June 10, 2005

Democrats: Smarten Up and Support Your Chairman

I'm extremely disappointed in several of my Democratic "heroes". After DNC Chairman Howard Dean appeared on Meet the Press, many in the mainstream media took the opportunity to slice out some "controversial" comments and use them to corner people like Joe Biden and Barney Frank with pointed questions about Dean's leadership. I was disappointed at their responses, which distanced themselves from Dean and suggested he doesn't speak for the Party... or that his rhetoric doesn't reflect the values of the party.

I hate to be this blunt, but here it is: HEY DUMB ASSES... WAKE UP!! Smart politicians like Biden and Frank should be wise enough to REFUSE TO ANSWER LOADED QUESTIONS.

For 20 years, Democrats have sat by while Republicans spewed hatred and bile against us. 40,000 hours per month of conservative talk radio, EVERY MONTH, since the late 1980's have given a bullhorn to every right-wing whacko and extremist to call Democrats baby killers, anti-American, communists, and virtually everything else in between! So in this environment, where the Republicans have played as dirty a game possible, isn't is appropriate to just reject the premise of the question? How about trying this answer on for size Mr. Biden and Frank:
"Well, while I might not have used those exact words, I think our Chairman is on the right track. Progressive Democrats are focused on the issues that will move our country forward... and if Howard Dean has to rattle the cage of the American people to shake them from the grip of Republican distortions and talking points... so be it."


Just in case anyone is wondering where I stand:

Embracing Theocracy?

America is a deeply religious nation, but it is not a theocracy. Yet, increasingly, the small but powerful assemblage of Christian Right religious organizations are forming overlapping agendas with local, state, and federal conservative politicians. This is both harming religion – threatening to turn "a sanctuary into a political platform," as Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, president of the Chicago Theological Seminary, points out – and pressing our nation closer to what some suggest is a creeping theocracy.


POLITICIZING FAITH: Perhaps the most alarming example is found in the Ohio Restoration Project. Presbyterian Rev. Dr. John Lentz writes that the group "plans to target 2,000 pastors throughout the state to become 'patriot pastors.'" Those patriot pastors will be "briefed on a specific political agenda" and "asked to submit names of their parishioners" to a large database, which will come in handy when the pastors are "asked to place voter guides in their church pews." This plan is being strongly backed by Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R), a gubernatorial hopeful, who "will be featured on 30-second radio ads promoting this group's agenda and supporting the 'Ohio for Jesus' rally set for the spring of 2006."


CONSERVATIVES SEE WARNING SIGNS: Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) says his conservative colleagues are embracing a "theocracy." John Danforth, President Bush's former U.N. ambassador, says that conservatives have "gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement." And Christine Todd Whitman, former EPA administrator under President Bush, recently warned of right-wing "fundamentalists": "It's the people who will tell you that they would rather focus on SpongeBob SquarePants holding hands with a starfish than they would about Social Security.... It's about a movement here. And that's why I try and define the term as social fundamentalist."

RELIGIOUS RIGHT HARMING YOUR WAY OF LIFE: Whether it's pressing our government to interfere in the most private and personal medical decisions, like end-of-life decisions or abortion; endangering patients' health and denying their rights by refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control and emergency contraception; leading the fight against life-saving scientific research into stem cells; or inciting religious divisiveness by claiming that certain political views mean one is "against people of faith," the result is the same: Americans overwhelming oppose it; right-wing politicians embrace it.

GOOD FOR RELIGIOUS RIGHT, BAD FOR AMERICANS: Even conservatives are turned off by the Bush administration's ideological activism. By a 50 to 37 percent margin, the Wall Street Journal found recently that conservatives think the federal government should be "less active" on social and moral issues. And in this week's ABC/Washington Post poll, nearly 60 percent of Americans said Bush was focusing on issues that weren't important to their lives.

After Downing Street: A Resolution of Inquiry



It's not exactly a news flash that the Bush Administration lied to the public before the invasion of Iraq. What should be on front pages, though, is new proof of the Bush Administration's lies brought to light by the previously unknown Downing Street Minutes, recently obtained and printed in the Times of London. (The Downing Street Memo is a transcript of minutes of a secret meeting chaired by Tomy Blair in Britain in July of 2002 to discuss preparations and propaganda before going to war. It was marked "Secret and strictly personal--UK eyes only.")

The Downing Street Minutes are deserving, in the words of constitutional lawyer John Bonifaz, of an official "Resolution of Inquiry directing the House Judiciary Committee to launch a formal investigation into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its constitutional power to impeach George W. Bush, President of the United States."

Bonifaz, who two years ago took the Bush Administration to court on behalf of a coalition of US soldiers, parents of soldiers and twelve Members of Congress (including John Conyers Jr., Dennis Kucinich, Jesse Jackson Jr., Jim McDermott, José Serrano, Sheila Jackson Lee) to challenge the constitutionality of the Iraq war, adds:

"The question must now be asked, with the release of the Downing Street Memo, whether the President has committed impeachable offenses. Is it a High Crime to engage in a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the United States Congress and the American people about the basis for taking the nation into a war? Is it a High Crime to manipulate intelligence so as to allege falsely a national security threat posed to the United States as a means of trying to justify a war against another nation based on 'preemptive' purposes? Is it a High Crime to commit a felony via the submission of an official report to the United States Congress falsifying the reasons for launching military action?"

As in previous investigations of "High Crimes and Misdemeanors," such a "Resolution of Inquiry is the appropriate first step in launching this investigation."

Bonifaz's memorandum making the case for launching a Resolution of Inquiry is posted at www.afterdowningstreet.org/, a new website founded by David Swanson, Bob Fertik, Bonifaz and others (including this writer), together with a broad array of public interest groups that is posted on the web site.

Our memo is written to Representative Conyers, both because he is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee and because he has been a brave truth-seeker on this issue and so many others. We support his letter demanding answers from the Bush Administration, signed originally by eighty-eight of his House colleagues; his call for 100,000 signatures to back up that letter; and his plan to go to London to seek more answers.

We have also made contact with several other members of Congress, and we believe that it will not be long before a group in Congress officially calls for an ROI.

Unfortunately, as most Nation readers know, the Downing Street Minutes have only been a story in the rest of the world, especially in Britain. In the United States it is taking much longer for the mainstream to pick up on it, and the issue is still being treated far less seriously than the seriousness of the charges warrant.

Fortunately, the blogosphere has found this new proof of George W. Bush's "misleadership" much more compelling than the mainstream press has; writers like Apian have posted incisive diaries on www.dailykos.com/, which regularly covers the story, as has Georgia10 and her friends, who founded the wonderful site www.downingstreetmemo.com/.

Despite a slow start, the Downing Street Minutes may have a long life expectancy, and the Misleader of the Pack may yet have to confront the truth.

June 09, 2005

Evidence shows clear path of premeditated war

By David Frenkel/ GUEST COLUMNIST
Thursday, June 9, 2005

There is a slow but perceptible drumbeat calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush on grounds he fixed the facts to justify invading Iraq, and deliberately timed the invasion to influence midterm elections.

These revelations come from leaked secret minutes of a July 23, 2002 meeting where the head of British MI6, after visiting the Bush administration in Washington, reported back to Prime Minister Tony Blair that "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action,
justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. ... There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."

These minutes also make it clear the Bush team knew that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was not an imminent threat, and that they in fact regarded several other countries as far more serious WMD threats than Iraq.

We know from previous research conducted by the New York Times that the president and vice president portrayed the infamous captured aluminum tubes as hard evidence of an Iraqi WMD program even though their own advisers were vigorously saying the tubes were for rockets,
not for nuclear production. The British memo confirms that Bush and Cheney were not misled by bad intelligence, but were looking for any fig-leaf they could find to give them cover for a decision they had already made to invade.

We still really do not know why they were so determined to invade. Heaven knows many of their own experts warned them it would turn into a quagmire, especially if they did not deploy sufficient troops. They chose to invade, under false pretences, and then hashed up the execution beyond our worst nightmares.

So why did they choose to invade? According to Paul O'Neill, Bush's former treasury secretary, the decision to invade Iraq was made before Sept. 11, right at the beginning of Bush's first term. The intelligence expert George Friedman offers an explanation in his book, "America's Secret War." He feels Cheney and Bush decided it was important to make a bold threatening statement to all the Arab neighbors of Iraq, especially Saudi Arabia, to compel them to hunt down Al-Qaeda (which had attacked America's interests well before Sept. 11). According to Friedman, the administration felt that Al-Qaeda needed to be denied any haven in the Arab world, and America needed to be a physically present and imminent threat to anyone that failed to stomp on the Al-Qaeda operatives in their midst. Apparently the urgency they felt in 2002 was the fear Al-Qaeda was about to set off a nuclear device in some major U.S. city and bring America to its knees. They set off to hunt down the suspected nuclear device within the USA. They felt justified in using any and all means regardless of the niceties of legality because in their mind
it was for the greater good.

Friedman points out that the U.S. could not be frank about its real motivation to invade - namely, to be a threatening presence in the Middle East - because it does not provide any legal basis for invasion under international law. However, their choice of the "WMD threat" propaganda campaign showed more political ineptitude than finesse. He feels that that the real reason is more justifiable than the bogus one. But, instead, they lied and dissembled to justify the invasion, losing international support in the process, and so have taken the nation into a war that will be very hard to win and that has already taken or damaged a very large number of lives.

To these high crimes and misdemeanors one must also add the administration's callous and illegal treatment of prisoners of war. This has harmed America in its role as world leader and we have yet to feel all the repercussions of the deeply-flawed policy of "extraordinary rendition" and expedient torture, as blessed by now Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in his infamous White House memos.

Bush and Cheney must answer the allegations now posed to them formally by 89 Democratic members of Congress as to why the administration lied to the Congress and to the public, evidenced by the 2002 British meeting minutes. If the 2006 midterm elections hand the Democrats control of one branch of the Congress then they can proceed to introduce articles of impeachment.

Cheney and Rumsfeld cut their teeth in the Nixon White House, which was awash in secrecy and illegal behavior. The only thing they seem to have learned from that experience was to be better at being secretive and deceptive.

June 07, 2005

THE RUSSERT WATCH: KEN MEHLMAN GETS THE E-ZPASS TREATMENT

By Arianna Huffington

Sunday's "Meet the Press," featuring RNC chair Ken Mehlman, was another classic example of why host Tim Russert is fast becoming journalism's answer to the "E-ZPass," those electronic tags that allow drivers to go through toll booths without having to stop. On the show today, Mehlman was allowed to distort, twist, manipulate, obfuscate and "disassemble" his way through every stop on the disinformation highway.

The key to the E-ZPass method is no follow-ups — or lame follow-ups quickly abandoned. And Mehlman is a master at dealing with those. His technique? Just repeat or slightly rephrase his talking point, and trust that Russert will give up, wave him on and proceed to the next prepared question.

To see a master in action, let's go to the transcript:

Early in the interview, Russert asks Mehlman whether "the president has hit a wall with his domestic agenda? What's the problem?"

The RNC chair dances around the question so deftly his moves should be taught at Arthur Murray: "Tim, I don't think there's a problem," he responds, and then promptly changes the subject to Ronald Reagan before closing with an RNC commercial.

"Before we provided prescription drugs for Medicare, we were told it wasn't going to happen. Before the president was able to move forward with No Child Left Behind, we were told it was stalled. We just passed class-action reform for the first time in six years and that, too, was predicted not to happen."

If Russert were doing his job, he would have countered with some well-aired problems with these three accomplishments: the Medicare prescription drug plan was promised to cost under $400 billion over 10 years but now stands at $724 billion (and, in a stunning giveaway to the drug industry, the government gets no bulk-purchasing discount); the No Child Left Behind Act has been such a massively underfunded disaster that 12 states are considering legislation to get out of it; and the class-action "reform" will just make it harder for injured people to get a fair day in court.

But E-ZPass Russert mentions none of the above. Instead, he waves Mehlman through and moves on to stem cell research about which Mehlman says: "This is the first administration ever that has funded with federal dollars embryonic stem cell research."

Does Russert bother to point out that this is not much of claim, since this is the first administration ever to have had the chance to fund embryonic stem cell research? Of course not. Mehlman is in the GOP Express Lane. No need to slow down for little things like facts. Move right along.

Russert actually allows Mehlman to get away with saying, "So you have an administration that is unprecedented in our commitment to more scientific research," without offering a spit take, a rim shot, or a "Please, Ken, not even I can let you slide on that one!"

Russert then switches to his pet interrogatory method: asking his guest for a reaction to a pointed quote from someone else — in this case, former Republican Sen. John Danforth:

"By a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians. As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around."

Mehlman bypasses the criticism altogether, leaving Danforth in his rear-view mirror with a condescending, "I think he's a good man. I would respectfully disagree with that." And Russert lets him get away without even attempting to answer a serious charge from a senior member of his own party.

And on and on Mehlman rolls, on issue after issue after issue:

On the deficit, he follows the administration's standard "In An Emergency Break Glass" procedure and seeks refuge in 9/11: "Well, Tim, I would say that what we've suffered, unfortunately, was an attack on this country."

When asked why, even after the president's 100-day tour, 56 percent of Americans continue to oppose his Social Security plan, Mehlman says he "would respectfully disagree with those numbers," then counters them with a bit of complete nonsense: "That same NBC News poll showed that a plurality of Americans believe that Congress is moving too slowly on the question of dealing with Social Security."

Now even if a plurality of Americans saying something actually meant anything, I read that poll three times from beginning to end — yes, I did have a fun Sunday — and it says nothing of the sort.

When asked about the latest Pentagon report that, in fact, several Korans were mishandled, Mehlman responds by calling this "unacceptable," but tries to minimize the unacceptability by putting it in "context": "We also need to remember it in the context, in the context of an America that is liberating Muslims."

Well, it's all fine and dandy if we want to look at it that way, but the question is not how we look at it, it's how Muslims look at it. And, unlike Russert, they're not buying Mehlman's "context."

When asked about the Downing Street Memo, which shows that Bush was determined to go to war almost a year before the invasion, and that the intelligence was accordingly "fixed," Mehlman falls back on an out-and-out fabrication: "Tim, that report has been discredited by everyone else who's looked at it since then."

Russert actually manages a follow up on this whopper: "I don't believe that the authenticity of this report has been discredited."

But Mehlman just flashes his E-ZPass again: "I believe that the findings of the report, the fact that the intelligence was somehow fixed, have been totally discredited by everyone who's looked at it."

And so he gets through. And, returning to form, Bulldog Russert just gives up.

They eventually make it to Pat Tillman, and the fact that Tillman's family was deeply offended by the Pentagon's lies regarding the circumstances of their son's death and its attempt to make Tillman a poster child to sell the war.

Mehlman's response is that he "respectfully disagrees" with Tillman's mother.

In fact, Mehlman said he "respectfully disagrees" a total of seven times over the course of the interview. Sometimes he respectfully disagrees with people, sometimes with a report, sometimes with numbers. Mostly, he "respectfully disagrees" with the truth.

But there's something about the way Mehlman says it that makes him come off like a prissy doorman. You know that when he says, "I respectfully disagree," he really means "Fuck off."

"Ken Mehlman," Russert intones in closing, "we hope you'll come back."

And given the obliging treatment he got, you know he will.

© 2005 ARIANNA HUFFINGTON.
DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

Administration's offenses impeachable

BANGOR DAILY NEWS: JUNE 6, 2005

A British citizen leaked a memo to London's Sunday Times. The memo was of the written account of a meeting that a man named Richard Dearlove had with the Bush administration in July 2002. Dearlove was the head of the England's MI-6, the equivalent of the CIA. On July 23, 2002, Dearlove briefed Tony Blair about the meeting. He said that Bush was determined to attack Iraq. He said that Bush knew that U.S. intelligence had no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and no links to foreign terrorists, that there was no imminent danger to the U.S. from Iraq. But, since Bush was determined to go to war, "Intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy." "Fixed" means faked, manufactured,conjured, hyped - the product of whole cloth fabrication.

So we got aluminum tubes, mushroom clouds imported from Niger, biological weapons labs in weather trucks,fear and trembling, the phony ultimatums to Saddam Hussein to turn over the weapons he didn't have and thus couldn't. We got the call to arms, the stifling of dissent, the parade of retired generals strategizing on the "news" shows, with us or against us, flags in the lapel, a craven media afraid to look for a truth that might disturb their corporate owners who would profit from the war. Shock and Awe. Fallujah. Abu Ghraib.


It was all a lie. Many of us have said for a long time it was a lie. But here it is in black and white: Lies from a president who has taken a sacred trust to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

So, what does it mean? It means that our president and all of his administration are war criminals. It's as simple as that. They lied to the American people, have killed and injured and traumatized thousands of American men and women doing their patriotic duty,killed at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians, destroyed Iraq's infrastructure and poisoned its environment,squandered billions and billions of our tax dollars,made a mockery of American integrity in the world,changed the course of history, tortured Iraqi prisoners, and bound us intractably to an insane situation that they have no idea how to fix because they had no plan, but greed and empire, in the first place.

What does it mean? It means that everyone in this administration should be impeached. It means that our Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and our
Congressmen Tom Allen and Mike Michaud should call for immediate impeachment. They were lied to by their president, voted for war, and are thus complicit in the multiply betrayals of the American people unless they stand up now for the truth.

Richard Nixon was impeached for a cover-up of a two-bit break-in. William Cohen, a young Maine Republican, played an important role for the prosecution in those proceedings. Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about sex with an intern. Now we
have the irrefutable evidence that George W. Bush lied about the reasons for taking the United States to war. The intelligence wasn't flawed. The weapons weren't
hidden. Our elected leaders were lying.

Democracy, like any sound relationship between people,is built on trust. We trust our leaders to tell the truth so that the consent that we give them is honestly informed. If the consent is won through manipulation, propaganda, fear, or lies, the basis of our democracy has been subverted. It is no longer democracy at all, but we continue to call it that because we have not the courage or stamina to demand its overhaul.

We live a lie when we fail to hold leaders accountable for their lies. By not calling now for impeachment, we are saying that we condone hypocrisy,
pseudo-democracy, and murdering thousands of Americans and Iraqis for strategic control of energy resources that we have no right to. Patriotism demands that we
insist on the ideals of democracy, not that we support the "leaders" who cynically destroy them.

What's curious is why anyone like me should have to even point this out. Don't our senators and congressmen feel betrayed? Are they content to continue the murdering rather than do what truth demands? Do they think they can lie to history, too.
Do they think that this little Iraq problem will somehow just go away, that the courageous resistance to the United States occupation will give up and hand Bush the keys to the oil wells? Do they think that any of the grave crises facing the world now - energy consumption, global warming, species extinction - can be solved by lying about them?

We are living in an age of no accountability. It's also an age upon which may hang the survival of human life on this earth. One should not bet one's future on people who abjure responsibility. The first courageous step is to come to terms with what we know is true:

America's president lied to America's people to create an unnecessary war. I ask Sens. Snowe and Collins,Reps. Allen and Michaud to take that step. Begin impeachment proceedings. It's really no more or less than their duty. It's also the first step toward restoring America's integrity.

Economy in the Alternate Republican Universe

This headline gets it about right:

Bush's Rosy View of Economy Doesn't Mesh With Public Perception
Bloomberg - May 31, 2005

"Ellen Westbrook, an employment counselor in Asheville, North Carolina, says she just rolls her eyes when she hears about how the U.S. economy is strong and getting stronger.

"'I've seen 300 manufacturing jobs disappear down here in the last three weeks,' she says. 'How can I think the economy is good when I am watching high-paying jobs disappear overseas?'"
The article goes on to explain some of the implications...

"Democrats say that public anxieties about America's economic course, if they persist, will provide political opportunities in the 2006 elections, in which every House seat and 34 of 100 in the Senate are up for a vote. Republicans hold majorities in both chambers.

"'There is a real disconnect between what people see when they turn on their TV and see what Congress is doing, and the problems they are facing at home,' says Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, referring to recent congressional sparring over Bush judicial nominations, gay marriage and the case of brain-damaged Florida woman Terri Schiavo... 'At some point, people are going to begin to wonder what their congressman is doing about gas prices, health care and jobs,' he says."


But perhaps the working Americans who actually feel the economy are wrong, and the Republicans are right. It is probably worth consulting an independent source, such as the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute:

Three and a half years into the recovery, one in five of the unemployed have been out of work for six months or more. Never before has the overall unemployment rate (ranging from 5.2% to 6.3% from October 2002 to March 2005) been this low while so many of the jobless have been out of work for such long periods of time. Languid employment expansion has simply not provided those who lost their jobs during the downturn with opportunities to become reemployed during the recovery.

The patterns of job creation following the last two recessions have raised the stakes of job loss for a broadening segment of American families.

Women represented 43% of long-term jobless workers, on average, from 2001-04, up from 35% compared to the 1990-93 period. Such long-term unemployment has a direct impact on children and families, especially families with single mothers.

After experiencing historic labor market gains during the late 1990s, African Americans represented a greater share of the long-term jobless in this economic cycle.

Long-term unemployment is expanding beyond blue collar workers: higher levels of education and white collar jobs are no longer providing insulation against severe joblessness.



Today we learn that the Republican economy produced a mere 78,000 jobs in May - about half of what the economy needs just to accomodate new workers entering the labor market. Presumably, the Republicans will call for more tax cuts for the wealthy in order to "solve" the problem.