Friday, December 30, 2005

Good news, bad news for Bushie.

First the good news: It has been reported that a large number of Americans support W’s blatant breach of the law when he authorized warrantless searches in the form of wiretaps and computer communication intercepts. Typical is this headline from The National Ledger: Majority Side with Bush (64%-23%) on NSA Monitoring Terrorists. You can read the whole screed here.

This is surprising in light of the fact that an even larger majority of people would probably answer “yes” to the question: “Should the President of the United States be required to obey the law?” How can the two ideas be reconciled?

First, let’s look at the poll itself. It was conducted by the Rasmussen organization, recipients of $50,000 from the Republican National Committee during the 2004 election cycle.

Now here’s the kicker: According to Rasmussen Reports, the homepage of the polling group:

"December 28, 2005--Sixty-four percent (64%) of Americans believe the National Security Agency (NSA) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that just 23% disagree."

That’s the good news.

But wait! Can’t we all agree that the President of the United States should be allowed to get a warrant in the special court provided for that purpose and then, pursuant to that warrant monitor conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living here? That’s what the law provides for.

King George W has taken a different position, best expressed by the immortal words attributed to the bandit in Treasure of Sierra Madre: “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”* Imagine Bushie saying with an appropriate accent: “Warrants? We don’t need no stinking warrants!” I wonder what percentage of Americans would agree with that.

I have no idea of what percentage of Americans agree that the President is above the law, but the Rasmussen Report doesn’t give any support for the idea touted that a majority of American’s support W. in this matter.

Now for the bad news.

According to the same Rasmussen poll: Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans say they are following the NSA story somewhat or very closely.

This is very bad news for the Republicans. What it means is that two out of three Americans aren’t going to be so easily fooled.

For the rest of us, it is good news, because it means that we can take back our country, enforce the laws, throw the crooks and liars out of office and into prison, and have a democracy again. Very good news, indeed.

Keep paying attention, America …

… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

* Actually, the above quote is from Blazing Saddles. The correct quote from Treasure of Sierra Madre is “Badges? We ain't got no badges! We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!”

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Another guest editorial: "Why the President Must be Impeached."

"This nation sits at a crossroads. One direction points to the higher road of the rule of law. Sometimes hard, sometimes unpleasant, this path relies on truth, justice and the rigorous application of the principle that no man is above the law. Now, the other road is the path of least resistance. This is where we start making exceptions to our laws based on poll numbers and spin control. This is when we pitch the law completely overboard when the mood fits us, when we ignore the facts in order to cover up the truth.

No man is above the law, and no man is below the law. That’s the principle that we all hold very dear in this country."

By Tom DeLay, (R-TX) speaking of the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Robert Reich: A Covenant With America

Newt, your 1994 “Contract with America” helped win Congress for Republicans, but as subsequent history has shown, it did less than nothing for America. The nation is in deep trouble, and today’s congressional Republicans are as unpopular as congressional Dems were then.

Here’s a 10-point manifesto that, if followed, may both win Congress back for Democrats and get the nation back on a path toward true prosperity, peace, and progress. Eat your heart out.

1. Competence. We promise America a competent government headed by people with expertise and experience. We will never appoint or confirm cronies whose main qualification for office is personal connection or party loyalty.

2. Fiscal responsibility and a capital budget. We will get the federal budget back under control by barring special spending (pork to political loyalists back home) and corporate welfare (subsidies to particular industries like agribusiness, oil, and pharmaceuticals). We will create a national “capital budget” so that federal construction money never again goes to bridges to nowhere in Alaska and instead goes to stronger levees in New Orleans.

3. Fighting terrorism and getting out of Iraq. We will fight terrorism with a strong military and with economic investments and aid for poor nations that are often the breeding grounds for terrorism. But we will withdraw American troops from Iraq. As even our generals now tell us, our presence there is incubating new terrorists and fomenting anti-Americanism around the world.

4. Ending torture and respecting the rule of law. We will respect the Geneva Conventions. We will never condone torture or keep people imprisoned indefinitely without due process of law.

5. Reducing oil dependence and greenhouse gases. We will reduce American dependence on oil and reduce global warming. By 2020, 20 percent of our energy will come from solar, wind, biomass, and other alternative sources. Also by 2020, America will utilize 20-percent less fuel than today.

6. Restoring the middle class. We will restore the growth of the American middle class and of middle-class incomes. Supply-side economics, which rewards the rich with generous tax breaks and tells us that the resulting economic growth will “trickle down” to everyone else, has proven a cruel hoax. Little or nothing is trickling down. A quarter of all the benefits of economic growth now go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent of Americans. We are determined to reverse course.

7. A progressive tax code. The cost of making the nation’s homeland secure against terrorism and natural disasters and of providing adequate health care and education -- without falling deeper into debt -- will require more federal revenue. Yet the middle class cannot afford more taxes. It’s time for the rich to bear their fair share. We will impose a surtax of one-tenth of 1 percent per year on net worth in excess of $1 million and will roll back the administration’s tax cuts for those earning more than $300,000 a year.

8. A minimum health-care wage. The cost of health insurance for the typical family is rising by double digits, while 46 million Americans are without insurance altogether. We will establish a simple “minimum health-care wage” offering basic health insurance -- one free checkup per year, five free medical visits, one free dental, choice of doctor or dentist limited to an approved list, free drugs up to $1,000 per year -- to any American wishing to join. The expected large scale of this program will give government bargaining leverage to get low prices from providers and drug companies.

9. Lifelong education through progressive vouchers and re-employment insurance. We will finance every K-14 student (that’s right -- two years beyond high school) with a progressive voucher in an amount inversely related to family income. (This year, for example, it would range from $15,000 for students from families at or below the poverty line to $3,000 for students from families in the wealthiest 10 percent.) The vouchers could be used at any publicly certified school. In addition, we will turn the unemployment insurance system into a “re-employment insurance system.” Recipients will get job training, job-search assistance, and, if the new job pays less than the old, wage insurance paying half the difference for a year.

10. Maintain separation of church and state. We will never allow religion to dictate whether an individual must be kept on life support, young people can gain access to birth-control information or counseling, women will have the freedom to choose to terminate a pregnancy, research can be done on stem cells or any other potential scientific innovation, or public schools must teach nonscientific interpretations of sacred texts.

Robert B. Reich is co-founder of The American Prospect.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Why I am so proud of my son. (A guest editorial by my pride and joy)

“Here's to Judas Maccabeus, boy if he could only see us.”
-- Tom Lehrer

Last night marked the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, which commemorates the victory of the Hasmoneans against Antiochus IV and the Seleucid Greeks in 164 BCE. The Hasmoneans (usually called Maccabees), defeated a powerful occupying force, rededicated the Temple, and established a theocratic dynasty that lasted almost 80 years. In these uncertain times, the story of Chanukah has something to offer every reader: neoconservatives may rejoice at the toppling of a Middle Eastern tyrant, grass-roots liberals may celebrate the victory of the weak against the mighty (as long as they do it over secure phone lines), and Jews of faith may offer a prayer of thanks that God does not forsake His covenant. But we must also read the story of Chanukah as a cautionary tale.

The Chanukah story with which most folks are familiar tends to stop at the rededication of the Temple and the miracle of the oil, which is the part of the story that gives us the eight nights of candle-lighting. This makes for a good little celebration, especially when you figure in the tradition of eating deep-fried foodstuffs to commemorate the miracle of the oil. Unfortunately, the holiday falls on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, which is usually around the 25th of December. Since Christmas is such a big deal, Chanukah turned into a big deal, for fear that Jewish kids would feel left out. These days, Chanukah is treated as if it were on par with Christmas, which bothers different folks for different reasons.

Now, there are those who would have you believe that America is waging a war on Christmas. It’s a claim that I’ll dignify with counter-argument just as soon as my friends come home from Iraq. As far as I can tell, the front lines of the war on Christmas are in department stores, where clerks are greeting people with “Happy Holidays.” Some people object, claiming that this is an attack on the Christian faith. They are idiots, for reasons explored at length by Big Mitch and his sources. I am not a fan of “Happy Holidays” either, but my reasons for disliking the greeting are twofold, and they do not change the fact that said people are idiots.

The first reason for disliking “Happy Holidays” is that it conflates Chanukah with Christmas. The anniversary of Jesus’s birth seems like it might be an important thing for Christians to observe. While the commercialization of Christmas strikes me as vaguely obscene, I do not begrudge the Christians their spectacle. After all, it comes but once a year. But there’s no reason to make a similar fuss about Chanukah. Not only is Chanukah a minor holiday (about which more below), the appropriation of Gentile tradition was the very root of the Hasmonean revolt. “When the Jews came under Grecian rule, their real enemy was Hellenization,” writes Max I. Dimont in his indispensable Jews, God and History. Greek culture exerted an overwhelming influence on every aspect of Jewish life. It was not Greek rule that radicalized the Jews, it was the way in which their culture was subsumed by Greekness. Antiochus IV appointed a Jewish High Priest named Jason under whose stewardship, Dimont writes, “Greek games performed by naked Jewish boys became a common spectacle in the Temple courtyards.” (And you thought 50 Cent at a bat mitzvah was over the top.)

Faced with this sort of thing, more and more Jews began to object to Greek influence, until an anti-Hellenization movement called the Hasideans overthrew Jason and the Seleucid appointees and wiped out the Hellenized Jews. Modern Jews who celebrate Chanukah as if it were an eight-day Christmas would do well to remember that the story of Chanukah started with a fight to preserve cultural uniqueness.

The Hasidean victory was short-lived. Antiochus IV sent his armies into Jerusalem, slaughtered the Hasideans and whomever else happened to be standing around, and re-established a Hellenized priesthood. But then he overplayed his hand. Facing military failure abroad (he’d just gotten punked by the Romans, and nobody likes getting punked by the Romans), he did what any moron would do after taking over his dad’s job and finding it harder than he’d imagined: he started curtailing freedoms at home. He outlawed the Sabbath and circumcision, which really got the Jews riled up. Dimont goes on: “The Hasidean party, whose members had been practically wiped out in the Seleucid reprisals, now found new adherents among those Jews who previously had stood for moderate Hellenization.” The new anti-Hellenization movement gave way to the Hasmonean revolt.

Here is where the neoconservatives might want to put down their dreidels and think about how well Western influence (for which read democracy and Coca-Cola) will fare among third-world Muslims weary of seeing their coreligionists getting shelled. You see, we’ve reached the point at which some parallels might be drawn. All this pseudo-Yuletide Chanukah hoopla (say that five times fast) has obscured some of the real story of Chanukah. Antiochus IV is usually cast as a Disney villain, when in fact he was just a spectacularly irresponsible leader. He tried to build a global empire by fighting unwinnable wars. Rather than encouraging diversity as his predecessors did, he tried to undermine it, by imposing a uniform set of cultural values through appointed officials. Finally, he proved a tyrant, by taking away freedoms that were theretofore considered inalienable. After a while, it bit him in the ass. I would say some of the Bible-thumpers in office would do well to heed the lessons of this particular Bible story, but there are a couple of problems. The first is that if the Bible-thumpers in office actually heeded the Bible once in a while, our nation wouldn’t be in such a terrible fix. The second is that, well, Maccabees 1 and 2 aren’t actually in the Bible. At least not the Jewish Bible. Which brings me to my next point.

Another reason for disliking “Happy Holidays” has little to do with Christmas and a great deal to do with the problematic nature of Chanukah itself. There’s a reason that Chanukah isn’t a major holiday, and that Maccabees 1 and 2 weren’t redacted into the Jewish Bible. It has to do with the fate of the Hasmoneans, which may prove instructive.

After the revolt, governmental power was placed in the hands of Simon, the last surviving Hasmonean brother. As the son of a priest, he was made High Priest, and as the leader of the revolt he was made governor of the Kingdom of Judah. Simon’s descendents were anointed as royalty, and there the trouble began. Although the Jews had united against Antiochus IV, once they had a kingdom of their own they broke into political factions, which were still the major Jewish cultural movements at the birth of Jesus: the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenes. (I’m pretty much cribbing all of this from Dimont at this point, so read him if you don’t believe me). Despite the fact that the priests had just waged a war against Hellenization, the Sadducees were more favorably inclined to the Greek influence. This is not all that confusing when you consider that the priesthood and the sacrificial rites were themselves taken from Egyptian custom, so that the fresh-from-slavery Jews would have a familiar way of relating to God. The Hasmonean king pissed off the Pharisees and then went with the Sadducee ticket, which pissed them off even more.

The Pharisees, for their part, hated Greek influence, and moved away from Temple Judaism to create a brand of faith based on communal worship and pragmatic legal theory. The rabbinic tradition founded by the Pharisees provided the seed for the vast tree that is modern Judaism. Meanwhile, the Hasmoneans were in rapid decline. The dynasty was marked by every act which may define a tyrant: forcible conversion, violent suppression of dissent, hiring of mercenaries, and intrafamilial murder. After a couple of civil wars, the kingdom was conquered by Pompey, who turned it into the Roman province of Judea. The fall of the Hasmonean dynasty made possible the ascension of Herod, who was appointed king of Judea and who, if the Gospel of Matthew is to be believed, actually did wage a war against Christmas, so to speak.

In other words, the glory of the Hasmoneans pretty much ended where the Chanukah story tends to leave off: at the rededication of the Temple. Nowadays, we overlook the epilogue, but the rabbis, descended as they were from Pharisees, did not. Chanukah was downplayed as a holiday, and its story left out of the Bible, because it sparked a chain of events that nearly destroyed Judaism. We cannot celebrate Chanukah--and we surely cannot reduce it to a simple festival with generic greetings and glossy trappings--without considering the scope of Jewish history and the price the Jewish people have paid for following bad leaders.

Once again, we should look for parallels. By linking religion and government, the Hasmoneans degraded both. By imposing religion on others, they weakened their own. By meeting dissent with despotism, they forfeited claims on legitimacy. And by seizing and maintaining power through corrupt means, they made their downfall inevitable. As Bob Knight of the Culture and Family Institute says, “If you can‘t understand the force of history...” See, “War on Christmas, Part Deux,” infra.

So, this holiday season, let us take a stand against extremism in all its forms. Let us honor our individual heritages by learning from those who came before us. Let us bring about regime change through peaceful means, and let us choose leaders who respect that greatest of all gifts, freedom.

"… and tell ’em Young Ike sent you!"

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Barron's Magazine editors smoking crack?

When I suggested that the Presdient of the United States should be impeached, one brave but anonymous soul accused me of "smoking the Democratic crack pipe." (see, comments to "Bribery, Treason, high Crimes and Misdemeanors, infra)

I wonder what he would say to the editors of Barron's magazine, which is not a notably left wing magazine. This is from their editorial:

[...] Surely the "strict constructionists" on the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary eventually will point out what a stretch this is. The most important presidential responsibility under Article II is that he must "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." That includes following the requirements of laws that limit executive power. There's not much fidelity in an executive who debates and lobbies Congress to shape a law to his liking and then goes beyond its writ.

Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.

It is important to be clear that an impeachment case, if it comes to that, would not be about wiretapping, or about a possible Constitutional right not to be wiretapped. It would be about the power of Congress to set wiretapping rules by law, and it is about the obligation of the president to follow the rules in the Acts that he and his predecessors signed into law. ...

" ... and tell'em Big Mitch sent ya!"

Thursday, December 22, 2005

"Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors"

The President of the United States of America has admitted on national television that he engaged in electronic surveillance without getting the authorization of a court. Some would say that is an Abuse of Power. I am one of them.

But is Abuse of Power grounds for impeachment? The grounds for impeachment are listed in the Constitution of the United States at Article II, Section 4. They are “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

We have Patrick Fitzgerald on the job trying to find out if W was involved in outing Valerie Plame, which W’s daddy and some others have described as treason. I am one of them.

We know that the White House was engaged in paying guys like Armstrong Williams to plant stories in the press. Back in the day, that was called “payola,” and some may say it is a form of bribery. I am one of them.

But what about “high Crimes and Misdemeanors?” During the last impeachment effort there was extensive debate about what this term meant. Some took the position that “high” modified both Crimes and Misdemeanors, and that it meant in this context, crimes connected with the execution of official duties. I am one of them.

Others took the view that the term “high crimes” referred to any felony, e.g. perjury in a civil suit. All agree that a felony committed in connection with the execution of official duties is a “high Crime.”

Which brings us to the next question: Is unauthorized electronic surveillance of American citizens a high Crime? For this we must look at Title 50 of the United States Code, section 1809.

§ 1809. Criminal sanctions

(a) Prohibited activities
A person is guilty of an offense if he intentionally—
  • (1) engages in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute; or
  • (2) discloses or uses information obtained under color of law by electronic surveillance, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through electronic surveillance not authorized by statute.

  • (c) Penalties
    An offense described in this section is punishable by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than five years, or both.

    (By definition, a felony is a crime punishable by imprisonment by a year or more.)

    So, some would say, we’ve got Treason, Bribery and high Crimes. I am one of them.

    Hey, Bush: Three out of four ain’t bad.

    Tell your congressional delegation that Bush must be impeached,

    … and tell ‘em Big Mitch sent ya!

    In defense of Republicans: they take care of their friends.

    The following posting comes directly from my new favorite blog

    Well well well. What do we have here?

    George W. Bush has picked new nominees for the FEC. One is a Republican, Hans von Spakovsky, whom Ted Kennedy says "may be at the heart of the political interference that is undermining the [Justice] Department's enforcement of federal civil laws." And in an uncharacteristic moment of cheerful bipartisanship, Bush is also appointing a Democrat, Robert D. Lenhard, who was quite helpful to the 1600 Crew as part of the legal team that challenged the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.

    But there is perhaps another reason why Mr. Lenhard is being rewarded by BushCo. at just this moment. He's the husband of Viveca Novak, whose testimony now provides the foundation for Karl Rove's defense in the CIA leak case.

    A small but rather key fact that both the Washington Post and the White House Press Release manages to leave out, wouldn't you say? They WaPo is having quite a stint in the GOP stenography department this week, it would seem.

    Visit firedoglake blog ...

    "... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"

    United States v United States District Court

    Justice Powell delivered the opinion of the court. Some highlights below:

    History abundantly documents the tendency of Government -- however benevolent and benign its motive -- to view with suspicion those who most fervently dispute its policies. Fourth Amendment protections become the more necessary when the targets of official surveillance may be those suspected of unorthodoxy in their political beliefs. The danger to political dissent is acute where the Government attempts to act under so vague a concept as the power to protect "domestic security." Given the difficulty of defining the domestic security interest, the danger of abuse in acting to protect that interest becomes apparent. Senator Hart addressed this dilemma in the floor debate on § 2511(3):

    "As I read it -- and this is my fear -- we are saying that the President, on his motion, could declare -- name your favorite poison -- draft dodgers, Black Muslims, the Ku Klux Klan, or civil rights activists to be a clear and present danger to the structure or existence of the Government."

    The price of lawful public dissent must not be a dread of subjection to an unchecked surveillance power. Nor must the fear of unauthorized official eavesdropping deter vigorous citizen dissent and discussion of Government action in private conversation. For private dissent, no less than open public discourse, is essential to our free society.

    These Fourth Amendment freedoms cannot properly be guaranteed if domestic security surveillances may be conducted solely within the discretion of the Executive Branch.

    United States v United States District Court, 407 U.S. 297 (1972). (Powell, J,, writing for the unanimous court. Emphasis added.)

    I couldn't have said it better myself.

    ... tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"

    Wednesday, December 21, 2005

    No Such Agency

    The NSA is so secretive, that it has been nick-named No Such Agency. When we learned that it had illegally intercepted communications of American citizens, it made me ask, "When was the last time we even heard something about the NSA?"

    Funny you should ask.

    To give you some perspective on how secret the NSA is, consider this: For a year, The New York Times, which had published the Pentagon Papers, sat on the story of NSA violating the rights American citizens.

    Not quite a year ago, the President had nominated John Bolton to be the US Ambassador to the United Nations. In April, his nomination hit a snag when it was revealed that he wanted the names of some U.S. citizens that had been blacked out of NSA intercepts he had requested.

    At the time of his nomination, Bolton was the Under-Secretary of State, dealing with non-proliferation. He had had his run-ins with Colin Powell, then Secretary of State and it has been widely speculated that he was spying on the boss. This is important because if true, it shows that the NSA was engaged in domestic spying for political purposes.

    We may never know if Bolton was bugging his boss, though Powell's willingness to speak out about W's lame defense of Snoop-gate, suggests that he has his own opinion on this.

    Here's what we know so far: Bush was breaking the law to snoop on Americans. It is only logical to assume that the reason the Bushies didn't go to the FISA court is because they knew it wouldn't grant their request for authorization.

    What kind of request would the FISA court turn down? I suppose one kind of snooping that they would frown upon would be snooping for purely political purposes. Can you think of another?

    Me neither.

    " ... tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"

    One down, Two to go.

    In a previous post, I asked three questions. The first was

  • Why then did the President need to resort to illegal wiretaps?

  • After all, as Colin Powell and I pointed out: "It didn’t seem to me, anyway, that it would have been that hard to go and get the warrants. And even in the case of an emergency, you go and do it [begin surveillance]. The law provides for that. And three days later, you let the court know what you have done, and deal with it that way.”.

    Yesterday, we received the answer. "The whole key here is agility," according to Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden who was the NSA director when the surveillance began. According to a quote buried deep within a page one article in the Washington Post, Hayden said getting retroactive court approval is inefficient because it "involves marshaling arguments" and "looping paperwork around."

    You got it! Two much paperwork is the justification for breaking the law. I expect that Bushies are next going to claim that this was their environmental program. No trees were harmed in the trampling of your rights!

    There are still unanswered questions. But they all boil down to this: Does this Congress aim to sit by and let George Bush ignore the law, or will it do its Constitutional duties and impeach him? Talk to your Congressional delegation.

    "... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"

    Tuesday, December 20, 2005

    Before the 2004 election, Bush spoke about wiretaps.

      Remarks by the President in a Conversation on the USA Patriot Act

    Kleinshans Music Hall,
Buffalo, New York
    April 20, 2005

    "Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."

    The complete text of W's remarks, along with links to the audio and the video of his speech can be found here. If you find that this link leads nowhere, it is because the White House has taken down the link.

    Who does a guy have to screw around here to get impeached.

    Let's talk about the President's program of illegally spying on the American people. I know, the President says it is legal, but just as Condoleeza Rice admitted that she was not a lawyer, and therefore unable to answer questions about the legality of the program, W's opinion is, shall we say, dubious. Now, let's get Lindsey Graham's opinion. He said on Face the Nation, "I don't know of any legal basis to go around that. There may be some, but I'm not aware of it. And here's the concern I have-we can’t become an outcome-based democracy. Even in a time of war, you have to follow the process, because that's what a democracy is all about-a process." By the way, he is a lawyer. And a Republican.

    The President has authority to wiretap anyone's phone, and intercept any communication for 72 hours, according to Senator Joe Biden, the self-described “guy who wrote the FISA statute 25 years ago.” After that, the government must go to the FISA court, which is secret, and give its justification. If the court rules that the justification is inadequate, the remedy is to destroy the evidence seized.

    This raises the first of three big questions, namely: Why then did the President need to resort to illegal wiretaps?

    The President says that he briefed Congress about these activities. Serious doubts exist about this. Clearly, the letter of Jay Rockefeller dispels the implication that Congress assented to these wiretaps. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has stated "leaders of the relevant oversight intelligence committees" -- had been briefed on the NSA activities. This is just another one of her lies. Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) was the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time the program was initiated. Graham says that he was never briefed by the administration about the program: “There was no reference made to the fact that we were going to...begin unwarranted, illegal, and I think unconstitutional, eavesdropping on American citizens.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she had been “advised by Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Ranking Democrat on House Intelligence Committee, that the Bush Administration reversed its decision to brief the full House Intelligence Committee on the details of the activities.” Tom Daschle, the former senate majority leader says that the White House briefed him, but withheld important details. Though the White House ommitted the most egregiously illegal aspects of their program, Daschle nevertheless objected, and he disputes the White House assertion that no one objected.

    Something is big time fishy here, which gives rise to the second question, namely: Why is W lying about this?

    We've gotten used to a lot of nasty things done by W and his crooked cronies. Things like:

  • Lying to Congress regarding reasons for going to war against Iraq.
  • Condoning and supporting treason regarding the disclosure of a CIA operative’s name.
  • Subversion of the Bill of Rights by engaging in practices designed to undermine the free press such as the bribery of journalists publish propaganda.
  • Negligent malpractice in protecting the country from disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.
  • Criminal conspiracy to deprive the American people of free elections.

    All of which gives rise to the third big question, namely, "Who does a guy have to screw around here to get impeached?"

    ... tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"
  • Sunday, December 18, 2005

    Do Republican's want fair elections? You be the judge.

    The New York Times has a little column called National Roundup, where they publish odds and ends from around the country. On December 16th it had a little blurb, about 6 paragraphs into it from the New England region. Here it is, reprinted in its entirety.


    A former top Republican Party official was convicted on charges of telephone harassment in a plot to jam the Democrats' phones on Election Day 2002. The federal jury acquitted the defendant, James Tobin, on the most serious charge, conspiring to violate voters' rights. Mr. Tobin, 45, of Bangor, Me., could receive up to seven years in prison and $500,000 in fines when he is sentenced in March. For nearly two hours on that Election Day, hundreds of hang-up calls overwhelmed Democratic get-out-the-vote phone banks in New Hampshire and a ride-to-the-polls line run by the Manchester firefighters' union. Mr. Tobin was accused of orchestrating the phone jamming. (AP)

    That’s a heck of a tidbit to bury deep within the paper of record. If I got this right some yahoo in New Hampshire took a fall for tying up the Democratic GOTV phones on Election day. Is this news? And who is this guy, anyway?

    Understandably, the Concord (NH) Monitor dug a little deeper. I’m not into that whole plagerism thing but just to give you a flavor of what’s going on here’s the lede on the article they published under the headline:

    Ex-GOP official guilty on two counts.

    A jury convicted former national Republican Party official James Tobin yesterday on two counts of telephone harassment for his role in a plot to jam Democratic phone banks on Election Day 2002 in New Hampshire. But the federal jury acquitted Tobin on the most serious count, conspiracy to violate voters'rights.

    Tobin, 45, of Bangor, Maine, was the New England political director for the Republican National Committee and the Northeast field representative for the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the 2002 election. He later served as New England chairman for the Bush-Cheney campaign but resigned shortly before the 2004 election, after allegations about his involvement in the phone scheme became public.

    Tobin, who will be sentenced in March, faces up to seven years in prison and a $500,000 for the two counts on which he was convicted -conspiring to commit telephone harassment through repeated phone calls, and aiding and abetting telephone harassment committed by others. A guilty verdict on the voters' rights count could have added 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

    The 2002 election in New Hampshire included a close race for U.S. Senate between Jeanne Shaheen and John Sununu. On Election Day, a telemarketing firm hired by Republicans barraged six phone lines - belonging to four state Democratic field offices, the Manchester City Democrats and the Manchester firefighters union -with hundreds of anonymous, hang-up phone calls over two hours before the plot was called off.

    Chuck McGee, the state Republican who came up with the idea, and Allen Raymond, the consultant with the telemarketing connections to make it possible, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy last year for their roles. McGee served seven months in federal prison, and Raymond is awaiting a five-month sentence. Both testified in U.S. District Court last week that Tobin put them in touch with each other so they could tie up Democratic phone lines, although they worked out the details on their own.

    Did you catch that? (The NYT didn’t seem to.)

    So here it is: The New England chairman of the Bush/Cheney campaign committee was convicted of illegally trying to prevent Dems from voting!

    Here’s a little tidbit that Rachel Madow dropped on the air. The RNC plunked down a cool $750,000 for Tobin’s defense. I am completely down with the idea that everyone deserves a defense, but (silly me) I was just wondering, did donors to the Republican’s know that there money would be spent on defending a criminal who was trying to suppress the vote?

    Probably, most of them wouldn’t really mind, but the guys who hand out that money, you know, to candidates f’rinsance, they don’t just give away ¾ a million bucks because he was a longtime supporter and he assured them that he had committed no crimes. You would think that for that kind of money, they would maybe be hoping that some uncomfortable details don’t become so generally widely known.

    Oh, by the way, officials of the RNC, when asked why they underwrote Tobin’s defense said, “because he was a longtime supporter and he assured them that he had committed no crimes.”

    Think it couldn’t get worse? Stay tuned for the Tobin-Abramoff connection.

    On a personal note, I am sure you are wondering, where does Big Mitch get this stuff. Listen, if you want to write a blog about Republican corruption, you will never run out of material. Don’t believe me? Check this out.

    "... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"

    Saturday, December 17, 2005

    Respect for the Constitution and Law

    You probably recall elementary school where you learned that the American Revolutionary War was fought over the principle of “No taxation without representation!” Remember the Boston Tea Party?

    My friend, Wayne Anthony Ross, who is a big mucky-muck in the NRA makes the case that it was fought over the right to own guns (or at least, that was the spark that ignited it at Lexington and Concord.) As usual, WAR is wrong.

    Here’s the real deal: it was all about freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, the right enjoyed by Americans, which is enshrined in the Bill of Rights in the Fourth Amendment. That’s the view of John Adam’s anyway, and he was there at the time. You can read all about it in a book by Sam Dash, who achieved fame as the chief counsel for the Senate’s Watergate Committee. It's called The Intruders: Unreasonable Searches and Seizures from King John to John Ashcroft (2004).

    You see, when the Founders signed the Declaration of Independence and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and sacred honor to the cause of freedom, they fully appreciated what William Pitt meant, when he said, “A man’s home is his castle.” The plaintiff in the companion to that case was the first man to successfully sue the British Crown after officers searched his house under a general warrant. He was so highly regarded as a hero in the fight for liberty that a half a century later, Americans were naming their babies after him. His name was John Wilkes.

    Well, I was thinking of that revolutionary fervor when I changed the heading on my blog. Follow the link above.

    Some people think the most important freedom is the freedom to elect the people who rule our country. I’ll have more to say about that in a different posting.

    By 1949, Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, had been the chief United States prosecutor of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg. In Brinegar v. United States (1949) 338 U.S. 160, 180-81 he wrote as follows:

    Fourth Amendment freedoms … are not mere second-class rights but belong in the catalog of indispensable freedoms. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart. Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government. And one need only briefly to have dwelt and worked among a people possessed of many admirable qualities but deprived of these rights [i.e., the German people just after their years under Hitler] to know that the human personality deteriorates and dignity and self-reliance disappear where homes, persons and possessions are subject at any hour to unheralded search and seizure by the police.”

    (Jackson, J., joined by Frankfurter and Murphy, JJ., dissenting).

    So, now that I’ve got you thinking about the need to resist tyranny, and the extremes of inhumanity that government can sink to when it takes away the right to be left alone, take a gander at this from the New York Times of December 16, 2005:

    Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Court

    Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

    Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible “dirty numbers” linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

    The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

    "This is really a sea change," said a former senior official who specializes in national security law. "It's almost a mainstay of this country that the N.S.A. only does foreign searches."

    Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation's legality and oversight.

    You can read the rest of the article here. Elsewhere the Times reported that “Disclosure of the eavesdropping prompted immediate calls from some lawmakers for an end to the program and for Congressional and possible criminal investigations into its operations.”

    Some will say that it is too early to jump to conclusions, but faithful readers of this space know that has never stopped me before. My conclusion is that this is really big and that America is at a fork in the road. Down one path lies submission with no pretense that we live in a nation of laws, where criminals are held accountable, even if they commit their heinous acts at the highest level of government.

    Or we can choose the high road. This route leads inexorably to re-affirming the principles that our country was founded on – not merely freedom, but accountability, and equal justice under the law. Of course this will mean impeaching the President of the United States, convicting him, and then commencing a criminal prosecution.

    Sic semper tyrannis.

    ... tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"

    Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    War on Christmas -- Part Deux

    Here is a must see clip from the front line of the war on Christmas.

    Go there now,

    "...and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"

    Friday, December 09, 2005

    I'll furnish the war on Christmas.

    In 1898, publisher William Randolph Hearst sent Fredric Remington to Cuba to cover the Spanish-American War as an artist/correspondent. According to legend, when Remington complained there wasn'’t any war, Hurst cabled him, "“You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war." Hurst wanted a war not because he had some principled geopolitical philosophy. He wanted to sell media. It's only business.

    Bill O'Reilley wants to sell media, too, and if it requires a war, he'll furnish it. In this case, he has declared that there is a war against Christmas in America. If you think that Christmas is in jeopardy, not only have you drawn the wrong conclusion, but you're too deluded to draw your own bath. There can hardly be imagined anything as secure as the place of Christmas in the hearts of Americans.

    To the extent that there is a problem, it is entirely a creation of some right wing nuts. These folks will say or do anything for money. That is why they are whores. If it means driving a wedge between Christians and non-Christians, hey, don't take it personal. It'’s only business.

    But what if ...…

    What if there really were a war against Christmas? Who would be on the other side? The number one example of the war on Christmas that is given by O'’Reilley and others is that greeters in Macy's say, "Happy Holidays"” instead of a less inclusive salutation. At the start of the 20th Century, Macy's was owned by Nathan Strauss, the famous Jewish philanthropist. Since then, the owners of Macy's have made a lot of money catering to Christmas shoppers.

    Look, I am all in favor of making fun of right wing stupidity, and taking an idea to absurd extremes is a time-tested technique of comedy. But we are dealing here with absurd extremists, and that's nothing to laugh about. In the past, Non-Christians suffered greivously on account of false accusations that they have undermined Christian institutions, which accusations were made on the far right.

    And what are the putative enemies of Christmas allegedly seeking to replace it with? The imagined enemies of Christmas can't be imagined to propose no substitute for Christmas, because Christmas is too good for business. Christmas couldn't be replaced by Kwansa because people who celebrate Kwansa also celebrate Christmas, and probably at a higher rate than any group of Americans of their size or larger. So, I am thinking that what the imagined enemies of Christmas must want is to instill Chanukah in the hearts and minds of Americans, and this is what scares the b'jeezus out of Bill O'Reilly.

    It should scare them, too. Chanukah celebrates religious freedom. It is the story of the few who chafed under the repressive measures of the many, and how they rose up and defeated the most powerful Army ever to have appeared on earth. That kind of story could be bad for business, if your business is being a right wing demagogue.

    So, what I propose is that if you ever see one of these right wingnut fear mongers, you wish him a Happy Chanukah. He'll probably recognize you as a guerrilla in the War on Christmas, and lob a hand-grenade at you. That's how they celebrates the birth of the Prince of Peace.

    Just smile at this lunatic and feel free. Free to ...

    ... tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!

    Tuesday, December 06, 2005

    Paying for hearts and minds. Yours.

    The United States of America’s government is paying The Lincoln Group to plant articles written by American troops in the Iraqi press. What’s wrong with that? I mean other than the fact that it was a cool $100,000,000.00.

    We are at war in Iraq, and there is an active insurgency resisting our presence there. It may be a fool’s errand, but the mission is to gain the hearts and minds of Iraqis and to promote democracy there. Personally, I am persuaded that we are going about it all wrong, but as the web-chatters would say, WTFDIK?

    It seems to me that a program of getting the Iraqis to accept democracy by placing the written word in their hands is better than say, burning their skin off with phosphorous. “Better,” as in more moral. “Better,” as in more effective. But, you know, that’s just my opinion. Anyway, we're doing both.

    So, here’s what’s wrong with that American Department of Defense contractors paying to place articles in the Iraqi press.

    The average Iraqi who picks up the Baghdad Bugle knows very well that Americans are not being greeted with candy and flowers, and that the Iraqi army is not standing up. They have fewer delusions about the Americans standing down than the 72% of us who think that George W. Bush is not generally truthful. The typical reader of the Mosul Mavin doesn’t need a paper to know whether or not the bases being built are temporary or if the oil revenues are flowing. If the Karkuk Crier writes about the humane treatment of Iraqi prisoners in American custody, what it basically is saying is, “we don't give a damn about our credibility; we just want some of that Lincoln Group payola!” In other words, the DOD is not targeting the Iraqis with its subcontracted propaganda.

    Who then are the intended targets of the articles in the Iraqi press? You. Here’s how it works. Cindy Sheehan, or Jack Murtha, or Joe Blow stands up and says, “Hey, this is a damn quagmire. Energy production, employment, industrial output – you pick the measure – things are worse now than they were before the war began. Rape rooms are back, sectarian warfare is breaking out, terrorists are being trained, and religious tolerance is down the tubes. Those are not Iraqi battle-ready battalions – they are private militias of religious warlords. Etc., etc., etc. It’s all true, too.

    But then up jumps Bill O’Reilley, Rush Limbaugh or Joe Blow-harder. He says, “What does Cindy Sheehan or Jack Murtha or you know? You’re over here. Let’s look at what is being said by real people on the ground; let’s listen to the Iraqi people.” Then he reads some lies placed in the Faluga Fishwrap by Spec 4 Armstrong Williams.

    The main stream media, ever consciencious to present both sides of an argument, repeats the points made by each side. The typical listener comes away confused, and unsure about what is true and what is not. Hey, that's good enough for the crooks and liars who are running the government.

    It is against the law for the American government to spend your money on propaganda to influence you. And that’s just what they did. And that's what's wrong with the paying for the hearts and minds of folks.

    "... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"

    Friday, December 02, 2005

    Bush's Strategy for Victory in Iraq Digested and Spit Up

    Okay, already. I know you are not going to read Our National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. Hell, I doubt that even W. is going to read it. After all, it’s 38 pages and no pictures.

    I myself had difficulty getting through the executive summary. But when I got to page 8, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Here’s the part that got to me:

    ➢ If we and our Iraqi partners fail in Iraq, Iraq will become:

    • A safe haven for terrorists as Afghanistan once was, only this time in some of the world’s most strategic territory, with vast natural resources to exploit and to use to fund future attacks.

    • A country where oppression – and the brutal imposition of inhumane practices, such as those of the Taliban in Afghanistan – is pervasive.

    • A failed state and source of instability for the entire Middle East, with all the attendant risks and incalculable costs for American security and prosperity.

    (Weird formatting and italics in the original.)

    What we know so far is that Saddam Hussein ruled with an iron fist, and he was a son-of-a-bitch, which is how he was able to keep the terrorists out of Iraq. That's the same Iraq that we are told, is “in some of the world’s most strategic territory, with vast natural resources to exploit and to use to fund future attacks.”

    How do I know the part about terrorists not in Saddam’s Iraq? Well, unlike some people I knoW, I actually read the Presidential Daily Briefing whenever I get a chance.

    On September 21, 2001, W’s daily briefing said that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks 10 days earlier, and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda.

    Well, that was then, and this is now. Al Qaeda is operating freely in Iraq, if you are to believe W. And why wouldn’t you?

    You may wonder why I accuse Bush of not reading his memos. Well, after Bush received the Sept. 21st memo, he continued to push the Saddam -Al Qaeda connection to the point where most Americans thought that Saddam was personally involved in the 9-11 attacks. It just seems to me that accusing him of not reading the memo is more charitable than calling him a lying sack of shit.

    How is Iraq doing on the human rights in Iraq front? In Iraq, (as contrasted to the rest of the Arab world) women had achieved a measure of equality. The burka of the Taliban is making a comeback in Shi’ite areas of Iraq, thanks to our removal of Saddam.

    Look, I am no fan of tyranny, but tyranny is the enemy of instability. As Congressman Jack Murtha took pains to point out, oil production, electricity generation, clean water availability, industrial output and every other measure of quality of life in Iraq are all below pre-war levels. Not so good for the whole stability thing.

    Here's the point: The invasion of Iraq has produced the very conditions identified by the National Security Council as “failure.”

    Let me tell you about Martin van Creveld. He is a professor of military history at the Hebrew University, the author of Transformation of War and the only non-American author on the U.S. Army's required reading list for officers. Here's what he had to say about this war:

    For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins.

    That’s quite a trick, W. The debate has moved on from whether or not you are the worst president in history to whether or not you are the dumbest leader in the last millennium. Think about it.

    "... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"

    Thursday, December 01, 2005

    Give me liberty


    Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775.

    No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

    Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

    I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish
    to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication?

    What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

    They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary.
    But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

    It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!