Thursday, July 31, 2008

Apocalypse Down-under: Aussie bank's write-offs signal doom for Wall Street

The market on Monday fell 240 points on the bad news that the U.S. fiscal deficit for this year would rise to a record of nearly $500 billion (notice how the word billion just slides off the tongues of government officials since the Bush/Cheney junta took control in 2000?), then came the announcement of the rise in oil prices, slump in consumer spending (how dare they? Don't they know they are responsible for the economic slowdown?), lower than expected quarterly earnings and then for the cherry on top: Merrill Lynch announces a 4.5 billion second-quarter loss with write-downs of almost 9.5 billion (yes, "they are paying people to take it off their hands" with your money). Nice. And all in one day. Of course, if you follow the madness every day you know that Tuesday saw the market regain 260 points in the first few hours (yay team, we're up again!). And the Rethuglicans in Congress refused to curb speculation in the oil market. (Guess the hurt is spreading everywhere? Naaah!) And the MSM is studiously avoiding reporting that AAA-rated CDO's (collateralized debt obligations) are probably worthless, and that banks have not accurately reported their losses as they await the life-saving correction. Think about that for a few moments if you can spare the time. And you were just laughing at those who had already moved everything into gold (or moonrocks, whatever!)? Mike Whitney dissects the economic news for us and instructs us as to why we should not believe that the gyrations of the stock market are the best way to determine the economic health of the U.S. and our little selves: even with the present liquidity-less market, headgames are still being played. I, for one, have opted out of the naïveté market. ________________________________________________
Apocalypse Down-under: Aussie bank's write-offs signal doom for Wall Street By Mike Whitney Created Jul 31 2008 Monday's trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) was a real humdinger. It started off with the White House announcing that this year's fiscal deficit would soar to a new record of nearly $500 billion. That was followed by news of rising oil prices, weak quarterly earnings and a slowdown in consumer spending. Plunk, plunk, plunk; one domino after another. By mid-morning the markets were in full retreat. That's when investment giant Merrill Lynch announced that it would notch a $4.6 billion second-quarter loss and write-downs of $9.4 billion on collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and other mortgage-related assets. That's when the dookie really hit the fan. Stocks quickly went verticle and the rout was on. By the closing bell the Dow was down 240 points. Traders staggered from floor of the exchange slumped-over and bedraggled looking like they just got a missive from the draft board. The optimism is being wrung from the markets faster than the credit at an over-levered hedge fund. Every day brings another dismal surprise. And, yet, on Tuesday, the market staged a valiant comeback surging 260 points in a matter of hours. It was enough to give the fund managers a bit of a lift and hope that things are finally turning around. But the market's woes are far from over. They're deeply-rooted and spreading like Kudzu throughout the system. The International Monetary Fund summed it up in warning they issued earlier in the week: "Global financial markets are 'fragile' and indicators of systemic risk remain 'elevated'...Credit quality 'across many loan classes has begun to deteriorate with declining house prices and slowing economic growth.' Bank balance sheets are under 'renewed stress' and the decline in bank share prices has made it more difficult to raise new capital. (There is an) 'increased likelihood of a negative interaction between banking system adjustment and the real economy.' (Financial Times) The IMF also stuck by its earlier prediction that total losses to financial institutions from the credit crisis would reach $1 trillion ($945 billion) a sum that will have devastating consequences for industry, consumers and the global economy. Tuesday's festivities on Wall Street are likely to be short-lived. It's just a one-day lull in the storm. Over at Nouriel Roubini's blog, Dr. Doom made this observation about the Merrill Lynch's troubles: "Merrill Lynch's decision to 'sell' a good chunk of its remaining CDOs at 22 cents to the dollar has been widely praised as the firm finally recognizing the full extent of its losses on these toxic instruments. This batch of $30.6 billion of CDOs was already marked down to $11.1 billion. Now with the 'sale' of it to Lone Star at a price of 6.7 billion Merrill Lynch is taking another $4.4 billion write-down and 'selling' it at 22% of the original face value. But is this a market-based 'sale'? No way, calling this transaction a 'sale' is a joke." (Nouriel Roubini's Global EconoMonitor) This isn't a "sale"; it's more like abandoning a sinking ship. The investment chieftains are getting scorched by their downgraded assets and have started dumping them at any cost. There's no market for mortgage-backed anything now, and there won't be until housing finds a bottom. By time that happens, most of the CEOs and CFOs in the mega-brokerage houses will be squatting on streetcorners on the lower East Side with tin-cup in hand. It's that bad. The Merrill Lynch deal illustrates just how crazy things have gotten. Merrill said it "will provide financing to the purchaser for approximately 75% of the purchase price." Whoa. In other words, the banks are so anxious to off-load their junk-paper, they're almost paying people to take it off their hands. Now that's desperation! No wonder the market is snorkeling its way to the bottom of the fishbowl. The problems haunting the financial markets have cross-pollinated with the real economy and are spreading misery everywhere. Unemployment is rising, growth is slowing, inflation is up, the dollar is down. We've heard it many times before, but it's still jarring to see General Motors stock fall below Bed & Bath, or Starbucks shut down 600 stores, or million dollar McMansions sell for $425,000, or millions of middle-class families join the food stamp rolls. That's tragic no matter how you slice it. Now that the working stiff is maxed out on his mortgage, worried about losing his job, and trying to keep food on the table; the least congress can do is scatter the oil speculators; right? Wrong. On Monday, the Financial Times reported that: "A US Senate proposal designed to curb speculation and increase transparency in the energy markets was blocked by Republican legislators on Friday. The move frustrates Democratic efforts to show the party is taking action on record petrol prices. The Stop Excessive Speculation Act, sponsored by Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, fell 10 votes short of clearing a procedural hurdle." Unbelievable. $4.00 gasoline and millions of consumers that are flat-broke and congress still refuses lend a hand? What a scrubby band of sandbaggers. The scariest news of the week comes from down-under, where the National Australia Bank (NAB) announced it would "slash a £400m bond sale by two thirds. The retreat comes days after the Melbourne lender shocked the markets by announcing a 90pc write-down on its £550m holdings of US mortgage debt, an admission that it AAA-rated securities are virtually worthless....The decision by National Australia Bank to make drastic provisions on its US mortgage debt could have ramifications in the US itself. It opted for a 100pc write-off on a clutch of "senior strips" of collateralized debt obligations (CDO) worth £450m - even though they were all rated AAA. (Ambrose Evans Pritchard, "Australia faces worse crisis than America", UK Telegraph) This is a huge story with grave implications for America's struggling banking system. No wonder the establishment media is avoiding it like the plague. If AAA rated CDOs are worthless, then some of the biggest financial institutions in the country will be packed off to the boneyard feet-first. The original article appeared in the Business Spectator and was titled "NAB will shock Wall Street", by Robert Gottliebsen. "Shock" is an understatement. This is more like a meat cleaver crashing down on a butcher block. Schwook! This is a must-read for anyone who is following the meltdown in the financial markets. Here is an extended excerpt from Gottliebsen's article: "The National Australia Bank's decision to write off 90 per cent of its US conduit loans will have dramatic repercussions around the world. Wall Street will be deeply shocked when they understand the repercussions of what NAB has done. It is clear global banks have nowhere near provided for their exposures to US housing loans which in the words of John Stewart are experiencing a “meltdown”. We are now way beyond sub-prime. NAB says that it is suffering a 55 per cent loss on American housing loans – an event that has never happened in the history of a developed country in recent memory. This is an unprecedented event and means that the cost of bailing out the US financial system is now far beyond the highest estimates. A US recession is now locked in, but more alarmingly, 55 per cent loan losses point to the possibility of a depression. It means the cost of bailing out housing exposures to the two mortgage insurers will be so great that it will leave no room to bail out anything else and there are several US banks that are now in big trouble. NAB says that the dislocation in the residential market is separate from the corporate market, but the flow on is inevitable." ( The Business Spectator,"NAB will shock Wall Street") The conduits are off-balance sheets operations run by the banks which contain hundreds of billions of dollars of bonds which are now essentially worthless. So far, many of the banks have not accurately reported the losses from these operations hoping that the housing market will stabilize and the value of the bonds will rebound. The action taken by the National Australia Bank is a "game-changer"; it's like the Grim Reaper swooping down on Wall Street and lopping-off the top of every big investment bank in downtown Manhattan. Gottliebsen again: "The global banks have been marking to market the assets they held on their balance sheet, but the vast amounts held in so called 'conduit trust accounts' have not been written down because they were not marketable. NAB wrote them down when they saw the bad mortgages....US banks have written down $450 billion in bad housing loans. The revelation from NAB means that they will now certainly need to take provisions to $1,000 billion. But write-downs of $1,300 billion and perhaps even more are on the cards."(Business Spectator) Tuesday's "sucker rally" in the stock market was just the convulsive writhing of a dying bull. It won't last. Once the bad news sinks in; investors will pull up stakes, equities will fall, and banks will crumble. The big-hand just inched a little closer to midnight.
Suzan _____________________________________

Deathly Shocked!

Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine tells us all we never wanted to know about how the neocons have used narrow (and shockingly bad) economic theory (specifically, the Chicago School's, originally emanating from Milton Friedman) to ruin economies throughout the world (and doing the final tap dance on ours here in the U.S. as we cringe along to their tune) that were then rebuilt along self-serving Friedmaniac lines. Chicago School proponents were ominously present at the ouster of democratically elected representatives throughout the Southern Cone (not to mention Indonesia, et al.). At her website you may read reviews, buy the book, and view the movie by Alfonso Cuarón (who also directed Children of Men) which is an official selection for the Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals. They say leftwingers have no sense of humor, but you've just got to give those righties cred for having absolutely no sense of irony. A sample of this book's contents follows (emphasis marks and commentary are mine):
General Augusto Pinochet and his supporters consistently referred to the events of September 11, 1973 (catch that date?), not as a coup d'état but as "a war." Santiago certainly looked like a war zone: tanks fired as they rolled down the boulevards, and government buildings were under air assault by fighter jets. But there was something strange about this war. It had only one side. (p. 75) . . . . In the years leading up to the coup, U.S. trainers, many from the CIA had whipped the Chilean military into an anti-Communist frenzy, persuading them that socialists were de facto Russian spies, a force alien to Chilean society - a homegrown "enemy within." In fact, it was the military that had become the true domestic enemy, ready to turn its weapons on the population it was sworn to protect. (p. 76) . . . . For the Chicago Boys, September 11 was a day of giddy anticipation and deadline adrenalin . . . . on the day of the coup, several Chicago Boys were camped out at the printing presses of the right-wing "El Mercurio" newspaper. As shots were being fired in the streets outside, they frantically tried to get the document printed in time for the junta's first day on the job. The proposals in the final document bore a striking resemblance to those found in Milton Friedman's "Capitalism and Freedom:" privatization, deregulation and cuts to social spending - the free-market trinity. Chile's U.S.-trained economists had tried to introduce these ideas peacefully, within the confines of a democratic debate, but they had been overwhelmingly rejected. Now the Chicago Boys and their plans were back, in a climate distinctly more conducive to their radical vision. In this new era, no one besides a handful of men in uniform needed to agree with them. Their staunchest political opponents were either in jail, dead or fleeing for cover; the spectacle of fighter jets and caravans of death was keeping everyone else in line. (p.78) . . . Even three decades later, Chile is still held up by free-market enthusiasts as proof that Friedmanism works. When Pinochet died in December 2006 (one month after Friedman), the New York Times praised him for "transforming a bankrupt economy into the most prosperous in Latin America," while a Washington Post editorial said he had "introduced the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle." The facts behind the "Chilean Miracle" remain a matter of intense debate. Pinochet held power for 17 years, and during that time he changed political direction several times. The country's period of steady growth that is held up as proof of its miraculous success did not begin until the mid-eighties - a full decade after the Chicago Boys implemented shock therapy and well after Pinochet was forced to make a radical course correction. That's because in 1982, despite its strict adherence to Chicago doctrine, Chile's economy crashed: its debt exploded, it faced hyperinflation once again and unemployment hit 30 percent - 10 times higher than it was under Allende. The main cause was that the piranhas, the Enron-style financial houses that the Chicago Boys had freed from all regulation, had bought up the country's assets on borrowed money and run up an enormous debt of $14 billion. The situation was so unstable that Pinochet was forced to do exactly what Allende had done: he nationalized many of these companies. In the face of the debacle, almost all the Chicago Boys lost their influential government posts, including Sergio de Castro. Several other Chicago graduates held prominent posts with the piranhas and came under investigation for fraud, stripping away the carefully cultivated facade of scientific neutrality so central to the Chicago Boy identity. (p. 85) . . . The Argentine junta excelled at striking just the right balance between public and private horror, carrying out enough of its terror in the open that everyone knew what was going on, but simultaneously keeping enough secret that it could always be denied. In its first days in power, the junta made a single dramatic demonstration of its willingness to use lethal force: a man was pushed out of a Ford Falcon (a vehicle notorious for its use by the secret police), tied to Buenos Aires's most prominent monument, the 67.5-meter high white Obelisk, and machine-gunned in plain view. After that, the junta's killings went underground, but they were always present. Disappearances, officially denied, were very public spectacles enlisting the silent complicity of entire neighborhoods. When someone was targeted to be eliminated, a fleet of military vehicles showed up at that person's home or workplace and cordoned off the block, often with a helicopter buzzing overhead. In broad daylight and in full view of the neighbors, police or soldiers battered down the door and dragged out the victim, who often shouted his or her name before disappearing into a waiting Ford Falcon, in the hope that news of the event would reach the family. (p. 90) . . . . The juntas of the Southern Cone made no secret of their revolutionary ambitions to remake their respective societies, but they were savvy enough to publicly deny what (Rodolfo) Walsh was accusing them of: using massive violence in order to achieve those economic goals, goals that, in the absence of a system of terrorizing the public and eliminating obstacles, would have certainly provoked popular revolt. To the extent that killings by the state were acknowledged, they were justified by the juntas on the grounds that they were fighting a war against dangerous Marxist terrorists, funded and controlled by the KGB. If the juntas used "dirty" tactics, it was because their enemy was monstrous. Using language that sounds eerily familiar today, Admiral Massera called it "a war for freedom and against tyranny . . . a war against those who favor death and by those of us who favor life . . . . We are fighting against nihilists, against agents of destruction whose only objective is destruction itself, although they disguise this with social crusades. (p. 96)
I could quote all of this amazingly perspicacious work of genius; however, you should GO GET A COPY and read it!!!!! (For your own self defense at least.) Suzan __________________________________

"The Gift That Keeps On Giving"

Have you been wondering about the pervasive silence from the MSM on Jack Abramoff and his crime spree - "the gift that keeps on giving?" Luckily for us Bill Moyers and Michael Winship have "tracked down the facts" (paraphrasing Bill O'Lielly's threat to Michelle Obama), which should be reported on soon even by the MSM, and are ready to lead another type of party: one leading directly to jail for a very long time. They address the ongoing Monica Goodling and Sen. Ted Stevens scandals and plug Thomas Frank's (I've loved this guy since reading his What's the Matter with Kansas?) new book, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule, which contains these most astute observations:
Fantastic misgovernment is not an accident," he writes, "nor is it the work of a few bad individuals. It is the consequence of triumph by a particular philosophy of government, by a movement that understands the liberal state as a perversion and considers the market the ideal nexus of human society. This movement is friendly to industry not just by force of campaign contributions but by conviction; it believes in entrepreneurship not merely in commerce but in politics; and the inevitable results of its ascendance are, first, the capture of the state by business and, second, what follows from that: incompetence, graft, and all the other wretched flotsam that we've come to expect from Washington. ... The conservatism that speaks to us through its actions in Washington is institutionally opposed to those baseline good intentions we learned about in elementary school. Its leaders laugh off the idea of the public interest as airy-fairy nonsense; they caution against bringing top-notch talent into government service; they declare war on public workers. They have made a cult of outsourcing and privatizing, they have wrecked established federal operations because they disagree with them, and they have deliberately piled up an Everest of debt in order to force the government into crisis. The ruination they have wrought has been thorough; it has been a professional job. Repairing it will require years of political action." Have we the stamina, commitment - or even the attention span - to take such action?
They give some overdue attention to the current TV stardom of the thugs Tom DeLay, Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist who seem to be skating away from their criminal associations with Abramoff, the defrauding of Indians, casinos scandals and the murder of a mafia-connected possibly made guy, ending with the damning indictment that the U.S. has become "a nation too easily distracted and looking the other way as everything rightfully ours is taken." ______________________________________________
The Wave of "Capitol Crimes" Continues Thursday 31 July 2008 Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, t r u t h o u t | Perspective Like the largesse he spread so bountifully to members of Congress and the White House staff - countless fancy meals, skybox tickets to basketball games and U2 concerts, golfing sprees in Scotland - Jack Abramoff is the gift that keeps on giving. The notorious lobbyist and his cohorts (including conservatives Tom DeLay, Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed) shook down Native American tribal councils and other clients for tens of millions of dollars, buying influence via a coalition of equally corrupt government officials and cronies dedicated to dismantling government by selling it off, making massive profits as they tore the principles of a representative democracy to shreds. A report earlier this summer from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform builds on an earlier committee investigation that detailed some 485 contacts between Abramoff and the Bush administration. According to the new report, "Senior White House officials told the Committee that White House officials held Mr. Abramoff and members of his lobbying team in high regard and solicited recommendations from Mr. Abramoff and his colleagues on policy matters." Now Abramoff's doing time in Maryland. He's at a minimum-security federal prison, serving five years and ten months for unrelated, fraudulent business practices involving a fake wire transfer he and a partner fabricated to secure a loan to buy SunCruz Casinos. SunCruz, a line of Florida cruise ships, ferried high and low rollers into international waters to gamble. (The original owner of SunCruz Casinos, Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, was gunned down, Mafia-style, in February 2001). But come September, Abramoff will be sentenced for his larger-than-life role in one of the biggest scandals in American history - a collection of outrages that has already sent one member of Congress to jail, others into retirement and dozens of accomplices running for cover. Over the last couple of years, he has been singing to the authorities, which is why he has been kept in a detention facility close to DC and the reason his sentencing for tax evasion, the defrauding of Indians and the bribing of Washington officials has been delayed. The FBI is thought to be using Abramoff's testimony to build an ever-expanding case that may continue to shake those who live within the Beltway bubble for months and years to come. Bill Moyers Journal is airing an updated edition of "Capitol Crimes," a special that was first produced for public television two years ago, relating the entire sordid story of the Abramoff scandals. Produced by Sherry Jones, the rebroadcast comes at a moment of renewed interest. Not only is Abramoff's sentencing imminent, but the most important national elections in decades are little more than three months away amid continuing, seemingly daily revelations of further, profligate abuses of power. Monday saw the publication of a 140-page report from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility, confirming that, as The Washington Post recounted, "For nearly two years, a young political aide sought to cultivate a 'farm system' for Republicans at the Justice Department, hiring scores of prosecutors and immigration judges who espoused conservative priorities and Christian lifestyle choices. "That aide, Monica M. Goodling, exercised what amounted to veto power over a wide range of critical jobs, asking candidates for their views on abortion and same-sex marriage and maneuvering around senior officials who outranked her, including the department's second-in-command.... [The report] concluded yesterday that Goodling and others had broken civil service laws, run afoul of department policy and engaged in 'misconduct,' a finding that could expose them to further scrutiny and sanctions." With the next day's sunrise came the indictment of Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens, the first sitting US senator to face criminal charges in 15 years. Apparently, the senator was playing the home version of "The Price Is Right," for among the gifts a grand jury says were illegally rewarded him by the oil company VECO were a Viking gas grill, a tool cabinet and a wraparound deck for his mountainside house in Anchorage. In fact, VECO allegedly gave the place an entire new first floor, with two bedrooms and a bath. How neighborly. (By the way, just to round the circle, Senator Stevens received $1,000 in campaign contributions from Jack Abramoff directly, which subsequently he donated to the Alaskan chapter of the Red Cross, and $16,500 from Native American tribes and others represented by Abramoff, which Stevens gave to other charities.) Coincidentally, this week also marks the publication of a new book, "The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule," written by Thomas Frank, the author of "What's the Matter with Kansas?" In an essay in the August issue of Harper's magazine, adapted from the book, Frank adroitly weaves the actions of Abramoff and his pals into a vastly larger ideological framework. "Fantastic misgovernment is not an accident," he writes, "nor is it the work of a few bad individuals. It is the consequence of triumph by a particular philosophy of government, by a movement that understands the liberal state as a perversion and considers the market the ideal nexus of human society. This movement is friendly to industry not just by force of campaign contributions but by conviction; it believes in entrepreneurship not merely in commerce but in politics; and the inevitable results of its ascendance are, first, the capture of the state by business and, second, what follows from that: incompetence, graft, and all the other wretched flotsam that we've come to expect from Washington. "... The conservatism that speaks to us through its actions in Washington is institutionally opposed to those baseline good intentions we learned about in elementary school. Its leaders laugh off the idea of the public interest as airy-fairy nonsense; they caution against bringing top-notch talent into government service; they declare war on public workers. They have made a cult of outsourcing and privatizing, they have wrecked established federal operations because they disagree with them, and they have deliberately piled up an Everest of debt in order to force the government into crisis. The ruination they have wrought has been thorough; it has been a professional job. Repairing it will require years of political action." Have we the stamina, commitment - or even the attention span - to take such action? Abramoff may be cooling his heels in minimum security, but his pals DeLay, Norquist and Reed appear on television and radio shows whose hosts treat them as political savants with nary a nod to their past nefarious association with Abramoff. Few in the audience seem to notice or care. Former House Majority Leader DeLay is awaiting trial on money laundering charges. The incorrigible Ralph Reed, who played Christian pastors in Texas for suckers in enlisting their unwitting help for Abramoff's gambling clients, even has a political potboiler of a novel out - "Dark Horse." The novel is the story of a failed Democratic presidential candidate who finds God, then runs as an independent, funded, presumably, by the supreme being's political action committee. "Do we Americans really want good government?" That's a question asked not by Thomas Frank, but by the muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens, writing more than a century ago in his book, "The Shame of the Cities." He wrote, "We are a free and sovereign people, we govern ourselves and the government is ours. But that is the point. We are responsible, not our leaders, since we follow them. We let them divert our loyalty from the United States to some 'party'; we let them boss the party and turn our municipal democracies into autocracies and our republican nation into a plutocracy. We cheat our government and we let our leaders loot it, and we let them wheedle and bribe our sovereignty from us." From more than a hundred years' distance, Steffens would recognize Abramoff and company for what they are. And we for who we are; a nation too easily distracted and looking the other way as everything rightfully ours is taken. __________________________________ Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program, Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday nights on PBS.
Suzan ______________________________________

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Rove Cited for Contempt of Congress (No Surprise Here As He's Been Full of Contempt For Them For Years)

Well, dear me, will wonders never cease? Seems that (finally!):
A House panel Wednesday voted to cite former top White House aide Karl Rove for contempt of Congress as its Senate counterpart publicly pursued possible punishments for an array of alleged past and present Bush administration misdeeds. Voting along party lines, the House Judiciary Committee said that Rove had broken the law by failing to appear at a July 10 hearing on allegations of White House influence over the Justice Department, including whether Rove encouraged prosecutions against Democrats. The committee decision is only a recommendation, and it was unclear whether Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., would allow a final vote. Rove has denied any involvement with Justice decisions, and the White House has said Congress has no authority to compel testimony from current and former advisers. The vote occurred as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on allegations of administration wrongdoing ranging from discriminating against liberals at Justice to ignoring subpoenas and lying to Congress.
Read the rest of the story here. Jubilation reigns temporarily in Pottersville as we await the upcoming news that this event has no real import when the KingPresident rules that it's not legal in BushLeagueChenegang Amerika to question the actions of the rulers. Suzan ______________________________________

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

And While the Economy Hits the Skids, Lead NeoCon Discovers Oil in Kazakhstan!

Yes, you read that headline correctly. Richard Perle (most wise and prescient leader of the Iraq-invading neocons) has hit a gusher (again)! If you have a Wall Street Journal subscription you can read the gory details (Just kidding! This is the WSJ, friends, everything's on the up-and-up, so move along, nothing going on here.) online; if not you may read the article at here. Have you ever pondered how these commie-hating neocons always seem to have so many of these ex-bad-guy contacts (and how it always involves vast sums of money for the neocons)? Or is it just my imagination? (h/t to Smokey) I'll run a few paragraphs just to give you a taste of how Perle's prospects have recently improved:
Influential former Pentagon official Richard Perle has been exploring going into the oil business in Iraq and Kazakhstan, according to people with knowledge of the matter and documents outlining possible deals. Mr. Perle, one of a group of security experts who began pushing the case for toppling Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein about a decade ago, has been discussing a possible deal with officials of northern Iraq's Kurdistan regional government, including its Washington envoy, according to these people and the documents. It would involve a tract called K18, near the Kurdish city of Erbil, according to documents describing the plan. A consortium founded by Turkish company AK Group International is seeking rights to drill there, the documents say. Potential backers include two Turkish companies as well as Kazakhstan, according to individuals involved. AK's chief executive is Aydan Kodaloglu, who, like Mr. Perle, has been involved with the American Turkish Council, an advocacy group in Washington. She didn't respond to requests for comment. Phyllis Kaminsky, who identified herself as the U.S. contact for Ms. Kodaloglu, said she herself was aware of the drilling plan but referred questions about it to Mr. Perle. "Richard would know the most," Ms. Kaminsky said. "He is involved, I know that." People with knowledge of the discussions said they involve Alexander Mirtchev, a Washington consultant and adviser to the government of Kazakhstan, and an associate of his, Kaloyan Dimitrov. Mr. Perle has attended events promoting the interests of Kazakhstan, an oil-rich nation whose ruler, Nursultan Nazarbayev, is involved in a long-running U.S. investigation of 1990s-era oil-company bribery. Mr. Perle has publicly lauded President Nazarbayev as "visionary and wise," according to a publication distributed by the Kazakh embassy in Washington.
Read the rest of this stomach-churner (if you can stand it) here. Suzan __________________________________

Monday, July 28, 2008

Congressman Kucinich's Impeachment Resolution, the Parallel to Nixon, and Why Even Nixon's Defenders Finally Abandoned Him

One more gem for today from John W. Dean at Findlaw thanks to the sharp eyes and wit of our resident psychologist, Dr. Tricia! ____________________________________________
John W. Dean Friday, Jul. 25, 2008 Before I found myself wrestling with a nasty summer cold/flu bug, I had planned to travel to Washington to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, which is holding a hearing today on “Executive Power and Its Constitutional Limitations.” While this was not billed as an impeachment hearing, it was my understanding that I would follow the testimony of Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who introduced a new impeachment resolution on July 10. The resolution states that President Bush “deceived Congress with fabricated threats of Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction to fraudulently obtain support for an authorization for the use of force against Iraq and [he] used that fraudulently obtained authorization” to proceed to war in Iraq. Given the fact that Bush will be out of office in less than six months, it is not likely that the Kucinich resolution will receive the consideration it deserves. This is unfortunate. It has been clear to me since 2004, when I wrote Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush, in which I analyzed the basis for the very charge that Kucinich has now leveled, that Bush’s actions with regard to Congress – in essence, telling Congress and the American people a deadly lie involving the nation’s blood and treasure – constituted, without question, a “high crime” and impeachable behavior. It struck me that given my knowledge of the Nixon presidency, and because few in Congress today realize that Nixon was sent packing for a far lesser lie, I might focus my testimony on why Nixon was removed from office. In short, I might be able to add some perspective for the Kucinich resolution. In this column, I will also offer the perspective my experience with Nixon affords, as I consider the case for impeaching Bush. Congress Is Well-Aware Of Bush’s Imperial Presidency and Its Abuses of Power Based on conversations with members of the House and Senate, and countless public statements, there is no question that Congress understands that the Bush/Cheney presidency treats its members as if they were, and should be, a decidedly lesser branch. Nixon did the same, but with a difference. When Nixon was president, Congress reached a point where it was determined to end his abuses of presidential power. Yet pointing out this out would have been testifying to the obvious, and there is nothing I could say that would give those on Capitol Hill without spine the fortitude needed to take action. As with Nixon, Congress will have to stand up to the bully at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue on its own – or never do so. Also, there is no shortage of witnesses who can discuss the abuses of power by Bush and Cheney, to create a record of how they have gone beyond established constitutional limitations. The examples are well-known: their excessive and unnecessary secrecy, their incessant stonewalling and refusal to provide information to Congress, the issuance of executive orders that have rewritten important laws (like Bush’s virtual repeal-by-executive-order of the Presidential Records Act of 1978), their politicization of the Department of Justice, their striking disregard for civil liberties, their exclusion of Congress from the necessary national security information when it votes on legislation like the FISA amendments (leaving Congress with no idea what the changes do or do not do), their deceiving Congress about the reasons for war in Iraq, their relentless expansion of purported executive prerogatives, their ongoing politicization of the federal judiciary, their violations of longstanding treaties in order to embrace a policy of torture, their utilization of the concocted theory of executive power known as “the unitary executive theory,” and their endless signing statements accompanying legislation and claiming the right to not enforce laws enacted and signed by the president. And this is to name merely a few of the matters with which the Congress is painfully familiar. Based on prior subcommittee hearings, the House Judiciary Committee knows well that the checks and balances of the Constitution do not work when the Executive Branch has made itself preeminent among its co-equals, and made a mockery of the separation of powers, as Bush and Cheney have done. Nor is there any real mystery on Capitol Hill about how this happened, for it is the clear result of the action – and inaction – of the conservative Republicans in Congress who assisted Presidents Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II with their increasingly radical expansion of presidential powers. Ironically conservatives once opposed an excessively powerful presidency but they now favor it because they believe they can more easily win the White House than control of Congress. Neither the federal courts nor voters have been inclined to rein in an outsized American presidency under the Republicans, because the federal judiciary is dominated by conservative Republicans who think an all-powerful president is good, and the average American voter does not have a clue about the cost he or she pays for an imperial presidency. So it has come down to the congressional Democrats (and a few moderate Republicans) to deal with the bloated presidential powers that have disrupted the Constitution’s balance. Again, the House Judiciary Committee would not need me to tell them how dire the situation has become, or how impotent the Congress has grown as Republicans game the system. While many Democrats on the committee, I am sure, would agree with my analysis, the ability to act hinges on Republicans: Only if Republicans understand the institutional damage they are tolerating is there any true chance of remedial action. Accordingly, I thought if I could merely make the point that conservatives, at one point, decided that they could not tolerate Nixon’s imperial behavior, and explain exactly why they came to that decision, it might clear the Republicans’ focus to deal with Bush and Cheney. Unfortunately, explaining this Nixon-versus-Congress history would be no easy task, for I discovered how ignorant current members of Congress are about Watergate when testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee a few years ago. At that hearing, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsay Graham made statements and asked questions about Watergate that were less informed that I get from today’s average high school student. But I did have a thought about how I might place Watergate in perspective for uninformed members of Congress, particularly Republicans; I thought it would be helpful to report a conversation I had with Nixon’s most articulate, knowledgeable, and persuasive defender – a conservative Republican about whom members of the committee may have heard. When Nixon’s Defenders Abandoned Him, and Why They Did So Only Democrat John Conyers of Michigan, who is now the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was involved in the 1974 proceedings to impeach Nixon. Chairman Conyers would recall well the member of the committee who had provided Nixon his most vigorous and effective defense: Charles E. Wiggins of California. Wiggins, recognized by his colleagues as one of the better lawyers on the committee, made a powerful case that a president should only be impeached if he had committed a crime, and at the time there was no evidence directly linking Nixon to criminal conduct. However, when the Supreme Court ruled against the president in United States v. Nixon and forced the release of the “smoking gun” tape, it revealed that Nixon had been involved in the Watergate cover-up from the outset. Wiggins, and most other conservatives, then reached the “painful conclusion” that Nixon had to go. In short, conservatives wanted nothing to do with a liar. This is not speculation on my part; rather, there is more to the story. I had known Chuck Wiggins from my days as Chief Minority Counsel of the House Judiciary Committee and although I had not seen him since my testimony as White House counsel in 1974 during the Nixon impeachment proceeding, we met again at Hastings Law School for a symposium in early February 2000 to examine Watergate 25 years after it all had happened. In 1984, President Reagan had appointed Wiggins to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He was still seated as a senior judge, notwithstanding the fact he was almost totally blind. (Remarkably, Wiggins traveled alone, with no seeing-eye dog or walking stick. He told me that he could still make out images so that he did not walk into walls or people, and that he could still read with the assistance of an electronic magnifying device that enlarged books and papers, but that he would soon lose all sight.) As the Hastings conference was coming to an end, we discovered we were both on the same flight back to Los Angeles, and decided to travel together, so we could continue our conversation on the topics the conference raised. Wiggins’s View of Nixon’s Misconduct: Why the Lies Led Even Nixon’s Defenders to Change Their Minds When the flight back to Los Angeles was delayed, we found a quiet corner at the San Francisco terminal. Judge Wiggins told me that, during the Watergate era, he, along with a number of other conservative Republicans and Democrats, was preparing to mount a powerful defense of Nixon on the House floor, and that they had good reason to believe they had a serious shot a defeating the efforts to impeach him – until the Supreme Court ruled that Nixon had to release his tapes, and they found they had been lied to about Nixon’s true role. Wiggins believed that the lawyers representing Nixon had done a terrible job, and that Nixon should have claimed not merely “executive privilege,” but also taken the Fifth Amendment and invoked the State Secrets privilege as well to block access to his tapes. He had every right to do so, and had he done so, he would not have been forced from office. It would have been bad press, but he would have survived. (I agree with Judge Wiggins’s analysis.) Wiggins had no doubt that the June 23rd tape showed that Nixon had participated in conspiracy to obstruct justice regarding the Watergate investigation. However, Wiggins also thought there was an argument to be made that a president could not obstruct a federal investigation, since he himself had the theoretical power and authority to establish the parameters of that investigation. In addition, it could also be argued that Nixon’s actions on June 23, 1972 had been taken based on the advice of his counsel (who believed national security issues were involved) and of his former attorney general (who similarly believed national security issues might be at stake). As for the other charges in the articles of impeachment, Wiggins said he and the other Nixon defenders had planned to make fools of the Democrats by showing that everything that had been set forth in the articles had been done by Democratic presidents many times over. It was the classic defense: Two wrongs don’t make a right, but in law and politics they make a respectable precedent. But what neither Wiggins nor other Nixon apologists were prepared to defend was Nixon’s lying to Congress and the nation. After the smoking gun tape surfaced, none of these various defenses and strategies were relevant, because no member was prepared to defend Nixon’s obvious lies about Watergate. As today’s hearings continue, it will be interesting to see if any members of Congress are prepared to defend Bush and Cheney’s lies about taking the nation to war in Iraq. Disturbingly, it has been clear for some time that Bush and Cheney did indeed lie – and that their lies fit within a clear, extensive pattern of abuse of power. Yet condemnation from Congressional Republicans has yet to be heard. Sadly, it seems possible that today’s Republicans -- unlike Wiggins and the other Nixon apologists who changed their minds when confronted with proven presidential lies -- have no moral lines that they will draw. John W. Dean, a FindLaw columnist, is a former counsel to the president.
Suzan _________________________________________

Rove Threatened GOP IT Guru If He Does Not 'Take the Fall' for Election Fraud in Ohio

Extra! Extra! Read All About It! (Click on the link to see the article on the BradBlog with all its internal links.) Just thought this nifty news report might make your day. (Emphasis marks are mine.) __________________________________________
Rove Threatened GOP IT Guru If He Does Not 'Take the Fall' for Election Fraud in Ohio, Says Attorney Brad Friedman 7/24/2008 Karl Rove has threatened a GOP high-tech guru and his wife, if he does not "'take the fall' for election fraud in Ohio," according to a letter sent this morning to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, by Ohio election attorney Cliff Arnebeck. The e-mail, posted in full below, details threats against Mike Connell of the Republican firm New Media Communications, which describes itself on its website as "a powerhouse in the field of Republican website development and Internet services" and having "played a strategic role in helping the GOP expand its technological supremacy." Connell was described in a recent interview with the plaintiff's attorneys in Ohio as a "high IQ Forrest Gump" for his appearance "at the scene of every [GOP] crime" from Florida 2000 to Ohio 2004 to the RNC e-mail system to the installation of the currently-used Congressional computer network firewall. Connell and his firm are currently employed by the John McCain campaign, as well as the RNC and other Republican and so-called "faith-based" organizations. In a phone call this afternoon, Arnebeck could not publicly reveal specific details of the information that triggered his concern about the threats to Connell. The message to the IT man from Rove is said to have been sent via a go-between in Ohio. That information led Arnebeck to contact Mukasey after he found the reports to be credible and troubling. "If there's a credible threat, which I regard this to be," he told The BRAD BLOG, "I have a professional duty to report it." Attempts to reach Connell for comment late this afternoon were not successful. The disclosure from Arnebeck comes on the heels of a dramatic announcement last week, made at a Columbus press conference, announcing Arnebeck's motion to lift a stay on the long-standing King Lincoln Bronzwell v. Blackwell federal lawsuit, challenging voting rights violations in the 2004 Presidential Election in Ohio. The motion was made following the discovery of new information, including details from a Republican data security expert, leading Arnebeck towards seeking depositions of Rove, Connell, and other GOP operatives believed to have participated in the gaming of election results in 2004. A letter [PDF] was sent to Mukasey at the same time last week, asking him to retain e-mail and other documents from Rove... "Mr. Rove's e-mails from the White House to the Justice Department, the FBI, the Pentagon, Congress and various federal regulatory agencies are obviously relevant to the factual issues that we intend to address in this case," Arnebeck wrote last week to the Attorney General. "We are concerned about reports that Mr. Rove not only destroyed e-mails, but also took steps to destroy the hard drives from which they had been sent." In his e-mail to Mukasey today, Arnebeck writes: "We have been confidentially informed by a source we believe to be credible that Karl Rove has threatened Michael Connell, a principal witness we have identified in our King Lincoln case in federal court in Columbus, Ohio, that if he does not agree to 'take the fall' for election fraud in Ohio, his wife Heather will be prosecuted for supposed lobby law violations." "This appears to be in response to our designation of Rove as the principal perpetrator in the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act/RICO claim with respect to which we issued document hold notices last Thursday to you and to the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform," the Ohio attorney writes, before going on to link to The BRAD BLOG's coverage of his press conference last week and requesting "protection for Mr. Connell and his family from this reported attempt to intimidate a witness." The complete, short e-mail, sent today from Arnebeck to AG Mukasey, follows in full below: Sent: Thursday, July 24, 2008 10:51 AM To: Subject: Report of Rove threats against witness Michael Connell Dear Attorney General Mukasey: We have been confidentially informed by a source we believe to be credible that Karl Rove has threatened Michael Connell, a principal witness we have identified in our King Lincoln case in federal court in Columbus, Ohio, that if he does not agree to "take the fall" for election fraud in Ohio, his wife Heather will be prosecuted for supposed lobby law violations.This appears to be in response to our designation of Rove as the principal perpetrator in the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act/RICO claim with respect to which we issued document hold notices last Thursday to you and to the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform. See: and I have informed court chambers and am in the process of informing the Ohio Attorney General's and US Attorney's offices in Columbus for the purpose, among other things, of seeking protection for Mr. Connell and his family from this reported attempt to intimidate a witness. Concurrently herewith, I am informing Mr. Conyers and Mr. Kucinich in connection with their Congressional oversight responsibilities related to these matters. Because of the serious engagement in this matter that began in 2000 of the Ohio Statehouse Press Corps, 60 Minutes, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, C-Span and Jim VandeHei, and the public's right to know of gross attempts to subvert the rule of law, I am forwarding this information to them, as well. Cliff Arnebeck, Attorney cc: Robert Fitrakis, Esq. Henry Eckhart, Esq UPDATE: John Michael Spinelli of OhioNewsBureau, has more details at ePluribusMedia. Threat against Connell's wife likened to attack against Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame; says Ohio's interim Attorney General has now been asked to provide immunity protection services to Connell.

Nine Republicans Vote for Impeachment Hearings, Ten Abstain

In the most pleasant surprise of last week we learned that Ralph Lopez in Global Research, July 20, 2008 reported that Walter Jones of North Carolina joined eight other Republicans in voting to send Dennis Kucinich's Article of Impeachment HR 1345 to John Conyers' Judiciary Committee:
In a stunning development which fell with the silence of a feather yesterday, 9 Republicans broke with their iron-fisted party to put country first, and voted to send Rep. Dennis Kucinich's article of impeachment HR 1345 to the Judiciary, where Chairman John Conyers will hold hearings on abuses of power by the Bush administration, according to the Congressional Quarterly's CQToday. Ten Republicans abstained in this critical moment, while only 5 Dems did. The vote was neck and neck at many moments, with "Nays" pulling ahead twice. Those Republicans are (Yea 238 - Nay 180): Congressman Kevin Brady (TX) Congressman Wayne Gilchrest (MD) Congressman Walter B. Jones (NC) Representative Don Manzullo (IL) U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy(PA) Congressman Ron Paul (TX) Congressman Dave Reichert (WA) Congressman Christopher Shays (CT) Representative Mike Turner (OH) One of the Republicans, Walter Jones, represents Camp LeJeune in North Carolina, one of the largest Marine bases in the country, and one which has borne heavily the sacrifice of the Iraq War.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Tyranny Inherent in Election Fraud (Parts 1 & 2)

Michael Collins (catch that name!) has performed an immense public service in making two essays on "the tyrannical rule by the Bush-Cheney administration" available to us at Scoop Independent News (and entitled Election Fraud and Tyranny: Parts 1 and 2. The depictions of outright vote changing (stealing) will have you running for the exits to report it to the authorities! He also gives us a new book to read in Mark Crispin Miller's Loser Take All (and other sources), which "identifies and analyzes election fraud, the foundation of extremist power in the United States since 2000." (Emphasis marks are mine.) __________________________________________
Election Fraud and Tyranny: Part 1 Monday 14 July 2008 Michael Collins Scoop News Florida scrubbed 91,000 legitimate voters from the voter rolls while disputes about hanging chads on ballots dominated the news coverage. Washington, D.C. - Mark Crispin Miller's new book, "Loser Take All," identifies and analyzes election fraud, the foundation of extremist power in the United States since 2000. Manipulated elections have enabled everything we've experienced from the Iraq war to the current economic meltdown. None of that would have been possible without the ongoing series of "surprise" wins for extremists and their enablers following the outright theft of the 2000 presidential election. Miller illustrates his overarching analysis with a collection of carefully chosen essays. They map the rise of what key figures on the right and left refer to as tyrannical rule by the Bush - Cheney administration. Through a sequence of critical elections from 2000 on, Miller shows the particular outrages in each that enabled the retention and expansion of power. In doing so, he defines the basis for our current troubles. A Sequence of Outrages Loser Take All is organized sequentially beginning with the critical election of 2000 through 2006. In addition, we're given predictions of anticipated problems in 2008. Just part of what we learn is how: Gore lost Florida 2000 even before election day; key Georgia voting machines were modified before the stunning losses by Gov. Barnes and Sen. Cleland in 2002; and, Bush won 2004 in the big cities, if you believe the national exit poll. Part 1 of this series covers the 2000, 2002, and 2004 federal elections. 2000 Air and Land Assault Florida 2000 The Bush ascendancy and the tragedies that followed began with the "shock and awe" of a combined air and land assault worthy of our greatest generals. There were no weapons or troops involved just public officials, various bureaucracies, party operatives, and "the machines." Lance Dehaven-Smith outlines the cooperation between Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Catherine Harris and the national Republican campaign starting well before the election. A database vendor, DBT, was charged with purging felons from the rolls of Florida voters. Like many states, Florida felons were effectively denied the vote for life. The task consisted of matching felon lists from Florida and other states, most prominently Texas, with names on Florida's registration rolls. The standards used to match registered voters with the combined list of felons were so loose nearly 91,000 legitimate voters were wrongly eliminated as registered voters. When they showed up to vote, they were told to go home. Before and during the process, the Florida Department of Elections was warned by DBT that the criteria was producing "false positives" - voters tagged as felons who were not true matches with the felons on the lists used. After the lists were distributed to county boards of elections, several election administrators offered serious warnings about inaccuracies. Nothing was done to correct the errors. The removal of tens of thousands of legitimate voters from Florida's election rolls before the election sealed candidate Al Gore's fate. More than half of those excluded were minority voters, predominantly black. Given the turnout rates and Gore's huge advantage with black voters, nearly 9 to 1 in Florida, a clean election would have given Al Gore the presidency in 2000. David B. Moore describes the "air" war against democracy in 2000. The critical moment in the public perception of the campaign came when Fox News called the election in Bush's favor. It didn't matter that Gore won the popular vote. That was not "hot news." What did matter was that Fox declared Bush the winner prematurely. Wasn't there some sophisticated polling analysis to justify this call? Only if you consider this phrase science: "Jebbie says we got it. Jebbie says we got it." That's what John Ellis, head of the Fox decision team, told his crew shortly after 2:00 am. Why would Fox be getting such an odd message from the Governor of Florida, Jeb ("Jebbie") Bush? Because Ellis was his first cousin. Fox made the call based on Gov. "Jebbie" and created a perceived advantage for Bush that remained unchanged even after Fox withdrew its irresponsible election call two hours later. For the entire election, Gore had been on the defensive as a result of a media tear down that betrayed news reader and network loyalties to their corporate pay masters. It was the perfect lie to accompany the imperfect crime. Moore and Dehaven-Smith offer much more in their well written essays, required reading for anyone who wants to know how election 2000 began the process of mindless war and torture and domestic neglect. 2002 Surprise Attack Barnes, Cleland and Their Stunning "Losses" Robert Kennedy Jr. tells the compelling story of the 2002 Georgia election where two popular incumbents, with solid leads four days before the election, lost in stunning reversals. Click here for table showing different percentage lead and actual votes tallied. How could two popular incumbents, in the same state, with leads like these, both experience rarely seen reversals? Under pressure due to uncounted votes in the 2000 election, the Georgia Secretary of State virtually turned over the election to the state's touch screen e-voting vendor, Diebold. Chris Hood was a Diebold technical consultant who bravely reported that he and others applied a software "patch" to Diebold voting machines just before the election. This patch was so important that the president of Diebold, Bob Urosevich delivered it in person to Diebold technical personnel in Georgia. State law required that any changes to e-voting machines be cleared by the state. This was not done. When questions were raised after these highly improbable election results, Urosevich claimed the patch simply changed the clock on the voting machines, a claim deemed not serious by whistle blower Hood. The state failed to mount a thorough investigation and the Democrats were largely silent. This bold move in the Georgia elections was a major alarm that was ignored and dismissed by the press and Democratic leadership. The Beginning of the End for Don Siegelman There was another 2002 outrage that also failed to gain the attention of the national media and federal authorities. Larisa Alexandrovna and James H. Gundlach provide the narrative and analytic proof that incumbent Democratic Governor Don Siegelman's 2002 election night win was, in fact, just that. On election eve, state wide results showed that Siegelman taking a narrow victory in a hard fought campaign. That wasn't good enough for heavily Republican Baldwin County. Election officials there recounted the votes in the very early morning after Election Day. The wee hours recount reduced Siegelman's Baldwin County total from 19,000 to 12, 000 votes, just enough to give the Republican challenger a 3,000 vote victory. Gundlach efficiently deconstructs the improbable election and turns it into a case study of high probability election fraud. 2004 Sealing Our Fate Bush Wins it in the Big Cities Miller reveals a more sophisticated election theft in 2004 I wrote the chapter, "Election 2004: The Urban Legend" (by Michael Collins, see disclosure*) based on research by Internet poster " anaxarchos " who discovered some remarkable anomalies in the final exit poll for 2004: Bush won reelection in the nation's "big cities" (500,000 > pop.). The national exit poll is sponsored by the Media Consortium consisting of the Associated Press ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and CNN. It provides the acknowledged source of national data on who voted, where, and why. There was great controversy generated by the unintentional release of a late Election Day exit poll showing Kerry winning by 3%. The official version, released the day after the election had Bush winning by 3%. We examined the official exit poll and discovered data that casts serious doubt on the claimed vote totals. According to the official version of the exit poll: 2004 was not a red versus blue election, as reported. The rural sector in 2000 was 23% of the total vote but in 2004, it was just 16%. Bush total votes were down by two million in 2004 compared to 2000 in that segment. Bush lost significant ground in red states in 2004 and started the election in the hole. Bush made spectacular gains in "big cities" (pop. 500,000 or greater) going from 26% to 39% of the total votes in that segment. According to the official exit poll, he picked up these gains largely with the help of four million white big city voters, ghosts so to speak, who rose from their graves and other hiding places to hand the election to Bush. According to the official exit poll, the Bush big city magic took place amidst a 66% increase in big city voter turnout compared to a more modest 16% national turnout increase using reported vote totals. There was no 66% increase in big city turnout. Actual big city vote totals, available election eve or shortly thereafter, show big city turnout slightly below the national average. The exit poll's 66% turnout increase and the four million white ghosts were the only way to make the poll agree with the election results, neither of which was accurate. According to the official exits, Bush became the first president to be re-elected while both losing significant ground in his base and, at the same time, making it up in hostile territory, the nation's big cities. The same people who gave us this mess did the exit polling for the 2008 primaries and will conduct the 2008 national exit poll in November. Electronic Ballot Box Stuffing On a more pragmatic level, Miller includes two chapters that define how things were done at the state and local level. Activist John R. Brakey was so shocked at what he saw on Election Day 2004, he began gathering extensive data. The more he saw, the more he was convinced that there was systematic election manipulation in Arizona's Legislative District 27 located in Pima County, Arizona. When the distinguished research physicist David L. Griscom came on the scene, he had more than enough data to demonstrate the specific techniques that switched votes from Kerry to Bush. The model on "how to stuff an electronic ballot box" is sufficiently detailed for application across the nation in case anyone in the government is interested. Credence for The Griscom-Brakey findings was just provided by recent events in Pima County. Making Nevada Safe for Touch Screens 2004 also featured the state of Nevada as a demonstration project to legitimize the now totally discredited touch screen voting devices. Brad Friedman and Michael Richardson tell us how touch screens were introduced to Nevada with claims of accuracy and federal certification, when neither claim applied. This is a cautionary tale repeated across the country in the era of elections outsourced to vendors and unelected bureaucrats. Ironically, in the gaming capitol of the world, the voting machines were not nearly as secure as the slots. "Mission Accomplished" By Nov. 2, 2004, the mission of returning the extremists to power and retaining their agenda was complete. The process of distortions began with the smears of Kerry by the "swift boaters," Bush partisans who mounted a relentless campaign against Sen. John F. Kerry. This wasn't new. Marginal groups attacking candidates are common in our elections. Full cooperation by the mainstream media with the vicious attacks was a first. The worst elements of partisan politics were willingly incorporated into the national dialog by the network talking heads and the shouting cable clones. And they treated it as business as usual instead of an unfair but devastating attack on the core character issue of Sen. Kerry's campaign, his service to the nation. At the same time, the 2004 reporting of the networks and press consistently ignored the obvious signs of looming election disasters around the country. Coverage of the partisan set up in Ohio for an Election Day melt down was inadequate. Little attention was paid to the biased Department of Justice handling of voting and civil rights violations. And, of course, there had been no correction whatsoever of the problems of Florida 2000, which were characterized by 175,000 spoiled ballots, largely in minority precincts. When it came time to vote on Nov. 2, 2004, the forces working for a perpetuation of illegitimate power swung into action and sealed our fate without even bothering to consult us. We were guaranteed four more years of decline and debasement, all enabled through election fraud on a scale never seen. It became the new business as usual with a bonus of more war, more torture, and a yet to be delivered economic melt down that would affect us all. Miller's latest effort bears witness to his ability to inspire others to investigation and action after looking into the abyss of extremist corruption that he has observed so well in the past. He provides an elegant framework for the collection of essays with his ongoing commentary forming the articles into a persuasive whole. If you want to understand how the tragedy of the last eight years began and developed into the current crisis, this book is one of your key resources. For Part 2, click here.
Suzan _______________________________________

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bush Planning To Issue Mass Pardon Before Departure

And, of course, we already knew about this from Brent Budowsky (who served as Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, responsible for commerce and intelligence matters, including one of the core drafters of the CIA Identities Law; also served as Legislative Director to Congressman Bill Alexander, then Chief Deputy Whip, House of Representatives)(originally published at The Hill). ____________________________________________
Bush Will Issue a Mass Pardon Brent Budowsky Jul 26 2008 Before leaving office George W. Bush will issue a mass pardon, the largest collection of presidential pardons in American history. Bush will pardon himself, Vice President Cheney, and a long list of officials involved in torture, eavesdropping, destruction of evidence, the CIA leak case and a range of potential crimes. As George Bush signs the pardons and boards the helicopter to depart Washington as his presidency finally ends, even then, he and those pardoned will worry about the statute of limitations. There is an important point to this, often not recognized in official Washington during the Bush years, where the unthinkable becomes a way of life, and acts have been done that have never been done by an American president or administration. Torture violates international law, domestic law, statutory law, customary law, American law, European law — the list goes on. Eavesdropping without court order violates a statute, FISA, that includes severe criminal penalties. If the courts ultimately conclude that these laws were broken, as I predict they ultimately will, considering the number of individual violations, and the penalties for each violation, the potential sentencing liability for anyone convicted would be huge. On the destruction of evidence, disappearing e-mails, claims of executive privilege that I predict will be clearly rejected by the Supreme Court after Bush has departed, arguably false testimony to Congress, attempts to cover up actions that violate the law, the list, again, goes on. There will be a huge legal debate about the ability of a president to issue pardons so sweeping in their language that they cover all these potential areas of legal liability, and very possibly, it cannot be done. As we approach the election, leaks will increase as they did prior to the 2006 election, from within the administration, about these matters and others. Legal scholars will debate the legality of a mass pardon. Congress should pursue every pending and possible legal challenge to claims of executive privilege so completely untenable under the law that even some conservative Supreme Court justices will refuse to uphold them, as conservative justices joined liberals ruling against Richard M. Nixon. I predict a series of historic Supreme Court cases that will defeat most of the Bush executive privilege claims and permanently end attempts for royalist interpretations of the law that the Bush years embody. The fact that Bush attempted to seize power in ways that negate the legislative and judicial branches of government, and the fact that Congress was not heroic in defending its rightful place in the separation of powers, do not change the fact that what is illegal is illegal. This is not merely a liberal issue. There are many authentic conservatives, true Barry Goldwater Republicans, genuine libertarians, honorable strict constructionist conservative jurists and legal scholars who agree entirely that on occasions George Bush has attempted and at times executed seizures of executive power that violate the American Constitution and American statutes. Get ready for mass pardons. Get ready for the long-held precedents of American law to be ultimately if belatedly upheld as spurious claims of executive privilege, to be be rejected even by some conservative justices of the Supreme Court. Get ready for a long-overdue debate that has barely begun and will be triggered by the mass pardons that will be the last sorry act of the presidency of George W. Bush. Because it will be legally almost impossible to issue mass pardons so sweeping and universal they would cover every possible offense, get ready for the words "statute of limitations" to enter our public dialogue by January of 2009 as a new president assumes office and the Bush years, finally, are over.
Suzan ________________________________________

Friday, July 25, 2008


I've said the U.S. has been in a deep recession since the dot.coms-bombed in 2000, and I think you could go ahead and say Depression by now as there's no sign we are going to emerge from it in the next several years (and yes, I know the "official" definition of one) and Ted Rall agrees with me. Yes, I know. It's really I who am agreeing with him as he's the famous funny guy (but not here!). (Emphasis marks are mine.) Carolyn Baker also chimes in this week giving us a link to Scott Thill's essay "Massive Economic Disaster Seems Possible - Will Survivalists Get the Last Laugh?" with the telling intro "I have never claimed to be a survivalist because I am interested in doing much more than merely living through collapse; however, Scott Thill's article nails the reality of the current economic milieu. We have entered not merely rough waters, but a daunting economic and environmental tsunami which is about to make the so-called 'wild and crazy doomer' look mainstream." ___________________________________________
RECESSION, YEAR 8 Ted Rall 07/24/2008 Bickering Over Terminology Delays Real Action SAN DIEGO - There's a debate in the media about the recession. On the right are those who say that the economy has never been better. Not so fast, says the official left: we've (just) started a recession. Phil Gramm, McCain's former economic advisor, leads the School of Sunny Optimism. "This is a mental recession," said Gramm. "We may have a recession, we haven't had one yet. We have sort of become a nation of whiners." Given his day job, you have to admire his attitude. UBS Investment Bank, which employs Gramm as its vice chairman, was recently forced to write off $38 billion in bad debts because of its exposure to the sub-prime mortgage meltdown. All its profits since 2004 have been wiped out. Economists are mildly pessimistic. In April, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke conceded that a recession was possible. Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group, believes that unemployment and other data for the first quarter of 2008 marks the official start of a recession. "It is now very clear that the fat lady has sung for the economic expansion. The country has slipped into a recession," he said, articulating the mainstream view that we're about to embark on a bumpy ride. Recession? We've been in one since 2000. Forget the experts. They think telling the grisly truth about the state of the U.S. economy could make things even worse--and they're probably right. But Americans know the truth. Every major indicator--jobs, wages and cost of living--has trended downward since the dot-com crash of 2000. Since then it has nearly impossible to sell a home, find a job, or get a raise. Rising inflation is tightening the squeeze. Whoever becomes president next year will inherit an economy beginning its ninth year in a downward spiral. The official inflation rate of two to three percent is a lie, and it has been for years. Presidents Reagan and Clinton ordered the Bureau of Labor Standards to change the way it calculates the Consumer Price Index. Previously they compared the prices of the same items from one year to the next. Now, in order to cheat senior citizens out of cost-of-living increases on their Social Security payments, the government uses a "substitutions" analysis. "The consumer price index assumes that if prices get too high, consumers will start buying cheaper products," reports The San Diego Union-Tribune. For instance, if steak gets too expensive, they will switch to ground beef." Steve Reed, an economist the Bureau of Labor Standards, freely admits the change makes inflation looks lower than it is. He also admits its motivation: "Even if the CPI was one percentage point higher, it could cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars." John Williams, an economic consultant who publishes the monthly newsletter "Shadow Government Statistics," calculates that " Shadow Government Statistics," calculates that "inflation is actually running at an annualized rate of 9.95 percent." Inflation has been rising since 2002. The U.S. economy must create 150,000 new jobs a month (1.8 million annually) just to keep up with population growth. Anything less represents a net jobs loss. The Clinton years saw the creation of 236,500 new jobs per month--a net increase of more than 8 million over eight years. As of 2007, the Bush era saw just 70,000 jobs per month--a net loss of more than 7 million. Bush brought us back to 1992, when his father lost over his own recession. Among those who still have jobs, they're not getting raises that keep up with Williams' inflation rate. Median household income, adjusted for the government's lowball inflation rate, is down since 2001. Even white-collar workers, traditionally insulated by advanced degrees, are getting slammed by the eight-year-long recession. "Wage stagnation, long the bane of blue-collar workers, is now hitting people with bachelor's degrees for the first time in 30 years," reported The Los Angeles Times in 2006. "Earnings for workers with four-year degrees fell 5.2 percent from 2000 to 2004 when adjusted for inflation, according to White House economists... [people with master's and other advanced degrees] have found that their inflation-adjusted wages were essentially flat between 2000 and 2004." There's no reason to believe that this trend has reversed. It takes two consecutive quarterly drops in the GDP, say economists, to make a recession official. But, like porn, Americans know a recession when they see one. And this one is eight years old. There are only two real questions. The first is whether Russian president Dmitri Medvedev is right. The U.S., he said recently, is in "essentially a depression." The second is whether John McCain, Barack Obama, or anyone else is willing to do something meaningful about it. (Ted Rall is the author of the book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?," an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.)
Enjoy that cookout! Suzan ________________________________________

Rotten to the Corps

First-term U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, a former prosecutor and Missouri state auditor, is winning kudos from all over the political spectrum for calling "for firings 'by nightfall' on Thursday" (July 24, 2008) as she emerges from the pack as a leader "in figuring out whether the US military gets what it pays for from contractors." She "outlined the findings of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, which found that Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) officials and major defense contractors successfully pressured Pentagon auditors to hide damaging facts about the performance and costs of weapons systems." And it only took five years! She joins my list of those representatives who can stay. If I lived in Missouri (again), she would get my vote wholeheartedly. Truthout's Matt Renner tells us the gory details. (Emphasis marks are mine.) ___________________________________________
Truthout Original McCaskill Takes On Military Industrial Complex Friday 25 July 2008 Matt Renner, t r u t h o u t | Report A Governmental Accountability Office report has found that Defense Contract Audit Agency officials and major defense contractors successfully pressured Pentagon auditors to hide damaging facts about the performance and costs of weapons systems. A scathing report accusing government auditors of corruption, issued by the government's top investigative body, prompted a freshman senator to call for firings "by nightfall" on Thursday. In her first term, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), a former prosecutor and Missouri state auditor, has taken the lead in figuring out whether the US military gets what it pays for from contractors. In an impassioned speech on the floor of the Senate, McCaskill outlined the findings of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, which found that Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) officials and major defense contractors successfully pressured Pentagon auditors to hide damaging facts about the performance and costs of weapons systems. The DCAA has "gotten caught in what could be the biggest auditing scandal in the history of this town, and I'm not exaggerating here. I will guarantee you, as auditors around the country learn about this, they're going to have disbelief and raw anger that this agency has impugned the integrity of government auditors everywhere by these kinds of irresponsible actions," McCaskill said. McCaskill fired off letters to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and DCAA Director April G. Stephenson, demanding accountability and a full explanation of the issues the GAO report raised. In a July 11 letter, Stephenson said that DCAA did not agree with the "totality" of the report but was addressing some of the issues raised. The GAO, the top nonpartisan governmental investigative body in Washington, DC, looked at 14 audits performed by the 4,000-member DCAA, the internal government audit team that is supposed to oversee contracting for the Department of Defense (DoD) and other government agencies. Zero of the 14 audits met government standards. The report, titled "DCAA Audits: Allegations That Certain Audits at Three Locations Did Not Meet Professional Standards Were Substantiated," was based on over 100 interviews with current and former auditors and a review of the 13 sets of "working papers" - the documentation auditors use to backup their conclusions. The report found, in every case, the working papers did not support the conclusions of the auditors - a clear violation of auditing principles. In addition, the investigation revealed that supervisors at the DCAA "dropped findings and changed audit opinions," and that the DCAA did not allow auditors sufficient time to do thorough work. According to GAO investigators, "[W]e also found that contractor officials and the DoD contracting community improperly influenced the audit scope, conclusions, and opinions of some audits - a serious independence issue." In GAO speak, this means private companies and people in the Pentagon conspired to conceal wasteful and fraudulent activity by contractors at the cost of the US taxpayer. Among the findings of the report: The DCAA resident auditor made an agreement with an unnamed aerospace contractor (determined to be Boeing based on the facts contained in the report), one of the five largest government defense contractors, that "limited the scope" of the audit and would allow the contractor to correct problems that were found before the final audit opinion was issued. [Bullet]The resident auditor replaced uncooperative auditors and intimidated others into making unsubstantiated assessments that benefited contractors at the expense of the government. [bullet]Supervisors assigned complex auditing tasks to underqualified subordinates, resulting in incomplete audits. DCAA officials threatened staff members with retaliation for speaking with GAO investigators. The director of a cost-estimating system for a major defense contractor threatened the DCAA he would "escalate" the issue "to the highest level possible" in the government and within the company in question if the DCAA would not green-light the billing system it identified as problematic. The DCAA failed to revisit contracts that were negotiated by a corrupt (and later convicted) Air Force official. Mistakes, incompetence or intentional deception by the DCAA has essentially built in defective price-estimating systems that may artificially inflate contract estimates for years to come. The GAO investigation itself was interfered with. In a letter to top members of Congress, the GAO stated: "we noted a pattern of frequent management actions that served to intimidate the auditors and create an abusive environment ... As a result, some auditors were hesitant to speak to us." Nick Schwellenbach, National Security investigator for the nonpartisan government spending watchdog group, Project on Government Oversight (POGO), said that the GAO report "demonstrates that the government's system of contractor oversight is rotten because the independent government agencies that are supposed to look out for the taxpayers are corrupted," adding "we have senior members inside the DCAA who are retaliating against their own members in favor of the private contractors." Schwellenbach pointed out that DCAA auditors oversee contracting at a number of different government agencies including NASA, and that NASA's inspector general has previously criticized the DCAA's work. "This looks like it could go even deeper," Schwellenbach added. "You know, the Department of Defense has been on the high risk list of this government for more than a decade. Scandal after scandal has rolled out of the Department of Defense on contracting ... I took a trip to Iraq just on contract oversight with an auditor's eye, meeting with the people that oversee the contracts in Iraq ... I think we burned up more than $150 billion in just pure contracting abuse," McCaskill said during her speech, adding, "and all this time that we have been wasting hundreds and billions of dollars, the fox was in the chicken coop."
Suzan __________________________________________

The parade of "shrill, unserious extremists" on display at today's impeachment hearings (Greenwald)

Here's the latest bit of excellent reporting from Glenn Greenwald. Enjoy your weekend! (Although that last tidbit about Cass Sunstein has left me stunned once again.) ________________________________________
The parade of "shrill, unserious extremists" on display at today's impeachment hearings In the Beltway world, those who believe in open government and accountability for lawbreaking by political leaders are demonized and marginalized. Glenn Greenwald Jul. 25, 2008 Former Reagan DOJ official, constitutional lawyer, and hard-core conservative Bruce Fein was one of the first prominent Americans to call for George Bush's impeachment in the wake of the illegal NSA spying scandal. Back in late 2005 and 2006, when even safe-seat Democrats like Chuck Schumer were petrified even of uttering the words "broke the law" when speaking of the Bush administration -- let alone taking meaningful action to investigate and putting a stop to the lawbreaking -- Fein wrote a column in The Washington Times forcefully and eloquently arguing: Volumes of war powers nonsense have been assembled to defend Mr. Bush's defiance of the legislative branch and claim of wartime omnipotence so long as terrorism persists, i.e., in perpetuity. Congress should undertake a national inquest into his conduct and claims to determine whether impeachable usurpations are at hand. In 2006, Russ Feingold called Fein as one of his witnesses in support of Feingold's resolution to censure President Bush for his lawbreaking. Today, Fein is one of the witnesses who will testify before the House Judiciary Committee in favor of Dennis Kucinich's impeachment resolutions (joined by Elizabeth Holtzman, Bob Barr and several others). As KagroX details here, that the House is holding hearings on Kucinich's resolution is not, in any way, an indication that the Congress is prepared to take those resolutions seriously. Manifestly, they are not. Yesterday, Jane Hamsher spoke with Bruce Fein on BloggingheadsTV about why the Democrats have, in general, failed to hold the Bush administration accountable for their multiple crimes (Slate yesterday detailed some of the many Bush crimes). Here is what Fein -- echoing an argument I made a couple of weeks ago -- said on that topic: Jane also asked Fein about Obama adviser Cass Sunstein's recent statements that Bush officials should not be prosecuted for their illegal detention, interrogation and spying programs. To get a sense for why this matters, National Journal this morning listed Sunstein as one of a small handful of likely Supreme Court appointees in an Obama administration. But -- similar to Fein's point regarding Jay Rockefeller, Jane Harman and comrades -- Sunstein has long been one of the most vocal enablers of Bush radicalism and lawlessness, having continuously offered himself up over the last seven years to play the legal version of the TNR role of "even-liberal-Cass-Sunstein-agrees-with-Bush." During my Democracy Now debate with him, Sunstein said: "I'd be honored but surprised if the military commissions cite some of my academic articles." But as Talk Left's Armando documented, Sunstein would be an ideal and highly likely "legal scholar" for the Bush administration to cite as part of its military tribunals, as Sunstein was an early and outspoken supporter of the theory that Bush had the authority to order military commissions (a theory which the Supreme Court rejected in Hamdan). Identically, while Sunstein now pretends to disagree with Bush's theory as to why he had the power to spy on Americans in violation of the law (Sunstein said on Democracy Now: "while I agree with Senator Feingold that the President's position is wrong"), Sunstein defended those theories as "very reasonable" when he was on right-wing talk radio with Hugh Hewitt in late 2005 during the height of the NSA controversy. It's really hard to imagine a worse person on whom Obama could be relying as a legal adviser, let alone a potential Supreme Court nominee, and here is what Fein had to say about Sunstein's view of things: The destruction of the CIA interrogation videos in 2005 that Fein referenced there seems particularly malicious -- plainly criminal -- in light of the new documents obtained yesterday from the CIA by the ACLU. One of those documents -- an August 4, 2004 CIA memo (.pdf) -- explicitly warns "of possible future judicial review of the Program and of these issues," meaning the CIA's interrogation methods and the legality of the Bush administration's behavior. Destroying evidence relevant to a future criminal proceeding is the very definition of obstruction of justice -- a crime for which ordinary people are regularly prosecuted and imprisoned -- yet we have the Cass Sunsteins of the world, speaking on behalf of our political and media class, insisting that it would be terribly unfair and disruptive to treat any of this as a criminal matter (and -- as is true for many of the episodes of Bush lawbreaking -- key Congressional Democrats were briefed on the possible destruction of the interrogation videos as well). Most revealingly of all, the Kucinich impeachment hearing today is like a parade of those whom the Beltway class mocks as Shrill, Unserious losers and Leftist radicals -- people who actually use overly excitable words like "crimes" and "prosecutions" when talking about our leaders or who, like the ACLU, actually object that most of what our Government does occurs in total secrecy. Serious, responsible Beltway establishment leaders know that courtrooms and prosecutions are only for the common people and -- for our own good -- our leaders cannot, must not and should not be exposed to any of that, and must continue to be able to shield what they do from public scrutiny. * * * * * NPR this morning has a story, both radio and print, regarding the left/right Strange Bedfellows citizen coalition and Money Bomb campaign targeting those responsible for the erosion of civil liberties, constitutional protections and the rule of law. The NPR story includes this: Earlier this month, Congress passed a rewrite of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA. Opponents say it gives the president too much power to tap private communications without court oversight. That argument was made none too subtly by a TV ad that ran in the home district of Chris Carney, a Pennsylvania Democrat who supported the new FISA law. "Chris Carney is surrendering to Bush and Cheney the same un-American spying powers they have in Russia and communist China," the ad says. Apparently, the ad hit a nerve. A Carney spokeswoman called the ad a "smear campaign" and said NPR should not do a story about it. But the ad was paid for by Carney's fellow Democrats. Blue America is a political action committee promoted by Democratic bloggers like Jane Hamsher. She is disappointed with Congress since it went Democratic. "I'm very upset with my party right now," Hamsher says. "They were given the majority, and they have a 9 percent approval rating right now for a reason." Apparently, NPR isn't Comcast -- at least not in this instance -- and it thus ran the story despite Carney's pleas. UPDATE: To be clear, it's far from certain, obviously, that Obama would appoint Cass Sunstein to anything, let alone to the Supreme Court. And as I've said before, the precarious 5-4 Supreme Court balance is reason enough, just standing alone, to strongly prefer an Obama administration to a McCain administration. But Sunstein -- both due to his relationship to Obama and, independently, to his new marriage -- is one of the most inside of Obama insiders. That he has simultaneously been such an unusually vocal defender of some of the worst Bush radicalism is obviously worth noting, and is self-evidently disturbing. Today, Matt Stoller reviews Sunstein's latest book and several of the odd ideas in it.
Suzan ___________________________________

Mukasey to Congress: Defy the Rule of Law

I never had any positive thoughts or faith in the choice of Michael Mukasey ("the Conquering Hero!") as the next BushLeagueCheneGang Attorney General to watch diligently over our freedoms and rescue the Justice Department for the continued ennoblement of the true believers - the patriotic people of the U.S. - after the lawless ride of the preceding AG's, Gonzales and Ashcroft (although I notice that The Wall Street Journal, speaking directly for Rupert Murdoch does). And now for our continued shock and awe we have his (ongoing) lawlessness and true patriot credentials documented by our friends at True Blue Liberal. (Emphasis marks are mine.) __________________________________________
Mukasey to Congress: Defy the Rule of Law Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008 True Blue Liberal By Stephen Lendman Along with other past and present administration officials, Attorney General Michael Mukasey supports lawlessness and police state justice. Weeks after the Supreme Court’s landmark (June 12) Boumediene ruling, he addressed the conservative, pro-war American Enterprise Institute (on July 21) and asked Congress to overrule the High Court - for the third time. His proposal: – subvert constitutional and international law; – authorize indefinite detentions of Guantanamo and other “war on terror” prisoners (including US citizens designated “enemy combatants”); and – deny them habeas rights, due process, and any hope for judicial fairness. Since June 2004, the (conservative) High Court made three landmark rulings. Twice Congress intervened, and Mukasey wants a third time. In Rasul v. Bush (June 2004), the Court granted Guantanamo detainees habeas rights to challenge their detentions in civil court. Congress responded with the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA) of 2005 subverting the ruling. In June 2006, the Supreme Court reacted. In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, it held that federal courts retain jurisdiction over habeas cases and that Guantanamo Bay military commissions lack “the power to proceed because (their) structures and procedures violate both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the four Geneva Conventions (of) 1949.” In October 2006, Congress responded a second time. It enacted the Military Commissions Act (MCA) - subverting the High Court ruling in more extreme form. In its menu of illegal provisions, it grants the administration extraordinary unconstitutional powers to detain, interrogate, torture and prosecute alleged terrorist suspects, enemy combatants, or anyone claimed to support them. It lets the President designate anyone anywhere in the world (including US citizens) an “unlawful enemy combatant” and empowers him to arrest and detain them indefinitely in military prisons. The law states: “no (civil) court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause for action whatsoever….relating to the prosecution, trial or judgment of….military commission(s)….including challenges to (their) lawfulness….” On June 12, 2008, the High Court again disagreed. In Boumediene v. Bush, it held that Guantanamo detainees retain habeas rights. MCA unconstitutionally subverts them, and the administration has no legal authority to deny them due process in civil courts or act as accuser, trial judge and executioner with no right of appeal or chance for judicial fairness. On July 21, Mukasey responded, and immediately the ACLU reacted in a same day press release headlined: “Attorney General Wants New Declaration of War Allowing Indefinite Detention and Concealment of Torture.” It called Mukasey’s speech “an enormous executive branch power grab . . . . authoriz(ing) indefinite detention(s) through a new declaration of armed conflict.” He asked Congress to redefine habeas through legislation “that will hide the Bush administration’s past wrongdoing - an action that would undermine the constitutional guarantee of due process and conceal systematic (lawless) torture and abuse of detainees.” Like his two predecessors, Mukasey mocks the rule of law and supports harsh police state justice. He wants Congress to “expand and extend the ‘war on terror’ forever” and let the president detain anyone indefinitely without charge or trial. ACLU’s Washington Legislative Director, Caroline Fredrickson, called this “the last gasp of an administration desperate to rationalize what is a failed legal scheme” - that the Supreme Court thunderously rejected three times. Mukasey proposes lawlessness and cover-up, “but there is no reason to think that Congress will assist him.” It “won’t fall for this latest (scheme) to (suppress) its wrongdoing.” Besides, the House Judiciary Committee is now investigating whether high-level administration officials authorized torture and abuse. Mukasey wants to hide it and is asking Congress to “bury the evidence.” The ACLU is righteously outraged by this latest attempted power grab. It rejects Mukasey’s lawlessness and states there is “no need to invent yet another set of legal rules to govern the detention and trial of prisoners held on national security grounds, and the rules that (Mukasey) is proposing are fundamentally inconsistent with” constitutional and international law. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Responds After Mukasey’s September 17, 2007 nomination for Attorney General, CCR issued the following November 1, 2007 statement: “Michael Mukasey is not fit to be Attorney General because he supports torture, illegal spying on Americans, and limitless powers for the Executive Branch.” As the “country’s highest law enforcement official,” he’s obligated “to enforce the law” - not make excuses for the government when it’s in violation. CCR stands “firmly against Mukasey’s nomination . . . . Our country cannot afford to make compromises to our laws, our morals, and our humanity any longer.” The Senate must reject Attorney General candidates who’ll “undermine American justice and shred the Constitution.” CCR expressed equal outrage on July 21. Its Executive Director, Vincent Warren, denounced Mukasey’s proposal in the following excerpted statement: “What Mukasey is doing is a shocking attempt to drag us into years of further legal challenges and delays. The Supreme Court has definitively spoken” in Boumediene v. Bush and its two prior rulings. “For six and a half years,” the administration and Congress “have done their best to (deny due process) and prevent the courts from reviewing the legality of the detention of the men in Guantanamo. Congress should be a part of the solution this time by letting the courts do their job.” For the past six years, CCR litigated for Guantanamo detainee rights and continues to do it. It organized and coordinated over 500 pro bono lawyers for everyone held there illegally. Most recently, it represented plaintiffs in the landmark Boumediene v. Bush case - argued on December 5, 2007 and ruled on June 12, 2008. The Wall Street Journal Reports and Editorializes Its July 22 article states: “Mukasey Seeks Law on Detainees - Congress Is Urged to Limit Rights of Terror Suspects….in light of a rebuke by the Supreme Court.” It quotes Mukasey wanting: – legislative “principles” for “practical” limits on the right of detainees to challenge their incarceration; – Congress to give the administration freedom to detain combatants “for the duration of the (’war on terror’) conflict;” – a “reaffirmation of something that was enacted in legislation after September 11, 2001″ (a menu of harsh repressive laws); – no “enemy combatants” released in (or brought to) the US (even to appear in civil court); – no intelligence (or harsh interrogation) methods revealed (so evidence of torture and abuse is suppressed), and – military officers (and intelligence officials) to be excused from testifying (because what they know is damning). On its editorial page, the Journal is supportive. It called Mukasey’s proposal “modest” on a “difficult” issue over which “different judges even on the same court will disagree.” Mukasey wants congressional “guidance” because there’s risk of “inconsistent rulings and considerable uncertainty.” According to the Journal, Mukasey “was right in stepping forward to say that someone has to take responsibility for the consequences of the Supreme Court’s 5 - 4″ Boumediene ruling. It wants “Congress (to) give one court jurisdiction over (all detainee) cases” and not let the process “bog down into a Babel of conflicting procedural and legal rulings.” Mukasey is “right” to ask Congress to settle the issue, (regardless of three landmark High Court rulings). In other words: – constitutional and international laws don’t apply; – judicial fairness is a dead letter; – presidential power is supreme; and – Congress must support the executive and overrule the highest court in the land….A “modest (police state) proposal” according to the Journal and one it clearly supports. Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Mondays from 11AM - 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Enjoy the weekend! Suzan ___________________________________