Saturday, November 18, 2006
Some of us who actually know what the Fourth Amendment says
believe that its plain language guarantees us a freedom from unwarranted governmental intrusion. Those of us who don't engage in the intellectual dishonestly employed by the supporters of the domestic program know full well that FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) already establishes a framework for warrantless spying, and that it permits for broad surveillance of suspected terrorists. In view of this already adequate framework for terrorist surveillance, we consider the President's extra-judicial
, and ineffective
spying program to be both an abuse of power and a curtailment of the freedom and privacy afforded to every
American under the Constitution.
Apparently, those of us who believe in this definition of freedom are a national security threat.
So sayeth Attorney General Gonzales, who in an address today categorized a large swath of American citizens as a "grave threat" to national security:
Gonzales told about 400 cadets from the Air Force Academy's political science and law classes that some see the program as on the verge of stifling freedom rather that protecting the country.
"But this view is shortsighted," he said. "Its definition of freedom one utterly divorced from civic responsibility is superficial and is itself a grave threat to the liberty and security of the American people."
"Grave threat." It's a heavy phrase, one traditionally reserved only for Iran, post-invasion Iraq, and North Korea.
This demonization of ideas which don't square with the notion of an imperial presidency is a failsafe tactic employed by this administration whenever it happens to find itself on shaky legal and ethical footing--which is to say, it's employed quite often. Criticism of the war was dangerous, as now, the mere idea that the government should be obey the Fourth Amendment is a "grave threat" to national security.
Call for oversight and lawfulness in domestic spying do pose a "grave threat"--to the powerful, that is. For it is they who are now finding themselves squirming in court to defend their actions, and it is their job security (and liberty) which is threatened by dissent and calls for investigations.
The day the two towers fell, a fifth column was erected in the eyes of our government. For them, the greatest impediment to the war on terrorism launched that day was never bearded men wagging their fingers on grainy videotapes and promising streets filled with blood, but a vocal citizenry fiercely dedicated to enforcing the rule of law.
It is that bloc of citizens, those who call out this administration on its illegaties, who are viewed as the enemy, as the "grave threat". It is us, who refuse to give up liberties in a spat of communal cowardice, who scare the shit out of them. For our dissent, our diligence, and sheer strength in numbers operate as the ultimate threat to that which they seek to protect the most: their power.
Update: See also Vyan's diary here. It provides great analysis and background on the matter.
Supervillain Dr. Colossus
, er, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's ridiculous comments about international law being a threat to the US
can't go unnoticed.
The following gem came out of the mouth of a man who has boldly led our Homeland Security Department to a stunning report card from the 9/11 Commission that includes 5 "F's", 12 "D's" and 2 "incompletes" with respect to keeping our country safe:
"International law is being used as a rhetorical weapon against us"...and that members of the European Parliament in particular as harboring an "increasingly activist, left-wing and even elitist philosophy of law" at odds with American practices and interests.
This coming from someone who can't keep his own country safe from a hurricane that then entire world saw coming, and from an administration that has violated international law so many times that a google search for "US violates international law" comes up with nearly 3,000,000 hits. What a douchebag.
And how does Chertoff feel that we, the "noble" world police force have been "violated" and threatened? Well, such areas as not allowing the US to reject treaties, or the separation of powers, or even how the US should be able to use information that is available with respect to its' own citizens or those who are entering (or "leaving") this country.
Who was the target of Chertoff's righteous rant? Well, not only that pesky European Union, but our own "activist" Supreme Court:
Chertoff said the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Guantanamo prisoner Salim Ahmed Hamdan that required the United States to treat detainees under Geneva Conventions standards showed international law's entry into the U.S. domain.
Another concern of Chertoff? That we may not be able to protect ourselves from attacks. Who can blame him? I mean, it's not like personal data about Homeland Security personnel goes missing or that people can enter the Homeland Security Headquarters by using fake ID, or that Senior Homeland Security officials worked for an American Muslim leader who was jailed on terrorism charges.
The important thing is that we "feel" safer. Just like my mother said to me the other day when discussing airport "security". Since three ounces of explosives won't blow up a plane, but four ounces of toothpaste or a plastic ziplock bag which is more than the "standard acceptable size" should hold up airport traffic for an hour. Now THAT is progress with a capital P.
I sometimes think that even these people are starting to make statements and think "hmmm, is this too outlandish for even the most gullible of the public to believe?" And then I read a statement like the following and just realize that these people don't get the cruel irony of their statements:
The top U.S. general in the Middle East said on Friday that if the world does not find a way to stem the rise of Islamic militancy, it will face a third world war.
Army Gen. John Abizaid compared the rise of militant ideologies, such as the force driving al Qaeda, to the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s that set the stage for World War Two.
"If we don't have guts enough to confront this ideology today, we'll go through World War Three tomorrow," Abizaid said in a speech titled "The Long War," at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, outside Boston.
Never mind the fact that it wasn't the Islamic militants who set up military bases in our country. Or that they didn't use illegal chemical weapons on a city in a country that they illegally invaded and occupied. Or that they lied to the world about their intentions. Or that they...well, you get the picture.
I wish I could say that we are at a turning point, but that would sound too much like all of the corners that we have been turning in Iraq. And when you turn the corner four times, well, you are back where you started....
So instead, I bring you "Michael Chertoff - Douchebag Extraordinnaire".
by Nicole Belle
Who Would Jesus Castigate and Scorn?
A viewer wrote in to ask Pat Robertson a question
Why [do] evangelical Christians tell non-Christians that Jesus (God) is the only way to Heaven? Those who are Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, etc. already know and have a relationship with God. Why is this? It seems disrespectful.
Robertson replied that it is not all disrespectful because all other religions really just worship "demonic powers."
No. They don't have a relationship. There is the god of the Bible, who is Jehovah. When you see L-O-R-D in caps, that is the name. It's not Allah, it's not Brahma, it's not Shiva, it's not Vishnu, it's not Buddha. It is Jehovah God. They don't have a relationship with him. He is the God of all Gods. These others are mostly demonic powers. Sure they're demons. There are many demons in the world.
Watch the video here
Friday, November 17, 2006
by Melinda Henneberger
It is tricky business, speculating about other people's motivations. Which never stopped me before, heaven knows. And here I am, tempted again today, when I see the news that President Bush has just appointed a man who seems not to believe in birth control to run the government's family planning programs.
Today's Washington Post reports
that the new chief of family planning programs for the Department of Health and Human Services is...Eric Keroack, an ob-gyn from Massachusetts who previously worked for a Christian pregnancy counseling outfit where birth control is considered "demeaning to women.''
The appointment, to oversee $283 million in government grants "designed to provide access to contraceptive supplies and information to all who want and need them with priority given to low-income persons,'' does not require Senate confirmation.
So, why would the president choose this guy?
As we know, he is nothing if not consistent, so maybe he just wanted a choice in keeping with all of the Environmental Protection Agency appointees who used to work for polluters. (Like William Wehrum, assistant administrator for the agency's air and radiation office; he's a lawyer who represented the timber industry before he came to the EPA, where his previous credits include co-authoring the infamous "Clear Skies'' legislation, and implementing lax new mercury emissions guidelines. Or Elin Miller, the former pesticide industry exec who was just chosen to head the EPA's regional office in Seattle. Or Granta Nakayama, head of EPA enforcement, who used to lobby for the snowmobile industry.)
Another possibility is that Mr. Bush is belatedly pandering to his Christian base, in the same way he gave in to Donald Rumsfeld's critics the day after the election.
Then again, maybe this really is a simple stand of conscience - though the fact that the president's wife and mom are openly pro-choice has always made me doubt he would dare to differ quite so dramatically.
It could also be a simple flip-off to the Democrats, and all the women who voted for them, from a man who follows his gut no matter what.
We'll never know for sure what drove his decision, of course. But the effect of his choice is not at all difficult to decipher: Less access to birth control means more unwanted pregnancies, more abortions, and many more happy years of fighting over the issue, which has been very, very good to the Republican Party. Abortion got a rare night off last Tuesday, overshadowed by the war in Iraq and other scandals. But it will be back.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
UCLA Police Torture Student With Tasers For Being Uncooperative
link: Not for the squeamish
I thought the purpose of tasers was for police to protect themselves from violent subjects.
Apparently, UCLA Police policy is that tasers can be used to torture someone for noncompliance.
I support the police and understand that theirs is a difficult, thankless job. Civil society would not be possible without them.
However, the officers at UCLA went too far. This was torture for noncompliance and I find it appalling, disgusting, repugnant, outrageous, and completely unacceptable.
I don't care if the dude was being an asshole or not. You can't torture someone for noncompliance. You cuff him, carry him out, and arrest him.
Life goes blithely on in BushWorld, elections or no. Whether it's trying to bring back John Bolton or renominating already rejected judicial nominees
, he's intent upon continuing to play to his wing-nut base, apparently unaware that he lost already.
The good news is that Democrats can now stop Bolton and those judges for good. The bad news is that he can make executive branch appointments that don't have to be approved by the Senate. Today he did just that, with a big ol' FU to the Democrats by appointing Dr. Erik Keroack to head up the Office of Family Planning, which adminsters all Title X programs. Title X of the Public Health Service Act provides family planning services primarily to low-income women.
What's so special about this appointment? After all, he's a doctor, right? A doctor at a crisis pregnancy center, one of those deceptive clinics that pose as real clinics and prevent women from having abortions through tactics like this:
According to a recent Planned Parenthood email, a 17-year-old girl mistakenly walked into a crisis pregnancy center thinking it was Planned Parenthood, which was next door. "The group took down the girl's confidential personal information and told her to come back for her appointment, which they said would be in their 'other office' (the real Planned Parenthood office nearby)."
When she showed up for her nonexistent appointment, she was met by the police, who had been erroneously tipped that a minor was being forced to abort. The crisis pregnancy center staff followed up this harassment by staking out the girl's house, phoning her father at work, and even talking to her classmates about her pregnancy, urging them to harass her.
Right, just who we want heading up our governments' efforts to provide quality family planning services. But it gets even better. Keroack is one of the leaders of the abstinence-only movement. Jessica at Feministing has this:
At the Annual Abstinence Leadership Conference in Kansas, Keroack defended abstinence (in an aptly titled talk, "If I Only Had a Brain") by claiming that sex causes people to go through oxytocin withdrawal which in turn prevents people from bonding in relationships. Seriously.
[Keroack] explained that oxytocin is released during positive social interaction, massage, hugs, "trust" encounters, and sexual intercourse. "It promotes bonding by reducing fear and anxiety in social settings, increasing trust and trustworthiness, reducing stress and pain, and decreasing social aggression," he said.
But apparently if you've had sex with too many people you use up all that oxytocin: "People who have misused their sexual faculty and become bonded to multiple persons will diminish the power of oxytocin to maintain a permanent bond with an individual." Hear that? Too many sexual partners and you'll never love again!
The good doctor has also explained his use of ultrasounds in anti-abortion counseling by stating, "even Midas lets you look at your old muffler before they advise you to change it."
Thank gawd the Dems are in to counteract just a little bit of this wingnuttery, but boy, is it going to be a long two years.
JesusFuckingChristOnAPopsicleStick! How the Fuck does this piece of shit Glenn Beck have a fucking job on CNN?
CNN's Beck to first-ever Muslim congressman: "[W]hat I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies' "
On the November 14 edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck interviewed Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-MN), who became the first Muslim ever elected to Congress on November 7, and asked Ellison if he could "have five minutes here where we're just politically incorrect and I play the cards up on the table." After Ellison agreed, Beck said: "I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.' " Beck added: "I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way."
As Media Matters for America has noted, Beck previously warned that if "Muslims and Arabs" don't "act now" by "step[ping] to the plate" to condemn terrorism, they "will be looking through a razor wire fence at the West" and declared that "Muslims who have sat on your frickin' hands the whole time" rather than "lining up to shoot the bad Muslims in the head" will face dire consequences.
"On Tuesday night, in an ironic turnaround, Iraq brought regime change to the U.S."
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
As Bunch suggests
, Trent Lott's new title is certainly appropriate, though this farker said it best:
Trent Lott selected as Senate Minority Whip, because if there's one thing that Trent Lott likes, it's whipping minorities.
And, yes, that's over the top and highly uncivil. Of course, opposing anti-lynching laws was a bit uncivil too.
-Atrios 1:41 PM
by John Aravosis
Excuse me? Someone, on behalf of FOX News, reportedly gave terrorist organizations $2m that the terrorists now say they used to buy weapons to kill Israelis? FOX says "it's possible" money was paid to terrorists? And the Bush administration, they were heavily involved in this effort to free the FOX reporters - were they aware that someone was paying off terrorists? Were they the ones who arranged the payment? This is abominable if true.
Palestinian terror groups and security organizations in the Gaza Strip received $2 million from a United States source in exchange for the release of Fox News employees Steve Centanni and Olag Wiig, who were kidnapped here last summer, a senior leader of one of the groups suspected of the abductions told WND.Ironically, this news comes on the heels of the leak of an internal FOX memo saying "Be On The Lookout For Any Statements From The Iraqi Insurgents...Thrilled At The Prospect Of A Dem Controlled Congress." Funny, but I bet the terrorists will be even more thrilled at the prospect of FOX News having given them $2m.
The terror leader, from the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees, said his organization's share of the money was used to purchase weapons, which he said would be utilized "to hit the Zionists."
He said he expects the payments for Centanni and Wiig's freedom will encourage Palestinian groups to carry out further kidnappings.
Officials associated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party and its security organization, the Preventative Security Services, confirmed to WND money was paid for the release of the Fox News reporters.... the money was used to purchase weapons.
"We used 100 percent of the money for one precise goal – our war against the Zionists," the Committees leader said.
He said weapons purchased included rockets.
"Regarding the others (the Dugmash clan of the Committees) who received the money, I can tell you one thing is very clear – this went also to be used against the Zionists. I can't say every cent went to buy bombs, maybe it also went to pay for salaries, smuggling, buying shelter."....
A spokeswoman for Fox News Channel told WND she could not provide an official statement about whether Fox was aware of money paid to free its two employees.
A source at Fox told WND many parties were involved with the freedom of Centanni and Wiig, including the U.S. government, and that it was possible money was paid.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Huffington Post has obtained an internal Fox News memo written by the network's Vice President of news. The memo details Fox's game plan the day Democrats won control of both the Senate and the House.
by Michael Moore
To My Conservative Brothers and Sisters,
I know you are dismayed and disheartened at the results of last week's election. You're worried that the country is heading toward a very bad place you don't want it to go. Your 12-year Republican Revolution has ended with so much yet to do, so many promises left unfulfilled. You are in a funk, and I understand.
Well, cheer up, my friends! Do not despair. I have good news for you. I, and the millions of others who are now in charge with our Democratic Congress, have a pledge we would like to make to you, a list of promises that we offer you because we value you as our fellow Americans. You deserve to know what we plan to do with our newfound power -- and, to be specific, what we will do to you and for you.
Thus, here is our Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives:
Dear Conservatives and Republicans,
I, and my fellow signatories, hereby make these promises to you:
1. We will always respect you for your conservative beliefs. We will never, ever, call you "unpatriotic" simply because you disagree with us. In fact, we encourage you to dissent and disagree with us.
2. We will let you marry whomever you want, even when some of us consider your behavior to be "different" or "immoral." Who you marry is none of our business. Love and be in love -- it's a wonderful gift.
3. We will not spend your grandchildren's money on our personal whims or to enrich our friends. It's your checkbook, too, and we will balance it for you.
4. When we soon bring our sons and daughters home from Iraq, we will bring your sons and daughters home, too. They deserve to live. We promise never to send your kids off to war based on either a mistake or a lie.
5. When we make America the last Western democracy to have universal health coverage, and all Americans are able to get help when they fall ill, we promise that you, too, will be able to see a doctor, regardless of your ability to pay. And when stem cell research delivers treatments and cures for diseases that affect you and your loved ones, we'll make sure those advances are available to you and your family, too.
6. Even though you have opposed environmental regulation, when we clean up our air and water, we, the Democratic majority, will let you, too, breathe the cleaner air and drink the purer water.
7. Should a mass murderer ever kill 3,000 people on our soil, we will devote every single resource to tracking him down and bringing him to justice. Immediately. We will protect you.
8. We will never stick our nose in your bedroom or your womb. What you do there as consenting adults is your business. We will continue to count your age from the moment you were born, not the moment you were conceived.
9. We will not take away your hunting guns. If you need an automatic weapon or a handgun to kill a bird or a deer, then you really aren't much of a hunter and you should, perhaps, pick up another sport. We will make our streets and schools as free as we can from these weapons and we will protect your children just as we would protect ours.
10. When we raise the minimum wage, we will pay you -- and your employees -- that new wage, too. When women are finally paid what men make, we will pay conservative women that wage, too.
11. We will respect your religious beliefs, even when you don't put those beliefs into practice. In fact, we will actively seek to promote your most radical religious beliefs ("Blessed are the poor," "Blessed are the peacemakers," "Love your enemies," "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," and "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."). We will let people in other countries know that God doesn't just bless America, he blesses everyone. We will discourage religious intolerance and fanaticism -- starting with the fanaticism here at home, thus setting a good example for the rest of the world.
12. We will not tolerate politicians who are corrupt and who are bought and paid for by the rich. We will go after any elected leader who puts him or herself ahead of the people. And we promise you we will go after the corrupt politicians on our side FIRST. If we fail to do this, we need you to call us on it. Simply because we are in power does not give us the right to turn our heads the other way when our party goes astray. Please perform this important duty as the loyal opposition.
I promise all of the above to you because this is your country, too. You are every bit as American as we are. We are all in this together. We sink or swim as one. Thank you for your years of service to this country and for giving us the opportunity to see if we can make things a bit better for our 300 million fellow Americans -- and for the rest of the world.
(Click here to sign the pledge)
P.S. Please feel free to pass this on.
by Sacramento Democrat
Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, and the rest of the brain-dead right-wing ilks tried to use such things as the Patriot Act and the Torture Bill to paint Democrats as weak on terrorism. However, one courageous individual, Senator-elect Jon Tester, fought back tooth and nail.
On September 23, 2006, during a debate with Senator-expelled Conrad Burns in Butte, MT, Burns said the following about Mr. Tester, as written in The
Great Falls Tribune, ...
"He [Tester] wants to weaken the Patriot Act,"
How did Tester react? This is how he reacted...
Great Falls Tribune,
"I [Tester] don't want to weaken the Patriot Act, I want to repeal it. What it does, it takes away your freedom ... and when you take away our freedoms, the terrorists have won,"
Now most Democrats or Democratic candidates would have weasled and tried to appear somehow strong on terrorism. They would have triangulated and made up excuses for their vote. But Tester, having the spine he did, said it as clearly and explicitly as possible, that he didn't want to weaken it, he wanted to repeal it. This brings back one current Senator in particular, Russ Feingold, who was the only Senator to vote against the ORIGINAL Patriot Act.
Now Tester's comment was significant, because he wasn't running for a Senate seat in Vermont, or Rhode Island; he was running in Montana, which easily went for Bush by a 20
point margin (59-39).
Bush 59 - Kerry 39.
After watching many of the Meet-the-Press debates, I noticed a lot of Democrats just not having the courage to come out and stand up for our Constitution. Senator-elect Tester exposed his distaste for this horrendously drafted legislation, and future Democrats should follow his lead.
Lastly, this is important to note, as the GOP seems to self-destruct and lose many of its previous constituencies. For example, libertarians, as Markos has noted, will have enough sway over Elections to at least make a difference. Senator-elect Tester's position is very libertarian, in that the Government should not be able to simply monitor every one of my steps, in the name of Terrorism. I truly feel that we Democrats, on top of maintaining our OWN liberal-progressive base, will have attracted a lot of moderates, independents and even some conservative libertarians. After all, it was Benjamin Franklin who said that those willing to sacrifice their liberties for security, deserve neither. This will undoubtedly spell trouble for the GOP in 2008.
By MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writer
Immigrants arrested in the United States may be held indefinitely on suspicion of terrorism and may not challenge their imprisonment in civilian courts, the Bush administration said Monday, opening a new legal front in the fight over the rights of detainees.
In court documents filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., the Justice Department said a new anti-terrorism law being used to hold detainees in Guantanamo Bay also applies to foreigners captured and held in the United States.
Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar, was arrested in 2001 while studying in the United States. He has been labeled an "enemy combatant," a designation that, under a law signed last month, strips foreigners of the right to challenge their detention in federal courts.
That law is being used to argue the Guantanamo Bay cases, but Al-Marri represents the first detainee inside the United States to come under the new law. Aliens normally have the right to contest their imprisonment, such as when they are arrested on immigration violations or for other crimes.
"It's pretty stunning that any alien living in the United States can be denied this right," said Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney for Al-Marri. "It means any non-citizen, and there are millions of them, can be whisked off at night and be put in detention."
The new law says that enemy combatants will be tried before military commissions, not a civilian judge or jury, and establishes different rules of evidence in the cases. It also prohibits detainees from challenging their detention in civilian court.
In a separate court filing in Washington on Monday, the Justice Department defended that law as constitutional and necessary.
Government attorneys said foreign fighters arrested as part of an overseas military action have no constitutional rights and are being afforded more legal rights than ever.
In its short filing in the Al-Marri case, however, the Justice Department doesn't mention that Al-Marri is being held at a military prison in South Carolina — a fact that his attorneys say affords him the same rights as anyone else being held in the United States.
The Justice Department noted only that the new law applies to all enemy combatants "regardless of the location of the detention."
The Bush administration maintains that al-Marri is an al-Qaida sleeper agent. The Defense Department ordered a review of Al-Marri's status as an enemy combatant be conducted if, as requested, the case is thrown out of court.
The Government last week cravenly surrendered control of the independence of our criminal justice system to the United States.
It rejected a final chance to make two key amendments to the Extradition Act 2003 - a dereliction of duty that means American secret agents can now arrest us in our own country.
Extradition used to be about fugitives. People committed a crime in country A and fled to country B to avoid justice.
Obviously, as crime became transnational, complications arose. More than one country had a legal right to try a suspect.
Also, the international community created through the UN the concept of "international crimes" so grave that any country had the duty to prosecute or extradite any person accused of torture, hostage-taking, hijacking etc, found within its territory.
On the whole, countries respected the practice that crimes were normally tried in the country where the evidence was found, or the damage caused. The "War Against Terror" and the US reaction to financial scandals such as Enron and Worldcom changed all that.
The US now regards itself as free to request the extradition of UK citizens whose alleged crimes, in any traditional view, would be investigated here, and tried here if the evidence justified it.
I regularly meet US and Continental criminal lawyers. It is a shaming experience. They treat our subservience to the US with incredulity and even derision.
I now regularly advise businessmen and industrialists fearful they might be the subject of extradition requests.
One of these men is accused in the US of a transnational case of fraud in which the US attorney is threatening him, through his UK solicitor, that unless he returns voluntarily to the US and pleads guilty, in which case he will receive two years' imprisonment without parole, he will be the subject of an extradition request and 'all bets will be off'.
We should not be too prissy. We would not be offended, necessarily, if a US prosecutor treated a US fugitive like this.
But this man is English - he is accused of criminal conduct committed in substance in the UK, where no one has sought to prosecute him even though the US allegations have been made public. There are other predictable and disturbing developments.
Three weeks ago, a foreign businessman, resident with his family for several years in England, was arrested on an extradition warrant alleging conspiracy to export night-vision goggles from the US to a Middle Eastern Muslim country.
The US prosecutor's brief description of his conduct shows that the entire case arises out of a "sting" perpetrated by the US Department of Homeland Security.
Evidence was obtained, in London, by US undercover agents, audio-taping and videotaping conversations with the accused man.
The sting, of course, is standard US practice. In English law, the US investigators are guilty of the criminal offence of incitement committed in London.
The American extradition statement does not disclose whether the UK authorities knew about this (in which case they too would be guilty) or whether (the outrageous alternative) US agents are running amok in London on frolics of their own, and then demanding extradition.
The much-publicised case of the NatWest Three is the clearest example of America's prosecutorial arrogance.
The US claimed jurisdiction over this case because seven 'wire transfers' were made between Texas and London in the disputed transaction.
Any single electronic communication over a state or national border in the US entitles a US court to claim the right to try a person for an alleged fraud committed anywhere in the world.
Why does our law permit this?
In March 2003 David Blunkett signed a treaty concluded in secret with the US in which he gratuitously threw away UK citizens' rights.
He allowed that, while it would be necessary for us to provide evidence showing a person should be extradited from the US, the US did not need to do the same to secure extradition from the UK.
He then put through Parliament the Bill that became the new Extradition Act 2003 later in the year.
The Government misled Parliament blatantly in 2003.
This Act allowed the Home Secretary to designate countries that did not have to provide evidence and so Blunkett designated America.
The Act itself contains some apparently strong safeguards for British citizens - or so Blunkett said. One is that a person shall not be extradited if to do so would be "incompatible with his human rights".
The most obvious safeguard for a UK citizen would appear to be Article eight of the European Convention. A person is entitled to the privacy of his home and family life.
There shall be no interference with this right unless it is necessary for, among other purposes, the prevention of crime.
So far, so good. The NatWest Three argued that it was not "necessary" to interfere with their right, as the Serious Fraud Office had decided not to prosecute here, and their employer did not claim to have been defrauded.
But in the High Court, the Attorney General contradicted the assurances given to Parliament.
He said that such was the importance of extradition in itself as a means of combating crime, it would always 'trump' the right to home and family life. The High Court effectively accepted this argument.
BUT the truth is that if the American prosecutors want to prosecute a UK citizen for a fraud committed mostly in the UK, they can get him by producing a piece of paper with a bare allegation of misconduct.
The courts and government cannot protect him even if he has been investigated and exonerated here. This has caused consternation in the City and at the Confederation of British Industry.
The first amendment Parliament rejected last week was designed to oblige the US authorities to provide evidence in support of an extradition request, as we must do to them.
The second was to write in a requirement that, unless there were exceptional reasons, the court could not extradite to another country over an allegation of a criminal act that took place partly in this country.
This is not revolutionary. This principle used to govern all extradition relations within Europe, and is still applied by almost every other European state today.
In Parliament last week, attempts were made to discover the Government's reasons for opposing the two amendments. Home Office Minister Joan Ryan was, literally, incoherent, to the astonishment of observing journalists.
In the Commons, John Reid thuggishly accused the Conservatives of helping paedophiles.
Ludicrous as this was, when the amendment went back to the House of Lords for the last time, the Conservatives, visibly sheepish, caved in, having previously supported the changes. The Liberal Democrats held firm, but the Government won.
Mr Reid held out one hope, however. The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, was going to agree some guidelines with his American counterpart about where transnational cases should be tried - the very same Lord Goldsmith whose own reservations about the legality of the Iraq war evaporated when he went to Washington, shortly before David Blunkett, in the historic month of March 2003.
We all know we have subordinated our foreign policy to the Americans. We have also now subcontracted an important part of our system of justice to them as well. No free nation should behave like this.
Monday, November 13, 2006
The November 21, 1994, edition of Time
magazine -- published following that year's congressional elections, in which Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives and the Senate -- featured the headline "G.O.P. Stampede: A Special Report" on the cover, and featured a graphic of an elephant trampling a donkey.
The November 20 edition of Time
-- published following the 2006 congressional elections, in which Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives and the Senate -- features the headline "Special Report: The Midterms," and features as the cover story "Why the center is the new place to be," by columnist Joe Klein, with a graphic of a Venn diagram
Newsweek is the latest major media outlet
to repeat the falsehood that the 2006 election was an endorsement of conservatism. The latest Newsweek cover story notes:
The American people, as politicians like to say, spoke last week - and spoke in no uncertain terms. The 2006 vote does not suggest an eagerness for a sharp left turn. It seems, rather, to be a plea for a shift from the hard right of the neoconservatives to the center represented by the old man in Houston [President George H. W. Bush].
The “centrist” ideas “represented” by former President Bush are actually progressive ideas put forward over a year ago. Media reports indicate that the James Baker-led Iraq Study Group will call for (1) a phased drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq and (2) a diplomatic initiative to engage Iraq’s regional neighbors to help calm ethnic tensions. The Center for American Progress advanced these very steps over a year ago in its Strategic Redeployment plan.
It’s also worth noting that former President Bush publicly backed his son’s Iraq policy prior to the war. Two months before the invasion, Bush 41 said “someone needs to step forward to hold Saddam to account. And the United States, led by our president, is prepared to do just that.” True, some former Bush advisers have opposed the war since the beginning. Yet others, like Colin Powell, were among the most prominent public advocates.
By Paul Kiel - November 10, 2006, 4:39 PM
As we did our best to document, the National Republican Congressional Committee was responsible for repetitive, often harrassing robo calls in more than two dozen districts across the country in the runup to the election.
In at least seven of those districts, the Democrat failed to unseat the incumbent by only a couple thousand votes. The NRCC's calls may have been the difference in those races.
Consider, for example, Florida's 13th District, where Christine Jennings is currently locked in a recount battle. The final tally shows her down 386 votes. In the last three weeks of the election, the NRCC spent $58,326.78 on robo calls against Jennings, according to FEC reports. At five to fifteen cents a call, the NRCC bought itself between 388,000 and 1.17 million calls in the district. Approximately 250,000 people voted in the 13th on Tuesday.
Voters there report being inundated with calls -- so much so that some decided not to vote for Jennings. From The Herald Tribune:
"We're just glad it's all over," said Betty Beatty...
"They bugged us with their phone calls something terrible," said Betty, who voted for Buchanan because "with all her calls, Jennings, Jennings, Jennings, I wouldn't have voted for that woman if she were the only one running."
The NRCC's calls, you'll remember, began by saying something like "Hi, I'm calling with information about [the Democratic candidate]," then continued to give negative information about the candidate. They did not identify the true source of the calls until the very end, when they informed the listener (if he/she bothered to stay on the line until the end of the call), that the NRCC had paid for it. Voters reported being called again and again. A number of Democratic campaigns reported receiving complaints from voters who thought that the calls were coming from the Democrat, because of the calls' lead-in. We catalogued a number of the calls here.
Democrats have asked the FEC, FCC and Justice Department to probe the calls. DCCC spokesman Bill Burton told me that the Dems are still "committed to pursuing the issue of these calls" and are "discussing the next steps.... We are absolutely not letting this drop."
While the calls hit a number of close races, most worrying is that there are a number of extremely close races where they were a factor and the Democrat lost.
-- In New York's 25th District, Dan Maffei lost by less than 4,000 votes out of a total of more than 200,000. As this local news report shows, voters got repeat calls, leading many to think that they were being harrassed by the Maffei campaign. You can hear one of the calls here.
-- In Illinois' 6th District, Tammy Duckworth, who was the victim of the NRCC's robo call campaign (listen to a voter's glutted answering machine here), also lost by approximately 4,000 votes.
-- In Pennsylvania's 6th District, Lois Murphy lost by 3,000 votes. As the AP reported, her district was inundated by the calls.
And there's also Eric Massa, who narrowly lost in New York's 29th (less than 6,000 votes), Diane Farrell in Connecticut (down slightly more than 6,000), and Phillip Kellam in Virginia's 2nd (down less than 5,000 votes) -- all of whom were victims of the NRCC's robo call effort.
Md. Tactics Similar To Ones in 2002
By Matthew Mosk and Avis Thomas-Lester
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, November 13, 2006; B01
The six Trailways motorcoaches draped in Ehrlich and Steele campaign banners rumbled down Interstate 95 just before dawn on Election Day.
On board, 300 mostly poor African Americans from Philadelphia ate doughnuts, sipped coffee and prepared to spend the day at the Maryland polls. After an early morning greeting from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s wife, Kendel, they would fan out in white vans across Prince George's County and inner-city Baltimore, armed with thousands of fliers that appeared to be designed to trick black Democrats into voting for the two Republican candidates.
The glossy fliers bore photos of black Democratic leaders on the front. Under the headline "Democratic Sample Ballot" were boxes checked in red for Ehrlich and Senate candidate Michael S. Steele, who were not identified as Republicans. Their names were followed by a long list of local Democratic candidates.
Nearly a week later, a fuller picture has emerged about how the plan to capture blacks' votes unfolded -- details that suggest the fliers, and the people paid to distribute them, were not part of a hurry-up effort but a calculated strategy.
Republican leaders have defended the Election Day episode as an accepted element of bare-knuckle politics. But for many voters, it shattered in one day the nice-guy images Ehrlich and Steele had cultivated for years.
The plan to pass out the fliers in the heavily black precincts of Baltimore and Prince George's began to form in late October, when Malik Aziz, founder of the Ex-Offenders Association of Pennsylvania, said he received a phone call.
Aziz would not say who made the call. He initially said it came from actor Charles S. Dutton, a Steele supporter, but Dutton later denied this and Aziz retracted it.
Aziz said he's had a long association with Dutton, a reformed ex-offender who rose from Baltimore's tough streets to became an acclaimed television, film and stage actor and director. "I haven't talked to Malik Aziz in months," Dutton said last week.
Aziz said the caller asked him and his wife, Antoinette, to help Ehrlich and Steele find volunteers to do "poll work."
Antoinette Aziz said she recruited 300 people, many of them homeless or ex-offenders. "They need the work," she said.
She said representatives from the Maryland campaigns went to north Philadelphia last Monday night to speak with the workers at a recreation center. Darryl Preston, 32, was there and said several well-dressed men and women asked the crowd to consider "coming down for the day to work on a political campaign."
Each worker would receive three meals and $100 and would be picked up on buses and returned to the pickup location the same day.
"They said we'd be passing out fliers and talking to some people," Preston said. The workers were not told, he said, that they would be helping Republicans.
Several of those who agreed to go said they considered it a chance to make some much-needed money.
"I did this because I need a winter coat," said Mike Ducannon, 25. "I didn't have anything else to do and nobody else was offering me $100."
The next morning, they gathered at North Broad and West Oxford streets in north Philadelphia. The buses pulled out at 5 a.m.Recollections of 2002
This wasn't the first time Ehrlich and Steele had recruited poll workers this way. In 2002 -- when Ehrlich was campaigning to become Maryland's first Republican governor in a generation and Steele was his choice for lieutenant governor -- they bused in homeless people from the District to hand out literature at Prince George's precincts.
Three people were charged under a state statute that prohibited campaign workers from hiring people to work on Election Day. The statute was overturned in 2003, however, after attorneys argued that the law was an infringement on free speech, and the charges were dropped.
It also was not the first time Ehrlich and Steele had used fliers that some considered deceptive. U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D) still recalls arriving at a polling place in his Baltimore district during the 2002 governor's race and being handed a glossy flier.
"They handed me this big, beautiful piece of literature. It was better than any of the literature I have ever produced," Cummings recalled. "I said, 'Boy this is a wonderful photo.' There's my pastor, and [then-Housing and Urban Development Secretary] Mel Martinez, and [former Baltimore delegate] Tony Fulton and myself. Then I saw Ehrlich in the picture, and I saw the words and I said, 'Uh oh.' "
The words read, "Democrats for Ehrlich." Cummings was livid. He had been one of the most vocal supporters of Ehrlich's opponent, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D). He immediately went on talk radio to denounce it, recorded a message to voters and went on television.
But the incident was largely ignored, washed away by the bigger news that day: Ehrlich had won the election.
As governor, Ehrlich worked hard to foster a good-guy image -- starring in tourism ads in which he turned up unexpectedly at peoples' homes, offering to clip hedges and cut grass so they could vacation -- that masked accusations of bare-knuckle campaigning.
Asked midway through his term to address critics' accusations of dirty tricks, he brushed off the question, saying, "That's just silly stuff."
As the 2006 election approached, Ehrlich was locked in the political fight of his life. Polls showed him trailing O'Malley statewide, but more important, they showed the Democrat cutting into Ehrlich's suburban Baltimore base. Ehrlich acknowledged in interviews that he needed to find numbers elsewhere and one key target was black voters.
Two weeks before Election Day, Cummings began to worry about what might be coming. He fired off a letter to Ehrlich, dated Oct. 26. It went right to the point.
"In anticipation of the November 7, 2006, General Election," he stated, "I am writing to insist that neither you nor any group associated with your campaign use my picture on mailers or Election Day ballots."An Election Day Offensive
On the eve of this month's election, the mailers began landing in Prince George's mailboxes. One was a glossy red, black and green flier -- the colors that represent African American power -- sporting pictures of County Executive Jack B. Johnson, his predecessor, Wayne K. Curry and past NAACP president and former U.S. Senate candidate Kweisi Mfume.
Above the pictures of the three Democrats the flier read, "Ehrlich-Steele Democrats," and underneath it announced: "These are OUR Choices."
None of the three candidates had endorsed the governor, and only Curry had declared his support for Steele.
There were other fliers, too. A similar "Democratic" guide with Ehrlich's and Steele's photo on the front appeared in Baltimore. Another distributed in Baltimore County identified the Republican candidate for county executive as a Democrat.
An Ehrlich aide who agreed to discuss the strategy on the condition of anonymity said the purpose of the fliers was to peel away one or two percentage points in jurisdictions where the governor would be running behind. No one inside the campaign expected a strong reaction.
But that's what they got.
"This was so offensive, to so many people, they're not about to let this go," said state Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman.
Wayne Clarke, a political consultant hired by Ehrlich and Steele to help draw blacks' votes, said he would neither confirm nor deny whether he was involved in the Election Day episode. He said Lierman and other Democrats were "trying to make something out of nothing."
Just as Cummings had done four years earlier, Johnson denounced the mailer at a news conference and in a recorded call to residents. "It's untruthful. I'm offended by it, and I'm angry about it," he said at an Election Day rally.
But this time he was not alone. Democrat Barry Cyrus of Fort Washington was so incensed by the flier that he traveled to six different polling places to urge voters to ignore them.
Even many of the Philadelphia workers began to question the plan, saying they had no idea they were going to be misleading people. Many were upset, and some even appeared at a Democratic news conference to vent.
On the afternoon of Election Day, the state Democratic Party's attorney, Bruce Marcus, contacted his Republican counterpart to complain. The two took the matter before Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Ron Silkworth in a tense conference call. Marcus argued that the fliers were fraudulent and should be pulled from circulation. Ehrlich attorney David Hamilton argued that it was too late to take action and noted the fundamental free-speech issues at stake, according to Marcus.
By the time they finished, it was nearing 6 p.m. "The judge said, 'I'm not going to do it. It's too late,' " Marcus said.
A few hours later, the buses headed back north, with a weary group of poll workers starting to doze as they left Baltimore.
Antoinette Aziz, who rode with them, said she did not take umbrage with the day's work.
"With elections, you see a lot of trickery. With elections, you see a lot of deceptions," she said. "My whole objective was to get that population of people working. . . . Nobody was injured. Everybody got paid. Everybody was safe, and everybody was happy at the end of the day."
Staff writer Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.
by One Pissed Off Liberal
Or, the Impracticality of Duty, Honor, and Obligation
People who view the world through the prism of pragmatism remind me of those whose entire perspective is based upon science. Though I respect both pragmatism and science, neither is sufficient unto itself to form a complete worldview. Science dismisses anything that cannot be proved and pragmatism disregards anything that has value beyond its practicality, or lack thereof.
Love, arguably the highest reality of our lives, cannot be measured and does not therefore exist in strict scientific terms. If one truly rules out everything not strictly provable via the scientific method, one misses a great deal. The weakness of science finally, derives paradoxically from that which is also its strength, the fact that it is based upon skepticism and reductionism. With all due respect to science, who wants to live a life without love? That's why I argue that science is a subset of human knowledge, and not the whole ball of wax.
Pragmatism has similar blind spots and limitations. As useful as it is, it overlooks too much. It fails to recognize duty, honor and obligation for example, but also many other things.
It is fine and good that, as Democrats, we have expressed our intent to proceed in a pragmatic fashion, but let's not let our zealotry for practical solutions cause us to gloss over the harsh realities of our times. It is important that we face facts. Here are a few our society is resisting:
We've experienced two stolen Presidential elections, and our political system is rotten to the core. They tried to steal this election too; we just overwhelmed them with our numbers. Still, the election was rife with despicable behavior.
Our involvement in Iraq is not a war; it's a crime. Therefore it is not a thing to be won or completed; it is a thing to stopped or ended.
Our government has committed serious crimes, and there must be severe consequences to discourage future tyrants. Illegal invasions, torture, malfeasance and theft are all things that must be punished. And crimes have been committed against foreign governments, and foreign peoples, who are all entitled to their day in court. It is up to us to deliver it to them.
There are war crimes involved, and war crimes must always be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Otherwise we are placing an order for a future filled with war crimes. I do not wish such a future on my grandchildren or yours. It falls upon us to stop it.
We have no right to countenance these crimes, to dismiss these charges, or to pardon the culpable parties. Pelosi's pledge not to pursue impeachment is morally wrong. This is not a purely practical matter. We cannot ignore the enormous crimes against humanity that have been committed. If we do, we're saying that such crimes are allowable whenever punishing them is inconvenient. The future will rightly curse us for setting such a precedent.
So do we let Nancy have her way? Do the neocons get a pass for their ruthless take over of America? Do Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales et al walk away from the illegal invasion of Iraq, the torture, the theft, and all the rest? Are war crimes no longer prosecutable because it simply is not practical? If this is what comes to pass, I will be tempted to renounce my citizenship out of shame.
If they are allowed to get away with these horrendous crimes, it sets a precedent for which I do not want to be responsible. How many times in recent years have young Americans shaken their fists angrily at me and my generation demanding to know why we didn't stop the fascists back in the 60s and 70s so as to avoid the recent horrors?
The answer is we tried. We protested loudly, we marched in the streets, we were beaten, jailed, teargassed, and shot.
Only now can it be seen that we didn't try nearly hard enough. But at least we impeached Nixon. The closest the modern age has come to that is impeaching Clinton for a blowjob. I think maybe its time for me to shake my fist and demand to know what you are going to do to stop the fascist bastards for the sake of the future. If we didn't try nearly hard enough, you need to do much more than we did - NOT less. You can start by demanding the impeachment of the entire Bush administration, and their prosecution for war crimes.
If we allow war crimes to become acceptable, they will in short order become de riguere, in much the same way as has cheating and dishonesty in our government. We have allowed such lowlife behavior in American politics, that we've all but excluded decency from the process. That's why we have so few statesmen anymore; the majority of our politicians are all busy cheating like bastards to survive in the gutter. I'm disgusted by it, ashamed of it, and sick to death of those who condone it, rationalize it, or justify it. Cheating, lying, stealing, screwing the public behind closed doors - enough! It'll never stop until we put an end to it.
A (Partial) People's Indictment
* Illegal spying on the American people in violation of FISA and the Fourth Amendment, openly confessed to, openly promoted in signing statements, known to involve phone calls, phone records, internet use, library use, bank records, and observation of legal nonviolent activities.
* Illegal detentions in violation of the Fourth Amendment, International law, and U.S. Law.
* Rounding up of thousands of citizens and legal residents for detention or deportation.
* Torture, maintaining secret prisons, and extraordinary rendition, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, International Law, US Law, and openly promoted in signing statements and administration policy papers.
* Illegal aggressive war - in violation of international law, the U.S. Constitution which requires that the Congress declare war, and launched on the basis of feloniously misleading Congress and the American public.
* Use of a variety of illegal weapons.
* Illegal targeting of civilians, journalists, and hospitals.
* Illegal seizure of another nation's resources.
* Illegal use of funds in Iraq that had been appropriated for Afghanistan.
* Leaking of classified information in order to mislead the Congress and the public, and in order to punish truth tellers.
* Leaking of identity of an undercover agent.
* Retribution against whistleblowers.
* Use of signing statements to negate 750 laws passed by Congress.
* Production of phony news reports at home and abroad.
* Dereliction of duty in neglecting global warming, hurricanes, hunger, AIDS, and warnings of 9-11 attacks.
* Facilitating Israel's attacks on Lebanon.
* Obstruction of investigations by Congress, the 9-11 Commission, and Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.
* Stealing elections.
* The murder of innocents in the tens of thousands.
There are such things finally as duty, honor, and obligation. It is our duty to restore our honor as a society and as a nation, to clean up our politics, to satisfy our obligations to the world, and to redress the wrongs committed by our own criminal government. We are responsible for doing this. This is our solemn duty. It is more important than anything.
by Glenn Greenwald
When Russ Feingold announced
in March that he would introduce a resolution to censure President Bush for breaking the law by eavesdropping on Americans without warrants, a clear two-pronged consensus immediately arose among Beltway pundits and politicians -- including Republicans and many Democrats as well:
(1) Feingold had just disastrously handed a huge "gift" to Republicans, because opposition to Bush's warrantless eavesdropping would doom the Democrats politically, and,
(2) Feingold had introduced this resolution not
because he really believed anything he was saying about it, but only as a "political stunt," selfishly designed to advance his own political interests (at the expense of his party) by shoring up the "liberal base" for his 2008 presidential run.
As for premise (1), Democrats spent all year opposing warrantless eavesdropping (mostly mild and reluctant opposition, though in some cases passionate). That opposition culminated in a House vote just 6 weeks before the election where 85% of Democrats voted against a bill
to legalize warrantless eavesdropping.
Thereafter, Republicans did everything possible to make that an issue in the campaign, and Democrats just crushed Republicans in the election. As but one example, 12-term GOP incumbent Nancy Johnson made her support for warrantless eavesdropping (and her challenger's opposition to it) a centerpiece of her campaign
. She was easily defeated.
As for premise (2), Russ Feingold announced today
, definitively, that he is not running for President in 2008.
It is hard to overstate how ignorant and wrong Beltway pundits are about everything, and how barren and corrupt inside-Washington conventional wisdom is.
Russ Feingold has spent his entire idiosyncratic political career espousing views because he believes them
, even when those views are so plainly contrary to his political interests. He infuriated his entire party by being the only Democratic Senator
to vote against dismissal of the Clinton impeachment charges prior to the Senate trial. He pursued campaign finance reform hated by incumbents in both parties.
And in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, he seemed to be the only elected official immune from irrational pressures, as he not only was the only Senator to vote against the "Patriot Act," but was also the only Senator who refused to blindly pledge his loyalty to limitless presidential power, emphasizing
on the Senate floor as early as September 14, 2001
Like any legislation, this resolution [authorizing military force in Afghanistan and against Al Qaeda] is not perfect. I have some concern that readers may misinterpret the preamble language that the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism as a new grant of power; rather it is merely a statement that the President has existing constitutional powers . . . .
Congress owns the war power. But by this resolution, Congress loans it to the President in this emergency. In so doing, we demonstrate our respect and confidence in both our Commander in Chief and our Constitution. . . .
Our response will be judged by friends and foes, by history, and by ourselves. It must stand up to the highest level of scrutiny: It must be appropriate and constitutional.
Within this confusing scenario, it will be easy to point fingers at an ever increasing number of enemies, to believe that the ``the enemy'' is all around us, that the enemy may even be our neighbor. The target can seem to grow larger and larger every day, before the first strike even occurs. And this, of course, is exactly what the terrorists want. They seek to inflate their numbers and their influence by retreating into the shadows. They seek to turn us against each other, and to turn us against our friends and allies across the world, but we will not allow this to happen.
Despite all of that, when Feingold stood up and advocated censure -- based on the truly radical and crazy, far leftist premise that when the President is caught red-handed
breaking the law, the Congress should actually do something about that -- the soul-less, oh-so-sophisticated Beltway geniuses could not even contemplate the possibility that he was doing that because he believed what he was saying.
Beltway pundits and the leaders of the Beltway political and consulting classes all, in unison, immediately began casting aspersions on Feingold's motives and laughed away -- really never considered -- the idea that he was motivated by actual belief, let alone the merits of his proposal.
That's because they
believe in nothing. They have no passion about anything. And they thus assume that everyone else suffers from the same emptiness of character and ossified cynicism that plagues them. And all of their punditry and analysis and political strategizing flows from this corrupt root.
Not only do they believe in nothing, they think that a Belief in Nothing is a mark of sophistication and wisdom. Those who believe in things too much
-- who display political passion or who take their convictions and ideals seriously (Feingold, Howard Dean) -- are either naive or, worse, are the crazy, irrational, loudmouth masses and radicals who disrupt the elevated, measured world of the high-level, dispassionate Beltway sophisticates (James Carville, David Broder, Fred Hiatt). They are interested in, even obsessed with, every aspect of the political process except for
deeply held political beliefs -- the only part that really matters or that has any real worth.
For that reason, when Feingold announced his censure resolution, the merits of it were virtually ignored (i.e.
, should something actually be done about the President's deliberate lawbreaking? What are the consequences for our country for doing nothing?). Instead, Feingold's announcement was immediately cast as a disingenuous political maneuver and discussed only in cynical terms of how it would politically harm the Democrats.
This was the first line of the AP article
on Feingold's resolution:
While only two Democrats in the Senate have embraced Sen. Russ Feingold's call for censuring President Bush, the idea is increasing his standing among many Democratic voters as he ponders a bid for the party's presidential nomination in 2008. . . .
And as is so often the case, Beltway Republicans and Democrats
worked in tandem with this cynical, substance-less storyline -- because it's how they all really think. Thus, the Post reported that
Republicans "denounced the censure resolution as a political stunt by an ambitious lawmaker positioning himself to run for president in 2008."
Many Democrats (though not all), petrified by Feingold's stand, made the same accusation. As David Limbaugh gleefully recounted
Feingold's move is not one of moral courage, but raw political ambition. In the words of Democratic senator Mark Dayton, Feingold's move is "an overreaching step by someone who is grandstanding and running for president at the expense of his own party and his own country."
And the AP article
also reported this:
"This is such a gift," Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show. The National Review came to the same conclusion. In an online editorial titled, "Feingold's Gift to the GOP," the conservative magazine wrote that Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman would hug Feingold if given the chance.
Marshall Wittmann insisted
that Feingold was dooming the Democrats and if Democrats didn't drop the whole issue of warrantless eavesdropping, it would ensure GOP victory:
The Moose avers that Russ Feingold is the GOP's man of the hour. . . . . Here is the bottom line - the American people are not going to penalize the President for being overly zealous in preventing a destruction of an American city. That is what the Republicans know and they are gleeful about a debate on this issue. And they are co-dependent on the Democratic left to keep this issue alive.
And then there was this most wretched column
by Eleanor Clift, vividly echoing all of those brilliant Beltway insights with one textbook case study on how our Beltway political class, across the board, "thinks":
Republicans finally had something to celebrate this week when Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold called for censuring George W. Bush. Democrats must have a death wish. Just when the momentum was going against the president, Feingold pops up to toss the GOP a life raft.
It’s brilliant strategy for him, a dark horse presidential candidate carving out a niche to the left of Hillary Clinton. . . . . There is a vacuum in the heart of the party’s base that Feingold fills, but at what cost? . . . .
The broader public sees it as political extremism. Just when the Republicans looked like they were coming unhinged, the Democrats serve up a refresher course on why they can’t be trusted with the keys to the country.
[The same thing happened when Feingold announced that he favors same-sex marriages. He can't possibly be motivated by actual belief, so AP tells us why
he really did it: "Sen. Russ Feingold, a potential presidential candidate, said Tuesday he supports giving gays and lesbians the right to marry, again positioning himself to the left of possible 2008 rivals."]
All of this Beltway certainty about the motives of Feingold's Censure Resolution and the political consequences of it could not have been any more wrong. Feingold obviously hadn't decided to run for President and apparently wasn't planning on it. And 2006 saw endless controversy over the NSA program -- from hearings to court cases to Feingold's resolution to a final House vote in which Democrats overwhelmingly opposed the President's NSA program -- and Americans stomped on the Republicans and put the Democrats in power.
The Beltway pundit class and the premises which generate conventional Washington wisdom are corrupt to their core and always wrong. And this Feingold announcement illustrates a major reason why that it so. They operate from a set of completely unexamined, empty premises that reflect their own character and belief system, but nobody else's.
They have no core convictions and no passion and think that those attributes are the marks of sober, responsible people. And they project those character flaws onto everyone else and assume that nobody other than unserious lunatics are motivated by real belief.
All of that combines to produce a worldview that is as inaccurate as it is bereft of integrity and principle. The excitement over new politicians like Jim Webb and Jon Tester -- and the passion inspired by Russ Feingold and even Howard Dean -- has nothing to do with long-standing and increasingly obsolete liberal/conservative stereotypes (the only prism through which the media can analyze the election results, which is why they are so confused). Instead, the excitement is due to a widespread hunger for people who are outside of and immune to the entire, soul-less Beltway machinery -- a system which, in every aspect, is broken and empty at its core.UPDATE
: One of the best/worst examples of this emptiness comes, unsurprisingly, from The New Republic
, courtesy of Ryan Lizza, who chortled
at the political stupidity of Feingold's censure resolution but -- of course -- knew exactly why Feingold was doing it (h/t Michael
Feingold is mystified by the reaction. Democrats, he said this week, are "cowering with this president's numbers so low." The liberal blogosphere, aghast at how wimpy Democrats are being, has risen up in a chorus of outrage: . . . .
The nature of the split is obvious. Feingold is thinking about 2008. Harry Reid, Charles Schumer, and other Democrats are thinking about 2006. Feingold cares about wooing the anti-Bush donor base on the web and putting some of his '08 rivals--Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Evan Bayh--in uncomfortable positions. Reid and Schumer care about winning the six seats it will take for Democrats to win control of the Senate . . . .
So the partisans on the left cheering Feingold appear to have both the policy and the politics wrong. Censure is meaningless. Changing the FISA law is the way to address Bush's overreach. And the only way for Democrats to change FISA is for them to take back the Senate. This week, Feingold's censure petition has made that goal just a little bit more difficult to achieve. What an ass.
So knowing and sophisticated. So wise and insightful to the hard-core political realities. Always above the lowly impassioned masses and their misguided, simplistic notions (such as the belief that there should be consequences for presidential lawbreaking -- how excitable and stupid that is). TNR
is always so cleverly restrained and calculating.
And the stupid liberal blogosphere -- cheering on Feingold's stand against the President. As though that's
about anything other than Feingold's '08 presidential run. How "obvious" that is.
And all of that is to say nothing about the complete incoherence of Lizza's "argument." How could "changing FISA" -- what Lizza calls "the way to address Bush's overreach" -- possibly be a solution to the president's lawbreaking when the whole point is that the President claims he has no obligation to comply with FISA because Congress can't limit his eavesdropping activities?
Censure was the only way (short of impeachment) for Congress to force the President to comply with the law and to express its objections to the President's lawbreaking. "Changing FISA" was -- and still is -- a complete non-sequitur to the President's conduct, which is based on the premise that FISA (like all laws that limit the President's conduct concerning national security) is a nullity. But to Lizza, that's the more moderate, passionless and less disruptive course. Therefore, by definition, it's the best one -- the only one that responsible and sophisticated political experts like him would ever consider.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
by Paul Rosenberg
Ever since the Bush regime began noticeably sputtering near the beginning of its second term, a growing chorus of conservative voices has grown increasingly distressed, and as it has seemed that Bush's failures would come to tar an entire movement, the cry has increasingly gone forth that Bush is not a "true conservative." There is a problem in that claim, of course: it was not Bush alone, but his entire Administration, and the Republican majority in Congress, and at times a majority of conservative court appointees as well who were jointly responsible for the increasingly disastrous direction that the country has taken. If Bush was not a "true conservative," then neither, one would think, were any of the other major players in the conservative movement of the past 30-plus years.
Or is it?
The rhetoric of "personal responsibility" has never applied to movement conservatives themselves. It's always been for other people. The same is true of "fiscal conservatism"--no one can unbalance a budget like Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes, but let a Democrat, like Bill Clinton, take the helm, and watch out! Fiscal conservatism is back with a vengeance. Judicial restraint is similarly "for liberals only," as a study of Supreme Court decisions showed the conservatives far more willing to overturn laws than their moderate brethren (rhetoric aside, there are no true liberals left on the court.) Conservatives have not lived up to their rhetoric in a long, long time.
But aside from such signature rallying cries, there is something much deeper going on, something not merely of the moment, or even of a generation, but something fundamental about the very essence of the liberal project and the conservative opposition over the past 500 years. Throughout this period--and one can go back even further, to the Italian Renaissance--conservatives have attacked liberals for undermining the established social order. Liberals, of course, have not seen things that way--with rare, but important exceptions, such as overthrowing the established social order of British colonial rule over the American colonies, or overthrowing the established social order of slavery.
Generally, however, liberals have cared less about the social order, and more about people themselves; and for this reason they have not generally engaged in directly countering the conservative critique. This is quite understandable, really. For conservatives, the social order is much more real than individual people are. For liberals, the reverse is true. And both sides naturally express themselves in terms of what is most real to them.
Yet, in doing so, liberals have made a significant mistake, for the liberal philosophy is actually far superior to conservative alternatives when it comes to a number of key conservative ideals. For example, liberalism is superior in preserving social order and harmony in a dynamically changing, and diverse world--a world in which traditional structures commonly fail, causing widespread chaos and strife. Liberalism is not the cause of such change--as conservatives commonly allege--but rather its facilitator, providing means of managing change so intense that it would otherwise tear societies apart. A prime example is the idea of a modern secular state has proven fundamentally important in putting an end to religious wars, which otherwise threaten perpetual strife.
Of course, liberal ideas do encourage individuals to live their own lives, and claim autonomy, rather then defer blindly to tradition, and to this extent--in a wide array of situations--liberalism certainly does promote change, rather than social stability. But promoting change is not the same as causing it, and a view that is solely based on individuals cannot comprehend the larger forces of history into which individuals are born.
There is nothing new in the human desire for autonomy, nor in rebellion against the dead hand of the past. What is new--as of about 500 years ago--is the pace of historical change, driven by trade, technology and population growth... not political philosophy.
Although liberalism and conservatism have taken various different forms in different lands at different times, there are at least two core constants that seem to endure: (1) Liberals favor broad social equality, while conservatives favor hierarchy. (2) Liberals favor social progress--expanding social equality--while conservatives favor the status quo, in the form of existing hierarchies, or even arguing for a return to earlier times, when they fear existing hierarchies are themselves corrupt.
As wave after wave of liberal reform has established new sorts of rights and/or rights holders, conservative ideology has been reconfigured to normalize what it previously had denounced as socially destructive--religious freedom, competitive markets, free speech, democracy, racial equality, etc. Thus, conservative ideology is riven with deep discontinuities, papered over by apologists and rhetoricians--explaining away past support for slavery and segregation, for example--while liberalism has a fundamental continuity to it, with changes consisting of pragmatic adjustments to new situations and challenges, or to recognizing and redressing previous contradictions.
In the Washington Monthly last summer, Alan Wolfe wrote an article, "Why Conservatives Can't Govern" that summarized the conservative's historical dilemma in America:
Odd men out in America's liberal political culture, America's conservatives were never very unified. Alexander Hamilton and John Marshall wanted to see a strong national government created to improve America's economic prospects, even if they retained an aristocratic sense that only social superiors should control that government. (John Adams outdid them on behalf of a strong executive; he thought our first president should be addressed as a monarch). But this kind of New England Federalism would go into abeyance once America's democratizing forces were unleashed. Others insisted that this country should embody timeless Christian principles; they, however, soon ran up against the skepticism of the Founding Fathers and conceptions of religious liberty associated with dissenting Protestantism. With the decline of both, the only significant conservatism left would come from defenders of slavery such as John C. Calhoun. Once the advocate of a strong national government, Calhoun, putting the rights of slaveholders first, viewed this country as a compact among states, not as a unified society. His ideas would live on in the voices of those thinkers, primarily Southern, who objected to relying on national power to promote equal rights for all.
As this litany of lost causes suggests, our conservatives, while representing different regions and economic interests, were united by their irrelevance in the face of history. If the term reactionary is too pejorative, let's call them reactive. In this entrepreneurial, mobile, innovative, and individualistic country, conservatism was constantly on the defensive, aiming to preserve things--deference, reverence, and diffidence, to name three--that most Americans were anxious to shed. Deprived of both a church and state to defend, American conservatives became advocates for privileges determined by birth, suffrage restricted to an elite, and rural virtues over urban realities.
And so conservatives faced a dilemma from the moment the first shots were heard around the world. They could be true to their ideals and stand on the sidelines of political power. Or they could adjust their principles in the interests of political realism and thus negate the essential conservative teaching that principles are meant to be timeless. All the conservatives that played any role in America's history since the age of Jackson chose political relevance over ideological purity.
The Whigs abandoned aristocracy to nominate a popular military leader in the 1840s, hoping thereby to out-democratize the Jacksonians. An emerging business elite defended the free market--an 18th-century liberal innovation detested by agrarian-oriented conservatives--to protect the very kind of privileges that Adam Smith hoped the free market would curtail. Isolationists abandoned the cosmopolitanism of Hamilton, perhaps America's greatest conservative, for a populistic nativism suspicious of worldly grandeur. Clergy from evangelical churches played down such depressing doctrines as original sin and predestination in favor of the wonders of salvation for all. European conservatism had defended authority against liberty and social standing against equality. American conservatives used the language of liberty to justify inequality and promoted democracy to stand against change.
A conservative in America, in short, is someone who advocates ends that cannot be realized through means that can never be justified, at least not on the terrain of conservatism itself. In the past, the ends sought were the preservation of hierarchy, even if the means included appeals to democratic sentiment. In more recent times, conservatives promised order and stability through means dependent upon the uncertainties and insecurities of the market.
The great irony here is that America is the
most modernist, individualist, change-oriented country over the course of the last 200+ years, but it has produced what is now the most reactionary form of ruling conservatism. The irony is only apparent, however. It is precisely because
practically work in America that it takes on such fantastical, reality-denying forms. And when it fails--as it inevitably must--the self-anointed "true conservatives" will say that it failed because it was not pure enough, by which they mean it was not sufficiently divorced from reality.
About the current incarnation, Wolfe writes:
Contemporary conservatism is first and foremost about shrinking the size and reach of the federal government. This mission, let us be clear, is an ideological one. It does not emerge out of an attempt to solve real-world problems, such as managing increasing deficits or finding revenue to pay for entitlements built into the structure of federal legislation. It stems, rather, from the libertarian conviction, repeated endlessly by George W. Bush, that the money government collects in order to carry out its business properly belongs to the people themselves. One thought, and one thought only, guided Bush and his Republican allies since they assumed power in the wake of Bush vs. Gore: taxes must be cut, and the more they are cut--especially in ways benefiting the rich--the better.
The problem was, once they got into office, people wanted them to do
something with government. Conservative ideology notwithstanding, it's what government is for:
Unable to shrink government but unwilling to improve it, conservatives attempt to split the difference, expanding government for political gain, but always in ways that validate their disregard for the very thing they are expanding. The end result is not just bigger government, but more incompetent government....
If government is necessary, bad government, at least for conservatives, is inevitable, and conservatives have been exceptionally good at showing just how bad it can be. Hence the truth revealed by the Bush years: Bad government--indeed, bloated, inefficient, corrupt, and unfair government--is the only kind of conservative government there is. Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are not likely to do it very well.
What's more, there is a form of historical inevitability about this:
The conservative vision of the world, because it is so hostile to government when government is so essential to the way we live now, remains unattractive to most Americans, which is why Republicans must rely on money to substitute for the large popular majorities they are unable to build and sustain. The idea that it could have been, or can be, different is a fantasy. A New England-based, patrician-oriented conservatism which insists on the importance of impersonal standards of high public conduct is as irrelevant in today's political economy as a Southern-style, gentlemanly conservatism that emphasizes chivalry and honor. The cavaliers and Mugwumps are long-gone from conservatism, and the Duke Cunninghams have replaced them.
For all this, however, conservatism is not
wholly irrelevant. If the conservative answers have repeatedly been wrong for America, the conservative questions have not--at least some of them. The question of how to preserve social order is a valid and important one, even if the question of how you keep blacks, women, immigrants, gays, Jews, etc. in their place is not. And it is in this sense--where conservatives have been most
correct--that liberalism has shown itself to be far superior in answering the questions:
- You preserve social order by including the so-called "undesirables." You grant them the dignity they deserve, simply by being human, and they proceed to act with dignity. It's as simple as that. (You think gays are hedonistic narcissists utterly destructive to social order? Then recognize their right to marry. And stop treating them like second-class citizens.)
- You preserve religion's place as a polestar in people's lives, precisely by keeping it separate from the vagaries of politics, in which change is the only constant, and compromise a guiding principle. You render unto God that which is God, and unto Cesaer that which is Cesaer's.
- You preserve the integrity of local communities and their institutions by engaging the power of state and national government to deal with problems that are too large for them to handle, that would twist and distort--if not utterly break them, if they were left to stand alone.
- You maintain historical continuity, and respect for the nation's traditions by rethinking both in the light of new experience, and the experience of new Americans. Self-reinvention is our most hallowed tradition.
- You command respect for authority by exercising authority with respect for the people, who are the only legitimate source of authority.
- You preserve the highest levels of personal morality first by granting people the freedom to discover its logic for themselves, and embrace it as their own freely chosen commitment, and second by insisting on the public morality of a just and equitable social order.
In short, you deliver the most legitimate desiderata
of conservatism by embracing the practices, policies and ideals of liberalism.
Liberals are the true conservatives. And this fact--fully and consciously assimilated by liberals themselves--is perhaps the surest foundation on which a new and lasting governing liberal majority can be built in America today.