Monday, April 30, 2007

Reagan WH knowingly aided Pakistan to build nukes

A news report published today by the Raw Story describes how the Reagan White House avoided the law and helped the sale of nuclear components to Pakistan. Then they lied to Congress about what had been done, and ignored when Pakistan passed nuclear plans and components to North Korea.
In 1988, Pakistan would detonate its first atomic bomb.

Former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers has said that the CIA was monitoring Khan from the beginning. He asserts that the US turned down offers to detain Khan in 1975 and 1986 because they wanted to “gain more information” about the scientist’s activities.

Intelligence information later showed that the US and its allies allowed Pakistan to clandestinely acquire most of the technology for its nuclear program from abroad, unwittingly facilitating the spread of nuclear weapons technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya over the past several decades. [Snip]

In 1985—following the arrest of a Pakistani agent in the US who attempted to procure specialized switches for nuclear detonators—Congress took steps to prevent Pakistan from developing nuclear weapons, passing bills that would cut off economic and military aid to Pakistan if it were found to be involved in nuclear activities.

One amendment declared that all overt aid to Pakistan—which came to over $4 billion in 1986—must cease unless the President certified annually that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear device. Another prohibited aid to any “non-nuclear” nation found to be illegally exporting nuclear materials from the US.

Given Pakistan's proliferation activities, this meant the ongoing aid to Pakistan was illegal. However, President Reagan wanted military and economic aid to continue flowing to Pakistan to ensure its ongoing support of his covert war against the Russians in Afghanistan.
The Reagan White House cold warriors wanted Pakistan's cooperation in the clandestine war the U.S. was fighting against the USSR in Afghanistan at any cost. The non-proliferation forces took a longer view and considered the proliferation of nuclear weapons to unstable third-world nations too high a price to pay to keep Pakistan totally supporting Charlie Wilson's War.

More important, in my opinion, is that the (mostly) Republican super-hawks, who had never accepted the idea that Nixon did anything to cause his resignation in the face of almost certain impeachment, were reinforced in their belief that Congress was a major barrier in the way of their efforts to "defend" America from its enemies. That justified their efforts to avoid Congressional control - at "any cost."

This same group, many even the same individuals, were utterly shocked that somehow the Democratic hick from Arkansas got elected President in 1992, setting off the perpetual war to remove him. Again, this was worth "any cost." When the impeachment failed, they got George W. Bush to run for President in 2000 and eliminated any other candidate - again at "any cost." Ask Sen. McCain.

That set of attitudes, together with the combination of voter suppression and an extra-Constitutional Florida election decision by the Supreme Court has given us the current Bush White House.

This story is one more building block in the sad structure of failures that characterizes the last six years of the Bush/Cheney regime.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Looks like no fun being a Republican now.

Christy Hardin Smith at Firedoglake offers a list of failures, fiascos and pure ignorance and incompetence that has been reported on the current administration this last week.

Members of the Bush administration must be feeling a lot like they are in the path of a growing political hurricane, the darkness is increasing fast, it's too late to evacuate and FEMA isn't returning their phone calls.

It sure is fun having a Democratic Congress that is offering oversight, just as the Bush administration has begun many of its most extreme anti-American activities.

Are we really watching the beginning of a political sea change?

When I read this from Glenn Greenwald, I was rather sucked in and feeling good. It's a very good article, and I feel like there is a lot of truth in it. I also watched the Friday Night Bill Moyer Report on PBS with Jon Stewart followed by Josh Marshall. Stewart is a very bright man with singular insight into current politics. Josh Marshall is another bright, capable person, but he goes back to an older form of journalism. You know, fact-based and carefully sourced. He makes sure he follows leads and finds out where his stories come from, and then follows up. I don’t see much of that these days.

News narratives.

I wasn’t the only person in the blogosphere to believe there was something special in that PBS show. Here is Booman at Booman Tribune. Then someone named "Gator" presented this diary at dKos. The common thread seems to be that with the blogosphere, shows like that of Bill Moyers and Jon Stewart, and Josh Marshall's return to solid journalism we seem to be seeing a new source of “news narrative” in American politics.

The older narratives came from the two political parties mediated by the journalists. Each party presented the narrative as they see it and the journalists are there report those narratives and to give readers a feeling for how closely the reported narratives matched with reality. This is not working as well as we used to think it did.

News organizations, financing and centralization.

Political journalism is a side effect of a healthy, competitive group of well-financed mass news organizations. Those mass news organizations are financed primarily by advertising revenue. News must be collected and then distributed. As more methods of distributing news are developed (newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, and now the internet) each method of distribution competes with more organizations for the same advertising dollars. As revenue for each organization drops, costs must be cut. But distribution costs are fixed by the technology used, and can’t be reduced significantly for mature distribution technologies. That means that organizations tend to centralize news collection and distribute the news through more outlets. Two reporters at a central location feeding news to half a dozen newspapers can often replace a single reporter at each newspaper. This has reduced the number of outlets that offer different points of view for national and international news.

The technology of both Radio and broadcast TV allows an organization that centralizes production of content over a number of outlets to under price individual outlets that produce their own content. The more outlets any one corporation has, the lower the cost of content for each of them. Since the cost of distribution is already established, the networks have a big cost advantage.

News versus entertainment.

News is not a major factor in this, since entertainment is what draws the big bucks advertising. But for TV, with four broadcast networks and any number of cable networks drawing off low-cost high-audience productions like sports, content production funds are best spent on providing entertainment. For news itself, to become a revenue producer requires that it be both entertaining and cheap. That’s what gives the public news of O. J. Simpson, Lacey Peterson, Brittany Spears and Anna Nicole Smith. Those are cheap. Investigatory stories and foreign news bureaus are expensive luxuries most TV news providers and no radio news can afford.

Newspapers face the same competition for advertising dollars, and ALL they can offer is news and advertisements. Since TV news sets the news agenda, foreign news bureaus are unnecessary for regional newspapers and too expensive to maintain even for cachet. Real news is a loss leader to attract readers to advertisements. Expensive news can be less and less afforded. So the major newspapers also centralize into a few groups that exchange news. The larger groups have a Washington bureau, the rest depend on news services like the Associated Press. National political news produced by experts in politics has become a specialty of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Sun Times, and the Los Angeles Times, with only the first two really having a large effort. Foreign bureaus are primarily for the New York Times and the Washington Post. The LA Times still has some Latin American bureaus (I think) but they are under pressure to close them.

National politics is not a big draw to newspaper audiences. TV presents the headlines, and very few people who read advertisements also look for extensive explanations behind the headlines. Except for extremely unusual news items like the tsunami in the Indian Ocean or the (misnamed) Iraq War there is no demand for foreign news at all. (Consumer Demand is not the same as the NEED for that news. A lot more is needed.) TV does not do in-depth investigations, nor do most newspapers. Investigatory journalism of any kind is being priced out of the market. Name the last big story CNN or FOX has broken based on an in-depth investigation. I don't know of one. Such stories cost too much and don't increase advertising rates.

The political reporting process.

The result of the above competitive pressures is that national political journalism has been reduced to a few overworked reporters each getting a statement from a candidate or incumbent from one party, sometimes (clearly not always) asking for the response from the other party, typing it up and publishing it. Getting additional statements from independent experts has become quite rare. The reporter probably knows when one side is lying and the other is not, but to say so is "unbalanced" and unbalanced is "Unfair." If nothing else, it will cause a conflict the editors don’t want to deal with. So the readers or viewers are given two sides in what may be a multi-sided story (or may be a one sided story contradicted by lies from opponents like the Swift-boaters) with no information that allows the news consumer to determine which side is closer to accurate.

The result is that the major journalism outlets have become little more than channels for the two political parties to use to present their spin. There is no one in journalism with the time, expertise, or independent stature to present a judgment on what each side says.

Most of this is because of the inherent economics journalism, primarily broadcast TV journalism, together with the ability of the executives who control the TV and radio networks to get government to let a few of them centralize and shut out the competition from independent stations and smaller potential network groups. The Republican Party, with its "Free Market" ideology and objection to government regulation is the natural place for the executives of the TV and radio networks to go to get what they want.

Control of centralized news organizations.

There is a good argument that the pressures forcing centralization of control of the news allows too few people to determine what everyone can read or see. If the current economic market remains, then the results will be a small number of generalist reporters acting as stenographers for the two major parties. Their results will dominate all the news outlets. This will give the cheapest, lowest quality news to the widest possible audiences.

The Democrats have generally bought into the misplaced free market rhetoric and let them get away with it. The last time they did this was with banks in the 1920's. Banks create the majority of the money supply. The Great Depression was a result, in part, of unregulated and unprotected banks going bust, taking many of their customers with them, and causing a sharp contraction in the money supply, which led to even more banks and businesses going bust. (Or so Milton Friedman rather convincingly wrote.)

For the banks this has required the government to change market conditions so that banks do not independently manipulate the overall money supply. This has become the job of the Federal Reserve and is accomplished by control of the fractional banking system. To shrink the money supply the Fed will increase the amount of bank assets required to support each dollar of loans they make. But the key is that the government modified the market so that banks competed in areas where their expertise provide the best results for the overall economy.

A change in the market for news could be mandated to create a market for competing organizations that provide National news, political news and foreign news. One way to do this would be to limit the amount of allowable news organization centralization, and require each local news outlet to buy its national, political and foreign news from specialized news producers. Long-term contracts for this kind of news would be prohibited. This would create a new market for these types of news. The Associated Press and UPI used to fill this market. The Washington Post and New York Times news services would have to be set up as independent news services to compete with AP and a newly independent UPI.

Then reestablish the Fairness Doctrine together with the idea that radio and TV stations used the public airwaves and needed to return public benefits for the right to do so have been effectively eliminated.

The blogosphere provides a new look at all this, but it will not eliminate the need for decentralization of news organizations.

The blogosphere is a new factor.

The blogosphere is an additional way for those of us who feel left out by the executives running the Democratic and Republican Parties and the excessively centralized news organizations to get the additional information they don't want us to have. The blogosphere is not going to replace the mass media. But it will sharply effect how many of us react to it. It is becoming a major source of “truth-squadding” the news. It is far from perfect, but it is still in an infant stage.

The mass media depends on customers who want other things, like being entertained, to tune in and as a side effect, get some news. The mass media assumes that we are all alike, and that as customers our news needs can be predetermined and packaged for a few large groups. Those groups are then sold to advertisers who want to sell something to them.

The political effects of this kind of news distribution.

Since the media operates that way, the two American political parties operate that way. That is a requirement of using the top-down media system. Polls are a method of getting some idea of what the market wants, but even the polls are designed as top-down systems. They present the questions and the customers respond. Anything else is too expensive to be efficient.

Centralized political organization.

The Republican Party is also a very centralized organization. This is in part because of the psychological needs for certainty of many of the people who currently vote Republican, and in part because such an organization works better with centralized media organizations, large centralized businesses, and centralized religious organizations.

Centralized and tightly controlled organizations have a real advantage when getting large numbers of people to quickly work for the same goal is important. Centralized and tightly controlled organizations are also quicker to react to existential threats to their being. That's why a major rule of war is unity of command. Such organizations are frankly more efficient, especially when a fast response is required.

Decentralized political organization.

The Democratic Party is a coalition of many groups with different goals and needs. As such it does not have a strong central hierarchy to control it.

(I'm going to speculate here.) Once upon a time the Democratic Party had its own internal sources of information, but when America became a nation that was essentially run by the Democratic Party those sources were no longer needed. The national news media was enough. As long as the news organizations reported what was really happening, an internal news organization for Democrats was redundant. So it disappeared.

The Republicans did not have the luxury of depending on the public news media. Its assumptions, procedures and traditions frequently conflicted with conservative beliefs, particularly since the news organizations saw themselves as reporting the independent truth. So the Republicans began to develop their own news channels.

This news channel development took two routes. The first was the Fundamentalist Christian route. They operated through their churches, bookstores, and more recently their specialized radio and TV stations. These were both self-financing and were a way to cut the true believers off from the rest of the media world.

The second route is newer. It is the takeover and control of what were previously normal news distribution outlets. It includes the establishment of the Washington Times, its takeover of United Press International, and the creation of the FOX TV channels. These were more purely political. But with these sources as a base, the conservatives have moved on to try to take over the rest of the media - or at least to force it to act more conservative.

The growth of these conservative channels was accompanied by the massive attack on the rest of the media for its' liberal bias. Since there is no liberal hierarchical organization to feel threatened and respond, this pincer movement on the mainstream media was not responded to. Since the mainstream media was also under massive economic pressure, they caved in to much of the political pressure. They were already losing audience/readers anyway. Perhaps the conservatives could replace the ones they were losing.

My reaction to these things.

Enter the blogosphere, stage left. No one else was responding to the rather massive attack on the media from the political and religious right. The right-wing top-down hierarchical corporate anti-democratic anti-Union anti-woman and anti-minority views do not represent me, nor do they represent what I think the Anglo-Saxon history, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the (small “d”) democratic history of America have given us. The Right-wingers want to take democracy, Human Rights, freedom and opportunity away from those of us who are not heads of corporations or their equivalent. Today it is my opinion that American politics and the American media are becoming less American and more authoritarian. After Reagan and Bush 41, Clinton was a Godsend. AL Gore was the logical savior of the American Dream.

Then Bush 43, Jeb Bush and the U.S. Supreme Court stole the election in Florida in 2000. There were enough news stories to show that the most likely outcome of any real recount statewide was a decision for Gore. But there were no real news follow-ups.

I did not know anyone - or even know of very many people who I trusted who agreed with me. But no one ever disproved the reports from Greg Palast or even discussed them. It was an effective tie, the Florida courts went for a recount, and the Federal Supreme Count decided, by a five to four decision on very weak grounds, to shut down any recount. Then they did it with a decision in which they specifically stated in their decision could not be used as a precedent for any future Supreme Court decisions. No law. No precedent. Just an arbitrary decision in which they were not willing to say it was a precedent for future decisions. That was a decision outside the Constitution and the law if there ever was one. That one incident told America what to expect from the Bush 43 administration and the movement conservatives. The major news organizations effectively ignored all this. They might have started some digging, but 9/11 shut that down.

The news I got from the newspapers, TV news and the newsweekly magazines let these issues drop. But something was really missing. I started searching the Internet for better news and analysis to explain what had happened.

I quickly found Talking Points Memo, Digby's Hullabaloo, daily KOS, Kevin Drum and Billmon. They all pointed me towards the smaller news items that reflected the really important events. Each time I found something that was interesting I would file it away or go Google for similar news reports. What I was doing (but didn't realize it then) was establishing some new narratives for myself, narratives not supported by the mainstream media or the two main political parties. I'm still doing that.

The sites I went back to provided analysis and sources rather than insults and politically inspired rhetoric. The analysis I found on the Internet let me work on the narratives that the mainstream media was glossing over. To my surprise, those sources have also been feeding back into the mainstream media and letting them know that important stories were being overlooked.

I think that is going to be the future of the blogosphere. It will not replace the major news media, even as that news media continues its economic decline. But the Blogosphere is going to play much the same role of evaluating the reporting of the major media and truth-squadding the rhetoric put out by the two major parties.

Most people won't bother with the blogosphere. It's too much work and takes too much time. But for the people who want that level of information and analysis, it has no real competition. There is no effective barrier to entry for any contributor. No paycheck, so you can't be fired. No editor to hold up publication of your best work. Blogger lets anyone establish a blog for publishing. Getting attention means having something (hopefully worthwhile) to say on subjects that other people want to know about, and getting on the search engines. Traffic and referrals provide an indication of when something is worth looking at. With all of that providing date, most of my time has been trying to learn enough to judge what is and is not reasonable.

To recycle the excellent quotation from Glenn Greenwald's article:

I have to say that a remarkably intimate, yet expansive, community of thought seems to be forming across television, film, and the Internet. There's a rather quiet, yet intense, movement of thought and expression building. It focuses not so much on any particular ideology ("right" or "left"), but on a common, critical-mass thirst to dispel the deception, irrationality, and utter hubris that has been corroding our proud country for what seems like an eternity.

An undeniable intellectual and social confluence is rapidly gaining momentum and solidarity. This solidarity is amazingly organic, not hierarchical -- its only guide is the sixth sense of skepticism, outrage, and, yes, reason. It transcends party. It is oceanic, atmospheric. An intellectual, moral, societal, and psychological gestalt as ancient as humanity itself, kept underfoot by a long winter, but indelibly germinating once again with the thaw.

It is literally everywhere now. The voices of blindness and rage cannot shake me anymore. I haven't felt such hope in a very long time.

I think there is something to that. I'm not sure what it is yet, but is seems quite positive compared to the way information is currently being shut down or drowned out.

The near future should be quite interesting.

[Note: Article revised significantly for clarity and organization - April 30, 2007 9:50PM.]

What Iraq war? The one that lasted 3 weeks is over.

We have been in Iraq for four years now, and the casualty rate has gone back up to the highest level since the end of the war itself.

End of the war? Yeah. It ended when the Iraqi army disappeared. That was after about three weeks of combat. We won that war. Sort of. We learned there were no WMD's, and we removed Saddam from power. Those were the reasons we went into Iraq. Remember?

Then we tried to occupy the country. Without a plan, without any effective leadership, and with a totally inadequate and improperly trained military force we tried to occupy Iraq. That has failed. So it is time to leave. Now.

So why shouldn't we leave? Because it would leave chaos behind us? There is no effective government and no effective military or police force. Whenever we leave it will be chaos. Our military will bleed until we make the effective decision and start to leave.

The other reason, the talking point of Dick Cheney, Sen. John Cornyn and many other Republicans is that when we leave we have lost the war. But look at the beginning of my essay. We have already won the war. What do we lose when we leave? The occupation? So what?

We get nothing good from the occupation. It is time to go.

Someone needs to phone Muktada al Sadr and ask him what he'll offer us to leave. Then ask the President, Maliki, the same question. Get the best deal and them get the heck out of Dodge.

Ignore the right-wing war-mongerng rhetoric of the NeoCons and Dick Cheney. We won the Iraq war. We don't need the occupation. we don't need Iraq. It's time to go.

It really is that simple.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Standard White House lie - "Clinton did it!"

The players in this little drama are a reporter (Q) and the Press Secretary, Dana Perino (MS. PERINO). The setting is another White House Press Briefing.

This scene started when the reporter asked Ms. Perino about the political briefings to political appointees assigned to federal agencies. The first question was:
Q Okay, on the political briefings, there seems — there’s no shortage of political information out there. Why does the White House feel it’s necessary to give these employees these briefings in the first place?
The White House spokesperson first tried misdirection. Note how she fails to answer the question.
MS. PERINO: I think that’s kind of ridiculous question. I mean, there’s — sorry, I usually don’t say those things, but I do think that that one was. Look, there is nothing wrong with political appointees providing other political appointees with an informational briefing about the political landscape in which they are working.
Kudos to the reporter. Here is the followup.
Q I understand. That’s not an answer, as ridiculous as the question was.
She tries more obfuscation, along with belittling.
MS. PERINO: What, you think that we should just look at the CBS/New York Times poll and make our decisions based on that?
This is followed by the reporter trying to frame a more specific question so as to get a real answer, with Ms. Perino doing what I would have to call filibustering. Her responses are a little more closely related to the question than reading the telephone book would be, but not much.
Q It’s 20 briefings –

MS. PERINO: Jim would agree.

Q Well, I’m trying to get to the motivation for this, and it’s 20 briefings –

MS. PERINO: The motivation is to provide people information.

Q But why? Why do they need this information –

MS. PERINO: Why are you asking me these questions? You’re asking information, as well.

Q No, no, but –

MS. PERINO: My point was that you’re asking –

Q Was there any intent to try to tell people that they need to do something about the election, and to take some action?

MS. PERINO: These are information — they’re informational briefings about the political landscape.
Clearly Ms. Perino is wriggling like an eel caught on a fishing line trying to avoid any substantive answer. But she actually used the word "intent" from the question in her answer, and the reporter jumped on this as a possible way to pin her down. So he expands on the idea of "intent" in his next followup.
Q Okay, so there was — there was no intent to do that? Who — did they ask for the briefings, or was it the White House that decided they wanted to give these briefings?
Ms. Perino seems to have decided that this was a way out of her dilemma. Pure non-answers weren't working, and both she and the reporter knew it. Maybe a different type of non-answer?
MS. PERINO: I think it sort of goes both ways. I do know that political appointees around the government — I used to work at an agency, and you are interested in — the reason that you’re here working for the President is that you want to support his policies and his agenda, and so it’s good to get information from time to time.
It was a slightly different tack, so the reporter riffs off of her response to throw in a new question.
Q Well, who’s idea — it was the White House idea, initially, or was it the agencies?
To which Ms. Perino responded with what must have seemed safe as she said it, but is simply a lie.
MS. PERINO: I think that these briefings — well, I know the Clinton administration had similar briefings. Where did they originate? I don’t know. I couldn’t give you a date.
Sure she doesn't know when they originated. She is dreaming it up on the spot. But it effectively closes down that line of questioning for the moment because no one at the Press gaggle could do effective real-time fact-checking.

These meetings on government property were clearly violations of the Hatch Act which has been in effect since 1939. It is a basic part of the mechanism of governing this nation. Either the members of the Bush administration knew about the Hatch Act and knew they were violating it, or they did not know and refused to listen when someone told them about it. They were knowingly violating the law. But their spokesperson, Ms. Perino, cannot stand up and say that "Oops. We goofed." This administration does not say that.

Lies are better than admissions of crimes. Ask any modern Republican. Ask Rove. Of course, he'll lie, but ask him anyway.

[Note: the transcript is from Think Progress.]

Friday, April 27, 2007

Rep. Renzi (AZ - R) expected to resign as soon as today

According to The Business Journal of Phoenix Arizona Rep. Rick Renzi is expected to resign from Congress in the near future, perhaps as early as today. This is fall out from the suspicious land deal which led to the FBI search on April 19, 2007 of the Insurance Agency that he established and turned over to his wife to run when he was elected to Congress.

Addendum 5:19 PM CDT
Rep. Renzi states that he intends to serve out the remainder of his term.

We can hope. If he does serve out the remainder of his term he makes it harder for the Republican to keep the seat in 2008. Apparently his district has a small predominance of Democrats, but they are conservative Democrats.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

How do you create an authoritarian state out of a democracy? Easy. Ten steps.

Naomi Wolf discusses what is required to take down a democracy and replace it with an authoritarian government in the Guardian.
If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.

As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration. [Snip]

It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable - as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realise.
Let me provide just an overview of her excellent article:
  1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy - "war footing"; a "global war" against a "global caliphate" intending to "wipe out civilisation"; terrorists. (But terrorism is a technique of fighting, not an identifiable enemy.)

  2. Create a gulag - Guantánamo Bay; The CIA's secret gulag. Prison camps in isolated locations for "illegal immigrants."

  3. Develop a thug caste - Blackwater and other security firms deployed in New Orleans. Privately run and staffed prisons. The Republican thugs who shut down the vote recount in Miami in 2000.

  4. Set up an internal surveillance system - The secret program to wiretap citizens' phones, read their emails and follow international financial transactions; Uncontrolled National Security Letters that include a total gag order on the people who have to turn over the documents, like librarians, booksellers, income tax preparers, etc.

  5. Harass citizens' groups - Infiltrate and investigate organizations like Churches and Environmental organizations. IRS investigations to remove tax exempt status of churches that oppose Bush while giving funding to those churches that support Bush.

  6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release - The ways to get on the No-Fly list are completely arbitrary, while there are no known ways to get off. Any citizen or other person in the U.S. can be arrested, declared an “enemy combatant” and refused all access to an attorney, the courts, or habeas corpus. The federal government is not even required to tell people who inquire if you have been detains, or if so, where. This is outside the law, by definition it is arbitrary at the whim of the individual who decided to detain you.

  7. Target key individuals - The U.S. Attorneys fired in the Pearl Harbor Day Massacre are an example.

  8. Control the press - See Moyers delivers the goods. The Washington Press corps should wear hoods and sunglasses and Glenn Greenwald dissects the Bill Moyers PBS report.

  9. Dissent equals treason - "Cast dissent as "treason" and criticism as "espionage". Every closing society does this, just as it elaborates laws that increasingly criminalise certain kinds of speech and expand the definition of "spy" and "traitor"." [*]

    Just listen to Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, and the commenters on Little Green Footballs.

  10. Suspend the rule of law - "The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 gave the president new powers over the national guard. This means that in a national emergency - which the president now has enhanced powers to declare - he can send Michigan's militia to enforce a state of emergency that he has declared in Oregon, over the objections of the state's governor and its citizens." [*]
[*] Quote from Naomi Wolf

This process of creating an authoritarian state is not a new one. It hasn't been done here in the U.S. before, but we are further down the process than we have ever been before.

The really scary part if that people just don't want to hear or to believe this is possible.

And don't bug me about the difference between an authoritarian government and "Fascism," the term used by the headline writer in the Guardian. There is no distinction that matters. None at all.

Addendum 8:37PM
Consider the above post with the summary of techniques listed above with those Bill Moyers illuminated last night in his PBS show last night and which are summarized at FireDogLake. A lot of overlap there. Why did Bush and the NeoCons really want to attack Iraq?

David Iglesias filed Hatch Act complaint April 3rd.

The discussion of the U.S. Attorney Purge has begun to include reports of an investigation of violations of the Hatch Act recently. Now Think Progress has published a report of an interview with fired U.S. Attorney for New Mexico, David Iglesias. Mr. Iglesias says he filed a complaint against Gonzales, McNulty, Sampson and Goodling on april 3, 2007 and has spoken to the Office of Special Counsel’s (OSC)chief Scott Bloch who has begun the investigation.

Mr. Iglesias' complaint is that he was fired from a Hatch Act protected job for refusing to conduct politically-motivated investigations. Mr. Iglesias believes that his complaint may be what has led the OSC to look at the actions of Karl Rove.
Iglesias also said that while evidence of Rove’s potential illegal actions is currently only circumstantial, “I believe if OSC digs in, they can get direct evidence.”
[T]he Justice Department papers everything. I mean, the most minute issue has an incredible researched and memoed product. There has to be a paper trail. I haven’t seen it yet. If it’s not at the Justice Department, it has got to be at the White House.
Finally, Iglesias said he believes that Monica Goodling — former counsel to Alberto Gonzales and the Justice Department’s liaison to the White House — holds the “keys to the kingdom” in terms of uncovering the roots of the U.S. Attorney purge, since she can describe the communication that took place between the White House and the Justice Department.
Yesterday the House Judiciary Committee voted to grant immunity to Monica Goodling, which prevents her from taking the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying for fear that she would be convicted for her testimony.

The OSC "Hatch Act" investigation is one more front on which the White House has to defend itself. There are so very many fronts now. I am sure that Dick Cheney is having a lengthy "deja vu" experience returning to feelings he must have had in the embattled Nixon White House before Nixon resigned.

Glenn Greenwald dissects the Bill Moyers PBS report

Glenn Greewald does a really good job of telling us what we saw when we watched last night's Bill Moyers PBS special "Buying the War." I'll admit that I have been sitting here thinking "Yeah, I knew it was bad, but this bad?"

Greenwald takes the next step, which should have been obvious to me but wasn't until I read what he wrote:
Moyers' documentary is a superb piece of journalism and makes inescapably clear how profoundly corrupt our dominant political and media institutions were prior to the invasion. But most national "journalists" will simply ignore the whole program (as Digby notes, The New York Times, one of the principal culprits, did not even review it). [Editor - highlighting is mine.]
Has America become so corrupt that it now subordinates the goals of building a better nation, better people and providing an environment of Freedom has become subordinate to greater money-making and building worldwide power? What has happened to the two century experiment in democracy on the North American continent?

Instead of a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people have we succumbed to the disease of Imperialist wars in support of an ever wealthier elite who gather all power to themselves? We have let them centralize control of the broadcast media and the daily and weekly print media. This gives the elite the wealth to rob the rest of us of any control of our nation.

So the wealthy American elite buy an all-volunteer military and send them on a fool's errand to occupy Iraq for the primary purpose of overawing the major oil supplying nations in the world. Control of the the flow of energy supplies allows those wealthy elite to gain greater power and wealth without spreading more than a minimum of that wealth to the mass of the people who actually create it.

Bush may have overreached himself when he has decided to ignore Congress and the American people in their desire to get out of the fighting in the Middle East. But why should he listen to the American People? He has the major media and the pundits on his side?

Is this what it means to say that our democratic institutions have become corrupted? Sure looks like it to me, when Bush can steal elections without having the media tattle on him, ignore Congress with signing statements and eliminate habeas corpus by Presidential decree.

The Romans didn't really recognize that the Republic had been destroyed and replaced by the empire until generations later. We may recognize the change here sooner, but can we then prevent it? What is happening to the two century experiment in democracy? Is it over now?

Tom Tomorrow quotes the pundits

Bill Moyers in his "Buying the War" last night made a major point that the pundits who actively pumped public opinion to support the preemptive invasion of Iraq and downplayed the risk are all still in business on TV and newspaper OpEd pages today. So Tom Tomorrow offers a cartoon panel that identifies many of the more significant offenders. Go read.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

More on the very fishy Debra Yang bribe job offer

EmptyWheel discusses the situation in which the U.S. Attorney for Los Angeles, Debra Yang, who was investigating Rep. Jerry Lewis (CA - R) for corruption resigned as U.S. Attorney and went to work for the law firm who defends Rep. Jerry Lewis.

Don't miss the comments. People knowledgeable in what it takes to get hired as a Senior Partner with a $1.5 million signing bonus normally have to do to get it discuss the situation and its really rotten appearance.

Click on the label "Yang" to see my earlier stories on the Yang story. Click on "Purge" for the overall set of stories on the firing of U.S. Attorneys.

Moyers delivers the goods. The Washington Press corps should wear hoods and sunglasses.

The hour and a half PBS special "Buying the War" was on this evening and well worth the time to watch. He essentially documents the manner in which the Washington Press Corps lay down and let the Bush administration walk all over them, while burying all questions and doubts by either not covering them, or by putting the assertions from the administration on the front page while occasionally reporting the contradictions deep inside the paper. TV simply never bothered with the contradictions and questions. They just put the administration spokes-liars on and let it go at that.

If you missed the TV show, the video is available here.

Then over at Salon today Glenn Greenwald goes after the same press for the way they accepted the lies the military told about Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman and trumpeted those lies as great stories about American heroes. both did well as soldiers, but the stories the Army put out in each case was a pack of lies designed to ... who knows what? Cover up a screw-up? Create another photogenic American hero?

Back to Moyers - he makes it clear that the one press organization in Washington that got the stories it covered right was Knight-Ridder. They repeatedly got the real story and published it. No major media organizations joined them, to their perpetual shame.

So I have a question. About a years ago the financial markets determined that Knight-Ridder was not making enough money, so they forced the company to find a buyer. An even smaller chain called McClatchy bought the Knight-Ridder chain out, and now has sold off a few of the previous Knight-Ridder newspapers. Was Knight-Ridder forced to sell itself off because it was out of step with the major media organizations? Was this a way the other media organizations punished Knight-Ridder and got control of them so they wouldn't show them up as they did in the run-up to the Iraq War?

I find it suspicious that the one news outlet that was out of step with the major news organizations and showed them up is the one that Wall Street forced to be sold off.

US attorney Biscupic (Eastern Wi.) again reversed by Appeals Court - can't convict for no crime.

According to the Chippewa Herald from Wisconsin U.S. Atorney Steven Biskupic prosecuted and convicted Damien Jones, the supervisor of a voter registration drive, for something that was not a crime.

This is more of the Republican Department of Justice's effort to prove that there was extensive voter fraud in Wisconsin in the 2004 Presidential election.
Republicans repeatedly alleged that Democrats engaged in voter fraud in Milwaukee, but only five out of 14 area residents eventually charged by federal prosecutors were convicted.

U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic's record in pursuing the cases has been in the spotlight after the White House acknowledged President Bush discussed concerns about the handling of voter fraud in Milwaukee and other cities with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Biskupic has said his name was on a list of targeted prosecutors whose performance and loyalty to Bush were questioned.

The appeals court ruling shows other prosecutors have struggled with the cases, too.

Jones, who worked for Acorn, a national organization that advocates for low- and moderate-income families, was charged by the Racine County District Attorney's office with eight counts of election fraud and misconduct in office just days before the election.
As described in this post, Biscupic was on the Department of Justice list to be fired with the Pearl Harbor Day Eight. His failure was to not work hard enough to bring cases against people responsible for voting fraud. This case shows that it really wasn't for lack of trying.

That is probably why he had to go after Georgia Thompson. See also Wisconsin US attorney rammed through fake corruption case of Democrat before last Governor's election..

So add this to the efforts Steven Biscupic rammed through at the behest of Alberto Gonzales and Karl Rove.

Bush and Cheney have been bin Laden's greatest supporters.

Josh Marshall points out that bin Laden was trapped at Tora Bora and surrounded. But Bush was so focused on attacking Iraq that there were not enough troops available to capture or kill bin Laden when we had him.

The CIA commander, Gary Berntsen, in charge of CIA operations at Tora Bora wrote his book, Jawbreaker and clearly explained that we had bin Laden, we knew he was there, but let him go free. This is Bush's fault. Whether it was intentional, for political purposes or simply incompetence really doesn't matter much. Any or all of those motivations are possible, but it will never be known which was most important. The motivation doesn't matter. The action makes it Bush's fault.

Josh Marshall refers to the shorter Newsweek article that explains what "Jawbreaker" said.

This failure at Tora Bora was, of course, the failure that Gen. Tommy Franks got his Medal of Freedom for keeping quiet about. George Tenet (CIA Director) got his for not telling that the CIA had carefully and repeatedly told Bush, Cheney and the White House staff that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11, did not have WMDs and was no major threat to the U.S.

Franks and Bremer were two of three. At the same presentation, Jerry Bremer, who was the man in charge of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), got his Medal of Freedom for not telling who instructed him to disband the Iraqi Army and conduct the deBaathification of Iraq which worsened the occupation quite rapidly, as well as so many other screw-ups that were conducted by the CPA.

It's hard not to just keep going when describing the myriad failures and even treasons conducted by this administration. But letting bin Laden go free when he was in our grasp is one of the very largest screw-ups or treasons.

We're going to miss David Halberstam.

I wasn't sure what I could write here that was worthy of who David Halberstam was, but now that I have gathered my thoughts, perhaps this will help people who didn't read his dispatches out of Viet Nam. He understood what we were really doing there.

The only reason were were in Viet Nam at all is that the French pulled out, partitioned the nation, and set a national referendum to take place on reunification for 1956. This was the very height of the Red Scare from Anti-Communist American Conservatives and John Birchers, so Ike could not permit the referendum to occur. The South would approve reunification, and Ike would have to face the screams of "Who Lost Viet Nam" from the same people who were still yelling "Who Lost China." The American conservatives were convinced that Communism was a unitary ideology, and that all Communists were focused on destroying America as the center of Capitalism. This was a major element of the Domino Theory that was used to justify American involvement in Viet Nam after the French wised up and got out.

In hindsight it is now clear that the fiction of a unitary Communist front concealed the many and very powerful splits among Communist nations, not the least being that Ho Chi Minh was not going to let Chinese Communists dominate Viet Nam any more than he was gong to let the French, Japanese or Americans. In fact, the Chinese were the first, great enemy. The Vietnamese had been fighting them for over a thousand years.

Based on the Domino Theory and the fiction of a unitary Communist Front as an explanation for how we Americans were involved, President Eisenhower prevented the Referendum from occurring and sent in large numbers of military advisers to try to develop an effective South Vietnamese Army to support and legitimize the government of the Republic of Viet Nam. Then in 1961 Ike handed this can of worms off to Kennedy. David Halberstam was sent by the New York Times around that time to write about those worms and make sense of what was happening.

Halberstam later said that he expected to find that we were the good guys, that we were in a good fight, and that as the Generals kept telling us, we were winning. It would just take time. What he found when he compared what the guys on the ground said to what the Generals were saying was quite different.

Halberstam later wrote that the Vietnamese were willing to send every single Vietnamese in the country to their death to defeat the occupying America, just as they had been to defeat the Japanese and the French before us. The only way for America to win in Viet Nam was for us to kill everyone there. We weren't willing to do that, particularly since they were no real threat to us.

The only other way for America to win in Viet Nam was to so demoralize those who were fighting us that they would give up and at the same time create a nation in South Viet Nam with a legitimate government that had broad acceptance. That was never going to happen, particularly since the government of RVN was controlled largely by Catholics. The South Vietnamese were not going to somehow accept a government imposed on them by foreigners, no matter who the foreigners were.

Tet was proof that we couldn't win the war. In January 1968 we won Tet militarily, hands down. We destroyed the Viet Cong command structure. So the North Vietnamese stepped in and replaced it, then the Vietnamese kept on fighting. It was the worst defeat we could impose on the insurgents, and they simply absorbed it and kept fighting.

Halberstam got that. He saw how the U.S. military command was fooling itself with its little wins into thinking that the war could be won, but it couldn't. [Read "We were soldiers once, ... and young." or watch the movie and pay close attention to the epilogue. The battle for Ia Drang was November 1965.]

Halberstam figured out the lay of the land early on. The American Right-wingers don't have it yet. The 'wingers are still blaming others for the defeat in Viet Nam, when the truth was and remains that Vietnamese nationalism defeated American militarism.

The 'Wingers are even today blind people complaining because someone with functioning eyes told them to avoid the chasm. The 'wingers then went into the chasm anyway in spite of warnings. Now they want to blame the seeing people for stabbing them in the back. They don't like Halberstam because he warned them.

I don't blame the 'wingers too much. I'm a Viet Nam era vet, pre-baby boomer, and until the late 70's I blamed the press (especially TV) for our "loss" in Viet Nam. So I tried to figure out how we could have won. David was right. We couldn't have. Not without killing most Vietnamese. And we would have won --- nothing. The only way to win in Viet Nam was for us to get out. But that does not match the 'wingers definition of winning. To them "leaving" is "losing."

The basic importance of the fight is less important than the fight itself. That makes quitting the fight the same as losing. As long as the fight goes on, we have not lost, and all the American dead and wounded are heroes.

We are faced with much the same decisions and attitudes today in Iraq. Our methods of mass killing of opposing armies are ineffective against insurgents operating in small groups without uniforms and we don’t have enough trustworthy troops to literally blanket the country. We can’t break their will to fight through overpowering, demoralizing destruction. We can't create an acceptable government and impose it on them, and any efforts we make to prop up the Iraqi government are seen as imposing a foreign government on the Iraqi nation.

We also can’t outlast the insurgents because they frankly don’t have anything we want that bad. The insurgents understand that, and they prove how serious they are every time they send a suicide bomber to kill our troops or other Iraqis. If they were likely to run out of suicide bombers, maybe we could outlast them. I see no indication that they will run out of suicide bombers. In fact our very methods of warfare alienate the population and create ever more committed insurgents and suicide bombers. That is a prescription by which we can win every battle and still lose the war.

If it really mattered, like defeating the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland mattered to the British or defeating the Basque terrorists matter to the Spanish government, we could outlast them. But the Spaniards and British are not foreigners imposing a foreign regime on a nationalist country as we are in Iraq. There is nothing to be won by us in Iraq for which my grandchildren should still be fighting there twenty years from now, just as there was nothing to be won in Viet Nam.

If we get out now, perhaps in a generation we can get a relationship with the new Iraq (or Iraq nations) that is as good as we now have with Viet Nam. Maybe. Depends on the Iraqi people more than on us.

The alternative is that we will still be killing and our troops dying there in a generation.

Note: none of this has anything to do with the al Qaeda terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. To them, Iraq is a side issue, but it is a place they can send or support a few combatants while bleeding the American military of both the ability and the will to fight. At the same time and at a very low price to our real enemies, the Americans are being forced to lose credibility world wide while al Qaeda gains credibility. Our government has become a group of self-centered incompetent corrupt fools out for their own gain, and totally unresponsive to what the American population wants. Conservatives have lost all credibility with most of the American population. The war in Iraq has brought all this about at a very small cost to the terrorists who have been trying to stoke up the sectarian warfare in Iraq.

David Halberstam was one who recognized this pattern of conservatives in the Viet Nam War. The conservatives refused then to recognize what Halberstam wrote. So now we are living thorough it again, brought in large part to us by retreads from the Nixon administration who refused to recognize the real cost/benefit calculus of the Viet Nam War. Same pattern. Different enemy. Different part of the world. But it's the fight that matters to the 'wingers. They'll keep sending soldiers to kill and die just so they can keep on bragging "We're number one!!" and they'll continue to define getting out of Iraq as defeat.

The conservatives won't forgive Halberstam for being correct.

Advance copy of speech by Rham Emanuel to Brookings

Rham Emanuel is scheduled to give a speech at the Brookings Institute today. TPM Cafe has posted an advance copy.

It is an indictment of Republican control of the federal government,covering everything from the U.S. Attorney scandal to the Katrina response disaster.
And the [U.S. Attorney] scandal has created a new context for viewing and evaluating scandals in the Bush Administration. Americans have learned just how the Bush Administration works and are discovering that under President Bush, no function of the federal government is free from the influence of politics.

And this is no accident. It’s all by design. The incidents I will list today are not a laundry list of one offs or isolated cases of corruption. There is a common denominator. Instead of promoting solutions to our nation’s broad challenges, the Bush Administration used all the levers of power to promote their party and its narrow interests.
The key to his speech is the indictment of the Republican Party for politicizing the entire federal government apparatus to place the government at the service of the Republican Party. Rham attributes the general incompetence and corruption the Republican Party has displayed to the process of politicizing the government.

I'll let him speak for himself. I really like what he is saying.

It's going to be a really interesting election season - but looooonng.

McCain to announce for President today

John McCain is scheduled to announce the opening of his campaign for the Republican nomination for President today. His stand on the Iraq war and his rather anemic fundraising effort in comparison to those of other Presidential aspirants has alrady given the impression that he is already an also-run to both Guliani and Romney within the Republican Party. But of the Republican field, MeCain has been the potential candidate with the greatest appeal to independent.

It is going to be interesting to see what happens to his campaign. (From the Washington Post by way of MSNBC.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

First thing Joe Klein has written I agreed with in a long time.

Joe Klein is kind enough to reproduce Dick Cheney's recent speech - and then translate.

Rep. Renzi was involved in the US attorney removals

AP brings new details on how Rep. Renzi was involved in the removal of U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton. (See details here.) From teth AP story:
Brian Murray, Renzi's top aide, issued a statement late Tuesday acknowledging that shortly after the local media reported that the congressmen was being investigated, he called Charlton spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle.

"I called Mr. Hornbuckle seeking information about press accounts which appeared just weeks before Election Day alleging a pending indictment," Murray said in a statement. "I left him a message asking for information about these allegations, but I was called back and told they would not comment."

Hornbuckle refused to comment Tuesday. [Snip]

The disclosure is one of several examples of phone calls made by members of Congress to federal prosecutors.

The Senate ethics committee has opened a preliminary inquiry into a call by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., to then-U.S. attorney David Iglesias, who like Charlton also was later fired. Iglesias says Domenici wanted to know whether indictments that would help Republicans would be returned before the November elections. Told no, Domenici hung up, Iglesias said.

The House ethics committee has also been asked to investigate a separate call from Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., to Iglesias.

For his part, Renzi said the leaked stories and conjecture about the land deal were wrong.

"None of them bear any resemblance to the truth," Renzi said.

Law enforcement officials confirmed in October that they were scrutinizing a land deal that benefited a Renzi friend and business associate who was also a campaign donor. Last Thursday, the FBI raided a Sonoita, Ariz., insurance business owned by Renzi's wife, Roberta.

Renzi has denied any wrongdoing. His lawyer did not return several calls for comment Tuesday.

According to state records and officials involved in the land deal, Renzi helped promote the sale of land that netted his former business partner, James Sandlin, $4.5 million.

The property eventually was to be part of a swap in which potential buyers could exchange it for land owned by the federal government. Such deals are common in the West, where the government owns vast tracts. Renzi had said he wanted to prevent encroaching development near the Fort Huachuca Army post and to protect the environmentally threatened San Pedro River.

But Renzi never introduced legislation in Congress to complete the swap for the new owners. [Snip]

The raid on Renzi's business happened the same day that Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif., temporarily stepped down from the House Appropriations Committee. Doolittle is under scrutiny for his ties to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
At best, Rep. Renzi is looking at an Ethics probe because of Brian Murray's phone call to the U.S. Attorney's office to talk about the investigation.

Renzi (R) won his 2004 reelection by 51.4% to Ellen Simon (D) 43.8% with David Schlosser (L) 4.8% picking up half of the difference. ( Arizona Congresswatch.)Any time an incumbent wins by less than 55% he is vulnerable. He was already in trouble in the election of 2006.

How the word got to Rove and Sampson to fire U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton is not yet clear, but it should be out soon. He and Doolittle are both in real trouble, and there being the two of them at the same time will probably make things worse for each of them.

Rep. Rick Renzi resigns from all other committee assigments.

Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker reports that Arizona Rep. Rick Renzi has annoounced that he will resign from all other committee assignments. He previously resigned from his seat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

The Politico reports that Rep. Renzi has also asked that he not be included in the Retain Our Majority Program, which raises money for the GOP's most vulnerable incumbents. That move strongly suggests that Renzi does not plan to remain in Congress much longer.

[h/t to TPM.]

Click on the label "Renzi" to see my prior reports on Rep. Renzi.

Today is a miserable weather day.

Right now it is raining and thundering. The sky is overcast. The radio has announced that there is a sever thunderstorm warning here, as well as a tornado warning for the county 50 miles north of me. Since four tornadoes hit the Dallas-fort Worth area a little over a week ago, one of them taking out the grocery story 2 miles north that I frequently shop(ped) at, I am taking it seriously.

So is my Westie. He hates thunder and he hears tornado conditions long before I do. He has spent the last three hours barking at the sky and the thunder, interspersed occasionally with the more frantic bark that he goes into when tornado conditions are near. (False bark, so far.) As a terrier he is a small dog with a terrific bark.

Think I'll close up shop here so that the lightening doesn't take out my computer and grab a novel. I need to read something that drags me in and pulls me along, unlike a history book which is a much more subtle pleasure, but is harder to block out the thunder and the barking.

Besides, it's not like last week in which each hour brought something more interesting or newsworthy than the previous hour. I really don't think Alberto Gonzales will resign today, and no Congressmen will be arrested. Their investigations seem to be at a stage a bit earlier than that. [But not much longer.]

Toyota to become largest car seller in world this year.

Toyota sold more automobiles than any other car manufacturer in the world in the first quarter of the year, displacing General Motors from the rank of number one car seller in the world. It is expected that at the end of the year, Toyota will have the crown for the year.

This is the result of the different strategies the car manufacturers chose. GM chose to sell big cars that were gas hogs. That was the strategy that fed into the U.S. desire for large cars, bolstered by low gas prices. Toyota chose to sell fuel efficient high reliability automobiles. The recent sharp increase in gasoline prices caused the change in which was number one.

My question - what in God's name did GM executives think would happen to them when (not "if" because it was certain to happen) when gasoline prices increased? Why did they stick to such a short-term and clearly time-limited strategy? They had to realize that they were trading the future of their company for increased sales each quarter that gasoline prices were low.

Were they that tied to the quarterly price of their stock on the financial markets? If that is the case, then Capitalism is a system of long-term economic suicide. Managers cannot trust the decisions that they are being pressured into making by the pressure of the financial markets.

I've got some ideas. I don't think that the strategic decision was made once and never changed. I suspect that the decision was something that happened as the company moved into particular market niches in competition to the foreign car companies, and then they never felt they could make the sacrifices in the short term that would be required to become competitive in the long term. That's a guess. I feel more certain that the strategic decisions were the result of a number of things that led to them, and that changing was too expensive.

Anyone have any idea?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dave Letterman skewers George Bush beautifully

Al Franken was on the Dave Letterman show a few weeks ago and told Dave "I'm a satirist. You're a clown, and a very good one." That was not an insult. It was two very distinct categories of comedy, and the labels were being applied by a very intelligent comedian who has deeply studied the art.

That comment struck my curiosity bone. I think I understand what it means to be a "satirist," but what does it mean to be a "clown?"

Dave Letterman displayed the answer to my question for all to see at the 2007 white House Correspondents Dinner on April 21. Here is the U-tube. As Nolo at Indict Dick Cheney says "suffer through the first 30-or-so-seconds of tony snow, because letterman nails it!"

That's how a clown par excellence pokes fun at George W. Bush.

US attorneys who investigate Republicans have been pushed out

The State of Missouri has long had a system in which some driver's license offices were operated by private contractors rather than by the state itself. This has been a system of patronage, allowing the Governor to give his political friends control of these offices, some of which gross as much as $700,000 a year. But according to the Springfield Business Journal this was not good enough for Matt Blunt, the current Governor. This has resulted in an FBI investigation.
Jack Cardetti, Missouri Democratic Party spokesman, said Blunt improperly gave his political supporters control of the state’s 183 driver’s license offices during his administration’s mid-2005 privatization initiative. [Snip]

The FBI probe may validate Cardetti’s accusation that Blunt abused his power by forming a system of umbrella companies established through Kansas City law firm Lathrop & Gage LC to run the state’s licensing network.

Cardetti speculates that Blunt’s scheme is to line his own pockets with revenues from the license offices through mysterious funding channels.
This FBI investigation was being supervised by Todd Graves, U.S. Attorney for Western Missouri. From Fired Up Missouri we get more of the story, by way of the recent DoJ document dumps.
In a January 9, 2006 email from DOJ Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson to White House Counsel Harriet Miers, he outlines U.S. Attorneys who are targets for ouster. Two of the names in the email have been redacted from the version released by DOJ to Congressional investigators.

In the email, he also suggests that those listed should be given the chance to leave on their own so that they can "save face."

None of the above obstacles are insuperable. First, a limited number of U.S. Attorneys could be targeted for removal and replacement, mitigating the shock to the system that would result from an across-the-board firing. Second, the Department of Justices Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA) could work quietly with targeted U.S. Attorneys to encourage them to leave government service voluntarily; this would allow targeted U.S. Attorneys to find work in the private sector and “save face” regarding the reason for leaving office, both in the Department of Justice Community and in their local legal communities.

In March, Graves abruptly resigned his position as U.S. Attorney, saying he wanted to get more involved in the 2008 presidential election, a project we have heard nothing about since.

In April, when Sampson presented an updated list of targeted U.S. Attorneys, he makes reference to the fact that two of the names included in his original list of targets for ouster have already left government service. [Snip]

In the intervening period, only three U.S. Attorneys left office, and one of them went on to become a U.S. Magistrate, so clearly, Todd Graves was one of the redacted names.
So it looks like Todd Graves was removed because he was investigating the corruption of a Republican Governor. But like Debra Yang, he went quietly into the private sector.

It is interesting that the January 9, 2006 email to Harriet Miers and Bill Kelly (both on the White House staff) lays out a quiet way to fire the non-political U.S. Attorneys. Two conclusions can be drawn from this email. First, the White House knew exactly what was going on. Harriet Miers was the Counsel to the President. Second, something must have happened to cause the Department of Justice to change from this quiet and gradual method of firing U.S. Attorneys. That "something" was probably the shock of the November 2006 election returns. For the Democrats to gain control of the Senate was a real long shot going into November, yet they did. What the White House and the Republicans had been doing to win elections was clearly not enough, so they had to step up their actions.

So they bribed Debra Yang to quit, and fired the U.S. Attorneys removed in the Pearl Harbor Day Massacre.

But doing it all at once exposed their plan. The current imbroglio with Alberto Gonzales would not have occurred if the DoJ had not fired so many U.s. Attorneys all at once. Even then it was a near thing. The mainstream media was going to drop the issue, but Talking Point Memo kept picking at it until became clearly a lot more than just a "minor personnel issue."

The above report and analysis is still just a part of the tip of the iceberg. This just points the direction we need to be investigating.

If anyone has material on other U.S. Attorneys beside those in the Pearl Harbor Day Massacre, Debra Yang and Tod Graves, please email me or leave a comment.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

New example of Bush incompetence

From Rick Perlstein we get another of the many, many tales on FEMA incompetence under the Bush admininstration.

During the Katrina/Rita disastors, FEMA ordered the evacuation of two cities in Southwestern Louisiana. Those were Lake Charles and Sulpher. The evacuation lasted nearly two weeks, during which time FEMA went on TV and advertised a 1 800 number that evacuees could call to get an emergency $2,000 directly deposited to their bank account. No questions, no restrictions, just call and collect the money.

Now someone seems to have decided that the way it was handled at the time was a little too "loosey goosey", so officials are asking some (but not all) recipients of the money to provide documentation proving they were residents of those evacuated areas and other things. That's really not an entirely bad idea, but shouldn't those questions have been asked before the money was handed out?

Whoever decided to implement the plan in the first place had no clue what they were doing. Now they are pestering some people to try to find out howm badly they screwed up, and then they will try to collect the money back.

Now that the horses are out, they want to shut the barn door. The lesson here is that people who don't believe in government and have no experience in it should not be placed in decision-making jobs within government. As far as I can tell this applies to all conservative Republicans.

Details on Rep. Renzi corruption.

Emptywheel at The Next Hurrah concisely explains the corrupt land swap for which Arizona Rep. Rick Renzi is being investigated by the FBI.

It is becoming more clear that U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton was most likely removed by Gonzales' DoJ because of this corruption investigation. Charlton's objection to the Death Penalty and his efforts to get approval to tape record confessions by criminals (currently prohibited by DoJ policy) were excuses that Gonzales dreamed up to justify the real reason Charlton had to go.
Addendum 3:25 PM
The Wall Street Journal weighs in with a front page story on the details of the questionable and almst certainly corrupt land swap.
So far we have:
  • Carol Lam - removed as U.S. Attorney in San Diego because of her investigations into corrupt Republican Congress persons Duke Cunningham and John Doolittle, and
  • Debra Yang - U.S. Attorney of Los Angeles bought off with a lucrative job (at the law firm which represents Rep. Jerry Lewis no less) and a $1.5 million bribe signing bonus because she was investigating - you guessed it - Rep. Jerry Lewis. Now we have
  • Paul Charlton - U.S. Attorney of Arizona removed as he was investigating Rep. Rick Renzi, Republican of Arizona.
Prior posts can be found by clicking on the labels "Lam," "Yang" and "Renzi."

Question for Gonzales; Who decided? Does anyone know?

Gonzales' answer; It was consensus, aggregated by Kyle Sampson and approved by me. I was responsible.

As I wrote previously, what Gonzales established clearly in his Senate testimony was that he couldn't effectively manage a dog fight, let alone the Department of Justice with over 100,000 employees. Dahlia Lithwick at Slate very neatly describes what
Gonzales told the Senate:
The other unfortunate trope of the morning is the attorney general's incessant invocation of the "consensus judgment of the senior leadership" and the "collective concerns of the senior leadership" as the basis for all these U.S. attorney firings. Every time he's asked who made the ultimate decision here, Gonzales trots back to the fuzzy gray oracle of "senior leadership." That fits almost perfectly with Kyle Sampson's repeated claim last month that he never made a decision; he was merely the "aggregator" of everyone else's recommendations and say-sos. How gloriously mechanical: The "consensus judgments of the senior leadership" are fed to the "aggregator," who in turn passes them along to the AG who, as he claims, made a final decision without reviewing any criteria for the firing or any written document. It seems that at no point in this "process" or "project" did any human brain fire an actual neuron that triggered the message to terminate an actual U.S. attorney. Sen. Dianne Feinstein picks up on this theme toward the end of the day when she notes, "We still don't know who selected the individuals on that list. Somebody had to. A human being had to." [Emphasis is mine - Editor.]
The short version: When asked who made the decision to fire each U.S. attorney, Gonzales replied "It was a consensus decision of all of us." Then when asked if he would resign, Gonzales replied: "No. I have a lot more that I am working on that needs to be finished."

The only decision he has made for which responsibility can clearly be assigned to him is to use a political consensus decision-making process that makes no one except the top manager responsible. It also means that he does not and cannot know the criteria or the details of the decisions being made, so he denies blame for the bad decisions. He takes responsibility for the decisions to fire the U.S. Attorneys, but he can't be blamed for those decisions. They were consensus decisions.

Message to Alberto: Sorry Fredo. It doesn't work that way. You are responsible for what you failed to do as well as what (if anything) you intended to do or think you did. You established the process of consensus decisions. If they were bad decisions, you are directly responsible for them. That's true even if you are unaware that the decisions were being made and don't know who made them.

So Alberto (Fredo) Gonzales succeeded very clearly in establishing his own incompetence and unfitness to hold the job of U.S. Attorney General. The one other thing he succeeded at was totally avoiding any discussion of the role of the White House in the mess he has made of the Department of Justice. (Gee. Maybe he deserves the "Medal of Freedom." Like Tenet, Franks and Bremer, Gonzales hasn't blamed failures at and guidance from the White House for the problems he faced either.)

Senator Whitehouse stepped into this latter void, and presented his chart of who at the White House is allowed to make direct contact with the Department of Justice and inquire about on-going cases. Ms. Lithwick reproduces the chart at the end of her column.

Since the Bush White House permits 417 individuals to directly contact individuals in the DoJ, as opposed to four in the Clinton White House, it looks like the Bush administration isn't able to tell who to hold responsible for specific decisions either.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Barney Frank exposes the Republican despicable tactics

Barney Frank is well known as probably the smartest man in the the House of Representatives, and he is able to make his mind known when he wants to. This is good.

Thanks to Atrios.

Did Republicans pay Debra Yang $1.5 million to stop the investigation of Rep. Jerry Lewis?

James Risser is asking this question over at dKos now. Regular readers here will remember that I was asking this question previously here and here last month. Mr. Risser has tracked the story of Debra Yang back a way. Here is part fo what he dug up regarding Ms. Yang:
"Here is her tangled story, an iceberg-tip view of the Rep. Jerry Lewis scandals which she was investigating as a US Attorney, and the treacherous firm of Bush Crime Family consigliere in Los Angeles who serve as Defense Council for Rep. Lewis, the same firm where Yang currently receives her blood-money.

We will soon enough get to her official bio from the firm that paid her $1.5 million, Gibson Dunn in Los Angeles--the same firm that, coincidentally enough, was defending Rep. Jerry Lewis of California. Let me say that again so there is no confusion: She was in charge of the case against Rep. Jerry Lewis. He is being defended against these charges by Gibson Dunn in Los Angeles. Ms Yang received $1.5 million from the firm defending Rep. Lewis, Gibson Dunn, to leave the Justice Department where she was prosecuting Rep. Lewis. And, remarkably, this is the second time that Jerry Lewis has hired a former US Attorney to handle his defense. Thanks to the fine work of TPMuckracker from June 2006, we find that Lewis did the same thing with Robert Bonner, a member in good-standing of the Bush Crime Family since Daddy Bush made Bonner his Drug Czar in the 1990s through the present!
His lead lawyer is Robert Bonner, a man with a long, impressive CV -- featuring one clincher: Bonner used to run the U.S. Attorney's Office that's now investigating Lewis.

Who better to handle an investigation concerning the revolving door between Lewis' office and that of his lobbyist pal Bill Lowery than a man who's switched sides himself?

Bonner headed up the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California from 1984 through 1989 before he went on to serve as a judge in that district. That same office is conducting the investigation of Lewis.
Mr Bonner is a partner at Gibson Dunn in their Los Angeles office in the same practice group as Ms Yang where he has recently been called to do some work for the Bush Crime Family. Once you are in, you only get out at death. But, the money is good, if you can stand it: In 2006, Rep. Lewis rang up a $971,000 legal bill; that sort of money adds up after a few years.
From 2003 through December 2005, Mr. Bonner served as the first Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency of the Department of Homeland Security responsible for managing, controlling and securing the United States' borders, while facilitating global trade and travel.

Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Mr. Bonner created the unprecedented Container Security Initiative (CSI) and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) – both continue to revolutionize the security and more efficient movement of trade around the world. At the same time Mr. Bonner focused on securing international supply chains from the terrorist threat, he also pursued and implemented a national border control strategy to secure America’s borders. This strategy consists of a centralized command structure, rapid response capability, and a defense-in-depth, while relying upon highly-trained personnel, strengthened infrastructure and improved technology.
This is how the San Bernardino County Sun announced it on June 13, 2006:
Robert Bonner, former head of the U.S. Attorney's Office Central District of California, leads a group of attorneys that include former Santa Monica congressman Mel Levine, former federal Solicitor General Ted Olson and Joe Warin of the Los Angeles- based firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

Lewis' new legal team was confirmed Thursday by another new Lewis hire, spokeswoman Barbara Comstock, a former Department of Justice spokeswoman. Comstock also worked for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff.

Lewis and his ties to lobbyist and former San Diego congressman Bill Lowery are part of a federal criminal investigation that has reached San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Numerous local government agencies have been subpoenaed for records regarding Lewis and lobbying firm Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White.

Lewis, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which oversees $900 billion in federal outlays, has not been charged with any crimes or wrongdoing.

Bonner's past clients include former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, who served three years in federal prison for tax evasion.
This is not a nice story, but the facts support it.

What the White House and the Department of Justice have been doing as part of the politicization of the U.S. Attorneys is to pressure them to bring the kinds of bogus cases against Democrats that Biscupic did to Georgia Thompson of Wisconsin or to buy out those U.S. Attorneys who were getting too close to corrupt politicians. Then at least some of the ones who would not cooperate or allow themselves to be bought off were fired in the Pearl Harbor Day Massacre.

The source of this conspiracy is in the White House, which is why Bush is yelling "Executive Privilege" and trying to stretch it to cover documents that were intentionally not using the official system of emails to avoid legal retention requirements.

Expect the Bush White House to fight any efforts to get White House personnel to testify, or to get them to turn over significant documents.

What do we call the US attorney purge?

I'll go along with Mark Klein. I'll call it the "Pearl Harbor Day Massacre" or the PHDM for short.

What were the results of yesterday's Senate Hearings with Gonzales?

According to TPM Muckraker the Department of Justice took the less from the Hearing to be "Hey! Only one Senator called for Gonzales' resignation!"

This, of course, ignores the fact that the Senate cannot, by itself, remove the Attorney General. Even his impeachment must occur in the House, and only after that would the Senate have any power to remove Gonzales.

What I learned is that Alberto Gonzales has several problems. The first is that he has no idea how to manage an organization. He does not know how to inform his subordinates what he wants to have happen, as his repeated statements that he thought that the U.S. attorneys "knew" what the Department of Justice considered to be significant about their performance, but was totally unable to explain how they should know that. Combined with his inability to set goals for his subordinates was his repeated description of what he was told by Kyle Sampson. Alberto "presumed" that what he was told by Mr. Sampson was "the consensus of the Department of Justice Staff," he is admitting that he is unable to tell who he has made responsible for any given task. Gonzales is looking for consensus on those decisions, and so he has abandoned all ability to hold any individual who works for him responsible for a task, a decision, or the implementation of a decision. This is also displayed by his lack of understanding that there should have been some process for evaluating US attorneys if he was going to take personnel actions. Sen. Lindsey Graham nailed this one. Any decisions to fire someone were made by miscellaneous staffers who felt that the person to be fired had somehow "crossed" him or her, and that led to that US attorney's name being added to the list which Kyle Sampson was "aggregating."

Lawyers have a reputation for being poor managers. Alberto Gonzales should have his picture placed along side any such descriptions. Nothing in Gonzales' career suggests that he has any experience or training in management technique. His testimony yesterday demonstrates quite clearly that he has no clue how to manage anything.

A related problem is that even as an attorney he has no experience in criminal law. Even his time as a Supreme Court Justice in Texas was entirely focused on non-criminal Law. The Texas Judicial system has a separate top court for appeals of criminal cases, called the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Since he apparently surrounded himself with young ideologically -motivated "true-believers" he had no expertise to support him when his experience did not guide him in proper decisions and decision-procedures as he attempted to lead the Department of Justice.

In short, Alberto has neither the management nor the leadership skills required to lead the U.S. Department of Justice. His only qualification for the job was his close association with George W. Bush. That simply wasn't enough, and the strong questioning he got yesterday displayed his total unfitness for the job he is currently filling.

His second problem is that the Bush administration is totally politically-oriented, and he has adapted well to that environment. Given his lack of leadership skills, management skills and experience in criminal law, if he had surrounded himself with experts in those areas and then added his political intuitions he might have had a chance. Unfortunately for him (and for America) his choice about his immediate staff has been disastrously bad. Kyle Sampson (as his Chief of Staff) has demonstrated no strong management skills himself. Monica Goodling is quite young, and is a strong Christian Conservative. She appears to have served as a political-correctness Commissar for Alberton, ensuring that personnel who were brought into the DoJ were sufficiently Fundamentalist Christian and Conservative to be hired. As a graduate of Pat Robertson's fourth tier law school and being very young she had no real experience in criminal law. She is a symptom of the problems Alberto Gonzales has brought to the Department of Justice. It will be very interesting to see what the response is to her testimony before the Senate or House after she is give immunity for her testimony.

So overall I consider Gonzales' testimony yesterday to have been a disaster for him and for Bush. It really clarified how badly the DoJ has been politicized. If Gonzales does not resign (and I seem to recall reading that his wife opposes his resignation) then I don't think Bush will ask for his resignation. In that case, the DoJ is going to become effectively non-functional until the end of the Bush term.

I would not want to be a Republican running for election or reelection in 2008.

FBI raids personal business of Arizona Rep. Rick Renzi.

From Roll Call:
By Susan Davis
Roll Call Staff
Thursday, April 19; 10:04 pm

In a second blow to House Republicans this week, the FBI raided a business tied to the family of Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) Thursday afternoon as part of an ongoing investigation into the three-term lawmaker.
Richard "Rick" Renzi is the Republican Representative who represents Arizona's first Congressional District. He was first elected in 2002, and appears precocious in that he has been under federal investigation for corruption since at least October 2006.

The business that was raided was the Patriot Insurance Agency. This is the insurance agency originally started by Rick Renzi (as Renzi & Company) and which has been listed as belonging to his wife since Renzi became a Congressman. Since Rep. Renzi and his wife have 13 children, I wonder how much time she has to actually operate the business.

Interesting facts about Rep. Renzi include the fact that his father is a retired Major General who is presently the executive vice president of Mantech International. This is a firm which provides information technology services to a number of intelligence and defense-related federal government agencies. Ft. Huachuca, Arizona is the home of the Army's Intelligence School. Roll Call also states that Rep. Renzi has stepped down from the House Intelligence Panel. According to Congressopedia Rep. Renzi was a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in the 109th Congress (2005 & 2006.)

The website Beyond DeLay describes Rep. Renzi's possibly corrupt actions using his power as a Congressman to enrich his family like this:
In 2003, Rep. Renzi sponsored legislation that dealt hundreds of millions of dollars to his father’s business while, according to environmentalists, devastating the San Pedro River. A key beneficiary of Rep. Renzi’s legislation was ManTech International Corp., a Fairfax, Virginia based defense contractor where Rep. Renzi’s father, Retired Major General Eugene Renzi, is an executive vice president. The company, which has an office in Sierra Vista, Arizona, was the largest contributor to Renzi’s 2002 congressional campaign and the second largest in his 2004 campaign.

If Rep. Renzi accepted campaign contributions from ManTech in exchange for pushing through legislation benefiting the company, he would be in violation of federal bribery laws. His actions on behalf of his father may have also violated conflict-of-interest rules and the requirement that
Members of the House conduct themselves “at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House.”
Wikipedia also states that he was involved in the US attorney purge. Paul Charlton, US Attorney for Arizona, was on of those fired by DoJ on December 7, 2006. NPR has this story on Paul Charlton.
Paul Charlton of Phoenix, Ariz. — Charlton said he resigned over policy disputes. Moschella says Charlton disagreed with Justice Department guidelines on the death penalty and the tape-recording of FBI interviews.
The reason for firing Paul Charlton that has gotten the most press appears to be his pressure on the DoJ to get permission to tape record confessions, since he was losing convictions because of the absence of such recordings. The Phoenix Business Journal does point out that
Congressional Democrats have expressed concern over the reasons behind the ousters. Charlton's office was looking into Flagstaff Congressman Rick Renzi's involvement with a real estate deal and former Tucson Congressmen Jim Kolbe's interaction with male pages.
The coincidence that Charlton's name was added in October 2006 to Sampson's list of US attorneys to be fired is suspicious. October is when reports that Charlton was investigating Renzi's apparently corrupt activities reached the newspapers.

This may well be another case in which the firing of the local US attorney was conducted in order to protect a Republican Congressman from a corruption investigation. It is not clear to me from the media reports that this is the case, however. That could well be because Arizona is not a place that a lot of national reporters visit much, and local reporters simply aren't digging real deeply into the national aspects of the local story. If that's the case then the raid on Rep. Renzi's Insurance Agency will quickly change the motivations of local reporters.

The website Beyond Delay is a product of the investigations of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). It is their report on the twenty most corrupt Representatives and Senators, plus five who don't quit meet the requirements to be on the list. The list does not appear to have been updates since the election of 2006, since at least five on the list of twenty were not reelected - or in Sen. Frist's case, did not run for reelection.