Monday, July 30, 2007

$20 Billion Worth Of Stupid From The Bush Administration

Just when you think the bar can't be set any higher for foreign policy incompetence, the Bush administration manages to pull a miracle out of it's bag of tricks.

In a four day tour of the Middle East, perhaps the most volatile region on the planet, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced $20 billion dollar military aid package for Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Said Rice, "We are helping to strengthen the defensive capabilities of our partners and we plan to initiate discussions with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states on a proposed package of military technologies that will help support their ability to secure peace and stability in the Gulf region." The theory is that by arming countries that are more closely aligned with the U.S., Iran will be kept in check.

The problem is that it fails to take into account that Iran isn't the only country in the region not exactly lining up to wave the stars and stripes and sing a hearty chorus of "God Bless America."

The number of reasons not to weaponize the region are staggering. For example:

• Many of the countries set to receive aid stand in opposition to long term U.S. ally, Israel.

• Islam is a major influence in the region, and past language by the President, such as "crusade," has stirred distrust in the Muslim community.

• The failure of the U.S. to stabilize Iraq has angered many in the Muslim community.

• Many of the countries have porous borders and men who are eager to fight in Iraq.

• Many of the countries have abominable human rights records.

So in summary, the President would like to spread weapons throughout a region: where a good deal of the populace bears animosity towards the United States; where many of the governments would be happy to see Israel gone; and where human rights are not exactly a high value.

While he's at it, perhaps he'd like to stand on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and distribute lit fireworks to small children.

There's just one word for this proposal: Stupid.

Congress can stop it and you can tell them that you want them to do so.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Republican Senators Give The Meat Grinder Another Turn

Republican Senators were successful this morning in blocking a vote on the Levin-Reed bill. Proposed by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Jack Reed, D-R.I, the measure aimed to set a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. It's another failure for a legislative body that seems more content to be a lapdog of the Bush Administration than one half of a strong and co-equal branch of government.

Shame on them!

This latest disgrace seems to defy both reason or logic. Here's why:

• Sectarian violence continues in Iraq and despite a troop surge, U.S. casualties show no sign of slowing down. Here are the figures for the last four months: June - 108, May - 130, April - 115, March - 81

• On July 14, Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, stated, "We say in full confidence that we are able, God willing, to take the responsibility completely in running the security file if the international forces withdraw at anytime they want."

• In Afghanistan, Al-Quaida is operating along the Pakistani border and until recently, it appears with the cooperation of the Pakistani government. U.S. intelligence indicates that they are in Waziristan, just over the border, and that Osama bin Laden is believed to be in the area.

• The most recent National Intelligence Estimate reported that, "(al Qaeda) is beefing up efforts to sneak operatives into the United States . . . we judge that al Qaeda will intensify its efforts to put operatives here . . . we judge that the United States currently is in a heightened threat environment."

In summary:

Our troops are getting slaughtered by rocket propelled grenades and roadside bombs at the rate of approximately 100 a month, the Iraqi prime minister says that he can function without us, and Al Qaeda's is flourishing along the Pakistani border.

So here's my question:

Why in the hell are we continuing to waste resources in Iraq?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Bad Presidents Need To Be Spanked And Inherent Contempt Is The Paddle!

It was 3:00 p.m. in Washington and the House Judiciary Committee was preparing to investigate the circumstances around the firing of seven U.S. Attorneys. There was just one small problem: The witness chair was empty. The failure of White House counsel Harriet Miers to answer a subpoena by the House Judiciary Committee has put the Executive and Legislative branches on a Constitutional collision course and it's about damn time!

The President, as he seems to do with every inquiry into how decisions are made at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, exerted Executive privilege in defiance of the subpoena. Mr. Bush has stated that he is unwilling to let any current or former advisors appear before Congress while under oath. His compromise is to let Ms. Miers and other officials talk with Congress in private and off the record.

In other words, they could say whatever they want and since they would not be under oath, there could be no consequences if they lied.

This is where things get interesting. The Committee voted to reject the President's claim of Executive Privilege, which paves the way for Ms. Miers to receive a Contempt of Congress citation. It's an appropriate action, but what many people don't realise is that there are several different types of contempt and some have more teeth than others. All start with a referral, which, then leads to a vote of the appropriate body (House or Senate). A simple majority makes the charge stick. From here, however, things move in very different directions.
Here's a quick primer:

Civil Procedure: In this version, the Senate/House files an action in Federal District Court. The Court can then direct the person being cited to comply with the Senate/Houses' action. If the person fails to do so, they are in Contempt of Court.

Statutory Contempt of Congress: Here, the Senate/House finds the person in contempt and then refers it to the U.S. Attorney, i.e. the Justice Department. However, the Justice Department can decide not to act on it as was the case in the Reagan Administration when EPA Administrator Anne Gorsuch was held in Statutory Contempt.

Inherent Contempt of Congress: This is the winner. It's the one with the most juice and the one that Congress hasn't used since 1935. Upon issuing a contempt citation, the person cited is arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House or Senate, brought to that chamber, held to answer charges by the presiding officer, and then subject to punishment that the body may dictate, including immediate imprisonment.

It's clear that Congress is about to act against Harriet Miers. The question is, do they have the will to hit the Administration and hit it hard? We've all witnessed the obnoxious kid whose parents give him/her a 'good talking to' when we know that what they really need is a 'good ass cracking.' That's what we have here except that Congress is the indulgent parent and the President is the spoiled brat.

The job of the Legislative Branch is to provide oversight and it's time for them to spank the President.

I can think of no better way to administer it than to cite Harriet Miers with inherent contempt, arrest her, bring her before the House, put her on trial and, if she fails to comply, jail her. The President has shown that every 'good talking to’ in the world is not going to get his attention, his respect or the truth. It's time for stronger measures.

Call your representative today (202-224-3121) and tell them that you want Harriet Miers to be held in inherent contempt of Congress!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Chertoff's Gut Feeling Makes Me Queasy

Almost six years after the September 11 attacks, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff stated that he had a "gut feeling" that the United States is facing a heightened risk of attack this summer. Although Mr. Chertoff offered no concrete evidence, the Associated Press is reporting that U.S. Intelligence Analysts have concluded that Al-Qaida may be at its strongest level since just before the attacks.

But is it true?

The timing is curious. As pressure mounts on the Bush Administration to end military operations in Iraq, Mr. Chertoff's nebulous comments seem to be right out of the President's playbook. Create doubt and fear in the populace. Afterall, if Al-Quaida is getting stronger, leaving Iraq is tantamount to handing the country over to them. Or so they would like us to believe.

What if it is true?

The problem is that the Bush Administration has beaten the Al-Quaida drum so often that it has become the political equivalent of crying wolf. If the terrorism threat has increased, the credibility of the Bush Administration may be so threadbare that no one is listening. Interestingly enough, the intelligence seems to indicate that Al-Quaida has regrouped strongest along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Gee, I wonder how that happened . . .

Following 9/11, military action in Afghanistan made sense and was effective. Evidence that Al-Quaida was operating within Afghani borders was irrefutible and the Taliban government was clearly aware of it. But instead of a swift and decisive victory against terrorism and religious based totalitarianism, we sit mired in a war launched on faulty or false intelligence; approaching 4,000 dead American soldiers; as Iraq teeters on the precipice of civil war; and the Taliban and Al-Quaida rebound and approach pre-9/11 strength in Afghanistan.

It is disgraceful, it is criminal and if God forbid Mr. Chertoff's "gut feeling" turns out to be right, the blame and the blood falls squarely on George W. Bush.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Gonzalez: Lazy, A Liar, Or Terminally Forgetful?

Perhaps it's all three.

The Washington Post is reporting today that Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez may have been lying to Congress when he reported to the Senate on April 27, 2005 that, "There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse." Mr. Gonzales was seeking renewal of the Patriot Act and was reassuring the Senate that the FBI was working within the confines of the law. The controversial act was ultimately renewed.

There's just one small problem: The Attorney General wasn't telling the truth.

Whether it was intentional or not is a matter of debate. Internal FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show that Mr. Gonzalez received as many as six reports documenting legal and procedural violations by the Bureau, prior to testifying. These included; unauthorized surveillance, an illegal property search and a obtaining data from an Internet firm that it was not entitled to collect. Each report stated that administrative rules or laws protecting civil liberties and privacy were violated. Justice Department spokesperson, Brian Roehrkasse maintains that, "the violations the FBI disclosed were not legal violations and instead involved procedural safeguards or even typographical errors."

Oh! It's o.k. to violate someone's civil rights so long as it's only a procedural matter or a typo. Good to know!

The question is this: Did the Attorney General lie to Congress, not bother to read the reports, or as in the case of the dismissed U.S. Attorneys, is he merely forgetful? It doesn't really matter. Whether intentional or not, Mr. Gonzalez has consistently shown a disregard for the law and an inability to recall important pieces of information directly tied to the running of his department.

It boils down to this: If he lacks the mental accuity to remember key details of Justice Department business, then he is unfit to serve. If he does not bother to read reports acknowledging violations of the very law that his department is charged with upholding, then he is unfit to serve. If he went before Congress and intentionally lied, then he is unfit to serve.

No matter what excuse the AG or his representatives present, the conclusion is the same. Mr. Gonzales is unfit to serve as Attorney General of the United States of America.

It's time for Congress to do something about it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Go To Jail, Go Directly To Jail, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200 . . .


As the Valerie Plame incident began to wind its way into the mainstream media, President Bush was quoted as saying, "If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. If the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of."

I had long thought the President a liar on this point. Little did I know that he was telling the truth. Literally.

While most of us assumed that he was speaking about prosecution or ejection from the cozy confines of his administration, apparently in Bush-ese "taken care of," means well protected and cared for. So, instead of a 30 month sentence, Mr. Libby is instead relieved of the nasty burden of incarceration. How nice for him. There was a time when treason and crimes related to treason received sentences of death or, years, if not decades in prison. But in Mr. Bush's estimation, "the 30-month sentencing was severe." And he has not ruled out the future possibility of a pardon.

I guess they just don’t do treason like they used to!

The move is certainly a crafty one. With Libby still convicted and actively appealing it, the chance that he'll talk about his case is slim. If subpoenaed, he'll likely invoke his 5th Amendment rights. A silent Scooter means greater protection for the Bush inner circle particularly, for Vice President Cheney and Karl Rove. Though within his right as President to commute Mr. Libby's sentence, or to outright pardon him, the President's action raises the question of whether he's engaged in a cover up.

For those of us who have long opposed, and long commented on, the conduct of the Bush Administration, this is just one more drop in a very deep bucket of lawlessness. We shouldn’t really be surprised. The President has consistently shown the same level of respect for the Constitution as he might for a role of toilet paper. The true surprise would be if Congress finally showed the courage and fortitude to hold him accountable. It’s a long shot, but we can hope.

If you’re like me though, you know that political change is a lot like birth control: Hope is not a method.

So perhaps tomorrow in between the cookout and the fireworks, you'd like to celebrate Independence Day with me by calling Congress and demanding action.


Operators are standing by . . .