30 August 2007

Senator Craig

I normally triy to avoid the sordid tales of political sex scandal and the like but the latest incident with Senator Craig is hard to pass up. Let me start off by saying that I find all the awe and shock over the "crime" ridiculous. The "crime" was a misdemeanor and in this case, the details aren't so sordid. The hypocrisy, on the other hand, is another matter and is especially damning. After the hand-wringing and grimaces about the idea of sex in public bathrooms (I must admit, the thought gives me the heebee jeebees, and not the good heebee jeebees either), the incident should serve as a reminder that the last decades of "moral leadership" propaganda have been just that, propaganda. Dictatorial forces throughout history have always relied on "moral authority" to fill in voids in political legitimacy. The Republican Party was essentially reinvented (a la Nixon and later Reagan) on the idea. Senator Craig should of course step down. But not until lampooned to death by a month of talk-show hosts who should then turn their forces on the whole idea of "moral leadership." We need leaders who do the right thing in public office. Who gives a damn what they do in the back office (or in the airport toilet stall in this case).

27 August 2007

Alberto's been busy...

Some significant dates in the career of Alberto R. Gonzales, the nation's 80th U.S. attorney general who announced his resignation today. Talk about a legacy of corruption!

1979: Receives bachelor's degree from Rice University, after enlisting in the Air Force in 1973 and serving at Fort Yukon, Alaska.

1982: Earns law degree from Harvard University; joins the Houston-based law firm Vinson & Elkins, whose client list included Enron and Halliburton.

1995-1997: Served as general counsel to then-Gov. George W. Bush of Texas.

Dec. 1997-Jan. 1999: Named Texas Secretary of State. In the post he serves as an adviser to the governor and as Bush's liaison on Mexico and border issues.

1999: Appointed by Bush to the Texas Supreme Court.

January 2001: Named President Bush's White House legal counsel.

Jan. 25, 2002: In a memo to Bush, Gonzales contended that the president had the right to waive anti-torture laws and international treaties that provide protections to prisoners of war. Critics, including some Senate Democrats, have said the memo helped lead to abuses of the type seen at Abu Ghraib.

June 18, 2004: Gonzales is questioned by a federal grand jury in the criminal investigation into who in the Bush administration leaked the name of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Feb. 3, 2005: Confirmed and sworn in as 80th attorney general of the United States, replacing John Ashcroft, who resigned. The Senate approved the nomination, 60-36, on a largely party-line vote. His confirmation hearings grew contentious over his 2002 memo waiving anti-torture laws.

April 27, 2005: While seeking renewal of the broad powers granted law enforcement under the USA Patriot Act, Gonzales told the Senate Intelligence Committee, "There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse" from the law enacted after the 9/11 terror attacks.

July 24: Gonzales says he notified White House chief of staff Andy Card after the Justice Department in 2003 opened an investigation into who revealed a covert CIA officer's identity, but waited 12 hours to tell anyone else in the White House.

Dec. 15: The New York Times reports on its Web site that Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States without getting search warrants.

Feb. 6, 2006: The Times reports that U.S. long-distance carriers cooperated with the NSA's warrantless wiretapping of international calls.

Feb. 6: Gonzales tells Congress the president is fully empowered to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants as part of the war on terror.

April 6: The Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee says Gonzales is "stonewalling" Congress on the warrantless eavesdropping program.

May 21: Gonzales says he believes journalists can be prosecuted for publishing classified information.

June 7: Gonzales defends the FBI's search of a Democratic congressman's office, saying it was an "unusual step" but necessary in a bribery investigation.

Nov. 18: Gonzales says critics of the administration's warrantless surveillance program define freedom in a way that poses a "grave threat" to U.S. security.

Jan. 17, 2007: Gonzales changes course and puts the government's terrorist spying program under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Feb. 8, 2007: Former U.S. Attorney John McKay of Seattle says his resignation was ordered by the Bush administration without explanation, seven months after he received a favorable job evaluation.

March 6: Another fired federal prosecutor tells a Senate committee he felt "leaned on" by Republican Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., who hung up on him when told indictments in a corruption case against Democrats would not be issued before the fall elections.

March 9: Gonzales orders an internal Justice Department investigation into the FBI's use of the USA Patriot Act after an audit found that agents had improperly and, in some cases, illegally obtained personal information about people in the United States.

March 11: Citing the FBI's illegal snooping into people's private lives and the Justice Department's firing of federal prosecutors, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer says it's time for Gonzales to step aside.

March 13: Gonzales accepts responsibility for mistakes in the way the Justice Department handled the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors. Gonzales says he was not closely involved in the dismissals and rejects calls for his resignation.

March 29: A former top aide to Gonzales says the attorney general was briefed regularly over two years on the firings of federal prosecutors, disputing Gonzales' claims.

April 19: At a contentious hearing, Gonzales struggles to convince skeptical senators he did nothing improper in firing eight federal prosecutors. He loses ground as a second Republican senator joins the calls for his resignation and others question his credibility.

April 23: Bush offers fresh support for Gonzales, saying "This is an honest, honorable man, in whom I have confidence."

May 10: Gonzales is questioned by the House Judiciary Committee, but seemed to weather the interrogation better than during his earlier appearance before the Senate. House Republicans echo Gonzales' call for Congress to move on from the issue of the fired prosecutors.

May 17: Two Senate Democrats say they will seek a no-confidence vote on Gonzales over accusations that he carried out President Bush's political agenda at the expense of the Justice Department's independence.

May 21: Bush calls an upcoming Senate vote of no confidence in Gonzales "pure political theater" and stands by his embattled friend.

May 23: The former Justice Department liaison to the White House, Monica Goodling, testifies before the House Judiciary Committee, saying she believes Gonzales did see a list of U.S. attorneys to be fired. She also says that during a private conversation Gonzales "laid out for me his general recollection of ... some of the process regarding the replacement of the U.S. attorneys." She says she felt the conversation was not appropriate and didn't contribute to the dialogue.

June 11: Republican senators block a symbolic vote of no confidence against Gonzales. The 53-38 vote fell seven short of the 60 votes required under U.S. Senate rules to move the nonbinding resolution to a formal debate. Gonzales says, "I am focused on the next 18 months and sprinting to the finish line."

July 10: Democrats raise new questions about whether Gonzales knew about FBI abuses of civil liberties when he told a Senate committee that no such problems occurred. Lying to Congress is a crime, but it wasn't clear if Gonzales knew about the FBI's action before he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee seeking renewal of the broad powers granted law enforcement under the USA Patriot Act.

July 19: Gonzales is questioned in a closed-door session of the House Intelligence Committee about Bush's wiretapping program and the administration's response to congressional subpoenas. Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes says members were especially interested in the reasons behind Gonzales' controversial 2004 visit to the Ashcroft's hospital bedside, reportedly to pressure the ailing attorney general to endorse Bush's surveillance program.

July 23: Gonzales tells Congress in a statement that he's troubled that politics may have played a part in hiring career federal prosecutors.

July 24: In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Gonzales denies that he and former White House chief of staff Andy Card tried to pressure hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft to re-certify Bush's domestic eavesdropping program. Gonzales' credibility was at issue throughout the proceedings, with senators of both parties growing exasperated and at some points accusing the attorney general of intentionally misleading the committee.

July 25: The Associated Press reports on documents it obtained showing that eight U.S. congressional leaders were briefed about the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration in 2004, contradicting sworn Senate testimony the day before by Gonzales.

July 26: FBI Director Robert S. Mueller says the government's terrorist surveillance program was the topic of a 2004 hospital room dispute between top Bush administration officials, contradicting Gonzales' sworn Senate testimony.

July 30: The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee advises Congress to hold off on a perjury investigation of Gonzales over his apparent misstatements about warrantless spying.

July 31: In a carefully worded letter to Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., that never mentions Gonzales, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell notes that the administration first acknowledged its controversial surveillance activities and used the phrase "terrorist surveillance program" in early 2006. Also, Democratic House members introduce a measure directing the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether to impeach Gonzales.

Aug. 2: Senators in both parties concede that they don't have enough evidence to make a perjury charge stick against Gonzales.

Aug. 3: In a two-page letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, Gonzales declines to provide more information about discrepancies in his sworn testimony about the purge of federal prosecutors and its aftermath.

Aug. 11: Gonzales arrives in Baghdad for his third trip to Iraq to meet with department officials who have been there to help fashion the country's legal system.

Aug. 16: The House Judiciary Committee releases partially censored notes from Mueller, dated March 12, 2004, describing a distraught and feeble Ashcroft in his hospital room just moments after being visited by then-White House counsel Gonzales and Card, the president's chief of staff at the time.

Aug. 24: Gonzales telephones Bush at his ranch and says he is considering resigning. Bush says this is a conversation they should have in person.

Aug. 26: Gonzales arrives at Bush's ranch near Crawford, Texas, and they discuss the resignation over lunch. Gonzales signs letter of resignation.

Aug. 27: Gonzales announces his resignation and Bush publicly accepts.

This should not be the end of it. There's very good reasons to believe that Gonzales is guilty of perjury (among other things). He should be charged with a criminal suit.

24 August 2007

NexGen

It's obvious to most of us now (at least to those who have flown recently) that the air traffic control system is kaput. A proposal for a major overhaul by the name of NexGen is currently being presented to Congress. It'll cost a whopping $22 billion to make the skies safe again, which is a hulluva lotta money (unless we consider that we spend this much in a single season in Iraq). Just like shoppers at the local mall, countries make a choice. Shall we spend all our money fattening up war-profiteers or call the war off a month or two early and fix crumbling infrastructure?

23 August 2007

Why there was no exit plan

One has to read between the lines of the official propaganda once in a while and ask why bases are between constructed with permanent facilities in a country we're supposedly on the verge of leaving. This article provides a good analysis:

"Why There Was No Exit Plan"

For all the talk about timetables and benchmarks, one might think that the United States will end the military occupation of Iraq within the lifetimes of the readers of this opinion editorial. Think again.There is to be no withdrawal from Iraq, just as there has been no withdrawal from hundreds of places around the world that are outposts of the American empire.

As UC San Diego professor emeritus Chalmers Johnson put it, "One of the reasons we had no exit plan from Iraq is that we didn't intend to leave."The United States maintains 737 military bases in 130 countries across the globe. They exist for the purpose of defending the economic interests of the United States, what is euphemistically called "national security." In order to secure favorable access to Iraq's vast reserves of light crude, the United States is spending billions on the construction of at least five large permanent military bases throughout that country.

A new Iraq oil law, largely written by the Coalition Provisional Authority, is planned for ratification by June. This law cedes control of Iraq's oil to western powers for 30 years. There is major opposition to the proposed law within Iraq, especially among the country's five trade union federations that represent hundreds of thousands of oil workers. The United States is working hard to surmount this opposition by appealing directly to the al-Maliki government in Iraq.

The attack upon, and subsequent occupation of, Iraq can be seen as a direct result of the 2001 National Energy Policy Development Group (better known as vice president Cheney's energy task force) that was comprised largely of oil and energy company executives. This task force - the proceedings of which have been kept secret by the administration on the grounds of "executive privilege" - recommended that the U.S. government support initiatives in Middle Eastern countries "to open up areas of their energy sector to foreign investment." As Antonio Juhasz, an analyst with Oil Change International wrote last month in the New York Times, "One invasion and a great deal of political engineering by the Bush administration later, this is exactly what the proposed Iraq oil law would achieve.

"The people of the United States have indicated, in the national election last November and in countless polls, that they no longer support the Bush administration's war. The Scooter Libby trial revealed that top administration officials, including the vice president, "cherry-picked" and distorted intelligence in order to sell a "pre-emptive" war to a spooked public. The squandering of hundreds of billions of dollars, some billions of which, according to Seymour Hersh writing in the New Yorker, is being siphoned into "black-ops" programs being run out of Cheney's office (a stunning redux of Iran-Contra carried out by many of the same actors), has also strained the patience and credulity of the American people.

Another betrayal is the "contracting out" of "war-related activities" to corporations such as Halliburton, Bechtel, Chemonics and Blackwater. Halliburton, Vice President Cheney's previous employer, calls itself an "energy services company" but has tentacles reaching into nearly every aspect of the war (originally dubbed Operation Iraqi Liberation until some bright bulb among the Bushies realized that "OIL" might not be the best handle for this venture). Halliburton has also profited handsomely from no-bid government contracts awarded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the construction at the national embarrassment known as "Gitmo," and most recently, from the fiasco at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.Unfortunately, all this corruption, mayhem and death are good for some (or it wouldn't go on) . . .

22 August 2007

Iraq: Another Vietnam?

Shrub is now comparing Iraq to Vietnam. And here I thought that such comparisons were strictly forbidden by Patriot Act Provision A3X444A Article 4 Version 7 . I guess we're now on Version 8. During this short window of opportunity, I'd like to express my hearty agreement with his sentiment: Shrub's War and the Western Recolonization of Vietnam (otherwise know as the French Indo-China War or the Vietnam War) do bear some striking parallels--especially in terms of the uncanny stupidity and hubris of the politicians involved.

21 August 2007

Thinkers Anonymous: My Story

It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now and then -- just to loosen up. Inevitably, though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker.

I began to think alone -- "to relax,"I told myself -- but I knew it wasn't true. Thinking became more and moreimportant to me, and finally I was thinking all the time. That was when things began to sour at home.

One evening I turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of life. She spent that night at her mother's. I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don't mix, but I couldn't help myself.I began to avoid friends at lunchtime so I could read Thoreau, Muir, Confucius and Kafka. I would return to the office dizzied and confused, asking, "What is it exactly we are doing here?"

One day the boss called me in. He said, "Listen, I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don't stop thinking on the job, you'll have to find another job." This gave me a lot to think about. I came home early after my conversation with the boss. "Honey," I confessed, "I've been thinking..."

"I know you've been thinking," she said, "and I want a divorce!" "But Honey, surely it's not that serious." "It is serious," she said, lower lip aquiver."You think as much as college professors and college professors don't make any money, so if you keep on thinking, we won't have any money!"

"That's a faulty syllogism," I said impatiently.

She exploded in tears of rage and frustration, but I was in no mood to deal with the emotional drama. "I'm going to the library," I snarled as I stomped out the door.

I headed for the library, in the mood for some Nietzsche. I roared into the parking lot with NPR on the radio and ran up to the big glass doors. They didn't open. The library was closed.

To this day, I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me that night. Leaning on the unfeeling glass, whimpering for Zarathustra, a poster caught my eye, "Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?" it asked. You probably recognize that line. It comes from the standard Thinkers Anonymous poster.

This is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker. I never miss a TA meeting. At each meeting we watch a non-educational video; last week it was "Porky's." Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting. I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home.

Life just seemed easier, somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking. I think the road to recovery is nearly complete for me.

Today I took the final step...I joined the Republican Party.

Hope it helps all of my friends that are caught up in the "thinking" process.

12 August 2007

Like a bridge over troubled water...

About a third of America's roads are in bad shape. And bridges aren't doing very well either. This doesn't surprise me. Infrastructure improvements require long-term planning (i.e., leadership), something that's been in short supply for quite some time now.

1 August 2007

Unpatriotic man stopped before infecting public with all of his negative freedom-hating vibes

There are days when I thank my lucky guns for law enforcement. And whoever's been setting priorities down at the Maryland precincts needs a very hearty pat on the back. Bad apples like ol' Alan in the story below threaten the very fabric of our society. One can only wish that Maryland were a bit more like Texas where rabble-rousers like Alan get the electric chair (the kind where they zap ya a couple times just to wake you up before putting you out of your misery.) Selling anti-Bush buttons. Next thing you know people will be walking around public places expressin' themselves as if they were in a French coffeeshop or a Korean teahouse. Plain Unamerikan if you ask me. Well, here's the story. Judge fer yerself.

74-year-old Alan McConnell was arrested this weekend and charged with trespassing, after police said he was selling "Impeach Him" buttons without permission. McConnell has sold the anti-Bush buttons at a Maryland farmers' market for months.

Officials said that the incident has nothing to do with politics, but that they feared McConnell and his supporters were becoming a safety hazard. As he was being arrested, about 40 McConnell supporters booed and yelled "Free speech!"

Some of the market vendors say that all the controversy may actually help business. "The excitement has certainly brought a lot more people here, but not all of them are buying," one said. "Hopefully, the protesters today will come tomorrow to buy."