Saturday, May 26, 2007
Dear Democratic Leadership in Congress....
The Congress shall have power....
To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;
To provide and maintain a navy;
To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
Article I Section 8 of the United States Constitution.
Friday, May 25, 2007
This is, in fact, a comment about… betrayal.
Few men or women elected in our history—whether executive or legislative, state or national—have been sent into office with a mandate more obvious, nor instructions more clear:
Get us out of Iraq.Yet after six months of preparation and execution—half a year gathering the strands of public support; translating into action, the collective will of the nearly 70 percent of Americans who reject this War of Lies, the Democrats have managed only this:
- The Democratic leadership has surrendered to a president—if not the worst president, then easily the most selfish, in our history—who happily blackmails his own people, and uses his own military personnel as hostages to his asinine demand, that the Democrats “give the troops their money”;
- The Democratic leadership has agreed to finance the deaths of Americans in a war that has only reduced the security of Americans;
- The Democratic leadership has given Mr. Bush all that he wanted, with the only caveat being, not merely meaningless symbolism about benchmarks for the Iraqi government, but optional meaningless symbolism about benchmarks for the Iraqi government.
- The Democratic leadership has, in sum, claimed a compromise with the Administration, in which the only things truly compromised, are the trust of the voters, the ethics of the Democrats, and the lives of our brave, and doomed, friends, and family, in Iraq.
You, the men and women elected with the simplest of directions—Stop The War—have traded your strength, your bargaining position, and the uniform support of those who elected you… for a handful of magic beans.
You may trot out every political cliché from the soft-soap, inside-the-beltway dictionary of boilerplate sound bites, about how this is the “beginning of the end” of Mr. Bush’s “carte blanche” in Iraq, about how this is a “first step.”
Well, Senator Reid, the only end at its beginning... is our collective hope that you and your colleagues would do what is right, what is essential, what you were each elected and re-elected to do.
Because this “first step”… is a step right off a cliff.
And this President!
How shameful it would be to watch an adult... hold his breath, and threaten to continue to do so, until he turned blue.
But how horrifying it is… to watch a President hold his breath and threaten to continue to do so, until innocent and patriotic Americans in harm’s way, are bled white.
You lead this country, sir?
You claim to defend it?
And yet when faced with the prospect of someone calling you on your stubbornness—your stubbornness which has cost 3,431 Americans their lives and thousands more their limbs—you, Mr. Bush, imply that if the Democrats don’t give you the money and give it to you entirely on your terms, the troops in Iraq will be stranded, or forced to serve longer, or have to throw bullets at the enemy with their bare hands.
How transcendentally, how historically, pathetic.
Any other president from any other moment in the panorama of our history would have, at the outset of this tawdry game of political chicken, declared that no matter what the other political side did, he would insure personally—first, last and always—that the troops would not suffer.
A President, Mr. Bush, uses the carte blanche he has already, not to manipulate an overlap of arriving and departing Brigades into a ‘second surge,’ but to say in unequivocal terms that if it takes every last dime of the monies already allocated, if it takes reneging on government contracts with Halliburton, he will make sure the troops are safe—even if the only safety to be found, is in getting them the hell out of there.
Well, any true President would have done that, Sir.
You instead, used our troops as political pawns, then blamed the Democrats when you did so.
Not that these Democrats, who had this country’s support and sympathy up until 48 hours ago, have not since earned all the blame they can carry home.
“We seem to be very near the bleak choice between war and shame,” Winston Churchill wrote to Lord Moyne in the days after the British signed the Munich accords with Germany in 1938. “My feeling is that we shall choose shame, and then have war thrown in, a little later…”
That’s what this is for the Democrats, isn’t it?
Their “Neville Chamberlain moment” before the Second World War.
All that’s missing is the landing at the airport, with the blinkered leader waving a piece of paper which he naively thought would guarantee “peace in our time,” but which his opponent would ignore with deceit.
The Democrats have merely streamlined the process.
Their piece of paper already says Mr. Bush can ignore it, with impugnity.
And where are the Democratic presidential hopefuls this evening?
See they not, that to which the Senate and House leadership has blinded itself?
Judging these candidates based on how they voted on the original Iraq authorization, or waiting for apologies for those votes, is ancient history now.
The Democratic nomination is likely to be decided... tomorrow.
The talk of practical politics, the buying into of the President’s dishonest construction “fund-the-troops-or-they-will-be-in-jeopardy,” the promise of tougher action in September, is falling not on deaf ears, but rather falling on Americans who already told you what to do, and now perceive your ears as closed to practical politics.
Those who seek the Democratic nomination need to—for their own political futures and, with a thousand times more solemnity and importance, for the individual futures of our troops—denounce this betrayal, vote against it, and, if need be, unseat Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi if they continue down this path of guilty, fatal acquiescence to the tragically misguided will of a monomaniacal president.
For, ultimately, at this hour, the entire government has failed us.
- Mr. Reid, Mr. Hoyer, and the other Democrats... have failed us.
They negotiated away that which they did not own, but had only been entrusted by us to protect: our collective will as the citizens of this country, that this brazen War of Lies be ended as rapidly and safely as possible.
- Mr. Bush and his government... have failed us.
They have behaved venomously and without dignity—of course.
That is all at which Mr. Bush is gifted.
We are the ones providing any element of surprise or shock here.
With the exception of Senator Dodd and Senator Edwards, the Democratic presidential candidates have (so far at least) failed us.
They must now speak, and make plain how they view what has been given away to Mr. Bush, and what is yet to be given away tomorrow, and in the thousand tomorrows to come.
Because for the next fourteen months, the Democratic nominating process—indeed the whole of our political discourse until further notice—has, with the stroke of a cursed pen, become about one thing, and one thing alone.
The electorate figured this out, six months ago.
The President and the Republicans have not—doubtless will not.
The Democrats will figure it out, during the Memorial Day recess, when they go home and many of those who elected them will politely suggest they stay there—and permanently.
Because, on the subject of Iraq...
The people have been ahead of the media....
Ahead of the government...
Ahead of the politicians...
For the last year, or two years, or maybe three.
Our politics... is now about the answer to one briefly-worded question.
Mr. Bush has failed.
Mr. Warner has failed.
Mr. Reid has failed.
Who among us will stop this war—this War of Lies?
To he or she, fall the figurative keys to the nation.
To all the others—presidents and majority leaders and candidates and rank-and-file Congressmen and Senators of either party—there is only blame… for this shameful, and bi-partisan, betrayal.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
The Rise of the Dick Cheney Democrats
Today is the day House Democrats are expected to vote on Iraq - except, news out of Washington this morning says the leadership has come up with a nifty little trick to try to prevent the public from seeing who voted for giving Bush a blank check, and who voted against it. If you thought Democrats were behaving like cowards by caving into a President at a three-decade low in presidential polling and giving him the very blank check they explicitly promised not to give him during the 2006 election, you ain't seen nothing yet. We are watching the rise of the Dick Cheney Democrats - that is, the rise of Democrats who endorse governing in secret and hiding the public's business from the public itself.
Here's how it is expected to work today in a process only Dick Cheney could love (though you never know - it could change at the last minute). Every bill comes to the House floor with what is known as a "rule" that sets the terms of the debate over the legislation in question. House members first vote to approve this parliamentary rule, and then vote on the legislation. Today, however, Democrats are planning to essentially include the Iraq blank check bill IN the rule itself, by making sure the underlying bill the rule brings to the floor includes no timelines for withdrawal, and that the rule only allows amendments that fund the war with no restrictions - blank check amendments that House Democratic leaders know Republicans will have the votes to pass.
This means that when the public goes to look for the real vote on the Iraq supplemental bill, the public won't find that. All we will find is a complex parliamentary procedure vote, which was the real vote. Democratic lawmakers, of course, will use the Memorial Day recess to tell their angry constituents they really are using all of their power to end the war, that they voted against the Republican blank check amendment which the rule deliberately propels, and that the vote on the rule - which was the real vote for war - wasn't really the important vote, when, in fact, they know very well it is the biggest vote on the war since original 2002 authorization for the invasion. It is a devious, deliberately confusing cherry on top of the manure sundae being served up to the American public, which voted Democrats into office on the premise that they would use their congressional majority to end the war. To read more on these deliberately complex machinations, see Congressional Quarterly's piece just out on the web.
All of this is happening at the time top Republican leaders are making ever more sociopathic statements at odds with mainstream public opinion. Today, as just one example, House Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (R-FL) cheered on the blank check, telling Roll Call that "You drop Murtha [troop readiness standards], you drop withdrawal, the troops win." He doesn't explain how popular proposals to better equip and train American soldiers for combat and force the Bush administration to come up with a plan for redeploying troops out of harms way means "troops win."
If this secretive behavior seems familiar, it should. You may recall that in the past two weeks, the same Democratic leadership that is now trying to hide its votes on Iraq negotiated a secret free trade deal with the White House, steamrolling its other key Election 2006 pledge to stop lobbyist-written trade policy. The legislative texts of the trade pacts in question remain concealed from the public, though K Street lobbyists have told reporters they have received "assurances" that any of the much-touted provisions that purport to protect labor and the environment will be written to be unenforceable.
Not surprisingly, Democrats are reacting to questions about why they are trying to secretly defy the will of the public and disrespecting their Election 2006 campaign in the same way they always do: Like wailing infants. Last week, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) took to PBS to lace into critics of the secret trade deal he negotiated, saying he should have "ignored" his own Democratic colleagues raising questions because they are "wasting my time."
On the war, same thing. Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL), for instance, today criticized Moveon.org in Roll Call newspaper for asking Democrats to vote down the blank check proposal, saying "I would urge MoveOn and others to recognize that the person who is extending this war is George Bush." This is the same Artur Davis who whined to reporters that it was "unfortunate" he was exposed for taking thousands of dollars of credit card industry cash in exchange for his support for the credit card-industry written Bankruptcy Bill in 2005.
But, then, Davis is trying to pull the same kind of rhetorical trick that so many other Democrats pull: Attempting to make us believe they are merely innocent bystanders, and that there isn't that document known as the "Constitution" that gives Congress the power of the purse over George Bush. We're all just supposed to be totally psyched that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) says she is unhappy that this is all happening, even though Pelosi is simultaneously using her power to schedule this vote, and set it up in a way so as to hide it from the public. She would have us believe that September will be "really the moment of truth for this war," as Congressional Quarterly quotes her saying - as if it's no big deal that more troops will die because she and her colleagues are willing to drag their feet from the comfortable guarded confines of the U.S. Capitol. We're all just supposed to wildly applaud when Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) goes on national television to say that the bill they are pushing is "the beginning of the end of the president's policy in Iraq" - we're not supposed to know that he and his colleagues stripped out the timelines for withdrawal and even stripped out waivable troop readiness standards.
The good news is that the public is getting smart, and the traditional media's monopoly on news - which often means we don't actually get the real news - is ending. Today, it is more difficult than ever for politicians to go the Dick Cheney Energy Task Force route by trying to hide their shenanigans from public view. Democratic leaders, try as they might to negotiate secret NAFTA-style trade deals and use parliamentary pirouettes to hide votes on the Iraq War, aren't fooling anyone. And come 2008, they will be held to account.
I'll do an update on the Iraq vote over at Working Assets later today when/if it happens. If you are watching C-SPAN, make sure to carefully watch the vote on the rule. All the Republicans will likely vote no - they want an open debate because they somehow think reiterating to America their steadfast support for the Iraq War is good politics. You are going to see a lot of Democrats stand up and berate the war, and say they really are voting against funding the war because they are voting against the predetermined Republican amendment. Yet, most of these Democrats will likely vote for the rule, which is the real vote for war. Democrats voting yes on the rule are the ones who are casting their vote to give President Bush a blank check.
Remember, all we need is 20 Democrats to vote no on the rule to send the bill down and start over. If that doesn't happen, then the question becomes which U.S. Senator is going to answer the "where's the beef?" question by putting their antiwar rhetoric into action by pulling an old-school, read-the-phonebook filibuster? Sens. Chris Dodd, John Kerry, Bernie Sanders and Russ Feingold seem to be girding for a big fight, while the Associated Press reports both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama "declined" to take a position. Will we see a real filibuster, or will we see capitulation in the upper chamber? Stay tuned.
In a damaging revelation made late in her testimony today, Monica Goodling disclosed that right before she took a leave of absence from the Department of Justice, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales personally attempted to shape her future testimony to Congress about the U.S. attorney purge.
Describing it as an “uncomfortable” conversation, Goodling claimed that in a personal meeting with Gonzales, he “laid out for me his general recollection…of some of the process…regarding the replacement of the U.S. attorneys.” After he had “laid out a little bit of it,” Gonzales asked Goodling if she “had any reaction to his iteration.” She then added:
Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) asked her if she felt the Attorney General was trying to “shape your recollection,” to which she replied “no.” But Goodling acknowledged she was “uncomfortable” with the conversation.
I remember thinking at that point that this was something that we were all going to have to talk about, and I didn’t know that it was — I just — I didn’t know that it was maybe appropriate for us to talk about that at that point.
Gonzales’ conversation with Goodling took place on either March 14th or 15th, a week after “the House Judiciary Committee requested that Goodling testify before the committee.” Goodling’s testimony indicates that the Attorney General may have crossed “into a borderline area of coaching a likely witness before the eventual testimony.” More importantly, Gonzales’ attempts to coach a witness could potentially be viewed as an obstruction of justice. Here’s 18 USC section 1505:
Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede…the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress–
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
Yet another example of why there is “no confidence” in Alberto Gonzales.
GOODLING: I had decided that I couldn’t continue working on his staff because of the circumstances. I felt that I was somewhat paralyzed. I just felt like I — I was distraught. And I felt that I wanted to make a transfer.
So I went back to ask him if it would be possible for me to transfer out of his office. He said that he would need to think about that. And I think he was, you know, trying to, you know, just trying to chat. I was on his staff. But he then proceeded to say, Let me tell you what I can remember. And he kind of — he laid out for me his general recollection of…
DAVIS: Recollection of what, Ms. Goodling?
GOODLING: Of some of the process. DAVIS: Some of the process regarding what?
GOODLING: Some of the process regarding the replacement of the U.S. attorneys. And he — he just — he laid out a little bit of it, and then he asked me if he thought — if I had any reaction to his iteration.
And I remember thinking at that point that this was something that we were all going to have to talk about, and I didn’t know that it was — I just — I didn’t know that it was maybe appropriate for us to talk about that at that point, and so I just didn’t. As far as I can remember, I just didn’t respond.
.GOODLING: And so I just didn’t. As far as I can remember, I just didn’t respond.
JACKSON-LEE: The time of the gentleman has expired. We now recognize the distinguished gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Gutierrez for five minutes.
GUTIERREZ: Thank you very much.
I would like to yield my time to Mr. Davis.
DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Gutierrez.
Had you finished your answer, Ms. Goodling, regarding your conversation with the attorney general?
GOODLING: I think there was a little bit more to the discussion, but I’m having trouble remembering it.
DAVIS: Well, let me try to help you a little bit. I know it’s been a long day, and so let me try to help you a little bit.
You said that you thought part of the conversation was inappropriate with the attorney general. Did you say that, Ms. Goodling?
GOODLING: I don’t know if I said — I didn’t know if I meant to say inappropriate. I said it made me a little uncomfortable.
DAVIS: What was it that made you uncomfortable about your conversation with the attorney general, Mr. Gonzales.
GOODLING: I just — I did not know if it was appropriate for us to both be discussing our recollections of what had happened, and I just thought maybe we shouldn’t have that conversation.
GOODLING: So I didn’t respond to what he said.
DAVIS: Why did you think it might be inappropriate for you to have this conversation with the attorney general?
GOODLING: I just knew that, at some point, we would probably all have to talk about our conversations and I just — I’m not saying that I — I’m not saying that I definitely thought it was inappropriate. I think, in all fairness, that he was just talking to someone on his staff and I was distraught and I was asking for a transfer. And I think he was being kind. He’s a very kind man. But I just didn’t know that I thought that maybe this was a conversation that we should be having.
DAVIS: Ms. Goodling, did you tell the attorney general that you felt that part of his testimony, or part of his public statements, were not fully accurate.
GOODLING: No, I didn’t.
DAVIS: And was there a reason why you didn’t share with the attorney general that part of what he had said to the committee or the public might not be accurate?
GOODLING: I just — I feel like it — I feel like after he had the press conference, people came out fairly soon and said that they thought the statements were inaccurate. I don’t think that I needed to do that. I think that other people had already raised questions about that.
DAVIS: Do you think the attorney general appreciated that he had made statements that were not accurate?
GOODLING: I don’t know.
DAVIS: Did you ask him?
GOODLING: No, I didn’t.
DAVIS: Do you think the attorney general would have been concerned about making public statements that were not accurate?
GOODLING: I don’t know what he — I know that he testified before the Senate, and he clarified his remarks from his press conference. So I believe he cared about the fact that he didn’t express everything in the best way that he could. And I think he’s already apologized for that and tried to clarify it.
DAVIS: Let me ask you this, Ms. Goodling: During the conversation that you’ve said made you somewhat uncomfortable with the attorney general, did the attorney general discuss the circumstances around any of the terminations of the U.S. attorneys?
GOODLING: He discussed a little bit.
As I recall, he just said that he thought that everybody that was on the list was on the list for a performance-related reason, and that he had been upset with the deputy because he thought that the deputy had indicated that — by testifying about Mr. Cummins, that there was — that the only reason there was to relieve him in order to give Mr. Griffin a chance to serve.
He said that he thought, when he heard that, that that was wrong, that he really thought that Mr. Cummins was on the list because there was a performance reason there, too.
And — I think there was more to the discussion. That’s the part I’m remembering right now. But I think he just kind of laid out what he remembered and what he thought. And then he asked me if I had any reaction to it. DAVIS: Do you know — let me ask you this way. You say the attorney general asked if you had any reaction to what he said.
Do you think, Ms. Goodling, the attorney general was trying to shape your recollection?
GOODLING: No. I think he was just asking if I had any different…
DAVIS: But it made you uncomfortable.
GOODLING: I just did not know if it was a conversation that we should be having, and so I just — just didn’t say anything.
Why is Al Gore the only Democratic Politician who is Speaking Truth to Power?
In “The Assault on Reason” Al Gore excoriates George W. Bush, asserting that the president is “out of touch with reality,” that his administration is so incompetent that it “can’t manage its own way out of a horse show,” that it ignored “clear warnings” about the terrorist threat before 9/11 and that it has made Americans less safe by “stirring up a hornets’ nest in Iraq,” while using “the language and politics of fear” to try to “drive the public agenda without regard to the evidence, the facts or the public interest.”
The administration’s pursuit of unilateralism abroad, Mr. Gore says, has isolated the United States in an ever more dangerous world, even as its efforts to expand executive power at home and “relegate the Congress and the courts to the sidelines” have undermined the constitutional system of checks and balances.
The former vice president contends that the fiasco in Iraq stems from President Bush’s use of “a counterfeit combination of misdirected vengeance and misguided dogma to dominate the national discussion, bypass reason, silence dissent and intimidate those who questioned his logic both inside and outside the administration.”
He argues that the gruesome acts of torture committed at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq “were a direct consequence of the culture of impunity — encouraged, authorized and instituted” by President Bush and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. And he writes that the violations of civil liberties committed by the Bush-Cheney administration — including its secret authorization of the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without a court order on calls and e-mail messages between the United States and other countries, and its suspension of the rights of due process for “enemy combatants” — demonstrate “a disrespect for America’s Constitution that has now brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in the fabric of democracy.”
Similar charges have been made by a growing number of historians, political analysts and even former administration insiders, and President Bush’s plummeting approval ratings have further emboldened his critics. But Mr. Gore writes not just as a former vice president and the man who won the popular vote in the 2000 election, but also as a possible future candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 race for the White House, and the vehemence of his language and his arguments make statements about the Bush administration by already announced candidates like Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton seem polite and mild-mannered in contrast.
And yet for all its sharply voiced opinions, “The Assault on Reason” turns out to be less a partisan, election-cycle harangue than a fiercely argued brief about the current Bush White House that is grounded in copiously footnoted citations from newspaper articles, Congressional testimony and commission reports — a brief that is as powerful in making its points about the implications of this administration’s policies as the author’s 2006 book, “An Inconvenient Truth,” was in making its points about the fallout of global warming.
This volume moves beyond its criticisms of the Bush administration to diagnose the ailing condition of America as a participatory democracy — low voter turnout, rampant voter cynicism, an often ill-informed electorate, political campaigns dominated by 30-second television ads, and an increasingly conglomerate-controlled media landscape — and it does so not with the calculated, sound-bite-conscious tone of many political-platform-type books, but with the sort of wonky ardor that made both the book and movie versions of “An Inconvenient Truth” so bluntly effective.
Mr. Gore’s central argument is that “reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions” and that the country’s public discourse has become “less focused and clear, less reasoned.” This “assault on reason,” he suggests, is personified by the way the Bush White House operates. Echoing many reporters and former administration insiders, Mr. Gore says that the administration tends to ignore expert advice (be it on troop levels, global warming or the deficit), to circumvent the usual policy-making machinery of analysis and debate, and frequently to suppress or disdain the best evidence available on a given subject so it can promote predetermined, ideologically driven policies.
Doubts about Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction were sidestepped in the walk-up to the war: Mr. Gore says that uranium experts at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee told him “there was zero possibility” that aluminum tubes acquired by Saddam Hussein were for the purpose of nuclear enrichment, but felt intimidated from “making any public statement that disagreed with the assertions being made to the people by President Bush.”
And the Army chief of staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki’s pre-invasion recommendation that several hundred thousand troops would be needed for a successful occupation of Iraq was similarly dismissed. “Rather than engaging in a reasoned debate on the question,” Mr. Gore writes, administration members “undercut Shinseki for disagreeing with their preconceived notion — even though he was an expert, and they were not.”
Moreover, Mr. Gore contends, the administration’s penchant for secrecy (keeping everything from the details of its coercive interrogation policy to its National Security Agency surveillance program under wraps) has dismantled the principle of accountability, even as what he calls its “unprecedented and sustained campaign of mass deception” on matters like Iraq has made “true deliberation and meaningful debate by the people virtually impossible.”
Mr. Gore points out that the White House repeatedly implied that there was a connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, between the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and Iraq, when in fact no such linkage existed. He observes that the administration “withheld facts” from Congress concerning the cost of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, which turned out to be “far higher than the numbers given to Congress by the president.”
And he contends that “it has become common for President Bush to rely on special interests” — like those represented by the Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi before the war, and ExxonMobil on the climate crisis — for “basic information about the policies important to these interests.”
When Mr. Gore turns to the larger cultural and social reasons behind the decline of reason in America’s marketplace of ideas, his arguments become fuzzier and less convincing. His argument that radio was essential to the rise and reign of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini (“without the introduction of radio, it is doubtful that these totalitarian regimes would have commanded the obedience of the people in the manner they did”) is highly reductive, just as his argument that television has enabled politicians to manipulate mass opinion while preventing individuals from taking part in the national dialogue seems overly simplistic.
As for his conviction that the Internet can help re-establish “an open communications environment in which the conversation of democracy can flourish,” it plays down the more troubling aspects of the Web, like its promotion of rumor and misinformation alongside real information, and its tendency to fuel polarizing, partisan warfare.
Part civics lesson, part political jeremiad, part philosophical tract, “The Assault on Reason” reveals an angry, impassioned Al Gore — a far cry from the carefully scripted, earth-tone-wearing Al Gore of the 2000 presidential campaign and the programmed “creature of Washington” described in the reporter Bill Turque’s 2000 biography of him, “Inventing Al Gore.”
Much the way that the movie “An Inconvenient Truth” showed a more accessible Al Gore — at ease with himself and passionate about the dangers of global warming — this book shows a fiery, throw-caution-to-the winds Al Gore, who, whether or not he runs for the White House again, has decided to lay it all on the line with a blistering assessment of the Bush administration and the state of public discourse in America at this “fateful juncture” in history.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Visitors to Mark David Uhl's Myspace page will quickly learn that Uhl is a student at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, that he is a devoted Christian, that his name means "Mighty Warrior" -- and that he likes Will Smith's saccharine tear-up-the-club track, "Switch." Uhl reveals his career ambitions on his page as well: "I will join the Army as an officer after college." Already, Uhl was preparing in Liberty's ROTC program.
Uhl waited until he was offline, however, to reveal his plot to kill the family of itinerant Calvinist provocateur Fred Phelps (famous for their "Fag Troops" rallies outside soldiers' funerals). The Phelpses planned to protest Falwell's funeral, a bizarre stunt designed to highlight Falwell's somehow insufficiently draconian attitude towards homosexuals. Uhl made several bombs and allegedly told a family member he planned to use them to attack the Phelps family.
He was arrested soon after and charged with manufacturing explosives. On the surface, Uhl appears to be the latest version of Virginia Tech rampage killer (and "Richard McBeef" author) Cho Seung-Hui. Indeed, both Uhl and Cho were alienated young men who conceived or carried out campaigns of mass murder on college campuses.
But there is a crucial difference between Uhl and Cho: while Cho's motives remain a source of intense debate, Uhl was an a devout evangelical Christian who advocated religious violence in the name of American nationalism. Uhl's blog, featured on his Myspace page, offers a window into the political underpinnings of his bomb plot. In one post, Uhl implores Christians to die on the battlefield for "Uncle Sam." He justifies his call to arms by quoting several Biblical passages and reminding his readers that the "gift of God" is eternal life.
"Christians, we have been given life after death and we should help others receive it and not sit here in our big buildings and sing to ourselves so we can go home and feel good about ourselves," Uhl writes. "Christians, fear of death, fear of death. The fear of death shows you don't believe."
Uhl concludes, "God needs soldiers to fight so his children may live free. Are you afraid??? I'm not. SEND ME!!! "
Uhl's imploration sounds eerily like the battle-cries of another, more notorious religious radical: Osama bin-Laden. Consider what bin-Laden told the Independent in 1993. "`I was never afraid of death... As Muslims, we believe that when we die, we go to heaven. Before a battle, God sends us... tranquility."
Christian right leaders from the late Falwell to James Dobson have turned Muslim-bashing into a cottage industry, using the words of bin-Laden and his acolytes to allege that Islam is an inherently violent religion that "breeds" terrorism. After meeting with President George W. Bush two weeks ago about Iran and Iraq, Dobson conducted a hysterical five-part broadcast hyping the threat of radical Islam. (CD's of those broadcasts will soon be available on Focus on the Family's website, with all proceeds going to support Dobson's kulturkampf -- and his paycheck).
The response of Dobson and his allies to Uhl's arrest will reflect more on themselves than on any impressionable 19-year-old college student. The Christian right has warped religious doctrine to advance a Utopian political worldview that promises to purify the land of liberal decadence. Through one of its flagship universities, the Christian right produced a terrorist. Their hysterical warnings of the threat of radical Islam sound increasingly like projections.
But then again, maybe it's all Will Smith's fault.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
What Glenn Greenwald Said
The frothing, drooling anti-Islamic hysteria that one finds from Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck and right-wing blogs -- not to mention pandering, craven GOP presidential candidates -- is so unhinged and cartoon-like that there is a temptation not to take it seriously, to do nothing but mock it.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is pressing the U.S. Congress to enact a sweeping intellectual-property bill that would increase criminal penalties for copyright infringement, including "attempts" to commit piracy.
"To meet the global challenges of IP crime, our criminal laws must be kept updated," Gonzales said during a speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington on Monday.
The Bush administration is throwing its support behind a proposal called the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007, which is likely to receive the enthusiastic support of the movie and music industries, and would represent the most dramatic rewrite of copyright law since a 2005 measure dealing with prerelease piracy.
Here's our podcast on the topic.
The IPPA would, for instance:
* Criminalize "attempting" to infringe copyright. Federal law currently punishes not-for-profit copyright infringement with between 1 and 10 years in prison, but there has to be actual infringement that takes place. The IPPA would eliminate that requirement. (The Justice Department's summary of the legislation says: "It is a general tenet of the criminal law that those who attempt to commit a crime but do not complete it are as morally culpable as those who succeed in doing so.")
* Create a new crime of life imprisonment for using pirated software. Anyone using counterfeit products who "recklessly causes or attempts to cause death" can be imprisoned for life. During a conference call, Justice Department officials gave the example of a hospital using pirated software instead of paying for it.
* Permit more wiretaps for piracy investigations. Wiretaps would be authorized for investigations of Americans who are "attempting" to infringe copyrights.
* Allow computers to be seized more readily. Specifically, property such as a PC "intended to be used in any manner" to commit a copyright crime would be subject to forfeiture, including civil asset forfeiture. Civil asset forfeiture has become popular among police agencies in drug cases as a way to gain additional revenue, and it is problematic and controversial.
* Increase penalties for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's anticircumvention regulations. Criminal violations are currently punished by jail times of up to 10 years and fines of up to $1 million. The IPPA would add forfeiture penalties.
* Add penalties for "intended" copyright crimes. Certain copyright crimes currently require someone to commit the "distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180-day period of at least 10 copies" valued at more than $2,500. The IPPA would insert a new prohibition: actions that were "intended to consist of" distribution.
* Require Homeland Security to alert the Recording Industry Association of America. That would happen when CDs with "unauthorized fixations of the sounds, or sounds and images, of a live musical performance" are attempted to be imported. Neither the Motion Picture Association of America nor the Business Software Alliance (nor any other copyright holder, such as photographers, playwrights or news organizations, for that matter) would qualify for this kind of special treatment.
A representative of the Motion Picture Association of America told us: "We appreciate the department's commitment to intellectual-property protection and look forward to working with both the department and Congress as the process moves ahead."
What's still unclear is the kind of reception this legislation might encounter on Capitol Hill. Gonzales may not be terribly popular, but Democrats do tend to be more closely aligned with Hollywood and the recording industry than is the GOP. (A few years ago, Republicans even savaged fellow conservatives for allying themselves too closely with copyright holders.)
On behalf of Rep. Howard Berman, the California Democrat who heads the House Judiciary subcommittee that focuses on intellectual property, a representative said the congressman is reviewing proposals from the attorney general and others. The aide said the Hollywood politician plans to introduce his own intellectual-property enforcement bill later this year but that his office is not prepared to discuss any details yet.
One key Republican was less guarded. "We are reviewing (the attorney general's) proposal. Any plan to stop IP theft will benefit the economy and the American worker," said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the House Judiciary committee. "I applaud the attorney general for recognizing the need to protect intellectual property."
Still, it's too early to tell what might happen. A similar copyright bill that Smith, the RIAA and the Software and Information Industry Association enthusiastically supported last April never went anywhere.
CNET News.com's Anne Broache contributed to this blog.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Just as the Bush administration’s claims of voter fraud are being dismantled, so too is the American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR) — a conservative front group that identified pervasive election fraud. Slate reports:
With no notice and little comment, ACVR — the only prominent nongovernmental organization claiming that voter fraud is a major problem, a problem warranting strict rules such as voter-ID laws — simply stopped appearing at government panels and conferences. Its Web domain name has suddenly expired, its reports are all gone (except where they have been preserved by its opponents), and its general counsel, Mark “Thor” Hearne, has cleansed his résumé of affiliation with the group. Hearne won’t speak to the press about ACVR’s demise. No other group has taken up the ‘voter fraud’ mantra.
ACVR was led by Bush/Cheney ’04’s general counsel and produced such reports as “Democrat operatives far more involved in voter intimidation and suppression in 2004 than Republicans.” Many of its studies targeted presidential battle ground states.
ACVR, whose work has been commended by Karl Rove, was part of the Bush administration’s “aggressive legal effort to restrict voter turnout in key battleground states in ways that favor Republican political candidates.” Conservatives cited ACVR’s studies as evidence of pervasive voter fraud.
Of the 38 cases of voter fraud the Justice Department prosecuted between 2002-05, 14 were thrown out. As the New York Times notes, “In partisan Republican circles, the pursuit of voter fraud is code for suppressing the votes of minorities and poor people.”
Dear Fred: A Challenge from Michael Moore
Tuesday, May 15th, 2007
A Challenge from Michael Moore to Presidential Hopeful Fred Thompson
May 15, 2007
Senator Fred Thompson
American Enterprise Institute
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
Dear Senator Thompson,
Given that it has been publicly reported in The Weekly Standard, a leading neo-conservative publication, that you support Fidel Castro and the Cuban regime by being a purveyor of fine Cuban exports despite the trade embargo, I was surprised to see your recent op ed in a more traditional conservative outlet, The National Review, regarding my trip to Cuba (I suspect you choose The National Review in an effort to pander to an outlet that had criticized you for your opposition to medical malpractice legislation).
In your May 2, 2007 National Review article, “Paradise Island,” you specifically raised concerns about whether my trip to Cuba with 9/11 heroes, who have suffered serious health problems as a result of their exposure to toxic substances at Ground Zero that have gone untreated, was somehow going to support Castro and the Cuban government:
Putting aside the fact that you, like the Bush Administration, seem far more concerned about the trip to Cuba than the health care of these 9/11 heroes, I was struck by the fact that your concerns (including comments about Castro's reported financial worth) apparently do not extend to your own conduct, as reported in The Weekly Standard's April 23, 2007 story, “From the Courthouse to the White House Fred Thompson auditions for the leading role” (emphasis added):
“Thompson's work space looks just like what the home office of a successful politician or CEO should look like--though a little messier: a large desk, dark wood, leather furniture, lots of books and magazines and newspapers, a flat-screen TV, and box upon box of cigars--Montecristos from Havana.”
In light of your comments regarding Cuba and Castro, do you think the “box upon box of cigars – Montecristos from Havana” that you have in your office have contributed to Castro's reported wealth?
While I will leave it up to the conservatives to debate your hypocrisy and the Treasury Department to determine whether the “box upon box of cigars” violates the trade embargo, I hereby challenge you to a health care debate.
Survey after survey has indicated that health care is one of the top issues to the American voters. Today, more than 46 million people lack health care coverage, including 9 million children. We pay significantly more than any other country in the world - and get less back. Americans life expectancy is lower than other developed countries and our infant mortality rates are higher. And our heroic Ground Zero 9/11 workers live in a society where the Bush Administration has shown more concern about their travel than about their health.
Our debate would provide you an opportunity to appeal to the right wing of the Republican Party by continuing to attack me; it would give me a chance to discuss health care and tell you exactly what happened in Cuba, given your apparent interest; and it would provide the American people an opportunity to see just how serious Hollywood can be, with a purported conservative and an avowed progressive Hollywood personality on stage.
Over the course of the debate, we could specifically address the following issues:
(1) Your work as a lobbyist in light of the fact that the health care and insurance industries have maintained the current health care system through their effective control of the political establishment.
(2) The fact that you raised hundred of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the health care and insurance industries.
(3) Discuss the fact, highlighted in yet another conservative outlet The New York Sun, that you inexplicably wanted to cut funding for AIDS research.
(4) Your relationship with the Frist family and by extension HCA, one of the nation's largest for-profit hospital chains. It has been reported that former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (who was renowned for his over-the-television-screen Schiavo diagnosis) is serving as one of your confidantes on your potential presidential campaign. The Frist family has historically controlled HCA, which paid a record $1.7 billion in civil and criminal fines, including a $631 million penalty for Medicaid fraud – in other words, ripping off the taxpayers.
(5) Discussing whether Arthur Branch, as the District Attorney of Manhattan, supports a woman's right to choose, gun safety reforms, gay marriage, the trans fat ban and anti-smoking laws (which would impact Cuban cigars, including your Montecristos).
Like American Idol, we could even have the country vote to determine which one of us wins the debate. Though in the spirit of full disclosure, I feel obligated to forewarn you that I was the winner of the 1971-72 Detroit Free Press Debate Award for the state of Michigan.
The winner of our health care debate could even light a victory cigar with one of your Montecristos (though we may want to consider shipping them to the safe house where I have put a master copy of SiCKO in the event that the Bush Administration tries to seize the film).
Bush Administration Continues to Suppress Voting. Dear Republicans, why do you support a party that doesn't want people to Vote?
|Posted on Sun, May. 20, 2007|
U. S. ATTORNEYS
Efforts to stop `voter fraud' may have curbed legitimate voting
WASHINGTON - During four years as a Justice Department civil rights lawyer, Hans von Spakovsky went so far in a crusade against voter fraud as to warn of its dangers under a pseudonym in a law journal article.
Writing as "Publius," von Spakovsky contended that every voter should be required to produce a photo-identification card and that there was "no evidence" that such restrictions burden minority voters disproportionately.
Now, amid a scandal over politicization of the Justice Department, Congress is beginning to examine allegations that von Spakovsky was a key player in a Republican campaign to hang onto power in Washington by suppressing the votes of minority voters.
"Mr. von Spakovsky was central to the administration's pursuit of strategies that had the effect of suppressing the minority vote," charged Joseph Rich, a former Justice Department voting rights chief who worked under him.
He and other former career department lawyers say that von Spakovsky steered the agency toward voting rights policies not seen before, pushing to curb minor instances of election fraud by imposing sweeping restrictions that would make it harder, not easier, for Democratic-leaning poor and minority voters to cast ballots.
In interviews, current and former federal officials and civil rights leaders told McClatchy Newspapers that von Spakovsky:
-Sped approval of tougher voter ID laws in Georgia and Arizona in 2005, joining decisions to override career lawyers who believed that Georgia's law would restrict voting by poor blacks and who felt that more analysis was needed on the Arizona law's impact on Native Americans and Latinos.
-Tried to influence the federal Election Assistance Commission's research into the dimensions of voter fraud nationally and the impact of restrictive voter ID laws - research that could undermine a vote-suppression agenda.
-Allegedly engineered the ouster of the commission's chairman, Paul DeGregorio, whom von Spakovsky considered insufficiently partisan.
Von Spakovsky, who declined to comment on these allegations, is among more than a dozen present and former Justice Department officials drawing congressional scrutiny over the administration's alleged use of the nation's chief law enforcement agency for partisan purposes.
Congressional committees investigating the firing last year of nine U.S. attorneys are looking into allegations that prosecutors nationwide were urged to pursue voter fraud to build a basis for tougher ID laws.
Von Spakovsky, who had been a longtime voting rights activist and elections official in Georgia before serving at Justice, accepted a presidential recess appointment to a Republican slot on the Federal Election Commission in December 2005. He is scheduled to appear at a June 13 confirmation hearing before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.
The House Administration Committee is also inquiring into von Spakovsky's communications with the Election Assistance Commission, a tiny agency that implemented a 2002 election reform law and serves as a national election information clearinghouse.
The bipartisan, four-member commission stirred a political tempest last year when it delayed the release of voter fraud and voter ID law studies, saying that more research was needed. A House panel revealed last month that the fraud study's central finding - that there was little evidence of widespread voter fraud - had been toned down to say that "a great deal of debate" surrounded the subject.
Commissioners rejected as flawed the second study's finding that voter ID laws tend to suppress turnout, especially among Latinos, and ordered more research.
Rich said that von Spakovsky usurped his seat on a commission advisory panel in 2004, although the law creating the panel allocated that spot for the Voting Rights Section chief "or his designee." Rich said he was not consulted.
After the commission hired both liberal and conservative consultants to work on the studies in 2005, e-mails show that von Spakovsky tried to persuade panel members that the research was flawed.
In an Aug. 18, 2005, e-mail to Chairman DeGregorio, he objected strenuously to a contract award for the ID study to researchers at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law, who were teaming with a group at Rutgers University.
Von Spakovsky wrote that Daniel Tokaji, the associate director of Moritz' election program, was "an outspoken opponent of voter identification requirements" and that those "pre-existing notions" should disqualify him from federal funding for impartial research.
The criticism was ironic coming from von Spakovsky, who a few months earlier had written the anonymous article for the Texas Review of Law and Politics, in which he called voter fraud a problem of importance equal to racial discrimination at the polls. Von Spakovsky acknowledged writing the article after joining the FEC.
Months after its publication, he participated in the department's review of Georgia's photo ID law, as required under the 1965 Voting Rights Act for election laws passed in 16 Southern states. After the department approved it, a federal judge struck it down as akin to a Jim Crow-era poll tax on minority voters.
Rich called von Spakovsky's failure to withdraw from the case "especially disturbing, given the clear ethical concerns" over his prior work as a Georgia elections official and the bias in his article.
Von Spakovsky's tone toward DeGregorio grew increasingly harsh in 2005 as the chairman refused to take partisan stands, said two people close to the commission who declined to be identified because of the matter's sensitivity.
Their differences seemed to come to a head last year over two issues raised by Arizona's Republican secretary of state, Janice Brewer, who was implementing the toughest state voter identification law in the nation. In April 2005, the Justice Department erroneously advised her that Arizona did not need to offer a provisional ballot to those lacking proof of citizenship.
E-mails suggest that von Spakovsky contacted an aide to Missouri Republican Sen. Kit Bond, who inquired of DeGregorio whether the commission was "seriously considering taking a position against" the department on the provisional ballot question.
DeGregorio sent a testy message asking von Spakovsky if the note from Capitol Hill was "an attempt by you to put pressure on me."
"If so, I do not appreciate it," he wrote.
The next day, von Spakovsky wrote DeGregorio that he thought they "had a deal" under which the department would reconsider its position on provisional ballots if the commission would allow Arizona to modify the federal voter registration form to require proof of citizenship.
"I do not agree to `deals,' especially when it comes to interpretation of the law," DeGregorio replied.
Last September, the White House replaced DeGregorio with Caroline Hunter, a former deputy counsel to the Republican National Committee. DeGregorio confided to associates that he was told that von Spakovsky influenced the White House's decision not to reappoint him, said the two people close to the panel.
Asked about his ouster, DeGregorio said only that he "was aware that Mr. von Spakovsky was not pleased with the bipartisan approaches that I took."