Month: September 2006

Rushing Off a Cliff

Stay the course

The New York Times ran a great editorial today that states, in no uncertain terms, the historic folly Congress is engaged in by passing the so-called “anti-terrorism” legislation.

Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws – while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists – because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That’s pure propaganda. Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.

It was only after the Supreme Court issued the inevitable ruling striking down Mr. Bush’s shadow penal system that he adopted his tone of urgency. It serves a cynical goal: Republican strategists think they can win this fall, not by passing a good law but by forcing Democrats to vote against a bad one so they could be made to look soft on terrorism.

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.

The editorial goes on to describe the major flaws in the bill including: 1) an overly broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” that would allow the President to arrest and detain indefinitely, with no possibility for appeal, anyone he wants. 2) The repudiation of a half-century of international precedent by allowing Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret – there’s no requirement that this list be published. 3) Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right of Habeas Corpus. 4) The elimination of Judical Review. The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial. 5) Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Bush chooses. 6) The use of secret evidence will be permissible. American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, but this bill eliminates that standard. 7) The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow and will undoubtedly be used as an excuse for actions against captured American troops a some point in the future.

Unfortunately, with the mid-term elections only a few weeks away, many Democrats are following Republicans in voting for the legislation in order to avoid being called “soft on terrorism.”

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What Would John Greenleaf Whittier Think?

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You have to beleive that the Greenleaf city council and Mayor, Brad Holton, have too much time on their hands. How else to explain this strange story reported on KTVB Channel 7?

A small Canyon County town is considering a city ordinance that would recommend every homeowner have a gun and know how to use it. A Greenleaf city council member proposed the idea as part of a plan to handle civil emergencies. It would create citizen response teams and neighborhood watch groups, but would also recommend citizens own a gun and ammunition. “We aren’t choosing to pick a fight. We’re choosing to organize and learn how to defend our own homes,” said Greenleaf Mayor Brad Holton.

The idea seem especially bazaar considerning Greenleaf’s origins. The small rural community, a few miles southwest of Caldwell, Idaho was founded by Quakers and named for the Quaker poet, John Greenleaf Whittier. The Friends Church (Quakers) are probably best know for the “Peace Testimony” advocating the postion that violence is always wrong. In fact, the Quakers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 for their stance against violence and their advocacy for peace throughout the world. Somehow the quote, “We aren’t choosing to pick a fight.” brings to mind a wildwest gunslinger, not a peaceloving Quaker.

The story has been picked up by bloggers all over the country resulting in comments like this:

Idaho is so beautiful, and it’s filled with Mormons in the southeast, and rednecks and white supremists up north. Boise is more nearly normal, but… what the hell happened to this state?

If only we could buss all the trolls out to Idaho, where they coud join their Aryan Brotherhood mates in the compound.

A return to the wild west, this time with a cellphone in one hand and a six-gun in the other. Look out !!!

Good idea! I think they should all have grenades, rocket launchers and all-terrain vehicles. If they can afford rockets and helicopters, so much the better. I think they should put up road-blocks throughout the area, and if they catch any queers or dikes trying to go to a bar for a beer…well…hah-hah…

Bush’s Tax Cuts in Ecolanguage

In the comments to yesterday’s post about corporate statism, Lee Arnold directed me to a video on Bush’s tax cuts that he created using “Ecolanguage,” a graphic presentation for symbolically representing complex systems. I was impressed with the effective way his video explains the macroeconomics involved in the Bush tax cuts. Even though you are probably aware of how the current tax system benefits the rich to the detriment of the poor, the middle and the working class, it is enlightening to see the system portrayed graphically.

Watch the video and share it with anyone you know who thinks the Bush tax cuts are a good thing.

Corporate Statism at Interior

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Bush and his handlers have recently taken to describing the enemy as “fascist” or “Islamofascist” and anyone who disagrees with their policies as appeasers of the fascists. This is not just an incorrect usage of the term “fascist,” it is an extremely ironic use of that term because the Bush Administration itself exhibits most if not all the characteristics of fascism. A quick look at Wikipedia, for example, gives the following definition of Fascism:

Fascism is associated by many scholars with one or more of the following characteristics: a very high degree of nationalism, economic corporatism, a powerful, dictatorial leader who portrays the nation, state or collective as superior to the individuals or groups composing it

. The blatant efforts to eliminate personal freedoms in the name of national security are the aspects of fascism that are most obvious, but even more insidious is the extent to which this administration has come to represent economic corporatism, or “Corporate Statism.”

Hundreds of U.S. military and government officials routinely leave their posts for jobs with private contractors who deal with the government, a process that has eroded the lines between government and the private sector, according to a report released by a watchdog group.”There is a revolving door between the government and large private contractors where conflict of interest is the rule, not the exception,” said the report by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a Washington-based group that monitors military expenditures.”The revolving door has become such an accepted part of federal contracting in recent years that it is frequently difficult to determine where the government stops and the private sector begins,” adds the report, titled “The Politics of Contracting.”

At a House subcommittee hearing this week, the Interior Department’s inspector general, Earl Devaney, gave testimony that points out the extent to which the Bush Administration has converted the Interior Department into a tool for oil and mining interests. The New York Times has an editorial this morning entitled “Interior’s Internal Messes” that discusses Devaney’s testimony.

We knew that bad things would happen when President Bush filled many of his important environmental posts with right-wing activists and industry lobbyists who had spent their careers criticizing the laws they were now being told to uphold and representing industries they were now being told to regulate. Just how bad became clear this week in the course of some pointed testimony from the Interior Department’s inspector general, who accused top officials at his agency of fostering a culture of “managerial irresponsibility” that tolerated conflicts of interest, cronyism and other lapses.

At a House subcommittee hearing, the official, Earl Devaney, said that “short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior.”

On the broader subject of departmental ethics, Mr. Devaney expressed particular frustration at what he described as the kid-gloves treatment of J. Steven Griles, a former industry lobbyist who was deputy secretary during Mr. Bush’s first term, before returning to the lobbying game. Regarded by many environmentalists as the Svengali behind Gale Norton, Mr. Bush’s secretary of the interior until earlier this year, Mr. Griles brought a pro-industry bias to nearly every big decision made during the Norton regime. He was an architect of the administration’s relentless search for oil and gas in fragile areas of the Rocky Mountain West. He was also involved in an agreement between Ms. Norton and the state of Utah that opened millions of acres of potential wilderness to commercial exploitation, and was instrumental in rolling back environmental regulations governing the mining industry.

Beginning in 2002, Mr. Devaney conducted an 18-month investigation into a whistleblower’s complaints that Mr. Griles had behaved improperly by meeting with former business partners and with industries that stood to benefit from departmental decisions. The office of government ethics eventually ruled that Mr. Griles had not violated any laws. But Mr. Devaney has made clear his belief that Mr. Griles, who was allowed by Ms. Norton to stay on the job after simply confessing to bad judgment, should have been severely reprimanded, if only to send a much-needed message to the department that even the appearance of impropriety cannot be tolerated.

The Times editorial concludes by pointing out that it is now up to new Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, to clean up the mess in that Department. Those of us from Idaho who have lived under Dirk’s brand of leadership know there is little hope of that happening.