Tuesday, October 30, 2007

take the Terkel challenge

While Marcy Wheeler explains how Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and his Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have drafted a law on warrantless surveillance that not only gives retroactive immunity to the telecoms for their illegal complicity in White House supervised domestic spying, but immunizes President Bush and then WH Counsel Alberto Gonzales for their intentional violations of US Code and DoJ guidelines, as well, Studs Terkel, a plaintiff in one of the suits against the telecoms, puts the whole program in chilling context.

(Continued on capitoilette. . . .)

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Monday, October 29, 2007

walking and talking

(photo: ABC News)

As I walked down Broadway in the pouring rain on Saturday, marching with somewhere between 10,000 and 45,000 others to protest the ongoing US military action in Iraq, I talked with one of my fellow peace-loving patriots about the next Bush Administration debacle. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wasn’t in my little group, but he might as well have been.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Bush moves ahead with plans for Clinton’s war

In what must be a great disappointment to Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), the Bush Administration stopped short of actually dropping bombs on Iran on Thursday. However, moves by the administration yesterday did take a key step toward bridging the gap between the Clinton-supported Lieberman-Kyl amendment and an all-out hot war on the sovereign state of Iran. . . .

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

how republicans view natural disasters

. . . and how a president can help:

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

do the newly homeless of Southern California owe their large insurance payouts to George W. Bush?

I’m asking. . . because I don’t really know.

At writing, the wildfires in Southern California have burned over 420,000 acres, destroyed over 1,100 homes, and displaced nearly a million people. In less than four days, this year’s fires have nearly surpassed the record destruction of October 2003. While, to my mind, the long-term drought and record heat wave of earlier this year owe much to the global warming crisis that has received something less than lip service from the Bush Administration, my opening question has more to do with fighting the fires than with their cause.

In years past, the California National Guard has played a large part in fighting brushfires, especially in cases where there were multiple fires burning simultaneously over the region. What is the toll of having a large percentage of the California Guard deployed to Bush’ Iraqi sinkhole? What about the equipment that went with them?

The California National Guard numbers roughly 20,000, of which, somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000 are now serving overseas (more than any other state with the exception of Texas). I can find nothing on the numbers and kinds of heavy equipment that has left California for Iraq. Since it became clear after tornadoes in Kansas earlier this year that response was seriously slowed by the strain put on their Guard by the Iraq war, it doesn’t seem a far out question to ask what effect this fiasco is having on California’s firefighting capabilities.

And, yet, it is not a question I can find asked or answered in any establishment media reporting.

The most I have been able to dig up are these two paragraphs from the Orange County section of the Los Angeles Times:

Local fire officials were similarly frustrated, arguing that if the state had provided adequate aircraft and personnel, the devastation could have been prevented and the Santiago fire could have been quickly extinguished. Now the fire will take at least two weeks to contain and could enter the national forest, they said.

"It is an absolute truth -- if we had more air resources we would have been able to control this fire," said Orange County Fire Authority Chief Chip Prather.

While I could infer that there might have been more resources available had it not been for Iraq deployments, Chief Prather might simply be referring to resources that were allocated to fires burning elsewhere in the Southland—I just don’t know (the story does not make it clear). I can find no other reporting or analysis—beyond repeated statements that resources are stretched to the limit—about what might have been had all the National Guard and their equipment been available to respond to this disaster.

I feel it is important to document all of the costs of Bush’s ego-gratification, local and global. If anyone out there has seen or read anything on the repercussions of administration policy with regard to the California wildfires, please send it my way or leave a comment (preferably with a link to a source). Thank you.

UPDATE: Six hours after I ask my initial question, Think Progress answers:

The San Francisco Chronicle reported last May that the California National Guard had been depleted and warned that severe “equipment shortages could hinder the guard’s response to a large-scale disaster,” such as a “major fire”:

In California, half of the equipment the National Guard needs is not in the state, either because it is deployed in Iraq or other parts of the world or because it hasn’t been funded, according to Lt. Col. John Siepmann. While the Guard is in good shape to handle small-scale incidents, “our concern is a catastrophic event,” he said.

“You would see a less effective response (to a major incident),” he said.

At a press conference five months ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) echoed these concerns, stating, “A lot of equipment has gone to Iraq, and it doesn’t come back when the troops come back.” The Chronicle reported that the California National Guard was missing about $1 billion worth of equipment.

. . . .

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said, “Right now we are down 50 percent in terms of our National Guard equipment because they’re all in Iraq. The equipment — half of the equipment, so we really will need help.” California Lieutenant Gov. John Garamendi (D) said on Harball yesterday, “What we really need are those firefighters, we need the equipment, we need, frankly, we need those troops back from Iraq.”

When asked about California’s concerns of depleted equipment caused by the Iraq war, White House spokesman Dana Perino said yesterday, “I haven’t heard that specifically.”

(cross-posted on The Seminal)

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

who ya’ gonna call?

Well, even if they’re twice as good at counterterrorism as they are at graphic design, clearly not these guys.

(h/t Think Progress)

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Monday, October 22, 2007

just say it: Americans are undertaxed

They say there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes. Alas—and you will understand why I say “alas” in a moment—only the former is truly certain in too many American lives.

With that in mind, I want to give a big guy2k/Red Wind shout-out this morning to the editorial board of the New York Times for putting in print something I have been screaming (mostly, but not entirely, metaphorically) for well over a decade: America, as a whole, does not pay enough in taxes.

With corporatists, Republicans, and libertarians coming at me from the right, and the working poor or the just chronically overworked underpaid who shoulder more than their fair share going bug-eyed on my left, let’s just say that this is not one of my more popular views. In fact, saying that Americans are undertaxed in front of Bill Maher once got me tossed from an audition to be on Politically Incorrect (his producers, by the way, really loved my “incorrect” stance, but it was Bill’s show, after all).

What I tried to explain to Bill all those years ago, and is even more true now, is that Europeans laugh at us when they hear the American vox populi whine about high taxes. As the Times details:

According to a report from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, a think tank run by the industrialized countries, the taxes collected last year by federal, state and local governments in the United States amounted to 28.2 percent of gross domestic product. That rate was one of the lowest among wealthy countries — about five percentage points of G.D.P. lower than Canada’s, and more than eight points lower than New Zealand’s. And Danes, Germans and Slovaks paid more in taxes, as a share of their economies.

The reason Americans think they are overtaxed (as I tried to explain then, but as the Times falls just short of explaining today) is because we don’t see our tax dollars coming back home and working for us. With large percentages going to the military, farm subsidies, and various aid programs for the poor and elderly, the bulk of the hard-working, tax-paying electorate feels like they are getting a raw deal. And, frankly, with too much of our federal kitty going to the military-industrial complex and agribusiness, most taxpayers are.

When polls are conducted asking individuals if they would be willing to pay a few dollars more a year (and we really are only talking about a few dollars for average earners) for equal access to affordable healthcare, cleaner air and water, safer food, or better public schools, the results show most Americans are easily sold on the idea.

Of course, when polls are conducted asking Americans if they wouldn’t like to pay less on their taxes, most say yes—but, hell, who doesn’t love a bargain?

The problem is that an underfinanced and unprogressive tax structure is no bargain at all. Americans pay every day for the shortfalls in the government coffers and the shortsightedness of pandering politicians. Again, the Times:

Politicians on the right have continuously paraded the specter of statism to rally voters’ support for tax cuts, mainly for the rich. But the meager tax take leaves the United States ill prepared to compete. From universal health insurance to decent unemployment insurance, other rich nations provide their citizens benefits that the United States government simply cannot afford.

The consequences include some 47 million Americans without health insurance and companies like General Motors being dragged to the brink by the cost of providing workers and pensioners with medical care.

For most of the last thirty years, our tax-cutting “leaders” have flattened what was once a truly progressive federal income tax into a high-calorie subsidy for corporations and very wealthy individuals, while providing a subsistence level diet for the government. Or, especially as we move forward, with the burdens of foreign policy fiascos and crumbling domestic infrastructure, a sub-subsistence level diet. It is time for some of our true leaders—and I’m not saying there are many—to acknowledge that fact, to expend the time and political capital to explain it, and to then set about fairly and properly nourishing the civil sector.

(cross-posted to capitoilette, Daily Kos, and The Seminal)

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Friday, October 19, 2007

establishment media perpetuates myth of warrantless surveillance-9/11 link

Really, enough with this fairy tale already. If the events of last week involving the statements of former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio have taught you nothing, perhaps you should go back and read some of the press from early 2006, or, perhaps, James Risen’s book. But no matter which of these sources you read, you should come away with the same understanding: The Bush Administration began collecting phone and e-mail data without a warrant and/or began eavesdropping on US citizens inside the country without a warrant before the attacks of September 11, 2001. Surveillance might—might—have increased after 9/11, but it is now increasingly clear there was plenty going on from the earliest days of Bush-Cheney rule.

Bizarrely, reporters like Ellen Nakashima and Shailagh Murray of the Washington Post insist on perpetuating the administration-friendly myth that the rampant use of warrantless surveillance was a reaction to the 9/11 attacks.

[The new Senate surveillance bill] would further give some telecommunications companies immunity from about 40 pending lawsuits that charge them with violating Americans' privacy and constitutional rights by aiding a Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program instituted after September 2001. That provision is a key concession to the administration and companies, which lobbied heavily for the provision.

Such fiction tends to buttress White House claims that this usurped and illegal power is a tool for fighting terrorism instead of something much more sinister. With Democrats like Jay Rockefeller (WV) knuckling under to administration demands on retroactive immunity and blanket warrants, the modern security state really doesn’t need any help from the press. So, Ellen, Shailagh, do your homework, and knock it off!

(cross-posted at The Seminal)

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

with electoral collapse imminent, Republicans take one last shot at an end run around democracy

Or at least we can hope it’s a “last shot.”

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 — The head of the Federal Communications Commission has circulated an ambitious plan to relax the decades-old media ownership rules, including repealing a rule that forbids a company to own both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same city.

Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the commission, wants to repeal the rule in the next two months — a plan that, if successful, would be a big victory for some executives of media conglomerates.

Among them are Samuel Zell, the Chicago investor who is seeking to complete a buyout of the Tribune Company, and Rupert Murdoch, who has lobbied against the rule for years so that he can continue controlling both The New York Post and a Fox television station in New York.

In an age where we already have much too much media consolidation, you can, of course, imagine my reaction when I saw this lead in Thursday’s New York Times.

As it turns out, the article is actually a good piece of reporting by the Stephen Labaton, but I would like to add one thing: Those decades-old media ownership rules aren’t really decades old. They were substantially relaxed already—most notably in 1996—and what rules do still exist have been ignored and/or under-enforced, as the Times’ reference to Murdoch’s holdings makes clear.

Chairman Martin wants to shove this “reform” through by December. As the article implies toward the end, this is coincidentally the deadline for Zell to complete his buyout of the Tribune Company—but the expiration of his temporary waiver on major market media ownership would prevent that from happening.

Three years ago, a similar attempt to give away the store to media conglomerates by then commissioner Michael Powell was tossed out in appeals court. After three more years of Bush court-packing, one wonders if the judicial system will be up to the task today.

Update: Take action. Contact Congress. Call for hearings.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

is this America? [sigh] you bet

Said Judge Edward Nottingham in his arguments restricting how former Qwest Communications CEO Joseph Nacchio could argue that he was targeted by the Bush Administration after Qwest refused to cooperate with NSA attempts to spy on US citizens without a warrant—seven months before the attacks of 9/11/01:

There is a quality about this that is almost fictional. Do these things really happen without congressional oversight? ... With large pots of money that nobody in the Congress really appropriates to a specific program? ... Do they really occur with this little control? ... Do we do things like this on a handshake basis without any bidding?

Nacchio’s lead attorney, Herbert Stern, replied this way, “Your honor summarized it perfectly.”

. . .

With a little digging, and the help of a few friends, I have found quite a bit more on Nacchio and pre-9/11 domestic surveillance. I expect to do follow-up to yesterday’s post after I have had some time to digest it all.

Stay tuned.

(cross-posted to The Seminal)

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

first things first

While it can be argued that all the news that’s fit to print doesn’t always get printed in the New York Times, I would like to take a brief moment to (again) critique a couple of instances when the question was not whether or not it was printed, but where.

First up, a story that appeared on the front page. . . of the Business section:

The phone company Qwest Communications refused a proposal from the National Security Agency that the company’s lawyers considered illegal in February 2001, nearly seven months before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, the former head of the company contends in newly unsealed court filings.

While this is certainly big business news, since Qwest chief Joseph Nacchio is fighting to stay out of jail after being convicted on insider trading charges in April, it is so much bigger than a back section implies. First, there is the open question of whether Nacchio was singled out for prosecution after failing to cooperate with Bush Administration requests to wiretap without warrant conversations involving American citizens inside the US—and that is huge—but bigger, now, to my mind, is the revelation that Bush’s NSA sought unprecedented (and illegal) spy powers well in advance of the events that Bush and company now argue necessitated these unconstitutional intrusions.

This story was actually first reported in the Rocky Mountain News last Thursday, but it took three more days to migrate to the paper of record. If corroborated, Nacchio’s allegation proves once and for all that the war on terror™ is nothing but a smokescreen for far more sinister designs. If this story received the proper front-page treatment, perhaps it might convince more congressional Democrats that Bush/Cheney’s insistence upon weaker FISA requirements is not about keeping America safe, but is about stifling dissent and fighting political opponents. (Remember that there is already anecdotal evidence that journalists have been spied upon under some NSA program or programs.)

One congressional Democrat that does read the business section, and, so, does suspect nefarious doings, is Michigan Rep. John Conyers. In a letter to DNI McConnell and a DoJ official, Conyers has asked for a full briefing on pre-9/11 spy activities, and all relevant documents.

Let’s see where (or if) that story lands in today’s papers.

. . .

Another interesting story from Sunday’s paper could be found in “Week in Review.”

Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd voted against it. Senator Barack Obama said he would have voted against it if he had voted. Former Senator John Edwards implied he would have voted against it if he could vote.

And Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton? She voted in favor of the measure in question, which asked the Bush administration to declare Iran’s 125,000-member Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization. Such a move — more hawkish than even most of the Bush administration has been willing to venture so far — would intensify America’s continuing confrontation with Iran, many foreign policy experts say.

While the “Week in Review” section is one of the better parts of Sunday’s New York Times, it is usually considered the province of analysis, commentary, and opinion, and not so much the place where the Gray Lady reports her best news. . . which makes Helene Cooper’s story (quoted above) sorely misplaced.

For this article is actually what I would call news reporting. It gives the reader some facts, like who voted how, and what the resolution means in the estimation of several experts. It relays the widely held perception that Sen. Clinton is not so much conveying her positions to primary voters as positioning herself for the general election, but also gives room for Clinton’s campaign to respond.

It is far more informative, and, as I see it, more interesting and important, than the latest fundraising numbers. . . which regularly appear on the front page—the very front page—of the Times, usually above the fold.

It is fine to want to understand how a candidate runs, but not at the expense of knowing where she stands. It is hard not to wonder about editorial priorities—or the priorities of the editors, for that matter—when the front-page news winds up in places like the business section, while money news winds up on the front page.

Update: Could the Nacchio/wiretap story have legs? Appearing this afternoon on the “Reporter’s Notebook” segment of the PRI program To the Point, Caroline Frederickson, Director of the ACLU's legislative office in Washington, details the story of Joseph Nacchio and Bush Administration warrantless surveillance for a national radio audience. Frederickson outlines the issues raised by the Nacchio revelations and amplifies what’s at stake as clearly, succinctly, and forthrightly as I have heard to date. Explaining the speciousness of administration arguments for expanded spy capabilities with minimal oversight now that it is apparent that the NSA started domestic spying early in 2001, Frederickson asks, “How then will that keep us safer if 9/11 followed the expanded capability?”

It’s a great question, and one I’d like to see asked by many more news outlets—and many more congressional Democrats.

(cross-posted to The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Friday, October 12, 2007

this just in: Nobel committee uses paper ballots

After learning this morning that Al Gore is the co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Peace, officially sharing his victory with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, everybody is asking the same question:

Will the Supreme Court intervene and give the award to George W. Bush?

Well, assuming that they don’t, let’s ponder some other questions: Taking into account this year’s prize for work on global warming, and Dr. Wangari Maathai’s 2004 win for her contributions to sustainable development, does environmentalism now equal peace? And, considering that the IPCC is a group dedicated to nailing down the science of climate change, is promoting verifiable fact now an act of peace-making?

Considering how many wars are fought over scarce resources such as food, water, or arable land, the answer to the first question is a rather obvious “yes.” Considering the pro-pollution lobby’s work to prevaricate, misinform, and deny the inconvenient truths about what their backers are doing to the planet, and considering the assault on reason perpetrated by the polluters’ cronies in Congress and the White House, the answer to the second question is unfortunately just as obvious.

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

permanent war gets a new front

And so it begins:

Turkish warplanes bombed positions of suspected Kurdish rebels Wednesday, and the prime minister said preparations for parliamentary approval of a military mission against separatist fighters in Iraq were under way.

. . . .

Turkish troops blocked rebel escape routes into Iraq while F-16 and F-14 warplanes and Cobra helicopters dropped bombs on possible hideouts, Dogan news agency reported. The military had dispatched tanks to the region to support the operation against the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in response to more than a week of deadly attacks in southeastern Turkey.

No doubt there is some poor schmo at State frantically trying to keep Ankara from starting an all out war with the semi-autonomous Iraqi-Kurdish state—though I have no idea what he or she has to offer. . . besides Bush flip-flopping on genocide.

Does Turkey need anymore product from our military-industrial complex?

Whether anyone is leaning on Kurdish officials anywhere near as hard, asking them to reign in the PKK, is anybody’s guess, but I doubt that the Bush Administration is eager to pressure the one vaguely stable civil government in Iraq.

It is hard to fathom just how many ways this can get worse, but rather easy to predict that it will.

Like, c’mon, who didn’t see this coming?

Oh, yeah, Donald Rumsfeld.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

sorry, senator, we don’t want tunas with good taste

I don’t care about your political skills; I care about the country.

I don’t want a candidate that leads in the polls; I want a candidate that leads.

Those are just two of may lines I couldn’t work into today’s post on capitoilette.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

too pissed to blog

I really thought that with the elevation of Democrats to the leadership of both houses of Congress that the worst of my politicocentric rages were behind me—but today, my cardiovascular system and I discovered that I was wrong.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 — Two months after insisting that they would roll back broad eavesdropping powers won by the Bush administration, Democrats in Congress appear ready to make concessions that could extend some crucial powers given to the National Security Agency.

Administration officials say they are confident they will win approval of the broadened authority that they secured temporarily in August as Congress rushed toward recess. Some Democratic officials concede that they may not come up with enough votes to stop approval.

Say what??? Are you fuckin’ kidding me? Have we learned nothing. . . again? Did the Democratic leadership fail to read the editorials back in August that shot their cavalier strategizing square through the strangely missing moral core? Did they fail to read my blog???

Sadly, everything—absolutely everything—that I, the New York Times, the Washington Post and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said back in August still applies (please take a moment to click back to that post—I can’t bear to write it out again). And that leaves me seething to point of crimson face and bulging eyes.

Today, even the previously resolute and admirable Rep. Nadler seems to be showing his jelly-leg.

Mr. Nadler said that he was worried the Senate would give too much ground to the administration in its proposal, but that he was satisfied with the bill to be proposed on Tuesday in the House.

“It is not perfect, but it is a good bill,” he said. “It makes huge improvements in the current law. In some respects it is better than the old FISA law,” a reference to the foreign intelligence court.

Not perfect, in this case, is not good enough. . . and not at all good. Calling the proposal an improvement on the current law is like calling a stake through the heart an improvement on water-boarding followed by a stake through the heart. I will remind everyone, including Mr. Nadler, that all the Democrats have to do (like all they had to do in August) is NOTHING. This colossal capitulation mistake is set to expire around Valentine’s Day—this no time to pen another love letter to the Bush Administration and its cowardly pals in Congress.

Jerrold Nadler is my Representative, and I plan to give him a piece of my mind. I urge all of you to do the same with the men and women that claim to represent you. . . especially if he or she is a Democrat. (I can’t believe I just wrote that. . . I can’t believe I just had to write that.)

Remind them that you support moral representatives that uphold their oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic—including the Bush/Cheney Administration.

Remind them that our most basic liberties hang in the balance. Tell them that you will stand by them if they stand strong themselves. Teach them what you and civil liberties experts already know about this purported FISA compromise:

‘This still authorizes the interception of Americans’ international communications without a warrant in far too many instances, and without adequate civil liberties protections,” said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, who was in the group that met House officials.

Caroline Frederickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said she was troubled by the Democrats’ acceptance of broad, blanket warrants for the security agency rather than the individualized warrants traditionally required by the intelligence court.

“The Democratic leadership, philosophically, is with us,” Ms. Frederickson said. “But we need to help them realize the political case, which is that Democrats will not be in danger if they don’t reauthorize this Protect America Act. They’re nervous.

“There’s a ‘keep the majority’ mentality, which is understandable,” she said, “But we think they’re putting themselves in more danger by not standing on principle.”

Indeed, they are putting us all in danger. Let we the people try not to let that happen.

(Gosh, I guess that you just can’t really be too pissed to blog—who knew?)

Update: Apparently things are at least a little grayer than the Gray Lady would have us believe. According to Glenn Greenwald and Christy Hardin Smith, there is much to feel good about in the House version of this legislation. Christy is urging folks to call their Reps in support of the work of the House Progressive Caucus in restoring some safeguards and adding some new requirements to the FISA process.

Serves me right to go on record after only reading the paper of record.

Of course, the proof is in the endgame, which will involve the Senate and some serious backroom bullying and front room grandstanding by the likes of GW, Dick, and Mike McConnell. I am still uncomfortable with the idea of “umbrella warrants,” and, frankly, the whole idea of a secret FISA court strikes me a singularly anti-American, but, from a lobbying and calling your Representatives standpoint, perhaps it is best we keep our powder dry for the moment, and call to support what we like about this Conyers-Reyes proposal.

(cross-posted on capitoilette and Daily Kos)

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Monday, October 08, 2007

where’s the howl?

As the New York Times laments in an editorial this morning:

It is with a queasy feeling of history in retreat that poetry lovers discover that WBAI, long the radio flagship of cocky resistance to government excess, decided last week that it couldn’t risk a 50th anniversary broadcast of the late poet [Alan Ginsberg]’s recording of “Howl.” The station retreated out of fear that the Federal Communications Commission would levy large obscenity fines that might bankrupt the small-budget station.

The sort of self-censorship practiced by WBAI on this anniversary is remarkable and sad, but hardly an isolated event. Still, it should cause us all to utter a collective howl of outrage.

Of course, many things these days call for outrage, but that doesn’t mean we hear it.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

another day, another broken law

Well, as you may know, I am not a lawyer, but my common sense sure keeps telling me that laws are being broken. Yesterday, I touched upon my feeling that private security contractors had likely run afoul of the Anti-Pinkerton Act of 1893; today, I want to direct your attention to 18 U.S.C. 1001, AKA The Fraud and False Statements Statute.

It was really quite by accident that I happened upon an old post by Morton Halperin (he’s the smart Halperin) that talked about how NSA director Michael Hayden’s bout of lying to Congress bore a striking resemblance to the behavior of Nixon CIA chief Richard Helms. Helms, as Halperin points out, was charged under the FFSS (my shorthand) for lying to Congress about CIA involvement in overthrowing the Allende government in Chile (he plead no contest and received a suspended sentence). That item referred me to 18 U.S.C., and this is the text of the law that once brought people to justice:

Section 1001. Statements or entries generally

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any
matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or
judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly
and willfully -
(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or
device a material fact;
(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent
statement or representation; or
(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the
same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent
statement or entry;

shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5
years, or both.
(b) Subsection (a) does not apply to a party to a judicial
proceeding, or that party's counsel, for statements,
representations, writings or documents submitted by such party or
counsel to a judge or magistrate in that proceeding.
(c) With respect to any matter within the jurisdiction of the
legislative branch, subsection (a) shall apply only to -
(1) administrative matters, including a claim for payment, a
matter related to the procurement of property or services,
personnel or employment practices, or support services, or a
document required by law, rule, or regulation to be submitted to
the Congress or any office or officer within the legislative
branch; or
(2) any investigation or review, conducted pursuant to the
authority of any committee, subcommittee, commission or office of
the Congress, consistent with applicable rules of the House or

(my apologies if the formatting above doesn’t hold to form)

OK, again, I’m not a lawyer, but as I read it, that first part about concealing and covering up and misrepresenting sure sounds like a good many moments from the last six and three-quarter years,

Specifically, I thought about 18 U.S.C. 1001 while reading two days of New York Times’ revelations about secret Justice Department memorandums that provided the “intellectual” cover for the CIA to continue the Bush/Cheney policy of torturing prisoners taken in their GWOT™. With new information about documents that gave the go-ahead to techniques and programs that Congress outlawed and the Supreme Court said violated the Geneva Conventions, documents that Bush officials from the Attorney General and DCI on down failed to provide to the appropriate oversight committees, it seems to me abundantly clear that several members of the administration have knowingly and willfully concealed and covered-up the DoJ findings, and then just as knowingly and willfully made false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements about what has actually been happening inside the White House, the Justice Department, and an unknown number of “black sites” around the world.

Saying “we do not torture” or, as White House spokesperson Dana Perino said on Thursday, “What I can tell you is that any procedures that they use are tough, safe, necessary and lawful,” actually doesn’t get around the language of the Fraud and False Statements Statute. It’s not whether the findings that Justice drafted are sound or well-reasoned or will withstand judicial scrutiny, it is that Justice drafted said findings and then failed to inform Congress while all sorts of administration personnel basically pretended that the memos didn’t exist.

News this morning tells us that Rep. John Conyers wants the memos turned over to his committee, and the ACLU is calling for an independent investigation. Could they have 18 U.S.C. in mind?

Indictments anyone?

(cross-posted to The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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road kill

Much has already been made of this new, very real, not-a-joke-I-swear-it, “wide stance” logo for next year’s Republican National Convention (for instance, do those at the RNC know that an elephant only stands on his two hind legs for one reason?), but I just can’t get over that this pachyderm in profile looks flat and dead. I know that cartoon shorthand more often uses Xs to connote a character’s demise, but, to my eye, that star really does have the same effect. Combine that with the skid marks on its back, and what else am I supposed to take away from this image?

You can’t make metaphors like this up.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

black is the new pink

At the end of the 19th Century, in the blood-red aftermath of the Homestead Strike, Congress passed a law that came to be known as the Anti-Pinkerton Act. That name probably wasn’t a stretch, since the text of the law specifically prohibits the Federal Government from contracting with the Pinkerton National Detective Agency or a “similar organization” offering “mercenary or quasi-military forces” for hire.

Yup. I know what you’re thinking.

Alas, because of a series of GAO findings and court rulings, things are not as cut on the bias as it would seem (seam?). Though I feel like common sense would dictate finding the Bush Administration, the State Department, the Pentagon, et al. guilty of violating the Anti-Pinkerton Act (though not all in the same way), the fact is that a variety of judges and comptrollers general have hemmed in this law to the point where two over-long nights of reading on my part have left me pretty sure that a) you’ll get nowhere with the current executive branch challenging the use of private security contractors under Pinkerton, b) if you’re lucky enough to have the standing to get to a finding of fact in the courts, it’s going to take a judge with a big-picture view and a lot of time on his/her hands to make the APA a ready-to-wear tool in stopping the Bush Administration’s extensive use of mercenary or quasi-military forces, and c) we really need a new-look Anti-Pinkerton-style law to cut through all this crap.

Of course, given the deep pockets of firms like Aegis, DynCorp, and the current bête noire, Blackwater—and all the lobbying that that would buy—I am deathly afraid to tug on a thread, lest the few protections the law still affords completely unravel.

But, given the overuse of private contractors for security, intelligence, and aggressive action, given the ever-growing list of revelations about PSC crimes, given that those crimes, committed in the name of security, are actually making us less secure—in and out of Iraq—and given that people are actually getting killed by these paid-in-the-USA cowboys, it is absolutely time to pull that thread and write a modern law in the spirit of the Anti-Pinkerton Act. And that spirit would include strict prohibitions on the government hiring private firms to provide military or quasi-military duties (in addition to intelligence work and that old chestnut, the always fashionable “strikebreaking”).

Call it the Anti-Pinkerton Act for all seasons. I mean, the way things have gone lately, hadn’t we best tell those private summer soldiers that it’s now fall?

Further reading
Here are some of the articles that helped me fashion this post:

Some WikiHistory

A blog, probably a little to my right, but filled with Pinkerton Act info (don’t know what all the pictures are about)

An article from last summer

And one from this

The comment that got me thinking about all of this in the first place

AND, though it is a little tangential (only a little), I can’t let this go un-remarked upon. . .

The initial State Department report on last month’s Blackwater instigated massacre? State outsourced the writing of that report to. . . wait for it. . . Blackwater.

(cross-posted to The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

pulling back the curtain on the window to her soul

Forgive me, this story originally broke last week, but I tend not to link to things that I can only find on Politico. Now that I’ve just heard it confirmed by another source who knows enough to know, here goes. . . .

(image: Politico.com)

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Monday, October 01, 2007

the patient lived, so the operation must have been a failure

If anyone had any doubts about what bloodthirsty whack-job former US UN Ambassador John Bolton is, then take a gander at his speech to some British Tory delegates at their annual party congress.

Much, rightly, will be made of Bolton’s assertion that he sees no other option than to bomb Iran, and then “remove” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but I want to highlight another point that basically sums up what passes for logic in the utterly fetid mind of the former “diplomat” and current American Enterprise Institute fellow.

In the words of the Guardian, Bolton “mocked” the British approach to the April capture of 15 of their naval personnel by Iran. Iran accused the sailors of entering Iranian waters.

After less than two weeks of quiet diplomacy (with Syria mediating between Iran and the UK), all 15 were returned—alive—to Great Britain.

. . . .

More on our next war over at capitoilette. . . .

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