Just heard from the Freewayblogger and what his plans are for the long weekend and the scheduled shutdown of the Bay Bridge. You go, Scarlet!
Why Pay More? -- Speaking Truth and Cracking Wise to Power Since 2004.
Sparring with Snow
Announcing Tony Snow's resignation a few minutes ago, George W. Bush told the White House press corps that it's been "a joy to watch him spar with you."
We'll agree with the president on that one.
June 15, 2006: Asked if the White House has any comment on the 2,500th U.S. fatality in Iraq, Snow says: "It's a number, and every time there's one of these 500 benchmarks people want something."
Sept. 9, 2006: Six days after the president says, "We will stay the course" in Iraq, Snow says, "The idea that somehow we're staying the course is just wrong. It is absolutely wrong."
Feb. 15, 2007: Snow on what went wrong in prewar planning for Iraq: "I'm not sure anything went wrong."
March 1, 2007: Snow responds to reports that two U.S. combat brigades will "surge" into Iraq without undergoing the usual counterinsurgency training in California's Mojave Desert first: "Well, but they can get desert training elsewhere, like in Iraq."
March 19, 2007: Snow tells reporters that the Democrats' plan for Iraq represents a "recipe for defeat." When CNN's Ed Henry asks Snow to describe the White House's "recipe for success," Snow asks Henry what his "recipe for success is." When Henry says that winning the war in Iraq isn't exactly in his job description, Snow tells him to "Zip it."
June 14, 2007: Asked if any member of the Bush family is serving in the war on terrorism, Snow responds: "Yes, the president. The president is in the war every day." Reporter: "On the front lines, wherever?" Snow: "The president."
Typical of the political interference was the 2005 federal racketeering case against big tobacco companies in which government witnesses were suddenly withdrawn, suggested penalties lessened and lawyers ordered to read a weak closing statement prepared for them. Sharon Y. Eubanks, the 22-year veteran federal prosecutor in the case, revealed to the Washington Post in March 2007 that the chain of command ran directly through the attorney general's office. "The political people were pushing the buttons and ordering us to say what we said," Eubanks said. "And because of that, we failed to zealously represent the interests of the American public ... Political interference is happening at Justice across the department. When decisions are made now in the Bush attorney general's office, politics is the primary consideration ... The rule of law goes out the window."
Operation Iraqi Freedom, it turns out, was never a war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. It was an invasion of the federal budget, and no occupying force in history has ever been this efficient. George W. Bush's war in the Mesopotamian desert was an experiment of sorts, a crude first take at his vision of a fully privatized American government. In Iraq the lines between essential government services and for-profit enterprises have been blurred to the point of absurdity -- to the point where wounded soldiers have to pay retail prices for fresh underwear, where modern-day chattel are imported from the Third World at slave wages to peel the potatoes we once assigned to grunts in KP, where private companies are guaranteed huge profits no matter how badly they fuck things up.
And just maybe, reviewing this appalling history of invoicing orgies and million-dollar boondoggles, it's not so far-fetched to think that this is the way someone up there would like things run all over -- not just in Iraq but in Iowa, too, with the state police working for Corrections Corporation of America, and DHL with the contract to deliver every Christmas card. And why not? What the Bush administration has created in Iraq is a sort of paradise of perverted capitalism, where revenues are forcibly extracted from the customer by the state, and obscene profits are handed out not by the market but by an unaccountable government bureaucracy. This is the triumphant culmination of two centuries of flawed white-people thinking, a preposterous mix of authoritarian socialism and laissez-faire profiteering, with all the worst aspects of both ideologies rolled up into one pointless, supremely idiotic military adventure -- American men and women dying by the thousands, so that Karl Marx and Adam Smith can blow each other in a Middle Eastern glory hole.
But where's the outrage? Where is the leader with the courage to say, as Franklin Roosevelt did during World War II, "I don't want to see a single war millionaire created in the United States as a result of this world disaster"? Democrats in Congress--and Republicans who have not placed their conscience in a blind trust for the duration of the Bush/Cheney years, a group we hope still includes Arizona's John McCain in the Senate and Iowa's Jim Leach in the House--should borrow a page from past wars, when the nation's elected leaders knew what to call businessmen who used hostilities abroad as an excuse to raid the federal treasury. Senator Robert La Follette tagged them as "enemies of democracy in the homeland." During World War II Harry Truman referred to some forms of war profiteering as "treason."
The thing about this that galls me so is that Congress -- both Republicans and Democrats alike -- is bending over backwards to magically make this all "legal," rather than impeaching and prosecuting the criminal son of a bitch for his crimes. What's worse, is that I have little doubt that they will end up caving to his further demand for retroactive immunity for the telecom companies who assisted the White House in this illegal scheme.
Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell yesterday gave a strange and rambling interview concerning the new FISA amendments, and several commentators -- including Spencer Ackerman, Digby and Jeralyn Merritt -- have discussed various oddities in what he said. I want to focus on a different, and I think highly revealing, aspect of his remarks.
Unintentionally, McConnell articulated what is an unusually clear and straightforward explanation as to the state of federal law regarding eavesdropping on Americans by our government -- unusually clear particularly for a Bush official, but even in general. McConnell explained:The reason that the FISA law was passed in 1978 was an arrangement was worked out between the Congress and the administration, we did not want to allow this community to conduct surveillance, electronic surveillance, of Americans for foreign intelligence unless you had a warrant, so that was required.That is exactly what happened, and the NSA scandal has always been, and always will be, this simple and crystal clear. In 1978, the American people responded to the discovery of decades-long abuses of secret eavesdropping powers by making it a felony for any government official to eavesdrop on Americans without a warrant. What McConnell describes an "arrangement worked out between the Congress and the administration" is what most people call a "federal law," but McConnell's basic point -- that "we did not want to allow th[e intelligence] community to conduct surveillance . . . of Americans . . . unless you had a warrant, so that was required" -- is exactly correct.
But in 2001, George Bush ordered the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans in violation of that very law, and continued to do so for the next five years at least. Bush ordered the NSA to commit felonies; we know that he did so; and nothing has happened. It is and always has been as clear as it is extraordinary.
Equally extraordinary is McConnell's admission -- which marks, I believe, the first time this has been acknowledged -- that private telecommunications companies enabled this lawbreaking by giving the administration access to the conversations of Americans with no warrants:Now the second part of the issue was under the president's program, the terrorist surveillance program, the private sector had assisted us. Because if you're going to get access you've got to have a partner and they were being sued.McConnell went on to explain that the number one priority for the administration regarding FISA now is to demand that Congress make further FISA revisions by providing retroactive immunity to the telecom companies to ensure that there are no consequences from their breaking of the law:Now if you play out the suits at the value they're claimed, it would bankrupt these companies. So my position was we have to provide liability protection to these private sector entities. So that was part of the request. . . .Think about how amazing this is. McConnell clearly described that in 1978, we enacted a law prohibiting warrantless eavesdropping; the Bush administration broke that law repeatedly; and the telecommunications companies actively participated in that lawbreaking. And now -- as a matter of national security -- the Bush administration is demanding that Congress pass a new law declaring that telecom companies are immune from any and all consequences -- both civil and criminal -- in the event they are found to have violated the law. It is hard to imagine open contempt for the rule of law being expressed more explicitly than this.
The issue that we did not address, which has to be addressed is the liability protection for the private sector now is proscriptive, meaning going forward. We've got a retroactive problem. When I went through and briefed the various senators and congressmen, the issue was alright, look, we don't want to work that right now, it's too hard because we want to find out about some issues of the past. So what I recommended to the administration is, 'Let's take that off the table for now and take it up when Congress reconvenes in September.' . . . No, the retroactive liability protection has got to be addressed.
What possible reason is there to protect anyone -- including telecom companies -- with a special law enacted to declare that they are relieved of all accountability for illegal behavior? And the premise of this argument is even more dangerous than the conclusion: it is all premised on the claim that these companies were only acting at the behest of George Bush, and therefore were entitled, even obligated, to do what they did. In other words, the President has the power to order private actors to break the law and when those orders are obeyed, the private actors are immune from the consequences of their lawbreaking, because they acted at the Leader's behest.
There's plenty more, and I urge you to read the whole thing. It should no longer be a surprise just how far we've come from the ideal of an America that values the rule of law to a nation run by outright criminals, aided and abetted by legislators we've elected and the supposed "free" press (and don't even talk to me about the canard of the press being "liberal" -- that's another story, and one that smells too much of horseshit for me to go near any more), but every so often I am flabbergasted anew by the sheer nerve of these rat bastards and their contempt for the Constitution, the law and the American people. Goddamn, I hate this current governement.
Federal officials have "unlawfully withheld action they are required to take," preparing a new scientific assessment by November 2004 and a research plan by July 2006, said U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong of Oakland. "Congress has imposed clear-cut, unambiguous deadlines for compliance."
A 1990 federal law requires the government to produce a scientific report every four years on climate change and its effects on the environment, including land, water, air, plant and animal life, and human health.
"This administration has denied and suppressed the science of global warming at every turn," said Brendan Cummings, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.
The ruling is the second legal defeat for the administration on global warming this year. The Supreme Court ruled in April that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted from vehicle tailpipes are pollutants subject to federal regulation - rejecting the government's position that it lacked such authority - and said the voluntary measures promoted by the Bush administration were an inadequate substitute for regulation.
The other one was Bush: Leaving Iraq Would Be Devastating:
President Bush says U.S. withdrawal from Iraq "without getting job done" would be devastating. In a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention, Bush said Iraq is central front in war on terror.
Earlier today, the White House sought to dispel the impression left by President Bush that he was distancing himself from embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in advance of a new assessment of the war and conditions in Iraq.
Bush on Tuesday had offered a tepid endorsement of the Iraqi government, expressing frustration at the lack of progress and saying it was up to the Iraqi people to decide whether to replace those in power. The remark brought an angry response from al-Maliki who said, "No one has the right to place timetables on the Iraq government. It was elected by its people."
The White House set out to reframe Bush's comment and the way it was interpreted.
"The ideals and interests that led America to help the Japanese turn defeat into democracy are the same that lead us to remain engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq," Bush said in advance excerpts of Wednesday's VFW speech. "The defense strategy that refused to hand the South Koreans over to a totalitarian neighbor helped raise up an Asian Tiger that is a model for developing countries across the world, including the Middle East," Bush said. Bush often uses historical comparisons in urging patience on Iraq, but White House aides hope a specific focus on Asia will get skeptics to rethink their positions on Iraq and get beyond the daily, violent setbacks there. Bush even cites Vietnam as a cautionary tale for those urging troop withdrawals today. "Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left," Bush said. "Whatever your position in that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people,''re-education camps' and 'killing fields.'" Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., quickly dismissed Bush's position. "President Bush's attempt to compare the war in Iraq to past military conflicts in East Asia ignores the fundamental difference between the two," he said. "Our nation was misled by the Bush administration in an effort to gain support for the invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, leading to one of the worst foreign policy blunders in our history."
So, basically, this administration continues to break the law with impunity, and to attempt to spread the same lies to the same people with the same weak arguments over and over and over again. Nothing ever changes. *sigh*
"The ideals and interests that led America to help the Japanese turn defeat into democracy are the same that lead us to remain engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq," Bush said in advance excerpts of Wednesday's VFW speech.
"The defense strategy that refused to hand the South Koreans over to a totalitarian neighbor helped raise up an Asian Tiger that is a model for developing countries across the world, including the Middle East," Bush said.
Bush often uses historical comparisons in urging patience on Iraq, but White House aides hope a specific focus on Asia will get skeptics to rethink their positions on Iraq and get beyond the daily, violent setbacks there.
Bush even cites Vietnam as a cautionary tale for those urging troop withdrawals today.
"Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left," Bush said. "Whatever your position in that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people,''re-education camps' and 'killing fields.'"
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., quickly dismissed Bush's position.
"President Bush's attempt to compare the war in Iraq to past military conflicts in East Asia ignores the fundamental difference between the two," he said. "Our nation was misled by the Bush administration in an effort to gain support for the invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, leading to one of the worst foreign policy blunders in our history."