Friday, March 31, 2006

UCLA alumnus says: “Go George Mason!”

Today is the 100th birthday of the NCAA and this weekend will see the basketball tournament focus on the Final Four. Even a UCLA alumnus like myself must be intrigued by the Cinderella story of George Mason.

I didn’t go to the undergraduate school, but rather the UCLA School of Law. And so it was that rather than paying attention to the basketball tourney, I was fascinated by the hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Russ Feingold’s Censure Resolution.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about George Mason. After all, George Mason has been dubbed, “the father of the Bill of Rights,” and Thomas Jefferson called him “the wisest man of his generation.”

Jefferson gave George Mason the most sincere form of flattery: he imitated his fellow Virginian’s language when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Mason had authored the Declaration of Rights, which the Virginia Assembly approved on June 12, 1776.

“All men are born equally free and independent,” the Virginia Declaration began, “and have certain inherent rights.” Among those rights are “the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”

The Declaration went on to assert that the power of government is “derived from the people,” who retain “an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right” to “reform, alter, or abolish” governments that fail to serve their interest. It also went on to assert freedom of religion and the press, as well as a right to due process of law and trial by jury.

I have argued that the President’s program of domestic surveillance without judicial approve is an egregious violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids unreasonable searches and seizures. I leave it to you to decide whether it also violated Section 10 of George Mason’s Declaration of Rights:
That general warrants, whereby an officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, or whose offense is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are grievous and oppressive and ought not to be granted.
It is impossible to know what George Mason, or for that matter the Founders, would think of electronic surveillance. Of course, that is not the same as saying that there is no body of law and jurisprudence to which we can turn to decide questions in this area. For the reasons I have suggested elsewhere, the answers are not too difficult to discern.

Today’s hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee was about whether or not the President could thumb his nose at the FISA law. On that point, we do not have to wonder what George Mason would have thought. He was, after all, the author of these words from the Virginia Bill of Rights:
That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any authority, without consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights and ought not to be exercised.
Can there be any reasonable doubt about what George Mason would have said about King George W’s conduct?

Go George Mason!

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Monday, March 27, 2006

Beware the ides of March.


This is a translation of the Iraqi police report obtained by Knight Ridder, including accounts of events not related to the Ishaqi raid.

In the name of God, the most merciful

This is the morning and afternoon events of 15/3/2006

1. Interior Ministry Operations:

All forces belonging to the Interior Ministry will go on 100 percent alert status starting Wednesday 15/3/2006 until 1000 hours Friday 17/3/2006.

2. Coordination Center of Beji

At 810 gunmen in a white vehicle, duck type (a reference to the local name for a Toyota model) kidnapped the child Mohamed (Badei Khaled) from Samaha school in Beji (map coordinates 617667).

3. Coordination Center of Dujail

At 730 a benzene truck burned near Gassem al Queisy fuel station after one of its tires caught fire. The incident burned the driver (Hamed Abdalilah) and he was transported to the hospital (map coordinates 263519).

4. Coordination Center of Balad

At 230 of 15/3/2006, according to the telegram (report) of the Ishaqi police directorate, American forces used helicopters to drop troops on the house of Faiz Harat Khalaf situated in the Abu Sifa village of the Ishaqi district. The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 people, including 5 children, 4 women and 2 men, then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals (map coordinates 098702).

They were:

Turkiya Muhammed Ali, 75 years

Faiza Harat Khalaf, 30 years

Faiz Harat Khalaf, 28 years

Um Ahmad, 23 years

Sumaya Abdulrazak, 22 years

Aziz Khalil Jarmoot, 22 years

Hawra Harat Khalaf, 5 years

Asma Yousef Maruf, 5 years

Osama Yousef Maruf, 3 years

Aisha Harat Khalaf, 3 years

Husam Harat Khalaf, 6 months


Staff Colonel

Fadhil Muhammed Khalaf

Assistant Chief of the Joint Coordination Center

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Are we a democracy or what?

In a democracy, the elected representatives pass laws which are then carried out by the government under the leadership of an elected official. In the conception of the Founders, the elected official charged with enforcing the laws would be the President, and the laws applied to everyone from the most elevated to the most lowly.

This was a radical change from the system that prevailed in the mother country, viz., a monarchy in which the laws are made and executed by a King who derives his authority from Divine Right. If it sounds like I am saying stuff that any 6th-grader should know and understand, it is because I am.

And yet, when Congress makes laws, here's what seems to be happening: The President signs it and then immediately tells Congress that he has no intention whatsoever of actually obeying the law. The message is contained in a so-called "signing statement," but pretty much it was the same as the message delivered by Dick Cheney when he met Senator Patrick Leahy in the United States Senate.

If you don't believe me you can read it yourself:
President's Statement on H.R. 199, the "USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005"

Today, I have signed into law H.R. 3199, the "USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005," and then S. 2271, the "USA PATRIOT Act Additional Reauthorizing Amendments Act of 2006." The bills will help us continue to fight terrorism effectively and to combat the use of the illegal drug methamphetamine that is ruining too many lives.

The executive branch shall construe the provisions of H.R. 3199 that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch, such as sections 106A and 119, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of the Executive's constitutional duties.

The executive branch shall construe section 756(e)(2) of H.R. 3199, which calls for an executive branch official to submit to the Congress recommendations for legislative action, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to recommend for the consideration of the Congress such measures as he judges necessary and expedient.

(I first called attention to Bush's signing statements on January 4, 2006 in relation to the McCain anti-torture ammendment in Bush to Congress: "Drop Dead!")

There's a war going on. One thing we can all agree on is that our soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen deserve our support, respect and gratitude. It is in part because we realize that they have made the decision that they will put themselves in harm's way and endure separation from their loved ones to defend our freedoms, and the principles upon which our country is founded. One of those principles is that no man is above the law, an expression that originally was employed to explain the doctrine of separation of powers.

Our Armed Services members are brave because they choose to undertake the risks that defending democracy demands. In contrast, the members of the Senate, especially the Democrats, are too timid to stand up to tyranny even in the symbolic passing of a censure resolution.

This does not bode well for democracy.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Friday, March 24, 2006

John McCain should pay more attention to Big Mitch’s blog.

On Sunday, December 18, 2005, I asked the question “Do Republican’s want fair elections?” and suggested that “You be the judge.”

The evidence I offered was a little tidbit from the Dec. 16th New York Times, which was buried six paragraphs deep in the National Roundup column where they publish odds and ends from around the country. The Grey Lady told us that a former top Republican Party official was convicted of telephone harassment in a plot to jam the Democrats' phones on Election Day in 2002. The criminal in question was James Tobin of Bangor Maine.

Tobin’s supervisor in the Republican National Committee was a fellow named Terry Nelson. We can assume that he knew something about the anti-democratic plot because he was on the Government’s witness list, as you can see here.

You may have heard of Terry Nelson before, especially if you read the Tom DeLay indictment which, in Count I charges DeLay with the crime of Conspiracy. Now when you charge conspiracy in Federal Court, you usually have to specify at least one overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. The usual practice is to charge several. For example, in DeLay’s indictment the sixth overt act alleged is as follows:
on or about the thirteenth day of September, 2002, in Washington, D.C., the defendant, James Walter Ellis, did tender and deliver the aforesaid check, and did cause the aforesaid check to be tendered and delivered, to Terry Nelson and the Republican national Committee.
All of this is just background to help you understand this delicious phone call that was taken on-air by straight talking John “Please don’t vote for me, George Bush needs the votes more than I do” McCain:
CALLER: Thanks, I had a question for the senator. For a reformer, I'm kind of curious why he would hire a guy like Terry Nelson as a senior advisor. Here's a guy who was actually in the indictment of DeLay on his money laundering charges. When he was at the RNC, he agreed to take the corporate contributions from DeLay's PAC and then recycle them back into the Republican congressional races.

And he was also, this guy Nelson was also the supervisor of James Tobin, who was the guy convicted last year for helping jam the Democratic get-out-the-vote lines in New England a couple years ago.

So I'm curious why would you hire someone with such a shady background?

MCCAIN: None of those charges are true.

CALLER: You don't believe what was actually written in the indictment from Texas?


CARLSON: All right.

[nervous laughter]

MCCAIN: I will check it out. But I've never heard of such a thing. I know that he was a grassroots organizer for President Bush year 2000 and 2004, and had a very important job in the Bush campaign as late as 2004, but the other charges I will go and look and see if any of them are true, but I've never heard of them before.
“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Anchorage Daily News: “Bush candid on Iraq.”

King George W held a press conference, and even took a question from Helen Thomas. This is from his answer to her:
We worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny the inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did. And the world is safer for it.
Here's how Eric Alterman parsed the President's remarks:
Leave aside the “world is safer for it” crap, which you have to be either Fred Barnes or George Bush to believe, but is ultimately a judgment call. Look at the part about the inspectors. Remember the inspectors were in Iraq doing their job when George W. Bush, not Saddam Hussein, kicked them out in order to launch a war that was opposed by most of the world.
Many in the media are making a fuss about the fact that W seems to have launched into an “war on the media” strategy, which was in full flower today in Wheeling, West Virginia.

Can someone explain to me why there is not more attention being paid to the other strategy that was on display: war on truth? One Republican Senator gave an explanation, though it was offered in a different context. Arlen Specter of Maryland gave an update on the illegal warrantless spying program. “They want to do just as they please, for as long as they can get away with it.”

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

There are lies, damn lies, and then there's President Bush.

In today’s press conference King George proudly proclaimed that the unemployment data are very encouraging. The unemployment rate is 4.8%, if W is to be believed.

Here are some statistics that he did not mention. Figures quoted below are for February 2006, the last month for which Bureau of Labor Statistics are available, and for comparison, February 2001, when Bush was newly installed in the White House.

Though the population increased by 6.38% the labor force increased by only 4.60%. Put another way, the rate of job growth was 62.2% of the rate of population growth. The unemployment rate is up 10.87% over the course of Bush’s presidency. [5.1% in 2/06 vs. 4.6% in 2/01] And the number of people unemployed has gone up almost 18%.

The percentage of Americans in the workforce has declined from 67% to 65.7% on his watch. I find the most tragic statistic to be that the number of Americans over 16 years of age who would like a job but are too discouraged to be counted in the workforce has risen 6.88%.

In five years the Bush economic program has produced 5,417,000 jobs. In the comparable period, Bill Clinton’s gets credit for creating 9,690,000 jobs, which, means that Clinton outperformed Bush by almost 79%.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Monday, March 20, 2006

Bush gets an F from Keith Olbermann

Our President was out on the hustings today, explaining why the war in Iraq is, to borrow a phrase from Martha Stewart, a good thing. He even took some questions that did not appear to be screened. When asked about the justifications for the war, W said,
First, just if I might correct a misperception, I don't think we ever said -- at least I know I didn't say that there was a direct connection between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein.
After Congress voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq, the President sent to the Speaker of the House, and the President Pro Tem of the Senate a letter in which he indicated that he had made the findings necessary to prosecute the war in Iraq. Specifically, he made the determination that the use of force was “consistent” with taking:
the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
Over on MSNBC, Keith Olbermann made sense of Bush’s latest comments this way: “Then that must be a different George W. Bush who gave the State of the Union Address on January 28, 2003.” Cut to clip:
Bush: Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaida. Secretly and without fingerprints he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists or help them develop their own. Before September 11th, many in the world believed Saddam Hussein could be contained.
Then Olbermann observed, “Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda in the same sentence separated by seven words, September 11 and Saddam Hussein two sentences later separated by six words,” and announced that he and a guest would discuss the remaining question: “Who does the President think he's ‘F’ing kidding?” [Transcript here.]

Meanwhile, it was revealed today that the CIA had recruited Naji Sabri, Iraq’s foreign minister under Saddam as a spy. He told them that the Iraq was much further away from nuclear weapon production than the CIA was reporting, and that they had no biological weapons program. Why did the administration continue to push the exaggerated threats?

War involves deception, and if I may borrow Keith Olbermann's syntax, George W. Bush is a ‘F’ing wartime president.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Saturday, March 18, 2006

President Bush's nose grows 12 inches, pants catch on fire.

“Tehran has been responsible for at least some of the increasing lethality of anti-coalition attacks by providing Shia militia with the capability to build improvised explosive devices in Iraq,” Bush said at a speech to rally support for the failing effort in Iraq.

Problem is, it is not true.

When General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked whether Washington had proof that Tehran was behind the alleged movement of Revolutionary Guards, weapons, and IEDs into Iraq, he said: “I do not, sir.”

Is there no depth of dishonesty to which W will not sink? It is so outrageous that it strains credulity that this guy is not being impeached. The guy admits to an impeachable offence, and Russ Feingold is taking gas for introducing a resolution of censure. A plurality of Americans favor this resolution but so far Sen. Feingold has only attracted two supporters in the Senate.

Can someone please explain this to me? It boggles my mind. And another thing I can’t figure out is why my friends talked me out of calling Bush a lying sack of you-know-what.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Plurality of Americans favor censuring President Bush.

Click here for poll results.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

… about Chris Matthews.

Here’s What we know so far … about Chris Matthews.

Faithful readers of this column will recall that I accused him of having no respect for law, being an apologist for Nixon’s anti-Semitism, and basically, I called him a whore. That last accusation may need some explanation. As I wrote at the time:
Deep Throat advised journalists to “follow the money.” Matthews must have thought that the advice was to change your views to grab the largest audience.

I would tell you what I think that makes Chris Matthews, but I might offend the street-walking sex workers of the world.
I also wrote in Paying for hearts and minds. Yours. that it is illegal to spend government money on propaganda aimed at the American public. As it turns out, our government was spending $100,000,000 on that very thing, by planting stories in the Iraqi press, so that Bill O’Reilly or some other puke-for-brains could repeat it on cable news. Come to find out, the Pentagon said that was exactly what was happening, as I reported here.

So much has happened since then. We have learned that Armstrong Williams was not the only so-called journalist being paid to print stories favorable to the administration. Another thing we learned is that lobbyists are often bag-men for the Republican party.

Today, it all came together. It turns out that our pal, Chris Matthews, has been getting, how shall we put it, “honoraria” from lobbyists to deliver his unique brand of whatever it is he delivers.

According the Think Progress, Chris Matthews “has received tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for delivering speeches to corporate interest groups” with ties to the Republican party. As Think Progress noted, Matthews's collection of these fees “appear[s] to be in direct violation of NBC's policy prohibiting its employees from accepting such fees.”

Well, nobody ever accused Chris Matthews of giving it away for free. That would be a violation of the code of ethics for whores.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

How dare you criticize the President?!?!

This is not brain surgery.

There is a motion in the United States Senate to censure the President because he ordered the National Security Agency to listen in on the telephone conversations of Americans without getting court authorization, i.e. a warrant. What the President did is illegal. When the program became widely known, the President’s response was essentially to tell Congress, “Go to hell.”

It once was widely understood that the genius of the American Constitution is its system of checks and balances. The Resolution of Censure is an attempt to breathe life into that concept. The Administration responds with a predictable accusation that the Democrats are pro-terrorists.

In general, such an insipid assertion would not be worthy of a response. However, these days, right wing blogs, cable news, and even mainstream media, give such wide circulation to the most outrageous pronouncements of criminals like Dick Cheney, that unless each example of such nonsense is rebutted, it will gain currency and eventually be accepted by many, if not the majority, of Americans.

So here’s the answer for Democrats who are having trouble articulating something more cogent than, “I’m rubber you’re glue. It bounces off me and sticks to you.”

When the President of the United States breaks the law, it creates a climate of lawlessness that pollutes the entire executive branch. Laws are enacted to protect us, and when they are violated, we are less safe. When those who are charged with the responsibility of faithfully executing the laws choose instead to break the law, the result is a boon for terrorists.

Today, we see the clear-cut evidence of that simple proposition. Because of the egregious, outrageous misconduct of government lawyers, the case against the 20th hijacker, Zacharia Moussaoui, has been eviscerated. The government will not be allowed to present evidence from airline security experts who would have testified about the measures the government would have taken to prevent 9-11 attacks. Legal experts are predicting that as a result, Moussaoui will be spared the death penalty.

It's hard to imagine a more welcome gift to Osama Bin Laden. Here is proof that the administration are law-breakers. Here is a vivid demonstration of America's impotence against al Qaeda. And who can say that Moussaoui won't recruit more al Qaeda sympathizers in prison?

The moral of the story is this: Obedience to the law is a necessity in the war on terror.

It starts with the President.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Monday, March 13, 2006

Coincidence? Perhaps so.

Today, two seemingly unrelated news items illustrated the complexity of the war on terror. But first, a little background. Many of you will recall that our nation was attacked by a vicious enemy on September 11, 2001. The enemy, as you probably remember, was Al Quaeda.

Turns out that one member of the conspiracy, Zacarias Moussaoui, lived. He was in jail on the fateful day, having been arrested earlier in Minnesota where he was taking flying lessons. Called the twentieth hijacker, he was apprehended and pled guilty to six felony counts, three of which expose him to the death penalty. He is on trial in Virginia, and the issue there is whether or not he should receive the ultimate sanction.

Meanwhile, just a little to the north, Senator Russell Feingold, (D-WI) has introduced a Resolution to Censure the President for his illegal use of wiretaps on people within the United States. The Attorney General appeared in the Senate Intelligence Committee and defended the domestic spying program but his defense was so weak that it raised more questions than it answered. I wrote about it here [ McCain: Bush Does Not Have “The Legal Authority To Engage In These Warrantless Wiretaps”] and here [Alberto Gonzalez: Criminally insane or just another Republican?] and here [Orin Hatch: Intellectually Dishonest or Just Plain Ignorant?]

In particular, I discussed the argument of Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) which went something like this: If you build cases against terrorists on illegally obtained evidence, you run the risk that the case will be dismissed as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” I referred to this as the “Get our of jail free card.”

At the time that this argument was presented, it all seemed so theoretical. Who would have thought that we would really dismiss a case against an Al Quaeda member because the Government screwed up?

As it turns out, we just learned that the case against Moussaoui has been seriously compromised by government misconduct. The judge in that case angrily said she might spare him the death penalty, according to a report in the New York Times. Why might she take such a rash step? “In all my years on the bench, I’ve never seen a more egregious violation of the rule about witnesses,” Judge Leonie M. Brinkema said.

It is the general rule that witnesses in a trial are excluded from the courtroom except when they are testifying. This is so they do not base their testimony on the testimony of witnesses who precede them. This rule was invoked in the Moussaoui trial, and extended to include transcripts of witness testimony. But that did not stop government lawyers from giving transcripts of testimony and opening statements to witnesses.

When Moussaoui’s court-appointed lawyers found out about this they promptly made a motion to dismiss the case and impose a sentence of life imprisonment. As I write this, the defense motion is under advisement.

This comes on the heels of another serious breach of the defendant’s rights. After Mr. Moussaoui was arrested, he asserted his right not to be questioned without a lawyer present. When an arrestee does that the prosecution is not allowed to comment on his silence. But that didn’t stop the prosecutor, David Novak, from asking a witness whether Mr. Moussaoui had reached out from the local jail to tell him what he knew about Al Qaeda in the immediate days before 9-11. This prompted the first motion for a mistrial which Judge Brinkema denied.

However, she clearly had it in mind when the new government misconduct came to her attention. “This is the second significant error of the government affecting the constitutional rights of this defendant,” she said. “More importantly, it affects the integrity of the criminal justice system in the United States.”

But how does this relate to Senator Feingold’s proposed censure in the Senate? Senator Feingold’s motion tries to make the point that when the government does wrong, there are consequences. If it is some low-level prosecutor, the consequence may be that a terrorist is spared the punishment provided for by law. If it is the President of the United States, the consequence may be a climate of lawlessness, a disrespect for the law and, to borrow Judge Brinkema’s phrase, it may affect the integrity of the criminal justice system.

The war on terror is a struggle to win the hearts and minds of the millions for whom the message of Ossama Bin Laden resonates. The battle in Iraq is an attempt to instill a system of law where once only tyrannical totalitarianism held sway. When the American government shows by its activities, that respect for the law is just a charade, well, it can’t help.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Friday, March 10, 2006

It ain't over, till it's over (part 2)

Dubai of the United Arab Emirates has announced that it is divesting itself of the controversial port operations to a U.S. entity. Something does not seem right to me. The Democrats, led by Chuck Shumer and Harry Reid, are saying the devil is in the details. I think they are onto something. My bet is that there will be details that will embarrass the administration.

One thing that struck me as strange is that the White House Press Secretary, Scott McClellan refused to reveal the details of concessions that the UAE made to allay concerns about security. McClellan said the information was “proprietary.” I can understand if the particular line items in a bid are kept confidential in order to not reveal a company's competitive tactics. And I can understand that certain information would be classified confidential for security purposes. But it is hard for me to wrap my head around how information about security measures can be proprietary.

I also recall that part of the deal with the UAE company was that they would be allowed (required?) to keep their books off-shore. This is more than passing strange. If my recollection is correct, there's still a lot of explaining to do. The old reporter's question cui bono? might be a good starting point. Who benefits from a law that says the business records of a company that is intimately involved in port security should be kept beyond the reach of subpoenas?

I am moving this story as fast as I can, because my sixth sense tells me that the breaking news ain't done breaking.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

It ain’t over, till it’s over.

Back on February 6th, I wrote that the White House has been twisting arms to ensure that no Republican member votes against President Bush in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation of the administration’s unauthorized wiretapping.

Citing to an article in Insight, I reported that Karl Rove was threatening to withhold financial support for any Republican who didn’t toe the administration line on this matter.

Then, on President Lincoln’s birthday, I published, Republicans keeping us safer? in which I reported David Broder’s Washington Week observation that the Republicans could win by spinning the domestic spying issue into an issue of the Dems being unwilling or unable to protect Americans. But he added a big caveat: this could all change “if and when a court declares it is illegal.”

Today, the New York Times reported as follows:
Moving to tamp down Democratic calls for an investigation of the administration's domestic eavesdropping program, Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday that they had reached agreement with the White House on proposed bills to impose new oversight but allow wiretapping without warrants for up to 45 days.
Olympia Snow, (R-ME) said that the Congress was re-asserting its oversight function, because the deal creates a seven-member “terrorist surveillance subcommittee. The administration will be required to give it full access to the details of the program’s operations.

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) had a different take: “The committee is, to put it bluntly, basically under the control of the White House.” Well, that’s what bribery will do.

It may seem that those who thought the domestic spying scandal would result in the administration being held to answer for its crimes had gotten their hopes up too high. We shall see. The agreement still requires the Administration to co-operate, and we are talking about a crew that couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel.

Also, Broder may yet be proven correct.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Missouri re-writes history; declares this is a Christian nation. Gevalt!

Nobody knows for sure why Missouri, which was named after the Missouri Indians, is sometimes called the Puke State. What we do know is that yesterday, the Missouri House of Representatives passed House Concurrent Resolution No. 13:


Whereas, our forefathers of this great nation of the United States recognized a Christian God and used the principles afforded to us by Him as the founding principles of our nation; and

Whereas, as citizens of this great nation, we the majority also wish to exercise our constitutional right to acknowledge our Creator and give thanks for the many gifts provided by Him; and

Whereas, as elected officials we should protect the majority's right to express their religious beliefs while showing respect for those who object; and

Whereas, we wish to continue the wisdom imparted in the Constitution of the United States of America by the founding fathers; and

Whereas, we as elected officials recognize that a Greater Power exists above and beyond the institutions of mankind:

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the members of the House of Representatives of the Ninety-third General Assembly, Second Regular Session, the Senate concurring therein, that we stand with the majority of our constituents and exercise the common sense that voluntary prayer in public schools and religious displays on public property are not a coalition of church and state, but rather the justified recognition of the positive role that Christianity has played in this great nation of ours, the United States of America.

First of all, “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” You can look it up. It’s in the Treaty of Tripoli, which was negotiated in the Washington administration, and unanimously approved by the Senate. Here’s how Stephan Jay Gould described what happened next:
President Adams signed the treaty and proclaimed it to the nation on 10 June 1797. His statement on it was a bit unusual: “Now be it known, That I John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said Treaty do, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, accept, ratify, and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof. And to the End that the said Treaty may be observed and performed with good Faith on the part of the United States, I have ordered the premises to be made public; And I do hereby enjoin and require all persons bearing office civil or military within the United States, and all other citizens or inhabitants thereof, faithfully to observe and fulfill the said Treaty and every clause and article thereof.” ...

Did our heroes pay a heavy price? Skeptical that the public even knew about the treaty, I went to the periodicals reading room of the Library of Congress in, appropriately enough, the Madison Building. After some poking about I found out how to get access to newspapers of the 1790s, mostly on microfilm, but in a few cases I saw the actual papers of the day.

I found the treaty and Adams' statement reprinted in full in three newspapers, two in Philadelphia and one in New York City and, in one case, held the actual newspaper (the Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser for Saturday, 17 June 1797) in my hands. There is no record of any public outcry or complaint in subsequent editions of the papers.

And what of our heroes? Well, none suffered any known negative consequences, and I've read biographies of each. ...

From our perspective these men may be heroes, but in truth the vote they cast was ordinary, routine, normal. It was, in other words, quite well accepted, only a few years after first the Constitution and then the First Amendment were ratified, that “the Government of the United States of America was not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” After a bloody and costly civil war and the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment determined that citizens of the United States cannot have their rights abridged by state or local governments either, religious liberty for all was established. Governmental neutrality in matters of religion remains the enduring basis for that liberty.
Thomas Jefferson, who knew a thing or two about the principles upon which our country was founded gave this short history of Jesus’ ministry in a letter to Samuel Kercheval, January 19, 1810:
“But a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in Church and State.”
I suppose that view of history contributed to Thom’s opinion, expressed in a letter to John Adams, dated April 11, 1823:
“One day the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in the United States will tear down the artificial scaffolding of Christianity. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”
What ever became of Thomas Jefferson? Well, for one thing, they named the capital of Missouri after him.

This intrusion of the reality-based community on the historical-revisionists of the Missouri State House is dedicated to the 17% of Missourians who do not count themselves as Christians, who send their state representatives to Jefferson City, MO, to pass laws for them, and who might demand more from their representatives. For example, when told that the country was founded on Christian principles, they might say, "Show me."

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The truth without jokes.

Several have commented that it is becoming more and more difficult to distinguish legitimate news headlines from the ones that appear in the Onion. It seemed to reach some sort of a zenith when Dick Cheney’s victim “apologized” to him.

But then we read in, that George W. Bush who often tries to boost his approval ratings by describing himself as a “war president” plans to lay a wreath at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial in New Delhi this week.

The Bushies have been described as the Mayberry Machiavellis, and never was it more obvious than during the week that Barney Fife left us, and the President learned (apparently along with the rest of us) that port operations on the eastern seaboard were being contracted out to a country that was criticized in the Report of the 9-11 Commission for its cozy relationship to terrorists. Is this some kind of a joke?

Since the time that W threatened to veto any legislation that would delay or scuttle the deal, his PR machine went into high gear. The deal was thoroughly investigated. There is no cause for concern. Nobody who was briefed on the deal objected. Or so we were told. Here’s the punch line: It’s not six ports, but rather 21, and at least one party had serious, unresolved concerns, to wit, the United States Coast Guard. In technical comedic terms, that’s called a topper. As I noted in I can’t make this stuff up, “If you laugh, it might help you keep from crying.”

They celebrated Mardi Gras in what’s left of New Orleans, and except for a tee-shirt that says, Mardi Gras 2006: Show Me Your Tits, and FEMA Will Send Your Beads in 10 Weeks, there’s nothing funny about the devastation occasioned by our government’s monumental failures. I mean, nothing ‘funny in a ha-ha way,’ but rich in ‘funny in an ironic way.’ Take the claim that the president works hard to prevent disasters, along with the claim that nobody could have foreseen the levies failing. Please. To get into the “is it a legit headline or an Onion headline” category, you have to go to the hearings in the Senate that made “Heck-of-a-job” Brownie look good in comparison to Chernoff.

But seriously folks, how ‘bout that State of the Union address? More money for education, get the joke? Good because we’re not getting more money for education. Reduce our dependence on foreign oil? The Secretary of Energy says it’s just a metaphor, one of my personal favorite comedic devices.

What is the result of all this strange humor in the legit news? It’s crowding out the comedians. When comedians can’t do comedy, what happens? It’s a sad day because they get all serious. And then what? They make more sense than the newsmakers.

All of which brings me to Exhibit 1, an article in today’s Salon, entitled Impeach Bush by Garrison Keillor. Please read the entire article because it is a cogent, sober analysis of what needs to be done. Here’s a taste of his argument:
The U.S. Constitution provides a simple ultimate way to hold him to account for war crimes and the failure to attend to the country's defense. Impeach him and let the Senate hear the evidence.

He’s not joking.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”