Thursday, April 27, 2006

Neil Young on your computer

I just got an e-mail from True Majority telling me that Neil Young's new antiwar album is going to be available at their site tomorrow. Free. That's right, you'll get to hear the new songs from Living With War.

Here's the playlist:

1) After The Garden
2) Living With War
3) The Restless Consumer
4) Shock And Awe
5) Families
6) Flags of Freedom
7) Let's Impeach The President
8) Lookin' For A Leader
9) Roger And Out
10) America The Beautiful

While you're there you can also sign a petition supporting Russ Feingold's resolution to get out of Iraq by the end of the year.

Action Alert from the ACLU

Here in Vermont we're usually proud of our senior Senator, Pat Leahy. We're especially proud of his NO vote on the Iraq war resolution.

We need him again. Here's the text of a message I got today from the ACLU. If you're in Vermont, or in one of the other states mentioned in the post, please call your senator today to block this whitewash of illegal government spying.

In addition to calling him at the numbers they've listed, you can comment directly by using this link.

To Our Friends in Vermont,

This week the Senate Judiciary Committee is considering two bills that would reward President Bush’s illegal actions by allowing the National Security Agency (NSA) to continue spying on Americans in violation of our laws. These bills are being pushed through even though Congress has failed to learn key facts about the program.

Senator Leahy sits on this committee and can stop both of these bills dead in their tracks.

We need you to call Senator Leahy right now.

In Burlington: (802) 863-2525
In Washington, DC: (202) 224-4242

* Tell him to oppose both Senate Bill 2453 and Senate Bill 2455. Congress needs to get the facts about the NSA spying program before making it legal.
* Both bills would have the effect of whitewashing the illegal NSA domestic spying program. Conservatives and progressives agree that this program should not be made legal.
* Congress has a duty to get the facts, not help the Bush administration cover them up. The Senate Judiciary Committee must uphold its responsibility to the Constitution and the American people by opposing these misguided bills.
* Tell Senator Leahy to get the facts about the warrantless NSA domestic spying before making it legal.

Calls are needed to several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Please take a moment and forward this email to your friends and family who live in Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, California, Ohio, Iowa, South Carolina, Kansas, Wisconsin, Delaware, Oklahoma and Illinois. They can look up their member’s phone number here.

S. 2453, a bill written by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), would supposedly restore judicial review of wiretaps, but the law already requires judicial review and the president has ignored it. Senator Specter’s bill would allow the courts to approve programs of surveillance, diminishing the Constitution’s requirement there be probable cause that an American is doing something wrong before their communications can be seized.

S. 2455, a bill written by Senator Mike DeWine (R-PA), would also attempt to rewrite probable cause to allow warrantless surveillance of Americans’ calls and emails without evidence that they are conspiring with suspect terrorists. It would make judicial review of wiretaps optional and would reduce the amount of information the president is required to give Congress about the program.

Caroline Fredrickson
Director, ACLU Washington Legislative Office

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Music to Save the Court by

I guess this has been going around for a couple of months, but I just heard it tonight, thanks to Dahlia Lithwick.

Turn up the speakers and enjoy!

Monday, April 24, 2006

What more do we need to know?

The story from last night's 60 Minutes is about as clear as it could possibly be: months before the invasion of Iraq the CIA had gotten Iraq's foreign minister to disclose information about Iraq's capabilities. That's right--before the war we knew from the top level of the government of Iraq what their plans and abilities were, and what we learned was that they had no so-called weapons of mass destruction. None. Zero.

You would think that would be pretty important information, wouldn't you? It's something I would want to know if I were deciding whether to invade a country because I thought they were hoarding dangerous weapons to hurt me or my allies. Still, when they found out what he had to say, all of a sudden Bush, Rice, and the rest of the gang weren't interested in hearing it.

But he says he was taken aback by what happened. "The group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they're no longer interested," Drumheller recalls. "And we said, 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said, 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.'"

"And if I understand you correctly, when the White House learned that you had this source from the inner circle of Saddam Hussein, they were thrilled with that," Bradley asked.

"The first we heard, they were. Yes," Drumheller replied.

Once they learned what it was the source had to say — that Saddam Hussein did not have the capability to wage nuclear war or have an active WMD program, Drumheller says, "They stopped being interested in the intelligence."

I know that we sound like a broken record, but isn't the answer obvious: ITMFA.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

More Administration efforts to crush dissent

Would you call it a perfect storm? Maybe not, but the news yesterday had two different stories about Bush administration efforts to crush dissent.

First, and seemingly more typical, was the firing of a CIA employee for disclosing classified information about CIA activities, including the operation of secret prisons in various friendly countries. Obviously it's easier to try to shut down the critics than stop the illegal conduct, right?

On the same day we learn that the Chinese Falun Gong member who showed up at the White House to confront Hu Jintao for his government's suppression of the growing sect. Nothing like cozying up to a repressive foreign government to prove your commitment to human rights, eh George?

What I thought was particularly interesting about this story was the rationale from the U.S. Attorney:

"She was yelling at the president," George said. "You can't walk into a theater and yell 'Fire!' The First Amendment does not permit her to engage in criminal conduct."

Since when is criticism of the government the same as falsely yelling "Fire" in a crowded theater?

For more information you can view the criminal complaint against the protester here. (Thanks to Tom Foley, a brother alumnus of Regis High School, for this information.)

Boy, what a week for McClellan. I bet he can't wait for them to find a pinch-weasel for him.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The incredible shrinking party affiliation

The other day Josh mentioned his observation that the media don't seem to bother to mention the party affiliation when it's a Republican involved, but they always seem to manage to mention a Democratic connection.

Here's another example : The mayor or ex-mayor of Norristown, Pa., was recently convicted in federal court of bribery, among other things. Here are a couple of links to local newspaper stories that describe the case and the charges, but neglect to mention the guy's party affiliation. Finally, the third quote is from the story in the Inquirer and it doesn't mention LeBlanc's party affiliation, but it does mention that two of the witnesses against him are his Democratic opponents. Again, if you get corruption in the story, apparently it's mandatory to get the name of the Democratic Party in too.

Residents say corruption has hurt Norristown

LeBlanc Found Guilty

Two of LeBlanc's Democratic foes, Councilwoman Rochelle Griffin Culbreath and former Councilwoman Margaret Hunsicker, are on the prosecutor's witness list.

LeBlanc's lawyer, Stephen J. Britt, suggested he will attack the motives of LeBlanc's accusers.

"The people lining up against Ted have a reason to trash him," Britt said.

So what is LeBlanc's party affiliation?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Remember the trailers

This has become so commonplace that it's almost tiresome, but it's essential to make it public when each one of these revelations comes out.

Remember the trailers? Those trailers captured in Iraq that Bush presented as concrete proof that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons? What he said was:
On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile "biological laboratories." He declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."

This announcement was followed by disputes as to the actual uses of these trailers.

Today we learn in the Post that at the time Bush made his statement the military had already analyzed those trailers and determined that they had nothing to do with chemical or biological weapons, and were "almost certainly intended" for manufacturing hydrogen for weather balloons. "Meanwhile, for nearly a year, administration and intelligence officials continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories."

The typical response of the Administration to these revelations is that we need to be looking forward, and it doesn't help anything to go over the past, so I'll look forward with this: Since we now have incontrovertible evidence on yet another aspect of the rationale for war, how can we believe them the next time they tell us we need to go to war?

Next stop, Iran?

You don't have to agree with him if you don't want to, but Seymour Hersh broke the story of the My Lai massacre and the Niger uranium forgery, and is renowned for having great sources. Therefore, when he says that Bush is planning a nuclear attack on Iran and Bush calls it "wild speculation", I know who I believe.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Vietnam again

Back in the 1980's many of us took up the slogan "El Salvador is Spanish for Vietnam". We were warning our fellow citizens against getting into a war of conquest based on lies from the government and exaggerated claims of a communist menace.

Now it's Iraq (and Iran may be next). The New Yorker's Iraq war coverage has been consistently excellent. Last week had an article by George Packer about the lessons of Tal Afar which focuses on a regiment commander whose Ph. D. from the University of North Carolina studied the American experience in Vietnam. Take a look at this:

His dissertation, based on research in newly declassified archives, was published in 1997, with the title “Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam.” The book assembled a damning case against senior military leaders for failing to speak their minds when, in the early years of the war, they disagreed with Pentagon policies. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, knowing that Johnson and McNamara wanted uncritical support rather than honest advice, and eager to protect their careers, went along with official lies and a split-the-difference strategy of gradual escalation that none of them thought could work. “Dereliction of Duty” won McMaster wide praise, and its candor inspired an ardent following among post-Vietnam officers.

Is it just me, or is this starting to sound familiar?

You should read the whole article.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Articles of Impeachment

Cross posted from Green Mountain Daily.

I wouldn't ordinarily post about a book before I'm done reading it, but this is so timely I just have to.

The book is Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush and it's put out by the Center for Constitutional Rights. The book is a closely reasoned exposition of the compelling grounds for impeachment, including illegal electronic surveillance in violation of FISA and the Constitution; his illegal war in Iraq; arbitrary detentions of citizens and non-citizens; and arrogating excessive power to the executive branch in contravention of the doctrine of separation of powers.

The Democratic State Committee is meeting this Saturday to discuss whether to call on the Legislature to support an impeachment resolution. Maybe it would be a good idea for some of the delegates to familiarize themselves with this book to be prepared to make the sound legal arguments that compel impeachment.

I know that the central issue here is not legal but political. Nevertheless, when the legal and moral issues are as compelling as they are, I think they must take precedence over political considerations.

I also don't think this idea is bad politics. The current slogan for the Democratic Party nationally is Together, America Can Do Better. Taking a stand on the impeachment resolution proves that the Democrats offer an alternative.

Great news from Texas

You know the news by now. Last night they were reporting that Delay had announced that he wasn't going to run for reelection, now we learn that, not only is he not running for reelection, he is actually resigning from Congress by mid-June.

This is obviously great news, the best we've had in a long time.

It's also clear, though, that the real story isn't what Delay is handing out. Obviously his reelection was in trouble. Maybe he could have pulled it out, but the odds were probably against it. Still, you don't quit your job in June, a job you will have until January, because you might lose it in November. Although C-SPAN is reporting that he thinks he can be more effective outside of The House than inside, it seems clear that he's really more interested in staying out of the big house. The feds are flipping the people around him, building the case for Delay's conviction, and that's the real story. Couple this with the fact that he can now spend all the campaign funds he's accumulated on his defense, and you can see what's really behind this.

Monday, April 03, 2006

More fun with Medicare Part D

Remember when people were hassling the Bush administration about how complicated Part D is, and how especially difficult it is for old people, who are the primary beneficiaries of Medicare, to understand?
Not so, said the administration mouthpieces. Especially Mike Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services. He was able to help his aged parents figure it out and sign up for the plan that was right for them, and pretty much anyone else can do the same.

Well, here's what the Salt Lake Tribune is reporting:

Not even the senior parents of Washington's top health official are immune from headaches caused by the new Medicare drug plan.
Dixie and Anne Leavitt - parents of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt - recently were forced to change Medicare plans after learning that the one they chose imperiled their retiree medical coverage.
The elder Leavitts joined the program last fall with some fanfare and help from their son. Anne Leavitt, 73, was quoted in The Salt Lake Tribune touting the online enrollment as "smooth," and a guaranteed money-saver.
Neither she nor Dixie, 76 - who made his fortune in the insurance business - could be reached for comment on Thursday. But they reportedly suffered no real lapse in coverage. Secretary Leavitt's office confirmed that the couple signed up for another Medicare plan through their insurer, Utah's Public Employee Health Plan.

So let's see: you "made your fortune" in the insurance business, your son runs the program, and you still can't figure it out.

I hate to argue with the President, but maybe there is a problem there after all.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Where's the integrity?

Maybe people should start taking a closer look at John McCain, and maybe come to the realization that the claims that are made for him as an independent thinker, man of integrity, and so forth, are just bogus.
He was right back in 2000 when he listed Jerry Falwell as one of the "agents of intolerance" who were poisoning the American political dialogue by pandering to the extremes of left and right. (He included Al Sharpton in this category, a characterization I agree with.)
Now he's running for president again but he knows he needs the intolerant base of the Republican Party, so he's changed his tune. He's speaking at Falwell's Liberty University [sic] next month, and today on Meet the Press he said he's changed his mind (about Falwell, presumably not about Sharpton). Did he say what has changed about Falwell to change his mind? Not at all.
Coupled with his sucking up to Bush this would seem to seal the true picture. We can't expect the R's to turn away from him, but what about getting the moderates, independents, and Democrats to start seeing him for what he is?