that will restrain a president who overreaches. But the records of the two newest justices give little hope that they will do so.

In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Court reviewed the constitutionality of President Bush's military commissions, created to judge alleged enemy combatants in secret and without the protections typically afforded criminal defendants. The Court held that the president had violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions by establishing the commissions without Congressional authority. Justice Alito disagreed, although during his confirmation hearing he claimed no longer to believe, as he had written in a 1985 job application, "very strongly in the supremacy of the elected branches of government." Although Chief Justice Roberts did not participate in the Hamdan Supreme Court decision, as a court of appeals judge in the same case, he too had sided with the president.

Justices Roberts and Alito have both sought to narrow individual protections against government power. They joined a 5-4 opinion in Hudson v. Michigan holding that your home is no longer your castle. Rejecting almost a century of precedent, they ruled that evidence obtained in unconstitutional searches of Americans' homes can be used to convict them. Justice Alito had replaced Justice O'Connor, and his vote probably changed the outcome of the case.

The new justices' records also raise alarm bells in civil rights. As an official in the Reagan Justice Department, Roberts had opposed the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988, had sought to narrow Title IX's protection against sex discrimination in education, and had worked extensively but unsuccessfully to prevent a key amendment to the Voting Rights Act to outlaw unfair tactics that dilute minorities' votes. Memoranda he drafted made clear that his opposition to the amendment reflected not only the Reagan administration's position, but his own strong, personally-held beliefs.

During the Senate hearing on his nomination, I asked about his views on the Voting Rights Act, particularly his statement that the Act's protection against vote-dilution was one of "the most intrusive interferences imaginable by federal courts into state and local processes." In response, he suggested that his words were nothing more than an "effort to articulate the views of the administration ... for which I worked...."

Today - too late - it's clear that Chief Justice Roberts's personal view is the same as the position he advocated then. In LULAC v. Perry, the Supreme Court held that Tom Delay's Texas redistricting plan violated the Voting Rights Act by excluding many Latinos from the district at a time when their numbers had become large enough for Latinos to elect a representative of their choice.

Chief Justice Roberts denied the obvious injustice. He concluded that the courts should not have been involved and that it "is a sordid business, this divvying us up by race." Fortunately, a majority of the Court understood that the Voting Rights Act, far from dividing Americans, keeps the divisions that already exist in society from shutting minorities out of the political process.

Even worse, although he did not participate in the LULAC case, it appears that Justice Alito may become the member of the Court most hostile to civil rights. In Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad v. White, the Court reviewed the claim of a working mother whose employer had subjected her to shift changes, undesirable job assignments and poor job reviews after she complained of sexual harassment. Justice Alito was the only member of the Court wh' argued that Title VII protects workers only from limited kinds of retaliation.

The comments of Justices Roberts and Alito at argument in the Seattle and Louisville voluntary integration cases also did not inspire confidence, although it is, of course, a mistake to assume too much from justices' questions at oral argument. At his nomination hearing, Chief Justice Roberts had testified that the Court in Brown v. Board of Education was right "to look at the discrimination in ... context...." But his questions at the oral argument ignored context, drawing no distinction between the stigmatizing segregation at issue in Brown and present-day efforts to achieve integration so that all children enjoy the benefit of a diverse learning environment.

Although Justice Alito had testified at his confirmation hearing that he valued having a diverse group of students in the classes he taught as a law professor, he seemed unwilling to recognize the importance of diversity in the voluntary integration cases. It's too soon to know for certain, but the oral arguments suggest that the praise the new justices heaped on Brown v. Board at their confirmation hearings will ring hollow once the final votes are counted in the voluntary integration cases.

At a time when vast legal issues are being decided by the slimmest of margins, we cannot afford to learn nominees' views only after they have obtained lifetime tenure on the nation's highest court.

The only way to know whether a nominee will meet the high bar for confirmation is to have an honest, in-depth exchange during the nominations process. The Judiciary Committee, the Senate and the American Bar Association need to work together - with the White House - to make that happen. I support reform despite my belief that the next justice will be nominated by a Democratic president and be sent to a Democratic Senate for confirmation.

Reform should begin with a few basic changes. We must somehow put the "advice" back into the constitutional requirement that nominees be appointed with the "advice and consent" of the Senate. In the recent nominations of Justices Alito and Roberts, President Bush made token calls to many of us in the Senate before announcing his selections, but it was clear his decision had already been made. A better course would be to allow real advice and consultation before making a choice.

In addition, any qualified nominee to the Supreme Court will have spent many years thinking about legal issues. We should require that nominees share their thinking with the Judiciary Committee and not pretend that such candor is tantamount to prejudging specific cases. We know from their past decisions how most of the current justices interpret Roe v. Wade, yet they are not precluded from sitting on future cases involving abortion. Why then shouldn't we also know how Supreme Court nominees view Roe v. Wade and other important legal decisions?

The Judiciary Committee also needs to improve how it obtains information. An in-depth inquiry requires more than short rounds of questions that move from senator to senator. The Senate should insist on having the same access to the nominee's writings and other relevant documents as the administration, and it should receive those records before the hearing.

Each member of the Committee should have the right to submit a limited number of written questions to the nominee, which the nominee should answer in writing in detail under oath before the confirmation hearings. This will enable senators to go into greater depth in the hearings themselves, and it will give the Senate - and the American people - valuable information in considering nominees.

In addition, no senator should accept incomplete answers from a nominee about important legal issues, regardless of which party's president made the nomination. Nor should nominees who have served as high-ranking government officials, as Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito did, get away with claiming they were just "representing a client" when asked about advice they gave in their role' as legal policy makers. Only if every member of the Senate insists on responsiveness from the nominees will we restore open dialogue to the nominations process.

As Senator Arlen Specter wrote in his book, Passion for Truth:

"The Senate should resist, if not refuse to confirm, Supreme Court nominees who refuse to answer questions on fundamental issues. In voting on whether or not to confirm a nominee, senators should not have to gamble or guess about a candidate's philosophy, but should be able to judge on the basis of the candidate's expressed views."

Finally, and above all, we must remember what this process is all about. It's nice to hear that a nominee has a loving family, faithful friends and a sense of humor. It's important to know that nominees possess the intellect, life experience and discipline to make a good judge. But it's essential that we learn enough about their legal views to be certain that they will make good on the simple promise engraved in marble over the entrance to the Supreme Court: "Equal Justice Under Law."

I commend all of you at the Alliance for all you do so well to keep those four basic words at the heart of this all-important debate. Thank you very much, and I hope you'll watch the Alliance's important documentary, Quiet Revolution.