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

Saturday, June 30, 2007

No - I won't play this stupid game

I keep getting emails from the DCCC, asking for money. This of course is no surprise; every day I am bombarded with requests for money from presidential candidates, environmental groups, independent progressive newsletters and advocacy campaigns.

The DCCC can get in line; because frankly their reasons for asking simply underlined everything that is wrong with both the money-based election system, and the Democratic party itself.

Yesterday's email was supposedly from Rahm Emanuel, and entitled 'Dick Cheney':

According to Dick Cheney, everything we learned in school is wrong. Instead of three branches of government, there are now four – the legislative, the executive, the judicial, and Dick Cheney.

In an attempt to obstruct meaningful oversight and avoid being held accountable, the Vice President said he did not consider himself part of the executive branch.

We both know the power to hold Dick Cheney accountable belongs to Congress. Could you possibly think of a better reason to have a stronger Democratic Majority?

My reply?

"You begin the impeachment process, and I will donate."

In other words: pay me what you owe me, before you come asking me for more money.

The DCCC obviously thinks that I am really stupid. Fool me once, shame on you... but you will never fool me twice.

By the time Rahm's fellow minions are elected, in theory, Dick will be out of office. I say 'in theory' because of course, we cannot bank on that. Our Constitution has been turned on it's ear -- and the Democratic majority is refusing to lift a finger to save it. We daily read about these amazing breaches of government and Constitution, and still impeachment is 'off the table' with these guys. So NO, I won't give you any more money for not representing me or honoring your oaths of office, sorry guys. I like some payout on my investment. I'm sure the lobbyists got theirs, now I want mine.

I think what irritated me the most was that Rahm (or someone pretending to be Rahm) thinks he only has to mention the word 'Dick Cheney' and I will immediately pull out my checkbook - even though he doesn't plan to actually do anything about Dick Cheney and his rampant abuse of power. Dick Cheney is the DCCC's bestest-buddy fundraiser-helper.

Or so the DCCC thinks. I refuse to play.

Saturday's email was entitled 'Bush's 15 million':

Midnight tonight is the deadline. We are just $65,000 away and just hours from our Million Dollar Challenge before the critical June 30th FEC deadline where we report our fundraising totals and the media and pundits will use them to judge our chances for success in 2008.

What the hell...? Now I am supposed you give you money because you are cowering about what the 'media pundits' will say? Like hell.

You don't care about protecting the rule of law and democracy - you just want us to help keep the media off your backs. Could you not - perhaps - have taken a different tack, and requested our help so that you wouldn't have to go crawling to big business for cash?

No - of course you didn't say that, because you plan to go crawling to big business anyway. You always do. And you represent them quite well, I might add. Tell them about Bush's millions. Don't talk to me until you plan to represent me.

It's this poll thing - this fear of the bully media, that motives you guys, not the interests of your base. The media is now nothing more than a giant, corporate bully club; used by big business and their lobbyists to beat you, intimidate you, and keep you all in line. And keep you from actually doing anything on my behalf.

And still you have the temerity to ask for money. Sorry, I won't play.

I don't give a flying @&$*% what the media pundits say. Because you don't give a flying @(*$*% what I am saying right now. Damn it: FIX MY GOVERNMENT. Fix it right now, and get your eyes off the damn 2008 calendar. How the hell do you even know we won't be at war with Iran by 2008? You don't know: because you can't even cut funding for the Iraq war - which is your job - and you did nothing to demand your lawful oversight for any planned attacks on Iran. You totally caved. Sure Bush was going to say 'no' anyway, but you could at least have stood your ground!

This president has one of the lowest approval ratings in history, and is breaking laws and issuing signing statements at a rate that puts Nixon to shame -- and you refuse to hold him accountable. Cheney is outright lawless... and you can't even support one of your own, Dennis Kucinich, who had the courage to move forward with impeachment. Dennis gives a damn about this country. You obviously care more about your own party's interests to even take a chance that maybe, just maybe, we want some justice out here!

Frankly you're worth neither my vote or my money without action.

As they say in business, and this is something you should understand: it's all about results. I'll pay you when I see a return on my last investment.

Right now, I'm losing - and losing big. I'm losing my Constitution, my Bill of Rights, my country's troops are still in Iraq, my Federal agencies of oversight have all been outsourced, my food - and my pets' food - is tainted, my planet is heating up, our jobs have been outsourced, our Federal coffers are being looted (and that's my Social Security money you're blowing, or should I say 'handing off to Halliburton.')

We gave you a majority just last November, because you said that you were going to fix all of this, and you haven't done jack with it -- you have capitulated the entire way. Leahy, Feingold, Conyers and Waxman are the exceptions, and Dennis Kucinich is a hero.

And do you intend to back them up as they deal with this 'larger-than-Watergate' scandal in the Executive Branch? Fat chance. You wring your hands and you cower and secretly you think you can just leave Bush and Cheney there to draw our ire so that we will magically re-elect you with an even greater majority - all for doing NOTHING. You haven't even reigned in the war profiteers, and you gutted your own oil-gouging legislation. And you wonder why you're all polling so low?

My own 'Blue Dog' representative is a total disgrace; simply a lump in the system, clogging up the workings of democracy. He's not a Republican - and he certainly isn't a Democrat. He's a lump. Slightly better than a Joe Lieberman, and slightly better than the Republican he replaced. But that's about all.

That dog won't hunt; and both the DCCC and Moveon.org actually asked me to spend hours calling voters on his behalf, insisting he was part of this 'great and glorious Democratic majority' that would change the world (or at least reign in the Bush Administration.)

I'm quite sure - especially given the letter I received from him concerning impeachment of Dick Cheney - that he is one of the reasons impeachment is 'off the table.' He doesn't want to 'rile his Republican friends.' I'd recall him for failure to honor his oath of office if I could. He is no representative of mine, and as far as I am concerned -- he is an oath-breaker.

I will give what little money I can spare to progressive candidates, even if they're other people's representatives (I obviously can't get any decent representation of my own.) I will give to the online, independent media that keeps me informed while the corporate media talks about Paris. I will support the environmental causes that are fighting to save the places that I love, and I will do whatever I can to make a difference with my money. But I no longer trust Moveon or the DCCC to spend my money wisely.

And a word of warning to this Democratic Majority: I'm not the only one that feels this way. You'd better wise up and start acting on those campaign promises, or you're going to be very unhappy when the 2008 elections finally do roll around. Paybacks are a mother. All it will take is one credible Independent candidate... you think it can't be done, but as usual, you have completely underestimated the wrath of the Democrat and Republican masses that are entirely unrepresented out here. We're pissed, and we want results. We want our Constitution protected, this Executive Branch reigned in, and we want our government back.

WE THE PEOPLE. You may have forgotten, but I'll be damned if we have.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Shadow goverment of private contractors

I consider this to be one of the biggest threats to our government (along with the attacks on our Constitution and of course the threat that Cheney will drop a bomb on Iran,) so am posting content that is almost entirely from Think Progress - you can go over there and read their terrific investigative work, or get the overall gist of it right here; but its their work... I'm just a 'repeater' here, because I want this to get around.

As blogged by Think Progress, a new report by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform concludes that a “shadow government of contractors working under the Bush federal government has grown secretly in our government like a cancer.

Between 2000 and 2005 (Bushie heyday,) procurement spending increased by over $175 billion dollars, making federal contracts the fastest growing component of federal discretionary spending.” That may be even higher than the handouts to faith based organizations.

It comes down to this: corporate contractors like Halliburton and AshBritt have been raking in the profits while “billions of dollars of taxpayer money have been squandered.” And of course, Iraq is in ruins... so its not like they've been doing a lot of rebuilding.

Some highlights from the report, as listed by Think Progress:

  1. Halliburton: “fastest growing contractor.” Under the Bush administration, federal spending to Halliburton “increased over 600% between 2000 and 2005.” The Government Accountability Office recently found that the government has wasted at least $2.7 billion to Halliburton on “overpriced contracts or undocumented costs.” At the end of 2005, Cheney’s stock options were valued at more than $8 million, a 3,281 percent gain from 2004.
  2. Growth in federal contracting exceeds inflation rate. In 2000, the value of federal contracts totaled $203 billion. By 2005, the value was $377.5 billion, an 86 percent increase. The new report notes that this “growth in contracting was over five times faster than the overall inflation rate and almost twice as fast as the growth in other discretionary federal spending over this period.” A record level of “nearly 40 cents of every discretionary federal dollar now goes to private contractors.”
  3. Noncompetitive contracts skyrocket. Sole-source and noncompetitive contracts grew by “an even faster rate than overall procurement spending, rising by 115% from $67.5 billion in 2000 to $145 billion in 2005.” Many of these no-bid contracts during the Iraq war and Katrina reconstruction went to Bush administration cronies who wasted money and performed shoddy work.

Of the 500 contracts that were actually reviewed, 118 contracts - $745.5 billion - “experienced significant overcharges, wasteful spending, or mismanagement over the last five years.” A report by American Progress Senior Fellow Scott Lilly has some advice for Congress on what they can do to clean up the mess, should they have any real interest in doing so. I wish I had more faith that they weren't also somehow 'in' on this.

Video of Henry Waxman (D-CA) discussing the new report.

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EPA Chief resigned after Cheney rewrote coal plant rules

Well here we go, yet another oversight agency gutted... and Cheney is calling the shots directly it seems. But then again, after wiping out 70,000 salmon in one of the greatest mass killoffs in history, this is small potatoes for him:

In Oregon, a battleground state that the Bush-Cheney ticket had lost by less than half of 1 percent, drought-stricken farmers and ranchers were about to be cut off from the irrigation water that kept their cropland and pastures green. Federal biologists said the Endangered Species Act left the government no choice: The survival of two imperiled species of fish was at stake.

Law and science seemed to be on the side of the fish. Then the vice president stepped in.

First Cheney looked for a way around the law, aides said. Next he set in motion a process to challenge the science protecting the fish, according to a former Oregon congressman who lobbied for the farmers.

Because of Cheney's intervention, the government reversed itself and let the water flow in time to save the 2002 growing season, declaring that there was no threat to the fish. What followed was the largest fish kill the West had ever seen, with tens of thousands of salmon rotting on the banks of the Klamath River.

Characteristically, Cheney left no tracks.

The Klamath case is one of many in which the vice president took on a decisive role to undercut long-standing environmental regulations for the benefit of business.

So it seems that Christine Whitman, former governor of New Jersey and former Chief of the EPA under the Bush Administration, originally told everyone that she quit to "spend more time with her family." Of course, she was being a good conservative... and good conservatives tell no tales.

But the Washington Post states that Whitman left the EPA because Cheney pressured her into accepting pro-coal industry power plant rules which would create massive increases of air pollution:

It was Cheney's insistence on easing air pollution controls, not the personal reasons she cited at the time, that led Christine Todd Whitman to resign as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, she said in an interview that provides the most detailed account so far of her departure.

So... she just quietly quit? She didn't speak out, didn't fight him...she simply quit. And all without a word of warning to anyone.

What is wrong with these Republicans? Some of them have over-riding morals - but won't stop the nightmare because they are more devoted to their party than to the nation, or even their own welfare and the welfare of generations to come.

Nation before Party!!!

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Mika takes back the airwaves

While assigned to the news anchor's chair for MSNBC's Morning Joe program, apparently Mika Brzezinski protested the choice of leading the morning news with yet more Paris Hilton anti-news by attempting to burn the script; eventually tearing it up -- all live on the air.

Take back the news! (Please?)

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NET Neutrality dealt serious blow

On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission dealt a serious whack to Net Neutrality proponents as it issued a report dismissing claims that the government needs to get involved in preserving the fairness of networks in the United States.

In other words, they and their corporate masters don't want the involvement of the courts or Congress -- just let those big AT&T corporate guys do as they please, no oversight needed -- and definitely not wanted. Reminds me of the Times-Warner overhaul of our postal system so that it would penalize the smaller news media like The Nation and Mother Jones, among others.

This is so familiar. Cookie-cutter familiar. Like the 'no oversight needed' management style FEMA conducted by Bush's beloved Brownie. Like the 'no oversight needed' approach by the FDA that allowed all of that melamine-tainted food into our country so that our cats and dogs would die horrible, painful deaths. And of course, that 'no oversight needed' approach the EPA now espouses when it refuses to enforce carbon emissions standards.

From ars technica:

The report, entitled "Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy," was drafted in response to growing concerns about broadband competitiveness and network neutrality. The FTC intends the report to be consulted as a guideline by policy makers and legislators, but it has no binding force. Nevertheless, the report's findings are yet another sign that US government agencies are not particularly interested in the network neutrality problem right now. In fact, the FTC is essentially saying that they can find no evidence of a problem to begin with.

Gotta love the Bushies, they're consistently against us at every turn.

In a statement, Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras said, "This report recommends that policy makers proceed with caution in the evolving, dynamic industry of broadband Internet access, which generally is moving toward more - not less - competition. In the absence of significant market failure or demonstrated consumer harm, policy makers should be particularly hesitant to enact new regulation in this area."

Did I mention Bushies? This report was issued by Bush appointee Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras. A quick Google of Majoras reveals, from Sourcewatch:

Deborah Platt Majoras was appointed May 11, 2004, by President George W. Bush to be Chairman and Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission. Majoras was to fill the vacancy created by Timothy J. Muris, who announced May 11, 2004, that he would step down to return to academia.

According to Majoras' FTC profile, she was sworn in August 16, 2004, and President Bush had announced his intention to appoint her to the position on July 30, 2004.

"The Federal Trade Commission chairwoman is the FTC's point person on its gasoline price gouging inquiry in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, in her prior life at the Jones Day law firm she was also the point person for ChevronTexaco and Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root. In 2004, Senator Ron Wyden opposed her nomination for her refusal to outline the steps she would take to investigate and fight gas price gouging."

I'm telling you -- every single Federal Commission is now invested with these people, many from the oil industry. We're screwed.

The "hands-off" approach is the approach preferred by the telecoms, who will also be delighted that Chairman Majoras cleared them of any wrong-doing in their network management so far. Nevertheless, the FTC says that it will continue to monitor the situation, as will the FCC and DOJ. Perhaps more encouraging for proponents of such legislation, the FTC says that increased awareness of the debate will help them with monitoring the need for government regulation.
Oh yes! The Department of Justice is going to help too! Gosh, I feel so much better. I'll be writing twice as often now, knowing that my hours and perhaps even minutes out here are numbered.

By the way, the head of the FCC, who will be formerly making the Net Neutrality decision is:

Chairman Kevin J. Martin

Chairman Martin was nominated by President George W. Bush to a Republican seat on the Commission, and was sworn in on July 3, 2001. He was designated chairman by President Bush on March 18, 2005. Chairman Martin was re-nominated for a second term as commissioner and chairman by President George W. Bush on April 25, 2006.

Before joining the FCC, Martin was a Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy. He served on the Bush-Cheney Transition Team and was Deputy General Counsel for the Bush campaign. Prior to joining the campaign, Martin was an advisor to FCC Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth. He has also served in the Office of the Independent Counsel and worked as an associate at the Washington, DC law firm of Wiley, Rein & Fielding. Before joining Wiley, Rein & Fielding, Martin was a judicial clerk for U.S. District Court Judge William M. Hoeveler, Miami, FL.

Martin received a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Masters in Public Policy from Duke University, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a member of the District of Columbia Bar and the Federal Communications Bar Association.

I'm praying his law degree from Harvard will over-rule his connections to the Bush/Cheney transition team. I guess we'll see.

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Creating hell on earth for God

This would be amusing in its absurdity, if it wasn't so real. We have elected wackos to our nation's highest office.

Sure, many in America believe in the 'Rapture,' although it is nowhere to be found in the Bible (out of which they take most of their 'laws', falling mostly back on Old Testament 'eye for an eye' theology rather than the more uncomfortable 'turn the other cheek' New Testament doctrine. Nobody ever said 'love thy neighbor as thyself' would ever be easy.)

I would be perfectly willing to 'live and let live,' and leave them to their odd beliefs, if they would just keep their beliefs from destroying not only me, but my entire planet. That is not 'live and let live;' that is war and make die. It's also madness.

I don't personally 'get' the Rapture idea, but one thing I do get: if you start a massive world war and destroy the earth in the process - all to somehow 'force God's hand' and make the Rapture happen on your timetable - I wouldn't expect a red carpet to be rolled out for you at the end. I think I could make a pretty good case for this in just about any theological text.

But as for what Bush believes, and what he is apparently doing (I have read about this before,) feed the following essay from Truthout.org:

Beneath Bush's benign-sounding words, "faith" and "Christian," lies the deeper reality of the authoritarian, doomsday religious beliefs of the ministers and spiritual counselors that surround him, say experts. Officially he has been at pains to show an openness traditionally expected of an American president. Typical is his assertion in a speech at a National Prayer Breakfast found on the White House website: "There's another part of our heritage we are showing in Iraq, and that is the great American tradition of religious tolerance. The Iraqi people are mostly Muslims, and we respect the faith they practice." However, experts point out the particular brand of Christianity that permeates Bush's environment is anything but tolerant. For example, Bush's own personal minister, Franklin Graham, has called Islam "evil and very wicked." He has said, "Let's use the weapons we have, the weapons of mass destruction if need be, and destroy the enemy."

Respected journalist Bill Moyers says that for the religious figures around Bush "a war with Islam in the Middle East is not something to be feared, but welcomed - an essential conflagration on the road to redemption." Scholars calculate that the group, which religion author Lynne Bundesen has dubbed "end-time Christians," has up to 40 million followers. Though not all may fully subscribe to the doomsday theology, they are inundated with it in books, megachurches, and on Christian broadcasting stations that reach millions upon millions of the faithful and are almost entirely dominated by end-time preachers. The messages come from "dispensationalists," who believe that true believers are close to the time of being "raptured," or drawn up into heaven by God, in the days before the final battles. They also emanate from various stripes of "dominionists" pushing to erect an American theocracy for the end-of-the-world wars against the anti-Christ.

At least Bush won't have much trouble finding the Anti-Christ'... my money is on that secretive, sneering guy that wants to drop a nuke on Iran and loves torture. He's also apparently in control of the entire government.


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...a place sometimes called Hell

"We all know sometimes life's hates and troubles
Can make you wish you were born in another time and space
But you can bet your life times that and twice it's double
That God knew exactly where He wanted you to be placed
So make sure when you say you're in it but not of it
You're not helping to make this earth a place sometimes called Hell
Change your words into truths and then change that truth into love
And maybe our children's grandchildren and their great-great grandchildren will tell"

'As' (by Stevie Wonder)

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Where do I begin?

While we were out of town this past week, the government has seemingly turned on its ear. I have tried to blog here and there, via laptop, but haven't even come close to even reading it all, let alone thinking about it and drawing any conclusions.

The Washington Post as suddenly and inexplicably decided to do an expose on Cheney (after almost 7 years - what brought this on?) Intelligent sources from the left, right and middle (Ellsberg, John Dean and Bruce Fein, to name a few) are all screaming for Cheney's impeachment.

Meanwhile, Cheney has declared himself above the law - and apparently a part of both the executive and legislative branches, which in his convoluted way of thinking means he is accountable to neither (huh?)

The White House is refusing to honor subpoenas... and this may end up going before the Supreme Court, which has already proven itself to have its own strange and horrifying partisan break (from reality.) Will they honor their judicial duty, or cave to partisan (or worse, corporate) pressure? And is 'partisan' even what it was 5 months ago, when even conservatives are now screaming for a reigning in of the executive branch?

Where - how will this all end up?

I don't imagine it was easy living through Vietnam and Watergate either. I vaguely remember those times, and it seemed everyone was either rioting or being shot. The one thing that didn't seem to be hanging over the entire planet was the specter of some twitchy finger in the White House dropping a nuclear bomb on Iran. Nixon was never that crazy.

Yes, that's right... finally someone crazier even than Nixon. Makes you wonder why we don't give written tests (along with psychological and ethical exams) to presidential candidates before they can be allowed to run for high office. We have a strange set of priorities...

So, the week has been, to say the least... odd. I'm still catching up. After some sleep and R&R, I will undoubtedly try to dissect it all and figure out where (and if) I can jump into the discussion, already in progress.

Meanwhile, I was delighted to return to my (recorded in our absence) week of Daily Show episodes, and love Jon's new series on Cheney. And so of course, without further ado, I am posting a few of them right here:

You don't know Dick: The Safe

You don't know Dick: Google Earth

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

American Freedom Agenda

The following was written by a group of conservatives that includes Bruce Fein (associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, and a member of the ABA Task Force on presidential signing statements,) who just wrote a devastating indictment of Dick Cheney in Slate.

These guys are right on the money. I want every candidate to sign off on this, and I want my congressman to uphold it. This is the American way... this is what we have always believed, the very principles on which our nation was founded.

Yes -- this is a description of being American. I don't know what those other people are, but this is an agenda that should have been sacred; and so ingrained that it feels unreal to be discussing it.

The American Freedom Agenda 'Freedom Pledge:'

I, (candidate), hereby pledge that if elected President of the United States I will undertake the following to restore the Constitution’s checks and balances, to honor fundamental protections against injustice, and to eschew usurpations oflegislative or judicial power.These are keystones of national security and individual freedom:

1. No Military Commissions Except on the Battlefield. I will not employ military commissions to prosecute offenses against the laws of war except in places where active hostilities are ongoing and a battlefield tribunal is necessary to obtain fresh testimony and to prevent local anarchy or chaos.

2. No Evidence Extracted by Torture or Coercion. I will not permit the use of evidence obtained by torture or coercion to be admissible in a military commission or other tribunal.

3. No Detaining Citizens as Unlawful Enemy Combatants. I will not detain any American citizen as an unlawful enemy combatant. Citizens accused of terrorism-linked crimes will be prosecuted in federal civilian courts.

4. RestoringHabeas Corpus for Suspected Alien Enemy Combatants. I will detain non-citizens as enemy combatants only if they have actively participated in actual hostilities against the United States. I will urge Congress to amend the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to permit any individual detained under the custody or control of the United States government to file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal courts.

5. Prohibiting Warrantless Spying bythe National Security Agency in Violation of Law. I will prohibit the National Security Agency from gathering foreign intelligence except in conformity with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, and end the NSA’s domestic surveillance program that targets American citizens on American soil for warrantless electronic surveillance.

6. Renouncing Presidential Signing Statements. I will not issue presidential signing statements declaring the intent to disregard provisions of a bill that I have signed into law because I believe they are unconstitutional. Instead, I will veto any bill that I believe contains an unconstitutional provision and ask Congress to delete it and re-pass the legislation.

7. Ending Secret Government by Invoking State Secrets Privilege. I will not invoke the state secrets privilege to deny remedies to individuals victimized by constitutional violations perpetrated by government officials or agents. I will not assert executive privilege to deny Congress information relevant to oversight or legislation unless supreme state secrets are involved. In that case, I will submit the privilege claim to a legislative-executive committee for definitive resolution.

8. Stopping Extraordinary Renditions. I will order the cessation of extraordinary renditions except where the purpose of the capture and transportation of the suspected criminal is for prosecution according to internationally accepted standards of fairness and due process.

9. Stopping Threats to Prosecuting Journalists under the Espionage Act. I will urge Congress to amend the Espionage Act to create a journalistic exception for reporting on matters relating to the national defense. As a matter of prosecutorial discretion, until such an amendment is enacted I will not prosecute journalists for alleged Espionage Act violations except for the intentional disclosure of information that threatens immediate physical harm to American troops or citizens at home or abroad.

10. Ending the Listing of Individuals or Organizations as Terrorists Based on Secret Evidence. I will not list individuals or organizations as foreign terrorists or foreign terrorist organizations for purposes of United States or international law based on secret evidence.

I will issue a public report annually elaborating on how the actions enumerated in paragraphs 1-10 have strengthened the ability of the United States to defeat international terrorism, secure fundamental freedoms, and preserve the nation’s democratic dispensation.



Date: ______________________

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Your oaths, sirs

Take the risk, reveal the truth under the lies of your own bosses and your superiors, obey your oath to the Constitution, which every one of those officials took, not to the commander in chief, but to the Constitution of the United States.” - Daniel Ellsberg

This is the 35th anniversary of the release of the Pentagon Papers. Amazing story, and one every American should know and understand.

After the New York Times had printed some of the document, and the Washington Post still more of it; Ellsberg made sure a copy got into the hands of Senator Mike Gravel:

Gravel recalled the exchange, which he set up at midnight outside the storied Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.: “I used to work in intelligence; I know how to do these things.” Gravel pulled his car up to Bagdikian’s, the two opened their trunks and Gravel heaved the boxes personally, worried that only he could claim senatorial immunity should they get caught with the leaked documents. His staff aides were posted as lookouts around the block.

Thwarted in his attempt to read the Pentagon Papers into the public record as a filibuster to block the renewal of the draft, Gravel called a late-night meeting of the obscure Subcommittee on Buildings and Grounds, which he chaired, and began reading the papers aloud there. He broke down crying while reading the details of Vietnamese civilian deaths. Because he had begun the reading, he was legally able to enter all 7,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers, once top-secret, into the public record.

Though ridiculed by the press for his emotional display, Gravel was undaunted. He wanted the Pentagon Papers published as a book so Americans could read what had been done in their name. Only Beacon Press accepted the challenge.

Robert West, the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association at the time, approved the publication. With that decision, he said, “We started down a path that led through two and a half years of government intimidation, harassment and threat of criminal punishment.” As Beacon weathered subpoenas, FBI investigations of its bank accounts and other chilling probes, Gravel attempted to extend his senatorial immunity to the publisher. The bid failed in the U.S Supreme Court (the first time that the U.S. Senate appeared before the court), but not without a strongly worded dissent from Justice William O. Douglas: “In light of the command of the First Amendment we have no choice but to rule that here government, not the press, is lawless.”

Another thing Americans should understand when speaking to their congressmen about our constitutional rights as American citizens: these representatives all swore an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States.

As we read about Cheney's abuses of power in the Washington Post series, and a scathing call for impeachment from conservative Bruce Fein, it would be good for everyone to realize that we do have leverage. We have representatives who have sworn to uphold the Constitution -- not please any sitting president or vice.

As news of illegal behavior comes to light, they are legally bound to act. We must 'remind' them of this, if they are too faint of heart (or compromised by lobbyists) to remember on their own...

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

While waiting for that announcement...

Unseen Al Gore Campaign video

Can we elect and intelligent, compassionate good man this time? Will a 'good man' even run for office in this horrific, propaganda-media and lobbyist driven political popularity contest?

Al... please run. Please give us another chance.

I swear to you, we can overcome all of this -- the media, the lies, the corruption, the corporate lobbyists -- but we need you. We need a man with your integrity, your vision and your dedication to lead us. Please don't leave us orphaned in a world of corporate jackals.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

SCOTUS: 1st Amendment double standard

I was reading USA today for a quick update on the recent controversial rulings handed down yesterday; most especially the two that affect the First Amendment (free speech.)

First, I noticed that they cut into the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law by deciding to allow big corporations and special interest groups to flood the television airwaves with massive ad campaigns just before the 2008 election.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said, and I quote: "Where the First Amendment implicated, the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor."

USA Today:

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a 5-4 Supreme Court majority, provided an answer Monday that changes the rules of the nation's tawdry political game. "Where the First Amendment is implicated," he said, "the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor."

In other words, free speech, particularly political speech, is so important that it must be protected, even when there's a huge downside. Money spent on a political message, whether by an individual or an interest group, is free speech.


Now - onto the next decision, where the court, in a 5-4 vote decided that high school senior Joseph Frederick, who was suspended for unfurling a giant sign in 2002 as the Olympic torch passed by (the now famous 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' sign,) was not entitled to his own right to free speech, and apparently... the right of the school to censor him over-ruled the right of the speaker:

In Monday's ruling, all nine justices clearly sympathized with the harried principal. They agreed she could take the banner down. But on the core question of whether she violated the student's free speech rights by suspending him, the court split 5-4. The majority held that he merited no First Amendment protection because the banner was an obvious invitation to illegal drug use, which school rules banned.

While there is something comic about the nation's highest court conducting a high-minded textual analysis of the "bong hits" banner, the effects of this ruling aren't amusing. In the schools where it will be put into practice, the interpretations are likely to be as varied as the explanations for the banner's meaning. The decision is an invitation for school officials to ban or punish any student speech they can reasonably interpret as promoting illegal drug use or perhaps other activities. Some of the justices who supported the ruling seemed to realize the dangerous latitude that it gives schools, noting that the ruling shouldn't be construed to limit comment on "any political or social issue," such as the war on drugs or medicinal marijuana.

Since a landmark 1969 ruling that permited students to wear armbands protesting the Vietnam war, the high court has repeatedly held that students don't shed their free-speech rights at the schoolhouse door, within certain limits: They can't be clearly disruptive or obviously lewd and inappropriate. Monday's ruling adds a new, open-ended limit.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, correctly notes that illegal drug use is a scourge in the nation's schools. But the danger he sees in the "bong hits" banner seems wildly overblown. As Justice John Paul Stevens said in his dissenting opinion, "The notion that the message on this banner would actually persuade either the average student or even the dumbest one to change his or her behavior is most implausible."

USA Today seemed to notice the same incongruity that I immediately noticed between these two cases:

Roberts' restrictive view of free speech in the bong hits case contrasts with the court's far more permissive action Monday in the campaign finance case discussed in the editorial above this one. In that dispute, the chief justice broke a 4-4 tie by ruling that in free speech cases, ties should go to the speaker. If only he had shown the same solicitude for students' free-speech rights as for those of moneyed interests that asked the court to increase the size of their megaphones.

Ah, that pesky double standard.

Nice going, Judge Roberts. In the course of one day you have managed to prove to everyone, without a shadow of a doubt, that you have one set of standards for big corporations -- ie MONEY INTERESTS -- and an entirely different standard for us 'little people.' That would be right in line with your conservative 'values' no doubt. Unfortunately, it has very little to do with justice or the rule of law.

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Senator Lugar's Speech

I am out of town, and almost missed this... but I cannot in good faith say that I have not been waiting expectantly for it.

Senator Lugar is a good man, and at times like this, good men can't keep silent.

I hoped he was working behind the scenes to get this done, and I suspect that he never stopped... apparently he finally reached the same conclusion that others (Specter, Hagel) arrived at, on their own quests for reasonable change: regular channels aren't working.

Bravo to my Senator!!

Press Release of Senator Lugar

Lugar Senate Floor Speech Calls for Course Change in Iraq

Connecting our Iraq Strategy to our Vital Interests

Monday, June 25, 2007

Mr. President, I rise today to offer observations on the continuing involvement of the United States in Iraq. In my judgment, our course in Iraq has lost contact with our vital national security interests in the Middle East and beyond. Our continuing absorption with military activities in Iraq is limiting our diplomatic assertiveness there and elsewhere in the world. The prospects that the current “surge” strategy will succeed in the way originally envisioned by the President are very limited within the short period framed by our own domestic political debate. And the strident, polarized nature of that debate increases the risk that our involvement in Iraq will end in a poorly planned withdrawal that undercuts our vital interests in the Middle East. Unless we recalibrate our strategy in Iraq to fit our domestic political conditions and the broader needs of U.S. national security, we risk foreign policy failures that could greatly diminish our influence in the region and the world.

The current debate on Iraq in Washington has not been conducive to a thoughtful revision of our Iraq policy. Our debate is being driven by partisan political calculations and understandable fatigue with bad news -- including deaths and injuries to Americans. We have been debating and voting on whether to fund American troops in Iraq and whether to place conditions on such funding. We have contemplated in great detail whether Iraqi success in achieving certain benchmarks should determine whether funding is approved or whether a withdrawal should commence. I would observe that none of this debate addresses our vital interests any more than they are addressed by an unquestioned devotion to an ill-defined strategy of “staying the course” in Iraq.

I speak to my fellow Senators, when I say that the President is not the only American leader who will have to make adjustments to his or her thinking. Each of us should take a step back from the sloganeering rhetoric and political opportunism that has sometimes characterized this debate. The task of securing U.S. interests in the Middle East will be extremely difficult if Iraq policy is formulated on a partisan basis, with the protagonists on both sides ignoring the complexities at the core of our situation.

Commentators frequently suggest that the United States has no good options in Iraq. That may be true from a certain perspective. But I believe that we do have viable options that could strengthen our position in the Middle East, and reduce the prospect of terrorism, regional war, and other calamities. But seizing these opportunities will require the President to downsize the U.S. military’s role in Iraq and place much more emphasis on diplomatic and economic options. It will also require members of Congress to be receptive to overtures by the President to construct a new policy outside the binary choice of surge versus withdrawal. We don’t owe the President our unquestioning agreement, but we do owe him and the American people our constructive engagement.

Seeking a Sustainable Policy

In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved. Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term.

I do not come to this conclusion lightly, particularly given that General Petraeus will deliver a formal report in September on his efforts to improve security. The interim information we have received from General Petraeus and other officials has been helpful and appreciated. I do not doubt the assessments of military commanders that there has been some progress in security. More security improvements in the coming months may be achieved. We should attempt to preserve initiatives that have shown promise, such as engaging Sunni groups that are disaffected with the extreme tactics and agenda of Al Qaeda in Iraq. But three factors – the political fragmentation in Iraq, the growing stress on our military, and the constraints of our own domestic political process -- are converging to make it almost impossible for the United States to engineer a stable, multi-sectarian government in Iraq in a reasonable time frame.

Read the rest here...

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GOP senator says Iraq plan not working


WASHINGTON -- Sen. Richard Lugar, a senior Republican and a reliable vote for President Bush on the war, said Monday that Bush's Iraq strategy was not working and that the U.S. should downsize the military's role.

The unusually blunt assessment deals a political blow to Bush, who has relied heavily on GOP support to stave off anti-war legislation.

It also comes as a surprise. Most Republicans have said they were willing to wait until September to see if Bush's recently ordered troop buildup in Iraq was working.

"In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved," Lugar, R-Ind., said in a Senate floor speech. "Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term."

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Monday, June 25, 2007

At last (updated)

I get the feeling this series has been 'sitting around' for awhile. Hopefully they were able to shake all of the dust off of the pages... glad they finally decided to run it. Enough is enough.

  1. Washington Post Series: Cheney, Pt 1 'A Different Understanding With the President'
  2. Washington Post Series: Cheney, Pt 2 Pushing the Envelope on Presidential Power
  3. Washington Post Series: Cheney, Pt 3 A Strong Push From Back Stage
  4. Washington Post Series: Cheney, Pt 4 Leaving No Tracks

I can only imagine part V. Perhaps 'How Cheney managed to scare the bejesus out of Congress so that Pelosi would take impeachment off the table without even finding out what was going on.'

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

'Mile-wide UFO' spotted by British airline pilot

Wow... glad we didn't see one of these (we just flew across the country today. No UFOs. Just the usual clouds and stuff.)

One of the largest UFOs ever seen has been observed by the crew and passengers of an airliner over the Channel Islands. An official air-miss report on the incident several weeks ago appears in Pilot magazine. Aurigny Airlines captain Ray Bowyer, 50, flying close to Alderney first spotted the object, described as a cigar-shaped brilliant white light.

read more | digg story

Friday, June 22, 2007

Consitutional Chess

Ah, what a mess. This from The Hill:

White House contempt
By Susan Crabtree
June 22, 2007

House Judiciary Committee Democrats warned yesterday they would pursue a contempt of Congress motion if the White House fails respond to subpoenas for testimony and documents related to the firings of U.S. attorneys last year.

The deadline for a response is Thursday, June 28. If the White House does not comply, it opens the possibility of a constitutional showdown between the two branches. In an ironic twist, the Department of Justice (DoJ) would be called on to enforce the contempt motion.

What a total bummer that nobody thought of this when they refused to take any action against Gonzales after he lied to Congress three times under oath. If he was willing to do that... I can only imagine the likelihood that he'd actually follow through on this.


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Saving Patriotism (Song for America)

We recently began rehearsals for our annual July 4th 'Pops' Concert. Independence day, fireworks, the 1812 Overture, and many other traditional standards.

Every year, I find it harder to sing these familiar, patriotic songs without a lump in my throat. I actually thought about skipping the concert this year. I can barely make it through rehearsal without tears welling in my eyes, and the words sticking in my throat.

What does it mean to be American today? I can't help but feel that David Bowie is more relevant than the haunting, patriotic standards of my childhood:

A little piece of you
A little piece in me will die

For this is not America

Our national honor has been squandered; our global respect, forfeited. Our morality is sliding down a tortured, slippery slope into the very evil our grandfathers thought they had conquered. Overseas, our soldiers are killing and dying -- and we don't even know why.

I am clinging to my patriotism, my idea of who we are. America the beautiful. America the free. I refuse to let this go.

I have drawn a line in the sand; I stand with the Republic, not the empire.

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain

For purple

Above the fruited plain

America! America! God shed his grace on thee

And crown thy good With brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

Oh beautiful for pilgrim feet, whose stern impassion'd stress

A thoroughfare for freedom beat, across the wilderness

God mend
thine every

Confirm thy soul in self control

Thy liberty in law

O beautiful for patriot dream, that sees beyond the years

Thine alabaster cities gleam, Undimmed by human tears

America! America! God shed his grace on thee

And crown
thy good

From sea to shining sea!

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Will Bush close Gitmo today?

This from the Washington Note:

It is rumored that tomorrow during a "Principals Meeting", the administration will decide to shut down the Guantanamo military detention facility and transfer prisoners there into the American legal system.

I have not received confirmation that this is the case, but it sounds like this could be another important example of President Bush tacking towards the consensus neo-realist position of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, CIA Director Mike Hayden, and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten. State Department Elders John Negroponte, R. Nicholas Burns, and John Bellinger have also played vital roles in this transition of policy away from pugnacious, anti-international Cheneyism.

I guess we'll know more tomorrow... er today. Later today.

Argh. Further down: "Cheney-legs."

Update: I have just spoken with a senior administration acquaintance "who would not confirm or deny" that there would be the Principals Meeting tomorrow described above -- but who made it clear that the press is reporting that some in the administration are saying that the meeting has been cancelled. Cheneyism still has some serious legs perhaps.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

How low can they go?

Tonight, a new Gallup poll reveals only 14 percent of Americans have confidence in the United States Congress -- guys, that is the lowest in history.


Add to that, the latest Newsweek poll shows that Bush has dropped to 26% (how on earth can he be polling higher than Congress? Is it just that we expected Congress to at least... be smarter?) Newsweek actually has Congress at 25%... but come on guys, surely you can do better than that!

From Newsweek:

June 21, 2007 - In 19 months, George W. Bush will leave the White House for the last time. The latest NEWSWEEK Poll suggests that he faces a steep climb if he hopes to coax the country back to his side before he goes. In the new poll, conducted Monday and Tuesday nights, President Bush’s approval rating has reached a record low. Only 26 percent of Americans, just over one in four, approve of the job the 43rd president is doing; while, a record 65 percent disapprove, including nearly a third of Republicans.


Um, my friends in the House and the Senate: maybe you have nothing to lose by at least trying that impeachment thing? Or perhaps prosecuting people who lie under oath and engage in domestic spying without warrants?

You know, like upholding your oaths of office? That kind of thing? Something other than wringing your hands, saying you can't stop the war, you can't impeach, you can't get the emails, you can't pass any legislation, you can't... do... anything... we... sent... you... there... to... do...


Interesting sidebar to the Gallup poll:

Of the 16 societal institutions tested in Gallup's 2007 update, Americans express the most confidence in the military. They have the least confidence in HMOs and Congress. Americans have much more confidence in "small" business than in "big" business.

Reaganomics not working out so well? I think we just barfed all over 'Generica.'

Oh, and we'd like just a few items that are NOT made in China, if you don't mind. Household items that aren't full of toxic chemicals and lead, and food that won't kill us or our pets. Think you can handle all of that?

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Pass the Matthew Shepard Act

This is especially relevant to those of us in Indiana who recently discovered (and NOT through our media - for some reason this news was blacked out) that a similar crime occurred right in our backyards.

One in six hate crimes are motivated by the victim's sexual orientation. Yet Federal laws don't protect these people. Watch the video, then tell your Senators to support the Matthew Shepard Act. Tell me more

Please tell you Senator that you support the Matthew Shepard Act. Because it could happen in your city too, and to someone you know.

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Hell YES it was Katrina

You know, I'll be the first to admit that I was slacking prior to Katrina.

It wasn't that I was somehow oblivious to the lawlessness of the Bush Administration, the war in Iraq, or the general direction our country is headed (straight off a cliff.) On the contrary, I was so horrified and disgusted that I refused to watch any more; it was making me crazy.

It still makes me crazy. But what woke me up to my own citizen responsibility - to speak out at least - was watching the fallout from Katrina.

I don't recall that our Federal government has ever completely abandoned a major American city - left it to die - while an American president refused to even break off his vacation. I'm not sure anyone in the world could imagine that this 'global super power' could fail to even pass out water bottles. Everyone was watching, network anchors were tearing their hair, and in some cases crying on the air... but still, nobody came.

The entire world looked on in rapt amazement as the United States government fell flat on its face, on a truly epic scale... and then refused to accept any help.

So is there any conceivable doubt that Katrina lingers in our subconscious, as a major contributing factor in our general discontent?

Show of hands: how many of us have been to New Orleans at some point in our lives? Maybe on a business trip (if so, you've probably visited the Convention Center,) or for Mardi Gras, or for a Super Bowl, or perhaps to take in their famous jazz festival?

New Orleans was the birthplace of Jazz! And of course, there is the food... I can almost taste the gumbo and smell the steaming hot, banana bread pudding. Ah New Orleans. It was completely unique, completely itself. There was - and still is - no other American city quite like it.

And yet, in the wake of the worst natural disaster this nation has ever seen, it was completely abandoned by our Federal government.

So I may have been a little frustrated, a little annoyed, when I saw that John Zogby (of Zogby polling fame) seemed a bit apologetic when countering the apparent popular (media) belief that American citizens are only upset about the war.

Perhaps I was steamed by his use of the apologetic "I realize this may be a stunning statement" before launching into his argument that the elephant in the middle of the room is - in fact - an elephant in the middle of the room.

New Orleans is still down there; and much of it still looks as though the storm blew through yesterday. And we somehow haven't noticed this?

I know I should be grateful that someone, somewhere, remembered Katrina at all; and drew a comparison between our vague discomfort before the storm, and our screaming outrage afterwards. The national media has forgotten all about Katrina (and especially the ongoing plight of New Orleans,) save perhaps for Anderson Cooper, who still brings it up from time to time.

But then Anderson hasn't quite recovered from his outrage either.

I'm sorry Mr. Zogby -- no disrespect, and thank you for bringing this up. I'm not usually this disagreeable. It's just that Katrina, the subsequent flooding of New Orleans and the weeks of chaos, ineptitude and horror still haunt me. I can close my eyes and still see dead bodies lying on street corners - streets that I once walked - and see helpless, stranded dogs in trees. This tends to make me just a little bit crabby.

Zogby: In the shadow of these mammoth international problems are domestic concerns: health care, Social Security reform, the environment. But these issues pale in the face of a widespread sense of real trouble ahead for America. Barely 30 percent think the nation is now headed in the right direction, and 73 percent say the U.S is in a serious crisis, according to our recent polling.

This suggests a need to redefine the very nature and structure of U.S. federalism. In our post-Katrina polling, we found a hunger nationwide for a new model for the federal government. In many ways, I believe Katrina, over the long haul, will prove to be more of a defining moment in American history than the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

I realize this may be a stunning statement and that I may be a little ahead of the polls on this, because a poll provides us with a snapshot in time. But there is a trend pointing to this conclusion. While sour memories of the post-Katrina failures have dimmed, the hunger for a better government model has not. The implications for the 2008 presidential election are fascinating.

Our polling shows that Sept. 11, 2001 and its aftermath left a majority of Americans resigned to the idea that we will face another major attack on our own soil. It is, to a certain extent, out of our control. Likely because response to that attack required efforts that were largely limited to the several blocks around the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, governmental response was relatively straightforward, and was largely regarded as a success.

But Katrina was different. It involved an entire region, and revealed a dramatic structural failure of our system of government.

Ultimately, the failures sent a single message to America: the United States is not prepared for a major disaster, natural or otherwise.

The feds get the most blame because they are seen as the government solution of last resort. When the governments of New Orleans and Louisiana failed in the run-up to, and aftermath of, the storm, Washington acted more like the error-prone Little Leaguer you try to hide in right field than the superhero swooping in to save the day.

And so the 2008 presidential campaign is being waged against a backdrop of national unease over Washington’s competence. With the candidates already pretty well-defined on the dominating issue of the Iraq war, the winner may be the one who best defines a new role for how Washington performs when crisis strikes here at home. Americans want the job done, and done right, and the candidate who successfully outlines a plan for national unity and a marshaling of resources is going to have a decided edge.

He still doesn't completely get it. Perhaps we also want a government that actually cares about the people - all of us, from sea to shining sea - rather than simply earmarks and corporate profits. Perhaps Katrina was the graphic demonstration of something we should have realized years ago: our Federal Government only cares about the lobbyists it represents, not the people who cast the votes.

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Bin Laden may have arranged family's US exit: FBI docs

Osama bin Laden may have chartered a plane that carried his family members and Saudi nationals out of the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks, said FBI documents released Wednesday.

The papers, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, were made public by Judicial Watch, a Washington-based group that investigates government corruption.

One FBI document referred to a Ryan Air 727 airplane that departed Los Angeles International Airport on September 19, 2001, and was said to have carried Saudi nationals out of the United States.

"The plane was chartered either by the Saudi Arabian royal family or Osama bin Laden," according to the document, which was among 224 pages posted online.

Ah, I do remember that magical flight that whisked the Bin Laden family out of the country the day after the towers were attacked. And sure, I wondered mightily about it at the time. I wondered until I had smoke coming out of my ears.

Its not like we (the people) weren't already suspicious, you know. We were suspicious when we heard that this flight (while all other flights had been grounded) had actually been ordered from within the White House. And yes, we wondered why the hell no one was doing anything about it; like investigating.

And now we hear the flight was booked by either the Saudi Royal Family... or Bin Laden himself?

Excuse me for asking, but after a terrorist attack that has led to an almost complete rearrangement of our Constitution, do you mean to tell me that we let the Saudi government retrieve our best and most likely witnesses, and fly them out of the country? Who the hell is running this place?

As gnostic from Daily Kos noted, compare the FBI report with Senator Schumer's comments (about these flights) in 2004:

Senators seek clarification on bin Laden charter flight

A group of US senators has written to President George W Bush, asking for details of a charter flight out of the US two days after the September 11 attacks.

The flight was carrying 13 members of the bin Laden family out of the country.

Osama bin Laden is accused of masterminding the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, which killed almost 3,000 people.

Democrat Senator Charles Schumer from the Senate Armed Services Committee, says evidence suggests the flight was organised by the White House, and he is one of the signatories on the letter asking for more information.

"It's awfully strange that on September 13th, the only plane that was allowed to fly was a plane with many high-ranking Saudi nationals, who might have known something about terrorism," he said.

"No-one has figured out why. No-one has figured out who gave the authorisation."

Senator Schumer says evidence suggests the former White House anti-terrorism chief, Richard Clarke, cleared the bin Ladens to leave the country.

"Dick Clarke has said they went through the list of names and they weren't, you know, on a terrorist list, but it sure would have been better to interrogate them while they were here," he said.

Ah, but its so much more fun to have torture camps... right Dick?

Here is the rest of gnostic's posting to Daily Kos; it's just too amazing to leave out:

Update: Here's the Judicial Watch link:

Judicial Watch Releases New FBI Documents: Osama bin Laden May Have Chartered Saudi Flight Out of U.S. after 9/11

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today released new documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") related to the "expeditious departure" of Saudi nationals, including members of the bin Laden family, from the United States following the 9/11 attacks. According to one of the formerly confidential documents, dated 9/21/2001, terrorist Osama bin Laden may have chartered one of the Saudi flights.

The document states: "ON 9/19/01, A 727 PLANE LEFT LAX, RYAN FLT #441 TO ORLANDO, FL W/ETA (estimated time of arrival) OF 4-5PM. THE PLANE WAS CHARTERED EITHER BY THE SAUDI ARABIAN ROYAL FAMILY OR OSAMA BIN LADEN...THE LA FBI SEARCHED THE PLANE [REDACTED] LUGGAGE, OF WHICH NOTHING UNUSUAL WAS FOUND." The plane was allowed to depart the United States after making four stops to pick up passengers, ultimately landing in Paris where all passengers disembarked on 9/20/01, according to the document.

Overall, the FBI’s most recent document production includes details of the six flights between 9/14 and 9/24 that evacuated Saudi royals and bin Laden family members. The documents also contain brief interview summaries and occasional notes from intelligence analysts concerning the cursory screening performed prior to the departures. According to the FBI documents, incredibly not a single Saudi national nor any of the bin Laden family members possessed any information of investigative value.

Another update: I thought this snippet appropriate to add to the narrative as well (HT to JeremyA):

September 13, 2001: Bush and Saudi Ambassador Hold Private Meeting

President Bush and Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US, hold a private meeting in the White House. No aides or translators are present. Bandar is so close to the Bush family that he is nicknamed "Bandar Bush." Sen. Bob Graham (D) later will note that while neither Bush nor Bandar have disclosed what they discussed in the meeting, mere hours later, the first flights transporting Saudi royals and members of the bin Laden family are in the air. Over the next week, they will be taken to several gathering points, and then flown back to Saudi Arabia, apparently without first being properly interviewed by the FBI. Graham will say, "Richard Clarke, then the White House’s counterterrorism tsar, told me that he was approached by someone in the White House seeking approval for the departures. He did not remember who made the request... The remaining question is where in the White House the request originated, and how." Graham will imply that, ultimately, the request originated from this meeting between Bush and Bandar.

OK, my brain hurts. I don't want to think about 9/11 any more tonight. I can't keep all of these people straight, and can only hope that if there is a fire under all of this smoke, that Leahy and Waxman will sniff it out and go after it. Subpoenas please.

UPDATE: This from Larisa Alexandrovna, posted on Alternet blogs:

Furthermore, from the Judicial Watch Web site:

"According to the FBI documents, incredibly not a single Saudi national nor any of the bin Laden family members possessed any information of investigative value.
Moreover, the documents contain numerous errors and inconsistencies which call to question the thoroughness of the FBI's investigation of the Saudi flights. For example, on one document, the FBI claims to have interviewed 20 of 23 passengers on the Ryan International Airlines flight (commonly referred to as the "Bin Laden Family Flight"). On another document, the FBI claims to have interviewed 15 of 22 passengers on the same flight.
"Eight days after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, Osama bin Laden possibly charters a flight to whisk his family out of the country, and it's not worth more than a luggage search and a few brief interviews?" asked Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "Clearly these documents prove the FBI conducted a slapdash investigation of these Saudi flights. We'll never know how many investigative leads were lost due to the FBI's lack of diligence."

But my favorite part of this whole FBI OBL farce is as follows:

"Incredibly, the FBI had previously redacted Osama bin Laden's name from the records in order "to protect privacy interests.""

At least this might finally explain a nagging problem I have had with the FBI's most wanted poster of OBL, which makes no mention of September 11, 2001 among the crimes OBL is wanted for:

"Usama Bin Laden is wanted in connection with the August 7, 1998, bombings of the United States Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. These attacks killed over 200 people. In addition, Bin Laden is a suspect in other terrorist attacks throughout the world."

Who has been fired for these oversights and likely criminal negligence, at best? Anyone? Apparently no one needs to be, seeing as how the US media is busy chasing Paris Hilton in and out of jail. Perhaps the Senate should ask Alberto Gonzales on his next visit to Congress if he may have asked the FBI to back off looking into who authorized these flights, the OBL redaction in the FOIA document, and why the FBI's OBL wanted poster does not appear to be up to date? Did I mention that Judicial Watch is a Conservative watchdog?

While you are holding your breath, you can see the full FOIA files HERE.


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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

This time we really mean it

Yes, it turns out climate change is not only real, it could wipe us all off the face of the planet.

And yes, some of us were already aware of this fact. For the rest (including the Bush White House,) scientists in the United States, speaking via the UK (where newspapers will actually report this news) have stated the civilization is in "imminent peril:"

Six scientists from some of the leading scientific institutions in the United States have issued what amounts to an unambiguous warning to the world: civilisation itself is threatened by global warming.

They also implicitly criticise the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for underestimating the scale of sea-level rises this century as a result of melting glaciers and polar ice sheets.

Instead of sea levels rising by about 40 centimetres, as the IPCC predicts in one of its computer forecasts, the true rise might be as great as several metres by 2100. That is why, they say, planet Earth today is in "imminent peril".

Well actually they say that the planet is in peril, but I'm guessing the planet will still be here; it is we who will be missing from this watery picture.

The unnatural "forcing" of the climate as a result of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases threatens to generate a "flip" in the climate that could "spark a cataclysm" in the massive ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, the scientists write.

Dramatic flips in the climate have occurred in the past but none has happened since the development of complex human societies and civilisation, which are unlikely to survive the same sort of environmental changes if they occurred now.

"Civilisation developed, and constructed extensive infrastructure, during a period of unusual climate stability, the Holocene, now almost 12,000 years in duration. That period is about to end," the scientists warn. Humanity cannot afford to burn the Earth's remaining underground reserves of fossil fuel. "To do so would guarantee dramatic climate change, yielding a different planet from the one on which civilisation developed and for which extensive physical infrastructure has been built," they say.

Basically -- this means that we have to stop using that oil we keep fighting over, and we have to stop using it now.

Yes, now: even before we completely run out. Yes -- before 'peak oil.' And yes, even before Exxon, Chevron, BP and Halliburton are done making their a killing on it. It appears mass planetary extinction and a total annihilation of civilization trumps most financial killings, even when the profits are going to bloated, greedy oil companies.

Ah, if only we mere mortals could get their attention...

Dr Hansen said we have about 10 years to put into effect the draconian measures needed to curb CO2 emissions quickly enough to avert a dangerous rise in global temperature. Otherwise, the extra heat could trigger the rapid melting of polar ice sheets, made far worse by the "albedo flip" - when the sunlight reflected by white ice is suddenly absorbed as ice melts to become the dark surface of open water.

The glaciers and ice sheets of Greenland in the northern hemisphere, and the western Antarctic ice sheet in the south, both show signs of the rapid changes predicted with rising temperatures. "

The albedo flip property of ice/water provides a trigger mechanism. If the trigger mechanism is engaged long enough, multiple dynamical feedbacks will cause ice sheet collapse," the scientists say. "We argue that the required persistence for this trigger mechanism is at most a century, probably less."

(Bush leans back in his chair and grins at Dick. "Well heck - we got like, maybe a whole century before this happens, right? I mean - before everybody dies? I know I won't be around. Dick - you won't be around either, right?")

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Jon Stewart's America

Yes, it's old. But does Jon ever really go out of style?

(OK - I just love watching Jon kick their butts on their own show.)

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Chaos... opportunity?

Supposedly, the inverse of the Chinese symbol for 'chaos' is 'opportunity.'

That was the first thought that came to mind when I read William Rivers Pitt's recent column "A Time to Reap:"

There is something happening today in America. With the right kind of ears, you can hear it in the sound of millions of brows slowly furrowing in anger and disgust. It feels like those tense moments just before the eruption of a summer thunderstorm, those moments when the air is electric, the ozone reek of spent lightning fills the world, and you know something very loud is about to happen.

What is happening, what can be heard and smelled and sensed all across the land, is the cresting wave of rage, betrayal and fury that is, finally, roaring across the shores of our collective American heart. After more than six years of lies, theft, graft, corruption, manipulation and misconduct, just about every living person within these borders finds themselves today gripped by the slow seethe, directed inward as much as outward, of one who has come around to see just how much of a fool they've been played for.

There are numbers to argue the reality of what is happening: The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has 81% of Americans believing this country to be very much on the wrong track. Put simply, four out of every five people nowadays have that furrowed brow, that sense of betrayal, that slow seethe.

It is a Becoming, this thing, or perhaps an Awakening. It is very real, and is all around us, and it feels like something very loud is about to happen.

Really good stuff. I believe Pitt is right on target, as usual. Something very big is brewing. The perfect storm.

The rest of his column can be found here...

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Senators Demand DOJ Investigation

Actual letter from Senators Whitehouse and Kennedy to Attorney General Gonzales:

June 18, 2007

Alberto Gonzales
Attorney General
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Attorney General Gonzales:

We write to request that the Department of Justice promptly investigate allegations that the Republican National Committee engaged in "vote caging" during the 2004 elections. We also ask that you investigate whether any Department officials were aware of allegations that Tim Griffin had engaged in caging when he was appointed United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and whether appropriate action was taken. Caging is a reprehensible voter suppression tactic, and it may also violate federal law and the terms of applicable judicially enforceable consent decrees.

Caging is a voter suppression tactic whereby a political campaign sends mail marked "do not forward" to a targeted group of eligible voters. A more aggressive version involves sending mail to a targeted group of voters with instructions to sign and return an acknowledgment card. The campaign then creates a list of those whose mail was returned undelivered and challenges the right of those citizens to vote – on the ground that the voter does not live at the registered address. There are many reasons why registered mail might be "returned to sender" that have nothing to do with a voter’s eligibility. A voter might be an active member of the armed forces and stationed far from home, or a student registered at his parents’ address. Even a typographical error during entry of the voter’s registration information might result in an address that appears invalid.

The Republican Party has a long and ignominious record of caging – much of it focused on the African American community. For example, in 1981 the RNC sent a mass mailing into predominantly African American neighborhoods in New Jersey and used the resulting 45,000 letters marked "undeliverable" to challenge those voters’ eligibility. In 1986, the RNC used similar tactics in an effort to disenfranchise roughly 31,000 voters, most of them African American, in Louisiana. These tactics led to litigation and the RNC’s eventual signing of two consent decrees, still in effect, which bar the RNC from using "ballot security" programs ostensibly intended to prevent voter fraud as a tactic to target minority voters.

In 2004, however, allegations of caging by Republican officials arose again – this time over an effort to suppress votes in Florida. Emails sent in August 2004 by Tim Griffin, then Research Director and Deputy Communications Director of the RNC, demonstrate his knowledge and approval of a spreadsheet listing caged voters in predominantly African American neighborhoods in Jacksonville, Florida. (See attached.) Two years later, Mr. Griffin was appointed, without Senate confirmation, as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Such actions appear plainly to violate the consent decrees signed by the RNC in 1981 and 1986. We ask that you investigate whether in these circumstances Mr. Griffin or others may also have violated the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act, the mail fraud statute, or any other federal statute.

It also appears that high-ranking officials in the Department knew of Mr. Griffin’s involvement in caging. Monica Goodling recently testified to the House Judiciary Committee that she discussed concerns about Mr. Griffin’s involvement in caging with Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty during a session to prepare for Mr. McNulty’s Congressional testimony. It is very disturbing to think that Department officials may have approved the appointment of a United States Attorney knowing that he had engaged in racially targeted vote caging.

Moreover, it is very disturbing to think that senior officials were aware of this practice and did nothing to refer their information to relevant officials within the Department for investigation and a determination as to whether it was a violation of a consent decree or law within the Department’s jurisdiction to enforce.

We, therefore, ask the Office of the Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility to conduct an investigation to determine who in DOJ knew about Mr. Griffin’s potentially unlawful activity before he was named interim U.S. Attorney, and whether appropriate action was taken on that knowledge, and to recommend whatever action is appropriate.

At a time when the Department’s political independence and its commitment to enforcement of civil rights statutes have been called into doubt, it is vitally important that the Department thoroughly investigate these allegations of unlawful voter suppression, and the apparent failure of Department employees to forward to the appropriate authorities information they had about this practice.


Edward M.Kennedy
United States Senator

Sheldon Whitehouse
United States Senator

cc: Paul D. Clement, Solicitor General
Alice S. Fisher, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division
Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division
Glenn A. Fine, Inspector General
H. Marshall Jarrett, Director, Office of Professional Responsibility


Here is the press release from Senator Whitehouse concerning the request for investigation:

Press Release of Senator Whitehouse

Monday, June 18, 2007

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) today called for a Justice Department investigation into allegations of illegal voter suppression tactics by Republican political operatives, including former Karl Rove aide Tim Griffin, during the 2004 elections. Griffin is now serving as interim U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

"At a time when the Department’s political independence and its commitment to enforcement of civil rights statutes have been called into doubt, it is vitally important that the Department thoroughly investigate these allegations of unlawful voter suppression, and the apparent failure of Department employees to forward to the appropriate authorities information they had about this practice," the senators wrote in a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The letter cites voter suppression incidents by the Republican Party in the 1980s. During the 2004 elections, e-mail evidence suggests that Tim Griffin, then a political operative at the Republican National Committee, knew and approved of a program to "cage" voters – sending a political campaign mailing to targeted voters and challenging the right to vote of those whose mail was returned undelivered – in predominantly African-American neighborhoods in Jacksonville, Florida. Last year, Griffin was appointed interim U.S. Attorney without Senate confirmation, displacing a federal prosecutor who has testified he was told he was fired to make the job available for Griffin.

Today, Senators Kennedy and Whitehouse demanded an investigation by two DOJ watchdog agencies to determine whether Griffin may have violated the Voting Rights Act or other federal laws, and whether Justice Department officials knew of Griffin’s potentially unlawful activity when he was named U.S. Attorney.

Kennedy and Whitehouse are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is conducting its own investigation into the unprecedented firing late last year of several U.S. Attorneys. Senator Kennedy, a longtime champion for voting rights, will chair a Judiciary Committee hearing this Thursday on oversight of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Whitehouse served as U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island from 1994-1998.

"It is very disturbing to think that Department officials may have approved the appointment of a United States Attorney knowing that he had engaged in racially targeted vote caging," the senators wrote. "Moreover, it is very disturbing to think that senior officials were aware of this practice and did nothing to refer their information to relevant officials within the Department for investigation and a determination as to whether it was a violation of a consent decree or law within the Department’s jurisdiction to enforce."

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