Friday, November 30, 2007

Korea Two

To my ears I sound like a parrot on meth, but that is only because I bring you the critical story thread at Persona Non Grata before it begins to unravel in the corporate media. Sometime ago [6/19/07] I discussed the Regime's secret planning to create a long term military presence in Iraq even after the resistance had been subdued along the lines of our six decade old military presence in South Korea. As expected the Regime announced it has reached an agreement with the Baghdad government for a long term US military presence in the country. The bilateral security agreement would replace the UN mandate when it expires in 2008. Iraq wants an end to UN imposed restrictions on its sovereignty in place since the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The parties agreed to extend the Chapter VII arrangement for one more year to allow them time to negotiate details of their new bilateral security pact. One of the "details" is the size and number of "enduring" US bases in the country, several of which are already being built. The security agreement will provide the weak central government with the reliable military force it needs to stay in power, since it allows US forces to intervene in any internal coup. It also will give preferential treatment to American companies wanting to exploit Iraq's energy resources. The fact the overwhelming majority of Iraqis want US armed forces to leave (80%) is not operative.

The Regime will avoid congressional debate on the contentious issue of a long term security guarantee for Iraq by formulating it as a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) rather than as a treaty which requires a two-thirds vote of Congress to ratify. SOFAs are treated as purely executive branch agreements. As we now know, the intervention in Iraq was in reality a military operation to secure Iraq's immense oil wealth by removing it from the control of an unfriendly dictator to the benefit of American oil companies. All the justifications du jour about WMDs, helping terrorists, establishing democracy, combating "Islamofascism", etc were simply a coordinated public relations campaign intended as cover for a neocolonial war. Iraq will be a client state, exploited for its natural resources and used as a political bulwark against radical Islamic states like Iran and Syria in the "Great Game" of Middle East geopolitics. And that game pivots on the Jewish-Palestinian impasse. Conservatives in Congress, from both parties, have aided and abetted this cynical manipulation of American public opinion and the profit motivated use of military force to achieve their foreign policy goals. Their support for war explains their unwillingness to impeach the Charlatan for his crimes.

Only a total US withdrawal could leverage a national compromise between the warring Iraqi factions that pass as a central government. A bilateral security agreement would ostensibly require a 2/3 approval of parliament under the new Iraq constitution. Already 144 legislators have signed a petition calling for the phased withdrawal of all American forces. One reason I support Bill Richardson, besides his obvious experience, is his commitment to end American involvement in Iraq. Governor Richardson is the only Democratic presidential candidate consistently calling for a complete and total withdrawal from Iraq within a reasonable time frame. He is moving up the polls in New Hampshire because the people there are beginning to understand his unique qualifications and see that his policy positions make great sense. Give Bill Richardson your vote and help him change the paradigm of diplomacy by other means.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Trent for Rent

Senator Trent Lott announced he is resigning his seat in the Senate by the end of the year. The Mississippi seat is considered safe for Republicans, so the speculation in Washington concerns his motives for resigning now rather than completing his term which ends in 2012. The consensus opinion is that the former majority leader and closet segregationist now wants to cash in on his thirty five years worth of DC experience and contacts as a lobbyist. Senate ethics rules will change in 2008 restricting former senators from lobbying the chamber for two years. There are rumors that Lott has financial difficulties after losing his beachfront home in Pascagoula to Katrina. Lott's career is a case study of what is wrong with Congress. Lott voted against establishing a Senate Office for Public Integrity, the ethics reform bill that established the modest two year restriction on the revolving door, and the McCain-Feingold bill banning so-called soft money contributions. These are just some recent examples of his long opposition to lobbying reform because Lott apparently has never met a corporation he did not like. Lott leads the Senate in corporate jet usage. He scores a whopping 96% on the US Chamber of Commerce's pro-business voting scorecard. The Senator voted against ending tax subsidies for corporations that move U.S. jobs offshore while denying bankruptcy relief to thousands of Americans.

Lott has a deserved reputation as a traditional pork barrel politician. His most egregious effort at special interest legislation was the $700 million "railroad to nowhere" along the Mississippi Gulf shore. The line was damaged by hurricanes and repaired at the a cost of $250 million to the railroad and it's insurers. After the repairs were made, Lott and fellow Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran added a whopping $700 million earmark to an emergency defense spending bill to move the line farther inland allegedly for protection from storms. The piece of pork is the largest in the history of Congress and maybe the greasiest. The CSX freight line is in the way of a scheme backed by wealthy land developers to turn the storm ravaged coast into a "Las Vegas South"--a glitzy collection of new hotels and casinos along the strand. Lott saved his bloated earmark by one vote after opposition erupted in the Senate. He was miffed by the resistance,"I'll just say this about the so-called pork busters. I'm getting damn tired of hearing from them. They have been nothing but trouble ever since Katrina. We in Mississippi have not asked for more than we deserve. We've been very reasonable." Lott explained his success at passing pork,"I fold them [earmarks] into bills where you can't find it. I've been around here long enough to know how to bury it."

The Senator made his sentiments towards special interest legislation perfectly clear by killing a bill co-sponsored by Senator Obama creating a public database to track spending amendments using Senate procedural rules. I agree with the Senator on one thing: if you can deliver for your clients like Lott has you deserve to be paid more than $165,000 a year plus generous health and retirement benefits. Sooeee!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Le Shorter: Hillary's a Loser

A new Zogby poll of 9,000+ respondents with an error margin of 1% shows that the New York Senator is behind all major Republican candidates when matched in hypothetical races. Like I said, the only thing inevitable about Hillary is a another 4 years of Republicans in power.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Dead Kennedys: The Chicago Attempt

Readers of this blog will recall my opening series on President John Kennedy's assassination in Dallas forty-four years ago entitled "Dead Kennedys" in which I argued that individuals in the US security apparatus had foreknowledge of the assassination plot. There was an attempt on President Kennedy's life in Chicago and Tampa by Mafia hit men prior to the successful ambush in Dealy Plaza. Partial confirmation of this scenario, so at odds with the official version of his murder, came recently from former Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden, interviewed by CNN. Bolden is writing a book about his connection to the assassination. The Secret Service was apparently shadowing two Cubans just prior to Kennedy's arrival in Chicago on November 2nd. Previously on October 30, 1963, it had received a telex from Hoover's FBI that an attempt to assassinate the President would be made by a four man team using high powered rifles. Kennedy's trip to attend an Army-Air Force football game in Soldier Stadium was abruptly canceled. Sickness was given as the reason for cancelling the appearance with major political supporter Mayor Richard Daley.

In reality, the Service deemed a trip to Chicago with two or more hit men at large, possibly armed with telescopic rifles, to be too dangerous for the President. A Kennedy hater and former Marine, Richard Vallee, was arrested in Chicago and found with two M-1 rifles, a pistol, and 3000 rounds of ammunition. Vallee told a journalist that in 1963 prior to returning to his hometown of Chicago he had been on Long Island training Cuban exiles for the assassination of Fidel Castro. Vallee's place of employment looked out over the Jackson Street exit ramp where Kennedy's motorcade would have travelled headed to Soldier Field from O'Hare airport. Despite being heavily armed, the Secret Service considered Vallee to pose a entirely separate threat from the alleged four man assassination team. They left surveillance of Vallee to local police while they followed what were apparently two members of the assassination squad. Researcher Lamar Waldron considers Vallee would have been a patsy similar to the role played later in Dallas by Oswald. Here is a transcript of the superficial CNN report:

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It seems to happen this time every year -- more buzz about the death of John F. Kennedy. This time, the question of whether potential assassins were targeting him weeks before his death. A former Secret Service agent tells CNN just before President Kennedy was to go to Chicago in early November 1963, the agency got an important tip. An employee of a boarding house had seen rifles with telescopic sites and an outline of Kennedy's motorcade route in a room rented by Cuban nationals.The former agent, Abraham Bolden, would not go on camera with us or do a phone interview. He's writing a book out next spring called "The Echo from Dealey Plaza".Bolden admits he was not directly involved in the Secret Service investigation into the alleged plot. But in the 1970s, he told the House Select Committee on Assassinations he learned about it by monitoring Secret Service radio channels and observing suspects in custody.A different author, who has researched the alleged Chicago plot, told us what he believed happened to the suspected Cuban hit man. LAMAR WALDRON, AUTHOR, "ULTIMATE SACRIFICE": From all indications, the surveillance on the two men were -- was blown somehow. And so the two men were actually at large at the time that JFK was getting ready to leave Washington and come to Chicago.TODD: Kennedy's trip to Chicago was canceled. But it's not clear if it was because of a security threat.Contacted by CNN, the Secret Service would not comment on Abraham Bolden's claim, but did tell us he was separated from the agency in 1964 after being convicted of a crime. Published reports say Bolden was convicted of soliciting bribes from a counterfeiter, but that his accuser later recanted. Bolden claims he was framed.

What CNN failed to report is that Bolden was an exemplary law enforcement officer. Eisenhower appointed him to the Secret Service in 1959. He worked counterfeiting cases in Chicago where he won two commendations for cracking counterfeiting rings. In 1961 Kennedy appointed him to the presidential protection detail making him the first black agent to work that detail. The Chicago assassination attempt is documented in detail and confirmed by multiple sources including the former Chicago head of the Secret Service, Maurice Martineau. Lamar Waldron in his extensively researched book, Utimate Sacrifice, devotes an entire chapter to events in Chicago. According to Waldron, Bolden is largely responsible for bringing the attempt to public attention. Bolden was prevented from testifying to the Warren Commission because he was arrested on charges of soliciting bribes. Bolden faced two trials before finally being convicted on the testimony of two criminals, one of whom he had previously arrested. One of the criminals, an associate of Chicago mobster Sam DeStefano, later admitted he perjured himself against Bolden. Bolden served six years in prison some of it in solitary confinement.

Australians Deliver Decisive Verdict

In what must be considered a repudiation of the war policies of the American Regime, everybody and his mate in Aussie land voted for Labor and threw out conservative John Howard who lasted eleven years in office. Howard marched lock step with the Charlatan on prosecuting the Iraq War. The new Labor Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, promised Australians he would take on global warming by signing the Kyoto Treaty and bring Australian armed forces home from Iraq. The vote for Labor is being called a landslide victory. Howard even lost his constituency which had voted Conservative for three decades. When Australia finally signs the Kyoto agreement, the United States will be the only industrialized western nation that has not formally agreed to mandatory greenhouse emission reductions, and the only major nation remaining in the so-called "coalition of the willing" that invaded Iraq (Britain is already making plans to withdraw its remaining contingent). This pathetic situation for the world's "only remaining superpower" constitutes a true policy dead end for the Bushco.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Le Shorter: In Harm's Way

Godspeed to those eco heroes who go down to the frigid Southern Sea in ships to protect the humpback whales from Japanese "scientific research". The whaling fleet left Japan a few days ago to hunt and kill fifty of the singing whales as well as hundreds of others. Japan does not respect the international moratorium on whaling which has allowed the humpback to make a modest increase in population. [Photo credit: National Geographic]

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tough Oil: The Drip of Iraqi Light Sweet

Here is a fact: the new Iraqi constitution says the oil belongs to the Iraqi people. That is all well and good. But here is another fact: no one really knows how much oil Iraq is producing because the meters are broken. The meters have been broken since 1996 according to the UN. In 2006 the Iraqi government signed a contract with Shell Oil to advise it on establishing a system "to measure the flow of oil, gas and related products within Iraq and in export and import operations". Still no working meters. The best thing Iraq terminal personnel can do is measure the oil as it leaves the export terminal in the Persian Gulf. They do that, according to a US Navy lieutenant interviewed by Stars and Stripes, by watching each tanker settle into the water as they are loaded. Each centimeter up the waterline marker indicates another 6,000 barrels of oil. Go figure. No one knows how much oil is stolen either. Some thieves simply back their modified pick up truck to a convenient spot on a pipeline and drill a hole. Others, with more capital and connections, bribe officials to look the other way as they fill tanker trailers at inland terminals. The Iraq Study Group said that 150,000 to 200,00 barrels of oil per day are stolen. That is a lot of oil, but given the chaos that exists in the country, the amount is not beyond the realm of possibility.

Both the Department of Energy and the State Department have tried to get accurate measures of Iraq's production levels. When first reported, the State Department's production figures were consistently higher than the Energy Department's. The DOE stated that the difference, often as much as 300,000 barrels per day, could be due to the fact that it does not count barrels as produced if they are injected back into the ground for lack of oil storage facilities. In Iraq, if the crude cannot be immediately refined or exported, it must be returned to the reservoir. The process is wasteful according to engineers, and Iraq is the only country in the world that does it. Worse yet, some of the surplus crude is stripped of it's lighter gasoline fraction and then injected, thereby diminishing the quality of the entire field. Iraq also flares, or burns off as waste, $10 million worth of natural gas every day. Of course the gas could be processed into needed energy products, if enough infrastructure existed. The supreme irony of the country is that with all the oil literally laying around, it is a net importer of refined products like gasoline, kerosene and fuel oil.

Iraq's production infrastructure has suffered through three wars and 30 years of neglect. Some of the equipment is still pasted with notices printed in Russian. Iraq has an estimated 115 billion barrels of proven reserves. At $90 a barrel, Iraq could finance a rebuilding of the industry. But it also has a lot of other bills to pay. Oil money is the government's only source of revenue besides foreign aid. Engineers think that it will take twenty years and perhaps as much as $100 billion to bring the industry up to international standards. No risk adverse multinational with the necessary technical resources is going to touch such a massive rebuilding project for chump change. Especially when bombs are still going off and a comprehensive, national hydrocarbon law is hung up on the splinters of the Baghdad government.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Trashing the Oceans With Noise

Why does the Navy want to kill dolphins and whales with sonar systems so loud that the noise can travel 300 miles? So it can detect modern diesel-electric submarines like the Song class Chinese attack submarine that surfaced within striking distance of the USS Kitty Hawk on battle maneuvers in the western Pacific. Much to the embarrassment of Pentagon officials the submarine went undetected by the carrier's defensive screen of escort ships, submarines and aircraft. Perhaps the answer to this obvious vulnerability lies not in killing intelligent marine mammals merely trying to survive, but in rethinking our Navy's training and and submarine defense tactics in the face of sophisticated conventional technology. Apparently it takes more than a lot of noise to find an inscrutable Chinese sub.

The NRDC is suing the Navy to get it to use its low and mid-frequency arrays well away from sensitive areas for whales and dolphins such as migration routes and breeding grounds. The environmental advocacy group achieved some success against the LFA system which floods the ocean with sound waves so powerful that they kill whales at close range. A 2003 court decision limited the use of the low frequency sonar, but the Regime has reauthorized deployment. NRDC is planning to go to court again to block its use. Scientists are fairly certain that low frequency sonar is responsible for the documented stranding and deaths of whales from the Bahamas to the Canary Islands to Japan. A California federal district court judge temporarily enjoined the use of mid-frequency sonar off the coast saying it was a "near certainty" that its use along the coast would cause widespread harm to whale populations. The temporary injunction was lifted on appeal, but the case is proceeding on the merits to the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Navy wants to deploy mid range frequency sonar along the Carolina Outer Banks as part of a 500 square mile Atlantic Undersea Warfare Range. That is smack in the middle of the endangered right whale migratory route. There are only about 300 of these whales left in the Atlantic. Many have been killed in collisions with ships as they traverse the busy shipping lanes off the northeast United States. Scientists have demonstrated that military sonar's intense noise levels can damage the whales own sonar systems, making them more vulnerable to collisions and even cause them to strand. In 2005 thirty-seven whales of three different species stranded on the beaches of the Outer Banks after Navy sonar exercises. No one expects the Navy to ignore the military capabilities of competing nations. China has 13 Song class submarines, but they also own 60% of our national debt. We hope the Navy will realize that killing endangered whales will not make America safer.

Iran Caught In the Act

According to McClatchy News Service, Iran was caught shipping explosively formed penetrating devices (EFPs) to Afghanistan for Taliban use by a European government, most probably a NATO ally. That government sent a demarche to Iran after four loads were intercepted at the Afghanistan border. When Iran denied making the shipments, it was shown photographs of the projectiles with Iranian factory markings. According to an unnamed Western diplomat the photographs had a major impact. At a press briefing on Thursday in Iraq, a US deputy corps commander said Iran appears to be living up to an informal committment to stop sending such devices to Iraq for use against US soldiers. That statement is in marked contrast to repeated utterances from Darth Dick and his neocon supporters who claimed Iran cannot be trusted to make binding agreements. [graphic credit: Air Force Research Laboratory]

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Stop Press: No Immunity for Telecoms

Chris Dodd's campaign says the Judiciary Committee has reported out a FISA reform bill without retroactive immunity for telecommunication companies that cooperated with federal agencies to spy on Americans. This development is a victory for those Senators protecting our right to privacy like Chris Dodd. I am sure the Senator from Connecticut is feeling relieved as the need for a filibuster is getting less likely. Of course admendments will be introduced on the floor to give the Regime and big business what it wants. But gathering sixty votes to give legal immunity to companies that are being sued by civil rights advocates to expose the extent of illegal domestic spying is an uphill political battle.

Le Shorter: Saucer Count 2 to 1

Dennis Kucinich saw one; so did Jimmy Carter. But Ronald Reagan saw two. [more photos by "Chad"]

An explanation?

The Killing Club

The United States keeps great company these days. Beside propping up military dictatorships all over the world, it joins the Peoples Republic of China and Singapore as a small group of authoritarian countries that impose the death penalty on criminal defendants. There is an initiative pending at the UN to put a global moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The moratorium proposal was introduced by Italy. Prime Minister Romano Prodi was convinced to support the effort after the botched and humiliating execution of Saddam Hussein. Eighty five other countries have joined in the effort including all 27 EU countries. Ninety one percent of executions are carried out by just six countries: China, US, Pakistan, Sudan, Iraq and Iran. The US killed 53 prisoners last year, and opposes the resolution. It claims the moratorium is an infringement of it's sovereignty. If the resolution survives attempts to kill it with amendments, the UN human rights committee will vote on the measure this week. The resolution calls for nations using the death penalty to place a moratorium on its use with the goal of abolishing it, and for countries which have abolished the ultimate penalty, not to reintroduce it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Gore Goes to Silicon Nirvana, Supporters Go Home

Al Gore, the guru of green, announced Monday that he will be taking a partner's seat at the Menlo Park venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Gore will be responsible for identifying promising green technology startups. The firm plans to spend $600 million on financing them next year. The California grass roots group that was attempting to put Gore's name on the California ballot for President was asked by a Gore staff person to cease it's write in efforts. More than 1000 Californians had volunteered to collect signatures for the February 5th presidential primary. Money certainly talks in politics, but Gore is a multi-millionaire and hardly needs the gig. At this point in his successful life being President must seem a little too confining. At least Kleiner Perkins not an oil company.

Le Shorter: It's a Horse Race

As I thought, Iowans are equally divided within statistically insignificant percentages between the three Democratic front runners. The caucus process is truly a unique American form of democracy where the persuasive abilities of your neighbors count almost as much as those of the various politicians they support. The confession by a Grinnell College sophomore that policy wonk Hillary did not know enough about her competitors' health care proposals to take unscripted questions from the audience will not go down well with the dour farm folks.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz: Out of Touch

Rep. Debbie Waserman-Schultz (FL) is Deputy Whip of Democrats in the US House. Her job is to enforce party discipline, and in the Democratic Party that is not an easy job, especially when the leadership takes a position that is wrong. Opposing impeachment of either or both the President and Vice President is wrong legally, morally and politically. A substantial majority of Democratic voters support impeaching the Vice President, and polls show that a majority of Americans in general support bringing charges against him. The public supports the process because it is now clear, five years into the war in Iraq, that Cheney and his aides mounted a sophisticated, covert, and irregular propaganda campaign to push Congress into giving his boss the authority to wage aggressive war on Iraq. The campaign included, as Rep Kucinich stated so well in his reading of the Articles, concerted efforts to bypass or undermine the established intelligence gathering operations of the Defense Department and the CIA. Such extraordinary efforts were needed to insure that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein was depicted as perilous as possible. The campaign also featured the Vice President's willfully false statements to the public concerning the need to invade Iraq. It required the official endorsement of dubious sources of intelligence like the discredited informer code-named "Curveball" and the forged "Niger yellowcake" documents. It required the Vice President to ignore all evidence to the contrary of the foregone conclusion to wage war against Iraq.

Precious little cooperation has been obtained from Republicans members by the Democratic House leadership for refraining from considering impeachment. In fact the Republicans seem to be playing a game of "chicken" when it comes to the question. Impeachment is not a political game even though the Republicans debased the process when they tried to oust Bill Clinton for adulterous sexual relations and then lying about it under oath. Cheney's lies and machinations have resulted in the destruction of a soverign country and the deaths of thousands of people. These are high crimes indeed. Impeachment is the process the Founders provided for removing a national executive that has abused the powers of it's office. That is exactly what Cheney and Bush are doing in a manner unprecedented in the history of our country. Yet their war grinds on, consuming more lives and more treasure. House Democrats appear unwilling to stop it by refusing to finance the disaster any longer.

So when the Deputy Whip says on the radio that impeachment proceedings would be a distraction she shows she does not have the discernment of our polity or the understanding of our government necessary to be in a leadership position. When she says another member advocating consideration of the articles introduced into the House by Rep. Kucinich is "off base" she shows that she is merely good at parroting the cliches uttered by her boss, Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A few dollars increase in the minimum wage and some pork barrel water projects is all the Democrats have to show for their collaboration with Republicans. The poor children's health insurance bill was vetoed without an override by Congress. By consent of the Senate, the Regime has a new Attorney General who refuses to call torture what it is for fear of legal action against the perpetrators. Illegal spying on citizens is conducted unabated. Our country gives aid to and supports dictatorships. The planet becomes warmer and storms get more intense, but there is no legislative action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Rep. Schultz is the one "off base" and out of touch. It is time for Democratic Representatives to act like adults, face the sickness in our government, and take the strong medicine the Founders so wisely provided.

Friday, November 09, 2007

To The Bitter End (and a Better Begining)

[first post 9/27/07]
Update: NRDC announced that it has finally reached an out of court settlement with Texaco after nineteen years of litigation over the pollution of the Delaware River. The settlement came at the last moment as NRDC prepared to go to federal court once again to get compliance with court orders against the giant multinational. The company paid a $1.68 million fine for 3,360 days of violating the Clean Water Act, and as part of the settlement, agreed to pay an additional $2.25 million to local environmental groups working to restore the river ecosystem. The money will be used for such projects as wetland restoration, tree planting, meadow management and establishing osprey nesting sites. For Texaco, the money is a drop in the river of profit flowing its way now that oil is nearing $100 a barrel on the commodities exchanges.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Le Zen: Rotten Kerik

The only development that tops the news that Giuliani gumbadi, Bernie Kerik, is indicted for federal tax evasion is the endorsement of the thrice married, cross dressing, radio ranting, adulterous former mayor and Democrat by evangelical political movement founder and right wingnut, Pat Robinson. Thanks to Mother Jones for the cartoon of 'Ker-egg'.

Yeah, Its the Network Alright

[first post 10/18/07]
Update: The Judiciary Committee delayed marking up the FISA reform bill at the request of Republicans. The delay sets up a confrontation just before the Thanksgiving recess between conservatives supporting protection for telecommunication companies cooperating with the Regime's massive domestic spying program and those backing citizens' privacy rights. Chairman Leahy, Chris Dodd, Ted Kennedy and other Democrats on the Judiciary committee oppose retroactive immunity for the telecoms and will attempt to strike the language next week. But two Democrats on the panel — Dianne Feinstein (CA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) — voted for the Intelligence Committee bill with the immunity provisions. It is Democrats like these who prevent the Party from mounting an effective resistance to the dangerous policies of the most unpopular President in our history. Feinstein is distinguishing herself by repeatedly helping the neocons erode the founders' principle of co-equal branches. She cast a pivotal vote to forward the nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey to the full Senate where it's consent to appointing him Attorney General is expected. Mukasey refused to say the Regime's "enhanced interrogation" techniques--including waterboarding--constituted torture. Without her vote, the nomination would have gone to the floor without a committee endorsement. These so-called "Democratic" Senators need to hear from their constituents who still believe in the Bill of Rights.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Le Shorter: Charlatan Wins, Less Popular than Nixon

Gallup has recorded the highest strongly disapprove rating ever for a sitting President. Nixon 48%, Bush 50%. [Picture courtesy of Tom Englehardt.]

Le Shorter: Simply Pathetic

There is no other word to describe it. Too many Democrats continue to run from the bogeyman and give the frat boy smirker in the bunker--and a lame duck at that-- everything he wants. Senators and Judiciary Committee members Schumer and Finestein will vote for another enabler, this time the chief law enforcement official of the United States, who cannot muster enough moral independence to say what the country wants to hear: torture is illegal and unAmerican. Private assurances from Mukasey may be enough for fellow New Yorker Schumer, but its no way to run a republic.
Update: Charles 'Chuck' Schumer is feeling the heat from his colleagues for enabling the appointment of Judge Mukasey to the office of Attorney General. And he should be. His reasons for voting against his party and supporting a man who cannot call torture, "torture" ring very hollow. The Justice Department has been drifting for years under the sycophant Gonzales, so a few more months under a caretaker will not really matter. Besides, any real house cleaning will take more time than the remaining term in office of the Bushco Regime. Private assurances to Senator Schumer on the torture issue will not buy a cup of coffee on Capitol Hill. Any legislation outlawing waterboarding by name, assuming it got passed out of Congress, would no doubt be vetoed by the lame duck. Schumer's defense of his betrayal misses the point entirely. At this point in history no issue other than the President's extra-constitutional exercise of power is important. It is a defining moment for Congress. If the Senate does not stand up to the Executive on this issue of decency and national honor, it will never recover from it's diminution. The real reason for Chuck's defection can be summed up in one word, patronage. He is apparently willing to sacrifice our democracy to preserve the system of political spoils. Democratic Senators should correct Schumer's craven expediency by filibustering the nomination.

The Wedge Issue that Doesn't Split

Republicans, trying to deal with the political nightmare of the Bush Presidency, thought they had a wedge issue the size of Texas going into the 2008 campaigns: illegal immigration. But election returns from a red state, Virginia, show that the issue may not have the effect Republicans hoped. Governor Timothy Kaine (D) declared victory on Tuesday night in legislative races. Vote counts from crucial Fairfax County indicated that the Democrats had seized control of the state Senate and made historic gains--five seats--in the House of Delegates. The state Senate had been under Republican control since 1997. Republican candidates attempted to focus the debate on immigration fears, but apparently their scare tactics did not work this time. Fairfax County, a heavily populated and wealthy exurb of Washington DC, has many Latino workers in low paying jobs. While immigration is a concern to white conservative voters, their concern did not outweigh their dissatisfaction with Republicans of all stripes or their need for inexpensive labor. Take that, Carl Rove!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Its About the Process

Update: In a move that caught Dem leaders off guard (not hard to do) Republicans voted to send the impeachment resolution to the Judiciary Committee chaired by Democrat John Conyers (MI). The vote switch from tabling the resolution, which would have effectively killed the bill, to sending it to a committee for consideration, chaired by a Representative that has authored his own impeachment resolution, is interpreted as an attempt to embarrass Democrats. Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) moved to table the resolution as soon as it was introduced. In Republican minds only fringe loonies support impeaching either national executive in a"time of war". Those Republicans need another sobriety check. 54% of the American people must be fringe loonies because they support impeaching Cheney. They understand, if their leaders do not, that there can be no legislative priority more important that reigning in a Presidency operating under the influence of "unitary cocktails". Rep. Shadegg's (R-AZ) cynical strategy will blow up in Republican faces like a roadside bomb. Rep. Kucinich has expressed confidence in Chairman Conyers' handling of the serious charges against the Vice. And several Democratic members of that committee have already gone on record as supporting impeachment proceedings. Kucinich said in a telephone conference with supporters that he also intends to introduce a resolution against the President at a future date. Still crazy after all these years, hey Dennis?

A resolution demanding the impeachment of Vice President Richard Cheney for high crimes and misdemeanors while in office will be introduced by Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) this week. The privileged resolution has priority status for consideration on the House floor. Once introduced, the resolution has to be brought to the floor within two legislative days, although the House could act on it immediately. Kucinich is expected to bring it to the House floor on Tuesday, November 6. Given that the Democratic party leadership led by Speaker 'Big Nancy' Pelosi is against impeaching the war criminals who occupy the bunker at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, a motion to table the resolution is expected immediately. H. Res. 333, Articles of Impeachment against the Vice President, has 22 cosponsors. They are: Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Robert Brady (D-PA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Rep. Henry Johnson (D-GA), Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. James Moran (D-VA), Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA), Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and Rep. Albert Wynn (D-MD). Salute to these patriots! Join them by putting your name in the Congressional Record as voting "aye" for impeaching the Vice President. See the link immediately above.

Monday, November 05, 2007

For the Record

Waterboarding is a torture technique. Period. Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.

[Malcolm Nance, former Navy SERE chief instructor and Navy SERE manual author]

For the Record

"Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal"
[Richard Milhous Nixon, David Frost Interviews May 19, 1977]

Friday, November 02, 2007

For the Record

Q: You and General Pace and, indeed, the president and others have had intimated strongly in recent days that Iran is stirring -- actively stirring up violence in Iraq. You said that Revolutionary Guards and IEDs and weapons are moving across the border from Iran. What you have not said conclusively is whether the government of Iran and the mullahs are sponsoring that activity. Do you have proof that they are, indeed, behind this, the government of Iran?


GEN. PACE: I do not, sir.

[DOD Press Briefing March 14, 2006]

Q: Could you apply the city's crime fighting strategies [the CompSat Program] to the "war on terror"?

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani: Bernie [Kerik] knows more than I.

Q: What did you know about Al-Qaeda threats from 1998 to2001?

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani: At the time I wasn't told it was Al-Qaeda, but now that I look back at it, I think it was Al-Qaeda.

Q: Why did you put the NYC command center in the WTC complex?
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani: We wanted a place in lower Manhattan. That was the primary reason for it.

[Confidential Testimony before the 9/11 Commission, April 20, 2004]

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Latest Victim

The Indian government will announce the results of a new tiger census reports The Independent. The news is bleak indeed for the long term survival of perhaps the most beautiful animal on our planet. The census will show that the tiger population in India may be as low as 1300 individuals. At the beginning of this century there were 100,000 tigers in India. The story of how the big cat reached such dire straits is a tawdry one of government incompetence, senseless superstition, fear, uncontrolled greed, and wanton destruction of the natural world. The most recent census in 2001-02 put the figure at 3600, but its accuracy was questioned by wildlife experts. The new census, using more robust methods, will show that in Madhya Pradesh state there is a lost of 61% from the previous count. In Madharashtra state there is a lost of 57%. Previously tigers have been found outside tiger reserves, now there are none living outside protected areas. In the Sariska Tiger Reserve of Rajasthan poachers have wiped out the resident tigers. That fact came as something of a surprise because responsible officials tried to hide the embarrassment by lying. One noted expert and author Valmik Thapar says it will take a "miracle" to save the remaining big cats because the size of the decimated population is not biologically viable in the wild.

Habitat destruction and poaching are the two biggest causes of the precipitous decline. The black market in tiger parts--used in traditional Chinese medicine--is worth millions of dollars. China outlawed the trade in 1993, but recently government officials asked to lift the ban at the CITIES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) convention in the The Hague. Business interests behind the request argue that lifting the ban would allow the regulation of the trade and help eliminate poaching of wild cats. The WWF calls lifting the ban a "death sentence" for tigers. Three tiger subspecies are already extinct and a fourth functionally extinct.

The number of captive cats now exceeds the number of wild ones and the new study shows that there is 40% less habitat for them to roam in India which has always been the tigers' main home. The bad news is even more troubling because progress had been made in rescuing the tiger from extinction. In the 1970's the tiger population was estimated to be only 1800. The government launched an aggressive conservation campaign that succeeded increasing their number to 3750 within two decades, but backsliding from previous efforts has taken its toll on tigers. An example of the lack of commitment to preserving the species and the necessary wild habitat is the Indian government's proposal to build a tidal energy facility in the middle of the Sundarbans, the nation's largest tiger reserve. The large mangrove swamp on the border of India and Bangladesh may hold as many as 280 tigers that have a lethal reputation. Because the region is almost impenetrable to man, it has become a haven for wildlife. Conservationists say the energy plan will only generate four megawatts of power while causing large areas of the mangrove swamp to be washed into the Bay of Bengal or filled from increased sedimentation. Three of the more than 50 islands on the Indian side have already disappeared due to natural erosion. Clearly if the tiger is too survive outside of zoos, drastic steps must be taken by the Indian government to protect the remaining tigers from poachers and repopulate secured reserves through a breeding, translocation and public education program. Reserves need to be larger and connected by wild corridors that will allow now isolated populations to re-establish territories and interbreed. Of course accomplishing this goal midst some of the densest human populations on earth will not be an easy task.